Get Away With Fran

February 10, 2010

GetAWAY on Fox

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:06 am

GetAWAYwithFran was on Fox TV-25 today talking deals and winter travel. Check it out.

Among the deals highlighted, the Sonesta St. Maarten has rates from $204 (about $40% savings), and if you stay four nights or longer you’ll get a $150 food & beverage credit too. The El San Juan Hoteland other Hilton properties in Puerto Rico have a deal that gives you a great rate now (from $259) plus a credit of $50 per night off a future stay.

Book a cruise and save in late February, early March. I like icruise.com to search for deals.

Check out specials as the season begins in places like Myrtle Beach and Bermuda (slow in winter but picking up in spring, with the high season summer into fall).

Think West Coast too when you start planning a springtime vacation, especially with the kids. Head to San Diego to visit the San Diego Zoo and Sea World, and head to Legoland too. Good airfares at travelocity.com and through discount airlines like JetBlue.

Winter airfares to Europe are decent, and you can gran specials like six nights in Rome with air, from $699, offered by Virgin Vacations (also Paris from $623), but book now. Nice is particularly nice in March.

Look too for savings with all-inclusive packages and deals from tour operators (thanks to a bit of panic over the recession, prices are in many cases as low as they go this year).

December 9, 2009

Azamara gets club-y and more all-inclusive

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AZA_Journey_Exterior3 If you haven’t yet tried the upscale, small-ship line, Azamara, you are not alone. (I haven’t for one.) Looking to make sure more people get onboard the two-year-old line, owned by Royal Caribbean, officials have done some tweaking including a new name – Azamara Club Cruises. The word “club” is designed to make the experience sound, well, clubby, as in “I belong,” as in exclusive.

The line’s President and CEO Larry Pimentel also announced this week that ACC is going mostly all-inclusive. No more “nickel-and-diming” for things like house wine at lunch and dinner, gratuities, soft drinks and specialty coffees – they’ll all be included in the cruise fare beginning in April.

And to pay for all that fares will be going up.

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Also, in a bid to attract more people who like to spend time on land and haven’t, perhaps, considered cruising before, the line will be spending more time in ports, allowing for more contact with locals and including overnights in cities like Istanbul and Sorrento. In Pimentel’s words, the ships are “slowing (more…)

August 19, 2009

To the Dogs near Denali National Park in Alaska

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:25 pm

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This is me playing Iditarod champion, the late champion Susan Butcher in the background, photographed in a gift shop in Fairbanks.

But last night I did get to meet a real 4-time Iditarod champion, Jeff King, who is also the oldest to ever win the 1,100-mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome – he won in 2006 at age 50. Visiting his Goose Lake Kennel, just outside Denali National Park, was a real highlight of my Royal Caribbean cruisetour (the excursion is priced at $49 and well worth it).

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From our nice accommodations at the McKinley Village Lodge, a few dozen of us drove by vans to the Kings’ home/kennel. And within minutes of that I had a baby Alaskan Huskie in my hands. Sooo cute. And maybe a future sled dog champion?

The litters here are named by the Kings’ three daughters – now in their teens and 20s – and they adopted a fun approach over the years, choosing themes. For instance, there is the (more…)

August 16, 2009

Spawning salmon in Ketchikan, Alaska

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The salmon are spawning in Ketchikan and its amazing to watch them trying to swim up stream (though they probably say the same thing about us).

I spent the day wandering around this little historic town, most of it observing salmon in some form or other – swimming, climbing, jumping, lying dead having been just been caught by a fisherman (and headed to someone’s frying pan or BBQ grill, no doubt).

Ketchikan has in recent years experienced an influx of shops plying mostly China-made souvenirs to the cruise tourists – there were at least three big ships in today. There are also (more…)

August 13, 2009

Off to Alaska

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Sarah Palin, I’m a comin’. But no, I won’t be one of those stopping by the Governor’s Mansion in Juneau to see where you used to live, sometimes (though I understand the bus tours that go past the mansion have gotten popular). I’m lookin’ for wildlife to photograph (not to hunt) and glaciers.

This is, I think, my 10th trip to Alaska (I’ve lost track. And hence, btw, the fact I already have photos like the one above). As co-author of Frommer’s Alaska Cruises & Ports of Call (yes, a little plug here), I try to get there every season at least.

This time I’ll be three days on a ship – Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas. And then I’ll be heading inland to Fairbanks, Mount McKinley, Denali and Anchorage. So stay tuned for my reports.

August 6, 2009

Exploring Cognac – Music and Spirit

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My day began with a seat on the top deck of an overnight Air France 747 from Logan to Paris, included much cognac tasting in Cognac, France, the home of the spirit, and ended with a late-night concert by British rocker Charlie Winston at the Cognac Blues Passion festival. It was a long day.

First things first: I didn’t sleep much on the flight (for no reason really, I had a nice comfy emergency row coach seat with extra legroom) but surely did sitting up in the Paris airport waiting for my flight to Bordeaux. Don’t you love when you pop awake and realize you’ve been sleeping with your mouth wide open and people staring? (more…)

July 14, 2009

Curious George gets a new home

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:46 pm

Curious GeorgeIt is a little known fact that “Curious George,” the funny “big city”-dwelling monkey created by Margaret and H.A. Rey in the 1940s, has roots in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, next to what’s now the Waterville Valley ski resort.

The Reys, originally from Germany, spent summers in what’s now known as The Curious George Cottage. The nonprofit Margret and H.A. Rey Center runs educational programs, nature walks and events (including a weekend Curious George Family Festival at Waterville Valley, Aug. 7-9; rates at the resort from $56 per person including activities).

And George now has his own visitors’ center too in Waterville Valley’s Town Square, just opened (more…)

July 10, 2009

Udaipur, India? Yes according to Travel + Leisure readers

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:54 pm

I have to admit I get a little twinge of excitement when Travel + Leisure puts out its World’s Best Awards, because it helps in my constant quest to find what’s great and new in the world of travel.

intro1And based on this year’s results, it seems I need to get myself to Udaipur, India. Udaipur, which is in Rajasthan in Western India, and has displaced Bangkok, last year’s winner, as World’s Best City.  (Jagat Niwas Palace in photo.)

Other newcomers in top spots include Bushmans Kloof in the Cedar Mountains of South Africa (nope, haven’t been there either), which has been named Best Overall Hotel; and tour company Austin-Lehman Adventures, named Best Tour Operator.

Bali regains its 2007 title as World’s Best Island (well phew, the turtles of the Galapagos, the (more…)

Introducing kids to the Big Apple – New York City with Kids

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My kids are now grown, but I well remember the days when I would take them into New York City. We’d drive or take the train from Boston, and there would be much excitement and a plan with a gazillion things to do and see. And we’d get to about one-tenth of them, if that.

New York is a wonderful place for kids. But it can be overwhelming. Fortunately, a pal of mine, Meryl Pearlstein, has written a very useful throw-in-your-pocketbook guidebook aimed at helping parents navigate the city, with a focus on keeping the kids entertained.

“New York City with Kids,” published by Fodor’s Family (Random House), is itself easy to navigate, with lists of top attractions right up front (the Empire State Building et al; above photo of Herald Square by Jeff Greenberg), and an unusual section titled “If Your Kid Likes,” which lists attractions based on kids’ interested. Categories include: dinosaurs, techno gadgets, princesses, weird and kooky and so forth. Another section focuses on what’s free. (more…)

Really get away at sea with Cruise West

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:50 pm

For those who dream of an extreme get away from things like declining stock markets, and Michael Jackson news and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Cruise West’s Voyages of the Great Explorers cruise offers an opportunity to do as the famous mariners of old did, and head off to sea – for a whopping 335 days. You don’t have to book the whole cruise (it’s also being sold in segments), but if you do at the end of the sailing you will have circumnavigated the world. How cool is that?

 (In my photo, above, Cruise West passengers look for whales in Baja.)

The world cruise follows the sea routes of Marco Polo (Asia, India, the Middle East), Odysseus (more…)

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