Get Away With Fran

September 12, 2014

Booking a cruise like a pro

Filed under: Cruise,International,Travel Advice,U.S. — admin @ 7:10 pm

What secrets do travel pros know in terms of getting you the best cruise at the best price? Here are some lessons that apply whether you are using a travel agent or booking a cruise on your own. These tips can save you money.

My story for Bon Voyage/Cruiseline.com:

http://cruiseline.com/advice/cruising-101/all-about-cruising/how-to-book-a-cruise-like-a-pro

Best cruises for sailing fans

Filed under: Cruise,International,Travel Advice,U.S. — admin @ 6:56 pm

These cruise ships have something different — sails. Enjoy the romance of the sea while you luxuriate on deck or help pulls the ropes. Pirate speak is encouraged.

Check out my story for USA Today Experience Cruise

http://www.usatoday.com/experience/cruise/best-of-cruising/see-the-best-sailing-cruises/15065063/

January 8, 2012

Medical tourism, a tweak here, a tweak there

Filed under: International,Travel Advice — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:03 pm

Here’s the how and why on medical tourism. And no, I haven’t, but please let me know if you have.

http://www.budgettravel.com/feature/6-things-you-need-to-know-about-getting-medical-care-abroad,8135/

What’s surprising to me in researching this was companies actually encouraging their employees to travel overseas in order to cut healthcare costs.

January 6, 2012

Hello, I’m back…

Filed under: Food,International,Travel Advice,U.S. — admin @ 7:53 am

meme Hello GetAway followers. I realize I have taken a super long break, basically because I have been so busy freelancing articles for sites, newspapers and magazines. But I’m back. In addition to sharing thoughts and travel experiences I’ll be posting links so you can see what else I am working on.

Here’s the latest in case anyone is heading to New York and looking for a deal on a meal:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/money/dollar-stretchers-restaurant-week-coming-a-good-time-find-great-dining-deals-article-1.1001314

And here’s a snipet of what I did this fall:

http://blog.budgettravel.com/budgettravel/2011/12/australias_weird_wildlife_warn.html

Happy Travels!

Fran

September 3, 2010

Pretzels and Beer in Lufthansa Lounge at Munich Airport

Filed under: Airlines,International,Travel Advice — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 11:02 am

Munich 

It is always a tad disorienting when you get off an overnight flight to Europe. You may have slept a little, but you haven’t gotten the full eight hours.

This is true even, as in my case, when you are wonderfully ensconced in a bed-like seat in Business Class on a Lufthansa 340-600, with a nice Riesling keeping you company.

So it was kind of a “wow” moment when I walked into the Lufthansa Business Class Lounge at Munich Airport to see beer drinkers at long tables with full glasses and large pretzels dangling on pretzel holders. At 10 a.m.

I grabbed a coffee and plopped myself in a lounge chair to take in the scene, and a buxom woman in a traditional dirndl proffered a basket, so I had a pretzel with my latte.

Gotta love Munich.

Lufthansa added the Bavarian flair to its lounge earlier this year. There is indeed draft beer, tapped from the barrel , which can be enjoyed at the traditional wooden tables below painted views of the Bavarian Alps.

The beer garden is not the only thing in the Terminal 2 lounge, of course. There is also a nice workstation corner for those who need to stay connected, cushy leather seating for those like me who want to take a little snooze and tables aplenty for those who want to grab a quick bite. There are bar areas too. It’s a wonderful place to hang out before your connecting flight.

For those who don’t have lounge access – yes, I know, my job has some nice perks – there is also a Munich Airport brewery/restaurant with beer garden outside of security, open in summer.

June 10, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn visits Torshavn

Filed under: Cruise,International — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 11:43 am

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Q: Where is Toshavn? A: In the Faroe Islands. Q: Where are the Faroe Islands? A: In the general area of the North Sea and North Atlantic.

So why would a cruise ship like Seabourn Sojourn visit here? Because the scenery is absolutely beautiful. Plus it’s on the way to Iceland.

We docked right near downtown Torshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands, and population about 19,000, where we were greeted with an all male choir.

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Admittedly, since I had work to do, I promptly headed off in search of an Internet cafe. Friendly locals – including the choir guys – pointed me towards the hotel – it was easy to find as it was one of the tallest buildings in town and marked “hotel” – where there was a nice, contemporary coffee shop with free wi-fi. I parked myself there for much of the ship’s afternoon visit.

And let me mention everyone I talked to spoke both Danish (the Faroes being part of Denmark) and perfect English, even here, really in the middle of nowhere.

Others went off on the various excursions offered by Seabourn to explore this land of the Vikings, including a President’s Choice hike, which on this visit was actually attended by the line’s President and CEO Pam Conover, onboard for the ship’s maiden voyage.

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My foray into downtown didn’t stop me from seeing views, which at times reminded me of New Zealand. With the Midnight Sun – we’re pretty far north – it only gets dark briefly this time of year. As the Sojourn passed close to little islands and rugged cliffs, we’d see a house here or there, and wonder what it’s like to be so isolated.

 

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I should mention that up until Torshavn, and through the night as we cruised towards Iceland, the seas where very still, almost to the point of distraction. However, we did wake up today doing a little rock ‘n’ rollin, in a small storm. I was glad I had prepared with a patch behind my ear.

Yesterday evening, I did some further exploring of the ship. So if you’ll indulge me, I’ll add to my favorite spots the two-deck spa, where a relaxation room has an unusual footbath to get your blood circulating – you walk in cold water than hot then cold then hot, etc., and then rest on heated loungers.

Upstairs at the spa, there’s also a quiet, open-air relaxation area. You can enjoy both on a $30 day pass.

And the Observation Bar on Deck 10 is a great spot for socializing at night – it’s done up in contemporary furnishings and blue lights and kept kind of dark so you feel like you’re in a trendy club. During the day, it’s also a wonderful forward-facing spot to take in the views. And with an open deck area in front, you can grab your camera and easily take photos of those views as well.

June 8, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn makes first port call at Invergordon, Scotland

Filed under: Cruise,International — Tags: , , — admin @ 2:02 pm

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The beautiful  Seabourn Sojourn, on its maiden voyage, made its first port call today at Invergordon, Scotland. There was even a bagpiper to meet us. We didn’t get sunshine but the rain held off for at least the morning.

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The town itself is a former navy base, now known for the repair of oil rigs. It’s not the prettiest town in the world. But still, locals have added flair by painting murals on several of the buildings on High Street.

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But I was most impressed with the friendliness of people here. Getting off the Sojourn, which was docked only a few blocks from the center of town, I asked at a visitor information booth if there was wi-fi to be found anywhere. Quite a discussion ensued. One fellow said, in a wonderful thick accent “Ooh, let’s see. There’s one at the museum.” And another older fellow chimed in “Ooh, and one at the church.”  And a third guy, with a wink in his eye, opined “And the church is free, but the museum isn’t.”

As it turned out there wasn’t Wi-Fi at the museum, but there were computers to use.

I explore the town in about a half hour. Walking back I noticed some souvenir shops near the pier. From one I purchased several tartan wool scarves – only about $20 each, so how could I resist? And the shopkeeper made my day, when he handed me my change with a “Thank you, lass.”

While I was exploring, my pal Jennie went off to see one of the castles for which the northern Highlands are famous (she also got to see countryside and sheep). Jennie reports the tour of Cawdor Castle (see photo at top), the 14th century castle that inspired”Macbeth” was excellent, with a well-informed guide and a Seabourn crew member on the bus as an escort. The guide though didn’t give the juicy version of the castle’s history, which very much involves sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Back on the ship, there was a performance in the Grand Salon of Highland dance and song, and a bagpiper was involved.

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Impressive. Among the other things that has most impressed about the Sojourn is the food. Jennie and I last night sampled Restaurant 2, which is the Sojourn’s specialty dining venue. Let me report it was awesome, seven extravagant courses, and each course had multiple tastings.

Okay, for you foodies out there, we had a crisp little bite of foie gras, lobster roll with yogurt caviar sauce, a bacalaito fritter with avocado and tomato salad, seared salmon with white bean salsa, Shiraz braised oxtail soup with manchego potstickers (my personal favorite), drunken turbot with porcini and swiss chard and Tuscan braised veal with mascarpone mashed potato, limoncello tiramisu foam over marinated oranges, dark chocolate ganache, espresson panna cotta and condensed milk ice cream, followed by a night cap of a Kahlua frappe.

And yes, we could walk afterwards, sort of. And I apologize for not having photos. I was too busy eating.

Food on this entire cruise has been amazing, so the fact there is even a specialty restaurant seems superfluous. But I still love it.

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.

June 1, 2010

London bound to see new Seabourn Sojourn

Filed under: Cruise,International — Tags: , , — admin @ 5:14 pm

I’m heading to England this week to see the new Seabourn Sojourn. Can’t wait. British supermodel Twiggy will be the godmother of the ship, so I’m expecting a very chic naming ceremony (note to self: pack a mini skirt).

Then I’ll be cruising on the ship to Scotland (haven’t been there since I was a wee lass, seriously) and the Faroe Islands (part of Denmark) and then to Iceland. It’s an unusual itinerary on an ultra luxurious 450-passenger ship, that promises to be fab.

Stayed tuned for details. Oh, and do pass the champagne, please.

May 3, 2010

Spectacular Paul Gauguin cruise in Tahiti

Filed under: Cruise,International — Tags: , , , — admin @ 1:24 am

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I knew I would use the word “spectacular” a lot on this trip because I was coming to Tahiti, South Pacific paradise found.

I didn’t know I’d start thinking it from the plane. But flying eight hours from LA, over Pacific Ocean, ocean and more ocean and suddenly a view of islands shaped like crescents and clouds that mirrored the shape of the volcanic peaks on land – spectacular.

I’m in Tahiti to review the Paul Gauguin, a luxurious, 332-passenger cruise ship named for the French impressionist artist who helped put French Polynesia on the map. I actually cruised on the ship about 11 years ago, but it’s now under new ownership by the folks who also operate Pacific Beachcomber luxury resorts here. So time, I figured, for a revisit.

And yes, the ship is rather spectacular. It’s the little things that count of course, and nice first impressions on a hot tropical evening were made by the cold towel and glass of champagne offered as we arrived at the ship, docked in Papeete, capital city of this island nation.

On the ship, my verandah cabin is done up in classy, mellow style and has a flat screen TV, an IPod docking station, fresh flowers, and L’Occitane bath products. There’s a nice big and rather plush bed, and plenty of room to stretch out.

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After a decent night’s sleep, breakfast on my verandah this morning – gotta love room service – was an ahhh experience as I watched the ship approach the island of Raiatea, views including the bluest of blue seas and greenest of green landscape.

It’s the colors, man, seems an appropriate phrase. The name Raiatea actually means bright sky. And the sun was sure shining. (more…)

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