Enriching your lifestyle through wine, culinary and jazz travel.

The Grapevine

We bring you the best in travel, wine and food with these blog posts.

Top 10 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent

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Reason #9

Work with a Small-Business Owner

Here, in Letterman style is Reason #9 in our Top 10 Reasons to use a Travel Agent instead of a travel website.

Personal Touch

No, there will not be any touching; just a warm personal touch. Most everyone wants to feel special and enjoys having someone cater to them. Even the Grinch wanted to be liked at the end of the story. Well, getting special treatment is a benefit of working with a small-business owner. To a small-business person, you are not a number. You are a key client. You matter.

When you use a travel agent instead of a travel website, you get to work with an individual, someone who values you and appreciates your patronage. You will see a huge difference in using the services of a travel professional versus doing the work alone on the web, receiving no personalized attention.

Hotel, Villa or Apt. - An Agent Can Help

Help Securing your Ideal Accommodation

Nowadays, personal travel agents have access to homes, villas, boutique hotels and apartments. They can help you decide just which property is right for you.

And if you want to stay in a resort abroad, an agent can help you determine which ones are gay/lesbian friendly. Just because the United States has finally legalized same-sex marriage, it doesn’t mean you may not suffer discrimination while traveling internationally. If you have special needs, an agent can help you locate handicap accessible hotels in a country that may not have any ADA requirements.

Allow me to share this brief story with you. Years ago before I entered the travel business, I used a large online travel agency to book a special trip. We spent close to $10,000 on this vacation! We are not wealthy people so this was a huge investment for us to spend on one vacation. Did we receive an acknowledgement from the online travel website for spending five figures with them for our vacation? We did not.

Don’t get me wrong. We had a great time and returned with big smiles on our faces. But, do you think we got a card from the online travel agency thanking us for our business? Think again. Did they give us a special gift to commemorate our anniversary? Nope. Did they ask us about our trip upon our return? We never heard a word from them. Why? They didn’t have any interest in us after we had finished booking our trip. However, we did get lots of pop-up ads touting more trips to Europe.

Saturday after Thanksgiving
Shop Locally on Small-Business Saturday

Shop Locally on Small-Business Saturday

Everyone knows the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. But were you aware that the day after Black Friday is called Small Business Saturday? Cities around the country decided to “take back” their shops and storefronts.  The idea is to shop locally. The money you spend with small business owners stays in your community, benefiting your neighbors, friends and other locals.

David vs. Goliath Travel

When you use a travel agent firm such as Expedia, you are working with a huge conglomerate. They are no mom-and-pop business. This publicly traded company owns several other travel brands. Expedia owns Hotwire.com, Travelocity.com, Hotels.com, Trivago.com, Expedia CruiseShip Centers, CarRentals.com and Classic Vacations. And, Expedia recently closed a corporate deal buying Orbitz for the cool sum of $1.6 billion. When you use Expedia or any of their OTA subsidiaries, you are using the same corporate behemoth. Working with a small-business owner who is the agent is like staying at a boutique hotel or B&B versus a national hotel chain. Both will give you a safe place to rest while on vacation but the experience will be dramatically different.

Feel Appreciated!

As a small-business owner, I realize you have many chooses in planning and booking your travel.  So, when you allow me the opportunity to plan and book your vacation, I treat it like the privilege it is. I do not take your trust, nor your vacation dollars lightly. You want to feel appreciated when working with someone. When working one on one with a travel professional, you get unparalleled personal attention.

I can plan and book an amazing vacation for you based on the ideas you share with me. In America, we get so few vacation days compared to other countries.  I know it is critical that you have the time of your life during your one- or two-week vacation. And that is what I aim to do; plan and book wonderful, memorable vacations for you to escape the stresses of work and mounds of responsibilities.

So if you are thinking of taking a vacation or even a long getaway, give a local travel agent (hint: Fine Living Enthusiast) the opportunity to earn your business. Book your next vacation on Saturday, Nov. 26th with a small-business owner. And you just might be surprised to learn that It Won’t Cost You More!

Safe Travels!

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Carnival Vista

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Set Sail to Europe

Carnival Vista on the Way

Carnival Vista on the Way

The latest Carnival Cruises Fun Ship will embark on her inaugural journey to the Mediterranean on May 1, 2016.  Pricing starts at only $1,399 for this 13-day voyage. You can be one of the first to experience the line’s largest ship to date, Carnival Vista as she visits ports-of-call along the Mediterranean Sea, including departures from Barcelona and Athens.

While on board, enjoy delectable dining experiences including in the new Horizons Restaurant and New-England-style Seafood Shack. Beer fans will love sampling mircobrews in the brewery. There’s something for all tastes.

As the name implies, the real star of this ship will be the views, which were a critical component to the ship’s design. The new open-air design gives guests a more intimate feeling, which in itself is surprising given the sheer size.  However, the sweeping views can be appreciated throughout the ship.

Carnival Vista Family Areas (Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruises)

Carnival Vista Family Areas (Photo Courtesy of Carnival)

The ship boasts the first ever IMAX theater at sea. There’s also a family-friendly dedicated area.

Here are some of the sailings* you might want to consider:

  • 8-day Sailings –  Barcelona, Spain from $899
  • 10-day Sailings – Barcelona, Spain from $1,099
  • 12-day Sailings – Barcelona, Spain from $1,649
  • 10-day Sailings – Athens, Greece from $1,099
  • Oct 21, 2016 – TransAtlantic from Barcelona, Spain to New York, starting at $1,399

* Terms and conditions apply so call us for details.

Call us for exact pricing for the stateroom and departure of your choice.  Bon Voyage!

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Follow The Wine Gospel

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For great information including wine reviews, pairing tips and other topics on the wonderful world of wine, go to my blog TheWineGospel.

The Wine Gospel is all about bringing you the gospel on wine, aka sharing my knowledge of wine with you.  To follow, click the link above.  The Wine Gospel posts several times a month.

 

 

 

USAirways Says “So Long”

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USAirways Merger Completed

USAirways & American Merger Completed

USAirways & American Merger Completed

The merger between USAirways and American Airlines has been completed. On Oct. 16, 2015 USAirways will cease to exist.

To recognize the soon-to-be-defunct company’s founding year, historic flight US1939, will depart from Philadelphia at 10:05 a.m., making stops in Charlotte, Phoenix and San Francisco. Then, it will depart SFO at 9:55 p.m., marking the last flight to operate under the brand USAirways.

 Travel Tips

If you are flying out the weekend of Oct 16th, your flight will be under American Airlines.  Things will probably be a little shaky during the next few weeks. Here’s some advice to help you during this transitional period.

  • Arrive at the airport early.
  • Have patience – Many employees will be using a new, unfamiliar system.
  • Verify your terminal. It may have changed if USAirways and AA had been using terminals in different locations.
  • Check, then re-check your gate. Access to certain gates may have changed as a result of the merger.
  • Check in on line whenever possible to minimize waiting in long lines.
  • If checking your bags, pay your fee on line to reduce long waits at the kiosk or counter.

To USAirways, so long and thanks for the memories!

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All-inclusive Cruising

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All-inclusive Cruising Hottest Trend

Celebrity Offers All-inclusive steel Cruising

Celebrity Offers All-inclusive steel Cruising

Cruise lines have realized cruisers want to pay for their vacation upfront and then enjoy a vacation free from the worry of overspending. The solution has been to offer cruisers an all-inclusive cruising package. This gives passengers the opportunity to select and receive amenities such as on-board Internet, soft drink and alcohol packages, gratuities and shore excursions.

Celebrity Cruises upped the ante for all-inclusive cruising when they introduced the highly popular 3 for Free program. Now, other lines have started their own plans including an array of prepaid options that have set a new standard for all-inclusive cruising.  Prior only upscale, luxury cruise lines offered such great deals. But now, all cruise lovers can jump on board this hot trend.

 

All-inclusive Cruising – Value Plus Choice

So what freebies are on the table?  It varies by cruise line. For example, here are some of the perks being offered:

Norwegian Cruise Line

  • FREE unlimited premium open bar on the short-cruise itinerary for their Norwegian Sky ship that embarks from Miami beginning in 2016.

Royal Caribbean

  • On short-term cruises, guests will receive FREE Voom, a speedy Internet connection while out to sea.

Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Viking joined the ocean cruise scene Spring 2015. Their range of all-inclusive services include FREE unlimited Internet/WiFi, pre-paid gratuities, FREE shore excursions, complimentary wine with lunch and dinner service.

Celebrity Cruises

  • Celebrity, the leader of the all-inclusive cruising package, is offering a game changer with three new levels of all-inclusive offerings for guests who purchase ocean-view staterooms and above.
    • Go Big – Choose one freebie, the classic beverage package, prepaid gratuities, Internet at sea or a shipboard of $300/cabin
    • Go Better – Get all four of the above for a slightly higher cruise fare
    • Go Best – All of the above except the beverages package gets an upgrade to premium alcohol

If you’d like more information on these offers, give us a call. Also, we are happy to book a cruise for you on any of these lines, as well as many others.  Smooth Sailing!

 

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Top 10 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent

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Reason #10 – Why Use a Travel Agent?

A Travel Agent Adds Value to Your Experience

A Travel Agent Adds Value to Your Experience

Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, so-and-so has a new movie.” and your response is, “I thought he was dead.”  Well the same has been about the travel agent. The talk regarding the death of the travel agent is just a vicious rumor. Travel agents add so much value to a person’s travel planning and ultimate experience.

Learn why you should use a travel agent to plan and book your vacation, honeymoon or special milestone trip. In this series on the top 10 reasons to use a travel agent, you will read truth not rumor.

Here’s the first of the Top 10 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent, presented in David Letterman style.

10. Got a Life? If you do have a life then you are busy, too busy to spend your time planning and booking a vacation. Let a professional do it for you. Do you pay someone to wash your car, manicure your nails, walk your dog, clean your house, babysit your children, mow your lawn? So why shouldn’t you use a professional (that you don’t have to pay-but more on that later) for a decision this important to you? Not only is this one of the largest investments you will make year in and year out, it’s also one of the most important.

It’s not like you get a vacation every month, right? You don’t get that much vacation time away from work and your other responsibilities.  Allowing a travel professional to handle the important details of your vacation, dream honeymoon, anniversary or milestone trip gives your special getaway the best chance of being the best vacation you’ve ever taken.

And just in case you didn’t know . . . to use a song title from the great Motown songwriting team of Ashford and Simpson, “(It) Don’t Cost you Nothing”, which leads me to reason #9, so check back next month.

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Maui Jazz and Blues Festival

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Island Blues & Jazz
Enjoying the Maui Jazz and Blues Festival

Enjoying the Maui Jazz and Blues Festival

On Saturday, September 12th, my wife and I attended the Maui Jazz and Blues Festival held at the Royal Lahaina Resort in Ka’anapali. Situated oceanfront in a romantic setting, the warm evening proved perfect for a night of jazz. At sunset, the festival kicked off with The Jazz Alley TV Quartet. They set the tone for a relaxing jazz-filled night.

 

Top Artists with Impressive Resumes

It was exciting to finally hear the Grammy-nominated guitar duo of Strunz & Farah.  The two have been performing together since 1980, yet as die-hard jazz fans we had never seen them in person. I particularly enjoyed their flamenco-style strumming, but also liked their Latin-infused hits.

In addition, the audience was treated to The Zenshin Daiko Drummers, a group of young local children who impressed the primarily mainland-residing audience.  The music was a perfect aloha-style backdrop for the fading sunset, with the ocean waves lapping through the air.

The Zenshin Daiko Drummers

The Zenshin Daiko Drummers

When we saw the line-up, we were so happy to be able to hear some many talented jazz musicians we’d never seen perform.  We were not disappointed listening to two Grammy-award winning artists, bassist John Patitucci and guitarist Russell Malone.

Setting the mood at the Maui Jazz Blues Festival

Setting the mood at the Maui Jazz Blues Festival

The highlight of the evening was the Hana Hou Jazz Jam Session. Performers included with Donald Harrison, Steve Turre, Corey Ledet, Cedril Ballou,Paula Fuga, Benny Uyetake, Les McCann and Javon Jackson.

Attend a Music Festival

Don’t worry if you missed the music festival. You can still enjoy an island-music festival at the Oahu Jazz and Blues Festival on Nov. 19-22, 2015. Learn about this great event as well as other music festivals around the world by clicking on our Festivals section of our website.

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Travel Update 9-15-15

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We want you to be in-the-know on what’s happening around the world in travel-related news so here’s the latest travel update.  Enjoy!

 

Travel Update for Airlines

Airlines Not Playing Nicely

Travel Update - Airlines

Travel Update – Airlines

Well the good ol’ days of airlines re-booking other carriers’ customers has ended today. Delta and American Airlines no longer have an interline ticketing and baggage agreement in place. This means travelers will not be able to enjoy the convenience of having these two carriers offer the option of re-booking on behalf of the other.

 

Can’t We All Just Get Along

It seems American was doing all the re-booking for Delta without the benefit of reciprocation.  So the parties over. Starting today, no flight segments operated by Delta and American on the same ticket. However, tickets purchased prior today, will still be honored.

 

United Wants to Entertain You

Well, they want you to be able to entertain yourself. So, they have initiated a new program called, “Flyer Friendly”, which includes FREE movies and popular TV shows, including HBO. By downloading the United app or by clicking the United.com website 24-hours prior to your flight, you’ll be able to determine what amenities are offered on your flight.

 

It’s About Damned Time

Who wants to be bored while flying cross country?  All you do is wonder how much closer you are to getting off the plane. Now, your time will fly by (pun intended) with streaming, from your own personal device of more than 125 movies, including children selections. Through their partnership with VEVO, music videos are also available too but unfortunately, there’s no room to bust a move. You’ll have to be content to just lip sync.

Don’t want to wait until your next flight? Then check out United Entertainment Choices now for a list of available movie titles.

 

But Wait, There’s More

Another reason to download the United app-it’s ability to navigation easier throughout the airport with better maps.  Passengers flying out of or connecting in one their hubs

  • Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles
  • New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington

will also be able to take advantage of a new self-booking function, in case of a delay, flight cancellation or missed connection.  But I’m sure you’ll NEVER need this capability, right?! Apple IOS devices are available currently with an Android version to follow shortly.

New Club at SFO

Delta has redesigned their Sky Club at the San Francisco airport.  If this is how you role, then you’ll get to enjoy a lounge twice the size as the prior one. The 9,000 square feet upgrade is conveniently located behind the security-check point, allowing for easier gate access. Plus, there are plenty of extras to make the wait pleasurable while the back-of-the-plane stiffs jockey for a seat in the cattle-call lounge.  A self-service espresso machine, two shower suites, a nice selection of premium cocktail choices, as well as craft beers, Greek yogurt, morning bagels, hot soup and salads. Ah, the good life!

 

Travel Update – Health Concerns

Hand, Food & Mouth Disease Strikes Asia

Travelers heading to the Far East should be aware that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta is continuing a Level 1 Warning for travelers to Asia. The warning, issued earlier this year applies to Singapore and Japan. According to the World Health Organization, Singapore has reported approximately 18,000 cases of hand, food and mouth disease. Japan also has had a serious outbreak.

If you are traveling with small children, especially those under the age of 5, they are the most susceptible to contracting the disease. Another good reason to not take a long-haul flight with a child. What should you look for?  Symptoms include fever, mouth blisters as well as a rash.  At this time, there is no vaccine available so take precautions. the CDC advises the following common sense advise:

 

Precautions
  1. Just like your mother told you, wash your hands often.
  2. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if good old soap and water aren’t available.
  3. Keep your hands off your sister, as well as your own face, particularly your eyes, nose and mouth.

This may be yet another great reason to purchase travel insurance prior to leaving home.

 

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Celebrity Cruises 3 for Free

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Celebrity Cruises Offers FREE Perks

Call us to take advantage of these great FREE amenity offers from Celebrity Cruises for 2016. Enjoy all of the following on your Celebrity Cruise:

  • FREE Stateroom Location Upgrade – Move to an ideal ship location to make your cruising experience even more special
  • FREE Gratuities – You’ll have more money to spend on shore excursions or shopping with this cost taken care of for you
  • FREE Specialty Dining – You’ll be able to have a romantic dinner with your sweetheart, enjoying over-the-top gourmet dining

 

Take Your Dream Cruise

It doesn’t get much better than this. There’s something for every budget. Cruise to the Caribbean in an inside cabin for as low as $599.  Perhaps you’d like to experience from your private balcony, an 11-day cruise through Scandinavia and Russia for as low as $2,499. There are many itineraries from which to choose. Find your dream cruise destination, then give us a call so we can book it for you. Plus, receive your special gift from Fine Living Enthusiast for being our valued client. This limited time offer expires on Oct. 29, 2015.

 

Celebrity Cruises 3 Perks For Free

Celebrity Cruises 3 Perks For Free

Such Value

Already have a vacation planned for next year?  That’s okay because we also have cruise dates for 2017. Talk with your family and friends about forming a group. I’ll appoint you as the “tour conductor”. This means you can receive even more perks. But you’ll all get to enjoy the wonderful service, hospitality, premium food and ship amenities together.

 

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FREE Air to Europe

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Visit Europe Now
Glide along the Canals of Amsterdam while in Europe

Glide along the Canals of Amsterdam while in Europe

Book an amazing cruise through the Netherlands and Belgium waterways and receive free airfare*. With the US dollar having gained on the Euro, now is a great time to visit Europe, as you’ll have more buying power abroad.

Your cruise begins in Amsterdam. Spend time on the iconic canals, sightseeing and admiring the Dutch architecture. Enjoy the world-famous nightlife or become part of the bike-focused culture by taking a ride along the numerous paths and trails. You’ll marvel at sites in Kinderdijk, home to the country’s greatest concentration of windmills.

There’s so much to do and see.  Better yet, arrive a few days prior to cruise embarkation to truly see what this vibrant city has to offer including:

  • Picturesque villages and towns
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • Anne Frank’s home
  • The Delta Works, a 30-year engineering project
  • The Grote Kerk (Great Church) one of Europe’s largest
  • The Royal Palace and the Red Light District
  • The Van Gogh Museum

You’ll also sail along the waterways through Antwerp, Belgium.  There are numerous activities to see and do here such as:

  • Fashion Museum, Museum of Photography, Fine Arts Museum
  • Bike along the beautiful waterfront
  • Take a break in one of the many coffee houses, cozy cafes or trendy bars
  • Visit the Cathedral of Our Good Lady

This offer expires Sept. 30th, 2016.  Call us today as staterooms will fill up quickly.

*Round-trip airfare is from select gateway cities. Other terms and conditions apply.

 

 

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