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.

Archive for the ‘The Travel Gospel’ Category

Travel Updates

Posted on: |
Travel Updates for July 15th

The following information is shared to help you with making travel plans, as well as steps you should take if you have already booked your vacation or business trip.  Here are the latest travel updates:


Riots in Greece
Rioting in the Streets of Greece

Rioting in the Streets of Greece

Police and Greece protestors clash as the parliament meets to determine if the European Union (EU) deal is acceptable to keep Greece in the Euro system.  The citizens voted “no” two weeks ago that they were okay to leave the EU and return to their homeland currency, the drachma.


Travel Warning for Kenya

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit scheduled for July 24-26 has caused concerns that terrorist may use this opportunity wage violent acts. The US Dept. of State has issued a warning this meeting could offer terrorists a venue to engage in kidnappings, car bombings or attacks at airports and ports. There are no known threats, but travelers should use heightened caution and be aware.


Delta Changes SkyMiles Program

Here are some the changes:

  1. A dynamic-award system that changes based on destination, demand and any other factor it deems.
  2. Domestic flights could earn an award with a few as 10,000, a reduction from the previous 12,500 level.
  3. Travel within California would cost 5,000 each way.
  4. Travelers will have a harder time ascertaining how many miles are needed to a particular flight segment.


Frontier Airlines

No-frills carrier Frontier is installing middle seats that have a full-inch wider that aisle and window seats. Frontier is also jamming more seats into each plane, giving each of its customers even less room. Its Airbus A320s and A319s will each add another 12 seats. This brings the total number of seats in an A320 up to 180, a full 30 seats more than United puts on the same aircraft. for more updates on changes, please See the full Frontier article.

Source: USA Today


Cuba Travel

The year 2015 is shaping up to be a record-breaker for Cuba in terms of tourism numbers and is expected to top the 3-million mark reached in 2014, which set a record. According to a release from the Ministry of Tourism, two million tourists visited Cuba between Jan. 1 and July 10 this year.

If you want to visit Cuba, we have tour operators who offer travel based on the US People-to-People program. Call us or check out our Cuba tour.

Source: Travel Weekly

Tags: , ,

Airline News 7-6-15

Posted on: |

Airline News from Delta and American

Airlines News and Updates

Airlines Poise for Summer

Here’s the latest airline news and updates for the week of 7-6-15.


Airlines Accused of Collusion

This past week, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has alleged collusion within the airlines industry, resulting in artificially higher airfares.  According to the Associated Press, the DOJ accuses the airlines of limiting the number of seats, which is leading to higher prices. This is a particular concern given the increase in summer travel. This comes at a time when the airlines have seen a doubling in their profit markets of more than $30 billion.

Spain Controllers to Strike

Spanish air traffic controllers have announced an industrial strike action scheduled July 11th, 12th, 26th and 26th for three hours each day. Travel to and from Spain will be impacted. The strike is a reaction to sanctions handed down to 61 air traffic controllers who had previously participated in a strike in 2010.


American Airlines

Going Down Under Just Got Easier

Pending regulatory approvals, American Airlines and Qantas Airways plan to expand their joint business by adding new service between the U.S. and Australia. New routes between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Sydney Airport (SYD), operated by American Airlines, and between San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and SYD, operated by Qantas.

More Flights to Australia

According to these OneWorld Partners, services will initially operate on peak days and ramp up to six times per week in January 2016.


Expands Coast to Coast

Starting in November, Delta will expand cross country service from New York JFK with an additional LAX frequency and upgraded service between New York JFK and San Francisco.
On flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles, Delta will increase service from nine to ten daily peak day flights, with four flights operated with Boeing 767 wide-body aircraft.

Goes Turkey

Delta will begin offering daily service between New York JFK and Istanbul this month for the summer.

Direct Flights to Provence

Joint venture partners Delta and Air France will offer year round nonstop service between Nice and New York JFK. The flight is the only service to link the French Riviera region to
the United States nonstop.
 Source: NewsLine

Major Changes for Minors

Effective, June 22, 2015, children traveling alone as unaccompanied minors must be booked by directly contacting the American Airlines Reservations department. This policy change only impacts newly booked reservations and if you are unclear of our policies and restrictions related to unaccompanied minor travel, one of the AA representatives will be glad to answer your questions.


Tags: , , ,

Travel News 6-29-15

Posted on: |

Travel Use You Can Use

Princess Heads to South America
Christ the Redeemer in Brazil

Christ the Redeemer in Brazil

Here’s some of the latest travel news for cruisers and those traveling internationally.

Crown Princess will be Princess’ largest ship ever to sail a full season of cruises to South America. It has added cruising itineraries sailing the southernmost tip of South America and the Chilean Fjord. You’ll get an opportunity to visit the amazing cities of Santiago (Valparaiso) and either Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires . There will be nine (9) departures during the season.

Crown Princess will offer cruises around Cape Horn on 14- and 33-day itineraries, including overnight calls in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Lima (Callao) on select departures. Crown Princess will sail between two continents and cross the Equator on an Andes and South America cruise featuring Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica with an optional overland tour of Machu Picchu.

Contact us if you are interested in any of these itineraries.


Delta and Aeromexico To Join Forces

Grupo Aeromexico and Delta have filed an application with the Mexican Comision Federal de Competencia Economica (Federal Economic Competition Commission) for a Joint Cooperation Agreement on flights between the United States and Mexico.

Subject to the required economic competition authority’s approvals, the airlines expect to offer an expanded network, enhancing routes and schedules, concurrently increasing opportunities to co-locate and invest in airport facilities by improving gates, lounges and the overall connecting experience, Grupo Aeromexico said in a statement announcing the application. Additionally, the airlines will increase joint sales and marketing initiatives.

Source: TravelAgent Central


Hepatitis A Outbreak in Mexico

The Center for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Watch for Mexico, particularly Tulum. Please go to the CDC website for more information if you are traveling to this area or contact your travel agent.


Yachting the Riveria

WindStar Cruises has a wine cruise departing on Oct. 13, 2015 for the French and Italian Riviera.  The 7-day cruise departs from Nice and disembarks in Rome (Civitavecchia).  Call us, your WindStar Specialist at 619-944-5202 to book this relaxing yachting lifestyle cruise and receive exclusive amenities.





Tags: , , ,

Travel Alerts

Posted on: |
Latest Travel Alerts

Latest Travel Alerts

Advisory Travel Alerts

The United States Department of State has issued several travel alerts and warning for US citizens. Please be aware if you have plans to travel abroad. Here are the latest travel alerts:

The Philippines

US Dept. of State has issued a travel warning for the Philippines.  It is not stating you should avoid travel to the country. However, you should avoid travel to certain islands and regions.

They are as follows:

  • Sulu Archipelago
  • Southern Sulu Sea
  • Mindanao Island

You should take general precautions for any travel to the country and use your common sense.


Center for Disease Control

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued travel alerts for Japan. There has been an increase in the number of incidents of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).  For the calendar year 2015, there have been 28,758 cases of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.


The Level 1 Advisory means travelers should “Practice usual precautions” for hygiene and cleanliness.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently or
  • Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Cover your mouth when you cough by using a tissue
  • Do Not touch your mouth, nose or eyes
  • Do not kiss or hug anyone that is sick
  • Do not share eating utensils

The virus that cause HFMD is more common in the summer and fall.  Currently, there is no vaccine.


Mexico Travel Awareness

Certain areas in Mexico have experienced an increase in chikungunya.  The symptoms include headache, joint swelling, muscle pain or a rash. The disease is transmitted via mosquitoes. However, there is no travel restriction to Mexico.

The following Mexican states have seen transmission of the disease:

  • Chiapas, Coahuila, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Sonora

According to the CDC, travelers should talk with their physicians prior to going to any of these regions.


Source: Nexion

Tags: ,

5 Cinco de Mayo Facts

Posted on: |

A Gringo Celebration

Viva Mexico

Viva Mexico

Will you be heading out tonight to celebrate the gringo holiday Cinco de Mayo? Here are five Cinco de Mayo facts to toss around the bar this evening as you join in the revelry.

Fact 1 : According to a recent survey, nine out of ten people think this holiday is Mexican Independence Day. But those of you in the know, know better.

Fact 2: Cinco de Mayo commemorates the day Mexico unexpectedly defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla. For some, perhaps it’s another way to keep alive the North American tradition of sticking it to the French.

Fact 3: The Battle of Puebla victory was short lived as Napoleon III regrouped and France won the rematch a year later.

Fact 4: May 5th is not a holiday in Mexico. However, it is recognized as one in the state of Puebla, which is located southeast of Mexico City.

Anejo Tequila & Lime

Anejo Tequila & Lime

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate Mexican heritage. But personally, I think it’s a retailer holiday.  It’s just another way for bars, restaurants and spirits makers to tack some revenue onto their bottom line. But, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. St. Paddy’s day was six weeks ago after all so everyone is looking for a quasi-legitimate reason to go out and get liquored up.

Fact 5: If anyone asks, tell them that Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16th. Dieciséis de Septiembre just doesn’t have the same ring does it? 


Tags: , ,

Cruise News

Posted on: |

Cruise News – April

Here’s an update on the latest in cruise news. River and ocean cruise lines have been busy lately.


Gay with Jennifer Hudson in Cozumel

Gay with Jennifer Hudson in Cozumel

Carnival Cruise Line has announced summer and fall 2015 artists’ lineup for its Carnival Live Concert Series.  Recently, The Band Perry, BOSTON, Lionel Richie and Heart were added to the lineup.

The spring series, which kicked off last month, included performances by Journey, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Smokey Robinson and Styx.

Concerts are held in the ships’ main theaters, which accommodate a guest capacity from 900 to 1,300.  Concerts are held while the vessels are docked in one of three ports of call: Cozumel, Nassau and St. Thomas.


Repositioning Ships

Carnival Cruise Line will be increasing capacity by 34 percent on 3- and 4-day Bahamas cruises from their Port Canaveral terminal. Their newest class of ships will commerce 7-day Caribbean voyages beginning 2016.

In October 2016, Carnival Valor will replace the Carnival Victory’s 3- and 4-day Bahamas cruises from Central Florida. Valor will be the only ship operating 3- and 4-day cruises.  She has undergone the Fun Ship 2.0 upgrade.

On November 27, 2016, The Carnival Magic will embark on a 12-day Carnival Journeys. These cruises are part of new Space Coast, departing from Galveston. Featured ports will include Cozumel; Limon, Costa Rica; Colon, Panama; Cartagena and Santa Marta, Colombia; Aruba, and Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos.


Disney Takes to the River

Adventures by Disney has partnered with AmaWaterways to launch river cruise itineraries. Beginning summer 2016, Disney will have four sailings on the Danube River.

The new itineraries will take place on board the new, 170-passenger AmaViola. The new ship is being built with family-friendly design elements in mind, including six sets of connecting staterooms. Additionally, the ship’s suites have pull-out sofas that allow them to sleep three or four. Finally, Adventures by Disney plans to sail the ship at a faster pace than is common for river cruises, allowing for more time in a destination; and fewer restless children.


Royal Caribbean

The Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International’s newest Quantum-class ship, arrived at the Southampton Cruise Port on April 15.  Anthem of the Seas will begin her inaugural spring and summer season with sailings from her Southampton homeport. The itineraries are throughout Europe, including the Mediterranean. In fall 2015, the Anthem will head across the Atlantic to her new home at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in New York HarborThen, she will head for itineraries in the warm waters of the Caribbean.


A Foodie’s Delight

Gourmet Dining for the Foodie

Gourmet Dining for the Foodie

The Anthem of the Seas will be a foodie’s dream. Gourmands will love the all-new Dynamic Dining experience.  Guests can choose from a selection of 18 restaurant concepts, including five complimentary main dining restaurants.  There’s also an option to choose between Dynamic Dining Choice, which allows guests to decide when, where, and with whom to dine each evening.  For those diners who prefer the more traditional experience,  the Dynamic Dining Classic is available still.


Sick on the High Seas

During its most recent sailing, which ended in San Diego on April 13th, 99 guests and one crew member on board the Celebrity Infinity experienced gastrointestinal illness. The culprit was believed to have been the norovirus, according to Celebrity Cruises.

Upon arriving in San Diego,  the Celebrity Infinity crew began an extensive and thorough sanitizing of the ship, as well as the cruise terminal.  This was designed to help prevent any illness from affecting the subsequent sailings.


Guests Should do Their Part

However, the cruise lines cannot prevent illness by themselves. It is critical that guests use the hand sanitizers the cruise lines have distributed throughout the ship. Also, guests should wash their hands frequently and instruct their children to do the same. If you are sick, you should notify the staff immediately so they can provide you with aid and help prevent the spread of illness to other guests.


Source: Travel Agent Central

Tags: , ,

Dominica – Eco-friendly Island

Posted on: |

Nature Island

Abundant Flora & Fauna

Abundant Flora & Fauna

The tiny Caribbean island of Dominica is an outdoor lover’s paradise. No wonder it is called “The Nature Island of the Caribbean”.  And with only 71,000 residents, you won’t feel overrun with crowds.

The azure calm waters are ideal for snorkelers, especially beginners. Much of the marine life can be viewed in waters as shallow as four feet. Off the coast, try to spot bottle-nosed, spinner, and Atlantic-spotted dolphins as they frolic in the sea, along with pilot, humpback, and sperm whales. It’s also home to pirates. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3 were filmed here.


Hikers’ Paradise
Hike to Waterfalls

Hike to Several Waterfalls

Dominica offers hikers an abundance of awesome trails set in lush verdant forests. Locals claim you can hike to a different waterfall everyday. An excellent hiking excursion is Trafalgar Falls, located a short 20-minute drive from Roseau. In addition, the abundant flora and fauna, along with myriad birds, make the island perfect for a photography trip.

If hiking isn’t your thing, then explore the inner island by boat along the Indian River. This protected area has restricted access to certified guides only, who will row the boat for you, allowing sit to back and take in the scenery.


Take a Dip

A must-visit is Champagne Beach Reef.  It’s part of a 3-mile long marine park. Here, the water is the warmest in the Caribbean, due to geothermal activity. Gases escape from an active underwater volcano, located about one-half mile off the island. Trapped gas escapes from underwater vents, making loud noises, which will be funny to kids and those who like to act like kids.  Adults will enjoy it also since you’ll feel like you are swimming in a glass of champagne.


Dominica Geothermal Pond

Dominica Geothermal Pond

Some of the water in waterfall ponds will have a murky color, giving an appearance of being dirty. However, it is perfectly safe to splash around in these ponds and perhaps even therapeutic. The cloudiness is the result of geothermal activity.

The spring water is saturated with the calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Surprisingly, the water is not super hot. In addition to tourism, Dominica earns income from generating geothermal energy, which it exports to the neighboring islands of Martinique and Guadalupe.


Head into Town(s)
Dominica - The Nature Island

Dominica – The Nature Island

If you want a break from the wilderness, then head into Roseau, the island’s largest city with approximately 17,000 residents. Here you can pick up groceries or shop for locally made crafts. And be sure to bring back some delicious Dominica coffee. The Roseau port is home to a cruise ship terminal, so time your trip into town accordingly.

If you want to experience more local life, then head over to Portsmouth, formerly Grand Anse. This previous capital and second largest city has a population of only 4,000.

Dominica was the last Caribbean island settled by Europeans. As a result, it has a more authentic Caribbean feel than other islands. With less interference from outsiders, the native Carib and ethically West African people were able to hold onto more of their own customs, traditions and foods.


Tags: ,

Top 5 Travel Tips of Savvy Travelers

Posted on: |

Top Travel Tips for Savvy Travelers

Savvy travelers know the top travel tips to use to grab great deals and avoid the maddening crowds. Now, you can too.  You should use these travel tips to make your next vacation planning experience a lot smoother.

Travel Tip - Travel during Non-Peak Times

Travel Tip – Travel during Non-Peak Times

5. Travel During Off-Peak

Traveling on off-peak days of the week and off-peak times allows you to take advantage of better fares. You’ll also have a better chance of not fighting over the armrest with fewer people on the planes. You may even get to snag a great seat typically reserved for elite-status airline members only.

Plan your weekend getaway for a Thursday through Sunday or Friday through Monday. You can spend the added flight savings on fun activities and dinners out in the city you are visiting.

4. Vacation during Shoulder Season

When planning a vacation to the Caribbean, Bali or Hawaii, avoid peak travel season. Also, keep in mind snowbirds will be trying to escape their frozen tundra hometowns, making reservations harder and more expensive to come by. A good travel agent will help you plan your vacation during non-peak travel times.

Travel Tip - Avoid Foreign Travelers' Peak Travel Seasons

Travel Tip – Avoid Foreign Travelers’ Peak Travel Seasons

We took a Caribbean cruise during the first two weeks of December. The following week, the same two-week cruise cost twice as much.

Savvy travelers consider the travel patterns of foreigners. Japanese, German, Canadian and British tourists travel extensively and may be driving up rates during certain months.  Also, if you don’t have school-age children, then avoid summer and school breaks, especially Spring break.


3. Get Email Notifications

Pick a few airlines and hotel brands you like, then join their loyalty membership programs. If you have traveled on a certain airline or stayed at a hotel chain, then you’re already ahead of the game. Simply, sign up for email notifications from these companies. You should do this about eight months out from your departure date.

If you want to keep these emails separate from your others, set up a unique email account just for these offers.

Travel Tip - Snag Luxury Accommodations by Going Direct

Travel Tip – Snag Luxury Accommodations by Going Direct

2. Travel Mid-day

Schedule your flights during the middle of the day. First, you’ll avoid the morning rush. Secondly, you’ll get to spend a bit more time enjoying your vacation. Photographers love taking pictures during the early morning hours. Heading out for a quick photo shoot before leaving for the airport may give you an opportunity to capture those final vacation memories.


 1. Go Directly to the Source

Rates vary wildly at hotels, especially at luxury properties. In January, we traveled to Las Vegas.  A major technology conference was in town through Thursday. When planning the getaway, I called our desired hotel, the Wynn, inquiring about rates.  The rack rate was starting at $625 per night through Thursday. So, on Thursday night, we stayed at a hotel a block off The Strip, then moved to The Wynn from Friday through Monday at an average nightly rate of $325 per night, a savings of almost 50%.

In addition, you can call the hotel manager and ask for the seasons or months that will have lower occupancy rates, with the idea of landing a deal during these slow times. You may also increase your odds of scoring a room upgrade.


Source: Conde Nast Traveler

Tags: ,

Tulum Ruins

Posted on: |

Mayan Ruins of Tulum

Gay-Tulum-Calendar-InfoTulum is one of approximately 3,000 Mayan ruins located throughout the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It is one of the smallest ruins uncovered. During the Late Post Classical Period, which was from 1250- 1550 AD, Tulum developed as a city with strategic importance. The Mayan civilization had the only fully developed written language in the pre-Columbian Americas.

In the Mayan language, Tulum means “fence” or “wall”. The walls were 26 feet thick walls, averaging 16 feet in height and 1,300 feet in length.  They were used as a defense against invasions. The explorers of the Juan de Grijalva Spanish Expedition of 1518 were the first Europeans to spot the ruins of the walled city of Tulum.

Tulum Ruins are set high above the Caribbean Sea

Tulum is set high above the Caribbean Sea

There are only 20 remaining structures at the Tulum Ruins. However, due to its location high on the cliffs above the Caribbean Sea and its proximity to the beach, it is a popular tourist spot. The inlet or former port is located between the Inner Precinct and the Temple of the Wind. With access to both land and sea, it became an important trade route for engaging in commercial activities with other cultures in Central America, as well as other people of the Yucatan. The Mayans primarily traded honey, furs, tobacco and pearls. The structures were designed to provide guidance to sailors as they approached the reefs.


The Tulum Ruins

Main-Building-at-TulumThe three primary, remaining structures at the Tulum Ruins are:

El Castillo / The Castle

This is the main building. It was designed to take advantage of its crucial vantage point to the sea.


Temple of the Descending God

This structure is easily recognizable due to its internationally slanting walls. The stucco façade has carvings of the Descending God, as well as items used in offerings.


Temple of the Frescoes

This is one of the best preserved buildings. It has great examples of mural paintings, depicting various images of fruits, flowers and the important Mayan crop corn.




You’ll also be able to see these three structures on the grounds at Tulum:

House of Columns

This building’s entrance was graced with massive columns. The interior was quite large and was covered by a flat roof.


The Northwestern House

This building was a portal with two interior pathways and three entrances.


House of Halach Huinic

Also known as House of the Great Lord, this palace flanked by columns had three interior rooms. The façade held niches where figures were placed.


For vacationers to the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is listed on the Top 10 Attractions list of places to see and things to do.  It can be easily accessed via cruise ship port of call or from one of the all-inclusive resorts in the area.

Tags: , , , , ,

Paris Hotel Rates Rise

Posted on: |

Paris Officials Increase Hotel Taxes

Visiting more Expensive as Paris Hotel Rates Rise

Visiting more Expensive as Paris Hotel Rates Rise

Hotel rooms in Paris just got even more expensive. Paris hotel rates are already some of the highest in the world. On March 1, 2015 the city tax for 3-, 4- and 5-star properties and furnished rentals increased as follows:

  • €3.30 for 5 stars properties (increased from €1.50)
  • €2.48 for 4 stars (increased from €1.50)
  • €1.65 for 3 stars (increased from €1)

These hotel tax rates are on a per-person, per-night basis.

When using an online booking website, be sure to check the fine print to see if pricing reflects these new taxes. This is especially important when comparison shopping.

While you’re there, check out these Top 20 FREE things to do in Paris.