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Explorer of the Seas Fall Foliage Cruise

During my recent cruise to New England and Eastern Canada we visited 5 different ports of call.  The ship departed from Bayonne, New Jersey late in the afternoon.  We had great photo ops of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York Skyline. 

Early the next morning we arrived in our first port of call:  New London, Connecticut.  New London is the home of the US Coast Guard Academy, Groton Submarine Base, and is near Mystic Seaport.   Many passengers ventured to Mystic to check out the authentic whaling port, Mystic Aquarium and the Olde Mystic Village shops.   Departing New London we were escorted by a Coast Guard Helicopter and cutter.   Made us feel very important!!

From New London we headed to Portland, Maine.  Historical 19th century brick buildings in Portland were originally built to support the vast export and fishing industries.  Now, this area, still very quaint, is home to specialty shops, restaurants and pubs.  My favorite part of our visit to Portland was the tour of 5 different light houses, with Portland Head being the most famous and most beautiful.  Light houses are everywhere in Maine! 

Besides light houses, pubs are quite abundant, as well.  If micro-breweries are your thing, there are 7 in Portland.  All of the microbreweries, with catchy names like Gritty McDuff’s and Allagash Brewing Company, offer tours. 

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House in downtown Portland was the home of the 19th century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Tours are available. 

An excursion to Kennebunkport, the quaint little village President George Bush, made famous, is a also a wonderful way to spend your day in Portland.  Here you will see the Victoria-style mansions built by sea captains, shop in little boutiques and galleries, and enjoy local seafood. 

Bar Harbor, Maine is a typical New England village with quaint shops, selling local crafts, blueberry jam, and cans of lobster bisque!  The village of Bar Harbor is surrounded by Acadia National Park.  The scenery here, including the rock-bound coast, soaring granite cliffs and majestic mountains have attracted the Rockefellers, Astors and Vanderbilts for over 2 centuries.


Exploring the beautiful Acadia National Park, is a must do while in Bar Harbor.  Cadillac Mountain, natural rock formations of Thunder Hole and the hand-cut stone bridges, breathtaking views of Penobscot Mountain and the fall foliage, will make for a memorable day.  

Of course, no true visit to Maine would be complete without a lobster bake with all the trimmings: corn, potatoes and blueberry pie!  Onto Halifax next blog!!  Please call or email me for information on cruising or doing an escorted tour of New England and Canada.  Trafalgar and Globus, as well as other tour companies offer several different itineraries for New England and Canada. 

Live from Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas!

We departed Friday from Port Liberty, NJ on our fabulous Fall Foliage Cruise aboard the Explorer of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s newest ships.  We were very lucky that the weather was great and has continued to be wonderful. The Statue of Liberty was right there to see us off!

The first night out we were all getting used to the ship and how immense it is. We are still, after 4 nights, trying to remember which way is aft and which is forward! Our cabins are very nice and the service has been great.  

Our first stop was New London, Connecticut where many of our group enjoyed Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquariam. Our second day was spent in Portland, Maine. We all enjoyed different excursions….but the best was the Lighthouses of Maine. We saw 6 different lighthouses, with the most famous being Portland Head Light.

Our third day was spent at sea and we all loved the “day off” with trivia tournaments and karaoke contests. Today we were back in port in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We shared the port of call with the Queen Mary 2 and Norwegian Spirit so that meant about 7,000 extra people for the little city of Halifax. It is a beautiful city, with very unique topography.

More from the Explorer of the Seas later! 


Cruising the Norwegian Star to Alaska

What is freestyle cruising and what was the Norwegian Star like?

We arrived at the pier in Seattle around 1:30pm and by 2:30 we had checked our bags, registered and received our key cards, been through security, boarded the ship and were checking out our stateroom, all to say that the embarkation process ran very smoothly with no hitches.

The ship is beautiful, fully equipped with all the bells and whistles; spa, fitness center, movie theater, casino, teen club, kids club, 2 water slides in the outdoor pools as well as an indoor lap pool in the spa area.

The freestyle kicks in here since it’s mostly about eating when you want and where you want rather then having set times and dining rooms. So to give you lots of options, there was pan-Asian, Sushi, French, Italian, Tex-Mex and a Steak-house open for dinners as well as the pool bar and grill, the international buffet and the 2 large dining rooms that were open for all 3 meals per day.

We had our pick of lounges with different entertainment singers or groups as well as the evening entertainment. And then of course there are the Newlywed games, Karaoke, shopping seminars, Bingo and just generally things to see and do onboard.

Our cruise stopped in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway before heading south with a quick stop in Prince Rupert before we we’re home in Seattle. I loved Alaska’s beauty and serenity. Ketchikan is was a fun stop, we spent the morning at Totem Pole State Park and the Eagle Preserve and the afternoon was for shopping and I’m sure we spent enough to feed someone for the winter! In Juneau we saw the Mendenhall Glacier and did a whale watching boat tour where we saw a lot of whales as well as sea lions and seals. In Skagway we shopping in the morning but spent the afternoon on the Yukon-White Pass railway, again beautiful scenery and interesting history.

All in all we had a great time on the Norwegian Star, an Alaskan cruise is a good way to get a glimpse of our last frontier state… Alaska. If you’d like to know more about my cruise e-mail me or give me a ring at 800-321-7907.



Cruising Questions

Should I sail from Seattle or Vancouver, Miami or Ft. Lauderdale? Which cruise line has the best ships? There’s Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America, Norwegian and more!

How do you pick an itinerary? What’s the weather like and when should you book for the best value?  Which cruise lines are best for families, gourmets or guys that hate to dress up?

Do you like traditional assigned dining or prefer flexible, freestyle dining? What activities are important to have onboard your ship? A spa, rock climbing wall, ice skating, miniature golf, dance lessons or cooking classes? The list goes on and on…

With all the information online these days you’d think it would be easy to hop on and book your own cruise, but it’s really not. There are so many choices and SO much information it can be confusing and that’s why a travel agent is such a good resource!

We know the cruise lines and have sailed dozens of times. We’ll help you choose an itinerary, narrow it down to which cruise line is right for you and then choose a ship. We’ll help you select the right cabin whether it’s an inside, oceanview, balcony or suite and we’ll make sure your oceanview cabin really has a view of the ocean and not a life boat hanging in front of the window!

I’ll be cruising to Alaska this week on the Norwegian Star to inspect the ship, experience the entertainment and the service and come back with a report just for you. Write to me at and ask me about my trips.

And remember, you get personalized help from a travel expert at no extra cost at Totem Travel!

Hurricane Season

To begin with, the official season is June through November and that’s like saying the rainy season in Seattle is September through June. Possibly true, but a bit misleading! The season covers six months of the year to include the earliest recorded storms and the latest recorded storms in weather watching history. Typically the most troublesome months are September & October but weather can be fickle so the season is long…

A typical summer day in the Caribbean starts with clear blue skies, sunshine and 80 degree temperatures. As the day progresses the temperature heads toward 90 and an afternoon breeze comes up keeping things comfortable. By early evening a few clouds appear to provide a beautiful sunset and set the stage for a late night thunderstorm.

Although rainfall can be daily throughout the summer, many vacationers never see a drop. On a recent August trip to the Caribbean it rained every day for 10 days and I never got wet. The biggest inconvenience was drying off my patio chair before enjoying my morning coffee outdoors. As a friend would say, this was a high class problem and I managed…

Because I’ve been to the Caribbean dozens of times and work with hundreds of honeymoon couples every year I understand the weather worries and can share some advice.

1. If this is your one and only Caribbean vacation and a day of rain would ruin the experience, don’t go in September or October.

2. There are Caribbean islands that are outside the typical hurricane belt and these include one of my all time favorites, St Lucia, as well as Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

3. Caribbean cruises are a great choice for iffy weather months because ships move and storms only affect a small area at any given time. If a storm is in the area you might miss a scheduled port of call but your multimillion dollar ship and all 2-3000 guests onboard won’t sail within 200 nautical miles of serious weather!

4. When it’s hurricane season in the Caribbean the weather is outstanding for Tahiti vacations and Fiji honeymoons as well as northern Europe and much of Australia and New Zealand.

5. Sandals resorts offer a free hurricane guarantee.

So call us to help plan the perfect vacation or honeymoon. As travel agents we’re on your side!

Linda – Totem Travel

Cruises are a great choice for a group or family reunion

Cruising is a great venue for a Family Reunion because today’s ships offer activities for young families, families with teens, grandparents, and even great-grandparents.

Most ships offer a “Kids’ Program” with lots to keep children occupied within age appropriate groups. Age limits are usually 4-17, but Carnival offers a program for cruisers as young as 2. Younger children will enjoy activities such as scavenger hunts, jewelry making and pizza parties. Teenagers will enjoy dances, movie nights and sporting activities and some ships offer special shore excursions just for teens.

One of my favorite activities is sunning on the deck with a book, but there are many options that require more physical involvement! Most ships offer a full service, state of the art, fitness center, with stair steppers, stationary bikes, and treadmills. As far as team sports, there will be volleyball tournaments, pool games and contests.

For the more laid back, there’s Bingo, Trivia games, karaoke, bridge and other card games, as well as the swimming pools and whirlpools. And don’t forget people-watching….

The food is plentiful and beautifully presented. From the early risers who prefer coffee and a muffin at 6a to the late night crowd at the midnight buffet, eating is a favorite pastime! While many ships still offer traditional dining, with assigned tables and dining hours, more and more cruise lines are adopting an open dining policy so you can eat when and with whom you please!

Itineraries are worldwide and include the Caribbean, New England, Mexico, Europe, Alaska, Australia, South America and Antarctica amongst others! Shore excursions are available in each port of call with everything from a shopping expedition in the Bahamas to zip-lining through a tree canopy or swimming with the dolphins in Jamaica. In Alaska you can kayak, fish or take a helicopter over the glaciers and in Europe you can visit the Acropolis in Athens, Colliseum in Rome and Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

On a cruise you check in once and unpack once, but you can experience a different destination each day. Entertainment on board is first rate; the food is wonderful; spas are available for those late afternoon massages; and a casino provides Las Vegas style atmosphere. A cruise has something for everyone.

Think about a cruise for your next family vacation or group event. Then call us!

Diamond Princess Alaska Cruise

Long ago I set the goal to visit all 50 states in the U.S. and was excited to have the opportunity to see Alaska on the beautiful new Diamond Princess. 
Our ports of call included Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan which are all very quaint towns that welcome cruise passengers with open arms each summer.  All of the ports offered a variety of shore excursions such as dog sledding, panning for gold, helicopter tours of the glaciers, kayaking and salmon fishing. 
On board the ship there are also lots of options and you will never be bored!  During the day, there are activities such as trivia contests, a movie in the theater, bridge tournaments and a full selection of spa treatments. Every evening there is entertainment in the main theater and lounges that runs the gamut from Broadway production shows to Karaoke! 
You also have choices for dining because Princess offers standard dining and Personal Choice Dining. 
Standard dining is the traditional cruise ship dining experience.   You are assigned a specific table and dinner time which remains the same for the length of your cruise.  Typically cruise ships have an early seating at about 6 p and a late seating at about 8:30 p.  Since you have the same waiters and dinner companions each evening, you really get to know each other and the waiters come to know who likes ice tea or coffee, who wants ice and who doesn’t.  It’s really fun!
If you prefer more control over your dining times and companions, Personal Choice Dining allows you to dine when, where and with whom you prefer.  And, both traditional dining guests as well as Personal Choice guests also have the choice of ala carte restaurants such as a steak house, an Asian Restaurant, Italian and Tex Mex. Most of these are included in your cruise fare, but one or two have a nominal service fee.
Whatever you choose, you will enjoy wonderful food and impeccable service plus no bill at the end of your meal! I highly recommend both Princess Cruises and the Alaska cruise experience!  Please call or email if this is a trip you might enjoy!

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