Thursday, February 23, 2012

Summer is coming … let’s plan your vacation!

Every year, it seems as though summer just comes faster and faster. When I was a kid, it sure did seem like it took forever for summer to arrive. Now, as a busy mom with two kids, it seems as if summer is here every few weeks! I guess my mom was right when she used to tell me as a kid not to rush time because when you get older it goes by so much faster.

The one thing I tell my husband is that we need to plan a vacation with the kids each year. I think it’s important to have that time away from the regular chores of life. A time where you can just relax and not have to worry about cleaning, laundry, cooking dinner … all of that fun stuff that we just love to do at home! It creates a stronger family bond, and most importantly, fantastic memories that last a lifetime.

There are so many fantastic options for family vacations (almost too many!). And, you can certainly find one that fits your budget.

Thinking of a cruise? Cruising is fantastic for family vacations. You board your ship, which acts as your floating hotel. You can visit multiple destinations and only unpack once, which is wonderful with family in tow. All of your meals are included. There are endless entertainment options on ships today as well. And on top of that, cruises have amazing programs for the kids. I guess the only down side is that your children might not be around you as much because of all the stuff for them to do!

How about an all inclusive resort? Just imagine sitting on a white sandy beach, pretty tropical drink in hand as your family plays in the water. Relaxing! All inclusive resorts offer a similar experience to a cruise, except you are stationary, visiting one place. Everything is included, sometimes including water sports and activities.

Maybe a trip to Disney World? Kids sure do love that magical mouse! Disney is a fantastic family vacation, one that we did often when I was a kid. There are many options for Disney that include tickets only, dining packages, hotel and dining packages. Often the packages do save you money in the long run, and I would be happy to do the comparison for you if you are thinking Disney. Speaking of Disney, they have the new Aulani Resort in Hawaii open now. Talk about an unbelievable experience for the family. There are also Disney cruises if you care to combine cruising and the magic of Disney. The Disney Dream is a favorite of my almost 3 year old. We are taking her again for her third birthday in April. She knows it, and is very excited!

Ready to start planning?? Well then, give me a call and let me help you plan a memorable family vacation for summer! Keep in mind that during summer, rates are usually higher than other times. I will search to find the best options for you. And … there is no fee for my service. My rates will be the same and sometimes better than going direct. That is a great deal! You get someone who has YOUR best interest and represents YOU. Give me a call at 888-882-5793, send me an email at or visit me online. I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Romance of Cruising: Rediscover Love on the High Seas

“The glisten in his eyes said it all. My heart skipped a beat the moment we first kissed, the long walks we used to take along the beach and the way he whispered sweet nothings in my ear reflected back at me. We could have celebrated our love anywhere in the world… and on a romantic cruise, we did exactly that. “

Cruising has become the number one option for lovers, from honeymooners starting their lives together to long-time partners looking to rekindle their spark. With cruises traveling to more and more exotic destinations such as St. Maarten, Honolulu, Panama, Costa Rica, and Italy, it’s no surprise couples are taking to the sea.

Long since The Love Boat, cruises have been a top-rated escape for couples, but today’s ships truly redefine romance. You can enjoy delectable 5-Star cuisine without ever lifting a finger; take in an electric Broadway performance over a bottle of sparkling wine; or stargaze on an evening stroll to your enchanting ocean view suite.

For many, the thought of a romantic cruise may be just what the doctor ordered. It’s more than the exceptional service and beautiful accommodations that will blow you away. Cruise lines are in tune with the ambiance and lifestyle of couples seeking a romantic adventure. Most ships have been renovated to provide a more intimate and sensuous feel. The d├ęcor found everywhere from your cabin to common areas exudes passion and sophistication.

Whether you choose a more intimate ship that sails through the illuminating waters of Rome or a larger vessel with lavish entertainment, gaming, clubs and lounges, there is a perfect match for everyone. Just like in love.

Romantic options abound in traditional cruising, luxury sailing and river cruising. And, with a bevy of special perks and discounts available today, there is no better time to start seeing the world together. Imagine an intimate dinner in your suite overlooking the moonlight as it reflects off starlit waves. Sharing a rejuvenating couple’s massage on your balcony while a warm sea breeze awakens you from within. A cruise vacation is not just romantic…it is magical.

Let your Independent Vacation Specialist play Cupid pairing you – and your sweetheart – with the ultimate dream getaway. Call CruiseOne Freer & Associates at 888-882-5793 or send us an email at today and let us help you plan your perfect trip!

Santorini Greece

Ever since I saw the movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I have dreamed of visiting Santorini Greece. I have not made it there yet, but plan to do so in 2013. I am simply waiting for Celebrity Cruises (my favorite ships are the Solstice Class ships) to release their 2013 Europe cruise schedule which will happen next month (March 2012). Naturally, I have been researching the island in anticipation of visiting. Most of what is below has come from the website

So, let’s start with a little history of Santorini: The island name comes from ‘Santa Irini’ and it is officially called Thera. Santorini is located in the south of the Cycladic islands, just between Ios and Anafi, 130 nautical miles from Piraeus and 70 nautical miles from Crete. The island covers an area of 96 km2, has a coastline of 69 kilometres and its length reaches 18 km. Santorini has a population of about 6500-7000 inhabitants during winter, a number that rises up to 11.000 during the summer.

During the ancient times, the shape of Santorini was circular and that was the reason it was also called Strongili, which means circular in Greek. The volcano’s eruption destroyed the centre of the island, causing it to sink and to create today’s caldera. The first eruption of the Volcano took place around 1500 BC, and is said to be responsible for the destruction of the great Minoan civilisation of Crete. The last eruption took place in 1956 but the volcano remains active until today. Some believe that the destruction of Santorini could be related to that of the mythical Atlantis.

The most famous beaches of the island of Santorini Greece are Perissa, Kamari, Monolithos and the Red Beach. The beaches of Kamari, Perissa and Monolithos have black sand and deep blue waters. They are situated on the east side of the island and in the tourist areas of the island. These areas offer many hotels, taverns, cafes, bars and beach-bars. The Red Beach near Akrotiri is located in a quieter area. It is however the most famous beach of the island, and attracts many people.

From April to August, the weather in Santorini is bright and sunny. From September and on, it is not rare to see some cloudy days. The rainfalls are very rare.

The most famous villages of the island of Santorini Greece are Oia, Fira and Imerovigli. Those traditional villages are perched at the edge of impressive cliffs and offer incredible views over the volcano, the sea, the sunset and the island of Thirassia. The island of Crete can be seen from there when the visibilty permits it. There are also traditional villages situated in the mainland:
Fira, located 10 km from the main port, Athinaios. As the capital of the island, Fira has 1,600 residents and is located on the west part of the island. Fira is perched on the edge of a 260 meter cliff and offers fantastic views of the volcano.

Oia, located 11 km north of Fira. It is the most beautiful and picturesque village of Santorini (also where The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was filmed). It camly hangs from the cliffs.

Imerovigli is 2km north of Fira. Is is on the lip of a higher cliff. Its name comes from the word “vigla” which means day.

Firostefani is located 2 km north of the capital, Fira. It is a continuation of Fira and is a traditional village perched on the cliffs.

Perissa is located 8km southeast of Fira. It is a beach resort and a big tourist attraction. It has an impressive black sandy beach, and the most noticeable feature is the Mesa Vouno, an enormous rock rising from the sea.

Megalochori is the west side of the island near the port. It is a beautiful and traditional settlement situated in the mainland.

Akrotiri is located 8 km south of Fira. It is next to the famous Red Beach, and is the most important archaeological site of Santorini. There are some amazing two and three story buildings and prehistoric findings dating back to 3600 BC.

Pyrgos is located 8 km southeast of Fira. It is a mountainous village offering 360 degree panoramic views of the island.

Messaria is located 4km southeast of Fira. It is a small traditional village and houses are built in the traditional style of the Cycladic islands.

Mesa & Exo Gonia are traditional farming villages located 8km southeast of Fira. Known for the production and storage of wine.

Finikia is a charming settlement next to Oia. This village is very small, but there are a few hotels to be found.

Emporio is the south part of the island. When approaching Emporio, you can find a string of old windmills on the hillside.

Karderados is south of Fira. The main street contains a number of eateries and shops. This village is geared up for the tourist industry and there are a number of hotels here.

There is so much to see and do. I know I won’t get to it all on my cruise, but I am looking forward to sampling the island. As I am not sure when I will get back to Europe, I think a cruise fits what I am looking for perfectly. There are a few places that I absolutely MUST visit while on my cruise: Rome, Venice, Santorini and Croatia. A cruise is the absolute perfect way to visit these places.

Is there a place on your bucket list? Let me know! I can do some research for you, we can talk about getting there and I can help you plan your perfect trip! You can reach me anytime via email at or toll free at 888-882-5793. Feel free to visit my website and browse some itineraries.

I look forward to hearing from you and helping you bring your dream vacation to life!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Norovirus on Cruise Ships ... The Facts

Listening to the media lately have you thinking of canceling your upcoming cruise? Before you do, let’s talk about the facts!

With cruise ship outbreaks appearing in the news more and more often, awareness of Norovirus -- an extremely common and highly contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis -- has been significantly raised. First, what exactly is Norovirus? Well, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) it is a group of viruses that can affect the stomach and intestines. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps; children often vomit more than adults. A low-grade fever and headache are also possible.

The Norovirus is not a virus that only appears on cruise ships. It has however been associated with cruise travel because health officials are required to track illnesses on ships (and are not required to do so at hotels and resorts); therefore, outbreaks are found and reported more quickly at sea than on land (the CDC requires cruise lines to immediately file a report when more than 2 percent of passengers report symptoms). Nowhere else in the public health system of the United States is Norovirus a reportable illness. Norovirus is not a 'cruise ship' illness, but an illness commonly seen in many settings throughout the United States. Yes, you can find Norovirus in hotels, resorts, schools, nursing homes, airplanes, just about anywhere.

Norovirus can be passed along by contaminated food and water, however, when it comes to Norovirus on cruise ships, it is usually spread through physical contact with sick people or surfaces and objects they may have touched. This includes shaking hands, touching stair rails, sharing food or eating from the same utensils, and not washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

Once you have been exposed to Norovirus, it takes anywhere from one to three days for its symptoms to appear, and symptoms typically last only 24 to 48 hours. However, it is important but keep up the good hygiene as people may be contagious for as long as two weeks after recovery.

To prevent getting the virus, wash your hands often with hot water and anti-bacterial soap. You should wash your hands before and after every meal, after using the restroom, and after any personal contact or contact with items. Carry alcohol based sanitizer with you to use in between hand washings. Also, when drinking water, drink bottled water. Avoid undercooked food, and do not share your glasses and utensils with anyone.

When a cruise ship does have cases of Norovirus, crewmembers clean even more thoroughly than usual and use stronger cleaning agents. Beyond that, crewmembers distribute information to passengers onboard offering precautionary tips, as well as a notification at embarkation to travelers boarding a ship that had previously seen a high percentage of illness. You may also find other precautionary things such as buffet service switching from help yourself to manned stations. While you may have to wait a bit longer for your food, be patient. The crew is doing what they need to do to protect the passengers. Waiting an extra couple of minutes is certainly worth not contracting the virus.

If you are ill prior to your cruise, you really should not set sail. Sick passengers boarding a cruise ship is how most illnesses are spread. Although you don’t want to miss your vacation, traveling sick can result in spreading the illness to hundreds of passengers and crew, and can easily result in you being quarantined to your stateroom for the trip, which is not fun at all. For unexpected illnesses, this is where travel insurance comes in to play. It is always a good idea to protect your vacation investment with travel insurance. That’s another story in itself!

Questions about cruising? Give me a call anytime, 888-882-5793. You can also visit us on online.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Seeing Jamaica, not on a standard tour

I have been to Jamaica a handful of times, but my most memorable were my last two visits. I am not one that likes to travel in a group on a guided tour, where the tour operators offer the same tour multiple times a week, over and over and over. It is always the same thing. Jamaica is such a beautiful island, and I wanted to see more than what a standard tour offers.

My husband and I arrived in Ocho Rios during our cruise on the Norwegian Epic in October of 2010. We decided to do our own thing (contrary to what the cruise lines tell you). We walked out of the port and there were probably 50 taxi drivers or more waiting for business. We said no to many, but one gentleman really “clicked” with us. So, we decided to give him a try. I have to say this was the best tour we had ever been on. Our driver, who goes by the name of Jolly, showed us Jamaica as a true Jamaican. We learned about the culture, the vegetation, the lifestyle. It was just what we were looking for. We would drive around, and every once in a while he would stop, get out of the van to show us something. At one point, he climbed up a tree to pull a leaf down to tell us about the Allspice.

During our tour, I mentioned that I had to go home with Blue Mountain Coffee, and I really wanted Jerk Chicken for lunch. He took me to get my coffee, and also took us to a place for some excellent Jerk Chicken. This restaurant would never have been on the “tourist trail.” It was fantastic.

We stayed in touch with Jolly, and I reserved him again in October of 2011, while we were on the Allure of the Seas. This time he took our family (there were 6 of us) on a tour. He remembered everything we talked about, our kids, the business, my love for Blue Mountain Coffee, and of course, the Jerk Chicken! He is fantastic and I will recommend him to anyone traveling to Jamaica.

If you are looking for an authentic Jamaican experience, give me a call. I will get you in touch with Jolly. This is a personal reference, not business. I do not make money on these referrals, but I do want to share the experience. You can reach me toll free at 888-882-5793, through email at or visit me on my website.

CruiseOne to Front Deposits for Cruise Bookings

CruiseOne announced on February 6th that they plan to cover deposits for their clients that book a cruise by February 29, 2012. This promotion is part of the companies’ 20th anniversary this year. This promotion is the first of an anniversary-themed sales blitz and will be marketed to consumers with “Buy Now, Pay Later” messaging. Consumers will pay back the deposit at time of final payment.

The advanced deposit will be capped at $500 per cabin, and is valid for most cruise lines with a few exceptions. The offer is not applicable on group bookings, river cruises or land vacations. It is also combinable with most cruise line sales, including military rates, but may not be combined with restricted/non-refundable cruise line promotions. Travel must be booked at least 100 days before departure and by December 31, 2012.

There is a processing fee of $24.99 charged at time of booking. As a CruiseOne agent, I normally do not charge a fee; however, with this promotion the fee will be charged which also provides a level of commitment on behalf of the consumer.

We are also in “wave season” which is the period between January and March, the industries heaviest booking period. It is also a time when cruise lines offer some of their best deals. Running this advanced deposit promotion at this time allows consumers to take advantage of some excellent deals without having to lay out much money up front. Perfect timing for those of us still recovering from the holiday season!

If you are interested in more details of this promotion, give me a call at 888-882-5793, send me an email at or visit my website.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Touring Cunard's Queen Victoria

This week, we were invited to participate in a ship tour and luncheon on board Cunard’s Queen Victoria. The Queen Victoria entered service in December of 2007, and carries approximately 1,990 guests on each sailing. It is not often that tours of the Cunard Fleet are available, so of course, we took full advantage of this one. I must admit, although my agency has Commodore Status with Cunard which is achieved by completing extensive training programs, I have not personally seen a Cunard ship. So yes, this was a first for me. And let me start off by saying that I was not disappointed at all.

With Cunard, there are three levels of stateroom accommodations. Britannia, Princess Grill and Queens Grill. The Britannia rooms are the “standard” staterooms, and guests in these rooms dine in the Britannia Dining Room. The Princess Grill Suites are larger with more amenities, and guests in these accommodations dine in the Princess Grill Dining Room. The Queens Grill staterooms are by far the most elegant with even more amenities, and guests in these suites dine in the Queens Grill dining room. Also, guests that are in the Princess Grill and Queens Grill accommodations also have access to areas that are only for Princess Grill and Queens Grill guests. All of the rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed. None of the three levels is lacking in anything at all.

As for public spaces, there are plenty of lounges and clubs, the card room is spacious and the two story library is breathtaking. You will also find a beautiful ball room where you will find dancing nightly.

The Queen Victoria is absolutely gorgeous. She is classy, elegant and comfortable. She is not a ship for everyone or every experience; it really depends on what you are looking for with your vacation. However, with that said, I really think every cruiser should sail on Cunard at least once! With three ships to choose from, be it the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Elizabeth or the Queen Victoria, there is surely an itinerary that will delight you. This is a perfect cruise for a celebration … such as retirement, a special birthday, a special anniversary, or any special occasion.

If you would like more details, please, give me a call anytime and we can discuss them! I am available almost 24/7 via email at or toll free, 888-882-5793. You can also visit me on the web at and browse some of the itineraries.