River Cruising for Any Age Group

With newer ships, fascinating itineraries and exotic destinations, River Cruising is fast becoming a popular choice in vacations for people of all ages.  Whether you are a retired couple looking for a relaxing tour filled with fine wine and luxury accommodations, a young student looking to experience the nightlife of Paris, or a family who wants to explore the history and scenery abroad, there is a river cruise designed just for you.

 

Young or Young at Heart?

Courtesy of U By Uniworld

Fun, immersive and freshly designed itineraries are waiting for you with U by Uniworld.  Skip the hassles of trying to find your way across Europe.  Instead, unpack just once and explore different cities, customized excursions and a whole lot of fun.  Average age range 21-45.

My Favourite Features:

Food for Foodies and everything in between:  Gourmet meals and authentic cuisine served on-board with 2 meals a day included with your cruise.  Craving a greasy burger and fries instead?  They have you covered.  There is even an option to enjoy a meal in the home of a U-Host with the partnership they have with EatWith.com

Ditch the Alarm:  With overnight stays in many ports, party to your hearts content listening to amazing DJ’s or sipping a beer at a local pub.  Plus the excursions start later in the day, allowing you some extra rest if you stay out on the town.

Smaller Ships Mean Better Access:  The ships are designed to fit into the ports located at the heart of the cities you’ll visit – putting you right in the middle of all the action and excitement.   Giving you more time to explore the destinations.

Unique and Hidden Gems:  While the cruises are designed to hit some of the more famous cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Vienna, you will also get to experience some hidden gems along the way.

My Favourite Itinerary:  Rolling On the Rhine

Courtesy of U By Uniworld

What’s Included:

  1. 14 meals on-board
  2. Welcome party
  3. 2 dedicated U Hosts
  4. 11 included excursions
  5. 12 U Time optional excursions
  6. Local celebrity DJ Party
  7. Included on-board wine tasting

 

 

 

For Families:

Courtesy of www.tauck.com

Tauck is an award-winning company with over 7 years in designing river cruises with families in mind.  With an all-inclusive model, Tauck Bridges Family River Cruises, relieves the stress of wondering how much everything costs and allows you to spend more quality time with your family.

What’s included?

  1. Shore excursions
  2. Beverages (yes…alcoholic ones too!)
  3. On-board entertainment for kids and adults alike
  4. Gratuities
  5. Immersive activities
  6. Each of their family-oriented river cruises feature cooking classes, storytelling and cultural explorations for everyone to enjoy.

One of my favourite things for Tauck Family River Cruises?

No Single Supplements!  Solo travellers (such as a grandparent or other family member) can stay in a double cabin and Tauck will waive the single supplement fee so that the member can travel comfortably with their whole family group. *conditions apply

My Favourite Itinerary:  Family Fun Along the Seine

Where you’ll go:

Courtesy of www.tauck.com

Unique Included Extras:

  1. Scavenger Hunt at the Musée du Louvre
  2. Parisian picnic at the Eiffel Tower
  3. Bicycle tour of Marie Antoinette’s Farm
  4. See how the royals lived inside Louis XIV’s palace

(…and more)

Taste for Luxury?

Scenic is best known for its all-inclusive luxury.  When you want all the details taken care of Scenic has you covered.  From your transfers and gratuities, to your shore excursions, luxury accommodations and amenities, personal butler and all beverages – bottled water to wine, beer and spirits.

Explore the “cultural heart of life” throughout Europe by exploring private rooms in castles or exclusive concerts or mouth watering feasts.  No matter your activity level, there is something for you.  Active, Relaxed or something in between.  Golf at world famous courses, tour through vineyards, or take a leisurely bicycle tour in the countryside.

It’s 5-Star accommodations and dining whilst touring the world, one destination at a time.

My Favourite Itinerary: Delightful Douro with Lisbon

Why I love it:

  1. You’ll enjoy a 3-night stay in Lisbon before you set sail
  2. Paint your own tile on-board as you head from Porto to Regua
  3. Be captivated by a Flamenco dance performance in Salamanca

No matter who you are, what your budget, or your personal preferences, there is a river cruise for you.  Want to explore some options?  Contact me today – stephanie@lotustravel.ca .

Review: Off The Eaten Track

While searching for something fun to go with my girlfriends, I came across the website for Off The Eaten Track.  We were all really excited to try some new foods and get out and explore downtown Victoria a bit.

We met our guide Mary Lou at Terroir Tea Merchant for our first stop where Charity delighted our taste buds with an informative tasting of 4 different teas.  What I loved most was the unique way they brew their tea using a combination of hot water and steam, perfectly calibrated for the type of leaves that they’re brewing.  My favourite was the Jin Xuan Oolang which had a creamy milky taste to it that was unlike anything I have tried before.

Our next stop was Choux Choux Charcuterie located conveniently right beside Terroir.  We sampled a variety of tasty treats including a triple cream brie, duck breast, prosciutto and fig bread.  They do a lovely take away picnic for 2 starting at just $35.00.  All their pates are made in house and I can’t wait to go back and try more.
At La Taquisa, we sampled their vegetarian taco and learned that the tortilla is just as much a part of the dish as the filling.  You could taste the authenticity of the food in every bite.
A note for Vegans: All vegetarian options can be made into a vegan dish just for you.

  

We briefly popped into Farm & Field, an upscale butcher in the heart of downtown.  While we didnt’ get a chance to talk with them, I did pick up a couple of their Cheddar & Pickle burger patties for dinner.  They were amazing!
One of my favourite stops was next, Yalla, a middle Eastern street eats restaurant.  I had never heard of this new dining venue and was excited to see what they had to offer.  We had a sampling of shawarma, hummus, pickled vegetables and falafel.  The hummus was creamy and delicious and the lamb shawarma was flavoured to perfection.  I gobbled up my dish so quickly that I forgot to take a picture! (Thankfully Yalla’s website shows a similar dish to what we sampled)

Image courtesy of letsgoyalla.ca
 Lastly, we popped into Crust bakery where our sweet cravings were subdued by the sampling of treats offered to us.  And they have more than just sweets available.  If I wasn’t already so full from the food from the tour, I would have happily munched on one of their enticing sandwiches with a cup of coffee.

This was the first food tour I had experienced.  Off The Eaten Track offers 3 others that I can’t wait to try.  It’s a wonderful way to get out and see our beautiful city and try some amazing foods from local, independent restaurants.  Mary Lou, our guide, was knowledgeable and friendly and made the tour interesting, fun and informative.  I highly recommend this tour to locals and tourists alike.

Traveller Review – Grand Riviera Princess Resort

As a family with three kids under 10, we just came back from a week at the Grand Riviera Princess Resort in the Riviera Maya from Oct 28-Nov 4. Our stay and experiences at the resort overall was very positive.
Our flight arrived in the late afternoon and we had no problems finding our Sunwing representatives at the airport. After a 45 mins drive to the resort, check-in was also quite smooth and quick. They even had glasses of champagne for us while we checked in! As we had heard from another reviewer on TripAdvisor, there was an additional fee that we had to pay upon check-in – for beach clean up, etc. I think it totaled $75 or $100.
PROs:
– The swim-out suite was brilliant! A big hit with the kids as they were able to quickly change into their bathing suits first thing in the morning to go for a swim before breakfast. The way our suite faced, we didn’t get a lot of sun in the afternoon but that was okay because we rarely stayed in or near our suite during the day.
– There were lots of pool options, even with one on them being closed for renovation. The one outside the Snack Riviera restaurant was quite busy and lounge chairs were hard to find as people claimed them very early on, but otherwise we didn’t have any problems finding chairs for all of us. Most of the pools were gradual with the deepest part being 4.8 ft so it was great for the kids. My 4-yr-old was able to stay in the shallower sections and the 7 & 9-yr-olds can swim comfortably everywhere.
– The nightly entertainment was great. The theatre puts on a lip-sync show each night – ie. Aladdin, Moana, Frozen. Aladdin was very interactive and the kids loved that; Moana was everyone’s favourite. The music is very loud though and I had to cover my 4-yr-old’s ears during the shows while she sat on my lap. Other kids weren’t bothered so my kids may just be more sensitive to loud noise. Main plaza would also have evening events – the fire show and Thurs Mexican night were highlights.
– The main plaza also had these large lounge beds that the family loved to crash on after dinner and listening to music. They were big enough to accommodate all five of us and my 9-year-old still raves about them!
– Booking dinner reservations with the family club concierge or excursions with our Sunwing representatives were very easy. It’s a good idea to have an idea about your plans for the week planned out a bit so you can book everything in the first couple of days. The day excursions required at least a day’s notice.
– The overall resort was gorgeous, big and grounds were well maintained! Some tiles in a few of the pools needed replacement though
– The food was pretty good. We ate in the a la carte restaurants on four nights and the buffets the rest of the time. I actually didn’t think the a la carte restaurants were much better than the buffets. We went to Miso twice (once for their regular section and once for the tappenyaki) – both was pretty disappointing. The food was either overly salty or oily. Fondue and the seafood restaurant were both great. There was the same kids’ menu at all the restaurants but my kids often ordered off the regular one and that was fine. There were two main buffets and they were great. Lots of variety. The breakfast omelet station was a must! We weren’t impressed with the dinner pasta station. With the amount of food that they have to put out and people to feed, it was pretty impressive!
– As part of the Family Club, there’s also a separate family buffet but we only went there once for breakfast. There’s an old fashion ice cream shop next to the family buffet. I don’t think a lot of people knew about it but it was great!
– The free shopping excursion with Sunwing was great too because we got two hours in Playa del Carmen to do our souvenir shopping. Before that, you have to endure two stops at a jewellery and tequila store. Hubby ended up buying tequila at their store so it worked!
CONs:
– All the reviews will have a comment about the coatis. They’re part of the raccoon family and are very pervasive at the resort. It’s not uncommon to see them along the pathways, on the lawns, or climbing out of a garage can, and often travelling in groups. We weren’t bothered by them but something to be aware of, especially if you have food around you.
– The beach was nice but the water was pretty murky and you had to wade out quite a bit to get to the clear water. The kids didn’t seem to mind though.
– The kids loved the trundle bunk bed in our room, but did have trouble climbing up and down from the top bunk. The frame is quite blocky and they found it hard to find places to grip when climbing up/down.
– Mosquitos! Bring some spray with you. We were all bitten several times.
Other things to mention…
– No need to buy pool toys. We found there were enough left over floaties from past guests around the pools that the kids had some to play with.
– We tipped often. We tipped a US$1/day for housekeeping (extra if we left a lot of mess), and restaurant staff. A lot of hard working people.
– Bring sunscreen with you as it is really expensive there, and apply often! The sun is a lot stronger than what we’re used to in Canada.
Overall, we had a fantastic stay at the resort. We would definitely recommend it for families!
-All photos courtesy of https://www.princess-hotels.com/en/hotels/riviera-maya/grand-riviera-princess/

7 Beach Hotels to Beat the Winter Blues

Are you dreaming of warmer destinations, sandy beaches and glistening ocean waves like me? With colder weather fast approaching, we’ve rounded up our top 7 favourite beach hotels to have you craving that sunshine even more. Can’t wait for summer? Call us today and we can have you basking in the sun in no time.

1. Curtain Bluff – Antigua
With water on both sides, Curtain Bluff has access to two unique beaches; one perfect for swimming or watersports and the other is perfect for surfing. Meals, drinks, activities and more are part of the all-inclusive package. Spacious, beachfront suites await you.

Photo Credit – Curtain Bluff Resort
Photo Credit – Curtain Bluff Resort
Photo Credit – Curtain Bluff Resort

2. Four Seasons Resort – Hoi An, Vietnam
Located on one of Forbes “best beaches in the world”, the Four Seasons Resort in Vietnam offers access to three Unesco Heritage sites from a kilometer stretch of beautiful sand. Lounge in a hammock, sip on a cocktail or take a culinary course at the on-site Nam Hai Cooking Academy.

Photo Credit –
www.fourseasons.com/hoian
Photo Credit –
www.fourseasons.com/hoian
Photo Credit –
www.fourseasons.com/hoian

3. Las Ventanas al Paraiso – Los Cabos
A Rosewood Resort, Las Ventanas al Paraiso provides the ultimate in luxury, service and attention to detail. Be pampered at the spa, relax the day away in a beach cabana or experience La Cava, a private and intimate dining room.

Photo Credit – Rosewood Hotels
Photo Credit – Rosewood Hotels
Photo Credit – Rosewood Hotels

4. St. Regis Bali Resort – Indonesia
Featuring an impressive turquoise lagoon, white sand beaches and pool areas, you are never far from a refreshing dip. A family-friendly resort with activities sure to please everyone in your group. With lush forests, tropical climate and some of the most pristine beaches in the world, Bali tops our list of must visit destinations.

Photo Credit – www.stregisbali.com
Photo Credit – www.stregisbali.com
Photo Credit – www.stregisbali.com

5. Montage Hotels – Kapalua Bay
Experience Hawaiian life with the ultimate in luxury at Montage Hotel in Kapalua Bay; a 24-acre resort in Maui. Outstanding service, authentic cultural experiences and warm island hospitality are what makes this one of our favourite resorts.

Photo Credit – Montage Hotels
Photo Credit – Montage Hotels
Photo Credit – Montage Hotels

6. Railay Bay Resort and Spa – Thailand
If visiting Thailand is on your bucket list, be sure to consider Railay Bay Resort and Spa. There are plenty of lush gardens and coconut trees and an impressive beach for you to kick back, relax and unwind.

Photo Credit – http://krabi-railaybay.com
Photo Credit – http://krabi-railaybay.com
Photo Credit – http://krabi-railaybay.com

7. Al Cielo – Bacalar
Located in one of the most untouched areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, experience the lagoon of seven colours from your private suite or villa.

Photo Credit – http://www.alcielobacalar.com/
Photo Credit – http://www.alcielobacalar.com/
Photo Credit – http://www.alcielobacalar.com/

There are so many beautiful locations around the world so whether you are looking for an all-inclusive, luxury, family or budget vacation, we can help you find it! Call us today.

www.lotustravel.ca

An unrivaled collection of luxury voyages when you book by Dec 31, 2017

Treat yourself to the all-inclusive luxuries of the celebrated
Crystal Experience® and enjoy your choice of value-rich
savings of up to $1,200 per stateroom or suite on an
expansive collection of 2017 and 2018 voyages by
Ocean and River. Aboard award-winning Crystal Symphony
and Crystal Serenity explore iconic destinations from the
wilds of Africa and the sheikdoms of Arabia to idyllic
Polynesian Islands and glamorous Mediterranean shores. Or,
discover the grand rivers of Europe with Travel + Leisure’s
recently named “World’s Best River Cruise Line” aboard
stunning all-suite, butler-serviced ships.
Follow your wanderlust and choose the savings option
that suits you best — cruise fare savings; air credit or air
benefit for bookings made via a Crystal Air Representative;
or shipboard credits redeemable for spa treatments,
shopping at boutiques on board, Crystal Adventures ashore,
and more. Book your All Exclusive Crystal Experience by
December 31, 2017, and discover the world on your terms.

Contact Lotus Travel to book today!  250-220-7668 / stephanie@lotustravel.ca

6 Islands, 6 Unique Experiences

From lush white sand beaches to dry volcanic landscapes and tropical rainforests,  the islands of Hawaii offer a multitude of experiences no matter what you’re looking for. So wander off the beaten track, explore and find your own adventure waiting for you just around the bend.
The Big Island
Photo Credit: GoHawaii.com
This is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands and it encompasses a large variety of climates and landscapes.  Find warmth in the tropical rainforests or white sand beaches along the coasts of Kona.  Explore the snowcapped peaks of Mauna Kea or relax in the little town of Hilo.

Continue reading “6 Islands, 6 Unique Experiences”