Posted on Leave a comment

New Website is LIVE!

Getting ready to kick-off 2019 by giving our website a complete makeover. We’ve redone it top to bottom to make it simple yet effective. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Referrals are the best compliment you can pay me!

Happy New Year and thanks for sharing!

Pete Larson, CTC

Certified Travel Counselor

Posted on 1 Comment

Larson of Jolly Mon Vacations Earns CTC

NEWSBRIEF:

Larson of Jolly Mon Vacations Earns CTC

Peter Larson, owner of Jolly Mon Vacations in Grand Forks, ND, has recently earned the Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) designation from The Travel Institute. This designation is awarded by The Travel Institute to travel professionals who complete a comprehensive, exam-based training program, demonstrate extensive industry knowledge and experience, and exemplify the highest standards of professionalism.

Pete Larson, CTC, has been a travel agent for 6 years and specializes in resort and river cruise vacations. Larson said, “I match clients to the right vacation experience without charging extra fees. Earning this elite CTC status demonstrates my commitment to clients who will now be better served by my increased knowledge and skills.”

Jolly Mon Vacations specializes in all-inclusive resort vacations and river cruises. We cater to both local and international customers.

CTCcert

JMV Official Logomini

Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

Owner, Jolly Mon Vacations & River Cruise Guru

pete@jollymonvacations.com

218-779-3050

Posted on Leave a comment

Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort Review

I’ve just returned from a week-long vacation in Grenada, “The Spice Island.” What a beautiful country full of warm and caring people! They are so welcoming to Americans. They love Ronald Reagan! They say, ‘he gave them back their freedom.’ (remember the invasion back in 1983?) They love us for it.

This new Sandals LaSource Resort sits right next to the Maurice Bishop International Airport and is a very short shuttle ride. The steep entrance drive is quite a fun ride during arrival. Upon arrival, you are let off at an open-air (tiny and unimpressive) lobby for check-in. If you have booked a CLUB LEVEL or BUTLER category room, you are escorted into the nearby, air-conditioned Club Sandals area for a private, more comfortable check-in process. Butler guests will be taken to their rooms for check-in. (how ‘suite’ is that!)

We had a Club Level Room in the Pink Gin Village. It’s a beautiful, beachfront building nearest the ocean. From our room we had beautiful, sweeping views of the ocean, pool area and beach. We were in the Penthouse, which is fancy for….third floor. With a vaulted ceiling and the best oceanfront view…it was worth the walk up the stairs.

Sandals LaSource Grenada
Sandals LaSource Grenada, Our view from the room.

The food and restaurants are great. We loved the French restaurant, Le Jardinier, the best. The service was stellar and the food delicious. No reservations were needed at this resort with the exception of Butch’s Chophouse and the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant. Both of those were very good as well. Lobster was out of season, so shrimp was served in it’s place, at Butch’s, for the ‘Surf & Turf’ that’s very popular. “Doggies” is a new addition, it’s a hot dog cart with all the trimmings. Open for about 3 hours per day around lunch time and parked outside The Living Room. Delicious and a great addition. The buffet and Mediterranean restaurants were good as well. I don’t care for buffets and this one doesn’t have any seating that’s air conditioned. Indoor seating is quite warm and so is the outdoor seating. I preferred eating elsewhere because of it. Don’t forget the great ice cream in the Cafe! (try the Nutmeg ice cream!)

Swim-up Bar, night time
Swim-up Bar, night time

Drinks abound at this high-end all-inclusive resort. The Living Room was a popular evening hangout with nightly entertainment and fun. It’s a covered, yet open-sided area with a bar and fun ‘living room’ style furnishings. We could hear the nightly music right from our room nearby. The main pool has a swim-up bar that was popular day and night. The main beer served was Caribe, which is very good. The Tipsy Turtle Pub had many other selections as well.

Sky Pool Butler Suite
Sky Pool Butler Suite

Service was great for the most part…expected at Sandals. Love that no-tipping policy, which takes a lot of stress away. The only problem we had was with the room stewards. A few nights, they didn’t get to our rooms for service…either day or night-time turn-down. On the flip side…the concierge at Club Sandals were AWESOME! They will bend over backwards to make your stay perfect. Well done! I can’t say enough times how getting at a minumum….a CLUB SANDALS LEVEL ROOM! (entry level rooms don’t have concierge and a whole lot more!) If you take nothing else away from this blog today….take that tip! CLUB LEVEL or BUTLER ONLY! So worth it.

The beach is very nice. Not an overly long stretch, but more cove-like. White & black sand with clear water. Not overly wavy either. Nice trampolines anchored in the bay to relax on. If you walk down past the Watersports area…you can walk off-property down the beach for quite a ways. Some very cool rock formations down there…very photo-worthy! You can also see the capital city of St. George’s down the coast. (lit up nicely at night) Lots of lounge chairs and even with those ‘chair hogs that tend to get up early and throw their stuff on chairs to never return’…won’t spoil it. Lots to choose from. Lots of hammocks as well. Drink service is also available…although spotty sometimes.

Off-property beach
Off-property beach

Entertainment was good. Loved the crew’s talent performances and beach party. White Night was fun as well. I don’t go to these resorts for entertainment…so many nights we skipped it. My favorite night-time activity is to find a nice, dark beach lounger near the ocean and listen to the waves lapping the shore while watching the stars and lights of the city. Nothing more relaxing than that. Make sure you protect yourself, as sand fleas can be pesky and they bite leaving some marks! (bug repellent)

We did one excursion (Island Routes) tour. It was the half day city tour. Very informative and fun. When we got to the marketplace, some guides kind of force themselves upon you. The driver said to ignore them, but after awhile…let him guide us around. He taught us many things about his people and country. He also expedited us to the stores with items we were searching for. Of course, he wanted a bunch of money at the end of the tour…but we tipped him $40 and felt it was worth it. (although, I didn’t like his ‘non-consent’ way of getting us to follow him) Lots of fresh spices and local items in the city markets. Bargaining is the way here, but I often times gave them what they asked…and they were genuinely grateful. The view from Fort Frederick is amazing!

Grenada from Ft. Frederick
Grenada from Ft. Frederick

All in all…it was an another AWESOME SANDALS VACATION. Most flights arrive quite late into Grenada. We arrived at 8:30 PM and were at the resort eating dinner by 10:00 PM. Some opt to stay in a local hotel the first night since they arrive so late, as it’s more cost effective than wasting most of your first day while traveling.

We are certified SANDALS SPECIALISTS! We know these properties very well, and have been to most of them. Sandals prices are the same, no matter where you purchase them from…SO WHY NOT LET US BOOK YOU? YOU’LL GAIN OUR FREE HELP AND EXPERIENCE at no extra cost! We know the best resorts for you, the best room levels, best views, best beaches, best pools, best excursions.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SANDALS RESORTS HERE:  Sandals Resorts

Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

Certified Travel Counselor and Sandals Specialist

www.JollyMonVacations.com

JMV Official Logomini

Posted on Leave a comment

Sandals Resorts

Sandals Lasource

Why do I believe in Sandals Resorts? Because they believe in Travel Agents!

Sandals ensures we are highly trained in their products through annual certification workshops. Sandals levels the playing field when it comes to pricing. They have a “no discounting” policy, so you can’t find a lower price online than you can get from us!

They support us in many other ways as well. No other resort, cruise line or vacation product provides the kind of support that Sandals and Beaches Resorts does. None.

Their all-inclusive product is easy to sell…because they include everything! Other resorts just pale in comparison in the value you receive from Sandals. The closer you look…the better they look.

What’s the difference between Sandals and Beaches Resorts?

Sandals is for couples and Beaches is for all others. (couples, kids, singles, families) Many of the same high quality amenities are available at both. Why not check them out by contacting us today?

We are CERTIFIED SANDALS SPECIALISTS! OUR RESORT PLANNING IS FREE!

NoFees

Free vacation help? YES! No fees, no catches…contact us today!

Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

Certified Sandals Specialist
Jolly Mon Vacations

www.JollyMonVacations.com

pete@jollymonvacations.com

218-779-3050

JMV.com Official Logo 2

Posted on Leave a comment

Scotland & Ireland CIE Tour

We just returned from a fabulous trip across Scotland and Ireland. We escorted a group of 16 from the Midwest and what a great group of people it turned out to be!

CIE coach on a comfort stop in Scotland
CIE coach on a comfort stop in Scotland

Here’s how it went down:

Jolly Mon Vacations blocked some space on a CIE Tour that many people seemed to like. We picked a date that was doable to most, which was just outside of the busy ‘tourist season’, but still had pretty fair weather. It ended up being May 1st to 11th on an adventure across three countries.

Jolly Mon Vacations took care of the booking, paperwork, payments and documents. We also booked everyone’s flights, transfers and even a pre-night hotel stay.

Everything went off without a glitch! Our group flew into Glasgow, Scotland on the same flight and transferred to the hotel together. This gave our bodies some time to adapt to the time difference and rest before the start of the tour the following day.

We toured big cities, small towns, the highlands, the country side and everything in between. We cruised by boat on the infamous Loch Ness and across the sea on a ferry boat. We cruised across the River Shannon and cruised the canals of Dublin.

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

We saw beauty everywhere:  castles, ruins, monastic sites, historic sites, farms, mountains, loughs, cliffs, waterfalls, bridges, National Parks and much more. We even stopped in the county my ancestors called home! We were immersed in the cultures of these places and experienced things we will never forget. This is the beauty of traveling by luxury coach.

Is this a relaxing vacation?

It can be. It’s a journey that takes you to places you won’t see any other way. From present day back to ancient times. There is a daily schedule and you will travel from place to place. Relaxing on the beach? Not going to happen. This is a different style of vacation. It’s comfortable but busy, inclusive and fun. This type of trip is much more about the journey AND the destination melted together as one. Your Tour Director is your Yoda and everything is taken care of for you.

You will make new friends and have some great bonding experiences. You will laugh together, dine together and enjoy the ride together. You will hug when the trip comes to an end and you will contact each other when its all over.

Jolly Mon Vacations exists to make thing easy for their clients. Seamless trips like this is what we do. Let us plan your next adventure, you won’t be disappointed that you missed something and no detail is left out. Contact us when you are ready to explore! We’ll make your dream a reality.

Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

Certified Travel Counselor, Destination Specialist, Lifestyle Specialist

www.JollyMonVacations.com

Email:  pete@jollymonvacations.com

218-779-3050

JMV Official Logomini

Posted on Leave a comment

5 – Tips to Save You Money on a River Cruise

DSC_6709

Pete on The Danube River

1.  Use a certified River Cruise Specialist! A specialist is highly trained in river cruises and has actually been on them before. They know the ins & outs of the different brands, inclusions, itineraries and much more. They can help you find the right cruise that fits your style and budget…saving you money. They know flight options, insurance, pre and post cruise stays, transportation, tours….you get the picture? You’ll pay the same or LESS than booking directly…and get MUCH BETTER ADVICE…all for free.

2.  BUY EARLY! When you buy early…and you can buy a full year ahead…they usually offer some great discounts. These ships are small and fill up fast. Waiting can cause you to ‘miss the boat!’ Why not get some of the best discounts by booking early and choose a cabin location or category that YOU want. (not settle for what is left) I repeat, buy early.

3.  Choose wisely. Each brand has its own style and inclusions. Some brands are much more inclusive than others. When comparing prices, take into consideration that some lines make you pay for extras…like gratuities, drinks, ship transfers, shore excursions and more. Some lines include it. Figure out what you need and how much more it will cost if you choose a line that doesn’t include it. You may find the more expensive price actually is the better value!

4.  Pre or post trip extensions:  You can buy them from the cruise line…but they can be expensive. It’s very convenient to add them on but be sure to weigh the cost of doing your own extensions. Your Rive Cruise Specialist can provide you with hotels and tours as well that may be a better value.

5.  Some lines offer discounts for paying in full at time of booking. Some offer discounts for paying with an electronic wire transfer. Some offer free transfers when you have them book your airfare. Some lines waive single supplements. Some have single berth staterooms. Again, your River Cruise Specialist can help you with all the discounts being offered that you may not know of.

The bottom line is this…Know before you go.

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel to understand river cruising. You just need to enlist an expert to answer your questions and help you make the right choices that fit your travel style. And that my friends…is why we exist!

Contact us today to get started on your river cruise planning.

We don’t charge any fees and we know river cruising!

Pete Larson,

Certified River Cruise Specialist

River Cruise Guru

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

218-779-3050

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

RCGuru Official Logo

Posted on Leave a comment

River Cruise Deals

There are still some great river cruise deals in Europe for 2015!

While availability is waning, I’m still finding some deals for clients. Several lines are offering discounted airfare as well as steep discounts on the cruise portion.

Amabella
Amabella

Cruises for 2016 are also discounted for early booking. The best way to find the right cruise for you is to take advantage of our complimentary services! We are certified RIVER CRUISE EXPERTS and we specialize in river cruises. We custom fit you to the itinerary and cruise line that suits your needs.

Whether you are looking for the highest levels of luxury or looking for a cruise to fit smaller budgets. Allow us to assist you in making your cruise experience all it can be.

Contact us today!

Pete Larson, CTA, DS, LS

Certified River Cruise Expert

RCGuru Official Logo

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

218-779-3050

Posted on Leave a comment

River Cruising Europe

Why should I go on a river cruise?

European river cruising is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry, and here’s why. The itineraries pack as many as four countries into a 7 night cruise, with a chance to wake up somewhere new each day. How cool is that?

Scenic Crystal 2012

Over the past three years, more than fifty new river vessels have taken to the water, with around twenty more due this year. The season runs from March to December– with special Christmas Market and New Year’s departures. You can find many theme cruises as well, from wine and art to history and beer. Holiday market cruises are spectacular, as you can visit the famous markets, sip Gluhwein and shop in the brisk but festive atmosphere.

With spectacular scenery, charming villages and cities such as Amsterdam, Cologne, Nuremberg, Vienna and Budapest, it’s easy to see why the Rhine, Main and Danube attract the highest number of cruisers. Other popular rivers include the Seine, where ships are based in Paris and cruise to Normandy, and the Rhône, for trips through Provence between Lyon and Arles. Or you can cruise the Elbe from Berlin to Prague, the Moselle through Germany’s wine-growing heartland, Italy’s Po or Portugal’s Douro. There are many options to fit the discerning traveler. One of my favorites is the Moselle (or Mosel) as pictured below. I stood in a castle when I took this picture!

Cochem, Germany - Copyright River Cruise Guru
Cochem, Germany – Copyright River Cruise Guru

The size of European river cruise vessels is limited by low bridges and narrow locks, so compared with ocean-going ships they’re small and friendly, carrying less than 200 passengers. The on-board atmosphere tends to be relaxed, with no strict dress codes and usually open seating at mealtimes. All meals come as standard and the majority of lines also offer free daily excursions. All-inclusive river cruise lines are available, with drinks and tips included in the fare.

As vessels tend to moor right in the heart of towns and cities, it’s easy for passengers to explore on their own if they feel like opting out of organised excursions.

Many lines carry bicycles you can take and explore the river, the towns or cities at no extra cost. The top lines, such as Scenic Cruises, offers a GPS guided device you can take along while you explore on your own. It gives you directions and acts as your mini tour guide telling you about the sites you are seeing.

Many river cruise lines cater to English speakers, so there is no worries about language barriers. Its a great way to explore Europe and unpack only once.

We are certified River Cruise Specialists. We do not charge you any fees and will help you every step of the way. Your package can include your arrangements from the time you leave your doorstep to the time your return there.

Call us today. Don’t miss out on one of the greatest ways to travel Europe at a great value.

Pete Larson, CTA, DS, LS

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

218-779-3050

RCGuru Official Logo

Continue reading River Cruising Europe

Posted on Leave a comment

Bordeaux River Cruise

Scenic Cruises, an all-inclusive luxury river cruise line, expands its offerings in France by introducing a 12-day Bordeaux River Cruise in 2015. With seven departures between August and October, pricing for this tour along the Gironde, Dordogne and Garonne rivers start at $5,580 per person, based on double occupancy. Early booking incentives result in free flights to Europe and substantial savings on balcony cabins.

Bourdeaux

The trip starts with arrival in Paris with an overnight in a luxury hotel. The following day, the ultra-fast train, TGV, takes guests to Bordeaux, where they board the Scenic Diamond, their home for the next several days. Guests unpack their bags just once … but they’ll visit countless fascinating and photogenic locations throughout their journey. Among the stops are Cadillac, originally established in the 13th century; Saint-Émilion, home to underground catacombs at its iconic Monolithic Church; Libourne, the wine-making capital of this part of France; Cognac, where guests have the opportunity to sample brandy at the famed Rémy Martin property; Médoc, where visitors traverse a scenic wine route; and Arcachon, known for its culinary delights

This itinerary incorporates several special features that are unique to Scenic. In 2015 the company will introduce the concept of “Scenic Sundowners” to its cruises, in which guests toast the end of the day in a spectacular location. On the Bordeaux trip, guests will enjoy an afternoon cocktail in picturesque Saint-Émilion. The journey aboard the TGV – which moves at speeds up to 199 mph – is a new offering in 2015, as well, as Scenic begins its partnership with trains throughout Europe to deliver the ultimate land-to-water experiences on several of its itineraries. The Bordeaux trip also features a “Scenic Enrich” experience, a once-in-a-lifetime event unique to this cruise line. On this itinerary, guests will enjoy a private dinner and classical concert in the beautiful Château Giscours in the Médoc countryside.

The Scenic Diamond is one of Scenic Cruises’ fleet of “Space Ships.” These ships are five-star floating hotels, with spacious public areas as well as private suites that feature “Scenic slumber beds,” plus bathrobes and slippers, a flat-screen television and Mac mini infotainment system enhanced by the ship’s complimentary Wi-Fi. Scenic is the only brand (along with it’s branch, Emerald Waterways) afloat that offers the “Sun Lounge,” a system through which each suite’s private balcony can be quickly transformed into an indoor lounge, allowing guests to enjoy the passing views regardless of the weather. The company’s signature all-inclusive luxury means that absolutely everything is included:

  • Unlimited beverages including premium wines and spirits;
  • All meals (with six different dining experiences);
  • Personal butler service for all guests;
  • All excursions, events and entertainment;
  • Scenic Riverview personal GPS commentary device, which acts like a personal tour guide for guests while on board the ship;
  • Electronically assisted bicycles;
  • Wi-Fi;
  • Airport transfers;
  • All tips and gratuities.
  • On-shore experiences are made exceptional by the included Scenic Tailormade handheld GPS guided tour system that’s provided to every guest in his or her suite. This GPS system works in conjunction with guides on tours and also acts as a navigation system that allows guests to explore destinations on their own without the worry of getting lost or missing important points of interest.

Additional information on these and other cruises can be had by contacting me, your certified River Cruise Specialist at: pete@rivercruiseguru.com or 218-779-3050

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

“We know river cruises and will custom fit you to a cruise line, ship and itinerary that works for you.”

CONTACT US TODAY~!

Posted on Leave a comment

AMAWATERWAYS UNVEILS “WHAT’S NEW” FOR 2013-2014

Amabella
Amabella

River cruise line announces new ships, programs, pricing, amenities, marketing materials and more
Contact us today, we are certified River Cruise Specialists available to you at NO FEE! www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

CHATSWORTH, CA – (Jan. 22, 2013) – Family-owned and operated river cruise line AmaWaterways today announced a robust list of new developments for its 2013 and 2014 seasons, including new pricing, itineraries, discounts, ships, amenities, land programs, theme cruises and marketing tools.

New 2014 Pricing, Itineraries & Discounts: Prices and itineraries for 2014 cruises are now available online.

New Ships: AmaWaterways will debut two new ships in Amsterdam and Portugal in 2013. The 164-passenger AmaPrima (sister ship to the AmaCerto) will make its maiden voyage on April 3, 2013 in Amsterdam, with a special christening celebration Aug. 6, 2013. The 106-passenger AmaVida will make its debut on March 26, 2013 in Porto, Portugal. The AmaPrima will service 10 itineraries: Tulip Time Cruise, Melodies of the Danube, The Romantic Danube, Blue Danube Discovery, The Legendary Danube, Magnificent Europe, Grand Danube Cruise, Black Sea Voyage, Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube, and Christmas Time Cruise. The AmaVida will service four itineraries on the Douro River: Port Wine & Flamenco, Enticing Douro, Impressions of France & Portugal and Classic Port Wines & Charming Quintas.

The AmaSonata and AmaReina (sister ships to the AmaCerto) will debut in Europe in 2014. These deluxe 164-passenger ships will feature Twin Balcony Staterooms and Suites, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs culinary creations, complimentary fine wine and beer at lunch and dinner, multiple dining venues, a heated pool with swim-up bar, massage and beauty salon, fitness center, free in-room Internet and Infotainment, and a fleet of bicycles for guests to borrow and enjoy. The AmaSonata will travel the Danube and Rhine Rivers on seven itineraries: Tulip Time Cruise, Melodies of the Danube, The Romantic Danube, Blue Danube Discovery, The Legendary Danube, Magnificent Europe and Christmas Time Cruise. The AmaReina will serve The Enchanting Rhine seven-night itinerary.

New Amenities: Starting in 2013, AmaWaterways offers complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with dinner and lunch on its European fleet (except for the AmaVida and AmaKatarina).

New Land Programs: Starting in 2014, AmaWaterways will offer a second optional land extension on its “Provence & Spain” itinerary – two nights in Marseille, France.

New Theme Cruises: AmaWaterways has expanded its theme cruise options for both 2013 & 2014.

• “In Celebration of Wine” Cruises: (21 departures in 2013)

• Harvest Wine Cruises on Portugal’s Douro River (two departures in October 2013)

• Jewish Heritage Cruises on the Danube River (four departures in 2013)

• Tulips & Jazz Cruise aboard the AmaCerto on April 22, 2013 is produced by Jazzdagen Tours and features two complimentary onboard jazz performances every evening.

• Gourmet Cruise with celebrity chef Bob Blumer, who will bring his passion for food and cooking demonstrations to guests aboard the AmaVida in Portugal on October 22, 2013.

• Chocolate Connoisseurs Cruise (2014) on April 28, 2014 is a chocolate-themed “Romantic Danube” itinerary onboard the AmaCerto, featuring expert host Norman Love of Norman Love Confections, maker of artisanal, handcrafted gourmet chocolates.

To book a cruise, please contact our certified River Cruise Specialist or visit www.rivercruiseguru.com.
All our expertise and experience will not cost you a cent. NO FEES!

About AmaWaterways

Founded in 2002 by river cruise pioneers Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy, AmaWaterways is the premier river cruise line on Europe’s Danube, Douro, Main, Mosel, Seine, Rhine and Rhône rivers. Known for its custom-designed ships, extensive complimentary amenities and impeccable service, family-owned and -operated AmaWaterways consistently leads the way in river cruising. With itineraries in Europe, Russia, Africa, and S.E. Asia, AmaWaterways offers an enticing variety of authentic, in-depth experiences for the most discriminating travelers.

AmaWaterways’ European fleet includes the AmaSonata (2014); AmaReina (2014); AmaPrima (2013); AmaCerto (2012); AmaVerde (2011); AmaBella (2010); AmaLyra (2009); AmaDolce (2009); AmaCello (2008), AmaDante (2008); AmaLegro (2007) and the AmaDagio (2006). The line’s newest ships feature Twin Balcony Staterooms, multiple dining venues, complimentary in-room Internet and Infotainment, a heated swimming pool or whirlpool, plus many more unique design elements.

AmaWaterways’ separate and distinct AmaVoyages division operates the AmaVida (2013) in Portugal, the AmaLotus (2011) and La Marguerite (2009) in Vietnam and Cambodia, the AmaKatarina (2011) in Russia, and the Zambezi Queen (2009) in Africa.

Pete Larson
River Cruise Specialist
pete@rivercruiseguru.com
218-779-3050

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com
www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

Posted on 3 Comments

All-inclusive resort vs cruise vacation prices

All-inclusive Resort
Jolly Mon Vacations is your ticket to savings this winter for your getaway.

“What will a week-long vacation to an all-inclusive resort cost me?”
Here are some prices for some one week getaways figured for two persons. Airfare is figured from Minneapolis, but can be purchased from most any gateway. Prices may vary greatly to deviate. There are a host of different resort and flight options but these were picked for best value and scheduling. Contact us for any specific requests or different resort options: pete@jollymonvacations.com

==========================

A week in Cancun, Mexico that won’t break the bank!
• Roundtrip NON-STOP flights for two on Sun Country Airlines from Minneapolis to Cancun, Mexico.
• Roundtrip transfers from Cancun airport to the resort. 7 nights stay arriving February 2 at the 4-star Krystal Cancun Resort in a Deluxe room.
• Price: $1,432 per person total.
• $100 deposit at booking

========================================

A week in laid-back Negril, Jamaica…just what the doctor ordered!
• Roundtrip flights for two on US Airways from Minneapolis to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
• Roundtrip transfers from Sangster International airport to the resort in Negril.
• 7 nights stay arriving February 2 at the 4-star RIU Negril Resort in a standard room.
• Price: $1,670 per person total.
• $1,263 deposit at booking, full payment due: 19DEC12.

RIU Negril all-inclusive resort
RIU Negril all-inclusive resort

======================================

Sunning in Montego Bay, Jamaica this winter can be a reality!
• Roundtrip flights for two on United Airlines from Minneapolis to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
• Roundtrip transfers from Sangster International airport to the resort.
• 7 nights stay arriving February 3rd at the 3.5-star Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in a Superior room. (thru Cyber Monday)
• Price: $1,371 per person total.
• $1,063 deposit at booking, full payment due: 20DEC12.

Holiday Inn  Sunspree Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

==============================================

Looking for something completely different? How about Costa Rica?
• Roundtrip NON-STOP flights for two on Sun Country Airlines from Minneapolis to Liberia, Costa Rica.
• Roundtrip transfers from Liberia airport to the resort.
• 7 nights stay arriving February 22nd at the 4.5-star RIU Guanacaste Resort in a standard room.
• Bonus: Complimentary city tour of Liberia. (4 hours)
• Price: $1,980 per person total.
• $100 deposit at booking, full payment due: 08JAN13.

RIU Guanacaste, Costa Rica

RIU Gaunacaste Pool area

RIU Guanacaste:
Where families, spa-lovers, active travelers and couples come for sun and luxurious sand, this inviting resort provides the perfect blend of service and smiles fronting Costa Rica’s warm Pacific Coast. Nestled amidst tropical palms and fragrant gardens, guests are treated to spacious guestrooms and suites featuring a regularly restocked in-room mini-bar and liquor dispenser; a pampering spa; fun-filled children’s amenities including a playground, activity club and pool; lighted tennis courts; a disco and 24-hour, all-inclusive restaurants and bars serving delicious cuisines ranging from Asian fare to a robust Steakhouse. Creating the perfect setting for unforgettable vacation experiences, this polished resort has something for every member of the family.

=====================================================

How do these all-inclusive resort prices compare to a one week cruise vacation?

-Here is a sample of what a cruise vacation actually costs:
• Ship: Ruby Princess sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to the Eastern Caribbean:
• Feb 3, 2013 for 7 nights. (FLL-Princess Cays-St. Maarten-St.Thomas-Grand Turk)
• Category BE Balcony: $1,210 per person cruise-only double occupancy. *
• Hotel night prior: $100 per person with free airport shuttle.
• Dinner & breakfast prior to cruise: $30 per person.
• Transfers from hotel to ship and ship to airport: $25 per person.
• Roundtrip flights from MSP-FLL: $377 per person.
• Shipboard gratuities: $80.50 per person/week.
• Water, soda, juice, specialty coffee, beer, wine, alcohol: $175 per person/week.
• Baggage gratuities/misc. gratuities: $15 per person.
• Actual total cruise vacation price: $2,013 per person.
*All soda, specialty coffee, wine, beer, liquor and some juices are extra on cruises.
Mandatory gratuities are 15% extra on beverages. If you were to drink a bottle of water, one soda and three mixed drinks each day it would add more than $25 per day, per person or $175 per person for the week. (which is added above. Adjust this according to your drinking preferences)

We advocate flying in to the port city at least one night prior to your cruise so a flight delay won’t cause you to miss your ship. We’ve added this into the overall cost above.

All-inclusive resorts generally include some other activities and tours that will cost extra aboard a ship. Each resort is different in it’s inclusions so study them closely when comparing a specific resort Vs. cruise vacation.

Some resorts, like RIU above include free Wi-Fi . Aboard ship, you will pay a premium for internet service. Since everyone does not require Wi-Fi service, this fee has been omitted above. Please add these costs onto your trip if its something you require.

Call, text or email us today if you are interested in booking your next vacation at the lowest prices available.

IMPORTANT! These prices /quotes /offers are time-sensitive and capacity controlled. They were priced on 11/25/12 and prices can rise and fall daily. All pricing and/or promotions are subject to availability at the time of booking. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise stated. Jolly Mon Vacations does not control these offers and cannot be held responsible for changes in price or terms.

Jolly Mon Vacations ALWAYS recommends that you purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance is not included in these prices but a personalized quote will be provided at request.

Jolly Mon Vacations
Call: 218.779.3050
Click: www.JollyMonVacations.com
Email: pete@jollymonvacations.com
Jolly Mon Vacations and its branch River Cruise Guru are owned and operated by Peter Larson.
The business is registered in the state of North Dakota, USA.

JMV Official Logomini

Posted on Leave a comment

Larson is a Certified Sandals Specialist

FARGO, ND AUGUST 2012 –

Pete Larson, President and owner of Jolly Mon Vacations of Grand Forks, ND participated in an intensive travel agent workshop administered by Unique Vacations, Inc. (UVI), the worldwide sales and marketing representative for Sandals, Beaches, and Grand Pineapple Beach resorts. Each workshop – It Pays to Know It All… –offers detailed information on Sandals Resorts International extensive portfolio – comprised of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts – as well as an overview of new developments, services and amenities. All who participate in the workshop are eligible to become Certified Sandals Specialists (CSS), an elite group of travel agents recognized by Unique Vacations, Inc. and the travel industry as experts in the worlds only Luxury Included® Resorts.

According to Pete of Jolly Mon Vacations, there is a serious job at hand, understanding the nuances of each brand within the Sandals Resorts portfolio is critical to his customers.  “My clients rely on me to help them make the best vacation choices so that every hard-earned dollar they spend is giving them true value,” said Larson, “I am thrilled to have been a part of this workshop. I have come away with a wealth of knowledge. My clients want to feel confident that the information they receive is based on expert knowledge and now, my Certified Sandals Specialist designation does just that.”

According to Gary Sadler, Senior Vice President of Sales at UVI, relying on a CSS travel agent is one of the best ways consumers can get the most out of their Caribbean vacation.  “Vacations are memories in the making,” said Sadler.  “You don’t get a second chance to celebrate the perfect honeymoon or family reunion. It has to be just right. CSS agents such as Pete are helping us to match customers to their ideal vacation experience. We congratulate Pete for participating in our workshop, and wish him the very best.”

You can find out more about Pete at:  www.JollyMonVacations.com  Your NO FEE source for all-inclusive vacations!

Contact Pete today at pete@jollymonvacations.com or phone 218-779-3050.

To explore Sandals or Beaches Resorts, please visit www.JollyMonVacations.co

Posted on Leave a comment

Sandals Resorts 2012 Star Diamond Awards

Sandals Resorts International was honored with 22 awards by The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. The International Star Diamond Award is one of the most prestigious emblems of achievement and is awarded to exclusive recipients throughout the world. Nominations are routinely submitted by world travelers and industry professionals. All decisions of the Academy are based solely on whether the nominee demonstrates a commitment to excellence in luxury and service within its industry’s specific category and classification, including hospitality, attitude, quality, and cleanliness.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences,” said Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Chairman of Sandals Resorts International.  “We work hard to offer the finest luxury vacation, and we are honored that so many of our resorts have received Star Diamond Awards.”

The impressive awards and distinguished group of winners included:

  • Fowl Cay Resort: 2012 Five Star Diamond Award
  • Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas:
    • 2012 Green Six Star Diamond Award – Red Lane ® Spa at Sandals Emerald Bay
    • 2012 Green Six Star Diamond Award – Sandals Emerald Bay
    • 2012 Six Star Diamond Award – Sandals Emerald Bay
    • Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa:
      • 2012 Six Star Diamond Award – Mediterranean Village at Sandals Grande Antigua
      • 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Sandals Grande Antigua
      • Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa in St. Lucia:
        • 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Sandals La Toc
        • 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Sandals La Toc Restaurant
        • Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort: 2012 Five Star Diamond Award
        • Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island: 2012 Five Star Diamond Award
        • Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa: 2012 Five Star Diamond Award
        • Sandals Royal Plantation, Ocho Rios, Jamaica:
          • 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Sandals Royal Plantation
          • 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Red Lane® Spa at Sandals Royal Plantation
          • Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa: 2012 Five Star Diamond Award
          • Beaches Resorts: 2012 Six Star Green Diamond Award – Beaches Resorts “Keeping it Green”
          • Beaches Negril Resort & Spa: 2012 Five Star Diamond Award
          • Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa:
            • 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Beaches Turks & Caicos
            • 2012 Six Star Diamond Award – Italian Village at Beaches Turks & Caicos
            • 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Mario’s Restaurant at Beaches Turks & Caicos
            • 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Le Petit Chateau Restaurant at Beaches Turks & Caicos
            • Rio Chico Private Estate: 2012 Five Star Diamond Award
            • Sandals Resorts at the Montego Bay Airport: 2012 Five Star Diamond Award – Sandals Resorts Arrival Lounge

Jolly Mon Vacations is your Certified Sandals & Beaches Resort Specialist!

Not only do we get you the best possible promo price but if a better one comes along AFTER you are booked…we will have your price adjusted down to get you the absolute BEST PRICE! We work closely with our Sandals Business Development Manager to get you every possible discount and free amenity possible. (oh, and we do it at NO COST TO YOU! Our services are FREE!)

You can’t go wrong, we guarantee!

Contact us today!

pete@jollymonvacations.com or 218.779.3050

Image

Image

Posted on Leave a comment

Top 3 Classic Travel Scams: Protect Yourself!

As a travel agent and consultant, I get this question a lot:

“How do I know if this offer or ‘deal’ is legitimate or if it’s a travel scam?”

Here are a few classic things to watch for and how you can protect yourself.

1. The prize cruise or vacation:  “You’ve won a free cruise!”

You’re told you’ve won a free cruise or have qualified for a fabulous cut-rate price, but you’ll need to provide a credit card number to pay a deposit or processing fee. You may even be asked for your passport or Social Security number to prove that you’re the entitled winner.

If you give your credit card number, you may be charged “port fees” and other incidentals that exceed what you’d pay for an entire booking through a legitimate cruise line or travel agent. Provide your Social Security or passport number and you risk future identity theft. And your supposedly free vacation may require you to book a second guest at an inflated price.

2. The hidden sales pitch.

Some offers are designed just to get you to attend a sales pitch for a timeshare or an expensive and potentially problem-prone vacation club. You may in fact get a low-cost cruise, but past passengers complain of below-par accommodations – and high-pressure presentations that take not the promised 90 minutes but four hours or more. I’ve seen people leave these intimidating sales pitches in tears before.

3. The long-distance scam.

Offers are sometimes nothing more than a ruse to run up your phone bill. To claim your prize cruise, you’re told to call a 900 phone number or one with an area code of 876, 868, 809, 758, 784, 664, 473, 441, 284 or 246. Those codes seem all-American, but are actually for foreign countries, with the clock running at $5 a minute or more. In the end, there’s no cruise, only a high phone bill

How to Protect Yourself:

Last year, the Better Business Bureau received more than 1,300 complaints about cruises.

  • Beware of buzzwords. Travel promises tend to use language like “you’re eligible to      win” or “guaranteed.” One word that should never trick you: “Free.” It means just that — so don’t pay deposits or service fees on the promise you’ll get them back later.
  • Find out who really sent the offer. If an offer comes from an unrecognized source, assume the worst. But legitimate cruise lines may send past customers emails or mailings  about real low-cost offers. Before you respond, authenticate the address      with an online search. Watch out for look-alike Internet addresses that  are just a letter or two different from legitimate ones. Never click on attachments in unsolicited emails; they could unleash rogue programs known  as “malware” on your computer.
  • Get proper confirmation of your booking. If you book through a travel agent or other third party, make sure that you get two sets of confirmation numbers — one directly from the cruise line and one from the other agency. That will help in any disputes.
  • Pay with a credit card. That’s safer than a debit card or check and will allow for easier reimbursement or settlement of payment disputes if problems arise.

The bottom line is…its your money and its up to you to protect it. There is an easy way to do this when it comes to travel:

Use a reputable travel agent to do the work for you. They will find the best value for your money and most times it doesn’t cost you a thing extra. That’s right…we don’t even charge a fee to do the work on most vacation packages!

Travel agents offer so much more than you can get doing things yourself. From free planning, advice, upgrades, price reductions AFTER your purchase, proper insurance protection, trustworthy tours, transportation, assistance when trouble arises and so much more. We know the safety about your destinations, cruises and shore tours.

Travel agents are trained in what they do and often times they’ve already been where you are going and can offer loads of inside information you can’t get elsewhere. They can shop vendors that are not even available to the public and most times beat pricing you can find on the internet. Valuable resort and cruise line advice that will be critical to your stay will be given so there are no ‘surprises.’

Great travel agents are trained, certified and agency accredited. Look for one that SPECIALIZES in what you are looking for. (we specialize in all-inclusive resorts and river cruises in Europe, Asia and Russia)

Don’t fall for a scam, head to a trusted agent for real help and expertise!

Call or click to find out more about what we can do for you:

email:  pete@jollymonvacations.com

218-779-3050

Find out more about Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru

Posted on Leave a comment

Scenic Cruises Launches True All-Inclusive River Cruises

Pete Larson, River Cruise Guru

Owner and Travel Consultant for River Cruise Guru & Jolly Mon Vacations

Scenic Cruises has announced what it calls the “first truly all-inclusive luxury river cruising experience.” New on 2013 cruises will be unlimited complimentary beverages (top-shelf brands are additional), private butler service for every guest, themed dinners with entertainment (including Hungarian and Bavarian itineraries), a personal GPS onboard guided tour system devices providing commentary, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Also new are three dining venues — River Café with all-day offerings; Table La Rive, for degustation menus; and High Tea on the Terrace. (River Café, Table La Rive and the GPS tour are not available on Scenic Emerald which will be relocated to the south of France)

New shore experiences include Scenic Enrich, exclusive experiences such as a private dinner and concert at Rastatt Palace; Scenic FreeChoice, 18 tours including the Hockenheim Formula 1 Track in Heidelberg; and Scenic Tailor-made, a bespoke GPS-guided tour system with full commentary, allowing guests to choose from independent walks or cycling tours exploring areas like food and wine or history.

“We are redefining the term ‘all-inclusive luxury’ with the addition of unlimited complimentary beverages available at any time throughout the ship, free Wi-Fi, and butler service for all,” said Managing Director Glen Moroney. “Our relaxing new River Café offers food items all day, including cakes and espresso coffee. And most important — there is basically nothing more to pay except for personal expenses.”

River Cruise Guru can attest to this, as we were invited to sail onboard the maiden voyage of Scenic Crystal and have personally experienced the 2013 changes ourselves on a special voyage. It was nothing short of incredible.

Also in 2013, Scenic “Space-Ships” will get “Sun-Lounges,” which allow guests to convert their private balconies into an indoor lounge. This is basically a step-out balcony that can be totally enclosed in glass for bad weather or wind. Unlike most river cruise ships with balconies, Scenic does not take away ANY space from the stateroom when adding balconies. Sun lounges will be retro-fitted to the entire fleet (except Scenic Emerald). Moroney also announced a number of technical ship upgrades including a “silent drive” system that significantly reduces noise and vibration, and a sophisticated and powerful air-conditioning system.

When it comes to river cruising, Scenic has really stepped up the game. A luxury product that no other line matches in terms of all-inclusive amenities.

To begin your river cruise planning, call us today! Expert river cruise knowledge and assistance at no extra cost to you!

River Cruise Guru is a branch of Jolly Mon Vacations located in Grand Forks, ND serving clients around the globe. We are RIVER CRUISE SPECIALISTS and we DO NOT CHARGE ANY FEES. You get expert advice, planning assistance and booking for the same or less than you would do things yourself. WE KNOW RIVER CRUISES!

Find out more at:  www.JollyMonVacations.com and www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

For questions and assistance contact Pete:

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

Phone or text:  218-779-3050

LIKE us on facebook:  www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Scenic Crystal River Cruise Review: Part 5; The Tours

By Pete Larson, Owner of River Cruise Guru and Jolly Mon Vacations

We are River Cruise Specialists! Your free vacation planning source!

One of the best things about river cruising, is that many things are included in your overall price. Different cruise lines offer different amenities and inclusions so when you compare them…look into it closely. Something as simple as GRATUITIES or TRANSFERS not included can end up costing hundreds of dollars more in your final price. All companies are NOT the same which makes it difficult to know where to turn. My advice is to look for a RIVER CRUISE SPECIALIST because they know the cruise lines and what they each provide. Why reinvent the wheel when you can get FREE PROFESSIONAL HELP from a proven TRUSTED source?

Shore tours or excursions are included on almost all mainstream river cruise lines. AMA Waterways, Uniworld, Avalon, Viking, Scenic and many more include tours. Some of these lines offer your CHOICE of tours in some locations. This means you get to select from some different offerings that interest you most. Scenic Tours has offered this for years but now Avalon has a choice as well. Many of these cruise lines also offer OPTIONAL tours which you will have to pay EXTRA for but Scenic Cruises does not. In my opinion, they have one of the most all-inclusive river cruises out there. Next year, they WILL have the most all-inclusive product as they introduce many more inclusions such as butler service on all decks, private airport transfers and open bar to name a few.

On this Rhine River trip, we took advantage of each tour offered. Our first tour was a walking tour in the city of Cologne, Germany. When you leave the ship for a tour you are free to pick a group number. This way, you can be sure to be with your friends or family. Tour guides meet you at the gangway and then you go from there for walking tours. You will bring your QuietVox headset so you can hear the guide no matter where you are. This is nice if you are distracted by something or linger to take photos because you won’t miss anything.

The walking tours move around at a slow pace and on this one it was pouring rain so we made frequent stops under shelter. It’s a good idea to bring an umbrella so you don’t get your camera wet when you want a picture. Scenic Tours provides a large umbrella in your room for your use which is very handy. Most of our city tours lasted around an hour and took us to the main attractions. In Cologne, the main site is the famous Cathedral. This gothic cathedral is a masterpiece! The detail when you get up close is incredible. Inside, the acoustics and stained glass windows are amazing. There is no charge to go inside and it’s well worth a visit. After our walking tour we had a little free time to shop or do whatever you like.

Cologne Cathedral – Copyright River Cruise Guru

Scenic Tours is one of the few companies that own their own coaches to move guests around in. This is really nice because the coaches are always on time, in great condition and they will do everything the company needs them to do.

We went up the Moselle River to Cochem for our next stop. We took a walking tour of the town and then took coaches up the mountain to Reichsburg Castle. What a beautiful vista from the top of this mountain! On this day, the castle’s interior was closed to visitors. No

Cochem, Germany – Copyright River Cruise Guru

problem for us, because the guides still have access to the castle and they took us inside. (leaving the sad non-cruisers outside) The castle is amazing and filled with beautiful treasures of the past.

Next stop was Bernkastel, where the mere mention of the name makes wine connoisseur’s hearts beat faster! This town is the center of the vineyards of the Moselle Valley and they line the slate river banks for many miles. In Bernkastel, you could choose either a tour of the quaint city, a trip to Trier (the oldest city in Germany) or ride an hour and a half to Luxembourg. This is called a SCENIC FREE CHOICE and you must make your choice the day before so they can organize transportation. We chose Trier because the robe that Jesus is said to have worn during crucifixion was on display and we wanted to see it. This robe has only been displayed 17 times in over

Trier Cathedral – Copyright River Cruise Guru

2,000 years so this was an event NOT to be missed. Once we arrived in Trier for our walking tour, we cut away from the group and ventured out on our own. When we arrived at the cathedral to see the display there was a German mass going on. We watched the end of the mass and then proceeded through the sea of people to see the robe. I think everyone in that room was in total awe at what we were seeing and I can’t really explain how I felt standing there looking at it. It was one of those ‘awe’ moments you will never forget though.

Afterward, we walked around The Market Place, tried some apple strudel and visited the Porta Nigra which is a fortified gateway built by the Romans in the second century AD. It was a great visit to Trier despite the onslaught of rain.

Rüdesheimer Schloss Hotel – Copyright River Cruise Guru

Rüdesheim was the last stop for us and where this new beautiful ship would be christened in a grand ceremony later in the day. We disembarked the ship and checked into the Rüdesheimer Schloss Hotel right off the world-famous Drosselgasse. This is a lively area where you can shop, eat or hit the wine bars. We had a great German dinner at the Hotel Lindenwirt’s restaurant and wine bar that was delicious. Scenic Tours also provided transportation via train to the Siegfried’s Musikkabinett (Museum of mechanical music instruments) with admission as well as tickets to the cable car although we opted to tour on our own.

We headed to the cable car and rode to the Niederwalddenkmal at the top of the mountain. The view of the Rhine, the vineyards and the city below was nothing short of incredible. The Niederwalddenkmal is a statue commemorating the foundation of the German Empire. The statue was under construction during our visit and was very hard to see. The highlight was surely the view and the deer we saw run up the staircase to the statue!

Overall, the included tours on this Scenic Cruise were excellent. Guides and drivers did a great job and the attractions were top-notch. Free time was included at each stop and sometimes the stops seem a little short. Our cruise was on an accelerated pace because this itinerary was for travel agents, Scenic staff and press however.

Part 6 will follow this soon.

 

Posted on 3 Comments

Scenic Crystal River Cruise Review: Part 4; The Ship

Scenic Crystal River Cruise Review:

Part 4:  The ship

By Pete Larson, Owner of River Cruise Guru and Jolly Mon Vacations

We are River Cruise Specialists! Your free vacation planning source!

Scenic Crystal 2012. Photo © Jolly Mon Vacations

Scenic Cruises launched its sixth river cruise ship, the 169-passenger Scenic Crystal in April and we were on this maiden voyage. Scenic Crystal is 443 feet long and has cabins and suites ranging from 164 to 315 square feet, most of which have real outdoor balconies that you can enclose at the touch of a button.

We boarded this ship in Amsterdam for a trip down the Rhine to Rüdesheim where the ship would be christened before continuing down to Basel, Switzerland.

The Airport Transfers:

Scenic Cruises will pick you up at the airport when you arrive on departure day whether or not you purchase flights from Scenic. Scenic staff will be waiting  near the baggage carousel holding a sign. You may have to go to a bus or holding area for a little bit while others are arriving. In 2013, the included transfers will become PRIVATE transfers, so once you arrive at the airport, you will be whisked directly to the ship without delay! Show me another cruise line that offers that included in the price! Since we arrived two nights early, we simply took a taxi to the port.

Boarding Ship:

Upon arrival at the Scenic Crystal, staff came off the ship and grabbed our suitcases for us and took them onboard the ship. We climbed the gangway and entered the lobby of this amazing new river ship and met with the staff. They quickly introduced us to Igor, the Hotel Manager and he offered my wife a single rose. We were given our room keys and they ushered us to our stateroom. This was the quickest and hassle-free boarding experience I’ve ever encountered in all our travels!

The Butler:

Once in our stateroom, we were met by our butler who explained the room and services. In 2013, all three passenger decks will receive butler services included in the price! She made sure our devices were hooked to the internet and made us reservations for Portobello’s Restaurant at my request.

The Stateroom:

Deluxe Balcony of Scenic Crystal. Photo © River Cruise Guru

We had stateroom B205, which is a Deluxe Balcony, mid-ship on the middle (Rhine) deck. This is a nice sized room with closets, safe, Apple TV, mini bar, hair dryer, bottled water, two-twin beds configured into a queen sized bed with suitcase storage beneath. A sliding glass door opened onto a full outdoor balcony with glass/wood rail. There were two chairs and a small table. Scenic calls this area, the “Scenic Sun Lounge” because at the push of a button, a window slides up (just like a car window) and encloses the deck from noise, wind, rain and cold. You can enjoy your balcony at anytime! This is a great new feature and we used it a lot. You will need an electrical adapter/converter to power your electronics as they use European electrical plugs.

The bathroom. Photo © River Cruise Guru

The bathroom was the best I’ve had on any ship. It was larger than most ocean-going ships and it featured modern sink with LED down-lighting and a glass-walled shower that had three heads and an LED colored lighting display in the upper showerhead! It gave you a SPA-like experience right in your own stateroom. Unbelievable.

Noise and vibration:

Now you sometimes read reviews about ship vibration on certain cruises. On river cruises, the ships are smaller and follow a very winding river. These ships will sometimes make more noise during turns as they use side thrusters. The engine noise will be heard no matter where your cabin is located but it never seems to bother me. I know I’m on a moving vehicle  and when going in and out of locks there will be some bumping and engine noise. Is this something that ever kept me awake? No. I rather enjoyed the hum of the engines.

Daily Program:

The Daily Programme. Photo © River Cruise Guru

Scenic Tours leaves a DAILY PROGRAMME on your bed each day so you will know the schedule. The ship was to depart Amsterdam at 17:00 hours. (yes, they use the 24 hour/military time) Shortly before sailing, they gathered us for a Welcome Reception and safety briefing. Scenic Tours CEO/Managing Director came onboard and gave us a nice welcome speech and the ships Captain then took over the safety briefing. An actual ‘safety drill’ was held the second day and we all put on life-vests on the Sun Deck. There are no lifeboats on a river ship so you simply go to the upper deck when the alarm is sounded and they hand you a life-vest.

First Thoughts:

My first thoughts were WOW! The ship is brand new and pristine. I’ve been on a lot of ships before, but none that smelled of new paint and carpet. I expected the crew to be a bunch of inexperienced employees thrown together at the last minute not knowing how to do things. Boy, was I wrong! They were all spectacular! Like a well-oiled machine. Polite, knowledgeable and accommodating.

Crystal Lounge:

The Crystal Lounge. Photo © River Cruise Guru

This is a great space and well used. From reading a book, having coffee or a cocktail to having some lunch or dancing the night away this room delivers. Beautiful furnishings that are comfortable to eat lunch in or just sit and watch the scenery go by through the large windows.  There are coffee and tea stations here, available around the clock and the new lunch venue, The River Café. A light lunch fare is served there and it also houses appetizers and desserts as well. Forward of this area is the Portobello’s Restaurant (only set up in the evening, otherwise its an extension of the lounge) which is a special place to have a 7 course dinner. The dinner is special and the service is incredible. There is no extra fee for any of these dining venues. In 2013, drinks will be included as part of the cruise fare. That’s right, all-inclusive!

Portobello’s Restaurant:

This is considered to be a ‘special’ dining experience and will require a reservation due to limited seating area. There is no extra charge to dine here which is incredible. The staff is ‘extra-attentive’ and greets you with a flute of champagne upon arrival. There are many sized tables and we were seated at a table for six. We shared dinner with four other passengers and found them to be very fun and interesting. Dinner served was seven courses of delight. Several choices of regional wines were offered and each course was presented by the chef with a story. The meal was great, the service spectacular and the experience  was memorable.

Observation Deck:

Forward Observation Deck. Photo © River Cruise Guru

Forward of Portobello’s is a small but covered seating area right near the bow. It offers a fantastic forward view of the area you are traveling. It offers some sun or rain protection and even has some radiant heaters overhead which helped on a blustery day. A great spot to view the transit through one of the many river locks.

The Sundeck:

The Sundeck of Scenic Crystal. Photo © River Cruise Guru

A great big area to socialize, watch scenery and catch some rays. On our cruise, it didn’t see the use it would during the summer months but we still found it a great place to take photos and watch as we passed under low bridges. During nice weather it also serves as another alternate dining venue. The wheelhouse and the upper railings on the very top deck are sometimes put down. The wheelhouse is able to be lowered and the deck rails and canopies fold down. This makes it possible to fit under lower bridges on the river. We were allowed to sit forward of the wheelhouse during the passing of low bridges, but were ordered to stay seated. It is quite amazing how they scoot right under these bridges with very little clearance. There were only two areas to smoke onboard; one was the furthest point aft on the Sundeck, the other was right near the middle stairs/wheelhouse on the Sun Deck. The Captain said, “if you don’t see an ashtray, you cannot smoke there.” No smoking was allowed on the balconies either.

The Crystal Dining Room:

The Crystal Dining Room. Photo © River Cruise Guru

A very nice restaurant for all three daily meals right at water level. Many different sized tables to choose from and It operates with an open-seating policy. A great place to meet old friends or to discover new ones. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet-style. Mornings saw an omelet station and afternoons usually had some sort of carved meats available. Regional wines, beer and soft drinks are complimentary at lunch and dinner. In 2013, these beverages will be complimentary around the clock! We enjoyed the local Riesling wines very much. There was usually a choice between a couple of different wines with each meal. The food was served up in courses; appetizer, soup/salad, main entrée and dessert. I found each dish I had ordered to be very good. Sometimes they had a theme, like on German day the staff was dressed in lederhosen, German music was played, they served authentic German dishes and trays of bier!

The Staff/Service:

I found the staff to be very accommodating at all times. Whenever I had a question, they were there with an answer. The Cruise Director, Sylvie, was very good as running things. She gave the port talks each day in the Lounge and also took care of us when it came to tours and on debarkation day. Service staff were excellent both in the lounge and dining rooms. Stateroom staff were also very good. All gratuities are included with Scenic Tours/Cruises which is very nice and convenient.

Entertainment:

If you are the type that needs constant entertainment, you may be a bit bored on a river cruise. Entertainment usually consists of a piano player/singer/entertainer, dancing , local musicians brought onboard, lectures or a glass blowing demonstration. I found it to be a nice distraction in the evening when you could not see the scenery.

Internet:

The internet is a fee for service program now, (about $30 Euros/week) but in 2013 it will also be complimentary…and it should be. I found the internet to be very frustrating. It’s satellite -based so connections are horrible through the river valleys and locks. It seemed you could never get connected and once you did it didn’t last. I told the ship staff that if I had to pay for internet…I wouldn’t have. It just wasn’t worth the aggravation in my opinion.

Onboard Dress:

Casual elegance for the most part. Several of us men wore sport jackets during the more dressy nights, like the GALA dinner and in Portobello’s Restaurant. Most men wore collared shirts or polo’s and women wore dresses or pant suits.

Overall the dress code was not something to worry much about. As long as you look presentable, everything is fine. Yes, people were wearing jeans in the dining room. Women may need a shawl or sweater for the dining rooms or lounge as the air conditioning can be quite chilly inside.

Weather:

We had cold, rainy weather. Dressing in layers works very well on a river cruise. As the day heats up you can strip layers or the opposite if the temperatures drop. Rain was a big factor, so a raincoat was perfect as it also offered protection from water and wind. Scenic provides each stateroom with a large umbrella to use on excursions as well. These are great  for taking pictures when its raining so your camera doesn’t get wet.

Next Up:

The next sections (part 5) of this review will cover our Shore Excursions and tours followed by the naming ceremony and some other thoughts and tips. Stay tuned!

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

Posted on Leave a comment

River Cruising: After booking comes the docs

Once your River Cruise Specialist has helped you choose your itinerary, finds a cruise line and ship that fits your style, books your hotels, transfers, air, insurance and everything is paid and in order…the waiting game begins. Watching that clock tick until that sail date FINALLY comes.

About two to three weeks prior to your cruise, most river cruise lines will send out your documents. In the cruising world, you’ll hear them simply referred to as….DOCS. What they are is mostly boarding documentation, ship information, itinerary, medical forms and other general information about where to go once you arrive in the port city. Depending on the cruise line, your document package could contain many different things.

Our documents have arrived from Scenic Cruises, a branch of Scenic Tours, which bills itself as a 5-Star Luxury All-inclusive river cruise line. Here is a picture of what Scenic Cruises delivered to us with our documents:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Two Scenic Tours backpacks with multiple compartments which will be great for excursions and tours.

-Two drawstring laundry bags for keeping the dirty clothes separtated.

-Zippered portfolio containing the docs, luggage tags, itinerary and medical forms.

-A handy full-colored guide book containing information on all the river areas our cruise will cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the docs you can expect for any basic river cruise. Read over them very carefully and follow the instructions contained in them.

Next up….

Packing:  If you’ve never packed for a cruise before, your travel agent can be your best friend. They know what you will need, what is not allowed, how to pack everything and what type of luggage restrictions you may face with air and cruise lines.

When traveling to foreign countries, there are things to think about like:

-What type of documentation, visas or passports will be required.

-Electrical differences: ensuring you have the right adapters and converters to power up and charge your devices.

-Currency differences: ensuring you know where to get local currency, how to get it and what to tell your bank before you leave.

-Where can I purchase additional tours or hotels for pre-cruise stays so you can explore.

-How to get the best airfare and insurance to cover all our expenses and medical.

-Are you traveling to a safe area and what you should do if trouble arises.

All this and much more can be found out from your travel agent and river cruise specialist! River Cruise Guru is a certified River Cruise Specialist. Our job is to assist you from start to finish, get you the best price and value possible and ensure your trip is a flawless as it can be…all for NO EXTRA FEES! That’s right…you won’t pay a dime extra for our expert services. Expert service for free…you can’t beat that deal!

Call or click today:

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

Call or text:  218-779-3050

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru

Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru

Pete Larson, President

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

Posted on Leave a comment

Scenic Tours River Cruise: Scenic Crystal 2012

I encourage you to follow us on our travels on the brand new river ship from Scenic Tours: Scenic Crystal. We are embarking on her very first cruise from the shipbuilding in Amsterdam to the christening ceremony in Rudesheim, Germany. I’ll be blogging about it as it happens as well as posting the first pictures and videos of this new ship.

Please become a follower and subscribe to Jolly Mon Vacations Blog. Feel free to ask questions or comment and share this with friends as well.

We will see if were paying attention to our posts and awarding prizes to those that do. Each time you share our Facebook pages or blog posts enters you to win something fabulous.

Watch here and at www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru
And www.facebook.com/jollymonvacations

Email: pete@jolloymonvacations.com
www.JollyMonVacations.com

Posted on Leave a comment

Jolly Mon Vacations is IATAN Accredited

What does Jolly Mon Vacations ‘IATAN accreditation’ mean to you?

IATAN (International Airlines Travel Agent Network) promotes professionalism and administers meaningful and impartial business standards to travel industry professionals. IATAN accreditation is voluntary, and means that a travel business consciously works to assure you, its customer, of its legitimacy and commitment to the travel profession.

IATAN accreditation tells you that Jolly Mon Vacations is a serious,  reputable,  business professional and seller of travel. Jolly Mon Vacations is an IATAN Travel Sales Intermediary (TSI) agency. Our IATAN number can be found in the IATAN database by cruise lines, airlines and hotels worldwide.

IATAN accredited agencies must demonstrate that:

  • it has staff devoted to the affairs of the business, who have managerial skills and discretion
  • the business is a valid legal entity, and has appropriate business bank accounts
  • it can produce letters of reference from national or international travel industry suppliers or from national travel associations
  • its Website and advertisements show how customers can contact the business
  • it complies with relevant Federal, state, county, and local laws
  • it has no pending or unresolved complaints at state or local consumer affairs office
  • as part of the accreditation process, agencies must demonstrate revenue consistent with being a significant travel business.

You can get more details on IATAN at www.iatan.org

www.JollyMonVacations.com assists you with your vacation plans and doesn’t charge any fees for booking packages. Contact us today for your free assistance. Save money and receive professional travel advice…now that’s VALUE!

Pete Larson

President, Jolly Mon Vacations

218-779-3050

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com