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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
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8 Tips on How to Go Through Customs & Immigration

customsWhen you arrive at your island destination you will need to clear immigration & customs. Each country is a little different, but the process is very similar. You can expedite this process by being properly prepared.
Preparation begins when you pack for your trip and if you plan to purchase any duty-free items in the U.S airport. Every island has different restrictions on what you can bring in “duty-free”. Each island also has “prohibited items”.

Depending on the airport and/or airline you depart from you may need to pick up your own immigration and customs forms at the gate prior to boarding. Other times they are distributed by flight attendants once you are in the air. Don’t forget to bring an ink pen to fill out the forms!

You will need to fill out an immigration form for each passenger. Go slow to avoid mistakes. Date format is often different from what you may be used to. Be sure to sign form. Some countries, like Jamaica, have a separate immigration card attached to form. You need to fill it out as well or you will be delayed at immigration. For most countries you will also need to fill out customs form. These are generally per family, but if you passports have different surnames you may want to fill one out for each different name. You most likely will have nothing to declare.

When you arrive at destination, proceed to immigration. Cell phones and cameras may not be used in immigration and customs areas. Please stay behind line and wait for next available immigration agent. You will need to present you passport and forms. Be polite and answer any questions asked. Once through immigration you can put your passports away in safe place. Keep customs forms handy.

Proceed to the baggage claim area. Make sure you get all your bags and that they are YOUR bags. You can grab a cart to make it easier. Check to see if customs exit has “Nothing to Declare” lines and get in line. Depending on county, the customs official will review your customs form and/or interview you. On occasion the customs agents may want to perform a physical inspection of you luggage.

8 Tips on How to Go Through US Customs & Immigration

1
Onboard your flight, you will be given customs and immigration documents. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, then you will need to fill out an I-94 form. If you are a U.S. Citizen, then you do not need this form. All passengers must also complete a customs declaration form. This form is required for both U.S. and Foreign citizens. Make sure to have the required documents completed before you enter the customs and immigration facilities.

2
When you deplane, follow the signs directing you to international arrivals, immigration and customs. Most often, you will walk through a hallway or go down an escalator to the customs and immigration facilities. In rare circumstances (mostly at smaller, more poorly run airports), you will need to ride a bus.

3
The first stop is at Passport Control/Immigration. If you are a U.S. Citizen, go to the lanes marked United States Citizens. If you are non-U.S. Citizen, go to the lanes marked Foreign Citizens. If you have another flight to connect with, there are sometimes special lanes for Connecting Passengers.

4
Give your passport and immigration/customs forms to the officer. He/she will look at your passport, scan it, and possibly validate it. He/she will also retain any I-94 forms, and validate and return the customs forms.

5
After you clear Passport Control, follow the signs to Baggage Claim. Here, you will claim your checked baggage, even if you have another flight to connect with. Check the screens for the carousel number that your flight has been assigned to and wait for your bags to appear.

6
Once you have claimed your bags, your next stop is at Customs. If you do not have any items to declare, proceed to the green lanes marked “Nothing to Declare”. If you do have items to declare, proceed to the red lanes marked “Goods to Declare”. Here, you will turn in your customs form and if you do not have anything to declare, you will be waved through to the exit.

7
If you have another flight to connect with, follow the signs marked “Connecting Flights/Connecting Baggage Drop-off” as you leave the customs area. If you are already at your final destination, skip straight to step 8. When you get to the connecting baggage carousel, be sure to place any liquids, gels, and aerosols that are over 3 oz, or any other items that are not allowed through TSA security checkpoints in your checked luggage. Check that your baggage tags match your final destination. Place your luggage on the conveyor belt, wheels or handles facing up (the bag itself should be upside down).

Continue following the signs marked Connecting Flights, and proceed through security to the departures area.

8
If you are already at your final destination, follow the exit and ground transportation signs. Once you exit the customs and immigration facilities you will be in the International Arrivals area. Here you will meet up with friends and family, or proceed to courtesy shuttles, taxis, rental cars, or other ground transportation.

For more information and FREE ASSISTANCE with your travel plans, please contact a professional travel consultant at Jolly Mon Vacations today!
No charges, no fees…just expert advice and assistance! No strings attached.

218-779-3050
pete@jollymonvacations.com
www.JollyMonVacations.com
www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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
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Cheapest Day of the Week to Fly?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWJA3axnx0w&list=UUGsiWj-7vtFAx-Sj4OxN1tQ&index=3&feature=plcp]

Are you ready to find out the cheapest day of the week to take a flight?

Wednesday! It’s impossible to predict what the single cheapest day of the year to fly will be. Even if you could gauge data from previous years to determine which day offered the lowest prices for your particular route, there’s no telling that the same pattern would happen the following year. Travel experts generally agree on the cheapest travel day of the week. It’s Wednesday which draws, on average, the lowest fares. A site that tracks ticket prices from more than 500 airlines, reports that Wednesday offers the least expensive fares for U.S. and Canada flights.

What other days are usually cheaper to fly?
Tuesdays and Saturdays The next cheapest days of the week to fly are Tuesday and Saturday. Saturday might sound like a popular — hence expensive — day to fly. But in truth, most travelers prefer to come back from vacation on Sunday or even Monday. If you’re eyeing a Saturday flight, however, watch out for weekend surcharges, which some airlines tack onto ticket prices for Friday, Saturday and Sunday departures.
Ultimately, your best day to fly all depends on your airline. There are plenty of airfare sales that restrict discounted fly dates to Tuesdays and Wednesdays only (JetBlue, AirTran and Southwest) or Mondays through Thursdays. I’ve also seen those international fare sales that tack on weekend surcharges and require a Saturday night stay. Airline, seasonality, current demand and a barrage of other factors can completely overthrow the Wednesday-is-cheapest rule.

Another great cost saving measure is to bundle that flight with hotel or rental car. We have direct access to vendors that package and discount prices. Contact us today to get you on the road to savings!

Finding flights to domestic locations is pretty simple online yourself. If you are looking for International flights, I recommend that you contact us first to see if we can get flights cheaper through our consolidators. Often times we can save you money and get better flight options this way. Here at Jolly Mon Vacations we offer our service of tracking flight prices for you and buying when they drop to get you the savings. There is a small fee, but you will probably gain it back in our tracking-then-buying program. We strive to save you as much money as possible. We work for YOU.

Contact us today for more information:

pete@jollymonvacations.com

Phone:  218-779-3050 (feel free to text message this number anytime)

Visit our website to find out more information about our company:

www.JollyMonVacations.com

www.JollyMonVacations.mobi

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

www.RiverCruiseGuru.mobi

            

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60 Second Geography: Cancun and the Riviera Maya

60-Second Geography

Cancun and the  Riviera Maya

Cancun and the Riviera Maya have become a second home for North American travelers looking for great beaches, lots of sun and exciting nightlife. Mayan ruins sit next door to world-class accommodations and tourism facilities, with water sports and natural attractions close at hand. Only a couple of hours from   many United States cities, Cancun is one of the most accessible international   destinations available.
  • The Yucatán coast has been a staple of travelers from the United States for forty years or more. The rapid development in and around Cancun became a model for the best and the worst in the ways in which tourism could enrich a population. This area was largely isolated from the rest of Mexico until the Mexican government selected the region for development.
  • The Yucatán’s Caribbean coast is more than 236 miles and stretches from Cancún in the north all the way to Chetumal, on the border with the nation of Belize.
  • The northern half of the Yucatán’s coast is known as the “Maya Riviera “; to the south, the “Costa Maya.” Between the two is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
  • South of Cancun development along the Riviera Maya is on a smaller scale, with a greater understanding for the principles of sustainable tourism and a respect for native cultures.
  • The second longest reef system in the world runs much of the length of the coast. Playa del Carmen, Xpu-Ha, Tulum and the other magnificent beaches occur where there are gaps in the reef and the tidal action of the ocean’s waves pounds the reef into fine sand.
  • The reef provides great snorkeling and diving and the beaches are some of the world’s finest.
  • Ancient Mayan ruins dot the coast and are easily accessible from the resort communities along the coast.
  • Inland, vast caves are present and under ground rivers run where travelers can explore with experienced guides.
  • The choice of accommodations is large and varied from cabins to all inclusive resorts or boutique hotels.
  • The ancient Mayan cities of Uxmal and Chichen Itza remain some of the best examples of the mysterious cultures, the vestages of which exist to this day in the native populations.
Contact:  Jolly Mon Vacations to assist with booking your Mexico vacation!Your NO FEE source of expert advice and

great prices!

www.JollyMonVacations.com

www.facebook.com/jollymonvacations

Email:  pete@jollymonvacations.com

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

© Copyright 2011 Travmarket. LLC.

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Deceptive Travel Pricing: 15 Ways They Deceive You!

Deceptive Travel Pricing: 15 Ways They Deceive You!

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

Deceptive Marketing and false advertising is all around us. It’s on billboards, your hometown newspaper, on TV and the
internet. When a company intentionally leads you to believe something that is false,  is over-promising something, or burying
things deep within the ‘fine print’ so that you don’t understand what is occurring is being deceptive.

Travel is a business where this type of deception runs amok. They bait your interest with the promise of these incredible deals and low prices. They add all sorts of restrictions, cut away the value and confuse you with endless fine print. You end up with a hollow shell of what was promised, and your hard earned vacation ends in disappointment.

Lets look at some common marketing ‘tricks’ companies like to use to keep you confused:

Specific Gateway – Only valid from a certain airport.

Booking window – Only valid if you book before a certain time period. (act now! Limited time only!) Only valid when a certain
deposit amount is laid before a certain date.

Travel window – Only valid when you travel between certain limited dates. (usually their slow season)

Specific Accommodation– only valid when you book a certain room level. (higher category or they quote the lowest category
room where there is a very limited supply that may be sold out forcing you to book a higher category than advertised)

Specific Itinerary – Only valid when you book a certain itinerary. (in cruising or tours, it’s usually an itinerary that is not
popular)

Exclusions – Many things are excluded making the price lower. (taxes, port fees, fuel surcharges, transfers, obc, airfare) Offer valid only to individual bookings, not groups.

New Bookings Only – A discounted rate you can only get if you don’t already have a reservation. Cruise lines are notorious for doing this when they have trouble selling out a ship. Usually offered close to sail date, but only on unpopular ships, dates,  itineraries, or departure ports.

Early Saver Rates /Advanced Purchase – This is popular with Carnival Cruise Lines and many hotels. It basically means you pay
the entire cruise or hotel stay at the time of booking and your money is NON-REFUNDABLE.

Combining discounts– Offer may not be combined with any other discount. (Military, AAA, Govt, Club, coupons, shareholder
benefits, promos)

Limitations – Offer only good when a certain number of persons are booked. (quad occupancy, double occupancy) Offer only
valid when booking a certain number of days. (7 days)

Booking Limitations – Offer only valid in the USA, or only when booked online. Offer not transferrable. Offer expires if not
applied by certain date.

Residential Limitations – Offer only valid to persons living in a certain area, city, state or region. (California, etc.)

Availability – Offer only valid to a limited number of customers. (creating the need for speed booking) Offer subject to
change at any time.

Deceptive ‘Sales’-

-The ‘percentage discount’ deception:

The claim:   Save up to 40%- The ‘up to’ means the figure taken is the rack rate that almost no one pays in the first place, and on a higher category room making the discounted price no different than the regular price. This may seem like a deal, but its not.

-The ‘FREE!’ deception:

The catch is…it’s not really free. You must meet all the requirements first. Free, LOADED with conditions like:

  • Free,  only under a certain age restriction
  • Free, only when parents purchase something specific, or stay in a certain category room.
  • Free,  but you pay the taxes, port fees, surcharges, transportation, etc.
  • Free, while supplies last. (and the supply is so limited its near impossible to obtain)

How do you protect yourself?

You could study all this stuff day and night like I do, or simply engage in a trustworthy source to begin with:
A good Travel Agent. Let the buyer beware! A good travel agent is worth their weight in gold. Remember, if you see a vacation priced at some
unbelievable price…you aren’t getting the entire  story. This should be a red flag that the company is using some sort of deceptive pricing.

Let me answer some questions about Travel Agents, and how they can save you time and money while protecting you from bad travel choices:

Travel Agent, Travel Counselor and  Travel Consultants are mostly the same thing. They act on your behalf as an independent agent to shop
many different sources to find you a good price with good value ensuring it’s exactly what you desire. They bring the right vacation product to clients and book it for them. They answer questions you have, assist with insurance, get your travel documents in order, and assist you along the way.

Not well traveled?
Perfect! Travel Agents will help you become familiar with what to expect and assist you with activities at your destination. They can also monitor prices after the booking and go to the vendor to obtain discounts for you.  Using an agent can protect you from a bad vacation experience, keep you safe by advising you of where NOT to go, and make sure you arrive and depart with ease.

Q:  What can a travel agent do for me?

A:  A good travel agent will bring the desired vacation experience to meet the clients needs at the best value possible. We act as your ‘vacation broker’ so to speak. Jolly Mon Vacations always starts with a good client interview to find the needs and desires of the client. We match our clients using our expansive knowledge on travel, destinations, resorts, hotels, cruise lines, ships and other things. We have special relationships with vacation vendors that will package up your vacation needs at special prices. Often times our buying power can help us obtain a better price, amenities, upgrades or a host of other promotional benefits. The travel agent saves you both time and money!

Go ahead, type “cruise” into Google…228 MILLION links! Do you have time to sift through that to find a trustworthy source for a good price with great value?

Q:  How much will using a travel agent cost me?

A:  In most cases….NOTHING!

Jolly Mon Vacations doesn’t charge fees to do your vacation planning or booking. Free help, advice and assistance for you…and money stays in your wallet! We are paid by the vendor we use for each sale, and they add nothing to your price for our service either.
You pay the same whether or not a travel agent books your trip, so you win by getting free professional assistance! Many vendors will match any price as well, ensuring you get the lowest price for your trip.

Q:  How do I know I can trust them to find me what I need?

A:  Travel Agents are educated and certified in specific destinations, cruise lines, resorts, vendors and travel. Experience is also a
great teacher and yet another way we can assist you. Our knowledge is backed by actual hotel, resort, destination and ship inspections. We travel to these destinations and tour them ourselves to assist in placing our clients. Nothing backs up a good education like a real life experience! A legitimate Travel Agent will be accredited by a major agency such as the IATA, IATAN, ARC, TRUE, CLIA or a host agency. You can check their credentials to ensure they are valid agents in good standing that hold proper accreditation.  Don’t hesitate to ask about accreditation to protect yourself.

Q:  I don’t need an agent, I can just book it direct with the cruise line or resort.

A:  Not so fast! Did you know each ship, cruise line, itinerary, port, resort can be COMPLETELY different from one another? You
may be climbing on a ‘floating old folks home’ when you are looking for a party. You could be getting on a ship or a cruise line that totally misses the reasons you need a vacation. A good Travel Agent knows the ships, the ports, resorts and the overall ‘vibe’ of where it is you are going and how you are getting there. A Travel Agent works for YOU, and looks out for YOUR best interest. The people at the other end of the direct booking look out for THEMSELVES and their company.

When it comes to planning and booking your next vacation, hotel, or any travel:  see a professional Trave Agent!

Jolly Mon Vacations would love to help you with your vacation. When we give a price quote, you can bet that it includes all taxes, fees and outlines exactly what is extra. We hide nothing, and do our best to promote THE REAL price.  We are an IATAN accredited agency and we’ll
do our best to make it your best vacation ever! The honest way.

Pete Larson,

Travel Agent & River Cruise Specialist

Jolly Mon Vacations  …destination anywhere.

President and Owner

www.JollyMonVacations.com

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

Phone or text:  218-779-3050

pete@jollymonvacations.com

www.facebook.com/jollymonvacations

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All-Inclusive Resorts 101

All-Inclusive Resorts:  Lets Get Started!

I put together an informative series about All-Inclusive Resorts. I will release them over the course of the next month or two.  I hope you find them helpful, and that you will use this information to help guide you in your future vacations. I will also post them on the Jolly Mon Vacations official Blog as well for future reference. If you find that you are ready to try a resort, don’t hesitate to contact me right away. Jolly Mon Vacations is with you every step of the way. Enjoy!
Q:  What is an all-inclusive resort all about?

A:  An all-inclusive resort is a great vacation concept, at a great resort, in a great location, at a great value for what it includes in the price. At most resorts, all-inclusive means it includes most things you would have to pay extra for are included up front. You know the total cost of your vacation up front, which makes saving and planning much easier.

 

 

Q:  What is included in the price?

A:   The things included in a true All-Inclusive (which I will call AI’s) are:Accommodations, meals and snacks, with no exclusions, unlimited drinks, transportation to and from the airport, gratuities at the resort, resort taxes, daily and nightly entertainment, tennis, snorkeling, water skiing (some resorts), sailing, windsurfing, kayaks, paddle boats, swimming pools, hot tubs, scuba diving and lessons (some resorts), exercise/weight rooms, fitness centers, Other amenities may be included depending on the resort and the room category such as room service, golf (greens fees), off-site tours.

 That being said, some AI’s include more than others. Some also have better amenities, better liquors, better food, better facilities, etc.

Q:  How can I determine what resort is right for me or my family?

A:  There are resorts out there geared toward families, resorts geared toward couples, resorts geared toward the ‘uninhibited’, resorts geared to the adventurous…the list goes on. To study all the resort options available to you would take massive amounts of time, and would still be a gamble in your selection.

This is where the well-trained services of a Travel Agent are truly needed. We not only attend classes given by both resorts, countries, and vendors…but we get a chance to visit these resorts and see them for ourselves. This way, we can ‘qualify’ each clients needs and desires to a particular AI resort. Shopping for travel via an internet company like Expedia, or a discounter is just too risky. You won’t get personalized suggestions, and they aren’t going to steer you to the BEST resort for YOU. They will steer you by PRICE to a resort THEY want you to go to.

No matter how you choose to approach this, these are the facts. ‘Buyer Beware’ when it comes to travel. Many people find out THE HARD WAY, and I hope to set you in the RIGHT direction.As with any vacation, expectations and picking the right resort are major contributors to an unforgettable vacation. If this criteria is met, it is hard to find any negatives. At All-Inclusive Resorts every crew and staff member is dedicated to making your resort vacation the best it can be. Call us for help in planning the vacation of a lifetime!

 

Q:  What is not included at an All-Inclusive Resort?

A:  Baggage handling at the airport, some off-site tours, gift shop purchases, most Spa services, and departure tax (depending on the package these can be included). It is a good idea to bring some money for off-site activities. A departure tax of $15 to $30 per person is required in most Caribbean and Mexican airports. These fees are collected when you leave the country.  Most packages now include these taxes, but be sure and ask if the departure tax is included for the particular package you choose.

What’s Next?

In our upcoming editions, we will discuss many more things:

  • What do these resorts offer?
  • Will my kids be bored?
  • We want a quiet, romantic place… where do we turn?
  • What type of entertainment should I expect?
  • What is a realistic price for this vacation?
  • What options are there in accommodations? Is a room just a room?
  • What countries have them that we should consider?
  • Can we get married at a resort? Do they really host weddings?
  • I’ve not been out of the country, what type of ID will I need?
  • How do I go about booking the vacation? Can we lay a deposit?
  • How far in advance should I make reservations?
  • What about hurricanes?
  • …and much more!

 Call Pete at:  218-779-3050 to find out more, or to book an all-inclusive resort today! Email me:  pete@jollymonvacations.com

Your all-inclusive resort and river cruise specialist!

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Top 10 Family Vacation Destinations

Looking for a great place to take the family?

Here are some suggestions from AAA on the Top 10 USA family-friendly hotspots:

Crowne Plaza at Historic Union Station, Indianapolis

A former railroad, the Crowne Plaza at Historic Union Station is located in downtown Indianapolis. Stay in one of the 26 rooms converted from a Pullman Train car. In town, take your kids to White River State Park, the Indianapolis Zoo and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Visit www.indianapolis.com/crowne-plaza.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

From the balcony rooms, get an around-the-clock view of animals in the savannahs in the 43-acre wildlife preserve. African architecture decorates the lodge, and interactive exhibits and kids’ programs are catered to younger guests.

 

 

Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center on Lake Grapevine, Grapevine, Texas

Through Labor Day, you can attend the sixth annual SummerFest featuring four and a half acres of indoor gardens transformed into Alice’s Wonderland Adventure. Wander through Wonderland through the giant art, and meet Alice, The Queen of Hearts and The Hatter. Extras include pool parties, family dine-in movies, dessert dine-arounds, fireworks and Sunday tea.

www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylord-texan.

Great Wolf Lodge, Sandusky, Ohio

Dive into the water at Fort Mackenzie, a four-story, interactive water fort at the indoor water park. Every evening at 8:15, kids can go to the lobby Clock Tower in pajamas and slippers for story time, while older kids can visit the Northern Lights Arcade.

Visit www.greatwolf.com/sandusky/waterpark.

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina, Cambridge, Maryland

On the Eastern Shore, the resort includes its 18-hole championship golf course and a spa where you can get a massage. Kids can visit Camp Hyatt and watch poolside movies, and the whole family can play miniature golf and beach volleyball and meander through the hotel’s 18-acre Blue Heron Rookery nature preserve.

Visit http://chesapeakebay.hyatt.com.

Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Adorned in Southwestern decor, featuring Native American artwork, the resort has multiple swimming pools for children, as well as walking trails, horseback riding and a camp program. Take the Rail Runner train in nearby Bernalillo, and check out the New Mexico History Museum  in Santa Fe and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Visit www.tamaya.hyatt.com.

Lost Valley Ranch, Deckers, Colorado

Families are welcomed with Western-themed cabin in Deckers, Colorado. Ranch counselors host programs and activities for kids from infants to teens and adults, including horseback riding, hiking, swimming, tubing, fishing and rafting.

Visit www.lostvalleyranch.com.

Moody Garden Hotel, Spa and Convention Center, Galveston, Texas

The resort in Galveston, Texas, offers a variety of activities, including an aquarium, rainforest, golf course, swimming pool, beach, an IMAX theater and 4-D theater. During the summer weekends, kids can try their hands at arts and crafts and go on scavenger hunts and pool coin dives. Then, they can visit the bounce house, go kite flying and karaoking, and participate in clown face painting and Wii competitions.

Visit www.moodygardenshotel.com.

Nickelodeon Suites Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

At Nickelodeon Suites Resorts in Florida, kids activities include water parks, interactive pools, poolside shows, a kid’s spa and slime. Also, kids can take advantage of the resort’s games, character breakfast and nightly Nickelodeon shows.

Visit www.nickhotel.com.

Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, East Harwich, Massachusetts

Kids can an outdoors experience at this resort’s  pirate-themed interactive water playground with treasure chests, fountains and a pirate ship with slides and swimming ropes. Afterwards, they can go to the outdoor amphitheater, visit the high-tech children’s center that has a 135-inch HD screen for Wii, PlayStation and Xbox 360 gaming. Resort activities include dive-in-movies, teen gaming nights and lessons in swimming, sailing and tennis.

Visit www.wequassett.com.

Contact:  pete@jollymonvacations.com for more information or booking these great destinations!

Pete Larson:  218-779-3050

www.jollymonvacations.com

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Why should I use a travel agent?

There are many reasons to use a travel agent!

The internet is a great place to research vacations, but what you read and what you see in the pictures are sometimes NOT what they seem. Internet prices can be very deceptive, and look much cheaper than they actually are. Many times, they omit the taxes and fees to make them APPEAR cheaper. Guess what…they may not be!

A travel agent has access to a whole bunch of online rates, deals, specials, groups, amenities and bargains not available to the public.

Your internet bargain may not be your best deal! 

A travel agent KNOWS how to find the best deals. A travel agent KNOWS the destinations, ships, and itineraries. Why not use expert advice, and let someone else deal with the paperwork?

When things go wrong on a trip you’ve booked yourself…you are on your own. It’s you against the hotel. It’s you against the airline. It’s you against the foreign country you are in. Book through a travel agent, and one call can settle these problems for you. Your travel agent has much more clout, and knowledge of the system that can work to your advantage.

It’s your hard-earned vacation money, so why GAMBLE it away? Many travel agencies like JOLLY MON VACATIONS, don’t even charge a fee! We are paid solely by the cruise lines, hotels, car rental companies, etc. Your price is not any higher to use us!

Try our agency, what have you got to lose? Nothing. There is a lot more at stake than you think…believe me. I’m an expert at travel.

www.jollymonvacations.com