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 toKnow 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.”
We are River Cruise Specialists! Your free vacation planning source!
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
The major airlines
are evolving constantly, and the way we buy airline tickets has changed in a
short time. The airlines have basically forced us to search down our own
information via a website and book online. Most will charge an extra fee to
book by phoning their call centers. The internet makes it pretty easy to search
down flights, but comparing them to find the best fares is becoming much
harder. They want travelers to act as their own travel agent, but rarely does
the traveler know the airlines, the marketing tricks, or the search techniques
of the well seasoned travel agent. This can lead to hurried decisions,
misinformation, huge unexpected expenses and spoiled vacations.
Travel consumers are
confused and airlines like it that way. Confusion turns into profit for the
companies when travelers spend more money than they expected to. Airlines are
making 100% of their profit by these ancillary fees. Airlines have the right to
make money, but it shouldn’t be done by withholding information that consumers
need to make choices.
disclose these fees until after you’ve fallen for a low fare. Sometimes this
isn’t until after you’ve bought your ticket. Trying to figure out these fees
beforehand is both time consuming and frustrating. They entice you with an
unbelievable deal only to add fees onto the price so it only ‘appears’ to be a
deal, duping customers into buying without knowing the FULL price. Quoted
airfares exclude many items that now cost extra. Extra fees are being charged
for baggage, but some airlines are charging extra for other things as well.
Fuel surcharges are ever-changing and some airlines have a fee for a seat
assignment of for priority boarding. You almost have to be an accountant to
figure out the true price of flying! It’
s much more difficult these days to figure out which carrier has the lowest
price. Even when you find a low fare, the add-ons change that in a hurry.
Entire airlines have
vanished from some of the major airfare search engines. This makes comparing
individual airlines much harder when you have to jump from site to site.
Buying airfare or any travel is best done by relying on a
professional. Travel is not a commodity, and cannot be purchased that way.
There are just too many variables to make comparison shopping easy. More and
more travelers are realizing that vacations are best when they are planned and
booked by a travel agent. We study the rules, know the airlines, visit the
resorts, sail on the ships, read the fine print and know what things should
Searching for travel
can be overwhelming these days. Information overload keeps people confused and
companies intentionally mislead you for a sale. That’s what you are to them….’a
sale.’ To Jolly Mon Vacations, you are a very important client. We work in YOUR
best interest, advise you on reliable choices, make sure everything is in order
so your vacation is stress free and enjoyable. With Jolly Mon Vacations…there
are no SURPRISE fees! For most all our services, there are no fees.
Contact us and we will get you started in the right direction.
We believe an educated traveler is a happy and safe traveler.
In response to increasing demand for nonstop flight service for the peak winter travel months, Funjet Vacations has just announced new nonstop charter and value flights from Minneapolis and Milwaukee to popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.
Destinations include Jamaica, Punta Cana, Cancun/Riviera Maya, Cozumel, Ixtapa and Puerto Vallarta from both Milwaukee and Minneapolis plus Los Cabos from Minneapolis.
These flights will operate seasonally for departures as early as December 18 on various dates through May 19, 2012 nonstop from Minneapolis via Sun Country Airlines and Milwaukee on AirTran Airways with morning departures and afternoon returns available. All flights also include one free checked bag per passenger plus free XM Radio for travelers on AirTran Airways.
Travel Agents who book these nonstop value flights will also receive special instant savings of up to $150 off per reservation. Jolly Mon Vacations can further help you with more information and booking. As always, NO FEES! Our assistance and booking services are COMPLIMENTARY!
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 part two.
Q: What types of accommodations and am I sacrificing quality at an All-Inclusive Resort?
Several factors differentiate the type of accommodations. Room size, view from the room, room location and room type such as standard or suite. In the past All-Inclusive Resorts were considered basic with only buffet dining and accommodations. Today you can stay at a 5 star All-Inclusive resort with up to 10 dining choices, most of them sit down A la Carte dining. These resorts have honeymoon suites, villas on the beach, ocean views, pool views and garden views. Some are luxurious, complete with Jacuzzi tubs, or swim-out balconies. The options are endless, and your budget will guide you. Each resort is different in its own respect. This is where you must rely on the knowledge of your travel agent to guide you to the right resort and accomodations for YOU.
Q: Are there activities at All-Inclusive Resorts?
Most All-Inclusive Resorts have organized activities during the day and at night. You can participate in these activities if you choose or you can do nothing at all, it’s your choice. Music, dancing shows, talent acts, magic shows, local cultural shows, classes, lessons, enrichment, SCUBA diving, waterskiing, snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, sunset cruises, volleyball, shuffleboard, basketball, table tennis, tennis, exercise equipment, beach parties, dolphin swims, golf, equestrian areas, swimming, huge pool areas, dancing, waterslides, and fun for the kids. Each resort offers a different array of things to do.
Of course, precious family time…romance…sunsets…ocean views…lounging on the beach…stress relief…all included!
Q: Where can we go? Where are the All-Inclusive Resorts located?
Jamaica is the birthplace of the All-Inclusive resort, so there are many to choose from there. Mexico has much more area on both coasts and has the most resorts by far. Great deals can be found in both places.
Here are some places you can go:
Mexico: Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Maya, Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Ixtapa, Playa Del Carmen
Avoid travelling to Las Vegas during large conventions, poker tournaments or sports event like the NCAA Basketball Final Four Weekend which can easily book up the best hotels in the area far in advance, leaving few choices at high prices.
The water fountain show outside the Bellagio, as seen in “Ocean’s Eleven”, is free to watch and runs every 15 minutes. It’s even more stunning in the evening when the lights are turned on.
Head to Circus Circus for a free circus-style show with acrobatics and animals, just be forewarned that it attracts a large crowd. It runs daily at 11:00.
Stroll through the Venetian, with its replica St. Mark’s Square and Grand Canal, it’s hard to believe it’s not actually Venice. The boutique shops inside are out of most visitor’s budgets but window shopping is free.
When it comes to public transportation, ride it free when you can. There are two free trams. One runs between Mandala Bay, Luxor and the Excalibur while the other runs between Mirage and Treasure Island. There is also a free shuttle bus between selected hotels… ask at your hotel concierge desk.
When dinner calls, head to the buffets. Vegas is famous for its ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet dinners but they don’t usually appeal to travellers who want a memorable dining experience. For cheaper prices, find a restaurant off the Strip.
Be realistic when gaming, the chance of hitting it “big” is less than 5% in Vegas so determine how much money you can afford to lose before arriving and stop playing once its gone, simple. If you ask a slots guru, they’ll say your best bet at winning is at the Palms.
Visit the CityCenter complex museum for an afternoon of art appreciation. The Strip is in-your-face overwhelming and fine art and culture is not its strongest point but past the lights you can discover world-class paintings and beautiful architecture, all for free and open to the public. Some hotels and casinos also have art galleries worth checking out.
See attractions beyond the limits of Las Vegas. The Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Zion National Park are all within easy reach from Las Vegas and are great and very affordable side-trips from Vegas.
When leaving give yourself more time than usual at McCarran Airport. The lines are notoriously long and although very close to the city’s attractions, many travellers think they have more time than they do. Missed flights are always expensive to replace.
You want to take a vacation, but where will you get the money? You could just put the whole trip on the credit card and worry about it later. ~Alas…there is another option! How about starting a Vacation account?
Much like a ‘holiday or Christmas’ bank account…a Vacation account is a great way to get started saving for your trip. Many banks and Credit Unions offer them, and you can contribute to them by payroll deductions.
The last thing you want to do while on vacation is to worry about how you’re going to pay when the bills come due. A Vacation account is a great way to eliminate this worry, and set you toward a debt free vacation.
The first two steps toward making a vacation affordable are to:
save for it — months before you go
determine how much to spend.
Putting away the money before you leave means less financial pain after the trip. The prospect of not having to endure high credit card bills at vacation time is the main reason for saving money in a vacation club account. It’s also a good way to put away money to surprise a spouse with a romantic getaway.
Why would someone open a vacation account instead of just setting aside the money elsewhere?
People always have good intentions to save money. When they see that balance inching upward and find something they want, (like a big-screen TV) they’re more apt to withdraw the money to buy it. But, money set aside in a Vacation club account seems less touchable.
Figuring out how much to save from each paycheck in a vacation club account is like determining how much to sock away for a down payment or other large purchase:
Estimate how much the vacation will cost
Subtract how much of the vacation expense you want to charge on your credit cards
The difference is how much cash you’ll need for your trip. Divide that amount by the number of paychecks you’ll receive before you go on vacation. That is how much you need to save per paycheck. You can set a realistic savings goal for a vacation only after you know where you’re going and what you’re going to do.
You can save a lot of money during the planning process by starting early and shopping around. Many cruise lines and resorts offer ‘Early Booking Discounts’, so get the ball rolling early. The ‘early bird’ really does get the worm when it comes to vacation planning. Huge discounts along with reserving the accommodations you need or desire depend on it. Early planning means more time to save as well.
Many Travel Agents will follow your price paid, and get you a discount if the prices go down after your deposit is paid. You will also get an early jump on tours, excursions, hotel and airline reservations. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to for free consultation and realistic estimate of the vacation you deserve!
In summary, you can take the vacation of your dreams and not go into deep into debt if you plan ahead. Less time stressing, means more time enjoying yourself and quality time with your spouse and family is worth it. Don’t delay any longer, get started today! www.jollymonvacations.com