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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

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AmaWaterways building Europe's largest river cruise ship

The AmaMagna, will be the same length, height and draft as the line’s other vessels, but at 22 meters it will be twice as wide, allowing for larger cabins — most about 300 square feet — with a capacity for 194 passengers (40 more than Crystal Mozart).

Its width also means it will be the only ship docked in ports that allow two-deep berthing.

The new ship will feature ocean-style cabins, multiple dining venues (including outdoor dining), an elevator that goes all the way to the top of the ship, a heated top-deck pool and hot tub with bar, expanded entertainment and spa offerings and a water sports platform with zodiacs, canoes and other recreational equipment.

A model of the AmaMagna, a ship that will be twice as wide a current ships. Photo Credit: Jeri Clausing

The ship will be green, using propulsion that’s a hybrid of diesel and electric engines. In total, there will be 10 small engines, with just four used for propulsion. If more power is needed, electric ones will be used.

Construction began on March 6 at Vahali’s headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia. When the hull is completed, the vessel will be finished at the company’s facility in Holland. Because its size will prohibit it from being towed directly to Holland by tugboat, it will instead be taken by freighter via the Black Sea.

Pete Larson, CTC, LS, DS

Certified River Cruise Specialist

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

218.779.3050

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Emerald Waterways new "Deposit Protection Plan"

Emerald Waterways currently has non-refundable and non-transferrable deposits. (same as most other river cruise lines)

To allow some flexibility for our guests, they are now offering a Deposit Protection Plan.

What is this NEW Deposit Protection Plan?

The Deposit Protection Plan (DPP) is a form of coverage offered by Emerald Waterways that protects the deposit amount paid on an Emerald Waterways cruise.

To participate in this program, the cost is $125/pp USD and must be paid with the deposit on the Deposit Due Date.

The Deposit Protection Plan is non-refundable and non-transferrable and cannot be added past the Deposit Due Date. The DPP also only covers Cruise or Tour deposit, it DOES NOT cover Air deposits.

How it works:

When guests choose to cancel or change their cruise departure date for any reason prior to the final payment due date as per the terms and  conditions, the value of the Deposit Protection Plan paid will be charged as a fee.

Additionally, any third-party supplier fees incurred by us (i.e components provided by third parties such as, but not limited to, hotels) will be subtracted from the deposit amount and we will credit the remainder towards an alternative cruise. This must be booked within 24 months of the cancellation.

If guests do not book within the 24-month period advised, the deposit amount held on file will be forfeited.

The DPP does not, nor does it intend to, replace travel insurance. Emerald Waterways highly recommends all guests purchase travel insurance prior to leaving for their vacation.

If a guest declines the DPP at the time of booking, this will be noted on their reservation and will not be allowed to be added after the Deposit Due Date.

Cancellations:

If guests who have purchased the DPP cancel after final payment due date, the Deposit Protection Plan is no longer valid. Their standard cancellation policy will apply to cancellations made after final payment due date. The cancellation fees will be advised by the Cancellations Team after cancellation in writing is received.

Guests who cancel prior to the final payment due date but have NOT taken out the Deposit Protection Plan than the deposit remains non-refundable and non-transferrable.

For more information, contact your Emerald Waterways Specialist, Pete Larson.

Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

River Cruise Specialist

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

1-218-779-3050

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New Margaritaville All-Inclusive Resorts

Karisma Hotels & Resorts and Margaritaville have announced a partnership to develop a collection of all-inclusive Margaritaville resorts.

The new Margaritaville, an All-Inclusive Experience, by Karisma will be Margaritaville’s entry into the all-inclusive resort market.

The collection will comprise new-build beachfront resorts in tropical destinations, including the Caribbean and Mexico, that will combine Karisma’s award-winning all-inclusive service and experiences with some of the signature elements of the global brand inspired by iconic singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett. (my Hero!)

While it’s unclear where the first resort is slated to break ground, it will happen later this year with a opening planned for 2018.

“Our partnership with Margaritaville allows us to introduce a collection of new casual luxury resorts set in stunning tropical destinations,” said the Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Karisma’s exclusive representative, Premier Worldwide Marketing, Mandy Chomat in a statement. “Karisma’s expertise in delivering elevated all-inclusive concepts around the world makes this partnership a perfect fit.”

In her own statement, Margaritaville’s chief marketing officer Tamara Baldanza-Dekker called the partnership “a match made in paradise.”

Karisma currently owns and operates more than two dozen properties throughout Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe and aims to have 30 up and running around the world by 2020.

Source:  Travel Pulse

Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

Certified Travel Counselor & River Cruise Specialist

Jolly Mon Vacations  …destination anywhere.

www.JollyMonVacations.com

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

Phone or text:  218-779-3050

“LIKE” us on Facebook!

 

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American Airlines Basic Economy Fares

American announced it will begin selling Basic Economy fares beginning Feb. 10 in select markets, with expansion to additional markets later this year.(same as United Airlines did last year)aa

Here’s what you will get with American’s new Basic Economy fare:
* The same in-flight experience that all Main Cabin customers receive, including free entertainment options, soft drinks, and snacks, and the same seats.

* Frequent flyer miles. With a catch. Full AAdvantage miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars may be earned when purchasing these fares, but only one-half Elite Qualifying Mile will be earned per mile flown, and one-half Elite Qualifying Segment per segment flown.

Here’s what you won’t get:
* Seat assignments are made automatically and only when customers check in. Paid seat assignments can be purchased 48 hours before the flight.

* Upgrades are not permitted no matter what level your frequent flyer status us.

* Early boarding? Nope. Basic Economy customers will comprise the last boarding group and will be seated in the Main Cabin. Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage credit card members will continue to receive Priority or preferred boarding even when purchasing this fare.

* Tickets are non-refundable, non-changeable. Use it or lose it. No same-day flight change or same-day standby.

* Of course, the carry-on. One personal carry-on item that fits under the seat (such as a purse or small backpack) is allowed. No overhead bin luggage may be brought on board. Everything else must be checked, for a fee.

Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage credit card members will be allowed to bring one personal item, one rollerboard, and they maintain their current free checked bag allowance.

Contact us today for free assistance with your vacation plans.

pete@jollymonvacations.com

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Travel Leaders Network

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Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru are proud to be affiliated with the brand new Travel Leaders Network!

Travel Leaders Network — one powerful force to help us compete even more effectively for the hearts and minds of the traveling public.

As the largest seller of luxury travel, cruises, river cruises and tours in the travel agency industry, we will have unparalleled and cohesive strength within the greater travel industry.

Vacation.com, the largest travel agency consortium; Travel Leaders Associates (also known as Travel Leaders Franchise Group), a leading agency franchise group; and Results! Travel, a smaller franchise group, will be merged to form a mega-travel agency group with nearly 7,000 locations, 35,000 individual agencies and $17 billion in annual sales, including $6.5 billion in cruise and tour sales alone.

The merger will be effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Cheers to a great 2017…and beyond!

Pete Larson, CTC, LS, DS

Certified Travel Consultant, Lifestyle Specialist, Destination Specialist

218-779-3050

pete@jollymonvacations.com

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Meet Crystal River Cruises

Highlights of the newest river cruising brand, Crystal River Cruises

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Overview

From the regal cities of Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest, Frankfurt, Paris, Bordeaux and Basel, explore the Danube, Rhine, Main, Moselle, Seine, Garonne and Dordogne rivers on Crystal River Cruises with gorgeous, ever-changing panoramas of enchanting villages and lush landscapes. In-depth explorations and overnight stays in the heart of Europe’s cities and towns provide a vibrant and memorable experience.

The hallmarks of the Crystal brand – service, space, quality and choices – usher in a new era in European river exploration with Crystal River Yachts. With its signature All-Inclusive philosophy, Crystal offers an encompassing luxury experience: butler service for every suite; six-star service and truly exceptional food; unique Crystal Adventures that deliver memorable destination experiences – all working in synch to transpose the World’s Best Ocean Cruising to the World’s Best River Cruising. Crystal will redefine luxury river cruising.

All-Inclusive Crystal River Cruises

Complimentary All-Inclusive Luxuries aboard Crystal River Cruises

  • Gratuities included for all shipboard staff throughout the River Yacht including housekeeping, bar, dining staff and butlers.
  • All meals included, featuring Crystal’s innovative and acclaimed six-star cuisine, highlighted by regional specialties
  • Unlimited soft drinks and premium beverages including champagne, fine wine and spirits throughout the River Yacht
  • All soft drinks, beer and bottled water in-suite
  • 24-hour self-service pantry featuring specialty coffees, teas, wines and nonalcoholic beverages
  • 24-hour room service
  • 24-hour Wi-Fi access (via satellite) including free Wi-Fi/Internet usage of 60 minutes per person, per day.
  • State-of-the-art interactive TV system including in-suite movies on demand, extensive music library
  • Complimentary airport transfers to/from river yacht to airport. All transfers will be group transfers by motor coach on embarkation and debark days only:

– Airport/River Yacht – Transfers will operate between 8am and 6pm on embarkation day. Actual service times may  vary depending on local traffic conditions and guests’ arrival schedules.
– River Yacht /Airport – Transfers will operate until at least 12 noon on the day of disembarkation. Actual service times may vary depending on local traffic conditions and guests’ departure schedules.

Onboard entertainment and enrichment programs

  • Destination-focused entertainment and enrichment program, including onboard lecture series
  • Destination expert on each voyage
  • Regional affairs experts on many voyages
  • Daily yoga and fitness classes
  • Daily choice of electronic international newspapers
  • Self-service guest laundry
  • Choice of complimentary curated Crystal Adventures shore excursions in every port
  • Complimentary culinary experience at highly renowned local establishments on many sailings
  • Complimentary Nordic walking poles
  • Complimentary audio headphones on all organized Crystal Adventures

Dining

  • A la carte, buffet and early risers breakfast offerings
  • Multiple dining venues
  • Open seating dining
  • Crystal Casual dress code
  • European sourced and trained chefs and hotel staff

Shipboard Public Spaces

  • Hydraulic Sun-Deck Bar
  • Fitness Center with state-of-the-art TechnoGym equipment and dedicated yoga area
  • Massage services
  • Library
  • Non-smoking environment in all indoor spaces (Except Connoisseur Club on Crystal Mozart)
  • Onboard currency exchange – shipboard currency Euros

Suites

  • Twice daily housekeeping services including evening turndown service
  • In-suite hors d’oeuvres
  • Individual climate control
  • Flat-screen TV in each suite
  • English-speaking and international TV stations
  • Butler service for each suite

Contact River Cruise Guru today for more information and COMPLIMENTARY ASSISTANCE! No booking fees, lowest price possible. We are with you every step of the way.

River Cruises are my Specialty!

CERTIFIED RIVER CRUISE SPECIALIST!

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

218-779-3050

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

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Why Should You Turn to a River Cruise Specialist?

  • The Overwhelming choices! Cruise lines are very different, pricing and policies are confusing, promos always change, inclusions and itineraries vary. A certified Specialist will solve those issues by making things clear to you and explaining it all.
  • No Fees! Our expert planning and booking services don’t cost a dime. We are paid directly by the cruise or vendors we sell. Expertise and experience for FREE!
  • We’ll save you money! We’ll save you money and you won’t have to try to figure it out yourself. A lower price than direct? YES, it’s possible with us! Our cruise line relations assure you get the best value possible.
  • We’ll save you time! Why re-invent the wheel? We’ve already got it figured out and have assisted hundreds of hapy clients. It’s what we do!
  • No detail is overlooked. Flights, transfers, hotels, insurance, river levels, seasons, payments, packing and more.
  • Unbiased advice! We don’t work for the cruise line, we work for YOU.
  • Planning is confusing! River cruising is very different and the planning can be confusing. We remove the mystery.
  • Expertise! We are certified River Cruise Specialists! Trained to help sort through things to deliver the experience you desire.
  • Experience! We’ve been there and cruised those ships! We’ve been on those rivers. First hand experience is the best teacher. We’ve been river cruising and assisting cruisers for more than 6 years. We specialize in river cruises and dedicate our time and resources into it.

You can trust your plans to us. You can check us out further at www.RiverCruiseGuru.com or www.JollyMonVacations.com …our sister agency.

Pete Larson, CTC, LS, DS

Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru

Phone:  218-779-3050

Email:  pete@jollymonvacations.com or pete@rivercruiseguru.com

Scenic Crystal 2012

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Why I love CIE Tours

For tours of Ireland and the United Kingdom, I love to recommend CIE Tours. I’ve personally toured with CIE on itineraries covering Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.

CIE

An escorted coach tour with CIE Tours can be a great way to cover a lot of ground and see the main sites people crave. Great drivers, guides, food, coaches, hotels make it all seamless.

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For people that like to see a lot on a vacation, this is the way to do it. You will see and do a lot. If you are looking for a relaxing vacation with no schedule…this may not be for you. But, CIE does offer SELF DRIVE tours where you can do the driving and set your own schedule.

Many options and choices to be had. The beauty of these countries is amazing. The history of these countries is incredible. An unforgetable experience awaits you. All you need is someone to set you up with the itinerary that fits your travel style. That’s where we come in. We are trained and experienced in these tours and our assistance comes to you for FREE!

Contact us today to get started on your long awaited trip to Ireland and the U.K. We help you every step of the way. We are certified Ireland and Scotland Experts!

Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

Owner, Jolly Mon Vacations & River Cruise Guru

pete@jollymonvacations.com

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Why Use a Travel Agent?

In the age of DIY and Google, here is why you still need a travel agent:

You’re Tired of Wasting Time:

Ever been down the overwhelming rabbit hole of researching a vacation?

Save time and go with an expert who has been trained in your destination.

You’ll cut through the junk and get what you want.

You’re Tired of the Fine Print:

I’ve seen those online deals. “$99 Flights to Europe! All inclusives At $5 A Day!”

Read closer and they aren’t what they seem. A skilled travel agent can help

you decipher the clues. Is that a direct flight, or will you have a three-leg 25

hour journey? Are transfers included? Is that resort under construction?

Is the beach filled with seaweed? Ask a travel agent and you’ll know.

You’re Tired of Buyers Remorse:

Have you ever clicked “buy now” and then immediately felt anxious? Don’t settle

for wondering if you’ve done the right thing. Travel agents have endless resources

at their fingertips to answer any question you might have. Trust me, we’ve heard it all.

Agents network and share resources. If we don’t know an answer, we will find someone who does.

I recently read a quote that I love: “What’s the difference between a travel agent

and the internet? A travel agent can talk back.” The best part of my job is asking

questions. A good travel agent won’t make blind recommendations.

A good travel agent will ask questions, dig in for detail and really understand

what works best for you and your family.

Your vacation days and travel dollars are precious, so why put your faith

in a faceless, nameless website? You deserve expert advice and value for your dollar.

Go retro and use a travel agent.

www.JollyMonVacations.com

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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.

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Pete Larson, CTC, DS, LS

Owner, Jolly Mon Vacations & River Cruise Guru

pete@jollymonvacations.com

218-779-3050

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Unique Wine Cruises from AMA Waterways

Unique Wine Cruises
An AmaWaterways wine cruise is designed to provide travelers with immersive experiences related to the destinations they are visiting. Like all of our cruises, guests have the opportunity to join tours and activities that highlight the sights in each port of call. In addition to these city tours, your trip is amplified with exclusive excursions that reveal more about Europe’s famed wine regions, local epicurean traditions, winemaking, and of course, tastings.

Each cruise is hosted by a qualified wine expert, who usually brings hand-selected wines on board. Some wines come from the expert’s own winery and other varieties are sourced from local vineyards located along the cruise itinerary. This expert will recommend food and wine pairings, lead discussions and even hold special tastings during your cruise.

Guests enjoy a number of tours at local vineyards and wineries, where vintners and growers will not only walk you through the winemaking process – they will give you a taste of their special varieties, too. These authentic encounters add to the rich tapestry of local culture, making for memorable experiences for wine enthusiasts and dabblers alike. Your taste buds are in for even more excitement in our sophisticated dining venues on board, where our expert chefs pair fine wines with award-winning cuisine for the ultimate epicurean experience. It really is a flavor adventure unlike any other.

On our brand-new for 2016 Taste of Bordeaux wine cruise itinerary, you’ll enjoy many wine experiences – one of them being an authentic Sauternes tasting. Sauternes blends account for a very small amount of the wine production in Bordeaux, but they contain a great amount of flavor. These highly sought-after wines are made from various grape varieties, are available in many styles, and achieve a mouthwatering balance of sweet and tart. Their notes of rich honey, peach, apricot and nuts pair wonderfully with savory French cuisine.

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Contact your River Cruise Specialist today!

Pete Larson, CTA, DS, LS

Certified River Cruise Specialist & Owner, River Cruise Guru

We know river cruises! Our services are complimentary!

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

218-779-3050

www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru

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Does your New Year's Resolution include traveling more?

Let’s face it…life is short. Time wasted is…well, time wasted. You can’t get it back. Once it’s gone…it’s gone. So my question is…why are you wasting it?

Life

Some people will argue, “I travel a lot on business.” That may be true, but that can be a totally different experience than traveling with your spouse, partner, family or friends. Traveling on business often means, you are a hostage of your job. You aren’t off exploring the reaches of the destination because you are there for a purpose. You didn’t pick the destination, your employer did. Your head is there, but your heart is not. Neither are is your spouse, partner, family or friends!

The Earth is very large and we roam a very tiny spot on it. Don’t you want to see more? Aren’t you curious? Do you have a bucket-list of things you want to see and do? What is stopping you? Is it something real…or is it really just an excuse?

Excuses are usually just that…excuses. There is usually a solution for every excuse you may have. “I don’t have enough money.” I hear that all the time. You may have said that when you wanted to go to college, buy your first car, have a child, buy your own house…etc. But, you found a way to overcome it and you ended up getting it.

Figure out a way around your excuses…and travel. Go see the things you’ve always wanted to. You have a limited number of days to live and no one knows when its going to be over. Get out there…the world awaits. I have the solutions for how you can do it.  The time is NOW.

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www.JollyMonVacations.com

“We’ll help you with that bucket-list.”

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Life is short, where do you want to go?

In the grand scheme of things, we get set in our everyday routines. ‘Get up, go to work, go home, eat dinner, put the kids to bed, watch TV…go to bed. Repeat.’

Is this really what you were born to do? It’s time to get out of that rut. There’s a great big world out there to experience and we have a very limited time to see it. The time is now.

I’ve heard all the excuses. Heck, I’ve even practiced a few of them myself. Here’s the one I hear the most. “I don’t have enough money to travel!” Think about that for a minute. Is it REALLY lack of money or could it be lack of prioritizing what is really important in life?

I’ll bet you have some of these:

-A big screen TV, blue-ray player, stereo system

-A smartphone (or two) with a data package

-Cell phone bill, cable TV or satellite bill, internet bill, Netflix bill

-More than one car, maybe a boat, snowmobile or ATV’s

-Camping trailer, deluxe fish house or lake cabin

Prioritizing your list of wants and needs is key. You probably waste hundreds of dollars per month on things…but are those things ‘really’ important to your well-being or state of mind? Are they creating memories and joy that make your life complete? Do they alleviate the everyday stresses of your life?

Are you using all the vacation days your earn from your work? Are you maximizing the use of those days by traveling, either alone or with your family?

Find the things in life that are truly important to you and put them high on your list. Rid yourself of those things that just kill off your time and money. Chase your dreams, see the world and start creating those memories. Life is short and that clock is ticking.

Life

“I grew up, acquired some skills, made a family, worked hard, retired early and now I’m traveling the world.” Pete Larson

Pete Larson,

Travel Consultant, Jolly Mon Vacations

www.JollyMonVacations.com

email:  pete@jollymonvacations.com

phone:  (218)-779-3050

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~Contact me today and I’ll help you go over your priority list. Free assistance, really? Yes.~

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Wine Theme River Cruises 2013

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The river cruise line, AmaWaterways has announced a roster of wine hosts for its 2013 “In Celebration on Wine” theme cruises. The river cruise line will host 21 wine-themed itineraries through Europe’s wine regions this year, each hosted by a different wine expert from the U.S. or Europe.

The 2013 season has new excursions on Portugal’s Douro River and France’s Seine River, in addition to the company’s other unforgettable itineraries along the Danube, Mosel, Rhine and Rhone Rivers.

AmaWaterways’ 2013 wine hosts for the “In Celebration of Wine” itineraries and dates are as follows:

March 29: Legendary Wine & Regions of the Rhone

James Cluer, MW of Fine Vintages. Cluer took his first Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) course at age 18, became a Master of Wine (MW) several years later, and has been working in the wine industry since 1988.

April 2: Classic Port Wines & Charming Quintas

George Sandeman of the House of Sandeman. Over the past two centuries, Sandeman Port and Sherries has become one of the world’s best known brands. George Sandeman is the seventh generation of his family to head the company.

April 5: Paris & the Sparkling Seine

Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat Winery in Santa Barbara, Calif. Food & Wine magazine named Clendenen “Winemaker of the Year” in 2001; Germany’s leading wine magazine, Wein Gourmet, named him “Winemaker of the World” in 2004; and in 2007, he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.”

April 12 & Nov. 1: Paris & the Sparkling Seine

Preston Mohr, an American wine expert now based in Paris, holds an Advanced Certificate from the WSET and is currently studying for his Diploma, to be completed in June 2013. One of his specialties is French Champagne.

April 13: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Gary and Marcy Eberle of Eberle Winery in Paso Robles, Calif. More than 33 years after the release of its first vintage, this award-winning winery remains one of the most highly regarded winemakers in the United States.

Oct. 31: Castles & Wineries of Germany

Len and Marisa Crispino of Foreign Affairs Winery. After living as ex-pats in Italy in the early 1990s, Len and Marisa returned to Ontario and planted their first vines. Inspired by the Italian wine-making process, they use a unique grape drying process known as appassimento (or the Reductio method).

Nov. 5: Classic Port Wines & Charming Quintas

Brian Heath of Grape Creek Vineyards in Fredericksburg, Texas. This Texas Hill Country winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and also boasts the first underground commercial barrel cellar in central Texas.

Nov. 6: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Eric Glomski, owner of Page Springs Cellars & Arizona Stronghold, specializes in producing Rhone-style Arizona wines. Eric will co-host withSam Pillsbury, New Zealand film director (Free Willy) and owner of Pillsbury WineCompany.

Nov. 7: Vineyards of the Rhine & Mosel

Carissa Chappellet of Chappellet Winery in Napa, an estate known for its Bordeaux varietals and its Cabernet Sauvignon. Chappellet and her brothers inherited the winery from their parents, founders Don and Molly Chappellet. She will co-host with Archie McLaren, founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic.

Nov. 8: Legendary Wine Regions of the Rhone

Gerryand Rosie Wilson of Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, Calif. Wilson Creek’s famous Almond Champagne and other unique vintages have garnered numerous prestigious international wine awards.

Nov. 8: Paris & the Sparkling Seine

Jean-Marc & Kristi Espinasse of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Rouge-Bleu has been awarded many gold medals in France and its wines have been ranked 90+ points more than four times in Wine Spectator.

Nov. 9: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Boband Jodi Dickinson are event chairs for Camillus House Auction, which raises funds for nonprofit organizations in southern Florida. Past auction items have included a rare collection of Chateau Haut Brion, which sold for more than $59,000.

Nov. 11: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Stephanie and Michael Honig of Honig Vineyard & Winery in Napa, known for its Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Stephanie has a WSET Higher Certificate and Diploma and has many years of experience in the industry. Michael is often referred to as “the James Brown of the wine industry” and is a leader in sustainable farming.

Nov. 13: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Christopher Silva, President & CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma County, Calif. The winery’s products have earned a reputation as top quality varietal wines that are bold flavored and fruit-forward.

Nov. 15: Culture & Wine Legacy of the Rhine

Holly Howellis a columnist for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, New York and an authority on the wines of the Finger Lakes region, particularly Rieslings. She also teaches food and wine classes and makes her own wine.

Nov. 16: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Barry Wiss, Certified Wine Educator, VP of communications & trade relations for Trinchero Family Estates, a winery established in 1947. The Trinchero family estates represent more than 27 brands in the US and Australia, including Sutter Home, Menage a Trois, and Napa Cellars.

Nov. 18: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Vic Poulos of Zin Valle Vineyards in El Paso, Texas. Poulos owns and operates the Zin Valle Vineyards winery and also writes about wine for local and national publications.

Nov. 22: Culture & Wine Legacy of the Rhine

Mark Johnson of Chateau Chantal Winery in Michigan. Trained at the Geisenheim Research Institute in Germany, Johnson has been the winemaker at Chateau Chantal since it opened in 1986.

Nov. 22: Legendary Wine Regions of the Rhone

Lee Fuqua of Fuqua Winery. Lee Fuqua’s boutique Texas winery produces what he calls “wines with an attitude” – big, rich, full-bodied wines that satisfy serious wine drinkers.

The River Cruise Guru is a certified River Cruise Specialist and we are here to assist you FREE of charge with your river cruise. River cruising is our specialty!

Contact us today for more information at:
phone: 218-779-3050
email: pete@rivercruiseguru.com
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12 Scams and How to Avoid Them

The holidays are just around the corner and while we are busy buying gifts and making travel arrangements, cybercriminals are making their lists, and checking them twice, as they prepare to unleash a host of scams designed to take advantage of the seasonal surge in online shopping and sharing. Since it only takes one scam to spoil your holiday season, it’s a good idea to get familiar with our list of the 12 Scams of the Holidays, and learn how to avoid them.

12 Scams:

1) Social media scams—Many of us use social media sites to connect with family and friends over the holidays, and the cybercriminals know that this is a good place to catch you off guard because we’re all “friends,” right?  Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals and phony contests since many try to get you to reveal personal information. Also, be suspicious of phony “work from home” jobs that ask you to pay for “startup kits.”

2) Malicious Mobile Apps—As the popularity of apps has grown, so have the chances that you could download a malicious app designed to steal your information or send out premium-rate text messages without your consent. Consider this: a recent study found that 33%1 of apps asked for more information than they need.

Only download applications from official app stores and check other users’ reviews, as well as the app’s permission policies, before downloading.

3) Travel Scams—Visiting family and friends is a big part of the holidays, and that often means searching online for deals on airfare and hotels. Just remember, scammers will be trying to hook you with too-good-to-be-true deals just to get you reveal your financial details. Always research the travel site but the best thing you can do is book with a trusted travel agent. They’ll save you both time and money while booking you through safe vendors.

4) Holiday Spam/Phishing— Get ready for the spam you normally receive to take on holiday themes. Cheap Rolex watches and pharmaceuticals may be advertised as the “perfect gift” for that special someone. Remember never to respond to a spam email, or click on links within the email.

5) iPhone 5, iPad and other hot holiday gift scams—The kind of excitement and buzz surrounding the new iPhone 5 is a cybercriminal’s dream. They will mention must-have holiday gifts in phony contests and on websites as a way to grab your attention, and get you to reveal personal information or click on a dangerous link.

6) Skype Message Scare—Using Skype to connect with your loved ones may seem like an innocent way to spread holiday cheer, but cybercriminals are out to spoil that too. The latest threat comes in the form of an instant message from someone you know saying, “Lol is this your new profile pic?” If you click on the included link, a malicious program is downloaded to your hard drive, and the dangerous link is sent to all of your Skype contacts. It can even hold your computer files for ransom!

7) Bogus gift cards—Gift cards are popular holiday gifts and cybercriminals want to get in on the action by offering bogus gift cards online. Be wary of buying gift cards from third parties; it’s best to buy from the official retailer.

8) Holiday SMiShing— “SMiShing” is phishing via text message. Just like with email phishing, the scammer tries to lure you into revealing information by pretending to be a legitimate organization. Since many of us like to keep a close eye on our bank accounts during the holidays, be wary of SMiShing messages that appear to come from your bank, asking you to verify information or visit a phony webpage.

9) Phony E-tailers—Fake e-commerce sites will try to lure you into giving up your credit card number and other personal details, often by promoting great deals. That’s why it’s best to only shop on trusted e-commerce sites.

10) Fake charities—During the holiday season many of us open up our hearts and wallets for good causes. The bad guys know this, and send spam emails advertising fake charities. If you want to give, it’s always safer to visit the charity’s legitimate website, and do a little research about the charity before you donate.

11) Dangerous e-cards—E-Cards are a popular way to send a quick holiday greeting, and while most e-cards are safe, some are malicious and may contain spyware or viruses that download onto your computer once you click on the link to view the greeting. Look for clues that the e-card is legitimate by checking the web address of the included link and make sure that the sender is someone you actually know.

12) Phony classifieds—Online classified sites may be a great place to look for holiday gifts and part-time jobs, but beware of phony offers that ask for too much personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union, since these are most likely scams.

How to Protect Yourself Against Scams During the Holidays, and Year-Round:

  • Stay suspicious—Be wary of any offer that sounds too good to be true, and always look for telltale signs that an email or website may not be legitimate, such as blurry images, misspellings, poor grammar, or suspicious links.
  • Practice safe surfing—Find out if a website is potentially dangerous before you click on it by using a safe search plug-in such as McAfee SiteAdvisor® software. SiteAdvisor software displays easy-to-read red, yellow, and green checkmarks to rate websites when you search for them.
  • Practice safe shopping—Stick to reputable e-commerce sites and look for a trustmark that indicates that the site has been verified as safe by a trusted third-party, like the McAfee SECURE trustmark. Also, look for a lock symbol and “https” at the beginning of the web address (as opposed to just “http”) to verify the site uses encryption to protect the information transferred to the website.
  • Use strong passwords—Create strong passwords, avoid using the same password for your important accounts, and never share your passwords with anyone. Learn how to create foolproof passwords here.
  • Be careful when clicking—Don’t click on any links in messages from people you don’t know, and if you come across a shortened URL, use a URL expander to see where the link is directed to before you click.
  • Use a comprehensive computer security—You need complete protection that includes antivirus, antispyware, and antispam, and then make sure it stays up-to-date. McAfee® All Access helps you protect all of your devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets.
  • Educate yourself—Keep current on the latest scams and tricks cybercriminals use so you can avoid potential attacks.

Contact Jolly Mon Vacations for more information on safe travel. Most of our services are absolutely free of charge!

Contact us today!

Phone:  218-779-3050

pete@jollymonvacations.com

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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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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

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Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru

Pete Larson, President

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

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An Overview: River Cruising

 A river cruise, at first glance, seems like a wonderfully tranquil way to see some of the most historic towns and cities in Europe. Wait, did I say tranquil? Appearances are deceiving. Unlike ocean cruises, voyages along Europe’s waterways rarely offer much time “at sea.” And in port, there are busy sightseeing schedules included at all stops, which range from major cities like Amsterdam and Vienna to delightful, small towns and villages such as Austria’s Durnstein and Germany’s Breisach.

The biggest challenge about planning a European river cruise is identifying which itinerary most intrigues you. We’re here to help you narrow down your choice. But, before we get started, here are some things you should know, followed by a few tips:

  • Many river cruises are a week long. More exotic trips can occasionally stretch from 10 days to two weeks or longer. There are now some shorter cruises priced far less to give you ‘a taste’ of river cruising. These are great for a tighter budget, or if you simply don’t have all the vacation time needed to extend your trip.
  • They almost always start from fantastic cities; most trips include an overnight onboard, but if not, do try to plan a pre- or post-cruise stay. A few nights exploring Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest, Vienna, Nuremburg, or Basel will enhance your vacation experience. These extra nights can be added right into the price of your cruise fare.
  • In almost all cases, daily shore excursions are included in the fares you pay. They’ll run along the lines of pretty basic introductory tours of the cities and towns you visit. Some companies such as Uniworld also offer fee-extra tour options that are a bit more unusual. A half day tour is usually followed up by some free time to do what you would like.
  • One caveat about cruising Europe’s rivers: The season typically runs from April to October, but be aware that heavy rain and spring flooding can make the rivers swell and the locks become impassable. (Many are under bridges, so if the water is too high, boats can’t fit underneath.) Likewise, if there’s a drought, low water can be a problem. If boats can’t move, you’ll be taken to the sights by motor coach. Christmas Market cruises run late November into December, and are a whole other blog post!
  • Wine cruises, enrichment, music, culture, or tulip cruises can add to the excitement of river cruising. There are many themes that help to draw in a wide variety of interests.

For more information, stay tuned…more to come! Subscribe to this blog, or LIKE us on facebook at: 

www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru

Contact Pete, your River Cruise Specialist at:  pete@rivercruiseguru.com for more information on booking a river cruise today!

River Cruise Guru is a branch of Jolly Mon Vacations, owned and operated by Pete Larson

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New T-shirts, New Contests!

New T-shirt design and  New Contests!

JMV's new t-shirt

Jolly Mon Vacations newly designed t-shirts are in stock! They look fantastic!

Facebook Fans….be sure you click ‘SUGGEST TO FRIENDS‘ on both JMV and/or my River Cruise Guru facebook business pages. Each new fan that (‘Likes’) it…and their referrer are entered to win FREE STUFF!
 
You can find both sites at:
 
While you are there, feel free to TALK VACATIONS or post some pics. There’s a lot going on, don’t miss out on the fun!
 
Not on facebook?
Visit my webpages at:
 
Call or text me at: 218.779.3050  (Verizon)
 
WHAT’S NEW?
Jolly Mon Vacations books all types of vacation travel, but one of our ‘specialties’ is River Cruising. The rivers of Europe, China, Egypt and Russia. Its a whole new way of immersing yourself in the destination.
 
I’ve got a great Cruise Blog at:
I write many travel related articles, reviews, and information. I also post pictures and videos. Come on by, and send your friends!
Thanks for your support, and please keep on referring your family and friends to Jolly Mon Vacations! Remember, I not only appreciate your referrals…I pay YOU cash for them!
 
Here’s how it works:
1. You refer your friends or family to Jolly Mon Vacations.
2. Once they book a vacation through us, and they travel…you get paid!*
(*The amount is based on the vacation booked, amounts may vary)
Your friends get a great price, fabulous service and an outstanding vacation.
You get some extra cash!
Hurry! This free cash offer won’t last forever!
Send them now! Jolly Mon Vacations will treat them right.
Jolly Mon Vacations
…destination anywhere.