2013 in Review

It is VERY hard to believe that this is the last day of 2013! My father always warned me that time would pass more quickly as I age, but I never believed him until now.

I must say that, in retrospect, 2013 was an incredible year both personally and professionally. I had all kind of amazing opportunities come my way during the past 12 months; some I took full advantage of, while others had to be postponed. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the awesomeness that 2013 brought to me and to Bon Voyage by Barbour:

* I traveled. I try to take at least two “big” trips a year, however a scattering of “smaller” trips works as well. In 2013, I:

– Spent a weekend at Universal Orlando resort at the Portofino Hotel. The Express Pass and proximity to the parks made it worth every red cent.

– Had a BFF weekend in Puerto Rico. Stayed at the Gran Melia and La Concha Resorts during our 4 day weekend, plus got lost in El Yunque. Good times.

– Visited Key West for the first time with Mr. B.

– Attended my cousin’s wedding in Pittsburgh, PA. I wish I’d had more time to spend refamiliarizing myself with the city I’d spent so much time in as a child.

FINALLY got to visit Jamaica on a FAM (familiarization) trip with 20 fellow travel agents. Went to Ocho Rios, Negril and Montego Bay during our week and visited ALL of the Sandals and Beaches properties on the island. Also climbed Dunn’s River Falls, which was totally on my bucket list. This was one of my favorite trips of the year, and I fell in LOVE with Jamaica. (There are tons of posts on this blog testifying to this…)

– Visited Ann Arbor and wandered around my alma mater (U of Michigan) on an incredible September afternoon. I couldn’t have asked for better weather.

– Made my inaugural visit to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for my good friend’s wedding. Had an opportunity to visit 5 other resorts while there…and I know, I never wrote those reviews. They are coming, I promise!

– Went on a two-day cruise on the newly revitalized Vision of the Seas with 90 fellow women, a group cruise that I helped organize. Visited Nassau, The Bahamas (4th island of the year!) and spent the afternoon at Sandals Royal Bahamian. These reviews are also forthcoming!

– Spent the weekend at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and attended Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival

In addition to my personal travels, I helped clients realize their own travel dreams, including:

* 3 honeymoon cruises

* Several trips to Jamaica

* A birthday group cruise

* A family reunion group cruise

* A family reunion at Disneyland California

And more!

Bon Voyage by Barbour accomplishments included:

* Acquisition of my IATA and CLIA card

* Multiple certifications, including Certified Sandals Specialist and Graduate of College of Disney Knowledge

All in all, this was a wonderfully blessed year and I’m excited about what 2014 has in store!

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A Magical Celebration: Animal Kingdom and Epcot

Well here we are: the final chapter of my three-part Disney weekend review. Turns out I wrote this a month ago and never published it! NICE!

In my prior installments, I discussed our resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and our rained-out Saturday that took us to Downtown Disney.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and early; no matter how old I get, going to Walt Disney World makes me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. We went down for a quick breakfast at the The Mara. We ate…quickly…because my inner child was doing this the entire time:

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After wolfing down my bacon and eggs, we swiftly walked to the front of the resort and caught the Disney bus to Animal Kingdom. The ride took all of 5 minutes; the park is literally RIGHT NEXT to the resort. We picked up our tickets from will call and in no time flat, we were inside of the park.

This was my first visit to Animal Kingdom, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We grabbed a map and plotted our course. I had also downloaded the My Disney Experience app from iTunes Store, which provides guests with GPS locating, full park maps and well as live wait times throughout all of the Disney parks. It works too! Since we were at the park relatively early (one hour after opening), all of the wait times were brief. My main mission in life was to ride Expedition:Everest, but since it was toward the back of the park, we opted to travel the park in a counter-clockwise direction and get in line once we actually reached the ride.

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Black Friday/Cyber Monday Travel Deals

Another year, another Black Friday. To those of you who were brave enough to face the masses at your shopping venue of choice, I applaud you! I’m more into Cyber Monday..Black Friday kind of scares me.  Another blog I follow posted the following gif to their page, and I instantly became anxious and uncomfortable:

 

Once upon a time, I used to post weekly deals on this blog. I have since stopped doing that, as I want to use this website to discuss my personal travel experiences and travel news instead of focusing on promotions.

However, since this is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, I would be remiss NOT to point out that Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are stretching far beyond laptops and flat screen televisions. Almost ALL of my favorite travel suppliers are having promotional deals and specials at this time. I wanted to use today’s post to just point out a few of these amazing deals, since they are all time-sensitive. Maybe you’re considering surprising that special someone with a getaway, or looking to plan your 2014 vacation? Whatever the case may be, there is likely a deal for you. So bear with me while I share some highlights; hopefully you’ll find something that catches your eye!

Cruise Specials

Holland America November 27th-December 1st, 2013 – Great savings and get up to $150 shipboard credit on select 2013/14 cruises.

Princess Cruises November 27th-December 4th, 2013 – Upgrades, bottle of wine and onboard credit on select sailings

NorwegianNovember 27th-December 3rd, 2013 – Up to $250 onboard credit on select sailings

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MSC Cruises November 27th-December 4th, 2013 – Up to $300 onboard credit on select sailings

Celebrity Cruises November 27th- Feb.14th. –1,2,3 Go! Pick from complimentary drink package, free gratuities or onboard credit on select sailings

Royal CaribbeanDecember 2-4, 2013 – WOW Sale: 50% reduced deposits and up to $200 onboard credit

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Resorts/Packages

Sandals/Beaches ResortsNovember 29 and 30th Only! – Save up to 65% off and receive up to $550 in air credits at Sandals and Beaches properties throughout the Caribbean. Additional inclusions (spa credits, couples massages, free golf, free nights, etc) for a limited time only

Funjet VacationsNovember 29-December 2, 2013

  • Receive up to a $700 INSTANT AIR CREDIT when you book at the El Dorado Royale, by Karisma (Cancun)
  • Up to 55% EXCLUSIVE SAVINGS at the Riu Vallarta – and up to 2 kids ages 12 and under stay, play and eat free
  • An EXCLUSIVE ROOM UPGRADE TO OCEANVIEW and exclusive savings at the Sunset Beach Resort & Spa (Jamaica)
  • Up to 35% OFF and reduced room upgrades at the Gran Caribe Real Cancun

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AMResortsNovember 29 – December 1, 2013 – Book a stay at Dreams Punta Cana or Cancun for only $99 per person, per night! (Savings from $320 per person, per night). 50% off your stay at the adults only Secrets properties and brand new Breathless Punta Cana!

Those are just a few examples of the many deals now available….

Happy Black Friday to you! Did you brave the crowds today?

A Magical Celebration: Downtown Disney

Our second day at Walt Disney World Resort was dictated by Mother Nature; a cold front had been predicted to make its way through Orlando, with accompanying showers. A 60% chance of rain in Florida is pretty much a sure thing, so we altered our plans and decided to visit the theme parks on Sunday instead of Saturday.

After sitting down for our delicious breakfast buffet at Boma, we decided to take the WDW Bus Transportation over to Downtown Disney. Full of shops, restaurants, and attractions, Downtown Disney offers free parking and no admission charge. It’s a great alternative for non-park goers or for those seeking a day of rest. Downtown Disney features two sections: Westside/Marketplace and Pleasure Island. The bus dropped us off at Marketplace, where we found several Disney character shops, a Ghiradelli store (YUM), a LEGO store, Rainforest Cafe, among other shops. Pleasure Island features more restaurants (Planet Hollywood and Bongo’s Cuban Cafe), attractions such as DisneyQuest and Splitsville, and bars.

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Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam: I came in third!!

Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam: I came in third!!

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A Magical Celebration: Walt Disney World for Grown Ups

The past few weeks have been chock full of good times, travel and excitement, hence my absence from my blog. But never fear: I have enough material from this period of time to write blog posts until the end of the year. I know you’re as excited as I am!

I’m going to start with one of my recent weekend adventures. You see, Mr. B and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in early November and were unable to travel anywhere distant due to our restricted schedules. Fortunately for us, we live a mere hour away from the Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, so we decided to venture over there for the weekend to stay at an on-site hotel (something I’d never done) and visit the parks. Epcot Center was winding down their annual Food and Wine Festival, so this was the perfect weekend to visit.

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House Lobby

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House Lobby

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6 Awesome Benefits of Group Travel

When I founded Bon Voyage by Barbour in 2012, my goal was to specialize in cruises. I knew enough people who liked to cruise that I figured I could book one or two, here and there, and make it something fun to do on the side. I also figured I’d dabble in some all-inclusive resorts; my experience at the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe was so incredible that I wanted others to experience the “AI” life too!

Almost immediately I received a request for a group cruise. Then another. And then yet another. Now, I’m finding myself working on 3 group cruises (so far) for 2014, a group AI getaway and two destination weddings. WOW!

I’m not sharing this information in a boastful way whatsoever. I never intended to work with groups, but I’m finding that they are SO much fun to work with, as everyone is SO excited about their vacation. Furthermore, group trips can often offer additional incentives to make this type of travel even MORE beneficial than they already are.

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So here are my reasons why group trips are awesome, in no particular order:

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National Cruise Vacation Week

This week is like the 7 Days of Christmas for fans of leisure cruising: the Cruise Line International Association’s (CLIA) annual National Cruise Vacation Week! NCVW began this past Sunday, October 20 and runs until this upcoming Sunday, October 27. During this week, every major cruise line – from budget to moderate to luxury – are running major sales in an effort to encourage both cruising veterans and newbies to book their next cruise vacation! Check out who is participating:

Pretty much everyone!

NCVW promotions include: significant savings off of new bookings, onboard spending credits, free shore excursions, and reduced deposits. Why not take advantage while the deals are hot?? I’m shopping for my next cruise as we speak! 🙂

 

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Sandals and Beaches Resorts to open in Barbados!

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SANDALS RESORTS INTERNATIONAL SET TO MAKE EXCITING DOUBLE DEBUT IN BARBADOS

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, 18th October 2013 – Sandals Resorts International (SRI), parent company of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts, today applauded the Government of Barbados following the announcement of a deal which will result in opening of two resorts in the country.

SRI and the Government of the Barbados reached the agreement following months of negotiations that will see the Caribbean’s leading resort company open the former Couples Resort in St Lawrence as a Sandals Resort as well as managing a new Beaches Resort set to be built on the site of the former Almond Beach Resort in St Peter.

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Jamaica FAM Trip: Beaches Ocho Rios

Hello my good people! I know it’s been awhile, but for good reason: your favorite travel consultant has been TRAVELING! Yes, I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite Domestic Destinations, Ann Arbor Michigan, as well as go on a long-awaited trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. While in the DR, I had the opportunity to tour SIX resorts and will begin posting about my experiences shortly. Hopefully it won’t take me 6 months to write up those reviews….

When I last left off, we had just toured the all-butler, all-fabulous Sandals Royal Plantation, and had boarded our bus for the final stop of our whirlwind week in Jamaica, Beaches Ocho Rios. We would be checking in and staying two nights at Beaches before heading back to the USA. (sadface).

What a view!

What a view!

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