Say Hello to All-Inclusive Cruising

All-Inclusive Resorts are a huge draw to the Caribbean region. The concept of paying one price for all of your meals, drinks and activities is attractive to travelers who don’t want to worry about such charges once on vacation. This concept has been available on upscale, luxury cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas and Crystal for years, however purchasing one of those cruise vacations can be out of reach for some.

Today, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that, for a limited time, they will bring the All-Inclusive Experience to the mass market. This is a first for any major cruise line in its category, and I certainly expect the other lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney) to follow suit!

The details of the new All-Inclusive Package are as follows:

“The All-Inclusive package is available for 2015 sailings from three to 14 days in length, is priced by the number of days, and is available for all stateroom categories, including The Haven by Norwegian.

When adding the All-Inclusive to a selected cruise, guests receive 10 percent off the cruise fare. For a seven-day cruise, the $899 package includes

  • the Ultimate Dining package
  • the Ultimate Beverage package
  • Shore excursion credit of $200 per person
  • Pre-paid daily service charges/gratuities
  • 250-minute Internet package per person
  • 20 photos of any size
  • Chocolate-covered strawberries
  • A bottle of wine
  • One bingo session
  • Six bottles of water

For cruises from three to five days, the shore excursion credit is $100 per person; and for sailings from 9-14 days, the package includes 12 bottles of water.

As part of the All-Inclusive offer, Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining package provides complimentary access to one of the line’s specialty restaurants every night of the cruise, including Cagney’s, the popular steakhouse; French bistro, Italian restaurant, Moderno Churrascaria, Asian-Fusion restaurant and more.

The Ultimate Beverage package includes a variety of spirits, cocktails, draft beer, bottled beer and glasses of wine up to $10 and unlimited fountain soda and juices at all bars, lounges, restaurants and on Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay.

*Includes all scheduled 2015 sailings from three to 14 days (excludes back to back sailings)
**Does not include Pride of America; not applicable to bookings made in Continental Europe or United Kingdom.”

Book your 2015 cruise between August 4-24 and your sailing will be eligible for this package!
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Norwegian Updates Smoking Policy

Hot off the presses…

Norwegian Cruise Line has just released the following update to their shipboard smoking policy:

As the health and well–being of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance, Norwegian Cruise Line will institute changes to its smoking policy for all sailings on or after November 1, 2014. The specific changes prohibit smoking on stateroom balconies and limit smoking in the casino to players. On Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway, smoking on The Waterfront will be permitted on the starboard side, except by the outdoor dining areas. 

They are following in the footsteps of other cruiselines, such as Carnival, who have a very similar smoking policy aboard its fleet of ships.

Does this policy change have an impact on your choice of cruise line?

Headed to St. Lucia!!!

So THIS is exciting! I was just invited on a FAM trip by Sandals to visit all three of their properties in St. Lucia! YAY! I’ll be spending 4 days and 3 nights at Sandals Regency La Toc, with visits and resort tours at Sandals Grande St. Lucian and Sandals Halcyon. I can’t wait to share the photos and reviews of each resort with you all; this is an amazing opportunity and perfectly timed, as one of my friends/clients is getting married at La Toc in March!

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Relaxing with Princess Cruise Line

As part of my training as a travel consultant, I completed Princess Cruise’s Commodore training last year. For my Commodore Graduation, in addition to celebrating my April birthday, Mr. B and I completed a 5 day Eastern Caribbean Getaway cruise aboard Ruby Princess. It was by FAR the most serene, relaxing cruise I’ve taken to date. Here is my full review:
Since we reside in Tampa, we only had to drive 3.5 hours to Fort Lauderdale, where Port Everglades is located. We had pre-purchased parking at the nearby Park ‘n’ Go lot, which offered a free shuttle to the port. (BVB Tip: If driving, buy your parking online in advance. You will save some serious money by pre-paying). We arrived to the ship around 1:00 PM. After going through the motions of security, we walked straight to the Reservation Agent to complete check-in. Since we’d done most of it online in advance, there was very little to complete at the desk. The agent gave us our Cruise Cards; since I had graduated from Princess’s Academy, I was granted a black Elite card (which is their highest loyalty tier; you’re ship royalty at that level). We headed up to take our pre-cruise photo and strolled onto the ship.

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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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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?

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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Why IATA?

Last week granted me with quite a surprise: I was informed that I had qualified for my IATA Card. Now, a year ago, this would’ve meant nothing to me and honestly wouldn’t have even made sense. This year: it’s a big deal. Allow me to explain why….

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a globally recognized organization that is designed for travel professionals. There is a certain number of criteria that a travel professional has to meet before allowing to apply for their IATA ID card; he or she must work a certain number of hours per week and gross a certain amount in commission, among other things. It takes some agents several years to meet the criteria; for me, it took 11 months! I’m completely humbled by this achievement and grateful to all of my clients who trusted me with their travel arrangements. (This is starting to sound like an Emmy acceptance speech…)

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Hurricane Season is Here!

Tropical Storm Andrea dumped on Florida’s Gulf Coast earlier today
Photo Credit: tbo.com

 

 

Hurricane season is effective every year from June 1 until November 30. Those of us in the directly affected areas (namely: Florida) expect balmy mornings, afternoon showers and steamy humidity on a daily basis. Typically, hurricane and tropical storm activity picks up from August until October. So imagine my surprise when I found myself driving in the midst of a tropical storm this morning. What?

Yes…5 days into hurricane season, the Tampa Bay area was blessed with Tropical Storm Andrea. This one snuck up on everyone, I think. The area has been afflicted with tornadoes and floods today, but thankfully no one lost their lives. Some businesses closer to the beach suffered property damage, and many of the tourist attractions (Busch Gardens, Sea World, Legoland) closed early today. We remain under a tornado watch until 10pm, so although the worst has passed, we are not yet out of the woods. In fact, the wind is howling against my window as I type this.

I’m reading reports that this early tropical activity is a warning of things to come. If so, this will be an active hurricane season. Someone even said that this may be the year that Tampa is hit with the “big one”. (*knocks on wood that this isn’t true*)

If ANY of this ends up being true, then it leads me to emphasize the importance of Travel Protection insurance if you are planning a trip to a hurricane-prone region. Some may remember the mess that Hurricane Isaac caused for Royal Caribbean and Carnival last year; those with insurance were able to easily rebook their trips and return home (or get refunded), while those without had a bit more trouble. Travel Protection covers severe weather events that may interrupt, delay or cancel your trip. You can purchase it through the travel supplier, or an outside vendor (I personally work with TravelSafe and Allianz). Many of the plans also offer a “Cancel for Any Reason” option, which would allow you to cancel the trip for an “uncovered” reason (i.e. not due to weather, medical emergency, etc) and still receive some or all of your investment back.

Obviously, no one can predict the future or what could happen; you could pay for the protection with no need to use it…which would be ideal, really. However, I personally believe that Travel Protection is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Ya’ Mon: My Tour of Jamaica

We went. We toured. We conquered. And now, Jamaica has shot up to a very high ranking spot on my list of Favorite Places!

Over the next few days/weeks, I plan to review and recap each of the TEN Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple Resorts that we visited while on our FAM trip. These resorts were (in order of visitation):

1. Sandals Whitehouse European Village

2. Beaches Negril Resort and Spa

3. Grand Pineapple Negril

4. Sandals Negril Resort and Spa

5. Sandals Carlyle

6. Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort

7. Sandals Montego Bay

8. Sandals Grande Riviera

9. Sandals Royal Plantation

10. Sandals Golf & Country Club ** not a resort **

11. Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Spa

We managed to visit all of these locations over the course of 5 days. Those of us who were feeling adventurous were also given the opportunity to climb Dunn’s River Falls with Island Routes (YES, my hope became reality!!!).

The beauty and people of Jamaica caused me to fall in love with the island. I’m so excited to return, and have been sharing my wonderful impression of the island with anyone who will listen. The Sandals family of properties truly have something for everyone, making them an excellent choice in planning your next getaway. If you’re looking for romance, relaxation, nightlife, or fun for the family, there IS a resort for you.

Contact me for more information, or keep your eyes open as the reviews start to get posted!