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TOUR Kusadasi Turkey!

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Turkish Patriotism in Kusadasi

Touring Kusadasi, Turkey

A tour of Kusadasi, Turkey treats you to many exotic delights! Kusadasi, (or Kuşadası in Turkish), is a vibrant port city on Turkey’s west coast. It’s a popular stop on cruise ship itineraries. It makes a great launching pad for exciting attractions in the region. These include the poignantly preserved ancient Roman metropolis of Ephesus, which I covered in another blog post here Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures. Ephesus is a 12 mile trip. Sirince, which I cover in another blog post here Tour Sirince, Turkey, is about a 35 minute drive. If you’re not adverse to a road trip, the spectacular thermal pools of Pamukkale are just under 3 hours’ drive. I’ve marked Pamukkale a must for my next visit to Turkey!

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Tepe Neighborhood

Tepe Neighborhood

Mayor Özer Kayali promoted the Tepe project, which involved painting over 400 homes on this hillside in a rainbow of beautiful shades. He strategically selected this location directly on the port of Kusadasi, because here cruise ships and other tour boats would get their first glimpse of this up-and-coming city. It’s a brilliant sight to behold. It’s on a high perch, visible from much of the downtown area. The Tepe neighborhood stands as both a colorful symbol of the colorful personalities of the Turkish people, and creative spirit of the city.

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Okuz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai

Öküz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai

Öküz Mehmed Pasha, military commander in the Ottoman Empire, commissioned the Öküz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai. It was built between 1615 and 1618 and is still standing strong. Today this former customs building for port commerce serves as a hotel. You will feel very safe and secure in this robust fort-like structure! It stands out like an exclamation point a couple of blocks from the port, and is the most noticeable structure in town.

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How Turkish Coffee is Served

Turkish Coffee Tasting

Turkish coffee is, admittedly, an acquired taste. It’s like an extra-strength espresso on steroids. So many Turks add sugar to the brew to tone down the bitter notes. When you order a Turkish coffee, you’ll be asked how you want your sugar. I asked a local what’s the most popular request for Turks, and he suggested “medium sugar.” I’m a firm believer in the old “when in Rome…” adage, so I always want to try the local specialties anywhere I go, and preferably in the most authentic form possible. With my “medium sugar” Turkish coffee I received a bowl of delicious candies and fresh water. I enjoy strong flavors, so I liked the coffee. There was a lot of residue at the bottom of the cup – I added some of the water to it so I could finish it off, which worked well!

Cafe Cats in Kusadasi

The cafe I visited was right on the port. I enjoyed beautiful views of the harbor, ships, Kusadasi Castle, and the Tepe neighborhood. I made a new friend – a local cat joined me, sitting on the bench right next to me. There’s a lot of cats out in public areas here, and they’re not afraid of tourists! Shopkeepers and restauranteurs feed them, because they keep the mice away. Do you want to learn more about Turkey’s cats? Check out the amazing film Kedi: click here.

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Turkish Carpet Demonstration

Turkish Carpet Demonstrations

Many merchants in town will tell you no visit to Kusadasi is complete without a Turkish Carpet Demonstration. You can experience this visual stimulation all over town, and it will often come with a delicious pastry, Turkish coffee, and a licorice-flavored alcoholic drink Raki. The show was quite the spectacle, but no amount of Raki could have convinced me to spend the thousands of US dollars these merchants wanted for the carpets. They were extremely impressive though, so even though the demonstration was a “sales pitch,” I greatly enjoyed the artistry of their work nonetheless.

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Touring around the Port

More to Tour in Kusadasi, Turkey!

There’s much more to tour in and around Kusadasi, Turkey! You can view my full video tour of Kusadasi, Turkey in my YouTube video here!:

And if you still have an appetite for Turkey, check out my other Turkey blog posts here!:

Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures

Tour Sirince, Turkey

Finally, if you don’t want to miss out on Turkey’s fascinating cats, check out the amazing film Kedi! Click here for Kedi!

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

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Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures

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Ancient Main Road

Tour Ephesus Turkey

Welcome to another travel Turkey blog. Ephesus was one of the most vibrant major cities in the Roman Empire. Located on the west coast of Turkey near the port city of Kusadasi, it provides some of the finest examples of Roman architecture and civil engineering on the planet. Archaeologists continue to unearth more treasures to this day, as there is much more yet to be uncovered.

Ancient Roman Roads: Quality Construction!

When you tour Ephesus, Turkey, the first thing you notice is how well the main road through the town has stood the test of time. They don’t build them like they used to! Roads were vital to Roman trade, governance, communications, and military movement, just as they are today. The Romans constructed 250,000 miles of roads, many of them paved with stone like this one in Ephesus. Rome had many kinds of roads, from back alleys to major highways. These roads were critical to the explosive growth of the Roman Empire in the ancient world.

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The Building Blocks of Civilization

Building Blocks of Civilization

The columns and bricks here represent more than the brilliance of ancient Roman civil engineering. They represent the building blocks of civilization: the institutions that continue to shape our culture today. We have adopted many staples of Roman society, like public squares, government buildings, libraries, marketplaces, theaters, stadiums, bathhouses, places of worship, and more. These institutions are now an important part of our daily lives.

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Sophisticated Ancient Roman Plumbing

Very Sophisticated Plumbing

The plumbing system of the ancient Romans was highly advanced. The Romans built elaborate aqueducts to channel water from the countryside into the cities. Once in the cities, the water was delivered through a system of pipes, just like we use today. In Ephesus public toilets and their pipes are still intact. While it seems like there was no privacy, at least live music was provided in public restrooms to drown out the sound…!

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Cats on Mouse Patrol

Cats On Patrol

Many cats roam the ruins in Ephesus. I asked a guide about them, and he told me they feed the cats and encourage their presence. The cats keep mice away, and delight visitors! Cats are cherished all over Turkey, and you will find them friendly and frisky. For a wonderful film about Turkey’s lovable feline population, watch the film Kedi. Click here to learn more: Kedi the Movie. This critically acclaimed film is heartwarming, fun, and fascinating, and I highly recommend it!

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Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

The consul Gaius Julius Aquila commissioned the Library in the 110s A.D. At the time this was the third largest library in the world after the libraries in Alexandria, Egypt and Pergamum, Persia. The Library of Celsus has impressively survived fires, earthquakes, and attacks by the Goths, not to mention centuries of time. This massive and exquisitely preserved structure is the highlight to any tour of Ephesus.

Tour Ephesus Turkey More!

Ancient Rome survives today, not only in it’s timeless ruins, but on the influence it continues to have in our lives to this day. Check out my video tour of Ephesus, Turkey on YouTube here!

And for another travel Turkey blog, check out my post on Sirince! More travel Turkey posts coming soon!:

Tour Sirince, Turkey

For more great destinations weekly, subscribe to my YouTube channel!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

We have now joined the new social media site MIX! You can join and follow us here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures on MIX!

And don’t forget to check out the amazing film Kedi!:

Kedi on Amazon

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

Tour Sirince, Turkey

Sirince, Turkey streets

Steep, cobblestoned hills

It’s time to tour Sirince, Turkey!

Time to tour Sirince, Turkey! Sirince has many surprises in store. Sirince is the epitome of a quaint, charming village. This adorable town is a short hop from the port town of Kusadasi, Turkey on the West coast. The ancient Roman city of Ephesus (coming soon in a future post) is also nearby. Give yourself a great variety of Turkish culture by touring these three destinations. You’ll experience the ancient and modern, along with the big city and countryside. You can board a tour out of Kusadsi to both Sirince and Ephesus in a one day trip. Sirince, Turkey is rippled with hills covered in cute little houses, which are adorned with beautifully detailed wood trim. Rusty orange terracotta roofs shimmer in the glimmering sun. Traveling to Sirince, Turkey is truly a pleasure.

Meet Sirince’s four-legged residents!

The narrow streets are lined with cobbled paths, which are traversed by many a friendly furry friend. You’ll find many cats in this area of Turkey! A native of this area told me they keep the mice away and delight tourists! So stop and say “meow” (translation: thank you!) for their hard work patrolling for the kinds of critters you’d probably rather not encounter…

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Authentic architecture

What can I do while touring Sirince?

Sirince is a sleepy little village, but there’s plenty of shopping to be had. The cobbled streets, which are lined with shops and stalls, sell mostly local, homemade crafts, clothes, and foods. Prices are outstanding in Turkey. My favorite souvenir has been some handmade olive oil soaps that I picked up for a couple of dollars each. They have a fabulous scent and have lasted me for months after the trip. They remind me of the wonderful sights and smells I enjoyed here each time I use them!

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Cute cafes

Tour the culinary traditions of Sirince!

Bring an appetite! If you do, you will find many good deals! There is an abundance of delightful little cafes where you can enjoy mouth-watering local specialties, such as strong Turkish coffee, succulent kabobs of grilled meat, and delectable Turkish delight candies. And the best thing about the cafes here may be the people watching. You can also bring the delight of Turkish delight home with you, so haggle with sellers to get six boxes for less than $20! I particularly recommend the strawberry flavor. Pistachio is another popular flavor.

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Whitewashed homes on a hillside

Most memorable moment touring Sirince

Venture to the top of the hills, where Incredible views are to be had! From here you will gaze upon whitewashed homes descending down the slope, brilliantly bright in the shimmering Turkish sun. I had my most memorable moment when I reached the top of the tallest hill, where I could survey the whole amazing town from my high perch!

Conclusion

I highly recommend a stop in Sirince on your next visit to Turkey! At the bottom of the hill where the tour buses arrive it can be tackily touristy, but make your way to the top and you will encounter quiet side streets and spectacular views!

For more touring, Sirince, Turkey, and cats…!

Want to see more of Turkey’s amazing cats? Then I highly recommend this endearing film about them (notice the well-deserved 5-star reviews!):

KEDI the movie

Tour Sirince, Turkey virtually today! You can view the full tour of the charming town of Sirince, Turkey on my YouTube video!:

Video visit to Sirince!

Tour Turkey some more, with my post on Ephesus!:

Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures

Traveling somewhere soon and want to learn how to order in a restaurant, check into a hotel, and ask for directions in the local language? Check out my Fluenz language review here!:

Fluenz Language Program Review

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

Fluenz Language Program Review

Fluenz Italian with Colosseum

Repeat the words exercise

Why learn languages for travel?

Welcome to my Fluenz language program review! But first, why learn languages for travel? When you gain conversational skills in the foreign language of the country you’re traveling to, or at least the proficiency to order in a restaurant, check into a hotel, and ask for directions, it greatly enhances the travel experience. Natives are often pleasantly surprised when tourists make the effort, and, I have found, sometimes they’re even thrilled. In addition to that, if you know know some of the language you will feel less intimidated in a foreign countries. I get very frustrated when, for example, I get lost and can’t ask for directions. And, perhaps best of all, you can better interact with the locals and feel more immersed in the culture.

So how can the Fluenz language program help?

My favorite language learning program for travel is Fluenz. (Note: this blog post is NOT sponsored.) So now that you know why it’s a good idea to learn languages before travel, you may be wondering why I feel Fluenz is the most effective language program available. It stimulates your motivation to learn, eliminates language learning boredom, and teaches you the most relevant content in the most efficient way, assuming you are learning for travel.

Fluenz German with castle

Write the word you hear exercise

Fluenz language program: best in the biz

Fluenz is the most effective language learning system I’ve ever used, and I’ve tried a lot of them. I’ve even tried classroom instruction at the college level of four different languages. The first benefit to Fluenz is the relevance of the material taught. By the third lesson you are making complete sentences and placing orders in a restaurant. You really feel as though you’re making progress when the material is truly useful. In contrast, some systems encourage rote memorization of single words and not constructing your own sentences, or teach you words like classroom vocabulary that are completely useless in a tourism context. Fluenz is clearly geared specifically towards people interested in travel. And if you want to go beyond travel, the series of lessons is comprehensive enough to reach at least an intermediate level.

Fluenz Portuguese program

Phrase matching exercise

Defeat boredom with Fluenz!

The second benefit of Fluenz is the variety of different exercises that keep you from getting bored. Activities in the Fluenz program are fun and engaging. In contrast, with a lot of other programs you just repeat the same boring tasks over an over. Boredom is a guaranteed recipe for failure. The photos I’ve supplied here show some, but not all, of the exercises available. A microphone session is included, with which you can compare your pronunciation to that of native speakers. This is critical, not only to help you perfect your pronunciation, but also to further reinforce what you are learning. Your memory of the vocabulary and grammar you’re learning will be improved. Have fun learning languages, and you will have far more motivation to continue to fluency!

Fluenz French program

Choose the right image exercise

Beautiful, culturally relevant visuals in Fluenz

The third benefit of Fluenz is the beautiful photos of the countries in which the language you are studying is spoken. Some other systems offer generic visuals, the same for every language, or, worse, no visuals. Stimulate more of your senses during the lesson! Then you will find you are more engaged and motivated. You will remember more when more of your senses are invested. These images are inspiring, and motivate you to keep going. You will long to visit these amazing places, and be immersed in the culture, when you absorb these visuals. The photographs are the biggest factor that has me looking forward to my daily lessons. In addition to the amazing pictures, the interface is sleek and polished, reminiscent of an Adobe or Apple product.

Fluenz Mandarin program

Write the phrase you hear exercise

Downsides to the Fluenz language program

Of course, nothing is perfect, and Fluenz has some downsides. For one, Fluenz is expensive. But once I paid one time for the product I had lifetime access, so it’s a great value. There are no monthly fees or end to access if I stop paying. Second, the selection of languages is limited to Spanish (Latin America or Spain versions), French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese. The Chinese teaches pinyin only, no characters. If you want to learn the writing system you’ll need to supplement the program with a character textbook or other source. The limited selection of languages is particularly disappointing for anyone whose goal it is to visit other areas of the world not represented by these languages, or anyone whose dream it is (like mine!) to achieve polyglotism. Fluenz, if you’re reading this, please add more languages!

Fluenz Latin American Spanish with Maccu Piccu

Choose the right answer exercise

Conclusion on Fluenz

Fluenz gets my highest recommendation as a language learning program, particularly for travelers, but also for anyone learning for another reason. It keeps me motivated and engaged in language learning like no other system I’ve ever used!

Link to get Fluenz on Amazon!

View my full review on YouTube here, where you can see the program in action!:

Looking for more language learning content? Check out my Top Ten here!:

My Polyglot Journey: Language Learning for Travel Top Ten!

Visit my YouTube channel here!

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

Tour Radiant Rome, Italy

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The Colosseum

Tour Rome, Italy

Rome is a delightfully diverse city. Whether you’re seeking painstakingly preserved ancient ruins, beautifully boisterous baroque buildings, or significantly spiritual structures, Rome is the city for you! I spent four amazing days in Rome. This turned out to be just enough time to get a small sample of all this incredible world-class city has to offer. Geographically, Rome is a sprawling expanse. It’s best toured by double-decker tour bus or public transportation. Even if long walking distances don’t bother you, there’s so much to see in so little time (no matter how much time you have…!)

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Colosseum Interior

Rome’s Magnificent Colosseum

The Colosseum is often considered the symbol of Rome, and for very good reason. Brilliantly restored, it’s a step back in time to death-defying gladiator fights, bouts with wild animals, massive sea battles. (Yes – they filled the stage area with water and brought in boats…), and more. As I touched the timeworn stones and imagined the pageantry, I could almost feel the vibrant ancient energy of the place.

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The Forum

Rome’s Formidable Forum

The Forum is where the ancient Roman government conducted their political business. It was a system which inspired scores of modern political systems. As such, it’s another amazing place to reflect on our collective past. The might of the Roman Empire is apparent in these monoliths still standing centuries later – both physically and symbolically. So much of the way our societies function today we owe to the innovative thinking of the Romans.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Vatican: Rome’s Country within a Country

A trip to the Vatican lets you explore a tiny independent country, and seat of spiritual superstar the Pope. You can check online for days and times when the Pope will make an appearance. Be advised, reservations are highly, highly urged for the sites of the Vatican to avoid long lines. The Vatican is a wonderful area in which to ponder the beautiful brilliance of baroque, and the magnificent works of Michelangelo and other renaissance masters. It is a Rome must-see for spiritual and secular visitors alike.

Rome. Cityscape image of Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy during sunrise.

The Spanish Steps

Strolling the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are best visited in the evening, where you’ll encounter many locals out for their evening walk – and after the day tourists are gone. Otherwise you can expect to encounter large crowds. The romantic glow of the fountains make this spot a favorite stop for couples. These massive stairs are a great way to work off the gelato you’re going to enjoy later…

Trevi Fountain by night, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain: the Perfect Nightcap to your Rome Tour

The best way to cap off a day of endless marvels in Rome is to enjoy the Trevi Fountain by night, delectable gelato in hand. The lights enhance the allure of the fountain, and the surrounding traditional architecture. Sit under the stars and soak in the ambience! Relaxed and refreshed, you’ll be ready for sound sleep and an exciting day full of inspiring sightseeing tomorrow!

More ways to tour Rome!

There’s so much more to Rome! You can see a lot more of the city and my time there by clicking the links below:

Video tour of Rome, Italy:

Video tour of my hotel in Rome:

Rome Hotel Blog Post

It’s hard to see a big city like Rome in limited time. For efficiency and convenience, a quality tour in a big city or out to the countryside can’t be beat! I’ve had very good experiences with Viator. They have many Rome options:

Get the lowest prices on Skip-the-Line Tours in Rome

Get the lowest price on Rome Day Trips

Get the lowest price on Rome Multi-day Tours

And visit more great destinations on my YouTube channel here!:

Visit my YouTube channel here!

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

 

Flying During the Coronavirus Pandemic…

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Tampa International Airport 2 Hours Before Flight

Safety of flying during the pandemic…

Flying during the Coronavirus pandemic is a risky proposition. Seriously, the United States Government needs to send a message to airlines. “No stimulus money unless you reduce capacity on planes during the COVID-19 pandemic.” (And they should specify that capacity limit.) Without that incentive, they’re not doing it. This is despite the fact that getting on a plane is one of the most dangerous things you can do right now in the context of coronavirus.

Here’s how flying during the pandemic went…

I got on a plane during the Coronavirus pandemic. It was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. I would have felt safer taking ANY other method of transportation on my journey from Tampa to Toronto. In fact, I’ve been questioning why flights weren’t grounded at the outset of the outbreak of COVID-19. Let’s face it: people are packed in like sardines in a can on a plane. I can’t think of any situation where social distancing is more impossible than on a plane. I was in a must-travel situation: to be reunited with my husband. Prime Minister Trudeau finally exempted spouses and children from the border closure.

No other options besides flying during the pandemic…

My first choice would have been a road trip, but, alas, my car was stranded in Canada. So that was an impossibility. I considered taking the train, but Amtrak is not currently crossing the border. My only train option to get across would be a train to Buffalo and walking across the Peace Bridge. And there would have been a transfer in the New York City epicenter. I’d also heard the land border closure was more challenging to traverse than coming in through the airport. So I did something I never thought I’d agree to do and booked a flight. Prices were lower than usual – an indicator of low demand…? I would soon find out.

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Tampa International Airport 1 Hour Before Flight

The airport was empty… temporarily…

When I first arrived at the airport in Tampa security was a breeze. I didn’t need to wait in line at all. But Tampa is one of the better airports in that regard with or without a pandemic in progress. When I got to the gate, very early, there was no one there. The seating was staggered with social distancing signs. Masks were not required, and only a handful of people were wearing them. Social distancing was easy.

The crowds picked up as the morning progressed…

About an hour before the flight more passengers began showing up, and right before boarding it was standing room only at the gate. This was concerning… how full was this flight…? I had multiple notifications on my phone from the airline, urging me to reschedule my “busy” flight. They were even offering future flight credit if I switched…

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My Packed Flight Tampa to Charlotte

Reduced capacity flying during the pandemic?

I flew on American Airlines, which claimed to be reducing capacity by only filling 50% of the middle seats. This is interesting, because according to the airline’s app this flight had a waiting list. Once onboard I realized the plane was filled to 100% capacity. Luckily, I had managed to pre-reserve a window seat, which, according to doctors, is the safest seat on flights right now to protect yourself against COVID-19. I was appalled that the airline had no qualms about filling every seat on the plane at this time.

The on-board experience

Masks were required on the flight, and there was no beverage or food service. I’d had no warning from the airline that such services would not be available. I felt like cattle being shuttled from “point a” to “point b” on this flight – flight attendants were scarce and customer service was greatly reduced. I was flying to Charlotte because it is a hub for American Airlines, and would be transferring to another flight to Toronto there. Apparently a lot of other people were also catching transfer flights in Charlotte or flying there for other reasons.

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Rainy Day in Charlotte from Plane

Transfer airport… very crowded…

It was a rainy day but I had a nice view of Charlotte from the plane. The airport was very crowded – so much so that even though I hate wearing a mask and they weren’t required, I was tempted to keep it on. Social distancing was very difficult. About a third of the people in the airport were wearing a mask. I was very uncomfortable with the crowds given the circumstances. I proceeded to the gate for Toronto and was presented a form to fill out for Canadian customs and asked about my reason for travel by the staff. This was due to the border closure. After another passenger argued with airline staff about why he was an “essential traveler” and they warned him he may be sent back at the Canadian border, I was cleared and good to board since my husband is a Canadian citizen.

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Busy Charlotte Airport

Second flight… more breathing room…

The flight to Toronto was less full – at my guess about 75% full. I felt a lot more comfortable. It was enough to have to worry about the more stringent customs I would be facing at the Canadian border. I also had to worry about being crammed into a tightly packed plane in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic?! Again, masks were required on the flight and no beverage or food service was offered. I had purchased some over-priced snacks at the airport. While I had some appetite, the excuse to take the mask off for a few minutes and catch my breath on the plane was the more pressing reason for this shopping stop.

Toronto airport and customs

Masks were required everywhere at the Toronto airport. I was not used to such an involved customs and immigration experience, and I cross the border regularly. I had to fill out a declaration form at a kiosk, as usual. Then I was given quarantine information by two agents, and had to present evidence of my reasons for coming to Canada and quarantine plan to two more agents. Usually I only need to talk to one agent, and don’t need documentary evidence other than my passport.

If the flight wasn’t fun enough… quarantine!

Canada requires a 14 day quarantine for anyone, citizens or not, coming into the country. I didn’t view this as a big deal considering Canada had barely entered Phase 2 of coming out of lockdown restrictions, and there weren’t many places to go anyway. More importantly, I was just happy to be reuniting with my husband. It was a hectic day, and I’d set my cellphone down at one of the kiosks… I have never been happier to have the “locate my phone” app. Thanks to the app, border agents were able and willing to help me locate my phone after my initial panic. I’m very grateful for their consideration and help in that situation. I rarely misplace my phone… but I’m not surprised it happened this time given all of the stress and distractions!

Flying during a pandemic… and surviving!

Happily, I made it into Canada and have survived the two weeks of my quarantine, and miraculously I seem to have not gotten sick on the plane – or in the airport. Still – airlines need to be held more accountable for the safety of passengers during this health crisis. The complete disregard of passenger health was truly appalling. Would you fly right now? How do you feel about how the airlines are handling capacity during the pandemic? Please leave your comments!

Want tips on getting a great airline seat? I had an earlier post on the topic here:

Landing a Great Airline Seat for Takeoff! How to Get the Best Seats for your Flight

Please visit my YouTube channel for ALL travel, ALL the time!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures on YouTube!

Rome, Italy Hotel Review!

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View from Window

Rome, Italy Hotel Tour: Hilton Garden Inn Claridge

Welcome to my Rome, Italy hotel review! When I had a cruise leaving from Rome, Italy last winter I stayed in Rome a few days to explore. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Claridge in downtown Rome, and can provide a review here.

Location

The location is in downtown Rome, but in a quiet residential neighborhood, not in the immediate vicinity of the tourist sites. But it’s still fairly convenient, about a 20 to 25 minute walk to the nearest double-decker bus stop. The walk to the stop is confusing – a problem I easily resolved by using Google Directions and choosing the “walk” option. My phone carrier did not charge me, as they considered this activity “low-data” usage. There is a delectable restaurant right next door servicing delicious authentic Italian specialties, including pasta dishes, pizza, tiramisu, and more. Because this hotel is downtown, it is easy to find a shuttle service that will pick you up in the hotel lobby to go to the airport or cruise port.

The Staff

The staff was extremely courteous and friendly, and while I enjoyed having the opportunity to practice my broken traveler’s Italian, I also appreciated their fluency in English. I also appreciated their fluency in Italian when my shuttle van to the cruise port was late, and I asked them to call the company on my behalf! They were happy to do so, and shortly after my van appeared outside the lobby. Maid service was also professionally accomplished, and the servers in the dining room also polite and pleasant. (Breakfast comes at an additional charge if you are not Hilton Honors Gold or higher, but the spread was delicious and diverse, so I recommend it either way.)

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The Guest Room

The Guest Room

The decor in the room consisted of beautiful wood paneling and modern design. The room was very spacious, especially by European standards. There were separate bedroom and living room areas. The living room included a leather couch and table with coffee and tea maker, as well as a large closet. The bedroom had a television, desk, and window that wasn’t sealed shut. I greatly enjoyed both the view and the fresh air. The bathroom included one sink/mirror section and another section with a toilet, bidet, full-size tub, and Jacuzzi shower. You read that right – the shower was made by Jacuzzi and had jets to surround your entire body as well as a radio. It was very refreshing!

More Rome, Italy!

Thank you for reading! A big thumbs-up on the Hilton Garden Inn Claridge as a great place to stay during a visit to Rome, Italy! To view my blog post on the city of Rome, Italy, click the link below!:

Tour Radiant Rome, Italy

Here you can view my full video tour of my Rome, Italy Hotel:

It’s hard to see a big city like Rome in limited time. For efficiency and convenience, a quality tour in a big city or out to the countryside can’t be beat! I’ve had very good experiences with Viator. They have many Rome options:

Get the lowest prices on Skip-the-Line Tours in Rome

Get the lowest price on Rome Day Trips

Get the lowest price on Rome Multi-day Tours

Also check out my YouTube channel for many other destinations and hotel tours!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

 

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

 

Necessary Travel in a time of COVID-19

International Travel

Airline Passengers in an International Airport

At long last, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that he will finally exempt spouses, children, and parents of citizens and permanent residents from the COVID-19 border closure with the U.S. Since my husband is Canadian and in Ontario right now, and I’m American and in Florida right now, this is news we have been anticipating in agonizing fashion. Immediate family is no longer “non-essential,” (note to government officials – THEY NEVER WERE.) So now that I have necessary travel to embark on the question is, in this time of Coronoavirus, how can I traverse across a continent safely? My car is stranded in Canada, so a road trip, which would be my first, and the safest choice, is not an option. One bit of good news is that ALL of the below options have ramped up deep cleaning measures on their modes of transportation.

Option 1: Air Travel

Air travel is the type of travel I’m most leery of right now from a health standpoint. Airlines originally promised to leave middle seats empty, but have proceeded to fill those seats and pack the limited number of planes they have running as full as possible to help recoup their losses – despite the danger they’re placing on their customers. I’ve never been one for flying, unless I was crossing an ocean and had no choice. Being crammed in a tightly cramped space with random strangers, some of whose behavior and hygiene left something to be desired, and dealing with endless lines at security checkpoints, was never my idea of a “good time.” And now, with the news being inundated with reminders of social distancing, staying six feet apart, and even laws requiring the aforementioned, it has made me wonder for a while now why airports are not closed all together. It is the single type of business still open where it is literally impossible to social distance. Do I really want to place serious risk on my health, and that of my husband, getting on a plane? Or risk denial of entry into the country because I’m “showing symptoms?” According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.” (cdc.gov) Airlines scoff at the idea that it isn’t safe – but it doesn’t take a PhD in rocket science to see the risk factors. Masks are required, but if people are allowed to take them off during food and beverage service, what’s the point?

PROS: Air is well ventilated and circulated. Travel between destinations is fast, reducing your exposure time-wise. The only option (besides car) that is currently crossing the U.S./Canada border.

CONS: Extremely close quarters, zero control over social distancing for the passenger, zero control over what other passengers are in near proximity (if you’re seated next to someone coughing, you’re out of luck!) Least amount of personal space and freedom to move about. The aggravation of dealing with airport security checkpoints.

Electric passenger train drives at high speed among urban landscape.

Bullet Train

Option 2: Train Travel

I have another option – train travel on Amtrak. Although Amtrak has temporarily halted service to routes crossing the Canadian border due to the limited categories of people currently allowed passage, I could take the train to Buffalo, New York and cross the Peace Bridge on foot, where my husband would be waiting on the Canadian side in his car. (Service to Niagara Falls, with a shorter pedestrian bridge, is also suspended.) On a train, you have the most freedom to move around. Even if you’re seated near people in the main cabin, you can try to find a better spot in the Observation Lounge, or head for the cafe or restaurant. And even if you remain in your seat, your “personal space” is greater than on a plane or bus. You also avoid standing in potentially crowded security checkpoints. Masks, again, are required – but, again, people are allowed to take them off while eating and drinking. The downside? LONG travel times. According to Google Directions, my train trip from Tampa Bay to Buffalo would take two days, as compared with a couple of hours on a plane. The route would require going up the Eastern Seaboard rather than a more direct route. And the layover point is in the COVID-19 epicenter: New York City. While a train ticket would be cheaper than an airline ticket, I would expect to be exhausted upon arriving in Buffalo – and would definitely reserve a hotel room for that point in the trip. This would jack the cost up beyond the cost of an airline ticket.

PROS: More room in your seat. The freedom to move around, and go to a completely different area if you find yourself near someone you consider a health risk (or annoyance!) Avoiding long lines at customs security checkpoints potentially with no social distancing measures. Most appealing option for my work as a blogger and YouTube creator.

CONS: Increased potential exposure due to long travel times. Long travel time to arrive at destination. No ability to cross the border by train. Short layover in the Coronavirus epicenter.

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Greyhound Bus

Option 3: Bus Travel

Greyhound Bus has also suspended travel across the border, so just like in the aforementioned train option it would be necessary to ride to Buffalo and traverse the Peace Bridge on foot. Greyhound is “encouraging” physical distancing on the bus, and requiring masks (again, while not eating or drinking…) But of all of these options, the bus is the most likely to experience delays, and long layovers, which they are notorious for. The bus takes a more direct route than the train, because there are many more interstates in the U.S. than train tracks. But there are other potential risks in taking the bus. The low cost of the bus can attract some individuals who may pose a threat to you or your belongings, and many bus stations are in more dangerous neighborhoods of town – a place you can be stuck for hours waiting on a late transfer. You do have more room than on the plane, but less room than on a train. It does not have the freedom to get up and move to a different area that the train offers. As with the train option, I would most likely get a hotel for the night upon arrival in Buffalo.

PROS: Lowest cost (besides car travel), more personal space than on a plane. Avoidance of airport security checkpoint lines.

CONS: Less freedom of movement than on the train, long travel times. Other potential hazards unrelated to health.

Conclusion

I was hoping that by the time I reached the conclusion, I would have made up my own mind! Alas, I have not. I am leaning in favor of train or plane, because the bus’ biggest advantage is price and that isn’t my highest priority right now. And while all three options involve a customs security checkpoint for crossing the border, the land crossing is likely to be far less congested, since very few people are allowed to cross, and there’s only one, compared with two at the airports. I plan to buy a ticket on one of the above five days from the date of this post – please leave your comments with suggestions below! What would you do? How has your experience been on these different modes of transportation? Remember, my car is stranded in Canada and “road trip” is not an option. Obviously, that would be the most convenient and safest way to travel, with unlimited personal space, total social distancing, and the ability to cross the border. Thanks for your suggestions!

 

Cruises and COVID-19: Update

 

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Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

Cruises have been put on hold since mid-March due to COVID-19. Since then, I’ve had two cruises cancel – and two more are imminent to cancel due to new restrictions. Is there an end in sight? In this post, I’ll give you the latest news on government restrictions on cruise travel and cruise line plans for sailing once again, as well as my theories on what I expect going forward.

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Norwegian Bliss

Government Restrictions

On May 29, Canada extended their ban on cruise ship travel involving their country until November, 2020. The ban applies to ships with more than 100 people aboard and overnight accommodations. Meanwhile, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s no-sail recommendation is due to expire on July 24. Currently there is no update on whether that deadline may be extended or not. And any cruises scheduled to visit Europe, Asia, and other continents will need to comply with local regulations in those areas.

The good news is that many states in the U.S., from which a large percentage of cruise ships embark, are rapidly easing out of lockdown. Florida, with some of the most popular embarkation ports in the world for cruise ships, has already opened up the economy to restaurants, retail, salons, and even gyms with social distancing measures. Governor Ron DeSantis has consistently demonstrated an open-minded attitude about easing lockdowns and restoring the economy, and it is my belief and theory that Florida may be the first state to allow cruise travel. Texas has also progressed quickly towards easing lockdowns and may be one of the first to resume cruising as well. Other places like New York and Los Angeles have been slower to ease restrictions and it could be a lot longer before you can cruise again. New York City specifically has suspended cruises through the end of the year.

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Norwegian Jade Lido Deck

What about the stops?

On May 29th, the Bahamas announced a tentative July 1 reopening date for international tourism, and have indicated previously that they look forward to welcoming cruise ships back into port. Most of the Caribbean islands rely heavily on tourism, and in particular cruise tourism, to keep their economies going. I have no doubt many of these islands will open either before, or very shortly after, cruise ships begin sailing again.

The rest of the world is more questionable. I’ve already had the cruise line cancel the Asia cruise I had scheduled for Spring, 2021, and many countries’ economies are less reliant on cruise tourism and can afford to wait. These areas are likely to open later.

Unfortunately, it’s a big unknown right now who will open and when. With the COVID-19 case count and spread having been so unpredictable, jurisdictions around the world have been unwilling to confirm a concrete date for reopening their ports.

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Port St. Maarten: “Prepared for the Future in Cruises”

What about the cruise lines?

The cruise lines have been more willing to provide at least tentative dates. This is not an exhaustive list of every cruise line, but will give you an update for the major lines. Please keep in mind that cruise lines have been adjusting their policies, and scheduling and canceling, on an ongoing basis. So these dates may be extended and boarding requirements may change depending on the COVID-19 situation on land.

Please note – and this is important… It is possible to visit these cruise lines’ websites and book a cruise that is inconsistent with their policy on sailing dates. If you wish to reserve a cruise, it’s important to be vigilant and carefully assess whether the cruise you wish to book falls within the guidelines outlined below. Otherwise, you may be settling on future cruise credit after paying cash on a cruise available to book that the cruise line was already aware would not be sailing. My theory is that this is a “money grab” to help recoup losses that have been suffered as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, but I cannot declare that definitively.

AIDA has suspended cruises until July 31.

CARNIVAL has suspended cruises through July 31. Cruises will only embark from three ports: Galveston, Miami, and Port Canaveral, until September 1. Guests over 70 years of age will require doctor’s authorization to sail, and medical screening pre-boarding will be ramped-up.

CELEBRITY has suspended cruises until July 31. Guests who are at least 70 years of age will require doctor’s authorization to sail, and medical screening pre-boarding will be ramped-up.

DISNEY will resume cruises on July 31. Not all ships will resume sailing at the same time.

HOLLAND AMERICA has suspended cruises until Fall, 2020.

MSC will resume cruises on July 11. Guests 70 years of age or older will require a doctor’s authorization to sail, and medical screening pre-boarding will be ramped-up.

NORWEGIAN has suspended cruises until August 1. After that, ships will be put back into commission gradually over time, beginning with five.

PRINCESS has halted operations into the Fall season. The Alaska itinerary has been canceled for 2020.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN has suspended service until August 1. Guests age 70 or older will require a doctor’s authorization to sail. Guests with at least one serious medical condition, as outlined by the CDC, will be denied boarding all together.

To be honest, I anticipate lawsuits coming down the pipe. Age discrimination is a valid argument against the requirements of some of these cruise ship lines that will be singling out people 70 and over with additional restrictions, but it remains to be seen whether agencies like the AARP will get involved or class-action lawsuits will be filed. In my own personal opinion it is discrimination. I also believe it’s bad public relations for the cruise lines, because many of their most loyal customers fall within this age bracket.

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Carnival Sensation Lido Deck

Cruise Line Cancellation Policies

Most cruise lines have eased their cancellation restrictions through at least the fall. Below I’ve outlined some of the major lines’ new policies.

CARNIVAL says if your cruise is scheduled up to September, 2020, you’re allowed to cancel up to 30 days prior to the sail date in exchange for 100% future cruise credit that must be redeemed to book another cruise within a year of the original embarkation date.

CELEBRITY says customers may cancel up to 48 hours before the time their ship is scheduled to sail in exchange for 100% future cruise credit to be used by May 4, 2022. Only bookings made by August 1, 2020 qualify.

DISNEY says that if you’re booked on a cruise starting in Europe on or before July 25, 2020 you may cancel up to 24 hours ahead for 100% cruise credit to be redeemed within 15 months of original embarkation date.

HOLLAND AMERICA says if you have a cruise scheduled through October 15, 2020 you may cancel up to 30 days before sailing for 100% future cruise credit which must be used up until the end of 2021. Also, if you make a new reservation by August 31, 2020 on a cruise sailing by October 15, 2020, you may cancel up to 30 days before sailing for 100% future cruise credit and have all cancelation fees waived.

MSC says cruises booked to depart on or before September 30, 2020 may cancel as late as 48 hours before embarkation time and receive a full refund of the cruise fare only (no taxes, fees, or pre-paid orders.) The credit may be used up to December, 2021.

NORWEGIAN says all passengers who book a cruise scheduled through November 30, 2020 may cancel up to 48 hours in advance and receive 100% future cruise credit that must be redeemed by December 31, 2022.

PRINCESS is offering full refunds on amount paid plus 25% on cruises that are canceled by the cruise line in the form of future cruise credit. The credit must be used by May, 2022.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN says customers can cancel up to 48 hours in advance for 100% future cruise credit that must be redeemed by April, 2022. Additionally they will price match any price drop on the same sailing and reimburse the difference in the form of shipboard credit. Customers can also change their sailing to a similar sailing (as determined by RCL) in 2021 or 2022 up to a month prior to sailing. The cruise must be rescheduled by August 1, 2020.

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Crown Princess and Carnival Glory at Port

Conclusion

I know many of you are as eager as I am to set sail yet again, and I look forward to providing you with continuing news on the cruise shutdown. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for further updates at: Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel!

I will also continue to provide cruise ship tours and reviews, and tours of ports-of-call both here on the blog and the YouTube channel, so I look forward to seeing you again here and there! Thanks for your support!

UPDATE: the accompanying video is UP! View it here!:

COVID-19 Cruise Update Video!

 

 

“Non-Essential” Spouses Separated by Borders During COVID-19

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Pointless Passports

Immediate Family is “Essential”

I’m compelled by personal tragedy to work to increase awareness about a significant story that is not getting the attention it deserves in the media, or from the governments, at this time of Coronavirus. As you may be aware, the Canada-U.S.-Mexico borders are closed to all but “essential travelers” at this time of COVID-19. You may agree or disagree with this decision. But whether or not the general public, including shoppers and tourists, should be allowed to cross the border is beyond the purview of this post. I want to talk specifically about a category that by all standards of common sense, ethics, and moral justice, should be considered “essential travelers.” The borders should open to them immediately. This category is immediate family, specifically the spouses and children of citizens of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.

US/Canada Border, Peace Arch, Washington State, USA. Empty border lanes at crossing between US and Canada.

U.S.-Canada Border Crossing Closings

Spouses and Children: Separated by COVID-19

An untold but significant number of citizens of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have foreign national spouses who are citizens of a neighboring country, and these people are currently being denied border crossing, despite the wording in the regulations that “essential travelers” are allowed passage during the Coronavirus outbreak. There are also an unspeakable number of children who are being denied access to their foreign national parent across the border, despite court orders enforcing visitation. This is outrageous, unconscionable, and indescribably inexcusable.

I’m an American Citizen and my newlywed husband is Canadian. We’re stranded, separated – myself in Florida and he in Ontario. Neither he nor I can cross the border to reunite right now. According to the governments, our travel is “non-essential,” our relationship disposable and irrelevant. The worst part isn’t even the separation itself – it’s the fact that we have no idea when the border will re-open or we will see each other again. It’s an agonizing waiting game, and one where I’m glued to the news desperately hoping for an update that would be encouraging in light of our desperate desire to be reunited. While the border closure was extended to June 21, it’s already been extended twice, so there’s no indication it won’t be extended again – or how many more times the border closure will be extended. Keeping immediate family separated for months on end, and with no end in sight, is extremely misguided, and, I would argue, immoral.

I don’t mean to suggest that spouses and children from countries outside of North America shouldn’t be included in the “essential travelers” category – they should. I’m only focusing on the North American numbers because the number of Canadian, American, and Mexican citizens suffering through the border closing, and separated from their immediate family members, is especially staggering due to the proximity of these three countries.

Young woman communicating with man via video call application.

“Non-Essential” Spouses

Safety Precautions Against Coronavirus are Possible

I get that governments are concerned about the Coronavirus and that they may not be ready to open to a flood of border crossings by “anyone and everyone.” But I contend that NOTHING is more important than immediate family, especially at a time like this. An exception should be made to the border closure for spouses and children of citizens, effective immediately!

I have some suggestions to include in my plea to make the plan safer. Require a 2 week quarantine for the spouses and children crossing the border. And, if necessary, download of an app to track the person could be required, to assure compliance with the quarantine. A negative test in the past 48 hours could also help if a COVID-19 test would be readily available to both parties. Although I consider these measures intrusive and an invasion of privacy that I would reject utterly under ordinary circumstances, I would gladly temper my ethical standards and comply with any of these requirements if it meant being reunited with my beloved husband.

A bad situation is being made much, much worse, and unnecessarily. There are mitigating safety measures that can be taken to allow truly essential travelers: spouses and children of citizens, to be added to the border crossing exemption, not just truckers and health workers.

There’s Other Factors, Too

Another thing to consider is that when spouses are from different countries, and share two different residences, they are more likely to have urgent business and property matters that need attention across the border. My car is stranded in Canada, and I’m stuck in the U.S. without transportation, since my husband and I came to the U.S. in his car and he was forced to return to Canada. I also have other personal property in Canada right now that I need, and don’t have, access to. This is a very complex problem with a very simple solution!!!

A Plea to Our Governments

Due to the close friendship between our countries, many, many people have developed relationships and created multi-national families, and being separated indefinitely is an extreme emotional hardship for them. A plea to our governments: you brought us together; let us stay together. Please make an exception for immediate family members to be considered “essential” travelers, and grant us permission to cross the border.

How You Can Help

First, I hope you will subscribe to my YouTube channel where I will be posting video on this issue shortly. You can find it at: Heather Anne Ultimate Travel Adventures.

Secondly, I hope you will consider signing these petitions. There is no cost, and I receive no benefit (unless it helps change the situation so I can see my husband!) There’s also an option to share the petition with others.

There’s an online petition to allow immediate family of citizens to cross the border here:

Canada: Allow Family Reunification During COVID 19

and there’s another one here:

Justin Trudeau: Love is Essential

What do you think? Do you think spouses and children of citizens should be allowed to cross the border? Please leave your comments below!