Tag: tourism

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!

 

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…

Sirince, Turkey houses

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.

Sirince homes on a hill

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!

 

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!

 

 

New York City Hotels: Two Tours

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Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area Lobby

A Tale of Two New York City Hotels

New York City hotels are abundant. How do you find a good one? I have two recommendations, one downtown and another on the outskirts. On my last visit to New York I stayed at two hotels, one downtown (Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South in Manhattan), and one easily accessible to downtown in the suburbs (Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area in New Jersey). Depending on your priorities, one or the other may be more suitable for you, but either one is a great choice!

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Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South Exterior

Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South

The Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South is a stone’s throw from the Port Authority, and very centrally located to all of the action. It’s a short walk to the nearest subway, double decker bus stop, Theater District, and heart of Times Square. The neighborhood is abundant with great restaurants in all price ranges, and felt safe to traverse by night or day. The staff was professional and friendly. The room was small, but comfortable.

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Views from Hilton Garden Inn Balcony

I was fortunate to get one of only two rooms in the hotel with a balcony, where I enjoyed soaking in the city sights and sounds bird-like from my high perch. The refrigerator was smaller than usual for a Hilton room – rather than “dormitory” size it was very narrow. Normal size water bottles or soda cans wouldn’t fit – but the mini size soda you can sometimes find in the store would have. Not a suitable fridge for dining leftovers, either. Fortunately (or unfortunately!) the weather was cold in March and I used the balcony as a fridge…

The bath was trendy, and shower provided good water pressure and temperature. There’s an ample closet, as well as a desk for working. I had a great nights’ sleep on the very cozy bed.

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Hilton Garden Inn Guestroom

Amenities

Breakfast at the Garden Inn brand of Hilton is available but there is an extra charge if you are not gold level or higher in their rewards program. But if you are gold, or pay, it’s made to order fresh and delicious. The menu was not as extensive as I’m used to, but that may have been due to the timing (pre/early COVID in mid-March).

There’s no parking on-site, but there is a public parking garage across the street charging $50 per night. Room rates vary depending on your timing… but usually run relatively steep due to the incredible central location in Manhattan. If location is your top priority, I highly recommend this hotel. If price is your highest priority, I suggest another property…

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Homewood Suites Living Room

Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area

The Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area in Edgewater, New Jersey may not be in Manhattan, but it’s extremely convenient to it for prices usually well below what you’ll pay in Manhattan. It’s also situated in a charming neighborhood of its own, next to lots of interesting shops and restaurants along a pedestrian boulevard.

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Homewood Suites Kitchen

Like other properties in the Homewood Suites brand, this hotel is all suites. Each room has a full kitchen (full size fridge, small stove, microwave, sink, dining table, and dishes and utensils). There are also separate lounge and bedroom areas, and an extra-spacious bathroom. There’s two televisions – one in the “living” room and another in the bedroom. Consistent with other hotels under the Hilton umbrella, the bed, furnishings, and showers are very accommodating here.

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Homewood Suites Bedroom

Some rooms have New York City views – in my opinion worth the splurge. Breakfast is free for all and consists of a small buffet. Socials are held in the evenings on some days of the week where snacks, beer, and wine are offered. Parking here is free for hotel guests. As for the location – if you want to get into downtown Manhattan it’s no problem. There’s a local bus that picks up across the street that goes straight to the Port Authority in the Times Square area. The ride takes about 10 minutes, and only costs a few dollars each way (seniors also get a discount). I suggest buying a roundtrip ticket when you board in New Jersey – it’s easier than waiting and buying a return ticket at the station when you’re ready to return.

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Homewood Suites View

More on New York City Hotels, and More!

Thanks for reading my review of New York City hotels! Both of these options are great places to stay if you visit New York City. If you’re willing to pay more, the Hilton Garden Inn can’t be beat for location convenience, but for a more-budget friendly option easily accessible by bus to downtown, try the Homewood Suites! For a full visual tour of each, view my YouTube video here:

Take a virtual tour of New York City here!:

Read my New York City blog post here!:

New York City Tour! (Pre/early COVID)

And for more travel destinations and hotel tours, visit my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

 

New York City Tour!

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Times Square at Night

New York City: COVID-19 Edition

I did a New York City tour right around the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic in March. It was before it was really clear what was happening. These are tough times for all of us, no thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. New York City in particular faces many challenges. I know a lot of us can’t wait until the “city that never sleeps” wakes up again. So in the meantime, I can share some images with you from my visit in mid-March, when news was beginning to surface about COVID but the city wasn’t in full shutdown mode yet.

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Times Square by Day

Times Square

Times Square is arguably one of the most iconic locations in New York – and usually one of the most crowded, too. But auto and pedestrian traffic was a little lighter, and became even lighter day by day during my visit. The sea of people I encountered on previous visits to Times Square was noticeably absent this time. But the square was still alive with its signature rainbow of bright neon lights and colorful characters in costume, though…

Views from the Empire State Building

Empire State Building

We managed to visit the Empire State Building observatory two days before it closed due to COVID. What a lucky break for us, not to miss these incredible views. Here is a view of downtown, including the towering One World Trade Center standing guard over the rest of the city, symbolically. In the background you can also see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We enjoyed the art-deco decor of the structure as we proceeded through the lobbies on our way up to the observatory. Once up top you can walk all the way around the building to see the spectacular panoramic scenes.

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South Street Seaport Pier

South Street Seaport

South Street Seaport is one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York. Here you can inspect historic ships on the pier, or catch the New York Water Taxi for a tour of the harbor. And along cobbled streets stand the South Street Seaport Museum, as well as many opportunities for shopping. There’s a convenient stop for the double-decker bus tours.

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South Street Seaport

New York City Water Taxi

I recommend an outing on the New York Water Taxi from South Street Seaport. I enjoyed outstanding views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan skyline, and Statue of Liberty from the boat. In addition to giving you a tour of the harbor, the taxi will also take you to additional stops where you can disembark and explore, like Midtown and Brooklyn. It’s a hop-on-hop-off experience, just like the double-decker bus. It was windy and chilly in March, but well worth it!

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Brooklyn Bridge

We managed to catch the very last Water Taxi running, because as soon as our trip was over it was shut down due to COVID. It was a relief to have caught the last boat, but sad to see it have to shut down. This is one of the best experiences for visitors to New York, and I highly recommend it when the outbreak subsides.

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Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Ordinarily the Statue of Liberty would be swarmed with huge crowds, but not on this day… apparently it was already closed. Still, we got up-close and personal with her from the boat, which swung around to allow passengers on both sides of the boat to catch a glimpse. Possibly one of the most iconic structures in the world, it’s an absolute must-see. If you prefer not to pay, the free Staten Island Ferry will give you a view of her too, albeit slightly more distant.

Double-decker Bus: Great Way to Tour New York

Although the Water Taxi closed after this run we took, we were able to enjoy the double-decker bus for another day. This allowed us to explore downtown, midtown, uptown, Harlem, and Brooklyn, for a couple more days, with the ability to hop on and hop off at various sights. The double-decker bus is a very convenient way to get around the city, and offers great views. I highly recommend getting around New York City and getting a bird’s-eye view from the top of the bus.

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M & M’s World

M & M’s World

If you have a sweet tooth, no visit to New York is complete without a stop at M & M’s World in Times Square! Here you will find rows and rows of tubes of a rainbow of these delights, and samples are available! Many varieties are available here that you won’t find at your local grocery or pharmacy. And you can also shop for an array of branded merchandise. So leave your diet behind and let your inner “kid in a candy store” out!

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Junior’s Diner Cheesecake

Authentic New York Treats at Junior’s Diner

I recommend trying out Junior’s Diner in the Theater District. Here you can indulge in delectable and authentic New York specialties like a Brooklyn Egg Cream, Pastrami Sandwich, and world-renown New York Cheesecake! It’s a little pricey, but portions are huge – take a friend and share and you’ll both be satisfied!

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Central Park

Central Park

No New York City tour is complete without a visit to Central Park. And what better way to shed off those calories than a stroll through this iconic landmark? It’s a relaxing oasis amid this bustling concrete jungle. Horse and carriage rides are another fun way to get around the park, but are a better value in a group of travelers sharing the cost. These rides were running about $50 for 20 minutes when I visited.

Tour More of New York City, and More!

First a disclaimer: I realize that this post may be controversial – that there may be some who feel it was irresponsible of us to visit New York in mid-March, 2020. And I’m sure there are others who applaud our determination to keep living our lives. We were in New York anticipating a cruise on the 15th that ended up being canceled two days before embarkation, so we remained in the city a couple more days before departing. At that time, there was a lot of confusion, and news of the virus was newly surfacing. The extent of the danger was not yet clear. To those who may be distressed by this post, know that after our visit we returned straight home and quarantined for 14 days. And to anyone wondering, no, we didn’t get sick.

Thanks for reading my New York City tour; catch my New York City video tour here!:

If you’re looking for places to stay in New York City, check out my blog post here:

New York City Hotels: Two Tours

And for more video tours of many destinations world-wide, check out my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

When you visit a big city like New York, I highly recommend taking a tour or getting a City Pass so that you’re able to save money and skip the lines! I like the way you can visit several attractions at a discount, without buying tickets at each one. Check it out here!:

Save up to 50% on combined prices for admission to must-see attractions! Shop Now at CityPASS.com!

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of New York!

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! And at ultimatetraveladventures.blog we do not promote ANY product or service we do not endorse and personally use.

 

Michigan Vacation Cabin Tour!

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Michigan Cabin, April

My Michigan Vacation Cabin!

I can now cross “Michigan vacation cabin” off my bucket list! After a month of being astounded by the spectacular scenery of Michigan last fall I was hooked. I knew I needed a place up here. It was the same feeling I had about Florida before I got the condo there. And despite extensive traveling, and having an incredible time in so many places, I never quite felt this way about anyplace else. I was home. Twice.

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Beach by Florida Condo, November

Michigan-Florida Snowbird?

Since I got this cabin in Michigan people have constantly declared “Oh, so you’re a snowbird!” But it’s not that simple. Growing up in Boston, I realized winter can provide a powdery paradise… in moderation…! I suppose the origin of this assumption is that, perhaps, these people themselves would prefer year-round summer, so it makes sense to them? (Is this you? Please leave a comment!) After being in Florida for a year I actually missed the seasons, especially my favorite – autumn. Just so happens autumn is, at least in my opinion, the most spectacular time of year in Michigan. The trees are blazing with vibrant color, and the most succulent, delicious apples await your selection at the vast pick-your-own orchards across the state. A drive through the “tunnel of trees” and visit to the peak of Brockway Mountain in the Upper Peninsula provide the perfect immersion into this fall fiesta of firey shades.  Sometimes change is good…

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My Michigan Street

Still Enjoying some snow!

And then there’s the oft-shunned winter season. I get it – growing up in Boston the first snowfall was always welcome, but that welcome usually wore out fast. And by mid-January, true, I was so over it. But imagine my delight closing on this cabin in Michigan, in April, and experiencing the snowfall that had eluded me after spending most of the season in Florida. The dazzling sparkle of fresh, clean snow, the brilliant bounty of white trees, the powdery sift of snowflakes sprinkling through the sky, the pleasing crunching sound the snow makes when you step through it… This isn’t the warm, tropical, ocean-breeze paradise of Florida, but it’s paradise in its own way. Diversity of experience makes life more interesting. I find this applies to the seasons as well. I admit – I doubt I’ll be spending the whole winter in Michigan, but I definitely won’t be following a snowbird schedule, either!

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Living Room

Authentic Log Cabin in the Woods!

The cabin is in a peaceful location in the woods, but ten minutes or so from town, convenient if I need to shop for anything. There’s also a state park nearby at the lake, where I can go for a rejuvenating swim, take a sail on a pontoon boat in the shallow water, or jump on a jet ski. Back at the cabin, I can park a snowmobile or ATV. They are road legal here, so you can just jump on and go, no trailer needed!

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Kitchen

Rustic and Remodeled Vacation Cabin

When I acquired this cabin it wasn’t suitable for living. There was no heating system, no hot water, no bathroom door, and no shower. I hastily installed all of the above, as well as a washer and dryer. I also replaced the bathroom sink unit and range. The antique kitchen sink and countertop is entirely ceramic. It’s very unique – exactly the kind of thing the American Pickers would get very excited about! It’s a very charming, and now very comfortable, place to stay! I hope you enjoyed this tour of my Michigan vacation cabin!

View my tour of the cabin, before and after, here!:

Read more posts about sightseeing in Michigan!:

Outdoor Delights in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan!

Magnificent Mainland Michigan: a Convivial Road Trip!

I have video tours of Michigan, and many more destinations, here on my YouTube channel!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel