May 2011


From a steamy seduction scene of double entendre to a honeymoon in the upper berth, Cary Grant and Eve Marie Saint sizzle during the cross-country train scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic suspense thriller, North By Northwest.  As Grant deadpanned, “Beats flying, doesn’t it?”

Hitchcock apparently thought so, setting scenes on trains throughout his illustrious directing career on both sides of The Pond:  The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt, and The Lady Vanishes, to name just a few.  Such was the Golden Era of Streamliner travel.

Train Holidays creates the ambiance of that era with a limited opportunity for glamorous seduction North by Northwest aboard a beautifully restored 1940’s-style private Streamliner Train.  For four trips only this Summer, 30 passengers will travel the Canadian Rockies from Seattle to Banff.  The Great Western Limited rolls through majestic scenery over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, passing through the Cascade Mountains along the Skykomish River by day.  Fully hosted, the 8-day journey includes stops with sightseeing at Whitefish, Glacier National Park, Waterton Lake, Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, and 4 fabulous nights in Banff.

A choice of Pullman accommodations onboard features  luxurious bedding, turn-down service and private facilities.   Sumptuous meals are freshly prepared by the onboard chef and served in the dining and lounge areas with the gracious elegance of white linen and fresh roses on each table.

The tariff includes:

  • Accommodations and all meals, wines and spirits aboard the train.
  • Overnight deluxe hotel accommodations at Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish; Prince of Wales Lodge at Waterton Lake; and 4 nights at the Banff Park Lodge.
  • Daily breakfast , one day at Chateau Lake Louise; lunch at Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump; and dinner at Le Beaujolais overlooking the Bow River.
  • Complete sightseeing including “Going to the Sun Highway” and Lake McDonald cruise at Glacier National Park; and gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, Yoho National Park while in Banff.
  • Services of a professional tour manager for entire trip.
  • Transfers to Calgary airport.

Tours depart June 24, July 22, August 19 and September 16.  Availability limited.

For complete details, quotes and reservations on this Unforgettable Journey, contact Judy Duran, CTA, 720 270-5767; durandenver@msn.com.

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Just got an e-mail flash with a link to the Terry Fator website.  If you go to Las Vegas, don’t miss his incredible show — I’ve seen it twice in one year!

2007 winner of America’s Got Talent, Fator is, indeed, a remarkably talented man:  Ventriliquist, impressionist, comedian and puppet creator.  Fator appears most Tuesdays through Saturdays in The Terry Fator Theater at the Mirage .

But more than talent, Fator is simply a nice guy.  He allows the use of flash photography and recording devices during his performance.  He signs autographs after most shows until the last fan leaves.  The profits from his Mirage gift shop go towards assisting the families of US service men and women deployed overseas.  He supports several charities.  His show is full of patriotic pride and clean enough for my 86-year-old mother to enjoy.  While his humor is adult, unlike so many comic acts and Las Vegas shows, his performance is not profane or raunchy.

Fator’s proverbial white hat goodness comes from a sincere gratitude for his fans.  He quite frankly tells his audience he was able to break out of one-night-stands in Tippacanoe and Tyler, too, into a reported $100 million 5-year contract at the Mirage because his fans voted him into the America’s Got Talent top slot.  With so many celebrities blaming their woes on the zealous pursuit of their fans, it’s refreshing to encounter a talent who actually appreciates his fans and the recognition they’ve given him.

My favorite Fator characters are country singer Walter T Airedale, the character Fator has worked with the longest; Vicki the Cougar who compares herself to fine wine (the older she gets, the easier she goes down!); and Duggie Scott Walker, Fator’s annoying Mary Jane-smoking neighbor who sees strobe lights and hears heavy metal music everywhere.  What Fator does with Cher and a little audience participation is absolutely side-splitting!

Fator’s website is www.terryfator.com, which has links to his blog, charities, performance schedule, etc.

Here’s a ticket tip for Fator’s Mirage performances:  If you arrive in Las Vegas without tickets to Fator’s show, the box office at the Mirage often has same-day performance tickets for MUCH less than the vendors hawking last-minute tickets along the strip.  Show up in person at the box office in the Mirage Casino.  Don’t be put off if the only seats left are in the last row — the first time I saw Fator, this is exactly where I sat.  I can honestly say there is not a bad seat in the house, including those in the last row.  It’s a fairly small theater with closed-circuit TV’s throughout.

Better yet, get your seats before you arrive as part of your Las Vegas vacation package.  Contact me for details on this Unforgettable Journey:  Judy Duran, CTA; 720 270-5767; durandenver@msn.com.

Check back regularly for Travel Values from Trypp!
Providing planning services for all types of travel, meeting and event arrangements. Specializing in leisure travel and unique custom itineraries for individuals and groups; planning and escorting group tours.
 
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Sometimes pictures says it all!  This is from a custom safari operator in Eastern Africa.

Trypp recognizes the big fella as one of her redneck cousins. . .

The advantages of using a travel agent are manifold.  But I don’t have to blow my own horn!  Suppliers will do it for me!

From APPLE VACATIONS:

Travel Agent Appreciation Month

By Gina West, May 12, 2011

Every year, Apple Vacations celebrates Travel Agent Appreciation Month during the month of May. This year is no exception. As a Senior Sales Manager with Apple Vacations, my primary role is to work hand-in-hand with our travel agent partners to keep them up-to-date on any new destinations, resorts and the
latest hot deals. Yet, whenever I meet someone new and they discover what I do for a living, I’m often asked, “With all of the resources on the internet, why would anyone need to use a travel agent?”

Travel agents literally spend hundreds of hours each year continuing their education of destinations and resorts by participating in educational seminars and familiarization trips (FAMs) to keep their knowledge current. The internet is a great tool but the information is often conflicting, contradictory and confusing. A good travel agent uses all available resources plus their personal studies and experiences to ask the right questions and recommend the vacation that best fits your needs. In the long run, planning your vacation takes less time to qualify you and your family for the right vacation by using a travel agent.

If you’re still not convinced that it makes sense to use the services of a travel agent, consider this … Apple Vacations considers the travel agent’s input so critical to successful vacation planning that the cost of the travel agent’s services are already included in the cost of each and every Apple Vacation. That’s right – the cost of your Apple Vacation includes paying your travel agent to book your vacation with us for you so by not using a travel agent, you are in essence short-changing yourself and not getting the full benefit of the Apple Vacation product and service. Since your travel agent’s service is included in the cost of your trip, why not get all of your monies worth?

So, during the month of May, I hope you’ll join Apple Vacations and say “Thank You” for a job well done to the person who cares so much about you and your vacation experience… your local travel agent!

Leave Vacation Planning to the Professionals 

Consumers are more inundated than ever with seemingly too-good-to-be-true vacation prices, especially on-line.  How can even the most seasoned travelers be expected to cut through the clutter and make the
right decision?  Part personal shopper and part matchmaker, a professional travel agent can match up options from hundreds of travel deals with your personal preferences, and take the stress out of the vacation planning process. Consider the following:

  • First-Hand Experience – Chances are good that your travel agent has experienced the resort first-hand or has received personal feedback from clients who have. With so many websites      containing outdated or misleading information, the expert advice and personal recommendation of a travel professional can be far more reliable and less biased than a travel brochure or web posting.
  • Interpreting the Fine Print – Professional travel agents are familiar with the disclaimers and hidden      fees that could cost you far more than you bargained for. They’ll provide expert advice on everything from optional resort excursions to the real value of travel insurance.
  • Convenience, Cost and Value Recognition – By sifting through the web or making countless phone calls to hotels and airlines, you may be able to find a lower price on your own. But more likely, a travel agent will find you the best value in far less time, and you can avoid making a decision that may cost you dearly. Knowledgeable travel agents can discern the difference between a low price and a good value. When you book a vacation, you’re investing not only hard-earned dollars but also valuable vacation time. It pays to get it right.
  • Clout – With a travel agent, you have someone who will go to bat for you should the unexpected happen.  Experienced travel agents have long-standing relationships with travel suppliers. They have the right contacts and know how to get things done in the most efficient and timely manner.

Apple Vacations, one of the nation’s leading wholesale vacation companies, recommends booking through a professional, retail travel agent for the right advice and best price.

So why use an agent when you can go online and book yourself? Perhaps the question should be, why not?

With so many vacation options available, it’s helpful to work with someone who has “been there, done that” and can guide you through the entire planning process – finding the right destination, choosing the perfect hotel…a friend in the business who can give you insider tips to help you have a unique and memorable experience.

So, even if you like to do your own research, we recommend discussing your options with a professional travel agent. Apple Vacations provides you with a free listing of travel agencies that specialize in our destinations and can give you great advice throughout your planning process. The expertise, guidance, and personal service these partners provide are invaluable. All you need to do is . . . find a travel agent ready to help.

Golden Apple – These are agencies that send hundreds, sometimes thousands, of passengers on Apple Vacations each year. They receive one-on-one training from us about our destinations, products, and services. Some of these agencies may have nationwide affiliations and industry endorsements.

Red Apple – These agencies are also highly qualified to book Apple Vacations. In addition to receiving ongoing product training, they also send large numbers of passengers to Apple destinations. These agents may have a more local customer focus and are equally capable of finding the perfect vacation for you.

Judy, Trypp & Pat on Wind Star bowsprit

For Immediate Release
May 9, 2011
Contact:  Judy Duran, CTA; 720 270-5767; durandenver@msn.com

Centennial, CO.  Professional Travel Planner, Judy Duran, and her partner, Trypp the Traveling Elephant, recently returned from a week-long cruise aboard the sailing yacht, Wind Star.  They report they both enjoyed very different, yet equally delightful, cruise experiences while sailing along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

“I was sailing with my husband, Pat, to celebrate our 40th anniversary.   Trypp was along to take some of the reporting off my hands so Pat and I could enjoy this special time together,” says Duran.  “When we embarked in Puerto Caldera, the ship’s hotel manager, Jeffrey, welcomed us by saying that we should regard the ship as our own personal yacht for the next 7 days. The staff and crew of the Wind Star certainly allowed all three of us to do just that in very different ways,” she adds.

This was the first trip Duran had taken with Trypp since forming a partnership with the pachyderm.  “Believe me, during our first day out, which was a day at sea, I was beginning to wonder if I’d made a big mistake taking Trypp on as a partner,” Duran says.  She claims the elephant immediately began walking on the wild side.  “But in the end, I realized that she was taking on all the busy activities so that Pat and I could just relax.”

One of the activities which the elephant and the Duran’s all participated were the evening briefings on the next day’s schedule and activities by cruise host, Sam.  The briefings took place in the ship’s lounge just prior to dinner.  Hors d’oeuvres and, sometimes, complimentary champagne or wine were served during the briefings.  “Sam’s presentations were a hoot!” says Trypp. “He had a dry wit that made what could have been some pretty routine topics very entertaining.” 

“The first night’s briefing was particularly delightful,” says Duran.  “The Wind Star’s Captain greeted each passenger individually as we arrived at the yacht’s lounge.”  During the briefing he introduced all the officers and crew managers and gave a short bio on each.  The ship’s officers are British; the department managers mostly from the U.S.; the kitchen staff Filipino; and the crew Indonesian. 

Captain Chris Norman explained some of the fundamental details of managing and sailing the Wind Star and the ship’s history.  The Wind Star, built in Le Havre, France, was launched in 1986.  It was a revolutionary in concept and design with its sleek design and computerized controls.  It is officially registered as a “masted-sail yacht” (MSY) in the Bahamas. 

“On a larger cruise ship, you never see the captain, even during the Captain’s Reception, let alone get such a personal greeting and briefing on the nitty-gritty,” says Duran.  “Captain Chris and all of the officers were accessible during the entire week.  And there’s an ‘open bridge’ policy.”

The first morning both the Duran’s and Trypp attended a presentation by the Wind Star’s naturalist, Carlos, on the ports-of-call and Costa Rica’s natural history and biodiversity.  Carlos, a native of San Juan, only sails with the Wind Star on its Costa Rica itineraries.  He was on-hand at every port-of-call to answer passenger questions and offer touring tips.  At other times Carlos was available to give advice on further touring within Costa Rica.

“Between the three of us, only Trypp and I took a shore excursion, the zipline at Playa del Coco,” says Duran.  “We found that much of what was offered on the shore excursions could be done independently at our leisure.  Some cruise lines push their shore excursions relentlessly from the time you book.  We never felt pressured by Wind Star to sign up for shore excursions.”

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Trypp & Judy prepare to zipline at Playa del Coco; kayak at Bahia Drake; hike in Curu Reserve

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Other activities the Duran’s and elephant enjoyed together were the post-dinner sing-alongs and dancing in the lounge with the very talented Buddy, the ship’s pianist; afternoon snacks on the pool deck with entertainment also by Buddy; the local entertainment brought aboard during the cocktail hour in the ports of San Juan del Sur and Quepos; the photo op on the yacht’s bowsprit with First Officer Georgina; the barbeque on the beach at Tortuga Island; kayaking at Bahia Drake off the ship’s watersports platform; a hike through the Curu Reserve; and the “incomparable and sumptuous” open-air buffet dinner on the fourth night. 

Duran says, “Although it sounds like we spend a lot of time together, Trypp gave us our space knowing that we were there to celebrate and to just totally relax.” 

“Likewise, the Duran’s gave me space to let loose my wilder nature so that I didn’t feel like an intruder during this special time for Judy and Pat,” adds Trypp.

The Pachyderm Experience

Trypp started each morning with the Walk-A-Mile on Water group, followed by a Pilates class.  The first day at sea, she attended the Discover SCUBA class in the ship’s pool, followed by a SCUBA briefing on the three dive opportunities offered during the cruise. 

“I was pretty much all over the ship,” says Trypp, “and went into every port with a different group.  With the Wind
Star only accommodating 148 passengers, it was a really friendly cruise experience and easy to get to know people.”

“Navigating the ports-of-call was a snap even for an elephant,” says Trypp.  “They were intimate and colorful little fishing villages or small towns which provided services outside of Costa Rica’s vast natural preserves.  In fact, the only way into Corcovado is via water from Bahia Drake.  The ships from other cruise lines are just too big to get into the bay.” 

Duran noted she passed on several activities on the yacht, such as the spa services and casino, but the elephant might have tried them.

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Trypp sunning in hammock cooling off on pool deck; taking the helm. . .

     Trypp Inspecting Wine Selection          

. . . Inspecting wine selection in Main Dining room; enjoying a cocktail at bar in Lounge; at open-air buffet on Pool Deck. . .

         

. . . Walking on Wild side at Curu Reserve; eco-lodge at Bahia Drake; returning to ship after afternoon on town with Wind Star crew (look at the smile on that guy’s face!)

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“We’d see her now and then,” says Duran, “but Trypp hasn’t said too much about what she did when she was off on her own.  And I’m afraid to ask!”

“You don’t want to know!” says Trypp.

The Duran’s Experience

“Pat and I had a fairly stressful year and we just wanted to crash,” says Duran.  “The last vacation by ourselves was in the year 10 B.C., Before Children!  We had an absolutely amazing and totally relaxing time aboard the Wind Star.”

Pat concurred that it was the best vacation he’d ever taken. “In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we’re thinking about taking the 14-day trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise in another year or two.  We were told that the trans-Atlantic itinerary is under sail almost 100% of the time.  It’s extraordinarily peaceful and beautiful under sail.” 

“Crash” they did, according to Duran.  “What was great about the Wind Star compared to other cruises is that there was enough to do to keep from getting bored, but not so much that we felt like we were missing something unless we ran ourselves ragged.”

Duran reports that they’d usually be up on the pool deck by 5 a.m. to enjoy watching the sun rise over the water.  At 6 a.m., coffee, juice, fruit, pastries, cold cuts, cheeses, cereals and yogurt were served on the pool deck.  After a small repast, the Duran’s would return to their cabin to get ready for the day’s activities, then return to the Veranda restaurant on the pool deck for a choice of a full buffet breakfast or one made-to-order from the menu.

After breakfasting, they’d disembark at the day’s port-of call.   “Most of the ports were pretty quaint and laid back,” says Duran.  “There was shopping for local crafts and waterfront restaurants.  At all but one port we made wet landings by Zodiac, which was really something you don’t experience on most cruises.  Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any of the crocs known to inhabit the waters along many of Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches, but they added an element of adventure to our wet landings!”

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Port of San Juan del Sur, NI; beachfront bar at San Juan del Sur; colorful market outside Manuel Antionio National Park, Quepos, CR. . .

    

. . . anniversary dinner on Pool Decek; anniversary cake.

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At San Juan del Sur, an hour-long call to the U.S. cost only about $2.50 at an internet café, “So we checked up on things at home.”  Duran said their port activities were pretty tame, except for ziplining with Trypp at Playa del Coco.  “Quepos was the largest port with the most variety and pristine beaches adjacent to Manuel Antonio National Park, but still very laid back.  There was a charming eco-resort at Bahia Drake, which was the most scenic of all the ports.  Curu Reserve was quite primitive.  We hiked for a little over an hour through a dense rainforest over hanging bridges and a natural trail.  We saw a large troop of cavorting Howler monkeys and a couple of the more elusive Capuchians, plus some Blue Morphos, among the largest of all butterflies.” 

“We’d usually only last about an hour in port.  It was pretty hot and muggy,” says Pat.  “We’d stop at one of the waterfront cafes and enjoy a tall cool Corona Michelada before returning to the ship.”

Their afternoons started with a buffet lunch at the Veranda restaurant on the pool deck.  Afterwards, they’d return to their “very comfortable” state room for “some serious chilling,” says Duran.  “The staterooms were surprisingly large and well-appointed for such a small vessel.”  They would check out a DVD from the Wind Star’s extensive selection in the yacht’s library or watch a movie on satellite TV on the cabin’s flat-screen TV. 

At Bahia Drake, Judy kayaked with Trypp from the watersports platform at the Wind Star’s stern.  Not a diver, Judy enjoyed the snorkeling excursion by Zodiac while anchored at Quepos, and again from the beach at Tortuga Island with the Wind Star’s sports coordinators, Carin and Ridlon. (See below.) 

After meeting Trypp on the pool deck to compare notes over the afternoon snack of fruit, cheeses, cold cuts and salads, they’d return to their stateroom for to prepare for the evenings activities, starting with Sam’s briefing over cocktails in the lounge.

They usually ate in the main dining room, seated with one or two other couples.  “But on the evening of our anniversary, we decided that a romantic candlelight dinner at a table for two on the top deck sounded too good to pass up,” says Duran. “Our waiter surprised us with a lovely cake commemorating the occasion and sang ‘Happy Anniversary.’”  

After dinner, they adjourned to the bridge where the officer-on-watch discussed navigating by the stars while pointing out the various constellations, including the Southern Cross, on a “stunningly starry night.”

The Duran’s declare it “a perfect anniversary.” 

“I didn’t see them all evening,” says Trypp.  “I have no idea what else they did.” 

“You don’t want to know!” says Duran.  

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Wind Star at anchor; our stateroom

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Kayaking from Wind Star watersports platform

The Watersports Experience.

Both Durans and Trypp agree that the dive and snorkeling experience aboard the Wind Start were exceptional.

“Most other cruise lines subcontract diving and snorkeling to shore excursion operators who often crowd their dive boats, charge a hefty extra fee and just drop a bunch of people into the water with little direction in the same areas that other operators use,” says Trypp.  All watersports activities offered by the Wind Star are led by the yacht’s very capable sports coordinators, Carin and Ridlon.  The number of participants is limited.

“It was terrific not having someone else’s flippers constantly in your face,” says Duran.  “Our group of 5 was the only snorkelers in the area at Quepos.  The Wind Star’s small size was a big factor in providing such a quality dive and snorkeling experiences as it can access undeveloped ports not accessible to larger cruise ships.”

“Shore excursion operators tend to put you down for 20 minutes, then move to another area.  On a 2-hour excursion, you might spend 40 minutes in the water before ‘time’s up!’  Carin and Ridlon didn’t rush us at all.  We got to spend practically the whole time in the water.” 

“Carin and Ridlon were right there in the water with us.  If we saw something interesting, we could get their attention to ask questions.  And when they’d find something interesting to see, they’d wave us over.  They were very knowledgeable about the sea life we encountered.”

“Snorkeling was much better that I expected.  I never snorkeled before in the open water of the Pacific and did not expect to see so many colorful fish in such clear water.  I expected that the wave action would be kicking up too much sand to have a quality snorkeling experience, but Carin and Ridlon knew exactly where to take us for a really great experience. 

Trypp’s comments were equally favorable about the SCUBA program. 

“It was better than some of the dive destinations in the Caribbean.   The water was much warmer than I expected.”

Duran Kayaked with Trypp for about 3 miles at Bahia Drake from the Wind Star’s watersports platform on the lower deck.  “Ridlon told us to take the kayak anywhere we want as long as we could be seen from the yacht,” says Duran.  “I could see the yacht, but apparently the crew couldn’t see us.  We were having such a good time out there we had no idea how far we’d paddled.  Next thing I know, one of the crew pulled up beside us in the Zodia to make sure we were all right.  That kind of personal attention and concern is not something a large cruise provides.”

Snorkeling equipment and excursions are offered at no additional cost, as are all activities off the watersports platform (kayaking, windsurfing, waterskiing, sailing).   The dives were additional, but “quite reasonable compared to other cruise or resort SCUBA programs,” according to Trypp.