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Items filtered by date: October 2017
Sunday, 26 November 2017 05:04

Lou's Clues to River Cruising

The following is an outline intended to help you discover River Cruising.  Please ask your favorite Breton Travel professional advisor for more details that are best for you.

The hottest travel experience in 2015 and 2016 is River Cruising.  Americans are flocking to Europe, Vietnam, Russia, Egypt, China as well as exotic Myanmar to enjoy this travel option.  Why have we seen such an interest in this type of travel .  We are more aware of this due to the remarkable marketing and advertising that has been received in our homes via mail, television and email. 

The idea of traveling through an area without changing hotels or packing and unpacking is very appealing to us.  Add the inclusion of great food and services and everyday having a cultural tour included, makes it even better.

There is a River Cruise for everyone.  The following is a general idea of how to choose the right cruise for you.  Find what is most important to you;

  1. Cabin;
    1. Cabin with a balcony
    2. Suite accommodations
    3. Basic accommodations
    4. Size of cabin

  2. Services;
    1. Butler services with room services
    2. All inclusive, including tipping, all drinks, daily options
    3. Basic cruise with meals, some drinks and daily tour included

  3. Experience
    1. Biking options
    2. Included off boat special events
    3. Daily shore options
    4. Different levels of walking tours
    5. Cultural Experiences
    6. Foods and wines or beers
    7. History
    8. Architecture

  4. Location –The following is only a sample of a few options in Europe.
    1. Rhine River with the historic castles and easy add-on short land adventures in places like Switzerland, Germany or Amsterdam.
    2. Danube River that offers an introduction to grand historic cities like Budapest, Vienna, Nuremberg in addition to small medieval villages.  Addition land options include Prague.
    3. France offers great options.  Paris is included in either option of going north to the Normandy beaches area or south to the French Riviera area.  Add extra time in Paris.

  5. Time of year for Europe cruises
    1. Spring or fall when fewer travelers are in each location from April-May or Oct.
    2. Mid-summer for warm sunny days to travel.
    3. End of Nov through Dec is a great opportunity to visit the Christmas Markets while enjoying a river cruise.

      Other areas of the world may have shorter seasons

  6. Family river cruising for all generations is new to the industry and very exciting.  Even Disney is offering special dates for family river cruising.  Other companies also have special dates set aside for family cruising.  This is recommended for eight year old and above.  As young as 4 year olds are accepted on some cruises.

There is a great river cruise experience for everyone.  Please allow us the opportunity to find the right one for you.

Let us tell you about the following River Cruises;

Published in Our Tips and Trips
Sunday, 26 November 2017 05:03

Lou's Clues to Italy

I dedicate this to all who travel to Italy with a passion for experiencing a new culture, history, art, wines, fine dining, sightseeing, adventure and unique accommodations and location.

Before you go, know..

A few Italian words will take you through Italy like a pro.

In the Italian culture it is important to greet people in stores,

restaurants and market places.  A smile and a pleasant greeting

will make a great first impression.

Buongiorno = Good day – used morning and afternoon

Buonasera    = Good evening – used in the evening

Prego      = You are welcome – try to respond with this when someone bids you Buongiorno or             

Grazia     = Thank you (much like Spanish)

Scusi      =  Excuse me

Ciao          = Hello or Good-bye of a friend using their name-

                        like Ciao Maria

                      This is normally used with a name or sometimes

Just as we say “Good-Bye Good-Bye” they say

“Ciao Ciao”

Money - One of my clients gave me a good suggestion-

that couples should carry different credit cards just in case one is lost or stolen.  ATM machines are everywhere (well almost everywhere)

Many of my clients use them on a regular basis in Europe, others

prefer to carry additional US dollars in a money belt.  Travelers checks are seen less and less and may not be accepted everywhere, but banks and larger stores still accept them.  Take a few personal checks.  You will be surprised at the places that will take a check.  Purchase some Euros before you leave the US. You will need money right away for taxi, tipping and small purchases.  In Grand Rapids you can walk into the Fifth Third Bank on the corner of 44th and Patterson and purchase Euros.   If your bank is Fifth Third, this is a good choice, but may be pricey if you are not a bank member.

Always call ahead to verify the charges for exchanging dollars for Euros.  Your own local bank will also order Euros for you.  The location that I also use is in the international airports.

You will find a currency exchange booth selling currency for anywhere in the world.  All sellers of Euros make money on the sale of currency one way or the other.  Either they charge a fee for the exchange or the rate or exchange is a little higher because it included the extra money.  Another place that I use to exchange money is in hotels and if you are in the Plaza by the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the hotel Fountaina usually has a good rate.  Please don’t spend all your time looking for best rate; you have more important adventures to participate in than Euro searching.  The worst rate that I have seen is in the Rome airport.

Security of passports, credit cards, travelers checks and money You will hear me say over and over again “wear a money belt”

The best are the light mesh, with a light waist belt and zipper pocket.  If the zipper pocket has a little plastic lining, all the better.

You can purchase these in most luggage stores, some book stores, airports or in Grand Rapids in the Woodland Mall. Many of your hotels will have a room safe and can be trusted, but I like to have things with me and a money belt meets that need.

 Make a copy of your passport and put the copy in your luggage or anywhere separate from your real passport.  If you lose your passport this will not get you back into the US, but it will help you reduce the time of getting proper papers from the US Consulate.  It is also a good idea to give me your passport information so I can record it in your personal travel record.

Before leaving the US contact each provider of your credit card and bank card and let them know you will be using your card in Europe.  In the case of your ATM card, verify that it will be usable in Europe.  Also ask what, if anything, they are charging for the currency conversion or the number of times you use it.  Know what your daily withdrawal limit is for your ATM card.

Airline, Airport, Security, Luggage- go figure – these change everyday. Please talk to me about the latest situations or browse our website for the latest information.

Day Tours – If we have not completed your daily tour selection you may see many good ideas and make reservations by visiting the sightseeing section of our website.

Rome – This exciting ancient metropolitan city has so much to offer that one visit is never enough. 

Getting around Rome – Walking is the very best way to experience every moment of your journey, however when time is limited or you just want to go somewhere more quickly, you do have choices.

The bus system is very good and you can buy a bus ticket at the little news stands along the street.  When you get on the bus there

is a machine for you to insert your ticket.  They also have a metro system that stops at the main points in the city.  If you use this option, purchase a day or multiple day pass at the metro station and insert it in the turn style machine on your first entrance to the metro. On each time after this you don’t need to go through the turnstile, just walk through the open gate.  Don’t be worried if they ask to see your pass while you are on the platform, sometimes they do a random check.  This is an area where pickpockets seem to work. Keep an eye on everything.  Pickpockets are everywhere in Europe.  Italy seems to have more than their share.  I have never known of anyone getting mugged (as you might be in New York).

Don’t have anything in back pockets, and ladies if you must carry a purse, put it under your arm and have another hand on it.  If you put money in your front pocket and you are in a close crowed area or you just sense something is just not right, put your hand in your pocket.

To take a taxi from one area to another is often a good idea.  There are taxi stands along the street.  Look for the signs on the poles along the street.  You cannot hail a taxi, you must go to a taxi stand and the next taxi available will stop for you.  I have had some success in hailing a taxi, but I had to just about jump in front of him and he was not happy with me when he stopped.  Only use a taxi that is metered and always ask the cost before you ride.  The Italians seldom tip a taxi driver, however a 5% tip is always appreciated.

A good night walk is from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain down the Via Corso or to the Piazza Navona, where the artists can be found.  There is a special magic to Rome at night with the fountains lit.  Most of shops are open until 7pm.

For a full list of very good day tours including the Coliseum and Vatican see the Sightseeing section of our website.

Tipping –About 10% in restaurants is ok for tipping.  In many places they include a service fee (tip).

If this is the case your server gets very little of this, so leave an additional small amount if the services are good.    Luggage handling should be taken care of with a tip.  Tour guides do expect 3 Euros for short tours or full day guide is 5 euros per person.  Tour bus driver are tipped 3 euros per day per person.  Much of their income is from tips. 

Public Restrooms (Toilettes)- Many have a small dish for tips or a person at the door, or even someone selling toilet paper. Have a few coins in your pocket for this.  However remember that 1 euro is a coin, so watch what you leave.  It is also a good idea to have a few tissues with you just in case…

Have a few tissues in your pocket for possible use in restrooms.

Hotels in Italy- Due to the age of most of the buildings, your hotel room may be too large or really, really small.  In hotels the rooms are not all the same size.  You should expect clean and neat rooms, but please be understanding of size and décor.  Some will be wonderful old European décor and others will be plain and simple.

This is all part of the enjoyment of being in a different culture.

At each hotel ask for a street map from the front desk and ask them

to mark their hotel on the map for you.  I also recommend that you take business card from the front desk (if they have one).  If I have provided you with the hotel business card, please have it with you. This is a big help if you want to ask directions or to show to a taxi driver.  Even if the person speaks some English, you may not pronounce the name clearly enough for them.

Contact your Italy specialist at Breton Village Travel for planning your escorted or personal custom tour.

Watch for later additions of Lou’s Clues for other areas and cities.

Published in Our Tips and Trips
Sunday, 26 November 2017 04:40

Insider Tips for the Best Travel Bargains

  1. BE FLEXIBLE for the best Bargains

  2. Communicate with your travel agent what (type of travel), where (destination), when (what time of year), and how (what is the budget you are most comfortable with).  Each of these important bits of information helps assure you of receiving the travel expertise you expect and deserve.  It is even better when you receive above and beyond what you expect, and our goal is to provide great lasting memories plus those above and beyond experiences.

  3. When new travel products are introduced often there are GREAT prices.

    Book as early as possible for new cruise ships, new resorts, new flight schedules.

    Keep in mind that NEW and reduced prices may mean that everything is not perfect yet; but if you are understanding, these can be great savings and wonderful experiences.

Example: Disney resort in Hawaii – This will open for reservation August 1st

New Cruise Ship- Royal Caribbean Allure

Change in ownership All Inclusive Resort – Rivera Maya

  1. Register with your travel agent at Breton Travel to receive emails sent by our agency.  Ann from Breton Travel sends out very valuable travel tips and notes.  In addition, our select travel suppliers send weekly emails of their best values.  We NEVER allow our email lists to be used by anyone that is not represented By Breton Travel.

    In 2009  Ann gave away a 3 day Mexico vacation to a lucky winner of a drawing exclusive for our email recipients.

  2. Travel in less traveled seasons or for fewer travel days

    Alaska in late April, early May or Sep

    Caribbean or Mexico in July or Nov, December (except Holidays), January

    Last Minute Deals - Check the Apple Vacations Tab for great Deals

    Europe Fall or Winter

Example: Christmas Market River Cruises 2 for 1 air and cruise

  1. Take airline flights with unique schedules or different airports.

    International travel – change airports en route such as; New York or London

    Long layover in London and change of airport is required

    Domestic travel – “red-eye” flight from West coast or LasVegas,  early morning flights with connections can be less.

                Be flexible by a day to two and ask an agent to locate lowest fares.

  1. Some Tour operators give a discount for full payment when making a reservation or being a past passenger.

    Tauck Tours

    Trafalgar Tours

    Uniworld Egypt River Cruise and Tour

  2. If you and your friends enjoy traveling together, invite others and ask your travel agent about groups of 10 to 16 traveler discounts.  By assisting your agent with such groups you may receive greatly reduced cost or you can choose to share the discount with all travelers.

  3. Be patient and be decisive when needed.   If you have a reasonable budget and you have communicated the information to your agent, check back with your agent once a week.  Be ready to make your deposit when the right arrangements are available.

    Example:  Apple Vacations change their specials every Sunday

    Include insurance that will allow reducing your cost if lower prices come later.

  4. Travel in luxury at ordinary pricing.  If deluxe or luxury travel is your preference there are many good values for you.  Specials from the leading deluxe and luxury travel providers offer 2 for 1 or free airfare or past passenger specials and again those off-season good deals.

    Example: October New England cruise on Cunard Queen Mary 2 starting at $595 plus taxes/fees

  5. Don’t confuse “Value” with “Cheap”.  A Value is when you receive goods and services that are to your liking and enjoyment at a reasonable cost to you.  Cheap on the other hand is when you pay less for something that may not relate to satisfaction or quality.  On the other hand, one person’s “Cheap” may be someone else’s “Value”.  This is where the real value of a good travel agent comes into play.  They can help you find the “Value” that is best for you and your lifestyle.

    Some sales are very time sensitive; Example 3 days only Holland America – fares start at only $499 plus taxes and fees for a 7 day Caribbean cruise with several dates to chose from.  Even better, some have free or greatly reduced rates for 3rd and 4th person in the cabin.

 

All of the above examples may or may not be available at the time of your request.  We will do our best to provide the best value for your request.  We reserve the right to correct any errors or omissions in this document. 

ASK YOUR BRETON TRAVEL AGENT HOW TO MAKE YOUR CRUISE MORE INCLUSIVE

Published in Our Tips and Trips
Sunday, 26 November 2017 01:59

Lou's Clues - Amalfi Coast Italy

positano italyStart your Amalfi Coast experience by staying in Sorrento as your base if you only have a few days.  To get to Sorrento from Rome you can take the fast train to Naples.  You will need to take the local train to Sorrento by purchasing tickets at the Naples train station.  Ask for directions to the ticket booth of the train to Sorrento.  It is located downstairs.   We can also arrange a private transfer from Naples train station to your hotel.  As the local train stops very often and can be crowded, you may want the private transfer or take a taxi from Naples train station to your hotel.  As with all taxi service be sure to negotiate the full rate before getting into the taxi. 

Enjoy the best of Sorrento and go to the Tasso Square area in the historic part of Sorrento.  This is the place to try Lemongello.  Some of the stores give samples.  Visit the small shops that make handcrafted wood inlaid products.  These craftsmen are some of the best in the world.   The market area is very interesting and has much to offer. The very best Pizza in all of Italy is made in Sorrento at Aurora Pizzaria.  Eat your pizza as the locals do with a little olive oil on top and don’t forget to consider something from their antipasto buffet.  This Pizzeria is located in the Tasso Square. 

Another fun thing to do is the go the Tarantella show.  It is not the best entertainment that you have seen but is interesting and can be fun to see the 17th-century Neapolitan folk dance that looks very much like the Spanish Castanet dance that you see in Spain.           

For more adventuresome travelers take the SITA bus (check the schedules) to Ravello enjoy all the great vistas along the way. Then take a bus to back to Amalfi, then back to Positano, see Positano on foot and take a ferry back to Sorrento from Positano at days end.  Know the ferry schedule ahead so you do not miss it.  It is fairly easy to just take the bus and ferry back. I think it is effortless and so memorable.  The only downside to this is if the buses are very busy or in bad weather the boats may not be going.  Be sure and get a seat on the right-hand side of the bus when leaving Sorrento if possible, for the best view. Each of the towns I am recommending here are walking villages.  The farthest away is Ravello, but this is my favorite small village with great restaurants and the very best views.  As you enter the village, turn left and walk all the way to the end of the road ending in gardens that just seem to hang over the cliffs of the Amalfi coast.  If you have the time this is also a wonderful place to overnight and perhaps treat yourself to a summer evening concert.  There are also some hiking trails in this area.

Refer to http://wikitravel.org/en/Ravello for additional information- summer concerts also

For a nice 1 day private tour of the Amalfi coast hirer a car and driver or taxi. Rick Steves recommends Monetti taxi service and they are located in Sorrento. The following is their website. http://www.monettitaxi17.it/English.htm.  Breton Village Travel can also make arrangements for you.

  
Another great one day trip from Sorrento is to take the train to Pompeii which is very easy to do.  When you get off the train in Pompeii just follow the signs and people to the entrance which is only a couple of blocks away.  I do recommend that you join a group for a guided tour.  There are plenty of guides waiting by the ticket booth.  The official guides all have ID cards on, so you will know them.   After the tour if you want to stay a little longer on your own it is just fine, take your time and absorb the history and culture of this town that was destroyed by a Volcano in 79AD.  

One more day trip from Sorrento is to Capri and Blue Grotto.  While this is a lovely trip if you have the time,  I wouldn’t do this over the Amalfi coast trip.  The highspeed ferry leaves from Sorrento on a regular schedule.   Again, check the local schedule to plan when to go and when to come back. After arriving at the port in Capri  I would recommend taking the local bus to AntiCapri and then the chairlift to the top of the island.  If you like to hike a bit, take one of the trails and walk back down, or take a bottle of wine and cheese and just sit and enjoy the view.  Don’t miss going to the village of Capri by either taking the vehicular from the port or the local bus from AntiCapri.  The rich and famous people watching is the best here.  Window shopping is equally as interesting.  Many travelers have heard of the Blue Grotto.  While it may be a little overrated, the experience of taking a short boat ride around the island to the entrance and then in rowboats entering the caves is nice.  Once in the cave, the sight is remarkable, everything is blue. Watch your time on the island the last ferry back to the mainland leaves early evening depending on the time of year you are visiting. 

Refer to www.amalficoastweb.com for bus and ferry schedules

I hope the following 2 websites help http://www.costadiamalfi.it/english/timetable_ferries.htm    http://www.coopsantandrea.com/index_en.asp   

Happy Travels

Published in Our Tips and Trips

Breton Village Travel participated in the launching of the Oasis of the Seas, the largest and most revolutionary cruise ship ever built.  On November 21st, Breton Village Travel owner John Lovell, manager Lou Lint, and agent Linda DuShane cruised out of Miami on the special preview, inaugural sailing of the Oasis of the Seas.

At three football fields long, the Oasis is larger than any ship afloat by about twenty percent.  However, the design is so well thought out that you don’t feel overwhelmed by its size or your fellow passengers.   The ship is a floating town divided into themed neighborhoods.  The Boardwalk is a great family area with a carousel, ice cream parlor, Johnny Rockets, and a seafood shack.  The serene Central Park neighborhood with live trees and plants is open to the sky.  One of the favorite locations is the small Park Café with indoor and outdoor seating where they prepare made to order salads, custom-made bagels and the world’s best beef sandwich on freshly baked rolls. The most frequented area is the Promenade which hosts everything from costumed parades to nighttime dancing in the street parties, shopping, bars and even a cupcake shop.  A great neighborhood for adults is the Sanctuary- a haven of absolute quiet, comfort and light foods.  This peaceful outdoor deck area is sheltered by floor to ceiling glass walls.

From relaxation to high activity Oasis of the Seas has it all.  Activities include rock climbing, flow rider, zip lining, basketball, miniature golf, table tennis and many more. Entertainment includes water show, ice show, Broadway style productions, comedy club, jazz area, dance club, Casino, and many lounges.  The small bar that levitates from the Promenade to Central Park allows you to enjoy the view while sipping a glass of champagne.  Not to be missed are the great spa and gym facilities that include a boxing ring and all of the latest workout equipment and programs.

An abundance of choices is the best way to describe the dining options.  There are several pay-for specialty restaurants and food locations, but your cruise includes dinning in the main dining room and buffet along with the smaller locations serving everything from pizza to made to order salads. The Oasis of the Seas offers excellent dining options 

Most of the cabins are balconies either facing inside or outside the ship.  While small, they are very efficient in design and the bedding is luxurious.  For those of you who would like more comfort in cabins, you should consider a suite category.  There are several different styles and prices to choose from. Your travel agent will help you select the right cabin for you and your family.

The Oasis of the Seas is truly amazing, awesome and revolutionary. The world’s newest and biggest cruise ship is a destination in itself for a spectacular holiday at sea.

 

Published in Our Tips and Trips