Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Travel Trends for 2018: Where to go

Tired of Where to Go lists yet? There are almost as many of these as there are places to put in them, so I made it simple. After surveying more lists than I wanted, here are the duplicates.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates – cover both in one trip.

Finnish Archipelago National Park
An Archipelago - try the Finnish one or the Faroes, between Iceland and Norway.

Iguazu Falls
Argentina and Brazil – hit both with a trip to Iguazu Falls

Bali, Indonesia -Hard to argue with culture, beaches and beauty.

Big Sur, California - It's not just for hippies, you know, but worth the trip to get there.

Patagonian fjords. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Chile -Long, lean and oh, what scenery,desert to wine valleys to Patagonia.

Egypt - Timeless and always worth a top spot on the bucket list.

Taveuni waterfall. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Fiji - Lots of islands; I liked Taveuni.

Heading out for a closeup of icebergs in Greenland. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Greenland - You'll need a cruise to see the parade of icebergs.
Marrakesh. Photo courtesy Lonely Planet.

Marrakesh, Morocco - right at the top of my go-to list.

Los  Cabos, Mexico.
Mexico City, Los Cabos, Mexico - Another logical twosome with most flights going to Mexico City anyway

Photo by Carol Timblin.
New Orleans, Louisiana

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas. Photo by Judy Wells.
San Antonio, Texas - Easily doable, from the Alamo and missions to the Riverwalk.

Mauritius - It's a long way to go for an island, but according to Mark Twain, Mauritius was made first, then heaven.

Portugal, including Porto - Wine lovers will be happy here.

Santorini, Greece.
Santorini and Athens, Greece – hard to get to one without going through the other.

Seattle and Walla Walla Valley – Start in Seattle then go to Walla Walla for the wines. Easier, stay in Seattle and do tastings of Washington wines.

Loved to death? 

Too many tourists can be a bad thing, antagonizing residents, straining resources and jeopardizing the future of environments that draw visitors in the first place. Among those on the please avoid list: Amsterdam, The Great Wall of China, Venice, Isle of Skye, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Santorini, Bhutan, Taj Mahal, Mount Everest, Machu Pichu, Galapagos Islands, Antarctica,

Credit to Ski

Book a minimum three-night stay at Lodges at Deer Valley, Silver Baron Lodge, Goldener Hirsch Inn, Signature Collection or Trail's End Lodge between now and April 8, 2018, and receive a $300 Delta Air Lines electronic gift card.

Packages range from Ski, Stay and Dine to  Family Value and Spring Ski.
Deer Valley Resort.

Fine Print: Offer is subject to availability. Not valid February 14-24. New qualifying reservations only.

Kensington Palace

Elegant Engagement

Take a tip from Prince Harry and do it up royally from five-star hotel to photographs taken in front of London's Kensington Palace, home to royals from Queen Victoria to the current princes.

The boutique Milestone Hotel, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and The Red Carnation Collection, overlooks Kensington and offers a two-night package that includes
• Royal afternoon tea for two
• A romantic turndown with pink Champagne one night
• A chauffeured Bentley to a Hatton Gardens jewelry store
• Horse-drawn carriage around London to celebrate the new engagement
• Private tour of Kensington
• Photo session with hotel photographer in front of Kensington Palace

The two-night package is approximately $3,682 based on a Junior suite, but can be upgraded to a Master or Grand Master suite. It is valid through Dec. 31, 2018, excluding Christmas.

Want to beat Harry and Meghan down the aisle? The hotel's Oratory Chapel is one of London's smallest but most elegant wedding venues.

For details,

Can't Wait Rate

Although Key West is tourist ready, some areas north of there are still rebuilding. The popular Hawks Key Resort in Marathon was hit hard but has come back to the point that some fans want to return. Now.

Renovations should be completed this summer when a grand re-opening will be held, but if you can't wait and are content with select villas, Coral Cay kids activity center, pool, boat ramp and Anglers & Ale for all meals, Managing Director Sheldon Suga will make you happier with a 30 percent discount. Starting March 16 through the grand reopening, two-bedroom villas start at $339 per night at the Can't Wait Rate. Learn more or book at

Whoop it up!

Whiskey Wine & Wildlife brings unforgettable flavors to  Jekyll Island from the Feb. 9 four-course wine dinner at the Westin Jekyll Island's The Reserve to the  Whiskey-inspired taste-in Feb. 11, also at and around The Westin and the Beach Village. Oh, and if you are still up for more, the grand finale Brunch Sunday, Feb. 12.

Details and discount tickets are available through Jan. 31, 2018 at

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Travel Trends for 2018: Cruises

Get your body moving. From tours to cruise ships, activity is in.
Millenniums have taken to cruising and the lines are accommodating this active group. 

Barge and river ships usually carry bikes, but now Ama Waterways offers shore tours on which to ride them. 

Kayaks, snorkel and dive equipment are standard on Expedition ships although expect an up-charge in Arctic climes where special equipment and guidance are required. 

Ocean cruises have always offered active tour options of the once-in-a-lifetime types from aerial flyovers to zip-lining. Expect more of these along with never-on-board-before experiences from ice skating rinks to bumper cars.

Cruisers may want to get away from it all but they want to be connected, too. Lines are offering if not free, then more reasonably priced internet packages. Open cabin doors, pay for drinks, excursions and other purchases and also keep track of on-board companions with interactive cards, bracelets and necklaces. Holland America ships are installing systems that enable passengers to personalize their cruise experience through their own interactive networks.

New ships in 2018 will feature the latest.

Royal Caribbean: Symphony of the Sea. With a capacity for 5,535 guests and 18 decks she steals the largest at sea crown from sister ship Harmony of the Seas.

Ponant: 184-passenger Le Laperouse in June and Champlain in September, double the fleet. Both feature an underwater lounge for a view and sound of sea life and menus from Alain Ducasse Conseil.

Crystal River Cruises: In spring Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel join sister ships, Bach and Mahler. All-suite, above waterline accommodations begin the list of amenities. 

 Hurtigruten: In July MS Roald Amundsen begins polar expeditions in July. Break-through electric propulsion cuts back on noise and reduces fuel usage and CO2 emissions by 20 percent. .

Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Bliss sets sail in June for 4,000 passengers.. Amenities include a two-level electric race car track, country music and Texas-style smokehouse.

Scenic:  In August Scenic Eclipse opens up expedition ocean-going for fans of this river cruise line. Two helicopters, a six-passenger submarine  begin the luxe treatment for them.

Star Clippers: Flying Clipper, a 300-passenger, five-masted ship will be the largest of its kind. First cruises will be in the Caribbean at a yet-to-be-decided date.

Celebrity Cruises: Coming in December, Celebrity Edge will be home-ported in Fort Lauderdale. Its 2,908 passengers will have larger staterooms and a rooftop garden among other luxuries.

Why the spate of new ships? In a word, profit. The record-breaking kind. According to Travel Weekly, Carnival's profit for 2017 is $2.06 billion for a profit margin of 15.5 percent. Other publicly traded cruise companies like Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.  and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings are expected to pull in similar numbers.

You know how a cruise never seems long enough? European Waterways feels your frustration and is offering back-to-back barge cruises. Reserve a spot on Panache hotel barge in Champagne and L’Impressionnist in neighboring Burgundy for two weeks of exploration, education and wine tastings.That's plus a night in Paris, too. 

Princess perks.

Princess Cruise Lines' "Exclusively Caribbean Sale" offers free gratuities on 7-, 8-. 10- and 14-day Caribbean sailings February through April 2018.

Based on double occupancy, fares are as low as $99 a day per person.

Book by Dec. 28, 2018 at

Fine print: Gratuities on bar, dining room and spa charges are not included.


Gather with Manatees

Winter is the time to swim with the manatees, everyone's favorite water-going sausage-shaped mammals.

Stay at Plantation and gather with the Crystal River gang for an irresistible price. For $274, two guests can stay in a garden-view room, take a manatee snorkeling tour in an enclosed boat from the Plantation Adventure & Dive Center (mask, snorkel and wet suite included) and  breakfast at West 82 degrees Bar & Grill. A two-night package includes the room, tour, another breakfast for two, dinner for two and a choice of guided tours of river and spring for $549.

 The rate is good through 2018, but the prime time for snorkel-ins is Oct. 1 to March 31.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Colorful visions at Pasaquan

Courthouse square, Buena Vista, GA/ Photo © by Judy Wells.
The narrow road a few miles beyond the no-traffic-light-small town Buena Vista, GA, is the last place you would expect to find the riot of color and fanciful structures of Pasaquan, an art installation on the National Register of Historic Places.

But then Eddie Owens Martin, born at midnight on July 4, 1908 to west central Georgia sharecroppers, is the last person you would imagine receiving life-altering visions and messages from Pasaquoyans, residents of the distant future.

Eddie hated farming, did not get along with his father and, according to caretaker Charles Fowler, "never felt like he belonged." So at 14 he left home, ending up in New York's Greenwich Village at the height of the Roaring '20s. His "career" includes stints as male prostitute, street hustler, drag queen (Tattoo Contessa was his stage name; ahead of his time, Eddie had arm sleeves of tattoos), fortune teller, gambler and cook for southerners up north.

His father died four years later and Eddie returned to the family farm - they now owned a 1900s farmhouse and seven acres - to help his mother and brothers get the crops in.

St. EOM's portrait of a Pasaquoyan.
In 1935, he fell ill and the Pasaquoyans first came to him in a fever dream, one of many visits to come. Theirs was a peaceful world in which all religions merged in harmony. Eddie began studying different cultures and their art, so when the Pasaquoyans told him he needed to change his ways and build something out of his life, he took them literally. Changing his name to St. EOM, he returned to the Georgia farm and in 1955, began transforming it into a sanctuary for himself and any Pasaquoyan who might visit.
Entryway to Pasaquan. Photo © by Judy Wells.

The Oratory or "Inner Sanctum" of St. EOM's house. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Grounds and out-buildings. Photos © by Judy Wells.
The "viberations," St. EOM's word, are overwhelming. Visitors don't know where to look first. Color, forms, patterns, figures and visions are dizzying, assaulting the senses. In looking for descriptors, I keep returning to St. Eom's viberations.

St. EOM supported himself and his visionary art environment making and selling furniture and jewelry and telling fortunes that, by all reports, were remarkably accurate.

Attired as a shaman in colorful, flowing robes, tinkling bells and jangling jewelry, he must have been quite a sight in this rural community.

At the age of 76, with heart problems and cancer, he decided to end his life, bequeathing Pasaquan to the Marion County Historical Society. Friends of Pasaquan was born and after a meticulous restoration by the Kohler Foundation, the complex reopened to the public in 2016.

Now under the management of Columbus State University, Pasaquan, 238 Eddie Martin Rd., is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Suggested contributions are $10 adults, $5 seniors, $3 students. The complex is closed for the months of December and July.

There are no overnight accommodations in Buena Vista, but plenty in nearby Columbus and Americus. I can recommend the fried chicken at Annie D's, just off the square in Buena Vista.
Downtown Buena Vista.

Travel Auction Returns

The Society of American Travel Writers invites bids on travel delights from luggage and City Passes to personalized tours from travel writers, a stint as Honorary Duck Master at the Peabody Memphis,

a Maine Windjammer cruise

or stays at the fabulous Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Music City, Ashville, the Farol Hotel in Portugal, Sandals Resorts or

at Mexico's No. 1 hotel, the Hotel Matilda in San Miguel.

To see all of the auction items and to bid, go to

Bidding ends 11:55 p.m. (CST) Dec. 4.

Do read the fine print listing exclusions and conditions for any items before bidding.

Best of South Africa 

Imagine a nine-night trip to Cape Town, the Cape Winelands and safari at a Thornybush Lodge adjacent to Great Kruger National Park with tours, seven breakfasts, three lunches and three dinners with all in-country flights and transfers for $4,199 per person including international round-trip air. 

Thank South African Airways Vacations for this one, including two free nights in the Cape Winelands. You will fly in and out of JFK.

The offer, based on two adults sharing, is good for April 3-26, May 2-31 and Aug. 11-31, 2018, but reservations must be made by Dec. 15, 2017.

Contact South African Airways Vacations
Tel: 1-855-359-7228 (1-855-FLY-SAAV)
HoursL 24 Hours a day / 7 days a week

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cruise your Hobbies and Passions

Cruising the Columbia River. Photo © by Judy Wells.
What piques your interest? Art or astronomy, music or motorcycles, golf or gardening, film or food, wine or wellness?
Combine those and many, many more with your love of travel and cruising with a theme cruise.

The Snake River, one of two "Rivers of Wine." Photo © by Judy Wells.
I recently took one, UnCruise's "Rivers of Wine," along the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers. From Portland, Oregon, we cruised aboard S. S. Legacy, a replica of a Victorian steam packet.

White, red and in between, we swirled and swished it all. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Passengers were a mix of wine connoisseurs and wine curious. Chris Arora, the ship's sommelier, and Casey Cobble, winemaker for Robert Ramsay Cellars in Woodinville, Washington, guided us through daily tastings at Oregon and Washington wineries and cellars and with daily afternoon tasting tutorials aboard.

UnCruise's S.S. Legacy. Photo © by Judy Wells.
It was an eye- and palate-opening experience. Two heritage guides entertained with stories and details about the area through which we traveled, either by boat or by bus. This is Lewis and Clark, Cayouse, Palouse, Nez Perce, Oregon Trail, Kennewick Man and Hanford Project country so there was much to tell.

Mt. Hood looms large over Mount Hood Winery. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The scenery is spectacular. We cruised through the Cascade Mountains, desert gorges and lush valleys. Snow-covered volcanic Mounts Adams and Hood made frequent, unexpected appearances.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Short distances away on land we visited Multnomah and Palouse Falls, one through dense forests,  the other rain-deprived gorges.

Palouse Falls, Washingto. Photo © by Judy Wells.

We learned a lot about wine and even more about our own palates. Casey summed it up simply, our Yum or Yuck wine. Chris's goal sounded simple, too: "I want to help you discover what you like and why."

Preparing for a tasting at Archer, Newberg, Oregon. Photo © by Judy Wells
We gazed, sniffed, swirled, re-sniffed, slurped, swirled, burbled on tongue-tip, swished and tasted, mentally logging with all of the senses.

Meals furthered our assessments. Chef, pastry chef and sommelier conferred in advance, deciding the fare according to wines -  white, red and dessert - to be served so that each made the other taste better.

Vineyard at Domaine Serene in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Photo © by Judy Wells.
And yes, we figured it out.The ultimate test will arrive this fall, when heat abates and temperatures are safe to ship the wines we chose to ship home.

Tasting of syrahs and cabernets at Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard, Benton City, Washington. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Now that's a souvenir.

I highly recommend UnCruise "Rivers of Wine." Even the occasional wine drinkers enjoyed the cruise. All beverages, including those on the top shelf, are included on the all-inclusive cruise. if you prefer a different theme, check out

Summer Sales

What: Amelia Island "Seize the Summer" deals such as credits of up to $100 per day, 20 percent off of summer rates, special packages, free days.
When: Through Sept. 30.
Who: Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island; Omni Amelia Island Plantation; Amelia Rentals; Addison on Amelia;  Fairbanks House; Days inn and Suites; Hampton Inn at the Beach; The Surf Beach Motel; Hoyt House; Blue Heron Inn; Seaside Amelia Inn; Beachside Motel; Amelia Hotel at the Beach; ERA Fernandina Beach Realty rentals.

For complete list of "Seize the Summer" offers, go to

Tuscany for 600 bucks per person?

Gate 1 says that includes flights on Emirates, 5 nights in Montecatini, 1 night in Milan near the airport, manual car rental (automatic upgrade available),taxes and fees.

Depart on Nov. 13, 14, 15, 27, 28: Dec. 4, 5, 6; Jan. 15, 22, 29 (over Carnivale); Feb. 5, 14, 28 from New York. Aug.-March also on sale.

Must book by Sept. 1, 2017, online at Gate 1 or at 800-682-3333 (ask for 8 Day Tuscany Fly and Drive with Milan package).  At end of booking process use promo code TZTSC150.

Blue Ridge Bargain 

 How about a luxury bed and breakfast package in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains for $69 per person per night?  

Stay at Wintergreen Resort, enjoy breakfast at The Copper Mine Bistro, take advantage of unlimited access to the Aquatic and Fitness Center or try your clubs on 45 holes of golf, treat yourself at the Wintergreen Spa (I did and it's great), hike  or watch the annual song bird migration. It's apple cider time, too. or  (434) 325-2200.