Monday, November 21, 2011

In what language is your souvenir shopping list?

Does the souvenir shopping list for your Mediterranean cruise looks something like this?
  1. Scarf from Spain for Aunt Alma
  2. Tie from Italy for hubby
  3. Silk blouse from France for me
  4. Postcards from everywhere
  5. Jeans to replace John's that he tore while hanging out with new friends in the teen lounge.
una cravatta in ItaliaSure, many people around the world know English.  But since you are visiting their countries, it's not good (nor polite) to assume they will.  Besides, a little bit of sincere attempts at the local language can go a long way in keeping you from appearing to be "one of those ugly Americans" who thinks everything in other countries should be like it is here at home. (Which begs the question.... "why travel?") 

In your case, you need a bufanda for Aunt Alma, a cravatta for your husband, chemisier en sole for you and pantalones vaqueros from Spain (or just plain ol' "jeans" if he's ripped them just before you dock in France or Italy) for your son. 

You'll still need to study clothing sizes in other countries as well as currencies (Euro in the three countries I've mentioned), but here's a bit of a "cheat-cheat" to help you with the names of various pieces of clothing.

Enjoy your shopping experience.  Consider any language, culture and currency challenges as part of the adventure! 

By the way, if you need to buy postcards to send home to your loved ones (and to your favorite travel agent), ask for postales in Spanish,cartoline in Italian and carte postales in French.  We'll be watching our mail! 

~ Connie

Monday, November 14, 2011

Should I Get a Balcony Cabin?

I’m writing from my balcony aboard Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, Celebrity Silhouette. I was enjoying my novel when I looked out over the ocean and found my mind wandering to how much I was enjoying my balcony and the value of it to me. I wondered if I could share this experience with our readers. I’m going to give it a shot.

After boarding in Cape Liberty, we settled into the cabin and then went out to our balcony where we were greeted by a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty in front of the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

Later that night, while getting ready for dinner, my longtime friend and cabin mate, Trish, pointed toward the balcony, saying, “Wow! Look at the bridge!” With our curtain open, the glass balcony door was allowing us to see a stunningly lit up bridge standing out from the blackness of the fall evening. We think it was the Verrazano Bridge.

After breakfast this morning I settled onto our balcony with a cup of coffee from the Oceanview CafĂ©, my latest knitting project from our church’s prayer shawl group and my book. As much as I love the ship, there’s something peaceful about spending bits of time out here. Since everyday life is busy with computers, phones, appointments and the sounds of the suburbs, listening to nothing other than the ship slicing through the ocean is the quiet whisper I’m looking for. And with my own little “private deck space,” it’s nothing to dress as I want and grab what I need for the short walk through the balcony door.

Considering we’re sailing off the cost of New Jersey in November, it’s surprisingly comfortable out here. I found that a beach towel found in the basket under the bed that also holds the life vests makes for just enough of a “blanket” around my shoulders to ward off the slight chill from the breeze.

Looking out, the line between the water and sky is so straight that I can understand why people once though the world was flat. My respect goes to those brave enough to have sailed the oceans centuries ago. Seeing this horizon and with the limited knowledge they then had regarding the shape of the earth, I fully understand why people were afraid they could sail off the end of the flat earth.

Like with the pain of childbirth, it’s easy for me to forget the extent of just how much I value having a balcony when I’m between cruises. Sure, if I was just in an inside or oceanview cabin, I’d spend little time other than sleeping and showering in my cabin. But this little piece of real estate is just short of heaven to me right now.

~ Connie
P.S.  Our travel consultants look forward to helping you book your cruise whether your preference and budget call for a balcony cabin, inside, oceanview or suite. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dealing with Your Dirty Laundry

Because you have learned to pack lighter for your vacations, you had planned to wear these pants twice during your cruise. But…. oh no! You spilled your drink on your pants the first night wearing them.

Thankfully cruise ships offer laundry services!  Most ships offer valet laundry services (wash and press, press only, dry cleaning). Some also offer self-service “laundromats.”

Pricing to have a piece done isn't bad.  Here are some rates from the laundry service form I picked up when I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. “Pressing only” was half the cost of the “wash & press” or the “dry cleaning” costs. These prices are subject to change and our list isn’t as extensive as what was on RCCL’s form, but I thought it would give our blog followers an idea of costs.

Clothing Wash and PressDry Clean
Blouse or Skirt$4$4.50
Blouse (silk)$6
Dress (silk)$9.50
Scarf $2.75

Now, I'm not suggesting we spend our vacations in a self-serve laundry or wracking up a bill using a valet laundry service, but isn't it nice knowing there are options when you need something pressed, are trying to limit your packing or have an "oops!" while cruising?

~ Connie

P.S.  Here's a great packing tip.  Be sure to bring plastic bags.  Either reuse plastic shopping bags or bring gallon-sized Ziplock bags to bring home smelly socks, wet bathing suits, muddy shoes or anything else you'd rather not have touching the rest of the items in your suitcase.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Costumes, Masks, Food & Fun in the Caribbean ...... Carnival Time!

Who doesn't love a good carnival? But I'm not talking about the kind with the ferris wheel and cotton candy. Instead, I'm talking about the exciting carnivals in the Caribbean which have roots is long ago medieval Venice, Italy.
"Carnival" throughout the Caribbean region is a combination of religion, culture and tradition. Unlike Mardi Gras in New Orleans, not all islands associate Carnival with the period of Lent. But some things that are consistent among all of the islands is that the excitement always includes costumes, masks, music, food and parades. Concerts, elected kings and queens, and competitions are also typical.

Winter Carnivals are celebrated in St. Kitts, Aruba, Bahamas, Curacao, Aruba, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Cancun, St. Martin, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, and Trinidad & Tobago. In the spring, you'll find Carnival going on in Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Maarten, Bermuda and the Virgin Islands. Summer Carnivals take place in St. Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, Saba, Barbados and Anguilla. For specific schedules of when the local Carnival is occurring and the specific calendar of events, contact that island's tourist board which you can find online.

As you can imagine, there's a lot of excitement and fun if you travel to an island during Carnival whether you are cruising there or spending your vacation in the area. However, there is a downside, too. Because of the scope of the celebration, most locals participate in some way or enjoy as bystanders. You'll find that some stores and services will be closed which may adversely affect your trip. "Carnival" can run from a week all the way up to a month. There will be key days of celebrations which are the days you'll want to be there.... or to avoid, depending on what you are looking to do!

~ Connie

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cruise to Your Outdoor Theater

Growing up, we had a drive-in movie theater near our home. When young, my brother and I in our pajamas, along with our parents would park and watch the latest new movie out, often a Disney film. Pull into a parking spot, take a speaker off its pole and put it on your window. As teens, the trick was to pack the car tight with friends which often included trying to sneak someone in “free” in the trunk. (I didn’t say we were smart teens!)

Back then, cruise ships offered movie theaters for those who wanted to go watch a movie.

But time went by and the local drive-in property became a Two Guys department store and then a Bradlees followed by the Wal-Mart which now resides there.

Not long after many drive-ins closed, cruise lines felt that shipboard movie theaters were wasted space on ships. Shipboard theaters were converted for other uses and guests’ cabin televisions started carrying movies.

In a new twist over the past decade, some cruise lines started building huge outdoor movie screens reminiscent of those old drive-in theater screens on some of their ships. Princess Cruises started the trend with large outdoor screens able to show movies, major sporting events, concerts and more. Now following the trend on some of their fleet’s ships are Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruises, Costa, Disney Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.

If you are looking for added outdoor entertainment or you want to lay out on a deck chair to watch a movie while remembering drive-ins from your childhood, call 610-532-0989 and ask your consultant at Connie George Travel Associates to help you choose the right ship.

~ Connie

Monday, October 17, 2011

Travel... the stuff from which jokes are made

At a recent meeting of our Delaware County Toastmaster’s Club, member Bernie Selling had us laughing for a good five minutes about the subject of flying for his “humorous speech” assignment. Bernie agreed to my request to share excerpts from his speech with our readers. He explained that several of his jokes and phrases came from the internet and were then mixed with his own “observations and quirky insights” to create his speech. I hope that, even without his terrific voice inflections and gestures that come with hearing his speech, you’ll still enjoy this week's blog.  With my keyboard's tongue in cheek:

Do you remember how, when you were a child, traveling was so exciting, so much fun? Especially when you got to fly somewhere in an airplane? Man, how things have changed. Between TSA, long lines, baggage fees and whatnot, it really stinks.

Labor Day was a few weeks ago. My wife, son and I flew to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to visit my in-laws. Grand Rapids is a small city, and there not much to do there---but my wife likes to see her family every so often, so we go. My son says it’s boring. I say it’s a study in sensory deprivation.

We go to the Philly airport, and right away the ticket agent demands 75 bucks. This is so she’ll allow us to bring luggage on our trip, which is useful for people who like to change their underwear once in a while. After this shakedown, we go and visit our friends from TSA.

When we get to the security area, we get some fine and dandy news. On this day, the screeners are testing out one of those new optical disrobing machines. They won’t really install these in Philly until next year, but they want to make some trial runs first. We stand there and get scanned, because we’re obedient sheep and we always do what people tell us. After the scan, they tell my wife that she needs an enhanced pat down. Why? Because she’s wearing cargo pants. You know, the kind with all the big baggy pockets. It turns out, the scanners cannot see into baggy pockets. I guess they figure that’s okay, since pockets are probably the last place anyone would put sharp things--like pocket knives.

As I watch my wife getting patted down—in an enhanced manner--I’m reminded of an article I read a year earlier. It said that two thousand women had complained about excessive touching by TSA screeners. And a week after that article, THREE thousand men applied for jobs at TSA. Maybe they applied because they liked TSA’s new motto: “It’s our business to touch your business.”

After TSA is finished, we proceed to our gate. We go out the door, down the stairs, then we cross over some tarmac, then climb up the stepladder and stoop low to get into our little connector plane to Grand Rapids. Years ago, if you flew to a modest-sized city like Grand Rapids, you would probably fly in a Boeing 727 or maybe a DC-9, something that actually had jet engines. Now, they put you in these beat up old propeller planes. Our plane is a buzzy old gnat called an SBR-85. I think SBR is an acronym. I think it stands for “shoulda been retired.” We carefully proceed down the little plane’s narrow aisle and find our seats. As usual, I get to sit in the very last row.

After I buckle up, I look up and ….there I see Paul Bunyan’s great grandson squeezing into the plane. This guy is so immense, and the aisle is so cramped, that as he oozes down the aisle he is literally smearing his head along the ceiling. He gets about three rows ahead of me and sits down. As he sits, there’s this [crack], as his seat-back literally breaks and he slumps into the lap of the guy behind him. This is what happens when airlines use leftover aircraft from the Hindenburg era.

This results in a delay of 30 minutes while mechanics come in to remove the carcass of the collapsed seat and bolt in a new one. Or at least a less old one. Finally, with some creaking and groaning, the little plane that could climbs into the sky and we’re on our way.

The propellers are noisy, but our flight is really quite smooth. ….Our landing … is not. A pilot once told me that an airplane landing is basically a controlled midair collision with a -- planet.  Now I understand.

The plane—or what’s left of it--slowly rumbles to a stop. After the passengers start breathing again, we get up to leave the plane. The flight attendant and embarrassed young pilot stand up front, saying good bye and thanks for our business. I’m the last one off, except for this little old lady walking with a cane. As she’s about to deplane, she says to the pilot, ‘Sonny, would it be okay if I ask you a question?' Of course, Ma'am,' says the pilot. 'Which is it', the little old lady asks, 'Did we just land, or were we shot down?'

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rock & Roll All Nite

KISS frontman, Gene Simmons, is in the news for more than just the recent marriage to his longtime girlfriend, Shannon Tweed. This time, he’s in the travel news. With two performances and theme events, a boatload of people will be rockin’ and rollin’ all night long during the upcoming KISS Kruise on Carnival Destiny next week!

Bowzer meets Stacy and Barb from SOFT.
KISS is joining a continuing growing trend of celebrity singers and bands performing on cruise ships. Lynyrd Skynyrd has also played on Carnival. Taylor Swift, Rhianna and Bowzer (former lead singer with Sha Na Na) are among many who have performed for guests on Royal Caribbean. While James Taylor has thrilled fans on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, NCL’s guests have enjoyed the sultry pop sound of Sara McLachlan. Holland America has pleased American Idol fans by having Adam Lambert sing on one of their ships (pre-AI) as well as the Texas Tenors (post-AI).

How do you get to be on a cruise with your favorite performers? Some celebrities are on chartered “fan” cruises either alone (such as next week’s KISS Kruise) or with multiple celebrities typically in the same or similar genres of music. Other times a singer will be a headliner on a cruise. The best way to know is to follow your favorite performers on their websites, Facebook and Twitter. Or you can try “googling” your ship and sailing to see if anything comes up in the way of headliner news.

Rock on!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Maybe You Don’t Need Travel Insurance!

Can you can answer “yes” to these seven questions?  If so, you can probably safely skip buying travel insurance!

1- Are you okay with losing your money due to cancellation penalties if you should have to cancel your trip even due to an emergency?

2- Can you afford the loss if your airline, cruise line, tour operator ceases operations?

3- Can you afford to pick up costs (i.e. airfare, lodging, transportation, meals) that could be associated with a mechanical, weather, medical emergency or labor-caused delay during your trip?

4- Do you have international health coverage?

5- Does your health coverage include medevac?

6- Does your health coverage include repatriation? If not, can your estate cover this?

7- Will you have access to paying out-of-pocket for emergency medical or medevac expenses during your trip until the claim you file once you are back home is reimbursed?

If the answer to each of the above seven questions is “yes,” then you can save money by not purchasing travel insurance. If you answered “no” to any questions, you can’t afford to not purchase travel insurance.

To obtain a quote or purchase insurance, click here.

~ Connie

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Cruise Night Gives Back

Connie introduces Chicklet, the mascot for Chicks at Sea, the girls getaway cruises
Connie George Travel Associates held a Cruise Night at the Hilton Garden Inn Kennett Square last week. So exactly what is a Cruise Night? And is there a benefit to you if you didn’t attend it? (Yes! Keep reading!)

Simply put, Cruise Nights are an informational event sponsored by a travel agency and at least one cruise line. They usually include light refreshments, announcements of special promotions and door prizes. We had a typical mix of experienced cruisers, those who had never cruised, mixed ages, people who are already clients of ours and others were new to us. Three people were group leaders excited about their groups being announced that night.

Nancy Gilmore, DSM for Royal Caribbean, introduces the convenience of home port cruising
We partnered with Royal Caribbean International. Our district sales manager, Nancy, gave an exciting presentation on cruising from the nearby ports of Baltimore on Enchantment of the Seas and Bayonne (Cape Liberty Port) on Explorer of the Seas, and also about the incredible Oasis-class ships which sail from Fort Lauderdale. Feedback and questions from the audience were great!

Afterward, I gave a short overview of Connie George Travel Associates and what makes us so special in the travel industry. We announced  promotions for Cruise Night attendees (hold onto your keyboard because I’m going to share them with you!), shared a couple of new group cruises in the area (and you are invited to join in!) and drew for the prizes. The event was about 90 minutes long, but many stayed afterward to talk about vacations.

Through the generosity of the attendees, we were able to donate many canned food items to the Kennett Area Food Cupboard

We had an exciting addition to our Cruise Night. We asked everyone attending to bring a canned food item to be donated to the Kennett Area Food Cupboard. With our thanks to those who came, we were able to collect dozens of cans and a monetary donation to be sent to them. I challenge my fellow travel agents to add a canned food drive for a local food bank if they produce a Cruise Night. It’s exciting to know you are giving back to the community you are asking to support you!

I think my only disappointment for the evening was that we were planning to present a check to the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Fellowship of Hope organizer for the fundraising cruise they had recently operated, but the person who runs it was unable to attend due to illness.

With group leaders on hand and flyers to distribute, we announced their “AG Cabin Fever 2012” group which is for families looking for a spring break cruise and also a new Chicks at Sea (girls getaway cruise) called “Oldies Gone Wild 2012” for next Memorial Day weekend. Both groups are open to people outside the area and you can get more information by clicking on the above links.

So what about the promotions? Some promotions are only available to the actual participants who were at the Cruise Night. But there are two which we can share with others who read this blog.  If you book any Royal Caribbean International cruise through Connie George Travel Associates between 6/24-7/1/11 and mention “Cruise Night," you will receive a shipboard discount coupon booklet and if you book an oceanview or higher, you will also receive a bottle of wine in your cabin.  Each item is one per cabin.

Email or call 610-532-0989 to book your cruise and get your bonus features!

~ Connie

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Get Your Free Chillin' Out in Alaska Souvenir Blanket

Our “Chillin’ Out in Alaska” blankets were a very popular souvenir for our Alaska-bound clients a few years ago. In fact, I was recently talking to someone who was an entertainer and workshop presenter on an Alaska cruise conference we arranged in 2006 and he commented about how they still have and use their blanket!

It had been a while so we decided to buy these for our clients again this year. Here’s a photo of our first batch of blankets that I hauled out for shipping last week.

Would you like a free blanket? We ordered a few extra. Book a Princess Cruises’ 2011 Alaska cruise or CruiseTour with Connie George Travel Associates and mention this blog to our consultant assigned to you for your free blanket! (one per cabin) Ask him or her to check with me to see if there’s another spare blanket and, if so, for me to set it aside for you. But hurry because we only have a few extras! Once we run out, we won’t be ordering more this year.

- Connie

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tips & Surprises for That Keith Wann Show's Fans

 Being a guest on That Keith Wann Show… Cultural Bridges with Keith and his co-host, Windell "Wink" Smith, last Wednesday night was the most fun I’ve ever had on a radio show!

If you’re not familiar with it, this is a weekly internet radio show geared toward the Deaf community with the theme of bridging between the Deaf and Hearing cultures. The format is the typical audio, but there’s a chat room in which the show is being closed captioned and also a chat area for readers and listeners to interact with each other and the hosts. An audio podcast is uploaded shortly afterward. Later, an ASL interpreted video version is uploaded to Keith’s Vimeo website.

We had a lot of fun and it was an opportunity for people to learn more about the upcoming ASL Community Cruise, the CruisEUs interpreter conference cruise, our agency, how we first got involved with the Deaf community and a promised surprise for those going on either of those mentioned trips!

The hour flew by so quickly that we were in the middle of sharing some travel tips for Keith and Wink’s fans that I promised to post them. Here are 12 tips for Keith and Wink's fans:

  • Electrical power strip (there’s only 1 outlet in the cabin!)
  • Zip lock bags (use them for liquid, wet & dirty items)
  • Highlighter (mark what you want to do the next day on the ship’s newsletter)
  • Safety pins (a “quick fix” for broken buttons, snaps & zippers)
  • Extra batteries (better too many than not enough)
  • One dollar bills (tipping for room service & other times when a dollar or two is good to have for tipping on the cruise, hotel, in the airport or in the port)

 Luggage Protection:

  •  Be sure you have a luggage tag attached to the handle.
  •  Attach a bow, ribbon or some other unique item to your suitcase so it stands out.
  •  If flying, leave a paper inside your luggage that has your name, address, phone number, cruise line, ship & cruise itinerary on it.

 TSA Airport Security:

  •  Remember “3-1-1” which means all liquids and gels that you carry with you into the plane must be in containers no larger than 3 ounces and all bottles must fit into ONE 1-quart Ziploc bag.

 Workshop Survival:

  •  Grab a few cookies or a piece of fruit from the buffet at lunch for a mid-afternoon snack
  • A state-issued birth certificate is a valid form of citizenship. (The one from the hospital that has the cute footprints is NOT valid for travel!)
Did you hear about the surprise? Connie George Travel Associates is going to give an “ASL Rocks!” gift bag to everyone who books onto one of these two cruises by June 24. And we think it’s fairest to also include a bag for everyone who has already booked! One bag per cabin (but there are duplicates of some items in the bag.) CODA365 will distribute the bags on the ship for the ASL Community Cruise. Our office will mail the bags for CruisEUs.

Want to catch the 6/02/11 show?  You can listen to the podcast at (once on that page, look on the right side for the list of "recent shows" for the one listed as 6/02/2011)or see the ASL version when it's posted on Keith's Vimeo channel.

~ Connie

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The fifth of May has evolved into a celebration of parades and parties in the United States as the Cinco de Mayo excitement spreads through Mexico’s northern neighbor.

The May 5th holiday celebrates an important day in the history of Mexico, its roots stemming from the "Batalla de Puebla.” After years of occupation by the French, the smaller and less-equipped Mexican Army held a victory over the French in 1862 at the Battle of Pueblo, an unlikely victory as the French had not experienced a defeat in decades. While this victory didn’t turn the tide on the war, it understandably created an intense pride in having overcome overwhelming odds.

This holiday with quieter and historical roots in Mexico has evolved in the U.S. to a celebration of cultural pride and heritage similar to St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest and Chinese New Year. Whether it’s pride, commercialism, unity or a good reason for parties and parades (probably all of those!), Cinco de Mayo continues to grow in the U.S.

In celebration of the holiday, here are some fun links we wanted to share with you:

Oriental Trading – My favorite online source for for parties, themes and gift bags.  Parents, you could use this store to plan your own fun family culture-inspired celebrations.

35 Words and Phrases translated from English to Spanish with a pronunciation guide - Check this out if you want to learn for fun or if you are preparing to be a courteous traveler.

Easy home recipe for a healthy knock-off of Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza by the author of the upcoming book, “Eating Well on the Road”, Candy Harrington.

Cilantro- Everyone seems to love it or hate it. It’s my favorite herb. Here’s a great link to recipes, storage, cooking and an FAQ for cilantro. offers a page of "Top 20 Mexican Recipes." Yum!

Cozumel is one of the most popular Western Caribbean itinerary stops.  Cruise ships use International Pier, Punta Langosta Pier and Puerta Maya Pier. Puerto Maya offers a website full of great information and a live webcam.

Mexico’s ports have never been more popular. From traditional Mexican Riviera itineraries which visit its west coast, Western Caribbean which call on its east coast or Panama Canal cruises which also visit western Mexico. When you are planning your cruise, be sure to team up with a cruise specialist from Connie George Travel Associates.

Do you have a favorite Mexican recipe, book, singer, beverage or item? Let us know by commenting below.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

~ Connie 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Autobots or Real People? Your Choice!

When you book your vacation, are you getting outstanding customer service?

With Connie George Travel Associates, you’ll receive an actual reply to your email or phone call information request by a real live human being. Not autobots that are ignoring your individual questions or concerns. Our theory? If you aren’t a robot, you shouldn’t have a robot replying to you! From the beginning, an actual person will take time to work with you.

While we have much respect for people around the world (after all, we’re selling the world, right?), we feel that a business in the United States should have people in the United States responding to you, not someone working with a call center in WhoKnowsWhere, East Jabip.

And speaking of who is responding, would you like to work with a professional travel consultant such as ours or call center agent who reads off the screen and who may never attended training or even been out of the town in which they grew up?

Our thought? Value = Service + Cost +Features

When spending the hard-earned money and time you have dedicated to your vacation, consider value and who is guiding you on the journey.

~ Connie

Monday, April 11, 2011

What “They” Don’t Want You to Know

I don’t understand why someone would book directly with a cruise line. I just can’t think of any advantage. If I quit being a travel consultant tomorrow, I'd likely book my own cruises for a little while, but once I was removed from the industry for a while, I would search out a relationship with a travel consultant.

I can think of disadvantages for people booking direct. Cruise lines, obviously, want you to book with them and to spend as much as possible doing so. Hey, I don’t blame them at all. It’s just that, as a travel consultant, our “bread and butter” is the client so a good travel consultant is going to look at what’s best for their client. Cruise lines sell a product. Travel consultants sell a service.

To gain and keep your business, we have to look out for what’s best for you. That does not mean pushing you to “buy a cabin on my cruise line and spend as much as possible to do so.” Here are seven things you could hear from a good travel consultant, but are not likely to hear from a cruise line:
  1. “In this case, I would not recommend upgrading to a higher category because………”
  2. “There’s a third party travel insurance that, in your case, is a better choice than the cruise line’s vacation protection because……”
  3. “There’s another option for an excursion in that port that’s offered by a third party that you might want to consider instead of the cruise line’s excursions because……”
  4. “I would suggest booking with this other cruise line because…..”
  5. “Don’t book this yet. You can save money by waiting until……”
  6. “Are you flexible with your date because……”
  7. (My favorite) “I’m calling to tell you that we saw that we saw a new promotion that you could qualify for so you are now saving……… “.
The next time you want to book a vacation with a professional who is going to watch your back, contact a good travel agency.  Call Connie George Travel Associates at 610-532-0989 or email us at

~ Connie

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pizza at Sea & at Home

Are you a pizza aficionado? As a pizza lover, an article regarding Travel + Leisure’s Best Pizza award in their America’s Favorite Cities survegot my mind moving (and my mouth watering!) on the subject of pizza.

Deciding I wanted to write about cruising and pizza, I wondered about 24-hour availability for pizza lovers on cruises so I contacted the six largest cruise lines. Here’s what I was told.  With the number of ships each of the lines has, there may not be consistency among their entire fleets.

Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises are the best lines for true pizza addicts who need access to a 24 hour fix. Carnival claimed to have a 24-hour pizzeria on all ships, but it’s not on their room service menu.  Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess said that pizza is available 24-hours a day by room service.

Holland America explained that they offer pizza in their Terrace Grill 11am – 5:30pm.

A Norwegian Cruise Line agent said they “have food courts that probably serve pizza  and there’s a $5 pizza delivery on Epic,” but she wasn't sure that they have pizza in the food court.  I was put through to another department that promised to call me back with the information for the blog, but I didn't hear back.

Going for your pizza in a buffet or pizzaria is free. Having it delivered to your cabin ranges from complimentary (but please do tip the delivery person) to $5, depending on the line.
So which cruise line has the best pizza? I couldn’t find any recent polls online for that, but my favorite “pizza at sea” has been from Sorrento’s on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.

Speaking of food and travel, Candy Harrington, a travel writer whose work I'm very familiar with, is finishing a book titled “Eating Well on the Road.”   In it, she shares a lot of her hard-earned experience about realistically adjusting your diet at home and when traveling around the United States to benefit your health.  Some of the tips and strategies she’ll be including can also be applied to cruise vacations.  I asked Candy if she would share a recipe “for an easy, tasty and healthy pizza for this blog. Here’s the recipe for her:

Tomato Basil Pizza

1 8-inch Boboli pizza crust
1 plum tomato, thinly sliced
4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 T Trader Joe's parmesan, romano and asiago cheese blend

Place pizza crust on an ungreased baking sheet. Layer with tomatoes, basil and cheese. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until cheese is

2 Servings
Calories: 233
Sodium: 448 mg.

Are you ready to take the “pizza at sea taste test?”

Contact Connie George Travel Associates at or 610-532-0989 to book your next cruise and let us know how you felt about the pizza!

Monday, March 14, 2011

10 Reasons Why a Professional Travel Consultant Beats a Call Center Agent

Why is a professional travel consultant better than dealing with a call center agent?  Here are our "Top 10" reasons:

10- Consultants may have visited your destination or sailed on your cruise ship.

9- Consultants attend conferences.

8- Consultants attend trade shows.

7- Consultants attend webinars and teleconferences.

6- Consultants read travel trade industry magazines.

5- Consultants have newsgroups and agent-only message boards on which to compare concerns, keep up with news and seek advice.

4- Consultants also can access consumer message boards.

3- Consultants have colleagues with whom they can share information.

2- Consultants work with you from the beginning to end.

1- Consultants have other clients who have given previous feedback about what you’re booking.

And our bonus reason- Consultants want your repeat and referral business.

Book your next vacation with a professional travel consultant from Connie George Travel to see why we enjoy a high repeat and referral business!

~ Connie

Monday, February 28, 2011

Book ‘em, Danno…. To Hawaii

I used to watch Hawaii Five-O with my grandparents. Great scenery, good stories and terrific acting kept the show on for 12 seasons. It would probably be profound if I could tell you that the show played into my becoming a travel consultant, but that would be as fictional a story as any of the show’s storylines!

Although I enjoyed the original season, memories of it didn’t cause me to get excited about a remake of the series. I pictured a dated “cop series” that couldn’t compete with the many crime shows now on television. But one night I DVR’ed the show for the heck of it and finally watched it one night. I was hooked. This is definitely not your grandmother’s Hawaii Five-O.

With television’s advanced technology over the years, the scenery is fantastic. The theme music is addictive. The show is current, the stories are compelling, the acting is good and for some reason, I find that I really enjoy the theme song.

As an agent, I’m often asked, “What’s the most popular place to go for vacation?”

Hawaii has always been popular. It’s exotic, beautiful, welcoming, historical, cultural and offers many relaxing and exciting options for visitors. But its popularity has increased because of Hawaii Five-O. Many of the show’s fans aren’t content to sit back and watch the show when they can experience the islands of this state for themselves by cruise ship or plane.

Hawaii is made up of many islands with the five most popular ones visited by tourists being:

* Oahu - home of Honolulu, Waikiki and Pearl Harbor

* Hawaii - also known as “The Big Island”, has black sand beaches and an active volcano

* Kauai - where Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii” was filmed

* Maui – visitors quickly experience why this is The Magic Isle

* Molokai – where Father Damian cared for the residents of the leper colony

Hawaii is a three hour flight from the west coast. Once there, you can island hop with a suggested minimum of three nights in each island you wish to visit if you will be staying in hotels, condos or villas. Or you can board Norwegian Cruise Lines’ (NCL) Pride of America to enjoy five ports without unpacking more than once.

You can also enjoy a more leisurely one way or roundtrip cruise between the west coast and Hawaii on lines such as Holland America, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. These range from 11 nights to multiple weeks in length that can also include other ports dotting the Pacific Ocean.

The Hawaii Tourist Board has a terrific website for those wanting to learn more about all that Hawaii offers to tourists and the agents at Connie George Travel Associates are anxious to help make your dreams of a Hawaii vacation come to life.

~ Connie

Monday, February 21, 2011

Four Important Tips Keep You From Missing Your Cruise

The anchor’s been raised, the steel band is playing, excitement is high for all of the guests booked on your cruise ship as they get ready for their adventure! Except for you---- you’re stuck in an airport watching your vacation dreams, days off from work and your financial investment go down the drain.

Maybe it was weather that delayed your flight. Perhaps it was a mechanical delay. Or a problem en route to the airport. Who do you get mad at? It was out of your control, right?

No matter the reason, there are things you can do so that any of those delays aren’t much more than frustrations and don’t ruin your vacation.

  • Fly to your embarkation port at least one day in advance. If there is a flight delay, it becomes an inconvenience but doesn’t keep you from missing your ship. It makes flying less stressful and has you start your cruise feeling more relaxed.

  • Buy travel insurance that includes trip delay. Various policies have different lengths of time qualifying or a travel delay coverage, but they can be invaluable for covering expenses incurred because of a delay or help cover expenses to get you to another airport to connect with your ship at the next port.

  • Travel with a passport. Even if you are on a closed loop sailing from the U.S. that qualifies you to travel with a birth certificate instead, opt for a passport. If you have to fly to the first visiting port to meet up with your ship, you will only be able to fly to a U.S. city or territory. Without a passport, you’ll be going home.

  • Watch the weather. If a storm is coming to your home or connecting airport area and it could affect your ability to reach your embarkation port, know about it and plan as best as possible. You may be able to fly out earlier or have the airline reschedule through a different connecting city.

“Stuff happens.” But with the proper planning, you can keep it from ruining your vacation.

~ Connie

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Keep That Loving Feeling Going with a Romantic Cruise

Guys, are you a romantic at heart? Or do you need help letting your wife or girlfriend know how special she is to you on the 364 days of the year that aren’t Valentine’s Day?

We’ll get you started with 12 suggestions relating to our favorite romantic setting:

1- Tell her that you want alone time with her…. No jobs, housework, phones, interruption, bills. It’s time to plan a vacation so you two can focus on each other.

2- Surprise her with flowers. You can order them through most cruise lines to have them delivered in the cabin with a note.

3- Book a couples’ massage to enjoy together on the cruise.

4- Order breakfast delivered to the cabin and enjoy it in bed together.

5- Hold hands as you wander around ports and on the ship’s deck.

6- Talk about your joint dreams while watching the sun set from your balcony.

7- Get a table for two for dinner in one of the ship’s specialty restaurants.

8- Get on stage during a karaoke contest so you can sing her favorite romantic song to her.

9- Offer to put sunscreen on her back while lounging by the pool or on a beach.

10- Slow dance together…. with or without music.

11- Tell her you love her and why.

12- Write her a note about how much you’re enjoying just being with her.

What are you waiting for? Visit your local florist or order flowers from a website like Put a card in it with a note saying how you love her and want to spend some time alone with her.  Then contact Connie George Travel Associates by email or phone (610-532-0989) to plan your romantic cruise vacation!

Guys, if you book your 2011 cruise with us by February 21, WE will even send flowers to her in the cabin from YOU. For FREE! Read details at  Get in touch now!

~ Connie

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

American History Still Afloat

I’m not a big nautical history buff and, though I have an appreciation for our nation’s history, neither would I be considered a huge American history addict either. But when it comes to beautiful old ocean liners or cruise ships that are wasting away, it pains me that a large chunk of “history” has been rusting in the Delaware River while awaiting a tow to a scrap yard.

As a long time veteran of the travel industry with a particular affection toward cruising, it saddens me each time I pass the SS United States as it’s been slowly rotting away in Philadelphia since her latest owner, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), towed it there in 1996.

The SS United States was the flagship for the United States Lines in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. She is one of the few passenger ships built in the U.S., is the largest ocean liner ever built in our country and is the fastest ocean liner ever built. The U.S. government underwrote a large portion of the building costs of the SS United States as she was intended to be able to be converted to a troopship for war if necessary. The Navy specs included interesting features of speed and war-participation survival, most of which was classified information.

She was sold to another cruise line in 1964 and was withdrawn from passenger service in 1969. Over the decades, she has sat through suggestions, rumors and failed plans which included casino, hotel, timeshare, hospital ship and cruise ship. The costs for reviving her were so great that she was scheduled to be scrapped.

I was thrilled to read in today’s Delaware County Daily Times that the SS United States Conservancy has been able to purchase the ship. They have 20 months to work with her redevelopment plans and raise funds for her restoration while she continues to be berthed here at Penn’s Landing. The article peaked my interest and I found a lot of information online about her history. I’ve barely covered her amazing story and encourage you to “google” her for more information.

The future of this ship is not secure, but let’s hope that this amazing historical lady does have a bright future and that she will again be seen in her glory while entertaining the public and providing employment.

~ Connie

Monday, January 24, 2011

This Matchmaker Saves You Money on Dining Out During Your Vacation

Matchmaking is big on the internet. Even if you’re not looking to meet your potential significant other, you’ve likely heard of companies like and eHarmony. But are you aware that there is a “matchmaker” between restaurants and consumers that can save you money on your dining out bills?

That’s more or less what bills itself as. They are a marketer for restaurants and can help you reduce your cost for a night out!

The premise is simple. Find a participating restaurant on their website and purchase a $25 gift certificate for $10. Better yet, purchase the certificate during one of their many 60, 70 or even 80% off sales. Unless you’re in a hurry, waiting a day or two could reduce the cost of that “$25 gift certificate” all the way down to $2 which is exactly what I did a few months ago before a trip to Fort Lauderdale! The gift certificates do come with stipulations, but they are reasonable.

On my visit, I knew we were going to The Roasted Pepper, a favorite restaurant of friends of mine whom I was visiting. I went to, loaded the zip code into their search engine and was very pleased to see that the restaurant of my choice was listed! Because there was an 80% off sale, I could purchase the $25 gift certificate for only $2. The only "catch" was that we had to spend a minimum of $40. No problem. I couldn’t imagine that we wouldn’t spend $40 and, if we really were a few dollars short, we could pick up a little dessert or appetizer for my friends to take home and still come out ahead.

While at it, I decided to check to see if there were certificates for any close-by hotels for clients who were going to stay at the Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel the night before boarding Celebrity Solstice the following week. I found that there was a $25 gift certificate for the hotel’s Bistro 17 restaurant! Only $2 to save $25 with the only stipulation being that you had to buy at least two entrees. Not a problem since four people were traveling! Needless to say, our client was happy to hear about this unexpected tip!

Check this site out the next time you’ll be visiting a restaurant whether it's during a trip or locally.  And while you're enjoying your dinner, toast Connie George Travel Associates, the vacation specialists dedicated to delivering value and service!

~ Connie