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Friday, February 22, 2008

Special Deals on Catalina Island

From the LA Times
Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is putting out the welcome mat with scores of special deals.

The deal: A winter lodging special is available at several hotels in Avalon, Catalina's hillside city with Mediterranean-style charm. The deal is coupled with round-trip boat tickets on Catalina Express. The lowest rates are available Sundays through Thursdays.

* Pavilion Lodge: Rates start at $90 per person, double occupancy, and include accommodations, round-trip transportation to the island, a casino tour and choice of a glass-bottom-boat tour or a tour of Avalon. Call (800) 446-0271 (ask for the midweek getaway package), or see http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/. The special expires March 13.

* Hotel Villa Portofino: Rates start at $102 per person, double occupancy, and include accommodations, Catalina Express transportation, taxi transfers, two island tours and continental breakfast. Call (888) 346-2326 (ask for the limited-offer package), or see http://www.hotelvillaportofino.com/. The special expires March 20.

Other deals: Fifty special deals are available in a Chamber of Commerce promotion called "Island Inspirations, a Sea of Values." Included are other lodging specials -- some on weekends -- and bargains on tours, at restaurants, etc. In- fo: (310) 510-1520, http://www.catalinachamber.com/inspirations.

Transportation: Several include transportation on Catalina Express, from San Pedro and Dana Point. Travel time is about an hour. (Service from Long Beach is set to be reinstated Friday, when the Long Beach Landing reopens.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Honeymoon Registries: Because You Already Have Enough Bath Towels



Every day, thousands of engaged couples and newlyweds find themselves in a predicament: They have all the cutlery, bath towels, photo frames, and kitchen gadgets they need.
Wedding guests, however, are stubbornly addicted to gift registries. They love the safety of registries, knowing that they’re giving the happy couple something that suits their tastes. Guests also appreciate the convenience of shopping online.

The problem becomes: how to provide guests with a registry, without inviting a flood of unwanted stuff.

The Gift Of Travel

Many engaged couples are solving this dilemma by turning to online honeymoon registries, where guests can contribute to the expenses and activities of a post-wedding trip.
Creating the honeymoon registry was by far the most enjoyable part of planning the wedding.
My husband and I were thrilled to discover the endless possibilities of a honeymoon registry. We’ve always connected with each other through travel and outdoor activities, and our guests were, for the most part, like-minded souls.

In fact, creating the honeymoon registry was by far the most enjoyable part of planning the wedding. After months of deliberation, mind-changing, and scanning discount airline websites for good deals, we finally decided to spend our honeymoon traveling through the National Parks and monuments of Southern Utah.
After we chose our destination, the next step was to find a registry that would enable our guests to contribute to our adventure.

Setup Your Registry
There are many options for online honeymoon registries, and they all offer slightly different services. Do your homework to find a reputable site; these are usually designated as members of the “Better Business Bureau’s Online Reliability Program,” meaning that they are accountable to an outside agency and are therefore less likely to disappear with your guests’ donations.

Most services allow you to set up a honeymoon webpage for your guests to visit, send out registry announcements by email or regular mail, and keep the donations in an insured bank account until you’re ready to “cash in.” They make their money by charging either you or your guests a service fee, usually a fixed percentage of each gift, though some depend on advertising revenue.

Other sites also offer travel agency services, allowing you to book hotels, airlines, and tours through their agents.

Popular services include HoneyLuna.

We were also careful to look at a number of registries other couples had already created on the site, and to see what kinds of items or experiences were fulfilled and what had not been purchased.

What Works?
We noticed that the most successful registries were those that included a wide variety of price points, so guests on any budget could find a gift that suited them.

The less successful registries tended to be either too frivolous or too boring. One couple, to my amazement, registered “100 margaritas” for a five-day trip to Cancun (an astonishing 10 margaritas each per day), which guests did not purchase.
Another oft-ignored item was airfare, which suffers from a lack of romantic appeal. An airline ticket isn’t as exciting or unique as a night in a luxury rain-forest bungalow or dinner at a romantic restaurant.
The type of gifts most popular with guests were experiences that the couple would remember: a hot-air balloon ride, a guided kayaking trip, a sunrise picnic, or a bottle of wine to share on the beach at sunset.
These types of concrete experiences help guests feel like they are giving you a truly memorable gift, rather than just giving you money.

The Bounty Of Experience and Memories

"I think our honeymoon registry allowed
our guests to become a part of our trip."

We tailored our registry to suit the friends and family who generously contributed to our trip. Our more adventurous guests gave us a guided day of rock-climbing near St. George, Utah, a scenic mule ride in the Grand Canyon, and a power boat rental to cruise the sparkling waters of Lake Powell.

More traditional guests provided a post-hike massage at a spa in Zion National Park, handcrafted Navajo pottery from a shop in Moab, Utah, and a gourmet picnic dinner to share at Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Guests on a budget were able to help out with campfire s’mores, a hearty pancake breakfast, and a collection of National Park postcards. The registry was so popular that we received all but three of the items we requested, and we thanked our guests by enclosing photos of our adventures in thank you cards.

Trapped By Tradition?
Some guests might balk at first at the idea of a travel registry, thinking that it’s not traditional enough. However, I think our honeymoon registry allowed our guests to become a part of our trip.
To combat the mentality that frowns at a honeymoon registry, be sure to discreetly spread the word about why you’ve chosen this unconventional option. While it’s true that a china place setting is more permanent than a night at a Grand Canyon lodge, the memories you create on a honeymoon will last for a lifetime.
After all, once you’re back in the 9 to 5 routine and the confines of cubicles, you will daydream about the hike to Delicate Arch or the snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, not about silver napkin rings. Make the case in these terms, and even Grandma will soon be won over.

Haley January Eckels studied history and English literature at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, graduating in 2004. She is based in Manchester, New Hampshire, and works as a writer and editor. Her overseas adventures have included a 750-kilometer pilgrimage in Northern Spain and a volunteer teaching position on Kili Island in the Marshall Islands. When she’s not reading, writing, or traveling you can find her climbing the local cliff or hiking in the White Mountains.

Exciting New Shore Excursion Options for Cruises


Photo by Craig Simons / Cox Newspapers

A wonderful article in the New York Times

By NICK KAYE and HILARY HOWARD Published: February 17, 2008

Hiking the mountains of Bhutan. Exploring the temples of India. Wandering the ancient grounds of Angkor Wat. These are some of the unlikely trips you can take when signing up for a cruise vacation these days.
You don’t exactly sail to these destinations, of course. Instead, all are among the more intriguing shore excursions and land extensions being offered by major cruise lines in 2008. “It’s all about creating memories in many respects,” said Mark Conroy, the president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “Our customers always like to go back home and tell their friends that they got to do something that most people haven’t had a chance to do.”

For the rest of this article, click here... Who Knew There Was Water There?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Top 10 Affordable Beach Resorts for your honeymoon!

Here is a great article that just came out in Travel and Leisure! Be sure to check it out - it has some great destination and resorts and affordable prices! Perfect for honeymooners!


From Hawaii ($98 a night) to Italy ($183 a night), 27 perfect sandy escapes that won’t break the bank.

Imagine yourself, for an indulgent moment, sunbathing on Tiririca Beach in Brazil’s Bahia. Palm trees cast slender shadows along the stretch of golden sand; the sparkling, azure ocean beckons you in for a swim. After your dip, it’s just a short meander through the trees to Pousada Sage Point, a 17-suite inn, and your spacious quarters with Balinese d├ęcor and four-poster canopy bed. Before getting ready for a leisurely seafood dinner, you can wander out onto your private balcony, stretch out in your hammock, and listen to the surf.... From March 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

New Zealand: Sir Edmund Hillary’s Favorite Training Ground

(from the New Zealand Tourism Board)

Sir Edmund Hilary 1919 - 2008

We remember New Zealand hiking icon Sir Edmund Hillary, who with Tensing Norgay conquered Mt Everest for the first time over 50 years ago. His 1953 climb of the highest mountain on Earth sparked the world's curiosity about New Zealand.


What sort of landscape moulds a person like Sir Edmund Hillary? Something rather wild, with huge mountain ranges, vast tracts of forest and intricately carved river systems. A place where it's easy to get away from houses, phones, towns and cars. A society of free thinkers, who like to go their own way and have their own opinions. Communities where ingenuity is encouraged, and people aren't content to stay indoors.


"In some ways I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander: I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination, and I rather like to succeed." Sir Edmund Hillary

New Zealand made Sir Edmund Hillary, who with Tensing Norgay conquered Mt Everest for the first time 50 years ago. And Sir Edmund Hillary has helped to make New Zealand. The publicity he generated with his 1953 climb sparked the world's curiosity about the island nation in the south western corner of the Pacific.

Hillary's interest in mountaineering began on a school trip to Mount Ruapehu, a tall volcano in the central North Island. In summer, when the mountain's snow cover shrinks to a small top knot, climbers can scramble over rugged lava flows and scree slopes to the summit. From the top, it's possible to see both coasts of the island. This region is also home to a one day walk known as the Tongariro Crossing. Steaming volcanic craters and weird rock formations make the crossing an otherworldly experience.

After WWII, in preparation for his assault on Everest, Hillary climbed the Southern Alps in summer and winter. Today, customised guiding makes it possible for fit non-climbers to follow in at least some of Hillary's footsteps. In the Mount Cook region, treks across mountain passes provide plenty of challenge for first-timers, while experienced mountaineers have a choice of thirty peaks over 3000m, most of which have long glacier approaches, which are serious climbs in their own right.

Hillary often praises his home country as a destination for adventurers. And by adventure, he means across country as well as straight up. Around Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Park, trekkers can vanish into the wilderness for days at a time. The Routeburn, Hollyford and Milford tracks are well known - and they thoroughly deserve their fame. The Hump Ridge Track, which begins on the south coast of Southland, is one of the country's newest walking adventures. Highlights include historic wooden viaducts and coastal segments with seal encounters.

Those who visit New Zealand to conquer mountains and tracks will also enjoy the other forms of 'expeditionary' adventure that thrive in the remarkable landscape. Cycling through the vineyards of the Hawke's Bay, kayaking around the Abel Tasman National Park and sailing around the Bay of Islands are just some of the possibilities.



Featured Journal :
QUEEN CHARLOTTE WALKWAY
Dave Armstrong finds rugged bush, picturesque sea views, friendly wildlife, and fascinating history on one of New Zealand's best-kept secrets - the Queen Charlotte Walkway.


Featured Activity:
NATIONAL PARKS
Take the time to view the world the way it once was by visiting a National Park in New Zealand.



RELATED LINKS :

newzealand.com pages:

Walking and Trekking View a list of operators that offer this type of activity in New Zealand



Other Sites:

Department of Conservation For information on tracks, campsites, permits etc

http://www.hillarytrust.co.nz/ The Hillary Trust was set up to increase awareness and raise funds for the continuation of Sir Edmund Hillary's work



FAST FACT: New Zealanders are known for their colourful turns of phrase. When Sir Edmund Hillary reported his Everest success to the expedition leader, he simply said "Well George, we knocked the bastard off". Visitors to New Zealand are often amused by local expressions.


"In the wop-wops" is a phrase you might encounter if you were walking a track in some other remote place. "Taking a tiki tour" is a way of explaining a walk that went the long way around. "Sparrow’s fart" describes an extremely early start to a hiking expedition.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Getting Married in Hawaii

Are you considering a destination wedding?

If so, think Hawaii!

Hawaii is one of the world's most romantic places for a wedding. The beautiful weather, the starry nights, stunning beaches and beautiful blue oceans and are guaranteed to make your special day even more enchanted! It's also a popular destination for your friends and family where the land of aloha will make them feel welcome and relaxed.

It's very simple to get a marriage license in Hawaii. Marriage licenses are $60, and you need to show photo identification. There are no blood tests, waiting period or residency requirements. You must be over 16 or older, and if under 18, you need parental consent. The license is then valid for any marriage ceremony held within 30 days of issuance.

For more information and details about getting married in Hawaii, click here.

There are thousands of hotel rooms and a wide variety of restaurants and caterers to suit you and your guests special tastes. There are hundreds of wedding planners and services to help you plan every detail of your special day, and you can start right here.

If you live on the Mainland, it's probably a good idea to have someone local help you arrange the details for you. Visit their sites, get in touch with a few and don't forget to ask for some references. Many resorts and hotels also have their own "in house" wedding planner.

Many wedding planners have had years of experience so ask them for their advice. You'll find them very helpful, but remember the most important thing on your wedding day is the wedding couple's happiness, so take time to plan carefully to make this day the most romantic and memorable of your long life together.