On the west coast of Florida, across from Ft Myers, a pair of barrier islands dot the penninsular coastline. Sanibel Island and its smaller northern neighbor, Captiva, are truly island paradises, reminscent of an earlier period. No concrete jungles, no WalMarts or mulitplex theaters, not even a traffic light mar the beauty and peace of these twin Florida jewels.
The larger main island, Sanibel, has a 13-mile long coastline yet is only 3 miles wide at its widest point. Home to 6500 yearly residents, the population balloons to 22,000 during the peak winter season. Summer is the slow time, peaceful and relaxed with good lodging prices, minimal wait times at the many restaurants, and little traffic on roads or on the bike paths.
Sanibel's main attraction is, of course, its beach. Considered one of the top two shelling beaches in the WORLD, finding beautiful and exotic shells is easy, fun, and almost addictive in Sanibel! Aided by the clean waters of the tranquil Gulf of Mexico and a current that moves the shells onto the beach, the shelling is incredibly plentiful. Thankfully, neither Sanibel nor Captiva was impacted by last year's oil spill and plentiful shells are there to be picked. Seabirds (pelicans, seagulls, sandpipers, herons, egrets, and the occasional majestic osprey) dot the beach, posing for your photos. From May to November, the evening sojourn from the beach to the the water of endangered sea turtle hatchlings reminds us of the beauty of nature. Most mornings and afternoons, beachgoers will be treated to sightings of acrobatic jumping dolphins as they frolick and feed!
But the beach is, by no means, the entire story of a vacation in Sanibel. Great restaurants abound to tempt your palate and they run the gamut from folksy island-style informal dining to fine gourmet. Pizza places, Italian food, steakhouses, burger & hot dog places, breakfast places, and, of course, a large collection of tempting seafood restaurants will have you searching for that next great place to eat!
The extensive bike paths that criss-cross Sanibel makes biking the island a must (no cars to dodge!) and 2 bike-rental shops offer traditional bikes as well as family surreys and segways, all at very reasonable prices! The interesting JN Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge can be visited by car, foot, or by bicycle--it's a nature photographer's dream, similar to the Everglades. Kayaking and canoeing are definitely water sports you may want to try or bring your own motor boat to ply the waters of the Gulf and fish. An old-fashioned small movie theater plays the latest films in charming comfort and several art galleries and antique stores call you in. Shopping in adorable individually-owned and unique shops makes finding that perfect gift even more enjoyable. Relax in several island spas or visit a little bookstore that reminds you of life years ago. And, while you are biking or driving around the island, get to the easternmost tip to see and photograph the historic Sanibel Lighthouse which first lighted the night sky in 1894, then head into the middle of the island to see the tiny historical cemetery which dates back to the early and mid-1900's.
For lodging options, you can consider a condo on the beach (1, 2, 3, and some 4-bedroom condos can be reserved), a private home (on the beach or inland, most with 1-month minimums), or wonderful island inns with cottages or comfortable rooms. Two large condominium resorts on Sanibel and one in Captiva offer tennis and one condo hotel even permits pets! For stays of 1 week or more, smaller individually-owned condo buildings offer you the feel of home, since they are each uniquely decorated in its owner's style and come equipped with everything you need--linens, fully-equipped kitchens, beach lockers, and some even with bicycles! Sit on your lanai and gaze at the Gulf in the morning with a cup of coffee you've just brewed and you'll know you're in heaven!
Sanibel and Captiva are great for a family reunion or company meeting since several resorts offer combos of 1-, 2-, or even 3-bedroom condos and meeting space. Since I've been visiting Sanibel and Captiva for over 20 years, I can direct you to a great lodging resort and give you tips on great restaurants and places to visit on both islands. This Florida paradise is just 3 hours from Miami/Ft Lauderdale in drive time but light years apart in ambiance. Call me soon to visit and book the best-kept secret in Florida vacations!
For the millions of fans of all things Disney, the opening of the Disney Aulani Resort on the North Shore of the island of Oahu in Hawaii is a long-anticipated event. Combining the idyllic environment of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands with the magic of Disney, Aulani begins receiving lucky guests on Aug 29.
Oahu is Hawaii's most well-known island, home to the state capital of Honolulu and the world-famous Waikiki Beach. Disney has chosen a site removed from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu--the beautiful North Shore. Here, amid a gorgeous tropical setting, a white sandy beach, clear turquoise lagoons, and sparkling waterfalls, Aulani will offer lucky guests all the amenities of a world-class resort made even better by signature Disney touches. Designed by a collaboration between Disney Imagineers and Hawaiian experts, the resort boasts grand and spacious villas, perfect for families, and lovely hotel rooms. Four restaurants, 2 lounges, an 18,000-square foot spa with 4 whirlpools, 10 recreation facilities, and a cool storytelling firepit are just some of the amenities guests will enjoy! And of course, The Mouse and his supporting cast will be the directors of all things fun!
Whether you're lulling on the beach, learning the hula from local dancers, taking a cooking class, or exploring the beautiful Island of Oahu, the combination of Disney magic and Hawaiian charm will make an Aulani vacation the best you've ever taken! Packages are available that include airfare, lodging, and car rental. Call me to book for this fall or next winter and spring. And, since demand for all things Disney is a given, early reservations are a must! You have a date with The Mouse in Paradise--don't wait and call now!
Ireland is one of the most picturesque countries in Europe. Almost everyone knows about its green fields and valleys and its quaint villages and towns but did you know this Celtic country has one of the largest concentrations of castle-hotels and guest manor houses in all Europe? Dotted throughout the countryside and near cities, these amazing castles—some, hundreds of years old—have been lovingly and meticulously restored and now receive overnight guests in rooms with modern amenities and all the comforts of a deluxe hotel, but with much more charm! Prices have never been more affordable as this year.
If you’re adventurous, you can drive all around Ireland and stay in many of these wonderful properties. I can book a convenient “fly-drive” package combining a car rental with vouchers accepted at many of these breathtaking castles. Ireland enjoys summer days with sunlight until almost 10pm so driving will be mostly done in daylight. If an escorted tour is more to your liking, I can book you on excursions offering castle stays in the itinerary combined with traditional hotel nights.
Gardening enthusiasts should know that most Irish castles have gorgeous gardens to enjoy on-site. The country has impressive public botanic gardens to see and, of course, countryside so green you’ll think it’s been painted. A jaunt around the famous Ring of Kerry will be long remembered as a unique site of verdant pastures, impressive cliffs, and ancient castle ruins overgrown with holly. Golfers can enjoy golfing adventures, shopaholics can hunt for fine Irish linen and lace and Waterford crystal, and anyone who loves a good “brew” can head out to sample world-famous Guiness beer.
Getting to Ireland has never been easier and more convenient. The national Irish airline, Aer Lingus, flies from New York’s JFK airport and Orlando; Delta has flights from Atlanta and JFK, Continental from Newark, and US Airways begins service from Charlotte. With two international airports—Shannon in the west and Dublin in the east—you can fly into one, tour all around the country, and fly home from the other! Cross the border from the Irish Republic into the United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland and you’ll see what decades of peace and prosperity have unveiled there. If you have some extra time, cross the Irish Sea and combine your Ireland adventure with England, Scotland, and Wales.
Trinity College Dublin
So, as the ancient Irish blessing states, “May the road rise to meet you; may the wind be always at your back.” Call me soon to visit this enchanting country!
If you were thinking that a cruise would be the perfect way to spend Spring Break with the family, then Carnival Cruise Line just read your mind! Beginning Mar 2 until Mar 15, many Carnival Spring sailings are on super-sale. Just one catch and it's a very pleasant one--you have to bring others with you, since the best specials are for cabins accommodating 3 or 4 guests! Yep--now you HAVE to bring the kids!
Three sailings in particular will be great for residents of South Florida. The first is the Carnival Imagination April 11 which does a 4-day jaunt to Key West and Cozumel. Prices begin at $239 per person for the first 2 in the cabin and just $129 per 3rd and 4th!
The second featured cruise will finally entice you to take that Lower Caribbean cruise you've always wanted to take. On Mar 27, the Carnival Victory will sail from San Juan to the beloved islands of St Thomas and St Maarten and also to idyllic Barbados, tranquil St Lucia, and the immaculate Caribbean treasure of St Kitts. Prices begin at $439 each first & second and $239 per person for third and fourth. Combined with low airfare add-ons to San Juan from Miami and the cruise you've been putting off is now within easy reach!
The third great offering from CCL is the April 9 sailing of the lovely Carnival Liberty from Miami to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios. At $449 per person for the first & second passengers and just $199 for the third and fourth each, a Spring Break cruise to the Western Caribbean just became less expensive than staying home!
Other departure dates and Fun Ships are available, so call me right away for more information and to reserve. Remember, the special ends Mar 15 but the best cabins and the lowest prices will go quickly. A Fun Ship Carnival cruise is a wonderful way to relax, reconnect with your family and friends, and enjoy the terrific amenities Carnival is known for. Children's programs staffed with wonderful Camp Carnival counselors will keep your kids entertained while you relax in the spa, lounge around the pool, try your luck in the casino, and dance until the wee hours in the many clubs and lounges. Then, join the family in the fabulous ports of call, each one with its own special appeal. There's nothing like a spring Carnival Cruise so call today! Oh, and BTW, if it's just the two of you--(secret) You get a great price as well!!!!
Quick--What's the easiest, most relaxing way to see Europe? By cruise ship! Your "hotel" follows YOU as you visit the beautiful cities and coastlines of Europe. And what hotels--all the comforts of home, including 110v electricity!
Next week, Royal Caribbean will announce two days of specials on most of its European cruises. These specials feature great onboard cruise credits, a terrific value-added feature. Bookings will begin on Tuesday & Wednesday but you have a "head's up" and can take a look at all the sailings. Believe me, there's something there for everyone!
Carnival has the lovely ship Carnival Magic in Europe this summer and is featuring past-guest discounts and early-savings specials. Carnival is wonderful for families and this is a great way to introduce Europe to your kids, tweens, and teens--a way to balance history and culture with just plain "FUN" aboard a Carnival ship.
This year, The Mouse himself has been bitten by the Europe bug as Disney will begin 7, 10, and 11-day Europe & Mediterranean summer cruises on its Disney Magic. Sailing from Barcelona, these cruises will combine the allure of Europe with the magic of Disney. Who can resist?
If you're even thinking of a European cruise for this summer, you must act quickly, in the next week or so. Cruises are such a great value, that their popularity has grown tremendously. Together with the convenience of having to pack and unpack only once, the great food and evening entertainment--including casinos, the pampering cruise guests get onboard these gorgeous floating resorts, and the availability of all the comforts of a premier vacation destination, the inclusive price of a European cruise is seen as an even better value by the traveling public. Urgency to book is a must because the airline availability to departure port cities will soon be gone for the summer!
Northern Europe cruises visit London, Scandinavia and Russia; Western Med cruises visit Italy, Spain, Portugal, Monaco, and France; Eastern Med cruises visit Greece, Turkey, Egypt, & Israel; and Adriatic cruises visit Slovenia and Croatia, along with Italy. There are 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, and 14-night cruises to choose from. There's something for everyone in a fabulous cruise to Europe. Call us today & "don't just dream about Europe...live the dream!"