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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rocky Mountaineer Canadian Rockies Adventure

When the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance to experience the magic of a Rocky Mountaineer vacation.  My journey began in the Artsy city of Calgary where I explored the downtown area by foot.  After noticing the Chinese Cultural Center and various Chinese restaurants, my food selection for lunch was obvious.  The concierge at the International Hotel where I was staying suggested the Silver Dragon where I enjoyed a delicious meal.  From there I walked a few blocks to the city's most famous landmark, the Calgary Tower.  After watching several tourists walk onto the glass viewing floor, 525 feet above the ground, I finally worked up the courage to do it myself.  From there I headed toward the Bow River, passing beautiful and interesting artwork such as one of the newest pieces titled, "Wonderland" by acclaimed Spanish sculptor, Jaume Plensa.  Visit for a detailed map of Calgary's Art.  I walked across the historic, arched, Center Street Bridge flanked by Lions for a great pic of the city, admiring the cherry tree blossoms in Sien Lok Park and then meandering through Prince's Island Park where I watched two Canada geese escort about 40 goslings for a swim along the Bow River.  I back tracked a bit to take in the lovely, indoor, Devonian Gardens and then wrapped up the day with a nice meal at the International Hotel before retiring to my suite.

Day2 of my Rocky Mountaineer Vacation got off to an early start.  I boarded the Brewster Coach along with 14 other RM guests and we made our way to Kananaskis for a summit helicopter tour over the remarkable landscape of the Canadian Rockies.  Our tour continued to Banff where my new Canadian friends chose to eat at Eddie's Burger Bar and talked me into sampling a bison burger and Poutine (french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds).  Both were yummy!  Two hours later we were back on the coach enjoying Bow Falls, Surprise Corner and the Hoodoos, and a breath taking gondola ride to the top of sulphur mountain where it was snowing lightly and a group of 60 something Australians were delighting in throwing snowballs at each other.  We checked into the Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa then headed straight to town to watch the Stanley Cup Finals at the Banff Avenue Brew Pub.  I snuck out a bit early for a delightful solitary soak in the relaxing hot pool spa at the resort.


Day 3 We enjoyed the scrumptious breakfast buffet at the Banff Caribou Lodge then were back on the coach in route to stunning and peaceful Emerald Lake.  After that, we were off to a place I've dreamed about visiting since the first time I saw the photo of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.  A fairytale castle nestled between the Canadian Rockies and snuggled up next to the pristine lake.  I ventured up the snow packed trail to try to get a photo of the view I'd seen in magazines, but the slippery slope cut my hike short and I returned back down the mountainside with a lovely couple from Sydney Australia who've visited the U.S. and Canada eight times, traversing the continent.  I sat on a bench gazing out at the ice covered lake, the sunshine warming up the air to 80 degrees, as a photographer shot photos of a lovely wedding party.   What a spectacular backdrop for the lucky bride and groom!  We left the resort about 5 hours after our arrival, and I promised myself I'd bring my family here someday.


 Day 4.  They don't call the Icefields Parkway, one of the World's most scenic highways, for nothin'!  Just when you think you've got the best photo of the day, another gift of nature dares you say that it's not better than the last.  We stopped for great views and wildlife, and were lucky to see big horn sheep, deer, elk, black bears, a wolf, and a grizzly that grazed on dandelions just along the roadside.  We grabbed lunch at the Columbia Icefield Center then took an Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier.  Amazing Athabasca Falls was our last stop before checking into the Marmot Lodge in the  charming town of Jasper
Day 5.  All aboard! 

Townspeople waved goodbye from the station as we settled into our assigned seats in the double decker domed cars with first class service on the Rocky Mountaineer.  We raised our glasses and toasted to our good fortune to have great weather, spectacular views, and good company to share the ride.  We were offered 3 entre selections in the formal dining room for both breakfast and lunch on our all day journey to Kamloops.  Complementary beverages were included.  We were free to move about the car and visit with the other guests and spend time on the vestibule for fresh air and photo ops while the four hosts entertained us with commentary along the way.  Though the train does not stop for scenery or wildlife, they do slow for things of particular interest.  The driver of the coach gave an informative tour of Kamloops upon our arrival and we had a bit of time to walk around the downtown area before dining at the Nobel Pig and retiring for the night at the Hotel 540.

Day 6  The hosts welcomed us back on board the Rocky Mountaineer where we enjoyed another day of luxurious train travel.  We followed the rails along the Fraser River spotting bald eagles and ospreys perched in their nests, and big horn sheep climbing along the rocky cliffs.  Many of us had done a bit of onboard shopping and our orders were delivered to our seats.  Little mementos of our Rocky Mountaineer Vacation.    It was after 5pm when we arrived the bustling city of Vancouver, BC and were greeted by the RM ground crew with friendly smiles and welcoming waves.  Everyone boarded a  bus to their Fairmont hotel (there are 3 in Vancouver), enjoying  narration along the way.   We had the pleasure of staying at the iconic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner at The Roof Restaurant with fantastic views to match.    Some guests would continue on, departing the next morning on a 7 day Alaska Cruise while others would head to the airport for their flights home.  I myself was headed home with a camera card full of fabulous photos and memories to last a lifetime. 

If you haven't seen the Canadian Rockies, A Rocky Mountaineer Vacation is a marvelous way to do it.  It could be a life changing experience! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

AMA Waterways – La Marguerite – 7 night Mekong River Cruise

AMA Waterways – La Marguerite – 7 night Mekong River Cruise - Vietnam, Cambodia & The Riches of Mekong, September 2013 – Customer Review
La Marguerite
Angkor Wat

G'day Carrie,
Just back in Saigon from 2 days in Vung Tau having a drink with a couple of ex Army buddies who are resident there.
I enjoyed my cruise; everything went well apart from one hiccup. The two days in Phnom Penh were cut to one due to the political unrest in the city with several main streets being barricaded. Most passengers toured the 'killing fields', the prison & Royal palace.
Was impressed by AMA that all land content was included in the cruise price, all boat transfers along the river, pick up by buses, ox-cart & rickshaw rides. Pax only had to tip the various drivers a dollar here & there. Food on board was good, breakfast was plentiful and with lunch & dinner, wines & beer were gratis. After dinner, local beer & local vodka, rum, gin, Scotch was also free.  The staff were always friendly & eager to please. All staff = 40 crew members.
Peter's Category C cabin
Ship caters for 92 but we had 78. Mainly Canadians (some agents on Famils) & Americans, and a couple of Brits. I flew the flag for Oz.
I had 4 days in Siem Reap beforehand and checked out several attractions there including Angkor Wat. The other pix show my cabin, the ship, life along the river, different villages & temples.
I would recommend this cruise to everyone, very slow & easy.

Note: Peter traveled solo occupancy in a category C cabin.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

San Francisco

San Francisco – Made for love, culture, food, shopping, architecture, sightseeing, history.

 My boyfriend just took me to San Francisco to celebrate my big 40th birthday!  We had never been before and knew that if we planned nothing, there would be a ton of things for us to do.  Well, we didn’t really plan anything and it is very true, it was non-stop adventure!

 One of the very few things I had to do was go over the Golden Gate Bridge.  There is something to be said about that majestic structure.  When I saw it for the first time, I gasped.  We were so far away from it and yet it appeared so strong and in front of us like it was the Mayor of the city watching over its special places.  We rented bicycles and rode over it.  A great, fun and active few hours.

From the air, San Francisco looks flat, but when you start walking those streets, they are up and down and I’m talking ladder hiking up some of the streets.  Lombard Street – the world’s most crooked street.

Our new favourite restaurant where we could eat at every day was so delicious!  It is a must to try when in SFO.  We found this place in the Chestnut Street Shops area.  After we finished eating, we walked through the rest of the street and found many more cafes/restaurants that we wish we were hungry for.  They all looked so good, and the people of San Francisco packed those places.


I have to mention Fisherman’s Wharf because it is a famous seafood lover’s paradise.  I however needed to grin and bear it for my boyfriend as he was in heaven.  Shop after shop of any seafood you could eat.  One of the sayings was:  “If it swims, we have it.”  Most of the shops below have been there since 1907!


We stayed at the fabulous

Luxury and class at its finest.  Spectacular views of the city, atop a hill in the middle of every place you desire to visit. 

The Room      
The Lounge

We loved this city so much that we have decided to make it out annual getaway! 

 I highly recommend stopping in San Francisco for 2 days prior to a cruise.  Get a taste of this port before sailing up to Alaska or through California to Mexico.  You will need the rest on the ship from all that walking!

 Jackie Froese – Travel Executive


1-888-768-6777 ext. 305

Monday, April 8, 2013

Regent Seven Seas navigator inspection

Regent Seven Seas Navigator Report
On Monday, April 1, 2013 Carol and I were guests aboard the smallest of Regent’s three ships, the Navigator.  Looking back on the visit, a few remarkable impressions stand out.
At just 28,550 tons and 490 guests, the Navigator is a “boutique” in today’s cruise market.  When you consider the crew size of 325 (1 ½ guests for every crew member), you begin to understand what the Navigator is all about.   Understated elegance with personal service makes the guest feel comfortable immediately.
We found ourselves forgetting the size of the ship because all of the amenities found on larger ships are still present—only scaled down from the newer jumbo ships.  The full height atrium with glass elevators contributes to the “full size” feeling, as do the staterooms.  The smallest you will find aboard are 301 Sq. Ft.  80% of the 245 staterooms have balconies, while the rest have windows.  Even the passageways are wider than found on larger ships.  All of this contributes to the spacious feeling we found.
The ship itself is a perfect fit for Regent’s all-inclusive concept.  The company, admittedly, is not the cruise line for everyone.  Regent is a good match for the 50+ guest who prefers to pay one price for their vacation and then put their wallet away.  Regent’s pricing can cause a bit of sticker shock at first, but when guests consider that items like airfare, transfers, pre and post cruise hotels, gratuities, shore excursions, premium adult beverages as well as soft drinks are all provided at no additional charge, the bottom line comparison to other cruise lines is favorable.  On certain departures, bonuses that can be used for spa services are also offered in the base price.  This kind of pricing requires a knowledgeable agent to make the bottom line comparison and explain the value.  This is why Regent values their relationship with and the member agents.
On our visit, we only had time for lunch, but my report would not be complete without commenting on the food and service in the dining room.  We have been on 39 cruises on dozens of ships and the food and service in the main dining room was on a level with specialty restaurants on other ships.  The house wines were a treat and the glass never emptied.  The main course and desert will always be remembered.  We envied the guests who were boarding as we departed.
If you are the kind of cruiser who prefers a higher category stateroom on the larger ships and spends money while onboard, you must take a closer look at the Regent sailings.
Philip and Carol Doyle
KVI agents
Fort lauderdale, Florida


Monday, October 15, 2012

Hi Everyone,


Jackie Froese, one KVI’s Head Office Luxury Travel Boutique Managers, has sent in an interview with her clients who have just returned from an Azamara cruise in the Mediterranean.  Here it is…  


My clients just came back from 2 back to back cruises on the Azamara Quest on the Adriatic Coast - Venice, Italy, the hidden gem of Croatia to magnificent Greece, Sicily, Amalfi Coast, Isle of Capri, to Rome and back to Venice.  What a fabulous itinerary!


Longer stays, more overnights, night touring


I asked them how it went, and here is how they responded:


-How was your vacation? 

“We had the best vacation ever!!!”


-Would you go on Azamara again?

“Absolutely, they are our new favourite cruise line”


-What was one favorite thing that gave you a great smile? On the ship, off the ship.

“We loved sitting at the back of the ship every night enjoying a glass of wine and marvelling at the view and Rome was incredible”


-Did you love your room, did you take advantage of your balcony often?

“Room was smaller than average (compared to newer smaller ships) as was the balcony but I did sit out there every morning.  The bathroom was also very small which spoke to the age of the ship.” (Good thing Azamara is going through tremendous renovations now!)


-How were the amenities onboard?

“Exceptional, as was the service, really beyond compare.”


-Is there something you would like to suggest for what KVI/Azamara can improve on?

“The back to back itinerary was extraordinary, I would suggest marketing that strongly as people probably do not initially consider it—especially on Azamara where it seems the itinerary changes from cruise to cruise”

“We will certainly call Jackie Froese when we are next looking to cruise (which will be sooner rather than later!)”


Absolutely fabulous!  Thank you for your positive and constructive responses Heather and Brent!


Please think of going on an Azamara Cruise Vacation.  With brand new options of:


-                  NEW! AzAmazing Evenings event on every voyage

-                  NEW! Select standard spirits, international beers and wines at all ship bars

-                  NEW! Selection of international beers plus wines at lunch and dinner

-                  Bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas throughout the ship

-                  English-trained butlers for suite guests

-                  Self-service laundry

-                  Shuttle service to and from ports, where available

-                  Concierge services for personal guidance and reservations



Prices will increase on November 1, 2012. Your 2013 Europe voyage will include:  

-        ChoiceAir® credit of up to $2,000 per couple on select European sailings

-        Up to 50% savings on brochure fares

-        Gratuities

-         AzAmazing EveningsSM event on every voyage

-        A host of inclusive amenities




Jackie Froese

KVI Travel

250-980-1600 (or toll free 1-888-768-6777) ext. 305

Friday, June 22, 2012

Paul Gauguin 2012 - South Pacific Luxury Cruise

KVI's top-selling travel professional team, Scott & Kim Leeming have recently returned from their second adventure aboard the Paul Gauguin.  Kim has put togather an amazing review that deserves to be read directly on her own website, so rather than copy it here, I encourage you all to click the following link and take a look:

Paul Gauguin Cruises was so impressed with Kim's review, that they have posted in directly on their own facebook page  (

This is a review, and a cruise, that you certainly don't want to miss.  The Paul Gauguin in the South Pacific has consistently been named as the world's most romantic cruise - something you might want to highlight when speaking with your valued clients...


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Kimberley on Orion Expedition Cruises - April 2012 

Hi Everyone,

KVI Travel's agent in Australia, Carrie Stalbow, has just returned from an adventure aboard an Orion Expedition cruise.  Here is her excellent review!

A review by Carrie Stalbow

Sailing on the Orion could be thought of as an Expedition, rather than a cruise; and guests could think of themselves as Adventurers, rather than tourists.

To view my photo gallery please click here:
Run your mouse over the photos to see comments or double click to open in full.

How would I describe the Kimberley?

Truly awesome, rugged, surprising, secretive, huge, remote (We had no mobile phone signal for 10 days!), hot, dry, isolated, dangerous and all at once beautiful, red, natural, ancient, ecological, historic, silent, adventurous, challenging and a photographer or artist’s dream come true.  The Kimberley is incomprehensively vast – 3 times the size of England or you could fit all of Germany or Texas inside it. We got the feeling that we have gone to another planet, as we don’t see any other proof of human life-form, no tourists, no other sailing vessels, no buildings, no distant shore lights at night, only the Aboriginal Rock Art, which could have been painted by Martians for all we know! The Kimberley is totally unique to Australia.

Seeing the Kimberley from the Orion – simply stunning; our best cruise experience to date!

Why did we book on the Orion?

We were desperate to go away, and being a cruise specialist, I had plenty of information at my fingertips.  We had long dreamed of doing a Kimberley expedition on the Orion after being seduced at one of their promotional presentations. In fact all their exotic and remote destinations are on our “Bucket List”. I was lucky enough to secure a good rate on the very last cabin (a Junior Suite!) for the Kimberley cruise departing 13 April, which meant that we didn’t have to bother with international flights. We flew from Sydney to Darwin; we booked a few nights post cruise in Broome at Cable Beach Resort (highly recommended) and Perth, flying home from there. What a great decision and it will go down as one of our most memorable holidays ever.

What is life like onboard the Orion?

Let’s start with the specs for the “boaties” amongst you...take a look at the MV Orion description page

She is small, elegant, and the feeling I got when stepping aboard, was one of ownership…so this is what it’s like to be a billionaire with your own private mega-yacht, highly skilled crew at your disposal, tempting you to culinary delights, and spoiling you with exquisite comfort.  At the gangway, Captain Vincent (a 35yr old Frenchman) was there to personally greet us and we immediately felt at home.  We are very happy with our cabin; it is stunning, very roomy and stylish, wood finishes in a very traditional boat style and as we are in the bow, our ceiling slopes down over our bed heads...just like the forward cabin on a private yacht! It doesn’t take long to find your way around the Orion, being only 7 decks and 100 metres long, and there is just one of everything you need…one dining room, one tiny gym, one tiny reception, one tiny library, one tiny hair/beauty salon, one tiny shop, one massage room, one lecture theatre, actually 2 lounges and deck seating areas, one Jacuzzi on deck. If you need showgirls and casinos – forget it; this is not the cruise for you. However, the entertainment duo, Kathy and Terry were very versatile, lulling us with mellow music to sip cocktails to in the lounge; inspiring us to the dance floor with lively Rock n Roll numbers on the deck, testing our brains with quizzes, and coordinating the fabulous crew show at the end of the trip.

The ship has a very casual feel about it, and mostly we were in shorts and T-shirts, no formal nights, just “smart casual”. No ships’ photographers snapping at you and selling you over-priced mug-shots. Nor do they push drinks at you; drinks are reasonable, and there is a Wine Package available.  The atmosphere is one of a private party to which everyone is invited and participates.

We go to “school” every day to the lecture theatre, where the expedition team does an excellent job of educating us on the region; its history, fascinating geology, evolution, culture and Aboriginal art history; what we are likely to see and even how to take the best photos. The expeditions are organized with efficiency and flexibility, and the witty and animated team whips us into an excited frenzy for the next days’ adventures. Camaraderie develops amongst guests sharing challenges, achievements and fishing prowess.

For more details on the ship, see

Who are the passengers on board?

Our fellow passengers are people of exceptional character and spirit with a healthy thirst for knowledge, a down to earth, unassuming, friendly and relaxed manner, and we feel more like we are having a private party with them on our own boat. There was a spread of age groups, ranging from a 21 yr old student travelling with his mum, to a spritely 93 year old lady who participated in everything going. Out of 100 pax, I’d say 80% were Australian, and then a mixture of European and American. Mostly, I would say, the guests were 50’s to 70’s with the majority being pretty fit, spirited, well travelled; more like explorers than tourists. In fact we were often engaged in lively past travels conversations; one couple had done a tour to see the Gorillas in Rwanda, and another had stayed at the Ice Hotel in Norway and countless tales of previous cruises. They were from a very mixed range of working backgrounds; we met a bus driver, several teachers and nurses, retired farmers, business people, professionals, academics, an Aboriginal lecturer and even a retired Qantas Chief Pilot (I knew I knew his face!). We were lucky enough to be entertained by one of our fellow passengers, who just happened to be a concert pianist, and we were treated to a magical half hour recital before dinner one evening. Another lady was a modest but revered sculptress in Australia who has completed many public commissioned statues around the country. We left the ship with so many new friends, and already there has been lively email and phone communications, and we have plans to meet up next month. For me, this social aspect of cruising on such a small ship was a major highlight.

How good is the food?

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say 12! Dinner menus feature signature dishes crafted for the Orion by Sydney chef Serge Dansereau of the famed Bathers Pavilion Restaurant, Balmoral, Sydney and served by delightful Philippine waiters who will know exactly how you like your coffee after a day or so. And yes, they actually have good coffee on the Orion – a first for us on cruise ships. Often on cruises, you will get quantity but not quality, well this is not the opposite, as there is more than enough, but the standard is the best we have ever experienced at sea. Dining is usually in the Constellation Restaurant and is intended to be a leisurely and sociable experience without fixed table assignments. By the end of the cruise, this is a surefire way of getting to know almost all of the 100 pax on board. We were also treated to a spectacular Seafood BBQ on the deck one night (including our own fishermen’s catch of that day), and an Aussie BBQ on the deck another night. Passengers can also choose to book a table on the deck on their own or with a group as a nightly alternative. We chose to dine alone on the back deck one evening…very romantic; under the stars, no wind, warm…magic!

Excursions on the Zodiacs (motorized rubber boats)

This is how we disembark at each destination when not docked, and all excursions on the zodiacs, tender or on “BeeKay”, Orion’s own fishing vessel are included.

We step off the back deck straight into the open zodiacs, usually just 6 of us, to a max of 10, and zoom straight off on an adventure….I’m Katherine Hepburn in ‘African Queen’, I’m Paul Hogan in ‘Crocodile Dundee’, I’m ‘Red Dog’!! This is so exhilarating and every sight we see is a “WOW” – no wonder I took 688 photos in 10 days. We get up close and personal to crocodiles and other wildlife, stunning rock formations and waterfalls (actually went under King Georges Falls which was a very welcome cooling off). Landings are either “wet” on a beach or “dry” to some boulders to explore, walk or climb further. The expedition team even found us a wonderful freshwater swimming hole area, aptly named “Crocodile Creek” (but no crocs of course, only our lovely waiters serving us Margaritas from the rocks to sip whilst we swam). What a life, I could get used to this!

Are there fishing expeditions?

Fishing expeditions on the M.V.Orion are conducted daily depending on suitable locations, schedule early a.m., mid-morning and late afternoon usually for a 2 hour outing. The most successful excursions were those that fished the top/bottom of the tides. The boat, “BeeKay” used was a 7-8 metre aluminum run-about fitted out to accommodate 4 fishing from swivel chairs. All tackle/baits provided by the boatman; he would even bait your lines if needed. Fish caught varied from golden snapper, queen fish, cod, sharks, tuna; fish of all sizes certainly the dinner plate variety. For those into fishing, this is an expedition not to be missed.

What makes the Orion so special?

It’s always the little extra touches that do it:

·       For example, we have been out on the Zodiacs for over an hour, and we are hot, thirsty and disheveled, when all of a sudden they swing the boats around behind a rock, and there are our waiters hiding on another Zodiac with an Orion umbrella up, popping champagne corks ready to hand us the flutes, together with ham and cheese croissants and enormous smiles! 

·       All the staff on board go out of their way (literally) to ensure you are looked after if not spoilt:  I happened to be in the upper lounge on my own (trying to write this up) and desperate for a cup of tea, and yet no staff were around. I happened to see the singer walking past and asked her if she could ring a waiter to come; instead she went all the way down to the other lounge with my order and my cuppa promptly appeared. And as I mentioned earlier, the teas (an enormous loose leaf selection) and coffee on this ship are the best we have experienced, and we are both very fussy!

·       Everything is highly personalized, and the atmosphere on board is always upbeat and fun. We always felt completely safe and enriched by the attentive, excellent humored and knowledgeable Expedition team on board.

Where does the Orion go?

On this Kimberley cruise, we sailed from Darwin to Broome for 10 days. The destinations within the Kimberley are: Wyndham (from where we did the spectacular and included flight over the Bungle Bungles, Argyle Diamond Mine and Lake Argyle), King George River, Vansittart Bay, Hunter River, Raft Point, Montgomery Reef, Talbot Bay, and Yampi Sound. She also does this trip in reverse, and stays in the Kimberley region for 5 months from April to September. For more details on the itinerary see

And for other destinations see 

Leaving the ship we are sad, emotional, and lonely, we feel like we are leaving our closest family and friends. Luckily for us, many of the passengers, like us, were extending their holiday at Cable Beach in Broome, so for a few more days, the party continued at the Sunset Bar on the beach at 5pm until eventually everyone went their separate ways.

There are so many other expeditions and areas covered by the Orion, and I would love to do one of the Borneo cruises to see the Orangutan sanctuaries or the primitive PNG destinations or brave the challenge of Antarctica…. I can dream, can’t I?
- Carrie Stalbow
KVI Travel Australia
+61 (0)419 682231