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Friday, October 9, 2015

Avalon Creativity from Paris to Normandy

Avalon Waterways river cruise from Paris to Normandy on the Creativity, September 2015

Docked in Rouen
If you love to cruise but are tired of the big ship crowds, a river cruise is a great alternative. At first glance they appear to be more expensive than ocean cruises but when you factor in the included shore excursions and free flowing wine and beer at dinner, the costs come in about the same. Here's my week in review.
We met our friendly cruise director Nynke Hoekstra at the Pullman Paris Montparnasse and were shuttled to the creativity where we were greeted by the crew, did a quick safety briefing, and met some of the other 120 passengers at a champagne toast. 

Dinner was served at 7pm. The tables seat four, six, or eight people and you are free to sit wherever you like. The dinner menu offers your choice of four starters, two soups, three entrees,  and three desserts or a cheese plate.  Caesar salad, grilled beef tenderloin steak, grilled chicken breast, or salmon is available every night. There is a healthy option, and allergens are listed on the menu.

Piano and dance music is offered every night in the lounge. There is also a library/game room where you can help yourself to coffee, tea, hot chocolate, pastries, and fruit at anytime.

We selected a cabin on the 2nd deck and were very happy with the comfortable beds, bedding, a French balcony with a view of the passing French countryside, and serene white swans along the river Seine. Some people on the lower deck complained of being awakened by noise as we traversed the locks, but we found our cabin near the lobby to be centrally located and quiet.

Monet's Garden
Every morning we were given the option of selecting one of two tours that were included in the price of the cruise. While the perception of river cruises might be that it is for "old" people, I was quickly finding that if you take in all that it is offered, then river cruising is for the active adult who enjoys learning about the culture and history of the country they are visiting. I wandered the paths of Claude Monet's beautiful garden and walked around the lily pond made famous by his paintings. I climbed up the hill to the ruins of the Gallard castle where Richard the Lionheart once trod, and gazed at the view over the Seine valley. I snapped photos of thatched roof cottages along the Route des Chaumieres and clicked away at the half timbered houses and cafe's lining the lovely harbor of Honfleur.  History was brought to life as our guide led us through the medieval city of Rouen to the charnel house that kept bodies of the black plague. We walked down the street to where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and marveled at the giant thirteenth century astronomical clock, the Gros Horloge.  I wandered the halls of Chateau Malmaison where Napoleon Bonaparte governed France and Josephine collected rare plants and exotic animals. I explored the French countryside while other guests on the ship paid tribute to those who gave the greatest sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy. I finished the week with an optional whirlwind trip to the Palace of Versailles, an evening tour of the lights of Paris, a walking tour of the island hosting the Notre Dame Cathedral, and a bike ride along the ever changing and romantic River Seine.

Honfleur Harbor
Though I had envisioned this cruise as a leisurely tour of France, it was anything but that. I signed up for several of the optional tours wanting to see as much as I could, and found myself pretty much on the go from 7am to midnight. After the morning tour, it was back to the ship for a quick lunch then out again for an afternoon tour, dinner, a game of scrabble with friends, a little exercise on the dance floor, then some free time in my cabin to catch up with family and friends using the free internet . With no "leisure days at sea" like you'd find on an ocean cruise, I was more active on this cruise than any other I've been on. Of course you can tailor this cruise to be as fast or slow paced as you like. There are lounge chairs and a hot tub on the top deck if you want to kick back and relax, and I managed to fit that in too!

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...