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Paris' Arc de Triomphe -- will a wronged customer triumph in the end? Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Paris’ Arc de Triomphe — will a wronged customer triumph in the end? Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

I received a note from a reader yesterday about a travel company that has a lavish website and sells a luxury product that is geared to customizing trips for individual travelers.

The problem, according to this reader — who wants to be identified only by his initials, G.M. — is that when he asked for service, they didn’t want to take his money — and a fair amount of it, at that.

It seems they wanted more.

Here’s the backstory: G.M., a longtime, now retired operating room nurse, is planning his first big vacation  in decades, a two-week trip to Paris. Due to the generosity of a wealthy patient, he’ll be staying in a suite at one of Paris’ most luxurious hotels, and, with the help of donated frequent flyer miles, winging… Continue reading

Lake Cayuga in fall. Photo from VisitIthaca.com

Lake Cayuga in fall. Photo from VisitIthaca.com

You may have read or heard the story: on Sunday February 15, during a freezing upstate New York weekend, the director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau put up a message on the bureau’s website (VisitIthaca.com) reading, “That’s it. We surrender. Winter, you win. Key West, anyone?”

That’s right — director Bruce Stoff was suggesting (and jesting) that, while temperatures were hitting ten below and the incessant snows were whipping around in minus 30-degree wind chill, people should forget about visiting Ithaca and head straight to the warmth of the Florida Keys. “Please come back when things thaw out. Really, it’s for the birds here now…P.S. Send us a postcard.”

Stoff even linked to the Florida Keys Tourism Council site.

As someone living in upstate New York suffering through similar weather conditions, and also a frequent visitor… Continue reading

2014Seal_GoldI want to thank the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) for naming me for the second straight year as the Gold Award winner for Best Magazine Travel Series in their annual travel writing competition.

For both 2013 and 2014, three of my theme cruise columns written for Porthole Cruise Magazine took home the Gold.

This year’s series consisted of  “Blue Sea, Red Sea,” about political cruises; “Bird is The Word,” about birding cruises; and “Now You Sea It,” about ghost-hunting cruises.

While the Porthole column came to an end earlier this year (with a piece on cat cruises), I had six years of fun writing about 37 different theme cruises covering all kinds of topics — some serious, some wacky, all entertaining.

At some point I’ll be putting out a collection of the columns in eBook form, and will let you know when it’s out.

According to… Continue reading

The Aranui 3 sails the remote Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

The Aranui 3 sails the remote Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Photo courtesy of Aranui 3.

Some of the most interesting things you pick up at a huge travel-trade gathering like this past weekend’s New York Times Travel Show are what I would call tidbits — not big enough for an entire blog post, but nonetheless fun stuff.

Here are a few of my favorites from the show:

* You have to love a company — in this case Lion World Travel — whose eastern USA director of sales’ business card is, quote, “made by hand using the sanitized fibre from the dung of elephants, rhino and other wild herbivores of Africa.”

I didn’t get to meet the director of sales — Kathi Scott of Toronto — but her “100 % natural, 100% African, 110% recycled” paper business card intrigued me enough that I googled Lion World Travel and… Continue reading

This is one of the beautiful images you'll find on StrideTravel.com. Photo by Dennis Cox.

This is one of the beautiful images you’ll find on StrideTravel.com. Photo by Dennis Cox.

“The Savvy Path to Breathtaking Travel, Without the Hassle”

“Less Planning, More Experiencing”

“A Journey of a Thousand Smiles Begins With a Single Click”

These are some of the taglines that express the essence of the new travel website, StrideTravel.com, where I worked for more than a year as Content Director. (My job is now in the capable hands of Content Coordinator Samantha Scott, who, together with co-founders Gavin Delany and Jared Alster, comprise a formidable team.)

In practical terms, Stride aspires to be — and in many ways already is — the best place on the Web to survey the wealth of multi-day, pre-planned trips that are now available from hundreds of travel suppliers around the world.

“Pre-planned trips” may encompass guided group or private tours as well as independent journeys… Continue reading

York Minster, an impressive Gothic cathedral, smells like...?

York Minster, an impressive Gothic cathedral, smells like…?

Until this morning, when I read about it in eTurboNews, I hadn’t heard about York, England’s “world famous” (as the Visit York website puts it) smellable travel guide to that alluring city, adding a key sensory sensation to what is normally a sight-only medium.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a smellable picture must add a few hundred more.

The guide, called Smell York — which is straightforward enough, though I might have chosen something less edgy like “York Aromas” — invites you to scratch and sniff 12 different scents to cajole you into literally sniffing out various York attractions and shops.

Some are clearly pleasant — drawing you towards the city’s chocolatiers, tea shops, and floral gardens — and others perhaps less seductive. For instance, one scratch and sniff yields the “haunting aromas of… Continue reading

Multi-generational travelers might opt to sail away to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder. Photo from Disney Cruise Lines

Multi-generational travelers might opt to sail away to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder. Photo from Disney Cruise Lines

Multi-generational travel is hot.

So hot that it’s up 30 percent over the past year. And boomer-led family groups are spending an average of $1,000 more per year than other travelers,  according to findings at a recent family travel summit.

The second TMS Family Travel Summit, organized by TMS Family Travel and Family Travel Consulting,  brought together 38 travel journalists, editors, publishers and marketers to hear the latest research, discuss travelers’ needs, and determine marketing strategies for family groups led by retiring boomers. 

The multi-generational travel phenomenon presents both challenges and opportunities for those in the travel industry.

 But what, exactly, constitutes multi-generational travel? 

One speaker defined it as a travel party comprised of at least one traveler over age 60 with at… Continue reading

Tuvalu, a small island nation in the South Pacific, is profiting from its country URL code, .tv. Photo from timelesstuvalu.com

Tuvalu, a small island nation in the South Pacific, is profiting from its country URL code, .tv. Photo from timelesstuvalu.com

Until I read about it in The New York Times, I had no idea that Tuvalu — a small South Pacific island nation previously best known as one of the most likely to sink below water as the oceans rise (“Toodle-oo, Tuvalu,” goes the sardonic refrain) — has been making millions of dollars by selling its Internet URL suffix .tv to companies that stream videos and the like.

Every country and a number of dependencies has been assigned a country code, usually based on its name, and Tuvalu lucked into the .tv designation years ago.

I salute their entrepreneurial spirit, even as their low-lying atolls threaten to become the next Atlantis.

It turns out Tuvalu isn’t the only country doing this sort of business.

According to The Times, Colombia has… Continue reading

First, the recipe:

Chocolate Chicken

Ingredients:

Two boneless chicken breasts, cut thin

1 tsp. unsweetened or semisweet cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp. paprika

a dash of cayenne pepper or chili flakes

Chocolate, a key ingredient in Chocolate Chicken.

Chocolate, a key ingredient in Chocolate Chicken.

lemon juice (enough to make mix “goopy”)

some cilantro or basil, chopped

melted butter (you choose the amount)

optional: cumin or garlic powder

whiskey for flambeing

Instructions:

Mix above ingredients together (except whiskey if flambeing).

Wash chicken and coat thoroughly with mix.

Let sit for awhile  while you figure out what to serve with it, or have a cocktail (optional, but if flambeing, don’t use up all your whiskey).

Cook chicken — grill it, fry it, bake it, saute it, stir-fry it, flambe it, whatever you like, but do make sure to apply sufficient heat that it isn’t raw and you get sick from it. I don’t want that… Continue reading

Washington Irving's Sunnyside cottage. Photo from visitsleepyhollow.com

Washington Irving’s Sunnyside cottage. Photo from visitsleepyhollow.com

Most everyone remembers the great Washington Irving tales “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” both dating from nearly 200 years ago.

In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Ichabod Crane, the stork-legged superstitious schoolteacher, was frightened into fleeing the area by a rival who posed as the Headless Horseman. (Johnny Depp starred in a movie about it.)

In “Rip Van Winkle,” Rip — a resident of a small village in the Catskills while New York was still an English colony — unwittingly had a drink with the ghosts of Henry Hudson’s crew and slept for 20 years, right through the Revolutionary War.

As some of you know, I’m a resident of the Catskills myself, so I’ve put together a little Washington Irving themed literary legends tour of the area.

You can start your Irving legends tour at the… Continue reading

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Best Baby Boomer Travel Blogs in 2015

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NATJA SEAL-Gold winner

According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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