Wednesday, May 28, 2014

W Retreat & Spa Maldives is your dream come true

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If you've ever fantasized about owning your own private island, W Retreat & Spa Maldives is your dream come true.

White sand, turquoise waters, and luxurious seclusion: they're all yours.  From Malé, the capital of the Maldives, you must fly in a sea plane to reach tiny Fesdu Island. You're lucky there's no bridge, since besides the guests and staff of Starwood's W Retreat & Spa, this pretty Indian Ocean island is uninhabited.

But make no mistake: retreating to this tropical paradise is far from roughing it. Your bi-level beachfront accommodation roosts on soft sand or juts out over warm water, and includes plush amenities such as private plunge pools, sundecks, and outdoor rainforest showers.

While you're relaxing at the W Retreat & Spa, there are plenty of opportunities for aquatic adventure-seekers. Indulge your inner water-baby with kite surfing, water skiing, windsurfing, and wakeboarding. If you want to take it easy, try out some hand-line fishing - and take home that big catch to your own private barbecue.

Mines, Money and Mortality: Excursion to Kutna Hora

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This new tour just outside of Prague is offered by our partners, Context Travel

Just under 80 kilometers outside of Prague, nestled amid the bucolic beauty of Bohemia, lies the ancient city of Kutná Hora. The settlement was founded in the mid-12th century by monks, who set up Bohemia’s first Cistercian monastery in eponymous Sedlec, now a district of Kutná Hora. Less than a century later, German settlers arrived, drawn by the surfeit of silver deposits buried beneath.
An important political and trading post in the centuries that followed, Kutná Hora became a strong contender for capital of Bohemia, and though eventually pipped to the post by Prague, retained significant status due to the wealth generated there by silver mining. The city today comprises a rich and well-preserved historical landscape, earning it UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995.
Our tour starts in Prague center, from where we will take a private vehicle for the hour-long drive to Kutná Hora. During this time your docent, a local expert, will contextualize the history and cultural significance of our destination, and prepare the group for the eclectic mix of sites it has to offer. On arrival, our first stop is Sedlec, the site of the original monastery (which now, strangely, functions as a cigarette factory), also home to the world-famous Sedlec Ossuary. Known popularly as the “bone church”, the ossuary contains the skeletons of around 50,000 people and was created in the 1500s when the surrounding cemetery became too full. We’ll explore how, despite its morbid connotations to our contemporary sensibilities, Sedlec Ossuary was to those alive at the time a positive symbol: one of hope and expectation; resurrection and redemption.
A skyline of superlatives, Kutna Hora is also home to the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady, Central Europe’s oldest cathedral-style building, also at Sedlec. We will visit St. Barbara's Church, one of the most beautiful and famous Gothic churches in Central Europe, and one with a compelling narrative inextricably linked to the city’s mining history. Throughout the tour, we’ll discuss how religion and secular life collided constantly, despite resistance, bound by money and power. those age-old elements of social glue.
To further explore the importance of silver in the region’s history, we’ll visit the Italian Courts, once the seat of the Central Mint of Prague and named for the Italian experts at the forefront of the minting reform. Time permitting, we'll look inside the Museum of Silver before stopping for a traditional Czech lunch at an excellent local restaurant. Thereafter, we'll head back to Prague together.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rome: To and from Civitavecchia Port

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This article is shared from Trip Advisor and explains in great details on how to get to/from Civitavecchia Port near Rome.

There are only two ways of travelling between Civitavecchia and central Rome: By private car or by train.some cruise lines will offer a bus from the ship to a train station or hotel in Rome for maybe €69 per person, one way. This is worthwhile only in there is only one person travelling. If taking a train or cruise bus, add a few more Euros to get to your ultimate destination.

By car 

Private car with driver (€130 upwards per car): There are a number of companies that provide this service.
Train (€5.00 per person - each way): There are two or three local trains each hour between Roma Termini (main station) and Civitavecchia. In central Rome, these trains also stop at Tuscolana, Ostiense, Trastevere, and San Pietro stations. The cost is €5.00 each way per adult, and the journey takes just over an hour (50 min. to San Pietro station). There are no seat reservations and tickets cannot sell out. Before you get on the train, you must time-stamp the ticket in a yellow machine at the station. There is a day pass available in the station, called the BIRG ticket costing €12, which covers travel to and from Rome, and also gives you unlimited use of buses, metro, and trams (streetcars) for the entire day in Rome.
Note - these are commuter trains. They are great during non-rush hours, but are packed during rush hours, and can be difficult to get on, especially if you travel with kids or elderly.  As indicated above - the tickets cannot sell out,  i.e. they can sell more than capacity.
Also note for cruise passengers, you can pick up shuttle provided by cruise from ship to gate (a long walk otherwise) and walk the remaining 4 to 5 blocks. You can also buy round trip tickets from vendors along the entrance to Fort (gateway to cruise terminal), and not just at the train station.
Fast train (€9.50 to €19.00 per person - each way): There are a few faster InterCity trains between Roma Termini and Civitavecchia, costing €9.50 in second class and €12.50 in first class and stopping only at Ostiense between Termini and Civitavecchia.  There is one of these trains suitable for day-trip cruise passengers which leaves Civitavecchia at 09.19, but no other fast morning fast trains in that direction. There are also a few Frecciabianca trains which cost €13.50 in second class or €19.00 in first class. These trains do not stop at other stations in Rome. All seats on InterCity and Frecciabianca trains are reserved, and the seat reservation is included in the cost of the ticket. The journey takes 45 to 50 minutes. The BIRG ticket is not valid on these trains. 
Fast Track Express Train to Rome (€16,50 - Round Trip): Takes 40 minutes each way.  This train was introduced in 2011 for cruise travelers that want to take a day trip to Rome from Civitavecchia. It has a limited schedule (departs at 09:30 from Civitavecchia and arrives at San Pietro Station at 10:10; then returns from San Pietro station departing at 16:40 and arrives at Civitavecchia at 17:20). Dedicated onboard personnel will provide assistance and walk travelers from San Pietro Station in Rome to the Vatican. It does not run every day,  but is offered only on those days where there is a much higher affluence of cruise line traffic. Schedule and online booking available (June  to October).
SCHEDULES: For all train times see  Trenitalia, but note that costs of the local trains are not shown more than 7 days ahead.
There is also an unofficial web site where timetables are conveniently made available as printable PDFs for you to bring on travel: The same web site also contains other useful information for train travellers, such as an at-a-glance overview of current train delays.

Travelling between Civitavecchia and the Rome Fiumicino Airport

For this journey there are few options: by private transfer or taxi, by train and by bus.
By private transfer (from €120 per car) - travel time approximately 50 min.  There are several good companies that provide this service.  Search in Rome or Civitavecchia forums for comments about a company before booking (read more above).
By Bus (€20.00 per person) - Travel time approximately 50 min. A new service is now available that takes travellers from the port directly to Fiumicino airport.  Departs at 09:30, good for flights departing after 12:30 for travel within Europe or 13:30 for long-haul flights.  Not available every day. Schedule and online booking
By train - travel time approximately 2 hours. Take the FR1 suburban train (not the Leonardo Express) from FCO towards Rome and get off at the Trastevere station, where you can change to a local train to Civitavecchia. Reverse if going in the opposite direction. Requires some walking with luggage, changing trains, and very likely going up and down flights of stairs at station.
Some people claim it is cost-effective to rent a car at FCO and drop off at Civitavecchia (or the other way round).  This seems unlikely, but one can get rental costs from an agency such as AutoEurope.
When travelling from FCO to Civitavecchia, an official Rome taxi should have a fixed price of €120.

Great Walt Disney World Resort summer offer

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Disney. Save on a Disney Resort hotel stay!
Celebrate the upcoming birthday in your family in a truly magical way with a trip to Walt Disney World® Resort. It's easy when you take advantage of this special summer offer!

Plus, when you upgrade to a package that includes a minimum 5-Day Magic Your Way® Theme Park Ticket you get the PARK HOPPER® OPTION added to your ticketFREE!
For stays most nights 6/1-8/28/14.
Book by 6/26/14.
34118 18139 25715
The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Length-of-stay requirements may apply. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room. 30% savings for select Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts; lower savings may be available at other select Resorts. 

Theme Park tickets and options must be used within 14 days of first use. Everyone in the same room must be on the same package. See Important Details.
Get Details
With the Park Hopper Option, you get the flexibility and freedom to visit multiple Walt Disney WorldTheme Parks on the same day!
Not sure where you'd like to stay? Why not give Disney's Wilderness Lodge a try? Just check out the photo player below. Then watch the video for a reminder about the benefits you get to enjoy when you stay at a Disney Resort hotel, including complimentary transportation and extra time in a Theme Park each day (valid Theme Park admission and Resort ID required)!
View Resorts
Special Tips
Walt Disney World® - 4 Theme Parks • 2 Water Parks • 20+ Themed Resorts • Shopping • Dining • Recreation • Pixie Dust
Important Details
Additional per-adult charges may apply if more than two adults per room at Disney Value, Moderate and Deluxe Resorts. No group rates or other discounts apply. Advance reservations required. Offer is nontransferable and excludes campsites and 3-bedroom villas. Offer is not valid at Disney's Art of Animation Resort—The Little MermaidStandard Rooms or The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Walt Disney Travel Company CST# 1022229-50
NVST# 2006-0198

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bargaining Trouble

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This wonderful blog post is written by our favorite guest blogger, Daniella Medvedovski. Based on a true story :)

“I want my money back!” demanded my dad. “Or a bigger sized shirt!”  It was a beautiful day in Barcelona, Spain but inside this one souvenir shop, things were about to get PRETTY ugly!  My dad had been bargaining to get matching shirts for him, and my 2 brothers.  He had a good deal on the shirts already.  Not good, GREAT even, AMAZING!  But when he got ahold of his actual shirt, it turned out to be for 14 year olds!  I know he claims he’s only 20, but we all know that’s not true!  Now, both my parents were mad.  Okay, now we’re back to where I started.  “I want my money back!” demanded my dad. “Or a bigger sized shirt!”  The man who’d sold my dad the shirt many sizes too small started talking to my parents about how the shirt fits perfectly and how for a bigger one, we’d have to pay more.  This little chat soon turned into a full blown argument, causing many pairs of eyes to turn in our direction.
Just as I thought the salesman would finally give us the shirts we wanted (mostly because he wanted to get rid of us), out comes the shop manager looking madder than furious.  You could practically see the smoke coming out of his ears and nostrils.  The 6 foot tall man was towering over my father.  Very unluckily for daddy, he was standing in a corner - no place to go.  The manager put his hand in a gun position and held it against my dad’s head.  His other hand was on my dad’s neck, slightly squeezing it.
This was too much for me.  Tears gushing down my face, I ran out of the shop sobbing.  “G-g-grandp-p-pa,” I tried to say through the tears.  “Th-th-the g-g-guy.  He-he’s g-g-going t-to k-k-kill d-d-dad.”  There were two voices in my head, one telling me that it was true, and I would never see my dad again, and another saying that I was overreacting and it was just a little misunderstanding.  The first voice won though, and I couldn’t say any more - I was crying too much.  Confused, grandpa looked into the store (he hadn’t seen what was happening).  His eyes widened as he saw what was going on, and he turned to me.  “Look after your brothers for a second,” and with that, he disappeared into the souvenir shop.  A moment later, my mom was standing beside me.  “It’s okay... you know what!?  Let’s go take a walk.”  I stared at her - was she really suggesting we take a walk!?  When my dad was potentially getting killed by the lunatic manager!?  Your dad’s fine, the voice in my head told me.  Even your mom thinks so.  I took a deep breath.  “I’ll go on a walk with you,” I mumbled, and down the street we went.
“Dad will be fine,” Mom said.  “Grandma and Grandpa are right there, and there are plenty of police officers around in case things get too out of hand.”  Just as she said that, I saw my dad walking out of the store, followed by grandma and grandpa.  Tears still dripping slowly from my face, I ran to them.  I had so many questions at that point, but the main one bugging me was the most obvious.  “What happened in there?”  My dad took a deep breath, clearly trying to stay calm.  “I’ll get to that, but right now we’re going to the square.  There’s an event going on, and we’re not going to be late to the whole reason we came here!”  So we walked, and as we did, dad told his story.

“After you left, the manager let go of me, realizing everyone was staring.  He asked me if I wanted the shirt or not, and when I accused him of choking me, he denied it and said he had a security camera that could prove his point.  I wanted to see it, but your grandma pulled me out of there before I could say anything else.  Bella,” he addressed my mom when we made it to the square.  “Stay here with David.  Daniella and Matthew, you can come with me if you’d like.”  I wasn’t sure where we were going, but if having two extra people there in case we bumped into any more crazy store owners helped my dad, I was in.  So unsure of our final destination, my brother and I followed my dad.  As it turns out, dad had found a police officer and was heading towards him.  The poor cop probably didn’t understand everything my dad said, but he managed to communicate to him to go back to the street where this happened and find another policeman or woman there... TO BE CONTINUED

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Best beach trips outside of Rome

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This blog post is prepared by our partners, Context Travel.
Panoramic view of Santa Marinella beach
Santa MarinellaZ’ha’dum / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
With the ever rising temperatures of the summer, Romans are flocking to the seaside any chance they get to cool off with a refreshing dip.  But just where are they going?  Many visitors know about Ostia Lido, which is easily reachable by local commuter train, but numerous beaches within an hour to 90 minutes of Rome provide even more spectacular views and clear water.  While some are more easily reached by car, a combination of coach and/or train will get you to most places.  Just remember that most Italian beaches have been privatized into stabilamenti where you will pay for chairs and umbrellas, so be sure to bring your wallet with you.

Santa Marinella
Santa Marinella is a 30-40 minute train ride from the city, making it one of the best options for visitors who haven’t rented a car.  Trains can be boarded at Rome’s Termini, Trastevere, or San Pietro stations heading toward Civitavecchia and the beach itself is a short walk from the station.  Colorful cabanas and umbrellas dot the beach, which fills with summering Romans.  As with most beach towns, the seafood is excellent and you will have no shortage of options along the narrow stretch of sand that crawls along the coast.

More easily accessible by car, though reachable by CoTral bus taken from the Cornelia metro stop in Rome, the beach at Fregene is the place to go if you want to see where moneyed Romans spend their summer.  Located in striking distance of Fiumicino airport, the clean beaches of Fregene have long been an attraction for locals who sun themselves by day and spend the evening at the numerous cocktail bars in the area.
the ship of Odysseus, Sperlonga
The ship of Odysseus, SperlongaF. Tronchin / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Consistently named as one of the best beaches to frequent, Sperlonga is located south of Rome and requires those without a car to take a train to Fondi-Sperlonga and then bus out to Sperlonga.  Those willing to make the 90 minute journey will be rewarded with clear water and beautiful views.  As a former ancient Roman resort, archeology buffs get the added bonus of Tiberius’ villa and grotto.  A stop at the archeological museum is also recommended to see incredible marble sculptures depicting scenes from Homer’s tales of Odysseus.
Castello Orsini-Odescalchi in Bracciano overlooks the lake.Birnardo / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Lake Bracciano
Visitors to Rome may not realize that many locals spend their time at one of the numerous lakes that surround the city.  Lake Bracciano is a particular favorite, as this volcanic lake is the second largest in the region and special precautions have been taken to keep the water clean.  Taking the train from Rome’s Trastevere, Ostiense, or San Pietro stations to either Bracciano or Anguillara Sabazia will bring you lakeside.  Don’t miss a chance to explore these small, medieval towns as well, which give nice contrast to bustling Rome.

Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort , Maui

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Polynesian in style, this elegant island resort offers all of the expected luxury hotel amenities, as well as everything needed for an unforgettable family vacation. Parents and kids can splash the days away in the Wailea Canyon Activity Pool, a six-level water wonderland of nine interconnected freeform pools with a Tarzan rope swing, six waterfalls, caves, a sand beach and even special pools for infants and adults only. When Mom and Dad want to slip away for a spa treatment or round of golf on the championship course, they can feel confident leaving their offspring at the 20,000-square-foot The Rock, home to three kids' clubs: Camp Grande, Ohana Hale and The Spot. These comprehensive, supervised clubs feature activities from dawn 'til after dusk, including hula classes, lei making, nature walks and pirate treasure hunts.

Nine incredible pools; best in Hawaii 
Top-of-the-line fitness center 
Very large and luxe standard rooms 
One of the best spas in the U.S. 
Superb kids' camp; among Maui's best 
Direct access to lovely Wailea Beach 
Restaurant by James Beard Award-winning chef Alan Wong--Amasia

Access to spa's hydrotherapy facilities not included in resort fee 
Expensive food 
Most pools have a loud, theme-park atmosphere 
Valet parking fees add up 
Resort fee

Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis Charlestown, St. Kitts & Nevis

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Located right on a pretty beach in northern Nevis, this upscale property is a great spot for a romantic getaway. Its 36 airy,cottage-style rooms offer lots of privacy, and are tastefully decorated in green and brown hues. They have wonderful in-room amenities, including custom-stocked minibars, but overall they don't quite deliver the level of luxury expected at this hefty price tag. Service is attentive, and unexpected extras such as hiker GPS systems, Flip video cameras, and tennis and croquet equipment -- all available free of charge -- demonstrate the Nisbet's attention to detail. The varied dining options, the pleasant pool and the beautiful setting on the beach are all highlights.

  • Right on the beach, amid lush tropical gardens in northern Nevis Romantic, historic plantation inn with cottage-style accommodations 
  • Airy, tastefully decorated rooms with custom-stocked minibars, coffeemakers and free Wi-Fi Fine and casual dining options (but they're average) 
  • Freshwater pool with ocean views and a Jacuzzi 
  • Full-service spa and in-room massages available 
  • Small fitness center, tennis courts, croquet lawn, kayaks and snorkel equipment 
  • Rates include breakfast, afternoon tea, and dinner 
  • Introductory scuba lessons in the pool Free airport shuttle service for stays of 5-plus nights 
  • Attentive, professional staff


  • No TVs in rooms (a pro for some!) 
  • Rooms are attractive and airy, but a bit run-of-the-mill

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pompeii Adventure

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 This wonderful family walk is conducted by Context Travel.

The vivid archaeological site of Pompeii is one of the best spaces for families to explore life in an ancient Roman city. The level of conservation, due to the layers of mud, ash and lava that buried the city for more than 1,600 years, allows for a close reading of the site; one can almost imagine the ancient Pompeiians going about their daily business in the streets, homes, shops and public spaces that remain as testament to their civilization. According to us, in order for a family get a full Pompeii experience, they should pair a visit of the archaeological site with a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Naples, where many of the artifacts taking from Pompeii are now housed. This full-day excursion, in the company of a classical historian, archaeologist, or art historian is thus designed to give you and your family a full understanding of ancient Roman civilization and its development around the bay of Naples.
We start in the morning with a short drive from your Naples hotel or from the train station if you are coming in from Rome for the day. On the drive out to the site of Pompeii, our docent will provide historical information, which will set up the context for understanding the site and what we will see later at the Archaeological Museum in Naples. Upon arriving, we will move swiftly through the ancient cobble-stoned roads, exploring the homes, temples, shops, civic buildings and public spaces which intricately illustrate everyday activities in the city. We will explore the similarities and differences between life in ancient Pompeii and modern-day family life.
Leaving the site by the early afternoon, we will return to Naples, by car, where we will enjoy lunch in a small, non-touristy restaurant in the city center, followed by a short stroll through the center, poking our head into a few churches and providing a short synopsis of the history of the city. The group will then head to the Naples Archeological Museum, one of the greatest collections of ancient art and artifacts in the world, where we will view the colorful frescoes, mosaics and statues unearthed during the excavation of Pompeii, begun in the 18th century by envoys of the Bourbon kings of Naples. These artifacts provide vivid visual examples of the Pompeiians and their life, allowing for a full understanding of the culture of the time.
Note: It is possible to run this walk departing from Rome. You will need to take the high speed train to Naples first thing in the morning. Please purchase your tickets from Rome - Naples via our site and we can coordinate the times with you.