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TRAVEL BLOG

Seven Seas Explorer Embarks on Christening Voyage

Through the partnership of Santa Barbara Travel and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, the CEO of Santa Barbara Travel was invited aboard the first voyage of Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer, before the invitation-only Christening Voyage. Recognized industry-wide as “The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built,” expectations are running high, but we have no doubt they will be exceeded. The round-trip voyage out of Monte Carlo will be making port visits to Portofino, Livorno, Ibiza, Barcelona, and St. Rafael before returning to Monte Carlo.

Follow us on Facebook for live updates of the trip!

About the Seven Seas Explorer

New Regent Seven Seas Explorer

New Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Seven Seas Explorer is spaciously intimate, breathlessly elegant and perfectly staffed to offer Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ special brand of all-inclusive luxury. She will bring elegance and glamour to the world’s greatest destinations, offering exquisite dining options that rival those of the finest restaurants ashore and all-suite, all-balcony accommodations boasting the largest balconies at sea.

 

“If you are going to deliver on the promise that this is the Most Luxurious Cruise Ship ever built, there’s a myriad of variables that have to be taken into account, and one of them is the actual materials used,” says Frank del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines. How does that translate into a luxury cruise ship? To start, sleep in a $150,000 bed, play a one-of-a-kind $500,000 Steinway grand piano in your living room, and enjoy in-room spa treatments. Take a full tour of the Regent Suite in the video below.

Highlights on the ship include the state of the art Culinary Arts Kitchen, incredible entertainment, world class luxury suites, extraordinary service, culinary experiences that rival the best on-shore restaurants, top-notch shore excursions, and did we mention, all Regent Seven Seas Cruises are truly all-inclusive?

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby. Over 1 acre of marble and 1 acre of granite used throughout the vessle

See all the Inside Details on the Seven Seas Explorer

Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco will christen the Seven Seas Explorer® on July 13, 2016. Watch the historic ceremony and grand celebration live from Monte Carlo at 2:45 PM (EST) on ExplorerChristening.com

Watch the Christening Ceremony

Talk to our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, about his recent trip on the Seven Seas Explorer. Contact him by emailing charlesd@sbtravel.com

Advisor Trip: Holland America’s new Koningsdam Ship

Janet Morton is amongst our most experienced travel advisors. This Spring, she was invited aboard the newest addition to the Holland America fleet, Koningsdam. Below, she shares her impressions of the new ship, as well as highlights and suggestions for each city along the way. 

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

The Koningsdam is certainly the new King of the Holland America fleet, aptly named as “Koning” means “king” in Dutch. The new ship was impressive. Modern technology upgrades make the trip comfortable; the restaurant options are expanded; the spa is the most deluxe I have seen on a cruise ship, and the music-themed ship certainly delivers on both entertainment and décor.

The onboard entertainment is good, appealing to both solo travelers and families. Favorite entertainment options of mine included a Jazz lounge, classical music area, big evening shows, a new glass roofed Lido Deck where evening movies are screened, diverse dining options, and a huge theatre. On days we were at sea, we spent our time by the pool.

Pool area aboard the

Pool area aboard the Koningsdam

 

LAND HIGHLIGHTS

Naples is always a favorite cruise stop of mine, as there is a lot to do quite easily. You can go to the ancient city of Pompeii, the charming coastal town of Sorrento, tour the Amalfi Coast, or take a boat to Capri, each in a day’s visit. I visited Pompeii, an incredible archeological site that captures this Roman city exactly as it was before Mt. Vesuvius erupted.

Elaborate Sign in Pompeii that Translates to "Beware of Dog"

Elaborate Sign in Pompeii that Translates to “Beware of Dog”

In Granada, I joined the offered shore excursion to visit The Alhambra, a castle with Moorish architecture. I typically go off on my own, given my travel experience, but I chose the offered Shore Excursion to The Alhambra. Unless you rent a car, it is quite difficult to get there yourself, and we were happy to join the group for the day. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and friendly, the weather was great, and lunch was included. It was busy, but still enjoyable.

The Courtyard of the Alhambra, the regional  "Taj Majal"

The Courtyard of the Alhambra, the regional “Taj Majal”

The itinerary was well planned, allowing for two days in the city of Barcelona. While there are plenty of shore excursions (up to 20 to 30 at each port), I chose to walk Barcelona. With the quirky art and architecture of the city, maze-like streets, fantastic restaurants, it is a city meant to be experienced up close. Already I am planning a trip with more time in this city, a passion sparked by our introduction on this cruise.

The Port of Gibraltar was an incredible day with a visit to the most interesting airport in the world and the Rock of Gibraltar. If you go anywhere, you’ll have no choice but to drive through the airport, literally. The main road goes right through the runway, and when a plane comes in, stoplights stop traffic on either side, a crew cleans the runway, and a plane lands right in front of you.

The Rock of Gibraltar (left) and Gibraltar Airport stop light (right)

The Rock of Gibraltar (left) and Gibraltar Airport stop light (right)

The Rock of Gibraltar peaks at 1398 feet, and is formed from Early Jurassic limestone and dolomites. There is a tram that takes you up, and the view over the ocean is unbelievable. The Barbary Macaques, or “monos,” are the resident monkeys and quite a scene!

Each port city is such a treat, and it can be difficult to choose from the many wonderful options. It is good to remember that cruises are an opportunity to explore many places without checking in, checking out, and navigating to each city. In fact, this trip has already inspired another to Spain!

To talk about Holland America, Spain or Italy, reach out to Janet Morton by email at jmorton@sbtravel.com

Long Airport Security Lines Aren’t For Everyone

Are you looking for a way to make your journeys through airports easier? We recommend that all of our clients apply for the TSA Pre ® Membership program. Weekends like this one will really make you glad you did. You can find all of the information you need to know about benefits, application information, and qualifications here: https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/apply.

Apply

Complete the online application or you can complete the entire process in person at an application center.
Schedule an appointment online or by calling (855) 347-8371 weekdays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments take priority.
Visit an application center to:
  1. Provide required documentation and be fingerprinted. Bring your current U.S. passport or a driver’s license and birth certificate. See other acceptable documents.
  2. Pay a non-refundable $85 fee valid for five years with a credit card, money order, company check or certified/cashier’s check.
  3. You can check your status online at any time.

The name used when applying for TSA Pre® must match the name used when booking travel.

*This information is available on https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/apply

Discover the World Through Abercrombie & Kent

We love working with companies that make travel elegant, seamless, and awe-inspiring.  Abercrombie & Kent delivers incredible experiences, every time, in the world’s greatest destinations. Every review from our clients has been raving! We highly recommend them for family trips. Whatever sparks your sense of adventure, with Abercrombie & Kent you are in good hands. Below are some highlights from trips all around the world.
A&K Australia Collage

Australia

Funlom Falls Water Hole, Kakadu National Park

Funlom Falls waterhole, Kakadu National Park

paddleboarding lizard island

Paddle Boarding Lizard Island, Australia

whale shark ningaloo reef

Swim with Whale Sharks on Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Chile

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Atacamba Desert, Chile

Atacamba Desert, Chile

Chile houses on water

Houses on the Water, Chile

Thailand

thailand beach

Boat Ride to Beach in Thailand

Thailand Maeklong railway market

Maeklong Railway Market, Thailand

Puripunn Chiang Mai, Thailand

Puripunn Chiang Mai, Thailand

To learn more about Abercrombie & Kent, join us at our event on Wednesday, April 27th!

You may also email Erin at ezetter@sbtravel.com or call 805.969.7746 to discuss the possibilities!

Find daily travel tips & ideas on our Facebook Page

Advisor Pick: Finca Cortesin in Spain

Are you looking for a destination that suits both of you? The Finca Cortesin is a beautiful hotel and award-winning golf course in Southern Spain, with luxurious amenities for both the avid golfer, and serious spa-goer. We love the luscious greens, the golden sun of the Mediterranean, and the temperate climate year-round.
finca cortesin golf course

Hotel Finca Cortesin is designed to enchant every one of the senses. The hotel’s fresh but grand design is inspired by traditional Andalusian architecture and gives every area a big, bright and luxuriously spacious feel that is so rare in Europe. Built around two principle courtyards with palatial proportions, the hotel has 67 large, luminous and exquisitely designed suites with lofty ceilings.

finca cortisan 1
For the couples who love to travel together, but enjoy different activities, the Finca Cortesin has plenty for both of you. Spend the day golfing, or enjoy a day at the Spa or at the luxurious pool enjoying the fresh ocean breeze.

finca cortesin beach club

The open spaces are luxurious and comfortable, influenced by the Andalusian style, which honors Moroccan architecture. Pick your space, and relax with a book or cocktail.
finca cortisan cloister
The golf course is world-class, and so is the spa. The size will surprise– it comprises of 3 specific areas for face and body treatments, massages, thermal baths with indoor swimming pool and fitness centre, plus male, female, and unisex lounges. Be prepared to enjoy an experience of contrasting sensations, with saunas, turkish baths, showers and relaxation lounge; additionally and located within the unisex area, guests can benefit from the use of a Japanese bath with waters maintained at a constant 10ºC and a -12º snow cabin, unique in Spain.

finca cortesin ice cave spa

 

When it comes to dining, El Jardín de Lutz, awarded with a “Sun in the Repsol Guide”, offers a relaxed yet elegant ambiance for guests who prefer a more traditional Spanish cuisine. In its interior, the restaurant showcases tall ceilings, clay tiled floors, antiques and Portuguese painted tiles. In the outdoor space, the restaurant features a spectacular terrace with views to the Mediterranean and picturesque gardens filled with 1000-year old olive trees. This elegant backdrop creates the perfect setting to enjoy the world of flavors that Spanish cuisine has to offer; with a menu that targets traditional simplicity with a dynamic precision on the palate.

finca cortisin el jardin restaurant

At the end of the day, enjoy a drink at this beautiful bar/lounge area and revel in the magic of your day in Spain.

finca cortesin bar

To hear more about the Finca Cortesin in Spain, call Sheree Peterson Huerta in our downtown office at 805.966.3116 ext 102 or email Sheree at  speterson@sbtravel.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Need a Travel Advisor Now More Than Ever

Having a good relationship with your personal travel advisor is much like having one with your family doctor. Except with us, your “checkup” results in a weekend getaway, your questions are about travel destinations and dream-fulfilling itineraries, and in case of emergency, we provide 24/7 advisor access to assist you with your travel needs. All joking aside, using a travel advisor is more beneficial than ever. 


Save Valuable Time

We know your time is precious, so why waste it sorting through the clutter of information offered online? Whether it’s an extensive international trip, a cruise, or weekend getaway, we can take care of all the details so that you can relax and enjoy the moment.

Personalized Itinerary

Your itinerary is more than just making the connections, it is connecting with the neighborhoods you stay in, restaurants that make you fall in love, and special off-the-beaten-pathexperiences that are waiting for you. Whether you love to do-it-yourself or are looking for someone to take the reins, when you collaborate with your travel advisor, your trips will be tailored to your needs, interests, and budget.

Value Added Travel – Get More Than You Pay For

When you book online, you get what you get. When you book with a travel advisor affiliated with the leading luxury network, Virtuoso, you receive more. Connections like ours create opportunities that make a trip truly extraordinary, and often result in value-added perks—like bonus cruise amenities, spa credit, room upgrades, and private tours. We have been arranging the “above an beyond” part of experiences for a long time.

Why Take the Chance?

No one likes (bad) surprises when they arrive, and there is no guarantee when you make a reservation online. Contact Santa Barbara Travel and you tap into a wealth of travel knowledge. When you contact one of our advisors, they have probably been to the destination you want to travel to and have a relationship with the hotel or travel company you want to book. They also know what questions to ask. Like your beds soft? We will make sure you sleep well at night.

We Are In Your Corner 

Santa Barbara Travel is committed to excellent customer service. When something unexpected happens in travel, such as a canceled or delayed flight, we have a vested interest.  Have you ever tried calling your online travel company for a refund or alternate route?  With Santa Barbara Travel Bureau you’ll never end up 10th in line on the phone or waiting on hours end at the airlines’ customer service counter. We have you covered, and are available to assist you to get you to where you need to be… no matter where in the world!

A Modern Solution

While travel advisors are by no means new to the industry, the last 15 years threatened their existence. Santa Barbara Travel Bureau not only adapted to and evolved with the unprecedented challenges in the industry, but also thrived with the opportunity. Whether it’s a vacation or a business trip, a sports team, or a multi-generational family reunion, we offer a personalized, professional solution to your unique travel equation. The landscape may be ‘ever changing in the travel industry, but our dedication and commitment to our clients is not.

 

Do you have a favorite experience made possible by your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor? Please share your comments, testimonials, and travel photos by emailing info@sbtravel.com

5 New Years Resolutions to Make– If You Want to Travel

With every New Year comes the “Resolutions Phase” as promises are made to quit our vices or spark our good habits. Gym memberships shoot up, only to be abandoned by February 1; shoes are purchased with hopes of hitting pavement, only to sit in a closet after their debut around the block; promises are made to quit-that-thing-I-know-is-bad only to run rampant with it. Clearly, we are going about this all wrong.

Even motivating goals, like travel, have made it to the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions Lists as long as the internet has compiled them, but most people write their travel dreams on a bucket list, not a book-it-now list, and instead opt for that gym membership. The key is to make your goals more specific, and even a little ridiculous, but make sure they are rooted outside of your locale. Let your journey to a new place plant the seed of the habits you want to build by rooting them in your passion.

1-3 DominicanRepublic2

1– See a Wild Flamingo (on White Sand Beaches)

Silly? Perhaps, but think of the places you can go! These beautiful, wild birds are a distant cousin to those seen in a zoo. Experience Flamingos in their natural, pink glory and watch them “dance” in the sand as they dig up pink shrimp. This resolution can take you throughout the Caribbean, and even to a tiny island called Holbox off the coast of Mexico, where there are no cars and plenty of white sand beaches.

DominicanRepublic4

2– Coconut Water Detox (via Bicycle Delivery)

Unlike the “lose weight” or “be healthier” goals, a Coconut Water Detox can be highly beneficial with only a 2 day commitment. From Bali to the Dominican Republic, the locals will scale coconut trees and delivery your supply by bike, with a machete. Coconut water is one of the purest forms of water when taken straight out of a coconut, and offers a healthy balance of minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, salt, and vitamins. The water is also alkaline, which creates an anti-cancer atmosphere in our bodies. Not only will you feel infinitely better after 2 days, you will have become quite handy cracking open a coconut with a machete.

Bhutan Yoga 1

3– A 1-Week Yoga Challenge (in the Himalayan Kingdom)

Skip the gym membership or yoga pass and go all-in. We couldn’t feel more strongly about this yoga retreat in Bhutan, available at a special rate from now until August. Enjoy the tranquility of the deep forest and misty mountains of the Himalayas, while being fed organic cuisine, breathing deeply, and relaxing mind, body and spirit in the spa. Pictures are worth a thousand words at Uma by COMO. There are even one-on-one meetings with a Buddhist monk for a truly enlightening experience!

tango-axis4– Tango & Vino (in Buenos Aires

Don’t just take dance classes, learn this passionate style of movement from the source: Buenos Aires. Tango came from Europe, but found it’s home in Argentina. The sensual movements of Tango will bring passion & spice into your every day. While you’re down there, discover the art of tea, sample delectable wines with an expert wine steward, walk in Pope Francis’ footsteps, and sneak backstage at the Colon Theatre opera house.

chile35– Time Travel to the Next Season

Yes! You can chase seasons, and we think this is the most amazing of resolutions. Whether you are one to chase Summer or Winter, we will help you find exactly what you are looking for. White sand beaches with glorious sunsets in Fiji, to an adventure trip in Chile and Patagonia, to a foodie adventure though Argentina, the other hemisphere has so much to offer!

Iquitos-Sunset

 

Whatever passion you are looking for, our travel agents are experts on where to find it. Look outside of the box of resolutions, and make sure your bucket list doesn’t get too long. Call us to talk about your New Years resolutions, and we’ll make them happen. 805.969.7746 and speak with Erin for a complementary travel consultation.

Christmas Markets along the Danube

“It’s a really special time to experience Europe,” said travel advisor Cathy Kroll after taking AMA Waterways Christmas Time Cruise, “and visiting the ‘Christkindl’ markets along the ancient cities of the Danube is a unique way to experience the Christmas season.”

xmas

“The hand blown ornaments, the little ‘smokers’ or hand incense burners; the men and women cooking sausages and sauerkraut over enormous pans; market-goers in their hats and mittens standing around barrels drinking their gluwein – these are all images from my Christmas market cruise that I’ll never forget.”

vienna

Who should go on these cruises?  “You know,” says Cathy, ‘although anyone would enjoy these, I think they’d be particularly fun for groups: your book club, your church group, all your girlfriends, or a family reunion.. it’s just so much fun to experience this with a lot of people!’

xmas2

And what about the weather? “There’s no way I would let the winter weather stop me.  Just be prepared for the cold… like your mom always tells you, ‘dress in layers!’.  My own tip?  Wear shoes that are waterproof.  Besides, you can always drink gluwein to keep warm!  And you know, when you get chilly at the markets, it’s so wonderful to come back to the ship that is all decorated to the nines for the holidays, and be welcomed with mulled wine and hot cider.”

AMAWaterways Christmas market departures are specially decorated for the holidays

AMAWaterways Christmas market departures are specially decorated for the holidays

“I travel because I’m so interested to see how others live, and the history of countries that are so much older than our own.  I love seeing life through others’ eyes.  I also love taking what I’ve experienced and, frankly, the travel mistakes that I’ve made myself, and helping my clients have their own, perfect vacation.”

If you have any questions about the AMA Waterways Christmas-Time Cruise, or you’d like some help crafting your own perfect vacation, contact Cathy at ckroll@sbtravel.com.

Australia: A Land of Surprises

“It was a country of continual surprises”, says Travel Advisor Erin Zetter, just returned from Australia.  Erin was one of only 60 agents from throughout the US and Canada invited to travel down under on Travel2’s ‘Amazing Aussie Adventure’.  Visiting Sydney, Melbourne, Ayres Rock, and the Wolgan Valley in a small group of 10 Virtuoso agents, Erin’s preconceptions of  Australia were challenged – and in a good way.

Erin at a Camel Farm

Erin at a Camel Farm

“First,” says Erin, “I was astonished at the amount of wildlife.  We went on a night safari drive to see the nocturnal animals, and then a nature walk the next morning to see kangaroos, wallaby and wombats.  We also visited the Featherdale Wildlife Park, where I was thrilled to be able to feed kangaroos (from ice-cream cones!) right out of my hands.  I originally thought, though, that the wildlife in Australia would be rather elusive.  But when we went to the Blue Mountains I couldn’t believe the number of kangaroos you could see – they were everywhere, in the hundreds.  I could even see them from right outside my room!”

Ern gets to hand feed a kangaroo.

Ern gets to hand feed a kangaroo.

 

“Everyone has seen photos of the Australian outback,” says Erin.  “But I found that no picture can compare.  You can’t begin to imagine the vastness, and the sunset and views of Uluru (Ayres Rock) were stunning.  The stars began to come out at the end of a ‘Sounds of Silence’ dinner in the outback. They had billed it as a ‘dine under a billion stars’ evening – and for once, there was no exaggeration.  With the clarity of the sky, I could see planets, galaxies, even the full Milky Way.  It was a very emotional experience”.

Sounds of Silence dinner near Ayres Rock

Sounds of Silence dinner near Ayres Rock

 

Even the visit to Australia’s cities held surprises.  Did you know the Sydney Opera House can be toured?  And that ‘Opera House’ is actually a bit of a misnomer? Because it’s not just one house, but a full complex with five different theaters where you can hear the symphony, of course, but also rock performances, dramas, and theater in the round.

In Sydney, Erin also got to complete a bucket list item with another iconic city landmark.  Conquering all fear of heights in the name of research for her clients, Erin climbed – and crossed – the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 1.5 hours as part of BridgeClimb Sydney.  Her reward from the top was 360 degree panoramic views of the city.

See those tiny dots up there?  Those are the brave climbers on BridgeClimb Sydney.  Climbers are dressed in suits to match the bridge - so as not to distract the drivers below.

See those tiny dots up there? Those are the brave climbers on BridgeClimb Sydney. Climbers are dressed in suits to match the bridge – so as not to distract the drivers below.

And then there’s Melbourne, Erin’s favorite city.  From above, the city of Melbourne has a full metropolitan skyline, complete with skyscrapers.  But walk the streets, and you’ll discover a hidden Melbourne, one with narrow alleyways and lanes, cobblestone streets, café’s and street performers.  “You’ll think you’re in Europe”, says Erin.

Europe or Australia?  ... It's a laneway in Melbourne!

Europe or Australia? … It’s a laneway in Melbourne!

“So much of this trip was fabulous,” concludes Erin, “I couldn’t believe how much there was to see and do, and so much variety.  I visited at the end of our summer and had a great time.  Ideally, in order to see everything under the best conditions, I’d recommend booking travel for our Spring and Fall.”

Want to learn more about Australia?  Give your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor a call today!

Congrats to Our Outstanding Agents!

Check out the latest leaderboard results for the National Geographic Expeditions Travel Advisor of the Year contest: Two of the top 10 agents in the country are from Santa Barbara Travel – Cathy Kroll in our Ventura office, and Tina Slimp in the office in Santa Barbara.

national geographic

Santa Barbara Travel is proud to offer a broad array of travel experiences with National Geographic Expeditions. With more than 65 destinations, each expedition is led by either a National Geographic expert, an expedition team or a trip guide. Possible experiences include:

– Meeting wildlife experts in Australia on a trip from Tasmania to the Great Barrier Reef;

– Following a naturalist through the cloud forests and jungles of Costa Rica;

– Joining an archaeologist for a journey by rail and riverboat through Malaysia and Thailand.

Other opportunities include family and student expeditions, photography and scuba diving trips, plus voyages aboard the vessels of the National Geographic-Lindblad fleet.

National Geographic Expeditions‘ mission is to inspire people to care about the planet by providing meaningful opportunities to explore it.  Let our experts at Santa Barbara Travel help you craft the most meaningful expedition that is perfect for you.