Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cruises-Great Vacation Value for Budget Conscious

The cruise line business began in the 19th century. Once reserved for the very wealthy, it has become the vacation package of choice for the budget conscious traveler.

Compared to the cost of reserving a hotel at a top tourist spot, finding transportation, eating meals in restaurants, and paying for top entertainment, a cruise can be much less expensive. Modern cruise ships are pleasure palaces featuring excellent food and accommodations, as well as top entertainment...all included in one price.

Cruises can be great romantic get-aways for couples. What could be better than basking in the sun on a gorgeous beach during the day, or watching the sun set on an exotic tropical island at night? Then take in a world class Las Vegas style show to compete the evening.

Cruises can also be great for families with kids. Our kids loved Carnival Cruise lines Camp Carnival. It's a program on board ship designed just for kids. Parents love it because it allows them time to do what they want to do. Pagers are provide in case your child needs you.

Carnival Cruises also provide some great excursions once the ship docks at the various ports of call. (For an extra fee.)
Some of our favorites have been the Atlantis Submarine, the Turtle Farm, Stingray City and Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman. Jamaica offers the Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios which is a 900 foot climb to the top of the falls (in the water!). Don't worry, its easy enough that the kids can do it. Great fun on those hot tropical days! Not far from Dunns River Falls you can experience the Dolphin Encounter, in which you get into the water and actually pet and play with the dolphins under the supervision of trainers. Kids and adults will enjoy this one. If your interest is in history and ancient culture, the Mayan ruins can't be beat! There are two excursions available from Cozemel, Mexico: Tulum and Chichen Itza. Tulum is absolutely stunning in its setting on the beach. Although climbing of the pyramids is off limits here, the tour guides are excellent in presenting the Mayan culture and history. Chichen Itza is further inland and requires a bus ride to get there, making the entire excursion about 8 hours. It's worth it though. There are many more ruins to see and you can climb the pyramid there. An excellent Mexican buffet is provided by the local hotel there. Be careful, some of the food is HOT!

Looking for a great vacation value? Book a cruise!

David Doolin writes on travel and vacationing related issues.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Washington DC for Music Lovers - The Capital City Hits All of the Right Notes

Music may not be the first attraction most people associate with Washington, DC, but the nation’s capital hits all of the right notes for the music lover.
At the world-famous Kennedy Center, you can revel in performances that feature music luminaries like Renee Fleming, Midori, Yo-Yo Ma, Roberta Flack, and Wynonna. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (the official name) also features Jazz by performers such as Tigran Homosian (the 2006 winner of the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Piano Contest, the compelling Dianne Reeves, and Grammy winner John Patitucci. The center also offers a robust schedule of chamber music, as well as family- oriented performances, such as the NSO Family Concert: More Spooky Sounds and Scary Tales around Halloween.
If you don’t mind standing room only, the 9:30 Club (815 V St NW) is consistently voted the best music venue in the city by locals. The 9:30 Club features national and up-and-coming acts, with 300 shows annually, and past performers have included R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins and James Brown. Another great venue for up and comers is the Black Cat (1811 14th St NW), which locals know is the place to go for great indie acts, such as Ani DiFranco, Sleater-Kinney and Yo La Tengo as well as mainstreamers like Foo Fighters, Garbage and The Offspring. The Black Cat has a smoke-free cafe, called Food for Thought, which serves a vegetarian and vegan menu.
Jazz fans will also find avant-garde artists, minor legends and the best of the local scene at Twins Jazz (1344 U St NW). Ethiopian cuisine is available to complement the Jazz. Believe it or not, Blues Alley (1073 Wisconsin Ave) is a legendary DC venue for live jazz, in spite of its name. This Georgetown supper club is small, with only 40 tables, but the sound is big. Creole is the specialty on the menu at Blues Alley.
For a mixture of Blues, Folk, and Country acts, head to Birchmere (3701 Mount Vernon Ave, Alexandria), where headliners have included the Dave Matthews Band, Lyle Lovett, k.d. lang and Vince Gill. Birchmere is a music hall, with homespun décor and a seating capacity of 500. For Folk fans (with some jazz, blues and country thrown in), Jammin’ Java (227 Maple Avenue East, Vienna) is the place to be. The coffeehouse club remains a staple of the Washington, DC area music community, and is run by musicians. The club features live music seven nights a week and kids concerts in the mornings. As its name suggests, Jammin’ Java offers a variety of coffee drinks, as well as beer and wine.
If you are a headed to Washington DC, has the perfect hotel for you. Choose the Phoenix Park Hotel, the Capitol Hill Suites (see special deal below), the Best Western Capitol Skyline, the Four Points by Sheraton, the Lombardy Hotel, or the Georgetown Suites. Stay at the Henley Park Hotel, the State Plaza, the Georgetown Hill Inn, or. Enjoy the Washington Plaza Hotel, the Georgetown Inn, the Latham Hotel, or the historic Morrison Clark Inn.
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What A Difference Two Days Makes - Get Away From It All With A Short Break

Everybody loves Fridays. Even if your one of the less common breed who really enjoy their job, the building excitement of the clockwatchers and the general optimism that spreads through the workplace as 5pm draws closer is just infectious. It’s nearly the weekend, two whole days full of potential; anything could happen.
However, that timeless staple of office conversation, “Have a good weekend”, and its Monday morning counterpart “Did you get up to anything fun?” can become a bit depressing as you slowly realise that week after week, you always go to the same places with the same people. Or, worse still, decide to have a ‘quiet, relaxing weekend’ and end up catching up on some of those neglected chores around the house, alphabetising your DVD collection, thinking about new wallpaper and going back to work on Monday feeling more tired than you did last week.
Wouldn’t you rather have a really good reason for that Friday feeling: what if you knew that you’d be spending the weekend exploring a new city, hurtling along a rollercoaster, lying on a golden beach, seeing your favourite band in concert, being pampered in a steamy spa, or simply relaxing and enjoying the fresh air in some idyllic green countryside, without a wallpaper sample or hedge trimmer in sight?
A weekend break could be the perfect solution if you need to take a bit of time out, recharge your batteries or just try something new – as the old saying goes, ‘a change is as good as a rest’, and the possibilities are practically endless; so with a bit of planning you could end up somewhere very different every week!
Of course, you don’t want to spend half your weekend travelling, but luckily plenty of fantastic destinations are easily reachable by train or bus, either within the UK or via Eurostar.
Train travel is a great option as its fast, convenient, safe and green (it’s about ten times less polluting to the environment than flying). As you’ll only be staying for a night or two and don’t even need to take time off work, there’s nothing like the levels of financial worry that can be an unpleasant side-effect of planning longer holidays. Book early if possible to take advantage of any offers on train fares or accommodation to make weekend breaks even more affordable, so you can put some cash aside for your next trip!
No matter what you’re into – theatre, music, art, history, nature, sports, shopping, sun-worshipping, thrill-seeking, or if you just want to spend quality time with someone special – a weekend away is ideal for indulging your interests, and your tales of adventure may well make you the envy of the office on Monday morning! Or Tuesday morning, of course, in the fairly likely event that you decide your destination is just too good to leave...
Adam Singleton is an online freelance journalist from Scotland. His hobbies include travelling and hiking.
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Travel Smart By Finding The Best Hotel Deals Within Your Budget

The shrinking world has made traveling a necessity. Whether you are traveling for business or for leisure the first step that you have to take is to book a hotel. With hundreds and thousands of hotels in all major cities of the world, it becomes a difficult task for a traveler to intelligently find a hotel that is in the proximity of the city area that he or she is visiting, has appropriate facilities, and is also within the budget.
To ease this pain, a lot of travel websites with hotel reservation systems have popped-up for every nook and corner of the world, but the problem remains intact - which website to visit. There are over thousands of hotel search and reservation websites for each city or geographic area. For instance, if you are looking for accommodation in Paris, the first thing you would do is type - "Paris accommodation" in your favorite search engine - the result would bring over 3.5 million matches. Soon you will get tangled in millions of sites, offering different prices for thousands of hotels in Paris - each claiming to be the cheapest.
Fortunately, there's an easy way out. Recently, I was searching for hotels in Prague for one of my relatives and I wanted the best hotel prices. After some futile searching I landed on the Prague webpage of It had a list of all the hotels in Prague. I could sort the results based on consumer ratings, hotel prices, location, stars, etc. The website also has the option to select the currency in which you want to see the hotel prices. This feature is extremely convenient for international travelers, who don’t have to calculate the amount in their local currency for each hotel.
The best part is that this website brings the results from over 30 popular online hotel reservation systems to give the best of all worlds. It shows a comparison of hotel prices offered on each hotel reservation system of which that hotel is a part of. Once you click on the hotel, you will see the prices offered by sites like,,,,,,,,, and many more. Apart from the prices you can also see complete hotel details, pictures of rooms and the facilities, reviews by other members, and the map to the hotel - all at one place.
Once you select the hotel rate, from among the various prices offered by multiple reservation systems, and click "select", the website takes you to the booking page of the respective hotel reservation system. For instance, while searching for hotels in Paris, you liked the deal offered by over the other systems and you clicked on it, then you would be taken to the booking page of website, so that you can go through the payment gateway securely.
I travel a lot and have always hassled myself while searching for hotels, but is truly different. Try it yourself and enjoy!
This is an independent website review done by Anuja Aggarwal, a professional freelance writer. Visit to easily search for all types of hotels in any part of the world.
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