Where In The World Are We Going?!

Where In The World Are We Going?!

 
This time last year, I walked into the New York Times Travel Show with the intention of building up readership for this blog, and maybe learn a thing or two about places I haven’t been.  I never dreamed I would walk out on the path to being a Cruise Planners franchise owner.  Within six weeks of the show, I completely reinvented myself as a business owner.

I love to travel.  There are a million reasons I could list; the sights, the sounds, the people, new experiences, we know them all.  Perhaps my favorite are the smells.  Every different location has it’s own unique scent.  It comes from the geology, the ecology, the people, the food, the culture –  it hits as soon as you get off the plane, or maybe later while sitting at a street-side restaurant, or strolling through a park.  It becomes ingrained in memory, and you never know when you’ll be reminded again.

I bought the Cruise Planners franchise for my love of travel.  “Great, I own a Travel Agency.  I’ll be able to travel the world now!”  They sold me a dream, but I bought a business.  I’ve been sitting at my desk for the better part of a year planning other’s great adventures.  I’ve hardly stepped outside.

But the year was good.  We’ve sent or booked clients to France and Italy, Iceland, Mexico, Tahiti, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.  We have a couple spending a week at an over-water bungalow in Jamaica, and another spending a night in Bora Bora.  Now it’s time to wipe the dust off the luggage.

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Our travel itinerary for 2017 (and yes, you can expect a blog on each one):

  • January:  The New York Times Travel Show.  SirOzzy, now known as Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire, are returning to where it all began.
  • February:  Las Vegas, Nevada. We’ve cashed in our mileage and exchanged our timeshare.  Looking forward to seeing Terry Fator at the Mirage on our wedding anniversary.  Vegas Baby!
  • April: Atlantic City, New Jersey.  Cruise Planners Training Conference.  Research and Development to help make your travel experience even better (and play some slot machines).
  • May:  Europe.  Two nights in Athens, Greece, followed by a 7 night sailing on the brand new Majestic Princess.  This 7 night sailing departs from Athens and visits Santorini, Montenegro, Sicily, and Naples before disembarking in Barcelona.
  • September:  Alaska.  The Great Alaskan Journey.  Starting in Seattle with an Amtrak Cascades train ride to Vancouver, British Colombia; 2 nights at the Vancouver Four Seasons; 7 nights on the Star Princess to Whittier, Alaska; 4 nights in the Denali region; finishing in Fairbanks before returning home.  This may be what they call a masterpiece vacation.

It looks like the old shoe maker just got a new pair of soles!  Enjoy The Journey…

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TOP 10 TRAVEL LIST FOR 2017

TOP 10 TRAVEL LIST FOR 2017
  1. ALASKA

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Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire are hosting their Great Alaskan Journey in September, 2017.  A 7 night cruise on the Star Princess out of Vancouver follows your first night at the Four Seasons.  The cruise ventures through the Inside Passage, followed by port stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway.  Sightseeing in Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord comes before disembarking in Whittier, Alaska.  Step off the cruise into an awaiting glass domed train for a six hour scenic rail ride to Talkeetna and the Denali National Park region.  The next 4 nights will be spent at various Princess Lodges with tours of Denali and the Chena River.  After salmon fishing, a visit to a sled dog facility, whale watching , and memories to last a lifetime, fly home from Fairbanks.  For more on this trip, visit Great Alaskan Journey.

2. All-Inclusive in the Caribbean

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Breathtakingly beautiful beaches, wonderful year-round weather, the finest service – there are very few places in the world that rival the Caribbean Islands.  Sandals, and it’s sister brand Beaches, are the standard bearer for the All-Inclusive experience.  From the moment you get off the plane to when they bring you back, everything is taken care of.  Sandals is for couples only and has 15 distinct locations throughout the Caribbean.  Beaches is a family friendly experience located on Jamaica as well as Turks and Caicos.  Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire are proud to be Certified Sandals Specialists, and will gladly give a free consultation to anyone considering a Sandals or Beaches vacation.  Don’t book without them!

3. Cuba

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FINALLY!  Since the embargo in 1960, travel to Cuba has been restricted for all Americans.  With the restrictions easing, there are now a number of ways to legally travel to this Caribbean Island.  While regulations are still tricky, Cruise Planners- Ken & Gail McGuire are well versed in the legalities and tour operators that handle the logistics.  Make this a top a destination for yourself.

     4. U.S. National Parks

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“Oh Beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountains majesty, Above the fruited plains.”  Too many people never get to see how magnificent this country we live in truly is.  Take a guided tour through the U.S. National Parks.  From the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon, YellowStone and the Black Hills, there is much to see and do.  Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire have outstanding business relationships with all the key Tour Operators, and will handle all the logistics for you.  All you have to do is Enjoy The Journey…

5. European River Cruise

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The 1960’s are over and the time of backpacking through Europe is long past. With itineraries ranging from Tulips in Holland, Wine tasting in Burgundy and Provence, and Castles in Germany, a river cruise is a top option for sightseeing.  Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire are Avalon Waterways Specialists and will handle your booking from start to finish.  Call today to find out how to get free airfare.

6. Hawaii

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A perennial favorite on everyone’s bucketlist, Hawaii is a must do.  From historic Pearl Harbor to the lushness of Maui, there is much to see and do in America’s 50th state.  Let Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire put your dream itinerary together for you

7. Iceland

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Ironically, the coolest place on this list is also the hottest.  Iceland steps up in popularity every year.  See the Northern Lights, the Blue Lagoon, and Mt. Eyjafjallajökull.  With names like that, don’t take this booking into your own hands, let Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire handle the hard part for you.

8. Bermuda 

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With all the major cruise lines making regular trips to this English island off the East Coast, it’s easy enough to get to.  Immersed in old culture, great restaurants, hotels, and beaches, what’s not to love?  Call Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire to plan the perfect 5-7 night getaway.

9. A Cruise Anywhere

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My favorite part of a cruise is that every morning you wake up in a different place – and you’ve done absolutely nothing to get there!  Cruise Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire have tremendous buying power with all the cruise lines, and because of that, are able to provide you with more than you’ll ever get on you own.  Our priority is to provide you the best value for your trip along with the best service.  Think of us as your own personal Travel Concierge, for FREE!

10. Anywhere Else In The World You Want To Go

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Travel.  It’s the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer.  From Rio de Janeiro to Machu Pichu, Disney World to Tokyo, a South African safari to the Fairmont in Lake Louise… Cruise – Planners – Ken & Gail McGuire, we’re making your travel dreams come true.

Call us today to book your next vacation.  631-509-0502. And LIKE us on Facebook.

 

Random Thoughts on Key West and Life in General

Random Thoughts on Key West and Life in General

If you have been following this blog for a while, and many of you have, I thank you.  Certainly you noticed I have not posted in some time.  I announced recently, with great pride, the acquisition of a Cruise Planners franchise.  Yes, that’s right, Mrs. SirOzzy and I bought a travel agency.  Travel, as you know, has always been one of my many passions and now I do it professionally.  I foresee a lot of “Research & Development Projects” in my future.  For the last two months I have been focused intently on the process of beginning a new business.  Please visit our new website www.sirozzytravel.com  Someone (maybe it was me) once said, “If you find what you love to do, you’ll never have to work again”.

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While we have been celebrating , Sir Ozzy was not particularly fond of seeing us leave on our last trip.

We were patiently waiting for our rental car to be ready for the drive to Key West.  The valet parked it out front and was putting on a finishing shine when we were approached by another gentlemen.  With company shirt and clip board in hand, he smoothly asked if we would like an upgrade.  “How can we get an upgrade when we have the nicest car on the lot?”  We watched him retreat to the 3 Spring-Breakers and read his lips as he said, “no deal.”  And off we went in our convertible Camaro.

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Much has been written on Key West and the drive on the Overseas Highway.  But, after reading the story of a man who walked to Key West all the way from Seattle, Washington, my drive pales in comparison.  He is still there, just look for Darth Vader playing a banjo on Duval Street.

Here are a few suggestions for things to do in Key West:

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First things first, a lunch at Snook’s Bayside Restaurant in Key Largo is a MUST!  Be careful not to miss the turn, it will sneak up on you on the right hand side.  Get the Lobster Reuben and enjoy the amazing view.  The next 100 miles will be the fun part.

BREAKFAST

Island Dogs Bar.  I had the Daily Hair of the Dog Pizza.  This very well may be the most perfect remedy for a hangover I ever had.  And how about the Good Morning Dog?  A bacon wrapped hot dog with fried eggs.  This place has got breakfast figured out right!

Blue Heaven.  This is the most popular breakfast joint in the Keys.  While you are waiting for your table, make sure you belly up to the bar and get a Bloody Mary.  And enjoy the live tunes.

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While we have been celebrating , Sir Ozzy was not particularly fond of seeing us leave on our last trip.

Starbucks.  I know, I know…who the hell goes to Key West to get Starbucks? Well, we got a couple drinks and a breakfast sandwich and walked over to the pier behind Mallory Square.  We enjoyed the peace and quiet while watching pelicans dive for their breakfast.  Hey, don’t knock it.

LUNCH

Here’s the thing about Key West, there are about a million restaurants up and down Duval Street and all around the surrounding area.  Where ever you are, you are within walking distance of everything.  Flip-flops and tank-tops are perfectly appropriate attire at any restaurant.  If you can’t find a good lunch in Key West, well, you ain’t looking.  A good starting point is Sloppy Joe’s.

DINNER

Sure, there are some good, fine dining restaurants in Key West.  But, if I wanted extravagance, I would have stayed in Miami.  Ninety miles from Cuba is all about Happy Hour.

Alonzo’s.  A great view and even better Garlic Oysters.

Kelly’s Caribbean Bar & Grill.  The best chicken wings on the island, and owned by Kelly “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” McGillis.

Fogarty’s.  Huge portions of American Comfort Food served in an outside seating area.  Great spot to eat dinner and people watch.

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While we have been celebrating , Sir Ozzy was not particularly fond of seeing us leave on our last trip.

DESSERTS

Better Than Sex.  Need I say more?  Leave the kids at the hotel.

Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe.  Self-proclaimed best Key Lime in the world.  Has a few awards to back it up.

ACTIVITIES

Key West Cemetery.  Grab your jogging (or in my case, walking) shoes and head on over to the cemetery first thing in the morning.  Look for the tombstone that says “I told you I was sick”, and  “If you don’t have anything nice to say, you’re a jerk.”  This could be the most fun you’ll ever have in a cemetery.

Take a Trolley.  It’s always the best way to get acclimated to a new area.  And these are especially enjoyable with the fun stories told by the guides.  The night time Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley Tour is one of the best tours I’ve ever had.

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Mallory Square Sunset Celebration.  Loaded with street performers of all types, including acrobats, jugglers, musicians and dog trainers, this is what separates Key West from everywhere else in the world.  Celebrate as another day ends and night begins.

We were sorry to go, but San Juan was calling our name.

Enjoy The Journey…

And please visit my new website Cruise Planners  and LIKE us over at Facebook

 

 

 

 

Car Rental Tips

We love points!  We use miles received from airlines, reward systems from hotels, even the free turkey during the holidays from our local grocery store.  It seems these days everyone has a Members Benefit Program to earn bonuses and savings. We at SirOzzy base many decisions on how many points we receive.  Our loyalty is to companies and credit cards with the best rewards programs.

Rental car companies are the exception.  Yes, some companies have points systems.  More often than not, however, their programs are either impossible to use or simply not worth it.  Hertz, for example, will give a free day after 14.  When paying 50% or more as a base rate, that is certainly not a bargain.

SAY NO TO LOYALTY.  We recommend you take your loyalty to Avis, Budget, National, or whoever it may be, and toss it out the window at 60 mph of the best deal you can get.  Shop around.  Often you will find the lowest price is “pay now”.  If it is an outstanding deal and you are willing to take the risk, then certainly pay now.  Or book the second best deal, watch the price over time, and re-book when you see it lower.

LEAVE THE AIRPORT.  We have found the best deals are typically at agencies located away from the airports.  Companies like Payless and Fox are always substantially less money.  When booking through offsite locations, call in advance and ask where their shuttle will pick you up.

SAY NO TO INSURANCE.  Most likely, either your personal car insurance policy or credit card will have rentals covered.  If you are unsure, call first.  You do not have to purchase additional insurance.

SAY NO TO ADD-ONS.  The state of Florida has tolls where cash is not accepted.  If you do not have a Florida Sunpass transponder, they take a photo of your license plate and mail you a bill with a small additional surcharge.  Unless you have a rental car.  With a rental car, the bill goes to the rental agency where they add the toll to your credit card along with a surcharge that could be upwards of $45.  In some cases they will rent you a Sunpass in advance for anywhere from $5-15 per day.  No matter how you slice it, they are raking you over the coals.

The SirOzzy solution: Prior to our upcoming trip we contacted Florida Sunpass directly and had them mail us a transponder.  Problem solved at a reasonable cost.

In sum, be proactive and start your research early.  Say no to high prices and additional costs.  And most importantly…Enjoy The Journey.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions, And The Evolution Of An Itinerary.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions, And The Evolution Of An Itinerary.

I find wherever I go people are generally supportive of my endeavours and some even a bit envious.  But,  “I can’t (or wish I could) travel like you,” is what I hear over and over again.

I don’t believe that.  I believe if you want to travel, you can.  But it helps if you follow our formula.  SirOzzy’s aim is to help guide you on your perfect vacation.  We want to help you decide where to stay and eat, and where to relax and play.  We want SirOzzy to become a verb.  “Wow, where did you get all that great information for your trip?”  “I SirOzzy’d it!”

Yes, we have an amazing trip coming soon, but it wasn’t planned overnight.  As with most trips the SirOzzy clan takes, this one took two years in the making.  There is an infinitesimal amount of planning and organization that goes into a successful trip.  The details can be overwhelming.  Here we will begin to spell out and simplify the decision making process that goes into a vacation like this.

There are three key elements to the art of travel.  Each piece has it’s own importance in the puzzle and will affect the outcome of another piece and thus, the trip itself.  These pieces are Time, Location, and Money.

Let’s start first with the time frame.  The busy time at Mrs. SirOzzy’s job ends every year in early February.  The busy time in my career starts in March.  Now we know February is a good time to travel.  Lesson number one is plan ahead, there are way too many decisions to make in a short period of time.

Now begins the process of where do we go?  This is the fun part.  We could go virtually anywhere in the world, so before we decide where we’re going, let’s decide where we are not going.  Europe is out, it’s too cold in February for us.  Australia is out, we went just two years ago.  Hawaii?  No, too long a flight for what we want.  Africa? No.  Asia? Nope. The Caribbean?  The weather is perfect in February and it’s fairly easy to get to from New York. Yes, the Caribbean it is.

The Caribbean.  That’s kind of a big place, a little too big to conquer all at once.  Let’s narrow it down.  There are some amazing all-inclusive resorts and beautiful hotels in the islands.   But for this trip I don’t think I really want to fend for myself too much and I don’t want to sit in one place for too long either.  A cruise?  I love to cruise.  My favorite thing about cruising is that everyday you wake up you’re in an entirely new place, and you’ve done absolutely nothing to get there.  Yes, a cruise it will be.

Our favorite cruise line is Royal Caribbean, for reasons we’ll leave to another post.  Looking through the cruise book can be a bit overwhelming.  The first thing we decide is where do we leave from.  Bayonne, NJ and Baltimore, MD are both within driving distance and have cruises departing from there, but sailing the Atlantic during February can be unpleasant.  We looked to leave from further south and found The Jewel Of The Seas is in Puerto Rico.

The Jewel is the first ship Mrs. SirOzzy and I went on together and has been our favorite ever since.  On that ship was the first of many times I would ask her to marry me.  Yes, The Jewel Of The Seas.  Next, the itinerary.  The Jewel has two different sailings in the month of February, both are 7 nights and both go to the southern Caribbean.  One itinerary happened to also fall on our anniversary.

Simple, right?  No way.  Sure, you can just fly straight to Puerto Rico and jump on a ship, but why do that when you can go a few days in advance and acclimate and enjoy your trip even more?  Besides, we have 2 weeks of vacation time, let’s use it.

We began to look at different hotels and realized, shit, we’re already down there, do we necessarily have to stay in Puerto Rico?  No, we started looking at the surrounding US Virgin Islands.  St. Thomas is not part of the cruise itinerary, and since it is part of the US there is no international flight required.  Sounds good, but, hmmmm, there is one other option.

Key West is only a short flight to San Juan.  One item that has been on my bucket list for a very long time is driving a convertible to Key West.  We can get a direct flight from our local airport to Fort Lauderdale, we’ll rent a car from there.  We’ll use our top secret code to get a deal on a room at the Hyatt next to Mallory Square.

Now we have a cruise and Key West.  Coming off a cruise and going straight home is always a bit of a drag, so let’s stay one more night and take advantage of San Juan before leaving.

This didn’t happen over night.  We began our planning two years ago and solidified the itinerary about 6 months ago.  Here’s what it looks like now:

  • Day 1  Fly to Fort Lauderdale. Drive to Key West.
  • Day 2 Key West
  • Day 3 Key West
  • Day 4 Drive back to Fort Lauderdale
  • Day 5 Fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Cruise
  • Day 6 Sailing on The Jewel Of The Seas
  • Day 7 Bridgetown, Barbados
  • Day 8 Castries, St Lucia
  • Day 9 St. John’s, Antigua
  • Day 10 Philipsburg, St. Maarten
  • Day 11 St Croix, US Virgin Islands
  • Day 12 San Juan, Puerto Rico. Intercontinental Hotel, Isla Verde
  • Day 13 San Juan. Fly home.

Now that is what a two week vacation looks like.

As far as the 3rd part to planning a successful trip, Money?  Shit, we’ll have to figure that out too, but we have two years to do it.

Enjoy The Journey.