CityPASS ( @CityPASS ) Shares The Complete City With You! #DadChat

citypass
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Over the past month I have had the opportunity for work and for personal reasons to visit the cities of Tampa and San Francisco. That being said I wanted to not just be there for the business at hand but I also wanted to see some of what the city had to offer. While I did not have a ton of time in the cities, I decided to reach out to a company I had worked with one other time when I went to Chicago (Read about the trip here), CityPASS to see if they would be interested in working with me to try their product and allow me to see the cities, they were.

One of the things that I like about CityPASS is that they bring forth some of the most popular destinations within the city and make them accessible to you and your family at a reasonable price. CityPASS is a booklet of actual admission tickets, not coupons.  Guests can proceed directly to the main entrance, because San Francisco and Tampa Bay CityPASS is your actual ticket and you don’t have to stand in line to buy a ticket (Thus saving you time). Not only do you have the opportunity to access the sites, but at many of them you can get discounts on adding to the pass too. That being said, if you have the time to use the passes, you definitely can see and experience a lot of the culture, sights, sounds and more of the city when you are using the CityPASS tickets that you receive when you purchase your CityPASS booklet.

I also am impressed with the array of cities that they are working in now. You can see a full list here.

In the cities that I visited I tried out a few of the coupons, as I did not have time to use them all unfortunately. I will share a few of the experiences here, and hope that in the end you will find that you too will want to check out CityPASS the next time you are visiting one of the tourist locations that they frequent.

Clearwater-Marine-Aquarium

In Tampa, the one location that I wanted to share was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This working hospital got notoriety due to the Dolphin Tale & Dolphin Tale 2 movies. Yes, this is the actual site where Winter and Hope are, and yes, I did get to see them both and it was very cool! The site itself is set up with numerous areas where marine animals are and live, and you can easily spend the day watching, learning and more with these animals. Know that the site is not large, but there are many activities and interactive sessions with trainers during the day, and it is through these that you can spread out your visit. I arrived just after it opened and found it to be very easy to maneuver around and the employees friendly and engaging. After a few hours it started getting busy as there were busses of people that arrived and they all started to fill the spaces. When this occurred I tried to move to other areas in the facility to not get too cramped between the people. There was also a second site that is included in the pass that you receive and that is to an off-site location that is about a mile away that is dedicated to the movie itself. The site has a ton of movie memorabilia, facts and more as well as a very cool interactive area that recreates the Hurricane that hit in the first movie. All-in-all this is a great facility that is great for families, couples or individuals. You will learn a ton and also have your heart warmed a bit as you see the two famed Dolphins too!

sf-cable-car

 

In San Francisco, one of the experiences that I loved the most was the Trolley Car rides that I took. Yes, the other locations that I visited were great too, but these cars are so iconic and something that I had not experienced in the past. The cars are exactly as you have seen, but how they work and stay on the steep streets of the city were amazing. They also bring you all over the city and allow you to maneuver easily without having to deal with the traffic that is all around. While yes, I did partake in a few other of the locations provided in the coupon book, this was on the top of my list coming in and leaving too!

All-in-all I have to again commend CityPASS for what it is trying to do. Getting people to truly experience these amazing cities is amazing and I for one have to say that for the price and for what you get, it is definitely worth it!
 

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Planning a day at the beach with kids #DadChat

beach

Planning a day at the beach with kids

Summer is just around the corner and nothing is more fun for the whole family than a day at the beach with kids. If you live close to a beach, a staycation is a great vacation idea for families. It’s a great way to have fun and save money.

A beach staycation can mean more than just swimming. There are many fun things to do at the beach, from boating to beach volleyball.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you plan a trip to the beach, including comfort, safety and fun. Yes, it’s true, the beach isn’t just about fun, but if you go prepared you can make sure the whole time is a fun experience and a memorable one.

beach

Comfort

Comfort is important for a trip to the beach because you want to make sure you have a chance to relax and enjoy the sun and sand. That means having the right towels, the right wardrobe and even the right chair. Make sure that bathing suites fit, and stay in place, before heading out. This will help avoid any embarrassing moments. Make sure to bring sandals, sunglasses, a beach hat and even a change of clothes if necessary.

The right seating is important too. While it might be fun to sit in the sand, why not bring along heavy duty chairs from Beach Mall. A comfortable chair that can stand up the the beach and climbing kids is definitely a must have for the perfect beach vacation.

beach

Safety

If you have young children that don’t know how to swim well, make sure to bring flotation devices. It also helps to choose a beach that has a lifeguard on duty.

Keep a first aid kit in your vehicle. Sometimes a trip to the beach can result in a cut foot from someone’s broken glass hidden in the sand, a bug bite, or even sunburn.

Speaking of sunburn, always bring sunscreen. Find one with an SPF of 30, or more, and make sure that it protects from UVA and UVB rays. If the sunscreen is not waterproof it may need to be reapplied numerous times, depending how much time you spend on the beach.

beach

Fun

While a visit to the beach itself is fun, it sometimes helps to bring some fun things with you.

Make the kids leave technology at home, and set an example by doing the same. Tech gadgets don’t do well clogged up with sand anyway.

Take a beach ball, beach noodles, and other fun beach toys with you. Depending on the beach rules, you might even be able to bring the family dog to play for the day.

If your beach rents out any kinds of boats or wave runners it might be fun to rent one for a bit. Just make sure everyone wears their life jacket and follows safety rules.

Beach volleyball is also another fun sport, mainly for older kids. You can always bring your own set-up if the beach doesn’t have one, and invite other beach goers to play too.

The important thing is to make sure everyone is safe and having fun, together.

 

February is the cheapest month to travel! #DadChat

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With the start of 2015, I know people are always looking for ways to save and, as you may already know, February is the cheapest month to travel! So why not pack up and take a road trip?  To make it easier to hit the road, Shell Fuel Rewards is offering more ways to save with a special Winter 20’s Offer till March 1, earning 20 cents off for:

  • Shopping at Toys “R” Us, JCPenney or Olive Garden with every $100 you spend in accumulated purchases
  • Every friend you refer to sign up for Shell Fuel Rewards via your unique referral link with the Refer-A-Friend promotion
  • Linking your MasterCard debit or credit card to your Fuel Rewards account for the first time

What a difference a tot makes #dadchat

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Tots-Too-Holiday-Infographic-lo-res

 

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I Love Working in @DowntownLansing #LoveLansing

English: This is a skyline shot of Lansing, Mi...

I love that I work in Downtown Lansing and the video below show some of the reasons why!

 

“This is My Downtown,” is a media campaign highlighting the pride of downtown Lansing residents, businesses, visitors & professionals who take pride in Michigan’s Capital City. Learn more at www.downtownlansing.org

 

lansing-downtown

This is My Downtown from Lansing Public Media on Vimeo.

A Family Trip to Alcúdia, Mallorca #travel #dadchat

A Family Trip to Alcúdia, Mallorca

A historic, palm-fringed town on the island of Mallorca, Alcúdia has been a hit with vacationing families since the first tourists arrived there, suitcases in tow, in the 1920s. In the 70s it experienced a major boom, and has since thrived from a tiny fishing village to a bustling resort with tourism as its principal economy, and over one million visitors annually. So what is it that makes this little idyll so worthy of attention?

 

It’s inexpensive

When you’re looking after a young family, every penny is a prisoner. Fortunately, the Balearics are a popular destination for people looking to save money on their getaway, and plenty of competition usually equates to cheap holidays.  The main strip offers price-conscious restaurants and bars, geared around offering family-friendly entertainment, and accommodation is very affordable.

S'Albufera-Natural-Park

It’s a natural beauty

S’Albufera Natural Park lies just to the south of the town, a protected belt of dunes and wetland which is home to a whopping 271 species of birds. While it’s free to visit, a permit is required which must be applied for in advance. Especially with older children, exploring the 12 kilometer trail by bike can make for a rewarding day’s excursion. There are also horse trek tours through the mountainside that will delight equestrians.

 

You can discover the vestiges of an empire

The principal Roman city of Pollentia (Roman for ‘power’) was founded in 123BC, and its site is still being excavated. Visitors to the area can explore the forum, theater and living areas which were constructed in prime vantage of the bay. Then, visit the Pollentia Monographic Museum to view the many artefacts that have been recovered so far.

Alcúdia-Mallorca

The beach is blinding

White sands and clean waters make this 14 kilometer strip of beach a treat for visitors. Hire a sunbed for four euros, or enjoy drinks in one of the many cafes that fringe the waterside. Tour the bay and nearby coves in a glass-bottomed catamaran, or hire a kayak and chart your own path through the waves.

Natural beauty, adventure and history make Alcúdia a jackpot location that’s easy on the wallet. With its extensive range of entertainment options for kids old and young, it might just be the star attraction of the Balearics for family vacations.

Images by chrsalg01 and Morfheos, used under Creative Commons license.

 

Check out All Oklahoma Has to Offer

 

 

At the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

At the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

 


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Check out All Oklahoma Has to Offer

While some people think the only way they can really say they’ve traveled on their vacation is to go international, the fact of the matter is there is plenty to see and do in the continental United States. Maybe you want to take a vacation but you don’t want to be going to all the usual tourist stops. One place that people might not think of all that much when it comes to figuring out a place to travel to is the state of Oklahoma.

 

There are a number of reasons to head to the state, but it doesn’t have a ton of places like Disney World or the Grand Canyon. There are still plenty of places you can go to in the Sooner state and see things that are incredibly interesting to see and do things that are plenty fun to do. You just need to know exactly where to go and what to see when you get there.

English: National Cowboy and Western Heritage ...

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma

Museums in Oklahoma

Some of the first stops–should you decide to plot out a trip to Oklahoma–is to check out some of the really cool museums the state has to offer. The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is one of those places that everyone should check out in order to get a feel for the real “old west.” While people always think of Texas as the birth place of the cowboy, the fact of the matter is the Sooner state had and has plenty of cowpokes itself. This place is great if you’ve got kids, because it has a place called the Children’s Cowboy Corral.

 

If you are wanting to head to someplace that commemorates a piece of history that happened more recently, you can take yourself to the Oklahoma City National Memorial. This isn’t a museum in the strictest sense of the word. Rather the monument will give you walking tours of the commemoration of those who were killed or wounded in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The tour will give you a chronological feel for what happened on that horrible day.

frontier-city

 

 

Theme Parks

There might not be a Disney World in Oklahoma, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some theme parks you can check out if you want to have some good old fashioned fun riding some rides. The Frontier City Theme Park has more than 50 rides to enjoy including four rather large roller coasters.

 

White Water Bay Water Park is a theme park of another color when you’re comparing it to Frontier City. There are a number of different rides that are all water themed including slide rides and raft rides. This has more than simply water based rides though. This theme park also has a dine-in movie theater and a number of different musical shows in order to keep you and your family entertained when you’re all tuckered out from being in the sun and having a fun time in the water.

chickasaw-cultural-center

 

 

Local Culture

While theme parks and museums in Oklahoma are always interesting, you might want to head to the state and find the culture that makes the state what it is. Quite a bit of that culture is based on the Native American society that is strong and has roots that go deep in the state. One area that will help you truly understand this state and the reasons it even exists is by heading to an area that the locals refer to as Chickasaw country.

 

This part of the state offers some truly interesting and original attractions in Oklahoma. There are cultural centers that will tell you all about the area you are traveling through. There is a welcome center that can show you different attractions that you won’t easily find on a map. You can even find some of the best chocolate stores this side of the Rio Grande. The area that is in the center of Chickasaw country will allow you to check out the capitol of the Chickasaw Nation. You won’t regret any side trips you end of taking through this beautiful state.

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History Comes Alive on Mackinac Island #dadchat

Arnold-Ferry
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Over our vacation this past week we decided to take our kids for their first trip to Mackinac Island. If you have never been to this island, it is the only place in Michigan that has held back from allowing motorized vehicles on the island. To get to the Island, you have to take a ferry or fly onto the island. There are three ferry companies that can bring you to the island. Each is a bit different, and we chose to use the Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry, the original ferry company that runs to the island. This company has been in existence in some fashion since 1878, talk about a long history. The ride itself took us about 45 minutes to get to the island and it was a comfortable ride. You can sit either on the inside or outside. We chose to sit on the inside as it was chilly, especially in the morning, though we did go outside a few times to get some of the pictures that you see here. It was so much fun seeing the island getting larger and larger as you got closer and closer to the island itself. You can gauge your passage toward the island while you are watching the Grand Hotel, the most identifiable building on the island, getting closer and closer. For me, one of the other things that I love watching for is the Round Island Lighthouse, as this is one of my favorite lighthouses in Michigan.

Arnold-Ferry

When you get off of the ferry you exit right onto Main Street and close to Fort Mackinac. You start to see the history in action with horse and carriage taking everything from people to hotels, to trash off the island. We ended up deciding to go first to Fort Mackinac. Fort Mackinac is a Fort that has a long history on the island. The Fort first came to the island in 1779. While the fort first was controlled by the British, the Americans took control of the fort in 1796, but the British came back in 1812. The Americans did not take control of the fort again until 1815 and it remained staffed with a garrison of troops until 1895 when it was turned over to the State of Michigan and it was turned into a State Park to maintain the History of our State. Over the years people did visit the fort and learn much about the history of the fort and our State, but in 1958 a large scale restoration commenced.

Fort-Mackinac

Today, visitors can get a great sense of what soldiers would have had to deal with while garrisoned at the Fort. You can tell that there was definitely hardships for many years and in reading about the fort and the soldiers, you also learn that for some time there were problems with sickness and disease too. You also see some of the more modern conveniences that were added to the fort over the years such as a bath house and modern toilets. At the same time you get to see soldiers re-enacting some of the day-to-day activities that soldiers would have experienced. At different points during the day you can see a cannon and muskets being fired. I was surprised to see that the muskets were MUCH louder than the cannon itself.

Fort-Mackinac

My whole family learned so much as we went from building to building and as we interacted with staff itself. They loved being able to get up close and personal with the muskets and seeing the bugler playing a few of the daily calls that soldiers would have heard. The Fort is also so well situated on the bluff over the city. You can see everything from the fort, which makes the Fort well situated to guard against attack, at least from that side of the island. There also were a number of other great historical businesses, churches and more that you can explore with your entrance fee. So much history is found on the island, and you and your whole family will learn so much about Michigan History that by the end of the day you will be on your way to becoming a Michigan History expert, which was perfect for my oldest daughter who will be going into 4th grade and I know that this will be the year that they will be having a large unit on Michigan History and I just gave her a jump-start!

Fort-Mackinac
When we left the Fort, we decided to walk down the main drag out of town toward Mission Point. When we got to Mission Point we stopped at the Mission Point resort and met with the Manager of the resort Bradley McCallum to learn more about the resort. Let me tell you, I am in awe at the history this resort has, as I had no clue walking into it prior to this. The initial people who started Mission Point were Missionaries back in the early 1820’s. These early missionaries were there to try and teach the ways of the church to the indigenous people of the island. The missionaries stayed for many years, creating the Mission Church and Mission House which still stand today. After the missionaries left and after some years the facility was changed and it became a part of the The Moral Re-Armament effort with Dr. Frank Buchman at the helm.

 

This organization became an international company/effort and they used the retreat on Mackinac Island to push forward their beliefs and views. They expanded the site to have a theatre and sound recording studio (the studio was used in the creation of some of the sets and recording of the movie Somewhere in Time) as well as the main lodge. I came to learn that the wood and beams as well as rock that you see in the main lodge were all Michigan based. I have to say that this impressed me, as it definitely showed Dr. Frank Buchman’s commitment to Michigan and to supporting the Michigan economy.

Mission-Point-Resort

After Dr. Frank Buchman’s death the retreat ended up going through a few iterations including two different colleges before going into a bit of disrepair and then getting purchased by the company who owns it today. You can read more about the history of the resort here: http://www.missionpoint.com/the_resort/history/

Today, you still have much of the history preserved at the resort itself. You can walk through the theatre, climb the tower for amazing views. Walk through the beautifully landscaped gardens or simply sit out on the front lawn in an Adirondack chair watching the sun or birds flying overhead, or bikes going by.

Mission-Point-Resort

The resort has a ton of amenities, including a pool, workout facility, theatre that offers both movies and live theatre productions, bike rentals, a putting golf course (something like mini golf, but an 18 hole putting green course), three very different restaurants and much more.

We ended up eating lunch at the Round Island Bar and Grill and all of us were quite happy with our food. From our conversation with Bradley, this restaurant was the most family friendly and we ended up choosing to eat here because of this. I ended up trying the Round Island Burger which was juicy and delicious and the onion remoulade that was on it was delicious and added just enough flavor to it too. We also tried a few of their desserts and we can definitely vouch for the Cherry Pie and the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae as both were decadent and delicious.

Mackinac-Bikes

After lunch we rented bikes to be able to tour the island. What is perfect about this island is that there are so many places where you can rent bikes. We ended up picking them up right from the resort which was perfect. They had a wide variety of bikes to choose from and even tandem and ride behinds fr young children. We ended up getting four bikes, one for each of us and we were off on our eight mile trek. While we did not know whether Diva-PJ would make it the entire way, we took our time, making stops where needed and we did make it around the island. We did not make it to the interior of the island, as Diva-PJ’s legs would not make it that far, but we did get to do quite a bit. We now have even more reason to come back in the future!

Mackinac-Island

By the end of the day, we wanted to do a bit of shopping and the kids found some souvenirs for themselves. We also had to splurge and purchase some of the fudge that the island was known for. What was hard was that there are at least four companies to choose from when it comes to fudge, so you have to pick and choose. We did get some and now we can say that we will be in a sugar-induced coma for a while to come. We were definitely tired by the end of the day, and in returning to Mackinaw City, we were ready to head home, but we did drive over quickly to get a closer look at the Mackinaw Bridge before leaving for the day.

Mackinac-BikesMackinac-Bikes

All-in-all this was a great day that we will not soon forget. We had a blast and cannot wait until we have the chance to go back and explore even more in the future!

Mackinac-Island

 

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The Gaylord Discovery Center Educates and Entertains! #Dadchat

Gaylord-Discovery-Center
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My family and I went on vacation this summer to Gaylord, Michigan to escape our hometown for a bit and relax on the shores of a lake. It is always nice to be able to take your family to new places and to explore the towns too so that the kids can see the world through a bit of a different lens.

On this trip, out first full day in town was a bit cold and we had some torrential rain, which ended up meaning that we really were either going to be confined to our house or we would have to find another place that we could go to escape the confinement.

Gaylord-Discovery-Center

With that in mind, we found out that the Gaylord Discovery Center was open, and we were excited to be able to go and have the experience to learn more about it and have fun for a while today. When we arrived at the Discovery Center the first impression you get is that of mixed fun for many ages. Don’t let first impression deceive you. With the painted mural on the wall and some of the things that you see, you may first think that this is only for younger kids, this is not the case.

From the moment we walked in the door we were met by the owner Kyle Johnston. I spent quite a bit of time talking with him about his vision for the business and how the Discovery Center came to be. Kyle and his family moved to Gaylord in 2008 for a job, but being that Kyle was in manufacturing, his job was downsized in 2009 and he was left wondering what would be next. At the same time he started hearing about a nonprofit group that had wanted to start a children’s museum in Gaylord. Unfortunately this effort ended fizzling out, but the idea did not, but instead was rekindled in the hearts of Kyle and his wife. Soon after, Kyle took the plunge into this effort start his for-profit business venture. In doing his research, he visited numerous childrens’ museums, both in Michigan and outside of the State. One museum that caught his eye was a smaller museum/center in a suburb outside of Seattle, This facility was much smaller than what he had seen in the past, but it was a facility that encouraged play and hands-on displays. This was a turning point in the thought process of what he could do to make the center in Gaylord what he hoped to make it.

Gaylord-Discovery-Center

From all of his research Kyle developed a Discovery Center that was centered around play and fun for the whole family. Kyle created and built all of the displays in the center which ended up saving the business large amounts of money. In my conversations he mentioned a few other newer children’s museums that were built on very expensive budgets because the people putting the museum together were not people with the skills to build the displays itself whereas Kyle had these skills. The water system that he created for kids to play with brand new can cost up to $80,000 if purchased by an outside company which is why some museums end up costing as much as they do.

One of the things that I see in this center that really sets it apart is that Kyle works directly with kids to give them challenges that are appropriate based on their ages. For example, my kids were playing in the 20+ cubic yards of sand that they had in one part of the center. Kyle’s wife gave my kids and J-mom a challenge to dig a hole to the cement slab at the bottom of the sand and be able to evenly place a large triangle in it with all of the sides holding and not breaking down. After about 20 minutes or so they accomplished the task and received a prize from their prize box. Later, my daughter decided to try and accomplish the task of making it through the maze blindfolded within 60 seconds. She had three tried to make it through the challenge and it took her three tries, but she did end up making it with only a second to spare and because of achieving this goal she received a free mini pizza from BC’s Pizza in return.

Gaylord-Discovery-Center

Currently they have about 5000 square feet that they are using, but soon they plan to turn in their 501C3 status paperwork to become a non-profit and hopefully will be able to expand their business to use the full 10,000 square feet that they have in the facility that they are in. Kyle mentioned that his goal would be to be able to support more after-school programming/clubs and be able to open up some additional party rooms as well as an art room and a LEGO room. Kyle and his wife definitely have a business that makes sense and a company that really works to educate kids in a way that makes kids want to learn. They recently started offering a Saturday night session for older kids called Tactical Sports. This program uses nerf blasters with small discs that teams work together to accomplish goals. As mentioned, Kyle is doing things right, and I wish him the best as he moves forward with taking his business to the next phase in its’ existence.

Something that really stood out to me was a statement that Kyle made: “Everyone wants the opportunity to express their control over their environment and to prove that they are capable that they can do it” and the Gaylord Discovery Center is here to challenge and support kids to be able to create these opportunities.

If you are in the Gaylord area or just passing through and are looking for a fun way to pass the time (as time does go by very quickly), stop by the Gaylord Discovery Center to discover some fun for the kids, but also become a kid again yourself and have some fun building towers, playing in water or even getting blindfolded in a maze. If you don’t want to get down and dirty with the kids, you also can get caught up on e-mail with their free WIFI too… so much to do and such a reasonable price!

 

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A Cruise Vacation Should Be On Your Bucket List

 

 

English: Liners docked at the Cruise Liner Ter...

 

Reasons Why You Should Include A Cruise Vacation On Your Bucket List

 

I just got off of the phone with my dad who just got back from an “amazing” trip to the Bahamas. He and his wife decided to take a cruise for the first time, and after talking to him, I can see why. From everything that I heard from him, as well as other friends that I know that have gone on them in the past, the trips are so much fun, alive with culture and decked out (literally) with everything you can think of.

 


When I think about this I think about the fact that going on a cruise is something that is totally different than I’m used to. It allows you to get away from the same old family excursion year after year, and instead get to visit some very fascinating places while not having to deal with the stress of travel arrangements and packing up your belongings every few nights.

 

If this sounds like you check out the following tips and information that I have gathered below. In my opinion there really is no better time to add a cruise holiday to your bucket list than today (I know it is now on mine)!
 

 

Swimming pool, "Carnival Fantasy" cr...

 

Get close to history
 
Cruise holidays are perfect for holidaymakers who want to experience fascinating sites and local culture. You get a unique perspective on the lay of the land at important historical sites right from the deck of your cruise liner, or venture off-ship to experience the local landmarks and fascinating people up close.


 
Eat well
 
Wherever your luxury liner takes you, you’re sure to experience fabulous restaurants all around the globe. Not only is the ship’s kitchen often one of the best restaurants anywhere and you should know what to order while there, but with a little research into venues in each location before arriving, you can make a beeline for the most interesting places to dine once docking in port. You’re sure never to eat better than when cruising towards some of the finest restaurants the world has to offer.


 
Enjoy yourself and relax like never before!
 
Ditching the stress of work for a relaxing holiday has never been easier than with the first class weather and and top-notch facilities which come as standard when you book a luxurious cruise holiday. Most of the cruise liners gracing the seas today boast a full-sized swimming pool, a lavishly equipped gym, and a comfortable cinema at the very least. What better place to relax than this?
 
Just some of the many great reasons to add a cruise vacation to your bucket list have been discussed above. If you are one of the staggering number of holidaymakers who have never so much as considered a cruise holiday, make sure to give this fun and relaxing option some serious thought. You’ll no doubt be pleasantly surprised at the huge variety of options available to you aboard your luxurious cruise liner!

 

 

 

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