Iceland … So Much More Than Spas.

Iceland is best known for several things, their natural geothermal spas, the Aurora Borealis during their winter months, their fishing industry and people. I can tell you first hand, Iceland is much more!!

Do take in and experience one of their many geothermal spa opportunities, there is nothing like it. The most popular geothermal spa is the Blue Lagoon and you will pay accordingly. It is very large, beautiful and offers food service also. My favorite spa experience was the Fontana Wellness Steam Baths. There is a wonderful Golden Circle excursion that includes the Fontana Wellness experience. You will enjoy the beautiful scenery while indulging in the hot steam baths. At the Fontana Wellness center you can also experience the taste of Icelandic rye bread which is slow baked in the natural hot springs, just like the Vikings did thousands of year ago. Delicious 🙂

Currently they are in the process of building the only 5 star property on the island located at the Blue Lagoon. Iceland has several beautiful 4 star properties predominately in the ‘old’ downtown Reykjavik area. These range from uniquely designed properties along the pier to various properties sprinkled around Reykjavik. One property in particular is in the same building as an old paint factory and is decorated as such. Another you enter from street level, proceed down the stairs to a beautiful lobby decorated in an eclectic Icelandic/Scandinavian style.

The winter months in Iceland are equally beautiful especially when blessed with a fantastic display of the Aurora Borealis. Because the days experience more hours of darkness this is the perfect time of year to view this scientific beauty, the Auroras! There are various ways to enjoy this opportunity, by boat, by jeep, or simply standing outside enjoying the night sky. While there in March the temperatures were not as cold as the temperatures back home in Rochester, MN. Traveling this time of year allowed me the opportunity to experience many winter activities such as volcanic caving, 4×4 Advetnure on a glacier to the top of an ice cap, geothermal and steam baths, viewing the Auroras by vessel, the Golden Circle tour, waterfalls, UNESCO site of the Tetonic Plates, great food and drink and so much more!

In the summer months, the list grows significantly from rock and glacier climbing to camping, (including cabin rentals and glamping) hiking, scuba diving, fly fishing, chartered fishing, whale viewing and the viewing of the brightly colored Atlantic Puffins.

Iceland with their 332,000 residents is a melting pot of mainly Scandinavians, Germans and settlers from the British Isles. With over 200,000 living in the capitol city of Reykjavik the remaining are scattered through out the island. Iceland, also known as, “The Land of Fire and Ice” is beautiful all year round, or at least for this girl from Minnesota! Icelanders are known for strong family ties, ethical behavior and storey telling. From my experience, the stories are ,most often than not, accurate and center around their history and family lineage. Over the years Iceland has brought in more and more award winning chefs to create and entice the pallet with their local harvest of seafood, beef, sheep and Icelandic horse. Their economy has seen a great boom with their higher than ever tourist trade and it shows by the hotels and resorts they are building literally year round. The island is very safe and is supported by the fact that they have less than 100 people incarcerated. This is an island where the farm animals can roam without worry of poaching, people respect and trust each other. The residents receive ‘free’ heat due to the tremendous amount of heat that is generated by this island, the children receive schooling and families insurance via their taxes. The cost of living is higher in Iceland, however, with most of the major expenses covered by government programs it makes living in Iceland a pleasant experience.

Whether you are looking for an active, adventurous travel experience or a relaxing cultural experience, Iceland has something for everyone!

Experience Walking Tours

As an avid traveler, one of the best ways to explore a new destination is a walking tour. You can visit landmarks, chat with the locals, and hopefully unveil a hidden gem. I’ve had the pleasure of doing a couple walking tours myself, including Istanbul and London.

If you’d like to hear more about my experience with walking tours, please contact me. I’d be happy to share my experiences with you and would love to help you plan your own.

Upgrade to Business Class for your Mediterranean Cruise

Sure, you know you like cruising, and you know you want to go, but did you know with Silversea you can also include your airfare to Europe for special Mediterranean cruises for FREE? And now you can also upgrade to business class for only $499 each way! Think of the savings! Think of the luxury!

If you are planning a honeymoon, this would be a great way to see and do more!


How to Handle an Unexpected Turn Abroad

How to Handle an Unexpected Turn Abroad

You’ve spent months anticipating your perfect trip and then something out of your control happens and the plan takes an unexpected turn.France Rental CarThis happened to my husband and I when we traveled to France a few years ago.

Our plan was to stay in Paris for 6 days and then travel by train to Nice for a 5-day stay. While in Paris a transportation strike began that affected train and air travel throughout France. Our train to Nice was cancelled, so we quickly had to make alternative plans. We were really looking forward to a relaxing train ride through the country. Since the airlines were also affected we had no choice but to drive.

We found a little bookstore near our hotel and spent our last day in Paris researching a road trip through France. We purchased a road map of France and studied the travel guide that we had brought along with us. We discovered that a 5-hour ride on the train would be a 12-hour road trip. There are also numerous highway tolls that needed to be paid in Euro coins so we had to be sure to have the correct currency.

We reserved a car and after studying the road map we felt as prepared as we could be. In the morning we went to the train station and picked up our car. The Auto Europe agent did a good job explaining how to get out of the city so we got in the car, took a deep breath and began our journey. My husband was the driver and I was the navigator. The traffic was terrible, the road signs confusing and split second decisions had to be made. One wrong turn and there is no going back. Luckily, we veered onto the correct auto route out of the city.

Once out of Paris the drive was wonderful! We listened to French radio and enjoyed the countryside with castles and vineyards dotting the landscape. We arrived in Nice after dark and checked into our hotel.

Once in Nice we decided to keep the car for the duration of the trip as it gave us the freedom to explore the area on our own. One day we drove to Monaco along the Mediterranean coastline and spent the afternoon in Monte Carlo. Another day we drove into the foothills of the French Alps and discovered the charming village of Sainte-Agnes. This village was one of the highlights of our trip!

Here’s what I learned from this experience, if the unexpected happens:

  • Don’t panic
  • Stay calm
  • Regroup
  • Research
  • Be flexible

Your trip could become the wonderful adventure you never expected.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Disney inspired trip ideas!!

Disney movies have always taught us that dreams really do come true!
Lucky for us, many of these movies are inspired by real places and experiences that you can have for yourself!!!  One might need to trade in their magic carpet for an airplane though!

Thank you to Jamie Ditaranto at Smart Traveler for these Disney inspired vacation ideas!

Here are some of the ultimate travel experiences to see the world just like your favorite Disney hero.

Sleeping Beauty — Discover the original Disney Castle
Of course there’s nothing more Disney than a fairytale castle, so if you want to see the real palaces that inspired every classic princess movie, you’ll have to go to Bavaria. Here you’ll find castles emerging from the mountainous landscape, but none as spectacular as Neuschwanstein.

As the castle that inspired the one in Sleeping Beauty, it’s the original Disney castle — though not quite as medieval as one would think. Built by King Ludwig II in 1869, the castle’s architecture is more akin to the romantic style of its time and its high position in the mountains was not for military advantage, but because King Ludwig knew a great view when he saw one.

Frozen — Explore the fjords in Norway
As one of the latest Disney movies to steal our hearts, Frozen has put a new travel destination at the top of our bucket lists — Norway!! Though Frozen‘s fictional kingdom of Arendelle takes its name from the Norwegian town of Arendal, the scenery in the movie is most similar to the city of Bergen located in the Western Fjords. Though it’s a great place to visit year-round, to have the true Frozen experience, it’s best to visit in winter to live in Elsa’s wonderland for yourself. You can see the northern lights or take a boat tour through any of Norway’s awe-inspiring fjords.

Brave — Ride horses in Scotland
There’s no debating that Brave is one of Pixar’s most visually masterful movies, but it wasn’t just Merida’s hair that had us mesmerized. Backdrops of Scotland’s green and stony forests stole the show, and when you visit Scotland you’ll find that the valley that inspired it is even more beautiful in real life. Glen Affric is a forest located in the Scottish highlands and is generally thought of as the most beautiful glen in Scotland — and the best (and most Brave) way to explore this enchanted forest is by horse.  Choose your own adventure with something as rigorous as a six-day trek across the valley … or maybe just a day trip.

If you want to see the other parts of Scotland that inspired the movie’s animators, visit Dunnotar Castle and the Calanais Standing Stones. And if you really want to test your feats of strength, plan to travel during the spring to make it in time for the Highland Games.

The Lion King — Safari in Africa
While you might be able to see the cast of The Lion King at your nearby zoo, there’s nothing like tearing down the glass walls and seeing the animals in their natural habitat. Going on safari in Africa doesn’t just mean getting up close to the animals that inspired the beloved characters of the movie, it also means taking in the vast savannahs and deep jungles shown in the movie. While the “Pride Lands” aren’t actually a place you can visit, they are inspired by different parts of Africa — if you look closely in the opening sequence you can see some of the continent’s natural wonders, like Mount Kilimanjaro and Victoria Falls.

It can be hard to choose where to go with so many stunning countries and diverse environments to choose from, but the beauty of The Lion King is that no matter where you go, it will feel like you’ve walked right into the scene. And if you get lucky, you might even encounter a special moment straight from the movie.

Princess and the Frog — Celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Taste the beignets, get your fortune told, catch some beads and head down to New Orleans to experience this lively city and take part in the celebrations? Explore the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, and take sometime to relax and enjoy the city’s excellent cuisine.

Finding Nemo — Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
Though Nemo’s adventure takes him all the way to Sydney, the story begins at the Great Barrier Reef located off the coast of Queensland in Australia. It’s the largest coral reef in the world and one of the most beautiful. Book a snorkeling trip to Cairns and all you have to do to find Nemo is get into the water. Among the stunning shapes and colors of the coral you’ll find the wildly diverse marine life that inspired the characters in the movie.

Ratatouille — Take in the food of Paris
Who would have thought a movie starring a street rat would turn out to be Disney’s most mouth-watering story yet? As you follow Remy’s journey to become a great chef, the delicious meals cooked along the way will entice you to book a ticket to Paris. But don’t just taste Paris through a few select restaurants, take a food tour.  See the best of all Paris has to offer from the finest restaurants to the smallest cafes.

Mulan — Hike the Great Wall of China
While the Huns have long been defeated, you can still follow in Mulan’s footsteps with your own epic adventure in China. Instead of fighting the crowds at the most popular section of the wall, why not try hiking it? With tours like this one from G Adventures, you can spend six days trekking along the ancient structure and imagining what it would be like to be looking out on watch for an approaching Mongolian horde. This particular itinerary also includes a tour through Beijing’s Forbidden City and daily Tai Chi lessons to prep your legs for the hike.

Full article:


Client Review of Tauck River Cruise on Rhine and Moselle

It was wonderful. Our weather was not too bad for May with a few rainy days.

Tauck River Cruise Rhine and MoselleTauck was fantastic and we would look at using them again. The Tour Directors were very good; 1 was fantastic. The General Manager was awesome. The local guides were all excellent and very knowledgeable. The evening entertainment was only a bit better than Uniworld. They can’t seem to get good venues but that was expected. The “Schloss” event was poor (bad service and mediocre food). The local dancers were awful. Local violinists were excellent.

Join Tauck River Cruises

Join Tauck River Cruises

The food was regionalized very well. The wines were excellent and regionalized as well. We were in Riesling country so I was in hog heaven. Cabin was well appointed.

My favorite visits were on the Moselle as it was more sedate and less busy river. The small German towns were as I remembered them. We choose Luzerne for our final day over Basel. It turned out to be a good choice as there were issues getting to Basel with locks and traffic. Something that was interesting was the location of the Basel airport. It is actually in France. So of course the French were on slow downs and strikes while we were there so we were delayed on our return flight to Amsterdam. We had to run to get the AMS to ATL connection. It just reinforces that I will never fly to Paris if I can help it.

Map of River Cruise with TauckThe other clientele were very friendly. Many of the other guests had been on Tauck numerous times and were very complimentary overall.

Thanks for all your help to make this a memorable trip.

If you are interested in this trip, contact your agent and check out the details here.





Understanding the State Department’s Travel Alert for Europe

For Americans planning a trip abroad, State Department advisories can be confusing. Terms that may sound similar actually mean very different things for travelers.

In March, the State Department issued a Travel Alert for Europe. Alerts are issued for short-term events that the U.S. government believes Americans should know about when planning a trip. The current alert expires on June 20.

Travel Alerts are quite different from Travel Warnings, which the State Department also issues. The two are completely separate categories and are not interchangeable.

An alert does not warn against travel to a particular region or country. The State Department is not warning against traveling to Europe but is alerting Americans to be aware of potential risks and to be vigilant, as always. It’s important to understand that the recent Travel Alert for Europe is in keeping with the longstanding Worldwide Caution that has been in effect for more than a decade.

A State Department alert offers the type of advice that travelers should keep in mind whenever and wherever they go abroad. That includes being aware of your surroundings, especially during festivals, in crowds and when using mass transit, being prepared for additional security screenings, monitoring information on the ground and factoring that into travel plans, following the instructions of local authorities and ensuring that family members know how to reach you in an emergency.

As part of preparations for a trip abroad, Travel Leaders recommends that Americans follow the advice of the State Department and register their plans through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Enrollment will make it easier for the State Department to contact a traveler if there’s a family emergency, as well as alert travelers to important information about places where they’re heading. The State Department also has a helpful Traveler’s Checklist on its website.

The safety of their clients is the top priority for Travel Leaders agents, who want to ensure that a long-anticipated vacation goes off without a hitch.

Travel Leaders agents closely monitor the State Department website for alerts for all destinations, including the ones most popular with clients. They work with respected hotels, resorts, cruise lines, tour operators and others to keep informed about security precautions and to guard the safety of clients. Travel Leaders agents provide the most up-to-date information so that clients can make informed decisions about their travel plans.

All travelers, no matter what country they visit, can take precautions to help ensure their safety. Those steps include following your instincts to avoid risky areas, checking with tour guides and hotel officials about any large gatherings, respecting the laws of the country, avoiding the display of expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money or other valuables, checking medical insurance to make sure it covers overseas care and if it doesn’t, consider buying travel insurance, and checking with your cell phone provider to see if your phone is capable of roaming on international networks.

For help planning a trip in Europe or anywhere around the world, contact your travel agent.

Client Review of Italy and Greece

We had a fantastic trip all the way through.  We both really enjoyed the Insight Vacations motorcoach tour probably more than the cruise because we saw so much more.  However, it was definitely done in the right order because the cruise was much less hectic and it was nice to rest up after the bus tour.  We did most of the Insight extra excursions because they were interesting and you never know if you’ll be back again.  Our Insight tour guide, Karen, was very good as were all the local experts.  Everything was well coordinated and we met a very nice group of people.  We of course enjoyed the extra leg room on the bus.  We were reminded of how much we liked it when we were packed into the shuttle from the Rome airport to the cruise ship.

As far as Royal Caribbean cruise line, it was a good experience.  We were fortunate to have good weather almost all the way; we were unable to stop at Olympia, Greece because of bad storms but we did get to stop instead at Naples on the way back.  Italy was our favorite, especially Venice – it was just so different.  Vatican City was super interesting and would be great to see again at a slower pace. Greece was beautiful and Ephesus, Turkey was definitely the highlight of the cruise although Athens was also fabulous due to the Acropolis.

Acropolis Athens

Acropolis Athens

As you can probably tell, we had a great first trip to Europe and look forward to traveling to a different area in the future. One question, is it always as crowded as we found it to be?  Perhaps that’s just Europe?

Many thanks for making all the arrangements for this great trip, Nora!

Dean & Jane, Blaine, MN.

Missy Skoog’s Avalon River cruise on the Danube

I had the opportunity to travel on an Avalon Waterways cruise from Budapest to Vienna on the Danube.  Wow, what an experience!  We stops at different ports along the river and did small guided tours.  Some of the amazing cities we visited were Budapest, Bratislava, Durnstein Austria, Melk and Vienna.

The Avalon Artistry II delivers an intimate setting, along with two full decks of suites featuring Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Windows that transform the living space into a unique Open-Air Balcony®. With 200 square feet, Panorama Suites are more than 30% larger than the industry standard, giving you the rare opportunity to wake each morning to the enchanting scenery and fresh breezes. Onboard amenities include a complimentary Internet Corner and Wi-Fi access, an expanded Fitness Center, and a spacious Sky Deck with premium lounge chairs, shade system, whirlpool, and the delightful Sky Bistro.

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

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Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia

The streets of Bratislava, Slovakia

The streets of Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia follow the coronation of the king from the church thru the town with the crown emblems in the street

Bratislava, Slovakia follow the coronation of the king from the church thru the town with the crown emblems in the street

Bratislava, Slovakia. ST. MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries

Bratislava, Slovakia.
ST. MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries

Budapest- 11th-century Matthias Church, the coronation spot of several Hungarian monarchs...Welcome to my home!

Budapest- 11th-century Matthias Church, the coronation spot of several Hungarian monarchs…Welcome to my home!

city of Bratislava

city of Bratislava

The massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava

The massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava

Avalon River cruise, Avalon Vista

Avalon River cruise, Avalon Vista

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Dice in our cabin, nice breeze with the water next to us! I wouldn't cruise any other way!

Dice in our cabin, nice breeze with the water next to us! I wouldn’t cruise any other way!

Muster Drill

Muster Drill

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Spa heaven on the Avalon Vista!

Spa heaven on the Avalon Vista!

Large bathroom for the balcony cabin on the Avalon Vista

Large bathroom for the balcony cabin on the Avalon Vista

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Love to River cruise!

Love to River cruise!

Deluxe Stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom bathroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom bathroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe stateroom on Avalon Vista

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue (Hungarian: Szabadság Szobor, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɒbɒt͡ʃaːɡ ˈsobor]) is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest, Hungary. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue (Hungarian: Szabadság Szobor, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɒbɒt͡ʃaːɡ ˈsobor]) is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest, Hungary. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary

What a magnificent ship the Avalon Vista is!

What a magnificent ship the Avalon Vista is!

Princess bridge in Budapest

Princess bridge in Budapest

Client Review of Seabourn Odyssey 7 Day Greek Isles and Ephesus

Seabourn Greek Isles

Seabourn Greek Isles

Seabourn was outstanding – luxury all the way.  Staff so darn friendly and helpful – completely aware of our needs at all times.  They get printouts of all guests and then study the faces and the names and start calling you by name when you pass them in hallways!!!!  One night we were off for a tour to Ephesus (amazing ruins), then back to ship for lunch and rest, then bussed back to Ephesus for an evening concert under the stars and when we returned about 10 pm, the entire crew and entertainment and staff were waiting for us, cheering and yelling and one of them shouted out welcome and our names to every single guest.  Wow.  They treated us like royalty.  Great food, wine stewards at our every beck and call.

 The room was terrific – plenty of space and a walk-in closet!  Bathroom easily accommodated two people with two sinks, a tub and a shower.  Our “stewardess” – that’s what they called the maid, folded cute little animals out of our towels and put them on the beds each night.  Really a nice young woman.


Short List – Refined Travel Experiences

From capturing the sounds of Alaskan wildlife using specialized microphones to being cosseted by your personal butler on an expedition cruise in Bali, luxury travel has reached a whole new level of sophistication. Cruise lines are taking their all-inclusive mantras on shore and suite living to another dimension, while small-group journeys lead you beyond the beaten path to go behind the scenes and inside the local culture. Here are four ways to raise your travel experiences in 2015.


Abercrombie & Kent

Today’s sophisticated travelers want more than just to see a destination — they want to fully engage with its people and culture. Which is why Abercrombie & Kent created Connections, an exclusive portfolio of worldwide, small-group journeys that offer authentic experiences in more than 30 countries. Personal relationships garnered over 50 years provide unrivalled insider access so you can, say, tour Colombo’s vibrant Pettah Bazaar with a local resident or sample the catch of an oyster fisherman in Croatia. A new series of family journeys finds you backstage at the Moscow Circus, painting carnival masks in Venice and searching for clues on a scavenger hunt in a Madrid museum. 

From $3,495. Book any Connections journey by January 31, 2015 and save $150 per person.


Regent Seven Seas Cruises

While “all inclusive” is all the rage these days, Regent Seven Seas Cruises truly delivers — and in the most luxurious way possible. Spacious, smartly appointed suites with personalized bar set-up and welcome bottle of champagne. Always-open bars and specialty dining. Even round-trip airfare and pre-paid gratuities are included. Perhaps most impressive: guests enjoy unlimited shore excursions in every single port of call. So you can go deep-sea fishing off Grand Turk, taste fine wines at a family-run estate in Tuscany and take a tango masters class in Buenos Aires. Book a Concierge Suite or higher and receive a complimentary pre-cruise hotel package, as well. 

From $3,499 Per Person. Enjoy an Experienced Host, Cocktail Party, Private Shore Event or Shipboard Credit of $100 per suite; ask for details when you call.


Silversea Cruises

Imagine meeting villagers on a remote Micronesian island, sharing fresh coconut milk while visiting their homes and watching master woodcarvers at work. Later, you return to your stylish suite, where your butler has drawn a scented bath so you can freshen up before a Relais & Châteaux-inspired repast. Welcome to life aboard Silver Discoverer, Silversea’s newest expedition ship. Designed for adventure seekers with discerning tastes, the 120-guest Silver Discoverer spends her time navigating isolated ecosystems across the Asia-Pacific realm. Join a team of expert naturalists for informal talks and small-group explorations ashore using a fleet of Zodiacs. Back onboard, every creature comfort awaits, including a pool deck, fitness and massage centres, and free-flowing wines and spirits at open bars and elegant lounges. 



It’s time to get a little wild in Alaska, to meet Iditarod-winning sled dogs and hike around shimmering mountain lakes. Catch your breath while flightseeing around the snowcapped peaks of Denali National Park, and get up close to puffins and porpoises on a day cruise along Kenai Fjord. Tauck has teamed up with BBC Earth to create a number of small-group journeys that introduce you to remote, less-visited places while providing you unprecedented access to gadgets used by professional wildlife photographers and filmmakers — which means you can utilize equipment like thermal imaging, camera traps and shotgun microphones as you watch for whales and brown bears. Exclusive on-tour films produced by BBC Earth further deepen your experience.

The Silver Discoverer lead-in fare is $9,250 per guest.

Client Review of Viking River Cruise – Elbe River

The trip was absolutely wonderful.  We enjoyed it immensely.  The staff on the Viking Schumann were outstanding, and everything we did was great.  We enjoyed the cruising, visiting all the great historic sites and  cities, and the food was great.  The weather was even perfect.  Usually in the low to mid 60’s during the day.  Thanks for all your help in getting things set up.  It was truly a memorable experience.


I certainly will keep your contact information handy for future adventures and will be happy to refer people to you regarding river boat cruises.

Thank you again for everything!