Now that summer is over with most of us having taken our vacations you might want to start thinking about where to travel next — perhaps not right away, but in the not too distant future. Planning is half the fun, right? I am going to suggest in this week’s column some ideas that just might interest you.
Often people ask me about Tahiti. I respond with “it’s a beautiful place and we should all see it once in a lifetime.” There are two ways to enjoy this magic location. One is to fly from Los Angeles to Papeete, check into your selected hotel and take some time to explore the island with a rented car or hire a car and driver to take you around. You can circle the island in one day. For the other islands in the Tahitian group, such as Moorea and Bora Bora, I suggest you book these hotels in advance also. Hotels are often packed year-round with North American and European vacationers.
The flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti takes about eight and a half hours. I have found some of the best fares on Air Tahiti Nui. This carrier is a division of Air France using A-340 equipment. The weather in the Tahitian islands is about the same as Hawaii, being warm all year, with highs in the daytime in the low to mid 80s. Be aware that the language is French since it is a French protectorate, but many also speak some English. All aspects here are expensive from hotels to food and transportation. And, when you travel abroad you will quickly discover that the good old U.S. dollar is not as valuable as it once was. In fact, last summer while I was in Denmark and Sweden, no one wanted to take our dollars. The Euro was more acceptable.
The other way to enjoy Tahiti is by cruise ship. Regent Seven Seas Cruises operate the very luxurious “Paul Gauguin” which is 19,000 tons and accommodates only 330 guests. Everyone I have spoken with regarding this ship says only good things about it; fine dining, fantastic crew, large and comfortable staterooms and beautiful public rooms.
The ship operates year-round in the islands providing 7-, 10-, 14-, and 21-day cruises through Tahiti and French Polynesia. Phone 1-800-285-1835 for more information or go online to TheRegentExperience.com.
Another interesting way to enjoy other portions of the remote South Pacific is to take an adventure cruise through the Marquesas Islands aboard the passenger/cargo ship Arauni 3. To board this ship you again would fly from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti and you would cruise from here to the Marquesas Islands which are located some 700 miles west and north of the Tahitian group. The voyage takes two weeks as the ship replenishes food stuffs and needed supplies to places like: Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Ua Huka, Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Tuamotu and Rangiroa. You spend a day in each island. Basic sightseeing is provided by the shipping company to fill your hours in many ports. Be prepared for basic villages and not much to do other than to enjoy the scenery and simple people. If you really want to get away from it all, this might be for you. The ship, the Aranui 3, was built in 2002 and offers suites with balconies, large staterooms, and standard cabins for over 200 passengers. Fares are expensive with suites beginning at $5,495 per person plus tax and other extras. For a brochure call Jules Wong at 650-574-2575.
A new ship is coming to the Caribbean beginning in November. It is the beautiful 93,000-ton MSC Poesia of MSC Cruises. This is an Italian cruise line with marvelous interiors, Italian and European dining, and a fine selection of interior, standard outside and balcony staterooms and suites. I cruised with this company earlier this year and found it to be very European in concept and delivery. When you travel in the Caribbean with MSC cruises be aware that there will be guests from Italy, France and other European countries on board. This is not a hamburger and hot dog cruise line. Their brochure should be available through your travel professional or phone 1-800-666-9333.
Thinking about taking a cruise during the Christmas holidays? One suggestion would be Crystal Cruises round trip from Miami doing a 14-day Panama Canal Cruise. After the cruise stop off in sunny Florida for another few days to relax or visit Disneyworld in Orlando.
Or, how about a visit to Hawaii for the holidays?
Holland America Line offers a 15-day cruise from San Diego round trip departing Dec. 22. You’ll cruise the beautiful Pacific for four days before arriving in Hilo, then to Honolulu, Nawiliwili on Kauai then to Kona on the Big Island before returning to San Diego. You’ll have Christmas and New Year’s at sea. Your ship will be the luxurious Zaandam. Consult your travel professional for brochures and fares.
Have you wanted to visit the Orient? Voyages of Discovery and their classic ship, the Discovery which accommodates only 600 passengers is offering a “Grand Orient” cruise departing Singapore Jan. 2, 2010. It lasts 39 nights and will visit Bali, Kmodo, and Semarang in Indonesia, then to Malaysia for Kuantan, and to Cambodia for an opportunity to take an excursion to Angkor Wat. On to Bangkok for the marvelous sights there, then visiting Vietnam to see Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Dan Nang and Ha Long Bay. Hong Kong is included as well as Manila in the Philippines. And, in Borneo, the ship visits Kudat, Koto Kinabalu, and Bandar Seri Begawan before returning to Singapore and your return home. One thing nice about this cruise is that the ship will stop for several days in some of these ports to allow ample time to really see the various areas. Fares begin at $9,395 with low air add-ons. Contact Voyages of Discovery at 1-866-623-2689. Visit voyagesofdiscovery.com
Have a yearning to visit South America? Here is a voyage you will never forget. Oceania Cruises offers a 19-day sailing departing Rio de Janeiro Jan. 3 on their 780-passenger deluxe “Insignia” visiting Sao Paulo (by land excursion), Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Falkland Islands, Ushuaia, Punta Arenas, Chile, then cruising the beautiful Chilean Fjords for two days and north on the Pacific Ocean to Laguna San Rafael, Puerto Chacabuco and Puerto Mott, Chile and ending in Valparaiso. Here, you will be taken by coach to Santiago, Chile for your return flight home. Fares begin at $4,799 plus taxes. Free air may still be available. Consult your travel professional.
If you are not afraid to go to Mexico, there are some wonderful hotels and resorts available wanting your dollars. Mexico tourism has been severely affected by the so-called swine flu outbreak and the drug wars. There are many fine resorts there that are low priced today considering what they offer.
For me, it’s hard to beat a relaxing time in Hawaii or Pacific coast of California. From San Diego north, along what is called the “gold coast,” there are fine hotels and resorts for your pleasure and comfort. In fact, I’m ready to take off again. Aren’t I always?