Now is not too early to begin planning a vacation for fall and winter. The airlines are cutting capacity because of slower sales after the summer, and the best accommodations in resorts and cruises are being reserved earlier than the past two years. Now, the best deals go early, and the later you book may mean higher prices. It used to be the reverse. We used to book later and wait for the “fire sales,” remember?
It seems that cruise sales in parts of Europe are slower this summer because of high transatlantic airfares. Who knows what airfares will be this fall and winter. Not as high as summer, probably. It all depends on the price paid for fuel. Cruise ship fares have come down even for summer because the cruise lines can benefit with passenger spending onboard for spa treatments, gifts, extra fare restaurants, gambling, and shore excursions and so on.
I’ll give you some ideas of what I consider wonderful vacations that are available for booking now.
How about a transit voyage through the Panama Canal on Cunard Lines’ beautiful Queen Elizabeth? Cunard Lines now have some of the newest ships in the water and they have preserved the dignified manner of onboard excellence. Many nights during your cruise call for formal attire and it brings to mind the great cruises of the past as seen in movies. If you like to dress formally, Cunard should be considered.
By using the vacation wholesaler I will mention soon, they will include AMTRAK rail transportation to New York from your state plus rail travel after the cruise from San Francisco to your home state.
The Queen Elizabeth is large, luxurious and is the best of ocean cruising and high style. You can choose from several categories of staterooms.
The dining options are varied and you can dine where you choose for a particular meal.
Departure from New York is Jan. 18, 2012 and includes two days at sea before reaching Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. where you will spend the day. You will be offered shore tours at each stop. Travelers get to enjoy the island of Grand Cayman for the day, followed by the transit of the Panama Canal, which takes about six hours, and once out to sea the ship will head northwest in the beautiful blue Pacific for a stop at Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and then go on to San Francisco where the ship will sail under the Golden Gate bridge before docking.
After leaving the ship you will be transferred to the Hilton at Fisherman’s Wharf for a night’s stay. Then its homeward bound from San Francisco via AMTRAK. You do not have to fly if you don’t want to. For Payson and area residents, drive to Flagstaff, park the car for a couple weeks in a garage and it will be waiting for you upon return by train.
Fares begin at $3,995 plus taxes and insurance. For more information and a brochure, phone Uncommon Journeys/Train Holidays at 1-800-323-5893 and discuss this 20-day vacation titled Panama Canal with the Queen.
The same tour operator also offers Cunard’s Queen Victoria doing a 16-day cruise from Los Angeles over to the Hawaiian Islands visiting Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai and Maui. A shore excursion is included at each port of call. This 16-day vacation will give you plenty of opportunity to relax, read a couple books and be entertained aboard the Queen. You will have nine days at sea total. You can be busy or do nothing while aboard. It’s up to you.
By using the tour operator, you will have one night’s hotel accommodation in Los Angeles before the cruise, all transfers, plus a luncheon at the famed Royal Hawaiian Hotel at Waikiki Beach and a tour host included. Fares for the Feb. 13, 2012 departure begin at $3,845.
Call the tour operator at 1-800-323-2846 and request a brochure.
Perhaps you have interest in visiting China, the Yangtze River and Hong Kong. Tauck Tours offers multiple departures for their 16-day trip departing Los Angeles and arriving 12 hours later in China’s capital, Beijing. Your hotel here will be the five-star Regent. In this city your tour will include the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City complex and the mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
Additional sightseeing will include the Temple of Heaven, and the 2008 Olympic Games stadium.
On another day, you will board a flight to 3,000-year-old Xian, one of China’s great ancient capitals. Your itinerary will include the 6,000 life-like Terra Cotta Warriors and the Shaanxi Museum. Then it’s on to Guilin and cruise the Li River past tranquil bamboo groves and mist-shrouded limestone peaks.
Another flight takes you to Chongqing to embark on a three-night Yangtze River cruise taking you down river to amazing Shanghai. The boat will pass the Three Gorges area past the Qutang and Wu gorges and the great viewing of shore activity within China from the river. This will be an unforgettable experience seeing the every day population in the towns and cities you pass on your deluxe boat.
In Shanghai, complete sightseeing is included before flying to Hong Kong for more sightseeing before you fly home. If I were to plan an itinerary of China, this is the one I would put together. It features the high points of a fascinating country. Fares for land/cruise and five flights begin at $6,390-plus.
Tauck Tours may be reached by calling 1-800-468-2825 for a brochure and additional information.
Japan had its problems earlier this year, but you can safely take a tour there that will not include the destruction of the earthquake and tsunami that followed. This is a first world country with friendly people, good water and is clean. For 2012 you can book a 14-day Tauck Tour that begins in Osaka, then moving to Kyoto for this ancient capitals glories and experience an origami lesson, take in a tea and a Maiko performance. For me, Kyoto is the most interesting city in Japan and most photographic. You will also visit Nara, and Shirakawa-go and a mountain resort as well as historic Takayama and a drive through the Japanese Alps. You will also see Fuji from Hakone National Park followed by Tokyo. This rambling giant city offers everything you might want and then some. You will see the Imperial Palace, plus many other historic sights and temples.
You may even learn a little Japanese. It’s not that hard. Japanese food is easy to figure out. In many of the small restaurants you will find plastic examples of the various dishes. In a pinch, just ask the waiter to walk over to the display and you can point to the example of food you desire. That’s how I often order when I’m traveling on my own. I lived in Japan for a year and in a short time got around rather well. I find Tokyo safer than many cities in the world.
Another of my favorite areas is Australia and New Zealand. Tauck Tours offers a Grand Australia and New Zealand tour that includes Melbourne, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, then it’s on to the Great Barrier Reef for a Catamaran sail over the reef to the Low Isles, a swimming and snorkeling and glass-bottom trip to view all the sea life within the Reef. A stay in Cairns at a seaside resort is included, plus a visit to the amazing rainforest and a ride on the skyrail. You’ll see crocodiles and more on this trip!
Next it’s time for a visit to the koalas and Bondi Beach and a stay at the Surf Club. Then it’s on to Sydney and all its pleasures before winging on to New Zealand, first landing in the capital, Auckland. This is a great city bordered by the sea with hills, green parks and friendly people everywhere. I would love to live here if I could. While in this special country you will have the opportunity to visit the important sights of both the north and south islands. The country stretches some 1,100 miles from north to south. Beauty is everywhere you turn.
Visits to Waihike, Rotorua and the Maori country, the city of Wellington and a cruise on Milford Sound are included as well as Queenstown and Christchurch before returning to Auckland for your flight home.
This just might be the best vacation you’ve ever had!
Tauck Tours offer many fine vacations all over the world. You can trust them to give you the finest hotels available in most places and stand behind their product. Call 1-800-468-2825. Happy travels!