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Ken Brooks

Stories by Ken

Another kind of cruising

The oceans occupy two-thirds of our planet, so it is sometimes difficult to decide what part of the globe we might cruise in. If it will be your first cruise, then perhaps one of the more popular areas might be in order. The Caribbean is very popular year-round, so are Hawaii and the Panama Canal. If you are thinking of a cruise in the non-winter months, then much of our planet can be considered.

Paris and France

France is the largest country in the European Union and covers from the North Sea down to the Mediterranean. It features high mountains — including Mont Blanc, which is Western Europe’s highest point — and the lowlands with rivers, farms and villages and towns. It has a representative government with the President as its head. The capital city is Paris. France has an advanced industrial economy and a robust farm sector. Main activities include automobile manufacture, aerospace, information technology, electronics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and fashion.

Italian wonders

When I talk to people about travel and ask them where they want to go they often respond with “Italy”. Italy has almost everything you might want in a European destination - history, beauty, culture, fine food and ease of travel. The public transportation system in major cities works well and trains operate quickly between cities. Air service between the U.S. and Italy is good and frequent and the country is easy to include in a multi-country European visit. You can enjoy fine hotels almost everywhere.

Fishing and camping vacations

Now that spring has arrived, with winter behind us, we begin to think of escapes to the mountains and valleys for old-fashioned fishing and camping. Pack the tent in the trailer or truck and gather our fishing gear with all the equipment we think we will require and head out of town. I think almost every serious camper and fisherman has their favorite places they select from. Many folks in Arizona choose a location within the state. Arizona does have a rather large set of choices. What kind of fish are you going after? Perhaps rainbow, brook or brown trout.

America’s favorite vacation spots

Americans have various tastes when it comes to vacations. Some like camping; others prefer casino action in places like Las Vegas; while some would rather go to an interesting city and explore what it has to offer — and let’s not forget foreign travel and cruises. Let’s begin with those that like cities. San Francisco has the reputation as one of the world’s most bohemian capitals. Many consider it to be the most East Coast-like city in the West. It is both laid back and cosmopolitan and offers many interesting sights and destinations. It is known for its hills, row houses, cable cars, water front, and fine dining including seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf, shopping at the Ferry Building and interesting destinations near San Francisco.

Caribbean Cruising

Last week I wrote about a two-week trip that included Florida and a one-week Caribbean cruise. In Florida we first visited Orlando and Disneyworld Park. We particularly enjoyed Epcot, which can be compared to a world’s fair. We spent a day there seeing most of the exhibits in the various pavilions and riding many of the conveyances available to view their interiors. Epcot is sprawled over some 300 acres at Disneyworld. From Orlando, we drove south to Ft. Lauderdale and visited, among other places, the Everglades Safari Park to ride one of the Air Boats through the swampy terrain.

Florida fun

Only a few days ago we returned from a two-week trip that included several days in Florida as well as a week’s cruise in the Caribbean. I’ll first describe the Florida portion of the vacation. We flew directly to Orlando, which, as you know, is the home for several Disney Theme Parks along with other attractions. Our first day was spent renting an automobile and getting somewhat acquainted with the rather large city that Orlando has become.

Let's Hit the Road

Some of us might be experiencing spring fever right about now, so why not hit the road for some relief? Take a day trip or perhaps make it a multi-day getaway. Recently Norma and I, along with another couple, got in the car for a trip to Cottonwood and more. It’s a scenic ride through the beautiful pines north through Pine, Strawberry and down to Camp Verde. This takes about an hour, then another half hour or so to Cottonwood. This town has some very interesting antique stores as well as tasty restaurants. We first passed through Cottonwood only to return later in our journey.

Voyages to Remember

Vacations are meant for making memories and sometimes there are those that we start with no idea how they will make their mark in our memories. I can recall a few such experiences, as you probably can as well. Today, I will outline a few travels that could become especially memorable. Only a few months ago it was my pleasure to enjoy a month in the Mediterranean area. This year, Holland America Lines is offering a 22-day voyage departing Sept. 23, 2012 from Barcelona, Spain. After flying to Spain, you proceed to the dock area and board the Ryndam. In fact, I would get to Barcelona a couple days before the ship sails in order to do some sightseeing in and around this most interesting city. It’s clean, safe and visually interesting and beautiful.

Unique vacations

Every now and then I come across vacations that are truly unique. They are simply not the standard offerings from tour and cruise lines. I’ll give you the names of the tour operators and cruise lines in this article. Uncommon Journeys has put together an interesting itinerary which it calls “North by Northwest”. The vacation involves free train travel from any California point to Los Angeles where you begin your trip with lunch on board the famous Queen Mary docked in Long Beach Harbor. Then, board NCL’s Norwegian Pearl and head north out to sea.

Exciting American vacations

The United States is a large country that offers many opportunities for different vacations. You can examine American history in various locations, you can experience the great outdoors with camping, swimming, fishing and hiking, and there are plenty of upscale resorts and spas as well as two coasts to enjoy. You don’t ever have to leave our shores to find excitement and pleasure. In this Travel Talk we will offer suggestions to assist in selecting a vacation for which no passport or foreign language guide is needed. This spring there is the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. You could plan to be in Lexington, Ky. from about May 2 to May 6 to take in all the southern style events taking place around the actual horse race.

Tours for 2012

Several tour operators have prepared wonderful itineraries for travel to North America as well as Europe for this spring, summer and fall. We’ll discuss a few here. Tauck Tours is one of the most respected operators in the U.S. and they have put together some highlights of various areas of the U.S. and Canada that I will mention.

New ships offer great cruises and tours

Although we are still in a recession with rather high unemployment, the cruise and tour industry has been able to survive with discounted cruises and hotels and other gimmicks. The bottom line for the companies is less profit and rather full ships and tours. A third of cruise line profits come from onboard ship purchases for extras such as shopping, shore tours, liquor, gambling and extra priced dining opportunities. The ships have pretty much remained quite full during this period and a few cruise lines have decided to build new vessels. First, let’s talk about two paddle wheel riverboats coming on line which will cruise the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers later this year. American Cruise Lines will begin river cruises in the brand new Queen of the Mississippi Aug. 11. Another totally rebuilt vessel begins in April, operated by the Great American Steamboat Company. It will carry more than 400 passengers and is named the Great American Queen. River cruising is one of the most pleasant forms of vacation. Riverboats on the Mississippi have been missing for several years. This year will be a new beginning.

Cruising the Great Rivers

River cruising has grown more than 200 percent in the last 10 years. Each year more and more riverboats are added to the cruise lines inventories. Today we will discuss where you can go and the companies to contact for more information. Let’s start with the Mississippi River. In 2008 and 2009 the major riverboat companies closed their doors due to the down economy. This year two companies will begin cruising America’s largest river with two exciting boats, one new and one completely refurbished.

Travel for seniors

Travel appeals to everyone, usually. However, our age often depends on how and where we travel. The younger set usually head for the beaches or mountains. Middle agers can choose anything from a quiet country setting to a large, bustling city filled with action. The senior set often goes for the cruises and tours or taking the RV out for a spin of several weeks’ duration. Today, we will address the senior market. Cruises and tours are often the choice because the cruise line and tour company can arrange all the details including the air portion, saving travelers all the headaches of the many factors involved in a vacation. If you choose a travel agent they will do all the work for you saving hours of detail and frustration.

Family vacations

Sometimes the prospect of travel with the kids is a concern. So why not consider locations that both the adults and young ones can enjoy equally? Many hotels and resorts are positioned with the entire family in mind. Take for instance, the Beverly Garland Hotel located in Universal City, Calif. It is managed by Holiday Inn and they offer families standard rooms for the adults along with Kids Suites. These rooms offer a living area with a king size bed and a separate area with bunk beds, a flat-screen TV and a small desk for children. Parents will enjoy the extra privacy that these rooms offer, as well as the extra space. The rooms also have a balcony, so that parents can have even more privacy.

A Weekend in Tucson

Actually, I recommend two usable days in Tucson because it offers much to see and do. Tucson is surrounded by mountains with an altitude of 2,400 feet and is 100 miles south of Phoenix and so, about a three-hour drive from Payson. The Mexican influence can be seen and felt all over the city. You see adobe and wrought iron in many buildings and homes and it has an entirely different feeling than Phoenix. When you arrive stop by the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau at 120 West Broadway where there will be a selection of brochures pointing the way to many sights around the city.

Close to home — weekend in Phoenix

consider the greater Phoenix area? It’s the fifth largest city in the United States and this time of year usually provides temperatures in the middle 70s. I would suggest planning at least a three-day visit in order to really experience some of the many interesting places and events in the area. It’s really an easy city to get around in; all you need is a map or GPS system to ease your way.

Warm weather escapes

We have already experienced our first snowstorm of the season and about now we begin to think about a warm weather escape. There are so many locations to do this I can’t suggest them all, but I will discuss a few here. In the good old USA we can consider several locations in Florida. Orlando stands out as a winner because it not only has warm winter weather, but also offers Disneyworld, the Universal Theme Park and so much more. When you have had enough sun, the theme parks are fun to visit.

A perfect vacation - Part 3

As this is a continued article of what I call a perfect vacation, I will briefly summarize the first two chapters. We spent most of October in Europe. We chose this month because it is usually ahead of the cold weather and after the heat of summer. Most of the time was spent on a three-week cruise aboard Holland America Lines wonderful Noordam, one of their vista class ships of 82,000 gross tons and 936 feet long. It holds 1,918 passengers.

A perfect vacation — Part 2

Last week we began this article telling how we decided to take a fall vacation in Europe. We felt October offered the best weather in the cities and countries to be visited and many of the tourists would have returned home. This was the case. We departed early October arriving in Rome where we did some sightseeing in this important city for history and culture. Our plan was to also take a three-week cruise on Holland America Lines’ lovely Noordam covering the Greek Islands, Turkey, Croatia as well as several stops in Italy, Sicily, principal Mediterranean ports and Tunis in North Africa.

A Perfect Vacation

How else do you describe a vacation that was perfect but to call it “A perfect vacation”? We felt it was time to renew our experiences in the Mediterranean area, the Greek Islands and more. What time of year should you do this? After some discussion Norma and I felt that early fall would be best because the hot weather by this time would have disappeared and the usual summer crowds were through with their vacations. So, we picked October.

There are various ways to cruise

There is more than one way to cruise the waters of the world. Many choose to board a modern cruise ship and travel to the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Canada, Asia, South Pacific, South America and even around the world. Others prefer the riverboats, seeing the various towns and cities as well as the countryside using the modern and now very popular boats found on many of the major rivers in Europe, China and soon (again) the Mississippi River, with service beginning in 2012.

Why not a train trip?

I began my love affair with train travel when I was only 4 years old. My parents took me on Southern Pacific’s new Daylight Limited streamliner from Los Angeles to San Francisco. We departed at 8:15 a.m. and arrived in the City by the Bay at 6 p.m. The train was painted in colors of orange, red and black. It was all matching, light-weight equipment and the train sparkled everywhere it traveled. People would line the roadways and stare at the new speedster as it passed by.

Comparing yesterday with today

One of the advantages we older people have is that we can remember much of the past and compare it with the present. Much of life is better today than in the past and we will offer a few comparisons.

China, Tibet and Yangtze extravaganza

If you are like me, you are already thinking about where you are going to vacation next year. You might consider Europe, South America, Hawaii or even the Caribbean next summer. Or, perhaps even a camping trip in Colorado. Half the fun of travel for me is planning the vacation. There is so much material available on the Internet that detailed planning is possible from your home or office.

Winter vacations

We’ve had our summer flings, now it’s time to begin thinking about a vacation or two this winter. There are warm weather locations, cool areas and thrilling travel destinations available for the winter time.

Let’s go somewhere!

How many times have you said to a loved one or friend, let’s go somewhere? With the summer over and the tourists pretty much diminished in various areas, this just may be a good time to venture out and do a little traveling.

Flyers rights improved

Airlines have enjoyed much freedom with respect to how they run their operations as well as compensation for flight delays, refunds, changing already booked reservations, and air fare add-ons that include baggage fees, pillow and blanket charges, on-board meals etc. Many of these items now fall under new regulations as imposed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and for the most part are more consumer-friendly.

Time to plan your winter cruise

Becoming more popular every year is cruising during the winter months. The folks residing in the Midwest and East want to escape the cold winter weather and often choose to cruise right after the Christmas holidays. The Caribbean is the most popular, with the Pacific and South Pacific gaining in popularity. Cruising is big with Californians and much of the west, also. The Mexican Riviera was quite popular until two years ago when the drug lords began to shoot up towns and cities killing hundreds of people. There are still a couple cruise line ships sailing from Los Angeles and San Diego to Mexico, but more and more people are looking to other warm weather areas in which to cruise. I don’t blame them.

Airliners of yesteryear

Ever since I was a kid I have been interested in trains, planes and automobiles. My father used to drive me to the airport in Los Angeles (LAX) and park at the end of the runway so I could watch takeoffs and landings of the airliners. This was always interesting to me and I believe my dad enjoyed it also or he would have probably not taken me there so frequently.

A West Coast swing and the High Sierras

I have traveled to 128 countries and all 50 states, but had never visited the High Sierras in California. I have probably flown over Lake Tahoe more than 100 times, but had never visited there. Now that I am no longer hosting a daily weekday talk show on KMOG, I am free to travel as I have wanted. Norma and I talked about where to travel here in the U.S. by automobile. The West Coast is always desirable and not that far away. Recently we packed our suitcases and began our car trip to California and Santa Barbara. We are both from that state and have relatives and friends all over the territory.

Another look at Costa Rica

More and more Americans travel to Costa Rica in Central America every year. The reason becomes clear after your first visit. It has 5 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. The top five attractions for most travelers are all natural wonders. If you are an outdoors person, Costa Rica is one of the musts to see.

Family Vacations

The weather is still warm and it remains a good time to take the family on a vacation. It may be for a weekend or two weeks. Wherever you go, you need to pace your driving to stop frequently for the kids at rest stops or service stations with facilities. This is also a good time to replenish their drinks and to walk about for a couple minutes.

Tales as told to me

I have known many interesting people, some notable, and the other day I was telling some friends about some of the tales I have been told. Today, I will try and recall some of those stories and tales as I remember them.

The Beautiful West

It’s time to get your car’s oil and filter changed, the tires checked and to get ready for a beautiful drive to and through some famous western regions you have read about, but perhaps never traveled to. We are talking about the Grand Canyon, some flight seeing, Lake Powell, rafting through Glen Canyon and seeing some real-life western settings that perhaps you have seen in movies.

Visiting Washington, D.C.

One place you should visit before leaving this earth is our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Why? It is a city that showcases our heritage like no other in the United States. President Washington commissioned a leading French architect to design the Capitol. When you visit, you will feel, as I, that the city more resembles one in France than in the U.S. This is but one feature that makes our country’s capital city so outstanding and different.

Exploring Nevada

There was a time back in the earlier 1800s that trappers and traders, including Jedediah Smith and Peter Skene Ogden, entered the Nevada lands and explored the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada. The U.S. obtained the region in 1848 following the Mexican War. The first settlers were Mormons who ran a trading post near present-day Genoa.

A wonderful one-day drive

Often, we like to take one-day drives from Payson to scenic and interesting parts of our state. Recently, we departed town on Highway 87, driving north through Pine and Strawberry, then took the cut-off on the Lake Mary road to Flagstaff. The drive is most beautiful no matter what time of year you take this route.

How I met the Prince of Leictenburg

Many years ago when I was living in the Midwest and working as a TV director I had the occasion to meet a fine actor. His first name was Jim. He was cast in a dramatic play for TV which I directed and we became good friends.

The Turks and Caicos Islands

Island vacations can be a formal affair or places to let your hair down. The Turks and Caicos islands can be a mix of both. The collection of islands off the coast of the Bahamas consists of 40 beautiful and diverse escapes from the ordinary. Eight of these are inhabited. The group is located 550 miles from Miami, just below the Bahamas chain. They occupy the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea.

Remember the days of service?

Almost every day, I yearn for the past times when our society rendered service — service of all kinds. Some of us remember service stations when they indeed rendered service. When you pulled into the station and parked next to a pump, a service attendant came to your window and asked, “May I clean your windshield, check your oil and look under the hood to make sure all cables were connected?” They also checked your battery. Remember? Today, you pull into the gas station and do it all yourself. And, gas is a zillion times more expensive than in those days of service.

Vacations of a lifetime

Many of us think about what it would be like to vacation where few have gone or to explore where not many have ventured and to experience the ultimate thrill of nature. Today we’ll go to some of those places we only dream of seeing. National Geographic and Lindblad have teamed to give an explorer experience to the common traveler. We’ll outline some examples.

Plan now for future vacations

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.

Why I love movies

Many years ago when I was growing up in Los Angeles, my mother would take me downtown to shop the big department stores. There were few regional malls in those days. We would get on the streetcar and rail our way to the big buildings in the center of town. Perhaps this was the beginning of my liking trains. Often, the streetcars would be two cars coupled together during busy periods. I tried to ride up front across from the motorman driving the train. This trip took about 30 minutes as I remember. Mom and I would leave the streetcar on Broadway, one of the main downtown streets. The trip would usually begin around 9 a.m. On arrival, we would head to the first intended department store, which was usually the May Co. There was a childcare room in the store where Mom would deposit me for an hour or so. I played with other children in my age group and I remember there were a lot of toys spread around the large room. Great fun!

Planning and packing for your summer vacation

Planning for your next vacation can be fun and exciting and it starts the juices flowing early.

See the national parks this summer

The National Parks here in the U.S. are our natural treasures and are cared for by the National Park Service. If you have not traveled to places like Bryce, Zion, the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone perhaps you should consider these “wonders” for this summer’s vacation.

Summer Vacation Planning

Spring is here and summer is not far off. Have you started to make plans for your vacation?

Why I love cruising

When I was a small child, my parents would take me to the island of Catalina, located just 26 miles from the mainland of California across from Long Beach.

California delights

There is something special about Northern California. It is as different from Southern California as day and night. I suggest flying into San Francisco, renting an automobile, then “cruising” the area at your own pace.