It’s a Wonderful Life in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania

28-090-090-204-IMG_5164

Wellsboro, PA reminds us of the quality of life and friendly folks of Bedford Falls depicted in Frank Capra’s classic 1946 Christmas flick, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

For one thing, Wellsboro has a wide grassy median down the center of Main Street (like in the movie), and rows of romantic old Victorian gas lights that lend a warm glow to the quaint town at dusk.

27-086-086-200-IMG_5160

In our minds’ eye, like Bedford Falls, Wellsboro is a great example of the best of 1940s Americana. Safe, clean, with well-maintained stately homes set back from wide streets lined with elegant elms and maples. Close your eyes, and you could easily be in a landscaped New England village illustrated by Norman Rockwell.

Outdoor paradise

12-038-038-152-IMG_5112

Wellsboro is a rural small town with lots of outdoor activities. The two we found most interesting were the lovely park overlooking the Pine Creek Gorge a.k.a. the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, and the nearby Pine Creek Trail.

11-037-037-151-IMG_5111

We visited the Gorge at Colton Point State Park overlook, where it’s an invigorating one-mile hike down to the bottom of the canyon via the steep Turkey Path Trail. The journey is worth the effort to experience the waterfalls and breathtaking views.

Not your western canyon

Very different from the Grand Canyon of Arizona, the Tioga County Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is a dense forest. It is a sportsmen’s paradise with kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and hunting – all easily accessible.

Where hunting is still a family affair

Pennsylvania has more than 17 million acres of forests shared by the residents at little or no personal expense. This is fishing and hunting country, and local children are taught to respect firearms at an early age.

02-39-60-IMG_3793

Hunting is a time honored tradition in Pennsylvania, and the state’s sensible conservation rules keep the animal populations robust, healthy, and well managed – and the residents well fed with tasty game recipes!

A fabulous multi-use trail

21-063-063-177-IMG_5137

The Pine Creek Rail Trail was once a roadbed for lumber and coal trains, and later for tourist excursion trains – however, the railroad ceased operations in 1989. Subsequently, state, railroad, and community officials cooperated in removing the tracks and transitioning this beautifully scenic rail-bed into one of the premier bike and equestrian trails in the country.

22-065-065-179-IMG_5139

The trail is 62-miles long with only a 2% grade over the entire distance. A well-maintained base of hard-packed gravel is waiting for all outdoor enthusiasts – free of charge.

20-059-059-173-IMG_5133

Hunters, joggers, equestrians, and bicyclists all share the Pine Creek Rail Trail with mutual respect.

Eating in Wellsboro

32-108-108-222-IMG_5182

There are more than a half dozen fine restaurants in this little town, but be sure to drop by the famous Wellsboro Diner for a delicious breakfast, or a sizzling burger and fries with a homemade peach pie chaser.

29-094-094-208-IMG_5168

There is something special about an All-American diner. The sight of one brings smiles and visions of hearty heartland foods like a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, and a chilled chocolate malt from a stainless steel blender – all at sit-down prices that everyone can afford.

30-103-103-217-IMG_5177

The 600 or so authentic American Diners remaining in the nation are an important part of our heritage. A place where folks from all walks of life sat side-by-side and talked about important matters – like the weather and the Babe’s latest stats. A hot cup of java awaited every after movie date, and everyone had a favorite seat at the counter.

1-095-096-IMG_5170

Operating in the same location since 1939, the highly successful porcelain-enameled steel Wellsboro Diner seats about 100 and is the perfect fit for its downtown setting. Do not miss it!

Where to stay

03-002-002-116-IMG_5076

There are several delightful places to stay in and around Wellsboro, and a reader recommendation led us to a true gem.  The Bear Mountain Lodge is a wonderfully rural and luxuriously rustic log-cabin inn with four well-dressed guestrooms. The minute we walked through the door we felt at home.

09-029-029-143-IMG_5103

There is a well-stocked kitchen with gratis munchies, drinks – including Keurig coffee, and fruits for all the guests. The in-room refrigerator is also full of goodies.

06-020-020-134-IMG_5094

Our “Whitetail” suite was extra-cozy, and had a spacious bathroom furnished with delightful locally made soaps and potions.

16-048-048-IMG_5122

Amiable owner Jim Meade, converted his custom home into this unique guest lodge in 2005.

05-014-014-128-IMG_5088

The Bear Mountain Lodge is tastefully decorated with dozens of woodsy furnishings, all adding to the exclusive hunting lodge ambiance.

10-030-030-144-IMG_5104

The thickly treed grounds are well-maintained and the innkeepers invite guests to enjoy the wilderness and its inhabitants. There’s even a bike barn on property for those wanting to try a ride on the local trails.

24-45-IMG_3777

Sherri, the lodge hostess, was blowing leaves off the driveway when we arrived. She keeps the elegant inn uber-clean and neat-as-a-pin the year round.

The lodge is just minutes from town, but if you would prefer to stay right in the heart of Wellsboro, Jim Meade has the answer.

26-082-083-IMG_5157

Check out his Bear Mid-town Lodge at www.131mainstreet.com and look at the bottom right side of the website to see all three of Jim’s properties.

24-072-072-186-IMG_5146

All of Jim’s Wellsboro lodgings are excellent and warrant our enthusiastic two thumbs up rating. His Bear Meadows Lodge is pictured above.

If you go

25-075-075-189-IMG_5149

Wellsboro is located in beautiful north-central Pennsylvania, just south of the New York state border. 

Bear Mountain Lodge is at 8010 Route 6, just west of Wellsboro, and within 5-miles of everything mentioned in this article. Here’s a map.

Click here for additional details about Bear Mountain Lodge.

Get local tourist information from the Tioga Visitors Bureau at www.visittiogapa.com/

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Take Amtrak to a Fabulous Santa Barbara Car Free Holiday

02-13-13-13-P1010404

We had not been on a train in years, so when invited to experience a weekend getaway on the rails that was “drive free,” we jumped at the opportunity. The adventure entailed making our way to the Diridon Train Station in San Jose, California, and boarding the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight train bound for Santa Barbara. Here’s how it all went:

Checking baggage

01-01-01-01-P1010388

Coast Starlight passengers are allowed to check two bags each, with similar baggage restrictions to those of the airlines. However, our visit was a short getaway so we planned to carry our two small bags to our compartment.

Off we go

03-14-14-14-P1010405

Our Amtrak Coast Starlight train departed on time at 10:07am. We booked a “roomette” accommodation in what is called a Sleeping Car. The roomette amounted to a small compartment with two facing cushioned chairs that recline into a bed. There was also an upper drop-down bunk bed enclosed in the ceiling for the use of a second passenger. We had a nice window to enjoy the view, and there were curtains and a door to shut out the world if we so desired.

We found the biggest advantage of a roomette over a set of less expensive coach seats during a day trip is the privacy for conversation and making phone calls.

Travel comfort

Train travel can be bumpy, but the bouncing around is part of the fun and experience.

The Coast Starlight is one of the longest ocean-view train rides in America. There are a number of venues from which to watch the numerous passing landscapes between San Jose and Santa Barbara.

33-6-6-P1010477

We spent most of the day in comfortable swivel chairs in the upper-level Pacific Parlour Car. Wide windows gave us first-class views of the abundant scenery.

This car also has a lower-level theater where first run films are featured.

Eating on the train

32-1-1-P1010471

Sleeping Car passengers receive complementary meals and can reserve eating times in either the Pacific Parlour Car, or Dining Car. The train’s *menu* is more than adequate and includes sandwiches, fresh fish, salads, several daily entrées ­– including their famous steak in the Dining Car.

07-022-022-022-P1000402

We tried a number of offerings from the menu, and highly recommend the Angus burger – it’s full-flavored and delicious.

Hello Santa Barbara

11-048-048-048-P1000435

Our Amtrak train arrived at the Santa Barbara station on-time at 5:55 pm. The station is small, and was quiet upon our arrival.

It was a short distance to our downtown lodging at the Santa Barbara Hotel on State Street. It felt good to stretch our legs and walk the four blocks from the station to the hotel.

The Hotel Santa Barbara

15-42-42-42-IMG_4951

Centrally located in downtown, the Hotel Santa Barbara is a quaint boutique style hotel with an interesting history. Originally built in the late 1800s, the hotel was destroyed in the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake. It was quickly rebuilt and became a luxury accommodation for the likes of Clark Gable and Carol Lombard who were frequent guests.

16-49-49-49-IMG_4958

Slowly losing traction over the years, the hotel was again revitalized in 1996 when the 75 room establishment became the elegant focal point for the renaissance of downtown Santa Barbara.

14-23-23-23-IMG_4932

Today, the quietly sophisticated hotel offers small groups a place to stay and meet while visiting the many attractions of the city.

12-053-053-053-P1000440

After settling into our comfortable and spacious guestroom, we took a walk along State Street and window shopped the many specialty retailers that line the cosmopolitan thoroughfare.

Our full day in Santa Barbara

13-06-06-06-IMG_4915

It was a typically beautiful Santa Barbara morning, and after a filling Continental Breakfast provided by the hotel in their spacious Mediterranean lobby, we began to think about the best use of our day.

As part of the Car Free program, the hotel provides tickets for the scenic Santa Barbara Trolley Tour, but a friend had suggested the best way to see the downtown area of Santa Barbara, and to enjoy some of the local cuisine, is by foot on a food tour. It was a good suggestion.

The Santa Barbara Food Tour

We signed up for the Lower State Street and Funk Zone Food and Culture Tour offered by Savor Santa Barbara Food Tours. Our tour started in Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant on W. Montecito Street.

18-067-068-068-P1000456

Claire Ihlendorf-Burke, our congenial guide, handed us a menu of delectable south-of-the-border treats. We chose the beef tacos.

19-072-073-073-P1000461

Not expecting a large amount of food on a tour, and certainly not expecting the biggest and best ever tacos, we tucked away all of the plenty that was offered in short order. The only problem was that this was the first “tasting” on the tour, and we had no idea how we could possibly eat anything more that day – but, somehow we managed.

17-23-23-23-P1010415

We were able to scrape the bowl of delectable lobster bisque at the Enterprise Fish Company,

20-28-28-28-P1010424

and enjoy the grape’s bounty at the Santa Barbara Winery in the hip, but understated Funk Zone section of Santa Barbara.

28-141-142-142-P1000538

What saved us from intake overload were the short walks between the seven sample foods and beverage stops. The entire tour takes a little over three hours and covers about two-miles.

23-115-116-116-P1000509

Claire knows her city well, and she showed us the interesting back streets, urban wine trail, and fine examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, for which the city is famous.

22-46-46-46-P1010445

Our tour ended at McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, an artisan creamery with delicious sweets.

25-123-124-124-P1000518

We highly recommend this tour as a great way to learn about Santa Barbara, sample some great food and wines, and get some non-threatening exercise.

Our final day in Santa Barbara

26-50-50-50-P1010450

Before boarding our train to return to San Jose, we took a walk to see the Santa Barbara Courthouse and Sunken Gardens on Anacapa Street. It is worth a visit…

30-152-153-153-P1000550

and the view from the clock tower is breathtaking.

29-65-65-65-P1010467

We also enjoyed the colorful farmer’s market that literally took over State Street the morning of our departure. The market provides residents and visitors an opportunity to purchase farm fresh produce of the highest quality.

For the economy minded traveler

04-009-009-009-P1000389

In terms of space and seats aboard the Coast Starlight, coach accommodations are akin to First Class space aboard most domestic airlines.

A nice accompaniment to the Amtrak Santa Barbara Car Free getaway is the many establishments that provide discounts to Amtrak ticket holders. Get a list of who is participating from www.SantaBarbaraCarFree.org. The website also provides insight into what is available to do while in Santa Barbara.

There is so much to do and see in Santa Barbara and we could only scratch the surface within the confines of this article. You will just have to check it all out for yourself. You will be glad you did.

If you go 

The Coast Starlight runs daily between Seattle and Los Angeles.

Airport connections are available from Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles.

Amtrak offers free city guides and walking tours, which you can find *here*

For more information about what downtown Santa Barbara has to offer click *here*

Look *here* for information about the Hotel Santa Barbara.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Snorkeling with the Manta Rays at the Sheraton Kona Resort Keauhou Bay

Coming face to face with a giant manta ray is the thrill of a lifetime.

Manta rays are amazing and curious creatures. People are fascinated by their opposing nature of ominous looks, and sweet dispositions.

Sheraton Kona

The Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii pays homage to these gentle giants by providing a viewing area for visitors at the resort’s Rays on the Bay restaurant.

05-22-110-IMG_9641

From the restaurant’s lookout, the magnificent and mysterious creatures can be seen gliding in the night ocean far below.

03-20-108-IMG_9617

Guests can also attend a complimentary lecture about the manta rays arranged through the resort’s front desk.

11-24-083-IMG_3752

The resort can also organize a water adventure to view the manta rays up close from a local tour boat named the Hula Kai – an opportunity we eagerly welcomed.

Swimming with the manta rays

Like whales, manta rays eat plankton. The plankton are attracted to light and that is the secret to successful manta viewing from the Hula Kai. Our excursion went like this:

04-21-109-IMG_9621

We boarded the nearby Hula Kai at sunset and moved just off shore of the Sheraton Kona.  We donned wetsuits, googles, and a snorkel provided by the concessionaire. We were given a quick course on manta watching, which is done from a horizontal position floating on one’s stomach and holding fast to a length of 3” diameter buoyant pipe – set out from the stern of the boat much like a floating rectangle.

08-15-IMG_3722

Soon darkness was upon us, and the Hula Kai engaged underwater illumination used to attract plankton to the site. We entered the water by ladder and positioned ourselves around the floating pipe. We looked down into the clear bay water and breathed through our snorkels.

Our bodies were made buoyant by the wetsuits, so maintaining our balance was not difficult. It did not take long before the first of six manta rays appeared from out of the shadows – and the fun began.

01-12-IMG_6907

Manta rays are big, but harmless to humans. They, like the whale, are filter feeders. Mantas are fish related to the shark, but have no bones, teeth, barbs, or stingers. However, they do have size – up to 2,000 pounds – which they use in a very good-natured way.

Manta rays are often given names by the crew of the Hula Kai. Each ray has distinctive “spots” that make identity possible.  The same rays tend to return for evening dining and playing with the snorkelers and divers.

For a period of about one-hour we watched these graceful giants do underwater summersaults just below us – performing like rolling acrobats with gray tops and white underbellies.

Although touching the mantas is not allowed, the creatures have no such restrictions. Frequently, one or more of the rays did a graceful roll just under a snorkeler and purposely pressed its sleek white underbelly along the length of the viewer’s body – an exciting encounter that will be remembered by anyone that experiences it.  The top of a ray feels like sandpaper, and the underside is as smooth as velvet.

Tempus fugit, so do it while you can

Sharkgroup1200

For nature and adventure lovers, snorkeling with the manta rays in the back of the Hula Kai in Kailua, Kona is right up there with diving with the reef sharks in the Bahamas, and snorkeling or diving with the sting rays at Stingray City in the Caymans.

Click *here* to read our story and see pictures of the beautiful Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island, and *here* to check out the resort’s website. To read about all the services offered by the company that operates the Hula Kai Manta Snorkel, click *here.*

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff, shark picture by Wayne Bayliff, Manta Ray pictures courtesy of Sheraton Kona.

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

We flew to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines

Long Beach, California: The Renaissance is Complete

Recently, we had an opportunity to experience Long Beach, California, in depth – the transformation of this city over the decades is nothing less than astonishing.

17-35-066-182-IMG_4805

What was an unremarkable middle class town has magically morphed into an exciting convention and vacation destination that rivals the best of what other Southern California beach towns have to offer.

Note: Everything you will read about our Long Beach holiday is available for your enjoyment. We have provided links to each topic. Just click on a link for more details about the subject.

We started out at SFO

49-87-035-137-P1010331

Our Long Beach adventure began with a flight from San Francisco on Jet Blue airline. This was our first experience on the airline and it certainly will not be our last. We found that on our flight, the extra leg room in standard economy was enough to make Jet Blue our new coach-class favorite over the ever-shrinking, sardine-like seats we are all too familiar with on our United and American flights out of SFO.

Additionally, we liked the fact that there was no charge for our checked luggage.

As long as Jet Blue provides these benefits we will be “True Blue,” when it comes to flying coach.

LGB is a delightful airport

50-88-036-141-P1010335

We relish flying into small town airports, and although Long Beach is certainly not a little town, the LGB airport has a small, open, easy-going vibe.

Stay at the Westin

47-85-033-126-P1010320

Within minutes of our arrival at LGB we were relaxing in our room at the Westin on Ocean Boulevard.

01-01-084-028-FSCN0063

The hotel is close to the Queen Mary and many of the other attractions on our itinerary.

02-07-090-083-DSCN0124

After getting settled we were off for a tour of the Queen Mary led by Honorary Commodore Everette Hoard, followed by dinner aboard…

06-19-053-102-IMG_4721

at the Sir Winston’s restaurant.

07-20-054-111-IMG_4733

What delicious French Onion Soup!

08-22-056-117-IMG_4739

Our main course was classic “Surf and Turf” that was cooked to perfection.

About the Queen

14-31-060-141-IMG_4763

The city of Long Beach went into promotional overdrive in 1967 when it acquired the iconic RMS Queen Mary.  Like the city itself, the Queen has known good times and bad, and through it all has become a symbol of pride and enduring strength in America.

Highly visible in Long Beach Harbor, the Queen Mary humbly accepts daily accolades for her beauty and durability, and for those who know, for her valiant courage.

When launched in 1936, the Queen was the fastest ship afloat. During WW2, she made 72 wartime crossings of the treacherous Atlantic and was the prize never won by Nazi U-Boat captains determined to sink her for the Fatherland and Adolf Hitler.

During the war, Winston Churchill said he felt as safe aboard the Queen Mary as he did in Parliament.

IMG_1005

Churchill’s comfortable suite on board the Queen is now part of the array of staterooms available by reservation at the Queen Mary hotel. A stay on this venerable ship is an extraordinary historical privilege.

A few years back, we stayed at the Queen Mary hotel. If you would like to read about that experience on the famous ship click here for the story.

Morning on the water

12-27-057-124-IMG_4746

The following day we toured Long Beach Harbor on the Triumphant of Harbor Breeze Cruises.

18-36-067-189-IMG_4812

This is an excellent way to see all that the waterfront of Long Beach has to offer. Harbor Breeze also offers whale watching cruises.

19-39-071-194-IMG_4817

Next we strolled around Shoreline Village with its many interesting shops, boutiques, and attractions.

16-34-064-178-IMG_4801

Our walk ended with a seafood lunch at the famous (and delicious) Parkers’ Lighthouse.

Afternoon at the Aquarium

21-41-073-209-IMG_4832

Our afternoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific proved it to be a family attraction we could highly recommend.

22-42-074-210-IMG_4833

Exhibits were both entertaining and educational.

23-44-075-216-IMG_4842

Great fun for all ages.

Final day

The following morning we had breakfast at The Attic on Broadway. The cuisine was unique and tasty.

28-52-098-321-DSCN0392

How about a Bloody Mary with bacon and a pickle?

Tour with Pedego

29-54-100-329-DSCN0400

It was a beautiful Long Beach morning so we signed up for an electric bike tour along the ocean bike path. Our host was Pedego Electric Bikes.

55-95-043-BOBS BEACH BIKE 1

This is an excellent way to view the 5.5 miles of manicured sand and shoreline residences along the beach.

33-63-008-043-P1010229

The bikes were all in super shape, and depending on your shape, you can pedal or leave the pedaling to the Pedego.

53-92-040-Electric Bike Group

The outing was great fun, and there was an outstanding group of participants.

Time for culture

36-71-016-072-P1010260

There are plenty of indoor activities in Long Beach and in the afternoon we left the sun to visit the Long Beach Museum of Art.

34-66-011-052-P1010238

We were captivated by the exhibition Baroque Sensibilities by Sherrie Wolf.

35-67-012-056-P1010242

The museum changes exhibits regularly, so keep an eye on their website.

Back in time

A quite unusual attraction that is not highly publicized is Long Beach’s 4th Street, a.k.a. the “Retro Row.” It is comprised of several blocks of funky little boutiques, antique, and pre-owned clothing shops that will take you back to mother’s time – or maybe your time, if you recognize lots of the habiliments. Locally owned restaurants and wine bars add to the joy of meandering.

39-74-020-081-P1010272

The Rows landmark 1920’s Art Theatre hosts events such as contemporary and vintage films and live concerts.

A little touch of Venice 

Our next Long Beach adventure had us back on the water.

41-77-024-087-P1010279

Gliding along the waterways of Venice, Italy is one of our fondest memories, and we had an opportunity to reminisce in Long Beach on a romantic gondola ride thru Naples Island with Gondola Getaway.

43-79-026-102-P1010295

We watched the sun surrender to the Pacific – a perfect ending to an exceptional day.

Last supper

Our last dinner on this getaway was at the Boathouse on the Bay. The water oriented restaurant was busy on a balmy Long Beach evening, and the service and food were as advertised i.e., excellent.

44-81-028-108-P1010301

Our entrees consisted of the biggest-ever and perfectly prepared King Crab Legs accompanied by a chopped cucumber sprinkled with dill and drizzled with a light vinegar – a brilliant pairing of tastes.

45-83-030-113-P1010307

We can also recommend the tasty sea bass on potato mash amidst a savory sassy mix of carrots, peas and green beans. Delicious!

Things to know before you go

Long Beach boasts 345 days of sunshine and it is cold at 50 degrees in January, and hot when it’s 83 degrees in August and September. How great is that!

The outdoor activities in Long Beach are numerous and include fishing, harbor cruises, kayaking, rollerblading, biking, horseback riding, tennis and of course, golf. If that weren’t enough, windsurfing, scuba diving, parasailing, water skiing, whale watching, and sailing are also available. Whew!

There are over 5,000 hotel rooms in Long Beach, and 17 hotels that have complete meeting facilities. The public transportation is unsurpassed, and with all the available activities, Long Beach is a spectacular convention town.

As evidenced by its many nightspots and hip restaurants, the city has become an exciting destination for younger tourists.

There’s a lot to do and see in Long Beach. We recommend a visit. You will not be disappointed.

For additional information check out www.longbeachcvb.org

If you go

48-86-034-134-P1010328

Long Beach is 22-miles south of downtown Los Angeles and is well serviced by the airlines and the California Freeway System.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Spending Quality Time on the Cannery Row in Monterey, California

Cannery Row on Monterey Bay is an easy 2-hour drive south of San Francisco. Two good reasons to add Monterey to your northern California holiday are that it is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Golden State, and it is far less commercial than San Francisco. It’s a great place to enjoy some quality down-time during your vacation.

A brief history of Cannery Row

csr7

Oil made whales the Monterey prey of choice for fisherman until Kerosene was introduced in the late 1800s. At that time, the local fishing industry made a quick turn to sardines, and the first cannery opened in 1902 along Ocean View Avenue – now Cannery Row.

From that date until the 1960s the fishermen and businessmen of the “Row” didn’t realize it, but they were systematically fishing themselves into oblivion by overtaxing the schools of mature sardines needed to reproduce and replenish the early abundant harvests.

IMG_0727

The last sardine catch and pack on Cannery Row took place in 1964 on the site of the now famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Inspired by John Steinbeck’s celebrated story, Cannery Row is visited annually by scores of vacationers from around the world, and it is well worth a prominent place on your vacation schedule.

It’s fun to share the planet

IMG_0927

Cannery Row is not only a tourist’s mecca, it has also become a conservationist’s Disneyland. There’s the spectacular Aquarium, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which can be enjoyed by tour boat, sail boat, kayak, or row boat.

crb4

On land, tourists can comb the waterfront, whale watch, otter watch, seal watch, bird watch, and people watch. Cold water SCUBA divers also get to fish watch. There are a whopping 26 species of marine mammals, and 345 species of fish residing in the Monterey Bay Sanctuary.

Also in the area

pg1

Golfing and touring at Pebble Beach, Carmel, and Pacific Grove are minutes away,

l1

and the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove is open to the public and is a great place to get a feel for a lighthouse keeper’s life in earlier times.

pl9

Point Lobos State Reserve with its fantastic views of the Pacific is also in the neighborhood.

t IMG_0464

In the area, we also visited the fabulous Holman Ranch and Winery, and *here* is that story.

Where to stay

h2

IMG_0777

There is no shortage of great places to stay on and near Cannery Row. We chose the Monterey Bay Inn right on the “Row.” It is the first hotel on the water when driving east.

IMG_0737

The Inn’s appeal includes being slightly away from the center of the hub-bub, where most of the tourists congregate. Yet, it is just a short walk to all the interesting shops that line the Row.

IMG_0621

The views from the Monterey Bay Inn are impressive – especially if you are lucky enough to reserve an end room with a balcony over the water. We recommend room 320 if it is available. (that’s 320 just under the roof canopy above)

pa1

The Inn is adjacent to San Carlos Beach Park, where visitors can picnic and stroll the beach. The park is also an excellent entry point for kayaks and SCUBA divers heading for a swim with the fishes among the ever-swaying orange and brown kelp beds.

Cannery Row eateries

sf4

The area is awash in excellent restaurants, but there is one in particular that deserves a feature story, and that is what we plan for the legendary Sardine Factory on Wave Street.

The Sardine Factory is a world-class restaurant that is also an uplifting All-American success story. It’s about two ordinary guys that started with nothing almost 40-years ago, and today are recognized by presidents, the movers and shakers of industry, and scores of celebrities in the restaurant and entertainment world.

It’s also a tale of tradition, values, honesty and integrity – subjects that are too often forgotten in our confused times.

sssf3

So look for our story about the Sardine Factory in the near future. It is good press that will inspire you – it did us.

IMG_0720

The Monterey coast and Cannery Row are California treasures that should be explored and enjoyed by all lovers of the sea, nature, and good food – definitely worth putting on your getaway list.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos © Judy Bayliff
You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com

A Memorable Panama Canal Christmas Cruise Aboard Holland America’s Amsterdam

We live in California and two of our best friends reside in Florida. We wanted to visit them during the holidays, but didn’t want to endure the stress and aggravation of crowded airports and airplanes – so an opportunity to sail from nearby San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale through the Panama Canal was especially appealing.

03-27-Amsterdam 1

Our cruise was an anomaly for a Holland America Panama Canal Cruise because the usual port of embarkation for the Canal trip is San Diego. However, it was our good fortune that the Amsterdam had been in dry-dock in San Francisco for a two-week spruce-up before our cruise.

02-b departing SF

That meant a few hundred lucky passengers got to see the dramatic glow of the San Francisco skyline during departure – we picked up the majority of the passengers for the Panama Canal Cruise two-days later in San Diego.

Size matters

10-24-02-02-P1000566

Our last few cruises were on much larger ships, those with capacities over 2,500, so a ship that holds 1,380 passengers and a crew of 607 felt compact, and just a little cozier because of it.

11-Library

The first thing we noticed upon boarding the Amsterdam is that her color schemes are nicely subdued and her décor is a bit more refined than found on some of the newer ships. Of course, being a member of the Holland America fleet, she is elegant and uber-clean.

32-IMG_2770

At the heart of the Amsterdam is the Planeto Astrolabium, a magnificent three-story structure that tracks constellations, and the planets.

09-35-22-P1000559

The Planeto Astrolabium is also the ship’s hub for customer service activities, and the area to find a bevy of nearby exclusive shops.

Cruising in comfort

14-Suite Living

The Amsterdam’s suites are sophisticated and chic.

13-Suite bedroom

They are comfortable, classically elegant,

12-Suite Dining Room

and successfully avoid being trendy and thematic.

16-Suite Verandah

They also reflect the natural allure of privacy at sea in graceful surroundings.

Repeat cruisers

We learned very quickly that many of our fellow passengers were not disembarking along with us in Florida. Rather, they were continuing on for the 114-day round-the-world cruise. The Grand World Voyage itinerary is sailed by the Amsterdam, and a stalwart group of Holland America loyalists make the annual voyage. We did a story about one charming lady who is among those habitual world cruisers, and you can read about her *here.*

For those interested, the 2015 Grand World Voyage begins on January 5th and departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Cruise included holidays

Our trip encompassed both Christmas and New Year’s Day.

By Christmas Day passengers and crew alike were in a festive mood – a wonderful holiday spirit that was most evident at the crew’s inspirational holiday program entitled “The Sounds of Christmas Carols.” Hundreds of passengers genially joined in the crew’s evening group-sing.

12-27-03-P1000605

The merriment continued right through an impressive shipboard New Year’s Eve celebration at sea.

The seasonal gatherings aboard the Amsterdam helped form a genuine bond between passengers and crew – all from different countries, cultures, religions, and life experiences – quite marvelous to be part of it.

An amazing crew

07-05-17-P1000640

The staff on Holland America ships hail mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, but on our cruise there were also crew members from 32 other nations. All were accommodating and friendly – a sure sign they were happy at their work, and with their employer, Holland America.

Meet the Captain

01-29-06-06-IMG_3127

Like all the other ship’s Masters we have interviewed, Captain Fred Everson set his sights on a life at sea from a very early age – he had a great mentor – his father was a captain on cargo ships. He subsequently attended and graduated from Holland’s maritime academy in Rotterdam, and joined HAL in 1980.

Everson told us, “My main concern as the Captain of the Amsterdam is the safety and pleasure of my passengers.” The captain informed us that Holland America has installed and is now testing the first thermal imaging system designed to immediately detect a person who may accidentally fall overboard.

07-11-157-IMG_3332

When asked what he likes best about his job, Captain Everson answered, “It offers me an opportunity to see the world.” His professed favorite place is Antarctica, “I love the remote grandeur, topography, and animal life.”

With a work schedule of 3 months on and 3 months off, Captain Everson has ample time to indulge in his favorite pastime – motorcycle trips from his home base in Del Ray Beach, Florida. He has logged over 150,000 miles on motorcycle tours of North America.

When Captain Everson retires he plans to continue touring, “There’s so much I haven’t seen.” A few years back the captain purchased an RV to assist him in his roaming. Happy motoring Captain!

Eating aboard the Amsterdam

We found the quality and presentation of food aboard the Amsterdam to be up to the usually delicious Holland America standards.

La Fontaine Restaurant

10-17-72-IMG_2986

The main dining room is the two-story La Fontaine Restaurant and is well designed with numerous windows for abundant natural light during day-time meals.

11-34-19-P1000556

Our table was next to one of the windows so we enjoyed constant vistas of the sky and sea while dining.

Lido Restaurant

02-02-135-IMG_2734

Many of our breakfasts were taken at the informal buffet-style Lido Restaurant,

03-14-43-IMG_2949

where we savored made-to-order omelets and a wide variety of meats, cheeses, cereals and fresh fruit and juices.

Specialty Restaurants

The Canaletto has introduced a new menu featuring Italian family style dining with some toothsome recipes.

21-02-08-P1000631

We relished our starter of Vermouth Braised Clams with spicy chorizo, garlic and basil.

22-03-10-P1000633

The Rigatoni with Italian sausage, Kalamata olives, and a spicy and delicious tomato sauce was a perfect pasta choice.

23-04-11-P1000634

The large plate entrée was a tasty Grilled Lemon-Thyme White Sea Bass with roasted fingerling potatoes, shaved fennel, and orange-olive salad.

Everything was delicious, however we found it unusual that no breads or rolls were served at the Canaletto, an Italian restaurant. Perhaps that has changed – we hope.

The best steaks and seafood

03-P1000539

The Pinnacle Grill is romantic and intimate and the favorite rendezvous of beef and seafood lovers. We were happy to learn that Holland American serves only seafood caught in a sustainable manner.

16-31-07-P1000544

A Caesar Salad prepared at the table was an excellent opener,

17-30-06-P1000542

followed by Dungeness Crab Cakes with spiraled shaved cucumber and sweet chili-mustard sauce. Outstanding!

19-32-10-P1000547

The filet mignon was a perfect size for a four-course dinner and was prepared with sun-dried tomatoes, and the master chef’s green peppercorn béarnaise sauce and maître d’ garlic butter.

20-33-15-P1000552

We finished with Baked Alaska a la Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream flamed with Bing cherries jubilee. OMG!

Terrace Grill

hot dogs

After shamelessly feasting for days on end, it was nice to occasionally take a breather and enjoy a simple old-fashioned hamburger, hot dog, or slice of pizza. The Terrace Grill poolside was a welcome, albeit brief departure from lavish dining. May we recommend an ice-cold beer for accompaniment?

About the cruise itinerary

18-25-19-19-P1000586

Our Panama Canal voyage on the Amsterdam started on December 18, and took 17 days, and covered 5,914 miles. The same trip was an arduous 13,715 miles before the advent of the 50-mile long Panama Canal.

17-28-Ships location

The Amsterdam stopped at six countries between San Diego and Ft. Lauderdale. Ports included Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Columbia; and Georgetown, Cayman Islands.

The ports we favored were Cartagena, and Georgetown, but of course, the highlight of the cruise was passing through the historic Panama Canal.

24-13-18-IMG_2919

In a future article we will write about all the ports of call on the Holland America Panama Canal Cruise and include a summary of the exciting history of the Panama Canal.

An all-day event

It takes about eight-hours to transit the canal’s three locks and navigate the lake that lies between the locks and seas.

04-03-059-IMG_3234

The passengers were up at the crack of dawn to watch the Amsterdam approach the first lock,

05-04-085-IMG_3260

and be tethered to the electric locomotives that guided her seemingly effortlessly through the narrow Miraflores Locks.

13-25-60-60-IMG_3142

Once the Amsterdam was released from the second locks into Gatun Lake, passengers had several hours to observe the dark and mysterious waters and dense sweltering tropical jungle from on-high aboard the ship.

334-IMG_3513

Everyone watched as the liner glided along patches of small uninhabited tangled green islands – all safely visible from the glass enclosed and air-conditioned lounges and public spaces on the Amsterdam.

14-19-304-IMG_3479

Our minds wandered and considered the lives of the thousands of diggers who suffered (an estimated 25,000 died) to conquer this hostile wilderness for the betterment of mankind. How fortunate we are to be able to witness the engineering marvel they created.

Check out the related video below for a brief depiction of the passage.

by HollandAmericaFan

Don’t miss it

12-18-244-IMG_3419

A trip through the Panama Canal is one of the most interesting cruises on this planet. We recommend it highly.

10-14-199-IMG_3374

For more information about Holland America cruises, itineraries, and specials, look at their website at www.hollandamerica.com

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Combine St. Regis and Kaua‛i for an Unforgettable Hawaiian Holiday

27-view4

Often referred to as Hawaii’s “Garden Island,” Kaua‛i is a lush tropical paradise of towering cloud-crested green summits. The island has 50-miles of sandy beaches perpetually polished by translucent waves. It was undoubtedly the perfect island for the legendary St. Regis brand to open one of their unparalleled luxury resorts.

Behold the majestic north shore

04-v

The Hawaiian St. Regis Resort at Princeville is surrounded by five verdant mountains overlooking the beautiful Hanalei Valley and the breathtaking Napali Coast.

44-view7

No wonder Hollywood picked nearby Lumaha‛i Beach to film scenes for Rogers and Hammerstein’s immortal “South Pacific.

Kaua‛i’s north shore is also home to Makana Mountain, better known as the mystical Bali Hai in the movie. In this case, the real thing is more alluring than the illusion.

Kaua‛i is everyone’s dream-scene of a protected rain-forest Pacific Island paradise, and having chosen it, the St. Regis is now the preferred glamour address for the elite Hawaiian vacationer.

A royal beginning

The location of the St. Regis in Princeville was named after the “Prince of Hawaii,” the official title of Prince Albert Edward, born in 1858 to King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, and godchild to Queen Victoria of England. Kamehameha IV and his family vacationed in the area in 1862. Sadly, the young prince died that same year, but out of respect, the area has retained the legacy name.

Arriving at the St. Regis

Our arrival felt like the beginning of an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The elegant ambiance of the resort lives up to its reputation and was immediately evident.

03-a3

The reception area is part of the larger lobby, and the eyes are drawn every which way to accommodate the combined spectacle of luxury and scenic beauty.

The check-in was effortless, and the staff exhibited the training and courtesy that is the hallmark of the St. Regis brand.

A legacy of distinction

John Jacob Astor IV, opened the first St. Regis Hotel in New York City in 1904. Forty-nine openings later, the brand has retained its well-deserved image of sophistication and the reputation for successfully catering to the old (and new) aristocracy and its many fascinating personalities.

The butler did it

Each suite at the St. Regis has a butler to cater to the guests’ every wish. During our stay, our butler proved to be an invaluable resource about navigating around the resort and the island of Kaua‛i in general.

12-s2

Our Bali Hai suite at the St. Regis Princeville consisted of two levels.

31-s8

The main floor was the location of the living room, kitchen, dining/meeting room, half bath, and balcony.

11-s1

A generous sleeping room and spacious full bath were located on the second floor.

Planning a wedding?

14-s5

From our balcony we had an opportunity to watch the St. Regis staff prepare for a beachfront wedding. Planned nuptials can be attended by five or 500; the St. Regis has the facility to make the event as perfect as a couple can imagine.

The Spa

63-sp1

After settling in, we started our decompression in style with a massage at the luxurious Halele‘a (which means House of Joy) Spa located just off the main lobby of the resort.

This is much more than your standard resort spa. It is an 11,000 square foot facility with 12 treatment rooms, and a trained staff dedicated to your relaxation, healing, and ultimate body and mind restoration.

We chose and recommend the stress relieving Lomi Lomi Massage that involves a deep muscle therapy, accompanied by continuous gentle strokes – a technique we have learned to associate with Hawaiian therapists. Oh, so soothing.

Our first dinner at the St. Regis was a memorable occasion

53-kg

Although we found the on-site Kaua‛i Grill dining room decor to be somewhat understated for a five-star restaurant, the food and view of Hanalei Bay and Bali Hai at sunset more than made up for any lack in interior motif.

60-kg7

The exciting bill of fare at the Kaua‛i Grill is the brainchild of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a globally recognized Michelin cordon bleu chef. The menu boasts the master’s flair for the French and Asian influence in personally selected appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

The place to start your day

37-m3

We had breakfast on the Makana Terrace overlooking Hanalei Bay.

35-m1

This is an oasis of tranquility that beckons one to sit back and enjoy the acclaimed scenery while savoring the culinary delights of the local fresh food markets.

The restaurant so fits its place that it must have been inspired by Kaua‛i itself.

34-m

If you stay at the St. Regis, don’t miss the day-opening buffet on the Terrace.

Eat at the bar

33-bar

Here we were offered light casual pub style victuals in a convivial comfy atmosphere. Also, a great place to gather for a cleansing ale before dinner.

21-m8

There are five excellent dining venues at the resort – all with fantastic views.

For the golfers

64-golf course St. Regis.jpg

The St. Regis Princeville Resort’s Makai Golf Club is designed by globally-celebrated golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and is an 18-hole championship course complete with lakes, woodlands, and a spectacular view of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay.

If you go

38-ss2

The St. Regis Princeville is a luxurious resort with significant cachet and 252 guest rooms, including 51 premium ocean view suites.

08-pool

Look to the St. Regis website at www.stregisprinceville.com to choose from a range of diverse guestrooms to suit your taste and budget.

07-v2

You will probably fly into Lihu‛e Airport on the east shore of Kaua‛i. If you do, expect a 32-mile drive to the picturesque north shore, and the resort. There are all varieties of available transportation at the airport. A standard taxi will cost just over $100 with tip – and it’s up from there. We reserved a rental car, and were glad we did because there is so much to see on Kaua‛i.

In future articles we will write about the many things to do outside the St. Regis demesne.

45-cave

As a preview, there are watery caves to explore..

IMG_9840

and the famous Waimea Canyon to photograph. We will also take you along on a fabulously romantic dinner for two under the stars in the Papa‛i Kilauea Hut at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.

If you are researching luxury hotels and resorts for a planned holiday in the Hawaiian Islands, you might also like to read our stories and evaluations of these other Starwood properties in Hawaii.

The Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu

The Moana Surfrider on Waikiki Beach

The Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa on Maui

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

 

We flew to Honolulu and inter-island on Hawaiian Airlines.

Pacifica: A Spirited Coastal Community South of San Francisco

Interesting little towns located very near big vacation destinations like San Francisco often go missing from the holiday planner’s radar. In the case of Pacifica, California, that would be most unfortunate.

04-04-50-IMG_2398

Just 15-minutes south of San Francisco on famous California Hwy 1, Pacifica is a great place to enjoy a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of a City vacation. It’s a place to stretch out and watch the waves, and experience the community life of a small Bohemian style California coastal town that marches to a decidedly different drummer.

Gaspar discovers the Bay

A 1200 foot ridge high above Pacifica was the place from which Gaspar de Portola discovered the San Francisco Bay in 1769.

We discover Pacifica

SEG ocean x590

Being a short distance from our home, we have driven past Pacifica on many occasions, but only stopped once to research a story about the town’s amiable Segway tour operators.

IMG_2165

Our Segway experience proved to be a pleasant day’s outing along Pacifica’s rocky coastline known for great scenery, and we told ourselves that we must return. Recently, we decided to explore what this charming town below San Francisco had to offer by way of other activities, accommodations, and restaurants.

Finding a hotel

05-05-60-IMG_2408

The first thing we looked for was a hotel room where we could hear the pounding surf on the sand. We found the perfect room at the Pacifica Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel, which happens to be the only full service hotel on the beach.

09-09-82-IMG_2430

Marty Cerles, the cordial hotel manager suggested mini-suite number 127, and that is the specific room that we recommend if you want the best up-front seat for the smashing surf show.

32-35-315-IMG_1754

We left our window open all night and reveled in the relaxing sounds of the churning ocean and sea birds.

18-IMG_1926-001

If you are in budget mode, try the nearby Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel operated by Hostelling International.

17-IMG_1922

You can stay in former Coast Guard quarters on this historic lighthouse property that boasts panoramic views that a major brand hotel would die for.

Check out the great video below. It pictures the hostel campus and its extraordinary views, and includes many things-to-do while in the area.


More about things-to-do

36-40-348-IMG_1790

Pacifica features everything from world-class surfing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, scuba diving and hang gliding. This beachy-peach is an ideal getaway for anyone interested in just relaxing or enjoying an invigorating outdoor vacation.

11-IMG_1821

There are a bevy of quaint shops in Pacifica ranging from specialty shops to service establishments – it’s a great town to meander about and window shop.

19-IMG_1938

Check with the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce to see when the next outdoor Farmer’s Market will set up shop.

Best restaurants

Our research led us to three restaurants.

12-14-063-IMG_1500

Nick’s Seashore Restaurant at Rockaway Beach was recommended for ocean front breakfast dining.

08-IMG_1800

Nick’s has been family owned since 1927. As soon as we entered we knew we had found the local favorite for dining and dancing.

07-IMG_1802

Our home-style breakfast at Nick’s was a great start to our day.

07-07-72-IMG_2420

Puerto 27, has a relaxed beach community atmosphere. It was a particular delight for our first dinner in Pacifica. It offers something we had never experienced –Peruvian cuisine.

27-30-299-IMG_1738

We took a taste adventure recommended by Head Chef, Jorge Tupac.

22-25-272-IMG_1711

We ordered the Pescado a lo Macho, a whole fish marinated with Aji Amarillo and crispy fried. It was served with a Seafood Cream Panka Parmesan Sauce with mussels, clams, scallops, and calamari. Not something we would have chosen without Chef Jorge’s suggestion. Turns out, it is off this planet scrumptious. We recommend it highly!

20-23-257-IMG_1696

By the way, be sure to try one of their Pisco Sour Cocktails. We had the Clasico made with 3 ounces of pisco quebranta, 1 ounce of key lime, 1 ounce simple syrup, ½ ounce of egg whites, and a touch of angostura bitters – for novelty, a “27” is neatly frosted on the surface. Yum!

IMG_1497

The Moonraker Restaurant is immediately adjacent to the Best Western Lighthouse Hotel and shares superb views of the Pacific just a few yards away.

21-IMG_1959

For a dinner entrée, we recommend the Coriander Seared Scallops covered in a sweet corn sauce and served with mashed potatoes and baby carrots.

31-34-311-IMG_1750

After a delightful meal, we enjoyed a savory cup of robust decaf coffee and watched the far away sun slowly slip into the sea. Soon it was dark, and the end of a beautiful day in Pacifica.

Pacifica Pier

06-IMG_1468

Located at Sharp Park Beach, the 1,140 foot Pacifica Pier opened to the public in 1973.

01-01-20-IMG_2368

It has provided decades of family fishing fun with annual summer runs of salmon and striped bass, and crabbing for delectable Dungeness crabs is allowed during the winter season. The pier is also a good place for spotting whales during their biannual migration.

05-IMG_1450

The pier is open all year from 4am to 10pm except during stormy weather. AND – no fishing license is required!

Fit in Pacifica beaches

13-IMG_1873

Pacifica boasts seven miles of multifarious surfing quality beaches in plain view of the dramatic Pacific headlands where hiking and biking trails lead to scenic overlooks of the crashing surf.

17-20-172-IMG_1609

These same cliffs are coveted by experienced para-gliders who ride the thermals like so many raptors spiraling in the gentle currents.

34-38-343-IMG_1785

There’s also an Alister Mackenzie designed golf course, public tennis courts, an archery range, horseback riding, biking, bowling, and a free skateboard park with ocean views. Phew!

If Pacifica reads like a great place to prepare for your next marathon, decathlon, or for just getting into better shape, it’s all true.

If you go

18-21-202-IMG_1639

Before you complete your plan, be sure to check out www.visitpacifica.com. The website will provide you with up to date information about what is happening in Pacifica along with a simple map.

Happy travels!

©Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

© Photos by Judy Bayliff

The Best Suites for Two Aboard the Golden Princess

Our goal in taking a month-long cruise around Hawaii and Tahiti on the Golden Princess was to experience – and then write about – how a major cruise line like Princess caters to its suite passengers. It was one of our most enjoyable projects.

19-28-29-04-P1000964

Suites for two

Over the past ten years, we have photographed and written about suites in B&Bs, hotels, resorts, and on cruise ships. It is our writing practice to always consider our subjects from a “couples” perspective. In that light, we have found many suites to be overly expensive or disproportionately large for two people. However, on the Golden Princess, we found a group of full-size suites that were not only luxurious, but the perfect size for two people on a cruise of any duration.

16-24-30-042-IMG_3596

31-25-42-29-IMG_4498

After boarding the Golden Princess, an elevator whisked us up eight levels to the Sun Deck where we were escorted along an elegant wood-toned hallway to the Palermo Suite – our home for the next 28 days.

A suite life

38-2-31-IMG_4500

The Palermo Suite, was one of ten new suites added to the Sun Deck of the Princess during a 2009 revitalization.

27-03-13-22-15-P1010074

There are two entry doors to the Palermo Suite, with a small barrier foyer between. The second door acts as a noise and privacy baffle. Upon entering the living room we were immediately impressed by the polished marble floors and shinning granite counter surfaces.

The walls and ceilings in the Palermo are a mixture of delicately textured golden earth-tone material and light natural woods. Light fixtures and other suite features are of brushed stainless, and the suites well-chosen art is framed in a soft muted gold – perfect for the elegant and airy setting.

33-10-03-IMG_4545

The living area can be separated from the sleeping room by floor to ceiling privacy drapes, and there are large flat panel TVs in both chambers. The living area TV also has a DVD player. Guests can select from a library of recently released or vintage movies, and they are delivered right to your door.

35-11-02-7-IMG_4582

The bedroom has an ever-so-comfortable Queen sized bed, which can be made into two twins, and the wooden ceiling vault houses a handsome alabaster dome that illuminates the room in a warm and subtle glow.

26-07-04-298-20140423_101158

Bathrooms on cruise ships are not noted for their spaciousness. However, this style of suite on the Golden Princess offers a sink and toilet room, and another room for a large marble shower and a separate full size soaking tub.

A spacious walk-in closet and an electronic safe are also nice amenities for a long cruise.

28-08-14-23-22-P1010081

Most couples are not working on computers while on a cruise, but we particularly liked having two granite-topped work spaces for the purpose.

24-18-40-15-IMG_4441

Handily, one space was also a well-lighted vanity with multiple mirrors – such a help when preparing for an evening of exquisite dining and entertainment aboard the Golden Princess.

37-4-41-IMG_4414

30-09-15-27-27-IMG_4496

Two sets of floor to ceiling sliding doors provide extraordinary changing views of the islands, and two finished teak deck lounges make for excellent conversation, private reading, and contemplation at sea. 

Other in-room distinctions

The first mini-bar setup is complimentary, and the premium upgrades include fresh flowers, delicious canapés, and special bath amenities. Also, one small, big thing – electrical outlets. Plugs for your electric devices are as rare as Indian Head Pennies aboard cruise ships. Being able to plug in only two devices in a stateroom is normal. In the Palermo suite we had eight outlets. Electric Valhalla!

25-19-41-18-IMG_4444

The Palermo Suite, along with its nine siblings (Corsica, Florence, Grenada, Malta, Pisa, Provence, Sardinia, Seville, and Tuscany) are not the largest suites on the Golden Princess, but we found them to be a perfect accommodation of size, layout, and comfortable décor for a vacationing party of two.

All in all, the full-size Palermo Suite has about 600 square feet of living space, including the balcony. As a comparison, a mini-suite aboard the Golden has approximately 323 sq. ft., and a balcony stateroom about 250.

Suite privileges

Those that occupy the luxurious full-size suites on Princess ships enjoy amenities and privileges not afforded other passengers. After completely reading this article, you may decide that the roominess of a suite along with the following additional niceties, are sufficient reasons to consider reserving the best accommodations your budget will allow.

Breakfast at Sabatini’s

12-21-36-31-P1000726

One of our favorite Princess full-suite perks is the exclusive and private dining breakfast at the Sabatini’s restaurant.

Every morning, the Sabatini’s is transformed from an elegant Italian dinner eatery into an exclusive breakfast retreat for the passengers that occupy the 30+ full-suites aboard the Golden Princess.

34-1-28-P1010115

However, not all suite guests take advantage of the Sabatini’s privilege; some prefer the ultimate personal option of suite room service, while still others choose one of the conventional dining forums like the Horizon Court Buffet above.

03-15-26-20-P1000685

The limited number of tables in the Sabatini’s provides an intimate setting for a quiet breakfast.

36-31-11-29-P1010178

An exemplary staff of four waiters is orchestrated by a congenial Head Waiter who greets and seats each arriving guest. Food is prepared by three cooks supervised by a Chef de Cuisine.

06-30-35-28-P1000723

The Sabatini’s Breakfast Menu includes everything imaginable for the morning meal, carefully prepared and skillfully presented.

07-29-10-22-P1010170

The artistic presentation may change with the muse of the chef – but is always to the highest culinary standards.

05-33-33-25-P1000720

We generally started out with a wake-me-up Mimosa and freshly squeezed orange juice.

04-32-34-20-P1000715

That was usually followed by a delicious decaf Cappuccino and a warm-to-the-touch baked mini-pastry and a chilled stemmed glass of hand selected berries.

02-13-27-16-IMG_3258

10-5-06-P1000880

For our main course we picked from a unique assortment of waffles and French toasts, and the usual varieties of fresh eggs, such as Benedict, omelets, scrambles, etc.

11-26-09-44-P1000806

Even simple cereals are brilliantly presented in Sabatini’s. 

Sabatini’s by night 

Found only on Princess ships, the Sabatini’s restaurant is a specialty Italian restaurant that is open every night to all passengers. There is an additional charge for dinner dining in the stylish and intimate Sabatini’s, but well worth it to celebrate a special occasion – or simply to enjoy truly outstanding Italian cuisine.

More Suite Privileges

VIP boarding

In many ways, Preferred Boarding can be equated to waiting for an airline flight in a private lounge instead of the communal terminal. Preferred boarding means you are the first passengers to board the ship at embarkation, therefore among the first guests to be settled into their stateroom and afforded early access to the delicious buffet that awaits oncoming passengers. There’s always plenty of food for all, but it is a comfort to be at the front of a line, is it not? 

Priority ship to shore tender passes

18-17-32-107-IMG_3668

Three of the nine ports we visited on our cruise required being tendered to shore. For those not familiar, this is a procedure where the cruise ship does not dock, but rather anchors offshore, or remains stationery away from the land.

21-06-08-14-IMG_3703

Passengers wishing to go ashore are shuttled by means of motorized launches called “tenders.” The process is called “tendering.”

The act of tendering is very organized, and within a short time a few thousand people can be transferred to the shore with relative ease.

17-16-31-066-IMG_3623

While general passengers are issued group numbers on a first come first served basis, and comfortably wait for their group to be called to “tender,” suite passengers are afforded a privilege that allows them to board the next available tender, therefore getting them to shore a bit earlier to enjoy the port.

Complimentary laundry and dry cleaning

Although laundry and dry cleaning services are available to all passengers for a reasonable charge, full-suite guests are provided the service as part of their complementary privileges. Should it be your preference, there are also self-service laundry facilities throughout the ship for all passengers.

Internet Café

1-1-14-IMG_4366

For those suite customers who want to keep in contact with the world while at sea, there is a suite internet program for use either in the Internet Café or from any part of the ship when a personal wireless device is used.

Our recommendation

13-8-15-IMG_3918

During our month long cruise on Princess we noted a consistent level of excellent service for every category of passenger aboard. But, the additional perks afforded suite occupants, made a most pleasant journey that much more elegant and enjoyable. Our recommendation – do it if you can. You only live once, and how suite it is!

Happy travels!

20-05-07-09-IMG_3696

More stories about our 28-day cruise to the South Pacific on the Golden Princess will be forthcoming. For more information about the Golden Princess check out the PDF file *here* For additional information about booking a cruise on Princess look at their website at www.princess.com or call your favorite travel agent.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

32-3-35-IMG_4504

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Sleeping in a Tropical Garden in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys offers a multitude of interesting options for places to stay. We found a small resort in Key Largo that was different from anything we had previously experienced. If you like the romance of “Old Florida,” you are sure to love this getaway. 

The Kona Kai Resort

12-04-10-068-IMG_8253

When it comes to family owned resorts we have learned to expect the unexpected. Such properties often reflect the imagination and ingenuity of entrepreneurial owners, and the Kona Kai Resort is the essence of the concept.

11-03-09-062-IMG_8246

Owners Joe and Ronnie Harris purchased the two acre Kona Kai grounds in 1991. They immediately began to painstakingly renovate the stunning waterfront property and transform it into a comfortable “Old Florida” resort – a style that is most becoming in the relaxed setting of the Florida Keys.

14-06-12-074-IMG_8259

The resort is designed in bungalow fashion and consists of single level guestrooms and one and two bedroom suites that vary in furnishings and views. All 13 accommodations have air-conditioning, ceiling fans, flat panel TVs with DVD players. Suites have CD players and fully equipped kitchens. This is an excellent resort for a stay of any duration.

Enter Eden

10-3-078-130-IMG_8324

What sets this property apart is that it is an integral part of an exclusive botanical garden. Starting with mature mahoganies, gumbo-limbos, coconuts, and Washingtonians, the plant loving owners began adding hundreds of new tropical and exotic flora and the Botanic Gardens of Kona Kai was born.

24-21-06-010-IMG_1131

Today, guests get to live in a garden that features more than 150 orchid specimens, 42 different species of palms, 25 native plant species, 11 bamboos, 21 grasses, 15 tropical fruiting trees and plants, and numerous bromeliads.

15-07-13-087-IMG_8272

New plants are being added regularly.

23-20-05-009-IMG_1130

Each guest of the resort also has a unique opportunity to take a self-guided tour of the gardens, or a 90-minute “Transforming Your Understanding of Plants” tour guided by one of the credentialed staff at the resort.

25-22-07-012-IMG_1133

The garden is a veritable walk through time with plants that can be traced to the Age of Dinosaurs. Joe and Ronnie have focused their garden around the science of Ethnobotony, the study of the relationship between people and plants. They want to provide their guests and visitors with a better appreciation of the role that plants have played in the development of human life.

New Picture

To that end, the Kona Kai Gardens sponsors a successful annual environmental outreach program for kids that offers students in the upper Florida Keys the opportunity to research and analyze environmental topics, and appreciate the beauty and importance of plants in nature.

The Gallery at Kona Kai

17-14-21-134-IMG_8328

The Harris’ interests are not limited to the earth sciences; they have also used their Key Largo resort to showcase original works of art in the Gallery at Kona Kai.

16-08-14-094-IMG_8283

The Gallery is where incoming guests register, giving all an opportunity to peruse the interesting art exhibits and purchase the many unusual specialty items found in the guestrooms.

Choosing a suite 

Lest we forget that this wonderful botanical and artistic enclave is also an extraordinary resort of the first order, let’s look at the hospitality aspects of the Kona Kai Resort.

01-01-01-58-IMG_1081

When we were shown the Pineapple Suite we loved it.

04-2-014-064-IMG_8249

We had a view of the waterfront, and were just steps away from the sparkling pool and hot tub.

07-09-15-099-IMG_8288

We felt right at home the moment we entered the suite through the living room door.

08-10-16-106-IMG_8295

Additional facilities

27-24-31-048-IMG_8534

The Kona Kai swimming pool and hot tub is pictured above.

13-05-11-073-IMG_8258

There’s also a tennis court, kayaks and paddle boats – the use of which is complimentary for guests. Dolphins and Manatees are seen just to the front of the Kona Kai beach, so keep a watchful eye.

Scuba divers will be happy to know that the resort provides equipment lockers, and a fresh-water soak and equipment wash down tank. Diving in the famous John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is just minutes away at Mile Marker 102.5.

Eating

The area around the resort has many dining venues, and there is a supermarket near the property for those wishing to cook in their suite’s kitchen.

Sunsets

19-16-26-275-IMG_8469

The resort offers some of the best sunset watching in the Keys.

For more information

The Kona Kai website is *here* There is also a website specific to the gallery at www.g-k-k.com. Each site has information you will want to read if you are planning a trip to the Florida Keys.

If you go

03-02-08-061-IMG_8245

Take the Overseas Highway – US 1 South into the Keys for approximately 30 miles – watch for Mile Marker 98 in Key Largo. Then watch for the oval Kona Kai Resort sign on your right. You have arrived, have fun!

African Queen

2-1-028-028-181-IMG_8375

By the way, the resort is not far from the dock of the authentic African Queen. Fans of the 1951 movie starring Hepburn and Bogart, won’t want to miss an opportunity to see and take a ride on this historic boat – we photographed our adventure on the “Queen,” and our pictures and story will be published soon.

Other Key information

You will also benefit by checking out general visitor information about the Florida Keys at www.fla-keys.com

As you head further south on Overseas Highway US 1, you will find two uber-luxurious resorts, one on Islamorada, the other just off Little Torch Key. We have visited both these properties, and you can click on their names below to read about them.

Cheeca Lodge and Spa – Marker 82 – in Islamorada

Little Palm Island Resort and Spa – Marker 28.5 – island is off Little Torch Key

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff. Photo of children on stage courtesy of Kona Kai Resort

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

%d bloggers like this: