Celebrating 50 Years of the Magnificent Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa

Those of you who have frequented the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui over the years will remember the queen of Ka‘anapali Beach – the Sheraton Maui.

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The hotel was new and glamorous in 1963. Back then, it was sitting quietly alone near the legendary and now famous lava jetty called Black Rock. It has been 50 years, and you should see the resort now!

The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

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Renovated many times through the decades, this classic Hawaiian resort still sits on 23 acres of pristine sand and tropical landscaping and overlooks the island of Lanai, just a short sail to the west.

Warm trade-winds float through the 508 spacious rooms and suites – most of which face the ocean.

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The Sheraton is a landmark destination resort on Maui that has gained in stature as the island has developed around it.

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We have watched this Sheraton resort blossom and become a favorite for generations of tourists. To stay at the Sheraton Maui is like coming home to a rich Hawaiian heritage, and we always find new and exciting things to write about during each visit.

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This tropical vacationland offers something for everyone in the family. In season, you can catch a catamaran right from the beach of the resort and head out to watch the humpback whales as they migrate to their ancestral mating and birthing grounds.

Another activity that originates from the beach in summer is parasailing. Get swept high into the sky and revel in the panoramic views of Ka‘anapali and the mountains beyond. It’s exciting regardless of age.

Explore the underwater world of Maui

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The Black Rock lava outcropping is at the far end of the resort, and is the best venue for oceanic underwater entertainment in the area.

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Known as Pu‘u Keka‘a to the locals, it’s the “in” place to get up-close and personal with turtles, rays and scores of Hawaii’s colorful tropical fish. It’s best to do your underwater activities early in the day – that’s when the sea is most calm and the water clear.

On previous trips we have made SCUBA dives around the jetty, but you can see just as much by snorkeling. If you are not a certified diver, but would like a SCUBA-like experience, try SNUBA.

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SNUBA is similar to SCUBA, but the air tank is not on your back – instead it floats above you on a small raft. You breathe air through a long hose that extends from the air reservoir to a regulator that you put in your mouth – much like a snorkel.

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Since your depth is limited by the length of the air hose, there’s no danger of going too deep, therefore certification is not necessary. The guides teach you everything you need to know. SNUBA is great fun and perfect for the waters surrounding Black Rock!

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Our SNUBA guide was with Shoreline SNUBA Divers

Watch the time honored Black Rock cliff dive

The acclaimed Black Cliff Dive Ceremony has taken place every evening at the Sheraton Maui since its opening in 1963 is a tradition that dates back to island royalty. The story is that Maui Chieftains made ceremonial dives from these same lava cliffs while their admiring warriors looked on.

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We watched the youthful diver start his fire run from the Cliff Dive Bar across the wide lawn and onto the sand that would bring him to the base of the great lava jetty.

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He climbed at a speed indicative of his age and prowess, and was soon atop the rocks lighting a series of torches as he made his way to the place where he would call upon the Gods to watch his entry into the dark water below.

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With a burst of energy the diver reached for the stars, then his outstretched body slowly turned downward toward the sea. He made a perfect entry – all to the wild applause of the spectators.

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A great place to watch the ceremony is from the Cliff Dive Bar. Try the resort’s signature Black Rock Lager and some homemade potato chips while you are there. Tasty!

More for the foodies

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Start the morning with breakfast at the Black Rock Terrace, it has a very nice buffet with all the trimmings – and really great coffee.

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We had lunch at the Cliff Dive Bar and enjoyed the grilled hamburgers and giant chips while watching some kids take their first lesson in the Hula. What a kick.

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There were guests swimming along the lagoon that encircles the bar, and after walking off lunch we joined them in a refreshing swim odyssey through pools, landscaped settings, under bridges, alongside waterfalls and a water slide. This is a splendid way to enjoy a tropical afternoon in paradise.

There’s a luau

The Ka‘anapali Sunset Luau takes place on the Ocean Lawn of the Sheraton Maui. The luau comes with all the time honored trappings of a great Hawaiian celebration inclusive of stories and songs of the islands, and an awesome fire knife dance. A Kalua Pig is roasted in a traditional underground oven, and the event includes an all-you-can-eat Hawaiian buffet, with unlimited drinks. A great family entertainment outing.

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A stroll along the Ka’anapali paved beach path is a great way to walk off a delicious Hawaiian dinner while you check out the resorts, shops, restaurants, and bars.  Mid-way along the footpath is the famous Whaler’s Village – a great place to watch people, window shop, and grab a drink or food. If you forgot to pack anything, one of Hawaii’s ubiquitous ABC Stores is located in the Village.

The Sheraton has shuttle service to the Whaler’s Village and the old whaling town of Lahaina – just 4 miles south of the resort.

Pièce de résistance

For an extra special treat don’t miss the romance of a Sheraton Maui “Dinner under the Stars.” It is an extraordinary romantic event that you will remember forever.

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Our dinner under the stars took place in a quiet corner of the resort, just in back of Black Rock.

We arrived at our reserved tropical hut just after the torches on Black Rock were lighted, and the sunset was flooding across the far horizon. Sunset was bitter sweet that evening. The day was perfect, and we did not want it to end.

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Our personal waiter motioned toward a chilled bottle of champagne, and what better way to celebrate a wonderful day – and a magnificent vacation – than with a cold glass of sparkling wine.

The menu

There is a choice of three unique offerings in the Sheraton Dinner under the Stars program. We selected the Moonlit Menu.

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Our Starter was out of this world. It was presented in Ice Pearls, which are large globes of hollowed ice surrounding the most delicious fresh island sashimi, served with a savory wasabi dipping sauce. It was almost too elegant to eat, but we got over it.

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Salad consisted of a floral of upcountry greens with oriental dressing, sour dough Kaiser Bread and whipped Molokai Honey Butter.

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The Entrée was exquisite. Seared filet mignon with crab legs and asparagus, glazed with béarnaise sauce and served with garlic mashed potatoes.

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All this was topped off with what else? Hawaiian grandma’s apple pie and coffee. However, we could have also selected heavenly haupia cake, double chocolate dobash, or Italian tiramisu. We don’t know about the other desserts, but we can certainly recommend the apple pie.

There are only three available outdoor settings for your private Dinner under the Stars. Don’t be disappointed, make reservations early.

If you go

The award winning Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa is on the northwest shore of the island and a 45-minute ride from the Kahului Airport.

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The resort is situated at the northernmost point of three-mile long Ka’anapali Beach. The beautiful silky sand beach is lined with many condominiums, resorts, shops, and restaurants. On the eastern side of the buildings are two of Maui’s ten popular golf courses.

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For more information about the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa visit their website at www.sheraton-maui.com.

While you are on Maui

Maui is an island that was destined to be be a place for recreation and relaxation. See the sunrise from the summit of Haleakala, and view the sunset from the sandy beach of the Sheraton Maui as you watch the Black Rock Cliff Dive Ceremony.

Visit the Maui Ocean Center to learn about those with which we share our planet. Stroll the old streets of Lahaina and spend some time under the historic giant Banyan Tree that shades all who seek it.

There’s much more to do in Maui than we could fit in this article. Visit: http://www.gohawaii.com/maui

Happy travels!

For more of our stories about Hawaii and Hawaiian resorts, click on the subjects below:

The Royal Hawaiian Elegantly Preserves Its Heritage on Waikiki Beach

Reliving the Privileged Past at the Moana Surfrider on Waikiki Beach

Remembering December 7, 1941 At The Pearl Harbor Memorial

Luxury Cruising From San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruises

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Underwater photos courtesy of Shoreline SNUBA

We flew to Maui on Hawaiian Airlines.

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

A Beachy Keen Hideaway on Florida’s Gulf Coast

A pleasant rainy day on Anna Maria Island, Florida

A pleasant rainy day on Anna Maria Island, Florida

The cottages at the Bungalow Beach Resort on Anna Maria Island on the west coast of Florida are special for several reasons. Here’s what we found one rainy day on the fabulous Gulf Coast.

Seeking Old Florida

It was already raining when we made a left turn off Highway 64 in Bradenton and onto Highway 789, the road that runs north and south and divides the island. We immediately began to search for the sign for the Bungalow Beach Resort.

This was our first trip to Anna Maria Island, and for some inexplicable reason we expected the vibe to be a little like Nantucket Island circa1942 – but we were way off the mark. Anna Maria Island is a busy, seven-mile long stretch of sugary sand, restaurants, condominiums, and assorted homes ranging from Early Prohibition to Modern Glass.

It only took a few minutes to realize that the variety of structures on the island all came nicely together in a great place for a beach residence or second home – and where a family on vacation could quickly interact with the sea and sand.

We found our sign

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Between wiper swipes, we managed to identify our destination. At first glance, the property, which is nestled between taller buildings, looked quite small.

It was still coming down when we pulled into the unpaved parking lot that fronts the one-story bungalows. The office faces the street and we made a mad dash through small pools of water in the sand. We hadn’t packed an umbrella, so we got a good dose of Florida’s liquid sunshine on our short trek.

Resort's small office

Resort’s small office

It was in the resort’s tiny office that we first realized we were about to take a trip back in time. We just didn’t know what a marvelous journey it would be.

Finding our bungalow

Follow the sandy path

Follow the sandy path

The downpour had subsided during our check in. The puddles where still evident, but the porous earth had soaked up much of the standing water. We retrieved our bags from the trunk of the car and made our way along a curvy sand path toward the beach.

Front row center on the Gulf

Front row center on the Gulf

Our bungalow was number “102” and faced the Gulf. It was just a clam throw away from the waves quietly rolling along the shore.

Pelican heaven

Pelican heaven

The winds were calm, so the sea was tranquil and smelled sweet after the rain. We watched a string of pelicans gliding so low that their wings skimmed the tips of the gentle swells.

Deserted beach

Deserted beach

We looked up and down the shore – except for the occasional clumps of sea oats and palms – it was empty. The uncommon desolation was quite soothing – and we began to relax.

Slice of nostalgia

Cozy cottage

Cozy cottage

The Desoto bungalow was picture perfect and retro-luxurious. Although we had missed the mark about Anna Maria Island, we hit our goal of finding “Old Florida” right here at the Bungalow Beach Resort.

All about style

All about style

We had just arrived a few minutes before, but we were already beguiled by the elegant simplicity of the surroundings. This is a place where tradition pervades – 1930s style.

Flip flops and island milieu

Before long, we were unpacked and uncorked. A fine Pinot Gregio complemented our growing mood of relaxation, harmony, and contentment.

A place to watch the rain roll across beach and sea

A place to watch the rain roll across beach and sea

It started to rain again with the sound of a gentle patter on the porch roof. We quickly settled into the white wicker chairs under the protected patio canopy and watched a symphony of dancing drops on the bungalow railing.

The rain eventually  turned to a slight drizzle, and along with the temperate sea, created an easy environment for libation and laughter – just as it must have done for scores of other couples across the eight decades of the resort’s existence.

Warm thoughts of bygone eras

We speculated about other vacationers enjoying these charming little bungalows in the early 1940s. We supposed how they would have dressed for their trendy beach vacation on Anna Maria Island.

Perfect setting to watch the sunset - but not today

Perfect setting to watch the sunset – but not today

As we pondered the deserted beach chairs directly to the front of our bungalow, we conjured up images of young couples – now old – that once took in the same view, on similar rainy days. Wherever they are, we hope they still remember that dreamy day at Bungalow Beach Resort and smile. We know we will.

Awaiting dreams

Awaiting dreams

Before long, darkness cloaked the Gulf. It was time to end our wonderful day with a restful slumber in luxurious comfort.

Every modern convenience plus sentimental charm

All the conveniences of home

All the conveniences of home

We recommend the Bungalow Beach Resort to anyone interested in a nostalgic private beachfront haven with ceiling fans, window air conditioners, a kitchen, a small pool – and all the contemporary amenities that make for a romantic or memorable family island vacation. This resort is a salute to the past while embracing the new and now. It is all about fun, sand, and sea, but if you are lucky – maybe you will get a soothing rainy day as well.

If you go

Get up front if you can

Get up front if you can

There are 15 bungalows at the resort. See the resort layout map here. Bungalows 101, 102, 104, 105, and 116 all face the Gulf of Mexico and are closest to the beach and water. They are the best vantage points from which to appreciate the outstanding Florida sunsets. These rooms are among the most expensive at the resort, but are well worth the difference in price.

A quiet walk after the rain

A quiet walk after the rain

For more information about the Bungalow Beach Resort and its amenities, as well as things to do in the area, check out their website at www.bungalowbeach.com

Anna Maria is awash in restaurants. We ate at two we can recommend – the City Pier Restaurant and the Sandbar Restaurant and Lounge. A specialty in this area is the Grouper Sandwich – try one – they are delicious.

Anna Maria Island is the northernmost Key (or Cay) along the coastal Keys between Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida. The Gulf of Mexico runs along its western shore, and the Sarasota Bay is to the east. Florida state highway 789, a.k.a. the Gulf Drive divides the ultra-narrow island.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

Vacationing Aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam

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The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is first and foremost a high-caliber floating resort. It was designed to appeal to both first time cruisers and well-seasoned cruise veterans – it has everything the sea faring vacationer could desire. 

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We booked a 20-day passage on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The itinerary included ports in Italy, Monaco, Spain, and Portugal before heading across the Atlantic for the ship’s repositioning to Florida for its winter schedule in the Caribbean. It was a fabulous cruise.

This is the fourth Nieuw Amsterdam

In 1626, Dutch settlers named their new-world Atlantic colony “Nieuw Amsterdam.” It was not until the Dutch turned the island over to the British in 1664 that it became New York.

Holland America Line (HAL) was founded in 1872. In 1906, HAL began a tradition of honoring the old-Dutch colony and launched the first ms Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship. That first namesake served until 1932.

In 1937, at a time of growing global unrest, the second Nieuw Amsterdam was christened. Like other great cruise-liners including the Queen Mary, the new Nieuw Amsterdam was conscripted to military service early in WWII. After the war – having served admirably in the conflict – she was again outfitted for cruise service and fulfilled that charter until 1974.

The third ms Nieuw Amsterdam was an instant hit when it began its Rotterdam to New York run in 1983. For 20-years, she was recognized as an elegant star by ocean-going celebrities in ports around the world. After a life of uncompromising reputation and service, she was sold in 2003 to make room for the current ms Nieuw Amsterdam.

Homage well paid

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The Nieuw Amsterdam is a fitting tribute to New York City. Its passageways, lounges, and public rooms are filled with nostalgic artistic renditions and iconic images depicting historical, social, and multi-cultural aspects of The Big Apple – there is even a seven-foot shiny aluminum apple that welcomes exiting elevator passengers on the Port Deck. 

Speaking of elevators

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Many contemporary cruise ships have glass elevators in the interior of the ship’s atrium. The Nieuw Amsterdam also has four outside glass-enclosed elevators – an interesting novelty – and lots of fun as they zip up eleven decks and provide ocean views on the way to the ship’s spacious Observation Deck. 

Always a lady

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Walking the decks of the Nieuw Amsterdam is a visual delight. She is outfitted in gleaming chrome and deep rich tones of red and tinges of other subtle hues. Call it understated elegance, or simply chic – in any case she is entirely comfortable. 

An unexpected test at sea

We boarded the ms Nieuw Amsterdam in Barcelona. During our first night at sea we encountered gale winds upwards of 80-miles per hour and 25 foot sea swells. Our balcony stateroom was on Deck 5, and we experienced drifting rushes of spray on our glass door throughout the evening.

The Nieuw Amsterdam listed occasionally and slightly from the starboard battering of the storm, but rode the waves like the 86,273-ton technical marvel she was designed to be. There was little discomfort among the 2,016 passengers and 868 crew members.

During that first night’s gale, and during much better days thereafter, our veranda stateroom was quiet and we could hear neither the wind outside nor our neighbors on either side of our stateroom. There was the occasional door slamming along the passageway, but even that sound was so muted as to not be disturbing. We heard no other noises, and nary a squeak. She is a well-put together craft. 

The staterooms

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The staterooms are of comparatively good size, and the addition of the Holland America tub shower in the bathroom will appeal to those who enjoy a good soak, and those who need a little extra room. If you cannot easily navigate over the side of a tub, you can request a cabin with the more traditional cruise-ship shower stall. 

Tempting your inner gourmet

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The Nieuw Amsterdam has a dazzling array of eating venues to satisfy every palate. As You Wish® dining on all HAL cruises means guests can chose from a wide selection of dining times and eating places.

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There’s the two-level Manhattan Dining Room that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is the main dining room and appeals to those wanting a more formal dining affair.

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On the other end of the spectrum is the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9, where comfort food and ethnic/regional dishes from around the world are all offered up buffet style. Self-seating ocean view tables are always available at the Lido.

Casual table service is available at the adjacent Canaletto restaurant, which specializes in delectable Italian cookery.

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There are two poolside walk-ups near the Lido Restaurant. The Terrace Grill serves hot dogs, burgers, paninis, pita sandwiches, and fries. The Slice is a poolside stand that serves up piping hot pizza by the slice or whole pie – with your choice of toppings.

Guests can also enjoy their food selections along-side one of the two swimming pools on the Lido Deck. There are open seating tables, and if so inclined, private cabanas. There are also bars at both locations.

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The larger Lido Pool has three hot tubs, and the entire area is covered by a retractable dome, which is open in fair weather and closed in foul. The aft Sea View Pool provides reflections of where you have been as well as the ship’s wake. Holland America thinks of everything. 

Specialty Restaurants

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We also had the pleasure of dining in the Nieuw Amsterdam’s specialty restaurants, the Pan-Asian Tamarind

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and the Pinnacle Grill, specializing in steaks and seafood. There is a nominal charge for each guest at both of these reservations-only restaurants. The food is excellent at all the ship’s eateries, but these two choices are truly special.

The Pinnacle Grill features Sterling Silver Beef® and fresh seafood served on Bvlgari® china, Riedel® stemware, and Frette® linens and is well worth the money for a quiet evening of fine dining, or for celebrating a special event. 

Of course, if none of the above is appealing, there is always the complimentary 24-hour room service menu.

In our next article, we will reveal many more of the gratifying features and amenities that Holland America has thoughtfully included on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We will also give our readers some insight into the personalities of the Captain, Crew, and Entertainers that were part of the launch of this beautiful high-seas resort.

For more information about the ms Nieuw Amsterdam or any of the other Holland America Line ships, check out their website at www.hollandamerica.com or contact your favorite travel agent.

We had a delightful flight from New York to Europe on Aer Lingus.
Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

Exploring the Amenities Aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam

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Holland America has been building  great ships for cruise vacations for 138 years. The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is no exception.

In our last article, we wrote about the four ships that have proudly borne the name ms Nieuw Amsterdam. We also reviewed the many on-board dining options available to passengers.

Today, we complete our story by listing a multitude of other on-board amenities. We also want to give prospective cruisers some insight into a ship’s crew – and how they contribute to a memorable cruise.

Exploring the ship

Front glass

Starting at the top – on deck eleven – there is an Observation Room with a forward-looking 180-degree vista.

Library Lounge

At this location, there is a coffee bistro, a bar, and an excellent library, with books, newspapers, and magazines.

Library

There is also an Internet Café, game tables, and numerous easy chairs.

One deck down, Club HAL (Holland America Line) provides supervised entertainment for the 3 to 12 set. The Loft is not far away and is a comfortable lounge where teenagers can meet and mingle, and play age related games. The Loft’s unique New York design is complete with street signs, a Yellow Cab, and a Hot Dog Stand.

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There is a fully equipped Fitness Center and Spa and Salon on deck nine where you can completely immerse your mind and body into a retrofit, or just rejuvenate and relax.

If you are tired from a hard day at sea, enjoy a movie in the ship’s 36-seat Screening Room – on deck three – and, it’s complete with cushy-chairs and free fresh and delicious popcorn.

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Also on deck three, and after your workout or spa-treatment, you might like a go at upscale shopping in the ship’s Signature Shops

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or try your luck at the slot machines and gaming tables in the glittering Casino on deck two.

Queens Lounge sign

culinary school

If you like to cook, the Food and Wine magazine Culinary Arts Center on deck two will be a big hit. There you will find a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen where gourmet-cooking lessons are provided by celebrity food preparers and the ship’s own master chefs.

Digital Workshop

Elsewhere on deck two, computer aficionados can take free lessons in the Digital Workshop powered by Microsoft Windows. Holland America’s Microsoft trained “techsperts,” will demonstrate photo editing tricks, and provide participants with general computer tips in an interactive classroom setting. Computers are provided.

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As the sun goes down, many of the day activity rooms magically morph into exciting cabarets, and like the other lounges situated throughout the ship, many offer passengers the opportunity to dance the night away.

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While on board, you can view and purchase your captured exploits at the ship’s extensive photo gallery on deck three, and don’t miss the fine art gallery where treasures are for sale and auction.

If for some reason you would prefer to spend your ocean holiday in your stateroom, you might enjoy a long soak in your cabin’s tub and pamper yourself with the provided Elemis bath amenities. After a slow dry with a plush Egyptian cotton towel, slip into a waiting deluxe terry cloth robe. You might then pop one of the thousand or so ship’s library DVDs into your flat panel wide-screen TV.

To complement your relaxation and entertainment, may we suggest a beverage from the mini-bar and a snack or full meal from the complimentary room service menu. La bonne vie! 

Shore Excursions

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Holland America has an extensive array of port tours for passenger enjoyment. A good reason to avail oneself of on-board tour booking is safety. Another is that the contracted operators know when you need to be back at the ship for departure. Yes, it can happen. 

Live entertainment on board

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We have been on many cruises, and after awhile the stage productions on cruise ships tend to do a mental merge – but not on this cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

Group ensemble performers on cruise ships are selected randomly and put under various length contracts as individuals – which means, they work with many different people in the course of their engagements at sea.

Q&A with performers

Laura Parkes and other performers answer guest questions

The assembled performers in the stage productions on our Nieuw Amsterdam sailing were absolutely the best we have ever seen. The dancers and singers on board were exceptional to a person. Their physical attributes and artistic talent were well above what you would find on the average cruise.

Kudos to the HAL talent scouts responsible for bringing this amazing group together. Sorry, we have no pictures of the group in action. Photography of stage performances is not permitted for legal and safety reasons.

One possible explanation for the quality of the talent is that unlike some other lines, HAL does not require double-duty from its performers. That means you will not see professional artists performing “welcome aboard duty,” or running daily bingo. Cruises that require artists to do something other than perform tend to attract less experienced talent.

We took a particular interest in a vocalist named Laura Parkes. She has a fantastic range and superb stage presence. Laura hails from England. She has been performing on the cruise ship circuit for several years as a lead production vocalist, and aspires to Las Vegas Cabaret. If any of our readers are connected in Las Vegas, Laura could be your greatest find – drop us an email.

theater

show back

All this talent was supported by the ship’s backstage hands at the Showroom at Sea. This beautiful theater spans two decks, and the seats are most comfortable. The stage-sets in the Showroom were brilliant, and the costumes were professional, chic, and alluring. The Nieuw Amsterdam has the best of all of it. 

Service Maximum

A cruise ship is basically a floating resort hotel. Therefore, it only makes sense that the majority of shipboard employees would report to the Hotel Manager – who in turn reports to the Captain. At the time of our sailing, there were 868 crewmembers aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. 756 of them reported to the Hotel Manager.

When we spoke to Mark Zeller, the amiable Hotel Manager aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, we asked why he thought his ship was so well received by his passenger guests. He replied without hesitation, “It’s the quality of the crew.”

There are dozens of countries represented in the ship’s complement, but the vast majority of the service personnel come from Indonesia, Bali, and the Philippines – all countries whose people have reputations for being gracious, outgoing, and caring.

We found Mr. Zeller’s pride in his staff to be highly warranted, as the crew of the Nieuw Amsterdam was particularly delightful and friendly. We were not surprised to discover that Holland America has recruiting centers and training schools in both Indonesia and the Philippines.

Crew members aboard cruise ships work hard and are away from their families for long stretches. Typically, they sign on for a ten-month tour, and may rotate their assignments on several ships during their sea-going careers.

 Captain on the bridge

capt Mercer

Captain Jonathan Mercer

There is a common misconception that all Masters on Holland America’s ships are Dutch. Maybe they were at one time, but not now. Our cruise was under the able-command of  Captain Jonathan Mercer, who hails from Britain, and now resides in Florida with his American wife.

Captain Mercer is one of the most personable and visible ship’s Master that we have encountered during our many years at sea – meaning he was frequently out-and-about chatting it up with the guests in his domain – all of whom seemed delighted by the attention.

capt

We had a stimulating interview with the Captain, and we think it would be hard to find a better ambassador for Holland America.

In closing

NA in Lisbon

A few interesting facts about the ship. The Nieuw Amsterdam weights 86,273 tons, and is 936 feet long. She has 1,056 staterooms, and a crew of approximately 900. She can desalinate 500,000 gallons of potable water per day, and she consumes 75 gallons of diesel fuel per nautical mile. Her maximum speed is 24 knots or 27.62 miles per hour. 

If you go

For more information about cruising on the Nieuw Amsterdam or any one of Holland America’s elegant ships, go to their website at www.hollandamerica.com or call your favorite travel agent.

We had a delightful flight from New York to Europe on Aer Lingus.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

The Best of Connecticut Resorts and Spas

In one way, writing about New England’s unparalleled Mayflower Inn and Spa is probably the easiest assignment of our literary careers. However, finding the right superlatives to describe this extraordinary property was no easy task. Let us start with the first one that comes to mind – incredible!

Nestled in a pastoral setting in rural Connecticut this exclusive 58-acre country manor resort in the Litchfield Hills is an easy two-hour drive and many light-years away from the hustle and bustle of busy Manhattan.

This bucolic countryside has not changed much since General George Washington visited northwest Connecticut in 1781. The unspoiled local towns and area’s authentic Yankee homes and antique shops have given rise to a well-deserved reputation as “America’s Antique Capital.”

It is all about elegance  

Quintessential rustic the Mayflower Inn is not! This once-upon-a-time private boy’s prep school (note the height of the door knob in picture below) was built in 1894 and is now a Relais & Châteaux, Mobil 5-star, and Connecticut’s only AAA 5-diamond hotel. The Mayflower offers every imaginable luxury to please the appetites of even the fussiest of bons vivants.

Mayflower front entrance

The picturesque and spacious scenery surrounding the Mayflower Inn makes its limited hotel capacity of 30 rooms and suites in four buildings even more desirable. Guests have room to stretch and wander – and never feel crowded. Of course, such exclusivity comes at a price, but this resort experience is well worth it and will be remembered for a lifetime.

Allerton Cottage

Allerton Cottage

Our suite was in the Allerton Cottage. Completed in 2005, the Allerton is adjacent to the Mayflower Spa House that opened in 2006. Both are just a short distance from the placid Blue Heron Pond.

We were also within a few minutes walking of the Inn’s historic Mayflower House. This main building has a comfortable registration lobby, several staterooms and suites, meeting rooms, a gift shop, and the Inn’s restaurants and bar.

Each guestroom and suite at the Mayflower is designed to complement the good taste of its patrons. Ultra-luxurious rooms with the warmth of just-right colors abound. There are comfortable feather topped mattress on antique four-poster canopy beds, exquisite oriental rugs, original art, marble baths, and myriad other inspired furnishings.

The Mayflower has artfully created a place-for-living atmosphere in each of its guestrooms that reflects the natural desire for privacy and comfort in elegant surroundings. These are quarters you will not want to leave.

The restaurants

Our visit to the Mayflower took place in the fall when we could enjoy the autumnal colors of New England and the sound of crunching leaves beneath our feet as we explored the grounds of the Mayflower.

We arrived at the Inn in time for dinner, so our first walk was from our quarters to the dining room in the main building.

Entering the lobby of the Mayflower House is like walking into a select portrait gallery with impressive 18th and 19th century oils adorning the walls, staircase, and nearby library.

Passing additional paintings along the corridor to the dining area, one is immediately drawn to the traditionally fine style of the Main Dining Room, and the adjacent Tap Room – a great place to meet or enjoy a beverage and light pub-style meal.

Justin Ermini, Executive Chef at the Mayflower is a virtuoso of taste and culinary presentation. He favors produce, meats, and fish from local sustainable sources and blends all into a chef’s colorful canvas of classically contemporary feasts.

Day Boat Halibut

Be sure to engage the assistance of friendly and knowledgeable Food and Beverage Director and Sommelier, John Ciliberto while looking for the best wine to accompany your mains. The Mayflower has a deep and generous selection of wines.

Food plays a cardinal role in the Mayflower experience. Be sure to partake!

The Spa 

Mayflower Spa House

You know you are about to experience something spiritually uplifting when you first step from the outside and into the blissful registration foyer. Soft mood-enhancing music immediately accentuates and elevates a room occupied with calming shades of whites and tans.

As we stood and stared at the empty reception desk, we began to feel we were players in a fairytale black and white film depicting souls awaiting entrance into paradise.

At first glance, it appeared there were no doors exiting the divine waiting room. On further study, we noted there were indeed doors, but they were frameless, and blended into the walls in the style often seen in classical English manor houses of the elegant Victorian era.

As we took in our surroundings, and listened to the soothing refrains, we would not have been in the least bit surprised if the spa receptionist was to float down from somewhere above on gossamer wings.

This may all seem a little over-the-top when describing a Spa, but you really must see it to believe it.

Garden Room

The epicenter of this 20,000 square foot slice of heaven is the exquisite Garden Room. It overlooks the serene Blue Heron Pond and coppice beyond – the perfect backdrop. This room invites every guest to relax for the duration – whatever that may mean in this setting where time is graciously abandoned.

Romantic Rejuvenation

We could go on and on describing each of the amazing attributes of the Spa House, such as the exotic soaks, scrubs, aroma-therapeutic rubs, massages, Pedi-treatments, facials, yoga, etc., but that would simply take too long. Instead, we suggest you peruse the 21 pages of Spa Offerings provided by the Inn at: http://www.mayflowerinn.com/pdf/spa_offerings.pdf 

Note: Be sure to ask about the indulgent and exclusive five-night Destination Spa Experience!

Connecticut out-of-doors

Blue Heron Pond

Neighboring the Mayflower is the Steep Rock Nature Preserve. This beautiful trust has over 4,500 acres of protected land and awaits outdoor-loving guests. There are scenic hiking and biking trails during the shirtsleeve seasons, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available during the winter months.

Water is another of Connecticut’s natural enticements, and the Shepaug River is less than five-miles from the Mayflower. Also nearby, Lake Waramaug, the Bantam River, and the Housatonic River – waiting for hearty kayak explorers and fly fisherpersons of all ages and skill levels.

Golf and Tennis

The Mayflower has a well-designed putting green, but it does not have its own golf course. Fortunately, there are excellent public courses not far away – the 9-hole Stonybrook Golf Course and the 18-hole Fairview Farms Golf Club.

There is one tennis court on the Mayflower property.

Fitness

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There is a fully equipped fitness club in the Mayflower’s main building, and both indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools on the property.

“The Mayflower Inn and Spa is a luxury New England boutique hotel with historic charm. Whatever your muse, the Mayflower is sure to bestow an unforgettable experience.”

For more information about the Inn and Spa services, visit the Mayflower website at www.mayflowerinn.com, or call 860.868.9466, email: inn@mayflowerinn.com

If you go

The Mayflower Inn & Spa is located at 118 Woodbury Road/Route 47 in rural Washington, Connecticut 06793. It is an easy two-hour drive from the New York airports.

We flew to New York from San Francisco on Virgin America. We find Virgin’s in-flight entertainment to be the best in the sky!

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy (syndicated)

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

By Land or Sea the Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel is the Place to Be

If you owned a multi-million dollar yacht, what would induce you to tie up and sleep at a seaside hotel? We found the answer when we visited the fabulous Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel located along the picturesque Connecticut shoreline of Long Island Sound.

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Entering the Delamar demesne, we parked our rental auto a scant few yards from the hotel’s 500-foot long pier – and near a large private yacht that provided shade for us – and about twenty other cars.

An impeccably tailored bellman was waiting to assist us before we had a chance to unbuckle. He gave us a most gracious welcome and guided us to the front desk for registration.

Welcome to the Delamar
Welcome to the Delamar
Inviting
Inviting and elegant

As we entered the hotel’s lobby, it was immediately and abundantly clear that the Delamar was fashioned by someone with an eye for elegance and a talent for artistic detail. Obviously versatile, the hotel totally suits both romantic retreats and executive getaways.

Old world charm is evident everywhere

Stylish and cozy
Stylish and cozy

Any discerning boatman concerned about stepping away from ocean luxury would be impressed by the array of exquisite nautical oil paintings – contributed from a personal collection. Many of the paintings are hanging in a cozy library sitting room – complete with crackling fire and an antique ship’s clock smartly positioned on a lustrous white mantle.

A unique boutique hotel

There are several beautiful suites
There are several beautiful suites

The Delamar is a small privately owned hotel. It opened in October 2002 with 74 guestrooms and 8 suites.

room best

Our room was on the Belvedere Floor, which is the concierge level.

Wine and cheese
Wine and cheese

Guests on the concierge floor are treated to a complimentary breakfast, and late-day hors d oeuvres. That courtesy afforded us an opportunity to partake of a delightful glass of wine and some excellent cheeses before settling down to the task of deciding where to begin photographing this lovely boutique inn.

tasteful decorations
Tasteful decorations

One of the friendly staff was kind enough to give us a tour. While we took pictures, she explained that all the guestrooms and suites at the Delamar are lavishly decorated with beautiful Mediterranean style furnishings. The custom interiors include wonderfully inviting beds, and sizable work desks with high-speed wire and wireless internet access.

Other sleeping-room amenities include hand embroidered Italian linens, and down pillows and duvets. Rounding out the conveniences are mini-bars, flat screen TVs, and CD players.

Spacious baths
Spacious baths

The bathrooms are equally enticing. They are spacious, luxurious, and boast fluffy robes, and Elemis products.

The spa

In a site so refined, one would expect to find a superb Spa – and indeed, it is there. Relax in a serene setting, and have your aches and pains soothed away by expert Swedish massage therapists or treat yourself to a rejuvenating facial, manicure/pedicure.

In addition to the spa, guests may enjoy a complimentary and fully equipped Fitness Room that is open 24-hours per day for those wanting to continue their exercise regimen while away from home.

The piece de résistance

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Prepare for delicious

When approaching the Delamar on Steamboat Road it would be hard to miss the large, but tasteful sign affixed to the hotel’s western wall. It announces that the famous lescale restaurant and bar is located here.

The award winning l’escale restaurant is a top culinary destination for Fairfield County gastronomes – and rightly so. Chef Frederic Kieffer has designed an inventive Provençal menu that will transport guests to the Côte d’Azur with the highest-quality seafood, seasonal vegetables, and regional herbs and spices.

Patio dining
Patio dining

The restaurant’s dockside patio offers a spectacular area for al fresco dining in urbane comfort, and a unique venue for meetings.

Note: Reservations are always advisable to avoid disappointment.

Along with the fabulous l’escale restaurant next door, there is little doubt that the harbor cuddling Delamar is the best luxury waterfront hotel in all of New England. It offers a multitude of reasons for any skipper to want to spend time away from even the most luxurious of yachts.

Celebrate the day
Celebrate the day

For charming ambiance and a taste of the finer things, the Delamar is simply the place to be in southern Connecticut.

If you go

The Delamar is about a 45-minute drive from New York City and just off Interstate 95 in Connecticut. There is also easy access by train. For more information about the Delamar click here or check their website at: http://www.delamargreenwich.com For telephone reservations call toll-free 866.335.2627 or email: info@thedelamar.com

Area attractions

Greenwich Harbor
Greenwich Harbor

Sheffield LighthouseThe Maritime AquariumThe Donald M Kendall Sculpture Gardens Pound Ridge Golf CourseBruce Museum Greenwich Avenue Shopping – Parks and Beaches

Happy travels!

Convenient non-stop flights between San Francisco and New York City provided by Virgin America. www.virginamerica.com Click here to read our story about flying on Virgin America coast to coast.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Luxury Cruising From San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruise Lines

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The Grand Princess cruises round-trip to Hawaii from San Francisco

In a recent article entitled Three Reasons to Book Your Next Cruise out of San Francisco, we wrote about the fun of spending part of a vacation in the famous City by the Bay, and part of it cruising to exciting destinations like Hawaii, Alaska, and the South Pacific. This story is about the cruise we selected to follow our own tour of San Francisco.

Selecting  a cruise

As Mark Twain often noted, it can be a bit chilly in San Francisco regardless of the time of year, so we thought a cruise to some place warm would be the perfect other-bookend for a vacation.

We did an internet search and explored all the cruise line itineraries sailing out of San Francisco on our travel dates, and Princess Cruise Lines had exactly what we wanted – a roundtrip sailing from San Francisco to the Hawaiian Islands. We made the right choice, and here’s what you can expect if you decide to take the same plunge.

The day before the cruise

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Atrium lobby of the SF Hyatt Regency

We arrived in San Francisco the day before our cruise departure to Hawaii. We toured our favorite sites in the city, had a nice dinner at Scoma’s on Pier 47, and checked into our favorite and always fashionable San Francisco Hyatt Regency.

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View of the Ferry Building from our veranda at the SF Hyatt Regency

The hotel is directly across from the iconic Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, and a very short distance from the cruise terminal at Pier 35. 

Sailing out of the Golden Gate

We settled into our port side stateroom, popped open a bottle of bubbly, and when the ship pulled away from the dock, we proceeded to our patio to watch the San Francisco skyline on slow parade. There was Ghirardelli Square lit up in its entire splendor, and the famous Transamerica Pyramid Building – outstanding among its traditional “square” neighbors.

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We could see the Golden Gate Bridge coming up above the bow, and we bid a fond farewell to old Fort Point as we made our way out of San Francisco Bay and into the vast blue Pacific. All we could think at the time was, “What a spectacular way to start a cruise!

Next stop – Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii. A future article will describe the Hawaiian ports of call in Hilo, Nawiliwili, Lahaina, Honolulu, and our final stop in Ensenada, Mexico, before returning to San Francisco. Why are cruise ships sailing to Hawaii from US ports required to stop in a foreign port like Ensenada? We will explain in the upcoming article. 

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Movies Under the Stars

This story features the many vacation pleasures aboard the Star Princess. Note: The Grand Princess has now replaced the Star Princess on the Hawaiian route out of San Francisco. They are sister ships, so the differences are minimal.

Sweet suites

The Star Princess has several luxury suites positioned throughout the ship. The Grand Suite is 1,314 square feet of pure indulgence, with a walk in closet, large bathrooms, and an over-sized balcony. These elegant digs are for the truly fortunate among us.

Welcome to the Grand Suite

Welcome to the Grand Suite

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Grand Suite living space

Grand Suite bath

Grand Suite bath

Grand Princess extended and exclusive balcony

Grand Suite extended and exclusive balcony

Sweet extras

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Sabatini’s specialty restaurant

Besides luxury accommodations, the suites come with supplementary amenities such as an exclusive Suite Breakfast at the Sabatini’s specialty restaurant – where you can start your day with a complimentary “Good Morning Mimosa,” and select other goodies from an extraordinary breakfast menu.

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We expected the service to be impeccable, and it was.

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Did you know that the famous champagne and orange juice “Mimosa” drink was first created and named at the Paris Ritz in 1925? Its namesake is the mimosa plant, which has bright and frothy yellow flowers.

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There are also afternoon and pre-dinner cocktail and private nosh parties where suite passengers get to mingle and mix with the ship’s officers that drop by.

Care for a quiet dinner for two? Having a lavish room service meal served in a ship’s suite is the height of seagoing indulgence and sublime privacy.

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Suite passengers are also provided with priority boarding, and disembarkation via the Elite/Suite Disembarkation Lounge. While visiting ports that require taking a launch to shore, suite occupants are furnished Priority Tender Disembarkation Tickets – a nice time-saving touch.

Time for dinner

It was soon time for our initial dinner on board the Star Princess. The first night aboard a cruise ship is a casual affair, so after cleaning up a bit, we made our way down to the Portofino Dining Room on Deck 6.

The Maître d’hôtel was busy orchestrating the process of showing the first diners to their assigned tables. Remember when everyone ate at either an “early” or, “late” sitting? These days you can dine in traditional fashion or decide to eat at any time you choose during dining hours. There are advantages to both practices – it is clearly a matter of personal taste.

That’s entertainment

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After a sumptuous dinner, it was time for our opening night of entertainment in the Princess Theatre on Deck 6 and 7. The first show included the entire cast in an extravaganza review. The large two-story theatre was packed, but comfortable, and everyone enjoyed the lavish musical production.

We took a stroll around the Lido deck before returning to our stateroom after the show. Not quite ready for bed, we turned on the TV, and watched our first movie from the library of closed circuit films. It was an oldie,  An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr – a quintessential tearjerker with the plot starting on a cruise ship. What could be more apropos for the setting?

Days at sea

It took four days to reach our first port of call in Hilo. We travelled 2,003 nautical miles (2,303 highway miles) from San Francisco. The time passed quickly.

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Days at sea can be quiet or exciting – it’s your choice. You can shop endlessly in the myriad Ship’s Boutiques or…

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Catch up on emails at the Internet Cafe

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Sit and listen to the String Quartet in the ship’s atrium lobby

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Preview the art auction

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Have a workout in the extensive health facility

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Learn to paint

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 Pizza, hot dog, hamburger? May we help you?

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Try your luck at gaming – the Casino is open

Having your teeth whitened is another option, as is enjoying sundry Spa indulgences, snoozing by one of the Pools, and chatting it up while enjoying the entertainment at your choice of the many Bars and Lounges. There is also the opportunity to watch Movies outdoors or indoors, peruse the Library, read, and of course – eat.

The ship’s master

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Captain Edward Perrin

On one of our days at sea, we had an opportunity to interview the ship’s captain. At the time of our sailing, the master of the Star Princess was Edward Perrin who hails from Dorset, England. As is usually the case, Captain Perrin was most congenial and very willing to share stories about his ship and experiences at sea.

We always ask sea captains what they like best about their jobs. Captain Perrin revealed that he most enjoyed the ability to have a positive impact on people’s lives – both crew, and passengers. He gave an example of an elderly couple who saved all their lives to take a cruise. They approached him with the problem that they had no more money to spend while on the cruise. Captain Perrin summarily wrote a list of “free” things the couple could do on their cruise vacation. They were elated, and the good Captain was equally gratified – it made his day, and he has never forgotten that wonderful feeling of satisfaction.

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Captain Perrin with Terri Lynn Cybuliak, the Star’s Hotel General Manager

Where passenger services are concerned, an important member of the crew is the Hotel General Manager. On the Star Princess, that was Terri Lynn Cybuliak, and she greatly contributed to our fun discussion.

As we have mentioned in previous cruise articles, ship’s captains are contracted to be masters for months, not years, and therefore transfer from ship to ship quite frequently. Keep an eye out – you may very well find Captain Perrin at the helm of your next Princess cruise.

Attention on the bridge

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After our meeting, Captain Perrin invited us to join him on the bridge. The ship’s bridge is always manned 24-hours a day by two officers working four-hour shifts in a three-watch system. It is interesting to witness the vast array of sophisticated systems that run these mega ships in a controlled and quiet atmosphere.

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No more ship’s steering wheel

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In my next life…

The control seats on this oceangoing Star Wars style bridge are very comfortable.

Dining in the specialty restaurants

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Typical main on Princess Cruises

All the food aboard the Star Princess, and most other cruise ships for that matter, is quite delicious. It is amazing that seagoing chefs can prepare thousands of assorted meals daily, and do it with such finesse.

People always ask, “If all the sit down meals are included in the price of the cruise, why would anyone pay extra to eat in a specialty dining room?” The answer is quite simple – intimacy – and a little something extra special for an important occasion.

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Extra special services highlight a romantic evening in a specialty restaurant

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Doesn’t that look scrumptious?

Each specialty restaurant has its own kitchen, so there is just a touch more attention to detail in the food preparation and presentation. The waiters have fewer tables to attend, and the overall experience is that of eating in a truly fine restaurant. The extra charge is never extravagant, and the experience is worthwhile.

Avoid disappointment, reserve your specialty restaurants early.

Our recommendations

Throughout the years, we have enjoyed many cruises, and Princess Cruises is one of our favorite lines. It provides first time cruisers with an enjoyable introduction to cruise vacationing, and it offers seasoned cruisers a nice selection of accommodations and amenities. Whatever your wallet dictates, a Princess Cruise will provide good value for your vacation dollars.

If you go

San Francisco International Airport is about 20 miles and a $65 taxi ride to the Cruise Terminal or Hyatt Regency. Your travel agent or Princess Cruises can also arrange transfers to and from the airport, but if there are two passengers involved, we recommend taking a cab, it’s a lot less hassle. 

To contact Princess Cruises click *here* the SF Hyatt Regency *here*

A final note

The San Francisco Cruise Terminal is presently located at Pier 35. That will change when the America’s Cup Headquarters pulls up stakes from Pier 27 sometime around September 2013 – after the US (hopefully) wins the Cup.

After a quick facelift and the addition of a new park at the site, the vastly improved cruise terminal at Pier 27 will be capable of handling larger ships, and will come with expansive views of the City including Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower, the Ferry Building, and the Bay Bridge.

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Before we go – chocolate anyone?

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

If you do spend additional time in the San Francisco area, you might like to read these other stories by Wayne and Judy. Click on the subjects below. 

Discover a luxurious hideaway in the California Gold Country

Enrich your San Francisco vacation with a stay at the Inn at the Presidio

How to have the most fun on a scenic coastal drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles

Napa Valley is a great getaway

Calistoga is not just another pretty town

A California boutique hotel in charming Half Moon Bay

Cavallo Point: San Francisco’s exciting and historic Golden Gate hideaway

The best whale watching tours out of San Francisco

Everybody loves the sea lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco

The Sausalito houseboat community

The Bosphorus: Gateway to History, Palaces, and Sumptuous Dining in Istanbul, Turkey

The Bosphorus Strait was the preferred location for royal palaces and villas of Sultans and Pashas; it also boasts dozens of fine restaurants along its embankment in Istanbul.

A sense of place

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Two connected Turkish Straits separate the continents of Europe and Asia, and the narrowest point is in the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. Looking more like a wide river than an epic sea-lane, the Bosphorus plays an important role in the link that connects the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea – and the Mediterranean beyond.

Getting around on the water in Istanbul

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There are scores of boats for hire along the busy Bosphorus. Visitors can select from tour boats, conventional passenger ferries, ships that carry passengers and vehicles, hydrofoils, express ferries, sea taxis, sea buses, and motor boats.

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We joined a group on a private excursion boat provided by the Dentur Ayarasya Group that specializes in cruise tours along the Bosphorus. They provided us with an extraordinary tour of both the European and Asian side of the strait – and our several stops enabled us to partake in some excellent waterside dining. 

Eating on the Bosphorus

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Our first stop was for lunch at the Mavi Balik restaurant. A superb choice with extensive water views

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top- notch service

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and delicious seafood.

At the Mavi, we spent a pleasant repast chatting with our fellow travelers and enjoying pleasantries and the fine wines furnished from the restaurant’s vast cellar.

The afternoon was spent viewing the numerous historic and cultural sites on both sides of the Bosphorus.

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Mid-afternoon we stopped again, this time for assorted desserts served with a choice of Turkish coffee or tea at the Waterfront Historical Homes at Ortakoy, a trendy neighborhood in the most artsy part of Istanbul. Newly remodeled, some of these waterfront homes are three centuries old.

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When it came time for dinner, our guide had arranged a special treat in the elegant dining room of the Four Seasons Hotel at the Bosphorus.

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Our visit to the Four Seasons Bosphorus came complete with hors d’ oeuvres and cocktails on the Atik Pasha terrace that overlooks the sea and the Fatih Sultan Mehment Bridge. 

A view with spacious rooms

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We toured the impressive 19th century Ottoman palace – now converted into a luxurious hotel.

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The renovation judiciously defers to the building’s history, but while it deferentially salutes the past, it also resolutely embraces contemporary Turkey.

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The tour was immediately followed with a delectable dinner at the hotel’s renowned Aqua Restaurant. Our meal was a symphony of flavors that was as fresh as it was unique.

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Our waiter suggested we start our epicurean journey with Izmir Regional Artichoke “Dolma,” Fresh Herbs, and Olive Oil Emulsion. That was followed by a Scallop Casserole with Seasonal Mushroom and Sun Dried Tomato Ragout. Our main course consisted of Ottoman Spring Lamb Shank, Prune Puree, and Smoked Eggplant Cream. Absolutely – marvelous.

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The above was topped with a fantastic dessert, the presentation of which evoked stirring applause from the entire table.

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Many restaurants along the water boast excellent menus and service. Wish we had the time to sample them all, but we did not. We heard about special delicacies at the Sade Kahve, and Café Nar, but we must leave it up to you to sample their delights during your visit to the Bosphorus.

The Dolmabahçe Palace

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For centuries, the Sultans and Pashas built palaces, villas, and mansions that captured the on-shore breezes from the Bosphorus.

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The Dolmabahçe Palace with its indelible vistas was built between 1843 and1856 for the Sultan Abdulmecid. It boasts three stories with 285 rooms and 43 halls. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and the interior retains much of its original gold decorations and furnishings. The Dolmabahçe has six Turkish baths and a large harem area. It is said to be one of the greatest examples of Ottoman wealth and abundance.

The Palace is open to the public. If you go, be sure to check out the 4.6-ton crystal chandelier above the main staircase.

The Çıragan Palace

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Much of this beautiful 19th century palace burned down in 1910 and remained a ruin for many years. Today it is an unforgettable five-star hotel owned by Kempinski Hotels. See our story about another Kempinski Hotel in Turkey here.

Modern life along the Bosphorus

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If you like scenic waterfront living – welcome to fantastic.

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The Bosphorus shores provide a wide array of homes to suit every taste.

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Imagine sharing your favorite beverage with family and friends on the patio of your waterfront home in Asia as you watch the setting sun in Europe – just across on the opposite shore.

Historical relevance

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The Bosphorus has been of strategic importance to many nations for over 2500 years. The Roman Emperor Constantine recognized its significance when he created Constantinople (now Istanbul) along its shores in 330 AD.

Rumeli Fortress

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This famous fortress was built in 1452, along the narrowest part of the Bosphorus with the intention to control the sea traffic and stop ships trying to reach Constantinople from the Black Sea during the Turkish siege of the city in 1453.

The fortress is quite large, yet its construction was completed in an amazingly short four and one-half months.

The effort was a success and Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in May 1453, effectively ending the Byzantine Empire and 1100 years of Roman domination in the area.

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Today the fortress is a museum and amphitheater open to the public for concerts, plays, and cultural events.

A place of deliverance

We also visited the area where Sultan Beyazid Ham welcomed 14th century Jewish immigrants. Thousands of Jews were expelled from Spain and found shelter and a new life in Turkey. Today, there are approximately 17,000 Jews living in the country, many are in Istanbul.

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Turkey is an exotic and fascinating country. We recommend it as a worthy destination for your next holiday abroad.

Happy travels.

We flew to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. See our review below.

Click on any of the following titles to read more of our stories about this interesting part of the world.

Turkish Airlines and its new International Club

Bodrum, a vacation paradise in Turkey

The Kempinski Resort and Spa in Bodrum

Exploring Ephesus

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel Elegantly Preserves Its Heritage On Waikiki Beach

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Rainbow from the beach at the Royal Hawaiian Resort by Judy Bayliff

Capitalists are often vilified in modern times, but the story of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach, on the beautiful island of Oahu is one example of how creative capitalism can benefit the masses.

In the early 20th century, a group of executives with substantial interests in Hawaii had the foresight to envision a burgeoning tourism future for the Hawaiian Islands – Oahu in particular.

The first luxury hotel, the Moana, had been successfully catering to the carriage trade for over 25 years, and it was evident that with the right combination of transportation and accommodations the Hawaiian luxury travel market could be profitably expanded.

Regal location

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Touring the artwork at the Royal Hawaiian Resort

King Kamehameha I conquered Oahu in 1795 and built a residence on the pristine oceanfront that was destined to become Waikiki Beach. During the prosperous 1920s, that same prime land was acquired by the Matson Navigation Company from the Royal Family of Hawaii and was to become the future site of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

The development of tourism in the area was arrested until 1920 when the Ala Wai Canal was built to drain the wetlands and swamps that were just inland from the unspoiled beach. The construction of the canal, which runs parallel to the ocean and the main street of Waikiki Beach, opened the door to rapid expansion.

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The early Royal Hawaiian Hotel from the Royal Hawaiian Gallery

Construction on the Royal Hawaiian started in 1925. She was built of sandstone block covered in stucco. Her contemporary Spanish-Moorish architecture was fashionable in California at the time, and fit quite nicely into the coconut palm groves at Waikiki. Pink was a popular color on the mainland, and again, it too was well suited for Hawaii.

One thousand and two hundred celebrants greeted the opening of the Royal Hawaiian to island high society on February 1, 1927. She quickly attained the nickname, “The Pink Palace of the Pacific.”

How they came

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Rich tourists from North America first came by ordinary steamship. Then in the mid-20s, the Matson Navigation Company built the Malolo – a luxury cruise ship with 650 1st class cabins. She could do 21 knots and made the crossing from San Francisco to Honolulu in 4.5 days. The Malolo was built specifically to cater to the affluent guests that would occupy the new Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

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None of the other luxury hotels in Oahu was considered opulent enough for the passengers of the elegant Malolo.

The Great Depression

Business was brisk at the Pink Palace until the advent of the Great Depression, then like the mainland, hard times hit the islands.

The silver lining

Counterbalancing the ill effects of the Depression, air travel in the mid-30s was making access to the Hawaiian Islands faster. No longer tethered to lengthy steam ship journeys, the working rich began taking the weekly flight to Hawaii – that led to more flights and cheaper fares for everyone.

It soon became possible for tourists of limited means to reach Oahu for short vacations. A boom of ‘everyday’ hotel construction on Waikiki was followed by more services for all.

The luxury hotels, especially the Royal Hawaiian and Moana ultimately did very well during the travel renaissance.

World War II

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In January 1942, the US Navy leased the Royal Hawaiian and transformed it into a Rest and Recuperation Center for sailors. The famous Coconut Grove Cocktail Bar was made over into a soda fountain, the tennis court became a basketball court, and a new baseball diamond was built on the property.

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The hotel was turned back to its owners almost four years later in November of 1945, at which time a major renovation ensued. Twenty years to the day the Royal opened, she re-opened with a gala celebration on February 1, 1947. It was the end of war, and the beginning of great times for Hawaii and the Pink Palace of the Pacific.

Matson takes a bow

With less demand for steamship travel, Matson officials decided to concentrate on their core competency of shipping goods and materials, and subsequently sold their hotel interests in Hawaii. It was an end of an era, and Matson can be credited with a commendable job of developing the tourist industry on Oahu.

The Royal Hawaiian today

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The Royal Hawaiian is now a Luxury Collection Resort that regularly undergoes changes to keep her competitive with other luxury hotels in Hawaii, but she will never lose her main advantages of location and historic charm. The Royal Hawaiian is a truly extraordinary hotel in every sense of the word ‘hospitality.’

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If you have an opportunity to stay at the Royal Hawaiian, take it. You will find that the experience cannot be duplicated. There is no other luxury hotel quite like it anywhere in the world.

The Royal Hawaiian Luau

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Aha’aina – is a Royal Celebration. We were anxious to experience this renowned oceanfront luau on Waikiki Beach with its spectacular views, excellent food, and top-notch entertainment. We were not disappointed.

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During our luau celebration, we were treated to a few minutes of Hawaii’s famous liquid-sunshine. It did not dampen the spirits of guests, servers, or entertainers. The show must go on and it did.

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Hawaiian liquid sunshine at the luau

A great time was had by all the temporarily napkin-headed guests. Fortunately, the concluding fire dancer was not in the least bit hampered by the passing shower.

The rainbow after the Aha’aina was breathtaking.

If you go

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The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, is located just off fashionable Kalakaua Avenue on Waikiki Beach and nine miles from Honolulu International Airport. For more information check out their website at www.royal-hawaiian.com .

For event planners

Walking around the premises, we were surprised to learn that the Royal had 11,800 square feet of inside meeting space, and 15,500 feet of available outside event space. It is capable of accommodating a large company meeting or convention in an elegant Hawaiian style. If you are in charge of planning events for your organization, this venue can’t lose.

While you are there

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Experience an unusual thrill by taking the short drive up the Pali (Cliff) Highway to one of Hawaii’s most scenic points – the Nuuanu Pali Lookout.

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This vantage point oversees Oahu’s lush and panoramic windward coast. The location was the site of the historic Battle of Nuuanu, after which, victorious King Kamehameha I was able to unite Hawaii under one ruler.

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The famous battle claimed the lives of hundreds of warriors from both sides. It is recorded that many of the combatants were forced over the edge of the mountain and fell a thousand feet to their death.

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Legend has it that the spirits of the fallen have created the almost constant wind at the site. The howling gale is frequently so strong and consistent that it is literally possible to lean against it without falling.

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Add it to your list of one-of-a-kind travel experiences!

Happy travels!

To see our entire photo gallery from this story look *here*

Mahalo

A special thank you to Marcia Wienert and Diana Su of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Hawaii, without whose knowledge and assistance this article would not have been possible.

You might also enjoy our stories about Pearl Harbor and the inimitable Moana Surfrider Hotel.

We flew to Oahu for this story on Hawaiian Airlines.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Vintage photos are from the gallery at The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort.

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

Vacationing in the Biggest Little City in the World

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Reno, Nevada has been known as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” ever since an enterprising Californian won a slogan contest sponsored by the city way back in the late 1920s. Yes, Reno was on the entertainment map long before Las Vegas had its first slot machine.

A short list of things to do

Here are just a few of the attractions we have enjoyed in the world’s Biggest Little City:

First – the best way to see Reno

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If you have never ridden a Segway, this is the place to give it a go. Walter McMath is the congenial owner of Reno Fun Tours, and is an expert who can instruct you – in just under an hour, everything you need to know to enjoy a Reno Segway tour.

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There are two Segway tours per day, and each tour lasts about two and one-half hours. On your Segway tour, you will see many of the attractions we write about in this article.

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For more information about the Segway tour, look at the Reno Fun Tours website at http://renofuntours.com/

Base Camp

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The tallest rock-climbing wall in the world is called Base Camp, and is located right next to the famous Reno “Biggest Little City in the World” arch on North Virginia Street – just around the corner from the Segway center.

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The wall is 164 foot high with a climbing surface attached to the outside of the 16-story CommRow building – home to the Whitney Peak Hotel. This wall has seen many a world-class climber, but everyone is invited to give it a try. There is also an adjacent 7000 square foot indoor bouldering park with 2900 square feet of climbable space. This is a climber’s paradise.

The Truckee River

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Rushing through the middle of town, the famous Truckee River provides fabulous summer recreation for visitors and residents alike.

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Watching the kids at Bicentennial and Wingfield parks reminds us of earlier times in America when a reliable inner tube was an essential summer accessory.

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Reno’s inner city is park and recreation-centric with a huge assortment of activities for outdoor lovers of all ages.

The Great Reno Balloon Race

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The first Reno Balloon Race took place in 1982. It was created to keep visitors in Reno between the State Fair and the Reno Air Races.

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From that humble beginning, the event has morphed into the world’s largest free hot air ballooning event with as many as 100 balloons and 150,000 spectators. Admission is free to all spectators. The show is always spectacular as the multi-colored balloons take to the air amid applause and wonder.

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The views from aloft are even more breathtaking than from the ground.

This well organized event is held annually on the first Friday through Sunday after Labor Day at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park at 1595 N. Sierra Street, in Reno. Check out this website for more information http://renoballoon.com/

National Automobile Museum

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Before his death in 1978, Bill Harrah amassed one of the world’s greatest collections of automobiles. Many of his finest cars can be found in the National Automobile Museum in Reno.

Today this exhibit is one of America’s five greatest auto museums, and there is plenty to see and do among more than 200 “cherry” motor vehicles and exhibits.

Reno’s National Bowling Stadium

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While most cities have bowling centers, Reno has the National Bowling Stadium. The “Taj Mahal of Tenpins” has 78 championship lanes and the longest video screen in the world. There’s 440 feet of scoring graphics and extreme video clarity.

As Graceland is to Elvis fans, the National Bowling Stadium is to faithful bowlers from around the world. If you are a bowler, “Bowl there or be square.”

The Nevada Museum of Art

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Nevada’s only accredited art museum features a wide offering of imaginative and fine art from mainstream and contemporary artists in a unique architectural setting.

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The rooftop sculpture exhibit is particularly interesting, and the views are awesome.

The Reno Air Races

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This race has been voted one of the ten best air shows in the world by USA Today. Now celebrating 50 years of the world’s fastest motor sport. This is a truly exciting event as sleek propeller aircraft wing their way around the pylons.

Among the many exciting features at the show is the Patriot Jets Team, a six-jet diamond formation aerobatic group. These hi-flyers are ex-Blue Angel and Thunderbird pilots, and they are really something to watch.

And, so much more

With superb golf courses, 86 park locations, and over 140-miles of trails in the Reno area, we could write volumes about “what to do in the outdoors of Reno.” The many gaming and festive events, activities, and conventions would add still more to your “things to do list.”

Our recommendation is that you plan a trip to Reno and experience it all for yourself.

The Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa

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While in Reno, we stay at the fabulous four-diamond Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, which boasts more than 800 guest rooms and suites, a 30,000-square-foot spa, eight award-winning restaurants and more. It also has a convenient sky bridge that connects it to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. We were so impressed with the Atlantis that we wrote an entire article about it. See it in the Best Vacations Journal.

If you go

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Reno is located on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range and is easily accessible by air on all the major U.S. airlines. It is also a pleasant three-plus hour drive (218 miles) northeast on Interstate 80E from the San Francisco Bay Area.

To learn more about what Nevada has to offer by way of vacations, check out the state’s tourism website at www.travelnevada.com and for the Reno/Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority look here.

Nevada is all about fun

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The entire state of Nevada is a tourist engine with extraordinary outdoor adventures and arguably the best gaming atmosphere this side of Monaco. With Reno in the north and Las Vegas in the south, the entire state radiates huge entertainment value for your vacation dollars.

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With fun all around, it’s easy to see why we love to spend time in Nevada. Click on the titles below to read more of our articles about this great western state.

Smokin Camels in the Nevada Desert

Riding the Rails to Virginia City, Nevada

The Newest US National Park is in Nevada

The Hot Springs and Cool Caves of Nevada

Explore Nevada, Land of Wonders

Also, click here to see the complete photo gallery from our Reno trip.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Photos of airplanes, automobiles, and National Bowling Stadium provided by Reno/Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA).

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

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