Four Reservations to Make BEFORE You Go On Your Cruise

You and your awesome travel consultant (me) have selected the perfect cruise ship and itinerary for your vacation. Booking is completed, air transportation, pre-cruise hotel arranged, and ground transportation set up. OK, maybe you DIY! Either way, here are four more reservations you should consider before departure.

Shore Excursions. Whether you are going with the cruise line’s excursions, utilizing a third-party, or hiring a private guide, book in advance! The most popular shore excursions sell out. There are only so many zip-lines, whale watching excursions, or Segway tours available. Not to mention, skipping the line at the Vatican, heading straight to the Acropolis, or being first inside the Hermitage of St. Petersburg.

So, if you have your heart set on a particular tour or experience, make sure you have it nailed down before you leave. Even if your specific activity isn’t capacity impacted, you don’t want to spend your limited shore time arranging or negotiating tours and transportation.

Specialty Dining. If you’re planning to celebrate a special occasion at a Specialty Dining venue and you want a specific date, reserve before departure. Some of the more popular venues fill up quickly – especially on scheduled sea days. If you aren’t picky about the date or which restaurant, you can probably wait until after sailing.

Salon Appointments. The busiest salon days coincide with formal nights. If you need your hair or nails done for a formal night, book the appointment in advance. There will be no availability by the time you board.

Spa Appointments. Does a relaxing massage or facial as the ship gently glides through the ocean sound like a great way to spend a sea day? So do half the ship’s passengers! Sea days are the most popular spa days. Conversely, shore days usually have discounted offerings from the spa.

Maybe you’re one of those who likes spontaneity while on vacation and this all sounds a little too Type A. I get it. But, if you have something that’s super important to make your vacation successful, go ahead and book it to avoid disappointment.

Do you have a special activity or experience that requires advance reservation? Let me know!

Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.

Viennese Waltz in Vienna


Mozart, Strauss, Sachertorte, Viennese coffee, palaces, opera houses, waltzing, canine subway fares. How do you distill Vienna into a few paragraphs?

Vienna is a captivating city and so many things to see and do. Inside the Ringstrasse, part of the city center has an auto-free zone with cafes, shops, and street performers mixed in amongst the museums, cathedrals and government buildings. On my visit, I couldn’t wait to get to a café and have some Viennese coffee with sachertorte (a specialized chocolate cake). The coffee was fabulous. The sachertorte, for me, was a tad disappointing. It was good, just not the earthshaking event I had anticipated!

An interesting tidbit, I picked up on my visit is how much the Viennese love their dogs. Leashed, muzzled dogs are welcome in most public places, including the subway. Canines are required to have a ticket, just as their human owners do. But, their fare is less than the adult fare.

The Hoffburg and Schonbrunn Palaces were the epi-center of the Habsburg Dynasty and now both house incredible museums with a wonderful history of Austria, as well as the lavish means of royalty. Schonbrunn, an easy train ride from central Vienna was the summer palace; Hoffburg, in the city center was the winter palace.


Two palaces seem a little excessive; most of my friends make due with one – but I guess they felt compelled to keep up with the “Louis”. The history and opulent lifestyle is fascinating and at Hoffburg there is a dedicated “Sisi” wing and exhibit detailing Empress Elisabeth’s life and showcasing the infamous Silver Collection.

Classical music and Vienna are very nearly synonymous – Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, Schubert, Hayden all lived and worked in the city at one time or another. Tributes and statues abound, as well as music halls and theaters. At least one musical performance is a must. And, if you’re an aficionado of the opera or orchestral music, you may have reached Nirvana.


One of my bucket list “to dos” is to hear the Vienna Philharmonic play the Blue Danube on New Year’s Day at the State Opera House. Oh, and dance the Viennese Waltz while I’m at it!

Depending on your interests, a few more not-to be-missed sites to consider are St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and the Spanish Riding School. And, if you’re in Vienna for more than a day or two, Salzburg and the Vienna Woods are both easy day trips. The Wachau Valley, home to Melk Abbey, as well as the fortress where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned and some good wine is also a great day trip. You didn’t think I wouldn’t mention wine, did you?!

What is your favorite memory of Vienna or highest on your “wish list” for your first visit?

Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.

Six Tips to Sleep on a Plane

Slumbering for several hours on an overnight flight is the ultimate way to travel. The flight passes quickly and you’re fresh and ready to roll upon arrival. Better focus for navigating a strange airport and getting through immigration, not to mention starting a vacation feeling like a human being.

As airlines continue to reduce the width of seats and distance between rows (pitch) in coach, it has become more difficult to truly sleep on long haul flights. Even if you’re fortunate enough to be in business or first class, the noise, lighting, temperature, and time zone changes can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle.

A good night’s sleep and air travel may be a wishful dream for many (pun intended), but even a few snatches of sleep on an overnight flight can make a huge impact. Here are seven, non-medicinal tips for catching a few zzz’s to start your vacation reasonably refreshed.

  1. Wear pajamas. OK – not literally. But clothing should be loose and comfortable, not tight or binding. And dress in layers to accommodate fluctuation in temperatures.
  2. Remember your tootsies. You’ll probably want to remove your shoes for the overnight, so bring an extra pair of socks or slippers in case your feet get cold. And clear as much foot space as you can. Remove items you’ll need from your under-seat bag so you can stow it above, temporarily, to make more room to stretch your feet out.
  3. Bring your own blanket. Even if the airline provides you with one (and for overnight flights, they frequently will), they’re small. An extra blanket can give you more coverage if the cabin is cool, wedged between the window and seat as an extra pillow, or propped as a makeshift barricade from your neighbor.
  4. Replicate your routine. Remove your glasses or contacts, read, rub on hand lotion, drink a little water – whatever you do at home as part of your bedtime ritual, try and repeat to let your body know it’s sleep time.
  5. Eye mask. First, it’s never completely dark in the cabin. And second, this is a life saver if your seat mate wants to stay up all night watching movies or reading.
  6. Ear plugs or noise canceling headphones. If you use headphones use silence or white noise. Even soft music can distract. Personally, I use earplugs because I inevitably turn my head to a position that causes the headphones to dig in.

Have a great flight. Goodnight!


Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.

How I Survived 7 Days Without My Luggage


Last week, I left you while sailing past the Statue of Liberty and wondering if my checked bag was aboard the ship. Here’s Part 2.

The last communication from the airline was that the bag was en route to the ship and would make it before sailing.

Even though the purser’s desk hadn’t located it on board, I did still hold out hope, because 1) I know from experience that it can take a long time to get all that luggage delivered to staterooms 2) it wasn’t going through the usual checked baggage process, so might be kept in the hold until after sailing, and 3) the ship was late departing due to a customs issue so that meant more likelihood of the airline getting it to the ship before sailing.


I’m such an optimist!

Late evening, the crew confirmed that the bag wasn’t on board.

The ship’s staff were extremely helpful – especially considering it was not the cruiseline’s fault. One member of the purser’s staff, Reyna, was assigned to liaison with the airline and keep me informed. She offered an amenities kit (which I appreciated, but didn’t need) and free laundry/dry-cleaning until I was reunited with my clothes (this was a life-saver!).

I won’t go into a day-by-day, blow by blow of trying to connect me with my bag while we went island hopping. That’s a story unto itself. Let’s just say that Reyna and I became very close over the next few days! It finally showed up on the 6th day of an 8-day cruise!


Here’s how I survived. Some was good planning, some was just dumb luck:

  1. My carry-on bag held two changes of clothes. I usually recommend one, but in this case, I had packed the outfit I planned to wear for the wedding plus some causal clothes for meeting up with friends my first evening in New York.
  2. Therefore, I had three changes of clothes – jeans and shirt I wore on the plane, dressy wedding outfit, casual skirt and blouse.
  3. All my underwear was in my carryon. This was just plain lucky. At the last minute of packing, I was “filling available space” and basically stuffed underwear in all remaining spots.
  4. Swimsuit and toiletries were in carryon – this is part of the put everything in your land luggage that you may need in the first 24 hours rule!
  5. Travel insurance. Yep. This was great. I went shopping in the ship’s boutique and picked up another skirt and blouse to round out my wardrobe. Of course, I could do this anyway, but it was much more fun shopping on someone else’s dime!

Here are a few things I didn’t have:

  1. Formal wear – fortunately, there are always dining options that don’t require formal wear. But, for the record, Reyna told me I could eat anywhere I chose – that they would alert the maître d’s so I wouldn’t have any problem with the dress code.
  2. Flip flops. I wore sandals or tennis shoes to the pool and beaches (on port days). Very stylish!
  3. Dress shoes – I had some nice sandals that were OK for the pinch I was in, but I would have picked a different pair had I known.
  4. Shorts. I was a little overdressed on a couple of occasions! I did check the gift shop, but they didn’t have anything I liked in my size.
  5. Hat. Did I mention gift shop?

There you go - 1 night in New York and 6 of the 8 days of my cruise without my checked bag. Believe it or not, the experience was fun. Once I came to terms with my missing wardrobe, I relaxed. Never had to worry about what to wear! I learned I could make do with very little and what was important (underwear!!). Now, I have set myself a goal to deliberately take a traditional cruise with just a carryon. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Have you ever spent part or all your vacation without your luggage?

Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.

Your Luggage Is On Its Way!


A few years ago, my brother and his fiancée had their wedding aboard ship before setting sail on an 8-night Caribbean cruise with family and friends, departing from New York City. And, yes, I was the travel planner for the event. – thank you!

My flight was delayed and then rerouted due to weather but I wasn’t particularly concerned as I was flying into New York a day early. So, while I might miss dinner or some down time with friends and family, I knew there was no problem making the sailing.

Which turned out to be true – for me. Not so true for my checked bag. I flew into LaGuardia instead of the originally scheduled JFK. After deplaning and watching the “last bag” sign make its revolution on the carousel, I proceeded to the airline’s lost luggage desk. That isn’t what they call it, but we all know that’s what it is.

My bag went to its original destination – LaGuardia. The agent assured us that the bags would be sorted out that evening and delivered or held for pick-up, depending on traveler request. I was neither upset nor concerned as I could see that bags might end up at the wrong airport due to the circumstances. I requested the bag be delivered to my hotel. No problem!

Upon check-in, I apprise the hotel staff of the situation and they assure me they’ll let me know as soon as it is delivered. Wonderful! Now I’m off for a fun-filled evening in Manhattan with friends. Later that night, when I return to the hotel, I am informed the bag has not yet arrived.

I call the airline for a bag status and get my first dose of telephone un-service. First, there is the ubiquitous prompt menus – why is it that my choice is always way down the menu? And requires two or three different menus? Then enter the claim number – and if you enter it incorrectly too bad. You get to start over! When I finally get a live person, they need my name, claim number, and promise of my first born. OK, just name and number. But, why did I enter it if they are going to ask me anyway?

I am informed that my bag went to Newark – wait, what? I thought it was at JFK. And they’ll deliver it to LaGuardia. I very politely inform the agent that no, the bag is supposed to be delivered to my hotel, not the airport. She acknowledges this is in my “record” and that yes, indeed the bag will be delivered sometime tonight.

Wedding Day. Embarkation Day. Yay! I wake up very excited for my brother and his fiancée, plus anticipating a wonderful cruise vacation. I call the front desk to have the bag delivered. Yep. No bag.

No worries – I’ve got this. I have everything I need to get dressed and ready to go in my carryon. I’m forever telling clients to pack 24 hours’ worth of clothes in their carryon, just in case. Glad I followed my own advice. All is good.

Call to airline. Prompt menu. Claim number. Hold 5 minutes. Live person. The bag is still at Newark. Umm. I’m leaving on a cruise. How are you going to get the bag to me? No problem. We’ll deliver it to the ship.

OK – now I’m starting to get a little concerned. But, I have my wedding clothes with me, so if I don’t get the bag until we’re aboard, no harm no foul.

We get to the pier and checked into the ship (early boarding for wedding party and guests) and I notify the purser’s desk of the lost bag and planned delivery by the airline. They’re very gracious, tell me not to worry, that it happens all the time and when it arrives, they’ll deliver it to my stateroom. Feeling better.

The wedding and reception are beautiful. After the non-sailing guests disembark and we complete the muster drill, I check back with the purser’s desk about my bag. No joy.

Top-side to call the airline (better cell service). Prompt menu, request for claim number, 10-minute hold, etc. This time the agent tells me the bag is on its way to the pier and will be delivered prior to departure. I’m skeptical, but hopeful.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

One, last call to airline as we set sail. Prompt menu, request for claim number, hold, I’m losing bars as we sail. Yikes!

Have you ever sailed past the Statue of Liberty while on hold with an airline’s lost baggage department?

Well, I wasn’t going to miss this, so I hung up and enjoyed the view. And it was a magnificent one. One of my sailing bucket list items: Sydney Harbor past the Opera House, under the Golden Gate Bridge, New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty, past Piazza San Marcos on the Grand Canal of Venice. I’m lucky, I’ve hit three of the four!

Did I ever see the bag again? How did I manage without it?

Tune in next week to find out. Same bat time, same bat channel!

Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.