So here’s what happened. I was on vacation with my two young daughters for Spring Break. I opted to take them on a cruise because they had never been. We sailed out of New York in April and avoided airfare for four to south Florida. It was a simple seven-day itinerary which sailed to Port Canaveral Florida, the cruise line’s private island and Nassau Bahamas. Incidentally, the girls had so much fun! I repeatedly reminded them that this was “their” vacation and they could decide the activities in which we partake.
In Nassau, I announced (since no other formal requests were made), we would be exploring downtown. My original plan was to take them to the pirate museum. But I decided to see how the day went before making promises I couldn’t keep. In addition, I opted to NOT visit Atlantis. Visiting this paradise island oasis is a vacation onto itself and a pricey one at that. I’m not going to editorialize on the value of an Atlantis vacation because I haven’t stepped foot on that property for years. But I know they charge a pretty penny for premium experiences.
Anyhoo, we began exploring downtown and the girl stepped into the Gucci store and various other shops. But we happened upon a store that looked brand new to me. It was bright, filled with pottery, art, jewelry and an attentive sales staff. The girls marveled at the bowls (handmade and imported from Turkey). I noted the rug and carpet selection. One of the girls spotted this small art studio with a tray of cloudy water and a small paint set which appeared to be in-use by someone not currently present. At that moment, a kind a gentle man of about 50 said “girls! Let your uncle show you”. Naturally I asked “how much” he declared “it’s free”. I was skeptical. After all, this was the Caribbean and tourism dollars are precious. The man (who turned out to be one of the three owners) sat with my two children and their friend and each created an 11 x 17 piece of art on the spot. I couldn’t believe it. They girls were going crazy playing the paints and obviously working with an artist who loved to teach. I would say we spent a half an hour in that store or more. The owner even wowed the girls with a couple of magic tricks. The man treated us like we were the most important people in his world in the time we were there. The girls each purchased a $10 bracelet and we left almost in disbelief at how much fun we had. Even as I write this post I have a smile on my face at how kind and gracious he was to the children and to adults as well.
The name of the store is Turquoise Gallery and it’s located on Bay Street just three doors down from Parliament and essentially next door to the Gucci store. Here is a link to their Facebook Page. I had been to Nassau just a year prior and I didn’t remember this store and I thought I would have. But as I spoke to one of the other owners, he informed me they just opened three months ago. It all made sense. As you know I rarely dedicate an entire blog post to just one store as I value your time. Incidentally, if you wish to watch an episode of Beyond Your Backyard which includes Nassau, you can here. But here’s the point. Obviously if you’re travel plans include Nassau, stop by Turquoise Gallery and say hello to my new friends. And here’s the other point. The old saying “noting ventured, nothing gained” couldn’t be more true. The girls and I set out to explore and found a gem of a place less than 500 yards from our cruise ship.
Incidentally, if you wish to learn more about Nassau, Bahamas, have a look at our Nassau page and watch the full episode of Beyond Your Backyard.
Standout examples of classic Miami Art Deco include the postcard-worthy neon-lit Breakwater Hotel and the McAlpin. Though a small building, the latter is arguably the purest form of Art Deco because of its perfectly symmetrical façade and candy-colored hues. The Breakwater Hotel, meanwhile, is one of the jewels of Ocean Drive. Built in 1936, this boutique hotel features clean, symmetrical lines that become a neon blue beacon come nighttime. The Raleigh Hotel, which is considered the grand dame of Art Deco buildings, is also worth a visit. Its pool with curved-edges was once voted as the most beautiful swimming pool in America.Miami has the largest concentration of Art Deco architecture in the world, housing over 800 of these structures. Most of them are found in Miami Beach, a city famous for its luxury beach resorts, restaurants, bars, and cruise lines. That being said, a tour of the most notable Art Deco buildings is another worthy addition to your itinerary.
The 20th century architectural trend was created as an avant-garde expression of wealth and sophistication. It’s characterized by symmetrical, streamlined designs. Although it was born in Paris via the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, it was the United States that took the lead in developing Art Deco. Miami Beach invented its own variant through incorporating pastel colors, white stucco, neon lights, and decoration features like herons, sea shells, and palm trees.
At some point in the past, the Art Deco scene deteriorated and was eventually neglected by its residents. But thanks to the efforts of the non-profit organization Miami Design Preservation League, many of the Art Deco structures were restored to their original appearance. Many of these iconic structures are situated in South Beach, where the Art Deco Historic District is located. Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, in particular, make for a fascinating spectacle of pastel three-storey hotels.
In line with the League’s preservation efforts, newer buildings were also constructed in the neoclassical style of Art Deco. The Betsy Hotel’s new wing on Collins Avenue is the perfect example. Reopened in 2009 after a multimillion-dollar restoration, the hotel marries Art Deco with modern interiors. The Tides South Beach is another building that has a vintage outer appearance and modern interiors.
Not all Art Deco structures are hotels though. You can also admire the classic beauty of Colony Theater, which lies on Lincoln Road. The theater was built in 1935 and last renovated in 2006. Today, it hosts events like music festivals, theater performances, and stand-up comedy specials, among others. There is also the Bass Museum on Collins Avenue, which houses the Miami Beach Public Library and Arts Center. Its aesthetic is a bit different from the rest of the Art Deco buildings in Miami due to its use of fossilized Paleolithic coral during construction. The distinctive façade features intricate carvings of a montage of scenes, including the Spanish conquest, a pelican eating a fish, cruise ships, and planes.
In celebration of the style and its cosmopolitan era, the League also holds an annual three-day community cultural festival. During this time, the neighborhood transforms into its former glory, giving attendees a blast from the past. Vintage cars line up the streets on Ocean Drive, jazz parties and retro fashion shows light up the night, and walking tours of the Art Deco Historic District take place. It’s an experience that could leave you mesmerized.
Yet another example of why I suggest you make your way to Miami for an ungforgettable vacation.
If you are debating cruises vs. all-inclusive resorts with your travel companions, then congratulations! You are one step closer to experiencing a potentially life-changing vacation!
The good news about both travel options is both are great options. The cruise industry and the all-inclusive properties worldwide have all evolved based on guest preferences, technology, and industry-wide improvements and oversight.
Which vacation option is better?
Cruisers love to cruise, and they might shrug at other vacation options, even an all-inclusive resort. Others tend to hate cruising but love the one-stop shopping of an all-inclusive. The reality is that both vacation options have pros and cons, many which are similar. If you don’t know which category best suits you...let’s dig into the details.
An all-inclusive resort is generally as it sounds. You pay one price in advance for your room, all meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and non-motorized watersports. Extras may include golf, spa treatments, excursions or day trips, WIFI and premium or upcharge restaurants. When evaluating which all-inclusive is perfect for you, a little self-reflection is in order before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars.
The Pros of an All-Inclusive Resort
Known costs – The pros begin with you know what you are paying for upfront with little room for surprises. My suggestion is to check with a qualified travel specialist on which all-inclusive is right for you based on your preferences. Be honest and don’t be afraid to say exactly what you are looking for, chances are that property exists and good travel professional knows which ones to recommend and which ones to avoid.
Central Location - One of the other pros of an all-inclusive is you can make it the hub for all your exploration. By booking an all-inclusive (just like an ala carte resort), you always return to the same room each night. But remember, you get what you pay for.
Upgrades - If the resort has a club level or private check in or concierge, I suggest you splurge and pay for added service, amenities or a larger room. You don’t want to get there and realize for just a few extra dollars a day you can avoid some of the crowds by “upgrading”. Making real-time changes to your accommodations can sometimes be problematic.
Immersion Experience – One of the biggest benefits of an all-inclusive you are in the space place for your entire vacation, which means you can immerse yourself in the local culture. You can get out and explore every nook and cranny of the region.
Cons of All-Inclusive Resorts
Limited programming – One of the biggest drawbacks that some consumers complain about at an all-inclusive is boredom. The programming options are at your own pace which means, if you don’t participate, you may find yourself a little bored. Also, selecting the correct resort for YOU is essential. Otherwise, you could end up at a property that doesn’t meet your needs. Simple questions like kids or no kids, romance and reflection or party hardy, what’s your budget, what time of year do you wish to travel...will all affect price and property selection.
Destination Costs – Keep in mind, the all-inclusive may be in a destination that you have to fly to. If budget is a concern of yours, then remember that airline ticket pricing will vary based on the season and supply and demand.
I would suggest if you are traveling outside the US for an all-inclusive, that you also secure a vacation insurance policy in case of a medical emergency or the unlikely evacuation.
Cruising is ideal if you like the idea of exploring different ports of call for a short period of time. Think of it as a chance to get a quick glimpse of these destinations to decide whether you wish to return on future visits.
The very first rule I live by when selecting a cruise is... who else will be on that ship? That’s a big one for me. I take lots of vacations for two basic reasons, work and pleasure. Work is one thing but for my own personal vacations...it matters to me who I am sailing with. But more on that in a moment.
The cruise industry is a big industry and cruise companies have lots of ships and itineraries to choose from. On the plus side, you’ve got options. The Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe. Ocean cruising vs. river cruising. Much like an all-inclusive, you pay upfront for certain things such as port charges, taxes, your stateroom, gratuities, amenities, entertainment, food and nonalcoholic beverages. Of course, there are lots of ways to part with your money as well after your initial purchase. Premium restaurants, WIFI, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and shore excursions are a few that come to mind. It’s safe to say some cruise companies/itineraries include all the extras so no additional cash is needed on board.
Factors affecting price include:
Pros of Cruises
Ease of travel - You only need to get to your embarkation city and then get on the ship. Which may mean, the airlines will play perhaps a smaller role in your trip planning.
Multiple activities - Yu can be as active as you choose. The cruise director and his or her staff have activities, lectures and entertainment going on around the clock both on your at sea days and some of the port days.
The Food – The larger the ship the more options you have every day. Gone are the days of a just a steam table buffet and a cattle call. Also, cruise lines understand the needs of passengers when it comes to dining. Most lines have flexible dining times and like the rest of the travel industry the dress codes have been relaxed...for the most part depending on the cruise line.
Cons of Cruises
The ship could leave you – The ship will not wait for you should you be delayed and miss embarkation. Getting to the next port of call is at your expense.
Appears crowded – Another potential con to cruising is you will be near potentially thousands of people while you are on board and presumably when you are in port. However, it is important to note just how big these ships are. They can easily accommodate this large number of passengers and crew, so you are comfortable and happy.
The cruise industry builds itineraries with two basic types of days...at sea days and port days.
Static itineraries – You pretty much must stick with the itinerary the ship is. If weather affects your trip, you may miss a port or change a port of call due to extenuating circumstances.
Cabin space – It is not the largest place to call home for a week, but it does serve its purpose. An upside here is getting adjoining staterooms or a multi bedroom suite so you can feel free to spread out just a little more.
In addition, unless you are an experienced cruiser, I would always book at least a balcony cabin. Cabins are divided into inside cabins with either 1) no windows or a virtual balcony (a giant television that acts as a window with real time view), 2) an ocean view cabin which is a cabin with a window, 3) a balcony cabin or 4) a suite. I suggest you seriously consider booking a suite. It will cost more but the extra amenities in my opinion are worth it. Concierge service, private areas of the ship reserved for suite guests, priority dining and shore excursion bookings, and expedited embarkation and disembarkation are just a few of the perks that ease the annoyances of travel. Plus, in most cases you’ll earn more loyalty points towards achieving “frequent cruiser” status which provide even more amenities and services.
Cruise lines like some all-inclusive resorts have loyalty programs; I suggest you sign up immediately once you book.
How to book a Cruise
Planning and booking a cruise can be done online directly with the cruise line. However, I strongly suggest you use the advice and booking services of a trusted travel professional. They are an invaluable resource when it comes to selecting the perfect cruise for YOU. They also have access to deals and specials that are either not available or hard to find online.
We announced last week that while the staff here at Erik The Travel Guy takes lots of trips, to help bring you the latest and greatest info, we want you to be a part of the selection process.
You can vote at erikthetravelguy.com/vote or leave a comment on this video in the comments below.
Keep in mind, this video is for educational purposes only. This video also contains some editorial opinion by yours truly. Facts contained here may change without notice. We try to keep up with the changes, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research before making travel purchases.
As I said last week, leave a comment, ask a question and suggest future episodes in the comments section.
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I love island life.
The last week of August, I spent a week with my family on Hilton Head Island and, well, fell in love with a lifestyle.
Not just any old island will do. You must pick the RIGHT island for you. As with true love, the sensation of falling head-over-heals in love comes out of nowhere; but once you feel it, you can't live without it.
I love Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Despite the frequent traveling I do, I honestly don't think I understood what “island life” meant until this trip. And I had not been to this part of the country since we shot videos here in 2008. To see the series, you can watch them on the Hilton Head page of my site.
Securing a vacation rental was the best fit for our family. We stayed at Palmetto Dunes at Inverness Village. I loved this community. The white, sandy beach was a five-minute’s bike ride away. Within Inverness Village, I had all the comforts and amenities of a luxury resort. The sand is HOT in August. An hour at the beach every day was enough for my family. Having a private pool off the deck was perfect; my children and I swam every day.
Because of the vacation rental, we could be as active as we were capable. Wherever we went on the island (or off), it was clean. I appreciated not having to pay attention to every step I took.
I decided to rent bikes for the family on the first day.
It was the BEST vacation decision I've made in a long time.
Island life revolves around biking...even when you don't do it in your everyday life. I chose to rent bikes from Pedals. They delivered the bikes to the house and picked them up free of charge. Easy.
I really am not a "sit around the beach and do nothing" sort of guy. I crave things to do. On this trip, I golfed, played tennis, jet-skied, mini-golfed and ate my way through the week.
Speaking of food, Hilton Head has more options than you'll have time to get to. Skull Creek Boathouse was a stand out as were all the restaurants I listed in my downloadable itinerary for Hilton Head Island.
Look for more on this subject in the future as I fully intend to return to Hilton Head and other iconic beach destinations in the future.
Let me know if you have a favorite island in the comments below.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!