Fave Five Travel Excursions of 2010, Part Five

Editor-in-Chief Ken Shapiro shares the highlights of his travels last year
By: Kenneth Shapiro
Ken Shapiro in Florence, Italy, as part of a trip with Costa Cruise Line. // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro
Ken Shapiro in Florence, Italy, as part of a trip with Costa Cruise Line. // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro

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The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, Canada // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro
The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, Canada // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro

Ken Shapiro with his daughter at Club Med Ixtapa, Mexico // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro
Ken Shapiro with his daughter at Club Med Ixtapa, Mexico // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro

A HAL cruise was a great way to experience the magnificent beauty of Glacier Bay, Alaska // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro
A HAL cruise was a great way to experience the magnificent beauty of Glacier Bay, Alaska // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro

On a Brendan Vacations' tour Ken Shapiro experienced Ireland's sites, including the ruins of Clonmacnoise // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro
On a Brendan Vacations' tour Ken Shapiro experienced Ireland's sites, including the ruins of Clonmacnoise // (c) 2010 Ken Shapiro

Like most years, the majority of the trips I took in 2010 were of the more mundane business-travel type. Not that I'm complaining but, let's face it, it's the travel that takes place away from convention centers and business hotels that we remember long afterward. Fortunately, I managed to get in my fair share of great trips in 2010 as well.

Molto Deliziosa
The year started off on a great note when I sailed on Costa Cruise Line's new ship, the Costa Deliziosa in January. The concept for the Deliziosa is that it's "a feast for the senses," and I have to say that the line succeeded in this mission. The ship features culinary delights, such as the Club Deliziosa restaurant, with menus created by Michelin-starred chef Ettore Bocchia, and La Cioccolateria, a coffee and chocolate bar that features after-dinner cocktails, espresso drinks and a chocolate fountain into which guests can dip a wide range of treats, including strawberries, pineapples, figs and more. However, the ship also delivers other sensual treats, such as in its Samsara spa, with its wide range of wellness offerings, a huge fitness center, a Thalassotherapy pool, Turkish baths and a Samsara Ristorante that features healthy cuisine. One of the aspects I most enjoyed on my cruise out of Venice, Italy, was the European flavor onboard the Costa Deliziosa. It really enhanced my experience of Italy to be on a ship with such a strong European flavor.

To read more about the Costa Deliziosa visit my story online.

Let the Games Begin
As most people who know me will attest, I'm a big sports fan, so it was a dream come true to be able to attend my first Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. Like most people, I had heard negative travel stories about other Olympics over the years, but I was completely delighted to discover how much fun the Olympics turned out to be. Whether watching hockey in a crowded pub in downtown Vancouver or standing slopeside during a downhill skiing event in Whistler, the camaraderie and excitement of the Games is something that needs to be experienced firsthand to truly appreciate. Plus, with its veritable army of friendly volunteers, the Vancouver Olympics have to be one of the most organized and easiest travel experiences I've ever had. During the Games, I also had the opportunity to learn about Bavaria, Germany, which is a contender to host its own winter games in 2018.

Read more on Bavaria's Olympic plans.

Jewel of the Pacific
It was undoubtedly a tough year for tourism to Mexico, with near-daily accounts of drug-related violence or crimes in the newspapers. So it was with great relief that I got to see for myself how great the tourism experience still is in Mexico during a spring trip to Club Med Ixtapa with my 6-year-old daughter. Of course, Club Med has been in Ixtapa for many years, yet the company has significantly reinvested in the property over the last several years, and I found the resort to be ideal for a father-daughter getaway. Our two-bedroom oceanfront Family Suite was modern and comfortable, and the special concierge service in the Family Suites was especially helpful. On our trip, we spent lots of time in the pool, of course, but we also had a chance to try out some of the many on-site activities at the resort as well, including trapeze, circus school, archery, volleyball, soccer, sailing, cooking classes, arts and crafts, table games and more. The only drawback for both my daughter and me was that the trip was over far too soon.

Read more about our visit to Club Med Ixtapa

The Great Land
Lest you be concerned that my daughter is the only one who gets spoiled in my family, this summer, my 10-year-old son and I had the opportunity to take an Alaska cruise with Holland America Line, followed by a short post-trip in Vancouver. The cruise was a fantastic adventure for both of us, and great weather gave us an opportunity to spot plenty of wildlife, including whales, bears, eagles and more. The highlight of the cruise was our shore excursion by helicopter to a glacier near Juneau. The strange and breathtaking landscape is something my son will remember for years to come. After the cruise, we did a great day-trip of kayaking around downtown Vancouver, and I highly recommend it as something to suggest to your clients.

Read more about our post-cruise excursion, kayaking in Vancouver.

On the Emerald Isle
I ended 2010 with a fall visit to Ireland to preview one of Brendan Vacations' new Small Group Discoveries. As I discovered, this small-group, escorted touring concept combines the flexibility of FIT travel with the logistical, organizational and educational support of a guided tour. On my trip, we stayed in properties that are available on Brendan's regular itineraries, including two phenomenal country properties, Ballynahinch Castle and Dromoland Castle, as well as in two great Dublin city hotels, The Westbury Hotel and The Fitzwilliam Hotel. One of the highlights of the trip was at Ballynahinch Castle, where we were treated to a musical performance by a local father and his two sons that was truly magical. Another highlight for me personally, was the opportunity to play a round of golf at Doonbeg Golf Club, a picturesque seaside course with scenery that's straight out of a golf magazine. In all, it was a perfect way to end a busy year.

Read more about Brendan Vacations' Small Group Discoveries
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