If I had to pick a theme for my favorite travel experiences of 2008 it would be “firsts.” Of course, it’s always nice going back to visit old favorites, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as traveling to new horizons.
Game Viewing in South Africa
In October, I took my first trip to Africa. This year, ASTA’s International Destination Expo (IDE) will be held in March at South Africa’s Sun City. It’s an incredible resort but, to me, the best part of my trip there was the time I spent at the MalaMala Game Reserve. I knew I was some place special when, within my first five minutes at the resort, a herd of elephants strolled slowly by. The property borders Kruger National Park and twice a day, our group would drive around the reserve in specially designed Range Rovers game-spotting. Thanks to the skills of our guide, we were able to get within feet of a wide variety of animals, including the Big Five (lions, rhinos, Cape buffalo, elephants and leopards), zebras, giraffes, hippos, hyenas and much more. (Agents should take a good look at the deals offered to those who attend the IDE. This is a must-see destination, and there may never be a better time to go.)
ASTA International Destination Expo
MalaMala Game Reserve
Vienna, Salzburg and Prague with Adventures by Disney
Working in the travel business, it can be easy to become jaded by the tremendous experiences we get to enjoy, but there’s nothing better than when we get to share our travels with our families. Over the summer, I was able to do just that when my wife and kids joined me on an Adventures by Disney trip to Vienna, Salzburg and Prague. This was my kids’ first trip to Europe, and Adventures by Disney took care of every detail. There were many great moments on this trip, including a private violin concert of Mozart’s music in his birthplace of Salzburg; dinner in the Vienna zoo after hours; and a “royal meal” in a medieval building overlooking Prague’s Old Town Square. Best of all, however, was simply watching my kids play tag in a plaza in Vienna, and knowing they were having the time of their lives.
Adventures by Disney
Crystal Cruise in the Med
In 2008, I sailed aboard a Crystal Cruise ship for the first time, visiting Kusadasi, Turkey; Mykonos, Greece; and Serande, Albania. Crystal is consistently picked as the world’s best cruise line by Travel + Leisure readers year after year, and after sailing on the Crystal Serenity, I can see why. While part of me wants to say the best parts of the cruise were the meals I had onboard at Nobu, I have to admit there was at least one evening that was better. It was a sunset concert of classical music at the Roman ruins at Ephesus, Turkey. In typical Crystal fashion, no expense was spared as we were treated to the music of Hayden, Bach and Mozart along the backdrop of an ancient Roman amphitheater. It was the ultimate high point on a cruise full of great moments.
A Romantic Weekend in Nuevo Vallarta
Last year, my wife and I were lucky enough to spend the weekend at a resort in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, just north of Puerto Vallarta. It was my wife’s first time in that part of Mexico and it quickly became one of her favorites. We were at the Villa Del Palmar Flamingos and, besides enjoying this luxurious resort, we also tried out its new Tatewari Spa, one of the best in all of Mexico. There’s nothing like some time spent being pampered south of the border to revitalize oneself!
Villa Del Palmar Flamingos, Nuevo Vallarta
Getting to Know Jamaica
I began 2008 with my first trip to Jamaica. On most press trips, a group of reporters hop off a bus for a quick tour of a property and then hop back on to go to the next resort. On this trip, I drove from Montego Bay to Kingston with my own personal guide from the Jamaica Tourist Board. Adrian truly knows Jamaica, and in our time spent together, as we dropped in on resorts along the way to do site inspections and talk about the industry, I learned more from Adrian than I ever could have imagined. It was a unique introduction to one of the world’s great destinations.
Jamaica Tourist Board