A Round Up of My Travels in 2009

A Round Up of My Travels in 2009
Posted 12-31-2009 3:02 pm by Admin Admin
Looking back on my travels for 2009…

I continued to explore the Pacific Northwest of course, but also started what will be an ongoing learning process to become more familiar with places outside the Northwest in connection with my decision to affiliate with a full service travel agency (will write more about that later).  My primary focus will still be on the Pacific Northwest but I’m having a great time learning new areas as well.


January:  had a fantastic opportunity to do a fam trip with NW Explorations on one of their first trips in the Sea of Cortez in Baja Mexico.  The Northern Song is an 85 foot yacht with five cabins and our small group had a fantastic time exploring the islands between La Paz and Loreto.  A particular highlight was the day trip from Loreto across the peninsula to the Bahia Magdalena, where we saw dozens of gray whales, including many mothers and very young calves.  Unfortunately the Northern Song is no longer doing this itinerary but there are other small ship options in the Sea of Cortez, and the Northern Song will continue to do trips in Alaska between May and September.


February:  stayed at the new Four Season in downtown Seattle, what a great hotel!  It’s definitely a wonderful addition to my list of preferred hotels in Seattle (I have preferred rates there for my clients).  Loved swimming in the heated outdoor pool, looking out at Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains…imagine, swimming outside in Seattle in the winter!  The spa was fantastic too.


March:  I won a three night stay at Dreams Los Cabos in a holiday drawing so took advantage of it.  It’s a very nice all-inclusive on the Los Cabos Corridor.  It was my first trip to Cabo and I had a great time…despite falling and breaking my ankle about halfway into the trip!  I have to say, the resort and the hotel doctor did a great job of looking after me.  I also had a chance to check out a couple other resorts while I was down there:  I had lunch and a fantastic spa experience at the beautiful Esperanza, and spent two wonderful nights at Las Ventanas, where I kept my butler busy pushing me around in my wheelchair (the resort has a lot of stairs so it would have been tough getting around on crutches).  The staff there could not have been nicer or more accommodating and the resort is gorgeous.


April:  Once I got my cast off and was fitted with a walking boot and cane, I was cleared to go on my first ever large ship cruise, a seven-night round trip out of Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas.  It was a “Seminar at Sea” for travel agents, and I went with the idea that I’d get a chance to see what a big ship cruise was all about so I could advise clients (especially those traveling with kids), but I must confess, I thought I’d pretty much be grinning and bearing it.  Well, I was wrong, I loved it!  So much so that I immediately booked another cruise (I ended up going on three this year).


May:  I started off the month with a quick overnight trip to Vancouver to tour the Crystal Serenity (staying at my long time preferred hotel in Vancouver, the Sutton Place), then took the train back up to Vancouver a few days later to embark on a four night repositioning cruise on the Golden Princess.  I spent the night before the cruise at the new Loden Hotel, which is a really nice, modern boutique hotel that’s become another favorite.  The cruise was fun; we went up the Inside Passage as far as Ketchikan, then back to Seattle.  I enjoyed having a balcony (the cost for a balcony was the same as that for an inside cabin, due to a last minute special) to watch the gorgeous Inside Passage and Alaska scenery slide by.  Then I made yet another trip to Vancouver for a Holland America weekend fam that involved classes and a tour of the Zuiderdam.  After the fam, I moved over to the new Shangri-La Hotel for a night and added another great Vancouver hotel to my list of favorites—it’s nice to have so many great options so I can recommend the hotel that’s perfect for a particular client.


I finished off the month with a visit to the San Juan Islands—a couple days on Orcas where I stayed at the lovely Cabin at Spring Bay, and a night on San Juan Island where I enjoyed staying in the lodge at the Lakedale Resort.  After a number of previous whale watching trips in the San Juans where I’d gotten skunked on seeing orcas (just bad luck of the draw), I had a fantastic day out with Captain Jim Maya and saw tons of them.


June, July and August:  I stayed put over the summer and kept busy planning trips throughout the Northwest for clients.  Business in 2009 was down compared to 2008, but thankfully not by as much as I’d feared and the summer was quite busy.


September:  Having caught the cruise bug and having enjoyed the short cruise to Alaska so much, I decided to do a week long cruise out of Vancouver on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas.  It was great…gorgeous scenery, and we saw a lot of whales from the ship, which was fantastic.  Even better was my whale watching trip out of Hoonah (Icy Strait Point), where we enjoyed a couple hours of watching humpbacks.  I also really liked the excursion I did up to the Yukon from Skagway, including a fantastic scenic train ride back to town.  I decided cruising makes a great solo vacation, by the way; you have plenty of opportunities to meet people and be sociable when you want to, but it’s also easy to find a quiet corner to read a book or just watch the scenery go by.  I stayed at the newly renovated Four Seasons in Vancouver prior to starting the cruise—it looks great and I’m very glad to be able to recommend it highly once again.


October:  Time for my annual trip to New York City to see friends and attend the Conde Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist events.  I stayed at two hotels this time:  On the Ave, which is a good value, moderately priced hotel on the Upper West Side that I’ve stayed at and liked in the past, and the very swanky Mandarin Oriental on Columbus Circle, where I shared a room with one of my fellow Top Travel Specialists (she got us a great deal).  A couple highlights of the trip were some fantastic lunches:  the amazingly good deal of two courses for $28 at Eleven Madison, and the exquisite course after course delight of Per Se.  I also took the train up to Boston for a few days to visit family.


November:  I attended a travel conference in New Orleans.  It was the first time I’d been back since Katrina and it was a little difficult.  The conference organizers arranged for us to see the Musician’s Village and Make It Right developments in the Lower Ninth Ward and while it’s encouraging to see the new buildings, it was also shocking to see so many houses with the spray painted markings still left from the searches after the flooding, as well as major swaths of empty, overgrown lots on streets where the houses used to be cheek by jowl.  But the French Quarter, CBD and Garden District all seemed the same as I remembered from my last visit in 2004.  The conference hotel was the Royal Sonesta which was very nice although I wasn’t wild about being right on Bourbon Street (thankfully my room was on the back of the hotel and very quiet).  After the conference, I moved to the W French Quarter for two nights, which I absolutely loved.  A couple highlights of the trip:  dinner at my favorite NOLA restaurant, Jacque-Imo’s (still as fantastic as I remembered) and a swamp tour!


December:  I headed back to Cabo to use a gift certificate for the gorgeous One & Only Palmilla.  It was fantastic; my junior suite was just up from the beach and even had its own plunge pool.  I escaped a week of bitter cold in Seattle, too, which made the trip even nicer.  I then moved to the new Capella Pedregal in Cabo for two nights, which was also very nice.  I liked the fact that it was felt away from it all due to being on the other side of a mountain from downtown Cabo (you go through a dramatic tunnel to reach the resort), yet you can walk downtown in 10-15 minutes.  In addition to lovely days sitting by the pool enjoying the warm, sunny weather, a particular highlight of my trip was driving to Todos Santos, a small town about an hour north of Cabo.  It’s known for its art galleries and for being the home of Hotel California, rumored to be the inspiration for the Eagles song.  Driving in Mexico was not nearly as scary as I’d read—in fact it wasn’t scary at all—and it was nice to visit a place that’s a little less on the beaten path than Cabo itself.


So that’s how the year went.  Please don’t hesitate to email me for more information on any of it, or post a comment.  I plan to write longer posts about a few things mentioned here; one of my resolutions for 2010 is to post on this blog more frequently.


Happy New Year everyone, and here’s wishing for a fantastic 2010 with lots of great travel!


Note:  I was hosted by some of the properties mentioned and paid travel industry rates at others.  In some cases, I paid retail as there were times when the rates offered to the public this year were better than industry rates.


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