Adventure Luxury Travel (formerly Jon's Dive & Travel Services) had their recurring, South Africa, Small Group Cape Town & Kruger Private Reserve Adventure lead by Jon Haraty, a Certified South Africa Travel Expert. Our Group of 9 met at JFK Airport on the morning of August 5th. After introductions, we prepared to board our South African Airways flight to Johannesburg. I always recommend South African Airways for several reasons. First they have the most legroom in coach than any other carrier to Africa. Second, the flight from JFK is a direct flight into Johannesburg and it is the only one leaving in the morning, meaning you can arrive in Johannesburg, go through customs and immigration and catch your local flight to Cape Town, arriving in the afternoon with plenty of time to explore the waterfront and eat.
After our 15 hour flight, where we were treated to South African wines, fine food, and a fantastic entertainment system, we deplaned in Johannesburg went though customs and collected our luggage, exchanged or US Dollars for South Africa Rands. (Hint: if you are exchanging money, make sure you check the exchange fee as well as the exchange rate. What looks like a great deal my not be.) The current exchange rate is excellent! Your Us Dollars will go a lot further than several years ago.
The group now proceeded to find the SAA counter to check our luggage again for out domestic flight to Cape Town. We then walked around the large airport a bit before proceeding to our departure gate for our flight to Cape Town. (hint: do not accept help to get to your next gate after going through customs. There are many people that will offer to help you navigate the airport and even try to carry your bags. Don't accept any help! They will take you and then demand money and if you don't give them enough, they will harass you until you do!!)
Stay tuned for Day One in Cape Town in our next Blog Post!
If you are interested in Jazz and cruising, please take a look at the article below, which explains some of the differences Jazz cruisers see between the 3 different Jazz Cruises offered. This is an article from the Jazz Cruise Weekender Newsletter 03/17/2018. To select your Jazz Cruise for 2019 (2018 sold out a year in advance.) Don't wait, select your 2019 cruise now. http://www.adventureluxurytravel.com/jazz-cruises.html Happy St Patrick's Day!!!
Our Take: Why Do We Categorize Music, Particularly Jazz?
The Weekender is delivered to more than 125,000 people weekly, all of whom have expressed an interest in one of our jazz cruise programs, The Jazz Cruise, Blue Note at Sea and The Smooth Jazz Cruise. Though the extent of the angst seems to be waning, the interplay among fans of these various cruises is fun to follow. They bicker over the place in the spectrum of their favorite cruise and challenge the bona fides of the others. Here is the truth. Each genre has its own merits and drawbacks, but, in the end, good music is good music.
Today, marks the end of the second week of The Smooth Jazz Cruise '18, the 15th Anniversary of that cruise. The headliners on the cruise were "elected" by the guests during the summer of 2016 and both sailings have been fully subscribed since early 2017. The music was spectacular. Each night was filled with talented headliners presenting their show backed up by a cadre of equally amazing band members. The music moved you to dance, to get up on your feet and to appreciate with thunderous applause. The collegial atmosphere of the musicians fostered many guest appearances by them in the shows of the others. Never knowing who might "pop-up" at any one time was part of the joy of the music. Strong melodies, dominant grooves and, for the most part, upbeat tempos dominated the music offerings. The cruise is billed as The Greatest Party at Sea and the Artists delivered.
Despite the fact that over 4,000 passengers (2,000/cruise) went home happy and thrilled, the "what do we call this music" cloud continued to hang above our heads. "Smooth Jazz" was a radio station music director's stab at unifying what was then a new form of instrumental music. Few monikers have been more inaccurate or more detrimental to a product than "smooth jazz." Granted, some of the early offerings were gentle and mood setting instrumental music, often maligned as being "elevator music". Kenny G is the poster child for this image, of course.
As the years have gone by, the music has become more R & B and Funk. The character of the music is driven more by the individual artist than by a genre. Each of our headliners has their own music quite frankly. Perhaps there are some musical conventions that still govern the production of this music, but they seem to be fewer and fewer. The "smooth jazz" movement is now a coalition of musicians who had been selected by "smooth jazz" radio stations years ago. They continue to develop and expand their horizons, and, if you were to compare their music now with their earlier works, you should find the differences to be significant.
The "smooth jazz" artists are spectacular musicians, great showmen and near the top of the food chain when it comes to engagement of their fans. If I could come up with a name for the cruise that more accurately fit what is happening I would, but, being the 1st cruise of its kind and nature, we will continue to call it The Smooth Jazz Cruise, mainly as a tribute to the artists who built that music genre and whose skills, talents and dedication continue to produce amazing music that the fans just love!
Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of Entertainment Cruise Productions.
After our flight to Turks & Caicos and van ride to Beaches Resort, we were dropped off directly at our village. We were immediately greeted with a drink and a cool moist cloth to clean our hands and face for that refreshing island feeling!
Our concierge then greeted us and invited us into the lobby and a table for a private check-in. One of the privileges of the Concierge Suites. After check-in and a brief introduction to the property, we were taken by our Concierge to our Italian Village Concierge Suite with Kids Room. The Italian Village is our favorite village at the resort. All the others are great, and each has its own flavor, but the pool and swim up bar are the BEST! Also very easy access to the best strip of beach in the Turks and Caicos.
After the pool and a quick check of the ocean, we went back to the rooms to change for dinner. Linda wanted to eat at the French Restaurant in the French Village. It has great food and excellent service. We had another fabulous meal that is no cost at this Luxury Included resort. We then watched a show at the open air theater, where the Muppets hold their shows during the day and at night they have very good family entertainment.
We then strolled over to the ice cream shop where we got hand made sundaes and shakes. In the back of the shop is the Burgers, Hot Dogs, and Pizza, for a quick bit to eat if you want it. The kids love this place!
After, we strolled back to our rooms and it being a long day of flying and walking to the different villages in the resort, we called it a night!
The day started early with the Enchantment pulling into port in Nassau. We got up and ate breakfast in the Main Dinning room again. Today went much better with improved service and things went much faster than Saturday. We left the ship about 10 AM headed to Breezes, an all inclusive resort in Nassau at Cable Beach. We walked up to Main Street and took the number 10 bus to the bus stop directly across from Breezes. Very nice, very clean and an extremely personable driver. We felt safe at all times. I wanted to try the bus as we had heard very good things about it and you can't beat the price, $1.25, US or Bahamian Dollars and change. If you don't have exact change, let your driver know when you get on and he will have change for you when you get off. You pay at the end of the ride. Please let your driver know where you are going or you may make a round trip ride with never getting off! The buses runs every 15 minutes.
Linda and I really like Breezes. They have a great, Linda thinks the best, buffet in the Bahamas. Believe me when I say she knows as we have been all over the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Breezes also has probably the best spot on Cable Beach. I have sent my budget conscious Honeymooners there because they are a 4 star experience at 3 star prices. Amenities are three specialty restaurants besides the buffet, spa facilities and a swim-up bar. There is also a poolside grill for hamburgers, conch and great fries among other items.
We were there on a day pass, which starts at 10AM and ends at 6PM. If you go on a day pass and you are on a cruise, make sure you leave enough time to get back to the ship by bus or cab. The cab back is $16 dollars plus tip. Figure $20 bucks.
Now you can see why the bus is such a bargain! If you want more information on a honeymoon to Breezes, contact me. My recommendation for the best honeymoon, special occasion romance anniversary is to book the Beachfront Suites. Book early as there are only a few and they go very quickly. You have sliding glass doors that lead out to your own patio. You are only steps away from the beach with your own reserved cabana that comes with beachside bar service. Did I say there was no tipping anywhere on the resort?!!! While any room is great, these beachfront suites are the best for romance.
We were in the pool when the storm blew up and we had to vacate the pool and beach area beach of lightning in the area. We decided to go in and eat at the lunch buffet, which started at 12:30. Everything was excellent with a huge amount of variety. One thing to be aware of, if it says jerked or spicy, it is!
We then had desert, went upstairs to the bar, got a drink and sat in the rec area watching the Sunday football games on the big screen TV. It looked like the rain was not going to let up and it didn't, we decided to take a cab back to the ship rather than walk across the street in the pouring rain.
Part two tomorrow.
Day 2 started well even if the bathroom drain did bubble overnight, it did not overflow and Cryson was quick to call for repairs as soon as he found out about the drain from us in the morning. He has been a pleasure to have as a stateroom attendant! Things then started to go downhill as it looked like rain was setting in and we decided not to chance taking the tender over to Royal Caribbean's private Island Coco Cay. We instead opted to go to breakfast in the main dinning room, and entered through the Diamond and diamond Plus members doorway. Usually you are seated immediately but they seemed to be very disorganized this morning and we had to wait 10 to 12 minutes to be seated. It was not as it was very busy as there were many empty tables in the dinning room and maybe 13 or 14 other Diamond Members already seated at tables. They explained that they were trying to get us a table for two. This would have been very nice if it had gone a little faster as our head waiter was sent every where to get silverware and wound up having another dinning room supervisor tell her to just take the set-ups from another table right by where we were standing. This couldn't have been done 10 minutes before? We left the dinning room after breakfast (which was OK) and then headed for the Solarium. For those not familiar with Royal Caribbean ships, this is considered the adult area 16 and older. In the many cruises we have taken, this is the first time I have ever had a pool attendant actually ask someone to leave who was under age. They were 12. They politely left and I commend the attendant for actually following the rules. It made for a relaxing and enjoyable time in the pool.
After the pool we just came back to the room and enjoyed sitting on our balcony, Linda reading and I doing my day one blog. Eventually it was time for dinner and we decided to actually go to our own table on deck four of the main restaurant. We met our waiter Mary, who was from the African Island of Mauritius. She had started out working in the business class hotels on the island but wanted to experience the world and jumped at the chance to work on a cruise ship. She was an excellent and personable waiter. Mary's assistant waiter was always there offering more bread and watching my Coke glass and had a refill on the table just as I would finish the first glass. I really enjoy that kind of service.The food was good but the escargot was a little gritty and they never have been in the past. The strip steak and the vegetables were very good. The deserts were excellent.
After the dinner we were invited to a Crown & Anchor Captain's loyalty reception. Usually the Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members have a private reception with drinks and a talk about what is on the horizon for the Royal Caribbean fleet. and then the ships Officers are introduced. On this ship the reception was held in the Centrum (center of the ship for those not familiar with the cruise ships). Anyone walking by could just sit down and listen, there were no drinks offered and no discussion about new ships in the fleet or where Royal was headed as a company. My wife found this to be very disappointing and uncharacteristic of a loyalty reception.
So as Day 2 ended, the euphoria of a cruise was still not there. We went to bed and hoped for better on Day Three. Stay tuned and see how it went.
At the last moment before going to Fort Lauderdale for a meeting with my South African safari suppliers at the South African Airways Africa Showcase, we decided to hop on a three night cruise on the Enchantment of the Seas from the Port of Miami. We chose Royal Caribbean because we love their ships and staff, so much so that we are Crown & Anchor Diamond Plus members.
We used Limos of South Florida to transfer us from Ft Lauderdale Airport to the Port of Miami. Our driver was there on time and loaded our luggage and drove us to Miami with a safe drive and a friendly manner. Check-in at the pier was fast and easy. When we boarded the ship we were welcomed back with smiles. We were stopped by one of the waiters for the Chops Steak House, a specialty restaurant aboard. We really weren’t planning on doing any of the specialty restaurants on this cruise and have only gone to two in the past but he convinced us to try this one on the first night. It was the best move we made on the cruise so far. More on the restaurant later.
When we have returned to a royal Caribbean ship we have always felt like we were coming home. That feeling seems to be lacking on this ship. While you are greeted everywhere with welcome back, the warmth just doesn’t seem to shine through as it has in the past. I realize that the ship, since being moved from Port Canaveral to Miami, has made the 3 & 4 night cruises more for the first time cruiser who would never pickup on the difference; it was still a little disappointing. The ship itself is beginning to show its age despite the ship overhaul before being moved to Port Canaveral and a short refurbishment for more of the amenities of the other, newer ships, like interactive ship maps at the elevators and high speed internet that is so much faster and reliable than the old internet. It is in the staterooms that you really see the age, especially if you have an outside balcony stateroom. We had a D2 Balcony Stateroom, Port-side and Forward. Despite the attempt to keep the rust at bay, it is everywhere on the balcony and evident that painting will not keep it from reemerging. The sink had a leak at the drain pipe, which they repaired quickly and the bathroom channel drain backed up during the night and flooded the bathroom floor. Once again, they were there quickly and completed the repairs that night. It was bubbling again a little this morning so we will see what happens tonight.
Even with the above going on, we are enjoying this cruise and this ship. It is beautiful looking out on a mirrored ocean as I write this blog from the chair and table on our private balcony. Our stateroom attendant, Cryson, was wonderful. He is very friendly and even more efficient. He makes sure everything is spotless and always asks if we need anything before he leaves. The same holds true for the specialty restaurant Chops Steakhouse, which I promised to fill you in on.
Our waiter was Theressa. The spelling could be off a little on the S’s! She was wonderful. She has been with Royal Caribbean for 19 years. If you know anything about this industry, it is that the pace of this life on-board ship has most staff leaving after 3 or 4 tours if not sooner. Her smile is infectious and her recommendations right on the money. If she recommends it, try it. You will not be disappointed. While I am sure any of the steaks are excellent, we had the Filet Mignon. It was out of this world, so flavorful and melt in the mouth tender. They will pair wines with your meal and the tip is included in the $35 US Dollars per person price. If you are a diamond plus or pinnacle member the cost is even better but only on the first two nights of the cruise.
We left Chops very full and very pleased. We then moseyed down to the casino on-board and found that they have a lot of new digital Slot Machines. Usually the odds of winning on the first night of the cruise are pretty good since they always wanted to draw in new players with the sound of winning slots going off and cruisers screaming and cheering with the wins. This cruise has been eerily quiet, even though the ship sailed full, and it looks like they have tightened up the slots. So needless to say, it was time to head to bed. That was when the aforementioned water issues occurred.
Stay tuned for Day 2 tomorrow!
To any United States passport holders traveling or contemplating traveling to Uganda, a reminder. Please be advised that Uganda has instituted new visa requirements. The government lowered the cost for a Uganda Single Entry Visa to $50 USD from $100 USD. Good News! Now the not so good news. The Uganda government has also decided that you can no longer get a visa at the airport upon arrival in Uganda or at the border crossings by vehicle. You must have the visa in advance and on your person when entering the country. You will be turned back if you do not have one and the airlines will not let you board their planes unless you can show proof of the visa. To facilitate acquiring a visa, they can now be filled out online and submitted. http://www.ugandavisapassport.org/uganda-embassy-dc-visa-application-form/ Paper Visa forms will no longer be accepted! These regulations went into effect on July 1, 2015. You will also need proof of a Yellow Fever Vaccination due to cases of yellow fever being confirmed in Kenya and Uganda. his is for your protection and is a lifetime (supposedly) protection.
Welcome to our new Blog and our new website. We hope you like them both. I am Jon Haraty, owner of Adventure Luxury Travel, LLC, formerly known as Jon's Dive & Travel Services, Same great service, same great romance and adventure travel expert, just a new name to better reflect those discerning clients we serve.
Adventure Luxury Travel specializes in adventure travel to Africa, romance and honeymoons in exotic locations around the globe and here at home, and since I am experiencing it now, generational travel to the best whole family vacations in the world.
My clients desire, request and expect luxury services and accommodations from their travel expert. I am there to make that happen and to make sure you are getting value for your money spent. I work with only the best suppliers around the world to make sure my clients receive the service and recognition they deserve. So, I welcome aboard every new client and all my old clients. I will treat you with the ideas and services I have always given you with Jon's Dive & Travel.