Celebrations International Travel Blog

Archive for October 2009

Yesterday, Disney Cruise Line unveiled the plans for its newest ship, the Disney Dream, set to debut in 2011.

The following are excerpts from http://www.cruisecritic.com:

Disney Cruise Line Unveils Dream Details at NYC Show-and-Tell

At a festive show-and-tell today at Guastavino’s in New York City, Disney Cruise Line unveiled the first tidbits about its first new ship in over a decade — the 128,000-ton, 4,000-passenger Disney Dream

Disney Dream will feature an area called The District on Deck 4, aft, a playground for grownups with bars and clubs. The 18-and-older neighborhood features several lounges, including Skyline, a bar with faux windows that will display changing cityscapes from Paris to Tokyo. Beyond that, you can look forward to a few major innovations: The industry’s first “watercoaster”! The AquaDuck (yes, as in Donald) isn’t your standard water slide. The coaster is a see-through acrylic tube — the length of 2-1/2 football fields — that winds around the top deck from funnel to funnel, up and down, at one point cantilevering off the port side 150 feet above the ocean!

Inside cabins with virtual portholes. This industry first is so simple — and so fantastic — we have to wonder why it wasn’t thought of sooner. Inside cabins will now have a window to the outside world via virtual portholes. High-definition cameras placed outside the ship feed actual footage of the seascape to the flat-screen “portholes” inside.

Interactive experiences for the kids, Disney-style. Kids will be able to interact with Crush, the animated turtle from “Finding Nemo,” via a cinema-size plasma screen, and experience what it is like to be “toy size” in Andy’s Room, a larger-than-life replica of the “Toy Story” set. There will also be a play area called Monsters Academy, visited regularly by Mike, the lovable green guy from “Monsters Inc.”

Stay tuned for more details as they become available. Contact Celebrations International Travel to learn more about a Disney Cruise vacation today!

A fellow agent recently enjoyed dinner at the Chef’s Table onboard Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess while cruising the Mexican Riviera.  Click on the link to see the gourmet menu from that night: http://ow.ly/x8mf

The Chef’s Table is an exclusive dining experience available on all Princess ships most nights.  Reservations are required, and the special dinner is preceded by a tour of the ship’s galley and cocktails and hors d’oeuves with the Executive chef.  Dinner includes wines especially paired to accent the dishes served.   A true connoisseur’s experience….can’t wait to try it on my next Princess cruise!

We are most definitely all about great food and wine, can you tell?

FUN FACTS about the OASIS OF THE SEAS

  • 3,000 – Miles of cable on the Oasis
  • 24 – Restaurants
  • 37 – Bars
  • 2,700 Deck chairs
  • 150 – Suites on the Oasis
  • 37 – Stateroom categories with 8 of them being completely new.
  • 13 – Retail outlets including Coach, Pets at Sea ( build a bear concept), Candy Beach – specialty candy store, Pinwheels – children retail, Regaliafine jewelry and gifts, Solera, perfume and cosmetic shop, Prince and Green – boutique style fashions.
  • Central Park includes 12,175 plants with 734 hanging vines, 56 trees and bamboo. Some will be over 24ft high.
  • The Aqua Theater pool is the largest and deepest at sea, at 17ft in depth.The pool’s depth will rise and fall to meet the need of each performance while underwater cameras will film performers and project images onto 2 giant LED screens that flank the stage.
  • The Rising Tide Bar, the first ever at levitating bar at sea, offers cruise guests a 4 minute ride from deck 5 to 8 where they can stop at any point in the middle and have a party.
  • Oasis also offers the first dedicated Teen Spa facility at sea. There is a complete menu of treatments for teens so they can enjoy being pampered.
  • Oasis introduces the Royal Babies and Royal Tots Nursery for children ages 6 months to 36 months that will be staffed with a specialized nursery staff.
  • Sure to be a personal favorite, The Cupcake Cupboard, the first cupcake shop at sea offering a broad assortment of cupcakes at a la carte pricing.

View information on Oasis of the Seas sailings, or learn more about Royal Caribbean cruises on the Celebrations International Travel Web site.

An update just published on Cruise Critic caught my attention:

Oasis of the Seas Update:  Here Comes the Crew!

The article says that crew members of Royal Caribbean’s new Oasis of the Seas have begun arriving in Turku, Finland to prepare for the ship’s maiden voyage.   These crew members are being flown in from Miami, Manila, and Mumbai.

Seeing Mumbai mentioned in the article reminded me of a young chauffeur who drove us around in Kolkata, India one day during our last trip.  Towards the end of the day, the driver glanced into the rear-view mirror and addressed my husband.

“Sir,” he said hestitantly, “May I ask if your wife is from Thailand?”  Agni responded no, that I am American.  A short conversation ensued, and the driver told Agni that he was curious because he wanted to go overseas to find work, and he was considering Thailand.

Once Agni translated their conversation (It was in Hindi.), my gut reaction was to advise the young man to seek out a job onboard a cruise ship.  I asked if he spoke any English, and he was able to tell me “Yes, I speak some English.”  I went on to explain that there are all types of jobs onboard cruise ships, depending on what his skills were (prep cooks, dishwashers, busboys, waiters, stateroom hosts, deck hands, maintenance workers, etc.). 

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas now adds to the list of traditional cruise staff jobs the need for horticulturalists and zip line instructors.

When he asked how to get a job, I, armed with my modern-minded American ideas, told Agni to tell him to go to an Internet cafe and look on the cruise line Web sites.  What was so awful about it (that I later realized and still regret) was that it completely slipped my mind that Mumbai was the closest cruise terminal, and I should have just told him to go there and talk to anyone he could.

I am a firm believer in giving people a chance, especially those willing to work hard.  I applaud the cruise lines for hiring crew members from all over the world, which not only gives those individuals a chance to make a decent living, but often gives someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to the opportunity to see the world.

From the cruise passenger’s perspective, I am always amazed at how many different languages and nationalities are represented aboard most oceanliners.  I think it enriches the guest experience to meet such diverse people, many of whom can share their insights into the ports of call.   In the case of international passengers, a culturally diverse crew can be essential to ensuring that the guests’ cruise experience is smooth and enjoyable.

Information on oceanliner cruises is available on the Celebrations International Travel Web site.

I found this travel tweet’s blog entry quite insightful: http://www.501places.com/2009/10/travel-broadens-the-mind-i-beg-to-differ/

I think the notion that travel broadens the mind is definitely true in that as we travel, we discover new places, different cultures, people and languages. But the other writer has a very valid point in that travel does not broaden your mind unless you have an open mind to begin with. Of course our own individual view and experience of new places, cultures and people are influenced by our previous travels, life experiences, background and beliefs, but if we don’t travel with open minds, whatever we see, hear, and do is filtered through the lens of whatever pre-conceived notions or ideas we might have. To that effect, I think this could be all-encompassing, from long-standing notion ingrained by the environments and/or cultures we were raised in to ideas garnered from pop culture (TV shows or commercials, the Internet, celebrity news, etc.).

Some of my own experiences might be good examples: Being an American-born Chinese, I was used to being one of the only (if not the only) Asian child in school in the southern United States. It wasn’t always easy, and I knew I was culturally different, but I never realized the extent until I went to Europe as a teen. One of my French host mothers said to me “You’re not American, you’re Chinese.” Having grown up in a family that always considered me as American as apple pie, and never having had anyone say that to me, (and especially not someone from outside American culture) I didn’t know how to react. Part of me wanted to lecture her on what it means to be a part of America’s “Melting Pot,” but I also wondered if anything I said would make a difference. The fact that I didn’t fit the mold of whatever her idea of a “typical American” is kept her from experiencing what it was like to get to know a multicultural American, in my opinion.

A good example of how pop culture influences people’s thinking is my experience with the teenagers at school in France. Back then, coffee wasn’t “en vogue” with most American teens, and I used to down soda just like everyone else. While in Europe, I learned to drink coffee, but not the strong black stuff without cream. Seeing me with a soda in hand, the teens there often remarked “How do you people live on Coke and hamburgers?” They had learned from watching syndicated American TV shows that American kids are always eating burgers and drinking soda. They wouldn’t dare attack french fries, as they are a favorite with the French as well! Talk about how modern pop culture influences our thinking.

Speaking of broadening the mind, until my husband and I traveled together to his native India for the first time, I had always considered myself well-traveled. Suffice it to say that that trip broadened my mind not only with new and different experiences, but it forced me to see first-hand what a wonderful thing it is to call our prosperous, modern nation home. You’ll hear more about our travels to India in future posts.

Here’s to open minds, travel that enriches the soul, and the endless memories and experiences our travels leave us with. That’s why we believe in Celebrating Life Through Travel SM.

I came across the picture of the Starbucks location at Sagrada Familia in Barcelona:

Starbucks at Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Starbucks at Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Considering that Sagrada Familia is a church, I can’t decide if this Starbucks takes the cake over the controversial new McDonald’s about to open in the Louvre in Paris.

What do you think?

I am amazed at the response that my post from yesterday entitled McDonald’s in the Louvre!  I had no idea that it would generate such a buzz.  Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog, left comments, and referred others to view it.  And a big thank you to WordPress for listing Celebrations International Travel’s blog on their homepage.

In the spirit of fairness, I must tell you that I enjoy a McDonald’s hamburger, Chicken McNuggets, and french fries just as much as the next guy, just not all the time, and certainly not on vacation at the Louvre.  The reason why I included the words “all the time” is because many Europeans (especially the French) have long held tight to the notion that all Americans eat McDonald’s (or whatever fast-food) and chug down soda incessantly.  I am speaking, of course, of the most stereotypical of viewpoints.  I must confess:  I love my Coke, but I did go six weeks without it once in France because it was so expensive at the time.

But just because Coke’s my favorite and I eat McDonald’s sometimes doesn’t make me a stereotypical American, whatever anybody’s idea of that is.  Nor does it mean that I agree with or understand the decision to let McDonald’s take up residence inside the Louvre!  No, I don’t think the golden arches, or any other fast-food restaurant for that matter, are a good fit for the ancient grounds of the Louvre.  Frankly, I think the whole connotation is disrespectful to the institution of the Louvre.  I can only hope that the controversy over this topic is directed at a clash of cultural ideals and not intended as purely anti-American sentiment.

After all this talk of “no fast food,” I thought I’d show you my idea of what classic French cuisine entails.  As culinary travel specialists, we endeavor to share with our travelers the best that each destination has to offer, whether it be five-star cuisine or home cooking.  What’s important to us is quality and good taste.  All tours are customized for your family or group, so the sample itineraries are provided to inspire you!

We invite you to browse our sample itineraries for all culinary travel destinations currently featured and let us know your thoughts.

I received this link in a Tweet from @ZagatBuzz:

http://is.gd/3Ytpq

The article talks about Alton Brown’s musings in a recent interview.  Personally, I thought it was in bad taste for this to be reported on (magnifying whatever may or may not have been said in the actual interview), but supposing Alton Brown truly expressed how he felt in that interview, it makes me wonder what quirky take he might have on today’s announcement that McDonald’s will open next month in the Louvre.

What do you think?  I can’t decide if I think he’d put a nerdy spin on it or if he’d choose to be sarcastically funny.

Come to think of it, I wonder what Alton Brown’s take on Culinary Travel would be.  Do you think I might have to convince him that the idea of a culinary tour isn’t to just eat your way through a destination?

As a follow-up to my earlier post about McDonald’s opening in the Louvre, a couple of thought I wanted to add:

1) @GoPlanit tweeted a link to an article about ways to experience culture in your travels.  At the top of the list was “Eat the local food.”  I could not agree more.  In my mind, this is the whole reason why Culinary Travel has evolved into the form of travel that it is today.  The food of any destination, whether here in the U.S. or abroad, is deeply rooted in its culture and its people.  To not taste the flavors of your travel destinations is to me the equivalent of missing some of the best attractions the destination has to offer.

2)  About 10 years ago, my mom and a friend took a trip to Paris.  This was my mom’s second trip there, and neither she nor her friend spoke French.  She called me from a pay phone in the Louvre to ask:

a) Where do we go shopping?  (Somehow she expected me to have memorized the Paris subway map to give her directions.)

b) Where should we have lunch?  When I realized exactly where she was, I said “Turn around.  Do you see the cafe where you, Dad, and I had lunch last time?  You can split a bottle of wine for $5.00 there.”  She was happy with that answer.  Now consider how pitiful it would sound if in the future I were to actually say to someone “Yeah, there’s McDonald’s in there too.”  That just sucks the novelty right out of the whole experience.  If all travelers were OK with sticking to fast food and other chains,  we culinary travel specialists would be in a fine mess, wouldn’t we?

What are your thoughts on travel, food, and culture?  Do you have a favorite food-related experience from your travels?  Post a message and share!

Today’s announcement that McDonald’s is opening in the Louvre Museum next month is very upsetting to me, although I can’t really say I’m surprised.

When I learned about the Louvre in high school history and French classes, there was never any mention of the modernization that now affects the Louvre.  That was because it was before I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid was ever constructed, and before fast-food giant McDonald’s decided to take up residence in the historical treasure.  We were taught to admire not only the museum’s collections, but also the history, architecture, and work of art that is the Louvre itself.

As an ardent traveler and a travel agent, I prize the historical significance and preservation of all sites such as the Louvre.  Just as I can understand that there was a need to better accommodate the Louvre’s thousands of visitors by excavating over the site of the pyramid, I can understand the need to provide more food service and amenities for visitors.  However, just as I will never understand the decision to build a modern glass pyramid in the middle of this ancient treasure of a site, I will never understand how or why McDonald’s is opening in the Louvre.

It’s been a long time since I lived in France, and even back then the French “destested” the idea of fast food, disdaining it as an American institution completely contrary to traditional French (and largely European) ideals of hearty foods, prepared with pride and respect for tradition.  When I say this, I’m not even speaking of the Haute Cuisine that France is so renowned for.  Instead, I’m speaking of everyday foods that bourgeois (upper middle to upper class) families enjoy at home.  I shudder to think how chefs in Haute Cuisine circles feel today.

In my personal experience, I remember trying hard to explain to French host families and others I came in contact with that fast food isn’t all that Americans eat, and that that portrayal on TV is erroneous.  The furthest I ever made it with that conversation was to have someone tell me “But there is no “American” food, it’s all imitations of European food!”

For Frenchmen to now hear that McDonald’s is about to become a fixture in their national museum, “Quel horreur!”  I can’t imagine what the museum leadership was thinking!

Here’s a look at what my idea of food is true cuisine, no matter where in the world your travels take you.

As a footnote of contrast, a bustling little restaurant I once visited just outside the Centre Georges Pompidou (the Museum of Modern Art in Paris) was much more befitting:  Au Pied de Cochon, “At the Pig’s Feet”, serving delectable French cuisine.  In my mind, that’s more like it!

What do you think of today’s news?  Post a message and let me know!


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This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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