Celebrations International Travel Blog

Archive for February 2010

This is the text of an article I wrote for WhereI’veBeen.com that was published on their site today.  Enjoy!

Wine Grapes

1. France:  This country has a long history of excellent wine-making, and many newer wine-producing regions have learned from the French techniques and used them to produce their own wines. The varied regions of France produce abundant varieties of wines, sparkling wines, and champagnes. Amongst France’s best-known wine-producing regions are: the Loire Valley, Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais, and Cognac. Visitors to France will have a wonderful opportunity to explore and enjoy the products of this world-renowned wine destination.

2. Italy:  The sunny slopes of the Italian countryside are known to produce some of the best wines in the world. Whether you explore the hills of Tuscany and enjoy a glass of Chianti, or prefer Asti from the northern regions or the sweeter taste of Marsala from southern Italy, this country has something to please everyone’s wine palate. Known mostly for red wines, Italy also produces some excellent white, sparkling, and fortified wines. And of course, good Italian food enjoyed in a pristine, authentic setting will only make your wine taste better!

3. GermanyGermany’s wine regions are so numerous that they are more often referred to as “wine routes,” or areas wherein travelers or visitors can follow one particular route and expect to find several wineries, whether large or small. Germany’s proximity to the Alsace region of France has resulted in a number of French and German wines that share some common characteristics. Similar to other wine-producing regions of the world, some of the best German wines come from small-scale, “boutique” vintners and estate wineries, all of which travelers can visit if they wish, although they may need help from locals or a destination specialist in order to find the location and arrange the visit. Germany is also renowned for its beer production, something that is often of interest to wine lovers. Since fine German cuisine makes use of both good wine and beer, Germany is a destination no culinary traveler should miss!

4. Australia:  Avid wine lovers should definitely plan a visit to the land “Down Under.” This amazing destination offers you the delights of the Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills region, and the McLaren Vale region, just to name a few. The vistas in these regions are varied, all vast and beautiful, with gourmet dining and luxury accommodations to complete your ideal wine tour vacation. You can take a sunrise balloon ride over the vineyards. You can even enjoy your newly-discovered Australian wines with a bush lunch (picnic) in the Outback!

5. South Africa:  Cape Town is the gateway to some of the most breathtakingly scenic wine-producing lands in the world, many of them within an hour’s drive, and others a longer journey through spectacular landscapes. Each of the regions has its own unique character, as do the wines produced there. The well-developed Western Cape includes historic villages, charming guest houses, gourmet restaurants, and world-class golf courses. Travel along the coast, enjoying the spectacular scenery of the famous Garden Route. A wine tour of the Western Cape and Garden Route will prove to be a delightful experience for all.

Adrienne Mitra is the owner of Celebrations International Travel, a full-service agency focused on serving a number of niche markets, including culinary travel, cruises, tours, all-inclusive resorts, and group travel. Adrienne and her family are avid world travelers, and they are especially proud of the custom work they do for clients.

Celebrations International Travel...Celebrating Life Through Travel

Our agency’s new tagline is “Celebrating Life Through Travel”.  We’d like to share some of our thoughts on it:

People travel to celebrate. People travel to celebrate life’s special occasions and milestones, or just to get away for a while, in which case they’re probably celebrating time off!  We see all travel as a way to celebrate life’s joys, challenges, and opportunities.  Celebrate life by seeing the world!

Travel brings people together. When was the last time your entire family got together, or when your kids had the chance to travel with their grandparents?  Celebrate life by creating memories with loved ones!

Travel enriches us with new discoveries and experiences. I often marvel at the amazing world we live in.  Whether you choose to travel close to home or venture to exotic destinations, there will always be something new, different, or unique for travelers to experience, no matter if it’s your first visit or a repeat visit to a favorite place.  Celebrate life by discovering a world of new experiences!

Avid travelers are curious and want to explore. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate life, good health, and good fortune (probably my Chinese heritage voiced here) than to explore the four corners of the world.  Or at least the parts of it that are on your wish list.  Of course I’m talking about the trips you’ve been dreaming of, but what about the trips you’ve always wondered about and weren’t sure you’d ever take?  Celebrate life by exploring the world the way you want!


In many ways, booking a stateroom onboard a cruise ship sailing is much like booking airline seats.  The pricing can change literally by the minute, due to changes in availability.  Simply stated, the principles of supply and demand are constantly at work.

Sidebar: I’m sure many of you remember taking Economics at some point, so if this post conjures up images of a teacher drawing grids on the board while trying to drill the concept of supply and demand into your head, my apologies!!

Availability is often the biggest factor that affects the price you pay, whether it’s a cruise, airline seat, or any other form of travel.  To help cruisers out in this regard, at Celebrations International Travel, we’ve reserved space on a wide variety of sailings in different regions.  This way, when you call us with cruise requests, more likely than not, our agency can book you into a stateroom in our reserved inventory.

The advantages to booking your cruise this way are:

1) The cruise fares and stateroom types we have reserved are protected for the time that we can offer them. This means not having to take your chances on the type and/or location of your stateroom.  We’ve reserved some great ones, or we can help you choose if you’d prefer something different.

Because we secure our group space far in advance, you’re guaranteed a great deal!  As other cruisers surf the Web and watch cruise fares hike because availability has become limited, you’ll have none of those worries when booking with Celebrations!

2) Value & Savings: By reserving blocks of space on so many sailing dates and itineraries, we are able to offer couples, families, and any cruisers the same savings enjoyed by large groups of cruisers.  On particular sailings, our clients may also be offered additional complimentary add-ons or special amenities.

3) We’ll Accommodate You: Whether your cruise is a getaway for the two of you, a full-scale family reunion, or a company-wide event, if you’re booking into any of our reserved space on sailing, we will work with the cruise line to adjust our inventory so that everyone traveling with you can be accommodated at the best possible pricing.  Need different stateroom types or space for a private party or meeting?  We can take care of that too!

Contact us for a great deal on your next cruise vacation!

All the cruises on which we have reserved space will be posted on the Celebrations Web site soon.

Watch for more updates on the blog!

As a follow-up to my post on the Princess Cruises to Alaska Available at Reduced Rates, I’d like to let our readers know that these special reduced rates are available on select 2010 sailings for a limited time.

Unfortunately, we are not able to provide quotes via our blog, since every quote we send out to clients is tailored to the travelers’ specific needs and preferences, such as travel dates, preferred stateroom accommodations and cruising style, just to name a few.

To request a travel quote of any kind, please contact our agency.

In upcoming posts, I will provide more insight on how and why pricing and availability are constantly changing in the world of travel.

Celebrations International Travel is dedicated to serving your global travel needs.

Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten’s unique upscale cruises along Norway’s majestic, rugged coast and through its magnificent fjords, known as the “World’s Most Beautiful Voyage,” are legendary.  Live the legend aboard one of Hurtigruten’s 6-, 7- and 12-day voyages between 34 inviting ports of call.  Revel in once-in-a-lifetime sightseeing, sailing and soft adventure in amazing destinations across Norway, from the charming Hanseatic port of Bergen to the remote outpost of Kirkenes, far above the Arctic Circle.  Along the way, visit tiny fishing villages in the Lofoten Islands.  Explore the North Cape, continental Europe’s northernmost point.  Embark on a sea eagle safari through the narrow Trollfjord.  Hurtigruten:  Authentic voyages to pristine lands.

Hurtigruten Ship in Norway

Hurtigruten Ship Sails Norwegian Coastal Voyage

We would like to express our appreciation to our friends and colleagues at GotSaga.com for publishing my article on Colonial Williamsburg.  Williamsburg, VA is a great destination, with something for everyone.  History buffs will particularly enjoy Colonial Williamsburg and the nearby Jamestown Settlement, with attractions and activities for visitors of every age.

GotSaga.com is a forum for people around the world to share their travel experiences, pictures, and video.  You can also follow Got Saga on Twitter: @GotSaga @GotSagaLatino and @PatriciaVance.  Patricia Vance is the site’s knowledgeable owner.  They have a wealth of travel information to share!

Banner for www.gotsaga.com

We would like to thank our friends and colleagues at www.GotSaga.com for featuring my article on Guilin and the Lijiang River.  What a befitting destination to feature in light of the Chinese New Year celebration currently going on!

Celebrations International Travel’s agents can help you plan a tour to China that best suits your travel style.  Whether you prefer to participate in a tour where the itinerary is pre-set and you get to join a group of traveliing companions, or if you’d prefer a tour itinerary customized with travel dates of your choice and including only those cities and towns that interest you, we can help you explore the wonders of China and the world!

Either as a part of your tour to China or as a trip by itself, a river cruise down the Yangtze and Lijiang Rivers is a unique and unforgettable experience.  See our Cruises page to learn more.  Victoria Cruises is an American-owned and managed cruise line specializing in Yangtze River cruises.  There is no better, more luxurious way to experience the waterways of China.

Two separate conversations I had yesterday with professionals in the world of foodie Web sites left me bewildered, and inspired me to write this entry.  I’m still not sure what to think of these interactions, and would be interested to see if readers out there have any thoughts to share on the subject.

Call #1: I was explaining my agency’s approach to culinary tours, when the person asked about Italy.  I responded by using our Tuscany sample itinerary as an example, and mentioned that we suggest guests stay at a villa outside of Florence, using it as their home base for a few days to explore the Tuscan countryside.  Mid-sentence, she cuts me off with “So you do luxury tours?”

“No,” I said, what we do are custom tours.  If a client asks for a luxury tour, we can certainly arrange that, but if someone asks us to put together a culinary tour on a budget, we can do that as well.”

Her answer:  “Oh, that one sounds expensive.”

Well, I can’t argue with whatever gold-tinged images she might have had in mind, but what this experience taught me is that people’s perceptions and other long-held notions can be difficult at best to change or even influence.  But what stood out even more was this person’s apparent unwillingness to even hear me out, or to be open to ideas in the culinary and related realms.   Baffled as to what else to say, we ended the call with formalities.

Call #2: This time I’m explaining our approach to culinary tours (i.e. Get out of the tour bus and actually experience the destination; per my earlier post “Escorted Tours My Way:  No Whirlwind Bus Rides”.) to Caller #1’s designee.  This time I decide to explain simply that our tours are customized to accommodate whatever the traveler is interested in seeing and doing, but that our culinary tours are designed to be more than just restaurant tours, that we give travelers the chance to do more than just sightsee, eat; sightsee, eat.

Her Response:  “Now that’s my type of tour.”

Normally, her answer wouldn’t have bothered me, except that instead of listening or wanting to learn anything about our tours, she proceeded to tell me that “For those of us who live to eat, that’s what we want,” and that our culinary tours wouldn’t work in the foodie world.

As much as I respect every individual’s right to their own opinion, I take our work and professional stance in the travel and culinary worlds very seriously.  I would not want anyone to ever think that the intent of our culinary tours is anything other than to introduce travelers to the joys of the culinary world.  By all means, the highlight of any culinary tour is for travelers to enjoy all the food, wine and other delights their destination has to offer.

The point I think both callers missed is that Celebrations International Travel’s culinary tours are 100% customized to give travelers the opportunity to experience their destination in ways that best suit the travelers’ interests and needs.

That is not to say that enjoying a host of different restaurants isn’t one way to experience a destination, but good meals can be enjoyed anywhere, without necessarily having to travel.  And good memories are created through good, enriching experiences, which exploration and travel provide.

I think there’s a commonly-held misconception that anything “custom” or “customized” must be expensive.  Well, I’m here to dispel that myth, at least where escorted tours are concerned.

In my post entitled “Escorted Tours My Way:  No Whirlwind Bus Rides!” I talked about the fact that with many traditional group tours, the travelers’ experience can typically be described as  “on the bus, off the bus,” without doing much to actually experience the destinations.  “Standard vs. Custom Tours” highlighted the benefits of custom tours.

Delving further into the subject of tours, I want to explain how and why custom tours don’t have to be expensive.

– Custom Travel Dates: Unlike standard tours, which have set departure dates, you get to choose when you want to travel, and how long you want to be away.  Many times, moving your travel dates by even a day or two could make a difference in cost of the airfare, accommodations, and other arrangements.  Plus, if you decide the cost of your dream trip is more than you’re comfortable with, you can always cut down the number of days to save.  That just isn’t possible when booking standard tours with pre-set itineraries and travel dates.

– Spend On What’s Important to You: Not all travelers are alike.  With custom tours, you tell us what you’d rather spend your money on, and what you’d rather save on.  To some travelers, it’s most important to be able to see and do everything on their wishlist, and they’d rather stay in more moderate hotels in order to stay within their budget.  By contrast, other travelers might prefer very luxurious hotel accommodations paired with a more leisurely-paced itinerary with fewer cities or locales planned.  Whatever suits you, Celebrations International Travel can help you plan your custom tour.

Travel How You Want: On standard tours, your transportation between cities and between attractions is pre-set for the group.  However, with a custom tour, in most locales, there are choices in transportation that can save you money.  For instance, if a standard tour itinerary includes a flight between cities that can also be easily reached by train, you might choose the train ride to give you a different perspective and experience, provided you have the time.  Or, you might decide to forego a privately-chauffeured transfer from the airport if you’re familiar with the city’s metro system or prefer to take a taxi.

– See & Do What You Want At Your Own Pace: Standard tours are designed to please a crowd, they tend either offer travelers more of an “overview” visit to their destination and/or include the historical sites and attractions most popularly requested.  What if some things on a standard itinerary don’t interest you, or maybe you’ve done it before?  On a standard tour, you’re stuck with it because it’s included in the price of the tour, so you end up going with the group because the group travels together.  Why not make better use of your time and money?  With a custom tour, you tell us what you want to see and do, and if you need ideas, tell us what types of things interest you, and our destination experts can offer suggestions accordingly.  Not paying for tour inclusions that you don’t want saves you money for the things you do want!  As an added bonus, you can explore at your own pace because of the flexibility that a customized private tour provides.  You’re not being “herded” in mass!

– Choose the Services & Inclusions You Need & Want: In some destinations, you might choose to have a tour guide/translator, driver, and/or other professionals to assist you.  In other cases, you might prefer to explore on your own, or you might opt for a combination of guided and free time.  You may want meals other than breakfast or certain activities or special occasion celebrations included in your tour.  Any and all of that can be customized for you.  On a custom tour, you choose when, where, and what services and inclusions you want, instead of paying for a standard set of inclusions that you might not need.

Contact us for more information on custom tours, and see our Culinary Travel Homepage for delicious and adventuresome sample itineraries to inspire your travels!

Dove-tailing on my previous post entitled “Culinary Travel is an Adventure!”, I thought this would be a good time to talk more about my views on touring and tour design.

Based on my personal travel experience, I have never been a fan of cookie-cutter-type tours where travelers are seemingly herded on an off a tour bus just to gain a cursory glance and snapshots of a historical site or attraction.  What that type of experience is most apt to leave travelers with is a sense of a “whirlwind” tour at best.

That’s why at Celebrations International Travel, we work with our tour operators to customize tours that let travelers do unique and different things.  In order to really experience a destination, travelers need to have the chance to explore, and to actually do something.  I mean that literally. 

Tours should be designed, for example, to give people the opportunity to get out and walk around the hallowed grounds of Stonehenge, climb the steps of the Great Wall of China (or at least get up close and marvel at it), and visit the picturesque historic towns and villages of faraway destinations.   This is not to say that travelers have to exert themselves.  I simply mean that seeing the sights through a bus window or at a distance is far from ideal, resulting in a very different experience for the traveler.

Take for example one day’s activities in our sample Northern France Culinary Tour.  After breakfast, travelers are driven to Concale, where they are taken on a guided tour of the town that concludes with a fine oyster tasting at La Ferme Marine.  Afterwards, they proceed to the nearby town of St. Malo, where they will take a walking tour of the town before enjoying some free time.   Case in point:  These are all leisurely activities that can only be enjoyed outside the confines of a bus!  Furthermore, these are various ways in which travelers get to experience their destination, giving them tangible memories of not only where they visited, but what they saw and did.

What whirwind bus tour would give travelers these one-of-a-kind travel experiences and memories?


About Us


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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