Checking In: Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa

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Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa

This was my 10th visit to Las Vegas and I did something different. I stayed off the strip at Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa… and guess what? It felt like Paradise! Now don’t get me wrong, I love Las Vegas and the strip. If I didn’t, I would not have gone back 9 additional times. Green Valley Ranch is bringing something different to Vegas visitors – the property is providing that luxury resort component while still being in the Las Vegas area. Located just 8 miles from McCarran International Airport, Green Valley Ranch Resort is going to blow you away with their amenities, activities and gaming space while also giving privacy to you while staying at the hotel.

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The property is Mediterranean inspired and the architecture exudes those qualities. From the moment you pull into the circle drive, you are greeted with gorgeous landscaping, warm smiles and perfect customer service. Walking into the lobby you’ll find chic colors of black and white with arched columns throughout. The presentation of the lobby and staff upon arrival sets the mood for the rest of your stay – and guess what? It is going to be fabulous!

The Rooms:

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

During my stay I checked into a Deluxe King Room that offered a generous amount of space at 495 sq. feet. The room itself was adorned in modern contemporary decor throughout offering a plush king size bed, 42 inch TV, desk area, sitting area, vanity, minibar, spacious closet, robes, and a separate bathroom with a soaking tub and shower.

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

Amenities:

  • Concierge service
  • Shuttle service to and from airport & Strip
  • 24-hour in-room dining
  • Private bar
  • Iron and ironing boards
  • Down comforters
  • Separate bathtub and showers
  • High-speed internet access/web TV
  • In-room safe
  • Multi-line speaker telephone with data port
  • Access to more than 7,300 digital daily newspapers and magazines powered by PressReader
  • Plush terry robes
  • Shoe shine service
  • Fitness facility entrance
  • iPod dock

Dining:

Green Valley has a plethora of dining to offer its guests on property. With 8 sit down restaurants including a steak house, Italian, a buffet, and more. In addition, there are some quick stop fast food options and a Starbucks on the gaming floor.

During my stay I ordered room service breakfast one morning – and I have to admit, the food was incredible. I ordered a yogurt parfait and it was not overly sweet and everything worked well together on flavors.

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Room Service 

I also dined at Borracha the Mexican Cantina. I want to point out that the service here was above and beyond! I went off menu and asked for a passion fruit margarita and they delivered. The food was scrumptious as well.

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Borracha

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Borracha

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Borracha

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Borracha

I did not get a chance to dine at Bottiglia but the restaurant is stunning. It looks like they took a page out of a dream sequence and brought it to life.

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Bottiglia

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Bottiglia

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Bottiglia

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Bottiglia

Activities:

The hotel has a lot to offer its guests from pools, spa, gaming, bars, concerts, and movies. You could stay on site during your entire trip and never get bored – the property is that big and has that much to offer its guests.

The “Backyard” at Green Valley Ranch is an 8 acre area for guests to enjoy with cabanas, an adult only pool (The Pond) and a sand bottom swimming pool – giving you that true beach feel right in the desert.

Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

Green Valley Ranch Resort

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The Pond

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Green Valley Ranch Resort

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Green Valley Ranch Resort

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Green Valley Ranch Resort

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The Pond

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The Pond 

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The Pond

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Green Valley Ranch Resort – Sunset 

Tip: If you are not staying at the hotel, you can purchase a pool pass Monday-Friday $20 adults/$10 children.

The casino is one of the prettiest I have ever been to and they offer over 2,000 games around the clock. I highly recommend hitting the sports bar for $2 margaritas – I was skeptical because $2 drinks anywhere usually means “watered down” but alas, I was wrong. Two of those drinks and you are good to go.

Overall:

LOVED my stay at Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa. I had been wanting to stay here for about two years to try something off the strip and I absolutely recommend it to anyone visiting the Las Vegas area. The property is very spacious and really has it all – you could spend your entire trip here and never leave. If that inclusive resort feeling is important to you, this is your next Vegas stop.

Additional Information:

  • Address: 2300 Paseo Verde Pkwy, Henderson, NV 89052
  • Phone: (702) 617-7777
  • Distance from McCarran International airport: 8 miles ~13 minutes
  • Casino hours: open 24 hours a day
  • For Cabana and Ca-bed rentals: (702) 617-7744
  • Dining: options

 

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Green Valley Ranch and Resort but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

13 Ways To Enjoy Phoenix During The Summer

Let’s be honest – the summer months in Phoenix are hot! There is no way for me to sugar coat this fact, and even if I tried – the sugar would melt. But don’t let those warmer temps stop you from visiting Phoenix during the summer. I just spent four days in the greater Phoenix area exploring more of the area and although the temps were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit everyday, I still had the best time.

Here are 13 ways YOU can enjoy Phoenix during the summer months!

Hotels are cheap!

That is right, it is an off season for Phoenix, thus making the lodging cheaper to entice visitors to come visit. This is the perfect time to score luxury digs at a fraction of the cost AND it is not crowded. Make sure and get a hotel with a pool and get that poolside cabana so you can switch back and forth.

I loved my stay at the Wigwam Resort located just outside of Phoenix. I used the adults only pool for the day and got a cabana that came with bottled water, a fresh fruit plate AND chips and salsa!

What I loved about the hotel was the sprawling grounds, lush greenery and cacti, golf course, multiple pools, and the food!

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Wigwam Resort

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Wigwam Resort

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Wigwam Resort

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Wigwam Resort

Get a triple scoop sorbet at Sweet Republic

Sorbet is nice and light and I love the fruit. I opted for a 3 scoop cone with flavors of watermelon, coconut and strawberry! It was delicious and definitely cooled me off from the Phoenix heat. Sweet Republic offers a plethora of flavors to service all tastes.

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Take in a sunset

It can still be very warm at night but the sun is not shining on you any longer and the temps start to cool down. Some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen radiate in the Phoenix area. I don’t know why, but the sky is generally lit up in amazing colors when the sun goes down.

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Desert Botanical Garden

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Wigwam Resort

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Wigwam Resort

Visit the Botanical Garden at 7:00am

I know, you are on vacation and you want to sleep. However, between 5-9:00 am the weather is incredibly nice and the heat hasn’t reached its high for the day. This is a fantastic time to explore the Botanical Garden and not worry about it being 110 degrees. When I went recently it was only about 75 degrees – the high that day ended around 110. 35 degrees in difference can make a huge difference when you are outside in the sun for 1-3 hours.

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Desert Botanical Garden

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Desert Botanical Garden

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Desert Botanical Garden

Visit Found: Re Hotel For the art

I recently had the opportunity to visit the FOUND:RE Hotel and explore the art. What is interesting is that the pieces do change AND they are all for sale! I spent about 1.5 hours inside viewing all the pieces the curator hand selected for the hotel and it was a nice break from being outside.

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Found: Re

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Found: Re

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Found: Re

Aperol Spritz when the sun goes down

Would it even be summer if there wasn’t an Aperol Spritz? I love how light and refreshing this drink is and it was perfect as the sun went down. I enjoyed this Aperol Spritz poolside at The Scott Resort and Spa!

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Aperol Spritz

Get a convertible

That probably sounds like a bad idea (and it can be) but hear me out. Only take the top down very early in the morning when the weather is still really nice or after the sun goes down. Once you get out of the “heat of the day” hours – its not bad at all.

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Visit Usery Mountain Regional Park

You can drive through here for the most part, so time of day is not really an issue. This is a great place to see the gorgeous desert landscape. One of the things I learned from the Park Ranger was that nothing is touched in the desert – it is all left natural to its elements. Usery Mountain Regional Park is a gorgeous desert landscape with plenty of photo opportunities.

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Usery Mountain Regional Park

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Usery Mountain Regional Park

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Usery Mountain Regional Park

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Usery Mountain Regional Park

Hot air balloon during sunrise

The sun rises around 5:20 am and the heat doesn’t really start to get hot until after 9:00 – this is plenty of time to enjoy the city from new heights. For those who are afraid of heights – I was too! I was so surprised by how calm it is when you are up in the air – literally floating. It is a peaceful experience.

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Sunrise hot air ballooning

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Sunrise hot air ballooning

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Sunrise hot air ballooning

Have a spa day!

I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the indoors. Whether you go all in for a full day at the spa or just a massage, its going to be the most relaxing time you have with yourself. I recommend a massage at the Phoenician Spa for 50 minutes called “Aroma Design” where you get to design the exact aroma that would be used on you during the treatment. After the spa, enjoy a nice lunch on the rooftop with the pool. It’s the perfect little afternoon.

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Phoenician Spa

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Phoenician Spa

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Phoenician Spa lunch on the rooftop pool

Visit the Heard Museum

This was one of the most fascinating museums I have ever been to. Offering 11 exhibit galleries and home to American Indian Art, the Heard Museum is both inside and outside. They do offer tours (check times) but I prefer to take art in my own way by walking through, reading, and looking at the art to get my own feel for the artist.

I don’t like to overshare content from museums because I think you should visit the museum yourself to truly understand the artist and the pieces they have on display .. but, there was one piece that really stood out to me called “Indigenous Evolution” and it is a large scale fence of the evolution of how fences have been made.

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Heard Museum

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Heard Museum

Olive Oil Tasting and OliveSpa Tour at Queen Creek Olive Mill

Make sure and take a tour and tasting at Queen Creek Olive Mill. They actually have an olive farm here on site and harvest them to make olive oil and all kinds of other products. While I was there I walked around their shop to see all the amazing things they make with olive oil like soaps, shaving cream, candles, fun foods, and different types of flavored oils. I also did an olive oil tasting of a variety of flavors. Don’t miss the banana bread!!

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

Take in a sunrise 

But not just any sunrise .. one with coffee and a side of Camelback Mountain!

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Camelback Mountain

 

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Phoenix Summer

Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Phoenix and Mesa Tourism Board, but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

 

 

Foodies Guide To St. Louis

St. Louis is one of the cities this year that took me by surprise and on a culinary adventure. I was able to eat through the city with a friend and it felt like we were in a constant state of  “wow this is so good!” We ate for four days taking in the best of the city and now I am ready to share with you my favorite foodie stops in St. Louis! From breakfast to dinner and snacks in between, the cities culinary scene is booming.

Nathaniel Reid Bakery 

Never in my life have I met someone so fiercely passionate about their craft. Nathaniel Reid really stood out on my food tour through the city because he went over everything in his bakery, told his background story of working in Las Vegas, and explained how basically everything .. down to crusts, fillings, and even jams – are made in the bakery. This bakery is taking in no shortcuts in providing high quality food and the customer service is top notch – in the 40 or so minutes I was there Nathaniel greeted most customers (many whom were return customers) and his staff was equally as friendly. I think that says a lot about a business – but the food was equally exceptional. Do not miss the quiche and basically any of the pastries or desserts. Everything I tried was incredible.

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Nathaniel Reid Bakery

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Nathaniel Reid Bakery

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Nathaniel Reid Bakery

Rooster

Specializing in crepes – I went off the deep end and deviated from my normal sweet crepes and went for a savory. Now let me say this – I have never had a savory crepe because the idea just sounded off, but one on the menu stood out that had goat cheese and BACON – so here we are, trying new things, and LOVING them.

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Rooster

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Rooster

Vicia

I cannot possibly give enough accolades to Vicia as the chef Michael was just named by Food & Wine as one of the best new chefs! What I loved was all the freshness of the food, the abundance of green (lord knows I don’t eat enough of it) and creating these dishes that just paired well(here’s looking at you cold asparagus soup!). I highly recommend the soup, their ice cream sandwich, the potato salad, AND the cold brew mint chocolate coffee!

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

Retreat Gastropub

Although the space is small, the menu is fierce. When we sat down we got a menu that was three pages with a heavy focus on craft cocktails and beers. Retreat Gastropub is that restaurant you go to when you are looking to be inspired by a drink or a dish that the owners have carefully curated.

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Retreat Gastropub

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Retreat Gastropub

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Retreat Gastropub

Fitz’s

One simply doesn’t go to St. Louis and NOT get a Fitz’s root beer float. This place is an institution and should not be missed.

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Fitz’s – floats

Sardella

I found Sardella to be an interesting restaurant. They play with food in ways I have never seen it – for example, I ordered brussels sprout toast with a poached egg. I have never seen this anywhere in my life (and I eat a lot) and I could not get over how incredible it was. They brought out an order of their ricotta pancakes (something I also have never had before) and let me tell you how good they are. My friend and I both took a bite and they were piping hot, but they were so good we continued to eat them. That’s right – we actually risked burning our mouth for how damn good these pancakes are.

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Sardella

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Sardella

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Sardella

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Sardella

 

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foodie st louis

Disclaimer: This is written in partnership with the St. Louis Tourism Board. As always, opinions are entirely my own. 

5 Times Travel Insurance Could Have Helped

Each time we book travel we are tasked with answering “yes” or “no” when it comes to protecting our trip with travel insurance, and I would be willing to bet that more people are exactly the way I used to be with the “nah nothing will happen” attitude when the decision is placed in front of us. To be fair, I have had more good than bad experiences without travel insurance but I will not travel without it now. I have put myself in too many situations where there was absolutely nothing I could do but pay out of pocket – and to think, for most of these trips I could have been protected for under a measly $50 dollars. So what is it that makes us take the risk when saying “no” to travel insurance? I haven’t come to an exact answer yet because 1. it isn’t expensive 2. you are protecting your trip that you just paid for – there is an assumption that if you can afford to travel, you can afford to protect your travel (amiright?) and 3. you are taking a risk at so many unknown factors and outcomes that could disrupt or even ruin your trip. Traveling without travel insurance after everything I have been through is no longer an option. Allianz Travel Insurance is the one thing I always know I have now because I purchased an annual plan and it only cost me $125 (price varies)! Just thinking about the sheer amount of money I have lost by not having it is 40 times that.

Here are 5 times that purchasing travel insurance could have helped me.

  1. The time the airline lost my luggage in Ireland .. in JANUARY .. and I did not have any warm clothes on me or get my luggage back for 3 days! This of course was at the height of the Euro and I had to pay cash out of my own pocket for clothes each day hoping my luggage would come back. Had I purchased travel insurance I would have been covered up to $1,000 for clothing allotment until my luggage was returned.
  2. The time I booked a cruise and just 2 weeks before sailing I fell incredibly ill and was hospitalized on both coasts of the U.S. Now my illness did not qualify under travel insurance (but my health insurance did) and I lost the full amount paid of the cruise because I was too sick to go. Over $2,700 I could have had returned to me to re-book another trip at a later date when I was feeling better because travel insurance would have covered this under emergency medical.
  3. The 27 hour flight delay returning from Asia. I don’t know how this even happens – but when you are flying half way around the world and stopping in multiple airports and really just want to sleep, learning that you have a flight delay of more than a days time can be disheartening. Sure, airport lounges can be great in transit – – but not for 27 hours. At this point you have to make the decision to leave the airport and get a hotel. If I had travel insurance I could have been covered by the trip delay (if it is longer than 6 hours) and had my hotel and meals covered.
  4. The pesky fall down the stairs in Paris and the French doctor who had to come to my hotel and barely spoke a lick of English. Now there was a medical emergency that cost me a pretty penny. I didn’t break anything but it put me out of commission a lot for the next 5 days of my trip. Walking was very painful and my back end and right leg were black with bruises. If I had travel insurance I could have had the doctor visit covered, a translator (one of the many services Allianz’s assistance service covers) and could have gone home since it disrupted my trip – I should not have continued on but I did because 1. I didn’t want to lose the trip and 2. I did not want to buy a plane ticket in addition to the money I had already spent on the trip.
  5. The time my rental car was broken into and damaged in Hawaii. Who could have known that 20 seconds after walking away from my car rental at a public beach that someone would drive up and smash the window while taking my belongings? What came next was even worse .. all of the hassle with the car company and not being able to enjoy my vacation. I had no money, no I.D. no credit card or access to one, bathing suit stolen, prescription goggles, and the hassle of the car company demanding payment upfront to put me into a new car (when I had no money). In the months that followed that car company wanted several thousand dollars for having their car out for repair on the window and it was just an unnecessary situation that could have been avoided. If I had travel insurance I could have had the car taken care of, my clothing replaced and the lack of hassle I received from the car company while in Hawaii and for months to come when I left.

So you see – I have lost a lot of time and money just by not having travel insurance to protect me in case situations like these arise. Don’t make the costly mistakes that I have and make sure to protect your travel – after all, travel is an investment on you and your education around the globe.

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*Dislaimer: this post is written in collaboration with Allianz Travel Insurance. As always, opinions are entirely my own. 

9 Experiences To Have In Saint Louis

I just returned from St. Louis and had a nice long weekend to explore the city and take in some great experiences. I actually had not been back to Missouri since 2004 so it was nice to return and see the state in tourist mode. I put together my top things to do, as a visit to The Gateway City would not be complete without these experiences.

Visit the Botanical Garden

Easily the MOST beautiful botanical garden I have ever been to! What I love about this location is that the gardens are broken down into sections and spread out.Visiting could easily take up half a day to leisurely stroll through everything they have to offer. My favorite attraction is the Climatron – which is a dome like ecosystem housing plants and even a couple waterfalls.

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Japanese Gardens

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Japanese Gardens

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

Take in a sunset 

You know I can’t visit a city and not find a sunset – that is my favorite thing to do. I say to find a sunset with the Arch in it as it is far more dramatic and the arch is an icon of the city.

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St. Louis Arch Sunset

Blues Museum 

A trip to St. Louis would not be complete without a stop at the Blue Museum. The museum is not very big or overwhelming and can be easily done in under an hour. Learning about the history of Blues, its artists and even making your own track is part of the magic the museum offers.

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Blues Museum

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Blues Museum

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Blues Museum

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Blues Museum

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Blues Museum

See a Cardinals game 

Visiting Busch Stadium was not like visiting any other baseball game I have ever been to. You could feel the sense of hometown pride and it was not chaotic – it was a family event. You really get that Midwest vibe (something I miss as I am from Michigan but live in D.C.) and feeling of community.

Don’t forget to get a Nathan’s hot dog and a beer – true staples.

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Cardinals Game

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Nathan’s hot dog

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Beer

Saint Louis Zoo 

Its free AND its one of the best in the United States .. I think that’s the two best reasons to go!

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Sample beer at Schlafly Bottleworks 

I love finding craft breweries in new cities and I especially love when they are passionate about their work. I had the opportunity to meet the owner and one of the founding brewers, Stephen Hale. I honestly don’t think I have ever met two people more passionate about beer. Both of these guys are an excellent resource and knowledge base in the brewery and I would recommend a tour.

Something that I loved right inside the brewery was a computerized monitor that showed you everything they have on tap with alcohol content, tasting notes, etc so you would know what you want before you reached the bar.

I loved the passion fruit beer! It was not overpowered by citrus, it was actually just the right amount.

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Schlafly Beer

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Schlafly Beer

Relive your childhood at the City Museum 

It is true – I am 34 .. but I make sure to take time everyday to laugh and to keep the child in me alive. The City Museum is housed in an old shoe company that has been turned into a big play park with a bar. Several story slides, ball pits, a ferris wheel and school bus on the roof, jumping rocks pretending its lava, fun flooring, and unique finds around each corner – you are in for a great time. Kids or not – visit and go play your heart out.

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City Museum

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City Museum

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City Museum

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City Museum

 

Visit Forest Park 

Forest Park is a spacious park in St. Louis that is home to the Saint Louis Zoo, Art Museum, Science Center, The Muny, and the Missouri History Museum. In addition, you can drive/walk around the park and see how gorgeous the land is. My two favorite areas were the Pagoda Circle and Jewel Box.

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Pagoda Circle

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Jewel Box

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis 

I am always on the hunt for architecture that will blow me away and that is exactly what you feel inside the Basilica.  The domes on the ceiling offer the most gorgeous grandeur and you will not be able to stop staring in awe. No matter what your beliefs, visit. The amount of work that went into  this building is worth seeing with your own eyes.

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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

Eat your way through the city!

I don’t want to leave out the best part of St. Louis, and that is the food and drinks. I was taken by surprise at the bustling foodie scene that the city offers. Some of my favorite finds were Fitz’s enormous root beer floats, Nathaniel Reid Bakery’s pastries and quiche, the mint chocolate cold brew coffee and potato salad at Vicia, and the candied bacon and craft cocktails at Retreat Gastropub. If those are the only things you eat while in town – consider it a success!

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Vicia – Potato Salad

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Vicia – mint chocolate cold brew

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Retreat Gastropub – Craft Cocktail

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Retreat Gastropub – bacon!

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Fitz’s – floats

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Nathaniel Reid Bakery – pastries

 

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saint louis experiences

Disclaimer: this post is written in partnership with the Explore St. Louis Tourism Board. As always, opinions are entirely my own. 

21 Photos To Inspire You To Visit The Palm Beaches, Florida

I just returned from a gorgeous trip in the Palm Beaches, Florida and I am overwhelmed with how incredible the area is, how fresh the food is and how nice the people are. I don’t know how else to say this, but you are doing yourself a disservice everyday that you don’t book a trip and head here.

I remember when I was coming in for a landing at the West Palm Beach airport and I could see the stunning shades of blue that the water had to offer its coastline beaches. I am already planning my return. Until then .. I hope these photos inspire your trip!

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Sunrise at the Marriott Singer Island

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Flagler Museum

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Fish Tacos Deck 84

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Palm Beach

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Flagler Museum

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Breakfast at Seagate Hotel

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Seagate Hotel Trolley

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Salt7

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Palm Beach

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Crab Stack Deck 84

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Delray

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Salt7

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Flagler Museum

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Floridian Fritters Guanabanas

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Sunset at the Marriott Singer Island

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Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen

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Twisted Trunk Brewing

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Lunch Guanabanas

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Lunch at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa

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Breakfast at Breakers Resort

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Seagate Hotel

 

 

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Palm Beach Florida

*Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Palm Beaches Tourism Board – but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

14 Day Southern Caribbean Cruise On The Norwegian Breakaway

The Norwegian Breakaway used to be home to New York and you can see the beautiful design on the front of the ship where Lady Liberty graces. The ship now also does cruises in Europe along the Baltic Sea. Part of the newer Breakaway Class, this ship can hold over 3,900 passengers (based on a double occupancy).

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If you have ever cruised on an older ship before, the Breakaway is going to wow you with all of its modern updates, sleek designs, the number of activities available, and how it has become a foodie destination at sea. But don’t get me wrong, the older ships have their perks as well! These big newer ships have just been updated to a modern standard and have a lot more amenities to offer its passengers. I love that you can now make reservations for shows and meals and book excursions right from your TV in your stateroom, NCL has an app you can download and it works while on board, there is USB ports next to the beds for charging, and ample storage space!

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Gorgeous chandelier

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Pool and slides

Cruising is just one of the ways I like to travel. For me, cruising is about taking it down a notch, relaxing, having amazing food, sleeping in the same bed for a week+, unpacking and staying put, being able to explore more than one place without having to do all the work of flying and shuffling to hotels, and really just enjoying my time on the open water.

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Balcony sunset

The Itinerary:

For this cruise it was a 14 day itinerary out of New York to the Southern Caribbean.

  • Day 1: Leave New York, at sea
  • Day 2: At sea
  • Day 3: At sea
  • Day 4: At sea
  • Day 5: Aruba
  • Day 6: Curacao
  • Day 7: Bonaire 
  • Day 8: At sea
  • Day 9: Martinique
  • Day 10: St. Lucia
  • Day 11: St Kitts and Nevis
  • Day 12: At sea
  • Day 13: At sea
  • Day 14:  Return to New York

I loved the itinerary because I had been wanting to visit so many of these islands for so long and I got to experience each one in a different way – even fell in love with a few! There is almost equal the amount of time at sea as there is port days but Norwegian does a great job of providing daily schedules with things to do to fill your day OR you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.

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Bonaire

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Martinique

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Floating Market – Curacao

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Caribbean Sea

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St. Kitts

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Bonaire

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Curacao

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Bonaire

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Kite Surfing – Bonaire

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Salt Flats – Bonaire

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Bonaire

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Arriving in Bonaire

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Martinique

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Aruba

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Aruba

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St. Lucia

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St. Lucia

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St. Lucia

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Curacao

Excursions: 

Pro tip: book your excursions before you leave or as soon as you get on board to avoid them filling up and missing out. You can view excursions online before getting on the ship here.

My two favorite excursions that I booked were the See and Sea tour in Aruba and the Scenic Railroad in St. Kitts. I loved the tour in Aruba because it was the best of both worlds – an island tour and a glass bottom boat tour. I also loved the railroad tour because it was a 2 hour, 18 mile ride through scenic St. Kitts showcasing the islands beauty.

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Aruba

I hired a private driver in Bonaire right outside the port for a couple hours for $100 USD and that was one of my favorite days on the entire cruise. This wonderful person showed me the southern part of the island, told me all the history (good and bad), and he even found flying flamingos for me! I highly recommend this but I also want to say this is not sponsored by the ship or covered – this is a take at your own risk activity. You will be responsible for getting back on time before the ship leaves.

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Flying Flamingos

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Salve huts from the past

In Curacao I woke up early and got off the ship before everyone else and walked the city for about 4 hours taking in all the beautiful colors it offered. I did not take an excursion here but absolutely fell in love with the island.

Entertainment and Activities:

The Norwegian Breakaway offers a plethora of entertainment to keep those of all ages engaged aboard the ship. From Broadway shows, comedy, music, swimming and slides, jogging track, gym, art auctions, spa days, wine tastings, bingo, sunningand mind bending Cirque du Soleil – there is an endless stream of fun to be had.

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Slides

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Haven pool

I really loved the Broadway shows Burn The Floor and Rock of Ages! Both shows are amazing and the cast really outdoes themselves. One of my favorite things about seeing a show on board is that you completely forget you are even on a ship at sea and feel like you are right in Times Square on Broadway.

Since I had already been on this ship I did not see the Cirque du Soleil show again, but I loved it the first time around. Its a dinner and show. *Tip – book a top floor seat, I found the views up there looking down to be amazing. 

My room was on the 15th floor and had a door down the hall with direct access to the spa and gym, which was nice since I had a thermal spa suite pass (you can either book a spa room with access or buy a thermal spa suite access pass for the duration of your cruise). So many sea days and nights I spent winding down in the hot tubs, sauna or just relaxing on the heated chairs overlooking the ocean. This is a must if you like to relax.

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Thermal Spa Suite

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Thermal Spa Suite

Staterooms:

This ship offers a wide variety of staterooms fit for any need. The first time I was on this ship I had a balcony stateroom that I loved. This time around I stayed in the Haven, which is a luxury enclave – ship within a ship. If you are looking for the most luxurious experience and rooms aboard, then the Haven is absolutely where you want to book a room.

During my cruise I stayed in a Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with a Balcony. I loved this room and think it is the best room I have ever stayed in on a cruise ship. I loved that the room was significantly bigger than any other room I have stayed in, the upscale design elements, a full bathroom with a tub (having a bath tub in your room on a cruise is a luxury in itself), king sized bed, luxury bath amenities, and then all the features of the Haven: 24 hour butler service, priority boarding and disembarkation, private parties, private pool, bar, and the best part: the Haven Restaurant.

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Welcome amenities – Haven and Gold Latitudes

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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

Room Features:

  • Room: 328 sq. feet
  • Balcony: 58 sq. feet
  • Bliss Collection by Norwegian pillow-top mattress
  • Fine linens, feather duvet and pillow menu
  • Plush bathrobes, slippers and oversized bath towels
  • Luxury bathroom products – Bvlgari
  • Bathtub/shower combo
  • 2 closets
  • HD TV
  • Dining set for 2
  • Lavazza Coffee machine
  • Mini Bar and glasses for most drinking occasions
  • Love seat sofa that folds out into a bed
  • Extended room service menu – at no cost
  • Movies on the TV were free
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Daily towel animals

Food:

This was a different experience on this ship for me this time around. When I cruised on this ship before I stayed in a balcony room and ate at several of the restaurants on board. This time I stayed in the Haven and I ate nearly every meal in the private restaurant or through room service. Now that may seem silly with so many options on the ship but there is a reasoning behind my madness – the food in the Haven is just a cut above the other restaurants. If I booked a Haven room again, one of the top 3 selling points would be the food in their private restaurant.

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Room service breakfast

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Room service breakfast

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Room service lunch

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Haven Breakfast

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Haven Breakfast

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Haven Breakfast

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Haven Breakfast

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Haven Lunch

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Haven Lunch

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Haven Lunch

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner Dessert

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Haven Dinner Dessert

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner Dessert

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

So while I did not indulge the other restaurants this time, I do remember my experience before when eating at them and will share.

There are several restaurants that are free and Norwegian sails with the “Freestyle Dining” philosophy which allows you to come and eat whenever you want (if the restaurant requires reservations this would not apply).

Free Restaurants:

  • Savor – sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Taste – sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Manhattan Room – sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • O’Sheehans – open 24/7
  • The Haven – exclusive to Haven guests only
  • Garden Cafe – buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Extra Fee Dining:

  • La Cucina – Italian only open for dinner
  • Le Bistro – French restaurant only open for dinner
  • Ocean Blue – seafood only open for dinner
  • Teppanyaki – Japanese only open for dinner
  • Cagney’s – steak house only open for dinner
  • Moderno – Brazilian steakhouse only open for dinner
  • Raw Bar – only open for dinner
  • Wasabi – sushi for lunch and dinner
  • Cirque Dreams and Dinner
  • Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville at sea – I think this goes without saying .. it’s 5 o’clock somewhere
  • Room Service – 24/7
  • Gelato
  • Bakery

Norwegian often has deals that allow you to book some number of free perks with your room. I have seen free specialty dining nearly every time – so look out for those deals! Then you can dine everywhere at no cost.

All of the food on the ship is good to me – but I have some favorites. Moderno, the Brazilian steakhouse is my favorite outside of the Haven. You decide what you want and when you want it. You get a red and green card and you flip green to go and red to stop – when its on green staff members with fresh meats come to your table and cut you off a piece of whatever you want. In the last decade these restaurants have become widely popular and its a fantastic experience. Tip: go hungry and try not to eat too late if you have an early morning.

As for the free restaurants, Savor, Taste and the Manhattan Room keep the same menus that change daily. The Manhattan Room is a bit fancier so if you are looking for something a bit more than a relaxed “come as you are” meal – then dine here. They also have live music at dinner and dancing if you like.

 

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Le Bistro

Additional Information:

  • Wifi is available on board for a fee – keep in mind that it is satellite internet and not as fast as you would have it at home – however, the have now added plans that allow you to stream Netflix so that would be an extra cost to have internet with a speed that fast. You can purchase an unlimited package during the first 2 days on the ship and is the best deal to stay connected.
  • You can bring your own wine aboard the ship to have a meals – you will just be charged a corkage fee
  • Soda and alcohol are not included in your booking unless you booked a package that included it. You can purchase all-inclusive packages when you board the ship during the first 2 days

Overall:

I really loved this itinerary and the ports. One of the best things about cruising is the ability to get a taste of other places and make the decision to go back and explore more. I have already booked trips back to 2 of the islands! That is how much I loved them. As for the ship, Norwegian does such an excellent job of building itineraries with things to do each day on the ship that it would be near impossible to ever be bored.

Pins for your Pinterest:

 

*Disclaimer,  I did partner with Norwegian Cruise Lines but as always, opinions are entirely my own.

7 Experiences To Have In Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech was my first trip to Africa and a solo trip at that. I did an extensive amount of research before I went and I fell in love with the city. There is so much going on and it can be overwhelming on all the senses, but if you are open to it, Marrakech will wow you in ways you never thought possible. My life is somehow different having traveled through the winding roads of the Medina – but I assure you it is all for the better.

Here are 7 experiences I recommend when visiting Marrakech:

Get wonderfully lost in the Medina

Easily the highlight of my trip and will most likely be yours too. The Medina can be – overwhelming. Knowing that before you enter is probably the best way to tackle it. The winding roads, the salesman that are on the brink of being too pushy, overwhelming scents of spices, being immersed in the food being cooked around you, the motorbikes whizzing by, the beautiful cats – its a lot to take in at once but its also amazing. There are many hidden treasures to be found here whether is through the rugs, lamps, secret garden, amazing food (that is very cheap – I think I got a full meal for less than $5 USD), all the beautiful doors, and in the people you meet. Everyone has a story to tell – be open to hearing it.

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Doors inside the Medina

Marrakech Medina

Shopping

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Beautiful rugs

*Tip – a lot of the streets of the Medina are not labeled. I was lost for quite some time and it felt like I was walking in circles. I recommend paying attention to street corners when you turn them or you can ask anyone in the Medina for help – just make sure and tip them.

**Tip – it is expected you tip if anyone does anything for you – so keep small bills on hand.

Prior to visiting Marrakech I had heard very mixed reviews about the city, especially the Medina. Everyone has a completely different experience when traveling anywhere – just be open to getting lost and experiencing the culture – which may include some cat calling and very nice salesmen – but I found them to be harmless.

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Le Jardin Secret

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Medina Shopping

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Spices

Eat all the food!

Traditional Tajine Dish of Meatballs and Couscous

I feel like this goes without saying – one simply doesn’t visit Marrakech and not eat everything! There are so many amazing dishes to try so I narrowed down a few of my favorites:

  • Couscous
  • Moroccan crepe
  • Dates
  • Tagine
  • Olives
  • Fig
  • Pastries
  • Corn on the cob
  • Tangerines
Moroccan food

Figs, dates, nuts, breads

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Tangerines 

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Tucked away in the Medina (and it took me a few tries to actually find it due to the winding streets) but worth the effort. This used to be an Islamic college until it closed in 1960, and reopened 22 years to the public in 1982. I promise you will be blown away by the beauty of this historic site. The tiles, archways, design – all of it is gorgeous. Makes me wonder how a college could be so beautiful and close its doors. I would never leave.

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Stay in a Riad

Riad in Marokko

Stay inside the Medina for at least 1 night in a Riad – which is typically owned and ran by a family and its a home that usually has a courtyard or garden in the interior, sometimes pools. A stay in a Riad typically comes with a Moroccan breakfast – which will not disappoint.

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Explore Majorelle Garden

Marrakech Majorelle

Located outside of the Medina on a sprawling two and a half acres is this gorgeous garden .. in the desert. Originally owned and designed by Jacques Majorelle for about 40 years and then later purchased by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, where they restored it and lived there. The garden is popular for its vibrant blue walls and building with cacti growing among it.

Drink copious amounts of mint tea

Moroccan mint tea in glasses on a tray and kettle

A tradition in Morocco and you will find it just about everywhere. I am a huge fan of tea and this mint tea was fabulous. You won’t have to go far to find it – I can recall being offered mint tea just about everywhere I was – even shopping in the Medina.

Visit Jemaa el-Fnaa

Famous Jemaa el Fna square crowded at dusk. Marrakesh, Morocco

This IS the icon of the Medina. Everything is happening in this square and the streets branch out through the Medina. You will find fresh produce, restaurants and food everywhere, snake charmers, witch doctors, dancers, people of all ethnicity’s and backgrounds telling stories – and most likely, a cultural experience for yourself.

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Marrakech Morocco

Skyroam: Staying Connected Abroad

As a travel writer who needs to have internet access almost continuously for work, I have struggled in many areas to get a solid connection or any connection, at times. When I went to Europe four years ago, I was jumping around countries for about three weeks. There were times where I could not get internet for the life of me. Fast forward two years and I was about to head off on my second journey through Europe. Only this time, I had a lot more commitments with work and school while traveling. I had to have a reliable internet connection the entire length of my trip and I could not leave and hope for the best.

In comes Skyroam to save the day – or my trip rather. So what is Skyroam? It’s a global WiFi hotspot that allows you to connect up to 5 devices in over 120 countries around the world. I found this to be the easiest and smoothest transition for me to have internet abroad. Once I registered the device I wanted internet on, it stayed connected (until the 24 hour day pass ran out). I added my phone and my laptop to the device so I could snapchat and use Instagram while touring and then to be able to do work from my laptop at the end of each day.

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Skyroam in Curacao 

The way Skyroam works is that you get a day pass that is good for a 24 hour cycle. Once the cycle is up, you can load another day pass if you are still traveling or wait until you are traveling again. This is a huge benefit on your wallet as you know up front what the costs are and you only pay per day for an unlimited connection. Day passes on the Skyroam are as low as $8.00 USD. I have to spend more than that in a cafe in Europe to use their WiFi, assuming it even works. I kept the device in my purse and it kept my phone online all day.

On my first trip using Skyroam I was traveling with Rail Europe for eight days and spent some time either each day or every other day on a train getting to my next destination. I went to four countries, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Even when I crossed country lines, the Skyroam would update to the new country and keep me connected. I didn’t have to do anything – the device was smart enough to update itself.

It has been almost 2 years now since I started using Skyroam and here are all the places it has gone with me:

  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Curacao
  • Aruba
  • Bermuda
  • Jamaica
  • Bonaire
  • Martinique
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Kitts & Nevis
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka
  • Indonesia
  • Singapore
  • Iceland
  • Morocco

When I first started using Skyroam they were a new company and have expanded so much. I had their original pocket device but now they offer the Skyroam Solis. This upgraded device is better than ever offering WiFi 4G LTE & it is a power bank. There is a USB cord to charge electronics AND the solis stays charged for about 16 hours. The device is very light weight, easy to pack and mostly convenient for your WiFi needs.

I can’t imagine traveling without Skyroam now – it has revolutionized the way I travel. Having this pocket sized device that allows me to be connected in over 120 countries while traveling, gives me peace of mind that I can be in touch back home and that my work can still get done when I am abroad. If you travel abroad, Skyroam is a must!

Here are some of the places I have been and was able to use Skyroam!

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Curacao

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St. Lucia

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Iceland

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France

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Morocco

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Bermuda

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Indonesia

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Belgium

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Philippines

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Iceland

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Iceland

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Philippines

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Morocco

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Netherlands

 

*This post is written in collaboration with Skyroam. As always, opinions are entirely my own.

**This post contains affiliate links. They are of no cost to you and I get a small commission if you decide to purchase a Skyroam device, which in turn helps keep this website up and running. Thank you!

 

 

 

34 Photos To Inspire Your Caribbean Spring Break

It’s that time again where everyone is ready for warmer weather, swim up bars, toes in the sand, and a week in Paradise! I know the 2017 hurricane season was not kind to the Caribbean but I just spent time in the islands and can report back that most of them are up and running, awaiting your visit.

I just did an epic 14 day cruise through 6 of the islands with Norwegian Cruise Line which allowed me to explore islands I had never been to in the Southern Caribbean. Taking a cruise is a great way to see more places in a shorter time frame – I also like that the food is included. Whether you decide to book a cruise or stay in a resort, your spring break is sure to be a great time.

Here are 34 photos from my recent Caribbean travel that I hope inspire your spring break travels.

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Flying into the Caribbean

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Sandals Royal Caribbean

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Aruba

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Bonaire

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St. Kitts

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St. Lucia

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Cafe de Paris – Sandals Montego Bay

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Bonaire

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Bonaire

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Fire dancer – Sandals Montego Bay

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St. Lucia

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Curacao

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Bonaire

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Caribbean Sea

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Martinique

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Jamaica

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Bonaire

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Kite Surfing – Bonaire

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St. Lucia

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Curacao

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Aruba

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Aruba

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Curacao

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Martinique

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Bonaire

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Curacao

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Aruba

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Jamaica

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St. Lucia

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St. Kitts

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Curacao

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Jamaica

 

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Caribbean Spring Break

Checking In: Fairmont San Francisco’s $20 Million Dollar Penthouse Suite

Reading that title I know you opened this because you really want to know what makes a room worth $20 million dollars. You are probably expecting to find gold lined walls  and lavish chandeliers holding real diamonds, but not in this suite, no. What you are going to find is my favorite hotel suite I have ever been in and it holds none of those things. Well maybe a little.

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Living Room 

Taking up the entire 8th floor of the Historic Main Building at the Fairmont San Francisco, this Penthouse Suite comes in at a massive 6,000 square feet offering 3 spacious bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a library, billiards room, kitchen, and a terrace with unbelievable views of the city. As luck would have it, the fog was incredibly thick during my stay – but still, the view was magnificent.

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Penthouse Suite Views

What I love about this suite is how different it is from every other Penthouse Suite I have seen AND how unique each room within the suite is. No two rooms are the same and they all have their own unique vibe.

I want to start with my favorite room, the 2-story circular library with a celestial map on the ceiling covered in gold leaf and a sapphire sky. What makes this room special? Lets just say if you are a millionaire and you don’t own a library, you are spending your money entirely wrong. This room is reminiscent of my childhood dreams (and now 34 year old dreams) of having a library like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The design elements are not exact but this library is stunning in its own way. Complete with a circular staircase to the second floor, first editions on the shelves and a secret passage way that is rumored to have been used by a president and his mistress. It would be easy to spend a day in here looking through old books and staring at the ceiling.

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Penthouse Library

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Penthouse Library

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Penthouse Library

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Penthouse Library

My second favorite room in this suite is the Moroccan themed billiards room. The second I walked into this room I felt like I had just been transported back to Morocco. The details of this room are marvelous and the walls are made of handcrafted Persian tile. You can see throughout the room in every arch, every color selection, each carefully hung lamp, and its full grandeur that this room is delivered straight from a Riad in Marrakech. If someone dropped you into that room without having seen the rest of the suite, you would think you were in Morocco in someones home, waiting on your mint tea and figs before a challenging game of pool.

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Penthouse Billiards Room

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Penthouse Billiards Room

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Penthouse Billiards Room

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Penthouse Billiards Room

Each of the three bedrooms were all decorated differently, but as a traveler I was drawn to one of the rooms because it had a map covering the wall. Now this was not just any map thrown up, it was special and it was designed perfectly with animals on it. It was definitely designed to be a kids room but I love this room the most because I am fascinated with geography and the world.

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Bedroom #1

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Bedroom #1

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Bedroom #2

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Bedroom #2

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Bedroom #2

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Bedroom #2

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Bedroom #3

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Bedroom #3

As you can see each room is so different and has many themes throughout. In bedroom #2 we see the Moroccan sink details and in bedroom #3 we see a bit of an Asian theme with the armoire.

The last room I saw before heading out to the beautiful patio was the dining room. As you can see there is ample space and seating for 14. This dining room is not decorated at all like the rest of the suite offering darker colors on white walls and lets in the most light from outside. The tiled patio is directly off of this room allowing easy access between the two spaces.

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Dining Room 

There are a few ways to get to the grand balcony: through the library, the living room and through the dining room. This balcony has stunning tile work covering the flooring, fountain and railing and non- obstructed views of the city. There is no class or netting blocking your view, it is completely wide open.

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Balcony

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Balcony

Beyond all the gorgeous details and grandeur each room exudes, booking a stay in this Penthouse Suite comes with so much more!

  • Personal Butler
  • Kitchen stocked with organic items from the Farmers Market
  • Selection of California wines
  • Designer stem wear and china
  • Personalized robes
  • Luxury linens & bath products
  • Fresh flowers
  • and exclusive amenities developed for each guest personally

I haven’t stayed in or been to every Penthouse Suite in the world, but I have stayed in quite a few – but this one is currently my favorite. Granted, they are all wonderful in their own ways – but this room offered so much more. The library and billiards room are hands down the most incredible rooms I have seen in a hotel before – and that is reason enough to book a stay in this room.

Fairmont San Francisco Penthouse Suite

**Disclaimer, I was hosted during my stay at the Fairmont – but as always, opinions are entirely my own