Falling in Love with Cozumel, Mexico

CZM1Travel Specialist Katie Tappa from our Green Bay office, recently traveled to the beautiful Cozumel, Mexico. Katie is excited to share her first experience to the island!

Having already travelled the mainland of Mexico several times, I was beyond excited for my FIRST visit to the island of Cozumel! Cozumel, the largest of Mexican islands, is located just off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula. For visitors staying in Cancun and Riviera Maya, it is a great snorkelling and shopping destination located just a 45 minute ferry ride away. Cozumel is also a very popular cruise port, with two different piers on the island. With nonstop, charter flights running from Milwaukee and Chicago direct to the Cozumel airport – I couldn’t wait to spend seven whole nights exploring this unique destination.

In my adventures, I found Cozumel to be incredibly tourist friendly, very safe, and even more beautiful than I imagined. The snorkeling, which is available right off of the beach at many resorts and also through official tours and excursions, was amazing! I was able to see sea turtles, sting rays, rock fish, and more tropical fish than I could name! Cab rides into town were fairly inexpensive, allowing the opportunity to go out and experience all that the downtown area of Cozumel has to offer. The food was some of best I’ve encountered – freshly caught seafood and authentic Mexican CZM2dishes were widely available and are not to be missed! And of course, no visit to paradise is complete without “wasting away again at Margaritaville”! It may be a “tourist trap” but it’s just too fun to skip – and the calamari was delish!

I fell head over heels for this beautiful little island and can’t wait to return. With plenty of All-Inclusive Resorts to choose from and seasonal direct flights running from the Midwest – I would recommend this budget friendly destination to anyone looking for an island getaway. If you are interested in taking your next vacation to Mexico, contact me and I would love to help plan your next adventure!

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Rose Gray’s Adventure: Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong

Rose Gray traveled on a once-in-a-lifetime journey exploring Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong River.  This was a lifelong dream of hers and she was able to share it with a group of our travelers as they experienced this area together.

Traveling March 1-17, 2014, this group experienced a 7 day tour and 7 days aboard the River Orchid on a river cruise with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.

Rose shared parts of their journey through social media and had the following to share:  (We updated this blog daily as they traveled, on behalf of Rose)

Wednesday, March 5:  Climbed to the top of Bakheng Hill at 5:30am to see sunrise, rode elephants, breakfast at Angkor Cafe, spent the morning at Angkor Watt, had lunch at a local restaurant, interacted with kids at a primary school where we also distributed school supplies and then went to a technical school for under privileged secondary students. The group is exhausted but so happy to have been able to give back. PS- temperature at 10:30am was 93 degrees with 100% humidity.

Angkor – so many temples, so little time. On Wednesday we visited Angkor Wat, the most well known. These photos are from yesterday when we visited Banteay Samre, Banteay Srey, Ta Keo, and Ta Prohm, one of the locations where Tomb Raiders starring Angelina Jolie was filmed. 

We now leave for Kampong Cham to board Uniworld’s River Orchid. Internet might be a bit tricky as the ship is not equipped with WiFi but I will do my best to keep you posted!!

Saturday, March 8 – Started with a visit to the home of a local family. On to Wat Hanchey where our group received a traditional water blessing. In the afternoon we visited Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey (Man Hill and Woman Hill). Careful of the monkeys!! Then on to Nokor Bachey built during the same time as the Angkor Temples. A very full day. It’s time to relax and enjoy the ship and all of the amenities while we sail on to our next stop.

Sunday, March 9 – We sailed on the Tonle Sap River today where we enjoyed beautiful scenery and saw everyday life in Kampong Chhang. After a morning lecture on Cambodian geography and weddings (there are many during this season as it is their “lucky season”) from our wonderful Uniworld guides, we took a boat tour and visited the Floating Village of Kampong Chhang. I think everybody in the group was happy for a little bit of a “down day”.

Group photo at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh - March 10, 2014

Group photo at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh – March 10, 2014

Monday, March 10:  Today was very emotional. We visited one of the 389 “Killing Fields” in Cambodia (Choeung Ek) where mass executions took place during the violent reign of the Khmer Rouge. Here we saw the memorial stupa (we would call it a mausoleum) filled with the skulls of Pol Pot’s victims. Then we went on to Tuoi Sieng Genocide Museum (once called Security Prison 21 or S-21) a former high school transformed by the Khmer Rouge into a torture and interrogation center. Also, our Uniworld guides who have been with us for eight days bid us farewell. They shared with us their very sad story of growing up during this time in Cambodia and how they actually were reunited years later as tour guides (I will save that story for another post as I am still shaken by it).

March 12: Yesterday we crossed back into Vietnam. Our port was Chau Doc. We traveled by Sampan to floating village.

March 13 – This morning we traveled by Sampan to a local market. It was a very interesting selection.  After our trip to the market, our Sampan took us to a brick factory. You see Liem, our guide since we returned to Vietnam, holding up the brick and tile that are made from the Mekong mud. Rice husks from the rice-processing facility next door are used to fuel the brick factory’s kilns. Then the ashes from the husks are used for fertilizer in the rice fields. It was about 95 degrees and you can only imagine how hot it was where these ladies were working. They work during the dry season only to supplement their families’ incomes and make about $2.50 per day for seven to eight hours of work. There was a little treat waiting for us when we returned to the Sampan.

March 14 – This morning we bid farewell to Uniworld’s River Orchid and traveled by motor coach to Ho Chi Minh City (more commonly called Saigon by the locals). We visited Notre Dame Cathedral (yes, the city does have a significant Catholic population) and then the Central Post Office which was built by Gustave Eiffel (yes, the same guy who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris). I found it quite odd that there were many souvenir shops inside. Then we had a guided tour of the Reunification Palace, once a symbol of the South Vietnamese government. On April 30, 1975 Communist tanks crashed through the wrought iron gates. A solider ran to the 4th floor and unfurled the Viet Cong flag from the balcony and that was the end of South Vietnam. Next we visited a lacquer workshop where we saw artisans producing beautiful pieces of art and had a chance to purchase some. We have checked in to our hotel – the Park Hyatt Saigon. It is absolutely five star.

March 15 – Today we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels. This tunnel network became legendary during the 1960′s for its role in facilitating Viet Cong control of a large rural area only 18 – 20 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. The tunnels were started by the Viet Minh in 1948 and expanded by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. You see here photos of some tunnel entrances. A couple of brave folks from our group actually entered one of the tunnels and emerged at an exit about 20 meters away after crouching and maneuvering through the 1 meter x 1.4 meter tunnel. The tunnels were clearly not designed for the typical American. Our guide, Liem had a better time of it as you see him in the photos lower his small frame into one of the “hole with cover” entrances. We then went to lunch at the Ly Club. Can you guess what is in the bowl? No….it’s ox tail soup. Isn’t that an interesting way to present it?? Night was Farewell Dinner at Xu Restaurant and then the A O Show

-Rose Gray

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5 Europe Hot Spots to Visit in 2014

1. Icelandiceland-blue lagoon

Iceland is a land of glittering white glaciers, lush green valleys, black sands and baby blue-colored hot springs.  Iceland is a year-round destination having a temperate ocean climate. The warmest months being June, July and August. Although, winter is becoming a more popular time to visit for activities such as snowmobiling, snow-trekking vehicle tours and the jaw dropping fireworks show on New Year’s Eve. Want to see the Northern Lights? September through March give you the best chance of seeing them on a cold clear night.

2. Dublin, IrelandDublin-city skyline

There are endless things to do and see in Dublin. This capital city is laid out nicely making it easy to navigate by foot. Summertime is the perfect time to visit if you’re looking for a real local experience. Of course around St. Patrick’s Day there are non-stop parties and celebration lasting all week. For a more laid back experience, January and February are calmer months with not as much action happening. Dublin also offers a variety of bus tours if you’d prefer instead of walking. These bus tours with take you to sights such as James Joyce Tower, Trinity College and the Casino at Marino. A majority of these tours give you the option of a “hop-on, hop-off” where you can go explore the sights a bit more.

3. Crete, GreeceGreek Isles

Picture turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, beautiful art and architecture. Imagine standing from any point and looking out to see that view. That is what you’ll experience on this island. Stroll the miles of beaches, some untouched for you to be the first to explore. There is an array of activities to pursue besides the sand and surf. Discover ruins at archeological sites or visit some of the folk life museums that pay tribute to the island’s past.

4. Provence, FranceAix-En-Provence

Where café-sitting, people watching and boutique shopping are a way of life. Breathe in the scent of wild thyme and lavender and be prepared to explore this beautifully captivating city. Spring and fall are considered the best times to visit to experience the countryside and vineyards. The lavender fields come to life in July, although the summer months are quite hot and the beaches and hotspots are usually crowded.

5. Prague, Czech RepublicPrague- old town square

This picturesque city is one you won’t want to miss. Prague is lovely year-round with Christmas, Easter and summertime being the busiest. While in Prague, visit some of the stunning architecture of the castles and palaces, take a boat tour and enjoy a nice meal with traditional music, or take a specialized walking tour focusing on architecture, history or local authors.

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Journey to Switzerland

Leah Heier, a travel agent from our Manitowoc office recently traveled to Switzerland. She 1is excited to share her experience with you.

We stayed at The Rennaissance Zurich Hotel for 5 nights. The hotel was located in what reminded me of a Business/Industrial Park. The hotel had a full service restaurant and bar, fitness center, and meeting rooms/services.  The restaurant was pricey; Full American Breakfast for example, priced at $39.00CHF daily (1 CHF is approximately $1.11 USD).  Complimentary wi-if was available in the hotel lobby, and was available in room at a cost of: $9.90CHF for 30 minutes, $19.90CHF for 2 hrs & $29.90 All Day

The hotel and the rooms had a very modern, contemporary feel.  Rooms were large with large flat screen TV’s, safe, refrigerator, coffee maker, 2 queen size beds, couch with sitting 4area, a separate room with shower and sink, and a separate room with another sink and toilet.  Floor to ceiling windows provided views of the Swiss Alps, Old Town Zurich or the Industrial Park.

Hotel staff was very friendly and extremely helpful.

We were able to purchase public transportation passes right from the front desk as needed.  The rail station was located just one block from the hotel.  Passes could also be purchased at a kiosk right at the rail stop.  Public transit was extremely easy to use, reliable and rail stops all well marked.  Passes are purchased for select zones and can be 5used for all types of public transportation offered in that zone; rail, bus, river boat sightseeing cruises/transportation.  Just one stop from the hotel was a number of bar/restaurant establishments.  A few more stops away was the main rail station, a Starbucks, and the central Sightseeing/Tour center-where you can both arrange and book tours, or where you will meet tour operators for pre-booked tours as well.

We pre-booked two tours.  The first was a combination City Tour/Top of Zurich.  The city tour was 4 hours and took you to see such sights as the Fraumunster Church & Grossmunster, with photo stops along the way.  The tour concluded at the main rail station11 with a ticket via rail up the mountain to Uetliberg, where we hiked to “The Top of Zurich”, along the way there were small B & B’s, accessible only by foot.  At the top of the trail was a restaurant with spectacular 360 degree views of Zurich and a lookout tower.

The second tour we booked was a day trip to Lucerne.  This tour was a great way to see the countryside, and my favorite part of my stay in Switzerland. Once in Lucerne, we were able to take in a local farmers market on the river/Lake Lucerne.  The market had beautiful fresh cut flowers, fruits and vegetables.  We did some shopping, and walked the quaint streets and wooden bridges.   The Lion Monument is also a must see.  We decided to dine at The Old Swiss House for traditional 15schnitzel.  The meal was pricey at approximately $50 for lunch, but was well worth it for the table side preparation of the meal and the ambiance.

We spent a lot of time exploring Zurich over the next few days.  On one side of the river is Old Town Zurich, and on the other is high end shopping – such as Chanel and Coach.  Nearly every other corner has a bank or a Swiss Army Watch store.  Zurich is a very clean and safe city.  The city has over 1,200 water fountains located throughout the city.  The water running from these fountains is 16safe for drinking, and you will often see locals filling water bottles.

Of course you MUST try traditional Swiss cheese fondue, Swiss chocolates and Luxemburgerli and pastries during your stay.  The primary language spoken in Zurich is German; however, there was rarely a language barrier.  Most restaurants offered menus in German, French and English – and most locals switch to speaking English just as soon as they realize you are a foreigner.  We always felt safe exploring the city, even18 at night.

This experience was definitely a wonderful one. I enjoyed each day we spent in Switzerland; the sights and19 service we received were great. Feel free to contact me with any questions or to help you get started with a travel agent to book your next vacation!

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Northern Ireland Tour with Brendan Vacations

Laurie Daul, a travel agent in our Manitowoc Travel Agency, returned from a wonderful tour of Northern Ireland this fall with Brendan Vacations and wrote about her experience to share with all of us! 

ITINERARY

November 3: I arrived Dublin at 1:30 and was greeted by a very good looking young man holding a sign with my name on it (just like in the movies). He was my personal chauffer and made my ride to  The Shelbourne, Dublin quite enjoyable!

That evening we enjoyed a Welcome Dinner with our hosts including several reps from Brendan. They were all very delightful, knowledgeable and eager to share their country and their product. It was an early night as we were all pretty pooped after long flights.

November 4: Af

ter breakfast we headed north to the Boyne Valley where we stopped to see the Neolithic tombs at Newgrange. This is a UNESCO Heritage site believed to be an ancient burial site. It was pretty awesome to see, yet very mysterious!

We continued north to the city of Belfast where we stayed on our motor coach for a very educational city tour…Miriam, our local host gave us so much information on “The Troubles” which is how the Irish refer to the conflict in Ireland from the late 1960’s to 1998.

We made a stop at the Titanic Experience and enjoyed the unique adventure including artifacts and the timeline of the events that led up to her demise.

Dinner was at a local restaurant and after we stopped for drinks at The Crown Bar before heading home to the Europa Hotel for the night.

November 5: We were on the road bright and early on this chilly autumn day, headed to the Giant’s Causeway which is a unique coastline with amazing rock formations and of course an Irish Legend about the giant Finn McCool.  This was a photographer’s dream…so may beautiful rock formations standing against the waves of the Atlantic Ocean…it was breathtaking!

We drove to Donegal to enjoy the first of our castle stays on the shores of Lough Eske (Lake of fish). Lough Eske Castle is a beautiful medieval fortress overlooking a beautiful, eerie lake. We dined in the restaurant’s elegant “Cedars Grill Restaurant”.

November 6: Today we began our journey south down the west coast of the island to Sligo, in the heart of Yeats Country. Here we enjoyed the hills and loughs that inspired the poet William Butler Yeats. We were treated to a visit of a private home for a light lunch and Yeats’ poetry read by Damien Brennan who, along with his wife, lives at Broc House  overlooking Lough Gill. This is an experience only offered by Brendan. Damien is an acknowledged expert on the Yeats family and was very interesting to listen to and visit with after.

After leaving Broc House, we visited the cemetery where Yeats and his wife “George” are buried and headed to county Cong and Ashford Castle.  This was my second visit to Ashford Castle. Last time I was in Ireland, I traveled with Celtic Tours and as we passed through Cong, we made an unplanned stop at Ashford Castle to use the rest rooms and look around a bit…Brendan wins this one…I actually SLEPT there for two nights with Brendan!

November 7: We were able to experience Brendan’s chauffer driven tours. We were offered three different tours and our group split up into a smaller motor coach, a minivan and a sedan to sample independent experiences. Myself and 5 others chose to visit Connemara and Kylemore Abby which is also the site of a Victorian Walled garden (wrong time of year to visit it). The beautiful Abby overlooks a lake and was home to a community of Benedictine nuns who opened a boarding school and restored the nearby Gothic church and garden. We then stopped in the small town of Connemara for some shopping.

Our dinner this evening was formal and AMAZING! Before heading to the dining room we were surprised with entertainment by world class dancers and musicians from “Trad on the Prom” which is an Irish Dance Troop. This was an amazing experience!

November 8: Our last full day offered one of the most amazing highlights of the trip for me. At Ashford Castle we experienced Ireland’s School of Falconry.  Let me say right away that I am not a big fan of birds or other animals being above my head where I cannot see them. This did concern me but after watching the rest of the group I HAD to experience it! Our expert handlers showed us the proper way to hold and fly the beautiful falcons! This experience is available for 70-105 Euros depending on the length of experience you wish to enjoy…it was AMAZING!

We then had to pack up and head back to Dublin where we stayed at The Westbury Hotel for our last evening together.

November 9: We were transferred back to the airport for our return home.

The Hotels I stayed at on this tour of Northern Ireland

THE SHELBOURNE DUBLIN, RENAISSANCE HOTEL

Right across the street from St. Stephen’s Green (beautiful Georgian Park) and just a few blocks from the Trinity College area it’s in a great location. They recently had renovations and added 100 rooms making a total of 265. Very elaborate décor especially in the public rooms. There is a casino nearby, shopping, golf and boating/sailing.

This hotel is great for families and couples alike.

EUROPA HOTEL

Dubbed the “most bombed hotel in Belfast”…during the Troubles many reporters stayed here because of it’s great central location. Unfortunately it’s location also drew the controversy that came with the unrest. The term has 2 meanings as the reporters enjoyed The Crown Bar which is a lively pub right across the street. A high rise property a bit more modern than the Shelbourn bur beautiful just the same. It is a short ride to the Titanic Exhibition, theatre or Botanical Gardens.

This hotel is great for families or couples.

CASTLE ON LOUGH ESKE

This medieval castle has a long turbulent history including at one point it ended up in a state of “complete dereliction” as the forestry commission wanted to take over the forest surrounding the area. Luckily, the castle was saved and restored to a beautiful, tranquil haven for rest & relaxation. The décor is lovely and with a spa and banquet facilities, it meet the needs of many travelers.

This hotel is great for spa-goers &  relaxation seekers…more for adults than families.

ASHFORD CASTLE

I have only slept in 2 castles (tough, I know) but this one is by far my favorite! You truly feel like royalty when you stay here. Our motor coach was let to the castle by a bagpiper! It brought tears to our eyes! (nice touch only from Brendan)There are antiques everywhere…portraits, red carpeting, creaking floors and dark wood trim make for a warm and elegant feeling. The castle is about 27 miles north of Galway right outside the village of Cong. The grounds are stunning. Whether you approach the castle through the “bridge” or from the lake, it is a very impressive first impression.

This hotel is great for upscale travelers wanting to be treated like royalty and relax.

THE WESTBURY HOTEL

Just off Grafton Street this hotel is in a great location for clients wanting to enjoy the city of Dublin. Just a block away from shopping and dining galore! This hotel is much more modern that the castles I had grown accustomed to but lovely just the same.

This hotel is good for your “last night’s stay” as it is 7 miles from the Dublin airport. Couples and families alike will enjoy the location and amenities.

Final Note on My Trip

This was my second trip to Ireland…first time was with Celtic. They were very different from each other but neither was a runaway better choice. This time I was able to the experience Northern Ireland where last time was only Southern so it was a very different experience. I absolutely love it as a destination and have commented that I am afraid this was my last time there…I sure hope not!  If you would like to plan your own vacation to Ireland, I would be happy to assist you!  You can contact me online here.

-Laurie Daul
Fox World Travel Vacation Travel Specialist

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Why Should I Use a Travel Agent at Fox World Travel?

Personalized Vacation Planning Services

Travel agents at Fox World Travel have a passion for understanding where you want to go, will plan how to get you there and enjoy learning about the experiences you want to have. We recognize that no two travelers and no two trips are exactly alike. Let us take the time to understand your unique travel needs, interests and desires and design your own personalized vacation experience.

Peace of Mind and Time Savings

As a travel agency, we are your advocates.  Our hope is to provide you with peace of mind and help you maximize and protect your vacation investment.  You’ll have a team of qualified travel agents available from the moment you begin planning your travel up until you safely return home.  We can tell you the best route or price from competing travel companies, and all of the best options for YOU. We want to not only save you time, but we want to make sure your valuable vacation time that you invest in is not wasted on logistics!

We’re Your Travel Consultants

Travel is complex. There are hundreds of details that go into every trip. We can guide you throughout the entire travel process, from what to pack before you leave to the best transfer to get you home safely and conveniently. We use our education and personal travel experiences and training to provide you with insider tips. Our travel industry relationships will also help ensure you receive added values and amenities that are only available through a travel agency.

Experience, Education and Expertise

Our travel agents live, breath and work travel. It’s what we are passionate about. Our travel agents have been to many of the destinations, resorts, off-the beaten path excursions and planned trips to the destinations you want to experience. Our first-hand travel experience, education, and ongoing training make us travel experts who aim to make sure your trip turns out just the way you imagine.  We can match you up with a travel agent who specializes in the destination or type of travel you are interested in through our “find a travel agent” locator.  The expertise of our travel agency has also led us to grow an outstanding collection of unique group vacations, available only at Fox World Travel.

Certified Travel Specialists

Many of our travel agents are certified specialists who have completed extensive training on destinations, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, tour operators and more. These agents have personally traveled to and around the destinations, sailed or inspected the ships and stayed in the hotels and resorts. We also have specialists in niche travels areas, such as all-inclusive destination weddings and honeymoons or group travel.

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Destination Weddings with Beautiful Sunsets

WOW is all we can see about these amazing sunset photos taken during one of our client’s destination weddings in Puerto Vallarta!!

Sarah and Nick, along with their family and friends traveled to Dreams Villamagna in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a dreamy destination wedding. It truly was a beautiful setting helping to create a fairy tale wedding for the couple and their family and friends.

Sarah Timmers, one of our destination wedding travel specialists helped in planning their special week! If you or someone you know would like assistance with your destination wedding, you can reach Sarah online here!

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