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Flower Power

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Orchid

I spent a very enjoyable Saturday in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago visiting the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show.  This year’s theme was “Springtime in Paris”.  How could I resist?

Actually, I try to get there every year.  If you’ve never been and you’re even remotely interested in flowers and gardens, you should try to attend.  Each year I’m amazed by the displays and the sheer size of the exhibition space.  A significant portion of the space is set aside for vendors selling all manner of plant and garden related items.  I would guess there were about 100 vendors this year.  The picture accompanying this post is of an orchid I purchased from one of the vendors.

I wasn’t supposed to be there this year.  We had planned a cruise through the Panama Canal, which would have had us away during the week-long event.  One of our little group, however, developed a medical issue which forced us to cancel.

So the flower show became a bit of compensation for the lost cruise.  The gods of transportation almost made it impossible to get there, but I lucked out.  Coming home, the bus driver had to rendezvous with police to escort a drunken pot smoker off the bus.  Interesting times.

In between, however, the experience was wonderful.  Now, what does this have to do with cruises?  Well tangentially, of course, attending the flower show was possible only because I couldn’t go on our planned cruise.

There’s something else, however, something that grew out of a conversation with a trusted mentor.  I’m wondering if it might be possible to combine two loves and share it with a group of clients.  I’m considering coupling a cruise with specially designed shore excursions to public or private gardens.  This could be a cruise which either focuses on flowers, such as the Netherlands in Spring river boat cruise, or which provides ample opportunity for this type of themed shore excursion, such as a cruise in the British Isles perhaps.

I need to give this some thought.  If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Meanwhile,next year’s theme in Philadelphia is “Islands of Aloha”.  Love Hawaii!

Technorati Tags: cruise groups, gardens, Panama Canal, Philadelphia Flower Show, river boat cruise, shore excursions, the Netherlands, tulips

Your Questions About Cruise Weddings And Shore Excursions

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Charles asks…

Bolongo Beach Hotel in St. Thomas USVI?

Are you familiar with this hotel (not sure if I would call it a resort)??  I’m doing my wedding through Royal Caribbean cruise lines and chose St. Thomas for the wedding location, and this is where they do it.  I have read some horrible reviews about this place, but Royal Romance assures me that this is “a beautiful property”.  PLEASE give me an honest review.

John answers:

Bolongo does a lot of weddings so they have it down pat; the beach is great, there’s surf rolling in……

Be prepared, however, because there is almost always a brisk breeze blowing. 10-15 mph is not uncommon, so you should expect veils blowing and hair flying.  The ceremony is generally held on the soft sand, so you’ll probably be barefoot.

Bolongo is not at all glitzy.  It’s an older property, a bit worn around the edges, more authentic in its way than the high profile resorts.  If that meets you expectations, then you’ll be fine.  If, however, you’re looking for something more elegant and upscale, you should look into the Ritz Carlton or Frenchman’s Reef.

Chris asks…

What are the best shore excursions on a South Caribbean Cruise?

I’m going on a South Caribbean Cruise in 2 weeks, and have noticed that numerous places where we are stopping do the activities that we would like to do. We are stopping at:

St Thomas
Dominica
Barbados
St Kitts
St Lucia
St Maarten

We would like to go zip lining and snorkeling. We are already signed up to go canyoning in Dominica, and are going to the Malibu factory and on a cave tour in Barbados. Where are the best places for zip lining and snorkeling? I’ve seen mixed reviews on the snorkeling conditions and stuff you see zip lining on the other stops.

John answers:

I did the canopy tour/zip lines in Dominica and had a great time.  I booked it independently through WackyRollers.

St. Lucia is the place to do an island tour.  There are several very reputable companies you can book with.  The tour is long and is over winding, narrow roads, however, but it is quite beautiful.

In Barbados, I did the cave tour as well, and enjoyed it very much.  We hired a taxi and negotiated an island tour with a stop at the caves included.  Another popular excursion is snorkeling with the turtles.   If your cruise doesn’t offer this as an excursion, there are private companies that will.  This can be crowded.

If you’re in St. Thomas long enough, you can go over to St. John on your own, although this is a bit involved to do.  It’s time consuming, since you have to take a ferry to and fro.  Quite beautiful, however.  The Linde Point Trail leads to two beautiful beaches, Salamon Bay Beach and Honeymoon Bay Beach, both of which are relatively uncrowded. There aren’t any facilities, however.  If you go to St. John’s, watch the time carefully, and pay attention to the ferry schedule.

In St. Maarten, we decided to break away from the pack headed to Orient Bay, and took a taxi to a small beach near tye butterfly farm.  We did try snorkeling there, but it wasn’t exceptional.

Hope that helps.

Sandy asks…

The special upcharge restaurants- please answer if you’ve eaten in one?

My sister’s wedding cruise is coming up soon.

We’re going on the Eurodam.  It has several specialty restaurants that people mentioned on cruise critic.  Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and Canaletto (which had crappy reviews).  She was interested in eating at one of those first 2 on the night of her wedding.

I have never eaten at a specialty restaurant b/c I’ve liked the food in the dining room and my interesting tablemates–plus having already paid for the meals, I don’t see the reason to pay extra for a meal.

So my questions are:
1- have you eaten at a specialty restaurant?
2- which ship were you on?
3- would you recommend it?
4- why?

John answers:

Yes, I’ve eaten at the specialty restaurants on Princess, Celebrity, NCL, Royal Caribbean and Azamara.

As you can probably guess, I’m a fan.  There is a an additional fee involved, of course, but I find the overall experience worth it.  The dining room is much smaller than the main dining room and the staff is chosen from the most seasoned and skilled of the crew.  Both of these factors contribute to a much better service level than one finds in the rather frenzied atmosphere of the 1000 seat main room.  The food is also better, with the kitchen offering selections that are not available in the main room.

Now, I don’t go to a specialty restaurant every evening.  I usually limit it to once per restaurant during a cruise.  I like treating myself and I think of it as experiencing as much of the ship as I can.

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Technorati Tags: Azamara, Barbados, Bolongo Bay, Celebrity, Cruise lines, cruise ships, Cruise weddings, Dominica, Frenchman's Reef, NCL, Princess, Royal Caribbean, shore excursions, specialty restaurants, St. Thomas