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Newport, RI: The top five must-see’s

The Claiborne Pell Bridge, f.k.a Newport Bridge, is the longest suspension bridge in New England.

Newport, RI is the among the most visited cities in the northeastern United States. It is among the most historic towns in the United States. Newport has a whole smorgasbord of sights and activities to keep any tourist busy. What should be visited first? What should be visited second? Here’s the inside scoop to a smooth sailing visit to Newport.

 

The Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant is among the most popular restaurants on Thames Street. It is well visited by Salve Regina students, Salve Regina alumni, and tourists.

5) Thames Street: Thames Street in Newport is not to be missed. Thames Street cuts through the heart of historic Newport. If anyone is looking for restaurants and novelty shops, Thames Street is the place. Among the popular restaurants are the Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant and The Red Parrot. Brick Alley Pub is located near the corner of Thames and Washington Square. The menu is tremendous. The Red Parrot is located on the corner of Memorial Boulevard and Thames Street. If anyone is looking for seafood, The Red Parrot is the place to find it. If anyone is looking for some gourmet fudge, the Newport Fudgery is directly next door.

Fort Adams was built in 1790, named after John Quincy Adams. It is located at the mouth of Newport Harbor.

4) Fort Adams: Fort Adams is the oldest fort in the northeastern United States. Located at the mouth of Newport Harbor, it was built in 1790 to protect Newport against invasions. Fort Adams is protected by more than two hundred guns. Fort Adams was named after former president John Quincy Adams, who was instrumental in starting the War of 1812. Fort Adams was active in all major wars; War of 1812, Spanish-American War, Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Every summer, Fort Adams is the hosting venue of the Newport Jazz Festival.

The Newport Casino is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

3) International Tennis Hall of Fame: The International Tennis Hall of Fame was established in 1954. In the early twentieth century, the Newport Casino complex was constructed to provide a social club atmosphere for the wealthy and powerful. Unfortunately, the complex struggled from the very beginning. By the 1950s, it was nearly doomed to be demolished. In 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame saved the Newport Casino. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is where the game of tennis is celebrated through the great players who made the game as great as it is today. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is home to tennis greats including Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. It also pays a tribute to the game of tennis and the history behind the game. The class of 2017 inductees are Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Monique Kalkman-van-den Bosch, Steve Flink, and Vic Braden.

Salve Regina University was founded in 1947 by the Sisters of Mercy. Its main building is Ochre Court, built by Richard Morris Hunt circa 1895.

2) Salve Regina University: Salve Regina University was founded in 1947 by the Sisters of Mercy. It all started with one of the most gorgeous mansions in Newport; Ochre Court. Ochre Court was built circa 1895 by real estate investment tycoon Ogden Goelet. In 1947, family heir Robert Goelet donated Ochre Court to the Sisters of Mercy. Salve Regina College was founded. The first commencement was held in May 1951 with sixty-one graduates. All were women. Salve Regina College became a co-ed university in 1980. This Spring 2017, Salve Regina University was named the most beautiful university in Rhode Island and among top fifty in the nation by Travel + Leisure magazine.

The Breakers was built between 1893-95, and the summer cottage of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbuilt.

1) The Breakers: The Breakers is the one mansion which tourists cannot miss. The Breakers is located directly next door to Salve Regina University. Built between 1893-95 by Cornelius Vanderbuilt, it is the largest mansion in Newport. The Breakers is a Renaissance-style Palazzo, inspired by the 16th century palaces in Genoa (Genova), and Turin (Torino), Italy. The Breakers was built with seventy rooms, including thirty rooms on the top floor for servants. The Breakers was designed and built by Richard Morris Hunt. Richard Morris Hunt also designed and built Ochre Court, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. In 1972, the Breakers was purchased by the Newport Historical Society, and presently a National Historic Landmark.

The Opera House Theater was built in 1867. This December, it will be re-opened to the public, fully restored, for its 150th anniversary.

New England is a fun and inspiring area of the United States to visit. There’s Boston, Old Sturbridge Village, Bar Harbor, ME, and Mystic, CT. Of all the great historic cities in the northeastern United States, Newport stands alone as being the most awe-inspiring, educational, and entertaining. It is a breathtaking jewel that captures the human imagination. From bustling Thames Street, to the excitement of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, to the educational aspect of Salve Regina University, to iconic mansions, Newport is a model city for tourists from around the world. There is simply no city in the world like it. Newport is simply, a traveler’s jewel by the sea.

 

Theme cruises: Five floating, unmissable extravaganzas

David Kriso has been an avid cruiser since age sixteen. Aside from being an aspiring travel writer, he's a veteran cruise line shore agent in the New York area.

David Kriso has been cruising since age sixteen. Aside from being an aspiring travel writer, he’s a veteran cruise line shore agent in the New York area.

A cruise: a pleasure voyage on a ship, usually with stops at various ports. That’s one definition. The more appropriate definition is “a never-ending floating party on the move”. Cruises offer so much to do, so much to experience, and so many new things to try. Cruises enable people of all ages to break outside their comfort zones and discover a whole new meaning of the term “vacation”. Whether sailing on a seven or ten day adventure, cruises provide never-ending excitement. Group cruises feature occasions of all types. Theme cruises tell a whole other story. From special interests, to musical tastes, to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, guests get to explore the world in the most unique ways. Theme cruises are vacation experiences not to miss. If anyone wants to explore the world outside the box, here are five best theme cruise experiences worth raving about.

 

Acclaimed for his dry sense of humor, Star Trek icon George Takei will be joining the excitement on Star Trek The Cruise.

Acclaimed for his dry sense of humor, Star Trek icon George Takei will be joining the excitement on Star Trek The Cruise.

5) Star Trek-The Cruise: Long live the greatest sci-fi television and film series ever created! Star Trek first aired in 1966. Followed by millions of sci-fi fans from around the world, this is an adventure that takes guests “where no man has gone before”. Star Trek has been a part of our TV and movie culture for more than fifty years. Everyone remembers turning on their television sets and tuning in to this legendary show. Who can’t remember the iconic Star Trek musical score?! Movie goers still can’t get enough of the Star Trek fever. On January 5th and January 11th, 2018, the magnificent Norwegian Jade will be the hosting vessel. Well-known Star Trek stars including Geroge Takei will be on hand for autograph signings and a smorgasbord of special events. The Norwegian Jade will be sailing from Miami to the Caribbean and Norwegian’s Harvest Caye in Belize. Adventure begins at www.startrekthecruise.com. 

With its up close and personal on board service, the beautiful Celebrity Summit will be hosting the Flower Power Cruise and The 80s Cruise.

With its up close and personal on board service, the beautiful Celebrity Summit will be hosting the Flower Power Cruise and The 80s Cruise.

4) Flower Power Cruise: Any 60s music fans out there? This is of the best theme cruises not to pass up. February 24th, 2018, the magnificent Celebrity Summit will be hosting the grooviest trip at sea. The Flower Power Cruise takes guests back in time to when the most famous bands rocked the stage and the radio waves. Hosted by The Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz, the Flower Power Cruise will feature performers including The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, The Guess Who, and The Grass Roots. Among the on-board activities will be a special wedding vow renewal ceremony, trivia contests, dance contests, and pool parties. The Flower Power Cruise is a cruise experience like no other. The Flower Power Cruise is one of the most highly anticipated and love-filled travel experiences on the high seas. The Celebrity Summit will be the grooviest ship afloat. The grooviest cruise vacation in the world begins at www.flowerpowercruise.com.

Grammy Award winning jazz piano artist Chick Corea will be among the headline performers on the Blue Note At Sea cruise.

Grammy Award winning jazz piano artist Chick Corea will be among the headline performers on the Blue Note At Sea cruise.

3) Blue Note At Sea: A full week of jazz on a cruise ship? Why not?! Jazz fans should mark their calendars and pack their bags. Blue Note At Sea is stealing the show once again. Blue Note At Sea defines what is now and hip in the world of jazz while retaining and respecting those elements which make jazz a leading music genre throughout the world. The hosting ship will be the magnificent Celebrity Summit. The Celebrity Summit will be departing from Ft. Lauderdale to the ports of Labadee, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Coco Cay. Labadee and Coco Cay are Royal Caribbean’s private ports-of-call. The cruise will feature a lineup of performers which guests will not experience anywhere else. The Blue Note At Sea cruise will feature jazz performers including Leslie Odom, Jr., Chick Corea, Marcus Miller, Dee Dee Bridgewater, David Sandborn, and Charles Lloyd & The Marvels. The Blue Note At Sea cruise emcee will be Don Was. Blue Note At Sea is calling all jazz fans to step aboard the Celebrity Summit be a part of a seven-day extravaganza they’ll never forget. It will be the smoothest and coolest cruise of 2018. Jazz fans can book at www.bluenoteatsea.com.

The Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel Company has been hosting nude cruises since 1990. Here, two young ladies enjoy a dip in the ship's pool.

The Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel Company has been hosting nude cruises since 1990. Here, two young ladies happily enjoy a dip in the ship’s pool.

2) Bare-Necessities “The Big Nude Boat”: With its popularity rapidly increasing over the past ten years, nude cruising is an traveling adventure unlike anything in the world. Nude recreation has rapidly increased in popularity among young adults. There is simply no better way to soak up the ocean breeze, the sun’s rays, and a ship’s main pool than in the nude. No travel company does nude cruises like Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel. Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel is based in Austin, TX. Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel, has been known for its warm hospitality and fond cruising memories since 1990. On February 2nd, 2018, the beautiful Carnival Victory will sail on a memorable ten-day voyage to the ports of Half Moon Cay, Amber Cove, Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba. From lounging on the sun deck in the nude, to soaking up the sand and surf in the nude, and enjoying the friendly company of others in the nude, a Bare-Necessities nude cruise is the perfect cruise experience for ages eighteen and up. The Bare-Necessities nude cruise is set to “take off” on February 2nd, 2018. The fun starts at www.cruisebare.com.

Known for their mega-hit, "In The Living Years", Mike & The Mechanics will be among the star-studded lineup on The 80s Cruise.

Known for their mega-hit, “In The Living Years”, Mike & The Mechanics will be among the star-studded lineup on The 80s Cruise.

1) The 80s Cruise: The 80s were a decade that undeniably defined music. Those who grew up in the 80s were exposed to the most unique terminology. The 80s were a decade filled with words such as “bogart”, “ditz”, and “amped”, and expressions including “Gag me with a spoon!”, “Get real!”, and “What’s crackalackin?”. The 80s Cruise is the cruise which these terms will come flying back. The 80s Cruise will once again be sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean aboard the magnificent Celebrity Summit. The Celebrity Summit will be sailing round-trip to the ports of Nassau, St. Thomas, Tortola, and Coco Cay. The 80s Cruise will feature a lineup of the finest 80s performers. The linup will include Mike & The Mechanics (In The Living Years), Loverboy (Everybody’s Working For The Weekend), The Tubes (She’s A Beauty), Katrina (Walking On Sunshine), and Tommy Tutone (Jenny I’ve Got Your Number). The 80s Cruise will be feature Sirius XM’s “80s on 8” DJ’s Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, and Mark Goodman. The 80s Cruise can’t have a better emcee for 2018, other than 80s rock legend Rick Springfield. Does everyone “got the 411”? The 80s Cruise is the “bomb”. The party starts by booking at www.the80scruise.com.

It is without a doubt that cruising is the greatest way to explore the world in one week or more. The entertainment is simply non-stop. With theme cruises, the entertainment is guaranteed to be non-stop. Theme cruises give guests the opportunity to vacation with an exclamation point. Star Trek stars and fans will be taking over the Norwegian Jade. The Celebrity Summit will again be hosting the Flower Power Cruise, The 80s Cruise, and the Blue Note At Sea cruise. The Fun Ship, Carnival Victory, will be hosting more than twenty-eight hundred guests on an adventure which only mother nature can reward them with. There are a multitude of ways to enjoy cruising. Regardless of how avid cruisers take to the waves, the fun is non-stop. The top five theme cruises are as packed with excitement as promised. Theme cruises, no matter what the tone or dress code, legitimately define how cruising was meant to be.

“St. Maarten/Martin: One friendly island-twice the welcome” nearing completion

Shared by two foreign cultures, St. Maarten/Martin is the Caribbean's most unique of island destinations.

Shared by two foreign cultures, St. Maarten/Martin is the Caribbean’s most unique of island destinations.

The Caribbean is the most visited region in the world. Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Aruba, and Barbados, are among the many great destinations that make the Caribbean the perfect home away from home. Every island in the Caribbean has unique characteristics and famous features. Plus, they all have have a storied history. The friendly locals, sugar cane fields, historic structures, well-known delicacies, and romantic sunsets are among their many attributes. Everyone can rave about their favorite Caribbean destination. There is one Caribbean island that welcomes millions from around the world with open arms from two sides. That island is St. Maarten/Martin.

During the high season, the Philipsburg cruise ship pier is buzzing, with up to ten ships per day.

During the high season, the Philipsburg cruise ship pier is buzzing, with up to ten ships per day.

Located in the eastern region of the Caribbean Sea, St. Maarten/Martin is one of the most exciting destinations to experience. It is shared by two foreign cultures. The Dutch side is to the south, with the French side to the north. What makes St. Maarten/Martin so unique is that its economy depends solely on the tourism industry. Tourism is what runs St. Maarten/Martin. With regards to its automobile traffic, eighty-five percent (85%) of it is rental cars. Many may think that St. Maarten/Martin is strictly a tourist’s kind of island. St. Maarten/Martin does have its residents. Much of the island’s residents live on the Dutch side.

St. Maarten's Maho Bay is a must-visit. The Princess Juliana Airport runway is less than one hundred feet from the beach.

St. Maarten’s Maho Bay is a must-visit. The Princess Juliana Airport runway is less than one hundred feet from the beach.

St. Maarten/Martin is home to well-known incredible beach locations, shopping venues, and tourist hot spots. The cruise ship pier, in Philipsburg, is among the busiest during the high season. The cruise ship traffic is a sight to behold. The Phillipsburg pier can accommodate up to as many as ten cruise ships. On some days, visitors will see four to six cruise ships. On the west end of St. Maarten/Martin, visitors can experience Maho Beach. Maho Beach (Maho Bay). Here, beach goers experience the thrill of what it’s like to live at the end of an airport runway. Princess Julianna Airport (SXM) is right next door to Maho Beach. At the very height of the day, approximately noontime, much of the major air traffic arrives. Every major airline, including American and JetBlue, fly to St. Maarten/Martin (SXM) daily. It is easy to see how low they actually are before touchdown. Each and every time a plane is on the approach, cameras are ready. The west end of the runway is just one hundred feet from the beach. The jets are just one hundred feet above the water before touching down. Each and every time an airplane is on the final approach, beach goers get their cameras ready. They even strike a pose, making it look like they’re touching the planes. Maho Beach, for beach goers and aviation fans, is not to be passed up.

Cupecoy Beach is located north of Maho Beach, on the island's western end.

Cupecoy Beach is located north of Maho Beach, on the island’s western end.

One of the greatest reasons Caribbean travelers pick St. Maarten/Martin is the wide array of beaches. Maho Beach is just one of a handful of famous beaches on St. Maarten/Martin. North of Maho Beach is Cupecoy Beach. It is among one of the most picturesque and one of the most romantic beaches on the island’s western end. Near the northern tip of St. Maarten/Martin is Happy Bay. Like Cupecoy Beach, Happy Bay is a quiet beach, and clothing-optional, too. On the French side of the island, clothing-optional is the name of the game. Atop the island’s beach list, and certainly the most famous of beaches on the French side is Orient Beach. Orient Beach is so big, it is broken into five parts. The most famous part of Orient Beach is the southern end, which is the clothing-optional, or nude beach. Club Orient, the family oriented clothing-optional resort, shares Orient Beach. Cruise ship passengers are allowed to use Orient Beach. Cruise ship passengers visit the clothing-optional side, too. Shore excursion buses are provided by the cruise lines.

Orient Beach is home to iconic Club Orient, a five-star clothing-optional resort.

Orient Beach is home to iconic Club Orient, a five-star clothing-optional resort.

Without a doubt, the Caribbean is the most inviting region to visit at any time of the year. The sun, the sand, unique shopping experiences, and unique dining locations make St. Maarten/Martin an over-the-top exciting destination. It is enjoyed by families and couples alike. From airplane watching, to soaking in the French and Dutch culture, and enjoying a smorgasbord of water sports, St. Maarten/Martin is the place to do it all. Certainly, it is the one Caribbean destination where visitors can live up the vibrant beach life. Further, it is place where visitors can soak up the rays, along with the crystal blue waters clothing-optional style.  “St. Maarten/Martin: One friendly island-twice the welcome” is due to be completed by mid-November 2016.

Assignment, Baltimore: A work day to remember

A strange sight: Due to hurricane conditions at sea, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of The Seas is docked at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, NJ

How ironic: Due to hurricane conditions at sea, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of The Seas is docked at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, NJ

Thursday, November 12th, 2009, the northeast was rocked by a nor’easter.  The following day, I received a phone call from my staff administrator.  My brother and I were busy in the garage re-stringing lights on our Christmas wreath.  I was asked if I could travel with the Bayonne staff to Baltimore.  I was told briefly what ship I was going to be working with.  She asked if I could report to the Bayonne shopping area by 10:30 am.  I said, “Will be there!”.

Saturday morning the 14th, my family headed down the shore to Point Pleasant, and I left for Bayonne.  I drove to Bayonne in uniform, ready for another exciting work day.  I arrived at the shopping center about half an hour prior to everyone else.  I went to Dunkin Donuts to get a bagel and coffee, and continued to wait for everyone. When I saw a motor coach pull up near the movie theater, I knew something was up.  More and more of us started to show up outside the theater, including two of the pier coordinators.  At that moment, I began thinking to myself, “This is no Boston run!”.

The Grandeur of The Seas docked at Baltimore's Cruise Maryland Terminal.

The Grandeur of The Seas docked at Baltimore’s Cruise Maryland Terminal.

We left Bayonne shortly before 11 am.  We were on the New Jersey Turnpike en route to Baltimore.  While on board the bus, we were given a synopsis of the situation.  We were told that Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of The Seas, was due to arrive that morning at 7 am.  The nor’easter caused the ship to slow down on its way to Baltimore.  The port of Baltimore was forced to close due to the severe weather conditions.  We arrived at the Cruise Maryland terminal just before 2 pm.  We were met by one of the Baltimore supervisors.  She stepped onto the bus and addressed us about the situation.  She made it known to us that many of the motor coaches, taxis, and limousines were turned away.  She told us that we were going to be handling many guests who will be unhappy, because they were going to lose a full day from their cruise.

Inside the terminal, we were advised that letters were going to be distributed to the guests as they arrived.  I called my parents up down the shore and said, “We’re going to have a long day here, and possibly a long night too.”  My dad asked me, “What’s the deal down there, moose?”.   My dad calls me the moose.  That’s my family nickname.  I have no clue why.  I explained the situation to him.  I told him that I would not be home for a good while, possibly after midnight.  My dad told me to work hard, and keep in touch throughout the day. That I did, once or twice.  The long wait for the ship had begun.

Embarkation has begun. Slowly, the Cruise Maryland Terminal slowly comes to life.

Embarkation has begun. Slowly, the Cruise Maryland Terminal slowly comes to life.

While inside the terminal building, we were shown the staff room, the check-in area, the customs area, the whole nine yards.  A short time later, the pizza arrived.  There was plenty of it to keep up us alive and kicking for the remainder of the day.  In addition, they had plenty of diet soda on hand to keep us laced.  After eating, I went to the vending machine and bought a few chocolate bars.  Any caffeine I could get my hands on, I made sure I had plenty of it. We sat around watching TV, crocheting, and playing cards.  I was listening to my iPod.  We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.  It looked like a scene from “Waiting for Godot”.

Never have I ever been so anxious in one day. I finally decided to call my dear old college roommate, Mario, and see what was going on with him.  He picked up after the first ring, and I got the usual response from him. He picked up, saying, “Mr. Kriso, what’s going on champ?”.  I said, “Greetings from Baltimore!”.  He then asked, “What the hell are you doing down in good old Baltimore, buddy? Making music with the crabs?”.  I plainly responded, “The whole Bayonne staff and I are here waiting for the Grandeur of the Seas to show up.  The nor’easter delayed it an entire day. We’re going to be here all night, it seems.”.  We spoke about other things; college, my work in Boston, my job search, substitute teaching, the girls from our class; just plain old college classmate stuff.  After I hung up with him, I went back to listening to my iPod.  I even chugged down another diet soda to keep myself awake.

The Grandeur of The Seas sailing into the Port of Baltimore, with the skyline of Baltimore in the distance.

The Grandeur of The Seas sailing into the Port of Baltimore, with the skyline of Baltimore in the distance.

Shortly later, I walked back outside to the pier.  I looked out to the horizon, towards the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  At that very moment, I saw a bunch of lights and some flash bulbs going off.  It was the Grandeur of The Seas.  The wait was over!

It was 6 pm.  The Grandeur of The Seas was finally approaching the Baltimore channel.  I bolted into the terminal. When I raced inside, I said to everyone, “I see her!”.  A dozen of my colleagues started celebrating.  One of the ladies asked, “Where is she? Show me!”.  I said, “Come out here.  I saw her on the horizon approaching the Francis Scott Key Bridge.”.  We all walked out to the edge of the pier, and there was nothing out there.  I said, “I know she was out there.  She’s probably in the channel entering the harbor right now.”.  We walked back inside the terminal and started cleaning up.  Half an hour later, the pier supervisor took us on a walk-through disembarkation.  She showed us where the guests were going to be directed.  She pointed out where guests were to go if they had taxis to catch, and where the guests’ parking lot was.  Two agents were needed to assist passengers in the customs area.  I volunteered, and I was directed to that spot.  The fun part of the day was finally about to begin.

When we were finally shown the gangway area, we saw the Grandeur of The Seas coming into port.  The ship looked absolutely beautiful, with her lights on, and all of the guests camera flashes going off.  We started applauding as the ship pulled alongside the pier.  I yelled up to the guests on deck saying, “We’ve been waiting all day for you!”.  Once the ship started lowering her lines, it was time to go to work.  Half an hour later, disembarkation started. I was walking back and forth along the long line of guests, telling them to have their customs forms and passports ready. They came off the ship and through customs they went.  Immediately afterward came the general disembarkation.  Many of the guests on board the ship that evening all had one situation in common.  They were twelve hours late, and were worried that they had missed their flights home.  Some even missed their trains, or were cutting it close to their flights and trains. I was able to help the guests with their train situations.  I gave them Amtrak’s phone number, so hopefully they could be rescheduled.  More than one hundred guests had trains to catch home, to New Jersey, to Connecticut, and even Rhode Island.  Disembarkation continued until 9 pm.  I was getting exhausted, but the night wasn’t over yet.  My favorite part was finally coming up.

At 9:30 pm, guest check-in officially started.  It was my time to shine.  I went to my computer station, and started raised my station paddle.  The first party came up to my computer.  I greeted them, saying “Welcome to the Grandeur of The Seas! Do you have your health forms all completed?”.  I then said, “I apologize for the long wait today.”  This party was absolutely content with the delay.  They weren’t upset at all.  They appeared to be a bit tired from a long day of doing practically nothing, but they weren’t upset.  I asked for their passports, their cruise tickets, and the credit card that they had registered.  I gave them their stateroom key cards, and wished them a safe trip and a pleasant evening.  Once I was done with them, I showed them to the waiting area.

Embarkation continued into the night. I raised my paddle again, and the next party came to my station.  This party wasn’t upset either.  Same as before, I asked for their health forms, cruise tickets, passports, and their credit card.  I issued their stateroom keys, and off to the ship they went.  The night wore on. I was looking at my watch every half hour.  I was hoping for a break in the flow of guest traffic, so I could step away for a diet soda.  I was getting weary, and yawning my butt off. Finally, I heard the words I hoped to hear, “David, you’re free to have dinner.”.  I stepped away and went into the break room to have a cup of coffee and a diet soda.  The night wasn’t over yet.  There was still plenty of guests walking in.  It was the longest day my colleagues and I had ever worked.  We were already pushing seventeen hours.  We were surely on the verge of setting a record.

It was 1:30 am.  Our longest work day in history was nearly complete.  Once the incoming guest traffic started to subside, we were just begging to call it a night, or I should say, morning.  I never saw my colleagues yawning so much after a long night.  We were talking about every last guest we checked in.  It wasn’t all that bad of a night.  Before heading out to the bus, we were all thanked by the pier management for giving up a whole day to assist them on short notice.  If it weren’t for us going down there, the Baltimore staff would have been up a creek without a paddle.  The Carnival Pride was due in at 7 am. I was sure of it that they were going to send us a thank you note.

The sun rising over the New York City skyline. How strange it was to see it returning home from work.

The sun rising over the New York City skyline. How strange it was to see it returning home from work.

At 2 am, we finally boarded the bus.  We set a huge record.  We worked the longest shift ever; nineteen and a half hours.  Once we were all on board, we hit the highway north to Bayonne.  As we were leaving, the Grandeur of The Seas was minutes away from departing. I took out my iPod, put on Bruce Springsteen, and I fell asleep instantly.  I didn’t wake up until 5 am, when we were crossing the I-78 bridge.  When we pulled in front of the Bayonne movie theater, it took a short while for many of us to rise and shine.  We got off the bus and went back to our cars.  As I was on the New Jersey Turnpike approaching Giants Stadium, the sun was starting to creep up over New York City.  I said to myself, “Man, is this awkward!”.  I was returning home from work while everyone else was just waking up.  How strange!

At quarter of six, I finally pulled into my driveway.  I went inside, turned off the alarm, changed out of my uniform, and put on my my Aerosmith pajamas.  Minutes later, I went to bed.  At 11 am, I woke up.  I quickly took a shower, got dressed, and went to church.  At church, I fell asleep during the readings, then during the Eucharist, and finally during Communion.  When I finally arrived back home, I turned on the Jets game.  Once again, I fell asleep.  I slept through the entire game.  A short time later, my family returned home from Point Pleasant.  They saw me passed out on the couch.  My dad whispered into my ear saying, “Moose, you want to order pizza for dinner?”.  I was so out of it.  While in a fog, I responded, “Let’s go for it! As long as diet soda’s not on the menu.”.  A long and hard day sure has its rewards, doesn’t it?

Hotel reservations: Avoiding the inconvenience of 21st century communication

At Newark Penn Station, where my soon-to-be disappointing weekend began.

Newark Penn Station, where my soon-to-be disappointing weekend began.

April 2011, I was attending an alumni event in Washington DC for my college Alma Mater.  I made my reservation at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. The Crystal Gateway is located just minutes from Ronald Reagan National Airport. Regardless of occasion, Washington DC is my favorite city to visit. The alumni event was being held at the National Press Club.  One of my classmates was hosting the event.  I was excited about seeing him for the first time after twelve long years.  I made my reservation directly through the hotel’s reservation agent.  I gave my credit card number, and I was given the reservation code.  I wrote down the reservation number and I waited for the confirmation via email.  I was all set to go.  Lastly, I made my train reservation.  Washington DC was a “go”.

Washington DC's Metro subway is my A#1 favorite subway system.

Washington DC’s Metro subway is my A#1 favorite subway system.

Before I knew it, my traveling day came.  In the morning, I took a commuter train to Newark Penn Station.  My train was right on time.  The train trip down was marvelous.  I arrived at Washington DC’s Union Station right on schedule.  I got off the train, and headed for the Metro subway station.  I bought my fare card and boarded the subway.  A short time later, I arrived at the Crystal City station. The Crystal Gateway Marriott was directly upstairs. Having entered the lobby, I went to the counter.  There, my worst nightmare began to unfold.  I told the agent at the counter my name and that I had one-night reservation.  I gave him my reservation number.  He said he didn’t have anything under my name, or in any of the other Marriott hotels in the Washington DC area.  He then asked for my confirmation printout.  Unfortunately, my confirmation email never came through.  I had the confirmation number.  That’s all I needed, right?? The man thought I was joking.  He asked if I was sure that I was booked there.  He added that he had nothing saying that I was staying there.  The runaround started.

The Crystal Gateway Marriott is one of Marriott's most popular hotels in the Washington DC area.

The Crystal Gateway Marriott is one of Marriott’s most popular hotels in the Washington DC area.

The front desk agent escorted me to the concierge desk.  He asked her if I could use her computer to look for the confirmation email.  I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked my email.  I even checked my junk mailbox.  I found nothing.  Next, I was asked to go to the guest relations phone on the other side of the lobby to speak with a representative.  I was absolutely livid.  I told the guest relations representative the very same story.  I was booked for one night for $139.00.  She asked for every single bit of information…reservation number, Marriott rewards account number, anything to search under my name.  Just like the agent at the counter, she came up with nothing.  My afternoon was getting worse and worse even before it could get exciting.

It was past 3 p.m. and I was rightfully angry.  I was once again transferred to a Marriott reservations agent.  I gave her my story, the same story I told the front desk agent and to the guest relations representative.  Just as before, it was the same result. She came up with nothing.  The agent started confusing me with the convention that was being held at the hotel.  I can’t describe how upset I was at that moment.  No way was I turning around and heading back to the train station.  I paid $139.00 for one night, and there was nothing available?? I was charged $299.00 plus tax for a room at the Crystal City Marriott, just so they could give me someplace to stay.  I argued my case with the agent on the phone.  She said it was their “best rate.”.  Yeah, right!!!

The Crystal City Marriott is located across the Jefferson Davis Highway from its counterpart, Crystal Gateway Marriott.

The Crystal City Marriott is located across the Jefferson Davis Highway from its counterpart, Crystal Gateway Marriott.

Upset as ever, I left the Crystal Gateway Marriott lobby.  I headed back through the underground tunnel to the Crystal City Marriott.  When I approached the check-in counter, I was exceptionally upset.  The agent was asking why I looked so troubled.  I told her about my situation.  She said that they were going to give me 500 Marriott points for the unsatisfactory experience.  I wasn’t satisfied at all.  I took my room card and headed upstairs.  When I entered my room, I immediately called Marriott.  I was experiencing the worst guest service meltdown in all human memory.  All of my stays with Marriott were absolutely wonderful, until then.  The agent on the phone told me that the $139.00 was being refunded back to my credit card, but the $299.00 won’t be charged to my card until I checked out.  They said it would be refunded back to my credit card within ten days.  While in such a horrible mood, I got changed and headed back downstairs to the subway.  I attended my alumni gathering downtown, and had a good time.  While I was there, my classmate asked why I looked so ruffled in the feathers.  Like, I had to tell him?

The next morning, it was time to wash up, pack up, and have breakfast downstairs.  After that, I went upstairs to grab my suitcase.  At check-out, I said how greatly disgusted I was over the nonsense I was put through.  There was absolutely no excuse for what happened.  No one gave me any information on why my reservation was lost in the abyss.  I headed back to the subway, on my way back to Union Station.  I still had some investigating to do.  Once aboard my train, I called Marriott again to have another talk with them.  This time, I was told something totally different.  I was given a piece of information which the reservations agent at the Crystal Gateway Marriott never told me.  The lady asked if I made a reservation for April 2nd.  How in the world was that?  When I made my reservation, I told the hotel agent I was staying there on April 7th.  The agent told me that a reservation was made for April 2nd.  She said that I was a no-show.  Why didn’t the hotel call to inquire why I had not arrived?  They had my phone number attached to the reservation.  Their inattentiveness was unacceptable.

The hotel made another mistake.  I was told that calling the hotel directly was for “same week” reservations.  The hotel agent with whom I booked my reservation never advised me of that.  I was completely misinformed and booked for a night I was not staying there.  There was point-blank no common sense on the hotel’s part.  Without that email message which they claim they had sent me, an email which never came through, how was I supposed to know that there was a an error on their end?

The Marriott hotel confirmation email, which I never received. From there, my stay went south.

The Marriott hotel confirmation email, which I never received. From there, my stay went south.

Remember the part when I was told that within ten days the $299.00 charge was going to be refunded back to my credit card?  I called the credit card company and asked the representative to check on it.  I was told me that no such transaction had taken place.  Once again, Marriott took me for a ride.  I had never been taken advantage of at such a level.  Unfortunately, I had to get my money back via dispute paperwork.  Do you want to know anyone should deal with this situation in the future?  Here’s how I will be dealing with it.  I imperatively suggest that you do the same.

You have to protect yourself when booking a hotel room.  Even if you’re staying for just one night, you must protect yourself.  No one deserves to encounter the chaos I dealt with in Washington DC in 2011.  On Marriott’s web site, I filled out the comment page.  Two days later, the Crystal Gateway Marriott’s manager contacted me.  I spoke with him about my situation.  He gave me his email address and phone number.  He directed me to make my next reservation through him.  He said that he will personally supervise my reservation and assist me during my next stay.

It's vital to ask for a paper confirmation to be sent to you, and not rely solely on email.

It’s vital to ask for a paper confirmation to be sent to you, and not rely solely on email.

Here is the big hint you’ve been waiting for.  Even if the agent says that they’ll be emailing you the confirmation, ask them to send you the confirmation via regular mail also.  Take Disney for example.  Disney sends paper confirmation letters to its guests as a form of courtesy.  It is best to have back-up.  Email is great, but it doesn’t replace the vitality of having paper proof.  When you receive that letter in the mail, double-check it to make sure everything is correct.  The very second you notice a problem, immediately call hotel reservations to get the matter resolved.  I have learned a valuable lesson from my Washington DC stay. Paper confirmation letters sure beat being at the mercy of your email.  I know we are in the 21st century, but 20th century communication still works best.

 

A two-ring circus: The “I do’s” and “I don’ts” of wedding travel

An out-of-town wedding is the occasion many look forward to. Traveling to one is always a challenge.

An out-of-town wedding is the occasion many look forward to. Traveling to one is always a challenge.

A wedding!  It is the happiest day for two individuals.  It is the happiest moment for two families.  It is the moment when two become one.  The champagne is on ice, there’s a monster-size cake, and everyone is dressed to the nines.  Ultimately, it is the day on which everyone is sharing in a memorable milestone.  Wait up!  Did I say milestone?  At any wedding, there are dozens of wedding guests who travel many “miles” to attend.  Some have to fly, take a train, or drive long-distance.  Sure, weddings are wonderful.  Such precious moments are talked about in the weeks following.

Traveling to a wedding can be very exciting.  However, wedding travel is no easy feat.  My family and I have been invited to many out-of-town weddings.  They are a lot of fun.  Nonetheless, the burden of time and money always comes to light.  If you are engaged to get married, take my series of past wedding experiences into consideration.  You will understand how paramount it is to be mindful of out-of-town guests.  They’re the ones going the great distance to share in a timeless moment with you.  Making your wedding day worthwhile is one thing, but it is vital that your out-of-town guests leave with the feeling that the event was worthwhile.

The Holiday Inn Express in Valencia, California is located directly across the highway from Six Flags Magic Mountain.

The Holiday Inn Express in Valencia, California is located directly across the highway from Six Flags Magic Mountain.

To invited guests, I wish to share some valuable travel advice with you to ease the “I do-I don’t” dilemma.  Since 2000, my family and I have been invited to a handful of out-of-town weddings.  They’ve been held in locations all over the country.  There were weddings which the guests’ travel needs were well. or at times, poorly accommodated.

In June 2003, we attended a friend’s wedding in the Los Angeles area.  The wedding mass was held in Santa Clarita, with the reception held at an aviation-themed banquet hall in Van Nuys.  The wedding was the utmost pleasant.  It was well put together.  The groom (our longtime friend) and the bride well-researched the hotel accommodations.  In the invitation, they provided a listing of hotels nearest to the wedding location.  We flew into Burbank.  We chose to stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Valencia.  The hotel was conveniently located across the highway from Six Flags Magic Mountain.  That came in very handy.  It was a good option to consider, just in case we decided to unwind.  Before attending the wedding, we visited Six Flags Magic Mountain for a few hours.  We had a great time. Santa Clarita is twenty- five minutes from Valencia.  It was a wedding done with over-the-top, solid travel research.  Our friend’s wedding in Santa Clarita was truly well worth it.

Moline, Illinois is nearly three hour drive west of Chicago (165 miles).

Moline, Illinois is nearly three hour drive west of Chicago (165 miles).

In November 2003, I was invited to my very first of college classmates’ weddings.  My dear classmate and her fiancé were getting married in Moline, Illinois.  I was very excited for her.  When I read the invitation, I put on the brakes.  The date and location hit me like a fastball.  Moline is one hundred and sixty-five miles west of Chicago.  The date was very difficult to make.  She and her fiancé planned their wedding for New Year’s weekend.  They got engaged in August of that year.  Neither did they not recommend a hotel in the area, nor did they block off hotel space for out-of-town guests.  To add insult to injury, their wedding was planned amidst an airline blackout period. Taking the train would have been my best bet. Taking the train was a much cheaper option.  Taking the train would have worked out well, but the return trip would’ve caused me to miss a full working day.  With regret, I checked off, “Sorry, I cannot attend.”  I was beside myself when explaining my response on the back of the RSVP card.  I couldn’t make the wedding, but at least their gift did.

The Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth, Massachusetts is truly gorgeous, but the room cost is another story.

The Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth, Massachusetts is truly gorgeous, but the room cost is another story.

My next wedding invitation came in July 2005.  My very dearest friend from college was getting married in September.  The wedding was set for the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  The wedding was to take place in the charming town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Labor Day weekend is the most traveled weekend for New Englanders.  Not only is it a highly-traveled weekend for New Englanders, but thousands from out-of-state travel to Cape Cod for Labor Day.  My friend and her fiancé were asking the impossible.  To make traveling easier for out-of-town guests, they could’ve have held the wedding in Boston.  They held the wedding reception at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth.  They arranged for a block of hotel rooms with a two-night minimum.  The cost per night was three hundred and ninety-five dollars plus tax.  I could not imagine spending one hundred dollars on a round-trip train ticket to Boston, along with spending sixty dollars on a round-trip bus ticket to Falmouth.  The most costly part would have been tacking on nearly eight hundred dollars for a hotel room.  With great regret, I checked off “Sorry, I will not be able to attend.”.  I couldn’t have felt worse saying “no” on the invitation.  Just like my prior invitation, the lack of consideration was the “icing on the cake”.  I had mixed emotions, but my disappointment was by far incomparable.

When engaged couples plan their weddings, it is crucial that they be considerate of their guests' travel needs across at all times.

When engaged couples plan their weddings, it is crucial that they be considerate of their guests’ travel needs across at all times.

Engaged couples are bound to make errors when planning their weddings.   So, what about you, the out-of-town guests?  What can be done to ease the stress involved in traveling to a wedding across the miles?  For better, for worse, is saying “no” to the invitation the end-all?  It might, but it shouldn’t be.  Before deciding to check off “no” on the RSVP card, consider looking up alternatives.  Before doing so, contact the bride and groom.  Find out where else they can recommend.  If the hotel they’re using is too pricey, ask if there’s a cheaper one nearby.  Ask about transportation.  Ask if you could fly, take a bus, or a train.  Don’t attempt doing all of the research by yourself.  This is work which the bride, groom, and/or their families could’ve done to make your journey a whole lot more enjoyable. Many of the major airlines offer hotel packages online. Further, Amtrak.com provides hotels with reasonable rates, once train choices have been made (if applicable). Lastly, don’t hesitate to consult travel web sites such as Priceline.com, Hotwire.com, and Hotels.com.

Being invited to an out-of-town wedding is a true honor. When the doubts are developing, saying "no" on the invitation should be a last resort.

Being invited to an out-of-town wedding is a true honor. When the doubts are developing, saying “no” on the invitation should be a last resort.

An out-of-town wedding is always a pleasure to attend.  It is truly an honor not to be passed up. Traveling long-distance to a wedding shows the bride and groom that you want to support them.  Having the opportunity to be a part of their big day is very special.  On the other hand, the bride and groom, and even their families aren’t perfect.  Not all the hatches are battened down.  They might have picked a hotel too expensive for the occasion or didn’t provide a list of hotels at all.  Worst case scenario, the engaged couple may have picked the most inconvenient location and date for their wedding.  These are the common factors which convince guests to say “no” on the invitation.  Even though the bride and groom’s planning may be sub-par, you shouldn’t be afraid to seek out alternatives.  Always give yourself a fighting chance at attending.  We all want to say “I do” to a wedding invitation.  Saying “no” should be a last resort.  It’s a dreadful decision which all out-of-town wedding guests want to avoid.  Doing a little extra on your part goes a long way.  It is what makes a wedding couple far happier than you imagined.

All ashore: 5 tips to a successful disembarkation

In the luggage hall, guests must check the information on the tags, before taking any luggage with them. Unclaimed luggage will be shipped home at the guests' expense.

In the luggage hall, guests must check the information on the tags, before taking any luggage with them. Unclaimed luggage will be shipped home at the guests’ expense.

To make disembarkation as easy as possible, guests should keep in mind five simple tips:
5) Tipping: For guests opting out on the automatic charge of $12.00 per day, envelopes are provided in the staterooms. Guests should be generous, with due respect to the waiting staff, stateroom attendant, and head waiter going over and beyond to make their cruise the utmost memorable.
4) Cruise DVD: The ship’s videographers work day and night to record the many events on board. Guests that appeared in the video more than once should order a copy. Supplies are limited.
3) Dining: The morning of disembarkation, breakfast is served upstairs at the buffet from 6am to 9am. Ships’ breakfast schedules vary. A member of the cruise director’s staff will provide further information. All guests are encouraged to eat well. It’s their last all-inclusive meal until the next sailing day.
2) Self-assist vs General Disembarkation: Guests who signed up for the self assist program MUST NOT place their luggage outside their cabin door. Guests doing the self-assist must have all of their luggage (including carry-on) with them. When the announcement is made, guests will leave the ship without any help from the ship or shore staff. Guests doing the general disembarkation must place their assigned colored/numbered luggage tags on their bags. All luggage must be placed outside the cabins by midnight. Some ships request bags to be placed outside earlier. Guests are to check their cruise program for information.
1) Luggage hall: Many bags look alike! All guests MUST check the name and contact information on the tags before taking any luggage with them. Those guests missing a piece of luggage should speak with a member of the shore staff. They are more than happy to assist. Bags can get jumbled time to time. If a guest has searched through all the tags, and the bag is still not located, he/she must fill out a lost luggage report. Once the bag is located, it will be shipped home free of charge. Unclaimed luggage will be shipped home at the guests’ expense.

“The New Jersey Shore: A coastline of lifestyle, leisure, and living color” coming together

Separated from the hustle and bustle of Pt. Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights, Bay Head's beach is one of the most tranquil beaches in Ocean County.

Separated from the hustle and bustle of Pt. Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights, Bay Head’s beach is one of the most tranquil beaches in Ocean County.

I cannot be happier with how my travel presentations have turned out. Whether it was only two, eight, twelve, or even twenty-eight in attendance, it has been a true pleasure sharing my wealth of knowledge with the public. Over the past year, my cruising presentation has made a huge splash. My program on Amtrak travel has opened the public’s eyes considerably. My Disney World presentation is slowly gaining popularity, while my Washington DC program is picking up the pace hence the spring time approaching.

Being a long-time New Jersey resident, I couldn’t help but share my New Jersey side with the public. For fifteen glorious years, my family and I had a shore home in Pt. Pleasant. Our home was located on a lagoon. It was fun enjoying the lagoon and our pool. It was a fun experience having pool parties and sharing our home with our neighbors. Still, I enjoy driving down the Garden  State Parkway to soak up all the fun the shore area has to offer. There is no doubt about it.

Aside from its crowd of high rollers, Atlantic City's boardwalk and beach provides the perfect escape from the ordinary.

Aside from its crowd of high rollers, Atlantic City’s boardwalk and beach provides the perfect escape from the ordinary.

What is this new presentation about? It’s very simple. The presentation will feature highlights of the major New Jersey shore towns, from Long Branch to Cape May. Long Branch is known for its upscale boardwalk area. Asbury Park is home to the Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen began his musical career. Belmar is home to surfing competitions and avid fishermen. Spring Lake is home to upscale living and a tranquil boardwalk area. Manasquan’s downtown area is well-known for its buzzing small businesses. Point Pleasant, Bay Head, and Seaside Heights are for families looking for adventure and good times around the corner. Atlantic City is a destination for people with that little gambler inside. Lastly, Cape May is a southern New Jersey shore town with a Gilded Age flavor on each and every corner. North to south, every town is known for something special.

Sandy Hook's Gunnison Beach is the largest clothing-optional beach in the northeastern United States. It is visited by beach goers as far as the Carolinas.

Sandy Hook’s Gunnison Beach is the largest clothing-optional beach in the northeastern United States. It is visited by beach goers from as far as the Carolinas.

Each and every New Jersey shore town has its very own claim to fame. It’s not just the towns with all the fame and excitement. Sandy Hook, home to the Gateway National Recreation Area, is a place with something for everyone to enjoy. Whether it is fishing, singing “America The Beautiful” at The Seagull’s Nest, or just baring it all at Gunnison Beach, it is the area of the New Jersey Shore that welcomes thousands daily. It is a place where beach goers can enjoy New Jersey’s beaches in all fun ways imaginable. Who doesn’t like walking along a long stretch of beach au naturel? Who doesn’t enjoy the ocean and sand in the way mother nature intended? Further, who doesn’t get a chuckle out of the term “sandy bottoms”? Ultimately, who doesn’t like watching the airplanes take off and land at JFK Airport all day long, while striking up a friendly conversation in the birthday suit? Sandy Hook has it all.

What else about this presentation should have the public so excited? The presentation will include tips on packing, proper beach gear, and other accessories which shore goers must keep in mind. Plus, tips on restaurants, transportation, hotels, and entertainment will be shared. All of the key talking points will be featured. No one will ever have to scour through more than a dozen New Jersey shore brochures again.

Despite the unimaginable images left behind by Hurricane Sandy and the 2013 fire, Seaside Heights still attracts beach goers by the millions.

Despite the unimaginable images left behind by Hurricane Sandy and the 2013 fire, Seaside Heights still attracts beach goers by the millions.

Of all of the travel presentations I have written, I am enjoying putting this one together. This presentation is going to be truly special. Not everyone is aware of the many jewels and perks that the New Jersey shore is famous for. Some have their own favorite town and forget about the rest. This presentation is going to inspire hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, to get out of their homes and venture out to places they have never experienced. This presentation will enable all travelers (including day trippers) to enjoy New Jersey for all the great things her one hundred and forty-one miles of shoreline has in store for them. “The New Jersey Shore: A coastline of lifestyle, leisure, and living color” is set to be completed by late May 2016.  It’s a great presentation everyone will truly appreciate. I can be “shore” of that!

 

My presentations: Looking back and looking ahead

David Kriso is in the process of reaching out to new libraries to present his four travel presentations.

David Kriso is in the process of reaching out to new libraries to present his four travel presentations.

It’s amazing how quickly this year has blown by. Back in February of this year, I did my very first presentation, “Cruising: Making Waves & Sense”.  My goal was to reach out to novice cruisers and those seeking helpful hints for future cruises. I did the presentation at the Wyckoff Public Library. It was an immediate success. Later, I did the same program at the Louis Bay 2nd Library in Hawthorne, NJ. It too went well, and so did Englewood, NJ.

Along came June. I created a new presentation in the wake of the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia. I felt that it was paramount to reach out to Amtrak travelers and railroad fans alike. It was important to educate train travelers about Amtrak’s history and it’s ongoing improvements in their service. Additionally, it was crucial to share Amtrak’s plans to ensure the safety of its passengers.

This Fall has been a season to remember. I created two presentations in just one month. I created the presentation, “Walt Disney World: To the mouse, the castle, and beyond!”. Being a former Walt Disney World cast member and seasoned Disney traveler, it was vital to share the keys to having a memorable stay in America’s favorite playground. Also, it was important to show what new attractions are coming to Walt Disney World in the coming year.

One of the most iconic buildings in Washington DC, the capitol building is where our country's political power and influence is both shared and felt throughout the world.

One of the most iconic buildings in Washington DC, the capitol building is where our country’s political power and influence is both shared and felt throughout the world.

Along came my fourth presentation, “Washington DC: A destination of ‘monumental’ proportions”. The intent of the program was to show that there is a significant amount of recreation and unique experiences that await Washington visitors. There have been ongoing criticisms passed around that Washington DC has nothing to do other than seeing the same museums and monuments over and over again. The other argument is that there is nothing to do once the museums close at dusk. The presentation strongly refutes both criticisms.

Recently, I wrote a letter to over one hundred libraries, including four in New York State and two in Rhode Island. The vast majority of libraries are in the northern New Jersey area. These cities include the cities of Hoboken, Newark, Elizabeth. Among the other towns are Belleville, Wayne, Rahway, Kearny, and Parsippany. I am truly excited about the possibilities of these libraries getting back to me. Spreading my boundaries and stretching beyond my comfort zone is the name of the game.

The Breakers is located next door to Salve Regina University. It was built circa 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbuilt.

The Breakers is one of the iconic mansions in Newport. It is located next door to Salve Regina University. It was built circa 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbuilt, the president of the New York Central Railroad.

These four presentations are not the only ones I plan do share. I have no intentions of stopping there. I am presently brainstorming on new topics to present in the near future. I’m planning on creating my fifth presentation on Boston, and my sixth on the city of Newport, RI, the hometown of my college alma mater, Salve Regina University.

Whether it is cruising, traveling on Amtrak, that first visit to Walt Disney World, or experiencing Washington DC in newer and different ways, these presentations have an abundance of potential ahead of them. I certainly cannot wait to share these presentations with not just libraries I’ve recently presented at, but the new ones for the most part. I strongly encourage everyone to check this site for my upcoming presentation dates and times. There’s a great deal of fun and adventure that await.

“Walt Disney World: To the Mouse, the castle, and beyond!” is making magic

As guests enter the Magic Kingdom, they are immersed in the world of yester-year on Main Street USA.

As guests enter the Magic Kingdom, they are immersed in the world of yester-year on Main Street USA.

So many have attended my lecture, “Cruising: Making Waves & Sense”. It has been an immediate success and well-received. So far, three libraries have booked my latest program, “Amtrak: Staying On ‘Track’ With America’s Railroad”. I can’t be more excited to present the topic in late September. While my Amtrak presentation is picking up speed, I decided to focus on another hot travel topic. Why not do a presentation on Walt Disney World? For a destination well-visited by millions from around the world, there’s no reason not to do so.

When I was four years old, Walt Disney World was a very “small world”. Pun intended! Ha-Ha! Honestly, it was a very small world. There was only the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s Polynesian Resort. That was it! Also, the Transportation & Ticket Center, connected guests to Magic Kingdom parking and the hotels in the Downtown Disney area (originally known as the Disney Village). In 1982, Disney added Epcot. In 1989, the Disney-MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios) opened its gates for the first time. In 1998, Disney outdid themselves, opening their largest theme park to date, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney’s Animal Kingdom spans five hundred acres. The park is big enough to fit the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Epcot comfortably inside. The park is indeed that big!

Aboard Kali River Rapids at Disney's Animal Kingdom, guests don't just get wet...they get SOAKED.

Aboard Kali River Rapids at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests don’t just get wet…they get SOAKED.

When Walt Disney World first opened, there were only two resort hotels on property, the Contemporary and the Polynesian. Now there are more than twenty resort hotels on the Walt Disney World property. In 1988, Disney added the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. In 1989-1990, the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin were built, along with Disney’s Yacht & Beach Resorts. In 1995, Disney built the Wilderness Lodge. Aside from those large hotels, value resorts such as the All-Star Sports, Movies, and Music Resorts were built. Later, Disney’s Pop Century Resort was added. Recently, Disney opened the Art of Animation Resort, opening a whole new realm of resort magic to the guests. With Disney, the sky’s the limit.

What’s this presentation all about? When I was a first timer in 1981, getting around Walt Disney World was rather simple. As the years progressed, it became second nature as newer resort areas, parks and attractions were added. What about first timers of now? This presentation will give Walt Disney World first timers a first hand glimpse of what to expect and what they will truly enjoy when they first arrive on the Walt Disney World property. The presentation, without a doubt, will ease that overwhelming feeling that first timers often encounter. Most definitely, it will give them plenty to look forward to, and a whole lot of nothing to worry about.

Towering above Disney's Hollywood Studios at 199 feet, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror gives everyone the ups and downs throughout the day.

Towering above Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 199 feet, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror gives everyone the ups and downs throughout the day.

Disney has family entertainment down to a science. Being a former Walt Disney World cast member and having done guest check-in for the Disney Magic in New York City gives me the great honor of presenting this exciting new program. First timers without a doubt will enjoy it. From seeing examples of Disney’s resort areas, to park attractions, and other notable guest experiences, they will for sure leave with the desire to get their bags packed for Orlando. Once first timers, they immediately become multi-timers. From multi-timers, they’ll become Disney Vacation Club members. This presentation will definitely to open “a whole new world” to the would-be Disney traveler.