Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Discovering New Zealand

I recently attended an educational trip to New Zealand with a group of travel professionals. We traveled from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and several points in between. It is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I have ever seen!

New Zealand is comprised of two islands in the Pacific ocean, located just 900 miles east of its more well-known neighbor, Australia. It is easily reached by a 13-hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Auckland. U.S. citizens need only to present a valid passport for entry, no visa is required.

The combined population of the two-island nation is just over four million. The first thing that struck me was the friendliness of the people. It started with the flight attendants on Air New Zealand -  the nicest crew in the skies. The cities all seem to have a small town feel, where everyone knows everyone else. You  immediately feel at ease and genuinely welcome in the country.


Auckland is a lovely, clean port city but it's further afield where the magic really happens. No visit to NZ is complete without a stay in Queenstown. This is the jumping off point for many adventure activities. You can take a thrilling jet boat ride, kayak down a river, helicopter to Milford Sound, or throw yourself off a bridge in a death-defying bungee jump. I tried most of these while I was there!  

At the northern end of the North Island, you will find the Bay of Islands. This area is great for water sports and beach enthusiasts. The tropical climate stays temperate year round, so it's a perfect place to play golf in the Spring and Fall seasons.
In the central part of the North Island, you will find the city of Rotorua. From here you can visit sheep farms and see how the wool is gathered and witness a sheep dog demonstration (fascinating!). There are volcanic hot springs, wineries and for Lord of the Rings fans, you can visit the movie set of Hobbiton. Visits to Hobbiton are extremely popular and advance reservations are definitely recommended.

I discovered that New Zealand is for everyone: Couples, Families, Honeymooners, Nature lovers, Adventure seekers, Horticulturalists, Foodies, Oenophiles, Skiers, Hikers and Golfers. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy.


Together, with our Virtuoso Onsite Partners, we can plan the perfect New Zealand Vacation tailored just for you!

To plan your vacation to New Zealand, contact the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel today!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunny Sojourns in Spain

I recently returned from my first visit to the Costa del Sol in Spain, and I'm wondering why I had not gotten there earlier. The weather was cool and crisp in early March and the sun was shining, as the name suggests. It's a beautiful area to visit at any time of the year.

My base was the incomparable Marbella Club Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa in Marbella.
This was a perfect location from which to explore the surrounding area. The old town of Marbella is just a few minutes drive down the road. It's a lovely town with winding, cobblestone streets, where you can shop, dine, and get a sense of the history which goes back to Roman times.

Heading west, you come to the town of Puerto Banus, with a marina filled with yachts and a haven for celebrities in the summer time. Further down the coast, you can visit Tarifa, which attracts kitesurfing fans from all over the world. This is the southern most point of the European continent.

Local day trips can take you to the charming white city of Ronda, notable for having the oldest bullring in Spain, or venture to Granada and visit the historic Alhambra. This imposing castle served as a fortress and a palace, and this is where Columbus got the "go ahead" from the King and Queen to sail to America.

Back at the Marbella Club, you can bask in the sun by one of its several pools, enjoy fabulous gourmet meals, have a glass of bubbly in the opulent Champagne Room, sample the Spa, or just relax in your beautifully appointed suite.

To reserve your vacation in the sun, contact the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel!
Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cancun beach escape

This has been a record-breaking Winter for freezing temperatures and abundant snowfall in the Midwest. It can be physically and mentally draining for even the most hardy individual.
A perfect antidote is a quick escape to the sun, which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago.

Cancun, Mexico is an easy destination to get to from Detroit. Miles of white sand beaches stretch down the length of the Yucatan peninsula, connecting one resort area to the next. I've been to many resorts in the Mayan Riviera over the years, but this time I opted to stay in Cancun, in the hotel zone. This was my first stay at a Secrets resort and I came away very impressed.

Secrets the Vine opened in 2012, and is one of several Secrets resorts located throughout the Caribbean and Mexico. The concept of the resort chain is adult-only, all-inclusive. Being an empty-nester at home, the adult-only theme was perfect for me. I also liked the fact that they didn't make you wear those plastic bracelets, which you invariably have to wear at many other all-inclusive resorts.

This resort is an all glass high-rise hotel. Staff members were frequently seen cleaning the glass to keep it gleaming. There are several different room types to choose from. Most rooms have an ocean view. If you choose a room or suite in the Preferred club, you receive extra amenities, such as a private check-in area, concierge club, access to the rooftop pool for Preferred guests only and upgraded brands of liquor. I think it is worth the additional cost if you like those extra touches.
Honeymoon Ocean view Suite

The deluxe rooms are nice but I recommend booking at least a junior suite - the bathrooms and balconies are much larger and you will feel more comfortable.

There are several restaurants to choose from on property. No reservations are necessary, which is very nice. You just walk up to the restaurant whenever you are ready. The restaurants are Italian, Steakhouse, Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican-themed. I found the food to be very good and beautifully presented. Service was excellent throughout the resort and the staff members were very eager to please.

The pools and beach area were large enough that I never had a problem finding a chaise lounge. The activities team kept people busy all day long if that's what you are looking for, from pool aerobics to beach volleyball, spanish lessons to tequila tastings. I enjoyed the morning yoga classes, held each day by the pool.

There is nightlife and shopping within easy walking distance to the resort, or just hop on the local bus, easy and safe for tourists.

Good to know: A valid U.S. passport is necessary for travel to Cancun

Ready to book your next vacation to Cancun? Call the expert Travel Advisors at Bee Kalt Travel.

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Where to Go Next: Ethiopia

It's the New Year and the magazines and newspapers are full of articles on Where To Go Next?
We have an idea: Ethiopia! Ethiopia has made it on a lot of those lists this year because it is a country rich with cultural and historical interest. After a long period of political turmoil, the country is stable now and several tour operators are offering trips to the region.

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa. It is the only country on the African continent that had never been colonized. This allows for a unique perspective for the traveler to really see and experience the various cultures and tribes of the region. Religion also plays an important role in Ethiopian society and has fascinating cave churches, the sites of annual Christian pilgrimages.

Anthropology buffs will thrill at the chance to see "Lucy", the 3.5 million old remains of the most complete hominid ever found, in the National Museum in Addis Ababa.  You are in Africa, so of course there is the opportunity for game-viewing in Mago National Park.

Steven Kalt is escorting clients on a 17- day tour with Travcoa, a luxury travel company. This tour will include all of the highlights that Ethiopia has to offer. Plus you will have the expertise and entertaining stories of Steven Kalt, who will be returning to the country where he was a Fullbright-Hayes Secondary School Teacher fellow in 1967.

Tour dates: October 27 - November 12, 2014

Experience this once in a lifetime opportunity to journey to the Cradle of Humankind.

To reserve your space, Call Steven Kalt at Bee Kalt Travel today!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Caribbean holiday

If you live in the northern climes, you may be ready for an escape to warmer weather. I found some great spots in the Caribbean, perfect for a long weekend or longer if you have the luxury of time.
La Samanna is definitely the top resort to stay in St. Martin. The long stretch of golden sand beach is one of the prettiest on the island. Rooms range from deluxe ocean view to ocean front suites. There are also large 4-5 bedroom villas, perfect for large families.
The resort offers use of non-motorized watersports, a well-equipped fitness center, fabulous spa, and a pilates studio. The bar is a popular place to gather to enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset. The restaurant provides indoor and outdoor tables for dining, overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

Just a short 10-minute hop away by air is the island of St. Barthelemy, or St. Barths as it's usually referred to. The flight has known to instill fear in some, but I think it's a blast.  The pilot glides over the mountains, and then drops steeply on to the runway, which ends just before a lovely beach! I have heard stories of a plane or two going just a little too far, so beach-goers are warned not to get too close. Once on island, the real fun begins, or relaxation, depending on what you are looking for.

There are several wonderful choices of resorts on St. Barths. This visit I stayed at Le Sereno, a newer resort hotel located in the north-eastern part of the island. 36 suites span a horse-shoe shaped bay, most rooms having stunning sea views. This part of the island tends to get a lot of wind and the kite surfers flock here to practice their tricks and flips. It's fun to watch them flying back and forth along the water. Apart from the daily kiteboarding show, there is a small gym, spa, kayaks and paddle boards to provide extra entertainment.

The rooms are beautiful, with no expense spared on amenities. Large, fluffy towels, high thread count sheets, shampoos and soaps imported from Paris, along with the rich, delicious chocolates left at turndown all provide a luxurious experience.
The restaurant, aptly named the Restaurant Le Sereno, is a lovely open-air space at the center of the resort. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served here with a wide variety of offerings.
The freshly baked croissants are hard to pass up in the morning, but, you're on vacation so why not indulge? And while you're at it, have the warm waffle with nutella for an afternoon snack. Evening time at the restaurant brings a French and Asian inspired menu of sushi, fresh fish, grilled meats and vegetables, pastas - all perfectly prepared and very delicious.

You really need to have a rental car on St. Barths and the hotel can arrange one for you. Take time to drive around the island and visit the many beautiful beaches that are found here. Be advised that most are clothing optional. If your credit card is burning a hole in your pocket, head to the main town of Gustavia, where you will find dozens of  upscale shops with designer merchandise. Pricing is all in Euros on this French island and be sure to use a credit card that is free of foreign transaction fees.

St. Martin and St. Barths are both wonderful island destinations for couples or families. Water sports, boating, golden sand beaches, fine dining and relaxation await you.

If you are ready for a Caribbean escape, call the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel today!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Azamara cruising

When I tell people I was just on an Azamara Cruise, I usually get a blank look in response. What's that? is the inevitable question. Azamara was founded in 2007 and is under the parent company of Royal Caribbean Cruise lines. They have just two ships in the fleet - the Azamara Journey and the Azamara Quest. Both are identical, holding just under 700 guests, with staterooms ranging from inside to Owner's suites.

The ships are positioned in between the contemporary, larger cruise lines such as Celebrity and Princess, and the luxury lines such as Seabourn and Silversea Cruises. They do a great job and I think they are accomplishing what they want to accomplish. They fill a niche for cruisers who want a smaller ship, longer time spent in ports, and don't have a budget for the luxury all-inclusive lines.

I sailed on the Azamara Quest in the French and Italian Rivieras, roundtrip from Nice, France. On this cruise, we had a port call every day, and the timings in port were usually from 8am until 10pm. This gave us plenty of time to explore the various destinations. The ship stayed docked overnight in Livorno, Italy which gave us two full days to visit Florence or other cities in Tuscany. We rented a car, picked it right up at the dock, and drove ourselves to Florence. The GPS nav system took us directly to a parking garage near the train station in the city center. It couldn't have been easier and having our own car gave us the flexibility to come and go as we pleased. Knowing that the ship would be there until the next day gave me some added comfort - if we got lost, at least we had plenty of time to find our way back to the port!

The food and service were very good onboard. I like the open dining concept for the main restaurant. You can go to dinner at the time that suits you best each evening. There are also two specialty restaurants that require advance reservations. One specializes in seafood and the other is a steakhouse - they each have a small fee to dine here. Some nice inclusions that you are not charged extra for are soda, coffees, fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies, wine and standard cocktails. There is an upcharge for premium liquor. Gratuities are also included in your cruise fare.

The staff and crew genuinely want to make sure that each and every person enjoys their cruise vacation.  The ships sail all over the world, from Europe to Asia and the Caribbean.

If you are ready to book your next cruise vacation, contact the Cruise Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel today!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Long Weekend in Central Europe

If you are looking for a city that offers history, culture, art, castles and world-class museums what comes to mind?  Paris? Vienna? Rome? Skip the usual suspects and head to Prague. This fascinating city is really coming into its own since the fall of communism in 1989.  It's amazing to realize how relatively quickly the tree-lined streets have become filled up with shops selling all of the top luxury brands - Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier. Strolling this "Fifth Avenue of Prague" will lead you to the Old Town Square, the heart of old city area. The main square is dominated by the 14th-century Our Lady of Tyn Church on one side, and the famous Astronomical clock on the other.

This is a walking town, and the various architectural styles from Rococo, to Art Deco, Gothic and Baroque, all juxtaposed together, make for a unique and beautiful city. No visit to Prague is complete without walking over (and taking pictures of) the Charles Bridge. It was built in 1357 and is one of the oldest bridges in Central Europe. A lively place day or night, you will find street vendors, artists and musicians hawking their wares or showing their talents all along the length of the bridge.

There are so many sights to keep you busy for several days during a visit to Prague. You must visit the old Jewish quarter and the ancient cemetery. The Prague castle district can take days to discover with all of the attractions and museums. The St. Vitus Cathedral is the at the top of the hill, whose spires are seen in every photograph taken from across the river. I recommend a visit to the Lobkowicz Palace, a former palace and now a museum containing the privately owned collections of paintings and decorative arts from the Lobkowicz family.

Prague offers a multitude of places to stay when visiting the city. My top choice to put my weary feet up at the end of a long day is the Four Seasons Prague. Located along the Vltava river, the most sought after rooms have a view of the river and the Charles Bridge. Elegant furnishings, marble bathrooms, incredibly comfortable beds and impeccable service are all hallmarks of the Four Seasons Prague.

If you are ready to plan your visit to Prague and beyond, contact the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel today!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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