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
Find us on Facebook:

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
Find us on Facebook:

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
Find us on Facebook:

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Viking Cruises

The cruise line that has been known for its river cruises around the world is getting ready to launch its very first Ocean cruise ship. The Viking Star will go a step beyond what is currently being offered in European cruise arena, with inaugural sailings starting in 2015.

All staterooms on this 928 passenger ship will have verandas. Other unique features will include complimentary wifi, a complimentary shore excursion in each port of call, and an adult-only cruise experience. The European itineraries will be destination focused, with longer stays in port and cultural enrichment lectures onboard.  The inclusive pricing is attractive and you won't have to pay extra for beer, wine and soft drinks.

For more information, contact the Cruise Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel today:

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
Find us on Facebook:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Avoid waiting in long airport lines with these time-saving tips

Are you a frequent international traveler? Investing in the Global Entry program will save you time on your next trip.
What is Global Entry? It is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program which allows expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers. You must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to apply. The application process involves filling out the application form online, submitting a $100 nonrefundable application fee, undergoing a criminal background check, and scheduling a personal interview where your fingerprints will be taken. Once approved, you can skip the long lines on your next trip through U.S. Immigration and go directly to the Global Entry kiosks.
Once you have Global Entry, and are a Trusted Traveler, you may also be eligible for the TSA Pre-check lanes at major airports. The Pre-check lane is like gold to the business traveler. You no longer have to remove your shoes or jacket, your laptop can stay in its case and your small liquids can remain in your carry-on.
The TSA is starting a new program later this year which offers travelers without passports to receive expedited screening at U.S. airport security check lanes. This new Pre-check program will still require an online application and a personal interview and the fee is $85 for a five-year membership.  
For more information on these programs, access:  and

Not all airports have designated Pre-check lanes. You can still save time by remembering to follow these tips:
1. Keep your wardrobe simple when flying. The less layers, scarves and accessories you wear, the fewer you have to take off in order to pass through the screeners
2. If you wear a lot of metal jewelry, don't put it on when leaving home for the airport. Keep it in a small pouch in your purse or carryon until you pass through security. This way, you won't spend time taking off every ring, bracelet and belt (and possibly forgetting something on the conveyer)
3. If you carry a pocket knife on your key-ring, remember to leave it at home or put it in your checked luggage before attempting to pass through security
4. Do not take any liquids in a container larger than 3 ounces. It doesn't matter that your 5 oz. tube of toothpaste is completely flat and has only one squeeze left in it. Or that your bottle of water is unopened and still sealed. Forget it. Once these forbidden items are found in your suitcase, the TSA ladies and gents, will remove them and then force you to wait while your bags are sent through the X-ray one more time.
5. Shoes that are easily taken off and on are a plus
6. Keep your laptop readily accessible for easy removal from your luggage

Hopefully these tips will make your next trip through airport security a smooth and hassle-free one.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

New Kids on the Block: El Encanto Resort in Santa Barbara and the Shangri-la Bosphorus Istanbul

I had the opportunity to spend a few days at the newly re-opened El Encanto resort in Santa Barbara, California. It is a beautiful resort located high in the hills above the downtown, with sweeping views of the Pacific coast. The cottages on the property were originally built in the early 1900's to house faculty at a nearby school. It was later transformed into the El Encanto resort. Orient-Express hotels purchased the property in 2006, investing well over $100 million dollars to completely renovate the resort while keeping many of the historical elements in tact. It took this many years to complete the project, and it re-opened to welcome guests again in March 2013.

Meandering pathways connect the rooms and suites which are spread out over the lush landscaped grounds. The colorful varieties of greenery and flowers make the surroundings beautiful and attract the local butterflies and hummingbirds.  I felt like a celebrity staying in one of the secluded bungalows perched on the hillside. Each bungalow and suite is a little different from the next, with no two rooms being exactly the same. This adds to the uniqueness of the resort. All of the rooms and suites are completely new on the inside, many with fireplaces, and all having luxurious marble or travertine baths.

The infinity edge outdoor pool offers magnificent views of the city and coastline. The same views are also afforded by the restaurant and bar - with indoor/outdoor seating at tables with either comfortable sofas or chairs. It is a hopping place that the locals are enjoying as much as the resort guests. The menu features California cuisine with Asian and French influences. I enjoyed my scrambled egg whites with avocado for breakfast while my dining companion had the Japanese breakfast of steamed rice, vegetables and miso soup. The dinner menu is varied with choices of seafood, grilled meats, pasta and vegetarian options. Everything I tasted was delicious and prepared to perfection. Save room for the salted caramel ice cream dessert!

If you do go for that dessert, you can eat it guilt-free because there is an excellent, fully-equipped fitness center at the resort. In addition to all of the cardio and weight machines, there is a separate room where they plan to offer fitness and yoga classes.

The full service spa offers a peaceful and calm atmosphere for their wide range of beauty treatments. The therapists are all excellent and I can't think of a better way to wind down at the end of the day than with a relaxing massage.

There are lots of things to do while staying at El Encanto: whale watching, visiting nearby wineries, shopping in downtown Santa Barbara, beaches, biking, hiking or just sipping a mojito on your private terrace and watching the sunset.

Call us to book your next stay at El Encanto Resort and receive a complimentary room upgrade, continental breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

Another new stand-out is the Shangri-la Bosphorus, Istanbul. This beauty just opened in May with a gala filled with the movers and shakers of Istanbul society. The hotel has already hosted several weddings, which is not surprising given the opulent ballrooms with glittering chandeliers. With the pale blue carpets and silk wall coverings, I was reminded of Cinderella going to the ball.

The entrance to the hotel is quite secure and guests must pass through metal detectors upon arrival. The lobby is spacious and welcoming with gleaming marble floors. The adjacent Lobby Lounge is a popular gathering place which serves breakfast, lunch and has an afternoon tea service.

The 186 rooms and suites are large (average over 500 square feet for the Deluxe rooms) and very well-appointed. Several have views of the Bosphorus strait, just out the back of the hotel, and all rooms include complimentary wifi. Marble baths with heated floors and tv's in the vanity mirror are a plus. The in-room Nespresso machine might just tempt some people I know.

French chef, Fabrice Giraud, presides over the kitchen at IST TOO, the more casual of the two restaurants at the Shangri-la. Turkish, Mediterranean and Asian delicacies can all be found here. The warm bread served fresh out of the oven is worth the trip alone!

The perfect location on the Bosphorus, the gracious service and the spectacular rooms all make for a must-stay destination for your next trip to Istanbul. The Shangri-la is definitely going to give the "old guard" properties in Istanbul a run for their money.

Book your stay with us and receive a complimentary room upgrade, full breakfast daily and a $100 credit to be used toward food and beverage or in the fabulous spa.

Contact the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel to reserve your stay today!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
Find us on Facebook:

Friday, May 31, 2013

Splendor in the Bush - South Africa

My recent visit back to South Africa took me to a fantastic safari lodge: Royal Malewane.

Royal Malewane is a safari lodge fit for a princess. Indeed, it has been host to royalty from around the world since its opening.  This luxury lodge is located on a private game reserve adjacent to the greater Kruger National Park in South Africa. Game-viewing is excellent here and you will most likely be able to check the Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Cape Buffalo and Rhinoceros) off your list in one day. I love the cats and was thrilled to have sightings of lions, leopards AND a cheetah during my stay.

Post game drive you can luxuriate in your plush suite. Persian carpets, fireplaces, private decks with plunge pools - the individual suites are magnificent and not what you generally picture when thinking of a stay "in the bush". The two-bedroom suites offer expansive living and dining areas, in addition to two completely separate and private bedroom areas with ensuite baths.

The safari spa is centered around a serene lap pool. They offer a myriad of specialty massages and body treatments to indulge in after a long morning game drive. Feeling energetic? You can burn off some calories in the well-equipped fitness center. You may want to do this after sampling the delicious cuisine served at Royal Malewane. It was really hard to pass up the warm chocolate pudding cake, so the thought of the gym made it all a guilt-free experience. OK, honestly, I never made it to the gym. 

Your experience at Royal Malewane safari lodge can be whatever you make it. The staff is extremely accommodating and I don't think that you will hear the word "no" here. For fantastic game-viewing and magnificent lodging, Royal Malewane provides an over-the-top luxury safari getaway.

Ready to book your South Africa safari? Contact the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel.

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
Find us on Facebook:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Azura Quilalea, Mozambique, a private island retreat

Getting to the island resort of Azura Quilalea was half the fun! My adventure started with a 3 hour flight on SA Airlink from Johannesburg to Pemba, Mozambique. Cleared customs formalities and climbed into the waiting 4-seater prop plane for the 20-minute hop over to Quirimba island. Brilliant blue Indian Ocean water sparkled below. Landed in a grassy field. Met by driver to take me to the other side of the island where a boat was waiting to whisk me off to paradise. It was a quick 15-minute boat ride to the private island resort of Azura Quilalea. The planes, boats and automobiles were totally worth the trip!

Quilalea is located on an uninhabited island in the Quirimba Archipelago, at the northern end of Mozambique and not far from southern Tanzania. It makes for a wonderful stop before or after an African safari. A perfect way to overcome your jet lag before you embark on early morning game drives or a perfect, relaxing way to end an action-packed vacation.

There are only 9 villa suites, each offering beautiful views of the sea and sky. Depending on location, they are called either Sunrise or Sunset Villas and all are very private. For the utmost in privacy, you can choose the Villa Quilalea. This larger villa is perched high on a cliff with spectacular views and its own infinity-edge pool. The decor of the rooms can be called beachy Afro-chic. They are in keeping with the island surroundings, not over-done, but just very comfortable with calming colors. Every villa has it's own private deck with sun loungers and umbrella.

I arrived to my Sunset villa just as the sun was beginning to set, all of the doors and windows were open, the curtains billowing in the the gentle breeze, a bottle of chilled champagne on ice - it was heaven!

Days here are very relaxed with most activities centered around the water. Diving, snorkeling and deep-sea fishing are among the most popular offerings. Not surprising as the marine life is incredible around here. You can whale watch and observe nesting sea turtles in season.

Dining is a sublime experience here at Quilalea. Meals are served al fresco, tables scattered around the beach or pool, assuring guests a private experience while dining. Your personal butler brings a giant chalkboard displayed with the menu selections each day. At breakfast, I enjoyed the freshly baked muffins, served still warm from the oven. Lunch and Dinner always included a choice of fish or seafood, locally caught that day. My favorite meal was a seafood extravaganza of calamari, prawns, tuna, and what they call crayfish but it looked liked lobster to me. All perfectly prepared and so delicious!

After a morning of snorkeling and a 2 km. walk around the island, I returned to my villa to enjoy the peaceful sounds of the waves lapping on the beach. The chaise lounge was calling me from my private deck. You know you are truly on vacation when your most difficult decision of the day is to choose between laying in the hammock or on the sun lounger. I gave them both equal time.

Good to know: A valid passport and a Visa is necessary for U.S. citizens to enter Mozambique. Current visa fee is $82.00 and may be purchased at the port of entry.
Helicopter service to the island is scheduled to start soon! 

Are you ready to book your own private island vacation? Contact the Travel Advisors at Bee Kalt Travel today!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
Find us on Facebook:

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Pelican Hill Resort - California

Planning a summer vacation with the family? Southern California is a destination that offers something for everyone: beautiful beaches, sparkling swimming pools, outdoor sports, amusement parks, world-famous zoos, shopping, history and fantastic dining. You can keep a family busy for at least a week exploring all there is along the California coast between L.A. and San Diego.

An excellent home base is The Resort at Pelican Hill, located in Newport Coast, California. It is only a 15 minute drive from the John Wayne (SNA) airport and about 45-minutes from LAX.
This luxury resort has every amenity to please the most discerning guest. The Italian inspired architecture is beautiful and the large lobby is set up with many comfortable sitting areas. The smallest rooms are the lovely bungalow rooms, starting at 847 square feet. All are furnished in contemporary style with light woods, high ceilings and a gas fireplace in each room. The huge bathroom with deep soaking tub and separate marble shower complete the picture, perfect for a romantic getaway. They do have connecting rooms, so you can have the kids next door in their own bungalow suite.

Even better for families, or multi-generational families, are the 2,3 and 4-bedroom villas located on the property. These provide the ultimate luxury of having a private home with complete kitchens and living areas at your disposal. Furnishings are in the same Italian style and the bedrooms all have plush bedding and fluffy, white comforters.

All of the activities of the resort are included whether you stay in the Bungalows or the Villas. You have access to the well-equipped fitness center and spa. They offer daily fitness classes, beach walks and yoga. For the golfer, there are 36 championship holes offered on their Ocean North and Ocean South golf courses. The kids can be entertained at a camp just for them: Camp Pelican for ages 4-12, and there is even a Teen Club offering activities like surfing, kayaking and biking.

Book your next stay at Pelican Hill with us and receive complimentary amenities of an upgrade upon arrival if available, breakfast daily and a $100.00 resort credit to be used during your stay.
Contact the Travel Advisors at Bee Kalt Travel today!
Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
Find us on Facebook:

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I think I'm going to Kathmandu

That's really really where I'm going to, if I ever get out of here...
I've known this Bob Seger song forever. I never dreamed that I'd actually be going to Kathmandu, but that's exactly what I did earlier this month. Most people associate Nepal with Mt. Everest and the Himalayas, but there is so much more that makes up this small nation.

The greater Kathmandu area has a population of over 2 million people. It is a very crowded city teeming with people, pigeons and stray dogs. The most prevalent religions practiced here are Hinduism and Buddhism, and there are many temples and important religious sights that you can visit in and around the city.

I was most fascinated by the stories of the Living Goddess. This is a young girl who is chosen from a specific village when she is around the age of  3 - 5 years old. She must possesses the 32 attributes necessary in order become the Living Goddess or Kumari. Once chosen, she is taken from her family to live in a palace with caretakers, where she will be worshipped as a goddess and where people come to be blessed.
Her feet must never touch the ground unless she is walking on red carpet. Problem solved - in the palace she wears red socks! She lives this way until she reaches puberty. At this time, she is sent back to live with her family as a common person and the search goes on for the next Kumari.

My travels through Nepal took me from Kathmandu to Chitwan National Park and also to Pokhara. In Chitwan, I stayed at a very modest lodge called the Machan Country Villa. From here as a base, you can enjoy an elephant back safari through the forest, jeep and boat safaris, village tours and nature walks. The wildlife we saw included fresh water alligators, one-horned rhinoceros, langur monkeys, barking deers, and a variety of birds. If you're lucky, you may get a glimpse of a Bengal tiger or a sloth bear, which both live in the forest.

Pokhara is a large town, about a 4 hour drive from Chitwan. It is a base for hikers who want to do the Annapurna circuit trek. The Annapurna moutain range of the Himalayas can be seen from most points in and around the city. The snow-capped peaks are breathtaking. The city itself has lots of shops and restaurants geared toward tourists. The main street is set along Phewa lake, where you can take a leisurely boat ride on the calm water.

The Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge is a great place to rest and relax after a long day sight-seeing or trekking. It is located outside the city on a mountain, with wonderful views. Individual cottages dot the mountain side with stone walkways connecting them with the main lodge. The rooms are spacious and the staff thoughtfully places hot water bottles in the beds to keep you warm on cold nights during the winter. There is also a lovely outdoor pool for those warm, sunny days.
The Managing Director, Marcus, is very hands on and makes sure that all of his guests are happy.

One 'must do' in Kathmandu is the flight-seeing trip to Mt. Everest. It's best to go first thing in the morning and hope for a clear day. Everyone gets a window seat, so one side of the plane has a front row seat to the Himalaya range on the way out and the other side gets it on the way back. Each passenger has a chance to go up to the cockpit, one at a time, to see the view from there and snap a few quick photos. The flight attendants hand out maps of the whole range with the name of each peak and its elevation labeled. It was a very cool experience and one I'd recommend doing. Then, you can say "I've been to Mt. Everest!"

Are you ready for Kathmandu?! Call on the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel to help you plan your next adventure!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
Find us on Facebook: