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WHY IT MAKES SENSE TO UTILIZE THE SERVICES OF A TRAVEL AGENT

In today’s digital age, many people assume that the internet has rendered travel agents obsolete. However, working with a travel agent can provide numerous benefits that simply cannot be found through online booking sites. Here are some of the top advantages of working with a travel agent:

Expertise and Knowledge

Travel agents are trained and experienced professionals who have extensive knowledge of the travel industry. They can help you plan the perfect trip based on your preferences and budget, and can offer valuable advice and recommendations on destinations, accommodations, and activities. They have insider knowledge of the best times to travel, the most affordable flights, and the top attractions to visit.

Time-Saving

Planning a trip can be a time-consuming process, particularly if you are not familiar with the destination. Travel agents can save you time by handling all the research, planning, and booking on your behalf. They can also take care of any issues that may arise during your trip, such as flight cancellations or changes in itinerary.

Personalized Service

Travel agents work with you on a one-on-one basis to create a customized itinerary that meets your unique needs and preferences. They take the time to get to know you and your travel style, and can recommend activities and accommodations that align with your interests and budget.

Cost Savings

Contrary to popular belief, working with a travel agent can actually save you money in the long run. They have access to exclusive deals and promotions that are not available to the general public, and can negotiate better prices on flights, accommodations, and activities. They can also help you avoid hidden fees and charges that can quickly add up when booking online.

Peace of Mind

When you work with a travel agent, you can rest assured that all aspects of your trip are being taken care of by a professional. They can provide you with emergency assistance 24/7, and can handle any issues that may arise during your trip. This gives you the peace of mind to enjoy your vacation without any added stress or worry.

Insider Knowledge

Travel agents have access to information and resources that are not available to the general public. They have connections with local vendors, hotels, and tour operators, and can provide you with insider tips and recommendations that can enhance your travel experience. They can also advise you on local customs and etiquette, helping you to navigate unfamiliar cultures with ease.

Convenience

Booking a trip through a travel agent is a convenient option for those who are short on time or have limited internet access. Travel agents can handle all aspects of your trip, from flights and accommodations to car rentals and activities, saving you the hassle of having to search for and book each component separately.

Tailored Recommendations

Travel agents can provide you with tailored recommendations based on your interests and preferences. For example, if you are a foodie, they can recommend restaurants and food tours that will allow you to sample the local cuisine. If you are a history buff, they can recommend historical sites and museums that will satisfy your curiosity.

Protection

When you book a trip through a travel agent, you are often protected by travel insurance policies that cover issues such as trip cancellations, medical emergencies, and lost luggage. This can provide you with added protection and peace of mind during your trip.

In conclusion, while it may be tempting to book a trip online, working with a travel agent can provide numerous benefits that cannot be found through online booking sites. From expertise and knowledge to personalized service and cost savings, travel agents can help you plan the perfect trip while also saving you time, money, and stress.

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ALGARVE: A TOURIST HAVEN

The Algarve is a stunning coastal region located in the southernmost part of Portugal. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and has been attracting visitors for many years. The region is known for its beautiful beaches, stunning coastline, fantastic weather, delicious food, and vibrant culture. I am sure that by the end of this presentation, you will be inspired to visit the Algarve.

Let’s start with the geography of the region. The Algarve has a diverse landscape, ranging from rugged cliffs to long sandy beaches. The region is also home to several natural parks, such as Ria Formosa, which is a wetland area that stretches over 60 kilometers and provides a habitat for a wide range of bird species.

When it comes to beaches, the Algarve has something for everyone. From secluded coves to vast stretches of sand, you will find a beach that suits your preferences. Some of the most popular beaches in the region include Praia da Rocha, Praia do Vau, and Praia da Marinha. These beaches are not only stunning but also offer a wide range of activities, such as surfing, kiteboarding, and paddleboarding.

In addition to its natural beauty, the Algarve is also known for its rich history and culture. The region has a long history dating back to the Romans, who established settlements in the area. Today, you can still see the remnants of the past, such as the ruins of a Roman bridge in Tavira and the Moorish castle in Silves.

When it comes to culture, the Algarve is famous for its traditional handicrafts, such as pottery, lacework, and basket weaving. You can find these crafts in the region’s local markets and shops, where you can buy unique souvenirs to take home.

Another highlight of the Algarve is its cuisine. The region’s coastal location means that seafood is a staple in the local cuisine. Some of the must-try dishes include grilled sardines, octopus rice, and cataplana, which is a seafood stew cooked in a copper pot.

Finally, let’s talk about the climate in the Algarve. The region has a Mediterranean climate, which means that summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild and rainy. The best time to visit the Algarve is during the summer months when you can enjoy the beautiful beaches and warm weather.

In conclusion, the Algarve is a beautiful region that offers something for everyone. Whether you are looking for stunning beaches, rich culture, delicious food, or a warm climate, the Algarve has it all. As travel professionals, we highly recommend this destination to anyone who wants to experience the best of Portugal. Simply give Dancing Moon Travel a call and we’ll be happy to explore travel options with you.

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REVIEW OF HOLLAND AMERICA’S NIEUW STATENDAM

The Big Hand (my husband Marvin) and I recently had the opportunity to sail from Fort Lauderdale on Nieuw Statendam. I wanted to share a few words about our experience, especially as I hadn’t sailed with Holland America (HAL) since sailing resumed post-pandemic.

Embarkation. Embarkation was quick and painless, as is generally our experience when sailing out of Ft Lauderdale. Pier personnel were unfailingly pleasant and efficient and we were through security and check-in quickly – despite some sort of issue with Marvin’s passport that for some reason didn’t want to be scanned properly. All in all, getting aboard was a breeze and our stateroom was ready by the time we boarded, which is always a plus.

Accommodations. We sailed in a standard balcony stateroom in a “guaranty” category, which meant HAL assigned our location. We were in 8187, far aft on the starboard side of Deck 8 which proved to be an excellent location for making our way to the dining room, located directly below on Decks 2 and 3. As usual, the regular balcony rooms are more “cozy” than “spacious” – but well organized with plenty of storage. Once emptied, the luggage went under the bed, not to be seen again until needed to prepare for disembarkation. There are drawers, shelves, and more than enough space for hanging clothes. The bathroom was a typical compact size, but the glass shower was comparatively large by cruise standards. We had a small sofa, and the desk provided an exceptionally good workspace for yours truly, with a good solid armchair for seating. The balcony was quite typical with comfortable seating for two, along with a small table. Our room was directly beneath the Lido restaurant … and yes, we did note some occasional noise from chairs scraping overhead, but it was barely loud enough to be noticeable, didn’t occur at hours when it would disturb our rest, and certainly nothing that I would consider problematic.

The onboard décor and ambiance are quintessential Holland America … warm, and intimate, with a certain traditional elegance. The ship is lovely, very easy to navigate, and features beautiful artwork and décor throughout. I did find the décor in the dining room a bit off-putting with a burgundy patterned carpet, red chandeliers, and bright yellow walls – Marvin, on the other hand, described it as “cheerful” – so just a matter of personal taste there, I suppose.

Entertainment and Activities. Entertainment onboard Nieuw Amsterdam was solid. Just don’t come aboard Holland America sailings expecting bumper cars, multi-media aerial performances, roller coasters, and aqua theater – that is simply not their thing. Their onboard dance troupe did an excellent job with several production shows. The BBC Planet Earth presentation was exceptional. Music Row featured extremely talented musicians performing everything from classical scores to classic rock – HAL is an outstanding choice for passengers who love a variety of live music. Performances at Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King Blues Club, and Billboard Onboard were very popular and well attended – you can translate that to mean “get there early if you want to get a seat”! Other activities included talks & lectures, trivia, bingo, movies on the outdoor big screen – art auctions – and most of the usual assortment of activities that are popular with cruisers.

Dining. We had selected late seating in the main dining room which is scheduled at 8 pm. The food was very good … beef dishes especially consistently exceeded expectations. Soups, appetizers, and entrees were all good with lovely presentations, and we never had a problem finding something appealing on the nightly menus. One significant issue: evening dining service ranged from slow to excruciatingly slow. With dining scheduled at 8 pm, attending the early show wasn’t possible … and the late dining ran too late for us to get seating at the second show. After the first couple of evenings, we solved the issue by simply switching ourselves to “anytime” dining and went at an hour when we could make one of the performances. I suspect that inexperienced cruisers might not be able to “solve” this issue and would miss out on much of the onboard productions. We splurged on lobster a couple of times during the cruise … the broiled tails were huge, but unfortunately, just a tad over-cooked each time. Not terribly so, just enough that they were slightly tough, and a shame to do this to beautiful shellfish like this. As to Alternative Dining, we splurged one night at Rudi’s Sel de Mer where food & service were absolutely impeccable … an experience definitely worthwhile. Unfortunately, our experience at Canaletto was disappointing. Other than the salad, neither of us cared for any of our selections – we ended up splitting a club sandwich ordered from room service later that evening – which, by the way, was excellent.

Surprises. We saw a significant percentage of younger passengers, i.e., under age 40 – and there were even some families with children aboard our late February sailing, which was definitely an anomaly just a few years ago. HAL has made a concerted effort to appeal to a broader demographic without diluting the pillars of their brand – if my observation on this cruise is typical of other sailings, it appears that their efforts are meeting with a measure of success.

Conclusion. There you have it, a quick rundown of our experience when we sailed aboard Holland America’s lovely Nieuw Statendam. Does this sound like a cruise that would suit your preferences and travel style? Reach out to me with questions … we would love to provide a custom quote for your preferred travel dates.