Category Archives: Travel Agent

Do you know who MONA is?

This BLOG post originally appeared 11/12/11 on our old site with the title “what the heck is MONA”.  MONA is still a great place to visit so we thought we would re-post.  Hopefully we will get to Tasmania again some day soon!

Just a short flight from Melbourne takes you to the island of Tasmania known for the Tasmanian Devil and convicts.

On our first night in the Australian state of Tasmania we stayed at the lovely, modern and somewhat funky Mona Pavillion. Here there are 8 stand alone villa units with either one or two bedrooms as well as a presidential suite facing the River Derwent. From the outside they look somewhat like a space ship.

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From the inside they are right out of a James Bond movie. Each unit is named after Australian artists or architects. We stayed in Walter.

DSC_0393Walter from the outside

DSC_0376Living space in Walter

Each villa faces the harbor providing wonderful views throughout the day. And how could you not have a wonderful view, 3 of the walls are windows. Now i’m not saying they have windows….i’m saying they ARE windows. Full windows with shades that are operated by remote controls on the walls. How cool is that!

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These modernly appointed villas have everything your heart desires including a stocked wine bar, chilling each bottle to its exact prefect drinking temperature! The fridge is stocked with local beers, juices, soft drinks and milk.

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DSC_0392Yes, we had to pull them out to take a photo!

Our unit was a two bedroom, each with it’s own bathroom. And speaking of bathroom! Yeah this is my kind of set up! Oversized Jacuzzi tub with TV on the wall and a remote that if dropped into the water neither electrocutes you and still works!

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The beds, extremely comfortable….you’ll just have to take my word on that and in the morning wake to the wonderful sounds of nature chirping outside. Our bedrooms were tastefully decorated, some had a bit more of the shock factor going on.

DSC_0382Bedroom #1 in Walter

DSC_0435Bedroom #2 in Walter

DSC_0422One of the bedroom’s in the Roy (the largest pavilion)

Each unit is priced differently based upon it’s size but run between $390 – $990 per night based upon 2-4 guests. Plus tax of course. There are full cooking and laundry facilities in each unit.

DSC_0379Kitchen

These pavilions have everything a traveler could want.  As a matter of fact on a placard in the villas it says “we can arrange almost anything legal, just ask”. I’d call that customer service!

So what the heck is MONA?

Well it stands for Museum of Old and New Art. Mona is located just a short 10 minutes outside Hobart, Tasmania and is home to a somewhat shocking if not weird museum, a vineyard, cellar door and wine bar, a brewery, a restaurant, the Pavilion’s and of course a shop.

DSC_0396 Main building

DSC_0447The restaurant

DSC_0448The cellar door

At the cellar door you get a 1 hr. tasting and the admission fee is refunded if you purchase. Wine tours are available for $15.

DSC_0451Of course we tasted…and purchased!

DSC_0475The wine bar and brewery

On Friday and Saturday evenings you can get a 1 hr. beer tour and tasting for $15. They make 4 types of beer and all have no preservatives and are not pasteurized. You got to love the catchy “Moo Beer” name! Wine and beer master classes can be arranged upon request.

DSC_0478Believe it or not, we did not try them all!

As for the museum, lets just say it might not be for everyone as many exhibits are downright shocking and for some would be repulsive.

DSC_0483Museum entry

As the statement goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” this pretty much sums the gallery up. The owner, David Walsh aka Glenn Walsh. Tourists not from Tasmania pay $20 for admission, those under 18 are free. Some of the exhibits are sexually explicit, others personally confronting thus the gallery may not be for children.

DSC_0493Plaster molds of a woman’s privates

DSC_0494The white room

DSC_0497The woodpecker (sorry just trying to give you a feel for the museum)

DSC_0517The human digestive system recreated, this woman is actually feeding the machine lunch at 1130am (sandwich, salad, fruit and a drink).  At 200pm it has a bowel movement! We did not hang around for that!!

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Coolest thing in the museum, mummy on the left, xray tomography of it on the right!

So, that is MONA.  Who wants to go?  It really is quite a cool place, definitely 2 or 3 nights are needed.

Problems? Not for you.

Six months ago you booked a special family vacation at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean.  You love to travel and fully understand what a special time this will be – so much so, that you enlisted other family members to go with on the trip.  Mom and Dad, Brothers, sisters – everyone was excited.

Did you know that 3 days before you departed on your much-anticipated family vacation, the resort determined they were oversold.  Did you know your name was added to a list of people who were moving to one of their sister properties an additional hour drive away from the airport.

Did you also know that they were only moving some of your family?  Some of you would stay at the original property and others would stay at the sister property.

Did you know this?

Of course you didn’t know.   You use a travel agent.  In fact, you have a great travel agent that works diligently on your behalf.  An agent that solves problems before you ever even know about them.  GetAway Travel LLC – solving problems that their clients didn’t even know they had since 1999.

Getaway awesome

Professional Service & Awards

At GetAway Travel, we pride ourselves on great professional service to our customers.  Travel industry surveys continue to relate that travelers that work with travel agents have more fulfilling vacations than those that do not.  We certainly believe it is true, and obviously so do our clients.  Our clients expect to be treated like friends and family.  They are confident in our abilities.  They do not expect to be “sold” on travel as we already know they want an amazing vacation, what they want is our opinions, our help and our support.  One of the ways we support them is by maintaining professional agency affiliations. The affiliation that we are always most excited about is with MAST Travel Network – and unless you are in the industry, you likely have never heard of them.  We’ve been MAST members for many years now, and in fact Sue currently is serving a term on the board of directors.   MAST helps keep us up to date on the travel industry and products, but more importantly puts us face to face with suppliers.

This week was the 12th annual MAST awards night and GetAway Travel came home with 2 awards which bring us great pride.  The first award is for “Best Travel Show”, for our “Afternoon in Italy” event last February.  The second award is the “Directors Achievement Award”, recognizing one of MAST’s smaller agencies for outstanding sales and support with highest percentage increases from one year to the next.  This was a new category and we are truly blessed with being the first agency to ever receive this award.

You should expect great things from your travel agency, and we hope that for you that the travel agency you rely on first and foremost for amazing vacations is us.

Looking Forward – 2016 Year in Travel

European vacations continue to hold great value. The US Dollar remains at historic low levels vs. the Euro. This is good news for travelers to Europe as you definitely get more bang for your buck.  Our best advice for Europe is to plan ahead – this is not a destination that typically rewards the last-minute traveler.   The best way to start planning your European vacation is to schedule a consultation with Sue.

Uniworld River Baroness Honfleur France 3-26-2009 4-32-41 AMRiver Cruising continues to grow and for very good reasons. Our clients absolutely love to take River Cruises. All it takes is to try it once and you will rave about it forever. Be aware however that not all river cruise companies are equal. You can research endlessly on your own, or you can call us to discuss. Our goal is to find out about what you want to do, how adventurous you are, what you like and what you don’t like. What are your travel dreams?  Our recommendations are simply based on you and your needs, that’s it.

iberostar-rose-hall-beach-poolAll Inclusive vacations will remain hot, hot, hot. The industry continues to upgrade old properties and build new ones. There are All-Inclusives for all tastes and budgets. Well we know you want a warm weather, beach destination, but are you looking for a romantic escape or a family/multi-generational getaway? Do you want basic dining choices or a more gourmet experience?   How does a canopy covered bed and open air shower sound? Or a private plunge pool within mere steps of your suite? The choices go on and on.  We can help narrow it down to something you will love.

According to the experts, air ticket prices are down but add-on fees are up.  The simple fact, is you need air tickets to get to many vacation destinations. They are the transportation, not the vacation.

Cheap will remain, well….cheap. While the dictionary defines cheap as inexpensive, it also defines it as something of poor quality or shoddy. Continue to be cautious about anything advertised as cheap, supercheap, ultracheap, etc. A fantastically cheap vacation is not a good value if it is actually craptastic (this is our official industry word for cheap vacations!). Everyone wants good value and that’s where we help – get the best value for your money that actually gets the vacation experience you are looking for. Will it be cheap? We certainly hope not.

The best things in travel continue to come to those who plan ahead. For example, how about planning 2017? You may not be ready yet, but we are. We have 2 special group options worth considering.

Join us in January 2017 for our GetAway on the Getaway.   We will do all the following:  go down the highest water slides at sea, attend award-winning Broadway shows, experience Iron Chef dining, walk the plank and be endlessly entertained and pampered.   Book now and choose between Free unlimited drinks, Free Specialty Dining, Free Shore Excursions or Free WiFi.

In September 2017 we will be hosting a very special Wines of Western Europe group on the Azamara Journey.  Beginning in England, we will sail to France, Spain and Portugal.  Azamara specializes in unique itineraries that include overnight stays in many ports.  Our group will be in Bordeaux, one of the world’s foremost wine regions for 3 days.  But that is not the only World Heritage region we will visit – see our web page for all the details.

Waterfalls & Wine 2015

Our 2015 Waterfalls & Wine tour in the great Pacific Northwest was a tremendous success.

Heading out from Seattle, we went to see our first waterfall.  Snoqualmie Falls did not disappoint with an amazing double rainbow – this was truly a sign of all the good times to come.

Snoqualmie Falls - double rainbow

Snoqualmie Falls – double rainbow

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a great start to the tour

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Even at the falls, there is an opportunity to taste wine.

Our next stop was in Yakima at Gilbert Cellars – Hackett Ranch.  The hospitality was warm and welcoming, the wines were tasty and the scenery was outstanding.

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Happy folks in the lavender

Gilbert Cellars

The ladies are mesmerized

After a delicious catered lunch at the Hackett Ranch, we departed for Walla Walla, the town so nice they named it twice.  The group checked in a the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel.  This was our home for 2 nights while we explored the nearby wineries.

Day 2 began at L’Ecole – where the wine was very nice, but I think everyone agreed that our second stop of the day at Northstar was truly a hit.

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Wine tasting and lunch on the patio at Northstar

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After lunch we head to the vines to hear about Washington wines

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and then on to the wine blending class where everyone made their own red wine blend from 4 different barrels of Merlot, 1 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 petite verdot

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the blend is starting to take shape

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the group shows off their personally crafted wines

After eating lunch and crafting our own red wine blends there was still another winery stop to make.  At Long Shadows we experienced a custom tasting and tour that included barrel sampling.

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keep it coming!

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the sadness and shock of seeing an empty fermentation tank

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Keep your wine thief handy, we’re having a barrel tasting

On day 3 everyone packed up for our journey to the waterfalls along the Columbia River Valley…but of course we stopped at a winery along the way.  Columbia Crest in Horse Heaven Hills.

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Our server at Columbia Crest for the reserve tasting was charming, engaging and a true delight. Look at all the happy faces

After a brewpub lunch stop we travelled along the Columbia River Gorge, with brief stops at 5 waterfalls.

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Amazing view of the Columbia River

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Evening of day 3 found us just outside of the Willamette valley.  For dinner we took over our hotel lobby, ordered pizzas and everyone brought a bottle of wine to share.  Day 4 began in the picturesque Dundee Hills.  Our first stop was Archery Summit.

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Our tour of Archery Summit had frequent stops to taste wine.

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Pretty bottles all in a row

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Just one of many vineyard views in Dundee Hills

The group loved Archery Summit and did not want to leave…except it was time for lunch.  So off we went to our tasting, tour and catered meal on the patio at Domaine Serene.

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side by side comparisons

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our tour at Domaine Serene begins

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After Domaine Serene, we had a special musical interlude

and then on to our next stop – Durant Vineyards

 

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the dancing continues

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outstanding views from Durant vineyards

Our final wine tasting in Willamette Valley was at Soter Vineyards

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artsy photo of Soter glass

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the gang continues to have fun

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is it time to dance again?

36-waterfallsandwine-035 At Soter even old friendships were made new again!

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A sincere thank you to everyone that joined us on the 2015 Waterfalls & Wine tour.  We look forward to our next journey together.

Florence, Italy – Capital of Tuscany, Cradle of the Renaissance

GetAway Travel is taking a group of clients to Florence in October 2015 and here is why.

“The Creator Made Italy from Designs by Michelangelo”  – Mark Twain

32-Florence Italy 6-5-2008 1-38-21 AM 3872x2592And one of Italy’s greatest places to see those designs is in Florence.  In Italy, all roads lead to Rome, but in Florence all roads lead to the elegant Piazza della Signoria  – the location where Michelangelo’s statue of David was originally unveiled in 1504.  (Yes, over 500 hundred years ago!)  At the time this was also where the seat of the civic government of Florence resided.   Strategically positioned, the eyes of David with his warning glare were turned towards Rome.  In 1873 the statue moved to the Galleria dell’Academia, where it is viewed today.  A replica statue now stands in the Piazza on the exact spot where the original once stood.

Politically, economically, and culturally Florence was the most important city in Europe for around 250 years, from before 1300 until the early 1500s.  Florentines reinvented money, in the form of the gold florin. This currency was the engine that drove Europe out of the “Dark Ages”, a term invented by a Florentine. They financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, Lyon and Hungary. They financed the English kings during the Hundred Years’ War. They financed the papacy, including the construction of the papal palace in Avignon and then reconstruction of St. Peter’s and the Vatican when the papacy returned to Rome.

01-Florence Italy 6-4-2008 8-12-53 AM 3872x2592Florentines were the driving force behind the Age of Discovery. Florentine bankers financed Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese explorers who pioneered the route around Africa to India and the Far East. It was a map drawn by the Florentine Paulo del Pozzo Toscanelli, a student of Brunelleschi, that Columbus used to sell his “enterprise” to the Spanish monarchs, and which he then used on his first voyage. Mercator’s famous “Projection” is a refined version of Toscanelli’s map.  The western hemisphere itself is named after a Florentine writer who claimed to be an explorer and mapmaker, Amerigo Vespucci.

The greatest banking dynasty family that ever lived – the Medicis were centered in Florence.  From there they changed the world more than any other family.  The taught the rest of Europe how to conduct state-craft.  Their offspring married into and influenced rulers in France, Spain and England.

Florence had a profound impact on the world of art.  While your children may only know them as names of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the artists Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino) Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi) and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni are all forever linked to Florence.

Florence is the capital of Tuscany – and you know what that means….Italian hill towns and amazing wine – but that will be the subject of a future post.

Why not join us in Florence in October?

 

European Christmas Markets

We recently returned from an unforgettable cruise along the Rhine River to visit Christmas Markets in Germany, France and Switzerland.  Our journey was even more memorable as we travelled with a group of close friends.

Christmas Market

Christmas Market

River cruising provides an up close and personal experience.  The ships typically dock in the heart of town allowing easy and convenient access to the local sights and sounds.  This is especially convenient for a Christmas Market Cruise.  During the advent season, towns throughout Europe host wonderfully decorated markets for crafts, drink and food!  Hop off the ship to go shopping all day and then back on  in time for cocktail hour and a gourmet dinner before you set off for your next stop.

Half-timbered building decoracted for the holidays

Half-timbered building decorated for the holidays

The First Thanksgiving – What you May have Missed

pilgrims_color_631.jpg__800x600_q85_cropOur national holiday stems from the feast held almost 400 years ago by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest.  The Pilgrims came from religious congregations who originally fled the volatile political environment in England for the relative calm and tolerance of Holland in the Netherlands.  They were known as Brownists, named after Robert Browne an Anglican priest who preached against the doctrines of the Church of England.  The Brownists were advocates of a congregational form of organization for the Church of England starting in the time of Henry VIII.   Openly disagreeing with the monarchy however, was a rather hazardous affair.

Mary_I_by_Master_JohnMary I, Queen of England and Ireland from 1553 – 1558, was the only child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon that survived to adulthood.  As the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Mary is most remembered for her restoration of Roman Catholicism after the short reign of her younger Protestant half-brother.  Mary was fond of executing protestants by burning them at the stake and earned the nickname “Bloody Mary”.   After her death, Mary’s successor Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry  and Anne Boleyn re-established the Protestant Church of England – where the Monarch is the Supreme Governor, rather than that power residing with the Catholic Pope.  Regardless of who was in charge – it was a messy time to not agree with the only official religion in town, even though it could change depending on who was in charge.  Under the 1559 Act of Uniformity, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services with a fine of one shilling for each missed Sunday and holy day.  The penalties for conducting unofficial services included large fines and imprisonment.  Your activities contrary to the Church could also be interpreted as Sedition, which generally resulted in execution.

So back to our intrepid Pilgrims.  They had a different set of ideas and it was a dangerous time for that sort of thing so they packed their bags and went to Holland.  Holland?  I thought they went to America?  Gouda Cheese is not a traditional Thanksgiving item!  Well they did not stay there – apparently Holland was a bit too tolerant as the Pilgrims were worried about losing their cultural identity so they hatched plans to establish a new colony in North America.

As the trip would be long and arduous, it was thought that the initial settlement should be undertaken primarily by the younger and stronger members.  The remainder agreed to follow if and when they could at a later date.  It was time to go, so a small ship was procured to set sail for North America – the 60 ton Speedwell.  Speedwell?  Wait a minute – that does not sound right.  My first grade project was to build the Mayflower with toilet paper tubes and tongue depressors.   Well all was not well with the Speedwell.  It was supposed to bring some passengers from the Netherlands to England and then set sail for North America, but…. it leaked.  A second larger ship, the Mayflower had already been leased for other transport and exploration services. Once the Speedwell was officially deemed not to be seaworthy, plans were changed and some crew and passengers were transferred to the Mayflower.

MayflowerAtSeaCroppedThe Mayflower was no cruise ship.  She was a merchant vessel and not built for passengers at all.  She was a typical English merchant ship of the time, square-rigged with high castle like structures fore and aft that served to protect the crew and main deck from the elements.  But having such structures made the ship extremely difficult to sail against the wind.  As a result the voyage to America took over 2 months.  There were roughly 102 passengers and 30 crew members aboard.  The Mayflower carried stores aboard to supply the Pilgrims with essentials needed for their journey and future lives.  Among them would have been tools, weapons, live animals including dogs, sheep, goats and poultry.

The crossing would be miserable,  with huge waves constantly crashing against the topside deck which eventually fractured key structural supports.  After long delays to even get the voyage started, the passengers put up with shortages of food and supplies, and also had to help repair the ship.  One passenger and one crew member died during the voyage and one child was born.  The Pilgrims lived ‘Tween decks with no privacy and only a chamber pot for a toilet.  They suffered injuries from being thrown against the walls of the wind tossed ship and when they weren’t seasick they were mostly bored.  The rare opportunities to go above deck and get fresh air occurred when it was time to empty chamber pots.

The Pilgrims eventually arrived in the New World, but it was winter – making it very difficult for them to find food and build shelters.  Already weakened by their 66 day voyage, most passengers failed to survive the first few months.  Fortunately, native Americans called the Wampanoag lived in the area and shared knowledge of local game and crops, helping the colonists survive. Waterfowl such as duck was plentiful and during the winter wild game such as rabbit, squirrel, deer and yes, turkey.  The first Thanksgiving feast was held in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate the first successful harvest.

So what does this have to do with travel? 

Well you can still make the voyage between England and America.  One great way to do this is aboard the Queen Mary 2 – recognized as Best Luxury Cruise Ship by readers of Travel Weekly.  It won’t take you 66 days, but only 7 or 8.  The Queen Mary 2 entered service in 2004.  Built in France and coming in at 148,528 tons – over 800 times the size of the Mayflower at 180 tons.  The Queen Mary 2 is 1132 ft long – 10 times longer than the Mayflower at 100 ft.  The Mayflower had 4 decks, the Queen Mary 2 has 14.RMS_Queen_Mary_2

Queen Mary 2 holds about 2600 passengers (Mayflower 102) and a crew size of 1253 (Mayflower 30).

OK – obviously there is really no comparison, and you certainly won’t have to live ‘tween deck and only get to go up top to empty your chamber pot!  Also you won’t be bored.  There is a long list of daily activities – Fitness class, card games, dance lessons, lectures, and watercolor instruction to name but a few.  The on board planetarium is a big draw with 3 shows a day produced by the NY American Museum of Natural History.  Computer, IPod and IPhone classes are offered as well as interactive fun gatherings in the Golden Lion Pub for trivia contests.

RMS-Queen-Mary-2-factsIn the evening, entertainment comes alive in the plush Royal Court Theatre.  The spectacular Queens room lounge recalls the main ballroom of a 1930s ocean liner with all the glitter.  Veuve Clicquot lent its name to the Champagne Bar.  The Chart Room is a great place for pre-dinner drinks, being kind of a traditional ocean liner smoking room, but without the smoke.  Across the way is the wine bar, Sir Samuel’s.

The Canyon Ranch Spa is the largest ever mounted in a ship, with a staff of 50 to perform an array of services.  Movies are shown under the stars on warm nights.  The deck space has the longest promenade at sea.  Five swimming pools, some with adjoining whirlpools are available in the open and under a Magrodome.  Sports include: tennis, golf driving range, basketball and shuffleboard.

The main dining venue is the soaring Britannia Restaurant, a spectacular space with 3 tiers.  Spaciousness and elegance are apparent in all the public room corridors, foyers and lounges.

If the Pilgrims were aboard the Queen Mary 2, they may have never left the ship when it arrived in America, and we would miss out on our annual Thanksgiving feast (and day of Football).  So let’s give thanks to the Pilgrims, thanks to the native Americans that kept them all from starving to death in the new world – and thanks for the many amazing travel options we have today!

May you and your family have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

 

 

 

Seattle – Cruise Gateway to Alaska & Our Waterfalls & Wine Tour

Seattle, Washington is a very popular cruise port, especially for round-trip inside passage cruises to Alaska.  Seattle is also the launching point for our 2015 Waterfalls & Wine Tour.

Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and sits at one of the most unique spots in the United States. A narrow isthmus sandwiched between the Puget Sound & The Olympic Mountains on its west, and Lake Washington & the Cascades to its east.

Port of Seattle as seen from deck of cruise ship

Port of Seattle as seen from deck of cruise ship

As a visitor, you should explore Seattle at your own pace. You may opt to visit sites such as the iconic Space Needle with its wonderful 360 degree view of the city, waters and mountains surrounding it. Close by is the Chihuly Garden & Glass with its stunning sculptures in the glass house.Pike Market Seattle 320x240

Seattle has world-class museums such as the Pacific Science Center and the EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum celebrating Seattle’s vibrant music scene and contributions to pop culture. While in Seattle, why not stop by the original Starbucks Coffee Shop located in the bustling Pike Place Market?

Post Alley

Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells as you nibble your way down to Post Alley or the Seattle Great Wheel. There are plenty of things to do in Seattle, but don’t stay out too late on Friday night June 19, as you need to hop on our luxury tour bus on Saturday morning where you will join up with some of our clients returning from an Alaskan Cruise.  From there you will head out for Waterfalls and Wine.