Category Archives: Wine

Free Dining or Free Drinks. Hmm…which to chose?

Being offered a “free” dining or beverage package seems to the be sign of the times today in ocean cruising bookings.  Every cruise line has its own twist on the perks offered but these two are always in the mix of offerings.


So, which do you choose?  You love to eat and…. okay you like to consume adult beverages too, thus the dilemma exists.

Now, my first recommendation is talk to your travel professional because all “free” perks are not created equally.  For example, some lines charge service fees associated with their “free” while others do not.  Most lines have a dollar limit to drinks available using the perk and the big difference is how they handle those drinks that hop over that limit.  For example, let’s assume your drink limit is $13 but you really want to try that $16 martini.  On some lines, you would pay only the $3 extra, on other lines you would not be able to use the beverage package and be charged the full $16.   Note from one wine snob to another:  Serious wine drinkers (those who won’t drink the house wine at a bar and who don’t drink much in the way of other alcohol) should think twice about the “free” beverage package because it isn’t likely to have wines that will make you happy.  You, may want to consider choosing the free dining perk and then buying your own wine package.

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Dining packages are no different, you really have to do the math regarding which perk will be best.  Example:  you are on a 7-day cruise, your perk is 3 nights in a specialty restaurant, on board credit, free wifi or the beverage package.  What is the value of those 3 nights dining?  Let’s say the price is $35 per visit to the specialty restaurant x 3 = $105 but the onboard credit is $150 per person…..which is better?


Remember a particular cruise line can only speak to and only wants to sell you their product, they cannot offer you a side by side comparison like a travel professional.  We can help sort all that out and can search across all cruise lines for the best perk offering out there.

And on that note:  Cheers and Bon Appétit1-Celebrity Century 3-20-2010 10-19-42 PM

Europe GetAways in 2017

We have 2 exciting European Group GetAways scheduled for 2017.  They may both be cruises, but they are completely different!

1-Wine_grapes07First up is the Wines of Western Europe which includes Bordeaux (France), Basque (Spain) and Portugal.  Our group will be sailing aboard the luxurious Azamara Journey.  Azamara Club Cruises is at the crossroads of where luxury and destination immersive cruising meet.  This ship only holds 694 passengers and has a wonderful mix of amenities.  She’s a perfect-sized vessel: small enough that it’s never too far from one place to another, yet large enough to provide variety on long itineraries. On our trip we will experience late evening and overnight port stays.  The Journey was completely refurbished in 2016 –  it received new spa suites in the fully renovated Sanctum spa with updated decor in marble, light wood and a cream palate. Every suite and stateroom has new beds with the same decor scheme, and the restaurants also received a modern upgrade.

Our 12 Night GetAway begins in Southampton England on September 4 and ends in Lisbon Portugal on September 16.  Along the way you will experience the worlds foremost wine region in Bordeaux, spend a day at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, wash Tapas down with Rioja wine, and sip port in the Douro Valley – and so much more.  You can find more details at our website.  We hope you can join us.

salzburg2Our second European Group GetAway for 2017 is in December.  Why December?  Christmas MarketsCome with us and celebrate the season as we cruise along the Danube aboard the Uniworld SS Maria Theresa.  We last visited Christmas markets in 2014 and everyone had such a great time that we knew we’d definitely do it again.

If you’re tired of commercialism taking over the holidays, you will be very pleased with the traditions and romance of real Christmas markets where the gifts are not mass-produced but craftwork of real quality.   Our group will begin in Budapest and sail along the Danube while visiting Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany.  Every stop along the way will feature special Christmas Market excursions.  You can find more details on the itinerary at our website.

Every Uniworld ship is as unique as it’s itinerary and the SS Maria Theresa is no exception.  It’s opulent 18th century décor is a floating homage to one of the Habsburg empires most beloved ruler.  The food, drink and service on Uniworld are absolutely outstanding – and everything is included!  Call now as there are limited time promotions where even the air is included!

  As always, we can be reached at 262.538.2140 or send us an email: or


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


a great start to the tour


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.


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.


Wine tasting and lunch on the patio at Northstar


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


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


the blend is starting to take shape


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.


keep it coming!


the sadness and shock of seeing an empty fermentation tank


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.


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.


Amazing view of the Columbia River


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.


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


Pretty bottles all in a row


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.


side by side comparisons


our tour at Domaine Serene begins


After Domaine Serene, we had a special musical interlude

and then on to our next stop – Durant Vineyards



the dancing continues


outstanding views from Durant vineyards

Our final wine tasting in Willamette Valley was at Soter Vineyards


artsy photo of Soter glass


the gang continues to have fun


is it time to dance again?

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


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

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.

Wine & Waterfalls – sneak peak!

On our 2015 Wines & Waterfalls Tour – Sunday, June is the day of our Walla Walla, Washington wine exploration. We have personally selected 3 amazing wineries for you to visit. Our first stop is the family owned artisan winery – L’Ecole.  lecole 5 (3)

L’Ecole is located in a historic 1915 schoolhouse, which is the cornerstone of the brand as it is the centerpiece of their wine labels.lecole 5 (1)

L’Ecole grows and makes 100% of their terroir-driven, distinctive wines. L’Ecole has been honored by Wine & Spirits Magazine for 12 consecutive years as Winery of the Year. Decanter magazine named the 2011 L’Ecole Ferguson as the best Bordeaux blend in the world. Not just the best in Washington or in the US, but the best in the world!  Unfortunately the 2011 Ferguson is sold out now, but there will still be plenty of amazing wines to taste during our visit.

lecole 5 (5)

lecole 5 (4)

Agency Exclusive Waterfalls & Wine Tour

We are very pleased to announce that we are now accepting deposits for our June 2015 Waterfalls & Wine tour!  Perfectly timed to coincide with our Alaska Inside Passage Cruise group, this is an agency exclusive tour – not available anywhere else.

winery oregon (2)Whether you are a wine novice or connoisseur, prepare yourself for an amazing time as we explore the wines and natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  Our group tour embarks from Seattle, Washington on a wines and waterfall focused journey through Washington State and into Oregon, ending in Portland.  Along the way you will view some of the areas most amazing waterfalls and sip wine at award-winning wineries.   Taste the big Merlots of Walla Walla Valley, the supple Chardonnays of Horse Heaven Hills, and the sleek sexy Pinot Noirs of Willamette Valley.  You will even create your own red wine blend to take home.  The waterfalls are not only amazing to view, they are extremely accessible.  You won’t be taking long hikes to see them, as you need to save your energy for sipping wine!   For all the details and pricing information – please visit our web page.

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Snoqualmie Falls