Easy destinations for English speakers
February 26, 2018

English speakers often have a bad reputation as travelers because of their inability to speak other languages, but despite this fact, there are still many exciting places to visit that are incredibly accessible.

According to Forbes magazine, Europe offers many options, and Amsterdam is one of their first recommendations. Not only is it easy to fly into but it is also small enough to traverse quickly with plenty of beautiful sights along the way. As for language, about 90 percent of the population can have a conversation in English which should make things easy.

If flight time is not an issue, New Zealand also ranks highly and, according to Travel and Leisure, offers breathtaking views, untouched wilderness, and a rich history to explore. Although the accents and local dialect might seem strange, everyone there speaks English and the community is welcoming of foreigners interested in their country. When making plans to visit the island, don’t forget that the seasons are the opposite from North America – winter starts in June!

Private island vacationing for the rest of us
January 23, 2018

Every family approaches vacations a little differently, but everyone is trying to escape the daily grind and find a place to relax, usually with lots of privacy. Nowhere is more private than a secluded island and, according to the New York Post, it’s possible for everyday people to get their hands on a rental for less than $500 per night if they know where to look.
Long the storied hideaways of millionaires, celebrities, and evil villains, private islands have always carried with them a certain mystique. With nobody else around, a couple can truly relax with the knowledge that literally no other person could disturb their experience without a boat and a lot of time on their hands. Although it costs a hefty sum to purchase these private getaways, the travel industry has caught on to the fact that many people are searching for this experience and they are responding by offering prices that regular people can afford.

Provided that it is a small group of friends or family that are looking for the privacy, sharing an island can be a great way to save money. According to Thrillist, a place like Charlie’s Island in Florida can be had for as little as $50 per person, per night if rented for the week. This price gets a group full access to a 1/3-acre island off the keys with a private dock, houseboat, and views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Peer-to-peer rental services, such as Airbnb, have also sprung up around the world and given people access to homes that they might not otherwise have been able to find or arrange accommodations for easily. Take Tahiti Island, Nicaragua, for instance, where a four-bedroom house with a pool can be had for only $200 per night. With prices this low, it might even cost more money to get there than it would to stay for the week. If private islands were off the table during the last vacation planning session, it might be time to check into the options again.

Cruises go for virtual reality
December 31, 2017

Cruise vacation fans will soon be in for high tech treats as companies go big for virtual reality.

You might say cruises are already a kind of virtual reality, a world where everything happens seamlessly and without effort; from food to fun to cleaning.

But there is more in store.

Royal Caribbean recently showed off its new virtual reality plans, among them virtual reality dining.

According to CNet, the experiences are weirdly theatrical. You put on a visor and suddenly you are in an authentic Japanese tea house. In front of you glows a blue orb for you to eat. You put it in your mouth and the paper doors of the tea house explode into paper cranes. Now, as you chew, you are in a garden with a stream. The scene suits the bite of tuna tartare you just consumed.

And with every glowing bite, your surroundings change to suit the taste and mood.

Virtual reality experiences in entertainment, as well as dining, are coming to every cruise line. Swiss-based MSC will offer virtual reality shopping, letting guests see how they look in different outfits without the bother of actually having to try them on.

And how about those inside rooms, which are cheaper, but don’t offer ocean views? Royal Caribbean has rolled out LED options for staterooms that let you project the ocean or turn your room into a rainforest.

Other technologies offer phone-based location services that let you order a drink on your phone from a waiter who finds you wherever you are. There are also self-driving cars to shuttle people down the long walkways at ports.

Are you dreaming of Caribbean Getaway?
December 30, 2017

Caribbean Night – Photos/ Roger Bianchini

With temperatures dipping into single digits, even here in Virginia and points south as 2018 approaches,* what’s not to like about “Caribbean Night in December?!!?

It didn’t take much arm-wringing to get this reporter to the event hosted by Passages Travel & Cruises’ Maria Dutton on the second floor of the Main Street Mill on December 19.  The event was co-sponsored by Sandals Resorts and featured, not only Dutton’s recently refurbished “Road Warrior” vehicle sporting art advertising balmy Sandals resorts throughout the Caribbean, but a slide presentation and literature on those destinations and their many distinctive amenities.

Maria Dutton’s Passages Travel/Sandals Resorts mobile ‘Road Warrior’ billboard

“Romance” – we like to emphasize the Romance equation at our resorts, the Sandals representative said in opening his presentation.  And speaking of “romance”: “the best beaches, whitest sands, bluest and calmest waters” – I am already IN LOVE with all these things (see the Sandals power point art attached below).

Snacks warmed would-be vacationers up for Sandals Resorts show-time.

For more detail on seasonal vacation offers through Sandals Resorts, contact Maria Dutton at Passages Travel and Cruises at (540) 636-1402 or online at

Mike, Norma Jean – we need a travel writer don’t we?!!? Maria, can you hold a spot for Montego Bay or Negril, Jamaica or …