Alaskan Cruise



A few years ago my mom called and said something along the lines of , you probably won’t be interested but how does a cruise to Alaska sound?  I said something along the lines of ARE YOU CRAZY?? THAT SOUNDS AMAZING!  At that time that was the only cruise that I was really interested in.  So Mom and I went to Alaska on a Norwegian Cruise.  It was AMAZING!

We had a balcony and I just can’t tell you how wonderful it was sitting out on that balcony in the morning drinking coffee in my pajamas.  We took binoculars and since you are usually close to shore going up the inside passage, there was always something beautiful to look at. Some days we had Dall’s porpoise along the ship which were so fun to watch. They look like miniature killer whales!  The balcony also came in very handy on the day we were in Glacier Bay.  The decks got pretty crowded with people trying to get up front and get a good view of the glaciers so we just went down and sat on the balcony.  We saw a humpback whale breech over and over in the comfort of our own cabin. While balcony cabins are always amazing this is the one time that I am going to say you really should splurge if at all possible and get a balcony!

Juneau was our first port in Alaska and  we went whale watching.  As soon as we got on the bus to go to the boat we saw a lot of bald eagles. It was the first time I had seen them so I was pretty excited. On the whale watch we saw both humpbacks and orcas.  The orcas came right up next to the boat, they were so close that we could have touched them!  I wanted to, but I wasn’t stupid enough! We also went to an old gold mine and had a salmon bake.  This was my least favorite excursion but it was still interesting, had amazing scenery and the salmon was pretty wonderful.

In Skagway we went horseback riding and then took the train up the White Mountain Pass.  This is the pass that the gold miners took to get up into the Yukon.  We saw a bear and a moose!  The guides were very interesting and talked about how the miners had to go though to get up that pass and into Canada to hopefully strike it rich.  There are several different versions of this excursion including dog mushing and panning for gold and I highly recommend it to everyone.  This is also one that can often sell out so it is best to make reservations way in advance.

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In Ketchikan I went snorkeling while my mother shopped around the town.   Yeah,,,snorkeling in Alaska!  It was fascinating!  There was a kelp forest, really tiny jellyfish, starfish and sea stars and more.

We also stopped in Victoria BC.  My mom and I split up here because I wanted to do a ghost tour and she wanted to go to the Butchart Gardens.  My tour was o.k. but she loved the gardens and I wished I had gone with her.

You do not have to take shore excursions and they can really add to the cost of your trip.  Some people never take any shore excursions because they prefer to look around the town or just stay on the ship and enjoy the times when most people are off the ship!  I recommend looking at them and then picking one or two that you really want to do.  It is a great way to get a taste of each port that you visit no matter where you are. Your travel agent may also have a vendor that will provide many of the same shore excursions at a lower cost so check with them before you book! 

Even with our shore excursions we still had time to shop in most of the ports and see a lot of beautiful locally made items.  If you like to cook or you have a knife lover in your family I recommend checking out ulu knives.  I got one that was handmade with an antler for a handle.  I still love it and it is very handy in the kitchen.

I just can’t tell you how much I loved that trip!  It was a great time with my mom and I also discovered a love of cruising.  The food was amazing and such a huge variety things to try.  I got to try several different things that I had always wanted to like lamb.  I would never order it in a restaurant because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it.  There was always something to do on the ship from silly games to trivia to karaoke and dancing lessons.  There are a lot of fitness activities and most are include in the price of your cruise.  There is also a spa with a lot of different treatments to choose from.

I have mainly cruised Norwegian and I really enjoy their line.  I like the Freestyle dining option where you are not tied to a seating time.  I think that traditional dining definitely has it’s advantages though.  It’s great  to have the same staff at your table every time.  You get to know each other a little and they often have your choice of beverages waiting at the table for you when you get there.  Even if you are on a ship with a traditional dining plan with seating times you can always choose to head to the buffet instead.

**Pro tip-  temperatures can vary a lot.  Make sure as you pack you are checking the extended forecast for the ports you will be visiting. It was not a cold as I though it would be!  Some ports tend to have a lot of rain so make sure you are packing some rain gear.  You can get ponchos for $1 at a lot of stores to throw in your bag.  They are good enough for most of what you will be doing there.  I went ahead and got a good rain jacket/ light weight jacket. I think the only time we had rain was when we were at sea but it came in handy for years after I got home so it was worth it.  Also the dining areas and any inside area of the ship can be cool so I recommend having a light jacket or something you can wear anytime on the ship.

If you are interested I have some spots available for an Alaskan cruise on the Norwegian Bliss.  This is one of their newest ships and it looks amazing!  The cruise is June 30 -July 7, 2019.  A deposit of $50 per person is due by February  20, 2018 and the final payment is not due until February 20, 2019!  This will give you over a year to pay it off and possibly 2 tax refund checks!  Contact me for more info.  

If you have any questions please contact me or leave a comment below.      Facebook: TaraTravels



Destination Weddings

Did you just get engaged?  Why not look at a destination wedding?  Destination weddings have a lot of perks, including less stress in my opinion and who doesn’t want that on their wedding day?

A little about me.  I have been married a few times now.  I had the traditional wedding with a couple hundred guests the first time.  It was nice.  It was stressful!  It was expensive!   We didn’t go on a honeymoon because the wedding was so expensive! I recently got married again and we wanted something simple on a beach.  I ended up picking my favorite beach in Florida and set out to find a condo to rent and a wedding planner to take care of details.  It was amazing!   All I had to to do was go get our license and let the hair and make up lady do her magic.   We had a little glitch with our license and the planning took care of everything and talked me down.

So let’s talk about all the benefits of a destination wedding.

  • It can be cheaper.  Depending on how many rooms/guests you get the bride and groom could be free!  There may also be some added values depending on how many rooms/guests you book.  Many weddings are at All Inclusive resorts so all food and drinks are covered in the price.  You can also get married on a cruise ship!
  • It is a wedding and honeymoon all combined so it can be a lot cheaper and a lot less planning.
  • Beautiful pictures.  A lot of these resorts specialize in weddings and have beautiful locations for the ceremony and  locations around the resort for pictures.
  • You get to relax! I can’t stress that one enough.  Between your travel agent and on site planner you don’t have a lot to do.
  • Spend time with friends and family.  That is one thing that almost never happens during a wedding!   This will most likely be a smaller group so you get to spend time making great memories before and after the wedding with everyone there.
  • Great resorts!  No matter who is coming there will be plenty for them to do.  Many resorts have a lot of activities for kids, activities for more active guests and great pools and beaches for those who want to do nothing. Same with cruise ships, something for everyone.

Remember that a destination wedding doesn’t have to be in the Caribbean!  You can get married in the mountains, Hawaii, FL, on a cruise ship, Thailand and many other options!  You pick the destination of your dreams!

Call me to help you plan your perfect destination wedding!  I can help you find the right  location/resort for you and all your guests as well as find you the best values.

Using a travel agent will cost you nothing but can save you money and a lot of time!   941-223-2438



SeaWorld Orlando


Here is where I am going to say that I understand that Sea World is a bit of a controversial subject and I get it.  I really do.  However I love  Sea World and if you don’t then please check out one of my other posts.

It seems like no trip to Orlando is complete for me until we hit Sea World.  It is a great one day park.   I do recommend getting there early because it is a full day, but yes you can see it all in one day.

So why do I love Sea World?  First I just love the ocean and the animals in the ocean.  Not sure why since I didn’t grow up around the ocean, but I always have.  I love the conservation that Sea World supports.  They rescue, rehab and release a lot of animals.  They also donate a lot of money to researching animals in the wild. Last time we were there we took short tour that focused on the rehabilitation of animals and we got to go behind the scenes to see some of the animals and where they keep them.  They had also just opened up part of that area for the public.  You could go back and see where they keep manatees they have rescued and hope to release.  I have included a picture of a baby manatee that they had rescued.  It was very excited about feeding time!

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Here is more information about their rescue programs if you are interested.  Sea World Rescue and Rehabilitation

Sea World has rides for everyone in your group.  They have some great roller coasters for thrill seekers and they have a kiddie area with rides that are a lot less intense.   There are some amazing shows that feature animals and are educational and fun.  You can get up close to a lot of animals and sometimes even touch or feed them.

Last time we also did Dining with Shamu.  I highly recommend this if you can fit it into your day.  You have a buffet style meal while the trainers are working with some of the orcas.  You are really up close and personal as you can see by the pictures! They have Killer Whale Close Up Tour now also that I can’t wait to take.

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Aquatica-   Sea World also has a water park with a lot of fun rides for everyone in the family.

Discovery Cove-  Is an all day, all inclusive park experience.  The number of people in the park is pretty limited so make sure to reserve in advance.   You can have a dolphin encounter, ride on the lazy river, snorkel a coral reef, check out the aviary or just lay on the beach.   If you go to Discovery Cove then your admission to Sea World and  Aquatica is included.


If you have any questions about Sea World or the other parks please let me know.  As always I would love to hear about your favorite things about Sea World in the comments, please keep them positive.  Again I really understand if you don’t agree but we will have to politely disagree on this one.          941-223-2438


Universal Studios FL


This is one of the last pictures I have of my mom.  We went just a few weeks before she died.  We made a lot of precious memories on that trip!  



Ok,  before I should get started here I have to admit that Universal and SeaWorld are my families favorite parks so this may be a bit biased. The last time we went the girls were 5 and 13.  We just went to Disney last year when they were 9 and 16 and they agreed they liked Universal better.  Here are a few of the reasons why.

  • Smaller parks-  We stayed on site and were able to get back to our room quickly for a rest in the middle of the day.   Don’t get me wrong it is still a lot of walking  and you are definitely getting your steps in, but it is over all an easier day.
  • Great for all ages- Let’s face it, I loved Disney and I had a lot of fun, but Universal has more thrill rides if you have older kids or adults that like rides.  Natalie and I rode the big rides. Maia was too small and Ian was not interested.  There was plenty for them to do while we went our separate ways.  My mother loved it too so it is fun for all ages.

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  • Seuess Landing-  Yes it gets it’s own point.  I am a teacher and I love Dr. Seuess.  It was magical!   If you can fit in the show “Oh the Stories You will Hear” DO IT!   Many of the favorite characters come out and you can get pictures after the show.  I love the Truffla trees and the One Fish Two Fish ride and the carousel and well EVERYTHING!

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  • Marvel Superheros–  It’s not just for Princesses!  I went for the first time with my mother.  I got so geeked out when the X Men came out I could barely stand it.  My mother was confused but a good sport and decided she wanted her picture with them also. The Transformers were pretty amazing too.

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  • Beautiful Hotels- I have stayed at Lowes Royal Pacific Resort and the Hard Rock.  My mother loved the orchids and South Pacific feel of the Royal Pacific and the kids loved Hard Rock.  Now they have several new hotels so it is even easier to find the right hotel for your family. They are smaller than a Disney Resort so much easier to get around.
  • Harry Potter-  I am a fan, kind of a big fan, of the books and movies. I read the last book in one night barely moving from the couch.  It is amazing!  I have not been since Diagon Alley opened but I can’t wait!  Ian and the girls are not big fans but they were even impressed and want to go back to see all the new additions.  Try the Butter Beer. If the line is not huge for Ollivander’s do it, it is magic!  Even if you don’t ride The Forbidden Journey, go in and tour the castle.  You can skip the ride at the end.
  • Amazing Rides-  The Hulk, Transformers 3D, Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket, Revenge of the Mummy, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogrif and E.T. were some of our favorites.
  • City Walk-  Great to walk around and eat when you are taking a break from the park.  There are good resturants, shops and clubs if you like to party the night away.  And don’t forget the Blue Man Group!   It is a really fun show for every age group.
  • Express Passes-  You can buy the Express passes but they are part of the package if you stay at some of the hotels.  They are worth it!  You don’t have to schedule a time you just go to the front of the line.  We really felt that we were able to enjoy more of our vacation instead of waiting in lines. When Natalie and I rode The Hulk the line was over 2 hours.  We were on and off in 30 minutes.   This is really worth if it you go during busy times like summer or Christmas.


The last time we went they only had the 2 parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  Now they have added a water park, Volcano Bay.   It looks amazing!  This is a great water park for the whole family.  There are more intense rides for thrill seekers and calmer things for those that just want to relax.  There is no waiting in line or need for cash thanks to the bands called Tapu- Tapu.  The Tapu- Tapu are also used to avoid lines.  You just swipe your Tapu- Tapu for the ride you want to go on and it tells you when to come back, then reminds you when it is time.  I have included a video about the Volcano Bay.  I don’t normally love water parks but this one has me excited!

If you have any questions about the parks I am happy to help.  Feel free to contact me for more info or to help plan your days there!

Feel free to share your favorite things about Universal in the comments.              941-223-2438


What to pack for a cruise!


One of the things I get asked about a lot is how to pack for a cruise.

Now a little history for those who don’t know me.  I used to be a horrible packer.  I went to France for about 6 days when I was in high school and had to pack full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner because I was afraid I would run out.  There were 4 girls sharing a room and we each did this plus we all had to bring our own hair dryers and curling irons.  Probably full size hair dryers because a travel size couldn’t possibly work!  I had clothes options for about a 20 day trip.  My suitcase was so huge and heavy that I could barely move it.  Now remember this is about 1984 and if I remember correctly wheels on suitcases had not been discovered.  Or if they had they were horrible.  I just remember packing that thing around,,, and don’t forget the purse and carry on!!!!  Since we changed hotels every night this was a problem.  I remember watching our very attractive tour guide and noticing that he was wearing the same things in different combinations and always looked fabulous.  I was young and wondered how he could possibly wear the same thing twice but I was very jealous of his very small bag after about 3 days.

As it currently stands I am sometimes a great packer and sometimes I come home with a lot of stuff I never even considered wearing.  I did manage to go to Cambodia and Thailand for about 10 days with just a backpack.  You read that right.  No checked luggage.  I had a backpack and a purse on the plane.  And if you are thinking I threw it all in my husband’s checked bag you would be wrong.  He only took a backpack too!   I never once felt like I didn’t have enough options or felt that I was missing anything.  And I was very glad we did it when we had to change plans in several different countries.  No worries about lost luggage or waiting on bags.

Anyway the one thing that I think I have down well is packing for a cruise.  Cruises are pretty easy and unpacking once is definitely a benefit!  So what exactly should you take on a cruise?  Well of course this depends on how many days you will be cruising, what cruise line and ship and where.  Most of this blog will be written assuming you will be going somewhere tropical.

  1.  Recycle your clothes.   By this I really mean re-wear some of your clothes.  No it isn’t gross!  If you haven’t cruised before then you may not know that you almost never wear the same outfit for the whole day.  In the mornings I just throw on yoga pants and a t-shirt then run up to breakfast. Then you are going to change into something else for part of the day.  Then you are going to change for dinner. If you only wear a shirt for 2 hours then yeah,, you can wear it again.  NO ONE WILL NOTICE!   The only time this is different is if you are in port all day on an excursion. So really look at what you are planning to do each day and see if you really need 2 or 3 separate outfits a day.  You probably won’t. Your cruise may or may not have a formal night.  You can ask your travel agent to find out.  Even if they do have a formal night then it is usually optional.  You can either not go to the dining room that night and just eat at the buffet or on lines like Norwegian they will just seat you near people that are dressed very similarly to you.   Check with your agent or the cruise like to make sure of their dress policy before you go!
  2. Pack mostly things that will mix and match well- I usually go for neutral bottoms in solid colors and then spice it up a little with your tops and jewelry.
  3. Put most of those shoes back- Really,, you can do it!  You really do not need a different pair of shoes for each outfit.  I said neutral bottoms and neutral shoes work too.  Make sure you have a good pair of walking shoes if you are going to be doing anything active or taking active excursions.  Other than that pick one of two pairs of shoes that will go with everything, a pair of flip flops for the pool and a some heels or slightly nicer shoes for dinners.  When packing your shoes just channel Duchess Kate and her nude pumps!
  4. Sundresses- If you like them this is the time to pull them out.  You can wear them as cover ups, to lunch and even dress them up for dinner.
  5. Facebook-  You can probably find a Facebook group for your ship or even your ship and specific destination.  This is a very helpful place to ask about how people normally dress on the ship. Some are a lot more casual than others.
  6. Neutrals- I have already said neutral bottoms and shoes,  extend that to  your make up palette.  There are a lot of great neutral palettes out there  so that you won’t have to take every bit of makeup that you own!   There isn’t a lot of space in those bathrooms so you will thank me if you reduce the amount of stuff you take!
  7. Accessorize-  switch up your outfits by changing up the jewelry or other accessories.  That stuff doesn’t take up much room!
  8. Burrrr! – It can be cool in the dining rooms and all over the inside of the ship so you make need to take a shawl, sweater or light jacket.  This is a good way to change up one of those outfits you are going to wear more than once!
  9. Take 2- Bathing suits that is!  You may be in your suit everyday so this way you will always have one that is dry.  Nothing worse than putting on a cold wet suit first thing in the morning to go out to the pool!



If you are cruising to Alaska, New England or another cool weather cruise most of this applies to you also, except the sun dresses!  Your best friend for these will be the extended forecast.  Make sure you keep up with that because temperatures can vary a lot.  When I went to Alaska it was unusually warm so I really could have done with fewer hoodies and less fleece.  For Alaska you will most likely need a good rain jacket.  You will need long pants or capris and a good jacket or two.  I went in June and only got cold if we were outside when the ship was sailing and on our whale watching excursion.  Make sure you consider the excursions you are taking when you are packing.  If you are going out to a glacier make sure you take warmer clothes!

**Travel pro tip:  When you get on the ship you will not have your luggage for awhile. It may get to you quickly or it could take a little longer than you would like.  I suggest making sure you have a small carry on with anything you will think you need the first day.  If you have been traveling in the morning you may want to freshen up or you may want your bathing suit so that you can hit the pool or hot tub.  I usually make sure I have at least one change of clothes and a little make up in there.  It is not a bad idea to pack a pair of yoga pants or shorts and a t shirt also in case you want to get comfy and rest in your cabin or go walk around the promenade deck.

I have recorded a short video with this that has some of my other packing tips.   If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments or contact me!