Category Archives: Mexico

WIT Agent Lindsay sails to Mexico on Princess Cruises

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Last month, Lindsay boarded Princess Cruises and headed out from Los Angeles. Today we briefly chat about the three ports of call: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Are you missing the sun and sand yet?

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Cabo San Lucas

Located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas, or Cabo as it’s affectionally known, is one of the best resort destinations in Mexico. The wealth of marine life, white-sand beaches, and sport fishing draw thousands of vacationers each year.

  • El Arco & Lover’s Beach, a haven for sea lions
  • San José del Cabo, historical center with Spanish colonial charm
  • Médano Beach, lovely street vendors, restaurants beside a world-famous beach
  • Marine sanctuary wealth of gray whale, dolphins, and other sea life to explore on yachts or snorkeling

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Lindsay on Cabo: 

We went sail boating and because of the winds weren’t able to go into the bays, but we got 50% off and fewer people on the boat so it was even better. The food they served was really good and it was endless beverages of your choice. We went out and saw the arch, lovers and divorce beach and sailed around for a while (something we had never done before and was such a cool experience, nothing like I expected!).

I heard people got off and grabbed taxis up to resorts about 40 minutes away and they enjoyed it, also was lower cost.

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Mazatlan

Sitting on a peninsula below the Sierra Madre, Mazatlan boasts markets, world-class sportfishing, famous Papantla dancers, fresh shrimp and excellent rocky and white sand beaches.

  • Gothic and Moorish inspired Cathedral Basilica & Plaza Revolución
  • Teatro Angela Peralta, 19th-century, Italian-style national landmark
  • Golden Zone, or Zona Dorada, with palm-lined beaches and private beaches
  • Stone Island, with less crowded beaches, crashing waves and gentle coconut palms
  • Pacifico Brewery, which produces one of the country’s finest premium brews, founded in 1900 by three German immigrants
  • High Divers, acrobatic divers take the plunge from a 59-foot high ledge
  • Copala-Concordia, twin colonial towns renowned for their craft furniture, cobblestones, red roof tiles and pottery
  • Outdoor Activities, from hiking to sportfishing to ziplining

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Lindsay on Mazatlan: 

Such a colorful town! We did ceviche and tequila tasting with a short city tour. It was a bit pricy but the food was SO good, 3 different types of ceviche–as much as we wanted as well as the tequila. I’m not big on tequila but it was a very clean finish, I enjoyed the repasado but didn’t dare the anejo or extra anejo, both of which were much smokier.

El Presidio is in the picture, the restaurant we went to and just the coolest vibe. It was basically the outdoors inside, very peaceful and had lights strung across so I am sure it is very beautiful and romantic at night. We had a private lunch before they opened so not sure how busy it can get, but it was a little bit hidden.

Saw cliff divers, WOW, jumped into the most narrow space twice no problem. This area was limited in what to do or reach, but it was a nice little walk along the beach.

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Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is a fantastic cosmopolitan destination straight on the water’s edge. Thousands of visitors are drawn each year to its excellent shopping, with excellent handicrafts and leather goods, as well as its palm-lined beaches.

The Malecon, a popular boardwalk made up of shops and artisanal wares. Start at the Los Milenos sculpture and head southward.

  • Las Caletas is a secluded cove in Banderas Bay surrounded by lush jungles. You can only reach it by boat!
  • The bird-friendly islands called Isla Marietas, off the coast of PV, offer kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling.
  • Tequila Hacienda, learn the art of tequila making from its humble origins of the blue agave cactus
  • The sleepy town of Yelapa is in a secluded cove south of Puerto Vallarta, only accessible by boat
  • Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a must for architecture buffs. Look for the gilded crown, a replica of one worn by Carlota, Empress of Mexico

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Lindsay on Puerto Vallarta: 

We showed up on the day of the children so there was no school and have the city center was closed to traffic so we didn’t get to see that part of town as we drove down to the Hyatt Zive, a little bit isolated but really nice private beach. Our tour guide said Princess was the only cruise line that goes to this resort, and even with the guests from Princess the beach had plenty of space open.

Highly recommend this property to those who want to just go enjoy a beach and relax. The food was really good, they had a buffet that was surprisingly delicious, a bbq for lunch with fresh ceviche station and all was very good.

I believe they had shuttles, if not a quick 5-10 minute taxi will get you up to the nearby town that was very quaint and looked lovely to walk around. Colorful and casual.

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Photos: Claudia in Mexico

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend All!

Today we’re basking in the sunlight and dreaming of far-off tropical locales…. and that means flipping through gorgeous vacay photos!

Last year our accountant Claudia took a well-deserved trip with her family to Mexico: here are her pics!

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Can’t beat the view!

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One of Mexico’s beautiful cenotes

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Chichen Itza

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Cathedral of San Servacio

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Time to try out your sea legs!

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Ideal beach conditions

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When’s the last time you saw such clear waters?

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Of course, the sunset

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Can’t miss the breathtaking sunset

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Poolside means cocktails and swim-up bars

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Sun, palm trees, family, what more do you need?

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Talk about your unforgettable photos!

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Swimming with the dolphins

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“Muchas Gracias! Come back next year!”

 

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Photos that will fill you with Sun-Envy: WIT Agent Pam in Baja

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Last year, WIT Agent Pam cruised with one of our favorite vendors, Un-Cruise. 

Photos from her trip are now available to “ooh” and “aah” over! Check them out in our Photo Album

Click for the photos!

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Many of our clients and agents have traveled with UnCruise and rave about the experience-based cruise line. Here’s what they have to say about it: 

“The UnCruise was outstanding – only 48 passengers so plenty of room to enjoy everything – no wind, plenty of warmth and sunshine too.  I would highly recommend this cruise. “

– Marilyn and David D

“We just returned from a family vacation with Un-Cruise on the SS Legacy and I don’t have enough good things to say about it! The route took us through the inner passage and included stops in Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Haines, Skagway, and ended in Juneau. The route passed through Frederick Sound, Glacier Bay, Lynn Canal, and numerous smaller passages that are inaccessible to larger vessels. Wildlife sightings were frequent and, unlike large boats, we enjoyed the luxury of being able to linger in an area to observe at length (a notable instance being humpback whales in Frederick Sound!).

In short, the amazing experiences of Alaska itself – the scenery, the wildlife, the raw natural beauty – were made all the better by the uncompromising quality of the boat’s accommodations and especially its crew. We have never been interested in the “large cruise” experience and were not sure what to expect with this one. We all – guests and crew alike – became a ship-board family almost immediately and were sorry to leave the beauty of Alaska, and the warmth of our newfound friends. We would highly recommend this cruise!

– Mark J

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Read more on UnCruise: 

Conscientious Traveler: Bruce Mate & Uncruise Adventures

Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

Cruise Oregon Rivers with UnCruise

Video: River Cruises in North America

Or call Barb, Racheal or Pam to discuss more about this amazing and unique cruise line.

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Filed under Central America, Cruises, Mexico, Un-Cruise

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

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Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

Barb recently got back from travels in Mexico, where she stayed at Club Med Ixtapa Pacific for six days. Named as one of the world’s best family resorts by Trip Advisor, Ixtapa is an all-inclusive resort with glorious sandy beaches, the second largest coral reef in the world, and fun family activities like sailing and scuba diving. The resort offers kids’ clubs especially geared to specific age groups. It’s perfect for a family reunion, and our agents have booked a number of multigenerational trips to the Club Meds in the past. Located on the Riviera Maya, ancient Mayan ruins are just a short distance away, ready for your little explorers.

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is located about 30-40 minutes from Zihuantanejo Airport, resting on a quiet, protected beach perfect for swimming. I’m told this area almost always has great weather due to their location close to the mountains, however it was more humid than I expected.  The resort is well laid out, with capacity for up to 800 guests, but spread out enough that it never feels overflowing when totally full. We had an Oceanview club room, which was very comfortable. — Barb B.

Restaurants

Keep the kids happy with 3-4 restaurants to choose from. The elegant Encanto enchants with its five themed lounges–the mirror room, mask room, indoor garden, aquarium and stargazing lounge. Head to the Miramar for all-day, laidback fare on an oceanfront terrace. The Luna Azul sparkles at dinnertime with delicious local Mexican cuisine, overlooking the beach and coconut palms. The kids will be able to show off their culinary talents at Sirena, where children ages 2-10 can be their own chef!

Club Med has two restaurants that stagger their opening times so that one can eat pretty much any time during the day and evening.  There is a “dress code” in the evening, these are more like theme nights – there is an optional color code for clothing, I’d say less than half of the guests followed the dress code, other than that dress for all meals is very casual, just no bathing suits!  There is nightly entertainment put on by the staff (GO’s), one night they had a trapeze show.  One night the kids of the resort performed, the kids are dressed in costumes and different age groups come and perform dances, it was so cute! — Barb B.

Activities

A stay at any Club Med includes dozens of fun sports, activities, and sports schools with excellent instructors. Brush up on your sailing skills, perfect your archery technique, or monkey around at the Flying Trapeze School. There’s also mini golf, table tennis, SUP–or if you want to try something a bit more challenging, book a special instructor for deep sea fishing, snuba, scuba or flyboarding.

Kids’ Clubs

Club Med Ixtapa is home to kids’ clubs of varying ages, including the Baby Club Med (4-23 months), Petit Club Med (2-3 years old), Mini Club Med (4-10 years old). Teens (11-17 years old) can enjoy an exclusive Juniors’ Club Med outdoor recreation area – no unsupervised adults allowed! For newborns, Club Med provides free baby-care materials and equipment, foods, and a special playground just for the little ones–plus baby-sitting on demand.

This resort is very focused on families and kids, with lots of children’s activities for kids of all ages.  The kids club is included in the cost of your stay, except for kids under 3, where there is a fee. There are activities for adults all day long too, the schedule is posted daily (like on a cruise ship), activities range from gentle 1 hour walk, water aerobics, tennis, canoeing, standup paddle boarding. They also offer, trapeze, Zumba and salsa lessons!  There is also a spa and 3 swimming pools. There is no pressure to participate or not participate in any of the activities.

The resort also has a great setup for family rooms – they have 2 room units which can accommodate parents, up to 3 kids plus a crib.  Each family with a little child has a stroller at their disposal during their stay. Their suites are located in a separate building with their own front desk and beach area.

— Barb B.

One can purchase excursions through Club Med – we went to a Turtle Hatchery, and helped release baby turtles back into the water, it was fun!  Ixtapa has a bicycle path, which goes along a lot of the town area, one can rent bicycles and they offer bicycle tours. Ixtapa is the modern resort area, with many high rise beachfront resorts, many are all-inclusive, and golf course.  Zihuantanejo is the old town, with a nice town square, good for local shopping and culture, located close to the beach, a pier, and a lovely old church. — Barb B.

Why book with Willamette Intl Travel?

Many of our agents have stayed at Club Meds and can give you firsthand tips and honest feedback. We have access to deals and perks through our connections with Club Med, and can arrange a whole package for you and your family to stay at a Club Med – with airfare, transportation, activities – so you don’t have to stress about any of it.

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Filed under Club Med, Family Travel, Mexico, Travel by Scuba, Travel by Sport, Travel by Taste

3 Ghoulish Alternatives to Halloween around the World

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Happy Halloween! So how do other cultures celebrate this time of year? Here are five of our favorite devilish celebrations come November: 

La Diabalada, Peru. Early November. 

In the week leading up to November 5, the village of Puno in Peru celebrates La Diablada, a devilish sort of festival where men dress up as demons and hit the streets in a horned parade. Some say that it was to herald the departure of the conquistadors in the late 19th century—others claim that it’s a much older tradition, a way to pay home to ancient spirits of Lake Titicaca that gradually took on the trappings of Christianity. Set against the backdrop of the Cordillera Real mountains, there’s hardly a more dramatic setting. Before the night is over, don’t forget to try a glass of La Diablada Pisco (Peruvian brandy).

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Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), Mexico. Nov 1-2. 

Nobody does death quite like Mexico, who adopts a kind of upbeat discussion of mortality and immortality. Mexicans believe that the dead wait in Mictlan, a spiritual limbo, and can return to their homes just once a year, the Day of the Dead. Families erect an altar piled high with flowers, candles, ribbons, a bowl of water, and bread, and the house is strewn about with candy skulls, papier-mâché skeletons, banners of colored paper, and miniature coffins. Festivities include cooking, singing, dancing, culminating in a family visit to the cemetery.

Festa del Cornuto (Festival of the Horned One), Italy. Mid-November. 

With famed Mediterranean lust comes also its fair share of broken hearts. The Festival of the Horned One is a tribute to anyone who’s been made a cuckold in love. The small village of Rocca Canterano throws a party each November to remember those unlucky ones spurned by their partners. Actors dress up and recite their misfortunes on the streets, bearing helmets with horns, some adopting a more commercial devil’s garb.

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Mexico, Peru, South America

Happy World Chocolate Day!

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Friday 7 July is World Chocolate Day!

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Originally from Mesoamerica, the cacao bean has been a favorite culinary passion for thousands of years. People’s intimate relationship with chocolate is thought to date back all the way three or four millennia, when ancient pre-Columbian cultures like the Olmec were drinking fermented beverages made from the cacao bean.

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The world chocolate comes from the Aztec “xocoatl,” and the scientific name for the tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.”

Why July 7? Friday marks 467 years since chocolate was introduced to Europe.

After all, who doesn’t love another excuse to sip down hot chocolate, or bite into a Belgian truffle?

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Celebrate the sweet day of chocolate by:

  • booking a honeymoon vacation to the Mexican coast to see the land that inspired a worldwide culinary passion
  • asking our travel agents about deals for families on Big Island to visit the candy factory and sample macadamia nut chocolates
  • attending a chocolate-making class in Brussels, Belgium in a fine chocolaterie
  • tasting Mexican cocoa in its mouthwatering perfection at Oaxaca, home to small cacao farms
  • booking a train trip in our office on Switzerland’s chocolate train to discover legendary Swiss chocolate in the medieval town of Gruyères
  • book a chocolate workshop in lovely Paris with our friends Chocolatine (their name is oh so apropos)
  • visiting Turin, home to legendary cioccolato caldo (hot chocolate) and the annual CioccolaTò festival, with chocolate factory and treasure hunt

See more destinations for chocolate lovers here

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Recipe: Mexican Hot Chocolate

(from Olivia’s Cuisine)

  • 2 (3.5oz) bars good quality bittersweet chocolate (Lindt or authentic Mexican chocolate)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ tsp chili powder (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp light brown sugar (optional)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • Whipped cream to serve

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Instructions

  1. Over medium-high heat, melt the chocolate with the water and cinnamon sticks.
  2. Once everything is melted, add the milk, heavy cream, chili powder and sugar, and the nutmeg. Stir until well-combined.
  3. Once it boils, lower the heat to medium and let it cook until it thickens a little (about 5 minutes). If you think it’s too thick or sweet for you, add an extra cup of milk to thin it out.
  4. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top!

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Mexico, Travel by Taste

Travel News: HAL cruises to Cuba

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Holland America Becomes Latest Cruise Line to Sail for Cuba

HAL just announced it will begin sailings from Ford Lauderdale to Cuba starting December 22, 2017, with a 12-day cruise on the Veendam. HAL will begin with nine 7-day itineraries calling at Havana, with three of these also calling at Cienfuegos. Other ports on the cruises will include Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos, Key West in Florida, Montego Bay in Jamaica, Belize, Dominican Republic. This follows the announcement of Royal Caribbean, Azamara Club Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, who will sail Cuba as well.

Royal Caribbean Adds Chief Meteorologist To Marine Ops Team

Royal Caribbean Cruises has added what may be the first-ever full-time cruise industry Chief Meteorologist to its operations team in Jim Van Fleet, who brings a broadcasting background to the position and has degrees in climatology and broadcast meteorology. Van Fleet joined the Miami-based company in January.

Port of Lisbon Wants Homeport Calls

A new cruise terminal will be inaugurated this summer, a new state-of-the-art building located downtown in the city center as port officials have their eyes on building Lisbon into a major home port. And of those, the port is expecting quite a few with maiden visits scheduled from the Viking Sky, Freedom of the Seas, TUI Discovery 2, Columbus, Silver Muse, Variety Voyager, Caribbean Princess, Ocean Diamond, Viking Sun and the new MSC Meraviglia. Lisbon cruise season is mainly spring and fall and the city wants cruise ship to call year round. In addition, one of the main strategic goals is to increase the turnaround segment and establish Lisbon as a big national and international homeport hub, which will induce growth and eventually reduce seasonality effects.

John Travolta Donates His Famous 707

Actor John Travolta has donated his famous Qantas Boeing 707-138 to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) based at Albion Park, approximately 90 miles south of the city of Sydney, Australia. In a statement Travolta said “The aircraft was originally delivered to Qantas Airways in 1964 and was converted for private use after it finished its life with “The Flying Kangaroo”. I was honored to have the 707 repainted in the original Qantas colors when I became the ambassador for the airline, and it’s so fitting that many of the volunteers at HARS are retired Qantas employees.  HARS is a not-for-profit organization and was formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of Australian aviation history. It has built up an impressive collection of over both flying and static aircraft including a Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-3 and DC-4. It is, without doubt, the most impressive aircraft museum in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Florence Mayor Aims To Keep Polluting Tourists At Bay

The mayor of Florence has told tourists they will “get wet” if they settle down for lunch on the steps of some of the city’s prized churches as he is turning to hosepipes to restore “decorum” among visitors to the Renaissance city. Dario Nardella wants to discourage people from ‘camping out’ by hosing down steps of Basilica of Santa Croce and other sites. The steps of the Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo, will be the first to be hosed down at lunchtime, in order to stop visitors from eating on them, followed by the Chiesa di Santo Spirito. “We have nothing against tourists. We know that they are a great resource for our city,” the mayor told The Guardian. “But there is a problem with respecting decorum. The majority of visitors are respectful and elegant. But there has been an increase among those who don’t respect our cultural heritage, who sit down on church steps, eat their food and leave rubbish strewn on them.” The streets of the city’s historic center, a Unesco World Heritage site, will also be hosed down as part of what will initially be an experiment to see if tourists can be discouraged from eating lunch on the steps. Concerned about the spread of fast-food outlets catering to backpackers, he introduced regulations in January last year stipulating that restaurants in the center use products that were typical of the city and the Tuscany region. He also blocked an application by McDonald’s to open an outlet in the historic Piazza del Duomo, prompting the US chain to seek €17.8m (£15.5m) in damages.

Family-centric getaways to Mexico offer something for all ages

On Mexico’s East and West coasts, Palladium Hotels and Resorts’ all-inclusive getaways emphasize privacy and wellness in the Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit. All hotels have tiered kids’ clubs — baby, mini and junior clubs — where children are entertained with kid-centric programs, designed to optimize both fun and education. The resorts’ Play at Palladium with Raggs program includes a group of 5 colorful TV characters as on-site ambassadors, hosting activities, poolside events, disco parties, a pirate show and on-property water sports. For older kids, cooking, science and magic classes are also available. 

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Filed under Airlines, Caribbean, Cruises, Cuba, Europe, Holland America Line, Italy, Mexico, portugal, Royal Caribbean