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Santorini, Greece

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With this site we hope to share some of our travel experiences and offer some useful advice. We are hoping some of our travel friends will help out from time to time as well. We are just getting started but hope you will check back often.

Please take note of a few features on this site. Any underlined blue text is a link to another website with additional information. The general menu has a search page entry that has additional links and a search bar. Comments are not generally posted in an effort to reduce clutter and avoid confusion but we do welcome comments and contributions. Please email us at:

TheIntentionalTraveler@gmx.com

Of specific interest are recommendations on hotels and restaurants and overviews of destination cities. We are also looking for details on getting around a city or if you experienced a particularly interesting event we would love to hear about it.


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Beating The Jones Act

Our One-Time Getting Around The Jones Act

For a refresher on the Jones Act see Cruising and the Jones Act Here.

Back in 2016 we booked a back-to-back set of cruises with Celebrity. The first cruise was an Alaska cruise starting in Seattle and finishing in Vancouver. The second cruise continued on from Vancouver and finished in Honolulu. It took a little while but Celebrity came back and said we could not book this as it violated the Jones Act.

Cruising Alaska
Victoria, Canada

After reviewing the itineraries we realized that the Alaska cruise stopped in Victoria, Canada the day before arriving in Vancouver. We went back to Celebrity and asked that if we disembarked the ship in Victoria could we overnight there and rejoin the ship the next day in Vancouver therefore avoiding the Jones Act?

Vancouver, Canada

Asking a large organization with many layers of management to do something that hadn’t been considered before is usually a daunting task and this was no exception. Celebrity said they would look into it. Later when asked again Celebrity said they would look into it. Somewhat later when asked Celebrity said maybe it would be possible and they would get back to us. Following up on that hopeful news we were told probably not. Later we enlisted the help of our travel agent who got higher up the chain of command. The response she got was that they didn’t see why not but would look into it. A couple of months later Celebrity got back and said it was okay with them but that they needed to get permission from the Canadian Immigration.

Finally everything was cleared for us to stay on this back-to-back. We asked if we could just leave our things in the stateroom when we got off in Victoria? The response was – don’t ask and we won’t tell.

One interesting thing was that when we got off the ship in Victoria we were joined by eight other couples with some doing just what we were. Celebrity now has a process for accommodating cruisers wanting to do this back-toback.

Canada Place, Vancouver

Everything on this trip went very well. The one issue was a lack of planning on our part. We knew that a ferry went from Victoria to Vancouver at a nominal price but we failed to look up the actual terminal locations. It seems that the Vancouver Island terminal is a good distance outside of Victoria and the ferry docks a long way from Canada Place (the cruise ship dock) in Vancouver. Fortunately we found a bus service (The BC Connector) that left from only four blocks from our Victoria hotel, went onto the ferry and than delivered us right to Canada Place all for a reasonable fare.

Honolulu

 

 

 

Less Than Eight Hours In Rome

The Tiber and Castel Sant’Angelo

We have returned to Rome a number of times usually staying a few days with each visit. On a Mediterranean cruise a few years ago it was our sons first trip to Europe. The cruise originated and ended in Barcelona and the ship docked for one day in Civitavecchia the port servicing Rome. With the trip to Rome an hour plus each way that left about seven hours to actually see the city.

Rome is one of the world’s great cities. It is packed full of thousands of years of historic sites. It is home to one of the world’s major religions (yes, I know the Vatican is actually a different city/country). In addition Rome has some of the best food and shopping in Europe and then there are the concerts and opera…

So the challenge is what to do with seven hours in Rome? Since this day is focused on a first timer who probably isn’t real keen on shopping and the symphony and opera are out, that leaves historical highlights. Our seven hours in Rome started and finished at Vatican City where the bus stopped.

Throwing coins in Trevi

The first time hurdle you will have to deal with in visiting the major sites in Rome, particularly in the summer, are the crowds. As hard as it is to believe, even the outdoor Fountain of Trevi, in the summer, has huge crowds you need to navigate thru. Many of other sites need tickets or hours waiting in line or both.

 

The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel – direct purchase tickets thru the Vatican are 17 Euros and it will still require a fair amount of time in line. You can get Skip-the-Line Tickets to the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel thru an agency for about 30 Euros but it requires doing this in advance. Without being aware of this Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel are out.

St. Peters Basilica

Getting into St. Peters is free but the lines usually will take up to an hour or more. Since the lines were already long we decided to try later when we returned to the Vatican.

Interior of the Pantheon

From Vatican City we took a taxi over to the Pantheon, which is the oldest intact domed structure in the world and really deserves a look. Unfortunately even the Pantheon now requires admission tickets, instituted to primarily to better control the crowds.

The Fountain of Trevi

For the next stop it is important to have a really good sense of direction and a map or the use of the GPS on your smart phone because the next stop is only a modest walk away. Everyone has to put in an appearance at the Fountain of Trevi. Remember Anita Ekberg’s famous Trevi Fountain bathing scene from “La Dolce Vita,” and the tradition of throwing coins into the Trevi from “Three Coins in the Fountain”? Stand with your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your right shoulder and you will always return to Rome.

The Spanish Steps

From Trevi still walking, head for the Spanish Steps another must do iconic site. While I’ve been there dozens of times I’ve never been sure what you’re supposed to do. Walk up and down? Sit and play an instrument (many do)? At least take a selfie that proves you were there.

From the Steps another fifteen or twenty minutes walking will get you to the Via Veneto where, if you’re not into shopping at least sit at a café, have lunch or drink an espresso and watch the people.

Via Veneto

An option from the Steps is to head off in the opposite direction thru the Piazza Spagna. This is also a great area for strolling and lunch or perhaps a cappuccino as you take in the sights around the piazza.

If you are on the Via Veneto and enjoy walking you can walk the dozen blocks over to the Piazza Republica and head down the Via Nazionale toward the Roman Forum. You can also catch the Metro at the nearby Barberini Metro Station and exit at the Piazza Republica.

Piazza Republica

If you are at the Piazza Spanga you can walk to the Roman Forum in about a half hour or catch a metro at the Spanga/Trevi station and take the A line and get off at the Piazza Republica station. From there you can walk or take a bus down the Via Nazionale to the area of the Roman Forum and the Coliseum.

The Roman Forum

Of course you can take taxis between the various locations. You should expect to pay 15 to 20 Euros per ride between the locations discussed. A better option is rapid transit but in Rome it is somewhat fragmented. The fare system is totally integrated though, so you can pay and use the Metro trains and buses on the same ticket. A minimum fare is a BIT Standard ticket for one ride and costs about $2 per person. Our recommendation is a 24 hour pass for about $9. There are ticket machines at all Metro stations and they take major credit cards.

Once in the area of the Roman Forum you can walk thru the Forum, visit the Colisseum and Palitine Hill. The Colisseum requires admission tickets and you can expect the line to take up to an hour in Summer.

The Colosseum

Getting from the area of the Forum back to Vatican City by walking or by bus will take about an hour so this is where we would recommend a taxi (about 20 minutes and $25).

Highlights:

St. Peters Basilica

Vatican Museum– A collection amassed by Popes throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art.

Sistine Chapel – A large papal chapel built within the Vatican between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV, for whom the chapel is named. The ceiling along with a large fresco The Last Judgment on the sanctuary wall were painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512.

St. Peters Basilica – Is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome. It was designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest Christian church in the world.

Pantheon Exterior

Pantheon – meaning “[temple] of every god”) is a former Roman temple, now a church, on a site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). The present building was completed by the emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome and one of the worlds oldest complete structures.

Fountain of Trevi – Is a fountain in the Trevi district. Commisioned in 1629 by Pope Urban VIII. Designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.

Spanish Steps – This monumental staircase of 135 steps was built with 20,000 scudi bequeathed by French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s in 1723–1725, linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy, and the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France to the Holy See in Palazzo Monaldeschi.

Piazza Spanga – Is one of the most famous squares in Rome. It owes its name to the Palazzo di Spagna, seat of the Embassy of Spain to the Holy See. Nearby is the famed Column of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Via Veneto – Is one of the most famous, elegant, and expensive streets in Rome.

The Arch of Titus c. AD 82 near The Forum

The Roman Forum – A rectangular plaza containing the ruins of several important ancient government buildings. Originally a marketplace, the Forum became the center of the Roman Republics government and was the heart of ancient Rome.

Colosseum – Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater it is an oval amphitheater in the centre of the city. Built of travertine and brick-faced concrete, it is the largest amphitheater ever built. commissioned in A.D. 71 by Emperor Vespasian as a gift to the Roman people. In A.D. 80, Vespasian’s son Titus officially opened the Colosseum.

Callaway Gardens, Georgia for An Old Fashioned Summer

Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel
Robin Lake beach

When I was a child my family spent summer weeks in the Appalachians hiking, fishing and just laying back. The world seemed to move slower back then with days spent on simple pleasures. Rocking on the porch in the evening. Taking a bike ride along a wooded trail. Canoeing across a mountain lake. Wouldn’t it be nice to return to those days if only for a short time? A few years back our family discovered how.

Trail around Robin Lake
Callaway Discovery Center
The Gardens Restaurant seen from the boathouse
Labor Day Weekend Balloon Launch

Welcome to Callaway Gardens. Located seventy miles southwest of Atlanta in Pine Mountain, Georgia, it is a delightful throwback to an age that seems to have all but disappeared. While the Gardens still draw crowds to special events like a hot air balloon event every Labor Day, a steeplechase and a national water skiing competition there is plenty to recommend this attraction all year round.

Bike trail bridge
Trails thru the Pine Cabins
The Lodge entrance

The Gardens include miles of hiking and bicycling trails thru a number of habitats. A butterfly center where typically 1,000 or more butterflies flutter freely about in one of North America’s largest tropical butterfly conservatories. Several lakes for fishing, boating and water sports including Robin Lake beach with a recreation area, snack bar and weekend concerts in the summer. There are also a number of good restaurants associated with the property..

Accommodations at the Gardens include The Lodge and Spa, The Mountain Creek Inn along with rental cottages and villas. There are a number of activity programs like Family Adventure, several championship golf courses and shows like Birds of Prey. At Christmas the Gardens attracts crowds to Fantasy in Lights, one of the countries highest rated light displays.

Pioneer Log Cabin

Two special times at the Garden are Spring when the Azaleas are in bloom and Fall around late October and early November when the leaves are changing.

Photo curtesy of FSU

Callaway is also the summer home of the Florida State University Flying High Circus which includes daily performances and also provides lessons to children in The Family Adventure program.

Downtown Pine Mountain

Near the Gardens is also the town of Warm Springs, Georgia that was the summer Whitehouse of FDR and the town of Pine Mountain with good antique shopping and additional restaurants.

Looking for an alternative to theme parks and tourist attraction crowds? Take the family for a little old fashioned fun in the South.

 

 

Avoiding The Crowds In Yellowstone

When we visited Yellowstone last summer we had a couple of advantages. First we came on a land tour that included nights at the Old faithful Lodge, which is a difficult reservation to get on your own. We were also in the company of an experienced guide that knew where to go and more importantly, when to get there.

With the summer National Park season quickly approaching and Yellowstone being a favorite destination this is a good time to revisit our experiences.

A number of times as we traveled thru Yellowstone we passed parking areas that were in total gridlock. We saw any number of lines of cars that were just not going anywhere. Following are some thoughts to getting the most out of your park visit.

First you should do some research and make a list of those places you really want to get to. This is our recommendation of the top five locations and how to approach visiting them:

Grand Prismatic

#1 Grand Prismatic Spring – Located in Midway Geyser Basin. This area may be small, but it leaves a lasting impression. In addition to Grand Prismatic Spring, there’s Excelsior Geyser, an enormous geyser crater, and the Turquoise and Opal Pools. You reach the field by a bridge across the Firehole River where boiling water flows into the river and steam rises from around the field. This location is very popular and the secret is to get up early and making this your first stop. On most days gridlock begins to set in around noon.Go to   High Resolution Yellowstone Map

Old Faithful geyser

#2 Old Faithful – Located in the Upper Geyser Basin. The area is the largest concentration of geothermal features on Earth. Though the basins other geysers are less predictable than Old Faithful there is one literally going off all the time. There are also miles of walkways and trails thru the basin that need exploring. The Old Faithful geyser is only a short walk from The Old Faithful Lodge with easy access for the handicapped. With the lodges plentiful parking this a great stop anytime of the day and with a number of good restaurants its a great place for lunch or dinner.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone

#3 Mammoth Hot Springs – The springs is a large complex of hot springs on a hill of mineral deposits that look like an inside out cavern. It was created over thousands of years as hot water from the springs cooled on the surface and deposited calcium carbonate on the hillsides as it flowed. Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District in Yellowstone National Park is a large complex with a good hotel, restaurants and shops and is a good choice as a base for visiting the park.

Yellowstone Canyon & Falls from Lookout Point

#4 Lookout Point (Yellowstone Grand Canyon) – The iconic landscape image of Yellowstone is taken from Lookout Point. Only a short walk from the parking area the trail provides spectacular views up the Yellowstone Grand Canyon to the Lower Yellowstone Falls. This is a must see place but can turn into a traffic jam early in the day. Like Grand Prismatic Spring it is highly advisabe to put this on the list of visits early in the morning.

#5 Lower Geyser Basin – This is the largest geyser basin in Yellowstone National Park. It covers an area of over ten square miles compared to the Upper Geyser Basin one square mile. With its large size, the thermal features in the Lower Geyser Basin tend to be in widely spaced groups. Because of the large area and the number of parking facilities and trails it is much easier to visit and find parking at any time of day. In the Lower Basin probably the easiest to get to and most interesting to hike is the Fountain Paint Pot area which features pools, geysers and bubbling mud pots of different colors.

To round out Yellowstone’s list of favorite sights here are another five.

#6 Hayden and Lamar Valleys – Expansive valleys of open meadows excellent for watching animals. Plenty of parking spots throughout both.

#7 Yellowstone Lake – Home to The historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel featuring fishing and tours of the park, Fishing Bridge and visitors center.

#8 Norris Geyser Basin – This Basin is the hottest, oldest, and most dynamic of Yellowstone’s thermal areas.

#9 Tower Falls– This fall on Tower Creek in the northeastern region of Yellowstone National Park plunges 132 feet before joining the Yellowstone river.

#10 West Thumb Geyser Basin – This small, colorful geyser in Yellowstone National Park also features scenic lake views.

The real secret to getting to see what you want is to get up early and know your destination. Also since Yellowstone is the size of Delaware it helps to select accommodations convenient to getting into the park or better yet stay at one of the parks lodges.

Go to  High Resolution Yellowstone Map

Recommended routes into and thru Yellowstone National Park from each entrance for earliest access to primary locations.

  1. Yellow – West Entrance and Yellowstone Village to Midway Geyser Basin and on to Old Faithful.
  2. Blue – East Entrance and Cody to Lookout Point and Grand Canyon trails
  3. Orange – North Entrance and Gardner to Mammoth Warm Springs on to Midway Geyser Basin or alternately to Lookout Point.
  4. Green – Alternate route from Mammoth Warm Springs to Lookout Point and Old Faithful to Yellowstone Lake and Lake Village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things to Do Before Visiting Disney World

Back a number of years ago the average Disney World trip involved making a hotel reservation and traveling to Orlando. Once at Disney World you bought your park tickets and spent a few days eating fast food, waiting in lines and riding rides. A lot has changed from those times and today there is much more to do. There are hundreds of places to eat from fast food to fine restaurants and dozens of additional entertainment options. If you plan right, there’s a lot more you can fit in to your visit as well. Following are a number of tips to help you make the most of your vacation.

  1. The First Thing You Have To Do.

Regardless if you are staying at a Disney hotel or outside “The World” you need to get a My Disney Experience account. Setting up your account is free and allows you to register your park tickets so you can use FastPass, make restaurant reservations, access your photo account and much more.

  1. Buy Your Park Tickets and Pick Dates

You cannot make use of a number of perks at Disney World until you have your park tickets. Once you have ticket confirmations register them with My Disney Experience.

  1. The Not-So Secret Tip To Getting On Rides

To make the best use of your park time you need to use FastPass. Most people probably know about FastPass but you really need to be up to date on how it works. The first tip to booking FastPass rides is you need to purchase park tickets. You than register the tickets on My Disney Experience, pick dates you intend to visit the park and start making FastPass reservations.

  1. Order or Buy a MagicBand

If you are staying at a Disney Resort you will automatically receive a MagicBand either in the mail or at check-in. If not you can buy them at My Disney Store. Once you have a band you can register it at My Disney Experience and connect your park tickets and FastPass choices to the MagicBand. Once you get to the park just tap and proceed.

  1. Carefully Plan Your Visit

The simple fact is there is more to do than can be fit into a month or two. In order to make the most of your trip you have to get out a calendar and start planning which days you will want to do what. Picking a date for each park is important so that you can start making FastPass reservations. Also some restaurant and special event reservations are hard to get so you need to book as soon as possible.

  1. Build In Some Down Time

If your trip is going to be more than a few days make sure you include some down time in your calendar. A couple of days in the parks can wear anyone out so fit in some recuperation time. Planning an afternoon at a pool or cruising around the lakes and canals could be just the thing. Also plan an evening over at Disney Springs. There is lots of entertainment and good restaurants, especially after dark.

  1. Make Restaurant Reservations

With the explosion in prepaid meal plan use it is getting harder and harder to get into restaurants around “The World”. It’s a very good idea to make some reservations so you don’t waste hours waiting for a table.

  1. Make Special Event Reservations

There are a great number of special events to consider during your vacation. From the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue to Dessert Parties and fireworks cruises they all require reservations with many far in advance. WDW Special Events.

  1. Include and Make Plans For Water Parks And Shows

In addition to the main theme parks there are also two water parks and additional shows like Cirque du Soleil (a new one will be opening soon) to consider. While reservations may not be necessary they still need a spot on your calendar.

  1. Book Your Magical Express

If you are staying at a Disney property and are flying in to Orlando you need to make a reservation on the Disney Magical Express. It’s free and probably the best way to get back and forth from and to the airport.

See you real soon and have a great time…

Cheeseburgers in Paradise

Sometime you just want a good burger. We’ve seen fast food chains in places all around the world including Ho Chi Minh City (McDonalds and Carl’s Jr) Bergen, Norway (McDonalds and Burger King) Barcelona (McDonalds), Copenhagen (McDonalds), Thailand (Burger King and McDonalds).

Thailand

 

While having taken advantage of fast food while traveling we prefer non-chain restaurants and we’ve satisfied our craving for a good old American cheeseburger in a number of locations as well. We’ve had burgers from Barbados (Bubba’s, pretty good), to Barcelona (so, so), to Honolulu (a monster concoction at Teddy’s) to St. Croix (at Cheeseburgers, simply a real good burger).

East end St. Croix with Buck Island in the distance

Even the concept of McDonalds style fast food is no longer exclusive to America as more and more chains spring up. Jollibee  features burgers and

Manila

chicken and started over forty years ago in Manila. It has spread over Asia and is now well establish in the United States. Quickly growing is SuperMac’s in Ireland that features only Irish beef and serves a menu of french fries, including curry as well as covered in slaw and taco filling.

 

St. Croix

We first visited Cheeseburger In America’s Paradise  in St. Croix after hurricane Hugo in 1990 and the place hasn’t changed at all since. It’s an outdoor place under tents out on the eastern north shore on East End Road. Back then the radio played country western in honor of the Texan linemen that were rebuilding the island and had live music at times in the evening. It was becoming the place for happy hour for East Enders and probably will again as the island recovers. It offers a simple menu that mostly features really good open-flame cooked hamburgers and beer. On this visit it really did take us back as the radio was playing a C&W station.

The bottom line is if you are visiting St. Croix and want a reasonably priced, really good burger, drive on out to Cheeseburger In America’s Paradise.