More than any other year, I’ve traveled to more places. Granted, I went to Europe once and stayed in North America the rest of the time, but it still felt like I went everywhere. Thanks to trips for my travel advisor business and travel writing/blogging, I had these opportunities.
Let’s see if I can top that for 2024. In the meantime, here are my favorite moments from my adventures this year.
Starting with a seven-day cruise on Norwegian Joy out of LA, RAS and I spent time on the Pacific side of Mexico, which (except for Ensenada) I had never been to before. I am glad I finally saw Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán and Los Cabos. But because we likely saw the most touristy aspects of each place. I didn’t get the best impression of them. If I had to visit here again, I would probably go to Mazatlán because I found it culturally authentic with its squares and market. I went to Los Cabos later in the year (more about that later).
I don’t go to Vegas for the destination, although I would like to see things like the Neon Graveyard and the Mob Museum, essentially places that don’t involve gambling. But during this time for our annual sales and tech training, I stayed at a three-in-one hotel, Resorts World, at the middle-category Conrad. Another unique activity – my friends and I went to a speakeasy called Here Kitty Kitty, which had appropriately overpriced drinks.
This was quite an adventure when it was supposed to be a simple sales training with AmaWaterways. Because of protests and labor strikes in France, this involved two nights at a hotel in Marseilles, three nights on a German river cruise ship and only two nights on the AmaKristina. But seeing the cities of Arles, Avignon, Vienne and Lyon was amazing, and I only wish I could have spent more time here rather than on buses to get us there. The food and wine completely met my expectations.
Granted, I did not stay long in San Juan, and my focus was on the travel advisor-centered ASTA convention. The special thing about this visit was touring Old San Juan and learning about its history and culture (plus trying local food and drink, like empanadillas, piraguas and pina coladas). But I didn’t get to tour El Moro or the Spanish forts that people think with this city area. I also wish I had gone on some post-conference trips available to me.
Coming here was a revelation for me. As I’ve said, Paso has always been a drive-through town for me. I didn’t know that it was a robust winemaking and culinary destination. Our tourism representative told me it’s also a place for outdoor activities like golf, horseback riding and hiking. I will not hesitate to return here to try to taste more wine and spirits, enjoy great meals and do some of those things to work off the calories.
I try not to repeat going on a cruise line voluntarily more than once. But I am making an exception with Virgin. They are different from others, and I like that. It doesn’t hurt that their food is outstanding in just about every venue. On this particular sailing, RAS and Il, which included special cooking demonstrations and tastings, enjoyed the Eat & Drink Festival and small plates. We also got the opportunity to visit Key West, where I enjoyed a food and history tour.
Admittedly, this cruise focused more on professional development than leisure. The International Food Wine Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) held its annual conference onboard Discovery Princess, with a pre-cruise and mid-cruise media trip in Surrey, BC and Concord, CA. But I still enjoyed the fantastic dishes on the two trips and the cruise. I just wanted to enjoy the ship itself more, which was stunning in its décor and welcoming in hospitality.
After staying at a few all-inclusive resorts in the Riviera Maya and Costa Rica, I didn’t know what to expect at Hacienda del Mar. While it wasn’t all-inclusive, guests could purchase optional meal plans and pay for drinks. The meals at the main dining venues, DeCortez and Pithayas, were creative and delicious, and the resort itself is stunning in every capacity. Two bonuses: we enjoyed Dia de los Muertos here with ofrendas, food and celebrations, and we toured the “pueblo magico” Todos Santos, 45 minutes up the coast.
As part of the Cruise Planners convention, my fellow travel advisors and I sailed on the inaugural cruise of Celebrity Ascent, their newest Edge-class ship. Being on this short two-night sailing made me love Celebrity all over again. They have the boldest design for ships, their accommodations are modern, comfortable and sleek, and their cuisine is gourmet-quality. I only wish I could go on a longer cruise with them.