All Asking For This Year For The Holiday…

Everyone wants to get something they look forward to for Christmas, and hopefully we’ll get something nice this year. For some of us we want something under the black christmas tree and others want something else. But sometimes what we want doesn’t always happen. What I want for Christmas this year is that I would like to have something that I really want for myself. I’d been saving for some years now for this, and it would really be helpful for me and my husband Labron.
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What To Expect In Thanksgiving Vacation Getaway With Family

Thanksgiving may be the season for expressing dreams, but it’s hard to feel grateful when you remember the normal frustrations accompanying this holiday. Cooking is the biggest dilemma and in most cases, it unfortunately falls on just one or two women’s shoulders to prepare a huge feast for the entire family. And then there’s the matter of readying the house to accommodate all visiting friends and loved ones.

Spend Thanksgiving Away from Home

If you want a headache-free weekend this Thanksgiving, treat yourself and everyone else to a relaxing weekend getaway for the holiday. Perhaps an Hawaii vacations. Here are a few vacation deals to give you an idea of what to look for.

Bolton, Landing, New York: The Sagamore

This Lake George establishment has a variety of special holiday deals to offer. Expect to pay at least $349 but this also comes with breakfast and, of course, holiday dinner. Children below 18 may stay in your room without extra cost and those with three-night bookings can negotiate for an extra night for free.

Crested Butte, Connecticut: Resort Quest

Call the number for Resort Quest, ask for the Crested Butte Thanksgiving Package, and families of four will pay less than $800 to ski their way to their two-bedroom suite and make use of lift tickets for three fantastic days. But first you have to pray that winter comes early!

Florida: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and Amelia Island

Groups of four won’t have to spend more than $180 when they get to the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. The 2,400-acre establishment promises a relaxing night’s stay in a 2-bedroom suite and endless entertainment for all the family with their kid zone, boogie boarding, kayaking, a visit from Santa, and many other family-oriented activities. In Amelia Island, you’ll just have to fork over $50 for a one-night visit and the opportunity to pretend that Thanksgiving took place in summer while you sail off in a chartered boat or play tennis or volley ball under the warm Florida sun.

New York: Regency Hotel

A condo good for six to eight persons can go as low as $539. Evening meal at the hotel is priced at $49 with a 50% discount for children but you can always have the hotel serve your Thanksgiving meal for you and nineteen other guests in your suite. Don’t miss the chance to watch Macy’s traditional Thanksgiving Day parade.

Orlando, Florida: Walt Disney World

Magic is always in the air once you stepped inside the Walt Disney World. Suites are quite comfortable, starting at just $39 but you should also consider taking advantage of packages that include discounted theme park passes. To celebrate in the tradition of Thanksgiving, watch out for holiday fireworks and parades – but don’t miss the tree-lighting ceremony held every evening.

Puerto Rico: Wyndham El Conquistador Resort

As there’s no rules that say Thanksgiving has to be spent in winter cold, why not fly off to this Puerto Rican resort? For a lot less than $200 per night, you can experience the resort’s ongoing Family Getaway By Request promo. The special package also comes with a 50% discount if you book a second room for your kids, two-for-one spa, complimentary kids’ camp, and many other features. The promo also waives payment for your fourth night stay and children younger than 12 years old can enjoy meals for free.

March 2006 Shark Bytes

Dear Readers

We had a couple of fantastic pelagic trips at the beginning of the month and a particularly good trip where we had a large female blue shark with us for most of the day.

I always say that blue sharks are one of the best species of sharks to dive with. They are very curious animals and spend a lot of the time checking out the divers providing excellent views of the shark. They also do not come across as particularly aggressive animals so as a diver you can really enjoy the encounter without feeling threatened by the shark.

This specific blue shark was incredibly relaxed and not at all wary of the divers in the water. All our guests were able to dive with her and are were very excited at the end of the day.

In my last newsletter I mentioned that Chris & I were going to Madagascar hoping to find sharks.
In January we had an Italian guest on the boat that owns and runs a dive center on Ile Sainte Marie. This is an Island off the North East coast of Madagascar. Max has been living there for the last 14 years and during this time he has not had much success in finding sharks. He invited us to visit him in the hope that we would be able to help in this quest.

Chris & I did not go with high expectations although as always we were very excited about the possibilities. The Island is not large, 60 kilometers long (42 miles) and 5 kilometers wide (3.2 miles) but is home to a population of 20 000 people.

Taking into consideration the kind of conditions, water temperature etc we knew that there was a possibility of seeing the following sharks: Great Hammerheads; Tigers; Zambezi’s or Bull’s; variety of reef sharks; Bow mouth Guitar fish; Saw Sharks and my “Bogie Shark”, the Leopard or Zebra Shark.

The first obstacle we encountered on our arrival was that Max had contracted Malaria which meant that he was out of action for any shark activities for the first few days of our visit.

Once he had recovered we planned to try all sides of the Island. We had great weather for the day on the East Coast but after spending an entire day chumming and waiting patiently for sharks we got skunked. It was extremely hot and when I decided on a swim to cool off I was lucky enough to have a squid swim past me. Evidently it was not very happy with me and displayed its dis-pleasure. This meant that constantly changing iridescent colours were shimmering down its body…really spectacular and definitely the highlight of the day for me. The boat trip to the other side of the Island also meant that we were able to take in the beautiful coastline views. It was just magnificent and consisted of kilometers of white sandy Coconut tree clad beaches.

Although very beautiful, we were beginning to realize that there were some serious environmental problems on the Island. Just walking around there were no signs of any bird or insect life. When we started asking questions we were very sad to learn that the locals have basically caught and killed almost anything that they can get their hands on, including the very famous Lemurs that occur only in Madagascar. The also famous forests of the Island have been destroyed by 80% over the last 16 years. Shark Cage Diving

We were soon to find out that this catch-and-kill-anything attitude also extends to the sea. Gill nets are used prolifically and nothing is spared. We spent a morning watching a fishing boat bring in their nets that had been set for a 24-hour period. Four different nets were set over 2 kilometers and their entire catch consisted of 3 very large spotted-eagle rays, one king fish and a turtle. As I say nothing was spared.

There is not much that can be done about this problem. Madagascar is now officially the poorest country in the World and when people are struggling to feed themselves it is very difficult to persuade them to put back something like a turtle or be more selective in the animals and fish that they catch. Another factor that we found very worrying is that over a 24 hour period this was the entire catch. Gill netting is a ruthless form of fishing and nothing; aside from perhaps a very large shark; is able to break free of the net once entangled.

The north end of the Island is the quieter, less occupied side of Sainte Marie. We spent a full day up here looking for sharks, again with no luck. Admittedly the weather was very poor so we were not able to be in the area where fishermen most often see sharks.

We then planned on a very early rise so that we could try for sharks in the darker hours. It is a well known fact that tiger sharks often move from deeper water to shallow water to feed at night. Although a 2am wake up call was not very appealing we decided that it would be more than worth it if we were to see a Tiger. Shark Cage Diving

I mentioned that the North end of the Island is the quite end and a prime example of this is the hotel that we spent the night at. We anchored the boat 200 meters from the shore and Max then proceeded to kayak from the boat to shore. Apparently this hotel which consists of the most delightful rustic bungalows on the beach does not have a telephone or even a radio! We asked Max how this can possibly work and apparently if you by some miracle happen to find out about the place you just show up!! So, take my advice. If you happen to find yourself in Sainte Marie, Madagascar this is the spot to be. It does not get much better when one can lie in bed and hear the ocean lap onto the shore a few meters away.

The night was all too short when Max woke us at 2am but we gamely kayaked back to the boat in search of tiger sharks.

At dinner the night before Max showed us a scrap book of photographs taken in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. We were shocked to see photo after photo of very large sharks and rays that had been caught just off the beach in front of the hotel.

Massive tiger sharks and even bigger Great Hammerheads were caught in huge numbers. Even a whale shark was harpooned. Fishing for them was very simple and consisted of putting a large bait out on a rope and hauling the sharks in once they took the bait. Swimming was considered extremely dangerous, even in waist-high water due the threat of sharks.

We had left a large bag of sardines below the boat during the night and were very disappointed to find that absolutely nothing had touched the bag.

We now really did not expect to see a single shark and our midnight chumming heralded a total of three garfish.

We cannot conclusively say that there are no sharks at Sainte Marie but we do not think that there are many left. Tigers and Great Hammerheads are seasonal sharks so we hope that we were just there at a bad time of the year.

Some of you may know that Sainte Maries is famous for Humpback whales that migrate through here in large numbers over July, August, September and October.

Shark Cage Diving

Visit Italy – The most romantic destination on earth

A great experience is visiting the Art Cities in Italy. Blessed with the patronage of a papal representative or ducal family, art treasures in Italy were concentrated in many small capitals consisting of dozens of principalities.

Because of this,these cities are now treasure seekers delights filled with remarkable works of art in every form at many different types of structures. Besides the popular cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice, you can find great art in all types of cities in Italy including such places as Verona and Pisa.

A great place we recommend for more information about holidays in Italy is lonely planet or Frommers.

Candle lights and Italian food can make for a very romantic meal. Dining out is perhaps one of the most treasured of Italian pastimes. No matter how many times you’ve had pizza or lasagna in your lifetime, it won’t even come close to the real thing you’ll find in Italy. All geographic areas have their own tradition which have been around for decades. While in Italy, dine outside and you could be viewing a piazza or church and it is truly heaven on earth. Good eating!

Going to Mass in St. There are few things that can compare with the majesty of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy except for a select group of historic landmarks in Jerusalem. Peter’s is the most famous and important building in all of Christendom located in the Vatican. Some people say the highlight of their whole lives was attending mass here.

Holiday Cruises Booming

Have you ever been on a holiday cruise before?  I haven’t, although it is something we have discussed several times.  According to many holiday industry experts there are a lot of people like us and 2008 is the year when Cruise holidays are going to become very popular.

There are a number of reasons why a holiday cruise is appealing to us.  First of all and perhaps the most important consideration for a lot of people is that the price of cruising has come down a huge amount.  This now makes it a viable alternative to your 1-2 weeks in a Hotel in Spain holiday.  Secondly for a family like ours it seems that children are now more readily accepted on cruise holidays.  The old image of a bunch of pensioners dithering around a boat is fading quickly, of course as more children start to appear on cruises then it becomes more likely that even more will want to go.  A large part of the consideration of us going anywhere is to think about if our daughter will have other children to play with.  After all it is her holiday as much as ours and we wouldn’t want her getting bored, for all our sakes!

Yet another great thing about Cruises is the idea of seeing more than you would from your average holiday.  We are not huge sight-seers but we do like to see new things.  By booking a multi-port cruise it can almost be seen as having multiple holidays in one.  It sounds funny but as somebody who was brought up around the sea you also get a different perspective on things from a boat.  Things that you take for granted from the shore can often look spectacular from the sea.

So there are lots of reasons to think about booking a cruise holiday this year.  The only niggling doubt that remains for us is the food.  It’s a silly doubt really considering the number of cruises happening around the world at any one time, but all it takes is one over blown news report of food poisoning to put a doubt in place.  Either way if we don’t get the chance this year we’ll certainly be going next year.

Holiday Club Scams

Holiday Club Scams, Avoid Scratchcards

My own experience with Holiday clubs was limited to say the least, in truth before our first trip to Gran Canaria I didn’t even know such a thing existed. We were always told to be on the lookout for kids touting time-share property but nobody even mentioned the huge amount of Holiday Club Scamming that is going on.

What started as a gentle walk by the harbour one morning ended up with us losing a whole day our short seven day break and had we know been such hard asses possibly a lot more. We were soon approached by a young Scottish lad with scratch cards, we gave the usual “we’re not bothered thanks” but this one wouldn’t leave it. It got to the point where I wanted to flatten him but the wife being a good soul thought it best just to take a card and then get shut of him. Surprise, surprise, she won a free holiday! Now my wife loves holidays, a lot, no sooner was the card scratched than a taxi was ordered and we were whisked away to a luxury resort. We were assured that a quick 90 minute presentation was all it would take to secure our free membership.

After being met by a large east Londoner with a sales patter obviously practised hundreds of times it was soon apparent that they were wanting us to join there exclusive “Designer Vacation Club”. Unlucky for him, my wife is a trained purchaser (i.e. trained product negotiator) and swiftly pulled everything he said apart. Perhaps even more unfortunate for him was the fact that I have little patience for the hard sell or having my time wasted. They were showing us websites of their booking partners and what sort of deals they could get us for a one off £12000 payment! After being told several times that it would be in all our best interests if we left now he called on some backup, a business partner. I’m not saying that this bloke wasn’t a business partner but I’d question the business they were in, he was obviously the enforcer. We spent several hours being moved from one quite spot of the hotel to another, it did get a little worrying especially as we had our young daughter with us. After being told no for the hundredth time they finally got the hint, called us a taxi and got us back to our hotel. We’d lost a day from our holiday and felt like we’d been scammed. I suppose looking back it could have been a whole lot worse.

What it taught me was to not even acknowledge the scum pushing these cards. No matter what they are trying to put on you it will always end up costing you your time at best or a lot of money at worst. In the several holidays we’ve had since I’ve seen several people fall for the same trick, please don’t fall for it, avoid these holiday club scammers like the plague.

Package Holiday Insurance

Package Holiday Insurance, Are You Covered?

The great thing about a package holiday is the simplicity offered from the all-in-one approach. No need to co-ordinate your own flights and transfers, no need to worry about excursions, peace of mind that the hotel you are staying at will have a rep that speaks your language. It’s very much the lazy persons way of going abroad!

However did you know that when you book your package holiday with insurance you could be setting yourself up for a fall? A British woman has just discovered that her holiday medical insurance didn’t cover her when she had an accident at an Egyptian water park. On being sold the excursion the package holiday reps apparently told her that “if she didn’t book with them then she would be covered by insurance”. She did have an accident whilst at the water park but now her holiday company insurance is refusing to pay up leaving her and her family very much in the lurch.

So how can this happen? Actually the holiday company are completely within their rights in this case. As they were only acting as a booking agent for the excursion company your contract is not with them but with the company responsible for the excursion. The insurance with your package holiday company will only cover your time with them, and may even only include what you buy with the original purchase when back home. That means no insurance cover when you go on a 3rd party excursion. This will come as a great shock to a large number of people who will have always assumed that holiday insurance covers your whole holiday, when it comes to package holiday insurance this may not be the case!