Authentic Alaska

The Safari Endeavor has a custom-made kayak launch pad so you can get in and out of the kayak with ease

The Safari Endeavor has a custom-made kayak launch pad so you can get in and out of the kayak with ease

Visiting Alaska via cruise ship is not anything new. Thousands of tourists descend on Alaska during the summer months visiting the main (and touristy) ports of call. The views are beautiful and you can definitely have some great experiences but there is a better way to get closer to the real heart of Alaska - its nature and wilderness.

UnCruise Adventures is the only Alaskan-owned cruise company and their love of Alaska shines through everything they do. They have 7 vessels in Alaska including yacht-style vessels (with a capacity as low as 22-guests!) and expedition-style vessels (which average 60-70 passengers). They have specially curated itineraries to showcase the “real” Alaska - because of their smaller size, they can get into areas that the big ships can’t so you will have Alaska all to yourselves. The captain will also change course if there are reports of whales or bears so that you have the best wildlife viewing experiences.

Each vessel has its own vibe - such as this modern wine bar

Each vessel has its own vibe - such as this modern wine bar

Another difference between UnCruise Adventures and the “normal” cruises in Alaska is the food. You will enjoy healthy and sustainable gourmet meals while on board your ship - including chef-selected wine pairings. There’s always a vegetarian option and other special dietary needs can be met. The chefs will pay attention to how your food options meld with the activities and conditions of the day. You don’t get that on the big ships!

Besides dining, each ship has a lounge and/or bar which will serve local wines and craft spirits and beers. They say they don’t want to brag, but they are confident that they can “hang their hat” on having the best craft bars afloat! Sounds good to me! Oh - and alcohol is included in the cruise price.

Close-up view of the kayak launching area

Close-up view of the kayak launching area

Now to the day-to-day activities - also all included in the cruise fare. You can wake up to morning yoga on the deck. Most ships have a custom-made kayak launch platform so you can get in the kayak without tipping over into the water (I need that). You can also go hiking on glaciers, go snorkeling and/or do stand-up paddle boarding. Typically you’ll have an activity to choose from in the morning and in the afternoon - or you can choose just to relax onboard and just absorb the views which will be incredible from any angle.

While the summer is the most popular time to go to Alaska for the big ships, UnCruise Adventures starts sailing in April. This is springtime in Alaska so there is a high chance you’ll see bears awakening from their winter slumber - with their cubs! There is usually more whales as they haven’t migrated yet. The days tend to be dry and sunny, and there’s even a chance of seeing the Northern Lights. This is the “secret” time to visit Alaska before the crowds!

These cruises are also family-friendly with special activities for kids. They can also do private charters just for you and your closest family and friends.

Besides Alaska, they also have itineraries in Hawaii, Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, Costa Rica & Panama, the Galapagos, the Pacific Northwest and along the Columbia and Snake rivers. There are themed cruise departures including craft beer, photography, wellness, wine and birding (amongst others).

For more information on these cruise options, please email me today!

Best for: adventure seekers, wildlife lovers, retirees, families with kids ages 8+, family reunions, incentive trips, wine and/or beer lovers, those looking for something “different”

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5 Tips on how to plan your first international vacation


Planning your first international vacation can seem like a daunting task - so many things to consider that it can quickly get overwhelming. Fear not - we are here to assist you every step of the way. To help you get started here is our list of the top 5 things to consider when you first start planning your trip:

1. Passport! Get a passport or you won't be going anywhere internationally. And don't get a passport card - it's not worth it as its only good if you were driving to Canada or Mexico. Make sure to get the Passport Book. There are a lot of requirements to getting a passport but luckily they have a handy checklist on the official passport page.

Tip: Get your required passport photos taken at Walgreens or somewhere that knows what they are doing. Don't submit photos you take on your own - your application will be denied. Oh and don't smile. You think your drivers license photo is bad? You haven't seen your passport photo yet then!

2. Budget - Be realistic! And don't penny pinch or stretch it too thin - you will be disappointed. Not sure what it may cost? We are happy to give you some insight. Just an FYI - we only recommend hotels and places to stay that are at least a well-rated 3-star or higher. We don't do hostels. We don't do cheapo motels. We do quality vacations so you are comfortable and happy. This also applies to the sightseeing activities we recommend as well - we concentrate on the overall quality and value - not just the price. Lowest price does not always equal the best memorable experience. You don't have to figure out the exact amount of your budget now but it's good to have a ballpark figure in mind. Try to be flexible as well as more than likely its going to cost more than what you hoped.

3. Where to? Once you've applied for your passport and thought about your funds, it's time to figure out where to go. This is the hard part unless you really know what you want. Ask us for suggestions if you need help deciding. We have the questions that will reveal the answers to find the perfect vacation for you! We specialize in international vacations to any destination. Europe is our most popular continent but we have the skills, resources and experience to send you anywhere. And we have - to all 7 continents (yes, that includes Antarctica!)

4. Organizing the itinerary. Once you know where you want to go, we can start filling in the details. This is the fun part! Where will you stay? How will you spend your time? How will you get there?
We can help you with all the details - this is our favorite part! We love making suggestions and recommendations based on your own travel styles, preferences, "musts"... We are vacation customizing pros. We also like to think outside the box and provide you with the experience that you are looking for but maybe didn't know it.

5. Other travel documents - besides a passport, some countries also require you to get a Visa. This doesn't have anything to do with credit cards (although proof of having one may be a Visa requirement for some countries). Another important thing to check is what, if any, vaccinations are required for your destination. The CDC has a handy website with what is Required (important) and Recommended. Scared of what they recommend? Just look at the warnings for the US to put them into context.

Ready to get started? Contact us now!

How we work:

  1. Email us to start the conversation. We strive to respond the same day so keep an eye out for our prompt response! Please let us know if you were referred by someone at this time as well.
  2. We will send you a questionnaire which will allow us to get to know you as an individual. It will have questions about where you've been before, what your hobbies and special interests are, your travel preferences, etc. We can also set up an appointment to chat (by phone or in person if you are in the Orlando area) if that is easier for you.
  3. When we have your answers and more info, we will send you an itinerary outline to give you some ideas and to get your feedback. We will provide some ideas at this time for how to spend your time and the logistics of the itinerary. This will confirm that we are both on the same page when it comes to your vacation. Changes can be made at this time if necessary as this is a guide only - no reservations or quotes* done at this time. Why no quote at this time? We prefer having an outline of the itinerary before we start making reservations and gathering prices. Unlike a search engine, we hand select all the elements of your vacation. This does take us some time to fully customize all the details. Many times we are working with suppliers in your destination country so time differences have to be taken into account as well. Therefore we need some type of commitment from you before we dive into the details. See below. This ensures we spend our time wisely with the right clients - you. *We can provide ballpark figures at anytime to give you a general idea of expected costs.
  4. Once we have a general idea of the itinerary, we will put together a Custom Vacation Plan for you to review and approve. A Custom Vacation Planning Fee will be due at this time before we move forward with the quotes. The fee amount will vary on the complexity of the trip but is usually @$150. Once we receive this act of commitment from you, we will fill in all the details on the itinerary outline and send you a quote. Changes can be made until you are happy! No obligation. (If you were a referral, please let us know - we may be able to waive this fee!)
  5. After we have agreed on an itinerary, a deposit will be required followed by final payment. Deposits vary but are typically $250 or less per person. Final payments are typically due 45-60 days prior to departure but will depend on the individual elements of your vacation. Credit cards are highly preferred. Note: Some items, namely flights, will have to be paid in full at time of booking.
  6. Fast forward to about three weeks before you leave - we will send you hard copies of all the necessary travel documents including a very detailed itinerary, hotel confirmations, vouchers, tickets... As well as destination info, maps, travel tips... We will also include emergency contact information for you to leave with family and friends, packing lists, and luggage tags.
  7. We will be available during your entire vacation to assist you as need be as well as afterwards. We want to know how much you loved your vacation and look forward to seeing your photos!

Want more info? Ready to book? Just send me a quick email and we can start planning your first international vacation!

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How to say "hello" in 20 languages


Any seasoned traveler can attest that knowing just a few simple words in the native language of your destination can lead to better service and treatment. Plus its just the right thing to do!

So here is a handy guide on how to say "hello" in twenty different languages to help you get started. How many of these did you know already?

First, the easier ones:

1. French: "Bonjour"

2. German: "Guten Tag" (good day)

3. Spanish: "Hola"

4. Italian: "Ciao" (yes, it also means goodbye)

Now a little more obscure:

5. Portuguese: "Oi" or "Boas"

6. Polish: "Dzien dobry"

7. Dutch: "Hallo"

8. Croatian: "Dobar dan"

9. Swedish: "God dag"

10. Japanese: "おはよう ございます" = ohayoou gozaimasu (pronounced o-ha-yo go-zai-mass)

And finally, ten that you don't hear very often!

11. Tahitian: "Ia ora na"

12. Swahili: "Jambo"

13. Czech: "Dobry den"

14. Indonesian: "Halo"

15. Russian: "Zdravstuvuyte" (pronounced ZDRA-stvooy-tyeh)

16. Thai - "Sawa dee-ka" (female) or "Sawa dee-krap" (male)

17. Welsh: "Halo" or "Shwmae" (pron "shoe-my")

18. Ukranian: "Dobriy Den" (good afternoon)

19. Navajo: "Ya'at'eeh"

20. Pig Latin: "Ellohay"

There are also alternative ways to say "hello" in each of these languages, but these will at least get you started!

Happy Travels!


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Bruges or Ghent? Which one is better?

This is often a hotly debated topic - which city in Belgium is better? Bruges or Ghent? Well, it depends on what you mean by “better”....

The cities themselves are quite similar but they also have a lot of differences. Bruges’ (aka Brugge) historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With this recognition, it does get a lot more visitors, but most come just for the day (staying overnight is recommended). It has a good-sized market square surrounded by restaurants - most serving mussels and frites (french fries). There are several good bars and shops for the Belgian beer lover. And there is a lot of green space that encircles the town center (complete with a windmill!)

Ghent (aka Gent) on the other hand, is home to a large university (+40,000 students!). Because of this, the town center feels younger than Bruges even if it doesn’t look modern. There isn’t really a center market square area like Bruges has but instead is spread out more. It has a lively area with bars and restaurants located canalside in the center which Bruges doesn’t have.

Both have scenic canals. Both have a brewery you can visit. Both have cobblestone roads. Both have horse-drawn carriages. Both have churches. Both have Belgian frites, Belgian chocolate and Belgian waffles. Both are worth staying in for a night or two.

Ghent has a castle. That might be all that I have to say to some travelers. It is a relatively small castle, but located in the center of town it is easy to get to. Visitors follow arrows throughout the Castle of the Counts which take you from the dungeons to the towers. Some rooms hold collections of medieval weapons and suits of armor. Great for kids (just make sure to keep an eye on them). Expect a LOT of stairs.

Bruges does not have a castle but it does have the Basilica of Holy Blood which is said to house a relic of the Holy Blood which was brought to the Basilica in the 1200s. This is a popular sight for most travelers.

Ghent is home to many museums including the Design Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and a contemporary art museum (S.M.A.K.) just to name a few.
Bruges is also home to many museums - but many are unexpected - including the Dali Xpo-Gallery, Expo Picasso and the Frietmuseum (Fries museum).

For the beer lovers, Bruges is probably the top choice. While Ghent does have its own brewery, Bruges is more well-known for its beer bars with their extensive collections as well as the Halve Maan Brouwerij (makers of Straffe Hendrik and Bruges Zot). Ghent’s brewery, the Gruut, is gaining in popularity outside of Belgium due to their unique recipes. They do not use hops but instead use a blend of special spices (“gruit”). Both of these breweries can be visited and tours are available on-site. They both have restaurants as well. De Halve Maan is in the city center in Bruges; Gruut is a bit more off the beaten track but still easy to find.

For the shoppers, Ghent is probably the top choice. There are a lot more areas to shop in Ghent including “high-street” stores as well as an area with boutiques and higher end stores interspersed with small restaurants and cafes. Bruges is the place to go for lace though.

So which one do I like “better”?

I have mixed feelings but I still prefer Bruges. Yes, there are tourists, but if you stay overnight you will see that the town empties out. There are also plenty of areas to wander around and get away from the masses. But that is not to say that I don’t like Ghent. It just doesn’t have the same quaint, small town feel that Bruges has.

My suggestion would be to try to visit both. They are only 30 minutes apart so you can easily stay a few nights in one and do a day-trip to the other. Or if you have time, spread it out evenly amongst both and then make up your own mind on what is “better”!

Leila’s Suggestions:

  • I especially like the “hidden” courtyard gardens surrounded by small, whitewashed almshouses. These houses used to house poor elderly people or widows. There are 46 of these blocks of almshouses within Bruges and they make a great escape. We saw so many bumblebees and butterflies in the gardens last time we were there - so nice and relaxing.
  • De Halve Maan Brouwerij - Even if you aren’t familiar with their beer, I still recommend doing their brewery tour. You must be able to go up a lot of stairs as they take you to the roof for a panoramic view over Bruges. Afterwards, you can reward yourself with one (or two) of their brews in their on-site restaurant. Outdoor seating in a courtyard is possible in the summer months.
  • Continuing on the beer theme, there are several great beer bars and stores within the city center that are definitely a “must” if you are a Belgian beer lover or want to learn more. We especially enjoyed the small Cafe ‘t Brugs Beertje which offers 300+ Belgian beers (and is owned by a woman!)
  • Pasta Maria - We stayed very close to this take-out pasta place and we got food to go from here at least three times over four days (we love pasta). You can choose your pasta and the sauce. Affordable and tasty. You can get it to go and then find a scenic place to have a picnic. It is located next to the St Salvator Cathedral (opposite side as the main street).


  • Already mentioned it above, but the castle was a lot of fun even though at times exhausting and dizzying (stairs go round and round and round…)
  • Waffles! Ghent has their own style of Belgian waffles that are DELICIOUS. Try them at Mokabon which has a take-out window as well as a sit-down cafe (and was conveniently on same street as the Novotel hotel where we stayed).
  • Also near the Novotel was the small hole-in-the-wall-but-absolutely-scrumptious bakery - the Bakker Bernard on Donkersteeg. I even had a pastry with raisins that I enjoyed (and I usually hate raisins).
  • For the beer lover, it is worth the 10-15 minute walk out to the Gruut brewery. They have five different beers that they brew on-site and all were decent-to-delicious. They also serve food (we had fries with mayo as a snack). They do close early so go during the day.

How to get there:
Bruges is located closer to the North Sea Coast so it is about an hour from Brussels. Ghent is located between the two - so about 30 minutes from each city. There are frequent trains between all the towns with easy connections to other parts of Belgium, the Netherlands and beyond. Renting a car isn’t recommended, or necessary, if just visiting the towns themselves.

Want more info? Ready to book? Just send me a quick email and we can start planning your European adventure!

Grab a belgian beer (or two) at this unassuming beer bar in bruges

Grab a belgian beer (or two) at this unassuming beer bar in bruges

Bruges rooftops

Castle in Ghent

Castle in Ghent

Visit the local brewery and enjoy a beer by the water in ghent

Visit the local brewery and enjoy a beer by the water in ghent

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