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By globalexcellenc8080, Mar 8 2018 06:44PM

Travel Safety in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Written by: Robin Thornley, Leaf Group

Safety Briefing

The Riviera Maya has remained a relatively safe place to visit amid Mexico's war on its infamous drug cartels, but visitors should heed the detailed, up-to-the-minute safety advice and travel advisories offered on the U.S. State Department's online Mexico travel page. As of January 2018, the U.S. Department of State has issued an alert advising travelers "exercise extreme caution" when visiting the country. Register details of you itinerary before leaving on your trip in case the U.S .government or family members need to contact you, or in case of an emergency.

Essential Paperwork

Check your medical insurance coverages before you leave or buy a short-term medical insurance policy for overseas travel. Take medical profile information and insurance cards, but clean out your wallet and leave behind any credit cards and IDs you will not need. Email the numbers of the credit and debit cards you will use, with their accompanying overseas customer service numbers, to yourself and a trusted friend or family member, or make a paper list. Do the same after scanning or copying your passport, tickets and itinerary.

Medical Infrastructure

Playa del Carmen is well-served by several hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control offers tips on assembling a traveler's first-aid kit, plus a medical checklist that includes recommended vaccines for visitors to Mexico. There are no vaccinations required for U.S. travelers to Mexico, but check with a doctor about any specific concerns ahead of departure. Drink bottled water and plenty of it to avoid dehydration. Hand sanitizer and small packets of tissues are handy, since some public bathrooms are lacking in amenities. Pack mosquito repellent and biodegradable sunscreen – some dive spots and water parks require the latter.

Exercise Caution

Use only those ATM machines inside banks or stores where security personnel are present. Before departing, notify your bank and credit card company of your travels and set up account alerts to catch unusual activity. Leave expensive jewelry at home and carry only a small amount of cash for the day's activities, leaving the rest in a hotel safe with your travel documents.

Road Safety

Never drink and drive, or drive in rural areas at night. Lock car doors and do not leave valuables inside. Make sure you have a full tank of gas if heading out for a jungle trip or excursion. Leave word at your hotel about where you are heading and when you plan to return. One main road, Highway 307, serves the Rivera Maya south of Cancun, but some attractions lie off smaller roads in the jungle, so take a compass and a map. Take careful notice of the surrounding countryside for identifiable landmarks – in rural areas, the locals sometimes mark bus stops with a homemade flag.

Beach Safety

Always heed beach warning flags, which alert visitors to undertows and jellyfish problems. Research dive operations online before your trip and request references. Never walk on the beach alone at night and keep an eye on your cocktail in local nightclubs. Years ago, topless sunbathing was a crime in Mexico, but the law is not enforced these days in Playa; however, women should be aware that provocative clothes or nudity might invite unwanted attention in a country with a macho vibe.

The US state department has warned tourists to "completely avoid" five states in Mexico because of rampant crime levels and gang activity.

Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas have all been classified as a level-four risk, the highest in the scale. That puts them at the same levels as conflict-ridden countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

By globalexcellenc8080, Feb 28 2018 03:24PM

Windstar prides itself on delivering destination authenticity to guests and each culinary expert has been specially-chosen based on his or her affinity and passion for the cuisines and cultures of the cruise itineraries where the culinary expert will sail. The intimate small ships of Windstar carrying fewer than 310 guests provide the perfect atmosphere for daily one-to-one interactions with these accomplished and personable ambassadors of the world of cuisine.

June 27, 2018 — Spanish Symphony aboard Wind Surf:

Chef Anthony Sasso of La Sirena in New York, N.Y.

Growing up as one of four children in Glasco, New York, Anthony Sasso was always surrounded by art, music, and creativity. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, Sasso’s culinary career began with stints at Union Pacific and Bobby Flay’s Bolo. He then found his way to a small corner spot on 17th and Irving: Andy Nusser’s Casa Mono. Soon after, Sasso moved to the Costa Brava to live with his extended family and work at the renowned coastal marisqueria “El Hogar Gallego,” which is run by the legendary Guillo family. When Sasso returned to the States, he was promoted to head chef at Casa Mono, and later began an apprenticeship at Fleisher’s Butcher Shop where he learned to break down whole animals. In 2008, Sasso became one of the youngest chefs to be recognized by the Michelin Guide, obtaining his first of eight consecutive Michelin stars for Casa Mono. He joined La Sirena in January 2017 as executive chef and is thrilled to return to the Costa Brava and surrounds on this cruise and to enjoy the fresh Spanish coastal bounty with Windstar guests.

Beverage Expert Ashley Santoro of The Standard, The Standard Café, and Narcissa, New York, N.Y.

Curating the wine list for some of New York City’s finest eateries is no small chore. Enter Ashley Santoro, who had a humble introduction to the industry, bussing tables at the age of 15. Now, Santoro, the former wine director of Casa Mono and Bar Jamón, was recently named the regional beverage director of the Standard Hotels. During her tenure at Casa Mono & Bar Jamón, Ashley was responsible for building a program of 500+ exclusively Spanish wines, ranging from a vast collection of sherry to back-vintage wines from the Iberian Peninsula. In addition to her work at The Standard, she also devotes time to traveling and teaching wine courses. Santoro has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times and Wine & Spirits Magazines.

August 17, 2018 — Norwegian Splendors aboard Star Breeze:

Chef Evan Hanczor of Egg in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Evan Hanczor is the chef at Egg, a farm-to-table breakfast-focused restaurant in Brooklyn with an outpost in Tokyo and a farm in the Catskills. He is the co-author -- with George Weld, Egg's founder -- of Breakfast: Recipes to Wake Up For and also the creator and curator of Tables of Contents, an edible reading series hosted monthly at Egg. When not scrambling eggs, he works on food policy with the James Beard Foundation’s Chef Action Network, collaborates with multi-disciplinary artists on culinary/artistic experiences, and partners with several food-focused nonprofits on both local and global issues. Evan is thrilled to join Windstar on a trip to the fjords to explore the natural beauty that influences the unique cuisine of the Nordic region, the amazing quality of its cold-water seafood, and the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables in the region, and to learn from a region that, though distant, bears particular similarities to the fishery- and small-farmer-dependent cuisine of the coastal Northeast. The accompanying beverage expert for this cruise will be announced soon.

November 26, 2018 — Tahiti & the Tuamotu Islands aboard Wind Spirit:

Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti of Marlowe, Park Tavern, and The Cavalier, San Francisco, CA.

With six cookbooks to her credit and numerous awards, Emily Luchetti has helped to define what great pastry in America means. As chief pastry officer for Big Night Restaurant Group, she oversees the pastry operations for The Cavalier, Marlowe, Petit Marlowe, Leo’s Oyster Bar, and Park Tavern Restaurant. She was awarded the 2004 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef and was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America. With a passion for vanilla, Luchetti can’t wait to create exquisite pastry concoctions made with vanilla fresh from the islands and plans to accompany guests on excursions to local vanilla farms.

Beverage Expert Shelley Lindgren of A16 and SPQR in San Francisco, CA.

Owner and Wine Director Shelley Lindgren was honored by the James Beard Foundation in 2015 with the Outstanding Wine Program award for her work at A16. Her reputation for seeking out Italian wines made with lesser-known grapes has earned her recognition as a wine pioneer. She continues to search for evocative wines from around the world and plans to serve interesting pairings aboard Wind Spirit in Tahiti.

December 15, 2018 — Windward Islands Surf & Sunsets aboard Star Pride:

Chef José Mendin, Pubbelly Boys and FCHG restaurant groups, Miami FL. and Puerto Rico

Chef/restaurateur José Mendin co-founded and created the Pubbelly Boys restaurant group and the newly formed Food Comma Hospitality Group (FCHG), with notable Miami restaurants such as Habitat, Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Pubbelly Sushi, Baja Bao, and PB Ysla in Mendin’s hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mendin will be returning home on this cruise, which is a round trip journey from San Juan, bringing his ability to revitalize and re-imagine ancient and traditional recipes by maintaining the integrity of a dish’s roots while infusing it with modern touches. He earned James Beard Foundation nominations for “Best Chef: South” from 2012 to 2016. He looks forward to showcasing his love for big flavors aboard Star Pride and sharing his favorite restaurants and flavors with guests in San Juan. The accompanying beverage expert for this cruise will be announced soon.

More Culinary Experts to be Announced: Guest chef and beverage experts for the following 2018 cruises will be announced soon: Hidden Harbors of the Côte d’Azur departing June 20; and Gems of the Adriatic Sea on August 7, both aboard Wind Surf.

Windstar is known for many things on its iconic small ships, such as personalized service, Watersports Platforms where guests can enjoy the ocean, and access to small intimate ports larger ships can’t possibly enter. The line is also respected for its culinary programs – sourcing local food where possible, bringing guests to local markets to shop with the chef, baking all breads on board daily, preparing meals to order, serving regional specialties that vary by destination, and simply providing better quality ingredients.

As the exclusive cruise line of the James Beard Foundation, Windstar will be involved as a major partner for a number of the Foundations’ annual endeavors supporting culinary excellence, growth, awareness, and advocacy including the Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change; the 2018 James Beard Awards at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, considered the ultimate prize in the world of cuisine; JBF’s Taste America® events – occurring in the fall in major cities around the country including fundraising dinners, complimentary culinary tastings and demonstrations with James Beard-recognized culinary experts; and a sponsor of Chefs & Champagne® — the James Beard Foundation’s annual summer tasting party in the Hamptons.

Our travel agency in Warwick RI can offer more details any of these wonderful adventures. Call 800-339-3600 to book your cruise package todaY.

By globalexcellenc8080, May 23 2017 04:27PM

São Miguel is a vibrant garden island in the middle of the Atlantic. The many different landscapes of rolling hills, the ocean and free wandering cattle will relax and delight you.

For a nurturing treat, plan a day trip to visit one of the famous mineral spas. The thermal pool in Furnas, is muddy brown from the iron rich water but the surroundings of palms, ferns and confers are soothing and quick to bring your body and soul that healthy & happy state! While in Furnas, stop at the Gorreana fsctory for tea tastings.

The city scenes in Ponta Delgada are historical but among the many architectural testaments is a modern and cosmopolitan city. Some of the city highlights are the Jose de Canto gardens, the Santana Palace and the Carlos Machado museum. Ponta Delgada is a walk-able city of narrow streets with numerous shops and boutiques, attractive whitewashed houses and a waterfront promenade. Plenty of restaurants and cafes serve local specialties of seafood, shellfish, beef stews and cheese.

If you would like to learn more about the Azores, join Global Excellence Travel and Azores Express/SATA representatives for a FREE presentation and exclusive booking opportunity.

Learn about Portugal and the Azores, have your questions answered and receive a special booking discount. The presentation is August 15 at 6:30PM at our office.

To RSVP call Susan Conti at 800-339-3600 x 133.

By globalexcellenc8080, Apr 28 2017 12:35PM

Do's and Don'ts

As in any country, in Italy it is helpful to keep in mind a few basic precautions so that travel is as smooth as possible.

Use our checklist and rest easy when visiting the Bel Paese.

1. – Buy all tickets for travel and transport from authorized vendors only. Alternatively, purchasing tickets online sometimes guarantees extra promotions and/or discounts. 

2. – Ride in authorized taxis only, marked by official signs and identification. Ask for the driver’s cost estimate for your route in advance, read rules and regulations posted inside taxi, and maintain an eye on the cab’s meter from beginning to end of your journey. Remember that any transport of baggage usually guarantees first bag free of charge. Always ask for an official receipt for the price you pay. 

3. – Check and double-check map locations for your lodging and general area of touristic interest. Measure distances from airports/stations and chosen lodging. Stay informed about lodging prices and finer details when booking and checking out.

4. – When possible, always pay with traceable instruments (debit, credit card, travelers’ checks and even smartphone), but be sure to have cash on hand for places that do not accept cards or electronic payments of any kind. 

5. – Always exercise your right to ask for receipts upon payment, and pay attention to charges and look for official government signs on the receipt (vendors often attempt to pass off unofficial pieces of printed paper as receipts so as to avoid paying taxes). 

6. – Seek out information points that offer maps, advice and other help in any city you visit. 

7. – Know opening hours and terms of entry in the museums, galleries, churches and archaeological sites you want to see (e.g. many monuments and institutions are closed on certain holidays, while many allow free entry to those European citizens under 18 or over 65).

8. – Do not purchase tickets of entry to museums or archaeological sites from unauthorized sellers or persons without official tour guide accreditation, and do not trust promises to advance your place in line. Remember that access to public spaces is always free. 

9. – Don’t flash valuables on the street, and get away as quickly as possible from groups or individuals trying to distract you by asking for information or money.

10. – Keep all personal effects in a safe place (documents, telephones, computers and other devices), and do not entrust them to strangers.

11. – In restaurants, pizzerias, fast food and take-away establishments, always look at the menu with prices, remembering that table service usually costs more than counter service or take-away. Restaurateurs are obligated to exhibit all costs for both service and menu items. 

12. – Excepting some cases, bathroom use is free in bars and restauarants. Some establishments ask for payment or a tip. Railway and bus stations often require coins for payment.

13. – The water in public fountains is potable, unless otherwise indicated, and a glass of tap water at the bar is always free. 

14. – Anytime you have a bad sense of your surroundings or are confronted with danger – or your rights as a client/tourist/traveler are not respected, advise local authorities immediately.