British Isles cruise ports

On August 16, 2014, in Cruise, by owentrvl

Here are short descriptions of the ports we visited during our recent British Isles cruise.

Southampton, EnglandPrincess cruise itinerary

The south of England boasts a dramatic coastline that encloses some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. The landscape of hills and heaths, downs and forests, valleys and dales, is without rival. Southampton serves as your gateway to the countryside – and to a wide variety of historic sites, national landmarks and charming. And of course, London is a two-hour drive by modern highway.

The United Kingdom’s premier passenger ship port, Southampton was home for many years to the great transatlantic liners of yesteryear.

St. Peter Port, Channel Island

The British isle of Guernsey lies just eight miles off the coast of France. The second largest of the Channel Islands, Guernsey possesses a mild climate, breathtaking scenery and a peaceful, unspoiled ambience. All these attributes combine to make it a popular destination for British and French vacationers. Once the haunt of sea dogs and pirates, St. Peter Port is one of the prettiest harbors in Europe.

Castles and forts dot the Guernsey coastline, including German fortifications from World War II. The Channel Islands were the only part of the United Kingdom to be occupied by the Nazis.

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As a reminder, we were in London for our British Isles cruise which began the next day and we were on a tour of Oxford, the Cotswolds, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick Castle. Intro Part 1 was about the first half of our tour–here is the second half.

In Stratford-Upon-Avon we visited the birthplace of William Shakespeare. He was born in the house around the 26th of April, 1564 and believed to have lived there to at least age 18.

In 1601 he inherited the house from his father and it became an inn. He died in 1616 and left the property to his daughter Susanna Hall. Family ownership continued until the late 18th century.

The house fell into decay until 1846 when there was a national campaign to buy the house for the nation in 1847. It was ‘restored’ in the 1860s in which many of the original internal structures, such as the hearths and rear window positions, remain intact.

  • Exterior
  • Exterior 1
  • Exterior 2
  • Fireplace
  • Dining room

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I have been waiting for a few years and finally found a cruise to the British Isles.

We started by flying from Oakland to Las Vegas where we connected with Virgin Atlantic’s nonstop flight to London-Gatwick airport. We pre-booked a shared transfer so we were met by a driver who took us (along with another couple) to our hotel Ibis London Euston St. Pancras for our two-night stay.  Since it is located only a half block from an underground station, it was a good place to stay. The room was a bit small–typical for European hotels–but it was clean and included free internet. It was fine for a rather budget hotel.

Zizzi Italian Restaurant

Zizzi Italian Restaurant

After a short nap and catching up on emails, we walked just under a mile to Zizzi Italian Restaurant.

We are not adventurous when it comes to dining so it was an easy choice since we ate at a Zizzi restaurant on our previous visit to London and knew the food would be good.

Since we had been to London before and already took the hop-on, hop-off tour, the next morning we took a taxi to Victoria Coach Station to take the Oxford, Cotswolds, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick Castle tour which we had pre-booked. Victoria Station is rather crowded and the gates surround a courtyard area where the buses arrive and depart.

Our tour guide explained that although Oxford is a wonderful town, their bathrooms are not. So we stopped at a popular place for a bathroom break and optional souvenir shopping.

As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford is a unique and historic institution. There is no clear date of foundation, but teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167, when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.

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Last Minute Cruise Deals?

On April 6, 2014, in Cruise, Margaret's Travel Blog, Travel, by owentrvl

Last-minute in the sandI am often asked if you can get the best deal on a cruise if you wait until the ‘last minute’ to book it.

More often than not, that is a myth. Actually, the earlier you book, the better the rates and the better your chance of getting the room type you want in the location you want on the ship.

If it is an itinerary that is only offered once or twice, the chances are that the ship will sell out, especially in the least expensive inside rooms and the most expensive suites.

However, the same cruise itineraries that are offered week after week or every other week, might not sell out as quickly. But you still run the risk of not getting the room location you want.

For example, a Caribbean cruise that sails for seven nights from Florida, week after week, may not be full so the cruise line will discount the rates. However, you have to be very flexible and able to travel at a moment’s notice. This might work well for those who live close to an embarkation port like Miami. But if you have to fly across the country with just a few days notice, the airline cost will likely be more than the cruise savings. Also, the shorter cruise lengths, three or four nights, are more susceptible to these discount possibilities.

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Windstar Cruises-Sale

On October 23, 2013, in Cruise, by owentrvl

Windstar Cruises



Call today before it’s too late!

Windstar’s NCVW consumer offer is a $100 onboard credit per stateroom, plus One-Week Sale savings of up to 68% on selected sailings. Destinations on sale include popular itineraries in the Caribbean, Northern Europe, Greek Isles & Turkey, Panama Canal, Tahiti and more. Fares start at just $1,499 on selected sailings.

Book during our National Cruise Vacation One Week Sale, Monday, October 21 through Monday, October 28, 2013. Use promo code 13NCW-SBC at time of booking.




World’s Largest Cruise Sale – Avalon Waterways

On October 23, 2013, in Cruise, by owentrvl


Avalon Waterways – NCVW specials:

Avalon picture

Call today before it’s too late!



Applicable Cruises:

Tulips of Northern Holland
Amsterdam to Amsterdam
March 30 & April 12, 2014

Tulip Time Cruise
Amsterdam to Amsterdam
March 26 & April 2, 6, 9, 13, 16, 19, 27 & 30, 2014

Romantic Rhine
Zürich to Amsterdam
April 19 & 27, 2014

The Blue Danube Discovery
Budapest to Prague
April 28, 2014

Capitals of Central Europe
Prague to Budapest
April 7, 2014

Capitals of Central Europe
Budapest to Prague
March 31; April 14, 2014

The Legendary Danube
Prague to Budapest
March 25, 2014

Balkan Discovery
Budapest to Bucharest
April 2, 2014

Blue Danube to the Black Sea
Bucharest to Vienna
April 9, 2014

European Splendor
Vienna to Amsterdam
April 20, 2014

The Rhine & Moselle
Amsterdam to Basel
April 13, 2014

The Upper Rhine to the City of Music
Zürich to Vienna
April 25, 2014

Burgundy & Provence
Côte d’Azur to Paris
March 24, 2014

Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches
Paris to Paris
April 15, 2014

*Receive $650 off per person on the cruise/land only price of select 2014 Avalon Waterways vacations. Offer available on select dates of select cruises. Booking must be made, under deposit, and discount applied between October 16 and November 19, 2013 for travel at select times in 2014. Avalon and Royal Suites excluded. Offer reliant on space availability and may be withdrawn at any time. Not combinable with any other offer, other than Journeys Club Repeat Traveler benefit. Applies to new 2014 bookings only, and offer will not be applied to pre-existing bookings. Must mention ask & receive code NCVW2014. Offer reliant on space availability. Full cancellation penalties will apply. Additional restrictions may apply. May be withdrawn at any time.

Call today before it’s too late!




World’s Largest Cruise Sale

On October 18, 2013, in Cruise, River cruise, Travel, by owentrvl

National Cruise Vacation Week  is October 20 to 27, 2013.

CLIA NCVW round logo

We are joining thousands of cruise-selling travel agents for National Cruise Vacation Week (NCVW), The World’s Largest Cruise Sale. This is an exciting event designed to showcase the incredible choice, diversity and value of cruise vacations.

Travel agencies across North America have teamed up with the 26 member lines of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to provide consumers with the exclusive offers and information on cruise vacations for an entire week!

This is your opportunity to take advantage of special value offers and other incentives to cruise.


We are here to help those who have cruised before and those considering their first cruise to get a real feel for what’s available with expert advice and assistance with cruise planning.

NCVW is the highlight of October’s National Cruise Vacation Month, the once-a-year period during which we focus on cruising, – the most enjoyable, satisfying and value-oriented vacation option available in today’s marketplace. Our agency is a member of CLIA.

Along with my over 23 years of travel agency experience, I earned the designation ‘Master Cruise Counselor‘ from CLIA and I am qualified to find the perfect cruise to match your vacation needs, lifestyle and budget.

Click here for the specials.

For more information or to book your cruise vacation, contact Margaret Owen, Cruise Pro at (510) 582-0540 or email


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Princess Cruises 3 for FREE Sales Event

On September 8, 2013, in Cruise, Travel, by owentrvl

If you’re considering an Alaska or Europe cruise in 2014, now is the time to book!


During this sales event you’ll get THREE FREE offers on 2014 Alaska and Europe cruises and cruisetours! You’ll get FREE stateroom upgrades where you can get the best stateroom available within that stateroom type for the lowest possible fare†, FREE shore excursions credits that will be added to your onboard account for shore excursions in ports of call during your cruise†† and a FREE specialty dinner for two where we reserve the dining time and venue on your behalf and all you have to do is show up with your $50 voucher from your stateroom!° What’s more, you can seal the deal with just a $100 deposit!** Hurry for the best stateroom selection!

In addition, we have groups on many sailings which gives you even more savings and benefits.

Contact us right away for more information or to reserve your cruise!

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Amazing Galapagos Islands – cruise!

On August 14, 2013, in Cruise, Galapagos, Travel, by owentrvl

Whale swimming on its back along our zodiac boat in the Galapagos islands!

This picture might look rather strange but if you can imagine…we were in a zodiac boat with about 10 other people during one of our excursions from our cruise to the Galapagos Islands. On this day our naturalist guide went looking for whales. Thank goodness he was patient and didn’t give up.

It took about 45 minutes, but it finally paid off when a whale showed up right next to our zodiac.

But the best part was that whale wanted to play…it would swim along one side of our boat and then disappear.

Seconds later, it reappeared and swam along the other side of our boat.

And then it disappeared again.

And then it reappeared–this time on it’s back!! It was giving us quite a show and it was exciting!

So that is what you see in the picture above–the whale swimming on its back, so close to our zodiac.

Before I took that cruise on the 96-passenger Celebrity Xpedition, I didn’t even know where the Galapagos Islands were, or that they are part of Ecuador. It was a wonderful trip. We flew into Quito, the capital, high in the mountains at over 10,000 feet elevation. I have to admit I was a little nervous about landing there–was I going to be gasping for breath? Turns out it was no problem. I did notice that walking up stairs was a little more difficult, though.

I just can’t stop talking about that cruise. I’m not an outdoorsy-type person. I’m not that into animals or birds. But that all went by the wayside when I experienced these islands.

Galapagos collage 2

Dolphins and tortoises during our Galapagos islands cruise!

It was exciting to have a dolphin swim right in front of our zodiac boat–so close you could almost reach out and touch it.

I couldn’t imagine a ‘blue footed booby’ but I saw these birds with the bluest feet!

And then there was the huge tortoise in the middle of the road–just sitting there–the bus driver had to slow down and go around it. We were on our way to a ranch where we saw at least a dozen of them scattered about the grounds.

We saw land iguanas, marine iguanas, sea lions, not to mention the birds…we even saw pelicans swoop down into the water and catch fish.

We were very surprised to see penguins! Yes, there were penguins on the rocks that we sailed past. And I thought they were only in Antarctica.

Galapagos Collage

Blue footed booby, penguin, land iguana, zodiac boat, Celebrity Xpedition cruise, pelican

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Military cruise benefit program

On August 10, 2013, in Cruise, Travel, by owentrvl

Military Benefit for Veterans and Active/Retired Personnel

parachute-74576_640To thank the brave men and women of the American and Canadian militaries for their service, Princess Cruises offers up to $250 free onboard spending money* for veterans as well as active, retired or disabled military personnel. This special military benefit is eligible on any cruise, any time of the year and can be used to purchase a wide variety of amenities and experiences including Lotus Spa treatments; dining in our specialty restaurants; gifts, jewelry and clothing in our onboard boutiques; and Princess Cruises shore excursions.

Military Benefits: Up to $250 Free Onboard Spending Money*

Cruise Length Amount
14 days or longer $250 per person
7 – 13 days $100 per person
6 days or less $50 per person


*Free onboard money is in the form of an onboard credit. The onboard credit is converted to the operational currency onboard the vessel and is applied to the folio of the veteran or active duty personnel’s stateroom.

Contact Margaret for more information about receiving this benefit on your next Princess Cruise.