press release: Developed from the ground up to return the focus of cruising to the destination, Viking Ocean Cruises will begin sailing in May 2015 with its first vessel—Viking Star—embarking on maiden voyages in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. Viking Cruises has aggressive expansion plans in both the ocean and river cruise categories, with a second ocean ship on order for delivery in 2016 and conditional orders and options for four more additional ocean vessels. The ocean ship order follows the company’s continued rapid fleet expansion in the river cruise sector, with 10 new river ships recently christened in March of this year and 12 new river ships planned to launch in 2014.
“It is our view that in the race to build bigger ships, many cruise lines have lost sight of the destinations to which they sail,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises. “With our new ocean cruises, we are applying the same principles behind our award-winning river cruises to our itinerary and ship design; privileged-access excursions; and onboard experiences to make destinations the true focus.”
Leveraging extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises passengers, Viking Ocean Cruises was developed with experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are curated for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local nightlife or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and “collector ports,” and appeal to those with an interest in history, art and culture. In addition, all-inclusive pricing provides unparalleled value—with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Passengers also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; wi-fi; self-service laundry and 24-hour room service—a value of more than $2,400 per couple for an average cruise.
Classified by Cruise Critic as a “small ship,” the new 928-passenger all-veranda Viking Star is engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, so guests have easy and efficient embarkation and debarkation. The ship’s understated elegance and modern Scandinavian design is crafted for maximum guest comfort. Highlighted features include:
· All Veranda Staterooms: Guests can choose from five stateroom categories, starting from a 270 sq. ft. veranda stateroom, all with private verandas, king-size beds, large showers, and LCD TVs.
· Explorer Suites: Viking Star’s 14 Explorer Suites are two-room suites ranging from 757 to 1,448 sq. ft. and offer sweeping views from wrap-around private verandas as well as the most amenities and privileges of any category onboard.
· Two Pool Choices: In addition to the Main Pool with a retractable dome permitting any-season swimming, Viking Star features one of the only infinity pools at sea, allowing passengers to swim surrounded by their destination in a glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern.
· The Spa: In keeping with Viking’s Nordic heritage, The Spa onboard Viking Star is designed with the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia in mind—from the centuries-old tradition of the sauna to a “snow grotto” where snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air.
· Explorers’ Lounge and Wintergarden: Spaces designed to facilitate mingling and storytelling, the two-deck Explorers’ Lounge at the bow of the ship is the perfect spot for taking in scenery through double-height windows over a glass of aquavit or pint of local craft beer; and the Wintergarden is a serene environment in which to relax and enjoy afternoon tea service complete with a curated tea selection.
· Dining Choices: Viking Star offers multiple restaurant locations and food choices—from The Restaurant and the World Café, serving a variety of global cuisines and regional specialties—to intimate dining experiences at The Chef’s Table, Italian Grill and The Kitchen Table, all serving meals prepared with fresh, local ingredients. Furthermore, with multiple choices for outdoor seating during meals, Viking Star offers more al fresco dining than any other ship.
· Enriching Entertainment: Connecting passengers to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking Cruises, and Viking Star’s onboard venues include a dramatic three-deck atrium where passengers can enjoy musicians playing regional and classical music; the Star Theater, home of enrichment lectures from scholars and experts; an onboard cooking school where guests can learn local specialties; and the Viking Piano Lounge, where guests can relax, mingle, and exchange stories after a day of exploring.
· Sustainable Features: Designed with the environment in mind, Viking Star features energy-efficient hybrid engines, a hydro-dynamically optimized streamlined hull and bow for maximum fuel efficiency, onboard solar panels, and equipment that minimizes exhaust pollution and meets the strictest environmental regulations.
The ship has been designed by experienced nautical architects and engineers, including an interior design team of London-based SMC Design, and Los Angeles-based Rottet Studios. The first of two ocean ships on order, Viking Star will be built by Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard.
Perfect for romantic getaways!
Viking Homelands (15 days; Stockholm – St. Petersburg – Copenhagen – Bergen)
This itinerary features a blend of northern continental European cities, imperial Russia and the legendary homeland of the Vikings. The journey includes overnights in Bergen, Stockholm and St. Petersburg, plus calls in Helsinki, Tallinn, Gdansk, Berlin (Warnemünde), Copenhagen, Aalborg, Stavanger, and Flam. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $4,999 per person with discounted airfares from $895 per person.
Passage Through Western Europe (15 days; Bergen – London – Paris – Barcelona)
The nimble proportions of Viking Star give guests access to the heart of the Continent as well as coastal cities on this cross-region itinerary that journeys from the Viking waters of Bergen to London on the Thames, down the Atlantic Coast of France and Portugal, and to the Mediterranean. Ports include Lisbon, Cadiz, Gibraltar, and Cartagena with overnights in Bergen, London, Paris (Rouen) and Barcelona. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $4,499 per person with discounted airfares from $795 per person.
Mediterranean Odyssey (13 days; Barcelona – Rome – Dubrovnik – Venice)
Spain, France, Italy, Croatia and Greece—this cruise has it all. Visit Toulon, France; Monte Carlo; Tuscany (Livorno), Rome and Naples in Italy; Corfu (Kerkira) Greece; Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia; plus overnights in Barcelona and Venice. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $3,999 per person with discounted airfares from $595 per person.
Empires of the Mediterranean (10 days; Venice – Athens – Ephesus – Istanbul)
From ancient ruins to medieval cities, this Mediterranean journey starts in Venice and journeys to Pula and Dubrovnik in Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Santorini, Athens (Piraeus), and Ephesus (Kusadasi), plus an overnight in Istanbul. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $2,999 per person with discounted airfares from $695 per person.
Combination cruises of the above are also available, ranging from 22 to 50 days, and starting at $6,799 per person for introductory pricing with air specials from $695 per person.
From now through July 31, 2013, Viking is offering an introductory Early Booking Discount in the U.S. market for the 2015 maiden season with 2-for-1 pricing on cruise departures and savings of $2,000 per couple on international air. The 2015 maiden season is initially being offered only in the U.S.; Viking will begin marketing the new ocean cruises in the UK, Australia and New Zealand later this year.
Length overall: 745.4 ft. (227.2m); beam 94.5 ft. (28.8 m); draft 20.7 ft. (6.3 m); air draft 131.2 ft. (40.0 m); gross tonnage (GRT) 47,800 t; deadweight 3,640 t; service speed 20.0 kn; number of decks 14; classification: Lloyds Register.
The Viking Cruises brand now encompasses both river and ocean cruises. Viking Ocean Cruises focuses on destination-centric cruising in the small ship category and is priced for genuine value. Debuting its maiden season in 2015, the sophisticated state-of-the-art Viking Star will sail itineraries in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. Viking River Cruises, the world’s leading river cruise line, offers scenic cruising along the rivers of Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt. The company was named No. 1 River Cruise Line in Travel + Leisure’s 2012 “World’s Best” Awards and has been honored multiple times as the top river cruise line on Condé Nast Traveler’s “Gold List.” It has also been recognized as the World’s Leading River Cruise Operator at the World Travel Awards and by the editors of Cruise Critic as “Best River Cruise Line,” with the entire Viking Longships fleet being named “Best New River Ships of 2012” in the website’s Editors’ Picks Awards. The travel trade has recognized Viking River Cruises as “Best River Cruise Line” by Travel Weekly, “Best River Cruise Line” by Recommend and Travel Agent magazines, Best Cruise Line for Luxury River Cruises at the Luxury Travel Advisor Awards of Excellence and as “Best Overall Cruise Line for River Cruising” and “Best River Cruise Line for Travel Agent Support” by TravelAge West. Since its 1997 inception, the company has grown to a fleet of 35 vessels (in 2013), and provides unique, deluxe vacations to experienced travelers with an interest in geography, culture and history. For additional information, contact Viking Cruises at 1‑855‑884‑5464 (1‑855‑8-VIKING) or visit www.vikingcruises.com. To join the Viking Cruises communities online, visit www.facebook.com/vikingcruises, www.facebook.com/vikingoceans and www.facebook.com/vikingrivercruises.]]>
It is also certainly a lot more than just a great golf destination!
Our first stop was the Mar Vista Grande, located in Myrtle Beach. With not just "views of the water" but views almost over the water, this was absolutely an awesome place to stay if your preference is luxury right on the beach.
I started my trip by attending the Monday after the Masters Celebrity Pro Am Scramble put together by Darius Rucker (Hootie and the Blowfish). Each team had a celebrity and a Pro. I spotted Alfonso Ribiero, Mike Golic, Jim McMahon (Bears!), and Hank Haney.
During the event we had access to the clubhouse. I highly recommend trying to find VIP passes if you are ever lucky enough to go. In the clubhouse there was a full open bar and buffet spread. Free food and booze! How can you go wrong there? Not to mention, I have an affinity for golf - needless to say, this event was a dream come true!
The event was followed by the annual concert that takes place at the House of Blues. I say concert loosely. It was basically a giant jam session. If you have ever been to a golf scramble you know that one of the prerequisites is alcohol. I can only assume that all of the musical acts were hanging on by a thread. Drinking all day and golfing is exhausting. Having to entertain a packed house, after that has to be tough but everyone kept it going. The crowd was energized the entire night. I mentioned it was more of a jam session because people from different bands were mixing together and even Joey Fatone from N’sync came out to get in on the action. MAM was only the tip of the iceberg and a great start to my Myrtle Beach trip.
Tuesday we headed out to the Myrtle Beach Speedway to participate in the NASCAR Racing Experience. We got to choose between driving a car (if you knew how to drive manual) or ride shotgun. I choose to ride upfront. Getting in a racecar is definitely something that everyone should have a chance to do. They are coming to Joliet, IL this Summer, I encourage you to check it out.
The NASCAR Racing Experience was followed by lunch at Pine Lakes Country Club, a tour of the New South Brewery, a ride on the Sky wheel, and drinks at the Bowery.
The food at Pine Lakes Country Club was great. Lunch is not just hot dogs and chips at the turn. Chowder, Ahi Tuna salads, and great sandwiches are sure to satisfy after a long day in the sun swinging the sticks. Pine Lakes is also the birth place of Sports Illustrated and we had a chance to view Issue #1!
New South Brewery really surprised me. Their beer was amazing and it started with their best seller White Ale. The White Ale really convinced me that there are better things than domestic. As we continued the tour the samples kept getting better and all the guys at the brewery were friendly and accommodating. Definitely a good stop if you are into microbreweries and have some down time during your stay.
Next stop was the Sky wheel and the Bowery located on the boardwalk. This is a nice area to chill. The Myrtle Beach Sky Wheel provides stunning views of the coastline. The restaurants, gift shops, and bars line the boardwalk. This includes the Bowery. Bowery is a Myrtle Beach Staple since 1944. It is strictly a beer bar and is home to legendary country band Alabama. There are not many of these institutions left. It is definitely a bar to hit near the boardwalk. You could smell the history when you walked in!
After a long night, we started Thursday early by going paddle boarding with the crew from Surf the Earth in Pawleys Island. I have to say, I wasn’t very excited about paddle boarding when I received the itinerary for our trip. Boy was I wrong. Once we returned from our paddle board adventure it was my favorite thing we did the whole trip. The whole experience was very relaxing and serene. We paddled out to a sandbar just outside the inlet, took a break and walked around before we headed back to our launch point. This could not have been more fun and the experience was added to by the staff at Surf the Earth. They knew all of our names, made you feel comfortable and could not have been more helpful teaching us how to paddle board. Check out their store front. It is a great little surf shop with things from sunglasses to board shorts. I am partial to these shops to begin with, but the customer service is over and above. I did go home with a new pair of sunglasses from Surf the Earth!
Our final activity as a group was a trip out to the Backwoods Quail Club. We were joined by Chad Weatherford. He is an outdoors expert and two time winner of the Field and Stream Total Outdoorsman Challenge. He took us out to the stations in the woods for target shooting. I thought to myself ‘how cool is it that I am learning to shoot from Field and Stream’s Total Outdoorsman Challenge winner, Chad Weatherford!’ The property that the club is on was beautiful, and even with shotguns going off in the distance it was very relaxing.
If you get a chance to get to the Backwoods Quail Club or another club in your area please go. It is something you will not regret.
Now to the part everyone wants to know about. Food and lodging are always a deciding factor on choosing a mancation destination. The lodging was fantastic all week. We stayed at the Mar Vista Grande in North Myrtle Beach near the the golf tournament. It is a resort style condo development. The rentals are high end and very homey. I am sure a lot of fun can be had in the two pools and the lazy river that sit on the property. The night we stayed at the Mar Vista Grande it was too cold to enjoy the pools. I do have to note, the staff were very nice and courteous.
The blance of the trip we stayed in at the Inlet Sports Lodge in Murrells Inlet. I will say it again. MURRELLS INLET or the low country. They do not like for people to think that thay are still in Myrtle Beach. The rooms were beautiful and had a studio apartment feel. I do not know if the staff just enjoyed our company but they were the most helpful and entertaining part of the Lodge. No matter what time we came in they had a friendly word or would entertain our crazy antics. It was very peaceful here and had less of a tourist vibe. I really enjoyed that.
I was supposed to return home on Thursday, but due to the weather in Chicago my flight was cancelled. It was not all bad. I can think of plenty of worse places to get stuck for an extra day than Myrtle. The delay was dealt with very swiftly. Hampton Inn was gracious enough to give me lodging at the last minute. They really stepped up to the plate. If their regular customer service is as good as what they showed me, any guest who stays here is in for a treat.
As we were navigating our busy schedule we always made time for great dinners. We sat down for giant, wonderful meals at 21 Main, Bliss, and Gulfstream Café.
21 Main is a steakhouse and Sushi Bar. It is kind of tough to be great at two very different styles but Chef Lou Petrozza runner up on Hell’s Kitchen pulls it off amazingly. Everything we had at dinner from the beef carpaccio to the sushi was amazing. Next time I am in Myrtle Beach this will be one of my first stops.
Night two was spent at Bliss which was attached to the Inlet Sports Lodge. What a restaurant! I did not think that another restaurant could come close to the quality that we had the night before at 21 Main but Bliss is definitely on the same level. We choose to go family style. Everyone choose their own dish and we all passed around our entrees. I recommend this if you have enough people to make it worth it.
I am from Chicago and because of this I am kind of a food snob, but Myrtle Beach did not disappoint.
Overall, the time I spent in Myrtle Beach was amazing. It is not just a golf destination. It has so many other things to offer. I encourage you to visit - tell them Bob sent you!]]>
Instead of heading to a race at Indy, they might take a lads holiday to see an F1 race. While we might head to the caribbean to enjoy some fun in the sun, they might visit Magaluf or beaches in Egypt.
Additionally, lads holidays tend to be younger and more party oriented.]]>
For instance, a trip to a baseball game in a nieghboring city, a trip to an Indy Car race, or a camping trip.]]>
The term "mancation" is widely considered to have come from Vince Vaugh's character in the movie, "The Breakup" released in 2006. However, it has since grown to be a general term referring to any men-only vacation, similar to the more common "girls getaways".
Other words that are also used to refer to a men-only vacation include: guys getaway, boys weekend, lads holiday, and even a brocation.
Over the past several years, as this site has grown we have had the chance to talk with a number of media about mancations and why taking a mancation is not just an excuse for "boys behaving badly" but is actually a very important opportunity for men to bond, share ideas, learn new skills, and be men without having to appologize.]]>
While it is the newest hotel to be built in the French Quarter (1973), it manages to convey a classic elegance that its much older neighbors do - without some of the weirdness of uneven floors and crooked windows that come from being housed in buildings that are in some cases hundreds of years old.
As you can see from the map, Maison Dupuy ("A" on the map) is only two blocks from Bourbon Street and while it looks like it is far from St Louis Cathedral, we found it to be an easy four block walk. In fact, since it is relatively central between Frenchman Street and Canal Street, almost everything we wanted to do and visit within the French Quarter was extremely easy to get to.
Also, because it is so close to the edge of the quarter, that meant fewer delays with getting in and out of the hotel when we wanted to explore other parts of town.
The hotel was created by connecting five townhomes and the hotel fits in perfectly with its neighbors, featuring French doors, long windows, and wrought iron balconies hanging from many rooms in this five story building.
Additionally, like many New Orleans buildings, it features a hidden courtyard where guests can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee by the fountain or take a dip in the pool.
The room we stayed in was very nice, with plenty of room, a big flat screen TV, a comfortable, bed and a nice view of the courtyard. Additionally, the room features complimentary wired and wireless Internet, so that was also a very nice feature.
Compared to other rooms in French Quarter hotels, this room was also quite spacious.
If only we had a balcony and a diving board!
This video should also help give you a better idea of the area.
In addition to the rooms, Maison Dupuy also features a casual restaurant Bistreaux where you can grab a bite to eat with items ranging from Truffle Mac & Cheese and Cajun Popcorn, a burger, or Cajun specialties like Red Beans and Rice. Bistreaux also features a full bar.
With room prices typically hovering just below $200 per night and valet parking (with in and out privileges) of $32 for cars and $42 for SUVs and trucks, Maison Dupuy is a great option if you are looking for something super close to all the action on Bourbon Street - but also close enough to walk to the jazz clubs on Frenchman Street. Plus it is still only 5 blocks from the world famous Cafe Du Monde.]]>
Between the gorgeous courtyard, tons of great food (traditional breakfast as well as cajun and southern staples like crawfish, jambalaya, and collards), there is something for everyone! Plus they have some of the friendliest staff in town.
Court of Two Sisters also offers dinner, but on this visit we were focused on the Jazz Brunch Buffet (brunch menu), which is offered daily from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. The Creole a la Carte Dinner (dinner menu) is offered Nightly from 5:30-10 p.m.
Court of Two sisters property was once the home of five governors, two state Supreme Court justices, a future U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and a Future President of the United States. It was also the home to Sieur Etienne de Perier, Royal Governor of colonial Louisiana between 1726 and 1733.
Today though, it is home to the only New Orleans restaurant offering brunch 7 days a week featuring a New Orleans jazz trio. That's pretty cool too!
Before entering, guests are encouraged to touch the "Charm Gate" ... so we did :)
Like many New Orleans locations in the French Quarter, Court of Two Sisters features an otherwise hidden courtyard which is a fantasticlly romantic place to enjoy some fun jazz music while munching on delicious brunch food!
Heather and I couldn't resist taking a photo :)
Price for brunch was reasonable (call for current pricing) for the amazing spread of food provided, but don't expect a cheap breakfast here.
The buffet features 80 some items and these range from made-to-order omelets and delicious eggs benedict to Zesty Cajun Pasta, Homemade Olive and Country Pates, carving station, Crawfish Louise, BBQ pork ribs, fresh peel and eat shrimp, crawfish and tons more.
The salad bar also included delicious fresh fruit as well as southern "delicacies" like Ambrosia.
Of course, no New Orleans meal would be complete without piles of shrimp and crawfish!
On the other side of the buffet area was the "hot" foods. These included Pecan Rice Pilaf, Steamed Broccoli, and Cajun Jambalaya.
There was also no shortage of sweets - from homemade ice cream, cakes, brownies, Pecan Pie, Bananas Foster, Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.
There was of course the New Orleans famous King Cake as well.
Coffee, tea, and juice is also included in the brunch price.
Court of Two Sisters is located at:
613 Royal St, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
or visit their website for reservations.]]>
Events include: Mixology experiences, Cooking Schools, Sammy Hagar Beach Bum Rum Weekend with BBQ by Emeril Lagasse, George Clooney's Casamigos Tequila Weekend, Red Bull Extreme Weekend, and Ping Pong Challenge Weekend.
Guests can celebrate 300 experiences during three months of summer fun, featuring grand experiences in entertainment, art, fashion, games, music and wine
Press Release: The Venetian and The Palazzo Las Vegas will come alive with the fantasy, food, fun and romance of Italy during CARNEVALE, a three-month celebration of the summer festivals of Italy, May 27 through Sept. 8, 2013. Based on the highly successful premier in 2012, the festival will be expanded to feature 300 experiences throughout the summer, including many exclusively for The Venetian and The Palazzo guests and Grazie members.
CARNEVALE is inspired by the numerous festivals that grace the small villages and towns of Italy throughout summer. The grandest of them all – CARNEVALE – was born in 1162, and is heralded as one of Europe’s greatest celebrations of art, food and culture. In that tradition, wonder and revelry will surround guests at The Venetian and The Palazzo resorts, with activities that center around entertainment, art, fashion, games, sports, music and wine. From visual spectacles to themed characters and unexpected surprises around every corner, guests will be wrapped up in the pageantry that is CARNEVALE .
“The magic of CARNEVALE is never knowing what unexpected surprise is around the corner,” said John Caparella, president and chief operating officer of The Venetian, The Palazzo and Sands Expo. “CARNEVALE offers the perfect place unmask your inner artist, adventurer, foodie and romantic.”
This year’s activity schedule will include additional value and programming for guests and visitors.
Special Value for Overnight Guests
The “Passaporto di CARNEVALE ” will be included with overnight stays throughout CARNEVALE featuring special discounts and entertainment specials valued at more than $1,000, including retail offers from resort restaurants, spa, The Grand Canal Shoppes and The Shoppes at The Palazzo. The Passaporto will be an exclusive benefit to resort guests and Grazie members, The Venetian and The Palazzo’s premier loyalty program. During CARNEVALE, Grazie members can continue to earn valued Status Points with all suite charges by linking a Grazie account to suite reservations.
Special Fun and Activities
Guests visiting during CARNEVALE will enjoy a calendar of special events, activities and promotions, including nightly entertainment spectacles. Daily events will include:
· Ciao Bella – The Carnevale Welcome Reception: Join us for a nightly reception in your honor featuring live music, character photo ops, mixology lessons and other surprises!
· The Masquerade – A Cavalcade of Carnevalean Characters: Join in the fun with our elaborately costumed masked characters, celebrating the romance, mystery and artistry of the historic Venice festival.
· The Knight Court – A Nightly Carnevale ‘Beading’ Frenzy: Masked knights toss festive beads to guests, in the spirit of Carnevale. Every night, one lucky beaded necklace contains a Carnevale casino chip – the grandest prize of them all!
· Cocktails Unmasked – A Summer of Mixology at The Venetian: Your nightly opportunity to try something new! Every week, we will spotlight a new spirit, and will present a new mixed drink every night for you to sample free of charge. Ever wish you had a chance to sample Seven Ways to Serve a Rum Cocktail? Seven ways to make a Margarita? You’ll have a chance
· Light of Venice – A 3D Light Projection Fantasy: The façade of The Venetian is the canvas for a 3D fantasy of light and music, featuring state-of-the-art digital mapping technology.
· Veni, Vidi, Vino – The Carnevale Wine Walk – If every time you drink red wine, you end up getting a cab… this is the activity for you! This is your chance to stop and smell the rosé! Grab a map and explore the best “by the glass” Italian wines of The Venetian and The Palazzo.
· The Neon Olympiad – Party Like it’s 1988! -- Join our VJ at the Bourbon Room every night, to participate in an ‘80s-inspired party. Participate and you can win Carnevale prizes.
· Dance Through the Decades – ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s live on stage! -- Nowhere on the planet can you enjoy the best music of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s through live musical theater… in one place! Enjoy smooth harmonies of ‘60s Motown in HUMAN NATURE, the groovy tunes of the ‘70s in PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT THE MUSICAL, and the anthems of the ‘80s in ROCK OF AGES LAS VEGAS.
· National Geographic 50 Greatest Photos: The Venetian Imagine Gallery features a special exhibition with the story behind the 50 greatest photos from the photographers of National Geographic. As a special bonus for Carnevale, the gallery will feature a photo display of photos from Venice’s Carnevale, taken by photographers of the prestigious magazine.
Other Carnevale fun:
o Live music
o Poolside concerts
o Wine tastings
o Winemaker’s dinners
o Table game lessons
o Ping pong lounge
o Carnevale cocktails
o Photo ops
o Cooking schools
o Synchronized swimming demos
o Horticulture tours
o Sidewalk chalk art
o Fashion shows
o DeepStack poker tournament
o Celebrity appearances
o Comedy shows featuring Joan Rivers, Rita Rudner, Tim Allen, and David Spade
o Wheel of Fortune tapings.
o Special Weekends (Details, packages and dates coming soon)
o Sammy Hagar Beach Bum Rum® Weekend (with a barbecue by Emeril Lagasse) (June 8-9)
o George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila® Weekend (with a festival by Wolfgang Puck) (dates TBD)
o FIJI® Weekend in Paradise (featuring the finer things in Vegas) (dates TBD)
o Red Bull® Extreme Weekend (dates TBD)
o Passion for Cabernet Weekend (July 25-26)
o Curtis Stone Up-Close & Personal Weekend (July 26-27)
o A Taste of Eataly® Weekend (featuring Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich) (dates TBD)
o Italian Sommelier Competition Weekend (Aug. 29-31)
o Giro D’Italia Weekend (Aug. 9-10)
o Havana Nights Weekend (Labor Day Weekend)
o World’s Largest Bachelorette Party Weekend (July 19-21)
o Ping Pong Challenge Weekend (dates TBD)]]>
When planning for a recent trip from Chicago to New Orleans, I looked around and considered a variety of vehicles but none would do. Full size sedans get uncomfortable after a few hours of driving, most SUV's don't have the ability sack out in the back and the big ones tend to be bulky to drive and hard to fit into urban parking spaces.
So, after talking with some friends (who all said "mini vans aren't cool!") and a few brand reps who said "you really want to try a mini van?" I ended up getting a loaner Chrysler Town & Country. This is the descendant of the Plymouth Voyager that my parents used to take me and my sister on cross country road trips with as a kid, but aside from that heritage this is nothing like that road machine of 30 years ago.
Today's Chrysler Town & Country is the absolute perfect vehicle for long road trips - just as it is for hauling kids around town. Our trip was just under 14 hours and for a trip like that you need something special. We need to get over the "but it's a mini van!" nonsense and look at what it really is and what it can offer in comparison to today's top SUVs.
The version we used for this Road Trip review was the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country Limited. With a Starting price just over $40,000, it is the least expensive of its similarly equipped peers, including the Nissan Quest LA, Honda Odyssey Touring, and Toyota Sienna Limited.
Despite this, it has the most horsepower at 283, though that leads to a slight drop in Fuel Economy, 17/21 compared to Honda's leading 19/23 (with only 248 hp).
However, where the Town & Country begins to pull away is things like the fact that it has luxury features for more than just the driver. This includes: heated rear seats, 8-way front passenger seat direction control, power height adjustment, and cushion tilt, where others may only offer manual adjustments or not at all. Chrysler's entertainment system also offers Blue-ray and digital media support compared to others that only offer DVD.
Like an SUV, the seats sit up like a chair so a good posture is maintained and the front seats especially cradle your body in a way that allows you to drive comfortably for hours at a time. With the leather interior it also looks and feels as luxurious as any SUV I have had the opportunity to demo.
Beyond seats though, it was astonishing how wel designed the space was with plenty of cup holders where you needed them, places to store extra bottles of water, and cubbys to hide misc. stuff from our cameras to bags of chips in the center console.
While many cars offer "folding seats" these seats somehow fold away completely. The rear seats even fold down automatically which was pretty darn cool.
In preparation for our trip, we actually lowered the middle seats and had almost infinite leg room to spread out, while the other person drove. This still left plenty of space in the trunk for our bags - though the cooler rode with us in the middle.
Both rows of seats have separate video screens so in theory you could watch two different movies. In the back, there was even a built in flashlight.
Additionally, the navigation and handsfree systems worked just as you would expect from a luxury SUV.
Ok guys, YES it is still a mini van but it is the coolest, most luxurious mini van you can buy. Compared to cross-over offerings by companies like Buick (Enclave) and Lincoln (MKT), the Town & Country felt just as stylish, the interior was just as posh, and it was several thousands of dollars cheaper for comparably equipped vehicles.
With 283 horsepower it leads its class and this gives the Town & Country the feeling of "get up and go" that I personally crave. I don't want to screw around leisurely driving around town - I want to GET THERE. Similarly, the car handles extremely well for admittedly a pretty large vehicle. Despite its size it turned, cornered, and even parked in cramped parking spaces extremely well.
Not only did it handle well on the highway after 14 hours of non-stop driving, but upon arrival in New Orleans it also handled cobble stone streets.
So, what can I say except that if you haven't checked out a mini van in a while and think it is just for "soccer moms" then you should take another look. This class of car and in particular the Chrysler Town & Country Limited that we reviewed here, has come a long way in 30 years.
Yes - it can be cool. Just swap out that SpongeBob DVD and throw in a copy of Predator, kick back, relax and enjoy the road trip!]]>
The following infographic was prepared by our friends over at The Cruise Web and features just a few of the awesome new features found on NCL Breakaway.
There is no shortage of ways to get to travel to the airport - you can take a cab, bribe a friend to drive you, or drive your own car and park in the official airport parking lots. Over the past few years, a new option has emerged - off-site airport parking. The Parking Spot is one such vendor that I had a chance to try out a couple weeks ago for this review.
What follows is a review of my personal experience at the Chicago, O'Hare location. I am told by the PR rep that this is NOT typical since this particular location was actually operated by Avistar and is one of only two locations that are not "typical".
In preparation for the review, I was told that the Parking Spot offered features including: Friendly shuttles, luggage assistance, complimentary newspaper and chilled bottled water. Also, other blogger friends of mine shared that at their locations the staff had their car running and warmed up and ready for their arival.
My experience wasn't bad by any means but it was exactly what the Parking Spot markets themselves as the alternative to. On their website it says, "Expect More than Cheap Airport Parking" and that is exactly what I got.
Before you book, I do advise that you should check if location is listed as a "Network Location" or as an official airport parking location. They have 34 facilities at more than 22 major airports across the country, but currently four locations are listed as "Network".
This was one of the cool features that I sort of which O'Hare's official parking would offer an option for. Simply visit the Parking Spot's website and select your travel dates and options such as Car Care (so your car will be spotless when you come home!).
This process was super easy and I was excited to start my trip.
O'Hare Economy Parking - Lot E: $17 / day; Lot F: $9 / day; Lot G: $13
The Parking Spot: $11.95 (open air) or $16.95 (covered)
To be fair, the Parking Spot offers valet parking and you drop/pickup your car in a covered building so that is really nice in snow, rain and cold. Then you take a shuttle to your gate which runs every 5-7 minutes and takes about 10 minutes.
From Lot E though you take the tram which also drops you off at the gate so it is pretty much a wash conveniance wise for the start of the trip.
On the way home though, you have to walk a considerable distance to the shuttle pickup vs a quick walk from the baggage claim to the official tram.
For most of my travel, taking a taxi is simply faster and easier.
However compared to the economy parking options at O'Hare, if I was less resistant to cold temperatures, being rained on, or had kids then suddenly the benefits of the Parking Spot become very nice. When you add in the benefits such as cold water, newspaper, car warmed up, and the option to have your car detailed through their Car Care option, suddenly the equation changes.
This is especially true for longer trips when the $5.05 per day difference adds up.
Ready to check them out for your next trip? Click here for airport parking reservations from the Parking Spot.
Also, you can follow them on twitter at @TheParkingSpot.
Well, actually Steak n Shake has been around for a while now but honestly I never considered it over iHop or a burrito stand but that has absolutely changed!
Earlier this month, Steak n Shake introduced their new Up All Night menu at participating locations and it might just be the perfect combination of ridiculous, delicious, and perfectly satiating after a long night of partying.
Our location of choice was the Steak 'n Shake in Hoffman Estates / Schaumburg Illinois.
If you are going out to try the Up all Night menu, I recommend you call to make sure your local store is open 24 hours. Unfortunately the first location we visited closed at 1 a.m. and did not offer the Up All Night menu.
If you have never been inside a Steak 'n Shake - it is a sort of retro 50's throw back diner.
Late night, there are all sorts of people who are sobering up and our waitress shared some great stories of things she has seen and heard.
Ready to get started?
The marquee item is absolutely their 7x7 steakburger which is exactly what it sounds like - seven delicious and super greasy steakburger patties stacked with seven pieces of cheese. It is not for light eaters but if you want something to impress your buddies (and disgust most women), this is IT! Only $7.77 ...
Another item that struck us as being surprisingly good was the Steakburger Slinger which is essentially a skillet full of hash browns, covered in chili, two steakburgers, shredded cheese, and topped with two eggs however you prefer them. All that for only $5.99.
Next up we tried the Specialty Shooters - All American, Jalapeno Crunch, Guacamole, and Gorilla. Priced at $1.49 or $4.99 for three, these mini burgers are a light snack compared to the 7x7 steakburger but are delicious and definitely worth trying.
Finally, while not technically "late night" we received a glowing recommendation from Baresha, our server to try the Breakfast Tacos.
These were SHOCKINGLY delicious as well and come in four varieties - sausage, egg 'n cheese, bean ' cheese, and potato 'n egg and served with salsa.
As Ben shared, we polished everything off and this is just the way you want to wrap up a great guys night out!
Overall, we were very impressed and this is solidly on our list the next time we are searching for a place to stop before going home.
Ultimately, while greasy food is great for helping you sober up at night, there is nothing better than juicing the next morning to help clear your head and get ready for the day!
That's where eCigarettes come in to the picture. This is not a pro-smoking piece, but simply an exploration of a new option that has burst on to the scene in the past few years, eCigaretes.
These eCigarettes are designed to look and feel as close to traditional cigarettes as possible but instead of burning tobacco it vaporizes water infused with nicotine or nicotine free flavorings. As such, while you still get the satisfying puff of white - that is actually water vapor and not smoke. No smoke means that there is no second hand smoke, no carcinogens, and no health risks for those around the user.
In case you aren't familiar with what a ecigarettes look like, this is what comes with a V2 Cigs as the site shared in their recent V2 Cigs review.
From a practical perspective, this also means that they are typically ok on most cruise ships, restaurants, and other public spaces that prohibit smoking. This may change over time but if you need to get your nic-fix but still want to travel then this is something you may want to consider.
Fortunately for consumers, there are a ton of sites out there selling all sorts of different products and various price points and features. However that raises the issue of how do you know what the best ones are.
That's where eCigaretteReviewed.com comes into play - they offer electronic cigarette reviews and claim to be the only reviewer who actually inspects the companies to make sure they are offering reliable products to consumers. Additionally, customers from their community can comment with their own reviews as well as share coupon codes for various e cigarette brands.
This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.]]>
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IRON MAN 3 releases in theaters on May 3rd!]]>
A few months ago we had the opportunity to be among the first to drive the 5 passenger Santa Fe Sport, and now this month we had the chance to review the all new 6/7 passenger Santa Fe.
The compact SUV market is getting crowded as moms shift from minivans as their taxi of choice and instead are starting to buy up SUVs. While the Santa Fe was a popular model for Hyundai, the Veracruz was much less so and as a result, for the 2013 model year the designers decided to make a longer and roomier full-sized Santa Fe capable of carrying 6 or 7 passengers - depending on seating arrangement.
Starting at $28,350, the 2013 Santa Fe comes with a 290 horsepower, 3.3 liter GDI V6 engine and two trim levels. Essentially you can think of the two trims simply as "Great Base Model" (GLS) and "Near Luxury" (Limited).
After having an opportunity to spend some quality time in both of them I have to say that the driving experience is extremely similar. While the Limited was described by other bloggers on our trip as comparable to a BMW, the Base felt more like a great "around town" car with most of the differences able to be described simply as accessories.
That isn't to say that accessories aren't nice and absolutely the fully loaded Limited version with features like: Heated Mirrors, Automatic Headlight Control, Side mirror turn-signal indicators, leather interior and of course the AMAZING Panoramic Sunroof makes for a near luxury experience that my associates rightly compared to what they feel when driving a BMW or Mercedes SUV.
This trend of "New Luxury" even carried through to the ignition system and key fob. While the GLS has a standard "switchblade" style metal key, the Limited sports a push button ignition and a decidedly luxury feeling key fob to hammer the point home that even though you are lugging the kids around - this is a great car and you deserve to feel special while driving it!
Our blogger friends who joined us on the trip seemed to agree as well.
So did the falcons that are part of the Hotel Del Coronado, our base of operations for this event.
The falcons liked it so much they weren't content to simply look at the gorgeous interior from the sun roof.
They wanted to get inside and take the Santa Fe for a spin too!
The only noticeable difference in driving experience between the two was that the Limited with its 19-inch wheels felt a bit smoother of a ride compared to the GLS with 18-inch ones.
So what about the big new feature vs the Santa Fe Sport? Extra passenger room for 6 or 7 passengers by adding a third row.
The seating arrangement above is the 6 passenger arrangement, with two captain's chairs in the middle and a 50/50 fold down in back.
Again the 6 passenger version. It was super easy to drop the seats. All you needed to do was pull the strap and push them down.
Similarly, to get them locked into position again, just pull the straps until the seat clicks.
This is what the 7 passenger version looks like. Notice the 60-40 folding bench seat instead of captain's chairs?
One of the more remarkable features of the Bluelink system that the Santa Fe features is the Eco Driving monitor. It not only shows you what the average consumption is but also appears to show you a baseline for other drivers in the community. For those of us concerned with hyper-mileage this is a super cool and competitive tool that can turn eco driving into a competitive sport!
Only a few minor nits cause me to wish for more. The first was that I wish there was more ZOOM - both for climbing hills as well as just pick up to zoom out of stop lights. However, at it's core this is a FAMILY car and those of us wanting something more sporty should check out the aptly names Santa Fe Sport. The second concern was that while they lengthened the car so as to allow a 3rd row that sacrificed some cargo capacity.
For a road trip with four guys, golf clubs, suitcases and maybe some ski's this car is excellent because you can fold the rear seats flat. However don't expect to get much more than groceries if you have it loaded up with 6 or 7 guys. Again - this was clearly designed for lugging around your 2-3 kids and a couple of their friends so the Santa Fe is great in that objective.
However, I'll leave you with one final parting thought and this was echoed by virtually every other attendee ...
We are WILD about the new Santa Fe! (though others that reviewed it may be a little less colorful!)