Discounted Holiday Events Make For Rich Seasonal Travel

As we make plans for travel through the first of the year, holiday events are often included. At home or on the road – traditional, old fashioned or new – different holiday events are in place for us to enjoy. Some are free to see, others have a ticket or admission price, but all aim to be a part of our holiday travel plans. Here are a few of the more noteworthy holiday events to consider.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular“- New York City
Norwegian Cruise Line has been designated the official cruise line of the Rockettes and is offering a 25% savings on tickets to the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” through December 30, 2012 (use promotional code “Cruise”).

Norwegian also launched a sweepstakes that gives “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” attendees a chance to win a cruise for a family of four on Norwegian Breakaway, which will be the largest ship to homeport year-round from New York City beginning in May.

Holiday Ballet “The Nutcracker” from Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theatre
– Atlanta
To many of us, nothing says “holidays” like a good performance of “The Nutcracker” and Atlanta’s Georgia Metro Dance Theater has one of the best.

In its 11th year of creating holiday magic, they invite you to come and watch the timeless tale unfold as a young girl’s gift of a nutcracker comes to life and a handsome prince whisks her away through the land of snow.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing LightsOrlando
Walt Disney World in Orlando has a seasonal display featuring millions of glittering lights
at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Synchronized to holiday music, buildings are blanketed in sheets of multi-colored lights with thousands more forming twirling carousels and heavenly angels in a show that cycles every ten minutes.

Included with standard admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, Santa and his reindeer will be on hand through January 6, 2013.

CHILL: A Dazzling Ice Kingdom in a Giant Igloo at the Queen Mary
– Long Beach
Retired ocean liner the Queen Mary has been transformed into an amazing winter wonderland for the whole family called CHILL through January 6, 2013. A giant igloo, home to The Ice Kingdom, features a one-of-a-kind exhibit with larger-than-life ice creations.

Ice Tubing, an Ice Skating rink, a Holiday Village, complete with Christmas trees, “Candy Lane,” gingerbread decorating, carolers and Santa Claus will be on hand too as we see in this video:

Looking for discount tickets to these and other holiday attractions? Suddenly Frugal, an online source has all of these and more listed as well as a list of the 11 Best Freebies When You Travel.

[Photo credit- Flickr user ZakVTA ]

Two Cunard Queens cruise to Long Beach

Not quite as cool as when Cunard Line ocean liners Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria, met in New York last month for the first time, two of the famed Cunard trio, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will cruise to Long Beach Harbor on March 3rd. Significant is the celebration of a milestone: the upcoming 75th anniversary of Queen Mary’s maiden voyage from Southampton, England on May 27, 1936.

“After the spectacular Cunard Royal Rendezvous in New York with our three modern Queens back in January, it is quite fitting that we continue the grand celebration on the West Coast,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “Queen Mary is an important part of our history and legacy and what better way to salute her than with a visit from Queen Victoria to celebrate the completion of her debut Americas season.”

Two queens coming to Long Beach is just one event in a long history of notable sailings.During Cunard’s 171-year history, the Queen Mary epitomized the golden age of ocean travel and served as a Cunard liner for more than 30 years. Additionally, she served as a troopship during World War II and a Royal Mail Ship, under contract with the British Royal Mail service.

Queen Mary’s influence lives on today as a hotel, museum and tourist attraction in Long Beach, California.

Spanish fisherman nets camera lost on cruise ship two years ago

Back in October 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Gregory from South Africa were enjoying a cruise on the magnificent Queen Mary 2, making photos of their vessel passing alongside the famous QE2.

When taking their photos, the camera accidentally fell overboard into the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland. Usually, dropping a camera into the ocean means the end of the camera, and the photos stored on it.

To the couples amazement, their camera and memory card were returned to them this week after a Spanish fisherman caught it in one of his nets.

Apparently, Benito Estevez found the camera, and was able to track down where the photos were taken, contacted the cruise line, and managed to reunite the couple with their photos.

Of course, the camera was damaged beyond repair, but the memory card was still in excellent condition, as were the photos stored on it.

Peter Shanks, the CEO of Cunard obviously took good advantage of this fantastic event, and had the following to say:

“In all my years in the travel industry I have never heard of such a heart-warming stroke of luck and we at Cunard are delighted that Mr. and Mrs. Gregory have been reunited with their photos. The images are even more poignant as they depict the last transatlantic crossing of the great QE2 and can never be taken again.”

Kudos to everyone involved – I’m guessing that most fishermen would just throw trash like that away, but to go to this much effort to reunite someone with their photos is a breath of fresh air.%Gallery-71848%

Ocean liner QE2 on its last voyage, this time to Dubai

For anyone who would like the experience of a luxury ocean liner vacation without actually leaving land, here are two options.

The Queen Elizabeth 2 has hit forty and is being retired. Instead of ending up in some boat graveyard somewhere like Jeremy has written about in a previous post, the QE2 is on its way from New York City [via Great Britain] to Dubai where it will become a hotel.

The Queen Mary, another retired Cunard ocean liner is already a hotel in Long Beach, California.

If you do stay on the QE2, you’ll be on a ship that has seen some history and mighty fine company. According to this article, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope and Britain’s royal family including Princess Diana have sailed on this vessel.

It was also used to transport wounded soldiers during the Falkland’s War in 1982.

For its last voyage, some of the passengers are folks from the first voyage. Just imagine what a great time they must be having right about now.

In 2010 Cunard is rolling out another luxury liner. The Queen Elizabeth will be even grander than its sea worthy sisters.

Crossing the Atlantic in the Queen Mary 2

When I travel I try to cover as many superlatives as possible. The world’s tallest building (Taipei 101 for now), the longest tunnel (connecting mainland Japan with Hokkaido), the slowest train in the world.

So when I was trying to figure out how to get from Europe back to the United States, there was only one choice. The grandest choice. A seven day journey aboard the famed Queen Mary 2.

The Queen Mary 2, for those who don’t know, is Cunard’s flagship ocean liner. She was specially built for trans-Atlantic cruises, an effort which required a laundry list of technological breakthroughs. Even five years after her maiden voyage, she’s still the longest passenger ship in the world. She’s also the widest, which means she can’t make it through the Panama Canal.

Boarding the ship was the easiest cruise boarding experience I’ve had. Things were off to a good start, although a warning bell went off in my head when a mandatory picture was taken before getting on board.

Was this going to be a regular cruise, just trumped up a bit to seem more fancy?It did share more than I expected with a typical cruise, but its distinctions set it far apart from any cruise I’d been on before. If I were to draw a line down the list, I’d say that it retains the good parts and mostly avoids the annoyances.

There are shops, but they’re not peddling gold by the foot in the hallways. The servers don’t sing and dance, not that I particularly mind that on other ships apart from when they’re forced to sing the American National Anthem. The rooms have the typical amenities but are bigger and better appointed. The gym was surprisingly well equipped and much bigger than usual. The library had an amazing selection and a system for checking books out.

The few shows I saw were excellent. They had a famous British pianist play, and I spent an hour listening to the producer of the upcoming Broadway show, Tale of Two Cities, talk about the theater business. I kept intending to go to the shows in the on-board planetarium, but never actually made it there. Despite the slow pace of life on the ship, the days do seem to fly by.

What makes the cruise special, to me at least, is the camaraderie between the passengers. Even if it is made bi-weekly, the trip seems epic. After all, you’re crossing the Atlantic by sea, the way it was first crossed when settlers came to America. Everyone is thrilled to be on board and realizes that with seven days without stopping, making friends is going to be one of the best activities there is.

When we arrived in New York we said goodbye to well over a dozen friends, most of whom we got to know over dinner in the two-story dining room, or across the felt during the nightly poker games.

I could complain about a few things on the trip. In contrast with the stellar maid service, the waiter service wasn’t as good as service I had on a cheap Carnival cruise through the Caribbean. All of the Scrabble sets had the wrong amount of tiles, which probably only offends obsessed Scrabble players like myself. But in the end, these few glitches were afterthoughts of days full of pure enjoyment.

The next time I cross the Atlantic, taking the Queen Mary 2 will be the first method I look at. You can book directly at Cunard, or try Cruise Compete, which is where we got an unbelievably good deal.