The Travel Professor
Join me on a journey across the broad spectrum of interesting travel topics. We’ll discuss destinations domestic and abroad, some familiar and some off the beaten path. We take a look at suppliers like cruise lines, air carriers and tour operators and find their bargains and special offerings. Got questions? Email

Friday, February 29, 2008

More aloha!

It begins just after your arrival, when that jet door opens. Suddenly there's that soft air and the scent of sweet flowers. It's at that moment that you finally realize, "Yes, I'm in Hawaii..."

Long before that moment you have visualized your own personal Hawaii. For some, it evokes swaying palm trees, stunning beaches, a unique culture or a luau on a starry tropical night. For others, it's fiery volcanoes, petroglyph-lined hiking paths and lava hissing its way to the sea. Still others imagine snorkeling, diving and surfing in azure waters. Some picture world-class golfing, luxurious resorts and fine cuisine. Some want to learn about a different culture. Almost everyone views it as a relaxing place to get away from it all and - yes - to renew one's soul.

What's remarkable about the islands of Hawaii is this: They're able to satisfy almost any person. No matter what lifestyle you embrace, no matter what life stage you’re in, Hawaii is the right destination for you. Maybe even the perfect one.

After all, Hawaii is loaded with "bests," "world-classes" and other superlatives: the best beaches, sunsets, views, scenery, surfing, windsurfing, diving and snorkeling, hotels and resorts, restaurants, golf courses, all enhanced by the Spirit of Aloha. "No ka Oi" in Hawaiian means "it's the best." This indeed describes just about everything you can see and experience in Hawaii. I always recommend a Hawaii vacation to a client that is looking for some of the above described experiences or activities.

Perhaps Mark Twain, visitor to Hawaii and ardent admirer expressed Hawaii's enchantment best when he wrote: "For me, its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun, the pulsing of its surf-beat is in my ear; I can see its sugar landed crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud rack; I can feel the spirit of its woodland solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my senses still lives the breath of flowers that perished 20 years ago."

Yes indeed that is Hawaii!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What island offers the "real" Hawaii?

Barb G. from Milton asked this question:

Hey Travel Professor! My fiancé and I really would like to honeymoon in Hawaii but we don’t want the crowds, fast food restaurants and the commercialism. Can you suggest what island would give us the flavor of the real Hawaii?

I like Hawaii & agree that some of the places like Honolulu are New York City with palm trees.

Molokai offers a truly local experience devoid of crowds and chain restaurants and is well suited for travelers like you. The ones that want to see the “real” Hawaii and avoid the commercialism of the other islands.

Molokai is known as the most Hawaiian island for good reason. It’s the only island in the chain except for Niihau (a private island near Kauai) where Hawaiians account for the majority of the population of about 8,000. In fact, more than half are of true Hawaiian ancestry. Molokai is also the birthplace of the hula, which is celebrated each May with the Ka Hula Piko Festival.

Molokai is well suited for people who want to experience old Hawaii, indulge in adventures such as mountain biking and hiking while encountering few other tourists, and have a completely casual vacation (shorts T-shirts and flip flops are the norm here, even in most restaurants). The oblong-shaped island, the fifth largest in Hawaii, is devoid of chain restaurants and retail stores (even Hawaii’s ubiquitous ABC Stores); and its two hotels — the Lodge and Beach Village at Molokai Ranch and the Hotel Molokai — are independently owned and operated. In short, everything is local and authentic. It’s also quiet and uncrowded, with most businesses closing by 9 p.m.

For more information on this wonderful tropical getaway contact your travel agent or tour operator. Also be sure to check out the island’s tourism website at


Got travel questions. Email them to me at

Monday, February 25, 2008

¡Recepción a Cuba! (Welcome to Cuba)

Cuban leader Fidel Castro recent retirement which may be to improved relations with the island nation should have excited travel and tourism executives. These folks are always on the look out for new products and destinations.

Cuba is only a couple of hundred miles off the Florida coasts and offers many tropical getaway delights. Before Castro Cuba was a mini Las Vegas a resort destination that offered fun, sun, sea, sand, casino gaming and rich colonial Spanish history and heritage.

Once Cuba is open to American tourists I see it becoming a cruise line port of call first then a “stay and play” location once hotel redevelopment is completed. Familiar American hotel brands are already operating in Cuba but expect to see a major corporate investment here. The Travel Professor may even look into investing a little cash himself.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Airlines unbundling services-adding fees

I predict that America’s legacy carriers-American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United Airlines and US Airways will unbundled most of their traditionally free passenger services and adopt a-la-carte pricing for these. Expect to start paying extra fees for checked baggage, advanced seat assignments and enhanced boarding priority.

Air travelers on low cost no frills carriers like Jet Blue and Sky Bus are accustomed to paying these fees but then again the fares are generally lower than the legacy airlines.

For years the mega airlines argued that their extra free services offset the fare savings and inconveniences travelers encountered flying the discount lines.

Maybe the airline executives are right but I don’t see them dropping airfares I just see them adding an extra fee that will increase cash flow and profitability.

Got travel questions? Contact me for answers at

Thursday, February 21, 2008

America's First Ladies

They are for the most part a faceless group of women, behind the scene players whose roles helped in the shaping America and the world. Their lives cannot be underestimated nor trivialized.

Who are these anonymous personalities? Why should they be remembered and embraced as an integral cog in the American saga?

They group that I am referring to is a special group of women commonly known as America’s First Ladies. They were the strength and wisdom behind many an American President.

Famous names like Martha Washington, Dolly Madison, Abigail Adams, Mary Todd Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosalyn Carter echo across the pages of history. Their strengths, humility, passions and courage are exhibited and interpreted at the National First Ladies Library (NFLL) in Canton Ohio.

The NFLL is thrilled to be hosting a special exhibit this summer featuring a collection of White House China. The select pieces are from the private collection of Carter administration diplomat Set Momjian. Other contributions to the exhibit were made by the Benjamin Harrison Home, the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center and the Massillon Museum. The collection featured includes china pieces from the Monroe, Polk, Lincoln, Hayes, Harrison, Roosevelt, Wilson, Eisenhower, Johnson, Reagan and Clinton administrations. Each unique design has an equally as unique story behind its creation and pattern.

China for the White House state affairs is traditionally chosen by the First Lady. Included in the china exhibit will be artifacts and clothing from these First Ladies to help illustrate the story of their association with the selection of china for the administration.

The exhibit is highlighted by a custom designed display case featuring a replication of a dinner table set for a White House formal occasion.

Visitors will be able to learn about the history of the china selection and view these historical pieces in a lavish setting. The exhibit opened on April 3rd and will be a great highlight for this summer’s visitors to the NFLL. The exhibit runs for 12 months until the end of March 2008. This is a must-see exhibit proudly presented by the NFLL for our patrons.

Located not too far from the William McKinley Memorial and Presidential Library admission to The First Ladies Presidential Libraries and Museum is only available on a guided tour. Guided tours are of BOTH the Saxton House and the Education and Research Center and are lead by costumed docents. Tours last approximately 1 1/2 hours and begin at the Education & Research Facility. Reservations are highly recommended as tour size is limited. Reservations are REQUIRED for groups of 6 or more. Please call 330-452-0876 or visit for information or advance reservations.

Are you interested in Ohio and Presidential History? Then consider joining our “Ohio Presidents” tour departing Ironton on June 27th 2008. We will visit the homes and/or memorials of all 8 “Buckeyes” that served as an American President.

Contact me at 740.533.4559 or for more information.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

U.S. Presidents part 2

During Ohio's presidential run, the country grew up. Rural dominance gave way to urban. Factories popped up from Maine to California. America expanded internationally and helped fight a world war.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison sometimes campaigned from his front porch. Later, other candidates followed his lead.

The apex of Ohio clout came in the election of 1920, which placed Buckeyes in the national spotlight on both tickets. Democrat James Cox, governor and owner of the Dayton Daily News, ran for president against Harding, a Marion newspaper owner and senator.

Harding, who won, died in office of natural causes, amid scandal. Garfield and McKinley died from wounds inflicted by assassins. And William Henry Harrison caught pneumonia and died April 4, 1841. He served just one month.

These amazing men all with a fascinating story to tell provide us with the perfect backdrop for an educational road trip. Our travels will take us to Canton, Mentor and Cleveland in northern Ohio. Then we head west to Fremont and continue south to Marion. The last leg of our journey ends up in Ohio River country with stops at North Bend, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Point Pleasant.

This Circle Ohio Presidents tour includes visits to stately mansions, primitive frontier log cabins, libraries and museums. Departing the River Cities in the early morning hours of June 27 2008 we will spent 3 days and 2 nights discovering more about the men of the “State of Eight”. There are plenty of additional sights and attractions on our route but we’ll stay focused on our Presidents.

Overnighting in downtown Cleveland on Friday night you can take in the national pastime of baseball as the battle for Ohio unfolds between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians. Our hotel is a short walk over to the newly named “Progressive” Field.

Our “Education on Location” study tours offer graduate and undergraduate credit courses for students but they are also available to the public with a non credit option. For more information on our “State of Eight” Presidents tour contact me at 740.533.4559 or visit

Got travel questions or concerns? Contact for answers or assistance.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ohio's Presidents

Ohio still holds the title as Mother of Presidents. But after administrations marked by scandal, tragedy and mediocrity, the rest of the nation said eight is enough, and it's been more than eighty years since the last Ohioan occupied the White House.

Ohio presidential candidates made historic marks on politics, including "the front-porch campaign" of Canton’s William McKinley and slogans such as "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too." But Buckeye headed presidential tickets have died out with the front porch's popularity, a trend not even space hero John Glenn could reverse.

Four Ohio presidents died in office, two had scandal-marred administrations, and one - Cincinnati's William Howard Taft - is often remembered as the nation's heaviest president, so big that a special bathtub was needed for him in the White House.

Still, with eight presidents (seven of them native sons) coming from Ohio from 1840 to 1920, the state's record is impressive. The debate with Virginia continues as they claim eight presidents too.

Since the early days of the republic, Ohioans have dramatically shaped the political landscape of the United States and in an 80-year stretch ending in 1920; Ohioans won 10 of 21 presidential elections.

William Henry Harrison was elected the ninth president in 1840; Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president, 1868 and 1872; Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president, 1876; James A. Garfield, 20th president, 1880; Benjamin Harrison, 23rd president, 1888; William H. McKinley, 25th president, 1896 and 1900; Taft, 27th president, 1908; and Warren G. Harding, 29th president, 1920.

Stay tuned as there's more to this story.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine Day thoughts on romantic getaways

Here are some thoughts on romantic getaways for you last minute Valentine Day lovers:

· A romantic bed and breakfast in the lovely Hocking Hills country with your own fireplace and hot tub (

· One of Las Vegas’s mega resorts like the Venetian. Imagine a gondola ride and a romantic stroll and dinner in Venice (

· Wing off to one of the off-the-beaten path Caribbean Islands like Antigua where you can experience a different beach each day ofthe year. That's right they claim to have 365 beaches so you should be able to discover a romantic seculded one. Other personal favorites are Grenada, St. Barts or St. Kitts. Picture palm tree lined beaches, elegant resorts and you’re not invaded by the hordes of cruise ship guests like other islands are (

· Just get creative and use your imagination.

Short on ideas then just check with your local travel agent I’m sure they will have plenty of ideas. And they can set you up with a gift certificate that you can present to your sweetie.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

International travel hot spots

Overseas, the top four international destination cities remained the same for the sixth year in a row with London receiving a 10.3 percent share of the vote followed by Rome (9%), Cancun (7.1%) and Paris (6.4%). For Americans traveling abroad, Western European destinations are the most popular summer spots in 2008 with five cities coming in the top 10. Mexican destinations are the other major grouping in the international top 10 list.

Italy remained the top international country/region booked by U.S. travel agents with an 18.7 percent share. Mexico came in second with 16.1 percent, and the UK received a 12.5 percent share of the votes. The UK was second in previous years and both Italy and the UK had larger percentage shares in 2007 and in 2006 suggesting the weak dollar is shifting some travel away from Europe with Mexico and other locations not in the top five benefiting. Filling out the top five international destinations were the islands of the Caribbean followed by France.

I’m not surprised at all by these selections but they are based on a national survey. However the Travel Professor feels that if we conducted a local travel destination survey that the beaches of the Carolinas and Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge would rank in the top ten favorite places for Tri-State residents.

Internationally I do not have a strong sense of our travel favorites but would tend to agree with ASTA’s survey results.

Email your top five domestic (United States only) and top five international including cruise vacations travel lists to me at and I’ll share the results with you.

As always if you have travel questions feel free to contact me at

Domestic 2008 travel hot spots

In a recent “Hot Spots for Summer Travel” survey conducted by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Orlando (17.5%) and Las Vegas (15.4%) were named the most popular domestic summer travel destinations booked by travel agents.

While the domestic destinations in the top 10 have remained the same since 2006, their rankings have not. New York City, for example, fell to seventh place after five years in the number three spot, with San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami moving up two spaces each to numbers three, four and five respectively. Seattle moved up from number nine to number six in this year’s survey. San Diego, Honolulu and Washington DC were also ranked in the top ten domestic destinations.

When looking at which states see the most summer travelers as booked by travel agents, not surprisingly, Florida again came out on top in 2008, accounting for 23.6 percent of all responses with cities such as Orlando , Miami , Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa . Nevada drew the second largest number of responses a 15.7 percent share with almost all the travel for Las Vegas. In 2007, Florida topped the top state destinations, accounting for 28.0 percent of all responses; Nevada drew the second largest number of responses a 19.2 percent share.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Upscale last minute hotel rates

Starwood Hotels and Resorts' best last-minute rates are now available every Tuesday on the company's travel agent website, and they are commissionable. The new program, called Starpicks, consists of last-minute reductions of at least 20 percent off regular rates. More than 75 properties across all of Starwood's brands are listed each week and are bookable from Tuesday until Friday. The rates apply to the upcoming weekend at hotels and the next two weeks at resorts.

Starwood Hotel brands include Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, Le Meridien and the Luxury Collection.

Check out their rates at or call your local travel agent.

Got travel questions? Email the Travel Professor at

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Princess changes "getting off the ship" process

If you have cruised before then you are very familiar with the traditional last day’s "hurry up and wait" disembarkation process that has long been a cruise industry standard.

That tradition is now history aboard Princess ships, as the line introduces a new, streamlined farewell process for passengers.

Contrasted with the typical end-of-cruise departure where passengers listen to public address system announcements for their luggage tag color to be called signaling the staggered times they will disembark, Princess has debuted an efficient, more relaxed process for passengers leaving the ship. Passengers are each given an assigned time and place to assemble on the final morning and are personally escorted to the gangway by a member of the ship's staff, eliminating the guesswork as to the actual time passengers will be disembarking.

The new program is in the process of being rolled out fleet wide, and has already been met with enthusiastic response from passengers. The new system eliminates loudspeaker announcements calling color-coded departure groups, and instead provides passengers with a letter the day before the end of the cruise that outlines their designated time to meet in an assigned public room, depending on their return air arrangements. There they will be met by a member of the ship's staff who will wait with them until departure time, when they will be personally escorted to the gangway.

The revised system enables passengers to easily plan their morning without the uncertainty as to when they should prepare to depart the ship. It also eliminates passengers congregating in the ship's atrium near the gangway, plus creates a more relaxed flow for morning breakfast.

I applaud this action by the fine folks at Princess and hope that their competition (fellow cruise ship executives take heed) follows their lead with rapid changes to their disembarkation procedures too.
Got travel questions? Need help planning a vacation? Contact

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

More on cruise ships "adult only" areas.

Here is some more info on cruise ship “adult” only areas…..on most of their ships Royal Caribbean offers an adults-only Solarium. Either open or covered by a retractable glass domed-roof, the Solariums are beautifully decorated sanctuaries, with pools, whirlpools and full beverage service.

In 2007 the Crown Princess debuted what Princess Cruise Lines calls its newest "pocket of tranquility" called The Sanctuary. An adults-only retreat on the uppermost forward deck of the ship, The Sanctuary offers a relaxing alternative to the myriad outdoor activities and entertainment available elsewhere throughout the ship. Solitude seekers will be able to escape completely to this plush, outdoor spa-inspired setting with signature beverages, light meals, massages, attentive service and relaxing personal entertainment.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Silence is Golden: Adult only areas on cruise ships

Here’s a question that I recently received:

“My husband and I would love a cruise vacation but aren’t they more family oriented, packed with kids? We like kids but we’re afraid that they’ll be swarming all over the place like Disney in the summer.”

Well Silence is Golden: Your question requires a multiple part answer.

First avoid the mass market cruises. The 3000-4000 guest mega ships are priced to attract families.

Generally because of their size, product and price the smaller vessels of the premium or niche lines tend to carry far fewer children.

Second sail when most families can’t during their children’s’ the school year. Sailing during the holidays and summer months usually means more kids.

And take heart as many of the cruise lines have heard your sentiment and are/have taken steps to ensure their guests get just that when they are so inclined. Areas onboard have been fashioned and cordoned off for use only by passengers 18 years of age and older. Cruise lines are not looking to alienate their clientele who travel with children—far from it. It's a matter of giving adult guests an option that frees them from some of the headaches—such as screaming children, loud music, gratuitous pool folly—that can take away from one's vacation.

For example Carnival Cruise Lines is installing new adults-only facilities on its eight "Fantasy" class ships. The new adult areas, which will be dubbed "Serenity," will be located near the rear of each ship and will include lounge chairs, oversized umbrellas and a pair of whirlpools. It will also have a bar, of course.

It is part of a $250 million overhaul Carnival is undertaking for the Fantasy-class ships, which also will include adding water parks with 4-story water slides plus new resort-style pools. The upgrades aren't expected to be finished until 2009.

Ask your travel or cruise agent to recommend a ship or company that does provide an “adults” only area. Even the mega family vacation marketer Disney offers this feature on their Disney Cruise Lines.

But when checking out "adults" options make sure it is not just the "topless" desk.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Cruising with Nickelodeon Characters this Summer

Nickelodeon is introducing its first-ever cruise with the "Nickelodeon Family Cruise with Royal Caribbean," to set sail August 10 from Miami on a seven-day family summer vacation trip. Nickelodeon is a unit of MTV Networks and best known for its TV programs and family-oriented hotels.

The cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's largest ship “Freedom of the Seas” capable of accommodating more than 4,000 passengers will feature a wide range of Nickelodeon activities and entertainment.

The "Nickelodeon Family Cruise by Royal Caribbean" will offer an experience complete with Nick-themed on-board activities such as live game shows featuring the trademark Nickelodeon slime; visits with kids' Nick characters like Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob Square Pants; and appearances by the network's live-action stars.

For information or reservations contact your local travel agent or