Winter Workshop at Conrad New York

November 25th, 2015 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

The winter holidays are especially festive in New York City, with even hotels offering events to the public. Consider a visit to the Conrad New York for its Winter Workshop on Dec. 5, 12 and 19 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Lobby in Conrad New York

The event, now in its third year, will include the following:

– Photos with Santa
– Hot chocolate bar
– Ornament decorating
– Holiday treats

Tickets are $35 for children and $20 for adults. The Conrad New York is an all-suite hotel, and is located near Battery Park.

–Amanda Geronikos

— Amanda Geronikos

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3 Apps for Thanksgiving Travel

November 23rd, 2015 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

Traveling for Thanksgiving? Don’t leave home without these handy (and free!) smartphone apps, guaranteed to ease your trip to grandmother’s house and beyond.

Mom and Son With Smartphone

Did you know Google Maps uses Waze to offer the quickest destination routes? Waze also enhances maps by providing alerts when there’s a cop in the area, a car pulled over, or an object in the middle of the road. All of the information is generated by app users, who are required to say they’re a passenger (with the tap of a button) before sending alerts.

TripIt easily compiles all your travel documentation, from airline confirmation numbers to restaurant reservations. You can input the information yourself, or simply send any travel confirmations to; the information will automatically go to your app. If you upgrade your account (for about $50 per year), you’ll also receive alerts, including gate changes at the airport.

You know service stations offer restrooms and restaurants, but what if there aren’t any service stations coming up? iExit allows you to see what’s offered at each exit along your route so you don’t have to waste time searching for what you need.

Which travel apps are your favorite? Share in the comments below.

— Amanda Geronikos

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5 Best Perks on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas

November 20th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Beaming, I kept thinking to myself: “I am flying!”

No, I wasn’t skydiving out of a plane. I was on a cruise ship leaving out of Bayonne, New Jersey.

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas is being touted as “More Than Just a Cruise” and I’d have to say that when we recently took a two-night cruise to nowhere on the new ship, I did some things I have never done before, and certainly never on a cruise ship. And yes, flying was most definitely one of those things.

Anthem of the Seas — which made her maiden voyage in April 2015 in Europe — started her inaugural American season out of Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne, N.J., just across from lower Manhattan in November. The ship, which will homeport year-round at Cape Liberty, will offer 7- and 8-night Bahamas, 10-night Eastern Caribbean, 12-night Southern and 12-night Western Caribbean itineraries this winter.

Anthem of the Seas

RipCord by iFly
At 18 decks and with just over a maximum of 4,900 guests and 2,090 staterooms, Anthem of the Seas is one of the largest ships at sea and with that size comes a whole lot of “bells and whistles.” My chance to “fly” inside a 23-foot tall glass flight chamber (with an instructor with me at all times) was as part of the ship’s RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator. The experience starts with a short training course with a video and flight instructor teaching us proper flight position and hand signals. We were then outfitted in flight gear, including a jumpsuit, helmet, goggles and ear plugs.

My group of 12 participants included three kids ages 9 and under. They were excited, while some of the adults (or maybe it was just me) mixed their excitement with a healthy dose of trepidation. It was a nice feeling to have the group cheer and clap after each participant’s flight, and super cool to see our flight instructor show us what can really be done (sort of Spiderman style up and down the flight chamber while we were doing more of Superman and Supergirl flying). It was the highlight of my trip and if I was on a longer itinerary I would have signed up to do it again fully embracing the wonder of it.

North Star
Another innovative and “uncruise-like” activity on the ship is the North Star, an enclosed glass observation capsule that rises more than 300 feet in the air and rotates upward and over the sides of the ship for an incredible panoramic view.

For me, the most impressive of the family-friendly features onboard Anthem of the Seas is Seaplex, a large sporting and entertainment space. Depending on the time of day and day of the week, you can drive bumper cars, roller skate, go to trapeze school and more. A mezzanine level overlooks the indoor Seaplex and is lined with foosball, air hockey and ping pong tables. Unlike many cruise ships where the only foosball table (our family’s favorite) is located in the teen center, Anthem of the Seas has set aside a large area for families to enjoy these games together. (The teen center still has its own foosball tables when kids do want to escape their parents.)

The FlowRider surf simulator and rock climbing wall will offer more thrills for families. I also like that there were two indoor pools (as well two outdoor pools), which will especially be appreciated during the first few days traveling out of New Jersey heading south during the winter.

Dynamic Dining
Families will also appreciate Anthem of the Seas’ Dynamic Dining with a choice of 18 restaurants. Traditional main dining has been turned into five complimentary, full-service restaurants (including one for suite guests only), each offering a different cuisine, décor and ambience. A number of specialty restaurants and casual dining options, including a large buffet, round out the onboard food offerings. There is also a self-serve ice cream machine poolside that is a definite kid and kid-at-heart magnet.

—Stacey Zable

Stacey Zable is an award-winning veteran travel writer. She specializes in family travel, spas, cruises and luxury travel. Visit her site at

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Halloween on the High Seas: What to Expect on a (Not So) Spooky Cruise With Disney

November 18th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Costumes? Check. Candy? Check. Mickey Mouse in the middle of the ocean? Huh? This past Halloween, I found myself aboard a cruise — and not just any run-of-the-mill “bring a costume” cruise. A Disney Cruise. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of The Mouse, but when I was assigned to cover the line’s “Halloween on the High Seas” aboard Disney Dream, I was mildly excited. I love the fall, I love Halloween, and kids are pretty cool, too.

Sure, lots of lines do Halloween by allowing costumes for the holiday, so I was expecting that there would be some people dressed up. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was exactly how well Disney does Halloween (and “some people” was a gross understatement). As I left the three-night sailing, my aforementioned mild excitement had turned into sheer glee and awe.

Here’s a recap of the All Hallows Eve festivities onboard and what you can expect if you plan a Disney cruise during October 31.

Halloween on Disney Cruise Line


The ship’s atrium rises three decks; because it’s located just off the gangway, it’s the first thing you’ll see when you board. Deck railings were decorated with purple valances and artificial pumpkins in the shape of Mickey heads.
Next to a statue of Admiral Donald, which stands proudly on Deck 3, facing the direction in which the ship is sailing, there was a real pumpkin, complete with Mickey ears, carved in the shape of the famous mouse’s face.

The piece de resistance, however, was the Pumpkin Tree, anchored in one corner of the atrium. Two decks high, the giant, smiling tree — yes, it has a face — is a curiosity that presides over the hub’s activities.

There weren’t many other decorations, but I did notice some jack-o-lantern face window clings on the portholes that line the hallway to the Royal Palace and Animator’s Palate, two of the ship’s three dining rooms.

Cruisers are allowed to decorate their cabins, and there was plenty of door decor to ogle while walking down the corridors on the accommodation decks — everything from cardboard cutouts of zombies to Minnie Mouse witch magnets and cobwebs. I also noticed festive pouches and bags hung outside of several doors. By the time Halloween was over, they were stuffed with treats. (We’re guessing fellow cruisers brought candy and went door-to-door to hand it out.)

Halloween on Disney Cruise Line


On the night before Halloween, children and adults alike gathered in the atrium, around the Pumpkin Tree, to hear about the history of Halloween. The event culminated in a poetic chant, which lit up the tree as it began to speak, threatening a surprise the next day. (Fair warning for parents: While it’s a fun event, the tree could be too much for children who are easily frightened.) When we awoke on Halloween morning, the tree had “bloomed” with artificial jack-o-lanterns.

Games and Activities
On the evening of Halloween, after everyone had fun ashore and slipped into their costumes, a family-friendly party was held in the atrium. Complete with children’s games, dancing and more costumes than I’ve ever seen anywhere collectively (the ship holds roughly 2,500 passengers, and we swear 2,499 of them were dressed up, many as families following various and staggeringly creative themes), the space was even more packed than the pool deck on a sea day during prime sunbathing weather.

Character meet-and-greet opportunities abounded throughout the sailing. (One perk of cruises with Disney is that Mickey and his usual gang of pals are far more accessible than they are in the Disney parks.) On Halloween, however, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Chip and Dale headlined the atrium’s three-deck DJ-spun dance party shenanigans — in costume, naturally.

For kids who were all about the candy, trick-or-treating was offered in the evening (in conjunction with the atrium party) at the onboard shops, just past the Guest Services desk on Deck 3.

Pirate Night
Halloween or not, each sailing also features Pirate Night, encompassing costumes (adults, too), afternoon pool deck fun, a pirate-themed dinner and after-dinner “Pirates in the Caribbean” fun — games and music on the pool deck, as well as Mickey and his friends in pirate garb. The highlight of the event was Captain Jack Sparrow, who rappelled from high atop the ship’s funnel to “rescue” the vessel from evil pirates; his victory kicked off an impressive fireworks display. (Disney is the only cruise line to offer fireworks at sea.) Although Pirate Night is enjoyable, it’s normally scheduled on October 31 for sailings during Halloween, so unless you and your little ones want to trick-or-treat as pirates, prepare to pack — and change into — at least two costumes for that day.

Adult Fun
Kids aren’t the only ones who get to have fun on Halloween. Sure, it’s Disney, but it doesn’t have one of the best kids clubs at sea for nothing. Drop the brood off in the Oceaneer Club or Oceaneer Lounge after hours, and head to The District — an adults-only (after 9 p.m.) area comprising the 687 pub, District Lounge, Pink Champagne bar and Evolution nightclub, where grownups enjoyed dancing and a costume contest. Those wishing to participate were told to head to the dance floor, where judges handed out cards for the most impressive costumes in several categories: best Disney theme, best group theme, most creative, scariest, etc. The audience then picked winners based on applause after each contestant gave a brief interview. (As a side note, Halloween for adults — especially women — can be an excuse to wear skimpy clothing and drink heavily. Due to the family-friendly nature of the ship, I was impressed with the level of taste exuded by the adults onboard. Similarly, the level of creativity and effort that went into most costumes was jaw-dropping. Kudos to Cinderella’s fairy godmother, an elderly woman who not only won in the best Disney theme category but who also made — by hand — her costume and the costumes for everyone in the family group with which she was traveling. Among them were Syndrome from “The Incredibles” and Cinderella’s stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella.)

— Ashley Kosciolek

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