What You Need to Know Before You Go to Peru (and Why You’ll Want to See More than Machu Picchu)

The following post is written by Kristin from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. She traveled to Peru in August 2018 on a G Adventures tour booked through Boscov’s Travel and shares her experiences.

Machu Picchu, Is it Really Worth Going to Peru for This?
Yep, it’s everything you’ve seen and more. Photos don’t do this majestic place justice. Built by the Incans in the 1400’s, this citadel boasts 200 structures created without the use of mortar – just expertly cut stone which has stood the test of time (think Legos). Lovers of nature and astrology, the Incans constructed the city between two mountain ranges and venerated the gods with temples, compasses, sundials, and more astrological marvels.

You need to see Machu Picchu NOW. The government continues to increase restrictions on and around the Seventh Wonder of the World (in fact, only 500 permits are permitted per day on the Inca trail making the trek to Machu Picchu). There are 2500 visitors per day allowed at the site and you need a bus ticket and ticket to enter before you go (G Adventures  handled this and we had no problem). As the popularity of adventure travel flourishes and Machu Picchu is appreciated by more and more tourists, our guide predicted that it will eventually be closed to the public.

But There’s More than Machu Picchu
The Incans didn’t Netflix and chill. It seemed that every few miles we would see evidence of Incan architecture. We toured the ruins of Moray, the agricultural center where the Incans deployed terraces to conduct agricultural tests and relay the results to their civilization. While in Moray, don’t miss the salt mines where the Incans devised a system to capture mountain springs and extract the salt through a pooled system. The ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo are architectural wonders considering the Incans had no use of a writing system and managed to construct structures that have stood for more than five centuries.

You Need A Tour Operator/Guide (Trust Me)
Without a guide, you’ll miss out on the local culture and cuisine. You’ll experience a communications barrier (most of the country does not speak English), wait in lines for hours, pay too much for souvenirs, and be confined to the touristy areas without really experiencing this spectacular country.
I highly, highly recommend G Adventures for your Peru trip. They take care of the details, tours, permits, tickets accommodations, and your own Peruvian CEO – Chief Experience Officer – who will be with you every step of the way. Our guide was Yuri.

A Foodie’s Delight
You’ll be a-maized by the food and flavors of Peru (sorry, hanging out with my dad too much). Being a pescaterian (no meat, yes to fish and dairy), I was concerned that my diet may consist of potatoes and corn but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of vegetables, fruits, fish dishes, cheeses, breads, and dishes that offered something for everyone. This is due to the country’s 84 ecosystems (there are 104 known in the entire world) that allow diverse crops to grow. Don’t leave Peru without trying an empanada and the ceviche.

 

  Altitude Sickness Is Real
Coming from a part of PA where our highest peaks are shy of 1700 feet, it’s a shock to the system to reach altitudes north of 11,000 feet. The first night, our tour guide Yuri advised our group to get a specific type of altitude pills. Even with the medication, my hands and feet felt tingly and my head heavy for the first two days. By day 4, I didn’t need the medication as my body adjusted.
G Adventures takes this into account for their travelers. Their itineraries gradually work you to high altitudes to minimize the negative effects and they always have water available.

Weather
Their weather is opposite of ours in North America. In August, prime tourist season, they experience their winter. We encountered highs of 68F and lows of 35F at night. Bring layers and research the weather when you’re hoping to go.

Be Prepared to Check an Additional Bag on Your Flight Home
Peru has the best souvenirs! You won’t be able to leave this country without some llama swag, Machu Picchu t-shirts, scarves, textiles, Peruvian salt, Alpaca dolls, and more. Your money goes further in Peru. When I traveled in August 2018, the exchange rate was approximately $1USD to 3 Soles. A t-shirt was 10 Soles or approximately $3 and change… I bought ALL. OF. THE. STUFF. In fact, one of my fellow travelers said her airline allowed 2 checked bags free of charge when flying to Peru… and 7 free when departing Peru.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate! Many things are unlabeled and the price verbally quoted is not necessarily the lowest price.

And the Best Thing You Will Experience In Peru…
The people. These people are hardworking, strong, tough, and prideful. They have very little compared to Americans but these people could not have been more joyful. They are very proud of their Incan heritage and many women still wear traditional dress. Everyone works – whether it is selling souvenirs, guiding tourists, weaving, farming, or caring for the alpaca, from kids to adults these people hustle. And they could not have been more kind or gracious.

 

Other quick facts:
– Don’t drink the tap water. Purchase bottled water as soon as you get to your hotel from the local market. On a G Adventures tour, your guide will collect a few dollars (for us it was approximately 10 soles each or less than $4) and will purchase boxed water for you to refill continuously throughout the trip.

– Get your passport stamped at Machu Picchu (after the exit before the bus line).

– You need to throw toilet paper in the waste can. Don’t flush it down the toilet or you’ll learn the hard way (like I did…).

– Don’t think you can rent your own car and figure out how to navigate this country. The drivers are aggressive! A fellow traveler compared the hectic driving to India.

– If you’re an avid hiker and love the outdoors, hike the Inca trail! As stated, you will need to obtain permits months in advance. G Adventures can assist you with this – whether you want to do the four-day hike or an efficient one-day hike. Just note – the Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance due to the rainy season (Jan – March).

– You should be in fairly good shape if you plan to go to Peru. Not only will the amount of walking and steps of the ruins affect you, the altitude makes the air thinner and tourists can lose their breath fast. It’s not just for 18 to 30-somethings… in fact, the average age of people who do the tour are in their 40’s and 50’s.

– Most places do not take Mastercard, but they will take Visa.

– Safety is key… but I never felt unsafe in this country. Our guide Yuri gave advice where/when to go when we had free time to explore. As long as you are smart about protecting your valuables and passport, you shouldn’t have a problem.

– Brush up on your grade school Spanish before you go!
Donde esta el bano – Where is the bathroom?
Si por favor – Yes, please.
Lo siento – I’m sorry.
Habla usted Inglés – Do you speak English?
Cuánto cuesta – How much is it?
Dos cervezas, por favor – Two beers please.

Peru will leave your mouth watering, your feet tired, camera full, suitcase bursting, your heart fulfilled, and your bucket list shattered.

Why book your G Adventures Peru trip with Boscov’s Travel?
– We are one of G Adventures recommended agencies.

– Book your bucket list trip… and receive special financing offers.

– When you’re on your trip, we’re available 24/7 with our emergency service line.

– You’ll pay the exact same price you see on GAdventures.com

If you’re ready to start planning your Peru vacation, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Tour information: G Adventures Explore Machu Picchu

 

The Passion Play at Oberammergau: An Event a Decade in the Making

Once every decade, the world has the opportunity to experience the Passion Play as it’s been performed for almost four centuries. The origins of the tradition stem from the early 17th Century when the plague was brought to the small town of Oberammergau in Germany. A promise was made by the residents of the town to perform the story of Christ’s final days if God spared them from the deadly disease. Within a season, the disease vanished from the town. Believing in a miraculous intervention, the town kept its promise and more than 2,000 residents take part in the production every 10 years.

The Passion Play is performed every decade ending in a zero, at an outdoor theater. Guests are treated to a 7-8 hour experience including the five hour play, intermissions and a three-course dinner. The play takes place from May through October, which is considered to be the most picturesque time of year in Germany. Although there are more than 100 performances, the play typically sells out well before the year of the play.

For those who want to experience the 2020 Passion Play, reservations are available now to reserve your seat. We recommend our preferred vendors Globus tours and Avalon Waterways river cruises for guided sightseeing of Europe and a guaranteed ticket to the performance.

To learn more about the once-in-a-decade Passion Play or to get a free quote on an upcoming trip, please contact a Boscov’s Travel Specialist at 800-755-8020 or email us at travelrequest@boscovs.com.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

 

A Glimpse into the Norwegian Bliss

Norwegian Cruise Line – known for their ongoing Free at Sea offer where cruisers choose their offer of open bar, kids sail free, specialty dining, and more – just launched their newest ship, the Norwegian Bliss. “She isn’t a new class of ship, but feels like one.”  Our team recently had the opportunity to experience three days on the ship custom-built for the Alaskan market, and we agree, the Norwegian Bliss lives up to her name. See our experience aboard Norwegian’s largest ship ever built.

We found fun around every corner. The Bliss’ innovative design gives cruisers endless opportunities to experience excitement aboard this nearly 168,000 ton ship. Challenge your kids to a go-cart race (the first ever electric track at sea in the North American market), a contest down the slides in the water park, or a lively game of laser tag under the stars.

Everywhere you look there is a new activity! A sprawling water park, a restaurant-lined boardwalk, Broadway-style production shows including Jersey Boys, and a state-of-the-art spa make the Bliss one of our favorite new ships.

If you’ve sailed on Norwegian ships, you know that Norwegian knows food. Fan favorite dining venues like The Waterfront, Los Lobos, Cagney’s and more. But by far, our favorite was the new modern Texas BBQ joint – Q. With live pop country music, this place rocks and is the ultimate southern comfort dining. Enjoy tex-mex delights or get your fill with the Master Platter including four types of meat and four sides.

The largest cruise ship to ever sail in Alaska, the Bliss will spend her summer sailing the coast of America’s last frontier. Over the next two years, she will sail from LA, Miami and NY during the fall, winter and spring.

To learn more about the Bliss or to get a free quote on your next cruise, please contact a Boscov’s Travel Specialist at 800-755-8020 or email us at travelrequest@boscovs.com.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

 

10 Tips When Traveling with Kids

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen’s an avid traveler with her husband and her three kids. 

At the conclusion of our third vacation with three kids, I threw my hands up in the air and proclaimed to my husband that I was beyond done traveling with kids. Puzzled–and knowing just how passionate I was about traveling and how much I looked forward to our trips–he questioned me as to why I wanted to stop, and I simply replied: “It’s just not a vacation anymore.”

At that point in our parenting journey, our travels had taken us with our 7-week-old first-born on a should’ve-been-8-hours-but-turned-into-12 car journey to the Carolina beaches; three times up to the Maine coastline (similar car drive, natch); several trips to the Jersey shore; countless local day trips and overnight trips to relatives’ homes; and once to Walt Disney World. Along those journeys, I had figured out how to breastfeed babies while strapped in their carseats, how to reduce the number of potty stops, how incredibly late my eldest could stay up well beyond her usual bedtime ignoring the lull of a moving vehicle, where we could get the healthiest “fast” food, and what was absolutely necessary to pack (and what could stay at home). And even though travel had become easier as our kids moved out of the infant stage, there was just something during that third year of managing three kids out of the familiarity and routine of home that made me say, “Enough!”

But despite my unusual outburst, on our way home, my husband and I talked and made plans for the following year of vacation, promising ourselves that we’d get better at planning and preparing to travel with our young brood, determined more than ever to share experiences that we loved with them while breaking them away from the monotony of home. With our kids now well into their teens, here’s what we’ve learned along the way:

1. You’ll only have as much fun as the person having the least amount of fun. Hats off to whomever told me this while we were in Walt Disney World as they observed my youngest beg for some frivolous souvenir–the 145th request that day–and then pout for a good hour afterwards when we wouldn’t succumb to his demands, thereby making it difficult for anyone else in our family to have a good time. While we still won’t cave to his persistent demands for overpriced mementos, we have learned how to vacation trying to meet the needs of each of our children to ensure they stay happy–or at least content–during our travels. Oftentimes, it means bargaining with our brood and trading our well-crafted itinerary for more time at the pool or going to the mini-golf course in exchange for happier kids for a happier vacation for everyone.

2. Less is more. I’ll never forget the first time we packed for a week vacation with our 7 week old. Even though her clothes were small, we filled our entire car as if we were moving the entire contents of our house out of the country. We had portable swings, and bouncy chairs, and beds, and sand tents, and bassinets–all of which were never used once since she had so many eager arms willing to take her at a moment’s notice of discontent. Be realistic about what you’ll use and pare down to what’s absolutely necessary. To make things easier on yourself while you travel, consider shipping big and bulky essentials to your destination, or take advantage of rental services: Many resorts or businesses in bustling tourist destinations offer everything from strollers to cribs at reasonable prices–and usually deliver and pick up directly to you for extra convenience.

3. And sometimes more is more when you’re traveling. Parents, don’t expect your 18-month-old-SO-overtired-from-being-off-his-routine toddler to magically fall asleep the moment you buckle him into the seat of the airplane. As often as we’ve flown, I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the inconsolable and content kids based upon the attentiveness of their parents and the novelty or lack of the items they brought with them to keep their children occupied. On most airlines, your toddler (if you paid for a seat for him) is afforded a personal item: Fill it with new and never-seen-before books, stickers, play-doh and crayons. Download new movies and apps to your tablet or phone before you take off. Bring dry snacks like pretzels and crackers, as well as drinks (which you can legally bring through TSA Security–see guidelines here), or purchase them after you’ve arrived at your gate. If you bought a seat for your toddler, use an FAA-approved airplane travel harness or travel with your own carseat so your child knows he must stay in his seat and can’t just walk around the plane whenever he feels like it. As much of a pain it is to lug a carseat through the airport, I’m forever grateful we did it with our hard-to-contain toddler’s first flight since it provided him somewhere to sit securely, as well as familiarity and a comfortable and safe place in which he was used to sleeping.

4. Stick to your child’s sleep schedule. While sleeping in and staying up late is one of the joys of adult travel, babies and young children are not nearly as adaptable to sudden changes in their schedule and routines. As much as it might pain you to leave sightseeing for a few hours every afternoon while you head back to the hotel for your child to rest, you might find it will save your sanity overall having a well-rested and happy child.

5. Let them plan parts of your trip. Just like involving your children in preparing dinner makes them more prone to eat it, giving your children some control over the planning of your vacation makes them more likely to enjoy it. For us, we’ve found that when our kids were little, they garnered the most amount of happiness with simple and easy choices, such as giving them a list of what we plan to do for the day and letting them plan the order in which we sightsee, or picking which restaurant to go to. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve given them more decision-making power in choosing destinations and activities–which allows their budding leadership and research skills to emerge!

6. Prepare yourself and your children for any physical demands of your vacation. For about a year or two after our children had graduated out of regular stroller use, we continued to bring one along on vacations where we knew we’d be walking a lot or pushing the limits of bedtime. If we still had a child who used a stroller regularly, we brought a double stroller so our walking kids could hop in and out of it as necessary for breaks or quick naps. Once we had decided that our brood had outgrown the use of a stroller, we’d start building their stamina several months prior to our travel date by taking them on long walks and slowly increasing our mileage until we felt confident we’d be able to travel successfully without the aid of one. This not only made the trip more enjoyable for them, but also for us as we weren’t trying to carry a 35-pound child for hours on end as we tried to accomplish our to-do list with a too-tired-to walk preschooler.

7. And on that note, don’t forget to take breaks. See tip #1. Once you have an overtired child, you’re likely to have an unhappy and bringing-down-the-rest-of-the-family child. Sometimes all your child needs is 5 minutes to sit and stop, enjoy a drink or a treat, and that’s enough to ensure his/her happiness for another few hours.

8. Bring cleaning supplies. True story: The last three times my kids have thrown up, it’s been while we’re on vacation. At home, they rarely catch GI bugs, but it seems the moment we travel during tummy bug season, someone comes down with it while we’re away from home. While it could simply be coincidence, I’ve decided to take no chances and have become fanatical about making sure our hard-earned money isn’t (literally) flushed down the toilet. We carry wipes to clean our room paying attention to remotes, toilets, doorknobs, handles and phones; we carry hand sanitizer and use it when sinks aren’t available; and we pay close attention to making sure everyone in the family washes their hands well before they eat and following bathroom breaks in hopes of avoiding illnesses. In the very least, while we haven’t been able to stop someone in our family from getting sick in the first place, our cleanliness measures seem to have worked to keep it contained to the one ill person in our family, only derailing our vacation plans for a day or two while he/she recovered.

9. Be present. For as long as I live, I will forever be grateful for every night that we’ve spent in a hotel room. Living in one forces me to recognize how little I need, and how close the quarters bring my family. One-by-one, freshly bathed kids make their way into my bed, to snuggle and to relive the favorite parts of their day. Exhausted, they fall asleep, and I find peace with the money we’ve scrimped and saved so that we can travel often. It’s the one time where our lives aren’t encumbered with deadlines, alarms, work, sports, activities, chores, homework or stress–and we soak in every second, grateful we’re able to afford the time together and to be present with one another.

10. Plan adult time. One of the greatest joys when we traveled with our young family and our parents was that my husband and I had built-in and willing babysitters to head out for a few hours for an adult dinner. As our children have gotten older and as we’ve traveled without grandparents, our kids have loved spending time in organized kids clubs. If your vacation plans don’t include trusted relatives or organized kids activities, we found it was always nice to give one parent a break for an hour or two as needed and allow them to seek some quiet with a book, or head to the spa or gym. Trips with kids aren’t always vacations for parents–particularly when your children are young–but allowing your spouse or significant other to have some down time (and get it in return) often allows you both to come home from your travels happy, refreshed and excited about the quality time you spent as a family–and without needing another vacation!

To learn more about family-friendly travel destinations, please contact a Boscov’s Travel Specialist at 800-755-8020 or email us at travelrequest@boscovs.com.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Jumping Ship: How the Rhine Reeled in an Avid Ocean Cruiser to River Cruising

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen recently interviewed Lisa Rohrbach, Boscov’s Travel’s Director of Training and Professional Development, about her first experience taking a river cruise.

Whether you’re a seasoned or first-time cruiser, it’s impossible to ignore the popularity and rapid growth of river cruising as an alternative to ocean cruising. With smaller and more intimate ships; destinations that only smaller ships can access; and a more inclusive experience with included shore excursions, alcohol and smaller expenses that add up during your vacation, like Wi-Fi, specialty drinks, room service, etc., it’s no wonder that many seasoned ocean cruisers are jumping ship to river cruising.

Lisa Rohrbach, Boscov’s Travel’s Director of Training and Professional Development, is one of those cruise enthusiasts who jumped ship from ocean to river cruising. After experiencing more than 25 ocean cruises, she recently sailed on her first river cruise with AMA Waterways on a 7-night cruise along the Rhine that included stops in France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. She shares her experience here, along with her thoughts on the differences between taking a river cruise and an ocean cruise.

Hi Lisa! We learned you recently sailed on your first river cruise with AMA Waterways. Since you’re an avid ocean cruiser, can you tell us how the two experiences are different?

River cruise ships are much smaller than most ocean cruise ships with a quieter, relaxed atmosphere—our ship only had 82 staterooms, as opposed to the hundreds that are on an ocean liner. I would compare a river cruise to an intimate family dinner versus an ocean cruise is more like an extravagant wedding celebration—obviously, they both have their positive attributes, it just depends on what type of environment and travel style you’re looking for.

What did you find you preferred about river cruising?

All of the inclusions onboard! Our price included all of our daily excursions, unlimited wine and beer with our meals, no additional charge for specialty coffees, plus all the little extra complimentary touches. Also, the food and wine onboard were excellent–we had fresh local selections daily.

What do you prefer about ocean cruising?

The evening entertainment and onboard casino. River cruises are wonderful during the day and they did offer some evening entertainment but it’s not on the same scale as an ocean cruise–it’s definitely more low-key.

Was this your first trip to Europe?

No, I have traveled to Europe many times before and have previously visited three of the four countries on this itinerary, including Switzerland, France and Germany. This was my first trip to Amsterdam, however, and even though I have visited the above countries before, many of the stops on the cruise’s itinerary were new to me. There were several quaint little towns along the Rhine which were very picturesque.

Why would you recommend a river cruise over a bus tour or independent travel?

Since you use your river cruise ship as a floating hotel, you only have to unpack once! Also, since it’s a very warm and friendly atmosphere, you develop a relationship with the staff and they quickly learn your preferences compared to staying at different hotels on a bus or independent tour.

Which excursion was your favorite or the highlight of your trip? Why?

My favorite excursion was a lovely walking tour of the old, historic center of Strasbourg, France. This area of the city looks like something out of a fairy tale with beautiful half-timbered houses with colorful flower boxes. It was so quaint and since I love history, this tour transported me back to another time!

Who do you think would be a good fit for a river cruise?

Travelers who love a stress-free atmosphere with good food and wine and enjoy walking, biking and exploring history and culture. Those who are also prone to motion sickness would prefer it over ocean cruising since we didn’t feel the movement of the ship at all.

Do you think there’s any sort of traveler who might not like one?

If you like a lot of evening entertainment, it may be too quiet at night for you. I also don’t think it’s a great fit for families with young children.

What were some highlights of the ship?

We loved our cabin, which was a twin balcony stateroom on the Violin Deck and featured both a regular and a French balcony. The lounge is a great meeting spot to relax and watch the scenery go by. We also enjoyed the regular dining and The Chef’s Table, which is an intimate restaurant that serves a five-course tasting menu.

Did anything surprise you?

Initially when you reserve a river cruise, the cost may seem higher than an ocean cruise but I was surprised that we had very few extra expenses while onboard. We only paid extra for a couple of cocktails that weren’t included in our fare, as well as gratuities to the cruise staff.

Do you have any tips for a first-time river cruiser that you’d be willing to share?

Don’t shy away from a river cruise based on the initial cost. It’s unlike an ocean cruise where the initial cost may be lower but once onboard you end up spending more money for drinks, shore excursions and specialty items.

Any other tips to share?

Yes! A great perk to booking with a Boscov’s Travel Specialist besides knowledgeable and friendly service is that you can use your Boscov’s credit card to pay for the trip in advance, receive 12 months to pay for it with no interest, and earn reward points!

A great tip! Thanks for your time, Lisa!

To learn more about the exciting destinations you can experience while taking a river cruise, please contact a Boscov’s Travel Specialist at 800-755-8020 or email us at travelrequest@boscovs.com.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Royal Caribbean Sails into the Future with New Technology and Guest Experiences

The following post is written by Kristin from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. She recently attended an event hosted by Royal Caribbean Cruises where they announced enhancements for future travel and what cruisers can expect in the years to come.

(Photo by Diane Bondareff/ Invision for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd./AP Images)

During a presentation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on November 9, Royal Caribbean’s Chairman and CEO Richard Fain introduced what Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara, envisions as the future of cruising by offering guests more interactive and seamless experiences both before they leave home, as they board the ship, and then as they enjoy their vacation on board.

Your phone will power your vacation all from the Sea Beyond app
With the Royal Caribbean Sea Beyond app, which debuted this past August on the Allure of the Seas, and is expected to be rolled out to 30% of RCL’s fleet by the end of 2018, you’ll be in control of your cruise experience from planning excursions, to making dinner reservations, to dimming the lights in your cabin. Royal envisions unlimited possibilities with the app, such as once you load your booking information, you can take a selfie, attach a payment method and start crafting your cruise experience, such as seeing 360 degree views of possible shore excursions. Once on board, use the app for practical purposes, such as tracking your luggage’s delivery to your room, or unlocking your door. Best part of all—the app even allows you to order drinks directly to your lounger, no matter where you are on board!
The app will also power more hi-tech encounters, allowing you to experience the ship like never before, such as discovering hidden games, information and experiences simply by pointing the camera on your app at designated spots. Posters will become games once the app is pointed towards it, and pieces of art will unfold to reveal hidden surprises.
If you don’t have a smartphone or if you’re looking for a more “disconnected” experience on your cruise vacation, don’t worry. Royal Caribbean will allow passengers traditional methods and services for making the most of your trip, allowing you to leave your chargers and phone at home or in your cabin.

Driverless cars will shuttle you to the ship in the future

Directly out of your favorite futuristic movie, Royal eventually plans on autonomous vehicles to shuttle you from parking to the ship.

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Once in the terminal, facial recognition technology makes the check in process easy and efficient reducing your wait time in line, allowing you to get to the fun faster and enjoy more of your well-earned vacation time. Speaking of terminals, expect a beautiful new terminal from Royal Caribbean in Miami in fall of 2018.

Robots will shake (or stir) things up at sea
Royal envisions their bionic robotic bartender arms can do more than just stir your favorite cocktail! Already outfitted in the popular Bionic Bars on the

Harmony, Quantum, Anthem and Ovation of the Seas, the bionic arms, which craft and deliver cocktails to guests, brought an entertaining mix of visual movement synched with lights and music. Royal envisions that their robotic arms could be harnessed in the future for entertainment and more aboard your favorite ship.

Floating on bubbles will deliver a smoother and more efficient cruise experience

A view of a virtual Royal Caribbean ship sails on hulls coated with precisely sized micro bubbles to improve fuel efficiency and reduce propeller noise.(Photo by Diane Bondareff/ Invision for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd./AP Images)

With a focus on energy-efficient solutions to minimize environmental impact, Royal also highlighted their new fuel cell technology and “air lubrication system.” According to their website, fuel cells reduce ship emissions with minimal negative effects on the environment while the air lubrication system coats the bottom of the ship with microscopic bubbles leading to less resistance with the current.

In the future, technology will create the perfect environment inside your cabin
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity’s vision of a future cabin comes complete with a digital sky, floor and artwork, bringing guests closer to nature. Stuck in an inside cabin? Turn on the channel showing the weather outside and local scenery. Weather a little less than stellar in your balcony cabin? Switch to the channel with the rainforest or switch back to the sunny weather from yesterday. Ready to mix it up? Fall asleep to the pitter patter of rainfall on lush leaves in the rainforest.

It’s impressive to see where the cruise industry is headed. By the end of the experience, it became evident that Royal wants to deliver an experience allowing each guest more time to relax. The company will begin rolling out these features this year and guests will experience increased integration with technology fleet wide by 2019.
To check out more details from the event, please visit: http://www.rclcorporate.com/rcl-seabeyond/

If you’re ready to start planning your next cruise, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Seven Ways to Get Upgraded to First Class (For Free)

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen’s an avid traveler and shares tips for getting upgraded. 

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Picking up my stuffed and heavy rolling carry-on and glancing at my seat assignment on my boarding pass and then the long, unmoving line of people ahead of me, my excitement about vacation immediately dwindles: The first leg of my journey is to the back of the plane, and judging by the already-filled overhead bins and the slow shuffle of people ahead, it feels like it’ll take just as long to get to my seat as it would take to walk to my vacation destination. Immediately, taking a look at the few front rows of people already comfortably seated, buckled in, and relaxing with a drink in hand and their valuables comfortably stored directly overhead, I start to think that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad investment to pay the extra, well, paycheck, it would have cost to fly first class.

If you’re like me, and flying as inexpensively as you can is as much of a goal as flying first class, and you’re trying to figure out whether it’s better to be financially practical or cave into your indulgent #YOLOfirstclassbaby!!! whims on your next flight, here are a few tips to try to do both and get upgraded to first class for free.

1. Join your airline’s rewards program and secure their credit card. In truth, most upgrades are now done arbitrarily at check in, not at the counter, often rewarding those who show elite status and loyalty to an airline. Additionally, seasoned travelers who are recognized by their home airport’s gate crew as being a frequent flyer are more likely to be handed an complimentary golden ticket to the front of the plane over someone who may be traveling with that airline for the first time.

2. Dress neatly.  As much as we want to travel in comfy clothes, airlines are more prone to put people who look like they belong in first class in first class.

3. Arrive or check in early—and sometimes late. Being among the first to check in online may increase your chances of being upgraded when it’s done electronically. It also helps to be the first to the counter to put in a request—especially when the staff isn’t stressed or rushed and is able to consider your request in calm circumstances. But in some cases, those types of decisions aren’t made until closer to the time of departure when the airline knows that they’re likely not selling any additional seats, which is when it’s sometimes beneficial to check in and arrive late for your flight.

4. Ask. While most upgrades are now done by computer, it never hurts to ask the counter staff in a very polite and nice manner without demanding one, and without badgering them. Be willing to nicely accept their answer, and accept the seat you originally paid for. Additionally, if you ask about the availability of getting upgraded, you may find the airline presenting you with an offer to pay for the upgrade with cash or airline miles at a greatly reduced rate over what you would have paid had you bought the seat outright.

5. Have a problem and be a good sport about it. While no one wants to deal with travel delays or overbooking issues, if you’re willing to give up your seat to another traveler in distress on an overbooked flight or if you encounter issues on the plane, such as a faulty armrest or tray table, you’re more likely to be compensated by receiving a complimentary upgrade on your next flight. While the hassle may be maddening, do your best to be kind and nice about the issues to the airline staff, who may not have any control over the situation, but have control over how to compensate you when you do finally get on your way.

6. Celebrate something. Airlines want to earn your repeat business and want you to associate happy memories with your event and their service. It certainly doesn’t hurt to slip into conversation with your gate or flight attendant that it’s your birthday, honeymoon or milestone anniversary if the opportunity arises.

7. Use a travel agent. Our Travel Specialists have established relationships with the airlines and can view upgrade availability. Airlines are also more likely to reward those who paid full-price (e.g., a refundable fare) and paid them directly, rather than booked through a discount travel site like Orbitz or Expedia, who take a cut of the fare. Travel Specialists may also be able to make comments on your reservation noting your special celebration or needs.

To temper expectations, know that free upgrades to first class are now very infrequent, and it’s always best to select and pay for a seat that you’ll know you’ll be happy with rather than expect you’ll receive something for free.

If you’re ready to start planning your next vacation, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Find Bliss on Norwegian’s Cruise Line’s Newest Ship

If go-karting at sea seems your speed, get ready to meet the new Norwegian Bliss. Debuting in the summer of 2018, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the 16th in their fleet, will initially spend her summers exploring Alaska and her winters island-hopping in the Carribean and Mexico. Besides offering the largest-at-sea two-level electric go-kart race track where drivers reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, the ship boasts an aqua park with a free-fall slide, a side-by-side racing inner tube slide, and a looping water slide that extends over the sides of the ship. Younger water lovers can splash under tipping water buckets and take aim at their parents with water cannons in the ship’s aqua park. And for those looking for a little less relaxation and a little more adventure can take aim in a competitive open-air laser tag course themed as an abandoned space station.

Foodies will delight at the ship’s southern-inspired cuisine, including the new Texas Smokehouse Q, featuring authentic Texas barbeque against the sounds of live contemporary pop country music, and Los Lobos, which offers upscale Mexican flavors along with guest favorites, like tableside fresh guacamole preparation and handcrafted margaritas. Steak lovers can challenge their stomach capacity with the 20-ounce Angus porterhouse featured at Cagney’s Steakhouse, and enjoy a nightcap at the A-List Bar, serving premium cocktails, wines and spirits. Even those missing their daily latte at sea will be thrilled to hear the ship houses a full-service Starbucks location, in a nod to its home port in Seattle.

Of course, no cruise would be complete without a little relaxation and spa-time, and like the ship’s name implies, bliss can be found in Mandara Spa, which also features a full-service salon and barber shop and fitness center. Due to popularity on its sister ship, Breakaway, Bliss features plenty of outdoor promenades and lounge and bar areas, as well as al fresco dining options to immerse guests in the cruise experience, as well as the beautiful views on board at sea. Custom-built for the Alaskan cruiser, guests will be able to view glaciers and the natural beauty of our northernmost state directly from the ship, or hop off at one of the Alaskan ports for sightseeing and exploring.

After departing from Seattle, the cruise will feature stops in the Alaskan ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. Whether exploring the Misty Fjords or zip-lining in Ketchikan, or trekking through glaciers or whale-watching in Juneau, or panning for gold or dog sledding through Skagway, Alaska offers adventure for everyone. Victoria, with its stunning Butchart Gardens and famed Chinatown, as well as Seattle’s Space Needle and historic Pike Place Market rounds out just a taste of shoreside opportunities for cruisers on the Bliss’ inaugural Alaskan voyages.

To learn more about the Bliss’ itineraries and price out your stateroom or suite today, please contact a Boscov’s Travel Specialist at 800-755-8020 or email us at travelrequest@boscovs.com.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Ahoy Cruisers! Here’s What We Learned Planning Our First Cruise

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen set sail on Disney Cruise Lines in September 2017. 

Confession: Despite having spent my childhood summers on the water from Maine to Maryland on my family’s small speedboat, I had never considered taking my own family on a cruise. Although I loved my summers on the ocean on our tiny little boat, graduating up to a huge ship wasn’t necessarily something that ranked highly on my vacation bucket list. But after several friends came home from a cruise raving about their experience, and after our kids kept hinting that they’d like to visit islands and the beaches in the Caribbean, we decided it was time to set sail. With the help of an experienced Travel  Specialist to guide us through the planning process, we planned a memorable vacation our whole family enjoyed. Here are a few things we learned along the way:

It’s so much more helpful to plan a cruise with a Travel Specialist

At first, planning a cruise seemed simple and something we could on our own  (we planned the trip prior to me joining the Boscov’s Travel team). But we quickly realized that everything—from picking a departure port, cruise line and a ship, and then a category and room on the ship, as well as an itinerary that worked well for us at the time we needed to vacation—was not nearly as simple as it originally seemed. Although we pride ourselves on being able to research and plan many of our own family vacations to the beach or other nearby locales, as inexperienced cruisers, we quickly became overwhelmed by the choices and realized that we needed expert help to be able to craft the perfect vacation that also fit into our budget. Our Travel Specialist, an experienced cruiser herself, quickly put us at ease and started to explain the process to us: First, roughly decide on your budget. Next, decide which cruise line appeals to you. For us, this was our simplest choice since we own a timeshare through Disney Vacation Club and had the option to use our points in lieu of cash (which we ultimately decided against doing since our points didn’t go very far towards covering our fare). But had we not been so committed to sailing Disney, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of cruise lines and the sometimes subtle or not-so-subtle differences among the ships, as well as price-points for sailing on each line. Once we had that narrowed down, we took a look at what ships and what itineraries were available during the timeframe we wanted to sail, and from where the ship departed so we could factor in any additional transportation and pre- and post-cruise lodging costs into our overall budget. At this point, with our Travel Specialist, we compiled a small list of suitable cruises and went to work on researching the ships and itineraries to decide which one appealed the most to us. Taking the information back to our kids, we determined as a family that we wanted to experience a short 3-night cruise for the first time to ensure that we all enjoyed it (and no one would be prone to motion sickness) before we invested in a longer week-long stay aboard a cruise ship. At this time, our Travel Specialist also advised us she felt it was best to fly to Florida at least a day before our cruise’s departure to take some of the stress out of worrying about flight delays or cancellations, which might affect our ability to get to the port on time. This pre-cruise stay allowed us to get in two nights at Walt Disney World prior to our cruise, thus extending our short cruise into a longer land and sea vacation, which was great for us since we knew we’d be blending together a familiar and fun vacation spot along with a new and unfamiliar experience.

Figuring out your budget and what’s most important to you

Once our ship, date and itinerary were chosen, it was time to tackle where to stay on the ship. Unlike most vacations where we’re placed wherever the hotel chooses to put us, cruising is much different with cruisers selecting the exact room they’d like to stay in. Prices can also wildly vary with those staying in interior rooms low on the ship paying much less than those staying high on the ship with verandahs or balconies. Additionally, like airfare, cruise pricing is not set: Generally, cruises are least expensive  when the itineraries and dates are first announced (often a year to almost two years in advance – see current itineraries here http://boscovstravel.com/temp/Disney-Cruise-Line-Sailings-2017-2018.pdf), and steadily increase in price as you near the sailing date. Because our family chose a short cruise, and because we were not sailing to many ports of interest, we decided to splurge on our accommodations to make the most out of our time on the ship. As first-time cruisers, and since communication to our Travel Specialist would be cut off as soon as we sailed away from Port Canaveral unless we wanted to pay exorbitantly high roaming charges on our cell phones, we decided it would be in our best interest to have the help of a concierge staff to help us with any request, including personalized help with booking on-board experiences and off-ship excursions both before and during our stay. Our concierge privileges also enabled us to be among the first to board the ship, maximizing the time of our vacation, plus gave us access to a special lounge steps from our room that offered specialty coffee, hors d’oeuvres, and beer, wine and cocktails, which are not normally included in your cruise fare. While our concierge stay nearly doubled the cost of our cruise compared with us sailing in a less expensive cabin on the ship, as first-time cruisers unfamiliar with cruising and overwhelmed with the options each day both on and off the ship, we were glad we opted to go for a shorter cruise to save money and instead splurged for the extra help and truly personalized service we received from the concierge staff—they made everything incredibly easy and stress-free for us from the moment we arrived at the port to the moment we stepped off the ship.  While we were definitely spoiled this time by the amazing service of the concierge staff, we certainly feel more confident to sail without such a luxury next time now that we know the lay of the land and what to expect during a cruise vacation.

Because we allocated so much of our budget towards our concierge room, we didn’t have much left over for excursions off the ship, nor for much pampering or paid-activities on the ship. Cruises are packed with hourly entertainment for the whole family, and while most activities and dining are included with your fare on a Disney cruise, some activities are not, such as wine tastings, spa treatments and specialty dining and beverages. Additionally, nearly every excursion off the ship cost something—whether it was a couple of bucks per person, or sometimes several hundred per person. Since our next cruise will likely be longer in length, and we’ll place importance on the ports over the on-the-ship experience, we’ll likely sail in more moderate accommodations to be able to afford excursion adventures and some additional fun things on the ship while we’re at sea.

Other financial considerations also include the cost of passports for your family if you don’t already have them, gratuities for your dining and stateroom attendants, as well as travel insurance. We were incredibly fortunate to be the last unaffected sailing prior to Hurricane Irma’s arrival, and didn’t stress too much about her impending arrival since we knew our trip would be covered due to any delays or disruptions.

Because we received such experienced guidance by our Travel Specialist when planning our trip, and had such personalized help with the concierge staff on the ship, we were truly able to simply relax and enjoy every second of our cruise, making it a truly unforgettable and fun experience for our whole family.

If you’re ready to start planning your next cruise, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

My Stay in Iceland: The Top 5 Places to Visit Within A Day’s Drive of Reykjavik

The following post is written by Kristin from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Kristin traveled to Iceland in September 2017. 

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Tourism in Iceland is booming; more tourists visited in the past decade than the previous 6-decades combined. Tourism in 2017 exceeded 25% growth over the previous year. Hearing about the beauty of the landscape and encouraged by a friend who had recently visited, I planned a short trip for September.

We stayed in Reykjavik, the capital city, during our stay from Sunday through Wednesday. Only a short 30-minute drive from the airport, the city is home to a majority of the population and provides easy access to amazing natural landscapes. Equipped with Google Maps and a rental car, we spent each day venturing out to central and southern Iceland seeing the best the country has to offer. Here are my favorite sites we experienced all within a day’s drive of the capital city.

Experience the best of Iceland all within a day’s drive of Reykjavik: 

5. Geysir & Gullfoss Waterfalls

Drive time from Reykjavik: 1 hour 45 minutes (part of the Golden Circle route)
The active Geysirs are just an 8-minute drive from the double-tiered Gullfoss Waterfall which are the largest volume falls in Europe.

4. Vik Beach (Reyinsfjara)

Drive time from Reykjavik: 2 hours 15 minutes or half an hour from Skogafoss waterfalls
Black sand from lava makes this beach one of the most unique in the world. The allure of the site is enhanced by the basalt cliff made of symmetrical columns formed by lava. This is not a swimmable beach (if you go, watch for the ‘sneaker waves’) but is perfect for a scenic walk.

3. The Blue Lagoon

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Drive time from Reykjavik: 45-minutes (20 minutes from the airport)

An obligatory stop if you’re in Iceland, this Instagram-worthy photo op is worth the price of admission. Most of the country is powered by geothermal energy, and this lagoon is made from water powered by the local plant. The temperature is about 100 degrees Farenheit and is said to have relieving effects on the joints, while the rich silica water leaves your skin feeling nourished for the next few days.
After about an hour and a half you’ll come to the realization that you’re basically in a hot tub with 200 strangers and be on your way.

2. Skogafoss Waterfalls

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Drive time from Reykjavik: 2 hours or a half hour drive from Vik Beach
The drive to this attraction near the southern coast is a beautiful one. Stop on the side of the road to pet the horses, spot the free roaming sheep or take a panoramic of the picturesque landscape.
Drive around a mountain and you’ll be greeted with the beautiful waterfall. A quick hike up the stairs gives you an unparalleled view of the fall’s crest, countryside and sea. Make an afternoon of it climbing for even more impressive views.

1. Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir)

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Drive time from Reykjavik: 1 hour (part of the Golden Circle route)
This place has it all. Waterfalls, a lake, mountains, marsh lands, diving, rainbows – this is a must-see for anyone traveling to Iceland. Game of Thrones fans will recognize the landscape as the entrance to the Eyrie and the tundra where Brienne defeated the Hound.

Know before you go: 
– Water in many parts of the country have a strong sulfur smell. If you stay in the capital, be prepared to notice it while you shower, in your water and more. Though they say it’s safe to drink, we opted for bottled water – the locals will tell you it’s the same thing, but judge for yourself.

IMG_5881-Layers are your best friend. The temperature ranged in the mid-40’s at night to the low-50’s during the day. We experienced three of four days of intermittent showers. The temperature felt as though it ranged from the 30’s – 60’s. Quickly convert Celcius to Farenheit: multiply by 2 and add 30.

– Things are expensive. Most goods need to be imported leading to a high cost for eating out, souvenirs, fuel for driving and more. For example, a bowl of soup cost $20 at a local restaurant. There are grocery stores where you can purchase provisions for day trips – locals recommended Bonus and Kronan (look for the big yellow signs for both).

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Iceland is a truly breathtaking country and a bucket list destination for any adventurer. It is the ideal layover stop when traveling to/from Europe and Icelandair’s incredible stopover deal allows you up to 7-nights to experience the best of Iceland without an additional ticket charge.  If you’re ready to start planning your Icelandic getaway or make it a layover on your journey to Europe, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.