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

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.

MSC Divina Review (and Why You Need to Stay in the Yacht Club)

The following post features a review of the MSC Divina from Lisa at Boscov’s Travel. Lisa is the Director of Training and Professional Development at the company’s headquarters, and has over 40 years of travel industry experience.

The MSC Divina Ship

MSC Cruises recently became one of our preferred cruise partners (they deliver great value to clients, are a reputable company and work closely offering training and support to our specialists) so I was eager to experience the cruise line. Our MSC Cruises rep, John, highly recommended the Yacht Club, a specific category of cabins. 

Here’s how MSC describes the Yacht Club:
“The epitome of elegance and luxury at sea, The MSC Yacht Club offers a cruise experience like no other. Lavishly appointed suites, exclusive 24-hour butler service and a dedicated concierge are only the start. All-inclusive private restaurant, unlimited drinks in all venues or from your minibar, complimentary beverage selection in all onboard bars and restaurants, and exclusive access to The One Pool Bar & Grill Deck and Top Sail Lounge are just some of the other privileges.”

In early May 2017, my husband, son, daughter-in-law, infant grandson, and I sailed on the MSC Divina. We took John’s advice and booked the Yacht Club by taking advantage of one of MSC’s annual promotions. Needless to say, John’s recommendation was on point and I definitely felt it to be worth the price based on the service and perks we received!

The Divina is a very attractive, clean, well-maintained ship; we had a relaxing cruise and many times did not realize we were moving.  The Swarovski Crystal staircases are spectacular, especially at night with the lights shining on them…it looked like thousands of sparkling diamonds!  Our sailing was sold-out with a mixture of passengers from the US, Canada, Europe (especially Italians) and South America. 

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MSC Divina

Itinerary

May 6 – Miami, Florida
May 7 – At Sea
May 8 – Ocho Rios, Jamaica
May 9 – George Town, Cayman Islands
May 10 – Cozumel, Mexico
May 11 – At Sea
May 12 – Nassau, Bahamas
May 13 – Miami, Florida

Embarkation (Departure for those new to cruising)

Embarkation was a breeze, there was a separate check-in for Yacht Club guests. Because we were in the Yacht Club, we were escorted by a butler to a private lounge at the pier with cool towels, champagne, juice, and light hors d’oeuvres and cookies. We then bypassed the long lines and were taken directly to the Top Sail Lounge and Concierge on the ship to complete our check-in (we registered our credit cards and met our personal butler who explained how the Yacht Club works, etc.).

Living the Dream at the Yacht Club

Our butler escorted us immediately to our cabin and explained how the elevator system worked with our Cruise Cards. There is a separate bank of elevators at the front of the ship that works magic for Yacht Club guests. You insert your Cruise Card in a slot, push some buttons and the elevators come immediately to your floor. You can also insert your Cruise Card in a slot inside the elevator and make it an express elevator to whatever floor you want.

Our cabin, a Yacht Club Family Suite, was in the front of the ship with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows in both rooms. The cabin was 547 sq. ft. and had a separate living room with sofa-bed, a bedroom with a vanity area and walk-in closet, a large bathroom with double vanities, a full-size tub and a separate shower with an amazing shower system (I want one of these for my house!). We had two safes, two flat-screen TV’s, two phones, a small fridge (fully stocked daily with whatever we wanted), a snack cabinet, a double closet in the living room and lots of storage space (we didn’t use it all). We also received 4 bathrobes/slippers, lots of toiletries in the bathroom, and a choice of 4 types of pillows for the beds. Travelers should be aware that most of the outlets were European (our butler brought us a couple adapters). The only two US outlets were at the vanity in the bedroom (I guess this goes back to their European roots).

The Yacht Club Facilities

Anything you would normally take care of at the Guest Services Desk could be done at the Concierge Desk outside the Top Sail Lounge for Yacht Club guests. There was a full-service bar here which also served coffee beverages plus there was always a light buffet spread throughout the day and into the evening.  

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Top Sail Lounge

The One Pool Bar & Grill on the 18th deck is exclusively for Yacht Club guests. It has a small pool, two Jacuzzis, lots of chaise lounges, a private bar and a small grill/buffet with some cooked-to-order specialties. This quiet area was never full and noisy like the main pool areas on the rest of the ship and the staff was very attentive.

Dining

We had most of our meals in the Le Muse Restaurant which is the exclusive restaurant for Yacht Club guests. For lunch we tried the One Pool Bar & Grill, the Sports Bar, the Eataly Pizza, the Main Buffet and lunch on our two excursions. I was a little anxious about having a 10 month old infant in Le Muse every evening but no worries. My grandson was great and the staff here was very welcoming…the hostess and our assistant waitress loved him and used to entertain him every time they saw him! This restaurant had a special children’s menu for different age groups including toddlers (they don’t carry commercial baby food). Luckily my grandson is starting to eat table food and they also made some special fruit smoothies for him. He enjoyed his meals very much and I don’t think he’ll want to go back to eating baby food after this trip (LOL)!

Drink Package

MSC just started offering the free drink package to Yacht Club guests for everywhere on the ship starting in April. Prior to that, you could only get free drinks in the Yacht Club area. For the IMG_0908most part this worked well, but there were a few times in the non-Yacht Club bars where we got charged for drinks. When this happened, we told the Concierge who immediately removed it from our account. They said their staff is still in a learning curve because of this new program for Yacht Club guests. This free drink package also included specialty coffee drinks and gelato (which is excellent!).

Port Service

Whenever we were in port, our butler escorted us to the gangway (the ramp connecting the port to the ship) where we were taken to the front of the line. When we returned to the ship, we would show our Cruise Card and immediately be taken to the front bypassing the long lines. We had our own entrance to the ship at most ports and priority tender tickets for Grand Cayman. We were always greeted upon our return with cold water and cool towels.

Entertainment

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Theater

We went to one show, “Pirates”, which was good…it was a mixture of singing, dancing, acrobatics, juggling and magic tricks. They were heavily promoting a Michael Jackson show which we wanted to see but they didn’t schedule it until the last night. We didn’t have enough time to see it with packing and preparing to go home. I wish they would have scheduled it earlier in the week because the previews on TV looked very good. They have a decent size Casino (non-smoking) with slot machines (mostly penny, a few $1.00) and several table games.

Disembarkation

We had a few glitches with disembarking the ship but from what I understand MSC is building a new ship terminal in Miami so hopefully once that’s completed , the process will operate more smoothly.

Overall, we had an excellent vacation on the MSC Divina and I highly recommend the MSC Cruises Yacht Club experience to my clients and colleagues. img_0907.jpg

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If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, 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.

A Week at the Excellence Playa Mujeres

The following post is written by Adam from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.  Adam recently vacationed at the Excellence Playa Mujeres, and shares his insight into the resort and his overall travel experience booked through Boscov’s Travel.

DSCN0145.JPGAfter spending a week in Mexico two years ago, my wife and I decided to spend our yearly vacation in the land of guacamole again this year. During our previous stay in at the Secrets Silversands resort in Mexico, we enjoyed the beach but it wasn’t ideal for going into the deep waters of the Caribbean. When deciding where to go this year, the beach had to be priority. After much research, discussion and competitive “the resort I found is better than yours” banter we decided on the Excellence Playa Mujeres. And by we, I mean her.

After the flight and breezing through customs we were picked up by AMStar Tours for our private transfer to the resort. The resort was about 20 minutes from the Cancun Airport. Our guide, Carlos, did a fantastic job of providing an update of the Cancun area since our previous visit. During the drop off at the resort, he also provided his contact information in case we needed to change our pick up time or schedule any excursions we wished to take with AMStar Tours.

If you are going to an all-inclusive in Mexico, I would highly suggest using AMStar for airport transfers from the airport to the resort. They are dedicated to providing world-class services and their team is staffed by nothing less than travel professionals. And besides, when you’re stepping into a private vehicle at the airport, it makes you feel like a celebrity. Treat yo self!

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After making it through the city, we finally arrived at the Excellence Playa Mujeres. As always, it’s nice to be greeted with a cold towel and “Complimentary champagne, Sir?” Once inside, it’s always a sight to behold at how large the lobby can be at an all-inclusive resort- three floors and decorated to the nines. After checking in, we were escorted to our room right away. This year we decided to splurge a little more on our room and stayed in a Terrace Suite with Plunge Pool.

This Terrace Suite offers an expansive (807 sq. ft.) private terrace with Plunge Pool, comfortable lounge furniture and an open-air shower. If you decide to spend a vacation at this Excellence resort, stay in this suite. It was nice waking up in the morning and being able to lounge or swim when the sun was coming up. Also, my wife and I would enjoy a cocktail before going down to dinner each evening.

Excellence offers gourmet dining in ten international restaurants and eleven bars; no reservations needed. All meals, unlimited beverages, snacks, and 24/7 room service are included, plus all of the restaurants feature healthy menus and vegetarian dishes.

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We ate at a majority of the restaurants for dinner, the only ones we didn’t eat at were Basmati (Indian), Spice (Asian), and the Flavor Market (Tapas). And the only reasons why we didn’t eat at those places was because we wanted to eat at Chez Isabelle (French) and Agave (Mexican) more than once. I really believe that the menus in the restaurants at the Excellence are designed so that you are able have an appetizer, a salad, the main course, and dessert, and leave satisfied. The meals are portioned well and never disappoint.

Lunch was another experience all together. The Excellence had your standard buffet for breakfast and lunch. In addition to that, the Lobster House and the Grill offered a la carte menus for lunch. But the one we visited the most was Las Olas. Las Olas is located on the beach and has a selection of fast food, salads, wood-oven pizzas, and grilled favorites. The main course they offered was different everyday. One day we ate Seafood Paella, which was prepared in a giant wok, and another day we had Jamaican Jerk Chicken. It was fresh and served buffet style. It was by far the best place to eat lunch.

During our stay in Cancun 2 years ago, we went on a snorkeling excursion that gave us the opportunity to swim with sea turtles. This excursion is no longer available because the sea turtles habitats are now protected, which is a great because it helps the species from becoming extinct. So this year we decided to buy our own snorkeling gear and bring it with us.

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The beach at the Excellence provided more than enough space and ocean for us to explore the waters. We snorkeled at least twice a day and saw Bluefin Trevally, Starfish, Batfish, Sea Turtles, and a Manta Ray. Because of our decision to buy snorkeling gear, we decided we didn’t need to leave the resort to experience an excursion. We also took advantage of the free water sports offered by the resort and took the Stand Up Paddle Boards into the Caribbean a handful of times.

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Overall, our stay at the Excellence Playa Mujeres was by far the best vacation at an all-inclusive we have ever had. The service of the staff, the accommodations, the food, and the overall experience exceeded our expectations and was nothing short of amazing.

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If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, 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.

Travel Cheaper by Knowing When to Book: How to Get the Best Prices on Your Vacation


_0024_Melissa-Wentzel-SeamanThe following post features advice from Melissa at Boscov’s Travel within Boscov’s at Reading Mall. Melissa has been giving expert travel advice for the past 9 years with Boscov’s Travel and has almost three decades of experience in the industry (she was previously a flight attendant). She has the scoop on the best time to buy air tickets, when to book a cruise and how you can make the most of a European vacation. 

When should I book my honeymoon?
Sandals-Whitehouse-European-beach-coupleHoneymoons should be planned 6 to 9 months in advance of your wedding date. We offer a honeymoon registry which allows your guests to contribute to your honeymoon. Because vacations typically need to be paid in full at least 45-days in advance, we recommend that you plan your honeymoon early, then distribute the complimentary “Registered with” announcement cards with your engagement party and/or bridal shower.

How far in advance should I plan my destination wedding? 
Sunscapes-WeddingYou should plan at least a year in advance to secure the space you want, determine the officiant, decide if it will be a symbolic ceremony or nuptial service, and give friends and family ample time to book their trip. Some resorts allow you to book a few years in advance, so the sooner you choose the resort, the better. If air schedules have not yet been released, you can book your resort now and purchase flights at a later date. Luckily we have Honeymoon & Destination Wedding Specialists to help you to navigate every last detail.

How far in advance can I book a European vacation?

Prices for flights to Europe have been historically low in 2017. Summer is the peak for visiting Europe, so you can typically save a few dollars by booking in the late spring or early fall. Typically we recommend you book 9-months out from your departure date.

How far in advance should I book a river cruise?
Rhine_Cologne_Sunset_Twilight_014Because inventory is lower than other categories due to the small sizes of the ships that need to navigate the canals and rivers of Europe and beyond, we recommend that you book a year in advance to get the cabin and dates that you want.

How far in advance is airfare available to purchase? 
The major airlines typically release pricing 330 days in advance, but the prices are incredibly volatile. If you’re not booking for a flight near a major holiday, we recommend that you book 6 to 9-months out from your departure date. Flight prices are relatively high when they are released, then drop around the 6 to 9-month range.
If you’re planning on traveling around a holiday, expect to pay 2 to 4 times the normal rate. Demand is high during these periods as students and families typically travel during national holidays. In this case, book your trip as soon as you can.

Southwest Airlines is the exception. They release their rates in increments. Right now in April 2017, they have dates available to book 7-months out, or the beginning of November.

How early can I plan a Walt Disney World vacation?
Disney-Mine-TrainTravelers typically book Walt Disney World 6 to 9-months in advance. As of the beginning of April 2017, rates for tickets and resorts at Walt Disney World for 2018 were not yet available. There are a few options for booking Walt Disney World vacations with with us due to our Boscov’s Travel Exclusive Charter to Walt Disney World package.  If you are just booking a Walt Disney Travel Company land package (meaning tickets and resorts), you can book in the 6 to 9-month time frame then call us to see if you can take advantage of a future sale or offer through Walt Disney Travel Company.

How early should I look into booking an all-inclusive resort?
Beaches-Turks-&-Caicos-poolWe recommend booking an all-inclusive resort 6 to 9-months from your departure date. It’s also the ideal time to book air, so we can help you purchase it as a package with transfers from the airport to the resort.

How far in advance should I book an ocean cruise like Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, or MSC Cruises? 

Booking opportunities typically become available more than a year in advance. The average lead time is 6 to 9-months for booking a cruise. You may be able to get a good last minute deal if you’re flexible with the accommodations, though you may diminish the difference if you need airfare as rates typically increase for last minute bookings. If you’re driving to a local port like Manhattan, Bayonne, NJ or Baltimore, MD, a last minute booking may help you save a few bucks. Luckily, the cruise industry has changed dramatically over the past few years and almost every cruise line offers exceptional values throughout the year.

When should I plan a Disney Cruise Line cruise?
Disney-Cruise-Line-ShipDisney Cruise Line cruises are a different animal as spaces fill up relatively quickly since there are only four ships (to give you a point of reference, Royal Caribbean International has 25!) in the fleet. Since the ships sell out in advance, we recommend you book at least a year in advance. As space sells, the prices increase. As of April 2017, the 2018 schedule is available and several 2019 itineraries can also be booked.

If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, 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.

What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Cuba

The authenticity of a culture from another time, combined with the lure of being one of the first to visit, make Cuba one of the hottest destination topics for American travelers. How can we travel to Cuba? Can we visit now? Is it legal? How does it work?  What are the travel requirements? As Travel Specialists, we always look to share information to navigate the tricky restrictions of travel, such as those posed by the Cuban government. Here are some quick facts and tips about travel to Cuba, courtesy of the U.S. Department of State.

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Streets of Havana

REGULATIONS

Currency: U.S. credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba. Bring cash to pay for any expenses incurred while you stay.

Passports: For any US citizen traveling outside the US, passports should have 2 blank pages and the passport should be valid at least 6 months AFTER your return date.

Tourist Visa:  You must obtain a license from the Department of Treasury or your travel must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel. These include family visits, official business of the US government, journalistic activity, professional research & meetings, educational activities, religious activities, public performances/competitions, support for the Cuban people, humanitarian projects, activities of private foundations/research/educational institutes, exportation/importation/transmission of information, certain authorized transactions.

If travel is not covered by a general license, you must seek OFAC authorization in the form of a specific license. Travelers who fail to comply with regulations may face penalties and criminal prosecution. See the Department of Treasury webpage. For travel-specific questions, please see 31 C.F.R. 515.560 and OFAC’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Visit the Cuban Embassy website for visa requirements. Cuba also requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, which can normally be purchased at the airport upon arrival to Cuba. Questions about insurance should be directed to the Cuban Embassy.

THE MOST CONVENIENT WAY TO VISIT CUBA

Despite the fact that Cuba is now a bucket list destination for a lot of travelers, keep in mind that visiting Cuba is not a beach-style vacation! As per U.S. licensing requirements, the onshore excursion itineraries offered by our vendors are full-time, people-to-people programs with scheduled tours and activities. There will be little free time on most days.

Two preferred vendors we recommend that visit Cuba are Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. Experiencing Cuba as part of a cruise is one of the easiest ways to be compliant with travel regulations and gives you time on vacation to relax with optional experiences at other ports in the Caribbean. Plus Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International make it easy to obtain a visa. With Norwegian, download and submit a certification form and provide via email to Norwegian. On Royal Caribbean, the visa will be provided on embarkation (departure) day from port. Both charge a fee of $75.

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Norwegian Sky
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Royal Caribbean International Empress of the Seas

Cruising to Cuba offers you the security of the cruise ship at night while giving you the authentic Cuban experience during the day. Both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean offer overnight stays in Cuba. Optional shore excursions include Hemingway’s Havana, Old Havana City Sightseeing, Havana by Classic American Car, Havana Heritage Walking Tour, Best of Havana, and more.

WEATHER & PACKING

cuba-1092372-pixabayHavana’s temperature ranges from an average low 66/high 78 in January, to an average low 75/high 89 in its warmest month, August. Cuba is known  for its casual, laid-back lifestyle and tourists are encouraged to dress casually. Pack breathable, lightweight clothing, rain gear (summer months can pour over 7″ of rain onto the island), comfortable shoes, sunglasses, bug spray, and hand sanitizer.

Cuba is sure to be a top travel destination for Americans for the next few years. We highly recommend using a Boscov’s Travel Specialist to navigate the travel restrictions before visiting this beautiful and authentic country. If you’re ready to raise a Cuba Libre and to step back in time to experience the culture of Cuba, visit your local Boscov’s Travel Specialist or call 800-755-8020. Our complete vacation-planning services are always free.

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.

Adventures in Costa Rica; 4-Day Fam Trip

The following post is written by Amy from Boscov’s Travel within Boscov’s at the Colonial Park Mall in Harrisburg, PA.  Amy recently visited Costa Rica on a FAM trip. In the travel industry, FAM trips – better known as familiarization trips – help travel agents learn what’s available for their clients in destinations across the globe. Amy traveled on the FAM in August 2016. 

I was lucky enough to visit Costa Rica this past August with AMResorts, a Boscov’s Travel preferred resort vendor, on a FAM trip. “Preferred vendor” means we have strong partnerships with the resort because of their service and value to clients. We are often able to offer more perks and value added deals for clients because of this preferred status. The goal of the trip was to experience the country, culture, and resort options to share with my clients.

crOur first stay was at Dreams Las Mareas for two nights. Las Mareas is Dreams newest vibrant, beach getaway for couples, families, and singles to enjoy an escape. It is located on an expansive palm-studded beach and surrounded by lush green mountains and jungles on Playa El Jobo in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. This resort has multi-levels and I had the privilege of staying in a top floor ocean view with a Jacuzzi on the balcony. Most of the rooms are located in one main building and close to the restaurants. There are a few bungalows closer to the ocean, but there’s not a bad room within the resort.

On day three we made our way to the next resort, but first stopped to take an adventure excursion, the Mega Combo Tour. This is an optional add on through AMStar, a premier destination management company. This excursion has everything! We started our experience by flying from tree to tree on a thrilling zip line canopy tour, complete with hanging bridges and twelve zip line stations. After, we walked through Guanacaste’s flora and fauna and found ourselves staring down a 1,300 foot water slide! Rushing down through it and falling into a refreshing pool.

After lunch we journeyed to a spa, and finished the day very relaxed. You can get to the spa either by a 45-minute horseback ride or by a specialized vehicle. At the spa, I experienced the volcanic mud bath and felt revitalized and young after the adrenaline-filled morning. I would highly recommend this tour since you get to experience many different things and our guide with AMStar was wonderful.

Our next stay was at Secret Papagayo for another two nights. Secrets Papagayo is a sophisticated, adults-only property and my new favorite resort. Most of the rooms are bungalows situated on a mountain. It is a large property and they have trams to shuttle guests around the property to the beach, restaurants and beyond. This is a lovely resort for a destination wedding or honeymoon. My room was behind the spa, and despite not having an ocean view, the room was spectacular. I would highly suggest getting the ocean view or requesting a bungalow higher up on the mountain. We experienced the preferred club status at both properties, which included upgraded amenities in the rooms and access to the preferred club lounge with top shelf spirits.

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Going on a FAM trip doesn’t mean travel agents can relax the entire time. During the FAM,  we are taken around properties on “site inspections” and conducted tours to see as much the resort as possible. We see all other room categories, sample fare at all the restaurants and tour the spa. We also meet with the Sales Managers, Group Customer Service, and receive training to learn about the area and what it has to offer for our clients. We do this for our clients so we can provide the best possible recommendations for their vacation needs.

The entire trip was wonderful … the people, the rooms, the food, the atmosphere. I can’t praise this experience enough! I would definitely hope to return and I highly recommend these resorts to clients looking for an upscale Costa Rica experience at a luxury resort.

If you’re ready to learn more about adult-only resorts in Costa Rica, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, 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.

A Millennial’s Guide to Travel

The following post is written by Adam from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.  Adam is well traveled and shares his insight and tips for the tech-savvy traveler. 

As a millennial that travels frequently, I wanted to share my tips and advice for traveling in your twenties and thirties. We live in a connected world. We pay bills, get rides, and stay connected to friends and family all because of smart phones. Chances are if you looking to purchase something, you probably do the research necessary to find the best deal.

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The first step in planning a trip is research. Now I know what you are thinking “I have a smart phone, I can find the best deal out there.” But that’s not necessarily the case. Do you know all the deals that a particular travel vendor is offering? Do you know that in some cases offers can be combined? Did you know that traveling to Mexico between January and April is the best time to avoid blistering heat and bad weather? If you cannot answer these questions, and if you are conscious about spending, then it is in your best interest to contact a travel agent. Everyone can benefit from checking with a travel agent when planning their next trip.

I know what you are thinking, “Travel agents cost money.” Actually a travel agent will cost you … nothing. Here’s how it works: you book your cruise with a travel agent on Titanic Cruises for the same rate OR LESS than listed online (or with additional perks), and the cruise line pays the agency for helping you to book. You book a vacation with your local travel agent and the resort pays the agency. A study came out this year reporting that travel agents save consumers an average of $452 per trip!  Booking with a travel agent is a win-win because not only can you save time and money, but you support a local business. Yay you!

But what it really comes down to is knowledge. Millennials want options and flexibility. A travel agent has knowledge across many facets of the travel industry. From the independent traveler who seeks adventure, to the couple who wants to immerse themselves in a new culture, and the young family who is traveling with children for the first time, a travel agent can serve as a guide to find the best vacation for you. Having a travel agent who is well traveled gives you options and flexibility when planning where they want to go and what they want to do. Think of them as an app on a smartphone, free to download and specific to what you need … travel.

Once you’ve booked your trip, the next step is what you should bring. The best rule of thumb is planning with your travel agent. Look at the weather forecast for where you are going to help when it comes to what clothing to pack. It’s best to plan what you will wear day by day. Taking the time to do this will help in avoiding fees if a checked bag is overweight, allow you bring home souvenirs, and allow space for any purchases made at a Duty-Free if traveling internationally.

Apps. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Even all-inclusive resorts have their own apps. When it comes to apps, there are a few that are definitely helpful when it comes to traveling. Most all-inclusive resorts offer free Wi-Fi during a stay. But like I mentioned before, some even have their own app. Secrets Resorts has their Unlimited Connectivity app which allows guests to access Wi-Fi, international calling, hotel information, and make spa reservations during their stay.

Here is a list of some other travel apps worthy of downloading:

  • GateGuru: Try as we might, sometimes you will experience a layover. If it turns out you experience a long layover, GateGuru can be your best friend. This app provides you with a map of the terminals as well as reviews of restaurants within the airport. However, the most helpful features might be the “tips” section and the average wait time at each terminal’s security checkpoint.
  • Free Wi-Fi Finder: Ah, free Wi-Fi. There is a certain level of satisfaction that I as a milennial experience when I connect to free Wi-Fi. As a modern traveler, you can feel stranded and helpless without Internet access. The Free Wi-Fi Finder by JiWire shows where you can find free wireless connections in urban areas. You can search with a directory or simply enable the Wi-Fi scanner to locate the nearest hot spots.
  • Uber: Allows people with smartphones to submit a trip request, and then drivers using their own vehicles come and taxi you to your destination if you’re taking a trip while on vacation. The service is offered in 66 countries and 449 cities worldwide, though restrictions make airport pick up near impossible. This app is perfect if you want to get around any urban area you are unfamiliar with and feel safer than one would in a taxi.

When it comes to flying, airlines are starting to get creative with onboard entertainment offerings. American Airlines is starting to offer on-demand services on their flights. Select flights have a personal screen on the back of the chair in front of you. They offer a selection of free movies and TV shows, and new releases of movies which can be rented during the flight. It’s always best to check the restrictions with a travel agent before you get on your flight. Not all airlines offer free Wi-Fi and if they do, it must meet certain restrictions. For example Southwest offers free Wi-Fi, but it only honors A-List members with the free Wi-Fi aboard any equipped aircraft. jetBlue has a goal to become the first U.S. carrier to provide free high speed Wi-Fi across its entire fleet. So hopefully it is only a matter of time before other airline carries follow suit. Our suggestion: load up the movies and music on your phone or tablet from home before go.

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Let’s explore traveling abroad. Like we mentioned earlier with planning a trip and what you should bring, research is key because of cultural, language and technology differences country to country to name a few. Another reason to use a travel agent! For the tech-savvy millennial, you need to know that the brick for your smartphone cord here in the states could be completely different than what is used in another country. Other countries provide electricity of different voltages through differently shaped electrical sockets. So if you’ll be traveling with electrical appliances or your phone, specific tech accessories are a must.

  • Virtually all travelers need an adapter plug. Adapters are necessary for both electrical devices (e.g., hair dryer) as well as electronics (e.g., laptop) for them to work in the various 220V outlet types found internationally. Adapter types vary by country, so get a multi-adapter or ask your travel agent which type is needed for your destination.
  • A voltage converter or transformer may also be needed if you’re traveling with any single-voltage devices where the voltage is different than the voltage provided by your destination. Read your device’s label to determine this.
  • Data plans with your phone carrier are also important. Getting hit with Roaming charges while using your phone abroad can hurt your wallet. Always check with your carrier in regards to what you can do and if any plans are available that you can use while you are traveling abroad. Or consider using an app like Facebook Messenger or Facetime when Wi-Fi’s available.

So there it is, your guide to travel in your twenties and thirties. Hopefully this will help guide you in the research and planning of your next travel adventure. And remember if you need help, it doesn’t cost you anything to work with a travel agent. Besides it’s easier to make a phone call or send an email to a travel agent, tell them what you want, and have them do the research for you!

 

If you’re ready to book your next vacation, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, 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.

River Cruising on Avalon Waterways

From bus trips, to guided tours, city excursions or DIY travel, there are many options for touring Europe. One of the most scenic options for European touring is the river cruise. For a few days to more than three weeks, river cruises give cruisers a unique experience along the European countryside while sailing from town to town along the most famous rivers in Europe.

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One of the most awarded river cruise lines is Avalon Waterways, part of the Globus family of brands. Founded in 2003, Avalon Waterways prides themselves on giving their guests a unique point of view. Avalon rooms feature beds that face the window and their Panoramic Suites offer the Open-Air Balcony, a first of its kind wall-to-wall 11 foot panoramic window that’s 50% wider than the industry standard. This gives cruisers a more spacious, open-feeling cabin with wider views of Europe. 80% of staterooms on Avalon suite ships feature this panoramic view. View the video below to experience the difference this makes.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R80GgIJi8fg]

In addition to the differences in room suites, Avalon Waterways attention to detail set them apart. When clients receive their cruise documents, they receive the cruise director’s (senior management on board the ship) personal cell phone number for any issues that may arise before departure or during the journey allowing for peace of mind throughout travel.

Avalon Waterways’s fleet consists of 16 ships with the oldest being only 7 years in age. Built on a tradition of the Swiss mentality, precision and functionality is forefront when it comes to building the ships. Avalon Waterways does not refurbish ships, and builds each ship 37 feet in width to navigate through the 37.5 foot locks throughout Europe. Each ship is built to accommodate up to 166 guests.

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The fare on the ship accommodates to almost any type of dietary need imaginable (with the exception of kosher) with new vegetarian menus coming soon. There is no assigned seating at meals, and beer and 4 varieties of European wine are served with dinner, and will be served with lunch in 2017. Meals change daily as chefs shop at the local markets to get the freshest regional fare available to guests.

During the day, the ship docks at destinations along the river and local guides give inside access to the historical significance and everyday modern life within the town. Stops range from well-known tourist cities to small villages to give cruisers a one-of-a-kind experience. Bikes are available for guests to journey throughout the towns.

European tour options include a varying lengths of time along the great rivers of Europe, and Avalon Waterways offers special interest cruises catering to a variety of passions and interests. Select cruises focus on wine appreciation, beer tasting, culinary adventures, jazz, art, WWII History, and Jewish Heritage to name a few.

Going on now through June 21, 2016, receive free or reduced air from select cities when sailing on 2017 Europe River Cruises. Or save up to $3,000 per couple on select 2016 Europe River Cruises for a limited time. With the strong US dollar, there’s no better time to book your European adventure. If you’re ready to book your Avalon Waterways experience, 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.