Taking a Fathom Cruise to the Dominican Republic

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All images courtesy of Fathom Travel

I’ve got some exciting news to share! Next week (May 8-15) I will be a media guest on a Fathom Travel cruise to the Dominican Republic, leaving from Miami and docking in Puerto Plata.

Having launched its ship, the Adonia, in April 2016, Fathom Travel currently offers separate round-trip voyages from Miami to the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Belonging to the Carnival brand, Fathom takes a different approach to ocean voyaging with a “travel with purpose” mission. This means: passengers can sign up for impact activities in which they’ll be working alongside locals at various community projects. These initiatives are designed for travelers to become immersed in the local culture through doing social good.

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For their Dominican Republic cruises, Fathom’s choices of impact activities may extend to:

  • Visiting a women’s cooperative that produces chocolate (it’s chocolate; how could you say no to doing that!);
  • Interacting with students and adults through helping them learn English;
  • Planting trees through a reforestation and nursery program;
  • Turning recycled paper into craft projects;
  • Building projects involving the installation of water filtration systems and concrete flooring in community homes.

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While impact travel is central to Fathom’s mission, cruise excursion options also extend to tours of certain areas and popular activities such as ziplining or snorkeling. As for their Cuba cruises, Fathom broke serious ground in making history as the first cruise to sail from the U.S. to Cuba (setting off on May 1) in 50-plus years. That’s big!

On my Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic, I will be posting as continuously as I can through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And putting a trip recap on here too. So please do follow along!

 

Product Review: Squeeze Pod

photo 1Recently I did a piece for a travel website on Squeeze Pod, a line of single-use toiletries designed to be completely leak proof and made from natural ingredients. I was curious to learn more about them, not just for the story, but as someone who can’t pass up on having a solid hair conditioner or facial cleanser while on the road.

Sold in packets or grouped kits, Squeeze Pod pods extend to shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, body wash, hair gel, moisturizer, and what’s called a toilet odor eliminator.

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Having gotten a Squeeze Pod Gimme Shelter kit to renew as part of my assignment, I put it to the test. Here’s my take on these pods:

Opening is a snap. I found the pods themselves to be easy to open. They have teardrop design, where you hold and bend the tip in its back away from you. You’ll know you’ve got it open when you hear a snap. Each toiletry pod comes in a set of two or three inside a packet, which I was fumbling with and ended up having to use scissors to open. So I would say to open the packet before you go and put the pods in your 3-1-1 clear bag. (Squeeze Pod states their pods are TSA friendly.)

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The pouring is easy. Like its namesake, you squeeze the package to get its contents out. I test moisturizing lotion and found it to be between not too light but not greasy. The oil-based citrus scent is nice; it’s noticeable upon applying but it’s not heavy and seems to gradually fade.

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Good for hotel stays. I can see Squeeze Pod working for certain types of travelers over others. Due to the pod packaging, which is not recyclable, I’m not sure if it would suit a backpacker due to what he/she might have access to rubbish bins for properly disposing of the used pod packaging. However, I definitely see it’s good for business traveler and of course the common goer with hotel or other set accommodations. Another neat item is that for every two Gimme Shelter kits purchased, a third goes to a charity that supports women and their families. Prices range from individual packs at $2.79 up to a 12-pack for $30.00 ($7 more for the odor eliminator) and specialty kits about $12.99.

 

 

CityPASS Giveaway

Every major U.S. destination has its share of iconic attractions worth visiting, which can require even the most savvy traveler to factor admission prices into their budget. However, there are money-saving solutions like discount cards or booklets such as CityPASS that can extend your sightseeing options while keeping some cash in our wallet.

Recently, I met with a CityPASS representative to learn more about their admission discount program. It works like this. CityPASS booklets feature admission coupons to top-rated museums and institutions in currently 12 North American major locations.

They include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Southern California. Southern California’s CityPASS comes in a card format, while the others are all booklets.

However, every destination’s version contains admission tickets about four to six top ranking sites, with some of them being a choice between using it for one place or another. For example, in the New York CityPASS, there are tickets where you can opt to use them for either the Top of the Rock or Guggenheim Museum or either the 9/11 Memorial & Museum or the Intrepid. Once you start using the booklet, it becomes activated and validated for nine consecutive days (except for Southern California CityPASS, whose admission cards run for 14 days).

CityPASS might be suited particularly for first-time visitors or even families (there are kids and adult versions), but the perk is that CityPASS can be bought online or at your destination for the same cost. Plus it’s set up where you don’t have to wait at the usual ticket line to get inside.

CityPASS is letting me give away a pair of CityPASS booklets through my site. The only thing is that you have to do is tell me in the comments section below which of the CityPASS cities I listed do you want to visit and why (sorry, but Southern California CityPASS is not included). You’ll have until Friday, April 29, at midnight EST to do so. U.S./Canada residents only. Good luck! And keep checking back to see the results!

Disclaimer: CityPASS has partnered with me on this giveaway, but this post is based entirely on my opinions.

 

 

Westin Hotels & Resorts Introduces Sleep Well Menu

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Here’s some news from my inbox…. Westin Hotels & Resorts has been busy promoting their “Well-Being Movement,” a new travel wellness brand, with a messaging campaign and a FitStar by FitBit partnership introducing a set of exercise programs at their properties worldwide. Its latest addition to this branding initiative takes an edible approach to getting a good night’s sleep.

Said to be available 24/7, the Westin Sleep Well Menu offers superfood options specially designed to promote rest and recovery. According to a press release from Westin, this specialty menu was designed to help guests “ease into sound slumber so that they can easily adjust to a new time zone, recover from a hectic day of travel or prepare for an active day ahead.” With input from SuperFoodsRx, the meals on this menu contain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals including magnesium, potassium, folate, serotonin, and thiamin to prevent insomnia and reset sleep cycles.

Choices include:

  • Grilled wild salmon with walnut quinoa;
  •  A micro chopped turkey salad;
  • Poached eggs on asparagus with snap peas and shitake mushrooms;
  • Oatmeal tabouleh, among others.

If guests prefer more of a bedtime snack, they can opt for whole grain crackers with peanut butter; non-fat yogurt with granola; edamame and whole wheat pretzels; or cherry walnut oat muffins. There’s tea too. Find herbals with a calming effect such lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, passionflower, lemon balm, ginger, chamomile or valerian root.

To celebrate their new Sleep Well menu, Westin Hotels & Resorts is giving away a five-night stay at any Westin hotel or resort, a Westin Heavenly® Bed, and other Westin items. Enter by April 30, 2016 by visiting this link.

 

 

EscapeMaker Opens Farm Escape Pop Up Shop

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Have you heard of the term “agritourism”? Find out more by heading to South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan. EscapeMaker, a company that offers ideas for local and regional trips, has opened a pop-up shop promoting agri-tourism (travel inspired by working farms or other agricultural sties) now until April 24 inside the seaport’s historic Fulton Stall Market on 207A Front Street.

Presented by Amtrak, the EscapeMaker Pop Up Shop will be open to the public Thursdays and Fridays, from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors will find information for planning vacays that will get them out into countryside areas. Details will include ideas for farm escapes, wine and craft beer trails, apple picking locations, and local getaway packages.

Along with the shop, EscapeMaker will hold three Sunday tastings of various food and wine samples inside the market and onto Front Street. They are free and run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The schedule includes:

April 10th – Local Craft Beer, Cider & More
April 17th – Local Wine, Cheese & More
April 24th – Local Farms & Family Getaways

For more info, visit this link.

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa Opens Tall Tales

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Saybrook Point Inn & Spa recently opened Tall Tales, at right. It’s next to Three Stories.

Two years ago, I was invited to visit Saybrook Point Inn & Spa and take a tour of the main property and its then latest addition, a luxury guesthouse named Three Stories. This past weekend, I went back to the inn to stay at a new and exquisite set of accommodations known as Tall Tales.

Opened in February 2016, Tall Tales is an elegant yet private Italianate-style guesthouse right next door to Three Stories. Like its neighbor, Tall Tales gives off the feeling of staying at a quaint bed and breakfast inn overlooking the Connecticut River.

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Tall Tales contains six rooms – two on each level sharing a common area – with each named after real-life individuals with significant ties to Old Saybrook. Each room also is decorated in different color schemes and furniture to reflect the character of their namesake. My room is called the Barbara Maynard, who is considered to the “Town Mother” of Old Saybrook for her involvement as a former First Selectman and Registrar of Voters.

If Barbara saw her room, I think she would be proud.

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On the second floor of Tall Tales, the Barbara Maynard room contains a private seating area off of the main bedroom. Not that this area takes away from the bedroom. My bedroom has an electric fireplace, with an adjacent balcony. With a four-poster, king-size bed, the fine linens reflect a Victorian period look yet feel comfortable for a present-day guest.

Its full bath contains classic fixtures, with a walk-in shower with a seat in place of a tub. Plus Tall Tales has Wi-Fi available in these rooms. The second floor also features a billiards room. On the first floor, there is a small kitchen area and an open-floor plan dining room where guests can grab a muffin or piece of fruit or use a Keurig to make instant coffee.

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Parking is available behind Tall Tales and Three Stories. Both guesthouses are located across from the main inn. For dining, the main inn’s restaurant, Fresh Salt, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a weekend brunch. Its menus are seasonal and promote New England’s agriculture. The inn’s Sanno Spa features 11 treatment rooms and services such as facials, massages, and manicures and pedicures. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a ballroom and event spaces, and a marina that can accommodate vessels up to roughly 200 feet in length.

Editor’s Note: My stay at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa was comped but the opinions expressed in this piece are entirely my own.

 

Where to Eat in Lake Placid

As I enjoyed taking in the Winter Olympic sites around Lake Placid, plus spending time around the surrounding Adirondacks’ Whiteface region, I have to say that my dining options were good too. Each place I went to is locally owned and stood out in character, through its menu selections, settings, or backstory.

Here is a round up of restaurants in Lake Placid that I highly recommend:

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‘dack Shack
This place on Saranac Avenue is fun and imaginative with a chalkboard wall featuring cool drawings and a counter top seating area that lets you do a little doodling of your own. Candle holders wrapped in birch bark – birch trees are quite common in the Adirondack area – offer a nice touch. Dishes are also inventive. With menus, ‘dack Shack has breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices plus a kids menu and an intriguing theme night menu that lists topnotch orders at a good price point like a confit duck leg at 20 dollars. I was at ‘dack Shack for dinner and ordered the ‘dack Burger, which was stacked with Maple Glazed Bacon, sautéed onions, cheddar and the house specialty secret Shack Sauce (not even my server was told what the ingredients were). To accompany a side of fries, fry dips give ketchup and mayo a step up with flavors like Herb or Truffle Mayo and Dr. Pepper or Habanero Ketchup. Starters are also not your ordinary apps, like breaded mac ‘n cheese balls, and a roast beet, cauliflower and kale dip with crostinis.

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Lake Placid Pub & Brewery
On a side road near Main Street, this three-floor pub and restaurant serves up about seven microbrews and holds brewery tours of its facility from the top level. The Downstairs bar that you first enter into is an Irish pub setting, while second level is more of a micropub with wall art featuring college sports team banners that would make any fan want to sit in here. Also on the third floor, there is seasonal outdoor deck seating overlooking Lake Mirror. As for the beers, its suds extend to English ales likes its popular fruity and malty dark Ubu Ale, to German wheat brews such as the light German Kristalweizen. With food, it’s bar-style selections but with some nice standouts like craft sandwiches, soups, salads, and an assortment of apps. I had the Maple Melt, a charbroiled chicken sandwich with a New York-sourced cheddar that’s nicely melded together.

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the breakfast club, etc.
This Main Street eatery also has lunch and dinner picks, but its name totally reflects breakfast in all capacities. A full service bar and restaurant, this venue has an all-day breakfast menu, so if you’re craving a morning-style meal in the afternoon, you’re good. Known as BC originals, breakfast lovers will find multiple versions of faves like Eggs Benedict such as ones paired with a basil pesto hollandaise sauce or smoked salmon and spinach with a caper dill hollandaise sauce. Fans of home fries should see the röstis, which are seasoned skillet potatoes topped with a choice of anything from corned beef and cheddar to veggies. Perhaps the most eye-catching option is French Toast Fondue, a twofer serving with cinnamon nutmeg French toast sticks, pretzel sticks, and fruit to be dipped in a warm maple-cinnamon sauce. Plus, they have a separate list for 10 different versions of Bloody Marys and Mimosas!

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The Good Bite Kitchen
For vegetarians, this small-sized, lunch-only restaurant is big on flavor with inventive dishes. Also on Main Street, The Good Bite Kitchen is able to hold about six counter sit-in diners, as its location was once a storage hallway until opening in July 2012. The menu rotates, but all lunchtime options are cooked there. Find salads and soup, gluten-free optional and vegan bowls such as chickpea and rice stew or green curry broth, and sandwiches served on toasted focaccia, plus a smoothie of the day. For drinks, if it’s there, try the ginger and allspice hot apple cider.

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Saranac Sourdough
On Saranac Avenue, this good breakfast/deli location offers various counter orders like sandwiches, bagels, lunch plates, and salads, plus breads. As a bagel eater, I also found a neat discovery at Saranac Sourdough: a sourdough bagel. I didn’t think that this type of bread could become an oval option. And as far as I know, I’ve never seen a bagel like this before. So of course I had to try it. I did and it was good.

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Swedish Hill Winery Lake Placid
A mile east of Lake Placid’s downtown area, this tasting room has many assortments of Swedish Hill Winery whites and reds produced by Swedish Hill Winery, which is based in New York State’s Finger Lakes region. Along with chardonnays, Rieslings, and cabernet francs, finds include Glögg, a spicy red wine with a Swedish influence that features flavors of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger. Swedish Hill Winery has a sister winery called Goose Watch Winery that has a tasting room, the Goose Watch Lake Placid, on Main Street.