Trains, Tours And A Touch Of Tequila

The other day a couple of sales reps came a callin’.  OK, admittedly,  that in itself is not exactly remarkable or particularly blog worthy.  In the travel industry, sales reps are as common as fleas on a junk yard dog.  Not that I equate any of these precious souls with a member of the Pulicidea family of insects, let me hasten to add.  Certainly not these two charming ladies!

Tequila, MexicoWhat is beyond remarkable, however, is whenever a supplier is able to lay before me a destination or experience:

  1. I have never even heard of before.
  2. I would gladly book the next flight to experience for myself.

These two ladies scored on both counts and, since I live to make your jaw drop too, I am going to tell you all about it.  Strike that.  There is never enough time to tell you “all about” anything. Instead, I am going to tell you just enough to tickle your wanderlust.  Relax, that is not nearly as prurient as it sounds.


Tequila Espíritu de México

The journey begins with a flight into Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Our ultimate destination is Tequila, Mexico.  (Did I catch you reflexively licking your lips?)  OK, we are in Guadalajara but how shall we traverse the sixty kilometers (just under forty miles) to Tequila town?  Let’s see . . . burro, oxcart, thumb a ride?  If it is all the same to you, I think I would rather hop aboard the:

Jose Cuervo Express It doesn’t require much imagination to picture myself sitting at the bar below, sipping on a smooth little Jose Cuervo tequila and testing my limited Spanish on the convivial, and very patient, bartender.  He even stifles a laugh when I ask him if he is ever pregnant (embarazado) when he uses the wrong English word.  I hate those false cognates!

Bar club and dining areaTo continue my imaginary journey, after the brutal two-hour rail journey gazing at gorgeous agave fields and throwing back tequila shots, I am only hoping I can find some decent little hovel to rest my weary head.  If required, I suppose I could make do with the brand new Hotel Solar de las Animas.

This incredible hotel is based on a Creole colonial house andHotel Solar de Las Animas is designed by renowned architect Jorge Loyzaga whose prestigious restoration works include Chapultepec Castle, a stunning edifice overlooking Mexico City.  (I have a picture of me standing on the ramparts of the castle where the city looms over my right shoulder,  a piece of trivia I realize would bore even Clilff Clavin from Cheers.)

The room categories range from Superior Double to the Royal Suite.  Since, for now at least this is but a mythical journey, I attempt to check into the Royal Suite.  When my royal lineage is called into question (surprisingly they seem to be unfamiliar with the prominence of the Denton clan in British history), I gracefully accept whatever category is shown in the picture below.

Room at Hotel Solar de las AnimasComfortably ensconced in my room, I turn my attention to whatever enriching experiences might lie outside my doorstep.  I am intrigued to discover how many options the area offers but I decide on a horseback ride through blue agave fields and a tour of Fabrica La Rojeña , the oldest distillery in the Americas.  The order in which I participate in the two activities is not accidental, I assure you!

When you visit (hopefully, unlike mine, yours will not be of the virtual variety) you will want to sign up for the Maestro Tequilero blending experience where, under the watchful eye of an expert in the art of blending, you will experiment with five combinations to produce your own souvenir damajuana.   If like your humble scribe, you have never even heard of a damajuana, you will immediately recognize the necessity of the expert assistance mentioned above!

Horseback riding  Fabrica La Rojena

Unfortunately, the cold, wet dishrag of reality is slapping me in the face and I must conclude my mythical odyssey.   If the two ladies who planted this yearning in the first place are reading these words, I feel sure I could add so much more vibrant color and rich context in future blogs if only I were to experience Tequila Espiritu de Mexico for myself.  (As regular readers can attest, I have always valued directness over subtlety.)

If you think this might be a trip you would enjoy, reach out to me and maybe I will put a little group together so we can all experience it!

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Viking River Flows Into The Ocean

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep!   Please stand by for another “Hear It Here First” announcement.  This is NOT a test of the Travel By Terry breaking travel news alert system.

Some of you may know that Viking River Cruises has clearly established itself as the indisputable master of the world’s great rivers.  Today they have announced their plans to let some of that remarkable success flow directly into the Seven Seas.  OK, maybe not seven right away but at least a couple.   Travel Weekly has a great article this morning about Viking’s plans to launch their first ocean-going vessel, the Viking Star, in May of 2015.

Viking Star rendering exteriorThe initial voyages will ply the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.  It will fit into the mid-size category with 928 passengers.  One thing that should set it apart from its competitors in this market is the fact that shore excursions and beer and wine with lunch and dinner will be included.

Viking Star interior rendering  Viking Star pool rendering

“Another unusual feature will be a ‘snow grotto’ in the spa in which ‘snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air,’ according to a Viking description,” reports Travel Weekly.   To learn more, I  encourage you to visited our branded Viking Cruises site and click on Viking Oceans tab at the top.

When your friends ask if you have heard that Viking has just entered the world of ocean cruising, I suggest you give them a dismissive look and a roll of the eyes and simply respond, “Please!  I follow Travel By Terry.  I heard about that eons ago!”

Travel Industry Proposes, Royal Caribbean Disposes

One of my favorite quotes comes from “The Imitation of Christ” by the German-born Thomas à Kempis (c.1380-1471): “For man proposes, but God disposes; neither is the way of man in his own hands.”  We in the travel agency community are a little like that.  We propose all sorts of brilliant ideas, at least in our own humble estimation, yet we face the reality that in most cases we have zero power to dispose.

Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the SeasI recently interviewed Vicki Freed,  the Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Services for Royal Caribbean International, right here on this incomparable little blog and one of my queries was, for her at least, this very familiar and possibly tiresome question:  “When will Royal Caribbean start sailing year round out of the port of Galveston?”

For a little context, travel agents throughout Texas and surrounding states have for a few years now  been clamoring, cajoling, carping (and various other exertions too embarrassing to mention in print) for Royal Caribbean to position a ship in Galveston year round.  We travel types are nothing if not annoyingly persistent.

I have big news!  Let me share a brief excerpt from a press release issued today.  “Royal Caribbean International, the cruise line known for first at-sea innovations, announced today that it is basing 3,114-guest Navigator of the Seas year-round from the Texas port city of Galveston.”   Unlike when mighty Casey struck out, there was great joy in Mudville today. More than one of our travel agents was observed doing the happy dance on their desks!

Navigator of the Seas cabin

Since by design, these “Hear It Here First” posts are intended to be short and sweet, you can click here to read all the details.One exciting aspect of the news is that not only will Navigator of the Seas begin sailing year round from Galveston beginning this November but also will be emerging from an extensive drydock revitalization in February of 2014.  

This is absolutely going to be a very popular ship and departure port so start making your plans now.   Click here if you would like a full schedule of departure dates and itineraries and reach out to me for prices and to secure space.

Remember, you heard it here first.  And, if you didn’t, then clearly you aren’t as devoted a follower of this blog as you should be!  Come on, let’s muster a little fanatical devotion here.

Possible Budget Cuts / Potential Travel Delays

If sequestration (i.e., proposed government budget cuts) goes into effect on March 1st, as seems increasingly likely, there could be a significant impact on travel.  See this Fox News article.

You may have heard that various federal agencies are warning that this will dramatically cut the number of air trafficBudget Cuts controllers, Transportation Security Administration, personnel at airport security and Customs and Border Protection personnel.  Whether this in fact will eventuate is perhaps debatable.  A lot of political posturing on both sides revolves around such subjects today.  Since we can’t predict the future, the best we can do is give you advance warning about potential problems.   Like you, I have read that a reduction in air traffic controllers could adversely affect airline flight schedules and operations causing delays.  This could lead in turn to longer lines at airport screening and possibly even longer lines at customs.

You may recall in a previous blog post I talked about how travel agents can provide robust assistance when things go awry.

*  As professional travel agents, we are hardly strangers to navigating through weather related and mechanical delays.  If the scenario described above were to unfold, we will quickly offer alternative travel plans.

*  Since travel often consists of several components, our assistance extends not only to securing flight arrangements but also rebooking hotels and car rental reservations.  Our job is to get you to your destination quickly and with as little hassle as possible.

Here are a few practical tips for getting through the security line a little faster.


As I mentioned in the above referenced post, “You can either be that person standing in a long line praying all the options are not gone by the time you reach the front of the queue or you can be that relaxed traveler standing to the side, sipping a latte and talking calmly to his or her travel agent.”

Even if you didn’t book with us, we will try our best to assist you. For the next few weeks we all might be in for a bit of a bumpy ride.  We are here to help!

Remember, always come to Travel By Terry to  “Hear It Here First”.

WOW . . . Royal Caribbean Style

I seldom, almost never actually, resort to a direct sales pitch on this blog.  My  theory is tocartoon cars alesman so dazzle you with my razor wit and effervescent charm that you won’t be able to resist checking out our stellar travel offers (a theory not yet validated by actual evidence but I remain undeterred).  However, seeing as I pretty much make up the rules as I go along around here, I am going to grant myself the travel equivalent of a special papal dispensation with this post and be blatantly and unabashedly commercial.

My rationalization is simple (again, not that I really need much of one).  I recently started a new category on this blog called “Hear It Here First” where I promised to share breaking travel news thus ensuring your status at cocktail parties as the “Seer of Syracuse” or wherever the heck you call home.

One of our valued travel partners, Royal Caribbean International, promotes a giant, three-day blowout sale just twice a year they call their WOW SALE (hence the title of this post).  As special partners, they have given us a little heads up on this offer which does not launch until this coming Monday, February 25th and ends Wednesday, February 27th.

Royal Caribbean WOW Sale

Here are the basics of the offer:

1)  Book any sailing departing on or after May 1, 2013.  3-Day WOW Sale includes cruisetours and sailings on their entire fleet!

2)  Deposits are reduced by 50%

3)  Up to $200 of Onboard credit

Royal Caribbean WOW Sale

* For a fuller explanation of terms and conditions, click here.

Now that you are armed with this advance notice, you can reach out to one of our trusty cruise specialists who will in turn gather information regarding you, your preferences and your immediate travel aspirations.  Then come Monday, our agent will pounce like a ravished Bengal tiger and secure the best possible cabin and price before the other hapless rubes out there have finished their morning coffee!

Here is a list of some of our cruise experts.

Sandy DuVall  *  Lila Tapp  *  Velma Tollison

Damon Webb  *  Judy Richardson  *  Elaine Goad

Cheryl Lobo  *  Linda Matthews  *  Lana Elpiner 

When you click on the agent’s name, you will be provided a robust profile and contact information for that agent! Check out a few agents and when a particular agent’s cruise experience strikes your fancy,  just reach out to them by phone or email.  It really is that easy!

If you have been thinking about taking a cruise and have been waiting for the perfect value to come along (we don’t offer deals), act immediately.  Hey, I had a root canal this week. This little sales pitch has to be less painful than that!

Addendum to American Airline’s New Look

I was on an American Airlines flight recently when the pilot received one of those urgent, undeniable calls of nature.  It happens.  So he asked me if I would mind taking over for just a few minutes.  Ever the accommodating sort, I said sure.  When, due to  his extended delay, I had to land the plane unassisted he apologized profusely saying he was sure it was the raw oysters from the night before.

American Airlines' new livery

Passengers, please remain calm. One of us terrified is quite enough!

Actually, that is not precisely what happened.  I suppose you are one of those sticklers for truth, historical accuracy and all that silly sort of thing.  OK, OK. Then what really happened is that I was invited this morning, along with four hundred of my closest friends, out to DFW airport (or FW/d airport as I like to call it) to see the new American Airlines livery up close and personal.  You don’t get much closer than the cockpit.

Here are a few pictures I took.

    American Airlines new livery          American Airlines new livery

American Airlines new livery 

Consider this post a brief intermission in our three act play called River Cruising: A Languid Stroll Down Liquid Highways.  The third act will arrive on your email doorstep shortly assuming you have had the perspicuity to sign up to follow this inimitable blog.

American Airlines Launches New Look

Welcome to another edition of Hear It Here First.  I was perusing my morning newspaper earlier today over a cup of hot java and my almond meal gruel when I happened upon an article talking about American Airlines‘ plan to create a whole new Hear it Here Firstbrand and image.

I see where our friends over at Skift News are all over this story as usual.  Rafit Ali has written a story called “UPDATED: Here’s the new look of American Airlines that launched today.”

They even have a page where they are tracking the twitter reaction to the new look.  You can see American’s own presentation of their launch in a nice video here.

We in the travel business are following all the developments over at American Airlines with more than a casual interest.  Our travel company operates out of North Texas where Fort Worth is American’s home town and DFW airport is, of course, a major hub.  They are going through challenging times over at American and we wish them the very best.  Our industry needs, and consumers are best served by, at least a handful of robust competitors.  We have no special insight to share regarding the likelihood of a merger between AA and US Airways but that eventuality seems to us more and more likely.

As promised, these little industry updates will be short and, like me, almost sickeningly sweet! What do you think of the new look over at AA?

Hear It Here First

We who ply travel as our trade are often privy to all sorts of interesting breaking news items.  It occurred to me that you might enjoy hearing about some of these little travel tidbits in advance of those hapless dolts not astute enough to follow this quintessentially quirky blog as you so shrewdly do!

Therefore I am announcing yet another category for this blog which, at the rate I am going,Hear It Hear will have soon more categories than actual posts (sort of like those notorious precincts which routinely have more votes that voters).  The title for this new category will be “Hear It Here First!”  Quite catchy, don’t you think?

These particular posts will consistently follow the five B’s of successful discourse, “Be brief, brother, be brief!”   They will give you just a short overview of the new development and then supply a link where you can discover more detail at your leisure.  Leisure, in case you are wondering, is what people seem to have in spades who aren’t desperately trying to scratch out a meager living in the travel industry.

I think by now you grasp the concept.  If not, unless you started celebrating New Year’s Eve well before noon today, we may have to reassess your shrewd status.  So, without further adieu, here is the first little news item hot of the press.

“Limited Time Magic”

DisneyworldDisney Parks just unveiled a new concept for  2013 called “Limited Time Magic” at  Walt Disney World® and Disneyland® Resort.  To quote their own description, “New entertainment and imaginative events will pop up and then disappear – so be sure to take advantage of these opportunities while they last!”   As a prime example, Magic Kingdom® Park at Walt Disney World® will kick of the festivities with the first ever “Bling in the New Year” dance party at Tomorrowland®.  If you are an avid Disney aficionado, or just have a fetish for large ears, bookmark this page and check back often to learn the very latest.

More importantly, you might also want to check back here at Travel By Terry frequently or you just might not “Hear It Here First”.