Destinations

Interest in Iceland has exploded over the last few years. I plan many trips a year to Iceland and thought I knew it pretty well based on research and suggestions from DMCs. I was totally amazed on this trip with all I didn’t know. This educational experience was sponsored by Iceland Travel, Signature Travel Network’s number one destination manage company for Iceland. They are based in Iceland and know the product better than anyone. Started out flying on Delta through JFK. Arrival is about 630 am and it is about an hour from the airport to downtown Reykjavik. We saw and had breakfast at the interesting Viking museum on the way. They have a beautiful Viking ship replica inside. Then on to the city. After seeing some nice Icelandair hotels we checked into the Ion hotel. The location was great. I had a wonderful suite with a sauna and city view. We then visited Hallgrimskirkja the beautiful Lutheran cathedral and took a city tour. Dinner was on our own so we visited some of the fun pubs and nightlife for dinner. Who knew you could get some of the best pizza of your life in Reykjavik!

We were up early the next day to visit Krauma the geothermal baths. The experience was going between very hot baths then plunging into ice cold. I definitely felt invigorated! We enjoyed a wonderful lunch. Next on to Husafell Hotel, an amazing resort at the base of the glacier. We then got to go into the heart of a glacier. We tracked up the glacier in super Jeep’s with huge tires made for the climb. Inside the glacier was amazing. It was incredible to hear the history of glaciers in Iceland and how they are shrinking drastically due to climate change. The Husefel restaurant that evening was a treat with such fresh salmon and cod. We went to Thingvellir National park the next day to see some breathtaking waterfalls and geysers then on to Fridheimar Greenhouse. Iceland is famous for lots of greenhouses because of all the geothermal energy used to heat them. They grow the most delicious tomato’s. We were treated to a fantastic tomato soup and fresh bread lunch. On to more incredible waterfalls and lava fields. This night was my favorite hotel Hotel Ranga on the Eystri-ranga river. The rooms were so cozy and the views were astounding. This was one of the best places to see the northern lights. We enjoyed a fresh seafood experience that evening.

I can’t think of a better way to escape the cold Utah weather than a cruise to the Caribbean. In fact the Eastern Caribbean!

My recent travels took me aboard the beautiful Caribbean Princess sailing from Ft. Lauderdale. Along the way we made stops at Princess Cay, a private island belonging to Princess Cruises. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and Grand Turks in Turks and Caicos.

Even though San Juan is an American Territory, they remain independent and are self-governed. Old San Juan is a beautiful city that is over 465 years old. It is surrounded by Ft. San Cristobal. The fort was completed in 1783 and was built to protect the city. Across the city hall, there is a monument depicting all of the US presidents that have visited San Juan.

Amber Cove is an area just outside of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. It is a beautiful city that enjoys access to the Caribbean blue waters. You can enjoy the day swimming with dolphins, kayaking or just relaxing on the beach.

The Dominican Republic was discovered by Columbus’ flag ship, the Santa Maria in Christmas Eve 1492.

For me the highlight was in Turks & Cacos. I spent the day enjoying the turquoise blue water of the Caribbean, snorkeling & swimming. The highlight was spending time with the stingrays. With the help of our local guide, I actually held a stingray and gave it a kiss! It was a bit salty, but not something I will forget!

Princess Cruises is also in the process of converting their ships to the use of Medallions. Unlike traditional cards used on other cruise lines, these medallions will unlock your stateroom when you approach the door, help you order food and have it delivered to wherever you are on the ship and even find those you are sailing with if you get separated. The medallions are still a bit of a work in progress, but should make your cruise a much more smooth experience.

The best part was I came home with a little sun and ready to face the remaining winter days in Utah!

Susan Hatch

If I can help plan your next cruise, please contact me:

Street: 404 East 12300 South
City: Draper, UT 84020
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Visiting Italy can be compared to stepping into your favorite gelato shop — everything looks so good and it can be hard to make a decision. There are so many choices, all so different, and yet all so delicious. There is something in the Gelateria, or the country of Italy, that appeals to everyone. And just like a good gelateria, Italy invites you back time and time again to try a new flavor.

For the first timer a visit to the “Big 3” is essential: Rome, Florence, and Venice. But realize that because they are the Big 3, there’s a good chance that everyone else had the same great idea. For this reason, by getting off the beaten path, even within these famous cities, you can find some hidden gems of Italy. I’ll share my thoughts on some of these hidden gems of Rome, Florence, and Venice and save the other tastes of Italy for another time.

A first timer’s visit to Rome will likely see the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the sights of Imperial Rome, but let me offer a suggestion for my favorite museum in Rome, the Museo Borghese. Nestled in the middle of the Villa Borghese, a large and beautiful city park sits the Museum Borghese, a 17th century Villa converted to a museum. The museum houses several famous and spectacular Bernini sculptures as well as an impressive collection of art including pieces by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Reubens. While the Museo Borghese is popular, the crowds are well managed with a required reservation and timed entry for all visitors. The museum is a comfortable size and the entire collection can be easily enjoyed in under two hours. It’s a pleasant break from the city and the crowds. Afterward you can reward yourself with a nice stroll or bike ride through the massive park and finish off the afternoon at the far end of the park in the Terrazza del Pincio. This Terrazza commands an impressive view of the city of Rome and the Piazza del Popolo below.

I recently had an opportunity to visit France. France has something for everyone from history, art, architecture, food, wine, chocolate, beaches and even Disneyland! The United States and France have been friends and allies for hundreds of year which is evident in the memorials and monuments that dot both countries such as our Statue of Liberty to the monuments, cemeteries and memorials in Normandy.

My recent visit to France took me from Paris to Normandy and then to the south of France. My purpose for the first week was history, art and architecture. My purpose for the second week was a Uniworld Cruise on the Rhone and Saone Rivers.

Time is too short for the many museums and monuments of the city. Prioritize and go early. I chose quality time in specific locations over trying to see everything. I did spend time at Notre Dame including hiking to the top, which commands an amazing view of Paris and listening to the bells. I spent a full day at the Louvre. In one day you cannot even walk through the entire museum,. One evening I took a tour of the Eiffel Tour and went to the summit. My guide pointed out the Paris view and 1,000 years of history as your eye travels from Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arch de Triumph to the modern city of La Defense. I also visited The Medieval Museum to view beautiful tapestries, and St Chappelle to appreciate the stained glass windows.

It is often said that you can’t fully understand Italy until you’ve been to Sicily because it, the Mediterranean’s largest island, is a microcosm of the varying cultures that have created the Italy we know today. So to complete my knowledge of Italy, I decided to go to Sicily.

I traveled in late September and found out it is a very good time. The weather was very pleasant and the crowds minimal. I rented a car and spent 9 days traveling around the island especially looking for archaeological sites. Sicily has experienced the influences of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Spanish, German, French and Papal conquest, leaving a rich cultural pastiche. And in this pastiche is included the influence of the Arabs. A fabulous gift in my opinion.

I started my journey in Catania where I just spent one night. I did not have time to Summit Europe's highest active volcano, Mount Etna! Good reason to go back to Sicily.