On the radio…again…for the last time

IMG_2094

Well, Seth and I have recorded our last Adventures Await radio show. And you don’t have to wait to hear it. It’s at the bottom of this page. And since I recorded the show on my iPhone, there are no commercials, weather or newscasts. We just talk for about 25 minutes about travel (funny that an hour radio show without commercials, weather, newscasts and traffic is only around 25 minutes).

First, an explanation about why this is our last show together. That’s because on the morning KOMO-TV news today Seth announced he was leaving KOMO. That’s sad for us who watch him every day. One of my favorite thing is to carry on texting conversations with Seth while he is on the air in the morning. I know that if I send him a text, he will read it on the next commercial break. And I know that he is probably only going to be getting texts from me because it’s 4:30 am and I am riding my indoor bike. We have had many early morning conversations like this.

Seth is leaving KOMO to become the Director of Communications for Holland America Cruise Line (HAL). In that role he will be cruising…A LOT! But he says we can still text to stay in touch but I won’t know if he’s available like I do now between weather updates because I won’t be able to see him on TV 😀. But we (Kathleen and I) are thrilled for him. I will certainly miss seeing him and doing the show with him.

Our last show was super. It was my fifth time on the show and Seth let me choose the topic so I said let’s do the Top 5 Things we have talked about on the first four shows I have joined him on the radio. You will have to listen to the show to find out what they are but suffice it to say, it’s not anything you haven’t heard he…or I mention before.

By the way, if you would rather hear it with all the music, weather, news and commercials, etc. you can do that on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 pm on KOMO radio AM 1000 here in Seattle or on KOMO Radio 1000 on Tune-in online.

Here’s the show—there are three shows on the page. The latest one is at the bottom of the list: CLICK HERE! I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed doing these shows with Seth. He is a good friend, one of our favorite people and maybe the only person who loves talking about travel as much as I do.

A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.—Charles Darwin

Just a friendly reminder-get insured!

Screen Shot 2019-11-30 at 8.58.00 AMThought I would put up this post-Thanksgiving note to remind all my traveling friends why it is so important to get travel insurance when you travel. Take a second and read this story (that you may have seen already, as it got a LOT of press) about a couple who were being “held prisoner” by a hospital in Mexico, then close the window and come back here. If you haven’t read this before, you should know that the couple eventually got to go home, thanks to the coverage on Good Morning America (GMA). Actor/Director Tyler Perry saw the story and paid their hospital bill.

If you don’t know Tyler Perry or think you could get coverage on GMA you should definitely make sure you have travel insurance when you travel. I can’t believe the number of  people who think that travel insurance is only for those who might have to cancel their trip and want to be reimbursed. I have had clients tell me that “We can afford to lose the money on this trip if we can’t go.” But travel insurance covers so much more.

For instance, a good travel insurance policy should cover the following:

  • Trip Interruption (example: covers you if your flight gets cancelled or rerouted).
  • Trip Delay (example: your plane is grounded due to weather and you miss your cruise—they will get you to your ship).
  • Missed Connection Baggage & Personal Effects Baggage Delay
  • Emergency Medical & Dental Expenses (this one is the biggie, especially if you are over 65 and from the USA).
  • Emergency Evacuation & Repatriation (they will fly you home if you are sick or injured).
  • Accidental Death & Dismemberment
  • Travel Assistance & Concierge Services (The best companies provide this—for instance, they will help you find a good doctor in another country).

The biggest of these benefits are the Emergency Medical and Dental. As the couple in the story found out, costs for medical treatment can vary drastically in other countries and on cruise ships where a doctor visit and an aspirin can run over $100. If the folks who were rescued by Tyler Perry had travel insurance, they would have contacted their insurance company who would have made arrangements for payment with the hospital and everything would have been just fine. But they didn’t.

BIG MESSAGE—in bold so my friends who are US citizens and over 65 all see it: If you are sick or injured outside the USA, Medicare will NOT pay your medical bills. You are on your own. I had an 86 year old client going on a horse tour in Israel who didn’t get travel insurance???

I watch for these kind of stories and I am building a long list of them for the next time a friend or client tells me, “We never get travel insurance. We will be fine.” Well they might not be. I am sure the couple in the story didn’t think they would finish their vacation with 14 nights in a Mexican hospital. And the people who tell me they “never buy travel insurance” may not have Tyler Perry to bail them out.

Traveling anywhere in the world involves some risk. You could always opt to spend your life cowering under your bed. —Joe Haldeman

A personal note—why I am so lucky

Almost forgot I wanted to write this post today. Shame on me. Originally I thought it wasn’t going to be about travel but I guess in a way, it actually is. The trip of my life. It was 22 years ago today that my travel life was born.

Today (November 24) is what we (Kathleen and I) refer to as Lucky Day. It’s the day that back in 1997 my close friend Jocelyn came to my office in downtown Leavenworth to cheer me up. I was in the middle of a divorce that I was not sure I wanted. Jocelyn (who always speaks the truth—the most truthful person I know) told me to get over it. To move on! She said that I should look at a new website she had found called Northwest Personals. This was before Match.com or pretty much any other dating site. Jocelyn had the weekend before met someone on the site and was going to meet him that coming weekend.

She suggested I take a look and at least see if there was someone that I could at least correspond with. So I said I would. She wanted to make sure I did so she got me logged in and looking before she left. I looked for about five minutes before I saw this listing:

Kathleen-ad

This one interested me. See the part about the Mariners. That got my attention. I was (and kind of still am) a Mariner fan. Then, much more then now. But that’s what I noticed.  As I read it, this person sounded perfect. The only problem was, this person was more than 100 miles away but I said, what the heck and decided to respond. That was the ABSOLUTE BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE IN MY LIFE!

Why, because Kathleen (the love of my life, my travel companion) placed that listing. My first wife hated traveling. Kathleen and I love traveling. At that point I had been to exactly two countries—the United States and Mexico (I went while in high school to help an orphanage that my church supported). The only places in the US I had been to were for business meetings. Since that day, she and I have traveled to forty countries and 30 states together and loved pretty much every minute of it.

So you see, this really is about travel. That day I met (online) the incredible woman who would become my partner is so many things, but definitely in travel.

Travel is a lot like love.—Alain de Botton

Welcome to JKTravelRedmond.com

IMG_2094For my regular readers, sorry to use the same photo again but I am expecting at least a few new readers today when Adventures Await runs at 4:00 on KOMO Radio. (If you would like to listen, click here).

To everyone else, especially all the new folks I hope will stop by, WELCOME! It’s great to have you here. If you dropped by to see the list of apps that Seth and I talked about, then you can click HERE to see the full list of apps.

Then if you are new here (or even if you aren’t), I invite you to click on the About Us link above to meet Kathleen (she’s K of JK) and I. Full disclosure: when you read that you will find that besides writing about travel, and talking to Seth about travel, Kathleen and I are travel agents with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers in Redmond. I am proud to be Seth’s personal travel agent as well. If you are interested in us helping you travel, check the Contact page and drop us a note.

If you would like to read about the places we have been, I usually create an entire website about each trip from before I started writing this blog. You can find that, as well as a lot more, at our personal website that you can get to by clicking here.

If you love talking about travel as Kathleen and I do, we would love to have you subscribe and come back. You can subscribe on the right of this page. I try to post once or twice a week so I don’t overwhelm you but I will warn you that when we travel, I pretty much post every day. (Expect that the October 3-13 as we head to Fort Lauderdale to sail on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.) For instance, if you click here you will see the story of our most recent big trip to Scotland, England, Ireland and Iceland in June 2019 and if you click here you can see our full report on our July cruise to Alaska with our grandkids on Ovation of the Seas.

Lastly, if you have another travel app you love, please tell me about it in the comments. If Seth and I do another show about apps, I promise to give you full credit if I love the app.

No one is perfect, and criticism is always welcome and expected.—Amitabh Bachchan

On the radio…talking travel…again

IMG_2094This afternoon Kathleen and I headed into downtown Seattle to KOMO radio where we met up with our good friend and KOMO-TV weather guy and KOMO radio travel expert Seth Wayne. A year ago today we were getting off Explorer of the Seas after celebrating his 40th birthday with 61 of his closest friends (which we are proud to be part of) so it was only fitting we meet up with him today to talk travel.

Seth does a weekly travel radio show on KOMO radio that you can listen to by clicking here at 4:00 any Sunday. It is also available via Tune-In by asking Alexa to “play KOMO Radio 1000.” She will grab the show for you from Tune-In.

Seth tapes the show earlier in the week and sometimes tapes more than one to be broadcast when he is traveling. Today was a day like that. We taped two shows, one on apps for travelers and the other on general travel topics (how to pick the right cruise, travel insurance, having a passport) and we had a great time doing it.

Tentatively the apps for travel show will air this Sunday, September 22nd at 4:00 on KOMO radio and the general travel show at the same time on October 12. I would love to have you tune in for either of them. I would also love to tell you that they would both be available as podcasts but that would be wrong since the people who do the podcasts at the station are kind of slow adding the shows…like a year behind. But never fear, if you are doing something else on Sunday (like watching the end of the Seahawks game) I will endeavor to tape it and put it online for you next week.

In the meantime, I promised on the air that I would put the list of apps we talked about as well as the ones we didn’t get to on this site. So if you click here you can go to the page where those apps are listed. Some will have links that you can go right to the app when I can find them. Otherwise, just search the App Store of your favorite phone or tablet.

I like to discover new things, and I’m always testing new apps. –Francois-Henri Pinault

 

100 (and gratuities)

TipJarAccording to WordPress (the platform this website resides on) this is my 100th post. It is kind of fitting then that it has been a while since I last posted, way back on our 20th wedding anniversary in August. Here we are on September 11th so it has been more than two full weeks since I posted. Shame on me! I promise to do better.

First I want to say thank you to all my subscribers and friends and relatives who actually take the time to read (and even better—comment on) my thoughts on travel, cruising and the rest. You people rock and you humble me by reading what I write. It is a labor of love and an outlet for my frustrations, my triumphs and my photography.

That said, I have had a post ready to go all during that time but I just could not get myself to publish it. It was all about the “class system” in cruising. Much of what got me to write  it came from my feelings about our Ovation of the Seas cruise in July. The more I wrote it and reread it, it seemed like I was just whining. This is not to say that I am not good at whining. I just don’t like to do it publicly 😜. So I am going to put that post on hold until I am further away from the Ovation cruise and not so down on the system that led to our problems and move on to writing something else.

One thing I thought I could point you at today is an outstanding discussion that is ongoing on Chris Elliot’s Elliott Advocacy website about cruise ship gratuities. If you have cruised you know about gratuities. For those that don’t, most cruise lines (except the luxury lines that include everything) will charge you gratuities above and beyond your original cruise fare. Depending on your stateroom class, your gratuity charge is something in the neighborhood of $13-$15 per person in the stateroom/per day. If you have four people in the stateroom this can really add up.

But there is a catch. You can choose not to pay gratuities. But to do that you have to wait until you are on the ship, go in person to the Guest Relations desk and tell them you want to not pay gratuities. At which point they may make you feel like you are the biggest cheapskate in the world, but you can do it. The discussion on the Elliott Advocacy site (CLICK HERE) is all about whether this opt-out method of doing gratuities is (as Chris Elliott himself put it) “consumer friendly” or not. If you are interested and you go to the site, you can skip the original problem. The interesting stuff is in the comments. It’s been quite the discussion and I know exactly how I feel about it.

That should do it for today. We haven’t been anywhere in two weeks or so, so I have no new pics for you. Just a giant thank you for sticking with me.

Know how and how much to tip people who expect gratuities, even in the case of poor service. —Marilyn vos Savant

20 Years—we can’t believe it

IMG_2067Can’t believe it. Today Kathleen and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage by taking a two day trip to Vancouver, BC. We have visited here many times in those 20 years as it is one of our favorite cities. We were here last in 2017 with our British buddies Paul and Gail. Before that my brother Steve, his wonderful wife Jamie and our niece Cassie were here in 2015. We used to come here a lot more often before 2006 when we switched out British Columbia focus from Vancouver to Chilliwack because we always had so much more fun with Bob and Judy.

We drove up yesterday (Tuesday) and had a wonderful dinner at Edible Canada on Granville Island and then saw an improv show at Vancouver TheatreSports League (VTSL). We have been going to VTSL for almost as long as we have been married. It’s an awesome improv spot that has in its founding members Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles of Whose Line Is It Anyway? The show was outstanding. We laughed our asses off.

This morning I went out for one of my early morning photo walks. I have done a bunch in Vancouver and it never disappoints. Saw a couple of cruise ships (one Princess and one Holland America’s Volendam) and thousands of teenage girls line up at 5:45 am for a huge warehouse sale. Just crazy.

After breakfast at our hotel (the Wedgewood—where we have never stayed but we LOVE it) we went to see the Vancouver Aquarium. We can’t believe we have come to YVR so many times and never seen it. It is truly amazing. Then it was a nice drive around the Stanley Park, stopped at Prospect Point to take pictures of the Lions Gate Bridge and have lunch at a superb little bar and grille place there.

Back to our room so I could process photos and take a short nap (we are kind of old, you know) and then dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the world, CinCin. We have had so many great dinners there since we first went with some of our Martini Mates back in 2005. Tonight was no exception. Truly wonderful Italian food and wine.

More tomorrow when I plan to walk the sea wall all the way around Stanley Park as my early morning photo walk, but in the meantime, here’s some pics I really like from today’s walk and our visit to the Aquarium.

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time. —Julia Child

A few more words about wine…and Walla Walla

No cruising or complaining today. Just a quick update to finish up our trip to Walla Walla.

When last we spoke (or when last I wrote) we were with our friends Jayesh and Lisa setting out to taste wine all around Walla Walla, Washington. And taste wine we did. We spent the entire day on Thursday trying new wines and eating. Shame on us, but it was so good and so much fun. We started out at Castillo de Feliciana Vineyard and Winery which was actually in Oregon and not Washington (by about 100 yards). What a beautiful place (see my pics below) in its own way. Kathleen and I spent a wonderful hour or so trying their wine while Jayesh and Lisa had their “morning juice.”

Then after grabbing a couple of bottles of a wine that Feliciana had “found” in the cellar (a wonderful 2008 red blend) we headed back to Washington to taste some more. For those who are not wine tasting types, a note about how wine tasting works (I always wanted to know,…maybe you do too) the wineries charge to taste about five or six wines (somewhere between $8 and $15) and they waive the tasting charge if you buy any bottle or if you are a member of their wine club (more about that later). They pour you about an ounce of each of their wines, usually starting with the lightest white through the deepest red. You can split (as we did) a tasting. If you are the designated driver (as I was) you can sip the wine and spit it out (they have buckets for that) or you can pick and choose which wines to actually taste (which is what I did) and sip a tiny mouthful. I want to say that at no time during our three days of wine tasting did I ever feel impaired. The last thing the father-in-law of a WSP sergeant ever wants is a DUI. And many of you know my attitude about DUIs. Tougher laws are needed.

Getting down off my DUI soapbox, we were on to the next place, Dusted Valley Winery where we met a very nice young lady who told us all about the wine. One of the best benefits of doing this on a weekday was having very few other people doing tastings so we got to hear all about the wines, where they were grown, how they were blended. Totally boring if you aren’t into wine and but great if you are. It’s amazing to learn how and where the grapes were grown affects the taste and scent of the wine. As much as we liked the young lady we weren’t that impressed with the wine and moved on to our next place—Tranche Cellars. We had shared an amazing bottle of their wine the night before at dinner and I was really looking forward to trying others.

I was not disappointed and we left with both another two bottles and a membership in their wine club. What this means is that we joined a club at no charge and we will receive two shipments of wine every year until we tell them to stop. There is no charge to join, but we are charged (at a reduced rate from retail) for the wine. Since we loved their wine, we thought why not give the club a try. If we don’t end up liking what we get the first time, we can cancel it. This particular vineyard was just as beautiful as Feliciana in an entirely different way. After our tasting and our buying, we were off to one more before we called it quits for the day.

rocksOur last stop was Saviah Cellars where we got quite the education about a particular growing area called a terroir or AVA (An American Viticultural Area—AVA is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States, providing an official appellation for the mutual benefit of wineries and consumers) known as The Rocks where grapes are literally grown in a pile of the rockiest soil you have ever seen. It produces (as Lisa says) a wine with a kind of a “funk” in the taste. It might be funky but I like it. Some really great Syrahs, (my favorite varietal of wine) so we had to buy two more bottles plus join their club as well. The woman doing the tasting turned out to be the mother of the very nice young lady we had met that morning at Dusted Valley. She was very knowledgable and we enjoyed talking to her and learning all about “The Rocks.”

There was another nearby winery we almost stopped in but we decided that at that point we were tasted out and needed both food and rest so it was back into Walla Walla for a quick bite. Before we had left I had read in an Eater.com post about a really cool restaurant inside a gas station convenience store and I really wanted to stop and try their food. It seemed like a really good place to catch a light (we were only 4 hours away from our dinner reservation) lunch. It’s called Andrae’s and it is really amazing food inside a Cenex station. Seriously! Check out their menu on their website here. We were trying to eat light so we each split a gyro but it came with fries…lots of fries. And really good fries too.

Lunch done, it was back to the AirBnB to rest, relax and download photos. Then dinner at Passtempo Restaurant (which while adequate, I can’t recommend as highly as I did Saffron the night before) and rest for the trip home.

That trip home was preceded by another early morning photo walk where I got some shots I really liked that are below, a great breakfast at the Maple Counter Cafe (known for their GIANT Dutch Baby pancakes) and a short drive to show Kathleen some of the old mansions I had found on my walks.

It’s about a five hour drive back to Redmond. On the way we made a stop in a town called Prosser for…what else? A wine tasting at 14 Hands Vineyards. We were home by 3:30. If you have not been, it’s worth a trip, especially if you love wine, which you now know we do.

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. —M. F. K. Fisher

On the road again…to wine

You know how we hate to sleep in our own beds so with that in mind we grabbed our next door neighbors and good friends Jayesh and Lisa and took off on a quick three day jaunt to the Walla Walla wine country. We left early Wednesday morning for what is usually a 4+ hour drive that due to my choice of route (through Leavenworth, Cashmere and Wenatchee) and typical Washington summer road construction, plus a stop for some great barbecue for lunch turned into a seven-hour trip.

We arrived in Walla Walla around 4:00 and since this is Washington’s  wine country and we like wine, the first stop was the first wine tasting place we saw on the highway. After trying some really great reds and a superb white (we ended up buying the white—I know our friends who drink wine are shocked) we were off…to the winery next door. This one was in a historic school house. I thought their wines were just fine but we didn’t buy any here because nothing screamed...I AM WONDERFUL! BUY ME! 

That was enough tasting to start the trip so we made our way into the downtown core of Walla Walla to the AirBnB we had rented. This may be the nicest AirBnB we have stayed in (Click here to see the listing). Just gorgeous. Tons of rooms for all four of us (actually room for eight). A great kitchen (not that we are cooking) and close to everything. We have never been here before but Jayesh and Lisa come on a regular basis so they know all the good wineries and more importantly, the great restaurants. Last night we started with dinner at a superb Mediterranean restaurant called Saffron. If you come here—go there. Excellent food and great service. Plus when you are with good friends, you always have a good time.

This morning I was up and shooting photos around 5:30 on my five mile walk to try and wear off some of dinner and what turned out to be an amazing breakfast of chilaquiles. No matter where I go, if they have chilaquiles, I have to try them. Today’s were about a 7 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the ones I had in Santa Fe and the ones in Las Vegas being a 9.5.

At any rate, I am writing this while we are killing time waiting for the wineries to open up so I will add some photos from yesterday and my pre-dawn walk and see you tomorrow.

Close friends contribute to our personal growth. They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there. —Judith Viorst

All the stuff I loved about Ovation

I had something else I was going to do before this post but it can wait since it is me being a “grumpy git” as my Yorkshire friends would say.

So let’s talk what I loved about our Ovation of the Seas cruise to Alaska with our kids and grandkids. So many of you have commented that every thing seems to have been horrible and now where should they take their kids on a cruise if not Royal. Well I am here to say, go ahead and take them on Royal Caribbean, just have lower expectations and a different mindset of what is important.

As a travel professional it is my job to help my clients have the best travel experience possible and my writing about this cruise is part of that. Hopefully those clients and other readers will learn from my mistakes. So here’s the good stuff.

IMG_2009First, Mason’s viewpoint. On the last night of the cruise, at the dinner table in the main dining room (while he was eating escargot for the fourth time) I asked my 8-year old grandson, “What were the five best things on this cruise?” He was really quick to answer me:

  1. The Flowrider (he had only the day before learned to ride it and he was INCREDIBLY proud of that).
  2. The service in the dining room at dinner. (I pressed him on this because it was kind of an interesting thing for an 8-year old to say but he was adamant.) He loved Res and Putu, who took such good care of all of us.
  3. The food in the dining room at dinner. (I was sure he was going to choose the buffet because of all the choices but he said no, he loved the food in the dining room best. Guess it was the escargot, shrimp and steak.)
  4. The bumper cars. (He’s 8—what did you expect?)
  5. Spending a week with Grandpa and Grandma K. (Of course I wish this had been first but it did place ahead of spending the week with his sister, mom and dad so I was happy!)

I love his list. And he really never mentioned (neither did his sister) anything they didn’t like. Now if you ask me what they really liked, it was having the complete and total attention of their Mom, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma K for an entire week—always trying to keep them entertained.

Now here’s my list of the things I LOVED about our Ovation cruise.

  1. Spending the week with my grandkids and their parents. It was a sheer joy to have my two grandkids knock on our door every day before breakfast and say, “room service,” laughing the entire time. Even standing in line for hours with them was great. We had so many interesting conversations. I have never played so much foosball and loved it. Mason and I have a particular bond (I was lucky enough to get to take care of him when he was really little when his Mom was teaching and his Dad had to work) and we have always just been simpatico. He’s my best buddy and I am his. So spending time with him is a joy for me. And Maylee loves me and adores her Grandma K. All the hassles we had on this cruise from start to finish are overshadowed by the incredible time we had with those two and their parents. It was a vacation we will all remember for a very long time._8106881
  2. Our stateroom. In 28 cruises (barring the one time we had a suite) this was the nicest room we have ever been in. It was the best designed, had the most storage, was the most comfortable as far as just being in it. Sure, the shower could have been a little bigger but at least it was an enclosure and didn’t have a shower curtain. And the bed was one of the worst we have ever slept on (but that didn’t detract from the great stateroom design). We should mention there are entire Cruise Critic threads out there about people bringing air mattresses because the beds are so bad.
  3. _8106906The service team in the dining room. Res and Putu were actually better than pretty much any other serving team we have ever had. After having Richard and his team in Blu (on Reflection in Iceland) I didn’t think it could get any better. But I was wrong. And the fact that I was wrong is what makes RCL the right place to take kids. You see even though the management has scheduling conflicts and the kid’s club people were just ho-hum in their interactions with our kids, the real star of the ship for kids are the adults who “get” how to deal with kids. From our room steward Shetty who talked to the kids every time he saw them to the guy running the Flowrider who took time to work with kids on trying new things (he didn’t have to do that) these people got kids. And above all, these two amazing people who served us each night in the dining room charmed our kids. Especially Res who just knew how to deal with kids so well.
  4. The gym. It was spiffy! That’s the best word I can give it. I went every morning for an hour and as usual it was packed on day one and almost empty on day six. But all the equipment is still like new. Best stationary bike I have ridden that I didn’t own. The place was kept VERY clean.
  5. The ship itself. Ovation is new and beautiful. It has been quite a while since we have been on a ship this new. Everything is still clean and sparkly compared to many other, older ships we have sailed on—even though Ovation is almost three years old. She has been well taken care of and if you are considering a cruise on her you will love the ship itself. I especially loved the artwork in all the stairwells. Of course you have to take the stairs to see it all, but the elevators are so slow, you can take your time on the stairs.

That about does it. Not perfection but not horrible either. And I can say this unequivocally—if I had to do it again, and I could avoid a few of the bigger problems (like having a passport—that we just got back from renewal today) I would. Just avoid the buffet, eat in the dining room and take your grandkids.

Nothing always stays the same. You don’t stay happy forever. You don’t stay sad forever. —Cat Zingano