The aftermath of Irma

We watch in awe as Mother Nature bares her teeth and discredits the climate change nay-sayers. 

Irma’s clean up will be deceptively quick in some areas and decidedly long-term in others.

What should you do if your travel plans are taking you into a hurricane’s pre-or post path?

First, when travelling to areas that are subject to extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes, typhoons, rainy seasons, etc. it’s worth researching the region’s seasonality. 

The Caribbean’s hurricane season, for instance, runs from June to the end of November with the peak time being August through October. 

Summer is a great time to travel to the Caribbean for budget-savvy travellers looking for lower costs, low humidity, lesser crowds and usually lovely weather. 

With benefits come some risk, however. 

Any time you prepay for travel services, you have money at risk and you want to make sure that if a future hurricane threatens your trip that you make the best decisions for yourself.

For those of you who have invested in travel insurance or have coverage through your credit cards, be sure to get clear on the “covered risks” of your policy. 

Many times, the weather itself is not enough reason to cancel. The Canadian government must issue a Travel Advisory against any “non-essential” travel to the area you’re travelling to. 

This likely affects those people travelling after the hurricane has passed. You can’t necessarily cancel your trip just because the beach has washed away. The area must be deemed unsafe and uninhabitable, not “messy."

Luckily, there are some products such as Premium Protection with Manulife which offer “cancel for any reason” options which are well worth considering if you choose to travel within inclement weather seasons.

For those of you who travel without cancellation insurance, well, you’re at the whim of the airlines and tour suppliers. 

When your flight is cancelled due to extreme weather, scheduled airlines like AC and Delta would refund your money. However, if you called to cancel your flight in advance, the airlines generally only allow for a free “re-booking window” within a five-to-seven-day period of the hurricane itself. 

If you wanted to delay your travel for a month or more or change destinations all together, then you’d be looking at change fees as well as possible fare increases. 

Air and hotel packages are governed under the tour supplier’s policies. Again, most allow you to delay and/or change destinations but within a narrow time frame. Best you could hope for is a future travel credit valid for travel within a year of issuance.

Cruise lines allow themselves lots of leeway to avoid refunding your prepaid contract. Buried within the small print are clauses that allow them to skip scheduled ports, substitute ports, leave early or late and otherwise adapt to the hurricane’s path. 

With a major change in itinerary, a cruise line may offer a future cruise credit or shipboard credit, but technically they are under no order to do so.

An experienced and professional travel consultant earns his or her reputation in situations such as these. 

Rely on their assistance during the early booking stages of your holiday and benefit from their guidance during “rough seas."

Music on the seas

Holland America is not your Grampa’s cruise line any more. 

Fabulous new interactive entertainment avenues aboard her new ship The Koningsdam and subsequent updates and refurbishments to all their ships have made Holland America a forerunner in today’s competitive cruise industry.

Your evening’s entertainment begins at the innovative World Stage. At two storeys high and 250 feet long, the high-definition LED screens make the World Stage a trendsetting theatre at sea capable of showcasing an exciting array of performances and productions. 

Surround sound capabilities encase you in an immersive display featuring programs such as BBC’s Earth Series Frozen Planet. Live music combines with breath-taking visuals to transport you to the majestic wilderness of our Polar Regions. 

The World Stage is flexible in its configurations and can change to suit each individual performer’s requirements. Entertainers have been sourced from around the world and range from mind-boggling magic to jaw-dropping Cirque du Soleil style performances.

Move along now to the Music Walk. A three-part array of entertainment to entice and amuse the most discretionary of palates. In an exclusive partnership with the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, the Lincoln Stage features exemplary musicians and wonderful productions of symphony style music. 

Ranging from purist chamber music performances to wonderful amalgamations such as Beyoncé Meets Beethoven, the Lincoln Stage introduces a world of music to a new audience every night.

Time to ramp things up to get the evening started. We head to Billboard Onboard. A great place to meet fellow guests and bond over music trivia and lyrics.

Featuring a live DJ, guitarist and the ever popular Duelling Pianos, the Billboard is a fun and energetic spot to laugh, compete and sing out loud to your heart’s content.  Guests are part of the show as performers rock the house with 50+ years of chart topping hits.

Still have energy to burn? Then, it’s time for the Queen’s Lounge …. home to BB King’s All-Star Blues Band.  Direct from Beale Street, the eight-piece group features two vocalists backed by rhythm and horn sections.  From funky and fast to soulful and smooth, the band evokes the ambiance of the namesake clubs on land with images of the blues guitar legend. 

Partake of specialty cocktails exclusive to the BB King Clubs such as the rum-based Lucille and Rock Me Baby concoctions. Dance the night away.

Entertainment Onboard Holland America  

Now, is the perfect time to experience all that Holland America delivers. For bookings now until Nov. 17 on sailings which depart any time March 28, 2018 until April 28, 2019 (some exclusions), guests qualify for the following free amenities:

  • Specialty Beverage Packages
  • Free Pinnacle Grill Restaurant Reservation
  • Free and/or Reduced 3rd & 4th guest
  • ½ price deposits
  • Suites qualify for an additional $200SBC

So, what are you waiting for?  “Get Your Groove On” with Holland America today.

Nice is really nice!

Long the playground for the European elite, Nice is still a viable and affordable destination for the everyday vacationer. 

The gem of the Cote d’Azur, easily accessed via international flights, train schedules or economical bus service, awaits your exploration.

Location is everything if you wish to have easy walking access to the city’s attractions. Many use the Promenade des Anglais as a base search for choosing their hotel. 

This is a beautiful seaside boulevard stretching from the airport to the Old Town. Cyclists, baby strollers and skateboarders all vie for their patch of ground and the auto traffic can be ridiculously congested and moving at a snail’s pace during the day. 

Never leave your airport transfer to the last minute. 

The beaches in Nice are beautiful, but they are not free. Although there is no charge to access the sand for a walk along the water’s edge, you are not able to lay a towel or chair as all beaches along the “Prom” are private. 

Sitting at the assorted beach clubs range from $20-$35EUR per person for the day.

The Promenade is most recently infamous as the site of the horrible Bastille Day attack, which left 86 people dead. July 14 marks the one-year anniversary and memorial to those who perished.

The public transit system is very inexpensive. You can buy day passes or longer durations for unlimited access to the bus system. 

Of course, the best way to really immerse yourself in Nice is to walk. 

Based on my recent visit, I would advise staying within the boundaries of Boulevard Gambetta, Victor Hugo Blvd and Old Town. Lots of hotels available within this circumference at varying tariffs.

Old Town or Vieux Nice is a lovely place to get lost in and amongst the dark narrow winding alleyways. The layout has barely changed since the 1700s and is now jammed with delis, restaurants, boutiques and bars. 

The centrepiece is the Saleya Market featuring an extensive food market offering wonderful local produce, cheeses, meats as well as the incredibly fragrant flower market. 

It is here that you find the daunting uphill access to the Castle Hill (La Colline du Chateaux). The climb is so worth the amazing vista of the city and coastline of the Bay of Angels. 

Although there is a vast assortment of restaurants in Old Town, I would not recommend eating dinner here.  Seating is “cheek to jowl” and the setting is very touristy. It is, however, a great place to come back to for late night entertainment and aperitif. 

Check out the many live music venues or simply sit with a yummy gelato and enjoy the people watching.

The Place de Massena is located at the entrance to Old Town. A large square at the confluence of the monorail station it is also the gateway to the Rue Massena. 

A wide boulevard stretching for four km — this is your shopping mecca. Trendy restaurants, boutiques and galleries make this a terrific “strolling” avenue.  Go a couple blocks in either direction of the Rue Massena to find unique and memorable dining options. 

I found a wonderful little tapas wine bar that I can highly recommend — La Clef d’Or (The Gold Key). 

Nice is the perfect destination for the art lover (Chagall & Matisse), foodie and wine connoisseur and history buff. Plan for at least a three-day stay and you’ll but scratch the surface but those days will leave you with star-filled eyes and a pensive desire to return.


Driving in France

I am certain I would travel regardless of my profession.

However due to my diligence to ever expand my knowledge and experience, I make note of my surroundings and adventures during every vacation to later better advise my clients. 

The realities of driving in France is one for the record books.

I would be the first to advocate the spontaneity and versatility that a self-drive holiday can offer, however the realities and constraints that driving in France entails is one that should be considered prior to arranging a rental car.

The country is criss-crossed with a highway system ranging from six-lane high speed freeways to national four -lane routes and then a series of agricultural and departmental secondary road accesses. 

The freeways are denoted by the letter A and give the quickest most direct access however they also are subject to many tolls. 

At $3EUR and above per stop, these charges can quickly add up over the course of a holiday. For example, the drive from Paris to Aix en Provence can be as expensive as $100EUR one way.

Both the freeways and national highways are subject to intense volume delays as well, which can add a debilitating and frustrating aspect to the drive. 

Photo radar is another liability to be cognizant of.

Many clients choose to upgrade the size of the vehicle to accommodate luggage and/or have extra power on the freeway. This is another factor to re-consider. 

Parking is a premium pretty much anywhere you go. Underground parking access is incredibly narrow and stalls are teeny-weeny. Above ground parking is haphazard at best and vehicles are literally jammed in with but centimetres to spare. 

Few hotels include free parking and rates range from $3EUR/hour to $20EUR/day. Again, a cost to factor in.  Smaller cars give you access to the twisting winding roads of the glorious scenic routes such as the Route des Cretes.

The road less travelled is slower, but leads you to the most interesting sites.

My suggestion would be to incorporate the incredibly efficient transit system into your travel plans. Trains are comfortable and air-conditioned and are cost effective if booked in advance or travelled during off peak hours.  Utilize this service to travel distances or 400 km or more. 

The national bus service is excellent and very inexpensive. Frequency of service is fantastic and comfort is premium. The bus from Aix en Provence to Nice was two-hours at a cost of $22EUR roundtrip. 

Public transit within the cities themselves is also an easy and effective manner of discovery. Rent your car for specific areas and perhaps for a day at a time to explore specific scenic routes or to discover hidden treasures such as Les Baux-de-Provence or the exhilarating Mont Ventoux route made famous by the Tour de France.

The iconic history, culture and cuisine of France is yours to discover in what ever way suits you best.

More The Joy of Travel articles

About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy by email.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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