Oceania Riviera Christening Getting Onboard

Irene and I were extremely fortunate to be among those present for the fabulous celebration of Oceania's Riviera christening. We flew Delta from JFK to Nice. The cruise was made up primarily of travel agents and investors of the parent company of Oceania Cruises- Prestige Holding Company. The flight was fine and we were met in Nice by Oceania representatives and were transferred to the ship in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The check in was seamless. Our cabin turned out to be a Penthouse, which was spectacular. It measured over 400 square feet with a huge walk-in closet, a beautiful marble bathroom with tub and separate shower and a large verandah…even a butler! (We really did not need one, but he was very nice.) After unpacking and resting up a bit, we had an impressive dinner in the main dining room. First impressions: this is a fabulous ship with gorgeous accoutrements. The main dining room (open seating, hoorah) and four alternative restaurants at no charge, are absolutely terrific.
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Homeward Bound

We flew economy on Air Tahiti Nui but lucked out and got bulkhead seats which gave us extra legroom for the overnight flight. We arrived in Los Angeles at 11 AM, cleared customs, got our luggage and made our way to the United terminal for the five-hour flight back to Newark. It was a very long 24 hours, but we managed OK. All in all, this turned out to be a fabulous vacation. I highly recommend the Paul Gauguin. The Society Islands should certainly be part of anyone’s “bucket-list.” But please make sure you also experience an over-the water-bungalow. You’ll never regret it. If Tahiti is on your list of places you’d like to visit, blog followers are very welcome to call me in my office for suggestions: 800-229-2542 or get in touch with me by email, jerryd@alicetravel.com.
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Over-the-water Paradise

Intercontinental MooreaIf I were to pick a highlight of the entire trip, it would have to be the two days we spent at the Intercontinental Moorea. We splurged and took an over-the-water bungalow, which turned out to be a wonderful decision. If you’re ever “in the neighborhood”, I would strongly suggest you do the same. It is difficult to describe the experience, but a look at my photos will give you the feeling of what an over-the-water bungalow is all about. We went swimming and snorkeling right from the bungalow. The ladder attached to the bungalow turned out to be very helpful. The seclusion, privacy and magnificent scenery—including amazing sunsets—was not to be believed. The Intercontinental property was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Everywhere you looked was worthy of a photo. The food was excellent. We enjoyed a wonderful day at the beach and pool. They even have a dolphin center, where you can swim with the dolphins (for a steep price.) We also visited the hotel’s own turtle rescue facility. The next day after lunch, we took a taxi to the ferry, for a 20-minute ride to Papeete for the flight home. In Papeete, we had a taxi meet us for the drive to the Intercontinental Hotel there. As our flight was not leaving till midnight, we decided to take a day room, enjoy the facilities, and have dinner before we departed for the airport. This turned out to be an excellent decision as well.
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Montreal

Arrived yesterday in Montreal. We left the ship last night to have dinner with a dear friend and colleague, Nadia, who owns a large successful travel agency here. Dined at a wonderful French bistro in the heart of the city. Notre Dame Cathedral MontrealToday we wandered through the old city section of Montreal. The highlight was spending time in the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame with its magnificent stained glass windows, wonderful gilded carvings set off by a deep blue ceiling and paneling, and a huge pipe organ. This has been a great trip.
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Quebec City

Today Irene and I hosted the full day Ensemble excursion in Quebec and we had a wonderful time. Our group included 41 guests from Ensemble agencies all over the US and Canada. We started from the pier in the morning and made the short drive to National Battlefields Park, aka the Plains of Abraham, where the famous battle between British and French forces was fought in 1759, deciding the future history of Canada as a British possession. We stopped on the way at Cap-Diamant for an amazing view of the St. Lawrence River, the Lower Town, and the sweeping landscape on every side. Our next stop was the Chateau Frontenac Hotel, which is on an awe-inspiring height 200 ft. above the River. This is where French explorer Samuel de Champlain constructed his first fort in the early 1600s. This Frontenac is the world's most photographed hotel—easy to see why! It was built in the 1890s in the classic style of a French castle and dominates the Quebec City skyline. From there we went to Place-Royale, the market square in the Lower Town that has been restored to highlight its beautiful 17th and 18th century architecture. Isle d'OrleansTime for lunch! Quebecois cuisine is delicious and interesting, French but definitely Canadian. We had a wonderful lunch at Restaurant Les Ancetres, good food and a beautiful riverside setting overlooking Quebec on the Island of Orleans. From there we traveled into the Quebec countryside to visit the basilica of Saint Anne de Beaupre, Canada's most famous pilgrimage church. Originally it was a simple chapel for sailors, but it evolved into a large basilica which has a long tradition of healing various illnesses and disabilities. The pillars at the front are covered with crutches left by people who claimed to be healed here. We came back toward Quebec City along the scenic Avenue Royale and finished up the tour at Montmorency Falls, a fabulous waterfall half again as high as Niagara that plunges down a 270-plus foot cliff to the St. Lawrence. A great finale to our excursion.
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Halifax

Irene and I decided to take a Crystal excursion to Peggy’s Cove, about an hour drive from downtown Halifax. On the way we stopped at the deGarthe Gallery. This was a charming gallery of paintings and sculptures by one of Nova Scotia's best-loved artists, William deGarthe. The highlight is his Fisherman’s Monument, a 100-foot long relief carved into an outcropping of granite rock, dedicated to Nova Scotia fisherman. Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia CanadaPeggy’s Cove is a typical, picturesque fishing village, with a striking lighthouse—a photographer’s paradise: light house, fishing nets, lobster traps, tiny fishing boats—it's hard to imagine it could be any prettier. It makes me wonder how much money visitors paid for slides and prints before we all went digital.
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