Travel News
Upcoming Travel Calendar

October 2017 - Mike and Sandy are now only ONE week from departure on their next cruise, and the big suitcases are already enroute to the ship. They will be back on their favorite "big" cruise ship, Holland America's Amsterdam, for an 80 day trip around the Pacific Rim. The cruise starts in San Diego (yea! no overnight flight!), heads to Alaska, crosses over to Japan and China, and visits many ports heading all the way south to Australia and New Zealand, and returning va Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii back to San Diego (yea! no overnight flight!). They will visit about 30 ports in all, with half of them being brand new to Mike and Sandy.

July 2018 - This month is a big milestone birthday for Sandy, so the travel fairy might be planning something, but isn't talking!

October 2018 - Back on a smaller ship, Mike & Sandy join their church travel group again, this time for a New England & Canada cruise on Star Pride (formerly the Seabourn Pride). With just 212 passengers, this will feel like a small ship, but it actually looks like a big cruise ship on a diet. The trip runs from Boston to Montreal.
Recent Travel

GREAT LAKES July 2017:
The small ship (210 passengers) Victory I was Sandy and Mike's home for a 10-day cruise hitting all 5 of the Great Lakes. (Vantage World Travel organized Mike & Sandy's travel last year in Portugal and Croatia, and did very well -- the Victory I was done through Vantage as well.) This trip began in Toronto, included stops in Cleveland, Detroit, Mackinac (pronounced "Mack-in-awe") Island, and Sault St. Marie (pronounced "Soo Saint Marie") , plus Manitoulin Island and Niagra Falls on the Canadian side. Disembarkation was in Chicago, where Mike and Sandy added a few days of sightseeing before returning home. Trip notes and a few pictures are here.

CHARLESTON & Y'ALL May 2017:
Mike & Sandy met some nice folks in Portugal last summer, who invited Mike & Sandy to come visit them at their historic-district Charleston, S.C. home. Afterward a nice visit, Mike & Sandy rented a car and entered "road trip mode." Tennessee stops included Pigeon Forge (think Dolly Parton), Oak Ridge, and Nashville. Then came lunch with one of Mike's Alabama cousins,a USAF Museum and FDR's "Little White House" in Georgia, and back into Alabama for dinner with Mike's 98-year old aunt. The last stop was in Memphis (can you say "Elvis?"). Pictures and notes are here.

THE DENVER WEDDING March 2017:
We worried about the weather when the date and place for Sandy's niece's wedding was announced, and opening our Denver area hotel room curtains and seeing snow the day before didn't help any. But even though it was a bit chilly for the outdoor wedding, the sun came out, most of the snow melted, and all went well ! A few pictures are in the Family section.

DEJA VU MAUI October 2016:
Once again, Mike & Sandy returned to their time-share on Ka'anapali Beach on Maui, Mike's favorite spot to watch sunsets. Friends Jesse and Pat came along to make the trip sort of multi-generational. A little windier than usual, but lunch at 50's style Cool Cats is always fun. A sunset dinner cruise off Lahaina was one of the highlights of this visit, with a cloudy sunset behind the island of Lana'i, and a misty moon over the Maui mountains. The "Elvis in Hawaii" show was surprisingly good.




UTAH ROAD TRIP September 2016: Mike and Sandy visited five National Parks in Utah, plus the Grand Canyon in Arizona, with friends Pat and Jesse coming along to supervise. The trip also included visiting with some cruise friends on the way home. And since the road back happens to go through Las Vegas, they took in the sensational Cirque du Solei Beatles show. Notes and a few pictures? Click here.

PORTUGAL AND CROATIA June 2016:
Mike and Sandy went to Portugal for some sightseeing plus a river boat trip on the Douro River, which happens to be the center of their wine industry. Following that, they flew to Croatia for a similar itinerary, except the river boat was replaced by a 26-passenger yacht traveling along the Dalmatian coast. Some pictures and notes from both Porugal and Croatia are here now. Click here.

MIKE TO MEXICO April 2016:
Mike, with 210 teenagers and 51 other adults, went to Mexico to build new homes for 14 poor families east of Tijuana. You can read about this annual project of Mike & Sandy's church, plus see a few pictures of Mike and his crew building their house, here.

ATLANTIC ADVENTURER Nov/Dec 2015:
Mike and Sandy's 50 day Mediterranean cruise on Holland America's mid-sized Maasdam introduced them to some new ports (e.g., Tenerife-Canary Islands, Tangier-Morocco, and Gibraltar), and included an extended stay off-ship for several days of sight-seeing in Rome. (Sandy had a "medical mis-adventure" early in the cruise, but that didn't keep them from a nice trip. Back home, gall bladder surgery has taken care of the problem.) This cruise left from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and returned there, so Sandy was pleased -- no trying to sleep overnight on a plane!

VOYAGE OF THE VIKINGS Aug 2015:
Mike and Sandy boarded Holland America's Veendam, sailing from Boston to Greenland, Iceland, and Norway, and back, with some other stops in both Canada and Europe thrown in for variety. After the cruise, they spent a few days visiting friends at their summer place on the shores of Lake Huron about 5 hours north of Detroit. You can see selected pictures and some notes on most of the cruise HERE. Spoiler Alert!: Greenland isn't green, and Iceland has very little ice.

WORLD'S LARGEST CRUISE SHIP Mar 2015:
Mike & Sandy, along with cruise friends from Florida, sailed on "Allure of the Seas," the largest cruise ship in the world, in the Caribbean. They're more often on 1500 passenger Holland America ships, so the 6000+ on this ship was amazing (but quite well managed). Mike wanted to check out this ship, which has numerous superlatives (Zip-Line, surf-boarding, water-theater and show like at the Bellagio, a full-sized ice skating rink, etc), but two jaw-dropping features involve the huge attrium in the middle of the ship with an open-air "Central Park" with over 12,000 live plants, and below that, an enclosed "main street" promenade where shops, restaurants, bars, etc. (even a Starbucks) are found.

There was fabulous entertainment, and impressively good food. The ride is very smooth -- this ship is almost twice as wide as the typical Holland America ship, and much heavier -- it couldn't go through the Panama Canal. There were over 1000 kids aboard, but thanks to the size of the ship, they were barely noticed.

You can see more about the Allure, and a few pictures from our time on the ship, here.

PALM SPRINGS AREA November 2014:
Friends Pat and Jesse have a time-share in the Palm Springs area, and invited Mike and Sandy to come join in a week of desert living. The local community college has a big flea market in their parking lot every weekend, so the shopping team had to check it out. And 5000 feet over Palm Desert is the little mountain town of Idyllwild (reminds one of a Lake Tahoe town in simpler times), which was visited one day - Sandy found a fun little Christmas shop targeting Grandmas.


MAUI AGAIN October 2014:
Mike & Sandy returned to their Westin time-share on Maui's Ka'anapali Beach for a week's fun, with friends Jesse and Pat joining in. This visit was relatively laid back, but included a ferry ride over to the nearby island of Lanai, for lunch at the Four Seasons resort. Another day, the team enjoyed lunch overlooking Lahaina's harbor. At the end of the week, they dodged Hurricane Ana, which brought winds and lots of rain after they left.



SAN DIEGO VISIT September 2014:
Mike & Sandy met Bakersfield friends Buzz and Doreen and headed to San Diego. Old Town ("birthplace of California") was great, the aircraft carrier Midway was a great tour, and Sea World didn't disappoint. At the zoo, a Giant Panda was most engaging, and lunch with a cousin of Sandy's she hasn't seen in 60+ years was fun.


MEDITERRANEAN SAILING June 2014:
Mike and Sandy joined the travel group from their Danville church for a week's sailing in the Mediterranean on the Wind Surf.

This ship actually sails, but doesn't rely on the wind (big diesel engines, too) -- it puts the sails up at least a while every day for the beauty of it, if nothing else. The ship carried its 312 passengers from Rome to Barcelona, with five stops along the way. Notes on the trip, plus a few pictures, are here.

ANTARCTICA - IGUAZU FALLS Jan-Feb 2014:
Mike and Sandy went on a "really cold and really hot" adventure on Holland America's Prinsendam. Words can hardly describe Antarctica, nor the amazing Iguazu Falls, on the Argentine-Brazil border. A few pictures, and brief notes on the trip, are here.

NEW ENGLAND ROAD TRIP August 2013:
Mike and Sandy enjoyed a late summer New England road trip, from Buffalo, New York, and traveling the backroads of upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Some notes and a few pictures are here.

WORLD CRUISE Jan-April 2013:
Mike & Sandy's grandest adventure, an around-the-world cruise, is the longest trip (4 months) they've ever taken (and probably ever will). There were 44 ports of call, some old favorites (like Hong Kong) and some amazing first visits (e.g., Easter Island & Cape Town, South Africa). Brief notes, and some pictures, are in six sections:
1 - South America & Easter Island Click here
2 - South Pacific islands Click here
3 - New Zealand and Australia Click here
4 - SE Asia and Hong Kong Click here
5 - Indian Ocean & South Africa Click here
6 - Southern Africa & across the Atlantic Click here

MAUI TIME-SHARE October 2012:
Mike & Sandy went back to Maui, Mike's favorite of their several Westin time-shares, taking along friends Jesse and Pat. The explorers went to the (really high) top of the volcano, walked in the surf, and enjoyed sunsets, a magic show, a 50's-style cafe, and a sugar mill tour. ("Two sweetees at the sugar plant!")


RIVERBOAT CRUISES - July 2012: Back-to-back riverboat trips took Mike and Sandy to Europe last summer -- the first on the Elbe River in East Germany, and the second on the Danube.

Elbe notes and some pix are here. See Danube notes & pix here.

MEDITERRANEAN-BLACK SEA March 2012: Mike and Sandy took a 36-day cruise across the Atlantic from Florida into the Mediterranean and the Black Sea - 12 countries and 19 ports. Notes and some pictures are here.

CANCUN TIME-SHARE February 2012: A visit to their Cancun time-share saw Sandy and Mike, along with their friends Buzz and Doreen, trying old favorites (like Cancun WalMart - always good for laughs) as well as explorng some new things. One of these was a day trip to EkBalam, a Mayan ruin somewhat like Chichenitza, but only recently discovered, and a gourmet dinner in a large home converted into an intimate restaurant (only 7 tables). The chef is French, and his wife Mexican, and together they personally serve a small number of diners each evening. Incredibly good, great service, and a wonderful experience! If you are going to Cancun, be sure to ask Mike or Sandy about this.

NEW YEARS EVE December 2011: Mike and Sandy were in Times Square for New Years Eve - sure you can see it better on TV, but the crowd's roar, the confetti and fireworks, the pick- pockets -- you just have to be there! The 9/11 Memorial is very moving, and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show and decorations were stunning.
Then came 11 pm, and it was time to move out to our reserved spots on the street for "ball drop." The entire event is very well organized and policed - we felt comfortable the whole time.




BRANSON TIME-SHARE November 2011: Mike & Sandy were guests of friends Buzz and Doreen at their time-share near Branson, Missouri. Branson is a little like Las Vegas -- "the strip" with entertainment, hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. -- but yet very different: there are no casinos at all, and in typical mid-Western style, most shows have a patriotic or religious tone - very family-oriented, and verything brighly decorated for Christmas.

One of the best shows was SIX - six brothers who are great singers, but also mimic various musical instruments -- you would swear there's a band just off stage, but there isn't. Pierce Arrow was also good; great singing, plus a hillarious comedian. Silver Dollar City is a nearby theme park, with lots of musical programs, and a Disney-like "electric light parade."

One day we drove to nearby Bella Vista, Arkansas, where Sandy's cousin Dorothy (95 years young!) lives. She isn't far from Bentonville, so we took in the Sam Walton Museum, where WalMart began in 1950. On the way back, we ate lunch at Lamberts, famous for waiters who throw dinner rolls to the guests (Google Lamberts Restaurant). The College of the Ozarks, where every student must work on campus, was fun to tour, as well.



MAUI TIME-SHARE October 2011: Mike & Sandy went back to their Maui time-share, this time along with Danville friends Pat and Jessie. This is Mike's favorite among the time-shares. On the way to the resort, they stopped at the Halimali General Store for lunch -- this is a Conde Naste and Zagat recommended restaurant, and one of the best on Maui -- delicious ! The team visited a botanic garden (found a Jacaranda tree - never seen in Northern California), and took the famous "Road to Hana."

HOT IN FLORIDA! AUGUST 2011: Mike & Sandy took Great Grand-daughter Kerri to Disney World and surrounding attractions for her 12th birthday. It was fun, but August in Florida is a real shock to the system! Pictures and notes here.

CRUISING FJORDS & THE ARCTIC July 2011: While not the longest, this certainly was the coldest cruise for Mike & Sandy. On the Crystal Serenity, they explored the big fjords of Norway, plus went WAY further north than they've ever been - not quite to the North Pole, but close!
A few pictures are here!

ASIA-MIDDLE EAST CRUISE March 2011:
This was a cruise with friends Lee and Shirley, boarding the ship in Hong Kong, traveling through SE Asia to India, then around the Middle East, and finally into the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. Highlights included the Taj Mahal in India, Petra in Jordan, and the Luxor temple complex in Egypt.
Click here to see some of our pictures.

PALM SPRINGS & SOUTHWEST January 2011:
Mike & Sandy drove to Palm Springs, visiting son Rick and seeing several concerts at McCallum Theater (where Rick's the Marketing Manager). They also saw the Palm Springs Follies, with "comp" tickets secured by Rick's friend Gordon. The night street fair was fun, and they drove over to Scottsdale to visit Earl and Karin. (Earl was best man at Mike and Sandy's wedding 30 years ago.) They stopped by Visalia, where Physician Assistant son Michael lives.



We Still Remember some older trips .....

BALTIC CRUISE July 2010:
Mike & Sandy joined their church's travel group for a Baltic cruise aboard the Star Princess, including Copenhagen,Stockholm (Nobel Prize sites), Oslo (1952 Winter Olympics sites), St. Petersburg (Hermitage Museum, Peter Hof beach palace), Tallin (medieval walking town in Estonia), and Gdansk, Poland (castle of the Tuetonic Knights). We were on the ship on the 4th of July, and there were many festivities.

KAUAI TIME-SHARE April 2010:
Mike & Sandy, along with Mike's daughter Ginger and her husband Blake, spent a week at the Westin Princeville resort on Kauai. Sightseeing included a helicopter ride all over the island.
Click here for a few Hawaii pictures.

CANCUN TIME-SHARE Feb 2010:
Starwood opened a new Westin time-share in Cancun, and Mike & Sandy, along with friends Buzz and Doreen, went down to check it out. It's quite pretty, and faces east, so you see sunrises rather than sunsets. Of course it has a great beach to walk along, and enormous pools, some with water slides. A visit to the WalMart in Cancun is a kick; sort-of like a WalMart, and sort-of like a loud and lively Mexican fiesta. One highlight was a trip to Chichenitza, the largest of the Mayan temple complexes, and dating from about 800 years ago. And also in the spirit of learning about the local culture, Mike and Buzz enjoyed meeting one of the dancers at a local show.

CARIBBEAN CRUISE, PLUS FLORIDA-ALABAMA ROAD TRIP Jan 2010: Mike & Sandy attended a financial seminar held on a cruise ship, with many investment advisors as speakers. The ship visited 3 ports, but unusually cold weather was a damper. Back on land, Mike & Sandy visited some old California friends who've moved to Florida, and then some of Mike's relatives (including a 95 year old aunt) in Alabama. Mike also visited the cemetery where his Mother and Father are buried.


OREGON - WASHINGTON ROAD TRIP 2009: Mike & Sandy headed north to visit friends in eastern Washington State. They added lots of sightseeing - some natural (Oregon coast, Crater Lake, Olympic Peninsula) and some man-made (Grand Coulee Dam, Boeing 747 factory). We have a photo of teenager Sandy at Vidae Falls, so we checked to see if it had changed. An air museum in Oregon with the Spruce Goose, and one of the enormous hangers used by blimps in WW II were interesting. The Oregon coast's Cannon Beach is a beautiful vacation spot, and the Olympic Peninsula's Lake Quinault Lodge (similar to Yosemite's Ahwanee Lodge) takes you back in time. Mt. St. Helens was interesting before stopping by Seattle's public fish market, the Space Needle, and the "Sleepless in Seattle" houseboat. A tour of Boeing's 747 assembly plant was astonishing. With friends Jerry and Kathy, Sandy and Mike visited Grand Coulee Dam, and later had lunch with a nephew Sandy hadn't seen in 30 years. Heading south, the northwest California redwoods are huge, and always impressive.




MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE 2009: Mike & Sandy spent three summer weeks in the Mediterranean on the Noordam, one of Holland America's newer ships. The ship carries 2000 passengers, so is big-ish, but not enormous. Ports of call were in Italy, France, Spain, Tunisia, Greece, and Turkey. Highlights included the old Roman towns of Ephesus and Pompei, the site of the first Olympic Games in Greece, the Phoenecian town of Carthage (Hanibal and his elephants came from there), and Dubrovnik, a medieval walled city in modern day Croatia. There were lots of shopping opportunities and lots of great food!
A few of our cruise pictures are here!

SOUTH-EAST ASIA 2009: Mike & Sandy, along with former Walnut Creek neighbors Gary and Joan, spent 18 days touring Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. (In the book "1000 Places To See Before You Die," this trip ticked off 8.) Although the Vietnamese government is officialy communist, capitalism is booming -- the country's mascot should be the motor bike, which has pretty well replaced the lowly bicycle, not only for people, but to transport cargo of all sorts.

In Hanoi, we saw the Ho Chi Minh memorial, and a fascinating water puppet show, very popular in Vietnam. Halong Bay (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is filled with limestone islands and spires -- and junks, like this one where we spent the night. In Hue, we stayed in the former mansion of the French Governor General, and visited a monastery. Our visit to the sea-side village of Hoi An coincided with their annual Lantern Festival, and along the way, we passed China Beach, a favorite R&R spot for GI's.

Hanoi is sort of like Washington, D.C. and Saigon is Vietnam's New York and LA in one. We visited lots of sights, including the Rex Hotel, hangout of journalists during the war years, and Pho 2000, a noodle shop made famous by President Clinton during his visit to Vietnam.

We spent several days in the Mekong Delta area, and were amazed at what takes place on the water (including huge floating markets) in this enormous farming region. We had a final (and delicious as usual) dinner back in Saigon with our guide before we left Vietnam.

Our 3 day visit to Cambodia was all about Angkor Wat, a huge temple and palace, very well preserved, built about 900 years ago, and Cambodia's top tourist attraction. It's another "one-of-a-kind-in-the-world" place. Nearby is Angkor Thom, a location used in the movie "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider."

Last stop was Bangkok, where we visited some former Californians now living there, and had our farewell dinner overlooking the river.







LAS VEGAS 2008:

Lee and Shirley, friends from the old Lake Wildwood days, came to Mike & Sandy's Maui time-share a few years ago. They didn't bite on the Westin's sales pitch, but did buy from the Marriott -- a new time-share just off the Las Vegas strip. This year they invited Mike & Sandy to see it. It was a nice week, with 4 shows, a day at the big Nellis Air Force Base show, along with LOTS of good food. See some great pictures from Las Vegas here.

ALBUQUERQUE ROAD TRIP 2008: Mike and friend Dick drove back to the annual hot-air balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stopping at some air museums along the way. The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs was interesting, and nearby Peterson Air Force Base had old Cold War-era missle exhibits. The hot-air balloon festival was amazing, from the Dawn Patrol event through the mass ascension, with about 600 balloons launched at once. On the way home, a visit to the Air Force "bone yard" near Tucson (sort of a junk yard for military aircraft) broke up the trip.




EAST COAST ROAD TRIP 2008: Mike and Sandy flew to Boston, rented a car, rented a car, and headed for Cape Cod, where they toured the Kennedy's Hyannis compound and Provincetown, and visited friends Len and Ann. A look at Mystic, Connecticut, and then onto the ferry to Long Island and "the Hamptons." From a room overlooking Times Square, Manhattan was toured, including Katz Deli (famous for the table orgasm scene in the movie "When Harry Met Sally") and the only street fair in the whole city. Watching a live TV show was fun, and then it was off to Pennsylvania (Mike had no idea there was a town named after him), and Philadelphia and Gettysburg. Washington featured the new Air & Space Museum Annex (incldues an old Piper Tri-Pacer, the plane Mike took pilot lessons in), and a visit to the Capitol. On the way to Colonial Williamsburg we saw La Plata, a town where Sandy lived 35 years ago.




CRUISING THE DANUBE RIVER 2008: Mike and Sandy's first "river boat" adventure was GREAT, and touched 5 countries. Danville friends Marv and Joni, and Bakersfield friends Buzz and Doreen, joined in. There were scenic river views, fun shore excursions, lunch in a Croatian family's farm house, and touring in beautiful Budapest.

Here's the team on the boat's observation deck, touching the Black Sea, visiting a river town, seeing a sunset and a village church steeple, a Serbian defense ministry building hit by a NATO cruise missile in the early '90's, our lunch on the farm, and on the hill overlooking Budapest.




OMAHA AND THE MID-WEST 2008: Mike and Sandy were in Omaha for the annual meeting of Warren Buffet's company (which included a closeup sighting of Bill Gates, the richest man in the country), and a visit with cousin Karma, who was at their wedding 33 years earlier. They added on a road trip around the mid-west, heading to Chicago, Springfield (home of the Lincoln presidential library), to St. Louis, and then to Branson, Missouri, for some fun shows. Last they visited Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Dorothy, another cousin of Sandy's and quite spry at 92, and of WalMart, with the original dime store on the town square.



AIR MUSEUMS. Mike and 3 friends toured air museums around the state, including former Castle AFB, an airpark by Air Force Plant 42 (home of the Space Shuttle, the B-2, F-22, F-35, SR-71, Global Predator, etc.), and March AFB. Two private museums in Chino had planes in flying order, many appearing in movies. Last stop was the Commemorative Air Force in Camarillo, with lots of WW II planes. Dinner at the Proud Bird Aviation Restaurant near LAX was a hit, as well.


Mike and Sandy huddled in the chilly early morning grandstand with friends Buzz and Doreen to see the 2008 Rose Parade up close and personal.


Know about Mexico's Copper Canyon? It's longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon, but is reached only by train. With friends Buzz and Doreen, Mike and Sandy headed down in 2007 to see it, with a bit of nostalgia thrown in, on the restored 1950's era Pullman cars.


Sandy and Mike enjoyed a two-week trip to Alaska in June 2007, with one week on a cruise ship and one week on land. Lots of glaciers, bears, and moose!


With friends Lee and Shirley, Sandy and Mike spent nearly 3 weeks in Japan and China in May 2007. Mt. Fuji and a ride on a bullet train were highlights in Japan, while the Three Gorges Dam, the Terra Cotta warriers, and the Bund in Shanghai were most memorable in China.