Stephanie Abrams' Travel Blog
Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Blog – Nationally Synidcated Radio Show Host
Be careful who you ask for travel advice, or, There are doctors and DOCTORS, and travel experts and TRAVEL EXPERTS.
February 15th, 2017

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with Tor Hagen, CEO and founder of Viking River ,on the Inaugural Cruise of Viking River Cruise’s Three River Gorge Cruise in China

I’m listening to a travel agent of many years answering travel questions on WAMC 90.3/New England Public Radio. I’m not entirely in sync with the answers to questions she’s being asked by callers and the more I listened the more frustrated I was that I couldn’t interject my voice into the conversation. I jotted down several of the caller’s questions and her answers and released my frustration by providing deeper insights below. I hope that some of the people who called that station in search of expert travel advice get to read the info herein!
Q1) The caller wanted advice on river cruising. He’d never been on a river cruise and wondered what the “travel expert” thought he should do.
Her answer:
A1) Go river cruising in Cambodia!
My answer: if you’ve never taken a river cruise, if you’ve never been to Asia, if you haven’t been outside of the US on long distance hauls, you probably don’t want to start with Cambodia! If you are dealing with a restricted budget, the airfare to Cambodia will break the bank and not leave much left for everything else you need to purchase related to this trip. This person .asking the question has never been on a river cruise, and while Cambodia may have some fabulous places to visit, if this is your FIRST river cruise, as this caller indicated, that’s not the place to start! If you’re on a European river cruise and you decide that river cruising is not for you, you could get off in the next port, step off the ship and be standing in the middle of a town or city with hotels, car rental places, public transportation to other cities and you wouldn’t be stranded in Cambodia! It would have been a good idea to find out how many countries and what countries outside of the US this caller had been too before recommending Cambodia as his first adventure. Knowing his budget would have been worth determining as well as the cost of airfare can be prohibitive especially because he was coming from the region around Albany, NY on the east coast!
Q2) Next week is Presidents Week? Any last minute deals?
A2) It’s too late for any deals!
My answer: Check out LastMinute.com or a really good travel agent. Resorts send agents deals directly and don’t advertise them as they don/’t want to mess up their marketing plan by advertising they have rooms left they’d give away cheaply. Also,l this is low-season Europe and there are great airfares that are the same or less than flying to an America’s warm weather destinations.
i) It is perpetual springtime in Madeira, flowers blooming year round and lovely weather to hang out by the pool or take a short boat trip or even shorter flight (25 minutes) to Porto Santo where the white sandy beaches will steal your heart!Madeira is a subtropical island and If you’re interested in culture and history, Madeira bubbles over with both. It was the wine from Madeira that was used by US founding fathers to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the people of Madeira have a strong bond with the US for that reason. There are ancient sites to visit and fun traditions you can participate in like being pushed down from the top of the mountainous area where the cathedral is in handmade wicker baskets by men in costumes of the period when that was a popular sport. Being the chicken that I am, I preferred to watch!There are food-inclusive and all-inclusive hotels (check out Pestano Hotels and Resorts in Madeira and Porto Santo) and there are casinos on in prime locations. If you want a bit of stuffy elegance, stay at Reid’s Palace which has a special history of its own and is perched on a bluff overlooking the sea. One of the Pestano Casino Hotels is also right on the waterfront. They have a gorgeous pool and rooms on one side of the hotel face the sea but they consider the rooms on the other side that face the mountain as better views because at night you can’t see the sea but the mountainside is lit up with the lights of homes and hotels. I opted for the sea view and they thought we were crazy! Madeira is owned by Portugal but is closer to Morocco than Europe strategically placed in the ocean. If you’re a foodie, the town of Funchal, where all the action is, has a Restaurant Row with every, that’s EVERY ethnic food you could possibly crave and the ‘row’ must be close to a mile long. . . you just keep walking between rows of restaurants forever! I loved this place!!
You might also want to consider Gran Tenerife or Gran Canaria islands in the Canary Islands, owned by Spain. At this time of year, going there is a steal and you’ll have beaches and hotels and great food, all at a bargain! If you’re a group or family craving space, there are homes for rent in the Canary Island for as little as $16 a night! Check them out carefully to be sure you’re not a million miles away from the beach or staying in a dive but there are all-inclusive air/land packages and you’ll have a seriously enjoyable trip to a place steeped in culture in a beach destination.
(Note: If you only like white sandy beaches, check where you are going before you book! Some places have black beaches that are the results of disintegrated lava. if that turns you off look for a white sandy place. . .Santo Porto fits that category but the Canary Islands and some parts of the Balearic islands (also owned by Spain) have black sand beaches while Lanzerote in the Balearic Islands has both black and white beaches!
Q3) Hotel on the beach on Miami Beach in March”
A3) You need to go all the way uptown on Collins Avenue to be on the beach.
My Answer: NO, you can stay at one of the boutique hotels on Ocean Drive. If your room faces the ocean you are staring at the beach and the sad is across a little 2 lane road (Ocean Drive) if you want sand and ocean if you don’t want to hang out at the pool. HOWEVER, there is the Loews South Beach Resort and Spa which .is located where South Beach ends and just before Lincoln Road crosses Collins Avenue. They are in South Beach and they are RIGHT ON THE BEACH!
Q. 4) I want to go to the Amalfi Coast.
A. 4) You must go to Pompeii on your way. Drive your car to the top of Vesuvius. Then drive to Sorrento and drive along the Amalfi coast.
My Answer: Firstly, you can’t drive to the top of Vesuvius. You can drive part of the way up and park your car there. When you look up, the walking trail to get to the top of the volcano doesn’t look like much of a walk and not much of a challenge. Someone at the parking area will off you a walking stick which you will need so you don’t slide around on the gravelly path. Once you start walking you’re going to find that paths you could see from the parking area are the tip of an iceberg (or volcano) as it’s a LONG straight uphill and somewhat challenging walk. You’ll see octogenarian Europeans trotting by and passing most Americans no matter how fit they are. I walked to the top, because you CAN’T drive to the top or we would have done that, and I’d never do it again! Tell someone you don’t like to walk to the top. . . and tell them to go on the tour of the salt mine in Hallein, Austria. That’s a good way to get even with people you’d like to slap!
If you are going to drive along the Amalfi coast, the best way to do that is to drive from Pompeii, not to Sorrento but, to Salerno which is at the other end of the Amalfi Coast Road. If you drive from Salerno, you’ll be on the side of the road that hugs the mountain, not the cliff side. If you drive from Sorrento to Amalfi and in the direction of Sorrento, if you companion or you are driving, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the road! If you want to see people driving in the “wrong” direction, from Sorrento to Salerno, see the film, “Only You,” with Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr. The production company/director had them drive from Sorrento to Positano, about halfway between Sorrento and Amalfi or Salerno, because they could get clear shots of them from a helicopter to as they hugged the outside wall along the cliff. Watch that and it will convince you not to take the advice of the “travel expert” and her sage advice on WMCA’s show!
Q5) I want to go to Scotland to go hiking and we’re interested in Scotch.
A5) Oh, Scotch is everywhere.
My Answer: There is a area in the eastern region of Scotland not far from St. Andrews called the Single Malt Whiskey Trail. You can stop at any number of distilleries for their tour. Be sure to visit The Aberlour Distillery, terrific tour and then drive down the road to the The Highlander Inn, Craigellachie, Speyside, Banffshire, where you’ll find just about every brand of Scotch Whisky (note the spelling as compared to “Irish Whiskey”). When I was there, they has a bottle of 1964 Bowmore Scotch at their bar. When we visited the Highlander Inn, one shot of Bowmore Black was $590.Imagine this:
You buy some business associates or friends a round of drinks. One of your associates say, “The next round’s on me!” So you order Bowmore Black. . . a double . . .valued at $1180! Can you imagine the look on the face of the guy picking up that tab!
Yes you can get Scotch anywhere in Scotland but you can get Scotch anywhere in NYC, too. If you want to go someplace with amazing history and quaint Scottish charm, head for the Highlander Inn!
Q6) Caribbean in March for beach and culture?
A6) Curacao, Aruba. . . .
My Answer: Why does this woman choose the farthest away places? Aruba was a desert island . . . and a deserted island. There was nothing there. And then a big US oil company, Standard Oil of NJ, started producing crude oil off the coast of Aruba so now there was a big company there. When business associates, friends and family of those living on this desert island wanted to come and visit for business and family reasons, it was clear that the island needed a hotel to accommodate them and that was the beginning of the tourism industry in Aruba,which, like Curacao, sits just minutes off the coast of South America. It’s a long flight even from NYC and longer from other parts of the US as travelers often have to make connections and, from some parts of the US, it will take 2 days of travel with an overnight break somewhere like Houston, to get to Aruba and/or Curacao. Aruba is owned by Holland so it’s the (friendly) Dutch influence you’ll interface with. It’s a great island for beaches and casinos and that’s why people go to Aruba. Read the info at this site about the “culture” of Aruba and you’ll find it’s not at the same level as places I’ve indicated below (http://www.aruba.com/the-island/culture).
Now if you’re looking for an island with a rich cultural history, try Jamaica, Barbados, Sint Maarten (Dutch) and the other side of the island, St. Martin (French), or try St. Lucia and better still, Martinique and make sure you take a tour or rent a car and travel independently and visit Martinique’s Volcano Museum. You will receive an object lesson on why it pays to get drunk!

“A United Kingdom,” Now in US Theaters, is a MUST SEE!
February 10th, 2017

TRAVEL EXPERT STEPHANIE ABRAMS (right), NYTIMES TRAVEL SHOW SPONSOR, INTERVIEWS

LESLIE HALL, US REPRESENTATIVE FOR BOTSWANA AT THE JACOB JAVITS CENTER IN NYC

I just found out that the film, “A United Kingdom,” is opening in cinemas in the US this weekend. We’re snowed in or I’d go see it again. Maybe I’ll see it once the town’s plow can get through to us and plow us out! But in the meantime, if you can get to a movie theater where “A United Kingdom” is being shown, run, don’t walk, to see it! The story is compelling and, given the discrimination, prejudice and bigotry that we continue to see today, the film has an overriding and important message related to tolerance and brotherhood.  The acting is superb and the scenes in London and in Africa will give you an armchair tour that may inspire your future travels. The story is set in the 1950’s and brings you into the early ’60s so the vintage clothing and cars of the period add to the sense of time and place. The story, the historic period it presents, the insights into how governments act in their own self-interests in harsh and cruel ways while doing their best to maintain an air of normalcy  . . .something I call the “stopping for tea syndrome:. . . and the acting make this a film you cannot miss.
The film is based on the true story of a tribal-chief-in-waiting in Botswana, Africa who ultimately becomes the first President of Botswana after every possible obstacle is lodged in his way by the British who occupy and run the country for their own advantage and to the great disadvantage of the countries native residents. David Oyelowo gives a stellar performance as Seretse Khama portraying his early years in London as a student who is preparing to lead his tribe upon his return to Botswana. Seretse meets Ruth Williams, portrayed by the marvelous Rosemund Pike, an Englishwoman, and they fall in love and marry, creating a kerfuffle in Africa among Seretse’s tribesmen, among the Brits in Botswana, and among Ruth’s friends and family. The world is not on the side of this unique and binding love affair as the story explores the challenges that love can survive when faced with British governmental obstacles to their union and locals in Botswana challenging her right to be queen of their tribe.  The story is a monument to overcoming challenges.
“A United Kingdom” was released in December in the UK and Ireland and we saw the film on Christmas Eve, 2016, just six weeks ago.  Oddly enough, we saw the film in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland in my favorite cinema there which is attached to a marvelous arcade and bowling alley complete with a couple of dining choices including one that is for adults only so you can escape the hordes of children who are having such a good time but are so noisey(!). Northern Ireland is part of the UK and it seemed to me that a shiver ran through the theater as British history in Botswana, a pattern similar to that of the Brits in South Africa, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, India and Pakistan, the Middle East. . . name the destination including Northern Ireland. . . where they have a history dividing and conquering the locals, imposing hardships that are harsh and often cruel and setting the locals against one another as a ruling tactic.
Because I enjoy seeing a film in the country in which the film is set or produced, I made a point of seeing, “Made in Dagenham,” when we were in London when the film had just come out. Like ‘A United Kingdom,’ it took several weeks before that film hit US cinemas.  ‘Made in Dagenham,’ also featuring Rosamund Pike, is based on the true story of the women who worked in the Ford Motor Company manufacturing plant in Dagenham, England and whose salaries for equal work was about 30% less the men. One woman’s perseverance and energy propelled a group of women to see parity of pay and this merry little band is that reason that the auto industry globally today has brought pay for women into parity with men who are doing similar jobs. once again, seeing the film in England provided unique insights from the reaction of the Londoners who were in the movie theater watching with me.


A Little Fact Check: US Has High-Speed Trains: Amtrak’s Acela Express
February 9th, 2017

POTUS, minutes ago at a meeting of airline CEOs, stated that other countries have high-speed trains but the US doesn’t even have one. I have understood that the 2 Amtrak Acela Express Train Routes are characterized in the high-speed train category. These trains run between Boston and NYC and between NYC and Washington, DC. Just to be sure that I was correct, nothing like fact checking(!), I called Bill Hollister, a longtime Amtrak executive and my go-to-man for corporate and government-related info about Amtrak, confirmed that, indeed, Amtrak’s Acela trains are classified as high speed trains. Note that European and Asian trains’ speed are noted in kilometers per hour so at a quick glance their trains look like they go a lot faster than ours since there are more kilometers per mile than when the number is quoted in miles (150mph=241.4kph). Bill also noted that Amtrak carries more passengers daily between NYC and DC than all of the airlines combined and more passengers daily between NYC and Boston than 6 major airlines combined. There’s nothing quite as luxurious as being in the observation car on an Amtrak train. Shown here are photos taken on Antrak’s Auto Train, a very civilized way to cut out 800 miles of driving between Lorton, VA and Sanford, Florida! The competent Amtrak crew put your car on the train in an enclosed train car and you get on the train and overnight. It’s a romantic adventure and when you arrive, all of your gear is packed in your car and you don’t need to rent a car! It;s also such fun! I’ve done 5 roundtrips on Amtrak’s Auto-Train and just writing about it makes me want to go again! Actually, I want to do a cross-country trip from Chicago to Salt Lake City or Seattle or San Francisco Bay area. . . or all of the above!!

Bill Hollister tells me that testing is in progress to increase the 150mph speed of Acela which is wonderful as well. Hopefully, Congress will support all of Amtrak’s budget needs to keep our Amtrak service great! It’s great not to have to go to the outskirts of a city to go to an airport when you can go from downtown Boston to downtown NYC to the heart of DC. And if you’re not on an Acela Express train, it’s great to use Amtrak from NYC to Philadelphia. It’s even more pleasant that taking that drive! It makes the trip so much more efficient and with early airport check-ins plus the flight times you can often arrive in your downtown destination in less time than the flying process! Plus you can walk around the train, stop in the snack car, or on longer hauls into the dining car, have a seat as roomy with leg room as big as a first class airline seat, and work at your seat with electric outlets available on most trains to charge your electronic equipment! And the snack car has tables like in a diner so it’s a great place, if you are traveling with friends or business colleagues, to prep for the meeting you’re going to or have burger and fries or a snack or go alone to catch up on work too! If you’re in NYC, hop an Amtrak train thru the Hudson Valley up to Albany or onward to Montreal! Remember to bring your passport if you’re going into Canada!! Train travel is a unique experience and makes every trip even more memorable! Go make tracks!


A Personal Look into the Bravery of One Mexican Army Officer Who was Ready to Protect Me
February 2nd, 2017

You know I have been blessed with a world of unbelievable and unusual experiences, many resulting from my travels.  It’s now 2:26am ET and I thought I was going to go to bed now but I have the TV on and just learned that our new POTUS has indicated to the President of Mexico, if the report I have heard on TV is correct, that Mexican soldiers are cowards and the US could send in our troops.  Could that be true?? If you haven’t seen the Peter Sellers film, “The Mouse that Roared,” do your best to get your hands on it as, if that scenario was put into action, it might be the best thing that ever happened to Mexico in the style of Peter Sellers! But  I actually know, like a brother, a fellow whose family has been Mexican for centuries and whose last name is French from the days when the French occupied Mexico.  I’ll call him Juan to protect his real identity.
Juan’s family owns a chain of hotels, restaurants and so many other businesses in Mexico. His house, in a residential area of Mexico City, is extraordinary and I’ve had the privilege of being invited to his house twice. His elegantly finished basement has a huge room, complete with mannequins that sport his traditional folkloric clothing that is worn for ceremonial occasions and is reminiscent of the outfits mariachi players wear.  That room is like a salon in a museum with at least 100 different outfits complete with vests, trousers, sombrero’s, and matching boots humidity-controlled closets!
Juan went to military school and military university and when he graduated, he went into the Mexican Army as an officer. He was in the army about 15 years when he decided to retire at the age of 35 from the Mexican Army and resume life as a private citizen. He married, had a son, built a gorgeous house for his family and I met him when part of my job included spearheading the international development of the travel company that I worked for as Executive Vice President of a $1.5billion travel company and Mexico was one of 21 countries I brought into our international network.
Juan is a sharp-shooter and a very brave man and if he is an example of the average soldier or officer in the Mexican Army, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to throw the word “cowardly” in their faces as I believe that, like our own soldiers, they are lovely people but don’t threaten them with a weapon unless you’re ready for a battle! And why under Heaven would be want to threaten Mexico with invasion, occupation, or warfare???
I was traveling from Mexico City to Cuernavaca, an historic and wonderful place to visit a little more than an hour’s drive from D.F., the Federal District of Mexico, which is the way that Mexico City is referred to.  Juan picked me and my company’s CEO up at the airport and we were whisked off to Cuernavaca, the place that the heir to the Woolworth forturne, Barbara Hutton, built a hacienda which became the Camino Real Hotel after her death.  We were on our way to a meeting of our Mexican regional heads who represented our presence all over Mexico. I was in the front seat and my colleague was in the back as we drove on a marvelous highway to Cuernavaca when Juan announced that he needed to stop at the next travel plaza to fill up his Range Rover. Juan commented, “It’s not a good idea to stop for gas or anything else en route because of banditos but don’t worry, I have my gun and I know how to use it!”
Sitting between me and Juan on the consul was a triangular leather case. When Juan got out of the vehicle to deal with the gasoline purchase, I turned to my colleague and asked, “Do you think there’s a gun in there?” Pragmatically, he replied, “Have a look!” I unsnapped the flap on the triangular case and, lo and behold, in this beautiful hand-tooled leather case  was a serious revolver.  Having the gun within inches of my elbow did not make me feel better.
The trip was altogether wonderful! Cuernavaca was wonderful! The over-500-year-old museum built by the Spanish was wonderful. The hotel we stayed at, Casa Tomayo, an AMAZING place that I’ll tell you more about another day, was wonderful  and everything went perfectly including having dinner at Barbara Hutton’s house! But an overriding memory was the Juan-and-the-gun episode even though I never saw it leave its case.
About a year later,on a Sunday morning, Juan was sitting at his kitchen dining table with his back to the interior of his house. His wife and nine year-old son sat across from him with their backs to the large sliding glass doors about 30 feet behind them.  As Juan looked up from his morning newspaper, he saw three men dressed in black with black ski masks hiding their faces climb over the huge garden wall that fenced out the world from his property. Juan’s mind and body went into Mexican Army Officer mode. He said nothing to his family as there was no time to have them move. As he stood, he pivoted, turned to the interior of the house, went to his bedroom and came back with that same gun that sat between us on the drive to Cuernavaca.  In seconds he was back in his kitchen’s dining area but the three men were in the house.  One held his wife by her hair and had his gun pointed at her head. Another had his son by the neck with a gun pointed at his head. The third was looking about the area assessing what they came to steal.
When Juan told me this story, he said he was on auto-pilot! There was no conscious thought. He was in soldier-mode and poised for action. He did what he was trained to do in military high school, military college and in the Mexican Army.  In seconds, Juan had shot the man holding his wife in the knee and then, a nano-second later, he shot the man holding his son in the forehead.  The latter was instantly dead and the other was in great pain and unable to walk. So, at this point, there were two shot men on the floor. When the third bandito saw his two compatriots in trouble, he tried to help the one with the injured knee out of the house but gave up and ran off before he was shot too.
Juan had to face many hearings to prove that he was defending his family in order to avoid being accused, himself,  of wrong-doing which, since the invaders were still in his house when the police arrived, he was ultimately able to prove  but the whole series of incidents that occurred that day took its emotional  toll on him, his wife and son.
But I can tell you one thing for certain that I learned from the trip to Cuernavaca and the incident that took place in Juan’s house: Juan was correct. He had a gun and he wasn’t afraid to use it. Not only was there no fear, there was an abundance of skill, training, focus and bravery and nothing was going to stand in the way of him exercising the skills he was trained to perform in the Mexican military.
So my bit of advice: Before the  warmth and hospitality and friendliness of Mexican people gets interpreted as weakness, cowardice, or anything else illogical, know that Mexicans are people with millennia of history, centuries of traditions, fierce pride in their culture, imbued with legends of the bravery of their ancestors, and in many ways remind me of the Scottish who don’t need to be smacked twice to dig their heels in and respond with double force. Cowardice is a ridiculous insult to throw at the people of Mexico.
On a whole other level, the thought of threatening Mexicans with a US invasion is the stuff that fiction is made of! But, you may recall that President Reagan ordered the US Marines to invade the tiny Caribbean island of Granada so maybe there’s a sense of emulating another POTUS.
It might be a good idea if bedtime reading of Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” were prescribed or maybe audited classes at a Finishing School for all members of government who are in political positions whose words carry heavy meaning could be a good thing to bring a level of grace and charm, diplomacy and statesmanship to all government proceedings.  Taking a less from the Brits who have cultivated an image of educated, well bred, and stopping everything every day for a spot of tea at 4pm while their historic means of dealing with destinations was to take them over, divide the locals into two teams and set them off to hate and kill one another  while they stepped aside so as not to get killed and removed the valuable assets from that destination, an M.O. that was implemented in India, Africa, the Middle East, and Ireland.  But their image is one of very proper etiquette and well-chosen words.  Approaching the international community and residents in the US with boxing gloves on is not the best approach.
And thinking about Scotsmen brings to mind the Scottish prayer that I’ve updated to be relevant in the 21st century: “From ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties,  things that go bump in the night and beasties who punch allies in the face, Good Lord deliver us!”


Traveling While Texting Can Trip-Up Your Trip. . . and Turn Off Your Samsung Galaxy Note7!
October 11th, 2016

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Radio Show Travel Expert and Top Travel Media Broadcaster Stephanie Abrams, with her husband, Mark Abrams at Bradley International Airport, Hartford, Connecticut

I saw the most ridiculous example of Traveling While Texting when I was at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut, BDL, on Sunday which, by the way, is a lovely, user-friendly airport and now another place where you can fly non-stop to Dublin with Aer Lingus.  I’m generally disgusted by people who are pulling a roll-a-board carry-on while walking through crowded halls in airports who are paying no attention to where they are walking because they are texting or reading their messages on their mobile phones.  I can’t tell you how many times people have walking in front of me and, with the combination thhat I need to their bodies and the additional 4 foot obstacle they drag behind them, become an instant barrier to my progress and a barrier that I have bumped into or (almost) tripped over.  But Sunday was a kind of poet justice when I observed a moment of the ridiculous.

So here’s the scene: I stepped onto one of  the convery belts at BDL that speeds your progress toward the gate areas and there, about 15 feet in front of me, was a fellow who should have known better, a guy about 55 years old, reading messages and texting on his cell phone.  Firstly, he was standing, with his dufflebag carry-on piece placed in front of him at his feet, on the right side of the convery belt.  Regrettably, far too many US airports don’t have reminder signs for uninitiated or infrequent travelers that, if you’re going to stand on the converyer belt and allow it to move you along without your own participation in forward movement, then you need to STAND LEFT so you leave the space for people who want to make double-movement forward while walking on the conveyer belt while it moves them along, completing the request for airport travelers to STAND LEFT-WALK RIGHT so those who want to make time in the airport have a clear right lane on the coveyer belt to get by.

But, no, this passenger was firmly entrenched on the right side of the converyer belt and engrossed in his texting and message reading.  And then it happened!  The spot upon which he was standing on the conveyer’s  rubberized  arrived at the end-point.  An alert passenger would have had his luggage in hand and ready to safely step off and continue walking forward to the next awaiting conveyer belt to continue onward to his gate. But not so for Bonzo.  This clown had his total attention focused on his phone and as the conveyer came to its end point, his duffle bag slid onto the terrazzo floor and, with nothing beneath it to move it forward, the duffle bag stopped in place.  This fellow, a body in motion, continued to stay in motion and, as his feet were propelled under the duffle bag, he tripped over it and flew, like a carp jumping from a lake, over the top of the bag.  Happily, he was able to recover his balance quickly and, without falling, cleared and reclaimed the bag from the floor.  Even better was that i was the next person behind him and, because I was “STANDING LEFT,” was in no danger of being the next in a pile-up behind him.  He was, indeed, lucky, that he didn’t have his trip derailed by an injury at that point and there was no pile up of those behind him caught in his own trap.

People worry about what can happen in an airport or on an airplane that might have negative impact on the travel plans and safety.  If you’re looking to avoid serious injury while traveling, be on the lookout for people with cell phones! And, on that subject, if you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy Note7 mobile phone, turn the blasted thing off and don’t pack it in your checked luggage as that is yet again another clear and present danger according to reports and to the announcements being made by airlines!

Travel safely. . . travel richly!


Ironic Smithsonian African American Museum Opening at time of Victims of Police Brute Force & Political Stereotyping of Who African-Americans Are
September 24th, 2016

The irony is not lost on me when I am presented on three sides with the most positive and wonderful information on the grand opening, today, of the Smithsonian’s National African American History Museum in Washington, DC, a celebration of the contribution of great men and women of African descent who persevered during inhumane times, bad times, and times where the circumstances brought out the best in people rising above the most difficult challenges, seeing this through a kaleidoscope  captured inside a triangle of media whose other two sides focus on what can only be described as ‘police overkill,’ while the third side of the triangle spews political rhetoric that stereotypes the African-American as poorly educated and living in squalor.  Perhaps a trip to Washington, DC with a visit to the National African American History Museum could be a good start for those who are not acquainted with the contributions of the past and the present being made by African Americans.

If you’re going to take that trip, you might also want to stop in Pennsylvania at the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum where you’ll learn, among other things, about the significant contribution of African Americans to the growth and development of US railroading.  The study of the US rail systems is, at the same time, a testament to the contribution of the African American.

You can listen to the archived interview with Jeff Bleimeister, the museum’s head, in HOUR 2 of Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams which broadcast on February 28, 2016, if you click here and then click on HOUR 2.  Do you know the expression, “The real McCoy?” That comes from the invention of a better train breaking product that was invented by a railway employee named McCoy.  Others tried to copy his idea, design and patent but railroaders found that the best product was the ‘Real McCoy.’ Elijah McCoy was that inventor and he was the child of American slaves who fled to Canada to escape the injustices and oppression of the US. They went to Canada where Elijah was born in Ontario in 1844 and died in 1929. During his lifetime, he invented and held patents for 57 products, most of which related to lubrication of engines.  We could count him as an Afro-American, and not an Afro-Canadian, were it not for the oppression of slavery driving his parents to find a safe haven. Had his parents stayed in the US, Elijah would have been born into a time of slavery and lived through, had he been lucky enough to survive, the Civil War.  Fascinatingly, the British Empire ended slavery in all of its territories in 1841.  That included all of the islands of the Caribbean and elsewhere in the world where the Brits embraced slavery as an economic advantage to growth in the Empire.  Irish scholars find no coincidence that the Great Famine, better described as the Great Starvation since there was food that just wasn’t being shared, in Ireland was taking place at the time when the Brits were freeing slaves around the globe.  They point out that slaves were no longer needed because, as Irish history scholar Derek Warfield notes, “The Brits didn’t need slaves anymore because they had the Irish.” It’s this synergy between the experience of the Irish under the harsh British rule of over 800 years, that created the bond between Daniel O’Connell, the George Washington of  Ireland and Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist who was doing for African-Americans and slaves what  Daniel O’Connell was doing for the Irish.

I often think that people who have never experienced more than a temper tantrum for not getting what they want the moment they want it are generally the ones who have no empathy for others.  The least sensitive people tend to be those who have never had a moment of true suffering in their lives.  Maybe it’s the history of the colonists and pioneers crossing America who needed to circle the wagons to keep out anyone not in their group that is at the route of the underlying exclusionary attitudes of so many featured in news broadcasts.  I travel so much and see so many differences in cultures globally where I see so many people who are just naturally welcoming, warm, hospitable and bubbling over with friendliness only to come home to find that people can’t return a smile, don’t want to look one another in the eye and continue the practice of circling the wagons when there are newcomers in their community to keep them as outsiders, often for generations and generations.

This particular time, this unique moment, in the history of the US, with rhetoric presented on mass media giving scandalizing generalized descriptions of the lives of African Americans that sound like this is a class of people who are living in squalor and ignorance coupled with the indelible actions we learn about far too frequently of close encounters of Afro-Americans with police department personnel around the nation that end in the deaths of those detained in short order, it is truly ironic and a welcomed breath of fresh air to be celebrating the contribution in every field of endeavor by African-Americans who have made a significant contribution to the quality of life of Americans and others around the world.  A visit to this newest attraction in Washington, DC should be part of every traveler’s plans.  Note that admission is FREE but one must have a ticket to enter.  Tickets are produced with a designated time for entry on them so it’s important that those lucky enough to get tickets are on time to arrive to enter the museum.  At this point, tickets are scarce into November so keep that in mind when considering your travel plans. For complete information on obtaining tickets online to the National African American History Museum, click on this link to the official site for ticket acquisition. Be sure to read the part about companies and groups that may be creating counterfeit tickets that won’t be honored at this museum! Be sure to purchase your tickets from the museum itself to be assured your ticket will be honored.


Help Giant’s Causeway Earn the “Best UK Heritage Attraction” Award: Vote Before September 30th at www.bit.ly/causewaybta16
September 22nd, 2016

No, that’s not Legoland! Those hexagonal stone rods pushed up through the earth make up Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland. Giant’s Causeway can be seen, touched, walked on, sat on, romped around, hiked through, and enjoyed by people who just want to find their happy place and sit in the sunshine or enjoy a romantically misty day  listening to the sounds of the sea splashing against the miles of endless rocks, smell the fresh salty air and feel the mist of the sea embrace their faces.

I have visited Giant’s Causeway on just about every trip I’ve made to Ireland going back to my very first trip long before there was a bus running down to the spot where the Giant’s Organ, a rock formation that looks like the pipes of an organ, soaring about 30 feet, maybe more, into the air, creates the barrier for vehicles to pass. The first time I visited Giant’s Causeway, there was no visitors’ center and we were able to drive our rental car down the road that you can either walk or take the bus if you prefer.

Giant’s Causeway was the first place I ever saw the color sea foam green in nature and can verify that the color we associate with the name “sea foam green” is actually that color.  As the sea’s waves crash against the rocks of Giant’s Causeway,  the aeration of the water against the rocks results in sudsy bubbling foam that looks like bubble bath.  It’s great fun to get close enough, to walk out to a sheltered inlet along the coastline at Giant’s Causeway, to be able to safely reach into the sea foam and enjoy a bit of the giant Finn McCool’s ‘bathtub!” Have a look:

Doesn’t that look delicious! It looks like a swirling whirlpool of whipped cream tinged pale, pale green!  Ah, sea foam! You gotta love it!

Giant’s Causeway is the only UNESCO Heritage Site in Northern Ireland and the kind of place that makes an amazing impact on the heart, soul, mind of every visitor!  If you’ve been there once, you’ll be drawn back again and again and this Antrim Coast attraction takes on a different look every day and at every hour of the day as the sun moves in the sky, as the weather shifts from clear and sunny to gray, overcast and misty.  When you visit, bring along a book you love and settle in to just sit, read, enjoy and experience what it is like to be in a place that is completely other-worldly!

You can vote for Giant’s Causeway in the British Travel Awards competition and you can vote once with each email address that you have (although there is a limit as to how many emails addresses you can use but you’ll find out when you hit the limit!).  The competition ends on September 30th so you need to get on top of this.  The other three UK attractions are: Sterling Castle in Sterling, Scotland; Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Tower of London.  All three are man-made and, while steeped in history, they really can’t hold a candle to this natural wonder of the world.  Interestingly, I’ve been to each of the other three semi-finalists and have visited each more than once. While they each hold their special significance, none of the others has the magical, mystical, incredible impact in such a personal way that Giant’s Causeway has connecting with visitors and why that is so defies description. . . and that’s why you need to plan to go and visit!

And when you go to Giant’s Causeway, within minutes driving on the Antrim Coast Road you’ll arrive, west and east of that attraction, at Dunluce Castle, digitally dropped into the Caribbean as Johnny Depp’s castle in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl; Ballintoy Harbour, the quarry there, Dark Hedges . . .all nearby spots where Game of Thrones is filmed; Bushmill’s Distillery and tour ending with their famous ‘Tasting Room” experience; and, for the golfers in your traveling party, the Royal Portrush Golf Club! And, if you’re into beaches, travel westward a tiny bit further and visit Port Stewart Beach and be sure to have a bite and a pint at Harry’s Shack, right on the beach, with great food and a million dollar view! And if you think California beaches are something special, wait until you get to Port Stewart Beach in Derry, Northern Ireland, just down the road a piece!

Tell all your friends to vote for Giant’s Causeway and tell them to tell all of their friends so we can join hands across the ocean and help this amazing attraction get the recognition it deserves as the Best UK Heritage Attraction for 2016!

There are 2 places you can go and vote:    www.BritishTravelAwards.com where you’ll need to find the spot to vote for Best UK Heritage Attraction  OR this link will take you directly to the Giant’s Causeway page at the voting site:  www.bit.ly/causewaybta16

Thanks for helping! Remember that September 30, 2016 is the last date to vote!!


Radio Show Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Releases Show Notes for Travelers411 & Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams for Weekend of August 27th & 28th
August 25th, 2016

Guests for the August 27th broadcast of Travelers411, hosted by travel expert Stephanie Abrams include:

Hour 1: Deb Sanderson, marketing spokesperson for the NYS-Vermont Amtrak region, shares pertinent information about new and exciting programs at Amtrak including new Pets-on- Board service for small pets whose travel containers fit under the seat in front of the traveler. Deb shares the good news that the vintage Dome Car train will return to the Adirondack line in September 29 thru November 1, 2016 offering travelers the added sightseeing pleasure  of fall foliage in the northeast seen through the panoramic views of the glass sides and ceiling of the Dome Car. The Dome Car experience begins at the Albany-Rensselaer Train Station and continues up to Montreal, Quebec, Canada so passengers can board and disembark at stations that fit their itineraries which may include getting off at historic Fort Ticonderoga, visiting the fort, overnighting and returning at their leisure on the next southbound train or renting a car and exploring the region.  Deb also announces that the NY State Fair is served by Amtrak! And the big new is that effective September 1st, Amtrak has a new President & CEO, Mr. Charles “Wick” Moorman.  This is an opportunity for a special WELCOME ABOARD!

Hour 2: Motivated by the press release issued by the Cayman Islands posted below, radio show travel expert Stephanie Abrams contacted respected orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Bruce Berkowitz for his comments and analysis of the medical information and advice given to a visitor to the Cayman Island who suffered an injury and was given medical advice leading to her opting to have her injury treated in the Caymans rather than going back to her home in Canada for the surgery.  This is a compelling story that every traveler needs to hear and understand in the unlikely event that illness or injury befalls them during their foreign visit. Click here to hear archived audio interviews with Dr. Bruce Berkowitz on other medical-travel-related issues.

Hour 3: Bill MIller VP of MedjetAssist, a membership organization providing medical evacuation for travelers globally who find themselves injured or ill 150 miles or more away from home and do not want to be admitted to a hospital away from whom, preferring to return home for their admission to a hospital in their hometown.  Bill explains the features and benefits for individuals and families that include parents and up to 5 children up to 23 years old if they are enrolled as students. Bill explains the technical quality of what Stephanie Abrams describes as a “hospital room with wings” for those who need that level of attention on their flight home complete with technicians, nurses, and/or doctor depending on the health issues with which the MedjetAssist team is dealing.  Focused on are the cost-benefit ratio of the modest fee for yearly membership in MedjetAssist as compared to the over-the-top costs of chartering a medical evacuation plane for those who are not members of this organization.


Guests for the August 28th broadcast of Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams, hosted by travel expert Stephanie Abrams include:

Hour 1: Dr. Tim Campbell, Executive Director of the Saint Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland, the only permanent exhibit in the world devoted to the life, works and message of Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland.  Patrick’s message of ‘Reconciliation’ continues to resonate with compelling relevance in the 21st century and is the underpinnings of the virtual historic tour of the center and the region known as the Kingdoms of Down which include Patrick’s Trail from Armagh to Downpatrick.  Listeners can find previous archived audio interviews with Dr. Tim Campbell by clicking here.

Hour 2: Bill MIller VP of MedjetAssist, a membership organization providing medical evacuation for travelers globally who find themselves injured or ill 150 miles or more away from home and do not want to be admitted to a hospital away from whom, preferring to return home for their admission to a hospital in their hometown.  Bill explains the features and benefits for individuals and families that include parents and up to 5 children up to 23 years old if they are enrolled as students. Bill explains the technical quality of what Stephanie Abrams describes as a “hospital room with wings” for those who need that level of attention on their flight home complete with technicians, nurses, and/or doctor depending on the health issues with which the MedjetAssist team is dealing.  Focused on are the cost-benefit ratio of the modest fee for yearly membership in MedjetAssist as compared to the over-the-top costs of chartering a medical evacuation plane for those who are not members of this organization.

Hour 3: Laura Adams, the Senior Insurance Analyst for InsuranceQuotes.com, enlightens listeners to the dangers of nullifying home-owners and renters insurance policies, both for homes and apartments, when homeowners rent their residences for vacation rentals directly or through organizations such as Airbnb. Laura walks listeners through the shift that takes place from ‘full coverage to no coverage” when homeowners, whose insurance coverage for dwelllings, contents, and liability for residential use are lost in the transition when the homeowner, in effect, becomes the landlord and creates a commercial relationship by being paid to rent their dwelling.  Tune in for Laura’s solution to seamless homeowners protection so that insurance coverage is not lost.


CDC Advises Pregnant Women & Their Partners to Avoid Parts of Miami, Florida. . . What About Puerto Rico?
August 19th, 2016

Am I the only one gobsmacked (a great word I learned in Ireland) by the CDC issuing warning for pregnant women and their partners, and those planning to be pregnant in the near future, to avoid parts of Miami, with the alert that the “parts” could spread to other parts, potentially, when there are 14 reported cases of Zika virus known to be acquired in  Miami, Florida as of August 17, 2016  while saying NOTHING about the 7,855 cases of Zika acquired in Puerto Rico between January 2015 and August 17, 2016?

Worse than that, I still haven’t gotten over the July 4, 2016 article on page 4 of Travel Weekly, a prestigious travel trade paper that boasted with words I interpret as a sense of pride and good sense, that a US radio broadcaster whose program focuses on travel broadcast live from Puerto Rico and, as the travel trade paper noted, “minced no words” during his live broadcast telling people that travel to Puerto Rico, which then had 2474 reported cases of locally acquired Zika virus, was safe and there was nothing to fear but fear itself.  I can’t be the only one who finds both the comments made in that live broadcast from Puerto Rico, which I am sure was meant to be an object lesson by proving it must be safe to be there or he wouldn’t be there, and worse that Travel Weekly immortalized those bold, and questionable statements, with their reporting of his comments.

Here are the facts:

So far, most people who have acquired Zika, transmitted by Zika-carrying mosquitoes, have very mild cases that often are thought to be bouts of fatigue by the infected person. Fevers are low grade and any accompanying aches and pains are often thought to be the result of overdoing.  In short, most people don’t even know they have it.

Some people, however, who have immune system challenges or other physical issues have been known to acquire the Zika virus and have it develop into Gillian Barre Syndrome which is an illness that mimics in adults the symptoms associated with polio in children.  Polio is a disease of childhood and it is now conjectured that Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was diagnosed with polio which resulted in his being in a wheel chair for much of his adult life, was misdiagnosed and that he actually had Gillian Barre Syndrome.  It makes me wonder if FDR was in a tropical destination prior to coming down with his illness while he was at his retreat, Campobello. I’ll have to do a bit of research on that curiosity and will let you know what I find out!

While you might be bitten by a Zika mosquito and have next-to-no symptoms, if you are pregnant, considering being pregnant, or are a man in a relationship with one or more women of child-bearing age, you need to be concerned about where you go because the results of a pregnant woman being bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito can be calamitous for the unborn child!  Worse than the risk of the mosquito bite itself, is the lingering risk of a woman being infected with the Zika virus even if she is never bitten by a mosquito but who has unprotected sex with a man who has been bitten and has the virus living inside him, transmittable through his semen, for as long as 2 to 6 months so the CDC advises use of a condom for six (6) months or abstinence.

One has to wonder why, when there are fourteen (14) reported cases of Zika in a couple of square miles of Florida that warnings are blaring why Puerto Rico’s 7,855 reported cases acquired in Puerto Rico were not mentioned today in the same story.  Also note that, since many people have such mild cases of Zika virus that they don’t even know they are sick or could transmit the disease to their partner (note that a case of a woman giving the illness to a man in the US occurred recently), the actual number of cases is surely, and logically, much larger because you won’t seek out medical care if you don’t feel ill and, therefore, the number of reported cases will not accurately reflect the number of actual cases.

One of the problems appears to be the Zika-carrying mosquito likes warm weather and when I hear the advice, “Take precautions,” it doesn’t compute well. Common advice is: use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and long pants.

So let me suggest this scenario for Miami or Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands in August, or any other month as they are all warm weather destinations:

You go to these places. How comfortable will you be wearing long sleeves and long pants?

You chose those destinations because you want to go swimming and enjoy the beaches and poolsides. You put on your bathing suits. To protect yourselves, you lather up with insect repellent. You go in the water. The insect repellent washes off or, in the least, its value is diminished as it becomes diluted and washes off your skin.

You’ve had enough of the water and want to return to your beach chair.  .  . in  your bathing suit and devoid of insect repellent protection that has run off your body.

You race to your beach chair, rummage through your beach bag to quickly find your insect repellent, and lather up.

But here’s the question that I find similar to my Zika virus question:

“If you’re only driving 4 blocks from your house to the grocery store, do you really have to put your seat belt on?” which suggests the follow-up question, “How many blocks do you need to drive before you have an accident?”

So here’s my Zika question for those emerging from the water headed to their beach chairs to find their insect repellent:

Can you make it from the water to your beach chair and get yourself lathered up before a mosquito has lunch on your body?  How many “safe” seconds do you have in that window of time between the water and the reapplication of a repellent with DEET in it which is the recommended repellent I was told but isn’t that one of those “unsafe” ingredients?

So the final question is, if you are heading into an area where there is Zika actively being acquired by people from mosquitoes or from their infected partners, can you really protect yourself from being bitten?  I just don’t see how! It seems to me that the CDC came out today with the first firm warning related to portions of Dade County, Florida but, people, you really need to think for yourself.  Read, listen, learn about what is going on, go to www.cdc.gov and click on “Zika” where you’ll find the updated list of where Zika is actively being acquired  and don’t believe everything you hear because you never know who is saying something with an underlying hidden agenda that may be in their own best interest and not in the best interest of the people they are talking to. (Politicians do that all the time!)  Happily, Florida seems to be the only US state where the Zika virus is active  so if you want a vacation that doesn’t require a passport, choose a US state where no Zika is actively being acquired from mosquitoes. You have 49 states to choose from at the moment.


Radio Show Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Posts Line-Up of Guests to Broadcasts August 20 and 21 2016
August 19th, 2016

Touring Cuba with Regina Tours on Catholic-Oriented Cruise-Tour to Religious Sites and Shrine

Saturday, August 20, 2016, Travelers411, hosted  by broadcast media travel expert Stephanie Abrams and heard coast-to-coast in the US on radio and podcast and archived at sAbrams.com and Travelers411.com, features the following:

Stephanie starts off Hour 1 with insights in the challenges for travelers to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.  While initially inspired to talk about the realities of visiting Rio by the reports about the assaults on a coach and others which have not been refuted, and the stories, now known to be bogus, about assaults on the swimmers, Stephanie talks about warnings she received from Brazilian colleagues before her visits to Rio.  While it is more than just unfortunate that the Olympic swimmers seem to have taken advantage of the criminal realities one may easily face while visiting that destination to create cover stories for their alleged bad behavior, the facts are that, from a health point of  view, the sanitary conditions are not up to par and the beautiful beaches abut water that is toxic from raw sewage.  Stephanie describes instructions she was given to be alert for people, often carrying baseball bats, approaching cars at traffic stop lights,and  directing her to “run them over,” something she explains she could never do, to avoid having the car windows shattered which would be followed by robbery and assault. Wearing jewelry of any kinds, including watches, rings, earrings, bracelets were described as “forbidden” in order to give criminal gangs no incentive to target her and her traveling companion. The tragedy, Stephanie explains, is that the county is so beautiful and its problems are man-made.

Hour 1 continues with Josh Marsh, founder and CEO of the cyber-company, Conversocial, whose technology allows travelers in need of attention to interface efficiently with suppliers in the travel industry like major airlines through social media such as twitter and facebook using, without realizing it, the “behind the scenes” technology of Conversocial that is propelling the travelers social media comments, complaints, and need for attention directly to the people within the airline or other customer service oriented company for faster and more efficient attention than one would expect to receive thru customer service toll-free telephone and airport customer service desks when there a crunch period.

In Hour 2 of Travelers411, Kim Noltemy, Chief Operating and Communications Officer of the Boston Symphony Orchestra reviews the exciting performances that are left in the Tanglewood season which include:  “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” concert in which the entire film is shown with the musical score eliminated from the film and performed by the Boston Pops synchronized to the film itself!  Just amazing! August 27 welcomes a BSO performance in which the cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, will be featured. August 28th brings forth the matinee performance at Tanglewood, the summer home of the BSO, located in Lenox/Stockbridge, Massachusetts, of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Labor Day Weekend winds up the season with the Boston Pops with the B52s  on Friday night, September 2 and Saturday, September 3 with the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra providing dancing under the stars with dance floors set up on the lawn at Tanglewood! Imagine, dancing to the music of the Boston Pops!

Hour 3 introduces Nick Mancino, President of Regina Tours, a company that Nick explains has the proper approval to be able to operate groups to Cuba which will be done by way of Montego Bay, Jamaica on the Louis Cruises ship, Celestial Crystal which has 475 cabins and holds 1200 passengers.  Discussion this hour focuses on Regina Tours history and the allure of Cuba and the Catholic-centered tours to religious sites, shrines and cathedrals that Regina Tours includes in their itineraries.

Sunday, August 21, 2016, Travel WITH Stephanie, Stephanie interview Kim Noltemy, Chief Operating and Communications Officer of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and, in Hour 2, continues the conversation with  with focus on exploring the ship itself and the itinerary of the Catholic-centered tour to Cuba by ship that Regina Tours is launching on Louis Cruises ship, Celestial Crystal.  The ship’s itinerary embarks on Friday evenings at 8pm from Montego Bay and sails for Santiago de Cuba with further stops over the 7-day itinerary in Havana , Isla de la Juventud, the ‘Isle of Youth,’ and at Cienfuegos to visit the cathedral there built in 1869 in Spanish neo-classic style with two bell towers. Nick provides listeners with a virtual cruise at sea and on land as the company launches its first cruises to Cuba.


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