NCL Tahiti to Hawaii Cruise with Larry Gelwix - Cruise Review
Larry Gelwix

A SOUTH PACIFIC ODYSSEY

Robert Louis Stevenson sailing the South Seas in 1888 wrote, “Few men who come to the islands leave them; they grow grey where they alighted; the palm shades and the trade-wind fans them till they die, perhaps cherishing to the last the fancy of a visit home, which is rarely made, more rarely enjoyed, and yet more rarely repeated.  No part of the world exerts the same attractive power upon the visitor with some sense of its seduction. The first experience can never be repeated.  The first love, the first sunrise, the first South Sea island, are memories apart and touched a virginity of sense.”  

The South Pacific, South Seas, and Polynesia – all conjure up images and dreams of faraway islands, friendly locals, crystal clear waters, fresh food at every meal, unrivaled sunrises and sunsets, and living “island time.”  There is a connection that is unspoken but deeply felt that draws us to the islands.  The natives call it “mana” and you can feel it whilst you visiting Polynesia and it brings you back again and again after returning home.  This is the “Aloha Spirit” and the “Magic of Polynesia”!

My wife Cathy and I recently returned from a “South Pacific Odyssey” sailing from Tahiti to Honolulu aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines.  We flew to Papeete, Tahiti nestled in the heart of French Polynesia, and boarded our cruise ship, the Norwegian Spirit, and for the next 13 days, April 10-22, sailed our dreams.

Our cruise itinerary included the French Polynesia islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Moorea.  We then ventured out into the vast reaches of the Pacific, crossing the Equator, and sailing north to the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, and Oahu.

South Pacific travel can be expensive.  A cruise is the perfect way to see more of Polynesia with all your meals and entertainment included at a very affordable price.  Our group enjoyed a free airfare promotion which saved thousands of dollars, along with free unlimited drinks, free wifi, free specialty dining, and free shore excursion credits helped make this the trip of a lifetime.  I advised our group members that a big surprise will be when you go home and show your photos to friends and family. They will exclaim how beautiful each view is and you will say, “No, no, the photo doesn’t begin to capture the depth of colors, especially the green and blues!”

Some of our highlights and memories include:

Tahiti. Perhaps the most famous island in the world!  Tahiti is a beautiful island of jungle and waterfalls.  I love visiting historical sites including Venus Point, where the first European to visit these islands landed at Tahiti in 1769 on the first of his three Pacific voyages.  Do you remember Mutiny on the Bounty? It’s a true story and it comes alive as we stand on the very place where the mutiny was launched.

Bora Bora. The famous American author, James Mitchner, called Bora Bora the most beautiful island in the South Pacific with Mt. Otemanu’s lush, green volcanic peaks towering over the island and lagoon.  My favorite activity here is to take a jet ski around the island inside the lagoon and stop at an uninhabited “motu” (island) for a picnic lunch.

Raiatea.  Raiatea is the “sacred island” with ancient temples including Marae Taputapuatea, the most important temple in Polynesia dating to 1,000 AD and from where many of the early trans-ocean voyages departed sailing into the unknown never to return home again.  Even today I can feel the spiritual energy of this island.  In fact, stones from this marae have been taken to the Cook Islands, New Zealand, and Hawaii to endow sacred sites there with spiritual power.  By the way, I enjoy shopping here for black pearls!

Moorea.  Eight mountain peaks rise from its lagoon, while from overhead the island is roughly shaped like a heart – in keeping with its appeal as a top vacation destination. Moorea is just 10 miles from Tahiti.  Our group enjoyed my #1 favorite activity in French Polynesia – the Moorea Shark, Ray, and Motu excursion.  Our ship dropped anchor in Opunohu Bay. The same bay that Captain Cook visited.  Do you remember the 1958 movie “South Pacific” and the forbidden Bali Hai island?  The real mountain that was the inspiration for the movie mountain and island is right here at Opunohu Bay!  Our tour boat takes us to an area with waist deep, crystal clear water, and a sandy bottom.  Here the reef sharks and rays gather and, yes, we join them in the water.  Not to worry, the sharks are more afraid of you than you of them!  We then continued on to a private “motu” (island) to explore, swim, and enjoy a fabulous BBQ lunch.  Then the bad news! Time to return to the ship.  One after another, our tour members said this was the highlight of their cruise!  Nothing like it elsewhere in the world!  But isn’t that one of the highlights of travel, viz., doing things you would never do at home?

Four relaxing days at sea and crossing the Equator.  I love cruising because I can be as active or laid back as I want to be each day.  A cruise allows so many exciting onboard dining options.  Our two favorites are Cagney’s Steak House (a Ruth’s Chris “wannbe”) and the Teppanyaki (a Benihana of Tokyo “wannbe”).  Both a great restaurants and my filet mignon always comes out perfect!  Crossing the equator is fun! The ship had a big party on the pool deck with lots of games, fun, and laughter.  My favorite day? Every day with 360° of open ocean views with nothing to do or everything to do!

Onboard activities and seminars: whenever I travel with a group, if the date and time allow I organize onboard get-togethers for our group, including a Sunday non-denominational devotional. It’s about 30 minutes and strictly “come as you are.”  Our subject for this devotional was St. Matthew, chapter 14, and the account of Jesus walking on the water.  I think Peter gets a bad rap here.  He at least got out of the boat.  Where were the other guys?  We also met one day whilst sailing to Hawaii and I shared a seminar entitled, “Attitude & Effort: the Muscle of Resilience” that I present to conventions, professional groups, and educational and professional gatherings on how to develop a championship attitude and effort.  The message of my presentation came about when the movie “Forever Strong”, which is based on me and my coaching career, was released.

Big Island of Hawaii.  We were scheduled to stop at Hilo on the east side of the island that allowed us to explore Volcanoes National Park.  As luck would have it another ship was moored at the one and only cruise ship pier at Hilo and had some operational problems and could not depart on time.  Sadly, we had to skip Hilo and sailed to the west side of the island and dropped anchor at Kailua-Kona.  As much as I was disappointed to miss Hilo, I do love Kailua-Kona.  I encouraged everyone to walk up down the boulevard that runs along the shoreline.  The area is dotted with shops, boutiques, restaurants, and historical sites.  So much fun!  Here’s an insider secret: you know that wifi on a cruise ship is slow and expensive.  In the U.S. you will find a nearby public library and McDonalds, both of which offer free wifi.  Having been here many times, what did I do?  I walked a few short blocks to Mcdonald's, enjoyed my Diet Coke, and went online to answer emails, review upcoming groups I will be hosting, and work through several files.  Sounds exciting – NOT!  But it did help me catch up on some work.

Maui.  I love Maui.  We docked at Kahului.  Normally we organize a tour to visit Iao Valley, a beautiful state park steeped in Hawaiian history, followed by an afternoon in Lahaina.  Sadly, Lahaina burnt to the ground last year and there is nothing left to see.  I do enjoy renting a car and making the drive to Hana.  On our last trip there, Cathy and I counted 98 waterfalls.  Hana is a sleepy village that time has forgotten with tropical rainforests, white and black sand beaches, and more twists and turns on the road than you can count.  Lots of fun!

Kauai. The “Garden Island” is everything you dream of Hawaii to be.  Our cruise ship docks at Nawiliwili Harbor near Lihue.  We organized a group tour of Waimea Canyon, better known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”  And grand it is.  From the summit, we see sweeping vistas of lush rainforest clinging to volcanic mountains.  We stop at Hanapepe for a mandatory “shave ice”, shopping, and walk through the sleepy village.  The buildings all look like a throwback to the 1930s. A drive along the coast brings us to the famous Spouting Horn where waves crash into the rocks and shoot high into the air through a tunnel in the rocks followed by a drive-by of the Old Russian Fort dating to 1817.  You want to come at high tide for an unforgettable spectacle. There is a calm on Kauai I don’t always feel in the hustle and bustle of other islands.

Oahu.  Our South Pacific Odyssey sadly comes to an end as we disembark our cruise ship.  The cruise terminal is near the iconic Aloha Tower dating to 1926, and serves as a guiding beacon welcoming ships from all across the Pacific to Honolulu.  Some of our group members, now better called “friends”, opted to extend their stay in Hawaii after disembarkation.  After all, you’re already in Hawaii, so why not spend a few extra days?  Cathy and I had an obligation the next day back home and booked the “red eye” flight home.  But what to do all day until our late evening flight? We rented a car and drove around the island visiting the North Shore, Waimea Bay, Laie, Pounders Beach, and the sights along the Kamehameha and Likelike highways.

The ”Aloha Spirit” is real.  It is the oneness of mind, body, and spirit that emotes good feelings towards oneself and others.  It is a connection to not only the islands but to the spirit of the land and people.  It is the inner force that brings us back to Hawaii again and again, if not in person then in our dreams and imagination. 

Cruising is the best way to see Polynesia.  I enjoyed not having to worry about onboard meals or entertainment.  The friendly crew is always anxious to help and serve.  I pack and unpack one time and cover a large area of the South Pacific.  The islands and open ocean are breathtaking.  This cruise fulfills many dreams for me. One dilemma, however, as we approached the end of our odyssey, I kept thinking, “Who will clean my room and make my bed? Who will fix my meals? Who will entertain me?”  The only solution, it’s time to plan my cruise and tour adventure!

FYI, I am planning to do this cruise again in a couple of years or so.  Please come with me!

What you need to know about Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast, and why it is so POPULAR to travelers today
Wendy Fracchia

With its shimmering coastline, medieval towns, and picturesque islands, Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast have emerged as must-visit destinations, captivating travelers from around the globe. The allure of this Adriatic gem lies in its perfect blend of natural beauty and rich history, offering an immersive experience like no other.

Firstly, Croatia's accession to the European Union in 2013 has sparked newfound interest in the country, highlighting its stability and accessibility for international travelers. With modern infrastructure and improved transportation networks, exploring the wonders of Croatia has never been easier. This enhanced connectivity has opened doors for visitors to uncover the secrets of its ancient cities, such as Dubrovnik's iconic Old Town and Split's majestic Diocletian's Palace, all while enjoying the convenience of seamless travel arrangements.

Croatia's diverse landscape is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure and relaxation alike. From the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea to the rugged peaks of the Dinaric Alps, the country offers a plethora of outdoor activities, including sailing, hiking, and island hopping. Visitors can bask in the Mediterranean sun on secluded beaches, dive into the vibrant underwater world of the Adriatic, or embark on scenic hikes through pristine national parks like Plitvice Lakes and Krka, immersing themselves in nature's tranquility.

Furthermore, Croatia's culinary scene has been gaining international acclaim, drawing food enthusiasts eager to indulge in its delectable cuisine. Influenced by Mediterranean and Central European flavors, Croatian gastronomy showcases an array of fresh seafood, locally sourced ingredients, and traditional dishes bursting with flavor. From savory seafood stews along the coast to hearty inland specialties like lamb peka and truffle-infused delicacies in Istria, every bite is a culinary delight, offering a taste of Croatia's rich culinary heritage.

Additionally, the allure of Croatia's islands along the Dalmatian Coast has captivated travelers seeking idyllic retreats and vibrant nightlife. From the cosmopolitan flair of Hvar to the laid-back charm of Vis and the untouched beauty of Korčula, each island boasts its own unique ambiance and attractions. Whether sipping cocktails at beachfront bars, exploring hidden coves by kayak, or dancing under the stars at open-air clubs, the islands offer endless opportunities for relaxation and adventure, making them a magnet for travelers seeking the perfect balance of leisure and excitement.

Lastly, Croatia's cultural festivals and events add a vibrant tapestry of experiences to any visit, drawing travelers eager to immerse themselves in the country's rich heritage and lively celebrations. From the internationally renowned Dubrovnik Summer Festival, featuring theater performances and classical concerts against the backdrop of historic landmarks, to traditional folk festivals celebrating local customs and traditions, there's always something happening to delight and inspire visitors of all interests.

With all of this said, Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast's popularity stems from its unique blend of history, natural beauty, gastronomy, and vibrant culture, offering travelers an unforgettable experience that's as diverse as it is enchanting. As word spreads of its treasures, there's never been a better time to embark on a journey to Croatia and discover the magic of this Adriatic paradise for yourself.

In closing, it has been said that Croatia and her magical coastlines are what Italy USED to be before it became one of the most popular destinations in the world.  Going to Croatia NOW is a chance to experience this country in its pristine state before the world fully catches up to her.

Spring Ireland Tour Review with Tim Taggart 2024
Tim Taggart

Tim Taggart, one of our most experienced directors, recently returned from a tour of Ireland. Their small group was a great way to travel and the members enjoyed getting to know one another on a more intimate level. 

The tour included many of the traditional stops including—the picturesque city of Dublin that is filled with history; Blarney Castle with its famous kissing stone; the lovely Kylemore Abby surrounded by gardens and restored buildings; and the impressive Cliffs of Moher.

While Tim has toured the Emerald Isle in the past, this tour offered some unique experiences that he stated: “should be included in every tour of Ireland”. 

The first was their stop at the Rathbaun Farm, a true working farm where the tour members were able to see and feed animals and watch the amazing sheepdogs at work. They also enjoyed home-baked scones with Irish cream and preserves.

The tour ended with an evening at the Merry Ploughboys Irish Music Pub for dinner and a traditional Irish Dance show. The group loved this as a great way to wind up their trip and Tim said it was a must for any tour of Ireland.  

Star Clipper Cruise Experience & Cruise Review
Wendy Fracchia

If you are a sea lover, I want to introduce you to a very unique and special way to enjoy an “experiential cruise” with a favorite small-ship cruise line of mine.

Star Clippers Cruises was founded in 1989 when Mikael & Ann Krafft launched their first of now 3 ships. The fleet consists of the first 2 twin-ships, the Star Clipper and Star Flyer which can accommodate up to 170 guests each, with the Royal Clipper joining the family in 2000. This ship is the world’s largest square rigger ship in service today with five tall masts and includes a drop-down sports deck off the back for all the fun! It can accommodate up to 227 guests and has so much to offer. 

If you go looking for a true “luxury” 5-star experience, I think you’ll be disappointed. There are many luxurious touches throughout the ship, but it is more of a casual-luxurious feeling you have while onboard these ships. Knowing you are doing something unique and special that many will never experience feeds the privileged feeling you have while onboard. It doesn’t take long to realize that you are not really on a “cruise” but instead, a friend’s sailing ship and this is an authentic, not fake experience. 

The On-board Experience - Having sailed on both the Clipper and Flyer, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences onboard, sailing in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. And really, what is not to love about relaxing on the deck watching the gentle push of the wind on the massive sails on the open water or being part of the crew with them, allowing you to hoist sails and take the helm of the captain’s wheel? There is a family-like, casual vibe throughout the ship with wonderful, friendly service from all crew members. The food was plentiful, well prepared, and had great presentation while in both the dining room, the deck, and even beaches when in season. 

There aren’t any elevators onboard, so you need to be physically able to go up and down stairs multiple times a day going from deck to deck, and on and off the ship. You almost always tender on the lifeboats in ports from the anchor location to the dockside, so you need to have good balance as well to keep yourself safe when the water has more motion in it rocking the boat against the stairs off the ship. 

The onboard activities - they are offered both while sailing and in port - are enough to keep you as busy or laid back as you prefer.  They offer watersports such as paddle boards & kayaks right off the side of the ship, you can relax on the bow net over the water or climb the main mast to a thrilling platform for amazing views. We had a yoga instructor onboard our sailings and that was wonderful to do each morning, but if not offered on your sailing, they do morning exercises on deck and deck walking if you need to move.  They offered a tour of the engine room, did a knot-tying class, and captains story time during the day. You can easily be part of the nighttime entertainment from the talent show, the fashion show, and the pirate night fun and games! Then, it seemed every night after the “activity” there was dancing for those who wanted to break loose under the stars. On each of my trips, we’ve had a VERY gifted musician on board who will do piano music during dinner, guitar on deck welcoming you back on board or sing & DJ fun pop & disco music into the night. 

The sail-a-way celebrations they hold, as they leave each port, are exhilarating. They play a very dramatic version of “The Conquest of Paradise” as they raise the sails, and the ship begins to move.  Everyone is on deck watching and waiting to see the wind catch the sails and know we are back on our way. 

The cabins are smaller than most cruise lines and because of the shape of a clipper ship, each is unique in shape and design, but all have the same nautical feel and amenities. The beds slept well with nice down blankets and plenty of storage space. The bathrooms are small. No words to mix there. Your toilet could be part of your shower, but there was great water pressure! Some of the top categories do have jetted tubs. The rooms all have port holes only unless you are Cat 1 on the sister ships or higher on the Royal. The cabins have TVs and DVD players but to be honest, I heard they didn’t work most of the time, but I was too busy to even try to turn mine on. I know some who were with me did watch movies you can borrow from the purser’s office with the help of their cabin attendant. 

Because the pricing is so closely structured based on categories, the cabins sell from the top down meaning the best cabins sell out before the lower levels so don’t wait to book if you want the larger cabins. I have stayed on both the main dining room (name changes based on the ship) deck and the lower deck and thought they were similar in the movement felt while cruising.

The itineraries offered are great and unique! They are one of the many benefits of sailing with Star Clippers. These ships can visit quaint private beaches and pristine small towns that the larger cruise ships simply cannot maneuver to. One of the huge benefits to this is less people to maneuver through while in a port city and seeing a more authentic side of the people and their culture. 

The excursions offered are good combinations of tours & experiences and are not overly priced as you get on most cruise lines. They also don’t offer so many that it is hard to choose what you want to do.

The cruise director will do a port talk at each port for those who just want to do their own thing and not take a tour. They are familiar with the towns and can always point you to a good restaurant, bar, or shop. 

My overall experience on the Star Clipper ships was phenomenal, and I simply loved it. I had an unbelievably good time on each of my journeys with them and look forward to my next trip on the Royal Clipper.   That cruise will be next June 2025.  We will sail from Venice through the Grand Canal, down through Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast.  Here are some of the reviews from our last cruise:

  • This was the best Tour we have taken this far! Wendy made it extremely enjoyable!!!
  • Great time, great people, and great guide.
  • I had a wonderful experience with MMET everything was handled wonderfully. The hotels were fantastic and everything was taken care of and we didn’t have any stress about where to be or when to be somewhere.
  • Excellent tour! Very knowledgeable tour guides. It was a lovely and relaxing vacation. It was so relaxing and beautiful. I loved every stop! So much to see and do!
  • Loved this and the community built!
  • Wendy is an amazing and fun person to go travel with. She is easy to get along with and will take great care of you! and traveling with Star Clipper was like no other experience you will have. their service is amazing and very authentic.

The benefits of adding PRE and/or POST stays to your tours and cruises
Wendy Fracchia

Budgeting for travel can be overwhelming with so many factors to consider, from excursions and meals to souvenirs and tips, the list can go on and on….. One key factor often overlooked is the addition of pre and post-stays to your tours and cruises. Consider the invaluable benefits of pre and post-stays. They offer more than just additional days—they provide peace of mind, opportunities for deeper exploration, and a more enjoyable and memorable travel experience. Here are some great reasons to incorporate these extra days into your travel plans, potentially making them more important than that extra gelato or souvenir magnet.

The Benefits of a Pre-Tour:

1. A cushion against flight delays

Flight delays are increasingly common, especially in today's post-pandemic travel landscape... Arriving at your destination a day or two early provides a buffer against disruptions, ensuring you don't miss your tour or cruise departure.

2. Recovery time

Long flights can be exhausting. You may get a better price on a red-eye flight, but can you function on 3-5 hours of sleep, especially if you have just flown over 18hrs internationally?   Arriving early allows you to rest and acclimate, ensuring you start your tour feeling refreshed rather than fatigued.

3. Exploring the Departure City 

Many tours and cruises depart from iconic cities like New York, Sydney, or London. Arriving early gives you the chance to explore these destinations, which may not be included in your tour itinerary. Imagine landing in Paris but not having time to see the Eiffel Tower because your tour starts immediately—such missed opportunities can be avoided with a pre-tour stay.

The Benefits of a Post-Tour:

1. Extended Exploration 

If your tour or cruise ends in a fascinating city, staying a few extra days allows you to fully experience it. Some tours may not offer comprehensive sightseeing in the final city, so extending your stay ensures you don't miss out.

2. Visiting a close city or country you have always wanted to Visit.

Consider the proximity of other places you have always wanted to see. If your tour ends in Rome, for example, a short trip to Florence or Venice might be a perfect addition. Utilizing your already purchased flight to explore nearby destinations can be more cost-effective and convenient than planning a separate trip later.

So, to simply summarize the 2 big reasons to consider budgeting these options would be the Stress Reduction and an Enhanced Experience.  Adding pre and post-stays can significantly reduce travel stress. Arriving early alleviates the anxiety of potential delays and allows you to settle in comfortably. Similarly, staying longer at the end of your trip means you aren't rushing to catch a flight right after your tour ends, letting you relax and savor the last moments of your vacation.

New Cruise Line Transparency Pricing Law Starting July 2024
Wendy Fracchia

Thanks to a new law passed in California, there is a new wave of transparency pricing taking over all cruise lines starting July 1, 2024.  

What does that mean and how does it affect you?  

Simply put – If there is a required tax, fee, or cost associated to purchasing a cruise, it will now be included with the advertised price we show on our website, which will be the same for all cruise lines also on their websites.  ** This does not include shipboard gratuities as this is still officially considered an optional feature even though it is automatically added during a cruise or can still be prepaid in advance if you prefer.

In the past the cruise lines have advertised their “cabin cost” and then during the booking process, you were advised of the REQUIRED government, port, and cruise lines taxes and fees that had to be paid with your booking.  So, a $699.00 advertised cruise fare would actually cost you $809.00 at check out because of these required taxes and fees.  (shown prices are only examples).  To be competitive with these advertised prices, we as a company had to follow suit as to not seem that your cruise would cost significantly more booking with us, a travel agency, as that is 100% not the case.

Morris Murdock Escorted Tours has always tried to offer you the most inclusive-upfront pricing on our tours including the credit card price (cash discounts offered on most products), tour tipping when required, and arrival & departure transfers from the airports with structured group flight times to name a few.  With this new law, we are very excited to now be able to do this also with our hosted cruise products offered through us.  

Please be advised that when shopping for a cruise with MMET, be sure to read and understand if you are booking a “hosted cruise only” product, for which the cost will be same or BETTER than booked directly with the cruise line, or a “escorted cruise tour” which will include additional features with the cruise such a pre-cruise hotel package, on-board seminars & activities with your host/educator, possible included shore excursions.  These prices on our website will always be more expensive than booking directly with the cruise line because of these additional services but will bring with them so many benefits at a great value price that you will be happy to have them included.

We hope this is helpful to you as you see our prices seemingly to increase in the near future. They have not – they are just more inclusive now, matching the cruise line required additional costs.

It's Time To Travel To Ecuador and Experience The Galapagos Islands
Carol Alegre

Embarking on a journey to Ecuador, South America, offers a transformative experience that touches the soul, immersing you in a captivating blend of stunning landscapes, vibrant cultures, and unmatched biodiversity. I will never forget my first visit to Ecuador and how magical the experience was because it awakened a sense of wonder within me that I hadn't felt in years.

Nestled in the heart of South America, Ecuador unveils a rich tapestry of terrains, from the majestic peaks of the Andes to the verdant expanses of the Amazon rainforest, all easily accessible within a day's reach. However, the true gem of Ecuadorian exploration lies in the mesmerizing Galapagos archipelago, a living testament to evolution where iconic species such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies freely roam. Delve into Darwin's living laboratory, where snorkeling amidst playful sea lions, trekking across volcanic landscapes, and encountering wildlife found nowhere else on earth await.

Opting for an escorted tour enhances your journey, taking it to new heights as we meticulously handle every detail while you simply relax and revel in the experience. Our expert guides will offer insightful commentary and seamless logistics, ensuring not only a stress-free journey but also providing the ultimate convenience and peace of mind.

We invite you to embark on an unforgettable odyssey to Ecuador and the Galapagos with us, where every detail is expertly handled, allowing you to focus solely on creating special memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.

Group Tours or Independent Travel for Your Next Adventure? Helping you Make the Choice:
Wendy Fracchia

Are you dreaming of your next vacation but unsure whether to embark on a group tour or strike out on your own? It’s a decision that can significantly shape your travel experience. Both options offer unique advantages and considerations, so weighing them carefully is essential. 

Let’s dive into the factors to consider when deciding between a group tour and independent travel for your next adventure.

First, Know Your Travel Style and Preferences.   

Group Tour: If you enjoy the camaraderie of fellow travelers, prefer structured itineraries, and value the expertise of guides, a group tour might be ideal. Group tours often provide a hassle-free experience with accommodations, transportation, and activities arranged for you.  They make sure you get to experience all the highlights without problems.

Independent Travel: On the other hand, if you relish the freedom to set your own pace, explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, and immerse yourself more in local cultures independently and as long as you want, independent travel could be your best bet.

Budget and Financial Considerations:

Group Tour: Group tours can offer cost savings through bulk bookings and shared expenses. Additionally, group discounts may apply to attractions and accommodations.  You have a set amount of money spent and you know exactly what for, so it helps you budget your expenses.

Independent Travel: While independent travel allows you to control your expenses more closely, it may entail higher costs for accommodations, transportation, and activities due to a lack of group discounts.  You may have to pay higher prices for admissions made on the spot versus buying tickets in advance, or worse – not get to do something because you didn’t know about it and all tickets were sold out at the times you were available.

Desired Level of Independence:

Group Tour: Opting for a group tour means relinquishing some independence in exchange for the convenience of having logistics handled for you. Your itinerary and activities will likely be predetermined.  When booking a tour, ask how much free time you’ll have on that specific tour if that is important.  It’s better to know in advance.

Independent Travel: Independent travel empowers you to tailor your itinerary to your preferences, allowing for spontaneous detours and personal discoveries. However, this independence also means shouldering the responsibility for planning and navigating your journey and potentially missing sites or experiences left unplanned.

Safety and Comfort:

Group Tour: Group travel can enhance safety, especially in unfamiliar or potentially risky destinations. Additionally, having a guide can provide peace of mind and assistance in case of emergencies.

Independent Travel: While independent travel offers the opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth, it also comes with potential safety concerns, particularly for solo female travelers who can be targeted by the unscrupulous. Vigilance and thorough research are essential to mitigate risks.  Always be aware of your surroundings.

Cultural Immersion and Authenticity:

Group Tour: Group tours often follow established routes and tourist attractions, which may limit opportunities for authentic cultural immersion. However, reputable tour operators may offer curated experiences that provide insights into local customs and traditions.

Independent Travel: Traveling solo allows for deeper engagement with local communities and a more immersive cultural experience. You have the flexibility to interact with locals, participate in community events, and explore hidden gems off the tourist trail.

Personal Growth and Challenge:

Group Tour: While group tours offer a supportive environment for less experienced travelers and those seeking a more relaxed vacation without concerns and decision-making, they may lack the sense of accomplishment and personal growth that comes from overcoming challenges independently.

Independent Travel: Independent travel can be a transformative experience that fosters self-reliance, adaptability, and resilience. Stepping out of your comfort zone and navigating unfamiliar territories alone can lead to profound personal growth and a greater sense of empowerment.  You have to know yourself and if this is a goal for this particular trip so it doesn’t become too overwhelming and take away from your overall enjoyment.

Ultimately, the decision between a group tour and independent travel depends on your personal preferences, priorities, and comfort level. Whether you choose the camaraderie and convenience of a group tour or the freedom and adventure of solo travel, embracing the journey with an open mind and adventurous spirit will undoubtedly lead to unforgettable experiences and cherished memories. Happy travels!

10 Reasons to Visit Marrakesh and Morocco
Written by: Ignacio Maza, Senior Advisor to Signature Travel Network

INTRO:  Morris Columbus and Morris Murdock Escorted Tours is lucky to be a member of the Signature Travel Network.  It connects us with preferred vendors & destination specialists all over the world.  We are never more than a call away for the most current & accurate information.  Because of our combined purchasing power, we receive preferred vendor status with all major travel providers ensuring that we always beat or match competition rates.

Ignacio Maza is a Senior Advisor to Signature Travel Network and we wanted to share his recent report of his visit to Marrakesh.  

Morocco has been a growing destination and a featured tour for us this year.  Here is why you should consider joining us to visit this capital city!

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I recently visited Morocco and the legendary city of Marrakesh.  Due to the September 2023 earthquake in Morocco's Atlas Mountains and the current conflict in the Middle East, many travelers have canceled or postponed their Marrakesh travel plans.  As a result, Marrekaesh is experiencing a wave of cancellations, and tourism in the city is down.  This is very unfortunate, for two reasons; First, the September 2023 earthquake primarily affected villages and communities in the High Atlas Mountains, not Marrakech proper.  Secondly, the Gaza Strip is 2,000 miles east of Morocco!! I am here to tell you that Marrakesh is a wonderful destination and this is a great time to visit!  Here is a list to find out why you should consider coming to Morocco THIS YEAR and experience this amazing tourism hotspot now!

#1. A Beautiful City

Marrakesh sits in a sunny and dry valley surrounded by the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Cool winters and hot summers make spring, winter, and fall ideal times to visit.

#2. A Legendary History

Marrakesh has a rich history going back over 1,000 years. Trade with sub-Saharan Africa and Europe made the city wealthy beyond measure. Marrakesh is one of Morocco’s 4 Imperial cities, along with Fez, Rabat, and Meknès.

#3. Cultural Treasures

 The city has a wealth of Palaces, beautiful Islamic architecture going back centuries, as well as new additions, like the recently opened Yves St Laurent Museum. The architecture, tilework, carved woodwork, and grand spaces of the historic landmarks will impress, no matter how well-traveled you are. A few highlights:  The Medina, Djemaa el Fna square,  Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret, Ben Youssef Madrassa, Saadian Tombs, Bahia, and Bacha Palaces, and that’s just for starters…

#4. Unique Experiences

Enjoy mountain biking, hiking, soaring through the air in a hot air balloon, riding camels or an ATV in the wilderness, spending the night in the desert, learning how to make a Moroccan meal with an expert chef, and much more. You could easily spend a week in Marrakesh and never run out of things to do. Signature Partner Destination Specialists in Morocco can make all these experiences happen.

#5. Delicious Cuisine

Morocco is justly famous for its tasty dishes – including tagines, pastillas, fish chermoula, couscous, sweets, and many more. Some of the city’s best dining in town is at La Mamounia, The Selman Hotel, The Oberoi Marrakesh, and at the Royal Mansour – all Signature partner hotels. I also loved the restaurant at Villa des Orangers, a Relais & Chateaux small hotel, and La Terrasse des Épices, above the Medina.  

#6. Excellent Shopping

Marrakesh offers North Africa’s most sophisticated shopping, whether haggling in the Medina’s many stalls, shopping in the chic boutiques of the Majorelle district, or buying from artisans in the Sidi Ghanem Industrial sector.

#7. Easy Access

Marrakesh is more accessible than ever. Fly Royal Air Maroc nonstop from New York, Washington, or Miami to Casablanca, then transfer to Marrakesh. Otherwise, fly via Lisbon, Madrid, London, Amsterdam, and Paris for the fastest connections to Marrakesh. Note: Madrid and Lisbon have a free stopover program to/from Morocco, another plus when flying Iberia and Air Portugal TAP.

#8. No Visa Required

US citizens (and citizens of many other countries) can visit Morocco visa-free for up to 90 days. Simple.

#9. Memorable Hotels and Resorts

One of the best things about visiting Marrakesh is staying at exceptional five-star resorts, all very different and special in their own way. Choose from great Signature preferred partner resorts:  The serene Oberoi Marrakech (opened 2019); the palatial Royal Mansour; the newest addition to our preferred portfolio – the stylish Selman Marrakech; and Morocco’s best-known hotel, La Mamounia, celebrating its 100th anniversary.

#10. Wellness

All Signature partner resorts in Marrakesh offer superb wellness and spa facilities. And remember: no visit to Marrakesh is complete without experiencing a traditional Hammam – Morocco’s cleansing and purifying ritual.

Shape Up to Travel: Tips for Getting Fit Before Your Next Adventure
Wendy Fracchia

Embarking on a travel journey is not just about exploring new destinations; it's also about embracing new experiences and immersing yourself fully in the world's wonders.

To make the most out of your travels and ensure you have the stamina to keep up with all the adventures that await, it's essential to prioritize your physical well-being. Here are some tips to help you get in "travel shape" before you set off on your next adventure:

  • Start Early: Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a fit body. Begin your fitness journey well in advance of your travel date to allow sufficient time for your body to adapt and strengthen. Aim to start at least a few months before your trip to see significant improvements in your fitness level.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Whether it's hiking up a mountain, exploring a bustling city on foot, or simply being able to carry your luggage without feeling exhausted, set specific and achievable fitness goals tailored to your travel activities. Breaking down your goals into smaller milestones can help you stay motivated and track your progress effectively.
  • Mix Up Your Workouts: Keep your workouts dynamic and engaging by incorporating a variety of exercises into your routine. Combine cardiovascular activities like running, cycling, or swimming with strength training exercises such as weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, or yoga. Not only does this prevent boredom, but it also ensures that you're building overall strength and endurance.
  • Focus on Functional Fitness: While it's tempting to prioritize aesthetics, functional fitness should be the primary focus when preparing for travel. Concentrate on exercises that mimic the movements and demands of your intended activities, such as squats for hiking, core exercises for carrying luggage, and flexibility exercises for long hours of sitting during transit.
  • Pay Attention to Nutrition: Exercise alone won't suffice; proper nutrition plays a crucial role in fueling your body for optimal performance. Prioritize a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially when engaging in physical activity. 
  • Listen to Your Body: While pushing yourself is essential for progress, it's equally important to listen to your body's signals and avoid overexertion. Pay attention to any signs of fatigue, pain, or discomfort, and adjust your workouts accordingly. Rest and recovery are just as vital as exercise in achieving your fitness goals.  Don't hurt yourself before you travel trying to get ready!
  • Stay Consistent: Consistency is key to achieving lasting results. Make exercise and healthy eating habits a regular part of your lifestyle, rather than viewing them as temporary measures leading up to your trip. Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, whether it's through gym sessions, outdoor activities, or simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

By investing time and effort into improving your fitness before you travel, you'll not only enhance your overall experience but also open yourself up to a world of new possibilities and adventures. Remember, the journey to getting in shape is a rewarding one, with the ultimate reward being the freedom to explore the world with vigor and vitality. So lace up your sneakers, fuel your body with nourishing foods, and get ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime!

Do You Enjoy Learning About New Destinations and Available Tours?
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Sign up here for an EMAIL NOTIFICATION of our upcoming webinar and seminar list.

We will be showcasing many destinations and some of our highly sought-after tour directors who will teach, inspire, and encourage you to expand your world and join us on a future tour.

A Comprehensive Guide to Comparing Travel Products - Apples to Apples
Wendy Fracchia

In a world filled with an abundance of travel options, it is easy to get taken in by a flashy ad and great sticker price but buyer beware!

Comparing products can sometimes feel like the old adage of comparing apples to oranges. However, with a little know-how and attention to detail, you can ensure that you're comparing travel products on a level playing field. Whether you're looking at tour packages, or flights, accommodations, etc., here's a comprehensive guide to help you compare travel products more clearly to ensure you are looking at “apples to apples”.

1. Define Your Needs and Preferences:

Before diving into comparisons, take a moment to define what matters most to you in a travel product. Are you looking for affordability, convenience, comfort, or a combination of these factors? Knowing your priorities will help you narrow down your options and make more accurate comparisons.

Sure, everyone loves a great hotel but what does that mean during a tour?  Some companies will provide you with first-class and luxury hotels, but if you are only there for 10hrs is this the best value and bang for your buck?  Do you need to pay for all those features you’ll never be able to use during your visit?  

2. Consider the Total Cost:

When comparing prices, don't just look at the initial cost. Factor in additional fees, taxes, and any hidden charges that might apply. For example, when comparing flights, consider baggage fees, seat selection costs, and any other extras that could impact the total price.

3. Evaluate the Included Amenities:

Look beyond the base price to see what amenities are included with each travel product. For accommodations, this might include breakfast, Wi-Fi, parking, or access to recreational facilities. For tours, consider what activities, meals, and transportation are provided. Make sure you're comparing products with similar offerings to get a true apples-to-apples comparison.

For #2 and #3, When searching for a tour It is always a good practice to narrow your choices down to your favorite 2 companies and call them to review ALL costs, included and not to be sure you have all the facts for your choice. 

4. Check the Location and Accessibility:

For accommodations and tour packages, consider the location and accessibility of the property or tour sites. A slightly cheaper hotel might not be worth it if it's far from the attractions you want to visit or if transportation costs eat into your savings. Similarly, a tour package might seem like a bargain until you realize it doesn't include transportation or other NEEDED features to complete travel.

5. Read Reviews and Ratings:

Before deciding, take the time to read reviews and ratings from other travelers. Pay attention to both positive and negative feedback to get a well-rounded understanding of the product's strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that individual experiences can vary, but patterns in reviews can provide valuable insights into the quality of a travel product.

Ask your friends and family for referrals.  They will have valuable insights to share.

6. Consider Flexibility and Cancellation Policies:

In uncertain times, flexibility is key. When comparing travel products, look at the cancellation and change policies to see how flexible they are in case your plans need to change. A slightly more expensive option with a more lenient cancellation policy might be worth it for the peace of mind it provides.

As a tour company, we are proud to say that we refunded almost 5 million dollars of our client’s money paid to us during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We know for a fact that not all our direct competitors can say they REFUNDED money but did relax their policies to allow clients to move their funds to future tours.  This is a huge question to ask any company you are considering traveling with.

7. Look at the Quality and Longevity of the Company:

In the travel industry, many travel companies did not survive the COVID-19 pandemic when their only source of revenue was closed.  This isn’t their fault BUT, you should always KNOW WHO YOU ARE DOING BUSINESS WITH and how they are going to protect you both physically (are they insured) and financially (bonded).   

Sadly, there are also many companies that due to poor money management have had to close their doors costing clients hundreds of thousands of dollars only to reopen under another name but still operated by the same management team.  Also, in travel, there are “home-based” tour companies that only run a few tours a year and do not have the connections or experience to help their clients when disaster hits.

Morris Murdock Escorted Tours, part of Morris Columbus Travel has been in business for over 65 years and has stood the test of time through many, many trials such as war, weather, pandemic, companies going out of business, and the list can go on.  

The question is, who do you feel the most safe spending your money with as a travel partner? 

8. Look for Special Deals and Discounts:

Finally, don't forget to search for special deals, discounts, and loyalty programs that could help you save money on your travel purchase. Many travel providers offer promotions or exclusive discounts for certain groups, so be sure to take advantage of any savings opportunities available to you.

As the largest independent seller of travel in the West, MCT and MMET get the BEST deals and programs than any of our competitors.  We will ensure you get the best value on every trip you take with us.

By following these tips, you can compare travel products apples to apples and make more informed decisions about your travel purchases. Whether you're booking a flight, hotel, tour, or rental car, taking the time to compare your options will ensure that you get the best value for your money and enjoy a stress-free travel experience.

South America Tourism opens new horizons and unparalleled experiences for adventurous travelers.
Carlos Fida

While Europe, Asia, and Africa remain popular destinations, South America remains relatively unexplored, earning the moniker "Terra Incognita." For years, I've orchestrated tours and shore excursions throughout Latin America. In 2024 and 2025, I'm planning unprecedented trips featuring destinations never before offered. 

Our itineraries boast journeys to breathtaking locales like Patagonia, the Southern lakes spanning Argentina to Chile, Peru encompassing Cuzco and Machu Picchu, and further south to Chile and Easter Island, where Larry Gelwix will host. Additionally, there are thrilling adventures in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Experience these remarkable tours firsthand at the Morris Columbus Travel Expo later this month. 

In our weekly Travel Show on KNRS radio, Larry Gelwix and I delve into the highlights of Latin American countries, emphasizing their distinctive cuisines—an integral part of our tours. Picture savoring a rodizio-style barbecue in Brazil or indulging in Larry's beloved Moqueca de Camarao, a prawn stew from northern Brazil. Brazil’s vibrant locales include the colonial city of San Salvador de Bahia, the majestic Amazon River in Manaus, and iconic landmarks like Rio de Janeiro's Corcovado Mountain, the Sugarloaf Mountain, and Copacabana Beach. 

Argentina, my birthplace, boasts Buenos Aires, often dubbed the "Paris of South America" and revered as the birthplace of the tango. It's European architecture and vibrant districts like La Boca, adorned with colorful houses and bustling streets, embody the essence of Argentine culture. Travelers revel in Argentine asado, particularly the renowned grilled steaks while marveling at natural wonders like the awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls. 

Peru stands as a pinnacle in the Americas, featuring Cuzco and Machu Picchu on every traveler's bucket list. Yet, Peru's allure extends beyond, embracing Manu National Park’s pristine beauty and Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake. Chachapoyas, home to the striking fortress of Kuelap, captivates with its historical richness. Lima, Peru’s gourmet capital, offers a culinary haven showcasing Peruvian delicacies like ceviche, Arroz con Mariscos, and Pato a la Chiclayana. 

Chile boasts unrivaled national parks like Paine National Park and the enigmatic Atacama Desert. Easter Island's colossal moai statues stand sentinel, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The diverse Chilean cuisine ranges from ceviche to Curanto, a traditional dish from the Chiloe archipelago. Sea kayaking in Chilean Patagonia and exploring its mesmerizing landscapes is an adventure like no other. 

Lastly, the Galapagos Islands, renowned for their role in Darwin's discoveries, captivate with their raw natural beauty. Here, giant tortoises and endemic birds roam freely. We explore not only the islands but also continental Ecuador, visiting Quito’s preserved colonial city and the vibrant Otavalo market. The journey continues into the rainforest, offering a glimpse of diverse wildlife. Ecuadorian cuisine, featuring the national dish Bolon Verde among other delectable treats, adds a flavorful dimension to our explorations. Join me on a tour to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands from October 11th through the 22nd for an unforgettable experience. 

I extend a warm invitation to explore South America's wonders at our Travel Expo. I'll personally showcase the region's marvels, inviting you to embark on a journey of a lifetime. I invite you to join any of these programs in 2024 and 2025. For detailed information about exotic destinations or adventurous tours, such as the iconic Inca Trail, please contact me at 801-483-5212 or Carol Alegre at 801-483-6165.

Unlocking Your Wanderlust: How to Prioritize Your Travel Dreams
Wendy Fracchia

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the desire to travel but WHERE?  You have so many ideas and destinations in my mind that it's confusing on where to start.

In a world filled with endless possibilities and breathtaking destinations, prioritizing your travel dreams can be both thrilling and challenging. Whether you dream of exploring ancient ruins, lounging on pristine beaches, or immersing yourself in vibrant cultures, crafting a plan to turn these dreams into reality is the first step. This list aims to guide you through the process of prioritizing your travel dreams, helping you embark on a journey that aligns with your passions and aspirations.

1. Reflect on Your Travel Goals: Begin by reflecting on your travel goals and aspirations. Consider the destinations that have always captured your imagination, the experiences you crave, and the activities that bring you joy. Are you drawn to adventure, relaxation, cultural exploration, or a combination of these? Understanding your travel preferences will help you prioritize destinations and experiences that truly resonate with you.

2. Evaluate Your Budget: One of the key factors in prioritizing your travel dreams is understanding your budget constraints. Create a realistic travel budget that includes transportation, accommodation, activities, and miscellaneous expenses. Be mindful of your financial limitations and consider options such as saving money specifically for travel, exploring budget-friendly destinations, or taking advantage of travel deals and promotions.  GROUP TRAVEL is a great way to save money while traveling with their negotiated pricing. 

3. Create a Travel Bucket List: Compile a list of your top travel destinations and experiences, creating your very own travel bucket list. Break down your list into short-term and long-term goals, allowing you to prioritize based on feasibility and timing. Consider factors such as seasonal variations, travel restrictions, and personal milestones that may influence your travel plans.

4. Research and Plan: Contact a travel advisor or search online for travel to your selected destination.  Ask questions such as the best times to visit, local customs, visa requirements, and any special events or festivals that might align with your interests. Prioritize destinations that align with your available time, ensuring you can make the most of your travels without feeling rushed.

5. Be Flexible and Adaptive: Flexibility is key when it comes to prioritizing your travel dreams. Be open to adjusting your plans based on changing circumstances, unexpected opportunities, or new travel inspirations. Being adaptive allows you to make the most of your travel experiences and seize the moment when the opportunity arises.

6. Set Realistic Timelines: Establish realistic timelines for achieving your travel goals. Whether it's taking a short weekend getaway or planning a longer adventure, setting achievable timelines will help you stay focused and motivated. Breaking down your travel dreams into smaller, manageable goals makes the journey more attainable.

Prioritizing your travel dreams is a personal and rewarding process that requires self-reflection, planning, and a touch of wanderlust. By understanding your travel goals, evaluating your budget, creating a bucket list, researching destinations, and staying flexible, you can embark on a journey that fulfills your wanderlust while creating lasting memories. So, dust off your travel bucket list, set your priorities, and get ready to turn your dreams into unforgettable adventures. Safe travels!

Navigating the Skies: Tips for a Smooth Long-Distance Flight
Groups User

Embarking on a long-distance flight can be both thrilling and challenging. Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a first-time flyer, a little preparation goes a long way in ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable journey. In this newsletter, we'll explore some essential tips to make your long-haul flight a breeze.

1. Plan Ahead:

Research your destination's time zone to adjust your internal clock before departure.

Choose flights that align with your natural sleep patterns to minimize jet lag.

2. Dress Comfortably:

Opt for loose, breathable clothing and layers to accommodate varying cabin temperatures.  Wear comfortable shoes and consider compression socks to reduce swelling.

3. Stay Hydrated:

Airplane cabins are notoriously dry, so drink plenty of water before, during, and after the flight.

Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as they can contribute to dehydration.

4. Move Around:

Combat stiffness and improve circulation by stretching and walking around the cabin.

Perform in-seat exercises like ankle circles and shoulder rolls to keep your body relaxed.

5. Entertainment Essentials:

Load your devices with movies, music, books, or podcasts to keep yourself entertained.

Consider noise-canceling headphones to block out ambient noise and improve sleep quality.

6. Sleep Strategies:

Adjust your watch to the destination time zone and try to sleep according to that schedule.

Bring a neck pillow, eye mask, and earplugs to create a comfortable sleeping environment.

7. Snack Smart:

Pack healthy snacks to avoid relying solely on in-flight meals.

Choose light, nutrient-rich options to keep your energy levels stable.

8. Time Management:

Set your watch or phone to the destination time upon boarding to mentally adjust to the new time zone.

Break the flight into manageable segments, focusing on one part at a time.

9. Connectivity and Gadgets:

Bring a power bank to keep your devices charged during the flight.

Take advantage of in-flight Wi-Fi to stay connected and entertained.

10. Mindful Relaxation:

Practice deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness exercises to relax your mind and body.

By incorporating these tips into your long-distance travel routine, you can transform a potentially arduous journey into a more pleasant and rejuvenating experience. Bon voyage!

Egypt: More than Pyramids and Camels
Tim Taggart

The tour we just concluded in Egypt was amazing. We had initially planned on Israel before Egypt but the situation as you know is problematic. Egypt on the other hand was safe, secure and fantastic. When you contemplate that when Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Egypt as a boy the Pyramids of Giza were already 2000 years old it just boggles your mind. Our experience included visiting Abu Simbel in the South and a luxury three-day cruise up the Nile. It also included a hot-air balloon ride watching the sun rise over the Nile in Luxor. The Valley of the Kings and the tombs of the pharaohs was just below us. What an experience! We visited ancient sites with breathtaking history and built with incredible craftsmanship.

One of the highlights this year was the opportunity for a special VIP tour of the as-yet-unopened Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). The architecture was breathtaking. With almost a million square feet of floor space it will be the largest museum of its kind in the world. It will house over 100,000 artifacts. The main area welcoming you to the museum includes an 82-ton, 3,200-year-old statue of Ramses II some 40 feet tall. The building had to be constructed around it. The chance to see this phenomenal museum before it opens was such a thrill. I can’t wait until it opens for all the world to see. Visiting Egypt is one of the great experiences of a lifetime.

Come experience Egypt and Holy Lands with Morris Murdock Escorted Tours!

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Splendors of Italy Tour Review Fall 2023
Groups User

There is only one place on the entire planet that you can travel for 10 days and only visit locations that are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and that place is Italy! 

We have just returned from a wonderful tour, with a wonderful group of people to that amazing country where we visited Venice, Ravenna, San Gimignano, Siena, Florence, Rome, and Pompeii.   And it is not just the magnificence of these towns and cities but the masterpieces of the greatest artists of the Renaissance that made our trip such a delight.  Experiencing the painting, architecture, and sculpture of Michelangelo, from the David to the Sistine Chapel and the Dome of St. Peter’s, was a true highlight but how can you single out just one artist when we also experienced masterpieces from da Vinci, Brunelleschi, Raphael, Caravaggio and far too many others to name.

Traveling to the marble quarry in Carrara to see where the marble used by Michelangelo came from and then to the workshops where that same marble was used to create the sculptures in the new Rome LDS Temple was a wonderful excursion.  And then we had the chance to actually go to the Rome Temple and Visitor’s Center as well.

We also had our fill of pasta and gelato and came home satisfied in every possible way!  

4 Good Reasons to Invest in Travel Insurance
Morris Murdock Escorted Tours

Traveling can be an exhilarating and enriching experience, but it's not without its uncertainties. Whether you're planning a relaxing beach getaway or embarking on an adventure in a far-flung destination, it's essential to consider travel insurance as an integral part of your travel preparations. Here are four compelling reasons why investing in travel insurance is a wise decision:

  1. Protection against Trip Cancellations and Interruptions: Life is unpredictable, and unforeseen events like illness, family emergencies, or adverse weather conditions can disrupt your travel plans. Travel insurance provides you with financial security by covering the costs of trip cancellations or interruptions. This ensures that you won't be left bearing the burden of non-refundable expenses such as airline tickets, accommodation, or tour bookings.  Be sure to review all coverage options as there are many to choose from.
  2. Medical Coverage at Home and Abroad: One of the most crucial reasons to purchase travel insurance is to safeguard your health while traveling. Medical emergencies can happen at any time, and access to quality healthcare in a foreign country can be expensive. Travel insurance typically includes coverage for medical expenses, ensuring that you receive proper care without worrying about exorbitant bills. It's a reassuring safety net that can make all the difference in a crisis.  Always check if coverage is primary or secondary as well. It does matter. 
  3. Luggage and Personal Belongings Protection: Lost, stolen, or damaged luggage can be a traveler's nightmare. Travel insurance often includes coverage for lost or damaged baggage and personal belongings. This not only provides financial relief but also offers peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy your journey without constant worries about your possessions.
  4. Travel Assistance and Emergency Services: Travel insurance goes beyond financial protection. Many policies offer 24/7 emergency assistance services, such as helping you find local medical facilities, arranging transportation, or assisting with lost documents like passports. Having access to these services can be invaluable when navigating unfamiliar territories and dealing with unforeseen challenges.

In conclusion, travel insurance is a valuable investment for any traveler. It offers peace of mind by safeguarding your finances, health, and belongings, and providing essential support during emergencies. While you hope for the best during your travels, being prepared for the unexpected is a responsible and smart choice, ensuring that your journey remains a memorable and worry-free experience.

Why Europe Reigns as the Ultimate International Destination for US Travelers
Wendy Fracchia

As US travelers contemplate their next international adventure, one continent consistently emerges as the ultimate destination: Europe. This enduring love affair between American globetrotters and Europe is based on numerous compelling reasons that make the Old World an ideal choice. Here are some key factors that underline why Europe reigns as the best international destination for US travelers:

  • Rich Cultural Diversity: Europe is a continent where you can explore diverse cultures, languages, and traditions within a relatively small geographic area. From the romance of Paris to the history of Rome and the innovation of Berlin, Europe offers an unparalleled variety of experiences for culture enthusiasts.
  • Historical Significance: Europe is a living history book. The ancient ruins of Athens, the medieval charm of Prague, and the modern history of Berlin's Wall are just a few examples of the continent's historical richness. US travelers often find Europe's historical sites and stories fascinating and enlightening.
  • Ease of Travel: Europe's compact geography, efficient transportation infrastructure, and open borders under the Schengen Agreement make it exceptionally easy to explore multiple countries in one trip. Whether you're a backpacker, a luxury traveler, or somewhere in between, Europe's accessibility caters to all types of journeys.
  • Culinary Delights: Europe's culinary scene is a gastronomic adventure. Each region offers its own specialties, from the pasta of Italy to the pastries of France and the hearty dishes of Germany. Foodies will find Europe to be a paradise for their taste buds.
  • Scenic Beauty: Europe boasts an array of breathtaking landscapes. Whether you're drawn to the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands, the sun-soaked Greek islands, or the picturesque Swiss Alps, Europe's natural wonders provide ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, and nature lovers.
  • Art and Architecture: Europe is a treasure trove of art and architecture, housing renowned museums, galleries, and architectural marvels. From the Louvre in Paris to the cathedrals of Barcelona, US travelers have the chance to immerse themselves in the world's most significant artistic and architectural achievements.
  • Safety and Stability: Europe is known for its political stability and low crime rates. US travelers often find it a comforting destination due to its well-established legal systems, healthcare facilities, and strong law enforcement.
  • Global Perspective: Traveling in Europe exposes US visitors to different worldviews and international perspectives. Engaging with people from diverse backgrounds and nationalities can broaden one's understanding of global issues, contributing to a more informed and open-minded outlook.
  • Educational Opportunities: Europe offers an unparalleled educational experience. Whether you're studying the Renaissance in Florence or experiencing the Cold War history in Berlin, Europe provides a dynamic classroom for lifelong learners.
  • Adventure and Exploration: Whether you're hiking in the Swiss Alps, sailing the Croatian coast, or cycling through the Netherlands, Europe offers endless opportunities for adventure seekers looking to push their boundaries.

Today, as much as ever, Europe remains the ultimate international destination for US travelers due to all these reasons and possibilities, but also for me, it will always be the land of storybooks and fairytales coming to life.  I think we each find our reason and passion when we add somewhere in Europe to our "short list" every year. 

I can highly recommend for Americans seeking a well-rounded, unforgettable international journey, Europe offers a tapestry of experiences that continue to captivate the imagination and fulfill the wanderlust of travelers from the United States.

We would love to help you plan your next escorted European adventure! Give us a call today at (800) 809-9910

-Wendy Fracchia, Morris Murdock Escorted Tours

Larry Gelwix Reviews Star Clipper Group Cruise 2023
Larry Gelwix

Cathy, my wife, and I just returned from our “Greek Isles and Turkey” group adventure cruise with the Star Clipper cruise line sailing on the Star Flyer ship.  

Star Clippers is perfect for mobile, active lifestyle guests of all ages…those with “adventure in their hearts”, regardless of age. 

Yes, this is a “tall ship” with sails but is also a modern ship with propeller motors and all the amenities for smooth sailing, and don’t get me started on how good the food is.

We visited familiar ports of Athens, Kuşadasi for Ephesus, and Mykonos, then continued to quaint out-of-the-way islands including Amorgos and Spetses…think “Mama Mia” type islands, places the large cruise ships cannot go.  

Our group enjoyed spending time onboard the ship in a true sailing experience, wind in our hair as we watched the blue waters float by.  We played on the front net connected to the bow, climbed to the top of the center mass, and even got to steer the ship!  Does it sound like I'm making a brochure statement?  If so it’s because it really does deliver a true sailors experience.  And in the dining room, Star Clippers does it right. 

I love the relaxed atmosphere of a tall ship experience.  I’m looking forward to traveling with them again and I hope you will join me or one of our other groups on our next Star Clippers adventure!

If we can help you book your next escorted cruise or tour, please call us today at (800) 809-9910!

Happy travels!

-Larry Gelwix

** The next Star Clipper group is May 4-11, 2024 from Rome down the Amalfi Coast, hosted by Group Manager, Wendy Fracchia.  Click here for more details

Best 15 Packing Tips For Your Next Trip by Wendy Fracchia
Wendy Fracchia

Packing clothes for all seasons can be a bit challenging, but with careful planning and some smart packing techniques, you can make it work. Here are some travel tips for packing clothes for all seasons:

1. Check the Weather Forecast: Before you start packing, check the weather forecast for your destination during your travel dates. This will give you a better idea of what to expect and help you plan accordingly.

2. Layering is Key: The key to packing for all seasons is layering. Bring versatile clothing items that can be layered to adapt to different temperatures. For example, a lightweight t-shirt can be worn on its own in summer or layered under a sweater or jacket in colder weather.

3. Neutral Colors: Choose a color palette of neutral colors (black, gray, beige, etc.) for your clothing. Neutral colors are versatile and can be mixed and matched easily.

4. Multi-Use Items: Pack clothing items that can serve multiple purposes. For example, a convertible travel dress can be worn as a dress, a skirt, or even a top. This saves space and gives you more outfit options.

5. Choose the Right Fabrics: Opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics for summer and warmer climates, and pack heavier, insulating materials like wool or fleece for colder seasons. Fabrics like merino wool are great because they are moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and can be worn in both hot and cold weather.

6. Packing Cubes: Invest in packing cubes or compression bags to maximize space and keep your clothing organized. Roll your clothes to save space and reduce wrinkles.

7. Footwear: Footwear can take up a lot of space, so choose a versatile pair of shoes that can work for different seasons. For example, a comfortable pair of walking shoes or sneakers can be worn year-round.

8. Accessories: Accessories like scarves, hats, and gloves can help adapt your outfits to different weather conditions. They take up very little space but can make a big difference in your comfort.

9. Laundry Options: Consider access to laundry facilities at your destination. If available, you can pack fewer items and plan to do laundry during your trip.

10. Weather-Appropriate Outerwear: Don't forget to pack a weather-appropriate jacket or coat. If you're traveling during a transitional season, choose a versatile jacket that can handle both cool and warm temperatures.

11. Research Local Dress Codes: Some destinations may have specific dress codes or cultural norms. Research these in advance to ensure you pack appropriate clothing.

12. Wear Bulky Items: If you're traveling with bulky items like a winter coat or boots, wear them during your journey to save space in your luggage.

13. Edit Your Wardrobe: Be ruthless when packing. Only bring items that you know you'll wear. Leave behind anything that's not versatile or necessary for the trip.

14. Plan for Special Activities: If you have specific activities planned, such as hiking or swimming, pack the necessary gear separately to avoid overpacking.

15. Check Baggage Restrictions: Be mindful of baggage weight and size restrictions imposed by airlines or other modes of transportation. It's essential to avoid excess baggage fees.

Remember that packing for all seasons may require some trade-offs in terms of space and convenience, but with careful planning, you can have a versatile wardrobe that covers a wide range of weather conditions.

We look forward to hosting you on our next escorted tour! Please call us today at (800) 809-9910 to book your next unforgettable vacation with us.

-Wendy Fracchia, Morris Murdock Escorted Tours

Discovering Peru: A Journey Through History, Culture, and Natural Beauty
Carol Alegre

I recently had the opportunity to take a group to one of my favorite destinations in the world, Peru! It was an unforgettable journey, with stunning scenery, exquisite food and genuine connection to the rich tapestry of Peru's culture and history.

We started in Lima, a lively city where the food scene stole the show. Imagine savoring dishes like ceviche and lomo saltado – a true feast for the senses. The mix of traditional ingredients and international flavors was a delightful surprise, making every meal an adventure.

From there, we ventured into the heart of the Amazon rainforest in Puerto Maldonado. The sights and sounds of nature were awe-inspiring, from monkeys chattering in the trees to brilliantly colored macaws flying overhead. It was a chance to connect with the natural world in a way that's hard to put into words. Our journey continued to Cusco and the Sacred Valley, where ancient ruins and breathtaking landscapes awaited. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit a local elementary school, and take some school supplies and donations. The children showed us some of their local dances and traditional foods. They were adorable! This was truly a highlight of our trip!

We witnessed the celebration of the Inti Raymi festival – a once-in-a-year spectacle that takes place exclusively on June 24th. This is a celebration of the sun, the Inca New Year. The vibrant colors and lively dances gave us a glimpse into the rich culture of the region.

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Group Cruising, the best of both worlds?
Wendy Fracchia

Do you like cruising? Why?

Do you like traveling with a group? Why?

Not to sound like a three year old, but you should ask yourself these questions because some of the best features you enjoy about these two traveling styles can come together, like a great ice cream sundae, and make the perfect choice for your next travel adventure.

Top 5 Reasons to Consider a Groups Cruise:

    1. Unpacking once and having your hotel travel with you: To most people, this is what they like the most about cruising and like the least about a land tour. The benefit here is huge, especially if you are a classic over-packer! You know who you are.
    2. Sea Days: We hear on land tours that it would be great to have a "down day" to let your legs rest and catch up on some sleep. When asked what of the tour they would give up for this down day they can't decide. Since most cruise itineraries require a day at sea to travel to our next port, it's the perfect answer to this question.
    3. The food: All you can eat, any style you want is available now on cruises. The variety is also better than a land tour. And since it is included in the price, there isn't the budget decision of, "Do I want a good meal tonight or a special souvenir tomorrow?" You know what I'm talking about, we've all done it!
    4. The itineraries: WOW, the world is really big and there is a lot of sea out there. Land tours just can't cover the distance of a cruise so with a cruisetour you can include so much more in your trip. More checks off that bucket list - all in one trip!
    5. Great balance of group and personal time: If you've done a land tour you know how close you become with other tour members in a short period of time. You quickly become a "family" and really, it's one of the things I like best about doing a tour. Lifelong friendships are made. You do, however, long for the quiet of your room at the end of a day and personal time to digest and contemplate the amazing sights you've seen that day. If you are traveling with family or friends, sometimes you just want to hang out and laugh together. On a cruise you get a great balance of togetherness and private time.

I am going to add an extra bonus thought here:

  • On-site learning mixed with classroom style. Not all cruises have an educational theme to them. Some are just fun times - in great destinations. If you choose one that does, this is a great way to enjoy both teaching styles. I don't know how you learn the best but, on a cruise tour you have both options so you are covered. You can absorb the onsite teaching as you ponder what you are seeing and then follow up on an onboard meeting.

So, now that I've given you a few things to think about - go back to the beginning and ask yourself those questions again and see if you are ready to experience this type of travel yourself. If you are, please call us today to review our group cruise options.

Summer Travel To Israel and Why You Should Consider It!
Roger Manning

Last summer my wife and I guided a group of 48 people to Israel and guess what, not only did everyone survive but EVERYBODY had a wonderful time!   When considering travel to Israel, the heat sometimes will scare people away from travel in the summer, but I’d like to offer you 3 reasons why you should consider an Israel summer tour and a few more just about Israel in general.

1. The historic and sacred sites are not heavily populated. Often, there are no waiting lines. We can spend more quality time at each site. Imagine trying to feel/learn/experience a sacred site with 500+ others speaking different languages and worshiping in other fashions.  While there is a great energy at these sites during the busier seasons, there is a lot to be said for this more personal opportunity.

2. The average temperature in Israel in June is 82 degrees. The evenings cool off nicely. In Jericho, Masada, and the Dead Sea areas, the dry heat temperatures range between 89-95 degrees. I don’t know about you but to me, it was not TOO hot that it interrupted our activities and no one was near heat exhaustion.

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