A Cuba Vacation is in Your Future

Legislation passed by the US House could ease travel restrictions, among other things, to Cuba and the Cuban embargo in general. The next hurdle, thanks to our bicameral system, is the Senate.

Don’t put on your guayabera just yet. Even if this bill does pass it would expire on September 30 unless President Obama extends it. But Obama may be on board per his previous statements. According to Reuters, “Obama has made clear he favors relaxing limits on family travel and cash remittances by Cuban Americans to Cuba… [but that the] U.S. trade embargo against [Cuba] should stay in place to press for democratic reforms.” That means travel to Cuba may become easier, but the Kennedy-era embargo may remain in effect.

What does the bill do? Per Reuters, while the embargo is still in place, it does prevent the Treasury Department from upholding “…rules requiring payment of cash in advance for agricultural sales to Cuba”.  Ok, so traveling to Cuba may be difficult but purchasing grain would be less complicated.

Perhaps in the future the embargo will end, Communism in Cuba will be abolished, and we will be free to travel to Cuba which once was a beautiful, thriving country.

Air Travel: Is it Safe?

Due to the recent airline neglence (thanks autopilot), some of you may be wondering if air travel is safe.  And if not, how can one travel far distances without boarding a 757?  If it is, how often do these airline incidents occur?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, airline fatalities worldwide fell 25% in 2008 as compared to 2007. In fact, last year was actually one of the safest years in airline travel history.  However, that’s still 539 fatalities or about 55 per month.  But worldwide, with over 6 billion people, it’s a relatively small number.

My feeling is this: every time you get behind the wheel of a car, ride a rollercoaster, or even cross the street, there’s a chance something could go terribly wrong.  But we keep on doing those things, because we don’t want to live sheltered, boring lives.

Is there an alternative? What’s the future of air travel?  According to MSNC.com, microjets could be the next innovation of the airline industry.  These air taxis would only be useful for short range travel (less than1,300 miles apart) and would most likely be costly.  But perhaps as time progresses, these microjets could become mainstream.

Overall, air travel is safe.  It’s also the most time efficient way to travel.  And much of the time it’s cost effective.  Besides, do you really want to drive every time you need to travel a long distance?

Islamorada, Florida Keys

Have you been to Islamorada, the “Purple Island”, in the Florida Keys? It’s about 20 miles south of Key Largo around mile marker 80.

A quite, Keys village, Islamorada serves one, singular purpose: relaxation. That’s because besides a handful of restaurants, a movie theater, bowling alley, and fishing, there’s not a plethora of activities. But that’s quite alright because as I said people head to Islamorada to unwind, and that’s exactly the effect the Keys can have on you.

Don’t mistake Islamorada’s demeanor for that of Key West. Gays and booze don’t abound here. This is not a party town. Instead, it’s a laid back key with good hospitality.

I’ve probably visited Islamorada over one hundred times, but it never fails to provide a new experience each time.

Besides R&R, what’s there to do on this particular key? One activity that’s sure to please is dining out. There are not many restaurants, but the places available can be quite good. One such location is the Lorelei.

The Lorelei has great seafood and great view thanks to its bayside location. They have daily specials which will leave your taste buds asking for more.

Another great place to chow down is the Cheeca Lodge. Generally, hotel food is not great (not a restaurant in a hotel, but one run by a hotel), but this restaurant has a great poolside restaurant. Here’s a tip: when you drive up to the security gate, tell the guard your there for lunch. Then grab a table by the pool. Once you’ve finished eating you can slip right into the pool. Our secret.

Ok, so there are a few tasty plates at some random eateries, but what else can I do besides expand my waistline? Well, there’s fishing of course!

If you don’t own a boat which you can run down from Miami, the next best option is to charter a boat. Captains-for-hire are abundant in Islamorada and the Florida Keys, so locating one shouldn’t be a challenge.

A third great option while in the Keys is Holiday Isle. There you can have lunch, rent jet skies, and lay out on their beach.

Needless to say, there are many great activites in Islamorada. Stop by anytime.

Orlando, FL: Theme Park Heaven

Repost of trip to Orlando, FL:

Several months ago, my girlfriend and I spent the weekend in Orlando, FL. Thanks to a great online vacation package deal, I was able to find round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations for a very low price (less than $160).Our flight arrived late Friday night, so we went straight to bed in an effort to wake up early the next day.We stayed at the Howard Johnson Maingate East Hotel in Kissimmee which was very basic and didn’t include breakfast. But it was only 15 minutes from Disney and 25 minutes from Universal. Unfortunately, the free shuttle to Disney, which should have taken about 15 minutes door-to-door, took an hour as the the driver made several stops. The only shuttle to Universal was not free via Caesar’s Transportation, but it was much more efficient and only $18 round-trip for a 25-minute ride. It’s also a great option for the airport at about $7 less than a cab.

Saturday, we took a shuttle to Universal and went to both theme parks there. Because the parks were swamped, we decided to get Express Passes which are about $60 each for the two-park passes. If you don’t want to wait in line, I highly recommend these passes because you can make your way through any line in 15 minutes or less versus 60 – 90 minutes for some of the more popular rides. A few times, we practically walked right on to the rides! Gotta love Orlando.

Sunday, we took the shuttle to Epcot where we spent most of the day drinking and sampling different cuisine from the World Showcase which is a collection of mock, international cities. It was enjoyable to see France, Japan, England, etc., but there really aren’t too many other attractions. Besides Mission Space, every ride had an hour wait with no Express Passes available for them. Instead, Disney uses free, Fast Passes which basically allow you to come back to do a ride at a specific time, but they were completely gone by the time we arrived at the park. The moral here is get to the park early if you can.

Overall, the trip was lots of fun in Orlando, even if we were exhausted afterward, but in retrospect I would have done things differently. If I were booking this trip today, I would have picked a set of theme parks (probably Universal over Disney) and stayed at one of the hotels at that park. That way we wouldn’t need to take 15 – 45 minute shuttle rides to the parks and if you stay at a Universal hotel it entitles you to free Express Passes. The only caveat is that this option is more expensive. But some deal sleuthing on travel sites may yield deals.

Don’t Accept Imitators!: StorybookVacations.WordPress.com

Don’t accept imitators! There’s another blog called Storybook Vacations on WordPress with the URL storybookvacations.wordpress.com that is a clone of my site (poorly done at best). The site is a violation of my copyright, and was not produced under my supervision or permission. Don’t visit the site!

Storybookvacations.wordpress.com is merely an attempt to steal my thunder and detract visitors from my blog, the rightful Storybook Vacations.

It is disappointing that imitators would corrupt my concept of a travel blog, but these things do happen. I am confident that if you are a loyal reader you won’t visit storybookvacations.wordpress.com.

Farewell, Spring Cruise?

It seems unlikely that I will take that spring cruise I mentioned earlier this month. That’s because I am going to Chicago with my girlfriend and will proceed to freeze to death! But perhaps, if I have a good month, I will consider taking a cruise as my second anniversary is coming up, and it could be romantic.

I will of course, keep you posted on these breaking developments.