Genevieve PM Roy
Take off for March Break !
For many Montrealers, March break has just passed, for others it is just around the bend...Shop, eat or travel? Whatever you may wish to do, March break is the perfect time to pick a destination and take off for a wonderful, memory filled vacation. Whether you are considering a sun soaked or snow covered trip with friends or family, it is best to get organized early and explore the various options that are available!
For my March break, I wanted to experience a vacation that was both budget friendly and action packed. I found my solution in the form of a fabulous 14 day vacation that combined elements from destinations both abroad and closer to home: My trip included a 7 day cruise vacation aboard the Norwegian Jewel in the Bahamas, followed by a shopping stopover in New York City and finishing with a 3 day hiking trip in the Canadian Laurentian mountains. Here below, I share with you some of my tips and top picks for your consideration:
Transportation is usually the most costly and time consuming factor for those planning a vacation. Sun destinations are usually popular for those departing from Northern Eastern gateways such as Montreal, Plattsburgh and Burlington Vermont. Direct flights can be very costly, therefore consider booking packages on Flight Network, SellOffVacations.com or Sunwing.ca that save you time and money with All Inclusive deals to Mexico, the Caribbean, USA & Europe. For those looking to get to New York on a budget, Amtrack trains offer a scenic and relaxing journey through the Adirondack route for as little as $89 for a round trip from Montreal. If you are looking for a faster and more flexible departure timetable, consider the slightly pricier Greyhound buses which run regularly from Montreal to downtown New York. Of course if you are going as a group, the most flexible, cost and time efficient method would be to carpool and drive to the Big Apple!
New York City – The city that never sleeps!
This city is great for those who are shopping aficionados, but it is also famous for its many museums, parks, restaurants and sightseeing locations. The Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts and Central Park are worth the trip alone. Some other famous landmarks are the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and shopping in Times Square or Soho. Be sure to check out the onsite TKTS discount booths if you are considering a Broadway musical.
Finding budget accommodation can be tricky in the city. Several visitors prefer to book a hotel in nearby New Jersey and just take local transport into town. Another great option is to book an apartment or condo on Airbnb.com, considerably less expensive than traditional hotels.
Cruising - An all inclusive journey that takes you to several places!
We set sail aboard the Norwegian Jewel, one of the three ships on offer from the Norwegian cruise line (including the Gem, the Jewel and the brand new Breakaway (beginning in May 2013)) that departs from New York City harbor. The close proximity of New York to Montreal compared to other ports of call such as Florida or Galveston Texas sealed our decision. Not surprisingly, a considerable portion of the passengers on board were from Montreal or living just south of the US border.
Norwegian stands out among its fellow cruise competitors such as Princess or Carnival by offering a unique and practical Freestyle dining experience in which guests can choose to dress more or less formal and also select when and where to eat with whoever they want. The Jewel offered both complimentary and specialty fine dining at their 12 different restaurants on board!
Whether you want to sit down to a finely crafted four-course meal with a bottle of wine or just grab a burger from the grill at the pool side deck, guests can be sure that they will enjoy a wide variety of all you can eat fresh breads, meats, seafood, desserts and pastries. The Jewel offered two beautifully decorated main dining rooms, two buffets and a variety of casual cafés, grills and on-the-go choices.
For a minimal cover charge ($15 to $75 per person), you can make your dining experience memorable by reserving a seat at one of the fine dining restaurants on board. I had the opportunity to savor exquisite French cuisine at The Bistro – their 32 oz Premium Black Angus Rib Eye steak was tender and their lobster, scallop and shrimp in pastry puff was divine and well worth the extra 30 $ I also visited the Japanese Teppanyaki where onions, shrimp and meat along with knives, flew from the hands of the skilled chef and was cooked on the large steel grill right before my eyes. A show and a meal make for an unforgettable evening.
When selecting a cruise, one must think of the various ports of call and on board entertainment on offer. The Jewel boasted a stopover at their exclusive beach island; Great Stirrup Cay. Other ports of call included Cape Canaveral and Nassau in the Bahamas. For those who preferred to stay on board, the ship programs a vast array of daily entertainment such as comedians, dance clubs, bars & lounges, piano bars, karaoke, live music, art auctions and spectacular stage shows including the elegant Duo Elegia and the Cirque Bijou. For those who want to keep fit, the ship provides a complete fitness center, sports court, two pools, water-slide, and several hot tubs. For a little extra pampering, guests could book an appointment at the Bora Bora health spa where heated lawn chairs, warm stone massages and thermal rooms were the hot items of the day. Young guests are not left behind, as youth programs for children ages 3-17 are offered, including a special Nickelodeon program that is interesting for kids of all ages. It's all on board and I have to admit that cruising the Norwegian way is ultimately fun, family friendly and very affordable!
Part of the joy of cruising is the exceptional service that is offered. Attentive room stewards and complementary room service are not the only perks; the entire staff of the Jewel was friendly, serviceable and more than willing to treat the passengers as valued guests and even as members of the Norwegian family. Special thanks go out to John D’souza our Concierge and Ignacio Garcia the Hotel Director for their exceptional service and for making out trip most enjoyable.
For more information please visit: http://www.ncl.com/
L‘ Interval - Mount Kaaikop - Camp and hiking in the Laurentians
Let’s not forget that some of the best vacation destinations are located not too far away from home. Situated just an hour and a half drive away from Montreal is Camp Interval, where children, adults, families and sports enthusiasts can enjoy numerous year round activities surrounding a beautiful lake Legault and the Kaaikop mountain; the third highest peak in the Laurentians. The camp offers various accommodations including camping, condos and inns. A two night visit averages 170$ per person and includes all sports rental equipment, access to the mountain trails, guided tours with animators and three meals at their cafeteria.
For more information please visit: http://www.interval.qc.ca/index.html
Happy March Break everyone !