• Pastors and Group Leaders - Become A Tour Host

Come See Us in Jacksonville, FL

This weekend we are at the Jacksonville Pastor’s conference at First Baptist Jacksonville. Come stop by our booth to learn about Holy Land Tours, how to become a Tour Host, and all about our services for missionaries and mission organizations!

Our Holy Land Tours are unlike any other tour. We customize every single tour to fit the needs and  preferences of each individual Tour Host. Our tours are custom crafted in our office in Asheville, NC. We create a brochure and can add your tour on our website for online registrations. We recommend including everything for our Holy Land Tours, from group flights to meals, tips, and entrance fees to sites and excursions. Please contact our group department for more information on how we can create the trip of your dreams!

Hosting a tour is not for the faint of heart but it is an incredibly rewarding experience. We have seen ministries grow exponentially with the incorporation of study trips to the Holy Land.

Ask about our Missionary air fares available for any church or mission organization. We have contracted airfare that is often below the public published price. We also have the ability to get more baggage allowance and change fees waved for last minute change in plans. We have been helping missionaries for over 60 years and we would love to see how we can help you and your church or organization too.

We will be in at Jacksonville First Baptist Church from Thursday morning until Saturday night. Please stop by our booth and see how we can help you transform your ministry.med_1031-300x2251

 

 

 

 

Tipping in 50 countries

If you are planning a trip out of the country, perhaps this guide will help you navigate the etiquette of tipping culture at your destination.  Check out this article from Conde Nast.

Are you in a country where tipping is customary and required? Appreciated but not expected? Or virtually unheard of? The truth is, tipping rules vary by country, by region, and by scenario. A modest rounding up of the check may be fine in some places and insufficient in others. A few small bills left on a night table might be gladly picked up by housecleaning staff in one hotel and scrupulously shunned elsewhere. Such uncertainties can throw an uneasy shadow over even the most exhilarating jaunt in a new land. That’s why we’ve spelled out guidelines for the most common tipping situations in 50 countries, from Switzerland to Singapore.

Credit: Conde Nast  Source:  http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2008-11-11/etiquette-101-tipping-guide

It’s National Passport Awareness Month!

September is National Passport Awareness Month!

Old US passport

Old US passport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

What better time to inform yourself of the process needed to get a passport?

  1.  First Tip:  Apply Early
  2. Second Tip:  Apply Early
  3. Third Tip: Avoid the stress, make your flight
    1. Apply Early!

 

There are many resources online to help you “get your passport,” but to avoid any confusion go to the source for:

U.S. Passports and International Travel.

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 Happy Cruise, Tour, Vacation, or Honeymoon and to help make it stress-free — apply early!

You’re welcome!  :-)

Save on an Avalon Waterways France River Cruises for 2016

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Looking for a luxurious vacation full of beautiful scenery and relaxation, well look no further. Avalon River Cruises can provide all of that and more giving each of their guests an unforgettable experience.

There are many different cruising options you can choose from, whatever your heart desires. Guests can choose a fleet that features beautiful cities and small villages, rolling hills and breathtaking scenery, or a little taste of both. No matter the choice you will experience the best of urban and rural French culture.

From the moment each guests steps on to the boat they are greeted with the highest quality of customer service. Each employee is there to make sure they can do everything possible to make their guests feel comfortable and satisfied. Since each ship is small and intimate it allows for the employees to give their guests their full attention and leaves little room for problems to occur.

But wait, the extravagant experiences do not stop there. Guests will be pleased when they walk in to their room and have a wall full of floor to ceiling windows overlooking the water and scenery. The beds are precisely facing the window so that the view is always changing. Avalon has thought of it all when it comes to their staterooms. They have listened to guests and maximized their living space. Guests are also given access to Wi-Fi and can participate in onboard enrichment activities.

Avalon River Cruises provide an undeniable value, their prices including accommodations, local sightseeing, and many meals. Guests also enjoy the complimentary wine to go with their dinner. No matter your vacation time one of their cruises will work for you. They begin with 8 day cruises all the way up to 22 day options. Depending on how long you wish to travel and the accommodations you are seeking, prices start at $2,082 not including airfare and can go up from there. These lower prices are for basic package deals, but if you are seeking something more luxurious Avalon definitely has upgrades available suitable for all preferences.

If you are interested in experiencing all Avalon has to offer now would be a great time to book your next vacation with them. Now until September 15th, 2015 each traveler can save 15% on Avalon Waterways France River Cruises for their 2016 fleets. That’s 15% of savings per customer for the cruise price only.

 

Viking River Cruise Early Booking Discounts!

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Have you ever dreamt of walking the streets in a European country? Quite often when you travel to any country in Europe, the chances are you will only get to visit one or two during your trip. Then there is the stress of figuring out how to maneuver around the town and then determine what the best restaurants are and which tours you should go on. But this stress does not have to be the way you spend your vacation any more.

Viking River Cruises is a great way to visit multiple countries during one trip and have the food and tours chosen for you. They take away the stress of planning and leave you to relax and enjoy the ride.

Right now until July 31st, 2015 Viking is offering 2016 early booking discounts for some of the most popular European cruises. The deal is a 2-for-1 cruise and save $2,000 per couple on air, that’s $1000 a person in savings!

With this offer you can choose from three popular cruises including, Grand European Tour, Romantic Danube, or Danube Waltz. Each has something unique to offer, but all of them are luxurious offer great amenities. The Viking cruise line has been given the award for the World’s Best River Cruise Line for the past 11 years! So it is safe to say no matter which cruise you choose, it will be a wonderful experience.

The Grand European Tour starts at $3,712 a person and is 15 days of cruising through four different countries. During this cruise there will be 12 guided tours, all included in your price. For the Romantic Danube Tour it includes six guided tours over the course of eight days. You will have the chance to cruise through three different countries starting at $1,856. Lastly, for the same price of beginning at $1,856 you can choose the Danube Waltz river cruise. This is an eight day adventure through five countries. Just like the previous cruise they offer six guided tours that are at no extra costs.

Each of these three tours offers something special for their guests, but all share similarities too. One of Viking’s cruise highlights are the guided tours offered on each cruise ship. On each tour you will have the opportunity to have hands on experiences and be exposed to the local heritage.

Back on the cruise ship you will be greeted with attentive award winning staff that is there to give you the best experience possible. Each ship offers complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks along with internet anywhere on the boat. One of their features that guests rave about is their food options offered in multiple places on each ship. The food is fresh and the chefs create regional specialty options so guests can experience local cuisine. The goal of the Viking cruise line is to make guests feel comfortable and at home by providing these complimentary services.

No matter which cruise you decide to take, each boat offers an intimate atmosphere. This allows the staff to be more aware of the guests needs and allows for a successful vacation. You will not want to miss this offer, so to book now or if you gave any questions call us today!

The Heart of South Africa

 
By: Cindy Lou Dale

DURBAN – The pulse of the Zulu kingdom

The rickshaw was waiting outside my hotel. “Durban, she is an exciting, playful city; but the Madam, she does not want to play,” said Zuma, my rickshaw-puller who pounded tirelessly along Marine Parade, ordained in a magnificent head-dress, resplendent with beads and other decorations. “The madam, me thinks she wants the mountains and the seas.”

I told Zuma of my plans to travel through KwaZulu Natal. His handsome ebony face beamed a radiant smile and his features softened as he spoke of his land and his people. “The madam, she is going to the heart of my land. The city she is only the pulse.” Only later would I understand what he meant.

ZULULAND – The heart of the kingdom

The following morning I hired a 4×4 and headed north along the Indian Ocean coast road, taking me through Zululand. The sheer majesty of this region was awesome – the cobalt blue Indian Ocean, the Mangrove swamps and limpid lagoons, the rolling green hills and indigenous forests and always, the wide welcoming smiles from the locals.

Driving through the Valley of the Zulu Kings, I felt certain, when listening carefully, that I could hear the wind sigh and whisper the secrets and sorrows of great battles, made visible by lone forts and small graveyards on ghostly undulating landscapes. I found the battlefields where I followed the footsteps of famous military strategists – Shaka – King of the Zulu’s; Winston Churchill; Mahatma Gandhi. The Zulu kingdom that once lay in blood-soaked conflict today lies in peace.

Some 100 miles from Durban, up the coast near Eshowe (milk-bush shrubs), a guide took me by ox wagon to ShakaLand, a small Zulu village of beehive huts especially built for the movie set of Shaka Zulu. Here I experienced Zulu hospitality at its best and observed a traditional wedding ceremony. I visited a Sangoma (witchdoctor) who threw ‘the bones’ for me and ‘cast away the evil spirits’.

SODWANA BAY – 7 Mile Dive

I continued my journey up the Zululand coast passing numerous deserted beaches and eventually reached Sodwana Bay. Sodwana Bay is one of South Africa’s most popular dive sites and is situated in the northern reaches of KwaZulu Natal. Sodwana, meaning ‘little one on its own’ in Zulu, is easily accessible – only four hours by car from Durban. The reefs at Sodwana are named after their distance from the launch site, starting from “2 Mile” going up to “9 Mile”. Perhaps the most scenic reef is “7 Mile”, which on a good day can compare with the best in the world, like Wakatobi in Indonesia, the Red SeaAustralia, or Madagascar’s Barra Reef – where I learned to dive. Sodwana is diveable all year round, with the best conditions during the warm summer months from November to May.

While at Sodwana Bay, a German adrenalin junkie, Klaus, convinced me to join him in Gaansbaai (Afrikaans for Goose Bay), a coastal town on South Africa’s famed Garden Route. “Gaanzbaai”, he claimed, “offerz ze bezt shark cage divink in ze world.” Taking comfort in his fearlessness and evident indestructibility, I agreed. A few days later I joined him on the ‘Barracuda’ and motored out of Gaansbaai’s Harbor. Frankie, our Skipper, said we were heading towards Dyer Island and would be there within 20-minutes – this statement evoked frantic activity on the deck. I found a discreet corner to ooze myself into a diving suit and true to his word, 20-minutes later we dropped anchor. The crew excitedly began chumming the water with bloody entrails. Moments later Klaus and I were lowered into ocean. Too late for regrets now, I thought and said a silent prayer.

Klaus pointed out a Great White effortlessly gliding by; it took a bite at the innards which had been thrown overboard. In the gloomy distance I spied a dark shape fast approaching. When I realized what it was – a Great White of gigantic proportions, I began frantically gesturing at Klaus to look. Just as I was preparing myself for death, the mammoth beast turned away at the last moment, its tail glancing off the steel bars, sending the cage crashing into the hull of the boat above, and us tumbling within it.

Later on deck, with a cold beer in hand and wrapped in a warm towel, Klaus enquired about the ‘dangers of South Africa’. He asked the Skipper what the chances were of him being shot and stabbed. Frankie regarded him sternly and replied, “It depends on what you mean by dangerous – inoculations are available against most tropical diseases; being shot and stabbed rarely happens, unless you’re extremely unlucky. Being savaged by a wild beast is more likely but most people manage a more or less complete recovery – given time and physiotherapy – many even walk again.” Klaus was ashen. Frankie chuckled, looked away, and winked at one of his crewmen.

When my feet touched dry land later that day, I felt deep admiration and respect for the ocean. Klaus and I were ready for several very large drinks and were marched off to the nearest watering hole by our Skipper and his crew.

DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAIN RANGE – The soul of the Zulu Kingdom

The following morning I traveled north-east, in the direction of the famed Drakensberg Mountains. Its awe-inspiring basalt cliffs, which are snow-capped in winter, tower over riverine bush, lush yellow-wood forests and cascading waterfalls which form a massive barrier separating KwaZulu Natal from the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The only access to Lesotho is via the Sani Pass which, at the top, boasts the highest pub in Africa, at some 3,000 meters above sea level. This spectacular mountain pass is the gateway to the scenic ‘Roof of Africa’ route that links the dramatic scenery of the Drakensberg with the mountains of northern Lesotho. The road is treacherous and requires a 4×4, especially in bad weather.

The 600,000-acre mountainous region known as the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park (uKhahlamba means Drakensberg in Zulu) has been preserved and venerated for eons since the San Bushmen roamed the slopes. Tens of thousands of paintings depicting their daily life can be found on rock faces – now a World Heritage site.

The fearless traveler may wish to conquer the cliffs in summer or ice-climbing in winter and the adrenaline junkies may prefer repelling, white water rafting or a helicopter ride to view the mountains from above. But I opted for what I thought would be the genteel and leisurely pace of walking one of the many well-marked hiking routes. Our trekker-guide, Jade, a white haired and sweetly unobtrusive elderly lady, shepparded my group into a single file line and marched us for the day at a frightening pace.

The Drakensberg is truly a hiker’s paradise – a high mountain range is a wilderness that renews your body and soul. This world of sheer cliffs, deeply incised valleys and crystal clear rivers, is where the bearded vulture, the black eagle and numerous species of antelope, find refuse. This range was once also home to the San Bushmen, as is evident in the thousands of rock paintings.

The hikes offered range from a gentle stroll to extremely strenuous. Popular hikes include the Giant’s Cup Trail at Cobham (3, 4 or 5 nights – 59km/37 miles), a truly magnificent trail designed to give the hiker as much diversity as possible, the Thukela Gorge hike (2 – 3 hours, 7km/4 miles) at Royal Natal, which hikes through alternative stretches of protea (national flower), grassland and forest with the only scenic rival being the view from the top of the Thukela Falls and the thrilling Cathedral Peak trail (6 – 7 hours, 10km/6 miles) that affords the experienced hiker a chance to stand on one of the major free-standing peaks in the Drakensberg.

The following afternoon I returned to Durban.

FIT FOR A KING – Ethnic food for the soul

On my last night in South Africa, I decided to experience the Zulu culture one more time and headed into the ghettos with my guide, who promised me the best Shebeen (African bar) in the province.

Matilda, a rotund Zulu woman clad in a leopard-print pant suit, runs a true African Shebeen — hot, dark, and filled with African gewgaws with drinks served in worn enamel mugs. The local residents crowd her small establishment, ‘kicking back’ with potent Durban Cane ‘for pain’ (a fruity rum punch with a stick of sugar cane) and live, pulsating, African music. Ignore the African way of tortoise-speed service, and do like the locals and enjoy the experience.

Matilda and her husband, Philemon, sweat like diamond miners in a kitchen the size of a small sailing galley, putting together the “Shebeen Cuisine” they had become famous for; including their trademark dish of Durban’s “Bunny-chow”, which is a thick lamb curry in a hollowed-out hunk of bread.

For starters I ordered Mopani worms, coated in beer batter, flash fried and served with a sweetly overpowering chili sauce and a side-dish of Vhuswa pap (a traditional porridge, made with maize meal), washed down with several stout beers served in bottles to douse the chili sauce. How do the worms taste? I hear someone ask. They are very chewy and taste, well, just like you’d expect worms to taste — slightly scaly, crunchy skin, and a bit earthy. An hour later I was told there were two items available for a main course. Matilda’s special, which she claimed it to be Nelson Mandela’s favorite, was again, Mopani worms and Mogodu (black tripe and wild African spinach stew). I opted for choice number two: ostrich steak and cubed crocodile tail, grilled quickly and served with a cherry-peppercorn sauce and nothing much else – presented on a battered tin plate. Dessert was a fabulous vinegar pudding, comprised of sponge cake with a sweet and sour sauce.

Later Matilda brought a bottle of aptly names “Jungle Juice” to my table. She confided that it was in fact apricot brandy distilled in a back room. She settled her large frame into a comfortable position and said; “Now the madam and Matilda, we drink”. And so we did.

The following morning I checked out of my hotel and left my luggage in the baggage area. I strolled down to the Marine Parade with a heavy heart. I found a bench under a palm tree and ate a bunny-chow. I watched the local women meet and chat – a colorful and noisy explosion of skirts and tribal beads, who shrieked with hilarity at the gossip being told. At that moment I realized I was smitten with this beautiful country, its golden beaches and its warm ocean. I left for the airport knowing I had lost my heart to the spirited and proud Zulu people.

As my plane landed at Heathrow I recalled Zuma’s words “The madam, she is going to the heart of my land. The city she is only the pulse.” The Zulu people had touched me with their warm hospitality and friendly smiles. The South African’s I found remarkable in their curious lack of urgency and their dogged determination to squeeze every moment out of a day. This was an experience which will linger long, together with the memories of their vast blue sky and baking sun.

Let Wilcox Travel plan your trip to discover the heart of South Africa by calling one of our agents today @ 1-800-438-5828.

60 Second Geography – Germany

 

The historically great empire of Germany owes much to its strategic position relative to the rest of Europe. Situated between Western and Eastern Europe with excellent access to the North and Baltic Seas, Germany’s status as an early super-power was without dispute. Today’s Germany is highly developed and industrialized with a high quality of life and an overt demand for environmentally sound tourism.

  • Germany is the world’s 4th largest economy but is endowed with spectacular scenery and cultural attractions. The railway and highway systems are the best in Europe and make traveling the country simple and pleasant.
  • With the removal of the Berlin Wall and reunification, East Germany has now provided a new range of tourism markets.
  • In Northern Germany, large ranges of forest and lakes provide tourists with a variety of outdoor scenery and adventure opportunity. Many of the cultural attractions of the area date all the way back to the Middle Ages. Hamburg and Hanover are known for their trade fairs and commerce, but tourism plays an important role in their economy.
  • The ideal hiking country of Central Germany and the beautiful village towns like Hesse and of the Weser Valley make up a portion of the “Fairy-Tale Road” where castles and hills are reminiscent of the stories of the Brothers Grimm.
  • The Rhineland is home to Europe’s most frequented waterway. The Rhine meanders through vineyards of some of the most product wine producing land in the world.
  • Cologne is home to the most famous cathedral in Germany. The Cologne Cathedral is a world heritage site, and is the the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. Construction took more than 600 years.
  • Southern Germany is home to the Black Forest – a scenic area of uplands offering hiking and a variety of winter sports.
  • Munich is filled with Renaissance architecture and is home to the music and art scene of modern Germany.
  • The “Romantic Road” links a number of medieval towns including Wurzburg, Bamberg and Rothenburg.
  • The Bavarian Alps provide some of Europe’s best lake and mountain scenery.
  • In Eastern Germany, the city of Dresden has been reconstructed after the Allied destruction of the city by “carpet bombing” during World War II.
  • Berlin bears the inspiring reminders of the city’s painful past with the remnants of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charley and the Jewish Holocaust Memorial.

Ready to visit Germany? Contact your Wilcox Travel agent today @ 1-800-438-5828 and get started planning your trip.

8 Ways to a Budget Friendly

  1. Book with a Travel Agent

We cannot stress enough how much time and money a travel agent can save you! Time is money and planning a vacation that you and your loved ones will be satisfied with definitely takes time. One of Wilcox Travels agents can save you time finding the perfect flight options and save money on accommodations.

  1. Consider Travel Insurance

Ask your travel agent the benefits of travel insurance for your trip you have planned. This small amount of money can end up saving you thousands if any issues come up during your trip. It is better to plan and be safe than to have your trip ruined.

  1. Use your American Express Points

Wilcox Travel is an American Express representative which means if you are a card holder you can redeem your points with one of our travel agents for any of your travel needs! This includes everything from transportation to lodging.

  1. Consider Traveling during the off Season

Check with your agent to see if an off season might be better for your budget. There are benefits to planning your trip for an off season including of course, better deals, but also there will be fewer crowds!

  1. Transportation during the Night

If your travel requirements are long hours, especially when traveling by train or plane, consider doing so during the night. This will save you money on extra accommodations and give you time to rest before your vacation begins!

  1. Consider a Home rather than a Hotel

If you are staying somewhere for five nights or longer, discuss the benefits with your travel agent to staying in a home rather than a hotel. Often this can give you the more bang for your buck and allow you to have a more comfortable vacation.

  1. Cook at Home

If your rental home or hotel has a kitchen, try cooking some meals in rather than eating out for every meal. This will save you tons of money! Then you can splurge for maybe one nice meal instead of a lot of “so so” dining experiences.

  1. Splurge for Lunch

If you are on vacation and want to have a few nicer meals, try going to your favorite restaurants for lunch rather than dinner. The entrées are cheaper but still just as tasty. By choosing to splurge at lunch you can get something delicious and save your money!

Sandals Sensational Summer Sale

sandalsblogIt is summer time and that means sunshine, vacations, and deals! Right now Sandals Resorts is offering a truly amazing special called Sensational Summer Sale.

On top of select resorts being up to 65% off they are also giving away two free gifts when you book a five night stay or more to travel anytime from July 12th, 2015 all the way to December 26th, 2017.

If you book now to stay five or six nights at a resort you can choose either a $175 Spa or Tour credit, plus a set of two Waterford Wedgwood crystal champagne flutes. If you would like to vacation a little longer, seven nights or greater, then you will receive the champagne flutes in addition to a free couples massage for 60 minutes or a $300 spa or tour credit, the choice is yours!

The beauty of this offer is that it is valid at all the Sandals Resorts except Sandals Carlyle. Don’t miss out on this deal, book with one of our travel agents before the end of Friday the 17th.

If you have never vacationed at any of the Sandals Resorts now is the time to jump on board and take the trip of a lifetime. Each resort has tons of different activities you can partake in and all of them are all-inclusive. Whether you want to soak up rays by the pool, enjoy a massage beside the ocean, or go on an adventure, there is something for everyone!

If this Sensational Summer Sale is something you are interested in then call one of our agents today at 828-254-0746.

Princess Cruises Best Offer Yet

princess

If given the chance would you rather travel to the exhilarating Alaska, or do you prefer to be lying in the sunshine next to a pool in the Caribbean? Well Princess Cruise can offer you either of those along with a variety of more options. In 2016 alone they are offering over 350 cruises to destinations around the world.

When you step aboard of one the cruise ships you will be greeted with warm, friendly staff. From there the wonderful service only just begins. The dining experience onboard is something so spectacular you will be very impressed. Princess Cruise has been awarded for the past nine years with Best Cuisine Line Itineraries. The title says it all, you food will leave you wanting more and the best thing is, you can have more!

Besides the dining you have many options on how to spend your day. You can choose to relax by the pool, travel to the spa, or enjoy live music and entertainment. Each ship has an experience all ages will enjoy. Whether you are traveling by yourself, with your family, or significant other, there is something everyone will enjoy!

If you have children traveling with Princess Cruise then there are plenty of fun activities for them to partake in. In the teen centers and youth lounges the experienced staff will engage your children in talent shows, projects, movies, and much more.

By the time the evening rolls around you have to decide if you want to watch a movie under the stars, dance the night away, or enjoy one of the live entertainment pieces. These are just a few options offered, there are just too many to list.

But don’t forget there is more to do than just stay on the ship the whole time! When you come to a new port there are many excursion options. Depending on your destination and itinerary, there will be tons of options for you or your whole family to partake in.

Everything Princess Cruises has to offer is unique and is an experience you will not soon forget. Right now through August 18th they are promoting their best deal yet, Sip and Sail. When you book a balcony, mini suit, a suit, or anything above that, you will receive a free all-inclusive beverage package for two. PLUS if you book a mini suit, suit, or anything above that you will also receive a free specialty dining for two. In addition to these two free potential packages Princess Cruise is also giving each guest the option to book now with only $100 deposit per person. And if you have a third or fourth guest traveling with you, right now you can save up to 50% off of their fairs. These deals can truly save you hundreds of dollars for your vacation. Being in the travel industry we see a variety of deals come and go, but this is definitely something you do not want to pass up.

For more information or to book your cruise today contact us here at Wilcox Travel.