A Whale of a Good Time, Guest Blogger & Friend, David Patch

My wife, Royce, and I like to take at least one cruise per year.  We recently returned from a week long cruise on the Mexican Riviera and visited Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas aboard the Carnival Miracle.  Our personal vacation planner, Judy Best, always takes good care of us when helping us plan our vacations, and we had a great balcony views which offered us outstanding sights during our week.

Both ports offer a variety of excursions, from relaxing on a beach to gliding through the air on a zipline. This year, I chose to go scuba diving in Puerto Vallarta, while Royce spent some time at a Day Spa.  In Cabo San Lucas, we chose to go on a whale watching cruise.   I wanted to take lots of pictures, so we chose the whale watching cruise instead of a zodiac boat.  The larger boat would offer more flexibility for picture taking.

After a short tender ride from the ship to the pier in Cabo, we boarded the whale watching boat and set out for the Sea of Cortez to look for whales.  The crew of our boat was fantastic, and the adult beverages and soft drinks began to flow as soon as we left port.  As we cruised out of marina, we were treated to a close up view of “Los Arcos”, the distinctive rock formations that represent the southernmost point of the Baja Peninsula.

Once we entered the Sea of Cortez, the search was on.  For the first 45 minutes, we began to wonder if we would see any whales.  Then the fun started.  For the next hour, we were treated to a number of whale sightings, and I got lots of great photos.

The seas had a bit of a swell on this day, and it was somewhat of a challenge to move from one side of the boat to the other to catch a shot, but it was well worth it.  One of the most amazing encounters was when a mother whale and her baby put on a good show for us.  The mom stayed close, as the baby began to breach over and over again.  Every once in awhile mom would raise her tail out of the water and whip it sideways letting all around know it wouldn’t be wise to move any closer to her calf.  It was definitely a humbling sight.

Once all the whale sightings settled down, we headed back to port.  I would recommend this excursion to anyone.  The best time to view the whales in this Pacific area are January and February.  The trip back to Alaska begins in March, and they are mostly gone by the end of April.

– David Patch and I met on a cruise of the Caribbean Princess, and we’ve been friends ever since. David and his lovely wife, Royce, live in California, so they are especiall knowledgeable about the cruises that leave

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In Pursuit of Sunsets …

I had read that the sunsets over Santorini’s caldera are the most beautiful in the world, so my goal during our recent visit to Santornini was to enjoy great dinners in search of beautiful sunsets. I achieved my goal … enjoy!

Night 1: View from Rastoni Restaurant, Firo, Santorini, Greece2016-06-27 19.10.55

We had the best table in the house, thanks to the concierge at El Greco Resort, a table for eight at the rail overlooking the water with a direct view of the sunset.







Night 2: View from Pelikanos Restaurant, Oia, Santorini, Greece 2016-06-28 20.16.06

Tonight’s table was against the wall, and the sunset was challenged by a hazy, cloudy atmosphere, but we still enjoyed a fabulous meal with a stunning sunset.




Night 3: View from Argo Restaurant, Firo, Santorini, Greece IMG_1091

Wow! When we checked in at El Greco Resort, our first stop was the concierge desk to request reservations to view the sunset all three night. She said her top recommendation was Argo, but it was difficult to get same day reservations for the sunset. Hindsight 20/20, I’m so glad this was our last night, the best sunset, the best meal.






Bonus Sunset, Our Last Evening in Athens, Greece 2016-06-30 20.37.44

Stay tuned, because I want to tell you about these fabulous meals as well. Have you been to Greece or just dreaming of a trip to Greece? This is just one highlight from our Globus Greek Island Hopper Tour. Please leave a comment!


Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, Your Choice

You may have read my previous blog, where I reported that TSA recently eliminated free TSA Pre-Check that frequent fliers were receiving. We REALLY loved TSA pre-check, so we knew it was time to officially apply for that. The following airlines offer TSA Pre-Check, and here’s how you apply at a location near you:

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines/US Airways
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • OneJet
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • West Jet

Since we’re booked with friends on the Globus Greek Island Hopper Tour in 2016 (you should come with us), it just made sense to apply for 20151012_132453Global Entry, which offers expedited customs clearance upon reentering the country, as well as TSA Pre-Check. Friends of ours who traveled with us to Costa Rica already had their Global Entry cards then. We were off the plane in line for customs well ahead of them, but they cleared customs, were seated at an airport bar saving seats for us, with their first drinks in hand by the time we caught up with them.

About a month ago, we applied for Global Entry online at this website. We had to list past addresses, employment, and more, and then pay the $100 fee, which is non-refundable. After about one week, we were notified that our application had been conditionally approved and to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. We knew Little Rock did not have one, so we would have to travel to a center, and the closest ones to us are in Memphis and Dallas. Fortunately, we were traveling to Washington, DC, for the American Express Learning Forum and Travel Conference and a visit with our daughter who lives there now, which included lots of sightseeing. So, we scheduled an appointment in the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, just a few blocks from the White House.

We walked in early for our appointment, but they immediately called us in. After answering a few basic questions and an explanation of how Global Entry works, we walked out with our Known Traveler number, and my Global Entry card arrived at our home just a couple days later. I entered the Known Traveler number in our Southwest Airline flight home from Washington, DC, and sure enough, we had TSA Pre-Check on that return flight.

So, if you just fly domestically, TSA Pre-Check may be enough for you. If you travel or hope to travel internationally, might as well apply for Global Entry now.


Does Your Passport Expire in 2016?

The US PasspWIN_20150917_10_51_08_Proort office is reminding us that they issued lots of passports in 2006, because that was the year the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into affect. That means a large number of US citizens will need to renew their passports in 2016. If that’s you, you can expect delays in your renewal. I highly recommend starting your renewal early in the year, allowing plenty of time to get it back before your next trip.

The US is also phasing out adding pages to existing passports. That just puts the US in line with what the rest of the world is already doing. Be sure you ask for the 52-page book, which is the largest they offer, because that gives you more space for stamps over the 28-page book. Once your passport pages are full, you’ll now have to renew your passport. Happy travels, and remember to give me a call when you’re ready to travel.

No More Free Passes to TSA Pre-Check

WIN_20150917_10_51_08_ProJust like many of you, we’ve been enjoying TSA Pre-Check on our domestic flights the past few years. No need to remove your laptop from your carry-on, and I can walk through the security line with your shoes and jackets on. TSA quietly ended the free passes this week, and now the only folks with TSA Pre-Check are those who have applied, paid the application fee, and completed the in-person interview.

If you’re ready to apply, there’s two different programs to consider. If you only travel domestically, TSA Pre-Check is exactly what you need. If you travel or hope to travel internationally, you need to apply for Global Entry, which also includes TSA Pre-Check.

Here’s the link to apply for TSA-Pre-Check, and here’s the link to apply for Global Entry. Complete your application and pay your fee. After you’ve passed that check, you’ll be invited to set an appointment for your in-person interview. Many of you may have to travel to another city for your interview, like we did. You can plan your interview for a day and time you’ll be visiting that city anyway, if you like.

Both these clearances last for five years, so I’d suggest you get your clearance today if you love to travel as much as I do. And, remember, I should be your first call for all your vacation travels if you value your time.