My Hammam Experience

23 Jul

I don’t really have a travel philosophy, but if I had to, I’d say I’m pretty much a “When in Rome” type of traveler. I don’t want to eat or do anything that I can back home, I want an authentic, local experience.

When I knew I was going to be in Marrakech for almost a week, I began researching local Hammams. The prices varied, but were still cheap by American standards. Much to my surprise, the riad I stayed at had a hammam and spa onsite with comparable prices to those I had researched.


The Welcome sign just outside the riad

From what I had Googled, I could see that everyone’s experience was a little different. And that was to be expected. You were getting a glimpse of this experience from the writer’s perspective, not knowing them and their comfort level. That said, I will let you know right now that I went into the hammam with my guard completely down. I was ready for whatever. I knew I would never see this person again. I tried to look at it from a medical stand point too. Just like when you go to your physician, they see so many bodies daily they’re probably not worried/looking at yours and they are a professional. Anyway, here is my experience. YMMV.

My riad’s spa was hidden away like most places weaving in and out of the Medina. It was small, but cozy. A very sweet younger lady led me into a small room with a jetted tub and asked to remove all of my clothing. “All?” I asked. “Everything?” I reiterated. She nodded. “Even….?” I pointed to my underwear, “Yes,” she smiled.

I just wanted to be clear. She didn’t speak much English, just French and Arabic. Okay, I thought. END OF AWKWARDNESS. I stripped down, hung up my clothes and stood there and waited for her to return. When she got back to my area she led me to the sauna. It was more of a wet sauna. She instructed me to sit on the bench and wait for about 5 minutes. I assumed the heat was opening up my pores. After what seemed more like 10 minutes she returned with some items which were my soaps and some exfoliating gloves. She poured fresh, warm (not scalding hot like I have read in some instances) water all over my body and hair and began to soap me up. I assume this was the “black soap” I had read about that is traditionally used. It was not black in color, however. I was given a throughout soaping and then rinsed clean.

I sat the entire time and did not feel, for lack of a better word, “violated” at all. I was basically being washed by another person. In all my thoughts that were running through my head, one was: “I wonder if this is what happened back in Jesus’ time.” Well, I know they washed his feet, I don’t know about anything else. And don’t laugh because you weren’t there.

Next was probably my favorite part. She put on the exfoliation gloves and some more soap and exfoliated my entire body. You should of seen the dead skin that came off on the gloves! (I bought a pair from Amazon when I got back home).

Next was possibly my second favorite part (because I enjoy this when I get my hair cut). She washed my hair. I don’t know what she used, but it was just nice.

I put on a robe and then I was led to the massage room. Yes, I had booked the combination hammam/massage. I went in the massage room and immediately got comfy. There was no traditional spa music, but the sweet, sweet sound of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was coming through the speaker. I didn’t mind at all. It was nice for a change. I zoned out. This was pure bliss. I was in my happy place.

When everything was over I was given all the time I needed to put myself back together (dress, blowdry hair, put on makeup, etc.) before exiting the spa. I honestly felt like a new woman. My skin was soft, my muscles were relaxed. It was the perfect ending to my time in Marrakech.

I hope this helps you decide to try out the hammam expereince! Trust me, you get over the “naked and afraid” part pretty quick. The spa staff are professionals and they do this every day.

I did not take any pictures of the interior of the spa, as I was being respectful. I stayed at the Riad Palais des Princesses in the heart of the Medina. The rooms were some of the loveliest I’ve ever seen and I will post about them soon!

Questions? Ask away!


I needed help from a local to find this place!

The Truth About Getting Into Vatican City

28 Jul

While in Europe last month, my husband and I made a last-minute decision to fly to Rome. We actually ended up visiting Vatican City twice while we were there- The first day, we made our way into The City through the walls, and returning to visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.

Since the trip was so last-minute, I didn’t have time to research anything. We got off of the metro line at Ottaviano and with only my smart phone app map, started to wander aimlessly. It was no issue. We had no time constraints. Getting “lost” is a great, wonderful part of travel. There were many shops to keep our attention in this beautiful area, and we were not in a hurry.

It was what was being constantly asked and told to us that was the issue. Dozens of tour reps lined the streets and continually asked us if we had our tickets to the Vatican Museum yet. When we said no, they proceeded to tell us that a ticket with a tour guide was the only way to get in without standing in the long queue (the queue WAS wrapped around the building). One rep even told us that the ONLY way into The Vatican at all was with a ticket (through his company). Also, we were continually told we were going the “wrong way.”

Now, I wasn’t that uninformed  gullible. I did start to feel hounded- As if I was in Mexico, but instead of being offered jewelry on the beach, I was being offered a tour of the Vatican Museum. I later found out from others that these tours were going from anywhere from €75-90 per person. Even online, I see website sites selling “skip the line” passes for $72 per person. I’m going to give you some great advice in a minute. However, we found our way into the walls of Vatican City (for free, yes, you just walk right in, no ticket or guide needed)….And behold St. Peter’s Basilica!


​It was after we returned to our hotel and doing a bit of networking and research that I discovered that For €30 per person (18 and up; €21 ages 6-18), you can skip the long line, walk right up and enter the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. You won’t have a tour guide (honestly, I don’t want to know how long that tour would be). If you have the time and if you are a huge history buff, a tour guide might be AMAZING for you (you can upgrade this special purchase ticket to include a guide if you’d like). The museum is massive and I couldn’t ever see myself doing a guided tour. To see this museum’s immense collection would take days. As you enter, there are special posters that plot a choice of four color-coded itineraries. They are repeated throughout the museum and are easy to follow. I loved it and I loved being able to come and go as I pleased. My husband and I spent a few hours there on our own. I thought we’d never get to the Sistine Chapel! If you think a guided tour is for you, then go for it!

If you would like to take advantage of this pricing, e-mail us at 



The Spa at The Linq Las Vegas

17 May

One of the highlights of my most recent jaunt in Las Vegas was going to the spa to have a little “me time.” I find it essential to have some alone time on any trip I am on, whether I am with family or friends, big groups or even just on a trip with my husband. Since I was staying at the hotel, I bought a spa pass for $20 and went during the last 2 hours of the day (5-7 pm). There are separate spas for men and women. I was the only woman there that Thursday evening, besides two others who were finishing up a salt cave session (more on that later).

I was warmly greeted and pointed in the direction of the lobby/lounge area where I was told to wait for Bobbi. The lounge area was tranquil and soothing. The walls seemed to dance as they softly changed colors.


Bobbi was an absolute gem. When you go there, ask for her. If she’s not there, wait for her. You won’t be disappointed. She gave me a tour of the quaint facility, showed me how to operate the lockers and then left me to relax on my own, coming to ask if I’d like some fresh squeezed juice a little later while I was in the jacuzzi. She asked if I’d like to put my name down for a 45 minute salt cave session. Of course, I jumped at the chance. The Linq Spa website says that the Himalayan salt therapy cave is available to those who book a treatment and must be booked in advance, but it must have been my lucky day!

The salt cave is unique to the hotel spas on the strip, however, there is not a sauna in the Spa at the Linq. There is a steam room, and as I mentioned, a jacuzzi (whirlpool). I visited the spa several years ago when The Linq was the Imperial Palace, and I do believe that they turned the sauna into the salt cave. There is room for 4 in the salt cave and Bobbi mentioned that they would be getting ottomans soon. Since I was alone in the room, I used one of the other chairs to prop up my feet.


Another unique feature to the Spa at The Linq can be found in the refreshment area. The “harmonize water bar” caught my attention. I honestly cannot explain how it is supposed to work, so hence the link. Always one to try anything at least once, I added 5 drops of the digestive heath water to my bottled water before I headed to my salt cave session.

If you are staying at The Linq, $20 for a half day, or even in my case, 2 hours at the spa, is well worth it. Especially if you can get a salt cave session in. In my area (Dallas-Ft. Worth) salt cave sessions alone run about $30 each, regular price.

Leave me your questions or comments about The Spa at The Linq below!

Bermuda Pool Party

25 Apr

If I’m not choosing a hotel based on the fact that it has a whirlpool tub, I’m most likely choosing it based on its amazing pool. What about location, you say? On the roughly 20.6 square mile island of Bermuda, location is a non-factor. No matter where you stay on the island, sweeping views of lush blue hues are merely a hop, skip and jump away.

These gorgeous colors, combined with an infinity pool is just what the doctor ordered for some ultimate R&R on your next Bermuda getaway. Here are two of my favorites.

Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa


A cruise ship leaves the harbor, as I relax poolside after my massage

Minutes from the center of town, and thus overlooking the harbor, is the beautiful infinity edge pool at Newstead Belmont Hills. I had a fabulous deep tissue massage at the spa and went down to the pool to check it out. It was a gorgeous June afternoon and tourist season was in full bloom, but you couldn’t tell it here. The pool scene was quiet and serene. The pool is breathtaking and actually has a good depth to it, unlike most hotel pools.  I think I’ll actually stay here next time I come to Bermuda.


The Fairmont Hamilton Princess


On a partly cloudy day, this pool is just what the doctor ordered  

The makeover of the Fairmont Hamilton is utterly impressive. Not only do they now have this jaw opener, but they have kept their original salt water pool as well. Even on a cloudy day, this perfectly placed pool is a wonderful place to relax. There are plenty of chairs and umbrellas at this larger resort.


Oh look! The sun came out!

The Fairmont is within walking distance to town and is a larger resort than Newstead. Add to that the on-site marina and all of that said, the pool crowd can get a bit noisy at times. I still love this pool for its modern, fresh style and abundance of seating options.


No matter which hotel you choose, you’ll find yourself staring out into the harbor: Watching cruise ships come and go, party boats crank up the latest reggae and soca mixes, and children learning how to sail.

If “worse comes to worse” and you choose to stay elsewhere, the beautiful pink sand beaches are merely a hop, skip and jump away.

The Belize Zoo

1 Jun


My kids and I met another mom who was traveling without her hubby on the cruise. Neither of us had a shore excursion planned for Belize and we had heard on Tripadvisor that the Belize Zoo was the #1 attraction in Belize City. Here are my tips for making the most of this excursion.

Make your way out of the cruise terminal area and past all of the tour operators that will be trying to get your business (usually in bright colored shirts). You will pass through a well air-conditioned building that will have shopping to the right and more tour companies on your left. Just ignore or politely decline their services and go out of the other side of the building. Here, you will get more bang for your buck. There will still be tour operators on this side, but you will have more room for negotiating. Find an operator who will take you to the zoo, stay there with you (taxis are hard to come by while at the zoo) and bring you back to the cruise terminal. Agree on a set fee (NEGOTIATE!). We had 5 people in our party and didn’t pay more than $25 a person. The zoo is about a 40 minute drive from the cruise terminal.


None of the animals in the zoo have been taken from the wild. The have either been injured, born there, given as gifts, or orphaned. Entry is $15 USD for adults and $5 USD for children. (Hint: If you have a large family, you can purchase a family membership for $35 and get a year’s free admission, plus a cool bumper sticker!).


The Belize Zoo is small, yet uncrowded. Some of the animals you will see include the king vulture, black spider and howler monkeys (my personal favorite), puma, macaw, ocelot. Some of the lesser known animals you will see include peccaries, agouti, paca, and coatimundi.


The zoo also provides animal encounters and even accommodations. My kids, ages 6 and 15 had a great time. Grab some lunch at the gift shop/cafe. Try the hot sauce on the table and if you like it, purchase some to take home in the gift shop. (I wish I had gotten more).


Have you been to the Belize Zoo? Are you thinking about going? Post your questions in the comments below, and be sure to like my page on Facebook.

The Disney Wonder

1 Mar

“Mommy, it was magical!”

Can any words be sweeter to hear from your child about a family vacation? From top-notch food to better-than-Broadway shows, you will find it on this ship!

Disney has made the check-in process painless (for adults anyway). The food was wonderful and there was always an abundance of characters around the ship. While I never write a full, lengthy reviews on the cruise ships I’ve been on, I will point out some tips to having a more-than-magical time on the Disney Wonder.

  • Unless your child wants to hunt down all of the characters for their autographs, you can take up to 4 items per stateroom to guest services to get signed. Place your items and permanent markers in a ziplock bag. Guest services will fill out a form with specifics (your room number, which characters you want, etc.) and will return it to your stateroom at the completion of the cruise.
  • Get to the characters meet and greet EARLY. Especially the Princesses!
  • Arrive at the main show at least 15 minutes early to ensure a good seat.
  • When arriving on embarkation day, eat at Parrot Cay (Deck 3, aft) instead of the main buffet on deck 9. You will be served your drinks and it’s a nicer, less crowded environment.
  • Some items in the gift shop will be marked down on the last night of the cruise. It’s better to wait to see if that shirt you want will go on sale.
  • For the pirate party, we brought glow necklaces and glow bracelets. We also wore them to the shows. All the kids wanted one!
  • If your child participates in the end of cruise show with the kid’s camp, they will get a free t-shirt.

I will be happy to answer any questions about the Disney Wonder if you would like to leave them in the comments section.

Stingray Sandbar, The Cayman Islands

28 Jan

Ah, the stingray. Fear of these little guys shot up about 1000% after Steve Irwin’s unfortunate death. Alas, the most popular thing to do in The Cayman Islands is the stingray sandbar tour. The boat ride out to the sandbar was nice but felt like it took forever- even on the “speed boat” we were on.

When we finally arrived, we peeked over the edge of the boat, watching these marvelous creatures seem to anticipate our arrival.

I have to admit I was quite fearless upon getting into the water. The crew will stay with you while you are in the water. You have the opportunity to feed the stingrays, pet them and hold them. We even got snorkel equipment. No one was stung on this tour. I have to admit, my fearlessness diminished when these majestic creatures started sliding under my feet and around my legs. It kind of gives you that creepy feeling when their velvety skin touches yours. After all, you are in their habitat. Their territory.

Please excuse the bad pic...taken with an expired underwater camera!

Nonetheless, this was a great experience- one I will never forget! I highly recommend the stingray sandbar for adults and kids who are not fearful of stingrays or swimming with ocean life. My 4-year-old daughter and I are stopping in The Caymans next month on a cruise itinerary and are opting to swim with the dolphins instead. She would be quite freaked out by the stingrays. However, there are life jackets provided for everyone and I saw kids younger than my daughter on this tour, so only YOU know your children and what they will tolerate.

Cruise line excursion rates can be high. I can get you this tour PLUS an additional snorkel stop for only $49 per person. E-mail me at and ask me how!

Do This: Cave Tubing in Belize

16 Jan

A woman recently stopped me after she saw my ‘Blue Grotto Travel’ car magnet. She had booked a Spring Break family trip to Belize and was wondering what to do while there. My reply was simple- Cave Tubing! It is a popular shore excursion among cruisers- and it’s no wonder why!

My party and I booked through and could not have had a better time. While other cave tour groups were over-crowded (we saw over 20 people linked together by their tubes at one point), we were a nice small group of about 8. Smaller tour groups mean easier management and more time for FUN! Plus, afterwards you get to try a Belizean tamale and purchase a nice “Butt’s Up” souvenir tee. During my extensive research I also discovered that they had the best price for the tour as well. Our guides were really nice and we even got a chance to “cliff jump” afterwards, They really knew all of the ends and outs of the cave and the area. Don’t worry- they will always remind you to keep your “butt’s up” during cave tubing.

The pictures I took during cave tubing didn’t come out so great (my underwater/waterproof camera was an epic fail on this trip, plus the caves are dark!).

Passports with Purpose

16 Dec

Passports with Purpose

Passports With Purpose was founded in 2008 by Debbie Dubrow, Pam Mandel, Beth Whitman and Michelle Duffy as a way to build community among travel bloggers and to give back to the places we, as travelers, visit.

Each year the Passports With Purpose founders select a charity based on several criteria along with their sense of what would inspire them and the Travel Bloggers community.

This year, we raised one hundred thousand dollars to fund five wells in Haiti with It is inspiring and humbling to be part of such a great cause. PwP is still accepting donations through its website. Click here to donate to this worthy cause.

Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas

21 Nov

If you are sailing to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean, chances are that Coco Cay is listed on your itinerary. This charming island has everything you need to have a great time. Whether you are looking to shop, relax on the beach, or bounce on a water trampoline, Coco Cay has it all. As with other ports of call, you can pre-book excursions for Coco Cay. We booked snorkel equipment, a glass bottom boat tour and an hour time slot at the Aqua Park.

First up was the Aqua Park. I am a water park lover and this was amazing! There were a few large trampolines, and several “rock climbing” inflatable islands to climb on and jump off. All the while, you are being closely watched by a lifeguard. You do have to wear a life jacket, so keep this in mind. Even though the weather is gorgeous and sunny in February, the water is still cold. You have to walk out to the water park area, so if you are going in the winter months, be prepared to freeze until you get used to the temp!

There is an island barbecue which is put on by the ship, so you don’t have to tender back to the boat to eat lunch. The house band also came ashore to play Caribbean rhythms while we ate.

The glass bottom boat tour was one of the highlights of my trip. Led by knowledgeable staff, we traveled around the island looking for schools of fish and other marine life. Staff members dove under water to bring various marine life onboard that we could touch (optional). They also retrieved a conch from the ocean and we got to taste it raw (very optional)!

Unfortunately, we never got to use our snorkel gear. We had simply planned too much for our time at Coco Cay.

There is also a charming market, run by native Bahamians, conveniently located close to where the ferry tenders. The prices were fair, but don’t be afraid to haggle even lower. The vendors do accept US currency.

There were other areas of the island that we didn’t even get to explore, such as a nature area and trails. Get excited if you see Coco Cay on your ship’s list of destinations!