Paula Schwegler, CTA
I have been in the travel business for 23 years working with Central Travel. I thoroughly enjoy the industry and constantly renew my familiarity with new destinations and all the changes in some of the more popular ones. I have a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) designation from The Travel Institute and various Caribbean and Mexico Destination Specialist Certificates, and a Sandals and Beaches Resort Specialist distinction. The Riviera Maya, Cancun, Jamaica and Punta Cana are my specialties for couples and families. Cruising is a passion of mine as well and I have cruised on Disney, Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Viking, and can find the one that is just right for you!
Interests & Specialties
Paula enjoys traveling with friends and family and has taken four Carnival cruises and has experienced the Harmony of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. If you want the inside scoop on a family vacation - land or sea - Paula can help you! She is very familiar with the most popular Caribbean and Mexico destinations and has completed the Sandals Specialist course. Cancun and Mayan Riviera are high on her list along with Punta Cana.
Most of your journeys will start in Vancouver and go east to Alberta. The most popular and normally the first trip for guests is the First Passage to the West. This is a six night trip with over nights in Kamloops and either Lake Louise or Banff.
You will always have an overnight stay in Vancouver the night before as the RM train departs at 7:30am. The time on the train depends on the Canadian Pacific Railway trains. They own the track that RM runs their trains on so, RM has to pull off the tracks and wait for the CP train to pass. You could have an eight hour day from Vancouver to Kamloops or like us, it was 12 hours.
There are two services on RM, Gold Leaf and Silver Leaf rail cars and hotels. The Gold Leaf is worth the upcharge as you have a full domed rail car, sitting up higher than Silver service with a dining car below and a large observation deck. There are comfy leather seats that have leg rests and recline and are even heated. Drinks and snacks are brought to you by you RM Hosts while they tell you about what you are seeing as you go along.
Half of the guests in each Gold Leaf car (about 35) go to the dining area for breakfast and lunch first and switch times the next day on the train. There are windows in the dining car so you can still see the scenery while you eat. Meals were very good with many entrees to choose from.
Sliver Leaf service on the RM train is one level and you are served your drinks and meals at your seat. Smaller leather seats with a slight recline and a foot peg under the seat in front of you. The menu is smaller and you only have 2 options for meals. No dining car and a very small outdoor viewing area at the back between the cars.
The difference in Gold and Silver in the hotels is star rating and room types. All the Silver service hotels that I saw were just fine and in good locations. If a client is trying to stay under a certain budget, I would suggest Gold Leaf on the train with Silver Leaf hotels.
In conclusion, this is a great product but for certain clients. It is not for anyone that can’t sit and relax for 12 hours and are content to look out and watch the scenery and take a lot of pictures. Most of the guest are 65 and above. There is no Wifi on the train and data service is super spotty so most kids and teens would not like this product.
More Adventures from Paula Schwegler, CTA ...
This was my first small size Ocean cruise with about 900 guests. Not sure of the ratio from staff to guests but we were well attended to. The Bermuda itinerary that I did was a new one and only for a short time due to the pandemic. We had two overnights at the start in Hamilton, left for a day at sea, sailed to the other side of the island and docked at Royal Naval Dockyard for 2 nights, and then sailed back to Hamilton at the end.
The Orion is only three years old so everything looked brand new. All cabins have a balcony and the differences were cabin size and locations. We had a Deluxe Veranda, one step up from the lead in and it was very ample. It had plenty of storage space everywhere, especially the bathroom which had a glass enclosed shower door. There was a shelf to place your toiletries inside the shower, which was great. I loved the Nespresso coffee and tea machine that was replenished several times a day so I didn’t have to order room service for my morning coffee.
A 'seasoned' crowd on board - 80% of the passengers were aged 70 plus. Most of the entertainment was geared towards this as well. When I looked at the “Viking Daily” the paper they leave in your stateroom each night, I wanted to find out what was going on after dinner. What I saw was Classical Duo, calming melodies, guitarist performing relaxing tunes, you get the picture. I was pleasantly surprised that they had some great evening shows performed by the Viking singers and dancers; most all of them had to be between 25 to 40 years old. After the main performance in the Star Theater, there were several options before you went to bed. Late Strings, the Piano Bar with classical music but then there was a more upbeat venue from 10:45 to Midnight.
The Viking Orion does have a special domed planetarium which you can book a time slot and see several different presentations. If you are prone to motion sickness, this is not for you. I sat through the 40 minute presentation with my eyes closed. My husband said that it was pretty great and went to see the other shows. They also had a guest Lecturer that was an Astronaut and talked about the US Space program.
The food on the ship was very good. The main restaurant’s menu changed every night with the exception of chicken, pasta, and seafood as a mainstay choice. The Orion has four specialty restaurants that can be booked before you sail, depending on your stateroom type determines how far in advance. Dress codes are enforced in these venues, as they should. Beer, wine, and sodas are included at lunch and dinner, unlimited by the way.
A cool thing to do was to experience the “wet area” of the spa, which was complimentary. After making a reservation, you were allowed one hour. There was a Sauna, a huge Jacuzzi, an ice bucket dump, a snow grotto with real snow, and heated tiled lounge chairs. Slippers and robes were provided in the locker rooms with a cold plunge pool and showers.
A Viking tradition on all of their ships is the afternoon High Tea served in the Wintergarden. Every day at 4:00pm a duo of a violinist and pianist play while they service the tea and sandwiches and sweets.
Every port had some sort of tour included with an option to purchase others. The optional tours costs between $39.00 and $79.00 per person, which I thought was very reasonable.
Covid testing everyday was a requirement. Viking has a lab on every ship now and it was convenient because your cabin attendee placed a plastic vial in your cabin in the evening. You had to fill it up to a certain line the next morning and they came and collected the samples of saliva usually by 9:00am. If you didn’t have it ready, you could place the do not disturb sign on your door but they were back by 11:00am for the collection.
I would certainly sail Viking Ocean again!
My experience with Insight Vacations in Scotland was amazing!
Upon arrival I was met right outside baggage claim at Edinburgh Airport by an Insight Travel Manager with a sign clearly marked. We did a tour of the Edinburgh Castle after a Local Expert hopped on the motor coach. We saw the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny and at the bottom of the Royal Mile Street, we walked past the residence of the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The next day we boarded the motor coach which with Insight has fewer seats than any other tour company so there is more leg room at each seat. You also have a USB port in each row on both sides so you can always charge your phone or electronics. The windows are expansive and the windshield is clear all the way up to the ceiling so people in the back can see out too. Insight busses are a litter wider than most giving even more comfort.
We got to stop at the famous St. Andrews Golf Course and take pictures and a few of us walked to the 18th hole and took a picture on the arched stone bridge. For the “Outlander” book and movie series fans, we got to stop and walk around the Balnuaran of Clava where Clair descends back in time through the standing stones. We arrived in Inverness and stayed at the Kingsmill Hotel and had dinner right at the hotel.
We spent the next day driving and seeing the country side stopping at the Culloden Moor Visitors Center where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army was defeated. After an hour there we then went to Lock Ness (Lake Ness) to take a scenic boat tour to try to see the Loch Ness Monster “Nessie".
The last day was spent in Glasgow, we checked into the Holiday Inn Glasgow Theatreland. Once again with Insight, you are right in the heart of downtown, the theater district, and shopping on the famous Buchanan Street. Glasgow is a growing city changing from an industrial town to a more vibrant, young, hip one. I would highly recommend a trip to Scotland with Insight Vacations!
I have just returned from a lovely trip to Aruba. Located in the south Caribbean, north of South America, Aruba is a year-round haven with gorgeous, white-sand beaches, cooling trade winds and warm, friendly people. Aruba is located below the hurricane belt so visiting all year long is good. They only get around 16 inches of rain the yearly mainly October through January where temperatures average mid 80’s and a bit lower December through March.
Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, is a historic port city with a colorful, Dutch colonial charm. Its harbor village is home to breathtaking natural wonders, designer shopping, glittering casinos, lively nightlife and great golf. Aruba’s countryside is dotted with colorful, country-style houses amid a cacti-studded desert landscape.
I found the island to be very safe and you can get a taxi mostly anywhere for under $10.00 so an all-inclusive is not necessary. Palm Beach on the west coast is where many of the resorts are located and the waters are very calm on this side with a breeze most days.
Several resorts were visited but my favorite was the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. This was formally the Radisson Resort and was the first one built on Palm Beach. The plus to that is they have the best largest and longest beach of any. The grounds are fantastic with many palm trees and greenery. Hilton did a multi-million dollar renovation in 2015-2016 and brought it up to modern day standards. The lobby is a wonderful welcoming open air one with a huge lobby bar and coffee shop. It has a large winding pool with a sandy zero entry section. They have a kids club 4-12 years and do things with them off the property like bike riding and the Butterfly farm.
They have family connecting rooms where one king will connect to a two double bedded room. They are changing the bathrooms so that they all will have new showers and are taking out the tubs. Most are already done. This property has no resort fee and they have beach bar service. Seventy percent of guests are Americans. I would highly recommend this property for families or couples – it will not disappoint!
My family and I cruised to the Western Caribbean itinerary on the Harmony of the Seas stopping at Royal Caribbean’s private island, Labadee, Haiti in 2017. I was really impressed with the size of the island and the different beach areas you could go to, you wouldn’t know that 5,000 or so people were on the island at the same time. Buffet lunch was pretty good and they had the longest Zipline, and it was fun watching people doing it.
The other stops were Cozumel and Falmouth, Jamaica and both had nice shopping area right at the pier if you didn’t do a shore excursion. I used ShoreTrips and did a great Jeep tour in Cozumel and a Dunn’s River and beach lunch tour in Jamaica, both were great!
The children on the ship seemed to have plenty to do with the 3 body water slides, 1 slide you went down in a sack (The Abyss), the 2 rock climbing walls, and the 2 surf simulators. Dining options were plentiful and the variety of the food and service in the main dining rooms, were great. We did op to do one specialty restaurant called Wonderland and the experience was fantastic and I would highly recommend clients do that one for something different and special.
The ship is so advanced with all the upgraded technology and the RCCL app was very useful to know when and what was happening at all times on the ship. It worked on every smart phone whether or not you purchased the WiFi package called Voom, or not. We did have the WiFi service and it worked pretty well but found that you had to keep putting your password in several times a day.
I would highly recommend this ship for people who want to take the next step up from what they are used to in cruising!
Beaches Ocho Rios has something for everyone in the family. If you're game for "surf & turf," from a huge action-adventure waterpark to championship golf for the whole family, look no further than Beaches Ocho Rios all-inclusive resort, voted among the Top 10 Best Beach Resorts by Parents magazine.
I really liked this property and the staff was very attentive and caring and you could totally see that when they were interacting with the guest. They have certified nannies in their kids camps so the parents an feel good about leaving them and have a little alone time. The clubs are open from 9am to 9pm and they group them from infants 0-2, Toddlers 3-4, kids 5-7, Pre-adolescent 8-10, tweens 11-14, and then teens 15-17. 222 rooms all have a king-size bed or two doubles and a roll away can be brought in for a 5th person. They have X box, microwave and refrigerators stocked with juices, water, and sodas in all rooms with tub and shower. For the entertainment, they have live music, family shows, disco nightly ( for adults and earlier for teens). They even have an adult’s only Piano Bar Sing along 3 times a week. Kids love the waterpark here and the main pool located in the Caribbean Village section in the middle of the resort is where they hang out.
Having been to several Sandals and Beaches properties in Jamaica, I was excited to see the Sandals Emerald Bay, Sandals Antigua, and Beaches Turks and Caicos. On the recent Destination trip in October 2014, I had the opportunity to stay at Beaches Turks and Caicos and experience much of what it had to offer. All I can say is WOW! The beach itself is the most white, soft sand I have seen and the water is truly breathtaking. The multitudes of blues are unbelievable. This is perfect resort for the whole family to have luxury accommodations, gourmet food, and age-appropriate clubs and activities for everyone. The Italian Village, which is one of four distinct areas, is the best place for families to stay. It is closest to the Kids Club and Pirates Island Waterpark and pool. Great vacation for a Multi-Generation vacation!
Sandals Emerald Bay is a couples only resort on the Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas. This resort caters to couples that like free golf as they have an 18-hole Greg Norman designed course right on the property. The luxury experience from rooms, to 7 Fine Discovery Dining restaurants, to a pampering experience in the 16,000 square foot Red Lane Spa. This is the place to get it all.
Sandals Antigua is a couples only resort located on Dickenson Bay, one of the 365 beautiful beaches on Antigua and is only a 15-minute ride from the V C Bird International Airport. What a lovely property set right on the beach with two areas to stay. The Caribbean Village is very lush and rooms have luxury furnishing with a Caribbean flare none over three stories high. Many of the rooms are directly on the Beach and the Red Lane Spa and the Fitness center are located here. If you are looking for more of a Modern feel then the Mediterranean high rise ocean view rooms would be perfect. You can shop and satisfy your sweet tooth at St. Marks Square Center. This is a very romantic property, great for any couple celebrating their love.
Puerto Vallarta Mexico is a beautiful destination! I was really surprised at how lush and mountainous this region of Mexico was. Most of the resort hotels are located on the beaches of the Hotel Zone considered the Downtown area or north in the area known as Riviera Nayarit. Once a small fishing village, Puerto Vallarta has become
a favorite spot for families, couples, and singles.
With the golden sand and different greens of the water, there are many types of all-inclusive resorts to choose from. Whether you prefer the Luxury of the Gran Velas Riviera Nayarit, the elegance of the Riu Palace Pacifico, or the space of a two or three bedroom Villa at the Marival Residences and World Spa, I can help you get there. Call me today and take advantage of the seasonal direct air service from Detroit.
Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, it is as nice as I remember. Many more resorts have made their way to this Caribbean destination. Looking for a moderately priced resort with things to do for your teens, then Ocean Blue and Sands would be the perfect place.
Maybe you are taking that second honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary and want to find an upscale property, you should think about staying at the Iberostar Grand Bavaro. This adult resort is a great way to pamper yourself in the spa and have fine dining every night.
You still want an all adult resort but don't need all the up-scale amenities, there is the Barcelo Bavaro Beach resort waiting for you with its Caribbean feel and intimate setting. This smaller resort has privileges with the Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe right next door. You can shop, eat and see the evening shows by taking the resort tram over at any time to this larger, modern, resort which caterers to singles, families, and couples. Then you can go back to your cozy Barcelo Bavaro Beach. You have your own lovely beach and restaurant just for the adults staying there. Give me a call and I can help you find the perfect place for you!