Shownotes for "Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show (TWSA!) with Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - October 09, 2011
"Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show - October 09, 2011
img "Explor Tours" Brings the Galapagos Islands to Life for Cruise Passengers; CheapOAir's Shoulder Season Fares Offer Great Bang for the Buck; The Ambassador Hotel in Aurora, Colorado Makes for No Hassle Travel; Up, Up and Away with the National Capital Balloon Club in Ontario, Canada; Enjoy the World's Best Mussels at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Larry Silva and The Buena Vista Serve Up Irish Coffee and More in San Francisco, California.

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Dick West, Founder and Managing Director, Explor Tours, Tours to Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, and Peru (Machu Picchu), Mercer Island, Washington, USA.
www.Explor-Tours.com

For listeners looking for an outstanding adventure on their next cruise, Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams talks with Explor Tours CEO and Founder Dick West about what his company offers travelers hoping to experience a vacation outside of the norm.  Dick is no newcomer to the business of travel.  His father, Chuck, launched West Tours in 1946 in Fairbanks, Alaska before selling his company to Holland America Line cruises.  He then started Cruise West, which operated what Stephanie describes as "small, intense and intimate" sailings aboard "yacht-like" vessels.  Dick is carrying on his family's tradition in the travel industry with experiences that combine the natural and cultural history of special destinations. 

Chatting with Stephanie via telephone from the Alaska Travel Industry Association convention in Juno, Dick recalls that guests aboard his father's Cruise West line preferred those kinds of voyages over sailing aboard huge, mega ships.  With their glitzy floor shows and casinos, he likens travels on those vessels to a trip to either Atlantic City or Las Vegas.   In contrast, Explor Tours has adopted the same approach as Cruise West, recently launching excursions to the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of volcanic islands about five hundred miles off of the coast of Ecuador.  Dick wanted to bring an expedition to the public that would draw interest, and since the Galapagos did that for Cruise West, he has dedicated his attention to tours in the region.

Ecuador is about four hours from Miami, Florida, but is in the same time zone as the central U.S. and uses the U.S. dollar for currency.  Although it is a small country that is only about the size of Nevada, its geography and climate are quite diverse.  Dick describes it as a great location that is unspoiled, new and exciting.  His company charters a passenger ship in Ecuador for "up close, casual and personal" sailings that are educational and life enriching.  The small vessels are able to easily navigate the doldrums, i.e., the equatorial regions of light ocean currents and winds, easily because the waters near the equator are quite calm.  Because of the popularity of Explor Tour's trips, Dick had to upgrade from a 40 passenger ship to a 100 passenger ship called the Galapagos Explorer II, a vessel that sailed as part of the former Renaissance Cruises' fleet.

Despite the increased capacity, the Galapagos Explorer II sold out one year in advance.  No cabin aboard the ship is less than two hundred fifty square feet and each features marble bathrooms.  Passengers must board the ship via an inflatable Zodiac boat, so they should feel comfortable navigating at least a flight of stairs to make certain they can board without difficulty.  Dick describes the land as possessing a "fabulous history" in which travelers will find themselves immersed, including during their stay a three hundred year old hacienda.  Birds like the great winged albatross, the Blue-footed Booby and the Red-footed Booby do not shy away from humans while sea lions swim alongside them in the ocean.  The famous Galapagos sea turtles measure up to about seven feet.

Dick combines the sailing with land tours in Quito, Ecuador's capital city located in the Andes Mountains.  These trips are a win-win for Dick and his passengers as well as for Ecuadorian tour operators.  Not only do his well-traveled clientele love the opportunity to explore this region of South America, but he also helps generate business for the country's travel industry.  "There are operators down in South America that really don't have a good foothold in the U.S. market or a good understanding of it.  It's such a good opportunity to bring some unique products to the U.S. market in a way that can be sold easily by the travel agent and by the consumer.  It needs to be packaged in a proper way and that's what Cruise West did and that's what I’m doing now.”

Stephanie notes that Freddy Ehlers, Ecuador's Minister of Tourism, visited her on air in May 2011.  She says she would love to connect Dick to him to provide additional insights about his operations in the country.  Freddy gave Stephanie a book that captured the beauty of Ecuador in photographs.  "Just turning the pages and seeing wildlife that look as though their colors were fantasized by an artist but to know this is how it actually looks in its natural habitat is a unique experience,"  she says.  She and Dick agree that many Americans may not realize the Galapagos Islands are in Ecuador, particularly since many teachers do not focus on geography.  Dick can pique their interest in the subject, though, since, as he puts it, "Travel is in my blood.  What I really enjoy about it is making people happy and providing the customers with unforgettable memories."

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13553

For more information visit www.Explor-Tours.com


Link to this segment

Bill Miller, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, CheapOAir.com.
www.cheapoair.com

Bill Miller, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning at CheapOAir, joins Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams to fill her and listeners in on great airfare and lodging bargains worldwide.  According to Bill, the first week in November and the shoulder season are when travelers can expect to take advantage of low airline costs.  For example, those flying domestically can do so from either Chicago, Illinois to Portland, Oregon for two hundred ninety three dollars or from Los Angeles, California to Knoxville, Tennessee for three hundred nineteen dollars.  Those looking to travel abroad can catch a flight from either Chicago, Illinois to Rome, Italy for six hundred forty two dollars or from San Francisco, California to Barcelona, Spain for seven hundred fifty four dollars.  All of the rates Bill quotes include taxes and fees.  In addition, hotel rates are off-peak, too, with the Hotel Americana Palace in Rome costing eight one dollars per night for accommodations at this four star property.

Stephanie says there is magic in the word "shoulder."  Shoulder season is remarkable during Europe's low season.  Discounts are particularly good at that time of the year because school is back in session and most people are not thinking about taking a vacation during the fall months.  Bill agrees that Labor Day to Thanksgiving provides an excellent opportunity for low cost travel.  Stephanie adds that she and her family have frequently traveled to Europe for Thanksgiving because the continent offers so much to do and see since it is not celebrating the holiday.  It is also much cheaper at that time of the year than the Caribbean.  To save even more money during the shoulder season, she advises her audience to type the promotional code "Radio 20" on the CheapOAir website for twenty dollars off any purchase.

Bill points out that fares will escalate as the holidays approach, but Stephanie has tips to avoid these rising costs, too.  Her research indicates that airfare to Europe seems to increase significantly on December 17, so she is looking to travel herself a few days before they begin to spike.  She also says that travelers can find cheaper rates if they are willing to be in the air on the holiday itself, e.g., either on Christmas Day or New Year's Eve.  Since most people prefer to be at their destination by those days, the availability of seats aboard planes drives down ticket costs.  Already planning Bill's next stop to the "Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show, she hopes to talk with him about South America in follow-up to her earlier dialog with Dick West of Explor Tours. 

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13558

For more information visit www.cheapoair.com


Travel Tips:

Shoulder season is the period between a destination's low and high seasons.

If travelers find themselves in trouble outside of the U.S., then they should find a lawyer and call the U.S. Embassy for help.  This is why Stephanie advises not to travel to countries with which the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations.

School days, school days!  Universities often have underutilized dormitory rooms, especially during breaks and vacations, that they rent for a low fee ranging from five to twenty dollars per night.  Budget travelers can take advantage of these savings and may also be able to dine good and cheap at the campus cafeteria.

Looking for inexpensive, good eats when traveling?  Find out the location of the area hospital where diners can choose from hot meals to sandwiches to snacks for a low cost.  After all, people visiting family and friends in the hospital have to eat, too, so the selection in the hospital cafeteria is plentiful without breaking the bank.


Fun Facts:

Eighteen main islands comprise the Galapagos Islands, which are distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Evolutionist Charles Darwin's observations of the geology and biology of the Galapagos' Chatham Island (now San Cristobal Island) were integral to his development of the theory of natural selection, which he presented in The Origin of Species.

Dick West's connection to Alaska runs deep: his mother was the first Miss Alaska in 1936!


Guests Include:

Dick West, Founder and Managing Director, Explor Tours, Tours to Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, and Peru (Machu Picchu), Mercer Island, Washington, USA.
www.Explor-Tours.com

Bill Miller, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, CheapOAir.com.
www.cheapoair.com

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Roger Hovis, General Manager, Ambassador Hotel, Aurora, Colorado, USA.
www.ambassadorhoteldenver.com

Roger Hovis, General Manager of the Ambassador Hotel in Aurora, Colorado, chats with Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams about what guests can expect during their stay.  Although the hotel's property line is only about two miles from the Denver International Airport, the size of the airport means it takes driving about nine miles to reach the Ambassador.  With one hundred fifty seven rooms, Roger agrees with Stephanie that the hotel's close proximity to the airport makes it an easy and convenient location for business conferences and meetings.  The Ambassador also offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport as well as a daily, free, hot breakfast.

Stephanie asks Roger to talk a bit about his unique entry into the travel industry and relocation to Denver, Colorado.  A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Roger was in the U.S. Army a few years before transitioning into the heating and air conditioning business.  A back injury forced him to find another career, so he became the night auditor at a hotel near the St. Louis International Airport.  Eventually, he worked his way up to Night Manager at the Holiday Inn in the city's downtown.  When his wife and three boys visited Denver on vacation, she found that the city's thin air eased the breathing difficulties she suffered due to asthma.  She found a job in Colorado, and confident that he could, too, Roger moved his family to The Centennial State.  

When returning a U-Haul truck he had used to make the move, Roger serendipitously spotted a local advertisement for a Night Manager at the downtown Denver Holiday Inn.  "I thought, 'Wait a minute!  I'm doing that same job in St. Louis!" he remembers.  Although he knew the shorts and tee he was wearing were far from business attire and admits his unshaven appearance and likely body odor are not what typically make the best first impression, he and the hiring manager got along well and he was offered the position.  He returned to St. Louis to pick up the other family vehicle and to give a two week notice at his job, where he actually stayed until making the final move to join his wife and sons.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams asks Roger what he would like listeners to know about the Hotel Ambassador should they be making plans to travel to Colorado.  He says that the hotel has regulars who live in Hawaii whom they pick up at the airport for a stay before going to the mountains.  According to Roger, just like the Ambassador handles these frequent visitors' needs, guests can spend the night before catching a flight the next day knowing the hotel will transport them to the airport.  Making the deal even sweeter, they can also enjoy a free breakfast before they depart.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13560

For more information visit www.ambassadorhoteldenver.com


Link to this segment

Leslie Manion, Crew Chief - Wicked, Past President - National Capital Balloon Club, Ontario, Canada.
www.ncballoonclub.ca

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams welcomes Leslie Manion, Hot Air Balloon Crew Manager of the National Capital Balloon Club in Ontario, Canada, as her guest this hour on the "Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show.  Although Stephanie says she chooses not to take to the skies in a hot air balloon herself, she believes Leslie can shed wonderful light on the activity.  Leslie talks about her own personal history as a hot air balloon enthusiast as well as about the sport's history and events worldwide.  She and her husband joined the club when they moved to Gatineau, Quebec near Canada's capital city of Ottawa.  She volunteered at the then new Gatineau Balloon Festival, which is held every Labor Day weekend.  The club will celebrate its twenty fifth anniversary in 2012. 

When participating in international balloon festivals, Leslie's contact at Air Canada Cargo helps her ship her equipment at a reduced rate.  Her husband built a crate in which they recently shipped items to Frankfurt, Germany for a festival in France.  It weighed about five hundred pounds and included the balloon portion of the equipment, called the envelope, as well as their boots and other necessary supplies.  She borrowed a basket from a friend in England.  The hot air balloon festival took place in Chambley-Bussieres, the old North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Air Force base in France's Lorraine region about two hours outside of Frankfurt.  Stephanie notes that hot air ballooning is quite popular in France and many of the hotels and chateaus in the country offer special packages so that guests can enjoy the experience.

Leslie describes the sensation one gets in a hot air balloon as very similar to floating.  She says there is no motion because the balloon travels with the wind.  Stephanie understands that balloonists do not take to the heavens if wind gusts exceed seven miles per hour and Leslie agrees; the winds are otherwise too strong.  She adds that many pilots, including her husband, fear heights, but are fine in balloons because there is no motion, which means no height sensation.  Stephanie wonders how there can be no height sensation.  Leslie says this can be achieved by not looking over the edge of the basket, but rather, looking straight ahead towards the horizon.  In fact, despite her husband's fear, the couple has been ballooning for almost thirty years.  It became their hobby after she gave him a balloon flight for their first wedding anniversary.  Although she did not know much about balloons at the time, they always looked beautiful and fascinating.

According to Leslie, hot air balloon flights range in cost from about two hundred to eight hundred dollars.  Those who wish to give this gift of flight as she did can purchase gift certificates online.  Some services also help connect buyers to local pilots who can take them up, up and away.  She says it is the safest form of transportation since pilots are trained extensively and must adhere to several safety standards.  In addition, it is the oldest form of aviation, dating back to 1783.  It was in that year that the Montgolfier brothers discovered that the soot a bog emitted caused dirt to rise.  They then placed a paper bag over the bog to learn the effects and saw that it, too, rose in the air.  Not certain if hot air ballooning would lead to travelers' demise, King Louis XVI did not grant permission for people to fly in the vessels until the brothers first landed a sheep, a roster and a duck safely from the skies.

Stephanie comments that she recently saw information about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on television.  "The sky was just blanketed, blanketed, blanketed with hot air balloons!  It was just remarkable looking," she describes.  Leslie says she has traveled to the Fiesta, which attracts five hundred to eight hundred balloonists, three times over the past five years.  She, too, agrees that the balloons create an amazing sight.  Stephanie asks Leslie if she helps operate the balloon her husband flies or if she is clever enough to leave the hard work to him while she enjoys the ride.  Leslie says she actually does not ride with him because, as the Crew Chief, she is the on the ground organizer.  And, not only does her husband fly his balloon, but he also designed and sewed its yellow, red, blue and purple spiral colored envelope over nine months.  The couple named it "Wicked" after the Broadway musical based on Frank Baum's classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13561

For more information visit www.ncballoonclub.ca


Travel Tips:

Stephanie advises Leslie Manion to look into Federal Express' bulk shipping rates, which allow customers to ship multiple boxes for a low fee if they share the same point of destination.  She tells listeners that this service may not only be a possibility for transporting hot air balloon supplies, but may also be an option for shipping wedding gowns, tuxedos and party favors for out of town nuptials.

Going up in a ride on a balloon?  Stephanie recommends first contacting Insuremytrip.com to learn what kind of coverage is available should anything go unexpectedly awry. 


Fun Facts:

Occupying over thirty three thousand acres, Denver International Airport is the largest land area commercial airport in the U.S.  The second largest, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, occupies less than half the acreage. 

Several problems arose during the construction of Denver International Airport, causing some to speculate that it is haunted since it was reportedly built atop sacred Native American ground. 

"Night Crossing" is a 1982 Disney movie based on the lives of the Strelzyk and Wetzel families that built a hot air balloon to escape life behind the Iron Curtain.

The character Madame Morrible in the Broadway musical, "Wicked," wears brilliantly colored gowns in contrast to black, navy and white costumes some other characters wear, thus the name of Leslie and her husband's hot air balloon.


Guests Include:

Roger Hovis, General Manager, Ambassador Hotel, Aurora, Colorado, USA.
www.ambassadorhoteldenver.com

Leslie Manion, Crew Chief - Wicked, Past President - National Capital Balloon Club, Ontario, Canada.
www.ncballoonclub.ca

Hour 3

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Chef Lee Masten, Executive Chef, Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, USA.
www.berkshirecrowne.com

Always in the mood for his delicious mussels, Radio Show Expert Stephanie Abrams sits down with Chef Lee Masten, Executive Chef of the Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Chef Lee talks about his unique technique for preparing this shellfish that Stephanie calls the best she has ever eaten anywhere in the world.  She describes his mussels as looking as if they were plucked from a Japanese garden as they are embellished with long, toasted, diagonal "stalks of bread" and served in "the most fabulous broth."  She wonders about his secret to this culinary success.

Chef Lee says there are two important elements that together create the perfect mussels.  One, the shellfish must be fresh and two, the shells must be sauteed to draw out their flavor.  Although some think the shells should be tossed out after boiling, Chef Lee knows they must be treated in a hot pan.  To begin, he heats oil and then removes the pan from the flame before putting the mussels in it so they do not absorb the butane taste.  He then sautes them in garlic, herbs, shallots and saffron as if together they create a mirepoix, i.e., a combination of celery, onions and carrots used as soup and stew ingredients.  This, he says, pulls the flavor from the shells.

Once he smells the peppery aroma that signals that he has extracted the shells' flavor, Chef Lee deglazes his pan.  He tells listeners that they can deglaze their pans with whatever they are cooking, e.g., either stock or wine.  Deglazing allows him to lift "all the good flavor" from the pan's bottom.  Stephanie asks what spice he uses; is it ginger?  Chef Lee says he used ginger and saki on the old menu, but these days uses saffron, white wine and butter.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9871

For more information visit www.berkshirecrowne.com


Link to this segment

Larry Silva, General Manager, Buena Vista Cafe, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California, USA.
www.thebuenavista.com

Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams follows her talk of food with an interview about a beverage, in particular, Irish Coffee.  Larry Silva, General Manager of The Buena Vista cafe, joins her to chat about the drink's introduction in the U.S. and its sustained popularity over the past sixty years.  Larry comments that while he himself has been with The Buena Vista for six years, he is a relative newcomer nonetheless; most of the staff has worked at the eatery for thirty to forty years.  Originally called The Buena Vista Saloon, the establishment underwent a name change in 1950 and just two years later, its menu was forever changed thanks to travel writer Stan Delaplane.

Stan had enjoyed the robust drink during a trip to Foynes in County Limerick, Ireland when its creator, Joe Sheridan, served it to him.  Joe had invented Irish Coffee as chef at the restaurant at Foynes flying boat station.  After recommending the beverage to Jack Koeppler, the then owner of The Buena Vista, Jack arranged Joe's relocation to the U.S. so the pair could serve up the recipe just right to cafe patrons.  It was so well liked that the amount of Irish whiskey consumed in America skyrocketed forty percent within a few years.  The restaurant continues to use the same brand of whiskey, Tullamore Dew, that it used six decades ago.  At that time, one in every ten Tullamore Dew bottles produced was shipped to The Buena Vista and it still uses more of the liquor than any other outlet. 

Besides the Irish Coffee story, The Buena Vista's history is quite rich.  Stephanie notes that it exudes a feeling of Americana.  Larry says the cafe originally opened in 1891, but made the move to its present day setting on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California in 1916.  The bar, woodwork, ceiling and even a lot of the electrical wiring date back to that year.  "If it's not broken, we don't fix it," he explains.  "We do what it takes to keep it the same."  Stephanie asks if Larry and his crew serve a full Irish breakfast along with the hot drink.  He says that meal is American style with an array of eggs and omelets that are served all day.  Most popular is the Crab Benedict as well as a Country Benedict with country sausage.

In addition, the eatery offers a selection of burgers, sandwiches and steaks that are available all day until closing at 2AM.  Although The Buena Vista is not very big, Larry says, is very busy, so he has to be certain it remains full stocked with supplies.  As he puts it, "You've got to take care of your customers."

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13565

For more information visit www.thebuenavista.com


Travel Tips:

Stop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner at One West Restaurant & Lounge, Chef Lee Masten's domain at the Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel, for an unforgettable meal in the northwest corner of Massachusetts!


Fun Facts:

On November 10, 2008, The Buena Vista attempted to grab the Guinness record for the world's largest Irish Coffee to celebrate its fifty six year anniversary.  The drink was served in a twelve gallon, three foot tall, custom made glass using ten liters each of whiskey and coffee, a gallon of heavy cream and more than four pounds of sugar!


Guests Include:

Chef Lee Masten, Executive Chef, Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, USA.
www.berkshirecrowne.com

Larry Silva, General Manager, Buena Vista Cafe, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California, USA.
www.thebuenavista.com

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