Friendly Planet Blog

Archive for October, 2012

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Happy Island

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek, and don’t forget to enter our “Be Dazzled By Dubai” Facebook sweepstakes to win a free trip to Dubai!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Traditional camel races

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek, and don’t forget to enter our “Be Dazzled By Dubai” Facebook sweepstakes to win a free trip to Dubai!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Getaway Dossier: The colors and culture of Cuba

As you might know, we recently received our people-to-people license renewal to travel to Cuba. If you haven’t yet made the trip, boy, is it worthwhile. I recently returned from my first trip to Cuba and had an amazing time. In fact, Cuba was the shortest distance I have ever traveled to enter a whole new world.

Since my return, I’ve had Cuba on my mind, and I thought what better way to share my Cuban enthusiasm than to feature it as my next Getaway Dossier.

The most common things people associate with Cuba are cigars, antique cars, and salsa, but there’s much more to the country than you might imagine. This small island contains some of the most creative, artistic, resourceful, cultural, and friendly people you’ll find anywhere, and that’s before we even get to the colonial cities, unique religions, and plentiful World Heritage sites. To help shed light on this mysterious island, here are some of my recommendations for things to see, do, and know if you’re planning a trip to Cuba.

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Nuanced diplomacy: One result of people-to-people travel to Cuba

Ever since Ellen Creager of the Detroit Free Press published her article last August asking whether legal travel to Cuba was in danger of ending, I’ve had many calls from journalists asking about my thoughts on the subject. Friendly Planet Travel, which I started more than 30 years ago, was one of a few commercial travel companies granted one of the first people–to-people licenses back in 2011, and now everyone wanted to know about our renewal. Had we applied? Had our renewal been granted? Had I heard about the evident slowdown (at best) or complete cessation (at worst) of the licensing process?

Had I heard about it? We waited each day for the magic message from OFAC that our license application had, indeed, been renewed. I had read every single printed word on the subject since we submitted our renewal application in June, not sooner than 90 days prior nor later than 60 days prior to our expiration date, according to OFAC’s new rules.

Yet, as the days and weeks passed with no word from OFAC except that our application was still pending, I continued to believe we would get our renewal. I was pretty sure that we would get another go at organizing groups of travelers ready to engage in the kind of interaction between people that is the ideal, the dream outcome, of world travel for the true travel aficionado. Don’t ask me why I was so sure, because all the signs pointed to some other scenario, instigated by political agendas, the elections, and who knows what else. (more…)

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Dubai’s national bird … sort of

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek, and don’t forget to enter our “Be Dazzled By Dubai” Facebook sweepstakes to win a free trip to Dubai!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

The best things Dubai has to offer

As you might know, we recently announced that we’re giving away a free trip for two on our Dazzling Dubai tour through our latest Facebook sweepstakes: “Be Dazzled by Dubai.” If you’ve never been to the city of Dubai, it’s a wonderfully exotic and lavish place for shopping, dining, and to see some of the world’s most breathtaking sights.

To give you a better sense of what you have to look forward to should you be the lucky winner of our sweepstakes, I asked our Reservations Manager here at Friendly Planet, Katherine Howard, to share her personal account of a recent trip to Dubai. Here’s what she had to share with me, in her own words:

Flying to Dubai: The flight was incredible — the service was awesome, the food was great, and the flight attendants were helpful and friendly. There was a wide variety of movies to watch throughout the flight, and for anyone who has seen Sex and the City 2, the flight attendants are dressed exactly as in the movie when the ladies fly to Dubai.

I was fortunate enough to fly in business class and it was 100 percent worth the upgrade. The seats extend flat so you can sleep comfortably on the 13-hour flight from JFK. The flight attendants also pass out mini mattress toppers to make you even more comfortable.

Sightseeing – Burj Khalifa: One of my favorite things about the trip to Dubai was the view from the top of the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. Opened in January of 2010, this building has over 160 floors and is 2,717 feet high. The super-fast elevator ride to the observation deck was smooth, the lights were dimmed, and there was soft music playing. When the doors opened you could see the sky. The deck’s open air and floor-to-ceiling glass took my breath away, and I felt like you could see forever from up there. (more…)

2 reasons why the Far East isn’t so far away for Friendly Planet travelers

We’re always trying to think of new, innovative tours to offer our customers at a great value. We’ve created two of these new tours in the Far East, which incorporate cities that are geographically close in proximity, but vastly different in history and culture. I wanted to fill you in on the details:

Tokyo skyline at night

Beijing and Tokyo: A Sale of Two Cities. On this 10-day tour, travelers visit two of the most attractive destinations in the world, Beijing and Tokyo, for an outrageously low price. The package combines two of Asia’s cultural and economic powerhouses that exhibit impressive modern achievements within ancient and incredibly rich cultures. Spend four nights in each city, with touring included, which provides just enough time to experience all that Beijing and Tokyo have to offer. Since we’re coming up on the cooler winter months, travelers will be able to take advantage of less crowds and incredible prices with this tour—a great perk! While the moderate temperatures in both cities throughout the winter months still provide an enjoyable climate for touring.

Taste of China and Hong Kong. This 13-day tour was created for the traveler who wants to see all of the sights and ancient culture that the vibrant international cities in China and Hong Kong have to offer. Visit three of China’s most awe-inspiring cities, ShanghaiXi’an, and Beijing, and then continue on to the beautiful, cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong. The best part? We’ve calculated that travelers will save over $1,000 with this tour, as compared to booking on their own. You simply can’t beat that for these attractive travel destinations!

Are there any Far East destinations that you’d like to see us offer next? Let us know in a comment below!

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Skiing in the desert

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek, and don’t forget to enter our “Be Dazzled By Dubai” Facebook sweepstakes to win a free trip to Dubai!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Friendly Planet Travel receives license renewal for travel to Cuba!

BACK TO CUBA: Friendly Planet receives its people-to-people license renewal to send travelers to Cuba!

BACK TO CUBA: Friendly Planet receives its people-to-people license renewal to send travelers to Cuba!

We have already sent over 1,000 travelers to Cuba in the first year of our people-to-people license (Jan.–Sept. 2012), and the year isn’t over yet. We’re hoping that many more travelers will take the opportunity to visit this unique country, rich in culture and history, because the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) just renewed our people-to-people license through September 2014!

OFAC grants people-to-people licenses to travel providers that promote contact with Cuban people through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture, and a whole host of other topics. It’s through this license that we, and our travelers, have experienced this wonderful country through meaningful and rewarding interactions with Cubans.

For travelers who travel because they love to explore new places for the purpose of meeting people in other lands, understanding how they live, what’s important to them, and being able to share the same about themselves, our people-to-people tours provide a perfect opportunity. We’re very excited to be able to continue offering these tours as one of a very select few tour operators fortunate enough to have this license.

We’ll continue to offer our two tours to Cuba: the five-day Discover Havana program, set in Havana with trips to Cojimar and Las Terrazas, and the eight-day Colors of Cuba program, which visits Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, and more. We also plan to offer a new tour to Santiago, pending OFAC approval.

These tours include round trip airfare from Miami via a U.S. government-licensed charter service and letter of authorization, as well as a Cuba entrance visa. They also include all land transportation, superior hotel accommodations, and meals. Travelers will engage in comprehensive programs of educational exchanges organized by Friendly Planet with a professional, English-speaking local guide who will facilitate these exchanges, as well as the benefit of a Friendly Planet representative who will lead travelers throughout the program.

Have you traveled to Cuba on a people-to-people exchange program, or are planning one in the future? We’d love to hear your story! Feel free to leave it in a comment below.

Your free trip to Dubai is just two clicks away on Friendly Planet Travel’s Facebook page

WIN WITH FRIENDLY PLANET: A free trip to Dubai!You might be asking yourself: Is Friendly Planet really giving away another free trip? The answer is yes!

That’s right — we’re pleased to announce we’re giving away another tour to our loyal fans on our Facebook page to a destination that is bigger, grander, and more lavish than any other: Dazzling Dubai!

There is absolutely no place in the world quite like Dubai. Found in the middle of the desert at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Dubai is the world’s mecca of luxury. The city has every amenity possible and no expense is spared in showing it’s a city of unparalleled extravagance. But you don’t have to be rich and famous to enjoy this amazing destination for yourself. All you have to do is visit our Facebook page, Like us, and fill out the entry form.

In true Friendly Planet fashion, the “Be Dazzled by Dubai” giveaway includes round-trip airfare from New York (JFK) via Emirates, one of the world’s top airlines, as well as fuel surcharges, airline taxes, and fees. It also includes arrival and departure transfers; buffet breakfast daily; city tour, including the Burj Khalifa; professional, English-speaking tour director; and accommodations at the deluxe, centrally located Fairmont Hotel. Several optional tours are also available.

This VIP giveaway takes you and a friend to Dubai to explore the unparalleled luxury, superb cuisine, and outstanding architecture that define this city. For all the details on where you’ll go and what you’ll see while in Dubai, be sure to read the detailed itinerary of the trip on our website.

And for more chances to win, be sure to keep your eyes on our Facebook page. We’ll be offering additional entries for participating in surveys, answering questions, and sharing posts. Good luck to all!

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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