Far Horizons

(First of four parts, jump to part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).

It was my great pleasure to be the beneficiary of experiencing the reality of Tranquilo Bay Resort in May of this year. Located centrally within the 68-island archipelago of Bocas del Toro off the Caribbean coast of northern Panama, this resort has, in terms of its development, an immediate past history that proves that truth can be harder to imagine than fiction.

For nearly two weeks, I experienced the varied...


Ocean bluff seascapes, the sweet scent of stately and abundant pines and cypress, ice plant carpeted slopes and recreational amenities galore —_welcome to the Monterey/Carmel of South America, the Chilean Riviera.

In a visit to Chile in April ’06, I had the opportunity as a guest of Chilean Special Journeys to experience some of the best of the Chilean Riviera ocean playground at the gate-guarded Marbella Resort, located on the bluffs above and overlooking the...


In this edition of “Under the Microscope,” I will examine an important aspect of the greatly increasing trend toward small-group travel. In terms of who is in charge of leading groups, including solving any problems encountered along the way, how are these groups operated on the ground by tour companies?

Compare a recent issue of ITN with one from five years ago and the trend of more tour operators’ offering options for traveling in small groups is clear. This is in...


by Randy Keck (Third of three parts, jump to part 1, part 2, part 3)

The final portion of my journey to China in October-November 2005 commenced upon disembarking in Chongqing after completing our 5-day/4-night Yangtze River Three Gorges cruise.

Our local guide, Daniel, advised we were now in the land of spicy, fiery cooking, short-tempered locals and China’s hottest summers as well as a city in which it is generally acknowledged that women are formally in charge of the...


(Second of three parts, jump to part 1, part 2, part 3)

The second stage of our China journey commenced in the bustling port town of Yichang, where, after dinner at a local restaurant, we boarded the MS Victoria Star, one of the 5-star cruise ships in the American-managed Victoria Cruises fleet used by my host, Value World Tours, and other operators.

Our 4-night/5-day, 410-mile upstream cruise of the amazing Yangtze River from Yichang to Chongqing would prove to be a relaxing,...


by Randy Keck (First of three parts, jump to part 1, part 2, part 3)

Since I had done some advance research, it is a fact that I had expected a lot from my initial exposure to Shanghai on my first visit to China, in November 2005. It is also a fact that my expectations were exceeded on numerous fronts.

My 15-day journey, as a guest of Value World Tours, began with three days in Shanghai, the huge (population 13 million), booming, progressive shining star of China’s...


There are times when travelers arrive at a hotel or other accommodation to find that they wish to change from the room they have been assigned, even though it is of the room type and category they requested and reserved. In this edition of “Under the Microscope,” I will examine some typical situations encountered and some of the options available.

Check-in strategies and procedures

First, at the point of check-in, make no assumptions and confirm that the room...


Most seasoned travelers at one time or another have arrived at a hotel with a reservation in hand only to be informed that the type of room they thought they had reserved was not available. In this edition of “Under the Microscope,” I will examine strategies for finding acceptable solutions for such situations and also measures for trying to prevent such occurrences in future travels.


In the situation described above, several things must be determined....