Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Photo by Getty ImagesHey folks, sorry I missed my dispatch yesterday, but I was stranded on the runway at JFK in a massive blizzard - for ten hours! My flight from Puerto Rico landed in a nail-biting gauntlet of wind and blinding snow. Our captain and crew were just amazing. But once on the ground, we learned that the taxi-ways were closed due to the weather. So it was totally fine for us to risk our lives descending from thousands of feet in the air, but putt-putting our way over to the terminal is totally out of the question. Are kidding me?! Well they weren't kidding, and there we sat - all night. The snacks and booze ran out early, and max-capacity in the lavatories soon followed. But we sang some songs, exchanged travel/holiday stories, and were kept in good spirits by our tireless flight crew.

Earlier this morning we were finally able to get off of the plane and into the terminal, which is a bit like going from the frying pan into the flame. There are some more snacks and drinks, and the bathrooms are at least open. But there are thousands - thousands - of people stranded here. I saw an entire family sleeping on a pair of luggage racks that they had pushed together, and another guy was using his two suitcases as a make-shift mattress. Most people are simply spread out on the floor or in a much-coveted chair. Everyone seems pretty reasonable at the moment, but word is that some of us might not be going anywhere until Thursday... or beyond.

I just need to get to the Manhattan Club in NYC, where I will be spending New Year's Eve. They say I "might" be able to catch a cab some time on Wednesday. Are you kidding me?! So I went to the car rental counter to see if they had any cars, and to maybe get a good laugh. They actually did have a number of vehicles, but they wanted $5,000 each. I inquired about the seemingly inflated price, and they said that to dig out the car and to plow a path to the exit of the airport would require a crew to be pulled from runway duty. Furthermore, once I got to the exit of the airport all major roadways are closed due to the storm. So this is basically a $5,000 ride to nowhere. I thanked them politely and started counting the seconds until my cab on Wednesday.

Well, I have to run. The fellow I borrowed this laptop from is starting to give me the stink-eye. I told him I was with Homeland Security and that it was absolutely emergent that I file a report, but I don't think he's buying it any longer. I wonder if I can check my FaceBook fan page really quickly before he wrestles this thing away from me?

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like...

I imagine most of you are spending Christmas at home with loved ones all around, and what could be nicer than that? But if you're like me, and let's hope you're not, duty calls and I must hit the road in pursuit of fantastic timeshare destinations. This ambassador business knows no holidays, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I go on vacation for a living for Pete's sake, what would I do with a holiday anyway? Mow my lawn? Me thinks not. No, I've got my wish list narrowed down to a few prime Christmas locations, and I just need to pull the trigger on one of them. Decisions, decisions...

When I think Christmas I automatically think of crotchety old Ebenezer Scrooge and Dickensian London. I am not sure what that says about me, but if you've never been to London at Christmas time you should consider it. First of all, there are very few tourists and you can get to see all of the top tourist sites for reduced prices and without the lines. Take in the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, check out the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and visit the London Bridge at a leisurely pace. And specifically for the holidays you can visit 48 Doughty Street, where Charles Dickens lived and worked. It is all decked our for Christmas and you can enjoy minced pies and knock back a glass of "Smoking Bishop," Dickens's favorite punch. And don't miss the Christmas Pantomimes. Do you know about these? They are a UK tradition, where actors perform folk classics like "Cinderella" or "Jack and the Beanstalk". But unlike the originals, men play the leading lady roles and vice versa. Little children are played by beefy wrestler types, and adults by children. Good still triumphs over evil in the end, but everything else is upside-down in these hilarious yuletide farces. Basing yourself out of a London timeshare will make your stay all the more festive.

Or how about Christmas "down under"? Sure Christmas isn't the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Australia but, remember, it is summertime there and the Gold Coast has some of the best surfing beaches in the world. This juxtaposition of time and geography is not lost on the Aussies. Everything is decked out in lights, and carolers abound. Except, instead of scarves and snow boots, bikinis and sunscreen are the appropriate attire. And if surfing is not your thing, great swimming beaches can be found in nearby New South Wales, and there is even a hinterland rainforest in Gold Coast proper. I am not really sure what constitutes a hinterland rainforest, but it sounds way cool. A timeshare rental in Surfers Paradise puts you right in the thick of things.

Sticking with warm climate - but a bit closer to home - why not San Juan, Puerto Rico? The largest city in this U.S. territory, San Juan has strong Catholic traditions dating back to the Spanish colonization. Suffice it to say that they take their Christmas pretty seriously here. The celebrations run from mid-November to mid-January and include largely sacred and joyous observances. Being a Caribbean Island there will of course be fireworks and honking of car horns, but typical activities include singing aguinaldos (Christmas carols), going to Misa de Aguinaldo (midnight mass), and a feast celebrating Nochebuena (Christmas eve). If you stay on through New Year's, you can celebrate El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos (Three King Day) with a huge parade, and someone may even offer/insist you eat twelve grapes for good luck. But remember, they call it Año Viejo, or "Old Year", instead of New Year, which is certainly one way to look at it. Or you could simply kick back on some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Puerto Rican timeshare rentals are popular destination any time of the year.

Of course I am always a sucker for New York City, as you know. Can you beat The Rockettes at Radio City, The Tree at Rockefeller Center, FAO Schwarz for toy shopping, or a carriage ride around Central Park? The city that never sleeps is in overdrive this time of year, and I can think of no other place like it on earth. Hey, did you know that each Rockette goes through 7 complete wardrobe changes during the Christmas Spectacular, with less than 90 seconds allotted for each? Yeah, it takes over 200 people to pull off each performance of this show. And it is estimated that during the Christmas season each Rockette performs 1200 of their signature "eye-high" kicks per day. Are you kidding me?! Even if I could keep up with that pace, I don't meet their strict height and weight requirements. Oh well, I can always dream. A timeshare rental at The Manhattan Club will put you within steps of all of this, and so much more.

Well I guess I need to make a decision and be on my way. If you've been naughty, and you know who you are, you've got less than a week to make amends. Either way, have a safe and joyous holiday and remember, it's about the giving and not the getting.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

Well Old Man Winter has arrived in earnest throughout much of the country. From the Rockies to the panhandle of Florida folks are seeing record low temperatures and I am sure you heard about those blizzards that socked the Midwest. Hey, did you see the roof of the Metrodome in Minnesota come down over the weekend? Thank goodness no one was on hand at the time. With the way the Vikings have played this year, I am sure their fans were wanting the game canceled instead of rescheduled for the next day. But even with an extra day off Brett Favre's injuries ended his consecutive starts streak at 297. That's 19 years without missing a start folks. Heck, I go on vacation for a living and even I miss a day here or there. He's one tough guy, and I hope he enjoyed his well-deserved day off. I just hope he stayed off the Blackberry, if you know what I mean.

So we've got snow in the MidWest, frigid temperatures in the East, and rain and mudslides in the West. Where's an ambassador to go for some nice weather? Can you say Cabo? That's right. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, has a ten-day forecast with daily highs in the 80s, nightly lows in the 50s, and 0% chance of precipitation. That's what I'm talkin' about! Cape St. Lucas, or simply Cabo, lies at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, and is a seaside paradise. Once known as a rowdy outpost for sport-fishing and rabble-rousing (think Hemingway), it is now Mexico's premiere luxury resort destination; and that is saying something for a country that is also home to Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun. Once you arrive, usually by plane or boat, you can lose the car and explore pretty much everything Cabo has to offer on foot.

El Medano ("the sand dune") is the main beach in Cabo and, depending on your activity requirements, is a place you could spend your entire stay. Its beautiful, long, sandy beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and all manner of water sports. But no trip to Cabo would be complete without a visit to Playa del Amor and El Arco. In English, that is Lover's Beach (hubba hubba) and The Arch. The former is a remote and secluded beach accessible by water, and the latter is a towering rock formation at the very tip of the peninsula. It literally is land's end, where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. Several times a year the tide is so low in this area that you can walk right under the arch. The rest of the time it is partially submerged and people say it looks like a rhino getting a drink of water - but some people say that about me when I am snorkeling so, who knows.

While in Cabo I am staying at Casa Dorada at Medano Beach. There are so many great resorts here, it was hard to choose just one. I went with Casa Dorada because of its location right on Medano Beach, two pools, two restaurants, three bars, private beach club, walking distance to everything, and access to world-class amenities like the spa center and gym. It's no wonder the English translation of this place is "golden house" and that RedWeek members rate it 5-stars. You can rent an ocean-view timeshare that sleeps four for as little as $179/night.

Well I am off to Museo del Tequila, or the Tequila Museum. Located in Cabo's "Golden Zone" it is a must-see for anyone interested in the history, production, and tasting of Mexico's favorite alcoholic beverage. The tour I am taking includes samples of five different tequilas, representing the five different regions of Mexico's tequila production. I'll be walking of course, but I am also going to switch off the Blackberry as well. Because drinking and texting just don't mix - even if you are Brett Favre.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Terminally Bored

In my role as the Timeshare Ambassador, I spend a lot of time in airports ... a LOT of time. And while I generally view them as soul-crushing nightmare spaces, you can occasionally find a glimmer of joy here and there in airport culture. Why, just this week Jay-Z announced he will be franchising his 40/40 Club to select airports around the country. For those of you not in-the-know, Jay-Z is a hip-hop performer/mogul and his 40/40 sports-themed night club in NYC is the who's-who's spot to watch major sporting events and the occasional shootout (just kidding). Seems Z thinks that airport travel is missing a place to watch the big game and buy expensive drinks. I'm not too sure about that dawg, but I would like to talk to him about trading roles for a day. I could see what it is like to be a mogul and he could try on the ambassador hat. Although I don't look particularly good in gold chains and running suits, if that is what they are still wearing.

Hey, speaking of waiting in terminals, do you remember that Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks movie, "The Terminal"? You know, the one where the fellow is stranded at JFK due to a series of mishaps and ends up living there? Well it seems that the story was based loosely on a true story. A fellow named Mehran Karimi Nasseri was expelled from Iran as a political dissident and a mix-up in is refugee paperwork left him stranded at Charles de Gaulle Airport in France on August 8, 1988. He stayed there until July 2006, when he became ill and had to be hospitalized. That's 18 years folks. Are you kidding me?! I've had some bad layovers in my time, but nothing compares with that. The only thing worse, I imagine, would be having to endure Tom Hanks mangle his way through that phony accent in the movie again.

And how about this guy Alain de Botton, who recently spent a week in London's Heathrow Airport as a "writer is residence". Yeah, he set up a desk in Terminal 5 - you know the baggage shredding one - and wrote about what he saw. He took in a lot of predictable sights: tearful goodbyes, frantic running, the occasionally tantrum, and lots of just waiting around. But he also picked up on some subtler things, like the amount of kissing that goes on in an airport terminal. He noted that once you become aware of it, it's a virtual love-fest in these places. And now that he's pointed it out to me, I wish that he hadn't. That notwithstanding, it's great little book called "A Week at the Airport," and I recommend it. If nothing else, read the part about the guy whose job it is to comb the runway for stray bits of metal. From where might this runway metal be coming, you ask? Read the book, or if you'd prefer not to know, don't.

Well, they've just announced that my flight is going to leave today after all. So I guess I'll wrap this up and go do some more waiting in the gate area of EWR. If you are not hip on your airport codes, that's Liberty International Airport in Newark, NJ. And if you were flying from Wenatchee Airport in Washington to Sembach Airport in Germany, you'd be going from EAT to SEX, which doesn't sound like a bad trip at all. I wonder if they have timeshares in Sembach?