A First-Time Paris Adventure

Kim and Paul had traveled quite a bit before – but usually to the Caribbean. This time they were looking to head across the pond and enjoy the city of love and lights: Paris! We knew we wanted to make their first Parisian experience seamless and packed with all the best sites. Here’s how they spent a week in Paris:

We are first-time travelers to Europe so this trip to Paris was both exciting and daunting. I quickly found there was no reason to be daunted. From door to door, our trip went off without a hitch, and for that we are so grateful. Everyone we encountered in Paris was pleasant and helpful and of course, smiled at our poor attempts to converse in French and fortunately, most knew enough English to communicate with us.
From the first day we arrived, we were out and about exploring the city. Our hotel was in the 6th Arrondissement located on the Left Bank with easy access to many sites on our list. We walked all week long, using the Metro once and Uber twice.

Ann had booked tours that included a half-day visit to Versailles Palace, Skip the line tour of the highlights at the Louvre, and a Skip the line tour of the Eiffel Tower. Those tours were at the end of the week so I filled the first few days with places to visit with the help of our goddaughter who came over from the UK for two days to sightsee with us.

Monday & Tuesday

Monday afternoon, we visited Montmartre, ate our first crepes, and walked through the neighborhood and the Covered Passages. It was raining that afternoon so we went back to the hotel to take a rest and then went back out to Montparnasse where we were staying and walked through the streets and found a place for a light dinner.

Tuesday we had plans to meet our goddaughter at the Catacombs. We purchased tickets in advance for the first entry at 9:45 am. There was a small line and we got right in and really enjoyed the audio tour.

From there we headed to Ile de la Cite to see Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, and the Conciergerie. Along the way, we popped into a café for lunch, then continued our journey.

After visiting Ile de la Cite, we strolled along the Seine and stopped for hot chocolate and a pastry on our way to see the Eiffel Tower in full view, lit up and sparkling on the hour — it was an impressive site. We found a restaurant about a block away from the Eiffel Tower and sat outside like Parisians and enjoyed dinner and a plate of macarons for dessert.


Wednesday started off with a visit to the Orsay Museum, where we strolled through the artwork, found the Clock, and got a picture taken. In the background, across the Seine, I kept seeing a Ferris Wheel in the distance and decided we should go for a ride.

We walked across the pedestrian bridge and headed through the Tuileries Garden by the Louvre and reached the Ferris Wheel which was part of a Christmas Market. Then, bought lunch and headed back to the Gardens to enjoy a picnic on this sunny day. We strolled through the Christmas Market after eating and then took a ride on the Ferris Wheel and enjoyed wonderful views of Paris.

After the Ferris Wheel ride, we headed to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees. We climbed the Arc de Triomphe and were rewarded with more stunning views of the city. We headed back to the Eiffel Tower to find “The American Library” which was the location of the historical fiction novel “The Paris Library” that I read recently with my book group and I had to take a few pictures. It turned out that the library was literally right around the corner from the restaurant we had dinner at the previous night. We also had another beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower all lit up, it was pretty magical.


Thursday morning, we enjoyed a guided tour of Versailles Palace. The tour guide was wonderful and I would highly recommend a visit. We also had time to walk around the gardens. At this time of year, they aren’t blooming but they are still very impressive to see.

We arrived back in Paris around 12:30 p.m. and decided to go to the hotel to relax before our dinner plans that evening. This was Thanksgiving Day and we booked a River Seine Dinner Cruise to mark our “holiday.” On the way back to the hotel, we were passing Musee L’Armee and Sainte Louis Chapelle where Napoleon’s tomb is located. We had purchased multi-day museum pass, so we popped in to see the Chapel and some of the museum on our way back to the hotel. I’m a history buff so being able to pop in to see different sites even for a short time was worth it to me.

The dinner cruise on the River Seine was fun, the food was good and the views were again spectacular. The Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the “mini” Statue of Liberty were all lit up.


We toured the Louvre with a “Skip the Line Two Hour Highlights” tour guide. Our guide Adam knocked the tour out of the park. He was informative, engaging, and incredibly knowledgeable and made the tour very memorable. He is a professor at University and had previously worked at the Louvre for two years researching artifacts, he clearly loved his work and I still remember what he “taught” us rather than “told” us.

After the Louvre tour, we found a café to have lunch near the Latin Quarter. I had an audio tour that I downloaded to tour the Latin Quarter, so that is how we spent Friday afternoon, starting at the “Shakespeare and Company” bookstore and ending at the Pantheon near the Luxembourg Gardens. We saw many sites, including where Ernest Hemingway lived, the Sorbonne University, Musee Cluny, jazz clubs, markets, and St. Etienne du Mont church where the famous steps from “Midnight in Paris” was filmed. When this tour finished we started back to the hotel and it was such a beautiful night we continued to walk through the streets watching the people and enjoying the Christmas decorations that were beginning to appear on storefronts.


Saturday was our last day in Paris, we started the day by walking to Musee Rodin and strolling through the gardens viewing all the Bronze statues, and then going into the Museum to see all the artwork. It was breathtaking to see so many pieces of art that I’ve read or heard about my entire life. To see them in person really brought them to life.

Saturday afternoon we had a “Skip the Line” tour of the Eiffel Tower. We enjoyed time on the second level and then went to the Summit. It was overcast that day but so worth going to the Summit. We hung out there for a bit and then took the elevator back to the second level and decided to walk down the two levels. So we could spend time on level one before descending all the way.

After the tour, we made our way back to the hotel, stopping in a patisserie to enjoy a sandwich. Then walked around Montparnasse for another hour or so, soaking it all in because we were leaving early the next morning.

Au revoir Paris, until next time. There is still so much to see! Many thanks to Ann and her team for helping make this vacation exceptional.

Which Style Cruise is Right For You?

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You’re ready to head out onto the water, take the plunge, and take a cruise! But which cruise style is perfect for you? Would you rather enjoy the rolling ocean or a meandering river? Tropical islands, fjords or fascinating European cities? Is your perfect vacation full of activities, adventures, and parties? Or more subdued relaxing, soaking-up-the-sun vibes? You’ve heard of big cruises vs small luxury cruises vs river cruises — but what are the actual differences? Here’s our breakdown of the basics:

Big Mass-Market Cruises

Atmosphere: There’s a sense of excitement aboard the big cruise ships. Whether you’re on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian or a slightly more “premium” line like Celebrity — the name of the game is variety! These floating cities offer more options than some small towns! 

performers onstage during a Cruise Ship live show

There’s always something to do, to see, a wide range of amenities, and countless dining options. The focus here is on entertainment — with huge blockbuster-style live shows, live bands, comedians, art auctions, game shows, casinos, and nightclubs. Often, the cruise ship itself is just as much part of the experience as the destinations. You’ll find skating rinks, surfing simulators, roller coasters and more!

Size: The smallest big cruise ship has around 1,000 guests while the largest in the world holds nearly 7,000. And that doesn’t even include the crew!


  • Huge variety across ships
  • Lots of dining options, entertainment, & nightlife
  • Visits popular destinations with lots of shore excursion options
  • Programs and camps for kids
  • Wide range of cabins to suit all budgets


  • Many, many people – you can sometimes feel like another face in the crowd
  • Lots of walking to get from one end to another
  • Can be difficult to find a sense of seclusion
  • Longer lines and wait times

Perfect For: If you’re traveling with a big group or with younger kids this is a great option. Or, if you’re a night owl and love to enjoy live entertainment, then these big ships are perfect for you! There’s always something to do, eat, and see. With lots of shore excursion options – everyone in the group will find something to love. And for the kids – they’ll never get bored! If you’re left a little bit cold by the idea of sailing with that many people, look into a smaller “ship-within-a-ship” experience like The Haven on Norwegian’s ships.

Small Luxury Cruises

Atmosphere: Smaller luxury cruises like the one Ann recently took with Seabourn offer many similarities to the big cruises. But there are a few key differences. The most noticeable change is the atmosphere.

With fewer people and a more luxurious setting, these cruises strive for a personalized and relaxed vibe. You’ll find a focus on culture and nature with not as much nightlife available. There are still several lounges and restaurants, and some live music, but nothing too big or flashy. The focus here is rest and relaxation.

the realxing Retreat on Seabourn Ovation's caribbean cruise

Size: As few as 100 guests ranging up to around 700 guests for these small luxury cruises.


  • More personal experience – small guest-to-crew ratio
  • Larger cabins
  • Can access smaller harbors and more out-of-the-way destinations
  • Can get you up close to glaciers, whales, waterfalls etc
  • Peaceful and romantic vibes


  • Not as much to do on board
  • Not very much nightlife
  • Higher price tag – can be tough for groups/families
  • Not as many activities for kids

Perfect For: Couples cruises, adventurers, and luxury travelers. Anyone who prefers exploring cool destinations at a leisurely pace on their own. 

River Cruises

Atmosphere: River cruises are all about that slow travel experience. Meandering down the river watching spectacular scenery and quaint villages drift by. River cruises deliver a sense of serenity and peace. Many river cruise ships offer amenities like a small spa, hot tub or plunge pool on the top deck, and lounges for relaxing with a cocktail. But the focus and excitement can be found in the ports. You’ll visit bustling cities, charming towns and villages, and scenic countryside.

River Cruises generally sail in the evenings, unless they’re on a particularly scenic stretch of the river, and you get to spend much of your day exploring fascinating cities like Amsterdam and experiencing new cultures like traditional Bulgarian folk dances. You won’t have many “sea days” where you’re spending the whole day on board.

River cruises are also more all-inclusive. Usually, your drinks, food, wifi, and many of the shore excursions are all included in the cost! 

Size: The smallest cruises on African rivers average just 30 guests while the larger Viking ships reach around 200. 


  • Dock directly in city centers
  • Many tours included in upfront cost
  • More time in ports – practically no ‘sea days’
  • No large crowds
  • More of a local, authentic feel in ports


  • Not much nightlife; onboard entertainment tends to be lectures and local musicians/dancers
  • Fewer dining options
  • Smaller cabins
  • Included tours are often in the mornings, so there’s less opportunity to sleep in

Perfect For: Seeing a lot of different locations in one cruise, older couples, history buffs, those who like city breaks, and those who like exploring different cultures. 

Expedition Cruises

Atmosphere: Expedition Cruises are voyages to hyper-specific far flung destinations. With a huge focus on nature and a sense of adventure. These cruises are smaller and have local experts leading you every step of the way. There’s not much to do onboard the ship itself, but you don’t notice because your days are so full of exciting exploration you sleep soundly each night. 

On expedition cruises, you’ll experience out-of-the-way destinations like the Galapagos, Antarctica, or the Norweigan Fjords. All the guests enjoy a love of adventure activities and totally unique experiences. The focus is on the entire journey and environment in which you are traveling not just the port.

The Queen Beatriz yacht floating between two islands of cacti in the Galapagos

Size: The smaller ships will only hold around 30-40 guests but can go up to 300 for the bigger voyages. 


  • Incredible far-flung destinations
  • Lots of unique experiences
  • Expert guides with you every step
  • Daily activities included in the cost
  • Generally adults only


  • Not as much to do onboard
  • Moderate physical fitness and mobility necessary
  • Not much “beach & relax” time
  • Require an investment (in time and money)

Perfect For: Big adventures and bucket list trips. If there’s a place you’ve always wanted to see or an adventure you’ve always dreamed of experiencing, this is the perfect opportunity. Good to do when you’re younger as the fitness level necessary can be more demanding. 

There are so many choices when it comes to cruising, we hope this little guide helps you decide which style of cruise is the perfect fit for your next vacation!

Why Should You Take a Small Luxury Cruise?

It has been at least five or six years since I experienced an ocean cruise. Between COVID shutdowns and my new love of river cruises, I just hadn’t been tempted to get back out onto the ocean in a big ship with tons of people. To be honest, I’m still not that eager to sail away with thousands of my closest friends. But, I recently tried another ocean cruise, and it was FABULOUS.

As a top-selling advisor, I was fortunate enough to earn a Caribbean cruise on the Seabourn Ovation. The Ovation is a 690-foot, 300-suite, luxury cruise ship and we sailed from Barbados to St Maarten in March. It was my first experience on Seabourn and my first luxury cruise. I was really interested in seeing how it would be different from the other cruises I’ve taken on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America.

Not surprisingly, I loved it. It was probably the most relaxing vacation that I’ve ever taken. I’m already trying to figure out how to fit another Seabourn cruise into this year’s plans. But for anyone who is wondering “what’s the big deal” about a luxury cruise, and how is it really different from a more mass-market experience, I thought I would share my thoughts about some of the key differences:

Size Matters

The Ovation is about half the size of the modern mega-ships from Royal Caribbean and NCL. So it can visit islands that the big ships can’t.

Our itinerary included St Vincent and the Grenadines, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and other ports that you could never see from a big ship. We were typically the only cruise ship in port, and everything else in the harbor was private yachts.

The small size also means that you are never far from the restaurants, the pool, the theater, or anyplace else on the ship. The passenger decks are one hallway with balcony suites lining both sides (no inside cabins). Plus, there are no long walks back to the cabin to retrieve a forgotten item.

And the smaller number of passengers means that you’re never in line. We did not have to worry about making restaurant reservations, or whether we’d get into a show. There was no long wait to board the ship or get onto a tender.

Personal Touches

With under 600 passengers and roughly 330 crew, the Ovation has an average passenger-to-crew ratio of about 1.6 to 1. Compare that with the mega ships, which can be twice that (3.2 to 1), and you can imagine how much more personal attention each passenger gets. Crew members greeted us by name in the hallways, and remembered our drink orders. We never felt like an anonymous face in the crowd.
They also did a really good job of noticing things (and acting on them). The first couple of times that we took a shower in our cabin, we moved the bathmat from in front of the sink to in front of the shower so that we would not slip when we stepped out. The steward noticed that and a second bathmat appeared overnight. The older couple at the table next to us in the sushi restaurant was struggling to use the Seabourn app on their phone. They mentioned to the waitress that they missed having a paper newsletter placed in their cabin each evening (rather than having to look at the daily schedules on their phones). The waitress asked for their cabin number and promised that a paper newsletter would be there for them every day moving forward.

Luxury Crusie Inclusions

On Seabourn, your luxury cruise fare includes all your dining (even in the specialty restaurant). And all your drinks (aside from specialty wines by the bottle), and gratuities. Even a stocked minibar in the room (customized to your preferences). All the little things that would normally be charged to your onboard account (from lattes and cappuccinos to room service, or a bottle of champagne to enjoy on the balcony) were included in the fare. Some luxury cruise lines, like Regent, even include all of your shore excursions. It was very nice to check out at the end of the cruise without any onboard charges to pay!

Serene Vibe

This is definitely a matter of personal preference, but I loved the overall vibe on the ship. It was very adult-oriented and upscale.

The sail-away party was free-flowing champagne and singers serenading us with music from Les Miserables (not a steel drum band or a neon-colored “drink of the day” in sight). There was afternoon tea every day in the main lounge, with live piano music. And they surprised everyone with “caviar in the surf” during our beach barbecue in St Kitts.

For those who love splashier entertainment, the smaller luxury cruises may be a bit boring. While I did see a few people in the very small casino, and we did attend some shows at night, there was honestly not a lot to keep the night owls entertained.

Luxury Cruise Conclusions

My overall takeaway was that there’s a time and a place for both mass-market and luxury cruises. If I were sailing with kids or grandkids and wanted a bigger, more active ship with lots of “bells and whistles”, I would probably go back to Norwegian. And I would just book myself into The Haven to get the upscale ship-within-a-ship experience.

For an adult vacation, with my husband, I would be hard-pressed to think of anything more relaxing than what I just experienced with Seabourn.

7 Ways to Save Time and Maximize Your Vacation

7 ways to maximize your vacation and save time pin
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Whether you’re going on a multi-city adventure around Europe or an all-inclusive getaway to Mexico – you always want more time to relax, enjoy and explore! Time is our most precious luxury these days. There’s never enough of it, and no matter how we spend it- we can’t get it back. As travel advisors, we help you save time in the planning process by taking on the tiring logistics. That way you have more time to do the fun where-am-I-going-to-eat research! Then, while you’re on vacation, your time is truly a luxury to be enjoyed. There are a few things you can do to save time and spend more of it enjoying your vacation!

Here are our Top 7 Time-Saving Tips for your next adventure:

TSA Precheck & Global Entry

Begin saving time right away and get through the airport faster! Paying a little extra to skip the long security lines makes the airport process a breeze and will jump-start your vacation with ease and relaxation. There are actually four options for skipping the airport line – we’ve broken down the pros and cons here!


a long queue snaking underneath the Eiffel Tower - save time by using skip-the-line tickets

There’s nothing worse than arriving at a must-see sight like the Louvre or the Tower of London only to find an impossibly long line snaking around the corner. Now you have to decide – is this site worth standing in line for hours to get in? You didn’t plan the perfect vacation with us just to spend your precious vacation time in line!

[Photo Credit: Chris Shopland via Pexals]

There are a couple of ways you can save time and avoid this dilemma. From a Fastpass at Disney to guided tours with special access. Or, simple skip-the-line entry tickets that allow you to join a shorter entrance line without needing a full tour guide. However you decide to see the incredible sites in your destination, it pays to plan ahead for the ones that are likely to have long lines! 

Get an Early Start & Plan a Few Buffer Days

Setting aside a few days to sleep in is always nice on vacation, but when you have a destination full of things to do and see it’s best to get an early start! There’s something magical about wandering around a city before the day trippers and late-risers flood the streets. Having the most stunning sites all to yourself is an unforgettable experience and a true reward for that early morning wake-up call.

Always plan a buffer vacation day on either end of your trip. Before the trip, this gives you time to double-check that everything is ready for travel, and run any last-minute errands. And, you can sleep-in in the morning, and get to bed early to make sure you’re well-rested for your vacation! After your trip, having an extra day to get over jet lag and slowly go through all the photos (and laundry) is definitely worth it. 

Reserve A Beach Spot

Don’t spend all your time on the beach looking for the best spot to put down your towel. When possible, reserve a lounger, umbrella, or cabana with your hotel for at least a few days of your vacation. That way you can just breeze right down to your spot and let the beachy relaxation begin immediately without having to worry about staking out a place. For resorts that don’t offer advance reservations like that, investing in an upgraded club- or butler-level room category sometimes brings with it special perks like reserved beach areas.

[Photo Credit: Valentin b Kremer via Unsplash]

rows of white beach loungers set against the blue sky of Saint Tropez

Make a Favorites Map

There are so many useful apps and technology tools to help us travel these days. One of our favorite time-saving tools is Maps. With either something like Wanderlog or just My Maps by Google, you can drop pins of must-see sights, delicious-looking restaurants, and delightful street art. You’ll avoid constantly trying to look up directions or remember what that one little cafe is called. You can use a personalized map to see what’s already nearby or automatically look up directions without having to remember the name and address. 

Pack Light

There are few feelings more freeing than walking off the plane and heading straight to your hotel to start your day. No need to worry about lost luggage or wait at the baggage carousel. If you can pack it all in a carry-on it’s worth it! You won’t need to struggle lugging heavy suitcases around the airport or hotel – and when the plane lands, you get to waltz right into vacation mode!

Use your Concierge and the Tourism Office

Who knows their city better than the locals? And these locals are specifically tasked with helping you discover their city! Both the hotel concierge and the local tourism office will have intimate knowledge of the best restaurants, upcoming markets, hidden gems, and local tips and tricks! Don’t spend all your time trying to do the research on your own. Instead, utilize this vastly underutilized resource! Or lean on your travel advisor during the planning process (if you did not already know this, Shared Adventures offers concierge service – from restaurant recommendations and reservations to finding the most specific kind of shop or gallery you can imagine — for a very reasonable hourly fee.)

Time is a finite resource that cannot be recovered, so make it count. Let us know if you’re ready to save time on your next adventure!

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)