Testimonials are stories authored by you, our valued clients, that are shared on our company website.

Had a remarkable vacation? Took lots of pictures? Made a fond memory along the way? Impressed with our terrific personalized service?

Simply write up a little article and share your experience with the world, they’d love to hear it!

Email article to our Marketing Coordinator, Melissa O'Keefe - mokeefe@ambassadortours.com

North Passage
by Hal Powell  |   AMBASSADOR CLIENTS SINCE 2002

photos Hal Powell ©

Our journey began two years ago when I noticed that Crystal had changed the itinerary of the Serenity for the late summer of 2016. A new cruise called the Northwest Passage had been added and it was long, 32 days. I immediately called Gary, my travel agent at Ambassador Tours, to inquire about the new event. Gary, as usual, was swift and to the point answering my query with a laugh and “fat chance” as the cruise had already been sold out. This only three weeks after it was announced. Talk about a big upper followed by an even bigger downer.

Fortunately just a couple of weeks later Gary phoned with news that someone had released a booking and had secured one cabin for me. I had hoped that another cabin would be made available over the course of the next two years but no one else was giving up what turned out to be prized reservations.

Without a second cabin our group of four would be only two. I convinced my sister to come along just about eight months prior so with two going and two jealous family members, the itinerary was finalized.

The summer was longer than usual waiting for the big day of departure. Finally we headed to Anchorage with a stop in Seattle to change planes. On the plane from Seattle we noticed a lot of happy passengers and unbelievably found that all twenty passengers in the first five rows were booked on the Northwest Passage cruise. This was even though we flew up two days prior to boarding the Serenity just to be sure we were there in time. Not an original idea!

Once in Anchorage we had a day of sightseeing and anticipation of the three hour bus ride to Seward, about 100 miles to the south where our voyage would begin. Seward is a small with a deep water port that supports Anchorage and where the Serenity was waiting. I always love the first look when we arrive at a port for any cruise but this seemed just that more special than in the past. Crystals usual speedy processing got us on board just after noon where we went to the Bistro for the traditional first chocolate chip cookie (for me anyway) and then up to the Lido Grill for the first hamburger lunch, also a tradition (again for me).

For our first diner, we were seated in corner of the dining room just a bulkhead away from the Crystal Cove on a table with two other couples. We were a little hesitant when we found out we had a table for six but the two other couples turned out to be great fun. Crystal’s new all-inclusive policy included dining at the Prego Italian restaurant and the Silk Road Japanese restaurant. We were not much for Sushi or Japanese cuisine but Prego was a big hit and a very pleasant surprise as it has outstanding Italian fare. In fact everything was all inclusive including gratuities and wine and drinks. Hard not to like dining at sea.

Our first stop was Kodiak, Alaska. A small town southwest of Seward. Next was Dutch Harbor where the Deadliest Catch fishing boats are home ported. Many of the passengers tracked down their favorite boats and crews from the reality series so that was the talk of the next few dinners. Next was Nome where some of the passengers actually flew to and landed in Russia for the day. Another excursion was a flight into the future, where you could look across the International Date Line and see “tomorrow”. We spent the day touring the town and got to see the finish line of the famous Alaska Iditarod dog race. The next day, we sailed by Little Diomede Island which is the last U.S. possession, last U.S. Island and just east of the date line. Just behind Little Diomede was Big Diomede Island which belongs to Russia just west of the date line.

This provides us with an interesting trivia question: What is the one place in the world where from one vantage point one might see?

1. Two islands; Little Diomede and Big Diomede
2. Two oceans: Arctic and Pacific
3. Two seas: Chukchi and Bering
4. Two continents: North America and Eurasia
5. Two countries: USA and Russia
6. Two days: across the international Date Line

The Bering Strait!

Five days at sea brought us across the top of Alaska and North America and into Canadian waters. Our first stop was a little community of Ulukhaktok with about 450 Inuit locals. This was our first test at being an explorer as we met our support ship the HMS Ernest Shackleton and got our first chance at a wet landing. It took us twenty minutes to prepare getting our cold weather gear on for this our first community visit in the Northwest Passage. Things were a little slow in the morning as everyone was learning a new way of going to the beach, via Zodiac inflatable motor boats, instead of the usual tender. Didn’t take too long however as by afternoon the ships crews had ironed out some of the logistic issues and we ended up landing almost 900 passengers in the village during of the course of that day. Probably no more than about at a time to reduce the impact on such a small community. This is a very different way of living with basic housing, a community center, a grocery store and not much else. Cost of living here is extreme with a gallon of milk going for ten dollars and a can of coke over five.

The cruise director arranged to have a couple of groups from town come on board and perform dances and introduce us to their local culture. Very reminiscent of the American Indian or Australian Aborigines dances you may have seen. They were just as excited to see us as we were to see them. They were given lunch before the performance and snarfed down over 250 of those little tea sandwiches and ended up having a little burping fest going on backstage just before they went on stage. After the performance the cruise director offered them some food at the Lido Grill on deck twelve and it took about two seconds for the kids to discover that the ice cream bar “Scoops” was right next to the grill. Apparently all the kids left the ship with ice cream on their faces and very big smiles. This when it was all of thirty degrees Fahrenheit outside. Of course the Lido deck was a pleasant 60, maybe!

In spite of the extreme location, we had the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMPs) come on board for customs inspection. They seemed very happy to be on board and spent most of their time having their pictures taken with passengers even while they were trying to have lunch. The next several days were set up for opportunities to see the unknown. Crystal provided “Unexpected Adventure” excursions for whenever and wherever opportunities presented themselves in this part of the world. Passengers could sign up for four classes of adventures, Zodiacs, High Speed Inflatable Hull, Kayaks and Helicopters. As there where far more Zodiacs than anything else, they became the most popular. All excursions where on a first come first serve basis according to sign up lists provide at first on-line prior to the cruise and then on board at the excursion desk. They proved very popular as most everyone signed up for everything. Our first opportunity came on the first day after leaving Ulukhaktok with a sea of ice burgs and a backdrop of glaciers. On our way down to boarding a Zodiac, a returning passenger confided that there was a polar bear to be seen. Our Zodiac driver quickly brought us to earth as he heard the bear was moving and might not be visible by the time we got out there. Fortunately for all, the bear decided to stay on his berg instead of facing the fleet of Zodiacs surrounding his position. I never thought we would ever get a chance to see a Polar Bear in person, yet alone get as close as we did. About 250 yards was the minimum distance the drivers would dare as the bears swim better than us and if we lost power we might become lunch, as polar bears view humans as just another food source.

We spent about an hour circling the bear burg taking pictures and even getting some hot chocolate from the expedition crew from another zodiac. Later on board the ship we passed close aboard another ice burg with a mother and two cubs followed closely by another bear with a kill having his very own private dinner. Pretty fantastic day seeing six bears in all. Our next adventure was traveling around a glacier ice field. We had a geologist with us that day and it was very interesting and informative. As he liked to say, “Geology is much better than Marine Biology, all the stuff is here right in front of you to see, while the Marine Biologist can just hope you will see “something good”. We learned about Ice Burgs, Burgee Bits and Growlers (different sizes of floating ice). We even saw some seals and one thought our zodiac was an ice burg until he noticed our red jackets and made a quick escape before anyone hardly noticed. Too fast for me get my camera up let alone snap a picture.

Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet where next on our list for wet landings and they were just as charming and void of anything you would call modern. They have a number of gas powered quadracycles, a few bicycles and some trucks for transportation but mostly transportation is by walking and dog sleds. The people loved seeing us and we had a great time admiring them and how tough life can be and marvel at these people that live it every day. We ended our expeditions with a helicopter excursion over Pond Inlet. Fantastic mountains, glaciers and fjords abound everywhere and we got to take off and land from a ship at sea. Pretty fantastic end to the “Unexpected Excursions” part of our cruise. We didn’t sign up for the Kayak events and never made it to the top of the helicopter or high speed hull excursions. No doubt this was because there were only two helicopters with six passengers each and one high speed hull with only twelve passengers. With about 1000 people vying for a few tours we didn’t make it to the top of those lists. Crystal did implement a prudent plan for these excursions however. The lists were first to sign up, first to get on an excursion but passengers weren’t allowed to decline an excursion thinking there might be something better the next day as they would go to the bottom of the list regardless of whether they went on the excursion or not.

All through the passage we were educated on all the hero’s that tried to find their way across these northern ice fields. Stories of Sir Ernest Shackleton (our support ships namesake), and Sir John Franklin as well others that spent many winters finding nothing but ice but never the less kept their pursuit for the magical passage. The first passage wasn’t made until 1903 and took three years to complete. Only about 230 or so ships have ever made the passage according to our guides. Our passage was only two weeks with exploration stops every day. Probably would have taken only six to eight days if we went straight through. We were also the biggest ship with the most people ever to make the passage.

As we had now finished the passage, we headed to Greenland but got “iced” out of our first port, Ilulissat. It was disappointing but still spectacular because of all the ice flows. The Captain opted not to go into the port as he feared the ice would block our passage out. Turned out to be a good call as the winds blew these magnificent burgs right into the port. We still had zodiacs so some got to charge around the flows, at least until lunch as the winds became too high for zodiac operations the rest of the day.

Next stop was Sisimiut where we said goodbye to our support ship, HMS Shackleton. Twin Zodiacs paced us as we pulled out and waved as we picked up a pace that they could not match and could no longer follow. The Shackleton carried 15 Zodiacs, one high speed inflatable hull, 20 kayaks and two helicopters not to mention fuel for everything and provided space for a crew of about 100 including 55 expedition experts. She also doubled as an ice breaker that we fortunately didn’t need and of course was the ultimate life boat in case of a worst case disaster. She even took on excess garbage from the Serenity as we took everything we brought in to artic out with us.

The northern communities of Canada gave us new places like the Beaufort Sea, Ulukhaktok, Nunavut, Cambridge Bay, King William Island and Queen Maud Gulf. Greenland gave us Ilulissat, Sisimiut, and Nuuk. They were totally unfamiliar and mostly unpronounceable to us just a month ago and are now ingrained into our minds with vivid memories of a lifetime. Still mostly unpronounceable.

The expedition crew were many and varied and all very knowledgeable about anything you might think off. And when you couldn’t think of anything, they provided you with information you didn’t know you wanted.

Our arrival in New York was on a beautiful morning with the sun rising in the east, a light wind and a nice 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Quite a difference from the 30 degrees we were experiencing only a week before. The cruise came to an end with the Manhattan skyline approaching ahead. We passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, slid by the Statue of Liberty with an NBC news helicopter in tow as we arrived at our pier, just across from the Aviation and Space museum aboard the World War II aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid. Sailing into New York is very spectacular and a fitting end to what was undoubtedly the ultimate cruise.

Cruising through Africa
by Ian Macintyre  |   AMBASSADOR CLIENTS SINCE 1999

photos Ian Macintyre ©

President Obama's recent visit to Ghana on Africa's west coast reminds one just how wonderfully well Crystal Cruise guests have been able to visit almost all of the African continent's sea ports. Crystal cruisers with an anthropological curiosity would be delighted with the opportunities which abound. It has always been a personal ambition to "feel the culture" of any destinations visited. The immense cultural diversity of the eastern and western coastal ports and nation states, such as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt in the north to South Africa and to Banjul, Gambia, is truly amazing.

Meeting the Masai Mara tribesmen complemented tours to the wildlife National Parks of Kenya. The Masai Mara have retained many of their traditional practices, rather than adopting modern ways. They are an elite tribe with many members seven feet tall. Quay side displays in Mombasa port leave a deep impression of the Masai Mara talents. Whilst on the western coast, rare opportunities to witness Voodoo ceremonies, or visit a Fetish Market are highly memorable. It is also possible to absorb incredible insights into Zulu Land lifestyles. A visit is easily accessed from the port of Durban. To listen to the beat of the African drum within an indigenous neighborhood enriches the experiences and understanding of the cultures of the many separate African countries.

So many glossy brochures exhibit wonderful color photography. However the Spice Islands around Zanzibar and the ports of Mozambique, encourage travelers to experience the fragrances and spices which are so foreign to my native Australia. The exquisite beauty of tropical Bom Bom Island, situated almost on the equator of West Coast Africa contrasts very strongly with the scale of homelessness, unemployment and indigenous migration towards cities such as Cape Town.

Nevertheless Cape Town in South Africa is in close proximity to some of the world's most prolific fishing grounds, mining enterprises, tourism to game parks and vehicle manufacturing. The eastern slopes of Table Mountain are home to the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens, a magnificent collection of indigenous plants and trees. A personal interest in dendrology has also been well satisfied. Exotic trees from all parts of the world contribute towards some twenty acres of various species planted around my Australian home. To dine beside Nelson Mandela's portrait in the "Cape Town Club", is a unique experience. Nearby Cape Town, are the Cape Dutch homesteads of the second oldest town in South Africa, Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is a wine growing region set amidst a backdrop of striking mountain scenery. Cape Town has one of the most scenic sail away ports in the world with the regal background of Table Mountain, visible from the ocean for miles.

Crystal Cruise itineraries provide the interested traveler with excellent destination lectures en-route to each of the ports visited. Repeat videos are provided to the staterooms indicating the conditions visitors are likely to encounter ashore. In a similar manner cultural displays and concerts are provided for those passengers who choose to stay on board.

Overnight visits are managed by the shore excursion staff. Exotic locations, such as the Valley of the Kings and Queens, situated beside the Nile River at Luxor in Egypt, allow tourists and students to view inland marvels. The sense of wonder when enveloped by whole cultures of the hieroglyphics, burial practices and artifacts, within the land of the ancient Pharaohs as they were around five thousand years ago, is really astounding.

Ambassador Tours along with Crystal Cruises have been able to coordinate sea visits to most regions of the world. As one cruises the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Oceans, the Mediterranean Sea and much of the European cultures, along its borders, the experiences have been amazing and enriching.

Crystal Cruises provides first class accommodation, superior entertainment and excellent meals. The ship's cuisine is of a very high international standard and often contains menu items which reflect the cuisine of the ports visited. One has great confidence in personal safety within ideal security, exceptional cleanliness and hygienic standards. Crystal carries a highly competent medical staff, who are able to perform many procedures that are available on shore.

It is always a pleasure to meet so many like minded guests participating in organized shipboard activities. To meet fellow travelers at an informal breakfast club, at the upstairs lido deck aft on the ship, or to take part as a member of a trivia team which meets at midday during sea days can be very rewarding. During sea days much brain food is offered to Crystal guests. Just to name a few options, tuition is available in computers, golf, dancing, gymnastics, languages, music and bridge.

Ambassador Tours has been successfully established for more than two generations. They have an incredible depth of experience and knowledge and don't make mistakes. Their rates are competitive; their skills are equally transferred to land, air or sea bookings. I have been very privileged and fortunate to have cruised many times to Africa, a fascinating continent.

Venetian Passage Unforgettable Voyage
by Anne Hernandez  |   Ambassador Clients Since the early 90's

photo Anne Hernandez ©

On October 5, 2010, twenty-nine of us from Cameron Park, (near Sacramento) embarked upon an unbelievable cruise through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale aboard Ruby Princess. We can’t stop talking about our experiences!

For me, the most incredible, moving excursion was to Pompei in Naples, Italy. You can feel the presence of the people living in this community as you walk down the cobblestone streets. The area was buried by a Volcano eruption many years ago. You can see what has been uncovered: people, animals, artifacts, homes, businesses, people’s belongings, evidence of different areas in the community by the markings on the ground and on the walls. It has left a big impression on me.

Being in Europe is like a step back in time, and I found myself in awe for the duration of our journey. Everything has so much history and stories from almost the beginning of time. We in the USA don’t realize just how young our county is.

Our guides throughout Europe were amazing and very knowledgeable. Ruby Princess was just the way to see all the countries we visited. I would love to return to Barcelona and the Azores. There is a lot more to see and learn. Thanks to Ambassador Tours and Maureen Menezes, our trip was flawless. Maureen planned all of our excursions for our group so we could be together. I’m now planning our next trip to the Panama Canal and then the following year to the Greek Isles.

This is just one more of the 1000 things you should do in your life...

Baltic Cruise - St. Petersburg
by Sharon & jim Frost  |   Ambassador Clients Since 2005

photos Jim Frost ©

Our Baltic cruise in 2006 was one of our most enjoyable cruises ever. The itinerary included Stockholm, Sweden (where we toured City Hall which is the site of the banquet honoring the year s Nobel Prize laureates and the Vasa Museum which surrounds the 17th century warship Vasa, the oldest fully preserved ship in the world), Helsinki, Finland (where we experienced Tempeliaukio Rock Church carved out of solid bedrock covered with a copper cupola and then traveled into the countryside to explore Porvoo, Finland s second oldest city), St. Petersburg, Russia (for two unbelievable days of touring), Tallinn, Estonia (an exceptionally beautiful late Middle Age town), Gdansk, Poland (where we saw and heard the history of where WWII began and experienced the Solidarity Museum chronicling the struggle of the ship workers against Communist rule), Warnemunde, Germany (where we drove inland to Rostock for beer tasting and a city tour), and Copenhagen, Denmark (for a canal boat ride and a tour of Christianborg Palace). The most memorable was our two days spent in St Petersburg.

The first day in St. Petersburg began with a drive to and tour of Peterhof Palace, the summer palace of the tsars. It was amazing. The opulence, grandeur, and beauty were beyond description both inside the palace and on the grounds surrounding it. Returning to the city, we toured Yusupov Palace where in 1917 the murder of Rasputin was attempted. He was poisoned in the basement; when he didn t die, the assassins dumped him in a nearby canal where he drowned. After a late lunch at the Astoria Hotel which included a shot of Vodka and music played on Russian folk instruments, our tour continued with a visit to Peter and Paul Fortress which was built to guard the city against Sweden in the early eighteenth century. During the Communist era political prisoners were taken there and often were never seen again.

Our second day in St. Petersburg began with a one hour boat ride on city canals. We passed the cruiser Aurora that fired its guns on October 17, 1917 which began the Bolshevik Revolution. Then we spent over two hours enjoying the art and architecture of the Hermitage Museum. After lunch which also included Vodka and musical entertainment, the afternoon concluded with visits to two churches. The first was Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood (Cathedral of the Resurrection), which was even more dazzling inside than out, and then St. Isaac s Cathedral, which is the third largest domed cathedral in the world and can be seen from the ship as you arrive.

Even though our Baltic cruise occurred almost four years ago, the itinerary was fantastic and the splendor and history of St. Petersburg will always be one of our traveling highlights.

Adventures in Angor Wat
by Manny & Diane Goldman  |   Ambassador Clients Since 2005

photos Diane Goldman ©

Everyone has a list of must-seeplaces, but if you haven' t been there yet, you should put the temples at Angkor Wat right near the top of that list. They are located in Southeast Asia near Siem Reap, Cambodia and we went there on a hot and rainy day. The weather only added to the fairytale feeling of this 12th century archeological find of the ancient Khmer religious world.

After all, they were only discovered by a French researcher in 1920, and since then a comprehensive program of restoration and research has begun and this has resulted in the best "ruins" we have ever seen!

The largest Temple has the actual name of th"dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu. Surrounded by a moat, it takes up one square kilometer and has three levels (we climbed them all!) plus a central tower. The walls are covered inside and out with bas-reliefs and carvings.

Next to Angkor Wat is Bayon, a temple with 37 standing towers whose exterior is covered with serene-looking stone faces. Even though it was very hot, we explored every inch of this temple.

Located a few miles away is Banteay Srey, which loosely translates to "citadel of the women." This temple is even older, constructed in the late 10th century. It is made of pink sandstone and has an ornate design that gives it a fairyland ambiance which was enhanced, as we said previously, by the rain.

The last temple we visited was Ta Prohm. While the excavation through the forest is complete on the other temples, Ta Prohm was deliberately left un-restored. Trees are growing right through the structures. It is an amazing sight and offered some of the best photo opportunities of our journey!

We could have spent hours in each temple, exploring all of the different levels. We left with a real feeling for this ancient world. Please put it on your "must see list" and no matter the weather, DON'T MISS IT!

Historical Trip of a Lifetime
by Rob Hall  |   Ambassador Clients Since 2000

photos Rob Hall ©

The best time to go to Europe is after the Europeans come home from their holidays (less crowded) so July and August are usually a no-no. However, we timed it to take a river cruise for the first of a three week France/ Netherlands odyssey during the last week of August.

We’ve done 17 big ship cruises but we wanted something more intimate and cozy. We were passionate about visiting our brave soldiers who gave their lives for us on “D” Day, June 6 1944. That meant Omaha Beach in Normandy, France and the American Cemetery.

After much research, Gary recommended (and we booked) a river cruise with Avalon Waterways from Paris to the Normandy beaches. It was more than marvelous. 140 passengers, great food and great service. Avalon’s tour guides are the best.

The first couple of days were spent touring Paris, and included sightseeing trips to Notre Dame, The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, The Palace at Versailles, then dinner and show at Le Moulin Rouge. Very “Ooh-La-la!”

Day 3 was in Conflans, but the cruising on the River Seine was a highlight - passing under numerous low bridges and going through a total of 6 locks. We visited Napoleon’s and Josephine’s hideaway “Chateau Malmaison” – gorgeously restored!

Day 4 in Vernon we visited Giverny, the site of Claude Monet’s house and gorgeous gardens. Spectacular scenery everywhere and more weeping willow trees than I have ever seen – stunning!

Days 5 & 6 included Rouen, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and Julia Child was first motivated to become a chef. The excursion to the American Cemetery though, was the highlight. We had someone to visit (that is a lovely but too long story for this piece). We met with the cemetery director and he took us right to the grave site of William F. Kelleher, Pvt U.S. Army, 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division. Died July 13, 1944. There were thousands of bright white marble crosses for headstones with names engraved on each, but not very clearly visible because they were white on white. We laid a French flag and an American flag at the grave together with 2 long-stem roses and the director had brought with him a bucket of damp sand from Omaha Beach which he used to carefully rub into the engraving, making it clearly visible. We paid our respects - emotional!

Day 7 – Les Andelys and the Château Gaillard – built by Richard the Lion Heart in 1196. Love history!

We left the cruise in Paris on day 8, spending the next two and a half weeks traveling through Paris, the Bourgogne Valley back roads, and then the Thalys highspeed train to Amsterdam for 5 days in my birth country.

But that’s another story…

Cruising through Africa
by Hal Powell  |   AMBASSADOR CLIENTS SINCE 2002

photos Hal Powell ©

Our trip planning began with a simple query to Gary Pollard about arranging two to three days before and after our cruise from Cape Town to Mombassa. Gary gave me the name of the Africa expert at Micato and things started rolling fairly rapidly. I admit the initial cost proposal was a bit stunning but after a lengthy talk with the Micato agent and some independent confirmation from Gary, I decided to go ahead with the original plan offered. Of course, the result was fabulous and everyone had the time of their lives. I appreciate immensely the effort and assistance provided by Gary. It was done without any prompting from me but made the decision to go ahead a little easier. I may have cut back in some ways without the assistance and that would have been a mistake.

Over the years, Gary has been extremely helpful, reliable, and quick to provide all the details and answers to queries. We all had the pleasure of meeting his parents on our cruise to Australia last year.

Micato Safaris
We immensely enjoyed the game drives. We were especially impressed with the way the Micato staff greeted us and took care of us at every turn from meeting us at the airports, taking us to our hotels, and making sure all aspects of our trip was nothing less than perfect.

We were particularly thankful to our >Cape Town guide, for setting up wheelchair service for our mom while we were in Kenya. I had not mentioned she needed a wheelchair but he, on his own initiative, talked with me in Cape Town, and after confirmation, made wheelchair arrangements for the remainder of our trip.

The Granite Lodge was an over the top pleasure. Our host, Nikki, was absolutely the best. She provided for everything, accompanied us on one of our game drives, and was delightful at dinner. She provided for every detail including cleaning and restoring to perfection one of my sister’s favorite outfits that she had feared was ruined on one of the drives. Until we arrived at Londolozi, we didn’t understand why you would want to bring a swim suit out into the bush but as we found out every lodge has a private pool and mom’s had a waterfall! Melissa suggested the lodge in the original proposal and I’m so glad to have been provided with this experience.

Our driver and tracker in the Londolozi game reserve were masterful in finding anything and everything. It seemed that whatever we wanted to see was provided as if there was a menu and all you needed to do was drive to the specified location. I realize we were very lucky to see what we saw but I have every confidence, that our driver and tracker had something to do with it.

While not quite as spectacular as the Granite Lodge, Bateleur Camp was nothing short of outstanding. Everything from the hosts to the exquisite cuisine and everything in between was excellent. We have been talking and remembering about all the details since we arrived home.  In fact, we are still talking and remembering three weeks later. It truly is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

The chefs at both sites were incredible. I personally thought the chef at Granite Lodge was the best I’ve ever experienced. My sister thought the same of the chief at Bateleur. We all thought that, together, they were the best ever and leaving all our previous favorites far behind.

Additionally, our Nairobi guide was dedicated and helped with everything along the way. I was distinctly grateful at the end of our trip when there was an unexpected turn. Due to a snow storm in London, our flight from Nairobi was cancelled. Our Micato guide stayed with us through a very long ordeal while we rearranged our air travel for the next day. This took nearly four hours but our guide stayed, made arrangements at a very nice hotel, took us there, and returned the next day to help us back to the airport. After another three hours of waiting for ticketing, we were finally on our way and our guide was there the whole time. I don’t know what we would have done without his assistance. The thought of having to deal with hotels and transportation on our own is nothing short of a nightmare. My mother, sister, and I were grateful beyond words for our guides dedicated assistance in this manner.

Our driver in the Maasai Mara, was as equally masterful as our guide in Londolozi. We equaled the feat of seeing the “big five” provided us in Londolozi plus found the elusive cheetah. Our driver happily pointed out every bird and animal and quizzed us about our ever increasing knowledge of what we had seen. I never knew there were so many different groups of animals from herds to stands. Actually I did but sixth grade was a long time ago.

We had a fabulous time and would do it again in a heart beat. The time we spent on the game drives made the cruise a minor part of the vacation even though we only spent five days looking for game and sixteen days on the ship. The memories are many, varied, and unforgettable which is what makes the trip extraordinary.

What made the trip were all the little extra gestures, treats, and events that were provided all along the way. There were little gifts each night. We stopped for drinks that included a full bar and hot chocolate in the middle of a game drive on the savannah. We had breakfast with fresh fruit, champagne, and chocolate crepes in the middle of no where. Another time, we pulled onto a high ridge for an unexpected Bar BQ and cocktails complete with Maasai dancers. We also had an unexpected visit to a Maasai village. The most surprising site was a trail of rose pedals from the entrance of our lodge in Londolozi to the bath room where a hot bubble bath waited upon our return from the game drive.

The fact that we were so close to the game was equally unexpected. Being six to eight feet from leopards and lions was as surprising as it was initially intimidating. Looking eye to eye with any of those magnificent animals is startling, exiting, and beautiful all at once.

Single moments include the unbelievable magnificence of a cheetah surveying his kingdom while sitting proudly on top of a six foot high termite mound, running through the bush at about 25 kph with two rhinoceros’, and watching an eland jump, literally, six feet in a single bound up over an embankment as we were approaching the herd.

Larger than life memories of the vast panoramic scenes in both Londolozi Reserve Park and the Masai Mara will be treasured for the rest of our lives. We will also hold dear all the wonderful people who made our adventure a dream come true.  Everyone made us feel like part of an extended family while entertaining us so luxuriously. A very memorable evening was provided us by Felix and Jane Pinto when we were guests for dinner at their house in Nairob. They even provided a surprise birthday cake to commemorate our mother’s eighty-fifth birthday. The celebration was just another example of their attention to detail and genuine thoughtfulness displayed throughout our trip.

CLIENT STORY: Diving Down Under
by Rich Biederman  |   Ambassador Clients Since 2000

photo Rich Biederman  ©

My wife and I have been doing quite a bit of travel over the 39 years of our marriage, but the one trip that was always on the top of our list was to go Down Under. It has always eluded us because of the long flight (I am not the greatest flyer), and the amount of time we would need to be away. My wife still works and getting away for extended periods was hard. When our friends mentioned to us their desire to go as well, we picked a time and worked towards it. January 2013 was the time. We started the planning with 4 couples. We discussed what we wanted to do and see. I always loved water sports and took up scuba diving as a mid life crises thing at 40. Since I started diving, I have always dreamed of diving the Great Barrier Reef. This was my contribution. My friend always like to fly in small planes, and that was his contribution. My wife, the archeological expert, wanted to visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) as well as the Outback and we all wanted to visit Melbourne because our beloved Assistant Rabbi was now on a pulpit there, and what better way to see her and enjoy Melbourne. Sidney was a must and we decided to spend a few days there prior to our cruise and a few days in Auckland afterwards. Very good decisions. We approached Gary at Ambassador Tours with all these requirements. Well as things happen, 2 couples dropped out for personal reasons and our Rabbi was not available on the day we would be in Melbourne. With all of this the 4 of us were still determined to go. Gary presented us with an itinerary that was fabulous, and which incorporated private tours, easy flights, great hotels, and a 2-week cruise visiting Melbourne, Hobart and New Zealand. As we later learned, we would be in the middle of the Outback when our beloved 49ers were to play in the Super Bowl. The 4 of us are diehard season ticket holders for 38+ years. What to do? It turned out because of the time difference we did get to see the 2nd half in Uluru…while wearing our 49er gear, naturally.

The flights were not as bad as we thought. Our friends left a day earlier and when we got to our hotel room in Cairns, we were welcomed with a 49er blanket on our bed. We knew this trip was going to be special. The trip was fantastic, exceeding all of our expectations. We fell in love with Sydney and Auckland as well as the people and other cities. We visited museums, war memorials, gardens, restaurants and most important to me, crossed off two items on my bucket list.

I think our visit to Alice Springs was the most informative. It was fascinating learning about how the outback was settled. Learning about School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and about the camel caravans was extremely interesting. Watching a movie in the hot tub while eating popcorn at midnight wasn’t too shabby either, and will always stand out in my mind as a unique experience on Princess.

Rich Bierderman
Ambassador Client since 2004

CLIENT STORY: Bob and Lenore Turkovich
by Bob and Lenore Turkovich   |   Ambassador Clients Since 2000

photo Bob Turkovich  ©

My husband, Bob, is an Ian Fleming/James Bond 007 mega fan. For many years, I carried around an article that I found in Star Magazine, in which it stated that you could rent out Ian Fleming’s home on the Island of Jamaica.

I wanted to surprise him and, with the help of both Gary and Bryan of Ambassador Tours, I was able to make a dream come true. They made sure everything worked perfectly, right down to keeping this secret very hush, hush, so that I could surprise my husband.

We had a 10-room mini Villa with a chef, butler and staff. They treated us as if we were celebrities. It was a world that you could not even imagine. The home was decorated with Ian Fleming’s original desk, on which he wrote his 13 James Bond novels. The private beach was secluded and breathtaking. We were also lucky enough to meet the owner, Chris Blackwell, who made it possible for people to stay at the GOLDENEYE RESORT and more accurately the FLEMING VILLA. The sunken garden in which we had breakfast, lunch and dinner to our desired menu, was just beautiful. Fresh fruit and fresh fish were always at our finger tips, and the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee was brewed fresh everyday and served with banana coconut pancakes, pineapples and mangoes. We could have lobsters anytime we wanted them - fresh caught by the Goldeneye staff. Yum!

One of our favorite things to do was watching the baby turtles rush to the sea. The beautiful glass bottom boat and snorkeling were also magnificent.

Thanks to Ambassador Tours, I was able to get to and from the resort with ease. They assisted with setting up golf dates for my husband, as well as with visiting the Jamaica Bobsled Venue - all under his radar! Thank you, Gary and Bryan, for the special care and attention to detail - it was greatly appreciated.

Bob and Lenore Turkovich
Ambassador Client since 2000

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