Egypt Land of the Pharoahs

Once again, I have been amazed in my travels, this time in the country of Egypt. While Egypt has some beach resorts, most of you reading this will go there to tour historical sights. This is an active tour, so be ready for early mornings to beat the worst of the crowds and the heat of the day. I recommend coming in a day early to adjust to the time difference, so that you are ready for your first early morning.
My trip was in February and the weather was cool at night and in the morning. Once the sun hits you, the day warms up quickly, so wear a light jacket that you can remove. The trip included a land portion and a river cruise on the Nile from Luxor to Aswan. Each day we had new experiences – most of which we learned about in school, and now, after seeing them in person – they come to life.
We landed in Cairo and were whisked to our hotel in the downtown. The driving is crazy, so if this makes you nervous, be ready to look to the left and right and not straight ahead. There are no painted lines, so a three-lane road becomes a five-lane road. Horns are blowing constantly. THIS IS NOT A CITY IN WHICH TO RENT A CAR! Our first full touring day was to the Pyramids of Giza. Every picture or movie or video I ever saw of the great Pyramids don’t do them justice. I was awestruck by the marvel of these 4000-year-old structures built as tombs for three of the great Pharaohs of Egypt – Korfu and his son and grandson. I paid the extra money to go in inside the Great Pyramid. It was a narrow path with very low ceilings, and it was hot inside, so keep that in mind if you want to make the trek. There is an area where you can go that has a great view of the three Pyramids, and here you can get an amazing picture of yourself with a fabulous backdrop. This is also great spot to ride a camel. Be prepared to tip! In fact, tips are expected everywhere, and they are not afraid to ask you for one. The road around the Pyramids circles around to the Sphinx. The best spot to take a picture is before the parking area. Once there, they have locals offering to take your picture in different poses with the pyramids and the Sphinx; be prepared to tip again. We came back in the evening to see the light and sound show; seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx by night was amazing. Just know that the show itself is just okay; maybe go to a bar across the street and watch from their roof top instead.
On day two we flew to Luxor (an early morning flight) and visited the temple of Karnak. The new Avenue of the Sphinxes that leads between Luxor and Karnak has only recently been uncovered from the desert sands. The Temple of Karnak is impressive; I loved the 62 columns in the colonnade. The carvings and colors that have stood the test of time were just amazing. Make sure to also see the Obelisks. Your guide will share how they were erected from one solid piece of granite. Plan for 1.5 hours to get through this temple, then head over to Luxor, located right on the Nile. Both temples are from the middle kingdom period of Egyptian history.
After touring these temples, we began sailing the Nile on our river boat. All meals onboard were included, but drinks were extra. They had a sun deck that was the best way to watch the Nile go by. I found myself in awe that I was cruising the Nile. This was a very special moment in the trip.
On day three, we had another early start to the Valley of the Kings. You will want to go early as it gets crowded quickly. The standard ticket includes three tombs but not the top tombs, so for an extra Egyptian Pound only, you can see Ramses V and VI, but Seti I and King Tut’s tombs were extra. The first two are well worth paying extra. Here you get a golfcart ride from the parking area where all the tombs are located. Each of the tombs are decorated based on that King’s style and preferences, and they say that some of the tombs still contain remains or at least part of the sarcophagus. The Valley of the Kings is a highlight of any tour of Egypt. The colors inside the tombs, protected from sunlight and wind will take your breath away when you realize the paints are over 4000 years old. Because you are still in the dessert, wear tennis shoes or similar as your feet will get dirty. In the afternoon, we headed to the Temple of Hatshepsut. She was a well-known Pharoah, because she was female, and her presence is felt in this fabulous temple built for her.


On day four we continued cruising the Nile and visited the Temple of Horus at Edfu. We took a horse and carriage ride to get to the temple. A warning – they drive those carriages like they are going to a fire! This temple entrance has a fair amount of walking. The structures and statues have been subjected to some vandalism. The temple ceilings have been burned and many of the faces have been damaged during the Byzantian period. The restoration efforts show the great story of Horace and the evil Uncle Seth. In the evening we visited Kom Ombo Temple and learned about the tools used by surgeons back then. This temple is also an unusual double temple dedicated to two different gods. The southern half of the temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, and the northern part is dedicated to the falcon god Haroeris. This temple complex dates from the Ptolemaic period, about 400 BC.
On day five, we were up at 3:00 am for the 3.5-hour drive to the temples of Abu Simbel located on Lake Nasser. Ramses the Great and his wife each have their own temple; his, of course, is larger than hers. These temples were physically moved when Lake Nasser was flooded. Just looking at them will give you a sense of how complex this effort was. The statues of Ramses here at Abu Simbel are world famous and no trip to Egypt is complete without seeing this temple. The temple is constructed and placed in orientation to the sun so that it shines directly on the faces of three statues deep in the interior of the temple. Right next door to the temple of Ramses is a temple dedicated to his wife, Nefertari. The statues of Ramses and Nefertari in this temple are the same height; this was apparently very rare, as Pharoahs were always portrayed as larger than others. These temples are from the middle kingdom period, around 1700 BC.
Day six was our last full day. We disembarked in Aswan and visited Philae and the ancient Granite Quarries. To get to Philae you take a boat as it is an island temple. This is a temple from the Greek and Roman period, constructed around 400 BC. The temple was originally dedicated to Isis and was later used as a Christian church. The mix of architectural styles make this temple unique and interesting.
On day seven we flew back to Cairo and visited Memphis and Sakkara. Memphis was the capital of the old Kingdom of Egypt. The highlight of Memphis is a sphinx with the face of Hatshepsut (who we have seen before) and a colossal statue of Ramses. This site was a bit underwhelming, and as we paid extra for it, I was disappointed; however, the second part of this extra tour was a visit to Sakkara. The Step Pyramid of Djoser (not related to the bad guy in Ghostbusters!) is the first stone structure built by humans that has been found. The pyramid dates to 2670 BC, about one hundred years before the pyramids at Giza. This is a hugely significant site. An additional bonus is that you can see over 15 pyramids from this one site. Your guide will tell you stories about why some are in better shape than others and why one is called the bent pyramid. This was an optional tour and while we were very tired at this point, we were glad we included this in our tour.
I decided to lead a group to Egypt and ended up with 24 in my group. We were combined with another 14 so we were 38 in total. I would have preferred a smaller group, so next time I will be sure to limit the size, to allow for quicker and timelier progress. One thing is for sure – you really must do Egypt as a guided tour and get an early start to beat the crowds. I would be happy to help you with travel – reach out to info@condortt.com or call 770-339-9961. Visit our web site at Condortoursandtravel.com for amazing travel packages.

Tips:
1. Bring lots of $1 bills for tipping.
2. Convert some, but not all, of your money into Egyptian Pounds. You need five Egyptian Pounds to use most restrooms. You also need extra Pounds for most sights, as they are not set up to take credit cards.
3. Your shoes will get very dirty. Bring some old tennis shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are a must have.

Antarctica – the End of the World

Wow – if you have adventure in your blood and want to get to the Seventh Continent – then Antarctica is a must do! I just finished a 10-day /9-night Antarctica cruise with Atlas Ocean Voyages, a new luxury cruise company that offers amazing itineraries in many off-the-beaten-path destinations. As a travel advisor, it is always good to get to know the different products available. As we tend to lean towards specialty travel, we decided to introduce ourselves to this new cruise line with their Antarctica package. To prepare, we did some critical shopping. Being from Georgia, we don’t have the type of clothing needed for Antarctica, like long underwear. We cruised in January, and as it turned out, it was actually warmer in Antarctica than in Georgia!

We started our journey with a charter flight to Ushuaia at the southern tip of South America. We arrived in the morning but were not allowed to board the vessel until the afternoon, so a day tour was arranged in Ushuaia with a fabulous barbeque lunch. Ushuaia is a small and inviting town and has a fabulous National Park called Tierra Del Fuego.

Once we were on board the ship, they checked our temperature and pulse and cleared us to enter our cabin and start our journey. The cabins are typical cruise cabins but very well appointed. Bedding was comfortable, seating in the room was good and the bathroom shower was the best I have ever had on any cruise. It was almost a bad thing, as I am sure fresh water is complicated on a small ship, but I couldn’t help myself and took long showers a few times! The room temperature control is a dial, so you really don’t know what it is set at – it took us a few nights to find a good setting. They also stocked the refrigerator daily with our favorite beverages, including beer, which was interesting, as on excursion days in Antarctica they didn’t want us drinking, but you could go to your room to drink.

The actual cruise included two days going and returning on the Drake’s Passage. They describe it two ways – Drake Lake or Drake Shake, depending on how rough the waters are. We had a slight version of Drake Shake going on day one with day two a bit calmer. I do strongly recommend taking Dramamine or something similar just to be safe, as several guests experienced motion sickness. The return was a bit rougher with day two definitely a shake of a ride, but most were more prepared, and the captain tried to go faster to get through the rough seas. On the way there he averaged 12-13 knots, and, on the return, he did 15-16 knots. It may have something to do with the currents, but I was sure glad we got back in about 36 hours rather than 48.

Lemaire Channel and Salpetriere Bay

When we woke up on the morning of day three, we had arrived at the Antarctic Peninsula, and I couldn’t snap pictures fast enough to take in the scenery. Words can’t convey the stunning beauty of ice mountains and icebergs floating, some with penguins and seals on them and the occasional whale surfacing. I got a sighting of a raft of penguins, which was a first for me. Once we arrived in Antarctica, we began twice-a-day excursions. Some were via Zodiac, and some were landings. All the landings are wet landings, as there are no piers. They have an amazing expedition staff on board that take all precautions to ensure that you have a wonderful and safe experience. I personally preferred the landing excursions, as we could walk among the penguins and seals. We always had to yield to the penguins and avoid the trails they create for waddling about. We saw Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adelie Penguins on our various island landings and some sightings also from the Zodiacs. We also spotted all seal types, including Elephant Seals, on our last day to Elephant Point. Be flexible, as the itinerary posted at the website differs quite a bit from what you actually do based on weather conditions. Icebergs caused some changes as well as landing scenarios due to sea conditions. But in the end, the captain and his crew, along with the expedition team, do all they can to make sure you get an amazing experience while in Antarctica. We cruised through Lemaire Channel to our first landing, Port Charcot, but icebergs prevented us from landing, so we did a Zodiac exploration. On this same day, we did the polar plunge! The water was 29 degrees (saltwater freezes at 28.6 +/- degrees). One and done for me! Day two was the most beautiful day ever in Antarctica according to the guides. They were in heaven, saying it was the prettiest day all season. The temperature was in the 40’s, and we were removing our parkas. We did a morning landing at Base Brown in Paradise Harbor and an afternoon visit to Neko Harbor. At Base Brown we hiked up to a peak and slid down. We also walked among Gentoo Penguins that were nesting. Then, at Neko Harbor, we kayaked on water that was like glass, followed by another landing with even more penguins. We even spotted some of the hatchlings, and we watched the Skua birds, who were waiting for a vulnerable chick to dine on. As we sailed along to our next stop, we came upon a group of Humpback whales feeding, which was quite a sight. On day three, there were two Zodiac trips as the weather this day was not conducive to landing. We were on the hunt for whales, seals and more penguins plus the shipwreck of Guvernoren – a whaling ship that burned and sunk close to shore. Our last day of landings was at Pendulum Cove which is part of an active volcano that had a Chilean research station that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the late 60’s. The ruins of this facility remain as a reminder of how difficult the environment is in this part of the world. Wildlife doesn’t like this spot due to its volcanic nature, but we did see some fur seals and Weddell seals. Our last visit before heading back across Drake Passage was to Elephant point. These beaches were covered in penguin rookeries, nesting albatrosses and elephant seals – appropriately named. The smell of animal droppings was quite intense! The weather was good enough for a landing but was almost acrobatic. The expedition team worked hard to get us off the Zodiacs to be able to walk on this island. We spent a couple of hours just watching the seals, penguins and birds interacting in this epic eco habitat.



Tips if you go: no need for dressy clothes – practical and warm is fine. If your supplier doesn’t give you a parka (Atlas does) then you definitely want to bring a winter parka. Hot Hands and Hot Feet warmers were good to have, as well as a warm head covering, plus waterproof pants and thick socks. One pair of long underwear was enough. The cruise line suggested multiple sets, but both of us and other passengers agreed that they wore just one set. Waterproof boots are provided by most suppliers, so just simple tennis shoes or hiking shoes are fine, no insulated boots are needed. To be honest, I got hot in all the layers, but our weather was generally good. We averaged high 20’s to low 30’s most days.



Antarctica was a bucket list destination, and I would go again. In fact, Condor Tours & Travel has put a group together for February 21, 2023, and have an amazing price for this destination. If you are interested, I’m happy to help. Email me at info@condortt.com or call 770-339-9961.

Humpback Whales


The Guvernoren ship wreck in Foyn Harbor

Traveling in a COVID World

It is possible to travel in this unpredictable world and actually have a great time! I just returned from a wonderful river cruise with Avalon Waterways visiting the Christmas Markets in Germany, France and Switzerland.

Of course, travel isn’t the same as it was a few years ago but with a little patience and the help of a travel expert and a respectable tour operator, the trip you’ve been dreaming of is possible.

ALWAYS WORK WITH A TRAVEL EXPERT! As a travel expert, my job is to listen to my client and arrange the best experience based on the given criteria. We try to keep up with the protocol and requirements for travel in the world today, especially outside the US. We have several outlets in which to obtain up to date requirements for entry into countries around the world.

This is where patience comes in to play. While getting prepared for my own trip, the protocol continued to change, even after boarding the ship. I know this can be stressful for anyone looking forward to a trip they’ve had planned for 2 years! BREATHE…we’re here to help. As I mentioned, our job is to match our guests requests with the right tour operator, hence, the following helpful hint.

ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH A RESPECTABLE TOUR OPERATOR! Especially during these times of COVID and the unpredictability of closures and requirements throughout the world, you will be less stressed if you travel under the umbrella of a tour operator who will take responsibility of making sure you are protected while traveling. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to take responsibility for yourself. For example, in order for me to enter France while on my cruise, the entire ship needed a COVID test…negative results, of course. Avalon did not send guests to find a pharmacy in a foreign country in order to take the test. They brought health care workers on board during a down time and our entire ship tested negative! As everyone knows, if you travel abroad, you are required to take a COVID test, with negative results, in order to return to the US. Again, Avalon brought healthcare workers on board, and everyone was able to return home, healthy and happy! Avalon did their best to alleviate trip interruption.

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES! The itinerary for my cruise changed a few weeks prior to departure. I was disappointed about not getting to visit the Heidelberg Christmas Markets due to closures, but Avalon arranged for a visit to Mainz, Germany, the home of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. We received a private tour of the Gutenberg Museum then free time to stroll the Christmas Markets. Strasbourg, France was amazing, and their Christmas Markets were fabulous. Some people may be uncomfortable with police walking the streets with very large guns, but I never felt unsafe for a second! I just had to remember I was in another country, and this is how they kept their citizens safe, especially in the open Christmas Markets. Our next stop was the Black Forest of Germany and Colmar, France…oh and maybe a little wine tasting! Colmar has the distinction of being the home of the architect of the Statue of Liberty…and again, the most amazing Christmas Markets. Our trip ended in Basel, Switzerland with a transport to Zurich for an extra night. Try not to go to Zurich on a Sunday…everything was closed except for the Christmas Markets! The city was very busy, though. I’m not sure where everyone was going but it was fun, none the less.

ONE LAST THING…If you ever find yourself at CDG (Paris airport) for a layover less than 4 hours, purchase a VIP service with Universal Sky Services. I was concerned about my 1.5-hour layover in Paris on my return flight. I knew I was going to be short on time. I purchased this service which requires submitting your passport, vaccine card and flight itinerary, to be cleared with immigration. I stepped off the plane and the rep was waiting right there. He took my carryon and off we went. We bypassed immigration, jumped several lines including security and made it to our gate with only 15 minutes to spare. I would still be in Paris if it weren’t for Najib!

We can be your supplier for all your travel needs – Condor Tours & Travel – in business for over 30 years!  info@condortt.com or call us 800-783-8847/770-339-9961.

ASTA verified advisor alert!

Lori Snow has become an ASTA verified travel advisor!

Letter to the Editor: Local travel agency becomes a Verified Travel Advisor, why this matters

Georgia, Lawrenceville, Nov,22, 2022 – Devising the picture-perfect vacation for most travelers can be time consuming and daunting.  Lori Snow of Condor Tours & Travel recently obtained her Verified Travel Advisor certification from the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA).

In our industry, competition is fierce. But when stamped with the ASTA VTA badge, the travel industry and potential clients are granted with the reassurance that their professionalism and industry knowledge is at the highest standard.

The American Society of Travel Advisors is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry, and the traveling public. ASTA’s certification programs provide a higher level of verifiable professional knowledge to the advanced seller of travel. Completion of the Verified Travel Advisor Program proves to the traveler, and the industry, that the advisor has the highest level of proficiency and dedication to their business.  Only ASTA members subscribe to a 12-point Code of Ethics, the core of which is the concept of “Integrity in Travel.” Put simply, this is the pledge our members stake their reputations on.

The intense nine-course curriculum allots twelve months of completion consisting of training manuals, online videos, and exams. Once completed, the travel advisor is awarded the distinguishing mark of being an ASTA Verified Travel Advisor.

Lori Snow of Condor Tours & Travel has passed ASTA’s rigorous standards and is awarded the badge of being an ASTA Verified Travel Advisor. Stamped with the VTA badge, Lori Snow of Condor Tours & Travel has achieved the highest level of integrity by our industry standards.

For all your travel needs contact Lori Snow:

Condor Tours & Travel

770-339-9961

lori@condortt.com

condortoursandtravel.com

Exploring the Amazon

As a nature lover and a Latin American travel specialist, I get to enjoy exploring those off-the-beaten-path places as well as the places commonly visited by tourists. I am happiest when exploring in the great outdoors. The Amazon region of South America is an ideal way to commune with nature. I have explored different Amazonian regions six times now. Each trip has had its absolute highs, and each experience has been unique, as nature is always unpredictable.
My first adventure was to the Coca region of Ecuador. We flew in a small plane from Quito to the town of Coca. There we repacked only what was needed for our three-night adventure into water tight bags. The two plus hour boat ride with no bathrooms on the amazing Amazon tributary river in the rain seemed eternal.

We then pulled up to the shore area and had to hike a short distance of about a quarter mile, and then paddle across a lake to our lodge. The lodge was a perfect way to experience the rain-forest. No air conditioning, but instead, screened windows all around to let in the cool night air. I was pleasantly surprised that they offered hot water showers, but soon discovered they were not needed, as the humidity made it feel warm and damp, so a cold shower was refreshing. As I sat on my porch, small tamarind monkeys appeared and stared at me. The days were filled with nature hikes and kayaking experiences, and I soon discovered that birding was of great interest to me. The local naturalist guides were amazing on how they could spot birds and other reptiles and animals seemingly out of nowhere. We also saw an anaconda, tree boa, iguanas, frogs, and the list of insects was too large to count. The monkeys were entertaining us on virtually all our hikes. They certainly are not quiet as they move through the rain-forest foraging for food. At night we also did some hikes where the tarantulas and other night spiders and bugs would come out to greet us. It was a bit more intimidating for me to spot creatures at night!


Pro-tip: Bring bug spray and wear long sleeved shirts, pants and a good hat. No jeans – it is too hot for them.
This experience encouraged me to explore the Amazon region of Peru next, so I visited the Puerto Maldonado region of Peru. This Amazon region is dotted with small lodges of all quality levels, depending on your budget. I visited this region two times and stayed in two types of lodges – high end and budget. The nature experiences were very similar, so the only difference was the quality of the lodging. The naturalist guides were very knowledgeable and masters at spotting critters even in the dense canopy of the rain forest. The birding continued to be remarkable. Most days we spotted upward of 60 to 100 different bird species. I also became even more comfortable around the reptiles, including snakes, as they really just mind their own business. Although Peru and Ecuador are neighbors, many of the wildlife sightings were unique to that region.
Pro-tip: Keep a log of your sightings. Most lodges provide a chart to help check off what you see on your different nature hikes.


As a travel specialist, I get contacted often by suppliers wanting me to experience their properties/lodges/boats. I was contacted by a river boat supplier in the Iquitos area of Peru, which is a completely different area of Peru than Puerto Maldonado. In the Iquitos area (about a two hour flight from Lima), you transfer upon arrival less than two hours to a small community called Nauta. Here there are a handful of river boat suppliers and lodges that are starting points. This region can be explored either way, so I chose the boat option since I had done lodges previously. For my experiences in this part of the Amazon, I have come in the high water season and the low water season. The only difference is in the amount of rain. During the high water season, it seemed that this entire region of the Amazon was underwater. Even those that live on the banks are living in houses on stilts with water all around them, and they navigate between their houses, schools and common areas in small dug-out canoes. The children are quite proficient with swimming and paddling. Since the water level is so high, most of the excursions are by boat in small skiffs. You cruise the banks to spot birds, mammals and reptiles. As you are so close to the trees, the birding is amazing. I returned again, this time in low water season, to compare. The difference in water level was significant – maybe 40-45 feet lower. Those same villages that previously sat in water were now up on a hill with steep steps to access them. You can see the markings on the tree line where the water level was and all the downed trees that fall along the banks during high water season are not sticking up all along the banks. The smaller tributary rivers are no longer navigable even in the skiffs, as they become too shallow. We did a night boat trip to spot caiman in one of these small tributaries and kept getting stuck. Since I don’t love the night excursions, I was a bit nervous, however the naturalist guides and the boat team knew what to do to get us out! As far as nature sightings in high versus low season, you still see about the same. We saw pink dolphins, sloths, a variety of monkeys, anacondas, boas, tarantulas and, of course, more birds than I can remember. I did keep a bird list that was provided by the boat team, so I have a solid list of what we spotted. We did a fun activity – fishing for piranha and then swimming in the same water – the piranha don’t bother you!
Pro-Tip: They do provide binoculars that are very good, but if you prefer yours, bring them. Did I mention – bug spray is a must!


I then decided to return to the Amazon of Ecuador and do a boat option rather than lodge in between my two boat trips in Peru. This boat stays on the main river the entire time, and each day you go by a skiff to explore the different tributaries, sometimes getting off the skiff and hiking inland to spot more wildlife. Keep in mind, this river is not the Amazon River but a tributary, and quite impressive in size. It makes the Mississippi look like a creek! They provide you with rubber boots and have a boarding location with baskets where you leave your rubber boots, socks, bug spray, sunscreen and the like. We had the opportunity to experience the parrot lick where thousands of parrots show up to eat the minerals this particular location on the river bank has.
Because it is the rainforest, you will experience rain, so wear the type of clothing that can hang and dry easily. They do provide rain ponchos but you they get hot, so I also travel with a light rain pullover that was ideal for light rains. You will need the poncho for the heavy rain, though.
The different boat companies in both Peru and Ecuador offer from four to 18 +/- cabin sized boats, and three and four night itineraries, so depending on your budget, there is an option for everyone that wants to experience the rainforest. You can stay in the lodges for as few as two nights, so if time is of concern, this is a great option to consider as well. I still have to explore the Amazon region in Brazil – maybe someday!


I just completed an Amazon boat trip in Peru during this Pandemic. The precautions include testing before boarding, and the crew is all tested and then quarantined to the boat. They wear masks all the time, but we were not required to since we had all tested negative. With prior visits to the Amazon, we would visit the local communities. This time we were not allowed into the communities so all our daily excursions were nature related. That is the only disappointment of this trip, as mingling with the locals is so rewarding, as they play such a critical part of preserving the beautiful and amazing Amazon basin. Hopefully this will change soon, but for now, they must protect these communities.
The end result of exploring the Amazon is that you will see many, many, many birds and so much other amazing wildlife. To learn more about exploring the Amazon region, contact Lori Snow with Condor Tours & Travel or visit the web site www.condortoursandtravel.com. You can contact Lori and her team at info@condortt.com or by phone at 770-339-9961.

Traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands During a Pandemic

Quito

We traveled to Ecuador during the Covid-19 epidemic. Our own vaccination was required before we could travel. While we did have to wear our masks on the plane and in public spaces, however, when in our hotel rooms, in our guide’s car and on the catamaran, we were able to remove our masks.

Upon arrival in Quito, we went through customs. This took about 30 minutes. We did have to provide the completed form that we were given to fill out on the plane. After customs, we found our guide waiting for us to take us to the hotel for our stay in Quito.

The Ecuadorian people are very welcoming. They are glad to have tourists back and make every effort to insure your comfort and enjoyment. The staff at the hotel Illa Experience went out of the way to make our stay memorable. We enjoyed some type of Ecuadorian tea or cocoa each evening when we returned from our travels. The rooftop view in the evening is not to be missed. The restaurants we visited each evening were just a short distance walk down quaint streets, and the food was worth the walk.

Our guide was so knowledgeable about his country. He spoke of the history, the cultures and the current struggles of his country. He was patient with us, endeavoring to give thoughtful and honest answers to all of our questions and to help us with the language and pronunciations. After discovering our common love of music, he even gave us a sampling of his music by serenading us on his guitar on our last day. What a joy that was!

We learned of the early history of the region, dating back to the 1400s and even earlier. We saw beautiful cathedrals covered in gold, we visited a public marketplace on their Saturday event, we talked about and saw the earliest designation of the equator line, as well as the newer location designated now that we have GPS for location. Quite honestly, I am amazed that they were only off by about 200 meters in the 1700s. We saw the simple living conditions of most of Quito, an ancient city. We traveled the narrow cobblestone hilltop streets and ventured through the valley surrounded by seven volcanoes. We were able to hike to a beautiful valley where we saw, Cara Cara birds nesting on the cliffs, deer in the fields, wild horses in the valley and all manner of beautiful plants and unusual ground coverings that promote water flow. We tested our favorite potato soup at multiple locations along the way, each with a different flavor. We were greeted by smiles and simple courtesies all along the way.

Galapagos Tortioise
Frigate Bird

After three days in Quito, we boarded our plane to fly to the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival, after proceeding through the line here to pay the entrance fee to the Islands and ensure we were not bringing any prohibited items to the Islands, we were allowed entrance. The line took about 20 minutes. We were then greeted by the guide for our trip through the Galapagos Islands. We were ushered to our ship The Seaman’s Journey, a catamaran, that we would call home for the next four days along with our fellow eight passengers. Once onboard the catamaran, we started our trip with shoes stored away for our voyage. While on board or just with our group on outdoor excursions, we and the crew ditched the masks. We only had to wear our mask if we were in public spaces or parks. Each day, we had our three meals with a variety of simple choices and plenty of fruit drinks at a large dinner table along with our fellow passengers. On our trip, we joined a family of four from Germany, a couple from Switzerland, another couple from Ohio and our group of three. We enjoyed getting to know our fellow passengers. For our trip through the Islands, we explored deserted islands with beautiful white sand beaches, volcanic rock outcroppings and massive rock tunnels we motored through on dinghies, hikes through arid brush to visit the large tortoises, and snorkeling through clear waters with the sea lions as our playful companions. We saw hundreds of blue footed boobies, multiple pairs of albatrosses, the colorful oyster catchers, wave-surfing iguanas, and always the sunning sea lions. We were even escorted to shore by a pod of about thirty dolphins at one location.

Juvenile Sea Lions

Our flight from the Galapagos to Quito went as expected. Before our return trip to the States from Quito, we did have to take a Covid PCR test before we could fly back to the United States. Our travel assistant met us at the airport in Quito with a technician to take the test. The results were emailed to us. Our results did take 2 hours instead of 1 because of a storm electrical outage in the area. Make sure to get the assistant’s phone number because we did have some issues with the emails and had to have them emailed to another address. Upon arrival back in the States, we again went through customs. This line took about 30 minutes.

Sea Turtle – leatherback

This was truly a memorable trip. The images and the people will bring a smile to our faces long after we have returned to our regular days. It is definitely a trip I will remember fondly. To fully experience all that the islands have to offer, you need to be fairly ambulatory because a lot of the walking requires you to traverse sandy beaches or hop lava rocks. The hike to see the large tortoises was over four miles round trip. To get to the highest viewing point on one hike required the equivalent of about seven flights of stairs. For those people considering a trip of this nature in the future, I would suggest good walking shoes that you can wear when wet or that easily slip on and off, plenty of sunscreen, a light jacket for the cooler evenings and don’t forget your sunglasses and camera! Everything else you need is provided.

To learn more contact us at 770-339-9961 or  info@condortt.com or visit our web site www.condortoursandtravel.com

Traveling to Peru during a pandemic – what to expect?

Lori peru 2021The ancient history of Peru is not really that ancient, not the way you may think, but certainly unique. When travelers ask to go to Peru, it is usually all about Machu Picchu, with maybe some other secondary sites of interest. Of course, Machu Picchu is the crown jewel of Peru, and I will talk about it further, but Peru has a rich history well beyond and before the Incas. We will get to all that later.
What I want to share was the experience of traveling to Peru during this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. This trip was programmed for 2020 then moved to March 2021 and finally to September 2021. As we neared the date of travel, I became somewhat skeptical that it would actually happen, and thought that it would likely be postponed again. I was in regular contact with my ground team in Peru, and they kept me up to date on the safety protocols. I came to learn that Peru is, in fact, a very safe place with strict protections and a populous eager to provide a safe destination for travelers. With this information in hand, I was able assure our group of 18 that the trip would happen and was safe. In addition, we were able to arrange the vast majority of our services as private to keep us in a bubble as much as possible. Our group was very diligent about wearing masks, sanitizing, and wearing double masks and face shields where required.
We started out in LIMA with a short city tour and a visit to the Larco Museum. Peru has done an excellent job of preserving and documenting the Incas but also the cultures and histories long before the Inca civilization took root. The Incas built their success, technology, and culture from the best of the cultures that came before them. We often think of the Inca’s as ancient, but the empire stood relatively recently, dating to the 1200-1500’s. Learn more by visiting the Larco Museum.
From there we caught our first in-country flight to Cusco. The flights are full, and you must wear a double mask both in the airport and on the flight. The airport and flight staff strictly enforce the rules to provide the safest experience possible. Even though social distancing was not always a possibility, we felt secure throughout the airport and on our flight.
No beverages or food services were provided on flights, which further prevents folks from taking off their masks. Drinking and eating items purchased at the airport was discouraged, and the attendants are diligent in enforcing the protocols for everyone’s protection.
On arrival to Cusco – we whisked out of the airport to our bus that was waiting for us across the street, as they still have not allowed any locals close to the airport to receive flights. Our two hour drive to the Sacred Valley was uneventful and we arrived to the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel near the town of Urubamba. The time of our flight resulted in our initial drive being in the dark, but we were still able to take in some sites. On our way, we saw the future airport being built in this area of Peru. It is still years away from being completed but is much needed for this area due to the growth of tourism.
Pro tip – Drinks lots and lots and lots of bottled water, as that really helps with the altitude. Do not drink the local water, in fact, don’t even brush your teeth with it. You are at 11,000 feet in Cusco and just slightly lower in the Sacred Valley. And although Coca tea really helps to adjust to the altitude, don’t drink it at night, because it will keep you awake! Instead, drink Munya tea.

DAY 1 in the Sacred ValleyMaras salt lori 2021
On our first full day, we visited the Salt Pans of Maras. The viewing point gives you a great place to see the entire salt flats. During this dry season, the terraces looked to be covered in snow, or crystals. The view is truly stunning. This is my third visit here, and now they don’t allow you to walk through the actual flats anymore, due to visitors leaving more than just footprints. The new viewing platforms still offer an up close and personal experience. We happened to be there during a “harvest” of the salt, and it was amazing to see how much salt is produced by a single pan. Of course, I had to buy salt to bring home – from table salt to bath salts to a new black salt for smoking meat. I can’t wait to try it!
Pro Tip: Visit in the dry season for the best views of the flats.
We also visited the Terraces of Moray. Some say they were built by aliens, but once the guide shared his information, it all made sense. The terraces, laid out in a combination of nearly perfect circles and ovals, are the product of Incan ingenuity, using lessons from the pre-Incan civilizations to the south. The terraces were used to acclimatize crops to growing in different altitudes and weather conditions as a kind of agricultural lab. Plant a seed in the lowest terrace, let it acclimate, then for the next planting, raise it to the next terrace, and so on. Pretty soon you have corn that can grow high in the mountains with no problem. There is 55 varieties of Corn, and over 4000 varieties of Corn in Peru!
The highlight of the day, if I had to choose, was a visit to a local community called Misminay, where we learned about their way of life and enjoyed “chicha” a local beer type of drink made of fermented corn. It comes in an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic version. The non-alcoholic version is purple, for those who are interested in trying it, but prefer not to imbibe alcohol. The alcoholic version we tasted is somewhat similar to sour beer but is not for the casual drinker. In my opinion, it is an acquired taste.
It is easy to assume that life is difficult for the people of Misminay, but truthfully, they are happy with their way of life. Their language is the ancient language of Quechua which was spoken during the time of the Incas, and which has seen a resurgence in recent years. It is nothing close to Spanish, so thank goodness our guide could translate! If you really want to immerse yourself, they offer overnight stays. It seemed a bit different to experience this local culture in a remote area of Peru with all of us in masks including the indigenous people, but Peru has mask mandates that require everyone to wear them indoors and out, and the entire populous seems to take these restrictions very seriously. I appreciated this, as I certainly didn’t want to test positive and have to quarantine.

DAY 2Olly lori 2021
We started early in the morning with a drive from our hotel to the town of Ollantaytambo. I have been there numerous times, but this time there were no crowds, allowing our group to experience the small town without the hassle of hundreds of other tourists. This is where they have the Inca Fortress, an in-point for the Inca trail, as well as the rail station to take you to Machu Picchu. The fortress tour guides you along a series of one-way routes to reduce crossing other travelers not in your group and supporting social distancing. I got a bit winded climbing as it was just day two for us in the Sacred Valley but loved that it was not at all crowded as it has been in my prior visits.
There were not as many street vendors selling their wares either, but instead they offered an organized market to shop for the local goodies, especially their colorful textiles of all sorts. As I mentioned, the train station to Aguas Caliente is also in this town, so we bought our face shields for about $3 and headed to our INKA RAIL train ride.Masked 2021
Pro-tip: Try to buy the shields ahead of time, as this was one area where the sudden crush of vendors made for a chaotic experience. Many hotels and pharmacies offer them around the same price, but if you can’t snag one ahead of time, know that you can always grab one near the station. Just have your money ready and make sure the person you pay hands you the shield first.
Pro-tip: Ensure you have purchased your tickets and assigned seats prior to arrival.
After boarding, it’s a 1.5 hour trip through the valley, traveling from a more arid climate to the cloud forests that surround the citadel just before pulling into Aguas Caliente, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. You actually go down in altitude to 9000 feet. On all my prior trips, this train station was covered up with passengers, but not on this trip – we were it. It felt almost like a ghost town, but once we exited the station, the small town came to life. It was still not at all crowded, but ready for guests to return. We boarded our bus to the citadel of Machu Picchu, and 30 minutes later, we were enjoying a lovely lunch at the top before entering into the citadel.

Our entry time was the last time slot of the day and they limit you to about two hours. The route you take is controlled to keep the numbers to a minimum, so as we reached the top and stood over the citadel of Machu Picchu, I was amazed at its beauty with hardly any people in sight. In fact, there were more Alpaca and Llamas wandering about than humans! It was a spiritual moment for me to experience Machu Picchu this way. I have been six other times, but this entry experience was the best.meditationAlpaca lori 2021
Pro-tip: Skip the morning entrance! Stick to the afternoon!
Our guide was wonderful, and took us around the citadel, pointing out in detail the history of this amazing city. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We returned back to town for a lovely overnight stay at the InkaTerra Lodge. I have also stayed at a number of other hotels in the town of Aguas Caliente, all of which exceeded my expectations.
Pro-tip: Pack just an overnight bag and leave your larger bag behind as the train has VERY limited storage.
DAY 3Machu Picchu Lori 2021
Our third day included a second entrance to Machu Picchu, this time in the morning, and although it was busier, it was still not as crowded as in prior years. Rumors have it that they will keep the post pandemic numbers for entry – they used to allow 6000 people, but now they only allow 3000 per day. By the way, they require a face shield on the bus up and down from the citadel but once in Machu Picchu, just a face mask, which you can take down briefly for pictures.
We then took the train and our bus back to Cusco for two nights.
DAY 4
While in Cusco, we enjoyed a walking tour through the San Blas region and to the beautiful cathedral, and then had free time to shop for souvenirs. Each store we entered took our temperature and provided hand sanitizer.Condor 2021 Lori
The rest of our visit to Peru was an extension to Arequipa and the Colca Valley.
Part of the group left after this basic trip to Peru, and the rest of us extended to Arequipa and Colca Canyon. I have never been to this area of Peru, so it was a must-do for me. I wanted to go to the Condor Cross to watch the condors soar on the thermal air. I was not disappointed – it was beyond my expectations. The Colca Valley is a beautiful region that is 75% agriculture and still uses over 40% of the pre-Inca terraces for farming. The Colca Canyon is home to the condors, which take flight around eight in the morning for a short time at our eye level, before flying higher to scavenge for food. I learned that they don’t flap their wings but rely on the thermals to fly, which is so amazing. We also visited a few local communities, and again, their pride in their lifestyle allowed me to understand a bit better about their way of life. We only spent two nights in this area of Peru before heading back to Lima. We visited the second largest city in Peru, Arequipa. Our time was very limited, so we only had time to visit their historic convent and enjoy a fabulous lunch. If you can add another night to your trip, that would be ideal.
Pro-tip: You cross over 16,000 feet on the ride to Colca, so drink lots of water and go slowly. The drive is a solid three hours on a good highway. Once in the valley, you are back to a reasonable 9,000-11,000 feet. Arequipa is at about 7,000 feet.
In closing, I want to stress that Peru is more than just Machu Picchu. Pre-Inca and Inca history is apparent throughout this country, and you will never tire of seeing Inca terraces and structures. The terrain in the Andes is quite challenging, including the altitude, and they mastered it.

If you are interested in learning more about Peru, reach out to us at Condor Tours & Travel – www.condortoursandtravel.com or email me at info@condortt.com

We have a great promotion to Peru currently. Check out this promo, an amazingly priced package, with air included on our website. Available on select dates in October and November, 2021.

Where to travel as we are ending the pandemic

 

header2There is no doubt that “cabin fever” has hit many of us, especially those of us that love to travel. We are slowly seeing some parts of the world open back up, allowing us to travel there. As a travel advisor, I am called almost daily by folks asking about traveling domestically versus internationally. I hear the phrase “false positive” which causes many travelers to lean towards traveling within the U.S., including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. These are all great destinations – but guess what? They are packed with Americans! Poor service due to shortage of staff, no rental cars to be found, and high-priced hotels due to lack of supply, are just a few of the obstacles faced by domestic travelers. One client who traveled to Hawaii said it took two and a half hours to check into her hotel, and the food at her luau was more like a TV dinner! I have booked folks wanting to travel within the U.S. and have gotten less than stellar comments about their trip experiences. Although we are a worldwide travel company, much of the world has not re-opened so we are focusing on Central and South American travel destinations. I have recently booked guests to Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Belize, and the reviews have all been wonderful. The locals are so excited to have tourists back that they provide fabulous service and have amazing protocols in place for Covid-19 protection.
Here are just a few examples of client feedback. I booked two ladies that love to travel on a trip to Costa Rica. In the days before their trip, they started to get nervous and we gladly offered them the chance to reschedule, but in the end they decided to go for ten days and came back raving. They said the measures taken to keep them away from crowds, personal service, masked drivers and guides when needed, and high standards for cleanliness at the hotels, had them saying they felt safer in Costa Rica than in the U.S. They were even pleased with the ease of obtaining a COVID test to return to the U.S. The going rate in Colombia for testing seems to range from $50 -$150, so do your homework on where to get it done.

Lori at Bridge
I booked a single lady to Ecuador and the Galapagos. She said her local guide was attentive to her as a single passenger and helped her navigate within the airport and to her hotel. For her flight to the Galapagos, the guide was there to help with the necessary documentation, including a required negative COVID test. The good news now is, as long as you are vaccinated, you no longer need to present a negative Covid test. Anyway, on her return to Quito after being in the Galapagos, we were able to arrange a rapid COVID test at the airport for her return to the U.S., and she stayed on one extra day to tour a beautiful region of Ecuador including the Otavalo area and also a rose plantation. This was an excellent way to end her Ecuador adventure. She says she felt safe and secure throughout the trip and appreciated the service provided locally to keep her free from any worries.

Machu Picchu
A family of six that I booked to Peru spent most of their time in Cusco, the Sacred Valley and at Aguas Caliente to visit Machu Picchu. From the moment they arrived, they were whisked about safely and securely. Peru does have some strict masking requirements and does still require a COVID test on arrival even if vaccinated, but they no longer require testing to fly domestically, which is simplifying travel throughout the country. For flights within Peru, they provide N-95 masks to all passengers. Also, they are limiting the number of entrances to Machu Picchu, so it is not crowded, which makes it nice to take pictures and explore. Definitely reserve in advance, which we do for all our clients. They are not selling the train to capacity, so reservations are strongly recommended. Two days prior to travel, we had the clinic supplier come to the hotel to do the test for $30 per person.
I personally just returned from Belize. When you arrive to the airport, they have two lines, one for vaccinated guests and one for those that have a negative PCR test. It was very efficient. They also did temperature checks at some locations, and in all public areas masking is still required. My time was spent in country as well as on one of the popular out-islands. At the two properties where I stayed, all staff wore masks but guests were not required to. I found it interesting that virtually all the staff at both properties had recently received their first vaccine, but not their second one. Vaccination efforts internationally are still well behind the U.S. The cases in Belize are low, and this country is listed as a level two for travel. On our second to last day we went to a local clinic to do our COVID test to return to the U.S. They charged us $75 which seems to be the going rate, and we had our results in 15 minutes, provided on a nice form letter from their Health Department and accepted without any questions by the airline.

IMG_6783
Colombia is now allowing arrivals with a vaccine. Panama does still require a COVID test to enter. I will be going to Panama myself in July, so I will be able to share a bit more when I return. Chile, Argentina and Brazil have yet to re-open. Chile’s numbers are quite low, but they are just playing it safe a bit longer. Argentina’s and Chile’s peak travel season begins in September, and all indications are that they will indeed open for travel by then. Vaccination efforts are still a bit behind in Argentina, but Chile is about the same as we are in the U.S.
Using a travel advisor to navigate world travel is the smart way to go, as we have the resources to share and knowledge to arrange services allowing for safe travel. At Condor Tours & Travel, we have come out with a line of “A Safe Escape” travel packages to Latin America, where we have the tools and protocols to help you feel safe while traveling. We are happy to assist you with travel. Contact us at 770-339-9961 or email us at info@condortt.com . You may also visit our web site to see our complete line of destination travel packages at www.Condortoursandtravel.com

Egypt Escape the Cradle of Civilization

All Giza Pyramids
All Giza Pyramids picture provided by Wikimedia

As a longtime travel supplier of travel, I often get asked about safety and weather to different destinations. For this blog, I am focusing on the Middle East and more specifically Egypt. So many of us have Egypt on our travel bucket list and want to see the Great Pyramids and other amazing historic sites. The most asked question on Egypt travel is “will it be safe to travel there” or “what will the weather be like”. Let’s touch on this remarkable destination and its rich culture and history. Egyptian history dates to 6th-th millennia BCE. That is 6,000 years before Christ was born for you Christians. Egypt is considered the cradle of civilizations. The earliest writings, agriculture, and organized religion are said to have begun here. It was once a center of Christianity. Now Islam is the official religion and Arabic their official language. There are over 100 million inhabitants with most living along the Nile banks. Prehistoric and Ancient Egypt have evidence of rock carvings along the Nile terraces dating to the 10th millennium BCE. Known then as hunter-gatherers and fishers.
I will address safety first. When I research a destination for travel, I put safety at the top of the list. We know that the media tends to cover the negatives about this destination and not how safe it really is. The negative publicity is a result of decades of history associated with government vs the people issues. There is no hiding the facts of instability Egypt has experienced. Complicated politics usually do not involve tourism. There are large regions in Egypt that welcome tourist with open arms. Like any major city there are areas you should avoid. The areas of unrest are generally the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert bordering Libya which are regions not visited by tourist. When you travel to Egypt is it definitely ideal to be with a tour group that has a controlled itinerary and a guide with you during all your sightseeing visits. Some of the advantages are the ability to “jump the line” to the major sights, well trained local guides, air-conditioned busses, the ability to know where to go and not go on any given day on the tour and a list of recommended places to eat or explore outside the group in safety.
Egyptians are very friendly and wanting to please. They are passionate about their country and want to share it with travelers that have an interest in learning their heritage and history. You will see an excessive amount of security everywhere and frequent roadside check points. Could be for show as well as showing that the Government does not want incidents with tourist. Egypt really wants to turn their image around and prove it is safe to travel there.
If you have free time do not rent a car – driving is crazy. If you go out on your own, note no cross walks so just be very careful crossing the roads. Ideally you should stay with your tour group as much as possible. Watch out for scammers and use your local guide to help with exchanges of money, shopping experiences and photo taking. Woman should dress conservatively as keep in mind you are in a Muslim country and you do not want to draw unwanted attention. Men should also respect local standards with their attire choices.
Different regions experience different weather patterns. Egypt is an arid desert and is generally hot and sunny. Winter is just considered November to January and affects just the Northern region mostly. The country has very little precipitation. Cairo, because of its location with the Nile can feel quite humid. The Tour I will be leading the end of February into early March we can expect average highs in the 70’s with 12 hours of daylight. Check out this tour option to Egypt in February 2022.

Tour Map

This 9-day/8-night tour includes a river cruise on the Nile as well as major landmark visits like the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids, Luxor Temple, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Valley of the Kings and Queens and Deir El-Bahri plus much more. At $1699 for the land and cruise – you can’t beat the price while staying in quality 4+* hotels. Your additional costs are the domestic air for $280 and travel protection for $199. International air will vary by origination city so that we will quote separately. If you want to come in a day or two early to get over jet lag and adjust to weather, we can arrange the pre-nights as well.
Now for the question of the year – what is the current COVID-19 situation? At the time of this writing, we have seen the same downturn in cases as with most of the rest of the world. Protocols are in place. RT-PCR certificate within 72 hours before departure of your last direct flight to Egypt. No quarantine is required if you present a negative test. More information can be found online at their tourism board or here. Mask wearing is currently mandatory.

If you are interested in joining me on this tour or want to book a different date reach out to Lori

at info@condortt.com  or call 770-339-9961.  Condor Tours & Travel has been in business since 1991 serving those wanting to experience the world.

 

 

 

Walt Disney World Magic During a Pandemic

Disney castleSo, we decided to take advantage of the incredible deals being offered by Walt Disney World to get folks to return to the happiest place on earth. Since the re-opening Disney has been aggressively working at enhancing their parks to exceed the recommendations for re-opening to the world. We choose to take advantage of the promotional opportunities to stay on property at the Contemporary Resort. Staying in the A-frame was a bucket list hotel for us and when we saw the promo rate we decided to come Thanksgiving week. Prior to our arrival we were able to check into our room via the My Disney Experience App (a must have for Disney trips now). So, as we were nearing the hotel, we notified them of our expected arrival time, and they sent us our room assignment and that it was ready via the app. Our phone along with magic bands were our key. (by the way the magic bands were complimentary but we were told staring in January they will begin charging for them) On arrival to the hotel we were greeted by a porter in a mask and our luggage was whisked away. We headed to our room immediately noticing hand sanitizer stations, signs reminding of the mask mandate, the stickers of where to stand as well as limited # of guest on elevator. The room had a card explaining the cleaning procedure and the remote was in a plastic bag with a “Clean” sticker. They are not offering valet parking so no one else is in your personal vehicle.
Since we arrived in the afternoon we decided to head to Disney Springs for a late lunch and some shopping. After we parked, we were guided to a single-entry point from the parking garage for temperature and security check. Yes, they take your temperature to eat and shop at Disney Springs. They also make sure all are masked. A first for me was a conveniently available vending machine selling mask if you came unprepared. The most recognized store in Disney Springs is The World of Disney which is usually slammed with shoppers. We had to scan a QR code to enter the virtual que for entry at a designated time. There was an alternate line for those that were not in the virtual que for entry and was limited and longer wait so take advantage of the Virtual que option as it is easy to use. Every customer and employee were masked. The registers had plexiglass shields and signs asking patrons not to touch merchandise unnecessarily and no changing rooms open to try on, however, you had a return option within a certain amount of time with receipt. Other stores had controlled entry and exit points to keep counts on number of shoppers in the stores – this was also a feature throughout Disney parks. They had handheld machines on how many entered and exited and kept capacity at the allowable counts keeping crowds to a minimum in the shops.mask sign-small
Experiencing the different parks – prior to entry at each park there was temperature screening and security screening. We were pleasantly pleased to see new metal detectors, so your bags where not handled by a security person as long as the detector didn’t go off. I was able to walk through with my phone in hand and my small purse without any problem. Once in the parks, regular announcements were made about the mask requirement to cover you mouth and nose at all times, non -compliance was grounds for eviction from the park. There was also signage and staff with hand signs reminding all. We heard a few cast members remind guest to cover their nose as their mask slipped down. They were very diligent about this. The only exception was when sitting to eat or drink or the relaxation stations located throughout the park. You were not allowed to walk and drink or eat. Social distancing was well noted in restaurants and seating areas marked as closed to keep distance between tables. Ordering food is almost completely contactless as you can order your food via the same mobile Disney Experience app. You were called to numbered windows to retrieve your meal when ready. You could not access the interior seating or restaurant until you got your notice that your meal was ready. A cast member would then direct you to a table. This was our experience at every quick service restaurant.
Experiencing the rides – There were social distancing markers everywhere. In the switchback areas they either installed plexiglass dividers or would skip rows or position guest so as not to be 6 feet of each other. The lines seem so long but due to the distancing between the markers they are actually not that long and move well. As much as we have loved fast pass feature in prior visits, they were not being used so the line moved well without interruption. We found this distancing comforting and never felt crowded or at risk. We cannot stress enough how quickly the lines moved and we beat most posted wait times. Each ride is not running at full capacity to allow for social or personal distancing. We were a party of 3 and often had a car or boat or vehicle to ourselves. Hand sanitizer stations and hand washing stations were placed throughout the lines. They were also readily available when you got off the ride.sanitizer small
The park capacity is limited to 35% of maximum capacity. Disney does not post parade times so they would randomly have a mini parade. This was so folks would not gather in crowds to maintain personal distancing. Disney is not doing any character meet and greets or live shows or the nighttime fireworks. Because they are not doing these nighttime shows, many leave the parks earlier so wait times are reduced. We walked right on to Haunted Mansion with no wait. They have not published when they will bring those back so if that is why you go to Disney you may prefer to wait until those activities are added back.parade small
None of the protocols put in place by the Disney Company takes away the magic. We cannot express how appreciative we were to the Disney cast for making our experience magical. Both the cast and the guest worked harmoniously to provide a safe escape travel experience.Star wars 1 small
FYI – Park hopper is not available currently but is expected to return in January. At the moment, you have to reserve park entrance by day via the Disney Experience app or on your account you have created electronically on your computer. If you are interested in a Disney experience now is the time to go and your trained team at Condor Tours & Travel is there to help plan your ideal vacation. Based on Lawrenceville, GA 770-339-9961 or email us at info@condortt.com