David J. Danto


Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion




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Vacation – Part 1 – May 2023


Behind the Song: The Go-Go's, "Vacation" - American Songwriter  I’ve just returned from a fabulous vacation. I’m rested, relaxed and ready to go back to face the daily grind of work – NOT!  Of course, like most trips, I need a vacation to rest from my vacation, where I squeezed in as much stuff as possible despite the pain of lack of sleep.  (This lack of rest is something my sixty-year-old body reminds me of every day, even more so on vacation.)   But we did do a lot on this whirlwind trip and I’ll give you some of the notes and highlights below.

I started my trip in Athens, Greece for a work meeting, and it seemed like a beautiful country, but I intentionally didn’t get to see much of it.  I had a huge itinerary planned for the following ten days so I didn’t want to tire myself out too early on the journey.  The next stop was Barcelona where I met my wife as she had arrived a day earlier.  I traveled through the Schengen Zone as I detailed in my last blog.

We stayed for one night at the Hampton Inn Barcelona – a terrific property right across from Barcelona’s main convention center (Fira Grand Via.)  It was obvious that this minimalist property was great for attending conferences, but two people struggled in their typical tiny room.  It was just a stop and gathering place before our cruise so we just dealt with the cramped quarters for a day.

The next day it was time to board our ship – the Celebrity Reflection.  If you’re a long-time reader of mine you’ll know I hate cruising (I don’t drink and I think cruise ships are floating petri dishes) but it was the right choice to see multiple ports in Spain, France and Italy over a short period of time.  I said to myself ‘if I think of it as a cruise I’ll be disappointed, but if I think of it as a floating hotel dragging our luggage around for us it will be fine.’  Well, I was wrong.  I was floored over how outstanding the experience was – leaps and bounds over our last terrible experience on Royal Caribbean (that actually has the same parent company as Celebrity.)  Perhaps it was the fact that we knew to upgrade to a suite with a big balcony in their “Retreat Class.”  We were pampered with a gorgeous room, an awesome butler, a tremendous private dining room just for Retreat guests (Luminae) and more than I can mention in a single blog.  Every person we interacted with was amazing (except for one in the spa – and the team was rapid and in-fact over-the-top in dealing with an apology and resolution.)  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would take a cruise again at this level of service.  Of course, when you add it all up, it was about ten grand for two people for a week, so it’s not an every-day getaway.  (And ultimately, we did get sick upon returning home, so again taking a cruise will always be the exception for us.)

The ship left Barcelona and took us to Corsica, Cannes, Rome (Civitavecchia), Livorno, Valencia then back to Barcelona.  We had two full-day private tours, first of of Cannes-Nice-Monaco-Monte Carlo and then of Rome, and we also had shorter tours or just walks-around at the other ports.  It was really just a tase of Europe for us, going to cities where I’d never been.  Everything was lovely and rich in culture, and we identified places where we’d possibly like to go back someday for deeper experiences. 

On the left Nice, Monaco, Monte Carlo - On the right, Valencia

Nice, France and Valencia, Spain stand out as two extremely lovely places to explore and spend time.  Rome was full of rich heritage experiences and centuries old places to see and touch, but it was also a far dirtier city than I expected – with trash in the streets and graffiti on the buildings.  I experienced the shame of that in New York in the 1970’s so I understand what can happen when tourists and locals don’t care about where they go.

The cruise took us back to Barcelona where we stayed at the lovely Hilton Diagonal Mar – a property that treats its Diamond Honors members right – including early check-ins for international arrivals and many Diamond perks.  I FINALLY got to see the highlights of Barcelona on this – my third visit, but my first not on business.



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As we went home I had tons of memories, beautiful pictures of my wife and I all over the world (and a few more magnets to add to the travel board that is quickly running out of room.)  Thank you, Europe, for showing Helen and I your best side.  Of course, not everything was perfect, and next week’s blog will detail some of the more challenging experiences – both so that the issues can be seen in the light of day and so that you can avoid having them if you follow in our footsteps.




This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.

Copyright 2023 David Danto


As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree.  Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me.  Thanks!