5 Things You Need to Know About Washington, DC

Washington DC-Capital

There is nothing like spending a weekend in Washington, DC. Arrival on Thursday afternoon of a holiday weekend means that you are greeted with millions of families and school children on trips, and traffic that you can’t imagine. But who cares about that. You’re in DC.

If you’ve ever wondered if the country has returned to its former glory, visit Washington, DC to see all the new building that is going on. New communities are being developed everywhere you look. Condos loom above city streets, and green spaces are being factored in so that it doesn’t all look like a jig-saw puzzle.

1. Restaurants are “King”

The best thing about DC is  the proliferation of restaurants that have recently opened. More than one can count, and each one trying to be better than then next. It is hard to find a “bad” restaurant in the district. However, mediocre is making a come-back.

For my weekend travels, I decided to try some old favorites and some new. For old favorites I went to Busboys and Poets, a great place to have any meal, although get ready for an energetic crowd. Next, I tried, The Hamilton, a beautifully decorated large restaurant across from the Willard Hotel. The menu at The Hamilton is eclectic and the service is slow. However, it is worth going there just to see the place.  They have a nice bar. I ventured to Columbia Heights to have  brunch at The Heights, a delightful neighborhood restaurant, with great outdoor dining, and food to match.

2. Luxury Properties and Hotels Abound

Every where you look in the District, you see evidence of new construction, and all of it is expensive. New condos, and row houses are re- forming what used to be drab old communities into chic new ones with people out walking their dogs and enjoying coffee at a nearby cafe. One neighborhood that I dropped by was the Navy Yard. It was only a few years ago that this was nothing to look at, but now, it has beautiful condos, green space, restaurants, bars, and shopping areas. Everything that a person could want within a small community.

If you are looking for luxury hotel space, the city continues to build hotels on practically every corner. Trump is remodeling, what used to be the old Post Office Building, to put up a mammoth property, Trump International Hotel,   which sits at the end of 11th St as it intersects with Pennsylvania Av.  Opulent is all one can say about how the structure looks. The hotel will include high-end shopping and office facilities.  The Conrad is building a hotel in DC, and I look forward to the elegance that it will bring to this busy city.

3. Shopping Matches 5th Ave.

Washington used to be known for its big box and outlet stores. No more. Now,  there are a myriad of designer showrooms that capture your attention and your wallet. The designers that now have showrooms here match those of 5th Ave in NYC.  Store after store provides you with the latest in both women’s and men’s fashion. I would say that this is easily a place where people would fly to for shopping rather than to New York.

4. This is an “Uber” City

While there are still plenty of cars and bicycles in the city, the use of “Uber” is considerably high. People utilize Uber much like a taxi service here, for short and long trips, and schedule black car service when then really wish to make an impression; which is all the time.

5.  Get Ready to Pay

Your nation’s capital is quickly becoming the city for the “well heeled.” It is not unusual to find  hotel room rates to be north of $500 per night, and certainly the cost for two to dine out is in excess of $200. However, everyone is there to enjoy themselves, and what a great time you will  have.

I hope that the museums remain open so that the rest of us will have something to do when our money runs out.

Hotel Regina, Paris: Renovated to Luxury Level

If you are planning a trip to Paris, finding a hotel is one of the most critical parts of planning your trip. You’re probably trying to find one that is interesting, comfortable, beautifully decorated, and in the right location. Look no further than the newly renovated Hotel Regina, Paris,  a 100 room hotel, including twenty-two (22) suites, is a stand-out, and is  aptly situated  across from the Louvre.

The hotel, which was originally built in 1900, has for the past year, undergone a complete renovation of its exterior and interior spaces. This includes all 100 rooms, which have been individually designed. Both the layout of the rooms, and the collection of furnishings are beautifully designed, yet speak to the historical French furniture styling. Each room has been carefully and tastefully decorated with comfort, and usage clearly in mind. Furniture placement is not obtrusive. The lines are clean and subtle. Bathrooms are large and nicely appointed with sumptuous robes for you to slip into. This is a place that makes you feel “at home.”

The hotel is located in the fashion, shopping and museum district, with exceptional views of the Eiffel Tower. You can’t get any better than that! It boasts a first-class restaurant for fine dining, and serves tea in the afternoon. Concierge service is available to assist you in making your tour and evening plans.

So, place yourself in the “heart of the action” while being part of a boutique hotel experience. For photos, and a brief article on this property, see the following link.  http://pulse.me/s/41pp6m

See Europe By Train

train station_unsplash

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I thought that I would write about something that is a bit different. As mothers, we appreciate the cards, gifts and the flowers that we receive from our loved ones, but it is nice to dream about doing something different. A European Train trip.

I have always wanted to  take a trip on a train. I think that it would be both relaxing. There are several trips that are available now that you can take. Of course, I am looking for one that offers a spa onboard. I don’t think they have that yet.  It is worth considering if you wish to see the scenery and don’t want to argue with your spouse over directions and the GPS as you drive thousands of miles.

The Venice Simplon Orient Express is the most well known of the luxury trains. It takes journeys from London to Venice. Paris to Budapest, Bucharest and Istanbul. There are many departure cities from which to select. The most important thing is that the train is absolutely luxurious. It has a champagne bar, exquisite dining facilities, and sleeping cars that are outstanding.

This is the train that you want to be on as you view the sites of Europe. I like the idea of being able to view the scenery, read, eat, drink, and get up and walk around. For long trips this keeps me interested in what is going on. Also, I think that the people that one might meet on a long trip might be interesting.

All of this luxury does not come at a cheap price. Plan upon spending approximately $5,000 per person depending upon the length of stay. You may want to just have the experience with a shorter trip (one nights stay) for about $2,700. However, when you are considering that you are traveling like royalty, who cares about spending a few dollars or euros.

 

If You Only Have One Night, Make It Count!

 

Courtesy of the Conrad,Indianapolis
Courtesy of the Conrad,Indianapolis

Recently, my husband and I decided to take a quick trip to celebrate his birthday. We decided to go to Indianapolis and stay at the Conrad. Under normal circumstances, one might say, why would you select Indianapolis, and this particular hotel?

We selected Indianapolis because it is a nearby city and we thought that it would be a fun place to go for an overnight stay. There is shopping, jazz clubs, and great dining.  Since we were celebrating his birthday, I selected the Conrad, because I thought it would be a different experience from the other box hotels. I had no idea what we were in for.

There are only four (4) Conrad hotels in the US, Ft. Lauderdale, Indianapolis, Chicago, and New York. All the others are in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. When you stay at the Conrad, you quickly realize why the hotel brand has such an “exclusive” aura. The properties are beautiful, even sumptuous, and they take service and execution to its highest level.

When making our reservation, I had included an email note that said that we were celebrating my husband’s birthday and requested that they have a little “snack” in the room. Upon arrival, when we drove up and exited our vehicle, the valet asked for our name, and when I gave it, he said “Happy Birthday, sir.” The same thing happened at the Front Desk. My husband couldn’t believe it. The staff was certainly on point.

Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianaspolis

The hotel lobby is open and modern, yet inviting and relaxing. When you are at the Conrad, you feel transformed. I couldn’t believe that we were in a mid-western city. Somehow, it has a  European feel,  and even though it has over 200 rooms, it still intimate, like a boutique hotel at its best. You can tell that a lot of thinking went into the design of this hotel.  The hotel has beautiful art collections in the lobby and on the second floor, that more than catch your eye, they  cause you to want to browse and discover more.  This is not your busy business  hotel. This is a hotel that is committed to the “guest experience.” In fact, my husband and I didn’t want to leave it. There’s something interesting for you around each corner, something that will make you want more, whether it is the spa, fitness center, or the adjoining restaurant and bistro.

The hotel  capitalizes on the fact that today’s traveler likes to keep it simple, and so they have made it so. Adjoined to the hotel is the Capital Grille, known for its exquisite upscale dining, and a Wine and Bistro, called Tastings, which has one of the largest wine collections by the glass, or bottle, in the world.  The Capital Grille has a gorgeous bar that offers all types of  drinks and cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. Surrounded by dark wood, you will find locals at the Capital Grille Bar, nattily attired and sipping on their favorite drink, while discussing politics or sports. The more energetic Wine and Bistro,  Tastings, offers small plates to go along with all that wine that you drink. Music plays, while you hear people laughing and talking as they drink flights of wine. Tastings is clearly  “meeting” place.  Depending upon what you prefer, both places  provide a wonderful opportunity to have a great experience without ever having to leave the hotel premises.

Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianapolis
Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianapolis

But now it is time to relax in your room. Rooms are large with spectacularly comfortable furnishings. If you are interested in in-room dining, you will love the staff that appear at your door dawning white coats as they carry in your tray. It is all quite spectacular! The staff are warm and friendly and make you feel “at home” at your residence at the Conrad. Yes, you can dream of living the high life, as you go down to the lobby and watch beautiful cars pull up in front of the hotel. Everyone is given “red carpet” treatment.

So, what happened with the snack in the room you ask? When we arrived, there it was on a tray. Nuts, candies, chocolate covered strawberries, and the best part, a card signed by the staff to my husband. He said that he “felt like a rock star.” What a lovely way to execute the request, and how wonderful it made him feel.

Many hotels can provide a nice stay, and even be friendly to you upon arrival. Ask the right questions, but few know how to treat guests with a level of importance that lets them know that it is a guest centered hotel. From the design, to the training of its staff, this is a hotel that thinks and cares about every aspect of what the guest will experience, and they want to make sure that they get it right.

So, if you only have one night to stay, my recommendation is to select wisely. Select a place that you know has phenomenal service, a great location, can provide every amenity, and make you feel special. I would say, select the Conrad.

Hotel and Resorts Newest Trend- All-inclusive Pricing

 

Courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
Courtesy of Kimpton Hotels

When we think of all-inclusives, we tend to think of beach resorts in Florida or the Caribbean. However, the newest trend is that hotels are using this “all in one” pricing strategy to attract travelers who are interested in knowing both how much their vacation is going to cost, and the ease of bundling all of the items that they wish to include into one price. Blackberry Farm, has been using this concept for quite some time with favorable results.

When I first went to an all-inclusive in the Caribbean, I recall thinking, why would I want to just stay at this resort; eat all my meals here; drink here? I want to explore and find out what the culture is, and what the island has to offer. Now, since I am forty years older, I just need a lounge chair and a good book, and yes that drink. So the idea of an all-inclusive is right up my alley.

Hotels and resorts have been slow to move in this area. There has been some “package pricing” that hotels and resorts have used to put together the room along with spa treatments or golf. However, today’s vacation traveler is interested in knowing that they can essentially have the same experience as those who travel by sea. They can arrive at their destination and know that all of the expenses are already paid for, and any other monies are just for non-essentials, and entertainment. This approach provides the traveler with a certain degree of freedom and knowledge of knowing that all is “taken care of.” However, some planning is required. Here are 5 tips that you will want to use.

  1. Know What Is Important For You. Be clear on the types of things that you will want to have included in your pricing. Think of a cruise and what is normally included in their pricing, and what is not. Be willing to think “out-side” the box.
  2. Look at Beach, Resort Areas as Location Possibilities. It might be easier to find a hotel that is doing all -inclusive pricing in such an area, than one that is in an urban center. However, if you are committed to going to a larger city, check the hotels that are your favorites, and see what they are already doing in this arena.
  3. Be Willing To Present and Negotiate. The hotel of your choice may not have moved into this one-price market. However, when speaking with the manager, be prepared to have your top items ready to present to them, and ask if they could be “bundled” into a one price for the designated time (i.e. room for x nights, meals at any of their restaurants,   spa treatment, 1 round of golf, theatre tickets). Have a long list, and be prepared to negotiate.
  4. Know Your Budget. It goes without saying that you need to be aware of how much you are willing to pay for these services for the time period that represents your trip. Once again, think of it as “land cruising.” Are you willing to pay $2,500 pp, or more for a couple of days? As you consider your budget, just as in planning a trip on a cruise line, you will want to consider how many activities become part of your all-inclusive experience. You may want to start with simply room and meals and see how that works for you.
  5. Assess How You Like It, and Provide Feedback. This is new territory for you and the hotelier. As you go on this journey, be willing to note how you have enjoyed it, what you would do differently next time, and send those thoughts to the general manager. You will be helping future travelers.

Be bold, find the hotel of your choice and contact them and ask… ” Do you offer all-inclusive rates?” And the process begins. There is nothing better than the ask.

River Cruising: For Those Who Wish to See The Sights At A More Leisurely Pace

I’ve never been one to take a cruise; however each time I receive a brochure from   Viking River Cruises, the leader of the pack in this industry, I have to admit that it seems enchanting. There is something about the slow pace of it that is remarkable. You can see the sights, and appreciate the beauty of the land, while still staying in generous and luxurious quarters, and having the time to disembark and take tours that provide you with an opportunity to experience the culture, not just see it.

Normal cruising always sounds like so much fun from all of my friends who use it as their preferred vacation mode. They talk about the food, the dancing, the activities. However, much of the time, they admit that they stay aboard because it is a “hassle” to  disembark. Tours are expensive and crowded. With river tours, it is more like being at a luxury hotel with all the services, coupled with immersion cultural experiences that are tied to the locations that you visit, all for an all-inclusive pricing, including the cost of tours.

Travelers who use river cruising come from all over the world. Consider what dinner conversations might be like with your other travelers on the river cruise? Oh, you can still have bar service 24/7, and dancing. Loads of activities, or just sit back, read, enjoy the sites and get ready for another immersion class. Oh, I think I’ll do that cooking class, or go to the wine tasting. Okay, the wine tasting wins.

There are several river cruise companies from which to choose. All of them offer approximately the same services, with travel throughout the rivers of Europe. The following article published in the Huffington Post, provides the details of the companies and their approaches.

So, for those of you who just love cruising… add river cruising to your travel portfolio. I think you might see me on the Danube.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/us-news-travel/why-river-cruising-is-all_b_6949024.html

5 Hotels/Resorts to Set Your Sights On for a Re-defined Staycation

 

Several years ago when the economy tanked, the notion of the “Staycation” became popular. People stayed at home, and found activities that they could do in their home town. That sounds like Sunday to me, with distractions.  The purpose of a vacation, no matter how small, is to allow you to relax, reguvenate your mind and spirit, and to allow you to return to your family, friends and work group a refreshed being, ready to tackle the multiplicities of today’s challenges.

So, I started thinking. Why do we have to have the Staycation as currently defined? Why can’t we have an “Expanded Staycation”, one where we are able to move beyond the perimeter of our own dwelling, and instead, take retreat in a local hotel or resort, or drive to one that is within 3-4 hours? The drive itself will be part of the winding down process.   The idea had endless possibilities. Instead of only one vacation a year that requires tireless planning, a person could have multiple Expanded Staycations throughout the year, that are purposed for family, girl friends, or special getaways for you and your spouse or special someone.

I selected fie (5) properties that are within an easy reach of metropolitan areas. Take a look at each location, and determine what strikes your fancy, and start planning your Expanded Staycation.

Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotel
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels

After a hard week, it’s time to call your spouse or significant other and say… “ Meet me in the city.” And the place to meet and stay is Ink48, a Kimpton Hotel. This chic boutique hotel, in the heart of Manhattan,  has everything that one might want or need to totally relax while enjoying the world’s cosmopolitan hub.  You will not be far from some of the favorite activities, the theatre district, shopping, that make it such a draw.  The hotel recognizes that the city is full of excitement and energy, and it aims to calm your spirit while giving credence to that foundation. Let’s start with its modern and open designed lobby area, which is referred to  as “the living room.” Gee, I wish my living room looked like this. The living room, is not just a lobby, it is actually a gathering place for the hotel guests. Throughout the day, guests  lay claim to comfortable chairs and couches to sit and read,  or to meet with others in nicely grouped seating areas. So, it really is a living room.  The guest rooms, with views of  the Hudson River, add to the sense of tranquility, with a soft color pallet of naturals with hints of yellow and red accents, and yoga  mats  provided  to help you start or end your day in the most peaceful manner. (This is a touch). For those who prefer pampering, the InkSpa is the perfect place to go. It is a full service spa, including hair salon. If you decide that you just want to have a great meal, look no further than the highly touted PRINT restaurant, serving farm-to-table menu selections. This is the place to come and experience a culinary delight. While on your Expanded Staycation, why not call some friends to meet you for drinks, and head to the 16th floor to the Press Lounge. This glass-enclosed space provides unsurpassed views of the city, while giving you the chance to relax, chat and get caught up. What a way to take in the city.

Lobby. Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels
Lobby. Photo courtesy of:
21c Museum Hotels
Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels
Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels

If you love art, and you wish to enhance your sense of culture and design then a stay at the  21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati. Voted in 2014, #1 hotel in the mid-west by Conde Nast Traveller, it offers the perfect place for your Expanded Staycation. This boutique hotel is unique in that it  has a rotating art collection and situated next to the Contemporary Arts Center, and across the street from the Arnoff Center, in downtown.   Art relaxes the mind, body and spirit, and this hotel aims to please.  Everything about it speaks to well thought out design, from the muted color scheme and minimalist design to the extraordinary lighting, which in itself is like an extension of the art that is displayed.  As you go through the facility, you will find yourself stopping to stare and wonder for just a moment exactly where you are. The hotel has a very European feel to it. While at the 21c Museum Hotel, you need to make an appointment at The Spa at 21c.  There, the staff provides rejuvenating treatments that revive you and make you want to return. After attending a cultural event at the Aronoff, or going through the Contemporary Arts Center, you may feel like getting something to eat. What better place than the Metropole, where you will find fresh ingredients served from the open hearth kitchen. It’s a great place to dine and has a fun atmosphere.  The food is inventive, without being presumptuous. Weather permitting, perched atop the hotel is the Cocktail Terrace, where you can enjoy the view of the city and have specialty drinks. Now, it is time to return to your room, and enjoy the beauty and the simplicity of its design, and wish that some of the art was yours.

Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resorts
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort

Not far from Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, or Lexington is French Lick ResortThis resort is spectacular. If you are looking for a place for the entire family, this is the resort to select.  There is something here for everyone. No one is left wanting. The resort has two fabulous hotels, The West Baden Hotel and the French Lick Hotel. The hotels are different in that the West Baden is opulent, and the French Lick Hotel is more of a standard hotel that appeals to families and groups. The rooms in each of the hotels are quite nice by any standard, approximately 450 square feet. If you elect to stay at the West Baden Hotel, ask for a room overlooking its 200′ atrium lobby.  Both hotels have their own restaurants,  swimming pools, retail shopping, and spas. The spas deserve special mention. The spas at French Lick Resort are well known because of their mineral springs. It is said that they have “healing power”.    There is a trolley so that guests may use to travel between the two hotels, although you can easily walk the grounds between the two.  You can select activities to choose from such as horseback riding, bowling, wine tasting, cooking lessons, movie night, biking, hiking.There are a total of three golf courses. A new Pete Dye golf course, which will host the SPGA in May,2015.  There is an 18 hole course, and a 9 hole links course. The latter is especially fun for families to play. There are walking trails, and a  multitude of fine dining to casual restaurants on the property. There is a casino, which offers entertainment,and concerts featuring top national talent. At the end of your stay, you’ll discover that you still didn’t get it all in. That just means you have to return to French Lick Resort.

 

Photo courtesy of: Lowes Hotels
Photo courtesy of: Loews Hotels

If you live in  the Southwest, there are many hotels and resorts from which to select,  but the one that stands out for me for an Expanded Staycation is the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson. Rated by Travel and Leisure as one of the World’s Best Family Hotels, this resort has a lot to offer. Let’s start with the scenery, and the building architecture. As you can tell from the photo, the structure of the building blends in with its natural setting. Upon arrival, every aspect of what you see  makes you say, “Wow”. The resort is meant to keep you engulfed in the beauty of the Sonora dessert while experiencing casual  yet luxurious  styled accommodations. The rooms are spacious by most standards (450 square feet), and are decorated in a neutrals, punctuated with white.  If possible, try to score  a room with a mountain view. Remember, you are there to relax. Walking paths abound,and along the way you’ll discover the 80′ waterfall and the butterfly garden. For those who wish more strenuous activity (not me), try the  hiking and biking trails. The scenery is breath-taking.  There are tennis courts, 2 glorious pools, and an adult only serenity pool. For those who remember to bring their clubs, there are  2 Tom Fazio designed golf courses. You will remember playing these courses in years to come.  Take a “selfie” at hole 18 and send it to your friends with bragging rights.  End your day at the Lakeside Spa. You’ll need it to work out the kinks from all that exercising. Try dinner at the Flying V Bar & Grille, and don’t forget the table- side guacamole, (the best I’ve ever had)  and margaritas on the patio at sun set. Put your feet up, and think  about how life is fine.

Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts

If you live in or around the LA basin, and you’re looking to get away to re-charge your batteries, why not go to Vegas.  The Delano, Las Vegas   is a sanctuary in a town filled with energy, entertainment and vices. It is considered a boutique hotel, although it is 43 stories high.  What you receive at this large golden tower is unparrelled design and service. You certainly know that you have “arrived” when you step into the Delano. You can hear yourself saying… “Well Aw right, Aw right!” It’s an all suite hotel. The suites are very spacious (725 square feet) and beautifully decorated in muted natural tones, with their iconic floor to ceiling  white flowing drapes. The ambiance is just what you need to feel relaxed and renewed. There’s an on-site spa to keep you in the mood.  You will not find a casino in this hotel. If you wish to gamble, you will need to go  elsewhere. If you are a foodie, then the Delano is your spot. Alain Ducasse has created a new venue  called Mix at the Delano, an inventive restaurant, with chef Bruno Riou,  which offers  exquisite food and a significant wine selection (5,000 bottles). One might think this is the place for special occasions, but I would say that if you are there, then that is the occasion.  The hotel also offers an elegantly decorated  lounge for drinks, the Franklin Lounge, a great place for meeting friends or simply having a specialty cocktail.  If you go to the Delano, don’t forget to pack your most fashionable outfit. Someone may want to take your picture.

The oldest existing Caribbean resort is also home to one of the top beaches…in the world.

Since most of the United States is in a deep freeze, this location, sounds like a winner.

Destinations Of Distinctions

I don’t know about you but there’s something magical about a place that boasts stories of a 18th century mansion perched on a cliff, where stairs were carved from the rock allowing sea bathers the chance to cool off in the calm Caribbean waters below.

What about a place where “Wild Bill” Hickock stayed and left his gold chain as payment for his room charges. A small commercial port was also developed in the area, and a ‘crane’ was added where the hotel currently sits to allow for raising and lowering of cargo.

Seems very “Pirates of the Caribbean” doesn’t it?

A true nostalgic monument, The Crane Barbados is steeped in history and intrigue that is sure to delight each of its many passing guests. The 260 suites have all been modeled after the original mansion, Marine Villa.

Rich mahogany furnishings, coral stone floor-to-ceiling walls and teak-wood jalousie shutters all…

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Living the Life

Have you ever considered how you might want to spend your retirement years? Most of us dread the thought and therefore don’t place very much time into thinking about it.

If you could spend your elder years  in any one place, where would it be?”  Answering this is not as easy as it seems, which is why most of us “stay put” and don’t make any changes. But wonder if you could make a change?  Where would you go? Perhaps a little house in a  small village by the beach; or live in a high-rise building with lots of people around you, with a spectacular view of sunrise and sunsets; or move to a house on a ranch, or to a cabin in the mountains. What would make you say… ” This is my spot!”

The Huffington Post reported about one woman who knew exactly where she wanted to spend her latter years.  She and her husband always liked to take cruises, and after he passed, she decided to take up residence on a cruise ship. What an idea! Now, I don’t know that I could live on a cruise ship, but I could live at a golf resort with a spa. Do you think that I can work a deal ? I’ll look around and get back to you.

Read the story and set your own fantastic retirement dream into action and be prepared to Live the Life. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/22/lee-wachtstetter-cruise_n_6524822.html