Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tahiti: First Stop on Playbill's "Broadway on the High Seas" Cruise

Ia orana!  I wasn't expecting much at Papeete on Tahiti from what I'd read, but the InterContinental Hotel surprised me with its beautiful lagoonarium (you can see the fish just by looking down from the bridge -- no need to actually get IN the water), its authentic dance story about the life of Paul Gauguin (mostly in French -- je l'aimais beaucoup!), grandiose buffets (especially love the poisson cru -- raw tuna cooked with coconut milk), and overwater bungalows.

Opening night festivities for the cruise were on the resort's private motu where we were treated to "adaptive" versions of tunes by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Liz Callaway.  Other stars I've met so far: Tommy Tune, Lewis Black, Alice Ripley, Christine Pedi, Howard McGillin, Roger Bart.

The daytime marche (with its rows of vanilla, fruit, ukeles, and pearls) was a local scene.  Incredibly humid and hot, but so inviting.
Marche de Papeete

InterContinental Tahiti

Ukele display at the Market in Papeete

We sail at midnight on the Paul Gauguin to Huahine.  Nana!

On-the-road tips for using your phone

I just read this article by Stephanie Rosenbloom of the New York Times about being smart about your smartphone use when traveling overseas.  It makes a lot of sense.  I've learned the hard way during recent trips to Peru and Thailand.  Now, in French Polynesia, I'm trying to be smart, although avoiding free WiFi hot spots may be unavoidable unless you have lots of money to burn.  Read on.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lessons Learned: Traveling in New York City

I shared my post New Year’s tips with you about lessons I've learned while traveling abroad. New York City is a very particular place, with its own set of rules and suggestions. As a resident, I’d like to share some of my observations with you so you can enjoy a carefree and wonderful NYC experience. While some of these may seem obvious, they truly bear repeating.

* Don’t accept rides in taxis that aren't yellow Taxi and Limousine Commission vehicles. Anyone approaching you with a sign and offering a deal for $20 could head you right for trouble, rather than your destination. If you can’t find a taxi, look for the nearest subway or a bus stop. New York City has wonderful public transportation options. If you do choose a taxi, be kind and tip. Taxis are like restaurants – we suggest offering 15-20% of your fare for a properly completed trip. is a great resource. If you’re really stuck, a good car service to call is Carmel, 1-212-666-6666.

* Always keep at least $20 and a Metrocard with you. This will tide you over should you find yourself in a place where the taxi meter isn't working or you can only pay in cash (not credit card) or you can’t get to an ATM.

* Be careful when using your smartphone. Phones are ubiquitous, but so are pickpockets. Keep it on hand, in your front pocket if you’re a male and in your purse if you’re a female. Too much valuable information is on your phone. If you have an iPhone, be sure to enable the Find My iPhone feature. Use Foursquare so you have a record of where you've been if you happen to misplace it. Importantly, try to use WiFi wherever possible to access your mail. Some of the subway stops have added it, and many buildings have it. This will help keep your expenses down and your roaming charges from going crazy, particularly when the cellular signal can be blocked by so many tall buildings.

* Ask a local.  New York City has a reputation for being unfriendly. We’re actually VERY friendly, we’re just busy. Since we all love our city, most people are more than happy to help you find something, even if you are a local who can’t figure out the non-grid streets of the West Village. Seek out concierge advice, but only after you've done your homework, especially regarding restaurants and sites. There tends to be an element of bias from concierge recommendations.

* Travel light. Wear comfortable shoes and carry a small tote. Make it easy for yourself to “run” around the city, chase after taxis, or just walk and walk and walk. That’s what New York City is really about anyhow. It’s the best way to soak up the energy in the city.

A good website for finding out what's happening in real time is