Ahh-mazing Aswan

Here we are in beautiful Aswan. I cannot tell you the feeling I get whenever I’m in a town surrounded by people that look like me; from little children to the elderly. They are all my family. It’s been 11 wonderful days with 2 more to go.

Today began with part of the group jet-setting to Abu Simbel to see the unbelievable statues of Ramses II and his chief Queen, Nefertari, of Nubian origin. Its a 30 minute flight from Aswan with an unforgettable tour. They were back in time for the Felucca boat ride around Elephantine Island. It was perfect; the sun was going down with a slight breeze as we sailed the calm Nile river. Our guide, Romani, made it fun by giving a pop quiz on facts they’ve learned on the tour.

I must say that I’m quite impressed with the Covid-19 safety protocols Egypt’s tourism has in place. Just as I discovered a couple months ago in Jamaica; these folks aren’t playing snd take it very seriously. The “demic” put on the brakes for most of us, putting gatherings and celebrations on indefinite hold. I’m glad the 18 in this group, got double and some triple vaccinated and forged ahead to enjoy this incredible travel experience. To top off this day, a few of us celebrated my road dawg of 25 yrs, my fellow foodie, Robbie Bell’s belated birthday for dinner in the Panorama Restaurant where the 360 degree view is killer.

The time has come to soon say goodbye to all our family old and newly made friends As we leave, we’ll take with us precious memories of Egypt that we’ll forever hold near and dear.

Nights Over Egypt

The group has toured in Edfu, tomorrow will be Kom Ombo and then in Aswan on to the Nubian Museum. While they have enjoyed the touring, I have thoroughly enjoyed full body massages as well as the anti stress massage. Tonight was Egyptian Night in the restaurant with lots of Egyptian specialties of which they are so proud of but did someone say, ”Duck”? OMG, it was heavenly.

After dinner, the group made their way to the lounge for music, dancing, cocktails and games. I didnt stay long but long enough to see Harold cut up when the DJ played The Wobble.

Tonight was a very enjoyable evening.

RISE AND SHINE IN LUXOR

Up, up and away over the great Valley of the Kings and Queens where generations of Pharaohs, kings and queens are buried. The eager adventure seekers in the group had a 4:10am departure from the hotel for their hot air balloon ride. As the sun rose I gazed at the Nile river as I showered and then was pleasantly surprised to see the balloons returning to land. The group had a fabulous time and they havent stopped talking about the experience.

After breakfast we had time to chill until our bus arrived to take us to the Royal Lily for our 4 night Nile cruise. Was I surprised as I boarded. There was Farouk, who presented me with a bouquet of flowers, a hug and a “Welcome Home”. This was my 4th time having him as a Captain. It was great to see Arafat, Thommy and Muhamad Ali in the dining room again and they have all made the entire group feel very special. They really aim to please. Farouk made certain I had a router in my suite so I would not have any connectivity issues. Oh, I’m loving the love.

We are docked until tomorrow afternoon when we begin sailing up the Nile towards Aswan, home of the Nubians.

Traveling Towards Upper Egypt

We had an early morning flight from Cairo to Luxor. “Airport Mohamed” escorted us from our hotel to the airport to prepare for our 1 hour flight. He always handles things so seamlessly getting our group through security protocols and check in. We met up with our Egyptologist, Mr Romani later in the airport. He will be with us for the next 10 days .

It was good to be back in Luxor and the hotel has shown me lots of love. Robbie had to stop by and check out the suite. It is very sweet. While I rested, the group enjoyed the afternoon on the East Bank; walking among the pillars of the temple dedicated to the god Am un Ra and along the Avenue of the Sphinxes at Karnak and Luxor temples. Being in Luxor seeing and interacting with my brothers and sisters that look like me make me feel quite at home as we get closer to the Nubians, my cousins of Upper Egypt

Life Goes On…

There are 19 of us in this group, over half repeaters from past international jaunts. We flew Egyptair nonstop to Cairo while Jana, Marcus & Barbara flew in from Morocco.

Each country has its own set of COVID restrictions and requirements They change like the weather sometimes month to month. Its imperative that individuals check for their destination country Egypt was no joke about the negative PCR test result with the QR code. They checked it upon check in, checked again before boarding and yet again after landing. Tests received at a pharmacy that gave no QR code are not accepted by Egypt. I know some in my group may have been sick of my reminders but there is no room for errors.

My road dawg Robbie Bell from Miami signed on a couple of weeks ago. What a surprise! She always brings joy and laughter wherever she goes. We hadn’t kicked it since my birthday party in Mykonos and on the Amalfi Coast a couple years ago. She starts off with want to meet me in the Centurion Lounge? I replied, ”I’d love to but I’m already in Wingtips Lounge with Margaret & Wilemma.

It was a smooth flight and upon landing we were met by Mohammed. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. This cat defies country customs and gives me a peck left cheek, right check. He gave each of us our visa and sent us to Immigration. When I say he runs things at that airport, he’s the man.

Our longtime guide of 10 years, Mo passed away in July. May he rest in peace. So we have a replacement, Mr Romani, also an Egyptologist, he is knowledgeable and friendly. In the words of Tina Turner, ”I think its gonna work out fine.

We had our armed security on our bus plus a police escort, I love the way they take care of us Still 5 Star; we checked into the Intercontinental Semiramis where everybody gets a Nile River view. That’s the only way to go. Matter of fact they will have a river view in Luxor and Aswan and as they sail 4 days they will have nothing but oceanview.

Day 2 first stop ”The Pyramids”, definitely a sight to behold. Some rode a camel and took photos and others just enjoyed being outdoors. A definite highlight was lunch in the newly opened ”9 Pyramids Lounge” with a panoramic view of the pyramids. After view The Sphinx, the group continued on to Saquarra and Memphis while I took an Uber back to the hotel

INFECTED!!!

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” – Michael Palin

What can I say? Except that those words are my sentiments exactly.

My plan was to stop escorting tours after Kenya 2022 but the truth of the matter is I can’t seem to stop. I’m thankful that in 2022 7 International escorted tours are all SOLD OUT with waitlists except Dubai (2 rooms remaining).

Now even though I have visited at least 64 countries including all 7 continents, plus been on 89 cruises; there are still a few places the wanderlust within me has a need to return to. That being said, if anyone has an interest in joining me on any of the following, feel free to inbox me at rivoli98@yahoo.com

Feb 2023 Ghana

March 2023 Colombia

May 2023 Tuscany by Motorcoach

We’re Going Going Going to…

Egypt, the land of the Pharoahs next month then in December to The Maldives. Both destinations have been long awaited for so many. For some, Egypt and a cruise on the Nile River has been a dream for over half a century. For my 5th plus tour not including my solo trips; I’m honored to be their escort. We have the best 5 star hotels in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan (home of the Nubians) as well as a private Egyptologist and an awesome grounds and security team upon our arrival. What’s needed? Negative PCR, Completed Travel Health Declaration. Fully vaccinated is smart and highly recommended. There are 18 in our group from both coasts and the Midwest, and almost half are brothers for a change. If you think you want to join us; we can still add you. Dates: Oct 12-26. Cost: $3100pp Dbl occ. (add $1050 for single occ). Airfare from JFK less than $900. There is an optional day trip from Aswan to Abu Simbel. Depart after breakfast and you’re back late afternoon. Now that’s some real jet setter kind of business.

The Maldives, we can still add you. Set in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a short 4 hrs from Singapore. Truly a place for total relaxation It is not your typical running here and there to see this, that and a 3rd. Simply RELAX. Your Over the water bungalow will allow you to be lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of the Indian Ocean beneath you. There’s a wonderful spa, all types of water activities including water aerobics classes, night fishing, breakfast and dinner is included, transportation from the mainland to your private resort by speed boat is also included. Dates: Dec 6-12, 2021. Land Cost: $3300pp dbl occ. Airfare from SFO approx $1200. I can get you a great savings on Business Class on Emirates. If interested in either destination; inbox me

Upcoming 2022: Australia, Black Paris, North Sea Jazz and Iceland, Kenya Safari and South Africa. We are hopeful the pandemic will be behind us. These will be my last Escorted Tours. After which I will continue to arrange unescorted trips for groups and individuals.




Kattrax Shenanigans Back in the Day

Greetings Travelers,

There are times we can be still and reflect on travel adventures that bring pleasant memories and laughter. This blog will deal with sharing just that. Some go back so far the exact year is your guess is as good as mine. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent because we were all guilty.

I will start with a 14 day cruise on Azamara November 2013 sailing from Singapore to Vietnam and Bangkok. Road dawg Robbie Bell and I decided to spend the day in Da Nang, see China Beach and venture to Hoi An, known for its gastronomy. We had a delightful time, and a wonderful lunch until we headed back to the ship which was docked there for 3 days. The taxi dropped us off in the freakin shipyard, drove off and the police wouldn’t let us through. They actually tried to shake us down, demanding a crazy amount of money. We were not giving in. Finally, they agreed to take what we were willing to give and a tip. The joke was on them as we scurried away. The tip was: We are not to be “effed” with. Looking back in hindsight, I don’t think I’d try that again.

1995 Paris, France – A group of us had left Haynes Soul Food Restaurant walking in the 9th arrondissement, in the seedy part of town, passing bars with hookers in the doorway. Then a single brother from the Bay named Larry said, “ Hey, I want to go back to where it had pussy on the door”. Robbie snd I looked at each other and fell out and said, “knee grow, that’s Poussez, which means “push” in French.

2017 Cartagena, Colombia – There were only 4 of us. Man what a trip. We were dying to get on a Colombia party bus called a Chiva. It was Diva McPherson, Brandy Washington and Angelique Hadden and myself. We took seats towards the rear, each row had rum, coke, cups, buckets of ice and this loud azz live music and people partying. Lord, after a half an hour of this craziness the bus stopped at this deserted park, pitch black except for the colored lights on the Chiva, people were getting off to party in the park. Oh hell no. We decided to make our move. It took a bit for us to climb and jump down to the street but that’s all she wrote. The guide was running after us saying, “Ladies, Ladies, Ladies come back it’s too dangerous over here”. We didn’t stop walking almost running and I said, We’re from Oakland, we know dangerous but we are out of here”.

Same trip, last morning – Overslept, Diva and I woke up at 636a for an 8am flight. I swear we were at the airport like it was business as usual and checked in at 710a. To this day we refer to each other as 636.

2018 Marseille, France – BJ lost her passport. Man were we on a beat the clock mission to get everything done before the US Embassy closed at 2p. First stop was the police station, we Ubered there, waited til we were called, made the report, then to a photo location another Uber to take her photos, then finally to the Embassy with very little time to spare. Goodness gracious! Thank God for favor.

Stay tuned…Tomorrow more shenanigans!



KATTRAX UPDATE

Greetings Travelers,

Do I have news for you? You betcha! Let’s take it from the top. Negril was AWESOME. So much so that it is already a confirmed Treehouse Take Over next July 21-28, 2022. With the sell of the remaining Gardenview Twin, it will be a wrap. In other words we’ve got approximately 116 travelers on board and confirmed. Can you believe this was accomplished in a little over 2 weeks time? Some haven’t been since 1999 and some will be new to the Negril on the beach experience KATTRAX STYLE.

October 13, 2021 20 of us will be in Egypt 13 days, The Land of the Pharoahs and sailing up the Nile River to Upper Egypt for 4 days. All travelers must enter with a Negative PCR and a caution to be fully vaccinated. That my friends, applies to all of our upcoming tours.

December 6-12, 2021 will find at least 18 of us chillaxin in The Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean a 4 hr flight from Singapore. You don’t have to be rich or famous these days just be yourself and ready to enjoy what life has to offer. Several will be flying Emirates Business Class. They have learned to treat themselves not cheat themselves.

February 14-22, we are headed back to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We will all be on Emirates and I understand several have purchased their tickets in the fabulous Business Class. We shall see the new marvels that await us and all that the delayed EXPO 2020 has to offer; opening in October and ending the month after we show up. When you get your PCR ensure it will have a QR code that can be scanned. UAE is not playing.

March 16-28, Australia what’s going on? We are hopeful your borders will be open for us. Our contacts there are also keeping a thumbs up and are telling us not to worry.

April 21-28 Black Paris still has a waitlist. We’ve got 26 still confirmed and ready to go.

July 7-14 North Sea Jazz Festival will be kicking off and we have 25 still holding firm for this highly acclaimed jazz festival that the pandemic brought to a screeching halt for 2020 and 2021. After our time in Rotterdam we will head to Iceland. July is their warmest month and we look forward to frolicking in the BLUE LAGOON where the temp in the geo-thermal waters stay 104 degrees year round and then we will have lunch in the Lava restaurant overlooking the BLUE LAGOON. We only have 2 rooms available just in case you are interested.

The next week July 21-28 will find us taking over the Negril Treehouse, a dream come true for me to sellout an entire hotel with just us. A week of fun-filled events for the grown and sexy and plenty to do for the little people.

Sept 18-27 South Africa – We have 47 with a waitlist to enjoy Joburg, a Game Lodge and safaris followed by Cape Town. We are over a year out and believing all will be fine. Don’t be dismayed at the 2 days of rioting you just read about. It was no different from what we’ve seen here in Portland, Minneapolis and other US cities. The difference was when the Zulu Kings stepped up and said “End this foolishness” it stopped.

Sept 28-Oct 6 We fly to NAIROBI, KENYA Then travel to Sand River Masai Mara followed by relaxation at Diani Beach. We just may get lucky and see the Great Wildebeest Migration.

Whats shakin in 2023? Only time will tell. I’ve got a couple favorites I’d like to revisit : Ghana, Morocco, Italy. If not, it’s a Kattrax wrap. We shall see…

EXTRA, EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT!

My dear travelers, I have decided to make a strategic change and pivot towards a new direction after 38 years of escorting tours. Everything must change, nothing stays the same. But what will stay the same will be Kattrax serving up the BEST of the BEST in hotel accommodations and tours WORLDWIDE without escorting groups but customizing tours for the discriminating travelers. After all I’ve got the “competitive advantage” unlike travel agents in the industry for what travel can do for them and not what they can do for you, those that sit in an office or at home booking people but have never set foot in foreign soil or perhaps they’ve gotten a glimpse of a destination due to a “familiarization trip” looking at hotels from sun up to sundown and dining with a bunch of folks they don’t even know. I’ve been to over 64 countries and islands, all 7 continents and 89 cruises. I know what’s out there.
I’ve been in the trenches, on the front line and have forged lasting relationships with hotel owners, guides, transportation companies and restaurant owners. If you need that specialized, customized tour for yourself or family and friends; do not hesitate to email me for details starting NOW at rivoli98@yahoo.com. Below you will see various special memories from past tours. I wish I had room for all the fabulous photos. On another note: A dream is about to come true – to sell out somebody’s hotel somewhere with just us. Well for July 21-28, 2022 with only 12 rooms left at the NEGRIL TREEHOUSE RESORT it will be a wrap. We’ve got a waitlist for the 1 bdrm Oceanview suites but I highly doubt if anyone will be giving up theirs. A week of activities on the beach at a very well run black owned resort is really the “Kat’s Meow”.