Book These Cruise Deals and Discounts Now

Guest blogger and award winning writer Kathy Witt shares tips for getting the best cruise deals now.

There are so many reasons to choose a cruise for a vacation. Cruises are an outstanding
value—including accommodations, meals, activities and transportation to multiple destinations.
They are easy to plan, family friendly and hassle-free—and they come in sizes from small to
extra-large, ensuring there is one ideally suited to everyone.
Cruises offer tremendous culinary variety, convenient ways to stay in shape at sea and never-
ending gorgeous views. And right now, a number of cruise lines are making cruising even more
attractive—and affordable—with limited-time deals and discounts.

Princess Cruises – Prime savings for future sailing

Plan now to get the best deal on your Love Boat dream cruise in 2024 or 2025. The Score for 24
Sale applies to a range of itineraries and destinations in the Caribbean and in Europe.
Additionally, Princess Plus and Princess Premier inclusive packages have added more dining
options at GiGi’s, the Salty Dog Pub and other casual dining restaurants at no cost and have
waived the room service charge and the OceanNow on-demand, location-based delivery service.
Deal/discount: Score for 24 Sale
Applies to a wide range of itineraries and destinations and subject to availability.
Offer: Lowest deals for 2024, with fares as low as $399 per person for a 7-day Western
Caribbean voyage.
Book by: September 5, 2023.
Info:, 800-774-6237.

Seabourn – Sail away with savings

Book an ultra-luxury, all-inclusive Seabourn voyage or expedition to your choice of
destinations— Asia, Alaska, Antarctica, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean—and save on select
2023 and 2024 itineraries. Enjoy curated voyages with an unmatched sense of style, elegance and
grace, personalized service that includes a host and attendant with every suite, complimentary
Wi-Fi and fully stocked in-suite bar, world-class dining and a host of other luxuries.
Deal/discount: A Sail to Remember
Applies to select 2023 and 2024 Seabourn ultra-luxury ocean voyages or expeditions, including a
14-Day Atlantic Coast Harbors voyage aboard Seabourn Quest departing Montreal (Oct. 24-
Nov. 7, 2023).
Offer: Savings up to 10 percent—up to $2,600—with a non-refundable deposit.
Book by: September 6, 2023.
Info:, 800-442-4448.

Celebrity – Up to 75 percent off second guest deal includes newest ship

The new Celebrity Ascent brings it, with more space, more luxury, more everything—including
32 distinct restaurants, bars and lounges. Making its debut this fall, Celebrity Ascent is the fourth
Edge Series ship, meaning its features include a cantilevered Magic Carpet soaring above the
ocean, asymmetrical pool area and martini-shaped hot tubs. It is included in Celebrity’s current
BOGO offer, allowing cruisers to experience the brand-new ship—as well as other Celebrity
cruise ships—at extraordinary savings.
Deal/discount: Buy One Get One 75% cruise fare.
Applies to sailings from August 3, 2023, to April 30, 2025. All cruises, except for Alaska
Cruisetours and Galapagos sailings, are included in the deal as well as voyages on new
ship, Celebrity Ascent, launching this fall.
Offer: Receive 75 percent off the second guest with a non-refundable deposit or 50 percent off
the second guest with a refundable deposit. NOTE: If travelers book a stateroom on a weekend in August, depending on the category and timing, they can also get $100 or $200 of onboard credit or savings.
Book by: September 7, 2023
Info:, 888-751-7804.

Crystal – Proving themselves ‘exceptional’

Relaunched under the new guardianship of A&K Travel Group, Crystal Serenity has undergone a
multimillion-dollar refurbishment, bringing updated and larger suites with artisanal finishes and refreshed specialty dining venues to the 740-passenger ship. In the final stages of her own
extensive refurbishment, Crystal Symphony makes her inaugural cruise from Athens, Greece, on September 1. The company is helping those former Crystal guests and travel agents affected by the shut-down recover lost funds through its Exceptional Initiative.
Deal/discount: Exceptional Initiative
Applies to Any former Crystal guest who holds a verified claim in the Crystal Cruises LLC case
for canceled sailings on Crystal Serenity or Crystal Symphony.
Offer: You can apply for credits to use towards future Crystal voyages on board either Crystal
Serenity or Crystal Symphony. (Specifics here:
Book by: October 1, 2023
Info:, 888-617-0110.

Windstar – Bonus onboard credit or Captain’s Exclusive Beverage Package

Board one of Windstar’s three sailing ships or three all-suite ships and embark on a voyage of
discovery with less than 350 likeminded adventurers. These elegant yachts can nose into places
bigger ships can’t to bring guests authentic experiences, uncrowded spaces and lesser-known
places in the world. Sail to the Caribbean, the Middle East, Tahiti, Costa Rica and Panama, and
other tropical destinations, and in luxury—onboard and ashore.
Deal/discount: Seas the Sun
Applies to selected departures between November, 2023, and May, 2024; new bookings only.

Offer: Get up to $1,000 to spend on board or an unlimited beverage package (unlimited beer,
wine and cocktails by the glass valued at $65 per guest, per day).
Book by: November 15, 2023.
Info:, 866-851-4042.

Holland America – Christmas with the penguins in Antarctica

Hanukkah at the Americas’ oldest synagogue or spend New Year’s Eve in Vietnam. Explore
your destination by day, enjoy the ship’s holiday décor—gingerbread villages, light displays—by
night, along with traditional holiday dishes like turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving, latkes and sufganiyot (traditional doughnuts) for Hanukkah and a festive, around-the-world menu for
Christmas with dishes from Scandinavia, Asia and beyond. Other holiday fun: tree lighting
ceremony, game of dreidel, holiday movies, caroling, kids’ activities and surprises, appearance
by Santa, and Christmas Eve Party and New Year’s Eve Ball, depending on sailing.
Deal/discount: Home Away from Home for the Holidays
Applies to sailings to the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico, departing from Fort Lauderdale, FL or
San Diego, CA. Additional voyages are offered in Asia, South America, Australia and New
Zealand, featuring a special Thanksgiving sailing in the Caribbean departing Nov. 18, 2023,
among other notable holiday itineraries.
Offer: Special fares and premier onboard events. Book with “Have it All” for included shore
excursions, beverage packages and beverage service charges, specialty dining and Wi-Fi (a value
of $99 per person per day included in the fare).
Book by: No deadline, but book early to get your choice of sailing and date.
Info:, 855-932-1711.

Let the Count Begin: Six Months to Mardi Gras!

We may be in the midst of prime summertime, and there’s still fall and the whole holiday season ahead, but we’re getting ready and counting the days to one of the most exciting cultural events in the country. Yes, you guessed it.  Mardi Gras, the iconic Carnival celebration, is just six months away and thus it’s not too early to mark your calendars and make your plans for this incredible, weeks-long event filled with music, parades, costumes and the true spirit of the South.

In 2023, Mardi Gras lands on February 13.
We wanted to get the word out before your inboxes are completely full of haunts, harvests and holidays … because we feel compelled to remind you that all the fun of Mardi Gras extends well beyond New Orleans. We represent six destinations along the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Louisiana, all of which have a story-worthy (and family-friendly!) Mardi Gras celebration just waiting to be shared with you. (Please note that these websites will be updated with details in the coming months, so keep referring back to them as you work on stories.) 

  • Mobile, Alabama (the true home of America’s first Mardi Gras!) 
  • Mortuary Museum, Miniatures, Mothman, and Exquisite Cuisine on American Countess Adventure

    A special post from guest blogger and cruise specialist Kathy Witt takes us aboard for a most unique cruise experience.

    An embalmer’s technical reference handbook—and the machine that accompanies it. The exquisitely sculpted ballerina from “Black Swan” standing en pointe. And a mythical harbinger of doom that evolved into the centerpiece of an annual festival attended by 20,000 people from around the world.

    One of the biggest draws of a river excursion with American Queen Voyages (besides the luxury-level experience, genuinely friendly crew and outstanding cuisine) are all the unexpected surprises on the itinerary. As the vessel calls at one charming river town after another, a mix of highlights—museums, bustling markets, scenic parks, historic homes, Main Street shopping—offer variety and allure. The specific attractions of a given destination are detailed during a daily port review, and all are included as part of the line’s guided hop-on hop-off tours.

    Especially intriguing are discoveries aboard the American Countess’ Ohio River voyage between Louisville, KY, and Pittsburg, PA, that include a taboo topic, a creature from the paranormal realm and one of the world’s finest collections of miniatures.


    No matter your age, your inner child will be hooked upon seeing the world-class fine art collection, numbering more than 15,000 pieces and in 1/12-scale, in Maysville, KY, a picture-postcard river town whose downtown is lined with yesteryear architecture punctuated by church steeples. The Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center is an extraordinary sight to behold.

    Wander through the Palladian-style gallery filled with miniature houses, room boxes and vignettes—each showcasing exquisite and historically accurate re-creations right down to the tiny accessories, like a pair of vintage roller skates and a key to tighten them; building materials such as bricks on the Russell Theater’s exterior; and authentic carpets made on real looms.

    In the “Lincoln Herndon Law Office,” the artisan room box replicates the office Abraham Lincoln shared with his partner, right down to the miniscule handwritten documents scattered across the desktop. The necklaces, bracelets and baubles in the “Savage & Sons Jewelers” room box are made with authentic gold, gems and crystals. Tiny copper pots and pans hang from the wall in the kitchen of “Le Plaisir De Venice” and itty-bitty puppets dance at the end of strings held by the toymaker in “McTavish Toys & Fairy Garden.”

    The collection’s pièce de résistance is the re-creation of Spencer House, the magnificent eighteenth-century aristocratic palace and ancestral home of Princess Diana. Three floors showcase the fine furnishings and decorative arts objects that are true to the mid-1700s era and the exterior replicates the home’s neo-classical architecture.


    “What stands six feet tall, has wings, two big red eyes six inches apart and glides along behind an auto at 100 miles an hour?” asked reporter Mary Hyre in a November 1966 newspaper article. Hyre was covering the spectral sighting of a creature that became known as the Mothman, first seen hovering over an abandoned government WWII ammunition manufacturing facility—dubbed the TNT area—north of Point Pleasant, WVA, and later dubbed a harbinger of doom.

    Coverage of Mothman sightings held the nation in its grip for more than a year. Every time the winged creature was spotted, tragedy seemed to follow in its wake, including the Silver Bridge collapse 10 days before Christmas in 1967, which resulted in the deaths of 46 people. The sightings spawned dozens of newspaper articles; a New York Times bestselling book, The Mothman Prophecies, written by journalist and UFOlogist John A. Keel; the 2002 movie of the same name, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney; and a 2017 documentary, “The Mothman of Point Pleasant.

    The legend of the Mothman is recounted at the world’s only Mothman Museum. Memorabilia includes a recreation of Harris Steakhouse—considered a time capsule of 1960s Point Pleasant—which would eventually become known as the Mothman Diner. The museum’s small theater runs the documentary on a loop.

    Outside, a 12-foot-tall, polished steel sculpture of Mothman standing atop a landscaped pedestal shows off his claws and glowing red eyes. And every third week in September, 20,000-plus visitors from around the world converge on Point Pleasant for the Mothman Festival (


    A little gallows humor framed and hanging on the wall of the garage greets those arriving at the Peoples Mortuary Museum. Tucked in a residential neighborhood in Marietta, Ohio, it was one of the most unexpected stops on American Countess’ itinerary—and a real eye-opener for those who braved a visit.

    The museum began as a place for William Peoples, current owner of and a funeral director at Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home, to store his antique car collection. Peoples had a particular interest in hearses and several of them are parked in the museum among the caskets, funeral equipment and clothing, mourning jewelry and other artifacts.

    The collection dates back to the late 1800s, when funerals were typically held in private homes and the collection’s ice box coffin would have been the casket of choice. (Embalming wasn’t yet the customary practice.) An infant’s coffin illustrates the design—narrow at the feet and wider at the shoulders—that got it dubbed the “toe pincher.” It is fitted with a small removable cover for viewing and fancy hardware, including ornamental screws and handles, to allow a more personal touch to the coffin.

    Also in the collection are a Sayers & Scovill Horse-Drawn Hearse from 1895, a 1934 Studebaker Presidential Hearse and a 1927 Henney Hearse called “Miss Henney” that has appeared in several Hollywood movies, including Woody Allen’s “Radio Days,” Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Get Low,” a 2009 movie with Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray.


    American Queen Voyages’ 245-passenger American Countess is a paddlewheel boat with contemporary design. Photo: Karan Kiser

    Book an American Queen Voyage (AQV) to find the unexpected in America’s river towns. Besides including unlimited guided tours/shore excursions, AQV cruise fares include unlimited beverages, including wine, spirits, local craft beers and specialty coffees; open bars and lounges, including a morning juice bar; locally sourced and regionally inspired cuisine; and live, daily onboard entertainment—which is among the very best on any body of water anywhere—plus enrichment programming

    AQV also now includes pre-paid gratuities and port taxes and fees in its fares. Additionally, a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay with free transfers between hotel and vessel is part of the cruise package.

    Voyages are on authentic paddlewheel riverboats, boutique exploration vessels and expedition ships on America’s inland waterways and Great Lakes and shores from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to the Yucatán Peninsula and Alaska. 


    Award-winning writer Kathy Witt is a monthly cruise, travel columnist and the author of several books, including Cincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Guide to Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures and Secret Cincinnati: Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure.

    Take the Great Summer Drumstick Road Trip

    Love the idea of an ice cream road trip? Then why not join Drumstick in celebrating its 95th anniversary and get the chance to win a new road trip vehicle. How easy is it to win? Grab your car keys and head out on the open road, traveling to all 11 stops on The Great Drumstick Summer Road Trip. Those completing the quest get the chance to win and customize a Drumstick vehicle of their dreams.

    Didn’t know you had a Drumstick vehicle of your dreams? You will after considering such options as a cobalt blue exterior or interior lighting, a motorcycle with a sidecar that doubles as a freezer, or a glove compartment that keeps Lil Drums cold and within reach?

    Drumstick will hook you up with the ability to build your vehicle to accommodate your next adventures with Drumstick handy. 



    According to Ohio State University, the ice cream drumstick (not to be confused with the chicken drumstick) was invented by brothers I.C. and J.T. (Stubby) Parker of the Drumstick Company of Fort Worth, Texas, in 1928.  The Parkers wanted to provide prepackaged ice cream cones but found that the cones became too soggy before they could be shipped to sellers.  To solve their problem, they reached out to Ohio State food scientists who quickly came up with the idea of coating the cone in chocolate – and the drumstick (so named because someone thought it looked like a fried chicken leg) was born. Subsequent innovations included adding chocolate to the inside rather than the outside of the cone. 

    Although Ohio State was not paid for the original work on the drumstick, Tom Parker, Stubby’s son and I.C.’s nephew became a longtime supporter of the university.  The Parker Food Science and Technology Building is named in the family’s honor.

    Flash forward to modern times. The Drumstick now comes in a variety of flavors and sizes—caramel, vanilla, chocolate, vanilla fudge, banana split…well, you get the idea. As for sizes, think classic, king size, mini drums and lil’ drums. And for those who don’t like or can’t have nuts, peanut-less Drumsticks.


    • Join one of Drumstick’s biggest fans, Dr. Umstick, as he reveals his personal ultimate summer road trip, the Drumstick Road Trip.
    • Each stop is inspired by the iconic Drumstick sundae cone we all know and love, whether you’re smiling at the Smiling Peanut in Georgia, checking out the World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain in Las Vegas, or visiting Drumstick HQ in Oakland. 
    • How to enter? At each stop on your Road Trip, snap a photo or video with a Drumstick or Drumstick box and post it to Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #DrumstickRoadTrip and tagging @Drumstick. 
    • Visit for official posting instructions to receive entry credits.
    • Can’t hit all stops? No problem. Even if you can only make it to a few stops, be sure to tag Drumstick and you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a YEAR’S SUPPLY of sundae cones or iconic Drumstick merch. Each post is an additional entry. 
    • The Drumstick Road Trip started June 21st and runs through the last day of summer, September 22nd.

    In other words, it’s time to hit the road!

    The Amazon Canoe Challenge: The Toughest South America Aventure

    Up for a unique challenge? There’s a new Amazonian tourism offering in Peru that takes adventure lovers to remote parts of the Amazon by traditional canoe and it’s called the toughest South American adventure challenge.

    Take the Challenge and Help the Amazon

    Race across 250 km or just over 155 miles through the Amazon Rainforest by paddling the traditional canoes known as pitotsi. Made of wood, they’re heavy, hard to handle, and slow but have the advantage of being the best way to explore this remote region. At night set camp alongside Asháninka communities on the river’s edge, and learn about the hidden treasures of this region under threat.

    The goal of the Amazon Canoe Challenge or ACC team is to not only encourage increased regulation to help protect the Amazon environmentally but also encourage sustainable community tourism projects that benefits the local population.

     Amazon Canoe Challenge takes travelers on pre-planned and custom trips through the little explored and rugged parts of the Peruvian Amazon.

    “We are extremely proud to be working with the Asháninka communities to make the Amazon Canoe Challenge a reality,” explained ACC Director Carlos Heine. “Their stories and courage have been an inspiration to us to keep pushing to make the race happen.” 

    Trip Options Include:

    • Ene-Tambo Expedition: Explore the River Ene and Tambo by traditional Pitotsi canoes over 6 days. This expedition takes guests through an area of Peru rarely visited, where they will find some of the most authentic experiences in Peru. They take travelers into the heart of Ashaninka territory in Junin, where they stay with Ashaninka communities and learn about their culture and traditions. Share stories over a bowl of Masato and stay in the heart of the Amazon Highlands. Over the next 5 days, travelers will explore the Ene river as they travel downstream toward the jungle town of Atalaya. Every day is different and each evening they will stay with a different community along the river. The area is remote so they will be setting up camp at each stop. Expect between 4 – 6 hours of paddling each day with a stop for lunch. Included is food and non alcoholic beverage, canoe, basic accommodations, local permits, camping equipment, safety equipment, experienced guide.
    • Amazon Canoe Challenge Race, a race over 250 km through the Amazon Rainforest by traditional canoe. The Amazon Canoe Challenge is a competition-style expedition that takes you through areas of the Amazon usually inaccessible to visitors, filled with a staggering diversity of wildlife. Competitors will learn about the culture of the Asháninka as they set camp each night with native communities along the riverside. 

    Due to the remoteness of the areas they visit, facilities are limited on this trip. This is real adventure – you won’t find electricity, mobile reception or internet access on this expedition.

    Safety is a primary focus and participants are provided detailed stage maps, satellite trackers, safety equipment, and support vessels throughout the entire challenge.

    The Amazon Canoe Challenge works directly with the local communities in the Peruvian Amazon. They locally source supplies, equipment and services as much as possible, ensuring that the benefits go directly to the areas they visit.

    The Mission

    ACC’s mission is to work directly with local community organizations to help create positive impact in the areas we operate. They locally source supplies, equipment and services as much as possible, ensuring that the benefits go directly to the areas they visit.

    With each expedition, ACC make a donation to both the community organizations who support us, as well as the local communities that host their teams throughout the race.

    Skip the vacation house rental, get out on the water!

    Top misconceptions about renting a yacht.

    Dream Yacht Worldwide
     (DYW), one of the world’s leading ocean tourism companies, is making sailing and sea travel accessible to all around the globe. With personal sailing trips continuing to gain popularity in 2023, the company offers the most destinations and one of the largest and most diverse sailing, yacht, and boating fleets in the world – an opportunity for groups of family and friends to get out of a traditional house rental and out on the water.

    Here are the top misconceptions or concerns DYW hears often when travelers consider booking sailing charters:

    Myth: Sailing is difficult and for experienced sailors only.

    This is a common misconception but is far from being accurate. If you can enter a boat, you can sail. Sea trips are for everyone, no experience is necessary when you book a skippered charter, which allows travelers to enjoy the quality time together and not have to worry about sailing skills. 

    Those traveling with experienced sailors can take advantage of Dream Yacht’s bareboat options. 

    Myth: Tight quarters. 

    Families are typically relieved to know that Dream Yacht Worldwide offers spacious catamarans that fit up to 12-14 people comfortably. Many catamarans have cabins that have their own private bathroom as well. 

    Myth: It is all about the sea. 

    The sea is the medium, you can actually visit many places and discover areas on land that you cannot access without travel by water. Chartering a boat is an excellent way to discover lesser known areas. Dream Yacht operates in 52 destinations worldwide, with a fleet of more than 900 monohulls and catamarans. There is something for every type of traveler in destinations across the globe.

    Myth: Charter trips are boring.

    Charter trips can be as exciting and as full of adventure as travelers prefers. It is a unique experience and it requires a certain adventurer mindset. There are many water sports and team-building activities that groups can participate in, plus plenty of opportunities to relax and unwind on board. It allows travelers to see the world from a different perspective.

    Wondering what type of yachting vacation is for you?

    Check out the options here from Bareboat to Crewed Charter.

    Chill Out This Summer in Bowling Green, Kentucky

    Bowling Green, the third-largest city in Kentucky, is best known known for Corvettes, caves and cakes—after all, it is the birthplace of Duncan Hines, one of the original road warriors who wrote a column and numerous books about where to eat when traveling. All that is well and good, but Bowling Green is a worthy destination for other reasons as well.

    Wait!  We know what you’re thinking: “Summer in Kentucky? Are you crazy?” But as my friend Mallory Furry likes to say, “Don’t let a Southern summer be a bummer.”

    And luckily Bowling Green offers many ways to beat the heat and that doesn’t mean staying indoors all the time with air conditioning set on Arctic High.

    So slather on some sunscreen and grab your brimmed hat as here’s a roundup of favorite ways to keep it cool when the weather starts to heat up:

    Exploring Down Under

    Natural caves maintain a steady temperature, making them a great activity for a warm summer’s day. Mammoth Cave National Park is the world’s longest cave system and is half an hour outside of Bowling Green. Advanced tour reservations are strongly recommended in the summer months and you can enjoy a refreshing 54-degree stroll through the cave system while learning about the science and history of Mammoth Cave.

    A more local option is Lost River Cave, which offers the only natural underground boat cave tours in Kentucky. After cooling off in the 57-degree cave during the tour, you can explore Lost River’s nature trails and butterfly habitat, or try your hand at geocaching.

    Take Me Out to a Ballgame (Minor league-style that is)

    Contrary to the name, a Hot Rods minor league game offers plenty of options for fans to stay cool! Things may heat up on the field, but the baseball-themed splash pad is always a home run for a kiddo cool-down. If you bring a furry friend for Turbo Tailwaggin’ Tuesdays, there will be plenty of refreshing water bowls around the stadium for Fido while you cheer on the Hot Rods.

    Splish Splash

    Beech Bend Splash Lagoon Water Park

    Admission to Beech Bend Amusement Park also grants you access to their water park, Splash Lagoon. Whether you want to zip down a water slide, catch some waves in the wave pool or just float down the lazy river, Splash Lagoon is a great way to keep cool on a summer day.

    Enjoying Ice Cream and a Moovie

    The logical and ultimate cool-down solution on a warm day is ice cream, of course. Head over to Chaney’s Dairy Barn, where you can choose from dozens of creamy and delicious ice cream flavors. Unlike your standard ice cream, in which the butterfat content is 14%, Chaney’s ice cream uses 16% butterfat … making it ultra-creamy, rich, and (in our not-so-humble-opinion) better than the competition. On Friday and Saturdays starting in May, they host Ice Cream and a Moovie nights. Enjoy the cozy Kentucky night with a family-favorite movie on the big screen and a drippy, yet thoroughly enjoyable, ice cream cone in your hand. It’s the ultimate summer memory maker!

    For more ways to beat the heat in Bowling Green this summer,

    The Life of Loi: Mediterranean Secrets

    Early on Maria Loi learned to appreciate the bounty of her Greek homeland. She foraged for the aromatic oregano which, caressed by the sunshine, grew wild and flavorful in the nearby mountains. With her grandfather, she harvested the black honey they found in forests that had stood, almost untouched, from ancient times.

    In Thermo, the small village in southeastern Greece where she grew up, Loi  cooked from her parents and grandparents, not sparing in the use of the golden oil pressed from olives after they had ripened under the hot sun. She raised both vegetables and chickens, and cooked the freshest of fish that came from the waters around her home.  Loi’s passion for the foods of her country which she shared in her 36 cookbooks earned her the title of Ambassador of Greek Gastronomy an honor awarded by the Chef’s Club of Greece.

    Now Loi, now chef/owner of two restaurants– the award-winning Loi Estiatorio in Manhattan and Kouzina Loi in the port town of Nafpaktos in Western Greece, is takes us further into the culinary treasures of Greek cooking in her 13-part national public television series The Life of Loi: Mediterranean Secrets which premiered on December 31. 

    The ever enthusiastic Loi takes us on a series of adventures–island hopping from Athens to Naxos to Evia, exploring the olive groves that produce the olive oil she so values as essential to our health, visiting a mushroom farm on Evia Island, cooking on a boat moored in the beautiful Aegean Sea, and in the kitchen of her Manhattan restaurant.

    Beyond using the best ingredients from her native country, Loi is also about easily accessible recipes. She certainly makes it look like a breeze on her TV series. But beyond authenticity and ease, Loi is all about healthy eating.

    It started, she says, when her grandfather fed her two tablespoons of olive oil—Greek olive oil of course—not that stuff from Italy or Spain–every morning and a teaspoon of black honey every night–the honey she and her grandfather had harvested together.

    “He told us the olive oil would flush out the toxins from our body and the honey would kill the germs from our day,” she says.

    It’s become such a mantra that patrons seeing her at Loi Estiatorio confide  they’re taking their daily dose of olive oil just like she recommends. Her staff has lost weight following her Greek dieta or diet (think Mediterranean but the Greeks really invented it she tells me) and she is healthy as a horse.  

    “Of course you should always talk to your doctor,” she says with a broad smile, most likely because she believes that any doctor would back up her claims. “Even the FDA has adopted now that we have to do two tablespoons of olive oil every day.”

    After a quick search, I find that Loi is correct. According to WebMD, the FDA has approved a new qualified health claim for olive oil based on studies showing that consuming about two tablespoons of olive oil a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.

    This, of course, is not news to Loi who has learned from the land and her ancestors about the wonders of eating.

    Oh, and not only does she cook and consume olive oil, but she also puts some on her hair at night and shampoos in the morning. Her hair looks great and so does she. Obviously I should put olive oil on my grocery list.

    Named one of the top Women Makers by Whole Foods Market and one of the best female owned and operated brands/suppliers with whom Whole Foods Market works, Loi was also selected as one of the Top Women in Food Service & Hospitality and is called the “Julia Child of Greece.”

    With her distinctive blonde bob, oversized dark rimmed glasses, wide smile and engaging, friendly manner, Loi comes across as my new best friend. This after an hour Zoom chat. That’s how easily she connects.

    Or at least that’s the impression I get after spending an hour chatting on Zoom.

    “Oh these are great questions,” she tells me, looking over the list I’d sent her publicist  a few days prior to the virtual interview.

    “Oh thank you, that makes me feel so good,” she says, when I tell her that after watching her cook on the terrace of the historic Hotel Grande Bretagne, a luxury hotel in Athens that overlooks the Acropolis that I am totally ready to buy every one of her 36 cookbooks and learn to make the dishes of her native country.

    “I feel healthy already,” I say, after listening to her extoll the virtues of eggplants, tomatoes, and especially Greek feta.

    But when we talk about feta, she becomes much more serious. Loi doesn’t like the idea of us buying inferior ingredients. You can buy feta crumbles in the grocery store to sprinkle over your salad but don’t say that to Loi who is repulsed by the idea. Greek feta, made from either sheep or goat milk or a mixture of the two is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product as is Champagne (France), spaetzle and sauerkraut (Germany), and such cheeses as Parmesan and Asiago (Italy). PDOs are products that  are produced, processed and prepared in a specific geographical area, using the recognized know-how of local producers and ingredients from the region concerned.

    “People say they’re buying feta and you know what it is,” Loi asked. But she doesn’t stop long enough for me to answer. “It’s cow’s milk. It’s not feta, it’s just white cheese. Feta comes from Greece because the climate affects the soil, and the production is unique.”

    I silently swear to myself that I will never buy anything but Greek feta again. It’s not a hard promise to make. I remember my Aunt Daneise, who was Greek and a great cook, making sure that she always had a block of feta sitting in its liquid so that it didn’t dry out. It glistened when she took it out and cut it into slices which by the way, Loi tells me, is what feta means in Greek—slice. Who knew?

    I ask Loi which of her cookbooks she would recommend to readers who want to cook Greek but she says she really doesn’t want to sound like she’s plugging her products. The same goes with her line of foods that includes (and I only know this because I went online and looked) olive oil, black honey, wild thyme and flower honey as well as Greek pastas, and smoked eggplant. There are jars of such items as her Feta-Yogurt Pougi—a concoction that can be served hot or cold and used as a spread, dip, or sauce and her Garlic Potato Dip (Skordalia in Greek), a vegan product that not only is a dip but can also be used for marinating and sautéing.

    “How can I make suggestions to readers if you won’t give me some ideas?” I ask. I finally get her to talk about “The Greek Diet,” one of her cookbooks. Oh and she did mention that she’s working on another cookbook that will be out soon. Yes, really. I think that will be number 37.

    But what Loi wants to talk about are her charities.

    According to Total Food Service’s digital magazine, Loi has become one of the nation’s leading chefs, philanthropists, brand creators and ambassadors. During the pandemic, she turned her Manhattan restaurant into a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless and also prepared thousands of meals for first responders and patients at many area hospitals. She co-founded the Elpida Foundation to help fight childhood cancer. Her Loukoumi Make A Difference inspires kids to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

    I ask Loi if she’s having as much fun as it looks like she is on her show.

    The answer is yes and it boils down to this.

    “I’m passionate and driven,” she says. “If you’re not, what is there?”

    For more program information, visit:

    To view recipes featured in the series and more, visit Chef Loi’s social media platforms @ChefMariaLoi (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter).

    The following recipes are courtesy of Maria Loi.

    Garides Me Kritharaki / Shrimp with Orzo

    Serves 2

    “This quick and easy take on a Greek classic will have dinner on the table in 20 minutes, from start to finish,” says Maria Loi.  “The timeless flavors of tomato, lemon, oregano, and olive oil paired with the delicate sweetness of the shrimp are married perfectly with the tart, creaminess of the feta garnish.”

    • 8 ounces orzo pasta
    • 1 medium red onion, chopped
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 12 cherry tomatoes
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • 8 pieces of shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • Dry Greek oregano, to taste
    • Feta cheese, for garnish

    Preheat oven to 375ºF.

    Add orzo to a large pot of salted boiling water, and allow to cook for 7 to 9 minutes, until desired texture. Strain, and reserve.

    While orzo is cooking, add the chopped onions, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 7 cherry tomatoes to an oven safe dish, season with salt to taste, and stir to combine.  Add shrimp on top of the mixture, and top with the remaining 5 cherry tomatoes: season with pepper and Greek oregano, and top with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

    Bake for 4-5 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and opaque, and tomatoes have a slight char.

    Serve over a bed of orzo, topped with crumbled feta and dressed with olive oil.

    Greek Honey Cheesecake (Melopita) – from The Greek Diet Cookbook

    “Melopita translates as ‘honey pie,’ but this dish is my healthy version of a ricotta-style cheesecake,” writes Maria Loi in the introduction to this recipe from “The Greek Diet Cookbook.” “Light and fresh with a hint of lemon, this cake has the perfect tang from the yogurt. Drizzle with some honey to keep it classic.”

    Serves 16

    • Olive oil, for the pan
    • 1 pound anthotyro (ricotta cheese)
    • 1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
    • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1⁄2 cup Greek honey, plus more for garnish
    • Grated zest of 1 lemon
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1⁄4 cup sugar
    • Ground cinnamon, for garnish

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil, line it with a round of parchment paper, and lightly oil the paper.

    In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, yogurt, eggs, 1⁄2 cup honey, lemon zest, flour, and sugar. Beat thoroughly, either with an electric mixer or a whisk.

    Pour the batter into the pan and gently rap it against a hard surface to release any air bubbles.

    Bake the melopita for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling sets. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool. Refrigerate the cake for 2 or 3 hours.

    Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan and release the sides. Invert the cake onto a serving plate.

    Carefully remove the bottom of the cake pan and the parchment paper.

    Serve the cake sprinkled with some cinnamon and drizzled with a little honey.

    Based on a similar article that appeared in the Herald Palladium.

    Enjoy a Lakeside Chat with the Grandson of Ernest Hemingway


    Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author (and Walloon Lake’s most noted summer resident) Ernest Hemingway came from a family of creative types and has since left a legacy of writing that extends for generations. Among those is his grandson, John Patrick Hemingway, author of Strange Tribe (The Lyons Press, 2007) – a memoir that details the turbulent, love/hate relationship between his father, Dr. Gregory Hemingway, and his grandfather, the Nobel Laureate Ernest Hemingway.

    As part of a weekend-long Walloon Lake Writer’s Retreat Weekend at Hotel Walloon, the public is invited to a FREE event – A Lakeside Chat with Author John Patrick Hemingway – on Friday, April 14 at the Talcott Event Venue in downtown Walloon Lake. Doors will open at 7pm with a cash bar featuring a Pilar’s Rum Hemingway Daiquiri (see recipe below), along with select wine and beer; the discussion will begin at 7:30pm and a book signing will follow.

    Throughout the weekend, the Canadian/American writer and journalist will lead writers in a series of workshops, readings and other creative exercises meant to inspire personal storytelling. Last year’s inaugural Writer’s Retreat was led by Ernest’s great granddaughter (and John’s niece), Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, author of Ernest’s Way.

    In addition to his memoir, John Hemingway has published a number of short stories in magazines and literary reviews such at The Saturday Evening Post and Provincetown Arts and has also written for many fishing and hunting magazines such as Showboats International and Ducks Unlimited. His first novel, Bacchanalia: A Pamplona Story (2019), takes place in Spain during the Fiesta de San Fermín, a nine-day event that was made famous in the1920s by the publication of his grandfather’s work The Sun Also Rises.

    Ernest Hemingway was just three months old when he made his first trip from his hometown of Oak Park, IL to Walloon Lake where his parents – Clarence and Grace (Hall) – had purchased property along the North Shore. Ernest spent time every summer until 1921 at the family’s beloved Windemere cottage there, the simple cottage still owned by descendants today. The woods and waters in and around Walloon Lake shaped Hemingway’s life in many ways and it was a place he always held dear to his heart. It was here that his 1972 posthumously published book, The Nick Adams Stories, is primarily set.

    To inquire about availability for the “Walloon Lake Writer’s Retreat ” please contact Hotel Walloon at 231-535-5000.



    • 1.75 oz Papa’s Pilar® Blonde Rum
    • 0.75 oz fresh Lime juice
    • 0.5 oz Ruby Grapefruit juice
    • 1 tsp Maraschino liqueur
    • 1 tsp Sugar (Papa went without)
    • 1 peel of Grapefruit (as little white pith as possible)

    Shake all ingredients and pour into a Coupe glass.
    Garnish with a dehydrated Grapefruit slice.

    *If you want to make it how Papa drank it, double the rum and make it a Papa Doble!

    Recipe and photo courtesy of Papa’s Pilar

    A Great Winter Caving Experience: Kentucky’s Carter Caves State Resort Park

    A post from Special Guest Blogger Kathy Witt

    With 25 percent of travelers preferring wintertime vacations, Carter Caves State Resort Park in Olive Hill, Kentucky, has the perfect setting, scenery—and stalactites—for cold-weather wanderers.

    “You can take a hike in the winter and see all the cliff lines and other geologic formations from far distances due to the leafless forest landscape,” said Park Adventure Officer Coy Ainsley. “You have a better chance of getting a last-minute reservation in the lodge and cottages, can experience the park with less visitors and enjoy some warm-up time in front of the fire in the lodge lobby.”

    Winter travel has its advantages. And if it snows?

    “Carter Caves is a beautiful place under a blanket of snow,” said Ainsley. 

    Founded in 1946, Carter Caves State Resort Park is home to an expansive system of natural caves; in fact the Carter County region has the highest concentration of caves in Kentucky. And the park is one of only two in Kentucky’s state park system that has caves visitors can explore.


    Follow the stone staircase into X-Cave and the Great Chandelier—the largest formation of stalactites in the cave. The 45-minute tour meanders through two narrow, vertical-joint passages marked with such descriptive formations as the Pipe Organ, Giant Turkey and Headache Rock, each a geologic marvel in its own right. Be prepared for 75 steps and to duck and stoop in different parts of the cave as well as inch sideways through some of X-Cave’s skinnier passages.

    Scenic Cascade Cave offers a tour with its own arresting formations, including a dragon lunging from the ceiling in the Dragon’s Lair that looks like it is about to breathe fire. The hike is generally an easy one, in spite of the 250 stairs throughout the cave, and leads cavers to a reflecting pool in the Lake Room, the North Cave’s Cathedral and the Dance Hall—where a previous owner once held dances. The pièce de resistance? The illuminated 30-foot underground waterfall. The 75-minute tour covers a distance of less than a mile and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a resident bat named Bruce.

    Both Cascade Cave and X Cave are open year-round for guided tours with trained interpretive staff members who cover the history and geology of the caves as well as cave ecology. Dress for the weather as parts of both tours take place outside and cave temperatures can dip as low as 30 degrees.

    Explore the caves, then head to the park’s beautiful, glass-fronted fieldstone lodge for some downtime, so inviting with rockers and overstuffed sofas and chairs. A wall of windows frames the landscape beyond, parts of it marked by cliffs and caves, arches and natural bridges. Relax by the fire in the lobby, play boardgames or binge on favorite shows. (Wireless Internet service is available throughout the lodge.)

    Wintertime at the park is a quiet time of year, a chance to slow down and catch up with reading, photograph the park’s winter landscape, hike the trails to spy wildlife, stargaze the night sky and browse the gift shop for Kentucky handcrafted items.


    Some of the 28 rooms at Carter Caves’ Lewis Caveland Lodge have a private patio, opening to views of the winter woodlands. (Note: Lodge rooms are available Wednesday through Saturday night in winter.) Cottages are open year-round, as is the campground with its choice of primitive, RV and equestrian campsites.


    Kentucky State Parks pride itself on serving Kentucky Proud products and using local meats and produce when possible in dishes that showcase the region as well as Kentucky fare: fried catfish and hushpuppies, fried chicken, pinto beans, baked spaghetti, barbecue ribs, banana pudding.

    One item that is synonymous with Kentucky cuisine and served at all Kentucky State Park lodge restaurants, including Tierney’s Cavern at Carter Caves, is the Hot Brown. Pure down-home deliciousness, this hearty dish is made with roasted turkey breast and country ham stacked on toast points and topped with crispy bacon and a juicy tomato slice and smothered in cheese sauce.

    The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday and for breakfast and lunch on Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.


    Carter Caves is less than a 25-minute drive to Morehead and two activities ideal of wintertime, both located at Morehead State University.

    The Space Science Center’s 100-seat state-of-the-art digital planetarium offers full-dome planetarium movie feature shows at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month throughout the year and a 6:30 p.m. laser show. The shows are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets can be purchased at the door by cash or check. Note: credit cards are not accepted. See the schedule at

    At the Kentucky Folk Art Center, see works from a 1,400-piece permanent collection of self-taught art displayed in the first-floor gallery. In the second-floor gallery, changing exhibits show off folk art, fine art, textiles and photography. The gift shop is considered to be one of the finest in the region, with original folk art, crafts and jewelry as well as books, toys and other items. Learn more at


    Susan Reigler’s The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks was published in 2009, when there were 49 state parks and state historic sites (there are currently 45), but it remains a valuable guide and planning resource and one enhanced by beautiful full color photography.

    For more information about planning a visit to Carter Caves State Resort Park or any of Kentucky’s 45 state parks, visit


    Kentucky State Parks’ Kentucky Hot Brown

    Serves one.


    • 2 slices white bread
    • 1 1/2 oz sliced turkey
    • 1 1/2 oz sliced country ham
    • 1 C cheese sauce (see recipe below)
    • 2 strips bacon
    • 1/4 C shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1 slice tomato

    Hot Brown Cheese Sauce*

    • 1 quart milk
    • 2 oz melted butter
    • 1/2 C flour
    • 8 oz easy-melt American cheese
    • 2 tsp chicken base

    Melt butter and mix in flour. Add in 1 quart of milk and 2 teaspoons chicken base. Cook until thick. Add 8 ounces of easy-melt American cheese and blend until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.

    *NOTE: Prepare cheese sauce ahead. Sauce will make 5 to 6 Hot Browns.


    Cook bacon and drain. Toast bread and top with sliced turkey and ham. Cover with about 8 ounces of warm sauce. Top with sliced tomato. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese. Place bacon on sides. Bake in 350-degree oven till hot and cheese browned.

    About Guest Blogger Kathy Witt

    Award winning writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild

    She is the author of Secret Cincinnati; The Secret of the Belles; Atlanta, GA: A Photographic Portrait

    NEWCincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures is now available.

    NEWPerfect Day Kentucky: Daily Itineraries for the Discerning Traveler arriving Fall 2023