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A Travel Dream Come True

For years Greens residents Gary and Nancy Konokpa and Nancy’s brother, Frank, talked about going to Greece.

“A trip to Greece has always been on my brother-in-law’s bucket list,” said Gary. “He had looked into working on a cruise ship as a way to go but would have had to go by himself. Five years ago my wife had breast cancer and two years ago I had spine surgery. We finally decided that we needed to just go while we could still enjoy everything.”

The group relied on long-time friend and travel agent, Sandi Archer with Keystone Travel, to help them book their trip. “We have used Sandi to help us book trips since 1998, when she helped book my wife on her business trips. We saw firsthand the benefits of booking through a travel agent like Sandi when we were scheduled to go on a cruise to Cancun. A month before our trip, a hurricane came through and decimated the city. Within a week she had rescheduled our trip to go to the Dominican Republic.”

Fortunately the weather cooperated for the Konopkas’ once-in-a-lifetime trip, which included four days in Rome in addition to the eight-day Royal Caribbean cruise to Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Katakolon, Greece.

Veterans of eight cruises, Gary and Nancy knew that booking excursions through the cruise ship could be costly and crowded. One tip they had picked up on previous cruises, was to ask cruise ship workers where they went while docked in port. “Many of the workers who work on the boat have time off when they dock,” said Gary. “We have picked up some invaluable information just by asking.”

In Santorini a gift shop salesperson told them how to get to a great beach by bus for a fraction of the cost of the same cruise-organized expedition.

During his internet research before their trip, Gary found a company called Tours By Locals. The company offers to connect travelers with local guides who will provide private tours, often for much less than the cost of a group tour. “In Greece we had a private tour for just the three of us. The tour guides were able to take us places that buses cannot go and were willing to customize the tour so we could see what we wanted to see,” said Gary.

Tours By Locals has 1,645 guides offering tours in 134 countries around the world.

While the Konopkas were in Athens, they went to the prime minister’s residence to watch the changing of guard and were unknowingly witnesses to history. “When we got back to the boat that night and were watching the news, the prime minister of Greece had resigned while we sightseeing at his residence.”

Gary also added to his own personal history in Athens by climbing the Acropolis – quite an accomplishment since a year earlier he could not even walk due to back surgery.

During the stay in Rome, Gary found another unique tour option – Golf Cart Tours of Rome. “Golf carts are legal on the streets in Rome,” said Gary. “The tour guides got us tickets so we were able to skip the line to tour the Vatican and when we went to the Sistine Chapel, he had a picture book to show us what to look for while we were there. It is a very small room and there are a lot of people trying to look at the chapel, so you don’t really get to stop and look for as long as you want to. It was nice to know where to look beforehand and to have information about what we were looking at.”

Gary joked, “We probably toured 50 churches while we were in Rome. Our guide told us we only had 450 more to go.”

While in Rome the Konopkas and their brother-in-law also enjoyed visiting the many gorgeous fountains in the city, marveling at the architecture and eating authentic Italian cuisine. “Our tour guides took us to family-owned restaurants where the locals eat. We had wonderful pizza, pasta and gelato while we were there.”

“It was the vacation of our dreams,” said Gary. “It was something we had always talked about doing.”

And while Greece had originally been the dream, Italy is the place that they now dream about going back to.

“The people were so friendly and nice,” said Gary. “We would love to go back and get a Europass to explore more of Italy.”

By Marcy Sanford

Travel and Leisure Summaries 2016

WOW thanks the following businesses for helping to bring you the Travel and Leisure Special.

CruiseOne, Donna Bonneau & Associates
(813) 433-0050
Specializing in cruises, all-inclusive resorts, group travel, and more! Personal service and exclusive offers! Ask me how you can cruise for free!

Westchase Limousine
(844) 927-4337
Providing complimentary transportation to/from select Westchase area restaurants during May (Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.- 2 a.m.). Reservations required. Owned by Westchase resident.

The listings on these pages represent paid advertisements in conjunction with the Travel & Leisure Special. Paid advertising is not an endorsement by WOW, Inc. Interested residents should contact the businesses and ask all relevant questions prior to engaging their services.


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