Crystal Springs, Florida
January 22-27, 2024
6 Days & 5 Nights
Double: $2,331.00 per person (based on double occupancy)
TOUR INCLUDES: Airfare, RT airport transportation from Peru, Travel Connections’ Tour Escort, local guides, luxury motor coach at destination, all tours, cruises, and admission to attractions (*Note optional activities at addition fee), 5 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 4 dinners, voucher for free day at resort, 5 nights’ lodging at The Plantation on Crystal River, all taxes, fee and gratuities on included meals.
Crystal River Florida’s geothermal springs attracts the largest concentration of Manatees in the world during the winter months—and these playful giants are ready to meet you! With the experienced marine biologist guides, discover these incredible creatures up close and personal…with so much more to do on this tour!
More than Manatees…With luxury accommodations at The Plantation on Crystal River, you’ll enjoy “Old School” Floridian attractions like WEEKI WACHEE’S Mermaid Show (since 1947!), Dolphin Adventure Cruise, Crystal River Cruise, Tarpon Springs Cruise, Sunset Boat Cruise, Homosassa Springs, Ferris Groves, Wineries, Florida Barbeque and Live Music, and so much more!
FREE DAY at resort (or transport to Fort Island Gulf Beach) includes meal voucher, heated pool, activities (shuffleboard, 9-holes free golfing, pickle ball, horseshoes & more) OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES* available on site for additional nominal fees include: SWIM WITH THE MANATEES (highly recommended!), Scuba Lessons, Fishing Charters, Boat Rentals, Paddle Boards, Spa Services, Bike Rentals, Kayak. ADVANCE RESERVATIONS NEEDED PRIOR TO TRIP.
To book now, for more information, or to make an appointment with the Group Tour Director, call:
TRAVEL CONNECTIONS (815) 780-8581
Day by Day Itinerary:
DAY ONE: Monday January 22 (Dinner included)
Depart Peru for O’Hare Airport, fly to Orlando FL. ARRIVAL to the Plantation on Crystal River.
5-night stay Monday-Saturday
Guests will meet their tour guide and ambassador who will be with our group throughout the rest of the tour in Florida. Guide will be available to answer questions about FREE DAY or anything else about your tour.
WELCOME RECEPTION (poolside – weather permitting) with wine and cheese.
• Rooms offer: Refrigerator, Hairdryer, Iron and ironing board
A hidden gem tucked away on Florida’s Nature Coast, the Plantation on Crystal River is a beautiful 50-year-old, 232 acre eco-friendly resort offering comfortable accommodations, a full service spa, all the modern amenities, and is surrounded by the natural springs of Kings Bay.
This bay is one of the largest aquifers in the state, and home to hundreds of West Indian manatees that migrate each year to the warmth of the springs. This beautiful location, excellent dining, and onsite activities promise that there’s always a great vacation waiting for you at Plantation on Crystal River!
6:30 pm- PLATED Dinner at the resort. If the weather cooperates, we’ll be served outside by the Gazebo surrounded by the gorgeous scenery. Menu is the chef specialty key lime chicken or salmon, served with sides, chef choice of seasonal dessert . Bar items at own expense.
Following dinner, we’ll enjoy a brief introduction to the property by one of the staff. Perhaps you’ll choose to take a stroll around the enchanting waterfront before turning in! ~ Sweet dreams!
DAY TWO- Tuesday January 23 (Breakfast and Dinner included)
6:00 am – 8:30 am A full breakfast is included at the resort, as a wonderful buffet of traditional breakfast favorites awaits each morning here. (Eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, blintzes, cereal,pastries, juice, coffee, tea and more. Subject to change on a daily basis.
8:45 am – Departure with your tour guide
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Among the many wonderful things to see is an excellent “Manatee Program” – you will love your time here! Approx. two hours.
Visitors can see West Indian manatees every day of the year from the park's underwater observatory in the main spring. The park showcases native Florida wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, American crocodiles, and river otters.
For the Manatee Program, onlookers are seated either in the bleachers overlooking the Fish Bowl underwater observatory, or are presented alongside the in-ground manatee pool at the Manatee Care Center if weather so-dictates. At the Wildlife Encounter programs, snakes and other native animals are featured. The park features a Discovery Center, providing hands-on experiences about Florida's environment. The park has two concessionaire-operated gift shops and a concessionaire-operated café with a selection of beverages and snacks.
11:00 am - BOARD COACH
Departure for Three Sisters Springs Visitor’s Center and Refuge in Crystal Springs.
Guests will enjoy a narrated docent-led tour of the Springs where docents will narrate as you walk along a horseshoe boardwalk to see the gentle giants in their natural habitat! The vivid turquoise water in the Three Sisters Springs glows and glitters and offers a color impossible to capture on film but it holds the kind of radiant beauty that grips your heart and captures your soul.
Three Sisters Springs is a world-renowned sanctuary for the West Indian Manatee. This 57-acre refuge provides a 1/4-mile walkway with viewing platforms to observe the springs and native wildlife. Manatee sanctuaries are regulated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Their goal is to protect this warm-water habitat for federally threatened Florida manatees when they are most likely to use the warmer spring water to avoid exposure to debilitating cold periods and meet their thermoregulatory needs. There are also nature trails at Three Sisters with views of Kings Bay, Magnolia Springs, Lake Crystal and wetlands.
12: 15 pm Lunch on own and shopping time at Heritage Village
Offering many unique gift and specialty shoppes, a charming Tea Bar 650, Café on the Avenue, plus a full-service restaurant at The River Ranch Bar & Grill (all restaurants are subject to change). All nestled among the canopied Oaks, Palms and Magnolia trees in the historic downtown of Crystal River Florida, on North Citrus Avenue. This Cracker town, still today, carries the reputation of a Fisherman Village from days gone by, so they strive to continue the theme of yesterday with today’s creative additions.
1:45 pm – DEPARTURE and return to property
Refresh at property, grab a jacket for afternoon River ride in at Kings Bay. (Boarding at Crystal Plantation Resort. Sail around the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and look for local wildlife as your captain shares the history of the area. Manatees, dolphins, otters, and turtles are often spotted in the area. The boat is fully covered for protection from sun and rain.
3:30 pm – Return to property
5:30 pm Departure for dinner at Peck’s Cove
Depart resort for dinner. The leisurely drive to this evening’s restaurant is a beautiful, scenic journey along the Ozello Trail. Bask in the landscape of “Old Florida” with views of saw grass, bridges, and fantastic marshland that is filled with the perfect combination of small islands and saltwater!
Dinner at Peck’s Old Port Cove.
You will have choices at time of service of their fresh, specialty seafood entrees with all the trimmings, and also a beef and chicken option for the landlubbers. Dessert of Banana split pie or Key Lime PIE!! Bar items at own expense
8:00 PM Departure and return to the resort. A beautiful drive with the sun setting! Perhaps you’ll want to stroll the grounds under the lights and enjoy one more visit to the Tiki Bar before retiring.
DAY THREE – WEDNESDAY January 24 (Breakfast and Lunch included)
6:00 am – 8:30 am A full breakfast is included at the resort, as a wonderful buffet of traditional breakfast favorites awaits each morning here.
8:15 am –Depart on motorcoach for Weeki Wachee in Spring Hill, Florida.
9:00 am – 12:45 pm -Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
Enjoy this ‘step back in time’ at your own pace, but don’t miss the ONE OF THE special shows, “The Little Mermaid”, performed live in the submerged 400-seat auditorium! Since 1947, Weeki Wachee Springs has captured the imaginations of people of all ages with its spectacular beauty and fun things to do. manatees, so have your camera at the ready! Guests will also enjoy the Ranger Program as well as the river Cruise. Boxed Lunch INCLUDED at the Park in Private area.
12:45 pm – Depart for Tarpon Springs.
2:00 pm – Board Cruise
2:30-4:00 pm Dolphin Island Adventure Cruise aboard The Odyssey Sightseeing Boat (two-hour cruise).
Come enjoy Tarpon Springs’ most popular and highest-rated, boat ride. A leisurely 2-hour cruise down the Anclote River into the Gulf of Mexico. Our captain will narrate the entire trip where you will learn about the history of Tarpon Springs and the famous Sponge Docks. The Dolphin Adventure Island Cruise includes looking for Dolphin, manatee, sea turtles, tropical foliage, and other local wildlife. Also see the restored & operational Historic Anclote Lighthouse on Anclote Island. We’ll land on the Island where you can get an up-close view of the lighthouse, stroll the beach, look for shells or even take a dip! -- For your pleasure there are cold beverages, beer, wine, and tropical drinks on board.
Following the cruise, guests will enjoy the atmosphere, shops and DINNER ON OWN in Tarpon Springs. Shopping in Tarpon Springs is a real treat.
The shops sell natural sea sponges, but there is so much more. Handmade soaps made with Olive oil and Goats milk, fine olive oils, aged balsamic vinegar, wine, pandora jewelry, Florida souvenirs, ladies’ apparel, sandals, hats, a large selection of tee shirts for all ages. They offer unique gift items such as wind chimes, alligator heads, shot glasses and much more.
For dinner on own Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill, Dock’s Waterfront, Dimitri's on the Water and more. Tour guide will provide information.
6:30 pm – Departure and return to property
DAY FOUR– Thursday January, 25 (Breakfast and Dinner included) $20 Voucher for drink or appetizer at resort
FREE LIESURE DAY at Resort.
A full breakfast is included at the resort, as a wonderful buffet of traditional breakfast favorites awaits each morning here.
FREE DAY- Your tour ambassador will be available as well as the activities director at the Resort. How about shuffleboard with your tour director and Tour ambassador Carol? Or a Golf Tournament? Each will have a team. Sign up is necessary.
• Golf – 9 holes complimentary when staying at the resort
• Driving Range - complimentary
• Activities such as horseshoes, shuffle board, croquet, pickle ball, tennis, corn hole, giant chess - Complimentary
• Heated pool with beach chairs, umbrellas and towels.• Noon Coach run to the beach will be available (Weather permitting) Ten-minute drive.
At the very end of Fort Island Trail, you’ll find Fort Island Gulf Beach. This curved, 1,000-foot Crystal River beach is far enough off-the-beaten path that you’re unlikely to stumble on it. It boasts a roped-off swimming area, and its waters are calm and shallow, so the whole gang will be comfortable. It offers covered pavilions and picnic tables; bring a packed lunch provided by the resort (price not included).
Additional Activities available on site for nominal fees:
NOTE: ADVANCED RESERVATIONS needed for many of these options.
• Swim with the Manatees - highly suggested. You will have a wet suit (provided to wear to protect the Manatees). Advanced reservations needed.
• River Tours
• Scuba Lessons
• Fishing charters
• Boat rentals
• Kayak and Stand-Up Paddle boards
• PADI certified Scuba
• 18-hole Championship Golf Course
• Golf Lessons
• Tennis Lessons
• Bike Rentals
• Spa Services
These activities and services may be arranged through the Front Desk.
5:30 pm – Be ready for a SUNSET boat cruise from property and enjoy a sunset cruise to dinner and back!!!!!
Dinner this evening at Cracker’s Restaurant, a “local favorite”, for a true taste of the area (pun intended). If Mother Nature cooperates, we may be able to eat outside on the back deck with captivating views of beautiful Kings Bay. Otherwise, inside tables await! Choice meal this evening including dessert. Bar items on own. When everyone is finished, the boat will take everyone back to the Resort.
DAY FIVE– Friday January, 26 (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)
6:00 am - A full breakfast is included at the resort, as a wonderful buffet of traditional breakfast favorites awaits each morning here. Today’s Highlights: Tour guide/ ambassador will be with guests throughout the day/evening.
9:30 am – Departure
Experience a touch of “Old Florida” at Ferris Groves. This is one of those places that still looks like the Florida most of us remember from our childhoods. In 1931, L.G. “Doc” Ferris began planting citrus trees in the rich, hammock soil of Duval Island, in historic Floral City, Florida. The trees took root in the fertile ground, and for 75 years, the land has produced all varieties of Florida’s finest citrus. Group members can purchase fresh fruit or order fruit, so that it reaches your homes by the time you return. You can be sure you’ll be sending the finest fruit available; it’s 100% guaranteed. They also offer syrups, sauces, jams and jellies and samples of fresh-squeezed orange juice. Everyone can choose from fresh orange, strawberry, butterscotch, chocolate or vanilla DELICIOUS shake of their choice. Put your order in for products to be delivered to your home or take away!!
11:00 am – Departure
Whispering Oaks Winery (lunch included). An Award-Winning Healthier Wine – Creating all wines with the freshest Florida Blueberries. Blueberries are arguably the healthiest fruit, with high antioxidant values.
Journeying a bit into rural Florida, you will discover sprawling vineyards where a Holland-born, fruit-loving entrepreneur has turned his 58-acre farm into one of the fastest-growing Florida wineries in the state. Since blueberry wine contains more antioxidants than white wines, and even most red wines, the rousing success of this unique output comes as no real surprise, perhaps only to its owner who did not start out to run a winery. Learn the story behind this unique enterprise, and perhaps enjoy a flight or two in the rustic tasting room converted from an old stable. (Fun Fact: Each bottle of Whispering Oaks blueberry wine is made with a whopping 2.2 lbs. of blueberries, no water added!).
Lunch will be a Florida BBQ with blueberry BBQ sauces and various sides and dessert and Live music.
1:30 pm Departure
En Route back to the resort Stop at the WORLD SHELL TREASURE CHEST. World Shell Treasure Chest offers a plethora of manatee items, seashells, pottery, carved wood, Tiki and yard décor, souvenirs and novelties!!
3:00 pm – Departure for the Inn for a break
5:45 pm – Departure with guide for Final FLORIDA GOODBYE Dinner included this evening at Charlies Seafood House, located on the water’s edge of Crystal River, where over a half-century long family tradition of providing great food awaits your dining pleasure! Be sure to take in the views and visit THE TREE and get a photo. For over 100 years the Live Oak Tree stood proud and tall, remaining unharmed while all the other trees lining the highway disappeared, obstacles to the growth and development of Crystal River. When it became apparent that the tree was dying limb by limb, sadly it was necessary to take it down. Not wanting the memory of it to fade away a famous sculptor of wood, Gil Watson, was commissioned to apply his talent with a chainsaw to create from the stump a Manatee and a Tarpon as a memorial to the tree which had been a landmark for so many years.
Return to property around 8:00 pm to pack and get ready for Tomorrow’s departure.
DAY SIX– Saturday January 27 (Breakfast included)
6:00 am - A full breakfast is included at the resort, as a wonderful buffet of traditional breakfast favorites awaits each morning here.
Bid good-bye to tour guide at breakfast this morning, travel to airport and return home.