Image: Cheryl Burke
Chris Pizzello  /  AP
Cheryl Burke, a 23-year-old native of Northern California, began ballroom dancing at the age of 11, and her talent has taken her all around the world.
By
Special to msnbc.com
updated 10/17/2007 11:29:52 AM ET 2007-10-17T15:29:52

Cheryl Burke has rocketed into the American pop-culture conscience as the bubbly, charismatic better half of two winning duos on “Dancing with the Stars,” although that reputation didn’t help her much this season. Burke, a 23-year-old native of Northern California, couldn’t overcome being paired with lead-footed Las Vegas legend Wayne Newton, who was last week's eliminated “Dancing” star. Burke began ballroom dancing at the age of 11, and her talent has taken her all around the world. We caught up with her recently to talk about some of those travel experiences.

Q: What’s the perfect Cheryl Burke vacation?

A: Oh gosh. It definitely needs to be hot and sunny. A nice beach is always great. I like to lay by the beach, but for swimming, I’d much rather be in the pool. I like to see the beach and hear the waves and walk the sand and just know the ocean’s there. But I’m frightened of sharks, so I need a pool. Otherwise, all I really need is a nice hotel room with great atmosphere in the hotel. I don’t really like to go outside the hotel.

Q: That said, do you have any hotel-room rituals?

A: I have a little routine I follow, I guess. Right away, I make sure the bed is nice. I make sure everything is clean. I don’t really unpack. I just live out of my suitcase because I usually have to leave the next day. But that’s about it. Then I look through the room service book and see what kind of goodies they have.

Q: You must be an expert on room service.

A: I’m huge on room service! And renting movies, too. After two years straight working and staying in hotels, I think I can count on one hand the days I’ve had off in between.

Q: Any pointers for people ordering food to their rooms?

A: I would definitely tell them to order off the kids’ menu because it ends up being just as much food for half the price.

Q: Really?

A: Yeah. Seriously. It’s a good enough portion, it fills you up, and instead of paying 20 bucks for a burger, they charge you like $8. You order a pizza, and there’s a pizza on the kids’ menu and it’s half the price. Plus, it’s portions we should be eating as adults.

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Q: So it’s cheaper and healthier!

A: Exactly. And on a kids’ burger, the bun isn’t so thick. And you get just as many French fries, too.

Q: You realize you’re doing a public service here? Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings

A: Yeah. And I think the hotels are gonna kill me now.

Q: OK, we’ll change the subject. What are your dream vacation destinations, places you say you have to eventually get to at some point in your life?

A: I would love to go to St. Barts. I’ve heard such great things about that place. I’d also love to go to Brazil because of the people and the music.

Q: You’re from the Bay Area. What are the attractions there that a tourist should not miss?

A: I would definitely take them to the Napa Valley. I think it’s beautiful, especially if you’re over 21. You can enjoy the different wine tastings and it’s really quiet and there are great hotels. It’s a great place to go shopping during the day and wine tasting at night. It’s also a perfect place to go for a spa day, too.

Q: Any out of the way, underrated places you can tell us about?

A: I grew up in a town called Atherton and I live about 10 minutes from Stanford University. It’s a really nice, homey town, the Stanford shopping mall is there, and there are great boutique shops in downtown Palo Alto. When I say I’m from Bay Area, everyone automatically thinks of the city (San Francisco), but I’m 30 minutes away. In the city it’s cloudy and foggy and gloomy. Where I’m from is a really nice neighborhood. It reminds me of Los Angeles.

Q: Any particularly funny or memorable horror stories from travel?

A: OK, I’ll tell you this one. I went to Thailand when I was about 9 years old with my family, and there are elephants everywhere you go in Thailand. Even when you’re having dinner, elephants are around and you can pay to feed the elephants. So one day, there was a tug-of-war contest with an elephant on one end and about 50 people, including me, on the other end. In the middle of it was elephant poop. Basically, the instructor yelled, “Pull!” and then, “Pull harder!” and then, “Let go!” I didn’t hear him say, “Let go!” and I got dragged into the elephant poop. Everyone else let go but me.

Q: Wow. That sounds like pretty traumatic stuff for a 9-year-old.

A: Yeah. We laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny then.

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