Robert Q Travel Byron's Blog

G Adventures Introduces New Yacht Custom-Built for Galapagos Exploration
The new Reina Silvia Voyager is the tour company's 6th yacht, designed for immersive touring of the Galápagos.
 
The 103-foot, high-end yacht sets sail in July, 2020. With 10 cabins, the custom-built, intimate-sized catamaran offers its 16 guests the most comfortable passenger touring experiences among ships of its size in the Galápagos, and a sense of deeply personal exploration of one of the most wondrous, remote regions of the world.

 
In keeping with the ecological destination, the ship and voyage experience also reflect the company’s commitment to responsible tourism.
 
Intimate Touring Yacht


The Reina Silvia Voyager touring vessel's 10 cabins are situated on two decks. Eight of those cabins are designed for twin/double stays, and two are dedicated to solo travelers who prefer their own space at a good value. Eight rooms offer private balconies, and all rooms have panoramic windows for optimal ocean viewing, plus bright, contemporary furnishings, artwork by local naturalist photographers, and energy-saving LED lighting. 

 
An expansive 3rd deck has common areas with lounge chairs for sunbathing, covered cocktail bar, grill station and an outdoor jacuzzi tub for relaxing under the sun or stars.
 
An indoor, air-conditioned salon with large video screen facilitates visual presentations by specially trained naturalists, who guide each group’s tour and help guests learn about the iconic wildlife and culture of the Galápagos Islands’ inhabitants.
 
Built-in Adventure

The Reina Silvia Voyager’s nine on-board kayaks and two zodiacs for guests’ guided use for landings and exploration of the region’s remote ports and wild, rocky coasts. Wetsuits and snorkeling gear will also be freely available for passengers’ enjoyment.

 
All meals on board are included and accommodate vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and allergy-sensitive diets. A crew of nine, including a dedicated chef and G Adventures signature tour leader, a Chief Experience Officer, serve guests daily.
 
Eco- and Socially Conscious Galapagos Exploration
 
To comply with the Galápagos Islands’ trailblazing ban on single-use plastic bottles, straws and bags, G Adventures is giving each passenger a reusable stainless steel bottle and will offer unlimited access to filtered drinking water on board.
 
Toiletries onboard all of G Adventures’ boats are also provided in refillable containers. In partnership with the nonprofit Planeterra Foundation, G Adventures additionally supports an Ocean Health Fund with investments in numerous marine initiatives, including the United Nations Environment Program’s Clean Seas campaign and the Marine Megafauna Foundation’s Galápagos Whale Shark Project.
 
The Reina Silvia Voyager is purpose-built to enable nimble, immersive moments in and under the water, then welcome guests back on board in ultimate comfort. 
 
Guests will thrill at the once in a lifetime Galapagos islands' experience of making eye contact with a curious sea lion, gentle sea turtle, tiny seahorse, or prehistoric iguana in a place where Darwin himself studied evolution. The Reina Silvia Voyager carries guests to countless Galapagos adventure experiences and return on board to maritime luxury.
 

Start your Trip!

 
Photos: G Adventures
 
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This Italian Wine Region is Now a UNESCO Site
Pop the cork on the bubbles! If you're a fan of sparkling wine, you are likely already familiar – and in love with – Italy's signature rival to French champagne.

Finally, Italian prosecco is getting some recognition - you might agree it's long overdue. After a 10-year wait, Italy's Prosecco hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene have been designated the country's 55th UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It's a recognition and commitment to preserve the unique 'Cultural Landscape' of the area near Venice that produces one of the world's favorite wines. 

 
Italy's prosecco hills are the 10th wine region in the world to achieve UNESCO designation. They join Alto Douro, Portugal; Tokaj, Hungary; Pico Island, Portugal; Lavaux, Switzerland; Langhe Roero and Monferrato, Italy; Champagne, France; Burgundy, France; Saint-Emilion, France; and Wachau, Austria.

The UNESCO designation of the prosecco hills – as in the case of other wine regions – celebrates the heritage of generations of individual winegrowers who recognized the precious gifts of the terroir and toiled to establish the vines and a community based on a valued wine. And of course, the incredible beauty of the region of vineyards.

In the case of the prosecco wine hills, the beauty is unique. The area of area of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene is characterized by steep hills, which you do associate with other wine regions and which contribute to the particular and complex flavors in the region's sparkling wine.

But here, the challenges of cultivating the terrain was overcome in the 17th century by the creation terraced small plots of vines that resemble a patchwork or checkerboard pattern, surrounded by local forests and farmland, dotted with small iconically-Italian villages.

Traditionally, winegrowers in the prosecco wine hills also trained their vines in a distinctive, rhomboid grid pattern. Called the 'bellussera' technique, it provided prosecco grapes with exposure to the sun and protection from diseases, and also added to the one-of-a-kind aesthetic and appeal of the landscape.

You rarely find – admittedly expensive, expert labor-intensive - 'bellussera' trained vines these days. But it's hoped that the UNESCO designation, as well as a trend in viniculture as well as other heritage food production to recover traditional techniques, will inspire a return to prosecco's 'roots'.  


It also codifies a commitment to sustainability for the region – both in its cultivation and production of these highest quality designated prosecco wines – and also in welcoming visitors to discover the riches of the area.

The prosecco hills, that stretch 30 km (nearly 20 miles) through this picturesque part of northeastern Italy, have been cultivating wines for hundreds of years.

Their new UNESCO designation confirms their value to the sum of human and natural heritage, and also why you should add a journey to northeastern Italy to your travel or wine travel bucket list to taste this delightful sparkling wine at the source and savor the landscapes and culture that nurture them.

Start your Trip!




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The Return of a Legend: Singapore's Raffles Hotel Re-opens

It's one of a handful of heritage hotels around the world that define a destination. The storied Raffles hotel is synonymous with Singapore. 


And after closing for more than two years for restoration and re-imagination, Raffles re-takes center stage as a hospitality icon in this South-East Asian city-state – and the world.



First opened in 1887, Raffles' restoration retains what makes the hotel a treasure. It's a magical place in Singapore: a combination of gracious luxury and expansive tropical colonial design that stirs your historical and travel imagination. Polished teak verandahs and white marble colonnades clustered around lush tropical gardens evoke the romance of life-changing travel.

Add the famed Raffles butlers discreetly providing legendary service, visitors to Singapore are transported to another era of transformative travel and legends in the making. 

The hotel was declared a National Monument a century after it opened. It's treasured by Singaporeans, who deeply value its breathtaking architecture, singular heritage, and Raffles' place in local, Asian and global history. 


They continue to proudly share epic tales of the early years of the hotel and of modern Singapore. You can't visit Singapore without hearing about the times when the occasional tiger would wander into the hotel's Long Bar from the jungle, and legendary authors, playwrights, taste-makers and trend-setters and empire builders called Raffles home during their time in the East.

The restoration maintains and enhances Raffles as an incomparable luxury oasis for today's well-traveled. The revitalized Raffles Singapore offers enhanced luxurious all-suite accommodations, across nine distinct suite categories. The hotel has added three more types of suites so guests can choose among: State Room Suites, Courtyard Suites, Palm Court Suites, Personality Suites, Residence Suites, Promenade Suites, Grand Hotel Suites and Presidential Suites.

 
The hotel is the center of social life and society in Singapore. The refreshed oasis in ultra-modern Singapore delivers a compelling mix of culture, beauty and gentility. Vibrant lifestyle experiences and exclusive dining concepts are designed for international visitors and Singaporeans to meet, stay, shop, dine and celebrate.

 
The Raffles Arcade has been newly outfitted with a charming Raffles Boutique and various bespoke retail brands. Guests and locals will also delight in exploring the worldly restaurants and bars at Raffles Singapore, including restaurant collaborations with
 
  • Chef Anne-Sophie Pic, of the three-Michelin star Maison Pic in Valence, France;
  • the venerable French Master Chef Alain Ducasse; and
  • Chef Jereme Leung, known for his innovative Chinese cuisine.

And one of the most famous places within Singapore, Raffles' Long Bar, begins a new chapter too. Under palmetto fans, guests will continue to enjoy the hotel's most famous cocktail invention, the original Singapore Sling, along with the timeless tradition of tossing peanut shells on the floor.
 
Singapore's heritage treasure is back. This is where it all started, and faithful to its roots, a refreshed, re-imagined and revitalized Raffles Singapore continues to define emotional luxury lifestyle.
 
Not just in Singapore. Raffles continues its tradition of gracious living, intuitive service and meaningful experiences. Raffles has grown beyond Singapore. Connoisseurs of life choose Raffles around the world for its heritage, beauty and gentility, and for the extraordinary way they feel staying at Raffles. Each Raffles, whether in Paris, Istanbul, Warsaw, Jakarta or the Seychelles, is an oasis where travelers arrive as guests, leave as friends and return as family.
 
You can look forward to more Raffles around the world, too. The return of this flagship property to Raffles Hotels & Resorts paves the way for the expansion of the brand to new destinations in cities such as Udaipur, London and Boston.
 

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Images: Raffles Singapore
 
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Where Every Gaming Teen Wants to Travel This Summer
If your family has a teen who spends time immersed in electronic games, take heart! We've discovered the perfect summer holiday everyone in your family will enjoy.

There's a vibrant summer destination that not only delivers an unforgettable skyline and cityscape, shopping, culture and food scene ranging from gourmet street food to Michelin-starred cuisine… and one of the world's most exciting e-Sports events.

The e-Sports & Music Festival Hong Kong takes place annually in late July in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and it gives gaming teens as well as the rest of their families an exciting summer holiday destination.
 
Featuring tournaments played between some of the best players in the world and live-streamed in 3 languages, as well as experiences for amateur gamers and visitors, the EMFHK ensures e-Sports enthusiasts in your family will be happily occupied for all three days of the festival, and free up the rest of you to explore Asia's World City.

Top Level International Team Tournaments

  • The EMFHK launched the first-ever official International College Championship in 2019. The League of Legends International College Cup. 12 winning college teams from all over the world compete for glory in this highly competitive, fast paced action-strategy game.
 
  • CS:GO World Invitational gives gaming fans the chance to witness first-hand two top professional teams fighting for a HK$500,000 prize pool.
 

Mobile Game Regional Tournaments
 
  • EMFHK - e-Sports Tournaments “Honor of Kings” Official City Tournament
“Honor of Kings” is the most played Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) mobile game in China, with over 50 million players per day. Qualifiers from 4 regions in the Greater Bay Area of HK/China compete for the championship.
 
  • PUBG Mobile Hong Kong Tournament
Winning teams from online qualifiers gather to battle for the championship title of the most played Battle Royale mobile game in the world.
 
Interactive Experiences for Visitors
 
Your teens will lose themselves for hours in the Experience Zone, which includes a showcase of cool retro arcade machines, along with VR experiences and professional e-racing equipment they can test drive. They'll experience the trendiest mobile games at the “CSL Mobile Game Party” and can check out “Street Fighter” and “The King of Fighters” in the “Retro Fighting Game Zone”.
 
Nightly entertainment during the three-day Festival features performances and parties that include events like an ACG & e-Sports Cosplay Competition, an electronic dance music (EDM) party featuring Korean rappers, performances featuring popular local bands and artists.
 
Tickets are all-inclusive of admission to the tournaments, the Experience Zone, nightly performances and even free admission to the Ani-Com & Games Hong Kong that runs at the same time. 
 
Build a summer holiday around Hong Kong's e-Sports & Music Festival, and you'll be in your gaming teens' good books for the whole year!

Start your Trip!

 
Images courtesy Discover Hong Kong

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It's a wine-lover's dream river cruise! The world famous wine region of Bordeaux is home to some of the most famous wines and chateaux, grands crus, towns and legends. If you've ever heard mention of Medoc, Chateau Margaux, Saint-Emilion, Cadillac, or how US President and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson became America's first wine connoisseur during his time as ambassador to France… it's long past time you visited Bordeaux.


BestTrip's luxury Uniworld river cruise began at the grand, exquisite city of Bordeaux with its magnificent 18th century cityscape, best seen from our ship docked along the 'Port de la Lune', named for its vast, crescent shape that frames the city behind it.


'Bordeaux' means 'surrounded by waters'. The region is intersected by 3 storied rivers, and unlike other river cruises that begin at one point and sail more or less straight up or down a river, in Bordeaux, our voyage takes us up and down the region's rivers, even returning occasionally to Bordeaux to start out in another direction. Many of the region's fabled towns, vineyards and chateaux are close to the riverbanks that gave birth to its legendary wines.


We were surrounded by groups of couples traveling together on a wine trip, and young couples embracing the romance of wine for their honeymoon… Traveling on a Uniworld ship purpose-built for service in France with Uniworld's signature design hotel aesthetic as well as specific nods to local French design and landscape made it feel like we were part of Bordeaux.


Watch the video for the fabulous day and night time vistas, vineyards, as well as tips about visiting French wineries and what it's like to be on a Uniworld river cruise in Bordeaux.

Start your Trip!

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Everyone experiences travel differently, and this may be most true of historic sites. Standing on the spot where history was made is a profound experience that transcends any amount of studying, reading, watching documentaries or films. When you are actually there, the sights, sounds, perspective and your historic imagination all combine for a more meaningful understanding of moments that changed our world.

The Juno Beach Centre provides visitors today with the opportunity to visualize first-hand the WW2 DDay Landings in June, 1944, from a Canadian point of view. No matter what you thought you knew or understood coming to the Juno Beach Centre, its interactive displays, stories, interpretive tours of the restored bunkers and beaches themselves speak to each visitor differently.

It's a pilgrimage all Canadians should undertake.

BestTrip asked staff and visitors which aspect of visiting the Juno Beach Centre impacts them the most. You'll have your own favorite experience after you visit Juno Beach, too.

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5 Alaska Shore Excursions That Will Make You Book an Oceania Cruise Now
Cool-weather Alaska is one of the hottest cruising destinations. It's in our own backyard, with pristine and inspiring natural wonders, and a sailing season May-September perfectly aligned with family summer vacation time.

Oceania Cruises has a twist on discovering America's 'Last Frontier' by sea. Oceania ships are smaller than the mega-ships sailing Alaskan waters. That means they can cruise into small ports and fjords, and get closer to coastal vistas.
 
Oceania's ship in Alaska is the sleek and elegant Regatta. It accommodates only 684 guests, and they're calling it the only 'Better Than New' ship in the region. It's emerged from the OceaniaNEXT program of $100 million of enhancements, and features brand new suites and staterooms along with dramatically re-fashioned public spaces, with new Italian crystal chandeliers and designer furnishings in its four unique, open-seating restaurants, eight lounges and bars, as well as its world-class fitness center/spa.  
 
On land, the cruise line has also taken a highly customized approach to Alaskan itineraries, where guests can sail from a variety of West Coast ports round trip or in one direction up or down the coast: roundtrip from Seattle or Vancouver, or between Vancouver and Seward, Seattle and Vancouver, San Francisco and Vancouver, or Vancouver and Los Angeles. That creates opportunities for a variety of cruise durations: 7, 10, 11, 12, or 14 days… as well as more ports, more experiences and longer stays in ports – sometimes as late as 11 pm - for greater immersion into Alaska's marine and land adventures.

The destination-focused cruise line has curated a collection of unique shore excursions that are essential reflections of Alaska. From nature to adventure to history and legend, here are 5 Oceania Alaska shore experiences that will make you realize you can't let another summer go by without cruising to Alaska.


Explore a Glacier on Foot and by Helicopter

The stupendous Mendenhall Glacier, just outside Alaska’s capital city of Juneau, is a slow-moving river of ice emptying into a lake, making it a vision of natural beauty in this US National Park. You'll get to see it from the best angles, flying high above rugged terrain in a helicopter with amazing views over indigo blue crevasses, fanciful ice spires, intriguing icefalls, and jagged rock formations rising thousands of feet into the sky. Upon landing,  you'll see the glacier up close in a guided hike, wearing boots specially designed for comfort and traction on ice. Where else but Alaska can you hike a glacier from your helicopter?
 

Go Crabbing in the Bering Sea

You may have watched the Discovery Channel series the Deadliest Catch, and on this excursion, you embark on one of the crab boats from the series – except unlike the series that takes on the wildest challenges, you'll be sailing only in calm, protected coastal waters, past the stunning scenery of southeastern Alaska, hearing the legends of crab fishing. Crew haul up crab pots and long lines, bringing onboard not just crab but shark, octopus, prawns, and rock fish, carefully placing them into an on-deck aquarium so you can view and interact with these marine creatures before they are returned, unharmed, to their natural habitat.
 

Take Tea, Russian-Style

Alaska is American today, yet it was once part of Russia before its purchase in 1867, and Russian influences, architecture and culture remain throughout the state. At the Kodiak Inn, you can enjoy a traditional Russian tea, a variation on the English classic, where scones and finger sandwiches are replaced by borscht, Russian teacakes and pirozhkis as you're entertained by Balalaika Players' music.
 

Kayak Icy Strait Point

Push off from the beach along Icy Strait Point in a two-person kayak with your local expert guide, and paddle the protected waters around Port Fredrick in bays and coves so unspoiled that you’ll feel as if you’re the first to ever explore the region. The nutrient-rich waters are home to humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, porpoises, sea otters, and seals and bald eagles.
 

Jetboat Glacial Lakes and Rivers

The Stikine River is the fastest flowing navigable river in the United States and your customized, purpose-built jetboat, both heated and covered, is the perfect vehicle for exploration of the 500,000-acre Stikine-LeConte Wilderness. You may see moose, bear, deer and spawning salmon as you enjoy spectacular views of mountain peaks and thundering waterfalls. Ashore, celebrate the moment with a wine and cheese break in the grand surroundings of Nature.  
 

Start your Trip!




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It was a week at the end of May 1969 that became an iconic, unforgettable moment of 60's counter-culture and protests against the Vietnam War.
 
2019 marks the anniversary of the legendary time when music uber-star and peace activist John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono booked themselves into Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, and held their 'Bed-in for Peace'. 

The event resonated around the world, drawing global media who broadcast images of the couple in their pajamas in bed and their messages of peace. While in bed, they composed and recorded the anthem 'Give Peace a Chance' that resonates even today. It was Lennon's first solo single and marked the beginning of the end of the Beatles as well as marking the history of the peace movement. Music history and activist history made on the grand stage of a bed in a suite in the hotel.

The suite in the hotel has been a beacon, drawing pilgrims and fans to take photos in front of the room's door. And now, as part of a $100 million-plus renovation of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, the four rooms Lennon originally booked have been joined together in a single suite, renamed in honor of the couple and designed with all the comforts of a modern luxury hotel, but also in homage to the 60's era, the Bed-in for Peace, and the urgent, memorable song 'Give Peace a Chance' with interactive, multi-media immersions that bring to life the media frenzy and impact of this once-in-a-generation event.

The John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite at Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is not normally open to the public, but BestTrip got access to experience the suite today, re-live that week in 1969 and its message of 'Peace and Love', and share it with you.
 

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Wine, Fashion and Song: Theme Cruises That Will Make You Book a Cunard Luxury Cruise Now
Famous for its 'Three Queens' fleet of iconic ships: the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth, Cunard's regal, British lifestyle at sea, with gala evenings, afternoon tea, kennels for pets to travel with you, and epic Transatlantic Crossings from London/Southampton to New York allow you to re-live the age of glamorous ocean liners.

Cunard has also been a trailblazer of 'event' cruises, particularly popular on the Transatlantic Crossings with days at sea for guests to devote themselves to onboard activities. Themes showcase the best of British culture and talent and feature exclusive speakers, guests, onboard events, and one-of-a-kind shore excursions.

Get in-depth, insider insights into your favorite elements of British culture on one of these Cunard event cruises:

Transatlantic Fashion Week

It's become an annual event on a summer Transatlantic Crossing, featuring a line-up of British fashion industry designer and model celebrities. The fourth annual Transatlantic Fashion Week Crossing on Queen Mary 2, July 28 - Aug 4, 2019, features British milliner Stephen Jones, one of the first African-American models, Pat Cleveland, and shoe maven Stuart Weitzman.
 

Badgley Mischka (above) headlines 2020's Transatlantic Fashion Week, debuting their 2021 resort collection in an exclusive runway show on board, and meeting with guests for Q&As.
 

Transatlantic Space Week

The British Royal Astronomical Society joins Cunard celebrating fall's World Space Week with a special space-themed Transatlantic Crossing. Astronauts, scientists and Society members depart from Southampton with guests interested in space and its exploration.

It's a perfect match for a cruise with the world's only Planetarium at Sea, which features new space shows, and on deck in the mid-Atlantic, perhaps the best stargazing venue, away from interfering lights or pollution. And arrival in New York coincides with the beginning of World Space Week for guests to continue the theme, participating in events on shore after disembarking from the cruise.
 

Dance the Atlantic

The renowned English National Ballet has joined Cunard's list of standard-bearers of British culture on a crossing, sharing their performance talents along with insights into their work and choreography. Six ballet dancers also teach ballet workshops, so you can practice your bar work as you sail across the North Atlantic.
 

Voyage Du Vin

Every Cunard sailing offers countless opportunities to enjoy fine wine, but this special round trip, two-week sailing highlights Europe's favorite coastal wine regions for an unparalleled 'Voyage du Vin'. Guests will experience daily wine tastings, pairings and fine dining, and wine talks, featuring over 400 wines from 23 countries while sailing along France, Spain and Italy including calls to Vigo, Mallorca, Livorno (Florence) Cannes, Barcelona and Gibraltar. 

 

Last Night of the Cunard Proms

It's a regular favorite in Cunard's calendar, with the UK's National Symphony Orchestra taking center stage during two spectacular performances of American themed pieces and the 'Last Night of the Cunard Proms in the Royal Court Theater. Conductor Anthony Inglis sits down for a Q&A with guests, who can also live out their fantasies of singing professionally by auditioning for, joining choir practice and a group performance during one evening's show.
 

Literature Festival at Sea

If you've heard about the Cheltenham Literature Festival, The Times and The Sunday Times, you'll know that these heavyweights of the written English word ensure booklovers will enjoy a dream Transatlantic Crossing celebrating British and American literary talent, criticism, journalism and with plenty of time even lounge in luxury enjoying your own favorite books and new recommendations.
 
Participate in workshops with best-selling writers and experienced journalists to discover how to research your own novel, practice your calligraphy, brush up on your public speaking or even write your memoir. And enjoy a special series of film screenings celebrating some of the finest book to film adaptations, with introductions by knowledgeable critics.
 

The Greatest Generations Crossing

Cunard commemorates D-Day by partnering with The Greatest Generations Foundation to pay tribute to the heroes of World War II on a Transatlantic Crossing with onboard programming that allows guests to hear first-hand accounts from WWII veterans as they share their experiences of this momentous period of recent history.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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There's no visit to Argentina's capital without experiencing tango. It is both music and an unmistakable dance, perhaps the most sensual dance in the world.


Our Monograms tour of Buenos Aires included an incredible tango dinner show at El Viejo Almacen that took our breath away! A Monograms agenda allows for plenty of free time to explore our own interests (in addition to an orientation tour of the city that includes the world's widest boulevard, the cemetery where Eva Peron (immortalized in the musical Evita, and song 'Don't Cry for me, Argentina!' is interred, and tastes of the country's obsession with soccer as well as its famous way with beef and wine).


And in Buenos Aires, at the top of my personal agenda was a studio/ showroom visit to Comme il Faut, to meet the designer whose glamorous shoes single-handedly elevated tango to being as elegant as it is passionate.


Our Monograms guide gave us helpful, local expert's advice about the best way to get to the tucked-away 'Rue des Artisans' in BA's old neighborhood, where whitewashed buildings, wrought iron trim, black awnings, and jardinières on the street made me feel like I really was in Paris. No wonder Buenos Aires is called 'The Paris of South America'.

Parts of Buenos Aires may evoke Paris, but the soundtrack is all tango.And for me, the chance to meet Comme il Faut's designer and founder, Alicia Muñiz, whose limited edition shoes are wearable trophies for tango dancers and women of elegance around the world, was a personal highlight of Buenos Aires.


In this video, I share her passion for tango, her inspiration, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit that transformed tango shoes for a new generation of professional and everyday dancers, and built a creative business… from the 'foot' up.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV


Start your Trip!

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River Cruising has Changed Forever - The AmaMagna Sets Sail
A new river cruise ship has embarked on the Danube, and it's unlike anything else on the rivers of Europe. The word 'revolutionized' gets overused, but AmaWaterways' AmaMagna has overturned how we have come to think of river cruising.

It's all about size. If you've ever taken a European river cruise, you've seen your own cruise ship, plus ships from other companies docked side by side in port. Except for paint and branding, they're all pretty comparable.

To borrow a trailer park turn of phrase – maybe not elegant, but it completely paints the picture for you – the AmaMagna is a 'double-wide'. 

River cruise ships are all designed to fit into Europe's system of river locks. That limits the length, and until now, that has made all the ships more or less the same.

AmaMagna is twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, a genius innovation just in design and engineering. 
 
But it also changes the shipboard experience. Even though the AmaMagna is 200% wider than other ships, with 98 staterooms, it accommodates only 20% more guests. The public and personal space is vastly changed. Over half of the rooms are suites – from 355 all the way up to an – until now on river cruise ships – unheard of 710 square feet! 

 
Design and aesthetics follow suit with other AmaWaterways ships and still with a signature style for the AmaMagna. The plus décor is highlighted in staterooms and suites with natural wood accents. suites feature full outside balconies, open seating areas and spacious bathrooms, complete with double sinks and walk-in showers. Grand Suites ( there are 6 on the AmaMagna, and they measure 474 sq. ft.) and the one Owner’s Suite (at a whopping 710 sq. ft.) take the new space available and put it to good use with separate seating areas and spa-like bathtubs in the bathrooms.

 
The extra space is put to good use in public areas, too. There's an onboard cinema! And a multi-level lounge and multiple dining venues (river cruise ships generally have no more than two). Guests can choose the Main Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows, The Chef's Table, the Al Fresco Restaurant and Jimmy's (named after an AmaWaterways founder).



 
There's an expansive Wellness Studio that includes an exercise area spacious enough for group classes. A professionally-trained Wellness Host leads stretching, cardio, core strengthening and spin classes. There's also a juice bar and two massage rooms as well as the usual mani/pedi and hair services. Even a large boutique much more like you would find on an ocean ship.

 
Outdoors, the double width of space on the top deck seems extravagant! The sundeck has a large heated pool, a whirlpool and a sky bar. And another innovation: a pop-up elevator that serves all four public decks of the ship.
 
If you're a seasoned river cruise traveler, you won't want to miss experiencing this incredible new ship. If you've never taken a river cruise, we might suggest you try another AmaWaterways cruise first, as a trip on the AmaMagna might spoil you for standard-sized river cruise ships!
 
The AmaMagna sails the Danube, on itineraries including the Romantic Danube, Melodies of the Danube and Christmas Markets on the Danube.
 

Start Your Trip!


Images: AmaWaterways
 
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4 Royal Family Hangouts in London
The latest Royal news has us all abuzz and reminds us it's time to book a trip to England's capital and home of the British Royal Family. We may not be invited to the latest gathering, but here are 4 places we can immerse ourselves in Royal history and put into context the images we see of the ceremonial events and appearances of the most famous family in the world.

 

Windsor Castle


Windsor Castle is outside of central London, but this thousand-year-old royal residence has been at the center of royal-lovers' attention recently. This is where the world was introduced to the new baby Archie of Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, as well as the location (in the stunning gothic St. George's Chapel, pictured) of their marriage a year previously, as well as the wedding of Prince Harry's cousin (daughter of Prince Andrew) Princess Eugenie.


Windsor Castle is considered one of the few remaining 'working palaces' left in the world. It was built as a fortress in the 11th century after William the Conqueror successfully led the Norman invasion of England. You may think of Buckingham Palace as the premiere home of kings and queens, but Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied palace in Europe.  It's the Queen's weekend home when she's in London - said to be her favorite – and a venue for hosting state visits.

Don't miss: the view of Windsor Castle from the 3-mile, tree-lined Long Walk, giving you a real sense of the scope and grandeur of Windsor Castle and Great Park, as well as the chance to see some of the friendly members of a 500-strong herd of Red Deer in Deer Park.

 

Buckingham Palace

When anyone says 'Buckingham Palace', chances are the picture that pops into your head is a scene on 'that' balcony. It's one of the best opportunities to see members of the Royal Family together in public, for the annual Trooping of the Colour (celebrating the Queen's symbolic birthday) or for less-frequent events like Royal Weddings – the last one balcony wedding kiss was between Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day. 
With 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace is the Sovereign's London residence and headquarters (the 'offices' of 800 people!), the center of state occasions, like visits from foreign heads of state, as well as national celebrations and mourning. Within the grounds are the largest private gardens in London, which are the venue for the Queen's famous Garden Parties. They are the largest functions at the Palace, where up to 8000 people are invited to attend each of three every summer.


The State Rooms are open to visitors for most of August and September and occasionally at other times of the year. Even if you are not able to tour the inside of Buckingham Palace, or snag an invitation to a Garden Party, you can still get a glimpse of the façade and that famous balcony on the East Front.

Don't miss: The Changing of the Guard in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. The Queen's personal Guard maintains a formal presence around the Palace in their unmistakable scarlet uniforms, and 'shift change' is equally elaborate. The ceremony is held at 11:00 am every day from April to July and four times a week in the winter.
 

Kensington Palace


Or 'K.P.' is the least impressive from the outside of the London royal residences, with its low, red-brick 17th century architecture. But it's in a fantastic location off Kensington High Street's shops, and is surrounded by a fabulous garden. Kensington Palace's black, wrought-iron gates are seared into the memories of many of us as the site where over a million bouquets of flowers were left outside the London home of Diana, Princess of Wales in tribute following her death.


Now, some apartments in Kensington Palace are the official London residences of Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and their children, as well as other members of the royal family. Others are offices for royal charities. The State Rooms are open to the public, which display paintings and objects from the Royal Collection. 

Don't Miss: There are four themed routes to follow, including one displaying iconic pieces of Diana's wardrobe, including the blue velvet gown the princess wore when she danced with John Travolta in the White House in 1981.
 

The Tower of London


The Tower of London is not currently a royal residence but its official name is Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. Like Windsor Castle, the Tower dates back a thousand years to William the Conqueror. It was built as a feared stronghold of the monarch, and in its early years, did serve as a sovereign's home. With its name-sake Tower, turrets, moats and pivotal location on the Thames river, the Tower of London serves up the picture of the iconic 'castle' of our imaginations. The Tower also served as a prison – right up until 1952! Famous prisoners were executed at the Tower, and naturally ghost stories abound.


The Tower has served as an armoury, treasury, menagerie (zoo), as the Royal Mint, and still today houses and guards the Crown Jewels of England, including the orb, scepter and crown only used during the coronation of a new monarch as well as jewels worn by the Queen and family members on formal occasions on a more regular basis. You'll recognize many of them. They are on public display at the Jewel House.

Don't miss:  some of the most famous jewels in the world. The regalia contain 23, 578 gemstones, including the largest clear cut diamond in the world (Cullinan I) and the Koh-i-Noor, at an inimaginable 105 carats.
 

Start your Trip!


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Quark Expeditions Makes an Earth Day 'Polar Promise'
Quark Expeditions, a leader in polar adventures, marked Earth Day by revealing its 'Polar Promise' sustainability plan.
 
The polar adventure tour company already takes actions to protect and improve environment and societies in these regions. The Polar Promise brings together existing and new efforts that put words into action, measure success, and set goals to achieve by 2025.
 
It's about more than reducing the footprint of the tours it operates in the world's most remote and pristine places. Quark has been operating for nearly 30 years, and from the beginning has assumed a responsibility to work with other industry leaders, as well as guests on tours to achieve truly sustainable tourism to protect the world's polar ecosystem, wildlife, and way of life.
 
Even Small Efforts Make a Big Difference

The tour operator was one of the earliest adopters of a ban on single use plastics, and provides guests instead with reusable water bottles. You'll also find your cabin outfitted with refillable soap and shampoo dispensers.  And, showing how guests are also part of the solution, when Quark Expeditions bar and restaurant staff started supplying straws only on request, during a 131-day period, only 35 straws were requested from over 2000 guests.

Additionally, by eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging from supplied parkas, Quark Expeditions eliminates nearly 10,000 plastic bags. Quark Expeditions has also changed the liners in the exclusive Quark Expedition Parkas from fleece to a more environmentally responsible “puffy” liner that eliminates polluting micro-beads from entering the water systems every time a fleece liner is washed.
 
Quark Expeditions is also one of 22 founding cruise operators in the SeaGreen recycling pilot program.  In the first half of the Antarctic 2019 season alone, it diverted plastic, papers and glass garbage the size of the size of 2 ½ humpback whales as part of the SeaGreen initiative.
 
Quark Expeditions has worked with and contributed to the South Georgia Heritage Trust since 2011 to deliver a multi-year, multi-million-dollar project to eradicate millions of introduced rodents that were consuming the eggs and chicks of seabirds and endemic birds of South Georgia.
 

4-Part Polar Promise


Building on its experiences to date, Quark's “Polar Promise” is a holistic strategy to address the greatest impacts of visiting the polar regions and also recognizes the power of the polar regions to transform those who experience them. There are four focus areas:
 
Embedding responsible business practices:
  • Building on a culture of sustainability to empower staff and business partners to continually find ways to improve the way they do business
  • Embedding sustainability goals and targets into business strategy and staff incentives
  • Measuring and reporting success
  • Helping the company’s supply chain to engage with sustainable practices and policies
  • Continued leadership and active membership of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO).

Reducing tours' footprint and building resilience:
  • Measuring, reporting and reducing carbon emissions
  • Partnering to develop waste solutions in communities and ports where Quark Expeditions operate
  • Developing a zero waste roadmap that builds on plastic reduction programs
  • Deploying new technologies to reduce waste in Quark Expedition’s fleet, such as the MAGS waste system.

Outreach and impact in polar environments:
  • Collaborating on training and employment opportunities in the Arctic, such as the Inuit Cruise Training Initiative
  • Continuing to invest in research partnerships and citizen science projects in the Arctic and Antarctic, in-kind and direct support of groups such as Polar Bears International and Penguin Watch
  • Continued support to UN Clean Seas and close liaison with the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) to find opportunities to advance their mission and find new collaboration opportunities.

The Polar Legacy - making positive impact exponential:
  • Understanding the transformational power of the polar regions to build advocacy with Quark Expedition guests
  • Understanding that the positive benefits of bringing people to the polar regions outweigh any impact of taking people there – “that we put in more than we take out”.
 
 
About Quark Expeditions:
Specializing in expeditions to the Antarctic and the Arctic, Quark Expeditions® has been the leading provider of polar adventure travel for three decades. With a diverse fleet of specially equipped small-expedition vessels, icebreakers, and unique land-based adventures, Quark Expeditions offers travelers unparalleled access to the most remote places on earth. Led by passionate and seasoned expedition teams, including scientists, naturalists and researchers, Quark Expeditions’ onboard program focuses on guest interaction to educate and enrich the passenger experience.
 

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Photo: Quark Expeditions; Credit: David-Merron

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10 Amazing Facts about the Tasmanian Devil
Move over, cuddly koalas and cute kangaroos. Meet the Tasmanian Devil. 

No, not the Looney Tunes cartoon character that travels like a spinning top, drooling, snarling and terrorizing Bugs Bunny's friends. The real animal, found in the wild only in one state Down Under.

In Australia's collection of one-of-a-kind creatures, the Tasmanian Devil is a stand out member. So between photo ops with koalas, and watching kangaroos hopping through wildlife parks, head to Australia's southern, island state, to get to know the Tasmanian Devil.

It's a keystone species in Tasmania and the symbol of many organizations in the state. We visited a wildlife sanctuary only a half-hour's drive from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and discovered amazing things about Tasmanian 'Devils'.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 
1. Cute and cuddly they are not. Tasmanian Devils look a bit like bear cubs, or like a big-boned small-ish dog at under 30 pounds fully grown. When they're not aggressive, they look a bit sweet. But I had a chance to touch a baby being raised at the sanctuary, and even so young, its fur was like coarse bristles. And they are not sociable or friendly, living alone and coming out at night. 
 
2. They smell bad, too. Tasmanian Devils have a 'scent gland' used to mark territory with very strong and repulsive scent.
 
3. They have a great naming story. Tasmanian Devils are aggressive if they feel threatened or are competing for food. They bare teeth, lunge, and emit loud, blood-curdling shrieks in the dark hours that made early settlers imagine demons had surrounded them in the wilderness. That's how they were dubbed Tasmanian 'devils'. (Check out this video to hear Tasmanian Devils screeching).
 
4. Their oversized heads have incredible jaws that can open to 80 degrees wide! and deliver the strongest bite for its size of any mammal in the world. They have the power to bite through thick metal wire! The staff at the sanctuary joked to keep fingers away from the babies' mouths; even at that size and age, if they'd bitten onto our hands, 'they wouldn't stop til they reach your elbow'. Possibly a joke to make the point, but it paints a picture of:
 
5. The world's largest carnivorous marsupial. (Marsupials are mammals that carry their newborns in pouches). Tasmanian Devils eat only meat: they hunt birds, snakes, other mammals up to the size of small kangaroos, but they also eat carrion – dead animals. They put those tremendous jaws to good use, eating 'pretty much anything they sink their teeth into', crushing and ravenously ingesting even the bones.  
 
6. Even a Tasmanian Devil's teeth are unique. They have the same number of teeth as a dog - 42 – but unlike dogs, a Devil's teeth grow continuously throughout its life, contributing to its phenomenal ability to consume bones of its prey.
 
7. Like all marsupials, Devils store fat in their tails, which thicken up (like humans' waistlines!).  

8. Although Tasmanian Devils once thrived throughout Australia, now they are native only in the island state of Tasmania. There, they have adapted very well to a variety of environments in Tasmania, from coasts to forests to even suburbs. So rather than environmental change, it's believed their extinction on Australia's mainland can be blamed on the arrival of dingoes – which never spread to Tasmania to threaten the Devils.
 
9. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania, either. Those settlers who christened the 'Devils' mistakenly believed they killed livestock (a theory which has now been debunked) and hunted and poisoned them nearly to extinction, until the government stepped in to protect them in the 1940's.

 
10. The Tasmanian Devil population rebounded, but today, they're in danger again. Not from angry farmers. Tasmanian Devils adapted to modern life, with these carrion eaters finding a new food source in the form of roadkill … except these black animals eating roadkill at night are invisible to oncoming traffic, and they, too are killed in great numbers on roads. In addition, a catastrophic facial tumor disease is spreading through the population. The tumors build up in affected animals' mouths and stop them from eating, and they eventually starve to death. Tens of thousands of Tasmanian Devils have died since the disease appeared in the late 90's. 
 
Since 2008, Tasmanian Devils have been listed as endangered. Wildlife sanctuaries attempt to save and raise young in the pouches of mothers killed on the roads, and programs are isolating and breeding populations unaffected by disease. 
 
Devils are also being sent abroad to partner international zoos to contribute to population insurance programs for Tasmanian Devils too.
 
You can see Tasmanian Devils in some zoos – but better yet, by visiting and supporting a sanctuary on their home turf in Tasmania.
 

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(Images: Getty)
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Cooler climes are some of today's hottest cruise destinations. 

Add the warmth of Seabourn's ultra-luxury service, boutique-hotel inspired ships, world-class dining and insightful, intriguing shore excursions like Ventures' active explorations, and you've got the perfect formula for discovering gateway northern destinations like Alaska, as well as the uniquely northern-most destinations in Europe.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR A SHIP TOUR AND HIGLIGHTS OF OUR CRUISE.

And here are three essential experiences I discovered you won't want to miss on a cruise of Nordic and Scottish destinations on the Seabourn Ovation. 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

1. Follow in the Footsteps of the Vikings


Scandinavia's maritime warriors/traders/ marauders are legendary even today. 

A thousand years ago, from their coastal bases in today's Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, Vikings launched expeditions in their wooden ships, eventually crossing the unpredictable North Sea to the British Isles, skirting the Arctic Circle and hop-scotching to landfalls in Iceland, Greenland, and eventually even making it to Newfoundland (preceding Columbus by centuries as the first Europeans to set foot in the Americas).

Our cruise evoked these epic Viking voyages.

We set sail from Denmark's capital and global lifestyle and culinary hotspot Copenhagen, wound our way to Sweden, where we toured the rugged, rocky coastline, onwards to Norway's capital Oslo and coastal towns, then sailed across the North Sea to northern England and Scotland, calling in the cultural and architectural gem of Edinburgh, then at storied, remote Scottish isles that rarely see cruise ships, and never the larger ships at all.

Don't miss the intact Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

Throughout the voyage and half a dozen countries, the land and sea-scape shared a common, North Atlantic / North Sea theme that reminds you – you're exploring Viking territory. Dark blue, cold North Atlantic seas lapping against craggy granite coasts and cliffs with hardy northern trees and plants, dotted here and there with hardy homes and farms and fishing villages.  

Like a cruise of the countries along the Mediterranean Sea reveals shared landscapes and history, so too does a cruise of the North Sea portion of the North Atlantic. 

In fact, an Australian couple standing next to me at the rail in one Nordic port said they'd sailed with Seabourn to Canada the previous summer – and the Nordic coastline to them looked identical to Atlantic Canada.


But unlike the brave Vikings crossing these chill waters in their wooden longships, on Seabourn, you're wrapped in the warmth of attentive service, cocktails and champagne and caviar service throughout the ship, top-shelf restaurants including one by a Michelin-starred chef, and peak 21st century hospitality.


2. Set your alarm to enjoy some of the world's most beautiful sail in arrivals.


On this cruise, sailing into Nordic ports like Oslo, Arendal, and Scotland's Highland port Inverness as well as the isles of Shetland and Orkney will be experiences you never forget. The sparsely populated shores approaching these North Sea ports are epic viewed from the ship.


And on Seabourn, where all suites (unlike a land-based hotel) are ocean view, the ships are small enough that even suites on the top deck are still close enough to the water you can hear the waves lapping and smell the sea air, and the exceptional service includes in-room dining in your living /dining room or on your veranda - from dawn until the ship is docked is an unparalleled experience of enjoying morning tea and breakfast while exceptional scenery sails past.

3. Experience the Great Outdoors, Seabourn-Style


A scenic morning sail-in isn't the only way to appreciate the outdoors in these essential outdoor North Sea destinations.  

With multiple hot tubs in vantage points on forward and aft decks, there's always a hot tub with a view in these cool-weather ports.

Seabourn's Ventures shore excursions that immerse you in Nature, expedition-style. Expert guides take small groups of guests on hikes, treks, kayak or zodiak explorations that let you get up close to the sea, the land, and the wildlife in a magical and active experience.

Back on the ship, Seabourn's staff go to extraordinary lengths to charm guests with pop-up events – those famous 'Seabourn Moments' - on deck that allow you to enjoy Seabourn service along with the views. 
You might return from shore to find a champagne/vodka and caviar party (in the tropics, they have 'Caviar in the Surf' parties served from surfboards at the beach!) or warming 'hot chocolate with a twist', all with live music and camaraderie with delighted fellow guests.


I love being outdoors, and Seabourn's new restaurant concept Earth and Ocean transforms the pool deck in the evenings with an alfresco dining experience that pairs rustic ceramics and textured linen with exquisite cuisine that taps into the elements with smoke boxes, sea scents and tagines. 

It's all heightened by the sea air and the views you can still enjoy late into the evening with the Far North's summertime late sunsets.

Start your Trip!

 
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See the World's Tallest Indoor Waterfall at this New Airport

It's one of the world's top ten busiest airports, with a flight every 80 seconds. A hundred airlines transport over 60 million passengers yearly to and from Singapore's Changi airport. So millions of travelers are already familiar with the breathtaking Nature features in the airport that's the gateway to Asia's 'City in a Garden'. 


But 2019's new Jewel Changi Airport brings the natural world into an airport environment in a whole new, spectacular way that makes Singapore's airport a destination itself.

The Rain Vortex was inspired by Singapore's tropical rains. It's a 7-story feat of design and engineering that astounds you the moment you walk in the door. At over 130 feet high, it's the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, cascading dramatically through an oculus in the glass and steel dome.


The experience of the Rain Vortex changes depending what time of day you are at Jewel Changi Airport. Every evening, the flowing water, along with mist and music, becomes the centerpiece of an hourly, magical Light & Sound show designed by the same company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and hundreds of other water, fire, light, fog and music installations around the world.

Jewel's indoor waterfall is surrounded by 5 acres of lush gardens and greenery – 2000 trees and 100,000 shrubs from 120 species in different 'parks' that make Jewel Changi Airport a lifestyle destination for visitors and locals too.

Areas like Forest Valley and Canopy Park are shopping and dining neighborhoods in a whimsical green wonderland, with cobblestone walking trails, indoor clouds, play attractions like Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze and Discovery Slides that flow through themed gardens - all in climate-controlled comfort. In a man-made environment, you can enjoy tropical gardens without tropical weather!
 
With all the world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, Jewel is still a functioning airport that anticipates travelers' needs and offers conveniences that are a breath of relief, even for travelers with only a brief stopover in Singapore. 
 
Thoughtful airport facilities that have been added in Jewel include early check-in counters and kiosks, a baggage storage service and the Changi Lounge, a 150-seat lounge with shower facilities, offering seamless transfers for passengers connecting to and from cruise and ferry services
 
Jewel also has the first YOTELAIR in Asia. The tech-savvy, smart-design, space-efficient cabin hotel concept has 130 cabin-units in Jewel in three categories. The Premium, Accessible and Family cabins can be booked for as little as four hours. They are a game changer for travelers with short daytime layovers, a very early arrival in Singapore, even an extra half day to spend time exploring all that the airport has to offer before you fly out of Singapore - even overnight stays. Hotel check-in / check-out is seamless, with time-saving, airline-style self-check-in kiosks.
 
Jewel also adds capacity to accommodate increasing numbers of travelers at Changi Airport. Another 3 million passengers will now be able to be accommodated annually, bringing the airport's total capacity to 85 million. And it's going to be needed with an airport that's enough reason alone to visit Singapore.
 
The multi-faceted innovation at Jewel gives local residents a new destination where lush Nature meets Singapore's urban energy. And it gives a renewed sense of novelty and wonder at the experience of air transportation to everyone traveling to or from Singapore. 
 

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Photos: Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

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It may not be the most joyful travel experience you have in Northern France, but for families of veterans, and any grateful citizen, a visit to the World War 2 Landing Beaches in Normandy creates a lifetime of memories.
BestTrip.TV journeyed to the shores on a stormy English Channel to remember the brave souls from the UK, the US, and Canada who stormed those beaches in a last-ditch effort to free Europe and end the war. Along the Normandy coast, remnants of battlefield sites, moving war monuments and memorials and Canada's Juno Beach Centre are essential visits for families of veterans and soldiers who gave their lives, students and history buffs and anyone who understands the importance of keeping humankind's tragic lessons alive.
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Veterans, their families, anyone interested in history, or the sacrifices of ordinary young men on an extraordinary moment for the world, all Canadians as well as citizens of all the nations who fought or were affected by these momentous times... all should make a pilgrimage to the Juno Beach Centre and the other DDay sites along the Normandy coast.
Many things have changed since that fateful day. Here's what you can expect on a visit to the Juno Beach Centre today.

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Why Travelers in the Know are Booking A Douro River Cruise in Portugal
Have you taken a river cruise in Europe yet? The 'Big Three' river cruises are the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone/Saone. You may have heard about cruising on the Seine, even Main and Moselle cruises.

But for a little 'off the beaten track' river cruising in Europe, Portugal's Douro river is enjoying its day in the sun. Warm-weather Portugal, in the heart of the Porto wine region's, scenic villages, history and picture-perfect vineyards, is an idyllic spring, summer and fall river cruising destination.

Here's why we love river cruising on the Douro:

The Route:

 
The Douro river flows from Spain in the east, across northern Portugal to the western city of Porto on the Atlantic coast. Bookended by two UNESCO World Heritage cities, a river cruise on the scenic Douro Valley passes through mainly rural landscapes with historic villages, dramatic cliffs, famous vineyards, and for many people, the heart of Portugal's Latin culture.

 
(Image: Getty/Pietro Faccioli)

Even early and late in the season, the weather in Portugal is warmer and drier than in other popular river cruising destinations in Northern Europe, so if basking in pleasant summer weather is how you picture a river cruise, the Douro is for you.
 

The Highlights:

 
At the eastern end of the Douro: Spain. Most itineraries include nearby, renowned Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city, with a 13th century university where Christopher Columbus once studied, and whose signature golden sandstone architecture glows in the summer sun.
 
At the western end of the route, the port city of Porto (pictured top; image: Getty/Mirifada) is the second largest in Portugal (behind Lisbon), and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If its famous bridge reminds you of the Eiffel Tower, you are not crazy; its architect studied under Eiffel. It was a small world, even in the 19th century.
 
A river cruise on the Douro is even more charming passing through the undisturbed countryside between the ports at either end. The Douro is far less traveled than the major European river cruise routes. You may rarely even see other river cruise boats or guests in the small villages where you can wander in a truly local, authentic, un-hurried rhythm and un-touristy environment. 
 

The Wine:

 
The name of the city of Porto suggests its long-lasting claim to fame. This is the home of port wine as you may have guessed, and also other delectable Portuguese wines like Muscatel. It's one of the world's oldest wine producing regions, with two millennia of viticulture traditions. 
 
When it comes to port wine, a Douro river cruise brings you to the doorstep of some of the region's best places to experience a rich and storied wine that has become less commonly served. (These days, it's mostly in British costume dramas where we see men retreating to their studies and clubs for 'port and cigars').
 
You can sip your way along the Douro river with expert, hosted wine tastings in famous and out of the way wineries, including the UNESCO World Heritage Vinhateiro wine region, the scenic Varosa Valley, the beautiful vineyards of Regua that produce the best range of port wine in the country, Casa de Mateus, the castle made famous on the labels of Portugal’s renowned Mateus wine, and other viticulture treats.
 

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 Whether you love Old Havana colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern tropical, Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort on a world's top beach... Puerto Rico's El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.


Following a post-hurricane, $65-million reno, this grande dame of Puerto Rico society and must-visit destination for visitors to Puerto Rico's capital is back - in spectacular style combining all three eras and captivating your travel imagination.
The El San Juan Hotel alone is worth the trip to this US island territory! 

It's ideal as a destination tropical resort for your whole vacation or destination wedding/ vow renewal / business event, or as an extension before or after your Caribbean cruise embarking or disembarking from Puerto Rico; the El San Juan Hotel is 5 minutes from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, 10 minutes from San Juan Cruise Port… and 15 minutes from historic Old San Juan, on 2 miles of Isla Verde Beach that's been voted the Best Urban Beach.

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5 Reasons to Get Excited About Booking an Expedition Cruise This Year
Leave your evening gown at home and pack your hiking shoes instead. For more and more travelers, an expedition cruise is on the horizon.

Expedition cruises speak to our inner adventurers. Smaller ships, more remote and tiny ports, untouched destinations, natural beauty, deep cultural interaction.

They're perfect for travelers who want to explore the world's natural wonders and the most distant reaches of the planet in an active way: out of a zodiac, in a kayak, hiking to the tops of peaks, gazing in awe at human masterpieces and photographing rare creatures.

Instead of a cruise director and onboard entertainment team, expedition cruises have teams of experts in the nature, science and human experience of the region. In early days, paying guests joined teams of working researchers in 'roughing it' conditions. 

Nowadays, expedition cruising is much more comfortable, but still ranges from a basic onboard experience where you can wear cargo pants all day, all the way to luxury expedition cruising, where you enjoy the finest hospitality, cuisine and service onboard in a relaxed atmosphere, and once-in-a-lifetime adventures on shore.

Whatever your cruising style, if active, in-depth exploration of destinations less-traveled is what piques your travel imagination, expedition cruising is for you.

BestTripTV's Lynn Elmhirst shares her favorite developments that make this the best year yet to book that expedition cruise of your dreams.
 

CELEBRITY FLORA


Spring 2019 marks the debut of the Celebrity Flora (pictured, top), bringing the total number of the cruise line's 'modern luxury' ships devoted to sailing expeditions of the legendary Galapagos Islands up to 4. Celebrity Cruises has been sailing expedition cruises in the Galapagos for over a dozen years, and their destination expertise means they understand everyone's dream experience of the Galapagos is different, and the Celebrity Flora is the perfect vessel for the modern explorer. The 100-guest Celebrity Flora's mega-yacht sleek curves are breathtaking. Her design is intended to immerse, not separate guests from this bucket-list destination. 


It's an all-inclusive experience where every stateroom is a suite, dining is curated by a Michelin-starred chef, and they even offer a 'Glamping' experience where guests can sleep one night under the Galapagos' magnificent stars in a cabana, with campfire themed dinner, cocktails, star gazing and private breakfast served in the morning of one of the most memorable nights of your life.

MYSTIC CRUISES


 
A new expedition cruise company has launched with the spring 2019 christening of 200-guest luxury ship, World Explorer, by singer/songwriter and former French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in Portugal. Mystic Cruises joins the small 'club' of five-star cruise lines with ice class ships and advanced technology able to navigate rivers, iceberg fields including Antarctica, Northern Europe, Iceland and Greenland.

It's the first ocean cruise ship for this hospitality company that already provides river cruises, hotels and resorts, museums and helicopter tours. The World Explorer is chartered by Quark Expeditions for breathtaking Antarctica sailings in winter 2019-2020. Mystic Cruises adds two more ships in the next two years, so you'll be seeing and hearing more about this new entry into the luxury expedition cruise space.

SEABOURN VENTURE



Ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn is no stranger to expedition cruising, but this is its first purpose-built expedition ship. The 260-guest Seabourn Venture sails in June 2021 for an inaugural season in the Arctic, then a summer season in Antarctica. With polar class engineering and advanced technology, the Seabourn Venture also includes the exceptional design, service and destination-unique experiences Seabourn guests have come to expect from the official cruise partner of UNESCO.


Design icon Adam Thihany, who has designed other boutique-hotel-like Seabourn ship spaces, lends his touch and taste to the Seabourn Venture's interiors as well. The ship will carry two custom-built submarines, zodiacs and kayaks to launch from the ship's marina, for guests to step seamlessly from Seabourn luxury to be immersed into the natural wonders around the ship.

Seabourn has been sailing expedition cruises to the Antarctic since 2013, which led to the Ventures by Seabourn program featuring outdoor adventures in zodiacs, kayaks, hikes and other ways of exploring the natural wonders of Seabourn destinations around the world. The Ventures by Seabourn program inspired the name of the line's first purpose-built expedition ship. The Seabourn Venture is being joined by a sister ship in 2022.

SILVERSEA'S EXPEDITION WORLD CRUISE



It's the first-ever Expedition World Cruise. 250 guests make expedition cruise history in January 2021, setting sail on the Silver Cloud from Ushuaia at the southern most point of South America, south to Antarctica, up the West coast of South America, making a trans-Pacific crossing via Easter Island and Tahiti to Australia, then sailing to South-East Asia, southern India, the Gulf States, Egypt and the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, then the UK and the North Sea to Iceland, before finally arriving in Tromso, in Norway's far north, in July. That's 167 days. 6 continents. 30 countries. And 107 incredible Destinations.

It's a 5 ½ month journey of a lifetime, in Silversea's signature ultra-luxury style, enhanced by the expertise of over a dozen feature lecturers including a Garden Designer, Anthropologist, Archeologist, Film-Maker, Explorer, Astronomer, RGS Member and others.

and the SILVER ORIGIN



In 2020, Silversea adds another expedition ship to its fleet, this one destination-specific, for Galapagos. The Silver Origin includes Silversea's signature butler service and all-suite accommodation, and adds Ecuadorian expert guides as well as locally-inspired cuisine for a true destination experience.

PONANT'S LE BOUGAINVILLE



The only French cruise line, Ponant is a world leader in luxury expeditions. Its fleet has expanded with the arrival of Le Bougainville. The 3rd ship in the Ponant Explorers series features the incredible, world's-first 'Blue Eye' lounge, an underwater 'salon' with two portholes that resemble a marine mammal's eye. There are even hydrophones to hear the undersea world.

 

The sleek, elegant design and luxury hotel service are unmistakably French, so Le Bougainville's 200 guests can live the French version of the good life while exploring the Mediterranean in its inaugural season, followed by the Seychelles, Mahe, the Indian Ocean, the Vanilla Islands and everywhere in the world Ponant sails its signature expedition cruises. 4 more new ships join the Ponant fleet by 2021.

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