Robert Q Travel Byron's Blog

5 Steps to a Cruise Comeback
If you’re one of the majority of cruise travelers, you can’t wait to return to the waves and waterways. (It’s true! Surveys show over a third of cruise travelers want to board a ship within 3 months of the return of cruising!)
Cruise travel involves a lot of moving parts (that’s one of the reasons most cruises are booked with a travel advisor’s help). And they all have to be in safe operation. From the moment you leave your home to the onboard health protocols that keep guests and crew safe. 

Unprecedented Partnerships

The good news is that there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. A number of cruise lines in the last few days have announced they’re putting together teams to come up with health and safety practices that will get ships sailing again. 
In one extraordinary move, rival cruise companies Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises) and Royal Caribbean Group (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, Silversea) have teamed up to develop common standards that will benefit the entire travel and hospitality sector. The CDC will have a seat at the table, and the team’s work will be freely available to other businesses, from spas to hotels to destination companies.

(The Emerald Azzurra launches in 2021; it's being custom-built for Mediterranean, yacht-like cruises)

Europe’s New Cruising Guidelines

These announcements come on the heels of last week’s release of cruising guidelines by the European Union. The guidelines (they’re not regulations) include the expected, like more physical distancing, mask wearing when distancing can’t be maintained, more hand and ship sanitization.
But they also include recommendations that might be much harder for some cruise lines to deliver than others, and that might change your cruising experience a lot. Things like:
·     designated boarding windows to reduce crowding;
·     routine health and temperature checks;
·     fewer amenities in rooms and only providing mini bar, in-room coffee service on request;
·     no self-serve food;
·     no indoor pools (including pools with retractable roofs);
·     only members of the same household in hot tubs together;
·     minimum 5 feet between deck chairs and between guests and crew at all times;
·     limits on public space occupancy (keeping empty seats at theatres, lounges and restaurants);
·     guest ‘bubbles’ who dine, take zodiac tours, embark and disembark together to reduce exposure;
·     reduction of occupancy to allow for extra rooms to be available for guests or crew to be in completely isolated accommodations if they show symptoms of COVID;
·     shorter cruises (3-7 days); and
·     fewer port calls to reduce exposure to and from people on shore.
It’s not known how many of these EU recommendations will become part of your new cruise experience. 
But here’s how I see your opportunities to cruise unfolding in Post-COVID Cruise 2.0:

1. Bubble Cruises

Like having social bubbles at home, cruises that take guests just from a specific location, and sail within that same space, maintaining the local established and agreed-on health protocols, are a safe way to provide the cruise experience and minimize risk. 
Bubble cruises have begun. For example, French cruise line Ponant’s ships were recalled from around the world to France, where they are sailing French coastal itineraries for French guests.

(SeaDream has resumed sailing in Norway)

2. Small Ship and Luxury Cruises

(Especially with new, ‘bubble’ itineraries or private islands)

It’s easy to see that small and luxury cruises are already set up to achieve many of these new guidelines. They already have more space allotted per person, and more staff available to undertake extra cleaning.
It’s happening: In late June, SeaDream became the first small-ship, luxury cruise line to re-start cruising, with Norway-only ‘bubble’ itineraries so much in demand, the line has added more ships.

3. Cruises to Nowhere

Lots of cruise travelers are saying they’d take a cruise to nowhere, just to get onboard a ship again. Cruise lines may start giving them what they want.
(Edit: They've begun! Just as we published, we learned Carnival's German cruise line Aida has opened bookings for German citizens on August 'cruises to nowhere' departing from and returning to German ports with no ports of call.)
Destinations continue to ‘re-open’ for tourism, but many still have quarantine (like the UK) or negative COVID test requirements (like Puerto Rico) upon arrival. So cruises for North American guests within the Caribbean but without ports of call may meet the demand for warm weather cruising. 

(Celebrity Flora was designed and built exclusively for Galapagos itineraries)

4. Remote and Expedition Cruises

It’s easy to avoid interacting with people on shore if there’s no one there. Wilderness-focused, ‘expedition’ cruises to destinations like the Galapagos and Antarctica - especially since many expedition cruises are smaller ships – see above – can help kickstart cruising again. 
In addition, as long as those on board are safe and well, remote areas that are COVID free would be safe itinerary choices. For example, Hurtigruten is already sailing Scandinavian-only guests on remote, ‘bubble’ Norwegian itineraries. And Windstar has announced it will commence cruising again in September in Tahiti, which is COVID free.

5. Big, Mainstream Ships

These are the ships whose experience may be most changed by new guidelines. As they carry the most guests, distancing is harder. Masks, directional arrows to manage foot traffic flow, new dining and entertainment arrangements, pools closed off, staggered, designated dining times… all of those possibilities seem on the table. 
But there’s one big advantage to these ships, too. These are the cruise lines who have already heavily invested in technology to serve more guests with fewer crew, so safely contact-less transactions, reservations and communications are already part of the cruising way of life on these lines.
Cruising on the big ships will likely begin with modified ‘bubbles’ from drive-to ports of embarkation, on itineraries with fewer ports of call – maybe even just the cruise line private island (pictured top: Holland America anchored off the line's private island, Half Moon Cay) and days at sea!

Will any of these changes stop you from – or convince you to start – cruising again? We’ll soon see.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host BestTrip TV

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


This Company is Sending a Local Hero - and their Nominating Travel Advisor - On a Life-Changing Trip to Africa
Until June 30th, travel advisors can nominate a person from their community they feel deserves recognition.

Courtesy of African Travel Inc., a sister travel company to luxury Insight Vacations, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Red Carnation Hotels among other outstanding travel providers, the chosen hero and their guest will receive the ultimate 8-night escape to South Africa and Botswana, experiencing Red Carnation’s Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa and the new Xigera Safari Lodge as well as the Chobe Game Lodge.
 
The advisor who nominates the winning hero will receive their own complimentary spot on an African Travel educational journey to South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania.

For over 40 years, African Travel has created luxury, handcrafted safaris ensuring immersive and authentic cultural encounters across the continent with exceptional service by local experts every step of the way.

(Chobe Game Lodge is an elegant, five-star, fully Ecotourism-certified safari lodge and the only property located inside the world-renowned Chobe National Park)

From now until June 30th, 2020, travel advisors can nominate a person who they feel deserves recognition for going above and beyond in their community. African Travel wants advisors to share their stories, whether it’s about an essential worker on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic or a co-worker helping their community heal.
 
Advisors nominate local heroes by briefly explaining how their hero has positively impacted the people, planet and wildlife in their local community, which reflects African Travel’s philosophy to TreadRight.
 
The TreadRight Foundation was established by The Travel Corporation’s family of brands, that includes African Travel, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Trafalgar Tours, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, among others. The foundation sets the standard on sustainability for those travel companies, and executes its mission to #MakeTravelMatter.
 
TreadRight supports community-based projects worldwide that safeguard the planet, people and wildlife. To date, the foundation has supported 55+ sustainable tourism projects in 280+ communities worldwide, that have included WWF, Conservation International, WildAid and The National Trust in the UK, while current initiatives include WE.org, Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School, Wilderness Foundation Africa and Wildlife SOS. 
 
This contest is in gratitude for people’s efforts to make their communities better places, a theme especially powerful during COVID, which has reinforced how ‘we are all in this together as a travel family’.
 
Advisors can nominate a hero by completing the online form here.
 
African Travel will shortlist the top 10 heroes and host a poll July 13-23rd, 2020 for the travel community to choose the deserving hero.
 

Nominations close June 30th.


Don’t miss this opportunity to reward a deserving local hero!

 
 
 
 
 





Bubble Cruising? Yes, You Can Cruise Close to Home
COVID's impact on travel is having one brilliant effect: it's shining a spotlight on the boom in cruising on the waterways of North America, with new ships and new itineraries to appeal to every cruise traveler's interests.

'Bubble' travel is the first step in the return to travel.

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host of BestTrip TV and cruise expert, explains the unique highlights of 6 river and fresh water small ship cruises from the West Coast to the East - plus one cruise line that's expanding operations into North America - that will inspire you to make a cruise close to home your first post-COVID vacation. And book more in the years to come.

Some of the regularly-scheduled itineraries that cross the closed US/Canada border may be modified or canceled in 2020; ask your travel advisor about the latest, up-to-date sailing information about each of these cruise lines and itineraries. There are 'bubble' cruises planned in 2020, and you can also get ahead of the 2021 season that's sure to be busy.


Columbia & Snake Rivers and Wine Regions on UnCruise Adventures


UnCruise Adventures' name makes it clear: this is a different kind of cruise line, focused entirely on active outdoor exploration by small ship. The Seattle-based company focuses on the Pacific side of America: small ship coastal cruises from Alaska to Central America, and year-round in Hawaii, with fares inclusive of fine dining, wine, spirits, shore activities and equipment.


UnCruise Adventurs' only dedicated river itinerary is its autumn, 7-night cruises on the Columbia & Snake Rivers in the Pacific North West, where they say you'll find some of the most magnificent scenery in the US in the Columbia River Gorge. 

Early autumn cruises highlight the Lewis & Clark expedition route, Nature and soft adventure: rafting, hiking, a jet boat ride into Hells Canyon, kayaking, even a cycling/winery excursion.

November 'Rivers of Wine & Culinary' themed voyages feature the region's increasingly well-known AVA's. Their onboard culinary program is linked with shore excursions featuring UnCruise Adventure's own sommelier, other wine experts, winery tours, wine-pairing dinners and local scenic highlights.


The company also has a family program, Family Discoveries, with savings for children 8-13 years old, providing multi-generational families with plenty of outdoor activities to bond over.
 

The Mississippi River and Beyond on American Cruise Lines

The great Mississippi is the artery that has served America's heartland for centuries. Mark Twain's literary works immortalized the world of sailing and living along the Mississippi, and today, the mystique of the Mississippi remains, even as the modern world has caught up to river cruising.


American Cruise Lines offers 3 different styles of ships for guests to choose from, all built in the US, with among the largest staterooms in the industry: Victorian paddlewheelers (above), fully-stabilized coastal ships, and the first and only modern riverboats in the country (below).


This range of vessels cruises three-dozen itineraries in 25 US states, along great rivers the Mississippi and the Columbia & Snake Rivers, and both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. But the company's 9 Mississippi itineraries remain the most popular for Americans and Canadians, who often drive over the border to northern departure gateways to cruise itineraries between St. Louis all the way south to New Orleans, with calls that feature treasured Americana including Elvis' Graceland, Ante-bellum southern plantations, and the stunning design icon and newly re-opened St. Louis Arch.

All American Cruise Lines share its river-cruise style: all-inclusive fine dining, complimentary evening cocktail hours, pre-cruise hotel stays, gratuities, wine and beer with lunch & dinner, complimentary onboard entertainment and lectures, and many included featured shore excursions.
 

America's Great Rivers and Now the Great Lakes Too, on American Queen Steamboat Company & Victory Cruise Lines


American Queen Steamboat Company continues the tradition of gingerbread-trimmed paddle-wheel riverboats sailing the country's two great river systems.


One of their three boats (with another launching in 2020) was the first all-suite paddle-wheeler in the US. Another lays claim to being the largest, most opulent riverboat in the world. The vessel is an engineering marvel, six decks high, longer than a football field, but still with the lacy white trim and paddlewheel you associate with the era of waistcoated gamblers and damsels with parasols. Both sail itineraries on the Mississippi between iconic river port cities like New Orleans, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville and St. Louis. The third is the largest overnight riverboat West of the Mississippi, sailing on the Columbia & Snake Rivers with a vast collection of historic artifacts and Native artwork.


The cruise line has a unique, and popular, approach to shore excursions, many included with your fare. Deluxe coaches drive the itinerary's route in tandem with the boats. In port, they provide 'Hop-on, Hop-off' service, continuously making the round of major local attractions, so guests can select the attractions they most want to see, and enjoy them at their own pace.

Sister cruise line Victory Cruise Lines has two newly upgraded ships serving guests wanting to sail along North America's coasts, including the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, Canada & New England itineraries, and an upcoming new ship in 2021 setting sail for British Columbia and Alaskan itineraries. Guests on this cruise line travel with historians and naturalists and enjoy inclusive shore excursions for expert immersion into these destinations in North American's backyards.
 

The Great Lakes on Tauck

Cross-border cruising can't get any better! Tauck is known for ultra-luxury land tours and safaris, as well as European river cruises. But in addition to North American land tours, it provides a one-of-a-kind Great Lakes small ship itinerary that's tailor-made for both American and Canadian guests.


Tauck's autumn cruise between the dynamic Canadian and US cities of Toronto and Chicago bookends the voyage with included pre- and post stays in Fairmont or Four Seasons hotels in both cities. The 7-night voyage between those world-class cities highlights seasonal foliage along the coasts, and includes Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, Detroit, and smaller destinations (like Michigan's Mackinac Island, above) along both countries' coasts, with exclusive and included shore excursions that feature Nature, sport, culture, makers, and history along the way. 


Tauck is using one of luxury French line Ponant's elegant and eco-friendly, 160-guest, 5-star ships for the itinerary, with private balconies, iPod docks, mini bars and all-included service and on board service including wine, spirits in several lounges, and dining at 2 venues. 

This itinerary has been canceled in 2020 as the US/Canada border is closed and Ponant ships have been returned to France, but you can get ahead of this popular sailing in booking now for 2021.

The Great Lakes on Pearl Seas Cruises


This sister company to American Cruise Lines uses the only fully-stabilized small cruise ship on the Great Lakes and the entire Pearl Mist ship (very similar to American’s coastal ships) has spacious, all-balcony, all outward-facing staterooms. The 210-guest ship also features open sundecks, a fitness area, and a glass-enclosed spacious dining room so you never miss a beautiful sunset or scenery floating by.


Two itineraries allow you to explore the gems of the Great Lakes' world-class cities and charming smaller and lakeside holiday communities: an 11-day, Great Lakes and Georgian Bay itinerary from Milwaukee to Toronto that cruises through vast and lovely Georgian Bay, and calls in Niagara as well as Mackinac Island, and a 7-night Great Lakes cruise that also begins / ends in Milwaukee and Toronto, but provides travelers with less time a condensed cruise that still allows them to experience their own backyard from its freshwater ports.
 

Canada's Rideau Canal on LeBoat

 
Le Boat has been operating 'self drive' cruises on the canals and waterways of Europe for half a century, and in 2018 introduced their first North American itinerary. It's a one-of-a-kind cruise on Ontario's UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal, the oldest continuously-operated canal system on the continent.
Begun in 1826, the Rideau Canal remains today one of North America's most beautiful navigable waterways. You'll be able to swim, fish, cycle and stroll, seeing exquisite stone-masonry and pastoral countryside between Canada's original Canadian capital of Kingston on Lake Ontario, and the current national capital, Ottawa (pictured below), at the other end of the 125 mile-long canal.

There are 47 Locks on the Rideau, many with staff members to help boaters through the locks, and a lock pass is included in your fare. Where other cruises charge by the guest, LeBoat hires out the vessels, making it a highly cost-effective choice for families and even groups including solo travelers. It also means you can set the pace and follow your own itinerary. A tutorial before you go gives you confidence driving the boat.

But don't confuse LeBoat with the houseboat rental experience you may be familiar with – this is more like what LeBoat calls pet-friendly 'floating villas'. LeBoat's fleet includes new, upscale European models designed for larger groups – some as big as 5-cabin/5-bath models that sleep 12 people! – with en-suite bathrooms, expansive 'fundecks', barbecues, air-conditioning, even dishwashers in fully-equipped kitchens. You provide your own food, drink, fuel, and fun.

 

New York's Erie Canal and the Great Lakes on Blount Small Ship Adventures


Founder Luther Blount built his first ships specifically for one very special itinerary: the 'Great American Waterways' cruise that includes the four Great Lakes – the world's largest freshwater system – and New York state's historic Erie Canal. The ships are built for the Erie Canal's size, making Blount the only overnight cruise line able to navigate the waterway. 


Guests love the casual, no dress-up atmosphere, complimentary wine and beer with meals, and a related perk that will astound seasoned cruise travelers: a BYOB policy! Not only can you provide your own wine and spirits (or buy them at local, craft wineries and distilleries along the cruise), Blount even facilitates the process, providing mixers, garnishes and barware, so you can 'pour as you please' for your entire cruise!
 
The Great American Waterways itinerary remains the family-owned and –operated company's most popular voyage. But Blount considers the entire Atlantic Coast part of its cruising 'territory', with itineraries sailing coastal New England and the Canadian maritimes into the St. Lawrence seaway (pictured, top, at New York's Singer Castle), as well as winter itineraries in the Bahamas.

Coming Soon: Viking on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi


This won't help you plan a 'bubble' cruise this year, but even pre-COVID, cruising close to home was gaining steam, and Viking's big expansion into North America is a great example.

From European rivers, to the world’s oceans… and soon to America’s heartland. Viking Cruises announced early in 2020 that it will cruise the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans beginning in 2022.

The company’s first custom vessel, purpose-made in America for these iconic river itineraries, is named Viking Mississippi (rendering pictured top) and debuts in August 2022. It will be the largest and most modern ship in the region.

The Viking Mississippi will join Viking’s current fleet of 79 river and ocean vessels, as well as the recently-announced new Viking Expeditions to Antarctica and the North American Great Lakes. 


#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy of their respective cruise lines.

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Canada's Iconic 'Castle and Cabin' Western Mountain Hotels Re-Open
June 1st was the 132nd birthday of the iconic Banff Springs Hotel, and this year, the date marked another milestone: the re-opening of the four Fairmont Hotels in Canada’s Western Mountain region following a nearly two-month pandemic shutdown.
Fairmont Banff Springs is joined by its sister hotels in Canada’s western mountains Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge, which are also re-opening with new measures for guest and staff protection including physical distancing, new cleaning and disinfecting protocols, 48-hour periods between guests in rooms, and temporary changes to amenities like restaurants and spas.


Historic and Legendary

Canada’s ‘Castle Hotels’ are part of a string of luxury properties in epic wilderness and central downtown locations across the country. Today they are part of the Fairmont family of world wide landmark hotels. But they were originally built as railway hotels at the most scenic, or most important urban locations along Canada’s cross-country railroad. Styled with a vision of French chateaux in many cases, today’s Fairmont hotels in Canada are legendary.
Four hotels in Canada’s spectacular Western mountain resort regions are the first Fairmont hotels to re-open in Canada.
The setting for adventures in the wilderness, celebrations, milestones, romance, and many more unforgettable memories, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler are spectacular mountain playgrounds.

Magic Every Season 

At any time of the year, experience breathtaking moments in the mountains, in some cases, in the heart of some of Canada’s oldest National Parks, amidst glacier-fed spas, panoramic vantage points, and charming mountain towns. Discover breathtaking views of vast mountain ranges on a gondola ride. Get a glimpse of the bears, elk, deer or bighorn sheep that may live nearby.
Collectively, Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise and Whistler are renowned for being among the world’s best alpine ski destinations, where endless winter activity extends beyond your usual experiences on the slopes: the exhilaration of heli-skiing and dog sledding, the pristine backcountry scenery of cross-country skiing, and the romance of horse-drawn sleigh rides and ice-skating.
Summers at these mountain resorts celebrate the joys of alpine hiking and ziplining, fishing and canoeing, retracing the steps of early adventurers up tall peaks and through deep canyons, not to mention championship golf on a lush mountainside.
 

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Canada’s original ‘Castle in the Rockies’, located in the heart of Banff National Park only 90 minutes from Calgary, Alberta, the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel reflects the majesty and grandeur of its magnificent surroundings and features:
 
·     Nearly 800 guest rooms from cozy rooms tucked away in quiet corners of the castle to spacious suites with sweeping Rocky Mountain views
·     A dozen restaurants and lounges, including a 24-hour deli offering seasonal fare
·     Direct access via ski shuttle to three world-class ski areas: Mt. Norquay, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Area
·     Championship golf at Stanley Thompson–designed 18-hole and Tunnel 9-hole golf courses
·     Willow Stream Spa
·     Shops and boutiques
·     Indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub and children’s wading pool
 

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

One of the most iconic images of Canada is the castle form of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise against the breathtaking backdrop of turquoise waters and mountain peaks of its namesake lake in Banff National Park. For over a century, the Chateau has been a symbol of elegance in the wilderness 2 hours from Calgary, and today features:
 
·     Progressive environmental stewardship and responsible tourism in its natural setting
·     Guided Mountain Heritage programs
·     Hiking, canoeing, horseback riding and rafting in the summer, or
·     Downhill and cross-country skiing, heli-skiing and ice-skating in the winter
·     Nearly 600 alpine accented guest rooms and suites
·     8 restaurants and lounges, including 24-hour deli
·     Health club, indoor pool and hot tub; salon with spa treatments
 

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Deep within the Canadian Rockies, in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Fairmont
Jasper Park Lodge is one of the last authentic Western Canadian lodges in a charming village of cedar chalets and heritage log cabins lakeside with views of majestic mountain glaciers and features:
 
·     Some of the best alpine skiing in the world 20 minutes away at Marmot Basin
·     #1 Golf Resort in Canada just outside your cabin door in the mountains
·     Abundance of wildlife experiences, icefield hiking, ice skating on the lake, canoeing or kayaking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing,
·     Rejuvenation at the luxurious Fairmont Spa
·     Year-round heated outdoor pool and hot tub
·     Local cuisine in 7 unique restaurants and dining rooms and unique outdoor settings
·     Kids’ Club and Children’s Activity Centre
·     446 guest rooms, suites and Signature Cabins
 
 

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler

At the base of British Columbia’s famous Blackcomb Mountain and only 90 minutes from Vancouver, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is one of North America’s top mountain playgrounds and features:
 
·     Spectacular mountain or village views from each of 550 elegant guest rooms and suites
·     True ski-in/ski-out convenience
·     Championship golf at Canada’s only David Leadbetter Golf Academy
·     Year round alpine activities including mountain hiking and charming sleigh rides
·     Full-service spa, health club, including whirlpools, indoor/outdoor pools, sauna and steam rooms
·     5 unique restaurants and lounges, including famous après-ski and happy-hour gatherings
 
Whatever season you choose to visit any one of these magical mountain hotels, the sheer beauty of the landscape and the epic hotels nestled in the mountains will captivate you.
 

Start Your Trip!


Images courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.









First In-Person New Cruise Ship Delivery Since Pandemic Lockdown: The Silver Origin

Silversea has welcomed its first-ever destination-specific ship, the Silver Origin, designed for ultra-luxury expedition sailings in the Galapagos.

It’s a good-news, milestone event for the cruise line - and for cruising.

The global pandemic shutdown has resulted in a number of scheduled new ships to be delayed or postponed, so the official flag ceremony marking the completion of the Silver Origin will also echo through cruising, and is hopefully symbolic of its return.

The Silver Origin is a unique addition to the Silversea fleet; it was designed entirely with cruising to one destination in mind: the Galapagos.
Silversea, a trend-setter in luxury expedition cruises, was the first line to launch an ultra-luxury ship in the Galapagos. This year’s launch of the Silver Origin takes it to the next level, with the ship concept to design to operations all focused on year-round service in this very unique and sensitive group of islands.
The 100-guest Silver Origin integrates state-of-the-art technology and advanced execution of four pillars: sustainability, destination experiences on-board and on expedition, authentic local culture, and Silversea’s signature levels of comfort and service.

Silversea Lifestyle Customized for The Galapagos

Even in one of the most remote groups of islands in the world, returning Silversea guests will recognize the signature features of Silversea cruising on the Silver Origin – with destination-specific touches, including:
The Explorer Lounge:
An elegant space at the aft of the ship to relax, that on the Silver Origin also doubles as a state-of-the-art lecture room for Galapagos enrichment. Outside, a beautiful terrace with with a fire pit allows guests to maximize every moment in this extraordinary destination.

The Restaurant & The Grill:
Silversea’s new S.A.L.T. culinary program as it’s offered on the Silver Origin focuses on local ingredients and Ecuadorian cuisine, just as Silversea’s beloved ‘Hot Rocks’ concept is tailored with an Ecuadorian twist along with advanced sheltering system protecting diners from less-than-tropical conditions.
Guest Suites:
All suites. All private balconies. Among the most spacious accommodations in the Galapagos. And the only ship in the archipelago to offer butler service to all guests. All the Silver Origin suites also focus on providing guests with the best views of this life-changing destination, including some with ocean-view bathtubs accessible from balconies.

New Innovations on the Silver Origin


The Marina: Guests accustomed to embarking on zodiac expeditions or an afternoon of watersports via the marina will see this aft space in another, new light: On the Silver Origin, the marina is a groundbreaking arrival/disembarkation experience. With more zodiacs per guest than any other ship in the Galapagos, the Silver Origin’s marina features comfortable sofas, showers to rinse your gear, storage for wetsuits and equipment and special boarding facilities for two zodiacs at once.


Basecamp: On the Silver Origin, the marina is connected to ‘Basecamp’, one of the ship’s most innovative spaces, connecting the destination with the ship itself. It’s where Silversea’s team of local resident experts guide educational activities about the landscapes, wildlife and history of the Galapagos. They’re aided by an immense interactive digital wall, bespoke software, and multi-media content, some provided by the Royal Geographical Society of London.

Sustainability

Environmental Impact: The Silver Origin doesn’t just meet current requirements for ships in the Galapagos, it goes even farther to protect the archipelago, with additional fuel efficiencies, exhaust emission reductions, dynamic positioning to prevent damage from dropping anchor, waste management, recycling, and even conversions of seawater to drinking water to reduce the use of plastic on board.
Fund for the Galapagos: In addition, Silversea Cruises has launched the Silversea Fund for the Galapagos to support educational projects and promoting conservation in the Galapagos Islands to preserve them for future generations. Guests can also get involved in the fund, and the cruise line will match donations in the form of future cruise credits to reward their commitment to conservation in the Galapagos.

You don’t need to wait long to experience the Galapagos on the Silver Origin. Silversea’s newest ship
is scheduled to begin service in August, 2020.
 

Start Your Trip!

 
Images and renderings courtesy Silversea
 
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 






In some very special places in North America, Mother Nature has found a perfect formula to make dramatic hillside scenery decked out in autumn colors even more breathtaking: she’s added waterfalls.

If you’re planning an autumn colors getaway, here are three fantastic falls that will put the icing on the cake of the fall color pictures you’ll want to post on your social media accounts.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

America’s West is full of great heights – and great falls. From the Grand Canyon, to Yosemite, to the very shores of the Pacific in California, dramatic waterfalls have taken visitors’ breath away since humans first set eyes on these wonders.
But unlike many western falls that dry up in late summer, Oregon’s Multnomah Falls work their magic year round, fed not just by melting snow and rain runoff, but also underground springs in the cliffs that line the Columbia River Gorge.
WATCH BESTTRIP TV’S VIDEO ABOVE ABOUT THE MAGIC OF MULTNOMAH FALLS
Said to be the most visited attraction in the state, at 620 feet, this two-tiered falls is also the tallest of the nearly 80 falls on the Oregon side of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge.  
The falls are tucked into a hollow in the cliffs, and mist and spray off the cascades create its own, lush microclimate that feeds fairytale moss on the basalt rocks, and lacy, leaved trees all around. It’s an incredibly romantic vision that you can feel a part of by walking up a trail to the bridge that spans the lower cascade.
The romance of the site is rounded out by a lodge at the base of the falls built from local rock in National Park lodge style that dates back to 1925. In addition to the usual lodge amenities, you’ll find hiking trail information. You can hike to the very top of the falls as well as on many surrounding trails, including to other falls along the Columbia River Gorge.
How to experience the falls:
  • The site falls within the Mt. Hood National Forest, and along the Columbia River Gorge, yet it’s only 30 minutes – an hour’s drive outside of Portland, Oregon. We always recommend taking the slower, scenic route, which will take you along some of the most breathtaking sites of the Columbia River Gorge. 
  • Many people make the falls, the gorge, and Mt. Hood a splendid day trip from the artistic and hipster attractions of Portland.
  • The falls are also a highly rated excursion from Columbia River cruises.

 

Niagara Falls – Ontario, Canada and New York, USA

The granddaddy of waterfalls in North America, Niagara Falls are remarkable in so many ways.
  • It’s the only dual-country attraction in North America, straddling the US-Canada border. 
  • Niagara Falls refers to what are actually three side-by-side falls on the Niagara River dropping 160 feet down where Lake Erie flows into Lake Ontario eastward to ultimately drain into the Atlantic Ocean almost half a continent away.
  • They are the most powerful falls in North America, with more than 6 million cubic feet of water flowing over the edge of the falls every minute!
  • It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
  • The water flowing over Niagara Falls is a signature vivid green, created as the water erodes the rocks it flows over and absorbs the minerals.
The biggest falls are the perfectly-named ‘Horseshoe Falls’ on the Canadian side, where a nightly, year-round light show illuminates the Falls for awed visitors. Every few years, the Falls freeze in the winter, creating a fantasy of icy shapes and lacy frozen mist.
No matter which side you’re on, Niagara Falls, USA or Niagara Falls, Canada – the view is incredible.
How to experience the falls:
  • Observation vantage points and towers, helicopter tours, and (very wet) tours behind the falls and boat tours beneath the falls that take you incredibly close to thunderous cascades, are all favorite experiences on both sides of the border.
  • Niagara Falls, New York is only a half-hour from Buffalo, and Niagara Falls, Ontario is just over an hour’s drive from the bright lights of Toronto. On the Canadian side, the Niagara wine region provides the world with its best ice wine.
  • Great Lakes cruises often dock nearby for guests to enjoy the Falls, wine region, gardens, and other tourist-town attractions.
  • TAKE A VIRTUAL VISIT NOW: You can view the majestic Niagara Falls from home 24/7 with the Niagara Falls Live Web Cam, including the nightly Falls Illumination.
 

Montmorency Falls – Quebec City, Quebec

9 of the 10 tallest waterfalls in Canada are in the West / Northwest; 8 of them are in the Rockies (one on the Alberta side and 7 on the British Columbia side). Another is in the Northwest Territories.
But only one waterfall east of Alberta makes that list. And it’s not Niagara Falls.
Quebec’s Montmorency Falls are actually a hundred feet higher than Niagara’s famous falls, dropping 272 feet from the Montmorency River over a cliff into the Saint Lawrence River.
Year-round, visitors can climb a staircase or take a funicular to the top, where a suspension bridge spans the cascades.
How to experience the falls:
  • The Montmorency Falls are a popular day trip and an easy drive from Quebec City. It’s less than 10 miles from the heart of the more than 400-year Old Quebec City, considered a little piece of Europe in North America, with the only remaining fortified city walls on the continent north of Mexico, and historic, French-style buildings.
  • It’s a popular excursion from a Canada & New England cruise. You’ll want to make sure you add a pre- or post-cruise stay in this magical city, and include a trip to the falls, where many cruise lines offer excursions.
  • Helicopter tours of Quebec City often include the Montmorency Falls.


#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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#LookUpTogether During Dark Sky Week and at the World’s Largest Dark Sky Preserve’s Festival in the Rockies

The COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone at home, resulting in an unexpected and heartening clearing of skies and revival of Mother Nature in surprising places. But one thing that continues to disappear from the world… is darkness.

Light pollution doesn’t just prevent you from seeing the constellations in the middle of the city. Light spilling far into the countryside interferes with nocturnal creatures’ ability to thrive, as well as the essential rhythms of nature. Many species, including the human species, need periods without light, and we hear about shift workers and peoples in the far north whose health and sleep are impacted by interruptions of natural cycles of darkness and light.
The loss of darkness by human expansion around the world is so profound, that, just as people have established reserves for wildlife and irreplaceable wilderness, spaces on earth with an unimpeded view of the stars above are being preserved, too.
The International Dark Sky Association in Arizona works to protect the night, and its International Dark Sky Places conservation program recognizes and promotes excellent stewardship of the night sky.
Over 130 Dark Sky Places around the world have been designated to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

International Dark Sky Week

International Dark Sky Week is a worldwide annual event hosted by the International Dark-Sky Association to celebrate the night and bring attention to the problems caused by light pollution. International Dark Sky Week is held during the week of April’s new Moon, when the sky is darkest and the stars most visible. 2020’s celebrations run from April 19th through the 26th, which appropriately coincides with Earth Day on April 22.
So if you and your family have ever wondered how to find a constellation in the night sky… Or how cultures around the world, and across time, saw their place in the stars... Or what critters are exploring the night while you sleep… You’ll find presentations daily during International Dark Sky Week on the organization’s.

Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival in the Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park is the largest of Canada’s mountain parks, famous for magnificent glaciers, lakes and mountains. Jasper has also been designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as a Dark Sky Preserve for its special commitment to protect and preserve the night sky and to reduce or eliminate light pollution in all its forms.
It’s one of 17 designated Dark Sky Preserves in Canada, the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, and the largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve - meaning there’s a town within the limits of the preserve.
As daylight hours begin to shrink, the month of October is the perfect time for Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival. Dozens of events including dark sky photography workshops, interactive experiences at Jasper’s Planetarium, black hole sculptures, and ‘Animals of the Night’ hikes, indoor and outdoor events, speakers and hands-on celestial activities celebrate the night skies that cradle the earth.
ASK YOUR TRAVEL ADVISOR ABOUT THE BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE JASPER’S DARK SKIES.
(Jasper National Park/ Jasper Tourism)

Jasper’s Wild Beauty and Darks Skies by Train on the Rocky Mountaineer

A Rocky Mountaineer rail journey has been called one of the ‘World’s Greatest Trips’. The incredibly scenic train, with its glass-domed, panoramic cars, gets rave reviews about the magic and wonder of a train trip through the majestic Canadian Rockies.
The Rocky Mountaineer is a presenter of Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and a visit to Jasper any time of the season, with a visit to its Dark Sky Preserve and Planetarium is a magical highlight of a rail journey through the Rockies.
Three Rocky Mountaineer journeys take you to Jasper National Park and its Dark Sky Preserve, including
  • Rainforest to Gold Rush Explorer
  • Canadian Rockies Circle
  • Journey through the Clouds Explorer

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Canadian Rockies Adventure by Globus

The highlight of this 9-day Canadian Rockies escorted tour is the natural wonder of the western skies.
From the forested seaside city of Vancouver, guests travel through mountain passes to the historic mining, rail and cattle town of Kamloops. 
The tour continues to Jasper and its Dark Sky Preserve for a special community Moon Viewing, complete with telescopes.
There’s time to explore Jasper National Park or the Jasper Wildlife Museum, then attend the Jasper Planetarium & Telescope Experience. Guests learn about this spectacular Dark Sky Preserve in a dome theater experience, complete with the most powerful telescope in the Rocky Mountains and venture outside to look for the Northern Lights. The tour includes a day at Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and a fascinating and inspiring Keynote Presentation by guest speakers steeped in astronomic lore.
After Jasper, the tour travels to Lake Louise for an overnight stay at the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise where guests enjoy crisp mountain air, a gondola ride up the mountain and the amenities of this world-renowned lakeside resort as well as Banff National Park in this remarkable Rocky Mountain setting.

Start your Trip!

Top 3 Images by Royce Bair, courtesy International Dark Sky Association
Top: Milky Way over the abandoned Lincoln Highway in Nevada 
Middle: North Star and Big Dipper over Grosvenor Arch, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah
Bottom: Milky Way star canopy over a silhouette of the ‘Wall Street’ canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
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The Whale Shark Whisperer of Cabo
It’s a paradise where Mexico’s Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. Los Cabos has become synonymous with a chic coastal retreat for Hollywood celebrities and global jetsetters.

The southern tip of the Baja Peninsula teems with luxury beachside resorts and spas, where stylish people relax, go golfing, horseback riding, and dancing til dawn.

But Cabo is first and foremost about the sea. Its signature landmark is the Arch rock formation rising from the ocean at the ‘End of the World’, and water-based activities like kayaking and paddle boarding, snorkeling and diving dominate the holiday lifestyle.


Cabo is the launching pad for visits to the area of Cabo Pulmo, Mexico’s protected National Marine Park known as “The Aquarium of the World”, and its most famous resident, enormous whale sharks.

They’re called ‘sharks’, but these ‘Gentle Giants’ are slow-moving filter feeders completely harmless to humans. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the seas, growing to more than 30 feet and 20,000 pounds, making them far and away the largest non-mammal creature alive.

Any glimpse of a whale shark in the wild is magnificent. But in Cabo, visitors can join tours that allow you to swim among these breathtaking creatures. Cabo’s whale shark viewing season runs October through April, and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
 
We asked Los Cabos diver and expert whale shark tour guide Oliver Hernandez what it’s like to swim with these gentle giants.
 
How long have you been swimming with the whale sharks?
“My first season swimming with the sharks was in 2013. I had been working with Cabo Adventures as a guide for a number of other tours since I moved to Los Cabos in 2008. I’ve loved the water since childhood, so that type of tour was a natural fit for me. When I learned that there were whale shark tours operating out here, I knew I had to apply to become a tour guide.”
  
You have a job that a lot of people likely envy. What amazes you most about what you do?
“I feel extremely lucky to be able to swim with these incredible animals. It’s truly a mind-blowing experience. The very first sighting of a whale shark in our waters was only in 2006, and many people had no idea that a swimming excursion with them was even an option. In my first season, we only had tours every third day with maybe eight guests.  Of course, it exploded in popularity rapidly and we quickly had to develop a system to avoid disturbing the sharks. Today, you may be on a waitlist for a tour because we cap it at 14 boats in the water at a time to ensure the sharks remain comfortable. I’m proud of how we moved quickly to accommodate the sudden increase in demand while still remaining respectful of the needs of the wildlife.”
 
How has the marine tour industry and its protocols evolved?
I’ve personally witnessed many changes in my time here, and all of them have been for the better. There have been different rules and restrictions in place over the years and all of them have been guided by the desire to provide the best experience possible for the guests and the animals. I feel confident and proud in saying that Los Cabos takes the utmost caution to tour the waters respectfully and cultivate a love for the sharks. I feel that, since our inception, we have demonstrated respect and care for this species and that is an amazing thing.”
 
You work with whale sharks almost every single day. What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve learned about them?
“The most important thing for me, when dealing with any species in the ocean, is care and perseverance. It is important to respect the ocean’s wildlife, and I think that doing so has helped to maintain that sense of wonder I get every time I dive in. Unlike in say a zoo, these animals are not here for us to look at: we are entering their home and humbly requesting an audience with them. We should always feel grateful for the opportunity to interact with these creatures in their habitat.”

 
What’s the secret for consistently finding these breathtaking animals and introducing them to the guests?
“It’s all about teamwork. The captain, Jorge, seems to instinctively know exactly where to position the boat. As guides, we are in the water simultaneously watching the position of every guest and every shark. On days where it’s proving difficult to spot them, we manage to approximate their location by reading the flow of the waves and the ‘trail’ they leave in the water as they swim. As the captain spots from the boat, he relays what he sees to the guides and gets us moving in the right direction. “
 
Although whale sharks are docile filter feeders, there are definitely people out there who will have reservations about swimming with any kind of shark. What would you tell a guest who might be feeling a bit hesitant to get in the water with them?
The good news is that unless you are plankton, you aren’t on the menu. Whale sharks are gentle and will show respect as long as their space is respected. We encourage guests not to impede their movements and to stay out of their way so they feel relaxed. When in the water with any species, the key is always to blend in. Once you jump into the water or start splashing around wildly, the whale sharks can feel the vibrations and motions of the water and they are bound to take off rather than approach. The key to having a good experience with the animals is just to be calm and don’t interfere with wildlife. Whether it’s whale sharks, dolphins, or hammerheads, they will respond by remaining calm as well.”
 
What are some of your most memorable moments while leading a tour?
We had a guest once who was swimming and was grazed by a whale shark. Whale shark skin feels like sandpaper, so she had a big shock. At times, when there are many whale sharks in the water, you have to become a matador. One time I was following along with the group and I felt a presence next to me, so I turned around and found myself staring into the huge open mouth of a whale shark coming towards me. I had to roll myself like a tortilla and I was just floating along the surface while the whale shark passed, the fin gliding right between my legs. It can happen more than once because the whale sharks are everywhere. That’s what makes the experience so fun.


Top, middle photos: Getty
Bottom photo: Visit Los Cabos

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4 Places in Chile for Your Next Adventure Vacation
Chile is easy to spot on a map of South America. It’s the very long, very narrow ribbon of country stretching over 4300 km (2700 miles) along from the middle to the very tip of the Pacific coast of South America. In spite of its length, it’s only 350 km (220 miles) wide at the widest point! 

With the storied Atacama desert in the north and the dramatic landscapes of Patagonia in the south, bordered by the epic Andes mountain range in the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west stretching all the way to its fabled Easter Island, Chile’s incredible geography has created climates and landscapes ranging from lava fields and sand dunes, volcanoes and lakes, to forest and fjords, snow-capped mountains and endless maritime wonders.


They are wildly different backdrops for your next perfect adventure. Chile’s supersized natural settings have helped make it four times in a row the ‘World’s Best Adventure Tourism Destination’. 
 
Whether you are looking for a way to be immersed in Chile’s spectacular outdoors or you’re in search of adrenaline-pumping action, the country’s expansive and unique terrain offers travelers a full range of active experiences, including hiking, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, mountaineering, climbing, surfing, sport fishing, kayaking, rafting, diving, canopy, sandboarding, kitesurfing and paragliding.
 
What’s more, many of Chile’s outdoor adventure experiences involve sustainable practices, protecting the environment you’re there to explore.
 
Here are four regions in Chile where you can get your heart pumping and create travel memories of a lifetime.
 

Atacama Desert 


In Chile’s north, it’s the driest desert in the world. It’s also one of the most unique eco-systems, occupying a vast, 105,000 square km (40,000 square mile) plateau between the Andes mountains and the sea.

 
The Atacama Desert’s sand dunes don’t just take your breath away with their scale and beauty, they provide the one-of-a-kind terrain for the unique adventure of sandboarding.
 

Punta de Lobos 


Chile may be narrow, but it has a whopping 4000 km (nearly 2500 miles) of coastline, which cruise travelers embarking and disembarking from Valparaiso get to enjoy, but we hope you explore Chile’s beaches more than from the rail of a ship. 
 
Chile has a well-earned reputation as world-class spot for surfing. Its Punta de Lobos beach south of cruise port Valparaiso and the inland capital of Santiago, has been named ‘Best Surf Capital of the World’.
 

You don’t have to be a world-class surfer to get in on the beach party scene and celebration of surf. And since it’s said to be one of the most consistent places to catch a wave in the southern hemisphere, it’s buzzing pretty much any day you visit.

 

Chilean Patagonia 


It’s a mystical destination near the bottom of the world, at the bottom of the Andes mountain range, straddling the border of Chile and Argentina. The last stop before the waters that lead to the Antarctic, Patagonia is South America’s great white south. 
 
This is the Chilean destination for lovers of vast, snow-topped mountain landscapes and cool climate or winter adventures like skiing, hiking and glacier trekking.
 

Easter Island 


Chile’s – and arguably, one of the world’s - most famous islands, Easter Island’s gigantic stone heads, called mo’ai, are instantly identifiable. Their lore draws culture-seekers from around the world and puts Easter Island at the top of adventure-lovers’ travel bucket lists.
 
Marine adventurers can get a different perspective on the mysteries of the mo’ai. The waters surrounding remote Easter Island are so clear, scuba divers are treated to visibility of the maritime environment up to 60 m (nearly 200 feet) away, including underwater caves and submerged mo’ai gazing inscrutably into the distance of the sea.
 
Your travel advisor can connect you to adventures where you can explore Chile’s one-of-a-kind natural wonders, be embraced by the renowned warmth of its people, wander the streets of UNESCO heritage historic sites – oh, and don’t forget to taste the wine and especially the country’s signature beverage, pisco!

 

Start your Trip!


All photos courtesy of Imagen de Chile.

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How You Can Help Now in Australia - Hint: It's Not Knitting Another Koala Cozy
Maybe you’ve donated to wildlife rescue or the Red Cross funds to help. Maybe you’ve been one of the crafters who have knitted pouches and mittens for injured and orphaned koalas, kangaroos and other iconic Australian wild animals hurt in the fires.

Welcome and much-needed rains have come that are helping to put out the fires. New green buds are even peeping out of the charred landscape.

Now what?

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s producer/host spoke with officials from Tourism Australia as well as owner/operators of local tourism businesses who came on an urgent trip to North America to provide an update.

It’s not just the actual wildfires themselves that have been damaging to Australia. Misinformation reported about Australia’s wildfires online is hurting the country’s tourism industry. 

That directly impacts Australia’s ability to rebuild and to support and protect its famous wildlife.

Debunking Myths about Australia’s Wildfires


Tourism officials and local Australian tour operators explained that bushfires are a natural part of the seasonal cycle in Australia. This year, they admit the annual fires took place on an ‘unprecedented scale’. 

But everything you may have seen online about this year’s wildfires is NOT true. Here are 3 of the biggest falsehoods:

Myth #1: All of Australia is on fire.

Online maps that show the entire country ablaze are misleading and false. Fires are focused in specific areas and 97% of Australia is open!

Correct maps, real-time information about locations of fires and updated advice about travel to Australia can be found on this official source: Australia.com

In one example, famous Kangaroo Island was on the news for many days. But as officials pointed out, the part of Kangaroo Island that is NOT burned is still three times the size of the entire country of Singapore!

 ‘We’ve taken a big hit, but tourism experiences on Kangaroo Island continue… just modified.’

Myth #2: Sydney is on fire.

Australia’s capital is not on fire. Images of the iconic, harbor-side Sydney Opera House under scaffolding have nothing to do with wildfires. It’s a scheduled renovation!


Myth #3: All the animals are dead.

As in the case of any bushfire in any country, there has been a terrible impact on Australian wildlife in the affected areas. 

As a Kangaroo Island tour operator pointed out, ‘The humane 1st response to the wildlife in crisis was better than anything we’ve ever seen in Australia’s history.’ In 4 days, they built an animal hospital. A call for 80 volunteers to help care for rescued animals received 13,000 applications.

Now, the focus is conservation and habitat restoration.


How Can Travelers Help?


Reschedule, don't cancel.

Keep travel plans you already have to Australia.  Cruise lines and tour operators are proactively modifying itineraries and experiences to ensure you will still see the beautiful scenery, meet those only-in-Australia creatures, and take part in the ‘mate-ship’ lifestyle the country is known for and which the wildfires have not affected.

Talk to your travel advisor about how to modify your trip if you are booked to go to affected areas, or reschedule it so you can still support affected communities.

Book a Trip

You can support Australia’s recovery and rebuilding by:

  • supporting their tourism industry, 
  • sharing positive images of your trip to help counter false online stories, 
  • spending locally to support local economies to rebuild, and 
  • visiting wildlife parks and sanctuaries who rely on admission fees to carry on their essential work of preserving habitat and the one-of-a-kind creatures who call Australia home.

 
Volunteer During Your Trip

Tourism locals are developing ways you can volunteer to help rebuilding and conservation efforts during your vacation in Australia.

Examples of some of the voluntourism programs include

Placing artificial habitats
On Kangaroo Island, for example, endangered cockatoos reside in hollows in trees, and since they are big birds, only mature trees will do. Until large trees are available again, the project is planting boxes at the right height for the cocktaoos to carry on.

Tree planting and habitat restoration
In Australia, the tree-planting window is June-September. Tree-planting projects will be springing up in affected areas all summer. 
One example of a specific project is in Melbourne, where small group wildlife tour operator Echinda Walkabout is organizing volunteers to help restore koala habitat.

Protecting remaining wildlife
In an eco-system, the wildlife tour operators explained, ‘if you look after the small things, the big things take care of themselves.’  One project involves establishing tunnels for small mammals that shield them from predators like (non-native) feral pigs and cats that can wipe out surviving small mammals after a fire destroys the undergrowth where the animals usually hide from predators.
 
Local tourism operators in Australia are working to incorporate volunteer activities into their tours offered by companies like Kensington Tours, Goway, Butterfield & Robinson, and others.

Contacting your travel advisor today to book a trip to Australia is the best way you can be part of the solution to a terrible year of Australian wildfires.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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4 Tips for Pre- and Post-Cruise Extensions
Your next cruise vacation shouldn’t just start and stop at the ship’s gangway. Make the most of your holiday by extending your cruise before you board and even after you disembark.

Here are some pre- and post-cruise extension moves for every smart cruise traveler.
  

1. Arrive at least one day early


That doesn’t even qualify as a pre-cruise extension. It’s just common sense.

We recommend you arrive at minimum of a full day before your cruise is set to embark. Most cruises sail away in the late afternoon, with all aboard no later than mid afternoon. It really doesn’t leave much time padding.
 
Even the slightest delay of a mid-morning or midday arrival puts you at risk of missing your cruise departure.
Between airlines pinching pennies and making sure they fly full, and a full calendar of extreme weather events throughout North America, a flight delay or getting bumped and having to wait one or two flights down the schedule to take off can really put you in jeopardy of missing sail away and getting your cruise off on the wrong foot. 

Not to mention the stress of sorting out transportation to the first port of call where you can pick up the ship (and miss enjoying your first port of call as you use the time boarding the ship and getting your arrival sorted out).

There’s another potential snag on arrival that being at least a day early helps solve. If your luggage misses your flight, airlines can often restore it to you by the next day. If you’re on a ship, the logistics of having your luggage catch up with you are much more complicated than if you’re at a land-based hotel the day after your flight. That way, you’ll likely hardly miss the luggage, and the rest of your cruise will be smooth sailing.
 

2. Don’t miss two of your cruise’s ‘ports of call’


The number one reason travelers choose cruises is for the destination. And you likely have plans for each of your cruise ports of call.  

It only makes sense to treat your ports of embarkation and debarkation like the fascinating ports of call on the rest of your cruise.

And that involves more than a transfer straight from the ship to or from the airport. Most ports of embarkation and debarkation are major cities that merit at least a ‘long weekend’ / 3 day stay to get an overview of the city and then dive deeper into some of the activities, cuisine, events and neighborhoods that give the destination its unique character.

Think of exploring the contemporary art, Art Deco, mid-century and modernist design and Cuban culinary scene in Miami before a Caribbean cruise. 

Wine, tapas and the Gaudi architecture of Barcelona before your Mediterranean cruise.

High tea, Royal Family landmarks, and museums of London before a Trans-Atlantic Crossing.

Cruise lines are getting into the pre- and post-cruise extension act too, offering, and sometimes including, at least one, with an option for more, nights before and after you actually board their ships.

3. Launching pad


Pre- and post-cruise extensions can also allow you to use your ports of embarkation and disembarkation as starting points for intensive exploration of the region.

This is a great opportunity on cruise round trips when your cruise begins and ends at the same port. Arriving a few days ahead of your cruise allows you time to immerse yourself in the embarkation city. Then when you return, it’s a launching pad to experience more of the surrounding area.

You can make independent plans for your cruise extension, but you don’t have to. Travel advisors can help you pair cruises with land-based tours complete with expert guides, hotels and transportation so you can easily transition from ship to shore journeys and double the holiday experiences and memories.

Imagine continuing your immersion into the magnificent wilderness with a train ride through the Rocky Mountains before or after your Alaska cruise roundtrip from Vancouver.

Experiencing the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Iguassu Falls after disembarking your cruise in Rio de Janeiro.

Or a wildlife safari after your South Africa itinerary.

4. Take advantage of the cruise line's own land tours


Cruise lines are now often offering land tours bookending their cruises as well. Like putting icing on the cake of a northbound cruise to Alaska with a land tour of the state’s famous Denali park.

Not only do a cruise line’s land tours make the transition between ship and shore logistically seamless, where your luggage and transfers are handled with minimal effort on your part without awkward delays around things like hotel check in times.

Especially at the luxury level of cruises, land tours mirror the service levels and unique features of the cruise line you’ve been enjoying on the water, so instead of feeling like you’re taking two trips back to back, you’re enjoying the same travel experience in different surroundings.

A special variation on this theme is land tours that take place mid-cruise, like an overnight excursion to Angkor Wat from a Mekong river or coastal South East Asia cruise.

Pre- and post-cruise extensions are the perfect proof that when it comes to cruise trips, more is really more! A travel advisor can help you design the best cruise extensions and manage the moving parts to ensure both your ship and shore travel creates the very best memories.
 

Start your Trip!


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What is 'Wave' and How You Can Save Booking Your Next Cruise Now
It couldn’t come at a better time. The thrills of the holidays have passed, and the bills of the gift-giving season are due.
The cold weather, cabin fever, and the doldrums of winter are descending. They’ve even named the 3rd Monday in January ‘Blue Monday’ after studies showed it’s the most depressing day of the year. 

Everyone needs something to look forward to.

Welcome, Wave Season


It’s the catchy name for the cruise travel equivalent to Black Friday. But instead of just a day, it’s a whole season of the best cruise deals of the year. Wave after wave of promotions, offers and perks that make booking your next cruise in the first couple of months of the year irresistible.

It’s not the only time of the year you can get a deal on a cruise. But it is the time of the year when cruise lines compete to outdo each other, and if you’re willing to do some legwork, and try something new, you can really win.

Navigating Wave


With all the different kinds of discounts, promotions, perks and savings, it’s important to understand their differences, relative values, and especially, to compare deals ‘apple to apple’ to make sure you’re getting the best deals on the best cruise for you. Here are some tips for the most common types of Wave incentives:

Discounts:


  • Fare Savings: discounts are always appealing, but watch for the fine print. Cruises are priced per person, double occupancy, so make sure you know whether the discount is per person or per stateroom (Example $1000 off per person would be $2000 off for the stateroom, but $1000 off per stateroom is $500 savings per person)
 
  • BOGO / 2-for-1 cruise fares: compare with regular fares in comparable cruise lines to make sure this is really as valuable as it suggests.
 
  • 3rd/ 4th passengers OR Kids Sail Free: this is generally code for family savings, and applies most often to mass-market, family-oriented cruise lines. This kind of incentive can suddenly make a family cruise quite cost-effective.
 
  • Reduced deposits: lower deposits to save your space on your cruise don’t change the overall price you’ll pay in the end. But they do give you the time to spread the cost of your cruise out, especially if your cruise is 12, 18 or more months away. That could allow you to book a higher category of stateroom, which will make a difference to your holiday.
 

Bonus Value:


  • Stateroom upgrade: Like airlines, some cruise lines offer bidding for upgrades, but there are no guarantees. Complimentary accommodation upgrades are like a fare discount as you’ll know you’re getting better accommodations than you paid for.
 
  • Pre-cruise overnight hotel stay: we always recommend arriving the day before your cruise, and this makes it easy.
 
  • Onboard Credits, or OBC: even on inclusive luxury cruises, you’ll always end up spending some money on the ship, and OBC’s allow you to treat yourself to shore excursions, spa treatments, top bottles of wine, even some shopping on board.
 

Included:

 
  • Airfare: Usually from major gateways; if you need to fly to get to the closest applicable gateway, there may be discounts on those connectors or you’ll be quoted on the difference.
 
  • Beverage package or specialty restaurant dining package: These perks can really add value to non-inclusive cruises for foodies and people who like a cocktail or two relaxing on vacation.
 
  • Gratuities: The recommended average of about 15$ per day per person in tips during your cruise adds a couple of hundred dollars a week to a couple's vacation - $400 for a family of four's 7-day cruise; included gratuities represents a significant chunk of vacation budget.
 
  • Wi-Fi: With free wi-fi in almost every hotel now when we travel, it’s easy to forget that supplying internet at sea is more complicated - and can be expensive. Tip: there can be restrictions on how many devices you can have connected at once.
 
  • Shore Excursions: Even the most independent traveler sometimes enjoys joining a trip they couldn’t access themselves, or that makes it easy; this inclusion can make it easy for you to take excursions you might not have treated yourself to otherwise.
 
  • Solo Travelers: Singles can also win during Wave, with single supplements waived or reduced.
 

Maximizing ‘Wave’


We recommend approaching Wave with an open mind and adventurous spirit. Wave deals make experimenting more accessible.

If you’ve never tried cruising at all! well, Wave is definitely the time to look into booking a cruise to see what the excitement is all about.

Seasoned cruisers can take advantage of Wave to try something new, too. Have you been wondering what another cruise style is like - maybe an expedition cruise? A small-ship cruise? If you usually take a Caribbean cruise, now’s the time to fulfill your curiosity about cold water cruising, or the Med, or even something really remote and exotic like Tahiti or Antarctica.

Or treating yourself. Wave savings and perks can add up enough that upgrading yourself to a luxury cruise line is practically saving money. Many luxury cruise lines are inclusive, offering certain things (like included tips, open bar, even shore excursions) in their regular fares. Then add their Wave perks, bonuses and savings on top of that. Luxury lines' inclusions, on top of Wave incentives, make luxury lines with inclusions not only the most pampered and carefree way to travel, but also surprisingly budget-friendly.

The bottom line


Some incentives are blanket offers, available on all cruises on a cruise line during a certain period of time. Others are available on select cruises, so flexibility – When can you travel? What are your top 3 cruise destinations? - can pay off.

Your travel advisor is your best partner helping you make the most of the many deals available during Wave.

And in helping match you to your perfect cruise style and cruise line, especially if you’re going to take advantage of Wave promotions to expand your cruise travel horizons to try a new cruise for you.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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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.
 

Start your Trip!

 
(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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New Wellness Cultural Journeys from Abercrombie & Kent Enrich Mind, Body, Spirit
Run and train like a warrior with the Maasai or hike to a vantage point high above Machu Picchu.

Feed your spirit with inspiration at a home for underprivileged girls in India, or a silent alms ceremony in Luang Prabang, and feed your body with healing, Ayurvedic herbs in India, or fresh local produce at a cooking demonstration on Krabey Island. 

Re-orient your mind through guided meditation with a local teacher at Kuang Si Falls, or learn about the meaning of tribal beading traditions in Kenya.

Now you can take your commitment to your wellbeing and desire for authentic experiences in global cultures to another level. Luxury tour company Abercrombie & Kent has debuted wellness-inspired journeys that immerse travelers in the local traditions of some of the world's most influential wellness cultures and practices, and provide uplifting visits to philanthropic projects where tourism directly supports local wellbeing.

Groups are limited to only 18 participants, and the pace is slower, with experiences and travel over 9- 13 days to allow you to stretch your mind, body and spirit, and linger in the deeply personal experiences. You'll stay in wellness-focused deluxe hotels, boutique lodges and luxuriously-appointed camps in one-of-a-kind locations. 


The first A&K wellness cultural journeys depart in Fall 2019, and explore the rich cultural traditions of bucket-list destinations Kenya, India, South-East Asia, and Peru. Imagine how enriched you'll feel after these journeys:

Wellness India: Ancient Traditions & Inspiring Icons
Explore India’s rich spiritual heritage, from the temples dedicated to Shiva and Lord Vishnu to the Taj Mahal. Participate in a guided meditation and bike ride through the countryside in Udaipur. Privately consult with an Ayurvedic doctor during a leisurely stay at Amanbagh. Explore the countryside of Rajasthan visiting local artisans. Visit an A&K Philanthropy-supported residential school for young girls. Spend two nights in the spiritual heart of India, Varanasi, where you stay in a former palace on the banks of the sacred Ganges, and take an evening boat ride to experience the pitru tarpana, a moving ceremony that honors the memory of a loved one.
 
Wellness Southeast Asia: Timeless Rituals of Indochina
You won't have to chose among your favorite Southeast Asian country, as the wellness traditions of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are all part of this journey. Take part in inspirational ceremonies such as a baci ceremony in Luang Prabang and tak bat, a silent food offering to local monks. Witness sunrise at Angkor Wat.  Luxuriate on a private tropical island at the new Six Senses Krabey Island. Enjoy a Khmer cooking class, spa treatment or sunset cruise. Discover the difference that clean water makes during a visit to a remote village, where A&K Philanthropy is building wells.

 
Wellness Kenya: Cultures & Wildlife
Discover tribal traditions and learn about conservation efforts on an active safari in the Masai Mara and Tsavo National Park. Hike through the cloud forests of the lush Chyulu Hills and learn about traditional warrior training from the Maasai, and wonder at game drives and your mythical surroundings during sunrise and sunset yoga. Gain a new perspective on giving back at an A&K Philanthropy-supported school and see how sustainable tourism is providing safe drinking water.
 
Wellness Peru: Spirit of the Incas
From the Sacred Valley and Cusco, discover local traditions in remote mountainside villages and working farms. Learn about a traditional Amazonian medicine, and hand-feed llamas and alpacas. Kayak in a secluded lagoon 12,464 feet above sea level and hike up to a birds-eye view of Machu Picchu. Overnight at the only property located on the ancient Incan site to explore the sanctuary at sunrise. Have your coca-leaf fortune read by a shaman.
 

Start your Trip!

 
 


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8 Facts About the Panama Canal

Panama is one of the fastest-growing destinations in Central America, and the Panama Canal is the country's star attraction. Although it's on everyone's list of things to experience, the canal is more important as a global shipping transit than tourist experience. 

Whether you sail the canal on your next cruise or watch in action from land, here are 8 things you need to know about this wonder of the modern world.

1. It's a short cut between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Panama Canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama in a narrow land bridge between North and South America. Prior, ships had to sail around the tip of South America. It takes about 8 hours to cross the Canal's 50 miles (77km). That saves days. If a ship had to navigate down and around Cape Horn at the tip of South America and back up the other side, it would have to travel nearly 12,500 miles (20,000 km).

2. It's over 100 years old.

2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.  Columbia, France, then later, the United States controlled the land surrounding the canal. In 1881, the French started building the canal, but progress halted due to engineering problems and high worker mortality. The US took it over in 1904 and completed the project with newly available technology ten years later at a cost of $400 million USD. In 1999, control passed back to Panama.

3. Construction cost over 25,000 lives.

At times, more than 43,000 people were working on the Panama Canal at once. Workers had to deal with heat, jungles, swamps - and all the creatures in them, including rats that carried bubonic plague. Plus mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria. Over 20,000 workers died during French building efforts.

After the scientific links between the insects and disease had been discovered, Americans undertook intensive and successful anti-mosquito initiatives. Even so, another more than 5000 workers perished during the American building phase.

4. It's considered one of the Man-Made Wonders of the World

The American Society of Civil Engineers has also dubbed the Panama Canal one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. It's one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.
 
A system of locks at each end of the Canal lifts ships up 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level to an artificial lake. Ships traverse the artificial lake, as well as a series of improved and artificial channels, and then are lowered again in more locks to sea level at the other side.  
 
The locks are 110 feet (33 meters) feet wide and 1000 feet (300 meters) long. About 30-MILLION pounds (1,400,000 kilos) of explosives were used to help clear the land for the canal.

 (That's a view! The Norwegian Bliss is the largest passenger cruise ship to have ever transited the Panama Canal)

5. Over 1 Million Vessels have transited the canal since it opened.

In 1914, the year it opened, about 1000 ships used the canal. Today, nearly 15,000 ships pass through the Isthmus of Panama via the Canal annually. The 1 Millionth ship crossed the canal in 2010, 96 years after it opened.
In 1934 it was estimated that the maximum traffic of the canal would be around 80 million tons of shipping a year, but by 2015, canal traffic exceeded 340 million tons of shipping – over 4 times the original maximum estimate.
 

6. $2 Billion in Tolls are Collected Annually

Every ship that passes through the canal pays a toll based on its size, type and volume of cargo. Tolls are set by the Panama Canal Authority. Tolls for the largest cargo ships can run about $450,000. Cruise ships pay by berths (number of passengers in beds). The per-berth fee set in 2016 was $138; a large cruise ship can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to sail through the Canal. 

The smallest toll recorded was paid by American Richard Halliburton in 1928, who paid 36 cents to swim the Canal.

 

7. The Panama Canal was expanded for bigger ships in 2016

The original canal locks are 110 feet (33 meters) wide and ten times as long. For a century, they accommodated shipping, and the term 'Panamax' ships was used to describe ships built to fit through the canal. But ships kept getting bigger, and in 2007, work began on a multi-billion dollar expansion of the Canal. In 2016, a third, wider lane of locks opened for commercial shipping, capable of handling 'Post-Panamax' ships that can carry 14,000 20-foot shipping containers (nearly 3 times Panamax ship capacity).

In spite of that giant leap forward in 2016, the world's largest container ships - that can carry 18,000 shipping containers – can't pass through the Panama Canal.

(A Celebrity Cruise ship transiting the Panama Canal)

8. How you can visit the Panama Canal. 

Many ocean cruise lines offer increasingly popular Panama Canal itineraries that sail through the canal in the approximately 8 hour passage to their next destination in the opposite ocean. 

But you don't have to sail through the canal. If you're visiting Panama City, or taking a resort / beach vacation in Panama, you can take a land trip to see the canal in action.
 
The Miraflores Visitor Center is on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, which are close to the Pacific end of the Canal and Panama City. Like the canal, the Visitor Center is open daily. The Visitor Center has large balconies designed for you to get a great view as the lock gates are opened and closed for ships to start or complete their journey through the Panama Canal. 

Engineering buffs and even children will be thrilled at the up-close-to-the-action perspective on this man-made Wonder of the World. 
 

Start your Trip!


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They say on St. Patrick's Day everyone's a little bit Irish. So it's fair to say that on Rabbie Burns' Day, we're all a little bit Scottish. The national poet of Scotland – he wrote the song you likely sing every New Year's Eve: Auld Lang Syne – was born on January 25, 1759. And every year on January 25th, Scots and people of Scottish ancestry world-wide celebrate the man voted the 'Greatest Scot' in the country's history.

In Scotland and in many communities with Scots heritage, especially in Canada, where more than 15% of the population have ancestors from Scotland, the day is marked with Rabbie Burns Day Suppers. Gentlemen lucky enough to own a kilt suit up, bagpipers pipe in the haggis, Burns' 'Address to a Haggis' is read as the stuffed sheep's stomach is ceremonially carved and served, many toasts are made with whisky (all the better to wash down the haggis!), and it wraps up with everyone singing Auld Lang Syne.

If you're one of the millions of North Americans of Scots ancestry – or are an honorary Scot on Rabbie Burns' Day – we hope you attend a Rabbie Burns supper on January 25th in your hometown. Even better, once in your life, make the trip to join the festivities in Scotland itself. It's a bucket list trip much like being in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. You'll feel like a true Scot for the rest of your life.

Here's our salute to Robert Burns Day: BestTrip's video / love letter to the Shetland Islands, the most remote part of Scotland and northern-most point of the British Isles. (Click on the video above to watch).

The Shetland Islands are where 'Scotland meets Scandinavia and the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean'. Directly due west of Norway, the Shetland Islands are as far north as St. Petersburg, Russia, and Anchorage, Alaska.

With over 4000 years of history, enchanting wild coastline and charming farms - and an estimated 1500 of its famous, local namesake breed of Shetland ponies roaming its green pastures - the Shetland islands are a time capsule of unique Scottish history, heritage and traditional lifestyle. 

(Seabourn Ovation docked next to Oslo's historic fortifications)

We sailed to the Shetland Islands on our luxury Seabourn cruise of Scandinavia and the Northern British Isles. The Shetland Islands are yet another reason we love sailing on smaller ships like Seabourn, whose itineraries include not just marquee destinations like Copenhagen, Oslo and Edinburgh, but also small ports in remote destinations - like the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Imagine a cruise port where you barely see another tourist while you experience untouched Nature and authentic local life. 

It's cruise travel as the explorer inside you dreams it will be.

Start your Trip!


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Go Glamping in the Galapagos on the Celebrity Flora

What's better than a once-in-a-lifetime cruise to the Galapagos Islands? Sleeping under the spectacular night skies in one of the most remote places in the world on the deck of a ship that's the height of modern luxury.

  The Celebrity Flora is a first for the cruise line, dedicated to exploration of the natural wonder of the Galapagos islands. The ship launches in May, 2019, and is based on the island of Baltra in the Galapagos.  
100 privileged guests at a time will experience the Galapagos islands in the Flora's all-suite environment. In addition to the stylish design, dining, cocktails and onboard signature Celebrity Cruises lifestyle, this exploration ship is designed specifically for the best possible Galapagos luxury experience:  
  • innovative, outward-facing design providing 360-degree views of the islands, open air lounges with hot tubs and cabanas with a view,
  • expert-led ecological seminars,
  • seamless sea-to-shore transportation in yacht tenders off the open marina at the ship's aft,
  • environmentally-conscious features like extreme energy efficiency and anchorless technology to protect the sea floor, and
  • an open-air stargazing platform on the top deck.
  That's where Celebrity has crafted a whole new Galapagos cruising experience: 'glamping' (glamorous camping) with the Galapagos' brilliant night sky and millions of stars above.       It's a one-night experience you'll never forget. Four guests each night will be able to reserve the experience that includes two cabanas with deluxe appointments, one with a bed for sleeping, the other for dining alfresco with curated cocktails, wines, even campfire favorites like s'mores under the stars. And a naturalist is available to point out stars and constellations as seen only from this part of the world. The magical overnight experience concludes with sunrise and a full bed-side breakfast.   Glamping under the stars isn't a one-time PR stunt –it's a full-time part of Celebrity's Galapagos experience.Guests on every sailing of the Celebrity Flora on her 10- or 11-day tours as well as 16-night inner plus outer loop Galapagos itineraries can reserve Glamping under the stars on the top deck to add another unforgettable experience to their bucket-list travel to these remote islands and natural wonders.  

Start your Trip!

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'Glamping' in Laos: Luxury Tented Villas are a Rosewood Resort First

Laos may be one of the last, best-kept secrets in South-East Asia. Now, travelers looking for an immersive vacation in the unspoiled environment, unique culture and French-Laotian heritage of Laos have the perfect ultra-luxury destination: the tented villas of the new concept Rosewood Luang Prabang.

It's Rosewood's second resort in Southeast Asia – and its very first world-wide to feature tented villas.

It's a dream 'glamping' (glamorous-camping) destination. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Laos, where the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. It's the ancient capital and current cultural center of Laos; surrounded by misty mountains with waterfalls and pools of water in the forest, countless temples and a lifestyle true to both traditional Laotian and colonial French culture.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang fits right into this idyllic escape. Nestled in untouched forest just outside the city, the resort is harmonized with the terrain, centered around a natural waterfall and river.

Its designer was inspired by the tradition of Laotian hill stations, a French colonial tradition where gracious hosts welcomed travelers to the remote corners of Laos.

Sleep: River, Forest, and Tented Villas

The resort still retains that feel of intimate but luxurious isolation in a dense, tropical forest. 23 accommodations meld into the terrain adjacent to a river or waterfall, or float above the ground amongst the treetop foliage. Some have private swimming pools, oversized balconies and outdoor wooden bathtubs. There are 6 tented villas.

That already makes them one of a kind. But each space also has its own unique design, evoking French-Indochine ambiance and hospitality with original artifacts and antiques of bygone Luang Prabang.

Tented Spa Villas with Traditional and Holistic Wellbeing Programs

Even spa services take place in the other-worldly environment of 3 tented villas in a peaceful corner of the property overlooking the river. All mind and body therapies draw from nature, and guests are guided to select herbs and plants from resort gardens for tailor-made treatments. In addition to Western techniques, nearly lost local healing practices have been resurrected and are provided by a respected local healer using ingredients he forages in the surrounding forest.

The wellness program also offers holistic experiences and retreats.

Dining in a Laotian Forest

Farm to table? How about forest to table. Or fishing boat to table. Dining at the resort reflects the harvest at hand: local farmers, fishermen and foraging, transformed into authentic local cuisine and even dishes influenced by historic Laotian royal court entertainment.

There are two dining venues: Laotian farm-to-table restaurant called The Great House and a relaxing river-view spot with the evocative name The Elephant Bridge Bar for light bites and hand-crafted cocktails with a tropical flair and local botanicals and spices. But reflecting the fluid arrangements of tents, villas and other buildings on the resort by the river and in the forest, guests also have the option of poolside dining, from sunbeds, cozy cabanas or breezy tables on the terrace, even custom-designed meals served at scenic places on the grounds – the ultimate luxury picnic!

Play and Explore

The leafy tropical environment surrounding the Rosewood Luang Prabang is ideal for relaxation and activity on and near the resort. In nearby gardens, you can enjoy classic games of petanque or croquet. A forest-enclosed swimming pool is next to a natural waterfall – not to mention the famous nearby waterfalls and series of natural pools in the forest that are one of Luang Prabang's claims to fame.

In addition, the resort creates customized experiences for guest interested in immersing themselves in local Lao culture: local traditional artisans, ethnic hill-tribes and farming communities, historic mansions, ancient Laotian temples, and lifestyle of the communities along the Mekong river. Adventurous and hands-on travelers can trek through the forest and forage for a meal prepared with those ingredients, take a guided mountain bike tour through remote landscapes, weave textiles or form ceramics, harvest seasonal produce alongside local farmers, or take an elegant Laotian river boat cruise along the Mekong.

Giving Back

Rosewood Luang Prabang is also the site of the first hospitality school in Laos, a philanthropic project providing students with professional hospitality training.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang is not only one of the most truly one-of-a-kind resorts you will ever stay in Asia or the world; it's also on the ground floor of a growing interest in travel to this fascinating and evocative country.

Start your Trip!

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7 Places Not to Miss in Indochina

Two hundred years ago, Europeans started referring to the region between India and China as Indochina.

Already, it was recognized as one of the most beautiful, exotic, culturally unique destinations on the planet. With its very strategic position, Indochina was also center-stage in some of the defining conflicts of the 20th century including the Pacific theater of WW2 and the Vietnam War.

Fast-forward to today, and the legendary countries of South-East Asia - SEA for short - are magnets for travelers by land and sea. Dense tropical jungles and one-of-a-kind plants and wildlife, fabled rivers and waterways, beloved cuisine, some of the world's most beautiful beaches, mountains tiered with rice terraces, gilded temples and Buddhist monks, dizzying markets and spectacular sunsets are hallmarks of these nations.

The term Indochina, or the French Indochine, is still used particularly to refer to traditional or colonial culture in the region, which you'll still find preserved in these rapidly-growing economies and modernizing nations.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer/host of BestTrip.TV shares the must-see sites in the 7 SEA countries:

Thailand

This nation tops nearly everyone's SEA travel bucket list, from backpackers to those in search of 6-star luxury exotic escapes. The Land of Smiles is a smorgasbord of South-East-Asian culture. You won't want to miss Thai cuisine at the source in fabulous restaurants or from street vendors or markets. There are 40,000 temples in this kingdom, including one containing the world's largest solid gold Buddha in Bangkok.

The capital is firmly in the world's top-three global travel destinations every year, and also home to floating markets, tuk tuk taxis, royal palaces and massive shopping malls. Thailand's rural attractions include jungles and elephant sanctuaries, legendary beaches and island destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui, the famous Sunset Beach on Koh Kradan and the Golden Swan Temple (pictured top).

Watch Video: The Real Name of the Capital of Thailand… is Not Bangkok

Vietnam

The tragedy of the Vietnam War is in the past for modern Vietnamese who are among the warmest people in Asia, if not the world. The still-communist country welcomes growing numbers of American and Western visitors. Many travelers – especially Americans - find it hard to believe the country permits and even promotes interest in Vietnam War-era sites like tours to the Viet Cong's legendary Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City and the famous American R&R China Beach near Danang. Everyone visits Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City and its ornate, French colonial public buildings, famous historic hotels and the top-ranked Saigon market. But don't miss other cities in Vietnam like historic imperial Hue and the ancient canal town of Hoi An – stay in town long enough to have some custom-tailored clothing made! 

An day trip or even a journey on the mighty Mekong river, with its floating markets, and entire communities is unforgettable. And UNESCO World Heritage site Halong Bay's emerald waters and mystical islands are a traveler's dream.

Watch Video: Kayaking in Mystical Halong Bay 

Laos 

This is the only land-locked nation in Indochina, and perhaps that's why it's later to the tourism party than other SEA countries. For many travelers, the path least traveled is exactly where you'll want to go next.

The highlight of any trip to Laos is Luang Prabang. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been inhabited for thousands of years, nestled in a valley where the mythical Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. Luang Prabang is a cultural and religious center with historic temples, serene Mekong river scenery, the magical Kuang Si waterfalls with its series of swimming holes, falls and ideal picnic sites, and even an Asian black bear rescue center.

Cambodia

For travelers, Cambodia's has two claims to fame: one joyful, the other very dark. Travelers to neighboring SEA countries take trips into Cambodia solely to visit iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat. This 12th century temple is part of the largest religious monument in the world – a 400-acre complex isolated by a dramatic moat that is a top global bucket list destination.

Equally compelling but difficult to experience are the museum and sites associated with the Khmer Rouge genocide known as The Killing Fields. But there's more to experience in the capital Phnom Penh: Cambodia's position where Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers meet made it the natural center for both Khmer and French colonial regimes. Today, its busy riverfront, art deco market, Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda make it worth an extended stay to explore.

Myanmar

The country formerly known as Burma is fast becoming a country that adventurous travelers want to see before the tourist scene gets very busy. The capital city Yangon is home to ancient Buddhist sites, including the oldest pagoda in the world. The Shwedagon pagoda dates back 2500 years, and is the national symbol and holy site of the nation.

Outside the capital you'll find one of the world's greatest archaeological wonders: the 2300 pagodas and temples on the plains of Bagan. You can even get an overview of the entire complex on a hot air balloon ride.  Inle Lake, surrounded by misty mountains, is a time capsule of local people who still live with the land in stilt houses, with floating gardens and a famous fishing technique. Rudyard Kipling coined the phrase 'Road to Mandalay' to refer to the majestic Irawaddy River. Some major cruise companies offer river cruise tours on this exotic waterway.

Malaysia

Mainland Malaysia occupies the southern end of the SEA peninsula, as well as parts of the nearby island of Borneo. The wilderness is famous for wildlife reserves protecting endangered orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants, the beaches of Langkawi, and storied tribes of head-hunters whose villages on stilts over rivers in Borneo you can still visit. Cooler Cameron Highlands are home to tea plantations where you can do a tasting tour. Colonial European heritage landmarks include the sites in colorful Malacca, and Penang's landmark Eastern & Oriental hotel – a sea front sister hotel that pre-dated the famous Raffles in Singapore.

Don't skip Malaysia's ultra-modern capital Kuala Lumpur. KL is a fascinating vision of the future of SEA, not to mention the record-breaking Petronas Twin Towers connected by a sky-high bridge that's featured in action films and many an Instagram post.

Singapore

This city-state and global financial center at the end of the Malaysian mainland is the only island nation of SEA. Singapore has preserved a core of its colonial past, with high rises surrounding the historic cricket field and colonial buildings, including nearby, one of the world's most famous historic hotels. Legends are still told of the early days of the Raffles Hotel and the Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling was invented. Take time to wet your lips with one of the world's most famous cocktails and soak up the bygone atmosphere.

But Singapore is more famous now for its almost surreal ultramodern vision and skyline. The symbol of modern Singapore is the already-iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino's three-pillar towers topped by a surfboard-like top floor with the world's largest infinity pool overlooking the city. The 250-acre Gardens by the Bay, with the grove of futuristic super trees takes Singapore's love of green space to a space-age level. Singapore is a popular SEA cruise port of embarkation/ debarkation, and well worth extending your trip pre- or post- cruise to explore.

Indochina is no longer a place on a map – but it's still one of the world's top travel destinations. 

Start your Trip!


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5 Tips to Make a Cruise the Perfect Family Vacation

If you're trying to come up with the perfect family vacation for the holidays, time to think about cruising.

Whether you are new to cruising or a seasoned sailing family, here are 5 tips to ensure every member of the family has a fun, memorable… and relaxing holiday.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host and cruise expert, BestTrip.TV

1. Location, location, location.

Pick your family cruise destination first, and make sure every family member will have something to be excited about. A cruise is one of the best ways to introduce the family to Europe, to reach exotic destinations like the Galapagos, or see the world closer to home. (Top image: Families in awe of the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska on a Regent Seven Seas Cruise. Watch the video!)

Can you drive to a major cruise port? Ships embark from cruise ports along all coasts of North America, from Montreal, out the St. Lawrence and down the East Coast, southern ports in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, and up the West Coast from San Diego all the way to Vancouver. From these home-grown ports, cruising families can enjoy Canada and New England cruises, Bahamas/Caribbean/ Panama canal cruises, Mexico and Western Caribbean cruises, Pacific Northwest and Alaska cruises (like the Regent Seven Seas Cruise to Alaska pictured, top), and West Coast/ Baja, South America and even Hawaii cruises.

If you drive to the port where your ship round-trips, a family can save a lot on flights… and use those savings on their family cruise vacation to upgrade a stateroom category, treat yourselves to more shore excursions, even take other members of the family along too and make it an extended family get together.

2. Find the perfect cruise ship match.

Mega-ship or small ship? It depends on your family, and a good travel advisor will consult with you to find your perfect family cruise. There are enormous cruise ships that are destinations in themselves, floating theme park resorts. And for some families, they are perfect holiday destinations, with more round-the-clock adventures, activities, pools, sports, dining and entertainment than the family can even experience in a week or 10-day cruise. With social clubs for kids of all ages right through to the sedate activities many grandparents enjoy, these ships are crowd pleasers.

(Waterslides on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas)

But they are not the only options. If the kids in your family don't need non-stop activities, if you are more interested in authentic destination experiences, medium and smaller-sized ships including expedition and luxury ships - even river cruise ships - might be the best fit for your family. Smaller ships and expedition ships may not have the whirlwind of activities and entertainment of the biggest ships, but they can dock in more out-of-the-way places, and the atmosphere on board is quieter for families who make their own fun.

3. Book and pre-pay for as much as possible.

Your travel advisor can help match you to your best cruise options that have the best value for the best type of cruise experience for your family. That may involve packaged, pre-paid or included things like tips, drinks packages, shore excursions, even flights. Generally speaking, pre-paying gives you the best value for money. As an added bonus, you'll worry less about tracking your vacation spending budget while you are on holiday – and be more likely to avoid going over-budget.

Pre-booking ensures you'll also be able to enjoy a ship board experience on your first preference of day and time. Spa appointments and specialty restaurants can book up before guests even board the ship. So pre-book parents' date night or someone's birthday or anniversary dinner before you board.

The same advice goes for shore excursions. If there's an experience at a port of call that's the highlight of the family cruise vacation, booking that zip line adventure, wildlife tour, catamaran or cooking class ahead will ensure you avoid disappointment.

(Beach day on Holland America Line's private island in the Bahamas)

4. Give kids some independence – and give parents a break.

One piece of advice parents regularly come back to thank me for is that I recommend families take walkie-talkies. One could be for the parents, the other for older (tween/teen) kids. This gives kids the run of the ship to enjoy their own interests, and still be in contact with parents. Or divided between different family groupings so there's maximum freedom to break into smaller family groups and also easily check in, plan meeting places, get together for a swim, lunch, or another whole-group activity…

Pre-paid drinks packages also enable kids to serve themselves without tracking down an adult or running up a surprise tab.

Since cruise ships are self-contained, they are among the safest family travel destinations for families to enjoy their own interests in the same space. Nothing says 'vacation' like parents lounging by the pool knowing the kids are safe and having a great time on their own.

5. Look into and take advantage of on board services.

This is part of the essential cruise match-making process your travel advisor can help you with. Cruise lines are innovators in keeping kids entertained. They've developed partnerships with kids' favorite characters and movies. And many offer clubs and daycare for kids of all ages – some even for babes-in-arms that make cruises great 'babymoon' destinations. So even if your kids aren't old enough to enjoy the ship's activities on their own, ask what options are for kids of all ages.

It's a great way to change up the pace for every member of the family, from time spent with different members in different experiences.

Cruises make some of the best family vacations that provide lifelong memories and maximum family time. Parents only have to pack and unpack once while the family gets to enjoy multiple destinations and vacation experiences together. With these tips, your next family cruise vacation will be your best holiday together yet!

Start your Trip!


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Now there are Food Adventure Tours for Vegans, Too

Vegan travel can be a challenge. In some favorite destinations, a bag of nuts in your bag at all times is essential to keep hunger away while you enjoy the attractions.


Epicurean vegans can be even more frustrated. Surrounded by the sights, scents of produce and flavors of the local culinary culture… and unable to enjoy it while practicing a plant-based diet. In some of the most famously foodie destinations in the world, you find yourself eating to live, not living to eat the local cuisine at the source.

But now, one tour company is out to give vegans the food adventures of their lives. Intrepid Travel, the small group, responsible-travel company, has launched a series of vegan food adventures for the committed vegan, vegetarian, or vegan-curious traveler.

With a local practicing vegan or vegetarian to lead the small group, travelers experience the best of the destination as well as get the inside track on local, authentic vegan lifestyle.

Epicurean vegans can now participate in market visits, cooking classes, top restaurants… all oriented around veganism. And in some of your dream destinations:

  • India, with a long culinary history of forgoing animal products, is already a vegan heaven. The sights of India's Golden Triangle are combined with vegan street food like vegetable samosas, vegan cooking classes, and a vegan feast in the opulence of a local castle.
  • South-east Asian cuisine, that incorporates soy protein along with those unmistakable spices, also makes Thailand very hospitable to vegans. There's a diverse range of vegan culinary offerings including street food at a Bangkok railway market, a masterclass in vegan Thai cuisine, that starts with a market visit to select your produce, and plenty of opportunities to tuck into delicacies including red curries, coconut cream and even traditional Thai banana cake.  
  • Intrepid's most unlikely vegan food adventure destination? Italy. The land where every area has its own regional cured meat. And cheese. This vegan food adventure travels from Venice to Tuscany to Rome – in a unique opportunity to experience a different side of Italian epicurean genius.  Enjoy the epitome of Italian old-school dining and a superb vegan menu in Venice's first vegan restaurant. The famously foodie town of Bologna comes alive with a vegan market tour and cooking class. And you can tease your palate with a wine tour in Tuscany, where you stay in an all-vegan villa, and enjoy an organic, farm-to-table vegan feast with a panoramic view of the Tuscan countryside.

Vegans and anyone who embraces a plant-based cuisine will thrill at these tours - timely reflections of modern vegan lifestyles and the best local traditions.

Start your Trip!


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The World's Tallest Geyser Is At It Again

It's a geological mystery and a rare spectacle of Nature at the world's first National Park. Yellowstone National Park occupies over 2.2 million acres of land in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho – larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined! The park's famously magnificent vistas include forests, lakes, waterfalls and petrified forests, all home to a treasure of American wildlife.

But beneath its surface beauty, that's where Yellowstone National Park gets even more interesting. It's over top of a giant volcanic hotspot, which has created over 10,000 thermal (heat-related geological) 'features', and more than 300 geysers.

The conditions that create geysers are rare. Yellowstone is one of the few places on earth where you see them. Geysers erupt when magma (underground molten rock from volcanic activity) heats up gas and water trapped below ground until they erupt like a teapot coming to boil. The hot water and gas generate enough pressure to break the surface of the earth and gush upwards in a tower of water that lasts minutes, followed by days of steam continuing to release.

That's what's happened at least 4 times in just a couple of months during the spring of 2018 at the park's Steamboat Geyser (photo credit). Each time, about 70,000 gallons of water have erupted from the world's tallest geyser, where powerful eruptions can spew steaming hot water over 300 feet into the air.

Like most geysers, Steamboat is completely unpredictable. Yellowstone's most famous geyser, 'Old Faithful', fulfills the promise of its name and erupts almost on clockwork every hour or so, and you can even monitor them on the dedicated Twitter feed created by the National Park Service. Scientists think Old Faithful's predictability is due to a simple underground structure, whereas Steamboat's structure is believed to be more complex, and the magma movement irregular.

In fact, it's the first time in 15 years that Steamboat has erupted 3 times in one year. The last time it erupted at all was in 2014. But in 1964, Steamboat erupted a record 29 times!

The truth is, other than general knowledge of how the park's underground volcanic activity activates geysers, scientists don't know for sure why Steamboat has started erupting again – or why it has already blown four times in a couple of months.

So the show may not be over.

That's why this might be the best year to make a trip to Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park; for the possibility of witnessing a rare display by Mother Nature you won't see many other places on the planet.

Let us help you plan a trip to Yellowstone and other National Parks in America's West this year; tour packages bring you to the heart of Yellowstone National Park, and hopefully, you'll have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Yellowstone's famous geysers. Start your Trip!

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Why Is It Called Easter Island?

That's actually a trick question. This tiny dot in the eastern South Pacific ocean, but technically territory of Chile, is actually Rapa Nui.The world over, Easter Island is synonymous with exotic mysteries of an impossibly distant, long-lost civilization and mind-boggling human endeavor.

It may be the most remote inhabited island on the planet. Only a few thousand people live on this remnant of oceanic volcanoes sticking out of the sea, and that's the first miracle itself. The closest inhabited island is 1300 miles away (Pitcairn Island with only 50 people) and the nearest continental point is Chile – over 2000 miles away. Local tales say a 2-canoe Polynesian expedition around AD 700 was the start of Rapa Nui's extraordinary story. 

Today, Easter Island is on the map of global travelers who want to come face to face with the island's nearly 1000 moai at its UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These stately, solemn statues were carved during a 500-year period in the island's history, beginning a thousand years ago. The moai share artistic characteristics with Polynesian carvings, confirming the origin tale of the Rapa Nui people. Chiseled with only stone tools out of volcanic rock in the 'quarry' of an extinct volcano, each statue took a team of half a dozen artisans about a year to complete. The largest is over 30 feet long and weighs 90 tons. They were an incredible feat of creativity and production and organized society.

You probably think of them as 'Easter Island heads'. But the moai actually have torsos and some even have complete lower bodies; just buried up to their necks over the centuries by shifting sands.

These monumental statues represented deceased ancestry. And only about a quarter were originally installed, others left in the quarry or rest en route to their intended locations. All but 7 faced inland, the spirits of the deceased 'watching over' the living and their lands. The 7 facing the sea were stood as wayfinders for travelers.  

Many moai toppled after the mysterious collapse of the Rapa Nui society in the 19th century. In recent decades, local and international efforts have restored and re-mounted a number of moai. This dot on a map in Chilean Polynesia still seems as awe-inspiring with hidden secrets as when explorers first arrived.

Which brings us to: Why is it called Easter Island? The Dutch explorer who was the island's first-recorded European visitor arrived on Easter Sunday in 1722 – he came upon it while searching for another island. (He must have been pretty lost!) So 'Easter Island' it was dubbed and its current official Spanish name in Chile is still Isla de Pascua, while its Polynesian name is Rapa Nui, in local language: the 'naval of the world'.

There's more to Rapa Nui than the silent witness of the moai to the island's past. Visitors experience the local version of Polynesian culture, explore pink-sand beaches, caverns, and dive sites, cycle, hike or ride horses across prairies and volcanic hillsides, and even surf on those waves so distant from other shores.

How to get there? You can fly from both Chile and Tahiti, participate in tour packages offered by expedition and exotic travel experts, arrive by small or expedition cruise ship, or by private yacht. 

There may be no where else in the world where a traveler can feel the greatness of human achievement and small in the face of a culture so far across the waves. 

Start your Trip! 

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Seoul'd: There's More to Korea than the Winter Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics remind us how exciting a travel destination Korea is.South Korea has an enviable range of high octane urban, spectacular mountain, beach and countryside destinations, a rich history, culture and cuisine as well as a world-renowned pop culture that rank South Korea among the most unique places in Asia. Visit by land or by cruise ship; the Korean peninsula has several major ports and a long-established maritime lifestyle.

Here's a list of places you'll want to include on a trip to South Korea.

PyeongchangYou may never have heard of Pyeongchang until it was designated host of the 2018 Winter games, but this winter resort area is a natural Winter Olympic host. Its catchy slogan is 'Happy 700 Pyeongchang', referring to the city's 700 meter (2300 foot) elevation in the Taeback mountain region east of the South Korean capital of Seoul.

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As you'd expect, Pyeongchang sees seasonal snow and low enough temperatures to sustain outdoor winter sports. Two resorts in the region attract skiers, boarders as well as off-season mountain hiking. They're the core of the winter games sites, which have also resulted in additional hotel and sports facilities.

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The Olympics brought other advances, too. A new high-speed (250 km/h or 155 mph) train now brings visitors from Seoul in less than an hour and a half. Don't spend all your time on the slopes in Pyeongchang. Take a break for your spiritual wellness at one of the area's notable and historic Buddhist temples.

SeoulSeoul is the 4th most economically powerful city in the world, the hub of its global technology, electronics, and auto industry wealth. Like other large, wealthy Asian cities with extraordinary modernism, high-tech, high-rise Seoul can feel surreal to visitors. The center of K-pop (Korean pop music), entertainment and media, this is a city that never sleeps. (Top Photo Credit)

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Seoul is land-locked and surrounded by mountains. The city was established on the Han river 2000 years ago, and has been Korea's capital for over six centuries. Korea's west-coast port of Incheon is right next door; if your Asia cruise has a call there, you'll be well-positioned to do some 'Seoul searching'.

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Seoul's neighborhoods are landmark destinations in a whirlwind city. Among the skyscrapers, neon, miles of packed arcades and landmark hotels, you'll be immersed in the lifestyle of one of the largest urban centers in the world, Korean style: chic drinks and dinners as well as upscale shopping for local and international brands.

But don't miss the historic and authentic side of Korea in Seoul. Artisan and local craft markets, the Joseon Dynasty palace complexes of traditional architecture, local festivals and religious ceremonies with celebrants in traditional dress are distinctly Korean experiences. The area is home to 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites as well its international design award-winning modern architecture.

Jeju IslandFormed by volcanic eruptions over 2 million years ago, Jeju island is the largest island off the Korean peninsula, 85 km (50 miles) south of the peninsula in the waters between Korea and Japan. Jeju's lava base limited early agriculture and resulted in a unique and pristine ecology that set Jeju apart from anywhere else on earth.

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It also created breathtaking lava formations including one of the biggest lava tubes in the world, nearly 9 km (over 5 miles) long and close to a hundred feet high and wide. Visitors are in awe of the full range of cave architecture like columns, benches, bridges and more. The 7.6 meter (25 foot) column of lava inside is the largest known in the world. The caves are home to exceptional wildlife, including a 30,000 strong colony of bats.

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Jeju is an increasingly popular resort island, with a sub-tropical, humid climate warmer than the rest of Korea and some stunning beaches. The island, historically isolated from the mainland, also has its own cultural, clothing, architectural and language traditions.

BusanSouth Korea’s second biggest city, on the south-east coast of the peninsula, is also the country's largest port. Many Asian cruises call at Busan. Like Seoul, it's a fascinating combination of history and tradition on the one hand, and eye-popping ultra-modern urban lifestyle on the other. Shop til you drop at the world's largest department store, and take a wellness break at one of the city's dozens of traditional spas using natural-sourced spring water.

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Compared to Seoul, Busan is blessed with a warmer climate, beaches, and a maritime lifestyle including a renowned fish market, and signature seafood cuisine. Surrounding mountains provide cool air and magnificent vistas over the sea. Many Korean temples are at the tops of mountain hikes, so don't miss one spectacular exception, the Haedong Yonggung Temple on Busan's coast overlooking the Sea of Japan.

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The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)The DMZ is a 4 km (2 ½ mile) wide no man's land between the two Koreas that spans the entire peninsula 250 km (150 miles) from sea to sea. The DMZ is a very real reminder of the conflict between the two Koreas that remains unresolved today.

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Don't let the name mislead you. It's called 'demilitarized', but Korea's DMZ is actually one of the most heavily armed, land-mined, barricaded and patrolled regions of the world. Tours into the DMZ bring the history of the Cold War conflict that split this country into high relief. It also soberly memorializes the lives lost and families separated as a result of the division of the country. Absent human activity in the area, several formerly endangered species have re-established footholds in the DMZ. So there's that small consolation. As an experience of military tourism and reminder of the repercussions of the Cold War that still exist today, Korea's DMZ is unlike anywhere else on the planet.

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The Olympic flame only burns in Korea during the games, but we hope the 2018 Winter Olympics shine a permanent spotlight on South Korea as one of Asia's most unique – and unmissable – travel destinations. Start your Trip! 

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