Robert Q Travel Byron's Blog

Top 4 Places In The World To Go Hot Air Ballooning
Imagine yourself silently drifting along under colourful silk, cradled in a giant basket. You’re part of the breeze and Nature as you tranquilly float on the air over undisturbed scenery below. Your pilot lets the heat in the balloon drop to silently lower you closer to your birds’ eye view… then lifts you to majestic heights over an unforgettable panorama.
As epic as your photos will be, they will never match the reality of your experience.

If that is your idea of a bucket list trip, here are 4 of the most magical hot air balloon destinations in the world to make that travel dream come true.

 

Cappadocia, Turkey

A hot air balloon ride is so much established as the best way to experience Cappadocia (pictured top), virtually every photo of this region in Turkey features balloons wafting over its legendary chimney rock formations.
 
Millennia past, the limestone rocks near the town of Goreme eroded into a landscape of fairy spires and pillars. Early people carved subterranean villages with homes, churches and monasteries out of the soft stone formations. Possibly inspired by the mystical atmosphere, it became a monastic center 2500 years ago.
 
Extraordinary at ground level, the site is other-worldly from the perspective of a hot air balloon drifting across countless minaret-like formations at sunrise.
 

The Serengeti

Dreaming of an African safari? Make sure to add a hot air balloon ride to your trip of a lifetime to Kenya or Tanzania.
 
Even if you log all of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ list of iconic wildlife that includes the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and Cape buffalo… as well as other exotic creatures like zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, chimps and gazelles from the back of your guide’s Range Rover, don’t miss the scenes of the Serengeti from the perspective of a hot air balloon.
 
Floating silently – without alerting or disturbing the animals – over the grasslands and canopy gives you the purest way to experience Nature’s wonders below.
 
Take a hot air balloon ride in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya or the Serengeti National Park across the border in Tanzania between July and October, during the Great migration of gazelles, zebras and wildebeests, and be a witness to the incredible scale of this pre-historic phenomenon.
 

New Mexico

They say it’s the biggest hot air balloon race and festival in the world. For over a week every October, Albuquerque becomes the epicenter of the world of ballooning when it’s taken over by hundreds of hot air balloons during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Whether you’re lucky enough to be in a basket or observing from the ground, you’ll thrill at some of the highlights of the festival. Don’t miss one of the simultaneous ‘mass ascents’ of hundreds of colourful balloons against piercing blue skies. There are even races - although balloons ‘ride the wind’ and therefore travel the same speed as the wind, pilot expertise can influence speed.

Year round, you can hire local hot air balloon pilots for your own ride over the mountain and desert landscape over the Rio Grande Valley.
 

Bagan, Myanmar

Incredibly, there are said to be 5000 temples, monasteries and pagodas built between the 11th and 13th centuries dotting the plains of Bagan. It was the capitol of a number of ancient kingdoms in this South-East Asian country and is a UNESCO World Heritage site today.
 
A sunrise hot air balloon ascent at Bagan gives you a breathtaking vista as the ruins glow golden. 
 
It’s also the best way to get a sense of the astonishing scale of this archaeological wonder and the civilization that created it.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 

Images: Getty

 

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Roundup of the NEW, COVID Insurance Options for Canadian Travellers

In less than a month, the landscape for Canadian travellers has been transformed.

Back in March, the COVID-19 virus was determined to be a ‘known factor’ and so it was no longer covered by regular travel medical insurance policies. Since then, Canadians who have wanted to travel have not had coverage for expenses incurred if they contracted the virus while abroad.

All that changed just a couple of weeks ago. With much of the world learning to manage the pandemic, and commonly-accepted safety practices to help prevent the spread of the virus, one of the next key events necessary for a resumption of travel happened:

Travel medical insurance covering Canadians in the unlikely event they contract the virus away from home.

Once the first company announced coverage, it became a landslide. At press time, there are now no fewer than 6 options for Canadians to ensure they’re covered.  Here are the highlights:

Air Canada Vacations: 1st COVID Travel Insurance in Canada – With Limits

Air Canada’s packaged vacation division, Air Canada Vacations created headlines when it announced it would be including free-of-charge insurance for its guests against medical and quarantine expenses related to contracting COVID-19 while travelling.
ACV’s coverage is for up to 21 days and applied only to ACV air + hotel packaged holidays to specific destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean this fall and winter. The initiative is in partnership with global insurance giant Allianz and the program ends in April. 
While not the first globally to offer COVID-19 insurance, it was a breakthrough moment for the Canadian travel industry.
It wasn’t hard to predict Air Canada Vacations’ bold move would start a trend.

WestJet: 1st COVID Insurance Available on Air-Only Bookings to Specific Destinations

Air Canada’s rival WestJet then upped the ante, offering its air-only passengers – not just vacation package guests - no-charge COVID-19 insurance lasting up to 21 days through its provider TuGo.
WestJet’s COVID insurance covers travel to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Europe including the UK. 
And while the first two programs provide coverage on reservations through April, WestJet’s program runs to the end of August 2021.

Manulife: 1st For-Purchase COVID Coverage in a Standard Travel Medical Insurance Policy

Canada’s largest provider of travel insurance announced its ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan’ launching in October. Manulife adds COVID coverage to its standard emergency travel medical policy, with specific additional coverage for COVID-19 medical care and out-of-country quarantine expenses. 
It will be available for Canadian travellers to purchase prior to travelling within our borders as well as internationally, including to destinations with a Level 3 Travel Advisory.

Air Canada: follows West Jet, Offering No-Charge COVID Insurance for Air-Only International Travellers

Now both of Canada’s major airlines include COVID insurance for Canadians who purchase flights on either carrier – at no cost to the passengers.
Although Air Canada Vacations’ COVID insurance is provided by Allianz, the airline is providing its air-only passengers with coverage through Manulife. The insurance applies to round-trip, international air bookings made until October 31st with travel by April 12, 2021.
In addition to coverage for medical treatment and quarantine expenses, Air Canada’s air-only COVID insurance also covers up to $500 CDN for unexpected costs of returning home if the Canadian government travel advisory level in your destination goes from Level 3 to Level 4 while you’re there.

Sunwing: Matching Competitors in No-Charge Coverage

Air-only, as well as beach vacation package travellers with Sunwing, receive coverage included with their bookings made by October 31st, for travel between October 16th this year and May 31st, 2021.
It’s also similar to other options for Canadian travellers, offering coverage for trips up to 21 days for medical, quarantine, transfer and trip interruption costs due to COVID-19 and pandemic-related travel advisory changes.
In addition, Sunwing insurance coverage is supported by medical assistance at all Sunwing resorts, and the company points out, “As the only travel provider that owns the airline its customers fly on, the transfer buses that travel to and from hotels, as well as over 30 hotels throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico, Sunwing’s commitment to safety spans across every step of the travel process.”

Comparing COVID Insurance: Apples to Oranges

All of the travel companies have implemented expansive new health and safety protocols on their own aircraft and with land partners. Their insurance provides coverage for medical expenses, quarantine expenses, some travel and even repatriation of remains due to contracting the COVID-19 virus while traveling.
But not all of these options are the same, and making good choices when you’re choosing to travel and choosing the best insurance option can make a big difference if you do get sick while you’re away.
Questions you should discuss with your Travel Advisor to help determine which of the COVID-19 insurance options available suit your travel needs best:
·     Is this available only a package (air + hotel) or will I have the coverage if I book air only?
·     How much coverage does this offer in dollar terms? Is that enough for where I’m travelling?
·     What are the limitations of coverage? Potential travellers should note that travel to some destinations – including the USA - may not be covered.
·     Am I personally eligible for coverage? 
·     How long am I covered for? Snowbirds looking to spend months in the sun need to look closely at the duration of coverage. 
·     When does this coverage end? Different policies require you to travel before a certain date.

Insuring a Return to Travel

The travel landscape keeps changing, but it’s safe to say that there will continue to be MORE insurance options for Canadians hoping to travel in the coming months. It’s a key piece of the puzzle to give Canadians confidence when they travel. 
We are all still waiting for a COVID immunization option to become available, and when it does, future travel insurance coverage - or even entry visas to certain countries - may require proof of COVID immunization.

While some Canadians may still not feel comfortable travelling yet, like any other travel/medical insurance, COVID-19 insurance is a responsible way for people who choose to travel to be protected against unforeseen expenses. 

#SafeTravelsSoon

 
 
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Post-COVID's Biggest Travel Trend is...Small
As the world prepares to travel again, there’s a huge trend emerging: going small.
 
We know what the ingredients of travel are going to be in the immediate post-pandemic future of travel:
 
More space. More privacy. More flexibility.

The travel industry is rising to the occasion with an innovative sweep of new, and newly-important touring options that make touring with your own ‘bubble’ – whether it’s your family, extended family, group of friends or couples on their own – suddenly easy. Smaller groups. Private departures. The options for ‘smaller is safer’ travel are growing.
 
And in many cases, they’re more affordable than many travelers might think. 
 
This list of tour ingredients used to be exclusively available on only high-end touring options. But it’s not just the luxury touring options that are seeing spiking interest. 
 
More affordable touring companies are developing new options for land journeys that maintain favorite elements returning guests will love… with more space, privacy and flexibility that meet the new expectations travelers are looking for to feel comfortable embarking on a journey in this new era.
 
Here are some standout opportunities to think ‘small’ on your next journey:
 

Globus: Small Group Discovery Tours

 
This fan-favorite group touring company (pictured, top) has always offered travelers an incentive to put its own small groups together, with savings and benefits for groups of as few as 8 people travelling together within a larger tour group.
 
It also has a ‘European Private Touring’ program that makes more sense than ever, with a sliding scale of surcharges for private tours of 1-24 guests with your own dedicated Tour Director, private transportation and private guides on existing Globus itineraries.
 
There’s another timely option now: Small Group Discovery Tours on ALL of its 2021 tour departures through Central & South America, Asia, Africa and select departures in the South Pacific. It tightens up traditional group tours, with an average of only 20 guests per departure you’ll be spending most of your time with. That means a coach is less than half full, providing extra space along with its new health and safety measures along with flexible booking and changing policies so you can make informed decisions until the last minute before your departure.
 

Monograms: The best of two touring styles, now with off-season and closer to home options

 
Sister company to Globus group tours, it’s like Monograms was designed for post-pandemic travel, even though its style of touring has been around for a while. Monograms cherry-picks the best elements of private travel and group travel. 
 
You are personally picked up and dropped off, have a Local Host who gives your group its own tour of must-see sights, have VIP access to jump to the head of the line at popular attractions, like larger tour groups do. You can choose among a selection of hand-picked hotels that meet new health and safety standards, and even personalize your journey according to your interests. The company also has flexible booking and re-booking policies for your peace of mind.
 
It also recently opened up new, off-season Europe options, for Fall, Winter and Spring departures when there are fewer people (so more space and less crowding than Summer/high season), and lower prices, translating to savings for travelers of up to 40%. It’s also introduced a selection of Monograms tours in North American destinations for guests wanting their next trips to be close to home. 
 

Insight Vacations: Small Private Group Option

 
This global leader in premium guided vacations is offering travelers a ‘Small Private Group Option’ on 38 trips departing late 2020 through Spring of 2021 throughout Europe, as well as Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Jordan and Canada. It also includes Christmas Market journeys, where the company has received many inquiries.

You can create your own travel ‘bubble’ and personalize your journey. Insight provides a private, customized coach, tour director, the opportunity to tailor-make trips based on your group’s interests, all including enhanced health and safety practices and flexible change policies.

Groups of 12 qualify for Insight’s Small Private Group journeys. There’s a sliding scale of surcharges on the original price of the trip, beginning with a 30% surcharge, dropping to no surcharge once the group reaches 26 people.
 

G Adventures: Book Your Bubble Collection

 
This Active/Adventure tour company has introduced a ‘Book Your Bubble Collection’ featuring 80 tours spanning the globe from Europe, Central/South America, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
 
The company encourages people to assemble your own bubble of fellow travelers, choose a date that works for you, and offers savings for private groups, with 50% off the 8th person in a group of 8, or the 12th person in a group of 12 traveling for free. It’s easy to picture a group of 4 couples or a multi-generational family taking advantage of these new G Adventure trips that include its new health and safety measures as well as flexible booking policy.
 
The 80 tours in the Collection feature the freedom and safety found on all of the company’s private tours. ‘Book your Bubble’ applies to the new, designated bubble Collection, and in addition, your bubble can enjoy a Tailor Made private journey, or even choose any of G Adventures’ existing itineraries, and arrange for them in a private tour. Optional activities from the company’s list of tour experiences can be added to personalize any of the Bubble journeys.
 

Butterfield & Robinson: Singular Stays

 
The company whose motto is ‘Slow Down To See The World’ combines an active approach to travel, from biking to hiking to even camel rides! with luxurious lodging, insider access, extraordinary food and wine and cultural immersion. It already offered Small Group Trips and a Private Travel collection of Ready-to-Book and Bespoke itineraries, that are prepared to allow your ‘bubble’ private group to go when, how, where – and of course, with whoever you want.

It’s also recently launched a new option that provides the highest amount of space and privacy for your small bubble group. Singular Stays are a curated collection of private accommodations paired with the creativity of B&R's Experience Designers.
 
The new, Singular Stays program means you can relax in one accommodation for the duration of your trip – from private villas and castles in Europe, to ranches, resorts and glamping in the Americas, and private lodges in Africa, while the B&R team brings your destination to life with exclusive activities and events that take advantage of your setting.

(Abercrombie & Kent)

Abercrombie & Kent: Luxury Small Groups, Private Stays, Chartered Yachts and Planes and New Tailor-Made and Road Trips close to home

 
Luxury tour operator A&K is no stranger to private and small group touring, with Luxury Small Group Journeys, Luxury Family and Marco Polo journeys, offering opportunities for all-ages adventure as well as itineraries to exotic locales and exclusive festivals and events. All journeys are led from start to finish by an A&K Resident Tour Director and local guides, with an average of 14 guests on each departure, and feature hand-selected accommodations and A&K’s renowned insider access.
 
It also offers the ultimate in physical-distancing travel with its Luxury Private Stays, fully crewed chartered yachts, and chartered air.
 
What’s new are its collection of 6 new ‘Tailor Made’ journeys as well as 2 new iconic Great American Road Trips across the American West and Alaska that take advantage of A&K’s baked-in distancing and privacy, in destinations closer to home where travelers may feel more comfortable. Private guides, access to sites off the beaten path, customized itinerary, vetted accommodations that offer added space and privacy, and in the case of the Road Trips, a private luxury car and driver/guide.
 

These new and innovating touring options meet the new expectations of travelers by going small in a big world still waiting for you to discover.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon




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Hidden Secrets and Natural Wonders of 4 Costa Rican Volcanoes
From breathtaking beaches, up through rainforests and cloud forests, Costa Rica’s terrain rises from the sea to mountain ranges and, like icing on a scenic cake, a string of volcanoes that are evidence of the country’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
There are over 200 identifiable volcanoes in Costa Rica that date back more than 65 million years. Half of those show volcanic activity but only half a dozen are classified as active volcanoes.
Costa Rica’s volcanoes are signature features of the scenic landscape and have been key to the country’s lush biodiversity. Costa Rica is famously one of the world’s most ecologically rich destinations and is the first tropical country to reverse deforestation. It occupies a tiny .03 percent of the Earth’s surface, but is home to more than 5% of the planet’s species, and over a quarter of the country is designated protected. Bordered by the sea to the east and west, the nation’s waters host 3.5% of the world’s marine life.
National parks around Costa Rica's volcanoes are also the setting for some of the best adventures in the country, from hiking and mountain biking, to white water rafting, fishing, and kayaking, and birding, horseback trail riding and camping.
Costa Rica’s volcanoes make the vacations of anyone who loves nature and the outdoors magical. Frame your next tropical vacation around the sights and activities of one - or all! - of these 4 amazing volcanoes.

ARENAL
If you were asked to draw a volcano, it would likely look a lot like Arenal (pictured, top). With its picture-‘perfect’ volcanic cone, Arenal is Costa Rica’s most famous volcano and towers in the country’s Northern Plains in Arenal Volcano National park.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and also home to 75% of Costa Rica’s bird population and its most popular natural hot springs, a favorite destination for wellness journeys.
The volcano is the backdrop for Costa Rica’s adventure capital, where visitors enjoy zip-lining, white-water rafting, thermal hot springs and waterfalls, hiking, birding and wildlife-watching opportunities.
Fun Fact: Arenal was until recently the most active volcano in Costa Rica, regularly putting on a show of spewing hot gas and steam, until it suddenly just stopped in 2010.
RINCÓN DE LA VIEJA
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and its dormant sister Santa Maria Volcano form the center of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, which is part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Standing over 6000 feet tall and measuring 9 miles wide, Rincón de la Vieja is the largest volcano in the Guanacaste province and features no fewer than 9 volcanic craters, dozens of rivers cascading down its sides, with waterfalls sending romantic mist into the air. Even though it’s the most active volcano in the region, it’s a nature lover’s paradise with an enormous variety of wildlife.
Like many volcanoes, there are hot springs where visitors can ‘take the waters’. In fact, the region is such an active geothermal area, the Costa Rican government has developed eco-friendly projects that harvest the geothermal energy.
Fun Fact: Rincón de la Vieja’s last big eruption was in January 2020!
POÁS
You guessed it. Another volcano, in another national park. The Poás Volcano in the national park of the same name lies in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. It’s one of the largest volcanoes and the most accessible, only half an hour from San Jose.
Poás Volcano has one active and two dormant craters. The active crater sounds like it could be the setting of fantasy action movies, with a boiling acid lake! Laguna Caliente, or ‘Hot Lake’ is one of the most acidic lakes on earth, and it even changes color hourly from emerald green to eerie grayish white.
One of the dormant craters is the opposite: an icy cold water lake that drains down the side of the volcano.
Fun Fact: Bird lovers can spot 79 different species of birds in the park.
IRAZÚ
At 11,260 feet, Irazú is the country’s tallest volcano. On a clear day, from Irazú’s summit, you have incredible panoramic views of both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans on either side of the country.
This volcano is also located inside its own Costa Rican national park consisting of the volcano and nearly 6000 acres of mountain and cloud forest. While you’re climbing to the summit for those ocean views, you may also may also spot exotic tropical birds including tanagers and tapirs.
Irazú Volcano has several craters but the most famous has a breathtaking blue-green lake inside.
Fun Fact: Irazú Volcano last erupted while US President John F. Kennedy was visiting Costa Rica.
 
And make sure the heights of a volcano are part of your next Costa Rican adventure.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy of Visit Costa Rica
 
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Places You Can Tour Wine Country Close to Home
There may be more places than you think.

California's legendary wine regions and famous wineries have the weather, the scenery, the lifestyle, and of course, the wines, that put them at the top of global wine travel lists.

But as we are planning our first post-COVID trips, wine lovers should expand their lists of wine tour regions close to home to get our fix of wine tastings, vineyard strolling, and re-stocking our cellars with one-of-a-kind vintages.

Vastly different landscapes throughout America's states and Canada's provinces have resulted in some surprising wine regions with thriving scenes and award-winning wines.

If you love discovering new wine, pack your bags for these US and Canadian wine regions, and remember to leave plenty of space in your luggage for bottles of the delicious new wines you're sure to discover!

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host BestTrip.TV
 

Texas

The very first vineyard in North America… was in Texas. Franciscan priests in the mid-1600's toiled to grow the continent's first vines and produce its first wines in mission outposts. European immigrants brought more grapevine cuttings to continue expanding the region's wine through the 19th century. Prohibition wiped out all of America's wine production in the '20's, but Texas has reclaimed its historic wine roots – literally.
These days, the Longhorn State boasts 8 AVA's (American Viticultural Areas) producing wine from grapes that thrive in the state's unique climate and soil. The Texas Hill country AVA is the 2nd largest in America, 9 million acres in the heart of Texas north of San Antonio and west of Austin. The vast wine region is home to a range of one-of-a-kind microclimates that produce cool climate wines to Bordeaux and Italian varietals. 
Idaho's Snake River Valley

Idaho

Move over, potatoes. Idaho's most famous crop has competition. Idaho lies to the west of the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains. The terrain, explored by Lewis and Clark and a central feature of the Oregon Trail, these days is home to a fruitful wine industry you'll want to explore too.  
You may think of Idaho as a very new wine region, but in fact, it dates back to the mid-19th century. The first grapes in the Pacific Northwest were planted in Idaho by French and German immigrants. Prohibition in the 20's took out this wine region, too, but grapes are back again in Idaho. The Snake River Valley became the state's first AVA, and now covers 8000 square miles at latitudes similar to other global wine-growing regions, with a unique combination of seasonal temperatures, rainfall, and soil not only rivaling other wine regions, but even giving Idaho wines an edge in quality.
Idaho now has more than 50 wineries producing cool climate wines, especially whites like Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer, and more recently, reds like fan favorite Cabernet Sauvignon.
(Shore Lodge, McCall, Idaho)

Washington State

This newcomer on the global wine scene has been a quick learner. Washington State is already America's 2nd largest wine producer. Its wines win acclaim and awards that rank Washington as one of the world's top wine regions.
Wine has a pedigree in the state. In 1825 the Hudson's Bay Company planted the area's first wine grapes at Fort Vancouver.
The last decade or so has seen a resurgence of wine-making in Washington. Now, over 55,000 acres are devoted to vineyards. The viticulture trend is growing fast, drawing wine-makers from Europe and New World wine regions to the state's unique terroir and conditions for producing premium white and red wines.
Washington's young and internationally-influenced wine culture exhibits some of the latest trends in wine-making that visiting oenophiles will love. Hand-crafting, sustainability, as well as organic and biodynamic wines make visits to this Pacific North West wine region so unique.
Shea Wine Cellars, Oregon/ Carolyn Wells Kramer

Oregon

It's America's 3rd largest wine grape producing state. Oregon has over 700 wineries growing 72 grape varietals in a thousand vineyards. In spite of that scale, Oregon's famous for its small-batch wineries and artisan wines. Most Oregon wineries produce fewer than 5000 cases a year of an incredible range of wines from Riesling to Viogniers, Pinot noir to Syrah, with sparkling, rose, and dessert wines to tempt your palate.
For wine-loving visitors to Oregon, that means two things. In winery tasting rooms, you'll have the chance to taste small-batch vintages that will never see wide release on store shelves in your home town. And hands-on, artisan vintners love to share their passion for wine, their vines, and wine-making styles with visitors to wine estates.

(Above and Top Images Courtesy Wines of British Columbia)

British Columbia, Canada

North of the border, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is the 2nd largest-producing wine region in Canada, with over 150 wineries and nearly 10,000 acres of vines. The valley stretches 155 miles from Lake Okanagan, south along the Okanagan River into Washington State (where it’s spelled differently: Okonogan) into the Columbia River, itself a growing and renowned wine region on both its Washington State and Oregon banks.
The Columbia and Cascade Mountains shield the region from Pacific and Arctic moisture, and the Okanagan’s desert-like conditions result in slow-ripening, smaller fruit with concentrated flavors. There’s still a variety of landscapes, growing both red and white varietals, from its signature Merlot, to Cab Sauv, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, as well as Chardonnay.

Michigan

Michigan is the 5th largest wine-producing state in the US, producing nearly 3 million gallons of wine a year. The unique, Great-Lakes microclimate that makes Michigan a famous cherry producer also nurtures acclaimed wines.  Most of the state's wine grapes are grown within 25 scenic miles of Lake Michigan, benefitting from 'lake effect' moderation of both winter and summer climate.
There are over 100 wineries in Michigan, and 150 tasting rooms where visitors can sample and buy the wide range of Michigan wines from red, white, dry, sweet, even ice wine, sparkling wine, and wines made from its famous cherry crop. Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail in the north-west part of the state is considered one of the best in the country.

(Toronto in the distance on the shores of Lake Ontario. Photo: Wine Country Ontario)

Ontario, Canada

Many people outside Canada think it’s too cold, and don’t think to add the country to their list of wine touring regions. If this is you, think again.
One Canadian wine sweeps global wine competitions by taking full advantage of those famous Canadian winters.
The granddaddy of Canadian wine regions is the Niagara Peninsula. Ontario is the country’s top wine province, with over 130 wineries and nearly 20,000 acres of vineyards that take advantage of the Great Lakes’ moderating effect on the weather to grow grapes, especially cool-climate Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, for wine.
Ice wine is Canada’s award-winning claim to fame in the international wine circle. More ice wine (originally white, but now, red, too) is produced in the Niagara Peninsula than anywhere else in the world.
The silky, sweet dessert and cheese wine has become virtually synonymous with the Niagara region, where consistently reliable cold winter temperatures allow vintners to harvest grapes after they have frozen on the vine. Freezing concentrates the juice, resulting in higher levels of sugar and an unmistakable wine. This may be the only place in the world whose annual wine harvest celebration, the Ice Wine Festival, takes place mid-winter!
As the name suggests, the wine region shares one of North America’s biggest tourist attractions, Niagara Falls, that straddles the US/Canadian border. And the Niagara Escarpment, a 650 mile-long limestone ridge that runs from upstate New York through the region, has a big influence on its wine.
Only an hour and a half’s drive from the big-city attractions of Toronto, the Niagara region also boasts a world-renowned theater scene, and the epically-charming historic town (and wine micro-region) of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  
 

#PlanNowTravelSoon


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When a destination’s nickname is ‘The Rock’, you don’t expect a warm and cozy place. Newfoundland is the eastern most point in North America, the vanguard of the continent where it faces into the North Atlantic waters and winds that once brought Vikings and still bring icebergs to its shores.  
In this dramatic setting and tough climate, only the strong survive. Newfoundlanders are tough survivors, but the opposite to their stark environment with famously welcoming, colorful, charming, musical and comedic culture.
The ponies that Newfoundlanders brought over from Northern Europe developed the same characteristics over 400 years, until they became their own breed of tough, sweet, sure-footed and gentle ponies.
Nearly extinct only couple of decades ago, Newfoundland Ponies are now, along with Newfoundland dogs, the animal symbol of the province, and a special treat to meet ‘in person’.
BestTrip TV met these Newfoundland Ponies at The Doctor's House Inn & Spa, an hour away from the province’s capital of St. John’s. The graceful Tudor-style mansion occupies 100 acres of oceanfront Newfoundland terrain with breathtaking views of Trinity Bay. 
Converted into an inn with charming rooms, acclaimed fine dining, one of the most beautiful private gardens on the island, walking trails, luxury spa and an event venue in the restored barn, it’s become not only a country retreat and hub for visitors to explore the region, it’s also become a world famous wedding destination.
Warm Newfoundland hospitality at The Doctor’s House Inn & Spa includes the welcome of sheep, goats, chickens, ducks… and a small herd of now-rare Newfoundland Ponies. They add a ‘Newfoundland theme’ to weddings, drawing the bridal couple in carts.
Not only picture perfect, but irresistible, too. 
 

#DreamNowTravelLater




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Top Souvenirs from a Trip to... Ireland
If you’re one of the almost 20% of Americans and Canadians with Irish ancestry – or have fallen in love with the lore of the ‘Emerald Isle’ – a trip to Ireland is the perfect way to immerse yourself in its vivid scenery, storied towns and landscapes… and of course, stock up on the souvenirs that symbolize the country’s history, craftsmanship, and flavors.

Here’s a list of the best places in Ireland to visit to shop for ways to remember your trip to Ireland, or treat your friends and loved ones to a taste of Ireland.


Irish Whiskey in County Cork


It means ‘water of life’, and was once the most popular drink in the world. The distilled grain spirit that’s now called whiskey was developed beginning around the 12th century by creative monks. Today it’s enjoying renewed popularity, and has regained its top standing as the fastest-growing spirit in the world. 

There are dozens of distilleries dotting the cobble-stoned towns and green rolling hills of Ireland, and the list keeps growing. In nearly every county, you can tour historic stone, or ultra-modern distilleries that expand on Ireland’s breadth of whiskeys.

Visiting one or more of the country’s distilleries and tasting rooms, and packing one or more of the 80 million or so bottles produced in the country every year in your luggage (carefully!) for the trip home, is a must-do for any visitor to Ireland. 


The essential experience is in County Cork at Jamesons’. As the world’s biggest producer of Irish whiskey, and dating from the 1700’s, it defines ‘traditional’ Irish whiskey. It’s a ‘blend’ whiskey: locally-grown Irish barley, some malted and some unmalted, or ‘green’, is distilled one of two ways, then the different distilled spirits are mixed. Irish whiskey differs from most whisky from Scotland that is made from grain dried by a peat fire, giving it a smoky flavor -  not present in smoother Irish whiskey. 


Crystal in Waterford County


Nothing will make your Irish whiskey taste better than drinking it from a Waterford crystal low ball glass or decanter.
Crystal was not invented in Ireland, but 200-year old Waterford is one of the world’s most famous crystals, and a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal facility is one of the top reasons to visit the Irish county of the same name.

You can watch artisans in action in each of the steps in the creation of Waterford crystal’s pieces, seeing pieces come to life, from blowing molten crystal into elegant shapes, to mould making, to inspections, marking patterns onto approved pieces for master artisans to cut the signature designs that result in the clarity and sparkle that rival diamonds in vases, bowls, glass and stemware and of course, décor items like chandeliers.


Ireland isn’t the only place you can find this famous crystal. You’ll spot Waterford crystal some of the finest bars and restaurants and hotels in the world. And you’ll see Waterford chandeliers in Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, and across the pond, in the Kennedy Center and… it’s the famous ball that drops every New Year’s Even in New York’s Times Square.
 

A Claddagh Ring in Galway


After the shamrock and the Celtic cross, this must be the most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle. It’s certainly Ireland’s essential piece of jewelry – with a delightful and touching meaning.

The Claddagh ring’s hands cradling a heart topped with a crown symbolize friendship, love and loyalty. Rings are worn in Ireland and often by people of Irish ancestry around the world as friendship, engagement and wedding rings. 

They are often passed down mothers to their eldest daughters or grandmother to granddaughter and worn differently to advertise the wearer’s current relationship status, useful in the days before you could look it up on facebook! Worn
·     On the right hand, with the heart pointing toward the heart, you’re in a relationship; your ‘heart has been captured;
·     On the right hand with the heart pointing outward, you’re single and looking;
·     On the left ring finger with the heart pointing outward, you’re engaged; and
·     With the heart pointing to your heart, you’re married.


Start your own tradition and add some extra meaning to your new Claddagh ring by making the trek to the fishing village of the same name in Galway, where Claddagh rings were invented in the 18th century. The original goldsmith’s shop still stands. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold is the oldest jeweler in Ireland, and houses a museum to the iconic ring.

Irish Wool from the Aran Isles


When you picture Ireland’s famous green pastures, you may also picture those pastures with grazing sheep. Throughout Ireland, keeping sheep and spinning, dyeing and weaving or knitting their wool was a cottage industry for centuries.


You can still see looms at work throughout Ireland, and enjoy the fruits of the artisans who craft colorful scarves, wraps, hats, and other useful, beautiful, and wearable examples of Irish history, creativity and skill.

Perhaps the most Irish of woolen knitwear is an Aran sweater. The Aran Islands off the country’s western coast have historically been home to hardy fishing communities whose women used wool ‘unscoured’ of its natural oils, making it water resistant and perfect for fishermen working in harsh Atlantic waters – or anyone who spends lots of time in the outdoors. 

(Image: Getty)

Sweaters are marvelously complex works of art, comprising 100,000 stitches of each maker’s own design. Different patterns of stitches represent different meanings and omens for the success and safety of the fishermen wearing them .
 
Ireland’s deep culture and heritage make an unforgettable impression on any visitor to her shores, and you’ll want to take home memories and mementoes of your journey. These are just a few of the many souvenirs of Ireland that really beat a ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ t-shirt from your last St. Patrick’s day at the pub!

 

Start your Trip!


All images courtesy of Ireland.com unless otherwise indicated.

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How You Can Help Solve Overtourism - AND Still Enjoy the World's Most Popular Destinations
Amsterdam. Venice. Barcelona. Just to name a few. These are spectacular, vibrant, magical cities… reeling under the weight of tourists.

I’m very fortunate to have visited a number of cities that are now on the list of overtouristed destinations. They are magnificent and life changing. But sadly, each subsequent visit, I see the very qualities travelers go there to seek eroded a little bit more by a growing volume of tourists.

Over-touristed destinations worry about becoming artificial, ‘theme park’ versions of their charming, unique, authentic selves. They fear seeing local residents, artisans, shopkeepers and restaurateurs priced out of the cities’ historic centers by global brands and big companies buying up real estate for international brand shops and short-term housing rentals.

When the locals go, so do many of the very lifestyle elements you hoped to enjoy. Local food and craft markets collapse, inexpensive, authentic local restaurants close their doors, and the only people you meet… are other tourists.

These cities may be on your travel bucket list. Or you imagine re-living fond memories there.

I can’t bring myself to say people should no longer travel to over-touristed destinations (although some cities’ mayors sound like they’re willing to ban tourists altogether).

But I can offer 8 tips about the best ways responsible travelers can help be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And at the same time, take steps to ensure the best travel experience for themselves.

Responsible travel tips for overtourism:


Be a good global citizen. 

Practice the advice often given to park visitors: take only pictures, leave only footprints. Littering, loitering, being part of a loud group that blocks sidewalks and disrupts the peaceful enjoyment of a neighborhood, in many places outside of North America, eating or drinking on the street… some rules of good behavior are universal, and some are unique to local custom, like tipping practices.

Do your research in advance and be the person the locals welcome back.


Go off-season / shoulder season. 

I’ve written before about the benefits of off-season travel. In over-touristed destinations, off-season or shoulder season (the weeks on either side of the core ‘high season’), by definition, is less crowded. No lineups. Less expensive. The locals come back (think Paris after everyone takes the month of August away from the city). And the tourism attractions are happy to see you – and your money.

Stay in hotels.

Many short-term rentals are not real home shares by residents, but instead, units owned and managed by big corporations running what amounts to unregulated hotel businesses. Inhabitants of residential neighborhoods report being disrupted by a steady stream of strangers that can change the character of the community.

Hotels are regulated for your health and safety, they ensure local bylaws are followed, AND they are paying business taxes that support the preservation of cultural treasures visitors are coming to enjoy, and the infrastructure like streets and sidewalks and parks and public transportation tourists rely on.

Shop locally.

And especially, make a point to spend your souvenir, dining, and entertainment budgets to support local artisans, craftspeople, performing artists and venues, food and wine and spirit producers that are preserving local culture, techniques and architecture, and whose businesses 100% support the local economy. 
 

Book smaller cruise ships.

Bigger cruise ships need ports of a certain size, so that often means they all converge on major city ports – and some are already bursting with land-based visitors.

The biggest cruise ships carry thousands of people. In some places, a single ship can result in cruise visitors outnumbering locals! Imagine if two or more mega ships are in port! No wonder locals can feel like their city has been taken over by non-locals- and ‘normal’ local life comes to a halt while these immense cruise ships are in port.

There’s lots to be said for the attractions of mega cruise ships. If that’s your preferred cruise style, try to focus on itineraries that visit destinations that can accommodate you and your 5000 other cruise guests without overwhelming or changing the character of the city.

Always book a pre- or post-cruise stay.

That way, you are not just transiting through a city, you also contribute to its economy - and get to enjoy overnights and immersion in these wonderful places. Pre- and post-cruise stays - or tours - are a perfect balance to the destination sampling approach of cruising.

Book your visit with a reputable tour company.

The best tour companies understand the importance of reducing their impact on and preserving the best of local communities. They work to balance the interests of the destination with unique access to its greatest cultural, natural, and lifestyle gems for its guests.

Consider destinations in the same country that have fewer tourists.

You’ll often find the same – and sometimes, even more authentic - local lifestyle and flavors that have diminished in the most visited destinations if you leave the big cities and go off the beaten path in the same country.
 
Talk to your travel advisor about your travel interests, and they’ll be able to help you design a thoughtful and responsible travel plan that takes overtourism into account.
 
 

Start your Trip!

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

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It’s a US territory with sun-kissed Caribbean charms. Where lush jungles, land and marine parks and world-class beaches meet Old World cobblestone architecture, New World comforts, and signature Latin hospitality, culture and sultry vibe.  

Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan is a major cruise port and destination in the eastern Caribbean. Thousands of cruise passengers embark and disembark every year. But don’t miss the opportunity to extend your cruise – or visit the island just to explore the island’s urban lifestyle and beach resorts in San Juan, as well as the attractions outside the capital.

Following Cuba’s revolution in the 50’s, Puerto Rico became the heart of island Latin style for America’s jet set, and many of the island’s most memorable urban beach hotel-resorts in date from that sexy, Rat Pack era. Newer boutique hotels have added more ways to stay and play in Puerto Rico’s capital.


Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s producer, host and cruise expert, picks three of her favorite San Juan hotels from her latest cruise trips to Puerto Rico.

Fairmont El San Juan Hotel


Whether you love Old Havana and colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort lifestyle on one of the world's top tropical beaches... the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.
 
This sprawling hotel on San Juan’s 2-mile-long Isla Verde beach – one that’s been voted ‘Best Urban Beach’, is a recent addition to the prestigious, luxury Fairmont portfolio.
 
But this urban hotel has a pedigree. Considered by many the ‘grande dame’ hotel of Puerto Rico society, the El San Juan underwent a $65-million post-hurricane reno and upgrade that restored the best of its colonial architecture, Rat Pack era cool, and added modern, urban resort touches with the Latin flavour of its surroundings.
 
Watch the video above to see this captivating time capsule beach hotel that’s also one of the best places in Puerto Rico for a pre or post-cruise stay, family vacation, wedding or vow renewal.
 
Better yet, book a vacation to experience Fairmont El San Juan’s beach lifestyle, sexy, interconnected pools, breezy outdoor teak spaces, one of the largest chandeliers in the world above one of the most famous bars in the Caribbean, even the hotel’s famous, 200-year-old banyan tree.  
 
 

La Concha

Where the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel melds Old Havana, mid-century, and contemporary design hotel, La Concha is all mid-century beach chic re-imagined for the 21st century.

Right on Ashford Avenue in the heart of San Juan’s ‘it’ Condado neighborhood with expansive beach front, La Concha is one of the island’s iconic hotels, dating back to the heyday of Puerto Rico as a ‘jet set’ destination.

Its namesake is its standout feature: a gigantic, seashell-shaped ‘floating restaurant’ at the edge of the sea. Not only a marvel of engineering and design, being inside the ‘shell’ space makes any meal memorable and a special event like a wedding, absolutely epic.

The curves of the giant shell feature are unmistakably from the mid-century school of modernism. The architects continued tropical modernist features throughout the property, in the form of curves and breezeways, an open lobby and seamless transitions between indoors and outdoors, even a concrete façade that filters sunlight to create patterns mirrored indoors.


Also benefitting from a recent renovation, La Concha has kept its mid-century bones and added ocean-inspired hues and beach-inspired textures, lounges and patios kept throbbing with electronic dance music by local DJ’s, resulting in a completely modern urban beach resort, nightlife destination, and ‘Latino Chic’ lifestyle in a stylish setting few modern hotel builds can match.

O:LV Fifty Five

Around the corner in San Juan’s chic Condado neighborhood from La Concha, O:LV Fifty Five is a jewel of a boutique hotel where Old Hollywood glamour meets modern design hotel.  


Since it’s recent opening, it has made the lists proclaiming “Top Places to Travel”, “Best New Hotels”, and “Finest Hotels” among others.

This adults-only, 26-suite hideaway on a quiet side street overlooks Condado Lagoon from what must be one of, if not the best rooftop destination in San Juan. A cooling green wall and fountains form the backdrop to the infinity pool with a view on the city.


The lobby feels like the living room of an uber-sophisticated socialite, with plush textures, mood lighting and eclectic touches like a table-top metallic cheetah statue and oversized, black and white photography portraits. 


Restaurants at the ground and rooftop levels repeat the concept in their own palettes, with head-turning features like the vintage Rolls Royce – converted into a DJ booth! -  parked among tables of diners and guests heading out to the roof top terrace (pictured above).

All 3 hotels are located between Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, and the San Juan Cruise Port, just outside historic Old San Juan. Whether you’re flying in or cruising out, these three very different urban hotel experiences are unmistakable expressions of San Juan’s one-of-a-kind hospitality and travel experience.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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You never forget your first love - or your first cruise.

All the more reason to make sure your first cruise is the very best cruising experience and leaves only wonderful cruise memories.

Here at BestTrip, we believe that everyone has a perfect cruise match... and Seabourn ticks all our boxes! Warmth? Style? Humor? A sense of adventure? Always has caviar available? Tries incredibly hard to please? For us, Seabourn is the full package!

But you don't need to take our word for it and go on a cruising 'blind date'. In this video, we show you some of our favorite ways Seabourn is our perfect match.

And we're not alone. Once you do sail with Seabourn, on one of its intimate ships with so many opportunities to engage with your fellow guests in that signature, convivial Seabourn style, you'll realize that so many guests on Seabourn are committed fans.

If you're still considering taking your first cruise, compare Seabourn's signature style of ultra-luxury cruising to any land/ hotel-based luxury travel experience, and we think you'll want to take the plunge.

If you've been playing the cruise field, well, maybe you just haven't met your perfect cruise match, and you should make a date with Seabourn.

Whether you're a cruise lover or still waiting to meet 'The One', we think, once you cruise with Seabourn, you'll never want to travel any other way.


Start your Trip!



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


Following a post-hurricane, $65-million reno, this grande dame of Puerto Rico society and must-visit destination for visitors to Puerto Rico's capital is back - in spectacular style combining all three eras and captivating your travel imagination.

The El San Juan Hotel alone is worth the trip to this US island territory! 

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

Start your Trip!


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Think Overwater Villas are the Height of Exotic Luxury Travel? Try This UNDERwater Villa
It puts new meaning into being immersed in the local natural beauty. The pristine waters of the Maldives are epic, surrounding one of the world's most romantic, remote and legendary tropical eco paradise destinations. 

Now you can sleep alongside your sweetheart or family as well as the rich marine life that animates the waters of these tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a pioneering resort: the first international hotel in the Maldives, the first underwater restaurant, and now, the first undersea residence.


It's called the Muraka, or 'coral' in the local Maldivian language, and it is an extraordinary way for up to 9 guests to experience of one of the world's most breathtaking marine environments. Specialized aquarium technology was used to create the 2-story villa, consisting of above-sea-level space, and a spiral staircase to an underwater suite more than 16 feet below sea level with a king size bedroom, living room, and bathing area under a dome with 180-degree views of the ocean.

Sleeping in an undersea dome is an almost surreal vacation, but the overwater part of the villa above is unforgettable, too. More bedrooms, one with an ocean-facing bathtub, more bathrooms, gym, space for a butler and private security, living room, kitchen, bar and dining area with a deck facing the sunset, and another deck with an infinity pool facing sunrise. 

The Muraka butlers are dedicated 24-7 to hyper-personalized service. They are also ambassadors of the Maldivian island experience for undersea villa guests, sharing their passion for culture, the environment and adventure throughout your custom-crafted stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.


The resort is located in the Maldives' best diving and snorkeling locations. It melds harmoniously with the environment, flowing from island, over the ocean, to the overwater/undersea residence.


You can double down on the undersea experience at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island at its trailblazing underwater restaurant. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is also a world's first, where the fusion local and Western lunch and dinner menus, fine wine pairings, and mid-morning cocktails are accompanied by a panoramic view of coral gardens 16 feet below the surface of the ocean.

 
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is one of dozen resort restaurants and bars that regularly make 'best of…' lists. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island also features an overwater spa and a Spa Retreat, and experiences inspired by the local environment and culture round out the ultimate island escape. Sunrise and sunset yoga practice. A meditation pavilion. A 5-hour journey to inner tranquility via a unique Zen revelation. A Spa Retreat with over a dozen water villas, its own restaurant, and a selection of therapies including a signature treatment inspired by the beauty practices of Maldivian women, including a heated coconut stick massage and organic, pineapple and papaya body scrub.


Consciously-designed villas and suites, from ultra-private beach villas nestled amongst the rich tropical landscape with direct beach access, to overwater villas ranging from private and romantic, to expansive for an extended group of family or friends, complete with sundecks, hot tubs steps into the sea, spa treatment rooms and more, provide the iconic Maldives vacation.
 
Start your Trip!
 
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Discover Tropical Romance in 3 Overwater Bungalow Resorts on the Caribbean Sea
(Re)kindle the romance close to home – without long flights to the South Pacific or the Maldives!

Overwater villas are the next best thing to a private tropical island of your own – a luxury, bungalow suspended right over top of jewel-toned seas with the rustic-chic experience of living indoors and outdoors. It doesn't need to be Valentine's Day or your honeymoon for you and your sweetheart to deserve an overwater dream holiday.

Here are 3 resorts on the Caribbean Sea - in Jamaica, Mexico, and Panama, where you can live the dream.


Where: Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay, Jamaica


The Overwater Bungalows and Resort Highlights:

Couples-only Sandals built the Caribbean's first all-inclusive overwater bungalows, inspired by more distant cousins in Tahiti. These secluded villas are just off the resort's private island with private water taxi service. Picture glass floors, butler service, private infinity pools and outdoor soaking tub for two or hammocks over the water where you can dangle your toes and absorb the sun, extended outdoor decks and outdoor showers that blur the line between indoor and outdoor luxury living.


  • All-inclusive, unlimited fine dining at 8 restaurants and unlimited wine and spirits at 5 bars, including swim-up, and stocked bars in every room
  • Free wifi, tips, taxes and gratuities
  • Roundtrip airport transfers and BMW private airport transfers for all Butler and Club Sandals guests
  • Professional water sport instruction and all equipment; PADI-Certified SCUBA diving, snorkeling 
  • Hobie Cats, paddle boards, kayaks, beach volleyball, bocce ball, pool tables, day and night tennis, unlimited land sports and state-of-the-art fitness centers
  • Day and night entertainment including live shows
  • PLUS exchange privileges and all amenities and inclusions with 2 nearby Sandals – it's like having 3 resorts in one!

 

Where: Karisma's El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico

 
The Overwater Bungalows and Other Resort Highlights:

The adults-only resort's 'Palafitos' (pictured top) are not only the first overwater bungalows in Mexico, but are also on Maroma Beach, one of the world's top-rated beaches. Glass-bottom floors give you a view of the sea from the moment you wake up and your feet touch the floor; in the evenings, you'll have an unobstructed view of the setting sun from your own infinity pool on your private deck. And outdoor shower and private butler top off your indulgent beach escape.

 
  • Easily-reached via non-stop flights to Cancun
  • 8 diverse resort restaurants available in the 'Gourmet inclusive' all-inclusive program and 24-hour room service
  • 2 lounges and 3 swim up bars
  • Non-motorized watersports
  • Spanish lessons, yoga, aqua aerobics, latin dance lessons, cooking classes,  beach volleyball, mescal tasting, free wifi and more
  • Daily entertainment and  nightly entertainment including karaoke, live music, circus show and more
  • Shopping tours to Playa del Carmen
  • Fitness center, sauna and steam baths at the spa, aqua fit

 

Where: Viceroy, Bocas del Toro, Panama – opening slated for 2021

 
Overwater Bungalows and Other Resort Highlights:

  • 42 overwater bungalows the first in Central America
  • Accessible via a short flight from Panama City, boat, seaplane or helicopter
  • 457 acres of Caribbean coastline in a famous eco-destination, next to jungle and San San Pond Sak wetlands, a habitat for birds and wildlife exploration via eco-tours and hiking
  • Sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, surfing, biking, walks and lounging on the lengthy beach
  • 42 overwater bungalows and 150 more guestrooms and residences
  • 8 onsite restaurants plus lounges,
  • Multiple pools, spa, fitness center, meditation rooms

 
Tip: If your travel heart is set on the romance of an overwater villa, book well advance as these evocative, one-of-a-kind accommodations are always among the first to fully book especially in high season December – March.

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.  

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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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Indulge Your Love for Luxe in the Dominican Republic

All-inclusive resorts in Puerto Plata and elsewhere on this lush Caribbean island with 1000 miles of coastline put the Dominican Republic on the map for travelers seeking affordable family and couples vacations from winter weather further north. 

But what you may not know is that you can also find experiences that rival deluxe vacations anywhere in the Caribbean. Save or splurge, here's how to add indulgence to your winter holiday in the islands this year.

Lush Lodging

In the Dominican Republic, you can stay in unmatched accommodations that run the gamut from world-renowned boutique hotels to opulent resorts. Punta Cana in the east in particular is home to luxury properties ideal for intimate romantic travel, families and multi-generation travel, and large wedding, vow renewal, or reunion groups, even business conferences.

In addition to stunning beaches and multiple pools, many of these properties offer whirlpools, saunas, and extended wellness programs as well as traditional spa and aesthetic treatments.  Take sunset yoga, healthy cooking, and fitness programs.

And for complete privacy, book a private villa for a secluded, A-list holiday experience.

Gorgeous Golf, Fantastic Fishing and Prestigious Polo

Dominican Republic is a golfer’s dream, with over two dozen meticulously manicured courses set against the backdrop of the country’s most stunning scenery and shoreline. Pete Dye’s seaside “Teeth of the Dog” (below) at the storied Casa de Campo resort put the Dominican Republic on the world golfer’s map.

 

Here you can play courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Fazio, Nick Price, and Robert Trent Jones. Sculpted bunkers and uneven terrain but let the natural contours of the land dictate the courses’ routing. Tropical breezes on the coastal courses add another layer of challenge to even the best player's game

Sports fishermen flock to Dominican Republic’s coasts in pursuit of the blue marlin, one of the largest fish in the world. Hit the water for a tournament or on a charter boat excursion to fish blue marlin, white marlins, mahi-mahi, wahoo, swordfish and tuna in the Caribbean Sea; while blue marlin, wahoo and barracudas can be found in the Atlantic waters off the North Coast.

Dominican Republic is part of the international circuit of the 'Sport of Kings', with polo facilities available at some of the country’s most exclusive resorts in La Romana, Punta Cana and Santo Domingo. Hire horses for your own tournaments, or head to a polo match to enjoy the action as a spectator for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.

Serious Shopping

Fashionistas and shopping enthusiasts will be on cloud nine in Dominican Republic, where it’s easy to find couture clothing, unique handmade crafts and stunning precious jewelry all within close proximity.

But we love local best.  Indigenous amber or glassy blue larimar (above) jewelry makes the perfect souvenir, and a piece of local larimar or amber jewelry will definitely start a conversation when your friends at home see it.

Make sure to take tours of local coffee, rum, cigar or jewelry manufactures for an opportunity to meet Makers, learn about local culture, and pick up authentic souvenirs.

Delicious Dining and Next-Level Nightlife

Did you know the Dominican Republic was named the Gastronomic Culture Capital of the Caribbean?  The island is one of the few in the Caribbean with extensive, diverse and abundant local agriculture.  Ingredients are fresh and inspiring.  Try the fusion cuisine of innovative chefs who have taken classic international recipes and given them a Dominican twist with local ingredients.

After dinner, find a terrace with a view or a club outside your hotel, especially in the capital of Santo Domingo, where international performers and DJ's make frequent appearances and you can dance the night away to local merengue music. Wine cellars and cigar clubs also offer exclusive tastings sure to please both connoisseurs and novice cigar aficionados and sommeliers.

If you're looking for luxury, maybe it's time to re-define your Dominican Republic vacation experience. 

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3 Greek Islands You Must Visit Before You Die

Greece is famous as the cradle of Western civilization. It's the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, literature and drama, marathons, the Olympics, plus some of your favorite math principles.

Modern Greece consists of a mountainous mainland and hundreds of islands surrounded by the Aegean, Ionian, Cretan and Mediterranean Seas. Over two hundred of the islands are inhabited, many of them rich in history and mythology, as well as the Mediterranean culture, cuisine, maritime and beach lifestyle that makes Greece one of the top bucket list travel destinations.

Some travelers in the know take holidays to Greece year after year, and Greek islands are a highlight of Eastern Mediterranean cruises. If you've never visited Greece, here are the islands you just can't miss.

Photo (Credit) SantoriniSantorini inspired the title of this article. It's continuously named the 'best island in the world' and the 'Greek Island you must visit before you die'. (But we think all the islands in this list merit the title). (Top Photo Credit)

When you hear 'Greek island', chances are that the sight that pops into your head is one of the iconic pictures of Santorini. The island's sky blue domed church roofs, white washed buildings on the edges of cliffs, and steep, narrow cobbled streets overlooking brilliant blue seas stand in to represent the iconic Greek island vista of everyone's travel dreams. 

Santorini is what remains of an island after the eruption of an ancient volcano. Now, a giant lagoon is encircled by the 300 m (980 ft) high cliffs of a crescent shaped island and a much smaller island opposite where the remaining volcano rim is still above the sea. Visiting ships, yachts and local fishing boats approaching the shelter of the curve are afloat in the crater of the volcano. Inside the caldera, the water is so deep - over 400m - that only the largest ships can anchor.   Santorini's capital, Fira (Thira) clings to the top of the cliff over the lagoon.

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Don't Miss: volcanic-sand beaches in unique black or red sands, brilliant sunsets, a traditional and a growing modern food culture. Santorini's micro-climate nurtures tomatoes and capers of famously exquisite flavor, and an indigenous grape varietal that local vintners turn into celebrated crisp, dry white and amber-toned wines.


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MykonosMykonos is the Greek island where Ibiza party and French Riviera beach lifestyles meet. Cosmopolitan and glamorous, Mykonos may be Greece's most fashionable holiday destination. Luxury hotels, stylish bars, clubs and parties where beautiful people come to see and be seen until dawn, then sleep it off on magnificent beaches or private yachts… if that is your style of travel, Mykonos is for you. It's also known for being an LGBT-friendly destination and party central.

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Mykonos is both the island and its main town, which is also called Chora (meaning 'town', in the Greek style of towns with the same name as their islands). Picturesque local architecture, sunsets, people watching and shopping appeal to visitors of all ages.

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The island's nickname is 'the Island of Winds'. Windmills are one of the defining and unique features of the Mykonos landscape, built by Venetians in the 16th century to grind flour and used until electricity took over only a few decades ago.

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Don't Miss: Romantic, artistic Little Venice, where rows of 18th century colorful fishing houses with overhanging balconies line the seaside, many of them shops, cafes, and galleries. And Petros the Pelican, the mascot of Chora's waterfront.   

(Photo Credit) RhodesRhodes' nickname is The Island of the Knights. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the world. Walking its Street of Knights, you feel transported back to the Middle Ages, when conquering Crusaders built fortifications, the Palace of the Grand Masters, towers, inns and rest of the medieval city and streets that remain today.

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But Rhodes' history pre-dates mediaeval knights by thousands of years, when the island's strategic position made it central to ancient history. One of Rhodes' lasting claims to fame is a landmark that no longer exists.

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The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Erected in 280 B.C. at the Mandraki harbor to mark a battle victory, the Colossus was a bronze statue of extraordinary size - about the same as the Statue of Liberty! Rhodes' Colossus stood for less than a century before an earthquake toppled it. Even then, for another 800 years, its remains lying on the ground drew travelers to Rhodes to marvel at and write about its size. Today the statues of deer on pillars at the entrance to the harbor mark where the Colossus' feet were said to stand and allow ships to pass beneath this feat of design and engineering.

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Don't Miss: The beaches. Don't be so distracted by the history you miss its stunning beaches. The wine. Rhodes is said to have been the first island in the Aegean to cultivate vineyards for wine; that tradition continues today. The lush, green interior and emerald fresh waters inland from the beaches.

When to goIn most of the Greek islands, the sun shines 300 magical days a year. Summers are high season for travelers arriving by air and cruise ship, but April- June and September- October are blessed with lovely weather. Looking for mild weather, quiet exploration – and a bargain? More and more people are discovering Greece in early and late winter months too.

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Maybe it's your first sight of a palm tree in the sea breeze. Or the feel of sand between your toes. Even your first tropical cocktail in the warmth of the sun. But for some people, it's the taste of any of these iconic flavors that makes you feel like you're finally on vacation in the Caribbean. read more
Discover Your Inner Highlander At These 3 Scottish Castles

A lot of people's favorite TV viewing these days involves tartans and time travel against a backdrop of essential Scottish scenery: misty lochs, craggy mountains, and castles that are among the most iconic and recognized in the world.

Fiction meets historic fact at Scotland's castles. An estimated 3000 castles were once part of the landscape of Scotland. That's nearly one castle every 100 square miles.

Many ancient castles still remain to remind us of Scotland's turbulent history of powerful men in kilts wielding broadswords, and women who were just as tough. You can tap into your own inner highlander at these must-see Scottish castles.

Edinburgh Castle

Imposing and massive, Edinburgh Castle looms from its perch on an outcropping of volcanic rock 260 feet (80 m) above the Scottish capital. Scotland's most urban castle dominates the city skyline spectacularly. As the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris, Edinburgh Castle is the symbol of the Scottish capital. It's the most-visited attraction in Scotland.

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Castle Rock, with such obvious defensive advantages of the sheer cliffs on three sides, has been occupied since the Iron Age. A royal castle has stood there since the 1100's. Edinburgh castle is magnificent, seeming to grow out of the volcanic rock. But it's no fairy tale. Researchers have identified 26 attacks on the fortress in its history, making it one of the most besieged places in the world.

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Edinburgh Castle retains its military and regal connections, housing the Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum, as well as the Scottish regalia, known as the Honours of Scotland: royal crown, sword and scepter.

The only approach to Edinburgh Castle is from the sloping side. It's a scenic walk up the Royal Mile through Edinburgh's Old Town to the castle. Don't miss the daily (except Sunday) firing of the 'One O'Clock Gun'.

Three special times of the year to visit Edinburgh Castle include: The Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August, a spell-binding and evocative series of performances of fife and drum and Scottish regiments in traditional regalia; and the fireworks marking the end of the summer Edinburgh Festival as well as Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year.

Eilean Donan Castle

This is one of the most photographed and filmed castles in the world. (And one of the most popular backdrops to wedding photos in the U.K.)

Where Edinburgh Castle's defenses came from the cliffs surrounding it, Eilean Donan's protection was water. Eilean Donan means 'the island of Donnán'. (Top Photo Credit). It's a small tidal island at the point where three great sea lochs meet in the western Highlands of Scotland.

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And while romantic-looking now, there's evidence the island was fortified from the Iron Age. The current castle was restored from ruins in the early 1900's, when a footbridge connected the island to the mainland. Until then, it was only water accessible, and a clan stronghold that was repeatedly attacked.

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Don't miss among the rare artifacts on display a sword said to have been wielded at the fateful battle of Culloden.

A Gaelic inscription above the door reads: 'As long as there is a MacRae inside, there will never be a Fraser outside', referring to a bond of kinship between the two clans, similar to one which adorned the Fraser clan's Beaufort Castle. The MacRae clan are still Constables of Eilean Donan Castle today.

Eilean Donan Castle is even more spectacular in real life than in the many photos and films that feature it, where the magnificent Highland landscape almost dwarfs the castle. When you are there in person, it is much larger and imposing than it seems in pictures. Standing on the footbridge with winds from the lochs swirling around you, is the moment you'll say to yourself, 'I've arrived in the Highlands'.

Dunnottar Castle

Even more wild and dramatic is Dunnottar Castle on top of an immense rocky cliff over the north east coast of Scotland. The ruins of the castle are surrounded by steep cliffs that drop 160 feet (50m) into the North Sea below. Only a narrow strip of land with a steep path joins the headland to the mainland.

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Given the castle's strategic location and impregnable position, it's no wonder the site has been fortified for over 2000 years. 'Dun' is the word for 'fort' in the early Pict's language. This haunting location was the home of the Keiths and Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. When Oliver Cromwell's army invaded Scotland in the 1600's, the Earl Marischal, as Marischal of Scotland, was responsible for the Honours of Scotland (the Crown Jewels), and had them hidden from Cromwell at Dunnottar Castle. (Brought there by a woman named Katherine Drummond hidden in bags of wool.)

Less than a century later, another Earl lost his titles participating in the Jacobite rebellion, and the castle declined until its restoration 300 years later.

Romantic, dramatic, and evocative, Scotland's castles aren't just instagrammers' dreams. A visit to a Scottish castle is your own version of time travel and a way to connect to the essence of this fabled culture.

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There's a New Tallest Building West of the Mississippi

With a hotel. And the highest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere.

The Wilshire Grand Center on famous Wilshire Boulevard towers 73 stories over downtown Los Angeles' historic, entertainment, financial, arts, and sports districts and added new texture to the city skyline.

The tower is spectacular. A glass-clad skyscraper topped with a spire that makes it 1099 feet (335 meters) tall, more than 80 feet higher than the US Bank Tower it has overtaken for top spot in the West. (But nowhere near the height of America's tallest building, One World Trade Center in New York, that's a U.S. record-breaking, symbolic 1776 feet (541 meters) tall).

In a nod to its status as a landmark of America's West, the skyscraper's silhouette is inspired by Yosemite’s Half Dome, with an iconic sail for the West's pre-eminent oceanfront city. (Top Photo Credit). Programmable LED lighting illuminates the peak and down the spine of the building for a riveting and changeable evening cityscape.

Inside, take a high-speed, double-decker elevator for a 50-second ride, and you're transported into the breathtaking setting of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown's Sky Lobby on the 70th floor.

Magnificent panoramic views and L.A. –inspired design in the Sky Lobby set the scene for your visit to the 900-room hotel, restaurants, bars, open-air observation deck and rooftop pool where global travelers and locals can mingle amongst some of the city’s new and most coveted venues – with the best view in town.

Each hotel room has floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramas of the West Coast sunsets and the City of Angels.

Restaurants make the most of the one-of-a-kind scenics, with VIP booths, floor-to-ceiling privacy screens and private views of the L.A. skyline – as well as foodie features like a cheese atelier, a charcuterie cave and a 1200-label curated wine list.

And at the very top of the tower, imagined as a 'city in the sky', the highest outdoor perch in the country and even the hemisphere. On top of the 73rd floor is Spire 73 – the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere. This rooftop lounge offers surreal views of the entire city, chic fire pits, signature cocktails and a wide selection of whiskey, and culinary experiences to rival the view.

Plus, in eco-friendly California, sustainability take center-stage, and the building is LEED Gold certified. It was constructed using recycled, locally sourced materials, hotel guest room pods were fabricated off site to reduce waste materials, and on an ongoing basis, building orientation, lighting and thermal energy storage reduce energy use, water-efficient landscaping and storm water collection used for cooling ensure the smallest environmental footprint for the tallest building in the West.

Ideally located in the heart of a revitalized, dynamic downtown, the Wilshire Grand Center and InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown have added a new and spectacular way to experience the United States' second-largest city.

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Romance Thrives in the Dominican Republic

One of the Caribbean's most popular island destinations is more than sandy beaches, clear aqua waters, family all-inclusives and tropical forest backdrops. Couples will find the perfect way to celebrate a milestone engagement, wedding or vow renewal, honeymoon, or a private getaway to rekindle the romance.Celebrate

For couples looking to get married or renew their vows in Dominican Republic, Punta Cana’s all-inclusive hotels and resorts make wedding planning a breeze, with packages to fit any budget. On-site wedding planners take care of all the details, from menus to centerpieces, so you can relax and soak in every moment of your big day.

Recharge in a Spa

A spa visit to Punta Cana and Bávaro’s all-inclusive luxury resorts and spa facilities is an ideal way to decompress with your loved one. The East Coast’s world-class destinations boast some of the best spas in the Caribbean and specialize in some of today’s most popular and on-trend spa services. Outside or indoors, individually or as a couple, for an hour or an entire day, spa professionals customize treatments to relax or energize you and help you reset your relationship.

Work on your Swing

Nothing like a friendly challenge to spark some romance. On the southeast coast of Dominican Republic, La Romana is a golfer’s dream, featuring breathtaking courses including the Pete Dye-designed Teeth of the Dog course—one of the Caribbean’s best, and one of the top 100 courses worldwide. Golfing couples will fall in love all over again on the breathtaking greens of Casa de Campo’s three designer, seaside courses.

Experience Colonial Charm

Casa de Campo's Altos de Chavón is a must-see, cliff-side old-world village – that is also the perfect backdrop for romantic photos you'll cherish forever.
The Dominican Republic's capital city of Santo Domingo is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the Caribbean – that also evokes old-world grace and style. The Colonial city (below) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a walkable grid of romantic cobblestone streets, iron street lamps, open terrace restaurants where you can drink in the atmosphere over wine and a Dominican cigar, and visit the oldest cathedral in the Americas, dating back to the 15th century.
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Take an Adventure for Two

Are watersports your style? Sosúa and Cabarete are world-famous for windsurfing and kiteboarding—perfect for adrenaline-seeking couples eager to conquer the waves.
Samaná on the northeast coast is an eco-paradise known for magnificent beauty and quiet, unspoiled beaches. Plan a honeymoon or getaway between January and March to have the chance to spot humpback whales mating and breeding in Dominican Republic’s protected waters.
Travel by boat to Los Haitises National Park (pictured below), to enjoy its magnificent series of limestone caves and excursions through the exotic vegetation to spot wildlife.
Cool down in the emerald mountain heights of Jarabacoa or Constanza, the 'Switzerland of the Caribbean'. Four large national parks offer panoramic views, river rafting, mountain biking, canyoning, paragliding, rappelling and mountain trail horse riding for active couples who love the outdoors.
Nearby Pico Duarte is the highest peak in the Caribbean, and worth the grueling hike to the top for couples to get a magnificent view and a sense of achievement that will bring you even closer together.

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Same-Sex Couples Can Get Married on Cunard

Many couples dream of getting married at sea. And now, British luxury cruise line Cunard has welcomed its first wedding booking by a same-sex couple.

Cunard has offered weddings on its ships since 2012 and has married hundreds of couples, but can now also conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies at sea.

Same-sex marriages have been practiced in Britain since 2014. But the Cunard fleet of ships: the Queen Mary2, the Queen Victoria, and the Queen Elizabeth, are registered in Bermuda. A Supreme Court ruling enabling same-sex marriages in Bermuda now enables same-sex couples to be married on board any of the line's 'Three 'Queens' ships.

So in addition to enjoying Cunard's grand scale of British traditional luxury including impeccable White Star Service, gourmet dining and world-class entertainment, perhaps on one of Cunard's legendary, regularly scheduled Transatlantic crossings, same-sex couples can also be joined in marriage during their cruise.

Couples who celebrate their weddings in the romantic, aristocratic British environment of a Cunard cruise will have memories for a lifetime. The wedding ceremony is performed by the ship’s Captain or Deputy Captain, and the marriage license is issued by Bermuda.

A Cunard Wedding at Sea package includes:

  • A romantic ceremony at sea
  • Wedding ceremony venue with floral arrangements
  • Traditional wedding music
  • Services of the on-board Wedding Coordinator
  • Attendance of a professional photographer at the ceremony
  • Commemorative wedding certificate
  • An official copy of the marriage certificate
  • The cost of the license fees
  • A bottle of Champagne in the cabin on arrival
  • Champagne for a toast after the ceremony
  • Invitations and thank you notes
  • Wedding outfit pressing services

Cunard has a history of over 175 years of bringing people together, and welcoming same-sex weddings on its ships marries the best of British luxury traditions with a truly modern sensibility and inclusiveness.

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Paris Landmark Hotel Re-Opens after $200-million Renovation

When you renovate a palatial, historic landmark on one of the most famously elegant squares in one of the most fabled travel destinations in the world, there's a lot at stake.

The Hotel de Crillon has dominated Paris' storied Place de la Concorde since the 1700's. Originally the Parisian home of the illustrious Count de Crillon, the palace has been the site of world-changing events, where Marie Antoinette had music lessons, international treaties were signed (including French recognition of the American Declaration of Independence), and a hotel since 1909 where celebrities, aristocracy, royalty, politicians and artists continued to make history. Now after its 4-year renovation, its latest re-invention has been revealed.

We aren't disappointed. With incredible vision and work by world-renowned architects, designers, artists and artisans - even an artistic director – the Hotel de Crillon is back, a palace reinterpreted for the modern day luxury traveller. Imagine the challenge: to strike a balance between conservation and transformation. But the hotel has emerged as an elegant expression of the spirit of Paris and a celebration of French art de vivre.

The opulence remains. It is awe-inspiring, bridging the 18th and 21st centuries – and still oh so very Parisian: exquisite, elegant and a bit irreverent.

The exquisite Neoclassical façade and grand reception rooms on the second floor are classified heritage landmarks, so designers were working with a heritage building. But everywhere you can discover a fresh and modern twist, even as beloved and unique objects, that are symbols of the hotel’s history, can still be found throughout the property, from the amethyst chandeliers to gold and crystal Baccarat decanters.

Today's Hotel de Crillon features:

124 Guestrooms: 78 Rooms, 36 suites, and 10 signature suites elegantly decorated with bespoke furnishings, beautiful antiques and carefully chosen objets d’art.

  • The hotel’s 10 signature suites are the crown jewels of Hôtel de Crillon, and considered among the very finest in Paris. The Louis XV boasts a stunning private terrace with picture-perfect views of the Eiffel Tower, while the Marie-Antoinette suite reflects a regal, feminine spirit with pearl-gray décor and touches of rosy pink.

  • Karl Lagerfeld, renowned designer of the house of Chanel and a great 18th century admirer, decorated the two exceptional suites on Place de la Concorde which embody his personal vision of French chic and modernity.

3 heritage landmark salons for meetings and functions:

  • The salons are listed heritage landmarks, with soaring six meter ceilings dating from 1775-1776; French interior palace design of adjoining rooms allows them to be opened and joined for larger events.

5 distinct dining and drinking venues including:

  • Gastronomic restaurant L’Ecrin, where you can savour bold, unexpected, creative dishes of the young and Michelin-starred chef in the intimate 18th century décor of the Salon des Citronniers;

  • La Cave's intimate wine room;
  • Brasserie d’Aumont with an eclectic, quintessentially Parisian atmosphere complemented by revisited brasserie classics;
  • Jardin d’Hiver, casual garden-style gathering place, one of the hotel's most historic spaces, where you can relax at teatime, sip post-shopping champagne, or indulge in exquisite sweets;

  • Les Ambassadeurs, the chic 60-seat bar that is the new place to see and be seen in Paris. A festive vibe animates the heritage setting (the ceiling is a registered landmark) thanks to live music nightly, meticulously crafted cocktails, and an exclusive carte of prestigious champagnes.

Whimsical courtyards by a renowned French landscape architect.

A newly created swimming pool graced by a mural by a noted ceramic artist, fitness studio, and full-service Sense, A Rosewood Spa for wellness-conscious and stylish guests.

Sophisticated style and grooming venues for men and women, including Hair Salon by David Lucas, Barber by La Barbière de Paris, and Shoecare by Devoirdecourt.

Hôtel de Crillon has long since secured its iconic status as a one-of-a-kind hotel destination, a living testament to the very best way of life France has to offer. Its rebirth radiates timeless, chic contemporary French lifestyle in an undeniably luxuriant historic setting.

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Putting on the Ritz... At Sea

The Ritz-Carlton is the first luxury hotel chain to take to the seas with its new yacht collection.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection launches in 2019 with the first of three cruising yachts. If you're already a fan of the Ritz-Carlton hotel experience, you'll feel right at home: legendary service, luxury amenities and beautifully designed spaces… now on board a specially designed, small capacity ship. It makes parent company Marriott International the only luxury hotelier on both land and sea.

Each of the three custom-built yachts in the fleet features 149 suites, each with its own private balcony, several lavish duplexes, a spa, a signature restaurant and a bar with on-board entertainment. Mirroring the hotels, the yachts feature modern craftsmanship and style; the interior finishes are being jointly designed by The Ritz-Carlton and a leading cruise ship design firm to achieve the best of both worlds.

At 190 meters (623 feet), Ritz-Carlton yachts will be able to call at ports not accessible to larger ships, from Capri and Portofino to St. Barths and the old town of Cartagena. The first ship will cruise a wide variety of destinations depending on the season, including the intimate and signature ports of call in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. Upcoming 7- and 10- day itineraries aim to combine the lifestyle of The Ritz-Carlton’s luxury resorts and the casual freedom of a yachting vacation.

Expect a relaxed pace that includes both daytime and overnight ports of call, as well as one-of-a-kind, uniquely-curated, customizable destination experiences through collaborations with local chefs, musicians and artists, allowing you to experience the locations in unique and personal ways, both onboard and ashore.

Throughout your journey, you'll enjoy a cruising style that sets a new standard for ultra-luxury cruise and private yachting. The Ritz-Carlton yachts feature a restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg; a signature Ritz-Carlton Spa; and a Panorama Lounge and wine bar, offering a wide variety of on-board entertainment.

It's these amenities that tip the scales in favor of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection experience even over private yachting options, ideal for independent travelers, small groups, or a full-ship group charter to celebrate one of life's milestones.

We're excited about a development that blurs the lines between yachting and cruising. We think the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection ushers in a whole new way of luxury travel and global discovery: a relaxed, casually elegant and comfortable atmosphere with the highest level of personalized service. The Ritz-Carlton hotel branding also naturally lends itself to pre-and post-cruise stays at ports of embarkation/debarkation in one of the 90 Ritz-Carlton hotels in 30 countries to seamlessly extend your trip under one beloved brand umbrella.

But we also see these intimate, 300-guest yachts as a boon to corporate travel, too. Imagine company sales / incentives aboard a Ritz-Carlton chartered yacht!

It's a cruise/ travel innovation that is both ground-breaking, but at the same time an obvious evolution in shaping the way we experience luxury travel.

Reservations open May, 2018, but no surprise! there have already been charter inquiries.

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Go Coastal! 5 Beaches you Can't Miss in Maine this Summer

Summer in Maine defines coastal living. Wood-siding summer homes in nautical colors along miles of beaches begging for you to stroll and dig your toes in the sand, examine shells and driftwood, inhale the cool Atlantic breezes, walk the dog among sandy dunes, and of course, enjoy the sea.

Maine is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the US, and by mid-summer, they've warmed up enough to beckon swimmers off the sand and into the waves. Here are five beaches you just can't miss on a trip to New England.

1. Old Orchard Beach.

Start with this seven-mile strand that has been welcoming visitors for over 170 years. It has the only beachfront amusement park in New England. You can even reach Old Orchard Beach aboard the Amtrak Downeaster, which stops just steps away from the beach. The 500-foot classic pier is a powerhouse of family entertainment with shopping, arcades, dining, nightlife and concerts and even fireworks!

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It's also the point of departure for fishing, whale watching, and birdwatching tours.

2. Scarborough Beach State Park

For those seeking a little more tranquility, Scarborough Beach State Park has waves that attract local surfers and a wide beach that's ideal for families. Scarborough Beach offers some of the best swimming in New England with water temps in the high 60's through out July and August.

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It's also the nesting grounds of endangered Piping Plovers; visitors help protect them by following bans on dogs, bikes and kite flying April through November.

3. Ogunquit Beach

This beach (pictured top) is ranked among the top beaches in the United States, great for swimming, bodysurfing, and searching for shells and driftwood. It's a 3 ½ mile peninsula of sandy beach and grassy dunes; a natural barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ogunquit River. (There's a footbridge across the river at the midsection of the beach).

You can rent chairs, umbrellas and floats, launch a small boat at the boat ramp, and stroll along Marginal Way, a mile-long cliff walk that extends along the ocean, and pass Marginal Way Lighthouse en route.

4. Goose Rocks Beach

The picturesquely-named beach at Kennebunkport is a wide beach with three miles of soft sand and moderate surf. A barrier reef offshore known as Goose Rocks, visible at low tide, helps protect the soft, white sands of the beach.

This is a perfect spot for you to spread out the beach blankets, chairs and umbrellas for a fun day of sunbathing, relaxing, swimming and combing the shore for sand dollars. An ideal relaxed family day at the beach.

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5. Popham Beach

Finally, Popham Beach is a wilder beach in Midcoast Maine. It's part of Popham Beach State Park, one of Maine's rare geologic landforms. The Kennebec and Morse rivers border each end of the long stretch of sandy beach. From the beach, you can see offshore islands, such as Fox and Wood Islands, where you can explore at low tide. You can even get a geologic tour of the beach.

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