Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

America's Tallest Monument Park Transformed in Time for One of Nation's Biggest 4th July Parties

The view 630 feet above St. Louis from the top of its defining monument has changed after an immense, multi-year, $380-million renovation to the city's Gateway Arch National Park .

The 1965 Gateway Arch became a global architectural icon and helped cement Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen's position as one of the masters of American mid-century design. The striking, modernist monument to the westward expansion of the United States is the world's tallest stainless steel arch, the tallest man-made monument in the United States, and even the Western Hemisphere. 

The arch itself is unchanged. Its boldly simple, award-winning design, 630 feet high and 630 feet wide remains 'a symbolic bridge between (America's) East and West, past and future, engineering and art'.

Its legs are still firmly planted on the western bank of the Mississippi on the site where the city of St. Louis was founded in the 1700's. But the experience of visiting this emblematic transition to America's West has been transformed.

The re-imagined surrounding urban National Park reconnects the riverfront and Gateway Arch to St. Louis, and visitors to the momentous events the arch symbolizes. 

Busy Highway I-44 used to separate the arch and the mighty Mississippi from the city (left, below). Parkland now bridges over the highway, leading visitors uninterrupted from downtown, to St. Louis' Old Courthouse and the new Arch visitor center and museum, and the arch on the river, all the way to the riverfront (right, below).

Don't Miss:

The Old Courthouse was the site of the infamous trials where slave Dred Scott and his wife unsuccessfully sued for their freedom. The ruling against them declared they were not citizens with the right to sue and contributed to the tensions leading up to the American Civil War.

The New Museum at the Gateway Arch completely replaces the original museum from the 1970's.  

Six new themed galleries features interactive and engaging exhibits including Colonial St. Louis prior to the Louisiana Purchase when it transferred to the United States, St. Louis' position as busy Mississippi river trade port, President Thomas Jefferson's vision of westward expansion, Lewis and Clark's renowned expedition, how Manifest Destiny affected native people, Mexicans and pioneers, and how the astonishing Gateway Arch monument to westward expansion was designed and built.

The View from the Top. The pair of trams in each leg of the Gateway Arch still takes visitors to a sloped observation deck at the top of the arch. From it, you can gaze over the river towards the East and Illinois, or West, over the park, the Old Courthouse, and the city of St. Louis.  If you don't take the tram ride, the new Keystone Exhibit allows visitors to experience the view via live webcam feeds from the observation deck.

The revitalized, over-the-highway park extends to the riverfront, with a plaza, miles of bike and walking paths and space for community events.

The re-opening of the park after years of closure for the renovations coincides with the return of one of America's biggest Fourth of July celebrations. Fair Saint Louis returns to the waterfront and Gateway Arch urban National Park with a series of events that celebrate America's birthday and the new experiences at this breathtaking national monument.


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This Cruise Line has Plenty to Celebrate in Pride Month

San Francisco, Toronto, Sydney, Berlin… Now you can add another destination to celebrate Pride Month: at Sea.  


Celebrity Cruises held its first Pride party fleet-wide in 2017, wherever its ships were around the world. Now it looks like the cruise line's new tradition of celebrating LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion during international Pride Month and festivities is here to stay.

2018's Pride Month celebrations on Celebrity cruise ships kicked off on the Celebrity Constellation in Sicily, and on the Celebrity Reflection in Cartagena, Spain. Each ship took turns handing off the 'party baton' to the next ship to keep the parties running across hemispheres and time zones, following the clock to finally encompass all the ships in the fleet. In the end, Celebrity's Pride Party at Sea spanned 10,000 miles and 9 ships in different continents and time zones around the world. 

Olympic Bronze Medalist Adam Rippon (pictured, below, sailing on the Celebrity Summit) and two-time men’s figure skating Olympian Johnny Weir served as ambassadors for 2018's festivities that welcomed all guests on board and made for one of Celebrity's biggest fleet-wide events.

The ship-board Pride parties commemorating Pride Month are just part of the cruise line's support of the community throughout the calendar year.

The first night of nearly every Celebrity cruise year round is earmarked for a popular LGBTQ+ Welcome Party, open to and enjoyed by all guests fleet-wide. And throughout each cruise, events and social hours foster the community.

On shore, Celebrity Cruises is a Presenting Sponsor of the Miami Beach Gay Pride celebrations in the cruise line's HQ hometown. Celebrity hosts festival events and provides entertainment from the acclaimed Celebrity Productions team. Its float took home a prize for first place, with over 400 Celebrity employees marching in the Miami Beach Gay Pride parade in 2018.

Couples who are guests on Celebrity ships with more to celebrate than Pride Month can also now be legally (not just symbolically) married on board following ground-breaking legislative changes in Malta, where Celebrity ships are flagged. The line held the first legal gay wedding on a major line on the Celebrity Equinox in January, 2018. The ship's captain presided over the historic ceremony, and now, fleet-wide, wedding ceremonies performed by the Captain on board are legal marriages.

No surprise that Celebrity's modern luxury cruise line has been recognized as the LGBTQ+ Friendly Travel Company of the year, as well as 4-years' running as Best Large Ship Cruise Line for LGBTQ+ Passengers, making the cruise line a great option for guests looking for a great new place to celebrate Pride or a memorable LGBTQ+ wedding, or simply to feel welcome and at home on their next cruise to a dream destination.

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Think only the super rich and celebrities get the privileges of private islands?

Guests aboard Holland America Line cruises in the Eastern Caribbean can get a taste of private island lifestyle too.

HAL's private island is Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, and it's the featured port of call on the Oprah Winfrey Girls' Getaway cruise.

BestTrip.TV has already been to this fantasy private island port of call, to share some of its highlights with you.

Can you picture yourself there, too?


5 FAQ's About Travel in the Arctic

If sultry heat is not your style, set your travel compass to the North. The Far North. 

The Arctic is one of the most remote and life-changing travel destinations – and it's accessible to adventurous travelers year round and especially during the relatively 'warmer' summer months.

Here are 5 questions everyone asks about taking a trip to the Arctic:

How Far North is the 'Arctic'?

The Arctic Circle is the northern-most of the 5 circles of latitude circling the earth. The 25,000-mile Equator is the one around the widest part of the Earth at the middle. Up near the top of the planet, by comparison, at 66°33′47.2″ north of the Equator, the Arctic Circle is only 10-thousand miles around. 

The Arctic Circle passes through 8 Northern countries: Greenland (Denmark), Canada, the US (in Alaska), Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and an island off the coast of Iceland. Although definitions vary, travel roughly anywhere above the 'tree line' – where the terrain and the cold climate prevent trees from growing – could be considered a trip to the Arctic.

Unlike the opposite polar region, the Antarctic, which is a vast island continent, much of the 4% of the Earth's surface above the Arctic Circle is ocean. So many trips to the Arctic involve travel by sea.

(Photo Credit)

Will I See The Northern Lights?

This magical natural phenomenon is one of the top reasons people travel to the northern hemisphere's polar regions. But you'll have to dress for cold weather. The Aurora Borealis are only visible nights from September til April.

And only when atmospheric conditions are right. Moving charged particles in solar winds interact with the Earth's magnetosphere, emitting different colors of light that seem to 'dance'. The most common colors are greens and yellows, but other colors are possible in different conditions.

The best places to experience the Northern Lights include Canada's Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, Alaska, southern Greenland and Iceland, northern Norway, and off the coast of Siberia. The farther north and away from the 'light pollution' of towns and cities, the better the viewing.

If you travel to the Yukon during the summer and miss experiencing the Northern Lights, drop in to the Northern Lights Space and Science Centre, which will treat you to interactive displays about the science and folklore behind the Northern Lights, as well as a spectacular video in its domed theatre. (If you visit in the winter, the show's all around you outdoors).

Is There Really A 'Midnight Sun'?

Summer has its own uniquely polar atmospheric event. Because the Earth tilts on its axis, in the Arctic at the very top, during the Summer Solstice in June, the sun is visible for a full 24 hours, even at midnight. And the days on either side of the Summer Solstice are very long, indeed. 20-24 hour days are a surreal experience – as are mid-winter days of endless darkness on the flip side of the annual calendar. 

(Photo Credit)

What Wildlife Can I See?

The word 'Arctic' comes from Greek meaning 'Bear' and 'northern'. It actually is referring to constellations of stars, but there's no doubt the poster child creature of the Arctic is the magnificent polar bear.

Canada's Churchill, Manitoba is the polar bear capital of the world, the ultimate destination for any traveler intent on seeing polar bears. Guided tours in the safety of specialized vehicles can bring you unbelievably close to the largest polar land mammal and fierce predator, one whose survival is threatened by shrinking sea ice due to climate change.

Travelers to Arctic seas hope to cross beluga whales, orca and narwhals, seals and walrus off their spotting lists.

And on land, polar bears share the tundra with musk ox, Arctic fox, wolves, caribou and Arctic hare, and in the skies, snowy owls and other species highly adapted to a severe environment.

Plant life in the Arctic is less notable for being spectacular than for being astoundingly hardy; the tiniest flowers you wouldn't notice underfoot at home are breathtaking in such a stark environment. (Top Photo Credit)

What About Human History in the Arctic?

While the Arctic is famous for its 'Big Nature', you may be surprised that about 4 million people also live above the Arctic Circle in the 8 Arctic countries. Indigenous people have lived in this harsh climate for thousands of years, and being able to visit one of their villages and experience first-hand their traditions and lifestyle is a highlight of any trip to the Arctic.

(Photo Credit)

Also don't miss the historic sites associated with tragic attempts to locate a maritime Northwest Passage as well as the famous Klondike Gold Rush sites in Alaska and Canada's Yukon.

There are many ways to explore one of the world's last remaining wilderness frontiers. Let us help you plan an Arctic journey of a lifetime.

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Crystal River Cruises Changing the European River Cruise Landscape with Another River 'Yacht'

Following in the symphonic footsteps of the other members of the Crystal River Cruise fleet, the new Crystal Debussy evokes traditional European culture in a tribute to the great musical composer. The river cruise experience by Crystal, on the other hand, is a whole new approach .

The Crystal Debussy is the 5th Crystal river 'yacht', joining Crystal Mozart, Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler, and Crystal Ravel. They've been arriving on the European river cruise scene at a dizzying pace, as devotees of Crystal's particular luxury travel style on Crystal's renowned ocean cruises eagerly take the opportunity to explore the heart of European culture and famous river-bank wine regions in ultra-luxury Crystal style.

Crystal's approach to luxury ocean cruising translates to its river cruise experience that will make regular Crystal guests feel right at home and will take the breath away from travelers who may have tried a different river cruise experience. Crystal is making the distinction between river cruising and the Crystal experience by calling its fleet: River Yachts.

Guests on the Crystal Debussy will find one- and two-bedroom suites with Crystal's signature Panoramic Balcony-Window in an all-suite ship, exceptional public spaces including multiple dining options, top-deck outdoor lounge space… all with 6-star design-hotel style and Crystal's service of anticipation with European butler service and more staff than any other European river cruise. Michelin-inspired farm-to-table dining with complimentary fine wines, spirits, gratuities and unlimited wi-fi… it takes Crystal's 'private yacht'-feel on its ocean cruises to the rivers of Europe and transforms the concept of luxury in river cruising.

On shore, guests will be able to choose fleet-wide from over 200 curated, often exclusive destination experiences and activities. They range from cultural, natural, culinary/gastronomic, 'personal connections' to local lifestyles, and active 'exhilarating adventures'. Most are complimentary, and an included Signature Event each cruise brings guests rare access to famous European venues and live performances by world-class musicians in a nod to the fleet's musical nomenclature. Guests have access to 'Our Design, Your Time' concierge service to create truly customized shore experiences too.  

For experienced European river cruise and luxury travelers, this is another level and a new approach to river cruising.

The Crystal Debussy sails Rhine river itineraries between the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. The Rhine is famous for a magical stretch of dozens of castles perched on banks, islands and craggy cliffs along the Rhine, the fabled rock of Lorelei, and of course, the Moselle wine region.

This latest Crystal river cruise ship joins the Crystal Bach already sailing Rhine itineraries.

Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel sail Rhine, Main, and Danube sailings – grand voyages between Amsterdam and Budapest through the heart of Europe, connecting capital cities, scenic countryside, and charming villages in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. 

Another sister ship, the Crystal Mozart, plies the majestic Danube through Central Europe, including the UNESCO World Heritage region of the Wachau valley with its picturesque architecture and signature wine, the Bavarian countryside, and the famous culture capitals Vienna and Budapest.

The growing fleet of Crystal river cruise ships is changing the landscape of European river cruising and provides travelers who appreciate the finest luxury experience in their European land travels the means to explore even quaint corners of European countryside via the great rivers of Europe in the same quality of experience they expect in landmark luxury hotels on land.


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3 Places in the World Art Basel Puts the 'Art' in 'Party'

Mid-June's Art Basel is the highest profile international art fair that draws not just art lovers, but a constellation of stars of the entertainment and global social scene. 

Institutions and private buyers lay down huge sums for upcoming or well-known artistic works (would you like to buy a Warhol?), ordinary art aficionados can invest in new artists they love, and dozens of gallery open-houses, indoor and outdoor multi-media installations, experimental and interactive public art, VIP events, and special-invitation parties hosted by international lifestyle brands put Art Basel on the global social calendar for the rich and connected as well as people who love the arts and a buzzy scene.

From its beginnings in the early 70's as one of the world's first, Art Basel has grown to become the biggest contemporary art fair in the world with its original location, plus two satellite editions, that together draw hundreds of thousands of art fans and make it a truly global happening.

(Photo Credit)

It's not just some of the best celebration of contemporary art in all its forms and all its new rising stars, Art Basel transforms its host city into one of the hottest places on the map.

Here's where and when you can be part of the world's biggest contemporary art experience:

Basel, Switzerland: Mid-June

The mother ship. 100,000 visitors fill this Swiss town for a week of original Art Basel. The main event is held in home-town 'star-chitects' Herzog & de Meuron's Messe Basel building which is itself a masterpiece of contemporary design. (Pictured, top. Photo credit.)

But other local cultural institutions and galleries amplify the experience so art spreads from Basel throughout the region for the week. These days, nearly 300 galleries, from dozens of countries, exhibit the works of over 4000 artists to art lovers, collectors and museum representatives from around the world.

Don't Miss: 'Parcours', a series of site-specific works, installations and performances in Basel's neighborhoods to allow visitors to interact with the city as well as art. Groups and school groups can get guided day or night tours.

Miami Beach, Florida: Early December

If you don't make it to Europe, put Miami on your calendar for a long weekend of art in the first week of December. You're sure to spot some of your favorite celebrities who come to buy art, support artists, and hit the party circuit. 

(Photo: BestTrip.TV)

Art Basel's Miami edition launched in 2002 and has quickly made the city one of the hottest destinations in the world in December. Miami is the hub of the Americas and the gateway to Latin America, so it's no surprise that leading galleries from Latin America lend a distinct Miami vibe to Art Basel in South Florida. But African art also has a strong place of pride, and gives Miami's Art Basel a flavor all its own and distinct from its European counterpart.

Don't Miss: 'Public', in Collins Park, a curated exhibit of out-sized sculptures and installations, video and live performance pieces by established and emerging artists.   

Hong Kong: Late March

The Asia edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong is the newest on the scene, since 2013. And it's quickly making up for lost time, drawing crowds similar to Art Basel and Miami Art Basel in only 3 days of exhibitions and events that keep growing in scale. 

(Photo Credit)

It's not just another venue for Asian buyers to connect with Western art. Half of its exhibiting galleries feature Asian and Asia-Pacific art and artists to round out a global Art Basel experience. 

Don't Miss: 'Magazines', a program to feature art publications from around the world, displayed in single-magazine stands or together in a collective booth. Many editors and publishers are on scene to contribute to lectures and discussions, showing the close relationship that still exists between print media and the art world.

Art Basel has paved the way for a busy annual calendar of vibrant contemporary art fairs around the world – and any Art Basel edition should be at the top of an art lovers' travel bucket list.


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Now there are Food Adventure Tours for Vegans, Too

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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It's Bike Month! 3 Cycling Travel Stories to Inspire you to Travel Active

One of our favorite ways to stay active when we travel is to get on a bike and explore!  Cycling through city streets or picturesque countryside is one of the best ways to experience a destination, meet people, and get up close to the sights. 

On the other side of the world, or close to home, here are some of our favorite cycling experiences to celebrate Bike Month, and inspire you to book bike time on your next trip.

1. Staying Active in Vancouver:  How this hotel's wellness program gets you outdoors into Vancouver's Stanley Park and stunning sea wall.

CLICK to watch the video here.

2.  The Mother of All Cycling Cultures: Amsterdam and the Netherlands:  What it looks like when there are more bikes in a city than people.  And go behind the scenes of a workshop where they create those famous Dutch cargo bikes!

CLICK to watch the video here.

3.  Explore what one cycling guide calls: One of the World's Best Cycling Destinations - and it's closer than you think!

CLICK to watch the video here.

Did you get on a bicycle on your last trip?  Would you like to get the family active for your next vacation?  Take a river cruise where you can borrow a bicycle from the ship and cycle through quaint towns and local vineyards?  Or join a cycling tour of one of your bucket list destinations?

Let us help you find the perfect holiday where you can take a two-wheeled exploration of a new destination.

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6 Things You Need to Know About Travel to India's Golden Triangle

It's the 7th largest country by size, with dozens of geographically diverse states, fascinating cities, and over a billion people. India's extraordinarily rich historic and pop culture, landscapes, cuisine and influence have spread from South Asia around the world. India is on many people's travel bucket lists, and if you're reading this, maybe yours too. 

With so much to see, do and experience, for many travelers, India seems overwhelming.

The answer? A Golden Triangle tour.  Even seasoned independent travelers benefit from experienced local guides to help them navigate the vast bustle and ins and outs of first-time travel in India.   

Here are 6 things you need to know about the 'starter' circuit most first-time visitors to India take to introduce them to this colorful nation.

1. Where is the Golden Triangle?

It's not an official place on a map. The Golden Triangle refers to the route between 3 landmark destinations in northern India: the Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.  It's about a half a day's journey by road between each point, making the route achievable in a week- 10 day- trip.  It delivers some of India's 'greatest hits' as well as terrific shopping and markets, culinary and cultural experiences, from ancient artistic techniques to modern-day Bollywood performances.

2. Highlights of Delhi

India's modern national capital is the 3rd largest city in the world.  And it was also the capital for half a dozen earlier civilizations over 2500 years, each leaving its own historic and cultural mark.  You'll visit monuments to the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim (Mughal) communities, including 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Must-see places include the Jama Masjid, which can accommodate 25,000 worshippers, Humayun's Tomb, a 16th century Mughal garden tomb that was a model for the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort (pictured above; photo credit), and Raj Ghat, the memorial to Gandhi.

Don't Miss: the breathtaking, contemporary Ba'hai 'Lotus Temple' made up of 27 marble petals (below; photo credit)

3. Highlights of Agra

Agra's claim to fame is the Taj Mahal (pictured top; photo credit). The white marble structure with 28 types of inlaid precious and semi-precious stones was voted #1 of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  Its very name evokes the pinnacle of architectural achievement and royal excess. Showcased by landscaped vistas, the Taj Mahal is breathtaking, and many tours plan an arrival so you can experience the royal mausoleum in the mystical atmosphere of sunrise.  Some say you haven't visited India if you haven't seen the Taj Mahal, and for many, it is the moment of a Golden Triangle tour they were waiting for.

Don't Miss:  The benefits of an experienced local guide. So popular is it that officials have announced some new visiting restrictions to preserve the site. An official local guide is in the best position to help you make the most of your time at the site.

4. Highlights of Jaipur

India's 'Pink City' is the ultra-modern capital of Rajasthan.  Its nickname originated in the 19th century, but its history dates back more than a century earlier; a planned city of wide boulevards and dedicated artistic community.

Jaipur is home to 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Jantar Mantar. Other must-see historic monuments in India are religious, royal or military. The Jantar Mantar (pictured below; photo credit)  is uniquely scientific: the largest stone sundial in the world, telling time accurate to a couple of seconds.

Don't miss: The arts and crafts scene.  From museums to galleries to shops with among the widest and eye-popping selection of local arts and crafts.

5. When is the best time to go?

Most tours run October to March, with most visits in the cooler months of October, November, February and March. 

Don't Miss:  The opportunity to view the Taj Mahal at sunrise; from December to mid-January, fog from air pollution can reduce visibility, reducing vistas and even blocking the sunrise view of the Taj Mahal.

6. How you can Visit India's Golden Triangle?

Many reputable land tour operators, from luxury and small-group or private, to more economical or independent, offer Golden Triangle tours of India that will allow you to get a sense of one of the world's most fascinating and complex travel desinations.

Don't Miss:  The river cruise option. A Ganges river cruise tour often includes the three magnificent cities of the Golden Triangle by land along with a river cruise that gives you insights into the very different, traditional lifestyle of rural India along the banks of its holy waterway. The best highlights of both sides of India today.

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Picture This: The Largest Cruise Ship Ever to Transit the Panama Canal

As you can see, it was a tight fit when the newest mega-ship at sea arrived at one of the man-made wonders of the world in an iconic photo-op for the modern age of cruise travel.

On her inaugural sailing from the shipyard where she was built in Germany, towards her homeport of Seattle, the Norwegian Bliss became the largest passenger ship ever to transit the Panama Canal.

The nearly 50 mile-long and 12-hour series of locks, canals, and man-made bodies of water is considered an engineering marvel of the world. Opened in 1914, it allows shipping traffic to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans without having to sail around the southern tip of South America.  And the Norwegian Bliss' historic transit in 2018 was only possible as a result of the Panama Canal's 2016 expansion that now allows it to accommodate among the largest classes of cargo and cruise ships.

The newest – and largest – Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Norwegian Bliss certainly qualifies. 20 decks and 168,000 gross tons, with berths for more than 4000 guests and 1700 crew.

In addition to the historic Panama Canal passage and crossing a Panama canal transit cruise off their travel bucket list, guests on the Norwegian Bliss enjoyed these highlights of the 16th ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, including many firsts at sea and for North-American-based ships:

Excitement:

The Largest Race Track: 2 levels and 1,000-feet of open-air race track thrills in electric go-karts. Alex Vega, Miami-based celebrity car guru from Discovery Channel’s reality television show, “The Auto Firm with Alex Vega”, delivered two fully customized electric go-karts to the Norwegian Bliss to add to the spectacle. 

The First Open-Air Laser Tag Experience:  Day or night, guests can immerse themselves in a fantasy environment of an abandoned space station, going into stealth mode and competing against family and new-found friends.

Eye-Popping Aqua Park: Not 1 but 2 waterslides! The high-speed Ocean Loop, a double waterslide that gets your blood pumping as you slide out over the side of the moving ship. Plus the tandem inner tube Aqua Racer.  Challenge friends and family members to race side by side to see who finishes first! 

Or let the ambitious members of the family tackle the water slides while you relax in one of 2 swimming pools or, on the deck above, find tranquility in one of 6 infinity hot tubs blur the line between the ship and the sea.  Younger kids have their own areas too, of splash pads, water cannons, tipping buckets and scaled-back water slides.

Fitness and Wellness: 

You'll feel no guilt allowing yourself to indulge in the Norwegian Bliss' culinary experiences with state-of-the-art equipment in the fitness center, as well as TRX, Fight Club, Ryde Cycle, and an aerobics room.  The Mandara Spa has 24 treatment rooms and a thermal suite that provides deep relaxation as well as full ocean views, hydro-therapy, steam room and dry sauna, samarium, salt room and even a Snow Room.

20 Restaurants, 13 Bars, and 2 Observation Lounges and 3 Shows:

Highlights include the ever-popular partnership with Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, The Cellars Mondavi Wine Bar, Ocean Blue, and elegant seafood restaurant, and a restaurant with nearly every international or classic cuisine imaginable, from the elegant evenings to pool-side casual.  You'll want to time dining and drinks around shows including the Tony-award-winning musical Jersey Boys.

The Haven:

In addition to many classes of staterooms and suites for extended families to solo travelers, the Norwegian Bliss has a 'ship within a ship', the Haven, a private, luxurious area more like a luxury small ship with highly personalized service, the Haven Courtyard with a retractable roof, private pool and lounge, spa and treatment rooms and restaurant, allowing guests to enjoy top-shelf luxury when they wish and to enjoy other restaurants, thrills, and entertainment of the rest of the ship when they wish.  The best of both worlds!

Where Can You Sail on the Norwegian Bliss?

  • From June, 2018, Norwegian Bliss will make 7-day cruises to Alaska from Seattle with calls in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia; 
  • Then she will make select voyages to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles;
  • In Fall 2018 and Winter 2019, the Norwegian Bliss sails from Miami to the Eastern Caribbean;
  • In 2019 she returns to New York City to sail 7-day voyages to the Bahamas and Florida, and the Southern and Western Caribbean.

Ask us about specific itineraries for the Norwegian Bliss or how you too can cruise the Panama Canal.

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Top 3 Souvenirs from Venice

Venice is not just the 'City of Canals'.  It's also always been a city of merchants, and modern Venice is a showcase for iconic Italian craftsmanship and uniquely Venetian works. 

You'll find the cheap and touristy items right alongside more expensive items that reflect traditional craftsmanship.   The Frezzeria not only leads to St. Mark's Square, it's also the city's busiest shopping street.  You'll find boutiques as well as souvenirs for yourself and your loved ones.

So leave room in your suitcase for our top shopping finds in Venice.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, producer/ host, BestTrip.TV

1. Murano Glass

Less than a mile from the main city, the Venetian island of Murano for centuries has been famous for glassware.   It was a European pioneer and leader in the miraculous art of glassmaking, and Murano glass is an essential Venice souvenir. 

Although you can buy Murano glass throughout Venice, take the time to visit the island, packed with factories and some artists' studios, some of which are open to visitors to see how it's made.  You'll find some more unique pieces that appear less 'mass-market' off the beaten track.

You'll have plenty of different expressions of the glassblower's art to choose from. Among the most recognized 'Murano' glass is multi-colored, especially in bright primary colors (millefiori) and glass beads that are often made into jewelry, or even rosaries for the devout in your life. 

After you've stocked up on beads and items made from beads, it gets less easy to pack.  Glassware, vases, figurines or contemporary glass sculpture, even chandeliers, require more planning, or even better, the studio or shop to arrange shipping for you.  But I guarantee that a nice Italian prosecco sipped from a Murano wine glass at home has a taste of your travels that makes the effort all worthwhile.

Tip:  Don't miss Paropamiso on the Frezzeria.  The owner collects glass 'Venetian pearls' and also travels around the world collecting items to bring back to Venice to his shop, where he also practices the Venetian craft of threading them into jewelry. 

2. Masks

Venice may be the world's spiritual home of Carnival, a celebration of decadence in the time leading up to the fasting and somberness of the pre-Easter season.  An elaborate mask and historic costume stands in our visual memories as code for 'Venice'.  And one of the most important events of the Venice Carnival is the contest for the most beautiful mask.

Masks have become the symbol of Carnival and of Venice itself. They have been a large part of the city's culture even back to the 12th century, when historians believe being wearing masks in the streets permitted Venetians some freedom from the city's rigid class divisions. 

You may not be in Venice for Carnival, or invited to one of its masked balls. But every visitor to Venice can participate in Venice's love affair with masks.  They are everywhere and made from leather, porcelain and even – as is tradition – from Venetian glass.  You'll find masks from the cheap and cheerful for the kids or your next Hallowe'en costume, to works of art you'll want to display.

Tip: Look especially for cat masks. Venice's colonies of cats are storied, and you'll see a number of cat-themed souvenirs in Venice, including portraits of cats in Carnival costumes.

3. Fine Fashion

We're not just talking about the household name Italian luxury fashion houses. Luckily when you're in Venice, you don't have to be a member of the 1% to participate in Italy's renowned sense of style and way with traditional fine fabrics and leather.   

Top picks as souvenirs of this Italian specialty: gloves and ties, belts and scarves. Why? They are easily packable, completely practical, and utterly beautiful.  A silk tie or a pair of fine leather gloves from Venice may be the perfect gift for anyone on your shopping list from hipsters to grannies… and of course, yourself.

Tip: For ties and scarves, look no farther than Trevisan on St. Mark's (San Marco) square. Displays resemble a silk rainbow with dizzying subtleties – this blue, or this blue or this blue? you will ask yourself.   In spite of its proximity to the tourist center of Venice, prices are remarkably sensible, so you may not have to pick between your favorites.  The store also sells other accessories for men and women.

Sermoneta is like a candy store of gloves, with over 5 dozen colors for any occasion: driving gloves, winter, fur-trimmed gloves, elbow length evening gloves, in various types of leathers.  They say it takes 10 artisans nearly 30 steps to make each pair and yet they are still reasonable enough to gift yourself and your favorite stylish loved ones.

A pair of sky blue or tangerine orange kid gloves will brighten dreary winter days for any woman (or confidently stylish man).  Add a silk tie from Venice to a gentleman's suit and it will instantly up his fashion game in an indefinable but noticeable way. Plus earn the wearer compliments and questions about where such a glove or tie of beauty was discovered.

Ah, Venice. More and more Mediterranean cruises embark, disembark, or have overnight calls in the City of Water, and group, small-group, or private tours give you the opportunity to experience one of the world's most extraordinary cities.  Let us help you find the perfect way for you to travel to Venice.

Start your Trip!

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5 Reasons To Give An Ovation To Luxury Cruising's Newest Ship

Applause, champagne, and celebration for the Seabourn Ovation.  The fifth ship in Seabourn's fleet has her naming ceremony May 11, 2018, officially joining the line's award-winning Odyssey-class ships.

The launch of the Ovation is the finale of Seabourn's current expansion plans. Now, the five Seabourn ships: Ovation, Encore, Quest, Sojourn and Odyssey, represent one of the most modern and consistent fleets in ultra-luxury cruising.

Like her sister ships, sailing on the Seabourn Ovation is like sailing on a private yacht – but with experiences even private yacht travelers don't have the opportunity to enjoy.

Here are 5 of our favourite features of the Seabourn Ovation:

That Yachting Lifestyle:

The Seabourn Ovation blurs the lines between private yachting and cruising. Each suite has a personal bar that is stocked according to your preferences even before you board the ship.  There's an open-bar policy throughout the ship, including champagne, premium wine and spirits, so the entire ship feels like your own chartered yacht. Similiarly, all dining experiences are included.  And the Ovation also includes Seabourn's signature water-sports open marina at the aft of the ship.  At anchor in a secluded location on one of the world's spectacular coastlines, you'll be able to experience the extraordinary feeling of getting out onto the water right off the back of the ship.

Space:

You're among only a few hundred guests on a ship that's been designed to maximize space for each guest. On the Ovation, you'll discover secluded areas for quiet contemplation as well as spaces that foster natural and easy social interaction. When you would like to share the company of the other like-minded guests, that opportunity is there, but you'll have plenty of space to relax in privacy and enjoy the peaceful sailing experience.

All-Suite Experience:

300 all-oceanfront suites provide that 'home away from home'/ country club resort atmosphere at sea. Every suite on the new Ovation includes a private veranda that not only provides you with sweeping views of the sea, but is also spacious enough for private, alfresco dining. Suites include indoor, spacious living space, walk-in closets, and superb marble bathrooms with separate baths and showers, stocked with Seabourn's own exclusive line of Molton Brown amenities.

Design:

Design icon Adam D. Tihany was once again tapped to style a sailing, ultra-luxury resort. The Ovation's design is that of a boutique design hotel/resort that welcomes you with deluxe comfort, modern elegance and stand-out design elements and innovations.

Seabourn-Exclusives:

The launch of the Seabourn Ovation means there's another destination at sea to experience Seabourn's signature moments, including Caviar-in-the-Surf, and a host of one-of-a-kind partnerships. 

  • The Grill by Michelin-starred American culinary icon Thomas Keller harkens back to a mid-century upscale dining experience with table-side preparations of classics like Caesar salad and ice cream sundaes. 
  • Then attend 'An Evening with Tim Rice', where the acclaimed musical theatre lyricist's best-loved works from Jesus Christ Superstar, Aladdin, and the Lion King are punctuated by his personal anecdotes and video narrative.
  • Participate in the Spa and Wellness program by holistic medicine pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil. (Watch this video to experience the Crystal Sound Bowl treatment)
  • And on shore, enjoy purposeful and sustainable travel experiences through Seabourn's partnership with UNESCO.

The Seabourn Ovation spends her inaugural season in Northern Europe on 7-day Baltic and Scandinavian itineraries, as well as 2-week voyages into the Norwegian fjords and rustic, northern British Isles.

You can still be a part of the Ovation's maiden sailing season and be among the first to experience this magnificent new ship.  Let us help you find the perfect Seabourn cruise for your next vacation.
Start your Trip!

 

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The World's Tallest Geyser Is At It Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the show may not be over.

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

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

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Start 2020 Off Right - Take a World Cruise!
Ringing in the New Year doesn't just turn a page on the calendar; it launches another season of World Cruises.

If you don't know what your travel plans are for 2020 yet, imagine yourself on an epic journey.  Celebrating one of life's milestones.  Or spending the coldest months of the year being pampered on board your favorite cruise line while you collect dozens of ports and see corners of the world you may never otherwise travel to.  

Back in the golden age of cruising, World Cruises circumnavigated the world.  Today, they may take on a hemisphere or cross a number of continents with alluring itineraries and immersive and exclusive shore experiences, as well as overnights in exciting global centers.

World cruises aren't for everyone.  You need available time to travel for 90-120+ days. And you need to be sea-worthy.  That's a lot of time at sea, so you need to love the cruise lifestyle and you need to love your World Cruise line's particular way of cruising.

World Cruises often cross bodies of water. That means there may not be ports of call nearly every day like coastal, Mediterranean or Caribbean cruises. In fact, you may be at sea for 2 or 3 or more days.

World Cruisers like to make new friends.  You'll be on the same ship with the same people for at least a couple of months; a great opportunity to meet like-minded people from all over.

And have a sense of adventure and an open mind to travel. One of the best things about a World Cruise is that it will likely take you to at least a few ports of call that had not previously been on your bucket list. That's fantastic!  You'll have the opportunity to experience a land or culture you didn't even know you'd love.

Now's the time to book your 2020 World Cruise.  Here are some of our favorites to choose from.

CRUISE LINE

SHIP

SAILING

EMBARKS FROM

DISEMBARKS AT

DAYS

Crystal

Serenity

January 6, 2020

Miami

Rome

105

Cunard

Queen Mary 2

January 3, 2020

New York

New York

113

Oceania

Insignia

January 8, 2020

Miami

San Francisco

180

Princess

Pacific Princess

January 20, 2020

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

111

Regent

Mariner

January 6, 2020

Miami

Miami

131

Regent

Mariner

January 24, 2020

San Francisco

San Francisco

131

Silversea

Whisper

January 6, 2020

Fort Lauderdale

Amsterdam

140

Viking

Viking Sun

January 4, 2020

Los Angeles

London

119

 

Prices start from under $25,000 to under $70,000, and go up from there depending on suite category. Different cruise lines also offer different inclusions, like business class air, hotel nights pre- and post, and other exclusive perks and options.

Let us help match you to your perfect World Cruise and start 2020 off with the travel experience of a lifetime!

Start your Trip!

 

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They call it 'The Garden of Europe', and it's open for only 8 short weeks every spring. The spectacular Keukenhof garden in the Netherlands is said to be the largest spring flower garden in the world – and it's the highlight of our Avalon Tulip Time river cruise.

BestTrip.TV filmed this once-a-year explosion of color of blooming tulips, surrounded by some of the famous Dutch tulip fields.  We were there and even we thought it was too incredible to be real!

Garden Travel expert Tara Nolan of SavvyGardening.com shares her insights into what makes the Keukenhof a can't-miss celebration of spring, best experienced from our Avalon Tulip Time river cruise.

And if you think the Keukenhof garden experience on a Tulip-Time cruise is just for girlfriend getaways, think again.  The gardens are a living, technicolor business card for the Netherlands' floriculture industry - the biggest in the world.  So think of it instead as one of the most stunning 'factory tours' you could ever hope to take. And bring along the guys, not just the girls.  They will be just as awed as we were!

Thinking of taking a Tulip Time cruise? Here are 8 amazing facts about flowers in Holland, home of the world's largest floriculture industry:

  • Nearly half of the world's floriculture products come from the Netherlands.
  • 77% of all flower bulbs exported around the world are Dutch, and the majority are tulips.
  • Tulips are the national flower of the Netherlands, but they originally came from Turkey; then were bred and cultivated by the Dutch into the spectacular showy flower we know today.
  • The appealing stripes on some of the most sought-after varieties of tulips are the result of a virus!
  • The total land used for the production of flower bulbs in the Netherlands is over 2.5 million acres!  The Bollenstreek (Bulb Region) is more or less between Amsterdam and Rotterdam.  The Keukenhof garden is in this area, surrounded by tulip and other flower fields.
  • You can rent a bicycle during your visit to Keukenhof to explore the fields surrounding it, and if you have time, you can even follow all or part of the 37 km-long, sign-posted 'Leidse Bollenroute'. (You'll love cycling in Holland; all the land is flat!)
  • Holland also exports fresh-cut plants and flowers: 2/3 of the world's total.
  • Amsterdam is home to the world's only floating flower market; over a dozen shops operate year-round from one of the city's famous canals.
Like we did, you can experience the Keukenhoff garden, take in some of the surrounding flower fields, and visit Amsterdam's Floating Flower Market all during an Avalon Tulip Time River cruise that delivers you to the front of the line at the Keukenhof, and overnights in Amsterdam so you can go to the flower market.
Start your Trip!

 

 

10 Tips When You Travel To Amsterdam From A Monograms Local Host

There's nothing better when you travel than having a friend in town to give you the insider tips only a local would know. Most of us don't have friends everywhere on our travel bucket lists. But we do have Monograms.

Monograms tours take the best elements of traveling on your own – and the best parts of traveling with a tour. The secret sauce is the Monograms Local Host. They meet you and transfer you and from the airport, port, or station, take you on a tour of your destination to get you oriented with VIP access to some attractions that allow you to skip the lines of independent travelers… and the Local Host is even available during the rest of your visit to answer questions and give you tips about other things to do to personalize your vacation so it's all you want it to be.

We've strung a couple of Monograms tours together to make a longer trip. And we've taken a Monograms tour of Amsterdam as a pre-cruise extension of an Avalon river cruise in the Netherlands.

We've been to Amsterdam before, but were thrilled to have a Monograms Local Host to give us some insider tips to what's latest and best in Amsterdam right now. Here are his 10 fantastic tips:

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV

1. Lynn: Amsterdam is on a lot of travel bucket lists and many people have a checklist of places they want to see and things they want to do when they visit Amsterdam.What is the neighborhood or experience that might be over-hyped now… and visitors could skip?

Monograms Local Host: Skip Dam Square & Damrak Area.It's way too crowded and is a very tourist-y area where the shops & restaurants target tourists.You won't find authentic Amsterdam here.

2. Lynn: Is there a less-famous district where you can still see how real locals live today?

Monograms Local Host: Yes!Travelers can experience real local lifestyle.

  • Explore the Jordaan district, the Pijp district and Amsterdam Tower, they are up and coming and not so famous yet.
  • Go to the new Food Hall!
  • Take a train to Zandvoort, the beach, from Central Station, which is next to the Double Tree Hilton Hotel we use on Monograms tours.

3. Lynn: When you take visitors on their private Monograms tour, what is the thing about Amsterdam that surprises first-time visitors the most?

Monograms Local Host:People can't believe all the bicycles!There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people.It's a huge cycling culture and it's right in front of you from the moment you arrive in Amsterdam.

4. Lynn: Many people might be intimidated to try cycling in a city with such aggressive cyclists. If we don't want to bicycle ourselves, or take a break from walking, what is the best way to get around?

Monograms Local Host:

  • Take the tram (streetcar).They are efficient, take you anywhere in town, and easy to figure out.
  • The next best thing to taking a bike yourself might be a bike taxi, but be careful which company you use – ask your Local Host or hotel concierge to recommend one.
  • Hop-on hop off canal boats are such a unique Amsterdam experience.

5. Lynn: Every time I come to Amsterdam I make sure I reserve one evening for Rijstaffel.What are other local food experiences or dishes you must not miss when you are in AMS?

Monograms Local Host: Everyone must try Rijstaffel, or 'Rice Table'.It's Indonesian food that came here from the Netherland's colonial heritage in Indonesia.So it's not at all like traditional Dutch food, but still it's a truly unique Dutch dining experience. For Dutch food, you must try:

  • Poffertjes = small pancakes
  • Kibbeling = dutch fried fish
  • Stamppot = potatoes mashed with other vegetables or even fruit
  • Dutch Apple pie at Café Papeneiland at the corner of Brouwersgracht & Prinsengracht

6. Lynn: How about drinks?It seems everyone takes the Heineken tour.

Monograms Local Host: Dutch beer is not only about Heineken! Try newer, local Amsterdam breweries like:

  • Brouwerij ‘t Ij (Brewery in a windmill)
  • Brouwerij “Poesiat & Kater” in the east of Amsterdam
  • De Leckere = a beer from Utrecht
  • Genever = dutch Gin, Bols is the most famous genever producer

7. Lynn: There's a lot of Dutch food I still haven't tried. What is the most unexpected culinary tradition in AMS you have a hard time convincing visitors to try?

Monograms Local Host: Well, I think all Dutch food is delicious! But two dishes are hard to get people to try:

  • Raw herring.Everyone is afraid to try it! You eat it with pickles and onions and it's always more delicious than visitors expect.
  • The dutch like to eat “salt liquorice” which guests don’t like at all!!! But you should still try!

8. Lynn: Amsterdam has many world-renowned museums but some people avoid them because of line- ups or miss them because they haven't planned ahead.Do you have any tips?

Monograms Local Host: There are so many museums in Amsterdam, but these are among the most popular and most busy, and some of these tips apply to many museums not just in the Netherlands, but everywhere.

  • Getting the tickets for Rijksmuseum sometimes can be a challenge, but it’s included in the Monograms city sightseeing tour and so our guests skip the line.
  • Anne Frank: book the tickets months before, or go after 3:30 pm if you don’t have tickets and you can just walk in. The best time to visit Anne Frank house is actually at 6 pm, it is open until 9 in summer months and then there are almost no visitors.
  • Van Gogh Museum: you can only book tickets online, which is easiest to do from home before you travel.Choose your window very early or very late in the day to be sharing the museum with the fewest other fans of the artist.

9. Lynn:I love Amsterdam canal cruises, but I know some people skip tours and like to explore on foot.Do you think people should always take an Amsterdam canal cruise?

Monograms Local Host: Amsterdam is a city of canals – they are maybe more important than even the streets. The best way to see Amsterdam is from the water – it gives you the best perspective of the beauty of the canal houses and it is the way to get a good idea of the city & lay-out of the city. A canal cruise is a great orientation, after that you know which places you would like to spend more time in.

10. Lynn: Every city has café's and bars, markets and parks that can entertain you people watching for hours.Where are your favorites?

Monograms Local Host:

  • For cafés, try the Jordaan area, Noordermarkt, or Westerstraat
  • Go to the Saturday market at Lindengracht
  • And the daily Albert Cuijp market
  • For parks, try Westerpark or Vondelpark
  • And the Sky Lounge bar at Double Tree Hilton is always buzzing and has the best views of the city.

Start your Trip!

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Preserving the World's Heritage: One Cruise Line's Partnership with UNESCO

There are over a thousand World Heritage Sites in 167 countries.  Places in the world of such extraordinary cultural or natural wonder, that UNESCO has dedicated itself to preserving them for the ages… and travelers dedicate themselves to discovering them for themselves.

One cruise line has partnered with UNESCO to help achieve both goals. Seabourn's ultra-luxury cruises sail to all seven continents.  It has a unique ability to bring travelers to many of the world's UNESCO treasures.

In fact, over 170 designated UNESCO sites are included in Seabourn itineraries, iconic places like Halong Bay in Vietnam,  (watch the video of our kayaking tour of Halong Bay with Seabourn), the Ruins of Pompeii, the Great Barrier Reef, the Birthplace of the Olympic Games, as well as Canada's Bay of Fundy, where the world's highest tides have resulted in landscapes and ecosystems making up a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  (Watch the video where the tides of the Bay of Fundy reverse the flow of the St. John River).

In addition to helping bring guests to the sites, Seabourn has developed two types of shore excursions in partnership with UNESCO. Seabourn World Heritage Tours visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  And Seabourn Discovery Tours offer exclusive, enhanced shore excursions of UNESCO World Heritage Sites through their partnership.

In the case of both types of designated UNESCO shore excursions, a donation is made to the UNESCO World Heritage Fund for each Seabourn guest who participates.  Seabourn guests who donate additional funds to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre even earn Seabourn Club Points that help advance guests up to another membership level with added benefits.

The partnership Seabourn has with UNESCO reflects dedicated corporate responsibility in travel on a global level, and also the interests of Seabourn guests to experience the greatest achievements of humankind and miracles of Nature, while supporting their continued preservation.  At the same time, Seabourn assists UNESCO in its goal of promoting awareness and sustainable tourism to those World Heritage properties.

Our Seabourn Canada and New England cruise gave us the opportunity to visit Quebec City's glorious, 400-year Old Town World Heritage Site.  Two designated UNESCO Partner Tours are offered to guests in Quebec City:

  • Historic & Modern Quebec with Parliament Visit
  • Historical Walk with Horse & Carriage Ride

In both cases, guests are introduced in a unique way to the extraordinary historic, hill-top town founded in 1608 as the capital of New France, and which remains today the only walled city north of Mexico.  400-year old cobbled streets wind up and down the steep slopes of this elegant fortified town, lined with stone houses shops, restaurants, public squares, the oldest Catholic Church in North America, and the iconic Chateau Frontenac, the castle-like hotel that tops the hill and dominates Quebec City's unmistakable skyline.  (Tour the Chateau Frontenac in this video).

Our fellow Seabourn guests who were visiting Quebec City for the first time all said they felt like they'd been magically transported to a preserved town in Europe. It's almost unbelievable that it is right in the backyard of North American travelers.  It's that kind of magic and wonder that every UNESCO site inspires in visitors and Seabourn's one-of-a-kind UNESCO Partner Tours make possible.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip.TV

Start your Trip!

 

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How does a hotel become the most photographed in the world?  Many hotels have spectacular architecture, magnificent and dramatic settings... but very few hotel silhouettes define the destination. 

Fairmont's Chateau Frontenac is to Quebec City what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.  The hotel not only evokes the grace and elegance of the French castles that inspired it.  It is literally the high point of this historic, 400 year old city's UNESCO world heritage site.  Although it appears to rise from the French Middle Ages, in fact, it dates from the late 19th century, and in 2018 celebrates 125 years of being a can't miss experience of a trip to Quebec City. 

Join BestTrip.TV's exploration of the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac's historic character and anniversary multi-million dollar makeover.

Start your Trip!

 

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Now You Can Take the Chunnel Train to a New Destination in Europe

London to Paris for a romantic weekend? Belgium to London for tea? Travelers have gotten used to having the option of a high-speed train connecting city centre London to mainland Europe via the tunnel under the Channel.   

Brexit politics aren't slowing down travel between the British Isles and Europe, either. So now the Eurostar is revolutionizing travel from England to the Netherlands too.  High-speed trains on the new route take only 3 ½ hours to arrive in downtown Amsterdam from St. Pancras International train terminal, and even less to the Netherlands' second city, Rotterdam.

The inaugural service to Amsterdam connecting two of the world's top travel destinations by high-speed train has been years coming.  And the long-awaited April, 2018 launch also boosts the existing London-Brussels section of the route, shaving nearly twenty minutes off the travel time to under 2 h to the Belgian capital.

This is a game changer for European and British travel. With a one-way ticket from just £35, it's an affordable way to add a pre or post extension in London to a river cruise or land tour from Amsterdam. Or for independent travelers to add a London leg to a train trip around the Continent.

Imagine maneuvering a Dutch bicycle across the canals in the afternoon (watch video) and quenching your thirst with a pint in an English pub that evening.

With no trek to the airport. Passengers of the Eurostar have to arrive only 30 minutes before the high-speed train departs from the city centre train terminal.  And no waits at the other end to claim your bags.  You take them with you on board.  And when you aren't marveling at the technology that connects the European mainland to the British Isles, you have wifi to catch up on your Netflix viewing, travel research, or even work if you are on a bleisure trip.

Plus you can feel good about the environmental benefits of train travel as it takes you from the capital of the U.K to the capital of the Netherlands. The new 3 ½ hour, high-speed Eurostar route from London to Amsterdam emits 80% less carbon than flying.  And you leave the train station and step right into the heart of the next city on your European vacation.

Start your Trip!

One of the greatest natural spectacles in the world is the unmatched explosion of colorful foliage that takes place in Eastern Canada and the North-Eastern US every autumn. And it's best experienced by cruise ship. Our cruise on the Seabourn Quest navigated the St. Lawrence from Montreal with calls at Quebec City, Canada's Maritime provinces, then along the Eastern Coast.

Watch this video for our cruise tour and review.

And here are my top 7 reasons you'll want to add a Seabourn cruise of Canada and New England to your fall travel schedule.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV

  1. Seabourn packs its ultra-luxury cruise experience into boutique-sized ships, and that is an advantage you won't want to miss. Large ships can't sail any farther west than Quebec City as they don't have clearance under certain bridges; only on a smaller ship can sail all the way to Montreal.The second-largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris, and fashion, culinary and lifestyle global center is an exhilarating port of embarkation or disembarkation you won't want to miss as a pre- or post-cruise stay.
  2. The smaller ship size makes you feel like you are on a large yacht, and like yachts, the Seabourn Quest is able to call as smaller, more out-of-the-way ports you might not be able to experience otherwise, like the tiny islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon that remain the territory of France in North America.
  3. Seabourn is famous for its signature 'moments', little happenings that pop up to enhance your cruise experience.As you inhale the brisk sea breezes taking in the isolated shorelines lined with crimson-leaved trees as you sail by, suddenly, there's a hot chocolate-with-a-twist bar on deck.You didn't even know you wanted a delectable hot chocolate laced with your favorite liqueur… but the scenery seems to get even better with one in your hands.
  4. I've always loved Seabourn's 'Shopping with the Chef' – local markets come even more alive seen through the eyes of the immensely talented, creative Seabourn chefs.Chef Jes invited our cameras to accompany him to Quebec City's Old Port Market, one of North America's great historic markets, with truly local vendors selling some of Quebec's famously rich abundance of highest quality foods. And the Chef's shopping was not for show! He was thrilled to find the miraculous last fresh strawberries of the season to surprise guests with at breakfast the following morning. And he also gave us a cooking demo using some of the ingredients we discovered at the market. It was a highlight of our call in Quebec City.
  5. Overnight in Quebec City. The Seabourn Quest was docked in Quebec City in a prime location at the foot of its famous hill, and an overnight in this famous, UNESCO World Heritage, 400-year old city gave us and our fellow guests ample opportunity to experience the evening lights, and the culinary scene of this little piece of Europe in North America.
  6. Getting close to Nature. In addition to calls at some of North America's most storied and vibrant cities in Canada and on the American East Coast, sailing brings Seabourn guests often quite close to Nature. The St. Lawrence is seasonal home to a variety of whales; on the cruise prior to ours, one whale cruised alongside the ship for hours. Guests were able to come from all over the ship to line the decks in awe, incredibly close to a spontaneous encounter with wildlife.
  7. The suite life on Seabourn. Brisk autumn breezes as you stroll the decks or wander off the ship to explore the East's charming seaside towns are not only invigorating – they also leave you wind-blown and ready for a bath and a glass of something special. On the Seabourn Quest, your steward can deliver champagne and draw you a bath – yes! a bath on a ship! Your wonderful day becomes a perfect one.

We North American's sometimes forget that one of the world's epic cruises is right in our backyard. Seabourn's Canada and New England autumn colors cruises remind us of the beauty here at home - elevated by Seabourn's exquisite on board luxury lifestyle.

Start your Trip!

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

4 Traditional Sports You Can't Miss When You Travel To Hawaii

Many of the world's favorite sports have roots in ancient cultures, based on the skills early peoples needed to survive in their environments.  Ancient Hawaiian sports are a great example. 

Life in Hawaii's lush, volcanic, Pacific islands shaped a traditional Hawaiian sports culture and history that is still active – and even celebrated worldwide - today.  Here are some ancient Hawaiian sports you'll want to make sure you experience - and maybe even try out - on your next trip to the Aloha State.

Surfing

Remember what the Beach Boys said: 'If everybody had an ocean… then everybody'd be surfin'.  The islands of Hawaii are the cradle of modern board surfing.   And far from the mellow, nomadic lifestyle associated with modern surfing culture, the sport has aristocratic and even spiritual origins of bonding with the sea. Surfing used to be the domain of Hawaiian chiefs and nobles.  They were required to demonstrate their surfing skills to maintain or earn their status.  Then in the 1880's, three Hawaiian noble teens away at school in California took their boards to the waves at Santa Cruz… and the rest of Hawaii and West Coast modern surfing culture is history.

(Photo Credit);

Now there are famous surf destinations on coasts around the world.  But nothing beats surfing – or learning to surf – on the waves where it all began.  (Top Photo Credit)


Outrigger Canoe Paddling 

Outrigger canoes are one of the strongest symbols of Polynesian culture Hawaiians share with Tahitian, Samoan, and even more distant Filipino and New Zealand's Maori societies.  Their incredible seafaring heritage and feats of distance traveled in the vast Pacific waters to other islands are due in large part to outrigger canoes.

Early Polynesian and Hawaiian fishermen took single-hull canoes and added support floats alongside, attached to the main hull.  Outriggers give canoes extra stability, and allowed the craft to be shaped longer and narrower than non-outrigger canoes, giving them tremendous speed even in rough waters.  So effective were outrigger canoes that the early European explorers in the 1500's wrote of native craft that were faster and more maneuverable than European vessels.

(Photo Credit)

Outrigger canoeing has spread world wide, and when you visit Hawaii, there are many opportunities to learn paddling techniques and explore the islands' waters by outrigger canoe.  It's also a competitive sport that draws enthusiastic crowds. Races overseen by the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association and local clubs are often held on popular beaches.  And the annual October Molika'i Hoe is a 41-mile, 8-hour open ocean race from the island of Molokai to Oahu island that draws a thousand competitors in teams from around the world.

Surfing and outrigger canoeing have been adopted and shaped coastal lifestyles worldwide.  Other Hawaiian ancient sports can only be experienced locally.

Holua Sledding 

Ancient Hawaiians didn't just surf the waves.  They tried to translate similar methods to island terrain. But the technique they developed to surf the land didn't catch on quite so much in modern sports culture.  Holua sledding involves a narrow – only 4-inch! – wooden sled to 'surf' down mountain slopes and lava flows.  Without snow as a cushion and to reduce fiction, holua sledding is a lot tougher and less reliable a way to get around than the skiing and sledding developed in northern climes.

Holua sledding is said to honor the Hawaiian volcano goddess. You'd need some super-human skills to master bare-ground sledding; you can't pick it up easily in an afternoon on the lava version of bunny slopes.  Holua sledding is best left to the experts who keep this cultural sporting tradition alive in the islands, but not to be missed if you have the opportunity to see a demonstration.


Ulu Maika

You'll recognize other traditional cultures in the elements of Ulu Maika, too.  In a feat of strength and skill, ancient Hawaiians catapulted lava stone 'balls' between 'goal' posts in the ground only about a foot apart.  Like other early societies' sports like the stone put or shot put, excellence in Ulu Maika was part of battlefield training. And like later sedate iterations of ball throwing in other cultures, like bowling or bocce ball or petanque, Hawaiian Ulu Maika made the transition from warrior to recreational practice.  It's still played wherever supplies and space permit.  When you visit Hawaiian cultural sites or a luau, you can often see it and sometimes even test your own skills.

Start your Trip!

 

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

 

 

 

4 Traditional Sports You Can't Miss When You Travel To Hawaii

Many of the world's favorite sports have roots in ancient cultures, based on the skills early peoples needed to survive in their environments.  Ancient Hawaiian sports are a great example. 

Life in Hawaii's lush, volcanic, Pacific islands shaped a traditional Hawaiian sports culture and history that is still active – and even celebrated worldwide - today.  Here are some ancient Hawaiian sports you'll want to make sure you experience - and maybe even try out - on your next trip to the Aloha State.

Surfing

Remember what the Beach Boys said: 'If everybody had an ocean… then everybody'd be surfin'.  The islands of Hawaii are the cradle of modern board surfing.   And far from the mellow, nomadic lifestyle associated with modern surfing culture, the sport has aristocratic and even spiritual origins of bonding with the sea. Surfing used to be the domain of Hawaiian chiefs and nobles.  They were required to demonstrate their surfing skills to maintain or earn their status.  Then in the 1880's, three Hawaiian noble teens away at school in California took their boards to the waves at Santa Cruz… and the rest of Hawaii and West Coast modern surfing culture is history.

(Photo Credit);

Now there are famous surf destinations on coasts around the world.  But nothing beats surfing – or learning to surf – on the waves where it all began.  (Top Photo Credit)


Outrigger Canoe Paddling 

Outrigger canoes are one of the strongest symbols of Polynesian culture Hawaiians share with Tahitian, Samoan, and even more distant Filipino and New Zealand's Maori societies.  Their incredible seafaring heritage and feats of distance traveled in the vast Pacific waters to other islands are due in large part to outrigger canoes.

Early Polynesian and Hawaiian fishermen took single-hull canoes and added support floats alongside, attached to the main hull.  Outriggers give canoes extra stability, and allowed the craft to be shaped longer and narrower than non-outrigger canoes, giving them tremendous speed even in rough waters.  So effective were outrigger canoes that the early European explorers in the 1500's wrote of native craft that were faster and more maneuverable than European vessels.

(Photo Credit)

Outrigger canoeing has spread world wide, and when you visit Hawaii, there are many opportunities to learn paddling techniques and explore the islands' waters by outrigger canoe.  It's also a competitive sport that draws enthusiastic crowds. Races overseen by the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association and local clubs are often held on popular beaches.  And the annual October Molika'i Hoe is a 41-mile, 8-hour open ocean race from the island of Molokai to Oahu island that draws a thousand competitors in teams from around the world.

Surfing and outrigger canoeing have been adopted and shaped coastal lifestyles worldwide.  Other Hawaiian ancient sports can only be experienced locally.

Holua Sledding 

Ancient Hawaiians didn't just surf the waves.  They tried to translate similar methods to island terrain. But the technique they developed to surf the land didn't catch on quite so much in modern sports culture.  Holua sledding involves a narrow – only 4-inch! – wooden sled to 'surf' down mountain slopes and lava flows.  Without snow as a cushion and to reduce fiction, holua sledding is a lot tougher and less reliable a way to get around than the skiing and sledding developed in northern climes.

Holua sledding is said to honor the Hawaiian volcano goddess. You'd need some super-human skills to master bare-ground sledding; you can't pick it up easily in an afternoon on the lava version of bunny slopes.  Holua sledding is best left to the experts who keep this cultural sporting tradition alive in the islands, but not to be missed if you have the opportunity to see a demonstration.


Ulu Maika

You'll recognize other traditional cultures in the elements of Ulu Maika, too.  In a feat of strength and skill, ancient Hawaiians catapulted lava stone 'balls' between 'goal' posts in the ground only about a foot apart.  Like other early societies' sports like the stone put or shot put, excellence in Ulu Maika was part of battlefield training. And like later sedate iterations of ball throwing in other cultures, like bowling or bocce ball or petanque, Hawaiian Ulu Maika made the transition from warrior to recreational practice.  It's still played wherever supplies and space permit.  When you visit Hawaiian cultural sites or a luau, you can often see it and sometimes even test your own skills.

Start your Trip!

 

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

 

 

 

You may be familiar with treating yourself to a massage, reflexology, or other spa wellness treatments while you're on holiday.  But an Amethyst Crystal Sound Bath?  That's a level of holistic therapy you rarely encounter at any spa, especially at sea.  BestTrip.TV took a 'dip' during our cruise on the Seabourn Quest. 

One-of-a-Kind Wellness: Dr. Andrew Weil's Mindful Living Program on Seabourn

By Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV

If holistic wellness had a 'celebrity', it would be Dr. Andrew Weil.  The pioneer in integrative medicine is a best-selling author and practitioner. Dr. Weil has been pivotal in bringing a new awareness and mainstream practice of Eastern and Western wellness to the North American public.

He has also brought his mind, body, and spirit approach to holistic wellness to Seabourn.  So your cruise can include a journey towards rejuvenation, healthy ageing, and even renewed happiness through Dr. Weil's principles and unique practices and treatments.

The ultra-luxury line wants guests to be uplifted, not just by travel to new horizons, pampered by attentive service and the Seabourn way of life, but also by the opportunity to return from your holiday refreshed and relaxed in every way.  They've partnered with Dr. Weil to bring wellness and a Mindful Living program to the entire Seabourn fleet.  It's the first wellness program of its kind at sea.

Dr. Weil's Mindful Living program at the Spa on Seabourn ships is led by a wellness coach.  This certified yoga and meditation practitioner leads complimentary classes and practices as well as wellness gatherings throughout voyages.

Dr. Weil's teachings guide a comprehensive program.  Meditation sessions provide participants with positive affirmations and mantras you can reflect on throughout the day. Restorative yoga sessions reinforce the mantra introduced in the day's meditations.  Therapeutic yoga sessions also provide guests with various health concerns a practice to help their specific healing needs like back pain, joint pain, headaches, and body alignment. 

The Mindful Living program also recognizes the other ways the practice of yoga empowers you, offering sessions that enhance creativity, mental focus and even happiness.

The daily themes of the Mindful Living program change daily in seven-day cycles, so on a week-long Seabourn cruise, you can be immersed in new mindful living practices daily.

In addition to practices, complimentary program seminars provide guests with more information on the philosophies and background and principles of the program elements and its overall mission.  The goal is to empower you and increase your awareness of the connection between mind, body, environment and wellness.  Healing arts seminars include experts' teachings about issues we can all relate to:

  • Spontaneous Happiness & Spontaneous Healing
  • Anti-inflammatory foods with nutritional guidance from Dr. Andrew Weil's teachings
  • Healthy Aging
  • Learn what happens in both the mind and body during Mindful Meditation

But every person's wellness needs are different. So everyone receives an individual consultation and specialized recommended courses of practice and treatments that go far beyond standard spa fare.  Thai Poultice massages with steamed herbs like Kaffir Lime and Lemon grass, Deeper than Deep Hot Stone Massages, Bamboo massages, Acupuncture, and the Amethyst Crystal Sound Bath featured in the BestTrip.TV video above enhance the Dr. Andrew Weil Mindful Living practices.

One of the best things about participating in the Dr. Andrew Weil Mindful Living program on Seabourn is that, unlike the effects of a massage which can disappear once you return to the stresses of daily life, some of the practices you can learn during the course of a Seabourn voyage, like meditation or breathing exercises, can go home with you, and enrich your life along with memories of your favorite Seabourn moments long after your cruise has come to an end.

Start your Trip!

 

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

What Happens to Worn-Out Hotel Sheets? A Good News Story

How many times can your hotel sheets be slept in once, then washed, and slept in again before they're too worn to use one more time?

We don't know.

But we do know that there's now a better end story for used sheets than landfill or being tied together to form an escape route out the back window in a romantic comedy.

Westin Hotels has decided that there's more to their famous 'Heavenly Bed' sheets than thread count. In fact, their new upcycling program for used linens is making every thread count.

The hotel chain's Project Rise: Thread Forward transforms dated bed linens into all new fabric: a soft, breathable jersey material. Then it's made into kids' pajamas.

It's a sustainability program, yes, but it speaks to even more than a commitment to the environment. Westin has embraced and established groundbreaking Wellness programs for its guests. 'Sleep Well' is one of the pillars of that program, and Westin has been inspired by studies that show a third of adults and majority of children don't get enough. Westin also recognizes that for more and more of us, giving back is also important to our sense of well-being.

These kids' jammies hit all those buttons.

It's the first large-scale textile upcycling program in the industry. In the first 5 months, 50 Westin hotels world-wide collected a mind-boggling 30,000 pounds of linens, that were turned into thousands of sets of children's sleepwear.

Westin is working with charities to distribute pajamas to children in need, whose insecure circumstances contribute to poor sleep. New York, Toronto, Mexico City, and Cape Town are among the first cities where Westin is sharing the gift of sleep outside its hotels. Sadly, pajamas are among the most-requested items of charities that support low-income families. Putting on pajamas contributes to a bedtime routine that can help provide children with the healing power of sleep.

Which is why Westin guests will also be able to buy a pair of pajamas for kids in their own lives, with proceeds benefiting the program.

The jammies come in kids' sizes 2-8, all in a playful, unisex design of a child rising over a moon with a book – a nod to a better sleep empowering a better day.

It's a multi-level wellness win: for the environment, the well-being of Westin hotel communities, guests and hotel associates who came up with the idea and whose participation makes the program possible.


Westin hopes their program inspires change and textile upcycling throughout the travel world. It's certainly a way you can feel good about being kind to the planet, and to others, when you travel.

Start your Trip!

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

Something amazing happens when the highest tides in the world arrive in Saint John, New Brunswick.

 Twice a day, tides in Canada's Bay of Fundy rise as high as 56 feet in places – the height of a 5-storey building!  In Saint John, New Brunswick, the St. John River drains into the Bay of Fundy. When the Bay of Fundy tides rise and fall, 100-billion tons of water … a volume equal to ALL of the world’s rivers … enters and exits the bay.  And that's when things get interesting in Saint John.

BestTrip.TV cameras were in the right place at the right time – on Saint John's new, glass-floored Skywalk. Watch this video to share our bird's eye view directly over the gorge carved through billion-year-old rocks – to see the epic Bay of Fundy tides reversing the direction of the river flow.  You just can't miss the Reversing Falls Rapids seen from Saint John's Skywalk.

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