Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

Viking Sets Sail on the Mississippi
From rivers, to oceans and lakes… and now to America’s heartland. Viking Cruises has announced it will cruise the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans beginning in 2022.

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

In signature Viking style, the 193 stateroom, 5-deck state-of-the-art ship features the clean lines of Scandinavian style. In the case of the Viking Mississippi, there are also American influences that reflect her location. All guests enjoy spacious, all-outside suites or staterooms with either veranda or French balcony, well appointed, including 24-hour service. 


Popular Viking features previous Viking cruise guests know and love include:
  • Sun Terrace with Infinity plunge pool with a glass back on aft sun terrace;
  • Explorers’ Lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows opening to The Bow forward outdoor lounge with the best views of the river;
  • River Café, a casual, al fresco alternative dining venue serving casual food from American classics to Norwegian specialties;
  • Aquavit Terrace on the top deck for casual dining and American barbecue; Combined with the River Café, the Aquavit Terrace will provide the most al fresco dining on the Mississippi;
  • The Restaurant main dining venue on Deck 1 serving daily-changing menus featuring delicious regional cuisine and classics prepared with fresh, local ingredients;
  • Full 360-Degree Promenade on Deck 1;
  • Enrichment on board and on shore, including Destination Performances that represent the most iconic music of the region—as well as Guest Lecturers that shed light on the region’s art, architecture, history, culture, natural world and more, Privileged Access, Local Life and Working World experiences like a kayaking trip in the Louisiana bayou; visit a working farm in Quad Cities; or immersion in Cajun culture during a Privileged Access excursion to the Rural Life Museum of Louisiana State University.
  • Sustainability features like solar panels, LED lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows that maximize natural light and an energy-efficient hybrid propulsion system that will make Viking Mississippi the most environmentally friendly passenger ship on the Mississippi River.
 
The Viking Mississippi’s launch not only brings a new age of modern river cruising to the U.S., close to home for many fans of Viking cruising in Europe and around the world. It also represents major support for the local tourism economy in communities along its routes. Currently scheduled ports of call include seven states: Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St. Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse); and Minnesota (Red Wing, St. Paul).
 
 
2022-2023 Viking Mississippi Inaugural Voyages
  • America’s Heartland (8 days; St. Louis to St. Paul)—From pristine farms nestled in rolling terrain to steep bluff rising from tributaries dotted with wooded islands, the Upper Mississippi offers a rich tapestry of beauty upon every turn of the river. This journey introduces you to the unforgettable experience of the locks and dams that control the flow of the heartland rivers. Hear stories of settlers migrating west; learn about Lewis & Clark, Mark Twain, John Deere and the Amish and Norwegian migrations; experience the regional music like polka and Norwegian folk; and taste regional cuisine showcasing local beer, produce and Wisconsin cheese.
  • Heart of the Delta (8 days; New Orleans to Memphis)—This journey on the Lower Mississippi is infused with American history, culture and heritage. Tour the area where the migrating French and Acadians settled; immerse yourself in the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement; discover the music of the South—jazz, blues and gospel; and experience the life and food culture of the south, from Cajun and Creole to the famed “dry” Memphis BBQ.
  • Southern Celebration (8 days; New Orleans–Vicksburg–New Orleans)—On this exploration of the Lower Mississippi, visit the historic homes of Louisiana and Mississippi; learn about Civil War history, touring sites like Vicksburg National Military Park; and discover the excitement and unique flavors of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
  • America’s Great River (15 days; New Orleans to St. Paul)—Experience nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River on this incredible journey from the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost reaches of the U.S. Relax and enjoy the variety of scenery, foliage and wildlife on this leisurely voyage. Enjoy southern charm and beautifully preserved homes in Natchez; retrace the steps of Civil Rights leaders in Memphis; ascend the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; and visit “The Norwegian Valley” in La Crosse.
 
The Viking Mississippi will join Viking’s current fleet of 79 river and ocean vessels, as well as the recently-announced new Viking Expeditions to Antarctica and the North American Great Lakes. Viking has introduced more than 60 new river cruise ships and 6 ocean ships in the last 8 years, making it the largest small-ship cruise line.
 
 
Images of Renderings: Viking
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You know the rum, but do you know the story? Bacardi is the world’s most famous rum, but it’s also the largest private, family-owned spirits company in the world.

When the first Bacardi traveled from Spain to Cuba in the early 1800’s, he tasted a raw local spirit made from sugar cane. Recognizing the potential, the wine merchant worked to refine rum. Bacardi eventually identified a proprietary strain of yeast that brought out rum’s best flavors, began filtering rum through charcoal, and ageing it in white oak barrels that mellowed and enriched the final result.  It was the first ‘white’ (clear) rum in the world.

The rest, as they say, is history. The origins of the instantly-recognizable logo inspired by the ‘lucky’ colony of bats in the building where the Bacardi family began commercial production in Cuba, making rum cocktails like Cuba Libres, Mojitos and Daiquiris part of the early 20th century cocktail party craze, relocating Bacardi production to Puerto Rico following the Cuban revolution in 1960…

The story of Bacardi is legendary. And visitors to the House of Bacardi in Puerto Rico (called ‘The Cathedral of Rum’), with its mid-century, stylized ‘bat wing’ pavilion is so much more than a distillery visit.

You’ll be greeted with a cocktail before taking an historical tour, rum-tasting tour, or a mixology class. 

BestTrip TV got an extra treat: a chance to meet the head of the Bacardi family business who shared the personal passions behind this global brand. 

It’s one of our all-time favorite BestTrip TV videos we wanted to share with you again while we’re staying safe at home – along with a lesson BestTrip's Lynn Elmhirst and TV interior designer Karen Sealy got in how to make Bacardi’s original, simple, balanced and classic daiquiri (with only three ingredients you might even have at home right now.)
 

Bacardi’s Original Recipe: A Hand-shaken Daiquiri


Rum, lime and sugar are timeless ingredients in the Caribbean. The origins of this classic cocktail go back to an engineer in Cuba who developed its refreshing taste, and the Bacardi family's epic parties made it famous stateside, then around the world.

Bacardi's classic Daiquiri is a perfect blend of BACARDÍ Carta Blanca rum, the crispness of fruit and the sweetness of sugar. Serve ice cold for a refreshing drink on a hot day in the islands... or for cocktail hour at home dreaming of your next trip to the Caribbean.
 
THE INGREDIENTS
  • 2 ounces BACARDÍ Carta Blanca Rum
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tsp Sugar
 
THE METHOD
  1. Place sugar and freshly pressed lime juice into a cocktail shaker and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Then pour in the BACARDÍ Carta Blanca rum and fill the shaker with half-cubed ice, followed by some half-crushed ice.
  3. Place the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled.
  4. Finally, strain through a fine tea strainer into a chilled coupette.
 
 
 
 

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 The COVID-19 pandemic is cancelling Easter celebrations large and small around the world. Thousand-year-old cathedrals will make history as they remain empty and silent.

Enter Andrea Angel Bocelli.

Celine Dion has said that, 'if God has a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.'

The Italian tenor who made pop music audiences fall in love with classical opera, who has received cultural honors in his home country and also has Grammy awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame… is taking this unprecedented opportunity to fill Milan’s empty cathedral with music on Easter Sunday 2020. 

Milan’s Duomo dates back to the 1300’s. It is the largest church in Italy (St. Peter’s Basilica is larger, but it’s in the independent state of Vatican City). That makes it the 2nd largest in all of Europe. Milan’s Duomo is famous not just for the size of the building, but also for the 225-rank pipe organ which is the biggest in Italy, and for the gold Madonna gazing out onto the city from a perch nearly 360 feet at the top of one of the church’s many spires.

(Getty)

It’s also in the heart of the region of Italy hardest-hit by COVID-19.

Bocelli is making sure everyone’s Easter is filled with uplifting music, singing a solo concert Andrea Bocelli: Music for Hope in the Milan Duomo.
 
The 61-year old tenor and cathedral organist Emanuele Vianelli will perform soaring hymns like “Ave Maria” and “Sancta Maria” in the dramatic surroundings of the Duomo. 
 
And while the pews in Milan and around the world will be empty, the point of the Music for Hope concert is to “send a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the world.”
 
So the Music for Hope will be livestreamed globally HERE on Bocelli’s YouTube channel beginning at 1 pm Eastern Time on Easter Sunday in a gesture the beloved tenor hopes will unite everyone facing the pandemic.

'I believe in the strength of praying together; I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone - whether they are believers or not - truly needs right now,” Bocelli said, “Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded Earth's pulsing heart.”
 
He also hopes the concert symbolizes renewal of the society so disrupted by the pandemic. “It will be a joy to witness it, in the Duomo, during the Easter celebration which evokes the mystery of birth and rebirth.”
 
The Music for Hope concert isn’t the only way Bocelli is contributing. In addition to Sunday’s concert, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation is part of a campaign to purchase more medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients. And the acclaimed tenor also performs on April 18th’s virtual concert One World: Together at Home, raising money for charities providing food, shelter and healthcare to those in need as a result of the continuing crisis.
 
But it’s the Music for Hope concert in the hauntingly empty venue of Milan’s Duomo that will uplift the world on Easter Sunday.

And inspire us to think of happy days when we can once again travel to experience the gifts of Italian culture in person.

(via Andrea Bocelli /YouTube)




Why We Still Believe in Travel
While we are all practicing #StaySafeStayHome, it can be hard to stay positive or be optimistic that things we love and used to take for granted will return. 
 
We can’t wait to be able to gather again with family and friends, celebrate holidays, go to concerts and festivals and markets and games… and travel.
 
Right now, travel may seem distant on the horizon, but this is why we know travel will be part of our lives again.
 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip TV
 
Travel providers are betting on a return to travel. Rather than throwing in the towel and closing, they are working hard and investing all their available resources into keeping themselves poised to resume providing travel services to travelers when we are ready to pack our bags again.
 
But even more important than knowledge of the resilience and projections of the travel industry… is an awareness of the human spirit.
 
From our earliest times in all the world’s civilizations, people have had an instinct to explore the unknown and have new experiences. That inner flame still burns in all of us who love travel. A pandemic does not quench our longing to:
 
·     See with our own eyes a wonder of nature or human design that strikes us with awe;
 
·     Taste a dish where it originated; no matter how many times we’ve sushi or pasta or pad thai at a restaurant at home, eating a dish in its home country always gives us that ‘aha’ moment of finally knowing that this is what it was really meant to taste like;
 
·     Share a slice of untouched land or sea with its wild inhabitants and be touched by an awareness of our own place in the natural world;
 
·     Stare into the endless, mesmerizing view of a ship’s wake as we sail into new waters;
 
·     Meet people whose lives have been devoted to developing and sharing an art or craft or food product or wine or experience that enriches our senses; and
 
·     Learn firsthand the stories of personal journeys of people we meet in other places that increase our understanding of the world beyond ourselves.
 
When travel returns – and it will return – we hope these difficult days will have given us time to reflect and refocus on what’s truly important.
 
Hopefully, our biggest lesson will be to be kinder. Kinder at home, and kinder when we travel.
 
·     Kinder to ourselves and, while we must do our best, not to self-judge for things we can’t change;
 
·     Kinder to our loved ones, including making time to spend with them and celebrate our lives together;
 
·     Kinder to the people we meet, the people who show us their hospitality and welcome us into their communities;
 
·     Kinder to the planet, to wildlife, to the environment we all need to survive;
 
So our primal craving to explore can benefit the people and planet and natural world around us – not destroy it.

We're going to keep sharing stories that keep our travel imagination alive... until we can travel again.

Please...
 
Stay safe.
 
Stay at home.
 
Be kind.
 
And dream of a future with the best kind of travel.


 
 
 
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.



It’s been going on for 400 years. Every year ending in 0: 1990, 2000, 2010… and this German cultural tradition was supposed to happen again in 2020. read more
Cruise Company Offers Ships as Floating Hospitals During COVID-19 And this wouldn't be the first time ocean liners have served. read more
A Distiller in Wine Country Switches Production to Hand Sanitizer to Help the Community During COVID-19 Plan a trip to Ontario, Canada's Niagara region, and your list may include the iconic Falls, world-class theater at the Shaw Festival, fine dining inspired by the region’s orchards, most definitely a wine tasting, especially the ice wine that is its global viticulture claim to fame. read more
And Now For Some Good News In Travel We hope you are well and keeping yourself, your family and your community safe by staying at home. Now, more than ever, we all really need some good news. read more
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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March 8th is a day dedicated to uplifting women all over the world. 

The Travel Corporation (TTC), is a family of travel companies including Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar, Contiki and others.

TTC took the opportunity of International Women’s Day to highlight its commitment to a world enriched by travel empowering women, and women empowering travel.

At a Trailblazing Women in Travel event, the companies recognized achievements of their own female team members, their foundation, TreadRight’s, Ambassadors, women partners in the travel industry, as well as spotlighting the local women’s initiatives TTC supports in the communities their tours visit across the globe.
 
The company’s TreadRight Foundation has supported more than 50 sustainable tourism projects in nearly 300 communities worldwide. Some of these projects provide economic empowerment such as the women’s weaving collectives that TTC guests visit in Peru and Italy where guests have the opportunity to purchase these handmade artisan products.

TreadRight also supports the acclaimed social enterprise ME to WE by offering ME to WE’s culturally immersive trip extensions with several TTC companies to Kenya, India, and Ecuador – tours which support women’s economic empowerment. For example, guests can learn the art of beading from local ‘mamas’ in Kenya and purchase their jewelry so that the women can earn a sustainable income.

The CEO and co-founder of ME to WE, Roxanne Joyal, works with TTC and its TreadRight foundation to unleash the positive effects of travel and personal engagement with the world around us. The social enterprise empowers people to change the world with their everyday consumer choices, including purchasing items made by indigenous women artisans, and taking ‘purposeful’ trips including those offered in conjunction by TTC’s TreadRight Foundation. 
 
TTC also highlighted the work and philosophy of its TreadRight Foundation’s “People” ambassador, Canadian indigenous dancer, activist and storyteller Sarain Fox.

Fox approaches travel and travel storytelling through the lens of the experiences of indigenous people. Initially, she struggled to reconcile her love for travel with an awareness, “that many people have shown up in other countries without permission”, with disastrous results for the lands and culture of original inhabitants.

“I like to say indigenous people are the world’s first tour guides,” Fox quipped, “We’re always saying, ‘Here, let me show you the good stuff’.”

Instead of taking her welcome for granted when she travels the world now, Fox asks for permission from local communities to be present as a way of being mindful and conscious of other peoples.

For International Women’s Day, TreadRight has released a new video with Fox encouraging us all to pledge to travel responsibly.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE with Fox describing the simple actions we can all take to contribute to responsible travel. 
 
With International Women’s Day sharing the same week as World Wildlife Day, it was the perfect time for TreadRight to introduce a new ambassador for “Wildlife” – another talented, change-maker woman in travel, Ami Vitale.


You may not recognize Vitale’s name, but you likely know her work. Ami Vitale is an award-winning National Geographic photographer and filmmaker. Her images of human conflict, Nature and the power of humanity around the world have become era-defining. Vitale’s path to wildlife advocacy can be traced in her photography, and one story in particular stands out. She was the photographer who captured the story of the world’s last white rhinos in Africa, eventually sharing in images the heartbreaking story of the death of the very last one, surrounded by mourning gamekeepers.

The Travel Corporation works with other trailblazing women in travel including Patricia Schultz, the author of New York Times best sellers beginning with “1,000 Places To See Before You Die”, who is also Trafalgar’s Global Brand Ambassador, successful travel vlogger and honorary Contiki Ambassador Nadine Sykora, as well as female leadership in the company’s founding family, in all its companies and partner organizations in local destinations where TTC operates.
 
(Left to right at TTC's International Women's Day Trailblazing Women in Travel event: Sarain Fox, Ami Vitale, Patricia Schultz, Nadine Sykora, Roxanne Joyal)

The company recognized and celebrated all these women in travel’s shared belief in the power of people coming together to improve the world, in supporting women through travel and women in travel, “When you prop up women in places you visit, it sustains the community and provides a future for them… and for the guests to return to have that community experience,” says one TTC woman executive.
 
And they don’t just talk the talk. They walk the walk through their work that approaches the same goal from different angles.

New Tours that Empower Women

TTC’s International Womens’ Day celebrations included the announcement that Insight Vacations is launching its first women-only journeys to India designed and run by women. The new itineraries include immersive learning opportunities, wellness experiences and authentic dining while featuring the power of tourism on women’s economic empowerment in local communities. 
 
International Women’s Day comes once a year, but our travel choices can support women and their communities all year round.

 

Start your Trip!


Video courtesy of the TreadRight Foundation. Images courtesy of The Travel Corporation.
 
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Lie Flat Beds in Economy Class?  This Airline Says, "Yes, You Can!"
An airline has cracked the code to providing some of the same comforts for economy class passengers as their fellow passengers in costlier business and first-class enjoy.

After three years in development, Air New Zealand has revealed the prototype of an innovation that could forever change the way you look at long haul travel – even in coach!

They’re calling it the Economy Skynest, and it’s a groundbreaking concept. A ‘nest’ of six, full-length, lie-flat sleep pods stacked on top of each other like bunk beds, with the added bonus of replacing a chunk of hated, center block of seats (although final placement in different planes can change).

If you love to travel but hate not having enough space to stretch out. Or your company budget doesn’t stretch to first class with lie-flat cubicles… but you still need to arrive at your destination fresh and ready to get to work. We can think of all kinds of reasons Air New Zealand’s Economy Skynest could tick a lot of boxes for you.


Each single-person pod is over 2 m (more than 6 and a half feet) long, with a minimum shoulder width of 58 cm (23 inches), and comes with a full-size pillow, a blanket and also sheets! as well as ear plugs, privacy curtains and lighting designed for sleep. Air New Zealand is also exploring other features like a separate reading light, a personal device USB outlet, and an outlet for ventilation. All the comforts of a hotel bed… just a little cozier.

And it makes sense. New Zealand’s position on the globe means it operates some of the world’s longest flights, like a non-stop Auckland-New York flight that spends 17 hours and 40 minutes in the air. That’s the flight the company is testing the Economy Skynests on for an inaugural year.

It’s just the latest innovation in comfort for an airline that is at the leading edge of customer-centric design and eco-responsible advances. The Economy Skynest is the next step up from Air New Zealand’s previous game-changer, the award-winning Economy Skycouch.


The row of Economy seats that can be turned into a couch after takeoff so friends or family members can use the space to stretch out changed the way families fly. And further enhancements like a dedicated infant harness enabling infants to stay lying down throughout the cruise phase of flight, a new infant pod which provides extra comfort and protection, and a modification to the existing adult Skycouch Cuddle Belt means it's now certified for two children to be able to share the Skycouch lying side by side.


Given how popular the Economy Skycouch has become, the airline is expecting Economy Skynests to ‘take off’, too, with a focus on the longest of long haul flights. Air New Zealnd anticipates that Economy class passengers would be able to book the Skynest in addition to their regular Economy class seat, so you can be seated for a portion of your flight and able to sleep when you feel like it.

And they expect, as they experienced with the Economy Skycouch, other airlines will explore licensing the Skynest from Air New Zealand so you can enjoy its comforts on many routes around the world.

As aircraft engineering continues to advance to achieve greater feats of fuel economy and enables planes to fly longer non-stop flights, innovations like Air New Zealand’s Economy Skynest will be ever more attractive options when you book your flight.

It may be the most exciting new innovation in flight – that literally puts you to sleep.

Start you Trip!


Images: Air New Zealand

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Now More Than Ever: Why You Should Work With A Travel Advisor
 The COVID-19 pandemic will pass. Until then, the global travel scenario will continue to change daily.

Our top advice for people with travel booked – or considering travel – is to stay calm. And work with a trusted, expert travel advisor when you’re making travel plans.

A responsible, qualified, and professional travel advisor will always:

1. Only use and refer you to credible sources of information with expert and reasoned advice

Some of your friends at work, strangers on social media and less professional media are sharing gossip and spreading hysteria. They are making a difficult situation worse.

Here are three official travel advisory sources used by travel suppliers, insurers and others to make decisions about canceling trips and providing coverage.

  • The highly respected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel notices are located here.
  • The Government of Canada’s official travel information can be found here; and
  • The United States’ State Department advisories are published here.
 
2. Have the best, most up-to-date information from travel suppliers, airlines, insurers and other members of the travel industry you need to get you where you’re going, get you help, or get you home.

As the COVID situation rapidly evolves, there have been nearly daily changes to travel itineraries, schedules, as well as cancellations and modified policies affecting payment and cancellation of travel plans.

Your travel advisor gets this information first. And they get it from the source; from those cruise lines, airlines, tour companies, travel insurance providers and others. 

And agencies have direct access to travel supplier company officials to get answers, and help solve specific, individual cases. Like yours.

3. Pick up the phone. Or return your email. 

Someone said to us the other day, “I feel sorry for people traveling right now who didn’t use a travel agent. Who are they going to call?” 
 
Crisis is showing up the limitations of online travel agencies. Without a personal contact who has a vested interest in you as a customer, you can find yourself waiting forever for an answer to your email, on hold for hours, or passed from one person who can’t help to another.

Travel advisors are people. Your neighbors. Your community members. They take your travel needs and problems personally, and most of all, they are responsive when problems arise. 

4. Employ travel industry best practices to best protect your safety, your health, your investment, and your peace of mind, like:

  • Staying up to date with Terms and Conditions for each supplier in a client’s itinerary particularly those concerning refunds or penalties for changes and cancellations;

  • Encouraging you to book travel with a credit card. Depending on your card’s terms and conditions, it may offer added securities;
 
  • Offering and explaining to you different types of travel insurance – including medical travel insurance and trip cancellation insurance - and what it covers; and
 
  • Remaining compliant with their legal responsibilities, which in some places include disclosing conditions that may influence your decision to purchase, or advising you of changing travel conditions.
 
COVID-19 may be new, but serious global events having an impact on the world of travel are not new.

Experienced travel agencies have company experience, and often advisors with personal knowledge of dealing with crises like SARS, 9/11, and hurricanes that have disrupted large numbers of travelers.

Those are the experts you need in your corner, not just when there is a global health crisis. A qualified, expert travel advisor always adds value to your travel plans. But they are indispensable when things don’t go as planned.

World travel will return to a new normal when COVID-19 ebbs. Don’t let it hijack your travel or your travel dreams. Work with a travel advisor to make a thoughtful, appropriate, best plan for your next trip.



 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ host BestTrip TV
 
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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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The Hotel with the Best Views of Buenos Aires
They call Buenos Aires the ‘Paris of South America’. Historic neighborhoods of elegant, whitewashed buildings with ornate wrought iron trim, its reputation as the global capital of theater with 280 theaters, more than any other city in the world, and the world’s biggest boulevard, lined, like the grand boulevards of France’s capital, with monumental buildings… all add up to a distinctly European feel in Argentina’s capital city. 

The hotel with the very best view of Buenos Aires has to be the Hotel Panamericano Buenos Aires, with its prime location on July 9 Avenue. Called the world’s biggest boulevard, July 9 Avenue commemorates the country’s independence day and stretches 3 km long, and a whopping 18 lanes across!

The Panamericano hotel’s twin towers are in postmodern architecture, but the hotel still manages to evoke the classic French style of this neighborhood of Buenos Aires, with black and white marble floors, wrought-iron railings and details like a grand, brass-trimmed entrance onto the breathtaking July 9 Avenue. 



(Paris meets South America: black and white and wrought iron railings; driftwood horses reminding guests of Argentina’s rich, ‘gaucho’ equestrian rancher lifestyle and lore).

At the same time, the Panamericano is true to its Argentine homeland, including one of BA’s most renowned restaurants serving wine and locally ranched beef, lamb from Patagonia and other uniquely Argentine flavors.



The Panamericano’s 23rd floor has two attractions: Nivel 23 Club and Spa, with its glass-encased rooftop swimming pool, and an open-air terrace overlooking July 9 Avenue – arguably the best view in BA of the city’s signature boulevard and the other emblems of the Argentine capital along it.

Rising out of Republic Square in median of the boulevard right outside the Panamericano, the dramatic, 67 meter (220 foot) Obelisk marks the spot where the Argentine flag was flown for the first time in the capital. (And it also feels like a South American version of Paris’ Place de la Concorde, with its own obelisk).

Also in full view of the Panamericano is Teatro Colon, ranked one of the top three opera houses in the world, and seating more music lovers than London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Acoustically magnificent, this Historic National Monument is also visually glorious in ornate, late 19th century style, with red and gold décor and a famous chandelier.
 
The Panamericano couldn’t be in a better location. It’s in the heart of Buenos Aires’ most noteworthy architecture, domes, century-old buildings, modern skyscrapers. It overlooks BA’s landmark obelisk, Colon Theater, the Palace of Justice from its privileged position on the July 9 Avenue. 


And the hotel is also only a 10-minute walk from the fashionable neighborhood of Recoleta. That neighborhood’s grand cemetery is a fascinating attraction with its decorative, historic crypts. There’s a constant stream of visitors past one in particular: the final resting place of Buenos Aires’ most internationally famous citizen, Eva Peron, immortalized in Evita!, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about the life of Argentina’s former first lady.

In addition to sightseeing, the Panamericano is the perfect base to take advantage of Buenos Aires’ theatre scene, immerse yourself in the tango music and dance, indulge in Argentina’s world-famous wines and beef from its ranches.

Start your Trip!

 
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It's one of the top destinations in Europe, let alone the Mediterranean. Barcelona tops everyone's travel bucket list, and for excellent reasons.

  • It has a collection of some of the world's most unique and distinctive Modernist architecture - hint: by the same local designer whose masterpiece church is still under construction 130 years after it was begun.

  • One of Europe's most famous local markets, and restaurants serving the abundant harvest of Catalonia's land and sea.

  • One of the world's most picturesque pedestrian promenades (where you'll find the tongue-in-cheek bronze 'Thinking Bull' statue that plays on the iconic 'The Thinker' by Rodin, pictured above).

  • And a lifestyle any visitor is loathe to leave.

We never depart on a cruise from Barcelona without taking time to indulge in one of our favorite cities, and of course, any tour of Spain or the Western Mediterranean wouldn't be complete without an immersion in Barcelona's culture and way of life.

See the best of Barcelona come to life in the BestTrip video above, and...

Start your Trip!




The New Cruise Line Making Yacht-Style-Cruising the Med Affordable
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
 
The Emerald Azzurra is the first ship launched under the new Emerald Yacht Cruises brand, which is now part of the newly formed Emerald Cruises.
 
You may already be familiar with Emerald Waterways’ affordable river cruises. Now, the company is bringing that same accessibility to a new cruise line and new, 100-guest ship with inclusive prices – and those are only two of the features normally associated only with luxury, small-ship cruising.

 
When the Emerald Azzurra launches in July 2021, the ship will be a game changer, introducing a new class of Mediterranean cruising. 
 
Described as a ‘super-yacht’, the ship was designed for the small, off-the-beaten path ports of the Mediterranean and features:

 
  • only 50 staterooms, nearly 90% with balconies;
  • a spacious layout, with a restaurant capable of seating dozens more guests than are accommodated on the ship;
  • onboard wellness center complete with gym and spa; and
  • modern design and upscale amenities.

 
Spaces and experiences that make you feel part of that mega-yacht lifestyle, like
 
  • an aft affinity pool;
  • marina off the back of the ship to disembark on paddleboards and zodiacs to play in the waters and explore places only yachts can access;
  • a top, ‘Sky Deck’, including one of Emerald’s signature experiences its European river cruise guests will know and love, Sky Deck Cinema.

 
It’s not just the Azzurra’s design and amenities that make you feel like you’re on a yacht with a few dozen friends.
 
Guests will be able to cruise into small, lesser-known ports, usually only accessible to private yachts and luxury, small-ship cruise lines. 
 
The ship’s 25 inaugural itineraries include small and secluded ports in the Mediterranean, Adriatic and even Red Seas that take guests to the Holy Land. You may have to look up some of the ports the Emerald Azzurra will visit on her inaugural year of sailing in the Mediterranean. They include multiple ports in Greece, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, France, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, Spain, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
 
You’ll sail into the marquee ports in these destinations, then veer away onto the routes less followed, with smaller ports, authentic local towns and villages you might only expect on a boutique yachting experience. 
 
And just like private yachts, the Azzurra’s chefs will also visit local markets along the itinerary for re-provisioning, bringing a true local flavor and atmosphere on board.


 
Imagine yourself as one of only 100 guests on a yacht on any one of these sample itineraries in the Azzurra’s inaugural season:
 
·     The 8-day Cyprus, Turkey and Greece Delights in the Aegean Sea—which will also be the ship’s inaugural sailing, departing from Limassol, Cyprus and calling on Paphos (also in Cyprus) Fethiye, Bodrum, Kusadasi (all Turkey), Mykonos and Santorini, before arriving in Athens (all Greece) for the flight home.

·     The 8-day French & Italian Rivieras with Corsica itinerary in the Mediterranean departing from Citavecchia (Rome) and visiting Porto Ercole (Italy), Bonifacio, Calvi (both Corsica), Portoferraio, Portofino (both Italy), and Menton before disembarking in Nice (both France).

·     The 12-day Ancient World Wonders itinerary departing from Limassol (Cyprus) and calling at Haifa (Tel Aviv, Israel), Ashdod (Jerusalem, Israel), Alexandria, Port Said and Sharm el-Sheik (all Egypt) before ending in Aqaba (Jordan).
 

Yachting lifestyle – affordable pricing

 
Where the Azzurra differs from private yachts and luxury small ships is in pricing, which has been compared with river cruising rather than yachting.

 
Much like the most ultra-luxury small ship cruise lines, pricing on the more affordable Emerald Cruises is inclusive. The cruise line lists á la carte menus at dinner; breakfast and lunch buffets stocked with fresh, locally sourced ingredients; complimentary sommelier-paired wine, beer or soft drinks with lunch and dinner; all on-board gratuities; transfers to and from the airport; port charges and all taxes included in your cruise fare.
 
On shore, guests will enjoy included cultural experiences, a range of included active excursions, and you can also book additional excursions to immerse yourself in the ports of call in ways tailored to your own interests.
 
If you dream of sailing the remote reaches of the glorious Mediterranean on an intimate yacht, Emerald Cruise’s new line and new Emerald Azzurra ship will allow you to chart new cruise vacation territories - without breaking your holiday budget.
 

Start your Trip!

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

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


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

Atacama Desert 


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

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

Punta de Lobos 


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

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

 

Chilean Patagonia 


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

Easter Island 


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

 

Start your Trip!


All photos courtesy of Imagen de Chile.

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

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

Now what?

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

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

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

Debunking Myths about Australia’s Wildfires


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

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

Myth #1: All of Australia is on fire.

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

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

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

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

Myth #2: Sydney is on fire.

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


Myth #3: All the animals are dead.

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

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

Now, the focus is conservation and habitat restoration.


How Can Travelers Help?


Reschedule, don't cancel.

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

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

Book a Trip

You can support Australia’s recovery and rebuilding by:

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

 
Volunteer During Your Trip

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

Examples of some of the voluntourism programs include

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!

 
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A visit to the Juno Beach Centre is life-changing. Walking in the footsteps of young, Canadian soldiers who landed on this stretch of beach in Normandy, France on DDay is emotional, eye-opening, and never-to-be-forgotten.

Some Canadians do more than visit. They work here. Permanent staff and young Canadians greet and guide visitors at the Centre, through the restored bunkers, and on Juno Beach itself, and work on programs that tell the story at the Juno Beach Centre of DDay from a Canadian point of view.

Many of the young guides are about the same age as the 19- and 20-year old soldiers who landed on Juno Beach in 1944 - and that's by design. It helps keep in perspective how young most of those Canadian soldiers were.

Here are some thoughts and insights of Juno Beach Centre team members about their daily presence in such an important and evocative place for Canadians.

Start your Trip!

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

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

1. Arrive at least one day early


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Launching pad


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

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

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

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

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

Or a wildlife safari after your South Africa itinerary.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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

Everyone needs something to look forward to.

Welcome, Wave Season


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

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

Navigating Wave


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

Discounts:


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

Bonus Value:


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

Included:

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

Maximizing ‘Wave’


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

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

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

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

The bottom line


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

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

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

Start your Trip!

 
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.

 




2019's Top Travel Stories
Following this year’s developments in Travel has really kept us moving! Hopefully, you’ve created some of your own new travel memories this year too.
 
These are some of the most tremendous changes that have taken place in the past 12 months that will affect travelers for years to come.
 

What’s Opened

 
It was over two years ago that severe hurricanes swept through some of our favorite Caribbean travel destinations. The hard-hitting storms destroyed buildings and roads, and electricity and water infrastructure, uprooting people’s lives and livelihoods, and sadly even taking lives. Local communities are still recovering.
 
Countless hotels and resorts suffered damage and were forced to close. For communities whose economies rely on tourism, it’s been a very tough time indeed.
 
In the last year, we’ve seen a surge of re-openings. And happily, in some special cases, there’s even been a silver lining, with hotel and resort companies taking the opportunity of hurricane damage to re-imagine resorts in spectacular new style. 
 
More landmark openings include 2 new cruise line private islands in the Caribbean region in 2019, too, with Royal Caribbean’s ‘Perfect Day at Coco Cay’ and MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay Marine Reserve joining the beach resorts where cruise lines extend their signature shipboard experiences to a tropical resort setting.

Plus Singapore's Jewel Changi Airport (pictured, top), with a 7-storey 'Rain Vortex' through an oculus that features in water, sound and light shows, acres of gardens and interactive areas like Forest Valley and Canopy Park, redefining airports globally as lifestyle hubs for locals and visitors as much as transportation stations.
 

What’s Closed

 
Some blame goes to overcrowding, some to Tourists Behaving Badly. A number of iconic travel destinations closed their proverbial doors to visitors this year, or significantly changed how travelers will now be allowed to experience some of the world’s most treasured sites. You’ve likely heard about cities like Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, Venice and Barcelona enacting new restrictions. But more remote places like Machu Pichu are feeling the pressure too, and governments are responding to protect historic and natural sites and wildlife.
 
High profile examples in 2019 were Australia’s Uluru and Indonesia’s Komodo Island.
 
You can still watch sunrise or sunset at Australia’s breathtaking red stone monolith, Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock). But as of this past October, no more climbers are allowed to make the steep trek to the flat top. Uluru is sacred ground to the country’s aboriginal peoples. They have been asking for years for visitors to stop walking upon it… but hikers kept coming, some even stealing pieces of rock and posting disrespectful selfies. A ban on hiking the rock has now taken effect. Now, visitors can see and hike Uluru’s park at ground level, and have the opportunity to participate in aboriginal spiritual experiences.  

 
Indonesia’s Komodo island is home to the world’s largest, most pre-historic-looking and eerily meat-eating lizard, the Komodo ‘dragon’. It’s the only place in the world to see them in their natural environment, but theft of dozens of live animals for sale on the black market has jeopardized the stability of their population – and wrecked it for everyone else. Indonesia’s government has banned visits for the foreseeable future.
 
Other closures include the Chinese side of Mount Everest’s Base Camp, due to literally tons of garbage left at the sensitive site, and Maya Bay in Thailand’s Phi Phi islands, made famous by the movie The Beach, that attracted a tidal wave of visitors who have nearly destroyed its delicate marine ecosystem.
 
Expect to see more restrictions as local communities balance sharing their treasures with visitors, and preserving them for generations to come. 
 
A big dose of humble, respectful, and responsible behavior from travelers is needed to continue to have access to the wonders we hope to experience in person.
 

What’s New

 
When it comes to cruising, the hits just keep on coming. As recently as November, another mega-ship, the Norwegian Encore, has joined the fleets sailing all the seven seas. It’s just the latest in a string of jaw-dropping new ships in 2019
 
Two of those new ships may be cruising game changers. 
 
AmaWaterways’ new AmaMagna has upended the river cruise ship format. Its ‘double wide’ design allows for an unprecedented amount of space and amenities unheard of previously in river cruising.
 
Scenic’s Eclipse is not only the first ocean-going vessel for the luxury travel company that made its name in land tours, followed by a fleet of sleek, ultra-luxury river cruise ships with its signature, sophisticated black and gold styling. It was designed to join the small but growing club of luxury expedition cruise ships, coming equipped with 2 helicopters and a submarine to explore all the ocean regions of the earth.
 
A host of new hotels arrived on the global travel scene in 2019 too. Perhaps none made more of an impression than the standout – literally – Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida shaped like an actual guitar!


 

What’s Old

 
Can you believe commercial flight has already been here for a century? The 20th century advanced flight at nearly light speed, from the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903, to the inconceivable feat of putting the first man on the moon only decades later in 1969.
 
In 2019, the world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Lunar Landing as well as the 100th anniversaries of the world’s first commercial airlines, KLM and British Airways. And watching closely as a number of companies attempt to make commercial space travel viable.
 
2019 was also the year cities in Latin America started commemorating half a millennia of European settlement. Cities like Havana, Cuba, Panama City, and Veracruz, Mexico marked their 500th anniversaries with bittersweet celebrations that marked not just historic and proud achievements, but also the losses suffered through European colonialism. That balanced perspective will no doubt continue as more and more cities mark this milestone throughout the Americas.

 

What Trends Shaped Travel in 2019

 
You’re going to be hearing more about Multi-Gen (grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents and kids) and ‘Skip-Gen’ (grandparents + grandkids) travel. Families traveling together is nothing new. But as distances between generations grow, and more people recognize the value of experiences over things, more generations will commit their precious time and budgets to coming together to experience the world. And travel companies will design more innovative tours, resorts, ships and experiences to cater to everyone in the family.
 
Cruising continues its meteoric rise as the fastest-growing travel style. But one style of cruising especially is taking off. Expedition cruises, to polar and remote regions of the world, and especially luxury expedition cruising, is capturing the travel imaginations of a growing audience of port collectors, adventurous cruisers, and luxury travelers who have already ‘been there’. 
 
Taking care of people and the planet has never been more important, and the travel industry got the message in a much bigger way in 2019, with many travel operators and cruise lines announcing they’re taking small steps like banning single-use plastics, as well as bigger steps like advanced, eco-friendly technologies, as well as socially responsible and locally-sensitive operations that reduce travel’s footprint on the planet and benefit local communities.
 
And taking care of yourself. Active and wellness travel offerings expanded in 2019 as travelers continue to commit to a more healthy lifestyle, show interest in enjoying destinations actively, not just passively from a tour bus, and look to enhance their mental, physical and spiritual well-being while being inspired by the culture and landscapes of the world’s most alluring places.
 
Wishing you a new year of joy in travel!
 
Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip
 
 

Start your Trip!


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Virgin Voyages' 'Save Water, Drink Champagne' Easy Button
Oh, and there’s a caviar bar, too.

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages says it’s committed to ‘disrupting’ cruise travel, and that means a twist on one of the luxury cruise standards: champagne and caviar.

The cruise line has already shared its ‘ship tease’, with the slogan ‘Save Water, Drink Champagne’ proudly displayed on an outdoor lounge.


Now, it’s revealed what that slogan really means to guests, or ‘sailors’ on the Scarlet Lady when she sets sail in Spring 2020. 

In the rebellious luxe/ music festival at sea atmosphere of Virgin Voyages, it’s never too early for champagne and there’s always something to celebrate.  To help every guest feel like a rock star, they’re offering a one-of-a-kind champagne service: Shake for Champagne.

Virgin Voyages sailors have an app to facilitate their on board experience. When you shake the app, a secret ‘Save Water, Drink Champagne’ button appears, and at the press of the button, you’ll have a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial instantly delivered in an eye-popping, glamorous Virgin red champagne bucket… anywhere you are on the ship.


In addition to on-demand champagne delivery to your side, the Scarlet Lady introduces the first dedicated champagne lounge and caviar bar, with the fun and cheeky name Sip.

So you can go find champagne in effervescent surroundings when you don’t feel like having the champagne come to you.  The rose, gold and marble of the bar are not only perfectly on-trend in fashion and design, they echo the delicate tones of the champagnes served.


Circling the bar, deep ocean blue banquettes and cool, Carrara marble tables anchor your experience of luxury any time, day or night you visit.

Not only will you discover caviars and a range of champagnes from single glasses to a $1000 vintage bottle, in a nod to Virgin’s quintessential British heritage and eccentricity, Sip offers its own deluxe and eccentric version of a signature afternoon tea. On the Scarlet Lady, you know it’s not going to be your grandmother’s tea!


Start your Trip!


Images courtesy Virgin Voyages.

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