Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

You’ve heard of wine caves - how about wine caving?

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE to learn more about this new, and one-of-a-kind experience on an Avalon Waterways river cruise on the Rhone River in the south of France that combines adventure - with the exquisite wines of the region.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer and host of BestTrip TV, was one of the first guests to experience the new 'Active & Discovery' excursion that meant donning a caving suit, helmet, headlamp and a little bit of bravery to descend into caves near Avignon, France.

At the bottom of literally hundreds of stairsteps – 55 meters / 180 feet down into the earth, unfolds a 60 km / 40 mile network of caves that inhabitants of the region were using even tens of thousands of years ago.

Today, in addition to spectacular spelunking – that’s just a fancy word for caving – sights like sci-fi worthy formations, reflective pools and cathedral-like spaces, local winemakers have an ageing cave, where they are experimenting with how cave-aged wines differ from those aged above ground.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting and caving experience, and the latest in Avalon Waterways’ Active & Discovery river cruise shore excursions.

And after three glasses of wine and a climb up hundreds of stairs back to the surface, you might be grateful for the helmet! :-)

Start your Wine Tasting Adventure River Cruise!



Now You Can Get Married in Antarctica
February has been an even more romantic month than usual this year. Not only did countless couples celebrate their love in dream destinations on Valentine’s Day – one couple became the first to be united in matrimony on the White Continent.

On an Atlas Ocean Voyage to Antarctica – that even departed on February 14,, 2022 – Valentine’s Day! Bride Courtnie Dodson and Groom Brody Vermillion exchanged vows on Danko Island during a 15-minute ceremony, officiated by British Antarctic Territory-registered Marriage Officer Bryan Clark.

The ceremony was witnessed by eight additional cruise guests – plus some curious penguins who appeared to follow the tuxedo dress code for the wedding!

In fact, that first-ever wedding on the 7th continent was one of four extraordinary weddings and three vow renewal ceremonies during the nine-night cruise to the Antarctic on the luxury expedition cruise line’s first ship World Navigator. 

Atlas Ocean Voyages bills its destination wedding program “Happy Ever Atlas.” It was complimentary for guests who registered for the wedding or vow renewal program in advance.

The weddings weren’t just ceremonial – they were the first legal weddings on the continent. Each couple received an official U.K. wedding license, which is also recognized in many other countries, including the U.S.


World Navigator hosted a ship-wide wedding reception, as well as held separate bachelorette and bachelor group-parties, for an unforgettable wedding week for the couples. The cruise destination wedding program also included a wedding cake, photos, gift bag, custom wedding announcements and Thank You cards. 

Now the ‘ice is broken’ so to speak, we’re sure many other couples will start thinking about the ultimate destination wedding.

A small, luxury expedition cruise might be tailor made for a one-of-a-kind destination wedding. The World Navigator’s size – only 98 suites, solo suites and staterooms – makes for an intimate luxe-adventure. Especially the adventure of starting your new life together!


World Navigator will cruise the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and Iceland, Greenland and The Arctic in summer 2022; Central and South America in the autumn; and return to Antarctica for her winter 2022-23 season.


The ship’s small size allows it to reach smaller, authentic and exclusive locales where larger ships cannot sail. A second, sister ship to the World Navigator, World Traveller, launches in November 2022. Three additional sister ships, World Seeker, World Adventurer and World Discoverer, join the fleet through 2024.

Giving couples looking for the most unique, out-of-the-way or exotic wedding or vow renewal destination a world of options.

Congratulations to the first Antarctic newlyweds!
 

Start Your Milestone Trip!

 
Images courtesy Atlas Ocean Voyages







A New, Underwater "Ocean Highway" for Galapagos
At 2021’s Climate summit in Glasgow, something pretty extraordinary for one of the natural world’s greatest treasures happened. Neighboring countries Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama got together and agreed to create an ‘ocean highway’ to allow threatened marine species in and around the richly and uniquely biodiverse Galapagos Islands to safely travel to the territories they need to survive.
 
The Galapagos Islands famously inspired the pivotal works about evolution of species by Charles Darwin. The Islands are part of Ecuador, and that country has now got the ambitious project underway. Not with ‘shovels in the earth’ like a launch ceremony for a human transportation route.

 
Rather, Ecuador has expanded the Galapagos marine reserve. It’s already one of the largest in the world at over 53-thousand square miles. Its expansion by another 23-thousand square miles will bring it up to over 75-thousand square miles of conservation – an area three times the size of Belize! protected from industrial fishing and other harmful human activities.
 
The new reserve has the fitting name of Hermandad or 'Brotherhood.'
 
'There are places that have made a mark on the history of humanity, and today, we have the honor of being in one of those places,' Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso said at the official signing. 'These islands that welcome us have taught us many things about ourselves. So, instead of acting as the absolute masters of these lands and seas, shouldn't we act as their protectors?'
 
Environmentalists say the reserve will help protect at least five of the region’s most threatened marine species, including hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, millions of sea turtles and rays and other species that migrate between the Galapagos and Costa Rica’s Pacific Cocos Island.
 
That’s just the first step down this underwater ‘road.’ The ultimate goal is to connect the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites via a protected ‘ocean highway.’ 
 
The Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, running through Ecuadorian, Colombian, Panamanian and Costa Rican waters will exclude harmful human activity to permit sea creatures the safe spaces and distances they need to thrive, anchored at both ends by already-protected island territories.
 
Humans will still be allowed entry to the growing ‘underwater highway’ marine zone between Galapagos and Costa Rica’s Cocos Island.

 
There’s more interest than ever in travel to the Galapagos Islands, as post-pandemic pent-up travel appetites are inspiring people to book their bucket list trips. This natural wonder of the world, famous for pristine land-and seascapes, and close encounters with one-of-a-kind creatures like giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and more, ranks high on the list of once-in-a-lifetime, transformational trips.
 
Responsible tourism through respected and local operators will help maintain critical awareness and financial incentives for the continued protection of one of the most audacious – and hopeful – marine conservation projects of our time.
 

Start Your Bucket List Trip!







Why Taking an Alaska Cruise is 'For the Birds'
Bears and whales and other marine mammals are high on everyone’s list for wildlife sightings in Alaska. But we think any trip to America’s Last Frontier is, well, ‘for the birds.’

With more coastline than the rest of the United States combined, as well as parks bigger than some countries, Alaska’s natural treasures include abundant populations of some of the continent’s most interesting, colorful, and majestic birds. 

You may think, in northern climes, the bird population doesn’t stack up against tropical feathered friends. But in fact, there are birds in Alaska in every color of the rainbow, including vivid blues, reds, oranges and greens.

And in every size, from a flame-colored hummingbird only a couple of inches long… to a regal eagle with a nearly seven-foot wingspan!

Pack your binoculars on your next trip to Alaska and watch for these avian residents of Alaska.

Bald Eagle

If you were asked to name a bird in Alaska, your answer would likely be ‘Bald Eagle,’ a bird that symbolizes not only America, but the wilderness frontiers Alaska is famous for. More bald eagles – an estimated 30,000 - live in Alaska than the rest of the U.S. combined.
 
 
America’s national bird is unmistakeable. It’s an immense and heavy raptor: 3 feet long with a wingspan that can reach 7.5 feet! Its dark body, with white head, sharp, hooked yellow beak and matching legs is dramatic, and distinguishes it from other birds of prey.
 
It’s easy to spot bald eagles in Alaska. They’re found all along the coast, where they hunt for fish and sometimes small mammals. They have an eery screeching cry, so you can often hear them before you see them. And bald eagles mate for life, building large, treetop stick nests to raise their young.
 

Rufous Hummingbird

At the absolute other end of the size scale, a bird that hovers around three inches long, and barely tips the scales at under 2-tenths of an ounce. Where bald eagles soar and dive and strike, Rufous Hummingbirds dart and hover with great speed and manoeuvrability.

 
The Rufous Hummingbird’s name gives its plumage away, since the word means ‘reddish’. But that name undersells these tiny birds, which are brilliant orange on their backs and bellies, with red throats and black wings, a combination that makes bird watchers describe rufous hummingbirds as “glowing like a bed of coals.”
 
Do you think hummingbirds stick to purely warmer climes? These hummingbirds take annual, record-breaking migrations. While they fly vast distances to Florida, Mexico or even Panama to winter, the longest hummingbird migration on record, Rufous Hummingbirds live in southern Alaska during the prime tourist season. Small flying insects and nectar from flowers that bloom in Alaska’s short season, like its famous ‘fireweed,’ sustain these unique tiny birds in the north.
 

Willow Ptarmigan

 The state bird of Alaska isn’t the showy bald eagle. It’s the modest, chicken-like willow ptarmigan, part of the pheasant family, and they’re called grouse in the British Isles. Like grouse in the U.K., they are a game bird, with the widest range in Alaska.
 
As do their cousins the chickens, willow ptarmigans forage on the ground, eating on tree buds and insects in forests and moorlands in northern climes.

 
These large ground birds are the largest of three ‘Arctic’ grouse in Alaska. Willow ptarmigan are fully white when young, and darker, mottled browns when older, with a dashing red brow and distinctive feathered feet which help it travel along frozen ground.
 

Murre

Common murres are abundant in the Gulf of Alaska. They look like penguins, with tuxedo coloring and upright stance, but of course, penguins are only found at the South Pole, not in the north.

Murres, unlike penguins, can fly – up to 125 miles from their nests high on cliffs of rocky shorelines to find food for their chicks. They can also dive up to 600 feet for small fish. Remarkably, when chicks are ready to fledge, their father swims below them at the base of the cliff and calls to them. Chicks hurl themselves 800-1000 feet off the cliff and swim to their father, who stays with his chicks, caring for and feeding them for a month or two.

After breeding season, murres are seen in large groups called a ‘bazaar’ or a ‘fragrance’ on top or flying across open ocean.

 

Tufted Puffin

Who can resist a smile when you spot a tufted puffin? Nicknamed ‘sea parrots’, their black bodies and white faces with yellow plumes set off their most eye-catching feature: an oversized red and orange bill.
 
These stocky, awkward seabirds are almost comical in appearance, easily spotted in flocks flapping short wings and flying just above the water line. Their wings are adapted best to swimming underwater, where they catch fish and often snag multiple fish cross-wise in their beaks.
 

Puffins are abundant in Alaska, and favorite image for souvenirs from America’s 49th state.
 

START YOUR BIRDWATCHING TRIP!




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New Ships Put the ‘Luxe’ in Luxury Expedition Cruising to the Remote Oceans of the World
It’s one of the biggest trends in cruising. Not getting bigger, but getting out there. In style.

Expedition cruises used to be only for the most intrepid travelers. You would join a working research vessel on its voyage to a very distant destination, tolerating the discomfort for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of getting up close and personal with the unique and fascinating natural wonders and wildlife of a maritime region you’d never otherwise encounter. 

The good news is that you no longer have to sacrifice comfort for the privilege of immersion into a magical and otherwise unreachable marine frontier.

Luxury expedition cruising is coming of age. Smaller vessels, able to reach hidden places even where there are no ports, staffed by scientific experts and guides, equipped with polar-class hulls for ice safety, zodiacs and kayaks and other ways to get off the ship to explore remote shorelines, but also outfitted with superb onboard amenities, design, cuisine and service - give you the very best of both worlds. 

Think of them as safaris at sea. New ships are being purpose-built for these one-of-a-kind, bucket list voyages in the distant destinations of your dreams: the Galapagos, Antarctica, Canada’s Northwest Passage… the seas around both of the Earth’s poles and every unspoiled, natural marine destination in between.

Here are the new ships making luxury expedition cruising evermore available to curious, active, travelers who appreciate getting outdoors into Nature… then stepping back into a deluxe and pampered lifestyle.


Crystal Endeavor

Crystal Cruise’s first-ever expedition ship sailed in July, 2021 on her inaugural voyage from Reykjavik, a 10-day circumnavigation of Iceland’s dramatic coastlines.

Complimentary excursions led by naturalist experts on the Endeavor’s expedition team include sea kayaking on the waters of the Westfjords in Patreksfjörður, an Arctic Circle walkabout on Grimsey Island, and Zodiac cruising amid mountain landscapes in Djúpivogur. Crystal Endeavor’s expedition leaders and guides for its Iceland voyages include a marine biologist, ornithologist, geologist/glaciologist, historian, two professional photographers, polar expedition specialists and an artist-in-residence who will instruct and encourage guests to capture travel memories with snapshot sketches and drawings.

 
Zodiacs and kayaks can be launched directly from the ship’s marina. Other expedition ‘toys’ include snorkel gear, a six-person sub, and two helicopters for flightseeing spectacular scenery. A 4K camera capturing the land and seascapes sailing by can be directed by guests in the Palm Court and Expedition Lounge, and the imagery fed to large screens in public areas and guest suites.

(The Endeavor's Expedition Lounge)

The polar-class ship accommodates just 200 guests in 100, all-verandah, all-butler, expansive suites. There’s a one-to-one ratio of staff to guests, guaranteeing highly personalized service. And high tech innovations ensure responsible stewardship of the world’s oceans.

The Endeavor sails Europe’s North Seas, including Iceland, Norway, the Scottish Isles, before making her way south as summer turns to fall, calling in London, Bordeaux and Lisbon for her inaugural Europe season.
 
 

Silver Origin

While she was delivered in 2020, Silver Origin (pictured, top) made her inaugural sailing in the summer of 2021 as one of the first Silversea ships to return to cruising.

Unlike other ‘generalist’ expedition ships in Silversea’s luxury fleet, Silver Origin is purpose made just for the very specific and special islands of the Galapagos, where she will sail all-new itineraries year round. The ship has high-tech innovations that ensure it has minimum impact on the sensitive environment.


Just 100 guests luxuriate in balcony-only suites with the only all-butler service in the Galapagos. With the highest expert-to-guest ratio, the Silver Origin doesn’t just deliver luxury and expedition expertise on board. It also incorporates local culture, local ingredients including produce and seafood from Ecuadorian food producers, and its design brings guests closer to the Galapagos seascape with floor-to-ceiling windows in the Restaurant, an open air Grill which can also be converted to a sheltered space, and maximized observation areas that bring the outdoors onboard the ship. 
 
Just how popular is expedition cruising in the lap of luxury and style? Coming Soon…

Silver Wind

Silversea is converting one of its classic ships, Silver Wind, to an ice-class expedition ship, the fourth in Silversea’s fleet. In addition to a strengthened hull, the Silver Wind will be fitted with two dozen zodiacs, 14 kayaks, a Photo Studio, a luxury ‘mudroom’, and a new pool system for heated swimming in cold climates, as well as interior space enhancements in lounges, restaurants, and guest suites.


She’s slated to re-launch late 2021 in time to be in Antarctica for the expedition ship event of 2021: the solar eclipse over the White Continent on December 4th, 2021.

Seabourn Venture

Another luxury cruise line, Seabourn, is also set to launch its first expedition ship, the Seabourn Venture, in December of 2021, with a sister ship in 2022.

The Seabourn Venture will sail inaugural – and one-of-a-kind – winter Norway voyages, and in addition to zodiaks, kayaks, and submarines, it will also carry mountain and e-bikes for its approximately 250 guests.

Quark’s Ultramarine

The newest ship for expedition cruise line Quark, also firmly establishes its luxury credentials. Ultramarine was purpose-built for polar expedition cruising, sailing with 200 guests and 140 crew when it debuts in late 2021.
 
Do you think expedition cruising could be for you? Ask us for more information and..

#StartYourTrip

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

Images courtesy their respective cruise lines.

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




'Revenge Travel' is the Latest Trend - And Here's How to Get Some
“Living well is the best revenge,” said a 16th-century poet, and that line may be the inspiration for one of the latest trends in travel.

Over a year of travel shutdowns has reminded us of how precious the privilege to explore the world is – and how we can’t take for granted that the special trips we’ve been dreaming about will still be ‘there’ when we sometime, somehow get around to it.

‘Revenge Travel’ isn’t about ‘getting back’ at any person – but at the pandemic that’s kept us from travel for so long. Like jilted lovers imagining scenarios of vengeance, people started dreaming of extravagant trips that would make up for the lost time.

Then instead of just plotting their ‘revenge’, they started acting on those dreams.

People are booking their Revenge Travel now, and it seems to fall into two categories:
·     Upgrading features of a trip you’re already planning to really make your return to travel in style; or
·     The dream trips that have been put off.

Not surprisingly, the top Revenge Travel trips overlap with travel bucket lists – is one of these your idea of the perfect revenge?

African Safari

The word ‘safari’ is Swahili, an overland journey through some of Africa’s most iconic landscapes, to see the continent’s most legendary wildlife in their natural settings.

Back when going on safari meant big game hunting, the ‘Big Five’ game animals were used as a benchmark of safari success. But these days, simply seeing and maybe photographing lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and Cape Buffalo – as well as cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, hippos, gorillas, chimps and other animals who fascinate travelers of every age – in their own environment in the plains, mountains and waters of Africa – is a trip of a lifetime for many.

Your travel advisor can help you plan an African safari at the right time of the year, in the right countries and parks to maximize your opportunity to experience your favorite African wildlife. And they can make sure you’re going on safari with a reputable company with knowledgeable and expert guides, that is committed to the conservation and preservation of the animals and their habitat for future travelers who dream of taking an African safari.

(InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa)

Tahiti and the South Seas

Just the mention of the ‘South Seas’ or any of its legendary islands like Tahiti, Bora Bora, or Moorea, conjures up images of the ultimate, remote, idyllic tropical escape, the most romantic trip of a lifetime.

Some choose to cruise the islands of the South Pacific and some dream of lazy days in those iconic, overwater villas that are the postcard image of travel to the South Seas. Some smart travelers do both options on the same trip: spend time cruising the legendary islands and looking onto landscapes and overwater villas from their balconies at sea… AND take time to stay on one island to luxuriate in the local lifestyle and overwater villa romance.

Your trusted travel advisor can help you choose which islands, or island-hopping agenda, or help you pair it up with a South Seas cruise in the luxury you want on a trip that’s almost as far away as anyone in North America can travel.
 

Egypt’s Pyramids

The pyramids at Giza, near Cairo, Egypt, remain one of the most mythical destinations for travelers with historic imaginations, to gaze up at these man-made wonders of the world and contemplate the civilization that created such monuments.

With the new, Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) opening in 2021, now may be the best time in years to design a trip to channel your inner ‘Indiana Jones’. Only a couple of miles from the Giza Plateau, the new museum is the largest archaeological museum in the world, home to countless artifacts of ancient Egypt, including the complete Tutankhamun collection and many pieces that there’s now room to display for the very first time. Egypt says the Grand Egyptian Museum will act as a gateway between the ancient pyramids and modern Cairo, with spectacular views of both worlds from the museum building.

In addition, major river cruise lines are returning this year to Egypt, and nothing helps a visitor to Egypt to get a sense of ancient and modern day Egypt than cruise to ancient historic sites, past Biblical landscapes, ancient ruins and communities that reveal the past and present lifestyle on the epic Nile.

Machu Picchu

The so-called “Lost City of the Incas” in Peru is another Revenge Travel destination for many travelers who have been hoping for a lifetime to walk within the 600-year old ruins at the peak of a mountain over 7000 feet high.

It’s the most-visited destination in the Andes, and the name actually means “Old Peak” or “Old Mountain” and represents the height of Incan civilization. Getting there is more than half the fun, as is acclimatizing to the high altitudes. For the intrepid, there are hiking trails to Machu Picchu, but most take the train trip from Cusco, which is one of the epic train trips of the world. 

As the most-visited site in the Andes, with preservation requirements restricting how many visitors are permitted in each day, who must be accompanied by a guide, the best way to experience Machu Picchu is through a tour company that books blocks of tickets to ensure its clients gain admission, and have some of the most experienced and knowledgeable guides in their employ. Your travel advisor can help you book your Revenge Travel trip to the ancient heights of Machu Picchu with the most reputable tour companies with the best service and personal touch, who can also take care of other trip details like hotels and trains so your adventure into the Andes comes in comfort and style.

(Celebrity Cruise's Celebrity Flora)

Galapagos

This archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is the world’s ultimate marine safari. Etched into the world’s collective consciousness as the remote islands whose one-of-a-kind wildlife inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Galapagos remains today a touchstone trip for fans of scientific research or simply natural wonders.

From giant tortoises to famous blue-footed boobies, the fauna on the Galapagos Islands inspires a sense of awe in everyone who travels there.

Formerly accessible to those willing to rough it a bit on boats and from mainland Ecuador, these days, the Galapagos is also a destination for those who love the luxury, small, expedition ship experience. In the last couple of years, a number of cruise lines have even introduced purpose-built small ships for the Galapagos – complete with local design materials and flavours, and committed to the preservation of the ecosystem that is one of the world’s symbols of pristine wilderness at land and sea.

Antarctica

If you thought the Galapagos Islands were remote… the ‘White Continent’ is literally the world’s last frontier. Covered in ice sheets year round, and protected by international covenants from ecological damage, the 7th continent – and usually the last one for travel ‘collectors’ to check off their list – is the ultimate in remote exploration. Between glacial seas, dramatic mountains, and one-of-a-kind wildlife that includes famous Emperor and other types of penguins, seals, whales and other miracles of survival in this severe climate.

Like the Galapagos, Antarctic journeys are now well-served by luxury, small expedition cruises, that keep you cozy and indeed in the lap of luxury between zodiac landings onto ice floes and forays into other-worldly, icy waters. The ‘season for Antarctic cruising is during the southern hemisphere’s summer months, which is late fall and into winter and even early spring in North America.

The closest major urban center jumping off point is thrilling Buenos Aires, so you can add the tempos of tango and delicious wine tasting in Argentina to your once-in-a-lifetime journey to the bottom of the world. 
 
Do any of these meet your requirements for ‘Revenge Travel’? Or will any trip at all satisfy you? I think we can safely conclude that when it comes to travel: “revenge is a dish best served”… at cruising altitude ;-)
 
Tell us what YOUR idea of Revenge Travel is!

#RevengeTravel

#StartYourTrip

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host Best Trip TV







International Dark Sky Week, held during the week of the new moon each April, calls for people worldwide to turn out their lights and take in the beauty of the night sky without light pollution dimming its brilliance. 

It’s also an annual reminder that some of the very best travel experiences aren’t under the bright lights of a city. Some of the most awe-inspiring and life-changing travel moments involve absorbing Mother Nature’s greatest spectacles above us.

Astrotourism is a growing trend that helps travelers capture more of those transformational moments in the darkness.
Astro travel lets us tap into primal parts of ourselves, like our earliest ancestors who created myths and learned wisdom from celestial phenomena. And it reminds us how humans - like all creatures and the Earth itself – respond to the rhythms of movements of the sun, the moon, and the stars.

North Star and Big Dipper over Grosvenor Arch, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah, by Royce Bair, courtesy International Dark Sky Association

It celebrates the wonder in us all when we gaze at the mysteries of the stars in the night skies, or the Northern Lights. Or when we join others to take part in an astronomy event like a solar eclipse, meteor shower or passing comet and feel tiny in our universe and in awe of the infinite darkness that surrounds us.

Savvy astro-travelers have been planning for a while to be in Antarctica for December, 2021’s solar eclipse. If that’s a bit remote for you, wait around for the ‘Great North American Solar Eclipse’ on April 8, 2024: a dramatic astronomy event across the whole continent, that, at its max, will allow observers to see the Moon totally – totally! – blocking the Sun for over 4 minutes!  

Here are some ways you can become part of the dark sky and astrotourism trend, both on land, and at sea.

LAND


Dark Sky Parks
From New Zealand to New Mexico, there’s a growing list of over a hundred Dark Sky parks and reserves around the world. They preserve and protect the ability to see the heavens in their clearest forms as our human ancestors did, and the darkness the planet’s wildlife still relies on today.


New Zealand’s Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie Region (above), at 4300 square km, is the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world, and home to the darkest skies in the world. Much of New Zealand has no light pollution and is home to some of the most accessible observatories on planet Earth. The sheer brightness of the stars, contrasted by the ring of mountains surrounding the Mackenzie Basin, is utterly breath-taking.
 
In North America, Dark Sky parks and preserves are most often found under the vast – and remote- Western Skies, in National Parks where preserving the night skies aligns with the protection of the landscape and wildlife.

Dark Sky Festival in Jasper in the Canadian Rockies
 
Jasper National Park is the largest of Canada’s mountain parks, famous for magnificent glaciers, lakes and mountains. Jasper has also been designated as a Dark Sky Preserve for its special commitment to protect and preserve the night sky and to reduce or eliminate light pollution in all its forms.

(Jasper National Park/ Jasper Tourism)
 
It’s one of 17 designated Dark Sky Preserves in Canada, the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, and the largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve - meaning there’s a town within the limits of the preserve.

As daylight hours begin to shrink, the month of October is the perfect time for Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival. Dozens of events including dark sky photography workshops, interactive experiences at Jasper’s Planetarium, black hole sculptures, and ‘Animals of the Night’ hikes, indoor and outdoor events, speakers and hands-on celestial activities celebrate the night skies that cradle the earth.

Room With a View – of the Stars
A number of resorts near and far help their guests feel closer to the night skies.

At remote Amangiri Resort in Canyon Point, Utah, there’s an in-house astronomer providing complimentary stargazing sessions to guests, an ‘astrophotography’ machine that wirelessly connects users to download astropics to their devices, even a ‘sky terrace’ suite where you can fall asleep under the stars.
 
The Hyatt Regency in Maui, Hawaii has a resident director of astronomy and a Tour of The Stars program that allows guests, just a smidge north of the equator, to see almost all of the 88 constellations.
 
Nearby, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua’s stargazing program highlights celestial navigation and the story of Polynesian overseas migration to the Hawaiian islands, and provides guests telescopes to check out the starry skies on their own, too.
 
Farther afield, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo offers a ‘Taste the Stars’ program. (Watch a video of the program, top.)

It includes a 7-course tasting menu developed by the resort's chefs in collaboration with Costa Rican-born astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz. A secret ingredient is South American wine aged in a 4.5 billion year old meteorite! Plus a guided stargazing session using a powerful GPS-guided telescope and a take-home sourvenir of the moon shot through the telescope while you’re there. Costa Rica is one of the few places above the Equator where Magellanic Clouds, two galaxies first identified by explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the 1520s, are visible.
 

SEA

It makes sense that some of the darkest skies in the world are found offshore. Way offshore, at sea. Which makes ships some of the best places for celestial experiences - and cruise lines are getting onboard.

2021’s Antarctic Solar Eclipse luckily takes place during the southern hemisphere’s summer, so it’s drawing a host of the world’s expedition cruise ships with guests on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise of the Antarctic – with a solar eclipse completely un-muted by light pollution from land.
 
Silversea has three of its ultra-luxury polar expedition ships sailing in Antarctic waters for the Solar Eclipse. Be on deck with fewer than 250 guests as the brilliance of Antarctica is plunged into darkness, and gaze amazed as the changing light and sharpening shadows highlight Antarctica’s beauty.

(Courtesy Silversea)

Atlas Ocean Voyages is a new luxury, small ship expedition cruise line that will amazingly include Antarctic’s Solar Eclipse in its inaugural season! On the day of the eclipse, you’ll be sailing through icy waters, and be able to see the total solar eclipse against a backdrop of mammoth icebergs.

Ponant is a French luxury, small-ship expedition cruise line. Its newest ship is also the first, luxury hybrid electric polar-class vessel. Just over 250 guests will make the ‘badge of honor’ sailing through the Drake Passage on the day of the eclipse. You’ll be able to disembark the ship onto the ice pack where, according to Ponant, “the pristine white creates a high-pressure zone that will allow for clearer skies”, a rare privilege enhanced by naturalist guides and on-board scientists.

Imagine seeing an eclipse from the Scenic Eclipse! Two former NASA scientists and a world-renowned astrologer will be joining the Scenic Eclipse’s 200 guests when the luxury expedition yacht – that comes complete with two touring helicopters and a six-person submarine, the first permitted to operate in these waters - is strategically positioned for an optimal view at Antarctica’s South Sandwich Island archipelago on the day of the eclipse.

You don’t need a special celestial event for this next Astro tourism cruise!

(Courtesy Celebrity Cruises)

Celebrity Flora is the cruise line’s first purpose-built small ship, just for Galapagos expeditions. The legendary islands far off the coast of Ecuador are well known for their unique wildlife, but guests also have the benefit of a brilliant night sky and countless stars above.

Celebrity has crafted a whole new Galapagos cruising experience available on all its Galapagos sailings: 'Glamping' (glamorous camping) Under the Stars that you'll never forget. Four guests each night will be able to sleep on the ship’s top deck in a specially designed cabana. You’ll also enjoy dining alfresco with curated cocktails, wines, even campfire favorites like s'mores under the stars. A naturalist is available to point out stars and constellations as seen only from this part of the world. The magical overnight experience concludes with sunrise and a full bed-side breakfast. 
Remote lands and seas are on many travelers’ bucket-lists – and adding the natural wonders of the skies to your adventure of a lifetime makes it just that much more unforgettable. 
 

#DreamNowStarGazeSoon


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

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.












3 Luxurious Ways to Experience the Travel Event of 2021 - the Antarctic Solar Eclipse
A year from now, one of the travel events of our lifetime will be over.
 
Not only will 2021 see the return to travel we’ve all longed for; on December 4th, 2021, a total solar eclipse will take place.

A total solar eclipse, where the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, completely blocking out the sun for a short period of time, is as mystical and as primal an experience for us modern humans as it has been for all of our ancestors before us through time immemorial.

Antarctic waters are the only place in the world with 100% visibility of this awe-inspiring astronomical event. The remote site also means no ‘light pollution’ from surrounding human population centers will interfere with the full impact of the eclipse.

And luckily for travelers, December is Antarctic summer, when waters are most navigable.

Luxury expedition cruise lines with ice class ships for navigating polar seas have planned sailings to view the Solar Eclipse as no one else in the world will be able to see it, in exclusive, deluxe lifestyle.
 
One life-changing event. 3 ways you can be in the right place at the right time.
(Image: Silversea)

Silversea

 
This ultra-luxury cruise line has three of its polar expedition ships sailing in Antarctic waters for the Solar Eclipse.
 
The Silver Wind sails on November 20th for 22 days from Buenos Aires, Argentina, returning to Ushuaia, Argentina. The Silver Explorer sails 13 days round trip from Ushaia on November 26th, and the Silver Cloud sails round trip from Ushaia for 11 days on November 30th.

Be on deck with fewer than 250 guests as the brilliance of Antarctica is plunged into darkness, and gaze amazed as the changing light and sharpening shadows highlight Antarctica’s beauty.

The line’s onboard Expedition Staff is highly educated in everything from penguin spotting to taking the perfect glacier photo.

Silversea’s one-of-a-kind combination of exploration and ultra-luxury mean air and pre-cruise hotel, gratuities, multiple restaurants, in-suite and ship-wide wine and spirits, butler service and in-suite dining, shore excursions with guided zodiacs and parkas are included.

(Image: Silversea)

It means you’ll be enjoying small group adventures by day, the magnificent Solar Eclipse, and sharing experiences with like-minded new friends in the lap of luxury by night.
 

Atlas Ocean Voyages

 
This new cruise line’s first, luxury, small expedition ship launches in 2021. The Antarctic Solar Eclipse will be part of the World Navigator’s inaugural season. With its ‘new ship’ smell still fresh, and the very latest in environmentally friendly technology that uses less fuel and disturbs the sea floor and wildlife less than other ships, it allows guests to get closer to Nature and protect it, too.

(Rendering: Atlas Ocean Voyages)

During your 12-night voyage round-trip from Ushuaia, departing on November 28th, 2021, you and fewer than 200 guests will be treated to roundtrip airfare, gourmet dining and top beverages, butler service for all suites, enriching classes, and complimentary adventures in select destinations.

Get up close and personal with the masses of seabirds, seals, and whales of the region’s waters and shores. Long, summer days close to the South Pole give you ample time to kayak or paddleboard some of the clearest waters in the world as they reflect the ice-blue sky and glaciers back at you.

On December 4th, you’ll be sailing through icy waters, and be able to see the total solar eclipse against a backdrop of mammoth icebergs.

Ponant

 
This French cruise line’s newest ship is also the first, luxury hybrid electric polar-class vessel. Ponant is known for its refined, French design, onboard ‘art of living’ and commitment to cuisine alongside robust environmental and authentic expedition credentials.
(Image: Ponant)

Your regional flights to and from Argentina’s ‘end of the earth’ jumping off point, Ushuaia are included with your voyage as Le Commandant-Charcot departs on November 30th, 2021 on its 15-day, once-in-a-lifetime expedition sailing to the Antarctic during the total solar eclipse. 
 
Just over 250 guests will make the ‘badge of honor’ sailing from Ushuaia through the Drake Passage en route to the Antarctic’s Weddell Sea ice pack on December 4th. You’ll be able to disembark the ship onto the ice pack where, according to Ponant, “the pristine white creates a high-pressure zone that will allow for clearer skies”, a rare privilege enhanced by naturalist guides and on-board scientists.
 
In addition to viewing the eclipse, guests can participate in expeditions for scientific activities like water sampling and visiting research stations, explore by hovercraft, hot air balloon, and snowmobile and polar diving, and enjoy expert seminars that make their experiences even more meaningful.
(Image: Ponant)

If experiencing the Antarctic was on your bucket list, the Solar Eclipse in December of 2021 will make the trip of a lifetime truly legendary.
 
Imagine seeing the total Solar Eclipse over the pure, clear skies of the most remote continent, experiencing rare wildlife and epic scenery, and raising a glass to your life-changing journey embraced in luxury and comfort.
 

#DontMissThis

 

Top, Solar Eclipse Image by Jan Haerer from Pixabay
 
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Meet the Luxury, All-Inclusive Expedition Cruise Line Launching Soon - Yes, during COVID
Meet the Luxury, All-Inclusive Expedition Cruise Line Launching during COVID
 

You might call it bucking a trend.

 

Atlas Ocean Voyages is debuting, even during the global pandemic that currently has all cruises put on pause.

The new cruise line’s first ship is ahead of schedule to launch in July 2021. World Navigator will be the first of 5 new ships for the new cruise line. All 5 ships will be sailing by 2023


Adventure meets Luxury

Atlas Ocean Voyages ticks all the boxes for lovers of exploring off-the-beaten-track destinations accessible by the world’s seas and oceans. And who want their creature comforts along with that authentic adventure and ability to experience destinations like few others with as much or as little active adventure you’re comfortable with.
In addition to city and cultural tours, imagine yourself:
·     desert glamping in the breathtaking red sandstone ancient city of Petra;
·     body rafting in the Republic of Georgia;
·     tandem paragliding in Greece;
·     and even a rare (but very safe!) tour of the infamous Chernobyl on the new cruise line’s Black Sea itineraries!
 

Perfect for the Post-COVID World and Lovers of Luxury – and the Environment

 
Atlas points out its ships that are brand-new ‘fresh out of the wrapper’ with all of the most-modern hygiene and cleanliness measures incorporated into the design during construction – no retrofitting for the post-COVID world.
 
  • Safe, clean and green expedition ships, beginning with 2021’s World Navigator, carry up to 196 guests and feature
  • 98 luxe suites and staterooms,
  • all with an ocean view and most with a private balcony,
  • multiple dining and sipping venues,
  • a mud room for small-boat embarkation,
  • jogging track and exercise room,
  • pool/spa,
  • outdoor viewing with heated seating,
  • theatre
and more.
The company promises the highest standards in environmental stewardship with the latest hybrid power management and propulsion system, maximizing fuel efficiency and consuming as low as one-fifth the fuel compared to conventional cruise-ship systems. The ship’s alternate hydro-jet propulsion system helps the ship quietly cruise up to five knots without disturbing marine wildlife for incomparable up-close encounters.
 

One of the most inclusive cruise lines

In one way, Atlas Ocean Voyages is following a trend. When it launches in 2021, the new cruise line joins a club of small-ship, luxury cruise lines that are all-inclusive. 

The inclusions are impressively comprehensive, and incorporate expedition cruising amenities:
·     Intercontinental, round-trip airfare: all sailings, suites and staterooms from select U.S. and Canadian gateways
·     Prepaid gratuities
·     Open bar & lounges with complimentary spirits, fine wines, and champagnes, mineral water and specialty coffees
·     Gourmet international cuisine in more than one dining venue, plus 24-hour-in-room service
·     Enrichment programs led by onboard experts
·     Nightly entertainment
·     Complimentary WIFI throughout the ship
·     Elegant, boutique hotel-style accommodations offering L’Occitane bath amenities and coffee and tea service
·     Butler service for suites
·     A complimentary excursion on every itinerary in select ports
·     As an expedition cruise line, Atlas also includes binoculars in every room as well as parkas (where applicable) for guests to take home and waterproof boots for use ashore.

 

An Incredible Inaugural Year of Itineraries: World Navigator Sailing in 2021

  • 7- to 24-night itineraries in the Holy Land, Black and Mediterranean Seas in the summer 2021,
  • followed by 9- to 13-night itineraries in the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica in winter 2021/22
 

Black Sea: Summer, 2021

World Navigator will sail two Black Sea Rediscovery itineraries that deliver the colors of this historic crucible of trade for Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East. The July 28, 2021, seven-night voyage from Athens (Piraeus) transits the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits and will call at Ephesus (Kusadasi); Nessebar, Bulgaria; and Bucharest (Constanta), Romania. The voyage concludes with two consecutive overnights in Odessa, Ukraine, known for its beaches and 19th-century architecture. However, guests also can launch into unconventional adventures, such as an optional and spine-tingling, two-day overland tour to the infamous and other-worldly Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
The following nine-night voyage, departing August 4, circumnavigates the Black Sea for a more in-depth exploration of the region, with calls at Novorossiysk, Russia – from where guests have the option to visit Moscow; Batumi, Georgia; and Sinop and Amasra, Turkey. The voyage features an overnight in Sochi, Russia and also concludes with an overnight in Istanbul, Turkey. Travelers with more time can combine both voyages into an extended, 16-night Black Sea odyssey.
 

Holy Land: August-September, 2021

Guests will discover or rediscover the ancient crossroads of civilization when sailing aboard one of World Navigator’s three Holy Lands voyages. All itineraries feature overnights in Jerusalem (Haifa) and Masada (Ashdod), more combined overnights in Israel than traditional cruise itineraries. With four nights, guests can experience both Jerusalem and the must-see highlights of the region, as well as join in an optional adventure experience such as an overnight at a kibbutz, a Bedouin camp, and even the historic archeological site of Petra in Jordan.
The first 15-night voyage begins on August 13 with an overnight in Istanbul and includes calls at eight Turkish ports (Troy/Gallipoli, Bozcaada, Dikili, Ephesus, Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye, and Kekova Island), as well as Patmos, Greece, and Paphos, Cyprus. A shorter, nine-night voyage, departing August 28, begins with the Jerusalem and Masada overnights, and includes Egyptian-ports Cairo (Port Said) and Alexandra, as well as Heraklion, Greece, and Limassol, Cyprus. The subsequent 12-night, Athens-roundtrip voyage, departs September 6, and enhances the previous itinerary with additional calls at Ephesus (Kusadasi); Rhodes (Lindos) and
replaces Limassol with Paphos.
 

Italian, French and Spanish Rivieras: Autumn, 2021

World Navigator will sail two seven-night Mediterranean voyages, departing September 18 and September 25, when the climate is perfect and fewer visitors crowd the streets. The first itinerary focuses on Southern Italy and sails from Athens (Piraeus) to Rome (Civitavecchia). Guests will transit and wonder at the claustrophobic narrows of the Corinth Canal and call at Delphi (Itea) and Olympia (Katakolon), Greece; and Taormina Etna (Naxos), Paestum (Agropoli), Ravello (Amalfi), Positano, and Naples/Pompeii, Italy. The second itinerary sails from Rome to Lisbon, Portugal, calling at Florence (Livorno), Italy; Marseilles, France; Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga, Spain; and Gibraltar, U.K.
 

Antarctica and South America: November, 2021 – February 2022

Two longer journeys, each a distinctive, 12-night, round-trip itinerary from Ushuaia, expand guests’ Antarctica adventure. The November 28, 2021, journey will bring guests within the umbra of the Moon on December 4, for a rare, Antarctic-solar eclipse of the sun. Guests also visit the South Shetland Islands, Paulet Island and Brown Bluff, as well as make three landings in the South Georgia and Sandwich Islands. On the February 2, 2022, departure, guests visit all the planned landings as the nine-night itinerary, plus navigate across the Antarctic Circle in pursuit of marine wildlife-spotting for two additional days. Guests will be able to see Antarctic wildlife closer from World Navigator’s Water’s Edge Lookout, the lowest expedition ship’s bow observation area in the industry and the only one with wrap-around, heated benches for extended time out on deck.
World Navigator also will embark on an eight-night Argentine Patagonia and Falkland Islands itinerary, departing November 11, 2021, from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Ushuaia. Guests call at Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn and Port Stanley, U.K. and explore one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems to catch sightings of sea lions, seals, whales, dolphins, and up to five distinct penguin species – King, Magellanic, Gentoo, Rockhopper and Macaroni – along the way.
We’re excited to see the debut of the World Navigator in July, 2021 and the launch of this new, luxury, small-ship, all-inclusive cruise line exploring the world in luxury, expedition style. 
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

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

Unprecedented Partnerships

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

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

Europe’s New Cruising Guidelines

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

1. Bubble Cruises

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

(SeaDream has resumed sailing in Norway)

2. Small Ship and Luxury Cruises

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

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

3. Cruises to Nowhere

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

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

4. Remote and Expedition Cruises

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

5. Big, Mainstream Ships

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

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

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host BestTrip TV

#DreamNowTravelSoon


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


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

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

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

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


Columbia & Snake Rivers and Wine Regions on UnCruise Adventures


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


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

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

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


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

The Mississippi River and Beyond on American Cruise Lines

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

The Great Lakes on Tauck

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


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


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

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

The Great Lakes on Pearl Seas Cruises


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


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

Canada's Rideau Canal on LeBoat

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

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

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

 

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


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


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

Coming Soon: Viking on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi


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

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

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

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


#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy of their respective cruise lines.

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

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

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

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

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

Silversea Lifestyle Customized for The Galapagos

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

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

New Innovations on the Silver Origin


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


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

Sustainability

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

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

Start Your Trip!

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

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

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

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

 

Niagara Falls – Ontario, Canada and New York, USA

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

Montmorency Falls – Quebec City, Quebec

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


#DreamNowTravelLater

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

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

1. Arrive at least one day early


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Launching pad


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

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

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

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

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

Or a wildlife safari after your South Africa itinerary.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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

Everyone needs something to look forward to.

Welcome, Wave Season


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

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

Navigating Wave


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

Discounts:


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

Bonus Value:


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

Included:

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

Maximizing ‘Wave’


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

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

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

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

The bottom line


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

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

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

Start your Trip!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Start your Trip!

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

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

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

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

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

1. Follow in the Footsteps of the Vikings


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

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

Our cruise evoked these epic Viking voyages.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

3. Experience the Great Outdoors, Seabourn-Style


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

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

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

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


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

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

Start your Trip!

 
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8 Facts About the Panama Canal

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

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

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

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

2. It's over 100 years old.

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

3. Construction cost over 25,000 lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. $2 Billion in Tolls are Collected Annually

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

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

 

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

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

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

(A Celebrity Cruise ship transiting the Panama Canal)

8. How you can visit the Panama Canal. 

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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Go Glamping in the Galapagos on the Celebrity Flora

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

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

Start your Trip!

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5 Tips to Make a Cruise the Perfect Family Vacation

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

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

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

1. Location, location, location.

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

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

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

2. Find the perfect cruise ship match.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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

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

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

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

Photo Credit

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

Photo Credit

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

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

Photo Credit

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

Photo Credit

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

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

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

Photo Credit

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

Photo Credit

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

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

Photo Credit

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

Photo Credit

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

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

Photo Credit

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

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A New Marine Reserve in Mexico is the 'Galapagos of North America'

Giant manta rays, sharks, whales, turtles, sea lizards and hundreds of other species are now protected in Mexico's vast new Revillagigedo marine reserve in the Pacific Ocean off the Baja Peninsula.There are four Revillagiegedo Islands about 240 miles (390 km) southwest of Baja California. They are small, uninhabited volcanic islands, but uniquely positioned where two ocean currents converge. (Top photo credit). That makes the islands and the waters around them a hub for hundreds of species of marine plants, birds and animals that live there or migrate there especially for breeding.

Previously, only the waters 6 miles around the islands were protected, leaving vital feeding, breeding and migration areas open for fishing. But in 2016 the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its biodiversity and in November 2017, the Mexican government created an immense marine reserve 57,000 square miles (148,000 square km) surrounding the islands. That's a protected area the size of the entire state of Illinois, and the largest marine protected area in North America.

(Photo Credit)

All fishing is now banned inside the reserve – a move that will actually support the fishery. Protecting breeding grounds of commercial fish like tuna will allow hard-hit fish populations recover to the benefit of local fisheries outside the reserve. (Other marine reserves around the world have seen the local fisheries benefit from the conservation of breeding grounds).

Mining, resource extraction and hotel development will also be prohibited. Plans for active protection are now in place. The Mexican Environment Ministry and Navy “will carry out surveillance, equipment and training activities that will include remote monitoring in real time, environmental education directed at fishermen and sanctions against offenders".

Already, conservationists are celebrating and calling it 'the Galapagos of North America'. The Revillagigedo islands are considered one of the wildest places remaining in tropical North America, where you can see the most giant manta rays and sharks and large fish in the world as well as soft coral gardens with sea fans, sponges and crabs.  

(Photo Credit)

What does this mean for us travel lovers? In addition to knowing some of the Earth's biodiversity and natural marine beauty are being protected, Mexico's creation and protection of the new Revillagigedo marine reserve is expected to increase the opportunity for dive tourism in the area. Boats currently often depart for the Revillagigedo islands from the popular resort destination Cabo San Lucas. Not a diver? It's anticipated that carefully monitored wildlife adventure cruises, like trips travelers can take to the Galapagos Islands in the waters of Ecuador, will also allow travelers to experience the biggest marine reserve in North America.

Start your Trip!

Maybe you've had the fun of a zip line adventure before.  But have you ever taken a zip line over the ocean? 

When Norwegian developed Harvest Caye, its private island beach resort port of call for cruises in the Norwegian family: Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania, it took the concept of a zip line adventure to another level (pardon the pun.)

Standing tall on the island is the 'Flighthouse'.  A tower that looks, no surprise, like a lighthouse.  It's the focal point of the island's air-borne adventures.  Guests depart from the Flighthouse onto ropes courses over the beach and lagoon, and this is where you can take flight on a zip line that sets you sailing over the crescent-shaped beach, then right over the water to a safe landing back on shore.  It was a highlight of our BestTrip.TV visit to the island, and we're sure it will be yours, too.

Start your Trip!

 

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Do you ever see social media posts of magnificent wildlife photos from someone's trip to Alaska and think: This just can't be real?But it is. BestTrip.TV cruised from Vancouver to Seward (near Anchorage) on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, hoping Nature would be kind and we'd encounter at least a couple of the animals and birds Alaska is famous for:
  • Whales
  • Salmon
  • Crab
  • Bald eagles
  • Puffins
  • Brown (grizzly) bears
  • Sitka deer
  • Sea otters
  • Sea lions
Like you, we were skeptical of shore excursion guides who jokingly promised guests 3 out of 5 of a list of iconic Alaska wildlife 'or your money back'. For Regent guests, this is truly a joke, because Regent has included shore excursions, so you can take wildlife tours in every port of call without going over your vacation budget. If you don't see the animal your heart is set on, another day, another port, another excursion just might bring you luck.
The truth is, our shore excursion guides and boat captains really know their corners of an enormous state; where whales feed or sea lions congregate. Plus we got lucky with weather and time of day...
In the end, over the course of a week-long cruise, we ended up seeing all of these creatures and others we didn't expect, and capturing them on video to share with you.
We think this video is the next best thing to actually being there watching whales come up for air or puffins fly past or a bald eagle swoop down into the water to capture a fish to feed her young in the nest. 
But don't take our word for it. Add an Alaska cruise to your travel bucket list.
Start your Trip! 
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