Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

Three New Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts Let You Holiday in Style in Latin America
Waldorf Astoria hotels’ name and hospitality still reflect its founding family, the legendary Astors, who for more than a century were the pinnacle of American high society. The Astor legacy of good living is expanding worldwide and especially in Latin America, where three new Waldorf Astoria hotels and resorts are setting new standards in travel style.
 

CANCUN, MEXICO

 
The Waldorf Astoria Cancun opened in November 2022. The 173-room ultra-luxury resort is set on 100 acres of idyllic Caribbean coastline with panoramic views of the ocean from every room, which also all have private balconies and an outdoor soaking tub.

 
It’s the second Waldorf-Astoria Hotel & Resort in Mexico, joining Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, but it’s the company’s first newly built property in Mexico.
 
The room-with-a-view theme continues throughout the resort. All of its five restaurants, even the ballroom, are ocean view. The resort’s design also reflects the sea, with bluestone and carpeting that evokes waves. Guests have a sense of quiet luxury and a sense of place, with refined craftsmanship in tropical woods, raw and polished finishes, pearlescent inlays and other glowing touches like warm metals. The signature Waldorf Astoria lobby clock includes marble, mother-of-pearl, and gem-like finishes. The immense spa offers indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, an outdoor pool and garden.

 

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO

 
A third Waldorf Astoria in Mexico opens in 2025, another custom-built property, this time in the colonial city in Mexico’s inland mountains sought after by luxury travelers in the know for its art and social scene, architecture, and history.
 
Waldorf Astoria San Miguel de Allende will offer 120 hotel guest rooms, wellness-inspired amenities, including a state-of-the-art fitness center with yoga and meditation areas, a lavish and restorative destination-inspired spa, and a rooftop space with pools and relaxation areas with stunning views of the city.


An on-site art gallery and local artisan crafts store will also welcome guests, while family travelers will have access to the hotel’s kids and teens club. The hotel’s culinary excellence complements the array of amenities, to be experienced across three restaurants, two bars and a coffee shop. 
 
Image: Waldorf Astoria San Miguel de Allende, courtesy of Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos.
 

GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA


The first Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resorts property in Costa Rica, the new-build Waldorf Astoria Guanacaste (pictured top), also opens in 2025 in a tropical eco-paradise. The 190-guest resort will focus on sustainable luxury with an emphasis on architecture that blends into the dramatic scenery, lush forests and beautiful beaches of its surroundings, and connecting guests with the natural environment. All resort vehicles will be electric.
 

Waldorf Astoria Guanacaste on the 200 miles of coastline of the Cacique peninsula will offer the perfect backdrop for adventure seekers, sunbathers and nature lovers alike with the area’s impressive volcanic landscapes, intimate beach coves and tropical forests. 

Boasting panoramic, sweeping views overlooking the ocean, Waldorf Astoria Guanacaste will feature 190 luxurious guest rooms and suites, culinary excellence, a wellness center with outdoor yoga, and lap and thermal pools, and a cenote-inspired spa with outdoor treatment rooms emulating a tree house.
 

Start Your Latin America Trip!


Images courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resorts

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Viking's Newest Ocean Ship Named by NASA Astronaut and Aquanaut Godmother
Viking Neptune, the river and ocean cruise line’s newest ocean ship, has been ceremonially named by her godmother, retired NASA astronaut, aquanaut and artist, Nicole Stott. The ship’s naming ceremony was a highlight for its World Cruise guests.
 
Viking Neptune arrived in Los Angeles on the morning of January 8 and departed for Honolulu following its naming ceremony, continuing its voyage from Fort Lauderdale to London spanning 138-days, 28 countries and 57 ports, with overnight stays in 11 cities.
 
The naming of the 930-guest Viking Neptune also comes as the company continues celebrating its 25th anniversary.
 
“Today is a proud day for the entire Viking family as we name our newest ocean ship in Los Angeles, the home of Viking’s U.S. office for more than 20 years,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “The Viking Neptune is a ship named for both the furthest planet in our solar system and the god of the sea—and our newest Viking godmother, Nicole Stott, as a NASA astronaut and aquanaut, also has connections to space and the sea. We are grateful for her many contributions to the scientific community and are proud to have her as part of the Viking family.”
 
A veteran NASA astronaut, Nicole Stott’s experience includes two spaceflights and 104 days spent living and working in space on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS). She has performed one space walk and was the first person to fly the robotic arm to capture the free-flying HTV cargo vehicle, the last crew member to fly to and from their ISS mission on a Space Shuttle, and a member of the final flight crew of Space Shuttle Discovery. Nicole is also a NASA aquanaut who lived and worked on the Aquarius Undersea Habitat for 18 days.
 
Nicole Stott is the author of Back to Earth: What Life In Space Taught Me About Our Home Planet – And Our Mission To Protect It. Also an artist, Nicole painted the first watercolor painting in space—and is a co-founder of the Space for Art Foundation, which unites a planetary community of children through the awe and wonder of space exploration and the healing power of art. Through her work, Nicole inspires everyone’s appreciation of our role as crewmates here on “spaceship” Earth.
 
As ceremonial godmother of the Viking Neptune, Stott offered a blessing of good fortune and safe sailing for the ship—a maritime tradition that dates back thousands of years. “It is an honor and privilege to be the godmother of the new Viking Neptune. As someone who has been blessed to explore space, the ocean, and some of the otherworldly places on our planet, I understand the importance of broadening one’s horizons through travel. I am very excited for all those who journey around the world on this elegant vessel,” she said.
 
In keeping with Viking’s Scandinavian heritage and naming traditions, during the ceremony Nicole used a historic Viking broad axe to cut a ribbon that allowed a bottle of Norwegian aquavit to break on the ship’s hull.
 
More About the Viking Neptune
 
The Viking Neptune is the newest ship in Viking’s award-winning ocean fleet of 8 identical sister ships. In April, 2023, Viking will also welcome another new ocean ship, the Viking Saturn. The Scandinavia-design ships with light-filled public spaces and ample al fresco dining options are home to 930 guests in all veranda staterooms.
 
Although identical to Viking’s other ocean ships, the Viking Neptune is uniquely equipped with a small hydrogen fuel system, making it the cruise industry’s first ship to test the use of hydrogen power for on board operations. Viking is using the small system as a test to determine how hydrogen fuel could be used at a larger scale in future new builds.
 

Start Your Viking Cruise!

 
 
Image courtesy of Viking: Three Viking “godsisters” together in Los Angeles–Nicole Stott, godmother of the Viking Neptune; Karine Hagen, godmother of the Viking Sea; and Sissel Kyrkjebø, godmother of the Viking Jupiter—with Geir Rovik and Viking Neptune Captain Erik Saabye.

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On the Night Train: How to Jump On Board One of European Travel’s Hottest Trends
Europe is banning short hopper flights in a battle against emissions. The move is sparking a rail revival – and particularly a renaissance of night trains. This is something to celebrate, if you love rail journeys as much as we do.

Not just for the reduction in greenhouse gases; although Eurostar says that flying from London to Paris emits 14 times more CO2 than traveling the same route by train.

But also to renew our acquaintance with the rhythm of the rails and the soothing clackety-clack that can give you (especially with proper beds and premium bedding) some of your best sleeps ever!

You may be torn about night trains, with a fear of missing out on one-of-a-kind vistas famously delivered on some of Europe’s most scenic train routes. But if you think about it, you wouldn’t have seen that scenery if you flew between European cities on your travels, either.

Plus, some new sleeper train routes are long enough for you to get the best of both worlds, with daylight travel time on either end. And you can mix your European odyssey up, planning sleeper trains for some routes and reserving daylight itineraries for the most spectacular.

Another bonus of train travel is that you arrive in the heart of Europe’s city centers, saving yourself the time, hassle and expense of airport transfers.

From start ups that shake up the formula of night trains with sleek, contemporary designs and local gastronomy, to national rail companies developing new offerings specifically for the new boom in sleeper rail travel around Europe, here are some new and upcoming rail journeys that may open your eyes to why you should embrace the European rail renaissance and ask your trusted travel advisor about some of your best options for your next trip.
 
Vienna – Salzburg – Munich – Paris
Vienna – Genoa and La Spezia onwards to Monaco, Nice, and Cinque Terre

NightJet

Austria’s national railway is leading the pack in the return of sleeper trains, growing a network of night trains to over two dozen cities in more than a dozen countries on its service called NightJet, which has been around, anticipating the rail revival, since 2016.
 
Countries connected via this large and growing Austrian sleeper train network include Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland. The overnight Vienna – Paris journey takes about 14 hours.

Until recently, there have been three classes of service in single, double or triple cabins with either a sink or a powder room, or couchettes for four or six passengers and shared facilities, with breakfast for sleeper cabin guests.

In 2023, new trains bring first-class service including charging stations and included wifi, sports equipment storage and private compartments with their own showers and lavatories.

Stockholm – Copenhagen - Hamburg

EuroNight

Sweden’s SJ Trains debuted renewable-energy-powered EuroNight service in 2022 from Stockholm to Hamburg, Germany. In its inaugural season, the train departed at 5:30 p.m. and arrived at 6:30am, passing through Copenhagen en route.
 
Overnight accommodations range from a seat in a carriage to a bed in a shared couchette to private compartments for two with a sink or a private compartments for three with a shower, toilet and even breakfast. Some compartments are also pet friendly.

Prague to Zurich

CD

Czech national rail company CD launched new sleeper train service between Prague and Zurich via Frankfurt and Basel in late 2022. You can take your pick of deluxe sleeper compartments with private toilets and showers or six-person couchettes for your 14-hour night train to Switzerland.

Brussels – Amsterdam - Berlin

European Sleeper

The new Belgian-Dutch ‘social cooperative,’ European Sleeper, launches in spring 2023 with its first route: Brussels to Berlin via Amsterdam, with service extending further east to Prague in the following year.

Rome – Paris/ Split / Istanbul

Orient Express

With the legendary name of Agatha Christie fame, the Orient Express (not to be confused with ultra-luxury Belmond’s Venice-Simplon Orient Express) launches in 2023 with six new trains in Italy offering six scenic itineraries through Italy’s best landscapes - plus three international itineraries through eight countries, linking Rome to Paris, Istanbul and Split, Croatia.
 
The rail experience is inspired by Italian mid-century glamor, with deluxe cabins, suites and a restaurant with fine dining and award-winning Italian wines.
 
Paris – Venice / Milan

Midnight Trains

This French start-up is bringing next-gen, upscale, ultra-modern sleeper cars to 13 European cities from its hub in Paris beginning in 2024, reportedly starting with service to the northern Italian cities of Venice and Milan.
 
The company says the experience will offer choices of all-private cars with compartments - including facilities - designed for solo travelers, couples or family/ groups traveling together. As the train pulls out of the station in Paris mid-evening, guests can relax in a dining room, bar or even their rooms with room service to enjoy local and seasonal cuisine, craft cocktails, beer and wine.
 
Following a luxurious night’s sleep embraced by premium bedding, you’ll arrive downtown in cities like Barcelona, Berlin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, Milan, and Venice the next morning.
 

Eyes Wide Open: New Daytime Trains to Watch

 
Slovenia – Graz - Budapest

Hungarian Railways

Launched in late 2021, Hungarian Railways’ train itinerary from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Budapest via Graz, Austria leaves at dawn and again later in the morning for an approximately 8-hour scenic daylight rail journey to Hungary. 
 
Milan - Paris

Frecciarossa

The Italian national train operator's high-speed rail division Frecciarossa launched upscale service between Milan and Paris in late 2021. The new, 7-hour rail journey is both faster and cushier than prior train service between the two destinations, especially if you splurge on the highest class of fares that gets you a plush armchair for your journey.
 
Madrid - Valencia

Ouigo

France national railway-owned Ouigo debuted high-speed rail service between Madrid and Valencia in late 2022. It has plans to add more Spanish destinations including Cordoba, Seville, Malaga and the Costa del Sol.

Start Your European Trip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, cruise/ travel journalist and expert.

Image: Artur Sniezhyn / Getty Images

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Did you Know? The Leaning Tower of Pisa is... 'Straightening Up!'
Will it soon be named the Perfectly Ordinary Tower of Pisa? Will the Tuscan city whose claim to fame is an off-kilter tower fall into obscurity without tourists keen to snap photos of themselves pretending to prop up the Tower of Pisa?

Those are the questions we’re asking ourselves with the news that the so-called Leaning Tower of Pisa is creeping upright.

The cause for the notorious tilt in what may be the world’s most famous architectural fail was a mystery for hundreds of years. Building on the now-famous bell tower began in the late 1100’s, and the 186-foot structure began to sink on one side even while under construction.

With the benefit of modern science and technology, experts now say it was due to an insufficient foundation in weak, unstable soil, which was also softer on the tower’s southern side. In a rare case of artisanal sloppiness in the Middle Ages, the builders just kept going, building the tower eight stories high while attempting to compensate for the southern tilt by making the floors shorter on the north side.

Nice try! Rather than leveling it up, they succeeded in making the bell tower of Pisa curved as well as leaning.
In the centuries since, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has become one of Italy’s most famous landmarks. Unlike Italy’s stunning architectural masterpieces, though, it has stood out for its massive–and increasing! Imperfection–a tilt of over 16 feet and a subsistence of 10 feet!

A 'Stand-Up' Tower

By 1990, its now-5.5 degree lean made officials fearful the whole structure would just topple over. So the Leaning Tower of Pisa was closed to the public–and a stabilization program began to save it from literal ruin.

11 years later, after work involving excavations, temporary steel cables, and draining ground water, stabilization work was complete. It was declared a success: straightening the tower by 15 whole inches. Shortly thereafter, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was pronounced stable, expected to ‘stand’ the test of time for at least a couple of hundred more years.

Cue the cheering – but the story’s not over yet.

Experts have now concluded that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is still ‘straightening up.’ 

Even after active stabilization ceased, the tower has continued to correct itself. Recently, with new technology, experts were able to confirm that the tower has straightened an additional 1.6 inches on its own since work ceased.
That seems tiny, and it is, but now the tower is ‘only’ just under 4 degrees off vertical.

And experts say they believe that the Leaning Tower of Pisa will one day straighten up completely!

But would a perfectly straight Tower of Pisa have the same allure for travelers? Only time will tell.

Would you go to visit a Tower of Pisa that wasn’t leaning? Luckily, there are a lot of other reasons to visit Tuscany and Italy even without the tale and evidence of botched construction!
 

Start your Trip to Italy!


Image: CentralITAlliance/ Getty Images

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Mexico's Top 5 Archaeological Sites
Break away from the beach and inject the wonder of history into your next vacation! Mexico’s ancient past comes alive at archaeological sites around the country that allow you to walk in the footsteps of the inhabitants of highly evolved societies who built pyramids, elaborate cities, and culture rivalling any ancient civilization in the world. Pre-Columbian (the era prior to Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World) archaeological sites are true wonders of the world. It’s not everywhere you can enjoy an epic beach vacation and walk back in time over a thousand years.

Every year, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) reveals the most popular historical monuments and archaeological sites in the country. 

Luckily, of the top five, many can be visited from your beach resort or cruise port of call.

1. Chichén Itzá in Yucatán

More than 2 million people visited Mexico’s most famous archaeological and UNESCO World Heritage site this year, making it the most popular historic site in the country. On the Yucatan peninsula, it’s easily accessible from resorts or cruise ports in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Chichén Itzá is the ruins of a 4 square mile ancient Mayan city that was once home to 35,000 people and was a religious, military, political and commercial center that dates back 1500 years.

 
The most spectacular remains are of El Castillo (The Castle), a pyramid rising nearly 80 feet above the city’s Main Plaza. The four-sided pyramid has 91 steps on each side, with a top step that combine for a total of 365 steps – the number of days in a solar year. El Castillo is perfectly aligned with compass directions, and during spring and fall equinoxes (the days of the year when there are equal hours of light and darkness), shadows cast by a setting sun create an appearance of a snake on the staircases – reflecting the carving of the major snake god carved at the top.
 
Chichén Itzá also has the largest ball court in the Americas, a site 545 feet long and 223 feet wide, where Mayans played tlachtli. It was not a game for the faint-hearted, as carvings on the walls show victors holding the severed head of a member of the losing team.

And don’t miss the Temple of the Jaguars, which once roamed the area and whose form is still represented in front of the imposing building.


2. Teotihuacán in the State of Mexico

About an hour north of Mexico City, Teotihuacán is another vast UNESCO World Heritage Site that normally takes top spot on the most-visited list but was edged out by Chichén Itzá this year.

Teotihuacán is even older than Chichén Itzá, with its famous Pyramid of the Sun believed to have been constructed around 200 AD – 300 years before Chichén Itzá. Historically, it may be even more significant. With a population of 125,000 at its peak before 500 AD, it is believed to be the sixth-largest city in the world for its times. Its masterpieces, still standing today, including the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon with the Avenue of the Dead joining them, represent the greatest architectural achievements of the pre-Columbian era in the Americas. It’s also anthropologically important in that the city also build complex, multi-floor and multi-family residential compounds.

Don’t miss the sensational murals or the chance to take a hot air balloon ride over the ruins to get a completely different perspective and awe at the vastness of the Teotihuacán site. (Pictured, top)

3. Tulum in Quintana Roo

The 3rd most-visited historic ruins in Mexico this year registered more foreign visitors than Mexican nationals; no wonder since they are so close to popular resorts. Tulum’s archaeological sites are less than 3 miles from Tulum’s town center, less than an hour from Playa, and only one and a half hours from Cancun. 

Tulum is the only Mayan city built on a coast – and one of the few protected by a wall, an imposing limestone structure over 2500 feet long and up to 16 feet high.


Much ‘younger’ than Chichén Itzá or Teotihuacán, Tulum dates from the 1200’s. The ‘Castillo,’ or Castle, is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea, thought to have been built as a watch tower. The Temple of the Frescoes is one of the best-preserved buildings with restored murals representing three levels of the Mayan world: the dead, the living, and the gods. Above the doorway of the temple is a figure with a bird’s wings and tail diving – believed to represent a Mayan god who protected the people.

 

4. Monte Albán in Oaxaca

 Believed to date from an incredible 8th century BC, Monte Albán is in on high ground in the hills of Oaxaca. The nearest resort area is Huatulco on the coast half a day’s drive away.
 
Four square miles of the site are occupied by pyramids, temples, terraces, plazas and canals. The Grand Plaza has massive platform mounds at either end, and you can also see a ball-playing court, underground passageways and the most elaborate tombs yet uncovered in the Americas.
 

5. Palenque in Chiapas

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palenque’s historic ruins and surrounding jungle together make up the Palenque National Park, which is home to howler monkeys and jaguars.

The site is 400 miles from the Riviera Maya, so you need a three-day round trip from your beach resort to see a site that rivals Chichén Itzá’s importance, especially as its Temple of Inscriptions, with hieroglyphic writings, attest to the mythology and history of the Mayan people. Palenque is also home to a 160 foot-long canal crossing the city that was the first pressurized canal in the world.

Less than 10% of the site, which dates to 200 BC, has been excavated, so many more mysteries and wonders from Palenque have yet to be revealed.
 

Start your Trip!


Images via Getty

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Tropical, Travel-Inspired Cocktails to Ring in Your New Year
Mulled wine, snowballs, and spiked eggnog may headline the list of festive favorites for many cocktail drinkers, but why not switch it up and greet the New Year by projecting your tropical travel resolutions?

Here are our picks of some sunny, island-inspired sips to take you into next year – and hold you over until your next sun-kissed vacation.
 

Cheers!


The Bahamas: Goombay Smash

The Goombay Smash is a rum-based cocktail with a historic pedigree in The Bahamas. While the original recipe may remain a secret, versions of the drink have spread to all of The Bahamas' major islands, impressing locals and visitors alike with its strong fruity flavor.

(Photo courtesy of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation)

Recipe for a shareable pitcher:
11 oz dark rum
11 oz light rum
11 oz coconut rum
11 oz apricot brandy
46 oz pineapple juice
 
Mix in a pitcher before serving over ice with a fruit garnish.
 

St. Martin: Guavaberry Kir

Guavaberry is one of St. Martin’s most famous flavours and exports. Boasting a complex flavour profile including woody, sweet, and spicy notes, Guavaberry is carefully cultivated on both the French and Dutch sides of the island and used in jams, spreads, and spirits.
 
This simple cocktail, a take on a French kir royale combining black currant liqueur and champagne, highlights the incredible flavour of St. Martin’s Guavaberry Liqueur.

 (Photo courtesy Nicola Blazier / Jesson + Company Tourism Marketing)
Recipe for a glass:
1 oz St Maarten Guavaberry Liqueur
5 oz champagne
 
Pour pre-chilled liqueur into a frozen champagne glass. Top with chilled champagne and dress with a small curl of orange skin. 
 

Antigua & Barbuda: Hibiscus Sangria

Nothing says lazing around in the sunshine like Sangria, which originated in the Mediterranean sun of Spain. This version, from Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean, draws on the local flavor of refreshing sorrel. Sorrel is a tangy, intensely aromatic brew with a trademark red colour derived from the plant of the same name - a close relative of Hibiscus. Sorrel drinks are the holiday drink in the Caribbean!
 
Recipe for a pitcher or punch bowl:
 
1 bottle of red wine 
1 cup of sorrel juice 
1/2 cup of hibiscus tea 
1/2 cup of brandy or rum 
Assorted fruits (pineapples, oranges, limes, grapes)
 
Brew your own hibiscus tea: place several (2-3 fresh or ¼ cup of dried flower) petals in a teapot and cover it with boiling water; allow to steep for approximately 5 minutes. Strain and bring to room temperature (preferably the tea should be chilled).
 
Combine red wine, sorrel juice, and hibiscus tea with brandy or rum in a large pitcher or punch bowl. Add sliced fruits of your choice to the mixture and let steep half a day before serving. When serving, include a mixture of the fruit.
(Pictured, top, image courtesy of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority).
 

Hawaii: The Mai Tai

 
Often mistaken as Hawaiian, tiki is actually imaginary, made of a collection of romanticized concepts of Polynesian and South Seas culture, including humanoid teak carvings, coconut shell bikini tops, grass skirts, pineapples… and powerful cocktails featuring pineapple, coconut, rum, and other tropical flavors. Tiki and tiki bars have become shorthand for ‘Pacific Island getaway’ and they abound in Hawaii.
 
A staple in any tiki bar, the Mai Tai is the perfect Summer drink - or your drink of choice during a visit to America’s Pacific island state. You’ll be carried to Hawaii’s clear blue waters after your first sip of this fruity concoction.

(Image courtesy of Hawaii Tourism)
 
Recipe for a single glass:
 
1 oz spiced rum
1 oz coconut rum
1 tsp grenadine syrup
2 oz pineapple juice
2 oz orange juice
 
Combine the rums, grenadine, and juices in a cocktail mixer with ice. Shake and strain into a glass of ice. *Party Tip: make these up a pitcher at a time with a bucket of ice and garnish handy.
 
Garnish with wedges of fresh pineapple on a skewer topped with a cherry.
 
With these 4 recipes delivering up the taste of tropical travel, why not dress up in beach wear and make your NYE party tropical beach-themed! 
 
And to actually get away from winter weather, ask us to help you plan the perfect sun-kissed, island vacation for the New Year.
 

Happy New Year!



Image credits as noted.

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Made You Look: The Quirkiest, Most Creative Tourism Marketing Campaigns of 2022
Now that we’re traveling again, destinations around the world have been wooing visitors back – with promotional videos from the weird to the wild to the wonderful that have been vying for the attention of international travelers like us.

In 2022, did any of these campaigns make you look - or want to book?
 

Iceland Wants to “Out-Horse Your Email”

 
In a clever play on the word ‘outsource’, in its not only quirky, but incredibly cute video, Iceland promises to 'out-horse your email' to Icelandic ponies that have been trained to write your out of office reply while you’re on vacation in Iceland so you never get distracted from your exploration of the country. (Image, top, via youtube.)
 

'Nothing ruins your vacation like work,' explains the video, before showing seven adorable and iconic Icelandic horses hoofing it over a giant keyboard and typing emails with their toes. They’re joking – but not joking! On the tourism board’s web site dedicated to the gag, you can actually pick one of three horses to write your own out-of-office email. Visit OutHorseYourEmail.com to try it! 
 

“Spooky” Sweden

 
In a tie-up with Hallowe’en, Sweden’s creative campaign called ‘Spellbound by Sweden’ includes a two-minute ‘horror’ film with ‘Sweden’ as the narrator, explaining “this place is my soul,” as she tells the tale of a man visiting a forest and encountering a traditional Swedish folklore character of an irresistible forest nymph.

 
 
The twist on dark storytelling ‘Spellbound by Sweden’ web site explains: “We’d like to invite you to experience our country’s nature in a way you’ve never done before. Sweden’s nature has always been an integral part of our culture and played a central role in Swedish folklore. Inspired by this heritage, internationally-celebrated author John Ajvide Lindqvist has brought some of our mythological creatures to life in a chilling tale and audio story – only available for listening to in our Swedish nature.”
 

Happy Cheesy Belated Birthday to Vilnius, Lithuania

 
Admit it: you didn’t know the capital of Lithuania! The lesser-known destination is playing up its under-the-radar reputation by inviting people around the world to celebrate its 700th anniversary in 2023, even if they don't know what or where Vilnius is!

 
'After most of the world forgot Vilnius' last 699 birthdays, we came up with a solution for its 700th,' the cheesy, late-night infomercial-style video says, offering up a 'belated birthday e-card collection,' with the video displaying various cards before asking you to send your own, “shamelessly and in style,” which you can actually do at this web site.
 

This isn’t the first quirky tourism campaign from the city that’s trying to put itself on your travel map. Previous campaigns have called the city 'the g-spot of Europe' and rewritten a Christmas carol.
 

Vienna: The Way to your Heart is Through your Stomach

 
The capital of Austria is playing up all the stomach clichés: the old wives’ advice that the ‘way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’ Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous quip that an army ‘marches on its belly,’ and in its own short film, Vienna tourism gives visitors permission to travel on their bellies, playing up its culinary reputation.
 
Vienna is giving visitors permission to let themselves go during their trip to the city, with the hero of its video a walking belly (yes, that's right), which has left its fitness-focused human, Harry, because he no longer feels welcome.


Visiting Vienna’s iconic destinations and enjoying lots of food, eventually, the Belly is reunited with Harry, and they together enjoy a Viennese restaurant. 'The most beautiful way to love yourself is to indulge,' the video ends.
 
 

No One Upstages the Grand Tour of Switzerland – Not Even Anne Hathaway and Roger Federer


Anne Hathaway and Roger Federer parkour-ing across Swiss glaciers? Synchronized swimming through a crystal-clear lake? You won’t see that in this video by Switzerland Tourism. The video portrays a film screening session where the American actor and Swiss tennis great are viewing a theoretical tourism video in which they both star, and have performed crazy feats.



But the director has chosen only all the heroic wide shots of the scenery, with the two celebrities indistinguishably tiny in the shots, proving that even Roger Federer and Anne Hathaway can’t upstage the incredible vistas of the Grand Tour of Switzerland, a 1020 mile road trip taking visitors to 46 top attractions and past 22 lakes, 5 Alpine passes and 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Find out more about the Grand Tour of Switzerland - and Switzerland’s celebrity spokesperson Roger Federer’s favorite
 

Animated Australia’s Warm Welcome

 
In another celebrity mash-up that is a tourism take on Toy Story, Australia tourism’s quirky animated video, titled 'G'day,' stars Australian actress Rose Byrne as Ruby, a toy kangaroo (which of course, is one of the country’s iconic creatures) and Canadian actor Will Arnett as Louie, a toy unicorn (which isn’t a real creature at all, let alone Australian or even Canadian).

 
The two stuffed animals escape from a Great Barrier Reef gift shop and travel to scenic Australian destinations like Nitmiluk Gorge, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House.

 
'Down Under, 'g'day' is the start of every good adventure,' explains Byrne at the end, in real life. 'It's our way of saying, 'If you're not a friend yet, you will be, mate.''
 

The People - Literally – ‘Make’ the Destination in the Philippines

 
No celebrities – and no actual scenery. The Philippines took a different approach with its video, deciding to not actually show any real imagery of the actual country.

 
Instead, dancers in second skins move in choreographed formations to recreate some of the country’s famous landscapes, projected in color onto the dancers’ bodies, to communicate to viewers and visitors that – literally - “The people make the destination – it’s more fun with you”.

 


All the audio was recorded in 23 locations across the Philippines, from crashing waves in Samar to mountain hikes in the Cordilleras to T’boli instruments from South Cotobato.
 

START YOUR TRIP!


All images via their respective tourism authorities' videos on youtube.

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Celebrate Christmas in the Holy Land
It may be the ultimate holiday trip: a visit to the land of the original Christmas story, especially during the holiday season. For many, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to sites referenced in the Bible that still exist today, like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Nazareth.

According to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, about half of visitors to the country are Christian, and about 20% identify themselves as pilgrims, with 150,000 pilgrims visiting Israel during the Christmas period.

Christmas festivities in the Holy Land are concentrated in Nazareth, Haifa and Jerusalem, with many making the trip to nearby Bethlehem. Many streets are filled with Christmas decorations, trees and illuminations, with many cultural and family activities available for tourists and locals alike.

Bethlehem

The Israel Ministry of Tourism offers free roundtrip shuttle transportation for pilgrims traveling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, six miles to the south. Visitors are dropped off near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (pictured, top), built by the Romans about 500 years later over the place where it’s believed Jesus was born. The Grotto of the Nativity, under the main altar, has a silver star marking the traditional location of the holy birth.

The timing of the shuttle, during the afternoon of Christmas Eve through to 2 am on Christmas Day, coincides with the ceremonies surrounding the famous Christmas Eve Mass of the Nativity from afternoon through midnight.

Christmas Eve also includes a parade through town, and Christmas carol singing in Manger Square, the courtyard in front of the church.

Jerusalem
In the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, in the area of the New Gate, a festive Christmas Market is held in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. The area is illuminated and decorated for the season, with food and gift stalls, concerts, tours, live performances and more. Concerts are held in the Christian Quarter at the Latin Patriarchate Church, the Church of San Salvador at the New Gate, and the concert hall of the Custodia Terra Santa.

Credit: Kapaim Productions

Visitors may be surprised to see an exhibition of large ‘snowballs’ the alleyways of the Christian Quarter. They lead to a unique Jerusalem institution called Santa’s House, visited by thousands of tourists and locals. Santa’s house is the 700-year-old home of the only official, accredited ‘Santa’ of the Holy Land, Issa Kassissieh. Known affectionately as the Jerusalem Santa, Kassissieh (a professional basketball player) opens his home, free of charge, every early evening except Sunday. The festively decorated house includes a Christmas bazaar, with drinks and toys.

The Christmas schedule in the churches can be found on the Christian Information Center website.

Haifa

The Festival of Festivals in Haifa celebrates the three monotheistic (single god) religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and their three holidays of Hanuka, Christmas, and Ramadan often coincide during December. The festivities take place in the Arab Wadi Nisnas neighborhood and extend to the German Colony at the foot of the Baha'i Gardens.
Activities during this festival include an Antique Fair, special authentic food prepared by residents of Wadi Nisnas, music by artists of all ethnicities and performances, arts and crafts fair, tours, dances and more.

Credit: Neit Balzitsky, Haifa Municipality

Liturgical music concerts take place in Haifa's churches and halls, featuring Christian liturgical music combined with music reflecting Arab and Israeli heritage.

Nazareth

Nazareth, the biblical childhood home of Jesus, is these days decked in Christmas cheer, festivities, and lights. The annual Christmas market lasts from November until January, with stalls, food and drink and illuminations alongside a huge, illuminated Christmas tree near Mary’s Well.

Credit: Doron Yosha

The city also hosts a colorful Christmas parade on Christmas Eve, complete with fireworks and the participation of local youth groups. A second Christmas parade, also with fireworks, takes place on January 6 for the Orthodox community in the city. The many churches and halls host many concerts, and the annual liturgical festival features concerts in three churches with international musicians.

Start your Holy Land Trip!



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'Fungi Fest' in the British Virgin Islands: It's Not About Mushrooms!
If you've never been to the British Virgin Islands, you might think their 'Fungi Fest' is a culinary event featuring mushrooms. Fungi (foon-gee) is actually the traditional folk music of the BVI’s. And it’s a lot more lively than edible fungus!

Also called 'scratch' music, according to BVI Tourism, fungi music is deeply rooted in African heritage, but also with Euroepan influences. It’s described as “a combination of string and percussion instruments complemented by woodwind and storytelling vocals.” Fungi is also the local music of the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

There is, in fact, a culinary connection – but still, no mushrooms! The name fungi comes from a BVI dish, ‘fungi and fish,’ a ‘cook-up’ including cornmeal, onions, peppers, and okra. The music/food connection comes from the idea that bringing together these different savory flavors creates something entirely new, just as a fusion of a wide range of instruments and styles of music created a new type of music.

Fungi music features a range of instruments, some even homemade. You may see and hear the distinct sounds of ukuleles, banjos, guitars and bass, as well as bongos, washboard, calabash, keyboards and saxaphones. It’s not just music to your ears – it’s music made to dance by!

Fungi music is a part of the way of life in the Virgin Islands, with the rhythms of fungi bands marking life milestones like weddings and celebrations as well as livening up local parties, hotel and resort evenings and restaurants.

Perhaps the best way to immerse yourself in the Virgin Islands’ fungi music tradition is to go ‘all in,’ at ‘Fungi Fest’ in Tortola in the BVI’s (pictured above, courtesy of BVITourism.) The annual, November music festival has returned to the BVI’s largest and most populated island. For two weeks, fungi bands from the Virgin Islands as well as Anguilla, Nevis and other surrounding islands light up the stage at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park. The Fungi Fest is part of the BVI’s broader Culture and Tourism Month.

If you haven’t ever visited the BVI’s, come for the fungi music and stay for the 60 islands and cays of this off-the-beaten-path archipelago in the Caribbean. In addition to Tortola, the gateway to the BVI’s, you may have heard whispers of sophisticated island travelers heading to Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke.

Those in the know consider the BVI’s the ‘sailing capital of the world,’ with annual regattas, boat and yacht charters, not to mention yacht-watching, as the international sailing set breeze in and out of port. You can base yourself on land, in exquisite resorts by Rosewood, Autograph Collection, Wyndham or exclusive boutique hotels and private islands – or ask your trusted travel advisor how you can split a trip to the British Virgin Islands between land and yacht. Small ship cruise lines also call at Tortola and let you sample a unique island life – complete with the rhythms of fungi.

Start your British Virgin Islands Trip!



By: Lynn Elmhirst, cruise/ travel expert and journalist



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The World's Top Luxury Train Journey is Closer to Home Than You Think
The phrase ‘World’s Leading Luxury Train’ evokes images of glass-domed rail cars revealing breathtaking vistas, gliding through otherwise-inaccessible landscapes that awe pampered travelers within. It’s the romance of travel at its best – and it’s much easier to achieve than you may realize.

That’s because a passenger train company rather close to home has been awarded the title of ‘World’s Leading Luxury Train’ at the latest World Travel Awards. Of all the epic train journeys in all the most incredibly scenic places in the world… Rocky Mountaineer has rolled away with the title.

Based in Western Canada, Rocky Mountaineer is the largest, privately-owned upscale tourist train company in the world. It offers luxury rail journeys that showcase some of the most spectacular scenery the Great West – in both Canada and the United States - has to offer. From the perspective of the rails, you get to see a West you’ve never seen before, by air or road.

As its name suggests, Rocky Mountaineer was born to give travelers not just passage through, but a whole new perspective on the Rocky Mountains.


Three of the luxury train company’s routes connect Vancouver on the Pacific coast to the legendary Canadian Rockies national parks towns of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, traveling over the Rockies themselves and through scenery unparalleled anywhere in the world, past misty waterfalls where no humans roam, to the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, even “Hell’s Gate!”

The legendary rail route ‘First Passage to the West’ between Banff/Lake Louise and Vancouver is the only passenger train service today on this historic rail route that famously was the first connection from East to West.

A spectacular fourth route travels between Denver, Colorado and Moab, Utah in the Southwest United States (pictured, top). In this rail “Journey to the Red Rocks,” spellbound guests are treated to views only seen by train of vast canyons, inspiring deserts, natural archways and enchanting hoodoos, including Ruby Canyon, and Mount Garfield.

All four rail journeys in both the U.S. and Canada give guests the experience of crossing North America’s Continental Divide: the highest point on the continent, from which water flows down in both directions.

Despite the rugged wilderness outside, inside Rocky Mountaineer cars, guests experience the height of comfort.
Custom-designed, glass-domed coaches open the panoramic view up wide – or you can get even closer to the scenery passing by on the train’s outdoor viewing area. 


Unlike train rides you might be used to, where a conductor comes around to check your ticket, leaving you otherwise on your own, Rocky Mountaineer hosts are on hand every mile of track you cover. From ensuring your wine glass is full – to you seeing a special landmark coming up, and regaling guests with stories about historic sites, scenery, and wildlife along the way, hosts help make memories of more than the scenery.

 
You’ll feel connected to the West through your taste buds, too, with locally-inspired cuisine based on regional ingredients, flavors and recipes featured in gourmet breakfasts and lunches on board.

You might be surprised to learn there are no sleeper cars. Uniquely, every journey is an all-daylight experience so you don’t miss a single sight, sleeping nights in superb hotels – with your luggage delivered to your hotel.

With all of these details thought out, and a focus on making rail journeys through America’s frontiers the very best way to experience the West, it’s no wonder Rocky Mountaineer has been hailed the “World’s Leading Luxury Train.”

Start Your Train Trip!


Images courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer.

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Doing the Holidays Disney Style in Orlando and Anaheim in 2022
The gift of travel can create precious memories of one of the best holidays ever, and Disney theme parks on both sides of the country have been arrayed in their festive best, unwrapping a full lineup of holiday cheer lasting into the New Year.

There’s still time to plan a Disney version of the holidays this year in Anaheim or Orlando, and your expert travel advisor can help you plan the perfect theme park vacation to suit your family’s travel style.

Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida:

 
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will return to Magic Kingdom Park for 24 select nights this holiday season. This event will offer an evening featuring “Minnie’s Wonder Christmastime Fireworks,” “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade,” complimentary cookies and hot cocoa at locations throughout the park, three jolly new photo opportunities and more (separate ticketed event).
 
EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays takes guests on a global holiday celebration with a candlelight processional, storytellers, costumed performances, seasonal food throughout the World Showcase nations, along with sights, sounds and flavours of the season celebrated by cultures near and far.
 
Disney's Animal Kingdom brings a holiday twist to the magic of nature with festive flotillas featuring holiday percussionists and Santa sailing down the Discovery River. Discovery Island will spring to life with artisan-sculpted puppets of artic animals like penguins, reindeer, polar bears and more during the Merry Menagerie. As nighttime falls, a holiday edition of the Tree of Life Awakening will begin accompanied by a heartwarming musical score.
 
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests can dine with Minnie and friends at Minnie's Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine, enjoy a holiday finale featuring Olaf during the For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, catch a glimpse of old St. Nick as he cruises in his candy-apple red convertible down Hollywood Boulevard and experience a captivating projection show on the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

 

Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California


Disney California Adventure Park


The night-time spectacular “World of Color – Season of Light” wraps guests in holiday magic by fusing cherished holiday music with memorable moments from treasured Disney animated films.

Through energetic live entertainment, culinary delights and special traditions, Disney Festival of Holidays highlights a diverse season of celebrations, including Christmas/Navidad, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Three Kings Day. Nine Festive Foods Marketplace kiosks across the park serve a wide array of delectable foods and beverages, including Visions of Sugarplums, a returning marketplace featuring sweet and savory bites.

“Mickey’s Happy Holidays” is a procession of Disney and Pixar characters dancing and marching along to the upbeat rhythms of the Holiday Toy Drummers.


The “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” street party also returns, featuring Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse donning
festive fiesta attire, Mexican folklórico dancers and Mariachis, Brazilian samba dancers and percussionists,
and giant mojiganga puppets. Guests can encounter Disney characters in holiday attire and, at Paradise
Gardens Park, visit with Mirabel from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto.”

Disneyland Park


“A Christmas Fantasy” Parade features Anna, Elsa and Olaf from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen,” along with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Santa Claus and many other friends celebrating the season. Characters also greet guests in their finest holiday attire, with some debuting new, vintage-inspired outfits.

In the evenings, the festivities continue with the “Believe... in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular, which features magical “snowfall” and colorful projections on Main Street, U.S.A., and the façade of “it’s a small world.” Families can also dance along with characters during nightly holiday dance parties at the Tomorrowland Terrace.

“It’s a Small World” Holiday celebrates its 25th anniversary, featuring dolls and toys representing children around the world, enjoying the distinctive holiday traditions of their respective countries. Unique to this year’s presentation, each room in the attraction features a small detail displaying the number 25.
 

Start your Disney Holiday Trip!

 
Images courtesy Disney.

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Travel Black Friday Deals are Back!
Travel is back! And after a couple of quiet years, so, at last, are Black Friday travel deals. If you have any thoughts of traveling in the next year or so, now’s the time to get some of the best prices on dream vacations.

We’ve selected some of our favorite Black Friday travel deals to show you here, but we have plenty more on offer. And they represent some of the best pricing, perks, upgrades, terms, and bonuses you’ll find for travel this winter, into 2023 and even 2024.

Whether you fancy a family beach resort vacation or romantic island getaway this winter… a European odyssey… a bucket list trip to the Galapagos, an African safari, or South Seas overwater dream escape… a cruise around the Mediterranean or the Antarctic or close to home in the Caribbean or Alaska… or a river cruise through the vineyards, culture, and history of Europe, or along exotic waterways like the Nile, the Amazon or the Mekong! There are deals for you. And we have access to them.

If planning a trip seems daunting, don’t let a busy life stop you from fulfilling your travel dreams. The best news is that planning travel doesn’t have to be another job you don’t have time for. That’s the job of travel professionals.
We can help you focus your travel dreams into a plan, and we have access to all the Black Friday deals and special pricing and perks that can make your travel budget go farther.

What’s more, you’ll have a real person in your corner, someone who actually answers phone calls and emails, and is here to answer questions, sort out any bumps in the road, and provide you with current travel landscape expertise and advice.

Don't miss out on the best Black Friday Travel Deals!

Start your Trip!




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This New Cruise  Ship will House its Own Exclusively-Designed Fabergé Egg
When Regent Seven Seas Grandeur embarks on her inaugural voyage in late 2023, its breathtaking, multi-million dollar art collection will be anchored by a bespoke, sea-inspired Fabergé egg designed just for the ship.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises and the legendary house of Fabergé are collaborating on the hand-crafted, precious art object, which will be the first Fabergé Egg to reside permanently at sea.

Founded in 1842, Fabergé has been one of the most revered names in jewelry ever since Peter Carl Fabergé created dozens of spectacular and ingenious Easter Eggs for Russia's Imperial family.

Regent has shared the design its collaboration with the relaunched, modern-day house of Fabergé has generated. Called 'Journey in Jewels,' the extravagant, jeweled egg captures the essence of the powerful natural elements of the sea - and has a built-in secret.

The outer egg ‘shell’ is comprised of seven blades, representing the seven seas, which will unfurl to reveal a surprise hidden inside, details of which are being kept as a closely guarded secret until Seven Seas Grandeur is christened in 2023.

Journey in Jewels will stand about 7 inches tall, with a three-tiered base which hides the movement of the egg’s opening mechanism - the first time that Fabergé has hidden the movement in this way.

Conjuring up visions of epic voyages on the water, the egg’s three-tiered base is a gentle cascading waterfall of ocean greens and subtle turquoise, while its outer shell’s soothing deep blue waves become lighter, before breaking into a sea spray of pearls.

Exterior features of the egg's design include a ground-breaking ombre enamel shell; this is the very first time that Fabergé has applied this intricate enameling technique to an egg, marking this a milestone moment for the company. Enameling is an incredibly technical skill, which is made even more challenging with egg art objects due to the added complexity of applying the enamel to a curved surface.

Designed by Fabergé’s Head of Design, Liisa Tallgren, Journey in Jewels is being entirely hand-crafted by one of Fabergé’s appointed Workmasters, and a dedicated team of artisans based in England.

From conception to crafting, the egg will take 24 entire months to complete, just in time to be set in pride of place in Seven Seas Grandeur’s atrium.

Art collections on cruise ships - and especially on luxury cruise ships - are becoming bigger, more valuable and noteworthy. Regent's two latest ships have works by Picasso and other masters on board, and this purpose-designed,
cruise-inspired Fabergé egg art object on Regent's upcoming Grandeur is upping the ante for one-of-a-kind art at sea.

Start your Luxury Cruise Trip!


Images courtesy Regent Seven Seas Cruises via youtube

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3 Unique Ways to Get Active Outdoors in French St. Martin
The twin-nation island of St. Martin is one of the Caribbean's most popular destinations. It's the smallest place in the world divided between two countries: the south end is Dutch and the north end is French. Famous for its beaches, shopping and gastronomy, there's much more to St. Martin.

Whether you're in St. Martin on a cruise ship port of call or an extended stay at a hotel or resort, we recommend you explore the wild side of French St. Martin. Here are three very different ways to enjoy its outdoors:

Fort Louis

Good for: sightseers, novice hikers, history buffs

One of French St. Martin's most noticeable remains of its colonial history, Fort Louis is part of a coastal string of historic naval forts on the French side of the island.

Towering on the hilltop above French St. Martin's capital city Marigot, Fort Louis (pictured, top) was build in the 1700's and named after the King of France, of course. Originally built to protect Marigot from pirates, what remains is weathered stone and cannons, but proudly flying the French flag.

Nowadays, Fort Louis is one of the most popular hiking spots on the island, enticing visitors with its 360-degree overlook of St. Martin’s crystal waters. It’s only a short jaunt up the hill to access this incredible view, and you’ll walk amidst the ruins of the fort as you follow the path to the summit. A breathtaking panorama awaits you at the top of this gentle climb and on a clear day, one can even see the neighbouring island of Anguilla!

Loterie Farm

Good for: lux/adventure lovers, families

A private nature sanctuary encompassing 135 acres, Loterie Farm has a fascinating history, won, I was told, originally in a lottery, but the property has transitioned to modern-day luxury outdoor adventure park.


From hiking and ziplining in the forest canopy to an onsite pool, bar, cabanas and restaurant, Loterie is a tropical forest escape from the bustle of the rest of St. Martin. A self-guided hike through the reserve’s tropical forest allows guests to choose their own adventure: exploring the entirety of the well-marked trail takes just under two hours, but hikers are free to make their own way. The various ruins, lookouts, and springs found within Loterie’s shaded expanse make for perfect picnic destinations.


Recharge at Loterie Farm's Jungle Room serving up Caribbean cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients and paired with a relaxed, open-air ambiance. Or lounge by the pool and listen to the sounds of the surrounding forest, that keeps Loterie Farm slightly cooler than other places on the island and was a perfect luxury retreat on my last visit to St. Martin.


Reserve Naturelle

Good for: Nature lovers, hikers of all experience and fitness levels

The National Nature Reserve of St. Martin, the Reserve Naturelle (as it is known to the island’s French-speaking populace) covers nearly 7500 acres of nationally managed land and sea in Northeastern St. Martin, including the smaller offshore islands of Pinel and Tintamarre.

The Reserve boasts a stunning assortment of natural scenery and abundant protected wildlife, including sea turtles, dolphins, iguanas, and seabirds. Visitors can access the Reserve via tours or snorkeling excursions, and one of the best ways to experience the Reserve is on a hike through one of its four Discovery Trails; each offering a glimpse of a different ecosystem.

A hike through the mangroves of Barrière pond, for example, will get you up close and personal with the beautiful endemic birds who make the area their home.


On Pinel (pictured above), guests can hike a mile-long trail that connects all three beaches of the islet, providing a fascinating introduction to the Reserve’s coastal vegetation. Experienced hikers should head to Froussard’s Trail, which covers 3 miles of intact coastal forest, the last of its kind on St. Martin.

No matter how many times you've cruised to St. Martin, these outdoor escapes show how much more of the half-Dutch, half-French island there is to discover!

Start your St. Martin Trip!




Images of Fort Louis and Loterie Farm: World's Greatest Cruises
Pinel Island image via Getty

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Trail-blazing women is a theme of Celebrity Cruises in general, and it was a triple play at the christening of the Celebrity Beyond. The newest of Celebrity's Edge-class ships was christened by Simone Biles, nicknamed the 'G.O.A.T.,' or 'Greatest of all Time' U.S. gymnasts, in Port Everglades, Florida on November 5th.


Biles is a 19-time World Champion, seven-time Olympic Medalist and most decorated American gymnast in history. In addition to the renowned godmother, the naming ceremony was also attended by Celebrity Cruises' Captain Kate McCue, who remains the first and still only American woman to be named captain of a large cruise ship.

“It is an honor to be selected as Beyond’s Godmother and to join such a distinguished group of strong, barrier-breaking women who have been named as Celebrity’s Godmothers before me,” Biles said during the ceremony.

“I appreciate the important message this designation holds in recognizing our accomplishments as empowering women, and I am honored to share the stage today with fellow brave, boundary-breaking leaders like (Celebrity Cruises' groundbreaking President and CEO) Lisa-Lutoff Perlo and Captain Kate McCue.'

“I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive for a long time, and I am ‘Beyond’ excited to be able to share her with our guests. She is the gold standard by which other ships are built and embodies the meaning of relaxed luxury,” said Lutoff-Perlo.

Captain Kate McCue, Jason Liberty, Simone Biles and Lisa Lutoff-Perlo at Celebrity Beyond's christening

“I can think of no one better to be the Godmother of this incredible ship than the G.O.A.T. herself – Simone Biles,” said Jason Liberty, President and CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group, which is the parent company of Celebrity Cruises.

“This ship’s beauty, power, and resilience sets the standard by which all others will be measured. Simone’s determination, progressive nature, empowered attitude, and grace in the face of challenges make her such an inspiration to so many around the world. All of these attributes are why Simone Biles is perfectly suited to watch over Celebrity Beyond’s journey,” he added.


Re-defining 'A Luxury Resort at Sea'

Celebrity says the new ship will usher in a 'new era of cruising.' Celebrity Beyond showcases the talents of Celebrity mainstay design, culinary and lifestyle contributors, including British designer Kelly Hoppen CBE; American designer Nate Berkus; Paris-based design firm Jouin Manku; British architect Tom Wright; Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud; and goop CEO and founder Gwyneth Paltrow.

Spaces and experiences on board the new ship reflect signatures of the Edge-class series including the Retreat resort-within-a-resort at sea; Sunset Bar; goop wellness experiences; 32 food and drink venues, a Grand Plaza anchored by Celebrity's Martini Bar showpiece, high-tech entertainment, and the Magic Carpet cantilevered venue.

Inaugural Caribbean Season


Following the naming ceremony, the Celebrity Beyond set sail on its inaugural winter season in the Caribbean, including seven-night Puerto Plata, St. Thomas & St. Maarten itineraries and seven-night Bahamas, Mexico, & Grand Cayman itineraries.

Start Your Cruise Trip!


Images courtesy Celebrity Cruises

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On One of the Most Scenic Railways in the World, Switzerland Breaks Record for Longest Train
It's official! On October 29th, 2022, Switzerland's Rhaetian Railway (RhB) operated the longest narrow gauge passenger train in the world. And they did it in spectacular style, over the UNESCO World Heritage Albula Railway Line.

The Swiss passenger rail company linked together 25, 4-part, brilliant red railcars for the event, creating a 2084-yard long train – that’s 1.2 miles long!
 
Then 7 train conductors and 21 technicians worked together to run the train along a 15-mile route on the UNESCO World Heritage Albula Railway Line.
 
The route crossed 48 bridges and passed through 22 tunnels, some of which twist back on each other through the mountains. Attaining speeds of up to 20 mph, in about an hour, the train reached its destination: the world-famous Landwasser Viaduct.

 
There, officials from Guinness World Records confirmed RhB had set a new record for the world’s longest narrow-gauge train.
 
It was a picture perfect moment, with the scarlet train cars winding around the bends of the railway and the famous deep, 328-foot radius curve of the Landwasser Viaduct, itself an engineering marvel.
 
Completed in 1902, the 6-arch limestone Landwasser viaduct is 446 feet long and towers over 200 feet above the valley below. It dramatically connects a high cliff on one side of a chasm, with the Landwasser Tunnel, positioned on a vertical rock wall, on the other side. Train travelers wind through deep bends to reach the viaduct, passing across its breathtaking structure, to immediately enter the 700-foot tunnel.

The successful attempt to break the world record was part of the 175th celebration of Switzerland’s Rhaetian Railway and meant to highlight the sustainability and benefits of train travel. Rhaetian Railway is 100% powered by hydro (water) power, generated from the waters passing by the panoramic train’s window. 
 
Although the world record-breaking train was a once-in-a-lifetime event, visitors to Switzerland discover that train travel may be the best way to not only get around the country, but also to experience a highlight of Swiss life and achievements.
 
The Albula Railway is one of the most spectacular narrow gauge railways in the world, part of a Rhaetian Railway UNESCO World Heritage Site – one that is still in regular daily use by residents and visitors.
 
To experience it for yourself, the best known trains operating on the Albula Railway are the famous Glacier Express and the Bernina Express.
 
Glacier Express
 
This train trip has been dubbed “the world’s slowest express train;” all the better to enjoy the view from extended-height panoramic windows traveling across the Alps. The 8-hour journey passes through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges, right to the Matterhorn, from sophisticated St. Moritz to the equally chic Zermatt.
 
Bernina Express
 
The Bernina Express also crosses the Alps in spectacular fashion, rolling over the Landwasser Viaduct as well as 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges on its way from Chur to Tirano. Travelers are treated to marvellous sights during their journey, like the Montebello curve with a view of the Bernina massif, the Morteratsch glacier, the three lakes Lej Pitschen, Lej Nair and Lago Bianco, the Alp Grüm and the Brusio Circular Viaduct.
 

Start your Swiss Trip!




Images courtesy RhB

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Cruises in the Great Lakes are spiking in popularity, and a proposed new National Marine Sanctuary adds to the many attractions of a Great Lakes cruise.

The Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary isn’t a done deal just yet.

In April of 2019, following a New York state community nomination, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) subsequently announced its intention to designate a national marine sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario. 

You’ll recognize some other beloved maritime destinations NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System. Many can be visited on cruises in U.S. waters or from land trips to coastal areas. From Washington State to the Florida Keys, from Lake Huron to American Samoa, the network encompasses over 620,000 square miles of underwater parks. It includes 15 current national marine sanctuaries, like Wisconsin’s Great Lake “Shipwreck Coast,” the Pacific Northwest’s “Olympic Coast,” and Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale sanctuaries, as well as the Papahānaumokuākea and American Samoa’s Rose Atoll marine national monuments.
 
The proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary designation area includes the waters offshore of New York State’s Wayne, Cayuga, Oswego and Jefferson counties. It could also extend into the legendary Thousand Islands playground region that spans the American and Canadian waters of the St. Lawrence River.

The waters of the proposed national marine sanctuary are a scuba diver’s dream – especially wreck divers. Their stand out their rich collection of shipwrecks, which NOAA says are “among the best preserved in the world” in the cold, freshwater atmosphere of the depths of Lake Ontario. The designated area includes 43 known shipwrecks, dating as far back as the 1700’s, and one submerged aircraft.

Some are already underwater landmarks and registered heritage sites. They include New York State’s first Submerged Cultural Preserve and Dive Site in Great Lakes, the David W. Mills shipwreck, as well as the St. Peter shipwreck, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
And, according to NOAA and the communities around the proposed sanctuary, there could be more “underwater treasures” yet to be revealed. 

As a national marine sanctuary, NOAA would manage, research, preserve and provide ways for visitors to explore and learn more about this “nationally significant collection” of local maritime heritage and the landscape above and below the waters of Lake Ontario. That would include interpretive sites on nearby shores as well as mooring infrastructure on shipwreck sites to facilitate wreck dives that are safe and easy for divers, and still preserve the historic shipwrecks.

Watch the local PBS video above to learn more about the environmental, recreational, and maritime cultural value of the proposed new Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary.

And ask your trusted travel advisor about how you can take a cruise in the U.S. and Canadian regions of the Great Lakes.

Start your Great Lakes Cruise!



 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, cruise/ travel journalist
 
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Be Among the First to Try These 4 New Luxury Resorts on Your Next Mexico Beach Vacation
Mexico has some of the best beach destinations on the continent, and four new - or completely renewed - luxury resorts may inspire you to treat yourself to being one of the first guests to experience their unique ultra-luxe lifestyle – served up with Mexican hospitality.
 

Maroma, A Belmond Hotel, Riviera Maya

 
By spring, 2023, this storied hideaway in the heart of the Riviera Maya will re-open, completely re-imagined.
 
Nestled between 200 acres of lush tropical jungle and the secluded white sands of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the legendary property’s renovations focus on Mayan culture, design and nature influences, with 10 new waterfront suites, a nature-focused wellness experience in partnership with Guerlain, ground-breaking sustainability initiatives and a new gastronomic era under Mexican-born Executive Chef Daniel Camacho. 
 
Each of the 72 accommodations will be spread across Maroma’s private stretch of sand (pictured, top), of which three quarters now have ocean views, including a spacious new waterfront suite complete with a private pool and garden. The property’s three pools will be completely redesigned, featuring Sukabumi tiles handmade from volcanic stone, in the same vibrant turquoise tones as the region’s many natural cenotes. 


Eighty percent of furnishings and objects will be made by Mexican craftspeople, from a hand-blown glass chandelier and painted clay pots to traditional ‘Saltillo’ floor tiles, meticulously curated for guest rooms. 
 
Guests to the reopened resort will be able to enjoy the first Guerlain Spa in Latin America. Treatment rooms look out onto the jungle and will incorporate local design elements with geometric shapes and artisanal objects. Healing rituals will be inspired by the power of nature and ancient practices.
 
Mexican-born Executive Chef Daniel Camacho will continue his legacy of celebrating his country’s rich culinary diversity at Casa Mayor restaurant, where 90% of ingredients will be sourced from Mexico and almost half from the Yucatán peninsula. Reinventing traditional Mexican cuisine, colorful dishes will range from seafood towers and Michoacan corundas, to Jalisco-style Birria and chocolate cake with Oaxacan black mole, flamed with house mezcal. 
 
For the perfect sundowner, Bambuco will offer a more casual affair, and the legendary beach hangout Freddy’s Bar will continue to channel the vibrant spirit of the Riviera Maya, with live music and DJ sets, fresh seafood and cocktails. 
 

Fairmont Mayakoba on the Riviera Maya

 
The Fairmont Mayakoba will have completed a comprehensive, multi-million dollar renovation by the end of 2022, so even if you’ve visited here before, it will feel like a whole new resort.
 
Nestled in the heart of the Riviera Maya, the 401-room Fairmont Mayakoba is a AAA Five Diamond resort set on 45 acres, within a private luxury community. Dedicated to an environmentally philosophy, the resort is surrounded by a lush mangrove forest intersected by water canals, and includes an expansive spa and El Camaleón Golf Course, host to the first official PGA TOUR event in Mexico.
 
The latest phase of the renovation involves the completion of two new restaurants, La Laguna and Bassano.

 
As the name suggests, La Laguna makes the most of the resort’s waterways, with a terrace and private pavilion, and spectacular over-the-water decks overlooking the Mayakoba water canals. With a magnificent bar serving craft cocktails, and offering a combination of authentic, traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine, La Laguna features an open concept kitchen, an al fresco terrace, and a lively lounge.
 
Bassano, a stylish Italian eatery, brings an element of comfort to Mayakoba. Focusing in the Italian countryside way on the simplest of ingredients, while delivering rich flavor in every dish, the restaurant's standout menu items include homemade pizzas, including an outdoor pizza bar, their signature buccatini cacio e pepe, and exquisite wines.
 
The continued renovation will be inclusive of many additional restaurant offerings that hotel visitors can expect to enjoy with friends and family this coming winter.

St. Regis Kanai Resort, Riviera Maya

 
The guiding principle behind Marriott’s ultra-luxury St. Regis resorts is to emulate the glamorous private retreats of St. Regis' founding family, the Astors. Yes, ‘those’ Astors, the ‘Gilded Age’ family who shaped American high society from their perch at the peak of New York Society, and left their name and legacy on travel in the U.S. and around the world.
 
Two new, five-star St. Regis resorts will increase the St. Regis footprint in Mexico in the coming months, with the kind of vision, avant-garde style and bespoke service and flair St. Regis has become known for around the world.
 
The St. Regis Kanai Resort opens at the end of 2022 in the captivating Mayan Riviera, and will feature a sophisticated design that boasts breathtaking ocean views from every vantage point, with 124 guest rooms and suites, as well as 32 exclusive villas with private pools. 
 
Three pools with distinct features and atmosphere will appeal to your every mood, and multiple restaurants and bars feature American, Latin American, and global tastes including Middle Eastern, Asian fusion, with a Beach Club barbecue, a to-go deli to fuel your adventures on and off the property, even a charming Library “to delight in conversation and chocolate” with a wide variety of Mexican chocolate preparations.
 

St. Regis Los Cabos

 
The striking St. Regis Los Cabos Resort opens in 2023. It’s located on 33 pristine acres in Quivira, Los Cabos, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, in a private master-planned luxury community featuring nature reserves and 20 miles of scenic walking/cycling trails.

 
On its own, the resort has1,200 feet of panoramic coastal views. Guests stay in 120 all-butler serviced rooms or 60 residences, and enjoy luxe amenities like swimming pools, a saltwater lagoon and luxury cabanas as well as a spa, golf course, beach club, the resort’s specialty restaurant, all-day beachfront grill and outdoor poolside restaurant serving small plates with craft cocktails.
 

Start your Mexican Resort Trip!

 
Images courtesy of their respective resort companies.

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25th Anniversary of the 'Star-chitecture' that Put this Spanish Port on the Map
Coinciding with news that Spain has joined the rest of the EU in removing all pandemic entry restrictions for overseas travelers – is the 25th anniversary of a Spanish landmark that transformed modern travel. 

Before celebrity architect Frank Gehry, not many travelers could put their finger on Bilbao, Spain on a map. 
Despite being the largest city in northern Spain and its Basque country, and on the estuary into the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Biscay with a coastal beach culture all its own, Bilbao didn’t have the pull of Spain’s magnetic Mediterranean.

But on October 18th, 1997, Frank Gehry changed all that, with the opening of his boldly-designed, ultra-modern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Built on derelict docklands on the riverbank at the edge of the city center, the breathtakingly avant-garde museum takes its cues from its surroundings. Viewed from the river, it resembles a docked ship, and the sparkling titanium ‘skin’ of the steel building evokes the scales of a fish in motion.

Inside, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao encompasses an atrium with glass curtain walls, curved walkways, and 20 galleries in different shapes, housing hundreds of significant contemporary works of art.

Fellow architects and experts have called the work of the Canadian architect “the greatest building of our time.”
Almost overnight, the city was transformed. From attracting merely 25,000 visitors in 1995, Bilbao drew nearly a million visitors in 2019.

The “Bilbao Effect” or the “Gehry Effect” was no accident.

From the outset, the Guggenheim Bilbao was intended to be a world-renowned landmark and power an urban renewal for under-the-radar Bilbao. But its success was so great, it inspired a host of copycats, with cities around the world in the years since commissioning high-profile ‘star-chitects’ to design landmark public cultural buildings to drive urban renewal and transform visitors’ experiences in those destinations.

Today, when you visit cities revitalized with new icons of landmark contemporary architecture, like Miami or Rio de Janeiro, you can thank Bilbao – and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum.

And you can visit Bilbao, Spain to see the impact of The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao still has on the city, 25 years later.

Bilbao hasn’t rested on its Frank Gehry laurels. Although his Guggenheim Museum remains the city’s biggest draw, it’s been joined by other contemporary architectural landmarks, including the glass-bottomed Zubizuri Bridge, the Basque Health Department's jagged glass-covered building, and the Isozaki towers, which contrast with the gothic, Art Deco and Art Nouveau buildings in Bilbao’s cobblestoned Old Town.

Bilbao is the hub to immerse yourself in Spain's traditional Basque culture and cuisine – not to mention the city's own Michelin-starred culinary experiences.

Start your Spain Trip!


Image: Getty

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Trick or... Travel: Top Hallowe'en-Inspired Trips
Supernatural and macabre films, TV series, and novels feed our gathered-round-the-fire love of a scary story. But there’s nothing like the real-life thrill of visiting in person places around the world whose histories of hauntings, bone-chilling tales and ghostly sightings get our primal senses tingling while we’re standing right there!

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite spook-tacular trips:

London, England


London’s long history of royal intrigues and political skulduggery – as well as its wealth of ancient towers, dungeons, prisons and places of execution – make most historic places ripe for ghastly tales.

Evan Evans conducts London tours with guides expert in ghoulish history specifically for you to immerse yourself in the city’s spine-chilling history at Hallowe’en.

Its London Dungeon Tour brings the dark, bloody history of London to life walking through The London Dungeon. The immersive theatrical storytelling tour with live actors, lavish sets and special effects is a fantastic way to explore the darker side of London’s history and get in the mood for Halloween.

 
Guests will experience the full wrath of King Henry VIII, and join Anne Boleyn on her final journey along the River Thames to the infamous Tower of London (image via Getty).
 
Or take its Jack the Ripper Tour (top image, Getty) to walk in the footsteps of London’s most infamous serial killer on a tour conducted in the evening for maximum thrills. You’ll travel back to Victorian London as you visit the real-life murder locations and hear the gruesome stories behind Jack the Ripper’s vicitims’ deaths.
 

Ireland

 
Ireland is equally scary. A Royal Irish Tours “Emerald Adventure” driving holiday takes you into the heart of a number of Ireland’s most spooky places.
 
You’ll be booked to spend the night in a luxurious, but haunted, castle. Ballygally Castle north of Belfast is home of the ghost of Lady Isabella Shaw, believed to have been thrown from a castle-top window by the cruel Lord Shaw. Over the years many guests have reported strange experiences and have felt a presence in their rooms. There are also endless stories of an eerie green mist over the castle. For the very brave, during your stay you can even visit the room of Lady Isabella at the top of the spiral staircase.
 
During your two-day stay in Dublin, you can travel back in time and learn about “Ghosts, Ghouls and Goodie Glover Day” at EPIC Ireland, the world’s first fully digital museum that tells the story of Irish emigration. Learn more about The Dullahan (“dark man”), a malevolent harbinger of death who served as the inspiration for the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow, or how the local practice of burying corpses with a stake through the heart influenced the writings of Irish emigrant Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.


Uncover the tragic story of ‘Goody Annie Glover’ the Irish woman who became the last person hanged for witchcraft in Boston in 1688, and how the influx of Irish immigrants, who brought their traditions and folktales, helped shape the story of jack-o’-lanterns in America (image via Getty).
 

Sicily

 
The history of Sicily’s capital city already has a bloody history, through its ties to the Sicilian mafia. If you’re looking for a more traditional eerie happening, though, Exodus Tours recommends its ‘Street Food and Sunshine in Sicily” tour for its tour of Palermo whose Teatro Massimo is said to be haunted by the ghost of a nun, known as ‘La Monachella’.

 
The controversial project to build the Teatro Massimo (picture courtesy Exodus Tours) involved the destruction of four churches and two convents. It’s said that the building work desecrated the grave of a former Mother Superior, and her spirit haunts the theatre to this day. During the 23 years it took to construct the opera house, many of the original backers died, including the architect– could the curse of La Monachella be the reason? You’ll have to decide for yourself – if you have the fortune to see the spirit of the Mother Superior herself.
 

Egypt

 
Egypt has given us so many Hallowe’en themes as the country where bandage-wrapped ancient myths and legends originate. On Exodus Tours’ 'Pyramids and Pharaohs in Egypt” tour, you can get up close to the real thing – and contemplate a cautionary tale tied to ancient Egypt.
 

The artefact of the “Unlucky Mummy” (picture courtesy of Exodus Tours) can now be found in the British Museum, but its story begins in 1860s Egypt, where four British university students decided to pick up a souvenir of their visit, in the form of the coffin lid of a priestess of Amen-Ra. On the return trip, two of the graduates died, and a third accidentally shot himself in the arm, resulting in an amputation. The fourth lost his entire fortune (twice), a photographer and porter trying to take a photograph of it died, as did the man translating its hieroglyphs. Throughout the years since, many more people associated with the coffin lid were plagued with bad luck.
 
 

South of France

 
River cruising can sail you right up into the heart of off-the-beaten path historic towns with rich and eerie pasts.

 
On an Avalon Waterways river cruise on the Rhone river in the south of France, you can take one of their Active & Discovery shore excursions: a ghost walk by moonlight through the winding, bending cobblestone alleyways of Viviers (picture via Getty) – a hilltop, stone-walled medieval village – that brings the ancient ghosts, legends and tales of this quiet – is it too quiet? - little town to life.
 

Start your Spook-tacular Trip!



Images credits as noted

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This Airline's Unique Anniversary Collectible Celebrates Aruba's Centenary of Flight Service
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is marking the 103rd anniversary of its founding on October 7 with the creation and presentation of a new Delftware miniature house that is a tiny replica of a Dutch building in one of the destinations where it flies. This charming tradition provides a new addition to the dozens of miniatures that have become niche collectibles for fans of air travel and the famous Dutch porcelain. 
 
Haven’t heard of this? Don’t take my word for it – do an online search and you’ll see what a phenomenon KLM’s Delftware miniature houses are for collectors around the world.
 
Since the 1950s, KLM has been presenting Delftware miniature houses filled with Bols Dutch genever (the centuries-old Dutch forerunner of English gin) to its Business Class passengers on intercontinental flights. The miniatures are replicas of historic buildings in the Netherlands and abroad and have over the years become delightful and sought-after collectors' items. Since 1994, KLM has added a new miniature to its collection every year on the anniversary of the airline’s founding.
 
But in 2022, the replica of a traditional Dutch house in iconic blue and white china represents a very special location: the Dutch island of Aruba.
 
It's only the second time in KLM's history that a Delftware miniature is based on a building outside mainland Netherlands. On KLM's 85th anniversary, the airline presented a replica of the distinctive Penha Building in Curaçao. Along with Bonaire, Aruba, and Curaçao, make up the ‘ABC Islands,’ which are part of the Netherlands overseas.
 
This year's miniature Delftware house is a model of the Ecury family home in Oranjestad on Aruba. The Ecury House has been part of the National Archaeological Museum of Aruba since 2009 and forms the heart of the museum. It was built in 1929 and features a facade with classical elements, Caribbean gingerbread detailing and local decorative elements. This imposing and harmonious ensemble is a unique creation by the architect Dada Picus.
 
In addition, Aruba will be marking a centenary of aviation in 2023. The Ecury House is close to the site where the first aircraft landed, and furthermore, the Ecury family played a significant role in the development of aviation on the island.
 
KLM first flew to Aruba almost ninety years ago and made the island its operational hub for scheduled services across the Caribbean.

 

Centenary of Aviation on Aruba 

2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the first flight’s arrival on Aruba. Since then, the airline industry has connected Aruba – also known as “One Happy Island” – with the rest of the world.
 
'I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick off next year’s anniversary, celebrating 100 years of aviation on Aruba, than with this gift from KLM; adding an Aruban house to their collection of Delftware miniatures,' said the CEO of Queen Beatrix International Airport Aruba. 'This miniature marks KLM's 103rd anniversary and is a great prelude to the centenary celebrations in 2023, which will involve the entire community. We are very proud that KLM has chosen the Ecury House, one of Aruba's most cherished heritage sites. It will add an Aruban flavour to KLM's collection of miniature houses, safeguard and promote the importance of our cultural heritage.”
 
“We are immensely proud that KLM has based its latest miniature house on a building on Aruba,' added the head of the Aruba Tourism Authority. 'Choosing the Ecury family home as the model for its Delftware miniature house spotlights our cultural heritage. We hope this will encourage travellers to come to Aruba and explore our unique Caribbean culture.” 

Start your Trip!


Images courtesy KLM

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There's More to Peru than Machu Picchu
Peru's overwhelming claim to fame is the mystique and majesty of the ancient remains at Machu Picchu - deservedly named recently the 'South America's Leading Tourist Attraction.” But there's more to Peru than its fabled history, leading it to also earn the designation as 'South America's Leading Culinary Destination 2022' and 'Leading Cultural Destination 2022' in the region.

Here are some of the reasons why:

Annual Día de la Canción Criolla Celebrates Music and Dance on October 31

Move over, Hallowe'en. There's a different, time-honored tradition on the last day of October in Peru. Día de la Canción Criolla (‘The Day of Creole Song’) is a performance event hosted by the Ministry of Culture every year on October 31. 
 
The event is hosted along the Peruvian coast and Andean highlands and brings together a medley of provincial music while also providing a platform for local musicians to showcase their skills. The music was created as a result of the history of Spanish influence and African communities in Peru and is typically created using instruments such as the guitar and Peruvian cajón. The music is accompanied by an array of cultural dances such as the Peruvian national dance, the Marinera, and Vals Criolla, also known as the Peruvian Waltz. Locals can be found in main squares throughout the country celebrating this special occasion.


Peruvian Art Galleries & Museums Offer Immersion into Country’s Unique Culture

While that's only one day of the year, there are many incredible galleries and museums throughout the country for visitors to peruse and enjoy year round. Here are just a few ideas of places for art and history lovers to explore:


This museum showcases the past 3,000 years of art in Peru in a permanent collection of over 18,000 pieces from pre-Columbian, Colonial, Republican and Modern eras. It is also housed in an incredible space that once served as Peru’s National Exhibition in the 19th century. (Pictured above)

Museo Larco is surrounded by a lush garden in a beautifully restored 18th-century house. Visitors here can explore more than 30,000 catalogued ancient pottery artifacts and pre-Columbian erotic art. 

MAC offers a spacious outdoor area as well as interactive exhibits. It is the only institution dedicated exclusively to researching and promoting contemporary, artistic practices of Peru. Both emerging Latin American artists and international names have shown their work at MAC. Guests to the museum can tour three rooms in this glass structure and then enjoy some time outdoors to contemplate the work. 

Considered the pride of Northern Peru, the museum was designed to resemble ancient Moche tombs. Visitors here can explore exhibits of many of the artifacts of the Lord of Sipán, one of the most emblematic figures of the Mochica culture. The discovery of his tomb was the first royal burial site found intact in South America, and belonging to a Peruvian civilization prior to the Inca Empire.

The curators of this museum believe pieces of Andean ethnographic art, if they are produced using traditional techniques and materials, are pieces of great cultural, educational and aesthetic value. The museum aims to acquire, preserve, investigate, communicate and exhibit these foundations of a genuinely Peruvian art form.

Three Lima Restaurants Named to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List

Those in the know go to Peru for its culinary scene, recently acknowledged yet again with three restaurants in the nation's capital being named to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, making Lima a must-visit destination for foodies.

The three restaurants were Central (#2) – owned and run by Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, last year’s World’s Best Female Chef; Maido (#11), a perfect expression of Peru’s Nikkei cuisine; and Mayta (#32), which focuses heavily on sustainable Peruvian ingredients. (Pictured, top, a mise en place at Lima’s Central restaurant.)

Another Lima spot, Kjolle (#68) was named on the expanded list of the top 100, and is also owned by Chef Pía León.



Belmond's Luxury Train Adventure through Peru is an Epicurean Odyssey

Travellers to Peru can explore Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machupicchu, Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca, the Uros floating islands and the Colca Valley on a food adventure aboard Belmond's luxury train the Hiram Bingham (bar car pictured above).

Journeying from city to mountain, lake to canyon, guests on this excursion explore the rich culture of Peru through architecture, adventure and, ultimately, your taste buds. Activities on this journey include visits to markets across the country to learn about Peruvian food culture, dining at incredible restaurants, and partaking in a special river-side lunch at Rio Sagrado, A Belmond Hotel, including a variety of dishes featuring local ingredients, strolls through charming villages and, of course, world-class cuisine aboard the train itself.


Start your Peru Trip!


Images courtesy of their respective properties as noted.

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Take Flight in a Microlight Aircraft above Africa’s Victoria Falls
It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the world’s largest waterfall. Africa’s Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe is part of the legend and mystique of a trip to southern Africa – a must-see site that awes every visitor, with columns of its spray visible across the landscape for miles.

Now, there’s an even more life-changing way to experience this legendary falls – if you have a head for heights!

The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara, located right on the banks of the Zambezi River, doesn’t just provide an ideal launching pad for exploration of Victoria Falls nearby. 


As part of the hotel’s African Adventure Experience, guests can enjoy mesmerising views of the world’s largest waterfall from aboard a private microlight aircraft gliding over the Zambezi River. Microlights are completely open to the elements, which also allows for uninterrupted aerial views of the falls, nicknamed the “smoke that thunders”.

The microlight (pictured, top) is expertly piloted on a course over the bends of the Zambezi River, weaving between rainbows and spray, and your pilot also points out wildlife along the Zambezi riverbanks before turning several circuits over the Victoria Falls itself. The microlight can fly lower than other aircraft, so you’ll feel the true power and majesty of this wonder of the natural world and symbol of southern Africa.

In addition to the unforgettable views of the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls from the air, adventure-loving guests of the Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara have other unique ways to experience the rapids up close.


Zambezi is widely considered to be one of the best white water rafting rivers in the world. Aptly named rapids, including “Stairway to Heaven”, “The Terminator” and “Oblivion” chart a challenging course as you navigate your way through the vast gorges.

If that’s still a bit too adrenaline-powered for your taste, you can also opt for a gentle private river safari cruise where you dine on board while taking in spectacular views and keep your binoculars close at hands to spot hippos, crocodiles and other wildlife in the Zambezi River’s surrounding nature reserves.


Back at the hotel, you can cement memories of your African odyssey with a private barbecue or Monkey Tree dinner.
Nature lovers, thrill seekers, and intrepid explorers alike staying at the Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel will all find personal ways to discover Victoria Falls and its natural wonders.

Start Your Africa Trip!

 
Images courtesy of Anantara

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Another River Cruise Line to Begin Sailing on the Douro in Portugal
 
 
Beginning in 2024, Avalon Waterways will be the latest river cruise line to embark on this increasingly popular route, joining Uniworld, Tauck, AmaWaterways, Scenic, Emerald Cruises and others on this western-most European river cruise route.
 
Calling its new itinerary “a new view on the Old World,” Avalon Waterways says the new route will provide guests with “the grandest views in cruising and whim-powered itineraries to Southwestern Europe.” 
 
Avalon's new river cruise roundtrip from Porto brings guests into the heart of hillside vineyards and historic villages in this famous wine region all the way to the glorious sandstone architecture of Salamanca, Spain, just across the border.  
 
From medieval castles to cinematic scenery – plus all the vinho, fresh-baked rustic bread, locally grown olives and locally-produced cheese your soul desires – a Douro River cruise earns an entry on your European river cruising bucket list. 
 
Plus, Avalon Waterways has three styles of shore excursions that allow you to customize your Portuguese river cruise. In addition to ‘Classic’ tours, guests can choose from ‘Active’ and ‘Discovery’ tours that give you new perspectives on destinations, plus a chance to break a light sweat and even get your hands a bit dirty! The river cruise line says ‘Active’ and ‘Discovery’ tours on its new Douro River itinerary will include things like rock art or baking traditional ‘florinhas’ pastries, painting iconic Portuguese tiles, to riding bikes from Porto to the sea. 
 
Of course, all guests will enjoy visiting farms and vineyards, wine- and food-tastings, scenic sailings and historic city exploration, with overnights in some towns along the way.
 

A Ship Named 'Happiness'

Douro River dimensions require customized vessels, and Avalon’s purpose-built ship for its Portugal river cruises is the Avalon Alegria, debuting in 2024. 
 
The Alegria – which means ‘happiness’ in Portuguese – will accommodate just a hundred guests on two decks, so you’ll be able to get to know and have shared experiences with the small group of people on your Portuguese river journey. 
 
 
Like other Avalon Waterways ships, the Alegria will orient beds to face the windows, so you can open your floor-to-ceiling sliding windows and your whole room becomes an ‘open-air balcony’ facing the views sailing along the Douro. 
Guests will also enjoy a pool on the Sky Deck to bask in the warm Portuguese sun and take in the scenery during daytime sailings from a new, poolside perspective.
 

Start your Douro River Cruise Trip!

 
Top Image: Getty
Bottom Image: Avalon Waterways
 
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The Safest Countries for Solo Women Travelers - Plus Other Top Tips
Never before have more women been traveling solo! Singletons of all ages and stages in life: never-been-married, divorced, widowed… all kinds of women are deciding not to wait to be paired up or until a friend can be a travel companion to embark on dream journeys.

They’re making plans to travel now. Does that sound like you? If so, you’re part of one of the top travel trends, and the great news is that the world has never been more accessible to solo travelers, especially solo women travelers.

Here are three of the most burning questions women often ask before committing to travel on their own, and my tips for solo travel:

1. Is it safe?

Let’s face it – everyone’s daily commute has risks. But the idea of traveling alone in an unfamiliar location makes many savvy women newly thoughtful about their personal safety.

To help you decide where you might want to try solo travel, here are the results of a recent study that ranked three dozen popular tourist countries for their safety for solo women travelers. 
 
The ranking was based on seven measurements about things like the percentage of women in a country who report experiencing violence, who feel safe walking home or at night, of how a society feels about domestic violence or violence against women, and the strength of local laws protecting women. The data came from organizations like the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Bank.

Only one of the countries that made the top ten list of the safest destinations for solo women travelers was outside of Europe.

Ireland topped the safe list with a score of 7.88/10, with Austria, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland rounding out the top five.

The only non-European nation that made the top 10 was Canada, which ranked 8th, with Spain and Portugal ranked slightly higher and the Netherlands and Poland completing the top 10. One other non-European nation, Japan, barely missed the top 10, coming in at 11th in the rankings.

Tip for Staying Safe:
Also, don’t forget the old mantra “There’s safety in numbers.” Traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to travel alone – group travel is a great way to travel solo – and stay safe.

2. Is it more expensive?

Travel often prices trips for ‘double occupancy.’ That is: two people to a room. And that can put solo travelers at a financial disadvantage. If you don’t want or don’t have anyone to share with, it can leave you on the hook for double the price.

Well, the good news is that more and more travel companies are catering to the solo travel crowd. Some serve only singletons or even single women, with no ‘single surcharge’ at all; they’ve negotiated prices for accommodations that don’t penalize their solo women travelers. Others specialize in singletons and pair up solos who are willing to share a room to save.

Other tour companies and cruise lines offer occasional solo travel specials, where they waive the single traveler surcharge. These are terrific deals that give you the full experience without having to share! 


Tip for Maximizing your Solo Travel Budget:
Your expert travel advisor can help you take advantage of solo travel specials whether it’s an ocean or river cruise or a small- or full-sized group land tour that interests you.

More and more travel companies are catering to solo travelers, especially women. There are some companies that serve only women solo travelers! And many, many others who make special accommodations, packages, and pricing arrangements for women seizing the day and hitting the road on their own.

3. Is it worth it?

Solo travel can seem like a lot of effort. But if you’re craving travel, finding the optimal way to travel solo is your dream come true.

And the good news is that solo travel doesn’t have to mean you’re on your own.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Solo Travel:
I mentioned group travel already. Groups provide not just extra safety and an expert local tour guide who knows the lay of the land to make you feel completely secure. The local group tour leader can give you the best local knowledge for you to spend your free time, so you have a built-in support system and source of information.

Groups also people to socialize with, and if you’re a bit intimidated by the idea of a large group, take heart! Tour groups can range from a full coach of 40 people to as small as half a dozen people. You have a wide range of options for the number of people you’ll be sharing your journey with.

Plus, working with a qualified travel advisor means there’s always someone with the full details of your travel plans at home who’s in your corner – and able to help sort out any glitch that may happen while you’re on your solo travel journey.
 

Start your Solo Trip!

 
 
Images: Getty
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