InStyle Vacations's Blog

Top Tips for G7 Leaders - and Travelers Like Us - to Experience Cornwall
The leaders of the world’s seven biggest democratic economies are meeting in Cornwall, England, and it’s putting the Southwest region of the country under a spotlight.

Maybe you’ve heard of ‘bleisure’ travel? It’s about tacking on a leisure vacation to a business trip. We’re not sure if the leaders of the Western World have the time for a little independent fun and exploration during their packed schedules in Cornwall, but here’s what our friends at Visit Britain suggest they – and you – do on a visit.
 

Cliffs, Surf, Record-Breaking and Breathtaking Hikes

Coastal Cornwall’s claim to fame (other than things labelled ‘Cornish’, like Cornish hens and Cornish pasties/ meat pies) are related to its dramatic, seaside location: over 300 sandy beaches, coastal villages and resorts, dramatic cliffs and wild moors.

It’s an ideal scenario for outdoor, fresh air activities like hiking, cycling and even surfing that draws surfers and kitesurfers from around the world when the surf’s up.

Take a walk along the newly-opened English Coast Path, which, at 2,795 miles (4,500 km) is
the longest managed and waymarked coastal trail in the world. (Yes, in case you were wondering, it’s longer than other famous long-distance trails like the 2190 mile Appalachian Trail and the 2600 mile Pacific Crest Trail in the U.S.)
 
The view alone will get your blood racing. Cornwall has 12 “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” from the dramatic cliffs of the North Coast to the beautifully bleak hills of Bodmin Moor.


“Jurassic Park” IRL

It’s the closest you might come to a ‘real life’ dinosaur habitat. Cornwall’s “Jurassic Coast” is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and THE place to go fossil hunting with the dinosaur lovers in your family.

The Jurassic Coast begins in Devon and continues for 95 miles (150 km) to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset. The rock cliffs at Charmouth and Lyme Regis contain thousands of fossils of animals that swam in the Jurassic seas, and each year fossils are eroded from the cliffs and tumble onto the beaches waiting to be discovered.

If you’ve seen the film Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet, it is set in Lyme Regis and tells the story of amateur fossil collector Mary Anning. She and her brother were the first to discover a complete Ichthyosaur skeleton and a complete Plesiosuar. Some of her fossils are at London’s Natural History Museum. Fossil fans can find out more about Anning’s life at the Lyme Regis Museum. The Museum of Jurassic Marine Life is home to some of the first fossils found. The famous Weymouth Bay pliosaur is on exhibition at the Dorset County Museum.


Photo: VisitBritain/ Jason Hawkes

The World’s Largest Indoor Rainforest

On the Southeast coast of Cornwall, a huge crater inside a depleted clay pit has been transformed into the Eden Project. Visitors discover a thriving garden featuring massive Biomes housing the world’s largest rainforest within walls including stunning plants, contemporary gardens and exhibitions. In 2022, it will even get its own hotel on site, a 109-bedroom designer hotel that maximizes accessibility, energy-efficiency and sustainability.
 
Photo: English Heritage

Legends and Tales

Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle is inextricably linked with the ultimate English tale: the legend of King Arthur. Situated along the dramatic and windswept coastline, the castle ruins echo with stories from centuries ago. Built half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland projecting into the Cornish sea, the startlingly contemporary Tintagel Bridge brings the two impressive sites together in a dramatic way.

Tropical Escapes on British shores

Cornwall’s Isles of Scilly are called England’s own tropical islands, accessible by a 15 minute flight or a ferry ride to what might seem like another world. Only 5 of the 140 islands lying less than 30 miles (45 km) off of Land’s End are inhabited, providing the ultimate in privacy and seclusion to explore crystal clear waters and idyllic beaches.
Those in the know have already discovered the charms of the Isles of Scilly. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Dame Judi Dench all holiday there.

Local Flavor

Cornish pasties, or meat pies, are an historic favorite, but they’re no bygone tradition. Visit Britain tells us more than 120 million Cornish pasties are made each year! Add decadent Cornish Cream Teas to your travel menu and don’t forget about the seafood! Coastal Cornwall is the perfect place for fresh-from-the-sea fish and chips, not to mention Fal Oysters and Cornish Sardines.

At at the luxury resort Carbis Bay Hotel near St. Ives (yes, the St. Ives of the poem, “As I was walking to St. Ives…”), spa treatments include hot tubs infused with Cornish seaweed. That’s fresh!
 

#StartYourTrip



Top Photo: St. Michaels Mount, a historic fortified building on a rocky outcrop in the Marazion bay, off the coast of Cornwall. VisitBritain/ Jason Hawkes

 New, Luxury Water Park Makes a ‘Splash’ in the Bahamas
If you’ve never put the words ‘luxury’ and ‘water park’ together in a sentence before - let alone a vacation - now’s your chance.

Baha Mar is a thousand acres of Bahamian paradise on world-famous Cable Beach near Nassau. The exquisite white sands are home to not one, but three luxury beach resorts: Rosewood, SLS and Grand Hyatt.

Now, in addition to over three dozen restaurants and lounges, convention center, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Royal Blue Golf Course, the Caribbean's first and only flagship ESPA spa, more than 30 luxury boutiques and the largest casino in the Caribbean, Baha Mar has debuted another way for visitors to play.

Baha Bay is a $200 million, 15-acre beachfront water park, exclusively available for guests at Baha Mar. It’s just as luxurious as the rest of the resort complex – with aquatic experiences for the young – and the young at heart.

Imagine the days of water-based active fun on Baha Bay’s 24 water slides, a tropical action river, group raft rides, the first ProSlide Dueling Water Coaster and FlyingSAUCER 45 in the Caribbean, what’s being called the “most spectacular wave pool” in the islands, and splash zones “for kids of all ages.”

For some visitors, the ultimate thrills will come trying your luck at the world’s only outdoor casino inside a waterpark.

Then for a change of pace, the Baha Bay Beach Club offers privacy, beachside entertaining, and chilling out. Infinity pools overlook the endless turquoise sea, and full-service private cabanas, daybeds, and poolside lounge areas make an ideal day on the beach also the most relaxing.
 
Baha Bay Beach Club also has a restaurant serving coastal California-inspired bites and drinks. That’s just one of Baha Bay’s breezy, beachside dining experiences. The al fresco Market includes Cleo Grill, Sam's Crispy Chicken, Plant Nation and Chill, the famed Sugar Factory, Umami Burger, and Barracuda food trucks.
 
All that, wrapped up in the warmth of the Bahamian sunshine and hospitality.
 
Now that travel’s reopening, if you’re among the many people planning to ‘splash out’ a bit on your next holiday, Baha Mar and its new aquatic attraction Baha Bay might just go to the top of your ‘beach vacation’ list.  

#StartYourTrip





This is something we can get on board with! A few years ago, Spain declared the third Thursday of June ‘World Tapas Day,’ which in 2021 falls on June 10.

Tapas comes from the Spanish verb ‘tapar’ or to ‘cover’, and story goes that back in the day, ‘tapas’ was simply the piece of bread or maybe meat that you used to cover your wine glass so the flies didn’t drop in. 

Classy! That lead to actual small plates, with small bites of ‘bar food’ and simple cooking at inns and bars, replacing the slices of bread – and unknowingly starting a culinary craze. 

WATCH the video above for the Top Reasons we love Barcelona – including contemporary tapas with organic wine!

From those humble roots, tapas today has become a symbol not only of Spanish cuisine, but also lifestyle.
It represents relaxed gatherings of friends in a bar or sidewalk café in Spain, chatting, drinking wine, sharing small plates of simple, delicious and easy-to-eat local food. The very best thing about tapas is not what you drink or eat, but being in the moment.

Spain’s historic tradition of small, shared plates fit perfectly into a modern way of life and socializing.

No trip to Spain is complete without tapas. And no tapas experience is complete if it’s rushed or too formal or too fussy. So the best way to celebrate tapas on a trip to Spain is to give yourself plenty of time, find a place where the locals go, cast away any preconceived notions of what you ‘should’ be eating or drinking, and let the staff guide you to their favorite wine and best small dishes.

On World Tapas Day, you can celebrate one of the planet’s most beloved styles of dining and socializing even if you’re not actually in Spain – or even close to a casual Spanish restaurant.

Tapas’ simplicity makes it ideal for home entertaining – especially in the summer months when outdoor living, casual entertaining, simple, delicious shared plates and wine please the palate and your guests.

Visit your local wine store and ask for recommendations for a couple of types of Spanish wine. If you’re lucky, your local specialty food market will have everything else you need for simple tapas, too. Bread, olives, cheeses, jambon, and even marinated seafood easily translate into an evening of tapas in the backyard. You can plate some items up on skewers, scatter numerous small plates and napkins and candles around, add some Spanish guitar to your playlist and suddenly, you have tapas!

Are you motivated to do a little cooking? Spain Tourism has shared its list of 20 popular tapas that you'll find recipes for online.

A little of tapas makes a cocktail party… and more make a meal. There’s no better way to entertain, to celebrate Spanish culture – and to get inspired to take your next trip to Spain for tapas at the source.
 

#WorldTapasDay

#StartYourTrip



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

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

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

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

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

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

African Safari

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

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

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

(InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa)

Tahiti and the South Seas

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

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

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

Egypt’s Pyramids

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

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

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

Machu Picchu

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

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

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

(Celebrity Cruise's Celebrity Flora)

Galapagos

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

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

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

Antarctica

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

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

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

#RevengeTravel

#StartYourTrip

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host Best Trip TV







10 Reasons to Visit Columbia on Your Next Trip to Latin America
Colombia is reborn. Named after the 15th-century explorer of the Americas, Colombia stands out as the only nation in South America with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, as well as being the leading source of coffee and emeralds in the world.
 
Colombia has found new followers among savvy global travellers, who, in survey after survey cited the warmth and kindness of Colombians as one of their top reasons to visit. Now, Colombia has given itself a new calling card, “the Most Welcoming Place on Earth.” 
 
That's number 1. We can think of at least nine more:
 
1 Colombia’s Renaissance
Forget old Miami Vice re-runs. Colombia has shed a troubled history, and narratives of cartels are a thing of the past. Through community and eco driven initiatives, the country has earned its place as one of the top destinations in South America, offering travellers a new place to explore. 
2 The most biodiverse country in the world
The South American nation is the most biodiverse country on earth per square kilometer, and is home to 10% of the Earth's flora and fauna.
3 Caribbean beaches AND a Pacific Coast…
There aren't many places in the world where you can sun yourself on a Caribbean beach and see snow-capped mountains at the same time in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal range in the tropics, and one of the highest coastal ranges in the world. On Colombia’s Pacific coast the beaches are surrounded by jungle and its waters host humpback whales from July to October. 
4 It has one of the world's biggest Carnivals
According to Colombians, the Barranquilla Carnival is second to none. It comes with a spectacular display of Colombia's melting pot of cultures: African, Indigenous, European and Middle Eastern.
5 Cool and Cosmopolitan
Bogota and Medellin are gaining traction on the world stage, and give visitors a taste of Latin American chic.
6 Get Your Java Fix
You remember the commercials. Colombia produces some of the world's most prized coffee - that's a given. What you might not know is that the country has a budding coffee tourism industry that brings you up close and personal with producers and tasters and the most authentic flavors, right at their source.
7 It's the Land of more than 1,000 Rhythms
Hailed as the Land of more than 1,000 Rhythms, every corner of Colombia moves to its own distinct sound. Actually, sounds. Over half a dozen distinct musical genres that blend Spanish and European influences with African beats and ancient indigenous rhythms liven up the country's cultural scene and make Colombia a must-visit place for music lovers.
8 Booming cycle-tourism
Colombia is at the heart of South American cycling tourism because of its diverse topography and climate - and with over 38 key training trails, your legs will tire out before your interest in this off-the-beaten-track cycling destination does. 
9 Greener and More Sustainable
Colombia has amended its tourism laws to incorporate sustainability as a core principal. The country formally recognizes the importance of protecting the environment and supporting local communities.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Image courtesy ProColumbia

5 Ways to Explore this Country’s Desert From the Traditional to the Extreme
If you missed your dose of exotic scenery and culture – or even winter sports adrenaline this year, one country’s desert can feed your travel imagination.

The Qatar peninsula juts a hundred miles out from the Arabian Peninsula into the Persian Gulf. Most travellers to the region focus on the thrilling, ultra-modern capital city of Doha. But most of the small country is covered by sand, from barren plains to the Khor al Adaid “Inland Sea” of rolling sand dunes where the desert meets the sea.

That’s where outdoor enthusiasts can discover their inner explorer or a whole new take on winter sports.
 
Instead of dressing warmly for snow-covered slopes, adventurous winter sports fans can pack their sunscreen instead. Glampers and stargazers and adventurers can uncover new horizons.
 
Top desert adventures in Qatar include:
 
1. Sandboarding
Leave your winter sports comfort zone far behind sandboarding in the desert near Qatar's Inland Sea, Khor Al Adaid. You’ll never see your board the same way again after a thrilling slide down the sands in the warm Arabian breeze.
 
2. Dune Bashing
Dare-devils looking for a new and high-octane experience can conquer the desert dunes by machine, on a quad bike.
 
3. Desert Safari
Over 11-thousand square km of desert lie less than an hour away from Doha, putting a desert safari within easy reach of any visitor to the country. You can glide across the Qatari desert in air-conditioned 4x4s with a driver expert in navigating over the sand, and. for a truly unique dining experience, foodies can end their desert safari with dinner by candlelight under the stars.
 
 
 
(Photo credit: Vinay Swaroop Balla & Qatar National Tourism Council)

4. Camel Riding
Of course, the traditional and iconic way to transit the rolling dunes of the Arabian desert is by camelback, and it’s an experience you can still have today. Herds of camels remain in the Inland Sea area.

Culture enthusiasts can get a taste of the nomadic life of the Bedouin tribes on a camel tour of Mesaieed, or you can up the ante with a more luxurious experience glamping under the stars following a desert camel ride.

5. Arabian Nights
Sand below, and stars above. A range of astro-tourism experiences have been inspired by the starry skies of the Qatari desert.

Imagine a moon-lit camel safari and stargazing with an astronomer, with dinner by the campfire and glamping in a combination of a modern luxury meets authentic Arabian style, overlooking the Inland Sea. Or a tour of the Souq Waqif and a dinner at the spectacular Torch 360 restaurant, which offers panoramic views of the bright lights of the nighttime Doha skyline.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Top Image: Qatar National Tourism Council www.visitqatar.qa



Riding the Rails AND the Waves in the Latest Travel Trend
There’s a phrase in travel: ‘Multi-modal’. Think of ‘planes, trains and automobiles,’ where you complete your trip via a number of different types of transportation.

Multi-modal travel is not new. But one version – larger-than-life journeys combining the romance of both cruise and rail - is picking up steam.

Ships and trains are a natural fit, even mirror images of each other: one on land, the other at sea. Cruise and rail modes are both steeped in storied history and traditions, and many travel lovers can name famous ships and trains as well as routes on their bucket list. For North Americans embedded in car culture, the unique rhythms and motion of riding waves or rail are unique and hypnotic. (Personally, I sleep better on a ship or train than I do at home.) And both modes provide travellers with perspectives on scenery they simply can’t see from the road.



Cruise or rail journeys on their own are perfect vacations. Pairing them together takes ‘unforgettable’ to a whole level. Travel companies have started making the connection, and there’s a growing collection of epic train-plus-ship itineraries like these:

Rail Journeys Inland Following a Sea Voyage


REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES' Concierge Collection of Cruise & Rail Journeys

Guests on Regent Seven Seas Cruises have had the option for several seasons to extend their journey on land - before or after their Regent Alaska cruise - on a Canadian Rocky Mountaineer train journey.


Where your luxury cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer takes you along the wild West Coast and introduces you to unspoiled marine seascapes, Rocky Mountaineer operates bucket list rail journeys between Vancouver, the major cruise port gateway to Alaska, and the iconic Canadian Rockies National Parks and towns of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. 

In the heart of the West’s greatest wilderness, from plush, glass-domed, railcars, guests take in a 360 degree view of mountains, lakes and forests as well as fine dining and personalized service.

So many guests have fallen in love with the train through Canada’s Rocky Mountains married with a luxury cruise, Regent-style along the northwest coast of the continent, that Regent is expanding opportunities globally with Belmond’s storied Belmond trains in what it’s calling a ‘Concierge Collection’ of journeys.

(Belmond via YouTube)

Imagine sailing for 16 days on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner from Los Angeles to Lima, Peru, where you’ll board the famous Hiram Bingham, a Belmond Train for the 3-day rail journey all the way to mystical Machu Picchu.

(Belmond via YouTube)

Other itineraries combining Regent cruises and Belmond ultra-luxury trains in Europe include the itineraries to the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites.

SEABOURN

What's better than a cruise through the untamed seascapes of Alaska on an ultra-luxury, small Seabourn ship? Guests can extend their time in Alaska and British Columbia with Seabourn Journeys, pre- and/or post-cruise itineraries featuring destinations and experiences in treasured locations that cannot be accessed on single-day excursions from Seabourn Odyssey during sailing. These include an exploration of some of Canada's most stunning mountain scenery aboard the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train.


Seabourn has an official partnership with UNESCO, and the cruise-and-rail route includes Canada's Banff National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
 

Train Extensions of River Cruises in the Heart of Europe

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises are already unique. Each jewel-box ship is like a floating boutique hotel that captures and amplifies the best characteristics of the region where it sails.

You feel like you’re in an historic French hotel, re-done to modern tastes while sailing with Uniworld in Bordeaux or along the Rhone. For example, the company’s new ‘La Venezia’ has glass and textiles and flavours all sourced from its glamorous Venice home. (pictured, top)

Uniworld’s first Cruise & Rail journey transports guests from the Swiss Alps to Italy on a four-day Zurich-to-Venice train journey, taking guests to their week-long coastal cruise in Venice and Northern Italy on La Venezia. 

Uniworld's La Venezia

It’s been so in demand, Uniworld has developed a second Cruise & Rail itinerary for guests on La Venezia, from Venice to Istanbul for eight nights, and reverse, all summer long. The journey transports guests not just geographically, to to another era, beginning with a hotel stay in Istanbul, then train travel through nine countries including Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria, to the ship in Venice, where a week-long exploration of one of the world’s greatest seaports and coastline awaits.

If that’s not evocative enough, how about the ‘Castles of Transylvania’ journey connecting Golden Eagle’s Danube Express train with Uniworld’s ‘Enchanting Danube’ cruise, onboard the cruise line’s regal ship the Maria Theresa.  Guests can choose from either a pre-cruise rail option for a 12-night trip starting with a one-night hotel stay in Budapest or a post-cruise rail option for an 11-night trip starting in Passau. On this trip, top highlights include a visit to three castles, including a visit to the capital of the Transylvania region, Cluj-Napoca and even dinner at Bran Castle of the legend of Dracula!
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip TV

Images copyright as noted.

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











Many modern holiday celebrations put an irreverent twist on their historic – and often more solemn -traditions.
Thailand’s Songkran may be one of the most extreme examples of that phenomenon.

Ancient Thai culture marked the New Year in what we now call April. The word is Sanskrit, meaning ‘astrological passage’, and it coincides with the rising of Aries and the New Year of the Hindu and Buddhist calendars. Songkran is a three-day ritual, from the 13th to the 15th of April. The final day, April 15th is considered ‘New Year’s Day’ itself. 

To help usher in the Thai New Year, we were invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to a virtual Songkran celebration via a live feed to events in the country. 

You can WATCH the video of our virtual visit to Thailand at the top.

Water rituals play the central role in the observance of Songkran. They symbolize washing sins and bad luck away, and purifying the celebrant for the new year.

During our live feed virtual visit to a Thai temple, we watched celebrants gently pouring water over a Buddha statue.

(From Tourism Authority of Thailand video, top)

They also made offerings and practiced hand cleansing rituals with their elders and the Buddhist monks at the temples.

Then it was off to an elephant sanctuary. Elephants are the national symbol of Thailand, and are considered sacred for their role in Buddhism. These majestic, intelligent and sensitive animals also have a connection to the water. They are often pictured bathing in rivers and spraying each other.

The manager of the sanctuary wished us happy Songkran, and observed Songkran water purifying rituals – but it was an adorable baby elephant who stole the show, shyly weaving around the other elephants’ legs in the background, and peaking occasionally into the camera.

The final segment of the virtual event was a visit to the kitchen of American Top Chef alumnus, Asian cuisine chef Arnold Myint, where he prepared a refreshing Thai dish known and loved in Thai restaurants around the world, Thai papaya salad.

 
That’s how authorities like to depict Songkran, in all its charming, respectful and uniquely Thai aspects.

This is how the new generation celebrates Songkran – with public water fights! The ‘super soaker’ version of Songkran is just as colorful... maybe just not the most dignified or elegant. But it’s clearly inspired by traditional celebrations of water cleansing and even sacred elephants spraying water!

There may be a practical element, too. While technically ‘Spring’ in the northern hemisphere, in sultry Thailand so close to the equator, April is actually the hottest month. 

And while water fights on the streets with buckets and water guns and unavoidable wet T-shirts (!) may seem pretty irreverent, they do provide precious relief from the heat – you might call it ‘blowing off steam!’

Maybe that’s why modern, young celebrants are putting a ‘splashy’ new spin on ancient Songkran rituals.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon




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





Spring Gardens, Tropical-Style in Costa Rica
'Spring flowers’ takes on new meaning in the tropics.

With Costa Rica’s epic biodiversity and commitment to conservation, lush, green landscapes are a given any time you visit. But some of the Central American country’s botanical gems are best discovered not in the wilderness, but in gardens crafted by human hands.

Here are five gardens to add ‘color’ to your trip to Costa Rica.
 

Botanical Orchid Garden

North America has 200 varieties of orchids. Luscious Costa Rica? 1300.

The “Guaria Morada” orchid is even the country’s national flower. Its name has a picturesque meaning: “purple country girl,” for its delicate petals with vivid hues. Unlike most greenhouse orchids we buy at home, it’s even scented. Local Tican tradition says the Guaria Morada brings good fortune. 

Only an hour from the heart of Costa Rica’s capital San Jose, visitors can find the Botanical Orchid Garden in the quaint town of La Garita. The distinctive, purple Guaria Morada may be the star of the show. But it’s just one variety of a permanent collection of beautiful and rare orchids amassed in the garden you might not have a chance to see all together anywhere else. In addition to greenhouse space, visitors can walk tropical trails, and absorb the serenity of water gardens.
 

Lankester Botanical Garden

The 27-acre Lankester Botanical Garden is one of the most important orchid research centres in Latin America. It’s also just outside of San Jose, in Cartago province. The Botanical Garden’s mission is to promote conservation, enjoyment and sustainable use of flora through scientific research, horticulture and environmental education.

It’s home to more than 3,000 species of plants. Nearly 1,000 of those are native and exotic orchids. Although Costa Rica’s orchids bloom year-round, the garden is at its most spectacular between February and April.
Visitors used to greenhouse orchids in pots at home may find it hard to believe that many orchids are actually hard to spot in the wilderness, where typically grown in the forest canopy or trunks or branches. At the Botanical Garden, they’re displayed at eye level for optimal sight, scents and awe.

You can take a virtual tour of Lankester Botanical Garden here.
 

Caribbean Botanical Garden

Caribbean Botanical Garden is one of the first agro-tourism companies in Costa Rica’s province of Limón, located on the country’s Caribbean coast.

Rather than taking orchids from the wild, the botanical garden adheres to its conservation priorities and produces its orchids on site. It’s the only place in all of the Caribbean with a collection of over 300 species of national, foreign and hybrid orchids.
In-house propagation allows the orchids to be cultivated wildly across the botanical garden. And the orchids don’t live in the garden alone. You’ll also see toucans, parrots, tangaras, macaws and several other beautiful bird species flying above the treetops within the Caribbean Botanical Garden.
 

Else Kientzler Garden

It isn’t all about orchids. More than 2000 varieties of exotic tropical plants and flowers from around the world are on display at the Else Kientzler Garden on the outskirts of the artisan town of Sarchí, in central Costa Rica just over an hour’s north of the capital.
More than 2.5 km of beautifully landscaped trails reveal the vast collection of orchids, cacti, bromeliads, palms, succulents, heliconia and hibiscus from Costa Rica, New Zealand, Madagascar, Brazil, India, Japan and more.
Else Kientzler Garden offers a birdwatching tour as well as several wellness activities, including guided meditation, yoga, pilates and Tai Chi near its spectacular topiary labyrinth.

No wonder the garden is also a popular and magical venue for intimate weddings.

 

Monteverde Butterfly Gardens

Butterflies go hand in hand with flowers, and the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens reveal 30 species of butterflies amongst 4 different types of habitats.

It’s a must visit attraction for butterfly or flower lovers near Costa Rica’s mystical Monteverde Cloud Forest.
Visitors can learn about Costa Rica’s unique bug life, while exploring lush greenery and getting up close and personal with colourful Monarchs, Morphos and more. The garden’s mission is to change the way we think about insects and arachnids – yes, spiders!
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images Courtesy of visitcostarica.com/en
 



Signs of Spring - Worth Traveling For
Spring may be the most hopeful season.

There is nothing more uplifting than seeing Nature reborn every Spring. It’s like an assurance that life will get better again, no matter how tough the dark days of Winter – or life – have been.

Between March’s Spring Equinox and the start of Summer on the Solstice in June, the days get progressively longer, dousing us in light, and sparking the renewal of life after a long, dull winter.

So it’s no wonder that so many ancient cultures celebrate Spring’s light and new life.

Or why we are still so enchanted by the signs of the new season.

None are quite so colorful as spring flowers peeking through the snow or opening on trees or brightening fields. Since the earliest of times, humans have cultivated their outdoor environments for both nutritional, and inspirational purpose. 

Spring gardens feed the soul with wonder in the annual renewal of life, and the strength of even seemingly fragile organisms. There’s a parallel to human life our inner, primitive humans recognize.

If ‘April showers bring May flowers’, here’s the start of a Spring travel ‘bucket’ list to capture the essence of the season.

SPRING BULBS


Netherlands:
Keukenhof Garden is the largest spring flower garden in the world, planted with millions of spring bulbs. The garden is an orgy of vivid colors every Spring, but more than tourist attraction, it’s a calling card – or even business card – for Dutch spring bulbs, the Netherlands’ biggest agricultural product.

The garden serves as an outdoor sales convention for international buyers looking at the latest flowers offered for sale by Dutch growers.

Canada:
Ottawa Tulip Festival has a Dutch connection, too. During WW2, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge from their war-torn country. In gratitude, every year, a huge shipment of Dutch bulbs makes its way across the ocean to Canada’s capital, where they bloom in Spring in parks throughout the city.
 

CHERRY BLOSSOMS

Japan:
Cherry trees are native to many countries, but the ancient Japanese were the first to immortalize the delicate beauty of their pale blossoms in poetry, song, arts and crafts, and aristocratic festival. Cherry blossom viewing (pictured, top) has become a cornerstone of modern Japanese culture, but things have changed a bit since the Shogun strolled under the trees surrounding their castles.

Today, public parks become packed with groups of friends, families and co-workers who picnic and karaoke underneath the gently falling petals that remain a symbol that life is fragile and fleeting.
 
North America:
The Japanese have shared their national adoration of cherry blossoms in friendship with communities globally. Perhaps the most spectacular are the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C whose blossoms outshine even the magnificent monuments of the capital for a short time early every Spring. 

In Canada, the quaintly-British colonial port city of Victoria rises out of the gray mists of the Pacific Northwest winter with the arrival of clouds of mystical off-pink of cherry blossoms, especially at its world-famous Butchart Gardens.
 

LUPINS and BLUEBONNETS

Canada’s East coast has something in common with the state of Texas, and it comes in the form of a native, early season bloom.


Texas bluebonnets carpet roadsides in a single, vivid hue. Their maritime cousin, the lupin, creates a mosaic of a wider variety of colors from rich orchid to bright pink, pure white and pale lavender, all the way to the royal blue of its Longhorn State cousin.

 

AND OTHER 'RHODIES' TRIPS, TOO

The list of floral tributes to spring – and the trips they inspire – could go on forever. Rhododendrons and azaleas in Asia, the Pacific Northwest and the American South. Fields of daffodils across England’s green pastures.
Even the gardens in your own home town or backyard.


Wherever you find yourself this Spring, we hope you spend time outdoors, glorying in the arrival of a new season full of hope and color.
 

#SpringTravels


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









First, Fully Digital Hotel to Open in Northern Europe
It’s in the heart of one of the most historic neighborhoods in London. But this hotel has become a symbol of the future of travel.

ibis Styles London Gloucester Road is in Kensington, within easy strolling distance of some of the English capital’s favorite landmarks, like the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, shopping at Harrod’s and of course, its highest-profile residence, Kensington Palace, where Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge and their three children live, alongside other members of the Royal Family.

Surrounded by British tradition, it’s making history of its own as the first, fully digital hotel in Northern Europe.
A suite of digital technologies has reinvented making guests feel welcome, by connecting them to actual, human members of the hotel’s teams, and fulfilling their needs during their stay, from arrival, to getting into and out of and using your room, to food and beverage service, payment and departure.

The pandemic has re-shaped our expectations of cleanliness and sanitization and physical distancing. The digital hotel elevates your ability to maintain those health requirements.

But digital systems at hotels aren’t new. Some contactless features began before the pandemic, and will be appreciated by guests long after.

The digital eco-system at this hotel includes features such as online and mobile check in, in hotel payment, the ‘Accor Key’ –a digital key solution, digital F&B services and guest relations via Whatsapp throughout your stay.

It’s all about choice. Do you want to speak directly with reception? Or would you prefer to go straight to your room?
When you are short of time, a digital solution can save you precious minutes. Other times, when you want that ‘face to face’, personal touch, it’s available too.

(Above Image via Accor, top image via Accor video)

“This is not about robots or faceless technology, this is about the smart integration of innovative, customer-facing technology at pace and at scale. Technology is part of our daily lives and is now fully part of our hotel experience–and with this important step, we give our guests the opportunity to adapt their hotel stay according to their preferences,” hotel management says.

It’s all run through your smartphone. ibis Styles London Gloucester Road now has digital keys where guests can open your room door with just a wave of your smartphone. Each guest will have an ‘Accor Key’ that will allow room access, entry to meeting rooms for business or event guests, and floor access from elevators. No more scrambling to find where you put your room key! We bet your smartphone never leaves your hand even – especially? – when you are traveling.

Through the user-friendly Accor Key, you’ll also be able to order a meal remotely from your room, and since it’s fully integrated with your hotel account, you can pay up front to your method of payment or charge your dining to your room and pay on checkout.

You can also chat to your desired member of the hotel team through the common messaging app WhatsApp to make any special requests before and during your stay, making pre-arrival requests and helping to facilitate your needs and queries during your stay.

Accor has also extended its existing Fast Check-Out (FCO) functionality to all guests, allowing you to check-out via the smartphone app. And expenses can be managed too: a PDF invoice will be sent to your email.

This hotel in London may be the first, fully digital hotel in Northern Europe – but it won’t be the last.

Accor has announced the global roll-out of “Accor Key” and an objective to equip 20,000 hotel doors in 2021 and all new hotel openings beginning this summer. The complete digital hotel experience in the British capital is the first step to similar implementation over the next five years in at least half of Accor’s North and Central American hotels, which include economical brands like ibis, through Novotel and Mercure, to Pullman and Swisshotel, through to luxury brands like Fairmont, Sofitel, and Raffles.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon





Meet the Stingray Whisperer of the Bahamas
They are the laid back cousin of sharks, majestically pre-historic looking, and spellbinding in footage ‘flying’ through the ocean on ‘wings’.

Stingrays are not as dangerous as their name implies, and for one eco-tour operator on Grand Bahama Island, they live up to their nickname: ‘angels of the seas’.

Keith Cooper is known throughout the island as the ‘Stingray Whisperer.’ Keith has been working with stingrays for over a dozen years and has actually developed a personal bond with a number of stingrays who make their home in warm, Bahamian waters.
 
Visitors to the Bahamas can get a taste of Keith’s magical relationship with stingrays – and maybe create a little magic of their own.
 
The ‘Stingray Whisperer’s’ company, West End Ecology Tours, has a signature 'Stingray Experience Tour' that gives you an opportunity to safely interact with these misunderstood sea creatures in their natural element.  
 
Well aware that in many parts of the world, stingrays are in danger of extinction, Keith’s company - and the Stingray Experience Tour - is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the eco system and the stingrays themselves.
 
Their name sounds intimidating, but most stingrays are curious and inquisitive rather than threatening. Like their cousins, the sharks, stingrays are built of cartilage instead of bones. Unlike sharks, they don’t rely on sharp teeth, but instead, spines on their tails for protection. And they are truly unique in the sea in their elegant, winged form and movement.

The truly off the beaten path adventure of Keith Cooper’s Stingray Experience Tour takes place on a deserted island or a shallow water cay off Grand Bahama Island.
 
A maximum of six guests are on each tour, and before stepping out of the boat, Keith explains the guidelines and rules to the visitors that make the tour an entirely safe, memorable and ecologically sustainable experience for the visitors.
 
The number of stingrays that participate on tour could reach up to 16. After establishing their presence, visitors are allowed to touch, feed and even snorkel with the stingrays toward the end of the visit. This provides a fantastic opportunity to see the stingrays flap their wings as they glide like 'angels' through the water. It ensures that each visitor has an up-close and intimate encounter with a misjudged 'angel' of the sea. 
 
Keith says there is no magic formula to attract the stingrays he has bonded with, that gather round when he arrives. He says rays have a remarkable capacity to remember, and over time, they have learned to feel comfortable with him. The Stingray Whisperer has named some of these rays according to their colourful and indvidual personalities. There is 'Hugger,' 'Big Momma', 'Dark Chocolate,' 'Scarface,' and 'Lunatic,' to name a few. His relationship with some of these rays dates back as much as 12 years.  
 
What makes the tour so unique is that it’s more than observing the rays, along with the colourful fish and other marine life snorkeling in the stunning azure waters. You also have the intimate experience of feeding and getting to know these lovely and friendly creatures.
 
Keith and his team take extreme care not to exploit or overfeed the animals. This is an educational tour carefully crafted taking considerable precautions to protect wildlife. 
 
Meeting the Stingray Whisperer might be just one day of your trip to the islands of the Bahamas. But you’ll create a lifetime of memories up close and personal with the ‘angels of the seas.’
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images of West End Ecology Tours courtesy of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation

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



Cruise Ships: New, Improved, and Coming Soon
The latest designs, innovations, and features, in a sparkling white cruise ship gliding over the waves. If that’s not enough to get you excited about taking a cruise on a new ship, there’s always ‘new ship smell’.
 
A new cruise ship may not have a distinctive scent like a new car, but knowing you’re among the first to experience a new entry to the world’s fleet of cruise ships is a not-to-miss sensation.
 
Not every new ship comes ‘hot off the press’. Some ships are remade during their lifetimes, and their mystique begins afresh.
 
Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s cruise expert, lists the ships to keep your eye out for right now, whether new, improved, or coming soon.
 

NEW

 

Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas


The latest addition to this mega-cruise ship fleet is the 25th Royal Caribbean ship, and its second Quantum Class ship.
Vacationers of all ages are in for a combination of Royal’s signature, over-the-top cruise experiences plus 12 all-new and first-to-brand experiences including:
 
  • All-new pool deck to enjoy the sun and stars in style– Two decks, two open-air pools, four whirlpools and Splashaway Bay, anchored by a Quantum Ultra Class first – The Lime & Coconut bar
  • Action-packed top deck – Returning guest-favorites include the gravity-defying SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline adventure, FlowRidersurf simulator, skydiving with RipCord by iFly, and the iconic North Star all-glass observation capsule that boasts 360-degree views from 300 feet above sea level.
  • SeaPlex – The next-generation of a longtime Quantum Class favorite, this SeaPlex is the largest indoor and outdoor activity center at sea.
  • One-of-a-kind entertainment –Teched-out venues combine immersive technology, unparalleled special effects and world-leading performers and aerialists take the stage alongside six agile Roboscreens for a multidimensional live show.
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar and Teppanyaki – Two Royal Caribbean restaurants new to North America join the many dining options on board.
 
After an inaugural summer season sailing bubble cruises from Israel in the Eastern Med in 2021, Odyssey sails to Fort Lauderdale for Caribbean cruises including calls at the cruise line’s private island beach experience Perfect Day at CocoCay.
 

IMPROVED

  

Paul Gauguin Cruises’ The Gauguin

 
Paul Gauguin Cruises is the longest-continually sailing luxury cruise line in the South Pacific with its ship The Gauguin, which has emerged from drydock, after intensive environmental upgrades, making her more protective of this precious and sensitive setting.
 
In addition, all her staterooms, suites and public spaces have been renovated in a chic and fresh vision of Polynesian style to enrich her 322 guests' experience sailing the islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia, Fiji and the South Pacific.

Every detail of The Gauguin's renovations reflect her South Seas home, including décor, artwork, Polynesian cuisine in the restaurants, onboard enrichment and cultural activities led by the ship's troupe of Tahitian entertainers. The refurbishment enhances the historic woodworks and adds local lagoon shades, green and natural tones, organic patterns and woven textiles, exotic panoramas and traditional artwork.

In addition to the renovation, the onboard lifestyle has been enhanced, with a new, virtual museum of over 150 paintings of artist Paul Gauguin, wifi, and all-inclusive experience, including dining in all three of the ship's restaurants.
 
Sailing on the renovated ship, guests have exclusive access to the line's private island and a private beach in Bora Bora, where you can embrace the natural wonders of the South Pacific through marine activities off the ship.
 

COMING SOON


Oceania Vista


By recently naming its upcoming ship The Vista (artists' renderings below and top), this culinary-and destination-focused cruise line looks to the future of cruise travel. The 1200-guest ship is the first of two new Allura Class ships on tap for Oceania, and will be the line’s 7th ship when it sets sail in 2023.

 
Like its sister ships, the new Vista will be a designer-inspired, intimate ship, with residential-inspired suites and staterooms, and dramatic and glamorous public spaces like the Grand Dining Room, which soars almost two decks in height and pays homage to the 'beautiful age' of early 20th-century Parisian society through its contemporary interpretation of Belle Époque. 

 
Guests will also be wowed by Vista's nine additional best-in-class culinary experiences, and several unique firsts that will re-define Oceania’s already acclaimed dining and guest experiences.
 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
Images courtesy of their respective cruise lines.









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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LAND


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEA

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

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

(Courtesy Silversea)

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy Celebrity Cruises)

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

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

#DreamNowStarGazeSoon


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

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












One Trail Walk Takes You Across the 2 Highest New Suspension Bridges
The Golden Skybridge features not one, but two expansive suspension bridges connected by forested trails – right at the edge of two legendary mountain ranges.

Visitors embark on a 3k (nearly 2 mile) nature walk weaving throughout parkland and across two new, spectacular suspension bridges – the two highest pedestrian suspension bridges in Canada, and believed to be in all of North America.

You might call this new experience ‘Golden’. The mountain town of Golden in southeast British Columbia sits amidst six Canadian national mountain parks. Known to outdoor adventurers as the ideal basecamp to explore some of the country’s greatest outdoor landscapes in the Columbia and Rocky mountains, Golden is on the Trans-Canada highway. 

And now, with the Golden Skybridge experience opening in time for summer travel in May, 2021, visitors traveling between Calgary or Banff in Alberta, and BC’s Okanagan wine country or Vancouver on the west coast, have a new reason to stop for a while in Golden.

One of the bridges sits a dramatic 130 meters (427 feet) from the ground, and the other is 80 meters (262 feet) above the ravine underneath. Measured from the ground below (rather than height above sea level as some other suspension bridges do), that puts these Golden Skybridge pedestrian suspension bridges in 1st and 2nd places for the whole continent.

That’s a whole lot of air under your feet – not once, but twice in a day.

To put it in perspective, world-famous Niagara Falls is 176 feet high. So you’ll be walking well above the height of Niagara Falls across the lowest suspension bridge – and more than double Niagara Fall’s height when you cross the highest suspension bridge!

The bridges are no slouches for length, either, with the tallest spanning a 154 metre (over 500 foot) chasm, and the shorter bridge slightly shorter, but still coming in at 139 metres (or 455 feet) long –surpassing in length as well as height other famous BC suspension bridges: Capilano in North Vancouver, and the Cloudraker Skybridge at Whistler.

Just imagine the dramatic, 360 degree views of expansive alpine vistas the Golden Skybridge experience offers up. The scenery even showcases a roaring waterfall that itself is a higher drop than Niagara: 61 metres (200 feet) down to a mountain river in the deep canyon below. Viewing platforms on the trail provide guests with many other opportunities to take in the picturesque landscapes surrounding you. 


The scenic trail across the country’s – and likely the continent’s - two highest suspension bridges isn’t the only adventure at the new destination. For the more daring, the Golden Skybridge will also feature a tandem bungee swing and a 1200 metre (nearly 4000 foot) zipline spanning the canyon, both opening later this summer. The attraction’s owners say a canyon swing and axe-throwing venue (a nod to the lumberjack heritage of the mountains, no doubt!) are also planned.

It seems like an ideal scenario for outdoor travel lovers as well as multi-generational family travel. All members of the family can enjoy the scenic trail with its vistas and suspension bridges, then less active family members can relax at the outdoor courtyard and café at the attraction’s base for some well-deserved pre-and post-trail walk rest, relaxation, and refreshment - as others tap into their inner adrenaline-junkies ziplining and bungee jumping. And who doesn’t want to burn off some pent-up frustration with a little axe-throwing?
 
What a way to bond together while breathing in pristine mountain air and absorbing brand-new mountain vistas. Even frequent explorers of Canada’s western mountain parks and the region will gain new perspective and a new appreciation of the incredible, alpine beauty in Golden, BC.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Photos: Golden Skybridge by Pursuit


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






The 'Happiest Place on Earth' Becomes the 'Sweetest' with New M&M's Experiential Store
Everyone with a sweet tooth has a reason to celebrate the newest store opening at Disney Springs in the heart of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The M&M’s store is not just a place to pick up a bag of colourful, candy-coated Mars chocolate. Parent brand Mars Wrigley says it’s a state-of-the-art immersion into the M&M experience, as it’s bringing the 80-year old brand’s famously cheeky attitude to life in the store.

It’s 10-thousand square feet of Technicolor chocolate fun. As you might expect, visitors will find exclusive, co-branded Disney and M&M’s merchandise that go way beyond candy, like apparel, mugs and more.

You’ll also find the signature M&M’s ‘Wall of Chocolate’ with giant clear tubes of the candies, larger-than-life M&M’s characters, and the ability to create your own custom M&M candies.

Who doesn’t have their own favorite character from the award-winning TV ads, as well as your favorite color and even flavor, from original, to peanut, to pretzel or seasonal treats? You can go way beyond an ‘M’ stamped on a yellow, blue, green, brown or orange treat and make like a rock star, leaving with a bag of ‘just the green ones’ stamped with your own initial. Or choose your own color. Or add images. Or clipart. And pack them like edible, candy art in a custom package, like lavender and pink ones in a clear, butterfly container. Aww.

It might be the most fun way to break your mother’s rule not to play with your food. And it might also be the sweetest souvenir of your visit to Disney.

Disney Springs is the signature shopping, dining and entertainment district in the heart of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. It’s an open-air promenade along a lakefront and its namesake springs, designed to make you feel like you're visiting a turn-of-the-20th century Florida waterfront town - with 21st century cuisine and retail. It’s also where you’ll find – in addition to its newest M&M addition – over 150 shops, restaurants, boutiques and good times.

The M&M’s at Disney Springs is one of now five of the candy-chocolate’s experiential stories in the US, Europe and Asia. It’ll soon be joined by new stores in Berlin, Germany, and the Mac-daddy shopping experience of them all, the record-busting Mall of America in Minneapolis.

Can’t wait for your next visit to Disney? Fans can 'visit' the store today with a virtual tour on the company's web site, where you can ‘walk’ virtually through the store, and make a list of all the favorite – or favorite new - M&M's products you'll need to stock up on when you can visit in person.
 
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Image courtesy http://www.mars.com



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Yes, You Can Cruise Again - This Summer! Here's How.

No sailing in American or Canadian waters yet? No problem! That’s what at least three cruise lines – so far - are saying.


Plus, some other lines confirming they’re able to start cruising despite restrictions.


Especially if you’re one of the millions of people in the US and Canada who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – or will be soon – you could be on the deck of a ship as early as June, enjoying the feel of sea breezes wafting over you. 


Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s cruise expert, explains.

Offshore Cruising


At least three cruise lines have given up waiting for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to overturn cruise bans in US and Canadian waters. Instead, they’ve announced plans for offshore cruising. 

And chances are, we’ll be seeing more.

Ships that once sailed from the States into the Caribbean now have new homeports in the islands.

They’ve come up with new itineraries eager cruise travellers will love, and health and safety measures that will make guests confident to cruise again. These cruise lines, or their sister cruise lines, have already been sailing successfully in other places around the world, and are putting those practices to good use for returning guests from North America.

Crystal Cruises

Beginning in July til at least October, the ultra-luxury Crystal Serenity will be homeporting in The Bahamas, just 50 miles off Florida. 

(Courtesy Crystal Cruises)

The Serenity will be cruising two series of 7-night cruises. One series sails round trip from Nassau, and the other, round trip from Bimini. They’re bubble cruises: all-Bahamian itineraries that keep returning cruisers close to home, and all within a single jurisdiction, without risk of border closures.

Pre-and post-cruise land/hotel stays are also available, and cruisers will also be able to enjoy the famous private island oasis The Beach Club at Bimini, as well as experience four other idyllic Bahamian islands, most of which have until now only been accessible to private yachts, like Harbour Island, ‘The Nantucket of the Caribbean’, Great Exuma, renowned for its swimming pigs, San Salvador Island, and Long Island.

Celebrity Cruises

The newly renovated Celebrity Millennium will homeport in the island of St. Maarten from the first week of June through at least August. 

(The Retreat on the Celebrity Millennium; Top Photo Courtesy Celebrity Cruises)

The Millennium will sail 2 series of 7-night cruises in ‘modern luxury.’ One itinerary features two other Dutch Caribbean islands: Aruba and Curacao, as well as Barbados. The other itinerary includes Tortola, St. Lucia and Barbados.

Celebrity will offer a range of curated tours at every port of call, and the cruise line is also offering small group or private tours for guests preferring to explore the destinations with only members of their family or travel bubble.

 

Royal Caribbean

Mega-cruise ship line Royal Caribbean is launching new homeports in the Caribbean for two of its ships this summer, both beginning their new itineraries in June, and sailing at least through August.

Adventure of the Seas will homeport in Nassau, The Bahamas, and Vision of the Seas will homeport in Bermuda. 
Both ships’ itineraries call at Royal’s acclaimed private island Perfect Day at CocoCay, with 13 waterslides including the tallest on the continent, a tethered balloon ride, floating cabanas, beaches, and the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean.

(Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay)
 
Guests on Adventure of the Seas will have two, back-to-back days at CocoCay, as well as quality time exploring Grand Bahama Island, The Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico.
 
Vision of the Seas guests spend a full day at CocoCay, and an overnight amongst the pink sands and colourful homes of homeport Bermuda.
 

But It’s Not All Offshore North America


Royal Caribbean has also just announced its first Mediterranean series of summer sailings open to vaccinated guests from all countries. Beginning in July and running through at least October, Jewel of the Seas will homeport in Cyprus for the first time, and sail 7-night cruises along the captivating coastlines of Cyprus and Greece, calling at culture-rich cities and idyllic islands, including Limassol, Athens, Greece and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini.

And Celebrity will also sail in the Mediterranean this summer, homeporting the brand-new Apex in Athens, Greece, sailing 7-night cruises beginning in June: one itinerary to Greek islands like Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes as well as Cyprus; and another to Greek islands as well as to the Israeli ports of Haifa and Jerusalem, Israel.

Some other cruise lines are also sailing in North America this summer, with ships small enough they’re exempt from restrictions imposed on larger ships, and can sail from their regular homeports in American or Canadian waters.

US river cruise lines American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company have begun their seasons of sailing in American waterways including itineraries along the Mississippi and Columbia rivers.

UnCruise Adventures focuses on American coastal waters, including Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, and 2021 is no exception, thanks to the intimate size of its ships.  

Lindblad, with roots in Sweden and a long-term partner with National Geographic expeditions, also expects to be sailing with its fleet of small ships in Alaska by June, as well as on itineraries in Galapagos and Iceland.

Canadian-based St. Lawrence Cruise Lines and Le Boat offer Canadian options in the Great Lakes region this year.

Expect to see more, all-new homeports and itineraries coming up this year, as more and more cruise lines continue to find alternative ways to restart cruising.


Your favorite, expert travel advisor can help you navigate all the exciting new choices, and keep you up to date on health and safety protocols and requirements.

 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
 
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4 Top Reasons to Make a Vacation Rental Your Next Holiday - Plus Booking Tips
Vacation rentals were the fastest growing type of holiday accommodation even before the pandemic. With types of rental homes ranging from urban apartments to beach villas, farmhouses to ski chalets or even castles, the trend towards non-hotel stays is likely to keep growing as travel picks up again. 
 
Here are the top reasons why you might be thinking about a vacation rental soon.
 
And we share a couple of tips to help you get the best rental experience in a travel space with increasing choices of listed properties and a newly-professional approach to villa rentals. 
 

Privacy and Space… All Together

 
It used to be romance was the big motivation for privacy, but in today’s world, being secluded has health benefits, too. Physical distancing is a new priority we are looking for in our lives – and it counts doubly when we are in an all-new environment. 
 
Post-pandemic, ‘new normal’ lifestyle aligns with private accommodation’s main features of privacy, and a full house for you and the members of your travel ‘bubble’, a new twist on multi-generational travel.
Add on professional standards of cleaning and care, and it’s the perfect post-pandemic stay.
 

Comforts of Home

 
All that, and hospitality, too. One of many people’s reasons to book a private accommodation is to feel at home – even when you’re away.
 
For families, that could mean the convenience of on-site laundry. Active travelers might look for bicycles or other outdoors or fitness equipment. A hot tub or pool you don’t have to share. Even a barbecue for laid-back meals together.
 

Catering to Everyone’s Tastes and Schedules

 
Are you traveling with people with food sensitivities, allergies, or just plain picky eaters? Someone who MUST eat breakfast as soon as they get up… but others who don’t touch food til nearly noon? Just not ‘up to going out after a day of sightseeing or at the beach?
 
Restaurant dining every day can become really stressful, really fast.
 
Having a kitchen at hand during your holiday can ease a lot of food stress, allowing people to make most of their meals at their own convenience, with ingredients they know and can verify… it can even save you money to eat mostly things you prepare yourself, while splurging on a few meals ‘out’ that you are really looking forward to.
 
Plus, you’ll be able to take advantage of the incredible, local product ‘finds’ you’ll discover at the local markets.


Living Like a Local

 

It seems the more famous the city, the more removed the ‘attractions’ are from the ‘real people’ who live in the destination, whose lifestyle is what’s drawing you to the area.
 
In a private vacation rental, you’re an honorary resident, living temporarily in a residential area, not usually a commercial one.
 
That means you’ll be closer to and immersed in the ‘authentic’ shops, markets, restaurants and hang-outs where real locals live their lives.

2 Tips for Booking a Private Vacation Rental:

 
1. Make sure you're staying at professionally managed properties; your vacation is not the time to be dealing with an amateur renter or uncertain standards of health and cleanliness.
 
2. Work with your travel advisor. You may not know, but just like your travel advisor can help connect you to the perfect match of other types of vacations, they can also help you find the perfect vacation rental, perfect space for your needs, desired destination, amenities and budget.
 
Many travel agencies now offer vetted, quality vacation rentals like they do other types of travel – and you’ll know you’re getting the advice, legwork, and ongoing support of a qualified travel professional, allowing you to focus on enjoying your holiday.
 
In other words, the best part of any vacation.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host of BestTrip TV
 

Photos courtesy HVN

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3rd 'Lady Ship' Announced for New Cruise Company on International Women's Day
Cruise lovers haven’t even had a chance to sail aboard the first ship on this new – and much anticipated – cruise line. The Scarlet Lady launched a year ago just moments before the travel shutdown, and guests are still waiting to find out what it’s like to cruise the adults-only, Virgin Voyages way.


 That hasn’t stopped Sir Richard Branson’s disruptor cruise line from continuing to build its fleet of what – in a twist of British cheek – it’s calling ‘lady ships’. So of course, they seized upon International Women’s Day to unveil the ‘Resilient Lady.’

“Virgin Voyages is announcing Resilient Lady on International Women’s Day to symbolise the spirit of its Lady Ships, and to celebrate women and their achievements, strength, leadership and resilience. Resilient Lady has a bright future ahead of her, as Virgin Voyages’ second ship to sail the Mediterranean (after her sister ship Valiant Lady),” the cruise line said in its announcement.
 
The Resilient Lady is due to launch in the summer of 2022, and will be identical to her two sister Lady Ships.


Nearly 3000 passengers will sail in Branson’s ‘rebel luxe’ style, with more than 20 included restaurants, (no buffet and no ‘main dining room’) champagne on demand at the push of a button, the first tattoo studio at sea, tables in suites designed to dance on, not a Broadway show to be found, but instead, a music festival-like lineup of all-new completely original Events & Gigs developed by some of the world’s most-talked about producers, directors and artists, and a‘detox/retox’ lifestyle the celebrity CEO has made famous.


When cruising starts again, Virgin Voyages’ first Lady Ship, Scarlet Lady, resumes her inaugural season from its Miami homeport on long-weekend-type itineraries that include a late-night call at the cruise line’s new private beach resort in Bimini, the Bahamas, an Ibiza-style/ music festival inspired experience with DJ’s and bonfires on the beach.

Valiant Lady, Virgin Voyages’ second ship, is scheduled to debut in 2021, embarking on three different itineraries from her homeport in the heart of Barcelona. All her itineraries in the Western Mediterranean include overnight and late night stops across some of the hottest destinations in France, Italy and Spain, like Ibiza, Monte Carlo, Marseiile, Malaga, Gibraltar. So ‘sailors’ – what Virgin Voyages calls its guests - will have the flexibility to take in a big night out, a chilled beach day, bohemian markets, or a serene spa.
 
“Sailing in the Med is such an extraordinary experience, and we’re so excited to bring the adventure of a Virgin Voyage to this beautiful place,” Sir Richard Branson says.
 
Where Valiant Lady sails the Western Med, the Resilient Lady focuses on the Eastern Mediterranean in two itineraries that give guests a rebel-luxe experience of Greek island-hopping sailing from her Athens homeport. Imagine exploring the most famous Aegean Sea’s islands of Santorini, Rhodes, Crete and Mykonos, with an overnight stay in that legendary party destination as the ship remains docked in a premiere location with access to the island’s picturesque promenade. On the ship’s other itinerary, she sails west from Athens to the Adriatic, including an after-closing-time departure from Dubrovnik so sailors will have plenty of time to experience the rich history of Croatia during the day and take part in the active nightlife, before scenic sailing to Kotor, Corfu and Argostoli.
 
With the announcement of the Resilient Lady, Virgin Voyages has charted a course for forever-young ‘sailors’ to replace jet-setting trips to famously ‘island party’/ music festival destinations with its new style of marine travel that brings 3000 like-minded new friends to the party with them.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images courtesy Virgin Voyages








World's Longest River Cruise Set for 2023

46 nights. 7 rivers. 14 countries. You’ve heard of ocean ‘World Cruises’. This is the first of its kind for river cruising and may be the start of a whole new river cruise travel trend.

 
The longest-ever river cruise itinerary is the perfect way to refill a love for cruising that’s been running dry since the pandemic. AmaWaterways calls it the ‘Seven River Journey Through Europe’, and it sails in 2023.
 
Similar in spirit to ocean ‘World Cruises’, this river cruise version is different in a couple of ways. Almost all ocean World Cruises depart in the New Year, sailing for months on a single ship. The Seven River Journey Through Europe departs June 1st at the height of fine weather in Europe. And instead of a single ship squiring guests around the world, guests on the Seven River Journey are taken on seamless overland transfers between four AmaWaterways ships
 
The first leg of the Seven River Journey sails the Seine round-trip from Paris on the AmaLyra. Switch to the AmaKristina for a cruise from Lyon to Tarascon, France on the Saône and Rhône rivers, then on the AmaPrima on the Rhine, Moselle and Main rivers between Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The final leg of the epic, nearly two-month long river cruise odyssey concludes on the AmaVerde on the Danube river, sailing through Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.
 
Experienced river cruise travelers may have experienced ‘back-to-back’ river cruises before, but this is an entirely new experience. 144 guests take the entire journey together, developing deep friendships during this extraordinary exploration of the heart of some of Europe’s greatest history, culture, architecture, culinary and wine regions.

 
The cruise brings the destinations to life through more than 130 complimentary excursions including all-new tours and exclusive experiences that include 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites and local epicurean experiences. Picture yourself and your travel companions sailing through the romantic city of Paris, venturing to the historic D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, being treated to an exclusive visit to Lahneck Castle in Germany, and visiting off-the-beaten-path wonders in countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.
 
On board the four AmaWaterways river ships, in addition to fine dining and hand-selected wines at every meal in multiple onboard venues, a Wellness Host offers a variety of core strengthening, stretching and yoga classes, and all of the amenities AmaWaterways’ guests have come to love.
 
The company has also included features often found on luxury and small ships embarking on World or Grand cruises, like complimentary laundry and portage services, as well as included gratuities and a dedicated Cruise Manager to accompany and guide guests throughout all 46 nights, 7 rivers, 14 countries and 4 ships.
 
When the company teased the Seven River Journey Through Europe on social media, the response was so overwhelming, it seems certain to become a new and growing tradition for AmaWaterways in future cruise seasons. Other river cruise lines may well launch their own versions, too.
 
But at the moment, there’s only one chance to be part of cruise history and the first Seven River Journey Through Europe, so our tip is to check your travel calendar and consult with your travel advisor soon.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images courtesy AmaWaterways

Why 'Coming Home' is the Best Way to Discover Your Irish Ancestry

St. Patrick’s Day finds most of us rooting around in our closets for a green sweater to fulfill the ‘wearing of the green’ on a day that they say ‘everyone is a little bit Irish.’ For more and more people, it’s also about finding your roots, even right at the source in the Emerald Isle.

 
Tourism Ireland says there are 70 million people dispersed around the world who can claim Irish ancestry. In the US and Canada, it’s one of the top heritage nationalities. 1 in 10 Americans has Irish roots, and even more - 1 in 7 – Canadians. Do the math and it means about 35 million Americans and 5 million Canadians are at least a little bit Irish. 
 
The population of Ireland itself is only about 5 million – so North American Irish outnumber the Irish in Ireland by about 8 to 1! That’s a lot of people who feel the call of their roots in Ireland.

Maybe you’re one of them, or think you are.
 
Your first big clue might be your last name. From Murphy, meaning ‘sea warrior’, O’Brien for the decendents of the famous, Viking-vanquishing King Brian Boru, O’Connor, indicating ‘lover of hounds’, Ryan, ‘little king’, or the oldest known Irish last name, O’Clery, dating all the way back to AD 916 and maybe even holding the distinction of being the earliest recorded surname in all of Europe, Irish surnames abound.  Not to mention Kennedy, perhaps the most storied Irish family name in North America, and then there’s all the ‘Fitz’s, meaning ‘son of’, as in Fitzpatrick, Fitzsimmons…
 
If you’re lucky enough to have an Irish last name – or a grandparent with one – that will get you started on your Irish ancestry quest.
 
The good news is that, with 70 million people with Irish blood around the world, there are a lot of people who’ve laid a lot of ancestry sleuthing groundwork to help you.  
 
Online databases can get you started. Tourism Ireland suggests, “A good starting point is the Irish Government website www.irishgenealogy.ie, which has records of births, baptisms, marriages and burials from a number of counties. The National Archives website contains early 20th-century census returns while www.rootsireland.ie has over 20 million records from the various county genealogy centres on the island of Ireland. Simply key in your name and the journey begins.”
 
You might be amazed at what you discover. Then there’s nothing like being ‘boots on the ground’ to unearth more information at the source, and to inhale your heritage with the air you breathe. Experts recommend in-person visits to Ireland’s National Library, National Archives and General Register Office in Dublin or, if your history points to Northern Ireland, visit the Public Records Office in Belfast.
 
If you already know the county in Ireland your ancestors hail from, you can narrow your search more, and many county genealogy centers have professional genealogists with local expertise.
 
And if you’re interested in your Irish family heritage but don’t have the time to do all the digging yourself, there is also the option to commission the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland to help. They’ll find not only your ancestors, but also living relatives.


Imagine walking in the footsteps of your forefathers and mothers in your ‘home’ county, seeing gravestones marked with the names that you may have known in your family for generations, and even getting to meet long lost cousins on distant shores your ancestors left over 150 years ago.
 
When you ‘come home’ to Ireland to rediscover your roots in the Emerald Isle, you find new memories for a lifetime, possibly new family, and certainly more meaning in the green shirt, pint of Guinness, and Irish music playlist you enjoy once a year on the day of the patron saint of Ireland.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images courtesy Ireland.com

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'Pandemic Pivots' in Travel We Hope Will Stick Around Forever

Necessity is the mother of Invention, they say, and the pandemic, while it has shut down travel, has also inspired some innovations we love – and are hoping will stay with us long after travel is back to full swing.

 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, producer/host of Best Trip TV
 

The Cabins at Mountain Village 

The Town of Mountain Village in southwestern Colorado, is just outside the legendary ski resort of Telluride.

So what better ‘pandemic pivot’ to allow visitors to safely enjoy the town’s restaurants – and reinforce the feeling of being on an alpine vacation - than a collection of gondolas retired from a ski lift and up-converted into private dining cars?

(Photo by Ryan Bonneau provided by Town of Mountain Village)

At the beginning of the ski season, the town ordered 20 re-purposed cars and set them up in clusters in plazas around town in the vicinity of over a dozen restaurants. Each gondola accommodates a bubbled group of 4-6 people in ski gear comfortably, 8 in a cozier squeeze.

The Cabins aren’t tied to any individual restaurant. Gondolas are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The town has QR codes to its ‘Dine Outside’ web page inside each car, so diners can settle themselves at their private table, then access neighboring restaurants’ take-out menus to order their meal.

One town official told me both visitors and residents love The Cabins. “They are very popular, it’s difficult to find an open cabin during prime dining hours. Several friends of mine with children have reported their kids are the biggest fans of The Cabins and they have to coax them out when it’s time to go home.”

(Photo courtesy of Town of Mountain Village)
 
So popular are the private dining gondolas, the town has installed 5 more. And while the original intent was to provide a creative solution to allow local restaurants to serve diners during the pandemic winter, The Cabins have become such a signature of the town’s alpine lifestyle, they’re set to become a year-round feature of a visit to the Town of Mountain Village.
 

360° Dome Dining in Banff

There’s a new concept in private dining in the Canadian Rockies, too.

For over 130 years, the world-famous Fairmont Banff Springs hotel has been the legendary landmark of the historic, alpine resort town of Banff, Alberta in the heart of UNESCO World Heritage site Banff National Park.


Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies” now has a new, outdoor, private dining venue. The 360° Dome evokes iconic imagery of Canadian winters and shelters up to six guests from the elements as they enjoy panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies and the ‘Castle’ from its terrace.

Inside, the 360° Dome is designed for two to six bubbled guests with rustic luxe elements of winter chic for a couple to indulge in a romantic, gourmet dinner, a group of friends visiting over wine and charcuterie in the afternoon, or a family enjoying an extravagant brunch.
(Two above photos courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel)

The hotel teased the fine dining menus designed by the Fairmont Banff Springs’ Executive Chef. Family-style brunch includes make-your-own mimosas, eggs benedict and buttermilk pancakes, wine and charcuterie platters feature housemade preserves and cured meats paired with locally-sourced cheese and Canadian wine, and the indulgent five-course dinner features locally-inspired flavours and ingredients, including the Brant Lake Wagyu Beef Carpaccio and the Long Bone Bison Short Rib.

The 360° Dome at Canada’s ‘Castle in the Rockies’ may be a fixture of the winter season, with open outdoor dining taking over when spring weather permits. But its warmth and character in the winter months transform the necessity of bubble dining into a story full of charm.

Clockwork At Home

Another Fairmont Hotel, the Royal York in Toronto, has debuted ‘Clockwork at Home’. 

If the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is Canada’s ‘Castle in the Rockies’, its big city counterpart is a castle in the heart of the country’s biggest metropolis. The epic hotel shares the French chateau design characteristic of the Fairmont hotels across Canada that were born as a chain of luxury rail hotels. Opposite Toronto’s Union Station, the Royal York was once the tallest building in the British Empire, and remains the elegant grand dame of hospitality in the region.


A spectacular re-imagining for its 90th anniversary just before the pandemic introduced a glamorously updated lobby bar. Clockwork is centered around a new statement timepiece, replacing the spiral staircase clock in the lobby that has been a recognized meeting place in the city for years. 

Inspired by its legacy as a railway hotel, the Royal York’s Clockwork marries modern elegance with vintage luxury train carriage style, right down to Pullman car style banquettes. Clockwork is a swanky and stylish bar for champagne and oysters, or a perfectly crafted cocktail over sparkling conversation.

(Above three photos courtesy Fairmont Royal York)

With the hotel closed, Clockwork’s mixologist has bottled up his creative juices into craft cocktails Torontonians can order online, pick up in the afternoon, and recreate the swanky atmosphere of the Royal York during a stylish evening at home. 
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon




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Drink a Cocktail Made by the World’s 1st Human-like Robot Bartender at Sea
He mixes drinks, but doesn’t stop there. ‘Rob’ the robot bartender also speaks 8 languages, tells jokes and even dances too!
 
When we can cruise again, you won’t want to miss the world’s first humanoid – and interactive – shipboard robot bartender, who will make you the perfect cocktail to toast your return to cruising and travel.
 
When MSC Cruises launches its newest flagship this spring, it will have at least one exclusive feature.
 
The futuristic MSC Starship Club lets cruise guests feel like they’ve walked into a sci-fi movie as the sidle up to a bar that would look right at home in a space ship.  MSC tells us the Starship Club was half a decade in the making, the result of experts in robotics and automation, digital media, interior design and of course, mixology and entertainment.

 
After placing your order in one of the bar’s ‘vertical digital cockpits’, you can watch as Rob shakes up your order from a menu of 16 signature ‘cosmic cocktails’ – alcoholic and kid-friendly – or a beverage of your own creation using dozens of ingredients including spirits, juices and syrups, mixes and garnishes.
 
Meanwhile, an LED ticker tape strip above the robotic island tracks the status of your drink. And the 3D holograms and immersive digital art wall add to the atmosphere.   
 
Just like any good bartender, Rob’s got a ‘schtick’, chatting to guests, sharing jokes and responding to guests with human-like facial expressions and hand gestures – even dance moves.
 
When Rob is not preparing cocktails, he’s working the room. His AI programming gives him the ability to recognize guests passing by, greet and striking up a conversation with them.

 
The MSC Starship Lounge is just one of the 21 indoor and outdoor bars on board the 6300-guest Virtuosa, along with 11 dining options including a new concept for MSC: Indochine, with fusion Vietnamese/French cuisine.
 
Virtuosa and her sister ship Grandiosa are the two largest ships in 18-strong MSC Cruises' fleet. So there’s plenty of room for five spacious pools and one of the biggest and most elaborate waterparks at sea.
 
The Virtuosa will also be home to the longest LED dome at sea over top of the Galleria Virtuosa of a dozen boutiques and places to gather, lounge, sip and enjoy live entertainment.

And for those who like a quieter, more intimate cruise experience, the MSC Yacht Club is a luxury ‘ship within a ship’ with 24-hour butler service, private access to suites, dedicated restaurant, lounges, pool, whirlpools and spa space.
 
The ship will also be highly equipped with cutting-edge technologies and environmentally conscious capabilities.
 
After completing short cruises in the Mediterranean, Virtuosa will be deployed to Northern Europe in summer 2021 with a range of itineraries to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic capital cities.
 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
Images: MSC






Celebrate 50 Years of Disney Magic
They’re calling it ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration’ and it's a new entry on the travel bucket list of Disney lovers around the world. 
 
On October 1st, 1971, after years of imagining and building, Walt Disney World Resort opened in Florida, taking the magic of the Disney universe and beloved characters from the silver screen to real life. 
 
Half a century later, some would say Disney World is even better than real life. With millions of visitors every year, the ground-breaking theme park, against which all other theme parks would be measured, has created family memories and adventures of millions of lifetimes.
 
To celebrate, Disney has planned ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration’ lasting a full year and a half beginning October 1st this year, and going all the way through 2022 and beyond. The 18-month gala features new experiences at the resort’s four theme parks and even beyond, where shimmering ‘EARidescent’ moments and décor will ‘magically’ appear.

Time to dust off your mouse ears and get ready to party.
 

Beacons of Magic at All Four Walt Disney World Theme Parks

 
All your favorite icons at each Walt Disney World theme park will transform into magnificent Beacons of Magic at night, coming to life with their own EARidescent glow.

·      Cinderella Castle will illuminate Magic Kingdom with a dazzling radiance that sparkles with pixie dust.
·      At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, a warm light will emanate from the Tree of Life as magical fireflies gather to usher in the magic of nature.
·      The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be awash in a brilliance evoking the golden age of imagination and adventure.
·      And at EPCOT, new lights will shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, connecting to one another in a symbol of optimism resembling stars in a nighttime sky. The instantly-recognizable structure’s permanent new lighting will continue beyond “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” as a defining feature of the park.

 

Mickey and Minnie Dress Up


Your favorite characters dress for the occasion, too. As hosts of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse don sparkling new duds featuring – you guessed it - EARidescent fabric, really upping the ante on everyday glitter costumes!
 
Walt Disney World cast members join Mickey and Minnie, to welcome guests during this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary celebration of the place know fondly by so many as The Most Magical Place on Earth.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images: Disney




  Every 10 Years, This ‘World’s Fair’ of Flowers Upstages Netherlands’ Tulip Time. Don’t Miss Floriade 2022
 
If you thought Tulip Time in the Netherlands was the ultimate garden travel experience, you haven’t heard about Floriade.

Horticulture is famously the Netherlands’ most ‘colorful’ industry. The country sells half of the world’s ‘floriculture’ products and over three-quarters of the world’s flower bulbs. It’s number one in greenhouse horticulture and leads global exports of cut flowers, ornamental plants and even trees.

One of the most magnificent Dutch travel experiences is an early spring – ‘Tulip Time’ – visit to Keukenhof, the world’s largest spring flower garden featuring 7 million spring bulbs including over a thousand varieties of tulips alone. But even this experience – marvellous for visitors as it is – is actually a functioning, outdoor trade show exhibiting the best and latest bulb varieties for buyers from around the world.

Tulip Time, where a drive through the southern provinces of the Netherlands reveals fields of blooming tulips as far as the eye can see, and Keukenhof garden tours, luckily take place every year.

Floriade happens only 10 times a century.

Some call it the ‘World’s Fair’ of horticulture, and the next one is in 2022, just in time for travel-hungry people to ensure their post-pandemic travel plans include the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime collection of vivid memories.
 
Floriade is the largest public event in the country, drawing 2 million visitors over six months between April and October to its vast displays of almost any plant that grows, in stunning gardens, installations, pavilions and greenhouses.

 
The exhibition moves around, with this Floriade taking place in a purpose-built, ultra-modern, 150-acre ‘garden city’ built on land reclaimed from the sea near Amsterdam.
 
The theme in 2022 is ‘Growing Green Cities’, with exhibitors from the Netherlands and around the world displaying green solutions and next-generation innovations and inventions for enjoyable, liveable and sustainable urban centers. 
 
Like the term ‘World’s Fair of Horticulture’ suggests, Floriade offers 40 inspiring country presentations which will also house a spectacular greenhouse complex, a cable car over the Floriade park, pavilions with sustainable innovations and a vibrant arts and culture programme. An electric scale-model train moves visitors around the vast site, and a 35-meter high, 850-meter long cable car provides an incredible view of what will seem like the Garden of Eden below.

 
Other highlights of Floriade include: an international collection of plants, flowers and trees and 14,000 bulbs organized alphabetically ‘A to Z’ in nearly 200 sections of a vast arboretum like you’re walking through a plant encyclopedia, Alice in Wonderland style.

A visit to Floriade includes culinary experiences, entertainment and culture, and the intersection of horticulture and art, like the ‘life artwork’ project ‘Bobbing Forest’ consisting of 20 recycled sea buoys from the North Sea, planted with Dutch Elm trees even as they ‘bob’ in the water, which you can view from the cable car or on a tour boat that departs from a waterside terrace.

The theme even has a double meaning, since the site is set to become a new urban district once the expo closes. Its name will be ‘Hortus’, meaning ‘garden’ in Latin, and some future homes have already been built that will serve as pavillions during Floriade and in a perfect ‘green’ re-purposing, revert to homes afterwards.

 

How To Floriade

 
Like many other ticketed events, it pays to be part of an escorted group with guaranteed access and no need to line up with people waiting for tickets.

Amsterdam is the jumping off point for both Floriade and the Netherland’s spectacular spring flower garden Keukenhof. 

It’s also a hub for land, ocean, and river travel, which means there are options for people of all travel styles to immerse themselves in the breathtaking beauty and inspiring innovation of Floriade.

Here are a few of our favorites:

LAND TOURS:


Check out: Trafalgar 

Trafalgar’s guests on tours like Amsterdam Explorer and Best of Holland will spend a full day at the Floriade, and “Dive Into Culture” and discover what it would be like to live in a city which is built with environmental sustainability at its core. You’ll explore the location's three districts, each with their own theme – Food, Health and Energy, and the ‘Green Island’, along with live entertainment, cultural shows and culinary delights. In addition to Floriade, you’ll cruise the canals or bike through Amsterdam, taste cheese in Gouda, learn how pottery is made in Delft, and taste exquisite chocolate.
 

 RIVER CRUISES

 
Check out: Uniworld, Avalon Waterways, Tauck, Scenic and Emerald Cruises

Luxury, boutique river cruise Uniworld is including Floriade as a ‘Choice Excursion’ on three of its 2022 itineraries, including the new Dutch Delight, as well as European Jewels and Remarkable Rhine and Historical Holland cruises on the cosmopolitan, richly elegant River Empress ship. Uniworld guests will have enjoy a full day excursion to Floriade, where you will stroll the expansive arboretum, sample healthful foods and learn about developments in sustainable architecture and energy.
 
Ultra-luxury river cruise line Tauck includes the Floriade experience on select Rhine River cruises in 2022. One of the things that sets the cruise line apart are its ‘Tauck Exclusive’ private shore experiences, which in this region of Europe, can include things like a pre-opening visit to the open-air Zuiderzee Museum; a private evening at the acclaimed Mauritshuis museum, where you will view masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer (including his iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring) and others and have dinner with live music for you and your fellow guests only; a cruise on the IJsselmeer aboard a century-old sailboat; and tease for, “a special Dutch treat at Floriade 2022.
 
Avalon Waterways is offering travellers on 8-day Active Discovery in Holland & Belgium, and Tulips of Northern Holland sailings (as well as a number of Rhine and multi-river cruises) the opportunity to sail, enjoying the only open-air balconies in river cruising with floor to ceiling, sliding glass windows facing your bed, then stop and smell the roses at Floriade, a featured, included excursion, giving guests the chance to join the celebration of phenomenal flora in all its finery and fill their senses with color, fragrance and fantastic food.
 
Scenic has increased its 2022 departures for Windmills, Tulips and Belgian Delights cruise, and for cruises from April to October, you’ll visit Floriade. The luxury river cruise line will also offer a two night extension to visit Floriade to Danube, Rhine and multi-river cruises between end of April to October that take care of all your planning and logistics for you, and allow you to spend as much time at Floriade as you like.
Sister line Emerald Cruises has similar options.
 

OCEAN CRUISES


Check out: Crystal

Ultra-luxury Crystal cruises include Floriade on sailings on their legendary ocean ships calling in Amsterdam, including London-roundtrip Gardens and Gateways, as well as London-Stockholm and Copenhagen-Reykjavik.
 

ASK US ABOUT THE BEST WAY FOR YOU TO FLORIADE IN 2022.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon



Images/ renderings courtesy Floriade

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