InStyle Vacations's Blog

What is the Top Golf Travel Destination in the Asia Pacific Region?

Twice in a row, the International Association of Golf Tour Operators has named New Zealand the golf destination in Asia Pacific with the best experience for golf travelers.

Do you think of New Zealand as the golf world's hidden gem? In fact, only Scotland has more golf courses per capita in the world. This island nation has 400 golf courses ranging from ocean-front, subtropical courses in the north, to alpine terrain and vistas in the south.  So getting on the tee is never a problem. 

New Zealand loves its golf. And New Zealanders love to share golf with visitors.  Local volunteers run small country courses, and of course the country boasts exceptional world-class championship courses. 

Thinking of a trip to this golfer's paradise?  Here are 5 of New Zealands' most spectacular marquee golf courses for the ultimate golf travel experience.

Kauri Cliffs

Kauri Cliffs ranks in Golf Digest's list of the world's top 50 golf courses. Perched above the bay in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, this championship course has five sets of tees for all levels of golfers.  You'll be challenged by native rough, stands of fern and intimidating forced carries over gorges.  Four of the 18 holes run parallel to the Pacific on the top of dramatic cliffs.

The Lodge at Kauri is famous in its own right, with top-shelf accommodation and the Pacific Rim cuisine that rivals the views over the ocean.

Cape Kidnappers

This poetically-named golf course (Photo Credit: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers) in the country's famous Hawke's Bay wine region will steal any golf lovers' heart.   The course is dramatically perched on a narrow peninsula that juts into the Pacific and ranks in the top 20 of Golf Digest's list of top 50 courses.

The par 71 course is not for the faint-hearted.   Here's one description:  a “stratospheric Pebble Beach, high atop a windswept plateau some 500 feet above the sea”.  Imagine yourself taking challenging tee shots over deep canyons. And its luxury lodge is one of the country's most exclusive and talked-about resort destinations.

The Kinloch Club 

This Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course enhances the Kinloch Club's (Photo by the Kinloch Club) natural environment and is a test of true links golf.  Internationally-renowned,  this par 72 course rivals the panoramic views of New Zealand's largest fresh-water lake, Lake Taupo, and the surrounding rugged rural landscape.

The Lodge at Kinloch is just as known for golf as well as romantic couples' escapes.

Jacks Point

This 18-hole, par 72 championship course with five tee positions to choose from is an unforgettable golf experience only 20 minutes from downtown Queenstown. 

But the view is even more spectacular.  Lake panoramas and the breathtaking 2300 vertical meters of the aptly-named The Remarkables mountain range are the best possible distraction from your game.  

The natural landscape remains as part of the course architecture.  Native tussock grasslands, dramatic rock outcrops and native bush are 'par for the course' at Jacks Point on the edge of Lake Wakatipu.

The Hills

The Hills is a magnificent golf course surrounded by snow-capped mountains near Queenstown providing not only a dramatic landscape but a challenge to all golfers.

The Hills occupies a former deer farm near Arrowtown, Queenstown (image credit: Gary Lisbon). Native plants including native brown top grasses and wild mountain tussocks are preserved in the design. But there's an even more unique course design story here: sculptures crafted by New Zealand artists are integrated into the course’s lakes, waterways and wetland areas.

With a reputation that includes its position as co-host of the New Zealand Open, The Hills is a course that's a destination for both player and spectator.  So on or off the course, this will be a lasting memory of a golf trip to New Zealand.

 

Start your Trip!

 

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Some of the best food travel experiences don't involve white linen or Michelin stars.  A crab feast in Alaska that starts with a boat ride to collect crab pots is one of the most fresh, pure-tasting... and fun dining experiences you'll have anywhwere in the world.

Prepare to get dripping in butter and crab juice in this fun BestTrip.TV video!

Start your Trip!

 

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Happy Holidays

Wishing you and your loved ones the best of the season. We hope 2018 brings you happiness and new travel memories.

20 Things You Must Pack For Your Next Trip - and 1 Thing To Skip

Luggage allowances are shrinking and on many airlines, checking a bag comes at an additional cost. So a savvy traveler only packs what's most important.

Travel Expert and BestTrip.TV Producer/ Host Lynn Elmhirst has packing down to a science. Here's what's in her bag.

The smartest travelers and frequent fliers try to never check a bag. Not everyone can go that far. But everyone can pack smarter.

It works both ways. Not only do you want to have everything you need, there's no worse feeling than coming home having lugged something around your whole trip and never used it.

Here's what I've learned you really do need to pack:

  1. Packing Cubes. The first time you use packing cubes, you never travel without them again. They're indispensable to keep things organized and compartmentalized in your suitcase. No random clothes spilling out of your bag if you need to open it en route! And they save you precious holiday time: you can easily unpack at your destination, just opening up a cube and laying it in a dresser, then closing it up again and putting back in your suitcase when you move on.
  2. 3 Pairs of Shoes – 4 at the most. Believe me. No matter what your type of trip, anyone can travel successfully with 3 pairs of shoes – maximum 4, even though one of the best ways to handle tired feet from exploring all day is to CHANGE shoes so your feet still have support. Wear your comfortable (and heaviest) shoes on the plane. (This will keep the weight of your luggage down, too.) One pair of 'dressier' shoes for dinners/ evenings that go with everything. Another pair of day shoes to switch out sore feet makes 3. Maybe that 4th pair of shoes for the beach or your workout.
  3. Shoe bags. Put all your shoes in separate bags. Fabric shoe bags are kind to your leather shoe finish, but plastic bags will do. They keep street/beach/jungle dirt or moisture away from your clothes.
  4. Shoe-Shine Wipes. Your shoes usually get dustier when you travel because you are walking around more. Shoe shine wipes (you can also get mini, enclosed, sponge/polish units) for any color of leather will keep you looking, well, polished for meetings or nice evenings out.
  5. A Large Wrap/ Scarf. Planes and trains and even hotels get chilly. Men and women both can need a little extra something even if there are blankets on the plane. A large, lightweight wool-type (not heavy knit) scarf/ wrap can keep you warm, and double as an evening wrap (for ladies). Black is almost always useful. A lightweight black cardigan sweater can do the same trick for men or women.
  6. A Small, Fold-up Umbrella. It can protect you from both rain and blistering sun. If you get one small enough, you won't even notice it in your bag. And it will save you the embarrassment of arriving somewhere dripping.
  7. Travel First Aid. Don't waste valuable time on your holiday hunting for solutions for minor issues. Travel with an easily-packable, small pouch containing:
    1. Your preferred over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication;
    2. Bandaids (Tip: get the ones that already contain antibiotic ointment; they help blisters heal faster);
    3. Non-drowsy travel sickness medication. I never get travel sick but I carry it to help travel companions. Preventing people getting sick around you is as much a kindness to yourself as them.
    4. Throat lozenges for dry airplanes and hotels (especially helpful if you are traveling on business and need to make a presentation or speech or... host that travel video);
    5. Help for tummy trouble (constipation or diarrhea) which can strike as a result of strange water, jet lag/different body schedules or new food;
    6. Non-drowsy OTC allergy meds as you never know when something new may trigger an unpleasant allergic reaction, and
    7. OTC sleep aid especially if you have a long, overnight flight (arriving somewhat rested will help you enjoy your travels much better than starting exhausted.)
  8. A Foldable Shopping/ Carry-all Bag. This is one of the most useful things you can carry with you at all times – not just when you are shopping. Carry it in your carry-on bag, then if you get to the airport and your carry-on bag ends up needing to be checked, you can pull out the foldable bag and still have something to hold essential carry on items. Splurge: on a Longchamp Pliage bag. It has classy leather handles and closure and very sturdy and stylish, water-resistant fabric in multiple colors. It can double as a purse or beach bag as needed but folds up to pack. Priceless.
  9. Plastic Bags. You can use plastic bags to store your wet or dirty clothes or muddy shoes. I know a savvy traveler who always has a roll of doggy-waste bags in the bottom of their suitcase. They are heroes to their travel companions in rainy climates.
  10. Multi-tool-plus-knife. Airline regulations still permit you to pack one in your checked luggage (but not carry-on) for emergencies. If you're like me, you love to check out local markets and food producers. So most of my travel 'emergencies' involve opening wine bottles and serving cheese. Splurge: on a real Swiss Army knife - it will last your whole life. It also makes a perfect gift for a traveler in your life.
  11. Pen. It is almost embarrassing to have to remind you. There's always someone in a line up or on a plane who needs to fill out a form and starts asking around for a pen. Don't be that guy.
  12. Hard copies of all your travel bookings, confirmation numbers, loyalty program numbers, travel insurance, emergency contacts and local addresses, including your hotels. The best digital solutions are only as good as the wifi that powers them. You don't want to be stuck unable to pull up a reservation or even the name of your hotel on your phone for the taxi driver if you can't connect to the local internet.
  13. Notepad – Same thing; never be completely reliant on digital technology when you are traveling. Names, phone numbers, names of restaurants… if your phone isn’t connected, your essential notes need to go somewhere.
  14. Flash Drive – Keep a back up soft copy of all those travel documents and reservations because paper documents can get lost, too, and your hotel will be able to let you plug into a computer (or your own laptop) to print them out again.
  15. Updated Travel Apps – Make sure you have up-to-date versions of your preferred booking apps, map apps, and language translation apps. Don't use expensive (and possibly slower) local wifi to update your apps.
  16. Smartphone / Device Battery Extender – Even if you are on your phone constantly now, chances are, when you travel you'll use it even more: more photos, more videos, map app running in the background… plus you may well find yourself away from a plug and running out of power. Carry a battery extender you can charge nightly in your hotel, or a portable solar charger.
  17. Converter - Abroad, an electricity adapter / converter for all your electronics will keep you powered up. Spend once, use forever: a universal unit that adapts electronics anywhere in the world. If you carry a lot of electronics, you might even want two.
  18. An extended-length smartphone charging cable. Use your phone as an alarm clock? Post to social media and reply to emails in bed? Not all hotels or cruise ships yet have bedside USB charging adapters. You may need to plug your phone in 10-12 feet from your bed.
  19. Emergency Cash. A nice number is $250 USD or Euro depending where you're going. Or a number that makes you comfortable to cover yourself if local bank machines are down and you can't get local currency, or a restaurant won't take credit cards, or… any number of little emergencies can come up when you're traveling that cash will solve. Having an emergency stash (hidden but on hand) can save the day.
  20. Contact information of your travel professional - If bad weather or other emergencies interfere with your travel plans, your travel agent/advisor is one of your best advocates to help get you home or your problems resolved smoothly.
  21. PLUS here's a big tip about what NOT to pack: Your most expensive watch, jewelry or sunglasses. First, many people lose things when they travel, leaving a trail of items in planes, hotels and taxis. Second, in some destinations, pricey accessories make you a target. That's not the sign of a smart traveler.

Start your Trip!

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And local fireweed and spruce tips for truly local spirits and craft cocktails.

BestTrip.TV was in port in Skagway, Alaska on our Regent Seven Seas cruise and naturally, we checked out the famous local saloon recommended by Regent's shore expert.  We are always on the hunt for 'local', and there on the bar menu:  cocktails made using local, small-batch gin and vodka. Intrigued, we asked the bartender, who drew us a map on a napkin (those are always the best maps) to find the distillery.

And off we went on a walk through town to find Skagway Spirits. We found them next to Skagway's local airport in a re-imagined hangar, distilling gin and vodka and hand-crafting local ingredient-based juices and cordials to mix with them in their fun tasting room.

The last time we turned down a crafted cocktail using local ingredients and local, hand-crafted spirits made from the first water off the local glacier was... never!  Our little adventure to find the entrepreneurial Heger family and their wonderful airport hangar distillery was one of our best memories of our trip to Alaska. 

The best news?  You don't need a happy accident to discover Skagway Spirits on your next trip to Alaska.  Now you know exactly where to find Gary, Jan and Luke Heger and their delicious spirits and cocktails.

Start your Trip!

 

 

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Sink Your Teeth Into This UNESCO Cultural Experience

When is a pizza not just a pizza?  When you're dining on a piece of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Possibly the world's most beloved comfort food, game-day dinner, kids' birthday party treat and party go-to take-out, the humble yet versatile pizza has been given UNESCO Cultural Heritage status.

But not just any pizza.  'Pizzaiuolo' is the art of traditional, Neopolitan pizza-making.  Think of it as the 'way of the pizza'. The original, home-grown-in-Naples technique was given the designation in November 2017. It is meant to safeguard and raise awareness about different forms of cultural heritage and ensure the methods and origins are preserved and passed to future generations.

Naples in Southern Italy's Campania region is the historic and spiritual home of the original pizza, where the word 'pizza' has been traced back to the 10th century. 'Modern' pizza arrived on Naples' local culinary scene about 250 years ago.  If you've been to Naples (which is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest and most historic cities on the Mediterranean) you've certainly dined upon and heard about the importance of pizza here.  (If you haven't been to Naples and eaten the pizza there, well, add both to your travel list right now.)

Neapolitan pizza already has 'Traditional Specialty Guaranteed' status in Europe, with its own local Association (The Genuine Neapolitan Pizza Association) issuing and enforcing rules for its creation and labeling. 

Mount Vesuvius, Naples and the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo Credit)

A true Neapolitan pizza must be made with San Marzano tomatoes (that only grow on the volcanic plains of nearby Mount Vesuvius) and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, itself a protected designation of origin cheese from semi-wild water buffalo in the region.  There are additional rules about how the dough must be made, from what flour, and include requirements that the dough be formed by hand to a thickness of no more than 3 mm (.12 inches).  After toppings are added, the pizza must be baked for less than 2 minutes in a stone oven heated by an oak-wood fire.

Pizzeria in Naples, Italy.  (Photo Credit)

The result?  A Neapolitan pizza is soft, elastic, tender and fragrant.  The Association recognizes only two authentic pies: the simple Pizza Margherita (top photo credit) that follows the traditional rules for ingredients with the addition of basil and extra virgin olive oil, and Marinara Pizza with tomato, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano.   Don't even think the words 'Hawaiian' or 'Meat Lovers'.

Pizza Neapolitan joins traditional horse games of Kyrgyzstan, wind mill operations in the Netherlands,  women divers of Korea and dozens of other unique expressions of local culture registered and safeguarded by UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity program.   In other words, another reason #WhyWeTravel.

Buon Appetito!

 

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Would You Sail on an Adults-Only Cruise Line?

Sir Richard Branson is betting you will. The flamboyant billionaire behind the Virgin brands is doubling down on the reputation Virgin Air gained for uniquely fun, sexy… and grown up travel. His latest venture, Virgin Voyages, will be 'Adult by Design'.

Virgin Voyages will be the very first cruise line to be designated adults-only.  True, some other cruise lines lean towards a grown up, as opposed to kid-friendly lifestyle.  But that tends to be more about mature adults at the luxury price point, where kids are still welcome.  Not for Virgin Voyages.

You get a strong sense of what 'Adult by Design' means at Virgin Voyages when we tell you the announcement was made during what they called a 'Ship Tease'.

Branson and the cruise line CEO were delivered to the stage of the shipyard in Italy in dramatic style via a 200-foot crane drop for the traditional ceremony for the laying of the new ship's keel.  They used the occasion to announce more details about what to expect from the new cruise line and the first of its three ships launching in 2020.

Not only did the pair announce the 'Adult by Design' concept (permitting bookings for only those 18 and older) they also promised the new ship will be the most recognizable design at sea, reminiscent of a super yacht in cruise ship form, with a sleek, silver-gray (as opposed to white) hull with smoked glass and hits of Virgin red especially on its iconic red Virgin funnel. 

They're calling the fleet the 'Lady Ships' in a twist on the British term 'your ladyship', a nod to Branson's nationality and playfulness.  In another twist on tradition, instead of a female figurehead on the bow of the ships, a Virgin mermaid makes a saucy appearance.  Branson also promised Virgin Voyages would be home to the happiest crew afloat. 

In other words, look forward to a big, sexy, fabulous party in established Virgin style  - at sea.

Nearly all staterooms will boast a 'sea terrace' on what Virgin Voyages is calling a 'sophisticated ship and a transformational experience' for cruise travelers where 'rejuvenating day-life meets exciting nightlife and everything in between'.   And they've announced the cruise line is open for business with pre-sale deposits now being accepted for the first season of sailing.

Virgin Voyages vision is taking shape and its 'Ship Tease' was one more step towards reality for this highly anticipated cruise line. 

 

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7 Tips for Holiday Travel from an Airline Expert

Millions of travelers were stranded this fall when hurricanes Irma and Harvey wreaked havoc on the southern US and Caribbean.  Now, with the holiday season fast approaching along with the possibility of bad winter weather, we thought it would be good to share some tips about how to face the unpredictable.

Andrew Collins, the CEO and President of Sentient Jet, shares his insights with us into best practices when extreme weather interferes with your best –laid travel plans. Whether experiencing unexpected weather, a flight cancellation or delay, here are his tips to ensure you are equipped to handle the situation.

1. Departure time matters. During high traffic periods and days when weather is expected to be poor, give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport (Top Photo Credit).  Work with your travel advisor to look to take the first flight out if you can, as that aircraft has a better chance of already being at the airport and therefore taking off on-time. Delays tend to increase as the day progresses, particularly when inclement weather in one area causes a ripple effect across multiple regions and airports.

2. Become a priority. Inclement weather can increase the amount of time it takes to travel to the airport, and also leads to crowds upon arrival.  Being able to skip the security line could make the difference between catching your flight or getting stuck at the airport. Look into the possibility of bundling priority security line access into your ticket and, if you are a frequent traveler, to sign up for TSA Pre and Global Entry. Have you ever tried a customs concierge? When traveling internationally,  they can assist you with every stage of navigating unfamiliar airports, from providing pick-up service to arranging lounge access.

3. Invest in a travel “Tool Kit.” Does your credit card offer specialized perks or access? Are you a loyalty member of an airline, hotel chain, or car rental service? Most importantly, are you in the know about what your enrollment in these programs can really provide? All too often, people miss out on the benefits of their memberships, such as a room at a sold-out hotel or a seat on a sought-after flight. Take the time to learn about what these services can do for you – and how to access them quickly in a pinch.

4. Know your equipment. Do you feel more comfortable flying on a larger aircraft over a smaller, regional one? Work with your travel advisor to take these preferences into consideration, allowing you to identify the right flight for you based on time, distance, conditions, and plane type. A car upgrade to a larger automobile or SUV can also help you manage your ground transportation needs. When facing the possibility of inclement weather, prioritizing your comfort by selecting more reliable modes of transportation is a must.

Don't let this happen to you.  Photo Credit

5. Consider flying privately or chartering an aircraft. If there is an extreme weather situation, look into booking a private charter. In the event of extreme weather conditions, the nimble nature of private jet companies often means they can fly with fewer hours’ notice and even operate more flights than a commercial operator to get travelers out of harm’s way. Many programs even offer specific aircraft availability guarantees, ensuring you a seat whenever possible, and can fly into smaller hubs – and that can make the difference between getting home for Christmas or spending it on a cot at the airport.

6. Always ask - nicely. If your flight does get canceled due to inclement weather, ask the airline if they can find a flight for you with another carrier as opposed to waiting for them to reschedule. Though airlines do not always announce this option in order to keep revenue in house, this is often something that can be done, and will help you get to your destination faster.

7. And don't forget your travel advisor is a strong partner to help you navigate unexpected travel issues, not just when you're booking your trip, but while you're away.

Whether you're traveling great distances or staying at home to gather with your loved ones in the coming weeks, we wish you a safe and joyful holiday season.

 

 

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Indulge Your Love for Luxe in the Dominican Republic

All-inclusive resorts in Puerto Plata and elsewhere on this lush Caribbean island with 1000 miles of coastline put the Dominican Republic on the map for travelers seeking affordable family and couples vacations from winter weather further north. 

But what you may not know is that you can also find experiences that rival deluxe vacations anywhere in the Caribbean. Save or splurge, here's how to add indulgence to your winter holiday in the islands this year.

Lush Lodging

In the Dominican Republic, you can stay in unmatched accommodations that run the gamut from world-renowned boutique hotels to opulent resorts. Punta Cana in the east in particular is home to luxury properties ideal for intimate romantic travel, families and multi-generation travel, and large wedding, vow renewal, or reunion groups, even business conferences.

In addition to stunning beaches and multiple pools, many of these properties offer whirlpools, saunas, and extended wellness programs as well as traditional spa and aesthetic treatments.  Take sunset yoga, healthy cooking, and fitness programs.

And for complete privacy, book a private villa for a secluded, A-list holiday experience.

Gorgeous Golf, Fantastic Fishing and Prestigious Polo

Dominican Republic is a golfer’s dream, with over two dozen meticulously manicured courses set against the backdrop of the country’s most stunning scenery and shoreline. Pete Dye’s seaside “Teeth of the Dog” (below) at the storied Casa de Campo resort put the Dominican Republic on the world golfer’s map.

 

Here you can play courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Fazio, Nick Price, and Robert Trent Jones. Sculpted bunkers and uneven terrain but let the natural contours of the land dictate the courses’ routing. Tropical breezes on the coastal courses add another layer of challenge to even the best player's game

Sports fishermen flock to Dominican Republic’s coasts in pursuit of the blue marlin, one of the largest fish in the world. Hit the water for a tournament or on a charter boat excursion to fish blue marlin, white marlins, mahi-mahi, wahoo, swordfish and tuna in the Caribbean Sea; while blue marlin, wahoo and barracudas can be found in the Atlantic waters off the North Coast.

Dominican Republic is part of the international circuit of the 'Sport of Kings', with polo facilities available at some of the country’s most exclusive resorts in La Romana, Punta Cana and Santo Domingo. Hire horses for your own tournaments, or head to a polo match to enjoy the action as a spectator for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.

Serious Shopping

Fashionistas and shopping enthusiasts will be on cloud nine in Dominican Republic, where it’s easy to find couture clothing, unique handmade crafts and stunning precious jewelry all within close proximity.

But we love local best.  Indigenous amber or glassy blue larimar (above) jewelry makes the perfect souvenir, and a piece of local larimar or amber jewelry will definitely start a conversation when your friends at home see it.

Make sure to take tours of local coffee, rum, cigar or jewelry manufactures for an opportunity to meet Makers, learn about local culture, and pick up authentic souvenirs.

Delicious Dining and Next-Level Nightlife

Did you know the Dominican Republic was named the Gastronomic Culture Capital of the Caribbean?  The island is one of the few in the Caribbean with extensive, diverse and abundant local agriculture.  Ingredients are fresh and inspiring.  Try the fusion cuisine of innovative chefs who have taken classic international recipes and given them a Dominican twist with local ingredients.

After dinner, find a terrace with a view or a club outside your hotel, especially in the capital of Santo Domingo, where international performers and DJ's make frequent appearances and you can dance the night away to local merengue music. Wine cellars and cigar clubs also offer exclusive tastings sure to please both connoisseurs and novice cigar aficionados and sommeliers.

If you're looking for luxury, maybe it's time to re-define your Dominican Republic vacation experience. 

Start your Trip!

 

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3 Greek Islands You Must Visit Before You Die

Greece is famous as the cradle of Western civilization. It's the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, literature and drama, marathons, the Olympics, plus some of your favorite math principles.

Modern Greece consists of a mountainous mainland and hundreds of islands surrounded by the Aegean, Ionian, Cretan and Mediterranean Seas. Over two hundred of the islands are inhabited, many of them rich in history and mythology, as well as the Mediterranean culture, cuisine, maritime and beach lifestyle that makes Greece one of the top bucket list travel destinations.

Some travelers in the know take holidays to Greece year after year, and Greek islands are a highlight of Eastern Mediterranean cruises. If you've never visited Greece, here are the islands you just can't miss.

Photo (Credit) SantoriniSantorini inspired the title of this article. It's continuously named the 'best island in the world' and the 'Greek Island you must visit before you die'. (But we think all the islands in this list merit the title). (Top Photo Credit)

When you hear 'Greek island', chances are that the sight that pops into your head is one of the iconic pictures of Santorini. The island's sky blue domed church roofs, white washed buildings on the edges of cliffs, and steep, narrow cobbled streets overlooking brilliant blue seas stand in to represent the iconic Greek island vista of everyone's travel dreams. 

Santorini is what remains of an island after the eruption of an ancient volcano. Now, a giant lagoon is encircled by the 300 m (980 ft) high cliffs of a crescent shaped island and a much smaller island opposite where the remaining volcano rim is still above the sea. Visiting ships, yachts and local fishing boats approaching the shelter of the curve are afloat in the crater of the volcano. Inside the caldera, the water is so deep - over 400m - that only the largest ships can anchor.   Santorini's capital, Fira (Thira) clings to the top of the cliff over the lagoon.

Photo (Credit)

Don't Miss: volcanic-sand beaches in unique black or red sands, brilliant sunsets, a traditional and a growing modern food culture. Santorini's micro-climate nurtures tomatoes and capers of famously exquisite flavor, and an indigenous grape varietal that local vintners turn into celebrated crisp, dry white and amber-toned wines.


  Photo (Credit)

MykonosMykonos is the Greek island where Ibiza party and French Riviera beach lifestyles meet. Cosmopolitan and glamorous, Mykonos may be Greece's most fashionable holiday destination. Luxury hotels, stylish bars, clubs and parties where beautiful people come to see and be seen until dawn, then sleep it off on magnificent beaches or private yachts… if that is your style of travel, Mykonos is for you. It's also known for being an LGBT-friendly destination and party central.

(Photo Credit)

Mykonos is both the island and its main town, which is also called Chora (meaning 'town', in the Greek style of towns with the same name as their islands). Picturesque local architecture, sunsets, people watching and shopping appeal to visitors of all ages.

(Photo Credit) 

The island's nickname is 'the Island of Winds'. Windmills are one of the defining and unique features of the Mykonos landscape, built by Venetians in the 16th century to grind flour and used until electricity took over only a few decades ago.

(Photo Credit)

Don't Miss: Romantic, artistic Little Venice, where rows of 18th century colorful fishing houses with overhanging balconies line the seaside, many of them shops, cafes, and galleries. And Petros the Pelican, the mascot of Chora's waterfront.   

(Photo Credit) RhodesRhodes' nickname is The Island of the Knights. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the world. Walking its Street of Knights, you feel transported back to the Middle Ages, when conquering Crusaders built fortifications, the Palace of the Grand Masters, towers, inns and rest of the medieval city and streets that remain today.

(Photo Credit)

But Rhodes' history pre-dates mediaeval knights by thousands of years, when the island's strategic position made it central to ancient history. One of Rhodes' lasting claims to fame is a landmark that no longer exists.

(Photo Credit)

 (Photo Credit)

The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Erected in 280 B.C. at the Mandraki harbor to mark a battle victory, the Colossus was a bronze statue of extraordinary size - about the same as the Statue of Liberty! Rhodes' Colossus stood for less than a century before an earthquake toppled it. Even then, for another 800 years, its remains lying on the ground drew travelers to Rhodes to marvel at and write about its size. Today the statues of deer on pillars at the entrance to the harbor mark where the Colossus' feet were said to stand and allow ships to pass beneath this feat of design and engineering.

 (Photo Credit)

Don't Miss: The beaches. Don't be so distracted by the history you miss its stunning beaches. The wine. Rhodes is said to have been the first island in the Aegean to cultivate vineyards for wine; that tradition continues today. The lush, green interior and emerald fresh waters inland from the beaches.

When to goIn most of the Greek islands, the sun shines 300 magical days a year. Summers are high season for travelers arriving by air and cruise ship, but April- June and September- October are blessed with lovely weather. Looking for mild weather, quiet exploration – and a bargain? More and more people are discovering Greece in early and late winter months too.

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

Giant manta rays, sharks, whales, turtles, sea lizards and hundreds of other species are now protected in Mexico's vast new Revillagigedo marine reserve in the Pacific Ocean off the Baja Peninsula.

There are four Revillagiegedo Islands about 240 miles (390 km) southwest of Baja California.  They are small, uninhabited volcanic islands, but uniquely positioned where two ocean currents converge.  (Top photo credit).  That makes the islands and the waters around them a hub for hundreds of species of marine plants, birds and animals that live there or migrate there especially for breeding.

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

(Photo Credit)

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

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

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

(Photo Credit)

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

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

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

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

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A night time market in the grounds of a castle. Fires and torches and twinkling lights, the smell of evergreen boughs, the best German Christmas culinary treats and artisans selling authentic German arts and crafts, Christmas decorations and cozy winter woolens. Whether you're the person who always knows exactly how many days it is until Christmas, or the 'Bah, Humbug' type... Even a die-hard Scrooge gets into the spirit of Christmas at a traditional Christmas market in Germany. And Regensburg's Romantic Christmas market might be the most magical of them all.

You can explore a number of Germany's best Christmas markets on itineraries of seasonal river cruises as BestTrip.TV did. Escorted tours also offer special Christmas market itineraries. We know families who have made a trip to a famous Christmas market a family gift. All members of a family, from grandparents, parents, single aunts and uncles and every kid ever! find joyful memories together at a European Christmas market. We love the idea of celebrating the season with travel, and Regensburg's Romantic Christmas Market will warm anyone's heart.

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If You Haven't Visited Uluru Yet...

This UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the most recognizable natural landmark symbol of Australia, has banned visitors from climbing.

Uluru/Ayers Rock rises nearly 350 meters (1142 feet) high above the hot, dry, desert in the center of Australia. This monolith is almost 10 km (6 miles) around.  And it isn't just a miracle of survival of the erosion of the rest of the landscape around it. At different times of the year and in the light of dawn and sunset, its sandstone also appears to magically glow red. (Top photo credit)

Cultural and Spiritual Significance

Photo Credit

No wonder it is a place of cultural and spiritual significance for the local Aṉangu people, the traditional local inhabitants. The area also has springs, waterholes, and rock caves with ancestral petroglyphs and paintings.  Members of the aboriginal community lead walking tours to introduce visitors to the local plants and wildlife unique to the area, aboriginal cultural traditions, and their Dreamtime spiritual stories.

But they don't lead treks up the steep slopes to the top.

10,000 Years of Human History

Archaeologists have determined humans inhabited the area more than 10,000 years ago. Europeans arrived in the late 19th century, and tourism to the site began in the first half of the 20th century.  Since the site was given UNESCO World Heritage designation, even more people  - half a million visitors a year - have made the journey to this spectacular site at the heart of Australia.

As interest and visits rose, the challenge to balance conservation, respect for Uluru's spiritual significance, and visitor experience grew.

To Climb or Not to Climb?

The local aboriginal people do not climb the sacred Uluru rock themselves to avoid violating sacred Dreamtime ground.  And they have long requested visitors follow their lead.

Photo Credit

Nonetheless, about a third of visitors to Uluru/ Ayers Rock make the hour-long, steep, 800 m (half-mile) climb to the sometimes dangerously windy summit.  In recent years, unfortunate videos have even popped up of truly disrespectful behavior by tourists at the top.

Those incidents have added to pressure to ban climbing Uluru.  First, Ayers Rock was re-named using its aboriginal designation.  Then, in 1985, ownership of Uluru was returned to the local aboriginal people, who now share decision-making on the management of the National Park where Uluru resides.

New Rules at Uluru

In November 2017, the park board voted unanimously to prohibit climbing Uluru. The new rules take effect in October 2019, coinciding with the 34th anniversary of the return of the site to its aboriginal owners.

If you visit Australia, there are still many ways to experience the awe-inspiring site of Uluru other than climbing.  Since 2009, there have been special viewing areas whose design and construction were supervised by the aboriginal community.  They provide visitors road access, walking trails and views from angles at both sunrise and sunset.

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Remai Modern: A New Player on North America's Modern Art Scene

October 2017 saw the birth of a new destination for modern art lovers.  The nearly $100 million Remai Modern art museum at River Landing in Saskatoon is an ambitious project that puts this Saskatchewan city on the map for culture fans.

And maybe it's OK to be ambitious when your collection includes 8000 works of  'the art of our time', including the world's largest collection of Picasso linocuts, and 23 of that iconic and most recognizable modern artist's ceramic works.

Saskatoon entrepreneur and philanthropist Ellen Remai, for whom the museum is named, donated her collection of 400 Picasso linocuts – valued at $20 million – as well as $16 million towards construction. She was joined by another Saskatchewan-born philanthropist and collector Frederick Mulder, who donated the Picasso ceramics.  Most of the rest of the collection was entrusted to the new museum by the city's former Mendel Art Gallery.

Remai and the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation made additional donations, now totaling over a hundred million dollars, one of the largest donations to the arts in Canadian history.  The donations will ensure 30 years of funding for international exhibitions, plus a million dollars annually for a quarter of a century towards acquisitions, as well as dedicated funds to match other donations up to another million dollars annually.

(Photos by Adrien Williams)

There's no doubt the Remai Modern reshapes this Canadian Prairie city.  The striking building cantilevered at the river side likely gives you a sense of déjà vu.  That might be because it pays homage to the 20th century's most iconic modern North American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and his masterpiece Fallingwater.

Its 130,000 square feet on four levels is a treasure worthy of the art and the community, with a balcony overlooking the river, a show-stopping interior staircase, magnificent galleries, terraces and a seasonal roof top.  The space is designed for community and public events as much as to showcase the art inside.  The region's First Nations art is also home in the museum, which includes inscriptions in six indigenous and Metis languages.

Finding new ways to redefine how museums engage the community in the 21st century has also lead to ground-breaking programs at Remai Modern.

Intergenerational artmaking programs happen every Sunday; a Modern Art Caravan brings art supplies and the opportunity to create to community festivals and events; programs facilitate art in schools and life-long learning, creative communities in First Nations, support young and emerging artists, and ensure the museum's collections are accessible with admission-free days throughout the year.

The Remai Modern is a direction-setting art museum – for Saskatoon as a destination, for the arts community in North America, and all of us who should put the Remai Modern on our travel bucket lists.

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This is a cruise line private island experience we haven't seen before.  Our Caribbean cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruises included a day at Harvest Caye, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our cruise. And when you watch the video you'll see why.

Harvest Caye is an island a mile offshore mainland Belize.  Like other cruise line private islands, Harvest Caye was developed as a beach port of call in the Caribbean for its guests by parent company Norwegian for its Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Oceania guests.

It's a spectacular, resort-style experience. There's a 7-acre pristine beach. You can relax in clamshell tents or even better, in one of the luxury beach villas with porches over the water, hammocks, dining and beverage options and dedicated concierge service.

Or head to the pool.  This extravagant 15,000 square foot oasis has a swim-up bar and tables in the water, elegant lounges and canopy pool cabanas with beverage service.

A 130 foot tall 'Flighthouse' looks a lot like a lighthouse, but gets its name as the island's point of departure for adventure:  an over water zipline or ropes course. There are also eco/ water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing in the lagoon alongside the wildlife.

Authentic and Sustainable

The Shopping Village, with its outdoor art festival, local musicians and dancers, high-quality local retailers of locally made chocolates, spirits and artwork including local woodwork, features street-style Belizean cuisine for that truly authentic local flavor.

The development preserves and improves the local eco system, uses indigenous, responsible hardwoods in the buildings, and is creating 500 direct and 1500 indirect jobs for the local economy.

All those things you might expect from a well-planned cruise line private island that also wants to support and authentically reflect its host community, Belize.

But Harvest Caye takes that responsible approach one step further with a Wildlife and Conservation program.

Wildlife and Conservation:

The development of Harvest Caye has boosted local environmental conservation. More than 15,000 new mangroves have been planted to increase the natural estuary habitat for birds, fish and other marine species.

Conservation programs and education efforts have been developed by award winning author and wildlife expert Tony Garel, Harvest Caye's Chief Naturalist, who supervised a wildlife interaction program so you can actually meet and learn about local wildlife.  Tony is on the island daily to lead tours of the wildlife experience. 

Tony's love for and commitment to Belize's plant and animal life were the highlight of our visit, and meeting Tony will be the highlight of your visit to Harvest Caye, too.  (And his friends, Belize's National bird, the toucans.) 

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Maybe it's your first sight of a palm tree in the sea breeze. Or the feel of sand between your toes. Even your first tropical cocktail in the warmth of the sun. But for some people, it's the taste of any of these iconic flavors that makes you feel like you're finally on vacation in the Caribbean. read more

There's everyday luxury on Regent Seven Seas Cruises: where your airfare, transfers, on board wine and spirits, tips, specialty dining and even shore excursions and wifi are all included in a relaxed country club atmosphere on beautiful mid-sized ships. 

Then there's another level of all-inclusive luxury on Regent: the butler suites.

BestTrip.TV got a behind-the-scenes experience of Regent's most spectacular suite, the 'most luxurious address at sea', and a glimpse into the life of the butlers who make the suite life on Regent's all-inclusive luxury ships even sweeter.

We even get an answer to the question: What do butlers do in their spare time (if they even have any)?

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A Carry On Kayak

The world's first nesting performance kayak may not actually reduce to airplane carry on size.  But its 6 interconnecting sections pack into a custom-made wheeled backpack bag that's a mere 3 feet long and weighs only 55 pounds.  

So you can store it in a closet.  Then roll it like a piece of luggage and take it with you in a car trunk, a cab, train, ferry, check it on your flight, or even carry it on your back hiking to any body of water begging to be explored.

Once you reach the water, the Pakayak Bluefin 14-foot sea/touring kayak assembles in under 5 minutes – with no small, loose parts to lose in the sand. 

So even in a remote location anywhere in the world, you can create your own kayaking adventure.

Pakayak is a crowd-funding, adventure-travel success story. A Connecticut outdoor adventurer / entrepreneur designed and patented the nesting Pakayak. The company raised 125% of its kickstarter fundraising goal, supported by lovers of the outdoors eager for a full-scale, easily-stored and easily-transported kayak.  One supporter has pre-ordered one for each member of the family.

The interconnecting sections are made from high-grade kayak industry resin that nest into each other, then assemble with a series of patented clamps and seals resulting in a watertight and rigid performance kayak.

Once assembled, it looks and performs just like a conventional kayak.  It has a thick foam seat for comfort, adjustable foot braces and seat back, two watertight hatches, watertight bulkheads fore and aft, a padded folding seat, adjustable foot braces, reflective safety lines, bungee deck rigging, front and rear carry handles, and it's rudder-ready.  

Future planned developments include additional models of different lengths, and seats for fishing, kids and dogs.

Pakayaks aren't just the ultimate mobile kayaks. You can also feel good about the company's commitment to social and ecological responsibility.  Clamps and shells are made in the U.S., where the kayaks are also molded and assembled, providing local jobs. Manufacturing, assembly and distribution all take place at the same facility to minimize environmental impact.  The design reduces shipping and fuel costs compared to conventional kayaks. In fact, 6 times more Pakayaks than regular kayaks fit in a tractor-trailer.

Pakayak takes seriously the responsibility of outdoor adventurers to be active stewards of the environment and puts their money where their mouth is.

The first model, the Bluefin 14 is named after the endangered species, and future models will also be named after a threatened marine animal or fish, with a percentage of profit from each sale going towards efforts to protect that species and sustain the world's marine ecosystems.

Pakayaks are inspiring and empowering. They have opened up a whole new way to travel the world with your own kayak and the complete freedom to spontaneously explore the rivers, seas and coastlines on your list.

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Is a World Cruise Right for You?

Cruising is a storied way of travel, full of unique traditions and experiences you'll never enjoy any other way than on a cruise ship.  The World Cruise is one of those time-honored cruising traditions, dating back to the Golden Age of steam ships and a new approach to travel by the most stylish people on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first World Cruise sailed a century ago, pioneered by British luxury line Cunard, who still sets the standard of world cruising.   There are still 'world cruises' that actually circumnavigate the globe, setting sail from Southampton (London), Los Angeles or south Florida in the New Year, cruising around the world, and making a triumphant return to your port of embarkation a few months later with a lifetime of memories. (Photo Credit: BestTrip.TV)

That is a traditional World Cruise.  But not every world cruise circles the planet. Some explore a hemisphere or a couple of continents, sailing into ports not normally accessible by shorter cruise itineraries.  

January departures are not the only choice; some world cruises sail twice a year or from regions where the seasons dictate different timing.

World Cruises often have extended stays in some of the best ports of call: overnights as well as extended periods off-ship for a land extension then a return to the ship so you really feel you have an in-depth travel experience.

You probably imagine all your fellow guests will be quite senior  - and they are the likeliest travelers to have the time and money to commit to the most epic of cruise itineraries.  But cruise lines are changing with the times to appeal to new generations – and multi-generations – of travelers, and world cruises may have families with children taking a term or more off school to explore the world, as well as younger couples on 'sabbatical' breaks.

So… is a world cruise right for you? 

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have 3 months or more to devote to travel? 90 days is an entry-level commitment to a world cruise. Some are 180 days or more, especially cruises that actually circle the world.
  2. Do you 'collect' ports, looking for ways to visit cruise destinations in far-flung corners of the world other itineraries don't reach?Cruising around the world is going to take you to oceans and seas and continents shorter cruises simply can't reach.
  3. Do you love days at sea?Between these off-the-beaten-track ports of call, ships cross bodies of water and that can take days.If what you love about a Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise is that there's another port every day, a world cruise will be a big change of pace.
  4. Is ship-board life appealing to you? Over that period of time, the ship becomes your home, not an entertaining 'floating hotel'. Strolling on deck, enjoying a sunset from your veranda, or the camaraderie of your fellow guests in the ship's restaurants, bars, lounges and fitness centers, and activities like onboard enrichment programs will be your lifestyle for weeks and months.

If you answered 'yes' to these questions, you might want to consider a world cruise. 

What if you answered 'no'?

If you don't have 3 months or want to cruise for so many weeks, you can often book segments of a world cruise on your favorite cruise line that give you the opportunity to see a unique part of the world at sea.

'Grand Voyages', itineraries of less than 3 months but with much of the lavishness and off-the-beaten path ports of full 'World Cruises' are increasingly popular.

Consider the cruise line that would make a dream World Cruise the best experience for you.  Small luxury ships, mid-size contemporary ships, British style cruising… the onboard lifestyle you would enjoy for a quarter of a year or more at sea should help you focus on what cruise line would be the best fit for your World Cruise.  Smaller ships can also sail into smaller, more boutique ports as well, so if truly unique destinations are important to you, smaller ships will have itineraries to match those cruise travel dreams.

Cruise lines that offer World Cruises or their younger sisters, Grand Voyages, include:

  • Cunard
  • Holland America Line
  • Silversea
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Azamara Club Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises,
  • Princess Cruises
  • Seabourn
  • Viking Ocean Cruises
  • Costa Cruises

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Cowboys. Wild white horses.  Wild black bulls. And pink flamingos.

Hard to imagine any place on earth where you'll find all of them together, but the vast Camargue delta in the South of France is home to all of these colorful creatures.  You can't miss BestTrip.TV's introduction to French cowboys and the beautiful wilderness of the Camargue.

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Bangkok, right?

Wrong.  We've traveled to the Thai capital city many times, but this was the first time BestTrip.TV discovered the full, real name of Bangkok is... well, see for yourself. It's a mouthful! 

The proper name is also a very beautiful description of one of South-East Asia's most popular and colorful cities that every year makes the list as one of the top 5 travel destinations in the world.

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5 Reasons to Travel to the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is still one of the most exotic and unknown locations on the planet.  This federation of absolute monarchies on the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula was established in 1971. Since then, it's made its mark on the world, first as one of the top ten oil producers, then with the lavish lifestyle of all that oil money, and more recently, as an increasingly popular travel and cruise destination.

Here are 5 things you might not know about the UAE:

1. There are 7 emirates in the United Arab Emirates.

They are: Abu Dhabi (which also serves as the capital) Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al Quwain.  The largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, is nearly 90% of the UAE's land mass – over 67,000 km squared (26,000 sq. miles).  (Abu Dhabi Skyline photo, top. Credit.)  It and splashy Dubai are the best known. The smallest emirate – Ajman – would fit into Abu Dhabi 25 times.  Saudi Arabia surrounds the UAE to the west, south, and south-east, with Oman on the south-east and northeast, and the remaining border is a 650 km (400 mile) coast along the Persian Gulf.  The emirates' largest natural harbour and cruise port is at Dubai.

Photo Credit

About 10 million people live in the UAE.  Only 1/10th of those are Emirati citizens and the rest are expatriates; laborers and domestic workers from mostly 3rd world countries, and some business expats from the West. 

2. It has the tallest skyscraper in the world.

Even in a region known for surreal cities of glass and steel sprouting out of the desert that surrounds them, the Burj Khalifa (Khalifa Tower) stands alone.  Inspired by traditional regional architecture, this mega-tall skyscraper tops out at 829.8 meters (that's 2722 feet).  Imagine this: it's so high above the earth that, standing on higher floors of the tower, you can still see the sun for a couple of minutes AFTER it has set at ground level.

Photo Credit

The Burj Khalifa has blown away dozens of world records, including tallest structure, tallest structure ever built, building with the most floors, highest elevator, highest outdoor observation deck, highest nightclub, and highest restaurant.  It's the centerpiece of a massive mixed use development that includes an artificial lake and parkland fed by water from the vast air conditioning units of the tower. You simply will not get a more spectacular view over Dubai than from the tower.

3. And the world's largest artificial island.

You've probably seen photos of this.  The Palm Jumeirah artificial archipelago of reclaimed land on the Persian Gulf coast of Dubai, part of a development to increase Dubai's shoreline by 520 km (320 miles).  In a complete break from any previous land reclamation project ever undertaken, the development's encircled palm tree design not only takes your breath away, it also maximizes beachfront.  Privately-owned villas, hotels and resort areas occupy the palm fronds and circle. 

Photo Credit

Hotels, resorts and hotel residences in this spectacular setting include: The Fairmont Palm Hotel & Resort, St. Regis Hotel – The Palm, Kempinski Hotel & Residences, Sofitel Dubai, The Palm Resort & Spa, The Langham, Palm Jumeirah, Waldorf Astoria, Dubai Palm Jumeirah, W Hotel, Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai, and dozens of independent properties.  There is no other hotel / resort destination in the world like the Palm Jumeirah.

4. And the largest man-made marina.

The man-made Dubai Marina is built along a 3 km (2 mile) stretch of shoreline on the Persian Gulf.  This artificial canal city is said to be inspired by Concord Pacific Place along False Creek in Vancouver. When complete, it will overtake the current world's largest man-made Marina del Rey in California and be home to over a hundred thousand people in its residential towers.

Photo Credit

Dubai Marina is a completely new waterfront.  Engineers brought the waters of the Gulf into the site of the man-made marina.  A large central waterway runs the 3 km length of the site; marine wildlife, including whales, are known to travel inland from the open sea into the marina. The waterways of the marina are complemented by 8 km of landscaped public space.  12% of the land surface of the Dubai Marina is devoted to public space. You may not think of a desert country as a place to go to the beach, but places like Dubai Marina do give you the opportunity to swim in the local waters. (Carefully check and follow designated areas to avoid breaking strict public dress codes).

5. But the Emirates aren't just ultra-modern cities.

There is still Nature in the Emirates.  Outside the futuristic, man-made environments of the UAE's cities, are vast deserts with rolling sand dunes, oases that provide water for settlements, and grow date palms, acacia and eucalyptus trees. The desert itself is not barren; grasses and thorn bushes continue to support wildlife. 

Photo Credit

Conservation programs initiated or supported by the Emirates' royal leaders are helping ensure the survival of wildlife species near extinction from hunting, including the Arabian Onyx, Arabian camel and even wild leopards.

Police Car in Abu Dhabi.  Photo Credit

The United Arab Emirates is one of the most astonishing, contradictory, ultra-traditional and futuristic, spectacular travel destinations in the world. 

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What Ship Has a $4 Million Art Collection?

Holland America Line's ships are famous for their museum-quality art.  Fans of cruising on Holland America Line ships are familiar with the pleasure of rounding a corner to encounter another stimulating piece or installation of art.  Art tours are among the most unique on board experiences on HAL ships.

On Holland America Line's newest ship, the MS Konigsdam, 4.1 million dollars' of art translates into 1920 pieces ranging from classic to contemporary, traditional to avant-garde, enhancing the decks, public spaces and even private staterooms. 

Much more than traditional framed two-dimensional art, Konigsdam art encompasses photography, painting, mixed media, illustration, prints and sculpture. 

Koningsdam features artworks in many media, including photography, painting, mixed media, illustration, prints and sculpture. Classical or whimsical or a thought-provoking combination of both, artworks are created from expected materials as well as remarkable paint-injected bubble wrap, computer disks on wood, toy cars cast in resin, aluminum wire, cast paper, bamboo and other materials you might not associate with works of art you might have encountered in traditional museums.

Many pieces change depending on where you stand in relation to the piece, engaging you to start conversations with your fellow guests.  There are a number of apparent themes, including Holland America Line's association with the Netherlands, as well as Koningsdam’s focus on entertainment, with various pieces showcasing themes of performers and music, dance and movement.

More than 21 nationalities are represented by Koningsdam’s artists, including the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland.

Some of the artists are established and well known, others are up-and-coming, with prices for pieces ranging in value from $500 to well over half a million dollars.

The largest and most expensive work is the stunning $600,000 Atrium sculpture titled 'Harps'.  It's based on a concept by celebrity hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, who was the mastermind behind the Konigsdam's design. The 7.5-ton stainless steel sculpture spans three decks and is the focal point of the ship's Atrium.

The large-scale tulip images behind the Guest Services desk are by a Netherlands-based artist who was commissioned to photograph Holland America Line’s Signature Tulip. This unique flower only blooms for a couple of weeks every year, so the team traveled to the Netherlands to collect the blooms directly from the only grower in the world to capture this visual art.

Dutch design group Studio Job created the $100,000 custom-designed Swarovski crystal globe in one of the ship's stair lobbies; a $54,000 'Rabbit' in the Retreat is one of the most talked-about works, and the light sculpture 'Quad Helix' by Jason Krugman spans multiple decks.


Look for the charming pieces nestled inside special tables at the Grand Dutch Café; Royal Goedewaagen created handmade and hand-painted ceramic buildings that showcase a little bit of Dutch history with canal houses, mills, palaces and regional Dutch buildings.


 
Dutch artist Peter Gentenaar recently exhibited his work at Paris’ famed Louvre, and now Holland America Line guests can enjoy his captivating, two-story sculpture in The Dining Room. 'Wings of the Pharao', is made from handmade cast paper, Belgian linen and bamboo.

Even if you don't consider yourself an art expert or even an art lover, the artistic eye candy on board the Konigsdam will be one of your favourite memories of your cruise.

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3 Things You Didn't Know About The 3 Gorges Dam

It's China's 'Great Wall' for the 21st century.  The 3 Gorges Dam spans the legendary Yangtze River for 2.3 km (1.4 miles) and is 185 m (over 600 feet) high.  That makes it 5 times bigger than the Hoover Dam.  Construction set a world record, using 16 million cubic m (21 million cubic yards) of concrete.

You may know about some of the controversies surrounding the dam.  It flooded a 600 km (400 mile) reservoir to 175 feet above sea level.  As a result, a million people were displaced, and architectural, cultural, and archeological sites (including 4000 year old cliff side burials of early Ba peoples) as well as farms and forests have disappeared under water.  The dam has also had an impact on the river ecology upstream and downstream from the dam. It is blamed for damaging fish populations and the functional extinction of the Chinese river dolphin.

But, like the Hoover Dam in the U.S., Egypt's Aswan Dam, the Panama Canal or other extraordinary feats of human engineering of the planet, the 3 Gorges dam in China's Hubei province is an unforgettable travel experience. Controversies aside, it is awe-inspiring to take in the sheer scale and scope of human endeavor.  Yangtze river cruises and most land tours in the region take you to one or more viewing points of the vast dam site.  

So here are three things you might not know about this unparalleled structure:

It Protects the Region from Disastrous Flooding

One of the main reasons to build the 3 Gorges dam was to control flooding.  The Yangtze river has endured catastrophic flooding events over the centuries.  An estimated 300,000 people died in the 20th century alone in floods.  Building the dam was designed to control the flow and protect 15 million Chinese and 1.5 million acres of farmland along the Yangtze from deadly river flooding.

It Generates Power

The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest electric power generating station by installed capacity: 22, 500 MW. More than 2 dozen water-powered turbines produce 20 times the power of the Hoover Dam.  Unbelievably, this massive dam produces less than 5% of the total energy needs of this country with 1.4 billion people. (Nearly 5 times the U.S. population and 50 times the population of Canada.)

The electricity produced by the Three Gorges Dam reduces China's use of coal for power generation by an estimated 31 million tonnes each year, preventing 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from coal.

It Improves the Environment

The dam's regulation of water levels, and its 'shipping elevator' that increases transit time compared to step locks over river elevations, have facilitated more reliable shipping along the Yangtze.   Inland shipping has increased over 5 times since pre-dam days.  Barges are replacing trucks, thereby reducing road congestion and carbon dioxide emissions annually by millions of tonnes… directly improving China's (previously famously unimpressive) air quality.

Since the dam opened in 2012, it has blocked more than 10 million tonnes of waste matter including plastic bags, bottles and other garbage that would have otherwise flowed out to sea (but chemical water pollution is unaffected).  It even has a garbage-ingesting 'tongue' above the dam, a rolling track on top of a garbage barge that pulls in garbage from the water, preventing it from entering the dam and damaging power generators… as well as flowing downstream to Shanghai and the ocean.

So Should you Travel There?

China's 3 Gorges Dam is a story with many shades of gray.  The goals and results of the dam will continue to divide opinion.  But it is now an irreversible part of the landscape of China's fabled jade-green Yangtze river, and a destination every visitor to China should see to contemplate the astonishing things humans can achieve… and at what cost.

(Photo: BestTrip.TV)

 

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