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Meet the Luxury, All-Inclusive Expedition Cruise Line Launching Soon - Yes, during COVID
Meet the Luxury, All-Inclusive Expedition Cruise Line Launching during COVID
 

You might call it bucking a trend.

 

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

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


Adventure meets Luxury

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

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

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

One of the most inclusive cruise lines

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

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

 

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

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

Black Sea: Summer, 2021

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

Holy Land: August-September, 2021

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

Italian, French and Spanish Rivieras: Autumn, 2021

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

Antarctica and South America: November, 2021 – February 2022

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

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images courtesy Atlas Ocean Voyages
 
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One COVID Change of Plans Continues a Heart-Warming Legacy for this Cruise Line

Holland America Line Changes the Name of its Newbuild and Designates it the New Flagship

Travel has taken a beating by COVID-19. But there’s one way it’s giving us something to celebrate.
Like all cruise lines, Holland American Line has been hit very hard by COVID. HAL has announced its operations are paused through the end of this year.
 
The company is famous for its long and rich heritage, and what fans call its fleet of ‘dam’ ships (with names all ending in the Dutch ‘dam’, like Nieuw Amsterdam).
 
And like some other cruise lines, it has made the difficult decision to cull the fleet to streamline its operations and costs until we are cruising again. Four of HAL’s oldest ships: the Amsterdam, Maasdam, Veendam and Rotterdam have been sold.
 
Taking ships out of service is always nostalgic and often sad for past guests who have so many fond travel memories on beloved ships.  The CEO of the company acknowledged the emotional event, “It’s always difficult to see any ship leave the fleet, especially those that have a long and storied history with our company.”
 
The sale leaves HAL with 10 of its mid-sized, premium ships - and an 11th on the way next year.

That’s where this news gets happy again.
 

A Legacy Continues

One of the decommissioned ships, the Rotterdam, was the 6th ship of that name in HAL’s 150-year history. Rotterdam is a powerful and symbolic name for the line, whose very first ship was the original Rotterdam, sailing while the company was headquartered in the Dutch city of that name. The 1st Rotterdam took its maiden voyage from the Netherlands to New York in 1872, and led to the founding of the company in 1873.
 
Instead of letting the name die out with the sale of the current Rotterdam, Holland America has announced the Rotterdam legacy will continue.
 
HAL is changing the name of its newbuild ship from the previously-announced Ryndam to Rotterdam. And it’s designating the 7th Rotterdam in Holland American history as the new flagship of the fleet.
 
The 7th ship to bear this historic name, Rotterdam is now due to be delivered on July 30, 2021.
 

Rotterdam VII

The latest Rotterdam will be scarcely recognizable from its predecessor, although the famously charming staff with their stand-out uniforms and HAL service that have given the cruise line one of the highest returning guest rates in cruising - all remain.  Even die-hard Rotterdam VI fans will be delighted with the new ship’s superbly appointed staterooms and suites, including family and single accommodations for every type of cruiser.
 
Rotterdam VII will be the third in the line’s Pinnacle Class series, carrying a thousand more guests with a capacity of 2,668. And it will feature HAL’s newest and highly successful amenities and innovations, including the 270-degree surround screen World Stage, Rudi’s Sel de Mer and Grand Dutch Café among the exquisite cuisine guided by eight of the world’s leading chefs, as well as the line’s incomparable live music program on its ‘Music Walk’ with its exclusive collection of world-class performances each night - from Lincoln Center Stage and B.B. King’s Blues Club to Rolling Stone Rock Room and Billboard Onboard. 
 

Inaugural Season: the Mediterranean, Baltic and Norway 

The newest Rotterdam is scheduled to spend the summer of 2021 exploring Northern Europe and the Baltic on roundtrip cruises from Amsterdam.
 
Cruising aboard Rotterdam VII begins August 1 2021, with the ship’s seven-day Premiere Voyage departing from Trieste, Italy, to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, with port calls throughout the Adriatic Sea and southern Italy. The ship then sails from Civitavecchia through the western Mediterranean and on to Amsterdam.
 
Then, until October, the ship will sail roundtrip from Amsterdam on 7-day itineraries to Norway, as well as a 14-day cruise to the Baltic and 14 days to Norway, Iceland and the British Isles. Rotterdam VII completes its inaugural season via a trans-Atlantic crossing from Amsterdam to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
 
The Rotterdam VII gives everyone who loves cruise travel reassurance of a bright future ahead for cruising and for one of its oldest and most storied cruise lines.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Rendering courtesy of Holland America Line.
 
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This Cruise Line Kicked Guests off a Cruise.  Here's Why it's Good News for You and Cruise Travel
Guests left behind when a ship sails away is usually an unfortunate situation no cruise line likes to talk about. But when it happened last week in Naples, cheers rang out around the world.
The guests weren’t late, which is usually how guests miss ships.
Earlier this summer, Europe-based MSC Cruises had announced its new COVID-era health and safety protocols, developed closely with European authorities that included measures you’d expect plus:
·     pre-screening every guest and crew member before boarding;
·     daily checks and onboard virus detection machines along with additional medical staff and a fully detailed plan to deal with suspected cases on board;
·     only permitting guests to disembark when participating in MSC Cruises shore tours or excursions, to maintain the passenger health ‘bubble’ and also protecting local communities from any risk of exposure from the ship; all while
·     maintaining the pleasures of cruising.
Shortly after, it announced it would begin cruising in the Mediterranean with European-only guests. Bubble cruising, but open to a quite broad group of passengers from different EU countries. 

Could cruising be done safely? 

It would be the first return of the cruise industry’s mega-ships. And even cruise lines with smaller ships – considered more likely to be able to manage new COVID requirements – had not successfully sailed without cases of COVID arising.
Last week, the MSC Grandiosa set sail at about half-capacity under the line’s new protocols and everyone watching travel held their breath. 
Within days, the word spread that while in port in Naples, guests on the ship were denied boarding. 
It might seem an awkward footnote to this momentous sailing. In fact, it was celebrated around the world.
The guests had broken the rules. Apparently, they disembarked with an MSC Cruises tour, according to protocol, but then broke away from the tour and went off to explore the destination on their own.
When they returned on their own to the ship, they were not allowed back on board.

The System Worked

The new protocols designed to maintain a seal against infection coming on board were upheld.
And when the Grandiosa arrived in Genoa at the end of her cruise, she became the first big ship to resume cruising post-COVID - and complete a cruise with no COVID cases on board.
It’s a huge victory for MSC Cruises. And it’s a big win for all of us who love cruising, and for the entire industry. 
MSC’s successful sailing proves that there are safety measures that can be put in place and maintained for cruises to operate and stay COVID-free.
There were other positive events, too.
The cruise line also says that on the final day of that first cruise, when the Grandiosa was en route back to Genoa, all guests who went ashore outside of Italy were tested as required by Italian authorities before the ship could re-enter Italian waters to disembark. All the guests tested COVID-free.
It’s also been reported that during its turnaround call in Genoa after that first, COVID-free sailing, while the ship was being disinfected for its next group of guests, pre-boarding guests underwent testing in the terminal. One guest tested positive twice, so he – and his family who had all traveled together by van to the port – were not permitted to board.
These protocol successes are a triumph for the future of cruising, confirming cruise travel can return safely.
MSC notes it’s not all testing and protocols, “Life on board during the cruise ran smoothly, with guests enjoying every bit of the specialty restaurants, cafés and shops that our flagship has to offer. Similarly, many of the shore excursions on offer – we call them protected ashore visits, were sold out.”

So if you’ve been missing cruising, too, this news from MSC should give you hope you’ll be safely back at sea soon.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip producer/ host and cruise expert

#WeWillCruiseAgain


Image: the Grandiosa in port in Genoa prior to her first post-COVID sailing. Courtesy MSC Cruises
 
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The New COVID Safety Measure Cruise Travelers will actually LOVE
It’s one of the least-loved experiences on a cruise. Not long after you board your ship with excitement to explore and start your vacation, you are required to put down your cocktail, and report to your ‘muster station’ for a mandatory safety drill. 
Sometimes, you even have to go back to your stateroom, collect your life vest, and take it – or wear it! - to your designated lifeboat on deck, trying not to trip over the trailing ties of someone else’s PFD as you are herded up and down stairs (in a real emergency, the elevators would not be operating, so that’s how some ships ask guests to ‘rehearse’ mustering to the lifeboats) along with the entire population – crew and guests – of the ship. 
Safety drills prior to sailing are essential – but no fun. And in an odd upside of the pandemic, Royal Caribbean Group, in its ongoing work to eliminate instances of large groups of people crowded together on its ships as they prepare to begin sailing again post-COVID, has come up with a digital solution.
Muster 2.0 is the elegant answer to traditional, in-person mustering for safety drills. As the company says, it’s a much ‘faster, more personal approach that encourages higher levels of safety.’
Using the technology, guests can ‘eMuster’ via personal mobile devices or the interactive TV’s in their staterooms.  On embarkation day before setting sail, you review safety information digitally at your own pace and timing. Then you complete the ‘drill’ by going in-person to your assigned assembly station to familiarize yourself with its location. A crew member stationed there confirms you’ve completed your safety review and answers any questions you have. 
That process meets the requirements of international maritime law and provides you with emergency drill information, but it’s also a convenient, time-saving, no-hassle start to your cruise. 
Royal Caribbean’s new, technology-enhanced safety drill process makes the first day of your cruise more relaxed and enjoyable, even as it meets the post-COVID need to reduce large group gatherings and facilitate distancing. We call that a win-win-win!
As it happens, Muster 2.0 was already in the works as part of the company’s ongoing technology initiatives to update and smooth guest procedures. It was successfully tested on Symphony of the Seas in January 2020 before COVID halted cruising, and was very popular among guests who actually reported better understanding of the safety procedures using the interactive digital tool.
So when cruising starts again, guests on Royal Caribbean Group’s lines, which include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, and Silversea, will enjoy a more relaxed – and COVID-protocol friendly – embarkation day. 
In addition, Royal Caribbean Group brought the new technology to the ‘Healthy Sail Panel’ it convened with one of its biggest cruise competitors, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, to work together as an industry on safe and healthy cruising in a post-pandemic world.
In the spirit of cooperation in re-starting cruising post-COVID, Royal is waiving patent license fees to other cruise operators.  Norwegian, the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, has already received license to implement Muster 2.0 on its ships.
So although COVID has had a devastating impact on the cruise and travel industries, and has forced thousands to put their travel dreams on temporary hold, good news like this shows how some long term good is coming out of it for cruise travelers once they sail again.

#WeWillSailAgain


Images: Royal Caribbean
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This is the First US-based River Cruise Line to Restart Cruising in Europe
Americans are still barred from Europe, and Canadians are technically permitted into Europe but still under their own government restrictions against leisure travel and required to quarantine 14 days upon their return to the country.
 
So it’s hard to imagine that one of North America’s favorite river cruise lines has begun sailing the rivers of Europe again.
 
As of July, AmaWaterways is pioneering the re-opening of European river cruise operations, with a series of charters of AmaKristina in Germany for local guests.
 
AmaWaterways’ return to the rivers comes with new, enhanced health and safety protocols developed from EU, CDC, World Health Organization, and cruising authorities’s guidelines. 
 
The line’s new health and safety measures are designed to protect both guests and crew, while maintaining the warmth of guests’ onboard experience that past AmaWaterways guests know and love.
 
The new and current measures include:
 
·     pre-boarding health questionnaires;
·     daily temperature checks for guests and crew;
·     in-depth, updated crew training;
·     designated Public Health Officer on each AmaWaterways ship overseeing the new protocols;
·     reduced capacity – AmaWaterways ships with all 150 guests on board were already spacious, but now only 100 guests will be on board;
·     masks required for crew at all times and for guests while moving around the ship; and
·     adaptations like plexiglass dividers accommodate social distancing in lounges and public spaces.

 
Some of AmaWaterways’ river ships and cruising experiences already facilitate COVID protocols, like:
 
·     space in the ships’ Main restaurant and included specialty restaurant The Chef’s Table already accommodate new safe distances for all 100 guests;
·     personal portable Quietvox commentary systems allow guests to hear guides while social distancing during the included small-group shore excursions (many involve hiking and biking tours that are already outdoors and naturally allow for safe distancing);
·     ships were already equipped with individual air cooling and heating units, eliminating recirculation of air in staterooms or in public areas;
·     nearly all staterooms include fresh air balconies, for private outdoor relaxation, and
·     Sun Decks covering nearly the entire top of the ship give guests open air space as well as stunning views along the river.
 
And signature elements that guests love about their AmaWaterways river cruises are still there to enjoy, like:
 
·     modern, tasteful ship design and the warmth of a family-owned company;
·     innovative stateroom design featuring unique ‘twin balconies’;
·     wellness activities, including
·     included shore excursions featuring biking and hiking options for the active traveler;
·     award-winning dining—including The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant as well as
·     complimentary fine wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner;
·     onboard amenities such as hair and massage salons and a fitness room, and
·     many have heated outdoor swimming pools with swim-up bars;
·     themed sailings and sailings geared towards active travelers and families as well as group and charter options.
 
It’s just a start for AmaWaterways: one ship in one country for local guests – for now. It’s a symbolic moment. It’s a new beginning, and proves that guests can return to enjoying unforgettable river cruise vacations under new health and safety protocols.
 
It’s also an indicator of how river cruising will continue to re-open as travel restrictions evolve: with charters and single-country itineraries for groups of bubble travelers, expanding step by step to include more ships, more countries on individual itineraries, with a wider range of guests traveling together.
 
It’s the first step towards the full re-deployment of all of AmaWaterways’ 25 ships sailing Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Main, Rhône, Saône (in 2021), Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, Dutch and Belgian Waterways and Douro Rivers, Asia’s Mekong and Africa’s Chobe and Nile Rivers (also in 2021). 
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


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

Unprecedented Partnerships

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

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

Europe’s New Cruising Guidelines

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

1. Bubble Cruises

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

(SeaDream has resumed sailing in Norway)

2. Small Ship and Luxury Cruises

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

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

3. Cruises to Nowhere

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

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

4. Remote and Expedition Cruises

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

5. Big, Mainstream Ships

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

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

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host BestTrip TV

#DreamNowTravelSoon


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

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

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

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


Columbia & Snake Rivers and Wine Regions on UnCruise Adventures


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


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

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

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


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

The Mississippi River and Beyond on American Cruise Lines

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

The Great Lakes on Tauck

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


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


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

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

The Great Lakes on Pearl Seas Cruises


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


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

Canada's Rideau Canal on LeBoat

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

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

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

 

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


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


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

Coming Soon: Viking on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi


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

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

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

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


#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy of their respective cruise lines.

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We’re all dreaming of the day we can return to cruise travel. So why not dream big? 

Vacations are all about treating yourself, and a luxury Crystal cruise is a delightful holiday indulgence. A butler suite on a Crystal Cruise is a dream come true.

Crystal Cruises come in different styles:
River Cruises
River cruising on four state-of-the-art, all-suite, butler serviced ships with the World’s Most Luxurious River Cruise Line, featuring the largest standard accommodations in European river cruising, unmatched choices and unrivalled inclusions.
Yacht Cruises
Sublime and spectacular, guests on yachting sojourns aboard Crystal Esprit travel with just 62 guests in all-suite, butler-serviced luxury. Savor extraordinary cuisine, friendly hospitality and an unstructured, carefree ambience while exploring boutique harbors and marquee ports.
Expedition Cruises
Due to the pandemic, the launch of Crystal’s first ice-class expedition ship, the Endeavor, has been delayed from late summer 2020 to the end of the year.
Crystal’s expedition ship offers guests accustomed to the line’s luxury intrepid discovery, exploring polar regions and remote landscapes where standard cruise ships cannot go. Aboard the all-suite, all-balcony, Crystal Endeavor, guests travel in butler-serviced luxury to discover fascinating worlds where classic cruise ships can’t sail.
Ocean Cruises
But there’s nothing like a classic, Crystal ocean cruise. The line’s two original ships, the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity, earned Crystal its glittering reputation in luxury cruising.
BestTrip TV sailed on the Crystal Serenity, one of the line’s two original ocean cruise ships. The beloved ship has recently emerged from drydock, and among the highlights are gloriously re-imagined penthouse suites.
The suites themselves are spectacular, but maybe the biggest reason to sail in one of the Crystal Serenity’s penthouse suites is the experience of Crystal’s butler service.
WATCH THE VIDEO TO GET A TASTE OF THE RE-IMAGINED PENTHOUSE SUITES AND CRYSTAL’S BUTLER SERVICE.
 
 

#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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As we all look at our calendars trying to plan when we’ll travel again, one cruise line is sure its small ship cruises will strike a chord with travelers eager to explore again next year. 
Emerald Cruises has confirmed its two new builds, scheduled to debut in 2021, are both on track for delivery and launch of their European itineraries. 
Affordable, All-Inclusive Superyachting in the Mediterranean
We shared with you a few months ago the exciting announcement of Emerald’s first oceangoing superyacht, the Emerald Azzurra, designed specifically for guests to experience the Mediterranean yachting lifestyle. 
WATCH VIDEO ABOVE: What the Emerald Azzurra will be like when she launches next year
Designed for off-the-beaten path cruising to the small, intimate ports of the Mediterranean Sea, the 360-foot, 100-guest Azzurra is being built in a shipyard in Ha Long City, Vietnam. Emerald Cruises reports she is on track to set sail in August 2021. 
With many of the features of luxury small ships, including fares all-inclusive of tips, wine and spirits with meals, transfers, almost all balconies, an infinity pool, a marina at the back of the ship so it can anchor in a secluded bay for the guests to enjoy kayaks, paddle boards and other water-based exploration right off the ship, and chefs re-provisioning in local ports to bring truly authentic flavors on board, what makes the Azzurra a gamechanger is that the ship is positioned to be an affordable way to experience yachting lifestyle in the Med.
Her 47 itineraries throughout 2021 and 2022 explore destinations including the Mediterranean – Greece, Croatia, Italy, France, Cyprus, Turkey, Malta and Spain – and the Red Sea – Israel, Jordan and Egypt. 
Another ‘Star-Ship’ on the Waterways of Europe
Emerald Luna is set to become the 9th ship in Emerald Waterways’ fleet of river cruise ships. 
On schedule to set sail in the spring of 2021, the Luna will join Emerald Sky, Star, Sun, Dawn and Destiny cruising the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. Emerald Liberté on the Rhône River, Emerald Radiance on the Douro River and Emerald Harmony on the Mekong river round out the Emerald fleet.
Emerald Luna promises its 180 guests all of Emerald Waterways’ innovative and modern ‘Star-Ship’ features, including the fleet’s signature indoor heated pool that seamlessly transforms into an evening cinema, the panoramic Sun Deck, three-tiered atrium, and sleek and contemporary staterooms and suites with ingenious all-weather balcony systems.
Like the new category Emerald Azzurra superyacht, the Emerald Luna follows the inclusive, affordable philosophy of the line, with all dining, wine and spirits with meals, tips, and a choice of daily excursions that include active and immersive experiences that open up the heart of Europe to guests. 
Renderings courtesy Emerald Cruises.
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In it for the Long Haul: Cruise Line Marks 147 Years of Sailing History
These historic photos and delightful vintage posters trace one of the longest journeys of any cruise line. Holland America Line commemorates its 147th anniversary in April 2020. 
While 147 years is not the round number milestone that usually marks big anniversary celebrations, this anniversary takes place while travel has paused globally and HAL cruise operations have temporarily ceased for only the second time in its storied past. 
Today’s historic times have given us all a moment to reflect, and HAL is no different. In the context of both a global pandemic shutting down travel and another year of a long legacy, the cruise line has recalled its witness to other challenging world events as it looks towards another bright future. 
Roots in Rotterdam
Holland America Line was founded on April 18, 1873, as the Netherlands-American Steamship Company, in Rotterdam. The city was then and remains one of the most important ports in the world. Today, Rotterdam is the busiest port in Europe and the 4th largest port in the world, and it’s still the European home of HAL.
In the 1870’s, the line wasn’t about holiday cruising, it was about passage across the North Atlantic between Rotterdam and New York City. By the turn of the century the company had already transported 400,000 people from Europe to a new life in America and played a central role in business and ties between the Old and New Worlds.
Leisure cruises on the line began before the turn of the century, but as conflicts arose in the 20th century, the cruise line - known for its fleet of ‘dam’ ships (all named in words ending in ‘dam’) - answered the call.
During the First World War, Holland America’s Ryndam converted from ocean liner to transport for the US Navy.
Ceasing Operations… the First Time
Just over 20 years later, the Second World War was the first occasion when all passenger operations ceased as HAL ships were called to serve in the Allied war effort. 
Holland America Line’s original Nieuw Amsterdam sailed half a million miles during the war, transporting close to half a million military personnel. A sister ship berthed in England served as the seat of the displaced Dutch government while the country was occupied. 
Of 25 HAL ships in existence at the start of the Second World War, only 9 remained when it was over.
It rebuilt its fleet and renewed the stylish leisure cruising business that began to boom in the decades since WW2. 
150 Ships over 147 Years and Looking to the Future
Since 1873, Holland America Line has traveled to all seven continents, offered decades of world cruises, and explored Alaska for more than 70 years.
The brand has welcomed more than 150 ships throughout the years, with a number of ‘retired’ ships’ names resurrected for new ships in honor of the line’s history.  
Each time a new ship joins the fleet it’s a celebration of this legacy and marks the next chapter in the company’s history. While a beloved American brand now, the cruise line retains its links to its roots. Dutch design, culture and culinary highlights are featured on ships and members of the Dutch Royal Family have christened a dozen Holland America Line vessels.
HAL continues to welcome new ships to its fleet. Its third Pinnacle-class ship, Ryndam, is scheduled for delivery in late spring 2021.
Today’s Holland America guests enjoy some of the best live music at sea at venues including Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King’s Blues Club, Rolling Stone Rock Room and Billboard Onboard. The line’s renowned dining experience can be savored at a variety of restaurants with menus that feature selections from Holland America Line's esteemed Culinary Council, comprising world-famous chefs who design dishes exclusively for guests.
“Our 147th anniversary reminds us that Holland America Line has one of the deepest histories and richest legacies in the cruise industry,” said Orlando Ashford, current president of Holland America Line. 
“We stand on a solid foundation built by those that came before us over nearly a century and a half, and just as they weathered uncertain times, we will as well. Holland America Line will be back taking guests around the world as soon as we can, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back on board.”
Images and posters courtesy Holland America Line.
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Viking Sets Sail on the Mississippi
From rivers, to oceans and lakes… and now to America’s heartland. Viking Cruises has announced it will cruise the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans beginning in 2022.

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

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


Popular Viking features previous Viking cruise guests know and love include:
  • Sun Terrace with Infinity plunge pool with a glass back on aft sun terrace;
  • Explorers’ Lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows opening to The Bow forward outdoor lounge with the best views of the river;
  • River Café, a casual, al fresco alternative dining venue serving casual food from American classics to Norwegian specialties;
  • Aquavit Terrace on the top deck for casual dining and American barbecue; Combined with the River Café, the Aquavit Terrace will provide the most al fresco dining on the Mississippi;
  • The Restaurant main dining venue on Deck 1 serving daily-changing menus featuring delicious regional cuisine and classics prepared with fresh, local ingredients;
  • Full 360-Degree Promenade on Deck 1;
  • Enrichment on board and on shore, including Destination Performances that represent the most iconic music of the region—as well as Guest Lecturers that shed light on the region’s art, architecture, history, culture, natural world and more, Privileged Access, Local Life and Working World experiences like a kayaking trip in the Louisiana bayou; visit a working farm in Quad Cities; or immersion in Cajun culture during a Privileged Access excursion to the Rural Life Museum of Louisiana State University.
  • Sustainability features like solar panels, LED lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows that maximize natural light and an energy-efficient hybrid propulsion system that will make Viking Mississippi the most environmentally friendly passenger ship on the Mississippi River.
 
The Viking Mississippi’s launch not only brings a new age of modern river cruising to the U.S., close to home for many fans of Viking cruising in Europe and around the world. It also represents major support for the local tourism economy in communities along its routes. Currently scheduled ports of call include seven states: Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St. Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse); and Minnesota (Red Wing, St. Paul).
 
 
2022-2023 Viking Mississippi Inaugural Voyages
  • America’s Heartland (8 days; St. Louis to St. Paul)—From pristine farms nestled in rolling terrain to steep bluff rising from tributaries dotted with wooded islands, the Upper Mississippi offers a rich tapestry of beauty upon every turn of the river. This journey introduces you to the unforgettable experience of the locks and dams that control the flow of the heartland rivers. Hear stories of settlers migrating west; learn about Lewis & Clark, Mark Twain, John Deere and the Amish and Norwegian migrations; experience the regional music like polka and Norwegian folk; and taste regional cuisine showcasing local beer, produce and Wisconsin cheese.
  • Heart of the Delta (8 days; New Orleans to Memphis)—This journey on the Lower Mississippi is infused with American history, culture and heritage. Tour the area where the migrating French and Acadians settled; immerse yourself in the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement; discover the music of the South—jazz, blues and gospel; and experience the life and food culture of the south, from Cajun and Creole to the famed “dry” Memphis BBQ.
  • Southern Celebration (8 days; New Orleans–Vicksburg–New Orleans)—On this exploration of the Lower Mississippi, visit the historic homes of Louisiana and Mississippi; learn about Civil War history, touring sites like Vicksburg National Military Park; and discover the excitement and unique flavors of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
  • America’s Great River (15 days; New Orleans to St. Paul)—Experience nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River on this incredible journey from the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost reaches of the U.S. Relax and enjoy the variety of scenery, foliage and wildlife on this leisurely voyage. Enjoy southern charm and beautifully preserved homes in Natchez; retrace the steps of Civil Rights leaders in Memphis; ascend the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; and visit “The Norwegian Valley” in La Crosse.
 
The Viking Mississippi will join Viking’s current fleet of 79 river and ocean vessels, as well as the recently-announced new Viking Expeditions to Antarctica and the North American Great Lakes. Viking has introduced more than 60 new river cruise ships and 6 ocean ships in the last 8 years, making it the largest small-ship cruise line.
 
 
Images of Renderings: Viking
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Cruise Company Offers Ships as Floating Hospitals During COVID-19 And this wouldn't be the first time ocean liners have served. read more
The New Cruise Line Making Yacht-Style-Cruising the Med Affordable
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
 
The Emerald Azzurra is the first ship launched under the new Emerald Yacht Cruises brand, which is now part of the newly formed Emerald Cruises.
 
You may already be familiar with Emerald Waterways’ affordable river cruises. Now, the company is bringing that same accessibility to a new cruise line and new, 100-guest ship with inclusive prices – and those are only two of the features normally associated only with luxury, small-ship cruising.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Yachting lifestyle – affordable pricing

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

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

Start your Trip!

 
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You never forget your first love - or your first cruise.

All the more reason to make sure your first cruise is the very best cruising experience and leaves only wonderful cruise memories.

Here at BestTrip, we believe that everyone has a perfect cruise match... and Seabourn ticks all our boxes! Warmth? Style? Humor? A sense of adventure? Always has caviar available? Tries incredibly hard to please? For us, Seabourn is the full package!

But you don't need to take our word for it and go on a cruising 'blind date'. In this video, we show you some of our favorite ways Seabourn is our perfect match.

And we're not alone. Once you do sail with Seabourn, on one of its intimate ships with so many opportunities to engage with your fellow guests in that signature, convivial Seabourn style, you'll realize that so many guests on Seabourn are committed fans.

If you're still considering taking your first cruise, compare Seabourn's signature style of ultra-luxury cruising to any land/ hotel-based luxury travel experience, and we think you'll want to take the plunge.

If you've been playing the cruise field, well, maybe you just haven't met your perfect cruise match, and you should make a date with Seabourn.

Whether you're a cruise lover or still waiting to meet 'The One', we think, once you cruise with Seabourn, you'll never want to travel any other way.


Start your Trip!



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

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

1. Arrive at least one day early


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Launching pad


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

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

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

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

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

Or a wildlife safari after your South Africa itinerary.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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

Everyone needs something to look forward to.

Welcome, Wave Season


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

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

Navigating Wave


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

Discounts:


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

Bonus Value:


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

Included:

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

Maximizing ‘Wave’


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

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

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

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

The bottom line


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

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

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

Start your Trip!

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Start your Trip!


Images courtesy Virgin Voyages.

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Cooler climes are some of today's hottest cruise destinations. 

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

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

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

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

1. Follow in the Footsteps of the Vikings


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

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

Our cruise evoked these epic Viking voyages.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

3. Experience the Great Outdoors, Seabourn-Style


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

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

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

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


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

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

Start your Trip!

 
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Why Travelers in the Know are Booking A Douro River Cruise in Portugal
Have you taken a river cruise in Europe yet? The 'Big Three' river cruises are the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone/Saone. You may have heard about cruising on the Seine, even Main and Moselle cruises.

But for a little 'off the beaten track' river cruising in Europe, Portugal's Douro river is enjoying its day in the sun. Warm-weather Portugal, in the heart of the Porto wine region's, scenic villages, history and picture-perfect vineyards, is an idyllic spring, summer and fall river cruising destination.

Here's why we love river cruising on the Douro:

The Route:

 
The Douro river flows from Spain in the east, across northern Portugal to the western city of Porto on the Atlantic coast. Bookended by two UNESCO World Heritage cities, a river cruise on the scenic Douro Valley passes through mainly rural landscapes with historic villages, dramatic cliffs, famous vineyards, and for many people, the heart of Portugal's Latin culture.

 
(Image: Getty/Pietro Faccioli)

Even early and late in the season, the weather in Portugal is warmer and drier than in other popular river cruising destinations in Northern Europe, so if basking in pleasant summer weather is how you picture a river cruise, the Douro is for you.
 

The Highlights:

 
At the eastern end of the Douro: Spain. Most itineraries include nearby, renowned Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city, with a 13th century university where Christopher Columbus once studied, and whose signature golden sandstone architecture glows in the summer sun.
 
At the western end of the route, the port city of Porto (pictured top; image: Getty/Mirifada) is the second largest in Portugal (behind Lisbon), and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If its famous bridge reminds you of the Eiffel Tower, you are not crazy; its architect studied under Eiffel. It was a small world, even in the 19th century.
 
A river cruise on the Douro is even more charming passing through the undisturbed countryside between the ports at either end. The Douro is far less traveled than the major European river cruise routes. You may rarely even see other river cruise boats or guests in the small villages where you can wander in a truly local, authentic, un-hurried rhythm and un-touristy environment. 
 

The Wine:

 
The name of the city of Porto suggests its long-lasting claim to fame. This is the home of port wine as you may have guessed, and also other delectable Portuguese wines like Muscatel. It's one of the world's oldest wine producing regions, with two millennia of viticulture traditions. 
 
When it comes to port wine, a Douro river cruise brings you to the doorstep of some of the region's best places to experience a rich and storied wine that has become less commonly served. (These days, it's mostly in British costume dramas where we see men retreating to their studies and clubs for 'port and cigars').
 
You can sip your way along the Douro river with expert, hosted wine tastings in famous and out of the way wineries, including the UNESCO World Heritage Vinhateiro wine region, the scenic Varosa Valley, the beautiful vineyards of Regua that produce the best range of port wine in the country, Casa de Mateus, the castle made famous on the labels of Portugal’s renowned Mateus wine, and other viticulture treats.
 

Start your Trip!


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You Can Celebrate Richard Branson's Birthday With Him on his Adults-Only Cruise Line
With flamboyant Sir Richard Branson at the helm, the 2020 launch of Virgin Voyages is one of the most anticipated events in travel. The party-loving, trend-setting celebrity entrepreneur promised his latest travel venture would do to cruise what Virgin Air did to flying: rediscover a whole new level of tongue-in-cheek, escape-with-your-friends-to-a-private-party fun. 

Only this time, at sea.

Bookings are now open for the inaugural season of the Scarlet Lady, the first Virgin Voyage ship, in April 2020.  The ship's homeport is a splashy and stylish new terminal in Miami. From there, she sails to the Caribbean.

 (Photos: Virgin Voyages)

No typical 7 or even 10-day cruises, though. Intensive, 4 and 5-night itineraries featuring an overnight in Havana, or 5-night voyages to Costa Maya or Dominican Republic.

And we're getting other details about how Virgin Voyages is breaking the mold and re-inventing cruise travel, dare we say it? for more 'millennial' tastes. But we know just about everyone is interested in cruising Richard Branson-style: youthful, fun, non-traditional and high energy.


Virgin Voyages is introducing lots of new cruise experiences. But just as intriguing is what you won't find on a Virgin Voyage:

No Kids

'Adult-by-Design' Virgin Voyages limits its Sailors and lifestyle to the over-18 crowd. It's where 'Party with your friends on a private island or a pal's yacht' meets 'fabulous new music festival', on a yacht-inspired ship with 2700 other young-at-heart 'Sailors'.

No Buffets and No Main Dining Rooms



Rejecting two mainstays of cruise dining, Virgin Voyages instead aims for informal 'discovery' dining. Sailors will find over 20 restaurants, designed and curated to capture the spirit of the dining experience in a world-class city. Restaurants include mid-century martinis and steak, psychedelic-style vegetarian, 'Extra Virgin' modern Italian, Mezze at the Dock, and internationally-inspired food truck fav's, even 24 hour room service.
 

No Restaurant Surcharges

Whether you're dining in a restaurant, a seaside lounge or casual eatery, it's all included in the cruise fare, to allow Sailors the widest freedom to personalize your cruise experience.

No Broadway Shows



Another example of how Virgin Voyages is not your grandparents' – or parents' – cruise line. Richard Branson flexes his music industry background for a completely different set of evening entertainments: a nightclub named after his first music studio The Manor, DJ evenings in the spa, transforming the thermal suite into a one-of-a-kind maritime party, and a festival-like lineup of all-new completely original Events & Gigs developed by some of the world’s most-talked about producers, directors and artists.

No Tipping Required

Gratuities are already baked into the cruise fare, too, for a no-surprises, full-service cruise bill, something normally only offered on the highest end luxury cruise lines.

No Cost for Wifi

Forget unplugging. Virgin Voyages celebrates today's digital lifestyle and facilitates every selfie you could ever hope to post – without an extra bill or counting how many more minutes of internet you have available.

No Plastic and no Bottled Water

From the outset, Virgin Voyages' goal is to have the cleanest fleet at sea. No single-use plastic or packaging, no bottled water or beverages, investments and partnerships in clean technology and an practice of re-useable service items.

Instead, Virgin Voyages boast:

A Detox-Retox Philosophy


 
The good life at sea, Virgin Voyages style, may keep you up late at night partying, and re-setting your body by day at the outdoor Athletic Club complete with boxing ring, the largest daybed at sea, and a yacht-inspired catamaran net lounge, a 'Crow's Nest' sundeck for sunrise and sunset yoga practice, a 'Runway' standalone 'halo' running track over the ship where skaters are welcome, a wellness pool area, even an on-deck adult playground/ fitness apparatus and the 'Gym and Tonic' bar with both cold-pressed juices and craft cocktails.
 

Exclusive Island Experience… Sorry, not Necker


 
All voyages will spend a day at Virgin Voyage's exclusive Beach Club on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. It's not Richard Branson's own fabled Necker island, but it is designed to rival beach clubs of Ibiza and Saint-Tropez with idyllic lounging and high energy DJ flotilla and pool parties, bonfires on the beach and a final acoustic musical performance before sailaway.
 

The Only Tattoo Parlor at Sea


 
Forget getting your hair set for formal night, but don't throw perfect grooming out the porthole. The Scarlet Lady has salons for men to get that indulgent hot shave or expert beard trim, and for women to get a blow out after a day of swimming, exercise, pool lounging and wind-swept fun on deck. It also introduces the playfully-named tattoo studio 'Squid Ink' - because why wouldn't you want a tattoo or new piercing to commemorate your Virgin Voyage?

 

Richard Branson's Birthday Party

 
Maybe the most memorable Virgin Voyage will be the one with Sir Richard Branson himself! You can join him on board to celebrate his birthday among celebrity friends and fellow Sailors aboard a four-night Havana After Dark voyage departing July 15, 2020.
 

Start your Trip!

 
 
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Everyone wants to try 'real' local food when they travel. But we don't always have a real local to point us in the right direction.
 
That's why we loved our Avalon Waterways' culinary tour of the Jordaan, a walking-sipping-snacking tour of the revitalized neighborhood in Amsterdam. It gets you out of the tourist core and into the heart of the Dutch lifestyle the way the locals in the Netherlands really live. 
 
Want to taste the local beer? And the snack the locals order at the bar? You've heard of pickled/ raw herring but never had the nerve to try on your own? Do you want to sample a Dutch cheese you'd never find in a market at home? Or discover the best Dutch chocolate shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends?

We did it all on our culinary discovery tour of Amsterdam with Martine, our Amsterdam guide who knew every shop keeper and even better: the best tips to get that herring down the hatch – and love it!
 
BestTrip's culinary tour of the Jordaan in Amsterdam is just one of Avalon Waterways' collection of included shore excursions that let you get hands-on in a destination and experience the local lifestyle the way you enjoy.
 
How do you like to explore? With 3 types of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises you can create your own personalized trip.
 
CLASSIC
A local expert is ready to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and the “must see” sites.
 
DISCOVERY
Inspiring and interactive hands-on activities designed to speak to your interests - you spend your day immersing yourself in the destination’s unique culture, from cuisine, to art, to wine and more.
 
ACTIVE
Embark on energetic excursions keeping you in motion and on the go — from a guided jogging tour, to biking, paddling, and hiking your way through scenic locales.
 
Every European river cruise destination has its own special character, and Active, Discovery, and Classic styles of exploration mean that from the Seine to the Danube, the Rhine to the Rhone, you'll be traveling the way you want on your Avalon Waterways River Cruise, and gathering the travel stories that put a smile on your face for years to come. 
 

Start your Trip!

 
 
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6 Reasons We Love Seabourn Cruises to Alaska
America's Last Frontier is a destination everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime of travel. Alaska's vast, untouched waters and shores are rich in breathtaking scenery and abundant land and marine wildlife in an unparalleled spectacle of Nature.

Cruising along the pristine, emerald coast between British Columbia and Alaska is one of the very best perspectives and ways to experience Alaska's riches.

Not just any cruise; here's what makes an Alaska cruise on ultra-luxury Seabourn so special.



Smaller, Spacious Ships:


In a place of natural splendor like Alaska, a smaller ship gives you ample space to feel you are part of your natural surroundings. And it sails into ports that other, larger ships can't access. Seabourn Alaska itineraries include marquee ports like Juneau and Ketchikan, but also ports that are off the beaten cruise ship path, like Misty Fjords, Klemtu, Wrangell, Inian Islands, Chiswell Islands, Aialik Glacier and Holgate Glacier, ports that make your Alaska adventure one-of-a-kind.

You share your Seabourn ship in Alaska with fewer than 500 fellow guests. No crowding on decks, no line ups to shore… during daytime sailing, you can stroll on a deck surrounded by the quiet serenity of the impossibly fresh air and the sounds of the waves passing the ship and the densely-forested shore.


You're Always in a Room with a View:


Every space on a Seabourn ship gives you a feeling of being connected to the sea. All suites are ocean-front, many with verandas, and never far above the waves. 


Imagine waking in a verdant fjord to chunks of icebergs floating on glassy waters seemingly at arms' reach off your teak veranda rail. Or the unforgettable experience of sailing in crisp sub-arctic air while sipping champagne in a one of the toasty hot tubs on decks.

Taste-full:

Dining on Seabourn is always a treat. Everywhere Seabourn sails, chefs onboard plan menus like they are serving guests on a private yacht rather than a cruise ship, personally shopping for ingredients in local ports and featuring field- and farm- and fishing-boat fresh flavors on menus that surprise and delight daily.

In the rich waters of British Columbia and Alaska, that's a bounty of crab, salmon, oysters and other local delicacies that are so exquisitely fresh and beautifully prepared, it will spoil you for dining on them anywhere else in the world.

Seabourn Moments: 


Anyone who has traveled on Seabourn has a story of their favorite Seabourn moment. On every sailing, the ship's crew goes above and beyond to come up with spontaneous experiences that bring you closer together with your fellow guests, with your destination, and with the warm and enthusiastic crew. How do Seabourn moments put a smile on your face in Alaska?

One day, you may return from a wind-swept shore excursion to find 'Hot Chocolate with a Twist' on the Pool deck, where Seabourn bartenders are set up serving everyone's favorite comfort drink – with an optional twist of your liqueur and indulgent toppings that warm you up during your scenic sailaway.


In cooler climates like Alaska, Seabourn's famous 'Caviar in the Surf' becomes caviar on ice. What pairs best: vodka or champagne? Why not both? At the open-air, pop-up party deluxe, vodka and champagne stations, chefs coming out of the kitchens to greet guests at caviar station, opening up super-sized cans of caviar and plating servings for guests, circulating staff, and the live band all come together in the ultimate Seabourn spirit of the moment. 
 

Ventures by Seabourn:


Seabourn's smaller ships can't just sail into Alaska's smaller ports, bays and fjords, they can also launch Zodiacs and kayaks directly from the Marina at the aft of the ship.


Ventures by Seabourn are fun, accessible, active excursions that satisfy your craving to explore hands-on and up-close to Nature.  You can join a small group of like-minded guests and expedition leaders including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, geologists, historians and other experts. If you like exploring the outdoors, these are the Alaska experiences of your dreams: watch whales and eagles in Kenai Fjords from a Zodiac, or kayak up close to wildlife in Misty Fjords, take a photo safari for bears in Wrangell, or hike the Davidson Glacier.
 

Don't Stop at the Shoreline:


You won't want your Seabourn cruise in Alaska to end when you disembark, and luckily, it doesn't have to. Seabourn has introduced pre- and post-cruise Seabourn Journeys, fully-escorted extensions inland from the ports at the beginning and end of its Alaska itineraries.
 
The UNESCO Banff National Park & Rocky Mountaineer Seabourn Journey delivers you to your Seabourn cruise in Vancouver following a 7-day trip that includes one of the world's most famous luxury scenic train journeys and an exploration of Canada's iconic UNESCO World Heritage national park.  
 
In Alaska, a Denali Seabourn Journey takes you by scenic rail to America's highest peak and the spectacular national park surrounding Mount McKinley. It's a 5-day experience that features a flight over Ruth Glacier and a guided tour to spot grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and other wildlife park residents.
 
Traveling with Seabourn in Alaska gives you a welcoming, ultra-luxury journey to the majestic, sub-arctic 'safari' destination in our backyard.
 

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(Images not labeled BestTrip.tv are courtesy Seabourn/ Rocky Mountaineer.)
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Go Glamping in the Galapagos on the Celebrity Flora

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

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

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The Celebrity EDGE has launched and is turning heads at every port. Its standout sleek, urban resort styling and game-changing technology have a high point: the Magic Carpet.


You'll see what we mean in the video above. But the Magic Carpet isn't the only showstopper on the EDGE. You'll also fall in love with:
 
1.    The Resort Deck, encompassed by an outward-facing, untraditionally asymmetrical terraced pool deck nearly 22 feet high that makes the ocean views and landscapes the focal point while lounging poolside.
 
2.    Spectacular martini glass-shaped hot tubs suspended elegantly in the air on the slenderest glass stems and bookend the pool.
 
3.    A larger-than-life artistic mirror installation – an ever-changing, abstract piece positioned above the Pool Bar.
 
4.    The pool deck's oversized sculptural pieces unlike anything we've seen at sea. Dramatic, unique tree sculptures add an air of whimsy and create an intimate setting at night when lit up.

 
5.    The Rooftop Garden, a living, urban playscape designed to awaken the inner-child in everyone, tended to daily by a resident horticulturist, an interactive space, including pop-up live music performances from musicians in the treetop sculptures.

 
6.    The Retreat Sundeck rivaling any high-end resort, with over-water hanging chairs while the water laps beneath your feet or you lay back in the shaded resort-style cabanas and soak up the nearly 240-degree panoramic views on the forward end of the ship.
 
7.    The Retreat Lounge, located just below The Retreat Sundeck and open around the clock, touching the sea on both the port- and starboard sides, and offering seemingly endless ocean views.
 
8.    Edge staterooms with Infinite Verandas, revolutionizing the standard veranda stateroom with the touch of a button, blurring – even erasing – the boundaries between inside and outside. The entire living space becomes the veranda, letting you walk right out to the water’s edge.
 
The billion-dollar EDGE has been breaking ground since its conception. It's the first ship designed entirely in 3-D, in the world's largest and highest resolution 3-D virtual reality simulator in the world. 

We think she's even more amazing in real life, and you will, too. 

Start your Trip!

 
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5 Tips to Make a Cruise the Perfect Family Vacation

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

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

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

1. Location, location, location.

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

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

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

2. Find the perfect cruise ship match.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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