InStyle Vacations's Blog

8 New Cruise Ships You Missed in 2020 - And Why to Sail Them Soon
Can we hit the reset button on 2020? Usually, at the beginning of each year, we look forward to new ships guests will be among the first in the world to experience in their inaugural seasons.
 
But in 2020, more than a dozen new cruise ships sailed out of their shipyards only to sit empty, waiting for cruising to resume to welcome guests on new cruising adventures.
 
BestTrip TV’s Lynn Elmhirst provides her list of favorite vessels from the class of 2020 you’ll want to turn back the calendar and add to your ‘new ship’ cruise collection.
 

American Cruise Lines’ Jazz and Melody

 
This cruise line floated out not one, but two ships during COVID, which paused, but didn’t quench travelers’ thirst to rediscover America by water. American Cruise Lines welcomed American Jazz and American Melody in 2020. They are the 3rd and 4th ships in ACL’s ‘Modern Series’.
 
No paddlewheels here. The American Melody and Jazz feature clean lines and contemporary elegance with a grand, multi-story atrium, a patented opening bow and retractable gangway, elevator access to all decks, and sweeping expanses of glass and panoramic views.


175 guests enjoy 100% private balcony, spacious accommodations, indoor and outdoor dining with world-class gastronomy using local ingredients; numerous lounges; several open-air & shaded sundecks; Library; Chart Room; Game Room; Fitness Room & Yoga-Wellness Studio. Not to mention the inclusions like cocktails before dinner, wine and beer with meals, itineraries with complimentary shore excursions, and daily entertainment and destination enrichment.

The ships' inaugural sailings in 2021 are on the fabled Mississippi.
 

Regent Seven Seas Splendor

 
Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer has been called the most luxurious ship ever built – and early in 2020, her sister ship, the Splendor, was set to take on that mantle herself.

Splendor is the second ship in Regent’s ‘Explore Class’ of lavish ships. But after a spectacular naming ceremony by godmother, former supermodel Christie Brinkley, the Splendor’s inaugural season came to a halt.

When it begins a new inaugural season in 2021, the Splendor’s 750 guests will finally get a chance to experience this all-suite, all-balcony ship some have called a ‘work of art’. The ship boasts more than an acre of Italian marble, 500 crystal chandeliers, a multi-million dollar art collection, and among the largest balconies at sea.

Returning Regent guests will enjoy the new iterations of favorite, included restaurants, and Italian restaurant Sette Mari at La Veranda debuts over-water alcove seating that extends over the ocean.


A new gourmet Culinary Arts Kitchen and a first-of-its-kind globally inspired spa for Regent featuring treatments and techniques from across cultures also make their debuts on this Regent ship inaugural season guests have waited a year to experience.
 

Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady

 
It was the first ship of a brand new cruise line, fronted by the famous entrepreneur who added cheeky fun to air travel - and was set to upend the definition of cruising. 
 
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages came out of the gate strong early in 2020 with the launch of its 2800-passenger Scarlet Lady. But only a few media and travel advisors experienced the Scarlet Lady’s ‘rebel luxe’ style of cruising in Europe as the ship was en route to its Miami homeport - before the pandemic brought the ship’s triumphant inaugural season to a halt.


Virgin Voyages expects to re-launch mid 2021, welcoming guests who’ve been waiting over a year to experience the ship’s more than 20 included restaurants, champagne on demand at the push of a button, the first tattoo studio at sea, tables in suites designed to dance on, and ‘detox/retox’ lifestyle Branson has made famous.

The Scarlet Lady sails on shorter, long-weekend-type itineraries that include a late-night call at the cruise line’s new private beach resort in Bimini, the Bahamas, an Ibiza-style/ music festival inspired experience with DJ’s and bonfires on the beach.
 

Celebrity Cruises’ Apex

 
Mid 2020 saw the delivery of the second of Celebrity Cruises’ 3000-passenger Edge-series ships in a virtual ceremony. It then sailed to join other Celebrity ships waiting off America’s coast for cruising to resume.

 
The Edge, and now the Apex, have one of the most unique ship designs at sea. A bright orange, cantilevered venue called the ‘Magic Carpet’ appears to cling to the side of both ships as it travels up and down to different floors, operating as a lounge or dining venue or even a tender launch area at sea level.
 
In addition to the Edge’s trademark ‘Magic Carpet’ re-appearing on the Apex, other Edge features like ‘Infinite Veranda’ staterooms, nearly 30 dining venues, outdoor plunge pools and a luxurious, exclusive ‘Retreat’ lounge, restaurant and outdoor space for suite guests reappear on the Apex.

Silversea: Silver Origin and Silver Moon

 
A two-fer of new ship deliveries for this 6-star cruise line in 2020, so afficionados of Silversea’s European, ultra-luxury cruising style have lots to look forward to in 2021.
 
Silver Origin is Silversea’s first newbuild specific to a destination, and it will sail year round in the Galapagos.
 
They’re calling it ‘the most elegant ship ever to sail the Galapagos’. It also marks the most environmentally conscious ship the cruise line has ever built, mindful of the uniquely-sensitive Galapagos islands. It’s an ultra-luxury vessel designed for deeply experiential exploration of the Galapagos with a team of Ecuadorian expert guides, an interactive ‘basecamp’, and 8 Zodiacs.

Just 100 privileged guests on Silver Origin will enjoy all-suite accommodations with ‘Horizon Balconies’, its signature butler service for all, 2 restaurants including local Ecuadorian cuisine, and state of the art technology as well as the simple, primal warmth and social interaction of a fire pit in the Explorer Lounge at the end of a thrilling day ashore (pictured, top).  
 
Silver Moon is a sister ship to the Silver Muse, expanding outdoor spaces and re-imagining public spaces including restaurants and guest-favorite indoor gathering space and evening piano bar, Dolce Vita.
 
Understated luxe décor and amenities embrace the Silver Moon’s 600 guests in comfort, and dedicated butlers, stocked in-suite bar, 24-hour in-suite dining make your suite on the Silver Moon feel even better than home.

 
The Silver Moon also debuts the line’s new culinary enrichment programme, S.A.L.T., which is an acronym of ‘Sea and Land Taste’.  It gives guests the opportunity to explore a range of destination-focused gastronomic experiences—both on-board and ashore. Three new venues: a restaurant, test kitchen and bar, form a hub of culinary discovery on Deck 4 of the Silver Moon as part of the S.A.L.T. program.
 

Princess Cruises’ Enchanted Princess

 
Princess Cruises’ 5th Royal-class ship was delivered in a low-key way in the fall. When the Enchanted Princess sails in 2021, 3600 passengers will get to experience all of the cruise line’s latest innovations and amenities, including all of its ‘Medallion’ wearable digital device conveniences as well as the multi-story atrium Piazza, glass ‘SeaWalk’ and 80% balcony staterooms.

 
The Enchanted Princess also boasts some unique features, including a new suite category called Sky Suites with Princess’ largest private balconies, located at the top of the ship and giving their guests a view of the ship’s ‘Movies Under the Stars’ from their suites. 
 
In addition, the new ship has a new concept Sanctuary, with more private cabana capacity, and a Wakeview pool at the aft of the ship. 2021 will also see another sister ship, the Discovery Princess, sailing its own inaugural season.
 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon


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

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

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

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

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

Silversea

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

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

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

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

(Image: Silversea)

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

Atlas Ocean Voyages

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

(Rendering: Atlas Ocean Voyages)

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

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

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

Ponant

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

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

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

#DontMissThis

 

Top, Solar Eclipse Image by Jan Haerer from Pixabay
 
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Christmas in July On A Holiday Do-Over River Cruise
If this year’s altered holiday celebrations left you wistful and nostalgic for full-bore Christmas festivities, there’s a river cruise that gives you a chance for a re-do.

Christmas in July on the Danube comes without snow – but it does come with plenty of seasonal cheer on Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresea.

 
On two sailings in July, the Maria Theresea will have her halls decked out in full holiday splendor as she sails between Passau, Germany and Budapest, Hungary, calling in popular Christmas destinations like Vienna, Linz, and Bratislava. 
 
You’ll even have the opportunity for an excursion to magical Salzburg, the location of the iconic holiday movie The Sound of Music.
 
In addition to elegant festive trimmings, Uniworld has planned a program of events to re-live the holidays. 

 
The region’s famous Christmas markets will be re-created on board for you to stock up on the souvenirs and holiday treats. Guests can also experience Christmas cheer during gingerbread house decorating and ornament making workshops. Uniworld says holiday movies will be playing on the in-room entertainment systems, and Santa himself will make a summer trip from the North Pole to the Maria Theresea for photos that may be the best holiday card ever. And who wouldn’t get into the Christmas ‘spirit’ during a holiday cocktail class? 
 
The ship’s chefs will be crafting menus of holiday cuisine, and you’ll be toasting your brilliance at your seasonal do-over with summer versions of winter favorites, like frozen hot chocolate and chilled egg nog.
 
You’ll feel transported not just to some of the favorite ports of call on a Danube river cruise, but also back to the holidays. 
 
It’s an inspired way for families to re-live the best of the holidays in Europe, together aboard one of the most beloved river cruise ships on the Danube.

 
Uniworld’s Christmas in July sailings coincide with school holidays and also feature the cruise line’s Generations Program, with savings and exclusive activities for kids as well as dedicated Family Hosts. We assume the Family Hosts will have plenty of fun things for the kids to do so the grownups can linger during festive cocktail making classes, just for starters!
 
Family singletons may also be able to take advantage of Uniworld zero supplement offers so they can join the whole family for this European river cruise do-over of the holidays, too.
 

 

#ChristmasInJuly

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images courtesy Uniworld.


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'Escape' on a Luxury Cruise This Season Without Leaving Home: Meryl Streep Stars in New Movie Filmed at Sea
We can’t travel on a luxury cruise ourselves right now– or do many of the other things we love to do around the holidays - but “Let Them All Talk” lets us take an armchair escape during the break, and imagine ourselves along for a ride on one of the most famous ships afloat.

We couldn’t ask for better company for our silver screen journey. Starring three-time Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep, Academy Award® nominee and multiple Emmy® Award winner Candice Bergen and two-time Academy Award® winner Dianne Wiest with Oscar®-nominated Lucas Hedges (“Manchester By The Sea”) and Gemma Chan (“Crazy Rich Asians”), “Let Them All Talk” is directed by another famous Academy Award® alum, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh of “Ocean’s Eleven” series and “Erin Brokovich” fame.
 
Even with this host of Hollywood royalty, for a luxury cruise lover, the real ‘star’ of the film may be the Queen Mary 2. “Let Them All Talk” was filmed on board one of British luxury line Cunard’s epic ‘Three Queens’ ships on a single, actual Transatlantic crossing from New York to England last summer before COVID.



WATCH the movie trailer here.

Smart, Witty Comedy…


Meryl Streep plays a best-selling author invited to accept an award in England, but she can’t fly. Her new agent, played by Gemma Chan, persuades her to cross the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 as a ship’s lecturer, which will also give Streep’s character time to work on her much-anticipated new book. She insists on bringing her nephew (played by Lucas Hedges) as an assistant, and two best friends from her college days (Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest), along for the cruise.


Things get complicated with competing agendas and comic twists and turns of relationships old and new. One friend hasn’t spoken to the author in years, believing her to have based the plot of her biggest best-seller on her own marriage break up, while the other, a grand-motherly free-spirit, tries to make peace between the old friends. Meanwhile, the literary agent is along on the Transatlantic crossing to find out what’s happening with the author’s next book, while the nephew struggles to juggle his author aunt’s needs with her friends’ demands – at the same time falling in love with the literary agent who’s trying to entice him into sharing what his aunt is writing.

A stellar cast like this can do no wrong – and all of this acting superpower in a witty, ‘comedy of manners’, is set against the backdrop of the legendary ship and its lifestyle.


Meets a Luxury Crossing


Most of the film takes place on board the ship. Watch for the grandness of the Queen Mary 2 when the characters arrive at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on departure day, as well such loved on board locations as the Commodore Club, Queens Grill dining room, Queens Grill suites, the library, the Royal Court Theatre, and the decks outdoors with the genuine – computer-generated! - North Atlantic seascape beyond the rail. 


Even the ‘extras’ who appear behind the main characters are genuine guests on the sailing who opted in to being part of the filming on board.

The film showcases the Cunard flagship's elegance, sophistication and style, and provides the viewer a real sense of the leisurely pace and beautiful setting of an iconic sailing and Cunard’s signature itinerary: the Transatlantic Crossing.

Sailing with the Stars

 
Meryl Streep: “There’s a lot to see and hear in this movie, and a lot that’s funny. And like midnight on the Mid-Atlantic-- just misty mysterious.”
 
Dianne Wiest: “The weather on the crossing was a wonderful thing. A day might begin with dense fog, so dense you could see nothing, neither the sea nor others. Then, the fog would lift and there would be a silver gray, the gray that filmmakers would do anything for, and then rays of sun would streak down and a brilliant blue appear and bits of light sparkling everywhere you turned.”
 
Candice Bergen: “The crossing on the Queen Mary 2 was heaven. It is a magnificent ship, beautifully maintained and elegantly designed. It was a perfect experience.”
 
Director Steven Soderbergh: “The ship looks as good on camera as it looks in person. It’s not like when you get up close and the camera has eroticized the ship. It really is that nice!”
 
Gemma Chan: “There is definitely a feeling of being away from the wider world, from city life and all its
distractions which I think you couldn't replicate in a studio. Every day had a rhythm to it that I think we all settled into - watching the sunset each evening and dolphin spotting were highlights.
 
“During the crossing, my character interacts the most with Lucas Hedges' character. It was fun to get to explore the ship and build a relationship whilst mingling with real passengers in the planetarium and, most amusingly, in the late-night disco.”
 

Perfect Timing

 
“Let Them All Talk” is being released just when we most need a reminder of what we’re missing while cruising is shut down – and a mood-booster for an altered holiday season.

HBO Max begins streaming “Let Them All Talk” on December 10th.
 

 

#WatchNowCruiseSoon

 
All Photographs by HBO Max
 
 
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2 Travel-Inspired Beverages to get you in the Holiday Spirit
You may not be celebrating the holidays as usual this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create some new holiday entertaining traditions.

While we wait to travel and celebrate again, here are two recipes for ‘spirited’ holiday drinks from favorite destinations to warm your heart and remind you of better times ahead.

Perfect for a virtual holiday cocktail party, long winter evenings binge-watching holiday movies, or trimming your tree, these recipes can be made for one or more to share.
 

Gluhwein

Warm wine makes winter better. All the iconic Christmas tastes, sights and sounds of Germany’s Christmas markets, from the fir trees and handmade toys, fires roasted nuts and sausages, are enhanced by its warm and aromatic signature drink. Warm, often spiced, wine, can be found throughout Europe, like mulled wine in England, or vin chaud in France.

Gluhwein is Germany’s version. While the combination of citrus, fruit juices, spices – and even color of wine! – varies, one thing stays the same. Gluhwein translates roughly to ‘glowing wine’, referring to the red hot irons from the fires that were originally stuck into the wine to heat it up. That should give you a sense of the long history of Gluhwein. There’s a gold-plated Gluhwein tankard dating from the early 1400’s that’s attributed to the German aristocrat who was the first grower of Riesling grapes.

Cologne Christmas Market, Germany © GNTB/Wojciech Grabowski

Although most gluhweins you’ll see at Christmas markets in Germany involve red wine, this recipe, from AmaWaterways, uses regional white wines you’ll get to try on one of the river cruise line’s Danube or Rhine cruises during the summer or during a magical Christmas market cruise.

Ingredients
  • 3 cups of white wine (Silvaner or Müller-Thurgau)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup Franconian plum brandy (optional but recommended, as a little of the alcohol cooks out of the wine)
  • 4 slices of orange
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 allspice seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 pinch of aniseed
  • 1 tsp. honey (if you prefer it sweeter, add a bit more)
  • Extra slices of fruit for garnish, if desired
Preparation
  1. In a medium-sized stock pot with a tight-fitting lid, combine all of the ingredients, except for the honey. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer, keeping the lid on, for 10 minutes. Be careful not to let it come to a boil again; if it boils too long all of the alcohol will be cooked out.
  3. After 10 minutes, immediately remove from the heat. Strain the mixture with a fine mesh sieve; discard the aromatics. Return the mixture to the pot and taste-test. Stir in honey, tasting as you go until you reach your desired sweetness.
  4. Ladle into desired serving glasses. Garnish with sliced fruit, cinnamon sticks, cloves, or star anise pods, if desired. Serve immediately.
 
Pair your Gluhwein with authentic German standards like hot sausages and pretzels, or seasonal festive sweets like stollen, fruit bread; gingerbread or lebkuchen; and glorious marzipan. 
 

Rompope

The clue to this festive Costa Rican drink is also in its name. But it’s not like a rum punch found in the Caribbean. Rompope is Costa Rica’s answer to British egg nog or Dutch advocaat, composed of egg yolk, milk, sugar, cinammon and rum. Unlike egg nog, it’s cooked like a hot, boozy custard. Variations made with coconut milk, coffee, almonds or other nuts are popular in other parts of Latin America.

Rompope’s roots are believed to be Spanish colonial, with stories told of Spanish nuns making the New World’s first batches. Today, families often make two bottles ahead of celebrations, a grown-up version with the rum, and a non-alcoholic version for the younger members of the family. The kids’ version is also used for making cookies, cakes, ice cream and jellies. And the adult rompope can be strong; the rum is added at the end so the alcohol doesn’t cook off.

Courtesy Visit Costa Rica

It’s the sweet and strong traditional beverage of Christmas gatherings. And Visit Costa Rica has sent this rompope recipe for us to share in its celebration of the joys of the season.

Ingredients (4 servings)
•           4 cups milk
•           1 cups sugar
•           2 cinnamon sticks
•           6 egg yolks
•           1 Tbsp. cornstarch
•           Rum to taste
•           Nutmeg to taste

Preparation
Place 3 cups of milk, the sugar and cinnamon in a pot. Heat. Apart, dissolve the cornstarch and the egg yolks in the rest of the milk and add to the pot. Cook over low heat for several minutes. Cool and add rum to taste. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon before serving.
 

#HolidayCheers


#SipNowTravelSoon


Top Image: Nuremberg Christmas Market; copyright German National Tourism Board/ Jens Wegener
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How This New American River Cruise Ship May Surprise You
When you think of ships that cruise American rivers, you might picture paddlewheels, riverboat gamblers, and ladies with parasols.

But while some cruise ships exploring the United States by river pay homage to 19th-century American history, American river cruising doesn’t have to be an escape into a Mark Twain novel.

When American Cruise Lines launched its latest river cruise ship, the American Melody, this month, it became the 4th – and the second ship for the cruise line during COVID – in its acclaimed ‘Modern Series’.

No paddlewheels here. Instead, the kind of clean lines and contemporary elegance you might associate with upscale cruise ships anywhere in the world.


The American Melody and her sister ships feature 5 decks of eye-catching architectural details like a grand, multi-story glass atrium at the center of the ship, a patented opening bow and retractable gangway, elevator access to all decks for accessibility and ease, and sweeping expanses of glass throughout with unparalleled panoramic views both inside and out.


175 guests enjoy 100% private balcony, extremely spacious accommodations. And you’ll spend daytimes between a casual outdoor café; a signature Grand Dining Room with river views from every table; numerous spacious sky-lit lounges; several open-air & shaded sundecks; Library; Chart Room; Game Room; Fitness Room & Yoga-Wellness Studio.


American Melody and her sister ships redefine American river cruising from a design and architecture point of view. The American Melody, and sister ship American Jazz (its predecessor that was completed in 2020 but delayed its cruising launch due to the pandemic) provide a fresh, modern experience as they cruise the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers beginning in the summer of 2021.


The Modern Series joins the historic-style paddlewheelers and coastal ships in American Cruise Line’s fleet, and continues the same traditions of world-class gastronomic offerings that include local ingredients and regional cuisine, personalized service inclusive of daily pre-dinner cocktails, wine and beer with meals, itineraries with complimentary shore excursions, and daily entertainment that includes music, local culture, history and nature experts.

This modern twist on American river cruising is soon to become a common sight on America’s rivers, with a 5th American Cruise Line modern ship due in 2022, and 1 or 2 more each year in a rapid-expansion plan to meet a growing demand to rediscover America by water.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy American Cruise Lines
Top Image: American Melody being launched into the Wicomico River at Chesapeake Shipbuilding, Salisbury, MD


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There's a New Moon on the Horizon - a Silver Moon
October was an extraordinary month for stargazers and amateur astronomers. One single month saw two full moons: a Harvest moon and a rare, second full moon – a blue moon.

But one other moon appeared in October too – Silversea’s Silver Moon. 

Sister ship to the ultra-luxury cruise line’s Silver Muse, it’s the 9th vessel for Silversea, and its second new ship to overcome the unprecedented challenges of 2020 to launch this year.

Over 1,000 craftspeople labored in Italy to bring the Silver Moon to life. The 600-guest ship follows in the lines of her sister ship the Silver Muse, celebrating small-ship intimacy and understated, modern Italian luxury that’s loved by sophisticated North American guests.


Expanding the Indoors Outdoors, and Re-imagining Favorite Public Spaces


The Silver Moon builds on the successes of the Muse in her public spaces, in many cases incorporating new outdoor spaces to maximize guests’ true maritime experience.

·     Guest-favorite indoor gathering space, Dolce Vita, (above) has an updated layout – with the bar repositioned to the center of the space and focal point of shipboard social life: a sophisticated bar by day and atmospheric piano bar in the evenings.
 
·     Silversea’s signature restaurant and salute to classic French cuisine, La Dame has been enlarged on the Silver Moon and enriched with custom-designed Lalique crystal panels, as well as an option for lovers of fine dining to indulge outdoors in the sea air.
 
·     Kaiseki, where guests enjoy the spectacle of expert sushi chefs in action preparing delectable, seasonally-inspired Japanese and Asian cuisine, has elevated, while still minimalist design on the Moon.
 
·     Those who enjoy a cigar and a snifter will find a new Wintergarden area in Connoisseur’s Corner that extends the sophisticated club atmosphere into a sheltered and inviting outdoor space.


Suite Life – Silversea Style


Spacious all-suite, all-butler-serviced accommodations are hallmarks of the Silversea experience. Soothing luxe décor, materials and amenities embrace guests in comfort, and dedicated butlers, stocked in-suite bar, 24-hour in-suite dining make your suite on the Silver Moon feel even better than home.
 

S.A.L.T. Program: Immersive Culinary Enrichment

 
One tremendous innovation in the Silversea cruising lifestyle is debuting aboard Silver Moon. The line’s new culinary enrichment programme S.A.L.T. is an acronym of ‘Sea and Land Taste’, and it gives guests the opportunity to explore a range of destination-focused gastronomic experiences—both on-board and ashore.
 
Three new venues form a hub of culinary discovery on Deck 4 of the Silver Moon as part of the S.A.L.T. program:
 
S.A.L.T. Kitchen is among the largest of eight restaurants aboard Silver Moon. It’s the first large-scale regional restaurant aboard a luxury cruise ship, offering a menu that changes with the destination and a regionally inspired wine list;
S.A.L.T. Lab is a test kitchen where guests learn about local ingredients and artisanal techniques, through insightful workshops, tastings, and demonstrations; and
S.A.L.T. Bar allows guests to sample the most authentic flavours of the destination, through a large selection of regional wines, spirits, and other drinks.

 
Silversea’s newest of its Muse-class ships is both the pinnacle of advances in luxury cruise travel in the 21st century and a symbol of the resilience of the hard-hit cruise industry.
 
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Silversea

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The Latest Cruise Line To Go 'All-Inclusive'
Nothing is more luxurious than when things are extra simple and extra special. Now you can have that wonderful feeling that ‘everything is taken care of’ on your next big-ship cruise.
 
Celebrity Cruises has unveiled a new ‘Always Included’ program. Instead of differing promotions and packages, the cruise line is including unlimited drinks, unlimited wi-fi and even daily tips on all new bookings except its Galapagos itineraries.

This new, all-inclusive approach is making waves in cruising.

Travelers have gotten used to all inclusive beach resorts. But in cruising, ‘all inclusive’ has only been found at the very top end of ultra luxury lines with small and mid-sized ships. Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal Cruises, Scenic, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Atlas Ocean Voyages launching in 2021, are among those ultra-luxury cruise lines that include wine and spirits, gratuities, internet, and in some cases, specialty restaurants, butler service, even flights and shore excursions.

With ‘Always Included’, Celebrity Cruises is knocking on the door of that exclusive club.

In Celebrity’s case, there are additional variations in the all-inclusive experience on the line. ‘Always Included’ is the base level of all-inclusive lifestyle. The ‘Elevate’ package expands to include unlimited premium drinks and adds some shore excursions, while the ‘Indulge’ package tops up ‘Elevate’ even further with unlimited streaming Wi-Fi, as well as onboard spending money. And all guests in the ‘Retreat’ ‘luxury ship within a ship’, all-suite area with private restaurant, lounge, and sundeck, automatically receive ‘Indulge’ level of all-inclusive amenities.

It’s part of Celebrity’s mission to redefine ‘modern luxury’ cruising lifestyle on a big ship level. And it coincides with the launch of the second of its new, 3000-guest ‘Edge’ class of ships. 

The brand-new Celebrity Apex has just arrived in Florida, joining its sister ship the Celebrity Edge. Both are easily recognizable with their distinctive, phenomenal ‘Magic Carpet’ (pictured, top), a cantilevered, bright-orange venue suspended off the side of the ship that travels up and down to different decks, acting as a lounge, restaurant, or even tender embarkation center.

Focus on leading-edge, contemporary design, an upscale, on-trend resort atmosphere and lifestyle that’s now all-inclusive… all combine into Celebrity Cruises’ version of ‘New Luxury’.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Image courtesy Celebrity Cruises.

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The Caribbean Gets a New Princess, and She's Enchanted

She’s sailing now en route to the U.S. for an inaugural season cruising Caribbean itineraries.

Princess Cruises’ newly completed Enchanted Princess is a beacon for a return to cruising; one of just a tiny number of ships scheduled to begin service this year that is actually on the water.


Home to over 3600 guests, Enchanted Princess is the 5th Royal class Princess Cruises ship.
Enchanted Princess represents an evolution of the design used for her Royal Class sister ships, even as the ship continues their contemporary flair and style. 
 
With the launch of the new ship, the cruise line has taken the opportunity to introduce new attractions all her own. Guests on the Enchanted Princess will experience delectable, one-of-a-kind dining experiences, the most pools and whirlpool hot tubs ever, world-class entertainment venues and the breathtaking Sky Suites, offering expansive views from the largest balconies at sea.
 

Signature Dining

5 specialty restaurants from gastropub to the culinary styling’s of a Michelin starred chef – plus the ultimate treat: balcony dining – give guests options for every meal of every day.
That’s on top of a host included dining, from the line’s signature partnership with celebrity Chef Curtis Stone’s cuisine in the Main Dining Room, to casual, 24-hour dining for every appetite.
 

A First for Entertainment at Sea

In addition to Broadway Caliber production shows, the antics of Jim Henson’s muppets for the kids and entertainment for every interest in between, Enchanted Princess features Take Five, the only jazz theater at sea, celebrating the iconic sounds, culture and history of jazz.

Sky Suites

First introduced on Sky Princess and now Enchanted Princess, the new luxury Sky Suites ‘crown’ the heights of the ship. These new signature suites host up to 5 guests, who enjoy inclusive amenities, attentive service and a dedicated Suite Experience Manager – not to mention what Princess is calling ‘The Largest Balcony at Sea.’ The furnished outdoor space – even an outdoor fridge and TV along with loungers, day beds, and dining furniture - blurs the distinction between indoor and outdoor living. Guests can even host their own celebrations or catered events on these expansive balconies, as well as have the unique experience of private seating for Princess’ ‘Movies Under the Stars’.
 

MedallionClass Cruising

The new Enchanted Princess joins the fleet of the cruise line’s high-tech ‘MedallionClass’ vessels. The OceanMedallion is an included, wearable device for guests. It enables touchless interactive experiences and entertainment, plus enhancements to your cruising experience like expedited boarding, on-demand food, beverage, retail and service delivery, keyless stateroom entry, contactless payment, handy friends and family locator, and movies/live TV on the go.  
 
Medallion technology empowers guests on the Enchanted Princess to enjoy an effortless, personalized vacation with less time on planning and logistics, and more time connecting to their loved ones and experiencing the things they love most on the newest ship in the Caribbean.

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
Images/ Renderings courtesy Princess Cruises
 
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Ah, Venice: Luxurious New River Ship Sailing One of Europe's Most Unique Itineraries Revealed
A passion for style, art, cuisine and living well. Capturing that iconic Italian way of life and the essence of Venice was the goal of the latest ‘Super Ship’ by Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.

The S.S. La Venezia, like all Uniworld ships, is more ‘local boutique hotel’ than ‘river cruise ship’.

We often say that one of the attractions of cruising is your ‘floating hotel’. But Uniworld’s approach takes the destination to heart. Where many river cruise ships are very similar to their sister ships on other rivers, La Venezia, like every Uniworld ship, is a ‘work onto itself’, designed specifically to reflect its Venetian itineraries, just as luxury boutique hotels on land allow guests to be immersed in the essence of their destination.

Every space on La Venezia has been crafted to expressly celebrate Venice, beginning in the lobby, designed to strike a bold resemblance to the dramatic, romantic era of 1930’s Venice.
Throughout the ship, artistic touches are unmistakably Venetian: guests will stroll across marble or brass-inlaid parquet floors. You’ll see echoes of the portico of the canal city’s landmark bridges in the patterns of the fabrics, or a reference to classic Venetian cuisine’s local fish dishes. And of course, the signature craft of Venice, Murano blown glass, appears in swirls and pops of color.

La Venezia’s 4 restaurants and bars bring local gastronomy to life with ingredients sourced straight from Venetian markets. Their names as well as design themes also reflect the city:

·     Rialto’s is the largest dining venue onboard and was inspired by the famous Venice-Istanbul train the Orient Express. Guests dine on traditional Venetian fare in an atmosphere of a bygone era of luxury travel, in charming booth seating, surrounded by intricately etched panels.
·     Hari’s Bar and Lounge allows guests to relax into sumptuously upholstered love seats and enjoy live music, cocktails, and an impressive champagne list, nibble on a selection of traditional paninis and soak in the iconic sights as you sail through Venice.
 
·     La Cantinetta is the most intimate of La Venezia’s venues, offering private dining with expert wine pairing, surrounded by hand-etched glass walls and polished ebonized wood. You’re invited to start your La Cantinetta experience earlier in the day, accompanying the ship’s chef to source ingredients at the city's famous Rialto food market. The chef’s selections of Adriatic seafood, fine Italian cheeses and cured meats and locally grown seasonal produce like asparagus or artichokes are later masterfully prepared in the demonstration kitchen to create a mouth-watering meal of traditional Italian dishes.
 
·     Cielo’s Pizzeria on the Lido di Venezia Deck celebrates pure Italian comfort food, where wood-fired pizzas are served hot from the oven in al fresco dining with the best views of Venice.
 

Experience the Ship’s Design First-Hand

To bring the magic of the world’s most beloved canal city on board, Uniworld turned to local Venetian design house Fortuny, renowned for its handmade fabrics. Fortuny artists have been crafting essential Venetian designs for over a century, and their textile creations are company secrets to this day.

The Fortuny story is so intricately woven into the design of the ship that Uniworld guests will have the exclusive opportunity to visit its private showroom and gardens to learn about the company and its Venetian legacy. 

 

Redefining ‘River Cruising’

Venice is a city of water. La Venezia gives guests the opportunity to discover Venice as she was meant to be experienced – from the water. 

Once she makes her debut in the Spring of 2021, La Venezia will allow guests to uncover the magic of the Venetian Lagoon on a number of itineraries that expand the definition of ‘river cruising’. 

On the ship’s signature, “Venice & the Gems of Northern Italy” itinerary, you’ll be treated to a private opening and lighting ceremony at St. Mark’s Basilica, explore the peaceful canals unique to Venetian islands Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello, as well as the magnificent cities of Bologna and Padua.
Other itineraries on La Venezia include “Milan, Venice & the Gems of Northern Italy”, “Cruise & Rail: Venice & the Swiss Alps” and “Cruise & Rail: Milan, Venice & the Swiss Alps”.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
 
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Cruising Again by November? Industry Association Lays Out Formula to Start Sailing

You might be on a cruise in the Caribbean before the holidays.

Cruising in the Americas – that’s the cruise region for the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America - could begin again in about a month’s time, if significant industry developments this week bear fruit.

Testing the Waters in Europe

Any regular reader of our newsletters will know we’ve been following the slow progress of cruising’s return.
In the Spring in response to the pandemic, Europe-based cruise lines repatriated their ships to home waters. Then, after COVID peaked there in the summer, they successfully began ‘bubble’ cruises for their own citizens in very controlled circumstances which provided real-life case studies. 
European cruise lines like MSC Cruises, Ponant, Seadream and others have now been sailing safely in Europe for weeks.
Europe’s cruise lines have not only proven it’s possible, their return-to-cruising experiences have paved the way for the largest cruise market in the world to see a restart of cruising too.

2 Moves Closer to Cruising at Home

This week, two things happened on this side of the Atlantic.
1. Members of the cruise industry association representing 95% of ocean cruises unanimously agreed to adopt a set of mandatory protocols for safe sailing. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) members include European cruise lines, whose successful experiences this summer – shared throughout the industry – helped inform a new set of rules all members have now adopted.
CLIA’s protocols also included the findings of an unprecedented collaboration between two of cruising’s giants. Royal Caribbean Group (parent to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea) and Norwegian Cruise Holdings (parent to Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises) convened a joint ‘Healthy Sail Panel’ of medical and scientific experts. The panel has spent months determining a list of 74 best practices to protect the health and safety of ship guests, crew, and the communities where cruise ships call in port. 
2. This week, the Healthy Sail Panel submitted those findings to the U.S. CDC in response to its request for input as it considers whether to lift its ‘No Sail Order’ currently in place for all U.S. ports.
With such strong submissions and the precedent of safe sailing in Europe, it’s widely hoped and expected the CDC will lift its No Sail Order, clearing a path for US-based cruise lines to resume operations after the end of October.

A Travel Industry First: 100% Testing


The core elements adopted by all CLIA members encompass your entire cruise experience from booking to debarkation following your cruise, and include:
  • Testing: 100% testing of passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation.
  • Distancing: Physical distancing in terminals, onboard ships, on private islands and during shore excursions.
  • Masks: All passengers and all crew must wear masks when physical distancing isn’t possible.
  • Ventilation: New strategies to increase fresh air onboard and implement enhanced filters and other technologies to reduce airborne virus spread.
  • Shore Excursions: Passengers will have to follow prescribed protocols, and re-boarding will be denied for any passengers that do not follow the rules.
  • Medical Capability: Every ship will allocate stateroom capacity to allow for isolation if people do get sick, and will have advance plans in place for shoreside quarantine, medical assistance and safe transportation.

“A pathway for the return of limited sailings from the U.S. before the end of this year.”

That’s what CLIA says these new agreed-upon protocols mean. The organization also notes that initially, following CDC approval of the new safety measures, cruises would sail on modified itineraries.
Regional cruise destinations will have to be on board too, and the new protocols are getting positive feedback from officials in your favorite cruise ports.   
The Prime Minister of Barbados co-chairs the Americas Cruise Tourism Task Force and said: “The cruise lines’ commitment to conduct 100% testing for all passengers and crew is significant and unique as compared to any other sector. Having this core element in place adds a layer of confidence for us so we may safely welcome cruising back.”
 

#WeWillCruiseAgainSoon

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host and Cruise Expert, BestTrip TV
 
Top Image: Oceania
Other images courtesy CLIA

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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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3 Top Trips for Golfers Who Cruise - From Close to Home to Around the World
Suddenly, everyone is golfing again.
With only a few minor tweaks that courses have easily implemented, the game checks all the boxes for a COVID-safe pastime. So it’s no surprise that even less committed golfers have dusted off the clubs, rediscovering the delights to be found on the greens.
As we rediscover travel, the same features that make golf the ideal pursuit in our own neighborhoods also make it an excellent theme for your post-COVID travels.
The list of famous golf courses, resorts and destinations is long and world-wide. And there’s one unique way to enjoy multiple, top-tier courses on one, relaxed trip where you check into a single, floating 'hotel' that takes you to multiple courses: golf-themed cruises.
With a concierge approach that gives guests access to courses and tee times they might not be able to arrange themselves, golf cruises allow golfers who love the cruise lifestyle to enjoy two passions on one trip.
Here are three top picks:

Golf Cruise on the Mississippi River

Cruise line: American Queen Steamboat Company

Golfers have one chance in May to enjoy this unique American cruise. AQSC’s ‘American River Golf Classic’ 9-day cruise from Memphis to New Orleans gives golfers the chance to play at 4 of the most prestigious courses along the Lower Mississippi River, with an option to play in New Orleans after you disembark, too.
While American Queen sails the country’s largest paddleboat, on this journey, you’ll sail on her sleek and contemporary sister ship, the American Countess, complete with custom Italian fabrics, rich walnut wood, premium linens, a host of sociable or secluded verandas with comfy seating in the tradition of Southern hospitality, floor to ceiling windows with panoramic views of Ol’ Miss, and fresh, regional cuisine. You’ll be one of the first to experience her elegant décor as she makes her way down the mighty Mississippi.
Iconic cities of the South on this golf cruise include Natchez, Mississippi, St. Francisville and Baton Rouge Louisiana, with included overnight stay in Memphis before the cruise departs and disembarking in NOLA. The Lower Mississippi River has stories to share – a legacy that flows from Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico. A new chapter – and a new golf course - awaits around each river bend.
Golfers enjoy four top-rated local courses along with the history, culture and memorable scenery of the South, including:
·     Colonial Country Club in Memphis;
·     Copper Mill Golf Club in Zachary, Louisiana;
·     Black Bear Golf Club near Vicksburg;
·     The Bluffs Golf & Sports Resort in St. Francisville, an Arnold Palmer designed course;
·     With an option to play at TPC Louisiana in New Orleans after disembarkation.
That’s up to 5 top courses in different cities in 9 days, with the relaxation of a river cruise and the company of fellow cruise travelers and golfers – with your golfing made easy. The cruise line’s ‘Rounds on the River’ package includes lunches, special giveaways, a special guest appearance from a recognized golf expert and professional, all equipment transportation and club cleaning prior to play.

 

Golf Cruise in the Heart of Europe on the Danube River

Cruise line: AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways’ Concierge Golf Program offers the same opportunity to golf at world-class courses all in one trip. Along the storied Danube, that means golfing in multiple countries during a 12-night journey that includes pre- and post- cruise stays in Prague and Budapest at either end of a 7-day voyage on AmaWaterways’ flagship AmaMagna. At twice the width of any other river ship, it has re-imagined river cruising with more personal space, more dining venues, more leisure space and activities than any other ship sailing the rivers of the world.
There are nearly a dozen departures of the Concierge Golf Program from May through October that include the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. The route features some of Europe’s premier UNESCO sites, fabled culture, architecture, beer gardens, local wines and scenic sailing. 
Even if you’ve sailed the Danube before, the exciting golf programming is a whole new way to enjoy the region. Golfers on the program play at:
·     Albatross Golf Club in Prague, host of the Czech Open, featuring 7 lakes and bordering on a nature reserve;
·     Quellness Golf Resort in Bad Griesbach, Germany, host of the Porsche European Open
·     Diamond Country Club on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria;
·     Penati Country Club in Slovakia and host of the Slovakia Open, a ‘Nicklaus Design LEGEND COURSE’ that meets world PGA standards with a fantastic view; and
·     Pannonia Country Club in Budapest, and host of the Hungarian Open, designed by famous Austrian course designer Hans. G. Erhardt.
It’s the European golf trip of your dreams where your luxury hotel follows you from one dynamic destination to the next. The program makes the cruise – to – golf experience seamless and easy for golfers. Guests are transferred from ship to course and back by private luxury Mercedes. Your tee time, practice balls and golf cart are prepared in advance, and after your round, you enjoy lunch in the course clubhouse with beer and wine all included. When it’s time to transfer back to the AmaMagna, your clubs will be cleaned and ready for the next course on your golf odyssey.

 

Golf Cruises Around the World

PerryGolf on Azamara

Azamara, the boutique ocean cruise line, doesn’t just offer a single golf itinerary. For a decade, it’s been partnered with luxury golf vacation company PerryGolf to offer a selection of golf cruises that just keeps growing. There are now two dozen golf voyages that include play at over 70 marquee courses in 23 countries, including some of the top 100 courses in the world, like Ireland's Royal Portrush, Scotland's Turnberry and New Zealand's Cape Kidnappers.
Above: Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland
Top: Emirates Golf Club (Majlis Course) in Dubai
The voyages follow the sun and the prime golfing seasons around the world, beginning in the New Year Down Under in Australia and New Zealand, plus a new South Africa golf cruise, followed by Spring and Summer in Europe, in the Med as well as the Baltics including St. Petersburg, plus a new itinerary to Norway, as well as flagship itineraries in the British Isles with country-intensive voyages to Scotland and Ireland, then in the Autumn, the dramatic courses of the Arabian Gulf countries and South America late in the year, including a first-time sailing from Rio to Buenos Aires.
Depending on the destination, cruises range from 7 to 17 nights, with between 3 and 6 rounds of golf on a cruise. There’s a full-time PerryGolf program manager on board your cruise as well as onsite at each course, and you’re taken care of at every step, including tee times, carts or caddies, pairings, competitions, social events for fellow golfers on board, handling of your golf equipment, transfers and tips. It’s like an international floating golf club that’s unparalleled in cruising.
Everyone’s considering what types of trips to kick-start post-COVID travel with peace of mind. The outdoor distancing of golf and the appeal of access to multiple new, world-class courses, combined with the luxury and convenience of a safe, single floating hotel that transports you to different destinations with exciting new courses every day, make golf cruises more popular than ever.

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

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
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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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Places You Can Tour Wine Country Close to Home
There may be more places than you think.

California's legendary wine regions and famous wineries have the weather, the scenery, the lifestyle, and of course, the wines, that put them at the top of global wine travel lists.

But as we are planning our first post-COVID trips, wine lovers should expand their lists of wine tour regions close to home to get our fix of wine tastings, vineyard strolling, and re-stocking our cellars with one-of-a-kind vintages.

Vastly different landscapes throughout America's states and Canada's provinces have resulted in some surprising wine regions with thriving scenes and award-winning wines.

If you love discovering new wine, pack your bags for these US and Canadian wine regions, and remember to leave plenty of space in your luggage for bottles of the delicious new wines you're sure to discover!

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host BestTrip.TV
 

Texas

The very first vineyard in North America… was in Texas. Franciscan priests in the mid-1600's toiled to grow the continent's first vines and produce its first wines in mission outposts. European immigrants brought more grapevine cuttings to continue expanding the region's wine through the 19th century. Prohibition wiped out all of America's wine production in the '20's, but Texas has reclaimed its historic wine roots – literally.
These days, the Longhorn State boasts 8 AVA's (American Viticultural Areas) producing wine from grapes that thrive in the state's unique climate and soil. The Texas Hill country AVA is the 2nd largest in America, 9 million acres in the heart of Texas north of San Antonio and west of Austin. The vast wine region is home to a range of one-of-a-kind microclimates that produce cool climate wines to Bordeaux and Italian varietals. 
Idaho's Snake River Valley

Idaho

Move over, potatoes. Idaho's most famous crop has competition. Idaho lies to the west of the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains. The terrain, explored by Lewis and Clark and a central feature of the Oregon Trail, these days is home to a fruitful wine industry you'll want to explore too.  
You may think of Idaho as a very new wine region, but in fact, it dates back to the mid-19th century. The first grapes in the Pacific Northwest were planted in Idaho by French and German immigrants. Prohibition in the 20's took out this wine region, too, but grapes are back again in Idaho. The Snake River Valley became the state's first AVA, and now covers 8000 square miles at latitudes similar to other global wine-growing regions, with a unique combination of seasonal temperatures, rainfall, and soil not only rivaling other wine regions, but even giving Idaho wines an edge in quality.
Idaho now has more than 50 wineries producing cool climate wines, especially whites like Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer, and more recently, reds like fan favorite Cabernet Sauvignon.
(Shore Lodge, McCall, Idaho)

Washington State

This newcomer on the global wine scene has been a quick learner. Washington State is already America's 2nd largest wine producer. Its wines win acclaim and awards that rank Washington as one of the world's top wine regions.
Wine has a pedigree in the state. In 1825 the Hudson's Bay Company planted the area's first wine grapes at Fort Vancouver.
The last decade or so has seen a resurgence of wine-making in Washington. Now, over 55,000 acres are devoted to vineyards. The viticulture trend is growing fast, drawing wine-makers from Europe and New World wine regions to the state's unique terroir and conditions for producing premium white and red wines.
Washington's young and internationally-influenced wine culture exhibits some of the latest trends in wine-making that visiting oenophiles will love. Hand-crafting, sustainability, as well as organic and biodynamic wines make visits to this Pacific North West wine region so unique.
Shea Wine Cellars, Oregon/ Carolyn Wells Kramer

Oregon

It's America's 3rd largest wine grape producing state. Oregon has over 700 wineries growing 72 grape varietals in a thousand vineyards. In spite of that scale, Oregon's famous for its small-batch wineries and artisan wines. Most Oregon wineries produce fewer than 5000 cases a year of an incredible range of wines from Riesling to Viogniers, Pinot noir to Syrah, with sparkling, rose, and dessert wines to tempt your palate.
For wine-loving visitors to Oregon, that means two things. In winery tasting rooms, you'll have the chance to taste small-batch vintages that will never see wide release on store shelves in your home town. And hands-on, artisan vintners love to share their passion for wine, their vines, and wine-making styles with visitors to wine estates.

(Above and Top Images Courtesy Wines of British Columbia)

British Columbia, Canada

North of the border, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is the 2nd largest-producing wine region in Canada, with over 150 wineries and nearly 10,000 acres of vines. The valley stretches 155 miles from Lake Okanagan, south along the Okanagan River into Washington State (where it’s spelled differently: Okonogan) into the Columbia River, itself a growing and renowned wine region on both its Washington State and Oregon banks.
The Columbia and Cascade Mountains shield the region from Pacific and Arctic moisture, and the Okanagan’s desert-like conditions result in slow-ripening, smaller fruit with concentrated flavors. There’s still a variety of landscapes, growing both red and white varietals, from its signature Merlot, to Cab Sauv, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, as well as Chardonnay.

Michigan

Michigan is the 5th largest wine-producing state in the US, producing nearly 3 million gallons of wine a year. The unique, Great-Lakes microclimate that makes Michigan a famous cherry producer also nurtures acclaimed wines.  Most of the state's wine grapes are grown within 25 scenic miles of Lake Michigan, benefitting from 'lake effect' moderation of both winter and summer climate.
There are over 100 wineries in Michigan, and 150 tasting rooms where visitors can sample and buy the wide range of Michigan wines from red, white, dry, sweet, even ice wine, sparkling wine, and wines made from its famous cherry crop. Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail in the north-west part of the state is considered one of the best in the country.

(Toronto in the distance on the shores of Lake Ontario. Photo: Wine Country Ontario)

Ontario, Canada

Many people outside Canada think it’s too cold, and don’t think to add the country to their list of wine touring regions. If this is you, think again.
One Canadian wine sweeps global wine competitions by taking full advantage of those famous Canadian winters.
The granddaddy of Canadian wine regions is the Niagara Peninsula. Ontario is the country’s top wine province, with over 130 wineries and nearly 20,000 acres of vineyards that take advantage of the Great Lakes’ moderating effect on the weather to grow grapes, especially cool-climate Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, for wine.
Ice wine is Canada’s award-winning claim to fame in the international wine circle. More ice wine (originally white, but now, red, too) is produced in the Niagara Peninsula than anywhere else in the world.
The silky, sweet dessert and cheese wine has become virtually synonymous with the Niagara region, where consistently reliable cold winter temperatures allow vintners to harvest grapes after they have frozen on the vine. Freezing concentrates the juice, resulting in higher levels of sugar and an unmistakable wine. This may be the only place in the world whose annual wine harvest celebration, the Ice Wine Festival, takes place mid-winter!
As the name suggests, the wine region shares one of North America’s biggest tourist attractions, Niagara Falls, that straddles the US/Canadian border. And the Niagara Escarpment, a 650 mile-long limestone ridge that runs from upstate New York through the region, has a big influence on its wine.
Only an hour and a half’s drive from the big-city attractions of Toronto, the Niagara region also boasts a world-renowned theater scene, and the epically-charming historic town (and wine micro-region) of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  
 

#PlanNowTravelSoon


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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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What's a Travel Bubble? Plus 3 Tips For Making the Most of Yours
You might see this view sooner than you think.
The world of travel has begun to re-open. But it’s not like the tap has suddenly been turned full blast. More like a trickle. And there’s a clear pattern that’s going to shape your travel opportunities for at least the rest of this year, and possibly into 2021.

Bubble Travel

Human interaction has gone from shelter-in-place, work-from-home and no contact with anyone outside your household, to health authorities laying out phases for a return to normal. Phase 1 involves ‘bubbles’. Each household selects a small group of friends or family who are taking the same level of precautions as you, you trust to stay the course, and not mix with others who might not be on the same page. And you are ‘exclusive’ with just that small ‘bubble’.
Just like bubbles for individuals, travel is re-opening in regional and international ‘bubbles.’
Here’s an example: Right now, Canadians have been asked to stay in their own province. As a first step towards re-opening travel to all Canadians, the 4 neighboring maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have agreed to launch a travel bubble, with residents permitted to travel just within those four provinces.

(Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland)

New Travel Opportunities

Some people are describing bubble travel as restrictive.
It’s true that many international and regional borders remain officially closed. European countries, for example, have decided their ‘bubble’ includes residents of other European countries only – not even Great Britain, let alone the US or Canada – yet. 
Some borders are, if not officially, then effectively closed. Australian airline Quantas has announced it’s operating flights only within Australia or to next door New Zealand until 2021.
But I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, and I see travel bubbles as an opportunity to actually get travel started again and even create new travel experiences. Some travel companies are viewing it that way, too:

Bubble Cruising

  • Expedition cruise line Hurtigruten, a Norwegian company, become in June the first ocean cruise line to re-start cruising – BUT only in its own country, with coastal and fjord cruises only for guests from Norway and Denmark.
  • French-flagged luxury line Ponant is doing the same thing: with all its ships back in France, it's launching new itineraries just along the coasts and waterways of France beginning in July, and German river cruise line A-rosa has also re-launched select European river cruises for its bubble guests.
  • Luckily for Americans, the US has its own flagged ships able to offer ‘bubble’ cruises, too. 
Not the big ships. Most of the big cruise lines sail ships flagged from other nations, not the US, so they can’t offer exclusively American itineraries. Only US-flagged ships are permitted to sail exclusively American itineraries. Furthermore, the CDC has issued a no-sail order for all US ports that applies to ships with more than 250 on board, an order that expires in July, but might be renewed. 
But that still leaves smaller, US-flagged ships able to sail American, 'bubble' itineraries. For these cruise lines, that's what they specialize in:
  • UnCruise Adventures is one of the very few cruise lines currently able to sail in Alaska (with Canadian ports closed for the season and the US/Canada border still closed). UnCruise is picking up its Alaska season beginning August 1st.
  • American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company, which operate US river cruises, both plan a return to cruising this summer.
  • In one remarkable example of lateral thinking and creating new opportunities, American Queen Steamboat Company and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (which operates European and exotic river cruises) have established a reciprocal alliance. AQSC offers special pricing to Uniworld guests unable to take their planned Uniworld cruise this year so they can sail in their American ‘bubble’. And Uniworld will reciprocate with a special offer for AQSC guests to cruise on their European, and exotic itineraries later. 

(Alaska, courtesy Abercrombie & Kent)

Bubble Land Touring

Land tour companies in particular have pivoted, expanding their North American itineraries to accommodate bubble travel with unprecedented speed and agility.
  • Abercrombie & Kent has launched new American itineraries, plus an innovative private driving tour series that speaks directly to the concerns of travel in the time of COVID. The company’s ‘Great American Road Trips’ series includes a private car, with a driver/ guide, customized start and end points depending on your location, local guides providing behind the scenes access and hands-on activities, and pre-selected hotels that meet the company’s high standards.
  • Last week, we learned about Globus and sister, budget tour company Cosmos’ new ‘Undiscovered North America’ tours that follow the ‘Undiscovered’ format of their European tours of the same name: focusing on ‘less-traveled highways, legendary lanes and scenic country roads to the special places and parks other tour companies don’t visit. These itineraries help travelers discover the world’s tucked-away towns, lesser-known nooks and secluded seafronts for an unforgettable – and unique – vacation close to home.’
  • And just this week, Trafalgar Tours have announced a brand new ‘Near Not Far Limited Series’ of tours ‘hand crafted by Canadians for Canadians, to further your appreciation for your own backyard, connect you to locals you wouldn’t typically meet, and support local communities by doing something that you love – traveling,’ with similar new series in other countries where it operates.

Tips for Bubble Travel

What does all this mean for your holiday plans in the immediate and mid-term future? Primarily, bubble travel offers you safe and inspiring ways to travel sooner than you thought might be possible.
Here's how you can take advantage of your own travel bubble:
Switch reservations
Talk with your travel advisor about the possibility of changing an existing travel booking outside your travel bubble to one inside, while sticking with the same travel provider. 
If you have a favorite escorted tour company, you may be able to switch your Europe reservation, for example, for a tour within your bubble area. Then you can book Europe again later when it's possible.
Explore options for your favorite travel style within your travel bubble area
With so many travel companies performing incredible feats to pivot and offer new travel options closer to home, your travel advisor may find never-before-offered, exciting new tours and cruises for you.
Along with some great offers and savings to make travel close to home even more worthwhile.
Expand your horizons
Or you could switch it up and try a new style of travel. Are you a devoted cruise lover? Maybe this is the year you re-discover the joys of heady mountain air and scenery. 
Do you look forward every summer to an extended family reunion with dozens of relatives all descending on a beach resort or cruise? Maybe this is the year you take just your family bubble on an intimate journey to discover history or natural wonders within your travel bubble area.
 
Bubble travel is not just an important next step towards returning to normal in a post-COVID world. 

It opens the doors to discover whole new ways to see, taste, learn about and experience the Nature, culture, history, and flavors in our own backyard - even before the kids go back to school this fall.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

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

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

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

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

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

Silversea Lifestyle Customized for The Galapagos

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

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

New Innovations on the Silver Origin


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


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

Sustainability

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

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

Start Your Trip!

 
Images and renderings courtesy Silversea
 
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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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There may be no dish that evokes cruising more than Baked Alaska.


A miracle dessert of warm, caramelized meringue on the outside, still magically full of layers of frozen ice cream on the inside. No one really knows why, but somewhere along the way, it became a classic of traditional cruise culture.


Even today, Baked Alaska is often served on celebration, formal or farewell evenings. The ultimate Baked Alaska experience includes 'parades': a procession of dining room staff each bearing a flaming Baked Alaska for each table of diners to top off an evening of formal dining. (Hilariously, these days, often to the unofficial Baked Alaska parade theme song of 'Hot, Hot, Hot'). 

Rarely seen anymore on land, a flaming Baked Alaska never fails to awe and delight a table of diners at sea.

The story goes that Baked Alaska was created in New York's famous Delmonico's restaurant in 1867 in celebration of the American acquisition of Alaska from Russia. Regardless of its origin, creating Baked Alaska back in the day was only for the fearless. The elements are not complicated - it's really just cake and ice cream and meringue, all within reach of even a moderately good chef.

But the trick is in the execution. Get the temperatures wrong and you had a plate of dripping, soggy mess. Baked Alaska was a feat of culinary ingenuity in the days of unreliable refrigeration.

The dessert, flaming and resembling a snow-topped Alaskan mountain, became almost a status symbol and a classic showstopper of a dessert.

Perhaps the reason we still see Baked Alaska on cruise ships is that they seem to be the last bastions of hospitality traditions and a sense of ceremony.

And where better than a cruise to Alaska to learn how to make this classic cruising dish?

Regent Seven Seas Mariner's pastry chef showed BestTrip.TV his tips and tricks to perfect Baked Alaska… and shared his recipe here for you.


Until we can sail again to Alaska – or anywhere – this Baked Alaska recipe can help re-create the fun ceremonies of cruise ship dining.


 
Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Recipe for Baked Alaska
10 Servings
Ingredients
  • 250           grams          French Meringue (see recipe below)
  • 150           grams           Raspberry Coulis (Sauce)
  • 100           grams          Vanilla Sauce
  • 160           grams          Vanilla Ice Cream (or a combination of your choice of ice creams)
  • 160           grams          Chocolate Ice Cream           
  • 160           grams          Strawberry Ice Cream
  • assorted berries
  • mint leafs
Syrup
Bring to a boil, cool down
  • 62.5        grams          water    
  • 31           grams          sugar
Add the kirsch liqueur, keep refrigerated          
  • 6.5           grams           kirsch liqueur
Sponge (or purchased sponge cake)
  • 78           grams          whole milk
  • 23.5        grams          butter
  • 23.5        grams          flour
  • 5          fresh egg yolks
  • 6             fresh egg whites
  • 15.5        grams          sugar
  • grated zest of 1/3 of a clean orange         
  • 6            mL          Grand Marnier liquor
French Meringue
  • 9             fresh egg whites
  • 170         grams           sugar
  • 1.25        grams          vanilla extract
Method:
French Meringue:
  1. Start whisking the egg whites by incorporating one quarter of the sugar little by little.
  2. Once the egg whites have doubled in volume, add another quarter of the sugar and the vanilla.
  3. Keep whisking until firm and shiny, then add the remaining sugar and whisk for another minute.
Sponge:
  1. Combine milk and butter and bring to a boil.
  2. Pour the flour into the milk, keep on stirring over the heat until it starts to become a paste.
  3. Put mixture into mixing bowl, at low speed add the egg yolks, grated orange skin and Grand Marnier.
  4. Keep beating on fast speed for 10 seconds.
  5. Meanwhile whip the egg whites to a meringue with sugar.
  6. Mix a little meringue into the batter until obtaining a homogenized paste; then gently fold the meringue into the batter.
  7. Line sheet pans with pan liners, spread the mix onto it and make a fine layer of ½ cm in height.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C for 10 minutes and until the sponge is baked properly, cool down to room temperature, then before using in Baked Alaska, sprinkle the syrup over the sponge cake.
Assembly:
  1. For each serving, use a 6 cm ramekin, lined with plastic wrap.
  2. Cut a round disk of the sponge to fit the inner part of the bottom. Fill with chocolate first, then vanilla then strawberry ice cream.
  3. Cut a round disk out of the sponge fitting the inner part of the top, press gently down and freeze immediately
  4. Meanwhile prepare the meringue.
  5. Place your serving plate over top of the frozen ramekin, turn over and remove plastic wrap. Spread the meringue all over, using piping technique or a spatula. Mimic a mountain landscape.
  6. Turn on your blowtorch and brown the edges of the meringue. Decorate the plate with raspberry coulis and vanilla sauce, berries and a spring of mint.
  7. Serve instantly.

#DreamNowTravelLater


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

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

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

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

 

Niagara Falls – Ontario, Canada and New York, USA

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

Montmorency Falls – Quebec City, Quebec

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


#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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