InStyle Vacations's Blog

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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Travel Companies Offering Free Vacations to Frontline Workers - and How You Can Get Involved
We’ve already reported some of the hotels and hotel chains offering complimentary hotel stays to essential workers in their own towns. The hospitality of these hotels gives frontline workers a comfortable place to stay between gruelling shifts, while keeping their families safely isolated at home during the COVID pandemic.
Now some travel companies have taken generosity and recognition a step further.
In gratitude, and awareness of the toll that work on the frontlines of the fight against the global pandemic is taking on these devoted professionals, hotel, resort, river cruise and airlines have begun offering essential workers free or discounted vacations once conditions permit travel again.
Here are some of our favorite travel companies enabling frontline workers to take holidays to recharge and reconnect with loved ones.
If you’re reading this, you likely believe in the power of travel, too, and these initiatives include ways for you to help frontline workers in your community benefit from a vacation when we are able to travel again.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts

Nominate a frontline worker for a free, all-inclusive beach getaway

Karisma Hotels & Resorts is running a ‘Holidays for Your Heroes’ initiative, providing 150 luxury, all-inclusive resort stays for essential workers and their families.
The recipients of the 150 vacations will be selected from nominations. Anyone can nominate an essential worker with a simple explanation of what makes them so deserving. Workers can also nominate themselves.
Nominations are accepted at www.karismahotels.com/holidays-for-your-heroes#nominate until June 30, 2020.
The lucky 150 nominees will be chosen in July, and will receive a complimentary 5-day stay for up to 5 family members (2 adults and 3 children).
Once travel restrictions are lifted, the recipients will receive a stay at one of Karisma’s beach properties from across its portfolio of brands for either a romantic stay or a family getaway. Options include El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort by Karisma; Azul Beach Resort Negril, by Karisma in Jamaica; the family-friendly Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; and the newly opened Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Cancun.

(Karisma's El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico)
Stays include gourmet food and beverages, 24-hour room service and a full-service concierge in addition to a wide variety of watersports, live entertainment, spas, fitness centers, yoga, dance, cooking and mixology classes, language lessons, and supervised programs for kids and teens.
You can do more than nominate a deserving essential worker. If you’re feeling generous and want to participate more, the program also allows anyone to sponsor a vacation for a frontline worker. Karisma will allocate 100% of donated funds to providing a gift of a vacation - at cost - to a frontline worker and family.

AmaWaterways

Frontline workers sail free on a river cruise

The river cruise line has unveiled its program supporting medical, first responder and essential workers who are eligible to register for a complimentary Future Cruise Certificate. 
Once river cruise travel resumes, the certificate can be used with one paying guest in the same stateroom for any of the line’s Europe or Asia sailings through the end of 2021, for reservations made within 90 days of the sailing date.

 
In tandem with the complimentary cruise-only offer, AmaWaterways is also extending a book now option to those eager to reconnect with family and friends and reserve their 2021 journey to any AmaWaterways destination: sailing Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Main, Rhône, Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, Dutch and Belgian Waterways and Douro Rivers, Southeast Asia’s Mekong, Africa’s Chobe River and Egypt’s Nile River (beginning in 2021, pictured). The book now option offers hundreds of dollars in savings plus complimentary pre-paid tips.
AmaWaterways also acknowledges the role travel agents play in their communities, and recognizes that they will know personally friends, family and clients who are frontline workers. It allows travel agents to apply for Future Cruise Certificates on behalf of frontline worker clients by visiting AmaWaterways.com/Hero.
 

Hyatt Hotels and American Airlines

Friends & Family Rates and free vacations for healthcare workers

Hyatt Hotels Corporation has teamed up with American Airlines to show their appreciation for the work of thousands of healthcare professionals in the heart of the pandemic storm. Together, they’re providing all 4000 staff members of one of the hardest-hit hospitals in New York City with roundtrip American Airlines flights to Hyatt hotels for 3-night, complimentary vacations in the US and Caribbean. 
It marks the largest total flights ever provided to an organization by American Airlines, and the two companies hope to be able to extend the program further.
In addition, in response to messages from loyalty club members interested in helping, Hyatt is permitting you to donate your points to support the initiative, saying, “Your World of Hyatt points contribution will help support our commitment of providing complimentary vacations for select healthcare workers and a guest—giving them something to look forward to.”

(Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Bahamas, above and top)
And it’s welcoming healthcare workers around the world into the Hyatt family by extending the hotels’ Friends & Family rate to them through June 30, 2021. Qualified healthcare workers can access the special rate using the Special Offer Code THANKYOU and validating their professional status.

#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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As we all look at our calendars trying to plan when we’ll travel again, one cruise line is sure its small ship cruises will strike a chord with travelers eager to explore again next year. 
Emerald Cruises has confirmed its two new builds, scheduled to debut in 2021, are both on track for delivery and launch of their European itineraries. 
Affordable, All-Inclusive Superyachting in the Mediterranean
We shared with you a few months ago the exciting announcement of Emerald’s first oceangoing superyacht, the Emerald Azzurra, designed specifically for guests to experience the Mediterranean yachting lifestyle. 
WATCH VIDEO ABOVE: What the Emerald Azzurra will be like when she launches next year
Designed for off-the-beaten path cruising to the small, intimate ports of the Mediterranean Sea, the 360-foot, 100-guest Azzurra is being built in a shipyard in Ha Long City, Vietnam. Emerald Cruises reports she is on track to set sail in August 2021. 
With many of the features of luxury small ships, including fares all-inclusive of tips, wine and spirits with meals, transfers, almost all balconies, an infinity pool, a marina at the back of the ship so it can anchor in a secluded bay for the guests to enjoy kayaks, paddle boards and other water-based exploration right off the ship, and chefs re-provisioning in local ports to bring truly authentic flavors on board, what makes the Azzurra a gamechanger is that the ship is positioned to be an affordable way to experience yachting lifestyle in the Med.
Her 47 itineraries throughout 2021 and 2022 explore destinations including the Mediterranean – Greece, Croatia, Italy, France, Cyprus, Turkey, Malta and Spain – and the Red Sea – Israel, Jordan and Egypt. 
Another ‘Star-Ship’ on the Waterways of Europe
Emerald Luna is set to become the 9th ship in Emerald Waterways’ fleet of river cruise ships. 
On schedule to set sail in the spring of 2021, the Luna will join Emerald Sky, Star, Sun, Dawn and Destiny cruising the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. Emerald Liberté on the Rhône River, Emerald Radiance on the Douro River and Emerald Harmony on the Mekong river round out the Emerald fleet.
Emerald Luna promises its 180 guests all of Emerald Waterways’ innovative and modern ‘Star-Ship’ features, including the fleet’s signature indoor heated pool that seamlessly transforms into an evening cinema, the panoramic Sun Deck, three-tiered atrium, and sleek and contemporary staterooms and suites with ingenious all-weather balcony systems.
Like the new category Emerald Azzurra superyacht, the Emerald Luna follows the inclusive, affordable philosophy of the line, with all dining, wine and spirits with meals, tips, and a choice of daily excursions that include active and immersive experiences that open up the heart of Europe to guests. 
Renderings courtesy Emerald Cruises.
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Viking Sets Sail on the Mississippi
From rivers, to oceans and lakes… and now to America’s heartland. Viking Cruises has announced it will cruise the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans beginning in 2022.

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

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


Popular Viking features previous Viking cruise guests know and love include:
  • Sun Terrace with Infinity plunge pool with a glass back on aft sun terrace;
  • Explorers’ Lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows opening to The Bow forward outdoor lounge with the best views of the river;
  • River Café, a casual, al fresco alternative dining venue serving casual food from American classics to Norwegian specialties;
  • Aquavit Terrace on the top deck for casual dining and American barbecue; Combined with the River Café, the Aquavit Terrace will provide the most al fresco dining on the Mississippi;
  • The Restaurant main dining venue on Deck 1 serving daily-changing menus featuring delicious regional cuisine and classics prepared with fresh, local ingredients;
  • Full 360-Degree Promenade on Deck 1;
  • Enrichment on board and on shore, including Destination Performances that represent the most iconic music of the region—as well as Guest Lecturers that shed light on the region’s art, architecture, history, culture, natural world and more, Privileged Access, Local Life and Working World experiences like a kayaking trip in the Louisiana bayou; visit a working farm in Quad Cities; or immersion in Cajun culture during a Privileged Access excursion to the Rural Life Museum of Louisiana State University.
  • Sustainability features like solar panels, LED lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows that maximize natural light and an energy-efficient hybrid propulsion system that will make Viking Mississippi the most environmentally friendly passenger ship on the Mississippi River.
 
The Viking Mississippi’s launch not only brings a new age of modern river cruising to the U.S., close to home for many fans of Viking cruising in Europe and around the world. It also represents major support for the local tourism economy in communities along its routes. Currently scheduled ports of call include seven states: Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St. Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse); and Minnesota (Red Wing, St. Paul).
 
 
2022-2023 Viking Mississippi Inaugural Voyages
  • America’s Heartland (8 days; St. Louis to St. Paul)—From pristine farms nestled in rolling terrain to steep bluff rising from tributaries dotted with wooded islands, the Upper Mississippi offers a rich tapestry of beauty upon every turn of the river. This journey introduces you to the unforgettable experience of the locks and dams that control the flow of the heartland rivers. Hear stories of settlers migrating west; learn about Lewis & Clark, Mark Twain, John Deere and the Amish and Norwegian migrations; experience the regional music like polka and Norwegian folk; and taste regional cuisine showcasing local beer, produce and Wisconsin cheese.
  • Heart of the Delta (8 days; New Orleans to Memphis)—This journey on the Lower Mississippi is infused with American history, culture and heritage. Tour the area where the migrating French and Acadians settled; immerse yourself in the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement; discover the music of the South—jazz, blues and gospel; and experience the life and food culture of the south, from Cajun and Creole to the famed “dry” Memphis BBQ.
  • Southern Celebration (8 days; New Orleans–Vicksburg–New Orleans)—On this exploration of the Lower Mississippi, visit the historic homes of Louisiana and Mississippi; learn about Civil War history, touring sites like Vicksburg National Military Park; and discover the excitement and unique flavors of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
  • America’s Great River (15 days; New Orleans to St. Paul)—Experience nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River on this incredible journey from the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost reaches of the U.S. Relax and enjoy the variety of scenery, foliage and wildlife on this leisurely voyage. Enjoy southern charm and beautifully preserved homes in Natchez; retrace the steps of Civil Rights leaders in Memphis; ascend the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; and visit “The Norwegian Valley” in La Crosse.
 
The Viking Mississippi will join Viking’s current fleet of 79 river and ocean vessels, as well as the recently-announced new Viking Expeditions to Antarctica and the North American Great Lakes. Viking has introduced more than 60 new river cruise ships and 6 ocean ships in the last 8 years, making it the largest small-ship cruise line.
 
 
Images of Renderings: Viking
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It’s been going on for 400 years. Every year ending in 0: 1990, 2000, 2010… and this German cultural tradition was supposed to happen again in 2020. read more
And Now For Some Good News In Travel We hope you are well and keeping yourself, your family and your community safe by staying at home. Now, more than ever, we all really need some good news. read more
A visit to the Juno Beach Centre is life-changing. Walking in the footsteps of young, Canadian soldiers who landed on this stretch of beach in Normandy, France on DDay is emotional, eye-opening, and never-to-be-forgotten.

Some Canadians do more than visit. They work here. Permanent staff and young Canadians greet and guide visitors at the Centre, through the restored bunkers, and on Juno Beach itself, and work on programs that tell the story at the Juno Beach Centre of DDay from a Canadian point of view.

Many of the young guides are about the same age as the 19- and 20-year old soldiers who landed on Juno Beach in 1944 - and that's by design. It helps keep in perspective how young most of those Canadian soldiers were.

Here are some thoughts and insights of Juno Beach Centre team members about their daily presence in such an important and evocative place for Canadians.

Start your Trip!

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

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

1. Arrive at least one day early


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Launching pad


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

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

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

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

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

Or a wildlife safari after your South Africa itinerary.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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

Everyone needs something to look forward to.

Welcome, Wave Season


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

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

Navigating Wave


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

Discounts:


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

Bonus Value:


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

Included:

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

Maximizing ‘Wave’


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

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

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

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

The bottom line


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

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

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

Start your Trip!

 
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Everyone experiences travel differently, and this may be most true of historic sites. Standing on the spot where history was made is a profound experience that transcends any amount of studying, reading, watching documentaries or films. When you are actually there, the sights, sounds, perspective and your historic imagination all combine for a more meaningful understanding of moments that changed our world.

The Juno Beach Centre provides visitors today with the opportunity to visualize first-hand the WW2 DDay Landings in June, 1944, from a Canadian point of view. No matter what you thought you knew or understood coming to the Juno Beach Centre, its interactive displays, stories, interpretive tours of the restored bunkers and beaches themselves speak to each visitor differently.

It's a pilgrimage all Canadians should undertake.

BestTrip asked staff and visitors which aspect of visiting the Juno Beach Centre impacts them the most. You'll have your own favorite experience after you visit Juno Beach, too.

Start your Trip!




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

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

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

The Route:

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

 
(Image: Getty/Pietro Faccioli)

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

The Highlights:

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

The Wine:

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

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If you're like me, Spring can never come too soon. And nothing says Spring like new flower blossoms.

This year, treat yourself to an abundance of Spring in one of these famous floral travel destinations.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip TV
 

Tulips in the Netherlands

Where: Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding tulip fields
When: April

It's the world's largest spring flower garden. The Keukenhof Gardens are a showcase for the Netherlands' biggest agricultural export: flowers and bulbs. The tulip is the ultimate symbol of a Dutch spring, and there are an astounding 7 million bulbs – tulips and other spring flowers - bursting into bloom on the 80 acres of castle grounds at Keukenhof. Open just a few weeks every spring, Keukenhof is a gardener's dream: themed garden plots and pavilions, an windmill you can climb for a viewpoint over acres of surrounding tulip fields in bloom, boat rides in canals lined with never-ending blossoms.

You can also order bulbs of the blooms you can see at Keukenhof; they'll be shipped to you ready for planting in the fall.

WATCH VIDEO, TOP: THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPRING FLOWER GARDEN ON AN AVALON RIVER CRUISE
 
Also Find Tulips at:

The Ottawa Tulip Festival, Canada


There's a Dutch connection to this flower festival in Canada's National Capital. During the Second World War, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada's capital, and a royal baby was even born on Canadian soil, as overseas, Canadian soldiers led the liberation of the Netherlands. In thanks, after the war, the Dutch sent tulips. 100,000 tulips, and tens of thousands more each year since. The mid-May Ottawa Tulip Festival is not only a symbol of Spring, it's a symbol of peace and cooperation between nations.
 

Chelsea Flower Show

Where: London, England
When: 5 Days Late May

(getty/ BethAmber)

This might be the most famous flower and landscaped garden show in the world. Members of the British Royal Family join garden lovers from around the world at the 11-acre site of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual love-in of traditional, trend-setting and even avante-garde flowers and gardening. You'll see glorious displays of beautiful and also rare spring flowers, floral exhibits and cutting edge design as well as traditional English gardening that is loved and imitated the world over. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is the perfect place to buy English gardening tools and gifts for yourself or your friends at home.
 

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Where: Japan
When: Peak season on Japan's main island is early-mid April

(Getty/ Torsakarin)

The Japanese don't just have a word for cherry blossoms: 'sakura'. The also have a word 'hanami' that means to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back a thousand years or more, originating with the Imperial Family and continuing today for all Japanese. It's one of the most festive times of the year, when Japanese gather with friends, family and colleagues under cherry blossom trees filling parks, surrounding historic castles, temples and shrines, and lining riverbanks, drinking sake and picnicking under the trees long into the twinkling evening hours.

It's not just the stunning beauty of clouds of white and pale pink blossoms hovering overhead; the Japanese also view short-lived cherry blossoms as a poetic symbol of the fleeting nature of life itself.

Also Find Cherry Blossoms in:

Vancouver, British Columbia
An estimated 50,000 blossoming cherry trees line streets and grace parks from February all the way through April, including the city's famous urban Stanley Park.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year for most of the month of April.

Washington DC

(Getty/ zrfphoto)

America's capital has a glorious annual reminder of the thousands of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the US in the early 1900's as a sign of friendship. Famously lining the shore of the Tidal Basin, DC's cherry blossoms are celebrated annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April. 
 

Texas Bluebonnets

Where: Throughout the state, especially the City of Ennis and its 'Texas Bluebonnet Trail'
When: April

(Getty / leekris)

This wildflower is the state flower of Texas and believed to be named from its resemblance to a pioneer sunbonnet. Bluebonnets are actually several varieties of lupins. They thrive in lesser soil and so line roadways as well as fill public lands and pastures. 

The city of Ennis, south-east of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the official home of the bluebonnet, with over 40 miles of flower-bedecked roadsides, as well as an annual Festival. The Texas highway department not only delays roadside trimming so people can enjoy the spring bloom, its early officials were instrumental in encouraging these wildflowers to thrive. Today, they still plant about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year, contributing to the preservation of Texas' native vegetation.
 
Also Find Lupins:

In Canada's maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 (Getty / bilbowden)

The lupins you'll find growing wild in Canada's eastern provinces are a larger variety than Texas bluebonnets, and although they're more purple-y blue as well as pink and white, they're an equally cheerful sign of spring. Well, actually early summer. The cooler climate means peak lupin season here is late June – early July.
 
 

Azaleas in America's South-East

Where: Gardens throughout the region and especially: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
When: Throughout April

(Getty/MargaretW)
 
Azalea shrubs originated in Asia and were successfully taken to many places in the world. But in America's south-east, they've gained a special place as an iconic garden favorite and symbol of gracious Southern living. Unlike other spring blooms, they're quite long lasting, spreading joy for weeks of the season.

Many public and private gardens have a spectacular spring showing of azaleas, but special mention goes to Charleston's Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The former rice plantation dates from the 1600's, and is the oldest public gardens in the U.S, opening its doors in 1870 to visitors who wanted to enjoy its thousands of cultivated flowers and plants. The less-formal, 'Romantic' style garden is not only on the list of one of 'America's Most Beautiful Gardens'. Magnolia was also the first garden in the country to plant azaleas outdoors, in the 1840's.
 
Today, hundreds of thousands of azaleas bloom in flame pinks, oranges and reds, lining paths and lakes in a breathtaking spring bloom.

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

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

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5 Tips to Make a Cruise the Perfect Family Vacation

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

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

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

1. Location, location, location.

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

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

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

2. Find the perfect cruise ship match.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Little-Known Facts about Africa's 'Big Five' Animals

'Safari'. It's a Swahili word simply meaning 'journey'. But for travel lovers, the word 'safari' ignites our imaginations of exploring vast Sub-Saharan landscapes and encountering majestic creatures in their natural environment .

Africa's 'Big Five' list dates from a time when human/animal encounters ended badly for the animal. The Big Five were the hardest to hunt on foot and therefore the most valued trophies.

Today, the Big Five remain essential African animal encounters on safari to capture through your camera lens. 

Here are some things you didn't know about Africa's Big Five:

Lions:

Possibly the most iconic of African large animals, this big cat is unmistakable. Lion sightings are even more impressive as lions are very social and live in groups called 'prides' so you may well see more than one at once. Although they are 'apex' predators – the top of the food chain! – they don't spend a lot of time hunting. Lions can sleep up to 20 hours a day! But when they are awake you'll know about it.  A lion's roar can be heard up to 5 miles away! This helps communicate with the rest of the pride; calling for stray members back, declaring territory, and for females, communicating with cubs and calling for help when threatened.

Leopards: 

This famously spotted creature is the least seen of the Big Five as it's the most nocturnal. Unlike lions, leopards are not social and spend most of their lives alone. They are like the superhero of the big cats: they are sleekly graceful and almost perfectly camouflaged in the dappled shade of trees; they have excellent night vision and are incredibly powerful, able not only to regularly climb trees, but to drag prey 3 times their own weight 20 feet high into trees to protect their dinner… and they are even strong swimmers who sometimes fish! Even feline superheroes need a break, though. Leopards are known to take naps in the treetops.

 

African Elephants:

These vegetarians are the largest land animals… whose closest relatives are rodents! Elephants have shock-absorbing pads on their feet that allow them to walk much more quietly than you'd believe of such enormous creatures. They also have rather delicate skin than can sunburn and get irritated by even an insect! That's why you see elephants using their trunks to throw sand over themselves to protect against the sun and bugs. They are also avid swimmers and can swim long distances using their trunks as built-in snorkels. Those trunks also come in handy for drinking and grabbing food – even something as small as a single grain of rice. Elephants can communicate with each other across great distances by making sounds in frequencies lower than humans can hear. And these social creatures mourn dead members of their herd with rituals that can last days. 

Cape Buffalo:

Africa's Cape Buffalo has never been domesticated even though it's the only type of wild cattle in Africa. It's probably due to the danger factor. These unpredictable and aggressive animals are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other, and still kill over 200 people every year, earning them nicknames like 'Black Death' and 'Widow Maker'. Cape Buffalos use attack as their first line of defense, circling back at anything hunting them. That's a lot of rock-hard muscle and horn and surprisingly, brains coming at you. They have excellent memories, even ambushing creatures who have previously attacked them. Lions are their number one natural predator. But it will still take several lions to take down a Cape buffalo, risking the fury of the rest of the herd, which will ferociously defend and rescue fellow buffalo and kill lions who have attacked one of their own.

Rhinoceros:

The rhino is the most endangered species on the Big Five list. Poachers go to shocking lengths to kill protected rhinos, just for the horns that are said in Asian cultures to hold medicinal properties. Rhino horns are actually similar in composition to human fingernails or horses' hooves. Rhinos look fierce, almost armored, and like an immovable wall. In fact, they run much faster than you'd think – and they run on their toes! Rhinos have three hoofed toes on each foot, and they graze on leaves and twigs, just like their relatives: horses and zebras. Rhinos don't have any front teeth and use their lips to pick up their food. Much more dainty than they look.


Africa's Big Five are so much more than poster children for safari tours or wildlife conservation. They, and other unique African creatures like giraffes, cheetahs, gorillas and chimpanzees, zebras, hippopotami, birds and marine creatures, are complex, fascinating animals with beauty and characteristics incredibly evolved to this unique environment. 

Many reputable safaris and river or ocean cruise + land safaris in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia know the best places and times of the year for different wildlife experiences; some even guarantee you'll see the Big Five plus some of your other favorite African animals.

Encountering any of these creatures in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience that transforms any traveler forever.

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America's Tallest Monument Park Transformed in Time for One of Nation's Biggest 4th July Parties

The view 630 feet above St. Louis from the top of its defining monument has changed after an immense, multi-year, $380-million renovation to the city's Gateway Arch National Park .

The 1965 Gateway Arch became a global architectural icon and helped cement Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen's position as one of the masters of American mid-century design. The striking, modernist monument to the westward expansion of the United States is the world's tallest stainless steel arch, the tallest man-made monument in the United States, and even the Western Hemisphere. 

The arch itself is unchanged. Its boldly simple, award-winning design, 630 feet high and 630 feet wide remains 'a symbolic bridge between (America's) East and West, past and future, engineering and art'.

Its legs are still firmly planted on the western bank of the Mississippi on the site where the city of St. Louis was founded in the 1700's. But the experience of visiting this emblematic transition to America's West has been transformed.

The re-imagined surrounding urban National Park reconnects the riverfront and Gateway Arch to St. Louis, and visitors to the momentous events the arch symbolizes. 

Busy Highway I-44 used to separate the arch and the mighty Mississippi from the city (left, below). Parkland now bridges over the highway, leading visitors uninterrupted from downtown, to St. Louis' Old Courthouse and the new Arch visitor center and museum, and the arch on the river, all the way to the riverfront (right, below).

Don't Miss:

The Old Courthouse was the site of the infamous trials where slave Dred Scott and his wife unsuccessfully sued for their freedom. The ruling against them declared they were not citizens with the right to sue and contributed to the tensions leading up to the American Civil War.

The New Museum at the Gateway Arch completely replaces the original museum from the 1970's.  

Six new themed galleries features interactive and engaging exhibits including Colonial St. Louis prior to the Louisiana Purchase when it transferred to the United States, St. Louis' position as busy Mississippi river trade port, President Thomas Jefferson's vision of westward expansion, Lewis and Clark's renowned expedition, how Manifest Destiny affected native people, Mexicans and pioneers, and how the astonishing Gateway Arch monument to westward expansion was designed and built.

The View from the Top. The pair of trams in each leg of the Gateway Arch still takes visitors to a sloped observation deck at the top of the arch. From it, you can gaze over the river towards the East and Illinois, or West, over the park, the Old Courthouse, and the city of St. Louis.  If you don't take the tram ride, the new Keystone Exhibit allows visitors to experience the view via live webcam feeds from the observation deck.

The revitalized, over-the-highway park extends to the riverfront, with a plaza, miles of bike and walking paths and space for community events.

The re-opening of the park after years of closure for the renovations coincides with the return of one of America's biggest Fourth of July celebrations. Fair Saint Louis returns to the waterfront and Gateway Arch urban National Park with a series of events that celebrate America's birthday and the new experiences at this breathtaking national monument.


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Crystal River Cruises Changing the European River Cruise Landscape with Another River 'Yacht'

Following in the symphonic footsteps of the other members of the Crystal River Cruise fleet, the new Crystal Debussy evokes traditional European culture in a tribute to the great musical composer. The river cruise experience by Crystal, on the other hand, is a whole new approach .

The Crystal Debussy is the 5th Crystal river 'yacht', joining Crystal Mozart, Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler, and Crystal Ravel. They've been arriving on the European river cruise scene at a dizzying pace, as devotees of Crystal's particular luxury travel style on Crystal's renowned ocean cruises eagerly take the opportunity to explore the heart of European culture and famous river-bank wine regions in ultra-luxury Crystal style.

Crystal's approach to luxury ocean cruising translates to its river cruise experience that will make regular Crystal guests feel right at home and will take the breath away from travelers who may have tried a different river cruise experience. Crystal is making the distinction between river cruising and the Crystal experience by calling its fleet: River Yachts.

Guests on the Crystal Debussy will find one- and two-bedroom suites with Crystal's signature Panoramic Balcony-Window in an all-suite ship, exceptional public spaces including multiple dining options, top-deck outdoor lounge space… all with 6-star design-hotel style and Crystal's service of anticipation with European butler service and more staff than any other European river cruise. Michelin-inspired farm-to-table dining with complimentary fine wines, spirits, gratuities and unlimited wi-fi… it takes Crystal's 'private yacht'-feel on its ocean cruises to the rivers of Europe and transforms the concept of luxury in river cruising.

On shore, guests will be able to choose fleet-wide from over 200 curated, often exclusive destination experiences and activities. They range from cultural, natural, culinary/gastronomic, 'personal connections' to local lifestyles, and active 'exhilarating adventures'. Most are complimentary, and an included Signature Event each cruise brings guests rare access to famous European venues and live performances by world-class musicians in a nod to the fleet's musical nomenclature. Guests have access to 'Our Design, Your Time' concierge service to create truly customized shore experiences too.  

For experienced European river cruise and luxury travelers, this is another level and a new approach to river cruising.

The Crystal Debussy sails Rhine river itineraries between the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. The Rhine is famous for a magical stretch of dozens of castles perched on banks, islands and craggy cliffs along the Rhine, the fabled rock of Lorelei, and of course, the Moselle wine region.

This latest Crystal river cruise ship joins the Crystal Bach already sailing Rhine itineraries.

Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel sail Rhine, Main, and Danube sailings – grand voyages between Amsterdam and Budapest through the heart of Europe, connecting capital cities, scenic countryside, and charming villages in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. 

Another sister ship, the Crystal Mozart, plies the majestic Danube through Central Europe, including the UNESCO World Heritage region of the Wachau valley with its picturesque architecture and signature wine, the Bavarian countryside, and the famous culture capitals Vienna and Budapest.

The growing fleet of Crystal river cruise ships is changing the landscape of European river cruising and provides travelers who appreciate the finest luxury experience in their European land travels the means to explore even quaint corners of European countryside via the great rivers of Europe in the same quality of experience they expect in landmark luxury hotels on land.


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They call it 'The Garden of Europe', and it's open for only 8 short weeks every spring. The spectacular Keukenhof garden in the Netherlands is said to be the largest spring flower garden in the world – and it's the highlight of our Avalon Tulip Time river cruise.

BestTrip.TV filmed this once-a-year explosion of color of blooming tulips, surrounded by some of the famous Dutch tulip fields.  We were there and even we thought it was too incredible to be real!

Garden Travel expert Tara Nolan of SavvyGardening.com shares her insights into what makes the Keukenhof a can't-miss celebration of spring, best experienced from our Avalon Tulip Time river cruise.

And if you think the Keukenhof garden experience on a Tulip-Time cruise is just for girlfriend getaways, think again.  The gardens are a living, technicolor business card for the Netherlands' floriculture industry - the biggest in the world.  So think of it instead as one of the most stunning 'factory tours' you could ever hope to take. And bring along the guys, not just the girls.  They will be just as awed as we were!

Thinking of taking a Tulip Time cruise? Here are 8 amazing facts about flowers in Holland, home of the world's largest floriculture industry:

  • Nearly half of the world's floriculture products come from the Netherlands.
  • 77% of all flower bulbs exported around the world are Dutch, and the majority are tulips.
  • Tulips are the national flower of the Netherlands, but they originally came from Turkey; then were bred and cultivated by the Dutch into the spectacular showy flower we know today.
  • The appealing stripes on some of the most sought-after varieties of tulips are the result of a virus!
  • The total land used for the production of flower bulbs in the Netherlands is over 2.5 million acres!  The Bollenstreek (Bulb Region) is more or less between Amsterdam and Rotterdam.  The Keukenhof garden is in this area, surrounded by tulip and other flower fields.
  • You can rent a bicycle during your visit to Keukenhof to explore the fields surrounding it, and if you have time, you can even follow all or part of the 37 km-long, sign-posted 'Leidse Bollenroute'. (You'll love cycling in Holland; all the land is flat!)
  • Holland also exports fresh-cut plants and flowers: 2/3 of the world's total.
  • Amsterdam is home to the world's only floating flower market; over a dozen shops operate year-round from one of the city's famous canals.
Like we did, you can experience the Keukenhoff garden, take in some of the surrounding flower fields, and visit Amsterdam's Floating Flower Market all during an Avalon Tulip Time River cruise that delivers you to the front of the line at the Keukenhof, and overnights in Amsterdam so you can go to the flower market.
Start your Trip!

 

 

Juno Beach: The Ultimate Canadian Pilgrimage
The past and next few years mark a number of World War 1 and World War 2 anniversaries. Commemorations take place here at home, and we hope everyone takes a moment to pause and reflect or attend a memorial service. Our thoughts also turn to the lands fought for and freed by Canadians, and how families, school and other groups, and independent travelers can make trips to the actual sites where our ancestors fought so bravely.
Jenna Zuschlag Misener is a past Executive Director of the non-governmental, non-profit Juno Beach Centre Association in Normandy, France, the Canadian WW2 Landing Beach.  We invited her to share her thoughts about what she calls 'The Ultimate Canadian Pilgrimage'.In 2019, Canada commemorates the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy Landings. As the number of living veterans diminishes, it is more and more important for travelers to take up pilgrimage trips to France to experience the Canadian sector firsthand, walk in the footsteps of history, and keep memories alive.
The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War. 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day.
The Centre stands on the very beach of the Canadian landing, surrounded by abandoned wartime weapons and defenses, and for many visitors, a trip to the Juno Beach Centre brings home the reality of textbook tales of the war.
We hope Canadians will be inspired to include remembrance in their travels to France. Whether you have a week or just a day, there are many ways to explore the Canadian sector of Juno Beach, either on a self-guided tour or as a short trip from Paris, London, or beyond.
Planning your PilgrimageThe Centre is located in the coastal town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, a short drive from the city of Caen or Bayeux and just two hours by train from Paris.
There are a number of high-quality tour companies that also offer day trips to the Canadian sector, including stops at the Juno Beach Centre and other important sites around the region. Some companies offer tours from Paris, or they can pick you up once you have arrived in the region. In many cases, these tours can be customized based on your time frame and even your own family history.
You can also book an excursion from a Seine river cruise. More and more cruise companies stop in port cities like Cherbourg and Le Havre and offer excursions to the sector and the Juno Beach Centre for their Canadian passengers. No mention of the Canadian sector in your Landing Beach shore excursion itinerary? Ask your travel advisor and the cruise line in advance to make sure the Canadian landing beach is included in your journey.
Normandy is a very bicycle-friendly region. The Centre has published the 'Maple Leaf Route Cycling Tour' that allows you to follow in the footsteps of Canadians from Juno Beach all the way to the Canadian WW1 Memorial at Vimy Ridge.
We've also published a new brochure with information about visiting Juno Beach and the Canadian sector in 2017 if you are planning on traveling to France during the Centennial of Vimy Ridge.
(The Canadian WW1 Memorial at Vimy Ridge; Juno Beach Centre)
We hope this information is helpful to you! We're always thrilled to welcome Canadians to the Juno Beach Centre, and the Centre staff in Canada and France is pleased to help travelers make the most of their time in Normandy and take advantage of the historical and cultural richness offered in this region of France.
The Juno Beach Centre web site has helpful travel tips and contact information.
We look forward to hearing from anyone interested in the Juno Beach Centre, and to welcoming Canadians to the Centre in the near future. As we like to say, 'See you on the beach!'

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Local markets are one of the greatest delights of trips to the South of France.  The glorious town of Avignon (perhaps best known for the song about its famous bridge) also has a renowned market.  In addition to exquisite regional foods and food products, the charming locals are out in full force.  Particularly the character behind the chicken counter, who's known for breaking out into the French national anthem while plucking a chicken! 

Whether you visit Avignon by land or on a Rhone river cruise, don't miss the market.  And when you go, say 'bonjour' to the poultry vendor like BestTripTV did on our trip to Avignon... and see if he'll sing you the Marseillaise too!

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A night time market in the grounds of a castle. Fires and torches and twinkling lights, the smell of evergreen boughs, the best German Christmas culinary treats and artisans selling authentic German arts and crafts, Christmas decorations and cozy winter woolens.

Whether you're the person who always knows exactly how many days it is until Christmas, or the 'Bah, Humbug' type... Even a die-hard Scrooge gets into the spirit of Christmas at a traditional Christmas market in Germany. And Regensburg's Romantic Christmas market might be the most magical of them all.

You can explore a number of Germany's best Christmas markets on itineraries of seasonal river cruises as BestTrip.TV did.

Not to mention the delightful Christmas markets in other countries along the Danube like Austria, as well as France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

So it's not just river cruises; escorted tours also offer special Christmas market itineraries. You can get your fill and fill your bags with iconic local Christmas tastes and treats, as well as other local all-season gems. A child will never forget the handmade wooden toy you picked up in Germany. Or the signature Christmas chocolates from the Netherlands. Grown-up loved ones will cherish the hand-made 'santon' ceramic figurines of everyday life in traditional Provence that the French use in their nativity scenes. Or the ever-popular local wine from, well, anywhere in Europe.

We know families who have made a trip to a famous Christmas market a family gift. All members of a family, from grandparents, parents, single aunts and uncles and every kid ever! find joyful memories together at a European Christmas market.

We love the idea of celebrating the season with travel, and Regensburg's Romantic Christmas Market - or any European Christmas market visit will warm anyone's heart.

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

It's China's 'Great Wall' for the 21st century. The 3 Gorges Dam spans the legendary Yangtze River for 2.3 km (1.4 miles) and is 185 m (over 600 feet) high. That makes it 5 times bigger than the Hoover Dam. Construction set a world record, using 16 million cubic m (21 million cubic yards) of concrete.You may know about some of the controversies surrounding the dam. It flooded a 600 km (400 mile) reservoir to 175 feet above sea level. As a result, a million people were displaced, and architectural, cultural, and archeological sites (including 4000 year old cliff side burials of early Ba peoples) as well as farms and forests have disappeared under water. The dam has also had an impact on the river ecology upstream and downstream from the dam. It is blamed for damaging fish populations and the functional extinction of the Chinese river dolphin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: BestTrip.TV)

 

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Crystal Strikes a Chord with a New Rhine Class of River Cruise Ships Instead of river cruises, they're calling them river yachts. Crystal has translated its uber-luxury sea experience to the rivers of Europe with a new, 'Rhine' class of river yachts, evoking the great music icons of the region. read more
5 Adventures in Antwerp

Belgium’s unique character and two-language culture makes it a must-see destination in Northern Europe.

But go beyond Brussels. One of Europe's hidden gems is Belgium's second city.

Just up the estuary from the North Sea, Antwerp's historic port became its claim to fame and source of wealth as a trading capital 500 years ago. The port is still the second largest in Europe. The wealth of this great trading city financed great art and artists, the world's oldest stock exchange, and an historic core of richly elaborate Flemish buildings.

Photo Credit

BestTrip.TV's producer/host Lynn Elmhirst shares her favorite things about Antwerp.

History with a Quirk

Distinctive historic Flemish architecture reflects Antwerp's power in its heyday, including the magnificent Town Hall, guild halls, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Check out the altarpieces by iconic local artist Rubens here, and the 400-foot spire that makes the cathedral still the tallest building in town.

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Walking through Antwerp's historic streets, you'll start to notice apparent evidence of exceptional devotion to the Virgin Mary. In addition to Notre Dame cathedral, a surprising number of very ornate Madonna statues stare from the corners of buildings onto the street below.

We were told a number of stories about why street-corner Virgin Mary's abound, and oddly, none were about religious fervor. One person told us of reduced taxation on 'religious' buildings, another that the city provided free street lighting for religious buildings – and in either of those scenarios, a Virgin Mary statue on the building made it qualify.

Photo Credit

Virgin Mary building statues are one of the most characteristic – and quirky – symbols of Antwerp's historic streetscape. Very instagrammable. #MadonnasofAntwerp.

Thrillingly Modern

Time has not stood still in Antwerp. Nowadays, it has the reputation of one of the most interesting, modernist cities in Europe.

Only a five-minute walk from the Cathedral, for example, is the city’s neo-classical festival hall from 1905. Period restoration on the outside, but inside, jaw-dropping luxury 50-store mall where the neo-classical glass dome, gold leaf, mosaics and oak floors are juxtaposed by sexy ultra-modern design. I fell in love with the space age champagne bar at the top of a stemmed glass installation (pictured top. Photo: BestTrip.TV). Like stylish Jetsons.

And if the Jetsons ever had to go to court, the Antwerp Law Courts would be the place. The building's spectacular roofline mimics a series of sails in full wind. Today's nod to Antwerp's shipping and maritime heritage.

Serious Fashion:

Hipness is in very 'fabric' of Antwerp, which has cult status in global fashion. Antwerp is home to one of the most important fashion academies in the world. The city also produced the famous ‘Antwerp Six’ designers who cut a radical new pattern for European design that still thrives in Antwerp today. Fashion is thick on the ground in Antwerp, with distinctive styles that are cool and chic all at the same time. Do any shopping here, and both men and women will have envious friends at home asking, 'Where did you get that?'

And Diamonds:

Antwerp has long been the 'Diamond Capital of the World'. It has a whole district devoted to the precious gems, where even today, up to 80% of the world's diamonds are still polished and processed. Diamond houses line the (very secure) streets. Some are open to visitors, where you can learn about the world's hardest stone and watch the most expert diamond cutters in the world polish raw diamonds into sparkling symbols of love and luxury.

The perfect destination for a one-of-a-kind engagement or romantic getaway with a dazzling souvenir.

And Really Good Taste:

Some people rave about Belgian waffles, but for me, it's Belgian Frites. There are stories of peasants frying potatoes here in the 1600’s and Belgium lays claim to inventing this world-wide fast-food phenomenon – even though they became known as 'French fries'.

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Connoisseurs distinguish between Belgian fries (or frites) and any other ‘fry’: true Belgian frites are thick, irregularly shaped, and DOUBLE fried. And local tradition doubles down on the artery-clogging snack by dipping them in mayonnaise.

Frites are a must-try treat in Antwerp. Indulge in a paper cone while wandering the streets, or find a restaurant serving ‘moules et frites’, that is, steamed mussels and fries – the Belgian version of ‘fish and chips’. No fry at home will ever compare.

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The Ship that's Changing River Cruising

How do you revolutionize river cruise ships?


River cruise ships are limited in length by the navigational requirements of rivers... like the sizes of locks. While ships bear their company livery colors and a few unique design features, many river cruise ships appear much the same - at least on the outside.

The design for the AmaMagna, launching in 2019, is game changing. It maintains navigational/ length limitations - but it's twice the width of traditional European river cruise ships.

What makes a double-width river cruise ship a game changer?

The concept has been 'floating' around for a while (pun intended), but AmaWaterways is the first cruise line to pull the trigger on building a double-width river cruise ship.

That opens the doors wide to re-interpret the guests' experience on a river cruise ship. So with the debut of the concept of a double-width ship, AmaWaterways design team has aimed high at maximizing the two times more space available than on a single ship.

The AmaMagna will include:
  • River cruising's first open-water sports platform, complete with zodiac boats, canoes and recreational equipment.
  • Only 194 guests in 97 large staterooms - that's only 30 guests more than single-width ships.
  • Expansive public spaces, including:
  • Dedicated multiple dining spaces including an al fresco, glass-enclosed restaurant.
  • A large heated sundeck swimming pool with whirlpool and sky bar.
  • Expanded spa and fitness area and wellness offerings that will complement AmaWaterways' popular biking and hiking programs.
  • And they're even able to double the ship's width while doubling down on eco-friendly innovation with a more fuel-efficient engine that's also quieter.

Sound familiar? What we're seeing is the best of small-ship/ yacht, luxury ocean cruising... brought to rivers.

The AmaMagna launches in 2019 on Danube itineraries. AmaWaterways is also offering Concierge Cruise + Golf packages for AmaMagna guests to enjoy along the Danube route, as well as wedding/vow renewal packages.

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