Blowes Travel & Cruise Centres Inc.'s Blog

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.  The design for the AmaMagna, launching in 2019, is game changing.  It's twice the width of traditional European river cruise ships.

What makes the 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.

Construction on the AmaMagna began in early 2017 and the ship launches in 2019 on Danube itineraries.

Get your (Science) Geek on in Switzerland

If you, or someone in your family, has an inner science nerd, Switzerland is where you can feed your appetite for exploring the mysteries of the universe (as well as your appetite for chocolate and cheese  - but you already knew that!)

Did the song 'Rocket Man' immediately jump into your head?  There may be no better sound track to a story about science destinations, so here's a link to Elton John's classic so you can play it while you read on about the best ways to tap into your own inner geek in Switzerland.

CERN

Professional scientists, enthusiasts, and even your favorite TV comedy physicists all have Switzerland's CERN (pronounced 'Surn') on their travel bucket lists.  CERN is the world's largest physics laboratory.   The site straddles Switzerland and France outside of Geneva. Thousands of scientists from member European countries work together at CERN on questions of matter, anti-matter, the particles that make up all things in the universe, and the forces that link them.

It's best known for the Large Hadron Collider, a ring 27 kilometres around and 100 metres under the earth's surface.  The LHC accelerates particles into extremely high energies, making them smash into each other.  Scientists use very precise instruments to collect information about what happens during those collisions. 

Visitors can discover the mysteries of the Universe and the work of the world's biggest physics laboratory as a group, with friends, individually, on foot, on your bike, or virtually. CERN's 2 permanent exhibitions are free to visit.

(Above photos courtesy CERN)

CERN's gigantic Globe of Science and Innovation is a symbol of the Earth, and, at 27 metres high and 40 metres in diameter, bigger than the dome of St. Peter's in Rome!  Inside, the 'Universe of Particles' exhibit takes you on a journey of the building blocks of the entire Universe, where those particles come from, how they behave, and the questions of modern physics that scientists are exploring at CERN.  The 'Microcosm' exhibit allows you to discover the wonders of CERN's monumental experiments using the Large Hadron Collider, and meet the people who built and operate it.

(photo credit)

The Sphinx Observatory

From underground to 'The Top of Europe'.  Jungfraujoch is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: a glacier 'saddle' at the top of Europe's largest glacier, connecting two four-thousand meter peaks.

Take the historic Jungfrau railway from Interlaken to Grindelwald, a scenic glacier village that is one of Switzerland's oldest and most popular resort areas at the base of snow-capped mountains.  The view gets even more breathtaking from there to Europe's highest train station at Jungfraujoch.

(Photo credit)

Don't settle for the  spectacular views here.  Do what scientists do and aim higher.  The Sphinx Observatory dates from the early 1900's and is named after the 'Sphinx' peak of a breathtakingly steep ridge where it's perched at a height of 3572 metres (11, 719 feet). The Sphinx Observatory is the highest construction on the continent.  Amazingly, there's an elevator tunneled into that rocky mountain peak connecting the Jungfraujoch railway station to the observatory.  The observatory serves researchers in fields as diverse as glaciology, medicine, cosmic physics and astronomy, with multiple laboratories, weather observation station, a enormous telescope and even electricity, water, phone and internet! 

Check your vertigo at the door and inhale pure mountain air, as well as unmatched views of the Alps, the glacier, the scenery over 11,000 feet below, and sometimes, all the way to Italy and Germany.

Stay in a 'Space Suite' in Zurich

Zurich's Kameha Grand Zurich boutique hotel is in up and coming Glattpark.  The growing neighborhood is a new business center in Switzerland's global city of banking and finance, so business travelers who value lifestyle have a place near their meetings with solid design credentials.  And its proximity to the Zurich airport makes it perfect for a stay on leisure travelers' way into or out of a wider tour of the country.

The hotel's design creativity extends to themed suites.  If you were the little kid who wanted to grow up to be an astronaut, or you're traveling with that little kid, the Kameha Grand Zurich's space suite is the hotel equivalent of sleeping in your favorite space hero pajamas.   The little kid will love the treat.  The little kid inside you will grin at the tongue in cheek design.  It leans on 'space age' without being kitsch.  

Designed by artist Michael Najjar, the Space Suite transports you to the stars with silver, black and moonscape textures, a gravity-defying, sleek. floating bed, pictures of galaxies, hovering astronauts and models of rockets, together with curated selections of literature, music and films about space travel, as well as original works by the artist.   The perfect place for your inner 'Rocket Man' to recharge.

 

 

What is a Music City? Tips for the Best Music Travel Experience

The term ‘Music City’ once meant Nashville, Tennessee. Now, it's so much more than the cradle of country music.  'Music City' is a new worldwide movement of destinations with vibrant – and dedicated - music scenes. 

Dozens of cities globally are getting serious about and collaborating to ensure their music scenes thrive for their residents and visitors using Music City guidelines; and a roadmap has been published to guide local leaders and artists in pursuit of a Music City.

Our friend Amy Terrill, Executive Vice-President of Music Canada, shares her tips to discovering Music Cities when you travel.

The Sydney Opera House, Australia. Photo Credit

If you're a music lover, you know you can find music almost anywhere you go.

Music festivals draw visitors who travel thousands of miles to attend; cruises are themed around music; wineries incorporate it; cities build identities around music.  Who doesn't think of the Beatles when you think of Liverpool? The Fab Four is one of the top reasons people say they visit the city, and in 2013, travelers spent £3.64bn there.  Spizget festival in Budapest, Hungary, attracts almost half a million fans from more than 100 countries.  A Florida company charters cruise lines for music-themed experiences like The Groove Cruise and Shiprocked.

Maybe you travel to marquee events based on artist lineups and unique experiences, to experience iconic spaces like Graceland in Memphis, the Red Rocks natural stone amphitheatre in Colorado, the symbol of the Sydney skyline, the Sydney Opera House, or to make sure you don't miss major events on an artist’s tour schedule.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado. Credit

But Music Cities allow you to immerse yourself in experiences anytime you visit, 365 days a year.  Great Music Cities have: 

  • A critical mass of active artists and musicians;
  • a strong music ecosystem of all the professionals and businesses who support artists in their careers;
  • spaces and places needed for creation, rehearsal, education and performance;
  • a great live music scene with a variety of venues, ranging in sizes to accommodate artists at all stages of their careers;
  • and an appreciative core audience that shows up to live music events large and small.

The Hitsville U.S.A. Motown building, Detroit, MI. Motown's headquarters from 1959 to 1968. Photo Credit

In addition, some Music Cities are blessed with deep historical roots – and ideally if they’ve got remarkable music history, they protect it and promote it as an active music experience to locals and visiting music lovers. (Think of the Opera House in Vienna, original jazz venues in New Orleans, the east-coast music hub of George Street in St.John's, Newfoundland, or Motown's roots in Detroit.)

Are you traveling to one of the world’s Music Cities soon?  Here are some tips about how to experience the best the local music scene has to offer:

Jackson-Triggs Winery Amphitheatre, Niagara, ON

  1. Seek out unusual spaces where live music is performed, not just the advance ticketed events.Look at local wineries, micro-breweries, restaurants, museums, even bowling alleys. Local record stores can be a great way to learn about this type of under the radar gigs.
  2. See what local tastemakers are saying about live events in the city when you are there.Look at local media publications, blogs and portals.  Go where the locals go.  This can be a great way to discover an artist that you wouldn't find in an ordinary 'search' on your computer.
  3. Take the time to sample an artist's music online if you’re unsure of the genre. Listening to local artists as you explore a new city can add a soundtrack to your travel memories.
  4. Take risks – that’s how you’ll find a gem of a musician, band or music experience that you never otherwise would have discovered.
  5. Read up on the music history before you go and look for walking tours or historical society installations.Calgary's new Studio Bell, home of the  National Music Centre includes an unparalleled collection of working music artifacts and instruments, educational elements, and performance spaces as well.

Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, Calgary.  (Photo used with permission from Calgary Municipal Land Corporation)

Top image: Inside the Made in Canada stage. Photo: Leblond Studio Inc

Music Cities, small and large, obvious and hidden, dot the globe.  Chances are, the city you’re next visiting offers some unforgettable musical experiences.  Venture out of the ordinary and you will build more amazing memories with an experiential sound-track of your travels.

Where's the Largest National Monument in the U.S.?

It's one of the biggest protected areas on Earth.  Two times the size of Texas. And you could fit the entire country of France inside more than twice. It's larger than all the US National Parks combined, encompassing 582,578 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

Hawaii's Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a double dose of global riches: a mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 2010 for both its natural and cultural significance. It is the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States.

Efforts to preserve the natural and cultural treasures in the remote region northwest of Hawaii have grown incrementally for over a century.  In the early 1900's, conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt sent the Marines to the Midway Atoll to stop the wholesale slaughter of seabirds for eggs and feathers.  Since then, state and national authorities, including several presidents since Roosevelt, have stepped up, increasing the size of the monument and its protections.  In 2016, the official reserve size was quadrupled to its present record-breaking size when its border was expanded to include the exclusive economic zone that had been surrounding the marine monument.

Red Pencil Urchin.  Credit

Natural Heritage

The marine monument includes both land and sea areas.  7000 marine species call Papahānaumokuākea home, and a quarter of these are found only in this region. Extensive coral reefs – which monument experts call 'rainforests of the sea' – as well as islands, deepwater, and shallow water environments are vital – and now that fishing is banned – protected habitats. 

Boobies. Image credit.

The marine monument provides a sanctuary for rare and threatened species like blue whales, green sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, 14 million seabirds representing 22 species including local Laysan finches, Laysan ducks and Laysan albatross, Pritchardia palms, and crustaceans like the spiny lobster.

Cultural Heritage

Remote Papahānaumokuākea has deep significance for living Native Hawaiian culture.  The Hawaiian concept of kinship between people and nature, of life's origins and the return of spirits to the earth after death, is memorialized in the ancestral environments of the protected area. Two of the islands contain significant archaeological remains. One, the island of Mokumanamana, has the highest density of sacred sites in Hawaii, and has spiritual significance in Hawaiian cosmology. (Top image: Mokumanamana. Credit)

Midway Memorial. Image Credit

Later cultural significance now memorialized in Papahānaumokuākea include the history-changing World War Two Battle of Midway, and its earlier position in 19th century commercial whaling industry.

Visiting Papahānaumokuākea

Public access to the distant and restricted marine monument is limited.  All vessels must report entering and leaving the monument.  Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial are only open for visitation if staffing permits. 

You can check on visitation status at www.fws.gov/refuge/Midway_Atoll/.

Try these experiences on your next trip to the main Hawaiin islands to appreciate America's biggest National Monument:

Kaʻena Point
This State Park on the North Shore of Oahu shares similar ecosystem, plant and animal features as Papahānaumokuākea.  It's used as an accessible-to-the-average-visitor interpretive site for the Monument.

Visit:
www.friendsofkaena.org
www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/index.cfm?park_id=19

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

Interpretive signs provide visitors with information about the geology, ecology and cultural history of Papahānaumokuākea and the origins of the entire Hawaiian archipelago in the context of the same hot spot that continues to produce new land at Kilauea volcano.

Visit: www.nps.gov/havo.

Spinner Dolphins. Credit

Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
This is one of the best places on the main Hawaiian Islands to view wildlife. Visitors have the opportunity to see some of the largest populations of nesting seabirds, spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, and Hawaii's state bird, the endangered Hawaiian goose.

Visit http://www.fws.gov/kilaueapoint/.

 

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Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee... Ahhh

If you were asked to name the top coffees of the world, would Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee be on your list? It should be.

When he brought a few Arabica coffee plants to the island in the early 1700's, it's unlikely that Jamaica's British Governor Sir Nicholas Lawes realized the phenomenon he was starting. The plants, which had been sent originally to Martinique by King Louis XV of France, would in time become a claim to fame for Jamaica. By the early 1800's the beverage they produced had already gained a reputation as one of the world's most coveted gourmet coffees.

Fast-forward to today, and Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is one of the country's signature, premium, globally-known products. 

What is Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee?

Your morning cup of joe is likely a blend of commodity-grade beans from multiple sources.  When you drink Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, it's not a blend.  It's pure, estate/single origin coffee. 

And like wine, 'terroir' counts.  So does hard work.

In eastern Jamaica, the Blue Mountains rise high into cool, misty air, peaking at 7,402 feet.  Above 5,500 feet, it's Forest Reserve. In a specified zone, from 3,000 feet up to the Forest Reserve, authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee thrives.

The altitude, the reduced sunlight due to forest cover, the cool air, the clouds, the rain, and volcanic soil all combine to make a dense bean that takes almost twice as long as many other regions' beans to mature.  They're hand-picked on steep slopes only at perfect ripeness, requiring pickers to return to the same plants to harvest again and again. Terroir plus high-touch production translates into a smooth, silky, complex, full-bodied, balanced, bright coffee with virtually no bitterness.

The Jamaican government protects the appellation globally, monitoring the growing region, bean quality, single-origin composition and taste before certifying authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee.

Where can you taste real BMC?

Of course you should try Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee at the source.  We recommend traveling into Jamaica's coffee producing areas, where, like wineries, coffee producing houses offer tours and tastings to the public. 

Take some home! Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee makes an excellent souvenir, allowing you to continue to savor your trip to Jamaica long after your tan has faded. (And don't forget gifts for your friends, family, house sitter… bags of BMC will make you everyone's favorite person.)

Rumor has it Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is the preferred java at Buckingham Palace and even the White House, so if you get invited for coffee at either of those famous homes, you can confirm if it's true.

Or you can buy it online from accredited authentic sellers.

Special mention:  BMC is used to make the liqueur Tia Maria, so, morning, noon, and nighttime, your day can be brightened by a taste of Jamaica's famous Blue Mountains.

 

8 Facts About the Panama Canal

Panama's beaches are drawing more and more resort travelers, and itineraries that take cruise passengers through the Panama Canal are growing in popularity. But how much do you know about this Man-Made Wonder of the World?

1. It's a short cut for ships between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Panama Canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama in a narrow land bridge between North and South America. Prior, ships had to sail around the tip of South America.  It takes about 8 hours to cross the Canal's 50 miles (77km). That saves days. If a ship had to navigate down and around Cape Horn at the tip of South America and back up the other side, it would have to travel nearly 12,500 miles (20,000 km).

2. It's over 100 years old.

2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.   Columbia, France, then later, the United States controlled the land surrounding the canal.  In 1999, control passed back to Panama.  In 1881, the French started building the canal, but progress halted due to engineering problems and high worker mortality.  The US took it over in 1904 and completed the project with newly available technology ten years later at a cost of $400 million USD.

3. It also cost over 25,000 lives.

At times, more than 43,000 people were working on the Panama Canal.  Workers had to deal with heat, jungles, swamps - and all the creatures in them, including rats that carried bubonic plague.  Plus mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria. Over 20,000 workers died during French building efforts. After the scientific links between the insects and disease had been discovered, Americans undertook intensive anti-mosquito initiatives.  Even so, another more than 5000 workers perished during the American building phase.

4. It's considered one of the Man-Made Wonders of the World

The American Society of Civil Engineers has also dubbed the Panama Canal one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. It's one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.

A system of locks at each end of the Canal lifts ships up 85 feet  (26 meters) above sea level to an artificial lake. Ships traverse the artificial lake, as well as a series of improved and artificial channels, and then are lowered again in more locks to sea level at the other side. 

The locks are 110 feet (33 meters) feet wide and 1000 feet (300 meters) long. About 30-MILLION pounds (1,400,000 kilos) of explosives were used to help clear the land for the canal.

5. Over 1 Million vessels have crossed the canal since it opened.

In 1914, the year it opened, about 1000 ships used the canal. Today, nearly 15,000 ships transit the Isthmus of Panama through the Canal annually. The 1 Millionth ship crossed the canal in 2010, 96 years after it opened.

In 1934 it was estimated that the maximum traffic of the canal would be around 80 million tons of shipping a year, but by 2015, canal traffic exceeded 340 million tons of shipping – over 4 times the original maximum estimate.

6. $2 Billion in tolls are collected annually

Every ship that passes through the canal pays a toll based on its size, type and volume of cargo. Tolls are set by the Panama Canal Authority. Tolls for the largest cargo ships can run about $450,000. Cruise ships pay by berths (number of passengers in beds).  The per-berth fee set in 2016 was $138; a large cruise ship can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to sail through the Canal. 

The smallest toll recorded was paid by American Richard Halliburton in 1928, who paid 36 cents to swim the Canal.

7. The Panama Canal was expanded for bigger ships in 2016

The original canal locks are 110 feet (33 meters) wide and ten times as long. For a century, they accommodated shipping, and the term 'Panamax' ships was used to describe ships built to fit through the canal.  But ships kept getting bigger, and in 2007, work began on a multi-billion dollar expansion of the Canal.  In 2016, a third, wider lane of locks opened for commercial shipping, capable of handling 'Post-Panamax' ships that can carry 14,000 20-foot shipping containers (nearly 3 times Panamax ship capacity).

In spite of that giant leap forward in 2016, the world's largest container ships - that can carry 18,000 shipping containers – can't pass through the Panama Canal.

8. Tourists can visit the Panama Canal by land or water. 

There are 2 options.  Cruise lines offer actual Panama Canal itineraries that sail through the canal in the approximately 8 hour passage to their next destination in the opposite ocean.  But you don't have to sail through the canal.  Whether you're in Panama City, or on a resort / beach vacation in Panama, you can take a land trip to see the canal in action. 

The Miraflores Visitor Center is on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, which are close to the Pacific end of the Canal. Like the canal, the Visitor Center is open daily.  The Visitor Center has large balconies designed for you to get a great view as the lock gates are opened and closed for ships to start or complete their journey through the Panama Canal. 

Engineering buffs and even children will be thrilled at the up-close-to-the-action perspective on this man-made Wonder of the World. 

(Photo credit)

Start your Trip!

 

Top 5 Souvenirs from Newfoundland, Canada

The immense iceberg that's been parked in 'Iceberg Alley' on the coast of Canada's rugged Newfoundland and Labrador has reminded a lot of people it's time to book that trip to North America's eastern-most coast.  

You can only take a picture of an iceberg, but here are 5 unique, interesting souvenirs you can take home that you'll actually use, or give as gifts - and support local artisans and businesses. 

We've given you tips about each one, plus a high/low rating to help you decide where to save or splurge.

Labradorite is magical: moody, blue / grey / green with striations and life, with the appearance that light is playing inside the semi-precious stone - it's easy to see why it's said to be an incarnation of the Northern Lights. Labrador is the mainland part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was there Europeans first saw and named the stone in the 18th century, although labradorite was part of Inuit lore long before.

(Photos: BestTrip.TV)

Tip: movement of the piece is the key to the mythical play of color in labradorite, so choose jewelry to get the most motion and bring out its best.

High /Low: Pieces set in silver start at around $50, and depending on the setting and the artist, can be worth many times that.

'Trigger Finger' Mittens:  Hunting is a way of life in Newfoundland; just about everyone we met, including 'Townies' (people who live in 'town') fishes, AND hunts. With so much time spent outdoors in any weather, trust some clever Newfoundland knitter to come up with 'Trigger Finger Mittens'. So you don't have to take off your mitts to get the job done. Handy even for people who don't use firearms, too.  Who wants to take off a mitten to use your index finger in cold weather?

Tip: We found lots of big mittens, but searched high and low for trigger finger mittens that would fit women's hands.  A friendly local recommended someone who made them who could supply them in women's and children's sizes.

High/ Low: in the range of $15-20 per pair.

Savoury: Yes, the herb.  No one I spoke to seems to know how savoury became so indispensable to Newfoundland cooking, but it's a staple seasoning.

Savoury is found in bread at restaurants, on iconic Newfoundland cod, and especially, as the key ingredient in dressing (aka 'stuffing'). In Newfoundland, 'dressing' is an everyday food, not just for Thanksgiving.  You'll find it on menus as a side to upscale cuisine and even fish and chips.  It's usually served along with gravy, and called 'D + G'.

Tip: Use Newfoundland savoury in easy-to-bake biscuits. And definitely in dressing! A wonderful gift for a foodie friend.

High/Low: under $10.

Sea Salt: One producer of sea salt in Newfoundland said it best: why should an island surrounded by the briny sea have to import salt?

There are now a couple of businesses in the province who extract salt from the icy North Atlantic waters, and for any traveling foodie, a local sea salt is a treasure.

Tip: use on lightly flavoured items like eggs or fish, where the salt's unique characteristics can stand out.

High/Low: low, perfect for a foodie's stocking stuffer, maybe along with a bottle of Newfoundland savoury.

Newfoundland Music: Perhaps the greatest export from Newfoundland, and contribution to Canadian culture, is its music.

It seems every Newfoundlander you meet is a talented musician, and even casual parties feature live music and singalongs. While you're in Newfoundland, don't miss it: from festivals to kitchen parties to every bar on famous pub-lined George Street, live music is part of the Newfoundland experience. Don't forget to take some one-of-a-kind music home!

Tip: Fred's Record Store on Duckworth Street in St.John's has been selling and supporting Newfoundland artists for nearly 50 years. If you've forgotten what a record store feels like, don't miss it! Fred's also has free live music at times, so drop in and enjoy!

High/Low: Low, $15-25, and what's easier to pack than a few CD's?

Special Places to Shop in Newfoundland:

Duckworth Street, St. John's

Although there are many places to buy Newfoundland souvenirs, Duckworth Street in St.John's is a sure thing. Running parallel and close to the waterfront, Duckworth street is in the heart of downtown. It's not only lined with shops, the streets running up the hill are charming examples of Jellybean Row, the brightly colored 'saltbox' houses that are iconic images of the city.

Quidi Vidi

This impossibly picturesque fishing village just outside St.John's (pictured top) is well worth a visit - for the scenery, its craft brewery, Mallard Cottage which one of the top rated restaurants in Canada, AND the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation. This dockside building houses artisan workshops, where you can meet the artisans, learn about their crafts, and buy souvenirs of your trip to Newfoundland.

- Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV

We Need This: Recharge App Lets you Book Hotels By the Minute

No, not for that. Well, sure, maybe for that.  If you and your sweetheart get inspired for some spontaneous romance, there's a new app that let's you be that much more spontaneous.

This is not the business of the world's oldest profession booking shady hotel rooms by the hour. 

The Recharge app gives you billed-by-the-MINUTE access to a luxury hotel room.  You pay for your room for exactly as long as you need it, and not one minute more. Tested originally in San Francisco, and now expanded to New York, where any luxury hotel room easily rings in at $500 a night, Recharge can make many travelers' experiences better. In New York, Recharge's by-the-minute prices range from $0.83 to $2 a minute.

Whether your goal is to relax or be productive, we (and the app's developers, who worked with JetBlue's tech incubator) think this will change your travel life.

Wardrobe malfunction?  No more stress of struggling to get that stain out of your shirt or deal with a burst diaper in a random coffee shop bathroom.  15 minutes in a private, spacious bathroom with a sink and facecloth and a hand-held hair dryer rings in from $12.45 – $30.

Need a power nap? 20 minutes of a bed better than the one you have at home and silence will cost you between $16.60 and 40 bucks.

Foot sore and weary from pounding the pavement / museum galleries, and no time to go all the way back to your hotel at the other end of town?   60 minutes to deal with those blisters, put your feet up, make a cup of coffee, even take a quick shower for $49.80 to $120 seems worth it.

Two and a half hours in silence to catch up on mission-critical email or update your presentation using reliable WiFi – or put over-stimulated (that is: cranky) kids down for a nap/ quiet time so the whole family gets to truly enjoy the rest of the day – or reset after a red-eye and before your day officially starts?  As they say, priceless.

Once you start thinking about it, you realize you don't know how you ever traveled without an app like this. Nursing moms. A quick change from day to evening business meetings. Who doesn't need on-demand, affordable access to a luxury hotel refuge to make your trip better?

There are other web-based hotel day-use options, but they tend to give you designated morning or afternoon time-slots. This is more like a parking meter app.  You can start any time you pull in, and only pay for as long as you're in that space.

Photos: Recharge

The app will locate the hotel closest to you, and you hit 'book now'.  Your actual billing starts 30 minutes later or once you pick up your key, whichever comes first, then ends when you hit 'check out'.   That minute.  If it's 49 minutes later, you're billed 49 minutes, not an hour.  You don't have to feed or worry about the meter.

At the moment only available in San Francisco and now New York.  But we're looking forward to 'Recharge'ing globally in the future.

Mind Body Soul: Wellness Shore Excursions Paired with Ship Spa Experiences

Does the idea of returning from vacation healthier, more centered, spiritually uplifted than when you left appeal to you?   Regent Seven Seas Cruises and its shipboard spa partner Canyon Ranch SpaClub have introduced Seven Seas Wellness, a new collection of wellness-themed shore excursions paired with on-board spa and wellness experiences.

The initiative, that integrates ship and shore, is all about providing guests with one-stop-shop holistic well-being programming for their holidays.   It debuts this summer on sailings of the Regent Seven Seas Voyager in the Mediterranean, a region whose healthy lifestyle sets a global benchmark.

(Tour the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Regent Seven Seas Explorer in the video above).

Guests who choose a Seven Seas Wellness experience first choose a wellness-themed excursion from a collection of more than 10 options in some of the most exciting Mediterranean destinations.

Seven Seas Wellness Shore Excursions Include:

Marseille, Old Port. Photos: BestTrip.TV

Tai Chi

 

  • Provence (Marseille), France – De-stress and unwind with the ancient Chinese martial arts in a 19th century palace on Tai Chi in the Imperial Garden.
  • Palma De Mallorca, Spain – Enjoy fresh sea air and breathtaking scenery as guests center their chi from either the Illuetta Bay or Can Antoni Pere Beach on Mallorca Meditation in Motion.

 

Yoga

  • Corfu, Greece – Experience Corfiot filoxenia, a concept not adequately defined by the word “hospitality,” and learn about local culture, before practicing yoga and deep meditation in one of Greece’s most beautiful estates on The Generosity of Spirit.
  • Monte Carlo, Monaco – Guests will calm the mind, increase focus, strength, and stamina, in the fast-paced, dance-like style of yoga that synchronizes breathing, while enjoying  the spectacular Mediterranean panorama on Vinyasa Yoga on Monte Carlo.
  • Taormina, Sicily – Guests take in the dramatic and contrasting coastlines, cliffs, and Mount Etna, as they practice poses from a high perch overlooking the charming seaside town on Taormina Terrace Yoga.

Hydrothermal Therapy

  • Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy – Soak in the restorative mineral-rich, thermal springs, which has been visited by Popes and Kings throughout its thousand-year-old history on Thermal Baths of Popes.
  • Sorrento, Italy – Enjoy a sprawling spa complex built on the site of an ancient Roman prototype, consisting of warm and cold thermal springs with rock grottos, mineral baths, pools and genuine Roman sauna rooms on Roman Baths and the Burning Fields.

Aromatherapy

  • Venice, Italy – Visit the exhibition at the palace-turned-museum, where one room recreates a 16th century perfumer’s laboratory and guests can learn how to create their own perfume to take home on Venetian Scents at Palazzo Mocenigo.
  • Amalfi/Positano, Italy– Be inspired and invigorated by the island’s calming presence, inherent spirit, and many natural gifts on a highlights tour, before visiting Carthusia, the famous and exclusive perfume laboratory on this full-day Capri for all Senses.

Walking and Laughing

  • Palma De Mallorca, Spain – Enjoy the benefits of lower-impact, body-toning Nordic walk up the hill to the 14th century Bellver Castle on Nordic Morning Walk.
  • Palamos, Spain – Unlock the many health benefits of this atypical Laughter Therapy session, where guests giggle and laugh for a full-scale workout to release stress-busting endorphins on the Wellness of Laughter.

 

Then, to complete the distinctive, body and soul-enriching experience, you select one of 5 curated Canyon Ranch Spa services on the ship to pair with your shore wellness experience.  

Shipboard Spa Experiences Pairing Menu Includes:

  • World of Relief Body Buff
  • Tangle Me Up Wrap
  • Ocean Scrub
  • Sole Rejuvenation
  • Vitamin Infusion Facial

So you're able to create your own invigorating, and customized, transformative wellness program in the practices that appeal to you most.

Furthermore, you'll be able to enjoy a robust menu of Canyon Ranch SpaClub and Fitness Center activities like

  • Reiki,
  • acupuncture,
  • fitness classes,
  • personal training,
  • educational presentations and workshops and more. 

Plus eat right at a new healthy breakfast bar at the Pool Grill and Canyon Ranch Balanced dinner selections appetizers, mains, and desserts with full flavor, full nutrition, and satisfying portions for maximum health and energy. 

For more and more people, pursuit of well-being is an essential part of a life well-lived, even, or especially, when we take time off to travel.  From eating right and exercising to practicing ways to reduce stress and experience moments that uplift the spirit, wellness is quickly becoming the ultimate luxury.

We know guests are going to love making this innovative Seven Seas Wellness program part of their fulfilling journeys.  

This might be our favorite way to break the ice at the beginning of a cruise.  And it's a long-standing tradition at Regent Seven Seas Cruises. 

When BestTrip.TV sailed on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, not long after our cruise began, the ship's bell rang out, with the Cruise Director announcing the start of the ship-wide 'Block Party'. 

We love it!  No receiving lines, and a great way to meet the neighbors. The fun and informality are fitting on a cruise line that calls itself the most inclusive cruise line, where the atmosphere is like being member of a relaxed, luxurious country club.  Welcome Aboard!

It's been featured in no less than two James Bond movies.  Not to mention To Catch a Thief, the Alfred Hitchcock thriller starring Grace Kelly that filmed in glitzy Monaco, where she met a prince and then became Princess Grace.

Monaco – and Monte Carlo – have established and maintained an allure as one of the world's most glamorous destinations.  But most people only know about the mystique. 

Casinos, royalty, yachts and racing.

BestTrip.TV reveals 5 things you didn't know about this sexy Mediterranean destination.

Plus one bonus fact:

Her Serene Highness, Princess Charlene of Monaco, is the godmother of the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, said to be the 'most luxurious cruise ship ever built'; it's right at home in the storied glamour of Monaco.

(HSH Princess Charlene on board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer)

During christening ceremonies, HSH cut a red velvet ribbon, which sent a Primat bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne smashing against the ship’s hull to officially christen the newest member of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet. The jubilation of the bottle breaking moment was followed by a spectacular 40-minute private performance from musical maestro Andrea Bocelli, capping an incredible launch for a ship that sets new benchmarks for luxury.

(HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco, with HSH Prince Albert of Monaco by her side, christens the Regent Seven Seas Explorer)

As a former Olympic competitive swimmer, and Princess of a country on the Mediterranean, it's fitting that the Princess' humanitarian efforts include the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, whose mission is to save lives by teaching children and adults basic water safety techniques. The Foundation sponsors a number of “Learn to Swim” and “Water Safety” programs in 27 countries throughout the world, including in the United States.  Discussions are underway to implement the Foundation's Water Safety program on all the company's ships.

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Regent Seven Seas Cruises is celebrating a banner year: its Silver (25th) Anniversary and the first full year in service of its flagship, the Explorer, a ship that's been called 'the most luxurious ship at sea.' 

We just had to see if it's true. Watch the video and decide for yourself!

No bills to sign at the bar.  No ties. Photos: BestTrip.TV

Since 1992 when the Radisson Diamond was christened, launching what would become Regent Seven Seas Cruises, it has created a distinct identity and passionate following among a certain style of cruise travelers.  This four-ship, all-suite, all-inclusive cruise line attracts guests who prefer a luxury level of service but a relaxed atmosphere.  No bills to sign. No need to wear black tie. In fact, gentlemen don't need to wear any ties at all!

Like you're a member of a country club. That takes you to the world-wide destinations of your dreams.

A country club that takes you to the destination of your dreams.

In addition to building the Explorer, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is undertaking a $125 million fleet-wide refurbishment.  The Voyager has already completed hers, and now matches the remarkable style and new amenities of the Explorer.

Anniversary Sailings

25 celebratory cruises take place across all four of Regent's ships this year, on itineraries around the world.  You can journey across Europe on the new Seven Seas Explorer, explore Asia on the newly renovated Seven Seas Voyager; experience natural wonders in Alaska aboard Seven Seas Mariner, or traverse one of the man-made wonders of the world, the Panama Canal, aboard Seven Seas Navigator.

Anniversary voyages include:

Seven Seas Explorer

  • Mediterranean – Oct. 4, 2017
  • Northern Europe – July 3 and Aug. 21, 2017
  • Atlantic Crossing – Nov. 24, 2017

Seven Seas Mariner

  • Amazon -- Nov. 17, 2017
  • Alaska -- July 12 and August 23, 2017
  • Fall Foliage – Oct. 27, 2017

Seven Seas Navigator

  • Panama Canal – June 17, 2017
  • East Coast – Aug. 7, 2017
  • Atlantic Crossing – October 17, 2017
  • Hawaii – December 11, 2017

Seven Seas Voyager

  • Asia – Dec. 5, 2017
  • Mediterranean – June 11, June 28, July 8, Aug. 20, Sept. 19, Sept. 28 and Oct. 27, 2017

Compass Rose

Galley Lunches

Guests sailing on these 25 voyages will have the opportunity to participate in a new experience, the 'Galley Lunch', a brand new dining concept launched for the anniversary celebrations. You'll get the red carpet treatment from the Compass Rose restaurant into the galley, to see the kitchen in action. You can interact with the world-class chefs onboard while you enjoy a magnificent meal, then indulge in an array of displayed desserts service inside the restaurant.

Silver Anniversary Tastings

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is also hosting special Silver Anniversary Tastings on these 25 voyages. In addition to the complimentary free inclusive fine wines and spirits, you'll have the opportunity to participate in special wine, whiskey and cocktail tasting seminars featuring some exclusive vintages and premier spirits.

Butler-service suites; in-suite dining with friends.

Thanking Past Guests and Welcoming their Friends

Past guests that refer a guest sailing for the first time with Regent Seven Seas Cruises receive a $400 per suite shipboard credit, as will their friends.

Happy Silver Jubilee, Regent Seven Seas Cruises!

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV's cruise travel expert

New-to-Cruise? A Guide to Nautical Terms: Getting Around

If you've never taken a cruise before, you're not too late to the party. There's never been a better time to try a cruise. Cruise travel never stops innovating, launching spectacular new ships and new ways for cruise travelers to interact with ever-more intriguing ports of call.

Worried you might not fit in among experienced cruise travelers?  Here's a guide to all the most important terms you'll need to sail through your first (no doubt of many) trips at sea.  Beginning with your first question: Where am I?

Brought to you by: Regent Seven Seas Cruises' 25th Anniversary Celebrations

(Regent Seven Seas Explorer docked at Harvest Caye, Belize. All photos BestTrip.TV)

Let's first get one thing straight. It's a Ship.  Not a boat. Nothing makes you look like a newbie more than referring to your ship as a 'boat'.  Generally speaking, a boat is small enough to be carried aboard a ship, but a ship can't be carried aboard a boat. 

A British Navy witticism is 'A ship, gentlemen, is what we are in, a boat is what the gravy comes in'.

Or this gem: 'When a ship sinks you get in a boat, when a boat sinks you get in the water'.  Which leads us to…

Tenders. These are the small boats you see carried on the sides of your ship.  They are lifeboats in the highly unlikely event of evacuation. But more likely, a tender is how you'll get to shore if you have a 'tender port'. 

(Filming an arrival interview at a new port of call.)

Some Ports of Call  - that is, stops on your cruise - don't have docks big enough for your ship, or they're all in use. So your ship anchors off shore, and guests are shuttled back and forth to shore in the ship's tenders. They usually go back and forth all day. They are not luxurious, but comfortable, and have a full roof to protect you from the elements.

Before we leave the word 'tender'… Shortly after you board, everyone – that means everyone – on the ship stops what they're doing and participates in a 'Muster Drill' or safety drill.  It's the maritime version of the safety instructions you experience prior to an aircraft take off.  Depending on the cruise line, you 'muster' or 'assemble' at your assigned tender or a different designated 'muster station' or 'assembly station'.  This is the part of your holiday where you take responsibility for your own well-being and make sure you know where your muster station is, and you and your loved ones know the drill.

OK, you've boarded your ship.

One of the first places you'll head is your… Not 'room'. Cruise travelers inhabit 'Staterooms'.  And if you're lucky to sail in an exclusive area of the ship, or even an all-suites ship, your Suite. 

You often hear – and your travel advisor may even refer to - 'cabins'.  Back in the day of strong class distinctions, cabins were very basic. First-class cabins with much better amenities were called staterooms.  These days, even the least expensive accommodations would be considered staterooms, so many long-time cruise experts always say stateroom, not cabin.  If there are multiple rooms (other than a bathroom) in your accommodations – think: walk-in closet/dressing room, or a separate living space -  it's a suite.

  • Inside staterooms do not have a wall on the outer wall of the ship. There are no windows (although some newer ships have created 'virtual' windows/ views for inside staterooms).
  • Ocean-view staterooms are on outside walls of the ship. But the port-hole or window that looks outside may not open.
  • Balcony or veranda staterooms have doors/windows that actually open for you to access the open air/ outdoors from your stateroom.

(Sun lounges on the top deck.)

Ships have 'Decks'.  In a hotel, you might say the restaurant is on the 5th floor.  On your floating hotel, it's on Deck 5.  (Not the 5th deck; 'Deck 5'.)  Some decks also have their own names. You've probably heard the term 'Lido Deck'. Lido is an Italian word for beach; if there's something called a Lido deck on your ship, it's where you'll find the main outdoor pool area. (Of course, some ships have multiple pools, hot tubs, outdoor facilities on multiple decks.)

(Overlooking the protected, open-air pool deck.)

Ships are also directional.  Whether they're in Port or at Sea (those terms are pretty self-explanatory) there's a pointy end facing forward and a blunt end bringing up the rear.   On a cruise ship, you refer to the pointy direction as 'Forward', never 'front'. And instead of saying the 'back' it's called 'Aft'.

(The spectacular view from an aft suite on sailaway from Miami).

Between Forward and Aft, you're 'Midship'.

This makes finding your way around your ship quite straight forward (pun intended!)  If your new friends tell you to meet them at the bar on Deck 10 Aft, well, you know exactly where they'll be.  Tell them to order cocktails for you; you'll find your way there before the ice starts melting.

Modern ships are very helpful in way-finding.  Elevator lobbies and hallways post a simple drawing map of your ship so you can see where you are relative to forward and aft. So you know not just what deck you're on, you also know which way to head forward, aft, or midship to your destination. Your destination on the ship, that is. 

Navigation of the ship itself from port to port takes place from the Bridge on an ocean ship, or, on a smaller river cruise ship, the Wheelhouse.   Many cruise lines offer tours of the bridge or wheelhouse if you're interested in seeing where the navigation action happens.  We've been lucky enough to be filming on the bridge of a huge ship when multiple officers are docking her – what a feat!

Your food is prepared in a Galley, not a 'kitchen'.  Think about it, even bread has to be baked on board for freshness. Food and beverage services on ships are an enormous, multi-restaurant undertaking.  Do take a galley tour if it's offered, you will be astonished at what it takes to feed a whole ship around the clock.

Ships still have Gangways (not gangplanks. That's where pirates walk).  They're ramps leading on and off a ship, and they may occur on different decks in different ports.  You will always be given instructions. 

Here's a tip for new-to-cruise guests: when you check in, each guest traveling receives a card key. It's not just to open your stateroom door. Yours also contains your personal identity information.  Every guest (and actually, crew too) needs that card every time you Embark and Disembark (get on and get off) the ship. They swipe it at the gangway so the ship maintains their Log (record) of who's on -and who's not on - the ship. 

When you've reached your final port of disembarkation and your holiday's over, your final card swipe off the ship and travel down the gangway is your final goodbye to your cruise.

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV's cruise travel expert

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Trying out the specialty restaurants is one of the great pleasures of dining on cruise ships. We recently sailed on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer and loved every one of its all-included specialty restaurants:

  • Compass Rose – on most ships, this would be called the 'main' restaurant, but think again.  Compass Rose, in addition to a classic menu of courses of North American and Continental cuisine, has an innovative, 'build-your-own-meal' menu that allows you to select your meal elements and flavor preparations, so every meal is your own custom creation.
  • Prime 7 – the steakhouse of your dreams.  Modeled after the masculine havens of London or New York, with mirrors and black and white marble, screens and art (by Picasso, and Chagall even!) of bulls, this is dining that brings out the primal instinct in us all.
  • Chartreuse – the counterpoint to Prime 7.  An elegant, airy, French dream of Belle Epoque style and classic and modern, stylish French cuisine.
  • Sette Mari at La Veranda – evening al fresco dining on the deck with the breeze in your hair and Italian wine and cuisine on your table.
  • Pacific Rim – an exquisite, pan-Asian restaurant with spectacular, over-scaled Asian décor and a menu that's a delicious tour of the favorites of the continent.

Chef Enmin Wang at Pacific Rim was kind enough to share with us the recipe for the healthy, fresh, and delicious Tuna Tartare.   Watch the video as he prepares it for us, and here's our version of the recipe for you to try yourself.

For 2 Appetizer Servings

Step 1:  Prepare Carrot/Ginger Japanese Dressing:

Makes 375-500 mL

  • 250 g (about 3) peeled, chopped carrots
  • 125 g chopped whites of shallots
  • 125 g peeled and sliced fresh ginger
  • 80mL rice vinegar
  • 80 mL canola oil
  • 1 ½ T honey
  • 1 T white miso if desired
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T Japanese soy sauce
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • water as needed for consistency

Tip:  for an even silkier consistency, or if you're worried you don't have a machine that will make a smooth result, cook carrots first. 

Otherwise, put all ingredients in a blender, blend til smooth.  Taste, and add salt, pepper, adjust honey, lime juice, all other seasonings, adding water if desired and necessary for the right consistency.  Put in a squeeze bottle for maximum ease, or a jar.   This step can be done a day or two ahead of using; keep refrigerated. 

This dressing is also delightful on green Japanese salads, and you'll have plenty of leftover to enjoy in other ways.

Step 2: Tuna

  • 150 grams sushi grade tuna, in ½ cm dice

Place in a mixing bowl. 

  • To taste, add approx:
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon each mirin, Japanese soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon combined chives and scallions, cut in thin rounds (more or less, to taste)
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Mix all ingredients. Adjust all seasonings to taste.

Step 3: Plate

On each of two decorative plates:

Create a wide pool of Carrot Ginger Dressing. 

If you have 6.5 cm rings, place the ring in the dressing and gently pack half of the tuna in the ring, pressing gently down.  Remove ring. If you don't have a ring, build a small mound of tuna using two spoons, careful not to disturb the dressing.

Garnish top of tuna with:

  • 2 Tablespoons shallots (cut in rings, fried crispy in advance)
  • 1 T spring onions, green part only, thinly sliced on a long bias

Sprinkle around tuna in the pool of dressing:

  • ½ teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds

Repeat with second plate. Serve immediately (with crisps if you wish) and do not allow to sit at room temperature.

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
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TORONTO — You’re not imagining it – you really do pass more wind than usual while flying. But contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with the sub-par airplane food and has everything to do with altitude.

As reported by The Huffington Post, there’s a scientific reason why people often feel bloated and break wind during a flight. It’s because of HAFE, or ‘High Altitude Flatus Expulsion’, a term coined by a pair of researchers in the 1980s to explain why mountain climbers experienced flatulence at high altitudes.

A similar phenomenon is seen among passengers on airplanes. Airplane cabins are pressurized to between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, a dramatic change from sea level that affects your body. As the plane flies higher, the gas in your intestines expands, taking up to 30% more room than usual.

And as biology dictates, all that gas has to go somewhere.

To help curb the stinky problem, experts suggest drinking plenty of water and avoiding salty and fatty foods during your flight. It’s also a good idea to walk around the plane to get the bowels moving.

Luxury, Small Ship Cruising Gets a New Muse. The Silver Muse

Silversea launches its new flagship Silver Muse; with fewer than 600 guests and over 400 crew, the newest all-suite, all-butler service environment at sea embodies classic, small ship luxury cruising.

 

The Silver Muse has set sail, ceremoniously delivered to the cruise line in Genoa, Italy.  She was blessed by His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa before launching on a summer of Mediterranean itineraries. The Silver Muse then sails to the Americas (Canada / New England then onwards to South America) for the fall/winter.

Fans of cruising on Silversea will feel right at home.  The Silver Muse is an evolution of the most recent (2009) Silver Spirit. It hones an ultra-luxury ocean travel experience, while maintaining the small-ship intimacy and spacious all-suite accommodations that are the hallmarks of the Silversea experience.

The Silver Muse brings the Silversea fleet to 9 ships. Silver Muse accommodates 596 guests, and offers the highest number of large suites (Silver, Royal, Grand and Owner's) in the fleet, and the greatest number of connecting suites for families and friends. Gracious and expansive outdoor spaces change character from morning to afternoon to evening.  Overall, Silver Muse offers a welcoming and understated blend of spaciousness, luxury, and comfort.

Most notably, you'll find more restaurants on her than any other ultra-luxury ship – eight venues for less than 600 guests. In a week-long cruise, you wouldn't have to dine in the same restaurant twice.  But you'd probably want to. Silversea's goal is to use the wide selection of diverse restaurants to provide the most bespoke culinary experience at sea.  All the more reason to take back-to-back cruises!  Dining venues include:

  • La Dame. As part of the continuing relationship between Silversea and Relais & Chateaux, the menu of this restaurant was developed by the Relais & Chateaux team to reflect French cuisine at its highest standard of excellence.
  • Two Italian restaurants, reflecting the Italian heritage of Silversea: La Terrazza, and Spaccanapoli.
  • Two Asian-themed restaurants:Indochine, a pan-Asian journey of culinary discovery, and Kaiseki, theatrically traditional, peak Japanese cuisine.
  • On a lighter note, both from an experience and a health perspective, the must-try Hot Rocks is fun, informal, and even a wellness option.Silversea's wildly popular evening al fresco restaurant lets guests grill their own meals on lava stones at the table.

  • Another less structured entertainment/ dining experience is Silver Note, where tapas-style international cuisine is accompanied by jazz, blues, and of course, your favorite wines and cocktails.

You'll also be delighted to learn that the new Silver Muse has features that set new standards to minimize air, water and even noise pollution. So you can feel good about the results for you, a relaxing and luxurious cruise, and for the world you travel. 

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Rosewood Tucker's Point in Bermuda offers guests exclusive chartered spectator yacht Mariner III for the ultimate VIP experience of the 35th America's Cup.

Bermuda is a long-anticipated venue for the America's Cup.  With 181 islands, marine activities are the life-blood of Bermuda. The Great Sound forms a natural amphitheater for the racecourse, and the Royal Naval Dockyard houses the America’s Cup Village with team bases, food and drink, entertainment and concerts.

Trials are already underway, with competition beginning May 26th. It's an exhilarating 5 weeks of the best sailing in the world.  Finals begin on June 17th, culminating in the awarding of the 'Auld Mug', the oldest trophy in international sport.

Fans of sailing and thrills will turn to Bermuda's iconic Great Sound where the best sailors on the fastest boats will continue a decades long tradition and long rivalries for top sailing spot. The defending Champions, ORACLE TEAM USA, will compete with the top challengers from around the globe, with exciting sailing scenery anticipated every day.

If you're a fan of sailing, there's no need to watch the drama from a screen.  And we mean drama.  ORACLE TEAM USA has already capsized its new boat during trials in Bermuda!

Photos: Rosewood Tucker’s Point

A quick flight to Bermuda can get you in the thick of the action, watching the racing 'in real life', especially if you're a guest of Rosewood Tucker's Point or their neighboring Harbour Court Villas, positioned on Castle Harbour and the mighty Atlantic Ocean.  The luxury resort has chartered the Mariner III Spectator Yacht each race day.

If you love sailing's double facets: a rich tradition of teak and white sailcloth on the one hand, and cutting edge technology on the other, this is the race experience for you.  The stylish and sophisticated spectator yacht evokes a golden age of marine lifestyle. Built in 1926, The Mariner III features rich varnished teak, gleaming brass and hand-crafted bevelled lead crystal windows from Paris, a large, open upper deck perfect for spectating and small aft deck with a bar for intimate dining or cocktails. Outside, a large open air deck includes a Bimini for shade.

The 122 foot-long motor yacht's large open deck offers unparalleled viewing of the high tech yachts being put through their paces on the racecourse. Each race morning, the yacht departs from the Harbour Beach dock and returns in the late afternoon following the completion of the races. Up to 80 guests of the resort each day can buy a ticket to join the yacht for exclusive access to the race course from the Superyacht area in Bermuda’s Great Sound, while enjoying sunshine, cocktails and cuisine by the hotel’s executive chef.  Ticket prices include complimentary lunch, snacks, wine, prosecco and beer.

Land lubber or sailor, this will be the maritime experience of a lifetime.

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Feed your Appetite for Culture, Danish Style, in 2017's European Culture Capital

Every year Europe designates a Culture Capital, where robust local cultural traditions meet a rich next generation of visual, audio, movement, sport, design, outdoor and indoor expressions of human creativity. 

Photo: Gottlieb & Co

In 2017 Denmark's second city, the cruise port city of Aarhus, is Europe's Culture Capital. Thousands of activities, installations and events mark a thrilling celebration of this lesser known region of the smallest Scandinavian country.   It's also a culinary powerhouse, in the same year achieving a record number of Michelin stars and another designation: European Region of Gastronomy.

From the biggest dinner party in the history of Denmark, to acoustic forest installations, from 'surfskating' to seaside illuminations, Danish Modern to lightshows of Viking history, food to watersports festivals, 2017 celebrates the best of the best of Aarhus.

Photo: S孑en Pagter

You'll discover a truly breathtaking series of activities, installations and events that defy one category of cultural endeavor, spanning categories and often inviting ordinary guests - grownups and kids – to participate.

Some have specific dates, others run long term or will become legacies for the country and visitors well into the future.  Here's just a sampling of things that excite us about visiting one of the hottest experiential travel destinations:

Design

The First Lego League Open European Championship: LEGO is possibly Denmark's most famous export and one of the world's favorite toys/ artistic media.  This so-called Olympics of LEGO brings competitors 10-16 years old from around the world to construct and program LEGO robots.

New Danish Modern: Hipsters and design lovers of mid-century modern will love this celebration of great Danish giants of design and the next generation of Danish design and designers, including hands-on workshops for guests to work on their own designs and pop up venues and master design classes.

The Jewellery Box: An exhibition of nearly 1000 pieces of unique Danish silver 20th c design by some of its most celebrated silversmiths and jewelers, illustrating the styles, skills and principles that made Danish applied arts famous around the world. 

Art

Above photo: Jomfrureisen Claus, Top photo: Claus Ørntoft

Project Life-Boats: Three jaw-dropping ambassadors of the celebrations, these 12-meter-long concrete sculptures evoke ancient maritime female ships' figureheads. They sailed first to Aarhus and continue through European rivers and canals into the heart of Europe's cities that built up around ancient waterways. These 'floating culture houses' have green energy propulsion and are themselves works of art as they sail past, but each also has her own story of womanhood guests can explore when they're docked.

Photo: ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum

The Garden: Spread over several venues around the city, including the main galleries of its renowned ARoS Art Museum, as well as along 4 km of coastline, this is Aarhus' inaugural Triennial art installation event.

Hesitation of Light: It's not enough to light up the CityRing Bridge. Cameras on the bridge point outwards to record sunset colors, which, once the sun is fully set, are converted into the bridge's new color palette, illuminated using hundreds of lamps.  The name of the light installation is a nod to a local 17th century astronomer's discovery that light has speed.  In this case, light is made to hesitate in its conversion from nature to the lamps reflected on the human-engineered bridge, bringing new meaning to the locally-originated concept.

River Art: Decorated boats, pyro-techniques and pyro-artists light projections and a giant display on a rooftop into light sculptures. There's a scheduled special performance in the harbor as a historic fleet sails.

Aarhus Stories: The history of the region – from Vikings until present – comes to life in epic digital cinematic concerts with visuals projected onto the cathedral and a soundtrack performed live by its DJ composer.

 

Audio/ Music

SonicArk: This sound project results from public recording sessions with interactive performers in and around Aarhus and will evolve over the year. This emotional sensory work will involve and move people differently every time they experience it.

Forest Megaphones: Immense, wooden acoustic bullhorns are installed in the woods, amplifying its sounds.  You can ''inhabit' the megaphones to engage in the richness of enhanced nature, and concerts will also be held, where musicians play inside megaphones for an audience assembled in the woods.

Aqua Sonic: Five performers submerged underwater in glass tanks perform a concert for live audiences. The artists collaborated with deep sea divers, instrument makers and scientists to develop underwater instruments and develop a new way of singing in the last frontier on earth.

Movement and Active

Culture by Bike: Live one of Denmark's most powerful symbols of its modern way of life: cycle through 450 km of spectacular scenery and cultural offerings. Digital and printed maps help guide you to ride the entire or part of the route between museums, ancient ruins, and preserved manor houses. Stop for an ocean swim like a Viking or local food offerings. 

Photo: Joel Chester

Tree of Codes: An evocative collaboration between music, dance, light and structure.

Urban Waves: You've seen - and done - nothing like this.  First you learn surfing moves on specially designed skateboards.  If you're good enough, you get to graduate to mobile 'wave ramps'. 'Surfskating' is more like surfing and snowboarding combined, and you might sprain an ankle, but the kids will love it.

Gastronomy

European Region of Gastronomy: It's no coincidence that Aarhus and Central Denmark are also celebrating their culinary culture and heritage.  It's integrated into Culture Capital events in acknowledgement that cooking was what may originally have set humans apart culturally.  Depending on your favorite food, plan your trip to hit food festivals including lobster, oysters, seaweed, and even gourmet 'hotdogs' (not your everyday street meat!) and food trucks. But the marquee event must be…

Photo: Stefan Ravn

The People's Feast: a 3-day event billed as the 'biggest dinner party in the history of Denmark'. Long dining tables and kitchen stations serve up meals with a vision and story with twists, all under the command of renowned chefs and culinary trend-setters.

Find out more about all the events going on in Aarhus in 2017 here.

Start your trip!

MSC Cruises, UNICEF Partnership Feeds 67,000 Needy Children and Their Families

We're already pretty passionate about travel.  Then when the company we trust with our valuable vacation time and budget makes the effort to do good in our shared world, well, that makes us love travel even more.

European cruise line MSC Cruises has recently reached an incredible milestone for its partnership with UNICEF, raising €6.5 million (that's about $6.9 million USD) through guest donations onboard to support UNICEF.

Those funds have been put to good use.  More than 2 million sachets of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) have been delivered to children in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Malawi. That translates into helping 67,000 malnourished children and their families since 2014.  In addition, MSC has recently delivered 22,000 essential supplies to relief efforts in Malawi.

Focus on Children and Families

MSC Cruises is a family-run company, so, according to executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, the UNICEF focus on the wellbeing of children and their families, and the ability to provide life-saving and life-changing food to children around the world where and when it's most needed, strikes a chord. 

If you've sailed on MSC Cruises, you may have seen their 'Get on Board for Children' fund-raising initiative. MSC Cruises and UNICEF have worked in partnership since 2009 and together established the global initiative to assist malnourished children in developing countries and those affected by crises.

Through encouraging MSC Cruises’ guests fleet wide to make contributions to UNICEF, more than 6,300 children have been treated in Somalia, over 9,400 in both South Sudan and Ethiopia and, most recently, over 41,500 in Malawi. With multiple challenges such as food shortages, flooding, stagnant economies and prolonged droughts, the need for food aid in these countries is enormous, especially for children.

Nutrition plus Supplies for Malawi's Crisis

In Malawi, 54,053 cases of severe acute malnutrition have been recorded this year. As the only corporate partner in the country, MSC Cruises has worked tirelessly to support the area, helping UNICEF to reach over 40% of Malawi’s severely malnourished children.

The generosity of MSC Cruises' guests has been magnified by an additional donation of more than 22,000 essential items delivered directly to Malawi, one of the poorest regions served by the relief effort. In recent years, the country has been devastated by drought, then flooding that has wiped out farms and homes. Over 6 million people, half of them children, are in grave danger of survival.

Executive chairman Vago visited Malawi earlier this year and says he returned even more committed to helping UNICEF's programs in the country.

An MSC cargo ship arrives in Malawi this month with essential goods including mattresses and bed sheets, bicycles, cooking pots, bowls and spoons, and farming tools as well as chalkboards, school pencils, drawing books, toys and puppets for the children.

Participate in the UNICEF Program on Board Ships

MSC Cruises’ guests onboard have the opportunity to learn about and participate in the MSC/ UNICEF program. There are “edutainment” activities for children and their parents. Each week, cruise ship programs include activities like a dedicated UNICEF Day with fun games and a children’s parade, where participating kids receive a leaflet to teach them about malnutrition around the world. They also receive a UNICEF World Citizen passport that is stamped after each educational activity is completed, making them an ambassador for the rights of children across the globe.

So thank you to all the guests and fans of MSC Cruises who have participated in the UNICEF programs, and to MSC for giving guests onboard such a meaningful way to spread their own commitment to families to other families in our shared world. 

Travel can do great things, and we love to share success stories like this.

  

Polish your Green Thumb on Cunard's First Festival of Flowers Voyage

Feature Film Florist Jenny Tobin Joins Queen Victoria’s Festival of Flowers Voyage; takes guests around the Atlantic Isles, exploring six iconic floral destinations including UNESCO World Heritage site.

Flower arranging and gardening are more popular than ever.  If you love touring the world's most beautiful gardens, in your home town or on your travels, you're not alone.  Experts estimate more people tour gardens every year in the US than go to both of the US's biggest theme parks combined! 

And of course, both gardening and floral arranging are icons of an upscale British lifestyle that luxury cruise brand Cunard is so expert at bringing to life for its guests.   

Leading film and TV floral designer Jenny Tobin will join Cunard cruise line's first-ever Festival of Flowers voyage this summer on Cunard's Queen Victoria, giving guests the opportunity to explore some of the Atlantic Isles’ most awe-inspiring gardens and floral landscapes.

Jenny Tobin is an award-winning florist renowned for her work on blockbuster films such as “Allied” and “Fantastic Beasts, and Where to Find Them,” as well as for her floral arrangements at the most sought-after hotels around the world and even for the British Royal Family. Jenny will be imparting her knowledge, tips and insight into her career to fortunate guests during the voyage, which departs following Queen Victoria’s refurbishment this June.

To mark the voyage, Jenny has created a bespoke bouquet inspired by the tradition and luxury of Cunard, with a bounty of exotic and much-loved flowers. Her choices and reasons for selecting these blooms and greens include:

-          Colored Ranunculus, to add a taste of the exotic and color, inspired by the loveliest of gardens from around the world

-          Scented Genista Flower, for a soft, sweet smell

-          One Garden Rose, to reflect the timeless luxury of Cunard

-          Umbrella Fern for a little pizazz

 “Cunard is known for its commitment to excellence, so I wanted to create a bouquet that reflects its premium nature, beauty from across the world and sense of luxury that runs through everything the brand does. I’m excited to be joining the first Festival of Flowers voyage on Queen Victoria and can’t wait to help inspire those traveling on board, exploring the extraordinary gardens the globe has to offer.”

The Festival of Flowers themed voyage, taking place this year in June, visits six iconic floral destinations, including La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Lisbon, as well as an overnight stay in the floral paradise of Madeira, an island renowned for its endemic fauna, flora and UNESCO World Heritage site-classified landscape.

Additional speakers on the voyage include Gay Search, one of England’s best-known gardening presenters, writers and lecturers, and Christine Wright, National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies demonstrator and Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist.

Prior to departure, guests will also be invited to enjoy the floral delights that surround Southampton with an optional pre-voyage stay at luxury hotel Chewton Glen, on the edge of the New Forest National Park.

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Why scramble around outdoors in spring rain or snow for a chocolate bunny or some foil-wrapped chocolate eggs... when you could be in France, watching (and smelling!) chocolate fashion parading down the catwalk? 

That's just one of the delicious experiences BestTrip.TV had when we visited the elegantly-named Salon du Chocolat, an annual event in Paris celebrating all things chocolate. 

The chocolate costumes are not for eating, but most everything else is. You'll find tastings, edible art, and an incredible display of things you never imagined could be done with the world's most popular confection (jewelry! sculpture!). 

Treat your inner chocoholic to the best event ever, in one of the most celebrated culinary and fashion destinations in the world.  And please stop eating your kids' chocolate bunnies. 

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How the Whole Family can Savor a Disney Vacation: At its Food & Wine Fest

Sometimes grownups need to trade spinning teacups for grownup culinary experiences. How do celebrity chefs, winemaker dinners, beer tasting seminars and irresistible cuisine sound?

All photos: Disney California Adventure

If you think you might want to balance kids' Goofy with your inner foodie, one of the best times of year to visit Disney might be during its Food & Wine Festival, when you can enjoy the park and culinary experiences for kids and adults alike.

The Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival jump-starts spring with hundreds of gastronomic adventures and delicious flavors from across the Golden State. It runs this year from March 10th til April 16th (the Florida park has a similar festival later in the year.)

Highlights for the whole, multi-generational family trip include more than a dozen marketplaces open every day, an entire menu of daily culinary demonstrations and tastings, plus beer, wine and spirits seminars, music everywhere, delicious food, and fun crafts created especially for younger guests.

Celebrity chefs scheduled to appear during the Festival include Guy Fieri, Robert Irvine, Cat Cora, Duff Goldman, Emily Ellyn and Keegan Gerhard.

Children ages 3 to 11 may join in the fun with the popular complimentary Junior Chef experience (led by Chef Goofy, and available on a first-come, first-seated basis), and the Jammin’ Chefs, who serve up tasty rhythms with pots and pans that really get cooking with the help of sous chefs Chip ‘n Dale.

Many of the Festival events are included with admission to Disney California Adventure. Guests who want to add the Signature Events may purchase separate tickets at an additional fee for:

  • “In the Kitchen with …” on Saturdays from 6-7 pm: Each Celebrity Chef will lead a 60-minute culinary demonstration and Q&A followed by an autograph session. The experience includes a tasting of some of the prepared dishes.
  • Sweet Sundays on select Sundays from 10:30- noon: A 90-minute culinary demonstration focuses on the sweet side of the culinary arts. Following a light breakfast and a sparkling toast, the Guest Chef for that day will demonstrate up to three recipes. Guests will enjoy samples from the chefs.
  • Winemaker Dinners and Brewmaster Dinners on Thursdays from 6:30 to 9 pm: A four-course dinner features wines and winemakers or beers and brewmasters. Wine or beer selections will be paired with courses created by the Disney Executive Chef Team and each winemaker or brewmaster will speak on the libation and the pairing.

Additional ticketed programs include:

  • Culinary Demonstrations (presented daily throughout the Festival) – Guests will enjoy 30-minute culinary demonstrations presented by local, visiting and Disney chefs. Each demo will focus on a single recipe, ingredient or cooking style. Guests will receive a tasting sample of the dish prepared.
  • Wine, Beer or Spirits Education and Tasting Seminars (presented daily throughout the Festival) – Beverage seminars presented by industry experts will enlighten guests who want to learn more about their favorite spirits. Each 30- to 45-minute seminar will focus on a specific beverage type, region or label, and guests will enjoy tasting samples of some of the beverages discussed.

We think the food festival might be the best way to create delectable memories for the whole family on a Disney vacation.

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Can Cruise Travel have an Edge? Celebrity Cruises Thinks So.

We don't normally go gaga over ships that haven't launched yet… But this news we just had to share with you. At a cruise industry event last week, Celebrity Cruises announced the first of a new class of ship: The Edge.

The first ship designed entirely in 3-D, in (parent company) Royal Caribbean's Miami Innovation Lab in the world's largest and highest resolution 3-D virtual reality simulator in the world, we think the billion (with a 'b') dollar Edge earns its name.

Imagine this: designers were chosen for their inexperience – inexperience! - with cruise ships and cruising.  Celebrity wanted a truly fresh approach to how to enjoy life at sea.  No preconceived notions, and nothing  was off the table.   New-to-cruise travelers, this could be the ship for you!

Highlights of their revolutionary approach include outward-facing design, a big break from traditional inward-facing design, connecting guests more to the seascape around you and practical, make-life-easy digital innovations – not just gimmicks.

In a Class of its Own: The 'Magic Carpet'

Originally conceived as a tender (small boat to shore) launch but evolved into an engineering feat that is so much more: the world's first cantilevered venue at sea that travels up and down 13 stories on the side of the ship, transforming into different venues on different decks: an al fresco specialty restaurant under the stars, an expansion of the pool deck, a luxury embarkation station.

Then there's…

  • The Resort Deck, encompassed by an outward-facing, untraditionally asymmetrical terraced pool deck nearly 22 feet high that makes the ocean views and landscapes the focal point while lounging poolside.
  • Spectacular martini glass-shaped hot tubs suspended elegantly in the air on the slenderest glass stems and bookend the pool.
  • A larger-than-life artistic mirror installation – an ever-changing, abstract piece positioned above the Pool Bar.
  • The pool deck's oversized sculptural pieces unlike anything we've seen at sea. Dramatic, unique tree sculptures add an air of whimsy and create an intimate setting at night when lit up.
  • The Rooftop Garden, a living, urban playscape designed to awaken the inner-child in everyone, tended to daily by a resident horticulturist, an interactive space, including pop-up live music performances from musicians in the treetop sculptures.
  • The Retreat Sundeck rivaling any high-end resort, with over-water hanging chairs while the water laps beneath your feet or you lay back in the shaded resort-style cabanas and soak up the nearly 240-degree panoramic views on the forward end of the ship.
  • The Retreat Lounge, located just below The Retreat Sundeck and open around the clock, touching the sea on both the port- and starboard sides, and offering seemingly endless ocean views.
  • Edge staterooms with Infinite Verandas, revolutionizing the standard veranda stateroom with the touch of a button, blurring – even erasing – the boundaries between inside and outside. The entire living space becomes the veranda, letting you walk right out to the water’s edge.

Altogether: a uniquely nautical interpretation of a stand-out, stylish, boutique resort… that happens to deliver you to a new port of call every day. 

The head-turning design is matched by technology:

Digital Technology on the Edge

  • 'Frictionless arrival', eliminating the stop-and-go check-in process that frustrates modern travelers, replacing it with a seamless experience harnessing facial recognition software and a system of geofenced beacons.
  • The cruise industry's first–keyless entry using a smart phone.
  • Another cruise-first: stateroom automation allowing guests to precisely adjust lighting, window shades, temperature, and service with a simple touchscreen.
  • Virtual Concierge app harnesses Artificial Intelligence, allowing guests to order drinks, book dinner reservations, or reserve shore excursions.
  • Way-Finding using smart phones with sensors.
  • 'X-Ray Vision' (actually, a system of HD cameras) allowing you to peek behind walls and closed doors of selected locales, like the bridge, the engine room, or even the anchor.

We can't wait to see the Edge come to life.  You won't be able to sail on this ground (wave?)-breaking new ship until December 2018, but you can already reserve your place so you can be among the first to see if you agree: there's real Edge to this new ship.

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It may not be the most joyful travel experience you have in Northern France, but for families of veterans, and any grateful citizen, a visit to the World War 2 Landing Beaches in Normandy creates a lifetime of memories.

BestTrip.TV journeyed to the shores on a stormy English Channel to see the remnants of battlefield sites, moving war monuments and memorials to the brave souls from the UK, the US, and Canada who stormed those beaches in a last-ditch effort to free Europe and end the war.