Blowes Travel & Cruise Centres Inc.'s Blog

A New Year of Travel Trends

Happy New Year!  2017 is ramping up to be an exciting year of travel. So we thought we'd share stories about the hottest travel trends that are going to impact where - and how - you travel in the coming months and even years. What do we see in our crystal ball/ champagne glass?  

Whether you're planning family, 'bleisure' (business/leisure), solo, romantic or couple travels, gal or pal getaways, from the uber luxurious to the economical, 2017 travel will be all about:

  • Wellness and Adventure: Getting outdoors and being active, returning more healthy than when you left, doing something other than pounding pavement or cobblestones every day...  visitors have more and more new, healthy and adventurous (not necessarily dangerous!) ways to experience destinations.
  • Cuba: Travel to Cuba has changed forever now that relations with the US are normalizing. If you haven't already been, there are even more ways to explore one of the world's last restricted travel areas.
  • New Cruise Ships: Ocean or river, luxury or expedition, new cruise ships, with itineraries, designs, amenities, activities and celebrity entertainment or culinary partnerships that battle to outdo each other just keep on coming!  What WILL they do next on a ship? We'll keep you abreast of all the latest developments. If you're one of the last few people who still thinks cruising is about 'blue hair and buffets', you should take a look at the latest generation of cruise ships... and passengers.  There really is a cruise out there for every traveler.
  • Celebrations: Canada commemorates its 150th birthday in 2017, and it's also riding a wave at the top of nearly every 'best place to travel' list.  Did you know as many Americans travel to Canada every year as go to all of Europe?  And with the dollar and other considerations, it's never been a better year for vacationing close to home.  So throughout 2017, we're going to share some of our favorite stories about Canada to inspire your travels. 
  • Local and authentic: Local food, local artisans... everyone is looking for authentic, local production, creation, and consumption. There's a global awareness that we're all looking to be more connected with each other and the items we consume.  Products with provenance and people with passion and rejuvenated cities and neighbourhoods.  There's more and more of it out there to discover.
  • Connecting: Staying connected with those at home, and connecting with the people, Nature, and wildlife where you're traveling.
  • Customization:  It's never been easier to work with a travel expert to craft a trip of your dreams.  In the past, it may have been harder to tweak a trip to get exactly what you want, but a new age of crafting travel itineraries is upon us, at every price point.  If you're just saying 'yes' and dropping down your credit card, you're missing out.

We want to inspire your travel imagination in 2017... and then make those dreams come true!

So we're also introducing BestTrip.TV - an 'online travel TV station' with inspiring videos you can watch right here on our web site (click on BestTrip.TV on our home page).  We'll be sharing BestTrip.TV videos throughout the year.

Safe and memorable travels in 2017!

 

 

 

Is health and weight loss at the top of your resolutions this year? Did you also resolve to travel more? 

What if you could marry your two goals?  Travel to a dream destination AND come home healthier?

Foodie BestTrip.TV travel video host Lynn Elmhirst trades in cocktails and cuisine for a juice fast at an extreme wellness, weight loss and fitness retreat in Costa Rica.

Every year, I make, like everyone else, New Year’s Resolutions. This year I wanted to hit the reset button after years of foodie travel and the good life, and an injury that interrupted my workout regime.  A serious wellness vacation.  AND create a fantastic travel video. 

So I did some research, then recruited my friend Nancy to join me on a girlfriend getaway for a two week juice fasting detox/cleanse at a resort in Costa Rica. Not just a massage or two and opting for ‘spa’ items on the menu while everyone around us is chowing down on steaks and margaritas.

We wanted to go ‘all in’, an extreme wellness retreat where we would see and feel significant results.  

Here's our experience at a no-holds-barred juice fasting resort with six hours a day of workouts beginning with a 7:30 am hike… in one of the most beautiful seaside destinations in the world.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO  and hear about our challenges and our triumphs, AND our final judgment: is an extreme wellness retreat a good travel option?

Cruise to Cuba? Yes You Can!

10 ways you can cruise to Cuba this year.

One of the biggest travel stories of the past year has to be the renewing of relations between Cuba and the US and the rise of Cuba as a destination for American travelers. Cuba has long been a favorite sun and culture destination for Canadians and Europeans. Only US citizens were prevented from traveling to the Caribbean's largest island.

Now American cruise ships are permitted to sail to Cuba, and late in 2016, Cuba approved a number of US cruise lines' applications to make port calls.  A few international cruise lines could always go, and they have increased sailings and itineraries.  So cruising to Cuba is one of the biggest travel stories this year.

Canadians and Europeans now have a lot more choices to cruise to Cuba, and Americans now have that cruise option, although they still need a visa. US cruise lines now sailing to Cuba generally facilitate a 'people-to-people' visa for American guests.

BestTrip.TV's cruise expert Lynn Elmhirst rounds up 10 ways you can cruise to Cuba this year.

From single days in port in Havana, to a week or more exploring the island, cruises to Cuba allow you to get a taste or immerse yourself in Cuba's culture, history, and natural wonders.

ALL-CUBA CRUISES

Celestyal Crystal

This Greek line claims to offer the only true circumnavigation of Cuba on 7-day, all-inclusive cruises departing every Monday from Havana, and every Friday from Montego Bay, Jamaica.  

Formerly known as Cuba Cruise, this cruise began sailing 3 years ago, and now sails year-round in Cuba on a 1200 passenger ship that was renovated in 2016. They offer the p2p program visa for American citizens.

Itineraries include two days in Havana and various calls including Maria La Gorda, known for its impeccable beachfront and underwater marine life, the perfect destination for scuba divers, snorkeling enthusiasts and beach lovers, Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth, Cienfuegos, an 18th-century fortress, and historic Santiago de Cuba, 16th century capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba.

Ports and shore excursions provide city tours, history, adventure, cultural walking tours, hiking, beach days and snorkeling to passengers of all ages and tastes.  This cruise is family-friendly, with a supervised children's program for 4-12 year olds.

National Geographic - Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expedition cruises' partnership with National Geographic means these cruises are for travelers serious about in-depth expertise: photographers, naturalists and cultural specialists join guests on the 11-day trips. These land and sea tours are an extension of Nat Geo's existing land tour programs, and they fulfill the p2p visa requirements for Americans.

Trips begin with a flight from Miami, and include several days in Havana, as well as stops in Trinidad, Cienfuegos, the historic Bay of Pigs, Isle of Youth, and Cayo Largo.

Fewer than 50 guests are on board the Panorama II, a small expedition ship, as it makes ports of call that highlight Cuba's marine and natural wonders and culture, highlighting music, history, and interacting with locals like artists, mechanics who inventively keep those classic US cars running, members of Cuba's renowned medical community, and naturalists protecting endangered species.

Natural highlights include searching for the smallest bird in the world, the bee hummingbird, a visit to a sea turtle breeding center, diving, and lots of wildlife and scenic photography.

G Adventures

Canadian tour operator G Adventures provides a less intense/ serious, and more youthful and affordable version of a Cuba expedition cruise on its 8-day 'marine tour' of Cuba's Canarreos archipelago in a catamaran with only 14 people on the tour. This cruise option is one of several types of trips to Cuba the company offers.  Americans are welcome, but need to arrange their own visas.

Cruises start and finish in Havana, and spend 5 low-key, soft-adventure days exploring off-the-beaten-path islands and island communities, with relaxed days of snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, easy exploring, visiting lighthouses, enjoying seafood dinners, and lazing on deck or on the beach. 

Pearl Mist

Pearl Seas Cruises (a sister company to American Cruise Lines), offers 10-night 'Cuban Cultural Voyages' that fulfill the American p2p visa requirements.  On the 200-passenger Pearl Mist, guests enjoy luxury elements including all private balconies on its 100 staterooms and high-end culinary offerings, but the company also makes sure to point out that there is elevator access to all decks and on board medical for its senior guests. 

These cruises run January through April, 2017, and start up again in November.  There's a packed program of stops on the island beginning with 2 days in Havana, and other ports include Isla de la Juventud, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, El Cobre, Santiago de Cuba and Parque Baconao.

Guests engage first hand with local tradespeople, artists, musicians and historians at museums, national parks, art studios, architecturally significant homes and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Photos courtesy MSC Cruises

CRUISES THAT OVERNIGHT IN HAVANA

MSC Opera and MSC Armonia

MSC Cruises, a European company, was one of the first major cruise lines to feature Cuba in its itineraries for its European and Canadian guests. The cruises have been so popular, MSC has homeported 2, 2000-passenger ships, the Armonia and the Opera, in Havana.

Guests spend about 2 days in Havana on MSC itineraries. MSC does not design its Cuba itineraries to meet American citizens' requirements for p2p visas, so guests have more flexible options that include not only historic and cultural attractions, but also beach days in Cuba as part of cruises that also include other Caribbean destinations.

Azamara Quest

Royal Caribbean's smaller-ship, sister brand Azamara has just one Cuba port of call this season: it's added an overnight in Havana to one 12- night Caribbean cruise on the Azamara Quest departing March 21st from Miami with stops in Key West, Tampa, New Orleans, and Cozumel, Mexico as well as Havana.

The cruise line says it's planning to introduce more dates and more Cuban ports, but it already offers an impressive line up of 6 of its signature 'Land Discoveries' immersive destination programs, including Hemingway's Havana and Havana by Classic American Car.   The programs fulfill visa requirements for Americans, so this cruise is a destination-focused opportunity for the Azamara Quest's 700 guests to get a taste of Cuba.

Seven Seas Mariner

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the only North American classic luxury cruise line to sail to Cuba – yet. 

It has added Havana to two Caribbean cruises aboard the 700-guest Seven Seas Mariner on April 11th and 18th.   The itineraries are identical, with an overnight in Havana as part of week-long cruises that also call on Harvest Cay, parent-company Norwegian Cruise Holding's upscale resort destination in Belize.

Regent Seven Seas cruises are all-inclusive, with fares that include airfare, unlimited shore excursions, alcoholic beverages, WiFi, gratuities and more.  Its Cuba tours fulfill US p2p visa requirements and provide guests with authentic Cuban experiences that explore the people, music, art, history and culture of the island.

Norwegian Sky

Norwegian Sky, with 2000 guests, is the largest US vessel sailing to Cuba in 2017.  NCL has scheduled 5, 4-day roundtrip cruises from Miami to Cuba on May 8, 15, 22 and 29th. 

The cruises overnight in Havana, and also spend a day at Norwegian's private island resort in the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay. Norwegian Sky's cruises to Cuba, like some of its others in the Caribbean, include an open bar, so overall, these short cruises will have mostly a party atmosphere.

However, guests will be able to go ashore to visit sites in Cuba's capital, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Havana, and experience the local art and music scene; engaging with local artists (and fulfilling US p2p visa requirements).

CRUISES WITH ONE PORT DAY IN HAVANA

Marina

Oceania's Marina is the first of the Norwegian family of cruise lines to sail to Cuba. The 1250-guest, upscale ship begins one day or overnight calls in Havana in March, with programming that meets visa requirements for Americans.  These 10 day or two week Caribbean cruises depart from Miami in multiple itineraries that also include NCL's new private island resort Harvest Caye in Belize.

Empress of the Seas

Royal Caribbean recently updated and renovated the 1600-guest Empress of the Seas for its Cuba itineraries. Beginning in April, 4, 5, and 7-night cruises depart from both Miami and Tampa on Western Caribbean itineraries with one day in port in Havana.  Royal Caribbean's Cuba shore programming allows Americans to meet visa requirements while enjoying Royal Caribbean ship experiences like rock climbing, multiple pools, restaurants, nightlife, and even the Cuban-inspired dance club Bolero.

Cuba is a brand-new destination for Americans, and cruising to Cuba is novel even for Canadians.  A travel advisor can help you choose the right ship and itinerary, and navigate the details to ensure your cruise to one of the world's newest cruise destinations is all you dreamed.

 

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Accor's New-Concept 'Millennial' Hotels: 'Revolutionizing' Travel?

French company Accorhotels is launching JO&JOE, a new hotel concept it says is 'disrupting' traditional hotel codes and 'reinventing' the hotel experience in design, food&beverage, service and lifestyle, blending 'the best of private-rental, hostel, and hotel formats for solo, groups, pairs or family 'tripsters'.

A lot of jargon, but what does it mean for travelers?

JO&JOE hotels are an economy option that will be located in on-trend European and global city-center locations close to public transportation and a city's major points of interest.

The design and experience focuses on the hotel as a 'vibrant living space' for 'Millennial-minded trend-setters' who value sharing, spontaneity and experience.   So you don't have to be actually under 30 to appreciate the JO&JOE approach, just in tune with millennial trends:  mingling of locals and travelers in an 'open house' environment, offbeat design, digital ecosystems and a next-generation approach to food and beverage.

Is this really new? Would we want to stay? Would you?

Live:

JO&JOE is possibly more about its 'open house' lifestyle than a place to lay your head. Designers envision welcoming both 'Townsters' (people living nearby) and 'Tripsters' (people in town to explore) who treat the hotels as an annex of their own living rooms at home. 

Common areas and interaction foster community living and a full calendar of programs, from concerts, yoga classes or DIY workshops. JO&JOE local teams and the Townsters and Tripsters themselves help keep hotels active and buzzing, using the brand's geosocial app as a social accelerator which helps bring people together, enabling Townsters and Tripsters to connect, meet, initiate events, share tips, or arrange to get together for a meal or a walk.

 

We see this as a great step towards two things increasing numbers of people – not just Millennials – are saying they want more of when they travel: 'authentic' local experiences and meeting local people.

Sleep:

Stays at JO&JOE are incredibly affordable, with target price points starting at only €25. Think about it: less than 10% of what a city center hotel in a major travel destination like Paris would cost.

JO&JOE hotels will have a private area called "Happy House" where 'Tripsters' can relax, work, cook or wash their clothes, just like at home.  And you have multiple sleeping options:

  • 'Together':  an ingenious modular sleeping area that guests share without sacrificing privacy, with spacious beds, private lockers, reading lights and USB ports, shared recreation areas and bathrooms.
  •  
  • 'Yours': rooms and apartments for two to five people with a private bathroom and, sometimes a kitchen area. Ideal for small groups and families, the space offers a completely different look from a conventional hotel room thanks to originally shaped and extremely comfortable beds.
  •  
  • 'OOO!' (Out Of the Ordinary): unexpected and unforgettable accommodation, different at each JO&JOE, including yurts, hammock and caravans.

Dine:
Also incredibly affordable. Dining options begin at €10 for a menu, and also reflect a supposedly Millennial spirit with a focus on interaction, sharing, local, and healthy cuisine:

  • A central bar with unique design and high street visibility to encourage local residents to join guests enjoying a wide range of drinks, with a selection promoting flagship local and craft products. 
  •  
  • Local, affordable craft cuisine serving quality food without the frills through simple, authentic, and warm restaurant concepts: grills, open flame barbecues, woks or wood fired pizzas. 
  •  
  • Collaborative kitchens offers guests a showcase for their culinary talents and a stage for sharing their best recipes. Guests can stay on budget by using the space to cook meals, just for themselves or for a whole tribe. 

If this means the demise of the sad, $30 Club Sandwich, we're on board. We're also excited to have a place to create a meal after a visit to a local market, BUT where you can also order a terrific local wine and enjoy a cozy, healthy meal if you don't feel like cooking or trekking back out to find a restaurant after a long day exploring.

Our conclusion? It might not be a revolution, but this new hotel brand is delivering in style the innovations and lifestyle more and more travelers - not just Millennial 'tripsters' are looking for when they visit a new destination.

We can easily see JO&JOE's new concept hotels being a terrific part of many holidays: families with young adult children, teens, and even small kids, fun, on-trend couples and solo travelers who want to connect with locals and local trends, on its own or integrated into a larger trip like a pre- or post-cruise, group/escorted tour, or balancing a more traditionally-structured trip.

So stay tuned!  In the coming year, Accorhotel's first JO&JOE's will roll out in Paris and Bordeaux, France, as well as Warsaw, Poland, Budapest, Hungary, and outside Europe in Rio and Sao Paulo, Brazil.   It has plans to expand rapidly around the world, launching 50 hotels in 'destinations popular with Millennials' by 2020 to catch the wave of the future of travel.

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First New Cruise Ship of the New Year: the Seabourn Encore

For those of us who love cruise travel, it's like celebrating the first baby of the New Year!  Seabourn's new Encore was introduced to the world at a festive evening ceremony pier side in Singapore January 7th, and we can't help gushing over the first cruise ship arrival of 2017.

International recording artist and the world's best-selling soprano Sarah Brightman presided over the naming ceremony as Godmother of the new 600-guest ship, the first of two new all-suite vessels for the luxury, small-ship cruise line.

Guests and VIPs joined Seabourn staff to enjoy the vibrant, entertainment-filled launch festivities as a projection screen showed the climactic moment when Brightman sent a bottle of champagne smashing against the bow of the ship, a time-honored ship christening tradition. A host of local musicians and cultural acts, including lion dancers and stilt walkers, energized the event to send the ship and her guests off in style.

The launch of Seabourn Encore marks the start of a new era of ultra-luxury cruising.  It's the fourth all-suite vessel to join the Seabourn fleet and the first of two new ships to be designed by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany. The second, Seabourn Ovation, is currently under construction and is scheduled to launch in spring 2018.

All ships maintain some of the signature elements we love most about Seabourn: a high ratio of space per guest, enabling highly personalized service by close to one staff member for each guest on board, all-suite accommodations, Seabourn’s signature water sports Marina, an open-bar policy serving premium wine, champagne and spirits, and renowned menus. With the addition of these two new ships, Seabourn will have the youngest and most modern ultra-luxury fleet in the world.

Intended by Tihany "to feel more like a luxury yacht," Seabourn Encore features modern design elements and innovations. Somehow, they manage to take our breath away, and still stay in keeping with Seabourn's understated elegance. The Encore has an additional deck and newly expanded public areas. New features include The Retreat, a secluded sanctuary for you to stretch out and relax in private cabanas, and Sushi, a one-of-a-kind dining destination found on no other ship in the Seabourn fleet.

With the inaugural voyage, Seabourn Encore is also marking the formal debut of several new onboard partner programs we've written about before: Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil offers guests a holistic spa and wellness experience that integrates physical, social, environmental and spiritual well-being; a new production show, 'An Evening with Tim Rice', created exclusively for Seabourn will also have its debut on board in the ship's Grand Salon; and Seabourn Encore will also feature The Grill by Thomas Keller, a restaurant inspired by the classic American chophouse that first opened on Seabourn Quest last year.  If you're not sailing on the Encore, you can still enjoy all three programs on other Seabourn ships; they'll be rolled out across the entire Seabourn fleet by 2018. 

Following the naming ceremony, Seabourn Encore departed on its Inaugural Voyage, the 10-day Gems of the Java Sea cruise, bound for Indonesia. The ship will then move on to Australia and New Zealand voyages, then cruise back to Singapore, on to Dubai, and cruise through the Holy Land before ending her winter season at Athens at the beginning of May.  She will then summer in the Mediterranean, arriving in Barcelona, Spain, on September 13 for the start of her autumn season.  

A busy debut sailing season for one of luxury cruising's most highly anticipated new ships. Wishing the Seabourn Encore, and everyone who sails on her, Happy Voyages!

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Celebrate Music and Modern Architecture in Hamburg

The landmark, modernist Elbphilharmonie, designed by 'starchitects' Herzog & deMeuron, has opened its doors at last this month. The complex adds three world-class concert halls, a hotel, and a public area with a panoramic view to the city famously associated with the music of Mahler, Brahms and the Beatles.

Hamburg is Europe's second largest port.  It handles large, ocean-going ships, so it's considered a seaport, even though it's nearly 70 miles (110 km) inland from the North Sea on the Elbe River at its confluence with 2 other rivers.

The Elbphilharmonie is in a unique location in Hamburg’s historic port.  It's part of Europe’s largest inner-city urban revitalization project, in direct proximity to the Speicherstadt warehouse district UNESCO World Heritage site. 

In location, in design, and in function, the Elbphilharmonie serves as a symbol of the city’s past, present and its future.

Spectacular Architecture

The renowned Swiss architecture firm Herzog & deMeuron designed the exciting structure to perch on top of a brick warehouse that used to store tea, tobacco and cocoa arriving from abroad. 1700 reinforced concrete piles support the modernist, glass structure, whose wave-like roofline rises above the water of the port that surrounds it on three sides.

The Plaza is the area that links the warehouse and the new structure, and it's the central meeting place in the Elbphilharmonie. There's a viewing platform here that's open to the public. Even getting to it is an experience: an 82-metre-long (over 250 foot-long) curved escalator transports visitors through the building. Once you get there, you have a stunning panoramic view over the city and port of Hamburg.


The heart of the Elbphilharmonie is the spectacular, Grand Concert Hall. 2,100 seats are arranged around a centrally located stage, designed to remind you of visits to terraced vineyards. Amazingly, no member of the audience is seated more than 30 metres (about a hundred feet) from the conductor. Being so unusually close to the action turns this new acoustic space into a place of unforgettable musical encounters.

In order to achieve optimum acoustics, the architects developed a special wall and roof structure together with internationally renowned acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. 10,000 individually shaped fibre panels cut with millimetre precision ensure targeted sound distribution that reaches you in every corner. For the Grand Hall, the German organ builder Klais developed an extraordinary concert hall organ with 4,765 pipes that are located in, next to and even behind the audience stands.

A Boundless Music Experience

In addition to the one-of-a-kind Grand Hall, the complex includes the acoustically outstanding, wood paneled Recital Hall and The 'Kaistudios', the Elbphilharmonie’s interactive music education area for people of all ages. The 'Kaistudios' are also home to the new 'Elbphilharmonie World of Instruments': diverse workshops in which children and adults can try out instruments from all over the world.

Are you thinking this all sounds fantastic, but you really aren't a fan of classical music? Don't fear: there's a line up of concerts and performances that not only include orchestral and operatic performances with the best orchestras in the world; piano, string quartet and German 'lieder'; but also world music, popular, and even electronic music.   Music for every fan, and a reflection of a city that not only supported famous composers, but also has had a world-celebrated club scene since the earliest days of the Fab Four.

They call it 'a perfect symbiosis of architecture and music'.  We agree.  The new Elbphilharmonie highlights Hamburg on the map of must-see global destinations for lovers of music and celebrated modern design.

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Snuggle in an Igloo in the Alps in Switzerland

Igloos aren't a central feature of Switzerland's picturesquely traditional alpine culture. Scenic, snow-capped mountains, check.  Sophisticated ski chalets, check. Meadows with dairy cattle, check.  The famous cheeses and milk chocolate they produce, check and check.

But a mountain in central Switzerland also has the unique atmosphere of high-design 'igloos' as part of its winter experience.

Stockhorn mountain towers seven thousand feet high, with a restaurant near the peak reached by cablecar, hiking trails, and views of the surrounding Alps and lakes below. On the shores of one of the lakes, an 'igloo village' springs up, just for the winter months: December through March.

Three thousand working hours of muscle power, snow plowing, balloons and enthusiasm go into the ice hotel/ 'iglus' as they call them.  Igloos are interconnected and themed, with elaborate, fantastical ice/snow carvings by international artists, and warmly rustic chic décor.

Up to 14 people can stay at the hotel – imagine booking the whole place for a group of friends or even a company retreat!

Nothing says 'team building'  or 'family fun' like an igloo building workshop. 

 But there's also the family igloo and even the romantic igloo.  Snuggling under the covers is bound to cement feelings of warmth.

Yes, that's a wedding proposal made out of ice. How romantic is that?

Cocktails at the bar, fondu dinners, mulled wine, mini film festivals, they'll all keep you warm indoors.

Outdoors, around Lake Hinterstocken, you can fill your days ice fishing, snow tubing, winter hiking and snowshoeing, playing hockey… or even relaxing and soaking up the winter sun in a lounge chair.

Stockhorn has half a dozen sister 'igloo-villages' throughout the country, so as long as the weather cooperates, you can add a night in an igloo to your winter trip to the Swiss Alps.

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Go Island Hopping in the South Pacific

The very word 'Tahiti' evokes the mystique of one of the most remote and romantic island destinations in the world.

An island hopping escape to even a few of the 118 islands and atolls in this South Pacific paradise is not only the ultimate escape from northern winters, it's the trip of a lifetime. 

Picture your arrival, welcomed by Tahitian music and fragrant Tiare flowers…  and use these highlights of some of the key islands to start planning your island hopping fantasy escape:

They call the island of Tahiti 'The Queen of the Pacific'.  It's the largest and most populated island, and is the starting point for travelers, who fly into the capital city Papeete. Don't miss Marae Arahurahu, an ancient Tahitian outdoor temple, or, in the centre of town, the market with tropical produce and fresh local fish and Tahitian arts and crafts, including the biggest selection of pareus (sarongs) in the country. Outside the city, Tahiti boasts spectacular scenery: lush green peaks tower over cascading waterfalls and rippling pools in the interior, and black- and white-sand beaches and turquoise lagoons at the sea.

Photos: Chris McLennan

Moorea is a mere 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti.  If that doesn't already sound like a fairytale, consider Moorea's nickname: 'The Magical Island'.  It is even said to be the inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Hai. You've seen it in the movies, from Mutiny on the Bounty to Love Affair.  But film can never do full justice to the dramatic beauty of the island.  Make sure you go to Belvedere Lookout, with its breathtaking views of Moorea’s twin bays, Cook’s and Opunohu. Look on Moorea's hillsides for its signature produce, pineapples, and visit a local distillery to sample exotic liqueurs from pineapple, mango, coconut, vanilla and other Tahitian flavors.

Here's another magical nickname: the 'Garden of Eden'.  Huahine is 110 miles northwest of Tahiti, and actually consists of two islands joined by a bridge.  Its main town, Maeva, means 'welcome' in Tahitian! Drive into the hills for spectacular views over white-sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons, and visit restored Tahitian marae (temples), centuries-old stone fish traps, and plantations of melons, vanilla, coffee, taro, mango, and flowers. Do you surf? There are world-class waves at Avamoa Pass, and the world’s largest outrigger canoe race begins here each October.

Bora Bora is a tiny island with a big reputation.  'The Romantic Island' has been called the most beautiful island in the world. It's only 18 miles around, circled by a necklace of coral. Lush mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the indescribable turquoise, lapis and aquamarine of the famous, sheltered lagoon. Bora Bora is home to world-class resorts and quaint continental restaurants, where celebrity A-listers vacation in luxurious seclusion.

The Tuamotu Atolls are the largest of the Polynesian archipelagos, Tahiti’s 'Strand of Pearls' with 76 islands and atolls spread over more than 7500 square miles. Four of these atolls – Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, Fakarava – offer world-class scuba diving, horseback riding, shark feeding and deep-sea fishing. In addition, the ecosystem in the Fakarava atoll is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. And Manihi is 'the Pearl Island', the site of the first of many pearl farms that have made Tahiti famous for prized, cultivated black pearls.

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Our Top Multi-Generation Family Travel Tips

The holidays are often the time of year when families travel to be together, or get together to plan big family trips coming up.

Why is it some extended families have terrific vacations together, and in other families, one or more members just dreads the annual big family trip, and makes everyone else uncomfortable – or worse, miserable – too? 

Set your family up for success with our tips for multi-generational family travel.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer and Host, BestTrip.tv

1. Lay the budget groundwork

In some families, it's grandparents spearheading the big family trip.  Perhaps even paying part or all the travel expenses.  Maybe every family pays their own way. No matter what the scenario, two things are important: establish the deal up front, and make sure no one feels railroaded into spending more money than their family can afford on a vacation.  Holidays are only fun if you aren't dreading the credit card bill on the other side. If someone is covering some of the costs, make it very clear what is being covered, and what is everyone's responsibility.  This is not the time for discretion and innuendo.  Make it clear. 

And if everyone is pitching in, make sure every family gets the chance to influence and change the type of vacation so they can afford it, too.   Surely it's more important that everyone can be together at a beach destination within driving distance than a more exotic vacation that involves expensive flights?  Can wealthier members of the family fly to get closer to where less affluent families can drive? Three words: consult, consult, consult.  Be honest.  And respectful.

2. Don't Over-Plan.

That seems counterintuitive, but there are well-intentioned people in every group who feel the need to program every waking minute of every day. Resist those people.  Especially resist the notion that everyone has to be together every waking hour of every day. 

If there's an activity or event that is a big part of your trip, sure, plan that. And every family should do some research about what things to see and do and try in the destination are appealing to them, and share those ideas and information with other family members.

The magic of multi-generational travel is it gives different members of families the opportunity to spend special time together, to get to know each other, in a new way.  If this sister, that sister-in-law, her son and your niece and grandma all want to go to that museum, or fishing, let them go together.  They can bond over a shared interest or learning something new.  Others can pair or group off relaxing in that time, or catch up, or do another activity they'll bond over.

That can apply to meals, too.  Plan a couple of big, all-together meals (especially if the trip celebrates a milestone: anniversary, birthday etc), but leave room for smaller group meals, too.  Maybe grandparents want to take the grandkids out for a special meal just for them.  Maybe all the grown up brothers want to hang out and play pool over pub food like they did when they were all single. Leave space for those really special dynamics to play out.  You'll love the results.

3. But Do Book Some of your Plans Before You Go.

Flights, accommodations, you expect to book and probably pay in advance.  But if there are events or attractions you know part or all of the group is going to want to enjoy, booking those in advance can achieve two goals: one, you know you'll be able to do it, and you have a confirmed time to do so, and two, you've paid in advance. 

If all the ladies want to have afternoon tea at that special venue, get together, and book and pay for it in advance. You'll have a confirmed reservation and seating so there's less last minute fuss, and if it's already paid for, it will be more likely they actually get to do enjoy it, rather than get pulled into someone else's agendas and miss it.  

Activity pre-payment is also a great way to manage travel budgets.  It becomes part of your planning process so there are fewer surprises later, and you don't end up susceptible to fee hikes, or changing exchange rates.

4. Share the Burden and the Fun. And Leave the Drama at Home.

Don't assume grandparents want to spend their ENTIRE vacation babysitting grandkids.  Don't assume that your sister-in-law, who often organizes family gatherings, is willing and happy to spend the whole family trip holding a clipboard and herding the whole family.  These unspoken assumptions often end up in frustration, resentment, and even behind-the-back complaining.  NOT the atmosphere you are aiming for.

Break up the responsibilities and make offers.  Offer to take your nieces and nephews one night so their parents can have an evening to themselves.  Ask if grandparents want – and can handle - 'alone time' with the grandkids. Give siblings opportunities to reconnect.

And don't forget to relax!  If you make a concerted effort to take the high road, assume the best of every family member, and communicate that mindset with your immediate family, a fun, relaxed, and memorable – in a good way! – multi-generational family vacation is in your reach.

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The World's Most Expensive Shopping Streets

Not everyone gets online or in line for shopping deals during the holiday season.  Some people still love the luxury of exclusive shopping experiences, and enjoy and compare them on their travels: 

  • Couples on a romantic escape or engagement trip shopping for the perfect ring with a travel story. 
  • Business travelers enjoying some 'bleisure' time shopping to reward themselves for closing a great deal or thank a spouse for their support. 
  • A girlfriend getaway, where everyone gets to chime in on which designer handbag goes best with those shoes.

A new global survey has updated the list of this year's most expensive shopping streets in the world.  Ranking is based on cost per square foot of retail space, and that translates into the costs of the products they sell. If you're a die-hard bargain hunter, you're unlikely to find one in these neighborhoods.  

But if elite brands and deluxe treatment are on your agenda, here's where you should head – and where we recommend you rest your head after a long day of travel retail therapy in these chic neighborhoods.

1. Upper 5th Avenue, New York

In the 19th century, this is where the .1% of super wealthy American industrialists built their mansions overlooking Central Park, earning it the name 'Millionaire's Row'.

These days, the billionaires live in penthouses, and shopping is a lifestyle. New York's iconic Upper 5th Avenue costs its luxury retail tenants a whopping $3,500 per square foot.  The crème de la crème of luxury American department stores, clothiers and jewelers' flagships line 5th Avenue – as well as the US flagship stores of their European and international counterparts. 

Photo Credit: Dmadeo

It's a storied destination, landmark after landmark: Bergdorf Goodman, exclusive jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels, Manhattan's premier department store Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Harry Winston, the fabled toy store FAO Schwarz where Tom Hanks worked in the movie Big, and of course, the remarkably understated Tiffany & Co., the jeweler of the robin's egg blue boxes and the timeless film Breakfast at Tiffany's.  And don't even get us started on Sex and the City!

Where to Stay in the Neighborhood:

The Plaza Hotel is a storied destination on 5th Avenue opposite Central Park South, an old-money venue that resembles a French chateau. On the inside, elegant, French design, gold-plated fixtures, luxury linens, suites with city views, and butler's pantries. Don't miss the fabled afternoon tea in Palm Court, or the champagne bar.

Photo: OptimumPx

Langham Place is an elegant modern tower hotel 5 minutes from the Empire State Building, with understated décor incorporating wood and marble, an 11,000 square foot luxury spa, fitness centre, hair salon, and kitchens and city views in the upper floor suites.

2. Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Hong Kong and New York are in a league of their own when it comes to price of retail real estate. Causeway Bay rents out at nearly $2500 a square foot.

Photo:  [2] - [1]

Causeway Bay is one of the most crowded neighborhoods on densely built up Hong Kong island, an historic neighborhood that expanded tremendously due to land reclamation initiatives into the bay.  It stands out on our list of expensive shopping streets in two ways: it's more of a mini district, a maze of streets packed elbow-to-elbow with people and shops. And those shops, unlike most expensive shopping districts, are not the 'usual suspects' of lavish flagship stores of internationally known luxury brands.

It does include the upscale Japanese department store Sogo, as well as smaller malls such as World Trade Centre, Windsor House, and Hang Lung Centre. But Causeway Bay is also home to trendy shops, and market stalls selling local and international fashion and products, and quirky specializations like ukuleles, or watches, or snacks, or skin care. The atmosphere here is one-of-a-kind, with shops often open til midnight, packed with Hong Kong's young and trendy.  

Where to Stay in the Neighborhood

Photo: Mandarin Oriental Hotels

The Excelsior is an icon of Causeway Bay, built on "Lot No.1", the first plot of land sold at auction after Hong Kong became a British Colony in 1841. The hotel, the first in Hong Kong to have more than a thousand rooms, opened in 1973, and is now the headquarters of the luxe Mandarin Oriental hotel group. The hotel is opposite Hong Kong's famous 'Noon-Day Gun', immortalized in Noel Coward's 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen'. For years, a cannon has been fired daily by Victoria Harbour, originally serving as a time signal in colonial Hong Kong, and the tradition continues today – so don't be alarmed!

Photo: Chong Fat

Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Causeway Bay has sleek rooms that come with sleep-aid aromatherapy kits, and some have Happy Valley Racecourse views. There's a rooftop pool, a gym, a cocktail bar and an airy restaurant with an open kitchen.

 

3. Avenue des Champs Elysees, Paris

The iconic French boulevard is one of the most renowned streets on earth, but price-wise, the Champs Elysees isn't even in the same league as the top two, costing tenants less than $1400 per square foot.  

Photo: Benh LIEU SONG

The French call it 'the world's most beautiful avenue'. We can't disagree. It's a majestic, double tree-lined boulevard between two of Paris' greatest landmarks, the Place de la Concorde and the imposing war memorial Arc de Triomphe, where the annual Bastille Day parade and the finish of the Tour de France cycling race take place.

You'd think such a street would be a magnet to the French luxury brands and couture houses.  Many are here or nearby: Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, Gaultier, Chanel, Hermes, Dior, Givenchy, Lanvin, Saint Laurent… But also, (in many cases, to the horror of Parisians) over-the-top versions of popular international brands' stores have gained a foothold. You won't want to miss the art installations at Levi's, the personalized shopping at Banana Republic, or the spectacular design and club atmosphere at Abercrombie Fitch.

Where to Stay in the Neighborhood:

The Four Seasons Hotel George V is a luxurious landmark hotel just off the Champs Elysees. While built in the late 1920's, its rooms and suites are styled after Louis XVI: bright, sophisticated, elegant and ornate, with private terraces for suites, an afternoon tea lounge with original art, and a chic bar, as well as indoor pool, sauna, and steam.

The Paris Marriott Champs Elysees overlooks the shopping boulevard, a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe. Rooms and amenities are classic, at international 5-star standards, including iPod docks, marble bathrooms, fitness and business facilities, a French eatery and a terrace restaurant.

 

4. Bond Street, London

The most expensive shopping destination in the UK comes in at over $1300 a square foot. The street is a protected heritage location, with many listed buildings, and alterations and construction kept within strict style and material guidelines on shops and their advertising.

It's claimed that Bond Street has the highest density of haute couture stores anywhere in the world. With a legacy as a chic destination going back hundreds of years, in the last century, Bond Street was best known for top-end art dealers and antique shops around Sotheby's auction house.

Sotheby's remains, but Bond Street's new claim to fame is its local and global luxury fashion boutiques, including the flagship stores of Ralph Lauren and Cartier, department stores Fenwick and Tiffany's.

Picture: CC BY-SA 3.0

Where to Stay in the Neighborhood:

Photo: Tim Westcott 

Claridge's has been referred to as an 'annexe to Buckingham Palace' for its long-standing connections to royalty.  The hotel is an art deco masterpiece only minutes from Bond Street tube. Each room has been individually designed; fresh flowers are standard and butler service is provided in suites, some of which even have grand pianos.  Don't miss the 1930's cocktail bar and especially afternoon tea in the art deco foyer, a destination event you will want to book time for to refresh during your shopping adventures on Bond Street.

Le Meridien is at Picadilly, a Regency-style hotel with rooms and suites, a grill with modern, upscale British cuisine and afternoon tea, as well as a chic cocktail bar, indoor pool and spa and even meeting rooms if you're in London on business.

5. Via Montenapoleone, Milan

Italy's first shopping street costs tenants just over a thousand dollars a square foot every year. The essential shopping street in the capital city of Italian couture, Via Montenapoleone (also known as Via Monte Napoleone) is home to flagship stores of fabled Italian fashion, footware, and jewelry houses like Ferragamo, Valentino, Pucci, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Bulgari, Gucci, Versace, Zegna, Fendi, Armani… and then there are the boutiques for French couture, luxury Swiss time pieces, and other international brands.

Photo of Gucci Store: Tengis Bilegsaikhan

You can also give your platinum credit card a work out on fantastic vintage, and high design and kitchenware, and entertainment too. Caffe Cova is one of the city's oldest cafes/confectioners. It's a perfect place to recharge your shopping batteries.

Photo:  Warburg

Where in the Neighborhood to Stay:

Two nearby hotels reflect Via Monte Napoleone's fashion pedigree: Bulgari Hotel Milano, an extension of the jewelry brand, is set in an 18th century palace with garden or courtyard views and black Zimbabwe marble accents, 2 chic bars, an indoor pool, luxurious spa and even fitness trainers.

Armani Hotel Milano is just a minute's walk from Montenapoleone metro station. The chic, contemporary rooms and suites were designed by Giorgio Armani, and you'll be able to enjoy panoramic views over Milan's city skyline in its sleek restaurant and lounge bar. There's also an indoor pool, a spa, fitness, and a business center.

The remaining ten most expensive shopping streets in the world?

  • Pitt Street Mall, Sydney
  • Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich
  • Ginza, Tokyo
  • Myeongdong, Seoul
  • Kohlmarkt, Vienna

Were you expecting LA's Rodeo Drive? Maybe Bal Harbour in Miami or the Strip in Vegas?  No other US destination outside New York has made the list – yet -  but hopefully these shopping districts in Europe, Asia and even Australia, are in your fun or business travel future.

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How to Party like a Prince in Antigua and Barbuda

This British Caribbean nation celebrates Prince Harry's Commonwealth visit with a modern twist on a local cocktail that has a royal heritage.

Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island nation located in the heart of the Caribbean Sea; the largest Leeward Islands. 365 white and pink sand beaches, one for every day of the year, are attraction enough, but the country also has a rich history and topography.  Highlights include a 1755 Georgian fort, a full-scale sugar plantation from 1674, Devil's Bridge, a natural limestone arch carved by Atlantic breakers and the world's largest frigate bird sanctuary. 

Photo of Turner Bay Beach: UpstateNYer

It's a dream for visitors who love the water and sailing; the country hosts World Class Antigua Sailing Week, a Classic Yacht Regatta, Antigua Sports Fishing, and is a port of call for luxury, sail and motor powered, yachting-style Windstar cruises, whose elegant ships and guests fit into the lifestyle.

If you're visiting this week, you might rub elbows with the Queen's grandson. His Royal Highness Prince Harry visits in recognition of Antigua and Barbuda’s 35th Anniversary of Independence and the continued close ties between the UK and the Commonwealth.  What better way to celebrate the famously fun-loving Prince's visit than with a specialty cocktail?

“The Prince’s Ginger” is made with the twin-island nation’s award-winning English Harbour rum and fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. The cocktail follows historic royal tradition, as it is inspired by a liqueur created for King Edward VII in 1903 called “The King’s Ginger’.

The aptly named new cocktail has been invented by Timmy Thomas, the head bartender of Coconut Grove - a popular beach bar-restaurant for locals and visitors alike. Timmy is one of the greatest bartenders on the island, and was recently named the Brand Ambassador for Angostura.  Timmy’s specialty is using the twin-island nation’s fresh local produce and ingredients to create unique, refreshing and delicious cocktails, and we're in luck!  he shares his recipe with us:
 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 oz - English Harbour 5 year Rum

2 1/2 oz -  fresh “Antigua Black” pineapple juice 

1/2 oz - fresh lemon juice 

2-4 - local ginger slices 

4 – freshly picked lemon grass sprigs 

1/2 oz - sugar syrup 

3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters

Method:

  • Muddle ginger slices and lemon grass springs in a mixing glass. 
  • Add all remaining ingredients to muddled mixture. 
  • Add ice then shake vigorously. 
  • Double strain into a high ball glass. 
  • Fill with ice. 

Garnish with lemongrass and “Antigua Black” pineapple peel.

The Prince’s Ginger cocktail is available at Coconut Grove - and now, at your place! We don't know if the handsome royal will actually have the chance to drink one himself, we hope so!  But now we can all dream of a holiday where we can relax on one of the country's pink-sand beaches and raise a toast to a Prince who knows how to party.

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New, Highly-Anticipated Destination Opens in Belize: Harvest Caye

Spectacular, resort-style port of call showcases authentic Belize and offers eco and wildlife adventure for cruise travelers on Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Oceania Cruises guests on Western Caribbean itineraries.

Belize is one of the hottest Caribbean destinations, and now, cruise travelers have a new port of call to explore the best of Belize.  Harvest Caye is an island a mile offshore mainland Belize, developed by Norwegian in collaboration with Belize. The development preserves and improves the native eco-system, uses indigenous, responsible hardwoods in the buildings, and is creating 500 direct and 1500 indirect jobs for the local economy.

Resort Highlights at Harvest Caye:

We can't imagine having just one day in Harvest Caye.  There's a 7-acre pristine beach with white powder sand and crystal clear waters.  You can relax in clamshell tents or in one of the luxury beach villas with porches over the water, hammocks, dining and beverage options and dedicated concierge service.

Or head to the pool.  An extravagant 15,000 square foot oasis with a swim-up bar and tables in the water, elegant lounges and canopy pool cabanas with beverage service.  One of the several dining options is an expansion of Norwegian's partnership with Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville ®: the 2-story indoor/outdoor LandShark Bar & Grill.

The 130 foot tall  'Flighthouse' is the island's point of departure for adventure:  you can burn off that pina colada trying the 3000 foot zipline, trekking across suspension bridges, free fall jumping, or trying the ropes course in the saltwater lagoon.  Don't stop there.  There are also eco/ water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing in the lagoon alongside the wildlife.

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

 

Wildlife and Conservation:

Harvest Caye's conservation programs and education efforts have been developed by award winning author and wildlife expert Tony Garel, Harvest Caye's Chief Naturalist, who will lead many of the island's tours. 

Wildlife interaction includes manatee observation tours, interactions with endangered Scarlet Macaws and Toucans, Belize's national bird, a Butterfly Garden, and indigenous reptiles like boa constrictors.  The island houses a Scarlet Macaw breed and release program, and more than 15,000 new mangroves have been planted to increase the natural estuary habitat for birds, fish and other marine species.

 

Gateway to More Eco and Cultural Shore Excursions:

Harvest Caye also serves as a gateway to spectacular eco and cultural adventures in mainland Belize. Guests depart from its marina for a wide variety of shore excursions including spectacular Mayan ruins, river rafting, nature tours and more.

 

How to Get There:

Guests sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Western Caribbean itineraries, as well as on select Caribbean sailings on Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises in Winter 2017 and Fall/Winter 2018 will have the opportunity to be among the first guests at Harvest Caye.

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Three European River Cruises You May Never Have Heard Of

River cruising is taking off.  It has become one of the most popular ways to visit the heartland of Europe, a relaxed way for travelers to explore famous cities and the scenic villages, history, and vineyards of the countryside.

The 'Big Three' river cruises are the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone/Saone.  But lesser-known rivers are finally getting their day in the sun. Here are our favorites to check out, even if you haven't already checked the Big Three off your travel bucket list:

The Seine:

Route:  Seine river cruises usually begin, and often round-trip to Paris.  The river flows north, ending at the sea in Normandy.  Some itineraries include crossing the Channel, with a stay in London. London, Paris, and French countryside in between?  Formidable!  As the French would say.

Highlights: You had us at 'Paris'.  Most itineraries include at least one pre- or post- cruise day, and in our opinion, you'll want to top it up to at least three days minimum in the City of Light.

(BestTrip.tv)

Art Lover? The region is the birthplace of Impressionism.  Cruises call at Giverny, Claude Monet's home, where the flower and water gardens that inspired some of his most famous works are still on view.  And don't miss Rouen's second largest collection of Impressionist art in the world (after Paris' Musee d'Orsay).

Normandy is the largest region in France that is NOT a wine-producing region (the horror!). Instead, the signature Norman beverage is Calvados – a brandy-like spirit made from the region's famous apple crops.  The dairy cattle grazing in fields throughout the countryside supply the milk for the area's most famous cheese: Camembert.

One of the biggest draws is the opportunity to visit the World War 2 D-Day Landing Beaches.  American, British and Canadian sites are emotional reminders of the epic struggle to gain the first foothold in the quest to free Europe. Memorial centers bring the stories of the battles and soldiers to life, and can help trace family members who fought.  

Bordeaux:

Route: Rather than traveling on one river, a cruise in this storied area of south-western France is more like traveling on spokes, where the city of Bordeaux is something of a hub to explore along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, and Gironde estuary.

Highlights:  This is a wine lover's dream. When you hear the word 'Bordeaux', we bet your first thought is wine.  Ours is! Bordeaux is the capital of the Aquitaine region, and a wine region: the largest, one of the oldest, and most prestigious in France.  

(Classic car road rally from wine chateau to wine chateau? Of course. BestTrip.tv)

Some of the most fabled and historic vineyards and wine houses are here, including Chateau d'Yquem, that holds the record for the most expensive bottle of wine in the world, and Chateau Margaux, the first grand cru.  Daily visits and tastings let you immerse yourself in the history, terroirs, and flavors of Medoc, Cadillac's Sauternes, Saint-Emilion, the first wine region to be protected by UNESCO, and more.

(Bordeaux from the river. BestTrip.tv)

The city of Bordeaux has been called the 'essence of elegance', second only to Paris as the French city with the most protected architecture. Its 18th century French design is best represented by the breathtaking Place de la Bourse. Best of all, your cruise ship docks in the 'Port de la Lune', a crescent shaped part of the river in the heart of the historic city.  It's like the city is a theater, and you have the best seats in the house from the top deck of your river cruise ship.

Bordeaux keeps its eye to the future, too, with modern architecture, vineyards and developments, including the new and astonishing riverbank 'Cite du Vin' – a vast museum of wine whose wildly modern design evokes a stylized decanter, or maybe a curving grape vine, or maybe the swirl of wine being poured into a glass... However you interpret the design, the new center firmly entrenches Bordeaux as the world capital of wine.

Douro:

Route: The Douro river flows from Spain in the east, across northern Portugal to the western city of Porto on the Atlantic coast. The scenic Douro Valley passes historic centers, and famous vineyards, and for many people, the heart of Portugal's Latin culture. 

Highlights:

The port city of Porto is the second largest in Portugal (behind Lisbon), and 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.

(Porto Tourism and Convention Board)

Porto's name suggests its claim to fame.  This is the home of port wine. In 1756, it became the first demarcated and regulated wine region in the world. 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 common in most social circles. (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, featuring the 2000-year old, 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.

(Porto Tourism and Convention Board)

At the eastern end of the Douro: Spain. Some itineraries cross the border to vibrant Salamanca, whose signature golden sandstone architecture glows. Thie UNESCO World Heritage city has a 13th century university where Christopher Columbus, the ultimate world traveler, once studied.

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Juno Beach: The Ultimate Canadian Pilgrimage The Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France, on Canada's WW2 D-Day Landing Beach, may be 'The Ultimate Canadian Pilgrimage'. read more
Not Your Usual Food Festival

Annual crab celebrations on Alaska's biggest island have far deeper meaning for a fishing community that specializes in the ocean's most dangerous catch.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip.tv

Quick geography quiz:  What Alaskan island shares its name with one of the world's largest bears?

Did you think of Kodiak?  The island, all 3670 square miles of it, is unforgettable. It's the second largest island in the U.S., with a rich and green landscape that has earned it the nickname the Emerald Isle.

Around 6500 people live on Kodiak, compared to an estimated population of 3500 Kodiak bears.  One bear for every 2 people?  Everyone agrees it's a good news story of a thriving population of a very unique animal.  Kodiak bears, isolated from the mainland for over 12,000 years, are an even larger subspecies of the brown, or more dramatically named, Grizzly bear. 

Kodiak bears are super-Grizzlies, rivaling polar bears for size.  A male often weighs 1500 pounds, standing over 5 feet tall on all fours, 10 feet tall on his hind legs. That is twice as tall as I come in at 5'2"!  That is one big carnivore.  (Experts point out they are actually omnivores.  I don't care if he occasionally has a salad.  That's a big meat eater at the very peak of his food chain.)

The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge draws visitors, especially for bear viewing, and outdoor activities like fishing.  But the closest the film crew and I got to a Kodiak bear was the stuffed one in the sporting goods store when I went in to buy a pair of rubber boots. 

We didn't take a photo of the Kodiak bear in Mack's Sporting Goods store.  This one is by Nancy Heise.

We were here for the Kodiak Crab Festival, a Memorial Day weekend celebration that kicks off a summer of long days after a dark winter. 

Part Small-Town Food Festival

A crab celebration makes sense for this community. After the U.S made the Alaska Purchase in 1867, Kodiak became – and remains – a commercial fishing center.  It is one of the top three fishing ports in the country, home to 650 boats, including Alaska's largest crab fishing vessels. 

Part of the Kodiak Crab Festival is much like many other small town food festivals: a celebration of the abundance of their local food specialty.  There's a parade, a midway, cooking contests, funny floppy crab hats, and yes!  Eating crab. 

It's odd to see what is in the rest of the world an expensive delicacy treated like a carnival fast food.  You have Never. Tasted. Anything. Like. It.   Fresh out of the sea, boiled, dipped in butter. You're a greasy mess sitting at a damp picnic table in the mist/light rain, and you couldn't have a better culinary experience at a 6-star restaurant in Paris.

Part Memorial

But that is just one side to the Kodiak Crab Festival. If you've watched the TV show, you know Alaskan crab fishing has the highest rate of work deaths.  Most are from drowning or hypothermia when men go overboard. Crab fishing takes place in the winter months when the harvests are prime, but the waters are at their iciest and most treacherous. 

The dangerous work that is entertainment on TV in the comfort of your home is all too real for the residents of Kodiak.  Everyone here knows crab fishermen who have lost their lives crabbing.  They'll tell you the stories.  

The other activities during the Kodiak Crab Festival reflect that reality. 

Members of the Coast Guard base in Kodiak, the largest in the US, demonstrate helicopter / swimmer rescues in the harbor. 

Survival suit races, where competitors vie to be the fastest to put on a cold-water survival suit and swim across the harbor, highlight the importance of survival skills. 

And the most touching part for me: the Blessing of the Fleet, bells tolled for each life lost, and a sailing out of the harbor to cast a memorial wreath on the sea.   

Alaska is rightly famous for the majestic scenery and wildlife, but a visitor's most memorable experiences will be meeting the people and hearing the tales of a lifestyle so different from our own.

Start your Trip!

 

 

Tahiti, A Honeymoon Paradise

An escape to a fabled, remote corner of the world with a reputation for romance.

Our friend, Sana Keller, a travel communications expert, was telling us about her honeymoon in Tahiti.  We just had to share her story.

For world travelers with backgrounds from opposite parts of the world, Tahiti was the perfect place for our honeymoon.  I am from the West Indies and my husband is from Switzerland.  For us, Tahiti was the best of both worlds: an island atmosphere, Polynesian-style, making it delightfully exotic for anyone familiar with the Caribbean lifestyle, with a European flare – 'c’est perfect'!

We flew to Los Angeles, and then boarded Air Tahiti Nui for our 8 hr flight. We overnighted in Papeete, the capital city, where the famous artist Paul Gauguin lived for many years. If you're an art lover like I am, you'll understand how extraordinary it feels to follow in the footsteps, and see in real life, scenes immortalized by such a creative genius.

From Papeete, we boarded our 7-day Windstar cruise.  The legendary islands of Moorea, the inspiration for South Pacific's mystical Bali Hai; Bora Bora, idyllic Huahine and Raiatea and Tahaa are glorious all on their own. Now imagine them from the deck of a graceful sailing yacht, with the wind in the sails overhead. Imagine a honeymoon of swimming and snorkeling in crystal-clear lagoons, meandering through lush rainforests, and experiencing the fascinating Polynesian culture from tikis to tiare flowers.  It's almost a 'pinch yourself to see if you're not dreaming' moment.

Following our cruise we stayed in Bora Bora and Moorea for another 5 days and enjoyed unique experiences such as shark feeding, swimming with the giant manta rays, enjoying the native Polynesian culture, visiting a pearl farm and renting a moped to explore Moorea at our own pace.

InterContinental Resort and Spa, Tahiti

If you like island hopping like we do, Tahiti really delivers.  Particularly if you enjoy snorkeling and diving, relaxing on a private yet pristine white sand beach, or simply romancing on the deck of our overwater bungalow with a warm breeze, glistening turquoise sea and a tropical cocktail. And there’s a bonus – being a French Overseas Territory, French Polynesia has outstanding cuisine, in restaurants and on the streets.  Familiar sights such as baguettes appear alongside fresh exotic fruit, fish and the intoxicating smell of the tiare flower everywhere.

Le Lotus Restaurant. Also pictured, Lotus Swim-up Bar

 

It might be the intense blue of a bewitchingly tranquil lagoon, or a night sky filled with South Pacific stars. Maybe a silhouette of volcanic peaks dramatically lit by a tangerine sunset, or a lunch of fresh fish, exotic fruits and vegetables prepared with a Polynesian influence and a touch of French flair. It doesn't take long for anyone who visits these tropical islands to realize, that yes, this really is paradise. 

It certainly was on our honeymoon!

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Re-Visiting Jamaica

Gone are the days when a trip to Jamaica meant a week spent entirely at your all-inclusive resort. Getting around and exploring outside your resort has never been easier or more appealing. 

If you haven’t visited Jamaica in a while, we suggest it’s time to try something new on one of the Caribbean’s most-loved islands:

Run!

What’s the best way to enjoy Reggae music?  The organizers of the Reggae Marathon & Half Marathon think it’s running to the beat.  The marathon is Jamaica’s premier International Marathon Event, an internationally certified course with a Jamaican vibe that includes Reggae, refreshments, and ‘irie’ atmosphere.  Marathoners, sports enthusiasts as well as beginners, locals and visitors converge in Negril to run or cheer on the runners and join in the gourmet Pasta Party and Finish Line Beach Bash.

Explore Rural Communities!

A new web site, MoretoJamaica.com, has launched, which aims to open a new door to Jamaica’s delightful culture, music, dance, food, and language to visitors, and help transform rural communities with environmentally friendly jobs and development.

Funds from the World Bank and the Government of Jamaica have allowed the Jamaica Social Investment Fund to develop the Jamaica Community Experiences and website, which was developed in collaboration with the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Product Development Company, facilitated by Green Team Global and built by Travel Agency Tribes.

The site currently features 5 community tourism enterprises, and continues to grow.  If off the beaten path is where you like to visit, this site’s a charm.

Drive!

Visitors have more options about which airports they use, and will be better able to explore the island now that Highway 2000 has opened. The North-South highway that connects Jamaica’s capital city Kingston with the island’s north coast is a four-to-six lane, 66 km motorway. Travel from Kingston to Ocho Rios is now under an hour.

Stay!

These new resorts will give you never-seen-before, stunning backgrounds for all the photos you’re going to want to post on social media to make your friends jealous.

NEGRIL

Kids and Concierge Service at Royalton Negril Resort & Spa and Hideaway

Royalton Negril Resort & Spa opens in 2017. The new 600-room hotel comes with complete beach access, a stylish tropical ambiance and a kid-friendly atmosphere. The Hideaway next door is an adults-only, 166-room haven with butler and concierge service, afternoon hors d’oeuvres in the adults-only pool and beach areas with waiter service, in-room premium amenities like aromatherapy, upgraded room service and more.

New Yoga Pavilion at The Cliff Hotel

The Cliff Hotel, a boutique hotel known for its luxury suites and villas, has just re-opened after an off-season refresh with a new yoga pavilion and fitness centre. This is the final phase of a multi-million dollar renovation to the property located off the renowned West End cliffs of Negril. All rooms offer unhindered views of the Caribbean Sea.

MONTEGO BAY

Infinity Pools and Natural Beauty at New Adults-Only Hotel RIU Reggae

Located on the beach and surrounded by incredible natural beauty, the RIU Reggae is an all-inclusive, 450-room, adults-only hotel in Montego Bay in November. The resort features idyllic surroundings and a wide array of services and amenities including: free wi-fi, infinity pools, a gym and spa.

Hotel Royalton Blue Waters

Located in Falmouth adjacent to Royalton White Sands and sharing amenities between both luxury resorts, Royalton Blue Waters  opens in November with 225 rooms. The hotel features modern spacious rooms, beautiful architecture and sports and recreational activities for the whole family.

 

Over the Water Villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean

We’ve written about these before, and they’ll soon be here!  The much anticipated, five Over the Water Villas will be the first of their kind in the Caribbean with see-through glass floors, an over-water hammock for two and private infinity pool. They are perfect for couples looking for a breathtaking and memorable vacation or honeymoon.

Modernist Flare, Gourmet Cuisine and Parties at Adults-Only Breathless Resort & Spa

AM Resorts’ new, 150-room Breathless Resort opens before the end of the year. The ultra-modern, adults-only resort features luxury accommodations, a world-class spa, mouthwatering gourmet cuisine and a non-stop party.

Rooftop Pool Bar at Spanish Court Hotel

Spanish Court Hotel makes its entrance in Montego Bay next year. Most of the 120 rooms have spectacular ocean front views as well as grand spa bathrooms. Roman tubs and specially designed sauna-sized showers add to the feeling of decadence.  We are especially looking forward to drinks at the rooftop pool bar with views of Doctors Cave Beach and the surrounding turquoise waters.

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Diving for Ocean Diamonds on 'Safari' in South Africa

This might be the most romantic exotic adventure we've ever heard of.  Taking flight on a 'diamond safari'.  

South Africa's Ellerman House, partnering with local Benguela Diamonds, is offering guests the day trip of a lifetime to a unique place of origin for diamonds worthy of the most exquisite jewelry and travel memories.

Benguela Diamonds is named after the Benguela Current, which flows off the west coast of South Africa. The 'diamond safari' allows guests to follow the journey of an ocean diamond from its humble origin beneath the surface of the sea to its transformation into a permanent memento of an extraordinary journey.

It's hard to believe it can all happen in just one day. From the historic luxury of Ellerman House in Cape Town, a limousine, then private champagne charter morning flight transport couples just over an hour away to the remote coastline. 

Home base for the day is a luxurious, contemporary villa on the coast, directly in front of Benguela’s offshore concession.  Did we mention?  A private chef accompanies you for the day, preparing gourmet meals in keeping with the coastal theme.  Fresh, line-caught fish or the local specialty, west coast crayfish, paired with South African wines from Ellerman House's wine collection? Of course.

Between gourmet meals on the terrace, the quest for diamonds.  If you have Padi Open Water certification, you can join Benguela dive masters under the water – or wait on the surface for divers, or your sweetheart, to bring the haul to you. 

It's an underwater, modern, diamond version of  'panning' for gold.  Seabed gravel runs into a classifier that separates the larger stones, which are then ‘jigged’ using a vibrating pan system. The heavier gemstones, not just diamonds, but also garnets and olivines, fall into the pan.

An expert from Benguela’s sorting team shares the process of sorting and grading of diamonds. This is the magical moment for you and your sweetheart to select a rough diamond to be cut, polished and set into a piece of dream jewelry at the company's design studio. While nature determines the color, carat-weight and clarity of a diamond, it takes a skilled craftsman to determine the cut and release the fire, sparkle and beauty of your diamond.  

By late afternoon, you are winging your way back to Cape Town aboard your private aircraft to Ellerman House, indulging in the hotel’s signature Dom Perignon Experience to celebrate the day.  Within three days, your diamond will be cut and polished, and set into your new, signature piece.

Did you choose the perfect gem?  The diamond, that is.  Your sweetheart is golden.  We couldn't dream up a more breathtaking trip for a proposal, engagement, anniversary or any milestone celebration.

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Behind the Scenes: A Year of Culinary Experiences at the World's Largest Luxury Hotel/Resort Company

Half a million bottles of champagne, 9 Michelin starred restaurants, 81 million meals… When we travel for business or pleasure, alone, with our families, or a large group, how often do we pause to think what it takes to deliver 5-star service any time of day, at any hotel or resort in the world, to any guest or group?

Now, as part of its 70th anniversary celebrations, the world’s largest luxury hotel brand has offered us a glimpse into how it delivers five-star service around the clock, across over 180 hotels and resorts from Marseille to Macau.  

A year of luxury cuisine in numbers at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts: 

  • 81 million meals served  
  • 27 million pastries made for guests 
  • 500,000 bottles of Champagne are popped 
  • 400kg of honey is produced by bees at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts 
  • 166 years is the oldest bottle of vintage wine available for guests to order
  • 9 Michelin starred restaurants across the InterContinental brand portfolio  

When your hospitality heritage includes catering to the world’s most illustrious faces, from the likes of Princess Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Martin Luther King to The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Queen Elizabeth II, partnering with Michelin star and celebrity chefs and restaurants is par for the course.

The company's current stable includes Gordon Ramsay at InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hôtel, Daniel Corey at InterContinental San Francisco, Theo Randall at InterContinental London Park Lane, Lionel Levy at the InterContinental Marseille Hôtel Dieu, Jason Atherton at InterContinental Dubai Marina and 2015’s ‘world’s best chef’ Pierre Gagnaire, at ANA InterContinental Tokyo and InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. InterContinental Hong Kong manages to offer an impressive three Michelin stars all under one roof.

Now, some of these chefs have shared the efforts required to ensure guests experience the very best luxury dining during their stay… and what inspires them about the restaurants, guests, and destinations they serve.

Michelin-starred Jason Atherton of Marina Social at InterContinental Dubai Marina: “In an unbeatable location overlooking panoramic views of the waterfront, the restaurant’s concept celebrates de-formalized dining within a relaxed, social atmosphere. What’s always been really important to me is that we engage with our customers. So, we created an open kitchen and dessert bar, where guests can watch and interact with the chefs during their meal, and of course the DJ booth, unique to this Social, which won’t be replicated anywhere else in the world – it’s Dubai’s Social.”

Daniel Corey, Michelin Star chef at Luce at InterContinental San Francisco: “I was part of the opening team in early 2008. The InterContinental brand knows that restaurants and bars go hand in hand with travel experiences. They have given me a lot of creativity when it comes to developing and executing menus for our clientele, allowing us to offer a distinct dining experience at our Michelin-star restaurant, casual fare at our bar, and a room service menu that really showcases the best products and ingredients throughout Northern California.”

Theo Randall, Chef Patron of Theo Randall at InterContinental London Park Lane, which is celebrating its 10th birthday: “I am very proud to be celebrating this milestone with the launch of a new look and menu, in the same year as the InterContinental brand’s 70th anniversary. Together we have grown from strength to strength with numerous awards over the years. It has been a pleasure to partner with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts and be a part of their signature repertoire made up of over seventy years’ experience catering for guests across the globe.”

Cocktails

If you're traveling and staying at an InterContinental Hotel soon, look out for something new at the bar: the recently-launched Worldly Classics Cocktail Menu, a carefully crafted selection of seven classic cocktails, to be enjoyed by guests all over the world. The menu, which includes Dry Martini, Negroni and the Eastern Breeze mocktail, will be rolling out across all InterContinental Hotels & Resorts globally beginning this year.

Dining with Kids

This follows the launch of the brand’s Planet Trekkers Children Menu, developed by Theo Randall and leading children’s food expert and best –selling international author Annabel Karmel. It features dishes that embrace flavors, textures, smells and tastes that will take children on an educational voyage around the world, while ensuring a nutritionally balanced meal with their parents. 

With ten openings in the past year alone including new hotels in London, Dubai, Chennai, and Beijing, as well as the reopening of the legendary InterContinental New York Barclay earlier this year, the iconic brand continues to build its luxury and culinary legacy.

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Sir Richard Branson's New Cruise Line Revealed Like he vowed to change the way we fly and even travel to space, this renowned, fun- and style-loving billionaire has also promised to fundamentally change the experience of cruise travel. read more
Are you a Bleisure Traveler? Pack these Tips for your next Trip.

Bleisure travel is like a mullet haircut: 'business at the front, party at the back'. It's a new term that has cropped up recently, a portmanteau word combining 'business' and 'leisure' - meaning travelers who attach leisure travel onto a business trip.

This is not new.  And there are many who deny such a 'trend' exists. But there's a new awareness of 'bleisure' travelers and a need to provide those travelers  - with tight schedules and multiple travel agendas - opportunities to enjoy their travels even on a work-related trip.   I say, 'bring it on'.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, executive producer and host, BestTrip.TV

As a travel expert, journalist, TV producer, host and entrepreneur, I lead a busy life, and much of it is on the road.  But I have always taken to heart my Granny's advice to 'stop and smell the roses'.  

Here are my tips for travelers who want to put a little 'party' in their business travel. 

1. Take even a small break.

Some have defined bleisure travelers as those who extend a business trip at least for one Saturday stay on either side (usually the back end) of a business trip. Personally, I feel that's much too narrow. I think bleisure kicks in any time you can carve out some personal time – at the beginning, end or during a business trip. It can be a couple of hours, a couple half-days, or yes, a couple or more days outside your business obligations.

We had an intense filming schedule in Russia that ended up without our crew ever having a full day off. But we did end our filming one day near the famed Hermitage art museum-in-a-palace.  To my surprise, the entire crew – very different ages, backgrounds and interests – all wanted to explore inside.  And that experience – while not as long as many avid art lovers might spend there – became one of our favorite memories of Russia.  If we'd decided we didn't have 'long enough' to 'do it right', we might have missed it altogether.

How could you miss this?  The Grand Staircase entry at the Hermitage.  BestTrip.TV

For some people, just an early morning run or cycle around the city for an hour invigorates and gives them a way to explore their destination.

2. Be open to new experiences.

The top 'bleisure' travel destinations naturally reflect the corporate world.  Especially in Europe, they don't always align perfectly with traditional top holiday travel destinations. Top Bleisure destinations in Europe include Lisbon, Nice, and Istanbul, outranking top leisure destinations of London, Paris, and Rome.

This means you could well end up in a destination that has never been on your travel bucket list.  I call that: opportunity. 

Vespa Tours? Not on my list until I found myself in Tuscany for work.  BestTrip.TV

 

Some of my favorite and most memorable travel experiences have been ones that I would never have come up with myself, but that I encountered as a result of my work, and they opened my eyes to a whole new way of experiencing life.  

In fact, my very first cruise was for my work, not by my choice!  Two weeks on the Crystal Symphony converted me – no surprise! And now, cruise travel expertise is one of the things I'm best known for!

3. Book ahead.

Commit and pre-pay for your bleisure, and you'll be much more likely to take the break to enjoy your destination rather than letting work consume all your time.  If you know you have a wine tour booked, you'll be much more able to combat your instincts to tell yourself, 'If I stay in my hotel, I could get X done now…', and get out into those vineyards and tasting rooms.

Don't miss out on the vineyards!  BestTrip.TV

Don't make mental half-promises to yourself to enjoy your business destination, make a commitment that your trip will benefit your own life as well as benefiting your business.

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Tall Ship Sailing Cruise Line Recreates Largest Ship of its Kind

Star Clipper's New 'Flying Clipper' is Largest Square Rig Sailing Ship Ever Built.

We love the romance of sailing. We also love the story of this specialty cruise line. Star Clippers allows travellers to revisit a modern, luxurious reincarnation of the era before steam ships and ocean liners, when there were sailing ships.

Star Clippers is the vision of Swedish yachtsman and entrepreneur Mikael Krafft to recreate the 'Golden Age of Sail' a hundred years after its decline.

In 1991, Star Clippers launched its first ship the “Star Flyer,” a recreation of the classic sailing ships of the 19th century. Since then, the Star Clipper fleet has grown to three, and the company decided that the best way to celebrate this silver anniversary would be to give the fleet a brand new sailing ship.

Star Clippers has now announced the name of their fourth ship, Flying Clipper, a five-mast barque to be launched at the end of 2017.

The World's Largest Ship of its Kind

Flying Clipper will be the biggest and the most ambitious of the Clipper fleet to date, carrying 300 passengers, and powered by 35 sails totaling more than 6,350 square meters.  

It is a near replica of the dramatic France II ordered in 1911 at La Gironde shipyard Bordeaux, which was the largest square rig sailing ship ever built. SPV Flying Clipper will be the world’s largest square rigger and the largest ship of its kind afloat today.

While the ship will have ecologically sound, high-tech engines, it will, like its sisters, rely on wind power and its sails wherever possible.

Golden Age of Sail Meets Modern Age of Luxury, Romantic Cruise Travel

Flying Clipper has three pools, one that funnels sunlight through the ship’s atrium into the elegantly appointed dining room. A water sports platform in the stern is for use when the ship is at anchor. Designs include a variety of cabin grades, including 34 suites with balconies and four luxurious owner’s suites. A glass Dive Bar occupies several compartments of the ship.

Regular guests will be delighted to discover their favorite hallmarks of all Star Clippers ships, such as the cozy library, the bowsprit net and the popular, alfresco Tropical Bar, where evening entertainment takes place.

More About Star Clippers

Star Clippers is a specialty cruise line currently operating three of the world’s largest and tallest sailing vessels. They offer passengers the activities, amenities and atmosphere of a private yacht, and are able to visit ports often untouched by larger cruise ships.

The fleet sails in Mediterranean waters in the summer months and relocates to the Caribbean for the winter. In 2014 Star Flyer started sailing Cuban waters, one of the first lines to receive permission from the Cuban government. A new route in Asia starts in December 2016, on board Star Clipper; in Summer 2017 Star Clippers will sail into Indonesian waters for the first time, from Bali and Singapore and reverse.

Passengers can enjoy the romance of sailing on board a true tall ship in a relaxed atmosphere with high standards of service. All three current ships have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, tropical bars on deck and piano bars. They are large enough to offer first class accommodation but small enough to call into intimate ports, untouched by large cruise ships. 

The two smaller ships, Star Flyer and Star Clipper, take 170 passengers each, with a crew of 74, while Royal Clipper carries 227 with a crew of 106.  The upcoming Flying Clipper will accommodate up to 300 guests in 150 cabins, attended by 140 crew members.

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Anguilla: New Ways to Play and Places to Stay

The British Caribbean island of Anguilla, reached by first flying to neighboring St.Martin (only 10 miles away) or Puerto Rico (200 miles away), has an air of relaxed, gracious refinement thanks to its British heritage and off-the-beaten track location.  Only one main road traverses the island (you can drive its full, 16-mile length in half an hour) connecting fifteen thousand residents, seaside villas and resorts.

Seasoned travelers looking to expand their Caribbean horizons beyond the bustle of busier, more tourist-y islands have these new experiences and places to stay to make this the year to explore the allure of Anguilla.

Play

First Electronic Music Festival

Anguilla hosts the first annual Livin’ in the Sun, a revolutionary EDM (electronic dance music) festival, November 11 – 13. The festival brings the world’s best deejays together on the best beaches in Anguilla. Global music, top-notch food and beverage service, live art and water sports create the ultimate music festival experience. Think Ibiza or South Beach but with British Caribbean flare.

Tennis Capital of the Caribbean

Dust off your stylish Wimbledon summer whites and head for the courts.  Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB) partners with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to host the inaugural Anguilla International Tennis Federation Junior Championships  from November 12 – 19. There's a Commonwealth connection: the tournament is organized by the Director for Canada's premiere professional tennis tournament, the Rogers Cup.

Hit the Best Beaches in the Caribbean

Anguilla boasts some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, and now, it's official! Anguilla recently placed at the top of the list of the best-kept beach secrets in the Caribbean. The island boasts 33 beautiful beaches to choose from, with the softest and sandiest going to Barnes Bay, sandwiched between Meads Bay and West End Bay.   The seclusion of the island means they're almost never over crowded,  simply the island beaches of your dreams.

Stay

Luxury at the New Four Seasons Resort and Residences this Fall

Four Seasons Resort and Residences assumes management of the Viceroy Anguilla, reopening October 20, 2016. The new property will be the largest hotel on the island with 166 villas and resort accommodations overlooking two of the island’s 33 beaches. 

Photo: Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla

               

World Class Cuisine at The Reef by CuisinArt, Small Luxury Hotels of the World

The Reef by CuisinArt opening November 10, will be Anguilla’s newest luxury destination. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the world, the property features 80 accommodations, ranging from Golfview and Seaview Junior Suites in the main building, to spectacular Junior Suites in the four beachfront building. 

Photo: The Reef CuisinArt

Romance at The Manoah Boutique Hotel

The Manoah Boutique Hotel opens early November. With 25 rooms, the resort is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

Photo: The Manoah Boutique Hotel

Seclusion at the Frangipani Beach Resort's Newest Villa

Frangipani Beach Resort  officially unveils its brand new 5,000 square foot villa. A family owned and operated resort, the Frangipani Resort is a premier luxury boutique resort in Anguilla with 19 rooms and suites.

Photo: The Frangipani Beach Resort

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Norwegian Cruise Line Celebrates its First 50 Years Guests, Partners and Team Members are invited to join in anniversary celebration by sharing personal memories with #NorwegiansFirst50. read more
All-New Luxury Travel Concept Design Details Revealed: Crystal AirCruises Jet

Crystal announced its latest innovation, Crystal AirCruises, a few months ago.  Now Crystal has shared the designs for the first Crystal AirCruises aircraft, and we think this innovation is going to change the way you - and the rest of the world - think about luxury travel.

Ultra Luxury Cruise Concept, but Traveling by Air

In fall 2017, Crystal’s acclaimed luxury travel experience will elevate to new heights with Crystal AirCruises.  It's so elegantly obvious, how did no one think of this before?  A jet that transports just 84 guests (compared to the usual hundreds of passengers on a 777) to itineraries that include the world’s most exotic and remote locales.  Like Crystal's legendary luxury ocean cruises, AirCruises offer guests first class accommodations on 14, 21- and 28-day global itineraries.

Crystal’s privately owned Boeing 777-200LR is currently being customized to meet this new exclusive way to travel. The jet will boast plush, fully reclining Crystal 'Exclusive Class' seats, airy social spaces, large flat-screen TVs, Crystal’s famous butler and concierge services and Michelin Star-inspired cuisine.

Better than Private Jet Travel?

Crystal’s Boeing 777-200LR is larger and more spacious than any private jet travel option, appointed with features that make you think less of a private jet, more of a luxury hotel suite. The custom Crystal Exclusive Class seats fully recline to lie-flat beds, measuring 73.5 inches long, for maximum personal space and ergonomic comfort, while the expansive social lounge with stand-up bar, two divans and four dining tables with dedicated seating for six guests foster friendly camaraderie among luxury travelers. Cuisine will be prepared by a dedicated executive chef in two state-of-the-art galleys and paired with an elegant premium wine list.

Guests will also enjoy creature comforts and conveniences including Bose® Noise Cancelling headphones, Apple® iPads, complimentary global WiFi, 24-inch interactive TVs with on-demand programming and music library, individual USB ports and power outlets, and a live cockpit-to-ground listening channel. Custom blankets, lumbar and pillows, plush duvets and mattress toppers – as well as spacious lavatories appointed with ETRO amenities – offer more than the comforts of home during the global journeys.

Even the savviest travelers and guests who have sailed on Crystal's ocean cruises many times will be eager to experience this brand new way to explore places impossible to reach by water, all with Crystal’s signature personalized service and the highest standard of luxury at every point of travel. 

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