Blowes Travel & Cruise Centres Inc.'s Blog

Infographic: How Cruise Lines are Working to Protect the Environment

Did you know cruise lines use some of the most eco-friendly innovations and champion stringent procedures to minimize their impact on the air, land and water they visit? 

Like many travelers these days, those of us who love cruise travel are eager to ensure our vacations are both memorable and leave the sparkling waters, crisp sea air, and scenic vistas we visit by ship untouched for the future. (Top Photo:  Regent Seven Seas Mariner in Skagway, Alaska by BestTrip.TV)

We're happy to share this infographic by cruise industry association CLIA just a few ways cruise lines work to protect the environment:

Infographic: How Cruise Lines are Working to Protect the Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Nature and Heritage at Jamaica's First UNESCO World Heritage Site

A first for Jamaica and a first for the Caribbean. In 2015, Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains became the country's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also the Caribbean's first World Heritage Mixed Site for both natural and cultural riches.

The emerald mountains define the eastern part of the island and cover an area of 480 km2. The UNESCO site is 260 km2 within Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.

Nature and Biodiversity

It's a rare 'tropical mountain' environment on the steep (nearly 1,000-meter) slopes, with cloud forest, a unique ecosystem that only occurs in 2.5% of the world's tropical forests.

The Blue and John Crow Mountains are a global biodiversity hotspot, one of the world's 78 most irreplaceable protected areas for plant and wildlife species conservation.

The park has 1,357 species of flowering plants; a quarter of them are only found in Jamaica, and 87 are found only within the park.

It is the last of two known habitats of the giant swallowtail butterfly, the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere, and the habitat for 200 species of birds including the endangered Jamaican blackbird. It is one of the largest migratory bird habitats in the Caribbean. It's also the home of the Jamaican boa and the threatened rodent hutia.

Culture and Heritage

This is where indigenous Tainos and former slaves fled to escape colonial enslavement. The thickly forested mountains provided the seclusion and natural resources for the Maroons' survival and fight for freedom. They developed a profound knowledge of and spiritual connection to the mountains, creating a cultural legacy that survives in modern Jamaica.

Tangible history of the Maroons' life and resistance in the mountains also remains today. The Nanny Town Heritage Route includes settlements, trails, viewpoints, and hiding places.

The Blue and John Crow Mountains sustained Maroons and supported them as they struggled to survive and achieve recognition and liberation. Their example influenced other slave resistance in the region, and is a powerful story of humanity for all people of the world.

Jamaicans and Visitors

The Blue and John Crow Mountains' designation as a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site was a momentous occasion for Jamaica and Jamaicans.

It was dedicated to the legacy of the Maroons of Jamaica, "strong, cunning and resourceful persons who found ingenious ways to dismantle a system that blighted peoples of the region… They have helped to shape our identity of self, and community."

As a Mixed World Heritage Site, the Blue and John Crow Mountains' one-of-a-kind environment and profound cultural heritage will be preserved for ancestors of the brave Maroons, and for visitors to the country looking for a deeper connection to Jamaica.

To plan your visit, contact  the Office of Park Managers, Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust by email at jamaicaconservation@gmail.com; or by phone at (876) 960-2848-9 or (876) 960-8278-9. Photo Credit - Jamaica Social Investment Fund

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Intrepid Doubles Family-Themed Itineraries

Intrepid Travel is doubling its family-themed tours for 2017 with 48 itineraries tailored to families in two new styles of travel, Comfort and Active Family.

The decision to launch more than 20 tours comes as a result of the increasing demand for multi-generational travel. Intrepid Travel has also experienced significant demand for its teen trips, designed for ages 12 and up, inspiring the launch of teen trekking itineraries in Peru and Nepal, among other destinations.

“Intrepid Travel’s kid-friendly tours shake up the typical family vacation, offering a sense of adventure suited for all generations,” says Leigh Barnes, North America director for Intrepid Travel. “By significantly increasing our Family tours for 2017, we hope to be the go-to operator for family adventure travel.”

Ideal for meeting like-minded families, Intrepid Travel’s family-only adventures offer action-packed experiences steering off the beaten track, away from ball pits and buffets. Transforming travel into a form of education, the tours encourage families to use the world as their textbook by immersing into the destination and culture. With an average group size of 12, travelers can hop aboard local transportation, eat at family-run restaurants and kick back in home-stay accommodations. Family-friendly tours with 2017 departures offer one-of-a-kind experiences including:

  • Act like Mowgli in search for Shere Khan and other Bengal tigers for a true “Jungle Book” experience on the Comfort Northern India Family Holiday.
  • Visit Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park, recognized by World Animal Protection for its protection of elephant welfare, on the Thailand Family Holiday.
  • Punt along the waterways of the Okavango Delta’s vibrant ecosystem by traditional canoe, greeting grunting hippos on the Namibia & Botswana Family Adventure.
  • Take on life as a local Gozitan shepherd for the day, tending to animals, cutting corn, making ‘gbejniet’ cheese and preparing lunch with the host family during the Malta and Gozo Family Holiday.

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A version of this article previously appeared in TravelPress.com

Our 'Plan a Cruise Month' Smorgasbord of Offers

Mark it on your calendar. October is 'Plan a Cruise Month'. 

This is the time of year when the world's top cruise lines introduce some of their best offers of the year.

And with the nights getting chillier, thoughts of getting away this winter to the Caribbean's turquoise waters, exotic Polynesia, or fun loving Australia leap to mind.  Or an expedition of a lifetime to South America or Galapagos. And there's always Europe and the elegant Mediterranean in the spring.

There's a smorgasbord of cruise offers available right now, so if you were thinking of a romantic escape, a family or multi-generation holiday, an expedition cruise of a lifetime, even an employee incentive trip or a group getaway with your club, here's our round up of some of the best offers available.

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New Cruise Ships Arriving this Fall in the Caribbean

If you like 'new ship smell', you won't want to miss the opportunity to experience some of your favorite Caribbean ports of call this winter – in a shiny new cruise ship.

A number of new cruise ships made their entrance on the cruising scene this spring and summer in Europe. But as temperatures cool, they start their migrations, repositioning to the Caribbean for a sunny tropical winter cruise season.

No matter your cruising style, there's a new ship to enjoy the islands this winter.

Seven Seas Explorer - Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas Explorer made a glamorous debut in Monte Carlo mid summer. She was christened by royalty, (Princess Charlene of Monaco) and explored the Mediterranean through the summer and fall, heading for Miami in November for its inaugural Caribbean season.

Highlights:

You'll be joined by only 750 privileged guests in a glittering, all-suite, all-balcony environment on a ship that's been called 'the most luxurious cruise ship ever built'. (Its Regent Suite is as spacious as any resort on shore, nearly 3900 square feet of exquisite design, with two bedrooms and even an in-room spa!) Guests may choose to dine in six fine dining venues, and enjoy the ship's two-story theatre and Culinary Arts Kitchen cooking school. Like other top end luxury cruise lines, the fare is all-inclusive, with packages that may include air, wine and spirits, shore excursions, wi-fi, gratuities and more.

Harmony of the Seas - Royal Caribbean

Have you been keeping track? Royal Caribbean's latest Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas, is now the largest ship in the world, at an amazing nearly 1187 feet in length. This wonder of maritime engineering has been cruising in the Mediterranean since her launch in June, and repositions in November to her new permanent homeport of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From there, she'll take nearly 5500 guests at a time on Caribbean itineraries.

Photo: BestTrip.TV

Highlights:

Hard to list in just one paragraph. Guests flow through the ship's immense space in seven distinct neighorhoods, where you have the opportunity to experience some of Royal Caribbean's favorite experiences and some new ones: 20 restaurants; FlowRider surfing simulators; a zipline and jungle gym, an AquaTheater for diving shows; a waterslide; a water park if you can picture your kids or your inner child having a blast with water cannons; a drench bucket; two climbing walls; and an ice-skating rink. The question is whether a 7-day itinerary gives you enough time to begin to explore the whole ship, let alone experience it all. You might want to consider back-to-back Eastern and Western week-long itineraries to spread out this much excitement over two weeks!

Koningsdam – Holland America Line

The first of HAL's new Pinnacle-class ships is the largest Holland America Line ship to date. When it debuted in May, christened (as is the tradition for the line) by Dutch royalty, the Koningsdam was praised as a new era for HAL. After a season sailing in the Mediterranean, in November, she arrives in her new homeport of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for winter and spring Caribbean cruises.

Highlights:

The Koningsdam ushers in a new era of fresh, celebrity design for the quietly elegant cruise line. Design innovations include new, upscale suites, including family units, and a top deck with a stunning pool with fountains and whirlpools. You'll be among 2650 guests enjoying some acclaimed dining experiences (always a HAL strong point): an intimate new seafood brasserie, exquisite garden-to-table cuisine (thanks to its glass-enclosed growing space), even a wine-making venue, BLEND, and new entertainment venues. The Koningsdam's 'Music Walk', features different nightly performances in three venues: Lincoln Center Stage (featuring world class performers as a result of the partnership with the famed Lincoln Center), Billboard Onboard, and World Stage.

Viking Star - Viking Cruises

The Viking Star is an honorary member of this group, since it launched as the first of Viking's ocean cruise ships in the spring of 2015. So technically, she's over a year old now, unlike the other ships on this list that launched this year. But she is crossing the Atlantic for the first time when she makes her way to Montreal this fall, then on via the Eastern Seaboard to New York, finally repositioning to San Juan to spend the winter in the West Indies before returning to Europe in the spring.

Highlights:

If you're a fan of Viking's river cruise ships, you won't want to miss the opportunity to experience its first foray into ocean cruising while the Viking Star is this close to home. The 930-guest Viking Star features the same, unique, Scandinavian modern design you've come to expect from all of this Norwegian company's ships, but in a larger ocean cruising format; all veranda staterooms; a LivNordic Spa, which includes a Snow Grotto; The Wintergarden for afternoon tea; multiple dining venues; and Viking’s Culture Curriculum for onboard learning.

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Why We Love River Cruising in Europe

We love river cruising. Like all cruise travel, it's a hassle-free way to navigate to multiple destinations and get an overview of a region. You unpack once, really settling in to your ship environment like a home away from home.

River cruise ships are small – almost by definition. They're restricted to the size of a ship that can navigate the rivers and canals and locks of Europe. Depending on the itinerary and the water levels, you may even see the wheelhouse on the top deck of the ship ingeniously lowered to make it under bridges!

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

So, while modern river cruise ships feel surprisingly spacious, much like boutique hotels, you won't find extravagances like climbing walls or Broadway shows. There's usually one main restaurant, and sometimes, a much smaller alternative dining room in an aft area normally devoted to a lounge, or near the main dining room, or on the top deck for alfresco dining. Sommeliers offer wine tastings and sometimes even tasting dinners with local wines.

In direct support of local culture and economies, local performers and even artisans are scheduled to share their talents during sailing time. They literally bring their culture on board the ship in an intimate setting that fosters interaction between guests and the talented locals.

But for us, the true enchantment of river cruising is that rivers are at the heart of Europe, weaving through not just the major cities, but also the scenic rural areas and picturesque small towns between them. Historically, rivers were the best – sometimes only! – way to travel between communities. Most European cities started and were built from the river.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

In many ways, river cruising is the way Europe was meant to be seen; one of the most authentic ways to experience its diverse regions.

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How On Trend are your Travel Plans?

The results of a recent study have revealed the luxury fantasy destinations and travel bucket list experiences of 2016.  Are your travel dreams on the list?

If you're hoping or planning to go 'Down Under' this year, you've tapped into the latest travel trends.  Australia tops the list of destinations for the upscale traveler, followed by another perennial favorite Italy, romantic Fiji, and historic Greece.  Australia's next door neighbor New Zealand rounds out the top five.

1. Australia
2. Italy
3. Fiji
4. Greece
5. New Zealand
6. Maldives
7. Ireland
8. South Africa
9. French Polynesia
10. Antarctica

As for styles of travel, affluent travelers still crave a beach vacation, but adventure comes in at second place, confirming increased interest in active travel experiences.

Most popular types of travel:
1. Beach
2. Adventure
3. Cultural/historical
4. Family
5. Food and wine
6. Ocean cruising
7. City
8. Experiential
9. River cruising
10. Romantic
11. Spa/wellness
12. Weekend getaways
13. Eco, sustainable travel
14. Golf

Family travel is in the top 5 styles of luxury travel in 2016, but the bucket list experience survey takes the concept even further. On that list, the multi-generation family trip that rallies grandparents, parents, teens and tots and even the singleton aunts and uncles is number one.  Busy schedules and long distances are increasingly making a big group getaway extended families' top choices to see the world and reconnect at the same time.

What are the other Trips of a Lifetime on travelers' bucket lists this year?

  1. Vacation with multiple generations of your family – There are more and more options making multi-generational travel easier: bigger suites and more villas to accommodate large groups.
  2. Stay in a Polynesian overwater bungalow – It might be the most romantic travel fantasy out there: idyllic lagoons, coral reefs, and overwater bungalows perched above it all.
  3. Italy's Amalfi Coast – An exhilarating way to explore Amalfi's iconic cliff-hugging coastline is by car, the ultimate road trip that can be sandwiched between nearby Capri and perhaps an Italian city destination.
  4. The Greek Isles – Yachting between them evokes the ultimate luxury holiday, and that way you don't have to choose between the party scene on Mykonos, the romance of Santorini, or the archaeological sites on the mainland.
  5. An African safari – Plan your safari for the best destination and time of year to photograph them all:  elephants, lions, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinos.
  6. The Northern Lights – Late August through March, the aurora borealis are the big attraction in the northern latitudes near the Arctic Circle and North Pole.

  1. The Galápagos Islands There's nowhere else in the world where you can interact with such fearless - and famous wildlife!  The Galapagos giant tortoise, sea turtles, the blue footed boobies...
  2. A world cruise – It might be the ultimate luxury - time! - to take to the high seas for a few months, checking exotic global destinations off your lifetime travel list. 
  3. One Trip, All Continents – An ambitious quest that takes outstanding planning.
  4. Highlights of Australia – Travelers can forget what an enormous place Australia is, and may only visit Sydney and the Gold Coast.  But we recommend going even further afield to two islands: Tasmania for its stunning scenery and the purest air in the world, and Kangaroo Island for - you guessed it! - the wildlife.

We think they all sound pretty inspiring!  And likely at least one of the trips on these lists matches your own travel dreams.

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Swiss Summer Sips

In the heat of the summer, even cooler regions of Europe look for ways to beat the heat.

Switzerland may be famous for chocolate and cheese, green meadows and snowy alps... but even they have some secrets to quench your thirst in the summer:

Mountain Fountain Water.

You might not want to try this anywhere else in the world, but in Switzerland you can drink the water flowing from fountains – in the mountains AND in cities. Bern has over 100 fountains, Zurich boasts 1,200. Unless there’s a sign that says not for drinking, the water is safe to drink. Not just safe, but delicious!  Its source is usually the Swiss Alps – the source of much of the expensive bottled water around the world – or some other pristine body of water, which Switzerland has plenty of. And the best thing: It's free. You just need an empty bottle.

Apple Juice from Thurgau.

The apple is the most popular fruit in Switzerland. The Swiss harvest 140'000 tons of apples each year – most of it in the cantons Vaud, Valais and Thurgau. Due to the apple growing and its shape the latter is known as "Mostindien" (Cider India). On the Mostindien tour you can discover apple adventures and delicacies – like the apple juice spritzer "Shorley", produced by "Möhl", a typical cider and juice mill.

Gazosa from Ticino.

This traditional drink evokes the feeling vacationing in the South.  Gazosa Ticinese is a traditional beverage with modern style. Bottled in a small town near Bellinzona since 1921, Gazosa has never lost its charm, and in fact, is enjoying a revival, with it becoming increasingly popular north of the Alps.  In any stylish bar or restaurant, you will find a line-up of these charming glass bottles with metal lids and retro/ hipster styling. Flavors include anything from lemon to raspberry. But for the original taste, order "La Fiorenzana" with bitter orange flavor.

None of these delicious summer sips is exported outside of Switzerland, so you'll have to book a trip there to enjoy.

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Saying 'I Do' Off-the-Beaten Path in Treasure Beach, Jamaica

With its famous tropical beaches, music and lifestyle, no wonder Jamaica is a favourite Caribbean island for destination weddings.  Most couples who travel to Jamaica to celebrate their special day at one of the remarkable all-inclusive resorts.

But some couples may want to venture off the beaten path to the southwest part of the island, where farming and fishing and a more authentic Jamaican way of life provide a different destination wedding experience far away from tourist crowds.

At Treasure Beach, guests are welcomed into a relaxed atmosphere where community and sustainability are the focus.  It's a different approach to travel that includes local food, farm-to-table dining events, and visitors integrating with the local residents.

If your idea of a dream wedding is a secluded beach at sunset, Treasure Beach can make that dream come true.  Charming local resorts like Jake's and the Sunset Resort and Villas provide wedding planners to help all the details come together, and also the small beach community atmosphere you and your guests will never forget.

Here are the top 10 things for couples and their guests to do while visiting Treasure Beach:

Eat and Drink:

1. The Pelican Bar: This place looks like it belongs in a movie set: a thatched hut on stilts built on a submerged sandbar 1km out to sea. Getting there is half the fun.  You have to hire a local boat captain as your taxi to what may be the most memorable place you'll ever have a drink. Chill with a Red Stripe or rum punch, watch dolphins in the surf, even take a dip yourself.  

2. Smurfs Cafe: The kitschy and fabulous experience you need to feel like a true 'local'. Smurfs Café is an unlikely combination of breeze block construction and Smurf décor that's open all hours serving some of the best breakfasts, can't-miss stove-roasted Blue Mountain coffee and divine key lime pie.

3. Jakes resort's hip, open-sided wooden restaurant that also serves diners on the patio poolside breakfast, lunch and dinner using farm and daily catch-fresh ingredients.  The menu changes with the harvest or the catch and offers modern twists on Jamaican recipes. 

4. The resort also has another, more chill and traditional restaurant, Jack Sprats, where the dishes stay more traditional and you can chill with locals playing dominos.

5. Eggy's Bar: Looking for the perfect drink overlooking the perfect sunset? Eggy's Bar is off the main road by Frenchman’s Bay and the spot locals themselves gather to drink Red Stripe and watch the sun set.

SHOP:

6. Treasure Beach Women's Group will set you up with all the gifts and souvenirs you need, from crafts made from calabash shells and other local materials, batiks, coffee. This shop can also save the day if you forget or misplace swimwear, sandals and other beach necessities.

PLAY AND EXPLORE

7. Beaches:

Frenchman's Beach: This is the most centrally located beach of the community, with the landmark buttonwood tree you see in photos.  The place to find woodcarvers selling their wares, local boat captains arranging trips to the Pelican Bar or Black River and a place to watch the sunsets. 

Jack Spratt Beach: West of Jake’s Place, this is the safest beach for swimming, where brightly painted wooden fishing boats are pulled up on the sand, and local fishers ply their nets.

Great Bay Beach: The least developed area of Treasure Beach,  where the beach and a patchwork of fields provide a rural atmosphere.  The main business here is still the local fishermen's co-op.

Old Wharf Beach: Privacy comes at a price, so it takes some effort to reach the most private beach in the area.

8. Treasure Beach Sports Park:  One of the centers of community life, with tennis courts, soccer pitches and – most uniquely to North Americans – a cricket oval.  Jake's resort has posters and information about upcoming events.

9. Bamboo Avenue:  A stunning, two and a half mile stretch of the main road in the parish lined with giant bamboo that arch over the road and form a green, shaded tunnel.  It was established by owners of an estate to provide shade for travelers and prevent erosion, and remains the longest bamboo road archway of its kind in Jamaica.

10. Black River: The second longest river in Jamaica is home to an incredible wealth of wildlife including over 100 species of wetland birds and the endangered American Alligator.  River fishermen and professional guides offer tours.  Take some time away from the beach to explore one of Jamaica's most colourful ecosystems.

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Planning a Destination Wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific coast, is one of Mexico's top resort destinations. 

In town, in the ocean, or in forest, there's plenty to entertain visitors.  Boardwalks in town are worth a stroll to see sculptors and artisans at work.  On the water, active visitors enjoy snorkeling, diving and kayaking, and less active guests can to get on boats to spot whales and dolphins.  Thrill seekers head to the jungle for zip lining and bungee jumping adventures.

With something for every travel style, it's no surprise that this town on the Pacific coast of Mexico is also one of the country's top destinations for weddings, honeymoons, and vow renewals. With a gorgeous ocean bay and mountain views, an outdoor ceremony is guaranteed stunning photos.

If you're considering celebrating your milestone in Puerto Vallarta, here are some of the things you should know:

Paperwork:

Couples must provide valid passports and an original and copy of birth certificates annotated and translated by an authorized translator certified in Spanish. Death and divorce decrees are required if applicable. ** Check with a wedding specialist to confirm up to date requirements.

Ceremony Options:

  • Civil ceremony: In Mexico, as in many other countries, you aren't legally married unless you have a civil ceremony at the Mexican equivalent of the Registrar General's Office.  You need to plan ahead – at least four months before your planned wedding date -  and the result will be a legally registered marriage.
  • Spiritual wedding: Spiritual weddings can take place in any of the breathtaking locations in Puerto Vallarta, and officiated by a person of the couple's choice.  Some couples legally get married before at home, or have both civil and spiritual ceremonies in Mexico, and some prefer to share a spiritual wedding in this beautiful destination without the legality of a marriage license.
  • A church ceremony is one option for a location for a spiritual wedding especially for those who won't feel truly married without a religious blessing, but remember, only civil ceremonies are registered legal marriages in Mexico.

Your next decision is: where to celebrate?  We've picked 5 top Destination Wedding, Vow Renewal, and Honeymoon resorts in Puerto Vallarta to get you started:

  • Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa is in a magnificent setting, surrounded by lush vegetation and with a private, 300m beach front extending on the Mexican Ocean.  The resort was uniquely built to integrate into the natural surroundings and reduce impact on the local vegetation and wildlife.  Combined with its Mexican design, the resort offers all the refinements of an international all-inclusive resort with a local authenticity.  You and your guests will be able to choose between the family-friendly, all-inclusive experience, and the Royal Suites Punta Mita, an adult only exclusive hotel for those guests who want to enjoy privacy and tranquility with luxury services. Options for the location of your dream wedding ceremony range from a religious ceremony in a charming, colonial Chapel, to a clifftop terrace wedding overlooking the Caribbean.
  • The Riu Vallarta is a low-rise, all inclusive property in Riviera Nayarit on Playa de Flamingos beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Amenities for your guests include 4 restaurants, 5 bars including a swim up bar in one of its 2 pools with jacuzzis, plus a children's pool, gym and sauna.  Your group can also enjoy the spa, outdoor activities and assorted water sports, with horse riding, cycling and golf nearby for the entire wedding party and guest list. There's an on site wedding coordinator who lets you enjoy a tropical vacation while making sure your special occasion runs smoothly,  and their wedding packages offer religious, civil/legal, as well as spiritual/ symbolic exchanging of vows.
  • The Riu Jalisco is also located on Flamingos Beach in the Riviera Nayarit, about 9 minutes from Puerto Vallarta.  This property has undergone a $12 million renovation, including updated décor in its 700 rooms - designed with families in mind to ensure multi-generation families attending  your special day will all have an ideal travel experience – as well as at its five Mexican and int'l restaurants, six bars, pools and Jacuzzis, a kids pool and play area, gym, steam, sun terrace and spa.   This is also an all-inclusive resort.Like the Riu Vallarta, on site wedding coordinators take the pressure off organizing local details, and the resort offers a range of ceremony options for every style of wedding.
  • Getting married at the Friendly Vallarta Beach Resort and Spa means you'll have the services of a professional event planner and a team of wedding specialists who focus on making sure your special day is enjoyable and memorable for you and your guests.  There are 5 spaces available to host your ceremony, able to accommodate up to 600 attendees.  Venues range from elegant ballrooms to a more rustic beach setting for the celebration or reception.  Catering and dining includes not just private banquets on the beach or canapés and cocktails, but also a multi-course tasting menu option.This property provides options for both civil and spiritual ceremonies.
  • The Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta is a beach front resort designed with multi-generational family travel in mind, including an infinity pool, two zip lines, a central pool, and a kids area with a water park with a pirate ship, castle, 9 water slides, an outdoor area for family games.   This all-inclusive property offers a la carte specialty restaurants for dinners, snack bars and bars, and rooms that can accommodate two adults and three small children, offering a children’s sleeping area with a bunk bed, a nest bed and its own TV.  Resort activities also include gym sessions, tennis, spinning, yoga, and spa treatments. The top choice by brides for their wedding ceremony is the picture-perfect rustic wooden beach terrace with a grass roof gazebo for the wedding party.

Thinking of getting married in Puerto Vallarta?  Contact us to start your trip!

 

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A 'Treasure' of Authentic, Sustainable Jamaica at Treasure Beach

Many visitors traveling to Jamaica never see the island outside their all-inclusive resorts. But if you're an adventurous traveler who's willing to brave a few potholes driving on winding country roads, you'll find a 'treasure' of old Jamaica in the South West part of the Caribbean island.

Treasure Beach is a village on the coast in the agricultural heartland of Jamaica where farmers and fishermen are said to outnumber tourists 50-1. The region supplies the country with more produce than any other parish. Are you an early riser? The rhythm of daily life in Treasure Beach starts with the first catch coming in with the dawn, and sunset sees fishing rods on the beach.

Farming and fishing are the cornerstones of the Treasure Beach community. The local 'scene' that puts Treasure Beach on the map revolves around Jake's. The resort founders call their travel experience 'community tourism': where visitors and locals come together for arts, culture, outdoor and sporting activities that include weekly outdoor movies, cricket matches, live music and DJ's, monthly full-moon, farm- to-table-dinners in the fields, a yoga deck over the sea, and activities that focus on sustainability and world class festivals

Don't Miss These Events in Treasure Beach, Jamaica:

Fitness: Jake's Off Road Triathlon has been rated one of the top 5 international triathlons, and raises funds for the community. It welcomes both elite and amateur competitors who love to travel and maintain a healthy, athletic lifestyle. The annual spring event brings competitors and Treasure Beach's landscape together during a 300M coastal swim, a 25K off-road hill cycle, and a 7K run along country trails.

Outdoors: Hook 'n' Line Fishing Tournament isn't your standard fishing competition. In a sporting version of local concierge programs, this three-day tournament pairs local fishermen with visitors - very helpful for non-local participants, since teams compete using traditional fishing techniques!

Culture: The Calabash International Literary Festival is a free, three-day, biennial (in even years) event that taps into a global 'book tourism' trend. A crowd, that ranges from backpackers, hipsters, Rastafarians, international intellectuals and government ministers, celebrates the tropical destination as much as the global and Jamaican literary stars it features. Readings under breezy awnings, the festival's signature 'open mic' audience participation, and daily concerts round out the literary travel experience.

Want to discover the treasures of Treasure Beach, Jamaica? Contact us to start your trip!

 

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Go ahead stay in a castle on your next travel adventure

​Have you ever thought about living in a castle while on vacation? 

In countries such as Germany, Ireland, France, Italy and Scotland, you can often stay in a castle for far less than a hotel.  

•    Castle Hotel Auf Schönberg  This castle is surrounded by a beautiful view of the Rhine River along with vineyards and trails for hiking and is perfect for touring the wine country. The castle was inherited by all the sons in the family instead of just the eldest; it accommodated up to 250 people from 24 families during the 14th century.  

•    Castle Hotel Liebenstein This castle is the highest castle in the Rhine River Valley. Is is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Upper Rhine Valley. Liebenstein is furnished in medieval style with decorations that rival those of the luxury Hotel Wernberg. Rumor has it that the castle hotel was built for the younger of the two brothers whose feud over a woman split the family line forever. From the hotel, it is only a short walk down to the river pier where Rhine cruises depart daily. 

•    Castle Sababurg This castle is surrounded by the oldest zoological garden in Europe (Tierpark Sababurg) and an ancient forest with oak trees that are over 650 years old (Urwald Sababurg). It is also the setting for the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. Each of the hotel’s rooms is named after an animal, a nod to the castle’s history.  Performances and parties are held both in the castle’s vaulted cellar and in the castle ruins. 

•    Burghotel Schloss Staufenberg This castle is located near Giessen, Marburg, and Wetzlar. It has replaced room numbers with the names of important historical persons.  You can stay in Count Gazmar’s Suite or Countess Sophie’s Apartments.  During World War II Staufenberg was occupied by Allied troops and used as a refugee camp.   

•    Castle Hotel Colmberg Set in Bavaria, the thousand-year-old Castle Colmberg is a destination on both the Romantic Road and the Castle Road. This hotel has it all: ancient stone towers, fortified walls, overgrown royal stables, and a deer reserve. Ask for one of the historic rooms that have four-poster beds, centuries-old paintings, antique furniture, and wooden ceilings.

Ready set jet!!! Contact us today for more information.

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Seasickness is caused by your body’s inner ear trying to keep up with the balancing act of unfamiliar motion.  Equilibrium is all controlled in the inner ear, and when you are seeing things moving that are “supposed” to be still, it can cause undue stress on your brain and cause nausea to set in.  Sometimes it takes people a few days to get their “sea legs” and nausea goes away completely.

Tips to avoid getting seasick on a  cruise ship

  • Get a cabin in the middle of the ship and as low as you can go.  The forward and aft of the ship will have the most movement as the ship barrels through the water, so the middle of the ship will feel less of these extremes.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep something in your stomach.  You might be afraid to eat anything, but just avoid spicy foods and make sure your tank is not on empty.
  • Get as much fresh air as possible on one of the top decks.
  • Look out over the forward part of the ship.  This helps many people get acclimated to the motion of the ship in the water and helps to train the brain to stop the nausea.
  • Keep an eye fixed on the horizon.  Remember, your brain can use the horizon as a point of reference so it is not so confused and triggers the motion sickness.
  • Try to get a room with at least a window as well, as not seeing the water is usually worse than seeing it.

Remedies for avoiding cruise motion sickness

You should always consult with your doctor before trying any medications or special homemade remedies just to make sure that you will not see any adverse reactions.

  • Dramamine.  This is probably the most popular over the counter drug for preventing sea sickness, but it can also make you drowsy.  There is a non-drowsy Dramamine but many people find that it still makes you feel weird.  Still, it’s better than being sea sick.  And after a few days you may find you no longer need it.
  • The Scopolamine Patch.  Some people rave about this patch and it’s supposed to work really well.  You need a prescription for it, and the only side effect most people see is a dry mouth.  But there is plenty to drink on the ship so no worries there.
  • Bonine.  This is another drug a little like Dramamine and should be taken 8 hours before you sail.  Some people recommend taking it the night before your cruise and then again that morning so you will not feel so drowsy.

Home remedies for avoiding cruise motion sickness

  • Ginger.  If you are drinking Ginger Ale, make sure there is actually ginger in it.  Some of the new soft drinks just use ginger flavors.  Some people take ginger pills and others eat ginger snaps.  Either way, it should help.
  • Peppermint candy or tea.  This helps to relieve the nausea so it’s really a remedy for the symptoms of seasickness and not really the cause.
  • Saltine crackers.  Some people swear by them, so hey, it’s worth a shot.
  • Wrist bands.  There are certain wristbands that are supposed to push down on your pressure points to stop you from getting motion sickness.  Some people can even read in a moving car with them on.
  • Eating green apples will also help keep seasickness at bay.

Remember that if you do get really sick on a cruise, there is always a nurse and medical staff on board to assist you. This is where having cruise or travel insurance can really pay off.

 

Certain cruise destinations are better for people who get motion sickenss

If you go on a cruise across the Atlantic, chances are you are going to experience a lot more movement in the water due to the cold fronts and weather changes in the ocean.  So for first time cruisers worries about getting seasick I recommend taking a cruise to the Caribbean where the waters are usually calm.

Newer cruise ships have built in stabilizers

Cruise ships are bigger than ever grossing well over 100,000 in tonnage in more new ships.  The Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas gross over 220,000 in tonnage and are over 1,100 feet long and 200 feet wide in some places.  These ships have special stabilizers that help keep the ship from rocking.

Most of the time you can’t even feel the ships moving, especially when the weather is nice.  On the rare occasion that you have some weather the wave might make the ship move a little, but captains usually try to avoid any kind of weather and find you a nice sunny part of the ocean to enjoy your getaway.

Think about it, these ships could not have ice skating rinks on them with live performances if the ships were rocking back and forth.  On my first cruise I was shocked at how still everything seemed.  Once in a while you might feel some movement, but the technology is getting better all the time, and the bigger the ship the more stable it will be.

 

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People who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes or preferences of a traveling companion can be heady stuff. Traveling alone gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully.

Of course, single travel has its perils too -- such as safety concerns, loneliness and the dreaded single supplement. But a little preparation and common sense can save you money and get you through the rough spots.

 

Why Travel Alone?

Solo travel can be the ultimate in self-indulgence; you can rest when you want and pour it on when you're feeling ambitious. Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs all the more exciting. There's no worrying that your insistence on trekking all the way across town to a museum that was closed ruined your partner's day; it's your own day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience.

Also, you can do exactly what you want to do -- all the time. Always wanted to try surfing? Sign up for a class and go for it; there's no one sitting on the beach bored while you have the time of your life. Have no desire to see Niagara Falls? Just drive right by.

 

Safety First

Perhaps the foremost concern of the solo or single traveler is safety. Without a companion to watch your back, you are more vulnerable to criminals and scam artists, as well as simple health worries. But the saying "safety in numbers" isn't necessarily true -- a solo traveler can blend in more easily than a group, and not drawing attention to yourself as a tourist is one way to stay secure. Here are a few tips:

  • Know how long it takes and how much it costs to get from the airport to your hotel or to the city center. Solo travelers are more likely to be "taken for a ride," so ask the taxi driver how much it will cost before you leave. If it's considerably different from what you know to be true, take a different cab.
  • Find out if hotels at your destination are open late, so you don't end up sleeping in your car or worse.
  • Be your own best counsel; if it doesn't feel right, don't do it.
  • Carry good identification, in more than one place.
  • Keep to open and public places, especially at night.
  • Exude confidence and walk purposefully.
  • Avoid appearing like a tourist. Ditch the Disney T-shirt and don't walk around with your face in a guidebook. (See 10 Things You Should Never Wear Abroad for more thoughts on this one.)
  • Don't draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy clothes or jewelry.
  • Lie a little. Not only can you invent your own persona or history, but you can also make your life easier with little white lies. When asking directions, don't let on that you are alone: "Can you direct me to the museum? I have to meet a friend."
  • Check your maps and transportation schedules before leaving your hotel/train/rental car/tourist office. A solo traveler poring over maps can be a mark for unsavory types.
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member at home, and stay in touch regularly via phone or e-mail.
  • For U.S. citizens traveling internationally, consider signing up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which could help the State Department assist you in case of emergency. If you're from outside the States, see if your home country has a similar program.

 

Essential Hotel Safety Tips

One of the best reasons to travel alone is to meet new people, but this also makes you more vulnerable. It's okay to hang out, travel and share with new friends, but you might not want to ask them to hold your money. Scam artists can often be the most charming companions you'll find; you want to be open-minded, but keep your guard up enough to ensure your safety.

 

Avoiding the Single Supplement

Frequent solo travelers are all too familiar with the single supplement, which tour operators, cruise lines and hotels tack onto your bill to make up for the fact that they're not making money off a second occupant. The supplement can range anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of the trip cost, meaning that you could end up paying twice as much as someone traveling with a partner.

There are several ways to get around the single supplement. You can avoid it altogether by booking with a tour operator that offers roommate matching, such as G Adventures, Intrepid Travel, Road Scholar (formerly known as Elderhostel) and Holland America Line. By finding you a roommate, they maximize their own profit off each room and save you the single supplement. The catch is, of course, that you'll have to share a room with a stranger. If you're concerned, contact the tour operator and see what kind of procedures they use to match roommates. Some pair people off at random, while others will make an effort to put complementary personalities together.

Several cruise lines offer single staterooms on select ships, including Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and P&O Cruises.

 

15 Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling Solo

If you're flexible and ready to go at a moment's notice, you could save money by booking at the last minute. Tour operators who are eager to sell out their last few places may be willing to reduce their usual single supplement. Abercrombie & Kent and Road Scholar are two companies that regularly offer discounted or waived single supplements.

It's not for everyone, but you may also want to consider staying in a hostel, which charges per bed rather than per room. Hostelling International properties tend to be reliably clean and secure, and they're open to travelers of all ages.

To keep track of the latest single travel deals, sign up for solo travel newsletters and regularly visit sites that cater to singles

 - Reprinted from independenttrraveller.com
Spend a Night in a Yurt at the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Have you ever wondered how it is to live a nomadic life?  The Gorkhi-Terelj National Park in Mongolia is where you can spend a night on a Yurt and enjoy a bird’s eye view of how it is to live a nomadic way of life.

Gorkhi-Terelj is one of the national parks in Mongolia. Situated 1600 meters above sea level, the park is one of the favorite destinations in Mongolia because of the numerous activities you can experience. Many westerners became interested to visit the park when it was shown on the television program “The Amazing Race” during its tenth season. The park is just 80 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, where the Chinggis Khaan Interntational Airport is located.  It is served by a few carriers including Air China, A-Jet, Hunnu Air, Turkish Airlines, Korean Airlines, MIAT, Aeroflot, and Aero Mongolia. From Ulaanbaatar, you can take a bus or car.

There is so much to see and do at Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. You can enjoy breathing in its beautiful scenery, take photos, go hiking and rock climbing, be up close and personal with some is its wildlife, view its  fantastic rock formations, go swimming in a glacial lake or in one of its  natural hot springs, bird watching, and enjoy a horseback or camel ride. Although there are some tourist camps in the park, you must experience spending a night or two in a Yurt, a portable round tent with a detachable hood,  a traditional dwelling place of the nomads.  The Yurt camp is where you can interact with the locals, savor traditional Mongolian dishes, and have some Arkhi or milk vodka.

Spending a few days Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is the best way to learn about the culture and way of life of the Mongolians. It is one of the places you must not miss if you take a trip to Mongolia.

 

Why you Should not Throw out Your Boarding Pass

The next time you’re thinking of throwing away a used boarding pass with a barcode on it, consider tossing the boarding pass into a document shredder instead. Two-dimensional barcodes and QR codes can hold a great deal of information, and the codes printed on airline boarding passes may allow someone to discover more about you, your future travel plans, and your frequent flyer account.

Earlier this year, I heard from a longtime KrebsOnSecurity reader named Cory who said he began to get curious about the data stored inside a boarding pass barcode after a friend put a picture of his boarding pass up on Facebook. Cory took a screen shot of the boarding pass, enlarged it, and quickly found a site online that could read the data.

“I found a website that could decode the data and instantly had lots of info about his trip,” Cory said, showing this author step-by-step exactly how he was able to find this information. ‘

“Besides his name, frequent flyer number and other [personally identifiable information], I was able to get his record locator (a.k.a. “record key” for the Lufthansa flight he was taking that day,” Cory said. “I then proceeded to Lufthansa’s website and using his last name (which was encoded in the barcode) and the record locator was able to get access to his entire account. Not only could I see this one flight, but I could see ANY future flights that were booked to his frequent flyer number from the Star Alliance.”

The access granted by Lufthansa’s site also included his friend’s phone number, and the name of the person who booked the flight. More worrisome, Cory now had the ability to view all future flights tied to that frequent flyer account, change seats for the ticketed passengers, and even cancel any future flights.

The information contained in the boarding pass could make it easier for an attacker to reset the PIN number used to secure his friend’s Star Alliance frequent flyer account. For example, that information gets you past the early process of resetting a Star Alliance account PIN at United Airline’s “forgot PIN” Web site.

After that, the site asks for the answer to a pre-selected secret question. The question in the case of Corey’s friend was “What is your Mother’s maiden name?” That information can often be gleaned by merely perusing someone’s social networking pages (e.g., does your aunt or uncle on your mom’s side have your mother’s maiden name as their last name? If so, are they friends with you on Facebook?)

Finally, the standards for the boarding pass barcodes are widely available and have been for years. Check out this document (PDF) from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for more on how the barcode standards work and have been implemented in various forms.

 

From: KrebsOnSecurity.com

 

Explore the Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations in Jamaica

When going to Jamaica, most vacationers think about the resorts that line the island's northern coast. It's not surprising that most travelers will head to that direction because Jamaica is known for exactly that: lounging in the pool, basking in the sun, or enjoying the buffets. But if you're tired of the usual Jamaican scene, why not try exploring the off-the-beaten-path destinations in the island?

It takes an adventurous spirit should you want to explore the other side of Jamaica. However, we can assure you that it's an adventure worth taking! Here are some of the destinations you can visit:

  1. Port Antonio: Located in the eastern side of the northern coast, you can enjoy a slow-paced stay in this local secret destination with lush and green secluded beaches. But, Port Antonio is not just about the beaches. You can try waterfall hikes here or go bird watching. You might also want to try dining on authentic jerk cooking.
  2. Southwestern Jamaica: Just a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay, Southwestern Jamaica is less isolated than Port Antonio, but can still offer you a less crowded vacation spot. Some of the activities you can join are a safari excursion on the Black River, a tour of the historic Appleton Rum Estate, and a relaxing dip at YS Falls. You might also want to visit Treasure Beach, which is the site of Lovers Leap where two Jamaican slaves were said to have leapt to their deaths.
  3. Pelican Bar: A 20-minute boat ride out on the sea, Pelican Bar stands on stilts. Guests can enjoy a frosty Red Stripe and some fresh-caught seafood here.
  4. Mandeville: When you think of Jamaica, you think of beaches. However, land-locked Mandeville is something else. Here you can find the Caribbean's oldest golf course, the Manchester Golf Club, which dates back to 1868. Expect an English vibe when you visit this place, with cricket games and English-style pubs all over the place.
  5. Flower Forest and River Head Adventure Trail: Go to this ecotourism attraction and enjoy a 130-acre tropical forest and 40 acres of landscaped gardens. Follow a hiking trail along Little River and feast on the beautiful sights that include dozens of tropical plants, flowers, and birds. At the end of your hike, you will find yourself in a 14-foot deep pool where you can relax and enjoy the view.

Experience Jamaica differently by exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations. Book your holiday with a travel agent today and get the best deals!

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