Northstar Travel & Associates's Blog

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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You Can't Miss these Beaches in... St. Maarten/ Saint Martin

One island, two countries. St. Martin / St. Maarten is the smallest place in the world shared by two nations, France and the Netherlands.  This may be the only Caribbean vacation or cruise port of call you’ll ever take that will have you crossing borders once, twice, or more on the same day.

You may not be able to visit every beach on the island: it's only 37 square miles, but there are the same number of beaches! Each St. Maarten beach is a very different experience. Here are four beaches – and beach bar or dining experiences – you just can't miss.

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

Great Bay Beach / Phillipsburg – breezy boardwalk and boutiques

International flights and cruise ships arrive on the (smaller) Dutch side. Cruise ships dock at the capital, Phillipsburg. It’s a short walk to the town’s stunning stretch of beach that rises up from piercing aqua water the full length of the bay.  The terrific boardwalk along Great Bay beach is lined with noisy island bars, rented segways, boutiques, and duty free shopping.

Just off the boardwalk, Phillipsburg. c BestTrip.TV

We took a break from filming on the boardwalk at the Holland House Beach Hotel. It's a taste of Miami's South Beach with European flair, with an elegantly breezy feel, low teak lounges, canvas, white stucco and bougainvillea creating a beach-chic ambiance for the bar and restaurant facing the boardwalk and beach. With exceptionally attractive and charming 20-something local and Dutch staff in attendance in the lounge at the private beach area, the cocktails go down easy and the time slips by as you absorb the action around you in the hotel, on the boardwalk, the beach, and the ships in port.

Maho Beach – daredevils and spring break

The one beach that sets St. Maarten apart from any other beach in the world is nearby Maho beach. It's pretty enough, but the real attraction is its location at the end of the Princess Juliana International Airport’s runway, and the bizarre tradition that brings tourists from all over the world to see what it feels like to stand on a beach in the jet stream of a 747 taking off just feet away.

The 747's are the blast everyone waits for. c BestTrip.TV

No one reads this sign. c BestTrip.TV

I wonder if the makers of the movie Jackass were inspired by this daily phenomenon. The signs and police warnings do nothing to stop the frenzy of bathing suit-clad thrill seekers crowding the beach mere feet from the engines of 747’s about to take off.  Just how strong is the jet stream?  Before barriers were erected along the road, we were filming there and saw two parked cars rolled over across the beach and into the sea.  People actually try to stand there, even hold onto the fence that separates them from the plane as it takes off! 

Just starting up... c BestTrip.TV

Sandblasting. c BestTrip.TV

Bars bookending the beach outside the blast zone (but still within deafening earshot) offer the room with a view to enjoy the 'entertainment' of watching risk-takers getting their skin sandblasted.  Voted one of the best beach bars in the world, the boisterous Sunset Bar and Grill is right on the beach at the end of the runway. It continues the frat house feel of the beach with a chalkboard schedule of the 'entertainment': the day's flight departures and also broadcasts a live web cam feed of other raucous bar activities.

Orient Beach – nudists and water sports

On the French side, Orient Beach is the place to go if you're terrified of returning from your holiday with tan lines. Taking its cue from the casually sophisticated topless beaches of the south of France, one end is famously designated clothing optional. For some visitors, that ‘view’ at Orient Beach is the big attraction, although if it's your first clothing optional beach, I warn you that most people on a clothing optional beach are not the people you want to see there.

These ladies are.  c BestTrip.TV

There are plenty of reasons to love Orient Beach besides ogling – or joining -  the bathing suit-free. On the windward side of the island, it's a two-mile beach of sugary sand that attracts all kinds of water sports enthusiasts and especially kite surfers and paragliders.

Whenever I visit St.Martin, I make it a habit to inhale the fresh breezes off the bay in the ambiance of one of the Orient Beach restaurant/bars that provides all day drinks, dining, and rental beach lounge chairs to catch the breeze.

Grand Case – romance and fine cuisine

The charming sea-side village of Grand Case is at the heart of French St. Martin's famed gastronomic scene. At the casual end of dining are some of the island's best lolo's or barbecue street stands that specialize in seafood. For Grand Case's real magic, try one of the open-air restaurants right on the sand that line the crescent moon beach facing west – into the setting sun.  Exquisite, authentic French food, French servers, sun setting over the waves, it all conspires to create an atmosphere you couldn’t design any better for a romantic movie set. 

Any of the wonderful French restaurants on the sand will kindle the romance, and you can end the evening on the beach with one last drink under tiki torches watching the dying rays of the sunset.  

Grand Case.  c BestTrip.TV

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Best Souvenirs from a Trip to Provence, France

What's the next best thing to travel to Provence? The souvenirs that help you remember your trip. Of course you can discover fabulous French designs and jewelry in the chic boutiques in the luxury hotspots of Nice, Cannes, Antibes/Juan-les-Pins and St. Tropez. 

But here's a list of the top items you can find in markets and at local producers to remember and share the real flavor of the South of France. (Except wine.  That's a whole other story). Some are delightful and still inexpensive, while others are a real travel splurge. High or Low end in cost, here are some travel shopping tips to help you make the best of countless choices shopping in Provence.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Executive Producer and Host, BestTrip.TV

Linens

The characteristically sunny tones and regional prints of Provencal kitchen linens are an ideal gift to yourself or anyone in your life. They instantly brighten up your kitchen or bring the zest of the Mediterranean to outdoor entertaining in the summer. Oddly, the shops have aprons galore, and they're cute, but does anyone really wear them?? Do you? I don't even know any French women who use aprons.

The colors of Provence in linen c BestTrip.TV

Tip: I'm very practical. I opt for things that are very useful: napkins you can offer guests at home outdoors in the summer with Mediterranean canapes and frosty Provencal rose wine, or, my favorite, a quilted square with ties at each corner that, once tied, create a fabric basket for French bread or fruit.

If you have little girls to shop for, Provencal linen dresses are hard to resist! c BestTrip.TV

High/Lo rating: Linens aren't cheap, starting in the tens of euros and going up into the hundreds depending on workmanship or if you get into clothing. But they weigh virtually nothing, so it won't overload your luggage and cost you excess baggage fees.


Marseille Soap

Every guest bathroom should be honored with the iconic Savon de Marseilles in the scents of Provence. Marseilles soap has set the benchmark of pure, gentle, and delectable soaps since its creation. Buying it is such fun, it's like following the yellow brick road! Shopkeepers must feel like they're kids with Lego again, setting up displays of bars, with different colors for different scents: lavender for lavender (!), delicate pink for rose, mossy green for pure olive oil.

The original color blocking!  c BestTrip.TV

Tip: You don't have to buy them in Marseilles, they're all over Provence; I bought some recently in Avignon's market.

High/Lo rating: Pocket change! You'll be tempted to fill a whole suitcase. But the weight adds up even if the price doesn't.

Olive Oil

Soap isn't the only way to bring home Provencal olive oil! If you're visiting Provence in the cooler autumn, see if you can visit an olive grove to see the harvest and the pressing first hand. Our production crew was lucky enough to be given a tour and then a tasting of the grassy oil right out of the first press, then properly aged variations. You realize you don't really know what olive oil is supposed to taste like until you've tasted it at the source!

Filming an Olive Oil Tasting at a Family Olive Farm and Press, Provence c BestTrip.TV

Tip: Opt for tin containers, they're lighter than glass and will make the trip home better. And indulge in skin care products made from olive oil, you'll never find a better hand cream or a more soothing bath oil!

High/Lo rating: The oil itself is higher quality and less expensive for the quality than you can get at home. But some of the skin care products can be pretty pricey, even so, my French friends say they're worth the splurge!

Fleur de Sel

Is really just a fancy pants way of saying 'sea salts'. Sea salts from the south of France are justifiably famous, and any foodie friend will be tickled if you remember them with a flavored local salt. Rose scented, lavender scented, the options are countless, and equally colorful. I bought test tubes of various flavors; you can see the delicate colors and bits of rose, lavender, jasmine in the salts.

c BestTrip.TV

Tip: Use them where their delicate flavor can really shine: Sprinkled over a pan-fried or gently grilled piece of fresh fish or chicken when they're done cooking, or to scent rice or eggs.

High/Lo rating: Lo! Small gift packets or the test tubes are very affordable. Save, and enjoy!

Truffles

Truffles may rise out of the category of 'souvenir' and into the category 'investment'. If you're a gourmet, truffles from the source are worth the splurge; and visiting a truffle farm and going out with the (highly trained!) and adorable dogs to find the truffles really puts the 'fun' in 'fungus'!

No Trespassing on this Truffle Farm! Somewhere (secret) in Provence c BestTrip.TV

Tip: Some truffle products are available in very small quantities, which make gifting them to your foodie friends quite reasonable.

High/Lo rating: High! Anything made with pure Provence truffles will be the big  market / food producer souvenir splurge of your visit to the South of France.

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Seabourn Launches Holistic Wellness Program with Celebrity Author Dr. Andrew Weil

Program will be incorporated on all Seabourn cruise ships in 2017

For ultra-luxury cruise guests for whom wellness is more than workouts, massages, a spa menu, and the relaxation of a service level where extraordinarily intuitive staff anticipate your every need, Seabourn has created a fleet-wide mindful living program.  The new offering guests a holistic spa and wellness experience that integrates physical, social, environmental and spiritual well-being.

The new Spa and Wellness program, with acclaimed wellness author and expert Dr. Andrew Weil, will be the first-ever of its kind at sea, and executed in partnership with Seabourn's Onboard Spa by Steiner. 

Dr. Weil, a pioneer in integrative medicine, will be working with the ultra-luxury cruise line to deliver an range of mind and body programs that ensure you can break away, relax and rejuvenate while you travel.

The Practice

Central to the program is the daily practice of meditation and yoga through a selection of complimentary sessions. Guests can experience Mindful Meditation, which will introduce positive affirmations and mantras they can reflect on throughout the day.

There will also be daily restorative yoga classes which will continue to focus upon the mantra and positive affirmations. Yoga classes will be varied, offering guests the ability to choose classes that focus on various physical issues, such as yoga to heal back and joint pain, headaches and body alignment, as well as yoga to enhance creativity, mental focus and happiness.

Classes will focus on mind, body and spirit over a period of seven days, and will change daily with a new theme.

Integral to the wellness program are enriching complimentary Mind and Body seminars designed to educate guests on philosophies and practices that are aligned with the program’s mission. Each presentation will aim to empower guests with ideas and practices that enhance well-being and increase the awareness of connection between mind, body, environment and wellness. Seminars are created by Dr. Weil and Steiner’s Wellness professionals, many of which will be based upon Dr. Weil’s teachings, and will explore the fields of the healing arts.

On Board Seminars:

  • Spontaneous Happiness & Spontaneous Healing: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s best-selling books.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s nutritional guidance.
  • Healthy Aging: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s research in this area.
  • Introduction to Mindful Meditation: learn what happens to the body and mind during meditation.

Guests can also book individualized one-on-one wellness sessions on select topics that will also be available for a fee.

New Position on Seabourn Ships

Guests will be led in the new program by The Wellness Guide, which is a newly-established position on Seabourn ships. The Guide will be a certified yoga and meditation practitioner who will inspire and educate all guests through various complimentary classes and gatherings throughout the voyage.

Launching with the New Seabourn Encore

The program is scheduled to kick off with Dr. Weil sailing on Seabourn Encore’s inaugural cruise in January 2017. The program will be rolled out throughout the entire Seabourn fleet in 2017, including Seabourn Ovation in spring of 2018.

Guests who already know Dr. Weil's work will be delighted to hear he will sail on a different Seabourn ship each year, where he will deliver a 60-minute lecture for guests and will also offer smaller informal group discussions. A separate team of wellness experts will also make regular visits to spa facilities throughout the Seabourn fleet.

Guests who choose to participate in this new program on Seabourn will have a cruise experience that is further enhanced by a holistic mind and body perspective.

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Dutch Design Company Aims to Revolutionize Travel.  Well at least your Luggage.

The same Amsterdam-based company that revolutionized getting around with kids is hoping to achieve a new cult following among travelers.

 

If you are one of the countless parents worldwide devoted to Bugaboo stroller systems, you'll already be familiar with the stroller system that set a new benchmark for rugged, high-concept, modular, and - above all with Dutch design - practical moving solutions.

 

The Bugaboo Boxer luggage system applies the same principles to getting you and your things efficiently and stylishly around an airport as it did to you navigating the school run with small children in tow.

Not a suitcase, a 'Luggage System'

It's based on a four-wheeled, foldable chassis the design company says has smooth and easy push-steering and ergonomic design to give your back and arms a break.  A variety of hard-shell, interlocking cases click-lock onto it and each other (yes, Lego-like!).

 

According to Bugaboo, the frame is lightweight and glides effortlessly on two wheels for pulling or four wheels for pushing. The 'luggage system' allows you to easily maneuver multiple cases without a trolley, and reconfigure them in moments, even folding the wheels into the chassis to reduce its size to a minimum as you check in, board, go through security, or load into a taxi.

Mobility and Utility - and Style

It's not all about mobility, it's also utility. There are elastic straps to manage your coat, and a detachable organizer that can hold a laptop and any other at-hand essentials you might need.

 

You can buy system components separately, or sets of the chassis plus a selection of travel case, cabin case (with inner bag bonus for your laundry, an extra carry on, last minute souvenirs…) or laptop bag pre-configured in a design suited to the travel needs of a business, short range or extended vacation travelers, in a mix and match of trendy, Dutch colors.

 

Like their baby strollers, Bugaboo luggage system prices start north of $1000 for the chassis plus one case.

 

Bugaboo hopes the new 'luggage system' will allow you to 'forget everything you know about luggage' and that its game-changing details allow you to 'rediscover the pleasure of travel'.  We haven't tried one yet, but we'd settle for just a little less 'lugging' of our luggage.

 

Sales begin September 26th 2016 online for Europe, UK, and US, with further distribution promised.

Image: Bugaboo

Where to Travel to Breathe the World's Purest Air?

Where would you travel in search of the world's cleanest air? Here's logic you might use:  it has to be remote, since big cities and human activity are the world's polluters; an island, even; and in the less land- and human-dense southern hemisphere.  Eliminate places that are not inhabited year round for air quality monitoring, and did you come up with…  Tasmania? 

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV's Executive Producer and host, traveled to Australia's remote southern island to see if you can really breathe the difference.

 

Australia's southern-most state is an island south of Melbourne (next stop: Antarctica). Tasmania regularly registers the world's purest air.  Its aptly named Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station, on the remote, north-west shore, records air quality that sets the standard for global clean air.

 

The air that reaches Cape Grim is carried thousands of kilometers across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans by the 'Roaring Forties'.  These strong westerly winds carry pollution-free air thousands of kilometers across the southern most parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans without going over any other populated land.

Just how clean is the air in Tasmania?  Scientists record a couple of hundred particles per cubic centimeter of air, compared with the tens of thousands of particles in major cities.   As we discovered, even at the airport in the capital city of Hobart, the difference in the air is heady.

No wonder the best ways to experience of one of the world's most southerly landfalls involve getting outdoors.  Over one third of Tasmania is national park, reserve, or world heritage-protected wilderness.  We spent almost all our visit outdoors, and you can, too.  Here's our favorite ways:

Get on the water. 

It seems nearly everyone you meet in Hobart has even a little sailboat down at the marina. 'Tassies' love to sail, and you can easily get on board a sailing cruise, where you can crew, or enjoy the fresh air as a passenger. 

If you're a huge fan of sailing, plan to visiting over Christmas holidays so you can cheer at the finish line of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, one of the most grueling maxi yacht races in the world.  The 630 nautical mile race takes crews nearly two days to navigate, and is considered one of the sailing world's top three offshore yacht races.  The spectacle as the yachts arrive at Hobart is magnificent.

Kayaking is another tremendously popular way to get out on the water, especially to explore remote coastline.  Surfers will find some of the biggest breaks in the world, and divers can explore amazing kelp forests.  

 

And one of my favorites: woods walks.  Tasmania is a hiker's paradise with gentle and epic walks in hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine coastline and wilderness.  With its diverse and ancient landscape, including unique plants and wildlife found no where else in the world, including Huon Pine, one of the world's oldest trees, a hike in Tasmania is an experience you'll never forget. 

Biking trails, tree walks and climbing adventures give everyone a taste of Tasmania's wild- and mild outdoor adventures.

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First TransAtlantic British Fashion Week

Cunard Debuts First-Ever Transatlantic Fashion Week en route to New York Fashion Week on Queen Mary 2.

Cunard brings a world of glamour and fashion and British luxury on board the iconic ocean liner Queen Mary 2 featuring Dame Zandra Rhodes CBE, Colin McDowell MBE, Fern Mallis, Gail Sackloff OBE, Royal College of Art and Storm Models.

Royal College of Art graduate, Sophie Schmidt, unveiled her latest creation worn by a Storm model on board the iconic Queen Mary 2 to kick off Cunard’s first ever ‘Transatlantic Fashion Week’ cruise with Dame Zandra Rhodes.

Fashion royalty, including Colin McDowell MBE, Fern Mallis and Gail Sackloff OBE set off from the Port of Southampton on Queen Mary 2 for seven days of runway shows, glamorous dinners and exclusive unveilings before joining New York Fashion Week on September 8.

British Designer Dame Zandra Rhodes CBE, known for dressing some of the world’s best-known style icons including Freddie Mercury, Jackie Onassis and former Cunard passenger Elizabeth Taylor, showcases her latest collection this week on board Queen Mary 2. The celebrated fashion designer is also joined by highly respected fashion historian and style commentator Colin McDowell MBE and New York Fashion Week Founder Fern Mallis for a series of inspirational talks during the voyage.

Passengers have the opportunity to attend exclusive first look runway shows featuring collections from the world’s most famous fashion college, the Royal College of Art’s 2016 graduates including:

Niels Gundtoft Hansen: innovative Danish designer whose final collection aims to create the perfect balance between the raw edge and romantic beauty of his home country
Stefanie Tschirky: born in a small village in Switzerland, Stefanie hopes one day to own her own design studio, with a focus on interdisciplinary design and art work
Sophie Schmidt: Sophie’s interest in design stemmed from her upbringing in a family of architects, and her collection is based on Anthroposophy – taking inspiration from life, the human body and soul to create a deeper meaning
Oksana Ani: Oksana has taken inspiration from science and technology to create her Fluid’Sense collection, creating the feeling of wearing liquid clothes
Laetitia Berthier: influenced by social codes, values and symbols of power within menswear across decades, Laetitia’s collection is inspired by her French heritage and the varied and diverse influences discovered during her studies

In addition to embracing new design talent, the first-ever fashion show at sea introduces emerging new faces from of one London’s revolutionary modeling agencies, Storm.

Following a recent remastering in the region of $132 million, Queen Mary 2 marks 176 years of heritage, echoing the height of British elegance and luxury associated with Cunard’s iconic fleet. Cunard’s ‘Transatlantic Fashion Week’ provides a rare and exclusive experience for cruise guests set within an art deco inspired interior. It's just one event that showcases Cunard's ongoing upscale British way of life, products and experiences on board its fleet.

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What to Order at the Bar in... Mediterranean Travel Destinations

Lynn Elmhirst, Host and Producer of BestTrip.TV, shares her favorite drinks in Mediterranean Europe.

I once traveled with a cameraman who spent our entire 3-week, 10+ city film shoot in the Mediterranean trying to teach bartenders how to make a White Russian.  The confusion – and often disdain - on their faces was priceless.  On one occasion, the rest of the crew was blissfully sipping delicious local wine at a table under umbrellas on Barcelona's Las Ramblas pedestrian thoroughfare, soaking in the ambiance and enjoying a rare break.  He spent half an hour trying to explain to the waiter how to make a White Russian.  Finally the waiter exclaimed, 'But sir! In Spain, only children drink milk!' 

Don’t be that guy.  When you're looking to switch it up from the regional wine or beer or straight-up spirits, here's a list of cocktails you can confidently order like a local.

Kir Royale:

My first love affair with a cocktail began when I lived in France. It's still the first thing I do whenever I arrive anywhere in France, from Normandy to Nice: go to an elegant bar, ideally with a view, and order a Kir Royale to toast my return to one of my most beloved travel destinations.  Kir Royale is made from crème de cassis (black currant liqueur – there's no cream, crème de… refers to any sweetened cordial) and champagne.  You can also order a Kir, which is the same cocktail but with white wine instead of champagne (royale in a cocktail refers to champagne) or, as I discovered in a restaurant in the Beaujolais region, a Cardinal, made with red wine instead of white.

Tastes like the South of France! Lynn Elmhirst, Pastis, c BestTrip.TV

Tastes like the South of France! Lynn with her Pastis. c BestTrip.TV

Pastis: 

In the south of France, particularly in Marseille, locals are most likely to be ordering Pastis at a café.  Pastis barely qualifies as a 'cocktail'. It isn't even mixed by the bartender. Generally, you are given your own bottle of anise-flavored liqueur and a carafe of (often iced) water; you mix them together to your own taste.  The moment you add water, your cocktail becomes cloudy. Don’t worry, it's supposed to look like that.  Ah, but you don't like black licorice or anything anise-flavored, right?  Trust me, in the blistering Mediterranean summer sun, nothing tastes more perfect.  Or trust French good taste: they are said to drink 130 million litres every year.

Ouzo:

The French are not alone in developing an anise-based liqueur.  It's a common theme in traditional spirits in the Mediterranean.  The version distilled in Greece is Ouzo.  Good Ouzos are complex, containing numerous botanicals in addition to anise. That means there are nearly as many versions as there are distillers of Ouzo. And like pastis in Marseille and Provence, it's drunk mixed with water, perfect for a dry throat on a hot Mediterranean day.

Enjoy a Bellini on the Westin Europa and Regina's terrace and watch Venice sail by on the Grand Canal. C BestTrip.TV

Bellini:

It's hard to say you've been to Venice if you haven't had a Bellini. The original was developed in the 1930's by the owner of Harry's Bar, and you can still order one there in Venice today.  This cocktail features prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine) paired in a perfect flavor combination with white peach puree, served (like a kir royale) in a champagne flute.  The ideal foreground to any photo of life on the Grand Canal in Venice.

One more before you go; the Aperol Spritz Bar at the Venice Airport c BestTrip.TV

Aperol Spritz:

If the Bellini is a bit too 'ladies' brunch' for you, give the much more savory Aperol Spritz a try.  A 'spritz' is a wine-based cocktail with a bitter, botanical liqueur and a splash of soda. The Aperol Spritz has become the go-to version especially in Northern Italy.  There are a reputed 300,000 consumed daily in the Veneto region alone! Aperol's vivid coral color, and flavor combining bitter oranges, rhubarb and gentian root,  make it both festive and refreshing.

Negroni:

Where the Aperol Spritz is light, summery and refreshing, the Negroni is the Italian cocktail with bitter liqueur that will 'put hair on your chest' as I once told a friend when I recommended it.   In this case, the bitter comes from Campari, less sweet and higher in alcohol than Aperol.  Paired with gin and vermouth in an old-fashioned glass over ice with an orange peel, it packs a punch.  Order one in Florence, where the Negroni was invented in 1919.  The Negroni – and versions of it – have become the 'it' drink in trendy watering holes in North America, so you can show your mastery of cocktail style before your next trip to Italy.

Sangria:

Popular on patios across North America, where imaginations have run wild, producing exotic variations on Spain's original red wine and marinated fruit 'punch', Sangria is still a legitimate local drink in Spain. So even if you regularly make green grape and kiwi sangria for your own pool parties, don't miss trying the original on its home turf. In more traditional places like Madrid, you'll find Sangria that sticks to its roots.  The original recipe elevates young (but still drinkable!) Spanish table wine blended with oranges, lemon, and a cinnamon stick, left overnight to blend the flavors, into a truly delectable beverage served at the table from a shared pitcher. 

When to drink them:

Western Europeans generally order cocktails like these as aperitifs – afternoon/pre-dinner cocktails, occasionally with light snacks.  Dinner later in the evening is usually served with wine (or in Central Europe, beer), and a dessert wine or port accompanies a sweet or cheese course.

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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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Beyond Machu Picchu: Three More Reasons to Travel to Peru

 

If Peru is on your travel bucket list, chances are it's the historic citadel of Machu Picchu that inspires you.  The extraordinary citadel remains the iconic symbol of the Inca civilization, as well as its awe-inspiring engineering and construction techniques.  The structures, built without mortar, are still so solid even a knife can't pass between stones.  Not to mention its location on a mountain ridge nearly 2500 metres (nearly 8000 feet) above sea level.   Part of its mystery is that it remained isolated, unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham was brought there in 1911.  Since then, it has been declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and even voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  But Machu Picchu is more than mystical ruins…

Cave Paintings Discovered Near Machu Picchu

Two new cave paintings have been discovered near the Machu Picchu ruins. The paintings depict a man and a camel in black and are drawn on a rock located about 15 minutes walking distance from Machu Picchu. The two drawings may have been made in pre-Inca times, the Cuzco Cultural Department has said, adding that more study is needed to confirm this theory. The paintings are not recorded in explorer Hiram Bingham's original findings when he discovered the Lost City of the Incas in 1911.  An awe-inspiring lesson in how much more scholars and travelers can learn about this ancient and nearly mythical site.

The 'Second Machu Picchu': the Fortress of Kuelap

Keep some time in your Peru travel schedule for lesser-known historic attractions in Peru.  Savvy travelers are paying more attention to historic treasures off the well-beaten path to Machu Picchu, like the fortress of Kuelap. This 1500-year old site sits atop a mountain ridge in Peru's north and is one of the largest monuments in the world, with more than 200 buildings, and stone walls reaching nearly 20 metres (more than 65 feet) high!

The site was built around 500AD by the Chachapoyas "cloud people" to deter conquests by the Incas. Reaching Kuelap has previously been reserved for adventurous travelers willing to climb steep mountain terrain. That's all changed with the launch of a new cable car system with 26 cars that can carry eight to 10 passengers at a time.

But the countryside of Peru has more to offer than the mysteries of ancient ruins!

Peru Sets a New Birding Record

There are officially more birds in Peru to see than anywhere else in the world.

Peru set a new record for birds during a recent international bird survey organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird project. This virtual gathering of the world's birding community logs bird species in 145 countries via checklists on just one day a year. This year, the most species were recorded in Peru with 1,242 bird species logged, once again beating second-place Brazil for top country with the most species of birds spotted.

No wonder nature lovers are 'flocking' (pun intended!) to Peru for birdwatching. With some 1,830 total species of birds, Peru is not only one of the most important birding destinations in the world. As confirmed by the eBird project, Peru is also the leading global country for actual bird observation. Birding hot spots in Peru include the Tambopata National Reserve, Manu National Park and the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

Make sure your itinerary is designed to experience this South American country's incredible biodiversity as well as its history and culture.

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Three 'Starter' European River Cruises

If you haven't tried a European river cruise yet, here are the big three 'starter' cruises we're certain will get you hooked on river cruise travel.  

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

The Rhine River

Route: Rhine River cruises span at least four countries: usually the Netherlands or sometimes Belgium at one end, then through Germany and France to Basel, Switzerland at the other end.  They cover a lot of cultural and scenic ground in a week or two.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Highlights:  The Rhine River may be the granddaddy of European river cruises.  As far back as the 19th century, tourists took cruises to see the most outstanding feature of this river: a stretch of the Rhine where there are 40 castles in 40 miles.  Most are in or on the banks of the river – best viewed from the water.  In a cozy chair on the top deck of your cruise ship.  With a bottle of wine.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Beyond the castles, who can resist the excitement of Amsterdam, diamond shopping and the sexy modern trends in Belgium, or the dark and intimidating cathedral in Cologne?  This route also takes you to the vineyards around Rudesheim on the banks of the Rhine, home to famous Riesling wines.

The Danube River

Route: The Danube is the most popular European river cruise itinerary, flowing between several countries for nearly 2000 miles.  Itineraries often start pre-cruise in Prague or even Amsterdam, then on the ship through some combination of Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, even Romania.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Highlights:  Many itineraries include the most trendy central European cities: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, even the lesser known, surprisingly fascinating Bratislava.   Outside these major cultural centers, scenic countryside is punctuated by medieval towns and picture perfect monasteries. There's a different wurst (sausage) and a different beer in every town, you can make a study of them!

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

The Danube also sails through one of our favorite places: the Wachau Valley. Some call it 'the Tuscany of Austria', with colourful towns and exquisite wines (famous for its Grüner Veltliner and Riesling) and vineyards you can explore by cycling tours.

The Rhone River

Route:  Unlike the other two 'starter' European river cruises, this route stays in just one country: France. The itinerary is actually a combo of the Rhone and the Saone, from Arles in the heart of Provence in the south, to France's culinary capital of Lyon and the Beaujolais region north of Lyon, often with a pre or post cruise extension in Paris via a brief high-speed train ride.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Highlights:  This river cruise itinerary not only gives you the opportunity for a pre or post cruise extension in the legendary South of France, it also makes its way through some of the most legendary wine regions of a legendary wine destination.  Take a look at a wine map of France; wine regions follow the rivers the entire length of the Rhone/Saone.  (Many of Europe's most famous wines developed in the ideal conditions provided by the river banks.) Itineraries deliver you to the doorsteps of great houses of Cotes de Provence, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais, and other celebrated French wines.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Other highlights include the breathtaking Roman amphitheatre in Arles, the bridge of the famous song in Avignon, the pinnacle of French cuisine in Lyon, and oh, and did we mention the wine?

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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. 

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

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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More than Tropical Beaches: Exploring the Natural Beauty of the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

If you thought a vacation in the Dominican Republic was all about the sand and the surf, think again. Outside the resort areas you can find some of the most diverse natural beauty in the Caribbean.

No less than nine different ecozones mean there's natural diversity and varying climates:  the perfect eco-playgrounds for all nature enthusiasts.

Both the Highest and the Lowest Points Above and Below Sea Level in the Caribbean

Lake Enriquillo is a scientific marvel situated in a rift valley. This saltwater lake is both the largest lake and the lowest elevation in the region, at 42 meters below sea level. The lake is a designated Ramsar Site you can best explore by boat, allowing visitors to take in the spectacular sight of the wildlife refuge featuring tropical birds, flamingos, two types of iguana and American crocodiles.

To the northeast of Lake Enriquillo stands Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Caribbean at 3,087 meters (two miles) above sea level. The peak is accessible by two- to four-day treks from nearby Jarabacoa. It's worth the effort; you get magnificent panoramic views once you arrive to the top.

Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

Cool Mountains and Sand Dunes

Jarabacoa's cool mountain climate is also a welcome break from the more tropical weather in other parts of the country.

By contrast, the sand dunes in Baní—about an hour from the capital of Santo Domingo—offer a desert-like atmosphere, spanning over 15 km and reaching heights up to 35 meters. If you plan to explore the dunes on foot, this is not a time for flip flops!  The sand is hot and you'll need good, closed shoes.

The Long and the Short of It...

Dominican Republic is home to another extreme: the shortest river in the region. Los Patos River in Barahona, named for its large populations of ducks, is not only the shortest river in the Antilles/Caribbean, it's even one of the shortest in the world.

On the flip side,  the Yaque Del Norte River is the longest river in the Dominican Republic, winding from Jarabacoa up to the far northwest corner of the country in Montecristi.

Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

So once you've decompressed on the beaches of your resort, make sure you take the time to explore the rest of the natural beauty of the Dominican Republic.

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Four Winter Festivals in Peru

Peru celebrates thousands of events each calendar year. The majority of these are organized to celebrate a patron saint. But even these religious events are mixed with the mystical local religion of the pre-Colonial period.

Processions, music, dancing in costumes, and eating/drinking form the core activities of these festivals. Often, entire towns shut down to celebrate, so it's important to plan bank visits and shopping around certain dates.

  • All Saints Day and Day of the Dead, Across Peru - November 1:All over the country, residents visit cemeteries carrying floral crowns to visit the dead and clean their tombstones. Later, they share food and drink with the other residents. This ritual is part of a tradition that has been followed since the pre-Hispanic era. Those who have lost a child give children rolls and sweets in bags called angelitos (little angels). Through the night, families hold a vigil at the cemetery with candles until the dawn of the second day.
  • Immaculate Conception, Arequipa, December 8:On December 8, after the procession, men dressed in women's clothes approach women and "kidnap" them in a unique dance. This is a good time to visit the 16 baroque churches of the Colca Valley, its hot springs (La Calera), and the beautiful terraces of one of the deepest canyons in the world.
  • Andean Christmas, Across Peru, December/January:The Andean Christmas has acquired unique local character by adding typical elements from each region. These elements are characterized by the extreme care observed in Nativity scenes, decorations in churches and homes, the performance of dances and plays, the cooking of typical dishes and a wide range of crafts such as Nativity scenes carved in stone, altarpieces containing Christmas-related images and pottery or carved "mates" decorated with Easter drawings. In most Andean communities, the festival continues until the arrival of the Three Wise Men, the Catholic celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, when gifts are traditionally given.
  • Carnival Season, Across Peru, February 1 to March 31 Peruvian carnivals are marked by celebration and the participation of the whole community. The yunza ritual, known as umisha in the jungle or cortamonte in the coast, involves the artificial planting of a tree loaded with presents, with a dance around this tree until it is cut down with a machete or axe. The couple that cuts down the tree will be in charge of organizing the yunza the following year. All over the country, it is very popular to throw water at people, so if you're planning on travel to Peru during Carnival season, dress accordingly! Carnival cities known for their celebrations are Cajamarca, Puno, Ayacucho, Huaraz, Apurímac, San Martín and Tacna.

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Banya: Our Experience in One of Russia's Historic Steam Baths

Finland has sauna, Turkey has hammam, and Russia's historic version of bath house/spa is called: banya.  BestTrip.TV's Lynn Elmhirst went for a steam while filming in Moscow.

In Russia, the banya is a social as well as therapeutic undertaking; even today, a lot of business happens in the banya.  And champions of Russia's version of the spa say it treats everything from hangovers, to circulation problems, to wrinkles... to lice!

We can’t verify all the therapeutic claims (lice!), but it is a great way to ‘immerse’ yourself in traditional and current Russian culture and lifestyle.   

For the full out experience, our host suggested we try the stunning Sandunovsky Banya in Moscow’s old quarter, the oldest and most luxurious banya in Moscow.  Picture it as having a bath in Versailles.

Sandunovsky Banya dates from when the 18th century had just come to a close, and the décor is like a museum or the setting of a fairytale ball: intense blues, curlicues, elaborate iron railings and gilding, chandeliers, and that’s just the lobby! 

Public Men's Bathing Area

Bathers in the ‘public men’s bathing area’ get the real royal treatment: a cross between roman baths and a Tchaikovsky ballet, with columns and statues and stained glass and more gilding.  This is where Moscow’s political and economic movers and shakers, celebs, and international VIPs sweat out the stress and seal deals.

Private suites sound swankier still.  Actually they were built much more recently and look like your uncle’s 1970’s rec room with a sauna.  Ironic hipster heaven if you take the vaguely vulgar art on the walls as tongue in cheek.  As a mixed group of men and women (with video cameras!), we were installed in a private suite.

The Private Suites feel more like your uncle's 1970's rec room sauna

Male or female, public or private, the technique’s the same, and has been for centuries. To compare your international spa/bath house experiences: Russian Banya are both hot and wet. Finnish Saunas are hotter and dry.  Turkish hamam are just as humid, but much cooler.  In banya, you sweat it out in the hot, wet air that’s so intense you can barely draw a breath, and when you just. can't. take. it. anymore. you jump in the pool of really cold water (in the countryside, that would be a frozen lake with a hole cut in the ice) to snap you out of your stupor. 

Here's the uniquely Russian twist:  bathers use birch or oak branches in full leaf, soaked in cold water, to 'massage' (read: hit!) themselves or fellow bathers, to 'improve circulation'.  (That’s why it’s important the branches have leaves, it hurts less!)  We got a little carried away like kids in a snowball fight with the branches, chasing each other around smacking at each other.  The private suite was a good call after all. 

Sanduovsky Banya staff prepares oak-leafed branches in our Private Suite

Maybe we didn't take it as seriously as Russian traditionalists might have liked us, but what a fun and refreshing way to get a real taste for the daily lifestyle of real Russian people.

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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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The Remastered Queen Mary 2: 'Downton Abbey at Sea'

The World's only Transatlantic Ocean Liner Gets a $130 million Reno.

What does $130 million of retrofitting an ocean liner look like?  Well, it's a million hours of work, around the clock, for 25 days. 10 football fields of new carpet. 4000 new framed pictures. And 3900 gallons of paint – just on the hull! 


Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Cunard

This flagship of the British luxury cruise line Cunard set sail in 2004. The Queen Mary 2 was built in homage to the venerable British ocean liner the Queen Mary, which launched in 1936.  The original Queen Mary's Art Deco-era design inspired her contemporary counterpart.  

And the Queen Mary 2's remastering, with new contemporary interior designs and guest experiences, still evokes that era. Every detail, from the carpets to the curtains, recalls the iconic vessel that became a symbol of British elegance of the Golden Age of Ocean travel.

 

 

Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Cunard

New Specialty Restaurant and More Kennels on the Only Pet-Friendly Cruise Ship

The remastering features:

  • Redesign of key public spaces and restaurants, including the transformation of the former Winter Garden into the Carinthia Lounge, the introduction of The Verandah as the ship’s new specialty restaurant, and the complete refresh and restructuring of the Kings Court, the ship’s popular buffet area
  • 10 additional kennels in the world’s only transatlantic kennel service, adding an owner’s lounge, new pet playground, and a larger outdoor area with an historic English lamppost and American fire hydrant so canines from both sides of the pond will feel at home
  • Redesign and refurbishment of the Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites and restaurants, as well as Britannia staterooms
  • The addition of 30 further Britannia Club staterooms, 15 Britannia single staterooms and five Britannia inside staterooms
  • And as befitting the flagship of the Cunard fleet, a complete repaint of the ship exterior and significant technical enhancements and structural changes

 

Steve Dunlop Steve@SteveDunlop.com

'Downton Abbey at Sea'

The updated Queen Mary 2 honors the Art Deco era of the first Queen Mary, as well as the cruise line's uniquely British style and service standards. All staff graduate from the line's own White Star Service Academy, from personal butlers to dog walkers. Seven of the Cunard Line's Commodores have been knighted.  The Queen Mary 2 boasts the world's finest wine cellar at sea with a unique collection of nearly 500 fine wines and ports dating back to 1840.  Think of it as 'Downton Abbey at Sea'.

The line's history dates back over 175 years to its launch as a passenger shipping line that became – and the Queen Mary 2 remains – the gold standard of the Transatlantic Crossing from Southampton (for London passengers) to New York and the New World.   Today's passengers join a who's who of generations of politicians, royalty, and movie stars, in continuing a tradition of a very British experience of glamour, sophistication and luxury at sea.

Her remastering entrenches the Queen Mary 2 as an icon of cruise experience, and she continues to capture the imagination of those who experience her classic ocean liner voyages.  Pack your dinner jacket and polish your sparkling conversation!

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Overwater Bungalows make a Splash in Mexico and the Caribbean

The icon of the exotic honeymoon or romantic getaway is now much closer than Polynesia and South East Asia.

Uber-luxury overwater bungalows have arrived in the Americas.  Here are our new favorite places to sleep under a thatched roof with the sea lapping around you, where you can slip out of a gauzy, draped bed into the sea or your private pool-with-a-view.  You'll be the envy of your social media circle when you post your travel pics of any one of these resorts with floating villas.

Mexico: El Dorado Maroma

Karisma Hotels and Resorts calls them the 'Palafitos': 30 luxury bungalows over Mexico's beautiful beach area of the Riviera Maya. All the overwater bungalows include palapa-style roofs, outdoor showers, glass-bottom floors to the sea, private infinity pools, an indoor jacuzzi and direct ladder access to the ocean.  Exactly what you'd expect of a luxury overwater bungalow. What makes them different is that they are said to be inspired by the ancient Aztecs who built homes over Tenochtitlan’s lake, and local design touches include Zapote wood and Mexican white granite.  It's a luxe all inclusive experience that comes with an overwater restaurant, overwater spa, butlers, and concierges.  Might be hard to tear yourself away for an expedition to nearby Tulum or an outing to Cancun.

Jamaica: Sandals

Five opulent, game-changing overwater villas make the Sandals in Montego Bay stand out of the Caribbean luxury resort scene. Floating decks /living rooms, his 'n' hers vanities, a glass floor, private infinity pool, a hot tub/spa with an outdoor shower, floating water hammocks that suspend over the sea and butler service put this resort experience on par with some of the best resorts in the world.  The ultimate romantic couple's getaway, or the honeymoon of your dreams in an overwater bungalow is now just a short, and for many North Americans, non-stop flight to Montego Bay away.


Panama: Viceroy Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro, Panama, is already known as an eco-travel destination. Its archipelago is home to critical wetlands, the most biologically diverse tropical coral reef in the region, and savvy travelers know it as an ideal place for bird watching, cycling, guided eco-hikes, snorkeling, and deep sea fishing. The Viceroy Hotel Group's 2019, exclusive overwater bungalows polish the luxury sheen of the glorious location. Over sparkling Caribbean waters at the edge of a rainforest along miles of pristine, private white sand beach, the property's 42 overwater bungalows feature their own private plunge pools and direct access to the ocean.  The eco-friendly resort allows only electrical cars and sustainable technologies, and sustainable and indigenous landscaping and gardens to supply its chefs with the ingredients for local cuisine.  Getting there is half the fun and feeling of exclusivity: it's only accessible by boat, seaplane or helicopter from Panama City.

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Visit Stuttgart, Germany's First UNESCO World Heritage Site

Stuttgart, in South-Western Germany, has its first UNESCO World Heritage Site, proclaimed in 2016.  Not a castle.  Or a monument.  Or ancient. The site is comprised of two houses, extraordinary examples of modernist architecture by the renowned Le Corbusier.

Two Le Corbusier houses at the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart have earned the title "UNESCO World Heritage Site." Stuttgart won this prestigious honor along with 17 other Le Corbusier houses from all over the world in France, Argentina, Japan, Belgium, Switzerland and India.

Outstanding Contribution to Modernism

The recognition pays tribute to Le Corbusier's architectural work as an outstanding contribution to Modernism. Modernism is an architectural movement that expressed the aesthetic, social and technical upheavals of the 20th century. Above all, the Stuttgart houses, which are already a sophisticated museum, are a fantastic destination for travelers with a passion for art and architecture, history and design.

 

The New Modern City Dweller

The Weissenhof Estate (Weissenhofsiedlung) is considered one of the most important monuments of the "Neues Bauen" (new building) movement. It was created in 1927 as a building exhibition and was funded by the City of Stuttgart to create a space for the new modern city dweller. The theme, "Form without Ornament," was tremendously avant-garde and a great contrast to the then popular and elaborately decorative Art Nouveau style. 

Stuttgart's Architectural Importance

The Weissenhof Estate has a total of 33 houses with 63 apartments, and all of the 17 architects were under the age of 45. Le Corbusier was one of the most influential of these architects and his two houses comprise the duplex structure containing the Weissenhof Museum and the detached house behind it. In fact, they are the only Le Corbusier buildings in Germany.

The UNESCO World Heritage recognition emphasizes Stuttgart's importance in the field of architecture. The museum is currently open for visitors and is popular with young art and architecture students and design/ architecture travelers, as well as history lovers, enjoying over 30,000 visitors per year.

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South Saskatchewan River Love in Western Canada

You don't have to travel to the tropics for some great fun in the water on your summer vacation. Canada's South Saskatchewan river winds through the city of Saskatoon, offering opportunities for water sports in town and in the surrounding countryside of a Western Canada vacation.

The South Saskatchewan river is the thread that weaves communities and the residents of Saskatoon together.  A must-do of any trip to this Canadian province is posting a great instagram photo from the city's Broadway Bridge. But don't just look at the river.  Here are the best river - and riverside – activities to include on your trip.


Paddle it!


Saskatoon is in the middle of a current love affair with Paddleboarding. You can get local rentals and sign up for lessons or group paddles and head out on the river, or participate from the shore by cheering on our big paddleboard competition this September.  If kayaking or Canoeing are more your style, a great access point to paddle through the city is the Boathouse on the shores of Victoria Park.

Group or Family Travel Tip: Test your balance and friendships by renting an oversized paddleboard that fits up to 8 people per board!  Watch how those group dynamics play out!

 

Beach it!


The South Saskatchewan river has a number of great sand bars for beaching, some of which are right in the city. A popular spot is below the Broadway bridge in Nutana and most commonly used is the one off Spadina Crescent just past the weir in North Park. If you're willing to venture out on the highway for about 10km, you can enjoy the beautiful & serene Fred Heal beach for a more secluded experience.

 

Bike it!


In addition to the extensive paved trail system along the Meewasin Valley River Trail, there are also some world-class downhill biking trails for the more adventurous traveler, and cycling tour companies to outfit and guide you. You'll have an incredible view of the river and a number of fun trails that represent a full spectrum of difficulty.
 


Cruise it!

Saskatoon has an iconic riverboat. It's an old paddle-wheeler boat from the Mississippi river, now commonly booked out for parties and groups who want to dine while they enjoy a two hour cruise on the South Saskatchewan river in Saskatoon. There are also monthly dinner cruises hosted by a local restaurant over the summer months. Great for couples, families, and group travel.


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Travel Tips: What to do if you Lose your Passport

When you travel abroad, your passport is possibly the most important document you will have with you.  Flight and hotel reservation documents, even insurance policy documents, all of these are secondary to your passport.  They can be relatively easily emailed to you or accessed long distance.  Your passport is in its own category of importance.  You literally cannot get home without it.

Passport and Travel Document Tips:

  • Well before you go, check your passport is valid – and when it expires. More and more destinations require travelers to have passports that expire 6 months or more after your visit to their country.  So you need to verify your passport is still valid AND whether there are expiry date restrictions in your country of destination.  Make sure your travel documents – like flight reservations – EXACTLY match the name on your passport.  Making an error can prevent you from traveling.
  • Make copies.  Make colour photocopies of relevant passport pages:  the photo and information page, as well as any visa stamps you may have had to get before your trip.  We make 2 hard copies and leave one copy with a reliable contact at home (along with copies of other travel documents like flight, hotel reservations and travel insurance policy documents) and make sure we have that person's email and emergency phone number, just in case.   The second set of copies, we take with us and keep tucked in an inside luggage pocket. We also take photos of the relevant pages and have them accessible.  Also take extra, certified passport photos with you; you'll need some if you need to replace your passport.
  • Use your hotel safe.  That's what it's there for.  Unless you are traveling to a country that requires you to have it on hand for authorities anytime and anywhere, lock it up in the hotel safe.  Keep your travel insurance policy on hand in case you need it before you return to the hotel. We put a post it note in our travel document carrier to remind us to check the hotel safe for the passport before leaving.
  • Note: If you are a first time cruise traveler, you may be surprised that when you check in to a cruise with multiple international ports of call, the cruise line purser keeps your passport (safely stored) for the duration of the cruise. That allows cruise ships to have local authorities board the ship upon docking, inspect the collected documentation and clear all the passengers at once for disembarkation – without lengthy lineups and delays for cruise ship guests.  You'll be given information about how to collect your passport; usually from reception the last evening of your cruise.

What to do if you Lose your Passport:

Hopefully, you've followed the tips above, and made sure that while you travel your passport isn't lost or stolen.

But if you do lose your passport…

1. Check again and don't panic. 

Retrace your steps, check every pocket, every corner of your bag, the floor of your rental car or tour bus. The best solution is to find your passport.

2. If it's really gone, you MUST report it to your government officials. 

Passports are legal documents that can be used by criminals if they fall into the wrong hands, so they must be cancelled in the system so no one else can use them.   In a foreign country, that means locating the nearest embassy or consulate.  That is information that is good to have with you in advance, but your hotel/ tour operator can also help you find the nearest location.  But no one but the passport holder (or legal guardian) can legally report the loss to authorities. Once reported as lost, it will be cancelled so no one – including you even if you recover it – can use it again.

3. Fill out a police report if it was stolen as soon as possible. 

You will be asked about a police report when applying for a new passport.

4. Get a new passport.

You cannot go home without a passport; you will not be allowed to board a flight or to enter the country if driving. Getting a new passport is pretty much the same process as getting one at home, except you have to stay where you lost your passport and work through your government authorities locally. You'll need to report the lost or stolen one (and you will be asked for a police report), provide photos, proof of identity, and pay the passport fee, including a rush fee if applicable.  An investigation into your lost or stolen passport may delay getting a new one.  So you will need to pack your patience and look for a silver lining in that you'll have perhaps more time than you planned to enjoy the destination.  This is one of the roles of consular offices abroad, so they have processes in place to make replacing your passport as smooth as possible.  Your best way of getting on with your travels or returning home with a new passport is to cooperate fully.

But the real message is to take smart and savvy precautions before and during your travels to avoid losing your passport so you can have a relaxed and enjoyable journey.

 

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One of a Kind Sports and Athletic Events in the Fall in Hong Kong

As summer temperatures start to drop every year in Hong Kong, excitement rises as the region prepares to host a thrilling line-up of sporting events involving international athletes and spectators from around the globe.  For travelers who love to watch – or even participate in! – athletic events, Hong Kong Sports Month – which actually spans the autumn season - is the most exciting time to visit.
 

Hong Kong Cyclothon

The anchor event of Hong Kong Sports Month is the Hong Kong Cyclothon. This event features an international line-up of racers competing on a challenging course with three tunnels and three bridges. The route covers a number of iconic buildings and main roads in Hong Kong, and draws a great number of avid cyclists from around the globe. The event showcases not only the sport, but also the city’s spectacular scenery.
 

World First: Formula E - for Electric!

Sports events are exciting, but this one is ‘electrifying’!  Formula E is the world’s first fully-electric racing series, where energy, entertainment and the environment come together in urban street racing. This first-of-its-kind international event on the Central Harbourfront in October 2016 is the biggest motorsport event ever held in Hong Kong. It weaves its way through an urban circuit approximately two kilometers in length, featuring long straights, hairpin bends, and stunning views of the harbor and Hong Kong’s skyline.
 

Hong Kong Tennis Open

Anyone for tennis? The Hong Kong Tennis Open takes place in October. This event, organized by the Hong Kong Tennis Association, is a Women’s Tennis Association-sanctioned International Series Event. Players compete for a prize of USD $250,000 over seven days and draws some of the brightest starts in the world of women’s tennis.


 

Hong Kong Sprint Triathlon Asian Cup

Also in October, the Hong Kong Sprint Triathlon Asian Cup takes place over on Lantau Island. This challenging sporting event, open to men and women, involves swimming, cycling and running with everyone competing for fitness and the prize purses.

Hong Kong’s Cross Harbour Swimming Race

Swimmers - or those who love to watch aquatic sports – shouldn’t miss Hong Kong’s Cross Harbour Race. The name nearly says it all, but doesn't describe the spectacle of 1,000 contestants swimming across Victoria Harbour. This is an historic event in Hong Kong which took place annually from 1906 to 1979, when it was suspended. But it was resumed in 2011 and has been going strong ever since, bringing happy memories to those who have been involved over the years and playing an important role in promoting the sport of swimming in Hong Kong and abroad.

Not everybody can cycle or swim across a harbor. Few can race cars or reach a tennis open. But almost everyone can enjoy these unique, world-class sports and athletic events in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

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Planning a Trip to the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most ecologically extraordinary places on the planet. The ecosystem that inspired Darwin – now a protected part of our world heritage - continues to fascinate. Free and fearless animals, different from any others found anywhere else in the world, awe visitors who make the journey to this remote destination.

If you're thinking about a trip to the Galapagos, here are some tips for your planning:

What makes the Galapagos Islands so special?

The Galapagos Islands are both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a World Biosphere reserve, the second largest in the world. Isolated and remote with a rich ecosystem, the archipelago is a living museum of natural history.

The pivotal moment came in 1835, when Charles Darwin visited the islands. What he discovered among the wildlife, related to - but very different from - any creatures found elsewhere, inspired his theory of evolution and the origin of species. Darwin's theories shocked the scientific world of the 19th century and put the Galapagos Islands on the map and on the lips of generations of curious nature lovers.

The Galapagos Islands have been described as one of the most unique, scientifically important, and biologically outstanding areas on earth.

Where are the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are part of the South American country of Ecuador, but are hundreds of miles west of continental Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. They form an archipelago of volcanic islands on both sides of the Equator. Thirteen large islands, six lesser ones, more than 40 islets and their surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve.

How did they get their name?

The most symbolic creature of the islands is the extraordinary, giant Galapagos tortoise. Its magnificent shell reminded explorers of a British horse riding saddle, which in Spanish is called 'Galapagos'.

When should I go?

Because the Galapagos is so close to the equator, it's a sunny year round destination. The average year-round temperature is 24°C. (76°F) with a rainy season in the early months of the year.

North Americans are more familiar with a 'four season' life cycle of wildlife, but in the Galapagos Islands, there are natural wonders year round.

Here are some highlights of what you may experience at different times in the Galapagos Islands:

January

· Marine iguanas get a bright coloring to attract mates.

· Hatching of Giant tortoises' eggs.

February

· Greater flamingos start nesting.

· Penguins migrate to cooler waters.

March

· Frigate birds mating season starts.

· Perfect time for snorkeling.

April

· Rainy season comes to an end.

· Sea turtles, marine iguanas and land iguanas nesting.

May

· Waved albatross lay eggs.

· Blue-footed boobies begin their world-known courtship.

June

· Whale shark and humpback whale sightings possible

· Giant tortoises migrate to lowlands searching for good nesting-places.

July

· Start of sea lion breeding season.

· Lava lizards mating season.

August

· Frigatebird chicks are hatching.

· Sea lions give birth during this time.

September

· Galapagos penguins courtship

· A good month to see baby sea lions.

October

· Blue-footed booby chicks can be seen.

· Galapagos fur sea lions' mating season.

November

· Chance of seeing whale sharks

· Green sea turtle mating season starts.

· Great for swimming and snorkeling with baby sea lions.

December

· Start of the warmer season.

A trip to the Galapagos Islands to get up close to extraordinary wildlife in one of the world's remaining pristine environments is on many nature lovers' travel bucket lists. For many, it's not just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but life changing.

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Top 10 Reasons to Travel to Croatia

From an isolated backwater behind the Iron Curtain, Croatia has transformed itself into Eastern Europe's 'Riviera'.  Sun worshippers discovered the miles of sunny, pristine beaches and dramatic cliffs of the Dalmatian coast. Other tourism followed for ancient and historic monuments, including UNESCO world heritage sites and even some communist concrete architecture, spellbinding natural beauty featuring islands, waterfalls, and mountains, and the good life of good wine, good food, and a more relaxed atmosphere than other busier – and more expensive – European coastal holiday destinations. 

Recently named one of the top three most beautiful and affordable travel destinations, you don't want to miss these! Top 10 Reasons to Travel to Croatia:

1 The Beaches

The best beaches in Croatia are Dalmatian.  (Not the 101 spotted dogs, but the coast in Dalmatia).  White pebbles (and in some places, sand), crystal clear aquamarine water, hidden coves with rocks and fig and olive trees… these are the beaches that put Croatia on the map.  If your idea of beach lifestyle is a quiet hideaway, or waterfront party, there's a beach in Croatia for you.

2 Diving and Snorkeling

Some travelers get up closer to that incredibly clear sea.  While it's not like the Caribbean for a rainbow of tropical fish close to the surface, the pebble and stone coastline makes for fantastic underwater visibility. And with its long, seafaring history, there's plenty to see: underwater wrecks of wine and olive oil cargo ships dating back thousands of years, right up to recent war ships.  There are also some novel diving experiences like the Te Vega Sea Lake, reached by an underwater tunnel, the Blue Cave, even a reef with yellow coral.

Author : Ivo Pervan Source: Croatian Tourist Board

3 Sailing, Yachting, Boating

The coast of Dalmatia is a sailor's paradise!  The best way to enjoy the dramatic cliffs rising from dark blue waters, countless scattered islands, hidden coves, untouched coastline, and seaside towns, is from the water.  You can rent a sailing boat with or without crew, or charter a yacht or catamaran to take you to remote coastal towns where you can enjoy fresh seafood and local wine in restaurants, or to an isolated beach.  Or just drop anchor and soak in the Adriatic atmosphere.

4 Plitvice Lakes National Park

This is Croatia's most popular national park and, many claim, Europe's most breathtaking natural wonder.  Sixteen electric blue Plitvice Lakes inhabit a forested canyon, interconnected by stunning waterfalls, and easy-to-hike boardwalks and trails.   A panoramic shuttle bus allows the less active traveler to take in the breathtaking scenery, and more active travelers will thrill at the views from the trails or rowing across the waters.

5 Dubrovnik

They call it the "Pearl of the Adriatic".  The walled, seaside Dubrovnik seems to have it all: centuries-old forts surrounding an enormous, picturesque Old Town, scenic wall walks with dazzling views of the cliffs and sea, as well as its famous collection of baroque buildings on marble streets. Dubrovnik is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and the iconic view is at the top of a cable car ride to the peak of Mount Srd.  Over a coffee at the café at the top, you can see the entire old city as well as the impossibly blue Adriatic Sea and nearby islands.  Game of Thrones enthusiast? You can explore many of the series' filming locations, too.

Split Author : Ante Zubović Source: Croatian Tourist Board

6 Split

The heart and major city of the Dalmatian Coast, Split is an exciting urban experience.  Its seaside promenade is bustling at all hours, and its massive Roman palace is the center of modern Split's lifestyle. Diocletian’s Palace was built by the Roman emperor of that name at the turn of the fourth century. From the outside, it's an imposing, walled fortress.  But inside, you’ll find bars, restaurants and shops that make it a pleasure to stroll and get momentarily lost in the interior's winding narrow streets – every wrong turn takes you to an even better place to rub elbows with locals and other travelers and enjoy a different local wine!

Zagreb Authors: Mario Romulić & Dražen Stojčić  Source: Croatian Tourist Board

7 Zagreb

Croatia's capital city isn't as popular as Dubrovnik or Split, but it's a terrific walking city with a café culture and some interesting museums.  The museum that tops everyone's list is the Museum of Broken Hearts, designed to help the lovelorn get over a relationship… by contributing mementos of their ex to the museum collection, along with their stories.  Single or happily coupled-up, this museum gets everyone talking!

8 Pula's Roman Amphitheatre

You'll find the city of Pula in Croatia's most Italian-feeling region of Istria that is also home to the Venice of Croatia.   Pula's claim to fame is its breathtaking Roman ruins, and especially, the impressive and well-preserved amphitheatre.  Dominating the city center, the amphitheatre remains at the center of life in Pula thousands of years after its construction.  Don't miss the opportunity to attend a concert, festival or even movie screening in this ancient venue.

9 The 'Sea Organ' at Zadar

Zadar's historic churches and Roman ruins are contrasted with modern art installations that are putting this Croatian city on the map for cool- and art hunters. The Sea Organ transforms waterside waves into melodies, and the Sun Salutation creates light show visualizations of Sea Organ's 'tunes' via a 'Sun' set into the pavement. Worth the trip.

Author : Ivo Pervan Source: Croatian Tourist Board

10 Wine Tours

Croatia has a long history of wine making, wide range of indigenous grape varieties, and lots of geographically defined wine regions. Wine tourism is an increasingly popular way to enjoy the countryside and meet local vintners.  A drive on the country's wine routes will bring you to picturesque vineyards (some with amazing views over the sea), historic and modern wine cellars and tasting rooms, and enthusiastic winemakers with uniquely Croatian flavors to share and discuss.

When to Travel:

If your travel plans to Croatia include the sea, especially swimming, snorkeling or diving, the best water temperatures are in the 'high season' summer months of July and August.  But off-season travel to Croatia can involve great savings, and include the joys of the wine and produce harvest months, festivals, and even winter sports and spa resorts.  

Smart Travel Tip: Currency

Croatia is not part of the EU; rather than the euro, the local currency is the kuna, which you exchange locally.  A smart travel tip is to pre-pay as many arrangements as you can through your travel consultant so you can pay in your own currency and not worry about exchanging as much money or exchange rates at the time of your trip. Planning and paying ahead also helps you stay within your travel budget!

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5 New Reasons to Escape to Nassau, Paradise Island, the Bahamas

Nassau Paradise Island, Bahamas is known for having some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world, turquoise blue water, the Caribbean’s best entertainment and a spectrum of resorts from ultra-exclusive to family-friendly.

With a new hotel opening, local authentic culinary classes, kid-friendly events and more, here are Five More Reasons to Visit Nassau Paradise Island:

1. New Adults-Only All -Inclusive Hotel

In October 2016, Warwick Hotels and Resorts is introducing its newest four-star hotel to Paradise Island. Set along the Nassau Harbour, the resort features 250 guest rooms, which have touches of local craftsmanship throughout 12 floors. One of the most noteworthy aspects of the 28 million dollar hotel is its 6,000 square foot terrace, which will overlook the marinas across the harbour.  The new resort, named  Warwick Paradise Island Bahamas, will welcome guests 18 and older with all-inclusive rates. Only a 10-minute walk from the famous Cabbage Beach, the resort also has great on-site offerings, including three restaurants, a poolside pizzeria and grille, a beach bar, a lobby bar and more.

2. Tru Bahamian Food Tours Launches Culinary Class at the Graycliff Hotel

It's called the Authentic Bahamian Cooking Class & Lunch Experience.” The class offers chef- guided, behind-the-scenes food preparation followed by an authentic Bahamian feast at the 5-star Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant in downtown Nassau. Included with the cooking course is a welcome treat and refreshment, a three-course meal featuring local delicacies including conch chowder and snapper, wine, a private tour of Graycliff’s legendary wine cellar, signature recipes and an “Insider’s Guide to Eating in Nassau” to take home. The class runs on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m, and private classes are available during the week.

Three New Experiences in Atlantis:

3. New Partnership with Cartoon Network:

Atlantis Resort and Cartoon Network have launched a new partnership to provide activities and programming for families, including a new land-based, Cartoon Network-themed inflatable obstacle course, where guests can experience a We Bare Bears climbing wall and zip line course, a Powerpuff Girls-themed zig-zag maze and slide, a Nerf Super Soaker Flood Zone and more. Children can also take part in themed activities and culinary programs at Atlantis Kids Adventure (AKA) and attend Splash Screenings of their favorite Cartoon Network shows in the evenings.

4. New Mobile App:

Also new for summer is a dedicated mobile application, Atlantis. The mobile app is designed to provide travelers with the ability to navigate their booking details easily and provide relevant information throughout all stages of the trip, serving as a mobile concierge. The free Atlantis app is available for download through the iTunes App Store and Android Marketplace.

5. New Restaurant:

The Village Burger Shack located in Marina Village  is a family-friendly, casual dining experience with indoor and alfresco seating. The menu offers a selection of gourmet burgers, fresh fish, vegetarian dishes and salads, an extensive list of sides, and unique shake combinations.

Nassau Paradise Island in the Bahamas is already a top beach destination, with its island lifestyle easily accessible through non-stop flights from most major eastern U.S. and Canadian cities.  Nassau Paradise Island is so close, yet feels like it’s a world away, and now, there are 5 more reasons to visit!

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