Northstar Travel & Associates's Blog

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.  

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.

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.

 

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.

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!


 

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.

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.

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. 

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!

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.

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!

Start your Trip!

 

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!

Start your Trip!

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. 

Start your Trip!

  • Brand new DOREBRO sports program;
  • New kids cooking class in collaboration with Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco; and
  • Exclusive LEGO® MSC Cruises ship toy

 

Every family planning a vacation knows how important it is to keep the youngest members of the family entertained so everyone has a relaxing holiday.  MSC Cruises is enhancing their kids activities and programs even more with brand name partnerships kids will love… and parents will too.

 

Across its entire fleet MSC Cruises already provides a very extensive offering for family vacations, including:

  • Dedicated clubs for each age group, as well as daily entertainment for all ages;
  • Family dining options;
  • Modern and fun-filled on-board facilities such as aqua parks and pools, bowling alleys and 4D cinemas; and
  • Dedicated shore activities designed with the needs of the entire family in mind.

 

 

 

 

NEW: Kids' Culinary Class From a Michelin-Starred Chef:

Alongside this addition, starting this summer season, MSC Cruises has also introduced “DOREMI Chef by Carlo Cracco,” a cooking class designed in collaboration with the two-starred Michelin chef Carlo Cracco. Led by MSC Cruises chefs and the on-board MSC Cruises mascot DOREMI, children aged 3 to 11 will learn, amongst other recipes, how to make homemade pasta from scratch while receiving plenty of cooking hints and tips from the globally renowned chef. Upon completion of the course, each child will receive an official mini-chef certificate signed by Carlo Cracco himself.

NEW: LEGO®

MSC Cruises offers its guests a wide range of on-board entertainment especially for kids, developed in collaboration with the LEGO Group, the world’s leading toy producer. As part of this ongoing relationship, LEGO Group has recently launched a very special LEGO® MSC Cruises toy of the upcoming MSC Meraviglia, the company’s new next-generation smart cruise ship that launches in June 2017 and will sail the Mediterranean for its inaugural season.

This toy LEGO model – which is available for sale fleet wide at the on-board MSC Cruises Logo shop – will make the perfect souvenir for children who can then relive their MSC Cruises family vacation at home in a fun and creative way.

Watch the MSC Video about their new LEGO ship model!

As part of ‘The LEGO Experience’ on-board, families can expect a whole day on every cruise itinerary that is dedicated to LEGO® activities. The experience includes a program of activities, which have been specifically developed in collaboration with the LEGO Group to offer something for children of all ages, including:

  • DUPLO® Play Pen: a construction challenge for children under the age of three
  • Building Happening: two separate challenges for children aged six to eleven to build the most elaborate structure
  • LEGO® Vertical Play Wall: a challenge where two teams compete to build a vertical structure against a specially created wall
  • LEGO® Tech Challenge: a special area containing all of the latest games consoles to play LEGO videogames

 

At the end of the day, children will graduate with a LEGO diploma and be presented with a souvenir certificate by the LEGO Sailor mascot – verifying that they are now a Junior Master Builder.

 

NEW: Sports:

New this summer is the DOREBRO sports program, an on-board entertainment innovation designed especially for kids who love sports. Children and teens aged from 3 to 17 years old can join the program, which is now available on most MSC Cruises ships sailing in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. The program offers an exciting variety of sports and active games for all levels, broken down in two daily sessions, with activities designed for the different age groups The program has been designed in collaboration with King’s Active, the UK-based company expert in designing engaging and fun youth activities to inspire sports stars of the future.

 

And for the Youngest Members of the Family:

MSC Cruises also offers a range of services for babies and young children including the Mini-Club for children under 3 as well as a dedicated childcare service giving parents the freedom to enjoy the ship, safe in the knowledge that their children are being cared for by dedicated and highly trained staff. Many of these services are offered in collaboration with Chicco® – the leading global baby brand and yet another exclusive MSC Cruises partnership.

 

Want to experience Mediterranean style cruise travel with the whole family?

Start your Trip!

 

Exploring the Wild Side of Ireland's Atlantic Way

1. Rock climb in Donegal

Excellent rock climbing locations are scattered along Donegal’s coastline, and particularly great ascents can be found at Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head. The sea cliffs, slabs and sea stacks of here provide over 100 rock climbs in a stunning, wave bashed locations. Wild Atlantic Way Climbing will provide adventures for all levels.

mountaintraining.ie

 

2. Surf a Sligo wave

Perfect surf geology shapes triangulated reefs, river mouth sandbars and assorted beach breaks on the coastline where Donegal morphs into counties Leitrim, Sligo and Mayo. Sligo is one of the hotspots, and the beaches at Strandhill and Enniscrone are perfect for seasoned surfers and learners alike. Loads of surf schools in Sligo are devoted to getting you up on your feet in no time.

www.strandhillsurfschool.com

 

3. Catch a kayak in Mayo

Sea kayaking is great way to get up close and personal with the unique marine environments of the Wild Atlantic Way. Kingfishers, seal colonies, a vast variety of sea birds, and if you’re lucky, a dolphin swimming alongside all await when you take to the water. Ireland West Seakayaking can take you paddling in Clew Bay, with the majestic Croagh Patrick as your ever-present background.

irelandwestseakayaking.com

 

4. Cycle around the Aran Islands

Slap in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Aran Islands are perfectly suited to the bike. Their compact size makes cycling accessible to people of all fitness levels. It is very easy to explore the historical sites of islands and find complete peace and isolation.Aran Islands Bike Hire on Inis Mor will give you one of the best day’s cycling you’ve ever had.

aranislandsbikehire.com

 

5. Take a hike in Connemara

For a rugged hiking adventure, try one of the most beautiful, unspoilt places in the world – Connemara. Its dramatic landscapes, natural terrain and majestic environment offer a wonderland of sights, experiences and adventure activities. You’ll be in good hands with Delphi Mountain Resort, which offers a suite of forest, and mountain-based hikes and activities.

www.delphiadventureresort.com

 

6. Walk in the wonder of the Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher captures the hearts of up to a million visitors every year. It’s a must-see. But there’s an incredible 20km coastal walking trail along a magical vista at this outstanding Atlantic landscape. Ask Pat Sweeney to take you on a guided walk along the sea cliffs from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre. You’ll never forget it.

www.doolincliffwalk.com

7. Go caving in the Burren

The lunar landscape of the Burren is a geological phenomenon and remarkably beautiful at ground level. But underground there are 200 caves, including the longest cave in Ireland. This hidden world offers a wide range of challenges, from introductory half-day visits to see underground waterfalls, stalactites and stalagmites, to longer and more difficult caves. The Burren Outdoor Education Centre will take you through it.

www.burrenoec.com

 

8. Take a boat to explore the Skellig Islands

One of the Wild Atlantic Way’s most amazing sights, the Skellig Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For several centuries they were home to monks. The other-worldly and well-preserved hermitage and monastic remains are well worth exploring. The islands featured in the recent Star Wars: The Force Awakens sci-fi blockbuster.

skelligislands.com

 

9. Go horse-riding on a beach

The splash of the surf, the wind in your hair – for a memorable seaside canter there’s nowhere better than the Dingle Peninsula, which boasts some of Europe’s most stunning beaches. From the sweeping curve of Brandon Bay to secluded sandy coves you can easily find a deserted stretch with nothing but the sound of your horse’s hooves and the ocean for company.

www.dinglehorseriding.com

 

10. Watch whales in West Cork

The waters off West Cork are excellent feeding grounds for a number of cetacean species. The most frequent summer sightings are minke whales, harbour porpoises, basking sharks, and sunfish, but orcas and pilot whales can also be spotted on rare occasions. Pods of more than 50 common dolphins cruise these waters from August to November. Head out on Whale Watch West Cork’s boat, the Voyager.

www.whalewatchwestcork.com

www.ireland.com

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!

Explore Haida Heritage at Kay Llnagaay In Northern BC, the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay is a cultural jewel on remote Haida Gwaii. read more
Say I Do In Mexico Mexico is one the best destinations for your wedding. Here are 5 places that could make your wedding spectacular. read more
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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