BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

The Chinese New Year Dish You Need To Try This Year
Kung Hey Fat Choi! Chinese New Year celebrations brighten up the winter months throughout Asia and Asian communities around the world. It's the most important date on the Lunar calendar and includes weeks of festivities with family and friends from late January through March. Many activities give everyone a chance to get into the spirit of a fresh, healthy, happy and prosperous upcoming year.

Among the many outstanding traditions like lion dances, flower markets, decorations of lanterns, red and gold banners, and orange trees, wearing of red, temple visits, parades, fireworks, family gatherings and gift giving, are, of course, special Chinese New Year feasts.

If it isn't already, put Chinese New Year travel on your bucket list. Every major Asian community in Asia as well as the Americas and Europe holds memorable CNY festivities. Here are a couple of our favorites:

Hong Kong

It's considered one of the world's best festivals, with Victoria Harbour's neon spectacle as a backdrop to 6000 tonnes of fireworks, parades, flower market, temple celebrations and lucky New Year's horse races.

Philippines

Manila's Binondo district is the oldest Chinatown in the world, and appropriately, host of the Guinness world record Chinese New Year's celebrations. Its standout moment is a laser show and a one-of-a-kind LED Lion Dance.

Singapore

Chinese New Year involves weeks of festivities including an International Lion Dance Competition, a riverside carnival, and over 10,000 performers in the continent's largest street procession.
 

San Francisco

This West Coast city's Chinatown is famous, so naturally, it's 2-week CNY celebrations are, too. Flower festivals, a breathtaking, 200-foot dragon finale to the largest CNY parade outside of Asia.

Food is central to the celebrations, and almost every dish carries symbolic meaning or color, or a name that sounds like the Chinese characters for Chinese New Year wishes like longevity or wealth.

Our friends at Hong Kong Tourism have shared with us their recipe for Lion's Head Meatballs – also called Four Joys Meatballs. It's a pork recipe - which seems especially suitable for Year of the Pig – but is equally tasty and relevant no matter which creature's year of the Chinese zodiac it is. The round shape of meatballs symbolizes 'togetherness', and the Lion's Head evokes Chinese New Year Lion dances.
 

It's easy enough to make at home for your own Chinese New Year celebration or any time you crave it.

Braised Chinese Lion’s Head Pork Meat Balls Recipe 

 
Ingredients
 
Meatballs
1 lb Ground Pork
4 large Dried Shiitaki mushroom (soak in warm water until softened, then minced)
½ cup Water Chestnuts, minced
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Minced Ginger
2 Scallions/ Green Onions, minced
½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 teaspoon Minced Garlic
½ teaspoon White Pepper
2 tablespoons Light Soya Sauce
1 tablespoon Dark Soya Sauce
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
2 tablespoons Shaoxing or Rice Wine
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
+
1 cup Vegetable Oil for frying
 
Vegetables in Broth
10 leaves Napa Cabbage
2 pieces Sliced Ginger, bruised
1 cup Chicken Broth

Method

Put ground pork into a large bowl. Add Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar, grated ginger, cornstarch and scallion. Add chestnuts, mushroom and eggs. Add panko. Mix all ingredients til sticky and moist. Divide into 6-8 parts. Roll each part into a large ball.
 
Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat til warm. Fry meatballs til all sides browned. Take out and place on paper towels to absorb oil.
 
Place bruised ginger slices in bottom of a clay pot or any round pot. Fill with chicken broth or water. Put in cabbage leaves. Arrange browned meatballs on top. Cover and heat in medium high temperature til boiled, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt or soya sauce to taste. Garnish with chopped scallion or parsley (optional).
 
Ready to serve over steamed rice. You can make and cook the meatballs in advance and do the final heating in broth when you want to serve the meatballs.

Kung Hey Fat Choi!


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Everyone wants to try 'real' local food when they travel. But we don't always have a real local to point us in the right direction.
 
That's why we loved our Avalon Waterways' culinary tour of the Jordaan, a walking-sipping-snacking tour of the revitalized neighborhood in Amsterdam. It gets you out of the tourist core and into the heart of the Dutch lifestyle the way the locals in the Netherlands really live. 
 
Want to taste the local beer? And the snack the locals order at the bar? You've heard of pickled/ raw herring but never had the nerve to try on your own? Do you want to sample a Dutch cheese you'd never find in a market at home? Or discover the best Dutch chocolate shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends?

We did it all on our culinary discovery tour of Amsterdam with Martine, our Amsterdam guide who knew every shop keeper and even better: the best tips to get that herring down the hatch – and love it!
 
BestTrip's culinary tour of the Jordaan in Amsterdam is just one of Avalon Waterways' collection of included shore excursions that let you get hands-on in a destination and experience the local lifestyle the way you enjoy.
 
How do you like to explore? With 3 types of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises you can create your own personalized trip.
 
CLASSIC
A local expert is ready to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and the “must see” sites.
 
DISCOVERY
Inspiring and interactive hands-on activities designed to speak to your interests - you spend your day immersing yourself in the destination’s unique culture, from cuisine, to art, to wine and more.
 
ACTIVE
Embark on energetic excursions keeping you in motion and on the go — from a guided jogging tour, to biking, paddling, and hiking your way through scenic locales.
 
Every European river cruise destination has its own special character, and Active, Discovery, and Classic styles of exploration mean that from the Seine to the Danube, the Rhine to the Rhone, you'll be traveling the way you want on your Avalon Waterways River Cruise, and gathering the travel stories that put a smile on your face for years to come. 
 

Start your Trip!

 
 
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6 Reasons We Love Seabourn Cruises to Alaska
America's Last Frontier is a destination everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime of travel. Alaska's vast, untouched waters and shores are rich in breathtaking scenery and abundant land and marine wildlife in an unparalleled spectacle of Nature.

Cruising along the pristine, emerald coast between British Columbia and Alaska is one of the very best perspectives and ways to experience Alaska's riches.

Not just any cruise; here's what makes an Alaska cruise on ultra-luxury Seabourn so special.



Smaller, Spacious Ships:


In a place of natural splendor like Alaska, a smaller ship gives you ample space to feel you are part of your natural surroundings. And it sails into ports that other, larger ships can't access. Seabourn Alaska itineraries include marquee ports like Juneau and Ketchikan, but also ports that are off the beaten cruise ship path, like Misty Fjords, Klemtu, Wrangell, Inian Islands, Chiswell Islands, Aialik Glacier and Holgate Glacier, ports that make your Alaska adventure one-of-a-kind.

You share your Seabourn ship in Alaska with fewer than 500 fellow guests. No crowding on decks, no line ups to shore… during daytime sailing, you can stroll on a deck surrounded by the quiet serenity of the impossibly fresh air and the sounds of the waves passing the ship and the densely-forested shore.


You're Always in a Room with a View:


Every space on a Seabourn ship gives you a feeling of being connected to the sea. All suites are ocean-front, many with verandas, and never far above the waves. 


Imagine waking in a verdant fjord to chunks of icebergs floating on glassy waters seemingly at arms' reach off your teak veranda rail. Or the unforgettable experience of sailing in crisp sub-arctic air while sipping champagne in a one of the toasty hot tubs on decks.

Taste-full:

Dining on Seabourn is always a treat. Everywhere Seabourn sails, chefs onboard plan menus like they are serving guests on a private yacht rather than a cruise ship, personally shopping for ingredients in local ports and featuring field- and farm- and fishing-boat fresh flavors on menus that surprise and delight daily.

In the rich waters of British Columbia and Alaska, that's a bounty of crab, salmon, oysters and other local delicacies that are so exquisitely fresh and beautifully prepared, it will spoil you for dining on them anywhere else in the world.

Seabourn Moments: 


Anyone who has traveled on Seabourn has a story of their favorite Seabourn moment. On every sailing, the ship's crew goes above and beyond to come up with spontaneous experiences that bring you closer together with your fellow guests, with your destination, and with the warm and enthusiastic crew. How do Seabourn moments put a smile on your face in Alaska?

One day, you may return from a wind-swept shore excursion to find 'Hot Chocolate with a Twist' on the Pool deck, where Seabourn bartenders are set up serving everyone's favorite comfort drink – with an optional twist of your liqueur and indulgent toppings that warm you up during your scenic sailaway.


In cooler climates like Alaska, Seabourn's famous 'Caviar in the Surf' becomes caviar on ice. What pairs best: vodka or champagne? Why not both? At the open-air, pop-up party deluxe, vodka and champagne stations, chefs coming out of the kitchens to greet guests at caviar station, opening up super-sized cans of caviar and plating servings for guests, circulating staff, and the live band all come together in the ultimate Seabourn spirit of the moment. 
 

Ventures by Seabourn:


Seabourn's smaller ships can't just sail into Alaska's smaller ports, bays and fjords, they can also launch Zodiacs and kayaks directly from the Marina at the aft of the ship.


Ventures by Seabourn are fun, accessible, active excursions that satisfy your craving to explore hands-on and up-close to Nature.  You can join a small group of like-minded guests and expedition leaders including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, geologists, historians and other experts. If you like exploring the outdoors, these are the Alaska experiences of your dreams: watch whales and eagles in Kenai Fjords from a Zodiac, or kayak up close to wildlife in Misty Fjords, take a photo safari for bears in Wrangell, or hike the Davidson Glacier.
 

Don't Stop at the Shoreline:


You won't want your Seabourn cruise in Alaska to end when you disembark, and luckily, it doesn't have to. Seabourn has introduced pre- and post-cruise Seabourn Journeys, fully-escorted extensions inland from the ports at the beginning and end of its Alaska itineraries.
 
The UNESCO Banff National Park & Rocky Mountaineer Seabourn Journey delivers you to your Seabourn cruise in Vancouver following a 7-day trip that includes one of the world's most famous luxury scenic train journeys and an exploration of Canada's iconic UNESCO World Heritage national park.  
 
In Alaska, a Denali Seabourn Journey takes you by scenic rail to America's highest peak and the spectacular national park surrounding Mount McKinley. It's a 5-day experience that features a flight over Ruth Glacier and a guided tour to spot grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and other wildlife park residents.
 
Traveling with Seabourn in Alaska gives you a welcoming, ultra-luxury journey to the majestic, sub-arctic 'safari' destination in our backyard.
 

Start your Trip!


(Images not labeled BestTrip.tv are courtesy Seabourn/ Rocky Mountaineer.)
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Learn to Haka on the All Blacks' Rugby Team's Home Ground
It's one of the most famous – and fearsome – pre-game rituals in the world. One that you can now learn for yourself in one of the world's most storied stadiums.

Any global sports fan has heard of New Zealand's fabled All Blacks rugby team. The All Blacks are not just heroes of the country's national sport; in spite of New Zealand's tiny size, the All Blacks are considered the greatest team in global rugby history. They are consistently ranked at the top of the sport, and have won the Rugby World Cup more than any other team in the world.

(Photo: Kai Schworer. All other Photos: Eden Park)

The All Blacks' distinctive black uniforms with only the national silver fern symbol are already intimidating: the team resembles an aggressive black swarm on the rugby field. Then imagine an entire team of robust, black-clad rugby players screaming and stomping wildly, working themselves into a fierce, unbeatable tour de force on the rugby field.

For the sporting superstitious, part of the All Blacks' success comes from the spectacular haka that the team performs before every match. The ancient Maori dance serves the same purpose for the All Blacks as it did for the New Zealand indigenous warriors on the battlefield. The ferocious postures and vocalizations that challenge opponents prepare the players physically and mentally, and unite them in a focused team frenzy.
 
The All Blacks' pre-game Haka tradition is as anticipated every game as their winning rugby form. It's ancient Maori for: Bring. It. On.


Now when you visit Auckland you can step on the hallowed grounds of the All Blacks' home stadium, get a behind the scenes tour of Eden Park, and learn to tap into your inner Maori warrior with a haka group – right on the green where the All Blacks play.


A Maori warrior in traditional garb is your guide of the home team's changing rooms and other off-camera spaces, your tour of great sporting moments for the All Blacks and Eden Park over the last century and more, and finally, onto the actual playing turf itself.

You'll join an authentic haka group and experience the power of the haka up close as it's performed on an All Blacks' game day. And you'll even have the opportunity to channel your inner Maori warrior during an interactive haka-learning workshop, and have your photo taken with traditional Maori warriors.


Whether or not you – or anyone in your group - are sports or rugby fans, the Haka in the Park program at the All Blacks' Eden Park in Auckland is a one-of-a-kind way to get up close and even participate yourself in the drama and history of authentic New Zealand Maori culture.

 

Start your Trip!  


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Discover Tropical Romance in 3 Overwater Bungalow Resorts on the Caribbean Sea
(Re)kindle the romance close to home – without long flights to the South Pacific or the Maldives!

Overwater villas are the next best thing to a private tropical island of your own – a luxury, bungalow suspended right over top of jewel-toned seas with the rustic-chic experience of living indoors and outdoors. It doesn't need to be Valentine's Day or your honeymoon for you and your sweetheart to deserve an overwater dream holiday.

Here are 3 resorts on the Caribbean Sea - in Jamaica, Mexico, and Panama, where you can live the dream.


Where: Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay, Jamaica


The Overwater Bungalows and Resort Highlights:

Couples-only Sandals built the Caribbean's first all-inclusive overwater bungalows, inspired by more distant cousins in Tahiti. These secluded villas are just off the resort's private island with private water taxi service. Picture glass floors, butler service, private infinity pools and outdoor soaking tub for two or hammocks over the water where you can dangle your toes and absorb the sun, extended outdoor decks and outdoor showers that blur the line between indoor and outdoor luxury living.


  • All-inclusive, unlimited fine dining at 8 restaurants and unlimited wine and spirits at 5 bars, including swim-up, and stocked bars in every room
  • Free wifi, tips, taxes and gratuities
  • Roundtrip airport transfers and BMW private airport transfers for all Butler and Club Sandals guests
  • Professional water sport instruction and all equipment; PADI-Certified SCUBA diving, snorkeling 
  • Hobie Cats, paddle boards, kayaks, beach volleyball, bocce ball, pool tables, day and night tennis, unlimited land sports and state-of-the-art fitness centers
  • Day and night entertainment including live shows
  • PLUS exchange privileges and all amenities and inclusions with 2 nearby Sandals – it's like having 3 resorts in one!

 

Where: Karisma's El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico

 
The Overwater Bungalows and Other Resort Highlights:

The adults-only resort's 'Palafitos' (pictured top) are not only the first overwater bungalows in Mexico, but are also on Maroma Beach, one of the world's top-rated beaches. Glass-bottom floors give you a view of the sea from the moment you wake up and your feet touch the floor; in the evenings, you'll have an unobstructed view of the setting sun from your own infinity pool on your private deck. And outdoor shower and private butler top off your indulgent beach escape.

 
  • Easily-reached via non-stop flights to Cancun
  • 8 diverse resort restaurants available in the 'Gourmet inclusive' all-inclusive program and 24-hour room service
  • 2 lounges and 3 swim up bars
  • Non-motorized watersports
  • Spanish lessons, yoga, aqua aerobics, latin dance lessons, cooking classes,  beach volleyball, mescal tasting, free wifi and more
  • Daily entertainment and  nightly entertainment including karaoke, live music, circus show and more
  • Shopping tours to Playa del Carmen
  • Fitness center, sauna and steam baths at the spa, aqua fit

 

Where: Viceroy, Bocas del Toro, Panama – opening slated for 2021

 
Overwater Bungalows and Other Resort Highlights:

  • 42 overwater bungalows the first in Central America
  • Accessible via a short flight from Panama City, boat, seaplane or helicopter
  • 457 acres of Caribbean coastline in a famous eco-destination, next to jungle and San San Pond Sak wetlands, a habitat for birds and wildlife exploration via eco-tours and hiking
  • Sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, surfing, biking, walks and lounging on the lengthy beach
  • 42 overwater bungalows and 150 more guestrooms and residences
  • 8 onsite restaurants plus lounges,
  • Multiple pools, spa, fitness center, meditation rooms

 
Tip: If your travel heart is set on the romance of an overwater villa, book well advance as these evocative, one-of-a-kind accommodations are always among the first to fully book especially in high season December – March.

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8 Facts About the Panama Canal

Panama is one of the fastest-growing destinations in Central America, and the Panama Canal is the country's star attraction. Although it's on everyone's list of things to experience, the canal is more important as a global shipping transit than tourist experience. 

Whether you sail the canal on your next cruise or watch in action from land, here are 8 things you need to know about this wonder of the modern world.

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

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

2. It's over 100 years old.

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

3. Construction cost over 25,000 lives.

At times, more than 43,000 people were working on the Panama Canal at once. Workers had to deal with heat, jungles, swamps - and all the creatures in them, including rats that carried bubonic plague. Plus mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria. Over 20,000 workers died during French building efforts.

After the scientific links between the insects and disease had been discovered, Americans undertook intensive and successful anti-mosquito initiatives. Even so, another more than 5000 workers perished during the American building phase.

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

The American Society of Civil Engineers has also dubbed the Panama Canal one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. It's one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.
 
A system of locks at each end of the Canal lifts ships up 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level to an artificial lake. Ships traverse the artificial lake, as well as a series of improved and artificial channels, and then are lowered again in more locks to sea level at the other side.  
 
The locks are 110 feet (33 meters) feet wide and 1000 feet (300 meters) long. About 30-MILLION pounds (1,400,000 kilos) of explosives were used to help clear the land for the canal.

 (That's a view! The Norwegian Bliss is the largest passenger cruise ship to have ever transited the Panama Canal)

5. Over 1 Million Vessels have transited the canal since it opened.

In 1914, the year it opened, about 1000 ships used the canal. Today, nearly 15,000 ships pass through the Isthmus of Panama via the Canal annually. The 1 Millionth ship crossed the canal in 2010, 96 years after it opened.
In 1934 it was estimated that the maximum traffic of the canal would be around 80 million tons of shipping a year, but by 2015, canal traffic exceeded 340 million tons of shipping – over 4 times the original maximum estimate.
 

6. $2 Billion in Tolls are Collected Annually

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

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

 

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

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

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

(A Celebrity Cruise ship transiting the Panama Canal)

8. How you can visit the Panama Canal. 

Many ocean cruise lines offer increasingly popular Panama Canal itineraries that sail through the canal in the approximately 8 hour passage to their next destination in the opposite ocean. 

But you don't have to sail through the canal. If you're visiting Panama City, or taking a resort / beach vacation in Panama, you can take a land trip to see the canal in action.
 
The Miraflores Visitor Center is on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, which are close to the Pacific end of the Canal and Panama City. Like the canal, the Visitor Center is open daily. The Visitor Center has large balconies designed for you to get a great view as the lock gates are opened and closed for ships to start or complete their journey through the Panama Canal. 

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

Start your Trip!


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They say on St. Patrick's Day everyone's a little bit Irish. So it's fair to say that on Rabbie Burns' Day, we're all a little bit Scottish. The national poet of Scotland – he wrote the song you likely sing every New Year's Eve: Auld Lang Syne – was born on January 25, 1759. And every year on January 25th, Scots and people of Scottish ancestry world-wide celebrate the man voted the 'Greatest Scot' in the country's history.

In Scotland and in many communities with Scots heritage, especially in Canada, where more than 15% of the population have ancestors from Scotland, the day is marked with Rabbie Burns Day Suppers. Gentlemen lucky enough to own a kilt suit up, bagpipers pipe in the haggis, Burns' 'Address to a Haggis' is read as the stuffed sheep's stomach is ceremonially carved and served, many toasts are made with whisky (all the better to wash down the haggis!), and it wraps up with everyone singing Auld Lang Syne.

If you're one of the millions of North Americans of Scots ancestry – or are an honorary Scot on Rabbie Burns' Day – we hope you attend a Rabbie Burns supper on January 25th in your hometown. Even better, once in your life, make the trip to join the festivities in Scotland itself. It's a bucket list trip much like being in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. You'll feel like a true Scot for the rest of your life.

Here's our salute to Robert Burns Day: BestTrip's video / love letter to the Shetland Islands, the most remote part of Scotland and northern-most point of the British Isles. (Click on the video above to watch).

The Shetland Islands are where 'Scotland meets Scandinavia and the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean'. Directly due west of Norway, the Shetland Islands are as far north as St. Petersburg, Russia, and Anchorage, Alaska.

With over 4000 years of history, enchanting wild coastline and charming farms - and an estimated 1500 of its famous, local namesake breed of Shetland ponies roaming its green pastures - the Shetland islands are a time capsule of unique Scottish history, heritage and traditional lifestyle. 

(Seabourn Ovation docked next to Oslo's historic fortifications)

We sailed to the Shetland Islands on our luxury Seabourn cruise of Scandinavia and the Northern British Isles. The Shetland Islands are yet another reason we love sailing on smaller ships like Seabourn, whose itineraries include not just marquee destinations like Copenhagen, Oslo and Edinburgh, but also small ports in remote destinations - like the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Imagine a cruise port where you barely see another tourist while you experience untouched Nature and authentic local life. 

It's cruise travel as the explorer inside you dreams it will be.

Start your Trip!


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Go Glamping in the Galapagos on the Celebrity Flora

What's better than a once-in-a-lifetime cruise to the Galapagos Islands? Sleeping under the spectacular night skies in one of the most remote places in the world on the deck of a ship that's the height of modern luxury.

  The Celebrity Flora is a first for the cruise line, dedicated to exploration of the natural wonder of the Galapagos islands. The ship launches in May, 2019, and is based on the island of Baltra in the Galapagos.  
100 privileged guests at a time will experience the Galapagos islands in the Flora's all-suite environment. In addition to the stylish design, dining, cocktails and onboard signature Celebrity Cruises lifestyle, this exploration ship is designed specifically for the best possible Galapagos luxury experience:  
  • innovative, outward-facing design providing 360-degree views of the islands, open air lounges with hot tubs and cabanas with a view,
  • expert-led ecological seminars,
  • seamless sea-to-shore transportation in yacht tenders off the open marina at the ship's aft,
  • environmentally-conscious features like extreme energy efficiency and anchorless technology to protect the sea floor, and
  • an open-air stargazing platform on the top deck.
  That's where Celebrity has crafted a whole new Galapagos cruising experience: 'glamping' (glamorous camping) with the Galapagos' brilliant night sky and millions of stars above.       It's a one-night experience you'll never forget. Four guests each night will be able to reserve the experience that includes two cabanas with deluxe appointments, one with a bed for sleeping, the other for dining alfresco with curated cocktails, wines, even campfire favorites like s'mores under the stars. And a naturalist is available to point out stars and constellations as seen only from this part of the world. The magical overnight experience concludes with sunrise and a full bed-side breakfast.   Glamping under the stars isn't a one-time PR stunt –it's a full-time part of Celebrity's Galapagos experience.Guests on every sailing of the Celebrity Flora on her 10- or 11-day tours as well as 16-night inner plus outer loop Galapagos itineraries can reserve Glamping under the stars on the top deck to add another unforgettable experience to their bucket-list travel to these remote islands and natural wonders.  

Start your Trip!

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Grain Silo Transformed into Breathtaking Museum and Hotel
Within a year of its breathtaking reincarnation, Cape Town's historic Grain Silo has already been named one of the world's top 100 places. 

When it was originally constructed in the 1920's, the Grain Silo on the city's waterfront was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a symbol of connection to the rest of the world.

A century later, after the Grain Silo was decommissioned, rejuvenation efforts could easily have seen it imploded to make way for bland new builds. Instead, the visionary conversion of the Grain Silo into a breathtaking museum, with a locally-owned and operated luxury hotel above, has resulted in a win for the waterfront district, for African culture, for the local history and people, and for travelers to South Africa. 

Zeitz MOCAA


The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art is the largest in the world. Architects magically transformed the Grain Silo's 42, densely-aligned concrete silo cylinders by carving the concrete inside to create the BMW atrium (photos by museum sponsor BMW) and multiple galleries.


The carved cylinders lend their form to the museum's spectacular design. In places, cylinder tops were capped with pillowed glass windows, each with 56 panels of glass, allowing natural light to filter in.

The result is a complex of over a hundred thousand square feet with nine floors of exhibit space, education areas, a sculpture garden on part of the roof, as well as a restaurant and shop.


It's an architectural and design masterpiece – even before you consider the art. 

German businessman and former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, considered one of the world's leading collectors of contemporary art from Africa and African artists abroad, loaned his extraordinary collection to the museum. 

It provides the founding collection of art from eminent African artists as the museum continues to grow and actively collect and share to locals and visitors art from the vast range of African artists near and far, provide many levels of art education, give back to Africa, and become a leading voice for Africa in the international art world.
 

The Silo Hotel


Above the museum, the former Grain Silo rises to new heights with a six-floor addition housing the extraordinary, 5-star Silo Hotel.
 
Like the museum below, the hotel retains and reflects ties to the local community; the Silo Hotel is the 5th property of the local Biden family hospitality company The Royal Portfolio, with a selection of exclusive boutique hotels in southern Africa.  


And like other hotels in the Royal Portfolio, the Silo Hotel has quickly become a beacon for luxury hospitality in Cape Town.

Multi-paned spectacular pillowed windows overlook the best scenery in Cape Town in every direction, including Table Mountain and the harbor into the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel celebrates its unique architecture with the Royal Portfolio's signature approach to art, style and design. 


Co-founder and family matriarch Liz Biden designed the hotel's public spaces and 28 one-of-a-kind rooms with hand-selected art acquired throughout her travels, a combination of modern and colorfully re-upholstered antique furniture, and unique pieces that make each guest feel at home in this deluxe atmosphere.


The catch-your-breath, stylish bar on the 6th floor provides bubbles, fine international wines and bespoke cocktails along with awe-inspiring views through the pillowed glass windows, and the Granary Café maintains elegant traditions like Royal Tea and Sunday Roast.


Perched at the top of the tallest building on the waterfront, the Silo Rooftop pool, dining, and lounging are the premiere al fresco experience in Cape Town.

 
The visionary transformation of Cape Town's Grain Silo offers a master class for any global city's transition of its waterfront from industrial to cultural and public. The Zeitz MOCAA and Silo Hotel are magnets for international visitors and still retain and reflect deeply local heritage and values, and make a lengthy stay in Cape Town essential before or after your cruise, wine tour or safari.


Start your Trip!


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Have you resolved to travel more AND be more fit and well? Why not put these life goals together on your next cruise? Cruise lines have upped their health, wellness, and fitness games in recent years. In fact, some of the best wellness experiences in the world are now at sea.


BestTrip's Lynn Elmhirst has put together her list of wellness/fitness opportunities on river, ocean, luxury and more affordable cruise lines you should be booking now.

Seabourn:

This ultra-luxury cruise line has partnered with acclaimed wellness pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil. All the Seabourn ships fleet-wide incorporate a Spa and Wellness program featuring Dr. Weil's mindful living program, and holistic spa and wellness experience that integrates physical, social, nutritional, environmental and spiritual well-being designed to relax and rejuvenate your mind and spirit as well as body.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: EXPERIENCING THE DR. ANDREW WEIL WELLNESS PROGRAM ON SEABOURN

Complimentary sessions of Mindful Meditation and restorative yoga enhance personalized treatment plans to address guests' specific health and wellness needs, mental focus, and happiness. Mind and Body seminars are designed to educate guests about philosophies and practices that marry Eastern and Western traditions and empower them to advance their own wellness. A Wellness Guide is a new staff member on all ships to guide guests through classes and personalized treatment programs.


Dr. Weil himself sails annually on a Seabourn cruise, delivering lectures and guiding informal group sessions. 
 

Avalon Waterways:

River cruising is getting more active, and Avalon Waterways' 'Active Discovery' cruises give you multiple ways to explore new European river cruising destinations. These included shore excursions span 'Classic', 'cultural Discovery', and for the wellness and fitness-minded guest, 'Active' options at ports of call.


These shore excursions put exploration in motion, including jogging tours of Amsterdam, a biking tour of the Dutch countryside or urban Vienna, a hiking tour of vineyards along the Rhone, or even a canoe trip on the Danube.
  
Avalon's AvalonGo App enhances your Active discovery of your river cruise route with daily, detailed itineraries, lists and directions of nearby attractions, cafes, bars, restaurants as well as their opening details… you'll even be provided with a picnic for your exploration!
 

Cunard

British luxury is at its best on the 'Three Queens'. In 2019, Cunard introduces a new spa concept Mareel Wellness & Beauty. New treatments featuring sustainable products and renovated spa bring a whole new wellness experience to Cunard guests. The spa renovations include a couples' suite and seaweed bathing ritual, a meditation room equipped with acoustic resonance loungers, an updated fitness center, class studio and sound therapy facilities.
 

The program's signature treatment is 'Ocean Discovery'. It features organic, marine-based ingredients sustainably sourced from Ireland, and other treatments feature seaweed wraps, luminescence massages and other advanced wellness experiences. Following rollout on the Queen Elizabeth, the new spa concept will be introduced on the Queen Victoria, and then on the Queen Mary 2 in late 2020.
 

AmaWaterways

 This is the line that first introduced complimentary bicycles to river cruising and got us all cycling around ports of call in Europe. AmaWaterways has now expanded its wellness activities on shore with hiking and other active shore excursions, as well as on board.

 

Wellness hosts on each ship as well as classes for all levels and aspirations of fitness, from stretching, core strengthening, resistance bands, and soothing or therapeutic massages, even lecture sessions.
 

Princess Cruises



17 Princess cruise ships sail guests to hundreds of destinations around the world, and everywhere you sail on Princess, you have the opportunity to relax, recharge and stay fit on your cruise vacation in the cruise line's award-winning Lotus Spa and Fitness Centers. Even the most dedicated gym-goer will be impressed by Princess' up-to-the-minute fitness equipment and classes, from spinning, yoga, and Zumba, as well as massages and body treatments.
 

Uniworld and U by Uniworld



Luxury river cruise line Uniworld and its experiential sister cruise U by Uniworld take health, wellness and fitness seriously on board and on shore. On select sailings, an onboard wellness instructor teaches TRX® Suspension Training classes in addition to individual workouts-with-a-view. 

 
Uniworld has also partnered with luxury active tour company Butterfield & Robinson to provide unique cruise + cycling holidays in Europe. The company also offers a dedicated wellness cruise along the Ganges River in India.
 
Whether it's advancing your fitness goals, or enhancing your serenity, some of your best travel health, fitness and wellness options are at sea.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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Las Vegas Has a New Culinary Destination

24 hours a day, 40,000 square feet, 400 types of wines from all 20 Italian wine regions, 2 restaurants, 3 bars, an educational chef's table, 6 food counters representing authentic versions of your favorite Italian delicacies and comfort food plus 5000 retail products you can take home – directly on the Strip. Foodies are asking themselves why Eataly hasn't opened a Las Vegas outpost before now.


The debut of Eataly in Vegas' newest resort, Park MGM, marks the world's largest Italian shopping and dining experience's sixth US location.  Now, there are more than three dozen global Eataly centers celebrating high quality, sustainable Italian gastronomy. 

Eataly's philosophy is 'Eat. Shop. Learn'. Part food hall, part restaurant, bar, cooking school, and culinary education destination, Eataly Las Vegas continues favorite experiences and adds some new ones.

'The Kitchen of the Market' blurs the lines between shop and restaurant. Pull up a seat at one of the 6 fresh counters where you can eat what you shop, and shop what you eat of Italy's most iconic dishes:

  • La Macelleria: Butcher & Kitchen and La Pescheria: Fishmonger & Kitchen: choose any cut of sustainably sourced meats and sausages from the case at La Macelleria, or daily catches, seasonal oysters, and Italian ceviche at La Pescheria, watch chefs prepare it for you to eat there, or package it for you to take back to your own kitchen.

 
All Photos: Francisco Lupini/Eataly USA

  • La Salumeria: Cheesemonger & Kitchen: The best of Italian snacking: meat and cheese boards with salumi and formaggi chosen by an Eataly cheesemonger, or by you.
 
  • La Pizzeria: Roman Handcrafted Pizza alla Pala: Ah, pizza. The Roman variety, served up on a wooden paddle and featuring seasonal ingredients
 
  • More Italian Street Food: Il Fritto, La Rosticceria, and Mozzarella Bar: There's more than pizza to Italian Street Food, and this fresh counter is divided into three areas: Il Fritto, offering lightly fried bites like arancini and fried seafood; La Rosticceria, serving rotisserie roast chickens, seasonal vegetables, and panini; and Mozzarella Bar, offering house-made mozzarella favorites.
  • La Pasta Fresca: Market & Kitchen: Everyone's favorite carbs, kneaded, rolled, cut and formed by expert pasta makers in front of you, covering all the regions of Italy and paired with traditional sauces. In season, you can even order black or white truffles by weight because if there's anything that makes fresh, hand-made pasta even better, it's fresh truffles.
 
Italian wines and spirits and coffee traditions hold place of pride in three new venues:


  • L'Aperitivo – The perfect place to start your exploration of Eataly. L'Apertivo is at the entrance, and a hand-crafted Italian cocktail of your taste, from a Venetian Aperol Spritz to a fortifying Negroni, will get you into the spirit of Eataly Las Vegas.
 
  • Gran Caffè Milano – an upscale, full-service bar inspired by the elegant cafes of Milan, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don't miss the replica of Milan's famous bull mosaic – a good luck symbol helpful to gamblers in Las Vegas when you put one foot on the mosaic and spin three times around.
 
  • L'Enoteca – The 'Wine Bar' is Eataly's premier bar and serves up all of Italy's finest – from more than 80 regional wines by the glass or bottle, craft cocktails, even bitters.  and will feature a wide selection of regional Italian wines by the glass or bottle, craft cocktails, and Amari (Italian bitters).
 
Your wine selection is even greater at the wine shop and tasting table, where you'll find one of the largest selections of Italian wines in the States: over 400 labels from all 20 regions of Italy.

Relax at the table at two classic restaurants: Manzo, La Pizza e La Pasta, or grab take-away pizza by the slice, pastries, all things Nutella at the Nutella bar, true Italian coffee, even pastas, sauces and gifts or souvenirs like Eataly branded clothing, kitchenware and mementos.


Live culinary demonstrations at the interactive Chef's Table inspire visitors of all ages to explore and taste the world of Italian cooking traditions hands on, from shaping gnocchi to understanding the difference between Toscana and Sicilia extra virgin olive oil. And makers at many stations and shops create fresh pastas, bread, gelato, cheese, and more to your wondering eyes.

Eataly's Italian gastronomic playground joins other star power dining and entertainment experiences at the new Park MGM. If you haven't been to the Strip lately, follow the scents anytime day or night to Eataly, which we're predicting will be one of the most iconic, must-do experiences in Las Vegas. 

Start your Trip!


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

Monaco – and Monte Carlo – have established and maintained an allure as one of the world's most glamorous destinations. Casinos and royalty, yachts and racing. Fast cars and beautiful women. Tuxedos and champagne all hours of the day.
 
But there's more to Monaco than a real-life movie set.

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

Start your Trip!


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Champagne Vending Machine at this NOLA Hotel Makes Every Day New Year's Eve
The motto of New Orleans is 'Let the Good Times Roll'. Nowhere is that more true than at the local Ritz-Carlton, which now boasts the area's first permanent champagne vending machine.


This classy, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of lobby fixtures in sadder hotels holds 320 'piccolo' (mini) bottles of liquid celebration, and blends right into the hotel's festive seasonal décor and events.


A nearly life-sized gingerbread NOLA streetcar dominates the lobby, with festive gingerbread making and decorating events throughout advent for the young and their grown up family members who want to sip while they decorate.

Christmas Eve 'Reveillon' feasts throughout December pay tribute to New Orleans' and Louisiana's French founding residents, along with 'Papa Noel' teas and breakfasts, and a Christmas Day 'Jubilee' extravaganza.


As exciting as those are, it's the New Year's Eve 6-course masquerade dinner and ball in partnership with iconic champagne brand Moet et Chandon, that tops out the festive season with champagne taking center stage.

And before New Year's is even over, the Mardi Gras carnival season in New Orleans has already begun.


With a full calendar of festivals and celebrations, never-ending good times really do roll one into another in New Orleans.  The city's 24-hour alcohol serving times plus relaxed policy towards carrying your drinks into the street (a couple of restrictions do apply: only in plastic cups and only in the French Quarter) make the Ritz-Carlton's lobby champagne vending machine not only festive but even practical.  

So whatever celebration brings you to New Orleans, you can let your good times roll in the Big Easy anytime with an elegant bubbly and a hotel home base on Canal Street just a block from Bourbon Street at the edge of the French Quarter.


Start your Trip!


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It's a global buzzword and cultural phenomenon. When the cold and darkness of winter close in, more and more of us go in search of Denmark's signature recipe for happiness: 'hygge'.


Danish 'hygge' (pronounced 'HOOG-uh') is sweeping the world – everyone wants in on Denmark's famously convivial way of life. The Danish are the happiest people on the planet – even during the long, dark days of winter - and it's all about hygge.

So much so, hygge has actually been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. It might be the world's first UNESCO World Heritage… feeling.

But translating hygge – and living it - aren't so simple. A hug? Mindfulness? Cozy?

Hygge is often referred to in design, with tips for creating rooms with 'hygge'. It's been said the Danish buy more candles per capita than anyone else on the planet. Add snuggly wool throws. Nature-inspired materials. A crackling fire. Comfort foods. And the simple pleasures of good company and togetherness.

BestTrip was in Copenhagen at the height of a hot summer on a pre-cruise weekend before boarding our Seabourn cruise… and with Copenhagen Urban Adventures, we discovered 'hygge' isn't just something you find indoors in winter. It happens year round, indoors and outdoors, with people, spaces and activities you love.


Hygge has caught on as a catchphrase with its appeal as an antidote to the ails of the modern world. Travel to Denmark, and you'll discover not only the scenics that stand out in Scandinavian style. Danish food and drink, obsession with cycling and life balance… a concept that's been around for a couple of hundred years has new and more powerful relevance in a busy, connected-yet-impersonal, disengaged and over-programmed world.

Hygge might be the very best souvenir from Denmark of all: once you learn how to capture hygge like we did from Mie at Copenhagen Urban Adventures, you'll be able to take that feeling home with you and implement its practice into your and your family's life.

Start your Trip!


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Four New Shows Onboard Seabourn

The new evening entertainment experiences debut on the Seabourn Odyssey alongside updated popular 'An Evening with Tim Rice' and coincide with an upgraded Grand Salon.


Time your enjoyment of Seabourn's delectable dining on the Odyssey so you'll be comfortably seated in the Grand Salon with an after-dinner drink for the evening's entertainment. 

Four new shows are joining a revamped 'An Evening with Tim Rice' in a Grand Salon that's been updated with new LED screens, lighting, and redesigned stage. 


Expect evocative music, original costuming and modern creative direction in the four new shows premiering for the 2019 cruising season:
  • A Stroke of Genius – if you love the art world's Great Masters and more recent artistic groundbreakers, imagine their masterpieces coming to life through music, song and dance. From Monet and Picasso, to Van Gogh and Warhol, every wildly different picture has its backstory, and Seabourn's performing artists tell you the tales behind the famous canvases.
  • Viva Italia – it's the Dolce Vita on stage. From film to fashion, literature to opera, this sophisticated performance is a stylish adventure through Italian culture. Rich classical music and compelling contemporary Italian tunes in both Italian and English will transport you to Italy's magical lifestyle.
  • Latin Quarter –it may be hard to stay in your seat during the vibrant beats of Latin American music, including favorite artists like Gloria Estefan and Pete Rodriguez. Sexy rhythm and style take over the night with an expert dance couple steaming up the stage with Cha-Chat, Rhumba, and Salsa.
  • That’s Life – you'll be swept away to Rat Pack days through the iconic sounds of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin and more; featuring big band arrangements to ensure a memorable evening.

 

And a Seabourn favorite is updated for the new season of Seabourn luxury cruise travelers:
 
  • An Evening with Sir Tim Rice – from Jesus Christ Superstar to The Lion King, the lyrics of the Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony-award winner are the soundtrack of modern musical theatre. Sir Tim Rice himself narrates this celebration of his career in this musical journey of his best-known works. New, unseen footage and graphic design are featured in this new version of this exclusive and intimate show.
 
Take in these shows on the Seabourn Odyssey as she sails in 2019 through the Caribbean and then in southern Europe. They debut on the Seabourn Sojourn in summer of 2019 and on the Seabourn Quest in spring 2020, along with upgrades to their Grand Salons.
 

About Seabourn:


Seabourn is consistently ranked among the world's top travel choices. Its stylish, distinctive cruising vacations are renowned for:
  • Intimate ships with a private club atmosphere
  • Intuitive, personalized service provided by staff passionate about exceeding guests expectations
  • Curated voyages to all seven continents delivering award-winning experiences
  • All ocean front suites, luxuriously appointed
  • Complimentary premium spirits and fine wines available onboard at all times
  • Welcome Champagne and complimentary in-suite bar stocked with your preferences
  • Tipping is neither required, nor expected
  • Finest resort at sea that is masterfully designed 
  • World-class dining, further enhanced through a culinary partnership with Chef Thomas Keller
  • All dining venues are complimentary, dine where, when and with whom you wish
  • Seabourn Conversations, connecting with visionary experts
  • Ventures by Seabourn, optional shore excursions, enhance and extend destination experiences in select destinations.
  • Select purposeful and sustainable travel experiences in partnership with UNESCO
  • Spa & Wellness by Dr. Andrew Weil, featuring an exclusive mindful living program
  • An evening entertainment experience in collaboration with Sir Tim Rice, produced exclusively by Belinda King Creative Productions.

The Celebrity EDGE has launched and is turning heads at every port. Its standout sleek, urban resort styling and game-changing technology have a high point: the Magic Carpet.


You'll see what we mean in the video above. But the Magic Carpet isn't the only showstopper on the EDGE. You'll also fall in love with:
 
1.    The Resort Deck, encompassed by an outward-facing, untraditionally asymmetrical terraced pool deck nearly 22 feet high that makes the ocean views and landscapes the focal point while lounging poolside.
 
2.    Spectacular martini glass-shaped hot tubs suspended elegantly in the air on the slenderest glass stems and bookend the pool.
 
3.    A larger-than-life artistic mirror installation – an ever-changing, abstract piece positioned above the Pool Bar.
 
4.    The pool deck's oversized sculptural pieces unlike anything we've seen at sea. Dramatic, unique tree sculptures add an air of whimsy and create an intimate setting at night when lit up.

 
5.    The Rooftop Garden, a living, urban playscape designed to awaken the inner-child in everyone, tended to daily by a resident horticulturist, an interactive space, including pop-up live music performances from musicians in the treetop sculptures.

 
6.    The Retreat Sundeck rivaling any high-end resort, with over-water hanging chairs while the water laps beneath your feet or you lay back in the shaded resort-style cabanas and soak up the nearly 240-degree panoramic views on the forward end of the ship.
 
7.    The Retreat Lounge, located just below The Retreat Sundeck and open around the clock, touching the sea on both the port- and starboard sides, and offering seemingly endless ocean views.
 
8.    Edge staterooms with Infinite Verandas, revolutionizing the standard veranda stateroom with the touch of a button, blurring – even erasing – the boundaries between inside and outside. The entire living space becomes the veranda, letting you walk right out to the water’s edge.
 
The billion-dollar EDGE has been breaking ground since its conception. It's the first ship designed entirely in 3-D, in the world's largest and highest resolution 3-D virtual reality simulator in the world. 

We think she's even more amazing in real life, and you will, too. 

Start your Trip!

 
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6 Tips to Survive - and Enjoy - an 'Obli-cation'
When your 'vacation' is really an obligation, you're taking an 'obli-cation'. You've taken these trips: cross-country to the in-laws' for the holidays. A family or friend's destination wedding. The mandatory winter break or summer holiday family reunion/group vacation.

When you take an oblication, the usual steps you take that ensure fun travel may no longer apply.

On any of these occasions, you may find yourself spending priceless vacation time traveling to a destination you wouldn't choose, spending time with some people you wouldn't choose.
 
But an oblication doesn't have to be a holiday write-off. Of course you have to be present and enthusiastic for the 'main events' – the point of the get togethers.

But there are ways to salvage your next oblication and make sure you create some great vacation memories.

1 Stay in a hotel instead of someone's home

Nothing creates tension like being trapped in a guest room even when it's someone you love. We know, they expect you to stay with them. But tip-toeing around incompatible household schedules and rules and lifestyles 24/7 is no fun. Early birds vs. night owls. Health-food obsessed vs. take-out fans.

Booking a hotel gives you space of your own, more freedom to follow your own timetable, and amenities that will feel like a real vacation treat. Whether it's a pool or spa or a terrific bar to relax at the end of the day, or a gym where you can work out or a juice bar where you can stick to your healthy eating habits, hotel stays make oblications into vacations. 

A hotel can give you an excuse to spend time with sub groups – like drinks at the bar with just your sibling, or taking all the kids to the pool and giving other parents a break, or lounging in the sauna with just the girls or just the guys.


2 Or in a different hotel/resort than the rest of the group

When the oblication is already at a resort or hotel, you can still carve your own space to create your own holiday. Ask your travel agent about nearby properties where you can stay away from the group and rejoin them for the 'main events'. Yes, the group may get the benefits of a minimum group booking. But hopefully there are enough people in the group that your independent booking won't jeopardize that.
 

3 Or in a 'ship within a ship' / separate resort wing 

More and more groups are cruising together for Thanksgiving, Christmas/ Hanukkah, spring break, summer holidays, weddings/vow renewals, even bachelor/ette parties. 

You have to be on that cruise. But there's still a way.

Some ships have more luxurious 'ship within a ship' options, and some resorts have these wings, too. These private enclaves are nearly like being in a separate ship or resort, with their own pool/ spa /lounge/ bar/ restaurant facilities that feel like you are in a separate hotel or ship. Except that you can head to the main part of the ship or resort and join the bigger group whenever you wish.

Talk to your travel agent about those options on the ship or resort – or, if the group is still deciding, get your travel agent to help you identify and book cruises and resorts where this is an option.


You'll enjoy perks and special experiences that will make your oblication feel like a real holiday – and worth every penny.

4 Carve out some sub-group together time

If you come and are fully enthusiastic for the main events, one of the real pleasures of family or group getaways is the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family members – and that doesn't have to happen in a whole-group setting.

Don't just hope for - plan some of these moments away from the main group (see hotels, above).

Maybe it's just the two of you – no other friends, family members or even your own kids in tow. In fact, those extended-family get togethers are ideal times for parents to spell each other off and take turns taking care of groups of kids to give other parents a break. Or grandparents to have the kids all to themselves.

Book an excursion - even if it's just coffee or wine on a terrace – with a sibling, parent, grandparent, or small group of friends you rarely get to spend real time with.

That relaxed intimacy and conversation will be among your most special memories.

5 Research the destination as if you had chosen it for a 'real' holiday yourself

Even if it's not the destination you would choose, it's still a change of scenery, a new place to explore and experience. Don't assume you'll be spending all your time pre-programmed. Do your research and discover experiences that interest you. And book some in advance so the time doesn't slip away without experiencing the destination as you would if you were there on a real holiday.
 
Even if it's your significant other's - or your own - hometown, pretend you're on holiday and discover what tourists love to do there. Embrace anything local with an open mind. Whether it's a hike in a local park, a visit to a local museum or artist's workshop – you can feel like a tourist anywhere if you put your mind to it. 

6 And if you're the one planning the 'obli-cation'… 

The plan is for everyone to enjoy being together, right? Help create a holiday environment everyone can enjoy. Don't expect everyone to be together or try to program every minute of every day whether it's at your home or at a destination.

Work with a travel agent to find destinations and hotel/resort/cruise options like the ones above so each member of the group can be carve their own niche holiday. Share these tips – and use them yourself! So you and everyone coming to the oblication can leave with happy smiles and wonderful memories.
 

Start your Trip!


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Architecture is the calling-card of a city. Some destinations are made famous by cathedrals or castles, towers or temples, statues or skyscrapers… in modern-day Miami, it's all about the designer parking garage. 

They even have a name for it: 'park'-itecture.

In this glittering city, there's an expanding list of chic places to park your car and gaze on the work of some of the world's leading architects – or 'star-chitects'. 

In other cities in the world, the likes of Frank Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron and a constellation of celebrity architects are designing landmark museums and opera houses and condo towers. In Miami and Miami Beach, the architectural stargazing has also turned to statement parking garages.

It's the latest signature architectural phase in this ultimate urban resort town.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: MIAMI DESIGN FROM ART DECO TREASURES, TO MID-CENTURY MODERN ICONS, EDGY WYNWOOD WALLS AND ONE-OF-A-KIND 'PARK-ITECTURE'

The Wynwood Garage is the latest addition to the high-concept streetscape, opening in November, 2018 to join half a dozen fabulous places to park or take a selfie in Miami:

Ballet Valet Parking Garage

210 Seventh St. at Collins, Miami Beach

Nicknamed the 'Chia Garage' for its lush green walls, the Ballet Valet Parking Garage was in the vanguard of South Beach's renaissance in the mid-90's and was Miami's first statement 'park-itecture'.

 
Like the chia pet it resembles, the 'vertical green zone' wrap of the building grows in the tropical climate. It even requires occasional trimming. When filled out, the breezes from the sea only a block away rustle through the greens like a wave, simulating the ocean surf. Watch for it flying into town; it's in the flight path to MIA airport.
 

1111 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach


Designed by celebrity architect firm Herzog & de Meuron, this edgy, minimalist-design-lover's dream really put Miami parkitecture on the world style map.
.
 
With slanting angles and exaggerated ceiling heights, 1111 Lincoln Rd is parking garage, event space, a residential penthouse for the developer, semi-secret retail space in a glass box perched at the edge, and a restaurant.   
 
Wangle an invitation to an event here if you can to have the pleasure of sipping a cocktail while enjoying the spectacular views of Miami and Miami Beach, Fisher Island, the bay and the ocean from the top floors.

 

Pennsylvania Avenue Garage at New World Symphony

500 17th St., Miami Beach
 
The City of Miami Beach and the New World Symphony brought on celebrity architect Frank Gehry to build the parking structure for the NWS Orchestral Academy. Less dramatic at first glance than other Gehry designs, it's wrapped in metal mesh that is illuminated with an LED light show by night. 


For the best view, head to 17th street – or if you're in town on business, there's a great view from the convention center. 

City View Garage

59 NE 38th St., Miami
 
Split-personality City View Garage stands out as you drive into Miami on the elevated I-95. It's a billboard for Miami's new Design District. 

Each of 4 facades was given to a different designer. The perforated gold metal panels on the southwest side are famous for catching Miami's spectacular sunsets in an explosion of brilliance. The garage gives you a stylish place to park as you shop among luxury boutiques in the neighborhood.

 

Museum Garage

1 NE 1st St., Miami
 
2018's Museum Garage livens up Miami's Design District even more, doubling down on the eclectic design with a mash-up of 6 eye-popping facades.

Different designers were given free rein without knowing what the others were creating. The playful, standout designs range from psychedelic candy cane stripes, to black and white comic graphics, to gold and silver 3-dimensional car installations whose lights go on at night…
 

Museum Garage cements parkitecture in Miami as an attraction of its own; you'll want to make sure you walk around and appreciate it from all sides to appreciate the full creativity of the designers, and get a chuckle from the next design that pops up at you.

 

The Wynwood Garage

321 NW 26th St, Miami

With the November, 2018 opening of The Wynwood Garage, Miami's Wynwood Arts District gets its first public parking garage that will serve the visitors coming to discover this emerging, hip neighborhood. It pays homage to the creativity of the district. Visitors come from all over the world to admire the curated, world-class street art on its Wynwood Walls, visit art galleries and studios and draw energy from the creative community.


The Wynwood Garage takes inspiration from this neighborhood of painted building walls, with a unique façade of abstract shapes that become a 3-d canvas for urban design. The exterior walls can change appearance – different pieces of curated art will be printed on new technology 'skins' that will fit inside sections of the graphics.

Parked cars share the structure with ground floor retail, and office space on upper floors. It's a traffic-stopping street corner; The Wynwood Garage is next door to the dramatic, black and white striped Wynwood Building.
 
Not reserved exclusively for the rich, famous and fabulous of Miami and Miami Beach, you too can park in a designer parking garage- they are public parking! And rates even in these ultra-stylish structures are on a par with other major North American cities.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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You Can Stay in this Spa Hotel Over Top of Iceland's Blue Lagoon

A primeval landscape of black lava rocks covered in moss. Pools of chalky, ice-blue healing waters heated by the earth's core. Iceland's Blue Lagoon is mystical and almost surreal to see even in person. It's even been called one of the Wonders of the World.

 
Now, there's a spa hotel where you can sleep overtop of one of the earth's most remote and celebrated wellness destinations.

 

What is the Blue Lagoon?


Iceland's Blue Lagoon is man-made; water pulled from the depths of the earth at a nearby geothermal power station, once most of the heat is used, is released into pools in the lava field. The water re-absorbs into the earth, completely renewing itself every 2 days.

The released water in the pools is still delightfully warm - 39°C/102°F - and rich in minerals and an algae that gives the lagoon its opaque blue color, as well as a healthy bacteria that's only been found in the Lagoon. 
 
With a far-north European tradition of sauna, spas and bathing, the Blue Lagoon quickly became a local hit with Icelanders. Bathing or swimming in the Blue Lagoon is believed to be wonderful for your skin and overall health and wellness, especially when breathing in the pure Arctic air all around.
 
It's also an unforgettable outdoor spa experience.

 
Pro-Tip: The Blue Lagoon remains open in the evening, so an afternoon visit that extends into the evening lets you enjoy the Blue Lagoon colors in the daytime, then Northern Lights dancing in the sky in the winter, or the midnight sun in summer months.

 

Day Tripping to the Blue Lagoon


Until 2018, the Blue Lagoon was mostly a day trip to the other-worldly environment and minimalist design of the Blue Lagoon's spa. Wood and lava construction materials, exposed lava cliff walls, waterfalls between lava pools… it almost feels like a science fiction destination!


If your sci-fi dream includes: 
  • In-water massages
  • Silica mud masks and wraps
  • Algae masks and wraps
  • Waterfall by the saunas that's the perfect stress-relief for your shoulders
  • 3 saunas and steam rooms
  • Floating salt scrubs
  • Relaxation cave
  • Swim-up lagoon bar serving smoothies for the health-conscious or wine, beer and champagne for those celebrating the escape
  • Upscale restaurant with a view over the lagoon


There has been a nearby overnight option, the adults-only Silica Hotel a 10-minute walk from the Blue Lagoon with its own private bathing lagoon.


The New Retreat Hotel


But for the height of romantic, luxury spa retreat, nothing can match the new Retreat Hotel on the Blue Lagoon itself. Opened in 2018, it's an exclusive spa-within-a-spa concept: luxury hotel with private suites – two of which come with your own private lagoon.

 
You are welcomed by your private host and can participate in daily yoga and hikes. You have access to the Blue Lagoon plus Retreat experiences:
 
  • the Retreat Spa with terrace, steam cave, lava spring and lounges featuring a fireplace or suspended nests where you can cocoon while gazing out at the landscape,
  • the private Retreat Lagoon and
  • the Blue Lagoon 'Ritual' of treatments based on the rejuvenating powers of the Blue Lagoon's three natural wonders: silica, algae and mineral in three interconnected chambers. And of course the geothermal seawater.

You may dream of overwater bungalows in the South Pacific or the Caribbean, but this uniquely Icelandic overwater hotel will transform your sense of well-being as well as your concept of over water resorts.

 

Travel Tips to the Blue Lagoon:


Pre-booking for any guest is required, the earlier the better before your trip as daily admissions are limited to ensure the quality of your experience.

The Blue Lagoon is 15-minutes from the Keflavík airport, and half an hour from Reykjavík. That makes it the perfect first or last stop in Iceland, whether you're taking a cruise, tour or traveling privately through the country.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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GAdventures Launches Wellness Collection

Adventure travel for the thrill? Or to be well? 

More and more travelers are turning to the exploration of other cultures and landscapes in search of food for the body and soul, spiritual inspiration, interaction with nature, and mindful practices.


Maybe you're jump-starting a healthier way of life, need to take a break to de-stress or heal or reinforce wellness practices, and want to do it in the company of a small group of like-minded travelers in some of the most inspiring and famous wellness destinations in the world.
 
G Adventures' has introduced a collection of tours that balance must-see destination highlights with a slower, more mindful pace, wellness experiences, smaller groups, and connection to the local people, culture and Nature.
 
The 10 new small-group tours welcome both women and men, solo and groups of travelers, and are accessible to a broad range of ages and abilities. They take a slower pace but still stretch participants physically and experientially. 
 
GAdventures' Wellness Adventures include a higher service level than standard GAdventures tours, with quality accommodations, private transportation, more meals and activities and are centered around three pillars:
 
Mindfulness – Wellness Adventures begin with an intention setting ceremony, and the pace and accommodations provide local grounding and a calming base outside the bustle of city centers.
 
Movement – Local experts lead a variety of types of yoga and optional guided meditations. Every tour involves movement and interaction with the outdoors.
 
Nourishment – Authentic local dishes and culinary tours including vegetarian and vegan options, market visits, tastings with local guides, and cooking classes with fresh ingredients.
 

World-wide wellness tour itineraries and highlights include:

 
Costa Rica
  • Mi Cafecito Community Coffee Plantation, a G for Good project supporting 200 local farmers
  • yoga sessions overlooking the Arenal Volcano,
  • hiking, thermal hot springs, therapeutic mud bath
  • isolated undeveloped beach getaway

Colombia
  • Cartagena street food tour
  • crystal clear waters on the Rosario Islands
  • hike and a healing visit to a sacred pools in a National Park
  • daily yoga practices
 
Peru, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
  • Sacred Valley with a taste of local food
  • stand-up paddleboard across pristine waters surrounded by towering Andean peaks.
  • yoga sessions, a hot springs visit, 1-day Inca Trail Hike
  • awe-inspiring beauty and power of Machu Picchu
 
Iceland
  • hike up Öskjuhlíð Hill overlooking Reykjavik.
  • Golden Circle and Thingvellir National Park
  • yoga on black sand beaches
  • Blue Lagoon famous thermal hot springs
 
Patagonia
  • vast open spaces and dramatic landscapes
  • morning yoga sessions
  • breathtaking hikes, kayaking, and horseback riding
 
Rome & Tuscany
  • Palatine Hill and the Colosseum
  • Tuscan villages, exceptional local food and wine, 
  • cycling in the Tuscan hills
  • healing thermal waters
 
Nepal
  • Kathmandu
  • one of the world's largest Buddhist shrines
  • two-nights at a monastery
  • meditation sessions with long-practicing monks
  • Buddha’s birthplace
 
Bali
  • tropical wonders
  • traditional offering at Hindu temples
  • daily yoga practices
  • traditional Balinese healing ceremonies
  • serene beaches
 
India
  • India's most hallowed spiritual grounds
  • iconic sites of Northern India.
  • ashram in Rishikesh
  • yoga and meditation
  • homeland of the Dalai Lama
 
Thailand
  • ancient restorative practices, yoga sessions, and healthy food
  • hot springs
  • the birthplace of traditional Thai massage
  • optional round of Muay Thai
  • island beaches and sunsets over the ocean
 
The 10 new Wellness itineraries are priced from $1,549 USD per person, land only, and the first departures take place - naturally - on Global Wellness Day.

Start your Trip!


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It's a long-standing tradition and one of guests' favorite experiences of a Seabourn cruise. And it doesn't even take place on board the ship.

Seabourn's Shopping with the Chef complimentary shore excursions to landmark local markets in ports of call are legendary, and a signature of the luxury cruise line.

It's no surprise to find Seabourn chefs shopping in local markets. Take a Seabourn cruise. Then take another. No two Seabourn cruises are quite the same. You'll realize how much effort Seabourn chefs (and all the crew) put into constantly innovating new ways to delight guests. On a canvas of Seabourn service excellence, there's an ever-changing palette of colorful, unexpected moments that become some of your favorite memories of your cruise. 

Unique local ingredients and flavors from your cruise destinations take center stage in those delightful Seabourn moments. The chefs source them locally on arrival, so they change seasonally and even every time Seabourn calls in port through a sailing season in a region.

Shopping with the Chef gives guests behind the scenes insights into what they'll soon find on board on their plates, appearing on the pool deck in an epicurean moment, taking center stage on a breakfast or lunch buffet display, or proudly featured in a new course on the dinner menu. In historic local markets, the chef reveals favorite suppliers of the freshest, most unique ingredients, and discovers what's new at the market. 
 
If you're a foodie like me, the famous local market is on my list of experiences at any port of call in the world. Having the opportunity to experience that market Shopping with the Chef on a Seabourn cruise makes it even more delicious.
Here are 4 renowned markets in 4 Seabourn destinations where you can go Shopping with the Chef.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.tv Producer/Host
 

Cruise: Canada & New England

Market: Old Port Market, Quebec City, Canada


Charming Quebec City is, as they say, a taste of Europe without the jet lag. Its Old Town preserves delightfully walkable 17th and 18th century neighborhoods.  No surprise the Quebec market dates from 1640! Today, following its French heritage, Quebec is one of the epicurean centers of Canada. The famous Ile d'Orleans is a hotbed of gastronomic agriculture only minutes away from downtown, and food producers bring their prize-winning products to the new location of Quebec's market.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE OF OUR SHOPPING WITH THE CHEF SEABOURN EXPERIENCE IN QUEBEC CITY

The Old Port market is just steps away from the cruise port. There are local Canadian products you expect like local maple syrup, as well as things you might never have heard of, like Haska berries and things made from both. French bread like you last tasted in France, local types of cheese you won't find anywhere else, hand-made sausage and charcuterie, even iced apple cider that takes advantage of cold winters to produce a one-of-a-kind taste – the small bottles make terrific souvenirs!
 

Cruise: Australia & New Zealand

Market: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, Australia

 
Another market that dates from the earliest days of 19th century colonists, Melbourne's 19th century Vic Market or Queen Vic is now protected by heritage status. The market sprawls over 17 acres that make it the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. There's even a campaign underway to have it declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many original structures are preserved and restored, including the oldest, the 1869 Meat Hall, and the Elizabeth Street façade. Shopping in the Queen Vic is experiencing a working modern market in a 19th century Australian streetscape.
 
Victoria State feeds Melbourne shoppers its beef, cheese, local produce, and famous regional wines. If you don't go on a wine tour of the nearby countryside, the market is a wonderful place to explore the local wine flavors alongside residents who do regular shopping here. Watch for local delicacies Murray River salt and gum tree honey. Follow the locals to the famous hot jam donut van. And in addition to local gastronomic treats, you'll find local jewelry, arts and craft vendors to stock up on gifts and souvenirs.
 
You'll hope your Seabourn cruise is in town on the right days; this market closes Mondays and Wednesdays, although there's a Wednesday night market in the summer, that adds dining, bars, and live entertainment to other vendors' stalls.
 

Cruise: The Mediterranean

Market: The Central Market of Valencia, Spain

 
Everyone talks about Barcelona's La Bouqueria, but Seabourn takes its Shopping with the Chef experience to Valencia, further west on the sunny coast of Spain. This is the largest market in Europe, with a whopping 1500 stalls over 2 acres. The building itself is a remarkable Art Deco landmark with high ceilings that dominates the streetscape of this Spanish port city. Shopping with the Chef in Valencia is a morning endeavor; like much of the rest of Spain, it closes before mid afternoon.
 
The Mercado Central de Valencia is still a truly local gastronomic and home-cook experience, as you'll see by the number of elderly ladies still doing their daily shopping for supper and bargaining for the price of their fish or produce. The fish market is its own area, almost a quarter of the market, testimony to Valencia's fishing port status. Local cheeses and local sausage and cured meats will inspire you to go home and serve tapas, and for a culinary souvenir, indulge yourself in local pressed olive oil.  You'll also find stands representing local artists, designers and souvenirs.
 
While you're at the market, follow the locals to the line up for a can't-miss local delicacy just inside the market's main entrance. Fartons is an unappealing name for a delicious sweet bun. Wash yours down with the equally famous horchata (nut milk).
 

Cruise: South-East Asia

Market: Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


The Saigon district (District 1) of central Ho Chi Minh City is home to the city's most spectacular historic architecture: wedding cake-like confections of colonial buildings, grand hotels… and the Ben Thanh Market. Its stand-out early 20th century clock façade has made it a meeting point, backdrop for countless photo shoots and selfies, and unmistakable landmark of this bustling Vietnamese city.

The earlier the better for this market – both the crowds and the heat will be less. Any time of day you should still expect a riot of color, smells, and textures unique to this part of the world. Fresh fish still wriggling in pans at your feet. Shrimp too big to fit in your hand. Vast bunches of pungent herbs and greens that make Vietnamese cuisine so mouth-watering. Spices and pyramids of fruit, and other local flavors Seaborn's chefs introduce into the on board menus.
And then there's the non-culinary part of the market with cheap clothing, sandals and electronics to some crafts, jewelry and art where you might happen across something souvenir-worthy.

Markets are my favorite places in any new destination to get a finger on the pulse of the local culinary scene and lifestyle. Seabourn chefs' insights, passion for food and sharing new tastes and experiences with guests make Shopping with the Chef anywhere in the world a travel memory of a lifetime.

Start your Trip!


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Seabourn specializes in culinary memories.
 
This luxury cruise line has long been famous for its tradition of 'Shopping with the Chef'. In Quebec City on a Seabourn fall colors cruise from Montreal through Canada and New England, we took Shopping with the Chef one step further – to its natural conclusion, in a delectable Seabourn dish.

Shopping with the Seabourn Quest's Executive Chef Jes Paskins at the Old Port Market just steps away from the ship, we returned laden with the bounty of Quebec's harvest season.

Seabourn's beloved culinary demonstrations usually take place in the Grand Salon.
(Seabourn Executive Chef Jes Paskins in the Grand Salon of the Seabourn Quest during a Culinary Demonstration)

With the Seabourn Quest docked at the foot of Quebec City's picturesque hill and in the shadow of the famous Chateau Frontenac, Chef Jes decided to celebrate his interpretation of Quebec's local flavors on deck in full view of the Quebec skyline.

Chef Jes' Roasted Quebec Pumpkin Risotto is as delicious as it looks, and he was kind enough to share the recipe for our fall harvest feasts at home.
 
 Seabourn Pumpkin Risotto
  • 4 cups warm Chicken Stock
  • Splash of Olive oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • ½ pound of Diced Butter
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese Shavings
  • 1 cup Diced Roasted Pumpkin
  • ½ cup Diced Shallots
  • 1 cup good quality White Wine
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (recipe below)
  • Fresh Rocket Lettuce
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil drizzle (optional)
 
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Heat a pan with Olive oil and butter; once hot, sprinkle in your Pumpkin Seeds.
Gently pan-fry them, keeping them moving so not to burn until they start to pop. Lightly season and then put into a strainer to remove most of the oil and butter and put the rest of the seeds onto absorbent paper to remove the rest of the oil and butter allow to cool and use for garnish.
Pumpkin Risotto
Peel the Pumpkin, de-seed and cut the pumpkin into nice diced pieces. Coat with Olive oil, Cracked Black Pepper, and roast in the oven for 25 minutes at a high heat until golden brown. Allow to cool, and set aside.
Drizzle a little Olive Oil in a pan. Sautee Shallots with butter, then add the Arborio rice, and slowly add the White Wine until it absorbs. Then add pre-warmed Chicken Stock little by little, waiting for it to be absorbed by the rice each time before adding more.
As the rice is almost cooked and still a bit firm, al dente (not fully cooked) when you test it, stir in the roasted Pumpkin, Parmesan Cheese and diced Cold Butter. Mix until the cheese and butter are fully melted and incorporated, then test and season to taste.
Serving
Place a serving into the center of a bowl, sprinkle fresh-shaved Parmesan Cheese and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds over the top. Add a little Rocket Lettuce on top of the Risotto, drizzle some Olive or Pumpkin Seed Oil on top to finish, and serve immediately. Bon Appetit!
 
Pair Chef Jes' Roasted Pumpkin Risotto recipe with some sparkling – or if you can get it, Quebec iced cider – and you'll experience Seabourn's interpretation of the taste of Quebec at home. Of course, we recommend trying Seabourn's renowned cuisine in person on one of Seabourn's Canada & New England Fall Colors cruises – or on any Seabourn cruise anywhere in the world. Your taste-buds will thank you!

Start Your Trip!

 
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5 Stars and Social Consciousness; A Paris Hotel Creates the Future of Luxury Cuisine

The first luxury hotel to win 5 Michelin stars is putting its money where its guests' mouths are. And committing to the cause of tomorrow's food and cuisine.


The Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris has three restaurants. Between them, they've earned record recognition by Michelin.  3 stars for Le Cinq, 1 star for Le George (pictured, top) and 1 star for L'Orangerie. It's put this historic landmark Parisian hotel on the top of many foodie travel lists.
Now an historic garden is where the Four Seasons Hotel George V is taking the future of social and environmental cuisine.

In the late 1700's, French King Louis XVI gave his sister a 20-acre(8-hectare) estate in the heart of Versailles, the royal residence on the outskirts of Paris. Princess Elisabeth cultivated a fruit and vegetable garden and gave her produce to the underprivileged.
Today, the Estate is a public garden, and now part of it has been turned into a sustainable Kitchen Garden for the Four Season Hotel George V's Le George restaurant. Executive Chef Simone Zanoni has a vision of a multi-faceted approach to lead the future of food production as he forges ahead with the highest levels of fine dining.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Country hotels may have their own on site gardens. Not so for big city hotels. The hotel's Kitchen Garden is less than 10 miles (15 km) from the hotel in the heart of Paris, reducing the carbon footprint of transporting produce from garden to the hotel kitchen.
 
Organic is Just the Start
The garden has been free of chemicals for over 10 years, ensuring completely organic produce. Testing planting began a year ago, and resulted in fine harvests of a broad range of fruits and vegetables including 15 varieties of tomatoes and vegetables from humble carrots, potatoes and beets through squash,pumpkins, eggplants, and green beans and even fruits: strawberries, raspberries and bush peaches.
 
Helping Hands
The garden has been developed with the assistance of the local 'Green Brigade', a team of twenty people on return-to-work contracts. Their on-site work to harvest at the point of perfect ripeness ensures the produce is served in the restaurant's dishes at peak flavor and texture. 
 
Fighting Food Waste
Green waste recycling? The new Kitchen Garden ups the ante. The hotel has partnered with a Paris start up called 'Les Alchimistes'. They collect organic waste from Le George restaurant, process it into 'made in Paris' compost, and return it directly to the soil at the Versailles garden. The garden's bio-system is a now an elegant plate-to-plate cycle.
 
Passing on Knowledge and Awareness
Chef Zanoni acknowledges the new generation of chefs even in food-conscious France has grown up without personal experience of agriculture, gardens and green space. So sharing that experience of hands-on gardening and awareness of food production is part of the hotel's Kitchen Garden vision. Two to three days a week, staff from Le George are on-site at the Kitchen Garden learning about raising produce and selecting premium produce at its source.
 
Getting Guests Close to the Land and the Source of their Food
The final connection: hotel customers and diners. Not only will people enjoying the cuisine at Le George benefit from the locally-raised, environmentally- and socially-conscious produce on their plates.
 
Four Seasons Hotel George V is unveiling a parallel guest experience at the Versailles Kitchen Garden. In a hybrid Porsche Panamera, guests are taken to the Kitchen Garden for a chance to explore, discover, and participate in ingredient selection. Back at the hotel, they'll have a tasting of the produce with Chef Zanoni.
 
For this Michelin-starred chef, it's the ultimate in the concept of sharing at the table: inviting guests to learn the many facets of this next-generation hotel kitchen garden and share in the pleasures of the soil and its produce on their plates. 
 

Start your Trip!

 
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5 Fun Facts Plus 1 Travel-Inspired Tequila Recipe
Tequila has grown up. No longer a frat house or a blurry vacation cliché, Mexico's national spirit has returned in recent years to its roots, with new premium brands sprouting up that are perfect for sipping and stylish cocktails at home or on holiday.
 
Here are 5 things you might not have known about Tequila – and a great recipe from our friends at Altos Tequila to get you in the 'spirit' for your next trip to Mexico.

Mezcal or Tequila?

It all starts with the agave plant. Contrary to myth, agave is not a cactus! It's a desert succulent actually more closely related to lilies. The core is cooked, and the juice distilled into mezcal.

Tequila is a specific type of mezcal, with two distinctions: it must be made from the blue agave plant, and in a designated area around the city of Tequila northwest of Guadalajara, and in the highlands (Los Altos) of central Mexico. Tequila is sold around the world as a designation of origin product. Like true 'champagne' is only from Champagne, genuine Tequila must come from its namesake region too.

Recognized by UNESCO

The region responsible for producing the world's Tequila is also one of Mexico's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila site is vast – close to 100,000 acres. The area was home nearly 2000 years ago to the Teuchitlan civilization famous for its ball courts, as well as agriculture that led to the cultivation of agave for cloth and the early fermented spirit pulque that set the stage for the distillation of tequila beginning in the 1500's.

It's worth a trip to Mexico's highlands and agave farming areas – before or after your beach vacation, or even as a dedicated journey of its own. The village of Tequila was founded in 1530 and has been designated a 'Pueblo Magico' by the Mexican government. Stroll through the village square, and pay a visit to Tequila's 18th century church between distillery tours and tastings.

Tequila By the Numbers

  • 6-12 years: the time it takes blue agave plants to mature to harvest.
  • 1 life: Agave plants are cut down to harvest the core, so must be replanted for future harvests.
  • 1 Agave core (pina) can weigh a hundred – even hundreds! of pounds when it's harvested. 
  • More than 100 distilleries produce more than 600 brands of Tequila, totaling around 60 million gallons (250 million L) every year.
  • 0 worms. The worm-in-the-tequila-bottle myth may have come from a larva that dines on agave plants and ended up in bottles of mescal – but should never be in distilled Tequila. 

Tequila Variations

We said Tequila could only be made with blue agave, right? That's true, but it only has to be 51% of a bottle of Tequila. If Tequila is labeled 'Mixtos', it may be up to 49% other types of sugars than blue agave. Tequila purists say only 100% blue agave will do; you be the judge.

Once Tequila is distilled, it becomes one of these 4 variations:
  • Blanco (white) or Plata (silver) Tequila is clear and un-aged.
  • Reposado Tequila is aged a minimum of 2 months in oak barrels. Reposado means 'rested', and this process mellows and smooths the Tequila.
  • Añejo (aged) Tequila is yet more refined, spending 1-3 years in small oak barrels.
  • Extra Añejo Tequila is a premium spirit that has aged over three years, with corresponding increases in price. 

Sipping and Celebrating

If you actually need an excuse to celebrate Mexico's national spirit, put these two dates on your calendar. July 24th is National Tequila Day, and February 22nd is National Margarita Day. Would you have guessed the margarita is the world's most famous cocktail? An unbelievable 25% of cocktails sold around the world are margaritas, and Americans are said to drink 4.5 million margaritas every day! 

But in Mexico itself, 40% of tequila is mixed into Palomas. Mexico's most popular tequila cocktail has two versions, and our friends at Altos Tequila have shared their recipes for the Paloma and the Sparkling Paloma.

Altos Sparkling Paloma (pictured above)
  • 2 oz Altos Plata Tequila
  • ½ oz Agave syrup or honey
  • ½ oz Lemon or lime juice
  • Pink Grapefruit Soda
  • A pinch of salt
Pour tequila, syrup and lemon juice in a highball glass. Mix to dissolve the agave syrup. Add ice, top with soda. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Altos Paloma (pictured above)
  • 2 oz Altos Plata
  • 2 oz fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • ½ oz part agave syrup
  • A pinch of salt
Pour all the ingredients, except the juice, into a glass. Mix to dissolve the agave syrup. Fill the glass with ice and finish with the pink grapefruit juice. Garnish with a half slice of pink grapefruit, and rim glass with salt and smashed pink peppercorns for those without nut allergies.

So if you want to drink Tequila like the locals do, mix up one of these cocktails or order one on your next trip to Mexico.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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If you're a flower lover, a Tulip Time spring cruise in the Netherlands is already on your bucket list. If you're not a particular flower lover, it should still be on your bucket list.

BestTrip sailed on the Avalon Vista and discovered there's so much more to a Tulip Time cruise than spring flowers.


We'll never forget the incredible sights of fields of tulips and Europe's largest spring garden in full bloom. But also the sights and many different flavors of not just the Netherlands, but also next-door Belgium, from jaw-dropping Amsterdam to more off-the-beaten-path towns like Ghent and Antwerp in Belgium, to picturesque villages in the Dutch countryside.

It's not until you take a river cruise that you realize the perfect way to see the countryside is sailing through the heart of a destination on a river ship. On the Avalon Vista, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors facing your bed bring the outdoors to you, and early morning and daytime sailing means we enjoyed the journey as much as the destinations.

Start your Trip!

 
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