BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

Top 10 Souvenirs from a Trip to Hawaii

You'll come home with a million sun-drenched memories of a holiday in Hawaii. Here are 10 mementos you can take with you.

 

ANYTHING PINEAPPLE



They may be the most common symbol of Hawaii, and you'll find pineapples, pineapple products, and pineapple motifs everywhere. Pineapples are actually native to South America, and their Hawaiian name 'halakahiki' means 'foreign fruit'.  They arrived in Hawaii in the 1500's, but it wasn't until James Dole, the 'Pineapple King' came to the islands in 1899, that Hawaii became synonymous the world over with pineapples.


At one time, Hawaii produced 75% of the world's supply. Hawaii is no longer the world's big kahuna of pineapple production. But the second most visited attraction in Hawaii is the Dole Pineapple Plantation Experience. Roadside stands sell delicious, perfectly ripe pineapples you'll enjoy during your stay, and that's where they'll have to stay. You can't take fresh fruits off the islands. But you can take candied and chocolate versions of pineapple with you – as well as an unlimited selection of items with pineapple motifs that will remind you of lazy days in the Hawaiian sun. 
 

OTHER TROPICAL FRUIT

The Hawaiian islands are America's tropical paradise, with market and roadside fresh guavas, papayas, mangos, bananas, lychees, passionfruit as well as pineapples. Like pineapples, they are not native to the islands, although bananas were one of the dozen staple crops brought on the first journey to Hawaii by Polynesians. Other tropical fruit came later and many have even gone wild, even becoming invasive in the wilderness. 


The same no-fresh-fruit in your luggage rule applies. Fresh tropical fruit juices make delicious toppings on Hawaii's favorite refreshing treat: shaved ice. And look for tropical fruit preserves to take home to relive your vacation every morning with your breakfast toast.
 

LOCAL WOOD



Sustainable local woods, especially local, fast growing and immense acacia koa are turned in the hands of artisans into both beautiful and useful memorabilia of your Hawaiian vacation. From salad tongs and bowls, fruit and nut bowls, platters, yes, even in ubiquitous pineapple styling, Hawaiian tropical wood products make a warm and heart-warming souvenir for yourself or family and friends.
 

ANYTHING TIKI



Much of the world associates tiki culture with the Hawaiian islands. Tiki culture is not actually a real 'thing', in fact, it's a mash up of elements, some real and some imaginary, of stylized elements of the Pacific tropics, like statues, sweet and complex cocktails, tropical décor including bamboo, flaming torches, brightly patterned fabrics (see: Hawaiian shirts), rattan furniture, and bead curtains. Tiki culture developed in the mid-1900's, and picked up speed with a post-war fascination with the romantic and exotic - brought home by returning US troops from the Pacific war theater and exaggerated by Hollywood. 


Now, tiki has a fun, retro vibe, and is a perfect theme for a back yard barbecue, complete with mai tai's garnished with fresh fruit and tiny umbrellas.
 

HULA GIRLS - OR GUYS

The adorably kitschy, wiggling, dash-top décor is a fun and retro memento of one of Hawaii's most powerful, unique and authentic traditions: the hula dance. Accompanied since the 19th century by western-influenced instruments like the ukulele, Hawaii's hula is a complex and ancient dance tradition, where hand movements can represent the swaying of a tree or wave in the ocean, even an emotion, along with unmistakable foot and hip movements. 


Hopefully, you'll experience a hula performance live in Hawaii. The hula girl (or guy) on your dashboard gives you fond memories and a little hipster credibility.
 

HAWAIIAN SHIRT



Channel your inner 'Magnum' or Don Ho with the modern man's loudest item of clothing, worn un-tucked and cool in the tropical heat of Hawaii. Traditional and local Aloha shirts are more muted in tones and style, and are considered formal wear locally, equivalent to shirt, tie and jacket in all except the most formal of scenarios, perfect for the local climate. The Aloha shirt is the top textile export from the islands, so you'll be in good company if you add one to your wardrobe at home.
 

ALOHA ACCESSORIES



Not everyone can pull off an Hawaiian shirt. The rest of us may have to make do with more subtle expressions of Aloha style: plumeria/ frangipani flower hair clips, and shell or silk flower leis. The custom of lei floral and leaf garlands was brought to the islands of Hawaii by settlers who made the incredible journey from Polynesia in canoes.  They've become the symbol around the world of welcome to America's 50th state.
 

MORNING JOE AND AFTERNOON TEA

The word in coffee in Hawaii is 'Kona'. Various efforts on the islands in the 19th century to grow coffee failed, but the slopes of the Kona or west side of the island of Hawaii, where sugarcane was unsuccessful, is ideally suited to coffee production. The Kona district became the center of coffee production in Hawaii and is Hawaii's coffee designation of origin; it must be grown in a two-mile-wide belt of terrain at 700-2000 feet of elevation to be labeled Hawaii's most prestigious coffee.


Kona coffee grows on west side slopes, and the opposite, east side has conditions conducive to growing tea. Tea production in Hawaii is much more recent, and growers are experimenting with black, green, oolong teas, scented with local flowers and fruits, so tea drinkers also have a local hot beverage to enjoy on island or to take home.

GET NUTTY



The pale, round and incredibly rich macadamia nut – sometimes even called the Hawaii nut - is also associated with classic Hawaiian snacks and cooking. But it, like the pineapple, originates elsewhere. Macadamia was introduced to Hawaii from Australia in the 1800's, and a local macadamia nut plantation just after WW2 helped spread the popularity of Hawaiian macadamia nuts through the US.  Enjoy them freshly roasted and take them home in cans, made into brittle, chocolates and countless other reminders of the flavor of Hawaii.

SALT



Hawaiians have been living off the land since their brave Polynesian ancestors made their way by celestial navigation thousands of miles across the Pacific. Harvesting sea salt has always been a fundamental part of island tradition, and continues today, with varieties of sea salt highlighting different flavors and unique characteristics of the areas they are harvested. The perfect foodie souvenir!
 

UKULELE

The soundtrack of any trip to Hawaii is the one-of-a-kind tunes of a ukulele. Looking like a miniature guitar, the ukulele is a Hawaiian adaptation of string instruments brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th century. The word has a whimsical meaning: 'jumping flea', thought to reflect the movement of a player's fingers. Ukulele music was popularized by the patronage of King Kalakaua in Hawaii, and it spread to the US and the rest of the world in the early and mid-20th century, along with post-war fascination with the South Seas and 'tiki' culture. Even Elvis famously played the ukulele in Hawaiian-themed performances.


You too can buy a ukulele in Hawaii, even visit an artisan workshop where they're made from traditional acacia koa, and take lessons, to liven up your next summer barbecue with the ultimate sounds of the Hawaiian tropics.
 

START YOUR TRIP!


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One of the best things about river cruising in Europe is that it takes you into the heart of world-famous cities, charming smaller towns, and even through the countryside that you might not see any other way.  

One of the best things about Avalon Waterways' Active shore excursions is that they give you yet another way to explore Europe's best scenery up close – on a bicycle, on foot, by kayak and more.

Active shore excursions are one of three styles of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises. You can mix and match tours in every port, and experiences on the ship, to 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.
 
In Amsterdam, who wouldn't want to try a two-wheeled tour? The Dutch are the global trendsetters in cycling culture, with their famous workhorse cargo bikes, and streets full of free-wheeling cyclists. Perhaps one of the reasons cycling took over the Netherlands is that the landscape is fantastically flat and smooth - easy for even novice cyclists to get around, with very few pesky hills to climb!

You can sign out a bicycle from your Avalon Waterways ship at any port of call and wheel around cities big and small. But an organized Active shore excursion provides an expert local guide who takes you off the beaten path.

In fact, Ryan McElroy and his guide left the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam altogether, cycling out to the countryside surprisingly close to the Netherland's capital for a one-of-a-kind afternoon of exploration.

Start your Trip!

 

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That's a trick question. Michelin, who issues the most coveted fine dining ratings, only evaluates restaurants in three US cities: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Not Alaska.

But there is still one place you can dine in Alaska at a restaurant by America's most acclaimed Michelin starred chef.

Chef Thomas Keller is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous top, three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants. At time of writing, he has not one, not two, but three Michelin starred restaurants in the U.S., with a combined total of 7 stars: his landmark Napa restaurant The French Laundry (3 stars), nearby Bouchon (1 star) and New York's hit restaurant, Per Se (3 stars).

Reservations book up months in advance to Chef Keller's restaurants on land, and like most Michelin-starred dining, the prices correspond to the stratospheric culinary experience.

That makes Chef Keller's partnership with ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn even more extraordinary. Every Seabourn ship has a restaurant: The Grill by Thomas Keller, and although reservations are required, every guest has the opportunity to book an evening at The Grill. What's more, like all dining on Seabourn, Chef Keller's restaurant is complimentary.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: An Evening at The Grill by Thomas Keller on Seabourn

We know people who've booked a Seabourn cruise just for The Grill, and for good reason. It's a new restaurant concept for Chef Keller. The Grill is an updated iteration of a mid-century American steakhouse, with brilliantly polished rich wood, the sexy curves of leather banquettes, muted chimes of sparkling crystal, extraordinary custom cocktails, a wine list that celebrates both Old and New World vintages, and a menu of Chef Keller's interpretations of classic, French-inspired American cuisine, from cuts of meat to the same 'Roast Chicken for Two' perfected at The French Laundry, Lobster Thermidor and even ice cream sundaes. He's even resurrected the almost-lost, charming practice of tableside preparations of exquisite Caesar Salad and the sundaes. 

When Vanessa Lee of Cruise & Travel Lifestyles magazine and I dined on the Seabourn Quest at The Grill, we had the pleasure of meeting the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group's ambassador Chef Michael Sandoval tableside, and our wonderful conversation with him gave us real insights into the Chef Keller culinary philosophy and story. A highlight of our journey!

The best part? Everywhere on every continent Seabourn sails, The Grill is there. Even Alaska. 

So you can wonder at the breathtaking landscapes, magnificent wildlife, rustic charm and one-of-a-kind lifestyle of America's Last Frontier by day… and indulge in the phenomenal cuisine of 'The Best Chef in America' on board in the evening.  

I think that's the very definition of good living, Seabourn-style.

 

Start your Trip!


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7 Castles in Ireland Where You Can Stay
St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle. Dramatic coastline. Historic towns and cobblestone streets. Pubs and parties. Folklore and green pastures… and castles.
 
Hundreds of castles and manor houses dot the Irish countryside. They not only evoke Ireland's storied past. Many allow you to live out your inner fantasy world of warrior kings and legendary princesses during overnight stays.
 
Look for a tour of Ireland that allows you to lay your head at some of these stately homes:

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

 
You'll be joining the illustrious ranks of not only early Irish nobility when you stay at Ashford Castle. British royalty, American presidents and sports and entertainment superstars have all stayed at 800-year-old Ashford Castle. It's a 5-star resort lifestyle in a magnificent French chateau style building on a 26,000 acre estate – complete with is own school of falconry, horseback riding, fishing, archery and clay shooting, as well as more modern pass times like a spa, golf, kayaking, tennis, tree climbing and zip lining.

 
Ashford Castle has been voted the best resort in Ireland and one of the top three in Europe.
 

Bantry House, County Cork

 
Since the 1700's Earls of Bantry have occupied Bantry House overlooking Bantry Bay on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way on the southern coast. You can stay in one of the finest historic manor houses in the country in luxurious bed and breakfast or self-catering style.  

 
As well as the Wild Atlantic Way, you'll want to explore Bantry House's elegant gardens especially when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom. The design is dramatic with seven terraces – the house is on the third terrace - 100 steps, and a fountain.
 

Drumoland Castle, County Clare

 
 Another magnet for global political figures and celebrities, 5-star Dromoland Castle is the ancestral home of the O'Brien family that traces its roots 1000 years back to the famous High King of Ireland Brian Boru. 

 
400 acres of Irish heaven include a top-rated golf course, walking and cycling trails, tennis, hiking, horse riding and pony carriage rides, traditional archery, falconry, fishing and clay shooting. Deluxe décor and luxury living include a spa, afternoon tea, casual and fine dining that once earned a Michelin star.
 

Ballyfin Demesne, County Laois

 
Your travel imagination may picture your castles with gothic towers, but don't miss Ireland's most celebrated Regency / Georgian mansion. With only 20 guest rooms, you'll feel like you're lord of the manor at this 5-star Georgian country house nestled on 600 acres at the foot of the scenic Slieve Bloom Mountains.

 
It's the ultimate mix of old world charm and modern home and hotel comforts – and perfect to take over for a special, destination family or even business event.
 

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway

 
Voted #1 Irish luxury castle hotel, Ballynahinch is an elegant 17th century castle with magnificent views over 700 acres of woodland and rivers. Relax indoors by one of six open log fires or dine in elegance at one of Irelands' best restaurants. 

 
Take long walks or cycling tours with backdrops against the 12 Bens Mountain range along the Wild Atlantic Way. Or climb onto a boat for a guided trip of its famous salmon and lobster fishery.
 

Crom Castle, County Fermanagh

 
Lord and Lady Erne still dwell at the historic seat of the Earls of Erne, magnificent Crom Castle in Irelands' beautiful Fermanagh Lakelands (pictured top). But the castle's West Wing can be yours, it's available year round for up to 12, with even a cook provided if you wish. 
 
Nearly 2000 acres at Crom are a unique nature reserve with one of the largest semi-natural woodland remaining in Ireland, the largest surviving area of oak woodland in the country, and one of the largest freshwater habitats in the British Isles. You can see two rare butterflies and pine-marten, the largest heronry in Ireland, wild geese and deer.
 

Lismore Castle, County Waterford

 
Some of the most notable names of Europe and the Americas over the last few centuries have visited and stayed at this 12th century castle of the Dukes of Devonshire. Fewer than 30 guests at a time enjoy truly regal hospitality, with use of the castle and estate facilities, and even the Duke's personal butler and staff. The Castle kitchens create formal, informal, indoor and outdoor meals from local and on-site ingredients.

 
Live like the Irish nobility with salmon fishing, golf, horse riding and racing, kayaking and boat trips, even kite surfing, scuba and hot air balloon rides.
 
Make sure your next vacation to Ireland includes a stay fit for a king on one of the Emerald Isle's historic castles.  

(Images courtesy ireland.com)
 

Start your Trip!

 
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New Wellness Cultural Journeys from Abercrombie & Kent Enrich Mind, Body, Spirit
Run and train like a warrior with the Maasai or hike to a vantage point high above Machu Picchu.

Feed your spirit with inspiration at a home for underprivileged girls in India, or a silent alms ceremony in Luang Prabang, and feed your body with healing, Ayurvedic herbs in India, or fresh local produce at a cooking demonstration on Krabey Island. 

Re-orient your mind through guided meditation with a local teacher at Kuang Si Falls, or learn about the meaning of tribal beading traditions in Kenya.

Now you can take your commitment to your wellbeing and desire for authentic experiences in global cultures to another level. Luxury tour company Abercrombie & Kent has debuted wellness-inspired journeys that immerse travelers in the local traditions of some of the world's most influential wellness cultures and practices, and provide uplifting visits to philanthropic projects where tourism directly supports local wellbeing.

Groups are limited to only 18 participants, and the pace is slower, with experiences and travel over 9- 13 days to allow you to stretch your mind, body and spirit, and linger in the deeply personal experiences. You'll stay in wellness-focused deluxe hotels, boutique lodges and luxuriously-appointed camps in one-of-a-kind locations. 


The first A&K wellness cultural journeys depart in Fall 2019, and explore the rich cultural traditions of bucket-list destinations Kenya, India, South-East Asia, and Peru. Imagine how enriched you'll feel after these journeys:

Wellness India: Ancient Traditions & Inspiring Icons
Explore India’s rich spiritual heritage, from the temples dedicated to Shiva and Lord Vishnu to the Taj Mahal. Participate in a guided meditation and bike ride through the countryside in Udaipur. Privately consult with an Ayurvedic doctor during a leisurely stay at Amanbagh. Explore the countryside of Rajasthan visiting local artisans. Visit an A&K Philanthropy-supported residential school for young girls. Spend two nights in the spiritual heart of India, Varanasi, where you stay in a former palace on the banks of the sacred Ganges, and take an evening boat ride to experience the pitru tarpana, a moving ceremony that honors the memory of a loved one.
 
Wellness Southeast Asia: Timeless Rituals of Indochina
You won't have to chose among your favorite Southeast Asian country, as the wellness traditions of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are all part of this journey. Take part in inspirational ceremonies such as a baci ceremony in Luang Prabang and tak bat, a silent food offering to local monks. Witness sunrise at Angkor Wat.  Luxuriate on a private tropical island at the new Six Senses Krabey Island. Enjoy a Khmer cooking class, spa treatment or sunset cruise. Discover the difference that clean water makes during a visit to a remote village, where A&K Philanthropy is building wells.

 
Wellness Kenya: Cultures & Wildlife
Discover tribal traditions and learn about conservation efforts on an active safari in the Masai Mara and Tsavo National Park. Hike through the cloud forests of the lush Chyulu Hills and learn about traditional warrior training from the Maasai, and wonder at game drives and your mythical surroundings during sunrise and sunset yoga. Gain a new perspective on giving back at an A&K Philanthropy-supported school and see how sustainable tourism is providing safe drinking water.
 
Wellness Peru: Spirit of the Incas
From the Sacred Valley and Cusco, discover local traditions in remote mountainside villages and working farms. Learn about a traditional Amazonian medicine, and hand-feed llamas and alpacas. Kayak in a secluded lagoon 12,464 feet above sea level and hike up to a birds-eye view of Machu Picchu. Overnight at the only property located on the ancient Incan site to explore the sanctuary at sunrise. Have your coca-leaf fortune read by a shaman.
 

Start your Trip!

 
 


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If you close your eyes and picture 'Italy', chances are, it's the rows of vineyards and cypress trees, villas and farmhouses, fabled towns and household-name works of art of Tuscany that come to mind.


There are a million reasons why Tuscany is the setting of so many escapist novels, movies and life-changing travels. Here are our favorites:

FLORENCE

The red rooftops of Florence are the symbol of Tuscany's capital and epic Italian Renaissance magic. Wandering the alleys and cobblestoned streets, the Boboli Gardens and the Ponte Vecchio lets you drink in Firenze's one-of-a-kind atmosphere. 


But its greatest attractions are indoors. Italy's greatest collection of art is housed in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. The richness of its collection is unparalleled; so many Renaissance masterpieces – recognizable even if you weren't an art history student - you'll hit Botticelli sensory overload quickly, so you'll want to break up your visit into multiple days. Michelangelo's statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia makes visitors gasp in awe at the 17-foot marble nude – as does its replica placed in its original 1504 setting outside the Palazzo Vecchio.

SIENA

Art lovers may argue whether it's Renaissance Florence or Gothic Siena that is the most breathtaking Tuscan city for art and architecture. Luckily, you don't have to choose, immerse yourself in the cathedrals and squares and museums in both. In a part of the world teeming with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Siena's Piazza del Campo stands out in its majesty cradled at the foot of three hills surrounding it. Work off some of that extraordinary Tuscan cuisine climbing the Torre del Mangia, a tower at the Palazzo Pubblico. Your reward is a breathtaking viewpoint over Siena.

 

THE PALIO

Time your visit to Siena right, and you can be a part of one of the world's most famous and storied sports/ cultural historic events. The Palio di Siena is a bareback horse race that feels like a Gothic time capsule. The 10 horses and riders are decked out like, knights of yore, in the medieval colors representing city wards; flags hang from the balconies and buildings in the city.

It's one of the most exciting 90 seconds in sport/ pageantry. The riders cling desperately to their horses for three laps of Siena's packed Piazza del Campo, and often, a few are thrown especially at the tight turns along the way, with riderless horses running into the crowds in the middle of the square or crossing the finish line with the other horses. The Palio is run twice a summer, on July 2nd and August 16th, and the Corteo Storico, a boisterous pageant, precedes the race.  Tip: arrange your visit to Siena's Palio through a tour operator that has balcony access overlooking the Piazza for the best view above the throngs.
 

CINQUE TERRE

'Five Villages' sounds quite humble, but in Tuscany, it's magic. Clinging to the sides of the cliffs overlooking the sea, these five colorful villages are among the most recognizable images of Italy. The area is a national park and also protected by UNESCO World Heritage status that attempts to shield these seaside jewels from excessive tourism/ commercialism.  


It's an epic view from the sea, if you're lucky enough to be on a Mediterranean cruise that sails along the Ligurian coast; smaller ships especially may sail close enough. On land, hiking trails provide both a wonderful outdoor activity and spectacular views of the different villages. There is also a coastal train that stops in each town. 
 

PISA

Pisa's 12th century Leaning Tower has been touristy since there were tourists in Italy – and that's a long time. You too will join the millions of people on Instagram in a photo of yourself 'propping up' the 180-foot tower that is about 4 degrees off a perfect vertical. That doesn't sound like much, but it means the top is 13 feet off center! 

The tower began leaning during construction due to poor foundations. In recent years, hundreds of millions have been spent re-stabilizing the bell tower. Unbelievably, it is safe enough you can even climb 300 steps to the top in a medieval version of a funhouse.

VESPAS

Tuscany is the home of the original, and world's favorite scooter. The Vespa isn't just quaint, retro memorabilia. It was designed (its name means 'wasp' for the insect its shape and handlebars evoke) to lead a transportation revolution: vehicles that are inexpensive and easily parked and maneuvered in urban areas.
 
Vespas are still made at the Piaggio factory in the Tuscan city of Pontedera, not far from Pisa, which has a museum displaying the Vespa customized by Salvador Dali.  They have a cult following around the world. Renting one to tour around Tuscany may be one of the most authentic, fun, and heartwarming local experiences.

WATCH VIDEO AT THE TOP: MEETING A VESPA COLLECTOR/ RESTORER IN TUSCANY


WINE AND DINE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

As captivating are Tuscany's cities, the iconic scenery of region's rural areas are transformative. Chianti vineyards, white truffle farms, olive groves along country lanes lines with sculpted-looking cypress trees, with villas, farmhouses, and chapels integrated by the centuries into the gently rolling landscape.

To visit Tuscany is to spend time, by vespa or bicycle or on foot, in the countryside, and even better, to stay in a rural castello or villa with its own vineyard and restaurant to treat all of your senses to a taste of Tuscany.
 

Start your Trip!


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You Can Celebrate Richard Branson's Birthday With Him on his Adults-Only Cruise Line
With flamboyant Sir Richard Branson at the helm, the 2020 launch of Virgin Voyages is one of the most anticipated events in travel. The party-loving, trend-setting celebrity entrepreneur promised his latest travel venture would do to cruise what Virgin Air did to flying: rediscover a whole new level of tongue-in-cheek, escape-with-your-friends-to-a-private-party fun. 

Only this time, at sea.

Bookings are now open for the inaugural season of the Scarlet Lady, the first Virgin Voyage ship, in April 2020.  The ship's homeport is a splashy and stylish new terminal in Miami. From there, she sails to the Caribbean.

 (Photos: Virgin Voyages)

No typical 7 or even 10-day cruises, though. Intensive, 4 and 5-night itineraries featuring an overnight in Havana, or 5-night voyages to Costa Maya or Dominican Republic.

And we're getting other details about how Virgin Voyages is breaking the mold and re-inventing cruise travel, dare we say it? for more 'millennial' tastes. But we know just about everyone is interested in cruising Richard Branson-style: youthful, fun, non-traditional and high energy.


Virgin Voyages is introducing lots of new cruise experiences. But just as intriguing is what you won't find on a Virgin Voyage:

No Kids

'Adult-by-Design' Virgin Voyages limits its Sailors and lifestyle to the over-18 crowd. It's where 'Party with your friends on a private island or a pal's yacht' meets 'fabulous new music festival', on a yacht-inspired ship with 2700 other young-at-heart 'Sailors'.

No Buffets and No Main Dining Rooms



Rejecting two mainstays of cruise dining, Virgin Voyages instead aims for informal 'discovery' dining. Sailors will find over 20 restaurants, designed and curated to capture the spirit of the dining experience in a world-class city. Restaurants include mid-century martinis and steak, psychedelic-style vegetarian, 'Extra Virgin' modern Italian, Mezze at the Dock, and internationally-inspired food truck fav's, even 24 hour room service.
 

No Restaurant Surcharges

Whether you're dining in a restaurant, a seaside lounge or casual eatery, it's all included in the cruise fare, to allow Sailors the widest freedom to personalize your cruise experience.

No Broadway Shows



Another example of how Virgin Voyages is not your grandparents' – or parents' – cruise line. Richard Branson flexes his music industry background for a completely different set of evening entertainments: a nightclub named after his first music studio The Manor, DJ evenings in the spa, transforming the thermal suite into a one-of-a-kind maritime party, and a festival-like lineup of all-new completely original Events & Gigs developed by some of the world’s most-talked about producers, directors and artists.

No Tipping Required

Gratuities are already baked into the cruise fare, too, for a no-surprises, full-service cruise bill, something normally only offered on the highest end luxury cruise lines.

No Cost for Wifi

Forget unplugging. Virgin Voyages celebrates today's digital lifestyle and facilitates every selfie you could ever hope to post – without an extra bill or counting how many more minutes of internet you have available.

No Plastic and no Bottled Water

From the outset, Virgin Voyages' goal is to have the cleanest fleet at sea. No single-use plastic or packaging, no bottled water or beverages, investments and partnerships in clean technology and an practice of re-useable service items.

Instead, Virgin Voyages boast:

A Detox-Retox Philosophy


 
The good life at sea, Virgin Voyages style, may keep you up late at night partying, and re-setting your body by day at the outdoor Athletic Club complete with boxing ring, the largest daybed at sea, and a yacht-inspired catamaran net lounge, a 'Crow's Nest' sundeck for sunrise and sunset yoga practice, a 'Runway' standalone 'halo' running track over the ship where skaters are welcome, a wellness pool area, even an on-deck adult playground/ fitness apparatus and the 'Gym and Tonic' bar with both cold-pressed juices and craft cocktails.
 

Exclusive Island Experience… Sorry, not Necker


 
All voyages will spend a day at Virgin Voyage's exclusive Beach Club on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. It's not Richard Branson's own fabled Necker island, but it is designed to rival beach clubs of Ibiza and Saint-Tropez with idyllic lounging and high energy DJ flotilla and pool parties, bonfires on the beach and a final acoustic musical performance before sailaway.
 

The Only Tattoo Parlor at Sea


 
Forget getting your hair set for formal night, but don't throw perfect grooming out the porthole. The Scarlet Lady has salons for men to get that indulgent hot shave or expert beard trim, and for women to get a blow out after a day of swimming, exercise, pool lounging and wind-swept fun on deck. It also introduces the playfully-named tattoo studio 'Squid Ink' - because why wouldn't you want a tattoo or new piercing to commemorate your Virgin Voyage?

 

Richard Branson's Birthday Party

 
Maybe the most memorable Virgin Voyage will be the one with Sir Richard Branson himself! You can join him on board to celebrate his birthday among celebrity friends and fellow Sailors aboard a four-night Havana After Dark voyage departing July 15, 2020.
 

Start your Trip!

 
 
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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.
 

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(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.

 

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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.

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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. And today, more and more of us are in need 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.

All things that mean more to us than ever.

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 recreate 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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