BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

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

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

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

 

What is the Blue Lagoon?


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

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

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

 

Day Tripping to the Blue Lagoon


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


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


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


The New Retreat Hotel


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

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

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

 

Travel Tips to the Blue Lagoon:


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

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

Start your Trip!

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

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

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

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

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

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.tv Producer/Host
 

Cruise: Canada & New England

Market: Old Port Market, Quebec City, Canada


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

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

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

Cruise: Australia & New Zealand

Market: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, Australia

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

Cruise: The Mediterranean

Market: The Central Market of Valencia, Spain

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

Cruise: South-East Asia

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


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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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

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

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

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

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

Start Your Trip!

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

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


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

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

Start your Trip!

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

Mezcal or Tequila?

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

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

Recognized by UNESCO

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

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

Tequila By the Numbers

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

Tequila Variations

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

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

Sipping and Celebrating

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!

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

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


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

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

Start your Trip!

 
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Munich's annual extravaganza of beer halls, buxom girls in dirndls, pretzels and the best of the 'wurst' (pun intended!) actually gets underway in September. Its origins in Germany involve a wedding and a harvest festival, but now, Munich's Oktoberfest is one of the most famous multi-day parties in the world.

If you're missing Bavaria's biggest party this year, you're not out of luck yet: Germans have taken the festival's spirit of beer hall fellowship ('gemutlichkeit') and love of great German food with them where they've settled in other lands.

So the world's SECOND largest Oktoberfest might be closer than you imagine. And they don't tap the first keg until October.

WATCH MORE VIDEO: The modern guide to rocking lederhosen or a dirndl. Yes, you can.

So dust off your lederhosen, find your beer stein, round up a few of your best friends and celebrate one of the most famous months of the year!

Start your Trip!

This is the Only Place You Can See Cirque du Soleil at Sea

Cirque du Soleil has been charting new entertainment territory since it began and it's changed what we think of as 'circus' shows.

You may have been lucky enough to go to a Cirque du Soleil shows on land.
But there's only one place you can see the innovative, extraordinarily talented Cirque performances at sea.
European-based cruise line MSC has exclusively partnered with the French-Canadian Cirque to provide cruise guests with one-of-a-kind, internationally-renowned entertainment on board.
Cirque du Soleil is creating shows you'll only be able to see on MSC Cruises. A total of 8 original shows are in the works for MSC's four Meraviglia-class ships launching through 2020. You'll want to sail on all four ships as the shows will show the full range of Cirque's imagination with a different concept, ambiance and storyline, original soundtrack, staging and costumes.
The first 2 shows have already launched on the MSC Meraviglia: Sonor and Viaggio. 
Sonor is an auditory adventure, whose unique rhythms, sounds and sensations, bold music and immersive projections sweep dancers, acrobats and characters along to the beat. 
Viaggio is a poetic exploration of color, following the story of an eccentric painter into his imagination.  As he works his art, compelling motifs, textures, and majestic acts bring his canvas to life for a riveted audience. These creative and expressive Cirque du Soleil performances had to be designed specifically to work in the unique, ship-board environment that challenged the creators and performers. They are held on MSC in a venue just as unique as the shows themselves.