BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

4 Places in Chile for Your Next Adventure Vacation
Chile is easy to spot on a map of South America. It’s the very long, very narrow ribbon of country stretching over 4300 km (2700 miles) along from the middle to the very tip of the Pacific coast of South America. In spite of its length, it’s only 350 km (220 miles) wide at the widest point! 

With the storied Atacama desert in the north and the dramatic landscapes of Patagonia in the south, bordered by the epic Andes mountain range in the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west stretching all the way to its fabled Easter Island, Chile’s incredible geography has created climates and landscapes ranging from lava fields and sand dunes, volcanoes and lakes, to forest and fjords, snow-capped mountains and endless maritime wonders.


They are wildly different backdrops for your next perfect adventure. Chile’s supersized natural settings have helped make it four times in a row the ‘World’s Best Adventure Tourism Destination’. 
 
Whether you are looking for a way to be immersed in Chile’s spectacular outdoors or you’re in search of adrenaline-pumping action, the country’s expansive and unique terrain offers travelers a full range of active experiences, including hiking, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, mountaineering, climbing, surfing, sport fishing, kayaking, rafting, diving, canopy, sandboarding, kitesurfing and paragliding.
 
What’s more, many of Chile’s outdoor adventure experiences involve sustainable practices, protecting the environment you’re there to explore.
 
Here are four regions in Chile where you can get your heart pumping and create travel memories of a lifetime.
 

Atacama Desert 


In Chile’s north, it’s the driest desert in the world. It’s also one of the most unique eco-systems, occupying a vast, 105,000 square km (40,000 square mile) plateau between the Andes mountains and the sea.

 
The Atacama Desert’s sand dunes don’t just take your breath away with their scale and beauty, they provide the one-of-a-kind terrain for the unique adventure of sandboarding.
 

Punta de Lobos 


Chile may be narrow, but it has a whopping 4000 km (nearly 2500 miles) of coastline, which cruise travelers embarking and disembarking from Valparaiso get to enjoy, but we hope you explore Chile’s beaches more than from the rail of a ship. 
 
Chile has a well-earned reputation as world-class spot for surfing. Its Punta de Lobos beach south of cruise port Valparaiso and the inland capital of Santiago, has been named ‘Best Surf Capital of the World’.
 

You don’t have to be a world-class surfer to get in on the beach party scene and celebration of surf. And since it’s said to be one of the most consistent places to catch a wave in the southern hemisphere, it’s buzzing pretty much any day you visit.

 

Chilean Patagonia 


It’s a mystical destination near the bottom of the world, at the bottom of the Andes mountain range, straddling the border of Chile and Argentina. The last stop before the waters that lead to the Antarctic, Patagonia is South America’s great white south. 
 
This is the Chilean destination for lovers of vast, snow-topped mountain landscapes and cool climate or winter adventures like skiing, hiking and glacier trekking.
 

Easter Island 


Chile’s – and arguably, one of the world’s - most famous islands, Easter Island’s gigantic stone heads, called mo’ai, are instantly identifiable. Their lore draws culture-seekers from around the world and puts Easter Island at the top of adventure-lovers’ travel bucket lists.
 
Marine adventurers can get a different perspective on the mysteries of the mo’ai. The waters surrounding remote Easter Island are so clear, scuba divers are treated to visibility of the maritime environment up to 60 m (nearly 200 feet) away, including underwater caves and submerged mo’ai gazing inscrutably into the distance of the sea.
 
Your travel advisor can connect you to adventures where you can explore Chile’s one-of-a-kind natural wonders, be embraced by the renowned warmth of its people, wander the streets of UNESCO heritage historic sites – oh, and don’t forget to taste the wine and especially the country’s signature beverage, pisco!

 

Start your Trip!


All photos courtesy of Imagen de Chile.

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How You Can Help Now in Australia - Hint: It's Not Knitting Another Koala Cozy
Maybe you’ve donated to wildlife rescue or the Red Cross funds to help. Maybe you’ve been one of the crafters who have knitted pouches and mittens for injured and orphaned koalas, kangaroos and other iconic Australian wild animals hurt in the fires.

Welcome and much-needed rains have come that are helping to put out the fires. New green buds are even peeping out of the charred landscape.

Now what?

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s producer/host spoke with officials from Tourism Australia as well as owner/operators of local tourism businesses who came on an urgent trip to North America to provide an update.

It’s not just the actual wildfires themselves that have been damaging to Australia. Misinformation reported about Australia’s wildfires online is hurting the country’s tourism industry. 

That directly impacts Australia’s ability to rebuild and to support and protect its famous wildlife.

Debunking Myths about Australia’s Wildfires


Tourism officials and local Australian tour operators explained that bushfires are a natural part of the seasonal cycle in Australia. This year, they admit the annual fires took place on an ‘unprecedented scale’. 

But everything you may have seen online about this year’s wildfires is NOT true. Here are 3 of the biggest falsehoods:

Myth #1: All of Australia is on fire.

Online maps that show the entire country ablaze are misleading and false. Fires are focused in specific areas and 97% of Australia is open!

Correct maps, real-time information about locations of fires and updated advice about travel to Australia can be found on this official source: Australia.com

In one example, famous Kangaroo Island was on the news for many days. But as officials pointed out, the part of Kangaroo Island that is NOT burned is still three times the size of the entire country of Singapore!

 ‘We’ve taken a big hit, but tourism experiences on Kangaroo Island continue… just modified.’

Myth #2: Sydney is on fire.

Australia’s capital is not on fire. Images of the iconic, harbor-side Sydney Opera House under scaffolding have nothing to do with wildfires. It’s a scheduled renovation!


Myth #3: All the animals are dead.

As in the case of any bushfire in any country, there has been a terrible impact on Australian wildlife in the affected areas. 

As a Kangaroo Island tour operator pointed out, ‘The humane 1st response to the wildlife in crisis was better than anything we’ve ever seen in Australia’s history.’ In 4 days, they built an animal hospital. A call for 80 volunteers to help care for rescued animals received 13,000 applications.

Now, the focus is conservation and habitat restoration.


How Can Travelers Help?


Reschedule, don't cancel.

Keep travel plans you already have to Australia.  Cruise lines and tour operators are proactively modifying itineraries and experiences to ensure you will still see the beautiful scenery, meet those only-in-Australia creatures, and take part in the ‘mate-ship’ lifestyle the country is known for and which the wildfires have not affected.

Talk to your travel advisor about how to modify your trip if you are booked to go to affected areas, or reschedule it so you can still support affected communities.

Book a Trip

You can support Australia’s recovery and rebuilding by:

  • supporting their tourism industry, 
  • sharing positive images of your trip to help counter false online stories, 
  • spending locally to support local economies to rebuild, and 
  • visiting wildlife parks and sanctuaries who rely on admission fees to carry on their essential work of preserving habitat and the one-of-a-kind creatures who call Australia home.

 
Volunteer During Your Trip

Tourism locals are developing ways you can volunteer to help rebuilding and conservation efforts during your vacation in Australia.

Examples of some of the voluntourism programs include

Placing artificial habitats
On Kangaroo Island, for example, endangered cockatoos reside in hollows in trees, and since they are big birds, only mature trees will do. Until large trees are available again, the project is planting boxes at the right height for the cocktaoos to carry on.

Tree planting and habitat restoration
In Australia, the tree-planting window is June-September. Tree-planting projects will be springing up in affected areas all summer. 
One example of a specific project is in Melbourne, where small group wildlife tour operator Echinda Walkabout is organizing volunteers to help restore koala habitat.

Protecting remaining wildlife
In an eco-system, the wildlife tour operators explained, ‘if you look after the small things, the big things take care of themselves.’  One project involves establishing tunnels for small mammals that shield them from predators like (non-native) feral pigs and cats that can wipe out surviving small mammals after a fire destroys the undergrowth where the animals usually hide from predators.
 
Local tourism operators in Australia are working to incorporate volunteer activities into their tours offered by companies like Kensington Tours, Goway, Butterfield & Robinson, and others.

Contacting your travel advisor today to book a trip to Australia is the best way you can be part of the solution to a terrible year of Australian wildfires.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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4 Tips for Pre- and Post-Cruise Extensions
Your next cruise vacation shouldn’t just start and stop at the ship’s gangway. Make the most of your holiday by extending your cruise before you board and even after you disembark.

Here are some pre- and post-cruise extension moves for every smart cruise traveler.
  

1. Arrive at least one day early


That doesn’t even qualify as a pre-cruise extension. It’s just common sense.

We recommend you arrive at minimum of a full day before your cruise is set to embark. Most cruises sail away in the late afternoon, with all aboard no later than mid afternoon. It really doesn’t leave much time padding.
 
Even the slightest delay of a mid-morning or midday arrival puts you at risk of missing your cruise departure.
Between airlines pinching pennies and making sure they fly full, and a full calendar of extreme weather events throughout North America, a flight delay or getting bumped and having to wait one or two flights down the schedule to take off can really put you in jeopardy of missing sail away and getting your cruise off on the wrong foot. 

Not to mention the stress of sorting out transportation to the first port of call where you can pick up the ship (and miss enjoying your first port of call as you use the time boarding the ship and getting your arrival sorted out).

There’s another potential snag on arrival that being at least a day early helps solve. If your luggage misses your flight, airlines can often restore it to you by the next day. If you’re on a ship, the logistics of having your luggage catch up with you are much more complicated than if you’re at a land-based hotel the day after your flight. That way, you’ll likely hardly miss the luggage, and the rest of your cruise will be smooth sailing.
 

2. Don’t miss two of your cruise’s ‘ports of call’


The number one reason travelers choose cruises is for the destination. And you likely have plans for each of your cruise ports of call.  

It only makes sense to treat your ports of embarkation and debarkation like the fascinating ports of call on the rest of your cruise.

And that involves more than a transfer straight from the ship to or from the airport. Most ports of embarkation and debarkation are major cities that merit at least a ‘long weekend’ / 3 day stay to get an overview of the city and then dive deeper into some of the activities, cuisine, events and neighborhoods that give the destination its unique character.

Think of exploring the contemporary art, Art Deco, mid-century and modernist design and Cuban culinary scene in Miami before a Caribbean cruise. 

Wine, tapas and the Gaudi architecture of Barcelona before your Mediterranean cruise.

High tea, Royal Family landmarks, and museums of London before a Trans-Atlantic Crossing.

Cruise lines are getting into the pre- and post-cruise extension act too, offering, and sometimes including, at least one, with an option for more, nights before and after you actually board their ships.

3. Launching pad


Pre- and post-cruise extensions can also allow you to use your ports of embarkation and disembarkation as starting points for intensive exploration of the region.

This is a great opportunity on cruise round trips when your cruise begins and ends at the same port. Arriving a few days ahead of your cruise allows you time to immerse yourself in the embarkation city. Then when you return, it’s a launching pad to experience more of the surrounding area.

You can make independent plans for your cruise extension, but you don’t have to. Travel advisors can help you pair cruises with land-based tours complete with expert guides, hotels and transportation so you can easily transition from ship to shore journeys and double the holiday experiences and memories.

Imagine continuing your immersion into the magnificent wilderness with a train ride through the Rocky Mountains before or after your Alaska cruise roundtrip from Vancouver.

Experiencing the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Iguassu Falls after disembarking your cruise in Rio de Janeiro.

Or a wildlife safari after your South Africa itinerary.

4. Take advantage of the cruise line's own land tours


Cruise lines are now often offering land tours bookending their cruises as well. Like putting icing on the cake of a northbound cruise to Alaska with a land tour of the state’s famous Denali park.

Not only do a cruise line’s land tours make the transition between ship and shore logistically seamless, where your luggage and transfers are handled with minimal effort on your part without awkward delays around things like hotel check in times.

Especially at the luxury level of cruises, land tours mirror the service levels and unique features of the cruise line you’ve been enjoying on the water, so instead of feeling like you’re taking two trips back to back, you’re enjoying the same travel experience in different surroundings.

A special variation on this theme is land tours that take place mid-cruise, like an overnight excursion to Angkor Wat from a Mekong river or coastal South East Asia cruise.

Pre- and post-cruise extensions are the perfect proof that when it comes to cruise trips, more is really more! A travel advisor can help you design the best cruise extensions and manage the moving parts to ensure both your ship and shore travel creates the very best memories.
 

Start your Trip!


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What is 'Wave' and How You Can Save Booking Your Next Cruise Now
It couldn’t come at a better time. The thrills of the holidays have passed, and the bills of the gift-giving season are due.
The cold weather, cabin fever, and the doldrums of winter are descending. They’ve even named the 3rd Monday in January ‘Blue Monday’ after studies showed it’s the most depressing day of the year. 

Everyone needs something to look forward to.

Welcome, Wave Season


It’s the catchy name for the cruise travel equivalent to Black Friday. But instead of just a day, it’s a whole season of the best cruise deals of the year. Wave after wave of promotions, offers and perks that make booking your next cruise in the first couple of months of the year irresistible.

It’s not the only time of the year you can get a deal on a cruise. But it is the time of the year when cruise lines compete to outdo each other, and if you’re willing to do some legwork, and try something new, you can really win.

Navigating Wave


With all the different kinds of discounts, promotions, perks and savings, it’s important to understand their differences, relative values, and especially, to compare deals ‘apple to apple’ to make sure you’re getting the best deals on the best cruise for you. Here are some tips for the most common types of Wave incentives:

Discounts:


  • Fare Savings: discounts are always appealing, but watch for the fine print. Cruises are priced per person, double occupancy, so make sure you know whether the discount is per person or per stateroom (Example $1000 off per person would be $2000 off for the stateroom, but $1000 off per stateroom is $500 savings per person)
 
  • BOGO / 2-for-1 cruise fares: compare with regular fares in comparable cruise lines to make sure this is really as valuable as it suggests.
 
  • 3rd/ 4th passengers OR Kids Sail Free: this is generally code for family savings, and applies most often to mass-market, family-oriented cruise lines. This kind of incentive can suddenly make a family cruise quite cost-effective.
 
  • Reduced deposits: lower deposits to save your space on your cruise don’t change the overall price you’ll pay in the end. But they do give you the time to spread the cost of your cruise out, especially if your cruise is 12, 18 or more months away. That could allow you to book a higher category of stateroom, which will make a difference to your holiday.
 

Bonus Value:


  • Stateroom upgrade: Like airlines, some cruise lines offer bidding for upgrades, but there are no guarantees. Complimentary accommodation upgrades are like a fare discount as you’ll know you’re getting better accommodations than you paid for.
 
  • Pre-cruise overnight hotel stay: we always recommend arriving the day before your cruise, and this makes it easy.
 
  • Onboard Credits, or OBC: even on inclusive luxury cruises, you’ll always end up spending some money on the ship, and OBC’s allow you to treat yourself to shore excursions, spa treatments, top bottles of wine, even some shopping on board.
 

Included:

 
  • Airfare: Usually from major gateways; if you need to fly to get to the closest applicable gateway, there may be discounts on those connectors or you’ll be quoted on the difference.
 
  • Beverage package or specialty restaurant dining package: These perks can really add value to non-inclusive cruises for foodies and people who like a cocktail or two relaxing on vacation.
 
  • Gratuities: The recommended average of about 15$ per day per person in tips during your cruise adds a couple of hundred dollars a week to a couple's vacation - $400 for a family of four's 7-day cruise; included gratuities represents a significant chunk of vacation budget.
 
  • Wi-Fi: With free wi-fi in almost every hotel now when we travel, it’s easy to forget that supplying internet at sea is more complicated - and can be expensive. Tip: there can be restrictions on how many devices you can have connected at once.
 
  • Shore Excursions: Even the most independent traveler sometimes enjoys joining a trip they couldn’t access themselves, or that makes it easy; this inclusion can make it easy for you to take excursions you might not have treated yourself to otherwise.
 
  • Solo Travelers: Singles can also win during Wave, with single supplements waived or reduced.
 

Maximizing ‘Wave’


We recommend approaching Wave with an open mind and adventurous spirit. Wave deals make experimenting more accessible.

If you’ve never tried cruising at all! well, Wave is definitely the time to look into booking a cruise to see what the excitement is all about.

Seasoned cruisers can take advantage of Wave to try something new, too. Have you been wondering what another cruise style is like - maybe an expedition cruise? A small-ship cruise? If you usually take a Caribbean cruise, now’s the time to fulfill your curiosity about cold water cruising, or the Med, or even something really remote and exotic like Tahiti or Antarctica.

Or treating yourself. Wave savings and perks can add up enough that upgrading yourself to a luxury cruise line is practically saving money. Many luxury cruise lines are inclusive, offering certain things (like included tips, open bar, even shore excursions) in their regular fares. Then add their Wave perks, bonuses and savings on top of that. Luxury lines' inclusions, on top of Wave incentives, make luxury lines with inclusions not only the most pampered and carefree way to travel, but also surprisingly budget-friendly.

The bottom line


Some incentives are blanket offers, available on all cruises on a cruise line during a certain period of time. Others are available on select cruises, so flexibility – When can you travel? What are your top 3 cruise destinations? - can pay off.

Your travel advisor is your best partner helping you make the most of the many deals available during Wave.

And in helping match you to your perfect cruise style and cruise line, especially if you’re going to take advantage of Wave promotions to expand your cruise travel horizons to try a new cruise for you.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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Top 7 Things to Do in Pasadena When You're Not Watching the Rose Parade or the Game
All eyes are on this SoCal city every New Year’s Day for two of America’s most iconic annual events.
 
Pasadena, California plays host to the back-to-back morning Rose Parade and afternoon Rose Bowl Game. The game is one of the major bowl games in college football, but the Rose Parade that precedes it is truly one-of-a-kind.
 
The Rose Parade dates back to 1890. Pasadena had become a popular West coast wellness resort town for the East’s elite. Town leaders wanted to show off their blooming rose gardens and orange groves to the East as it remained under winter snow and ice. The parade, featuring the unique spectacle of flower-covered floats as well as equestrian units and marching bands, traded county-fair type ‘tournaments’ like foot races, polo matches and tug-of-war for football at the turn of the century. Amazingly, it’s continued uninterrupted ever since, even during both World Wars.
 
Millions watch on TV world-wide, and hundreds of thousands attend in person. But sports fans, floral admirers, and parade lovers have much more to entertain and intrigue them during a visit to Pasadena at New Year’s or any other time of the year. 

 

Old Pasadena


Dating back to the 1870’s when the town was establishing its credentials as a wellness escape from winters back East, Old Pasadena Historic Area is a US National Historical Landmark. Visitors can stroll through 22 blocks of quaint alleyways or airy European-style piazzas teeming with 200 outdoor cafes, restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and specialty shops.


Tournament House and Wrigley Gardens


This ornate, Italian Renaissance-style mansion on Pasadena’s ‘Millionaires’ Row’ was once owned by chewing gum mogul William Wrigley, Jr. It was built in the early 19th century, and Mrs. Wrigley willed the property to serve as the headquarters for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, the non-profit that still produces the Rose Parade today. Displays inside showcase the history of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Games, as well as parade Grand Marshals and Royal Court.
 
Volunteers from the Pacific Rose Society maintain the hundreds of varieties of roses, camelias and other flowers in the gardens in the grounds of Tournament House. The gardens and the house can be toured by the public.
 

Arts & Crafts Hub

Pasadena’s heyday as a magnet for the wealthy building vacation and West Coast homes in the early 20th century made the city a natural incubator for the era’s Arts & Crafts movement. Pasadena architects Charles and Henry Greene became influential with the houses and their large-scale ‘ultimate bungalows’ that are prime examples of Arts & Crafts style, with all the interior design elements and furnishings designed by the architects as they designed the house itself. 
 
Their Gamble House is called ‘America’s Arts & Crafts masterpiece’ and is also considered one of the finest examples of overall residential architecture in the entire country. Greene and Greene built the house and its furnishings in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble (of Procter and Gamble soap and toothpaste fame). It’s one of the few Greene and Greene projects with the original furnishings remaining and is National Historic Landmark. The City of Pasadena and the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture operate the house today. Two lucky 5th-year architecture students get to live there, and it’s open for public tours and events.

Rose Bowl Flea Market


The huge Rose Bowl Flea Market is held every second Sunday of the month. The legendary market draws 20,000 vintage treasure seekers and bargain shoppers who rub elbows with celebrities and designers looking for one-of-a-kind pieces. 2500 vendors set up rows of specialty products, antiques, local art, vintage clothing and accessories. Merchandise is arranged by type, and there’s a color-coded map to guide you. Entry ticket prices drop the later you enter the market, and you can even purchase pre-opening VIP preview tickets for serious or competitive shoppers/collectors.
 

The Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens


The Huntington is located on the 207-acre estate of the late Henry Huntington. The railroad tycoon amassed what was called 'the greatest group of 18th-century British portraits ever assembled by any one man' and it was opened to the public in accordance with his will following his death in 1927.
 
The renovated Huntington Art Gallery offers a space showcasing 1,200 objects of European art from the 15th to the early 20th century, including the18th and 19th British and French masterpieces like the renowned “Pinkie” and Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy.”

Courtesy Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens
 
The newly expanded Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art offers one of the largest presentations in California of American art from the colonial period through the mid-20th century.
 
The Library includes works from American and British literature, including an original Gutenberg Bible and Ellesmere’s manuscript of Canterbury Tales as well as the photographic archive of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
 
The botanical gardens feature 14,000 varieties of plants on more than 150 acres divided into specialized gardens including the Rose Garden, Herb Garden, refurbished Japanese Garden, Desert Garden, Zen Garden, Australian Garden and Children’s Garden. In the Chinese Garden, visitors can stroll around the 1.5-acre lake bordered by Tai Hu rocks and enjoy landscape that includes five hand-carved stone bridges, a stream, and a canyon waterfall connecting to the Japanese Garden.

 

Norton Simon Museum


This extraordinary museum features seven centuries of European art and one of America’s largest collections of Asian sculpture that spans 2,000 years. The museum is home to an extensive Impressionist collection, which features masterpieces by Degas, Van Gogh, Manet, Monet and Pissaro. The museum also features works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Cézanne and more.

The Great Outdoors


Pasadena is an outdoor wonderland, and you can explore trails and parks to connect with nature. Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a 190-acre zoological, botanical and geological nature preserve with picnic areas, native plants and hiking trails. Be sure to take the kids to Junior Nature Trail, less than a quarter mile, which is scenic with a pond, California sagebrush and animals like birds and rabbits.
 
Visitors who like more dramatic views head to Mount Wilson Observatory, a 5,700-foot astronomical observatory residing in the San Gabriel Mountains. Visitors roam the beautiful grounds, dazzled by a simple – yet powerful – scene of endless, clear blue sky. Warning: sunsets are addictive.

Start your Trip!


Photos courtesy Visit Pasadena.

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8 New Ocean Cruise Ships to Add to Your 2020 Travel Bucket List
Have you booked a cruise in 2020? Cruise travel continues its meteoric rise as one of the fastest-growing and most popular ways to travel. No matter your travel style – from luxury, to adventure, to remote exploration or polar escape, to romantic retreat, to tropical or cool climate family vacation – there’s a perfect cruise match out there for you.
 
New, innovative cruise ships this year, some even the first of their kind, make booking your next (or first!) cruise even more irresistible. Here are some of the new ships you’ll want to be the first to try.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV producer/host and cruise expert

 


Regent Seven Seas Splendor

 
Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer has been called the most luxurious ship ever built – and now, its sister ship may top those high praises! Launching in February 2020, the Splendor is the second ship in Regent’s ‘Explore Class’ of ships. And like the Explorer, the Splendor’s luxury is expressed in lavish style.
 
Regent calls the 750-guest, all-suite, all-balcony ship a ‘work of art’, in both public and private spaces, with more than an acre in total of Italian marble, 500 crystal chandeliers, a multi-million dollar art collection, and among the largest balconies at sea. The ship’s Observation Lounge strikes a new design chord inspired by an English Garden, with a chandelier made of hand-painted porcelain English flowers.
 
Returning Regent guests will enjoy the new iterations of favorite, included restaurants like Compass Rose, Pacific Rim, Chartreuse and Prime 7. Italian restaurant Sette Mari at La Veranda debuts over-water alcove seating that extends over the ocean and cultivates a connection to the sea (pictured above).
 
A new gourmet Culinary Arts Kitchen and a first-of-its-kind globally inspired spa for Regent featuring treatments and techniques from across cultures also make their debuts on this highly-anticipated Regent ship (also pictured top).

 

Celebrity Apex

 
Celebrity Cruises made a splash when it launched the Edge – a ship easy to spot in any port of the world with its bright orange, first-ever cantilevered venue at sea – the ‘Magic Carpet’ - appearing to cling to the side of the ship as it travels up and down to different floors, operating as a lounge or dining venue or even a tender launch area at sea level. The Edge gets a sister ship in 2020, and the 3000-guest Apex will be equally eye-catching.

In addition to the Edge’s trademark ‘Magic Carpet’ re-appearing on the Apex, other Edge features like ‘Infinite Veranda’ staterooms, nearly 30 dining venues, outdoor plunge pools and a luxurious, exclusive ‘Retreat’ lounge, restaurant and outdoor space for suite guests are also planned for the Apex.
 
This second ship in Celebrity Cruises’ Edge series is set to launch in early spring from Southampton, England. It joins 5 other Celebrity ships sailing in Europe throughout the summer – making 2020 the cruise line’s most extensive European season to date.

 

Scarlet Lady

 
The cruise and travel world is waiting with baited breath to experience the first ship of a brand new cruise line. Expectations are high, since Virgin Voyages is the latest endeavor of the famously flamboyant, party-CEO Sir Richard Branson, who changed how we look at airline – and even space – travel.
 
The Scarlet Lady debuts in April 2020 in Miami, launching a cruise line that calls itself ‘rebel luxe’ and says it aims to disrupt cruising with cheeky, youthful marketing and experiences. With less than 2800 guests – Virgin Voyages calls them ‘sailors’ – the Scarlet Lady sails on shorter, long-weekend-type itineraries that include a late-night call at the cruise line’s new private beach resort in Bimini, the Bahamas, an Ibiza-style/ music festival inspired experience with DJ’s and bonfires on the beach.
 
On board, over 20 included restaurants, champagne on demand at the push of a button, the first tattoo studio at sea, and tables in suites designed to dance on, support the ‘detox/retox’ lifestyle Branson has made famous.


Silver Origin

 
They’re calling it ‘the most elegant ship ever to sail the Galapagos’. In June 2020, ultra-luxury Silversea launches its first destination-specific ship, one that delivers its signature cruising experience within one of the most awe-inspiring regions of the world. It also marks the most environmentally conscious ship the cruise line has ever built, mindful of the unique and uniquely-sensitive Galapagos islands.
 
Already an expert in small-ship, deluxe expedition cruise travel, Silversea takes its understated Italian, all-inclusive luxury to another level on the Silver Origin with all-suite accommodations with ‘Horizon Balconies’, its signature butler service for all, 2 restaurants including local Ecuadorian cuisine, and state of the art technology as well as the simple, primal warmth and social interaction of a fire pit in the Explorer Lounge at the end of a thrilling day ashore.  
 
Guests on the Silver Origin enjoy deeply experiential exploration of the Galapagos with a team of Ecuadorian national expert guides, an interactive ‘basecamp’, 8 Zodiacs, and seamless transition from the ship to the wonders of the Galapagos Islands.



Crystal Endeavor

 
Crystal Cruises is known for pioneering ultra-luxury cruising. From its two ocean vessels, Crystal expanded its style of luxury travel to river cruising and air cruises, and this year Crystal is expanding again with its first expedition cruise ship. Complete with an aft marina, two helicopters and a submarine, the Crystal Endeavor allows for the ultimate exploration of remote destinations. 
 
Crystal’s newest ship is a polar-class vessel with the highest level of ice hull in passenger ships. So it’s designed to take its 200 guests in supreme luxury to explore any of the seven seas, including Antarctica. Expedition cruises focus on biodiversity, active adventures, natural and cultural heritage and wildlife viewing, with opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, helicopter, sub, and Zodiac tours.
 
All 100 suites have balconies, butler service, and, in a first, king-sized beds. A 2-story solarium, along with expedition-specific touches like heated storage and floors, and designed ‘mud rooms’ and helicopter lounge provide the ultimate comfort even in cold climates. Plus 6 restaurants including Michelin-inspired dining by Master Chef Nobu’s Japanese fusion restaurants.

 


Enchanted Princess

 
June 2020 sees the launch of Princess Cruises’ 5th Royal-class ship. Just in time for a summer in the Mediterranean, followed by winters in the Caribbean, Princess’ latest ship hosts nearly 3600 passengers with all of the cruise line’s latest innovations and amenities, including all of its ‘Medallion’ wearable digital device conveniences as well as the multi-story atrium Piazza, glass ‘SeaWalk’ and 80% balcony staterooms.
 
The Enchanted Princess also boasts some unique features, including a new suite category called Sky Suites with Princess’ largest private balconies, located at the top of the ship and giving their guests a view of the ship’s ‘Movies Under the Stars’ from their suites. 
 
In addition, the new ship has a new concept Sanctuary, with more private cabana capacity, and a Wakeview pool at the aft of the ship.


MSC Virtuosa


Late 2020 will see the launch of MSC Cruises’ second Meraviglia-Plus class of ships. The sister to the MSC Grandiosa, 2020’s MSC Virtuosa also features a 2-story, Mediterranean-style promenade where the ship’s 6300 guests can stroll into shops and restaurants or gaze upward at its 300+ feet of digital lightshow above.
 
The cruise line has an exclusive partnership with Cirque du Soleil, who will debut two new original shows on the ship. And guests can manage their cruise with the help of what MSC is calling the ‘world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant’. 
 
With the line’s ‘small luxury ship within a ship’ MSC Yacht Club, and the first contemporary fine art museum at sea, as well as connected family suites, waterpark, indoor amusement park and Formula 1 simulator, guests of all tastes and group sizes can find the space that’s right for their vacation. Upon launching, MSC Virtuosa sails Western Mediterranean itineraries.

 

Odyssey of the Seas

 
Another mega-ship sets sail in 2020. It’s the 27th ship for Royal Caribbean, and the second of its Quantum Ultra-Class ships. Famous for its mega-sized ships, this Royal Caribbean ship is home to just over 4000 passengers.
 
The Odyssey of the Seas is the first of its class to sail from North America, beginning late 2020 from Fort Lauderdale, and summer of 2021 from Rome in the Med.
 
Guests will find similar features to its sister ship Spectrum of the Seas, like a range of dining options, a top deck of activities including ship-sized surfing and skydiving simulators, a bungee trampoline, 40-foot climbing wall and ‘North Star’ ride in a pod extended above and over the side of the ship, a 2-level pool deck, and what Royal Caribbean is calling a ‘re-imagined’ SeaPlex with virtual and augmented reality playspace.
 
Whatever your cruise / travel style, don’t miss the chance to sail on a sparkling new cruise ship this year!
 

Start your Trip!

 
Ship photos courtesy of their respective cruise lines.

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New Year, New Adventures on the island of Hawaii
Travelers may initially be inspired to visit the island of Hawaii for its cerulean waters, verdant rainforests and valleys, and striking black sand beaches, but there is so much more to explore! With an abundance of culture and history to share, the island is full of unique experiences and intriguing facts inspiring first-time and returning visitors.  

INTRIGUING FACTS AND HISTORICAL TIDBITS

Tidepools outside of Kailua-Kona

Birthplace of King Kamehameha I

The island of Hawaii is believed to be the first island discovered and settled by Polynesians as far back as the fifth century A.D. The island was the birthplace and home of the Hawaiian Islands’ first monarch, King Kamehameha I, who united all of the islands under his rule in 1810. As initial ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, he named Kailua-Kona the first capital of the Islands. (Honolulu became Hawaii’s capital in 1850.) 

Home to 10 of the World’s 14 Climate Zones

The Hawaiian Islands are home to 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones. Want to know an even cooler fact? The island of Hawaii is the only island in the Hawaiian archipelago where visitors can experience all 10! The largest and youngest island in the Hawaiian chain – just 4,028 square miles in total and first breaching the ocean surface more than 500,000 years ago – the island of Hawaii is one of the few places in the world where visitors can experience climates ranging from humid tropical and arid desert zones to a periglacial zone in a single day. 

Cowboy Country

Horseback riding group near a country pond below Maunakea

Situated in a natural land saddle between two – Kohala and Maunakea – of the island’s five mountains, Waimea is a town of breathtaking scenery and diverse landscapes. The history of the still-bustling ranch town is one of cattle ranches, cattle raising and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys and cowgirls). Spanish-Mexican cowboys (vaqueros) were first brought to the island by Kamehameha III in the 1830s to assist the community in learning how to break in horses for work, as well as rope and corral an overpopulation of cattle. The paniolo born of the vaqueros’ teachings founded the small town’s now deep-rooted paniolo culture. Visitors are invited to explore modern Waimea, its farmers' markets, historic Anna Ranch, and the humbly quaint Paniolo Preservation Society office. 

ACCOMMODATIONS

The all-new luxury lifestyle resort Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection is set to debut in January 2020 on the island of Hawaii following a resort-wide reimagination and renovation. The resort will open with contemporary guest rooms and suites, five private bungalow residences, five restaurants and lounges, three distinct pools, and a signature spa and wellness haven, as well as the property’s Kainalu active-pursuits program, Living Culture program and interactive Holoholo Kids Circle, all complemented by Auberge’s intuitive and gracious service.

TOURS AND ACTIVITIES

Hiking tour stops by the Pololu Valley Lookout

Destination Residences Hawaii is offering travelers an opportunity to embark on an epicurean adventure only possible on the island of Hawaii. Its Destination Delicacies package allows up to six guests to discover a selection of the island’s delicacies in one day, starting with a private helicopter ride and waterfall landing with a champagne toast. Following the helicopter ride, island tour operator Hawaii Forest & Trail takes guests on a private land tour, which includes stops at Waimea Farmers Market, Honokaa Chocolate Co.’s Kahi Ola Mau Farm, Mauna Kea Tea’s fields, Honopua Farm and dinner at Pueo’s Osteria. 

Couple crossing rope bridge on Kohala hiking tour

You can explore the upper slopes of Kona’s very own backyard volcano Hualalai with Hawaii Forest & Trail. Guests venture up the volcano and access private acreage aboard the tour company’s Hidden Craters Hike, trekking native cloud forests with incredible vista views of the Kailua-Kona Coast, standing on the edge of precipitous volcanic craters, and climbing through a segment of a lava tube. After lunch on the mountain, the tour heads back down to Historic Kailua Village for a tour of Kona’s newest brewery Ola Brew, sampling local beers and ciders made with harvested fruits and produce from local farmers. 

Shopping for flowers at Kapiolani Community College Farmers' Market

The island of Hawaii produces one of the rarest honey varieties in the world: kiawe wood honey, which naturally crystalizes into a creamy white honey with a delicate tropical taste. Fairmont Orchid is home to four beehives populated with more than 80,000 honeybees producing kiawe honey. Guests of the resort can view the beehives on a complimentary Botanical Garden and Bee Tour, every Tuesday from 9:30 -10:30 a.m. The tour includes an in-depth exploration of several tropical plant species, a visit to the beehives and a tour of the chef’s garden, where many of the fruits, vegetables and herbs served at the resort are sourced. 

Various fresh, local produce for sale at a farmer's market table

Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI) is partnering with Jet-Set Offset, an online platform helping raise awareness of the environmental impact of air travel, to offer travelers and businesses the opportunity to offset the carbon footprint of their commercial air travel while also helping reforest the island of Hawaii. Visitors can donate one cent per mile flown, which is the average estimate of the cost to offset carbon emissions from air travel. Each donation will go toward the purchase of Gold Standard-certified carbon credits for offsetting the carbon footprint of traveler flights while they plant endemic Legacy Trees in Hawaii with HLRI. 

Kainalu Mauka to Makai Sports is Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection’s innovative approach to resort activities. It’s a recreation program guided by world-class athletes where resort guests can learn a new language for adventure and embark on immersive journeys of self-discovery. The Kainalu program is inspired by an awareness of one’s ha(breath), the foundation of life and the key to healthy routines. Activities are progression-based and include mainstream and alternative options suitable for all ages. Among these are a heli-bike tour and a night dive with manta rays. 


Five Ways To Experience The Best of Hawai'i's Art and Culture

The island of Hawai‘i’s vast, diverse and often breathtaking landscape is home to six distinct moku – the Hawaiian word for “districts” – with lots for you to see and experience in each.


ISLAND OF HAWAI’I – Want to truly experience and appreciate the boundless natural wonder and diversity of the island of Hawai‘i’s landscape and its centuries-spanning intertwining with Hawaiian culture? For your next visit, plan a multiday road trip that’ll take you through each of the island’s moku.

Moku is the Hawaiian word for “districts,” and each of the eight main islands of Hawai‘i has them. The island of Hawaii’s 4,028 square miles are comprised of six moku – Hilo, Puna, Ka‘ū, Kona, Kohala and Hāmākua – originally divided from the whole of the mokupuni (island) as districts of rule by Hawaiian chiefs long before European contact. Within each moku were further land divisions called ahupua‘a, which, like most moku, encompassed land areas stretching from mountain summits to nearshore reefs and everything in between them, and contained and replenished nearly all natural resources their residents required for survival. Today, many Hawai‘i residents still informally recognize ancient moku as geographic markers.

The island of Hawai‘i’s six moku are fascinating in their diversity, individually home to everything from towering waterfalls, rugged coastline and places of recent volcanic activity, to emerald valleys, white sand beaches, dense rainforests and places of historical significance to Hawaiian culture. And because we’re now pretty much certain you’re going to road trip through all six, we’ve put together a listing of the places we recommend you check out within each moku.

Enjoy the ride, the scenery and our island’s magnificen† moku!

HILO

Waiānuenue Falls/Wailuku River State Park.
Waiānuenue is Hawaiian for “rainbow (seen in) water,” which are often found surfacing the 80-foot cascade and its expansive, foliage-covered gorge on sunny mornings. Visit the park’s two locations: Waiānuenue Falls and nearby Pe‘epe‘e Falls and Boiling Pots, the latter a series of river pools and waterfalls connected by underground caves whose waters roil turbulently as if boiling. Swimming and water activities are prohibited at both locations due to unsafe conditions.

‘Akaka Falls State Park. Plunging 442 feet from its crest into a deep, emerald gorge, ‘Akaka Falls is a bona fide breath taker. Almost as cool? The way the waterfall cinematically enters your view on a short loop-trail through its luxurious surrounding rainforest. Along the way, further downstream, a viewing platform offers a vista of 300-foot Kahūnā Falls; less impressive than the park’s main plunge, but still quite lovely.

Lili‘uokalani Park and Gardens. We still can’t decide on the biggest scene-stealer here. A century-old Edo-style Japanese public garden graced with ponds, walking bridges, pagoda, torii gates, a teahouse and lots of space for picnicking, on land given to its creation by Hawai‘i queen Lili‘uokalani. Or a commanding view of Hilo town’s pretty crescent bayfront and 13,803-foot Maunakea volcano from sea level to summit.

PUNA 

Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. The only (and we mean ONLY) natural occurring tropical rainforest zoo in the U.S. is home to more than 80 animal species from the world’s tropics and several endemic Hawai‘i fauna, including the ‘io (Hawaiian hawk), nēnē (Hawaiian goose and state bird) and pueo (Hawaiian short-eared owl). Bonus: Anyone still at the 12-acre zoo at 3:30 p.m. (a half-hour before closing time) is welcome to watch as staffers feed resident tigers Tzatziki (a white Bengal) and Sriracha (an orange Bengal) their daily dinner of whole raw chickens. Entry is free, but donations are welcome.

Pohoiki Black Sand Beach and Isaac Hale Beach Park. The island’s newest black sand beach at Pohoiki is a creation of nature born of nature’s destruction.
Specifically, the lava flows spawned by Kīlauea volcano’s three-month summer 2018 lower Puna eruption, which buried a large swath of the Puna shoreline. Though the flow eventually stopped several hundred feet short of entering Pohoiki Bay, the violent force of molten lava meeting raging sea created a superabundance of lava rock granules that eventually filled the bay, leaving behind a large black sand beach. Though ideal for walking and sinking toes in its indigo sand, Pohoiki Beach is unsafe for swimming.

KA‘Ū

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. It’s not every day one gets to thoroughly explore a 333,000-plus acre showcase of six global climate zones, contrasting environments and landscapes, the geological forces that continually shape and grow our planet, and the deep connection between Hawaiian culture and the natural environment. But each of the above is what this astounding park offers visitors every single day, whether main attraction Kīlauea volcano is showing off with an eruption or temporarily slumbering. Plan to visit the park’s Kahuku Unit, too, for ranger-led and self-guided exploration of massive Maunaloa volcano’s 1868 lava flow, post- and pre-lava flow native forests, historic pasturelands and the history of people on its landscapes.

Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach. South of the national park, explore this picturesque coconut palm bordered beach, whose indigo sands – much-loved by Hawaiian green sea turtles for beaching and sunning, and Hawaiian hawksbill sea turtles for egg-laying – are, like Pohoiki Beach in Puna, actually fine, sea-worn granules of hardened Kīlauea volcano lava. Punalu‘u isn’t safe for swimming, but is a great spot for picnicking or sinking your toes in black sand.

KONA

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
Its name means “place of refuge at Hōnaunau,” which was its purpose prior to the 1819 abolishment of the kapu system of Hawaiian sacred laws. Persons fleeing death or harm were given full protection at this oceanfront sanctuary and free to leave after being absolved by its priests. Today, the park preserves the sanctuary, fishponds, royal palm grove and other cultural sites.

Hulihe‘e Palace. Its structure built with lava rock in 1838, Hulihe‘e sits on oceanfront acreage once resided by Kamehameha the Great. Through the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1893, the palace was home to more royalty than any Hawai‘i residence. Managed and preserved by the nonprofit Daughters of Hawai‘i since 1927, it is now a museum displaying royal artifacts from the era of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani, including koa wood furniture, feather works, portraits and Hawaiian quilts.

KOHALA

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site.
Kamehameha the Great commenced the 1790 construction of this massive stone heiau (temple), one of the last major pre-contact sacred structures built in Hawai‘i. Consider the following when you finally lay eyes on Pu‘ukoholā: It’s believed laborers formed a 20- mile human chain across neighboring 5,480-foot Kohala volcano to transport the heiau’s water-worn stones to the site where, without mortar, its foundation and 16- to 20-foot walls were completed in just a year.

Pololū Valley Lookout and Trail. This is a gem of a valley for hikers. The northernmost valley on the island cutting into the soaring northeast sea cliffs of extinct Kohala volcano, Pololū is explorable via a half-mile foot trail descending from the valley overlook to its rock-strewn black sand beach (sorry, no swimming) and views its lush interior. Not a hiker? Pololū’s end-of-road overlook offers stunning views of the coast.

Puakō Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve. A hike on the trails cutting through this sun-pelted 223-acre lava rock field are said to reveal just a third of the preserve’s more than 3,000 ki‘i pōhaku (Hawaiian for “images in stone”). The true meaning of the rock carvings – some dating as far back as 1200 A.D. – are largely unknown, but thought to be records of early Hawaiian spiritual and everyday life, and big life events, such as births.






Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area. Picture this, beach fanatics: A half-mile stretch of some of the finest, most golden sand on the island, the right amount and heights of wave action to get bodyboarders and bodysurfers downright giddy, and lots of sandy acreage to cop a nap, soak up sun, finish a book or build a massive sand fort. Catch our drift yet? Hāpuna Beach is big. The snorkeling and swimming here is aces, too. Side note, though: Be sure to put on reef-safe sunscreen before hitting the beach. Reason one, the Kohala Coast is extremely sunny. Reason two, reef-safe sunscreen isn’t toxic to our precious coral reefs and will be the only type of sunscreen sold in Hawai‘i come 2021.

HĀMĀKUA

Waipi‘o Valley Lookout. Full disclosure: You won’t see the entirety of the island of Hawai‘i’s largest valley – six-miles deep, with a mile-long black sand beach, towering north and south walls, and taro farm and wetland floor – from this lookout. But the view from more than 2,000 feet up is still as crazy breathtaking as Hawai‘i vistas get. Interiors of Waipi‘o – boyhood home of Kamehameha the Great – can be seen on guided tours.

Kalōpā Native Forest State Park and Recreation Area. The reward to the senses here is 100 acres of dense, green and damp Hāmākua Coast upland native rainforest accessible by an easygoing .75-mile nature trail or a picnic area the forest surrounds on all sides. More on that nature trail, though. Typically cool and chilly – you’re at the 2,000-foot elevation of Maunakea volcano, after all – it negotiates old-growth ‘ōhi‘a trees, ferns, flowering flora, diversely fragrant forest air and a forest bird soundtrack. Ahhh. One quick request before you trek any Hawaii native forest: Thoroughly clean your shoes and gear of all outside soil and debris before entering so as not to contaminate the forest with non-native plant material that can quickly spread and kill native flora. 


One of the biggest trends in recent years has been ‘Multi-Gen’ travel, where 3 or more generations of the family come together on vacation.

‘Skip Gen’ travel leaves Mum and Dad at home for some much-needed downtime (or house reno’s or a getaway of their own!) while Grandma and Grandpa go on holiday with the grandkids for some fun times and bonding.

As with any trip, everyone involved deserves to have a good time. When grandparents think about taking their grandkids on an escape, it should be a vacation that means something and appeals to them as well as to the younger generation.

BestTrip TV’s Lynn Elmhirst recommends 4 types of trips for ‘skip gen’ travel:

Historical Travel

 
Grandparents often carry the torch of family memories and how real people lived in earlier times, and historical travel can be one of the best ways for them to pass the torch to a new generation. Grandma and Grandpa can share memories and family history on trips retracing family roots to the old country or to places where ancestors lived when they first came to this country.
 
Or the older and younger members of the family can discover together places that changed both family and world history. A Skip-Gen trip to the WW2 Normandy Landing Beaches gives both generations a taste of the spectacular modern French way of life, as well as the chance to walk the actual beaches where Americans, Canadians, British and other Allied countries came together to retake Occupied Europe and change the course of history.
 
Are Battlefield Memorials Appropriate for Kids? Watch the video at the top for insights about why and how destinations like the Juno Beach Centre (Canada’s D-Day Landing Beach in Normandy, France) appeal to families.
 

Resorts with Adult Amenities Plus Kid Attractions 

 
There are some Caribbean or Mexican Riviera resorts that are ALL about the kids with non-stop fun. Or all about grownups (even adults-only lifestyles). But it doesn’t have to be either/or.
 
How about resorts (all-inclusive or otherwise) that have equal appeal to the older and the younger generations? Places where grandparents and kids can alternate quiet relaxation poolside and fine dining with heart pumping thrills, like Barcelo's Maya Grand Resort, a village of multiple resorts where both generations can change it up from formal to casual to poolside dining, places to bask in the sun of the Riviera Maya, and get the blood pumping at a new adventure park, Ventura Fly & Ride, with 8 unique aerial attractions or test driving skills in vehicles from pedal carts to off-road motorized vehicles – all in the protected environment of the resort grounds (pictured below).
 
 
 

Cruise Ships

 
Like a beach resort, sometimes a ship IS the destination, complete with waterparks, go karts, climbing walls and even a sky diving simulator. If you’re traveling with teens, you could consider ships within a ship – if there are teens, grandma and grandpa can enjoy the relaxing grown up environment of Norwegian Cruise Line’s The Haven while the teens have the run of the adventure park and they can meet up before and after. Win-win.
 
Here’s another thought: make it about the cruising destination. Cruising is the best – and most accessible - way to journey in comfort to epic wildlife destinations like Alaska, or the Galapagos. The grandkids will never forget the trip where they meet a thousand-pound, 100-year old tortoise or see a grizzly bear hunting for salmon, or go fishing with their grandparents themselves, on phenomenal shore excursions. 

(Princess Cruises: Alaska Shore Excursion)
 
Even ultra-luxury ships that are normally geared towards adults embrace young guests on itineraries like these. What’s more, these two itineraries are excellent examples where the cruising season happens to accommodate summer holidays. (Alaska sailings are in the summertime, and Galapagos is a year-round destination).

(BestTrip's photo from the Deck of a Regent Cruise to Alaska Sailing Past the Hubbard Glacier.)
 

Soft Adventure

 
Outdoor adventures together can help grandparents and their grandkids to create lifelong bonds and lasting memories and be healthy and active every day. And the world is full of great places to spend time together outdoors.
 
Holidays with daily opportunities to be active, like ranches where you can go riding, lodges and hotels where you can take nearby hikes, cycling or water sports, and land-based safaris with combinations of driving and walking cultivate healthy habits as well as relationships. 

(G Adventures: Family Adventure in Sand Dunes in the Sahara)
 
The more active the grandparents, the more you can ratchet up the physical activity: taking to the ski hills, climbing Kilimanjaro, cycling through Vietnam together.
 
Time spent with the youngest generation is more valuable than ever, and skip-gen trips give kids and their grandparents the priceless gift of travel as well as close ties.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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There are more ways to explore the earth than overseas and overland. And the new Scenic Eclipse takes you there. 
With 2 helicopters for ‘flight-seeing’ and a submarine to reveal vast beauty of underwater realms, this luxury expedition ship covers all the bases – and with its top Polar Class-rated hull, it can sail in any of the world’s seven seas.

What’s more, Scenic’s sleek, sophisticated style makes the Eclipse feel like a billionaire’s yacht… with fewer than 200 fortunate guests at a time sharing an adventure of a lifetime.

BestTrip TV got a tour of the Scenic Eclipse on her inaugural voyage and discovered there’s more than billionaire’s toys to the first ocean cruising vessel for a company that’s already made its mark on luxury land tours and river cruises.
The Scenic Eclipse echoes the luxury of its river cruises and land tours. For all the head-turning design and deluxe amenities and experiences you’ll find on board, as an expedition ship, the focus of any Scenic Eclipse voyage is outdoors.

An expedition team and local guides take guests on hikes, kayak excursions, and a host of ship to shore zodiac landings in remote coasts of the world – and that’s even before you step foot on the submarine launch deck or the helipad.

The Eclipse’s itineraries take her around the globe, from the Northwest Passage across Canada’s Arctic coast, through tropical adventures in the Caribbean and Central America, to the remote wilds of Patagonia and epic Antarctica, the storied coasts of North and South America, the maritime cradle of Western civilization in the Mediterranean, and north to the fjords of Scandinavia and the volcanic landscapes of Iceland.
 

Start your Trip!


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Cowboys. Wild white horses. Wild black bulls. And pink flamingos.Hard to imagine any place on earth where you'll find all of them together, but the vast Camargue delta in the South of France is home to all of these colorful creatures. You can't miss BestTrip.TV's introduction to French cowboys and the beautiful wilderness of the Camargue.
Start your Trip! 
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World Gorilla Day: 3 Things a Travel and Animal Lover Can Do
The world’s largest primates have their own day, September 24th. Gorillas are larger on average than humans and maybe that’s one of the reasons they’re larger than life in our imaginations and on screen in movies like Tarzan and King Kong and Gorillas in the Mist.
 
Gorillas are both imposing and inspiring. Did you know…

  • Gorillas live in tropical and sub-tropical middle Africa. Two species, Western and Eastern, are separated by the Congo River, with habitats ranging in elevation from mountain-top cloud forests to swamps and marshes at sea level. 

  • Male gorillas can grow to over 6 feet tall, with a chest more than 6 feet around, an arm span nearing 9 feet, and weighing in at over 500 pounds of sheer muscle, all on a diet of vegetation, fruit and insects!  Females are about half the size of males.

  • They are in some ways more closely related to humans than even our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees.  We share up to 99% of our DNA with gorillas.

  • Gorillas are highly intelligent.  They can use tools for hunting and gathering food and nest building. They have over two dozen ‘vocalisations’ to communicate with each other, have been shown to grieve and laugh and lead ‘rich emotional lives’, show individual color preferences, and famously, Koko the gorilla learned to communicate with humans with sign language.


  • Gorillas live in groups called ‘troops’ of about 3 dozen, headed and protected by a single, mature male called a ‘silverback’ after the patch of silver that appears on the backs of males over 12 years old. Silverbacks also have large canine teeth that can cause deep gaping wounds.  If the troop is attacked by leopards, humans or other gorillas, a single silverback will protect the group even at the cost of his own life. 

  • Gorillas are knuckle walkers, but occasionally walk upright on two feet.  That is part of a silverback’s unique, ritualized ‘charge display’, along with throwing branches, chest beating and sideways running, intended to intimidate while avoiding violence.

  • Gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered, especially Eastern mountain gorillas, with fewer than 1000 remaining in the wild and none in zoos. Habitat destruction for farming and mining, commercial poaching, and disease including Ebola mean gorillas are facing extinction. 

  • American primatologist Dian Fossey’s groundbreaking work studying gorillas in Rwanda and championing their protection was the subject of her book Gorillas in the Mist.  Her life among the gorillas and her brutal 1985 murder, likely by poachers opposed to her conservation efforts, are immortalized in the 1988 film by the same name. 


World Gorilla Day


September 24th is the day that Dian Fossey established Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda  in 1967. Now, the annual World Gorilla day is a day to take action to protect gorillas in the wild for future generations. 
Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Recycle your electronics.  Mobile phones, tablets and laptops contain coltan, which is mined from gorilla forest habitat and contributes to its destruction.  You can help gorilla conservation by recycling your devices so the coltan can be re-used. 
  2. Support gorilla conservation through organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
  3. Book an ethical trip to encounter gorillas in Africa. Responsible travel companies ensure your trip doesn’t harm or interfere with gorillas.  Plus, ethical tourism revenues support conservation efforts directly, and by employing members of the local human community, create an economic reason to support gorilla conservation.

Travel agents can identify the most responsible as well as thrilling gorilla travel experiences for you.


Start Your Trip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

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3 Hurricane-Free Caribbean Islands
Recent, extreme hurricanes have devastated favorite Caribbean island communities.

For travel, the impact of more extreme hurricanes is double. It can take years for tourism infrastructure in island destinations to rebuild and welcome visitors again, so your favorite destinations and resorts may be unavailable.
 
Plus some travelers avoid Caribbean island vacations (and cruises) during the Atlantic summer and fall hurricane season, especially during the peak two months of risk mid-August until mid-October, for fear of being stranded or worse if a hurricane hits during their holiday.

The solution? Head south.

There's no perfectly 'hurricane-proof' island in the Caribbean, but the three Dutch 'ABC' islands at the southern most edge of the Caribbean are just beyond the fringes of the hurricane belt, and havens for hurricane season island vacations. 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV
 

ARUBA


The furthest of the ABC islands is only 15 miles off the coast of South America. Still, Aruba is just a couple of hours flight from Miami.
 
Unlike other Caribbean islands which are tropical, Aruba's climate is a desert. You'll see a landscape of cactus and aloe vera plants; especially in Arikok National Park, which covers nearly 1/5th of the island, and is also home to caves and archeological remains of original inhabitants.

 
The dry, sunny weather includes constant trade winds that contort the local, iconic divi divi tree into fantastic, bonsai-like shapes.
 
Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and nearby capital of Oranjestad are home to the island's international restaurants, shopping, casinos, golf and other international travel amenities.

BONAIRE


The smallest of the ABC Islands, Bonaire is essentially a coral reef pushed out of the sea and surrounded by one of the world's most celebrated coral reef systems. The reefs have made Bonaire a bucket list destination for divers who consider it one of the very best shore diving destinations in the world.
 
Bonaire has led the Caribbean in nature conservation and eco-tourism. The entire coastline was designated a marine sanctuary in 1979. It protects the 350 species of fish, 60 species of coral and 4 species of sea turtle in its reefs.

 
Bonaire's shoreline is dotted with lagoons and inlets that are home to marine birds including rare nesting grounds of pink Caribbean flamingos. Mangrove forests are popular kayaking and snorkeling destinations for hotel guests and passengers in port from cruise ships.
 

CURACAO


Larger than Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao is also more commercial, with financial and oil-refining industries. It's a popular cruise port and has direct flights from cities on the East coast, as well as Miami and the Netherlands.
 
Curacao's capital Willemstad dates from the early 1600's. Its collection of well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture, cotton-candy and lacy versions of typical buildings from the era in the Netherlands, has earned UNESCO World Heritage status (pictured, top).
 
The island also has a thrilling geological feature for avid scuba divers: the 'Blue Edge', where the sea shelf drops sharply off only 200 feet from shore.

 
Possibly more famous than the island itself is its world-famous namesake blue liqueur. Curacao is distilled from the island's Laraha fruit, a bitter orange that resulted from Spanish settlers' attempts to raise Valencia oranges in the dry, poor soil. Although its fruit is inedible, the peel is powerfully aromatic. The liqueur's trademark blue? Just added color.
 
The ABC Islands should be on any traveler's list of top Caribbean destinations, especially during hurricane season.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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G Adventures Introduces New Yacht Custom-Built for Galapagos Exploration
The new Reina Silvia Voyager is the tour company's 6th yacht, designed for immersive touring of the Galápagos.
 
The 103-foot, high-end yacht sets sail in July, 2020. With 10 cabins, the custom-built, intimate-sized catamaran offers its 16 guests the most comfortable passenger touring experiences among ships of its size in the Galápagos, and a sense of deeply personal exploration of one of the most wondrous, remote regions of the world.

 
In keeping with the ecological destination, the ship and voyage experience also reflect the company’s commitment to responsible tourism.
 
Intimate Touring Yacht


The Reina Silvia Voyager touring vessel's 10 cabins are situated on two decks. Eight of those cabins are designed for twin/double stays, and two are dedicated to solo travelers who prefer their own space at a good value. Eight rooms offer private balconies, and all rooms have panoramic windows for optimal ocean viewing, plus bright, contemporary furnishings, artwork by local naturalist photographers, and energy-saving LED lighting. 

 
An expansive 3rd deck has common areas with lounge chairs for sunbathing, covered cocktail bar, grill station and an outdoor jacuzzi tub for relaxing under the sun or stars.
 
An indoor, air-conditioned salon with large video screen facilitates visual presentations by specially trained naturalists, who guide each group’s tour and help guests learn about the iconic wildlife and culture of the Galápagos Islands’ inhabitants.
 
Built-in Adventure

The Reina Silvia Voyager’s nine on-board kayaks and two zodiacs for guests’ guided use for landings and exploration of the region’s remote ports and wild, rocky coasts. Wetsuits and snorkeling gear will also be freely available for passengers’ enjoyment.

 
All meals on board are included and accommodate vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and allergy-sensitive diets. A crew of nine, including a dedicated chef and G Adventures signature tour leader, a Chief Experience Officer, serve guests daily.
 
Eco- and Socially Conscious Galapagos Exploration
 
To comply with the Galápagos Islands’ trailblazing ban on single-use plastic bottles, straws and bags, G Adventures is giving each passenger a reusable stainless steel bottle and will offer unlimited access to filtered drinking water on board.
 
Toiletries onboard all of G Adventures’ boats are also provided in refillable containers. In partnership with the nonprofit Planeterra Foundation, G Adventures additionally supports an Ocean Health Fund with investments in numerous marine initiatives, including the United Nations Environment Program’s Clean Seas campaign and the Marine Megafauna Foundation’s Galápagos Whale Shark Project.
 
The Reina Silvia Voyager is purpose-built to enable nimble, immersive moments in and under the water, then welcome guests back on board in ultimate comfort. 
 
Guests will thrill at the once in a lifetime Galapagos islands' experience of making eye contact with a curious sea lion, gentle sea turtle, tiny seahorse, or prehistoric iguana in a place where Darwin himself studied evolution. The Reina Silvia Voyager carries guests to countless Galapagos adventure experiences and return on board to maritime luxury.
 

Start your Trip!

 
Photos: G Adventures
 
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10 Amazing Facts about the Tasmanian Devil
Move over, cuddly koalas and cute kangaroos. Meet the Tasmanian Devil. 

No, not the Looney Tunes cartoon character that travels like a spinning top, drooling, snarling and terrorizing Bugs Bunny's friends. The real animal, found in the wild only in one state Down Under.

In Australia's collection of one-of-a-kind creatures, the Tasmanian Devil is a stand out member. So between photo ops with koalas, and watching kangaroos hopping through wildlife parks, head to Australia's southern, island state, to get to know the Tasmanian Devil.

It's a keystone species in Tasmania and the symbol of many organizations in the state. We visited a wildlife sanctuary only a half-hour's drive from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and discovered amazing things about Tasmanian 'Devils'.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 
1. Cute and cuddly they are not. Tasmanian Devils look a bit like bear cubs, or like a big-boned small-ish dog at under 30 pounds fully grown. When they're not aggressive, they look a bit sweet. But I had a chance to touch a baby being raised at the sanctuary, and even so young, its fur was like coarse bristles. And they are not sociable or friendly, living alone and coming out at night. 
 
2. They smell bad, too. Tasmanian Devils have a 'scent gland' used to mark territory with very strong and repulsive scent.
 
3. They have a great naming story. Tasmanian Devils are aggressive if they feel threatened or are competing for food. They bare teeth, lunge, and emit loud, blood-curdling shrieks in the dark hours that made early settlers imagine demons had surrounded them in the wilderness. That's how they were dubbed Tasmanian 'devils'. (Check out this video to hear Tasmanian Devils screeching).
 
4. Their oversized heads have incredible jaws that can open to 80 degrees wide! and deliver the strongest bite for its size of any mammal in the world. They have the power to bite through thick metal wire! The staff at the sanctuary joked to keep fingers away from the babies' mouths; even at that size and age, if they'd bitten onto our hands, 'they wouldn't stop til they reach your elbow'. Possibly a joke to make the point, but it paints a picture of:
 
5. The world's largest carnivorous marsupial. (Marsupials are mammals that carry their newborns in pouches). Tasmanian Devils eat only meat: they hunt birds, snakes, other mammals up to the size of small kangaroos, but they also eat carrion – dead animals. They put those tremendous jaws to good use, eating 'pretty much anything they sink their teeth into', crushing and ravenously ingesting even the bones.  
 
6. Even a Tasmanian Devil's teeth are unique. They have the same number of teeth as a dog - 42 – but unlike dogs, a Devil's teeth grow continuously throughout its life, contributing to its phenomenal ability to consume bones of its prey.
 
7. Like all marsupials, Devils store fat in their tails, which thicken up (like humans' waistlines!).  

8. Although Tasmanian Devils once thrived throughout Australia, now they are native only in the island state of Tasmania. There, they have adapted very well to a variety of environments in Tasmania, from coasts to forests to even suburbs. So rather than environmental change, it's believed their extinction on Australia's mainland can be blamed on the arrival of dingoes – which never spread to Tasmania to threaten the Devils.
 
9. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania, either. Those settlers who christened the 'Devils' mistakenly believed they killed livestock (a theory which has now been debunked) and hunted and poisoned them nearly to extinction, until the government stepped in to protect them in the 1940's.

 
10. The Tasmanian Devil population rebounded, but today, they're in danger again. Not from angry farmers. Tasmanian Devils adapted to modern life, with these carrion eaters finding a new food source in the form of roadkill … except these black animals eating roadkill at night are invisible to oncoming traffic, and they, too are killed in great numbers on roads. In addition, a catastrophic facial tumor disease is spreading through the population. The tumors build up in affected animals' mouths and stop them from eating, and they eventually starve to death. Tens of thousands of Tasmanian Devils have died since the disease appeared in the late 90's. 
 
Since 2008, Tasmanian Devils have been listed as endangered. Wildlife sanctuaries attempt to save and raise young in the pouches of mothers killed on the roads, and programs are isolating and breeding populations unaffected by disease. 
 
Devils are also being sent abroad to partner international zoos to contribute to population insurance programs for Tasmanian Devils too.
 
You can see Tasmanian Devils in some zoos – but better yet, by visiting and supporting a sanctuary on their home turf in Tasmania.
 

Start your Trip!

 
(Images: Getty)
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Cooler climes are some of today's hottest cruise destinations. 

Add the warmth of Seabourn's ultra-luxury service, boutique-hotel inspired ships, world-class dining and insightful, intriguing shore excursions like Ventures' active explorations, and you've got the perfect formula for discovering gateway northern destinations like Alaska, as well as the uniquely northern-most destinations in Europe.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR A SHIP TOUR AND HIGLIGHTS OF OUR CRUISE.

And here are three essential experiences I discovered you won't want to miss on a cruise of Nordic and Scottish destinations on the Seabourn Ovation. 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

1. Follow in the Footsteps of the Vikings


Scandinavia's maritime warriors/traders/ marauders are legendary even today. 

A thousand years ago, from their coastal bases in today's Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, Vikings launched expeditions in their wooden ships, eventually crossing the unpredictable North Sea to the British Isles, skirting the Arctic Circle and hop-scotching to landfalls in Iceland, Greenland, and eventually even making it to Newfoundland (preceding Columbus by centuries as the first Europeans to set foot in the Americas).

Our cruise evoked these epic Viking voyages.

We set sail from Denmark's capital and global lifestyle and culinary hotspot Copenhagen, wound our way to Sweden, where we toured the rugged, rocky coastline, onwards to Norway's capital Oslo and coastal towns, then sailed across the North Sea to northern England and Scotland, calling in the cultural and architectural gem of Edinburgh, then at storied, remote Scottish isles that rarely see cruise ships, and never the larger ships at all.

Don't miss the intact Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

Throughout the voyage and half a dozen countries, the land and sea-scape shared a common, North Atlantic / North Sea theme that reminds you – you're exploring Viking territory. Dark blue, cold North Atlantic seas lapping against craggy granite coasts and cliffs with hardy northern trees and plants, dotted here and there with hardy homes and farms and fishing villages.  

Like a cruise of the countries along the Mediterranean Sea reveals shared landscapes and history, so too does a cruise of the North Sea portion of the North Atlantic. 

In fact, an Australian couple standing next to me at the rail in one Nordic port said they'd sailed with Seabourn to Canada the previous summer – and the Nordic coastline to them looked identical to Atlantic Canada.


But unlike the brave Vikings crossing these chill waters in their wooden longships, on Seabourn, you're wrapped in the warmth of attentive service, cocktails and champagne and caviar service throughout the ship, top-shelf restaurants including one by a Michelin-starred chef, and peak 21st century hospitality.


2. Set your alarm to enjoy some of the world's most beautiful sail in arrivals.


On this cruise, sailing into Nordic ports like Oslo, Arendal, and Scotland's Highland port Inverness as well as the isles of Shetland and Orkney will be experiences you never forget. The sparsely populated shores approaching these North Sea ports are epic viewed from the ship.


And on Seabourn, where all suites (unlike a land-based hotel) are ocean view, the ships are small enough that even suites on the top deck are still close enough to the water you can hear the waves lapping and smell the sea air, and the exceptional service includes in-room dining in your living /dining room or on your veranda - from dawn until the ship is docked is an unparalleled experience of enjoying morning tea and breakfast while exceptional scenery sails past.

3. Experience the Great Outdoors, Seabourn-Style


A scenic morning sail-in isn't the only way to appreciate the outdoors in these essential outdoor North Sea destinations.  

With multiple hot tubs in vantage points on forward and aft decks, there's always a hot tub with a view in these cool-weather ports.

Seabourn's Ventures shore excursions that immerse you in Nature, expedition-style. Expert guides take small groups of guests on hikes, treks, kayak or zodiak explorations that let you get up close to the sea, the land, and the wildlife in a magical and active experience.

Back on the ship, Seabourn's staff go to extraordinary lengths to charm guests with pop-up events – those famous 'Seabourn Moments' - on deck that allow you to enjoy Seabourn service along with the views. 
You might return from shore to find a champagne/vodka and caviar party (in the tropics, they have 'Caviar in the Surf' parties served from surfboards at the beach!) or warming 'hot chocolate with a twist', all with live music and camaraderie with delighted fellow guests.


I love being outdoors, and Seabourn's new restaurant concept Earth and Ocean transforms the pool deck in the evenings with an alfresco dining experience that pairs rustic ceramics and textured linen with exquisite cuisine that taps into the elements with smoke boxes, sea scents and tagines. 

It's all heightened by the sea air and the views you can still enjoy late into the evening with the Far North's summertime late sunsets.

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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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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8 Facts About the Panama Canal

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

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

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

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

2. It's over 100 years old.

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

3. Construction cost over 25,000 lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. $2 Billion in Tolls are Collected Annually

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

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

 

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

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

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

(A Celebrity Cruise ship transiting the Panama Canal)

8. How you can visit the Panama Canal. 

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start your Trip!


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Go Glamping in the Galapagos on the Celebrity Flora

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

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

Start your Trip!

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GAdventures Launches Wellness Collection

Adventure travel for the thrill? Or to be well? 

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


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

World-wide wellness tour itineraries and highlights include:

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

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

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You Can Dive into Cousteau Legacy at this Luxury Eco-Resort in Fiji

Pristine Fijian ecosystem at land and sea, romantic and evocative South Pacific vistas and lifestyle… no wonder a trip to one of the world's top exotic tropical destinations is on nearly every travel bucket list.

For diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, it should be at the top. 'Cousteau' is possibly the most renowned name in diving, oceanography and advocacy for our planet's oceans. 

The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji continues the fabled marine and conservation Cousteau legacy. Located on 17 pristine acres on the second-largest of Fiji's 300+ islands in a marine protected area, it's the ultimate diving resort destination in the South Pacific and among the most acclaimed in the world.

(Jean-Michel Cousteau and a Sea Turtle)

Diving and Snorkeling

Drawing on Jean-Michel Cousteau’s expertise, the resort has established a unique reputation for providing access to the best dive sites in Fiji and the South Pacific. The Jean-Michel Cousteau Dive Centre is one of the premier dive destinations in the world. It's minutes from exciting dive sites and only half an hour to the world-class Namena reef. 

Jean-Michel Cousteau himself, and the conscientious practices of the Dive Centre, are among the leaders in Fiji's dedication to maintaining Fiji as one of the world’s premiere travel destinations with a pristine ecosystem that can support the globe’s overall adaptability to climate change as a blue carbon sink.

Diving is icing on the cake. The award-winning, eco-luxury resort brings together five-star hospitality, sustainability, and celebration of the local culture as well as the lands and waters surrounding it. 

Paradise

It's an exclusive escape in French Polynesia for travelers seeking that once-in-a-lifetime experience – even if you aren't a diver. Picture a wedding, vow renewal, or romantic escape in paradise. Families will love the children's programs that engage kids in the extraordinary environment. Anyone's travel imagination will thrive surrounded by the beauty of the green-forested mountains, wafting palms and breathtaking beaches, as well as the interaction with Fiji's untouched culture. 

Luxury in Thatched Polynesian Huts

Guests are welcomed in Fijian style and accommodated in 25 individual 'bures' – traditional thatched Fijian buildings – crafted from local, and sustainable, timbers. Along with privacy, an incredible scenic view of the island's sunsets, private patio and the walkout into the grounds, each bure is a dreamy tropical escape: rattan furniture, king-sized bed, wooden louvers, overhead fans. There's even a 2000-square foot Villa: a grand bure featuring a master suite, indoor/outdoor patio, private infinity pool, Jacuzzi tub, waterfall and outdoor showers.

Unplugged

To complete your escape to Polynesian island tranquility, there are no phones or televisions in the bures. Concierge and room services ensure your every need is taken care of. 

More than Diving

Guests have opportunities for hiking, kayaking, tennis, volleyball, excursions to a tropical rain forest, and local crafts. Relax or workout in one of the resort's three pools. Start your day with complimentary morning yoga in the yoga pavilion, the gardens, or on the beach.

Fijian-style relaxation goes a step further with spa services. Treatments are available in your own bure or in the resort's beachside spa bures - in the sand at the water's edge with complete privacy and inspiring views of the sea and dramatic hills.

Elevated Local Fijian, Asian and French Cuisine

Intimate, relaxed, upscale, elegant dining against a scenic ocean backdrop. The resort's restaurant features local cuisine as well as Asian and European influenced dishes.

There's a weekly 'Lovo' traditional Fijian feast cooked Polynesian-style in a ground oven. And of course, an all-day bar with premium local and international cocktails and wines.

Complimentary Kids' Program Parents and Kids will Never Forget

Bula Club at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is an included children’s program that features a schedule of fun activities for every age of child from babies to teens. Parents will wish they were kids, too. The resort’s full-time Fijian naturalist/marine biologist (pictured below) guides Bula Club outings, providing a delightful educational experience for children. They can take part in rock pool exploration, hiking, glass-bottom boat excursions, treehouse, and more. Even new parents and parent of very young children get a break: every child under the age of five is assigned to a designated nanny (at a ratio of 1:1) for their entire stay at no extra charge. Mom and Dad can nap on the beach and rest easy.

Sustainability

It's not just luxury, it's authentic eco-luxury travel. Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort’s philosophy is to strive to maintain nature’s balance by respecting and participating in its environment, inspired by the thousands-year-old practice of the Fijian people's interaction with their natural eco-system.

At the resort, the seas provide the fish served for dinner, the trees produce coconuts that are served to the resort’s guests, and the rain sends water to flow from the tap in the bures. The resort also features an organic garden and resort-wide edible vegetation. The tropical fruits on your plate, including pineapple, mango, papaya, coconut, guava and more, are all harvested from the edible landscaping.

True to the Cousteau heritage – the resort practices recycling and composting, and employs low-energy lighting, solar panels and environmentally-sustainable practices in the laundry and kitchen. Wood used on the resort comes from certified forests, and the restaurant does not serve reef fish or farmed shrimp.

A vacation at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is an unforgettable escape to paradise where you can soak in the natural beauty of the island, the Polynesian marine environment, and the warmth of the Fijian people, all while supporting efforts to preserve the region’s beauty and its role in sustaining our planet.


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'Glamping' in Laos: Luxury Tented Villas are a Rosewood Resort First

Laos may be one of the last, best-kept secrets in South-East Asia. Now, travelers looking for an immersive vacation in the unspoiled environment, unique culture and French-Laotian heritage of Laos have the perfect ultra-luxury destination: the tented villas of the new concept Rosewood Luang Prabang.

It's Rosewood's second resort in Southeast Asia – and its very first world-wide to feature tented villas.

It's a dream 'glamping' (glamorous-camping) destination. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Laos, where the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. It's the ancient capital and current cultural center of Laos; surrounded by misty mountains with waterfalls and pools of water in the forest, countless temples and a lifestyle true to both traditional Laotian and colonial French culture.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang fits right into this idyllic escape. Nestled in untouched forest just outside the city, the resort is harmonized with the terrain, centered around a natural waterfall and river.

Its designer was inspired by the tradition of Laotian hill stations, a French colonial tradition where gracious hosts welcomed travelers to the remote corners of Laos.

Sleep: River, Forest, and Tented Villas

The resort still retains that feel of intimate but luxurious isolation in a dense, tropical forest. 23 accommodations meld into the terrain adjacent to a river or waterfall, or float above the ground amongst the treetop foliage. Some have private swimming pools, oversized balconies and outdoor wooden bathtubs. There are 6 tented villas.

That already makes them one of a kind. But each space also has its own unique design, evoking French-Indochine ambiance and hospitality with original artifacts and antiques of bygone Luang Prabang.

Tented Spa Villas with Traditional and Holistic Wellbeing Programs

Even spa services take place in the other-worldly environment of 3 tented villas in a peaceful corner of the property overlooking the river. All mind and body therapies draw from nature, and guests are guided to select herbs and plants from resort gardens for tailor-made treatments. In addition to Western techniques, nearly lost local healing practices have been resurrected and are provided by a respected local healer using ingredients he forages in the surrounding forest.

The wellness program also offers holistic experiences and retreats.

Dining in a Laotian Forest

Farm to table? How about forest to table. Or fishing boat to table. Dining at the resort reflects the harvest at hand: local farmers, fishermen and foraging, transformed into authentic local cuisine and even dishes influenced by historic Laotian royal court entertainment.

There are two dining venues: Laotian farm-to-table restaurant called The Great House and a relaxing river-view spot with the evocative name The Elephant Bridge Bar for light bites and hand-crafted cocktails with a tropical flair and local botanicals and spices. But reflecting the fluid arrangements of tents, villas and other buildings on the resort by the river and in the forest, guests also have the option of poolside dining, from sunbeds, cozy cabanas or breezy tables on the terrace, even custom-designed meals served at scenic places on the grounds – the ultimate luxury picnic!

Play and Explore

The leafy tropical environment surrounding the Rosewood Luang Prabang is ideal for relaxation and activity on and near the resort. In nearby gardens, you can enjoy classic games of petanque or croquet. A forest-enclosed swimming pool is next to a natural waterfall – not to mention the famous nearby waterfalls and series of natural pools in the forest that are one of Luang Prabang's claims to fame.

In addition, the resort creates customized experiences for guest interested in immersing themselves in local Lao culture: local traditional artisans, ethnic hill-tribes and farming communities, historic mansions, ancient Laotian temples, and lifestyle of the communities along the Mekong river. Adventurous and hands-on travelers can trek through the forest and forage for a meal prepared with those ingredients, take a guided mountain bike tour through remote landscapes, weave textiles or form ceramics, harvest seasonal produce alongside local farmers, or take an elegant Laotian river boat cruise along the Mekong.

Giving Back

Rosewood Luang Prabang is also the site of the first hospitality school in Laos, a philanthropic project providing students with professional hospitality training.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang is not only one of the most truly one-of-a-kind resorts you will ever stay in Asia or the world; it's also on the ground floor of a growing interest in travel to this fascinating and evocative country.

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7 Places Not to Miss in Indochina

Two hundred years ago, Europeans started referring to the region between India and China as Indochina.

Already, it was recognized as one of the most beautiful, exotic, culturally unique destinations on the planet. With its very strategic position, Indochina was also center-stage in some of the defining conflicts of the 20th century including the Pacific theater of WW2 and the Vietnam War.

Fast-forward to today, and the legendary countries of South-East Asia - SEA for short - are magnets for travelers by land and sea. Dense tropical jungles and one-of-a-kind plants and wildlife, fabled rivers and waterways, beloved cuisine, some of the world's most beautiful beaches, mountains tiered with rice terraces, gilded temples and Buddhist monks, dizzying markets and spectacular sunsets are hallmarks of these nations.

The term Indochina, or the French Indochine, is still used particularly to refer to traditional or colonial culture in the region, which you'll still find preserved in these rapidly-growing economies and modernizing nations.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer/host of BestTrip.TV shares the must-see sites in the 7 SEA countries:

Thailand

This nation tops nearly everyone's SEA travel bucket list, from backpackers to those in search of 6-star luxury exotic escapes. The Land of Smiles is a smorgasbord of South-East-Asian culture. You won't want to miss Thai cuisine at the source in fabulous restaurants or from street vendors or markets. There are 40,000 temples in this kingdom, including one containing the world's largest solid gold Buddha in Bangkok.

The capital is firmly in the world's top-three global travel destinations every year, and also home to floating markets, tuk tuk taxis, royal palaces and massive shopping malls. Thailand's rural attractions include jungles and elephant sanctuaries, legendary beaches and island destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui, the famous Sunset Beach on Koh Kradan and the Golden Swan Temple (pictured top).

Watch Video: The Real Name of the Capital of Thailand… is Not Bangkok

Vietnam

The tragedy of the Vietnam War is in the past for modern Vietnamese who are among the warmest people in Asia, if not the world. The still-communist country welcomes growing numbers of American and Western visitors. Many travelers – especially Americans - find it hard to believe the country permits and even promotes interest in Vietnam War-era sites like tours to the Viet Cong's legendary Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City and the famous American R&R China Beach near Danang. Everyone visits Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City and its ornate, French colonial public buildings, famous historic hotels and the top-ranked Saigon market. But don't miss other cities in Vietnam like historic imperial Hue and the ancient canal town of Hoi An – stay in town long enough to have some custom-tailored clothing made! 

An day trip or even a journey on the mighty Mekong river, with its floating markets, and entire communities is unforgettable. And UNESCO World Heritage site Halong Bay's emerald waters and mystical islands are a traveler's dream.

Watch Video: Kayaking in Mystical Halong Bay 

Laos 

This is the only land-locked nation in Indochina, and perhaps that's why it's later to the tourism party than other SEA countries. For many travelers, the path least traveled is exactly where you'll want to go next.

The highlight of any trip to Laos is Luang Prabang. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been inhabited for thousands of years, nestled in a valley where the mythical Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. Luang Prabang is a cultural and religious center with historic temples, serene Mekong river scenery, the magical Kuang Si waterfalls with its series of swimming holes, falls and ideal picnic sites, and even an Asian black bear rescue center.

Cambodia

For travelers, Cambodia's has two claims to fame: one joyful, the other very dark. Travelers to neighboring SEA countries take trips into Cambodia solely to visit iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat. This 12th century temple is part of the largest religious monument in the world – a 400-acre complex isolated by a dramatic moat that is a top global bucket list destination.

Equally compelling but difficult to experience are the museum and sites associated with the Khmer Rouge genocide known as The Killing Fields. But there's more to experience in the capital Phnom Penh: Cambodia's position where Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers meet made it the natural center for both Khmer and French colonial regimes. Today, its busy riverfront, art deco market, Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda make it worth an extended stay to explore.

Myanmar

The country formerly known as Burma is fast becoming a country that adventurous travelers want to see before the tourist scene gets very busy. The capital city Yangon is home to ancient Buddhist sites, including the oldest pagoda in the world. The Shwedagon pagoda dates back 2500 years, and is the national symbol and holy site of the nation.

Outside the capital you'll find one of the world's greatest archaeological wonders: the 2300 pagodas and temples on the plains of Bagan. You can even get an overview of the entire complex on a hot air balloon ride.  Inle Lake, surrounded by misty mountains, is a time capsule of local people who still live with the land in stilt houses, with floating gardens and a famous fishing technique. Rudyard Kipling coined the phrase 'Road to Mandalay' to refer to the majestic Irawaddy River. Some major cruise companies offer river cruise tours on this exotic waterway.

Malaysia

Mainland Malaysia occupies the southern end of the SEA peninsula, as well as parts of the nearby island of Borneo. The wilderness is famous for wildlife reserves protecting endangered orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants, the beaches of Langkawi, and storied tribes of head-hunters whose villages on stilts over rivers in Borneo you can still visit. Cooler Cameron Highlands are home to tea plantations where you can do a tasting tour. Colonial European heritage landmarks include the sites in colorful Malacca, and Penang's landmark Eastern & Oriental hotel – a sea front sister hotel that pre-dated the famous Raffles in Singapore.

Don't skip Malaysia's ultra-modern capital Kuala Lumpur. KL is a fascinating vision of the future of SEA, not to mention the record-breaking Petronas Twin Towers connected by a sky-high bridge that's featured in action films and many an Instagram post.

Singapore

This city-state and global financial center at the end of the Malaysian mainland is the only island nation of SEA. Singapore has preserved a core of its colonial past, with high rises surrounding the historic cricket field and colonial buildings, including nearby, one of the world's most famous historic hotels. Legends are still told of the early days of the Raffles Hotel and the Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling was invented. Take time to wet your lips with one of the world's most famous cocktails and soak up the bygone atmosphere.

But Singapore is more famous now for its almost surreal ultramodern vision and skyline. The symbol of modern Singapore is the already-iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino's three-pillar towers topped by a surfboard-like top floor with the world's largest infinity pool overlooking the city. The 250-acre Gardens by the Bay, with the grove of futuristic super trees takes Singapore's love of green space to a space-age level. Singapore is a popular SEA cruise port of embarkation/ debarkation, and well worth extending your trip pre- or post- cruise to explore.

Indochina is no longer a place on a map – but it's still one of the world's top travel destinations. 

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