BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

3 Million Lights for 101 Nights of Niagara Falls' Festival of Lights this Winter
This holiday season will be the brightest ever in the most popular tourist attraction in Canada – and one that conveniently spans the border with the U.S. - just as the land border between the neighboring countries is set to be open in both directions.
 
Beginning in mid-November and running 101 nights all the way to late February 2022, Canada’s largest, free outdoor light festival will take place. It’s the longest Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights of its 40-year history, designed to keep spirits bright throughout the darkest days of the year.
 
With over 3 million lights and over 75 spectacular displays providing colourful visuals, Niagara Falls will be transformed into a twinkling winter wonderland along the Niagara Parkway, Dufferin Islands and across the tourism districts. Visitors to this popular annual festival can bundle up and walk or drive through the Festival route to explore the outdoor, socially distanced, self-guided experience. 

 (Above and top photos: Niagara Falls Tourism)

That’s of course in addition to the nightly, colorful illumination of the Canadian side, Horseshoe Falls. The lights in the winter takes on a fantasy appearance as mist generated by the torrents of falling water freeze as they rise up into the air, creating natural and other-worldly ice sculptures clinging to the Falls.
 
You may even want to take more than one trip to Niagara Falls for the 2021-22 OPG Winter Festival of Lights. The Festival will be presented in two parts.
 
From November 13, 2021 – January 9, 2022 over Christmas and New Years, the Festival features favourite 3D animal and holiday themed displays, including the popular Dufferin Islands loop within Niagara Parks. 20 new displays introduced in 2020 will return, including a giant gingerbread house, 20-foot polar bear and fairy tale castle, plus 8 new displays for 2021.
 
Then from January 10 - February 21, 2022, spanning Valentine’s Day, the new, second half of the Festival showcases winter wonderland and love-themed displays. 3D animals from Dufferin Islands will magically appear in other parts of the tourism district, and holiday themed displays will be replaced with new illuminations.
 
Two maps – one for each part of the Festival of Lights – are available on the Winter Festival of Lights website so you can plan your trip – or trips – to take in the change in displays during the entire, extended Festival period.
 

New Light Show Dramatically Illustrates the Other Side of the Falls

 
This winter season may be the perfect time to discover the illuminated magic of Niagara Falls. The city has just opened another fascinating attraction with its own, celebrated light show.
 
The Niagara Parks Power Station is a new landmark attraction just south of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls that opened late summer. It pays homage to the incredible power of the water that flows over the Falls - and how the Falls have benefitted residents on both sides of the border, in addition to Niagara Falls’ place as one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
 
The first major power plant on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Parks Power Station was completed in 1905 to produce hydroelectricity by leveraging the power of the six million cubic feet of water that surge through the Niagara River and over the Falls every minute. Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the most powerful waterfall on the continent. 
 
Beyond its stunning architectural features and landscape design, the power station was one of the first in the world to undertake a major tunnel project, with water entering the structure and dropping 180 feet before being expelled into a 2,000 foot tunnel that emptied into the lower Niagara River, right at the base of the Horseshoe Falls.
 
An engineering and architectural marvel, the station’s generators were the largest of their kind. Power generated from the Niagara Parks Power Station was used to service Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York, and the plant remained in operation over one hundred years, until 2006 when it was decommissioned.
 
By day, visitors explore the preserved interior of the historic power station, transformed with new exhibits and guest amenities.

(Photo: Niagara Parks)
Each night, an immersive sight and sound experience “Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed” brings the building’s story of transforming water to electricity to life. This immersive, family-friendly experience features incredible 3D projection, interactive moments of wonder, and a breathtaking musical score in the heart of the power station.
 
The dramatic light show at the Niagara Parks Power Station - as well as the newly-extended Festival of Lights - will brighten any traveler’s winter.
 

Start Your Trip!



Montreal is a year-round global capital of celebration. The world’s second-largest French-speaking city (after only Paris) is famous for its cosmopolitan flair, cuisine, fashion, as a UNESCO City of Design, the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil - and a full calendar of top-shelf festivals that wrap the city in energy anytime you visit.

A famously active winter city, Montreal’s star shines even when the temperatures fall, with a mid-winter ‘Nuit Blanche’, ‘Igloofest’ and active celebrations of the city, like giant outdoor skating rinks.

Summer is high festival season, with marquee events like the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix race which is the most watched F1 race in the world, the world’s largest comedy festival, rock and electronic music fests, the Montreal World Film Festival, just to name a few.

Most summers, that includes the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Guinness World Record-holding celebration of jazz music that transforms the city’s Quartier des Spectacles, or festival neighbourhood, into the world’s biggest jazz club with thousands of performers from dozens of countries, including today’s jazz legends as well as tomorrow’s.
 

© Benoit Rousseau - Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
 
In 2021, a smaller Montreal Jazz Festival took place in September – highlighting the irresistible appeal of open-air events as we start traveling again.

And it highlighted perhaps the very best time to visit Montreal – during the Fall, when warm sunny days and crisp nights are tailor made for enjoying the city outdoors to its fullest. There’s Montreal’s version of Oktoberfest in its Beer Festival, MUTEK, an exposition combining electronic music and digital art, MOMENTA, Montreal’s Biennale of photography and image art, even a two-part video gaming extravaganza.

But one literally 'outshines' them all.

Gardens of Light

 
For weeks at the height of the best fall weather in September and October, Montreal’s Botanical Gardens are transformed into pure enchantment. Three gardens: Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations, are set aglow with light and magic.
 
Glittering lanterns in different shapes, styles and sizes glitter along paths through the dynamic and uniquely styled gardens, illuminating not just your way, but providing an authentic gateway to three of the world’s great cultures.
 
The beloved annual spectacle draws thousands who come to be immersed in inspiration and culture, and the best time to visit includes the late afternoon sun, blooms and fall colors, that transition with sundown to a different world that pays homage to the rising moon.
 
In fact, one of the central – and very Canadian- experiences is an interactive, lunar installation that captures the relationship between humans and Nature. Under the real moon above, and in the reflection of a illuminated moon installation, you’ll hear wolves howling – and if you howl, too, it makes the illuminated moon grow bigger. It takes a nocturnal experience out of the playbook of camping in Canada’s north country – responding to the howling wolves – and makes it into art that highlights dialogue between humans and Nature.
 

The First Nations’ Illuminations: Circle of Life

 
The illuminations in the First Nations Garden grow out of the actual, giant poplar tree that’s the dominant feature of the garden, and labelled the Sacred Tree. On and around the Sacred Tree, the light installations portray the birth and fading of seasons and Nature’s constant transformation.

To add to the primal experience, the light show is played against a projection of fire and to the evocative soundtrack of a human heartbeat.
 

The Chinese Garden: Legend of Pangu

 
There’s a long cultural tradition of lanterns in China, making the magical silk lantern installations in this section of the Montreal Botanical Gardens both a natural fit and a fabulous transformation.
 
The Gardens of Light here recreate in dramatic illuminations the Chinese fishing tale of the mythological creature Pangu, who is accompanied by four more creatures representing the four compass points. The black tortoise for North, the red bird for South, blue dragon for East, and white tiger for West.
 

The Japanese Garden: Zen by Light

 
Where the Chinese Garden is dramatic, the Japanese Gardens by Light are meditative and understated. An illuminated path begins to glow as the sun sets, with the unmistakeable shapes of Japanese garden features reborn in peaceful lighting.

True to ancient Japanese culture, the illuminations pay homage to the changing seasons and highlight, rather than mask, Nature, enhanced on certain nights by live music.
 
Montreal’s Gardens of Light may be one of the most magical ways to celebrate autumn outdoors in one of the most dynamic cities in the world.
 

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Image credits as noted.

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Places to Celebrate Britain's 'Football' Heritage
This month, English fans of ‘footy’ had lots to celebrate. Despite a heartbreaking loss in the finals of the Euros, it was England’s best performance ever in the continent’s biggest game.

Soccer, that is.

Britain is the birthplace of the modern sport that has traveled around the world to become the most popular in the world. It’s also morphed into versions with their own fans - for example, North America has co-opted the name ‘football’ for a different game entirely.

Although kids all over the world since the beginning of time have kicked things around the village, the game that became British ‘football’ and the world’s ‘soccer’ traces its roots back to the mid-19th century.

That’s when players and clubs from around Britain came together as the Football Association to come up with a single set of rules. Not everyone was happy with the new rules; a splinter group of clubs opted instead to form the new Rugby Football Union, and so two completely different games were born.

No matter how you define ‘football’ today, any sporting fan on a trip to Britain should try to get tickets to see a game live in its birthplace.

Here are some other places and ways to immerse yourself in British footballing heritage while traveling around Britain:

Aston Villa’s Villa Park

Aston Villa football club was formed by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel, which sounds very sedate, but the club’s competitive attitude has nothing to do with church-like behavior. Since 1897, the club has played its home games at Villa Park, which was once a Victorian amusement park developed in the former grounds of Aston Hall, a grand stately home with gardens dating back to the mid-17th century. Alongside touring the stadium, this slice of history is just a short distance away.

The Wolves’ Interactive Museum at Molineux


Molineux has been the home of the Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) since 1889. Another of British football’s founding clubs, the stadium’s interactive museum takes visitors on a journey through the early years of modern football, while stadium tours provide a behind-the-scenes peek into memorable moments from the club’s history.



Manchester United’s Playing Field and National Football Museum


Some clubs can trace their origins to the workplace. Manchester United, as they are now known, was initially formed by the Carriage and Wagon Department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1878.

When they changed their name at the turn of the century, the club moved to their current Old Trafford stadium in 1910 and have remained there ever since. Learn more about this world-famous club’s heritage on a museum and stadium tour.


Football fans in Manchester can also embark on an interactive journey through the beautiful game at the National Football Museum, set in the striking Urbis building in the city centre. Alongside a penalty shootout and other interactive games, it’s packed with footballing memorabilia including medals, replica trophies and shirts from history-making games..

London’s Storied Clubs


Arsenal can trace its roots to the south of the capital, in the late 19th century when a group of workers from the Royal Arsenal, an armaments factory in Woolwich. The club relocated to North Londond then to its current Emirates site in 2006. Behind-the-scenes tours dive into the club’s rich history, and there’s also legend experiences – guided tours by some of the club’s former players – to enjoy.

North London club Tottenham Hotspur was formed by a gang of schoolboys in the 1880s, and played at their White Hart Lane stadium from 1899. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, built on the same site, opened in 2019. It includes the Goal Line Bar, which at 65 metres is the longest bar in Europe!

After enjoying a stadium tour, those with a head for heights can gaze out over the capital on the Dare Skywalk, a chance to climb the stadium and look down on the pitch below. A similar rooftop tour is also available at Newcastle’s St James’ Park stadium, offering up panoramic views of Tyneside.

Chelsea, another of London’s top clubs, was formed in 1905 in an upstairs room of a pub, now named the Butcher’s Hook. Located in the shadow of Stamford Bridge, which was being built at the time, fans can tour the club’s stadium and museum.

National Footballing Sites


Iconic Wembley Stadium, complete with its massive, 133 metre (430 foot) arch, reopened in 2007. It can hold up to 90,000 fans, making it Britain’s largest sporting venue. In addition to history-making matches like Euro 2020’s final, played in July 2021, it’s also where epic concerts including the record-breaking Live Aid take place.


Glasgow’s Hampden Park is known as the home of Scottish football. It was the world’s biggest stadium when it opened in 1903. Hampden Park still holds the British attendance record, from 1937, when nearly 150,000 people crammed in to watch Scotland play England in 1937. Although its capacity has massively reduced with modernisation and the introduction of safe seating, Hampden Park is still home to the Scottish Football Museum – a space dedicated to documenting the northern nation’s footballing history.

#StartYourTrip!










Celebrate the Māori Lunar New Year and the Southern Dark Skies in New Zealand
New Zealand is in celebration mode in July with the arrival of Matariki.

It's a constellation of stars that rises in New Zealand skies, shining their brightest in the first week of the month.

Known to astronomers as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, Matariki is believed to have formed more than 100 million years ago, and this pre-historic cluster of stars plays a pivotal role in modern and ancient Māori mythology.

The rising of Matariki marks the Māori Lunar New Year, a significant time in the New Zealand cultural calendar.

The Matariki celebration focuses on three principles:
  • Remembrance: Honoring those lost since the last rising of Matariki;
  • Celebrating the present: Gathering together and giving thanks for today's blessings; and
  • Looking to the future: Anticipating the promise of a new year.
 
In addition to the Māori Lunar New Year, this astronomical event inspires festivals across the country, and like the commemorations of the indigenous people, it's seen as a time to celebrate new life, to remember those who’ve passed and to plan for the future. A time to spend with whānau (extended family) and friends – to enjoy kai (food), kōrero (story) and waiata (song).

(Aurora Australis 'Southern Lights', courtesy Dunedin, NZ)
 
In 2022, the reappearance of the constellation will be recognised as an official public holiday on June 24th, providing the opportunity for visitors to plan holidays in the middle of the year, and reconnect with friends and family in New Zealand.

The magic of astronomy each summer has more than history and cultural significance. It also gives star gazers an occasion to turn their gazes to the heavens above New Zealand. Here are some of the most incredible places in the country to catch a glimpse of the Matariki constellation.

(Dark Sky Reserve - Twizel courtesy Jack Austin)

Dark Sky Sanctuary at Aotea (Great Barrier Island), Hauraki Gulf

 
Aotea (meaning 'white cloud' in Māori), also known as Great Barrier, is New Zealand’s sixth-largest island and completely off the grid, with no electricity supply. The island is one of only five Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world, and was named the first ever Island Sanctuary in June 2017.
 
 
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Luxury Cabins at Owhaoko, Taupō

 
There’s no roads, no people, no internet and no cell phone coverage at Owhaoko, making it the perfect place for a digital detox in a luxury cabin with views so spectacular one of the bedrooms is made of glass. The luxury cabin’s Māori name is Te Whare Ruruhau (a place of shelter, refuge and protection) has two double bedrooms – one with glass walls and ceiling – and guests can enjoy everything from a bubble bath under the stars with champagne to gourmet meals cooked using traditional Māori methods.
 
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(Night Skies over Red Tarns, Aoraki courtesy Lee Cook)

The Darkest Skies in the world: Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie Region

 
Much of New Zealand has no 'light pollution' and is home to some of the most accessible observatories in the world. In 2012, 4,300 square kilometers of New Zealand’s South Island was recognized as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. That formalized restrictions on light pollution that had been in place since the 1980s.


This was the first reserve to be awarded gold status, meaning nearly non-existent light pollution. It is one of the clearest, darkest and most spectacular places in New Zealand to view the night skies, and keen stargazers are able to see amazing constellations that can only be seen in the southern hemisphere, including the Southern Cross, the Magellanic Clouds and the Milky Way.
 
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(Aurora Australis ('Southern Lights') Southland, NZ courtesy VideocopterNZ)

Dark Sky Sanctuary: Rakiura (Stewart Island), Southland

 
Stewart Island’s population is only around 400 people, making little impact on the darkness that surrounds the island. Plus, its far-south vantage point means you’ll see celestial features not visible from any other spot in the country. Local policies formalize the community's commitment to environmental protection and help to preserve the pristine skies. 
 

#StartYourTrip!


Images courtesy NewZealand.com and specific copyright holders where indicated.






Cruising From the US is Back!
It’s official. Cruising has returned to ports in the U.S.

While many cruise lines have already started sailing with North American guests from offshore ports in the Caribbean and Europe, there’s been no cruising from ports we can drive to.

Until now. Between the end of June and the holiday weekend, three ships have set sail from three different American homeports.

And now the seal is broken, cruises from homeports from coast to coast to coast are scheduled to set sail in a flood that’s restarting a favorite style of travel at last.

Celebrity Edge: Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale


First out of the gate: the Celebrity Edge, which, on the last weekend in June became the first large ship to sail with guests from a U.S. port in fifteen months.

The first of the cruise line’s Edge-class ships – with their unmistakable ‘Flying Carpet,’ the orange, cantilevered venue that climbs up and down the side of the ship - sailed out of South Florida.

 
On her first sailing since 2020, the Edge had fewer than 1200 guests onboard. That’s less than half of the ship’s full capacity, to allow for natural social distancing as part of the cruise line’s new health safety measures.
 
For this landmark cruise, it was appropriately helmed by another gamechanger: the first – and still only – American woman to captain a major cruise ship. Captain Kate McCue set the Edge on course for a 7-day cruise to Mexico and the Bahamas.
 
“Last March, I started a #HopeFloats tradition of blowing the ship’s horn every evening to let the world know that not only were we safe, but we were thinking of those at home and hoping the same for them,” said Captain McCue just before setting sail. “Now, the sound of a ship’s horn symbolizes rising above hardship. The entire crew is so happy to be back and we can’t wait to welcome our guests aboard!”
 
With the Edge’s sailing, eight of the 14 ships within the Celebrity Cruises’ fleet now have plans to return to sailing in 2021:
  • Celebrity Millennium led North America’s return to service as the first ship to sail in the Caribbean on June 5 from St. Maarten;
  • Celebrity Apex, the newest addition to the Celebrity fleet, made her world debut June 19, beginning sailings of the Greek Isles;
  • Celebrity Silhouette summers in the UK with bubble cruises of the British Isles beginning July 3;
  • Beginning July 4, the mega-yacht, Celebrity Flora, resumed sailing the Galapagos Islands. She’ll be followed by the Celebrity Xpedition and Celebrity Xploration on July 24, and September 18, respectively;
  • And Celebrity’s return to Alaska begins July 23.
 
The Edge’s sailing marked a new beginning for its family of cruise lines – and indeed, the entire cruise industry.
 

Freedom of the Seas: Port Miami

 
Celebrity’s sister cruise line, Royal Caribbean, made its return to cruise at the beginning of the July holiday weekend. 

Freedom of the Seas – which spent her time not cruising since March 2020 undergoing a $120-million transformation including new features and activities - became the first Royal Caribbean ship to sail and the first from Miami, the biggest cruise port in the world.

 
It’s the beginning of a summer-long series of short cruises by Freedom of the Seas ( pictured above and top) to Royal Caribbean’s private island destination Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau in The Bahamas, with the cruise line’s president declaring, “Summer family vacations are back, and we are just getting started.” 
 
Freedom of the Seas is the first of ten Royal Caribbean ships to return through August, including Anthem of the Seas in the UK, Serenade and Ovation of the Seas in Alaska, and the brand-new Odyssey of the Seas in Fort Lauderdale. The cruise line will soon announce plans to reintroduce the rest of its fleet around the world by year’s end.
 

Carnival Vista: Port of Galveston


One other cruise line used the occasion of the long weekend to mark its return to cruising.

Carnival Cruise line made its first sailing from Texas, on the Carnival Vista, with ship’s officers, cruise line and local officials leading a “Back to Fun” ribbon cutting ceremony to welcome guests on board.


The Vista then set sail from her homeport of Galveston on a weeklong cruise with stops at the private beach resort Mahogany Bay on Roatan Island, Honduras, Cozumel and Belize City.
 
Another Carnival ship also returned to cruising on the long weekend, with Carnival Horizon sailing from Port Miami the day after the Vista. Carnival Breeze sails from Galveston July 15 and Carnival Miracle kicks off the line’s Alaska season from Seattle July 27. Mardi Gras, Carnival’s newest ship, sails from Port Canaveral July 31. Other ships in the Carnival fleet restart service in August.
 
Carnival operates from more U.S. homeports than any other cruise line, and says half of Americans –and many Canadians – are within a day’s drive of one of Carnival’s 14 U.S. homeports.
 
Other lines are returning to cruise from U.S. ports and ports around the world this summer, too. All of them have new measures and protocols in place to keep guests, crew, and residents in ports of call safe in the new, post-pandemic travel world.

Your trusted travel advisor can help you navigate the cruise line’s return to service schedule, which cruise on which cruise line – and when- best suits your travel plans and comfort level. And they can help familiarize you with the new protocols and requirements that will be part of the landscape – and seascape – as we begin to cruise again.

#PlanYourCruiseNow

 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

Images courtesy their respective cruise lines.

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.






Now You Can Discover Your European Family Heritage While Sailing on a River Cruise
It’s news that marries two of the fastest-growing styles of travel: river cruising and family heritage travel.

AmaWaterways has partnered with Ancestry, the company that specializes in genomics and connecting people to their family history.

The river cruise line has done family-heritage themed cruises before, but now, you’ll be able to uncover specific details about your own family. That’s because guests are given pre-cruise private ancestry consultation and family history research, while onboard, presentations and curated excursions hosted by an expert genealogist connect your present with your past.

AmaWaterways says the pandemic highlighted how we cherish our family connections and travel – and trips like these offer us the privilege to travel to find our roots. They were inspired to help guests bring “treasured family stories to life.”

Obviously, not everyone will find their roots on a European river cruise. The series begins on the Rhine river, from Amsterdam through the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Switzerland, so people with ancestors who came from one – or more! – of those countries, and who have wanted to walk in the footsteps of family members who came before them, will find it an appealing opportunity to have an expert-hosted trip to the land your family once called 'home'.


Imagine a deep dive into your family story, with the help of experts – and while you are sailing the historic Rhine river, the magic of travel is enhanced by the knowledge that your forebears likely passed along the river too. The rivers were the first transportation and communication routes, before road travel developed, so sailing on the river makes an ancestry trip feel even more authentic.

The marriage of ancestry and river cruise begins before you actually sail. You’re matched with an expert from Ancestry’s professional research division, and on a call at home, you can discuss what you already know about your family history and what you’re hoping to discover.

The experts take that information away and start researching your family background – and filter away what is true and what’s just family legend! As well as identify places of interest you may visit or pass by while sailing along the Rhine.

On board, an expert genealogist offers presentations to provide insight into what life was like for guests’ ancestors and highlight the types of records that are available for them to learn more. As guests sail along the Rhine, enjoying every delight of a river cruise, since you’re passing through different regions where your ancestors lived, it triggers your historic imagination and heightens the river cruise experience even more.

The genealogist will also explain the history behind those areas, providing a deeper understanding of the past and a glimpse of guests’ ancestors’ everyday lives.

Guests also enjoy a private onboard consultation with the expert genealogist to review their own family tree, coming full circle from their initial consultation at home before their trip and connecting the dots with what was discovered during your journey. Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy an Ancestry-specific group excursion with their expert genealogist. In certain cases, travelers can delve even deeper with an optional add-on of an Ancestral Home Visit accompanied by an expert genealogist.
 
Heritage travel on the rivers of Europe promises to be a whole new way to enjoy European river cruising, with another dimension of meaning to the historic towns and countryside, even the waterways themselves.

Your trusted travel advisor can help you plan a trip with the deep meaning of returning to your roots – and the great pleasure of returning to travel.
 

#StartYourTrip!

 
Images courtesy AmaWaterways




Top Tips for G7 Leaders - and Travelers Like Us - to Experience Cornwall
The leaders of the world’s seven biggest democratic economies are meeting in Cornwall, England, and it’s putting the Southwest region of the country under a spotlight.

Maybe you’ve heard of ‘bleisure’ travel? It’s about tacking on a leisure vacation to a business trip. We’re not sure if the leaders of the Western World have the time for a little independent fun and exploration during their packed schedules in Cornwall, but here’s what our friends at Visit Britain suggest they – and you – do on a visit.
 

Cliffs, Surf, Record-Breaking and Breathtaking Hikes

Coastal Cornwall’s claim to fame (other than things labelled ‘Cornish’, like Cornish hens and Cornish pasties/ meat pies) are related to its dramatic, seaside location: over 300 sandy beaches, coastal villages and resorts, dramatic cliffs and wild moors.

It’s an ideal scenario for outdoor, fresh air activities like hiking, cycling and even surfing that draws surfers and kitesurfers from around the world when the surf’s up.

Take a walk along the newly-opened English Coast Path, which, at 2,795 miles (4,500 km) is
the longest managed and waymarked coastal trail in the world. (Yes, in case you were wondering, it’s longer than other famous long-distance trails like the 2190 mile Appalachian Trail and the 2600 mile Pacific Crest Trail in the U.S.)
 
The view alone will get your blood racing. Cornwall has 12 “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” from the dramatic cliffs of the North Coast to the beautifully bleak hills of Bodmin Moor.


“Jurassic Park” IRL

It’s the closest you might come to a ‘real life’ dinosaur habitat. Cornwall’s “Jurassic Coast” is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and THE place to go fossil hunting with the dinosaur lovers in your family.

The Jurassic Coast begins in Devon and continues for 95 miles (150 km) to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset. The rock cliffs at Charmouth and Lyme Regis contain thousands of fossils of animals that swam in the Jurassic seas, and each year fossils are eroded from the cliffs and tumble onto the beaches waiting to be discovered.

If you’ve seen the film Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet, it is set in Lyme Regis and tells the story of amateur fossil collector Mary Anning. She and her brother were the first to discover a complete Ichthyosaur skeleton and a complete Plesiosuar. Some of her fossils are at London’s Natural History Museum. Fossil fans can find out more about Anning’s life at the Lyme Regis Museum. The Museum of Jurassic Marine Life is home to some of the first fossils found. The famous Weymouth Bay pliosaur is on exhibition at the Dorset County Museum.


Photo: VisitBritain/ Jason Hawkes

The World’s Largest Indoor Rainforest

On the Southeast coast of Cornwall, a huge crater inside a depleted clay pit has been transformed into the Eden Project. Visitors discover a thriving garden featuring massive Biomes housing the world’s largest rainforest within walls including stunning plants, contemporary gardens and exhibitions. In 2022, it will even get its own hotel on site, a 109-bedroom designer hotel that maximizes accessibility, energy-efficiency and sustainability.
 
Photo: English Heritage

Legends and Tales

Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle is inextricably linked with the ultimate English tale: the legend of King Arthur. Situated along the dramatic and windswept coastline, the castle ruins echo with stories from centuries ago. Built half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland projecting into the Cornish sea, the startlingly contemporary Tintagel Bridge brings the two impressive sites together in a dramatic way.

Tropical Escapes on British shores

Cornwall’s Isles of Scilly are called England’s own tropical islands, accessible by a 15 minute flight or a ferry ride to what might seem like another world. Only 5 of the 140 islands lying less than 30 miles (45 km) off of Land’s End are inhabited, providing the ultimate in privacy and seclusion to explore crystal clear waters and idyllic beaches.
Those in the know have already discovered the charms of the Isles of Scilly. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Dame Judi Dench all holiday there.

Local Flavor

Cornish pasties, or meat pies, are an historic favorite, but they’re no bygone tradition. Visit Britain tells us more than 120 million Cornish pasties are made each year! Add decadent Cornish Cream Teas to your travel menu and don’t forget about the seafood! Coastal Cornwall is the perfect place for fresh-from-the-sea fish and chips, not to mention Fal Oysters and Cornish Sardines.

At at the luxury resort Carbis Bay Hotel near St. Ives (yes, the St. Ives of the poem, “As I was walking to St. Ives…”), spa treatments include hot tubs infused with Cornish seaweed. That’s fresh!
 

#StartYourTrip



Top Photo: St. Michaels Mount, a historic fortified building on a rocky outcrop in the Marazion bay, off the coast of Cornwall. VisitBritain/ Jason Hawkes

 New, Luxury Water Park Makes a ‘Splash’ in the Bahamas
If you’ve never put the words ‘luxury’ and ‘water park’ together in a sentence before - let alone a vacation - now’s your chance.

Baha Mar is a thousand acres of Bahamian paradise on world-famous Cable Beach near Nassau. The exquisite white sands are home to not one, but three luxury beach resorts: Rosewood, SLS and Grand Hyatt.

Now, in addition to over three dozen restaurants and lounges, convention center, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Royal Blue Golf Course, the Caribbean's first and only flagship ESPA spa, more than 30 luxury boutiques and the largest casino in the Caribbean, Baha Mar has debuted another way for visitors to play.

Baha Bay is a $200 million, 15-acre beachfront water park, exclusively available for guests at Baha Mar. It’s just as luxurious as the rest of the resort complex – with aquatic experiences for the young – and the young at heart.

Imagine the days of water-based active fun on Baha Bay’s 24 water slides, a tropical action river, group raft rides, the first ProSlide Dueling Water Coaster and FlyingSAUCER 45 in the Caribbean, what’s being called the “most spectacular wave pool” in the islands, and splash zones “for kids of all ages.”

For some visitors, the ultimate thrills will come trying your luck at the world’s only outdoor casino inside a waterpark.

Then for a change of pace, the Baha Bay Beach Club offers privacy, beachside entertaining, and chilling out. Infinity pools overlook the endless turquoise sea, and full-service private cabanas, daybeds, and poolside lounge areas make an ideal day on the beach also the most relaxing.
 
Baha Bay Beach Club also has a restaurant serving coastal California-inspired bites and drinks. That’s just one of Baha Bay’s breezy, beachside dining experiences. The al fresco Market includes Cleo Grill, Sam's Crispy Chicken, Plant Nation and Chill, the famed Sugar Factory, Umami Burger, and Barracuda food trucks.
 
All that, wrapped up in the warmth of the Bahamian sunshine and hospitality.
 
Now that travel’s reopening, if you’re among the many people planning to ‘splash out’ a bit on your next holiday, Baha Mar and its new aquatic attraction Baha Bay might just go to the top of your ‘beach vacation’ list.  

#StartYourTrip





'Revenge Travel' is the Latest Trend - And Here's How to Get Some
“Living well is the best revenge,” said a 16th-century poet, and that line may be the inspiration for one of the latest trends in travel.

Over a year of travel shutdowns has reminded us of how precious the privilege to explore the world is – and how we can’t take for granted that the special trips we’ve been dreaming about will still be ‘there’ when we sometime, somehow get around to it.

‘Revenge Travel’ isn’t about ‘getting back’ at any person – but at the pandemic that’s kept us from travel for so long. Like jilted lovers imagining scenarios of vengeance, people started dreaming of extravagant trips that would make up for the lost time.

Then instead of just plotting their ‘revenge’, they started acting on those dreams.

People are booking their Revenge Travel now, and it seems to fall into two categories:
·     Upgrading features of a trip you’re already planning to really make your return to travel in style; or
·     The dream trips that have been put off.

Not surprisingly, the top Revenge Travel trips overlap with travel bucket lists – is one of these your idea of the perfect revenge?

African Safari

The word ‘safari’ is Swahili, an overland journey through some of Africa’s most iconic landscapes, to see the continent’s most legendary wildlife in their natural settings.

Back when going on safari meant big game hunting, the ‘Big Five’ game animals were used as a benchmark of safari success. But these days, simply seeing and maybe photographing lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and Cape Buffalo – as well as cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, hippos, gorillas, chimps and other animals who fascinate travelers of every age – in their own environment in the plains, mountains and waters of Africa – is a trip of a lifetime for many.

Your travel advisor can help you plan an African safari at the right time of the year, in the right countries and parks to maximize your opportunity to experience your favorite African wildlife. And they can make sure you’re going on safari with a reputable company with knowledgeable and expert guides, that is committed to the conservation and preservation of the animals and their habitat for future travelers who dream of taking an African safari.

(InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa)

Tahiti and the South Seas

Just the mention of the ‘South Seas’ or any of its legendary islands like Tahiti, Bora Bora, or Moorea, conjures up images of the ultimate, remote, idyllic tropical escape, the most romantic trip of a lifetime.

Some choose to cruise the islands of the South Pacific and some dream of lazy days in those iconic, overwater villas that are the postcard image of travel to the South Seas. Some smart travelers do both options on the same trip: spend time cruising the legendary islands and looking onto landscapes and overwater villas from their balconies at sea… AND take time to stay on one island to luxuriate in the local lifestyle and overwater villa romance.

Your trusted travel advisor can help you choose which islands, or island-hopping agenda, or help you pair it up with a South Seas cruise in the luxury you want on a trip that’s almost as far away as anyone in North America can travel.
 

Egypt’s Pyramids

The pyramids at Giza, near Cairo, Egypt, remain one of the most mythical destinations for travelers with historic imaginations, to gaze up at these man-made wonders of the world and contemplate the civilization that created such monuments.

With the new, Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) opening in 2021, now may be the best time in years to design a trip to channel your inner ‘Indiana Jones’. Only a couple of miles from the Giza Plateau, the new museum is the largest archaeological museum in the world, home to countless artifacts of ancient Egypt, including the complete Tutankhamun collection and many pieces that there’s now room to display for the very first time. Egypt says the Grand Egyptian Museum will act as a gateway between the ancient pyramids and modern Cairo, with spectacular views of both worlds from the museum building.

In addition, major river cruise lines are returning this year to Egypt, and nothing helps a visitor to Egypt to get a sense of ancient and modern day Egypt than cruise to ancient historic sites, past Biblical landscapes, ancient ruins and communities that reveal the past and present lifestyle on the epic Nile.

Machu Picchu

The so-called “Lost City of the Incas” in Peru is another Revenge Travel destination for many travelers who have been hoping for a lifetime to walk within the 600-year old ruins at the peak of a mountain over 7000 feet high.

It’s the most-visited destination in the Andes, and the name actually means “Old Peak” or “Old Mountain” and represents the height of Incan civilization. Getting there is more than half the fun, as is acclimatizing to the high altitudes. For the intrepid, there are hiking trails to Machu Picchu, but most take the train trip from Cusco, which is one of the epic train trips of the world. 

As the most-visited site in the Andes, with preservation requirements restricting how many visitors are permitted in each day, who must be accompanied by a guide, the best way to experience Machu Picchu is through a tour company that books blocks of tickets to ensure its clients gain admission, and have some of the most experienced and knowledgeable guides in their employ. Your travel advisor can help you book your Revenge Travel trip to the ancient heights of Machu Picchu with the most reputable tour companies with the best service and personal touch, who can also take care of other trip details like hotels and trains so your adventure into the Andes comes in comfort and style.

(Celebrity Cruise's Celebrity Flora)

Galapagos

This archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is the world’s ultimate marine safari. Etched into the world’s collective consciousness as the remote islands whose one-of-a-kind wildlife inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Galapagos remains today a touchstone trip for fans of scientific research or simply natural wonders.

From giant tortoises to famous blue-footed boobies, the fauna on the Galapagos Islands inspires a sense of awe in everyone who travels there.

Formerly accessible to those willing to rough it a bit on boats and from mainland Ecuador, these days, the Galapagos is also a destination for those who love the luxury, small, expedition ship experience. In the last couple of years, a number of cruise lines have even introduced purpose-built small ships for the Galapagos – complete with local design materials and flavours, and committed to the preservation of the ecosystem that is one of the world’s symbols of pristine wilderness at land and sea.

Antarctica

If you thought the Galapagos Islands were remote… the ‘White Continent’ is literally the world’s last frontier. Covered in ice sheets year round, and protected by international covenants from ecological damage, the 7th continent – and usually the last one for travel ‘collectors’ to check off their list – is the ultimate in remote exploration. Between glacial seas, dramatic mountains, and one-of-a-kind wildlife that includes famous Emperor and other types of penguins, seals, whales and other miracles of survival in this severe climate.

Like the Galapagos, Antarctic journeys are now well-served by luxury, small expedition cruises, that keep you cozy and indeed in the lap of luxury between zodiac landings onto ice floes and forays into other-worldly, icy waters. The ‘season for Antarctic cruising is during the southern hemisphere’s summer months, which is late fall and into winter and even early spring in North America.

The closest major urban center jumping off point is thrilling Buenos Aires, so you can add the tempos of tango and delicious wine tasting in Argentina to your once-in-a-lifetime journey to the bottom of the world. 
 
Do any of these meet your requirements for ‘Revenge Travel’? Or will any trip at all satisfy you? I think we can safely conclude that when it comes to travel: “revenge is a dish best served”… at cruising altitude ;-)
 
Tell us what YOUR idea of Revenge Travel is!

#RevengeTravel

#StartYourTrip

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host Best Trip TV







10 Reasons to Visit Columbia on Your Next Trip to Latin America
Colombia is reborn. Named after the 15th-century explorer of the Americas, Colombia stands out as the only nation in South America with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, as well as being the leading source of coffee and emeralds in the world.
 
Colombia has found new followers among savvy global travellers, who, in survey after survey cited the warmth and kindness of Colombians as one of their top reasons to visit. Now, Colombia has given itself a new calling card, “the Most Welcoming Place on Earth.” 
 
That's number 1. We can think of at least nine more:
 
1 Colombia’s Renaissance
Forget old Miami Vice re-runs. Colombia has shed a troubled history, and narratives of cartels are a thing of the past. Through community and eco driven initiatives, the country has earned its place as one of the top destinations in South America, offering travellers a new place to explore. 
2 The most biodiverse country in the world
The South American nation is the most biodiverse country on earth per square kilometer, and is home to 10% of the Earth's flora and fauna.
3 Caribbean beaches AND a Pacific Coast…
There aren't many places in the world where you can sun yourself on a Caribbean beach and see snow-capped mountains at the same time in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal range in the tropics, and one of the highest coastal ranges in the world. On Colombia’s Pacific coast the beaches are surrounded by jungle and its waters host humpback whales from July to October. 
4 It has one of the world's biggest Carnivals
According to Colombians, the Barranquilla Carnival is second to none. It comes with a spectacular display of Colombia's melting pot of cultures: African, Indigenous, European and Middle Eastern.
5 Cool and Cosmopolitan
Bogota and Medellin are gaining traction on the world stage, and give visitors a taste of Latin American chic.
6 Get Your Java Fix
You remember the commercials. Colombia produces some of the world's most prized coffee - that's a given. What you might not know is that the country has a budding coffee tourism industry that brings you up close and personal with producers and tasters and the most authentic flavors, right at their source.
7 It's the Land of more than 1,000 Rhythms
Hailed as the Land of more than 1,000 Rhythms, every corner of Colombia moves to its own distinct sound. Actually, sounds. Over half a dozen distinct musical genres that blend Spanish and European influences with African beats and ancient indigenous rhythms liven up the country's cultural scene and make Colombia a must-visit place for music lovers.
8 Booming cycle-tourism
Colombia is at the heart of South American cycling tourism because of its diverse topography and climate - and with over 38 key training trails, your legs will tire out before your interest in this off-the-beaten-track cycling destination does. 
9 Greener and More Sustainable
Colombia has amended its tourism laws to incorporate sustainability as a core principal. The country formally recognizes the importance of protecting the environment and supporting local communities.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Image courtesy ProColumbia

Spring Gardens, Tropical-Style in Costa Rica
'Spring flowers’ takes on new meaning in the tropics.

With Costa Rica’s epic biodiversity and commitment to conservation, lush, green landscapes are a given any time you visit. But some of the Central American country’s botanical gems are best discovered not in the wilderness, but in gardens crafted by human hands.

Here are five gardens to add ‘color’ to your trip to Costa Rica.
 

Botanical Orchid Garden

North America has 200 varieties of orchids. Luscious Costa Rica? 1300.

The “Guaria Morada” orchid is even the country’s national flower. Its name has a picturesque meaning: “purple country girl,” for its delicate petals with vivid hues. Unlike most greenhouse orchids we buy at home, it’s even scented. Local Tican tradition says the Guaria Morada brings good fortune. 

Only an hour from the heart of Costa Rica’s capital San Jose, visitors can find the Botanical Orchid Garden in the quaint town of La Garita. The distinctive, purple Guaria Morada may be the star of the show. But it’s just one variety of a permanent collection of beautiful and rare orchids amassed in the garden you might not have a chance to see all together anywhere else. In addition to greenhouse space, visitors can walk tropical trails, and absorb the serenity of water gardens.
 

Lankester Botanical Garden

The 27-acre Lankester Botanical Garden is one of the most important orchid research centres in Latin America. It’s also just outside of San Jose, in Cartago province. The Botanical Garden’s mission is to promote conservation, enjoyment and sustainable use of flora through scientific research, horticulture and environmental education.

It’s home to more than 3,000 species of plants. Nearly 1,000 of those are native and exotic orchids. Although Costa Rica’s orchids bloom year-round, the garden is at its most spectacular between February and April.
Visitors used to greenhouse orchids in pots at home may find it hard to believe that many orchids are actually hard to spot in the wilderness, where typically grown in the forest canopy or trunks or branches. At the Botanical Garden, they’re displayed at eye level for optimal sight, scents and awe.

You can take a virtual tour of Lankester Botanical Garden here.
 

Caribbean Botanical Garden

Caribbean Botanical Garden is one of the first agro-tourism companies in Costa Rica’s province of Limón, located on the country’s Caribbean coast.

Rather than taking orchids from the wild, the botanical garden adheres to its conservation priorities and produces its orchids on site. It’s the only place in all of the Caribbean with a collection of over 300 species of national, foreign and hybrid orchids.
In-house propagation allows the orchids to be cultivated wildly across the botanical garden. And the orchids don’t live in the garden alone. You’ll also see toucans, parrots, tangaras, macaws and several other beautiful bird species flying above the treetops within the Caribbean Botanical Garden.
 

Else Kientzler Garden

It isn’t all about orchids. More than 2000 varieties of exotic tropical plants and flowers from around the world are on display at the Else Kientzler Garden on the outskirts of the artisan town of Sarchí, in central Costa Rica just over an hour’s north of the capital.
More than 2.5 km of beautifully landscaped trails reveal the vast collection of orchids, cacti, bromeliads, palms, succulents, heliconia and hibiscus from Costa Rica, New Zealand, Madagascar, Brazil, India, Japan and more.
Else Kientzler Garden offers a birdwatching tour as well as several wellness activities, including guided meditation, yoga, pilates and Tai Chi near its spectacular topiary labyrinth.

No wonder the garden is also a popular and magical venue for intimate weddings.

 

Monteverde Butterfly Gardens

Butterflies go hand in hand with flowers, and the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens reveal 30 species of butterflies amongst 4 different types of habitats.

It’s a must visit attraction for butterfly or flower lovers near Costa Rica’s mystical Monteverde Cloud Forest.
Visitors can learn about Costa Rica’s unique bug life, while exploring lush greenery and getting up close and personal with colourful Monarchs, Morphos and more. The garden’s mission is to change the way we think about insects and arachnids – yes, spiders!
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images Courtesy of visitcostarica.com/en
 



Get Into the Spirit of the 'Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports'
Spring brings longer days, warmer weather… and the thunder of hooves as horse racing begins in North America and Europe. 

On this side of the pond, there’s no better way to get your heart racing than to be in the stands for the legendary Kentucky Derby. Held on the first Saturday of May, the epic race gets the serious horse racing season going as the first leg of the American Triple Crown.

The Kentucky Derby was founded nearly 150 years ago by the grandson of William Clark of ‘Lewis and Clark expedition’ fame. He’d been to England and attended that country’s biggest horse race, Epsom Derby. 

On his return to Kentucky, he spearheaded the organization of the Louisville Jockey Club and new track and race facilities that would become known as Churchill Downs.


Today, the Kentucky Derby has a purse worth millions, but what makes it the grand-daddy of all horse races on the continent are its storied history and colorful traditions.

Horsing Around


Appropriately, the race is run deep in the heart of America’s horse country. 

Lexington is billed as the Horse Capital of the World, and visitors to the state find themselves easily immersed in equestrian culture, from picture-perfect farms where famous breeds graze on Kentucky’s famous bluegrass, to countless race tracks and equine-related activities.

Elegant, leggy thoroughbreds are the state horse and the heroes of the Kentucky Derby. 

And the most famous of them all is Secretariat. Possibly the most famous horse in America, immortalized in book and film and equestrian culture, the fastest horse in Kentucky Derby history is one of only two to win the race in under two minutes.

Not Just Another ‘Day at the Track’


More than 150,000 race-goers pack the stands at Churchill Downs on race day. Like Royal Ascot in England, the Kentucky Derby is at the peak of the social scene, a place to see and be seen, preferably in an epic, even outrageous hat.

Americans bet around $150 million on the race every year, and in addition to millions of dollars in prize money going to the owners, the winning horse is draped in a blanket of 554 red roses, giving the Kentucky Derby its second nickname: ‘The Run for the Roses’.

‘The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports’ even has an official drink.

 
Of course, it’s a Mint Julep, a cocktail that conjures up images of gracious Southern hospitality. It may also be the most refreshing way to drink bourbon, which anyone from Kentucky will tell you is more than a local spirit, it’s a way of life in the state.

 

Here’s the official Churchill Downs & KentuckyDerby.com recipe so you can savor the taste of the Kentucky Derby even if you’re watching it from home. It’s traditionally served in a frosty silver cup, but if you’re short silver cups, a collins or other cocktail glass will do.

Ingredients
  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • 3 fresh mint leaves
  • Crushed ice
Preparation
  1. Express the essential oils in the mint and rub them inside the glass.
  2. To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon and crushed ice. Stir.
  3. Garnish with more ice and fresh mint before serving ice cold.
 

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy kentuckytourism.com


Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Meet the Stingray Whisperer of the Bahamas
They are the laid back cousin of sharks, majestically pre-historic looking, and spellbinding in footage ‘flying’ through the ocean on ‘wings’.

Stingrays are not as dangerous as their name implies, and for one eco-tour operator on Grand Bahama Island, they live up to their nickname: ‘angels of the seas’.

Keith Cooper is known throughout the island as the ‘Stingray Whisperer.’ Keith has been working with stingrays for over a dozen years and has actually developed a personal bond with a number of stingrays who make their home in warm, Bahamian waters.
 
Visitors to the Bahamas can get a taste of Keith’s magical relationship with stingrays – and maybe create a little magic of their own.
 
The ‘Stingray Whisperer’s’ company, West End Ecology Tours, has a signature 'Stingray Experience Tour' that gives you an opportunity to safely interact with these misunderstood sea creatures in their natural element.  
 
Well aware that in many parts of the world, stingrays are in danger of extinction, Keith’s company - and the Stingray Experience Tour - is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the eco system and the stingrays themselves.
 
Their name sounds intimidating, but most stingrays are curious and inquisitive rather than threatening. Like their cousins, the sharks, stingrays are built of cartilage instead of bones. Unlike sharks, they don’t rely on sharp teeth, but instead, spines on their tails for protection. And they are truly unique in the sea in their elegant, winged form and movement.

The truly off the beaten path adventure of Keith Cooper’s Stingray Experience Tour takes place on a deserted island or a shallow water cay off Grand Bahama Island.
 
A maximum of six guests are on each tour, and before stepping out of the boat, Keith explains the guidelines and rules to the visitors that make the tour an entirely safe, memorable and ecologically sustainable experience for the visitors.
 
The number of stingrays that participate on tour could reach up to 16. After establishing their presence, visitors are allowed to touch, feed and even snorkel with the stingrays toward the end of the visit. This provides a fantastic opportunity to see the stingrays flap their wings as they glide like 'angels' through the water. It ensures that each visitor has an up-close and intimate encounter with a misjudged 'angel' of the sea. 
 
Keith says there is no magic formula to attract the stingrays he has bonded with, that gather round when he arrives. He says rays have a remarkable capacity to remember, and over time, they have learned to feel comfortable with him. The Stingray Whisperer has named some of these rays according to their colourful and indvidual personalities. There is 'Hugger,' 'Big Momma', 'Dark Chocolate,' 'Scarface,' and 'Lunatic,' to name a few. His relationship with some of these rays dates back as much as 12 years.  
 
What makes the tour so unique is that it’s more than observing the rays, along with the colourful fish and other marine life snorkeling in the stunning azure waters. You also have the intimate experience of feeding and getting to know these lovely and friendly creatures.
 
Keith and his team take extreme care not to exploit or overfeed the animals. This is an educational tour carefully crafted taking considerable precautions to protect wildlife. 
 
Meeting the Stingray Whisperer might be just one day of your trip to the islands of the Bahamas. But you’ll create a lifetime of memories up close and personal with the ‘angels of the seas.’
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images of West End Ecology Tours courtesy of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 



Cruise Ships: New, Improved, and Coming Soon
The latest designs, innovations, and features, in a sparkling white cruise ship gliding over the waves. If that’s not enough to get you excited about taking a cruise on a new ship, there’s always ‘new ship smell’.
 
A new cruise ship may not have a distinctive scent like a new car, but knowing you’re among the first to experience a new entry to the world’s fleet of cruise ships is a not-to-miss sensation.
 
Not every new ship comes ‘hot off the press’. Some ships are remade during their lifetimes, and their mystique begins afresh.
 
Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s cruise expert, lists the ships to keep your eye out for right now, whether new, improved, or coming soon.
 

NEW

 

Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas


The latest addition to this mega-cruise ship fleet is the 25th Royal Caribbean ship, and its second Quantum Class ship.
Vacationers of all ages are in for a combination of Royal’s signature, over-the-top cruise experiences plus 12 all-new and first-to-brand experiences including:
 
  • All-new pool deck to enjoy the sun and stars in style– Two decks, two open-air pools, four whirlpools and Splashaway Bay, anchored by a Quantum Ultra Class first – The Lime & Coconut bar
  • Action-packed top deck – Returning guest-favorites include the gravity-defying SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline adventure, FlowRidersurf simulator, skydiving with RipCord by iFly, and the iconic North Star all-glass observation capsule that boasts 360-degree views from 300 feet above sea level.
  • SeaPlex – The next-generation of a longtime Quantum Class favorite, this SeaPlex is the largest indoor and outdoor activity center at sea.
  • One-of-a-kind entertainment –Teched-out venues combine immersive technology, unparalleled special effects and world-leading performers and aerialists take the stage alongside six agile Roboscreens for a multidimensional live show.
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar and Teppanyaki – Two Royal Caribbean restaurants new to North America join the many dining options on board.
 
After an inaugural summer season sailing bubble cruises from Israel in the Eastern Med in 2021, Odyssey sails to Fort Lauderdale for Caribbean cruises including calls at the cruise line’s private island beach experience Perfect Day at CocoCay.
 

IMPROVED

  

Paul Gauguin Cruises’ The Gauguin

 
Paul Gauguin Cruises is the longest-continually sailing luxury cruise line in the South Pacific with its ship The Gauguin, which has emerged from drydock, after intensive environmental upgrades, making her more protective of this precious and sensitive setting.
 
In addition, all her staterooms, suites and public spaces have been renovated in a chic and fresh vision of Polynesian style to enrich her 322 guests' experience sailing the islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia, Fiji and the South Pacific.

Every detail of The Gauguin's renovations reflect her South Seas home, including décor, artwork, Polynesian cuisine in the restaurants, onboard enrichment and cultural activities led by the ship's troupe of Tahitian entertainers. The refurbishment enhances the historic woodworks and adds local lagoon shades, green and natural tones, organic patterns and woven textiles, exotic panoramas and traditional artwork.

In addition to the renovation, the onboard lifestyle has been enhanced, with a new, virtual museum of over 150 paintings of artist Paul Gauguin, wifi, and all-inclusive experience, including dining in all three of the ship's restaurants.
 
Sailing on the renovated ship, guests have exclusive access to the line's private island and a private beach in Bora Bora, where you can embrace the natural wonders of the South Pacific through marine activities off the ship.
 

COMING SOON


Oceania Vista


By recently naming its upcoming ship The Vista (artists' renderings below and top), this culinary-and destination-focused cruise line looks to the future of cruise travel. The 1200-guest ship is the first of two new Allura Class ships on tap for Oceania, and will be the line’s 7th ship when it sets sail in 2023.

 
Like its sister ships, the new Vista will be a designer-inspired, intimate ship, with residential-inspired suites and staterooms, and dramatic and glamorous public spaces like the Grand Dining Room, which soars almost two decks in height and pays homage to the 'beautiful age' of early 20th-century Parisian society through its contemporary interpretation of Belle Époque. 

 
Guests will also be wowed by Vista's nine additional best-in-class culinary experiences, and several unique firsts that will re-define Oceania’s already acclaimed dining and guest experiences.
 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
Images courtesy of their respective cruise lines.









International Dark Sky Week, held during the week of the new moon each April, calls for people worldwide to turn out their lights and take in the beauty of the night sky without light pollution dimming its brilliance. 

It’s also an annual reminder that some of the very best travel experiences aren’t under the bright lights of a city. Some of the most awe-inspiring and life-changing travel moments involve absorbing Mother Nature’s greatest spectacles above us.

Astrotourism is a growing trend that helps travelers capture more of those transformational moments in the darkness.
Astro travel lets us tap into primal parts of ourselves, like our earliest ancestors who created myths and learned wisdom from celestial phenomena. And it reminds us how humans - like all creatures and the Earth itself – respond to the rhythms of movements of the sun, the moon, and the stars.

North Star and Big Dipper over Grosvenor Arch, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah, by Royce Bair, courtesy International Dark Sky Association

It celebrates the wonder in us all when we gaze at the mysteries of the stars in the night skies, or the Northern Lights. Or when we join others to take part in an astronomy event like a solar eclipse, meteor shower or passing comet and feel tiny in our universe and in awe of the infinite darkness that surrounds us.

Savvy astro-travelers have been planning for a while to be in Antarctica for December, 2021’s solar eclipse. If that’s a bit remote for you, wait around for the ‘Great North American Solar Eclipse’ on April 8, 2024: a dramatic astronomy event across the whole continent, that, at its max, will allow observers to see the Moon totally – totally! – blocking the Sun for over 4 minutes!  

Here are some ways you can become part of the dark sky and astrotourism trend, both on land, and at sea.

LAND


Dark Sky Parks
From New Zealand to New Mexico, there’s a growing list of over a hundred Dark Sky parks and reserves around the world. They preserve and protect the ability to see the heavens in their clearest forms as our human ancestors did, and the darkness the planet’s wildlife still relies on today.


New Zealand’s Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie Region (above), at 4300 square km, is the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world, and home to the darkest skies in the world. Much of New Zealand has no light pollution and is home to some of the most accessible observatories on planet Earth. The sheer brightness of the stars, contrasted by the ring of mountains surrounding the Mackenzie Basin, is utterly breath-taking.
 
In North America, Dark Sky parks and preserves are most often found under the vast – and remote- Western Skies, in National Parks where preserving the night skies aligns with the protection of the landscape and wildlife.

Dark Sky Festival in Jasper in the Canadian Rockies
 
Jasper National Park is the largest of Canada’s mountain parks, famous for magnificent glaciers, lakes and mountains. Jasper has also been designated as a Dark Sky Preserve for its special commitment to protect and preserve the night sky and to reduce or eliminate light pollution in all its forms.

(Jasper National Park/ Jasper Tourism)
 
It’s one of 17 designated Dark Sky Preserves in Canada, the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, and the largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve - meaning there’s a town within the limits of the preserve.

As daylight hours begin to shrink, the month of October is the perfect time for Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival. Dozens of events including dark sky photography workshops, interactive experiences at Jasper’s Planetarium, black hole sculptures, and ‘Animals of the Night’ hikes, indoor and outdoor events, speakers and hands-on celestial activities celebrate the night skies that cradle the earth.

Room With a View – of the Stars
A number of resorts near and far help their guests feel closer to the night skies.

At remote Amangiri Resort in Canyon Point, Utah, there’s an in-house astronomer providing complimentary stargazing sessions to guests, an ‘astrophotography’ machine that wirelessly connects users to download astropics to their devices, even a ‘sky terrace’ suite where you can fall asleep under the stars.
 
The Hyatt Regency in Maui, Hawaii has a resident director of astronomy and a Tour of The Stars program that allows guests, just a smidge north of the equator, to see almost all of the 88 constellations.
 
Nearby, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua’s stargazing program highlights celestial navigation and the story of Polynesian overseas migration to the Hawaiian islands, and provides guests telescopes to check out the starry skies on their own, too.
 
Farther afield, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo offers a ‘Taste the Stars’ program. (Watch a video of the program, top.)

It includes a 7-course tasting menu developed by the resort's chefs in collaboration with Costa Rican-born astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz. A secret ingredient is South American wine aged in a 4.5 billion year old meteorite! Plus a guided stargazing session using a powerful GPS-guided telescope and a take-home sourvenir of the moon shot through the telescope while you’re there. Costa Rica is one of the few places above the Equator where Magellanic Clouds, two galaxies first identified by explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the 1520s, are visible.
 

SEA

It makes sense that some of the darkest skies in the world are found offshore. Way offshore, at sea. Which makes ships some of the best places for celestial experiences - and cruise lines are getting onboard.

2021’s Antarctic Solar Eclipse luckily takes place during the southern hemisphere’s summer, so it’s drawing a host of the world’s expedition cruise ships with guests on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise of the Antarctic – with a solar eclipse completely un-muted by light pollution from land.
 
Silversea has three of its ultra-luxury polar expedition ships sailing in Antarctic waters for the Solar Eclipse. Be on deck with fewer than 250 guests as the brilliance of Antarctica is plunged into darkness, and gaze amazed as the changing light and sharpening shadows highlight Antarctica’s beauty.

(Courtesy Silversea)

Atlas Ocean Voyages is a new luxury, small ship expedition cruise line that will amazingly include Antarctic’s Solar Eclipse in its inaugural season! On the day of the eclipse, you’ll be sailing through icy waters, and be able to see the total solar eclipse against a backdrop of mammoth icebergs.

Ponant is a French luxury, small-ship expedition cruise line. Its newest ship is also the first, luxury hybrid electric polar-class vessel. Just over 250 guests will make the ‘badge of honor’ sailing through the Drake Passage on the day of the eclipse. You’ll be able to disembark the ship onto the ice pack where, according to Ponant, “the pristine white creates a high-pressure zone that will allow for clearer skies”, a rare privilege enhanced by naturalist guides and on-board scientists.

Imagine seeing an eclipse from the Scenic Eclipse! Two former NASA scientists and a world-renowned astrologer will be joining the Scenic Eclipse’s 200 guests when the luxury expedition yacht – that comes complete with two touring helicopters and a six-person submarine, the first permitted to operate in these waters - is strategically positioned for an optimal view at Antarctica’s South Sandwich Island archipelago on the day of the eclipse.

You don’t need a special celestial event for this next Astro tourism cruise!

(Courtesy Celebrity Cruises)

Celebrity Flora is the cruise line’s first purpose-built small ship, just for Galapagos expeditions. The legendary islands far off the coast of Ecuador are well known for their unique wildlife, but guests also have the benefit of a brilliant night sky and countless stars above.

Celebrity has crafted a whole new Galapagos cruising experience available on all its Galapagos sailings: 'Glamping' (glamorous camping) Under the Stars that you'll never forget. Four guests each night will be able to sleep on the ship’s top deck in a specially designed cabana. You’ll also enjoy dining alfresco with curated cocktails, wines, even campfire favorites like s'mores under the stars. 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. 
Remote lands and seas are on many travelers’ bucket-lists – and adding the natural wonders of the skies to your adventure of a lifetime makes it just that much more unforgettable. 
 

#DreamNowStarGazeSoon


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

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One Trail Walk Takes You Across the 2 Highest New Suspension Bridges
The Golden Skybridge features not one, but two expansive suspension bridges connected by forested trails – right at the edge of two legendary mountain ranges.

Visitors embark on a 3k (nearly 2 mile) nature walk weaving throughout parkland and across two new, spectacular suspension bridges – the two highest pedestrian suspension bridges in Canada, and believed to be in all of North America.

You might call this new experience ‘Golden’. The mountain town of Golden in southeast British Columbia sits amidst six Canadian national mountain parks. Known to outdoor adventurers as the ideal basecamp to explore some of the country’s greatest outdoor landscapes in the Columbia and Rocky mountains, Golden is on the Trans-Canada highway. 

And now, with the Golden Skybridge experience opening in time for summer travel in May, 2021, visitors traveling between Calgary or Banff in Alberta, and BC’s Okanagan wine country or Vancouver on the west coast, have a new reason to stop for a while in Golden.

One of the bridges sits a dramatic 130 meters (427 feet) from the ground, and the other is 80 meters (262 feet) above the ravine underneath. Measured from the ground below (rather than height above sea level as some other suspension bridges do), that puts these Golden Skybridge pedestrian suspension bridges in 1st and 2nd places for the whole continent.

That’s a whole lot of air under your feet – not once, but twice in a day.

To put it in perspective, world-famous Niagara Falls is 176 feet high. So you’ll be walking well above the height of Niagara Falls across the lowest suspension bridge – and more than double Niagara Fall’s height when you cross the highest suspension bridge!

The bridges are no slouches for length, either, with the tallest spanning a 154 metre (over 500 foot) chasm, and the shorter bridge slightly shorter, but still coming in at 139 metres (or 455 feet) long –surpassing in length as well as height other famous BC suspension bridges: Capilano in North Vancouver, and the Cloudraker Skybridge at Whistler.

Just imagine the dramatic, 360 degree views of expansive alpine vistas the Golden Skybridge experience offers up. The scenery even showcases a roaring waterfall that itself is a higher drop than Niagara: 61 metres (200 feet) down to a mountain river in the deep canyon below. Viewing platforms on the trail provide guests with many other opportunities to take in the picturesque landscapes surrounding you. 


The scenic trail across the country’s – and likely the continent’s - two highest suspension bridges isn’t the only adventure at the new destination. For the more daring, the Golden Skybridge will also feature a tandem bungee swing and a 1200 metre (nearly 4000 foot) zipline spanning the canyon, both opening later this summer. The attraction’s owners say a canyon swing and axe-throwing venue (a nod to the lumberjack heritage of the mountains, no doubt!) are also planned.

It seems like an ideal scenario for outdoor travel lovers as well as multi-generational family travel. All members of the family can enjoy the scenic trail with its vistas and suspension bridges, then less active family members can relax at the outdoor courtyard and café at the attraction’s base for some well-deserved pre-and post-trail walk rest, relaxation, and refreshment - as others tap into their inner adrenaline-junkies ziplining and bungee jumping. And who doesn’t want to burn off some pent-up frustration with a little axe-throwing?
 
What a way to bond together while breathing in pristine mountain air and absorbing brand-new mountain vistas. Even frequent explorers of Canada’s western mountain parks and the region will gain new perspective and a new appreciation of the incredible, alpine beauty in Golden, BC.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Photos: Golden Skybridge by Pursuit


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The 'Happiest Place on Earth' Becomes the 'Sweetest' with New M&M's Experiential Store
Everyone with a sweet tooth has a reason to celebrate the newest store opening at Disney Springs in the heart of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The M&M’s store is not just a place to pick up a bag of colourful, candy-coated Mars chocolate. Parent brand Mars Wrigley says it’s a state-of-the-art immersion into the M&M experience, as it’s bringing the 80-year old brand’s famously cheeky attitude to life in the store.

It’s 10-thousand square feet of Technicolor chocolate fun. As you might expect, visitors will find exclusive, co-branded Disney and M&M’s merchandise that go way beyond candy, like apparel, mugs and more.

You’ll also find the signature M&M’s ‘Wall of Chocolate’ with giant clear tubes of the candies, larger-than-life M&M’s characters, and the ability to create your own custom M&M candies.

Who doesn’t have their own favorite character from the award-winning TV ads, as well as your favorite color and even flavor, from original, to peanut, to pretzel or seasonal treats? You can go way beyond an ‘M’ stamped on a yellow, blue, green, brown or orange treat and make like a rock star, leaving with a bag of ‘just the green ones’ stamped with your own initial. Or choose your own color. Or add images. Or clipart. And pack them like edible, candy art in a custom package, like lavender and pink ones in a clear, butterfly container. Aww.

It might be the most fun way to break your mother’s rule not to play with your food. And it might also be the sweetest souvenir of your visit to Disney.

Disney Springs is the signature shopping, dining and entertainment district in the heart of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. It’s an open-air promenade along a lakefront and its namesake springs, designed to make you feel like you're visiting a turn-of-the-20th century Florida waterfront town - with 21st century cuisine and retail. It’s also where you’ll find – in addition to its newest M&M addition – over 150 shops, restaurants, boutiques and good times.

The M&M’s at Disney Springs is one of now five of the candy-chocolate’s experiential stories in the US, Europe and Asia. It’ll soon be joined by new stores in Berlin, Germany, and the Mac-daddy shopping experience of them all, the record-busting Mall of America in Minneapolis.

Can’t wait for your next visit to Disney? Fans can 'visit' the store today with a virtual tour on the company's web site, where you can ‘walk’ virtually through the store, and make a list of all the favorite – or favorite new - M&M's products you'll need to stock up on when you can visit in person.
 
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Image courtesy http://www.mars.com



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Yes, You Can Cruise Again - This Summer! Here's How.

No sailing in American or Canadian waters yet? No problem! That’s what at least three cruise lines – so far - are saying.


Plus, some other lines confirming they’re able to start cruising despite restrictions.


Especially if you’re one of the millions of people in the US and Canada who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – or will be soon – you could be on the deck of a ship as early as June, enjoying the feel of sea breezes wafting over you. 


Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s cruise expert, explains.

Offshore Cruising


At least three cruise lines have given up waiting for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to overturn cruise bans in US and Canadian waters. Instead, they’ve announced plans for offshore cruising. 

And chances are, we’ll be seeing more.

Ships that once sailed from the States into the Caribbean now have new homeports in the islands.

They’ve come up with new itineraries eager cruise travellers will love, and health and safety measures that will make guests confident to cruise again. These cruise lines, or their sister cruise lines, have already been sailing successfully in other places around the world, and are putting those practices to good use for returning guests from North America.

Crystal Cruises

Beginning in July til at least October, the ultra-luxury Crystal Serenity will be homeporting in The Bahamas, just 50 miles off Florida. 

(Courtesy Crystal Cruises)

The Serenity will be cruising two series of 7-night cruises. One series sails round trip from Nassau, and the other, round trip from Bimini. They’re bubble cruises: all-Bahamian itineraries that keep returning cruisers close to home, and all within a single jurisdiction, without risk of border closures.

Pre-and post-cruise land/hotel stays are also available, and cruisers will also be able to enjoy the famous private island oasis The Beach Club at Bimini, as well as experience four other idyllic Bahamian islands, most of which have until now only been accessible to private yachts, like Harbour Island, ‘The Nantucket of the Caribbean’, Great Exuma, renowned for its swimming pigs, San Salvador Island, and Long Island.

Celebrity Cruises

The newly renovated Celebrity Millennium will homeport in the island of St. Maarten from the first week of June through at least August. 

(The Retreat on the Celebrity Millennium; Top Photo Courtesy Celebrity Cruises)

The Millennium will sail 2 series of 7-night cruises in ‘modern luxury.’ One itinerary features two other Dutch Caribbean islands: Aruba and Curacao, as well as Barbados. The other itinerary includes Tortola, St. Lucia and Barbados.

Celebrity will offer a range of curated tours at every port of call, and the cruise line is also offering small group or private tours for guests preferring to explore the destinations with only members of their family or travel bubble.

 

Royal Caribbean

Mega-cruise ship line Royal Caribbean is launching new homeports in the Caribbean for two of its ships this summer, both beginning their new itineraries in June, and sailing at least through August.

Adventure of the Seas will homeport in Nassau, The Bahamas, and Vision of the Seas will homeport in Bermuda. 
Both ships’ itineraries call at Royal’s acclaimed private island Perfect Day at CocoCay, with 13 waterslides including the tallest on the continent, a tethered balloon ride, floating cabanas, beaches, and the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean.

(Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay)
 
Guests on Adventure of the Seas will have two, back-to-back days at CocoCay, as well as quality time exploring Grand Bahama Island, The Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico.
 
Vision of the Seas guests spend a full day at CocoCay, and an overnight amongst the pink sands and colourful homes of homeport Bermuda.
 

But It’s Not All Offshore North America


Royal Caribbean has also just announced its first Mediterranean series of summer sailings open to vaccinated guests from all countries. Beginning in July and running through at least October, Jewel of the Seas will homeport in Cyprus for the first time, and sail 7-night cruises along the captivating coastlines of Cyprus and Greece, calling at culture-rich cities and idyllic islands, including Limassol, Athens, Greece and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini.

And Celebrity will also sail in the Mediterranean this summer, homeporting the brand-new Apex in Athens, Greece, sailing 7-night cruises beginning in June: one itinerary to Greek islands like Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes as well as Cyprus; and another to Greek islands as well as to the Israeli ports of Haifa and Jerusalem, Israel.

Some other cruise lines are also sailing in North America this summer, with ships small enough they’re exempt from restrictions imposed on larger ships, and can sail from their regular homeports in American or Canadian waters.

US river cruise lines American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company have begun their seasons of sailing in American waterways including itineraries along the Mississippi and Columbia rivers.

UnCruise Adventures focuses on American coastal waters, including Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, and 2021 is no exception, thanks to the intimate size of its ships.  

Lindblad, with roots in Sweden and a long-term partner with National Geographic expeditions, also expects to be sailing with its fleet of small ships in Alaska by June, as well as on itineraries in Galapagos and Iceland.

Canadian-based St. Lawrence Cruise Lines and Le Boat offer Canadian options in the Great Lakes region this year.

Expect to see more, all-new homeports and itineraries coming up this year, as more and more cruise lines continue to find alternative ways to restart cruising.


Your favorite, expert travel advisor can help you navigate all the exciting new choices, and keep you up to date on health and safety protocols and requirements.

 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
 
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4 Top Reasons to Make a Vacation Rental Your Next Holiday - Plus Booking Tips
Vacation rentals were the fastest growing type of holiday accommodation even before the pandemic. With types of rental homes ranging from urban apartments to beach villas, farmhouses to ski chalets or even castles, the trend towards non-hotel stays is likely to keep growing as travel picks up again. 
 
Here are the top reasons why you might be thinking about a vacation rental soon.
 
And we share a couple of tips to help you get the best rental experience in a travel space with increasing choices of listed properties and a newly-professional approach to villa rentals. 
 

Privacy and Space… All Together

 
It used to be romance was the big motivation for privacy, but in today’s world, being secluded has health benefits, too. Physical distancing is a new priority we are looking for in our lives – and it counts doubly when we are in an all-new environment. 
 
Post-pandemic, ‘new normal’ lifestyle aligns with private accommodation’s main features of privacy, and a full house for you and the members of your travel ‘bubble’, a new twist on multi-generational travel.
Add on professional standards of cleaning and care, and it’s the perfect post-pandemic stay.
 

Comforts of Home

 
All that, and hospitality, too. One of many people’s reasons to book a private accommodation is to feel at home – even when you’re away.
 
For families, that could mean the convenience of on-site laundry. Active travelers might look for bicycles or other outdoors or fitness equipment. A hot tub or pool you don’t have to share. Even a barbecue for laid-back meals together.
 

Catering to Everyone’s Tastes and Schedules

 
Are you traveling with people with food sensitivities, allergies, or just plain picky eaters? Someone who MUST eat breakfast as soon as they get up… but others who don’t touch food til nearly noon? Just not ‘up to going out after a day of sightseeing or at the beach?
 
Restaurant dining every day can become really stressful, really fast.
 
Having a kitchen at hand during your holiday can ease a lot of food stress, allowing people to make most of their meals at their own convenience, with ingredients they know and can verify… it can even save you money to eat mostly things you prepare yourself, while splurging on a few meals ‘out’ that you are really looking forward to.
 
Plus, you’ll be able to take advantage of the incredible, local product ‘finds’ you’ll discover at the local markets.


Living Like a Local

 

It seems the more famous the city, the more removed the ‘attractions’ are from the ‘real people’ who live in the destination, whose lifestyle is what’s drawing you to the area.
 
In a private vacation rental, you’re an honorary resident, living temporarily in a residential area, not usually a commercial one.
 
That means you’ll be closer to and immersed in the ‘authentic’ shops, markets, restaurants and hang-outs where real locals live their lives.

2 Tips for Booking a Private Vacation Rental:

 
1. Make sure you're staying at professionally managed properties; your vacation is not the time to be dealing with an amateur renter or uncertain standards of health and cleanliness.
 
2. Work with your travel advisor. You may not know, but just like your travel advisor can help connect you to the perfect match of other types of vacations, they can also help you find the perfect vacation rental, perfect space for your needs, desired destination, amenities and budget.
 
Many travel agencies now offer vetted, quality vacation rentals like they do other types of travel – and you’ll know you’re getting the advice, legwork, and ongoing support of a qualified travel professional, allowing you to focus on enjoying your holiday.
 
In other words, the best part of any vacation.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host of BestTrip TV
 

Photos courtesy HVN

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Drink a Cocktail Made by the World’s 1st Human-like Robot Bartender at Sea
He mixes drinks, but doesn’t stop there. ‘Rob’ the robot bartender also speaks 8 languages, tells jokes and even dances too!
 
When we can cruise again, you won’t want to miss the world’s first humanoid – and interactive – shipboard robot bartender, who will make you the perfect cocktail to toast your return to cruising and travel.
 
When MSC Cruises launches its newest flagship this spring, it will have at least one exclusive feature.
 
The futuristic MSC Starship Club lets cruise guests feel like they’ve walked into a sci-fi movie as the sidle up to a bar that would look right at home in a space ship.  MSC tells us the Starship Club was half a decade in the making, the result of experts in robotics and automation, digital media, interior design and of course, mixology and entertainment.

 
After placing your order in one of the bar’s ‘vertical digital cockpits’, you can watch as Rob shakes up your order from a menu of 16 signature ‘cosmic cocktails’ – alcoholic and kid-friendly – or a beverage of your own creation using dozens of ingredients including spirits, juices and syrups, mixes and garnishes.
 
Meanwhile, an LED ticker tape strip above the robotic island tracks the status of your drink. And the 3D holograms and immersive digital art wall add to the atmosphere.   
 
Just like any good bartender, Rob’s got a ‘schtick’, chatting to guests, sharing jokes and responding to guests with human-like facial expressions and hand gestures – even dance moves.
 
When Rob is not preparing cocktails, he’s working the room. His AI programming gives him the ability to recognize guests passing by, greet and striking up a conversation with them.

 
The MSC Starship Lounge is just one of the 21 indoor and outdoor bars on board the 6300-guest Virtuosa, along with 11 dining options including a new concept for MSC: Indochine, with fusion Vietnamese/French cuisine.
 
Virtuosa and her sister ship Grandiosa are the two largest ships in 18-strong MSC Cruises' fleet. So there’s plenty of room for five spacious pools and one of the biggest and most elaborate waterparks at sea.
 
The Virtuosa will also be home to the longest LED dome at sea over top of the Galleria Virtuosa of a dozen boutiques and places to gather, lounge, sip and enjoy live entertainment.

And for those who like a quieter, more intimate cruise experience, the MSC Yacht Club is a luxury ‘ship within a ship’ with 24-hour butler service, private access to suites, dedicated restaurant, lounges, pool, whirlpools and spa space.
 
The ship will also be highly equipped with cutting-edge technologies and environmentally conscious capabilities.
 
After completing short cruises in the Mediterranean, Virtuosa will be deployed to Northern Europe in summer 2021 with a range of itineraries to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic capital cities.
 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
Images: MSC






Celebrate 50 Years of Disney Magic
They’re calling it ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration’ and it's a new entry on the travel bucket list of Disney lovers around the world. 
 
On October 1st, 1971, after years of imagining and building, Walt Disney World Resort opened in Florida, taking the magic of the Disney universe and beloved characters from the silver screen to real life. 
 
Half a century later, some would say Disney World is even better than real life. With millions of visitors every year, the ground-breaking theme park, against which all other theme parks would be measured, has created family memories and adventures of millions of lifetimes.
 
To celebrate, Disney has planned ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration’ lasting a full year and a half beginning October 1st this year, and going all the way through 2022 and beyond. The 18-month gala features new experiences at the resort’s four theme parks and even beyond, where shimmering ‘EARidescent’ moments and décor will ‘magically’ appear.

Time to dust off your mouse ears and get ready to party.
 

Beacons of Magic at All Four Walt Disney World Theme Parks

 
All your favorite icons at each Walt Disney World theme park will transform into magnificent Beacons of Magic at night, coming to life with their own EARidescent glow.

·      Cinderella Castle will illuminate Magic Kingdom with a dazzling radiance that sparkles with pixie dust.
·      At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, a warm light will emanate from the Tree of Life as magical fireflies gather to usher in the magic of nature.
·      The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be awash in a brilliance evoking the golden age of imagination and adventure.
·      And at EPCOT, new lights will shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, connecting to one another in a symbol of optimism resembling stars in a nighttime sky. The instantly-recognizable structure’s permanent new lighting will continue beyond “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” as a defining feature of the park.

 

Mickey and Minnie Dress Up


Your favorite characters dress for the occasion, too. As hosts of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse don sparkling new duds featuring – you guessed it - EARidescent fabric, really upping the ante on everyday glitter costumes!
 
Walt Disney World cast members join Mickey and Minnie, to welcome guests during this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary celebration of the place know fondly by so many as The Most Magical Place on Earth.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images: Disney




Christmas in July On A Holiday Do-Over River Cruise
If this year’s altered holiday celebrations left you wistful and nostalgic for full-bore Christmas festivities, there’s a river cruise that gives you a chance for a re-do.

Christmas in July on the Danube comes without snow – but it does come with plenty of seasonal cheer on Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresea.

 
On two sailings in July, the Maria Theresea will have her halls decked out in full holiday splendor as she sails between Passau, Germany and Budapest, Hungary, calling in popular Christmas destinations like Vienna, Linz, and Bratislava. 
 
You’ll even have the opportunity for an excursion to magical Salzburg, the location of the iconic holiday movie The Sound of Music.
 
In addition to elegant festive trimmings, Uniworld has planned a program of events to re-live the holidays. 

 
The region’s famous Christmas markets will be re-created on board for you to stock up on the souvenirs and holiday treats. Guests can also experience Christmas cheer during gingerbread house decorating and ornament making workshops. Uniworld says holiday movies will be playing on the in-room entertainment systems, and Santa himself will make a summer trip from the North Pole to the Maria Theresea for photos that may be the best holiday card ever. And who wouldn’t get into the Christmas ‘spirit’ during a holiday cocktail class? 
 
The ship’s chefs will be crafting menus of holiday cuisine, and you’ll be toasting your brilliance at your seasonal do-over with summer versions of winter favorites, like frozen hot chocolate and chilled egg nog.
 
You’ll feel transported not just to some of the favorite ports of call on a Danube river cruise, but also back to the holidays. 
 
It’s an inspired way for families to re-live the best of the holidays in Europe, together aboard one of the most beloved river cruise ships on the Danube.

 
Uniworld’s Christmas in July sailings coincide with school holidays and also feature the cruise line’s Generations Program, with savings and exclusive activities for kids as well as dedicated Family Hosts. We assume the Family Hosts will have plenty of fun things for the kids to do so the grownups can linger during festive cocktail making classes, just for starters!
 
Family singletons may also be able to take advantage of Uniworld zero supplement offers so they can join the whole family for this European river cruise do-over of the holidays, too.
 

 

#ChristmasInJuly

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images courtesy Uniworld.


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One’s in Austria, and the other in America. But they are bound together in the pop culture celebrations of the season.
Have you figured it out yet? The hint is in film and music.
 
Both Salzburg and Stowe are destinations tied to the Trapp Family legend. You likely know it as: The Sound of Music, a movie that’s become essential holiday family viewing – and singing - for every generation since the early 60’s.

The film is the – very fictionalized – story of Maria von Trapp, who, while deciding whether to become a nun, became governess to the unruly children of Austrian nobleman and naval officer Captain von Trapp. As Nazi Germany threatens expansion into Austria and demands the services of the unwilling Captain von Trapp, Maria bonds with the children, teaches them to sing, and falls in love with their father.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: CNNTRAVEL'S INTERVIEW WITH THE CURRENT GENERATION OF THE TRAPP FAMILY

Dirndls and warm welcomes in Salzburg today
© Austrian National Tourist Office / SalzburgerLand Tourismus / Andreas Hechenberger

A Story Beginning in Salzburg…


Against the backdrop of the Alps, the cobblestoned, historic city of Salzburg, home to the birthplace of Mozart and a famous music festival, and the family’s stately home in the countryside, the Trapp family sings their way to family harmony, wedded bliss between the Captain and Maria, and ultimately, a dramatic escape from the Nazis.

The movie, and its music by legendary duo Rodgers and Hammerstein, swept the Oscars won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and cemented the image in 20th century popular culture of Julie Andrews singing the title song while frolicking in the Alpine meadows with the children. You can probably sing along to any of the movie’s songs that have become standards in addition to the title song. Admit it: right now, you’re humming the tune of Edelweiss, Do-Re-Mi, or My Favorite Things.

…and Continuing in Stowe


In real life, the Trapp family’s departure from Salzburg was not so dramatic – or hand-in-hand, singing while hiking over the mountains. It made for a great movie ending, but in fact, ‘over the mountains’ from Austria was Germany! So the family headed by train to Italy, and ultimately, the States.

The singing part was true, though. In the early 40’s, the Trapp Family Singers toured the US performing. Ultimately, the family settled in Stowe, Vermont, “on an enchanted farm with sweeping mountain vistas reminiscent of their beloved Austria.”

Soon, the family was welcoming guests at a 27-room family home/ lodge, which has evolved into today’s Alpine-inspired Trapp Family Lodge. 

Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, courtesy Vermont Tourism


While the town of Stowe has only a few thousand citizens, it’s a destination powerhouse, known as the ‘Ski Capital of the East’ due to the 117-ski run Stowe Mountain Resort, and there’s even the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum nearby.

Situated on 2500 acres of mostly wooded, hilly Vermont that changes with the seasons between Winter wonderland, verdant springs and summers, and stunning New England fall colors, the Trapp Family Lodge offers country resort living along with cross-country skiing and mountain biking trails, as well as the best of rural Vermont with wagon and sleigh rides, a working farm that also produces the state’s famous maple syrup as well as its in-house, German and Austrian-style beers.

A beer hall, servers in dirndls, an ongoing commitment to live music, and tours by current family members and memorabilia help to keep the Trapp Family Singers’ story – and connection to the family’s origins in Salzburg – alive.

But Why Christmas?


At no point in the film is Christmas mentioned or represented. The scenes all take place in the summer, on green meadows or on sunny streets of Salzburg and gardens of the family villa. But to this day, The Sound of Music is tied to the holidays.

Soon after its release, TV broadcasters capitalized on families together indoors in the holidays by airing beloved, family-themed films, and the award-winning, sing-along The Sound of Music became a feature of the holiday season.

The movie even got a resounding endorsement of a new generation in 2013 when it was rebooted as a live, holiday TV musical starring Carrie Underwood.

And the wish-list song “My Favorite Things” early on became a Christmas standard you’ll hear repeatedly on Christmas music stations. 

It regularly also gets repurposed and re-worded in other productions and even commercials. Again this year, you’ll find millennial Anna Kendrick singing about her favorite things for a Frito Lay commercial.

Proving that not only is The Sound of Music timely for the holidays… it also seems to retain perennial appeal.

And that planning a trip to either Salzburg, Austria… or Stowe, Vermont, is the perfect pilgrimage for lovers of any age or generation of The Sound of Music.


#SingNowTravelSoon




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2 Travel-Inspired Beverages to get you in the Holiday Spirit
You may not be celebrating the holidays as usual this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create some new holiday entertaining traditions.

While we wait to travel and celebrate again, here are two recipes for ‘spirited’ holiday drinks from favorite destinations to warm your heart and remind you of better times ahead.

Perfect for a virtual holiday cocktail party, long winter evenings binge-watching holiday movies, or trimming your tree, these recipes can be made for one or more to share.
 

Gluhwein

Warm wine makes winter better. All the iconic Christmas tastes, sights and sounds of Germany’s Christmas markets, from the fir trees and handmade toys, fires roasted nuts and sausages, are enhanced by its warm and aromatic signature drink. Warm, often spiced, wine, can be found throughout Europe, like mulled wine in England, or vin chaud in France.

Gluhwein is Germany’s version. While the combination of citrus, fruit juices, spices – and even color of wine! – varies, one thing stays the same. Gluhwein translates roughly to ‘glowing wine’, referring to the red hot irons from the fires that were originally stuck into the wine to heat it up. That should give you a sense of the long history of Gluhwein. There’s a gold-plated Gluhwein tankard dating from the early 1400’s that’s attributed to the German aristocrat who was the first grower of Riesling grapes.

Cologne Christmas Market, Germany © GNTB/Wojciech Grabowski

Although most gluhweins you’ll see at Christmas markets in Germany involve red wine, this recipe, from AmaWaterways, uses regional white wines you’ll get to try on one of the river cruise line’s Danube or Rhine cruises during the summer or during a magical Christmas market cruise.

Ingredients
  • 3 cups of white wine (Silvaner or Müller-Thurgau)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup Franconian plum brandy (optional but recommended, as a little of the alcohol cooks out of the wine)
  • 4 slices of orange
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 allspice seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 pinch of aniseed
  • 1 tsp. honey (if you prefer it sweeter, add a bit more)
  • Extra slices of fruit for garnish, if desired
Preparation
  1. In a medium-sized stock pot with a tight-fitting lid, combine all of the ingredients, except for the honey. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer, keeping the lid on, for 10 minutes. Be careful not to let it come to a boil again; if it boils too long all of the alcohol will be cooked out.
  3. After 10 minutes, immediately remove from the heat. Strain the mixture with a fine mesh sieve; discard the aromatics. Return the mixture to the pot and taste-test. Stir in honey, tasting as you go until you reach your desired sweetness.
  4. Ladle into desired serving glasses. Garnish with sliced fruit, cinnamon sticks, cloves, or star anise pods, if desired. Serve immediately.
 
Pair your Gluhwein with authentic German standards like hot sausages and pretzels, or seasonal festive sweets like stollen, fruit bread; gingerbread or lebkuchen; and glorious marzipan. 
 

Rompope

The clue to this festive Costa Rican drink is also in its name. But it’s not like a rum punch found in the Caribbean. Rompope is Costa Rica’s answer to British egg nog or Dutch advocaat, composed of egg yolk, milk, sugar, cinammon and rum. Unlike egg nog, it’s cooked like a hot, boozy custard. Variations made with coconut milk, coffee, almonds or other nuts are popular in other parts of Latin America.

Rompope’s roots are believed to be Spanish colonial, with stories told of Spanish nuns making the New World’s first batches. Today, families often make two bottles ahead of celebrations, a grown-up version with the rum, and a non-alcoholic version for the younger members of the family. The kids’ version is also used for making cookies, cakes, ice cream and jellies. And the adult rompope can be strong; the rum is added at the end so the alcohol doesn’t cook off.

Courtesy Visit Costa Rica

It’s the sweet and strong traditional beverage of Christmas gatherings. And Visit Costa Rica has sent this rompope recipe for us to share in its celebration of the joys of the season.

Ingredients (4 servings)
•           4 cups milk
•           1 cups sugar
•           2 cinnamon sticks
•           6 egg yolks
•           1 Tbsp. cornstarch
•           Rum to taste
•           Nutmeg to taste

Preparation
Place 3 cups of milk, the sugar and cinnamon in a pot. Heat. Apart, dissolve the cornstarch and the egg yolks in the rest of the milk and add to the pot. Cook over low heat for several minutes. Cool and add rum to taste. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon before serving.
 

#HolidayCheers


#SipNowTravelSoon


Top Image: Nuremberg Christmas Market; copyright German National Tourism Board/ Jens Wegener
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A New 'Species' of Extreme Thrill Ride: the 'VelociCoaster' Takes 'Flight' in Orlando
Florida’s fastest and tallest coaster – along with a pack of fierce Velociraptors – will be unleashed at Universal Orlando Resort in 2021.

If you – or the kids in your life – have seen all the movies and fantasize about visiting Jurassic Park and its fierce dinosaurs, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster will bring the movies to life in a coaster ride that will take your breath away.

It’s a new ‘species’ of roller coaster, with a series of intense maneuvers that will send you and your family catapulting up to 70 mph and more than 150 feet in the air with the swiftest of prehistoric predators.
 
The Jurassic World VelociCoaster is the world’s first roller coaster based on the blockbuster dino movie series. It features its own original story that spins off from the creatures, thrills and environments on the big screen. You’ll join the original cast – Chris Pratt as Owen Grady, Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing and BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu – as you embark on a high-speed chase and feel the rush of the hunt while racing alongside a darting pack of Velociraptors.

Opening at Orlando’s Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster soars to new heights in extreme roller coaster design.
 
Coasting over more than 4,700 feet of track and reaching heights of up to 155 feet, the coaster’s one-of-a-kind maneuvers will have you twisting and soaring above land, barrel rolling just inches above water, speeding through near-misses and launches in the paddock, and more first-ever maneuvers. All within a Jurassic World environment. You’ll:

  • Accelerate through two pulse-pounding launches, the fastest reaching 70 mph in 2.4 seconds
  • Take a 360-degree barrel roll right above the Islands of Adventure lagoon
  • Experience a zero-gravity inverted stall that will send you upside down across 100 feet of track in a jaw-dropping, first-of-its-kind maneuver
  • Go airborne during the towering “Top Hat,” which propels riders 155 feet in the air and then immediately plummets into an 80 degree drop – it’s the steepest Universal drop to date
  • Brace for a total of 12 heart-pounding seconds of airtime – with the thrilling sensation of weightlessness lifted from your seat – throughout the adventure.
 

This edge-of-your-seat, dino-engineering marvel is the latest addition to Jurassic Park at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Only in this immersive land can the Jurassic fans in your life come face-to-face with life-size dinosaurs in incredible theme park experiences, including Jurassic Park River Adventure, where a leisure raft ride turns into a daring eight-story plunge to escape a ferocious T. Rex; and Raptor Encounter, where you can get up-close to Velociraptor Blue and the newest additions to the paddock – baby raptors – while learning more about the clever carnivores.

If immersion into the world of this epic film franchise – or an extreme roller coaster experience – fits your family’s vacation dreams, Jurassic Park at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure should jump to the top of your travel list.
Other members of the family will find their own thrills in one of the other two theme parks in the trio of Universal Orlando destinations. Universal Studios Florida is home to the technologically-advanced stunt show, The Bourne Stuntacular; and Universal’s Volcano Bay is a tropical oasis that features an actual beach right in the middle of Orlando. 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Universal Orlando

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