BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

What's a Travel Bubble? Plus 3 Tips For Making the Most of Yours
You might see this view sooner than you think.
The world of travel has begun to re-open. But it’s not like the tap has suddenly been turned full blast. More like a trickle. And there’s a clear pattern that’s going to shape your travel opportunities for at least the rest of this year, and possibly into 2021.

Bubble Travel

Human interaction has gone from shelter-in-place, work-from-home and no contact with anyone outside your household, to health authorities laying out phases for a return to normal. Phase 1 involves ‘bubbles’. Each household selects a small group of friends or family who are taking the same level of precautions as you, you trust to stay the course, and not mix with others who might not be on the same page. And you are ‘exclusive’ with just that small ‘bubble’.
Just like bubbles for individuals, travel is re-opening in regional and international ‘bubbles.’
Here’s an example: Right now, Canadians have been asked to stay in their own province. As a first step towards re-opening travel to all Canadians, the 4 neighboring maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have agreed to launch a travel bubble, with residents permitted to travel just within those four provinces.

(Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland)

New Travel Opportunities

Some people are describing bubble travel as restrictive.
It’s true that many international and regional borders remain officially closed. European countries, for example, have decided their ‘bubble’ includes residents of other European countries only – not even Great Britain, let alone the US or Canada – yet. 
Some borders are, if not officially, then effectively closed. Australian airline Quantas has announced it’s operating flights only within Australia or to next door New Zealand until 2021.
But I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, and I see travel bubbles as an opportunity to actually get travel started again and even create new travel experiences. Some travel companies are viewing it that way, too:

Bubble Cruising

  • Expedition cruise line Hurtigruten, a Norwegian company, become in June the first ocean cruise line to re-start cruising – BUT only in its own country, with coastal and fjord cruises only for guests from Norway and Denmark.
  • French-flagged luxury line Ponant is doing the same thing: with all its ships back in France, it's launching new itineraries just along the coasts and waterways of France beginning in July, and German river cruise line A-rosa has also re-launched select European river cruises for its bubble guests.
  • Luckily for Americans, the US has its own flagged ships able to offer ‘bubble’ cruises, too. 
Not the big ships. Most of the big cruise lines sail ships flagged from other nations, not the US, so they can’t offer exclusively American itineraries. Only US-flagged ships are permitted to sail exclusively American itineraries. Furthermore, the CDC has issued a no-sail order for all US ports that applies to ships with more than 250 on board, an order that expires in July, but might be renewed. 
But that still leaves smaller, US-flagged ships able to sail American, 'bubble' itineraries. For these cruise lines, that's what they specialize in:
  • UnCruise Adventures is one of the very few cruise lines currently able to sail in Alaska (with Canadian ports closed for the season and the US/Canada border still closed). UnCruise is picking up its Alaska season beginning August 1st.
  • American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company, which operate US river cruises, both plan a return to cruising this summer.
  • In one remarkable example of lateral thinking and creating new opportunities, American Queen Steamboat Company and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (which operates European and exotic river cruises) have established a reciprocal alliance. AQSC offers special pricing to Uniworld guests unable to take their planned Uniworld cruise this year so they can sail in their American ‘bubble’. And Uniworld will reciprocate with a special offer for AQSC guests to cruise on their European, and exotic itineraries later. 

(Alaska, courtesy Abercrombie & Kent)

Bubble Land Touring

Land tour companies in particular have pivoted, expanding their North American itineraries to accommodate bubble travel with unprecedented speed and agility.
  • Abercrombie & Kent has launched new American itineraries, plus an innovative private driving tour series that speaks directly to the concerns of travel in the time of COVID. The company’s ‘Great American Road Trips’ series includes a private car, with a driver/ guide, customized start and end points depending on your location, local guides providing behind the scenes access and hands-on activities, and pre-selected hotels that meet the company’s high standards.
  • Last week, we learned about Globus and sister, budget tour company Cosmos’ new ‘Undiscovered North America’ tours that follow the ‘Undiscovered’ format of their European tours of the same name: focusing on ‘less-traveled highways, legendary lanes and scenic country roads to the special places and parks other tour companies don’t visit. These itineraries help travelers discover the world’s tucked-away towns, lesser-known nooks and secluded seafronts for an unforgettable – and unique – vacation close to home.’
  • And just this week, Trafalgar Tours have announced a brand new ‘Near Not Far Limited Series’ of tours ‘hand crafted by Canadians for Canadians, to further your appreciation for your own backyard, connect you to locals you wouldn’t typically meet, and support local communities by doing something that you love – traveling,’ with similar new series in other countries where it operates.

Tips for Bubble Travel

What does all this mean for your holiday plans in the immediate and mid-term future? Primarily, bubble travel offers you safe and inspiring ways to travel sooner than you thought might be possible.
Here's how you can take advantage of your own travel bubble:
Switch reservations
Talk with your travel advisor about the possibility of changing an existing travel booking outside your travel bubble to one inside, while sticking with the same travel provider. 
If you have a favorite escorted tour company, you may be able to switch your Europe reservation, for example, for a tour within your bubble area. Then you can book Europe again later when it's possible.
Explore options for your favorite travel style within your travel bubble area
With so many travel companies performing incredible feats to pivot and offer new travel options closer to home, your travel advisor may find never-before-offered, exciting new tours and cruises for you.
Along with some great offers and savings to make travel close to home even more worthwhile.
Expand your horizons
Or you could switch it up and try a new style of travel. Are you a devoted cruise lover? Maybe this is the year you re-discover the joys of heady mountain air and scenery. 
Do you look forward every summer to an extended family reunion with dozens of relatives all descending on a beach resort or cruise? Maybe this is the year you take just your family bubble on an intimate journey to discover history or natural wonders within your travel bubble area.
 
Bubble travel is not just an important next step towards returning to normal in a post-COVID world. 

It opens the doors to discover whole new ways to see, taste, learn about and experience the Nature, culture, history, and flavors in our own backyard - even before the kids go back to school this fall.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
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#LookUpTogether During Dark Sky Week and at the World’s Largest Dark Sky Preserve’s Festival in the Rockies

The COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone at home, resulting in an unexpected and heartening clearing of skies and revival of Mother Nature in surprising places. But one thing that continues to disappear from the world… is darkness.

Light pollution doesn’t just prevent you from seeing the constellations in the middle of the city. Light spilling far into the countryside interferes with nocturnal creatures’ ability to thrive, as well as the essential rhythms of nature. Many species, including the human species, need periods without light, and we hear about shift workers and peoples in the far north whose health and sleep are impacted by interruptions of natural cycles of darkness and light.
The loss of darkness by human expansion around the world is so profound, that, just as people have established reserves for wildlife and irreplaceable wilderness, spaces on earth with an unimpeded view of the stars above are being preserved, too.
The International Dark Sky Association in Arizona works to protect the night, and its International Dark Sky Places conservation program recognizes and promotes excellent stewardship of the night sky.
Over 130 Dark Sky Places around the world have been designated to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

International Dark Sky Week

International Dark Sky Week is a worldwide annual event hosted by the International Dark-Sky Association to celebrate the night and bring attention to the problems caused by light pollution. International Dark Sky Week is held during the week of April’s new Moon, when the sky is darkest and the stars most visible. 2020’s celebrations run from April 19th through the 26th, which appropriately coincides with Earth Day on April 22.
So if you and your family have ever wondered how to find a constellation in the night sky… Or how cultures around the world, and across time, saw their place in the stars... Or what critters are exploring the night while you sleep… You’ll find presentations daily during International Dark Sky Week on the organization’s.

Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival 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 by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 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.
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.
ASK YOUR TRAVEL ADVISOR ABOUT THE BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE JASPER’S DARK SKIES.
(Jasper National Park/ Jasper Tourism)

Jasper’s Wild Beauty and Darks Skies by Train on the Rocky Mountaineer

A Rocky Mountaineer rail journey has been called one of the ‘World’s Greatest Trips’. The incredibly scenic train, with its glass-domed, panoramic cars, gets rave reviews about the magic and wonder of a train trip through the majestic Canadian Rockies.
The Rocky Mountaineer is a presenter of Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and a visit to Jasper any time of the season, with a visit to its Dark Sky Preserve and Planetarium is a magical highlight of a rail journey through the Rockies.
Three Rocky Mountaineer journeys take you to Jasper National Park and its Dark Sky Preserve, including
  • Rainforest to Gold Rush Explorer
  • Canadian Rockies Circle
  • Journey through the Clouds Explorer

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Canadian Rockies Adventure by Globus

The highlight of this 9-day Canadian Rockies escorted tour is the natural wonder of the western skies.
From the forested seaside city of Vancouver, guests travel through mountain passes to the historic mining, rail and cattle town of Kamloops. 
The tour continues to Jasper and its Dark Sky Preserve for a special community Moon Viewing, complete with telescopes.
There’s time to explore Jasper National Park or the Jasper Wildlife Museum, then attend the Jasper Planetarium & Telescope Experience. Guests learn about this spectacular Dark Sky Preserve in a dome theater experience, complete with the most powerful telescope in the Rocky Mountains and venture outside to look for the Northern Lights. The tour includes a day at Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and a fascinating and inspiring Keynote Presentation by guest speakers steeped in astronomic lore.
After Jasper, the tour travels to Lake Louise for an overnight stay at the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise where guests enjoy crisp mountain air, a gondola ride up the mountain and the amenities of this world-renowned lakeside resort as well as Banff National Park in this remarkable Rocky Mountain setting.

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Top 3 Images by Royce Bair, courtesy International Dark Sky Association
Top: Milky Way over the abandoned Lincoln Highway in Nevada 
Middle: North Star and Big Dipper over Grosvenor Arch, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah
Bottom: Milky Way star canopy over a silhouette of the ‘Wall Street’ canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
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.
It’s been going on for 400 years. Every year ending in 0: 1990, 2000, 2010… and this German cultural tradition was supposed to happen again in 2020. read more
And Now For Some Good News In Travel We hope you are well and keeping yourself, your family and your community safe by staying at home. Now, more than ever, we all really need some good news. read more
Everyone experiences travel differently, and this may be most true of historic sites. Standing on the spot where history was made is a profound experience that transcends any amount of studying, reading, watching documentaries or films. When you are actually there, the sights, sounds, perspective and your historic imagination all combine for a more meaningful understanding of moments that changed our world.

The Juno Beach Centre provides visitors today with the opportunity to visualize first-hand the WW2 DDay Landings in June, 1944, from a Canadian point of view. No matter what you thought you knew or understood coming to the Juno Beach Centre, its interactive displays, stories, interpretive tours of the restored bunkers and beaches themselves speak to each visitor differently.

It's a pilgrimage all Canadians should undertake.

BestTrip asked staff and visitors which aspect of visiting the Juno Beach Centre impacts them the most. You'll have your own favorite experience after you visit Juno Beach, too.

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Veterans, their families, anyone interested in history, or the sacrifices of ordinary young men on an extraordinary moment for the world, all Canadians as well as citizens of all the nations who fought or were affected by these momentous times... all should make a pilgrimage to the Juno Beach Centre and the other DDay sites along the Normandy coast.
Many things have changed since that fateful day. Here's what you can expect on a visit to the Juno Beach Centre today.

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Buenos Aires ranks high on travel bucket lists: an exciting, European-influenced city in a remote country, renowned for a passionate history and punching above its weight in contributions to global culture.

Argentina has given the world the breathtaking music and dance of tango, the legendary Eva Peron (immortalized in the timeless musical Evita!), some of the New World's best wines from its vineyards, finest beef from its ranches, not to mention its famed polo players, soccer stars, and rabid soccer fans.

With a European familiarity, but its own uniquely Argentine and Latin sensibility, Buenos Aires is a world capital where you want to make sure you don't miss a beat. So my colleagues and I decided to try Monograms.

It's a hybrid way to travel that cherry picks the best parts of doing it on your own, and combines them with the benefits of groups. Monograms promised all the pleasures of Buenos Aires, with someone else doing the hard work – and a Local Host to provide tips and insights and recommendations. Sounds like the dream way to travel, doesn't it?

Here are 6 Reasons to Take a Monograms Tour of Buenos Aires:

The Local Host

The Local Host is the hero of any Monograms story. Our guide Analia is a local who loves her city and is passionate about sharing it with guests. Even when she wasn't with us, she was available by phone. It's like visiting a friend in another city: they take you to and from the airport, help you with logistics, provide you with essential insider tips like the coolest restaurants and local tipping practices, take you to some places and recommend other places for you to explore on your own in your free time.


The Airport:

Independent travelers are used to that moment in Arrivals. You're tired after that long flight, you haul your bags off the belt, go through Immigration… then you're in Arrivals and you have to rally again to figure out the lay of the land as you longingly file past the signs being held up to greet other new arrivals that promise a warm welcome and assistance.

That VIP treatment is yours on a Monograms tour. Our guide Analia was waiting for us, her Monograms sign a welcome beacon in a busy airport. It's not like a large group tour either. No waiting for 30 other people to join us; our group of 3 was whisked off to a waiting mini van.

Luggage and Tipping:

Lugging luggage is the least fun part of any trip. Our bags were taken from us, loaded into the van, and at our hotel, unloaded, and handed to bellmen to take care of from there. A seamless hand-off with no fuss for us. We breezed into our hotel, all without lifting a finger. Or opening a wallet and fumbling with local currency. Tipping had already been taken care of.

Hotel:

Monograms tours include hotels, but you still get to customize your Buenos Aires experience. You can choose among different hotels at different price points and different neighborhoods to suit your own budget and interests in the city. Breakfast is included, so you can start your day off right and without having to figure that out.

In Buenos Aires, the breakfast buffet was so much more than a generic, 'international' meal. It was hard to resist delicious local dulce de leche (how do you make fresh pastries even better? Adding the local caramel sauce) and some of Argentina's famous meat in the form of thinly sliced cold cuts and sausages.

Our guide Analia escorted us in; the hotel staff knew her, and while our bags were being taken from the van to the lobby to our rooms, she smoothly arranged a late check out for us to accommodate our travel schedule. Our hotel was in a busy neighborhood, steps from local shops and cafes and on our first evening, we found the best restaurant around the corner, full of locals and only local dishes and wines – fantastic!

The Private Tour

What a wonderful way to get the lay of the land. And a private tour of the city with your guide is part of every Monograms tour.

Essential Buenos Aires includes the world's widest avenue (which Analia explained to us as we drove in from the airport), the famously and fabulously European architecture, the colorful and eccentric La Boca neighborhood, and even the cemetery in the Recoleta neighborhood, where Eva Peron's final resting place still draws fans and floral tributes. When we were chatting with Analia and she learned of my foodie side, she offered to change the private tour to include the wonderful local market. Although there are 'must see's' in every new city, we were so thrilled our Local Host and the tour was responsive and customizable to our own interests.

The Customization

Some of the customization, like changing up the private city tour to swing by the market, is spontaneous, but other ways to make the Monograms tour your own are baked in so you can put your own mark on your holiday.

Your choice of a selection of vetted hotels, your choice of additional, curated experiences that range from a hands-on culinary experience where you learn to make the famous beef empanadas, a tango show, or even exploring outside the city – a cruise on the Tigre river, or a visit to a real Argentine ranch where you can see 'gauchos' in action.

Plus, of course, plenty of non-programmed free time so we could do exactly what we wanted. I'd heard about the woman who makes the world's most famous tango shoes, so one free afternoon, we went on our own to the atelier of Comme il Faut for an extravaganza of extravagant, limited edition tango/party shoes. Wow!


Our Verdict:

Even in our short stay, we discovered the best of Buenos aires with Monograms. We loved having a 'back up team' even while we did our own thing, taking the inconveniences of travel off our hands, and providing us the that local contact during our tour and transfers in person, but available by phone throughout our stay who gave us that private, insiders' experience of the 'Paris of Latin America'.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV

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.

A night time market in the grounds of a castle. Fires and torches and twinkling lights, the smell of evergreen boughs, the best German Christmas culinary treats and artisans selling authentic German arts and crafts, Christmas decorations and cozy winter woolens.

Whether you're the person who always knows exactly how many days it is until Christmas, or the 'Bah, Humbug' type... Even a die-hard Scrooge gets into the spirit of Christmas at a traditional Christmas market in Germany. And Regensburg's Romantic Christmas market might be the most magical of them all.

You can explore a number of Germany's best Christmas markets on itineraries of seasonal river cruises as BestTrip.TV did.

Not to mention the delightful Christmas markets in other countries along the Danube like Austria, as well as France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

So it's not just river cruises; escorted tours also offer special Christmas market itineraries. You can get your fill and fill your bags with iconic local Christmas tastes and treats, as well as other local all-season gems. A child will never forget the handmade wooden toy you picked up in Germany. Or the signature Christmas chocolates from the Netherlands. Grown-up loved ones will cherish the hand-made 'santon' ceramic figurines of everyday life in traditional Provence that the French use in their nativity scenes. Or the ever-popular local wine from, well, anywhere in Europe.

We know families who have made a trip to a famous Christmas market a family gift. All members of a family, from grandparents, parents, single aunts and uncles and every kid ever! find joyful memories together at a European Christmas market.

We love the idea of celebrating the season with travel, and Regensburg's Romantic Christmas Market - or any European Christmas market visit will warm anyone's heart.

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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.