BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

 Whether you love Old Havana colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern tropical, Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort on a world's top beach... Puerto Rico's El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.


Following a post-hurricane, $65-million reno, this grande dame of Puerto Rico society and must-visit destination for visitors to Puerto Rico's capital is back - in spectacular style combining all three eras and captivating your travel imagination.
The El San Juan Hotel alone is worth the trip to this US island territory! 

It's ideal as a destination tropical resort for your whole vacation or destination wedding/ vow renewal / business event, or as an extension before or after your Caribbean cruise embarking or disembarking from Puerto Rico; the El San Juan Hotel is 5 minutes from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, 10 minutes from San Juan Cruise Port… and 15 minutes from historic Old San Juan, on 2 miles of Isla Verde Beach that's been voted the Best Urban Beach.

Start your Trip!


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Hawaii and Tahiti Added to Holland America Line's FOOD & WINE Shore Excursions
Now guests of the cruise line can choose from nearly 100 culinary-themed shore excursions that allow you to connect with destinations through their food culture while sailing on Holland America Line cruises. 

HAL's partnership with FOOD & WINE already includes exclusive tours in Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Canada & New England, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe. These shore excursions allow you to take hands-on cooking classes with top local restaurant chefs, culinary walking tours of a destination, taste authentic street food, explore local wine and culinary hideaways and insider access to hot spots.

New FOOD & WINE shore excursions are now available to HAL guests in four Hawaiian ports and Papeete, Tahiti that bring the new culinary excellence and vibrant flavors of the South Pacific to life.
 
Hawaii's melting pot of culinary traditions as well as uniquely local flavors are highlighted in 6 FOOD & WINE tours. Along the way, you'll also visit some of the most scenic sites of Honolulu, Kona, Kauai and Maui:

“Famous Oahu Sites and Bites”

Get a memorable taste of Hawaii’s buzzing food scene at one of star chef Ed Kenney’s hot local restaurants while also taking in Diamond Head, Waimanalo Beach and Pali Lookout in the rugged Ko’olau Mountains.
 

“Princeville, Hanalei & Kilauea Bakery Pizza”

Take in Opaekaa Falls, Hanalei Valley and Hanalei Beach before lunch at Kilauea Bakery & Pizza, a wonderful find on Kauai's north shore.

“A Taste of the Garden Island”

A second Kauai tour features delicacies from one-of-a-kind specialty stores, well-regarded local restaurants and under-the-radar food trucks that are practically unknown to tourists. You'll meet owners and chefs who proudly introduce their culinary creations.
 

“Scenic Maui and Hona Pizza”

You'll visit Lahaina's 'Valley of the Kings', as well as Maui Tropical Plantation, with 2,000 surreally lush acres of pineapples, sugarcane, plumeria, orchids and more Hawaiian flora. The culinary centerpiece is a stop at Honu Pizza, where the pies are topped with seafood and other local treats.
 

“Big Island History, Landscapes and Food”

This Kona tour features stops at The Painted Church and the Place of Refuge set on the lava fields of Kona’s coast, before a memorable stop at the Royal Kona Coffee Center where you can sample Hawaii's famous java straight from the source. The highlight is lunch at Feeding Leaf, a farm-to-table restaurant serving Japanese-Hawaiian cuisine.
 

“The Big Island: A Farm-to-Fork Experience”

On another Kona tour, visit two farms then enjoy lunch featuring fresh-grown ingredients. At 160-year-old Parker Ranch and family-owned farm, see where organic produce is grown for area restaurants. Then take part in a three-course lunch at Merriman’s Restaurant featuring local farm fresh ingredients.
Exotic Tahitian cuisine features a fusion of flavors on two FOOD & WINE tours in Papeete, Tahiti:

“Papeete Market and Master Chef Lunch at L’O à la Bouche”

Discover the flavors of French Polynesia during a market visit and walking tour with displays of colorful and aromatic pineapples, mangoes, bananas, papayas, guava, ginger, vanilla and coconuts. Then indulge in a gastronomic three-course gourmet lunch at L’O à la Bouche, one of Papeete’s top French restaurants featuring local Tahitian ingredients and flavors.

“The Le Lotus Overwater Dining”

This tour is an exclusive option for guests on Amsterdam’s Grand World Voyage and 51-Day Tales of the South Pacific cruise that circumnavigates the region in October 2019. In an evening to remember, guests experience the artful blending of French culinary techniques and fresh Tahitian flavors during a dining experience at Le Lotus, one of French Polynesia’s premier overwater restaurants (pictured, top).
 
If these FOOD & WINE tours sound tempting, there are even more culinary shore excursions on the way for guests on Holland America Line cruises in the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Alaska and additional European ports.

Start your Trip!


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3 New Cruise Line Private Islands
It used to be that private islands were the playgrounds of the ridiculously rich and fabulously famous. Then cruise lines got into the game. Now, cruise lines are competing with each other to build exclusive tropical enclaves in the Caribbean for their guests to experience not just a day on the beach, but create travel memories they can't get anywhere else.

Most of the actual private cruise line islands are small, uninhabited islands ('cays', pronounced 'keys') among the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas, like the very first cruise line private island in the Caribbean, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, Holland America's Half Moon Cay (WATCH VIDEO OF HALF MOON CAY HERE), and Disney's Castaway Cay.



Harvest Caye is a private island off coast of Belize. It's for guests of sister cruise lines Norwegian, Oceania and Regent.


But the term 'private islands' has also expanded to include private cruise line day resorts developed on larger, inhabited islands, like Labadee on Haiti for guests of Royal Caribbean, and Princess Cay on Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

And cruise lines continue to acquire real estate to up the ante on the ultimate resort experience for a day ashore on the beach.

Whether you've never stepped foot on a cruise line private island, or you've got a favorite you cruise to over and over again… check out these new private island destinations you can only reach by cruise ship.

They're all in the Bahamas, but designed by three very different cruise lines, and offer three very different private island experiences. Find your cruise line private island match!


 
The Cruise Line: Virgin Voyages
The Destination: The Beach Club at Bimini, the Bahamas
The Experience: High-Style Island Beach Club/ Music Festival on the Beach

As Sir Richard Branson launches his new, adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and its first flagship, the Scarlet Lady, he also launches a private island destination just for Virgin Voyages guests.


No, not HIS private island. But The Beach Club on the Bahamian island of Bimini takes its cues from Sir Richard's famously high-living, party-loving, music industry persona. Along with exquisite beach and turquoise water, The Beach Club provides an atmosphere like beach party destinations Ibiza and St. Tropez.


A detox/retox formula starts with beach yoga and meditation to the sounds of the sea earlier in the day, chilling in hammock groves and cabanas, snacking on complimentary, locally-sourced island cuisine and sipping cocktails from 6 bars, playing on the beach and taking part in watersports, leading up to in-demand DJ-led pool and flotilla parties in the evening, and finally winding down late at night with a beach bonfire and acoustic music before a very late night ship departure.

The Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
The Destination: Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, the Bahamas
The Experience: Soft Adventure Meets Nature on the Beach


Only 65 miles off Miami, MSC will also be able to offer late night departures from its new private island (pictured, top).

7 beaches, each with its own atmosphere and experiences, ranging from shallow paddling for small children to water sports. Dining includes food trucks that incorporate local flavors, and multiple bars including one inspired by Hemmingway's famous taste for rum cocktails overlooking the ocean. MSC's Aurea Spa treatments are available on shore at Ocean Cay. And shopping includes vendors of local arts and crafts as well as branded items.


In addition to the usual beach-side water sports, Ocean Cay offers eco-friendly soft adventure experiences like kayak tours and snorkel safaris highlighting the natural beauty of the island and its seas.

Ocean Cay is surrounded by dozens of square miles of protected seas, and that's the point. The development protects the local wildlife and ecosystem, and there are plans for a coral nursery to actively contribute to the region's environment.
 
The Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
The Destination: Cococay, the Bahamas
The Experience: 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay' / Over-the-top Theme Park on a Beach

Royal Caribbean ships are whirlwind experiences of ice skating rinks, climbing walls, theme park type rides, restaurants and shopping… more than you could hope to ever do in a single week of cruising. Its new concept, 'Perfect Day', is a collection of private islands around the world that take 'thrill and chill' to a new level, beginning in the Bahamas with 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay'.


Perfect Day at CocoCay is a shopping list of record-breaking builds, adrenaline-charged activities, and unexpected firsts: The tallest waterslide in North America. The largest wave pool in the Caribbean. The first overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. The Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride that takes you 450 feet up to the highest viewpoint in the Bahamas. A soaking by 30 water cannons on a shipwrecked galleon, and an 82-foot geyser. A 1,600-foot zip line – ending with the only splash water landing in the region. A freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning a whopping 2,600-plus feet. And a whole host of other dining, drinking, and shopping activities to pack a full day even fuller.




Royal Caribbean believes Perfect Day at CocoCay will live up to its name – and set the scene for more Perfect Day Island Collection destinations in the Caribbean as well as Asia and Australia.
 
These 3 wildly diverse new cruise line private islands prove: there's a perfect new cruise – and a new cruise line private island - just waiting for you to discover.

Start your Trip!


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If you're like me, Spring can never come too soon. And nothing says Spring like new flower blossoms.

This year, treat yourself to an abundance of Spring in one of these famous floral travel destinations.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip TV
 

Tulips in the Netherlands

Where: Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding tulip fields
When: April

It's the world's largest spring flower garden. The Keukenhof Gardens are a showcase for the Netherlands' biggest agricultural export: flowers and bulbs. The tulip is the ultimate symbol of a Dutch spring, and there are an astounding 7 million bulbs – tulips and other spring flowers - bursting into bloom on the 80 acres of castle grounds at Keukenhof. Open just a few weeks every spring, Keukenhof is a gardener's dream: themed garden plots and pavilions, an windmill you can climb for a viewpoint over acres of surrounding tulip fields in bloom, boat rides in canals lined with never-ending blossoms.

You can also order bulbs of the blooms you can see at Keukenhof; they'll be shipped to you ready for planting in the fall.

WATCH VIDEO, TOP: THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPRING FLOWER GARDEN ON AN AVALON RIVER CRUISE
 
Also Find Tulips at:

The Ottawa Tulip Festival, Canada


There's a Dutch connection to this flower festival in Canada's National Capital. During the Second World War, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada's capital, and a royal baby was even born on Canadian soil, as overseas, Canadian soldiers led the liberation of the Netherlands. In thanks, after the war, the Dutch sent tulips. 100,000 tulips, and tens of thousands more each year since. The mid-May Ottawa Tulip Festival is not only a symbol of Spring, it's a symbol of peace and cooperation between nations.
 

Chelsea Flower Show

Where: London, England
When: 5 Days Late May

(getty/ BethAmber)

This might be the most famous flower and landscaped garden show in the world. Members of the British Royal Family join garden lovers from around the world at the 11-acre site of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual love-in of traditional, trend-setting and even avante-garde flowers and gardening. You'll see glorious displays of beautiful and also rare spring flowers, floral exhibits and cutting edge design as well as traditional English gardening that is loved and imitated the world over. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is the perfect place to buy English gardening tools and gifts for yourself or your friends at home.
 

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Where: Japan
When: Peak season on Japan's main island is early-mid April

(Getty/ Torsakarin)

The Japanese don't just have a word for cherry blossoms: 'sakura'. The also have a word 'hanami' that means to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back a thousand years or more, originating with the Imperial Family and continuing today for all Japanese. It's one of the most festive times of the year, when Japanese gather with friends, family and colleagues under cherry blossom trees filling parks, surrounding historic castles, temples and shrines, and lining riverbanks, drinking sake and picnicking under the trees long into the twinkling evening hours.

It's not just the stunning beauty of clouds of white and pale pink blossoms hovering overhead; the Japanese also view short-lived cherry blossoms as a poetic symbol of the fleeting nature of life itself.

Also Find Cherry Blossoms in:

Vancouver, British Columbia
An estimated 50,000 blossoming cherry trees line streets and grace parks from February all the way through April, including the city's famous urban Stanley Park.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year for most of the month of April.

Washington DC

(Getty/ zrfphoto)

America's capital has a glorious annual reminder of the thousands of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the US in the early 1900's as a sign of friendship. Famously lining the shore of the Tidal Basin, DC's cherry blossoms are celebrated annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April. 
 

Texas Bluebonnets

Where: Throughout the state, especially the City of Ennis and its 'Texas Bluebonnet Trail'
When: April

(Getty / leekris)

This wildflower is the state flower of Texas and believed to be named from its resemblance to a pioneer sunbonnet. Bluebonnets are actually several varieties of lupins. They thrive in lesser soil and so line roadways as well as fill public lands and pastures. 

The city of Ennis, south-east of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the official home of the bluebonnet, with over 40 miles of flower-bedecked roadsides, as well as an annual Festival. The Texas highway department not only delays roadside trimming so people can enjoy the spring bloom, its early officials were instrumental in encouraging these wildflowers to thrive. Today, they still plant about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year, contributing to the preservation of Texas' native vegetation.
 
Also Find Lupins:

In Canada's maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 (Getty / bilbowden)

The lupins you'll find growing wild in Canada's eastern provinces are a larger variety than Texas bluebonnets, and although they're more purple-y blue as well as pink and white, they're an equally cheerful sign of spring. Well, actually early summer. The cooler climate means peak lupin season here is late June – early July.
 
 

Azaleas in America's South-East

Where: Gardens throughout the region and especially: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
When: Throughout April

(Getty/MargaretW)
 
Azalea shrubs originated in Asia and were successfully taken to many places in the world. But in America's south-east, they've gained a special place as an iconic garden favorite and symbol of gracious Southern living. Unlike other spring blooms, they're quite long lasting, spreading joy for weeks of the season.

Many public and private gardens have a spectacular spring showing of azaleas, but special mention goes to Charleston's Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The former rice plantation dates from the 1600's, and is the oldest public gardens in the U.S, opening its doors in 1870 to visitors who wanted to enjoy its thousands of cultivated flowers and plants. The less-formal, 'Romantic' style garden is not only on the list of one of 'America's Most Beautiful Gardens'. Magnolia was also the first garden in the country to plant azaleas outdoors, in the 1840's.
 
Today, hundreds of thousands of azaleas bloom in flame pinks, oranges and reds, lining paths and lakes in a breathtaking spring bloom.

Start your Trip!


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Think Overwater Villas are the Height of Exotic Luxury Travel? Try This UNDERwater Villa
It puts new meaning into being immersed in the local natural beauty. The pristine waters of the Maldives are epic, surrounding one of the world's most romantic, remote and legendary tropical eco paradise destinations. 

Now you can sleep alongside your sweetheart or family as well as the rich marine life that animates the waters of these tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a pioneering resort: the first international hotel in the Maldives, the first underwater restaurant, and now, the first undersea residence.


It's called the Muraka, or 'coral' in the local Maldivian language, and it is an extraordinary way for up to 9 guests to experience of one of the world's most breathtaking marine environments. Specialized aquarium technology was used to create the 2-story villa, consisting of above-sea-level space, and a spiral staircase to an underwater suite more than 16 feet below sea level with a king size bedroom, living room, and bathing area under a dome with 180-degree views of the ocean.

Sleeping in an undersea dome is an almost surreal vacation, but the overwater part of the villa above is unforgettable, too. More bedrooms, one with an ocean-facing bathtub, more bathrooms, gym, space for a butler and private security, living room, kitchen, bar and dining area with a deck facing the sunset, and another deck with an infinity pool facing sunrise. 

The Muraka butlers are dedicated 24-7 to hyper-personalized service. They are also ambassadors of the Maldivian island experience for undersea villa guests, sharing their passion for culture, the environment and adventure throughout your custom-crafted stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.


The resort is located in the Maldives' best diving and snorkeling locations. It melds harmoniously with the environment, flowing from island, over the ocean, to the overwater/undersea residence.


You can double down on the undersea experience at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island at its trailblazing underwater restaurant. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is also a world's first, where the fusion local and Western lunch and dinner menus, fine wine pairings, and mid-morning cocktails are accompanied by a panoramic view of coral gardens 16 feet below the surface of the ocean.

 
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is one of dozen resort restaurants and bars that regularly make 'best of…' lists. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island also features an overwater spa and a Spa Retreat, and experiences inspired by the local environment and culture round out the ultimate island escape. Sunrise and sunset yoga practice. A meditation pavilion. A 5-hour journey to inner tranquility via a unique Zen revelation. A Spa Retreat with over a dozen water villas, its own restaurant, and a selection of therapies including a signature treatment inspired by the beauty practices of Maldivian women, including a heated coconut stick massage and organic, pineapple and papaya body scrub.


Consciously-designed villas and suites, from ultra-private beach villas nestled amongst the rich tropical landscape with direct beach access, to overwater villas ranging from private and romantic, to expansive for an extended group of family or friends, complete with sundecks, hot tubs steps into the sea, spa treatment rooms and more, provide the iconic Maldives vacation.
 
Start your Trip!
 
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Top 10 Souvenirs from a Trip to Hawaii

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

 

ANYTHING PINEAPPLE



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


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

OTHER TROPICAL FRUIT

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


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

LOCAL WOOD



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

ANYTHING TIKI



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


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

HULA GIRLS - OR GUYS

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


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

HAWAIIAN SHIRT



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

ALOHA ACCESSORIES



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

MORNING JOE AND AFTERNOON TEA

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


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

GET NUTTY



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

SALT



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

UKULELE

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


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

START YOUR TRIP!


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

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

Active shore excursions are one of three styles of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises. You can mix and match tours in every port, and experiences on the ship, to create your own personalized trip.

CLASSIC
A local expert is ready to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and the “must see” sites.
 
DISCOVERY
Inspiring and interactive hands-on activities designed to speak to your interests - you spend your day immersing yourself in the destination’s unique culture, from cuisine, to art, to wine and more.
 
ACTIVE
Embark on energetic excursions keeping you in motion and on the go — from a guided jogging tour, to biking, paddling, and hiking your way through scenic locales.
 
In Amsterdam, who wouldn't want to try a two-wheeled tour? The Dutch are the global trendsetters in cycling culture, with their famous workhorse cargo bikes, and streets full of free-wheeling cyclists. Perhaps one of the reasons cycling took over the Netherlands is that the landscape is fantastically flat and smooth - easy for even novice cyclists to get around, with very few pesky hills to climb!

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

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

Start your Trip!

 

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

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

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

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

Bantry House, County Cork

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

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

Drumoland Castle, County Clare

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

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

Ballyfin Demesne, County Laois

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

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

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway

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

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

Crom Castle, County Fermanagh

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

Lismore Castle, County Waterford

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

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

(Images courtesy ireland.com)
 

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


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

FLORENCE

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


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

SIENA

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

 

THE PALIO

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

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

CINQUE TERRE

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


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

PISA

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

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

VESPAS

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

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


WINE AND DINE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

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

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

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What happens when you put three non-painters in a painting workshop? Can you really learn to paint like Van Gogh in an afternoon?  Those were the questions on all our minds as we walked to an art atelier near where our river cruise ship, the Avalon Vista, was docked in the heart of Amsterdam.


I'm creative but I have zero artistic skill. Even my handwriting is famously illegible.  My friends, travel expert Ryan McElroy and travel and gardening journalist Tara Nolan, were no more confident in their own artistic talent.
But we were all game to try to channel our inner Van Gogh.

The afternoon Van Gogh painting workshop is one of Avalon Waterway's "Discovery" shore excursions, included experiences available at different destinations on all Avalon European river cruises. The Van Gogh painting workshop shore excursion is inspired by the Dutch artist and the city that's home to the museum of his works, and it's available to Avalon guests on cruises in port in Amsterdam.

Discovery shore excursions are designed to dig deeper than a Classic tour of sightseeing highlights. Discovery shore excursions allow you to immerse yourself in a particular aspect of local culture and lifestyle.
 
Even if you've never picked up a paintbrush. 

You'll have to decide for yourself if we acquired any painting skill during the workshop. As our artist-teacher, Paul, recommended, we kept open minds and didn't take it too seriously as we went through the process of sketching with pencil and charcoal on paper, then transitioning to canvas and paint for the finale: a still life of sunflowers and iris inspired by Van Gogh's style and two of his most famous paintings.

They won't be hanging in any galleries anytime soon. But it was a lighthearted and illuminating afternoon discussing how art is made, Dutch painters, art in Amsterdam and local life. And we each walked away with the fruits of our efforts: a painting that we all packed in our luggage to take home as a unique memento of our Avalon river cruise.

So that's what happens when you put three non-painters in a painting workshop on an Avalon Discovery shore excursion in Amsterdam!

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Everyone wants to try 'real' local food when they travel. But we don't always have a real local to point us in the right direction.
 
That's why we loved our Avalon Waterways' culinary tour of the Jordaan, a walking-sipping-snacking tour of the revitalized neighborhood in Amsterdam. It gets you out of the tourist core and into the heart of the Dutch lifestyle the way the locals in the Netherlands really live. 
 
Want to taste the local beer? And the snack the locals order at the bar? You've heard of pickled/ raw herring but never had the nerve to try on your own? Do you want to sample a Dutch cheese you'd never find in a market at home? Or discover the best Dutch chocolate shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends?

We did it all on our culinary discovery tour of Amsterdam with Martine, our Amsterdam guide who knew every shop keeper and even better: the best tips to get that herring down the hatch – and love it!
 
BestTrip's culinary tour of the Jordaan in Amsterdam is just one of Avalon Waterways' collection of included shore excursions that let you get hands-on in a destination and experience the local lifestyle the way you enjoy.
 
How do you like to explore? With 3 types of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises you can create your own personalized trip.
 
CLASSIC
A local expert is ready to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and the “must see” sites.
 
DISCOVERY
Inspiring and interactive hands-on activities designed to speak to your interests - you spend your day immersing yourself in the destination’s unique culture, from cuisine, to art, to wine and more.
 
ACTIVE
Embark on energetic excursions keeping you in motion and on the go — from a guided jogging tour, to biking, paddling, and hiking your way through scenic locales.
 
Every European river cruise destination has its own special character, and Active, Discovery, and Classic styles of exploration mean that from the Seine to the Danube, the Rhine to the Rhone, you'll be traveling the way you want on your Avalon Waterways River Cruise, and gathering the travel stories that put a smile on your face for years to come. 
 

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Learn to Haka on the All Blacks' Rugby Team's Home Ground
It's one of the most famous – and fearsome – pre-game rituals in the world. One that you can now learn for yourself in one of the world's most storied stadiums.

Any global sports fan has heard of New Zealand's fabled All Blacks rugby team. The All Blacks are not just heroes of the country's national sport; in spite of New Zealand's tiny size, the All Blacks are considered the greatest team in global rugby history. They are consistently ranked at the top of the sport, and have won the Rugby World Cup more than any other team in the world.

(Photo: Kai Schworer. All other Photos: Eden Park)

The All Blacks' distinctive black uniforms with only the national silver fern symbol are already intimidating: the team resembles an aggressive black swarm on the rugby field. Then imagine an entire team of robust, black-clad rugby players screaming and stomping wildly, working themselves into a fierce, unbeatable tour de force on the rugby field.

For the sporting superstitious, part of the All Blacks' success comes from the spectacular haka that the team performs before every match. The ancient Maori dance serves the same purpose for the All Blacks as it did for the New Zealand indigenous warriors on the battlefield. The ferocious postures and vocalizations that challenge opponents prepare the players physically and mentally, and unite them in a focused team frenzy.
 
The All Blacks' pre-game Haka tradition is as anticipated every game as their winning rugby form. It's ancient Maori for: Bring. It. On.


Now when you visit Auckland you can step on the hallowed grounds of the All Blacks' home stadium, get a behind the scenes tour of Eden Park, and learn to tap into your inner Maori warrior with a haka group – right on the green where the All Blacks play.


A Maori warrior in traditional garb is your guide of the home team's changing rooms and other off-camera spaces, your tour of great sporting moments for the All Blacks and Eden Park over the last century and more, and finally, onto the actual playing turf itself.

You'll join an authentic haka group and experience the power of the haka up close as it's performed on an All Blacks' game day. And you'll even have the opportunity to channel your inner Maori warrior during an interactive haka-learning workshop, and have your photo taken with traditional Maori warriors.


Whether or not you – or anyone in your group - are sports or rugby fans, the Haka in the Park program at the All Blacks' Eden Park in Auckland is a one-of-a-kind way to get up close and even participate yourself in the drama and history of authentic New Zealand Maori culture.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grain Silo Transformed into Breathtaking Museum and Hotel
Within a year of its breathtaking reincarnation, Cape Town's historic Grain Silo has already been named one of the world's top 100 places. 

When it was originally constructed in the 1920's, the Grain Silo on the city's waterfront was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a symbol of connection to the rest of the world.

A century later, after the Grain Silo was decommissioned, rejuvenation efforts could easily have seen it imploded to make way for bland new builds. Instead, the visionary conversion of the Grain Silo into a breathtaking museum, with a locally-owned and operated luxury hotel above, has resulted in a win for the waterfront district, for African culture, for the local history and people, and for travelers to South Africa. 

Zeitz MOCAA


The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art is the largest in the world. Architects magically transformed the Grain Silo's 42, densely-aligned concrete silo cylinders by carving the concrete inside to create the BMW atrium (photos by museum sponsor BMW) and multiple galleries.


The carved cylinders lend their form to the museum's spectacular design. In places, cylinder tops were capped with pillowed glass windows, each with 56 panels of glass, allowing natural light to filter in.

The result is a complex of over a hundred thousand square feet with nine floors of exhibit space, education areas, a sculpture garden on part of the roof, as well as a restaurant and shop.


It's an architectural and design masterpiece – even before you consider the art. 

German businessman and former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, considered one of the world's leading collectors of contemporary art from Africa and African artists abroad, loaned his extraordinary collection to the museum. 

It provides the founding collection of art from eminent African artists as the museum continues to grow and actively collect and share to locals and visitors art from the vast range of African artists near and far, provide many levels of art education, give back to Africa, and become a leading voice for Africa in the international art world.
 

The Silo Hotel


Above the museum, the former Grain Silo rises to new heights with a six-floor addition housing the extraordinary, 5-star Silo Hotel.
 
Like the museum below, the hotel retains and reflects ties to the local community; the Silo Hotel is the 5th property of the local Biden family hospitality company The Royal Portfolio, with a selection of exclusive boutique hotels in southern Africa.  


And like other hotels in the Royal Portfolio, the Silo Hotel has quickly become a beacon for luxury hospitality in Cape Town.

Multi-paned spectacular pillowed windows overlook the best scenery in Cape Town in every direction, including Table Mountain and the harbor into the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel celebrates its unique architecture with the Royal Portfolio's signature approach to art, style and design. 


Co-founder and family matriarch Liz Biden designed the hotel's public spaces and 28 one-of-a-kind rooms with hand-selected art acquired throughout her travels, a combination of modern and colorfully re-upholstered antique furniture, and unique pieces that make each guest feel at home in this deluxe atmosphere.


The catch-your-breath, stylish bar on the 6th floor provides bubbles, fine international wines and bespoke cocktails along with awe-inspiring views through the pillowed glass windows, and the Granary Café maintains elegant traditions like Royal Tea and Sunday Roast.


Perched at the top of the tallest building on the waterfront, the Silo Rooftop pool, dining, and lounging are the premiere al fresco experience in Cape Town.

 
The visionary transformation of Cape Town's Grain Silo offers a master class for any global city's transition of its waterfront from industrial to cultural and public. The Zeitz MOCAA and Silo Hotel are magnets for international visitors and still retain and reflect deeply local heritage and values, and make a lengthy stay in Cape Town essential before or after your cruise, wine tour or safari.


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It's been featured in no less than two James Bond movies. Not to mention To Catch a Thief, the Alfred Hitchcock thriller starring Grace Kelly. Filmed on location in glitzy Monaco, it's where she met a prince and then became Princess Grace.

Monaco – and Monte Carlo – have established and maintained an allure as one of the world's most glamorous destinations. Casinos and royalty, yachts and racing. Fast cars and beautiful women. Tuxedos and champagne all hours of the day.
 
But there's more to Monaco than a real-life movie set.

BestTrip reveals 5 things you didn't know about this sexy Mediterranean destination.

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Champagne Vending Machine at this NOLA Hotel Makes Every Day New Year's Eve
The motto of New Orleans is 'Let the Good Times Roll'. Nowhere is that more true than at the local Ritz-Carlton, which now boasts the area's first permanent champagne vending machine.


This classy, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of lobby fixtures in sadder hotels holds 320 'piccolo' (mini) bottles of liquid celebration, and blends right into the hotel's festive seasonal décor and events.


A nearly life-sized gingerbread NOLA streetcar dominates the lobby, with festive gingerbread making and decorating events throughout advent for the young and their grown up family members who want to sip while they decorate.

Christmas Eve 'Reveillon' feasts throughout December pay tribute to New Orleans' and Louisiana's French founding residents, along with 'Papa Noel' teas and breakfasts, and a Christmas Day 'Jubilee' extravaganza.


As exciting as those are, it's the New Year's Eve 6-course masquerade dinner and ball in partnership with iconic champagne brand Moet et Chandon, that tops out the festive season with champagne taking center stage.

And before New Year's is even over, the Mardi Gras carnival season in New Orleans has already begun.


With a full calendar of festivals and celebrations, never-ending good times really do roll one into another in New Orleans.  The city's 24-hour alcohol serving times plus relaxed policy towards carrying your drinks into the street (a couple of restrictions do apply: only in plastic cups and only in the French Quarter) make the Ritz-Carlton's lobby champagne vending machine not only festive but even practical.  

So whatever celebration brings you to New Orleans, you can let your good times roll in the Big Easy anytime with an elegant bubbly and a hotel home base on Canal Street just a block from Bourbon Street at the edge of the French Quarter.


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It's a global buzzword and cultural phenomenon. When the cold and darkness of winter close in, more and more of us go in search of Denmark's signature recipe for happiness: 'hygge'.


Danish 'hygge' (pronounced 'HOOG-uh') is sweeping the world – everyone wants in on Denmark's famously convivial way of life. The Danish are the happiest people on the planet – even during the long, dark days of winter - and it's all about hygge.

So much so, hygge has actually been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. It might be the world's first UNESCO World Heritage… feeling.

But translating hygge – and living it - aren't so simple. A hug? Mindfulness? Cozy?

Hygge is often referred to in design, with tips for creating rooms with 'hygge'. It's been said the Danish buy more candles per capita than anyone else on the planet. Add snuggly wool throws. Nature-inspired materials. A crackling fire. Comfort foods. And the simple pleasures of good company and togetherness.

BestTrip was in Copenhagen at the height of a hot summer on a pre-cruise weekend before boarding our Seabourn cruise… and with Copenhagen Urban Adventures, we discovered 'hygge' isn't just something you find indoors in winter. It happens year round, indoors and outdoors, with people, spaces and activities you love.


Hygge has caught on as a catchphrase with its appeal as an antidote to the ails of the modern world. Travel to Denmark, and you'll discover not only the scenics that stand out in Scandinavian style. Danish food and drink, obsession with cycling and life balance… a concept that's been around for a couple of hundred years has new and more powerful relevance in a busy, connected-yet-impersonal, disengaged and over-programmed world.

Hygge might be the very best souvenir from Denmark of all: once you learn how to capture hygge like we did from Mie at Copenhagen Urban Adventures, you'll be able to take that feeling home with you and implement its practice into your and your family's life.

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Architecture is the calling-card of a city. Some destinations are made famous by cathedrals or castles, towers or temples, statues or skyscrapers… in modern-day Miami, it's all about the designer parking garage. 

They even have a name for it: 'park'-itecture.

In this glittering city, there's an expanding list of chic places to park your car and gaze on the work of some of the world's leading architects – or 'star-chitects'. 

In other cities in the world, the likes of Frank Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron and a constellation of celebrity architects are designing landmark museums and opera houses and condo towers. In Miami and Miami Beach, the architectural stargazing has also turned to statement parking garages.

It's the latest signature architectural phase in this ultimate urban resort town.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: MIAMI DESIGN FROM ART DECO TREASURES, TO MID-CENTURY MODERN ICONS, EDGY WYNWOOD WALLS AND ONE-OF-A-KIND 'PARK-ITECTURE'

The Wynwood Garage is the latest addition to the high-concept streetscape, opening in November, 2018 to join half a dozen fabulous places to park or take a selfie in Miami:

Ballet Valet Parking Garage

210 Seventh St. at Collins, Miami Beach

Nicknamed the 'Chia Garage' for its lush green walls, the Ballet Valet Parking Garage was in the vanguard of South Beach's renaissance in the mid-90's and was Miami's first statement 'park-itecture'.

 
Like the chia pet it resembles, the 'vertical green zone' wrap of the building grows in the tropical climate. It even requires occasional trimming. When filled out, the breezes from the sea only a block away rustle through the greens like a wave, simulating the ocean surf. Watch for it flying into town; it's in the flight path to MIA airport.
 

1111 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach


Designed by celebrity architect firm Herzog & de Meuron, this edgy, minimalist-design-lover's dream really put Miami parkitecture on the world style map.
.
 
With slanting angles and exaggerated ceiling heights, 1111 Lincoln Rd is parking garage, event space, a residential penthouse for the developer, semi-secret retail space in a glass box perched at the edge, and a restaurant.   
 
Wangle an invitation to an event here if you can to have the pleasure of sipping a cocktail while enjoying the spectacular views of Miami and Miami Beach, Fisher Island, the bay and the ocean from the top floors.

 

Pennsylvania Avenue Garage at New World Symphony

500 17th St., Miami Beach
 
The City of Miami Beach and the New World Symphony brought on celebrity architect Frank Gehry to build the parking structure for the NWS Orchestral Academy. Less dramatic at first glance than other Gehry designs, it's wrapped in metal mesh that is illuminated with an LED light show by night. 


For the best view, head to 17th street – or if you're in town on business, there's a great view from the convention center. 

City View Garage

59 NE 38th St., Miami
 
Split-personality City View Garage stands out as you drive into Miami on the elevated I-95. It's a billboard for Miami's new Design District. 

Each of 4 facades was given to a different designer. The perforated gold metal panels on the southwest side are famous for catching Miami's spectacular sunsets in an explosion of brilliance. The garage gives you a stylish place to park as you shop among luxury boutiques in the neighborhood.

 

Museum Garage

1 NE 1st St., Miami
 
2018's Museum Garage livens up Miami's Design District even more, doubling down on the eclectic design with a mash-up of 6 eye-popping facades.

Different designers were given free rein without knowing what the others were creating. The playful, standout designs range from psychedelic candy cane stripes, to black and white comic graphics, to gold and silver 3-dimensional car installations whose lights go on at night…
 

Museum Garage cements parkitecture in Miami as an attraction of its own; you'll want to make sure you walk around and appreciate it from all sides to appreciate the full creativity of the designers, and get a chuckle from the next design that pops up at you.

 

The Wynwood Garage

321 NW 26th St, Miami

With the November, 2018 opening of The Wynwood Garage, Miami's Wynwood Arts District gets its first public parking garage that will serve the visitors coming to discover this emerging, hip neighborhood. It pays homage to the creativity of the district. Visitors come from all over the world to admire the curated, world-class street art on its Wynwood Walls, visit art galleries and studios and draw energy from the creative community.


The Wynwood Garage takes inspiration from this neighborhood of painted building walls, with a unique façade of abstract shapes that become a 3-d canvas for urban design. The exterior walls can change appearance – different pieces of curated art will be printed on new technology 'skins' that will fit inside sections of the graphics.

Parked cars share the structure with ground floor retail, and office space on upper floors. It's a traffic-stopping street corner; The Wynwood Garage is next door to the dramatic, black and white striped Wynwood Building.
 
Not reserved exclusively for the rich, famous and fabulous of Miami and Miami Beach, you too can park in a designer parking garage- they are public parking! And rates even in these ultra-stylish structures are on a par with other major North American cities.
 

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

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

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

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

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

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.tv Producer/Host
 

Cruise: Canada & New England

Market: Old Port Market, Quebec City, Canada


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

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

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

Cruise: Australia & New Zealand

Market: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, Australia

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

Cruise: The Mediterranean

Market: The Central Market of Valencia, Spain

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

Cruise: South-East Asia

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Jean-Michel Cousteau and a Sea Turtle)

Diving and Snorkeling

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

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

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

Paradise

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

Luxury in Thatched Polynesian Huts

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

Unplugged

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

More than Diving

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

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

Elevated Local Fijian, Asian and French Cuisine

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

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

Complimentary Kids' Program Parents and Kids will Never Forget

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

Sustainability

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

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

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

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


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We can't get enough of the Monograms way of travel. Have someone else do the legwork while you get to have all the fun? Count us in.

All Monograms tours give guests the VIP treatment: a Monograms Local Host and driver to pick you up and drop you off when you're arriving and departing from the city (no matter how you travel – we arrived by cruise ship and departed by air); a private guided tour of the city to see the highlights and get your feet under you; a selection of experiences integral to life in Rio or any of Monograms' world-wide destinations; plus your Local Host is available throughout your stay to provide tips and advice to make sure you get the very most out of your trip.

Watch the video above to see how we got the VIP treatment on a Monograms' tour of thrilling Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

It's the perfect combination of independent traveling and having an expert local friend in town.

You can even cherry-pick from a number of optional experiences and excursions to customize your visit to your own personal interests. And you didn't have to do any of that research to find or check reviews to ensure you'll have a quality experience; the local experts have already done that for you.

And here are our top picks of optional experiences in other Monograms South America tours:

Argentina Highlights

See exciting Buenos Aires and some of the natural wonders of South America's most southern country. Your local host ensures you experience the best of one of South America's most exciting cities including the grave site of Eva Peron, heroine of the musical Evita!, the majesty of the world's widest boulevard, and the vivid colours of the port area La Boca. Fly to Patagonia to the foothills of the Andes to experience some of the world's most breathtaking vistas, then further south to a glacier park UNESCO World Heritage Site to see one of the world's few advancing glaciers as it 'calves' with chunks breaking away into the water.

Don't Miss these Optional Tours: the world's sexiest dance, a traditional Tango show in Buenos Aires, and the opportunity to visit a working Argentine ranch to see authentic gauchos at work.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Click here to see our Monograms Tour of Buenos Aires and optional Tango show.

Magical Columbia

Columbia is one of the world's travel hot spots and Monograms provides you with the insider guidance and local expertise to help you see the best of Columbia in this 8-day tour. Your local host connects you with local food and colonial architecture in Bogota, and also takes you up a funicular car ride 10,000 feet up to the best view of the city. In the coffee triangle area, you'll visit a coffee farm for a tasting and exploration of the coffee production process, and enjoy views over the Andes mountains. And you'll also get a private tour of the can't-miss sites of Cartagena's UNESCO World Heritage walled colonial historic district and get an insight into the area's Pre-Columbian culture, too.

Don't Miss this Optional Tour: Go 600 feet underground to a Columbian pilgrimage site and architectural masterpiece, a church unbelievably constructed in multiple tunnels of an old salt mine.

Ecuador Discovery

From the Pacific coast to Amazonian tropics to the heights of the Andes, Ecuador is one of the most geographically and ecologically diverse countries in South America. Your local host helps you get a taste of it all, beginning with Quito, near the equator, with its colonial Old Town, a fascinating local market and a nearby local school. You'll get into the countryside for a visit to a highland national park, a natural hot springs at your hotel, and a plantation that grows one of Ecuador's most famous and sweet-smelling export: roses. And you'll take a mountain top train ride of a lifetime to visit Incan, sun-worshipping ruins. Your visit also packs in a cocoa plantation, a panama hat factory.

Don't Miss this Optional Tour: to the Middle of the World.There's a monument in Ecuador at latitude 0 where you can literally straddle two hemispheres. It's a can't-beat photo op!

Peru Highlights

Peru's lost mountain top city of Machu Picchu is on every travel bucket list, and this Monograms tour even gives the opportunity to overnight in this mystical location. Start in Lima with a city tour with your Local Host and experience the 16th century Spanish colonial historic and modern sides of Peru's capital. After you fly to Cusco, you'll also get a guided tour that includes monasteries, ruins, an amphitheatre and a red fortress. You'll visit the sacred valley of the Incas and learn about the importance of alpaca/llamas in Inca culture as well as modern weaving and craftsmanship. Then a train takes you to Machu Picchu, the 'Lost City of the Incas' with your Local Host ensuring you see all its secrets.

Don't Miss this Optional Tour: Lima is home to the largest electronic water fountain complex in the world, and you won't want to miss the spectacle of the water, sound and light show in its Park.

Amazonia Voyage with Rio and Iguassu Falls

This will be 10 of the most memorable days of your life, including 3 days on a ship on the Amazon river. Monograms' Local Host takes you to Rio's mountain-top Corcovado, just like in our video. Then you'll fly to the record-breaking Iguassu Falls for a private guided tour of this 2-mile wide falls. You'll also get a private tour of Manaus' spectacular architecture constructed during the incredible 19th century rubber boom before boarding your Amazon river cruise ship where you'll experience jungle and wildlife and local river communities and their connection to the jungle around them

Don't Miss This Optional Tour: A Panoramic City Tour and Visit to Sugar Loaf Mountain gives you more view points over spectacular Rio and its waterfront as well as one of the best cable car rides on the planet.

- Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip.TV

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World's Longest Sea-Crossing Bridge is First Land Link Between 2 of Asia's Most Exciting Cities

They're calling it a $20 billion 'umbilical cord'. The longest bridge in the world to cross sea water is an unbelievable 34 miles - 55 km - long and spans the Pearl River Delta. China's new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge connects mainland China with two of China's Special Administrative Regions on the sea: Hong Kong and Macau. It's the first time residents and travelers have been able to travel by road to Macau from Hong Kong directly.

Until the new bridge, a ferry transported residents and visitors to the business, shopping and cultural center of Hong Kong to Macau's 'Vegas of Asia' casino and entertainment attractions. Now, drivers and public transportation have a direct link to all three points on the map. It cuts travel time between the three centers from 3 hours to just half an hour, and puts them within an hour's commute of each other.

China is hoping the new bridge will foster the development of a Chinese 'Greater Bay Area', an economic and innovation region along the lines of San Francisco in the US, or Tokyo next door, one that will include Hong Kong, Macau and 9 cities in Guangdong province. The area consists of 1% of China's land that already produces 12% of its wealth.

The bridge also facilitates travel for visitors. Right now, visitors to Hong Kong don't often explore the rest of the Pearl River Delta region. The bridge will allow visitors to travel from the airport in Hong Kong to Macau and the mainland in under an hour. That'll mean a lot more business for the hotel/casinos in Macau.

The former Portuguese colony has always had a much different flavor and travel experience than British-influenced, business-oriented Hong Kong. Macau's colonial heritage is Portuguese, and its modern-day character is one-of-a-kind. It is the largest gaming city in the world and the only city in the Greater China region where gambling is legal. And although it is often compared to Las Vegas, the number and extravagance of its hotel/casinos and their lifestyle puts Vegas to shame.

If you enjoy a 'little flutter at the tables', and the excitement of a casino environment, Macau is a must-visit destination.

The new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is so long it stretches as far as the eye can see and beyond. And will also have far-reaching effects on your next trip to Hong Kong, Macau and China's Pearl River Delta.


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This Macau Hotel is the World's First 'Exoskeleton' High-Rise

Macau is anticipating a surge in visitors with the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge that links the two cities and mainland China together by land for the first time.

The Morpheus hotel will be a big part of the allure of a trip to Macau. Designed by the acclaimed celebrity architect Zaha Hadid before her passing, the hotel at Macau's new City of Dreams complex is the world's first high-rise held up by a free-form 'exoskeleton'.

Imagine: no need for internal structural or supporting walls! That innovation literally opens up the interior to entirely new design opportunities. And the hotel's design takes full advantage.

First: the outside. It's a visionary feat of architecture and technology. The extraordinary exoskeleton that gives the hotel its structural integrity itself becomes sculptural design. Two towers connect at the base, separate, twist, then merge together again 40-storeys up. Where they separate, abstract voids appear, suggesting a figure 8 that of course is a lucky number in Chinese culture (especially helpful if you're in Macau to gamble!) The towers are even connected by a breathtaking sky bridge.

This architectural masterpiece was inspired by traditional Chinese jade carving techniques that create fluid forms from hard materials. The Morpheus appears light and delicate but in fact contains four times the weight of iron used in Paris' Eiffel Tower! And the ridges of the exoskeleton provide shade for heat control.

Inside this art-like skyscraper, freed from structural walls, a design like you've never experienced before. The hotel atrium occupies the height of the entire hotel between the two towers! And the voids create vast interior spaces, and along with high-speed glass elevators, guests have breathtaking views of both the city and the unique interior with high tech solutions and art installations by famous global artists and even street artists.

Restaurant lounges and bars occupy bridges running through the structure' central void.

Alain Ducasse at Morpheus, City of Dreams (photo credit: Pierre Monetta)

If you can tear yourself away from the view, you'll be in another world first, this one culinary. The World of Ducasse at Morpheus is a partnership with iconic chef Alain Ducasse. For the first time ever, an entire hotel floor is devoted to two Ducasse restaurants and bar.

Alain Ducasse: Small Spelt from Haute-Provence, Seasonal Vegetables, Shaved Black Truffle (photo credit: Pierre Monetta)

There's also a partnership with Parisian chef Pierre Herme, also known as 'the Picasso of Pastry', as well as Yi at Sky Bridge, the world's only Chinese fine-dining restaurant serving a mix of Chinese regional dishes in Japanese omakase-style.

You'll find other world-firsts in the spa, with its in-house Spa Butler concept and the first spa in the world to feature real snow in its 'Snow Garden'.

The spa and the appropriately-named Sky Pool top the 40-storey hotel, over 400 feet above the hotel interior below, a spectacular view of the Macau skyline.

Then there's the gaming salons and world-class collection of retail stores. Morpheus and the City of Dreams cement Macau's status as the one of the world's top grown-up fantasy escape/entertainment destination.


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7 Places Not to Miss in Indochina

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

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

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

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

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

Thailand

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

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

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

Vietnam

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

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

Watch Video: Kayaking in Mystical Halong Bay 

Laos 

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

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

Cambodia

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

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

Myanmar

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

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

Malaysia

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

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

Singapore

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

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

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

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Something amazing happens when the highest tides in the world arrive in Saint John, New Brunswick. Twice a day, tides in Canada's Bay of Fundy rise as high as 56 feet in places – the height of a 5-storey building! In Saint John, New Brunswick, the St. John River drains into the Bay of Fundy. When the Bay of Fundy tides rise and fall, 100-billion tons of water … a volume equal to ALL of the world’s rivers … enters and exits the bay. And that's when things get interesting in Saint John.

BestTrip.TV cameras were in Saint John on our Autumn Colors Seabourn voyage of Canada and New England - and we were the right place at the right time – on Saint John's new, glass-floored Skywalk. Watch this video to share our bird's eye view directly over the gorge carved through billion-year-old rocks – to see the epic Bay of Fundy tides reversing the direction of the river flow. You just can't miss the Reversing Falls Rapids seen from Saint John's Skywalk.

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