BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

Top Souvenirs from a Trip to... Ireland
If you’re one of the almost 20% of Americans and Canadians with Irish ancestry – or have fallen in love with the lore of the ‘Emerald Isle’ – a trip to Ireland is the perfect way to immerse yourself in its vivid scenery, storied towns and landscapes… and of course, stock up on the souvenirs that symbolize the country’s history, craftsmanship, and flavors.

Here’s a list of the best places in Ireland to visit to shop for ways to remember your trip to Ireland, or treat your friends and loved ones to a taste of Ireland.


Irish Whiskey in County Cork


It means ‘water of life’, and was once the most popular drink in the world. The distilled grain spirit that’s now called whiskey was developed beginning around the 12th century by creative monks. Today it’s enjoying renewed popularity, and has regained its top standing as the fastest-growing spirit in the world. 

There are dozens of distilleries dotting the cobble-stoned towns and green rolling hills of Ireland, and the list keeps growing. In nearly every county, you can tour historic stone, or ultra-modern distilleries that expand on Ireland’s breadth of whiskeys.

Visiting one or more of the country’s distilleries and tasting rooms, and packing one or more of the 80 million or so bottles produced in the country every year in your luggage (carefully!) for the trip home, is a must-do for any visitor to Ireland. 


The essential experience is in County Cork at Jamesons’. As the world’s biggest producer of Irish whiskey, and dating from the 1700’s, it defines ‘traditional’ Irish whiskey. It’s a ‘blend’ whiskey: locally-grown Irish barley, some malted and some unmalted, or ‘green’, is distilled one of two ways, then the different distilled spirits are mixed. Irish whiskey differs from most whisky from Scotland that is made from grain dried by a peat fire, giving it a smoky flavor -  not present in smoother Irish whiskey. 


Crystal in Waterford County


Nothing will make your Irish whiskey taste better than drinking it from a Waterford crystal low ball glass or decanter.
Crystal was not invented in Ireland, but 200-year old Waterford is one of the world’s most famous crystals, and a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal facility is one of the top reasons to visit the Irish county of the same name.

You can watch artisans in action in each of the steps in the creation of Waterford crystal’s pieces, seeing pieces come to life, from blowing molten crystal into elegant shapes, to mould making, to inspections, marking patterns onto approved pieces for master artisans to cut the signature designs that result in the clarity and sparkle that rival diamonds in vases, bowls, glass and stemware and of course, décor items like chandeliers.


Ireland isn’t the only place you can find this famous crystal. You’ll spot Waterford crystal some of the finest bars and restaurants and hotels in the world. And you’ll see Waterford chandeliers in Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, and across the pond, in the Kennedy Center and… it’s the famous ball that drops every New Year’s Even in New York’s Times Square.
 

A Claddagh Ring in Galway


After the shamrock and the Celtic cross, this must be the most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle. It’s certainly Ireland’s essential piece of jewelry – with a delightful and touching meaning.

The Claddagh ring’s hands cradling a heart topped with a crown symbolize friendship, love and loyalty. Rings are worn in Ireland and often by people of Irish ancestry around the world as friendship, engagement and wedding rings. 

They are often passed down mothers to their eldest daughters or grandmother to granddaughter and worn differently to advertise the wearer’s current relationship status, useful in the days before you could look it up on facebook! Worn
·     On the right hand, with the heart pointing toward the heart, you’re in a relationship; your ‘heart has been captured;
·     On the right hand with the heart pointing outward, you’re single and looking;
·     On the left ring finger with the heart pointing outward, you’re engaged; and
·     With the heart pointing to your heart, you’re married.


Start your own tradition and add some extra meaning to your new Claddagh ring by making the trek to the fishing village of the same name in Galway, where Claddagh rings were invented in the 18th century. The original goldsmith’s shop still stands. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold is the oldest jeweler in Ireland, and houses a museum to the iconic ring.

Irish Wool from the Aran Isles


When you picture Ireland’s famous green pastures, you may also picture those pastures with grazing sheep. Throughout Ireland, keeping sheep and spinning, dyeing and weaving or knitting their wool was a cottage industry for centuries.


You can still see looms at work throughout Ireland, and enjoy the fruits of the artisans who craft colorful scarves, wraps, hats, and other useful, beautiful, and wearable examples of Irish history, creativity and skill.

Perhaps the most Irish of woolen knitwear is an Aran sweater. The Aran Islands off the country’s western coast have historically been home to hardy fishing communities whose women used wool ‘unscoured’ of its natural oils, making it water resistant and perfect for fishermen working in harsh Atlantic waters – or anyone who spends lots of time in the outdoors. 

(Image: Getty)

Sweaters are marvelously complex works of art, comprising 100,000 stitches of each maker’s own design. Different patterns of stitches represent different meanings and omens for the success and safety of the fishermen wearing them .
 
Ireland’s deep culture and heritage make an unforgettable impression on any visitor to her shores, and you’ll want to take home memories and mementoes of your journey. These are just a few of the many souvenirs of Ireland that really beat a ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ t-shirt from your last St. Patrick’s day at the pub!

 

Start your Trip!


All images courtesy of Ireland.com unless otherwise indicated.

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How You Can Help Solve Overtourism - AND Still Enjoy the World's Most Popular Destinations
Amsterdam. Venice. Barcelona. Just to name a few. These are spectacular, vibrant, magical cities… reeling under the weight of tourists.

I’m very fortunate to have visited a number of cities that are now on the list of overtouristed destinations. They are magnificent and life changing. But sadly, each subsequent visit, I see the very qualities travelers go there to seek eroded a little bit more by a growing volume of tourists.

Over-touristed destinations worry about becoming artificial, ‘theme park’ versions of their charming, unique, authentic selves. They fear seeing local residents, artisans, shopkeepers and restaurateurs priced out of the cities’ historic centers by global brands and big companies buying up real estate for international brand shops and short-term housing rentals.

When the locals go, so do many of the very lifestyle elements you hoped to enjoy. Local food and craft markets collapse, inexpensive, authentic local restaurants close their doors, and the only people you meet… are other tourists.

These cities may be on your travel bucket list. Or you imagine re-living fond memories there.

I can’t bring myself to say people should no longer travel to over-touristed destinations (although some cities’ mayors sound like they’re willing to ban tourists altogether).

But I can offer 8 tips about the best ways responsible travelers can help be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And at the same time, take steps to ensure the best travel experience for themselves.

Responsible travel tips for overtourism:


Be a good global citizen. 

Practice the advice often given to park visitors: take only pictures, leave only footprints. Littering, loitering, being part of a loud group that blocks sidewalks and disrupts the peaceful enjoyment of a neighborhood, in many places outside of North America, eating or drinking on the street… some rules of good behavior are universal, and some are unique to local custom, like tipping practices.

Do your research in advance and be the person the locals welcome back.


Go off-season / shoulder season. 

I’ve written before about the benefits of off-season travel. In over-touristed destinations, off-season or shoulder season (the weeks on either side of the core ‘high season’), by definition, is less crowded. No lineups. Less expensive. The locals come back (think Paris after everyone takes the month of August away from the city). And the tourism attractions are happy to see you – and your money.

Stay in hotels.

Many short-term rentals are not real home shares by residents, but instead, units owned and managed by big corporations running what amounts to unregulated hotel businesses. Inhabitants of residential neighborhoods report being disrupted by a steady stream of strangers that can change the character of the community.

Hotels are regulated for your health and safety, they ensure local bylaws are followed, AND they are paying business taxes that support the preservation of cultural treasures visitors are coming to enjoy, and the infrastructure like streets and sidewalks and parks and public transportation tourists rely on.

Shop locally.

And especially, make a point to spend your souvenir, dining, and entertainment budgets to support local artisans, craftspeople, performing artists and venues, food and wine and spirit producers that are preserving local culture, techniques and architecture, and whose businesses 100% support the local economy. 
 

Book smaller cruise ships.

Bigger cruise ships need ports of a certain size, so that often means they all converge on major city ports – and some are already bursting with land-based visitors.

The biggest cruise ships carry thousands of people. In some places, a single ship can result in cruise visitors outnumbering locals! Imagine if two or more mega ships are in port! No wonder locals can feel like their city has been taken over by non-locals- and ‘normal’ local life comes to a halt while these immense cruise ships are in port.

There’s lots to be said for the attractions of mega cruise ships. If that’s your preferred cruise style, try to focus on itineraries that visit destinations that can accommodate you and your 5000 other cruise guests without overwhelming or changing the character of the city.

Always book a pre- or post-cruise stay.

That way, you are not just transiting through a city, you also contribute to its economy - and get to enjoy overnights and immersion in these wonderful places. Pre- and post-cruise stays - or tours - are a perfect balance to the destination sampling approach of cruising.

Book your visit with a reputable tour company.

The best tour companies understand the importance of reducing their impact on and preserving the best of local communities. They work to balance the interests of the destination with unique access to its greatest cultural, natural, and lifestyle gems for its guests.

Consider destinations in the same country that have fewer tourists.

You’ll often find the same – and sometimes, even more authentic - local lifestyle and flavors that have diminished in the most visited destinations if you leave the big cities and go off the beaten path in the same country.
 
Talk to your travel advisor about your travel interests, and they’ll be able to help you design a thoughtful and responsible travel plan that takes overtourism into account.
 
 

Start your Trip!

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

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It’s a US territory with sun-kissed Caribbean charms. Where lush jungles, land and marine parks and world-class beaches meet Old World cobblestone architecture, New World comforts, and signature Latin hospitality, culture and sultry vibe.  

Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan is a major cruise port and destination in the eastern Caribbean. Thousands of cruise passengers embark and disembark every year. But don’t miss the opportunity to extend your cruise – or visit the island just to explore the island’s urban lifestyle and beach resorts in San Juan, as well as the attractions outside the capital.

Following Cuba’s revolution in the 50’s, Puerto Rico became the heart of island Latin style for America’s jet set, and many of the island’s most memorable urban beach hotel-resorts in date from that sexy, Rat Pack era. Newer boutique hotels have added more ways to stay and play in Puerto Rico’s capital.


Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s producer, host and cruise expert, picks three of her favorite San Juan hotels from her latest cruise trips to Puerto Rico.

Fairmont El San Juan Hotel


Whether you love Old Havana and colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort lifestyle on one of the world's top tropical beaches... the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.
 
This sprawling hotel on San Juan’s 2-mile-long Isla Verde beach – one that’s been voted ‘Best Urban Beach’, is a recent addition to the prestigious, luxury Fairmont portfolio.
 
But this urban hotel has a pedigree. Considered by many the ‘grande dame’ hotel of Puerto Rico society, the El San Juan underwent a $65-million post-hurricane reno and upgrade that restored the best of its colonial architecture, Rat Pack era cool, and added modern, urban resort touches with the Latin flavour of its surroundings.
 
Watch the video above to see this captivating time capsule beach hotel that’s also one of the best places in Puerto Rico for a pre or post-cruise stay, family vacation, wedding or vow renewal.
 
Better yet, book a vacation to experience Fairmont El San Juan’s beach lifestyle, sexy, interconnected pools, breezy outdoor teak spaces, one of the largest chandeliers in the world above one of the most famous bars in the Caribbean, even the hotel’s famous, 200-year-old banyan tree.  
 
 

La Concha

Where the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel melds Old Havana, mid-century, and contemporary design hotel, La Concha is all mid-century beach chic re-imagined for the 21st century.

Right on Ashford Avenue in the heart of San Juan’s ‘it’ Condado neighborhood with expansive beach front, La Concha is one of the island’s iconic hotels, dating back to the heyday of Puerto Rico as a ‘jet set’ destination.

Its namesake is its standout feature: a gigantic, seashell-shaped ‘floating restaurant’ at the edge of the sea. Not only a marvel of engineering and design, being inside the ‘shell’ space makes any meal memorable and a special event like a wedding, absolutely epic.

The curves of the giant shell feature are unmistakably from the mid-century school of modernism. The architects continued tropical modernist features throughout the property, in the form of curves and breezeways, an open lobby and seamless transitions between indoors and outdoors, even a concrete façade that filters sunlight to create patterns mirrored indoors.


Also benefitting from a recent renovation, La Concha has kept its mid-century bones and added ocean-inspired hues and beach-inspired textures, lounges and patios kept throbbing with electronic dance music by local DJ’s, resulting in a completely modern urban beach resort, nightlife destination, and ‘Latino Chic’ lifestyle in a stylish setting few modern hotel builds can match.

O:LV Fifty Five

Around the corner in San Juan’s chic Condado neighborhood from La Concha, O:LV Fifty Five is a jewel of a boutique hotel where Old Hollywood glamour meets modern design hotel.  


Since it’s recent opening, it has made the lists proclaiming “Top Places to Travel”, “Best New Hotels”, and “Finest Hotels” among others.

This adults-only, 26-suite hideaway on a quiet side street overlooks Condado Lagoon from what must be one of, if not the best rooftop destination in San Juan. A cooling green wall and fountains form the backdrop to the infinity pool with a view on the city.


The lobby feels like the living room of an uber-sophisticated socialite, with plush textures, mood lighting and eclectic touches like a table-top metallic cheetah statue and oversized, black and white photography portraits. 


Restaurants at the ground and rooftop levels repeat the concept in their own palettes, with head-turning features like the vintage Rolls Royce – converted into a DJ booth! -  parked among tables of diners and guests heading out to the roof top terrace (pictured above).

All 3 hotels are located between Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, and the San Juan Cruise Port, just outside historic Old San Juan. Whether you’re flying in or cruising out, these three very different urban hotel experiences are unmistakable expressions of San Juan’s one-of-a-kind hospitality and travel experience.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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You never forget your first love - or your first cruise.

All the more reason to make sure your first cruise is the very best cruising experience and leaves only wonderful cruise memories.

Here at BestTrip, we believe that everyone has a perfect cruise match... and Seabourn ticks all our boxes! Warmth? Style? Humor? A sense of adventure? Always has caviar available? Tries incredibly hard to please? For us, Seabourn is the full package!

But you don't need to take our word for it and go on a cruising 'blind date'. In this video, we show you some of our favorite ways Seabourn is our perfect match.

And we're not alone. Once you do sail with Seabourn, on one of its intimate ships with so many opportunities to engage with your fellow guests in that signature, convivial Seabourn style, you'll realize that so many guests on Seabourn are committed fans.

If you're still considering taking your first cruise, compare Seabourn's signature style of ultra-luxury cruising to any land/ hotel-based luxury travel experience, and we think you'll want to take the plunge.

If you've been playing the cruise field, well, maybe you just haven't met your perfect cruise match, and you should make a date with Seabourn.

Whether you're a cruise lover or still waiting to meet 'The One', we think, once you cruise with Seabourn, you'll never want to travel any other way.


Start your Trip!



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

 

Old Pasadena


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


Tournament House and Wrigley Gardens


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

Arts & Crafts Hub

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

Rose Bowl Flea Market


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

The Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens


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

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

 

Norton Simon Museum


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

The Great Outdoors


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

Start your Trip!


Photos courtesy Visit Pasadena.

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There's now a silver lining follow-up story to the hurricanes in 2017 that took a toll on many islands in the Caribbean, including the tiny island that makes up part of the Commonwealth nation of St. Kitts & Nevis.

For many years, Nevis has been synonymous with its iconic Four Seasons Resort. It put the island on the map for luxury travelers in the know, and pioneered what has become a style of luxury beach resort world wide.

Nestled between majestic - and volcanic - Mount Nevis and the sea, the Four Seasons' low-rise, villa-style resort is a secluded, true-luxury island escape.

Not only has the resort been repaired, it's undergone a stunning transformation - a silver lining in the sad story of hurricane damage. The resort has returned to its position as the essential Nevis experience.

BestTrip enjoyed the stunning new design of the Four Seasons Nevis, and we got to meet the chef in charge of one of the resort's signature experiences: Dive and Dine for Nevis' famous spiny lobsters. The island enjoys a rich lobster fishery, PLUS a one-of-a-kind way of catching the crustacean. Guests dive with the chef for their lobster feast, then relax in a private beach side cabana till dinner time, when the chef returns with a seafood tower, steak... and their lobsters for the grill next to the cabana.

While you're in Nevis:

  • Don't miss the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. The first American Secretary of the Treasury, and central figure of the runaway Broadway hit Hamilton, was born on Nevis. His home is a centuries-old stone building near the edge of the sea in Nevis' tiny, historic Charlestown. It has an exhibit about his life and times on the island, where, it is said, he acquired an early aversion to slavery.

  • Nearby, historic Bath Hotel is the first spa resort in the Western Hemisphere. Built on a geothermal stream (see above: volcano) that was believed to have healing properties, it became a famous retreat for colonial elites, including British navy hero Admiral Lord Nelson.

  • Stroll along Pinney's beach from the Four Seasons to Sunshine's Bar and Grill, where the owner 'Sunshine' and his 'killer' rum punch are known throughout the Caribbean's exclusive yachting community. Private yachts don't miss a chance to anchor in Nevis just to come to Sunshine's for the secret recipe rum punch, laid-back beach bar vibe, and gigantic lobsters always on hand.

Start your Trip!


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The Hotel that made Copacabana Famous
Some hotels help define their destinations.   Not only with an historic pedigree, but with a location that makes them central to the local lifestyle.

The Belmond Copacabana Palace helped create the mystique of Rio de Janeiro that thrives even today.
Imagine a time when Rio’s now-epic beaches were unused and unfashionable. In the 20’s, Brazil’s upper classes lived in the cooler elevations of the hills.


So when the country’s president asked a local wealthy businessman to build a landmark hotel on Copacabana beach to help mark Brazil’s centenary, a lot of eyebrows lifted.

But the idea turned out to be the start of a legend. A French designer created an Art Deco palace inspired by the elegant, white limestone and marble hotels lining the seashore in Cannes and other storied Mediterranean destinations where the rich and famous went on holiday.    

It instantly put Copacabana on the world stage… and ever since, it’s drawn a global who’s who of royalty, celebrities and history-makers, from Princess Diana, to Marilyn Monroe, to Nelson Mandela and Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who calls the hotel a second home.

The breathtaking property anchoring Rio’s Atlantica Avenue on Copacabana beach has seen millions of dollars of renovations and upgrades in recent years, and been brought into the Belmond hospitality family that includes the legendary Orient-Express luxury train, and Venice’s most prestigious hotel, the Cipriani. Today, the Belmond Copacabana Hotel maintains its rank among that stratospheric tier of worldwide hotels who help define their destinations.



It is the landmark on what is now one of the world’s most epic beaches, an oasis from the throbbing beach lifestyle, just across from the famous mosaic boardwalk known the world over.

 
The architectural character that includes towering ceilings, period furniture crafted from Brazilian freijo or mahogany wood, along with antiques, French fabrics and fine oriental carpets is married with modern design elements and all the comforts of 6-star hospitality, including beds so comfortable, it’s said Keith Richards’ wife asked to buy some after staying in the hotel while the Rolling Stones were there on tour.

 
Guests can sip cocktails and champagne and enjoy the refreshment of fresh fruit trays and iced towels that pool staff bring around as they lounge by Belmond Copacabana Palace’s scenic, half-Olympic sized pool, spend time in the spa that is the largest urban space of its kind in Brazil, work on their serve on on-site, urban tennis courts, and join the local and international A-listers in Rio’s top bars and restaurants, from the first restaurant on the continent awarded a Michelin star, to an Italian restaurant named after its sister Hotel Cipriani in Venice, to a restaurant that overlooks the Copacabana’s legendary swimming pool.

 
(Photo: Belmond Copacabana Palace)

The Copacabana Palace evokes a sense of being part of a timeless era of international glamour, perhaps most when it hosts the celebrated Rio Carnival Ball, a tradition begun the very year the hotel opened in the 1920’s. The Carnival ball has become an event as synonymous with the city’s Carnival as the costumed samba parade itself, considered one of the greatest shows on earth.
 
The society and couture fashion highlight of Carnival, this is where the rich and famous come from around the world to party like Brazilians. The spectacular black-tie event takes over the hotel, with live samba music in different art deco ballrooms, and on the spectacular hotel veranda, overlooking Copacabana Beach that the hotel helped turn into the legend it is today.  
 

Start your Trip!

 
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3 Reasons to Book Off-Season Travel
Experienced travelers know there’s a code when it comes to travel seasons. High season, low season, shoulder season and off season – your choice of travel season can make a big difference to your travel experience. 

Is there a perfect time to travel? Well, there are at least 3 good reasons to take ‘off’ season trips. Here’s why.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer / Host, BestTrip TV

Do you find yourself always heading out of town during ‘high’ season?

‘High’ season is when everyone is traveling.  High seasons are the busiest, most expensive, ‘prime-time’ travel periods.

Some ‘high’ seasons are due to ‘non-negotiable’ travel events. Think: the ones scheduled around school breaks and essential family holidays like Thanksgiving. Whether or not you want to fight the crowds, risk delays caused by disruptive snowstorms, and pay through the nose, you’ll be at your parents’ table in time for turkey.

Others are due to weather. The very best kind of weather. Sometimes you’re aiming for opposite weather, like traveling from the chilly North in the winter to warm up in the sunny islands in the Caribbean. And sometimes, you’re heading towards your ideal conditions of what you already have, like leaving the dirty snow of the city for the perfect powder on the slopes.

‘Low’ season is generally due to sub-optimal to quite bad local weather conditions. No one’s traveling to get there, and no one’s there when you arrive. The perfect weather or main attractions or signature local experiences may be completely missing during low season. In extreme cases, some hotels or resorts are closed, the locals have all gone on their own ideal vacations, and it’s a ghost town. 

The main attractions of a new destination during ‘low’ season are quiet and solitude. It could be worse than just 'quiet' too. In the case of the height of the Atlantic hurricane season in the US South-East and the Caribbean, or typhoon season in South-East Asia, you could end up spending your holiday navigating a serious weather event.

'Shoulder' season is right on the edge between high and low seasons. It’s not the height of perfect weather or timing, but it isn't the worst, either, and for the right travelers, it could be perfect. That's the 'off'-season sweet spot.

Here are the best reasons to consider booking off-season travel:

Lower Prices and More Perks


Everything is less expensive in the off-season, from flights and hotels, to packaged tours and cruises. On top of lower prices, you can also score perks that can allow you to stay longer, take more of your favorite people with you, or get freebie inclusions. 

Book early or last minute, and you could multiply the savings. (Booking early is best for people who like the most choice, but if spontaneity is your thing, last minute off-season travel can be very rewarding.)

You can pocket your savings, or use them to upgrade to a more luxurious experience, or book special treats, like spa treatments, special dining experiences, even a pricier locally-made souvenir than you might otherwise indulge in.
 
Off-season Cruise Travel Bonus: in the off-season, when storms head your way, a cruise ship can navigate to fairer skies. Although your itinerary may change and the skies may be cloudy, your cruise will likely not endure the worst of any bad weather.

Flexibility is always the key to enjoying off-season travel.

Fewer People


If you’re the kind of person who hates line ups and crowds, off-season is the one for you. Why spend your time waiting in line to go up the Eiffel Tower, when you could be having your second café au lait while people-watching at a picturesque sidewalk café?

Locals unwind once high season is over, too. They have more time to spend with the guests who do arrive. The relaxed pace of off-season can give you some of the most memorable exchanges with the people you meet on your journey.

Special Events


There’s only one harvest season in a vineyard. A short window of time when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. And a few short weeks when the Christmas markets are open. That's what high season is all about.

But more and more destinations are creating local events to extend their tourism seasons - events that are not contingent upon Mother Nature or long-standing cultural traditions. In many places, shoulder seasons are becoming the most exciting times to visit. Culinary and wine tasting and music festivals, races and marathons and yoga retreats, art shows and film festivals. No matter what your interest, there’s likely a fascinating destination with an off-season event celebrating it.
 
Some travel timing is unavoidable. But if you have flexibility about when you travel, a travel advisor can help you design the best vacation during the season less-traveled.

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Finding Wellness in the Waters of Jamaica
You probably already know that Jamaica is famous for its beaches.  And you may even have already come back relaxed from a beach holiday in the island country that has been voted top Caribbean destination, and one of the top 20 in the world.

But the unique terrain of Jamaica has also yielded natural healing waters inland from the beach.  Here are some of the places and ways you can make wellness a part of your next getaway to Jamaican waters. 


On the Ocean

On the west end of famous Negril beach, a wellness escape combines the water with the principles of Shiatsu.  Jackie’s On The Reef offers this treatment, called Watsu, at its whimsical, waterfront property.   

Guided by a specialized therapist, the treatment takes place in warm, waist-deep water to take weight off the vertebrae, allowing the spine to twist and stretch – ultimately relieving pressure off the nerves and organs. Watsu can be a profound treatment, and it’s believed to treat the mind and renew a person’s sense of connection and oneness with others. It’s only one of the ways guests can connect with the sea, including yoga, meditation and spa treatments. 

In addition to sparkling beaches, the country’s natural springs and therapeutic baths add a new dimension to your next wellness vacation.  

Milk River Bath

Jamaica’s South Coast has one of the best mineral baths in the world. Milk River Bath contains high levels of the minerals magnesium, calcium, sulfate and natural chloride in waters averaging 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more all year round. The mineral intensity is more than 50% stronger than famous natural bath spas in Europe, and helps relieve rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica and nerve conditions as well as liver disorders.

You can stay among the lush landscape of the Jamaican countryside at the local Milk River Hotel & Spa, where you can enjoy the therapeutic baths, in private bath houses.


Rockfort Mineral Bath

These natural baths on the outskirts of Kingston are rich in minerals including calcium and sodium bicarbonate. It’s fed by a cold spring from Rock River, and locals have been using the natural mineral baths to stimulate vital processes including blood circulation.  Visitors have caught on too, and also enjoy the soothing waters by dipping in at the swimming pool, private whirlpools, or one of 11 open-air baths.


Bath Fountain

These two mineral springs, one cold and one piping hot, have been a popular destination since their discovery as far back as the 1600’s.  Bath Fountain is located in the foothills of the John Crow mountains and contains lime, sulfur and magnesium. They are said to relieve gout, rheumatism and skin conditions. 

There’s a nearby, secluded hotel with the same name that has running water from the mineral springs feeding directly into its indoor baths.

(Photo:  GoldenEye Hotel & Resort)

Traditional Jamaican Bush Bath

In addition to the Nature-provided mineral baths and springs, Jamaica has a healing cultural tradition.  Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind wellness practice, where a variety of herbs and botanicals are steeped in an outdoor bath, and treat stress, colds, skin problems and other ailments. 

Some hotels offer visitors this therapeutic experience in their spas, including the Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon and the FieldSpa at Golden Eye (of James Bond author Ian Fleming fame), with a menu of four different Healing Waters Bush Baths.

Make sure your next island vacation includes more than a swim at the beach.  Relax, and enhance your physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing with Jamaica’s healing natural springs, therapeutic baths and oceanside aquatic treatments.

(Private tub for herbal baths at the award-winning Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon)

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The Real Downton Abbey and 3 Other Majestic English Manor Houses That Star in Films
If the Downton Abbey movie and TV series has you fantasizing about life in the elegant and storied surroundings of England’s stately homes, you are not alone. The stories and history made in these estates are legendary.

At one time, there were tens of thousands of country houses owned by Britain’s noble families. The English countryside is still dotted with breathtaking architectural marvels punctuating sweeping landscapes, as well as smaller, more humble versions. Some are still homes to lords and ladies of the manor; others are grand museums, hotels, event spaces. Some are both. 

All are fascinating windows into a history and lifestyle brought to life in countless favorite novels, TV series and films. 

If you feel you were ‘to the manor born’, you’ll feel quite at home at the real ‘Downton Abbey’ and these three other, splendid examples of British stately homes that have been on the big and small screen.

HIGHCLERE CASTLE


The stately home at the end of a sweeping drive, framed by majestic ancient trees in the hero shots of every Downton Abbey show, is the real-life Highclere Castle in Berkshire (pictured, top).  

The perfect proportions and striking Jacobean architectural style are enhanced by the surrounding gardens designed by maestro landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown.

Rather than the fictional Crawley family, it’s been the real ‘seat’ of the Earls of Carnarvon since the 1600’s, with the current Earl and Countess still in residence today.

In addition to standing in as the Earl of Grantham’s ‘Downton Abbey’, Highclere Castle welcomes visitors through its now-famous front doors. So you really can wander through some of the rooms featured in Downton Abbey and imagine yourself at a dinner party, tea, or even a ball with the Crawleys.

Downton Abbey is not the first time Highclere has been at the centre of media attention and the public imagination. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was involved in the discovery of the epic riches of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt in 1922. When he ‘mysteriously’ died a short time later, it fueled tabloid stories of the ‘Curse of King Tut’. He actually died of blood poisoning from an infected insect bite, so visit Highclere Castle without fear of ancient curses lingering today!

 

BLENHEIM PALACE


Anyone with an interest in English or WW2 history must put Blenheim Palace on their travel bucket list.  

The sprawling, rare example of English Baroque architecture is woven into British history. A grateful Queen Anne gave the land in Oxfordshire, an immense sum of money, and the highest non-royal title, 1st Duke of Marlborough, to the victor for Britain in the War of Spanish Succession at the beginning of the 1700’s. It’s the only non-royal and non-Church country house bearing the name ‘Palace’.  

The descendents of that 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, have eclipsed his fame and impact on world history. It was at Blenheim Palace that Winston Churchill was born, and the name of the Marlborough family now is Spencer-Churchill, related to Lady Diana Spencer, who became Princess of Wales. 
 
Blenheim Palace and its 2000-acre signature gardens by the very busy Capability Brown have even been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast country house continues to be the home of the Dukes of Marlborough. 

Film fans recognize Blenheim Palace from scenes in wildly diverse films including Transformers: The Last Knight, James Bond’s Spectre, MIssion Impossible: Rogue Nation, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Young Victoria, and even the TV show the Amazing Race. 


CHATSWORTH HOUSE


You catch your breath the first time you see Chatsworth House, the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire since the 1500’s. It’s regularly voted Britain’s favorite country house, and it’s easy to see why. Built on the banks of a river, surrounded by exquisite parkland and backed by wooded, rocky hills, it’s a stunning building in a dramatic setting.

16 generations of the Cavendish family have been born and died at Chatsworth, including recent generations. The recently-deceased Dowager Duchess was one of the famed Mitford sisters (that included renowned novelist Nancy Mitford), the upper-class ‘Kardashians’ of their day.

Chatsworth House today still houses a remarkable collection of paintings, Old Master works, neoclassical sculpture, books and artefacts. 

If it looks familiar, Chatsworth too has been the real-life setting for famous fiction. It was named in the original 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice as one of the estates Elizabeth Bennet visits before arriving at Mr. Darcy’s home Pemberley; and that fiction came full circle as Chatsworth stood in as fictional Pemberley itself in the 2005 movie adaptation of the novel starring Keira Knightley. Another Knightley film, The Duchess, was filmed at Chatsworth, as were scenes of The Crown. 


LYME PARK


Lyme Park has the largest house in Cheshire, and it’s the only property on this list that is not still used as a family home. It was handed over to Britain’s National Trust, which preserves its history, architecture, and park lands for the public to appreciate and enjoy.

From the 1300's until after the Second World War, the estate was owned by the Leghs of Lyme, with the house dating back to the late 1600’s, and including both Palladian and Baroque styles. The lavish house interiors reflect its Regency-era rejuvenation. 

In addition to the mansion, Lyme Park is famous for its tree-lined avenues, formal gardens and park with an immense herd of red deer dating back to the 14th century. The views are tremendous, and include a building called ‘The Cage’ on a nearby hilltop that was originally a hunting lodge and later became a park-keeper’s cottage and prisoner lockup. 

Fans of British period dramas will also recognize the reflecting lake as the setting of the famous scene where Mr. Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. 

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Images Courtesy Visit Britain.

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

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

The solution? Head south.

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

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV
 

ARUBA


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

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

BONAIRE


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

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

CURACAO


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

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

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These 3 Latin American Cities Turn 500 This Year
In 14 hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue (as the rhyme we learned in school goes), and unwittingly unleashed a tsunami of Europeans heading west to explore the Americas.

That was half a millennium ago, and now, some of the earliest European settlements in the Caribbean and Latin America are marking 500 years of European settlement.


In the years since the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first sailing, the world has gained greater awareness. This new round of anniversaries do more to acknowledge that European settlement and exploitation of the Americas left a negative legacy even as it established some beautiful colonial architecture, districts, culture and history that make these citiies such irresistible travel destinations today.


As a result, many cities reaching a 500-year milestone this year are marking the anniversary in ways like cultural festivals and historical exhibits and commemorations that acknowledge the good and the bad of history. Or make investments that leave a tangible legacy like infrastructure and civic improvements that benefit all the residents of these remarkable cities: 

Panama City, Panama


Panama City calls itself the 'cradle of the New World'. Established in August 1519 by the Spanish conquistador Davila, it is the oldest European city on the Pacific coast of the Americas.

 
Panama City became the launching pad for Spanish expeditions to the Inca Empire in South America, as well as a key landmark in trade routes. Most of the gold and silver plundered from the Americas transited through the town on its way to Europe.



Today, Panama City is the very modern capital city of Panama. It's also where you'll find the Pacific entrance/ exit of the Panama Canal, the nearly 50-mile long waterway that now connects the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. Miraflores Visitor Centre allows travelers by land to learn about and watch ships pass through this engineering wonder of the world.


Panama's history is still there to see.  The original city – known as Panama la Vieja (Old Panama) – was attacked, looted, and burned by the British in the 17th century. You can still visit those ruins, only 5 miles from where the city was rebuilt, which is now called the 'Old Quarter' (Casco Viejo) of Panama City. 


Surrounded by a modern skyline of high-rises, Casco, as the Old Quarter is called (pictured, top), features architecture from the city's Spanish colonial times, to French and island buildings that date to the late 19th and early 20th century during the building of the Canal. Locals mingle with international visitors in the charming, walkable district, known for restaurants, cafes, clubs, boutiques, galleries, museums, street art and local color.  

Don't miss the chance to try Ceviche from the local seafood market at the terminus of the fantastic pedestrian beltway Cinta Costera.
 

Havana, Cuba


Spanish conquistadors struggled to establish a number of settlements on the island in the years leading up to 1519. The site of what's now Havana (originally San Cristobal de La Habana) won out with the bay that became the city's natural harbor. It was the third – and final – capital of the island. Believe it or not, the city was founded in November 1519 under a ceiba tree that's still growing. You'll find it near the El Templete church on Plaza de Armas.


Havana's modern history has been as tumultuous as its early years. With US government restrictions on its citizens to travel to the island off again and on again, it's not easy (but not impossible) for Americans to experience Havana in its 500th year.    


Canadians, Europeans and citizens of other countries can still easily travel to Havana, where reportedly thousands of renovations and civic improvements are underway to mark the city's 500th anniversary.


 
Classic Havana is still there, though, where you can walk the ocean boardwalk – now with some new architecture replacing some rundown buildings- enjoy the historic downtown, with its plazas, hidden street scenes, the stunning Kempinski hotel (the only luxury hotel) with the best view of the city from its rooftop bar with an authentic mojito or daiquiri in hand, re-live the city made famous by Hemingway, Castro and Guevera, and of course, test your memory of classic American car models in all their pastel glory.

 

Veracruz, Mexico


Veracruz is one of Mexico's oldest and largest ports. The legendary Cortes himself, sailing the Gulf of Mexico, landed here in the spring of 1519 to found the first Spanish city on the Mexican mainland.


The port played a vital role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, as well as colonial immigration and trade. Vast quantities of silver, natural (and rare) red dye, chocolate, vanilla, chili and also African slaves transited through Veracruz. 



Today, Veracruz isn't the beach destination other coastal Mexican cities may be. But it's a lower key destination for visitors interested in exploring nearby ruins, and in the city, taking trolleys through the historic center of Veracruz, absorbing the atmosphere of the vibrant main square, exploring the colonial fortress and museum on an island overlooking the harbor, and indulging in Veracruz's signature cuisine, including its most famous dish, tamales: corn dough enclosing a savory filling, wrapped in banana leaves, steamed and served with piquant sauces.


2019 may be the 500th anniversaries of these 3 unique Latin American cities, but they're memorable anytime you visit.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Photos: G Adventures
 
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There's no visit to Argentina's capital without experiencing tango. It is both music and an unmistakable dance, perhaps the most sensual dance in the world.


Our Monograms tour of Buenos Aires included an incredible tango dinner show at El Viejo Almacen that took our breath away! A Monograms agenda allows for plenty of free time to explore our own interests (in addition to an orientation tour of the city that includes the world's widest boulevard, the cemetery where Eva Peron (immortalized in the musical Evita, and song 'Don't Cry for me, Argentina!' is interred, and tastes of the country's obsession with soccer as well as its famous way with beef and wine).


And in Buenos Aires, at the top of my personal agenda was a studio/ showroom visit to Comme il Faut, to meet the designer whose glamorous shoes single-handedly elevated tango to being as elegant as it is passionate.


Our Monograms guide gave us helpful, local expert's advice about the best way to get to the tucked-away 'Rue des Artisans' in BA's old neighborhood, where whitewashed buildings, wrought iron trim, black awnings, and jardinières on the street made me feel like I really was in Paris. No wonder Buenos Aires is called 'The Paris of South America'.

Parts of Buenos Aires may evoke Paris, but the soundtrack is all tango.And for me, the chance to meet Comme il Faut's designer and founder, Alicia Muñiz, whose limited edition shoes are wearable trophies for tango dancers and women of elegance around the world, was a personal highlight of Buenos Aires.


In this video, I share her passion for tango, her inspiration, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit that transformed tango shoes for a new generation of professional and everyday dancers, and built a creative business… from the 'foot' up.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV


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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.

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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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Discover Tropical Romance in 3 Overwater Bungalow Resorts on the Caribbean Sea
(Re)kindle the romance close to home – without long flights to the South Pacific or the Maldives!

Overwater villas are the next best thing to a private tropical island of your own – a luxury, bungalow suspended right over top of jewel-toned seas with the rustic-chic experience of living indoors and outdoors. It doesn't need to be Valentine's Day or your honeymoon for you and your sweetheart to deserve an overwater dream holiday.

Here are 3 resorts on the Caribbean Sea - in Jamaica, Mexico, and Panama, where you can live the dream.


Where: Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay, Jamaica


The Overwater Bungalows and Resort Highlights:

Couples-only Sandals built the Caribbean's first all-inclusive overwater bungalows, inspired by more distant cousins in Tahiti. These secluded villas are just off the resort's private island with private water taxi service. Picture glass floors, butler service, private infinity pools and outdoor soaking tub for two or hammocks over the water where you can dangle your toes and absorb the sun, extended outdoor decks and outdoor showers that blur the line between indoor and outdoor luxury living.


  • All-inclusive, unlimited fine dining at 8 restaurants and unlimited wine and spirits at 5 bars, including swim-up, and stocked bars in every room
  • Free wifi, tips, taxes and gratuities
  • Roundtrip airport transfers and BMW private airport transfers for all Butler and Club Sandals guests
  • Professional water sport instruction and all equipment; PADI-Certified SCUBA diving, snorkeling 
  • Hobie Cats, paddle boards, kayaks, beach volleyball, bocce ball, pool tables, day and night tennis, unlimited land sports and state-of-the-art fitness centers
  • Day and night entertainment including live shows
  • PLUS exchange privileges and all amenities and inclusions with 2 nearby Sandals – it's like having 3 resorts in one!

 

Where: Karisma's El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico

 
The Overwater Bungalows and Other Resort Highlights:

The adults-only resort's 'Palafitos' (pictured top) are not only the first overwater bungalows in Mexico, but are also on Maroma Beach, one of the world's top-rated beaches. Glass-bottom floors give you a view of the sea from the moment you wake up and your feet touch the floor; in the evenings, you'll have an unobstructed view of the setting sun from your own infinity pool on your private deck. And outdoor shower and private butler top off your indulgent beach escape.

 
  • Easily-reached via non-stop flights to Cancun
  • 8 diverse resort restaurants available in the 'Gourmet inclusive' all-inclusive program and 24-hour room service
  • 2 lounges and 3 swim up bars
  • Non-motorized watersports
  • Spanish lessons, yoga, aqua aerobics, latin dance lessons, cooking classes,  beach volleyball, mescal tasting, free wifi and more
  • Daily entertainment and  nightly entertainment including karaoke, live music, circus show and more
  • Shopping tours to Playa del Carmen
  • Fitness center, sauna and steam baths at the spa, aqua fit

 

Where: Viceroy, Bocas del Toro, Panama – opening slated for 2021

 
Overwater Bungalows and Other Resort Highlights:

  • 42 overwater bungalows the first in Central America
  • Accessible via a short flight from Panama City, boat, seaplane or helicopter
  • 457 acres of Caribbean coastline in a famous eco-destination, next to jungle and San San Pond Sak wetlands, a habitat for birds and wildlife exploration via eco-tours and hiking
  • Sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, surfing, biking, walks and lounging on the lengthy beach
  • 42 overwater bungalows and 150 more guestrooms and residences
  • 8 onsite restaurants plus lounges,
  • Multiple pools, spa, fitness center, meditation rooms

 
Tip: If your travel heart is set on the romance of an overwater villa, book well advance as these evocative, one-of-a-kind accommodations are always among the first to fully book especially in high season December – March.

Start your Trip!



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Go Glamping in the Galapagos on the Celebrity Flora

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

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

Start your Trip!

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6 Tips to Survive - and Enjoy - an 'Obli-cation'
When your 'vacation' is really an obligation, you're taking an 'obli-cation'. You've taken these trips: cross-country to the in-laws' for the holidays. A family or friend's destination wedding. The mandatory winter break or summer holiday family reunion/group vacation.

When you take an oblication, the usual steps you take that ensure fun travel may no longer apply.

On any of these occasions, you may find yourself spending priceless vacation time traveling to a destination you wouldn't choose, spending time with some people you wouldn't choose.
 
But an oblication doesn't have to be a holiday write-off. Of course you have to be present and enthusiastic for the 'main events' – the point of the get togethers.

But there are ways to salvage your next oblication and make sure you create some great vacation memories.

1 Stay in a hotel instead of someone's home

Nothing creates tension like being trapped in a guest room even when it's someone you love. We know, they expect you to stay with them. But tip-toeing around incompatible household schedules and rules and lifestyles 24/7 is no fun. Early birds vs. night owls. Health-food obsessed vs. take-out fans.

Booking a hotel gives you space of your own, more freedom to follow your own timetable, and amenities that will feel like a real vacation treat. Whether it's a pool or spa or a terrific bar to relax at the end of the day, or a gym where you can work out or a juice bar where you can stick to your healthy eating habits, hotel stays make oblications into vacations. 

A hotel can give you an excuse to spend time with sub groups – like drinks at the bar with just your sibling, or taking all the kids to the pool and giving other parents a break, or lounging in the sauna with just the girls or just the guys.


2 Or in a different hotel/resort than the rest of the group

When the oblication is already at a resort or hotel, you can still carve your own space to create your own holiday. Ask your travel agent about nearby properties where you can stay away from the group and rejoin them for the 'main events'. Yes, the group may get the benefits of a minimum group booking. But hopefully there are enough people in the group that your independent booking won't jeopardize that.
 

3 Or in a 'ship within a ship' / separate resort wing 

More and more groups are cruising together for Thanksgiving, Christmas/ Hanukkah, spring break, summer holidays, weddings/vow renewals, even bachelor/ette parties. 

You have to be on that cruise. But there's still a way.

Some ships have more luxurious 'ship within a ship' options, and some resorts have these wings, too. These private enclaves are nearly like being in a separate ship or resort, with their own pool/ spa /lounge/ bar/ restaurant facilities that feel like you are in a separate hotel or ship. Except that you can head to the main part of the ship or resort and join the bigger group whenever you wish.

Talk to your travel agent about those options on the ship or resort – or, if the group is still deciding, get your travel agent to help you identify and book cruises and resorts where this is an option.


You'll enjoy perks and special experiences that will make your oblication feel like a real holiday – and worth every penny.

4 Carve out some sub-group together time

If you come and are fully enthusiastic for the main events, one of the real pleasures of family or group getaways is the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family members – and that doesn't have to happen in a whole-group setting.

Don't just hope for - plan some of these moments away from the main group (see hotels, above).

Maybe it's just the two of you – no other friends, family members or even your own kids in tow. In fact, those extended-family get togethers are ideal times for parents to spell each other off and take turns taking care of groups of kids to give other parents a break. Or grandparents to have the kids all to themselves.

Book an excursion - even if it's just coffee or wine on a terrace – with a sibling, parent, grandparent, or small group of friends you rarely get to spend real time with.

That relaxed intimacy and conversation will be among your most special memories.

5 Research the destination as if you had chosen it for a 'real' holiday yourself

Even if it's not the destination you would choose, it's still a change of scenery, a new place to explore and experience. Don't assume you'll be spending all your time pre-programmed. Do your research and discover experiences that interest you. And book some in advance so the time doesn't slip away without experiencing the destination as you would if you were there on a real holiday.
 
Even if it's your significant other's - or your own - hometown, pretend you're on holiday and discover what tourists love to do there. Embrace anything local with an open mind. Whether it's a hike in a local park, a visit to a local museum or artist's workshop – you can feel like a tourist anywhere if you put your mind to it. 

6 And if you're the one planning the 'obli-cation'… 

The plan is for everyone to enjoy being together, right? Help create a holiday environment everyone can enjoy. Don't expect everyone to be together or try to program every minute of every day whether it's at your home or at a destination.

Work with a travel agent to find destinations and hotel/resort/cruise options like the ones above so each member of the group can be carve their own niche holiday. Share these tips – and use them yourself! So you and everyone coming to the oblication can leave with happy smiles and wonderful memories.
 

Start your Trip!


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

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


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

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

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5 Places to Go Island Hopping in Tahiti

The very word 'Tahiti' evokes the mystique of one of the most remote and romantic island destinations in the world.

An island hopping escape to even a few of the 118 islands and atolls in this South Pacific paradise is not only the ultimate escape from northern winters, Tahiti is the trip of a lifetime.  (Top image credit: Chris McLennan/Tahiti Tourism).

Picture your arrival, welcomed by Tahitian music and fragrant Tiare flowers…  and use these highlights of some of the key islands to start planning your island hopping fantasy escape:

They call the island of Tahiti 'The Queen of the Pacific'.  It's the largest and most populated island, and is the starting point for travelers, who fly into the capital city Papeete. Don't miss Marae Arahurahu, an ancient Tahitian outdoor temple, or, in the centre of town, the market with tropical produce and fresh local fish and Tahitian arts and crafts, including the biggest selection of pareus (sarongs) in the country. Outside the city, Tahiti boasts spectacular scenery: lush green peaks tower over cascading waterfalls and rippling pools in the interior, and black- and white-sand beaches and turquoise lagoons at the sea.

Moorea is a mere 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti.  If that doesn't already sound like a fairytale, consider Moorea's nickname: 'The Magical Island'.  It is even said to be the inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Hai. You've seen it in the movies, from Mutiny on the Bounty to Love Affair.  But film can never do full justice to the dramatic beauty of the island.  Make sure you go to Belvedere Lookout, with its breathtaking views of Moorea’s twin bays, Cook’s and Opunohu. Look on Moorea's hillsides for its signature produce, pineapples, and visit a local distillery to sample exotic liqueurs from pineapple, mango, coconut, vanilla and other Tahitian flavors.

Here's another magical nickname: the 'Garden of Eden'.  Huahine is 110 miles northwest of Tahiti, and actually consists of two islands joined by a bridge.  Its main town, Maeva, means 'welcome' in Tahitian! Drive into the hills for spectacular views over white-sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons, and visit restored Tahitian marae (temples), centuries-old stone fish traps, and plantations of melons, vanilla, coffee, taro, mango, and flowers. Do you surf? There are world-class waves at Avamoa Pass, and the world’s largest outrigger canoe race begins here each October.

Photo Credit: Chris McLennan/ Tahiti Tourism

Bora Bora is a tiny island with a big reputation.  'The Romantic Island' has been called the most beautiful island in the world. It's only 18 miles around, circled by a necklace of coral. Lush mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the indescribable turquoise, lapis and aquamarine of the famous, sheltered lagoon. Bora Bora is home to world-class resorts and quaint continental restaurants, where celebrity A-listers vacation in luxurious seclusion.

The Tuamotu Atolls are the largest of the Polynesian archipelagos, Tahiti’s 'Strand of Pearls' with 76 islands and atolls spread over more than 7500 square miles. Four of these atolls – Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, Fakarava – offer world-class scuba diving, horseback riding, shark feeding and deep-sea fishing. In addition, the ecosystem in the Fakarava atoll is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. And Manihi is 'the Pearl Island', the site of the first of many pearl farms that have made Tahiti famous for prized, cultivated black pearls.

Start your Trip!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep: River, Forest, and Tented Villas

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

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

Tented Spa Villas with Traditional and Holistic Wellbeing Programs

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

The wellness program also offers holistic experiences and retreats.

Dining in a Laotian Forest

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

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

Play and Explore

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

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

Giving Back

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

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

Start your Trip!

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Indulge Your Love for Luxe in the Dominican Republic

All-inclusive resorts in Puerto Plata and elsewhere on this lush Caribbean island with 1000 miles of coastline put the Dominican Republic on the map for travelers seeking affordable family and couples vacations from winter weather further north. 

But what you may not know is that you can also find experiences that rival deluxe vacations anywhere in the Caribbean. Save or splurge, here's how to add indulgence to your winter holiday in the islands this year.

Lush Lodging

In the Dominican Republic, you can stay in unmatched accommodations that run the gamut from world-renowned boutique hotels to opulent resorts. Punta Cana in the east in particular is home to luxury properties ideal for intimate romantic travel, families and multi-generation travel, and large wedding, vow renewal, or reunion groups, even business conferences.

In addition to stunning beaches and multiple pools, many of these properties offer whirlpools, saunas, and extended wellness programs as well as traditional spa and aesthetic treatments.  Take sunset yoga, healthy cooking, and fitness programs.

And for complete privacy, book a private villa for a secluded, A-list holiday experience.

Gorgeous Golf, Fantastic Fishing and Prestigious Polo

Dominican Republic is a golfer’s dream, with over two dozen meticulously manicured courses set against the backdrop of the country’s most stunning scenery and shoreline. Pete Dye’s seaside “Teeth of the Dog” (below) at the storied Casa de Campo resort put the Dominican Republic on the world golfer’s map.

 

Here you can play courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Fazio, Nick Price, and Robert Trent Jones. Sculpted bunkers and uneven terrain but let the natural contours of the land dictate the courses’ routing. Tropical breezes on the coastal courses add another layer of challenge to even the best player's game

Sports fishermen flock to Dominican Republic’s coasts in pursuit of the blue marlin, one of the largest fish in the world. Hit the water for a tournament or on a charter boat excursion to fish blue marlin, white marlins, mahi-mahi, wahoo, swordfish and tuna in the Caribbean Sea; while blue marlin, wahoo and barracudas can be found in the Atlantic waters off the North Coast.

Dominican Republic is part of the international circuit of the 'Sport of Kings', with polo facilities available at some of the country’s most exclusive resorts in La Romana, Punta Cana and Santo Domingo. Hire horses for your own tournaments, or head to a polo match to enjoy the action as a spectator for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.

Serious Shopping

Fashionistas and shopping enthusiasts will be on cloud nine in Dominican Republic, where it’s easy to find couture clothing, unique handmade crafts and stunning precious jewelry all within close proximity.

But we love local best.  Indigenous amber or glassy blue larimar (above) jewelry makes the perfect souvenir, and a piece of local larimar or amber jewelry will definitely start a conversation when your friends at home see it.

Make sure to take tours of local coffee, rum, cigar or jewelry manufactures for an opportunity to meet Makers, learn about local culture, and pick up authentic souvenirs.

Delicious Dining and Next-Level Nightlife

Did you know the Dominican Republic was named the Gastronomic Culture Capital of the Caribbean?  The island is one of the few in the Caribbean with extensive, diverse and abundant local agriculture.  Ingredients are fresh and inspiring.  Try the fusion cuisine of innovative chefs who have taken classic international recipes and given them a Dominican twist with local ingredients.

After dinner, find a terrace with a view or a club outside your hotel, especially in the capital of Santo Domingo, where international performers and DJ's make frequent appearances and you can dance the night away to local merengue music. Wine cellars and cigar clubs also offer exclusive tastings sure to please both connoisseurs and novice cigar aficionados and sommeliers.

If you're looking for luxury, maybe it's time to re-define your Dominican Republic vacation experience. 

Start your Trip!

 

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3 Greek Islands You Must Visit Before You Die

Greece is famous as the cradle of Western civilization. It's the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, literature and drama, marathons, the Olympics, plus some of your favorite math principles.

Modern Greece consists of a mountainous mainland and hundreds of islands surrounded by the Aegean, Ionian, Cretan and Mediterranean Seas. Over two hundred of the islands are inhabited, many of them rich in history and mythology, as well as the Mediterranean culture, cuisine, maritime and beach lifestyle that makes Greece one of the top bucket list travel destinations.

Some travelers in the know take holidays to Greece year after year, and Greek islands are a highlight of Eastern Mediterranean cruises. If you've never visited Greece, here are the islands you just can't miss.

Photo (Credit) SantoriniSantorini inspired the title of this article. It's continuously named the 'best island in the world' and the 'Greek Island you must visit before you die'. (But we think all the islands in this list merit the title). (Top Photo Credit)

When you hear 'Greek island', chances are that the sight that pops into your head is one of the iconic pictures of Santorini. The island's sky blue domed church roofs, white washed buildings on the edges of cliffs, and steep, narrow cobbled streets overlooking brilliant blue seas stand in to represent the iconic Greek island vista of everyone's travel dreams. 

Santorini is what remains of an island after the eruption of an ancient volcano. Now, a giant lagoon is encircled by the 300 m (980 ft) high cliffs of a crescent shaped island and a much smaller island opposite where the remaining volcano rim is still above the sea. Visiting ships, yachts and local fishing boats approaching the shelter of the curve are afloat in the crater of the volcano. Inside the caldera, the water is so deep - over 400m - that only the largest ships can anchor.   Santorini's capital, Fira (Thira) clings to the top of the cliff over the lagoon.

Photo (Credit)

Don't Miss: volcanic-sand beaches in unique black or red sands, brilliant sunsets, a traditional and a growing modern food culture. Santorini's micro-climate nurtures tomatoes and capers of famously exquisite flavor, and an indigenous grape varietal that local vintners turn into celebrated crisp, dry white and amber-toned wines.


 Photo (Credit)

MykonosMykonos is the Greek island where Ibiza party and French Riviera beach lifestyles meet. Cosmopolitan and glamorous, Mykonos may be Greece's most fashionable holiday destination. Luxury hotels, stylish bars, clubs and parties where beautiful people come to see and be seen until dawn, then sleep it off on magnificent beaches or private yachts… if that is your style of travel, Mykonos is for you. It's also known for being an LGBT-friendly destination and party central.

(Photo Credit)

Mykonos is both the island and its main town, which is also called Chora (meaning 'town', in the Greek style of towns with the same name as their islands). Picturesque local architecture, sunsets, people watching and shopping appeal to visitors of all ages.

(Photo Credit) 

The island's nickname is 'the Island of Winds'. Windmills are one of the defining and unique features of the Mykonos landscape, built by Venetians in the 16th century to grind flour and used until electricity took over only a few decades ago.

(Photo Credit)

Don't Miss: Romantic, artistic Little Venice, where rows of 18th century colorful fishing houses with overhanging balconies line the seaside, many of them shops, cafes, and galleries. And Petros the Pelican, the mascot of Chora's waterfront.   

(Photo Credit) RhodesRhodes' nickname is The Island of the Knights. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the world. Walking its Street of Knights, you feel transported back to the Middle Ages, when conquering Crusaders built fortifications, the Palace of the Grand Masters, towers, inns and rest of the medieval city and streets that remain today.

(Photo Credit)

But Rhodes' history pre-dates mediaeval knights by thousands of years, when the island's strategic position made it central to ancient history. One of Rhodes' lasting claims to fame is a landmark that no longer exists.

(Photo Credit)

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The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Erected in 280 B.C. at the Mandraki harbor to mark a battle victory, the Colossus was a bronze statue of extraordinary size - about the same as the Statue of Liberty! Rhodes' Colossus stood for less than a century before an earthquake toppled it. Even then, for another 800 years, its remains lying on the ground drew travelers to Rhodes to marvel at and write about its size. Today the statues of deer on pillars at the entrance to the harbor mark where the Colossus' feet were said to stand and allow ships to pass beneath this feat of design and engineering.

 (Photo Credit)

Don't Miss: The beaches. Don't be so distracted by the history you miss its stunning beaches. The wine. Rhodes is said to have been the first island in the Aegean to cultivate vineyards for wine; that tradition continues today. The lush, green interior and emerald fresh waters inland from the beaches.

When to goIn most of the Greek islands, the sun shines 300 magical days a year. Summers are high season for travelers arriving by air and cruise ship, but April- June and September- October are blessed with lovely weather. Looking for mild weather, quiet exploration – and a bargain? More and more people are discovering Greece in early and late winter months too.

Start your Trip! 

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Maybe it's your first sight of a palm tree in the sea breeze. Or the feel of sand between your toes. Even your first tropical cocktail in the warmth of the sun. But for some people, it's the taste of any of these iconic flavors that makes you feel like you're finally on vacation in the Caribbean. read more