I'm not sure exactly why I am so fascinated by the polar regions. Maybe it's the beauty of the mountains, snow, fjords, glaciers and icebergs. Having flown over/near the arctic circle a number of times on my way home from Europe, I always wondered what these islands below looked like at sea level. It could also be the allure of the polar bears.
Whether you are looking for a short getaway, to tick off a lifetime dream experience or explore new destinations, there are no shortages of beautiful golf courses around the world for you to enjoy. Fun and exciting trips just waiting for you to create lifelong memories – for yourself, with family and friends.
Off the south eastern coast of Greece lie some of the most stunning islands of the Aegean Sea – the Cyclades Islands. Meaning “encircling”, the archipelago is named such because they form a rough circle around the island of Delos, the legendary birthplace of Zeus’ children, twins Artemis and her brother Apollo. As stated on the Visit Greece tourism site, Delos is the head priest of the Cyclades, the birthplace of immortals. Delos is not a museum. It is not there to tell a story. It is history itself.
There’s a reason the classics are the classics. We love the romance and filtered light of Venice, Kyoto’s temples and gardens, that view of Machu Picchu. But with popularity comes the strain of overcrowding: stress on fragile environments, landmarks, and local infrastructure – and an annoying lack of elbow room. Seasoned travelers know how best to see the favorites, visiting in the off-season, taking two wheels, hiking hidden trails.
But for many iconic destination, there is a place less traveled that is just as cool.
Here are 7 less-explored counterparts to popular destinations that are just as fascinating and fun – proof that when it comes to where to go next, there’s always a new hit to discover.
Who knew there were so many options to think about when planning a Galapagos cruise? Cruise vs land? Sailing yacht or small ship? Which itinerary? What time of year?
When on safari, you have several types of accommodation choices, from high end, five star luxury lodges to simple campsites and a lot in between. Following are the descriptions for the top three most common choices.
When thinking of South America, Peru, Brazil and Argentina often get the most attention. But don't overlook Chile, a country with a diverse landscape north to south and ample things to see and experience.
It's no secret. I fell in love with this country over 10 years ago. Warm and friendly people, great food, wine, interesting history. And for me, the absolute best was the amazing scenic beauty and wildlife. There is no doubt I'll be returning.
Here are my top 8 reasons to visit:
Switzerland has been in my memory bank for a long time, having lived near Zurich for a brief time in the 60's (yes, I'm dating myself), and having visited numerous times while living in Germany. I truly believe that my early introduction to the Alps with my family is why I have such a deep love for mountains.
The Swiss of course are well known for their watches, cheese and chocolate, but the mountain scenery, in my opinion, is the deepest connection. The Matterhorn, Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau - all iconic sites, and worth seeing. A few years ago we went up Mount Titlis and Mount Pilatus. Also worthy. Just beautiful.
With popularity come the crowds. The day we went up Mount Titlis was beautiful but took 4 hours waiting in line for the cable car to reach the top. The wonderful thing about Switzerland, though, is there is no shortage of mountain scenery, from a distance or up close. To enjoy an area less crowded is not difficult.
An area we discovered oh so many years ago is Meiringen - Hasliberg, a perfect spot to explore and enjoy in all seasons, as we did. These pictures are in June, but it's also a fabulous winter resort - in fact its where I learned how to ski.
Do you think a cruise just isn't active enough for you?
This may be true statement on some cruise lines, but certainly not all. A number of small ships have, as part of their "personality", fun and exciting ways for you to maintain your active lifestyle - ways well beyond the workout room.
You can certainly go for the treadmill or elliptical machine, but check out these options. They may have you rethinking your cruise choices!
IMAGINE yourself on the teak deck of a timelessly elegant clipper ship, a warm breeze blowing in your face as the crew unfurl 54,000 square feet of sails above you.
You begin to tingle head to toe.
As you sail into the sunset, you sigh when you realize this is one of the most incredible experiences you have ever had.
A little like Hawaii 50 years ago (except no crowds and many more modern conveniences). A bit like Tahiti except much more affordable. A big slice of paradise. Yet largely undiscovered by North American travelers.
This would be the Cook Islands.
15 beautiful and lush islands make up this Polynesian archipelago, with stunning white sand beaches, volcanic peaks, turquoise lagoons, beautiful coral reefs, laid back lifestyle and some of the friendliest, if not the friendliest, people in the world.
The islands remain unspoiled, with no chain restaurants and no buildings higher than the tallest coconut tree! In fact, that's the law.
How can you go wrong?
As the saying goes, big surprises come in small packages. Zodiak excursions do just that - surprise, excite and treat you to once in a lifetime experiences.
There are a number of special places in the world that are only accessible by zodiak, or skiffs - small boats designed to take a small number of people into places that bigger ships (and even small ships) just can't get to - places where there are no ports or no docks.
For most people, their first introduction to Alaska includes a cruise through the Inside Passage, with stops most often in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. Icy Straight, Haines and Sitka are occasional replacements for one of the "big 3", as I call them.
Each of these stops offer unique experiences that highlight the best things about Alaska: Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, salmon fishing and the 14,000 totem poles in Ketchikan, Russian history in Sitka, bears in Icy Straight and exploring the Yukon from Skagway. These are just a few examples of special memories that are created in the Last Frontier.
While I often recommend these cruises, I also point out that when 3-5 ships are in port at the same time, especially during the peak summer months, it does get crowded.
And thus it would be remiss of me not to mention the quieter ports of call.
On July 4th, we sailed out of Copenhagen, the beginning of our 9 night Baltic cruise. We were treated to sunny days the entire cruise, and though I rarely let weather hinder my experience, I must admit that not having even one drop of rain was quite special.
A Baltic cruise had been on our wish list for a number of years, and this itinerary and timing fit perfectly into an already planned visit to Germany. In all honestly I would have preferred a smaller ship (a much smaller ship!) as it would have reduced some of the transfer time, but none the less, we packed in a lot of experiences.
A Baltic itinerary is not one I would describe as relaxing. It is however, incredibly interesting, very rich in history, with each port offering unique experiences. Following are the highlights.
Photo courtesy of Backroads Travel
Sometimes the best medicine, the best way to relax and unplug, to get away from all the noise, is to take a walk or a hike. Clear the brain. Get some fresh air. Right?
But not just any walk or hike.
Trails where you take in breathtaking scenery, drink in the beauty of the mountains, glaciers, pristine forests. Oh, and the views....... just imagine!
I know a lot about cruising and the different brand personalities. The brands also do a wonderful job promoting themselves and their styles. I have found, however, the best way to get authentic insight (aside from taking the cruise myself) is from you, my clients. I love hearing about personal experiences. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table, and this is the best way to learn and truly understand how to match the right experiences - on and off the ship.
Dear friends and clients Kim and Maria are seasoned cruisers and global travelers and are not afraid to go off the beaten trail to explore more authentic, less touristy areas. "Go where the locals go" fits them perfectly. We met on on board a transatlantic trip while looking for exciting options in Reykjavik.
Their recent Celebrity cruise had an extended stay in New Orleans, and I thought it would be fun to share their experiences with you (written by them and sharing with their permission of course!). My learnings are at the end.
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism (Lake-Wakatipu Queenstown)
I know if you were to ask a Kiwi or folks who have experienced the wonderfulness of New Zealand, they would give way more reasons on why you'll fall in love with the country. Wonderful, proud, friendly people, stunning scenery, unique flora, fauna and wildlife, the land of Bilbo Baggins and the Shire, caves lit up by glow worms, delicious food and wine - these just a few.
Here are my top reasons:
When you are looking to explore unique and intimate ports of call, look no further than small ship cruises. With under 600 passengers, ships are small enough to sail into areas that big ships can't even dream of. But don't be fooled - small ships offer big and unforgettable experiences. Here are eight destinations that have caught our attention.
Photo courtesy of Star Clipper Cruises
Over 10,000 waterfalls, 130 volcanoes (30 active), 800 hot springs, 269 named glaciers and a population of 334,00 fun and friendly residents, all in an area smaller than the state of Kentucky. This is Iceland.
If you love open spaces and nature mixed with a little adventure (or a lot), then a visit here might just be for you, because Iceland can be simply described in one word -
To really experience all that Iceland has to offer, you need 7-10 days to explore the country. But if you only have a few days (maybe you are on a stopover to/from Europe or you are on a cruise), day trips in and from Reykjavik will have you leaving with WOW memories.
My top suggestions include the following:
Photo courtesy of Ponant
A good number of new ships are being launched in 2018 and 2019, with more coming in 2020.
This year will bring Seabourn's Ovation, Scenic's Eclipse Discovery yacht, Viking's Orion and Ponant's new explorer class Le Laperouse and Le Champlain ships. Celebrity is showcasing the new Edge and Holland America is introducing the Niew Statendam, the sistership to the lovely Konigsdam. Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean all have new mega ships.
Picture courtesy of Star Clipper Cruises
This picture above gets many a conversation started.
"Ohhhh, I want to do that!"
I agree. Nothing like cruising along beautiful sunny coastlines, hearing the sound of waves below and the winds above filling out the sails. And one can't forget simply relaxing on the teak decks of a tall sail ship.
Addicted to your smartphone? Chances are pretty high that your answer is YES! And I'm sure your spouse, children and friends would say the same. In fact, I recently saw a statistic that over 50% of teens feel they are addicted to the phone, and on average we check our phones 75-100 times per day - texting, email, Facebook, Instagram and all those other apps. Wow, right?
Do you need time in a NO PHONE zone?
Check out these fun, active (and healthy) vacation experiences - perfect for families needing time away from technology, time to re-connect (but equally great for singles, couples, friends and even affinity groups). So much fun that no one will miss that phone (guaranteed at least for a several hours but usually all day if not longer)!
River cruising continues to be very, very popular. Plenty of new ships are being launched, along with new itineraries, new ports of call, ships dedicated to younger travelers and excursions dedicated to wellness and being more active.
River cruising is truly amazing. And the good news is that one doesn't have to leave North America to take advantage of this exceptional experience. One region relatively under the radar is the Columbia River (and her tributaries).
Photo courtesy of European Waterways
When you think of cruise lines, which ones to come to mind?
More often than not, the big cruise lines are mentioned. Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity and so on. Given the amount of advertising they do - TV ads, magazine ads, celebrity endorsements, social media, etc., it's not surprising they are top of mind.
Most people considering a trip to Alaska travel between May and September, with mid-June through mid-August being peak season. These are the warmer months, the days are longer, the snow has melted, the whales have migrated north and are putting on great "shows". Alaska's interior becomes more accessible. It's a beautiful time.
It's also a time when the cruise ships start arriving with thousands of passengers. During the peak months some ports can have 3-4 ships in at the same time, disembarking 5-8000 passengers. The beauty offered during these months unfortunately also comes with crowds.
Why not give yourself plenty of elbowroom and see Alaska from a different perspective? Explore the Inside Passage on a spring-time small ship cruise.