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?
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?
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.
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:
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).
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.
One of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry these days is multi-generational travel. It could be because 10,000 boomers are retiring every month, and many love to travel. Maybe they realize how quickly time passes by, and now is as good a time as ever to tackle that bucket list. Maybe they realize how travel brings families together, reconnecting and strengthening bonds.
Whether its three generations (grandparents, children and grandchildren) or two (grandparents and grandchildren, parents and children, aunts and nieces and nephews), there are many destinations that can be explored together to create memories you just can't stop talking about.
What is adventure travel? In many minds it conjures up images of speed and adrenaline, like racing down a mountain on a bike, white water rafting through class 5 rapids or taking the plunge bungee jumping in New Zealand. To others a big adventure might be a moderate hike to a waterfall or climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
So what is adventure travel? The Answer: the definition is different depending on who you are talking to. An adventurous activity to one person may be difficult and thrilling, yet that same activity may moderate to someone else.
How the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) defines adventure travel is spot on:
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism (100% NZ)
I've always been active, and enjoy some form of activity when I travel. Not "uber" active, extreme sport active, mind you. It is vacation after all. I'm more of the soft adventure active. I love exploring areas I visit, whether its a walk through town, a short hike, eating at local cafes, getting away from the crowds, seeing wildlife, just experiencing the more authentic side of things. Of course starting and ending my day at nice accommodations makes the experience that much better. Based on recent travel trends, I'm not alone.
60 is the new 50 these days, right?
Trips that include hiking, biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling or getting out on a skiff matched with cultural immersions and learning opportunities are growing in popularity, especially with the boomer population. But not just this group - families and multi-generational groups are onboard as well. Nothing like fun activities to bring family groups together!
Some companies have been in the active travel space for quite some time; other companies are getting ahead of the trend (or jumping on board) by adding active options to their existing itineraries. I for one am excited to see this. While I enjoy creating my own adventures, when I look at these trips, I would be hard pressed to create the same experiences.
Read on to explore some of my favorite active vacation options.
Alaska is one of my most asked about destinations when it comes to travel. I'm not surprised - it is such a beautiful place to explore and visit. Wide open spaces, majestic mountains, glorious glaciers, abundant wildlife - what's not to love?
So how best to see Alaska? The answer is "it depends" - on you! There are a number of ways to explore this great state, and the best way truly depends on what you want to experience, the time you have and your budget. Options abound to explore Alaska: by sea, by land and by air.
Is exploring nature and watching wildlife one of your favorite ways to vacation? Do you like to hike, paddleboard, snorkel, kayak? How about snapping pictures of whales, bears or flying manta rays? Maybe sitting back and watching beautiful scenery go by is more your style? If you said yes to any of these, you are in luck! Fantastic destinations on small ship cruises await you all around the world.
As much as I love to travel internationally, sometimes staying closer to home and getting to the destination (and back home again) in a few short hours is just "what the doctor ordered". Less airport time, less jetlag....a perfect prescription.
Alaska and the Caribbean are top destinations for many who want a "quick" getaway - the standard 7-10 day escape. These regions are tops for cruises, and for good reason. Definitely fun, exciting, adventurous and relaxing destinations. But sometimes you may just want something different.
There a number of other cruise destinations closer to home - from the East coast to the West coast and in between - that you may not have thought or even known about. Different from the bi ship cruises, are you ready to try something unique, something that will get you away from the crowds? Could one of these small ship trips be in your future?
Most people choose a big ship adventure the first time they go to Alaska. I did - the first and second visits! The first time we explored Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and College Fjord, the second time we ventured into Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka and Glacier Bay. I absolutely LOVED both trips! But now I'm ready to enjoy another side of Alaska... the uncrowded, un-touristy, down to earth, time for me, side of Alaska. This is what I consider to be the REAL Alaska.