Honeymoons and romance are what most often come up to describe these destinations. And rightly so. Serene and sublime – perfect places to relax, play, unplug, a chance to be together. A spectacular tropical getaway.
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?
Did you know that Tanzania's great migration of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and other migratory animals is a year round event in the Serengeti? Constant movement of nearly 2 million animals – following the rain and fresh green pastures in a clockwise direction.
Serengeti National Park is a vast ecosystem covering over 5700 square miles. Where the herds are depends on the time of year. And because the animals are unpredictable, one never knows the exact time of arrival in a particular region, but they do eventually arrive.
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:
Photo courtesy of Tourism Australia
I love the ocean. I am fascinated by the creatures that call it home. I enjoy snorkeling, and someday I'll learn how to scuba dive to get an even closer look. As with many other places on this earth, some things you need to see with your own eyes. Pictures just don't do it justice.
One such experience is swimming with the gentle giants of the sea, whale sharks. Luckily diving equipment isn't required - just snorkeling. And despite their intimidating size, whale sharks pose no threat whatsoever. I admit that large mouth looks like it could swallow me whole, but thankfully they only eat plankton.
Whakatane Ohope International Golf Club - photo courtesy of NZ Tourism - taken by Strike-Photography
Despite being a relatively small country (about the size of Oregon or Colorado), it's quite easy to spend months exploring New Zealand's north and south islands. So much to see, experiences to take in, food, wine and people to meet.
One special touring route is a drive down the beautiful east coast on New Zealand's Pacific Coast Highway. Check out this itinerary between Auckland and Napier.
The following article was provided by Bavaria Tourism.
Home to spectacular events, great cities, and fairy tale castles. Visit Bavaria’s lesser-known museums, shops, and small cities for an unforgettable experience.
Let Bavaria take you to a breath-taking journey through their region!
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.
Here are my top five favorite destinations where zodiaks are an integral part of the whole experience. The memories just would not be the same without them.
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.
Australia's largest state, WA for short, stretches over a third of the nation, borders two oceans and has more pristine beaches than any other state. And with only 10% of the nation's population, it is far less crowded than Australia's eastern states.
Nature and aquatic wildlife, pioneer history, Aboriginal Australia and food, wine and beer experiences are just a few reasons that attract visitors to WA.
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!
Or trails that take you down hidden alley ways, where you can peak into beautiful courtyards, walk through gorgeous gardens, meander through quiet hamlets. Add in a cheese and wine tasting for a perfect day.
No rushing, just enjoying the moment. Something different from your everyday.
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:
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.
Not to be outdone, Amadeaus, AmaWaterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon Waterways, CroisEurope, Crystal, Emerald Waterways, Uniworld and Viking will all have new river ships in 2018 and 2019.
Whew! That's a lot of new ships!
While they all have distinct personalities, four of these ships stand out with unique and exciting features : a Magic Carpet, the Blue Eye, 34 extra feet, a submarine and helicopter!
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)!
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.
I had the opportunity this week to learn more about New Zealand's Maori culture. A fascinating hour, well spent.
The speaker, a Maori himself, comes from a family with a long history of promoting this island nation. We were treated to a number of wonderful pictures, paintings and stories, including ones of his great grandmother dancing in New York City promoting New Zealand's culture. I wish I could share them here, but they were pictures from his own photo album.
New Zealand is considered to be be of the world's youngest nations, and how it "came about" I found especially fascinating. I've always been aware of Polynesian influence on New Zealand, but I did not know about the legend of Maui, the Hawaiian demigod, and how he fished" up the North Island.
Photo courtesy of Linblad Expeditions
A few weeks ago I wrote about seeing puffins in the wild, and what surprised me the most about these birds was how small they are. Being the size of a duck, puffins are bit difficult to observe from 15 decks up. This made me think about a number of other wildlife encounters that are best experienced on a small ship cruise. In fact, some of the best wildlife viewing around the world is on a small ship.
Why? Small ships get you up close to nature. Because they are smaller, these ships can navigate into areas that big ships just can't - areas that wildlife prefers as well - away from people and crowds. And equally as important, small ships tend not to follow strict itineraries. Captains have the flexibility to change course, so when Mother Nature does her thing, small ships can follow her time clock versus a set time clock.
This flexibility turns into some absolutely amazing adventures all around the world, like the itineraries below.
I saw puffins for the first time in Alaska. Beautiful, colorful, adorable, funny little creatures.
We were cruising along the Kenai Peninsula, near the Fjords National Park, when we came across a fairly large breeding colony. Thousands of birds sitting on the cliffs, floating on the water, flying with their short wings flapping crazy fast. Their "crash" landings were quite funny (especially after learning they don't hurt themselves!). Quite a memorable moment.
What surprised me the most about these birds?
A question I get quite often when someone is looking at Alaska cruise itineraries is "Which glacier is the best one to experience"? Well, I think they are all spectacular and worthy of your time. I can't remember a glacier that hasn't simply taken my breath away. However, on most itineraries, only one, maybe two tidewater glaciers are included, so which one(s) to choose?
I have been to three of these four glacial areas. All are impressive and beautiful, yet quite different.
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.
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.
Vancouver B.C. - a fantastic destination all year round. The city and the surrounding area has so much to offer, from nature and wildlife to culture, the arts and culinary delights. Something for everyone, and a great value right now for US visitors especially considering the current exchange rate.
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.
There is nothing more spectacular than watching whales in their natural habitats, playing, breaching and well, just plain entertaining us. One of my fondest memories was watching a mom and her calf play for hours in Maui's Maalaea Bay.
From orcas and humpbacks to minke and sperm whales, these beautiful and majestic creatures can be found all around the world. Top destinations include: