For nature and wildlife enthusiasts, Costa Rica is a perfect destination. The landscapes are ecologically diverse, filled with rainforests, lakes, volcanoes, cloud forests and a wide array of plant, bird and wildlife, from chattering howler monkeys and slow-moving sloths to scarlet macaws, toucans and blue morpho butterflies, one of the largest butterfly in the world. With some luck you may even spot an elusive jaguar or rare tapir.
Stunning, tropical, an amazing experience for sure. And popular.
To get away from the crowds (and additional reasons), I recommend visiting on a small ship cruise: luxury yacht, clipper ship, adventure or expedition style, you have a number of great choices.
A few fun facts about the Czech Republic:
Are going on an extended trip but not sure how long the travel sized toiletries will last? You are in luck! Here is a general guideline based on a 20 day trip I completed a few years ago:
CRUISE SHIPS ARE NOT ALL THE SAME.
Top differences? The number of passengers, itineraries, dining options and activities are just a few things that differ. And yes, ship size.
Cruise lines have distinct personalities, and the key to a great cruise experience is knowing what types of experiences and activities are important to you, and who you want to travel with.
Why can't major cruise lines sail between two US ports without a stop in a foreign port? The answer is found in two acts, the Passenger Vessel Service (PVS) Act, passed in 1886, and the Jones Act, passed in 1920.
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).
A trip to Antarctica is one of the most grand, exhilarating and amazing adventures. Stunning scenery, peaceful landscapes, icebergs, snow, seals, a wide variety whales and of course, penguins! Sites and sounds you will not find anywhere else. Quite the powerful combination.
Before you go, though, you really need to do your research. A trip to Antarctica is a big investment, in yourself and your budget, so you really want to make sure to pick the right trip and ship for your personality, travel style and interests.
The options are many (and growing) and can be overwhelming. Following are 7 things you should consider when choosing your cruise.
Photo credit: Quark Expeditions - David Merron
As an avid cruiser I've thought about world cruises - even as far back as my college days I was looking at Semester at Sea programs. My initial thoughts? Too long. But the longer I muse over it, hmmm, maybe it really isn't. The longest cruise I've been on is 18 days, and that was over in a "blink". I've been on 3 and 4 week land trips, and they too, bam! and it’s over. The idea of being able to see so much of the world in a relaxed manner, unpacking once, little to no time in airports..... very tempting!
What is a world cruise?
South Africa is Africa's 9th largest country according to its landmass. The reasons to visit this vast and culturally diverse nation are seemingly endless, and that's why it makes it on so many people's bucket lists.
To encourage you a little more and to further enhance your excitement, here are five reasons you should make it to South Africa at last once in your life.
Basque country – an autonomous region located in northwest Spain and south west France – is filled with breathtaking coastal vistas, colorful villages and cities scattered throughout the green countryside.
Spain’s Basque country stretches from the popular beachfront city of San Sebastian (seen above) to Bilbao in the west and Vitoria-Gasteiz and the Rioja region in the south.
Basque country is often added as an extension to Spain and France trips, and I’m seeing cruise lines adding port stops here too. Vibrant, lively, spicy and diverse are just a few ways to describe the top 4 reasons to visit this beautiful region.
Quite often the term "group" conjures up the idea that you'll be stuck with hundreds of people, herded around on pre-packaged tours. Not so! Groups can be as small as 6 people and can be as custom designed as you want. Plus, traveling as a group is quite fun and beneficial. So go out there and create or join a group to travel with!
WHAT IS A GROUP? Let your imagination run wild! The underlying theme is a number of people who are affiliated in some way. Family, friends, , clubs, hobby interests - do you belong to a group?
Let's start with a few examples:
I was first "introduced" to the Marquesas Islands back in 2002 during one of the first seasons of Survivor. I use introduced lightly as it was on TV, and on a reality show to boot. It is highly unlikely that I will ever experience these islands the same way, but the beautiful scenes left a lasting impression on me.
What is the difference between “cruising” and “yacht style cruising”?
First is ship size. Yacht style ships are intimate and cater to 2 to 340 guests. A far cry from the large and mega ships with thousands of guests. The primary differentiators, though, and most alluring, are the experiences these ships offer. Here are the main ones.
A question I get quite often from my cruise clients is whether or not to take a cruise excursion while in port or go at it independently. My answer depends on the port of call, if my clients have been to the port before and how comfortable they are exploring on their own. (Note: As of this writing, many cruises are on hold and excursions must be taken through the cruise line. This article assumes we will have options to book our own excursions or explore independently in the near future.)
Cruising the rivers of France is such a delight, each offering very different experiences. When thinking of the Bordeaux region, it’s all about food, wine and all the beautiful châteaux. On the Seine, history, World War II and art are highlighted, and on the Saône and Rhône rivers it’s about gastronomy, history, architecture.
Experiences on the Saône and Rhône rivers are often more focused on the Rhône, Lyon and Provence, so when I was introduced to the Burgundy region of the Saône, I found it so delightful I just had to share the insights with you.
Have you been? Is Fiji on your bucket list?
This exotic country in the Pacific Ocean is certainly captivating. Its beauty is undeniable, so it's no wonder the archipelago of more than 300 islands is one very desirable getaway destinations in the world.
On flights from Europe back to the US I have had the opportunity to see Greenland numerous times from above. It’s amazing to see this massive landscape, especially on very clear days. The largest island in the world, bigger than France, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium combined.
Imagine what you’ll experience being there in person. Here are my top 9 reasons to visit.
Photo courtesy of Quark Expeditions
The city of Auckland is full of diversity and personality. It is also New Zealand's largest city with a population of nearly 1.5 million. If you're looking for somewhere exciting to go to on your next vacation, Auckland is the place to be.
Why do you ask? Below are some of the top reasons why you shouldn't miss the opportunity to visit this magnificent city.
Cruising the Danube between Budapest and Bucharest (you dock in Giurgiu) is a special itinerary. Off the beaten path, you’ll see few tourist buses on this route. What you will see though is a chest full of unexpected treasures.
Very different from the Upper Danube itineraries, the Lower Danube has you sailing through five countries - Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania – the latter four part of the Balkans, each with unique histories, different religions, architecture, traditions and foods to excite your cultural taste buds.
One thing in common – happy people who are excited to share their country with you.
Photo courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions
Visiting the Galapagos Islands is unlike any other travel experience. This remote archipelago of volcanic islands west of mainland Ecuador has long attracted travelers interested in Darwin, evolution, volcanoes, nature and wildlife. The biodiversity of the region is incredible.
The biggest draw by far are the unique and iconic species of this protected UNESCO World Heritage site. The animals are completely unafraid of humans, which makes them easier to find and observe. Encountering fur seals on the beach or snorkeling with the frisky sea lions can be especially fun!
Bavaria, Germany's largest state, is home to spectacular events, great cities, fairy tale castles, two national parks and 8 UNESCO world heritage sites. And that's just the beginning.
Bavaria is a breath-taking region, and a perfect journey to add before or after a Danube river cruise. Take a look at a few of Bavaria's highlights along with several tour ideas.
Searching for a different type of vacation experience? Maybe a unique trip for a family reunion or simply a group of friends? Time to truly unwind and unplug with like minded travelers?
A luxury barge cruise experience could be just the ticket!
Photo courtesy of European Waterways
These days there are cruise themes for many different interests: Golf, art, photography, World War II history, cultural heritage, gardening, beer, and yes, wine. Wine themed cruises have been around for several years and have become quite popular. Exclusive access to vineyards, winemakers, special talks and tastings one normally doesn't have access to plus all the normal excursions. A perfect pairing!
Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city behind Moscow, was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. Because of his love of Holland, he included many beautiful canals and bridges (342 of them) in the design, which is why the city is now also known as Venice of the North.
Beyond the canals though is a city rich in history, culture, art, beautiful gardens and so much more. It’s a popular stop for both Baltic cruises and river cruises between Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Here are 8 treasures not to miss while visiting this fascinating place.
Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island is one of those places that stays with you once you’ve experienced it. And has you longing to come back for more.
Untamed, pristine wilderness. It’s simply stunning.
I know. I was here over twenty years ago and out of 40+ countries I’ve been to, to this day it remains as one of my top travel experiences. Ever. Can’t wait to get back.
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder