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.
All photos courtesy of Australia.com tourism board
I can't wait to meet these little fellas! They always look like they are smiling, and apparently love to take selfies with anyone who is game. How fun is that!
This is the quokka - the world's happiest animal!
About the size of a cat, quokkas are marsupials found only in Western Australia, almost exclusively on beautiful Rottnest Island, just off the coast from Perth.
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.
A destination on many a bucket list are the islands of the South Pacific. The Cook Islands, Fiji, Tahiti - all ultimate dream vacations of a lifetime. Beautiful islands, crystal blue waters, above and below water adventures, relaxation, and of course romance!
I have been fortunate to visit Tahiti, and I must admit, it truly is a dreamy place. All that and then some!
Beyond the sheer beauty of the islands, here are some fun facts about Tahiti:
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.
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.
One of the most awe inspiring cruises I have ever taken was about eleven years ago from Valparaiso, Chile to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Every port of call was so very unique, from Punta Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine Park (picture above) and Ushuaia, the starting point for many Antarctic cruises, to Montevideo, Uruguay, Buenos Aires and of course Rio. We even went out to the Falkland Islands. I would take this exact same cruise again as it offered so many exceptional experiences.
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.
It's "Shark Week" again on the Discovery Channel! I can't say I watch all the shows. With titles like "Jaws of the Deep", "Air Jaws: Night Stalker", "Shark Bait" and "Deadliest Sharks", not sure how well I'd sleep after watching one of these episodes. But the intrigue is certainly there.
I do watch some, though, because I am fascinated by these creatures. Someday I'll check off that bucket list item of swimming with them. I got this idea in my head while in Tahiti a few years ago. The islands offer some fantastic opportunities to dive with sharks - black tipped reef sharks, lemon sharks - the "friendly" ones, mind you. Not like the big guy above.
Argentina is a fascinating country - distinctly Argentinian style and culture with a strong European influence. This influence is not a surprise given that 86% of the population is of European descent. Although Argentina became independent from Spain in 1816, they were still very reliant on foreign investment in those days, which led to a large influx of European immigration. From Spanish
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.
Iceland saw an increase of 24% in visitors in 2014 over 2013, just shy of 1 million tourists. That's over three times the total population of Iceland! Growth in 2015 was between 10-30% per month. According to Skift, one of the largest groups of visitors are US citizens, and a big reason for this growth is the increase in flights from the U.S. Icelandair, Delta and WOW have all added flights, including new routes from Portland (OR), Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Now that getting to Iceland is easier than ever, the "secret" is out. Visitors have discovered the beauty, the wildlife, the culture and people, and word is spreading.
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:
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder