Budget Travel Warehouse Inc. London Ontario's Blog

The Hotel that made Copacabana Famous
Some hotels help define their destinations.   Not only with an historic pedigree, but with a location that makes them central to the local lifestyle.

The Belmond Copacabana Palace helped create the mystique of Rio de Janeiro that thrives even today.
Imagine a time when Rio’s now-epic beaches were unused and unfashionable. In the 20’s, Brazil’s upper classes lived in the cooler elevations of the hills.


So when the country’s president asked a local wealthy businessman to build a landmark hotel on Copacabana beach to help mark Brazil’s centenary, a lot of eyebrows lifted.

But the idea turned out to be the start of a legend. A French designer created an Art Deco palace inspired by the elegant, white limestone and marble hotels lining the seashore in Cannes and other storied Mediterranean destinations where the rich and famous went on holiday.    

It instantly put Copacabana on the world stage… and ever since, it’s drawn a global who’s who of royalty, celebrities and history-makers, from Princess Diana, to Marilyn Monroe, to Nelson Mandela and Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who calls the hotel a second home.

The breathtaking property anchoring Rio’s Atlantica Avenue on Copacabana beach has seen millions of dollars of renovations and upgrades in recent years, and been brought into the Belmond hospitality family that includes the legendary Orient-Express luxury train, and Venice’s most prestigious hotel, the Cipriani. Today, the Belmond Copacabana Hotel maintains its rank among that stratospheric tier of worldwide hotels who help define their destinations.



It is the landmark on what is now one of the world’s most epic beaches, an oasis from the throbbing beach lifestyle, just across from the famous mosaic boardwalk known the world over.

 
The architectural character that includes towering ceilings, period furniture crafted from Brazilian freijo or mahogany wood, along with antiques, French fabrics and fine oriental carpets is married with modern design elements and all the comforts of 6-star hospitality, including beds so comfortable, it’s said Keith Richards’ wife asked to buy some after staying in the hotel while the Rolling Stones were there on tour.

 
Guests can sip cocktails and champagne and enjoy the refreshment of fresh fruit trays and iced towels that pool staff bring around as they lounge by Belmond Copacabana Palace’s scenic, half-Olympic sized pool, spend time in the spa that is the largest urban space of its kind in Brazil, work on their serve on on-site, urban tennis courts, and join the local and international A-listers in Rio’s top bars and restaurants, from the first restaurant on the continent awarded a Michelin star, to an Italian restaurant named after its sister Hotel Cipriani in Venice, to a restaurant that overlooks the Copacabana’s legendary swimming pool.

 
(Photo: Belmond Copacabana Palace)

The Copacabana Palace evokes a sense of being part of a timeless era of international glamour, perhaps most when it hosts the celebrated Rio Carnival Ball, a tradition begun the very year the hotel opened in the 1920’s. The Carnival ball has become an event as synonymous with the city’s Carnival as the costumed samba parade itself, considered one of the greatest shows on earth.
 
The society and couture fashion highlight of Carnival, this is where the rich and famous come from around the world to party like Brazilians. The spectacular black-tie event takes over the hotel, with live samba music in different art deco ballrooms, and on the spectacular hotel veranda, overlooking Copacabana Beach that the hotel helped turn into the legend it is today.  
 

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There’s a constellation of Michelin stars and celebrity chefs bringing their award-winning dishes, TV show hits and cookbook favorites to guests on cruise ships in all the seven seas. 

Dare we say it? Sometimes, the culinary experience afloat is even better than on land, where you may line up around the block or try to book a table in a decorated chef’s restaurant months in advance. And you might need those extra months to save up for the gastronomic indulgence. 

Cruise guests don’t just have easy access, with chef partnerships making their signature culinary stylings available to all the guests on board. The token fees charged for cruise line specialty restaurants by superstar chefs are a fraction of what you’d pay at any of their restaurants on land.

And in some very special cases, at the luxury level of cruising, whether a chef has consulted on an entire ship’s cuisine, or master-minded a single specialty restaurant, these stellar culinary experiences are included in your cruise!

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host and Cruise Expert of BestTrip TV, shares her favorite, surcharge-free gastronomic experiences at sea. 

Thomas Keller on Seabourn Cruise Line

The American chef with the most Michelin stars and a string of renowned restaurants including Napa’s The French Laundry and NYC’s Per Se, created The Grill by Thomas Keller for ultra-luxury Seabourn ships. 

You’ll delight in elevated classic and mid-century steakhouse atmosphere and dishes, some you don’t see often any more, like Lobster Thermidor, and Caesar salad prepared tableside, accompanied by choice selections of wines and crafted cocktails. 

WATCH VIDEO ABOVE FOR A TASTE OF THE GRILL BY THOMAS KELLER ON SEABOURN

Keller also presents popular, family-style set menus some evenings in the casual Colonnade. What’s more, there’s no additional cost for Keller cuisine on Seabourn. 

Nobu on Crystal Cruises

Japanese meets Peruvian cuisine in the kitchens of Japanese celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who has a host of acclaimed restaurants in major gastronomic cities around the world… and on the two exquisite Crystal ocean cruising ships. 

(Photo: Crystal Cruises)

Umi Uma & The Sushi Bar serve the only Nobu cuisine at sea, and they are included in your cruise fare once each for every week-long cruise. Delectable sushi and sashimi are offered, along with fusion dishes like Nobu-style Lobster with Truffle-Yuzu sauce, or a bento box of chocolate souffle cake with shiso syrup and sesame ice cream. 

Jacques Pépin on Oceania Cruises

He’s been with Oceania since its first ship sailed, and shaped the culinary signature of what Oceania bills as ‘the finest cuisine at sea’. The French Legion of Honor member, whose resume includes a long-running, beloved PBS TV series, cookbooks and time spent as the personal chef of multiple French presidents including Charles de Gaulle, brings his mastery of exhalted French cuisine to the Oceania fleet, where all dining, including specialty restaurants, is complimentary.  

(Photo: Oceania)

In addition, on the Marina and Riviera, the restaurant Jacques re-creates an authentic, relaxed Parisian bistro dinner experience. Decorated with heirloom antiques and art from the chef’s personal collection, it’s an escape to the streets of Paris, with rotisserie turning fragrant roasts and seafood is served in classic French style. 

Alain Ducasse on Ponant 

French luxury cruise line Ponant turned to another French culinary legend to ensure the excellence of the cuisine and a ‘French touch’ on its fleet of small jewels of ships. Alain Ducasse remains one of the most decorated chefs ever, with restaurants in Europe and the Americas making him the first chef to have 3 restaurants awarded 3 Michelin stars at the same time.


(Photo: Ponant)

On Ponant’s intimate ships, dining takes place in one or two restaurants (some Ponant ships have both a ‘Gastronomic’ restaurant and an casual, al fresco style Grill). Ducasse ensures the French focus on cuisine thrives on Ponant ships with refined dishes that speak to the shared French heritage, as well as dining inspired by local ports of call.

Jean-Pierre Vigato on Paul Gauguin


(Photo: Paul Gauguin)

The ship Paul Gauguin epitomizes French Polynesia, famous for sailing exclusively in the South Seas. The ship’s namesake French artist, the French Polynesian itineraries… and a French chef raised in the French countryside and rising to the level of having his own, Michelin-starred restaurant on Paris’ Champs-Elysees.  

(Photo: Paul Gauguin)

In addition to L’Etoile,the ship’s main, fine dining room,and Le Grill, alfresco casual dining, the Paul Gauguin has a third dining venue, and all are included in your cruise fare. La Veranda, the third venue, is transformed in the evenings into a gourmet restaurant serving Vigato’s gourmet cuisine. 

James Beard Foundation Chefs on Windstar Cruises


Rather than partnering with a single - or multiple individual chefs, Windstar has partnered with America's most beloved and prestigious culinary institution, the James Beard Foundation. Windstar has formalized its relationship as the Official Cruise Line of the foundation, whose annual awards are referred to as the Oscars of America's culinary scene.

(Photo: Windstar Cruises)

Together, they bring some of the country's most talented chefs and sommeliers on themed Windstar cruises, where they shape the onboard dining program. Imagine dining on dishes created by not just one celebrity chef, but a list of all-stars with the likes of Maxime Bilet (The Cooking Lab), Evan Hanzcor (Egg), and Jose Mendin (Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Habitat, Baja Bao). Windstar's themed cruises featuring James Beard Foundation chefs and beverage experts are a foodie’s dream, with chef demos, special beverage pairings, and market tours.

From classic or modern or destination-inspired French cuisine, to elegant Japanese and creative fusion, to elevated cuisine from across America.  

Of the countless reasons to treat yourself to a luxury cruise, one of the best must be the gastronomic delights by some of the world’s most acclaimed chefs - that are already included features of your cruise.

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3 Reasons to Book Off-Season Travel
Experienced travelers know there’s a code when it comes to travel seasons. High season, low season, shoulder season and off season – your choice of travel season can make a big difference to your travel experience. 

Is there a perfect time to travel? Well, there are at least 3 good reasons to take ‘off’ season trips. Here’s why.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer / Host, BestTrip TV

Do you find yourself always heading out of town during ‘high’ season?

‘High’ season is when everyone is traveling.  High seasons are the busiest, most expensive, ‘prime-time’ travel periods.

Some ‘high’ seasons are due to ‘non-negotiable’ travel events. Think: the ones scheduled around school breaks and essential family holidays like Thanksgiving. Whether or not you want to fight the crowds, risk delays caused by disruptive snowstorms, and pay through the nose, you’ll be at your parents’ table in time for turkey.

Others are due to weather. The very best kind of weather. Sometimes you’re aiming for opposite weather, like traveling from the chilly North in the winter to warm up in the sunny islands in the Caribbean. And sometimes, you’re heading towards your ideal conditions of what you already have, like leaving the dirty snow of the city for the perfect powder on the slopes.

‘Low’ season is generally due to sub-optimal to quite bad local weather conditions. No one’s traveling to get there, and no one’s there when you arrive. The perfect weather or main attractions or signature local experiences may be completely missing during low season. In extreme cases, some hotels or resorts are closed, the locals have all gone on their own ideal vacations, and it’s a ghost town. 

The main attractions of a new destination during ‘low’ season are quiet and solitude. It could be worse than just 'quiet' too. In the case of the height of the Atlantic hurricane season in the US South-East and the Caribbean, or typhoon season in South-East Asia, you could end up spending your holiday navigating a serious weather event.

'Shoulder' season is right on the edge between high and low seasons. It’s not the height of perfect weather or timing, but it isn't the worst, either, and for the right travelers, it could be perfect. That's the 'off'-season sweet spot.

Here are the best reasons to consider booking off-season travel:

Lower Prices and More Perks


Everything is less expensive in the off-season, from flights and hotels, to packaged tours and cruises. On top of lower prices, you can also score perks that can allow you to stay longer, take more of your favorite people with you, or get freebie inclusions. 

Book early or last minute, and you could multiply the savings. (Booking early is best for people who like the most choice, but if spontaneity is your thing, last minute off-season travel can be very rewarding.)

You can pocket your savings, or use them to upgrade to a more luxurious experience, or book special treats, like spa treatments, special dining experiences, even a pricier locally-made souvenir than you might otherwise indulge in.
 
Off-season Cruise Travel Bonus: in the off-season, when storms head your way, a cruise ship can navigate to fairer skies. Although your itinerary may change and the skies may be cloudy, your cruise will likely not endure the worst of any bad weather.

Flexibility is always the key to enjoying off-season travel.

Fewer People


If you’re the kind of person who hates line ups and crowds, off-season is the one for you. Why spend your time waiting in line to go up the Eiffel Tower, when you could be having your second café au lait while people-watching at a picturesque sidewalk café?

Locals unwind once high season is over, too. They have more time to spend with the guests who do arrive. The relaxed pace of off-season can give you some of the most memorable exchanges with the people you meet on your journey.

Special Events


There’s only one harvest season in a vineyard. A short window of time when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. And a few short weeks when the Christmas markets are open. That's what high season is all about.

But more and more destinations are creating local events to extend their tourism seasons - events that are not contingent upon Mother Nature or long-standing cultural traditions. In many places, shoulder seasons are becoming the most exciting times to visit. Culinary and wine tasting and music festivals, races and marathons and yoga retreats, art shows and film festivals. No matter what your interest, there’s likely a fascinating destination with an off-season event celebrating it.
 
Some travel timing is unavoidable. But if you have flexibility about when you travel, a travel advisor can help you design the best vacation during the season less-traveled.

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There are more ways to explore the earth than overseas and overland. And the new Scenic Eclipse takes you there. 
With 2 helicopters for ‘flight-seeing’ and a submarine to reveal vast beauty of underwater realms, this luxury expedition ship covers all the bases – and with its top Polar Class-rated hull, it can sail in any of the world’s seven seas.

What’s more, Scenic’s sleek, sophisticated style makes the Eclipse feel like a billionaire’s yacht… with fewer than 200 fortunate guests at a time sharing an adventure of a lifetime.

BestTrip TV got a tour of the Scenic Eclipse on her inaugural voyage and discovered there’s more than billionaire’s toys to the first ocean cruising vessel for a company that’s already made its mark on luxury land tours and river cruises.
The Scenic Eclipse echoes the luxury of its river cruises and land tours. For all the head-turning design and deluxe amenities and experiences you’ll find on board, as an expedition ship, the focus of any Scenic Eclipse voyage is outdoors.

An expedition team and local guides take guests on hikes, kayak excursions, and a host of ship to shore zodiac landings in remote coasts of the world – and that’s even before you step foot on the submarine launch deck or the helipad.

The Eclipse’s itineraries take her around the globe, from the Northwest Passage across Canada’s Arctic coast, through tropical adventures in the Caribbean and Central America, to the remote wilds of Patagonia and epic Antarctica, the storied coasts of North and South America, the maritime cradle of Western civilization in the Mediterranean, and north to the fjords of Scandinavia and the volcanic landscapes of Iceland.
 

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Finding Wellness in the Waters of Jamaica
You probably already know that Jamaica is famous for its beaches.  And you may even have already come back relaxed from a beach holiday in the island country that has been voted top Caribbean destination, and one of the top 20 in the world.

But the unique terrain of Jamaica has also yielded natural healing waters inland from the beach.  Here are some of the places and ways you can make wellness a part of your next getaway to Jamaican waters. 


On the Ocean

On the west end of famous Negril beach, a wellness escape combines the water with the principles of Shiatsu.  Jackie’s On The Reef offers this treatment, called Watsu, at its whimsical, waterfront property.   

Guided by a specialized therapist, the treatment takes place in warm, waist-deep water to take weight off the vertebrae, allowing the spine to twist and stretch – ultimately relieving pressure off the nerves and organs. Watsu can be a profound treatment, and it’s believed to treat the mind and renew a person’s sense of connection and oneness with others. It’s only one of the ways guests can connect with the sea, including yoga, meditation and spa treatments. 

In addition to sparkling beaches, the country’s natural springs and therapeutic baths add a new dimension to your next wellness vacation.  

Milk River Bath

Jamaica’s South Coast has one of the best mineral baths in the world. Milk River Bath contains high levels of the minerals magnesium, calcium, sulfate and natural chloride in waters averaging 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more all year round. The mineral intensity is more than 50% stronger than famous natural bath spas in Europe, and helps relieve rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica and nerve conditions as well as liver disorders.

You can stay among the lush landscape of the Jamaican countryside at the local Milk River Hotel & Spa, where you can enjoy the therapeutic baths, in private bath houses.


Rockfort Mineral Bath

These natural baths on the outskirts of Kingston are rich in minerals including calcium and sodium bicarbonate. It’s fed by a cold spring from Rock River, and locals have been using the natural mineral baths to stimulate vital processes including blood circulation.  Visitors have caught on too, and also enjoy the soothing waters by dipping in at the swimming pool, private whirlpools, or one of 11 open-air baths.


Bath Fountain

These two mineral springs, one cold and one piping hot, have been a popular destination since their discovery as far back as the 1600’s.  Bath Fountain is located in the foothills of the John Crow mountains and contains lime, sulfur and magnesium. They are said to relieve gout, rheumatism and skin conditions. 

There’s a nearby, secluded hotel with the same name that has running water from the mineral springs feeding directly into its indoor baths.

(Photo:  GoldenEye Hotel & Resort)

Traditional Jamaican Bush Bath

In addition to the Nature-provided mineral baths and springs, Jamaica has a healing cultural tradition.  Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind wellness practice, where a variety of herbs and botanicals are steeped in an outdoor bath, and treat stress, colds, skin problems and other ailments. 

Some hotels offer visitors this therapeutic experience in their spas, including the Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon and the FieldSpa at Golden Eye (of James Bond author Ian Fleming fame), with a menu of four different Healing Waters Bush Baths.

Make sure your next island vacation includes more than a swim at the beach.  Relax, and enhance your physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing with Jamaica’s healing natural springs, therapeutic baths and oceanside aquatic treatments.

(Private tub for herbal baths at the award-winning Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon)

Start your Trip!


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The Real Downton Abbey and 3 Other Majestic English Manor Houses That Star in Films
If the Downton Abbey movie and TV series has you fantasizing about life in the elegant and storied surroundings of England’s stately homes, you are not alone. The stories and history made in these estates are legendary.

At one time, there were tens of thousands of country houses owned by Britain’s noble families. The English countryside is still dotted with breathtaking architectural marvels punctuating sweeping landscapes, as well as smaller, more humble versions. Some are still homes to lords and ladies of the manor; others are grand museums, hotels, event spaces. Some are both. 

All are fascinating windows into a history and lifestyle brought to life in countless favorite novels, TV series and films. 

If you feel you were ‘to the manor born’, you’ll feel quite at home at the real ‘Downton Abbey’ and these three other, splendid examples of British stately homes that have been on the big and small screen.

HIGHCLERE CASTLE


The stately home at the end of a sweeping drive, framed by majestic ancient trees in the hero shots of every Downton Abbey show, is the real-life Highclere Castle in Berkshire (pictured, top).  

The perfect proportions and striking Jacobean architectural style are enhanced by the surrounding gardens designed by maestro landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown.

Rather than the fictional Crawley family, it’s been the real ‘seat’ of the Earls of Carnarvon since the 1600’s, with the current Earl and Countess still in residence today.

In addition to standing in as the Earl of Grantham’s ‘Downton Abbey’, Highclere Castle welcomes visitors through its now-famous front doors. So you really can wander through some of the rooms featured in Downton Abbey and imagine yourself at a dinner party, tea, or even a ball with the Crawleys.

Downton Abbey is not the first time Highclere has been at the centre of media attention and the public imagination. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was involved in the discovery of the epic riches of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt in 1922. When he ‘mysteriously’ died a short time later, it fueled tabloid stories of the ‘Curse of King Tut’. He actually died of blood poisoning from an infected insect bite, so visit Highclere Castle without fear of ancient curses lingering today!

 

BLENHEIM PALACE


Anyone with an interest in English or WW2 history must put Blenheim Palace on their travel bucket list.  

The sprawling, rare example of English Baroque architecture is woven into British history. A grateful Queen Anne gave the land in Oxfordshire, an immense sum of money, and the highest non-royal title, 1st Duke of Marlborough, to the victor for Britain in the War of Spanish Succession at the beginning of the 1700’s. It’s the only non-royal and non-Church country house bearing the name ‘Palace’.  

The descendents of that 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, have eclipsed his fame and impact on world history. It was at Blenheim Palace that Winston Churchill was born, and the name of the Marlborough family now is Spencer-Churchill, related to Lady Diana Spencer, who became Princess of Wales. 
 
Blenheim Palace and its 2000-acre signature gardens by the very busy Capability Brown have even been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast country house continues to be the home of the Dukes of Marlborough. 

Film fans recognize Blenheim Palace from scenes in wildly diverse films including Transformers: The Last Knight, James Bond’s Spectre, MIssion Impossible: Rogue Nation, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Young Victoria, and even the TV show the Amazing Race. 


CHATSWORTH HOUSE


You catch your breath the first time you see Chatsworth House, the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire since the 1500’s. It’s regularly voted Britain’s favorite country house, and it’s easy to see why. Built on the banks of a river, surrounded by exquisite parkland and backed by wooded, rocky hills, it’s a stunning building in a dramatic setting.

16 generations of the Cavendish family have been born and died at Chatsworth, including recent generations. The recently-deceased Dowager Duchess was one of the famed Mitford sisters (that included renowned novelist Nancy Mitford), the upper-class ‘Kardashians’ of their day.

Chatsworth House today still houses a remarkable collection of paintings, Old Master works, neoclassical sculpture, books and artefacts. 

If it looks familiar, Chatsworth too has been the real-life setting for famous fiction. It was named in the original 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice as one of the estates Elizabeth Bennet visits before arriving at Mr. Darcy’s home Pemberley; and that fiction came full circle as Chatsworth stood in as fictional Pemberley itself in the 2005 movie adaptation of the novel starring Keira Knightley. Another Knightley film, The Duchess, was filmed at Chatsworth, as were scenes of The Crown. 


LYME PARK


Lyme Park has the largest house in Cheshire, and it’s the only property on this list that is not still used as a family home. It was handed over to Britain’s National Trust, which preserves its history, architecture, and park lands for the public to appreciate and enjoy.

From the 1300's until after the Second World War, the estate was owned by the Leghs of Lyme, with the house dating back to the late 1600’s, and including both Palladian and Baroque styles. The lavish house interiors reflect its Regency-era rejuvenation. 

In addition to the mansion, Lyme Park is famous for its tree-lined avenues, formal gardens and park with an immense herd of red deer dating back to the 14th century. The views are tremendous, and include a building called ‘The Cage’ on a nearby hilltop that was originally a hunting lodge and later became a park-keeper’s cottage and prisoner lockup. 

Fans of British period dramas will also recognize the reflecting lake as the setting of the famous scene where Mr. Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. 

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Images Courtesy Visit Britain.

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How This Cruise is Breaking a World Record

245 days. 6 continents. 51 countries. 111 ports. 


Imagine spending August 2019 until May 2020 on a cruise circumnavigating the world. This phenomenal cruise sailing around the world, beginning and ending in London, England, is setting a Guinness World Record for 'longest continuous passenger cruise'.


Viking Cruise's 'Ultimate World Cruise' takes over 900 guests on a journey of a lifetime, and one that is attempting to set a world record. Already underway, when the Viking Sun makes a triumphant return to London next spring in 2020, a Guinness World Record adjudicator will be waiting, ready to confirm the record-breaking journey with a certificate presentation. 

It will be icing on the cake of a nearly 9-month voyage to the world's most legendary cities, iconic landmarks, and remote destinations. That's more than double the length of Viking's previous world cruise itineraries.


For a select few who can devote the time (and budget) to such an ambitious journey, their Ultimate World Cruise explores Scandinavia, the Caribbean and destinations throughout South America before calling on the remote tropical islands of the South Pacific. Viking Sun will then continue its journey along the coast of Australia and through Asia before returning to the Mediterranean and Europe.


Highlights of this months-long voyage include:
  • Greenwich: London at Your Door – Dock in the historic Royal Borough of Greenwich, London, which allows guests easy access to the regal capital’s iconic sights, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: One of the 23 overnight stays let guests enjoy the larger-than-life Christ the Redeemer statue, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and the legendary nightlife of Rio.
  • Ushuaia, Argentina: Commonly referred to as the “End of the World,” guests will visit Ushuaia, a city perched on a steep hill on the southernmost tip of South America.
  • Hobart, Tasmania: The capitol of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, Hobart offers guests the chance to explore its unique wilderness at the southern-most point of the continent.
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Formerly known as Saigon, and now home to a mix of modern skyscrapers, French colonial buildings and ornate palaces, guests can explore the Vietnam-War era Cu Chi Tunnels, the War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Reunification Palace.     
  • Mumbai, India: The financial, commercial and entertainment capital of India gives guests the opportunity to learn about iconic activist Gandhi and visit the Hanging Gardens.
  • Luxor, Egypt: The site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor is dense with historical monuments for guests to explore, including the Temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings & Valley of the Queens.
 
A reflection of Viking's appeal to travelers with interests in history, art, music and cuisine, there's an included excursion in each of the 111 ports, and overnight stays in 23 cities so guests can enjoy the nightlife and cultural experiences of more destinations, including VIP access to cultural institutions.


On board Viking Sky's airy, Scandinavian-designed staterooms and public spaces, guests can participate in cultural enrichment related to ports of call, Viking's 'Resident Historian' program, regional entertainment coming on board, and even free Wi Fi to post stories and images of their life-changing trip to social media to share with friends, family and the travel world.

 

Start your World Cruise or Other Cruise Trip!

 
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3 Hurricane-Free Caribbean Islands
Recent, extreme hurricanes have devastated favorite Caribbean island communities.

For travel, the impact of more extreme hurricanes is double. It can take years for tourism infrastructure in island destinations to rebuild and welcome visitors again, so your favorite destinations and resorts may be unavailable.
 
Plus some travelers avoid Caribbean island vacations (and cruises) during the Atlantic summer and fall hurricane season, especially during the peak two months of risk mid-August until mid-October, for fear of being stranded or worse if a hurricane hits during their holiday.

The solution? Head south.

There's no perfectly 'hurricane-proof' island in the Caribbean, but the three Dutch 'ABC' islands at the southern most edge of the Caribbean are just beyond the fringes of the hurricane belt, and havens for hurricane season island vacations. 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV
 

ARUBA


The furthest of the ABC islands is only 15 miles off the coast of South America. Still, Aruba is just a couple of hours flight from Miami.
 
Unlike other Caribbean islands which are tropical, Aruba's climate is a desert. You'll see a landscape of cactus and aloe vera plants; especially in Arikok National Park, which covers nearly 1/5th of the island, and is also home to caves and archeological remains of original inhabitants.

 
The dry, sunny weather includes constant trade winds that contort the local, iconic divi divi tree into fantastic, bonsai-like shapes.
 
Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and nearby capital of Oranjestad are home to the island's international restaurants, shopping, casinos, golf and other international travel amenities.

BONAIRE


The smallest of the ABC Islands, Bonaire is essentially a coral reef pushed out of the sea and surrounded by one of the world's most celebrated coral reef systems. The reefs have made Bonaire a bucket list destination for divers who consider it one of the very best shore diving destinations in the world.
 
Bonaire has led the Caribbean in nature conservation and eco-tourism. The entire coastline was designated a marine sanctuary in 1979. It protects the 350 species of fish, 60 species of coral and 4 species of sea turtle in its reefs.

 
Bonaire's shoreline is dotted with lagoons and inlets that are home to marine birds including rare nesting grounds of pink Caribbean flamingos. Mangrove forests are popular kayaking and snorkeling destinations for hotel guests and passengers in port from cruise ships.
 

CURACAO


Larger than Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao is also more commercial, with financial and oil-refining industries. It's a popular cruise port and has direct flights from cities on the East coast, as well as Miami and the Netherlands.
 
Curacao's capital Willemstad dates from the early 1600's. Its collection of well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture, cotton-candy and lacy versions of typical buildings from the era in the Netherlands, has earned UNESCO World Heritage status (pictured, top).
 
The island also has a thrilling geological feature for avid scuba divers: the 'Blue Edge', where the sea shelf drops sharply off only 200 feet from shore.

 
Possibly more famous than the island itself is its world-famous namesake blue liqueur. Curacao is distilled from the island's Laraha fruit, a bitter orange that resulted from Spanish settlers' attempts to raise Valencia oranges in the dry, poor soil. Although its fruit is inedible, the peel is powerfully aromatic. The liqueur's trademark blue? Just added color.
 
The ABC Islands should be on any traveler's list of top Caribbean destinations, especially during hurricane season.
 

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If you haven't been to Montreal recently, the Golden Square Cocktail at Montreal's new Four Seasons Hotel (VIDEO ABOVE) is just one reason to book a trip or a pre or post cruise stay in the second-largest French-speaking city in the world.

Montreal still has its European lifestyle, credentials as the fashion capital of Canada, and a UNESCO City of Design.
It's still the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, and a global city of festivals ranging from the Canadian Grand Prix race to the Guinness World Record-holding Montreal International Jazz Festival. And its culinary scene has been celebrating 'local' long before it became a trend.

Celebrating its 375th birthday, Montreal also developed new, high concept attractions, including an observation wheel at the water's edge, a high-tech sound and light walking tour of Old Montreal, and a breathtaking sound and light music in the heavenly Notre Dame basilica.
 
A re-imagined Montreal is breathing magic into Old Montreal, the Old Port, and its signature neighborhood, the Golden Square Mile.

Montreal was once home to ¾ of Canada's wealth, and the Golden Square Mile is where that wealth and prestige lived. This historic neighborhood has been compared to New York's 5th avenue. Streets beginning at the base Mount Royal were lined with the mansions of Canada's elite: Scottish-immigrant shipping and railroad tycoons, bank founders and nation builders.

Remaining mansions have been incorporated into prestigious McGill University, become museums, cultural institutions, galleries, boutiques… and luxury hotels like the new Four Seasons.
 
Here are our favorite luxury hotels in Montreal's Golden Square Mile.
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal

Montreal's Four Seasons Hotel is uniquely at home in its neighborhood, Montreal's 'Golden Square Mile'.
In the heart of the historic Golden Square Mile, it's a high concept, modern building. The Four Seasons shares a dramatic façade with Golden Square Mile landmark, the luxury department store Ogilvy. There are interior entrances for hotel guests and shoppers can enter the hotel directly onto the fourth, lifestyles floor, where the New York-based celebrity chef Marcus has a namesake restaurant, and already one of the hottest lounges in town.


Inspired by the neighborhood and also very on-trend luxury design, gold and a blush – yes, the color often called 'Millennial Pink'  are a recipe for instant instagram fame. Check out the video for the other ways the Four Seasons Montreal Hotel makes your stay 'golden'.

The World's First Ritz-Carlton

The 'Grand Dame' of Montreal's luxury hotel scene is the Ritz-Carlton. Built in grand style in the early 1900's when the Golden Square Mile was at its height, it was the first hotel to bear what is now a legendary name.

Over its hundred-plus years, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal has welcomed the powerful and famous: Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, Sofia Lauren, who made homemade pasta in her suite, the Rolling Stones who were turned away from the dining room and returned wearing jackets, Elizabeth Taylor, who married Richard Burton for the second time in the hotel's epic, lavender-and-gold Oval Room. It opens out onto the most famous terrace in the city and an urban courtyard garden with its famous duck pond.


Recent additions to the Ritz-Carlton include a namesake restaurant by Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud, and the world's only Dom Perignon champagne bar that shares the legendary Palm Court with the hotel's epic afternoon tea.

Le Mount Stephen Hotel

But one of Montreal's newest boutique hotels has an equally historic pedigree. Le Mount Stephen hotel occupies a National Historic Site; the former mansion of an immigrant who became the President of the Bank of Montreal, the first President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a founder of Canada's textile industry. George Stephen became Lord Mount Stephen, and his elegant, limestone mansion was considered the most opulent home in Canada, complete with elaborately carved exotic woods, onyx fireplaces and gold hinges that make today's visitors gasp as they walk through the door.


The historic property has undergone a luxe, eye-catching re-purposing that elevates the historic design. Its former main floor parlor and dining rooms have been transformed into one of Montreal's can't-miss bars, Bar George, with plush teal sofas, a life-size bronze pig acting as a lounge table top, with curling stones and other classic Quebec winter sports equipment decorating the restaurant. The hotel lobby and guest rooms are in an attached ultra-modern tower that affirms the city's design credentials.


Montreal's Golden Square Mile has attracted sole Canadian outposts of a number of luxury hotel brands. In two cases, it's a French connection.

Sofitel

Mid-century French luxury hotel brand Sofitel established itself in Montreal in a modern building erected where a Golden Square Mile mansion once stood at the foot of Montreal's vast, city-center green space, Mount Royal.
French 'art de vivre' is the essence of the hotel experience, and staff is trained to take initiative to personalize guest stays. 

The hotel cultivates relationships with cultural institutions and events so it can offer exclusive, VIP experiences in Montreal to their guests. The acclaimed, creative French restaurant at street level is named Renoir after a painting by the French master loaned by a Sofitel executive to the Fine Art Museum down the street.


Climb the mid-century stairs to the mezzanine to look at the custom lobby carpet that's a tapestry of Montreal signature festivals and events.

Le Meridien Versailles

The sole Le Meridien in Canada stays true to the brand's mid-century roots as Air France's hotel brand and reflects its design and lifestyle priorities with art installations including an aerial map of the Golden Square Mile, and an art partner, the Canadian Center of Architecture, located in an historic mansion nearby. It has a bicycle partnership so you can sign out bicycles and even pack a picnic lunch to explore the city.


It also continues the Le Meridien tradition of serving a locally-inspired, signature éclair; Montreal's has maple and Montreal's famous steak spice.

Loews Hotel Vogue

The only Loews-branded property in Canada is right across the street from the new Four Seasons.

When Loews took over the existing Hotel Vogue, it doubled down on the fashion magazine heritage, incorporating framed layouts in guest rooms. Grand entrances into its conference rooms mimic the blue arched doors of iconic couture house Chanel's atelier in Paris.


The new hotel restaurant is a French bistro complete with hand-laid mosaic tile floors and French Belle Epoque design.
 

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Flying High to Your Next Cruise with Seabourn Private Air To and From Cruise Ports World-Wide
It's hard to imagine what luxury could possibly improve on a Seabourn cruise, where they've perfected ultra-luxury service that anticipates your needs and surprises you with delights every day… but now the cruise line has discovered something more to offer.

Guests can now reserve Seabourn Private Air – a private chartered jet service to transport you to and from ports of embarkation or debarkation, ports of call, and mid-voyage overland optional journeys – for Seabourn cruises all over the world.

The service uses a global network of private jet operators who meet the highest US FAA standards and also Seabourn's service expectations. Seabourn Private Air service employs a wide range of jet models, and accommodates groups of any size upon request. Available aircraft include light charter jets capable of carrying 5-8 passengers; mid-size jets sized for 7-8 passengers; and heavy private jets with capacity for 9-16 passengers.
 
Designed for guests who prefer the luxuries and conveniences of private jet travel over commercial airline carriers, Seabourn Private Air is also unique from currently available jet card or fractional jet options available on the market.
Seabourn Private Air is designed to provide a guest up-front, comprehensive pricing for the private jet package that you can book along with your Seabourn cruise. That sets a similar standard to a Seabourn cruise itself, where all dining venues are complimentary, as are selections of fine wines and premium spirits.

Amenities and services of the comprehensive Seabourn Private Air package reflect the onboard Seabourn cruising experience devoted fans of the cruise line have come to expect. And, just like those enjoyed by Seabourn guests at sea, comforts and conveniences they've come to associate with the Seabourn experience are included in the Seabourn Private Air experience and price, including:

  • Access to thousands of airports, large and small, that serve private aviation, as well as to most major international airports
  • WiFi internet capability
  • Private Valet luggage service
  • Seabourn-standard catering options
  • Seabourn-brand food & beverages on every flight, including Regiis Ova caviar, K+M Chocolates, Montaudon champagne, and a range of complementary spirits
  • Amenities by Seabourn’s signature fragrance partner, Molton Brown
  • Complimentary transfers to-and-from home to the nearest airport and onward to Seabourn’s cruise port (with some mileage limitations)
  • Cabin attendants, required on some aircraft, or available upon request at additional cost if not required by aircraft
  • Next port protection up to 1,000 miles from original destination.
 
The cost of the Private Air package is offered in addition to the cruise fare and varies by model and itinerary. Guests pay for the aircraft rather than by the seat, so the more passengers onboard, the lower the cost per person. 

Imagine a milestone celebration with a group of family or friends, whisked to your Seabourn cruise in ultimate style, ease, convenience and comfort on Seabourn Private Air!
 

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The Return of a Legend: Singapore's Raffles Hotel Re-opens

It's one of a handful of heritage hotels around the world that define a destination. The storied Raffles hotel is synonymous with Singapore. 


And after closing for more than two years for restoration and re-imagination, Raffles re-takes center stage as a hospitality icon in this South-East Asian city-state – and the world.



First opened in 1887, Raffles' restoration retains what makes the hotel a treasure. It's a magical place in Singapore: a combination of gracious luxury and expansive tropical colonial design that stirs your historical and travel imagination. Polished teak verandahs and white marble colonnades clustered around lush tropical gardens evoke the romance of life-changing travel.

Add the famed Raffles butlers discreetly providing legendary service, visitors to Singapore are transported to another era of transformative travel and legends in the making. 

The hotel was declared a National Monument a century after it opened. It's treasured by Singaporeans, who deeply value its breathtaking architecture, singular heritage, and Raffles' place in local, Asian and global history. 


They continue to proudly share epic tales of the early years of the hotel and of modern Singapore. You can't visit Singapore without hearing about the times when the occasional tiger would wander into the hotel's Long Bar from the jungle, and legendary authors, playwrights, taste-makers and trend-setters and empire builders called Raffles home during their time in the East.

The restoration maintains and enhances Raffles as an incomparable luxury oasis for today's well-traveled. The revitalized Raffles Singapore offers enhanced luxurious all-suite accommodations, across nine distinct suite categories. The hotel has added three more types of suites so guests can choose among: State Room Suites, Courtyard Suites, Palm Court Suites, Personality Suites, Residence Suites, Promenade Suites, Grand Hotel Suites and Presidential Suites.

 
The hotel is the center of social life and society in Singapore. The refreshed oasis in ultra-modern Singapore delivers a compelling mix of culture, beauty and gentility. Vibrant lifestyle experiences and exclusive dining concepts are designed for international visitors and Singaporeans to meet, stay, shop, dine and celebrate.

 
The Raffles Arcade has been newly outfitted with a charming Raffles Boutique and various bespoke retail brands. Guests and locals will also delight in exploring the worldly restaurants and bars at Raffles Singapore, including restaurant collaborations with
 
  • Chef Anne-Sophie Pic, of the three-Michelin star Maison Pic in Valence, France;
  • the venerable French Master Chef Alain Ducasse; and
  • Chef Jereme Leung, known for his innovative Chinese cuisine.

And one of the most famous places within Singapore, Raffles' Long Bar, begins a new chapter too. Under palmetto fans, guests will continue to enjoy the hotel's most famous cocktail invention, the original Singapore Sling, along with the timeless tradition of tossing peanut shells on the floor.
 
Singapore's heritage treasure is back. This is where it all started, and faithful to its roots, a refreshed, re-imagined and revitalized Raffles Singapore continues to define emotional luxury lifestyle.
 
Not just in Singapore. Raffles continues its tradition of gracious living, intuitive service and meaningful experiences. Raffles has grown beyond Singapore. Connoisseurs of life choose Raffles around the world for its heritage, beauty and gentility, and for the extraordinary way they feel staying at Raffles. Each Raffles, whether in Paris, Istanbul, Warsaw, Jakarta or the Seychelles, is an oasis where travelers arrive as guests, leave as friends and return as family.
 
You can look forward to more Raffles around the world, too. The return of this flagship property to Raffles Hotels & Resorts paves the way for the expansion of the brand to new destinations in cities such as Udaipur, London and Boston.
 

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Images: Raffles Singapore
 
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It was a week at the end of May 1969 that became an iconic, unforgettable moment of 60's counter-culture and protests against the Vietnam War.
 
2019 marks the anniversary of the legendary time when music uber-star and peace activist John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono booked themselves into Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, and held their 'Bed-in for Peace'. 

The event resonated around the world, drawing global media who broadcast images of the couple in their pajamas in bed and their messages of peace. While in bed, they composed and recorded the anthem 'Give Peace a Chance' that resonates even today. It was Lennon's first solo single and marked the beginning of the end of the Beatles as well as marking the history of the peace movement. Music history and activist history made on the grand stage of a bed in a suite in the hotel.

The suite in the hotel has been a beacon, drawing pilgrims and fans to take photos in front of the room's door. And now, as part of a $100 million-plus renovation of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, the four rooms Lennon originally booked have been joined together in a single suite, renamed in honor of the couple and designed with all the comforts of a modern luxury hotel, but also in homage to the 60's era, the Bed-in for Peace, and the urgent, memorable song 'Give Peace a Chance' with interactive, multi-media immersions that bring to life the media frenzy and impact of this once-in-a-generation event.

The John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite at Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is not normally open to the public, but BestTrip got access to experience the suite today, re-live that week in 1969 and its message of 'Peace and Love', and share it with you.
 

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Cooler climes are some of today's hottest cruise destinations. 

Add the warmth of Seabourn's ultra-luxury service, boutique-hotel inspired ships, world-class dining and insightful, intriguing shore excursions like Ventures' active explorations, and you've got the perfect formula for discovering gateway northern destinations like Alaska, as well as the uniquely northern-most destinations in Europe.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR A SHIP TOUR AND HIGLIGHTS OF OUR CRUISE.

And here are three essential experiences I discovered you won't want to miss on a cruise of Nordic and Scottish destinations on the Seabourn Ovation. 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

1. Follow in the Footsteps of the Vikings


Scandinavia's maritime warriors/traders/ marauders are legendary even today. 

A thousand years ago, from their coastal bases in today's Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, Vikings launched expeditions in their wooden ships, eventually crossing the unpredictable North Sea to the British Isles, skirting the Arctic Circle and hop-scotching to landfalls in Iceland, Greenland, and eventually even making it to Newfoundland (preceding Columbus by centuries as the first Europeans to set foot in the Americas).

Our cruise evoked these epic Viking voyages.

We set sail from Denmark's capital and global lifestyle and culinary hotspot Copenhagen, wound our way to Sweden, where we toured the rugged, rocky coastline, onwards to Norway's capital Oslo and coastal towns, then sailed across the North Sea to northern England and Scotland, calling in the cultural and architectural gem of Edinburgh, then at storied, remote Scottish isles that rarely see cruise ships, and never the larger ships at all.

Don't miss the intact Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

Throughout the voyage and half a dozen countries, the land and sea-scape shared a common, North Atlantic / North Sea theme that reminds you – you're exploring Viking territory. Dark blue, cold North Atlantic seas lapping against craggy granite coasts and cliffs with hardy northern trees and plants, dotted here and there with hardy homes and farms and fishing villages.  

Like a cruise of the countries along the Mediterranean Sea reveals shared landscapes and history, so too does a cruise of the North Sea portion of the North Atlantic. 

In fact, an Australian couple standing next to me at the rail in one Nordic port said they'd sailed with Seabourn to Canada the previous summer – and the Nordic coastline to them looked identical to Atlantic Canada.


But unlike the brave Vikings crossing these chill waters in their wooden longships, on Seabourn, you're wrapped in the warmth of attentive service, cocktails and champagne and caviar service throughout the ship, top-shelf restaurants including one by a Michelin-starred chef, and peak 21st century hospitality.


2. Set your alarm to enjoy some of the world's most beautiful sail in arrivals.


On this cruise, sailing into Nordic ports like Oslo, Arendal, and Scotland's Highland port Inverness as well as the isles of Shetland and Orkney will be experiences you never forget. The sparsely populated shores approaching these North Sea ports are epic viewed from the ship.


And on Seabourn, where all suites (unlike a land-based hotel) are ocean view, the ships are small enough that even suites on the top deck are still close enough to the water you can hear the waves lapping and smell the sea air, and the exceptional service includes in-room dining in your living /dining room or on your veranda - from dawn until the ship is docked is an unparalleled experience of enjoying morning tea and breakfast while exceptional scenery sails past.

3. Experience the Great Outdoors, Seabourn-Style


A scenic morning sail-in isn't the only way to appreciate the outdoors in these essential outdoor North Sea destinations.  

With multiple hot tubs in vantage points on forward and aft decks, there's always a hot tub with a view in these cool-weather ports.

Seabourn's Ventures shore excursions that immerse you in Nature, expedition-style. Expert guides take small groups of guests on hikes, treks, kayak or zodiak explorations that let you get up close to the sea, the land, and the wildlife in a magical and active experience.

Back on the ship, Seabourn's staff go to extraordinary lengths to charm guests with pop-up events – those famous 'Seabourn Moments' - on deck that allow you to enjoy Seabourn service along with the views. 
You might return from shore to find a champagne/vodka and caviar party (in the tropics, they have 'Caviar in the Surf' parties served from surfboards at the beach!) or warming 'hot chocolate with a twist', all with live music and camaraderie with delighted fellow guests.


I love being outdoors, and Seabourn's new restaurant concept Earth and Ocean transforms the pool deck in the evenings with an alfresco dining experience that pairs rustic ceramics and textured linen with exquisite cuisine that taps into the elements with smoke boxes, sea scents and tagines. 

It's all heightened by the sea air and the views you can still enjoy late into the evening with the Far North's summertime late sunsets.

Start your Trip!

 
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See the World's Tallest Indoor Waterfall at this New Airport

It's one of the world's top ten busiest airports, with a flight every 80 seconds. A hundred airlines transport over 60 million passengers yearly to and from Singapore's Changi airport. So millions of travelers are already familiar with the breathtaking Nature features in the airport that's the gateway to Asia's 'City in a Garden'. 


But 2019's new Jewel Changi Airport brings the natural world into an airport environment in a whole new, spectacular way that makes Singapore's airport a destination itself.

The Rain Vortex was inspired by Singapore's tropical rains. It's a 7-story feat of design and engineering that astounds you the moment you walk in the door. At over 130 feet high, it's the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, cascading dramatically through an oculus in the glass and steel dome.


The experience of the Rain Vortex changes depending what time of day you are at Jewel Changi Airport. Every evening, the flowing water, along with mist and music, becomes the centerpiece of an hourly, magical Light & Sound show designed by the same company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and hundreds of other water, fire, light, fog and music installations around the world.

Jewel's indoor waterfall is surrounded by 5 acres of lush gardens and greenery – 2000 trees and 100,000 shrubs from 120 species in different 'parks' that make Jewel Changi Airport a lifestyle destination for visitors and locals too.

Areas like Forest Valley and Canopy Park are shopping and dining neighborhoods in a whimsical green wonderland, with cobblestone walking trails, indoor clouds, play attractions like Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze and Discovery Slides that flow through themed gardens - all in climate-controlled comfort. In a man-made environment, you can enjoy tropical gardens without tropical weather!
 
With all the world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, Jewel is still a functioning airport that anticipates travelers' needs and offers conveniences that are a breath of relief, even for travelers with only a brief stopover in Singapore. 
 
Thoughtful airport facilities that have been added in Jewel include early check-in counters and kiosks, a baggage storage service and the Changi Lounge, a 150-seat lounge with shower facilities, offering seamless transfers for passengers connecting to and from cruise and ferry services
 
Jewel also has the first YOTELAIR in Asia. The tech-savvy, smart-design, space-efficient cabin hotel concept has 130 cabin-units in Jewel in three categories. The Premium, Accessible and Family cabins can be booked for as little as four hours. They are a game changer for travelers with short daytime layovers, a very early arrival in Singapore, even an extra half day to spend time exploring all that the airport has to offer before you fly out of Singapore - even overnight stays. Hotel check-in / check-out is seamless, with time-saving, airline-style self-check-in kiosks.
 
Jewel also adds capacity to accommodate increasing numbers of travelers at Changi Airport. Another 3 million passengers will now be able to be accommodated annually, bringing the airport's total capacity to 85 million. And it's going to be needed with an airport that's enough reason alone to visit Singapore.
 
The multi-faceted innovation at Jewel gives local residents a new destination where lush Nature meets Singapore's urban energy. And it gives a renewed sense of novelty and wonder at the experience of air transportation to everyone traveling to or from Singapore. 
 

Start your Trip!


Photos: Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

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 Whether you love Old Havana colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern tropical, Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort on a world's top beach... Puerto Rico's El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.


Following a post-hurricane, $65-million reno, this grande dame of Puerto Rico society and must-visit destination for visitors to Puerto Rico's capital is back - in spectacular style combining all three eras and captivating your travel imagination.
The El San Juan Hotel alone is worth the trip to this US island territory! 

It's ideal as a destination tropical resort for your whole vacation or destination wedding/ vow renewal / business event, or as an extension before or after your Caribbean cruise embarking or disembarking from Puerto Rico; the El San Juan Hotel is 5 minutes from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, 10 minutes from San Juan Cruise Port… and 15 minutes from historic Old San Juan, on 2 miles of Isla Verde Beach that's been voted the Best Urban Beach.

Start your Trip!


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Think Overwater Villas are the Height of Exotic Luxury Travel? Try This UNDERwater Villa
It puts new meaning into being immersed in the local natural beauty. The pristine waters of the Maldives are epic, surrounding one of the world's most romantic, remote and legendary tropical eco paradise destinations. 

Now you can sleep alongside your sweetheart or family as well as the rich marine life that animates the waters of these tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a pioneering resort: the first international hotel in the Maldives, the first underwater restaurant, and now, the first undersea residence.


It's called the Muraka, or 'coral' in the local Maldivian language, and it is an extraordinary way for up to 9 guests to experience of one of the world's most breathtaking marine environments. Specialized aquarium technology was used to create the 2-story villa, consisting of above-sea-level space, and a spiral staircase to an underwater suite more than 16 feet below sea level with a king size bedroom, living room, and bathing area under a dome with 180-degree views of the ocean.

Sleeping in an undersea dome is an almost surreal vacation, but the overwater part of the villa above is unforgettable, too. More bedrooms, one with an ocean-facing bathtub, more bathrooms, gym, space for a butler and private security, living room, kitchen, bar and dining area with a deck facing the sunset, and another deck with an infinity pool facing sunrise. 

The Muraka butlers are dedicated 24-7 to hyper-personalized service. They are also ambassadors of the Maldivian island experience for undersea villa guests, sharing their passion for culture, the environment and adventure throughout your custom-crafted stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.


The resort is located in the Maldives' best diving and snorkeling locations. It melds harmoniously with the environment, flowing from island, over the ocean, to the overwater/undersea residence.


You can double down on the undersea experience at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island at its trailblazing underwater restaurant. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is also a world's first, where the fusion local and Western lunch and dinner menus, fine wine pairings, and mid-morning cocktails are accompanied by a panoramic view of coral gardens 16 feet below the surface of the ocean.

 
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is one of dozen resort restaurants and bars that regularly make 'best of…' lists. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island also features an overwater spa and a Spa Retreat, and experiences inspired by the local environment and culture round out the ultimate island escape. Sunrise and sunset yoga practice. A meditation pavilion. A 5-hour journey to inner tranquility via a unique Zen revelation. A Spa Retreat with over a dozen water villas, its own restaurant, and a selection of therapies including a signature treatment inspired by the beauty practices of Maldivian women, including a heated coconut stick massage and organic, pineapple and papaya body scrub.


Consciously-designed villas and suites, from ultra-private beach villas nestled amongst the rich tropical landscape with direct beach access, to overwater villas ranging from private and romantic, to expansive for an extended group of family or friends, complete with sundecks, hot tubs steps into the sea, spa treatment rooms and more, provide the iconic Maldives vacation.
 
Start your Trip!
 
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Top 10 Souvenirs from a Trip to Hawaii

You'll come home with a million sun-drenched memories of a holiday in Hawaii. Here are 10 mementos you can take with you.

 

ANYTHING PINEAPPLE



They may be the most common symbol of Hawaii, and you'll find pineapples, pineapple products, and pineapple motifs everywhere. Pineapples are actually native to South America, and their Hawaiian name 'halakahiki' means 'foreign fruit'.  They arrived in Hawaii in the 1500's, but it wasn't until James Dole, the 'Pineapple King' came to the islands in 1899, that Hawaii became synonymous the world over with pineapples.


At one time, Hawaii produced 75% of the world's supply. Hawaii is no longer the world's big kahuna of pineapple production. But the second most visited attraction in Hawaii is the Dole Pineapple Plantation Experience. Roadside stands sell delicious, perfectly ripe pineapples you'll enjoy during your stay, and that's where they'll have to stay. You can't take fresh fruits off the islands. But you can take candied and chocolate versions of pineapple with you – as well as an unlimited selection of items with pineapple motifs that will remind you of lazy days in the Hawaiian sun. 
 

OTHER TROPICAL FRUIT

The Hawaiian islands are America's tropical paradise, with market and roadside fresh guavas, papayas, mangos, bananas, lychees, passionfruit as well as pineapples. Like pineapples, they are not native to the islands, although bananas were one of the dozen staple crops brought on the first journey to Hawaii by Polynesians. Other tropical fruit came later and many have even gone wild, even becoming invasive in the wilderness. 


The same no-fresh-fruit in your luggage rule applies. Fresh tropical fruit juices make delicious toppings on Hawaii's favorite refreshing treat: shaved ice. And look for tropical fruit preserves to take home to relive your vacation every morning with your breakfast toast.
 

LOCAL WOOD



Sustainable local woods, especially local, fast growing and immense acacia koa are turned in the hands of artisans into both beautiful and useful memorabilia of your Hawaiian vacation. From salad tongs and bowls, fruit and nut bowls, platters, yes, even in ubiquitous pineapple styling, Hawaiian tropical wood products make a warm and heart-warming souvenir for yourself or family and friends.
 

ANYTHING TIKI



Much of the world associates tiki culture with the Hawaiian islands. Tiki culture is not actually a real 'thing', in fact, it's a mash up of elements, some real and some imaginary, of stylized elements of the Pacific tropics, like statues, sweet and complex cocktails, tropical décor including bamboo, flaming torches, brightly patterned fabrics (see: Hawaiian shirts), rattan furniture, and bead curtains. Tiki culture developed in the mid-1900's, and picked up speed with a post-war fascination with the romantic and exotic - brought home by returning US troops from the Pacific war theater and exaggerated by Hollywood. 


Now, tiki has a fun, retro vibe, and is a perfect theme for a back yard barbecue, complete with mai tai's garnished with fresh fruit and tiny umbrellas.
 

HULA GIRLS - OR GUYS

The adorably kitschy, wiggling, dash-top décor is a fun and retro memento of one of Hawaii's most powerful, unique and authentic traditions: the hula dance. Accompanied since the 19th century by western-influenced instruments like the ukulele, Hawaii's hula is a complex and ancient dance tradition, where hand movements can represent the swaying of a tree or wave in the ocean, even an emotion, along with unmistakable foot and hip movements. 


Hopefully, you'll experience a hula performance live in Hawaii. The hula girl (or guy) on your dashboard gives you fond memories and a little hipster credibility.
 

HAWAIIAN SHIRT



Channel your inner 'Magnum' or Don Ho with the modern man's loudest item of clothing, worn un-tucked and cool in the tropical heat of Hawaii. Traditional and local Aloha shirts are more muted in tones and style, and are considered formal wear locally, equivalent to shirt, tie and jacket in all except the most formal of scenarios, perfect for the local climate. The Aloha shirt is the top textile export from the islands, so you'll be in good company if you add one to your wardrobe at home.
 

ALOHA ACCESSORIES



Not everyone can pull off an Hawaiian shirt. The rest of us may have to make do with more subtle expressions of Aloha style: plumeria/ frangipani flower hair clips, and shell or silk flower leis. The custom of lei floral and leaf garlands was brought to the islands of Hawaii by settlers who made the incredible journey from Polynesia in canoes.  They've become the symbol around the world of welcome to America's 50th state.
 

MORNING JOE AND AFTERNOON TEA

The word in coffee in Hawaii is 'Kona'. Various efforts on the islands in the 19th century to grow coffee failed, but the slopes of the Kona or west side of the island of Hawaii, where sugarcane was unsuccessful, is ideally suited to coffee production. The Kona district became the center of coffee production in Hawaii and is Hawaii's coffee designation of origin; it must be grown in a two-mile-wide belt of terrain at 700-2000 feet of elevation to be labeled Hawaii's most prestigious coffee.


Kona coffee grows on west side slopes, and the opposite, east side has conditions conducive to growing tea. Tea production in Hawaii is much more recent, and growers are experimenting with black, green, oolong teas, scented with local flowers and fruits, so tea drinkers also have a local hot beverage to enjoy on island or to take home.

GET NUTTY



The pale, round and incredibly rich macadamia nut – sometimes even called the Hawaii nut - is also associated with classic Hawaiian snacks and cooking. But it, like the pineapple, originates elsewhere. Macadamia was introduced to Hawaii from Australia in the 1800's, and a local macadamia nut plantation just after WW2 helped spread the popularity of Hawaiian macadamia nuts through the US.  Enjoy them freshly roasted and take them home in cans, made into brittle, chocolates and countless other reminders of the flavor of Hawaii.

SALT



Hawaiians have been living off the land since their brave Polynesian ancestors made their way by celestial navigation thousands of miles across the Pacific. Harvesting sea salt has always been a fundamental part of island tradition, and continues today, with varieties of sea salt highlighting different flavors and unique characteristics of the areas they are harvested. The perfect foodie souvenir!
 

UKULELE

The soundtrack of any trip to Hawaii is the one-of-a-kind tunes of a ukulele. Looking like a miniature guitar, the ukulele is a Hawaiian adaptation of string instruments brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th century. The word has a whimsical meaning: 'jumping flea', thought to reflect the movement of a player's fingers. Ukulele music was popularized by the patronage of King Kalakaua in Hawaii, and it spread to the US and the rest of the world in the early and mid-20th century, along with post-war fascination with the South Seas and 'tiki' culture. Even Elvis famously played the ukulele in Hawaiian-themed performances.


You too can buy a ukulele in Hawaii, even visit an artisan workshop where they're made from traditional acacia koa, and take lessons, to liven up your next summer barbecue with the ultimate sounds of the Hawaiian tropics.
 

START YOUR TRIP!


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7 Castles in Ireland Where You Can Stay
St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle. Dramatic coastline. Historic towns and cobblestone streets. Pubs and parties. Folklore and green pastures… and castles.
 
Hundreds of castles and manor houses dot the Irish countryside. They not only evoke Ireland's storied past. Many allow you to live out your inner fantasy world of warrior kings and legendary princesses during overnight stays.
 
Look for a tour of Ireland that allows you to lay your head at some of these stately homes:

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

 
You'll be joining the illustrious ranks of not only early Irish nobility when you stay at Ashford Castle. British royalty, American presidents and sports and entertainment superstars have all stayed at 800-year-old Ashford Castle. It's a 5-star resort lifestyle in a magnificent French chateau style building on a 26,000 acre estate – complete with is own school of falconry, horseback riding, fishing, archery and clay shooting, as well as more modern pass times like a spa, golf, kayaking, tennis, tree climbing and zip lining.

 
Ashford Castle has been voted the best resort in Ireland and one of the top three in Europe.
 

Bantry House, County Cork

 
Since the 1700's Earls of Bantry have occupied Bantry House overlooking Bantry Bay on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way on the southern coast. You can stay in one of the finest historic manor houses in the country in luxurious bed and breakfast or self-catering style.  

 
As well as the Wild Atlantic Way, you'll want to explore Bantry House's elegant gardens especially when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom. The design is dramatic with seven terraces – the house is on the third terrace - 100 steps, and a fountain.
 

Drumoland Castle, County Clare

 
 Another magnet for global political figures and celebrities, 5-star Dromoland Castle is the ancestral home of the O'Brien family that traces its roots 1000 years back to the famous High King of Ireland Brian Boru. 

 
400 acres of Irish heaven include a top-rated golf course, walking and cycling trails, tennis, hiking, horse riding and pony carriage rides, traditional archery, falconry, fishing and clay shooting. Deluxe décor and luxury living include a spa, afternoon tea, casual and fine dining that once earned a Michelin star.
 

Ballyfin Demesne, County Laois

 
Your travel imagination may picture your castles with gothic towers, but don't miss Ireland's most celebrated Regency / Georgian mansion. With only 20 guest rooms, you'll feel like you're lord of the manor at this 5-star Georgian country house nestled on 600 acres at the foot of the scenic Slieve Bloom Mountains.

 
It's the ultimate mix of old world charm and modern home and hotel comforts – and perfect to take over for a special, destination family or even business event.
 

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway

 
Voted #1 Irish luxury castle hotel, Ballynahinch is an elegant 17th century castle with magnificent views over 700 acres of woodland and rivers. Relax indoors by one of six open log fires or dine in elegance at one of Irelands' best restaurants. 

 
Take long walks or cycling tours with backdrops against the 12 Bens Mountain range along the Wild Atlantic Way. Or climb onto a boat for a guided trip of its famous salmon and lobster fishery.
 

Crom Castle, County Fermanagh

 
Lord and Lady Erne still dwell at the historic seat of the Earls of Erne, magnificent Crom Castle in Irelands' beautiful Fermanagh Lakelands (pictured top). But the castle's West Wing can be yours, it's available year round for up to 12, with even a cook provided if you wish. 
 
Nearly 2000 acres at Crom are a unique nature reserve with one of the largest semi-natural woodland remaining in Ireland, the largest surviving area of oak woodland in the country, and one of the largest freshwater habitats in the British Isles. You can see two rare butterflies and pine-marten, the largest heronry in Ireland, wild geese and deer.
 

Lismore Castle, County Waterford

 
Some of the most notable names of Europe and the Americas over the last few centuries have visited and stayed at this 12th century castle of the Dukes of Devonshire. Fewer than 30 guests at a time enjoy truly regal hospitality, with use of the castle and estate facilities, and even the Duke's personal butler and staff. The Castle kitchens create formal, informal, indoor and outdoor meals from local and on-site ingredients.

 
Live like the Irish nobility with salmon fishing, golf, horse riding and racing, kayaking and boat trips, even kite surfing, scuba and hot air balloon rides.
 
Make sure your next vacation to Ireland includes a stay fit for a king on one of the Emerald Isle's historic castles.  

(Images courtesy ireland.com)
 

Start your Trip!

 
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New Wellness Cultural Journeys from Abercrombie & Kent Enrich Mind, Body, Spirit
Run and train like a warrior with the Maasai or hike to a vantage point high above Machu Picchu.

Feed your spirit with inspiration at a home for underprivileged girls in India, or a silent alms ceremony in Luang Prabang, and feed your body with healing, Ayurvedic herbs in India, or fresh local produce at a cooking demonstration on Krabey Island. 

Re-orient your mind through guided meditation with a local teacher at Kuang Si Falls, or learn about the meaning of tribal beading traditions in Kenya.

Now you can take your commitment to your wellbeing and desire for authentic experiences in global cultures to another level. Luxury tour company Abercrombie & Kent has debuted wellness-inspired journeys that immerse travelers in the local traditions of some of the world's most influential wellness cultures and practices, and provide uplifting visits to philanthropic projects where tourism directly supports local wellbeing.

Groups are limited to only 18 participants, and the pace is slower, with experiences and travel over 9- 13 days to allow you to stretch your mind, body and spirit, and linger in the deeply personal experiences. You'll stay in wellness-focused deluxe hotels, boutique lodges and luxuriously-appointed camps in one-of-a-kind locations. 


The first A&K wellness cultural journeys depart in Fall 2019, and explore the rich cultural traditions of bucket-list destinations Kenya, India, South-East Asia, and Peru. Imagine how enriched you'll feel after these journeys:

Wellness India: Ancient Traditions & Inspiring Icons
Explore India’s rich spiritual heritage, from the temples dedicated to Shiva and Lord Vishnu to the Taj Mahal. Participate in a guided meditation and bike ride through the countryside in Udaipur. Privately consult with an Ayurvedic doctor during a leisurely stay at Amanbagh. Explore the countryside of Rajasthan visiting local artisans. Visit an A&K Philanthropy-supported residential school for young girls. Spend two nights in the spiritual heart of India, Varanasi, where you stay in a former palace on the banks of the sacred Ganges, and take an evening boat ride to experience the pitru tarpana, a moving ceremony that honors the memory of a loved one.
 
Wellness Southeast Asia: Timeless Rituals of Indochina
You won't have to chose among your favorite Southeast Asian country, as the wellness traditions of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are all part of this journey. Take part in inspirational ceremonies such as a baci ceremony in Luang Prabang and tak bat, a silent food offering to local monks. Witness sunrise at Angkor Wat.  Luxuriate on a private tropical island at the new Six Senses Krabey Island. Enjoy a Khmer cooking class, spa treatment or sunset cruise. Discover the difference that clean water makes during a visit to a remote village, where A&K Philanthropy is building wells.

 
Wellness Kenya: Cultures & Wildlife
Discover tribal traditions and learn about conservation efforts on an active safari in the Masai Mara and Tsavo National Park. Hike through the cloud forests of the lush Chyulu Hills and learn about traditional warrior training from the Maasai, and wonder at game drives and your mythical surroundings during sunrise and sunset yoga. Gain a new perspective on giving back at an A&K Philanthropy-supported school and see how sustainable tourism is providing safe drinking water.
 
Wellness Peru: Spirit of the Incas
From the Sacred Valley and Cusco, discover local traditions in remote mountainside villages and working farms. Learn about a traditional Amazonian medicine, and hand-feed llamas and alpacas. Kayak in a secluded lagoon 12,464 feet above sea level and hike up to a birds-eye view of Machu Picchu. Overnight at the only property located on the ancient Incan site to explore the sanctuary at sunrise. Have your coca-leaf fortune read by a shaman.
 

Start your Trip!

 
 


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6 Reasons We Love Seabourn Cruises to Alaska
America's Last Frontier is a destination everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime of travel. Alaska's vast, untouched waters and shores are rich in breathtaking scenery and abundant land and marine wildlife in an unparalleled spectacle of Nature.

Cruising along the pristine, emerald coast between British Columbia and Alaska is one of the very best perspectives and ways to experience Alaska's riches.

Not just any cruise; here's what makes an Alaska cruise on ultra-luxury Seabourn so special.



Smaller, Spacious Ships:


In a place of natural splendor like Alaska, a smaller ship gives you ample space to feel you are part of your natural surroundings. And it sails into ports that other, larger ships can't access. Seabourn Alaska itineraries include marquee ports like Juneau and Ketchikan, but also ports that are off the beaten cruise ship path, like Misty Fjords, Klemtu, Wrangell, Inian Islands, Chiswell Islands, Aialik Glacier and Holgate Glacier, ports that make your Alaska adventure one-of-a-kind.

You share your Seabourn ship in Alaska with fewer than 500 fellow guests. No crowding on decks, no line ups to shore… during daytime sailing, you can stroll on a deck surrounded by the quiet serenity of the impossibly fresh air and the sounds of the waves passing the ship and the densely-forested shore.


You're Always in a Room with a View:


Every space on a Seabourn ship gives you a feeling of being connected to the sea. All suites are ocean-front, many with verandas, and never far above the waves. 


Imagine waking in a verdant fjord to chunks of icebergs floating on glassy waters seemingly at arms' reach off your teak veranda rail. Or the unforgettable experience of sailing in crisp sub-arctic air while sipping champagne in a one of the toasty hot tubs on decks.

Taste-full:

Dining on Seabourn is always a treat. Everywhere Seabourn sails, chefs onboard plan menus like they are serving guests on a private yacht rather than a cruise ship, personally shopping for ingredients in local ports and featuring field- and farm- and fishing-boat fresh flavors on menus that surprise and delight daily.

In the rich waters of British Columbia and Alaska, that's a bounty of crab, salmon, oysters and other local delicacies that are so exquisitely fresh and beautifully prepared, it will spoil you for dining on them anywhere else in the world.

Seabourn Moments: 


Anyone who has traveled on Seabourn has a story of their favorite Seabourn moment. On every sailing, the ship's crew goes above and beyond to come up with spontaneous experiences that bring you closer together with your fellow guests, with your destination, and with the warm and enthusiastic crew. How do Seabourn moments put a smile on your face in Alaska?

One day, you may return from a wind-swept shore excursion to find 'Hot Chocolate with a Twist' on the Pool deck, where Seabourn bartenders are set up serving everyone's favorite comfort drink – with an optional twist of your liqueur and indulgent toppings that warm you up during your scenic sailaway.


In cooler climates like Alaska, Seabourn's famous 'Caviar in the Surf' becomes caviar on ice. What pairs best: vodka or champagne? Why not both? At the open-air, pop-up party deluxe, vodka and champagne stations, chefs coming out of the kitchens to greet guests at caviar station, opening up super-sized cans of caviar and plating servings for guests, circulating staff, and the live band all come together in the ultimate Seabourn spirit of the moment. 
 

Ventures by Seabourn:


Seabourn's smaller ships can't just sail into Alaska's smaller ports, bays and fjords, they can also launch Zodiacs and kayaks directly from the Marina at the aft of the ship.


Ventures by Seabourn are fun, accessible, active excursions that satisfy your craving to explore hands-on and up-close to Nature.  You can join a small group of like-minded guests and expedition leaders including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, geologists, historians and other experts. If you like exploring the outdoors, these are the Alaska experiences of your dreams: watch whales and eagles in Kenai Fjords from a Zodiac, or kayak up close to wildlife in Misty Fjords, take a photo safari for bears in Wrangell, or hike the Davidson Glacier.
 

Don't Stop at the Shoreline:


You won't want your Seabourn cruise in Alaska to end when you disembark, and luckily, it doesn't have to. Seabourn has introduced pre- and post-cruise Seabourn Journeys, fully-escorted extensions inland from the ports at the beginning and end of its Alaska itineraries.
 
The UNESCO Banff National Park & Rocky Mountaineer Seabourn Journey delivers you to your Seabourn cruise in Vancouver following a 7-day trip that includes one of the world's most famous luxury scenic train journeys and an exploration of Canada's iconic UNESCO World Heritage national park.  
 
In Alaska, a Denali Seabourn Journey takes you by scenic rail to America's highest peak and the spectacular national park surrounding Mount McKinley. It's a 5-day experience that features a flight over Ruth Glacier and a guided tour to spot grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and other wildlife park residents.
 
Traveling with Seabourn in Alaska gives you a welcoming, ultra-luxury journey to the majestic, sub-arctic 'safari' destination in our backyard.
 

Start your Trip!


(Images not labeled BestTrip.tv are courtesy Seabourn/ Rocky Mountaineer.)
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8 Facts About the Panama Canal

Panama is one of the fastest-growing destinations in Central America, and the Panama Canal is the country's star attraction. Although it's on everyone's list of things to experience, the canal is more important as a global shipping transit than tourist experience. 

Whether you sail the canal on your next cruise or watch in action from land, here are 8 things you need to know about this wonder of the modern world.

1. It's a short cut between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Panama Canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama in a narrow land bridge between North and South America. Prior, ships had to sail around the tip of South America. It takes about 8 hours to cross the Canal's 50 miles (77km). That saves days. If a ship had to navigate down and around Cape Horn at the tip of South America and back up the other side, it would have to travel nearly 12,500 miles (20,000 km).

2. It's over 100 years old.

2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.  Columbia, France, then later, the United States controlled the land surrounding the canal. In 1881, the French started building the canal, but progress halted due to engineering problems and high worker mortality. The US took it over in 1904 and completed the project with newly available technology ten years later at a cost of $400 million USD. In 1999, control passed back to Panama.

3. Construction cost over 25,000 lives.

At times, more than 43,000 people were working on the Panama Canal at once. Workers had to deal with heat, jungles, swamps - and all the creatures in them, including rats that carried bubonic plague. Plus mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria. Over 20,000 workers died during French building efforts.

After the scientific links between the insects and disease had been discovered, Americans undertook intensive and successful anti-mosquito initiatives. Even so, another more than 5000 workers perished during the American building phase.

4. It's considered one of the Man-Made Wonders of the World

The American Society of Civil Engineers has also dubbed the Panama Canal one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. It's one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.
 
A system of locks at each end of the Canal lifts ships up 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level to an artificial lake. Ships traverse the artificial lake, as well as a series of improved and artificial channels, and then are lowered again in more locks to sea level at the other side.  
 
The locks are 110 feet (33 meters) feet wide and 1000 feet (300 meters) long. About 30-MILLION pounds (1,400,000 kilos) of explosives were used to help clear the land for the canal.

 (That's a view! The Norwegian Bliss is the largest passenger cruise ship to have ever transited the Panama Canal)

5. Over 1 Million Vessels have transited the canal since it opened.

In 1914, the year it opened, about 1000 ships used the canal. Today, nearly 15,000 ships pass through the Isthmus of Panama via the Canal annually. The 1 Millionth ship crossed the canal in 2010, 96 years after it opened.
In 1934 it was estimated that the maximum traffic of the canal would be around 80 million tons of shipping a year, but by 2015, canal traffic exceeded 340 million tons of shipping – over 4 times the original maximum estimate.
 

6. $2 Billion in Tolls are Collected Annually

Every ship that passes through the canal pays a toll based on its size, type and volume of cargo. Tolls are set by the Panama Canal Authority. Tolls for the largest cargo ships can run about $450,000. Cruise ships pay by berths (number of passengers in beds). The per-berth fee set in 2016 was $138; a large cruise ship can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to sail through the Canal. 

The smallest toll recorded was paid by American Richard Halliburton in 1928, who paid 36 cents to swim the Canal.

 

7. The Panama Canal was expanded for bigger ships in 2016

The original canal locks are 110 feet (33 meters) wide and ten times as long. For a century, they accommodated shipping, and the term 'Panamax' ships was used to describe ships built to fit through the canal. But ships kept getting bigger, and in 2007, work began on a multi-billion dollar expansion of the Canal. In 2016, a third, wider lane of locks opened for commercial shipping, capable of handling 'Post-Panamax' ships that can carry 14,000 20-foot shipping containers (nearly 3 times Panamax ship capacity).

In spite of that giant leap forward in 2016, the world's largest container ships - that can carry 18,000 shipping containers – can't pass through the Panama Canal.

(A Celebrity Cruise ship transiting the Panama Canal)

8. How you can visit the Panama Canal. 

Many ocean cruise lines offer increasingly popular Panama Canal itineraries that sail through the canal in the approximately 8 hour passage to their next destination in the opposite ocean. 

But you don't have to sail through the canal. If you're visiting Panama City, or taking a resort / beach vacation in Panama, you can take a land trip to see the canal in action.
 
The Miraflores Visitor Center is on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, which are close to the Pacific end of the Canal and Panama City. Like the canal, the Visitor Center is open daily. The Visitor Center has large balconies designed for you to get a great view as the lock gates are opened and closed for ships to start or complete their journey through the Panama Canal. 

Engineering buffs and even children will be thrilled at the up-close-to-the-action perspective on this man-made Wonder of the World. 
 

Start your Trip!


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They say on St. Patrick's Day everyone's a little bit Irish. So it's fair to say that on Rabbie Burns' Day, we're all a little bit Scottish. The national poet of Scotland – he wrote the song you likely sing every New Year's Eve: Auld Lang Syne – was born on January 25, 1759. And every year on January 25th, Scots and people of Scottish ancestry world-wide celebrate the man voted the 'Greatest Scot' in the country's history.

In Scotland and in many communities with Scots heritage, especially in Canada, where more than 15% of the population have ancestors from Scotland, the day is marked with Rabbie Burns Day Suppers. Gentlemen lucky enough to own a kilt suit up, bagpipers pipe in the haggis, Burns' 'Address to a Haggis' is read as the stuffed sheep's stomach is ceremonially carved and served, many toasts are made with whisky (all the better to wash down the haggis!), and it wraps up with everyone singing Auld Lang Syne.

If you're one of the millions of North Americans of Scots ancestry – or are an honorary Scot on Rabbie Burns' Day – we hope you attend a Rabbie Burns supper on January 25th in your hometown. Even better, once in your life, make the trip to join the festivities in Scotland itself. It's a bucket list trip much like being in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. You'll feel like a true Scot for the rest of your life.

Here's our salute to Robert Burns Day: BestTrip's video / love letter to the Shetland Islands, the most remote part of Scotland and northern-most point of the British Isles. (Click on the video above to watch).

The Shetland Islands are where 'Scotland meets Scandinavia and the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean'. Directly due west of Norway, the Shetland Islands are as far north as St. Petersburg, Russia, and Anchorage, Alaska.

With over 4000 years of history, enchanting wild coastline and charming farms - and an estimated 1500 of its famous, local namesake breed of Shetland ponies roaming its green pastures - the Shetland islands are a time capsule of unique Scottish history, heritage and traditional lifestyle. 

(Seabourn Ovation docked next to Oslo's historic fortifications)

We sailed to the Shetland Islands on our luxury Seabourn cruise of Scandinavia and the Northern British Isles. The Shetland Islands are yet another reason we love sailing on smaller ships like Seabourn, whose itineraries include not just marquee destinations like Copenhagen, Oslo and Edinburgh, but also small ports in remote destinations - like the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Imagine a cruise port where you barely see another tourist while you experience untouched Nature and authentic local life. 

It's cruise travel as the explorer inside you dreams it will be.

Start your Trip!


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Go Glamping in the Galapagos on the Celebrity Flora

What's better than a once-in-a-lifetime cruise to the Galapagos Islands? Sleeping under the spectacular night skies in one of the most remote places in the world on the deck of a ship that's the height of modern luxury.

  The Celebrity Flora is a first for the cruise line, dedicated to exploration of the natural wonder of the Galapagos islands. The ship launches in May, 2019, and is based on the island of Baltra in the Galapagos.  
100 privileged guests at a time will experience the Galapagos islands in the Flora's all-suite environment. In addition to the stylish design, dining, cocktails and onboard signature Celebrity Cruises lifestyle, this exploration ship is designed specifically for the best possible Galapagos luxury experience:  
  • innovative, outward-facing design providing 360-degree views of the islands, open air lounges with hot tubs and cabanas with a view,
  • expert-led ecological seminars,
  • seamless sea-to-shore transportation in yacht tenders off the open marina at the ship's aft,
  • environmentally-conscious features like extreme energy efficiency and anchorless technology to protect the sea floor, and
  • an open-air stargazing platform on the top deck.
  That's where Celebrity has crafted a whole new Galapagos cruising experience: 'glamping' (glamorous camping) with the Galapagos' brilliant night sky and millions of stars above.       It's a one-night experience you'll never forget. Four guests each night will be able to reserve the experience that includes two cabanas with deluxe appointments, one with a bed for sleeping, the other for dining alfresco with curated cocktails, wines, even campfire favorites like s'mores under the stars. And a naturalist is available to point out stars and constellations as seen only from this part of the world. The magical overnight experience concludes with sunrise and a full bed-side breakfast.   Glamping under the stars isn't a one-time PR stunt –it's a full-time part of Celebrity's Galapagos experience.Guests on every sailing of the Celebrity Flora on her 10- or 11-day tours as well as 16-night inner plus outer loop Galapagos itineraries can reserve Glamping under the stars on the top deck to add another unforgettable experience to their bucket-list travel to these remote islands and natural wonders.  

Start your Trip!

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Grain Silo Transformed into Breathtaking Museum and Hotel
Within a year of its breathtaking reincarnation, Cape Town's historic Grain Silo has already been named one of the world's top 100 places. 

When it was originally constructed in the 1920's, the Grain Silo on the city's waterfront was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a symbol of connection to the rest of the world.

A century later, after the Grain Silo was decommissioned, rejuvenation efforts could easily have seen it imploded to make way for bland new builds. Instead, the visionary conversion of the Grain Silo into a breathtaking museum, with a locally-owned and operated luxury hotel above, has resulted in a win for the waterfront district, for African culture, for the local history and people, and for travelers to South Africa. 

Zeitz MOCAA


The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art is the largest in the world. Architects magically transformed the Grain Silo's 42, densely-aligned concrete silo cylinders by carving the concrete inside to create the BMW atrium (photos by museum sponsor BMW) and multiple galleries.


The carved cylinders lend their form to the museum's spectacular design. In places, cylinder tops were capped with pillowed glass windows, each with 56 panels of glass, allowing natural light to filter in.

The result is a complex of over a hundred thousand square feet with nine floors of exhibit space, education areas, a sculpture garden on part of the roof, as well as a restaurant and shop.


It's an architectural and design masterpiece – even before you consider the art. 

German businessman and former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, considered one of the world's leading collectors of contemporary art from Africa and African artists abroad, loaned his extraordinary collection to the museum. 

It provides the founding collection of art from eminent African artists as the museum continues to grow and actively collect and share to locals and visitors art from the vast range of African artists near and far, provide many levels of art education, give back to Africa, and become a leading voice for Africa in the international art world.
 

The Silo Hotel


Above the museum, the former Grain Silo rises to new heights with a six-floor addition housing the extraordinary, 5-star Silo Hotel.
 
Like the museum below, the hotel retains and reflects ties to the local community; the Silo Hotel is the 5th property of the local Biden family hospitality company The Royal Portfolio, with a selection of exclusive boutique hotels in southern Africa.  


And like other hotels in the Royal Portfolio, the Silo Hotel has quickly become a beacon for luxury hospitality in Cape Town.

Multi-paned spectacular pillowed windows overlook the best scenery in Cape Town in every direction, including Table Mountain and the harbor into the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel celebrates its unique architecture with the Royal Portfolio's signature approach to art, style and design. 


Co-founder and family matriarch Liz Biden designed the hotel's public spaces and 28 one-of-a-kind rooms with hand-selected art acquired throughout her travels, a combination of modern and colorfully re-upholstered antique furniture, and unique pieces that make each guest feel at home in this deluxe atmosphere.


The catch-your-breath, stylish bar on the 6th floor provides bubbles, fine international wines and bespoke cocktails along with awe-inspiring views through the pillowed glass windows, and the Granary Café maintains elegant traditions like Royal Tea and Sunday Roast.


Perched at the top of the tallest building on the waterfront, the Silo Rooftop pool, dining, and lounging are the premiere al fresco experience in Cape Town.

 
The visionary transformation of Cape Town's Grain Silo offers a master class for any global city's transition of its waterfront from industrial to cultural and public. The Zeitz MOCAA and Silo Hotel are magnets for international visitors and still retain and reflect deeply local heritage and values, and make a lengthy stay in Cape Town essential before or after your cruise, wine tour or safari.


Start your Trip!


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It's been featured in no less than two James Bond movies. Not to mention To Catch a Thief, the Alfred Hitchcock thriller starring Grace Kelly. Filmed on location in glitzy Monaco, it's where she met a prince and then became Princess Grace.

Monaco – and Monte Carlo – have established and maintained an allure as one of the world's most glamorous destinations. Casinos and royalty, yachts and racing. Fast cars and beautiful women. Tuxedos and champagne all hours of the day.
 
But there's more to Monaco than a real-life movie set.

BestTrip reveals 5 things you didn't know about this sexy Mediterranean destination.

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