Carlson Wagonlit Travelscope 's Blog

This is a cruise line private island experience we haven't seen before.  Our Caribbean cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruises included a day at Harvest Caye, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our cruise. And when you watch the video you'll see why.

Harvest Caye is an island a mile offshore mainland Belize.  Like other cruise line private islands, Harvest Caye was developed as a beach port of call in the Caribbean for its guests by parent company Norwegian for its Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Oceania guests.

It's a spectacular, resort-style experience. There's a 7-acre pristine beach. You can relax in clamshell tents or even better, in one of the luxury beach villas with porches over the water, hammocks, dining and beverage options and dedicated concierge service.

Or head to the pool.  This extravagant 15,000 square foot oasis has a swim-up bar and tables in the water, elegant lounges and canopy pool cabanas with beverage service.

A 130 foot tall 'Flighthouse' looks a lot like a lighthouse, but gets its name as the island's point of departure for adventure:  an over water zipline or ropes course. There are also eco/ water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing in the lagoon alongside the wildlife.

Authentic and Sustainable

The Shopping Village, with its outdoor art festival, local musicians and dancers, high-quality local retailers of locally made chocolates, spirits and artwork including local woodwork, features street-style Belizean cuisine for that truly authentic local flavor.

The development preserves and improves the local eco system, uses indigenous, responsible hardwoods in the buildings, and is creating 500 direct and 1500 indirect jobs for the local economy.

All those things you might expect from a well-planned cruise line private island that also wants to support and authentically reflect its host community, Belize.

But Harvest Caye takes that responsible approach one step further with a Wildlife and Conservation program.

Wildlife and Conservation:

The development of Harvest Caye has boosted local environmental conservation. More than 15,000 new mangroves have been planted to increase the natural estuary habitat for birds, fish and other marine species.

Conservation programs and education efforts have been developed by award winning author and wildlife expert Tony Garel, Harvest Caye's Chief Naturalist, who supervised a wildlife interaction program so you can actually meet and learn about local wildlife.  Tony is on the island daily to lead tours of the wildlife experience. 

Tony's love for and commitment to Belize's plant and animal life were the highlight of our visit, and meeting Tony will be the highlight of your visit to Harvest Caye, too.  (And his friends, Belize's National bird, the toucans.) 

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There's everyday luxury on Regent Seven Seas Cruises: where your airfare, transfers, on board wine and spirits, tips, specialty dining and even shore excursions and wifi are all included in a relaxed country club atmosphere on beautiful mid-sized ships. 

Then there's another level of all-inclusive luxury on Regent: the butler suites.

BestTrip.TV got a behind-the-scenes experience of Regent's most spectacular suite, the 'most luxurious address at sea', and a glimpse into the life of the butlers who make the suite life on Regent's all-inclusive luxury ships even sweeter.

We even get an answer to the question: What do butlers do in their spare time (if they even have any)?

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Do you ever see social media posts of magnificent wildlife photos from someone's trip to Alaska and think: This just can't be real?

But it is.  BestTrip.TV cruised from Vancouver to Seward (near Anchorage) on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, hoping Nature would be kind and we'd encounter at least a couple of the animals and birds Alaska is famous for:

  • Whales
  • Salmon
  • Crab
  • Bald eagles
  • Puffins
  • Brown (grizzly) bears
  • Sitka deer
  • Sea otters
  • Sea lions

Like you, we were skeptical of shore excursion guides who jokingly promised guests 3 out of 5 of a list of iconic Alaska wildlife 'or your money back'.  For Regent guests, this is truly a joke, because Regent has included shore excursions, so you can take wildlife tours in every port of call without going over your vacation budget.  If you don't see the animal your heart is set on, another day, another port, another excursion just might bring you luck.

The truth is, our shore excursion guides and boat captains really know their corners of an enormous state; where whales feed or sea lions congregate.  Plus we got lucky with weather and time of day...

In the end, over the course of a week-long cruise, we ended up seeing all of these creatures and others we didn't expect, and capturing them on video to share with you.

We think this video is the next best thing to actually being there watching whales come up for air or puffins fly past or a bald eagle swoop down into the water to capture a fish to feed her young in the nest. 

But don't take our word for it.  Add an Alaska cruise to your travel bucket list.

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Before there was molecular gastronomy, there was Baked Alaska to awe and delight a table of diners.

A miracle dessert of warm, caramelized meringue on the outside, still magically full of layers of frozen ice cream on the inside. A feat of culinary ingenuity in the days of unreliable refrigeration.

The story goes that Baked Alaska was created in New York's famous Delmonico's restaurant in 1867 in celebration of the American acquisition of Alaska from Russia. Regardless of its origin, creating Baked Alaska back in the day was only for the fearless.  The elements are not complicated - it's cake and ice cream and meringue, all within reach of even a moderately good chef. But the trick is in the execution.  Get the temperatures wrong and you had a plate of dripping, soggy mess.

So a good chef – and access to reliable refrigeration – were key to a triumphant Baked Alaska. The dessert, in single or multiple servings, resembling a snow-topped Alaskan mountain, became almost a status symbol and a classic showstopper of a dessert.

Cruise lines got into the spirit when modern refrigeration was installed on ocean liners and Baked Alaska became the celebratory peak of cruise dining, with Baked Alaska 'parades': a procession of dining room staff each bearing a flaming Baked Alaska for each table of diners to top off an evening of formal dining. (Hilariously, often to the unofficial Baked Alaska parade theme song of 'Hot, Hot, Hot'). 

Baked Alaska is rarely seen in restaurants nowadays… but lives on in cruise culture. Where better than a cruise to Alaska to learn how to make this classic – and classic cruising – dish?

Regent Seven Seas Mariner's pastry chef showed BestTrip.TV his tips and tricks to perfect Baked Alaska… and shared his recipe here for you.

Bon Appetit!

 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Recipe for Baked Alaska

10 Servings

Ingredients

  • 250            grams            French Meringue (see recipe below)
  • 150            grams             Raspberry Coulis (Sauce)
  • 100            grams            Vanilla Sauce
  • 160            grams            Vanilla Ice Cream (or a combination of your choice of ice creams)
  • 160            grams            Chocolate Ice Cream           
  • 160            grams            Strawberry Ice Cream
  • assorted berries
  • mint leafs

Syrup

Bring to a boil, cool down

  • 62.5         grams            water    
  • 31            grams            sugar

Add the kirsch liqueur, keep refrigerated           

  • 6.5            grams             kirsch liqueur

Sponge (or purchased sponge cake)

  • 78            grams            whole milk
  • 23.5         grams            butter
  • 23.5         grams            flour
  • 5              fresh egg yolks
  • 6              fresh egg whites
  • 15.5         grams            sugar
  • grated zest of 1/3  of a clean orange          
  • 6             mL            Grand Marnier liquor

French Meringue

  • 9              fresh egg whites
  • 170          grams             sugar
  • 1.25         grams            vanilla extract

Method:

French Meringue:

  1. Start whisking the egg whites by incorporating one quarter of the sugar little by little.
  2. Once the egg whites have doubled in volume, add another quarter of the sugar and the vanilla.
  3. Keep whisking until firm and shiny, then add the remaining sugar and whisk for another minute.

Sponge:

  1. Combine milk and butter and bring to a boil.
  2. Pour the flour into the milk, keep on stirring over the heat until it starts to become a paste.
  3. Put mixture into mixing bowl, at low speed add the egg yolks, grated orange skin and Grand Marnier.
  4. Keep beating on fast speed for 10 seconds.
  5. Meanwhile whip the egg whites to a meringue with sugar.
  6. Mix a little meringue into the batter until obtaining a homogenized paste; then gently fold the meringue into the batter.
  7. Line sheet pans with pan liners, spread the mix onto it and make a fine layer of ½ cm in height.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C for 10 minutes and until the sponge is baked properly, cool down to room temperature, then before using in Baked Alaska, sprinkle the syrup over the sponge cake.

Assembly:

  1. For each serving, use a 6 cm ramekin, lined with plastic wrap.
  2. Cut a round disk of the sponge to fit the inner part of the bottom. Fill with chocolate first, then vanilla then strawberry ice cream.
  3. Cut a round disk out of the sponge fitting the inner part of the top, press gently down and freeze immediately
  4. Meanwhile prepare the meringue.
  5. Place your serving plate over top of the frozen ramekin, turn over and remove plastic wrap. Spread the meringue all over, using piping technique or a spatula.  Mimic a mountain landscape.
  6. Turn on your blowtorch and brown the edges of the meringue.  Decorate the plate with raspberry coulis and vanilla sauce, berries and a spring of mint.
  7. Serve instantly.

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Top Souvenirs from Alaska

Alaska's breathtaking scenery and wildlife encounters will be memories that stay with you a lifetime. But there are one-of-a-kind tangible memories you can take home as well as your photos and close-encounter stories.

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host of BestTrip.TV, shares her favorite Alaskan souvenirs from her ports of call in Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Juneau on a recent Regent Seven Seas cruise to Alaska.

Alaskan Kelp Pickles

Food is such a fun souvenir when it's made from one-of-a-kind local ingredients. I found many flavors of Alaska to take home to treat family and friends.

One of my favorites I just had to share was the Alaska kelp pickles we discovered in Sitka. Picturesquely-named Bullwhip kelp is an edible seaweed member of the brown algae family that can grow up to 100 feet long.

Alaskans harvest the kelp at low tide through the summer. The long hollow stems cut in rings are around the size of the rings of a small cucumber… in other words, perfect for home made pickles.

One of the largest seaweeds, bullwhip kelp is a healthy sea vegetable with potassium, iodine, bromine, and even iron.

But the nutrients of kelp will be the last thing on your mind when you taste old fashioned 'bread and butter pickles' made from Alaskan bullwhip kelp. Sweet and sour, with mustard and celery seeds, you'll feel transported back to Granny's garden kitchen – with a refreshing, truly Alaskan maritime twist.

Shopping Tip: Also check out the spruce tip jelly (more floral than you think!) and the other grown-in-Alaska preserves, jellies and pickles.

Serving Tip: Take them home to entertain your friends, alongside your favorite aged hard cheese (like old cheddar or gouda) and French bread.

Make it a cocktail party! Pair them with…

Vodka or Gin made from Alaskan Glacier Water

When it comes to food, wine, and spirits, the best ingredients produce the finest results. The base of any spirit is the water used to make it. And nothing can beat the purity of water sourced from Alaska's glaciers.

So imagine how thrilled we were to discover Skagway Spirits. And it happened in the best way of great discoveries when you travel.

The shore excursions expert on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner told us we just couldn't miss the (formerly infamous) Red Onion Saloon in the historic, Klondike-era downtown of Skagway. Naturally, a visit turned into a drink at the bar. I always look for a local flavor on the menu, and there it was: A spruce-tip cocktail made with local Skagway Spirits gin. The perfect toast to local flavor; we needed to find the source! The bar chef drew us a map on the back of a napkin, and off we went on an adventure.

The map led us to an old hangar at Skagway's local airport, where Skagway Spirits has its small-batch distillery and charming tasting room.

This is a do-not-miss experience, meeting the members of this family owned- and operated distillery. Their passion and love for what they do is apparent with every fantastic sip of their vodka and gin.

They even make home-made local juices from berries and blooms. Their Fireweed Cosmopolitan or Rhubarb Collins will change your life. Ryan doesn't even like rhubarb and he was sidling up to the bar for another!

Shopping and Travel Tip: Skagway Spirits is used to packing up spirits for cruise guests' safe return home. Some cruise lines will have your purchase of wine or spirits stored until you leave the ship at the end of your cruise.

Alaska Jade

Alaska's state gem… isn't technically 'jade'. But don't let that stop you from bringing home a gleaming piece of Alaska's most famous stone.

To the naked eye, the green gemstone you see in shops throughout Alaska looks a lot like the Chinese semiprecious gem. They are actually different stones. Chinese jade is a lighter green and much harder than the softer, usually rich green Alaskan gem, which isn't technically the same 'jade'.

But polished into luminescent jewelry, figurines, knives and art objects that evoke the vivid greens of Alaska's unforgettable forests, Alaskan jade is a glowing and cherished emblem of the state's history, natural resources and craftsmanship of its indigenous people. The earliest Alaskans used pieces of Alaskan jade they found in rivers to make tools, jewelry and even weapons.

Large deposits still exist in Alaska – in fact, there's an entire mountain of jade in Alaska - British Columbia, and even parts of California. In addition to the identifying dark green, it's sometimes found in lighter yellower shades, red, black, white and even very rare and valuable lavender.

Shopping Tip: Unlike some other gems, Alaskan jade seems to appeal equally to men and women. Look for jewelry made in a wide variety of rustic/ native Alaskan styles and symbols, to nature and decorative themes. It's the kind of souvenir you'll wear forever, reminding you of your journey to Alaska.

Ulu

From as early as 2500 BCE, Ulu were an essential part of indigenous households throughout the Arctic, from Greenland to Canada to Alaska. Ulu means 'women's knife', and was an all-purpose tool for skinning animals, slicing animal skins, carving blocks of snow and ice for shelter, cutting food and even hair. It was a cherished tool passed down through generations with care.

Ulu are composed of a curved blade with a bone, antler or wood handle. Its unique shape centers force over the middle of the blade more than a knife shape we are used to, making it easier to cut bone, or use rocking motions that pin down food to cut easily one-handed.

Don't let your Ulu sit on a mantle as a conversation piece. Women and men will find infinite uses for an Ulu. I was given an Ulu by a friend who's a fellow travel journalist, and it's already indispensable. I don't cut my own hair with it, but it's great to have in the kitchen, where rocking motions on a cutting board make short work of mincing herbs, or in the garden, slicing the tops off root vegetables.

Travel Tip: check airline regulations to travel with blades; a souvenir Ulu most certainly needs to be safely stowed in your checked, not carry on luggage.

Shopping Tip: avoid cheap factory made Ulu and instead, look for crafted Ulu to support indigenous and individual artisans keeping Northern heritage alive.

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It's only 20 miles from Skagway, Alaska's deepwater port on the coast, to the border of Canada's Yukon. But what a 20 miles they are!

The White Pass & Yukon Route railway ride is one of the most dramatic scenic experiences in the Alaska Panhandle. No wonder it's an all-time favorite experience for cruise travelers arriving in the preserved, Wild (North)West town of Skagway. The tracks go right onto the dock, so we stepped off the Regent Seven Seas Mariner right onto the train. And from there, on an incredible climb to the Continental Divide and the border with Canada.

It's an epic journey of breathtaking scenery and Klondike Goldrush tales - in vintage train cars that take you back to the days of prospectors and adventurers.

Meet the train conductor and hear his stories of this fabled train - one of the world's most scenic and historic rail journeys.

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What you Need to Know About: Skagway, Alaska

You're probably thinking somewhere in the Wild West. Good for you if you guessed the Wild North-West.

We walked off our Regent Seven Seas cruise to Alaska and felt like we were walking back in time. Specifically, to 1896 when gold was found in the Klondike in Canada's Yukon.

There are a hundred preserved Gold Rush era buildings in downtown Skagway, Alaska, complete with wooden boardwalks and costumed 'Good Time Girls' in the formerly infamous Red Onion saloon.

Skagway, in the Alaska Panhandle on the Pacific coast, provided the most direct route for the masses of aspiring gold miners to reach the Klondike. With its deepwater port, large ships from the West Coast of the US or Canada could dock in Skagway to disgorge their loads of miners, pack animals and supplies. From there, it got harder: a grueling, 500-mile trek to the gold fields in Canada.

Overnight, the city swelled with prospectors and shops and services for prospectors, styled after other towns in the North American West with false-front buildings opening onto wooden boardwalks lining a grid of broad streets. The population ballooned, with 8000 people in town and 30,000 souls in the greater Skagway area.

It was the largest city in Alaska, where only the strong and the lucky survived. And it seemed every swindler, con artist and criminal in the land converged on Skagway. For the next two years, Skagway was lawless, and Canada's North West Mounted Police called it 'little better than a hell on earth'.

Like every boom, the bust must come. The dreams of striking it rich had started to fade just a year later and by 1900 – just when a railway to the Canadian border had been completed – it was all over. (That top image is the train station that's still used today.) The same year, Skagway was incorporated as the first city in Alaska.

Skagway might have been destined to become a ghost town, reincorporated by Nature like other stops along the way to the gold fields that have now disappeared into the forests that have grown back where towns once stood. But it survived – with its well-preserved and colorful historic downtown and just 1000 citizens, only a fraction of its Gold Rush heyday. Survived in both legend and reality.

Skagway has been immortalized in literature like Jack London's 'The Call of the Wild' and even as the set of the John Wayne film 'North to Alaska'.

And, as one of the few Alaskan panhandle towns connected to the road system East into the Yukon and South into British Columbia and the Lower 48, it's a vital stop on Alaska's ferry system: the Alaska Marine Highway.

The deepwater port that unloaded hapless prospectors now accommodates cruise ships that bring about a million cruise passengers every year to this town that now homes just 1000 citizens.

There's no gold left in those distant Yukon hills, but a walk back in time to the Wild North-West in Skagway is a pretty rich cruise experience.

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The Hubbard Glacier has quite a pedigree.

And being named after Gardiner Hubbard, the man who founded or co-founded the National Geographic Society, Bell Telephone and the journal 'Science', puts a lot of pressure on a glacier.

Luckily, the Hubbard Glacier is used to pressure, and guaranteed to impress, even awe. This 'river of ice' is a natural wonder of pressurized snow in that magnificent iceberg blue. A trip to the incredible wall of ice that forms the face of the Hubbard Glacier where it meets Alaska's Disenchantment Bay is one of our most memorable moments of our cruise to Alaska on Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

We know you'll find it breathtaking too.

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Crystal Strikes a Chord with a New Rhine Class of River Cruise Ships

Instead of river cruises, they're calling them river yachts. Crystal has translated its uber-luxury sea experience to the rivers of Europe with a new, 'Rhine' class of river yachts, evoking the great music icons of the region.

Four Crystal Rhine Class river yachts launch in 2017-2018. In creating a new, signature Crystal experience on the waterways of Europe, the company was inspired by some of the classical music heavy-hitters who made some of the most popular cities in its itineraries long-lasting cultural centers of Europe. The Crystal Bach has made her debut, and the Crystal Mahler, Crystal Debussy, and Crystal Ravel follow.

But if the classical music associations make you concerned the experience is too formal for your tastes, think again. The Crystal river yachting experience, night and day, is about comfort and style ('Crystal Casual'), and immersion into the best of the destination.

Here's what excites us about Crystal's Rhine Class ships and European river itineraries:

Ships:

  • Only 110 guests, making the ships feel expansive as well as intimate.
  • The only all-suite, all panoramic French balcony river cruise ships - with king-sized beds and Crystal's renowned personal butler service.

  • Walk-in closets and dual-vanities in bathrooms that defy the feeling of limited space on river cruise ships.
  • Crystal's farm-to-table, Michelin-inspired cuisine in more dining venues than you thought could exist on a river cruise, and open-seating so your day can flow at your own pace.

  • Hydraulic Sun-Deck Bar as well as panoramic interior lounges for enjoying the scenery indoors or out.

  • In-suite USB ports, and customized interactive digital bedside iPad tablet and directory.
  • The luxury is all in, so you don't have to fuss with tips and checks: Unlimited fine wines, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages, 24-hour room service including a restaurant menu, transfers and gratuities for ship and shore.

Shore

  • At least 2 'Crystal Adventures' in every port: included cultural, active or overland excursions, and others for purchase.
  • E-bike excursions to allow nearly everyone to be a little bit active enjoying vineyards and scenic villages on shore.
  • A 'Crystal Signature Event' every itinerary, like a private concert in a palace.
  • Plenty of overnights in port, so you can enjoy the full destination experience including evenings on the town.
  • Even Michelin restaurant dining experiences in ports of call you can book ahead as shore excursions.

If you're already a Crystal cruise lover, expanding your horizons to the Crystal experience on the rivers of Europe is just what you've been waiting for. And the Rhine Class ships and Crystal experience are a marvelous way for new cruisers to discover Crystal on an intimate river itinerary in the heart of Europe.

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5 Adventures in Antwerp

Belgium’s unique character and two-language culture makes it a must-see destination in Northern Europe.

But go beyond Brussels. One of Europe's hidden gems is Belgium's second city.

Just up the estuary from the North Sea, Antwerp's historic port became its claim to fame and source of wealth as a trading capital 500 years ago. The port is still the second largest in Europe. The wealth of this great trading city financed great art and artists, the world's oldest stock exchange, and an historic core of richly elaborate Flemish buildings.

Photo Credit

BestTrip.TV's producer/host Lynn Elmhirst shares her favorite things about Antwerp.

History with a Quirk

Distinctive historic Flemish architecture reflects Antwerp's power in its heyday, including the magnificent Town Hall, guild halls, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Check out the altarpieces by iconic local artist Rubens here, and the 400-foot spire that makes the cathedral still the tallest building in town.

Photo Credit

Walking through Antwerp's historic streets, you'll start to notice apparent evidence of exceptional devotion to the Virgin Mary. In addition to Notre Dame cathedral, a surprising number of very ornate Madonna statues stare from the corners of buildings onto the street below.

We were told a number of stories about why street-corner Virgin Mary's abound, and oddly, none were about religious fervor. One person told us of reduced taxation on 'religious' buildings, another that the city provided free street lighting for religious buildings – and in either of those scenarios, a Virgin Mary statue on the building made it qualify.

Photo Credit

Virgin Mary building statues are one of the most characteristic – and quirky – symbols of Antwerp's historic streetscape. Very instagrammable. #MadonnasofAntwerp.

Thrillingly Modern

Time has not stood still in Antwerp. Nowadays, it has the reputation of one of the most interesting, modernist cities in Europe.

Only a five-minute walk from the Cathedral, for example, is the city’s neo-classical festival hall from 1905. Period restoration on the outside, but inside, jaw-dropping luxury 50-store mall where the neo-classical glass dome, gold leaf, mosaics and oak floors are juxtaposed by sexy ultra-modern design. I fell in love with the space age champagne bar at the top of a stemmed glass installation (pictured top. Photo: BestTrip.TV). Like stylish Jetsons.

And if the Jetsons ever had to go to court, the Antwerp Law Courts would be the place. The building's spectacular roofline mimics a series of sails in full wind. Today's nod to Antwerp's shipping and maritime heritage.

Serious Fashion:

Hipness is in very 'fabric' of Antwerp, which has cult status in global fashion. Antwerp is home to one of the most important fashion academies in the world. The city also produced the famous ‘Antwerp Six’ designers who cut a radical new pattern for European design that still thrives in Antwerp today. Fashion is thick on the ground in Antwerp, with distinctive styles that are cool and chic all at the same time. Do any shopping here, and both men and women will have envious friends at home asking, 'Where did you get that?'

And Diamonds:

Antwerp has long been the 'Diamond Capital of the World'. It has a whole district devoted to the precious gems, where even today, up to 80% of the world's diamonds are still polished and processed. Diamond houses line the (very secure) streets. Some are open to visitors, where you can learn about the world's hardest stone and watch the most expert diamond cutters in the world polish raw diamonds into sparkling symbols of love and luxury.

The perfect destination for a one-of-a-kind engagement or romantic getaway with a dazzling souvenir.

And Really Good Taste:

Some people rave about Belgian waffles, but for me, it's Belgian Frites. There are stories of peasants frying potatoes here in the 1600’s and Belgium lays claim to inventing this world-wide fast-food phenomenon – even though they became known as 'French fries'.

Photo Credit

Connoisseurs distinguish between Belgian fries (or frites) and any other ‘fry’: true Belgian frites are thick, irregularly shaped, and DOUBLE fried. And local tradition doubles down on the artery-clogging snack by dipping them in mayonnaise.

Frites are a must-try treat in Antwerp. Indulge in a paper cone while wandering the streets, or find a restaurant serving ‘moules et frites’, that is, steamed mussels and fries – the Belgian version of ‘fish and chips’. No fry at home will ever compare.

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Same-Sex Couples Can Get Married on Cunard

Many couples dream of getting married at sea. And now, British luxury cruise line Cunard has welcomed its first wedding booking by a same-sex couple.

Cunard has offered weddings on its ships since 2012 and has married hundreds of couples, but can now also conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies at sea.

Same-sex marriages have been practiced in Britain since 2014. But the Cunard fleet of ships: the Queen Mary2, the Queen Victoria, and the Queen Elizabeth, are registered in Bermuda. A Supreme Court ruling enabling same-sex marriages in Bermuda now enables same-sex couples to be married on board any of the line's 'Three 'Queens' ships.

So in addition to enjoying Cunard's grand scale of British traditional luxury including impeccable White Star Service, gourmet dining and world-class entertainment, perhaps on one of Cunard's legendary, regularly scheduled Transatlantic crossings, same-sex couples can also be joined in marriage during their cruise.

Couples who celebrate their weddings in the romantic, aristocratic British environment of a Cunard cruise will have memories for a lifetime. The wedding ceremony is performed by the ship’s Captain or Deputy Captain, and the marriage license is issued by Bermuda.

A Cunard Wedding at Sea package includes:

  • A romantic ceremony at sea
  • Wedding ceremony venue with floral arrangements
  • Traditional wedding music
  • Services of the on-board Wedding Coordinator
  • Attendance of a professional photographer at the ceremony
  • Commemorative wedding certificate
  • An official copy of the marriage certificate
  • The cost of the license fees
  • A bottle of Champagne in the cabin on arrival
  • Champagne for a toast after the ceremony
  • Invitations and thank you notes
  • Wedding outfit pressing services

Cunard has a history of over 175 years of bringing people together, and welcoming same-sex weddings on its ships marries the best of British luxury traditions with a truly modern sensibility and inclusiveness.

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They call it Shopping with the Chef, and it's one of the most memorable of our Seabourn Moments.

The Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is one of the earliest surviving structures and a symbol of Ho Chi Minh City - formerly Saigon, which is still the name of HCMC's District 1. A market has been located here in on the river since the early 1600's.

Who better than the executive chef on our Seabourn cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore, Pascal de Portemont, and our local expert, Mr. Anh, to share with us the highlights one of South-East Asia's most famous markets?

This is no tourist market, though any savvy traveler makes sure to visit. Locals buy and sell produce so fresh it glistens, and seafood so fresh it still squiggles live in the bucket. Artisan crafts, textiles, baked goods and streetfood are irresistible.

But our quest with the Seabourn chef is ingredients for a seafood dish fit for Seabourn; watch this video for our adventures in the market and the dish we prepare with the chef on the top deck of this luxury cruise ship docked right in the heart of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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You Can Take Your Pet On This Cruise

Did you know there's one cruise line in the world that welcomes man's best friend(s)? And it's not a new innovation; instead, it's a long-standing tradition.

The pet-friendly policy dates back to the earliest days of this line's famed Transatlantic Crossings between Southampton (England) and New York. Not only have the British aristocracy and notables long been known for a lifestyle surrounded by beloved dogs, cats, and horses, crossings prior to the invention of refrigeration had milk cows on board to ensure the first-class passengers had fresh milk for their tea.

So, to this day on British luxury line Cunard, your dogs and cats can sail too.

Since the cruise line launched with the maiden voyage of the Britannia in 1840, Cunard ships have given passage to a surprising number of notable pets: Rin-Tin-Tin, Elizabeth Taylor’s pampered pooches, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s beloved pup and even Pudsey, the 2012 winner of Britain’s Got Talent. Cunard even installed a lamppost beside the kennels on Cunard’s former flagship Queen Elizabeth 2 at the request of the Duke of Windsor so his dog would feel at home.

Of course today, not only British, but North Americans are more attached than ever to their pets. To accommodate these furry members of travelers' families, when it re-mastered the Queen Mary 2, Cunard doubled down on pet passengers. (Top image: Richard Meadows, President, Cunard, North America, Captain Christopher Wells, and David Noyes, CEO, Cunard, joined by Cunard Kennel Masters, cut a ribbon to unveil the remastered kennels on the Queen Mary 2, the only passenger liner to carry pets. Above image: Captain Christopher Wells, Cunard Kennel Masters, and friends. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Cunard)).

The line added 10 additional kennels to the world’s only transatlantic kennel service, plus a new pet owner’s lounge, a pet playground, and a larger outdoor area with an historic English lamppost and American fire hydrant so canines from both sides of the pond will feel at home and have plenty of space to enjoy the crossing with their owners and with kennel attendants.

The updated Queen Mary 2 honors the Art Deco era of grand ocean liners in design, as well as the cruise line's uniquely British style and service standards. All staff graduate from the line's own White Star Service Academy, and that includes the full-time dog walkers in the kennels.

What's completely new to this pets-at-sea program, now that pets are styled as glamorously as their humans, is that Cunard has partnered with the British sportswear brand Barbour to offer smart accessories onboard such as jackets, collars and leashes.

Ella Bean, a Yorkie mix, enjoys the remastered kennels on the Queen Mary 2, the only passenger liner to carry pets, at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in New York, its U.S. homeport. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Cunard)

Cunard has extended its canine collaboration to sponsoring the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the world's premiere dog competition that takes place annually in New York – a reflection of Cunard and its guests' love for pets as well as the deep connection between British and New York upper class traditional lifestyles.

So if you're inseparable from your pooch even on holiday, Cunard's kennels let you cruise with your pet… in classic British style.

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With its ancient seafaring history and traditions, the most natural and authentic way to explore the Mediterranean and to take in its most magnificent vistas is by sea.

And as BestTrip.TV discovered, the luxury small-ship experience of Silversea cruises brings the best of the Mediterranean to life. Here's why.

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Putting on the Ritz... At Sea

The Ritz-Carlton is the first luxury hotel chain to take to the seas with its new yacht collection.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection launches in 2019 with the first of three cruising yachts. If you're already a fan of the Ritz-Carlton hotel experience, you'll feel right at home: legendary service, luxury amenities and beautifully designed spaces… now on board a specially designed, small capacity ship. It makes parent company Marriott International the only luxury hotelier on both land and sea.

Each of the three custom-built yachts in the fleet features 149 suites, each with its own private balcony, several lavish duplexes, a spa, a signature restaurant and a bar with on-board entertainment. Mirroring the hotels, the yachts feature modern craftsmanship and style; the interior finishes are being jointly designed by The Ritz-Carlton and a leading cruise ship design firm to achieve the best of both worlds.

At 190 meters (623 feet), Ritz-Carlton yachts will be able to call at ports not accessible to larger ships, from Capri and Portofino to St. Barths and the old town of Cartagena. The first ship will cruise a wide variety of destinations depending on the season, including the intimate and signature ports of call in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. Upcoming 7- and 10- day itineraries aim to combine the lifestyle of The Ritz-Carlton’s luxury resorts and the casual freedom of a yachting vacation.

Expect a relaxed pace that includes both daytime and overnight ports of call, as well as one-of-a-kind, uniquely-curated, customizable destination experiences through collaborations with local chefs, musicians and artists, allowing you to experience the locations in unique and personal ways, both onboard and ashore.

Throughout your journey, you'll enjoy a cruising style that sets a new standard for ultra-luxury cruise and private yachting. The Ritz-Carlton yachts feature a restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg; a signature Ritz-Carlton Spa; and a Panorama Lounge and wine bar, offering a wide variety of on-board entertainment.

It's these amenities that tip the scales in favor of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection experience even over private yachting options, ideal for independent travelers, small groups, or a full-ship group charter to celebrate one of life's milestones.

We're excited about a development that blurs the lines between yachting and cruising. We think the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection ushers in a whole new way of luxury travel and global discovery: a relaxed, casually elegant and comfortable atmosphere with the highest level of personalized service. The Ritz-Carlton hotel branding also naturally lends itself to pre-and post-cruise stays at ports of embarkation/debarkation in one of the 90 Ritz-Carlton hotels in 30 countries to seamlessly extend your trip under one beloved brand umbrella.

But we also see these intimate, 300-guest yachts as a boon to corporate travel, too. Imagine company sales / incentives aboard a Ritz-Carlton chartered yacht!

It's a cruise/ travel innovation that is both ground-breaking, but at the same time an obvious evolution in shaping the way we experience luxury travel.

Reservations open May, 2018, but no surprise! there have already been charter inquiries.

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Paul Gauguin Cruises Named Top for Honeymooners

Small ship, South Pacific luxury cruise line specializes in romance.

Brides magazine has named Paul Gauguin Cruises '#1 for Honeymooners'. The cruise line operates the longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific. The 'Paul Gauguin' is a 5+ star, 332-guest idyllic ship that sails to some of the most exotically romantic locations on any honeymoon couples' list: Tahiti, Fiji, French Polynesia, and other once-in-a-lifetime destinations in the South Pacific.

Honeymooners receive a complimentary honeymoon package when sailing with Paul Gauguin Cruises, which includes a special Polynesian blessing ceremony aboard the ship performed by Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins and hosted by the Cruise Director, an in-stateroom celebratory bottle of Champagne, one 8" x 10" photo portrait, and an exclusive pillow gift.

Why wait for the honeymoon? Would you love an unforgettable vow renewal? Or a cruise wedding? For those celebrating a romantic special occasion, Paul Gauguin Cruises also now offers wedding ceremony and renewal of vows packages in a dreamy setting amid the turquoise lagoons and exotic islands of French Polynesia at Motu Mahana, the cruise line's private islet off the coast of Taha'a, or at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, with tasteful, romantic, and inspiring touches of local French Polynesian culture that ensure a one-of-a-kind ceremony.

The 'Number 1 for Honeymooners' distinction is another in a long list for Paul Gauguin Cruises; other awards for the cruise line include: voted #2 in the category of "Top Small Cruise Lines" in the Condé Nast Traveler 2016 Readers' Choice Awards and recognition on the publication's 2016 "Gold List." In addition, the line was voted by Travel + Leisure readers "#1 Small-Ship Cruise Line" and "#1 Small-Ship Cruise Line for Families" in the Travel + Leisure 2014 World's Best Awards. Recently, readers voted Paul Gauguin Cruises "#1 Midsize-Ship Ocean Cruise Line" in the Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards 2016.

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Polish your Green Thumb on Cunard's First Festival of Flowers Voyage

Feature Film Florist Jenny Tobin Joins Queen Victoria’s Festival of Flowers Voyage; takes guests around the Atlantic Isles, exploring six iconic floral destinations including UNESCO World Heritage site.

Flower arranging and gardening are more popular than ever.  If you love touring the world's most beautiful gardens, in your home town or on your travels, you're not alone.  Experts estimate more people tour gardens every year in the US than go to both of the US's biggest theme parks combined! 

And of course, both gardening and floral arranging are icons of an upscale British lifestyle that luxury cruise brand Cunard is so expert at bringing to life for its guests.   

Leading film and TV floral designer Jenny Tobin will join Cunard cruise line's first-ever Festival of Flowers voyage this summer on Cunard's Queen Victoria, giving guests the opportunity to explore some of the Atlantic Isles’ most awe-inspiring gardens and floral landscapes.

Jenny Tobin is an award-winning florist renowned for her work on blockbuster films such as “Allied” and “Fantastic Beasts, and Where to Find Them,” as well as for her floral arrangements at the most sought-after hotels around the world and even for the British Royal Family. Jenny will be imparting her knowledge, tips and insight into her career to fortunate guests during the voyage, which departs following Queen Victoria’s refurbishment this June.

To mark the voyage, Jenny has created a bespoke bouquet inspired by the tradition and luxury of Cunard, with a bounty of exotic and much-loved flowers. Her choices and reasons for selecting these blooms and greens include:

-          Colored Ranunculus, to add a taste of the exotic and color, inspired by the loveliest of gardens from around the world

-          Scented Genista Flower, for a soft, sweet smell

-          One Garden Rose, to reflect the timeless luxury of Cunard

-          Umbrella Fern for a little pizazz

 “Cunard is known for its commitment to excellence, so I wanted to create a bouquet that reflects its premium nature, beauty from across the world and sense of luxury that runs through everything the brand does. I’m excited to be joining the first Festival of Flowers voyage on Queen Victoria and can’t wait to help inspire those traveling on board, exploring the extraordinary gardens the globe has to offer.”

The Festival of Flowers themed voyage, taking place this year in June, visits six iconic floral destinations, including La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Lisbon, as well as an overnight stay in the floral paradise of Madeira, an island renowned for its endemic fauna, flora and UNESCO World Heritage site-classified landscape.

Additional speakers on the voyage include Gay Search, one of England’s best-known gardening presenters, writers and lecturers, and Christine Wright, National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies demonstrator and Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist.

Prior to departure, guests will also be invited to enjoy the floral delights that surround Southampton with an optional pre-voyage stay at luxury hotel Chewton Glen, on the edge of the New Forest National Park.

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Vegan meets Michelin-star Dining on Hapag-Lloyd Luxury Cruises

If you associate modern German culture with a focus on health and world-leading quality, it will be no surprise to learn that small-ship German cruise line Hapag-Lloyd now has a first-class vegetarian and vegan dining option.

Its Europa 2 is the height of small-ship casual luxury (no ties!).  Only 500 guests share a yachting / exclusive resort atmosphere that's been awarded 5+ stars by Berlitz' Cruise Guide 2017.

With flexible mealtimes, no fixed seating plans and plenty of tables for two, gastronomy on board the EUROPA 2 is all about variety and flexibility. For only 500 guests, there are an astonishing seven restaurants to choose from, including the main Weltmeere restaurant, a sushi bar and three specialty restaurants offering French, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.

Now, as more luxury cruise travelers than ever - both Europeans and North Americans - are looking for ways to stay healthy and follow wellness lifestyles even when traveling, dining on the premiere ship Europa 2' has expanded vegetarian and vegan offerings:

·       New: Expansion of the vegetarian menu

·       More than 80 diverse dishes

·       Partnership with Michelin-starred chef Michael Hoffmann

Working alongside Europa 2’s own chef de cuisine, top chef Michael Hoffmann developed a menu exclusively for the 5-stars-plus luxury ship, inspired by his own vegetarian cuisine. Thanks to high demand, the selection has now been expanded to give Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ guests an even wider choice of vegetarian dishes.

First-class Vegetarian and Vegan menus:

For those passengers who like to eat vegetarian food, each restaurant offers a special menu to reflect the restaurant’s culinary style.

There is also a changing menu of vegetarian dishes served at lunchtime and in the evenings at the Yacht Club, the popular, buffet-style restaurant on board the luxury ship.

These have been developed together with Michael Hoffmann. Best known as the former CEO and proprietor of the Michelin-starred Margaux restaurant in Berlin (from 2003 to 2014), Hoffmann set new standards in terms of the sustainability and ethics of cooking with his vegetarian cuisine.

The high level of demand on board the Europa 2 is proof that his vegetarian dishes are very popular with guests who can't always find premium quality vegan and vegetarian cuisine when they travel. With more than 80 different dishes, discerning vegan and vegetarian cruise guests can now enjoy even more variety on their culinary voyage of discovery.

Part of a Holistic, European Approach to Wellness:

Vegan and vegetarian gastronomy is complemented by a disproportionately vast spa/health space on the Europa 2.

Over 800 square meters/8600 square feet of health center and spa on one deck of the ship.

And so that you never forget where you are, you'll always have a fantastic view of the open sea.

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Video: When is a Cruise not a Cruise?

Crystal Cruises has deconstructed luxury cruise travel and put it back together again, re-imagined.

In addition to the luxury, small ships that put Crystal on the map, the new, 'All Things Crystal' includes river cruises, yachting, expedition cruises, and most breathtakingly: air cruises.

Imagine, a whole 777 aircraft made over as a 'cruise' for only 44 couples - that's 88 passengers!

BestTrip.TV enjoyed a conversation with All Things Crystal President & CEO Edie Rodriguez, who shared with us the exciting evolution of legendary luxury travel.

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Spoiling you at Sea: Lifestyle Brands on the World's most Luxurious Ships

If you've never sailed on a small, luxury cruise, you don't know what you're missing.  

It feels like being on a large, private yacht that can sail right into the heart of a destination, allowing you to stroll on and off the ship at your leisure. Imagine an all-suite environment that includes walk-in closets, butlers, exquisite dining and breezy, never-crowded decks with attendants who anticipate your every want and need.  

These cruise lines partner with some of the most premium lifestyle brands in the world to create a signature experience at sea you won't soon forget. BestTrip.TV's cruise expert, producer/host Lynn Elmhirst, shares her favorites from Crystal, Silversea, and Seabourn.

Seabourn:

Sterling Caviar: Seabourn’s culinary excellence demands quality ingredients produced by methods that are sustainable and environmentally responsible. Sterling supplies Seabourn with hand-crafted caviar harvested from native California white sturgeon raised in carefully controlled conditions. It's been compared to the finest imported Osetra. In the time-honored tradition of the Caspian Sea fishery, Sterling adds nothing but salt, and then ages the caviar to attain the perfect buttery texture and flavor.

Caviar is center stage for one of Seabourn's signature experiences 'Caviar in the Surf', where uniformed staff plunge into the water during a private shore beach barbecue to serve up – you guessed it – caviar and champagne in the waves (pictured above).

Moulton Brown: This London-based fragrance pioneer has partnered with Seabourn not just to supply sumptuous bath amenities in all suites. It has used its expertise at blending rare ingredients in collaboration with Seabourn's marine spirit and the coastlines it explores to create two Seabourn Signature Scents exclusively for guests on all its ships.

Immersive Samphire & Eucalyptus brings to life the uplifting aromas of fresh samphire from the rocky, salt-sprayed Atlantic coast of France and enlivening eucalyptus from China, balanced with cardamom, cedarwood, violet and mint for a captivating finish in the fresh, revitalizing body lotion and bath & shower gel. Inspiring Basil & Vetiver blend Vietnamese basil oil and aromatic vetiver from Haiti with cardamom, bergamot, cedar wood and petitgrain for a relaxing, sophisticated shampoo and conditioner.

I guarantee these scents will forever evoke memories of your Seabourn cruise.

Hublot: the renowned Swiss watchmaker is the Official Timekeeper of Seabourn. Guests enjoying voyages on any Seabourn ships are kept abreast of the current ship's time by means of handsome Hublot wall clocks, designed and finished with the same flair and elegance that have made Hublot's wristwatches icons of an unparalleled watchmaking tradition.  And of course, they help your ship to arrive in port on time!

Silversea

Pierre Marcolini Chocolates: You know when you sometimes find yourself in your suite in need of a little sweet something mid afternoon, or after an evening of fine dining, cocktails and entertainment?  On Silversea ships, you'll be reaching for a Pierre Marcolini chocolate.  All guests receive an assortment of these Belgian chocolate confections in their suites. This master chocolatier was named World Champion of Pastry in 1995 and is known in fine chocolate circles for fantastic creativity that marries chocolate with apple, pear, blackcurrent and melon, but also ingredients such as pepper, chestnut, tonka beans and even patchouli, sandalwood and oak.

They will melt in your mouth and melt your heart!

Pratesi Fine Bed Linens: Silversea guests will find your sleep experience elevated to a new level of comfort and luxury with Pratesi custom-made bed linens. The legendary Italian linens firm known for creating masterpieces for European aristocracy brings its high-quality and stylish creations to the beds in every Silversea suite. 240 thread count, 100% Egyptian cotton satin sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases… if it weren't for arriving in an amazing port of call every day, you might not want to get out of bed!

Etro Bathrobes and Slippers: After you gaze in wonder at the spaciousness of the walk-in closet in your suite, you'll probably be tempted to wrap yourself in the plush Etro Bathrobe and slippers you'll find there. 

The Italian fashion label remains a family business, producing menswear and womenswear lines, in addition to accessories, fragrances, and other home products.  They will be as hard to say goodbye to as your suite butler.

Crystal Cruises

Frette: This Italian fine linen company's superb wares make an appearance for Crystal guests in staterooms and suites, and also in dining rooms and restaurants.  Since its beginnings in France, Frette has supplied legendary grand hotels – and more recently, Crystal cruise ships - with the finest, softest bed and dining linens.   So legendary has Frette quality become, it is the answer most people would provide if asked to name a luxury bath, bedroom and dining room linen brand.

Frette terry cloth robes, Villeroy & Boch china, and the ultimate in stemware, Riedel crystal adorn staterooms or suites on Crystal cruises.

And dining experiences are no less glamorously appointed, with table linens by Frette as well as Garnier Thiebaut, Schott-Zwiesel crystal, Villeroy & Boch and Wedgewood china, Royal Doulton dishware, Sheffield and Sambonet flatware as you sink your feet into Axminster wool carpets beneath your table.

TaylorMade: More concerned about your swing? This Californian-born company (now owned by Germany's Adidas) is the exclusive golf equipment provider on Crystal's golfing facilities.  If your game isn't improved by the spectacular view from the top deck of a Crystal ship, maybe TaylorMade's 'No. 1 Driver in Golf, No. 1 Fairway in Golf and No. 1 Irons in Golf' clubs will help!

 

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New Cruise Ships in 2017

It will be a full year of breaking champagne bottles against sparkling new ship hulls. Every new cruise ship gives cruise lines the chance to spread their wings and launch design, culinary and entertainment innovations. This year, there are even new-in-class ships never seen before.

Here's what's new at sea in 2017.

Seabourn Encore:


 

First out of the gate, luxury small ship cruise line Seabourn's Encore was christened in Singapore the first week of January and is sailing in Asia, heading to Australia, New Zealand, then back to Dubai and the Mediterranean.

What we love: Curving lines, feel of a sensuous, luxury yacht styled by celebrity hospitality designer Adam Thihany.  All suites, 300 of them, with marble baths, all veranda. The culinary styling’s of 3-Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller in the Grill. An aft water sports marina that opens when the ship anchors, so guests can kayak, windsurf and paddle about in the sea.  The draped Retreat on the top deck, with private cabanas, a spa cabana, bar and the sea breeze.  Seabourn's partnership with UNESCO promoting sustainable tourism at World Heritage sites.

Silver Muse

April brings us the ninth and largest ship for luxury, small ship line Silversea Cruises. The Muse will be the flagship and the largest in the fleet.

What we love: Silversea is calling it a leap forward to 'ultra-luxury ocean cruising'.  600 guests will enjoy 7 levels of suites.  An incredible eight restaurants, three of them outdoors, including the line's signature pool deck Hot Rocks al fresco, table-top meat and seafood grill. Only one involves a fee, La Dame, the Relais & Chateaux French restaurant with local ingredients. A sophisticated indoor/outdoor cigar and whisky bar.

Viking Sky and Viking Sun

Twin sister ships to Viking Star and Viking Sea, Viking's two new ships launch early spring and late fall this year.  Also like their sister ships, Viking Sky and Viking Sun will host 930 guests on cruises that include long calls in port and plenty of overnight calls so guests can immerse themselves in the destination experience.

What we love: Viking's signature 'Nordic' lifestyle: Scandinavian design, a Nordic spa, Finnish sauna, even a 'snow room', plus a cozy and sociable fire pit.  The indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace dining rooms, 'magrodome' pool with glass roof that opens in fair weather, and a main restaurant also transforms from cozy 'hygge' atmosphere to a breezy, open air venue.

MSC Meraviglia

Slated as the biggest ship at sea by passenger capacity when it launches this spring, the MSC Meraviglia means 'wonder', with 3 more ships in its class due by the end of the decade.  MSC Meraviglia will homeport in Europe.

What we love: The two-deck indoor amusement park, three large pools, and massive aqua park. The Mediterranean-style indoor promenade featuring a 262-foot-long LED "sky" that transforms through the day. MSC's wristband technology, for making payments and bookings and keeping track of family members.  And who wouldn't be excited about Cirque du Soleil's first at-sea partnership? Plus the eco-friendly technology to neutralize carbon dioxide emissions and equipment to be water-emission free.

MSC Seaside

Launching at the end of the year, the MSC Seaside launches a new class of ships, just for MSC in North America. It will homeport in Miami and sail year-round in the Caribbean.

What we love: An unimaginable nearly half million square feet of public space. See-through glass walkways (top picture) that hang over the ocean and open-air spa. An outdoor promenade that wraps around the whole ship where you can enjoy shops, bars and alfresco dining. Terraced balcony cabins, with both sea views and a view over the promenade below. Five water slides in a huge aqua park, a ropes course, and a zipline. An expanded MSC Yacht Club – the line’s ship-within-a-ship concept so family fun and butler-catered refined luxury are all on the same ship.

National Geographic Quest

When Lindblad Expeditions launches the National Geographic Quest in the summer for sailings in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Central America, it will be the largest ship in the fleet.  Not your traditional expedition ship.  Half of the 50 cabins will have balconies.  Family-friendly connecting rooms. Even the rarest of expedition cruise ship amenities: a spa!

What we love: The spirit of exploration. Technology that connects you to nature, like remotely operated vehicles (ROV), a hydrophone and bow-cam to hear humpback whales and film dolphins. Being able to get close to Nature with on-board sea kayaks, paddleboards, expedition landing craft, warm and cold water diving gear, and underwater cameras.

American Constellation

This summer, American Cruise Lines launches its first new ship in several years. The American Constellation will be the cruise line's largest ship; a 163-guest coastal cruise ship built to sail itineraries on the US Eastern coastline and inland waterways including Chesapeake Bay, New England, Hudson River, Mid-Atlantic Inland Passage, and the Southern U.S.

What we love: Most staterooms have private balconies and there's even a selection of single rooms for solo travelers. Menus with regional cuisine, sourcing local ingredients at ports.

Flying Clipper

Star Clipper celebrates its silver anniversary not just with a new addition to its fleet of masted sailing ships, but a near-replica of the largest ship of its kind ever built. The 300-passenger, 5-masted Flying Clipper will be powered by 32 sails constituting nearly 40,000 square feet of sail (with backup fuel-efficient engines). 

What we love: Wind-through-your-hair sailing adventure.  Get harnessed into the rigging and climb to the crow's nest for the best views at sea; learn knot-tying, celestial navigation, and sailing techniques. Two nets strung on either side of the bowsprit rock you gently in the sun. Three pools, including one that arcs sunlight through the ship's atrium into the dining room, a dive-training pool descending 18 feet through 2 decks with glass sides so passengers can watch at the Dive Bar, a water sports platform with snorkeling, kayaks, water skiing.

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Introducing the Seabourn Encore

Seabourn's new Encore was introduced to the world at a festive evening ceremony pier side in Singapore January 7th, 2017, and we can't help gushing over the first cruise ship arrival of 2017.

International recording artist and the world's best-selling soprano Sarah Brightman presided over the naming ceremony as Godmother of the new 600-guest ship, the first of two new all-suite vessels for the luxury, small-ship cruise line.

Guests and VIPs joined Seabourn staff to enjoy the vibrant, entertainment-filled launch festivities as a projection screen showed the climactic moment when Brightman sent a bottle of champagne smashing against the bow of the ship, a time-honored ship christening tradition. A host of local musicians and cultural acts, including lion dancers and stilt walkers, energized the event to send the ship and her guests off in style.

The launch of Seabourn Encore marks the start of a new era of ultra-luxury cruising.  It's the fourth all-suite vessel to join the Seabourn fleet and the first of two new ships to be designed by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany. The second, Seabourn Ovation, is currently under construction and is scheduled to launch in spring 2018.

All ships maintain some of the signature elements we love most about Seabourn: a high ratio of space per guest, enabling highly personalized service by close to one staff member for each guest on board, all-suite accommodations, Seabourn’s signature water sports Marina, an open-bar policy serving premium wine, champagne and spirits, and renowned menus. With the addition of these two new ships, Seabourn will have the youngest and most modern ultra-luxury fleet in the world.

Intended by Tihany "to feel more like a luxury yacht," Seabourn Encore features modern design elements and innovations. Somehow, they manage to take our breath away, and still stay in keeping with Seabourn's understated elegance. The Encore has an additional deck and newly expanded public areas. New features include The Retreat, a secluded sanctuary for you to stretch out and relax in private cabanas, and Sushi, a one-of-a-kind dining destination found on no other ship in the Seabourn fleet.

With the inaugural voyage, Seabourn Encore is also marking the formal debut of several new onboard partner programs we've written about before: Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil offers guests a holistic spa and wellness experience that integrates physical, social, environmental and spiritual well-being; a new production show, 'An Evening with Tim Rice', created exclusively for Seabourn will also have its debut on board in the ship's Grand Salon; and Seabourn Encore will also feature The Grill by Thomas Keller, a restaurant inspired by the classic American chophouse that first opened on Seabourn Quest last year.  If you're not sailing on the Encore, you can still enjoy all three programs on other Seabourn ships; they'll be rolled out across the entire Seabourn fleet by 2018. 

Following the naming ceremony, Seabourn Encore departed on its Inaugural Voyage, the 10-day Gems of the Java Sea cruise, bound for Indonesia. The ship will then move on to Australia and New Zealand voyages, then cruise back to Singapore, on to Dubai, and cruise through the Holy Land before ending her winter season at Athens at the beginning of May.  She will then summer in the Mediterranean, arriving in Barcelona, Spain, on September 13 for the start of her autumn season.  

A busy debut sailing season for one of luxury cruising's most highly anticipated new ships. Wishing the Seabourn Encore, and everyone who sails on her, Happy Voyages!

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Go Island Hopping in the South Pacific

The very word 'Tahiti' evokes the mystique of one of the most remote and romantic island destinations in the world.

An island hopping escape to even a few of the 118 islands and atolls in this South Pacific paradise is not only the ultimate escape from northern winters, it's the trip of a lifetime.

Picture your arrival, welcomed by Tahitian music and fragrant Tiare flowers… and use these highlights of some of the key islands to start planning your island hopping fantasy escape:

They call the island of Tahiti 'The Queen of the Pacific'. It's the largest and most populated island, and is the starting point for travelers, who fly into the capital city Papeete. Don't miss Marae Arahurahu, an ancient Tahitian outdoor temple, or, in the centre of town, the market with tropical produce and fresh local fish and Tahitian arts and crafts, including the biggest selection of pareus (sarongs) in the country. Outside the city, Tahiti boasts spectacular scenery: lush green peaks tower over cascading waterfalls and rippling pools in the interior, and black- and white-sand beaches and turquoise lagoons at the sea.

Photos: Chris McLennan

Moorea is a mere 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti. If that doesn't already sound like a fairytale, consider Moorea's nickname: 'The Magical Island'. It is even said to be the inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Hai. You've seen it in the movies, from Mutiny on the Bounty to Love Affair. But film can never do full justice to the dramatic beauty of the island. Make sure you go to Belvedere Lookout, with its breathtaking views of Moorea’s twin bays, Cook’s and Opunohu. Look on Moorea's hillsides for its signature produce, pineapples, and visit a local distillery to sample exotic liqueurs from pineapple, mango, coconut, vanilla and other Tahitian flavors.

Here's another magical nickname: the 'Garden of Eden'. Huahine is 110 miles northwest of Tahiti, and actually consists of two islands joined by a bridge. Its main town, Maeva, means 'welcome' in Tahitian! Drive into the hills for spectacular views over white-sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons, and visit restored Tahitian marae (temples), centuries-old stone fish traps, and plantations of melons, vanilla, coffee, taro, mango, and flowers. Do you surf? There are world-class waves at Avamoa Pass, and the world’s largest outrigger canoe race begins here each October.

Bora Bora is a tiny island with a big reputation. 'The Romantic Island' has been called the most beautiful island in the world. It's only 18 miles around, circled by a necklace of coral. Lush mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the indescribable turquoise, lapis and aquamarine of the famous, sheltered lagoon. Bora Bora is home to world-class resorts and quaint continental restaurants, where celebrity A-listers vacation in luxurious seclusion.

The Tuamotu Atolls are the largest of the Polynesian archipelagos, Tahiti’s 'Strand of Pearls' with 76 islands and atolls spread over more than 7500 square miles. Four of these atolls – Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, Fakarava – offer world-class scuba diving, horseback riding, shark feeding and deep-sea fishing. In addition, the ecosystem in the Fakarava atoll is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. And Manihi is 'the Pearl Island', the site of the first of many pearl farms that have made Tahiti famous for prized, cultivated black pearls.

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Go Glamping in Antarctica

Antarctica may be on your travel bucket list, but what if even the prospect of being one of the few people ever to set foot on the surreal, winter wilderness of the South Pole isn't enough to convince you to rough it?

Well, you don't have to. We've discovered a tour operator that takes only a dozen visitors at a time to what they call the 'real' Antarctica, inland from cruise shore excursions, all the way to the actual Geographic South Pole.

And they do it in style.  Inspired by luxury safaris of yesteryear complete with china, chefs, hampers and fine linens, White Desert creates an encampment of luxury pods that furnishes almost as unique an environment inside as outside.

Taking off from South Africa, it's a half-day's flight to the camp. While nothing to look at from the outside (and why would you want to when you're surrounded by scenic glaciers and ice waves?), the interior design would be at home in any luxury lodge. It's 'glamping' – that's 'glamour' meets 'camping'.

All photos: White Desert

The camp has six sleeping pods for two, equipped with a bed, desk, and wash/toilet area.

There are separate structures for showers, a kitchen, and lounge and dining areas, and your meals are catered by an award-winning chef.  With your comfort assured, it's time to explore.

Guests can choose from two, eight-day trips, and even an extraordinary, 'best day ever' single day to Antarctica and back. Expert polar guides help you discover the wonders of the immense 'white desert' continent through different excursions out from base camp. You may trek to a magnificent colony of 6,000 majestic Emperor Penguins, explore exhilarating ice formations and tunnels, go technical rock climbing, abseiling, kite-skiing, even take a trip to the actual Geographic South Pole and the science station nearby.  Imagine standing at the single place on earth where all points lead… only north!

Your actual footprints will be swept away by the snow, and the company ensures no ecological footprint will be left behind in this pristine environment either. The company's zero impact policy is complete: the camp is temporary, and re-created each season; all waste – including human – is removed; solar and wind power the camp; and even your flight emissions are offset through dedicated carbon projects around the world.

It's an Antarctic luxury 'safari' where you can have the world's rarest scenery, rushes of adrenaline, and stylish comfort, too.

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Our 'Plan a Cruise Month' Smorgasbord of Offers

Mark it on your calendar. October is 'Plan a Cruise Month'. 

This is the time of year when the world's top cruise lines introduce some of their best offers of the year.

And with the nights getting chillier, thoughts of getting away this winter to the Caribbean's turquoise waters, exotic Polynesia, or fun loving Australia leap to mind.  Or an expedition of a lifetime to South America or Galapagos. And there's always Europe and the elegant Mediterranean in the spring.

There's a smorgasbord of cruise offers available right now, so if you were thinking of a romantic escape, a family or multi-generation holiday, an expedition cruise of a lifetime, even an employee incentive trip or a group getaway with your club, here's our round up of some of the best offers available.

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