Carlson Wagonlit Travelscope 's Blog

When a destination’s nickname is ‘The Rock’, you don’t expect a warm and cozy place. Newfoundland is the eastern most point in North America, the vanguard of the continent where it faces into the North Atlantic waters and winds that once brought Vikings and still bring icebergs to its shores.  
In this dramatic setting and tough climate, only the strong survive. Newfoundlanders are tough survivors, but the opposite to their stark environment with famously welcoming, colorful, charming, musical and comedic culture.
The ponies that Newfoundlanders brought over from Northern Europe developed the same characteristics over 400 years, until they became their own breed of tough, sweet, sure-footed and gentle ponies.
Nearly extinct only couple of decades ago, Newfoundland Ponies are now, along with Newfoundland dogs, the animal symbol of the province, and a special treat to meet ‘in person’.
BestTrip TV met these Newfoundland Ponies at The Doctor's House Inn & Spa, an hour away from the province’s capital of St. John’s. The graceful Tudor-style mansion occupies 100 acres of oceanfront Newfoundland terrain with breathtaking views of Trinity Bay. 
Converted into an inn with charming rooms, acclaimed fine dining, one of the most beautiful private gardens on the island, walking trails, luxury spa and an event venue in the restored barn, it’s become not only a country retreat and hub for visitors to explore the region, it’s also become a world famous wedding destination.
Warm Newfoundland hospitality at The Doctor’s House Inn & Spa includes the welcome of sheep, goats, chickens, ducks… and a small herd of now-rare Newfoundland Ponies. They add a ‘Newfoundland theme’ to weddings, drawing the bridal couple in carts.
Not only picture perfect, but irresistible, too. 
 

#DreamNowTravelLater




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The Whale Shark Whisperer of Cabo
It’s a paradise where Mexico’s Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. Los Cabos has become synonymous with a chic coastal retreat for Hollywood celebrities and global jetsetters.

The southern tip of the Baja Peninsula teems with luxury beachside resorts and spas, where stylish people relax, go golfing, horseback riding, and dancing til dawn.

But Cabo is first and foremost about the sea. Its signature landmark is the Arch rock formation rising from the ocean at the ‘End of the World’, and water-based activities like kayaking and paddle boarding, snorkeling and diving dominate the holiday lifestyle.


Cabo is the launching pad for visits to the area of Cabo Pulmo, Mexico’s protected National Marine Park known as “The Aquarium of the World”, and its most famous resident, enormous whale sharks.

They’re called ‘sharks’, but these ‘Gentle Giants’ are slow-moving filter feeders completely harmless to humans. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the seas, growing to more than 30 feet and 20,000 pounds, making them far and away the largest non-mammal creature alive.

Any glimpse of a whale shark in the wild is magnificent. But in Cabo, visitors can join tours that allow you to swim among these breathtaking creatures. Cabo’s whale shark viewing season runs October through April, and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
 
We asked Los Cabos diver and expert whale shark tour guide Oliver Hernandez what it’s like to swim with these gentle giants.
 
How long have you been swimming with the whale sharks?
“My first season swimming with the sharks was in 2013. I had been working with Cabo Adventures as a guide for a number of other tours since I moved to Los Cabos in 2008. I’ve loved the water since childhood, so that type of tour was a natural fit for me. When I learned that there were whale shark tours operating out here, I knew I had to apply to become a tour guide.”
  
You have a job that a lot of people likely envy. What amazes you most about what you do?
“I feel extremely lucky to be able to swim with these incredible animals. It’s truly a mind-blowing experience. The very first sighting of a whale shark in our waters was only in 2006, and many people had no idea that a swimming excursion with them was even an option. In my first season, we only had tours every third day with maybe eight guests.  Of course, it exploded in popularity rapidly and we quickly had to develop a system to avoid disturbing the sharks. Today, you may be on a waitlist for a tour because we cap it at 14 boats in the water at a time to ensure the sharks remain comfortable. I’m proud of how we moved quickly to accommodate the sudden increase in demand while still remaining respectful of the needs of the wildlife.”
 
How has the marine tour industry and its protocols evolved?
I’ve personally witnessed many changes in my time here, and all of them have been for the better. There have been different rules and restrictions in place over the years and all of them have been guided by the desire to provide the best experience possible for the guests and the animals. I feel confident and proud in saying that Los Cabos takes the utmost caution to tour the waters respectfully and cultivate a love for the sharks. I feel that, since our inception, we have demonstrated respect and care for this species and that is an amazing thing.”
 
You work with whale sharks almost every single day. What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve learned about them?
“The most important thing for me, when dealing with any species in the ocean, is care and perseverance. It is important to respect the ocean’s wildlife, and I think that doing so has helped to maintain that sense of wonder I get every time I dive in. Unlike in say a zoo, these animals are not here for us to look at: we are entering their home and humbly requesting an audience with them. We should always feel grateful for the opportunity to interact with these creatures in their habitat.”

 
What’s the secret for consistently finding these breathtaking animals and introducing them to the guests?
“It’s all about teamwork. The captain, Jorge, seems to instinctively know exactly where to position the boat. As guides, we are in the water simultaneously watching the position of every guest and every shark. On days where it’s proving difficult to spot them, we manage to approximate their location by reading the flow of the waves and the ‘trail’ they leave in the water as they swim. As the captain spots from the boat, he relays what he sees to the guides and gets us moving in the right direction. “
 
Although whale sharks are docile filter feeders, there are definitely people out there who will have reservations about swimming with any kind of shark. What would you tell a guest who might be feeling a bit hesitant to get in the water with them?
The good news is that unless you are plankton, you aren’t on the menu. Whale sharks are gentle and will show respect as long as their space is respected. We encourage guests not to impede their movements and to stay out of their way so they feel relaxed. When in the water with any species, the key is always to blend in. Once you jump into the water or start splashing around wildly, the whale sharks can feel the vibrations and motions of the water and they are bound to take off rather than approach. The key to having a good experience with the animals is just to be calm and don’t interfere with wildlife. Whether it’s whale sharks, dolphins, or hammerheads, they will respond by remaining calm as well.”
 
What are some of your most memorable moments while leading a tour?
We had a guest once who was swimming and was grazed by a whale shark. Whale shark skin feels like sandpaper, so she had a big shock. At times, when there are many whale sharks in the water, you have to become a matador. One time I was following along with the group and I felt a presence next to me, so I turned around and found myself staring into the huge open mouth of a whale shark coming towards me. I had to roll myself like a tortilla and I was just floating along the surface while the whale shark passed, the fin gliding right between my legs. It can happen more than once because the whale sharks are everywhere. That’s what makes the experience so fun.


Top, middle photos: Getty
Bottom photo: Visit Los Cabos

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You know the rum, but do you know the story? Bacardi is the world’s most famous rum, but it’s also the largest private, family-owned spirits company in the world.

When the first Bacardi traveled from Spain to Cuba in the early 1800’s, he tasted a raw local spirit made from sugar cane. Recognizing the potential, the wine merchant worked to refine rum. Bacardi eventually identified a proprietary strain of yeast that brought out rum’s best flavors, began filtering rum through charcoal, and ageing it in white oak barrels that mellowed and enriched the final result.  It was the first ‘white’ (clear) rum in the world.

The rest, as they say, is history. The origins of the instantly-recognizable logo inspired by the ‘lucky’ colony of bats in the building where the Bacardi family began commercial production in Cuba, making rum cocktails like Cuba Libres, Mojitos and Daiquiris part of the early 20th century cocktail party craze, relocating Bacardi production to Puerto Rico following the Cuban revolution in 1960…

The story of Bacardi is legendary. And visitors to the House of Bacardi in Puerto Rico (called ‘The Cathedral of Rum’), with its mid-century, stylized ‘bat wing’ pavilion is so much more than a distillery visit.

You’ll be greeted with a cocktail before taking an historical tour, rum-tasting tour, or a mixology class. 

BestTrip TV got an extra treat: a chance to meet the head of the Bacardi family business who shared the personal passions behind this global brand. 

It’s one of our all-time favorite BestTrip TV videos we wanted to share with you again while we’re staying safe at home – along with a lesson BestTrip's Lynn Elmhirst and TV interior designer Karen Sealy got in how to make Bacardi’s original, simple, balanced and classic daiquiri (with only three ingredients you might even have at home right now.)
 

Bacardi’s Original Recipe: A Hand-shaken Daiquiri


Rum, lime and sugar are timeless ingredients in the Caribbean. The origins of this classic cocktail go back to an engineer in Cuba who developed its refreshing taste, and the Bacardi family's epic parties made it famous stateside, then around the world.

Bacardi's classic Daiquiri is a perfect blend of BACARDÍ Carta Blanca rum, the crispness of fruit and the sweetness of sugar. Serve ice cold for a refreshing drink on a hot day in the islands... or for cocktail hour at home dreaming of your next trip to the Caribbean.
 
THE INGREDIENTS
  • 2 ounces BACARDÍ Carta Blanca Rum
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tsp Sugar
 
THE METHOD
  1. Place sugar and freshly pressed lime juice into a cocktail shaker and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Then pour in the BACARDÍ Carta Blanca rum and fill the shaker with half-cubed ice, followed by some half-crushed ice.
  3. Place the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled.
  4. Finally, strain through a fine tea strainer into a chilled coupette.
 
 
 
 

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 The COVID-19 pandemic is cancelling Easter celebrations large and small around the world. Thousand-year-old cathedrals will make history as they remain empty and silent.

Enter Andrea Angel Bocelli.

Celine Dion has said that, 'if God has a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.'

The Italian tenor who made pop music audiences fall in love with classical opera, who has received cultural honors in his home country and also has Grammy awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame… is taking this unprecedented opportunity to fill Milan’s empty cathedral with music on Easter Sunday 2020. 

Milan’s Duomo dates back to the 1300’s. It is the largest church in Italy (St. Peter’s Basilica is larger, but it’s in the independent state of Vatican City). That makes it the 2nd largest in all of Europe. Milan’s Duomo is famous not just for the size of the building, but also for the 225-rank pipe organ which is the biggest in Italy, and for the gold Madonna gazing out onto the city from a perch nearly 360 feet at the top of one of the church’s many spires.

(Getty)

It’s also in the heart of the region of Italy hardest-hit by COVID-19.

Bocelli is making sure everyone’s Easter is filled with uplifting music, singing a solo concert Andrea Bocelli: Music for Hope in the Milan Duomo.
 
The 61-year old tenor and cathedral organist Emanuele Vianelli will perform soaring hymns like “Ave Maria” and “Sancta Maria” in the dramatic surroundings of the Duomo. 
 
And while the pews in Milan and around the world will be empty, the point of the Music for Hope concert is to “send a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the world.”
 
So the Music for Hope will be livestreamed globally HERE on Bocelli’s YouTube channel beginning at 1 pm Eastern Time on Easter Sunday in a gesture the beloved tenor hopes will unite everyone facing the pandemic.

'I believe in the strength of praying together; I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone - whether they are believers or not - truly needs right now,” Bocelli said, “Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded Earth's pulsing heart.”
 
He also hopes the concert symbolizes renewal of the society so disrupted by the pandemic. “It will be a joy to witness it, in the Duomo, during the Easter celebration which evokes the mystery of birth and rebirth.”
 
The Music for Hope concert isn’t the only way Bocelli is contributing. In addition to Sunday’s concert, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation is part of a campaign to purchase more medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients. And the acclaimed tenor also performs on April 18th’s virtual concert One World: Together at Home, raising money for charities providing food, shelter and healthcare to those in need as a result of the continuing crisis.
 
But it’s the Music for Hope concert in the hauntingly empty venue of Milan’s Duomo that will uplift the world on Easter Sunday.

And inspire us to think of happy days when we can once again travel to experience the gifts of Italian culture in person.

(via Andrea Bocelli /YouTube)




A Distiller in Wine Country Switches Production to Hand Sanitizer to Help the Community During COVID-19 Plan a trip to Ontario, Canada's Niagara region, and your list may include the iconic Falls, world-class theater at the Shaw Festival, fine dining inspired by the region’s orchards, most definitely a wine tasting, especially the ice wine that is its global viticulture claim to fame. read more
Top Souvenirs from a Trip to... Ireland
If you’re one of the almost 20% of Americans and Canadians with Irish ancestry – or have fallen in love with the lore of the ‘Emerald Isle’ – a trip to Ireland is the perfect way to immerse yourself in its vivid scenery, storied towns and landscapes… and of course, stock up on the souvenirs that symbolize the country’s history, craftsmanship, and flavors.

Here’s a list of the best places in Ireland to visit to shop for ways to remember your trip to Ireland, or treat your friends and loved ones to a taste of Ireland.


Irish Whiskey in County Cork


It means ‘water of life’, and was once the most popular drink in the world. The distilled grain spirit that’s now called whiskey was developed beginning around the 12th century by creative monks. Today it’s enjoying renewed popularity, and has regained its top standing as the fastest-growing spirit in the world. 

There are dozens of distilleries dotting the cobble-stoned towns and green rolling hills of Ireland, and the list keeps growing. In nearly every county, you can tour historic stone, or ultra-modern distilleries that expand on Ireland’s breadth of whiskeys.

Visiting one or more of the country’s distilleries and tasting rooms, and packing one or more of the 80 million or so bottles produced in the country every year in your luggage (carefully!) for the trip home, is a must-do for any visitor to Ireland. 


The essential experience is in County Cork at Jamesons’. As the world’s biggest producer of Irish whiskey, and dating from the 1700’s, it defines ‘traditional’ Irish whiskey. It’s a ‘blend’ whiskey: locally-grown Irish barley, some malted and some unmalted, or ‘green’, is distilled one of two ways, then the different distilled spirits are mixed. Irish whiskey differs from most whisky from Scotland that is made from grain dried by a peat fire, giving it a smoky flavor -  not present in smoother Irish whiskey. 


Crystal in Waterford County


Nothing will make your Irish whiskey taste better than drinking it from a Waterford crystal low ball glass or decanter.
Crystal was not invented in Ireland, but 200-year old Waterford is one of the world’s most famous crystals, and a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal facility is one of the top reasons to visit the Irish county of the same name.

You can watch artisans in action in each of the steps in the creation of Waterford crystal’s pieces, seeing pieces come to life, from blowing molten crystal into elegant shapes, to mould making, to inspections, marking patterns onto approved pieces for master artisans to cut the signature designs that result in the clarity and sparkle that rival diamonds in vases, bowls, glass and stemware and of course, décor items like chandeliers.


Ireland isn’t the only place you can find this famous crystal. You’ll spot Waterford crystal some of the finest bars and restaurants and hotels in the world. And you’ll see Waterford chandeliers in Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, and across the pond, in the Kennedy Center and… it’s the famous ball that drops every New Year’s Even in New York’s Times Square.
 

A Claddagh Ring in Galway


After the shamrock and the Celtic cross, this must be the most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle. It’s certainly Ireland’s essential piece of jewelry – with a delightful and touching meaning.

The Claddagh ring’s hands cradling a heart topped with a crown symbolize friendship, love and loyalty. Rings are worn in Ireland and often by people of Irish ancestry around the world as friendship, engagement and wedding rings. 

They are often passed down mothers to their eldest daughters or grandmother to granddaughter and worn differently to advertise the wearer’s current relationship status, useful in the days before you could look it up on facebook! Worn
·     On the right hand, with the heart pointing toward the heart, you’re in a relationship; your ‘heart has been captured;
·     On the right hand with the heart pointing outward, you’re single and looking;
·     On the left ring finger with the heart pointing outward, you’re engaged; and
·     With the heart pointing to your heart, you’re married.


Start your own tradition and add some extra meaning to your new Claddagh ring by making the trek to the fishing village of the same name in Galway, where Claddagh rings were invented in the 18th century. The original goldsmith’s shop still stands. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold is the oldest jeweler in Ireland, and houses a museum to the iconic ring.

Irish Wool from the Aran Isles


When you picture Ireland’s famous green pastures, you may also picture those pastures with grazing sheep. Throughout Ireland, keeping sheep and spinning, dyeing and weaving or knitting their wool was a cottage industry for centuries.


You can still see looms at work throughout Ireland, and enjoy the fruits of the artisans who craft colorful scarves, wraps, hats, and other useful, beautiful, and wearable examples of Irish history, creativity and skill.

Perhaps the most Irish of woolen knitwear is an Aran sweater. The Aran Islands off the country’s western coast have historically been home to hardy fishing communities whose women used wool ‘unscoured’ of its natural oils, making it water resistant and perfect for fishermen working in harsh Atlantic waters – or anyone who spends lots of time in the outdoors. 

(Image: Getty)

Sweaters are marvelously complex works of art, comprising 100,000 stitches of each maker’s own design. Different patterns of stitches represent different meanings and omens for the success and safety of the fishermen wearing them .
 
Ireland’s deep culture and heritage make an unforgettable impression on any visitor to her shores, and you’ll want to take home memories and mementoes of your journey. These are just a few of the many souvenirs of Ireland that really beat a ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ t-shirt from your last St. Patrick’s day at the pub!

 

Start your Trip!


All images courtesy of Ireland.com unless otherwise indicated.

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Lie Flat Beds in Economy Class?  This Airline Says, "Yes, You Can!"
An airline has cracked the code to providing some of the same comforts for economy class passengers as their fellow passengers in costlier business and first-class enjoy.

After three years in development, Air New Zealand has revealed the prototype of an innovation that could forever change the way you look at long haul travel – even in coach!

They’re calling it the Economy Skynest, and it’s a groundbreaking concept. A ‘nest’ of six, full-length, lie-flat sleep pods stacked on top of each other like bunk beds, with the added bonus of replacing a chunk of hated, center block of seats (although final placement in different planes can change).

If you love to travel but hate not having enough space to stretch out. Or your company budget doesn’t stretch to first class with lie-flat cubicles… but you still need to arrive at your destination fresh and ready to get to work. We can think of all kinds of reasons Air New Zealand’s Economy Skynest could tick a lot of boxes for you.


Each single-person pod is over 2 m (more than 6 and a half feet) long, with a minimum shoulder width of 58 cm (23 inches), and comes with a full-size pillow, a blanket and also sheets! as well as ear plugs, privacy curtains and lighting designed for sleep. Air New Zealand is also exploring other features like a separate reading light, a personal device USB outlet, and an outlet for ventilation. All the comforts of a hotel bed… just a little cozier.

And it makes sense. New Zealand’s position on the globe means it operates some of the world’s longest flights, like a non-stop Auckland-New York flight that spends 17 hours and 40 minutes in the air. That’s the flight the company is testing the Economy Skynests on for an inaugural year.

It’s just the latest innovation in comfort for an airline that is at the leading edge of customer-centric design and eco-responsible advances. The Economy Skynest is the next step up from Air New Zealand’s previous game-changer, the award-winning Economy Skycouch.


The row of Economy seats that can be turned into a couch after takeoff so friends or family members can use the space to stretch out changed the way families fly. And further enhancements like a dedicated infant harness enabling infants to stay lying down throughout the cruise phase of flight, a new infant pod which provides extra comfort and protection, and a modification to the existing adult Skycouch Cuddle Belt means it's now certified for two children to be able to share the Skycouch lying side by side.


Given how popular the Economy Skycouch has become, the airline is expecting Economy Skynests to ‘take off’, too, with a focus on the longest of long haul flights. Air New Zealnd anticipates that Economy class passengers would be able to book the Skynest in addition to their regular Economy class seat, so you can be seated for a portion of your flight and able to sleep when you feel like it.

And they expect, as they experienced with the Economy Skycouch, other airlines will explore licensing the Skynest from Air New Zealand so you can enjoy its comforts on many routes around the world.

As aircraft engineering continues to advance to achieve greater feats of fuel economy and enables planes to fly longer non-stop flights, innovations like Air New Zealand’s Economy Skynest will be ever more attractive options when you book your flight.

It may be the most exciting new innovation in flight – that literally puts you to sleep.

Start you Trip!


Images: Air New Zealand

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How You Can Help Solve Overtourism - AND Still Enjoy the World's Most Popular Destinations
Amsterdam. Venice. Barcelona. Just to name a few. These are spectacular, vibrant, magical cities… reeling under the weight of tourists.

I’m very fortunate to have visited a number of cities that are now on the list of overtouristed destinations. They are magnificent and life changing. But sadly, each subsequent visit, I see the very qualities travelers go there to seek eroded a little bit more by a growing volume of tourists.

Over-touristed destinations worry about becoming artificial, ‘theme park’ versions of their charming, unique, authentic selves. They fear seeing local residents, artisans, shopkeepers and restaurateurs priced out of the cities’ historic centers by global brands and big companies buying up real estate for international brand shops and short-term housing rentals.

When the locals go, so do many of the very lifestyle elements you hoped to enjoy. Local food and craft markets collapse, inexpensive, authentic local restaurants close their doors, and the only people you meet… are other tourists.

These cities may be on your travel bucket list. Or you imagine re-living fond memories there.

I can’t bring myself to say people should no longer travel to over-touristed destinations (although some cities’ mayors sound like they’re willing to ban tourists altogether).

But I can offer 8 tips about the best ways responsible travelers can help be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And at the same time, take steps to ensure the best travel experience for themselves.

Responsible travel tips for overtourism:


Be a good global citizen. 

Practice the advice often given to park visitors: take only pictures, leave only footprints. Littering, loitering, being part of a loud group that blocks sidewalks and disrupts the peaceful enjoyment of a neighborhood, in many places outside of North America, eating or drinking on the street… some rules of good behavior are universal, and some are unique to local custom, like tipping practices.

Do your research in advance and be the person the locals welcome back.


Go off-season / shoulder season. 

I’ve written before about the benefits of off-season travel. In over-touristed destinations, off-season or shoulder season (the weeks on either side of the core ‘high season’), by definition, is less crowded. No lineups. Less expensive. The locals come back (think Paris after everyone takes the month of August away from the city). And the tourism attractions are happy to see you – and your money.

Stay in hotels.

Many short-term rentals are not real home shares by residents, but instead, units owned and managed by big corporations running what amounts to unregulated hotel businesses. Inhabitants of residential neighborhoods report being disrupted by a steady stream of strangers that can change the character of the community.

Hotels are regulated for your health and safety, they ensure local bylaws are followed, AND they are paying business taxes that support the preservation of cultural treasures visitors are coming to enjoy, and the infrastructure like streets and sidewalks and parks and public transportation tourists rely on.

Shop locally.

And especially, make a point to spend your souvenir, dining, and entertainment budgets to support local artisans, craftspeople, performing artists and venues, food and wine and spirit producers that are preserving local culture, techniques and architecture, and whose businesses 100% support the local economy. 
 

Book smaller cruise ships.

Bigger cruise ships need ports of a certain size, so that often means they all converge on major city ports – and some are already bursting with land-based visitors.

The biggest cruise ships carry thousands of people. In some places, a single ship can result in cruise visitors outnumbering locals! Imagine if two or more mega ships are in port! No wonder locals can feel like their city has been taken over by non-locals- and ‘normal’ local life comes to a halt while these immense cruise ships are in port.

There’s lots to be said for the attractions of mega cruise ships. If that’s your preferred cruise style, try to focus on itineraries that visit destinations that can accommodate you and your 5000 other cruise guests without overwhelming or changing the character of the city.

Always book a pre- or post-cruise stay.

That way, you are not just transiting through a city, you also contribute to its economy - and get to enjoy overnights and immersion in these wonderful places. Pre- and post-cruise stays - or tours - are a perfect balance to the destination sampling approach of cruising.

Book your visit with a reputable tour company.

The best tour companies understand the importance of reducing their impact on and preserving the best of local communities. They work to balance the interests of the destination with unique access to its greatest cultural, natural, and lifestyle gems for its guests.

Consider destinations in the same country that have fewer tourists.

You’ll often find the same – and sometimes, even more authentic - local lifestyle and flavors that have diminished in the most visited destinations if you leave the big cities and go off the beaten path in the same country.
 
Talk to your travel advisor about your travel interests, and they’ll be able to help you design a thoughtful and responsible travel plan that takes overtourism into account.
 
 

Start your Trip!

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

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The Hotel with the Best Views of Buenos Aires
They call Buenos Aires the ‘Paris of South America’. Historic neighborhoods of elegant, whitewashed buildings with ornate wrought iron trim, its reputation as the global capital of theater with 280 theaters, more than any other city in the world, and the world’s biggest boulevard, lined, like the grand boulevards of France’s capital, with monumental buildings… all add up to a distinctly European feel in Argentina’s capital city. 

The hotel with the very best view of Buenos Aires has to be the Hotel Panamericano Buenos Aires, with its prime location on July 9 Avenue. Called the world’s biggest boulevard, July 9 Avenue commemorates the country’s independence day and stretches 3 km long, and a whopping 18 lanes across!

The Panamericano hotel’s twin towers are in postmodern architecture, but the hotel still manages to evoke the classic French style of this neighborhood of Buenos Aires, with black and white marble floors, wrought-iron railings and details like a grand, brass-trimmed entrance onto the breathtaking July 9 Avenue. 



(Paris meets South America: black and white and wrought iron railings; driftwood horses reminding guests of Argentina’s rich, ‘gaucho’ equestrian rancher lifestyle and lore).

At the same time, the Panamericano is true to its Argentine homeland, including one of BA’s most renowned restaurants serving wine and locally ranched beef, lamb from Patagonia and other uniquely Argentine flavors.



The Panamericano’s 23rd floor has two attractions: Nivel 23 Club and Spa, with its glass-encased rooftop swimming pool, and an open-air terrace overlooking July 9 Avenue – arguably the best view in BA of the city’s signature boulevard and the other emblems of the Argentine capital along it.

Rising out of Republic Square in median of the boulevard right outside the Panamericano, the dramatic, 67 meter (220 foot) Obelisk marks the spot where the Argentine flag was flown for the first time in the capital. (And it also feels like a South American version of Paris’ Place de la Concorde, with its own obelisk).

Also in full view of the Panamericano is Teatro Colon, ranked one of the top three opera houses in the world, and seating more music lovers than London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Acoustically magnificent, this Historic National Monument is also visually glorious in ornate, late 19th century style, with red and gold décor and a famous chandelier.
 
The Panamericano couldn’t be in a better location. It’s in the heart of Buenos Aires’ most noteworthy architecture, domes, century-old buildings, modern skyscrapers. It overlooks BA’s landmark obelisk, Colon Theater, the Palace of Justice from its privileged position on the July 9 Avenue. 


And the hotel is also only a 10-minute walk from the fashionable neighborhood of Recoleta. That neighborhood’s grand cemetery is a fascinating attraction with its decorative, historic crypts. There’s a constant stream of visitors past one in particular: the final resting place of Buenos Aires’ most internationally famous citizen, Eva Peron, immortalized in Evita!, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about the life of Argentina’s former first lady.

In addition to sightseeing, the Panamericano is the perfect base to take advantage of Buenos Aires’ theatre scene, immerse yourself in the tango music and dance, indulge in Argentina’s world-famous wines and beef from its ranches.

Start your Trip!

 
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It's one of the top destinations in Europe, let alone the Mediterranean. Barcelona tops everyone's travel bucket list, and for excellent reasons.

  • It has a collection of some of the world's most unique and distinctive Modernist architecture - hint: by the same local designer whose masterpiece church is still under construction 130 years after it was begun.

  • One of Europe's most famous local markets, and restaurants serving the abundant harvest of Catalonia's land and sea.

  • One of the world's most picturesque pedestrian promenades (where you'll find the tongue-in-cheek bronze 'Thinking Bull' statue that plays on the iconic 'The Thinker' by Rodin, pictured above).

  • And a lifestyle any visitor is loathe to leave.

We never depart on a cruise from Barcelona without taking time to indulge in one of our favorite cities, and of course, any tour of Spain or the Western Mediterranean wouldn't be complete without an immersion in Barcelona's culture and way of life.

See the best of Barcelona come to life in the BestTrip video above, and...

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It’s a US territory with sun-kissed Caribbean charms. Where lush jungles, land and marine parks and world-class beaches meet Old World cobblestone architecture, New World comforts, and signature Latin hospitality, culture and sultry vibe.  

Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan is a major cruise port and destination in the eastern Caribbean. Thousands of cruise passengers embark and disembark every year. But don’t miss the opportunity to extend your cruise – or visit the island just to explore the island’s urban lifestyle and beach resorts in San Juan, as well as the attractions outside the capital.

Following Cuba’s revolution in the 50’s, Puerto Rico became the heart of island Latin style for America’s jet set, and many of the island’s most memorable urban beach hotel-resorts in date from that sexy, Rat Pack era. Newer boutique hotels have added more ways to stay and play in Puerto Rico’s capital.


Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s producer, host and cruise expert, picks three of her favorite San Juan hotels from her latest cruise trips to Puerto Rico.

Fairmont El San Juan Hotel


Whether you love Old Havana and colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort lifestyle on one of the world's top tropical beaches... the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.
 
This sprawling hotel on San Juan’s 2-mile-long Isla Verde beach – one that’s been voted ‘Best Urban Beach’, is a recent addition to the prestigious, luxury Fairmont portfolio.
 
But this urban hotel has a pedigree. Considered by many the ‘grande dame’ hotel of Puerto Rico society, the El San Juan underwent a $65-million post-hurricane reno and upgrade that restored the best of its colonial architecture, Rat Pack era cool, and added modern, urban resort touches with the Latin flavour of its surroundings.
 
Watch the video above to see this captivating time capsule beach hotel that’s also one of the best places in Puerto Rico for a pre or post-cruise stay, family vacation, wedding or vow renewal.
 
Better yet, book a vacation to experience Fairmont El San Juan’s beach lifestyle, sexy, interconnected pools, breezy outdoor teak spaces, one of the largest chandeliers in the world above one of the most famous bars in the Caribbean, even the hotel’s famous, 200-year-old banyan tree.  
 
 

La Concha

Where the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel melds Old Havana, mid-century, and contemporary design hotel, La Concha is all mid-century beach chic re-imagined for the 21st century.

Right on Ashford Avenue in the heart of San Juan’s ‘it’ Condado neighborhood with expansive beach front, La Concha is one of the island’s iconic hotels, dating back to the heyday of Puerto Rico as a ‘jet set’ destination.

Its namesake is its standout feature: a gigantic, seashell-shaped ‘floating restaurant’ at the edge of the sea. Not only a marvel of engineering and design, being inside the ‘shell’ space makes any meal memorable and a special event like a wedding, absolutely epic.

The curves of the giant shell feature are unmistakably from the mid-century school of modernism. The architects continued tropical modernist features throughout the property, in the form of curves and breezeways, an open lobby and seamless transitions between indoors and outdoors, even a concrete façade that filters sunlight to create patterns mirrored indoors.


Also benefitting from a recent renovation, La Concha has kept its mid-century bones and added ocean-inspired hues and beach-inspired textures, lounges and patios kept throbbing with electronic dance music by local DJ’s, resulting in a completely modern urban beach resort, nightlife destination, and ‘Latino Chic’ lifestyle in a stylish setting few modern hotel builds can match.

O:LV Fifty Five

Around the corner in San Juan’s chic Condado neighborhood from La Concha, O:LV Fifty Five is a jewel of a boutique hotel where Old Hollywood glamour meets modern design hotel.  


Since it’s recent opening, it has made the lists proclaiming “Top Places to Travel”, “Best New Hotels”, and “Finest Hotels” among others.

This adults-only, 26-suite hideaway on a quiet side street overlooks Condado Lagoon from what must be one of, if not the best rooftop destination in San Juan. A cooling green wall and fountains form the backdrop to the infinity pool with a view on the city.


The lobby feels like the living room of an uber-sophisticated socialite, with plush textures, mood lighting and eclectic touches like a table-top metallic cheetah statue and oversized, black and white photography portraits. 


Restaurants at the ground and rooftop levels repeat the concept in their own palettes, with head-turning features like the vintage Rolls Royce – converted into a DJ booth! -  parked among tables of diners and guests heading out to the roof top terrace (pictured above).

All 3 hotels are located between Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, and the San Juan Cruise Port, just outside historic Old San Juan. Whether you’re flying in or cruising out, these three very different urban hotel experiences are unmistakable expressions of San Juan’s one-of-a-kind hospitality and travel experience.
 

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A visit to the Juno Beach Centre is life-changing. Walking in the footsteps of young, Canadian soldiers who landed on this stretch of beach in Normandy, France on DDay is emotional, eye-opening, and never-to-be-forgotten.

Some Canadians do more than visit. They work here. Permanent staff and young Canadians greet and guide visitors at the Centre, through the restored bunkers, and on Juno Beach itself, and work on programs that tell the story at the Juno Beach Centre of DDay from a Canadian point of view.

Many of the young guides are about the same age as the 19- and 20-year old soldiers who landed on Juno Beach in 1944 - and that's by design. It helps keep in perspective how young most of those Canadian soldiers were.

Here are some thoughts and insights of Juno Beach Centre team members about their daily presence in such an important and evocative place for Canadians.

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Everyone experiences travel differently, and this may be most true of historic sites. Standing on the spot where history was made is a profound experience that transcends any amount of studying, reading, watching documentaries or films. When you are actually there, the sights, sounds, perspective and your historic imagination all combine for a more meaningful understanding of moments that changed our world.

The Juno Beach Centre provides visitors today with the opportunity to visualize first-hand the WW2 DDay Landings in June, 1944, from a Canadian point of view. No matter what you thought you knew or understood coming to the Juno Beach Centre, its interactive displays, stories, interpretive tours of the restored bunkers and beaches themselves speak to each visitor differently.

It's a pilgrimage all Canadians should undertake.

BestTrip asked staff and visitors which aspect of visiting the Juno Beach Centre impacts them the most. You'll have your own favorite experience after you visit Juno Beach, too.

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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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10 Amazing Facts about the Tasmanian Devil
Move over, cuddly koalas and cute kangaroos. Meet the Tasmanian Devil. 

No, not the Looney Tunes cartoon character that travels like a spinning top, drooling, snarling and terrorizing Bugs Bunny's friends. The real animal, found in the wild only in one state Down Under.

In Australia's collection of one-of-a-kind creatures, the Tasmanian Devil is a stand out member. So between photo ops with koalas, and watching kangaroos hopping through wildlife parks, head to Australia's southern, island state, to get to know the Tasmanian Devil.

It's a keystone species in Tasmania and the symbol of many organizations in the state. We visited a wildlife sanctuary only a half-hour's drive from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and discovered amazing things about Tasmanian 'Devils'.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 
1. Cute and cuddly they are not. Tasmanian Devils look a bit like bear cubs, or like a big-boned small-ish dog at under 30 pounds fully grown. When they're not aggressive, they look a bit sweet. But I had a chance to touch a baby being raised at the sanctuary, and even so young, its fur was like coarse bristles. And they are not sociable or friendly, living alone and coming out at night. 
 
2. They smell bad, too. Tasmanian Devils have a 'scent gland' used to mark territory with very strong and repulsive scent.
 
3. They have a great naming story. Tasmanian Devils are aggressive if they feel threatened or are competing for food. They bare teeth, lunge, and emit loud, blood-curdling shrieks in the dark hours that made early settlers imagine demons had surrounded them in the wilderness. That's how they were dubbed Tasmanian 'devils'. (Check out this video to hear Tasmanian Devils screeching).
 
4. Their oversized heads have incredible jaws that can open to 80 degrees wide! and deliver the strongest bite for its size of any mammal in the world. They have the power to bite through thick metal wire! The staff at the sanctuary joked to keep fingers away from the babies' mouths; even at that size and age, if they'd bitten onto our hands, 'they wouldn't stop til they reach your elbow'. Possibly a joke to make the point, but it paints a picture of:
 
5. The world's largest carnivorous marsupial. (Marsupials are mammals that carry their newborns in pouches). Tasmanian Devils eat only meat: they hunt birds, snakes, other mammals up to the size of small kangaroos, but they also eat carrion – dead animals. They put those tremendous jaws to good use, eating 'pretty much anything they sink their teeth into', crushing and ravenously ingesting even the bones.  
 
6. Even a Tasmanian Devil's teeth are unique. They have the same number of teeth as a dog - 42 – but unlike dogs, a Devil's teeth grow continuously throughout its life, contributing to its phenomenal ability to consume bones of its prey.
 
7. Like all marsupials, Devils store fat in their tails, which thicken up (like humans' waistlines!).  

8. Although Tasmanian Devils once thrived throughout Australia, now they are native only in the island state of Tasmania. There, they have adapted very well to a variety of environments in Tasmania, from coasts to forests to even suburbs. So rather than environmental change, it's believed their extinction on Australia's mainland can be blamed on the arrival of dingoes – which never spread to Tasmania to threaten the Devils.
 
9. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania, either. Those settlers who christened the 'Devils' mistakenly believed they killed livestock (a theory which has now been debunked) and hunted and poisoned them nearly to extinction, until the government stepped in to protect them in the 1940's.

 
10. The Tasmanian Devil population rebounded, but today, they're in danger again. Not from angry farmers. Tasmanian Devils adapted to modern life, with these carrion eaters finding a new food source in the form of roadkill … except these black animals eating roadkill at night are invisible to oncoming traffic, and they, too are killed in great numbers on roads. In addition, a catastrophic facial tumor disease is spreading through the population. The tumors build up in affected animals' mouths and stop them from eating, and they eventually starve to death. Tens of thousands of Tasmanian Devils have died since the disease appeared in the late 90's. 
 
Since 2008, Tasmanian Devils have been listed as endangered. Wildlife sanctuaries attempt to save and raise young in the pouches of mothers killed on the roads, and programs are isolating and breeding populations unaffected by disease. 
 
Devils are also being sent abroad to partner international zoos to contribute to population insurance programs for Tasmanian Devils too.
 
You can see Tasmanian Devils in some zoos – but better yet, by visiting and supporting a sanctuary on their home turf in Tasmania.
 

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(Images: Getty)
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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. 
 

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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.

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3 New Cruise Line Private Islands
It used to be that private islands were the playgrounds of the ridiculously rich and fabulously famous. Then cruise lines got into the game. Now, cruise lines are competing with each other to build exclusive tropical enclaves in the Caribbean for their guests to experience not just a day on the beach, but create travel memories they can't get anywhere else.

Most of the actual private cruise line islands are small, uninhabited islands ('cays', pronounced 'keys') among the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas, like the very first cruise line private island in the Caribbean, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, Holland America's Half Moon Cay (WATCH VIDEO OF HALF MOON CAY HERE), and Disney's Castaway Cay.



Harvest Caye is a private island off coast of Belize. It's for guests of sister cruise lines Norwegian, Oceania and Regent.


But the term 'private islands' has also expanded to include private cruise line day resorts developed on larger, inhabited islands, like Labadee on Haiti for guests of Royal Caribbean, and Princess Cay on Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

And cruise lines continue to acquire real estate to up the ante on the ultimate resort experience for a day ashore on the beach.

Whether you've never stepped foot on a cruise line private island, or you've got a favorite you cruise to over and over again… check out these new private island destinations you can only reach by cruise ship.

They're all in the Bahamas, but designed by three very different cruise lines, and offer three very different private island experiences. Find your cruise line private island match!


 
The Cruise Line: Virgin Voyages
The Destination: The Beach Club at Bimini, the Bahamas
The Experience: High-Style Island Beach Club/ Music Festival on the Beach

As Sir Richard Branson launches his new, adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and its first flagship, the Scarlet Lady, he also launches a private island destination just for Virgin Voyages guests.


No, not HIS private island. But The Beach Club on the Bahamian island of Bimini takes its cues from Sir Richard's famously high-living, party-loving, music industry persona. Along with exquisite beach and turquoise water, The Beach Club provides an atmosphere like beach party destinations Ibiza and St. Tropez.


A detox/retox formula starts with beach yoga and meditation to the sounds of the sea earlier in the day, chilling in hammock groves and cabanas, snacking on complimentary, locally-sourced island cuisine and sipping cocktails from 6 bars, playing on the beach and taking part in watersports, leading up to in-demand DJ-led pool and flotilla parties in the evening, and finally winding down late at night with a beach bonfire and acoustic music before a very late night ship departure.

The Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
The Destination: Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, the Bahamas
The Experience: Soft Adventure Meets Nature on the Beach


Only 65 miles off Miami, MSC will also be able to offer late night departures from its new private island (pictured, top).

7 beaches, each with its own atmosphere and experiences, ranging from shallow paddling for small children to water sports. Dining includes food trucks that incorporate local flavors, and multiple bars including one inspired by Hemmingway's famous taste for rum cocktails overlooking the ocean. MSC's Aurea Spa treatments are available on shore at Ocean Cay. And shopping includes vendors of local arts and crafts as well as branded items.


In addition to the usual beach-side water sports, Ocean Cay offers eco-friendly soft adventure experiences like kayak tours and snorkel safaris highlighting the natural beauty of the island and its seas.

Ocean Cay is surrounded by dozens of square miles of protected seas, and that's the point. The development protects the local wildlife and ecosystem, and there are plans for a coral nursery to actively contribute to the region's environment.
 
The Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
The Destination: Cococay, the Bahamas
The Experience: 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay' / Over-the-top Theme Park on a Beach

Royal Caribbean ships are whirlwind experiences of ice skating rinks, climbing walls, theme park type rides, restaurants and shopping… more than you could hope to ever do in a single week of cruising. Its new concept, 'Perfect Day', is a collection of private islands around the world that take 'thrill and chill' to a new level, beginning in the Bahamas with 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay'.


Perfect Day at CocoCay is a shopping list of record-breaking builds, adrenaline-charged activities, and unexpected firsts: The tallest waterslide in North America. The largest wave pool in the Caribbean. The first overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. The Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride that takes you 450 feet up to the highest viewpoint in the Bahamas. A soaking by 30 water cannons on a shipwrecked galleon, and an 82-foot geyser. A 1,600-foot zip line – ending with the only splash water landing in the region. A freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning a whopping 2,600-plus feet. And a whole host of other dining, drinking, and shopping activities to pack a full day even fuller.




Royal Caribbean believes Perfect Day at CocoCay will live up to its name – and set the scene for more Perfect Day Island Collection destinations in the Caribbean as well as Asia and Australia.
 
These 3 wildly diverse new cruise line private islands prove: there's a perfect new cruise – and a new cruise line private island - just waiting for you to discover.

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If you're like me, Spring can never come too soon. And nothing says Spring like new flower blossoms.

This year, treat yourself to an abundance of Spring in one of these famous floral travel destinations.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip TV
 

Tulips in the Netherlands

Where: Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding tulip fields
When: April

It's the world's largest spring flower garden. The Keukenhof Gardens are a showcase for the Netherlands' biggest agricultural export: flowers and bulbs. The tulip is the ultimate symbol of a Dutch spring, and there are an astounding 7 million bulbs – tulips and other spring flowers - bursting into bloom on the 80 acres of castle grounds at Keukenhof. Open just a few weeks every spring, Keukenhof is a gardener's dream: themed garden plots and pavilions, an windmill you can climb for a viewpoint over acres of surrounding tulip fields in bloom, boat rides in canals lined with never-ending blossoms.

You can also order bulbs of the blooms you can see at Keukenhof; they'll be shipped to you ready for planting in the fall.

WATCH VIDEO, TOP: THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPRING FLOWER GARDEN ON AN AVALON RIVER CRUISE
 
Also Find Tulips at:

The Ottawa Tulip Festival, Canada


There's a Dutch connection to this flower festival in Canada's National Capital. During the Second World War, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada's capital, and a royal baby was even born on Canadian soil, as overseas, Canadian soldiers led the liberation of the Netherlands. In thanks, after the war, the Dutch sent tulips. 100,000 tulips, and tens of thousands more each year since. The mid-May Ottawa Tulip Festival is not only a symbol of Spring, it's a symbol of peace and cooperation between nations.
 

Chelsea Flower Show

Where: London, England
When: 5 Days Late May

(getty/ BethAmber)

This might be the most famous flower and landscaped garden show in the world. Members of the British Royal Family join garden lovers from around the world at the 11-acre site of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual love-in of traditional, trend-setting and even avante-garde flowers and gardening. You'll see glorious displays of beautiful and also rare spring flowers, floral exhibits and cutting edge design as well as traditional English gardening that is loved and imitated the world over. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is the perfect place to buy English gardening tools and gifts for yourself or your friends at home.
 

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Where: Japan
When: Peak season on Japan's main island is early-mid April

(Getty/ Torsakarin)

The Japanese don't just have a word for cherry blossoms: 'sakura'. The also have a word 'hanami' that means to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back a thousand years or more, originating with the Imperial Family and continuing today for all Japanese. It's one of the most festive times of the year, when Japanese gather with friends, family and colleagues under cherry blossom trees filling parks, surrounding historic castles, temples and shrines, and lining riverbanks, drinking sake and picnicking under the trees long into the twinkling evening hours.

It's not just the stunning beauty of clouds of white and pale pink blossoms hovering overhead; the Japanese also view short-lived cherry blossoms as a poetic symbol of the fleeting nature of life itself.

Also Find Cherry Blossoms in:

Vancouver, British Columbia
An estimated 50,000 blossoming cherry trees line streets and grace parks from February all the way through April, including the city's famous urban Stanley Park.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year for most of the month of April.

Washington DC

(Getty/ zrfphoto)

America's capital has a glorious annual reminder of the thousands of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the US in the early 1900's as a sign of friendship. Famously lining the shore of the Tidal Basin, DC's cherry blossoms are celebrated annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April. 
 

Texas Bluebonnets

Where: Throughout the state, especially the City of Ennis and its 'Texas Bluebonnet Trail'
When: April

(Getty / leekris)

This wildflower is the state flower of Texas and believed to be named from its resemblance to a pioneer sunbonnet. Bluebonnets are actually several varieties of lupins. They thrive in lesser soil and so line roadways as well as fill public lands and pastures. 

The city of Ennis, south-east of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the official home of the bluebonnet, with over 40 miles of flower-bedecked roadsides, as well as an annual Festival. The Texas highway department not only delays roadside trimming so people can enjoy the spring bloom, its early officials were instrumental in encouraging these wildflowers to thrive. Today, they still plant about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year, contributing to the preservation of Texas' native vegetation.
 
Also Find Lupins:

In Canada's maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 (Getty / bilbowden)

The lupins you'll find growing wild in Canada's eastern provinces are a larger variety than Texas bluebonnets, and although they're more purple-y blue as well as pink and white, they're an equally cheerful sign of spring. Well, actually early summer. The cooler climate means peak lupin season here is late June – early July.
 
 

Azaleas in America's South-East

Where: Gardens throughout the region and especially: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
When: Throughout April

(Getty/MargaretW)
 
Azalea shrubs originated in Asia and were successfully taken to many places in the world. But in America's south-east, they've gained a special place as an iconic garden favorite and symbol of gracious Southern living. Unlike other spring blooms, they're quite long lasting, spreading joy for weeks of the season.

Many public and private gardens have a spectacular spring showing of azaleas, but special mention goes to Charleston's Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The former rice plantation dates from the 1600's, and is the oldest public gardens in the U.S, opening its doors in 1870 to visitors who wanted to enjoy its thousands of cultivated flowers and plants. The less-formal, 'Romantic' style garden is not only on the list of one of 'America's Most Beautiful Gardens'. Magnolia was also the first garden in the country to plant azaleas outdoors, in the 1840's.
 
Today, hundreds of thousands of azaleas bloom in flame pinks, oranges and reds, lining paths and lakes in a breathtaking spring bloom.

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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.
 

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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)
 

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If you close your eyes and picture 'Italy', chances are, it's the rows of vineyards and cypress trees, villas and farmhouses, fabled towns and household-name works of art of Tuscany that come to mind.


There are a million reasons why Tuscany is the setting of so many escapist novels, movies and life-changing travels. Here are our favorites:

FLORENCE

The red rooftops of Florence are the symbol of Tuscany's capital and epic Italian Renaissance magic. Wandering the alleys and cobblestoned streets, the Boboli Gardens and the Ponte Vecchio lets you drink in Firenze's one-of-a-kind atmosphere. 


But its greatest attractions are indoors. Italy's greatest collection of art is housed in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. The richness of its collection is unparalleled; so many Renaissance masterpieces – recognizable even if you weren't an art history student - you'll hit Botticelli sensory overload quickly, so you'll want to break up your visit into multiple days. Michelangelo's statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia makes visitors gasp in awe at the 17-foot marble nude – as does its replica placed in its original 1504 setting outside the Palazzo Vecchio.

SIENA

Art lovers may argue whether it's Renaissance Florence or Gothic Siena that is the most breathtaking Tuscan city for art and architecture. Luckily, you don't have to choose, immerse yourself in the cathedrals and squares and museums in both. In a part of the world teeming with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Siena's Piazza del Campo stands out in its majesty cradled at the foot of three hills surrounding it. Work off some of that extraordinary Tuscan cuisine climbing the Torre del Mangia, a tower at the Palazzo Pubblico. Your reward is a breathtaking viewpoint over Siena.

 

THE PALIO

Time your visit to Siena right, and you can be a part of one of the world's most famous and storied sports/ cultural historic events. The Palio di Siena is a bareback horse race that feels like a Gothic time capsule. The 10 horses and riders are decked out like, knights of yore, in the medieval colors representing city wards; flags hang from the balconies and buildings in the city.

It's one of the most exciting 90 seconds in sport/ pageantry. The riders cling desperately to their horses for three laps of Siena's packed Piazza del Campo, and often, a few are thrown especially at the tight turns along the way, with riderless horses running into the crowds in the middle of the square or crossing the finish line with the other horses. The Palio is run twice a summer, on July 2nd and August 16th, and the Corteo Storico, a boisterous pageant, precedes the race.  Tip: arrange your visit to Siena's Palio through a tour operator that has balcony access overlooking the Piazza for the best view above the throngs.
 

CINQUE TERRE

'Five Villages' sounds quite humble, but in Tuscany, it's magic. Clinging to the sides of the cliffs overlooking the sea, these five colorful villages are among the most recognizable images of Italy. The area is a national park and also protected by UNESCO World Heritage status that attempts to shield these seaside jewels from excessive tourism/ commercialism.  


It's an epic view from the sea, if you're lucky enough to be on a Mediterranean cruise that sails along the Ligurian coast; smaller ships especially may sail close enough. On land, hiking trails provide both a wonderful outdoor activity and spectacular views of the different villages. There is also a coastal train that stops in each town. 
 

PISA

Pisa's 12th century Leaning Tower has been touristy since there were tourists in Italy – and that's a long time. You too will join the millions of people on Instagram in a photo of yourself 'propping up' the 180-foot tower that is about 4 degrees off a perfect vertical. That doesn't sound like much, but it means the top is 13 feet off center! 

The tower began leaning during construction due to poor foundations. In recent years, hundreds of millions have been spent re-stabilizing the bell tower. Unbelievably, it is safe enough you can even climb 300 steps to the top in a medieval version of a funhouse.

VESPAS

Tuscany is the home of the original, and world's favorite scooter. The Vespa isn't just quaint, retro memorabilia. It was designed (its name means 'wasp' for the insect its shape and handlebars evoke) to lead a transportation revolution: vehicles that are inexpensive and easily parked and maneuvered in urban areas.
 
Vespas are still made at the Piaggio factory in the Tuscan city of Pontedera, not far from Pisa, which has a museum displaying the Vespa customized by Salvador Dali.  They have a cult following around the world. Renting one to tour around Tuscany may be one of the most authentic, fun, and heartwarming local experiences.

WATCH VIDEO AT THE TOP: MEETING A VESPA COLLECTOR/ RESTORER IN TUSCANY


WINE AND DINE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

As captivating are Tuscany's cities, the iconic scenery of region's rural areas are transformative. Chianti vineyards, white truffle farms, olive groves along country lanes lines with sculpted-looking cypress trees, with villas, farmhouses, and chapels integrated by the centuries into the gently rolling landscape.

To visit Tuscany is to spend time, by vespa or bicycle or on foot, in the countryside, and even better, to stay in a rural castello or villa with its own vineyard and restaurant to treat all of your senses to a taste of Tuscany.
 

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Everyone wants to try 'real' local food when they travel. But we don't always have a real local to point us in the right direction.
 
That's why we loved our Avalon Waterways' culinary tour of the Jordaan, a walking-sipping-snacking tour of the revitalized neighborhood in Amsterdam. It gets you out of the tourist core and into the heart of the Dutch lifestyle the way the locals in the Netherlands really live. 
 
Want to taste the local beer? And the snack the locals order at the bar? You've heard of pickled/ raw herring but never had the nerve to try on your own? Do you want to sample a Dutch cheese you'd never find in a market at home? Or discover the best Dutch chocolate shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends?

We did it all on our culinary discovery tour of Amsterdam with Martine, our Amsterdam guide who knew every shop keeper and even better: the best tips to get that herring down the hatch – and love it!
 
BestTrip's culinary tour of the Jordaan in Amsterdam is just one of Avalon Waterways' collection of included shore excursions that let you get hands-on in a destination and experience the local lifestyle the way you enjoy.
 
How do you like to explore? With 3 types of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises you can create your own personalized trip.
 
CLASSIC
A local expert is ready to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and the “must see” sites.
 
DISCOVERY
Inspiring and interactive hands-on activities designed to speak to your interests - you spend your day immersing yourself in the destination’s unique culture, from cuisine, to art, to wine and more.
 
ACTIVE
Embark on energetic excursions keeping you in motion and on the go — from a guided jogging tour, to biking, paddling, and hiking your way through scenic locales.
 
Every European river cruise destination has its own special character, and Active, Discovery, and Classic styles of exploration mean that from the Seine to the Danube, the Rhine to the Rhone, you'll be traveling the way you want on your Avalon Waterways River Cruise, and gathering the travel stories that put a smile on your face for years to come. 
 

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Learn to Haka on the All Blacks' Rugby Team's Home Ground
It's one of the most famous – and fearsome – pre-game rituals in the world. One that you can now learn for yourself in one of the world's most storied stadiums.

Any global sports fan has heard of New Zealand's fabled All Blacks rugby team. The All Blacks are not just heroes of the country's national sport; in spite of New Zealand's tiny size, the All Blacks are considered the greatest team in global rugby history. They are consistently ranked at the top of the sport, and have won the Rugby World Cup more than any other team in the world.

(Photo: Kai Schworer. All other Photos: Eden Park)

The All Blacks' distinctive black uniforms with only the national silver fern symbol are already intimidating: the team resembles an aggressive black swarm on the rugby field. Then imagine an entire team of robust, black-clad rugby players screaming and stomping wildly, working themselves into a fierce, unbeatable tour de force on the rugby field.

For the sporting superstitious, part of the All Blacks' success comes from the spectacular haka that the team performs before every match. The ancient Maori dance serves the same purpose for the All Blacks as it did for the New Zealand indigenous warriors on the battlefield. The ferocious postures and vocalizations that challenge opponents prepare the players physically and mentally, and unite them in a focused team frenzy.
 
The All Blacks' pre-game Haka tradition is as anticipated every game as their winning rugby form. It's ancient Maori for: Bring. It. On.


Now when you visit Auckland you can step on the hallowed grounds of the All Blacks' home stadium, get a behind the scenes tour of Eden Park, and learn to tap into your inner Maori warrior with a haka group – right on the green where the All Blacks play.


A Maori warrior in traditional garb is your guide of the home team's changing rooms and other off-camera spaces, your tour of great sporting moments for the All Blacks and Eden Park over the last century and more, and finally, onto the actual playing turf itself.

You'll join an authentic haka group and experience the power of the haka up close as it's performed on an All Blacks' game day. And you'll even have the opportunity to channel your inner Maori warrior during an interactive haka-learning workshop, and have your photo taken with traditional Maori warriors.


Whether or not you – or anyone in your group - are sports or rugby fans, the Haka in the Park program at the All Blacks' Eden Park in Auckland is a one-of-a-kind way to get up close and even participate yourself in the drama and history of authentic New Zealand Maori culture.

 

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