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KLM has revealed the future of flight. Hint: You'll be sitting IN the wings.
If you’re one of those travelers who always picks a seat over the wing, you’re in luck. In this new-concept aircraft, you – and every other passenger on board – will be flying IN the wings.

They call it the Flying –V. And it’s a whole new vision of passenger flight.

“Tube-and-wing” design has defined planes since the earliest days of passenger flight. Innovative approaches to aircraft design continued in military applications, where flying wing aircraft have established a presence. Now, they’re set to transform commercial passenger flight.

In the Flying-V, the pilots remain in the nose. But behind them, the passenger cabin, cargo hold and fuel tanks are in the wings, resulting in a plane that’s a spectacular V shape. No more tube!

The reason for the Flying –V design is simple: it’s incredibly energy efficient, especially for long-haul flights. KLM, who is partnered with Airbus and the Netherlands’ Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the project, predicts that the improvements in aerodynamics and reduced weight of the design will lower fuel consumption by 20% even over the most fuel-efficient aircraft flying today.

In a further step towards its goal of sustainable flight travel, the company is planning in a further stage to fly the Flying –V on sustainable fuel.


You Could Soon Be Flying On This Futuristic Plane


KLM’s Flying-V represents the most exciting innovation in commercial passenger aircraft design since the now-retired Concorde. That supersonic jet’s distinctive, ‘hawk’s-nose’ design contributed to the ultra-aerodynamic shape that enabled the plane to transport passengers on Trans-Atlantic flights faster than the speed of sound. 

The Flying-V’s design gives it the advantage in distance, not speed. Its fuel efficiency will enable it to fly longer without refuelling. That could mean more ultra-long-haul, non-stop flights.

KLM has now successfully flown a scale model of its Flying-V, but there’s no date for the plane to begin service. Nonetheless, we’ve got some insights about what flying will be like in the Flying-V. 

The innovation partnership compares the Flying-V to Airbus’ current most advanced aircraft, the A350. The Flying-V is not as long as the A350, but it’s the same width, so it fits in existing airport infrastructure like boarding gates and runways and hangars.

The Flying-V will carry the same number of passengers – 314 – as the A350, and the same amount of cargo. But ultimately, it’s a shorter, smaller aircraft. And that contributes to its reduced air resistance and increased fuel efficiency.

The team is taking the opportunity of a new aircraft design to re-imagine the interior of the plane and passenger comfort and on-board experience, too. To maximize the efficiency gains of the outside of the plane, the insides have to be as lightweight as possible. Everything is being re-designed, from the seats and bathrooms to the seating layout in those futuristic wings.

And of course, what’s automatically changed… is the view, from INSIDE the wings.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
 
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Top 4 Places In The World To Go Hot Air Ballooning
Imagine yourself silently drifting along under colourful silk, cradled in a giant basket. You’re part of the breeze and Nature as you tranquilly float on the air over undisturbed scenery below. Your pilot lets the heat in the balloon drop to silently lower you closer to your birds’ eye view… then lifts you to majestic heights over an unforgettable panorama.
As epic as your photos will be, they will never match the reality of your experience.

If that is your idea of a bucket list trip, here are 4 of the most magical hot air balloon destinations in the world to make that travel dream come true.

 

Cappadocia, Turkey

A hot air balloon ride is so much established as the best way to experience Cappadocia (pictured top), virtually every photo of this region in Turkey features balloons wafting over its legendary chimney rock formations.
 
Millennia past, the limestone rocks near the town of Goreme eroded into a landscape of fairy spires and pillars. Early people carved subterranean villages with homes, churches and monasteries out of the soft stone formations. Possibly inspired by the mystical atmosphere, it became a monastic center 2500 years ago.
 
Extraordinary at ground level, the site is other-worldly from the perspective of a hot air balloon drifting across countless minaret-like formations at sunrise.
 

The Serengeti

Dreaming of an African safari? Make sure to add a hot air balloon ride to your trip of a lifetime to Kenya or Tanzania.
 
Even if you log all of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ list of iconic wildlife that includes the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and Cape buffalo… as well as other exotic creatures like zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, chimps and gazelles from the back of your guide’s Range Rover, don’t miss the scenes of the Serengeti from the perspective of a hot air balloon.
 
Floating silently – without alerting or disturbing the animals – over the grasslands and canopy gives you the purest way to experience Nature’s wonders below.
 
Take a hot air balloon ride in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya or the Serengeti National Park across the border in Tanzania between July and October, during the Great migration of gazelles, zebras and wildebeests, and be a witness to the incredible scale of this pre-historic phenomenon.
 

New Mexico

They say it’s the biggest hot air balloon race and festival in the world. For over a week every October, Albuquerque becomes the epicenter of the world of ballooning when it’s taken over by hundreds of hot air balloons during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Whether you’re lucky enough to be in a basket or observing from the ground, you’ll thrill at some of the highlights of the festival. Don’t miss one of the simultaneous ‘mass ascents’ of hundreds of colourful balloons against piercing blue skies. There are even races - although balloons ‘ride the wind’ and therefore travel the same speed as the wind, pilot expertise can influence speed.

Year round, you can hire local hot air balloon pilots for your own ride over the mountain and desert landscape over the Rio Grande Valley.
 

Bagan, Myanmar

Incredibly, there are said to be 5000 temples, monasteries and pagodas built between the 11th and 13th centuries dotting the plains of Bagan. It was the capitol of a number of ancient kingdoms in this South-East Asian country and is a UNESCO World Heritage site today.
 
A sunrise hot air balloon ascent at Bagan gives you a breathtaking vista as the ruins glow golden. 
 
It’s also the best way to get a sense of the astonishing scale of this archaeological wonder and the civilization that created it.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 

Images: Getty

 

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Why This Mexican Mountain Town Keeps Getting Voted 'Best Small City In The World'
When you think of Mexico, famous beach towns may come first to mind.
But Mexico is more than its coasts. And one place, the ‘Heart of Mexico’, half a day’s drive northwest of Mexico City in the Colonial Highlands, has again been named ‘Best Small City in the World’*. It’s just the latest recognition of the charms of San Miguel de Allende. 

6000 feet above sea level in Mexico’s high sierra, with cool, comfortable temperatures and clear mountain air, it’s a far cry from the country’s beach atmosphere – and lifestyle. 

Every winter, Canadians, Americans and Europeans flock to San Miguel. Many have second or permanent homes in the city. And it’s more than climate that draws them. 

World Heritage

Founded in the 1500’s by a Franciscan monk, San Miguel’s core retains its historic streetscape and a sweeping collection of masterpieces of Mexican Baroque architecture – some considered the best in the country.
 
In San Miguel, Spanish colonial, indigenous and Creole influences converged in a melting pot and a truly one-of-a-kind culture that honors both European and Latin American heritage.
 
San Miguel’s colonial center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than individual buildings, the entire neighborhood is preserved so that cathedrals and homes, shops, and public buildings are maintained in their original form. The area preserves its heritage status by insisting even commercial signage doesn’t intrude on the historic atmosphere.

History Meets Lifestyle

Part of San Miguel’s charm is that it’s a terrifically walkable city.

Wear sensible shoes to wander cobblestone and flagstone narrow streets lined with tile-roofed homes in brilliant hues of yellows, oranges and reds, the grander architectural marvels that integrate heavy wooden doors, arches and wrought iron, shady parks full of playing children and local food vendors, and plazas that frame architectural delights and provide a gathering place for residents and visitors today.

Cafes and restaurants and vendors line the streets and plazas to fulfill your appetite for a café con leche or simple, inexpensive taco… all the way to inventive international cuisine that caters to the global tastes of San Miguel’s expat community.
Nearly a third of the hotels considered best in Mexico are in San Miguel, including a perennial first place winner, the Rosewood San Miguel with its famous rooftop terrace overlooking the city – especially magical at night when the monuments are lit!

Artists’ Colony

 
It was WW2 that put San Miguel on the map for foreign visitors and residents. After the war, US veterans covered by the GI Bill started coming to the city to study in its noteworthy school of fine arts, the Allende Institute. Artists, musicians, a host of culture creators took root in San Miguel, as well as expats and travelers who supported the growing cultural community.
 
Today, San Miguel still has a famously rich arts scene, based on a critical mass of thriving art galleries, an abundance of live music and theater, and an engaged community that participates and supports the city’s unique creative lifestyle. 
 
That also makes San Miguel a famous shopping destination, especially for modern and folkloric art, so plan ahead with space in your luggage!

Get Out of Town

In the area surrounding San Miguel, you’ll find ranch hacienda wineries and even be able to follow a wine route, discover a village that’s the cradle of Mexican independence and taste its famous ice cream in some unheard-of flavors, relax in natural thermal pools, as well as explore other artists’ colonies and cultural centers with festivals and shows that fill the calendar of residents and visitors to the Mexican Highlands.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


*San Miguel de Allende was named “Best Small City in the World” in the 2013, 2017, 2018 and 2020 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards; over 700,000 readers cast votes pre-COVID to determine 2020's awards.

Images courtesy Visit San Miguel

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3 Hallowe'en Traditions With Roots in Ancient Celtic Ireland
Frightful Hallowe’en is many people’s top holiday of the year – but did you know that we can thank ancient Ireland for our favorite Hallowe’en traditions? 

Travel to Ireland these days, and you’ll still be able to connect with the origins of Celtic culture that still swirl in the mists of time in Ireland’s Ancient East.

Today’s Hallowe’en is the descendent of the Celtic festival of Samhain (Sow-ann). The celebrations included feasting on the harvest and lighting fires to mark the end of the season of light, and welcome the days of darkness.
 
The Irish practice of lighting bonfires began on hilltops in Ireland 3000 years ago, with clans and communities gathering to light huge ceremonial Samhain fires.
One of the biggest Celtic festivals of fire was on a hilltop called Hill of Ward in today’s County Meath. Recent archaeological excavations suggest the hill was used for feasting and celebration over 2,000 years ago. What’s more, it was the grandmother of all fires; old manuscripts reveal that the Celts lit a fire here from which all the fires in Ireland were rekindled.
To this day the area around the Hill of Ward, and the nearby Hill of Tara (pictured above) where the High Kings of Ireland ruled, remains one of the centers of Irish Halloween traditions. Every year, a 21st century celebration of Samhain, called the Púca Festival, is held in the region.

Celebrating Ireland as the birthplace of Halloween, Púca events normally include an impressive re-enactment of the symbolic lighting of the Samhain fire, live music and performance, amazing light installations and more. (This year the celebrations will be virtual, with a broadcast of the lighting of the Samhain fires due to take place on 31 October.)
 

Dress Up

That period of seasonal metamorphosis involved more than changing hours of light and darkness and lighting of fires for the ancient Celts. They believed that the moment of transition allowed the worlds of the living and the dead to interact – and that shape-shifting spirits could move between worlds. Starting to sound familiar?

To avoid being pulled into the netherworld in an untimely way, Celts disguised themselves in costumes. That would create confusion and even scare off any ghosts, fairies, goblins or demons roaming this world.
Hallowe’en dress up today may involve superheroes and video game characters – but its origins lay in deceptive and even frightening disguises.
 

Jack-o-Lanterns

Whatever face you choose to carve into your Hallowe’en pumpkin, you’re following an Irish tradition with New World materials. Before pumpkins existed in Europe, turnips and even large potatoes were hollowed out and carved to serve as lanterns.

Even the name Jack-o-lantern has its origins in and Irish folktale. As the story goes, a man named Stingy Jack played a trick on the Devil, who punished Jack, cursing him to wander all of Eternity with only a burning ember from the everlasting fires of Hell inside a turnip to light his way.

When Irish immigrants brought Hallowe’en traditions, including the jack-o-lantern, with them to North America, they discovered much larger and already-hollowed-out pumpkins and other winter squashes here that made bigger, better and much easier lanterns than turnips! 


Trick or Treat

In old Ireland, it was called ‘souling’. Children and the poor went from door to door, offering songs or prayers for the dead in exchange for money, kindling for fires, or food. The common food treat was a ‘soul cake’: a flatbread that contained fruit.

Today, the Irish celebrate Hallowe’en much like we do, with costumes and visits to neighborhood homes for small gifts of candy, fruit and money.

But as we enjoy activities we see as fun diversions and cute child’s play, we can also remember their mystical origins in ancient Celtic Ireland.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Ireland.com

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Explore the Oldest Protected Forest in the Hemisphere
If you haven’t been to the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the chance to discover the wonders of the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve should add it to your Caribbean travel list.

Covering two-thirds of the island, the Reserve dates back to 1776 – the same year as American Independence!

The historic ordinance protecting the tropical rainforest recognized some of the earliest science showing the relationship between abundant trees and the rainfall that contributed to the fertility of the land. It is considered a conservation landmark, with Scientific American noting, “the protection of Tobago's forest was the first act in the modern environmental movement'.

Legacy of Conservation 

Today, the 10,000 acres of prolific tropical rainforest is a dream for naturalists, outdoors enthusiasts and especially bird watchers.  It’s home to dozens of species of mammals, (non-poisonous) reptiles and amphibians, including the ocellated gecko, not found anywhere else in the world.
More than 200 types of birds live in the reserve and you can see many of the colorful winged residents of the rainforest. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the White-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird. It’s one of the world’s rarest hummingbirds and unique to the island of Tobago. Thought at one time to be extinct after a hurricane tore through the region, the species has been recovering since its rediscovery in the 1970’s.

Nature Trails

There are a number of marked trails through the lush and tranquil Reserve. The oldest and most prestigious trail is the Gilpin Trace. Cutting through the heart of the forest, it’s generally flat and accessible to birders, nature lovers and hikers of many levels of fitness. An experienced guide will help you make the most of the sights and sounds of this naturalists’ nirvana.
For more intrepid explorers, turn your sights on the island’s highest point – Pigeon Peak – at the eastern end of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. In a half-day hike, you can traverse the challenging, overgrown and mostly unmarked trail. The main route follows an old plantation road that cuts along the hillside. Just before a gully, a steep trail leads up into open rainforest towards the summit.
 

Off The Beaten Track

Surprisingly for a nature reserve that’s been voted “World’s Leading Eco-Tourism destination” multiple times, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve still flies under the radar. So it’s the perfect place for an off-the-beaten-track tropical nature holiday.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images Courtesy Tobago Tourism; Photo credit: Alexa Fernado

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The Caribbean Gets a New Princess, and She's Enchanted

She’s sailing now en route to the U.S. for an inaugural season cruising Caribbean itineraries.

Princess Cruises’ newly completed Enchanted Princess is a beacon for a return to cruising; one of just a tiny number of ships scheduled to begin service this year that is actually on the water.


Home to over 3600 guests, Enchanted Princess is the 5th Royal class Princess Cruises ship.
Enchanted Princess represents an evolution of the design used for her Royal Class sister ships, even as the ship continues their contemporary flair and style. 
 
With the launch of the new ship, the cruise line has taken the opportunity to introduce new attractions all her own. Guests on the Enchanted Princess will experience delectable, one-of-a-kind dining experiences, the most pools and whirlpool hot tubs ever, world-class entertainment venues and the breathtaking Sky Suites, offering expansive views from the largest balconies at sea.
 

Signature Dining

5 specialty restaurants from gastropub to the culinary styling’s of a Michelin starred chef – plus the ultimate treat: balcony dining – give guests options for every meal of every day.
That’s on top of a host included dining, from the line’s signature partnership with celebrity Chef Curtis Stone’s cuisine in the Main Dining Room, to casual, 24-hour dining for every appetite.
 

A First for Entertainment at Sea

In addition to Broadway Caliber production shows, the antics of Jim Henson’s muppets for the kids and entertainment for every interest in between, Enchanted Princess features Take Five, the only jazz theater at sea, celebrating the iconic sounds, culture and history of jazz.

Sky Suites

First introduced on Sky Princess and now Enchanted Princess, the new luxury Sky Suites ‘crown’ the heights of the ship. These new signature suites host up to 5 guests, who enjoy inclusive amenities, attentive service and a dedicated Suite Experience Manager – not to mention what Princess is calling ‘The Largest Balcony at Sea.’ The furnished outdoor space – even an outdoor fridge and TV along with loungers, day beds, and dining furniture - blurs the distinction between indoor and outdoor living. Guests can even host their own celebrations or catered events on these expansive balconies, as well as have the unique experience of private seating for Princess’ ‘Movies Under the Stars’.
 

MedallionClass Cruising

The new Enchanted Princess joins the fleet of the cruise line’s high-tech ‘MedallionClass’ vessels. The OceanMedallion is an included, wearable device for guests. It enables touchless interactive experiences and entertainment, plus enhancements to your cruising experience like expedited boarding, on-demand food, beverage, retail and service delivery, keyless stateroom entry, contactless payment, handy friends and family locator, and movies/live TV on the go.  
 
Medallion technology empowers guests on the Enchanted Princess to enjoy an effortless, personalized vacation with less time on planning and logistics, and more time connecting to their loved ones and experiencing the things they love most on the newest ship in the Caribbean.

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
Images/ Renderings courtesy Princess Cruises
 
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Ah, Venice: Luxurious New River Ship Sailing One of Europe's Most Unique Itineraries Revealed
A passion for style, art, cuisine and living well. Capturing that iconic Italian way of life and the essence of Venice was the goal of the latest ‘Super Ship’ by Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.

The S.S. La Venezia, like all Uniworld ships, is more ‘local boutique hotel’ than ‘river cruise ship’.

We often say that one of the attractions of cruising is your ‘floating hotel’. But Uniworld’s approach takes the destination to heart. Where many river cruise ships are very similar to their sister ships on other rivers, La Venezia, like every Uniworld ship, is a ‘work onto itself’, designed specifically to reflect its Venetian itineraries, just as luxury boutique hotels on land allow guests to be immersed in the essence of their destination.

Every space on La Venezia has been crafted to expressly celebrate Venice, beginning in the lobby, designed to strike a bold resemblance to the dramatic, romantic era of 1930’s Venice.
Throughout the ship, artistic touches are unmistakably Venetian: guests will stroll across marble or brass-inlaid parquet floors. You’ll see echoes of the portico of the canal city’s landmark bridges in the patterns of the fabrics, or a reference to classic Venetian cuisine’s local fish dishes. And of course, the signature craft of Venice, Murano blown glass, appears in swirls and pops of color.

La Venezia’s 4 restaurants and bars bring local gastronomy to life with ingredients sourced straight from Venetian markets. Their names as well as design themes also reflect the city:

·     Rialto’s is the largest dining venue onboard and was inspired by the famous Venice-Istanbul train the Orient Express. Guests dine on traditional Venetian fare in an atmosphere of a bygone era of luxury travel, in charming booth seating, surrounded by intricately etched panels.
·     Hari’s Bar and Lounge allows guests to relax into sumptuously upholstered love seats and enjoy live music, cocktails, and an impressive champagne list, nibble on a selection of traditional paninis and soak in the iconic sights as you sail through Venice.
 
·     La Cantinetta is the most intimate of La Venezia’s venues, offering private dining with expert wine pairing, surrounded by hand-etched glass walls and polished ebonized wood. You’re invited to start your La Cantinetta experience earlier in the day, accompanying the ship’s chef to source ingredients at the city's famous Rialto food market. The chef’s selections of Adriatic seafood, fine Italian cheeses and cured meats and locally grown seasonal produce like asparagus or artichokes are later masterfully prepared in the demonstration kitchen to create a mouth-watering meal of traditional Italian dishes.
 
·     Cielo’s Pizzeria on the Lido di Venezia Deck celebrates pure Italian comfort food, where wood-fired pizzas are served hot from the oven in al fresco dining with the best views of Venice.
 

Experience the Ship’s Design First-Hand

To bring the magic of the world’s most beloved canal city on board, Uniworld turned to local Venetian design house Fortuny, renowned for its handmade fabrics. Fortuny artists have been crafting essential Venetian designs for over a century, and their textile creations are company secrets to this day.

The Fortuny story is so intricately woven into the design of the ship that Uniworld guests will have the exclusive opportunity to visit its private showroom and gardens to learn about the company and its Venetian legacy. 

 

Redefining ‘River Cruising’

Venice is a city of water. La Venezia gives guests the opportunity to discover Venice as she was meant to be experienced – from the water. 

Once she makes her debut in the Spring of 2021, La Venezia will allow guests to uncover the magic of the Venetian Lagoon on a number of itineraries that expand the definition of ‘river cruising’. 

On the ship’s signature, “Venice & the Gems of Northern Italy” itinerary, you’ll be treated to a private opening and lighting ceremony at St. Mark’s Basilica, explore the peaceful canals unique to Venetian islands Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello, as well as the magnificent cities of Bologna and Padua.
Other itineraries on La Venezia include “Milan, Venice & the Gems of Northern Italy”, “Cruise & Rail: Venice & the Swiss Alps” and “Cruise & Rail: Milan, Venice & the Swiss Alps”.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
 
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Sweet Spot: New Chocolate Museum Houses the World's Largest Chocolate Fountain
It’s one part of the great trifecta of iconic Swiss contributions to world culture: precision clocks, alpine-produced cheese… and chocolate.
And now, a new museum celebrates the sweetest thing about Switzerland.
The Lindt Home of Chocolate has opened on the outskirts of Zurich. Its centerpiece will get any fan of fine chocolate drooling – and wishing they had brought a fondue fork!
This isn’t just any chocolate fountain. At 30.5 feet, it easily tops the 27-foot height of the chocolate fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the current Guinness World Record holder for tallest chocolate fountain. 
It isn’t often local tennis great and Lindt brand ambassador, Roger Federer, is upstaged. (He's on the left in both of the photos above.) 
But at the museum’s opening ceremony, all eyes were on the 4850 lb chocolate art installation. More than 300 feet of pipe enable 400 gallons of Swiss chocolate to flow from a giant whisk down over a supersized replica of a signature Lindor truffle sphere.
Beyond the fascination of the world’s largest chocolate fountain, the Lindt Home of Chocolate is an interactive celebration of all things chocolate: multimedia exhibits follow chocolate from the origins of the cocoa bean and its introduction to Europe, where 200 years ago, Swiss pioneers helped develop the confectionary we know, love, and use to mark nearly every holiday occasion today!
It’s a multi-sensory experience. You can marvel at the open-view production line that reveals the secrets behind the process of creating chocolate, and follow it from start to its satisfying conclusion in the tasting room.
Chocolate fans rub shoulders with experts who are developing new chocolate masterpieces in Lindt’s test kitchen, or leading courses in chocolate making for all ages.
The biggest chocolate fountain in the world isn’t the only record breaker in the Lindt Home of Chocolate. Chocoholics will lose themselves among traditional Lindt pralines and treats in the biggest chocolate shop in the world.
But why have the world’s biggest chocolate shop without one-of-a-kind treats? Watch a Master Chocolatier create a chocolate bar customized exactly to your taste and whims. And design your own praline packaging so you’ll have a personalized souvenir for yourself or the perfect Swiss sweet to take home to your loved ones.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Lindt Home of Chocolate

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Santa's Not Just Making Toys in His Village Above the Arctic Circle in Lapland
It’s exactly 3 months until Christmas, and we know Santa and his elves are working full throttle. But not just putting in overtime in the workshop and training the team for their big flight Christmas Eve. Santa's got a new summer gig.
Finnish Lapland, with its Arctic landscapes, Northern Lights, ancient winter customs and herds of wild reindeer, is a natural bucket-list destination for Christmas lovers.
Santa Claus Village in Finnish Lapland keeps the spirit of the original, Northern European Christmas alive year round. Visitors to Santa Claus Village at the town of Rovaniemi find the essential Yuletide traditions: Santa Claus and his elves in early, Scandinavian garb, a Post Office that receives and answers children’s letters, Mrs. Claus’ house, cold-weather husky puppies, and naturally, Santa’s reindeer.  
(Visit Rovaniemi/ Visit Finland)
The Arctic Circle is painted across the village square and even at night, a light beam tracks through buildings as it passes through the Village (see image below), and you can even get a certificate that attests you’ve crossed into the land of the midnight sun.
(Visit Rovaniemi/ Visit Finland)
The environment in Finland’s far North that nurtures snow-covered terrain and herds of wild reindeer is now also on the list Santa Claus is checking twice.

Santa’s Forest

80 miles/ 130 km north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, a new Arctic nature park is taking shape.
Santa Claus Village answered a call for responsible tourism projects with a plan to make the tourist destination carbon neutral over the next five years - while at the same time offering others a way to offset their own carbon footprint. 
The ‘White Beard’, as the Finns call Santa, is spearheading a drive to plant a million trees, beginning in the first, 40-acre park, and ultimately in Santa’s Forests all over the Lapland region of Finland. Visitors to Santa Claus Village and supporters of preserving and restoring Northern eco-systems can sponsor trees and sections of forest.
(Visit Finland)
Summers are busy now for Santa Claus, as trees are planted while the land is free of ice and snow. In addition to creating a permanent carbon sink in Santa Claus country, the project also creates entirely new private nature reserves and support for the regional economy by hiring local young people. 
Santa’s Forests are a new and precious gift from Santa Claus Village to help ensure the world will be able to experience White Christmas for generations to come.

#3MonthsTilXmas

#DreamNowTravelSoon



Top Image: Juho Kuva/Visit Finland

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Mount Fuji and 3 Other Mountains You Need to Visit in Japan

France has the Eiffel Tower. The U.S. has the Statue of Liberty. But the visual shorthand for Japan is not man-made. It’s Mount Fuji.

The Japanese archipelago is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Chains of volcanic mountain ranges form the spine of the Japanese islands, and mountains have assumed immense cultural and spiritual significance over the millennia.

Nearly every population center is associated with one or more mountains, where forests of bamboo, Japanese cypress or maple, and fields of wild flowers like azaleas have provided the Japanese with the opportunity to commune with nature. 

Japanese culture even has a phrase: ‘shinrin-yoku’, or ‘forest bathing’ to describe the national practice of interacting with natural spaces and enjoying physical and spiritual benefits. It’s almost always associated with mountain terrain.

Fuji-San

And the grand-daddy of them all is Mount Fuji. Other peaks have names like Asama-yama, using the word ‘yama’ meaning mountain (in English we’d say: Mount Asama). But you would never say ‘Fuji-yama’. Fuji is an almost human character in the fabric of Japanese culture, and is given the personal honorific title: Fuji-san.
At 3,776 meters (nearly 12,500 ft), its peak is the highest point in the country. Its form is spectacular in almost-perfect volcanic symmetry, dramatically snow-capped nearly half of the year. And unlike many mountains in Japan, Mount Fuji rises from flat plains and so is perfectly framed to be viewed from several stunning vantage points.
Only 100 km (60 miles) south-west of Tokyo, Mount Fuji acquired national significance when early Tokyo became the capital hundreds of years ago. Poetry was written praising its beauty, which was captured by countless generations of Japanese artists. Mount Fuji became one of the earliest images of Japan to other countries and the West. 
Fuji-san is considered a holy mountain in Japan, and for centuries, people have been making pilgrimages to the summit. 
Hundreds of thousands of Japanese climb Fuji every year, and many visitors to the country join them. There are a number of trails to the summit. They all have 10 stations, and most people start at the 5th station, the last point where vehicles can reach.
You can look at hiking Mount Fuji from a purely active-travel point of view, to say you’ve done it, and to enjoy the experience and the view from the top.
But to make the climb the spiritual experience the Japanese seek, do as most Japanese do, which is make the 7-hour or so climb during the night to be at the summit as the first, pure rays of the sun illuminate the peak. Sun rise is symbolic in Japanese culture (the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’). 
The spiritual approach adds meaning to the historic shrines and teahouses, stone monkey guards at the entrance of the main, Yoshida trail, and the monuments at each historic station on the way up erected by followers of the local, Fuji-ko faith.
 

Mount Asama, Nagano

It’s one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. You can almost always see smoke curling into the air from Mount Asama, in the Northern Japanese Alps in the prefecture that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. 
A bonus of a hike up Mount Asama is that most people start from the chic, forested, summer-retreat town of Karuizawa. Japan’s Imperial Family have their summer home there, and other elite Japanese have followed their lead, making it a stylish vacation destination as well as a cool retreat from sweltering summer heat in nearby Tokyo.
The 4 hour climb to the summit takes you through cool, dense forests in the lower ranges, then above the tree line where the view opens up in a spectacular way. After your hike, an outdoor natural hot springs located at the trailhead is the perfect way to ease any climbing aches away in the fresh mountain air at 2000 meters (6500 feet)!

One of the most unforgettable experiences at Mount Asama is in the wake of its massive, 1783 eruption. In addition to a Buddhist temple in memory of those who perished, the lava field is now a park. It is like a sci-fi movie set, where trails take you through a ‘forest’ of stark and jagged lava formations and superb views of the volcano in the background. The park is memorably named Onioshidashi, ‘The Place Where the Devils Emerged from the Earth’.

Shiretoko Mountains, Hokkaido 

While the southern parts of Japan are tropical, its northern island prefecture, Hokkaido, is more like Russia and Alaska at similar distances above the equator. 
The Shiretoko Mountains are the feature of a National Park known for its unspoiled beauty, variety of wildlife and its drifting sea ice where visitors can take ice walk tours in winter. As sea ice drifts along the peninsula, brave visitors walk along a seeming conveyor belt of ice - with a few polar dips in between!
The park itself is dotted with hot springs. One very special hot spring phenomenon is Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall, a unique cascade of hot water at the river’s head that can only be reached by foot. Visitors wade through warm water that increases in temperature higher up the river. Walking over waterfalls and upstream feels like discovering unexplored, mystical emerald-green terrain, and your final reward is the source of this hot shower called ‘Water of the Gods’ in the local indigenous Ainu language.
 

Mount Aso, Kumamoto 

Japan’s largest active volcano looks downright tame, covered in a smooth rolling layer of green felt. Mount Aso’s 100km (60 mile) caldera is one of the world’s largest, and there are several smaller volcanoes inside.
Like most active Japanese volcanoes, you need to check before you go if you hope to climb. Mount Aso’s peaks are occasionally closed due to volcanic activity. Helicopter tours are a popular way to view the steaming crater. And the nearby Aso Volcano Museum explains the volcano’s activity and its status in Japan as a deity.
A bonus of a trip to the area is the chance to see local Akaushi cattle, prized for their high-quality wagyu (‘Kobe beef’), freely roaming the plains. It’s one of the few places in Japan where you can go horseback riding, along trails that ribbon the picturesque landscape. You might be a little sore after your ride, but no worries, because the volcanic activity means the area has many hot springs Two are inside Mount Aso’s crater itself! 

 

Japanese, like mountain cultures the world over, associate peaks, fresh mountain air, and outdoor activity with purity and good health. In the aftermath of a global pandemic, mountain escapes have a special resonance. A trip to Japan focusing on its revered alpine experiences is a spiritual and wellness journey for the times.


#DreamNowTravelSoon


Mount Fuji images courtesy of JNTO;
Mount Asama image courtesu of JNTO;
Kumiwakka courtesy of JNTO;
Mount Aso image: Tom Vining, Unsplash

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Cruising Again by November? Industry Association Lays Out Formula to Start Sailing

You might be on a cruise in the Caribbean before the holidays.

Cruising in the Americas – that’s the cruise region for the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America - could begin again in about a month’s time, if significant industry developments this week bear fruit.

Testing the Waters in Europe

Any regular reader of our newsletters will know we’ve been following the slow progress of cruising’s return.
In the Spring in response to the pandemic, Europe-based cruise lines repatriated their ships to home waters. Then, after COVID peaked there in the summer, they successfully began ‘bubble’ cruises for their own citizens in very controlled circumstances which provided real-life case studies. 
European cruise lines like MSC Cruises, Ponant, Seadream and others have now been sailing safely in Europe for weeks.
Europe’s cruise lines have not only proven it’s possible, their return-to-cruising experiences have paved the way for the largest cruise market in the world to see a restart of cruising too.

2 Moves Closer to Cruising at Home

This week, two things happened on this side of the Atlantic.
1. Members of the cruise industry association representing 95% of ocean cruises unanimously agreed to adopt a set of mandatory protocols for safe sailing. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) members include European cruise lines, whose successful experiences this summer – shared throughout the industry – helped inform a new set of rules all members have now adopted.
CLIA’s protocols also included the findings of an unprecedented collaboration between two of cruising’s giants. Royal Caribbean Group (parent to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea) and Norwegian Cruise Holdings (parent to Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises) convened a joint ‘Healthy Sail Panel’ of medical and scientific experts. The panel has spent months determining a list of 74 best practices to protect the health and safety of ship guests, crew, and the communities where cruise ships call in port. 
2. This week, the Healthy Sail Panel submitted those findings to the U.S. CDC in response to its request for input as it considers whether to lift its ‘No Sail Order’ currently in place for all U.S. ports.
With such strong submissions and the precedent of safe sailing in Europe, it’s widely hoped and expected the CDC will lift its No Sail Order, clearing a path for US-based cruise lines to resume operations after the end of October.

A Travel Industry First: 100% Testing


The core elements adopted by all CLIA members encompass your entire cruise experience from booking to debarkation following your cruise, and include:
  • Testing: 100% testing of passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation.
  • Distancing: Physical distancing in terminals, onboard ships, on private islands and during shore excursions.
  • Masks: All passengers and all crew must wear masks when physical distancing isn’t possible.
  • Ventilation: New strategies to increase fresh air onboard and implement enhanced filters and other technologies to reduce airborne virus spread.
  • Shore Excursions: Passengers will have to follow prescribed protocols, and re-boarding will be denied for any passengers that do not follow the rules.
  • Medical Capability: Every ship will allocate stateroom capacity to allow for isolation if people do get sick, and will have advance plans in place for shoreside quarantine, medical assistance and safe transportation.

“A pathway for the return of limited sailings from the U.S. before the end of this year.”

That’s what CLIA says these new agreed-upon protocols mean. The organization also notes that initially, following CDC approval of the new safety measures, cruises would sail on modified itineraries.
Regional cruise destinations will have to be on board too, and the new protocols are getting positive feedback from officials in your favorite cruise ports.   
The Prime Minister of Barbados co-chairs the Americas Cruise Tourism Task Force and said: “The cruise lines’ commitment to conduct 100% testing for all passengers and crew is significant and unique as compared to any other sector. Having this core element in place adds a layer of confidence for us so we may safely welcome cruising back.”
 

#WeWillCruiseAgainSoon

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host and Cruise Expert, BestTrip TV
 
Top Image: Oceania
Other images courtesy CLIA

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3 New, Impossibly Picturesque Boutique Hotels That Make it Easy to Dream About Your Next Trip to Europe

France. Italy. Spain. If you’re imagining traveling again to Europe, you’ll have no problem picturing yourself in any of three independent boutique hotels that have just opened in spectacular historic properties.

All three belong to the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group of over 500 independent and unique hotels in 90 countries. They all have special character and offer themes that are even more relevant in the new world of travel: small size, privacy, and locations that allow guests to get away from crowds of tourists. 


Milan, Italy

Galleria Vik Milano is part hotel, part post-modern art gallery, immersing guests in Milan’s rich artistic heritage. With bold murals, striking sculptures and a colourful palette, this 88-room hotel is a canvas for Milan’s creative side.


The hotel is located inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and is circled by Milan’s best-loved shops, landmarks, restaurants and galleries. Get your culinary, cultural or couture fix – it’s all literally on your hotel doorstep – then easily escape into your lifestyle hotel.


Both guest rooms and public areas are exhibition spaces with each bearing the hallmark of a renowned artist. Two restaurants, one with dawn-to-dusk food and drinks, the other dedicated to wood-fired pizza, complete your escape from the busy urban surroundings. Fully committed to the marriage of art and life, the hotel has no TV’s or screens. 

Don’t-miss feature: The Adriano Pompa Gallery Suite offers a mezzanine-level bed beneath a Renaissance-esque mural.


Loire Valley, France

If you’ve ever imagined living like the nobility of old France in their chateaux in the Loire Valley, that dream can become a reality in this 49-room hotel. While Les Sources de Cheverny (pictured, top) evokes historic times, guests enjoy modern comforts of luxury French country life.


Everything from the local produce served in the restaurant, the artisanal wooden WaterRower fitness machines, the solid oak jacuzzi and thermal pool, to the antioxidant and anti-aging grape seed extracts of Caudalie’s signature treatments in the Spa des Sources complements the surrounding farms, vineyards and the estate’s 45 hectares of woodland.
 
Here guests can rejuvenate in the spa, inspire energy with a forest-based yoga session, bathe in nature and feed their minds.

Don’t-miss feature: Discover the region on the Loire à Velo cycle route with the hotel’s complimentary bikes. Meander through more than 900km of cycle paths through Loire vineyards, along the banks of the river and past the region’s glorious Renaissance chateaux.


Matarraña, Spain

Torre del Marques is a 15th-century farmhouse that has been brought back to life for the 21st-century and beyond. The intimate, 18-room hotel is in 150 hectares of forest, farmland and vineyards in Aragon, a region of Spain. While it’s easily accessible from Barcelona, many tourists have yet to discover the area sometimes referred to as the ‘Spanish Tuscany’.


Guests of the hotel can enjoy the bounties of the region, including local delicacies surrounded by the gardens and groves that provide them - olives, almonds, honey and black truffles are showcased on the menu alongside local wines like Tempranillo and grape must Mistella.


The hotel has undergone a bio-sustainable makeover with families and small groups in mind. The Suite Room spaciously accommodates four people with two connecting rooms and an outdoor terrace.
 Don’t-miss feature: the organic, ‘zero-kilometre’ restaurant.
 

We can picture a dream escape in luxury to one of Europe’s most beloved destinations in any of these three new boutique hotels.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
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Seize the End of Summer with Recipes Inspired by Favorite American Hot Weather Travel Destinations

The kids are back to school (whatever that looks like this year for your nearest and dearest), but on the calendar, summer isn’t quite over – yet. The Autumn Equinox – the first day of Fall – arrives this year on Tuesday September 22, so we still have a couple more weekends of ‘summer’.


You may not have done all the traveling you wanted this summer, but you can catch up now in spirit. Serve up an celebration of summer travel with a party in your backyard full of summer flavors from beloved American hot weather destinations.



1. Pensacola, Florida: Grits à Ya Ya

Along Florida’s Northwest Coast, Pensacola is home to The Fish House, the restaurant behind the unique and delicious Grits à Ya Ya, created by Chef Jim Shirley. A combination of grits, a southern staple, heavy cream and lots of smoked gouda cheese, this is comfort food like no other. This delicious dish is sure to be a hit with your guests!

“In 1998 I developed this Fish House favorite during the Mardi Gras season. Mardi Gras, properly celebrated, can sometimes last for days. Recognizing the toll this marathon celebration had on my friends, I created this fare that not only provided sustenance but tasted great, too. Since then we've whomped up hundreds of thousands of dishes of my favorite child. Enjoy it at home with this recipe.”

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

The smoked Gouda Grits

1 quart chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

1 lb Dixie Lily grits

1/4 pound butter

1 lb shredded smoked Gouda cheese

The Ya Ya

8 strips applewood-smoked bacon, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced shallots

3 tablespoons butter

White wine

1 lb peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp

1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced

1/4 cup diced scallions

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

2 cups heavy cream

3 cups smoked Gouda cheese grits

PREPARATION

*For dietary restrictions or preferences, you can make this recipe shellfish-free if you replace the shrimp with 1½ lbs of an assortment of your favorite mushrooms, chopped.


First, make your grits. Run the chicken stock into a thick-bottomed saucepan and turn on high till it boils. Mix in the grits and stir like crazy. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream if you need more liquid. Then tumble in the butter, add creamed corn, drizzle in the rest of the cream and stir till it’s all in the family. Then shake in the shredded cheese and stir very well till it’s all nice and smooth.

While your grits cook, bring a large saucepan to medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about 3 minutes, then add garlic and shallots. Saute and then add butter and a splash of white wine. When butter is half melted, add the shrimp. When the downsides of the shrimp become white, flip them and add mushrooms, scallions and spinach. Saute for 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp. Pour in heavy cream and let simmer while stirring. When reduced by 1/3, add salt, pepper and hot sauce. Return shrimp to sauce and combine. Spoon the sauce and shrimp onto heaping mounds of cheese grits.


2. San Antonio, Texas: Seafood and Quail Paella

This 300-year old city that originated as a Spanish mission and colonial outpost is now the second-largest city in Texas and the Southern US.


It’s one of only two American cities designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy and it’s easy to see why. If you're in the mood for some ‘Tex-Next’ dining, this seafood and quail paella - a twist on the traditional Spanish dish in an ode to the city’s heritage - created by Chef Steve McHugh of Cured should hit the spot.


“Experience the taste of Spain, with a San Antonio flavor in your own kitchen. This paella is meant to be enjoyed with family, friends and good wine.”


Serves 20

INGREDIENTS

1 ¼ cups extra virgin olive oil

Healthy pinch of saffron

Healthy pinch of red pepper flakes

Healthy pinch of paprika

2 lbs quail legs

2 lbs smoked Spanish chorizo

4 tablespoons shaved garlic

1 diced & roasted red pepper

1 sliced jalapeño

2 cups Sofrito

3 cups escargot

4 cups mussels

3 cups large shrimp

8 cups Bomba rice

4 quarts chicken stock

Salt

Pepper

Large cooked white beans

Pickled serrano peppers

½ cup preserved lemon rind, sliced thin

½ cup peas

Pea sprouts

PREPARATION

*Although paella traditionally includes and is most delicious with seafood, for dietary restrictions or preferences, you may wish to switch out the shellfish with cubed chicken and chunks of your favorite barbecuing sausage.


Heat your oil in the Paella pan. Sauté the chorizo and the quail. Turn the heat down to medium, add the saffron, red pepper flakes, garlic, red pepper, Sofrito and jalapeño. Sweat the vegetables until they are translucent in color. Add in Bomba rice, mix well. Add mussels, and shrimp. Arrange the ingredients in a nice pattern across your entire paella. Add in chicken stock, and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked, and most liquid is gone. Continue cooking until the bottom of the paella forms a Socarrat, or crust (this is the key to a delicious paella!).

FINISH & SERVE

Garnish the top with preserved lemon, pickled serrano peppers, white beans, peas and pea shoots. Serve hot to your loved ones.

Share your finished product using #TexNext and tag @visitsanantonio!


3. Hawaii: The Mai Tai

Often mistaken as Hawaiian, tiki is actually imaginary, made of a collection of romanticized concepts of Polynesian and South Seas culture, including humanoid teak carvings, coconut shell bikini tops, grass skirts, pineapples… and powerful cocktails featuring pineapple, coconut, rum, and other tropical flavors. Tiki and tiki bars have become shorthand for ‘Pacific Island getaway’ and they abound in Hawaii.


A staple in any tiki bar, the Mai Tai is the perfect Summer drink - or your drink of choice during a visit to America’s Pacific island state. You’ll be carried to Hawaii’s clear blue waters after your first sip of this fruity concoction.


Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

1 oz spiced rum

1 oz coconut rum

1 tsp grenadine syrup

2 oz pineapple juice

2 oz orange juice


PREPARATION

Combine the rums, grenadine, and juices in a cocktail mixer with ice. Shake and strain into a glass of ice. *Party Tip: make these up a pitcher at a time with a bucket of ice and garnish handy.

SERVE

Garnish with wedges of fresh pineapple on a skewer topped with a cherry.

With these 3 recipes delivering up the taste of travel for a late-summer get together, dress in your most festive summer wear, soak up the last of the season’s sun, and enjoy, dreaming of your next summer weather vacation.

#TravelAgainSoon

Recipes and images courtesy of

· Visit Florida

· Travel Texas

· Hawaii Tourism

· And the respective restaurants/chefs referenced.



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Well, We Aren't Going to Miss This.  Major US Airlines Drop Most-Hated Fee
The first announcement was a bombshell. Then, like dominoes, they all fell.
United Airlines started the landslide when it revealed it was dropping change fees - forever.

Why?

Air passengers in the US dropped to below 100,000 a day at the peak of the pandemic travel shutdown – recovering to 10 X that number over the last month, which is still only a drop in the bucket of pre-COVID air travel rates. Something had to give.
Change fees – at United, it cost $200 to change a domestic booked ticket, plus any difference between the prices of the tickets – have been controversial.
When it made the announcement, United admitted change fees were the top requested improvement in customer service. And it made a commitment to find new ways to serve its customers better as a way to emerge stronger from the crisis.

Change at United Airlines

The airline is immediately and permanently dropping Economy and Premium ticket change fees for travel in the U.S. There are no limits on the number of times you can make changes.
Beginning in the New Year, you can fly standby on any flight on the day of your original flight for free. It applies to all types of tickets and class of service - a first among U.S. carriers - and it applies to all flights both inside U.S. and to and from international destinations. 
United is also extending its waiver for new tickets issued through December 31, 2020, to permit unlimited changes with no fee. It applies to all ticket types issued after March 3, 2020 and is valid for both domestic and international travel.
United’s move started a domino effect as the carrier’s U.S. competitors scrambled to match its move.

Delta Airlines

Delta quickly chimed in with its own, similar announcement.
Since March and the tsunami of COVID-related cancellations, it’s waived change fees. Now, the $200 domestic change fee is cancelled for good except for Basic Economy tickets.
However, the airline will continue to permit no-charge changes for all tickets including even Basic Economy, both domestic and international, through the end of the year.

American Airlines

Simultaneously with Delta, American Airlines fell in line, too. In its case, permanently-waived change fees apply to domestic as well as short-haul international flights, for premium cabin and most – but not all – main cabin tickets. Fliers will have to pay any difference in fares, but American will refund the difference as a voucher if the changed flight fare comes in lower than your original flight.
American mirrored United and Delta’s new policies of allowing booked passengers to fly standby anytime on the day of their flight for free.
In addition, American said even Basic Economy ticket holders would now be able to purchase upgrades, priority boarding, preferred seating and confirmed same-day flight changes

Alaska Airlines

Then Alaska Airlines followed suit. In this carrier’s case, it had been charging less - only $125 change fees - but moving forward will charge no change fees on all domestic – or international – tickets.
In addition, the airline is extending its flexible travel policy for all newly-booked tickets through the end of the year – including its lowest-cost Saver tickets.

Then There Were 5

Now, 5 major US airlines are not charging controversial change fees.
Consumer favorite Southwest airlines has never charged for ticket changes. 
Unlike the other major airlines, Southwest resisted padding its bottom line with surcharges that used to be included in all airline ticket fares, and earned a lot of customer loyalty in return.
So travelers may see more sweetening of flight fees yet, if Southwest feels pressured to re-establish its leadership in value.

Not Onboard - Yet

While the flurry of announcements in the US did away with one of the most disliked surcharges in travel applied by its major airlines, outside of the States… crickets.
So far, no airline outside the US, including carriers in Canada, have joined the major US airlines in permanently dropping fees to boost bookings or become more competitive. (Many are temporarily ‘waiving’ change and cancellation fees relating to flights cancelled due to the pandemic and travel bans. But a return to change fees hangs over passengers’ heads.)
These recent announcements could still transform the entire North American and global air travel landscape, however. 
For example, both United and Air Canada are members of Star Alliance. And Air Canada’s loyalty program Aeroplan members can accumulate points flying on United. Those fliers may opt for United itineraries to their destination for the flexibility to change their plans at no cost.
So even airlines outside the US may find themselves under pressure to match these new policies and drop some surcharges, or risk seeing passenger ‘flight’ to competing brands.
In The Big Picture: This development may make flying domestically or even internationally more affordable and appealing to travelers making plans to take off on a post-COVID trip soon.

#WeWillTravelAgain


Image courtesy United Airlines.

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Meet the Luxury, All-Inclusive Expedition Cruise Line Launching Soon - Yes, during COVID
Meet the Luxury, All-Inclusive Expedition Cruise Line Launching during COVID
 

You might call it bucking a trend.

 

Atlas Ocean Voyages is debuting, even during the global pandemic that currently has all cruises put on pause.

The new cruise line’s first ship is ahead of schedule to launch in July 2021. World Navigator will be the first of 5 new ships for the new cruise line. All 5 ships will be sailing by 2023


Adventure meets Luxury

Atlas Ocean Voyages ticks all the boxes for lovers of exploring off-the-beaten-track destinations accessible by the world’s seas and oceans. And who want their creature comforts along with that authentic adventure and ability to experience destinations like few others with as much or as little active adventure you’re comfortable with.
In addition to city and cultural tours, imagine yourself:
·     desert glamping in the breathtaking red sandstone ancient city of Petra;
·     body rafting in the Republic of Georgia;
·     tandem paragliding in Greece;
·     and even a rare (but very safe!) tour of the infamous Chernobyl on the new cruise line’s Black Sea itineraries!
 

Perfect for the Post-COVID World and Lovers of Luxury – and the Environment

 
Atlas points out its ships that are brand-new ‘fresh out of the wrapper’ with all of the most-modern hygiene and cleanliness measures incorporated into the design during construction – no retrofitting for the post-COVID world.
 
  • Safe, clean and green expedition ships, beginning with 2021’s World Navigator, carry up to 196 guests and feature
  • 98 luxe suites and staterooms,
  • all with an ocean view and most with a private balcony,
  • multiple dining and sipping venues,
  • a mud room for small-boat embarkation,
  • jogging track and exercise room,
  • pool/spa,
  • outdoor viewing with heated seating,
  • theatre
and more.
The company promises the highest standards in environmental stewardship with the latest hybrid power management and propulsion system, maximizing fuel efficiency and consuming as low as one-fifth the fuel compared to conventional cruise-ship systems. The ship’s alternate hydro-jet propulsion system helps the ship quietly cruise up to five knots without disturbing marine wildlife for incomparable up-close encounters.
 

One of the most inclusive cruise lines

In one way, Atlas Ocean Voyages is following a trend. When it launches in 2021, the new cruise line joins a club of small-ship, luxury cruise lines that are all-inclusive. 

The inclusions are impressively comprehensive, and incorporate expedition cruising amenities:
·     Intercontinental, round-trip airfare: all sailings, suites and staterooms from select U.S. and Canadian gateways
·     Prepaid gratuities
·     Open bar & lounges with complimentary spirits, fine wines, and champagnes, mineral water and specialty coffees
·     Gourmet international cuisine in more than one dining venue, plus 24-hour-in-room service
·     Enrichment programs led by onboard experts
·     Nightly entertainment
·     Complimentary WIFI throughout the ship
·     Elegant, boutique hotel-style accommodations offering L’Occitane bath amenities and coffee and tea service
·     Butler service for suites
·     A complimentary excursion on every itinerary in select ports
·     As an expedition cruise line, Atlas also includes binoculars in every room as well as parkas (where applicable) for guests to take home and waterproof boots for use ashore.

 

An Incredible Inaugural Year of Itineraries: World Navigator Sailing in 2021

  • 7- to 24-night itineraries in the Holy Land, Black and Mediterranean Seas in the summer 2021,
  • followed by 9- to 13-night itineraries in the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica in winter 2021/22
 

Black Sea: Summer, 2021

World Navigator will sail two Black Sea Rediscovery itineraries that deliver the colors of this historic crucible of trade for Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East. The July 28, 2021, seven-night voyage from Athens (Piraeus) transits the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits and will call at Ephesus (Kusadasi); Nessebar, Bulgaria; and Bucharest (Constanta), Romania. The voyage concludes with two consecutive overnights in Odessa, Ukraine, known for its beaches and 19th-century architecture. However, guests also can launch into unconventional adventures, such as an optional and spine-tingling, two-day overland tour to the infamous and other-worldly Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
The following nine-night voyage, departing August 4, circumnavigates the Black Sea for a more in-depth exploration of the region, with calls at Novorossiysk, Russia – from where guests have the option to visit Moscow; Batumi, Georgia; and Sinop and Amasra, Turkey. The voyage features an overnight in Sochi, Russia and also concludes with an overnight in Istanbul, Turkey. Travelers with more time can combine both voyages into an extended, 16-night Black Sea odyssey.
 

Holy Land: August-September, 2021

Guests will discover or rediscover the ancient crossroads of civilization when sailing aboard one of World Navigator’s three Holy Lands voyages. All itineraries feature overnights in Jerusalem (Haifa) and Masada (Ashdod), more combined overnights in Israel than traditional cruise itineraries. With four nights, guests can experience both Jerusalem and the must-see highlights of the region, as well as join in an optional adventure experience such as an overnight at a kibbutz, a Bedouin camp, and even the historic archeological site of Petra in Jordan.
The first 15-night voyage begins on August 13 with an overnight in Istanbul and includes calls at eight Turkish ports (Troy/Gallipoli, Bozcaada, Dikili, Ephesus, Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye, and Kekova Island), as well as Patmos, Greece, and Paphos, Cyprus. A shorter, nine-night voyage, departing August 28, begins with the Jerusalem and Masada overnights, and includes Egyptian-ports Cairo (Port Said) and Alexandra, as well as Heraklion, Greece, and Limassol, Cyprus. The subsequent 12-night, Athens-roundtrip voyage, departs September 6, and enhances the previous itinerary with additional calls at Ephesus (Kusadasi); Rhodes (Lindos) and
replaces Limassol with Paphos.
 

Italian, French and Spanish Rivieras: Autumn, 2021

World Navigator will sail two seven-night Mediterranean voyages, departing September 18 and September 25, when the climate is perfect and fewer visitors crowd the streets. The first itinerary focuses on Southern Italy and sails from Athens (Piraeus) to Rome (Civitavecchia). Guests will transit and wonder at the claustrophobic narrows of the Corinth Canal and call at Delphi (Itea) and Olympia (Katakolon), Greece; and Taormina Etna (Naxos), Paestum (Agropoli), Ravello (Amalfi), Positano, and Naples/Pompeii, Italy. The second itinerary sails from Rome to Lisbon, Portugal, calling at Florence (Livorno), Italy; Marseilles, France; Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga, Spain; and Gibraltar, U.K.
 

Antarctica and South America: November, 2021 – February 2022

Two longer journeys, each a distinctive, 12-night, round-trip itinerary from Ushuaia, expand guests’ Antarctica adventure. The November 28, 2021, journey will bring guests within the umbra of the Moon on December 4, for a rare, Antarctic-solar eclipse of the sun. Guests also visit the South Shetland Islands, Paulet Island and Brown Bluff, as well as make three landings in the South Georgia and Sandwich Islands. On the February 2, 2022, departure, guests visit all the planned landings as the nine-night itinerary, plus navigate across the Antarctic Circle in pursuit of marine wildlife-spotting for two additional days. Guests will be able to see Antarctic wildlife closer from World Navigator’s Water’s Edge Lookout, the lowest expedition ship’s bow observation area in the industry and the only one with wrap-around, heated benches for extended time out on deck.
World Navigator also will embark on an eight-night Argentine Patagonia and Falkland Islands itinerary, departing November 11, 2021, from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Ushuaia. Guests call at Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn and Port Stanley, U.K. and explore one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems to catch sightings of sea lions, seals, whales, dolphins, and up to five distinct penguin species – King, Magellanic, Gentoo, Rockhopper and Macaroni – along the way.
We’re excited to see the debut of the World Navigator in July, 2021 and the launch of this new, luxury, small-ship, all-inclusive cruise line exploring the world in luxury, expedition style. 
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images courtesy Atlas Ocean Voyages
 
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Post-COVID's Biggest Travel Trend is...Small
As the world prepares to travel again, there’s a huge trend emerging: going small.
 
We know what the ingredients of travel are going to be in the immediate post-pandemic future of travel:
 
More space. More privacy. More flexibility.

The travel industry is rising to the occasion with an innovative sweep of new, and newly-important touring options that make touring with your own ‘bubble’ – whether it’s your family, extended family, group of friends or couples on their own – suddenly easy. Smaller groups. Private departures. The options for ‘smaller is safer’ travel are growing.
 
And in many cases, they’re more affordable than many travelers might think. 
 
This list of tour ingredients used to be exclusively available on only high-end touring options. But it’s not just the luxury touring options that are seeing spiking interest. 
 
More affordable touring companies are developing new options for land journeys that maintain favorite elements returning guests will love… with more space, privacy and flexibility that meet the new expectations travelers are looking for to feel comfortable embarking on a journey in this new era.
 
Here are some standout opportunities to think ‘small’ on your next journey:
 

Globus: Small Group Discovery Tours

 
This fan-favorite group touring company (pictured, top) has always offered travelers an incentive to put its own small groups together, with savings and benefits for groups of as few as 8 people travelling together within a larger tour group.
 
It also has a ‘European Private Touring’ program that makes more sense than ever, with a sliding scale of surcharges for private tours of 1-24 guests with your own dedicated Tour Director, private transportation and private guides on existing Globus itineraries.
 
There’s another timely option now: Small Group Discovery Tours on ALL of its 2021 tour departures through Central & South America, Asia, Africa and select departures in the South Pacific. It tightens up traditional group tours, with an average of only 20 guests per departure you’ll be spending most of your time with. That means a coach is less than half full, providing extra space along with its new health and safety measures along with flexible booking and changing policies so you can make informed decisions until the last minute before your departure.
 

Monograms: The best of two touring styles, now with off-season and closer to home options

 
Sister company to Globus group tours, it’s like Monograms was designed for post-pandemic travel, even though its style of touring has been around for a while. Monograms cherry-picks the best elements of private travel and group travel. 
 
You are personally picked up and dropped off, have a Local Host who gives your group its own tour of must-see sights, have VIP access to jump to the head of the line at popular attractions, like larger tour groups do. You can choose among a selection of hand-picked hotels that meet new health and safety standards, and even personalize your journey according to your interests. The company also has flexible booking and re-booking policies for your peace of mind.
 
It also recently opened up new, off-season Europe options, for Fall, Winter and Spring departures when there are fewer people (so more space and less crowding than Summer/high season), and lower prices, translating to savings for travelers of up to 40%. It’s also introduced a selection of Monograms tours in North American destinations for guests wanting their next trips to be close to home. 
 

Insight Vacations: Small Private Group Option

 
This global leader in premium guided vacations is offering travelers a ‘Small Private Group Option’ on 38 trips departing late 2020 through Spring of 2021 throughout Europe, as well as Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Jordan and Canada. It also includes Christmas Market journeys, where the company has received many inquiries.

You can create your own travel ‘bubble’ and personalize your journey. Insight provides a private, customized coach, tour director, the opportunity to tailor-make trips based on your group’s interests, all including enhanced health and safety practices and flexible change policies.

Groups of 12 qualify for Insight’s Small Private Group journeys. There’s a sliding scale of surcharges on the original price of the trip, beginning with a 30% surcharge, dropping to no surcharge once the group reaches 26 people.
 

G Adventures: Book Your Bubble Collection

 
This Active/Adventure tour company has introduced a ‘Book Your Bubble Collection’ featuring 80 tours spanning the globe from Europe, Central/South America, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
 
The company encourages people to assemble your own bubble of fellow travelers, choose a date that works for you, and offers savings for private groups, with 50% off the 8th person in a group of 8, or the 12th person in a group of 12 traveling for free. It’s easy to picture a group of 4 couples or a multi-generational family taking advantage of these new G Adventure trips that include its new health and safety measures as well as flexible booking policy.
 
The 80 tours in the Collection feature the freedom and safety found on all of the company’s private tours. ‘Book your Bubble’ applies to the new, designated bubble Collection, and in addition, your bubble can enjoy a Tailor Made private journey, or even choose any of G Adventures’ existing itineraries, and arrange for them in a private tour. Optional activities from the company’s list of tour experiences can be added to personalize any of the Bubble journeys.
 

Butterfield & Robinson: Singular Stays

 
The company whose motto is ‘Slow Down To See The World’ combines an active approach to travel, from biking to hiking to even camel rides! with luxurious lodging, insider access, extraordinary food and wine and cultural immersion. It already offered Small Group Trips and a Private Travel collection of Ready-to-Book and Bespoke itineraries, that are prepared to allow your ‘bubble’ private group to go when, how, where – and of course, with whoever you want.

It’s also recently launched a new option that provides the highest amount of space and privacy for your small bubble group. Singular Stays are a curated collection of private accommodations paired with the creativity of B&R's Experience Designers.
 
The new, Singular Stays program means you can relax in one accommodation for the duration of your trip – from private villas and castles in Europe, to ranches, resorts and glamping in the Americas, and private lodges in Africa, while the B&R team brings your destination to life with exclusive activities and events that take advantage of your setting.

(Abercrombie & Kent)

Abercrombie & Kent: Luxury Small Groups, Private Stays, Chartered Yachts and Planes and New Tailor-Made and Road Trips close to home

 
Luxury tour operator A&K is no stranger to private and small group touring, with Luxury Small Group Journeys, Luxury Family and Marco Polo journeys, offering opportunities for all-ages adventure as well as itineraries to exotic locales and exclusive festivals and events. All journeys are led from start to finish by an A&K Resident Tour Director and local guides, with an average of 14 guests on each departure, and feature hand-selected accommodations and A&K’s renowned insider access.
 
It also offers the ultimate in physical-distancing travel with its Luxury Private Stays, fully crewed chartered yachts, and chartered air.
 
What’s new are its collection of 6 new ‘Tailor Made’ journeys as well as 2 new iconic Great American Road Trips across the American West and Alaska that take advantage of A&K’s baked-in distancing and privacy, in destinations closer to home where travelers may feel more comfortable. Private guides, access to sites off the beaten path, customized itinerary, vetted accommodations that offer added space and privacy, and in the case of the Road Trips, a private luxury car and driver/guide.
 

These new and innovating touring options meet the new expectations of travelers by going small in a big world still waiting for you to discover.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon




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Hidden Secrets and Natural Wonders of 4 Costa Rican Volcanoes
From breathtaking beaches, up through rainforests and cloud forests, Costa Rica’s terrain rises from the sea to mountain ranges and, like icing on a scenic cake, a string of volcanoes that are evidence of the country’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
There are over 200 identifiable volcanoes in Costa Rica that date back more than 65 million years. Half of those show volcanic activity but only half a dozen are classified as active volcanoes.
Costa Rica’s volcanoes are signature features of the scenic landscape and have been key to the country’s lush biodiversity. Costa Rica is famously one of the world’s most ecologically rich destinations and is the first tropical country to reverse deforestation. It occupies a tiny .03 percent of the Earth’s surface, but is home to more than 5% of the planet’s species, and over a quarter of the country is designated protected. Bordered by the sea to the east and west, the nation’s waters host 3.5% of the world’s marine life.
National parks around Costa Rica's volcanoes are also the setting for some of the best adventures in the country, from hiking and mountain biking, to white water rafting, fishing, and kayaking, and birding, horseback trail riding and camping.
Costa Rica’s volcanoes make the vacations of anyone who loves nature and the outdoors magical. Frame your next tropical vacation around the sights and activities of one - or all! - of these 4 amazing volcanoes.

ARENAL
If you were asked to draw a volcano, it would likely look a lot like Arenal (pictured, top). With its picture-‘perfect’ volcanic cone, Arenal is Costa Rica’s most famous volcano and towers in the country’s Northern Plains in Arenal Volcano National park.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and also home to 75% of Costa Rica’s bird population and its most popular natural hot springs, a favorite destination for wellness journeys.
The volcano is the backdrop for Costa Rica’s adventure capital, where visitors enjoy zip-lining, white-water rafting, thermal hot springs and waterfalls, hiking, birding and wildlife-watching opportunities.
Fun Fact: Arenal was until recently the most active volcano in Costa Rica, regularly putting on a show of spewing hot gas and steam, until it suddenly just stopped in 2010.
RINCÓN DE LA VIEJA
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and its dormant sister Santa Maria Volcano form the center of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, which is part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Standing over 6000 feet tall and measuring 9 miles wide, Rincón de la Vieja is the largest volcano in the Guanacaste province and features no fewer than 9 volcanic craters, dozens of rivers cascading down its sides, with waterfalls sending romantic mist into the air. Even though it’s the most active volcano in the region, it’s a nature lover’s paradise with an enormous variety of wildlife.
Like many volcanoes, there are hot springs where visitors can ‘take the waters’. In fact, the region is such an active geothermal area, the Costa Rican government has developed eco-friendly projects that harvest the geothermal energy.
Fun Fact: Rincón de la Vieja’s last big eruption was in January 2020!
POÁS
You guessed it. Another volcano, in another national park. The Poás Volcano in the national park of the same name lies in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. It’s one of the largest volcanoes and the most accessible, only half an hour from San Jose.
Poás Volcano has one active and two dormant craters. The active crater sounds like it could be the setting of fantasy action movies, with a boiling acid lake! Laguna Caliente, or ‘Hot Lake’ is one of the most acidic lakes on earth, and it even changes color hourly from emerald green to eerie grayish white.
One of the dormant craters is the opposite: an icy cold water lake that drains down the side of the volcano.
Fun Fact: Bird lovers can spot 79 different species of birds in the park.
IRAZÚ
At 11,260 feet, Irazú is the country’s tallest volcano. On a clear day, from Irazú’s summit, you have incredible panoramic views of both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans on either side of the country.
This volcano is also located inside its own Costa Rican national park consisting of the volcano and nearly 6000 acres of mountain and cloud forest. While you’re climbing to the summit for those ocean views, you may also may also spot exotic tropical birds including tanagers and tapirs.
Irazú Volcano has several craters but the most famous has a breathtaking blue-green lake inside.
Fun Fact: Irazú Volcano last erupted while US President John F. Kennedy was visiting Costa Rica.
 
And make sure the heights of a volcano are part of your next Costa Rican adventure.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy of Visit Costa Rica
 
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Top 3 Travel Destinations to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the End of WW2 in the Pacific
2020 has been an eventful year, with many firsts for the history books.
But 2020 also marks some big anniversaries. Earlier this year, the Allies of World War 2 commemorated the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, the end of the war against the Nazis.
And now, short months later, V-J Day. Another epic moment in the history of the world: the 75th anniversary of the end of the War in the Pacific. Unlike V-E Day, V-J Day, Victory in the Pacific Day or V-P Day is marked on different dates in different affected nations. 
For the Commonwealth countries of the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as the Netherlands, North and South Korea, the date is August 15th. That’s the day Japan announced its surrender. 
The United States considers September 2nd the official end of the war. On that date, formal surrender documents were signed in a ceremony on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Other Asian countries, including China, Hong Kong and Macau, the Philippines and Taiwan, mark the following day, September 3rd.
This year’s 75-year commemorations are likely the final milestone anniversaries with veterans and people with living memories of the war years.
That leaves families of veterans, people with an interest in history or reverence of the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation to honor them.
Here are 3 top places to travel to commemorate and better understand the War in the Pacific. 

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Hawaii, USA

The surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 by over 350 Imperial Japanese aircraft killed more than 2400 Americans and injured nearly 1200 others. The shocking attack - war had not been declared between the two countries and the US was not yet at war - stunned the world. It also planted the seed of Japanese ‘kamikazi’ or suicide air bomber culture. Intended as a pre-emptive strike to wipe out American naval power in the Pacific before it could be turned on the Japanese, the attack on Pearl Harbor actually led to American military participation in World War 2. 
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a National Park comprised of multiple sites that commemorate and educate visitors about the attack that was such a pivotal moment in US history.
The Memorial’s most unmistakable feature is the USS Arizona Memorial (pictured top). Among the 21 American ships damaged or sunk during the attack, the Japanese torpedoed the battleship Arizona. While most ships damaged or sunk during the attack at Pearl Harbor returned to service, the Arizona was left on the harbor floor as the final resting place of over a thousand sailors and Marines. In the 60's the USS Arizona Memorial - a standout example of distinctive mid-century design - was erected over the sunken ship. It straddles, but does not touch it on the ocean floor. 
A visitor’s center on shore provides multi-media historical context and accounts and artifacts of the day of the attack. Visitors can take shuttle boats to and from the ship memorial. Other ships, memorials, statues and preserved structures help complete the commemoration of the event that changed the course of American history.

Bridge Over the River Kwai

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The bombing of Pearl Harbor was part of a larger Japanese strategy to defeat US, British, Dutch and local powers in the Pacific that included an invasion of South-East Asia, sweeping all the way to overcome supposedly impregnable British forces and fortifications in Singapore. Their unexpected success left the Japanese stretched for supply lines and with thousands of prisoners of war. 
The Japanese solution to both problems was to force Allied POW’s and captured local citizens to work as slave labor to build a 250-mile Thailand-Burma aka ‘Death Railway’. It was an impossible construction project through impenetrable South-East Asian jungle and wilderness, a concept conceived and abandoned by the British as guaranteed to kill too many workers.
The story of Japanese occupation of Asia and the Japanese Imperial Army’s torture and mistreatment of POW’s and local citizens is one of the most horrifying chapters of WW2. About 100,000 conscripted Asians and 16,000 Allied POW’s died in forced marches and inhumane conditions building the railway.
Following the war, the story of the Death Railway and the horrors faced by POW’s were immortalized in a work of fiction that got even more attention as a Hollywood movie, The Bridge Over The River Kwai. The railway bridge in this Thai city has become the spiritual center of commemoration of the Japanese POW’s and occupation.
Today, visitors to Kanchanaburi are eager to see the bridge, and experience the nearby memorial and war cemetaries. The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre hosts a museum dedicated to the history of the railway. There’s an annual pyrotechnic recreation of the Allied bombing of the bridge which is the climax of the movie. You can even ride the Burma-Thai Railway, given over to Thailand after the war. The journey is evocative, over the River Kwai Bridge, through farmland, and along steep mountains alongside the river.
And outside the city, the ‘Hellfire Pass’ (pictured below) Interpretive Centre and Memorial Walking Trail preserves one of the most famously lethal sections of the railway through a rock cutting and along a section of original rail track bed (no longer in use) carved out by hand by POW’s, whose recorded memories are part of an audio tour.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima, Japan

In August, 1945, Japan became the first – and only – country to be targeted by a nuclear attack.  Two new, atomic bombs were dropped on cities in Japan, one on Hiroshima, and the other on Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered soon after seeing the unimaginable power of this new weapon.
Even for a horrifying war, the results of atomic warfare haunted observers and became the stuff of nightmares of people around the world during the Cold War that followed. Humans and buildings at the epicenters of the explosions vaporized. People leaving behind only their shadows. Hideously wounded survivors poisoned by fallout. Hundreds of thousands of city residents dead in the explosions, from burn injuries and ultimately radiation sickness.
After the war, the riverside area around the epicenter of the Hiroshima atomic bomb was rededicated as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, complete with cenotaph, and moving exhibits of the aftermath of the bombing, including multiple clocks and watches frozen at 8:15 am by the blast. The site is symbolized by the skeletal Hiroshima Dome, the remains of the only identifiable building remaining after the atomic bomb exploded.
A visit to Hiroshima today is a powerful warning for humanity to never again unleash nuclear weapons.

All three of these Pacific War sites highlight the horrors of a terrible war from a different point of view, and all are emotional to visit, but no traveler will regret adding these memorial locations to a bucket list of trips to take soon. 

As we pass the 75th anniversary of the ending of the war, commemorative travel becomes even more important to preserve the memories and lessons of war.


#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images: Getty
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One COVID Change of Plans Continues a Heart-Warming Legacy for this Cruise Line

Holland America Line Changes the Name of its Newbuild and Designates it the New Flagship

Travel has taken a beating by COVID-19. But there’s one way it’s giving us something to celebrate.
Like all cruise lines, Holland American Line has been hit very hard by COVID. HAL has announced its operations are paused through the end of this year.
 
The company is famous for its long and rich heritage, and what fans call its fleet of ‘dam’ ships (with names all ending in the Dutch ‘dam’, like Nieuw Amsterdam).
 
And like some other cruise lines, it has made the difficult decision to cull the fleet to streamline its operations and costs until we are cruising again. Four of HAL’s oldest ships: the Amsterdam, Maasdam, Veendam and Rotterdam have been sold.
 
Taking ships out of service is always nostalgic and often sad for past guests who have so many fond travel memories on beloved ships.  The CEO of the company acknowledged the emotional event, “It’s always difficult to see any ship leave the fleet, especially those that have a long and storied history with our company.”
 
The sale leaves HAL with 10 of its mid-sized, premium ships - and an 11th on the way next year.

That’s where this news gets happy again.
 

A Legacy Continues

One of the decommissioned ships, the Rotterdam, was the 6th ship of that name in HAL’s 150-year history. Rotterdam is a powerful and symbolic name for the line, whose very first ship was the original Rotterdam, sailing while the company was headquartered in the Dutch city of that name. The 1st Rotterdam took its maiden voyage from the Netherlands to New York in 1872, and led to the founding of the company in 1873.
 
Instead of letting the name die out with the sale of the current Rotterdam, Holland America has announced the Rotterdam legacy will continue.
 
HAL is changing the name of its newbuild ship from the previously-announced Ryndam to Rotterdam. And it’s designating the 7th Rotterdam in Holland American history as the new flagship of the fleet.
 
The 7th ship to bear this historic name, Rotterdam is now due to be delivered on July 30, 2021.
 

Rotterdam VII

The latest Rotterdam will be scarcely recognizable from its predecessor, although the famously charming staff with their stand-out uniforms and HAL service that have given the cruise line one of the highest returning guest rates in cruising - all remain.  Even die-hard Rotterdam VI fans will be delighted with the new ship’s superbly appointed staterooms and suites, including family and single accommodations for every type of cruiser.
 
Rotterdam VII will be the third in the line’s Pinnacle Class series, carrying a thousand more guests with a capacity of 2,668. And it will feature HAL’s newest and highly successful amenities and innovations, including the 270-degree surround screen World Stage, Rudi’s Sel de Mer and Grand Dutch Café among the exquisite cuisine guided by eight of the world’s leading chefs, as well as the line’s incomparable live music program on its ‘Music Walk’ with its exclusive collection of world-class performances each night - from Lincoln Center Stage and B.B. King’s Blues Club to Rolling Stone Rock Room and Billboard Onboard. 
 

Inaugural Season: the Mediterranean, Baltic and Norway 

The newest Rotterdam is scheduled to spend the summer of 2021 exploring Northern Europe and the Baltic on roundtrip cruises from Amsterdam.
 
Cruising aboard Rotterdam VII begins August 1 2021, with the ship’s seven-day Premiere Voyage departing from Trieste, Italy, to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, with port calls throughout the Adriatic Sea and southern Italy. The ship then sails from Civitavecchia through the western Mediterranean and on to Amsterdam.
 
Then, until October, the ship will sail roundtrip from Amsterdam on 7-day itineraries to Norway, as well as a 14-day cruise to the Baltic and 14 days to Norway, Iceland and the British Isles. Rotterdam VII completes its inaugural season via a trans-Atlantic crossing from Amsterdam to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
 
The Rotterdam VII gives everyone who loves cruise travel reassurance of a bright future ahead for cruising and for one of its oldest and most storied cruise lines.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Rendering courtesy of Holland America Line.
 
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This Cruise Line Kicked Guests off a Cruise.  Here's Why it's Good News for You and Cruise Travel
Guests left behind when a ship sails away is usually an unfortunate situation no cruise line likes to talk about. But when it happened last week in Naples, cheers rang out around the world.
The guests weren’t late, which is usually how guests miss ships.
Earlier this summer, Europe-based MSC Cruises had announced its new COVID-era health and safety protocols, developed closely with European authorities that included measures you’d expect plus:
·     pre-screening every guest and crew member before boarding;
·     daily checks and onboard virus detection machines along with additional medical staff and a fully detailed plan to deal with suspected cases on board;
·     only permitting guests to disembark when participating in MSC Cruises shore tours or excursions, to maintain the passenger health ‘bubble’ and also protecting local communities from any risk of exposure from the ship; all while
·     maintaining the pleasures of cruising.
Shortly after, it announced it would begin cruising in the Mediterranean with European-only guests. Bubble cruising, but open to a quite broad group of passengers from different EU countries. 

Could cruising be done safely? 

It would be the first return of the cruise industry’s mega-ships. And even cruise lines with smaller ships – considered more likely to be able to manage new COVID requirements – had not successfully sailed without cases of COVID arising.
Last week, the MSC Grandiosa set sail at about half-capacity under the line’s new protocols and everyone watching travel held their breath. 
Within days, the word spread that while in port in Naples, guests on the ship were denied boarding. 
It might seem an awkward footnote to this momentous sailing. In fact, it was celebrated around the world.
The guests had broken the rules. Apparently, they disembarked with an MSC Cruises tour, according to protocol, but then broke away from the tour and went off to explore the destination on their own.
When they returned on their own to the ship, they were not allowed back on board.

The System Worked

The new protocols designed to maintain a seal against infection coming on board were upheld.
And when the Grandiosa arrived in Genoa at the end of her cruise, she became the first big ship to resume cruising post-COVID - and complete a cruise with no COVID cases on board.
It’s a huge victory for MSC Cruises. And it’s a big win for all of us who love cruising, and for the entire industry. 
MSC’s successful sailing proves that there are safety measures that can be put in place and maintained for cruises to operate and stay COVID-free.
There were other positive events, too.
The cruise line also says that on the final day of that first cruise, when the Grandiosa was en route back to Genoa, all guests who went ashore outside of Italy were tested as required by Italian authorities before the ship could re-enter Italian waters to disembark. All the guests tested COVID-free.
It’s also been reported that during its turnaround call in Genoa after that first, COVID-free sailing, while the ship was being disinfected for its next group of guests, pre-boarding guests underwent testing in the terminal. One guest tested positive twice, so he – and his family who had all traveled together by van to the port – were not permitted to board.
These protocol successes are a triumph for the future of cruising, confirming cruise travel can return safely.
MSC notes it’s not all testing and protocols, “Life on board during the cruise ran smoothly, with guests enjoying every bit of the specialty restaurants, cafés and shops that our flagship has to offer. Similarly, many of the shore excursions on offer – we call them protected ashore visits, were sold out.”

So if you’ve been missing cruising, too, this news from MSC should give you hope you’ll be safely back at sea soon.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip producer/ host and cruise expert

#WeWillCruiseAgain


Image: the Grandiosa in port in Genoa prior to her first post-COVID sailing. Courtesy MSC Cruises
 
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These 'Hotels' are Full of 'Guests' Throughout Pandemic - Part of Fairmont's 'Bee Sustainable' Program
The global pandemic closed the doors of nearly every hotel in the world. But thousands of very special ‘guests’ at some Fairmont hotels stayed.
Some have even been ‘residents’ for years.

'HOME SWEET HIVE'

In 2008, the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver installed honey beehives. These two urban hotels may not seem likely places for apiaries. But the thriving hives made headlines, raising awareness of the importance of bees to our world, as well as producing honey for (human) guests, and highlighting local products and food.
Fast forward over ten years, and other Fairmont properties have joined the ‘Bee Sustainable’ initiative, from the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle and Fairmont San Francisco, to Fairmont Yangcheng Lake in China and Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Africa. Onsite local honey produced replaces purchased honey in the hotels’ bars and restaurants. Six rooftop honey beehives at the Royal York alone – home to 350,000 bees - are producing 450 pounds of honey every year.
Every hotel’s honey is one-of-a-kind, tasting of the nectars of dozens of indigenous flowers from humble dandelions to cherry blossoms. And the bees do double duty, foraging up to 12 square miles, pollinating area gardens and parks as they visit over 1 million flowers for every pound of honey they produce. 

WILD BEE 'HOTELS'

Not all bees produce honey. But all bees are essential pollinators.
So Fairmont broadened its groundbreaking Bee Sustainable program in 2014, building and installing wild bee ‘hotels’. These wooden structures feature sticks drilled with holes to attract wild bees in the area in need of a safe haven.
Now, millions of bees call Fairmont hotels ‘home’. Nearly two dozen honey bee hives, and a similar number of wild pollinator bee hotels grace the grounds and rooftops and terraces of Fairmont hotels around the world:

CANADA

  • Fairmont Royal York - Toronto
  • Fairmont Waterfront -Vancouver
  • Fairmont Chateau Whistler
  • Fairmont Empress - Victoria
  • Fairmont Vancouver Airport
  • Fairmont Le Château Frontenac - Québec City
  • Fairmont Palliser - Calgary
  • Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth - Montréal
 

USA

  • Fairmont San Francisco - San Francisco
  • Fairmont Washington D.C.
  • Fairmont Copley Plaza- Boston
  • Fairmont San Jose
  • Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa - Sonoma, USA
  • Fairmont Dallas
  • Fairmont Olympic Hotel – Seattle
  • Fairmont Orchid - Hawaii
 

INTERNATIONAL

  • Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda
  • Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club - Mount Kenya, Kenya
  • Fairmont Mayakoba - Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
  • Fairmont Le Montreux Palace - Montreux, Switzerland
  • Fairmont Yangcheng - LakeSuzhou, China
  • Fairmont Beijing - China
 
Bees have also become part of their hotels’ guest experiences over the years, from culinary and cocktail menu items, beekeeper courses and packages, garden and bee tours, honey tastings, and special gift items.

BEE SUSTAINABLE

Fairmont has even opened a bee hotel at parent company Accor’s global HQ in Paris. The Bee Sustainable program is a cornerstone of the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable tourism.
The program works with the Pollinator Partnership, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting pollinators and their ecosystems – not just bees, but also the birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other creatures whose pollination efforts produce one out of every three bites of food we eat.
In that way, Bee Sustainable isn’t just about sustainable tourism and supporting local foods in Fairmont hotels. The company says supporting bee habitats is part of its commitment to hotel communities, food production and the economy, noting that bees pollinate 1,000 of the 1,200 crop varieties that provide 80% of human food worldwide and contribute billions of dollars to the US economy alone.
That’s the big picture, and Fairmont is also encouraging everyone to support bees in your own backyard just as Fairmont hotels support bees on their properties. Families and nature lovers will It sells mini bee hotels at fairmontstore.com – a perfect way for nature lovers to get involved, and for families to learn more about bees at home.
 
You can also learn more about the Fairmont Bee Sustainable program and the importance of honeybees and wild bees at fairmontbeesustainable.com.
 

#DREAMNOWTRAVELSOON


Images courtesy Fairmont

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3 Top Trips for Golfers Who Cruise - From Close to Home to Around the World
Suddenly, everyone is golfing again.
With only a few minor tweaks that courses have easily implemented, the game checks all the boxes for a COVID-safe pastime. So it’s no surprise that even less committed golfers have dusted off the clubs, rediscovering the delights to be found on the greens.
As we rediscover travel, the same features that make golf the ideal pursuit in our own neighborhoods also make it an excellent theme for your post-COVID travels.
The list of famous golf courses, resorts and destinations is long and world-wide. And there’s one unique way to enjoy multiple, top-tier courses on one, relaxed trip where you check into a single, floating 'hotel' that takes you to multiple courses: golf-themed cruises.
With a concierge approach that gives guests access to courses and tee times they might not be able to arrange themselves, golf cruises allow golfers who love the cruise lifestyle to enjoy two passions on one trip.
Here are three top picks:

Golf Cruise on the Mississippi River

Cruise line: American Queen Steamboat Company

Golfers have one chance in May to enjoy this unique American cruise. AQSC’s ‘American River Golf Classic’ 9-day cruise from Memphis to New Orleans gives golfers the chance to play at 4 of the most prestigious courses along the Lower Mississippi River, with an option to play in New Orleans after you disembark, too.
While American Queen sails the country’s largest paddleboat, on this journey, you’ll sail on her sleek and contemporary sister ship, the American Countess, complete with custom Italian fabrics, rich walnut wood, premium linens, a host of sociable or secluded verandas with comfy seating in the tradition of Southern hospitality, floor to ceiling windows with panoramic views of Ol’ Miss, and fresh, regional cuisine. You’ll be one of the first to experience her elegant décor as she makes her way down the mighty Mississippi.
Iconic cities of the South on this golf cruise include Natchez, Mississippi, St. Francisville and Baton Rouge Louisiana, with included overnight stay in Memphis before the cruise departs and disembarking in NOLA. The Lower Mississippi River has stories to share – a legacy that flows from Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico. A new chapter – and a new golf course - awaits around each river bend.
Golfers enjoy four top-rated local courses along with the history, culture and memorable scenery of the South, including:
·     Colonial Country Club in Memphis;
·     Copper Mill Golf Club in Zachary, Louisiana;
·     Black Bear Golf Club near Vicksburg;
·     The Bluffs Golf & Sports Resort in St. Francisville, an Arnold Palmer designed course;
·     With an option to play at TPC Louisiana in New Orleans after disembarkation.
That’s up to 5 top courses in different cities in 9 days, with the relaxation of a river cruise and the company of fellow cruise travelers and golfers – with your golfing made easy. The cruise line’s ‘Rounds on the River’ package includes lunches, special giveaways, a special guest appearance from a recognized golf expert and professional, all equipment transportation and club cleaning prior to play.

 

Golf Cruise in the Heart of Europe on the Danube River

Cruise line: AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways’ Concierge Golf Program offers the same opportunity to golf at world-class courses all in one trip. Along the storied Danube, that means golfing in multiple countries during a 12-night journey that includes pre- and post- cruise stays in Prague and Budapest at either end of a 7-day voyage on AmaWaterways’ flagship AmaMagna. At twice the width of any other river ship, it has re-imagined river cruising with more personal space, more dining venues, more leisure space and activities than any other ship sailing the rivers of the world.
There are nearly a dozen departures of the Concierge Golf Program from May through October that include the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. The route features some of Europe’s premier UNESCO sites, fabled culture, architecture, beer gardens, local wines and scenic sailing. 
Even if you’ve sailed the Danube before, the exciting golf programming is a whole new way to enjoy the region. Golfers on the program play at:
·     Albatross Golf Club in Prague, host of the Czech Open, featuring 7 lakes and bordering on a nature reserve;
·     Quellness Golf Resort in Bad Griesbach, Germany, host of the Porsche European Open
·     Diamond Country Club on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria;
·     Penati Country Club in Slovakia and host of the Slovakia Open, a ‘Nicklaus Design LEGEND COURSE’ that meets world PGA standards with a fantastic view; and
·     Pannonia Country Club in Budapest, and host of the Hungarian Open, designed by famous Austrian course designer Hans. G. Erhardt.
It’s the European golf trip of your dreams where your luxury hotel follows you from one dynamic destination to the next. The program makes the cruise – to – golf experience seamless and easy for golfers. Guests are transferred from ship to course and back by private luxury Mercedes. Your tee time, practice balls and golf cart are prepared in advance, and after your round, you enjoy lunch in the course clubhouse with beer and wine all included. When it’s time to transfer back to the AmaMagna, your clubs will be cleaned and ready for the next course on your golf odyssey.

 

Golf Cruises Around the World

PerryGolf on Azamara

Azamara, the boutique ocean cruise line, doesn’t just offer a single golf itinerary. For a decade, it’s been partnered with luxury golf vacation company PerryGolf to offer a selection of golf cruises that just keeps growing. There are now two dozen golf voyages that include play at over 70 marquee courses in 23 countries, including some of the top 100 courses in the world, like Ireland's Royal Portrush, Scotland's Turnberry and New Zealand's Cape Kidnappers.
Above: Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland
Top: Emirates Golf Club (Majlis Course) in Dubai
The voyages follow the sun and the prime golfing seasons around the world, beginning in the New Year Down Under in Australia and New Zealand, plus a new South Africa golf cruise, followed by Spring and Summer in Europe, in the Med as well as the Baltics including St. Petersburg, plus a new itinerary to Norway, as well as flagship itineraries in the British Isles with country-intensive voyages to Scotland and Ireland, then in the Autumn, the dramatic courses of the Arabian Gulf countries and South America late in the year, including a first-time sailing from Rio to Buenos Aires.
Depending on the destination, cruises range from 7 to 17 nights, with between 3 and 6 rounds of golf on a cruise. There’s a full-time PerryGolf program manager on board your cruise as well as onsite at each course, and you’re taken care of at every step, including tee times, carts or caddies, pairings, competitions, social events for fellow golfers on board, handling of your golf equipment, transfers and tips. It’s like an international floating golf club that’s unparalleled in cruising.
Everyone’s considering what types of trips to kick-start post-COVID travel with peace of mind. The outdoor distancing of golf and the appeal of access to multiple new, world-class courses, combined with the luxury and convenience of a safe, single floating hotel that transports you to different destinations with exciting new courses every day, make golf cruises more popular than ever.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV producer host and cruise expert

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
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The Airline That's Providing Passengers with COVID insurance
Travel companies are introducing many new health and safety practices to help protect travelers, staff and locals as travel begins to resume.
Now, one airline has taken those measures one step further. 

In a travel industry first, Emirates is covering its passengers for COVID-19 expenses. 

For travelers longing to take to the skies again, the Dubai-based global airline’s commitment is designed to boost confidence.
It’s broad coverage, free of cost for Emirates customers from any country, flying to any destination in any class of travel- even economy class! The airline will cover COVID medical expenses up to 150,000 Euro (about $177,000 USD). Or if a passenger becomes COVID positive while traveling and is forced to quarantine away from home, Emirates covers 100 Euro a day of those costs for up to 14 days.
The coverage applies to Emirates passengers on flights up to October 31st 2020.  Passengers are covered for 31 days from the date of the first leg of their journey, even if they go on to other cities following their arrival at their Emirates destination.
What’s more, you don’t have to apply for the coverage, fill out any forms – or even use the coverage if you don’t want to. The airline is providing a dedicated hotline for passengers to make inquiries, or to call if they are diagnosed.
The global-first coverage comes in addition to the health and safety measures the airline has adopted throughout its network of 60 world-wide destinations, including the distribution of complimentary hygiene kits containing masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes to all customers. And the flexible booking and cancelation policies that allow passengers to manage disruptions.
Emirates’ coverage doesn’t cancel out travel restrictions in destinations. Passengers still have to meet eligibility and entry requirements of their destinations to board Emirates flights.

Would COVID coverage influence your decision to travel?

The idea may be gaining steam. Just this week, two travel destinations have followed suit to offer domestic and international visitors COVID health insurance.
The Canary Islands, a group of Spanish islands in the Atlantic off the coast of North Africa, are not only a trans-Atlantic cruise port of call. The destination is popular for beach vacations among other Spaniards and British travelers. Other parts of Spain have been hit hard by COVID, and while the Canary Islands have had far fewer cases, they have suffered from plummeting numbers of travelers.
So the ministry of tourism has contracted with an insurance provider to offer Spanish and foreign visitors who are COVID-free before their trip coverage for all COVID related medical expenses, repatriation, and any necessary extension of their stay on the Islands due to the pandemic.
In a similar move, international visitors to Portugal can now purchase COVID insurance - both medical and coverage for expenses due to cancellation or a necessary extension of their stay.

As re-opening progresses, the travel industry continues to innovate to address travelers’ biggest concerns. Is offering insurance specifically for COVID going to be key for travel companies and travel destinations to welcome guests again?

#SafeTravelsSoon



Image courtesy Emirates
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The New COVID Safety Measure Cruise Travelers will actually LOVE
It’s one of the least-loved experiences on a cruise. Not long after you board your ship with excitement to explore and start your vacation, you are required to put down your cocktail, and report to your ‘muster station’ for a mandatory safety drill. 
Sometimes, you even have to go back to your stateroom, collect your life vest, and take it – or wear it! - to your designated lifeboat on deck, trying not to trip over the trailing ties of someone else’s PFD as you are herded up and down stairs (in a real emergency, the elevators would not be operating, so that’s how some ships ask guests to ‘rehearse’ mustering to the lifeboats) along with the entire population – crew and guests – of the ship. 
Safety drills prior to sailing are essential – but no fun. And in an odd upside of the pandemic, Royal Caribbean Group, in its ongoing work to eliminate instances of large groups of people crowded together on its ships as they prepare to begin sailing again post-COVID, has come up with a digital solution.
Muster 2.0 is the elegant answer to traditional, in-person mustering for safety drills. As the company says, it’s a much ‘faster, more personal approach that encourages higher levels of safety.’
Using the technology, guests can ‘eMuster’ via personal mobile devices or the interactive TV’s in their staterooms.  On embarkation day before setting sail, you review safety information digitally at your own pace and timing. Then you complete the ‘drill’ by going in-person to your assigned assembly station to familiarize yourself with its location. A crew member stationed there confirms you’ve completed your safety review and answers any questions you have. 
That process meets the requirements of international maritime law and provides you with emergency drill information, but it’s also a convenient, time-saving, no-hassle start to your cruise. 
Royal Caribbean’s new, technology-enhanced safety drill process makes the first day of your cruise more relaxed and enjoyable, even as it meets the post-COVID need to reduce large group gatherings and facilitate distancing. We call that a win-win-win!
As it happens, Muster 2.0 was already in the works as part of the company’s ongoing technology initiatives to update and smooth guest procedures. It was successfully tested on Symphony of the Seas in January 2020 before COVID halted cruising, and was very popular among guests who actually reported better understanding of the safety procedures using the interactive digital tool.
So when cruising starts again, guests on Royal Caribbean Group’s lines, which include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, and Silversea, will enjoy a more relaxed – and COVID-protocol friendly – embarkation day. 
In addition, Royal Caribbean Group brought the new technology to the ‘Healthy Sail Panel’ it convened with one of its biggest cruise competitors, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, to work together as an industry on safe and healthy cruising in a post-pandemic world.
In the spirit of cooperation in re-starting cruising post-COVID, Royal is waiving patent license fees to other cruise operators.  Norwegian, the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, has already received license to implement Muster 2.0 on its ships.
So although COVID has had a devastating impact on the cruise and travel industries, and has forced thousands to put their travel dreams on temporary hold, good news like this shows how some long term good is coming out of it for cruise travelers once they sail again.

#WeWillSailAgain


Images: Royal Caribbean
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How the Postponed Tokyo Olympic Games Will Feature Japan's National Sport

We should be watching the opening ceremony of the XXXIII Olympiad right now. 

But COVID has changed the history of the Olympics along with so many other features of our lives. Tokyo 2020 retains the name, but the dates have changed.

Originally scheduled to take place from July 24th through the second week of August this year, Tokyo 2020 now opens on July 23rd 2021. They are the first Summer Games to be postponed instead of cancelled due to an international crisis.

You can still make plans to be in the stands for Tokyo 2020 in 2021 and part of the excitement in Japan’s capital. The date changes will mean a magnified Olympic energy, pent up for an extra year. Always an international, feel-good rally, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in 2021 promise to be even more symbolically charged in the year following the COVID crisis.
So next year more than many other Olympics, all eyes will be on Tokyo. In addition to all our favorite Summer Olympic sports, new competitions at Tokyo 2020 will include freestyle BMX and 3x3 basketball, as well as the debut of surfing, skateboarding and karate, sports proposed by the host country.
But Japan’s national sport will not be played at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Sumo is only practiced at the highest levels inside Japan. There is no competition between nations like Olympic Games for sumo.
Instead, between the closing of the Olympic Games and the opening of the Paralympic Games, the Japan Sumo Association has planned to stage a special, two-day sumo exhibition tournament.
It gives attendees at the Olympic Games the opportunity to be a part of one of the world’s most rare, ritualized, ancient sports still part of a country’s modern culture.
Sumo is often caricaturized in Western culture. You may have even been to parties where brave or joker guests don inflatable ‘sumo’ costumes, throw themselves at each other and roll around on the floor, laughing.
But a bit of knowledge about Japan’s version of wrestling gives viewers new appreciation for this unique sport and martial art.
  • Sumo was first mentioned in writing in the 700’s, but pre-historic wall paintings show sumo’s roots in ritual dances for good harvests;
  • Matches are held in a 15-foot wide clay ring;
  • Far from colliding and rolling around on the floor like the Western party game, sumo wrestlers try to force their opponents outside of the ring in full-contact, ritualized movements that are considered a martial art;
  • Sumo wrestlers are required to wear their hair long in a waxed topknot, in an historically Samurai warrior style;
  • In the ring, they wear 30-foot long belts (not diapers!), tied in the back, that the other wrestler can latch onto to throw his opponent out of the ring;
  • Matches begin with a powerful crouch and charge that use the wrestlers’ great size to full effect;
  • There are no weight classes in sumo, so the bigger wrestlers can get, the better! Sumo wrestlers consume specific, traditional foods – up to 20,000 calories every day, or 10 times what an average person needs! – to gain and maintain weights in excess of 300 pounds. In modern sumo history, 3 famous sumo wrestlers have even weighed in at over 600 pounds!;
  • Even today, other customs and traditions of sumo are very linked to Japan’s ancient Shinto religion, including the throwing salt to purify the ring.
If you are not in Japan for the special tournament following the Tokyo Games, six sumo tournaments are held for two weeks each every year throughout Japan. Tokyo’s tournaments are in January, May and September, and other major cities have one each, including Osaka in March, Nagoya in July, and Fukuoka in November.
It may never be an Olympic sport, but sumo is one of the best-preserved ancient sports anywhere in the world, and an experience not to miss if you ever have a chance to travel to Japan.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


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