Frederick Travel Waterloo's Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Ships:

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

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

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

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

Shore

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

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

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If you're looking for a room with a view in Marseille... this is it.

The Hotel Dieu might be the the best piece of real estate in Marseille. Part way up the hill next to the historic harbor, occupying the best vantage point overlooking the iconic view of the old port and the church on the opposite hill, Marseille's Hopital Dieu dates back to the 1700's. 

As a hospital, it served the oldest neighborhood in all of France, where sailors, immigrants from around the Mediterranean, nuns and beggars, artists and artisans thronged.  The care center of the community finally closed its doors, and the building sat empty for years...

Until a city-wide renaissance of style, design and culture included the transformation of the hospital building into a luxury, design hotel where the historic architecture meets stunning contemporary design, and a view without rival in France's largest port city.

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5 Adventures in Antwerp

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

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

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

Photo Credit

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

History with a Quirk

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

Photo Credit

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

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

Photo Credit

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

Thrillingly Modern

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

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

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

Serious Fashion:

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

And Diamonds:

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

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

And Really Good Taste:

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

Photo Credit

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

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

 

 

Visit This: Underwater Winery in Croatia

Drinking and diving don't mix, but we've found one exception.  At the Edivo Vina winery about an hour north of the Croatian seaside town of Dubrovnik, you need to slip into a wet suit for a cellar tour.

That's because this winery stores and ages their – aptly named – 'Navis Mysterium' or 'Sea Mystery' wine – 20 meters (66 feet) under water.

Sea Mystery wine begins life above ground as other wines do.  The regional grapes are harvested, pressed and bottled, then aged for three months on land.

Then it gets interesting. Cork and two layers of rubber seal the bottles which are then enclosed in amphorae – locally made clay vessels like the ones used in ancient Greece with a narrow neck and double handles.  To make them water-proof, they are lined with a thin layer of resin, just like the ancient Greeks did. Then the amphorae are submerged underwater in steel cages for two more years of aging.  Divers visit the 'cellar' to check on them regularly to ensure they remain sea-proof.

When they emerge from the 'cellar', the amphorae are covered in sea life: shells, barnacles, coral and seaweed.  Just like a storybook treasure you might discover on a sunken ship.  And not one is exactly like any other.

But the sunken treasure look wasn't the winemakers' motivation for this unique cellar location. They believe the depths of the Adriatic Sea provide ideal cool and consistent temperatures as well as silence that improve the wine's quality.

You don't have to take their word for it, though.  If you have diving credentials, you can go on a supervised dive to one of their underwater wine cellars in a sunken boat. On dry land, you – and any non-diving visitor – can enjoy a ceremonial opening of an amphorae-enclosed bottle and this one-of-a-kind wine in a spectacular seaside setting.   You can even order them in pine gift boxes.

It took the vintners 3 years to perfect the process and to source entirely local materials.  The grapes, clay, wrought iron, pine, glass and cork used in the making of 'Sea Mystery' wine are all products of Croatia – a true taste of the ancient Adriatic.

With a price tag in the hundreds of dollars, a bottle of 'Sea Mystery' wine won't be the least expensive bottle of wine you acquire on a trip to Croatia, but it will definitely give you the best story to tell while you're drinking it with your friends at home.

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App-Happy Kids at Heathrow with New Travel-Themed Mr. Men Characters

Remember the delightful Mr. Men and Little Miss book series for kids?  They have two new friends: Little Miss Explorer and Mr. Adventure.  And they live in the digital world of Augmented Reality at London's Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 ready to be discovered on your mobile device. 

The beloved, essential British children's book series has 90+ characters, a TV show, and a book sold every couple of seconds worldwide. For some reason, I was given the Little Miss Naughty book as a child (I can't imagine why!). More recently, a friend who's also in media gave me a 'Little Miss-Communication' - pun intended -  T-shirt.  Now I'm eager to discover my inner Little Miss Explorer. 

More than 45 years after their creation, the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters have vaulted into the digital age, teaming up with Heathrow airport's 'experience' department to bring smiles and fun times waiting for flights to kids and kids at heart.

Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Explorer are the heroes of a new AR app called Around the World with Mr. Adventure that you can use on any iOS or Android device with a camera.  As you (erm.. your kids) explore the airport,  you discover hidden digital badges, then the app plays a 3D animated video.  You (again, uh, your kids) can take a pic with the digital Mr. Adventure or Little Miss Explorer character or another character from the series. 

When you find all 5 digital badges hidden around the terminal, you can trade them in for the real thing; iron-on fabric badges are available from information desks.  Wouldn't that be just the best souvenir from the airport for any kid?

Through early September, 2017, costumed Little Miss Explorer and Mr. Adventure will also be roaming the airport, meeting and helping the kids (most likely helping the grown-ups. The kids have got this). The airport also has kids’ activities and workshops planned for the busy summer travel season, along with continuing to offer perks like free play areas and Kids Eat Free menus.

The Around the World With Mr. Adventure app is available as a free download on the App Store and Google Play.

Not traveling through Heathrow this summer? Don't worry, you (again, I really mean: your kids!) can still join in. Print out your own interactive bookmark at home and scan it using the app to see Mr. Adventure in 3D.  For more information and to get ready to discover the Around the World with Mr. Adventure app, visit Heathrow.com/aroundtheworld

You can also buy an IRL (that's 'In Real Life' as the kids would say) Mr. Men book: Mr. Adventure to add to your kids' library and travel pack.

 

A delightful app to enjoy sharing the world of discovery with a new generation of travelers. Also have some nostalgic fun yourself.  This beats a lot of other ways to kill time at an airport.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV

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Get your (Science) Geek on in Switzerland

If you, or someone in your family, has an inner science nerd, Switzerland is where you can feed your appetite for exploring the mysteries of the universe (as well as your appetite for chocolate and cheese  - but you already knew that!)

Did the song 'Rocket Man' immediately jump into your head?  There may be no better sound track to a story about science destinations, so here's a link to Elton John's classic so you can play it while you read on about the best ways to tap into your own inner geek in Switzerland.

CERN

Professional scientists, enthusiasts, and even your favorite TV comedy physicists all have Switzerland's CERN (pronounced 'Surn') on their travel bucket lists.  CERN is the world's largest physics laboratory.   The site straddles Switzerland and France outside of Geneva. Thousands of scientists from member European countries work together at CERN on questions of matter, anti-matter, the particles that make up all things in the universe, and the forces that link them.

It's best known for the Large Hadron Collider, a ring 27 kilometres around and 100 metres under the earth's surface.  The LHC accelerates particles into extremely high energies, making them smash into each other.  Scientists use very precise instruments to collect information about what happens during those collisions. 

Visitors can discover the mysteries of the Universe and the work of the world's biggest physics laboratory as a group, with friends, individually, on foot, on your bike, or virtually. CERN's 2 permanent exhibitions are free to visit.

(Above photos courtesy CERN)

CERN's gigantic Globe of Science and Innovation is a symbol of the Earth, and, at 27 metres high and 40 metres in diameter, bigger than the dome of St. Peter's in Rome!  Inside, the 'Universe of Particles' exhibit takes you on a journey of the building blocks of the entire Universe, where those particles come from, how they behave, and the questions of modern physics that scientists are exploring at CERN.  The 'Microcosm' exhibit allows you to discover the wonders of CERN's monumental experiments using the Large Hadron Collider, and meet the people who built and operate it.

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The Sphinx Observatory

From underground to 'The Top of Europe'.  Jungfraujoch is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: a glacier 'saddle' at the top of Europe's largest glacier, connecting two four-thousand meter peaks.

Take the historic Jungfrau railway from Interlaken to Grindelwald, a scenic glacier village that is one of Switzerland's oldest and most popular resort areas at the base of snow-capped mountains.  The view gets even more breathtaking from there to Europe's highest train station at Jungfraujoch.

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Don't settle for the  spectacular views here.  Do what scientists do and aim higher.  The Sphinx Observatory dates from the early 1900's and is named after the 'Sphinx' peak of a breathtakingly steep ridge where it's perched at a height of 3572 metres (11, 719 feet). The Sphinx Observatory is the highest construction on the continent.  Amazingly, there's an elevator tunneled into that rocky mountain peak connecting the Jungfraujoch railway station to the observatory.  The observatory serves researchers in fields as diverse as glaciology, medicine, cosmic physics and astronomy, with multiple laboratories, weather observation station, a enormous telescope and even electricity, water, phone and internet! 

Check your vertigo at the door and inhale pure mountain air, as well as unmatched views of the Alps, the glacier, the scenery over 11,000 feet below, and sometimes, all the way to Italy and Germany.

Stay in a 'Space Suite' in Zurich

Zurich's Kameha Grand Zurich boutique hotel is in up and coming Glattpark.  The growing neighborhood is a new business center in Switzerland's global city of banking and finance, so business travelers who value lifestyle have a place near their meetings with solid design credentials.  And its proximity to the Zurich airport makes it perfect for a stay on leisure travelers' way into or out of a wider tour of the country.

The hotel's design creativity extends to themed suites.  If you were the little kid who wanted to grow up to be an astronaut, or you're traveling with that little kid, the Kameha Grand Zurich's space suite is the hotel equivalent of sleeping in your favorite space hero pajamas.   The little kid will love the treat.  The little kid inside you will grin at the tongue in cheek design.  It leans on 'space age' without being kitsch.  

Designed by artist Michael Najjar, the Space Suite transports you to the stars with silver, black and moonscape textures, a gravity-defying, sleek. floating bed, pictures of galaxies, hovering astronauts and models of rockets, together with curated selections of literature, music and films about space travel, as well as original works by the artist.   The perfect place for your inner 'Rocket Man' to recharge.

 

 

Did you know there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam? 

It's one of the original and influential cycling cultures that helped set the trend towards urban cycling and our love for touring new destinations by bike.

The Dutch bicycle - the original workhorse urban bike for entire families - sets the bar in style, function and cool factor.  BestTrip.TV discovers cycling culture in legendary Amsterdam, and meets the maker of custom Dutch bikes.

If there's anything better than cycling through the streets of one of the world's favorite cities, it's a souvenir custom bike that will be the envy of all your cycling friends at home.

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Our 'Plan a Cruise Month' Smorgasbord of Offers

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

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

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

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

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Top 10 Reasons to Travel to Croatia

From an isolated backwater behind the Iron Curtain, Croatia has transformed itself into Eastern Europe's 'Riviera'.  Sun worshippers discovered the miles of sunny, pristine beaches and dramatic cliffs of the Dalmatian coast. Other tourism followed for ancient and historic monuments, including UNESCO world heritage sites and even some communist concrete architecture, spellbinding natural beauty featuring islands, waterfalls, and mountains, and the good life of good wine, good food, and a more relaxed atmosphere than other busier – and more expensive – European coastal holiday destinations. 

Recently named one of the top three most beautiful and affordable travel destinations, you don't want to miss these! Top 10 Reasons to Travel to Croatia:

1 The Beaches

The best beaches in Croatia are Dalmatian.  (Not the 101 spotted dogs, but the coast in Dalmatia).  White pebbles (and in some places, sand), crystal clear aquamarine water, hidden coves with rocks and fig and olive trees… these are the beaches that put Croatia on the map.  If your idea of beach lifestyle is a quiet hideaway, or waterfront party, there's a beach in Croatia for you.

2 Diving and Snorkeling

Some travelers get up closer to that incredibly clear sea.  While it's not like the Caribbean for a rainbow of tropical fish close to the surface, the pebble and stone coastline makes for fantastic underwater visibility. And with its long, seafaring history, there's plenty to see: underwater wrecks of wine and olive oil cargo ships dating back thousands of years, right up to recent war ships.  There are also some novel diving experiences like the Te Vega Sea Lake, reached by an underwater tunnel, the Blue Cave, even a reef with yellow coral.

Top Photo Author : Ivo Pervan Source: Croatian Tourist Board

3 Sailing, Yachting, Boating

The coast of Dalmatia is a sailor's paradise!  The best way to enjoy the dramatic cliffs rising from dark blue waters, countless scattered islands, hidden coves, untouched coastline, and seaside towns, is from the water.  You can rent a sailing boat with or without crew, or charter a yacht or catamaran to take you to remote coastal towns where you can enjoy fresh seafood and local wine in restaurants, or to an isolated beach.  Or just drop anchor and soak in the Adriatic atmosphere.

4 Plitvice Lakes National Park

This is Croatia's most popular national park and, many claim, Europe's most breathtaking natural wonder.  Sixteen electric blue Plitvice Lakes inhabit a forested canyon, interconnected by stunning waterfalls, and easy-to-hike boardwalks and trails.   A panoramic shuttle bus allows the less active traveler to take in the breathtaking scenery, and more active travelers will thrill at the views from the trails or rowing across the waters.

5 Dubrovnik

They call it the "Pearl of the Adriatic".  The walled, seaside Dubrovnik seems to have it all: centuries-old forts surrounding an enormous, picturesque Old Town, scenic wall walks with dazzling views of the cliffs and sea, as well as its famous collection of baroque buildings on marble streets. Dubrovnik is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and the iconic view is at the top of a cable car ride to the peak of Mount Srd.  Over a coffee at the café at the top, you can see the entire old city as well as the impossibly blue Adriatic Sea and nearby islands.  Game of Thrones enthusiast? You can explore many of the series' filming locations, too.

Split Author : Ante Zubović Source: Croatian Tourist Board

6 Split

The heart and major city of the Dalmatian Coast, Split is an exciting urban experience.  Its seaside promenade is bustling at all hours, and its massive Roman palace is the center of modern Split's lifestyle. Diocletian’s Palace was built by the Roman emperor of that name at the turn of the fourth century. From the outside, it's an imposing, walled fortress.  But inside, you’ll find bars, restaurants and shops that make it a pleasure to stroll and get momentarily lost in the interior's winding narrow streets – every wrong turn takes you to an even better place to rub elbows with locals and other travelers and enjoy a different local wine!

Zagreb Authors: Mario Romulić & Dražen Stojčić  Source: Croatian Tourist Board

7 Zagreb

Croatia's capital city isn't as popular as Dubrovnik or Split, but it's a terrific walking city with a café culture and some interesting museums.  The museum that tops everyone's list is the Museum of Broken Hearts, designed to help the lovelorn get over a relationship… by contributing mementos of their ex to the museum collection, along with their stories.  Single or happily coupled-up, this museum gets everyone talking!

8 Pula's Roman Amphitheatre

You'll find the city of Pula in Croatia's most Italian-feeling region of Istria that is also home to the Venice of Croatia.   Pula's claim to fame is its breathtaking Roman ruins, and especially, the impressive and well-preserved amphitheatre.  Dominating the city center, the amphitheatre remains at the center of life in Pula thousands of years after its construction.  Don't miss the opportunity to attend a concert, festival or even movie screening in this ancient venue.

9 The 'Sea Organ' at Zadar

Zadar's historic churches and Roman ruins are contrasted with modern art installations that are putting this Croatian city on the map for cool- and art hunters. The Sea Organ transforms waterside waves into melodies, and the Sun Salutation creates light show visualizations of Sea Organ's 'tunes' via a 'Sun' set into the pavement. Worth the trip.

Author : Ivo Pervan Source: Croatian Tourist Board

10 Wine Tours

Croatia has a long history of wine making, wide range of indigenous grape varieties, and lots of geographically defined wine regions. Wine tourism is an increasingly popular way to enjoy the countryside and meet local vintners.  A drive on the country's wine routes will bring you to picturesque vineyards (some with amazing views over the sea), historic and modern wine cellars and tasting rooms, and enthusiastic winemakers with uniquely Croatian flavors to share and discuss.

When to Travel:

If your travel plans to Croatia include the sea, especially swimming, snorkeling or diving, the best water temperatures are in the 'high season' summer months of July and August.  But off-season travel to Croatia can involve great savings, and include the joys of the wine and produce harvest months, festivals, and even winter sports and spa resorts.  

Smart Travel Tip: Currency

Croatia is not part of the EU; rather than the euro, the local currency is the kuna, which you exchange locally.  A smart travel tip is to pre-pay as many arrangements as you can through your travel consultant so you can pay in your own currency and not worry about exchanging as much money or exchange rates at the time of your trip. Planning and paying ahead also helps you stay within your travel budget!

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