Frederick Travel Waterloo's Blog

You may be familiar with treating yourself to a massage, reflexology, or other spa wellness treatments while you're on holiday.  But an Amethyst Crystal Sound Bath?  That's a level of holistic therapy you rarely encounter at any spa, especially at sea.  BestTrip.TV took a 'dip' during our cruise on the Seabourn Quest. 

One-of-a-Kind Wellness: Dr. Andrew Weil's Mindful Living Program on Seabourn

By Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV

If holistic wellness had a 'celebrity', it would be Dr. Andrew Weil.  The pioneer in integrative medicine is a best-selling author and practitioner. Dr. Weil has been pivotal in bringing a new awareness and mainstream practice of Eastern and Western wellness to the North American public.

He has also brought his mind, body, and spirit approach to holistic wellness to Seabourn.  So your cruise can include a journey towards rejuvenation, healthy ageing, and even renewed happiness through Dr. Weil's principles and unique practices and treatments.

The ultra-luxury line wants guests to be uplifted, not just by travel to new horizons, pampered by attentive service and the Seabourn way of life, but also by the opportunity to return from your holiday refreshed and relaxed in every way.  They've partnered with Dr. Weil to bring wellness and a Mindful Living program to the entire Seabourn fleet.  It's the first wellness program of its kind at sea.

Dr. Weil's Mindful Living program at the Spa on Seabourn ships is led by a wellness coach.  This certified yoga and meditation practitioner leads complimentary classes and practices as well as wellness gatherings throughout voyages.

Dr. Weil's teachings guide a comprehensive program.  Meditation sessions provide participants with positive affirmations and mantras you can reflect on throughout the day. Restorative yoga sessions reinforce the mantra introduced in the day's meditations.  Therapeutic yoga sessions also provide guests with various health concerns a practice to help their specific healing needs like back pain, joint pain, headaches, and body alignment. 

The Mindful Living program also recognizes the other ways the practice of yoga empowers you, offering sessions that enhance creativity, mental focus and even happiness.

The daily themes of the Mindful Living program change daily in seven-day cycles, so on a week-long Seabourn cruise, you can be immersed in new mindful living practices daily.

In addition to practices, complimentary program seminars provide guests with more information on the philosophies and background and principles of the program elements and its overall mission.  The goal is to empower you and increase your awareness of the connection between mind, body, environment and wellness.  Healing arts seminars include experts' teachings about issues we can all relate to:

  • Spontaneous Happiness & Spontaneous Healing
  • Anti-inflammatory foods with nutritional guidance from Dr. Andrew Weil's teachings
  • Healthy Aging
  • Learn what happens in both the mind and body during Mindful Meditation

But every person's wellness needs are different. So everyone receives an individual consultation and specialized recommended courses of practice and treatments that go far beyond standard spa fare.  Thai Poultice massages with steamed herbs like Kaffir Lime and Lemon grass, Deeper than Deep Hot Stone Massages, Bamboo massages, Acupuncture, and the Amethyst Crystal Sound Bath featured in the BestTrip.TV video above enhance the Dr. Andrew Weil Mindful Living practices.

One of the best things about participating in the Dr. Andrew Weil Mindful Living program on Seabourn is that, unlike the effects of a massage which can disappear once you return to the stresses of daily life, some of the practices you can learn during the course of a Seabourn voyage, like meditation or breathing exercises, can go home with you, and enrich your life along with memories of your favorite Seabourn moments long after your cruise has come to an end.

Start your Trip!

 

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If You Think Bigger is Better, You'll Love the New Largest Ship at Sea
March 31st 2018 was a red-letter day in marine lore.  Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas set sail with her first group of passengers.  It marks the 25th ship of the fleet – and the largest passenger cruise ship ever built.

5518 guests sail on this architectural marvel of a ship that's 3 and a half football fields long and 2/3 the height of the Eiffel Tower!  Like other ships in its Class, the aft of the Symphony of the Seas is open to the sea.

The ship's U-shaped tower has an eye-popping 2759 staterooms overlooking either the ocean, or the Oasis Class' signature, open-air Boardwalk amusement park at sea and lush green Central Park neighborhoods.

It sleeps 8, but it's hard to know how much sleep families will get in the new Ultimate Family Suite, two stories of thrills perfect for extended families and sleepovers with the cousins.  Will you want to leave the suite when there's an in-room slide, private 85-inch cinema TV, a LEGO wall, table tennis and full-sized whirlpool on the balcony and a 'Royal Genie', Royal Caribbean's fun version of a butler?    

It will be hard to stay indoors. They've packed a lot of unforgettable cruise moments into this record-breaking ship.  

This latest Oasis Class ship brings back and changes up some of guests' favorite experiences and Royal Caribbean exclusives and launches new adventures, too:
  • The Rising Tide bar on a pedestal lifts and lowers guests up multiple decks in the heart of the ship.
  • Robots tend the Bionic Bar (see them in action in this video).
  • The al fresco AquaTheater at the signature, open-air aft of the ship is home to breathtaking high-diving and aerial acrobatics against an ocean backdrop with a brand-new show.
  • A new high-tech ice-skating show is the highlight of Studio B

  • And there's more adrenaline than ever, with three waterslides, a zipline across the open ship's cavity, surf simluators, and the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, shoots thrill-seekers from the top deck to the heart of the Boardwalk decks below.

 

  • Battle for Planet Z is Royal Caribbean’s first, glow-in-the-dark laser tag game.
  • The custom-built escape room Escape the Rubicon has you, family, and new friends in a Rubicon submarine solving puzzles against the clock.
20 restaurants include new culinary adventures, too, like:
  • Hooked Seafood with vast ocean views out the front of the ship, upscale but accessible New-England inspired seafood, with a raw bar and oysters shucked to order.
  • And Mexican 'street food' at El Loco Fresh
  • Is it a Sports Bar or Spectacle?At the Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade stretching the length of the re-imagined Boardwalk, 31 big-screen TV's blast the game.

New technology debuts on the Symphony of the Sea too.  Mobile check-in, facial recognition, bar codes, and apps eliminate lines and get you vacationing sooner.

Where can you sail?

Symphony of the Seas homeports in Barcelona for the summer of 2018, on itineraries that include dreamy Mediterranean ports like Palma de Mallorca, Provence, Florence, Rome and Naples.

Then she'll reposition to her new homeport of Miami for 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises year round that will include calls on Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's new private island destination in the Bahamas.

 

All Photos Credit: SBW -Photo

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There's a tinkling, tap-tap-tap coming from the pool deck of the Silver Muse. It's being made by a hammer against a tiny shoe nail in the hands of an Italian cobbler. Before your eyes, he custom-makes Italian leather sandals for another fortunate guest.

One of the hallmarks of a Silversea cruise is the exceptional level of service. It's personified in the white-gloved, formally-suited butlers who not only provide, but actually anticipate your every need.

Before we boarded the Silver Muse, I was not aware I needed a new pair of custom-fitted, hand-made, Italian leather sandals for my vacation. Once I saw Gennaro's work, it was obvious that is exactly what I needed.

In the rarefied world of true luxury cruising, it can be hard to define what makes one cruise line's interpretation of luxury different from another's. In the case of Silversea, a cruise line with Italian roots, luxury at sea becomes la dolce vita. The good life, polished with pleasure and indulgence, Italian-style.

In that context, having an Italian cobbler on board seems almost obvious. Of course ladies and gentlemen would like to meet a skilled craftsman who can make them custom Italian leather sandals on their cruise.

Not all Silversea cruises have an Italian cobbler-in-residence. But wherever you sail on Silversea cruises around the world – and since they sail to 900 different ports of call on every continent including Antarctica, that is pretty much anywhere – a little bit of Italy travels with you.

Here's our guide to the dolce vita, Silversea-style.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip.TV

Socializing

There is an actual place called the Dolce Vita on board the Silver Muse, a relaxing lounge and gathering place sumptuously appointed and with day and evening service. A cappuccino? A glass of wine or champagne or a bespoke cocktail to enjoy as you exchange greetings with fellow guests, plan the next day's adventures, enjoy the pianist with your aperitif before dinner? Gather with intimate or larger groups in a perfect social setting. And don't miss the stylized portrait of Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio whose Italian heritage inspired and shapes the Silversea lifestyle.

Dining

Everyone loves Italian cuisine. But not everyone serves authentic Italian cuisine. Silversea does.

La Terrazza restaurant is located on an aft deck where you can choose al fresco dining so the sea breezes complement cherished regional Italian dishes, daily fresh-made pasta and the freshest Mediterranean ingredients. The restaurant's relaxed style evokes the atmosphere (and mouth-watering culinary experience) of dining in outdoor restaurants in seaside Italian towns.



Spaccanapoli is hard to say, but the original Neapolitan pizza it serves is easy to swallow. Most guests on the ship just say 'the pizza place', but that off-hand term hardly does this pizza restaurant, on the top deck overlooking the pool, justice.

Inspired by the historic street in Naples, the seaside town where pizza was born, Spaccanapoli is one of the most popular places to dine on the ship. Chefs in the open-air kitchen work hand-made dough and create made-to-order pizzas in a range of authentic recipes, baking them in a pizza oven only a few steps away from your al fresco table. It couldn't be simpler, or more special: a super-chilled, crisp rose wine in the sea breezes mingling with the fragrance of authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Italian coffee and a selection of wines are perfect accompaniments to quiet and social moments throughout the day.

Freshening Up

One of your first interactions with your Silversea butler on boarding and entering your suite involves your selection of bath amenities. Italian lifestyle brand Bvlgari is stocked in your marble bathroom, but another Italian brand, Ferragamo, is also on offer, making it easy for you to channel your inner stylish Italian as you luxuriate in your suite's bath.

Relaxing

Morning coffee on your veranda, or at the ship's spa. Any number of occasions on board the Silver Muse call for a cozy bathrobe and slippers. Italian fashion house Etro supplies particularly plush ones to Silversea. The family business is famous among those in the know for mens' and womens' wear, as well as accessories and home products. It is sometimes tempting to stay in the robes all day!

Resting

After an exciting day of travels, when you finally lay your head down at night in your suite, you'll be resting on linens from legendary Italian firm Pratesi. Join European aristocracy in sleeping on bed linens that have been called masterpieces of comfort and luxurious style. Difficulty sleeping? Ask your butler about options from the pillow menu, including lavender aromatherapy pillowcases.

Whether you're in Buenos Aires or Belfast, Capri or the Caribbean, make sure you enjoy the Italian indulgences on your Silversea ship.

Start your Trip!

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Film Set Fantasy: Go On Location in Ireland

The Emerald Isle is Hollywood gold! Lovers of green beer and big parties may dream of visiting Ireland for St. Patrick's Day festivities. But if cinematic drama is more your style, Ireland is where your fantasy of standing in the spectacular natural setting of some your favorite movies can come true.

Ireland's dramatic scenery has been the backdrop of some of the world's biggest film and video sensations. (All images courtesy Ireland.com). It’s where Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and Star Wars fantastical settings were brought to film life, where Braveheart and the Vikings battled for glory in places that appear to have changed little from the ancient times they depict, and where many other iconic movies and TV series played out in the perfect backdrop.

It's amazingly easy to get behind the scenes at Ireland’s top film locations. You can take guided tours or travel on your own to places you'll experience some movie déjà vu.

Ireland's island of Skellig Michael off the coast of County Kerry is much closer than a galaxy far, far away. Its ancient monastery, as well as and Malin Head in the rugged north-west, are locations where Star Wars fans can feel the Force.

Film locations are just one reason to visit the spectacular Wild Atlantic Way. Harry Potter’s horcrux cave is at the foot of the famous Cliffs of Moher. Or remember The Quiet Man? See his home the pretty village of Cong.

In Ireland’s Ancient East, set-jetters can stroll along the golden expanse of Curracloe Beach in County Wexford, which featured in both Brooklyn and Saving Private Ryan. Plus more scenery for Vikings fans, who can follow in their heroes' footsteps through the beautiful Wicklow Mountains.


Wicklow is also home to the magnificent Powerscourt Estate. It was the elegant setting for Ella Enchanted and The Tudors.

And fans of epic Braveheart will recognize Trim Castle in County Meath, which looks much more peaceful when you visit than it did in the movie.

In Dublin, bustling Grafton St provided the urban setting for Once and historic Kilmainham Gaol put stars behind bars in Michael Collins and The Italian Job.

To see the location for Educating Rita, movie buffs can visit Trinity College, famous for the Book of Kells. Are you a Bollywood buff? It's also the location of the Indian blockbuster, Ek The Tiger.

Northern Ireland stars brightly on screen too. TV shows like The Fall and Line of Duty and big-screen blockbusters like Dracula Untold were shot there.

But these days, it's most known worldwide as the ‘Home of Thrones’.

A number of tours visit beautiful Game of Thrones shoot locations, including Castle Ward (Winterfell) in County Down, the Dark Hedges (Kingsroad) and Ballintoy (Pyke Harbour) in County Antrim, and Downhill Strand (Dragonstone) in County Londonderry.

There's more to do than take a selfie (no judgment if you pack a costume to get into the moment). Fans can enjoy a taste of Westeros at a medieval banquet, meet the direwolves, and shoot arrows on the set where Robb Stark taught Bran archery.

Ireland's dramatic scenery isn't the only way to immerse yourself in the island's movie magic. Time your location tour to coincide with one of Ireland's film festivals. Among the choices are the six-day Galway Film Fleadh (July) and the Oscar-affiliated Foyle Film Festival (November) in Derry~Londonderry.

If you're a 'die hard' fan of film, making Ireland your go-to movie location destination puts you in good company with many of the world's most famous movie-makers.

Start your Trip!

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Silversea's 'Celebrity' Culinary Partnership

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip.TV

These days, celebrity chefs and cruise lines sail hand in hand.  Silversea's interpretation of luxury cruising is an understated elegance where service and attention to detail are primary.

The Silver Muse at anchor in Paraty, Brazil (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

So it's no surprise that Silversea's culinary partnership is not with a famous chef with a flamboyant TV show.  Instead, Silversea partnered with Relais & Chateaux, a world-wide association long dedicated to the highest culinary and hospitality arts for travelers in the know.

Table settings in La Dame on board the Silver Muse (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

If you're a dedicated foodie and traveler, Relais & Chateaux should be on your radar.  The association began in France decades ago, launched by a boutique hotelier/restaurateur to unite other independent boutique hotels with peak standards in local cuisine and fine living.  Today, it's the most prestigious hotel/culinary association in the world.  500 member landmark hotels and restaurants are united by a shared commitment to outstanding fine dining and their unique interpretation of the Art of Living.

Relais & Chateaux hotels/restaurants can be found in 64 countries around the world… and at sea, only on Silversea cruises. So the seven seas can be added to the dozens of countries where Relais & Chateaux' kitchens and dining rooms pay exquisite attention to ingredients, technique and flavors for the delectation of travelers.

Imagine: Silversea's expedition cruises to the world's polar regions mean the cruise line brings the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant to Antarctica!

Where art meets marzipan.  (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

Silversea works with the 'Grands Chefs' honored by Relais & Chateaux to offer their signature dishes on board Silversea ships.  In addition, one restaurant on Silversea, La Dame, is the only Wine Restaurant by the association at sea.  What a perfect combination: sailing to some of the world's great wine regions and dining in a restaurant that celebrates those wines with six-course menus of inspired French cuisine.

Lobster and Caviar and Leeks, oh my! (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

Our recent cruise on the Silver Muse from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro gave us the perfect opportunity to experience Silversea's unique version of Relais & Chateaux.   Argentine wines were the toast of the hour during a wine tasting in La Dame.  And we chose to celebrate our final evening on board the ship at La Dame with an array of exquisite wines and dishes that brought our Silversea experience to a crescendo.

Watch the video to join our experience in Silversea's La Dame Relais & Chateaux restaurant as well as 7 other unique restaurants on the Silver Muse.

BestTrip.TV hard at work... even at dinner in La Dame. (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

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5 Reasons To Love Your Suite Butler on a Silversea Cruise

If you've never sailed on Silversea Cruises before, you might not realize something very special you will come to love: your Silversea Butler.

This is the only cruise line that provides its famous Butler service in every suite on the ship, where the staff-to-guest ratio is nearly one to one.  If you're trying to picture how that level of service – and butlers! - translate to your experience, here are 5 reasons the BestTrip.TV team loved our Suite Butlers when we sailed recently on the Silver Muse.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer and Host, BestTrip.TV

In-Suite Dining and Entertaining

Nothing is too complex or too tiny a detail for your Silversea butler.  A simple cup of tea in the early morning hours so I could enjoy the unique pleasure of inhaling sea air and watching the waves pass by was a perfect Silversea moment thanks to my butler. (All photos BestTrip.TV)

Dining and entertaining in-suite is such a pleasure on the Silver Muse.  Spacious suites have living areas that open out onto your balcony. Perfect for pre-dinner cocktails and canapés with friends. 

Our butler made that happen.  He ensured our in-suite bars were stocked to our individual preferences of wine, champagne, spirits and mix.  He delivered canapés for pre-dinner aperitifs and extra cocktail, wine, and champagne glasses. Which magically had disappeared by our return after dinner.

One of our group had brought a certain snack on board when we arrived.  He finished the package but didn't mention it.  His butler not only noticed… but replaced it with a fresh package from the ship's stores. Observation meets the service of anticipation.

Polished Sunglasses…

Returning on board the ship a bit worse for wear after a day in port called for a freshen up in my suite's full marble bath before dressing for dinner.  When I returned to my suite after dinner and the evening's entertainment, what did I find? 

The sunglasses smudged with the day's sunscreen had received the butler treatment.  My butler had polished my sunglasses and left them wrapped in a polishing cloth I took with me on the next port of call.

… And shoes

Then formal evening arrived.  Ladies and gentlemen took the opportunity to celebrate life, Silversea-style, by dressing for the evening.  That morning, my butler brought my tea and reminded me it was formal evening.  Would I need anything pressed to wear for dinner?  No, thank you, my dress traveled well.   Perhaps he could polish my formal shoes?  Well that was a splendid idea. 

I returned to my suite to dress for dinner to find them polished and presented in tissue in my closet.  A perfect kick-off to the evening!

White-Gloved Service

The white-gloved service didn't end there.  Particularly on formal evening.  Butlers stood poised in hallways outside suites ready for service, wishing guests a fine evening and even offering an escort to dinner.  The hospitality is not limited to the ladies! 

When you cruise on Silversea, don't be surprised to find yourself forming quite a bond with your suite butler. The best of them bring a genuine personal kindness and deep caring to their work as butler.  It is the person you will have the most contact with, and often a wonderful personal connection.

Suitcases and Packing

In a lovely gesture on the day before our cruise came to a close,  my butler offered to help me pack.  I'm pretty independent and couldn't bring myself to accept that assistance.  I was delighted to return to my suite to find my suitcase set out  for me with this note.  My butler had cleaned my suitcase, freshening it up in anticipation of packing and sending me on my way.

Those are just 5 ways we realized we couldn't live without our Silversea Suite Butler.  You'll have your own butler moments, too.

We all have our special memories of our cruise on the Silver Muse, where the hardest part... was saying goodbye to our butlers.

Start your Trip!

 

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Rio's annual pre-Lent extravaganza, Carnaval is the highlight of Rio's – and the party world's – calendar. It runs every year in the 5 days leading up to Ash Wednesday, culminating on Mardi Gras.  But not everyone can make it to the throbbing excitement of Carnaval in that short window.  

If you missed what many consider the sexiest party on the planet, not to worry.

BestTrip.TV can give you an insider's view of Carnaval.  Join us for a rare, behind-the-scenes experience with our fellow guests on this Silversea Grand Voyage exclusive shore excursion to one of Rio's top Samba Schools.

For Silversea's Grand Voyage guests, a one-of-a-kind Carnaval experience immerses us in all the elements of Rio's renowned celebrations:

Floats are the centerpieces of Carnaval.  Samba Schools build their floats in total secrecy – even from other members of their own Samba School. That makes the access we and our fellow guests have to the float-in-the-making extraordinary. The competition between Rio's Samba Schools is so extreme, not a whisper of each Samba School's new theme can leak out.  Each year, the Samba School parade entry tells a different story, and the installations, mechanisms and very glittery art  - provide the framework for the story. The countless sequins, glitter, feathers and sparkly paint make the floats surreal.

Costumes outshine even the floats, if that's possible.  Parade floats are escorted through Rio's Sambadrome by hundreds and even thousands of costumed dancers, musicians and other performers. Perhaps it's the extraordinary contradiction of so much glitter and shine… and so much skin at the same time. Rio's Carnaval costumes differ from other Mardi Gras celebrations around the world (like Venice or New Orleans) in one key way: they are notoriously sexy. This is the birthplace of the thong and dental floss bikini after all.  Not every costume is skimpy on fabric – they are wondrous, hand-made creations, and we and our fellow guests get to play dress up with genuine Carnaval costumes.

Cocktails make everything more fun, and the Carnaval experience is no exception. Cachaca (pronounced ka-CHA-sa) is Brazil's local sugarcane spirit, this country's answer to rum. Caipirinhas are the mojito of Brazil and help make this experience into a party.

Samba may be the most uniquely Brazilian aspect of Rio's Carnaval. The local music and dance, with roots in the country's African slaves, shaped by poor urban neighborhoods of more recent years, is a great symbol of the diversity, unity and democracy of the country today. Not to mention being one of the most throbbing, sensual, irresistible rhythms in the world. To the beat of the drums, cowbells, and whistles of musicians, we get into the spirit of Samba.  Spoiler alert: you may need to be born dancing samba to do the incredible music justice.

Parade time is the culmination of a year of Carnaval preparations. Rio has even built its incredible Sambadrome parade ground, lined by stands and VIP booths.  They don't prevent anyone from dancing along with the Samba School entries though.  And naturally, our own Silversea Carnaval experience culminates in a 'mock' Carnaval parade.

It's an overnight in Rio we'll never forget.

Plus, the Carnaval Experience supports the Youth Samba School that educates thousands of kids in the community.   Join us in celebrating Brazil's famous five-day party!

 

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Two of South America's most fabled cities and a week-long cruise in luxury. That's our BestTrip.TV experience sailing on Silversea's Silver Muse from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

With overnights in both exciting ports, and sunny days at sea on Silversea's intimate 600-passenger ship, it's the South American sailing of your dreams.  Spacious and yacht-like, with more restaurants than we can experience in a week, the personal attention of an all-butler suite ship, and niceties of Italian hospitality and lifestyle that are the hallmarks of a Silversea cruise... we can't imagine a more ideal way to sample the delights of two destinations on everyone's travel bucket list. 

Start your Trip!

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France's largest port town, on the magical Mediterranean, has been transformed in recent years. 

You'll still find the charms of its Old Port, the oldest neighborhood in France, the maritime culture... but there's been a wave of revitalization and stunning builds that make this seaside city spectacular. 

On our latest visit, we fell in love with Marseille, and here are at least 3 reasons we think you'll love it too.

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Shaq is the 'Chief Fun Officer' of this Cruise Line

It's not the normal career path of a company CFO.  But when CFO stands for Chief Fun Officer, it takes a unique resume to fill the role. 

For Carnival Cruise Line, Shaquille O'Neal's credentials as an NBA Hall of Famer and TV commentator - one with a famously fun outlook and larger-than-life personality – fit the bill.

The beloved former basketball star is Carnival's ambassador for its new motto 'Choose Fun'.  Shaq's already having fun, touring some of Carnival's 25 mega ships that focus on non-stop fun times and great value. Although the cruise line sails on world-wide itineraries, Carnival is most famous for sun-filled cruise vacations to the Caribbean, the Bahamas and the Mexican Riviera.

Shaq's huge popularity mirrors Carnival's.  If the sports personality is the fun face of basketball, then Carnival is the face of non-stop fun cruise travel.

Carnival Cruise Line lays claim to the title of world's most popular cruise line.  More than five million cruise travelers each year take a Carnival cruise in search of its particular brand of round-the-clock fun. It's a top choice for families and couples as well as seniors, solo travelers and multi-generation travelers.  The line carries more kids and more military personnel than any other cruise line. 

We're not sure how many play basketball, but a lot of new and returning Carnival cruisers will be inspired by Shaq's career and irresistible, playful zest for life. As Carnival's ambassador, he's already toured the Carnival Vista's attractions and experiences, including of course the basketball court.

Stay tuned for more Shaq at sea.  And stay tuned for more Carnival cruise ships.  The colossal, 133, 500-ton, Vista-class Carnival Horizon launches in Spring 2018 as Carnival's 26th ship.  And the fleet keeps getting bigger.  Another Vista-class ship, the Carnival Panorama, is due in 2019, followed by two more, even bigger ships a couple of years later.

That's a lot of fun – even for Shaq.

Start your Trip!

 

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7 Reasons to Go To Sea on the New MSC Seaside

MSC Cruises' new flagship launched at the end of 2017 and it's really making waves.  Designers of the MSC Seaside had a goal: to bring guests on a big ship closer to the sea.  They threw out the playbook and started fresh, creating the Seaside, a new prototype for a class of ships inspired by an elegant Miami beach condo.

Here are 7 reasons by you'll want to get onboard this new concept ship:

1. Her standout silhouette.  

It's all part of getting back to the sea.  You'll never be far from a view of the ocean on the Seaside. Three-quarters of the staterooms are ocean-facing. They include beach condo-inspired, chic aft corner suites, exclusive balcony staterooms whose private terraces overlook the ship's promenade and even modular, extended family staterooms that can be configured for groups of up to ten.

2. The waterfront boardwalk. 

It's one of the widest on any ship ever built. This extravagant, wrap-around public space takes guests strolling past al fresco bars and restaurants in an experience reminiscent of – no surprise - a chic seaside town.

3. All that Glass.  

Take a deep breath and keep strolling, over the hundred-foot long, glass-floored 'Bridge of Sighs' projecting out from the ship on the top deck 131 feet high.  You'll feel like you're walking in the air - part of the sea breeze wafting around you.

From walking on ocean breezes to walking on water.  Two, 131-foot-long catwalks with glass floors continue the theme of connecting you with the surrounding marine environment.

And there's still more panoramic glass: elevators that whisk you up and down with yet more stunning views of the sea.

4. Entertainment in the Atrium.

On most ships, a place to pass through.  On the MSC Seaside, the magnificent, three-story atrium isn't just the stylish heart of the ship. It's also an impromptu, multi-media, multi-level 'stage'.  Who knows what you'll discover: dancers and acrobats? Music? Game shows? Flash Mobs? Karaoke? Or light shows?  If you like spontaneous delight, make sure to keep the atrium on your Seaside agenda.

5. Adrenalin Rushes.

Race a friend side-by-side on two of the longest zip lines at sea, nearly 350 feet to the finish line at the back of the ship. Or spend your day super-soaked in the vast water park with 5 interactive aquatic adventures.

6. Family Time.  

Infants right through teens have their own programs that entertain the kids and free up Mum and Dad's time for much-needed grown-up relaxation.  Plus MSC has a Lego partnership that makes kids sorry to leave when the holiday is over. The Doremi Family lounge and program is where families can play together during their vacation.

7. The Luxury Ship within a Ship. 

The MSC Yacht Club is MSC's version of a 'ship within a ship' is where you can enjoy a private luxury yacht lifestyle within all the extensive choices of a 5000-passenger ship.   We love this especially for extended families; those looking for a prestigious and pampered cruise with a private sun deck, lounge and restaurant, can also join other family members or take advantage of the dining, bars, views and activities in the main part of the ship when the mood strikes.

They call the MSC Seaside the 'ship that follows the sun'.  We think this innovative new concept ship is going to gain a lot of followers itself.

Check out even more wow facts and figures about the MSC Seaside.  And check with us for MSC Seaside Caribbean sailings from Miami.

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Some of the best food travel experiences don't involve white linen or Michelin stars.  A crab feast in Alaska that starts with a boat ride to collect crab pots is one of the most fresh, pure-tasting... and fun dining experiences you'll have anywhwere in the world.

Prepare to get dripping in butter and crab juice in this fun BestTrip.TV video!

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And local fireweed and spruce tips for truly local spirits and craft cocktails.

BestTrip.TV was in port in Skagway, Alaska on our Regent Seven Seas cruise and naturally, we checked out the famous local saloon recommended by Regent's shore expert.  We are always on the hunt for 'local', and there on the bar menu:  cocktails made using local, small-batch gin and vodka. Intrigued, we asked the bartender, who drew us a map on a napkin (those are always the best maps) to find the distillery.

And off we went on a walk through town to find Skagway Spirits. We found them next to Skagway's local airport in a re-imagined hangar, distilling gin and vodka and hand-crafting local ingredient-based juices and cordials to mix with them in their fun tasting room.

The last time we turned down a crafted cocktail using local ingredients and local, hand-crafted spirits made from the first water off the local glacier was... never!  Our little adventure to find the entrepreneurial Heger family and their wonderful airport hangar distillery was one of our best memories of our trip to Alaska. 

The best news?  You don't need a happy accident to discover Skagway Spirits on your next trip to Alaska.  Now you know exactly where to find Gary, Jan and Luke Heger and their delicious spirits and cocktails.

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Would You Sail on an Adults-Only Cruise Line?

Sir Richard Branson is betting you will. The flamboyant billionaire behind the Virgin brands is doubling down on the reputation Virgin Air gained for uniquely fun, sexy… and grown up travel. His latest venture, Virgin Voyages, will be 'Adult by Design'.

Virgin Voyages will be the very first cruise line to be designated adults-only.  True, some other cruise lines lean towards a grown up, as opposed to kid-friendly lifestyle.  But that tends to be more about mature adults at the luxury price point, where kids are still welcome.  Not for Virgin Voyages.

You get a strong sense of what 'Adult by Design' means at Virgin Voyages when we tell you the announcement was made during what they called a 'Ship Tease'.

Branson and the cruise line CEO were delivered to the stage of the shipyard in Italy in dramatic style via a 200-foot crane drop for the traditional ceremony for the laying of the new ship's keel.  They used the occasion to announce more details about what to expect from the new cruise line and the first of its three ships launching in 2020.

Not only did the pair announce the 'Adult by Design' concept (permitting bookings for only those 18 and older) they also promised the new ship will be the most recognizable design at sea, reminiscent of a super yacht in cruise ship form, with a sleek, silver-gray (as opposed to white) hull with smoked glass and hits of Virgin red especially on its iconic red Virgin funnel. 

They're calling the fleet the 'Lady Ships' in a twist on the British term 'your ladyship', a nod to Branson's nationality and playfulness.  In another twist on tradition, instead of a female figurehead on the bow of the ships, a Virgin mermaid makes a saucy appearance.  Branson also promised Virgin Voyages would be home to the happiest crew afloat. 

In other words, look forward to a big, sexy, fabulous party in established Virgin style  - at sea.

Nearly all staterooms will boast a 'sea terrace' on what Virgin Voyages is calling a 'sophisticated ship and a transformational experience' for cruise travelers where 'rejuvenating day-life meets exciting nightlife and everything in between'.   And they've announced the cruise line is open for business with pre-sale deposits now being accepted for the first season of sailing.

Virgin Voyages vision is taking shape and its 'Ship Tease' was one more step towards reality for this highly anticipated cruise line. 

 

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3 Greek Islands You Must Visit Before You Die

Greece is famous as the cradle of Western civilization. It's the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, literature and drama, marathons, the Olympics, plus some of your favorite math principles.

Modern Greece consists of a mountainous mainland and hundreds of islands surrounded by the Aegean, Ionian, Cretan and Mediterranean Seas.  Over two hundred of the islands are inhabited, many of them rich in history and mythology, as well as the Mediterranean culture, cuisine, maritime and beach lifestyle that makes Greece one of the top bucket list travel destinations.

Some travelers in the know take holidays to Greece year after year, and Greek islands are a highlight of Eastern Mediterranean cruises.  If you've never visited Greece, here are the islands you just can't miss.

Photo (Credit)

Santorini

Santorini inspired the title of this article.  It's continuously named the 'best island in the world' and the 'Greek Island you must visit before you die'. (But we think all the islands in this list merit the title). (Top Photo Credit)

When you hear 'Greek island', chances are that the sight that pops into your head is one of the iconic pictures of Santorini. The island's sky blue domed church roofs, white washed buildings on the edges of cliffs, and steep, narrow cobbled streets overlooking brilliant blue seas stand in to represent the iconic Greek island vista of everyone's travel dreams. 

Santorini is what remains of an island after the eruption of an ancient volcano. Now, a giant lagoon is encircled by the 300 m (980 ft) high cliffs of a crescent shaped island and a much smaller island opposite where the remaining volcano rim is still above the sea. Visiting ships, yachts and local fishing boats approaching the shelter of the curve are afloat in the crater of the volcano.  Inside the caldera, the water is so deep - over 400m - that only the largest ships can anchor.    Santorini's capital, Fira (Thira) clings to the top of the cliff over the lagoon.

Photo (Credit)

Don't Miss:  volcanic-sand beaches in unique black or red sands, brilliant sunsets, a traditional and a growing modern food culture.  Santorini's micro-climate nurtures tomatoes and capers of famously exquisite flavor, and an indigenous grape varietal that local vintners turn into celebrated crisp, dry white and amber-toned wines.

 

Photo (Credit)

Mykonos

Mykonos is the Greek island where Ibiza party and French Riviera beach lifestyles meet.  Cosmopolitan and glamorous, Mykonos may be Greece's most fashionable holiday destination.  Luxury hotels, stylish bars, clubs and parties where beautiful people come to see and be seen until dawn, then sleep it off on magnificent beaches or private yachts… if that is your style of travel, Mykonos is for you.  It's also known for being an LGBT-friendly destination and party central.

(Photo Credit)

Mykonos is both the island and its main town, which is also called Chora (meaning 'town', in the Greek style of towns with the same name as their islands).  Picturesque local architecture, sunsets, people watching and shopping appeal to visitors of all ages.

(Photo Credit) 

The island's nickname is 'the Island of Winds'. Windmills are one of the defining and unique features of the Mykonos landscape, built by Venetians in the 16th century to grind flour and used until electricity took over only a few decades ago.

(Photo Credit)

Don't Miss:  Romantic, artistic Little Venice, where rows of 18th century colorful fishing houses with overhanging balconies line the seaside, many of them shops, cafes, and galleries.  And Petros the Pelican, the mascot of Chora's waterfront.    

(Photo Credit)

Rhodes

Rhodes' nickname is The Island of the Knights.  Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the world.  Walking its Street of Knights, you feel transported back to the Middle Ages, when conquering Crusaders built fortifications, the Palace of the Grand Masters, towers, inns and rest of the medieval city and streets that remain today.

(Photo Credit)

But Rhodes' history pre-dates mediaeval knights by thousands of years, when the island's strategic position made it central to ancient history.  One of Rhodes' lasting claims to fame is a landmark that no longer exists.

(Photo Credit)

  (Photo Credit)

The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Erected in 280 B.C. at the Mandraki harbor to mark a battle victory, the Colossus was a bronze statue of extraordinary size - about the same as the Statue of Liberty!  Rhodes' Colossus stood for less than a century before an earthquake toppled it. Even then, for another 800 years, its remains lying on the ground drew travelers to Rhodes to marvel at and write about its size. Today the statues of deer on pillars at the entrance to the harbor mark where the Colossus' feet were said to stand and allow ships to pass beneath this feat of design and engineering.

  (Photo Credit)

Don't Miss: The beaches.  Don't be so distracted by the history you miss its stunning beaches. The wine. Rhodes is said to have been the first island in the Aegean to cultivate vineyards for wine; that tradition continues today.  The lush, green interior and emerald fresh waters inland from the beaches.

When to go

In most of the Greek islands, the sun shines 300 magical days a year.  Summers are high season for travelers arriving by air and cruise ship, but April- June and September- October are blessed with lovely weather.  Looking for mild weather, quiet exploration – and a bargain?  More and more people are discovering Greece in early and late winter months too.

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A New Marine Reserve in Mexico is the 'Galapagos of North America'

Giant manta rays, sharks, whales, turtles, sea lizards and hundreds of other species are now protected in Mexico's vast new Revillagigedo marine reserve in the Pacific Ocean off the Baja Peninsula.

There are four Revillagiegedo Islands about 240 miles (390 km) southwest of Baja California.  They are small, uninhabited volcanic islands, but uniquely positioned where two ocean currents converge.  (Top photo credit).  That makes the islands and the waters around them a hub for hundreds of species of marine plants, birds and animals that live there or migrate there especially for breeding.

Previously, only the waters 6 miles around the islands were protected, leaving vital feeding, breeding and migration areas open for fishing.  But in 2016 the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its biodiversity and in November 2017, the Mexican government created an immense marine reserve 57,000 square miles (148,000 square km) surrounding the islands.  That's a protected area the size of the entire state of Illinois, and the largest marine protected area in North America.

(Photo Credit)

All fishing is now banned inside the reserve – a move that will actually support the fishery. Protecting breeding grounds of commercial fish like tuna will allow hard-hit fish populations recover to the benefit of local fisheries outside the reserve. (Other marine reserves around the world have seen the local fisheries benefit from the conservation of breeding grounds).

Mining, resource extraction and hotel development will also be prohibited. Plans for active protection are now in place. The Mexican Environment Ministry and Navy “will carry out surveillance, equipment and training activities that will include remote monitoring in real time, environmental education directed at fishermen and sanctions against offenders".

Already, conservationists are celebrating and calling it 'the Galapagos of North America'.  The Revillagigedo islands are considered one of the wildest places remaining in tropical North America, where you can see the most giant manta rays and sharks and large fish in the world as well as soft coral gardens with sea fans, sponges and crabs.  

(Photo Credit)

What does this mean for us travel lovers?  In addition to knowing some of the Earth's biodiversity and natural marine beauty are being protected, Mexico's creation and protection of the new Revillagigedo marine reserve is expected to increase the opportunity for dive tourism in the area.  Boats currently often depart for the Revillagigedo islands from the popular resort destination Cabo San Lucas.  Not a diver? It's anticipated that carefully monitored wildlife adventure cruises, like trips travelers can take to the Galapagos Islands in the waters of Ecuador, will also allow travelers to experience the biggest marine reserve in North America.

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Maybe you've had the fun of a zip line adventure before.  But have you ever taken a zip line over the ocean? 

When Norwegian developed Harvest Caye, its private island beach resort port of call for cruises in the Norwegian family: Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania, it took the concept of a zip line adventure to another level (pardon the pun.)

Standing tall on the island is the 'Flighthouse'.  A tower that looks, no surprise, like a lighthouse.  It's the focal point of the island's air-borne adventures.  Guests depart from the Flighthouse onto ropes courses over the beach and lagoon, and this is where you can take flight on a zip line that sets you sailing over the crescent-shaped beach, then right over the water to a safe landing back on shore.  It was a highlight of our BestTrip.TV visit to the island, and we're sure it will be yours, too.

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

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

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

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

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

Authentic and Sustainable

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

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

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

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

Wildlife and Conservation:

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

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

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

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Maybe it's your first sight of a palm tree in the sea breeze. Or the feel of sand between your toes. Even your first tropical cocktail in the warmth of the sun. But for some people, it's the taste of any of these iconic flavors that makes you feel like you're finally on vacation in the Caribbean. read more

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

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

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

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

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Is a World Cruise Right for You?

Cruising is a storied way of travel, full of unique traditions and experiences you'll never enjoy any other way than on a cruise ship.  The World Cruise is one of those time-honored cruising traditions, dating back to the Golden Age of steam ships and a new approach to travel by the most stylish people on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first World Cruise sailed a century ago, pioneered by British luxury line Cunard, who still sets the standard of world cruising.   There are still 'world cruises' that actually circumnavigate the globe, setting sail from Southampton (London), Los Angeles or south Florida in the New Year, cruising around the world, and making a triumphant return to your port of embarkation a few months later with a lifetime of memories. (Photo Credit: BestTrip.TV)

That is a traditional World Cruise.  But not every world cruise circles the planet. Some explore a hemisphere or a couple of continents, sailing into ports not normally accessible by shorter cruise itineraries.  

January departures are not the only choice; some world cruises sail twice a year or from regions where the seasons dictate different timing.

World Cruises often have extended stays in some of the best ports of call: overnights as well as extended periods off-ship for a land extension then a return to the ship so you really feel you have an in-depth travel experience.

You probably imagine all your fellow guests will be quite senior  - and they are the likeliest travelers to have the time and money to commit to the most epic of cruise itineraries.  But cruise lines are changing with the times to appeal to new generations – and multi-generations – of travelers, and world cruises may have families with children taking a term or more off school to explore the world, as well as younger couples on 'sabbatical' breaks.

So… is a world cruise right for you? 

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have 3 months or more to devote to travel? 90 days is an entry-level commitment to a world cruise. Some are 180 days or more, especially cruises that actually circle the world.
  2. Do you 'collect' ports, looking for ways to visit cruise destinations in far-flung corners of the world other itineraries don't reach?Cruising around the world is going to take you to oceans and seas and continents shorter cruises simply can't reach.
  3. Do you love days at sea?Between these off-the-beaten-track ports of call, ships cross bodies of water and that can take days.If what you love about a Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise is that there's another port every day, a world cruise will be a big change of pace.
  4. Is ship-board life appealing to you? Over that period of time, the ship becomes your home, not an entertaining 'floating hotel'. Strolling on deck, enjoying a sunset from your veranda, or the camaraderie of your fellow guests in the ship's restaurants, bars, lounges and fitness centers, and activities like onboard enrichment programs will be your lifestyle for weeks and months.

If you answered 'yes' to these questions, you might want to consider a world cruise. 

What if you answered 'no'?

If you don't have 3 months or want to cruise for so many weeks, you can often book segments of a world cruise on your favorite cruise line that give you the opportunity to see a unique part of the world at sea.

'Grand Voyages', itineraries of less than 3 months but with much of the lavishness and off-the-beaten path ports of full 'World Cruises' are increasingly popular.

Consider the cruise line that would make a dream World Cruise the best experience for you.  Small luxury ships, mid-size contemporary ships, British style cruising… the onboard lifestyle you would enjoy for a quarter of a year or more at sea should help you focus on what cruise line would be the best fit for your World Cruise.  Smaller ships can also sail into smaller, more boutique ports as well, so if truly unique destinations are important to you, smaller ships will have itineraries to match those cruise travel dreams.

Cruise lines that offer World Cruises or their younger sisters, Grand Voyages, include:

  • Cunard
  • Holland America Line
  • Silversea
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Azamara Club Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises,
  • Princess Cruises
  • Seabourn
  • Viking Ocean Cruises
  • Costa Cruises

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What Ship Has a $4 Million Art Collection?

Holland America Line's ships are famous for their museum-quality art.  Fans of cruising on Holland America Line ships are familiar with the pleasure of rounding a corner to encounter another stimulating piece or installation of art.  Art tours are among the most unique on board experiences on HAL ships.

On Holland America Line's newest ship, the MS Konigsdam, 4.1 million dollars' of art translates into 1920 pieces ranging from classic to contemporary, traditional to avant-garde, enhancing the decks, public spaces and even private staterooms. 

Much more than traditional framed two-dimensional art, Konigsdam art encompasses photography, painting, mixed media, illustration, prints and sculpture. 

Koningsdam features artworks in many media, including photography, painting, mixed media, illustration, prints and sculpture. Classical or whimsical or a thought-provoking combination of both, artworks are created from expected materials as well as remarkable paint-injected bubble wrap, computer disks on wood, toy cars cast in resin, aluminum wire, cast paper, bamboo and other materials you might not associate with works of art you might have encountered in traditional museums.

Many pieces change depending on where you stand in relation to the piece, engaging you to start conversations with your fellow guests.  There are a number of apparent themes, including Holland America Line's association with the Netherlands, as well as Koningsdam’s focus on entertainment, with various pieces showcasing themes of performers and music, dance and movement.

More than 21 nationalities are represented by Koningsdam’s artists, including the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland.

Some of the artists are established and well known, others are up-and-coming, with prices for pieces ranging in value from $500 to well over half a million dollars.

The largest and most expensive work is the stunning $600,000 Atrium sculpture titled 'Harps'.  It's based on a concept by celebrity hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, who was the mastermind behind the Konigsdam's design. The 7.5-ton stainless steel sculpture spans three decks and is the focal point of the ship's Atrium.

The large-scale tulip images behind the Guest Services desk are by a Netherlands-based artist who was commissioned to photograph Holland America Line’s Signature Tulip. This unique flower only blooms for a couple of weeks every year, so the team traveled to the Netherlands to collect the blooms directly from the only grower in the world to capture this visual art.

Dutch design group Studio Job created the $100,000 custom-designed Swarovski crystal globe in one of the ship's stair lobbies; a $54,000 'Rabbit' in the Retreat is one of the most talked-about works, and the light sculpture 'Quad Helix' by Jason Krugman spans multiple decks.


Look for the charming pieces nestled inside special tables at the Grand Dutch Café; Royal Goedewaagen created handmade and hand-painted ceramic buildings that showcase a little bit of Dutch history with canal houses, mills, palaces and regional Dutch buildings.


 
Dutch artist Peter Gentenaar recently exhibited his work at Paris’ famed Louvre, and now Holland America Line guests can enjoy his captivating, two-story sculpture in The Dining Room. 'Wings of the Pharao', is made from handmade cast paper, Belgian linen and bamboo.

Even if you don't consider yourself an art expert or even an art lover, the artistic eye candy on board the Konigsdam will be one of your favourite memories of your cruise.

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Infographic: How Cruise Lines are Working to Protect the Environment

Did you know cruise lines use some of the most eco-friendly innovations and champion stringent procedures to minimize their impact on the air, land and water they visit? 

Like many travelers these days, those of us who love cruise travel are eager to ensure our vacations are both memorable and leave the sparkling waters, crisp sea air, and scenic vistas we visit by ship untouched for the future. (Top Photo:  Regent Seven Seas Mariner in Skagway, Alaska by BestTrip.TV)

We're happy to share this infographic by cruise industry association CLIA just a few ways cruise lines work to protect the environment:

Infographic: How Cruise Lines are Working to Protect the Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bon Appetit!

 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Recipe for Baked Alaska

10 Servings

Ingredients

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

Syrup

Bring to a boil, cool down

  • 62.5         grams            water    
  • 31            grams            sugar

Add the kirsch liqueur, keep refrigerated           

  • 6.5            grams             kirsch liqueur

Sponge (or purchased sponge cake)

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

French Meringue

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

Method:

French Meringue:

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

Sponge:

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

Assembly:

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

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