The Travel Zone's Blog

Virgin Voyages' 'Save Water, Drink Champagne' Easy Button
Oh, and there’s a caviar bar, too.

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages says it’s committed to ‘disrupting’ cruise travel, and that means a twist on one of the luxury cruise standards: champagne and caviar.

The cruise line has already shared its ‘ship tease’, with the slogan ‘Save Water, Drink Champagne’ proudly displayed on an outdoor lounge.


Now, it’s revealed what that slogan really means to guests, or ‘sailors’ on the Scarlet Lady when she sets sail in Spring 2020. 

In the rebellious luxe/ music festival at sea atmosphere of Virgin Voyages, it’s never too early for champagne and there’s always something to celebrate.  To help every guest feel like a rock star, they’re offering a one-of-a-kind champagne service: Shake for Champagne.

Virgin Voyages sailors have an app to facilitate their on board experience. When you shake the app, a secret ‘Save Water, Drink Champagne’ button appears, and at the press of the button, you’ll have a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial instantly delivered in an eye-popping, glamorous Virgin red champagne bucket… anywhere you are on the ship.


In addition to on-demand champagne delivery to your side, the Scarlet Lady introduces the first dedicated champagne lounge and caviar bar, with the fun and cheeky name Sip.

So you can go find champagne in effervescent surroundings when you don’t feel like having the champagne come to you.  The rose, gold and marble of the bar are not only perfectly on-trend in fashion and design, they echo the delicate tones of the champagnes served.


Circling the bar, deep ocean blue banquettes and cool, Carrara marble tables anchor your experience of luxury any time, day or night you visit.

Not only will you discover caviars and a range of champagnes from single glasses to a $1000 vintage bottle, in a nod to Virgin’s quintessential British heritage and eccentricity, Sip offers its own deluxe and eccentric version of a signature afternoon tea. On the Scarlet Lady, you know it’s not going to be your grandmother’s tea!


Start your Trip!


Images courtesy Virgin Voyages.

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3 Reasons to Book Off-Season Travel
Experienced travelers know there’s a code when it comes to travel seasons. High season, low season, shoulder season and off season – your choice of travel season can make a big difference to your travel experience. 

Is there a perfect time to travel? Well, there are at least 3 good reasons to take ‘off’ season trips. Here’s why.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer / Host, BestTrip TV

Do you find yourself always heading out of town during ‘high’ season?

‘High’ season is when everyone is traveling.  High seasons are the busiest, most expensive, ‘prime-time’ travel periods.

Some ‘high’ seasons are due to ‘non-negotiable’ travel events. Think: the ones scheduled around school breaks and essential family holidays like Thanksgiving. Whether or not you want to fight the crowds, risk delays caused by disruptive snowstorms, and pay through the nose, you’ll be at your parents’ table in time for turkey.

Others are due to weather. The very best kind of weather. Sometimes you’re aiming for opposite weather, like traveling from the chilly North in the winter to warm up in the sunny islands in the Caribbean. And sometimes, you’re heading towards your ideal conditions of what you already have, like leaving the dirty snow of the city for the perfect powder on the slopes.

‘Low’ season is generally due to sub-optimal to quite bad local weather conditions. No one’s traveling to get there, and no one’s there when you arrive. The perfect weather or main attractions or signature local experiences may be completely missing during low season. In extreme cases, some hotels or resorts are closed, the locals have all gone on their own ideal vacations, and it’s a ghost town. 

The main attractions of a new destination during ‘low’ season are quiet and solitude. It could be worse than just 'quiet' too. In the case of the height of the Atlantic hurricane season in the US South-East and the Caribbean, or typhoon season in South-East Asia, you could end up spending your holiday navigating a serious weather event.

'Shoulder' season is right on the edge between high and low seasons. It’s not the height of perfect weather or timing, but it isn't the worst, either, and for the right travelers, it could be perfect. That's the 'off'-season sweet spot.

Here are the best reasons to consider booking off-season travel:

Lower Prices and More Perks


Everything is less expensive in the off-season, from flights and hotels, to packaged tours and cruises. On top of lower prices, you can also score perks that can allow you to stay longer, take more of your favorite people with you, or get freebie inclusions. 

Book early or last minute, and you could multiply the savings. (Booking early is best for people who like the most choice, but if spontaneity is your thing, last minute off-season travel can be very rewarding.)

You can pocket your savings, or use them to upgrade to a more luxurious experience, or book special treats, like spa treatments, special dining experiences, even a pricier locally-made souvenir than you might otherwise indulge in.
 
Off-season Cruise Travel Bonus: in the off-season, when storms head your way, a cruise ship can navigate to fairer skies. Although your itinerary may change and the skies may be cloudy, your cruise will likely not endure the worst of any bad weather.

Flexibility is always the key to enjoying off-season travel.

Fewer People


If you’re the kind of person who hates line ups and crowds, off-season is the one for you. Why spend your time waiting in line to go up the Eiffel Tower, when you could be having your second café au lait while people-watching at a picturesque sidewalk café?

Locals unwind once high season is over, too. They have more time to spend with the guests who do arrive. The relaxed pace of off-season can give you some of the most memorable exchanges with the people you meet on your journey.

Special Events


There’s only one harvest season in a vineyard. A short window of time when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. And a few short weeks when the Christmas markets are open. That's what high season is all about.

But more and more destinations are creating local events to extend their tourism seasons - events that are not contingent upon Mother Nature or long-standing cultural traditions. In many places, shoulder seasons are becoming the most exciting times to visit. Culinary and wine tasting and music festivals, races and marathons and yoga retreats, art shows and film festivals. No matter what your interest, there’s likely a fascinating destination with an off-season event celebrating it.
 
Some travel timing is unavoidable. But if you have flexibility about when you travel, a travel advisor can help you design the best vacation during the season less-traveled.

Start your Trip!


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There are more ways to explore the earth than overseas and overland. And the new Scenic Eclipse takes you there. 
With 2 helicopters for ‘flight-seeing’ and a submarine to reveal vast beauty of underwater realms, this luxury expedition ship covers all the bases – and with its top Polar Class-rated hull, it can sail in any of the world’s seven seas.

What’s more, Scenic’s sleek, sophisticated style makes the Eclipse feel like a billionaire’s yacht… with fewer than 200 fortunate guests at a time sharing an adventure of a lifetime.

BestTrip TV got a tour of the Scenic Eclipse on her inaugural voyage and discovered there’s more than billionaire’s toys to the first ocean cruising vessel for a company that’s already made its mark on luxury land tours and river cruises.
The Scenic Eclipse echoes the luxury of its river cruises and land tours. For all the head-turning design and deluxe amenities and experiences you’ll find on board, as an expedition ship, the focus of any Scenic Eclipse voyage is outdoors.

An expedition team and local guides take guests on hikes, kayak excursions, and a host of ship to shore zodiac landings in remote coasts of the world – and that’s even before you step foot on the submarine launch deck or the helipad.

The Eclipse’s itineraries take her around the globe, from the Northwest Passage across Canada’s Arctic coast, through tropical adventures in the Caribbean and Central America, to the remote wilds of Patagonia and epic Antarctica, the storied coasts of North and South America, the maritime cradle of Western civilization in the Mediterranean, and north to the fjords of Scandinavia and the volcanic landscapes of Iceland.
 

Start your Trip!


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Cowboys. Wild white horses. Wild black bulls. And pink flamingos.Hard to imagine any place on earth where you'll find all of them together, but the vast Camargue delta in the South of France is home to all of these colorful creatures. You can't miss BestTrip.TV's introduction to French cowboys and the beautiful wilderness of the Camargue.
Start your Trip! 
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Finding Wellness in the Waters of Jamaica
You probably already know that Jamaica is famous for its beaches.  And you may even have already come back relaxed from a beach holiday in the island country that has been voted top Caribbean destination, and one of the top 20 in the world.

But the unique terrain of Jamaica has also yielded natural healing waters inland from the beach.  Here are some of the places and ways you can make wellness a part of your next getaway to Jamaican waters. 


On the Ocean

On the west end of famous Negril beach, a wellness escape combines the water with the principles of Shiatsu.  Jackie’s On The Reef offers this treatment, called Watsu, at its whimsical, waterfront property.   

Guided by a specialized therapist, the treatment takes place in warm, waist-deep water to take weight off the vertebrae, allowing the spine to twist and stretch – ultimately relieving pressure off the nerves and organs. Watsu can be a profound treatment, and it’s believed to treat the mind and renew a person’s sense of connection and oneness with others. It’s only one of the ways guests can connect with the sea, including yoga, meditation and spa treatments. 

In addition to sparkling beaches, the country’s natural springs and therapeutic baths add a new dimension to your next wellness vacation.  

Milk River Bath

Jamaica’s South Coast has one of the best mineral baths in the world. Milk River Bath contains high levels of the minerals magnesium, calcium, sulfate and natural chloride in waters averaging 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more all year round. The mineral intensity is more than 50% stronger than famous natural bath spas in Europe, and helps relieve rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica and nerve conditions as well as liver disorders.

You can stay among the lush landscape of the Jamaican countryside at the local Milk River Hotel & Spa, where you can enjoy the therapeutic baths, in private bath houses.


Rockfort Mineral Bath

These natural baths on the outskirts of Kingston are rich in minerals including calcium and sodium bicarbonate. It’s fed by a cold spring from Rock River, and locals have been using the natural mineral baths to stimulate vital processes including blood circulation.  Visitors have caught on too, and also enjoy the soothing waters by dipping in at the swimming pool, private whirlpools, or one of 11 open-air baths.


Bath Fountain

These two mineral springs, one cold and one piping hot, have been a popular destination since their discovery as far back as the 1600’s.  Bath Fountain is located in the foothills of the John Crow mountains and contains lime, sulfur and magnesium. They are said to relieve gout, rheumatism and skin conditions. 

There’s a nearby, secluded hotel with the same name that has running water from the mineral springs feeding directly into its indoor baths.

(Photo:  GoldenEye Hotel & Resort)

Traditional Jamaican Bush Bath

In addition to the Nature-provided mineral baths and springs, Jamaica has a healing cultural tradition.  Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind wellness practice, where a variety of herbs and botanicals are steeped in an outdoor bath, and treat stress, colds, skin problems and other ailments. 

Some hotels offer visitors this therapeutic experience in their spas, including the Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon and the FieldSpa at Golden Eye (of James Bond author Ian Fleming fame), with a menu of four different Healing Waters Bush Baths.

Make sure your next island vacation includes more than a swim at the beach.  Relax, and enhance your physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing with Jamaica’s healing natural springs, therapeutic baths and oceanside aquatic treatments.

(Private tub for herbal baths at the award-winning Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon)

Start your Trip!


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World Gorilla Day: 3 Things a Travel and Animal Lover Can Do
The world’s largest primates have their own day, September 24th. Gorillas are larger on average than humans and maybe that’s one of the reasons they’re larger than life in our imaginations and on screen in movies like Tarzan and King Kong and Gorillas in the Mist.
 
Gorillas are both imposing and inspiring. Did you know…

  • Gorillas live in tropical and sub-tropical middle Africa. Two species, Western and Eastern, are separated by the Congo River, with habitats ranging in elevation from mountain-top cloud forests to swamps and marshes at sea level. 

  • Male gorillas can grow to over 6 feet tall, with a chest more than 6 feet around, an arm span nearing 9 feet, and weighing in at over 500 pounds of sheer muscle, all on a diet of vegetation, fruit and insects!  Females are about half the size of males.

  • They are in some ways more closely related to humans than even our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees.  We share up to 99% of our DNA with gorillas.

  • Gorillas are highly intelligent.  They can use tools for hunting and gathering food and nest building. They have over two dozen ‘vocalisations’ to communicate with each other, have been shown to grieve and laugh and lead ‘rich emotional lives’, show individual color preferences, and famously, Koko the gorilla learned to communicate with humans with sign language.


  • Gorillas live in groups called ‘troops’ of about 3 dozen, headed and protected by a single, mature male called a ‘silverback’ after the patch of silver that appears on the backs of males over 12 years old. Silverbacks also have large canine teeth that can cause deep gaping wounds.  If the troop is attacked by leopards, humans or other gorillas, a single silverback will protect the group even at the cost of his own life. 

  • Gorillas are knuckle walkers, but occasionally walk upright on two feet.  That is part of a silverback’s unique, ritualized ‘charge display’, along with throwing branches, chest beating and sideways running, intended to intimidate while avoiding violence.

  • Gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered, especially Eastern mountain gorillas, with fewer than 1000 remaining in the wild and none in zoos. Habitat destruction for farming and mining, commercial poaching, and disease including Ebola mean gorillas are facing extinction. 

  • American primatologist Dian Fossey’s groundbreaking work studying gorillas in Rwanda and championing their protection was the subject of her book Gorillas in the Mist.  Her life among the gorillas and her brutal 1985 murder, likely by poachers opposed to her conservation efforts, are immortalized in the 1988 film by the same name. 


World Gorilla Day


September 24th is the day that Dian Fossey established Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda  in 1967. Now, the annual World Gorilla day is a day to take action to protect gorillas in the wild for future generations. 
Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Recycle your electronics.  Mobile phones, tablets and laptops contain coltan, which is mined from gorilla forest habitat and contributes to its destruction.  You can help gorilla conservation by recycling your devices so the coltan can be re-used. 
  2. Support gorilla conservation through organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
  3. Book an ethical trip to encounter gorillas in Africa. Responsible travel companies ensure your trip doesn’t harm or interfere with gorillas.  Plus, ethical tourism revenues support conservation efforts directly, and by employing members of the local human community, create an economic reason to support gorilla conservation.

Travel agents can identify the most responsible as well as thrilling gorilla travel experiences for you.


Start Your Trip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

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The Real Downton Abbey and 3 Other Majestic English Manor Houses That Star in Films
If the Downton Abbey movie and TV series has you fantasizing about life in the elegant and storied surroundings of England’s stately homes, you are not alone. The stories and history made in these estates are legendary.

At one time, there were tens of thousands of country houses owned by Britain’s noble families. The English countryside is still dotted with breathtaking architectural marvels punctuating sweeping landscapes, as well as smaller, more humble versions. Some are still homes to lords and ladies of the manor; others are grand museums, hotels, event spaces. Some are both. 

All are fascinating windows into a history and lifestyle brought to life in countless favorite novels, TV series and films. 

If you feel you were ‘to the manor born’, you’ll feel quite at home at the real ‘Downton Abbey’ and these three other, splendid examples of British stately homes that have been on the big and small screen.

HIGHCLERE CASTLE


The stately home at the end of a sweeping drive, framed by majestic ancient trees in the hero shots of every Downton Abbey show, is the real-life Highclere Castle in Berkshire (pictured, top).  

The perfect proportions and striking Jacobean architectural style are enhanced by the surrounding gardens designed by maestro landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown.

Rather than the fictional Crawley family, it’s been the real ‘seat’ of the Earls of Carnarvon since the 1600’s, with the current Earl and Countess still in residence today.

In addition to standing in as the Earl of Grantham’s ‘Downton Abbey’, Highclere Castle welcomes visitors through its now-famous front doors. So you really can wander through some of the rooms featured in Downton Abbey and imagine yourself at a dinner party, tea, or even a ball with the Crawleys.

Downton Abbey is not the first time Highclere has been at the centre of media attention and the public imagination. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was involved in the discovery of the epic riches of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt in 1922. When he ‘mysteriously’ died a short time later, it fueled tabloid stories of the ‘Curse of King Tut’. He actually died of blood poisoning from an infected insect bite, so visit Highclere Castle without fear of ancient curses lingering today!

 

BLENHEIM PALACE


Anyone with an interest in English or WW2 history must put Blenheim Palace on their travel bucket list.  

The sprawling, rare example of English Baroque architecture is woven into British history. A grateful Queen Anne gave the land in Oxfordshire, an immense sum of money, and the highest non-royal title, 1st Duke of Marlborough, to the victor for Britain in the War of Spanish Succession at the beginning of the 1700’s. It’s the only non-royal and non-Church country house bearing the name ‘Palace’.  

The descendents of that 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, have eclipsed his fame and impact on world history. It was at Blenheim Palace that Winston Churchill was born, and the name of the Marlborough family now is Spencer-Churchill, related to Lady Diana Spencer, who became Princess of Wales. 
 
Blenheim Palace and its 2000-acre signature gardens by the very busy Capability Brown have even been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast country house continues to be the home of the Dukes of Marlborough. 

Film fans recognize Blenheim Palace from scenes in wildly diverse films including Transformers: The Last Knight, James Bond’s Spectre, MIssion Impossible: Rogue Nation, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Young Victoria, and even the TV show the Amazing Race. 


CHATSWORTH HOUSE


You catch your breath the first time you see Chatsworth House, the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire since the 1500’s. It’s regularly voted Britain’s favorite country house, and it’s easy to see why. Built on the banks of a river, surrounded by exquisite parkland and backed by wooded, rocky hills, it’s a stunning building in a dramatic setting.

16 generations of the Cavendish family have been born and died at Chatsworth, including recent generations. The recently-deceased Dowager Duchess was one of the famed Mitford sisters (that included renowned novelist Nancy Mitford), the upper-class ‘Kardashians’ of their day.

Chatsworth House today still houses a remarkable collection of paintings, Old Master works, neoclassical sculpture, books and artefacts. 

If it looks familiar, Chatsworth too has been the real-life setting for famous fiction. It was named in the original 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice as one of the estates Elizabeth Bennet visits before arriving at Mr. Darcy’s home Pemberley; and that fiction came full circle as Chatsworth stood in as fictional Pemberley itself in the 2005 movie adaptation of the novel starring Keira Knightley. Another Knightley film, The Duchess, was filmed at Chatsworth, as were scenes of The Crown. 


LYME PARK


Lyme Park has the largest house in Cheshire, and it’s the only property on this list that is not still used as a family home. It was handed over to Britain’s National Trust, which preserves its history, architecture, and park lands for the public to appreciate and enjoy.

From the 1300's until after the Second World War, the estate was owned by the Leghs of Lyme, with the house dating back to the late 1600’s, and including both Palladian and Baroque styles. The lavish house interiors reflect its Regency-era rejuvenation. 

In addition to the mansion, Lyme Park is famous for its tree-lined avenues, formal gardens and park with an immense herd of red deer dating back to the 14th century. The views are tremendous, and include a building called ‘The Cage’ on a nearby hilltop that was originally a hunting lodge and later became a park-keeper’s cottage and prisoner lockup. 

Fans of British period dramas will also recognize the reflecting lake as the setting of the famous scene where Mr. Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. 

Start your Trip!


Images Courtesy Visit Britain.

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How This Cruise is Breaking a World Record

245 days. 6 continents. 51 countries. 111 ports. 


Imagine spending August 2019 until May 2020 on a cruise circumnavigating the world. This phenomenal cruise sailing around the world, beginning and ending in London, England, is setting a Guinness World Record for 'longest continuous passenger cruise'.


Viking Cruise's 'Ultimate World Cruise' takes over 900 guests on a journey of a lifetime, and one that is attempting to set a world record. Already underway, when the Viking Sun makes a triumphant return to London next spring in 2020, a Guinness World Record adjudicator will be waiting, ready to confirm the record-breaking journey with a certificate presentation. 

It will be icing on the cake of a nearly 9-month voyage to the world's most legendary cities, iconic landmarks, and remote destinations. That's more than double the length of Viking's previous world cruise itineraries.


For a select few who can devote the time (and budget) to such an ambitious journey, their Ultimate World Cruise explores Scandinavia, the Caribbean and destinations throughout South America before calling on the remote tropical islands of the South Pacific. Viking Sun will then continue its journey along the coast of Australia and through Asia before returning to the Mediterranean and Europe.


Highlights of this months-long voyage include:
  • Greenwich: London at Your Door – Dock in the historic Royal Borough of Greenwich, London, which allows guests easy access to the regal capital’s iconic sights, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: One of the 23 overnight stays let guests enjoy the larger-than-life Christ the Redeemer statue, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and the legendary nightlife of Rio.
  • Ushuaia, Argentina: Commonly referred to as the “End of the World,” guests will visit Ushuaia, a city perched on a steep hill on the southernmost tip of South America.
  • Hobart, Tasmania: The capitol of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, Hobart offers guests the chance to explore its unique wilderness at the southern-most point of the continent.
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Formerly known as Saigon, and now home to a mix of modern skyscrapers, French colonial buildings and ornate palaces, guests can explore the Vietnam-War era Cu Chi Tunnels, the War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Reunification Palace.     
  • Mumbai, India: The financial, commercial and entertainment capital of India gives guests the opportunity to learn about iconic activist Gandhi and visit the Hanging Gardens.
  • Luxor, Egypt: The site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor is dense with historical monuments for guests to explore, including the Temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings & Valley of the Queens.
 
A reflection of Viking's appeal to travelers with interests in history, art, music and cuisine, there's an included excursion in each of the 111 ports, and overnight stays in 23 cities so guests can enjoy the nightlife and cultural experiences of more destinations, including VIP access to cultural institutions.


On board Viking Sky's airy, Scandinavian-designed staterooms and public spaces, guests can participate in cultural enrichment related to ports of call, Viking's 'Resident Historian' program, regional entertainment coming on board, and even free Wi Fi to post stories and images of their life-changing trip to social media to share with friends, family and the travel world.

 

Start your World Cruise or Other Cruise Trip!

 
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3 Hurricane-Free Caribbean Islands
Recent, extreme hurricanes have devastated favorite Caribbean island communities.

For travel, the impact of more extreme hurricanes is double. It can take years for tourism infrastructure in island destinations to rebuild and welcome visitors again, so your favorite destinations and resorts may be unavailable.
 
Plus some travelers avoid Caribbean island vacations (and cruises) during the Atlantic summer and fall hurricane season, especially during the peak two months of risk mid-August until mid-October, for fear of being stranded or worse if a hurricane hits during their holiday.

The solution? Head south.

There's no perfectly 'hurricane-proof' island in the Caribbean, but the three Dutch 'ABC' islands at the southern most edge of the Caribbean are just beyond the fringes of the hurricane belt, and havens for hurricane season island vacations. 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV
 

ARUBA


The furthest of the ABC islands is only 15 miles off the coast of South America. Still, Aruba is just a couple of hours flight from Miami.
 
Unlike other Caribbean islands which are tropical, Aruba's climate is a desert. You'll see a landscape of cactus and aloe vera plants; especially in Arikok National Park, which covers nearly 1/5th of the island, and is also home to caves and archeological remains of original inhabitants.

 
The dry, sunny weather includes constant trade winds that contort the local, iconic divi divi tree into fantastic, bonsai-like shapes.
 
Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and nearby capital of Oranjestad are home to the island's international restaurants, shopping, casinos, golf and other international travel amenities.

BONAIRE


The smallest of the ABC Islands, Bonaire is essentially a coral reef pushed out of the sea and surrounded by one of the world's most celebrated coral reef systems. The reefs have made Bonaire a bucket list destination for divers who consider it one of the very best shore diving destinations in the world.
 
Bonaire has led the Caribbean in nature conservation and eco-tourism. The entire coastline was designated a marine sanctuary in 1979. It protects the 350 species of fish, 60 species of coral and 4 species of sea turtle in its reefs.

 
Bonaire's shoreline is dotted with lagoons and inlets that are home to marine birds including rare nesting grounds of pink Caribbean flamingos. Mangrove forests are popular kayaking and snorkeling destinations for hotel guests and passengers in port from cruise ships.
 

CURACAO


Larger than Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao is also more commercial, with financial and oil-refining industries. It's a popular cruise port and has direct flights from cities on the East coast, as well as Miami and the Netherlands.
 
Curacao's capital Willemstad dates from the early 1600's. Its collection of well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture, cotton-candy and lacy versions of typical buildings from the era in the Netherlands, has earned UNESCO World Heritage status (pictured, top).
 
The island also has a thrilling geological feature for avid scuba divers: the 'Blue Edge', where the sea shelf drops sharply off only 200 feet from shore.

 
Possibly more famous than the island itself is its world-famous namesake blue liqueur. Curacao is distilled from the island's Laraha fruit, a bitter orange that resulted from Spanish settlers' attempts to raise Valencia oranges in the dry, poor soil. Although its fruit is inedible, the peel is powerfully aromatic. The liqueur's trademark blue? Just added color.
 
The ABC Islands should be on any traveler's list of top Caribbean destinations, especially during hurricane season.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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If you haven't been to Montreal recently, the Golden Square Cocktail at Montreal's new Four Seasons Hotel (VIDEO ABOVE) is just one reason to book a trip or a pre or post cruise stay in the second-largest French-speaking city in the world.

Montreal still has its European lifestyle, credentials as the fashion capital of Canada, and a UNESCO City of Design.
It's still the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, and a global city of festivals ranging from the Canadian Grand Prix race to the Guinness World Record-holding Montreal International Jazz Festival. And its culinary scene has been celebrating 'local' long before it became a trend.

Celebrating its 375th birthday, Montreal also developed new, high concept attractions, including an observation wheel at the water's edge, a high-tech sound and light walking tour of Old Montreal, and a breathtaking sound and light music in the heavenly Notre Dame basilica.
 
A re-imagined Montreal is breathing magic into Old Montreal, the Old Port, and its signature neighborhood, the Golden Square Mile.

Montreal was once home to ¾ of Canada's wealth, and the Golden Square Mile is where that wealth and prestige lived. This historic neighborhood has been compared to New York's 5th avenue. Streets beginning at the base Mount Royal were lined with the mansions of Canada's elite: Scottish-immigrant shipping and railroad tycoons, bank founders and nation builders.

Remaining mansions have been incorporated into prestigious McGill University, become museums, cultural institutions, galleries, boutiques… and luxury hotels like the new Four Seasons.
 
Here are our favorite luxury hotels in Montreal's Golden Square Mile.
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal

Montreal's Four Seasons Hotel is uniquely at home in its neighborhood, Montreal's 'Golden Square Mile'.
In the heart of the historic Golden Square Mile, it's a high concept, modern building. The Four Seasons shares a dramatic façade with Golden Square Mile landmark, the luxury department store Ogilvy. There are interior entrances for hotel guests and shoppers can enter the hotel directly onto the fourth, lifestyles floor, where the New York-based celebrity chef Marcus has a namesake restaurant, and already one of the hottest lounges in town.


Inspired by the neighborhood and also very on-trend luxury design, gold and a blush – yes, the color often called 'Millennial Pink'  are a recipe for instant instagram fame. Check out the video for the other ways the Four Seasons Montreal Hotel makes your stay 'golden'.

The World's First Ritz-Carlton

The 'Grand Dame' of Montreal's luxury hotel scene is the Ritz-Carlton. Built in grand style in the early 1900's when the Golden Square Mile was at its height, it was the first hotel to bear what is now a legendary name.

Over its hundred-plus years, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal has welcomed the powerful and famous: Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, Sofia Lauren, who made homemade pasta in her suite, the Rolling Stones who were turned away from the dining room and returned wearing jackets, Elizabeth Taylor, who married Richard Burton for the second time in the hotel's epic, lavender-and-gold Oval Room. It opens out onto the most famous terrace in the city and an urban courtyard garden with its famous duck pond.


Recent additions to the Ritz-Carlton include a namesake restaurant by Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud, and the world's only Dom Perignon champagne bar that shares the legendary Palm Court with the hotel's epic afternoon tea.

Le Mount Stephen Hotel

But one of Montreal's newest boutique hotels has an equally historic pedigree. Le Mount Stephen hotel occupies a National Historic Site; the former mansion of an immigrant who became the President of the Bank of Montreal, the first President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a founder of Canada's textile industry. George Stephen became Lord Mount Stephen, and his elegant, limestone mansion was considered the most opulent home in Canada, complete with elaborately carved exotic woods, onyx fireplaces and gold hinges that make today's visitors gasp as they walk through the door.


The historic property has undergone a luxe, eye-catching re-purposing that elevates the historic design. Its former main floor parlor and dining rooms have been transformed into one of Montreal's can't-miss bars, Bar George, with plush teal sofas, a life-size bronze pig acting as a lounge table top, with curling stones and other classic Quebec winter sports equipment decorating the restaurant. The hotel lobby and guest rooms are in an attached ultra-modern tower that affirms the city's design credentials.


Montreal's Golden Square Mile has attracted sole Canadian outposts of a number of luxury hotel brands. In two cases, it's a French connection.

Sofitel

Mid-century French luxury hotel brand Sofitel established itself in Montreal in a modern building erected where a Golden Square Mile mansion once stood at the foot of Montreal's vast, city-center green space, Mount Royal.
French 'art de vivre' is the essence of the hotel experience, and staff is trained to take initiative to personalize guest stays. 

The hotel cultivates relationships with cultural institutions and events so it can offer exclusive, VIP experiences in Montreal to their guests. The acclaimed, creative French restaurant at street level is named Renoir after a painting by the French master loaned by a Sofitel executive to the Fine Art Museum down the street.


Climb the mid-century stairs to the mezzanine to look at the custom lobby carpet that's a tapestry of Montreal signature festivals and events.

Le Meridien Versailles

The sole Le Meridien in Canada stays true to the brand's mid-century roots as Air France's hotel brand and reflects its design and lifestyle priorities with art installations including an aerial map of the Golden Square Mile, and an art partner, the Canadian Center of Architecture, located in an historic mansion nearby. It has a bicycle partnership so you can sign out bicycles and even pack a picnic lunch to explore the city.


It also continues the Le Meridien tradition of serving a locally-inspired, signature éclair; Montreal's has maple and Montreal's famous steak spice.

Loews Hotel Vogue

The only Loews-branded property in Canada is right across the street from the new Four Seasons.

When Loews took over the existing Hotel Vogue, it doubled down on the fashion magazine heritage, incorporating framed layouts in guest rooms. Grand entrances into its conference rooms mimic the blue arched doors of iconic couture house Chanel's atelier in Paris.


The new hotel restaurant is a French bistro complete with hand-laid mosaic tile floors and French Belle Epoque design.
 

Start your Trip! 


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These 3 Latin American Cities Turn 500 This Year
In 14 hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue (as the rhyme we learned in school goes), and unwittingly unleashed a tsunami of Europeans heading west to explore the Americas.

That was half a millennium ago, and now, some of the earliest European settlements in the Caribbean and Latin America are marking 500 years of European settlement.


In the years since the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first sailing, the world has gained greater awareness. This new round of anniversaries do more to acknowledge that European settlement and exploitation of the Americas left a negative legacy even as it established some beautiful colonial architecture, districts, culture and history that make these citiies such irresistible travel destinations today.


As a result, many cities reaching a 500-year milestone this year are marking the anniversary in ways like cultural festivals and historical exhibits and commemorations that acknowledge the good and the bad of history. Or make investments that leave a tangible legacy like infrastructure and civic improvements that benefit all the residents of these remarkable cities: 

Panama City, Panama


Panama City calls itself the 'cradle of the New World'. Established in August 1519 by the Spanish conquistador Davila, it is the oldest European city on the Pacific coast of the Americas.

 
Panama City became the launching pad for Spanish expeditions to the Inca Empire in South America, as well as a key landmark in trade routes. Most of the gold and silver plundered from the Americas transited through the town on its way to Europe.



Today, Panama City is the very modern capital city of Panama. It's also where you'll find the Pacific entrance/ exit of the Panama Canal, the nearly 50-mile long waterway that now connects the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. Miraflores Visitor Centre allows travelers by land to learn about and watch ships pass through this engineering wonder of the world.


Panama's history is still there to see.  The original city – known as Panama la Vieja (Old Panama) – was attacked, looted, and burned by the British in the 17th century. You can still visit those ruins, only 5 miles from where the city was rebuilt, which is now called the 'Old Quarter' (Casco Viejo) of Panama City. 


Surrounded by a modern skyline of high-rises, Casco, as the Old Quarter is called (pictured, top), features architecture from the city's Spanish colonial times, to French and island buildings that date to the late 19th and early 20th century during the building of the Canal. Locals mingle with international visitors in the charming, walkable district, known for restaurants, cafes, clubs, boutiques, galleries, museums, street art and local color.  

Don't miss the chance to try Ceviche from the local seafood market at the terminus of the fantastic pedestrian beltway Cinta Costera.
 

Havana, Cuba


Spanish conquistadors struggled to establish a number of settlements on the island in the years leading up to 1519. The site of what's now Havana (originally San Cristobal de La Habana) won out with the bay that became the city's natural harbor. It was the third – and final – capital of the island. Believe it or not, the city was founded in November 1519 under a ceiba tree that's still growing. You'll find it near the El Templete church on Plaza de Armas.


Havana's modern history has been as tumultuous as its early years. With US government restrictions on its citizens to travel to the island off again and on again, it's not easy (but not impossible) for Americans to experience Havana in its 500th year.    


Canadians, Europeans and citizens of other countries can still easily travel to Havana, where reportedly thousands of renovations and civic improvements are underway to mark the city's 500th anniversary.


 
Classic Havana is still there, though, where you can walk the ocean boardwalk – now with some new architecture replacing some rundown buildings- enjoy the historic downtown, with its plazas, hidden street scenes, the stunning Kempinski hotel (the only luxury hotel) with the best view of the city from its rooftop bar with an authentic mojito or daiquiri in hand, re-live the city made famous by Hemingway, Castro and Guevera, and of course, test your memory of classic American car models in all their pastel glory.

 

Veracruz, Mexico


Veracruz is one of Mexico's oldest and largest ports. The legendary Cortes himself, sailing the Gulf of Mexico, landed here in the spring of 1519 to found the first Spanish city on the Mexican mainland.


The port played a vital role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, as well as colonial immigration and trade. Vast quantities of silver, natural (and rare) red dye, chocolate, vanilla, chili and also African slaves transited through Veracruz. 



Today, Veracruz isn't the beach destination other coastal Mexican cities may be. But it's a lower key destination for visitors interested in exploring nearby ruins, and in the city, taking trolleys through the historic center of Veracruz, absorbing the atmosphere of the vibrant main square, exploring the colonial fortress and museum on an island overlooking the harbor, and indulging in Veracruz's signature cuisine, including its most famous dish, tamales: corn dough enclosing a savory filling, wrapped in banana leaves, steamed and served with piquant sauces.


2019 may be the 500th anniversaries of these 3 unique Latin American cities, but they're memorable anytime you visit.

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Flying High to Your Next Cruise with Seabourn Private Air To and From Cruise Ports World-Wide
It's hard to imagine what luxury could possibly improve on a Seabourn cruise, where they've perfected ultra-luxury service that anticipates your needs and surprises you with delights every day… but now the cruise line has discovered something more to offer.

Guests can now reserve Seabourn Private Air – a private chartered jet service to transport you to and from ports of embarkation or debarkation, ports of call, and mid-voyage overland optional journeys – for Seabourn cruises all over the world.

The service uses a global network of private jet operators who meet the highest US FAA standards and also Seabourn's service expectations. Seabourn Private Air service employs a wide range of jet models, and accommodates groups of any size upon request. Available aircraft include light charter jets capable of carrying 5-8 passengers; mid-size jets sized for 7-8 passengers; and heavy private jets with capacity for 9-16 passengers.
 
Designed for guests who prefer the luxuries and conveniences of private jet travel over commercial airline carriers, Seabourn Private Air is also unique from currently available jet card or fractional jet options available on the market.
Seabourn Private Air is designed to provide a guest up-front, comprehensive pricing for the private jet package that you can book along with your Seabourn cruise. That sets a similar standard to a Seabourn cruise itself, where all dining venues are complimentary, as are selections of fine wines and premium spirits.

Amenities and services of the comprehensive Seabourn Private Air package reflect the onboard Seabourn cruising experience devoted fans of the cruise line have come to expect. And, just like those enjoyed by Seabourn guests at sea, comforts and conveniences they've come to associate with the Seabourn experience are included in the Seabourn Private Air experience and price, including:

  • Access to thousands of airports, large and small, that serve private aviation, as well as to most major international airports
  • WiFi internet capability
  • Private Valet luggage service
  • Seabourn-standard catering options
  • Seabourn-brand food & beverages on every flight, including Regiis Ova caviar, K+M Chocolates, Montaudon champagne, and a range of complementary spirits
  • Amenities by Seabourn’s signature fragrance partner, Molton Brown
  • Complimentary transfers to-and-from home to the nearest airport and onward to Seabourn’s cruise port (with some mileage limitations)
  • Cabin attendants, required on some aircraft, or available upon request at additional cost if not required by aircraft
  • Next port protection up to 1,000 miles from original destination.
 
The cost of the Private Air package is offered in addition to the cruise fare and varies by model and itinerary. Guests pay for the aircraft rather than by the seat, so the more passengers onboard, the lower the cost per person. 

Imagine a milestone celebration with a group of family or friends, whisked to your Seabourn cruise in ultimate style, ease, convenience and comfort on Seabourn Private Air!
 

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G Adventures Introduces New Yacht Custom-Built for Galapagos Exploration
The new Reina Silvia Voyager is the tour company's 6th yacht, designed for immersive touring of the Galápagos.
 
The 103-foot, high-end yacht sets sail in July, 2020. With 10 cabins, the custom-built, intimate-sized catamaran offers its 16 guests the most comfortable passenger touring experiences among ships of its size in the Galápagos, and a sense of deeply personal exploration of one of the most wondrous, remote regions of the world.

 
In keeping with the ecological destination, the ship and voyage experience also reflect the company’s commitment to responsible tourism.
 
Intimate Touring Yacht


The Reina Silvia Voyager touring vessel's 10 cabins are situated on two decks. Eight of those cabins are designed for twin/double stays, and two are dedicated to solo travelers who prefer their own space at a good value. Eight rooms offer private balconies, and all rooms have panoramic windows for optimal ocean viewing, plus bright, contemporary furnishings, artwork by local naturalist photographers, and energy-saving LED lighting. 

 
An expansive 3rd deck has common areas with lounge chairs for sunbathing, covered cocktail bar, grill station and an outdoor jacuzzi tub for relaxing under the sun or stars.
 
An indoor, air-conditioned salon with large video screen facilitates visual presentations by specially trained naturalists, who guide each group’s tour and help guests learn about the iconic wildlife and culture of the Galápagos Islands’ inhabitants.
 
Built-in Adventure

The Reina Silvia Voyager’s nine on-board kayaks and two zodiacs for guests’ guided use for landings and exploration of the region’s remote ports and wild, rocky coasts. Wetsuits and snorkeling gear will also be freely available for passengers’ enjoyment.

 
All meals on board are included and accommodate vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and allergy-sensitive diets. A crew of nine, including a dedicated chef and G Adventures signature tour leader, a Chief Experience Officer, serve guests daily.
 
Eco- and Socially Conscious Galapagos Exploration
 
To comply with the Galápagos Islands’ trailblazing ban on single-use plastic bottles, straws and bags, G Adventures is giving each passenger a reusable stainless steel bottle and will offer unlimited access to filtered drinking water on board.
 
Toiletries onboard all of G Adventures’ boats are also provided in refillable containers. In partnership with the nonprofit Planeterra Foundation, G Adventures additionally supports an Ocean Health Fund with investments in numerous marine initiatives, including the United Nations Environment Program’s Clean Seas campaign and the Marine Megafauna Foundation’s Galápagos Whale Shark Project.
 
The Reina Silvia Voyager is purpose-built to enable nimble, immersive moments in and under the water, then welcome guests back on board in ultimate comfort. 
 
Guests will thrill at the once in a lifetime Galapagos islands' experience of making eye contact with a curious sea lion, gentle sea turtle, tiny seahorse, or prehistoric iguana in a place where Darwin himself studied evolution. The Reina Silvia Voyager carries guests to countless Galapagos adventure experiences and return on board to maritime luxury.
 

Start your Trip!

 
Photos: G Adventures
 
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This Italian Wine Region is Now a UNESCO Site
Pop the cork on the bubbles! If you're a fan of sparkling wine, you are likely already familiar – and in love with – Italy's signature rival to French champagne.

Finally, Italian prosecco is getting some recognition - you might agree it's long overdue. After a 10-year wait, Italy's Prosecco hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene have been designated the country's 55th UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It's a recognition and commitment to preserve the unique 'Cultural Landscape' of the area near Venice that produces one of the world's favorite wines. 

 
Italy's prosecco hills are the 10th wine region in the world to achieve UNESCO designation. They join Alto Douro, Portugal; Tokaj, Hungary; Pico Island, Portugal; Lavaux, Switzerland; Langhe Roero and Monferrato, Italy; Champagne, France; Burgundy, France; Saint-Emilion, France; and Wachau, Austria.

The UNESCO designation of the prosecco hills – as in the case of other wine regions – celebrates the heritage of generations of individual winegrowers who recognized the precious gifts of the terroir and toiled to establish the vines and a community based on a valued wine. And of course, the incredible beauty of the region of vineyards.

In the case of the prosecco wine hills, the beauty is unique. The area of area of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene is characterized by steep hills, which you do associate with other wine regions and which contribute to the particular and complex flavors in the region's sparkling wine.

But here, the challenges of cultivating the terrain was overcome in the 17th century by the creation terraced small plots of vines that resemble a patchwork or checkerboard pattern, surrounded by local forests and farmland, dotted with small iconically-Italian villages.

Traditionally, winegrowers in the prosecco wine hills also trained their vines in a distinctive, rhomboid grid pattern. Called the 'bellussera' technique, it provided prosecco grapes with exposure to the sun and protection from diseases, and also added to the one-of-a-kind aesthetic and appeal of the landscape.

You rarely find – admittedly expensive, expert labor-intensive - 'bellussera' trained vines these days. But it's hoped that the UNESCO designation, as well as a trend in viniculture as well as other heritage food production to recover traditional techniques, will inspire a return to prosecco's 'roots'.  


It also codifies a commitment to sustainability for the region – both in its cultivation and production of these highest quality designated prosecco wines – and also in welcoming visitors to discover the riches of the area.

The prosecco hills, that stretch 30 km (nearly 20 miles) through this picturesque part of northeastern Italy, have been cultivating wines for hundreds of years.

Their new UNESCO designation confirms their value to the sum of human and natural heritage, and also why you should add a journey to northeastern Italy to your travel or wine travel bucket list to taste this delightful sparkling wine at the source and savor the landscapes and culture that nurture them.

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The Return of a Legend: Singapore's Raffles Hotel Re-opens

It's one of a handful of heritage hotels around the world that define a destination. The storied Raffles hotel is synonymous with Singapore. 


And after closing for more than two years for restoration and re-imagination, Raffles re-takes center stage as a hospitality icon in this South-East Asian city-state – and the world.



First opened in 1887, Raffles' restoration retains what makes the hotel a treasure. It's a magical place in Singapore: a combination of gracious luxury and expansive tropical colonial design that stirs your historical and travel imagination. Polished teak verandahs and white marble colonnades clustered around lush tropical gardens evoke the romance of life-changing travel.

Add the famed Raffles butlers discreetly providing legendary service, visitors to Singapore are transported to another era of transformative travel and legends in the making. 

The hotel was declared a National Monument a century after it opened. It's treasured by Singaporeans, who deeply value its breathtaking architecture, singular heritage, and Raffles' place in local, Asian and global history. 


They continue to proudly share epic tales of the early years of the hotel and of modern Singapore. You can't visit Singapore without hearing about the times when the occasional tiger would wander into the hotel's Long Bar from the jungle, and legendary authors, playwrights, taste-makers and trend-setters and empire builders called Raffles home during their time in the East.

The restoration maintains and enhances Raffles as an incomparable luxury oasis for today's well-traveled. The revitalized Raffles Singapore offers enhanced luxurious all-suite accommodations, across nine distinct suite categories. The hotel has added three more types of suites so guests can choose among: State Room Suites, Courtyard Suites, Palm Court Suites, Personality Suites, Residence Suites, Promenade Suites, Grand Hotel Suites and Presidential Suites.

 
The hotel is the center of social life and society in Singapore. The refreshed oasis in ultra-modern Singapore delivers a compelling mix of culture, beauty and gentility. Vibrant lifestyle experiences and exclusive dining concepts are designed for international visitors and Singaporeans to meet, stay, shop, dine and celebrate.

 
The Raffles Arcade has been newly outfitted with a charming Raffles Boutique and various bespoke retail brands. Guests and locals will also delight in exploring the worldly restaurants and bars at Raffles Singapore, including restaurant collaborations with
 
  • Chef Anne-Sophie Pic, of the three-Michelin star Maison Pic in Valence, France;
  • the venerable French Master Chef Alain Ducasse; and
  • Chef Jereme Leung, known for his innovative Chinese cuisine.

And one of the most famous places within Singapore, Raffles' Long Bar, begins a new chapter too. Under palmetto fans, guests will continue to enjoy the hotel's most famous cocktail invention, the original Singapore Sling, along with the timeless tradition of tossing peanut shells on the floor.
 
Singapore's heritage treasure is back. This is where it all started, and faithful to its roots, a refreshed, re-imagined and revitalized Raffles Singapore continues to define emotional luxury lifestyle.
 
Not just in Singapore. Raffles continues its tradition of gracious living, intuitive service and meaningful experiences. Raffles has grown beyond Singapore. Connoisseurs of life choose Raffles around the world for its heritage, beauty and gentility, and for the extraordinary way they feel staying at Raffles. Each Raffles, whether in Paris, Istanbul, Warsaw, Jakarta or the Seychelles, is an oasis where travelers arrive as guests, leave as friends and return as family.
 
You can look forward to more Raffles around the world, too. The return of this flagship property to Raffles Hotels & Resorts paves the way for the expansion of the brand to new destinations in cities such as Udaipur, London and Boston.
 

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Images: Raffles Singapore
 
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Where Every Gaming Teen Wants to Travel This Summer
If your family has a teen who spends time immersed in electronic games, take heart! We've discovered the perfect summer holiday everyone in your family will enjoy.

There's a vibrant summer destination that not only delivers an unforgettable skyline and cityscape, shopping, culture and food scene ranging from gourmet street food to Michelin-starred cuisine… and one of the world's most exciting e-Sports events.

The e-Sports & Music Festival Hong Kong takes place annually in late July in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and it gives gaming teens as well as the rest of their families an exciting summer holiday destination.
 
Featuring tournaments played between some of the best players in the world and live-streamed in 3 languages, as well as experiences for amateur gamers and visitors, the EMFHK ensures e-Sports enthusiasts in your family will be happily occupied for all three days of the festival, and free up the rest of you to explore Asia's World City.

Top Level International Team Tournaments

  • The EMFHK launched the first-ever official International College Championship in 2019. The League of Legends International College Cup. 12 winning college teams from all over the world compete for glory in this highly competitive, fast paced action-strategy game.
 
  • CS:GO World Invitational gives gaming fans the chance to witness first-hand two top professional teams fighting for a HK$500,000 prize pool.
 

Mobile Game Regional Tournaments
 
  • EMFHK - e-Sports Tournaments “Honor of Kings” Official City Tournament
“Honor of Kings” is the most played Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) mobile game in China, with over 50 million players per day. Qualifiers from 4 regions in the Greater Bay Area of HK/China compete for the championship.
 
  • PUBG Mobile Hong Kong Tournament
Winning teams from online qualifiers gather to battle for the championship title of the most played Battle Royale mobile game in the world.
 
Interactive Experiences for Visitors
 
Your teens will lose themselves for hours in the Experience Zone, which includes a showcase of cool retro arcade machines, along with VR experiences and professional e-racing equipment they can test drive. They'll experience the trendiest mobile games at the “CSL Mobile Game Party” and can check out “Street Fighter” and “The King of Fighters” in the “Retro Fighting Game Zone”.
 
Nightly entertainment during the three-day Festival features performances and parties that include events like an ACG & e-Sports Cosplay Competition, an electronic dance music (EDM) party featuring Korean rappers, performances featuring popular local bands and artists.
 
Tickets are all-inclusive of admission to the tournaments, the Experience Zone, nightly performances and even free admission to the Ani-Com & Games Hong Kong that runs at the same time. 
 
Build a summer holiday around Hong Kong's e-Sports & Music Festival, and you'll be in your gaming teens' good books for the whole year!

Start your Trip!

 
Images courtesy Discover Hong Kong

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

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

It's a pilgrimage all Canadians should undertake.

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

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It was a week at the end of May 1969 that became an iconic, unforgettable moment of 60's counter-culture and protests against the Vietnam War.
 
2019 marks the anniversary of the legendary time when music uber-star and peace activist John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono booked themselves into Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, and held their 'Bed-in for Peace'. 

The event resonated around the world, drawing global media who broadcast images of the couple in their pajamas in bed and their messages of peace. While in bed, they composed and recorded the anthem 'Give Peace a Chance' that resonates even today. It was Lennon's first solo single and marked the beginning of the end of the Beatles as well as marking the history of the peace movement. Music history and activist history made on the grand stage of a bed in a suite in the hotel.

The suite in the hotel has been a beacon, drawing pilgrims and fans to take photos in front of the room's door. And now, as part of a $100 million-plus renovation of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, the four rooms Lennon originally booked have been joined together in a single suite, renamed in honor of the couple and designed with all the comforts of a modern luxury hotel, but also in homage to the 60's era, the Bed-in for Peace, and the urgent, memorable song 'Give Peace a Chance' with interactive, multi-media immersions that bring to life the media frenzy and impact of this once-in-a-generation event.

The John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite at Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is not normally open to the public, but BestTrip got access to experience the suite today, re-live that week in 1969 and its message of 'Peace and Love', and share it with you.
 

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There's no visit to Argentina's capital without experiencing tango. It is both music and an unmistakable dance, perhaps the most sensual dance in the world.


Our Monograms tour of Buenos Aires included an incredible tango dinner show at El Viejo Almacen that took our breath away! A Monograms agenda allows for plenty of free time to explore our own interests (in addition to an orientation tour of the city that includes the world's widest boulevard, the cemetery where Eva Peron (immortalized in the musical Evita, and song 'Don't Cry for me, Argentina!' is interred, and tastes of the country's obsession with soccer as well as its famous way with beef and wine).


And in Buenos Aires, at the top of my personal agenda was a studio/ showroom visit to Comme il Faut, to meet the designer whose glamorous shoes single-handedly elevated tango to being as elegant as it is passionate.


Our Monograms guide gave us helpful, local expert's advice about the best way to get to the tucked-away 'Rue des Artisans' in BA's old neighborhood, where whitewashed buildings, wrought iron trim, black awnings, and jardinières on the street made me feel like I really was in Paris. No wonder Buenos Aires is called 'The Paris of South America'.

Parts of Buenos Aires may evoke Paris, but the soundtrack is all tango.And for me, the chance to meet Comme il Faut's designer and founder, Alicia Muñiz, whose limited edition shoes are wearable trophies for tango dancers and women of elegance around the world, was a personal highlight of Buenos Aires.


In this video, I share her passion for tango, her inspiration, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit that transformed tango shoes for a new generation of professional and everyday dancers, and built a creative business… from the 'foot' up.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV


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River Cruising has Changed Forever - The AmaMagna Sets Sail
A new river cruise ship has embarked on the Danube, and it's unlike anything else on the rivers of Europe. The word 'revolutionized' gets overused, but AmaWaterways' AmaMagna has overturned how we have come to think of river cruising.

It's all about size. If you've ever taken a European river cruise, you've seen your own cruise ship, plus ships from other companies docked side by side in port. Except for paint and branding, they're all pretty comparable.

To borrow a trailer park turn of phrase – maybe not elegant, but it completely paints the picture for you – the AmaMagna is a 'double-wide'. 

River cruise ships are all designed to fit into Europe's system of river locks. That limits the length, and until now, that has made all the ships more or less the same.

AmaMagna is twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, a genius innovation just in design and engineering. 
 
But it also changes the shipboard experience. Even though the AmaMagna is 200% wider than other ships, with 98 staterooms, it accommodates only 20% more guests. The public and personal space is vastly changed. Over half of the rooms are suites – from 355 all the way up to an – until now on river cruise ships – unheard of 710 square feet! 

 
Design and aesthetics follow suit with other AmaWaterways ships and still with a signature style for the AmaMagna. The plus décor is highlighted in staterooms and suites with natural wood accents. suites feature full outside balconies, open seating areas and spacious bathrooms, complete with double sinks and walk-in showers. Grand Suites ( there are 6 on the AmaMagna, and they measure 474 sq. ft.) and the one Owner’s Suite (at a whopping 710 sq. ft.) take the new space available and put it to good use with separate seating areas and spa-like bathtubs in the bathrooms.

 
The extra space is put to good use in public areas, too. There's an onboard cinema! And a multi-level lounge and multiple dining venues (river cruise ships generally have no more than two). Guests can choose the Main Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows, The Chef's Table, the Al Fresco Restaurant and Jimmy's (named after an AmaWaterways founder).



 
There's an expansive Wellness Studio that includes an exercise area spacious enough for group classes. A professionally-trained Wellness Host leads stretching, cardio, core strengthening and spin classes. There's also a juice bar and two massage rooms as well as the usual mani/pedi and hair services. Even a large boutique much more like you would find on an ocean ship.

 
Outdoors, the double width of space on the top deck seems extravagant! The sundeck has a large heated pool, a whirlpool and a sky bar. And another innovation: a pop-up elevator that serves all four public decks of the ship.
 
If you're a seasoned river cruise traveler, you won't want to miss experiencing this incredible new ship. If you've never taken a river cruise, we might suggest you try another AmaWaterways cruise first, as a trip on the AmaMagna might spoil you for standard-sized river cruise ships!
 
The AmaMagna sails the Danube, on itineraries including the Romantic Danube, Melodies of the Danube and Christmas Markets on the Danube.
 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Start your Trip!

 
(Images: Getty)
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Cooler climes are some of today's hottest cruise destinations. 

Add the warmth of Seabourn's ultra-luxury service, boutique-hotel inspired ships, world-class dining and insightful, intriguing shore excursions like Ventures' active explorations, and you've got the perfect formula for discovering gateway northern destinations like Alaska, as well as the uniquely northern-most destinations in Europe.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR A SHIP TOUR AND HIGLIGHTS OF OUR CRUISE.

And here are three essential experiences I discovered you won't want to miss on a cruise of Nordic and Scottish destinations on the Seabourn Ovation. 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

1. Follow in the Footsteps of the Vikings


Scandinavia's maritime warriors/traders/ marauders are legendary even today. 

A thousand years ago, from their coastal bases in today's Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, Vikings launched expeditions in their wooden ships, eventually crossing the unpredictable North Sea to the British Isles, skirting the Arctic Circle and hop-scotching to landfalls in Iceland, Greenland, and eventually even making it to Newfoundland (preceding Columbus by centuries as the first Europeans to set foot in the Americas).

Our cruise evoked these epic Viking voyages.

We set sail from Denmark's capital and global lifestyle and culinary hotspot Copenhagen, wound our way to Sweden, where we toured the rugged, rocky coastline, onwards to Norway's capital Oslo and coastal towns, then sailed across the North Sea to northern England and Scotland, calling in the cultural and architectural gem of Edinburgh, then at storied, remote Scottish isles that rarely see cruise ships, and never the larger ships at all.

Don't miss the intact Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

Throughout the voyage and half a dozen countries, the land and sea-scape shared a common, North Atlantic / North Sea theme that reminds you – you're exploring Viking territory. Dark blue, cold North Atlantic seas lapping against craggy granite coasts and cliffs with hardy northern trees and plants, dotted here and there with hardy homes and farms and fishing villages.  

Like a cruise of the countries along the Mediterranean Sea reveals shared landscapes and history, so too does a cruise of the North Sea portion of the North Atlantic. 

In fact, an Australian couple standing next to me at the rail in one Nordic port said they'd sailed with Seabourn to Canada the previous summer – and the Nordic coastline to them looked identical to Atlantic Canada.


But unlike the brave Vikings crossing these chill waters in their wooden longships, on Seabourn, you're wrapped in the warmth of attentive service, cocktails and champagne and caviar service throughout the ship, top-shelf restaurants including one by a Michelin-starred chef, and peak 21st century hospitality.


2. Set your alarm to enjoy some of the world's most beautiful sail in arrivals.


On this cruise, sailing into Nordic ports like Oslo, Arendal, and Scotland's Highland port Inverness as well as the isles of Shetland and Orkney will be experiences you never forget. The sparsely populated shores approaching these North Sea ports are epic viewed from the ship.


And on Seabourn, where all suites (unlike a land-based hotel) are ocean view, the ships are small enough that even suites on the top deck are still close enough to the water you can hear the waves lapping and smell the sea air, and the exceptional service includes in-room dining in your living /dining room or on your veranda - from dawn until the ship is docked is an unparalleled experience of enjoying morning tea and breakfast while exceptional scenery sails past.

3. Experience the Great Outdoors, Seabourn-Style


A scenic morning sail-in isn't the only way to appreciate the outdoors in these essential outdoor North Sea destinations.  

With multiple hot tubs in vantage points on forward and aft decks, there's always a hot tub with a view in these cool-weather ports.

Seabourn's Ventures shore excursions that immerse you in Nature, expedition-style. Expert guides take small groups of guests on hikes, treks, kayak or zodiak explorations that let you get up close to the sea, the land, and the wildlife in a magical and active experience.

Back on the ship, Seabourn's staff go to extraordinary lengths to charm guests with pop-up events – those famous 'Seabourn Moments' - on deck that allow you to enjoy Seabourn service along with the views. 
You might return from shore to find a champagne/vodka and caviar party (in the tropics, they have 'Caviar in the Surf' parties served from surfboards at the beach!) or warming 'hot chocolate with a twist', all with live music and camaraderie with delighted fellow guests.


I love being outdoors, and Seabourn's new restaurant concept Earth and Ocean transforms the pool deck in the evenings with an alfresco dining experience that pairs rustic ceramics and textured linen with exquisite cuisine that taps into the elements with smoke boxes, sea scents and tagines. 

It's all heightened by the sea air and the views you can still enjoy late into the evening with the Far North's summertime late sunsets.

Start your Trip!

 
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See the World's Tallest Indoor Waterfall at this New Airport

It's one of the world's top ten busiest airports, with a flight every 80 seconds. A hundred airlines transport over 60 million passengers yearly to and from Singapore's Changi airport. So millions of travelers are already familiar with the breathtaking Nature features in the airport that's the gateway to Asia's 'City in a Garden'. 


But 2019's new Jewel Changi Airport brings the natural world into an airport environment in a whole new, spectacular way that makes Singapore's airport a destination itself.

The Rain Vortex was inspired by Singapore's tropical rains. It's a 7-story feat of design and engineering that astounds you the moment you walk in the door. At over 130 feet high, it's the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, cascading dramatically through an oculus in the glass and steel dome.


The experience of the Rain Vortex changes depending what time of day you are at Jewel Changi Airport. Every evening, the flowing water, along with mist and music, becomes the centerpiece of an hourly, magical Light & Sound show designed by the same company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and hundreds of other water, fire, light, fog and music installations around the world.

Jewel's indoor waterfall is surrounded by 5 acres of lush gardens and greenery – 2000 trees and 100,000 shrubs from 120 species in different 'parks' that make Jewel Changi Airport a lifestyle destination for visitors and locals too.

Areas like Forest Valley and Canopy Park are shopping and dining neighborhoods in a whimsical green wonderland, with cobblestone walking trails, indoor clouds, play attractions like Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze and Discovery Slides that flow through themed gardens - all in climate-controlled comfort. In a man-made environment, you can enjoy tropical gardens without tropical weather!
 
With all the world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, Jewel is still a functioning airport that anticipates travelers' needs and offers conveniences that are a breath of relief, even for travelers with only a brief stopover in Singapore. 
 
Thoughtful airport facilities that have been added in Jewel include early check-in counters and kiosks, a baggage storage service and the Changi Lounge, a 150-seat lounge with shower facilities, offering seamless transfers for passengers connecting to and from cruise and ferry services
 
Jewel also has the first YOTELAIR in Asia. The tech-savvy, smart-design, space-efficient cabin hotel concept has 130 cabin-units in Jewel in three categories. The Premium, Accessible and Family cabins can be booked for as little as four hours. They are a game changer for travelers with short daytime layovers, a very early arrival in Singapore, even an extra half day to spend time exploring all that the airport has to offer before you fly out of Singapore - even overnight stays. Hotel check-in / check-out is seamless, with time-saving, airline-style self-check-in kiosks.
 
Jewel also adds capacity to accommodate increasing numbers of travelers at Changi Airport. Another 3 million passengers will now be able to be accommodated annually, bringing the airport's total capacity to 85 million. And it's going to be needed with an airport that's enough reason alone to visit Singapore.
 
The multi-faceted innovation at Jewel gives local residents a new destination where lush Nature meets Singapore's urban energy. And it gives a renewed sense of novelty and wonder at the experience of air transportation to everyone traveling to or from Singapore. 
 

Start your Trip!


Photos: Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

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