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Friday, January 05, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, Silky Oaks Lodge, Australia

Guest Post and Photos By Lisa Leavitt

A major perk of being a Virtuoso travel agent is the fam trip. Fam is short for familiarization and these trips are usually low cost to travel advisors to appealing destinations around the globe. Nevertheless, once you arrive, you are fair game to any tourism professional or hotelier in the region. Each one wants to show you their property, activity and special corner of the universe. When I went to Queensland, Australia, in March of 2017, I expected countless hotel viewings and long-drawn out meetings with crocodile park owners.
Instead I was pleasantly surprised to experience one of my dream days of 2017. I woke up in Silky Oaks Lodge in Mossman Gorge, in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest living rainforest on earth. After a breakfast overlooking the flowing river, we boarded helicopters to view the dense forest from above. The pilots surprised us by landing on rocks next to a waterfall so we could experience feeling completely surrounded by this wet tropical landscape. Whisked away moments later, we were brought back to the lodge for a luscious swim down a cool river.
The best part was yet to come! We boarded a van to go into Port Douglas the largest town in northern Queensland and home to many boutique shops, great restaurants and a harbor where Quicksilver Cruises is based. We boarded Wavedancer, a large catamaran that soon was cruising out to sea toward the setting sun. With drink in hand, I toasted with my new friends and watched a spectacular sunset. Back on land, we ate a delicious dinner involving Moreton Bay “Bugs,” which look and taste a lot like our Maine lobster. On the way home, we stopped on the side of the road, got out and took a moment to take in the magnificent Southern Hemisphere stars together. It was certainly a day I will always remember.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/05/18 at 05:59 AM
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Thursday, January 04, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, A Sunrise Hike and Sunset Cruise in Santorini

We covered a lot of ground in our weeklong jaunt with Heritage Tours to Greece in April. Stops included Athens, Nafplion, Spetses, Mykonos, Delos, Paros, and our last stop, magical Santorini. It had been 25 years since Lisa and I were on the island for our honeymoon and it felt just as enticing. Especially the day we woke up with the sunrise to hike atop the ridge and then watched the sun set that evening aboard a yacht in the Aegean waters. Santorini exceeds all expectations, with stunning vistas of the caldera and its volcanic islands. We wandered off at 7 am from our room at Mystique, striding atop a bluff above the whitewashed buildings. To the right was the caldera, to the left more majestic islands that make up the Cyclades. The entire walk from Oia to Fira is 9.5 kilometers, approximately 3 hours, but we got sidetracked by donkeys and a snack bar selling damn good lattes and never made it past Imerovigli. Later that same day, we bordered a private yacht for a sunset cruise. Now nestled within the caldera, the scenery was a mesmerizing mix of aquamarine waters, jagged volcanic islands, and the whitewashed houses on the island clinging precariously to the cliffs. Add the reddish/orange/pink orb of a sun melting into the sea, shading this scene with the full spectrum of color, paired with a glass of crisp Santorini wine, and you have a fitting ending to a memorable trip. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/04/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, Hiking the Eiger Trail, Switzerland

To be honest, every day of our Backroads family trip to the Swiss Alps was a dream, from biking the shoreline of glorious Lake Brienz to hiking 6 miles of the Bachalpsee Route high above Grindelwald, then taking the Trotti bike back to town. Yet, if I had to choose one day above the rest, it would be the day we hiked on the Eiger Trail. We took a short train ride from Grindelwald to Alpiglen to start our long uphill climb, over 3,000 feet. Lofty Eiger Peak, standing 13,020 feet, was socked in with clouds, until we were practically beside the North Face. Then the clouds started to part and we were treated to magical views of Eiger and Jungfrau and the hanging glaciers that snaked down the hillside in between. For the next hour, we walked alongside these craggy snow-topped peaks before reaching the village of Kleine Scheidegg, home to the highest major train station in Switzerland. After lunch, we left the crowds behind as we made our way on relatively level ground to the Männlichen Gondola. The only obstacle was a herd of cows we met up with on the narrow path. One cow came straight toward me and I wisely ran into the grass above the trail to avoid being trampled. My legs weren’t working too well at that point but I’m happy to see my brain was. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/03/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, E-Biking Emmental Valley, Switzerland

We spent a glorious week in Switzerland in July before the start of our Backroads hiking and biking trip in the Swiss Alps. We loved our stay in Bern to see the inner workings of the famous Medieval Clock Tower, visiting the apartment Albert Einstein lived when he proved his Theory of Relativity, and stopping at the wave-like building Renzo Piano built to house the works of local talent Paul Klee. But my favorite day was getting on electric bikes to roam the narrow and mountainous country roads of neighboring Emmental Valley. Our guide, who looked like Roger Federer, led us through the farmland and small villages to a restaurant known for creating fondue from the local emmental cheese. We returned to Bern on the train with more than enough time to swim in the Aare River. An easy walk down the hillside from our wonderful hotel, the Bellevue Palace, led to a park where hundreds of people lined the river catching rays. We strolled down a path with a long line of folks who dragged their tubes, rafts, and dry bags. Then jump in the cool water anywhere and off you go with the strong current. The hardest part was finding a place on the shores to stop and pull yourself out. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/02/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 29, 2017

Ski-In/Ski-Out Resorts, New York on a Budget, and Grand Cayman Featured in December Newsletter

Snowmaking is not a problem right now in America, now that more than half the country is experiencing an arctic freeze. In this month’s issue of the ActiveTravels newsletter, we divulge our client’s favorite ski-in/ski-out resorts, learn about the new adventure travel company called Life is Good Vacations, talk about the hotel deals in New York in January, and tell you where to stay on Grand Cayman now that the temps have dipped. With direct flights from most cities on the East Coast,  the island is perfectly suited for a Quick Escape. 

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2018! We’ll be back next week with our Top 5 Dream Days in 2017. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/29/17 at 05:59 AM
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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Snorkel with Scuba Caribe at Riu Reggae

Many all-inclusive properties in the Caribbean offer some sort of a sunset snorkeling cruise, but I have to give a special shout-out to the captain and crew of Scuba Caribe at the Riu Reggae. It was one of the best catamaran sails I’ve been on. The snorkeling was good and the stop at Margaritaville for margaritas and nachos was fun. But by far the best part was the last hour, heading back to the resort as the sun was setting. Downing rum drinks and Red Stripe on tap, the whole group danced to old school R&B on the deck as we bounced along with the waves. Listening to “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” and “The Glow of Love” while getting splashed with the ocean water was the life-affirming wake-up-call this boy needed after a hectic November and December in the office. Definitely sign up for the 2-6 pm cruise when staying at any of the three Riu properties in Montego Bay. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/28/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Bamboo Raft Down the Martha Brae River

While it’s easy to get sucked in at an all-inclusive property and never leave the premises, it would be a mistake not to escape the beach of Jamaica and visit the lush mountainous interior. One of my favorite things to do in the hillside is slowly amble down a river. A mere 20-minute drive from where we were staying at the Riu Reggae in Montego Bay, past the high school where the fastest man in the world attended, Usain Bolt, was the start of a 90-minute bamboo raft trip down the sinuous Martha Brae River. When we arrived, we could see the workers creating the rafts. After a quick rum punch, we met our captain and sat down on a raised seat to begin our descent down this shaded waterway. The shoreline was rich with fruit trees of every type imaginable, from bananas to cassava to mangos. There were also towering banyan trees with vines hanging down. Our guide poled past small houses along the river, offering a glimpse into rural Jamaican life. Just as quickly the ride was over, but we’ll be back in Jamaica hopefully soon for another relaxing river ride. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/27/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Rejuvenating Stay at the Riu Reggae

With our kids out of college early this semester, we decided to head to the Caribbean before Christmas. We made the wise decision to book two rooms at the Riu Reggae, an adults-only all-inclusive which made its debut 8 months ago. Located down the beach from the Riu Palace and the Riu Montego Bay, the Riu Reggae is only a 10-minute drive from the international airport. Compared to the other Riu properties we’ve stayed at in Ocho Rios, Aruba, and Costa Rica, it’s a smaller, more contemporary resort with 400 rooms and 5 restaurants. We thought the food was very good for an all-inclusive property, especially the breakfasts at the main buffet, the steak at the Italian restaurant, and our last night’s dinner at the gourmet restaurant, Kulinarium, which featured lobster, grouper, and oxtail ravioli. The highlight for us (and one of the reasons we keep returning to Jamaica) is the jerk hut, serving slightly charred barbecue chicken on the beach, topped with homemade spicy jerk sauce. We would stand in line every day to grab our lunch there. 
The beach connects to the other two properties so you can take long walks in the sand. But most of the time we read our books at the pool while being entertained by the excellent staff. Everyone at the resort seemed genuinely happy to welcome you to their country, from the wait staff to the front desk to the room service (there was no attitude at all). But the entertainers, including Kool Kid and Shampoo, went out of their way to make you laugh and stopped by your chaise lounge chair to converse. One morning, a wonderful band played live reggae music at the edge of the pool, including classic Bob Marley and Peter Tosh tunes. It’s no surprise that the occupancy rate is already 85 percent, with clientele coming in for a week’s stay from all over North America and Europe. If the price remains as reasonable as it is now, I’d happily return. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/26/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 15, 2017

Fantasy Islands Week: Heron Island, Australia

Looking forward to seeing an ockie (octopus) in the bommie (coral head)? Then Heron Island, on the Great Barrier’s southern reef, is the place for you, mates. You might also dive with giant sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs between late October and March, or with humpback whales that skirt the island from June through October. Heron Island Resort, the island’s lone accommodation, has room for 250 nature lovers. The Point Suites offer unobstructed views of the harbor and bay.  Part resort, part wildlife sanctuary, this Robinson Crusoe-like island is large enough for couples to follow their own trail to a nesting spot among the white herons.  
We’re off to our own fantasy island next week, Jamaica. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas! We’ll be back on the 27th. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/15/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Fantasy Islands Week: Bonaire

A mere decade ago, Bonaire was known only to scuba enthusiasts—a clandestine gem discussed in hushed conversations with other serious ocean lovers (types who come out of the water with seaweed in their hair). Now that the secret is out, travelers are learning that nature thrives both above and below the water here. The reef’s proximity to shore is ideal for divers and snorkelers who want to swim with blue and yellow queen angelfish and orange trumpetfish in waters with visibility of 100 feet or more. On terra firma, Bonaire’s semi-arid landscape is home to some 200 types of birds, including one of the world’s largest colonies of pink flamingoes (numbering some 15,000). Situated on a small peninsula, the guest rooms at Harbor Village Beach Resort feature spacious balconies that overlook the beach. Tell the concierge that you savor your privacy and he’ll arrange a picnic for two on tiny Klein Bonaire. Heinekens and Gouda are the sustenance of choice on this Dutch protectorate.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/14/17 at 06:00 AM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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