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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Haugan Cruise to Galapagos Islands Receives Rave Reviews

Work out of your house and you often get pleasant surprises, like the time two women from Ecuador knocked on my door to discuss Haugan Cruises. We usually meet reps from travel companies at the local Starbucks, planned weeks in advance. But these two ladies caught me off guard so, of course, I let them in to do their spiel. I walked away impressed with both their presentation and the exquisite catamarans they owned to take clients on 4-day to 15-day trips around the Galapagos Islands. The yachts hold a maximum of 16 people in 9 cabins, with a crew of 11 that includes a Captain and naturalist. A year later, we give Haugan a try with two clients headed to the Galapagos. Both recently returned with rave reviews about the experience. “We strongly recommend Haugan! The Ocean Spray was wonderful. Our trip director and guide, Jose, was outstanding. The crew were all extremely helpful. Our chef was four star! We had three full meals a day, each one better than the next. Our state room was spacious with a private outside sitting area. Also large bathroom. All accommodations were very comfortable.”

The second client just returned this week. Here’s what she wrote: “The attention and service from Haugan tours was top notch. Galapagos was beyond words! I can’t tell you enough how much we appreciate all you did to set this up for us. Thank you, thank you!!!” 
Moral of story: feel free to knock on my door any time. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/22/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 08, 2017

New in River Cruising 2018

Guest Post by Lisa Leavitt 

Viking Ra will be cruising the River Nile in Egypt in 2018. Just 52 guests on this upscale vessel with suites 
Century River Cruises will cruise the Yangtze
Avalon will offer trips down Vietnam's Mekong River and Burma's Irrawaddy River
Amadeus will present new golf-focused river cruises next spring including visits to 4 prestigious golf courses
Foodies will enjoy Scenic’s cooking school aboard select ships
Un Cruise Adventures will feature eight Rivers of Wine itineraries on the Legacy, a turn of the century steamer sailing the Columbia and Snake rivers in the US and their Rivers of Adventure series will allow for hiking, biking, kayaking and more from their starting point of Portland, Oregon.
And, much more: barges down the Seine, multigenerational cruises on CroisiEurope where kids under 16 go for free.
Sales happen all the time with the river cruise companies: some offer 2-for-1 fares or free international air or they waive their single supplements.
Here's some offers going on right now:  
Avalon Cruises: Save $2,000 per couple on 2018 Active Discovery River Cruises on the Rhine or Danube
Paul Gauguin Cruises: Two Week Sale for cruises in the South Pacific. $2,900 per person savings on select sailings.
Emerald Waterways: Sensations of Southern France: if 6 people book, then the 7th person is free.
Contact ActiveTravels to find out the latest deals! We won't steer you wrong!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/08/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, December 07, 2017

River Cruising 101

Guest Post by Lisa Leavitt 
Are you considering the idea of a river cruise but can't decide? You are not alone! These smaller, more intimate, cruise lines are hugely popular right now and many people come to ActiveTravels with questions about which one to choose. Are you considering a romantic cruise with your honey but want the appropriate age range on board? Bringing your kids? Are you active or do you prefer to wine and dine your way down the river?
Here are some of the brands you've probably heard about through countless ads: Viking, Ama Waterways, Avalon, Scenic, Emerald, Tauck, Crystal and Uniworld, to name a few. All of these brands can be compared with regards to these variables:
Which lines include shore excursions? Crystal, Scenic, Emerald, Viking and Tauck-some offer more choices than others.
Which lines include drinks (alcoholic, specialty coffees, soda)?  Crystal, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld
Which lines have bikes onboard? Ama who is pairing up with active adventure company Backroads, Emerald, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld
Which lines are family friendly? AmaWaterways (they are now partnering with Adventures by Disney), Uniworld and Tauck. Minimum ages can be anywhere from 3 years old to 13 years old.
What if I'm in the 21-55 year old age range? Try U by Uniworld. Their first two sleek black vessels will debut next year on European rivers and will   feature more active offerings, nightlife fun, and more affordable rates for solo travelers.
Once you've decided on the cruise line, then you need to choose the river you want to journey upon. Will it be the Danube, the Rhone, the Rhine, the Bordeaux, the Douro, or the Seine?  Here's a quick rundown on what each river has to offer:
Danube: Germany, Austria, and Hungary-a great first river cruise filled with storybook villages, beautiful scenery and the fascinating cities of Nuremberg, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and more
Rhone: Southern France between Lyon and Arles-Burgundy and Provence, Roman ruins, biking, art of Van Gogh, wines, excellent food
Rhine: Amsterdam to Basel-A very popular route to see lots of countries: Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland and many castles, UNESCO sites, riverside vineyards, and wonderful biking paths to explore
Bordeaux: France-great for active travelers who like to hike and bike and love wines
Douro: Portugal-If you love wines, and want less river time and more port time to explore. The Douro flows between Porto on the coast of Portugal and the Spanish border.
Seine: Begins and ends in Paris-can see the beaches of Normandy, Monet's Gardens, Rouen, and the shipping port of Honfleur.
Elbe: Berlin to Prague-see the highlights of Hamburg, Wittenberg (500th birthday of the Reformation this year), Dresden, Germany and pretty little Czech towns along the way

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/07/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Backroads to Debut Ocean Cruises Next Summer

Ever since Backroads partnered with AmaWaterways to bring families to the Danube River in 2015, the demand has far exceeded number of available berths. The chance to ride along the river on bike paths during the day though small European villages and then catch up with the cruise for cocktails, dinner, and your room for the week (no packing and unpacking) is ideally suited for all age groups. Now Backroads is bringing their active travel itineraries to the oceans. They are partnering with Lindblad, Un-Cruise, and Ponant on voyages to Alaska, Antarctica, Japan, New Zealand, the Baltic Sea, Galápagos, Iceland and more – totaling 51 departures on 14 itineraries. The bulk of the trips will debut in 2019 but they are already offering one cruise next summer on the National Geographic Explorer, a 10-day multi-sport trip to Iceland. Bike along the shore of a remote fjord on Backroads custom-designed titanium bikes, hike volcanic moonscapes and untamed islands on off-the-beaten-path excursions, and jump in a Zodiac when your naturalist spot passing whales, seals, and rugged cliffs teeming with nesting seabirds like puffins. Contact ActiveTravels for any Backroads itinerary and we’ll be more than happy to find out who already signed up for the trip and if the ages are appropriate for you and your family. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/06/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 30, 2017

Nova Scotia Ferry Numbers Up Summer 2017

Happy to hear that ridership was up on the Portland-Yarmouth Ferry this summer. According to the Portland Press Herald, The Cat transported some 41,000 people, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. My sister and I took the ferry over to Nova Scotia in 2016 and it was an easy to get to the Atlantic Maritimes from New England. Just 6 ½ hours one way, it’s the ideal way to start your loop of the Maritimes, continuing on to Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. You can visit Acadia National Park and the Maine coast on your drive back to Portland. Only a 30-minute drive from the ferry port in Yarmouth is one of my favorite stopovers, the Ye Olde Argyler Lodge. Start your tour of the Maritimes the right way with a guided sea kayaking tour of massive Lobster Bay and a lobster bake at sunset on the beach. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/30/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

AmaWaterways Announces Chance to See the Gorillas of Rwanda

We’re already big fans of AmaWaterways’ cruises to Africa, like the Discover Africa itinerary that starts in Cape Town before boarding the 28-passenger Zambezi Queen on Botswana’s Chobe River, where you watch the elephants and crocs swim across the river while sipping sundowners on the pool deck. Then it’s off to Vic Falls for the grand finale. Now AmaWaterways is upping the ante, announcing a new 4-day post-cruise extension to Rwanda. Guests will experience Kigali and Volcanoes National Park, home to rare mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Cape Town, Botswana, Vic Falls, and now Rwanda. Quite the African combo! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/26/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New U by Uniworld Cruises Catered to Younger Clientele

It’s no surprise that a river cruise appeals to all ages. Just ask active travels tour operator, Backroads, who teamed with AmaWaterways to bring families to the Danube River. Ever since they started these cruises in 2016, the demand has far exceeded number of available berths. The chance to ride along the river on bike paths during the day though small European villages and then catch up with the cruise for cocktails, dinner, and your room for the week (no packing and unpacking) is ideally suited for all age groups. The problem, especially if you’re a Gen-Xer or Millennial, is the average age on many of these river cruises is 68. That’s why we’re happy to introduce U by Uniworld, tailored to ages 21 to 45. Making its debut on April 14 with shiny black exteriors, the two vessels are slated to sail the Danube, Rhine, and France’s Seine River. Not surprisingly, these smaller ships are already starting to book up. If interested, give ActiveTravels a call to check availability. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/12/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Canada Week: New Ferry Service Between Vancouver and Victoria

I spent the early part of last week in Manhattan for Canada Media Marketplace, where I met with media reps from all over Canada to hear about the latest travel developments. In a chat with Amber Sessions from Tourism Vancouver, I learned that Vancouver would finally be launching a direct ferry to Victoria. This saves the 40-minute drive to the ferry terminal in Tswwassen from Vancouver and another 30-minute drive from Swartz Bay Terminal on Vancouver Island to Victoria. Frankly, it also eliminates the need to rent a car in either destination. You also have the option to continue on by ferry from Victoria to Seattle to complete a great 8 to 10-day triangle. The Vancouver to Victoria ferry debuts in May. Cost starts at $120 Canadian for the 3 hour cruise. If you’re heading to Vancouver later in the year, be on the lookout for the unveiling of the $600 million Parq Vancouver complex next to BC Place Stadium. The new waterfront development will feature the first JW Marriott in Western Canada, The Douglas, a boutique Autograph Collection property, and eight restaurants and lounges designed by James Beard Award nominated restaurateur Elizabeth Blau. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/10/17 at 07:00 AM
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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Perfect Day Trip on St. Lucia

Splitting time between the BodyHoliday and Rendezvous resorts on the northern coast of St. Lucia, I wanted to show Lisa the rest of the island, most importantly those majestic twin peaks, the Pitons, that tower over the water near the town of Soufriere. We made the smart decision to go with Joy’s Tours for a six-hour boat tour along the western coast. They picked us up at Rendezvous and made the 10-minute drive to St. James’s Club where we started our cruise on a very fast Boston Whaler-like boat. Soon we were zipping past the cruise ships in port at Castries, the exquisite cove of Marigot Bay, and small seaside villages. We got our first glimpse of the Pitons just past the beach at Anse Chastanet, the classic resort where I stayed on my visit to St. Lucia last year. Just around the bend in Soufriere, we were led into mini-vans to head up the hills for our volcanic mud path and swim under a waterfall. The volcanic mud was gritty as we placed it all over our bodies. When we washed the dirt off in the warm waters, our skin was baby smooth. For lunch, we dined on native fare at Joy’s large home and toured the property to check out his guava, papaya, and banana trees. After lunch, we went back to the boats to snorkel at Sugar Beach resort, smack dab between the Pitons. We spotted a moray eel, numerous blue tangs, and my favorite, a large prehistoric looking sea cucumber. On the return trip, we drank homemade rum punch as we cruised back at high speed. When we told our guide, Johnny, we were staying at Rendezvous, they insisted on dropping us off at the beach directly in front of our cottage. A Class Act! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/22/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, April 04, 2016

The Return of the High-Speed CAT Between Portland and Nova Scotia

Last June, I was fortunate to spend six days in Nova Scotia with my sister, Fawn. We took the Nova Star Ferry from Portland, Maine for the 11-hour crossing. The Nova Star ended its service last October and it was just announced last week that the much faster twin-hulled CAT would return, cutting time in half. The service will begin on June 15 and will depart Portland daily at 2:30 pm, arriving in Yarmouth at 9 pm. The ferry will depart from Yarmouth the next morning at 8 am, arriving back in Portland at 1:30 pm. The CAT will be able to carry some 700 passengers and 280 cars. I’ve been to Nova Scotia 3 times in the past 5 years, traveling from Yarmouth in the south all the way to Cape Breton in the north. It’s one of my favorite places to be in Canada, combining stunning scenery with incredibly fresh seafood and live foot-stomping music. I’m happy to design an itinerary of my favorite lodgings, restaurants, and activities for anyone who wants to take advantage of the current rate of exchange, US$1 to CAN$1.30. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/04/16 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

Adventure Travel Trade Association