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Cruises

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What’s New at Hurtigruten

Lisa and I went to an all-day seminar on Monday with Tourism Norway to meet with a dozen travel reps from all over this Scandinavian country. I'll probably write a longer piece on Norway for the newsletter, but I wanted to report on all the exciting new developments at Norway's signature cruise line, Hurtigruten. They will debut a new hybrid vessel, the MS Roald Amundsen, this coming July. Not only will it cut fuel by 20 percent, but they can turn off the engines off when coasting within the fjords and you'll won't hear a sound. The interior was designed by Rolls Royce so expect the finest details. The ship will be heading along the Norwegian coast late May 2019 on a glorious 15-day cruise that starts and ends in Hamburg, Germany. We just booked it today for two of our clients. Already sold out in 2019 is the 14-day Northwest Passage cruise that starts in Greenland before crossing the Davis Strait and venturing into the Canadian Arctic Archipelago of Nunavut. If interested, ActiveTravels will be happy to look into the 2020 voyage. Lastly, Hurtigruten cruises run year-round in Norway and they mentioned that one of the best times to see the fjords is in the October/November months, when the mountains are snowcapped and you have a good chance of viewing the Northern Lights. In fact, Hurtigruten will guarantee you see the Northern Lights on one of their 12-day itineraries from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019 or receive another weeklong cruise for free!  
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/23/18 at 05:59 AM
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Monday, March 26, 2018

Cruising Tahiti and French Polynesia with Paul Gauguin Cruises

French Polynesia will always hold a special place in my heart. It was here and other South Pacific locales like Fiji and the Cook Islands that I received my start in travel writing, penning stories for Rodale's Scuba Diving and resort reviews for Bride's Magazine. In 1994, Lisa and I went on a freighter cruise to the Marquesas Islands that still to this day is one of the highlights of my career in travel. But you don't have to deliver food to the locals to savor French Polynesia. Go in style aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin, a luxury cruise ship that has been plying these waters for 20 years. The Gauguin is currently offering 50% off standard cruise fares, including airfare from Los Angeles. It's only a 7-hour flight from LA to Tahiti, a mere two hours past Hawaii. Then you arrive in dreamy French Polynesia, where the emerald green mountains rise from the aquamarine waters. I've been all over Hawaii and the South Pacific and these are my favorite islands in the world, half of them deserted motus, specks of land surrounded by pristine white sand that are ideal for snorkeling and then walking the lonesome beach. Summer is the ideal time to visit French Polynesia, without the threat of cyclone. So if you're considering a river cruise in Europe this year, maybe you want to head to the South Pacific instead. For the same price, you can follow in Paul Gauguin's footsteps. Let ActiveTravels know and we'll check pricing and availability. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/26/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 19, 2018

Come Away to Newfoundland with Amy

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches
 
The Broadway show Come From Away was nominated for seven Tony nominations in 2017; it won a Tony for best direction, and a Drama Desk Award for outstanding musical. If you haven't heard about it yet, Come From Away depicts the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland -- the remote village which saw its population double in size, as it provided refuge to 6,579 passengers and crew from 38 planes, diverted when U.S. air space was closed. The airport in Gander was at one time the largest in the world, serving as an important refueling stop for cross-Atlantic flights, thus it could handle the traffic. Newfoundlanders call visitors those who "come from away," and that's what happened. 
 
As I'm now living much of the time in Canada, eager to explore, and inspired by Come From Away, I'm going to Newfoundland in October 2018 with a wonderful group called Adventure Canada (a family-owned and operated expedition travel company since 1987). The trip is a circumnavigation of Newfoundland over the course of 10 days. Anyone interested in joining me gets 15% off, if you book by April 15. Adventure Canada trips are best suited for people with an adventurous spirit, who still want comfortable accommodations and good food. Sounds pretty good! 
 
Adventure Canada explains: Starting and ending in historic St. John's, we will experience Newfoundland's lively culture and dramatic scenery via daily expedition stops and community visits. Famed for its music and stories, Newfoundland is also incredibly picturesque, with a rugged coastline rendered spectacular by autumn foliage and light. We will visit Red Bay's Basque Whaling Station (Unesco World Heritage Site), explore and hike the landscapes of Gros Morne National Park, learn about Viking history in North America at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, enjoy a taste of the Mi'kmaq culture in Miawpukek First Nation (Conne River), and visit to the French island of Saint-Pierre. Experience legendary music, food, and hospitality in true Newfoundland fashion: by sea, on the 137 metre Ocean Endeavor (Capacity: 198), with a team of naturalists and artists.
 
I'm also excited because Adventure Canada is partnering with Slow Food USA on the journey. That's a topic for another day, but I am passionate about local food which is sustainably, humanely and fairly sourced. Seems like we'll have plenty of that on the trip as well. Slow Food seeks to "connect the pleasures of the table with a commitment to the communities, cultures, knowledge, and environment that make this pleasure possible."
 
Finally, a personal note: My father worked as a lawyer for Allied Maintenance back in the 1960s- 1970s, when Allied played a large role at the Gander Airport, providing all ground handling and passenger services, plus aircraft maintenance. Dad also spent time at the Newfoundland fishing camp Allied's CEO owned on the Gander River. I guess Gander and Newfoundland have re-entered my life in 2018.
 
Please contact ActiveTravels if you are interested in joining me in Newfoundland. 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/19/18 at 07:00 AM
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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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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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