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Cruises

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Visiting Newfoundland’s Small, Remote Villages with Adventure Canada

Guest Post and Photos by Amy Perry Basseches

One of the best parts of my Expedition Cruise with Adventure Canada around Newfoundland was the opportunity to visit many small, remote villages and interact with local residents. In 1992, the Canadian government declared a necessary moratorium on the Northern Cod fishery which had shaped Newfoundland's way of life for 500 years. It was devastating for many communities and impacted Newfoundland profoundly. 35,000 fishermen and plant workers from over 400 coastal communities became unemployed, and thus the province experienced a dramatic restructuring, including considerable emigration. But there are the folks who wanted to stay, no matter what, and who adore their home. 

Here are some of the special places I visited:
 
Elliston: Population 308 in 2016. On the eastern coast of Newfoundland, Elliston is the "Root Cellar Capital of the World," due to having more than 130 documented root cellars. Up until the mid-1900s, it was hard to purchase vegetables here, so most families had a vegetable garden from which they ate all winter, thanks to root cellar storage. 
 
Bonavista: Near Elliston. Built in 1843, the lighthouse at Cape Bonavista is one of the few in the world where you can still climb the stone tower and see the same oil- fueled light that was used in the 1800s.  
 
Little Bay Islands: Population 71 in 2016. On the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, Little Bay Islands was the birthplace of two of Adventure Canada's on-board Resource Staff, so we got extra inside information about what the town looked like in the 1960s and 1970s when cod still thrived. Now in the process of government resettlement, because the remote location is difficult to provide with services, Little Bay Islands once had 11 stores, three dockyards, three churches, a doctor and a school. 
 
Trout River: Population 552 in 2016. Another small, rural fishing village, Trout River is on the western coast of Newfoundland. It was of great interest to me because a rare blue whale carcass washed ashore there in 2014, which was then preserved by researchers at the museum my husband Josh directs, Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum. The Trout River blue whale measured 76.5 feet in length and weighed 150 tons. The ROM worked closely with local townspeople to remove and salvage the whale; later, a huge exhibit at the ROM was created. In the harbor at Trout River today, a community display tells the fascinating story of this blue whale. 
 
Francois: Population 89 in 2016. Pronounced Fran-SWAY, located on the southern coast of Newfoundland, this town has no roads, and thus can only be accessed by boat and helicopter. It considered and rejected resettlement in 2013. However, Adventure Canada has a special relationship here: every year, when the ship comes into Francois Bay, the locals cook and bake up a storm, and host Adventure Canada passengers at a "Kitchen Party" in the Community Hall. Much music, dancing, drinking, mingling, and eating ensued -- all good-natured and fun. Local Darren Durnford plays the accordion, guitar, and fiddle, all by ear! 
 
My personal advice: get off the beaten path when traveling, and you will be rewarded. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/01/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Circumnavigating Newfoundland with Adventure Canada

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

I've taken three journeys on Expedition Cruises-aboard smaller ships where passengers spend loads of time in zodiacs going ashore to hike, kayak, observe flora/fauna, and visit towns. These trips all have been fantastic opportunities to see places one could never glimpse if traveling only by land. Often, experts from the region join these Expedition Cruises as short-term "staff" to add a special insider touch. This week, I'm sharing with ActiveTravels readers my most recent voyage, on Adventure Canada's Newfoundland Circumnavigation

Adventure Canada's staff for the trip included a dozen Newfoundland natives: musicians, singers, artists, authors, whale experts, historians, archaeologists, geologists, photographers, park rangers, and chefs. I can't say enough about how much their presence enhanced the experience. For example, the renowned Alan Doyle, a Member of the Order of Canada ("for his contributions to the musical traditions of his home province") toured with us, and what a treat! His music every day and night kept us smiling (see him in the US this November). 
 
We started and ended in the historic harbor of St. John's, Newfoundland. During the 9 days in between, I had a great time experiencing a lively culture with breathtaking scenery, and lots of time outdoors to explore. Upcoming blogs will discuss the UNESCO sites and communities we visited along the way, highlighting extremely special and authentic experiences.
 
Before boarding Adventure Canada's vessel in St. John's, one of North America's oldest European settlements, I walked to The Rooms, Newfoundland's largest public cultural space "where the province's most extensive collection of artifacts, art and historical records come together." There I learned an important fact that would emerge often during the trip: immigration from Ireland started early, in the late 1600s, and a large percentage of the province's current population has Irish roots. Newfoundland even has a Gaelic name, Talamh an Éisc. 
 
If expedition cruising sounds appealing to you, let ActiveTravels know. I am strongly considering roaming the "Heart of the Arctic" in the summer of 2020. Want to join me, along with local scientists, historians, Inuit artists, and culturalists? We'll see the province of Nunavut, Baffin Island, Nunavik (the Inuit homeland in Northern Quebec), Ungava Bay, and Greenland (including Nuuk, the capital). If it's similar to my journey around Newfoundland, I know it will inspire and create lasting memories. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/31/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 19, 2018

VBT Partners with Emerald Waterways to Cruise the Danube

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. Backroads is now bringing their active travel itineraries to the ocean liners, while other biking companies like VBT have formed partnerships to cruise the rivers. VBT has just announced that one of their new trips in 2019 will be aboard an Emerald Waterways ship cruising the Danube. 24 VBT guests will be part of a larger group on board the 182-passenger river cruise ship. The difference is that your shore excursions will be with a VBT group leader as you bike, on average, 15 to 35 miles per day through the German, Austrian, and Hungarian countryside. VBT can also package together the international air, and pre- and post-visits to Prague and Budapest. Prices start at $4395 per person, not including air. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/19/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 25, 2018

ActiveTravels Partners with Vinodivino to Present Wine Cruise to Bordeaux in 2019

Bostonians know that Vinodivino, owners of 4 wine stores in the region, take great pride in choosing the finest wines for the discerning palate. Now they'd like to apply this same eye for quality to the world of travel and introduce you to a trip that will no doubt excite your senses. They have selected the highly reputable river cruise line AmaWaterways for their Vinodivino Wine Cruise to Bordeaux, November 7-14, 2019. AmaWaterways is a leader in the river cruise industry, known for its top-tier ships that offer comfortable berths, less than half the people on other river cruises, the best WiFi in the cruise world, and most importantly, the finest cuisine and wine. You'll board the newly refurbished AmaDolce in Bordeaux and travel to the Sauternes wine region. Then it's on to Pauillac, gateway to the famed Médoc region, renowned for producing some of the world's finest Bordeaux wines. You'll see some of the most beautiful and famous wine estates, including Château Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild, and Château Pichon Longueville. There's also an opportunity to add a 4-night pre-cruise guided jaunt to Bilbao, Spain, or a 3-day post-cruise add-on to the castles of the Loire Valley. 

 
Please let ActiveTravels know if you're interested!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 31, 2018

SeaDream Releases Mediterranean Voyage in July

With only 56 staterooms, SeaDream likes to call its ships yachts. But there's no denying this all-inclusive cruise line is one of the best in the business, the reason Forbes named it the "Best Small Luxury Cruise Ship." Its small size is also the reason why one of its two yachts is often booked for private charter. In the case of the upcoming July 12-21 Mediterranean cruise, it was booked privately from a resident of Saudi Arabia, who just cancelled! SeaDream has just opened up the trip to the public and has only sold 7 of the 56 rooms so far. It's a wonderful itinerary, starting in Rome and visiting Capri, the Amalfi coast, Sicily, and Corfu, ending in Dubrovnik. Dining, premium wine and beverages, gratuities, and all activities are included in the price, starting at $5199 per person. Please let ActiveTravels know if you're interested and we'll help book the berth and find flights. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/31/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Boating Cayuga Lake with Ithaca Boat Tours

We enjoyed a memorable Memorial Day Weekend with our extended family at our son's graduation from Cornell University. On Saturday, after an inspirational speech from film director Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time, 13th) at the Convocation, Lisa made the wise move of booking a private boat tour on Cayuga Lake with Ithaca Boat Tours. We met at Ithaca's Farmers Market, bustling on a Saturday in late May with stands selling fresh greens, flowers, local wines, cheeses, coffee, and much more. Then we boarded the pontoon boat with our stash of wine and munchies and met Captain Dave and his first mate, Jamie. They cranked up the Afro-Cuban sounds as we danced on the deck and took in the sights of the shoreline, seaside cottages with boat houses and far modern estates high above the cliffs. We learned a little about the history of Cayuga Lake, how crowds used to pack the lakeshore to watch world-class rowing races. But mostly we took in the scenery with our loved ones to celebrate Jake's graduation. One of the many highlights of the weekend! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/30/18 at 06:00 AM
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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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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.

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