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Monday, December 11, 2017

Fantasy Islands Week: Rangiroa, French Polynesia

It’s cold, gray—the best time to put on a bathing suit and commune with fish.

Here are five of the world’s best places to do it.
Ah winter, that magical time of year that compels hordes of otherwise well-adjusted folks to shop for bathing suits and sarongs, jet to far-flung isles, don masks, fins, even oxygen tanks, all to hang with the fishies. Nothing chases away garden-variety seasonal disorders like getting up close and personal with some colorful creatures. Deluxe resorts are rolling out their (waterproof) red carpets to divers these days. Better yet, many resorts have gotten wise to the fact that divers do not live on plankton alone. We also crave some activity where the air comes free. With that in mind, we’ve selected five of the world’s top diving spots this week. Ones that also offer great above-water activities, from trekking in Mayan ruins to sea kayaking along secluded beaches to kicking the coconut shells. 
First stop, Rangiroa, French Polynesia. When Requin! Requin! (French for Shark! Shark!) is shouted in these waters, swimmers do not speed to shore fearing for their lives. The snorkelers and divers who come to this oval-shaped coral atoll stay in the water for a face-to-face encounter. Grey reef, black-tipped, and hammerhead sharks peer at divers in Tiputa Pass, a channel that connects the island’s lagoon with the open sea.  The perfect place to recover after your adventure with Jaws is Kia Ora Village, Rangiroa’s premiere hotel. Stay in one of the overwater bungalows along the lagoon. Or if you’re looking for a bit more seclusion, retreat to Kia Ora Sauvage, a private island about an hour’s boat ride away. The island has just five basic bungalows and two cooks, who prepare all the meals. That’s what we call getting away from it all.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/11/17 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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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Puerto Rico Hotel Update

According to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), 75 percent of Puerto Rico’s hotels, or 113 out of 149, are open and operating. They include the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, Hotel El Convento, Wyndham Rio Mar, La Concha Renaissance, Olive Boutique Hotel, and the San Juan Marriott Resort. El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, plans to open April 1, 2018. Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve will reopen October 1, 2018. The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel and Hotel St. Regis at Bahia Beach Resort also plan to reopen on October 1st. W Retreat & Spa Vieques will reopen Dec. 31, 2018. Cruise ships running in and out of San Juan are now 90% operational and expect to be 100% operational by Christmas. Puerto Rico desperately needs your business and there are good deals on hotel rates and cruises to get you back down there. Contact ActiveTravels and we’ll fill you in. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/05/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, December 04, 2017

Rob Barbour Leads Trip to Ethiopia

In March 2015, I had the privilege of traveling with Rob Barbour around northern Tanzania, with stops in Arusha and Arusha National Park, the southern Amboseli plains, Mwiba Wildlife Reserve, Ngorongoro Crater, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Kusini Camp in the southern Serengeti, the Grumeti Wildlife Reserve, and the Lamai section of the northern Serengeti, where the legendary wildebeest migration takes place across the Mara River. Rob not only serves as director of African operations for the safari operator, Epic Private Journeys, but he’s a native Tanzanian who formerly owned his own lodges in Lamai and Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania. It seems like every restaurant, hotel, and airport stop we made, he ran into an old friend. What was invaluable to me was the wealth of information he shared on taking a safari in Africa, knowledge accumulated over a lifetime. 

Now Rob is taking his expertise to Ethiopia, April 15-28, 2018. The 14-day adventure involves a range of accommodation styles and modes of transport, including trekking in the high plateaus of the Simien Mountains and the Bale Mountains. Ethiopia offers a diverse cultural experience from the Coptic Christians and medieval rock hewn churches in the north to the remote tribes of the Omo Valley. The country is also home to incredible wildlife including endangered Ethiopian wolves, Bale monkeys, Geladas and the Walia Ibex. Please contact ActiveTravels for pricing if interested. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/04/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tanzania, River Cruising, and Winvian in ActiveTravels November Newsletter

November is often a slower month for us as people are gearing up for their December trips. Not this year. We currently have members all over the globe including India, Tulum, Paris, Australia, Spain, and Patagonia. We are so grateful to be able to advise our adventurous clients on how best to explore this glorious planet of ours. What a thrill it is for us to design, guide, and book all kinds of wonderful hotels, experiences, and routes. We hope our November newsletter whets your appetite for more adventures as we break down one of our favorite destinations, Tanzania. We also give you a primer on river cruising and discuss exciting trips in 2018. Lastly, we introduce you to one of the most unique and luxurious properties in New England, Winvian. Please have a look! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/30/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New Hotel Openings in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Experts, the tour operator we adore for our clients’ trips to Costa Rica and Panama, has added a handful of new hotels to their list of available lodgings. Located just off the remote Nicoya Peninsula, Isla Chiquita offers the one and only glamping experience in Costa Rica. Arrive by boat to the small luxury site, where you will be lead to one of 15 premium tents. For an adults-only luxury getaway, check out the new Las Catalinas property by Casa Chameleon, which enjoys panoramic views of the Pacific from the comfort of the infinity pool. Holistic, healing, and rejuvenation are the primary focal points of The Retreat, an intimate 11-room boutique property that features yoga classes every morning and afternoon. Lagarta Lodge, a 26-room modern boutique hotel on the Nicoya Peninsula, is located between two rivers and a sandy beach within a private nature reserve, an ideal locale for hiking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. If you’re thinking of visiting Costa Rica this winter, please let ActiveTravels know and we’ll package together the whole trip, including lodging, activities, and transfers.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/29/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Seventh Annual Hotel Week in Manhattan January 5-15, 2018

If you want to visit New York at a discount, then head to the city during their Seventh Annual Hotel Week in early January. Gansevoort Meatpacking, the Refinery Hotel, Library Hotel, James New York, Viceroy Central Park, and Archer New York are just a handful of top-tier properties that will cut their rates considerably during this time. For example, the Paul Hotel NYC will only be $100 a night, more than 50% off their usual rate. Hotel Week NYC™ was created by PR maven Nancy J. Friedman in 2010 to address the occupancy dip most hotels experience after the holiday season. It’s a perfect time to visit Manhattan without the crowds and see the new David Hockney show at the Met. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/28/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Boston Ski and Sports Club Announces Winter 2017/2018 Lineup

If you missed the ski trip to Jay Peak this past Thanksgiving weekend, don’t sweat it. BSSC has many day trips coming up, including stops at Killington, Sunday River, Loon, Bretton Woods, Sugarbush, and Cannon this winter. After a day of carving that perfect turn on the slopes, leave the driving to someone else and meet new friends who share your passion. The BSSC will make stops in Boston, Newton, and Woburn before hitting the peaks. Cost includes lift ticket and the bus ride. Have a look! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/27/17 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

Adventure Travel Trade Association