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Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? Travel journalist Donna Tunney — ShermansTravel’s cruise expert — has all the latest news. Check back every Tuesday for trends, new amenities, and money-saving ideas that help you plan a perfect vacation at sea.
We promise you’ll see the Northern Lights.
Norwegian expedition line Hurtigruten is so confident that guests will see the Northern Lights on its 11-night winter sailings along coastal Norway that it has pledged a free cruise to passengers who don’t view the natural phenomenon. The cruises sail above the Arctic Circle, Bergen, and Kirkenes, and those who can’t spot the Aurora borealis onboard will receive a free six-night voyage between October 2016 and March 2017.
Rates vary but start from around $1,400 per person for 11-night cruises.
With the euro now in favor of American travelers for the first time in many years, European cities with chic, cosmopolitan flair are an attractive travel option this summer. Barcelona is one of our current favorites, with its world-class architecture, museums, abundance of tapas restaurants, and seaside ambiance. Sure, flights are still seasonally priced — we found round-trip fares of $1,300 for mid-July between New York City and Barcelona — but what you’ll pay on the ground can easily make up for the flight. Here are five ways to explore Barcelona on a budget.
Hostels aren’t just for students and backpackers anymore — quite a few can hold their own against pricier boutique hotels, boasting hip décor and private rooms, at more affordable costs to boot. No matter what your age, these seven hostels will make all grown-ups forget that they’re on a budget.
You might think that it would cost a fortune to stay in the former studio of a famous artist. As it turns out, you can do just that for about $183 per night.
Swiss Air Lines is offering some good fares to a number of European cities for the fall and winter, but you will have to make your mind up quickly as the sale ends at midnight tonight. If you’re wondering whether you’re ready to make a spontaneous booking, take a look at our handy checklist. Otherwise, you can book through our Travel Search tool, or visit the airline’s web site directly.
While we can’t exactly complain about the lack of amazing travel deals to Europe right now, credit is due to Generator Hostels for putting up the best flash sale we’ve seen in a while. Specifically, Generator Barcelona, which is celebrating its first anniversary with a 1 EUR sale. Yes, that’s just 1 (one) euro for a night at the city’s hippest hostel. Read more
With the Millennial generation growing up, the travel industry is beginning to see a gap in the market for sophisticated young travelers on a budget. Budget-chic brands such as CitizenM and Marriott’s Moxy, which offer high design and low price points, are booming, while budget brands such as Radisson are undergoing a design-focused overhaul. The result is that the high-end experience is being redefined: luxurious is no longer synonymous with expensive. That’s good news for travelers of all generations; gone are the days when a low budget meant bland and basic accommodations – as the following worldwide hotels prove.
New York City: Playland Motel
Located way out in Rockaway Beach in Queens, the Playland Motel, which opened in summer 2013, restored a 19th -century building and engaged 12 artists and designers to curate each of the guest rooms. Each season, artists and designers will update the rooms’ designs according to their own aesthetic. Rooms currently available to book include Kate Pane’s Coconut Castle room, which the artist describes as “a hot and heavy girlhood frolic with glitter sunburns, ponies and wet swimsuits.”
The Playland Motel is also home to a popular bar, diner, and pizzeria. The scene is young and the music loud. Rooms (with shared bathrooms) go for around $160 a night.
Forget about the subway – with all the new innovations showing up in taxis lately, we’re sticking with getting around cities the old-fashioned, four-wheel way. And we’re not talking about things like e-hailing taxi apps, which we covered already in a post last month. No, this time we’re looking at new ways to pay fares, cabs with free Wifi, and eco-friendly electric taxis. Find out which cities are ahead of the pack, below! Read more
Is the summer heat getting to you yet? There’s relief to be found at one of these public pools in Europe. Whether it’s panoramic views of the Mediterranean, or a 295-foot-high bungee jump you’re after, these 10 municipal water parks are guaranteed to add a little excitement to your summer getaway.
1. Lava Pools, Madeira, Portugal
Naturally-occurring volcanic rock has formed a series of tiny, stunningly beautiful pools on the northwestern coast of Madeira in Portugal. These ocean-filled ‘lava pools’ are the main attraction in the village of Porto Moniz, located about an hour north of Madeira’s capital, Funchal. Despite the wild geography, the area around the pools contains tourist-friendly amenities like changing rooms, lockers, showers, a restaurant, and a team of lifeguards. Entrance fee: $2.60. Read more
If you’re looking to take an exotic vacation this season, we’ve got deals for you from all over the world; from Africa to Europe to the Caribbean islands. Stray outside of your comfort zone and take the journey you’ve always dreamed of; with these fantastic deals, you’ve got few excuses not to. Read more
Rather than trying to escape the chilly weather this season, why not embrace it? Even in high season, many ski resorts offer lodging deals now, especially for travel on weekdays or toward the end of the season (late March and early April). Winter is also the cheapest time to travel to many cooler-weather metropolitan cities, both in the U.S. and abroad, so, if you can brave the lower temperatures, you’ll also enjoy reduced airfare and hotel rates.
Ski on fresh powder out West at major Colorado ski resorts like Breckenridge and Keystone, where individual condos through ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals start from just $119 per night. Most of Fairmont Hotels‘ 4-star properties throughout Canada offer rooms for 20 percent off this season, including the Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, which sits at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Not only can you ski at the nearby Marmot Basin, you can also enjoy ice skating, tobogganing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. Read more
3, 2, 1 . . . Happy New Year! Whether counting down to 2013 at tried-and-true celebrations like New York’s annual Times Square extravaganza, or by eating a grape for every stroke of midnight in Barcelona, your adrenaline is sure to be racing as 2012 winds down at our favorite locales for New Year celebrations. We love the ultimate party city, Vegas, for its most over-the-top show of the year; partying heartily in Berlin’s massive open-air fiesta; schussing the slopes of the majestic Rockies; and even standing under the breathtaking fireworks cascade over Sydney’s harbor. Should you agree that one day of feting simply won’t suffice, experience the celebration Scot-style, with merrymaking in Edinburgh that lasts four long days, or head to bustling Hong Kong to experience what’s billed as the world’s largest Chinese New Year celebration, spanning more than three weeks of festivities. Beach-lovers can also experience sandy revelry with a twist on December 31 in Rio or Miami.
On a recent trip to Spain, I was in awe of the displays of Christmas lights in cities big and small. From bulbous blue lights hanging over the winding streets of Barcelona’s Barri Gotic, to gigantic neon-green Christmas trees in Madrid, to a seemingly endless draping of bells and garland-shaped light strings in Seville, there was no shortage of fluorescent holiday expressions. Our Christmas lights here in the U.S. are dim in comparison.
Many of these bright lights lit the way to charming Christmas markets found along pedestrian streets and major urban squares across the country. Spanish Christmas carols were heard from a chocolate vendor in Seville. Fresh pine wreaths adorned outdoor booths in the nation’s capital. Vendors in Barcelona sold logs with faces and hundreds of defecating figurines. Wait, what was that?!
In the world of luxury travel, few providers hold a candle to Abercrombie & Kent. A&K travel conjures up images of elegant, five-star accommodations, customized itineraries with expert guides, the finest of Michelin-rated dining, and cushy modes of transportation. And, of course, the hefty price tag that comes with all of those extravagances.
Looking for all that glitz on a budget? Consider A&K Connections, a new line of luxurious journeys for small groups of 24-28 guests that offers 17 itineraries from six continents. Some of the available destinations include Australia, France, India, Morocco, and Peru. I recently joined A&K on a preview of their “Spain: Seven Cities tour” to see firsthand what Connections is all about.
The cities that make up the title include Barcelona, Granada, Marbella, Gibraltar, Seville, Cordoba, and Madrid. Tally up the day-trips to Malaga, Ronda, and Jerez, however, and you’re looking at a whopping ten cities packed into a ten-day tour. The preview trip was condensed into seven-days. Needless to say, at times, this felt like a break-neck pace, even with Gibraltar sliced off the itinerary. I’d imagine the ten-day version to be just slightly less speedy.
Despite the pace, it’s hard to say which part of the trip I would eliminate to slow things down. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Simon Butler-Madden, an A&K vet who built many of the Connections itineraries, included all the sights we saw; the trip provides a cohesive overview of Spain’s diverse history, and how that history affected all aspects of modern Spanish and Catalonian culture. Read more
If a Mediterranean, Adriatic, or Baltic cruise is on your 2012 travel wish list, check out the $1,776 July 4th sale fares now being offered by Windstar Cruises (must be booked by July 6). Windstar, which operates three tall-masted luxury ships – 312-passenger Wind Surf and 148-passenger Wind Star (shown at left in Greece) and Wind Spirit – has lowered fares on 20 European voyages sailing from mid-July to mid-November (with some fall voyages priced as low as $1,476 and December Caribbean voyages priced from $976).
I have cruised around Europe extensively and have sailed on both Wind Star and Wind Surf. If, like me, you prefer smaller ships to the behemoths, you’ll enjoy the intimate ambiance, wonderful service, superb cuisine, and easy camaraderie that these ships offer. Here are few of my recommendations for itineraries among those on sale until July 6:
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