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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.
If you know who Lady Mary, Tom Branson, and the Earl of Grantham are, read on. Crystal Cruises has taken the wraps off a two-night, post-cruise trip to the land of Downton, themed after the popular series about early 20th century English aristocrats. It’s an extension of the luxury line’s 17-night cruise departing July 8, 2015 from Reykjavik to London. Cruisers, who will pay $4,600 per person for the land tour (we never said it was cheap), will live like royalty while visiting Highclere Castle, the fictional home of the Grantham clan. They’ll arrive in vintage 1920s cars (chauffeured, of course) and be guests of honor at a private champagne reception and tour, among other Downton-related activities. Cruise fares on this itinerary — which crosses the Arctic Circle on its way to London — start at $1,730 per person if booked by January 2.
What’s your preferred stress-buster: pampering at the spa, or hopping on a pair of skis or surfboard? With this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, we say you’ll afford to do both. We found deals for surfing in Southern California, skiing in Telluride, spa-ing in the Arizona desert — and even for luxury touring in Chile.
The best things about birdwatching? You can do it at almost any time of the year, it can be a relaxing break from a packed travel itinerary, and it’s often a fairly low-cost activity. With migratory birds on the move or already at the their winter habitats, now is the perfect time to grab a pair of binoculars (and field guide) and explore some of the nation’s best bird watching destinations. Here are some of our favorites…
It’s fair time! As we mourn the end of summer, the nation’s great state fairs give us something to look forward to in the fall. And we suggest getting out your calendars, because some of the best fairs are either under way right now or coming up soon. Here are the eight we feel deserve blue ribbons.
The National Park Service, which turns 98 this August 25, will be celebrating by waiving admission to its parks across the country on its birthday. Tagged as “America’s Best Idea” in a PBS series for its part in preserving our natural landscape, the NPS now protects 84 million acres in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
There’s no excuse like being on vacation to indulge in decadent dishes that you’d feel guilty about tucking into at home, right? Plus, eating local is part of the cultural experience of any destination. Here, five bizarre and over-the-top regional eats — and where to try them if you so dare:
Whether arriving by cruise ship or airplane, few Alaskan visitors stray from the ports around Juneau, the city of Anchorage, or the beautiful Denali National Park. But we have lots of love for the state’s more rugged pocket of Fairbanks, another 100-plus miles beyond Denali. From surprisingly diverse cuisine to truly remote respite, here’s why we think the region inhabited by just 32,000 is worth the distance:
Roughly one million people visit Alaska’s ports as a part of the cruising season each year. That’s a lot of people between May and September. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can avoid getting lost in the mass influx. Here’s how:
It’s no wonder zipline tours are more popular than ever here in the States. The sensation you get from ziplining feels like flying, and it’s a manageable way for all types of travelers (at all fitness levels) to join in an adventure activity. Some tours include guided hikes through lush landscapes before an effortless ride, while others shuttle you straight to the top. Ziplines can range from leisurely to speedy, catering to those who want to soak in the scenery, or get a rush of adrenaline.
Considering that there are currently more than 700 ziplines in the country, we’re not going to rank them all. But here’s a list of some classic rides – plus a few quirky ones to try:
What is it about state fairs that fill us with glee? Is it the chance to see our favorite local bands? Mental images of deep fried butter? The smells of food, cattle, and sweat simultaneously wafting through the air?
Whatever it is, hundreds of thousands of people travel to state fairs every year in the hopes of indulging in a few highly calorific snacks and celebrating Americana. While these fairs typically happen in the late summer through the fall, we thought we’d get a head start with 10 quirky attractions that help make this country a little weird, and a lot of fun.
There’s seafood, and then there’s seafood in Alaska. A trip is not complete without some salmon or king crab. Whether you’re embarking on a cruise or are seeing the state on your own, these locals-approved establishments deserve a spot on any Southeast Alaska food tour. They may not have all the bells and whistles of your favorite special occasion seafood restaurant back home, but that’s because they deliver on what’s important: fresh catch and satisfying flavor.
Before defined ports and shipyards, mariners guided their ships to, well, any visible land. Eventually, to help these men see at night, cities built fires on hilltops to guide the ships and to alert sailors to dangers at sea. Centuries passed, and we slowly perfected the lighthouse.
Though lighthouses now are no longer lit by candlelight, and lighthouse-keeping has become an antiquated profession, there’s still something about these marvelous towers that bring a sense of adventure and nostalgia. So in the spirit of exploration, we’ve rounded up 13 still-standing structures that once guided sailors home, and remain amazingly scenic today. See them here.
Foraging is a culinary trend that isn’t going away, and it’s only getting bigger in travel. Many credit the movement to chef René Redzepi of Noma, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Copenhagen that frequently tops “Best in the World” restaurant lists. And it makes sense, especially at a time when travelers are seeking local and immersive experiences, the appeal of foraging for your own food is clear. It’s a fresh way to connect with a destination; it’s wonderfully tactile; and it’s a reminder of the wonders that nature has to offer.
These days, foraging in travel goes beyond reserving tables at a restaurant with an adventurous chef. More and more foraging tours and excursions have popped up in many locales. Here, we’ve rounded up some ideas and destinations to get you started. Just keep in mind that there are dangers in gathering your own food – including risk of illness if you eat the wrong thing – and the issue of sustainability in the harvesting process. That’s why we suggest that you always connect with a local expert or company that specializes in foraging; you’ll also want to know the local regulations and best practices. Read more
Believe it or not, there are many ways to see Alaska without taking a cruise, lovely and hassle-free though they may be. Whether you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to cruising, want to see the land up-close, or simply want more control during your trip, here are three excellent, affordable ways to travel through the “Last Frontier.”
The Iditarod is known as the “Last Great Race,” an incredible feat of endurance that covers 1,000 miles of rough terrain through blizzards and whiteouts – and features the most adorable athletes of any sport. Seeing this incredible race in person can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. If you’re thinking about heading north to the Alaskan wilderness for this once-in-a-lifetime event, here are some planning tips and tricks… Read more
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