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Cruise port excursions have come a long way since the olden days of basic motor coach tours to local sites. Today, they’re exciting and adventurous, and designed to immerse cruise guests into local culture.
The newest excursions focus on “wow factor,” and are aimed at luring first-time cruisers while also holding the interest of repeat travelers who’ve done it all. Moreover, all cruise lines are now courting younger travelers who seek more dynamic vacations than their parents and grandparents did. Also, the demand for cultural experiences has increased, and cruise lines are obliging.
Adventure traveler or not, few things inspire wanderlusters everywhere to brave the elements like the jewel-hued Northern Lights. If you’ve dreamed of chasing this legendary phenomenon, now’s the time: The aurora is reaching solar peaks this winter and next, meaning visibility will be the greatest in this time for a good decade. And as with all epic travel experiences, you’ll probably want to capture your sightings on film (or an SD card). Here’s how. Read more
Virgin America now flies to Anchorage, Alaska? In honor of the airline’s new route, a special Alaska sale offers some of the lowest one-way fares ever. These flights from popular cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C., among others start as low as $149 and are available on select dates, June 7, 2013-July 10, 2014, with a 3-day advance ticket purchase. If you can book an ultra-last-minute getaway (with just one-day notice!) you can fly from Anchorage to San Francisco for $199 each way. Read more
There are some amazing cruise deals available online this week – perfect for an easy, affordable, last-minute getaway for two. I’m a fan of cruising for a few reasons: You unpack once, get to see an average of four to six different cities or islands in a week, and enjoy all the advantages of a resort (spa, great restaurants, pool, Jacuzzi) along the way. Here are two great sales you should check out if a cruise is on your travel horizon. Each offers a different kind of romance – either classic and cultured or adventurous and off-the-beaten-path.
Looking for a late-season ski fix? While most nationwide ski resorts spent this season pleading for the powdery white stuff (largely to no avail), Alaska’s Alyeska Resort, just 40 miles south of the Anchorage airport, has been inundated with more than 800 inches of fresh snowfall in the past six months. With enough cover to keep its trails open through Memorial Day, visitors in April and May can schuss the trails of the Chugach Mountain Range under the sun this spring, while overlooking scenic sea (at Turnagain Arm) and hanging-glacier panoramas. Plus, tack on extra snow play with resort activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing; or, sign up for off-site adventures like ice climbing, dog-sled riding, or snowmobiling. The ski-in, ski-out property offers 304 sleek guestrooms, a saltwater pool and whirlpool touting mountain views, an on-site spa, and the mountaintop Seven Glaciers restaurant.
Alyeska is upping the value on its standard one-night “Ski & Stay” package just for ShermansTravel readers. Stay in April or May and get a complimentary room upgrade, plus a $50 resort credit for each night booked. Package rates start at $199/night and include a daily lift ticket bundled in with the rate (up to a $60 value).
Weekends stays in April require a two-night minimum; note that April 20–22 is blacked out (during the resort’s Spring Carnival event). Plus, keep in mind that while the snowfall has been exceptional this season, some of the best of it will be gone as May marches on.
Visit www.alyeskaresort.com for more info. To book, call 800-880-3880 and mention code “ShermansSki.”
If you’re thinking of taking a Mediterranean, Northern Europe, transatlantic, or Alaska cruise this spring or summer, the time to book is now. Princess Cruises has slashed fares on dozens of itineraries and departures, with savings of 50 percent or more on certain dates. All sale bookings also include an onboard credit of $25 or $50 per person (depending on cabin class).
The biggest savings can be found on the transatlantic sailings. A 14-night cruise from San Juan to London – with stops in New York, Halifax, Dublin, and Glasgow – that was $1,190 is now $499 per person. That’s almost 60 percent off! We’re also fond of the 6-night Scandinavia sailing round-trip from London for $699 (originally $1,399) as well as the 6-night Alaska sailings from Whittier, Alaska, to Vancouver for $499 (down from $924).
Certain dates and cabin classes are sold out, but there are still plenty of options to choose from. Note that these bookings are non-refundable. Head to www.princess.com/springsale.page for details.
For more great savings, check out our cruise deals.
Ever heard of fatbikerafting? I hadn’t either, until I recently read about Andrew Badenoch. But if this former marketing pro-turned-Arctic explorer has anything to do with it, the tongue-twister-ish term – which basically means getting from Point A to B using a fatbike (the newest iteration of mountain bikes, featuring wider tires) and a packable raft – might one day be the preferred mode of transport for adventurers who prefer to leave as light a footprint as possible.
In about a month, Badenoch, who has called a boat home since 2008, will travel from Bellingham, Wa., through Canada up to the southern Arctic Ocean, through Alaska and back to Bellingham, connecting the land and water routes via fatbike, raft, and foot. He’ll log some 7,000 miles and cross seven rivers using zero fossil fuels during his expedition, which he estimates will take 6-8 months. Read more
Millions of people will be indoors watching the Super Bowl this Sunday, but Liftopia is offering exclusive lift ticket deals to get you out on the slopes – be quick, though, because the offers are limited. Currently, savings range from 20 to 76 percent and you can find deals at over 80 resorts, from Alaska to New England, organized by location.
Liftopia is an online lift ticket retailer that offers deals throughout the year and around the world, from small ski resorts in the Midwest, to big names like Sun Valley and Mammoth. The Game Day sale is Liftopia’s biggest sale yet, but be sure to check out the site (or use their iPhone app!) for great deals on lift tickets throughout the ski season.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, vacation packages, and other travel deals.
Looking for a high-adrenaline family getaway on the high seas? Small-ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations has just the ticket (and discounted ones, at that!), with their sweet selection of reduced-rate cruise offerings for the year ahead. The company specializes in high-end adventure cruise travel and works with a bevy of upscale, expedition-style ships that accommodate just 12 to 148 passengers, and ply the coastal waters of exciting destinations like Alaska, Borneo, Baja, and beyond. Their itineraries are tailored for high-energy excursions, including sea kayaking, wildlife viewing, wilderness hiking, and cultural encounters, with a handful of special departures dedicated especially to family-friendly fun. Some of the best kid-friendly values include: Read more
Sarah Palin isn’t the only one making waves in the 49th state. Thanks to a voter-enacted head tax and skyrocketing fuel costs, cruise ships have been unmooring from its ports for the past couple of years – but the tides are changing. Liners like Disney are newly bound for Alaskan waters, and a bevy of other boats are debuting new routes and intrepid Last Frontier excursions in 2011.
Oceania: The 684-passenger Regatta makes its inaugural voyage through the Inside Passage this May, with ports of call in Juneau and Ketchikan before slicing through Hoonah’s rugged terrain. Travelers can choose from four itineraries – Majestic Alaska, Alaskan Grandeur, Frontiers and Glaciers, and Glacial Wilderness – that depart from San Francisco or Vancouver. Ten-day trips from $3,299; www.oceaniacruises.com.
With breathtaking glaciers, untouched wilderness waiting to be explored, and stunning vistas, the last frontier has much to offer visitors, but its far-flung location makes it a pricey destination. Alaskan cruises offer a chance to see it at all for an affordable rate, and Norwegian Cruise Line is adding even more savings by offering a seven-night cruise from Seattle ? a much less expensive departure port to access than Whittier, Anchorage, or Seward. The Norwegian Star calls on Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway via the Inside Passage. Before reaching Prince Rupert and Vancouver, the ship also coasts past the Sawyer Glacier ? a cliff-lined inlet that is home to numerous seal colonies.
THE VALUE: While most Alaskan cruises hover around $700-$1,200 (and depart from Alaskan ports), this cruise is priced from $549 – 50 percent off its rack rates!
THE CATCH: The Norwegian Star embarks in September – the tail end of the Alaskan cruise season when temps are beginning to dip.
THE DETAILS: Visit www.travelocity.com for more information.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Find a low-cost flight to the embarkation port in Seattle using our Travel Search price comparison tool.
Learn more about the region with our Alaska Travel Guide.
For years, National Geographic has inspired readers of its popular glossy magazine to journey to exotic lands, with its stunning images and first-rate travel experts. Now, in a move that’s a natural extension of its work over the years, Nat Geo has finally joined the ranks of adventure travel outfitters.
The Society has recently announced its aptly named National Geographic Adventures, which are sure to spike the adrenaline of any adventure traveler. They feature 11 unique itineraries that will combine cultural and physical activity among some of the most incredible landscapes on the planet, from hiking in Patagonia (photo above courtesy of Flickr/Rick McCharles) to horseback riding across Mongolia to kayaking into Alaska’s sea wilderness with bears, whales, and otters.
Each itinerary has been crafted with the input of an esteemed Nat Geo expert, ensuring an experience as rich in history and culture as it is in adventure. Trips are designated with an activity level rating from easy to strenuous, with an “ultimate challenge” option available. Guests will stay in accommodations ranging from quaint mountain lodges and inns to luxury tents; the maximum group size is just 16 to ensure an optimum experience. Read more
We’re already a month into 2011 (and close to Valentine’s Day), so I’m sure you’ve begun thinking about when you can get away with your sweetheart – for an anniversary or birthday – and where to go. Here’s a roster of my favorite ideas:
January: New Zealand You missed out this year, but that gives you time to save for next year and see one of the world’s most beautiful places. It offers a superb mix of outdoor adventure (from hiking to bungee jumping) and excellent food and wine (amazing lamb and world-class pinot noir). It will be summer, so plan ahead and allot two weeks as the North and South Islands combined are about the size of California.
February: Costa Rica This jungle-meets-beach playground – home to loquacious howler monkeys, luminous blue morpho butterflies, and next Monday’s episode of The Bachelor” – is close enough to enjoy on a five- or six-night getaway. Most flights are into the capital, San Jose, but if you plan to explore the Pacific Coast, you can fly into Liberia. Another option, a seven-night cruise on Windstar (www.windstarcruises.com), which also visits neighboring Nicaragua.
As we approach the prime season for cruises to Alaska, several cruise lines are drastically reducing rates in a final effort to fill cabins. Holland America is offering a 7-night cruise in an oceanview stateroom starting from $449 – that’s the same price as an interior cabin (no window). This deal – which represents a savings of up to 74 percent – also includes a $50 onboard credit, plus third and fourth passengers can sail for free!
The ms Statendam embarks from Anchorage on May 23 and coasts through breathtaking regions like College Fjord and Glacier Bay before arriving in Haines, a small town that is blessed with rolling hills and ice-capped mountains. Next, the ship calls on Juneau, which offers shore activities like whale-watching, zip-lining, and nature walks. Then, it’s off to Ketchikan, the “Salmon Capital of the World,” followed by a relaxing day at sea before the cruise wraps up in Vancouver.
For more information, visit www.vacationstogo.com (enter your e-mail address to view the itinerary).
InnerSea Discoveries, the spawn of the 13-year veteran, American Safari Cruises is introducing a way for adventurous travelers to experience the uncharted areas of Alaska – without being strapped to a backpack full of survival gear. The new expedition cruise line – set to debut in May 2011 – will attempt to fill the gap in moderately–priced voyages in the secluded areas of the Inner Passage that are often ignored by larger cruise companies. Passengers can go “into the wild” by going hiking, kayaking past ice bergs, spelunking, river-rafting, or by joining an icy polar-bear swim (that’ll really get your heart rate up).
These 8-day itineraries will be offered on two small cruise ships (carrying just 66 to 88 passengers) after both vessels receive extensive refurbishments. Once completed, guests can expect modern comforts such as iPod docking stations, Tempur-pedic mattresses, hot tubs, and saunas – perfect after a day of wilderness exploration. Rates start at $2,500 per person and will include meals, onboard informational guides, equipment for activities, port charges, and transfers. Cruises are expected to go on sale in March 2010.
For more information, visit www.innerseadiscoveries.com.
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