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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.
If you’re traveling internationally or even just across the country, chances are you’ll have a layover somewhere during your journey. Rather than waiting for hours inside the airport, why not take advantage of your location and head into the city? You’ve already paid to get there, after all. Whether you’ve landed in Honolulu or London, Beijing or Reykjavík, these cities are easy to visit from the airport, even if you just have a few hours.
Travel is filled with emotions. Anytime you go somewhere, you’re giving yourself the chance to be delighted, to fall in love, to feel out of place, to find comfort. That’s a big part of why we like to get out there — and yet sometimes nothing in the English language adequately explains these experiences. Or at least not as succinctly as these foreign travel-related words we’ve gathered below. We’re keeping these in our back pocket for the next time we’re grasping for a word to capture a specific, evocative moment from our journeys, and we invite you to do the same.
Despite Iceland’s famous bankruptcy and ensuing currency devaluation, it’s still a very expensive place for Americans to visit. For example, a private, ensuite room in a hostel can cost $150 (with rooms in more luxurious hotels going for double or triple that price). Restaurant entrées typically cost $30-$40, and a cocktail that costs less than $12-$15 is rare.
The good news is that most of what makes Reykjavik so appealing is the free stuff: the quirky culture and friendly locals, the wild nightlife scene, and the amazing landscape that surrounds the city. For everything else, there are ways to save without sacrificing the experience.
Ah, airport layovers. Few of us will ever actually look forward to them, but there are some airports where top-notch facilities make waiting for a connection much easier. Here’s a list… Read more
Chalk it up to the name, or perhaps the prospect of short daylight hours, but many people are not exactly keen on the idea of visiting Iceland in the winter. But perhaps that’s a good thing. After all, it leaves the cheap hotels, airfare deals, and cozy hot springs to those of us who are in the know.
Here are six of the best reasons to visit Iceland in the winter… Read more
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
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.
If this winter’s bright aurora forecast has you itching to see the northern lights, this last-minute flight and hotel deal from Icelandair might well be your ticket.
The Natura November Offer (available from November 1 through December 11) includes a roundtrip flight from cities including New York, Washington D.C., Seattle, and Boston, as well as accommodation at Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura, with guaranteed early check-in from 10 a. m., and a daily Scandinavian buffet breakfast.
The package requires a four-night minimum and eight-night maximum stay, and must be booked through the Icelandair website, where you can also reserve additional excursions and airport transfers.
For a four-night trip (one night is spent in the air; three at the Natura hotel) we found the following prices per person (based on double occupancy):
- From New York (JFK) $741
- From Boston $741
- From Washington Dulles $649
- From Seattle $649
- From Denver $685
- From Toronto: $943
Winter predictably sees travelers heading to tropical islands for their vacations, but what about the cooler weather islands? There are a few advantages to heading someplace where you’ll be packing a sweater rather than a swimsuit: less crowds, better deals, and plenty of interesting things to do.
Here are a few of our favorite cold-weather island getaways.
Shetland Islands, Scotland
You’ll have to wrap up warm if you’re planning to visit Shetland in winter, but you may be rewarded with a sight of the Northern Lights; its far-north location makes it the best place in the British Isles to see them. Besides the aurora borealis, winter brings unique festivals, such as Up Helly Aa, a Viking fire festival held in Lerwick on the last weekend of January.
After spending five days in Iceland, I can’t understand what took me so long to visit. The country is a mere five-hour flight from New York (like flying to California) but it’s a world away in terms of the scale of its nature adventures. Iceland is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
Reykjavik is a small, charming city with one main street, a cute harbor, excellent restaurants, and a handful of city sights to explore, like the new opera house. But if you want to get the best of Iceland, the prime sightseeing is outside of town. I hadn’t planned any excursions in advance so I had to work fast and learn about what I needed to see.
I short-listed a few activities after asking fellow hotel guests what they recommended. Here’s what I did: Read more
The celestial phenomenon known as the Northern Lights (or, Aurora Borealis, to give it its proper name) has amazed people for centuries. These natural light displays occur when solar particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere and, upon impact, emit burning gases that produce different colored lights (green, yellow, and blue) that appear to dance across the sky.
The lights can be seen from places in the far north such as Iceland, Finland, Norway, Alaska and Canada, and their intensity is determined by a solar cycle that lasts 11 years. This December, these solar flares will be at their maximum point in this cycle, promising a remarkably high chance of seeing the aurora. Add to that the very reasonable cost of flights to Iceland in winter, and you have a great winter getaway to start planning . Read more
Iceland has long been a typical stopover for passengers making the trip between North America and Europe, and Icelandair has now capitalized on Reykjavík’s perfect mid-North Atlantic location by offering passengers on flights from the U.S.A. or Canada free stopovers of up to seven days. If, however, you are on a tight schedule and find yourself with just a few hours’ layover in Iceland’s capital, you still have time to get out of the airport and soak up some of the country’s highlights. Read more
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