Monday, September 27, 2021
Lisbon is a capital city of historic boulevards, castles, monuments, and museums, as well as charming neighborhoods and parks. This is one of Europe’s oldest cities, but most of its medieval buildings were destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. Still, the Lisbon Cathedral survived, along with the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, rare examples of Portugal’s Manueline architecture. And watch for distinctive black-and-white mosaic-style “Portuguese pavements” in the city’s plazas. If you’re interested in food, get to know some Lisbon favorites: caldo verde soup, bacalhau à brás (cod with potatoes and eggs), grilled sardines, Azeitão cheese, or bifana (a marinated pork sandwich). For something sweet, try pastéis de nata (egg custard tartlets), dusted with cinnamon. Or, head out of the city on an excursion to gorgeous Sintra-Cascais Nature Park.
Porto is perched at the mouth of the Douro River and its port wine region. If you’re comfortable with heights, get a birds-eye view of the city by strolling the pedestrian deck atop the Dom Luís I Bridge. Visit a wine cellar in the Ribiera District to taste different varieties of port, or explore how salt is mined near the colorful town of Aveiro. You can also take an excursion to Portugal’s only national park, Peneda-Geres, for panoramic views of mountains, lakes, stone-walled fields and Roman-built roads.
About 600 miles southwest of Lisbon, mountainous Madeira rises from the Atlantic. There’s a lot to see in the city of Funchal, where the parks are full of gorgeous palms and flowers. Tour the island’s rugged peaks in a 4x4, explore caves and waterfalls on the north side, visit fishing villages and sea pools along the western shore, or take a catamaran off the southern coast to look for whales. Snow is very rare here, but you can still take a toboggan ride down a steep street (using a woven basket sled, with two drivers to safely guide you). Like Porto, Madeira has a long and delicious winemaking history, too.
To reserve your spot on a cruise that visits one or more of Portugal’s beautiful ports, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.
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Monday, September 20, 2021
At least a dozen cruise lines now offer cabins for one on at least some of their ships. The Norwegian Epic, with more than 100 “studio” cabins, is a great example. Studio cabin occupants also have access to the Studio Lounge, which is equipped with cozy sofas, big televisions, and beverages. It’s the perfect place to meet other solo travelers who may become companions for dinner or shore excursions.
If you choose a ship that doesn’t have solo cabins, you can share a cabin with a roommate; many cruise lines offer roommate matching services. Another option is to reserve a cabin meant for two just for you, which usually requires an additional payment known as the “single supplement.” Some lines reduce this supplement for certain ships and itineraries; your professional travel advisor can help you find them.
Larger cruise ships offer lots of activities and spaces where a single traveler can mingle with other passengers, but some cruise experts recommend smaller ships for those sailing on their own. With fewer passengers, you’re more likely to see the same people each day onboard and onshore, making it easier to start conversations and make new friends.
When sailing on your own, consider taking a themed cruise, where you’re sure to meet people with a shared interest. There are lots of themed cruises to choose from, centered on music, sports, art, movies and TV shows, history, food and wine, crafts, pets, and many more fun topics. Again, your professional travel advisor is a wonderful source of information and can help you find a themed cruise you’ll enjoy.
Whatever type of cruise and size of ship you decide on, getting to know your fellow passengers can start before you get on board. Look around social media to see if your cruise has a “roll call” – a private chat group just for the passengers on your cruise. It’s a fun way to meet virtually and share pre-cruise tips, knowledge about the ship and itinerary, ideas for onshore adventures, and more.
And once you’re on board, be sure to get involved. Check the cruise line’s app for a daily schedule of activities, which may include “meet and greet” events just for solo passengers.
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Monday, September 13, 2021
Paris is known for many things, like the Eiffel Tower, romance, and cafes. But it’s also known for its food. Here are a few bites you shouldn’t pass up on your trip to Paris.
Macarons (also called French macaroons, not to be confused with coconut macaroons) are a convection created with meringue cookies that sandwich a flavored filling. These cookie sandwiches showed up in Paris in the 1830s from Parisian confectioners and were made popular by Laduree, a famous French bakery. It wasn’t long until the macaron became famous world-wide. It even has its very own day to celebrate! But even though these tasty treats are accessible just about everywhere these days, there’s something about trying them in the country they originated.
These are a staple in Paris. They are convenient, easy to eat on the go, and can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways, including on their own or as part of a sandwich. The croissant became popular in France because of Marie Antoinette. The story is that she wanted the baker to replicate her favorite bakery treat from her hometown in Austria. Over time, this treat became lighter and fluffier into what we know the croissant as now.
Some say that you know if a croissant is good if you don’t need to any anything to it. However, French people like to indulge at their weekend brunch and add jam or chocolate to their croissants.
Another staple in Paris is the baguette. In the 1920s, laws were in place that prohibited bakers from starting to bake until after 4:00 in the morning. These laws prevented them from having fresh bread in the mornings. The bakers had to be creative to find ways to have bread freshly baked for the mornings and wound up changing the bread’s shape into the baguette we know today. This allowed the bread to bake faster and made it possible for the dough to receive the maximum amount of exposed heat, which gives it that thick crust.
The baguette has been an iconic symbol of France ever since. Like the croissant, it’s a great grab-and-go snack and versatile in the ways you can enjoy it. One way people will enjoy a baguette is to cut it in half with butter and jam. It also pairs wonderfully with chocolat chaud, which is similar to a hot chocolate.
This is a unique one, but the butter in Paris is a must-try, specifically the Le Beurre Bordier. Here is how this butter is different from the rest:
They only use milk from local farmers who demonstrate the best farming practices. They also take their time when making the butter. Bordier waits 72 hours to use the milk once they get it from the cows, where milk used to make a typical brick of butter is only left to sit 6 hours. This extra time allows the cream to develop its flavor. They even knead the butter at a much slower speed.
It’s also unique because the butter is slightly different based on what season it is. The cows’ diet vastly alters how the butter comes out. When the cows graze on fresh grass in the summer, the butter is much more yellow, smoother, and tastes more savory. In the winter, the butter tends to be lighter in color due to the grass. It’s also more brittle and tastes sweeter.
They also only make the butter on-demand, so you know you’ll be getting the freshest butter!
French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup is a comforting soup that has become widely popular. There are no definitive stories on the origin of the French Onion Soup, but many that in the 1800s, low-income workers would use the leftover onions that they were selling to make soup to keep them warm. The soup started as just the broth, which uses caramelized onions and beef broth.
In the 1900s, people started seeing this dish in restaurants. The recipe had expanded with the addition of baked bread with a layer of cheese crumbled on top. They then bake the soup until the cheese layer gets crispy and golden brown.
When the soup started being served in restaurants, it became more acceptable amongst all the people to enjoy, not just the working and low-income families, and it's now a staple in French cuisine!
These were only a few must-try dishes to try in Paris, but it's safe to say that there are many more to discover!
Monday, September 6, 2021
Traveling with children can seem daunting, especially if you're traveling internationally. With long flights and long travel days, differences in cultures, and many other obstacles that can occur, it makes sense why some parents might be reluctant to bring their children on the journey with them. However, traveling with your children, particularly internationally, can provide a vast number of benefits to your children's lives. Here are just a few reasons that you should bring your offspring along on your travels.
Most children learn about other countries' history and cultures in their classrooms at school, but when you travel with your children, they get to experience these places firsthand. Your kids will get submerged into different cultures and learn about the people, traditions, food, agriculture, and much more. This can help children better understand and learn while at school since they can relate it to their personal experiences.
When you travel, no matter how prepared, there is always an opportunity for a roadblock to arise, such as lost luggage or a late flight. Many things are out of our control that interfere with our plan, which is a part of traveling, and it is an excellent way for children to learn to problem-solve and make the best of these situations when they happen.
Children may also learn that there could be different amenities than what they are used to at home. And depending on where you are traveling to, items or tools may not be as accessible as they usually would be, which is another great way children learn to adapt and go with the flow.
As you are traveling, your children may meet other kids from those countries and might learn that those kids' way of living looks different from their own. They might recognize the differences in socioeconomic backgrounds and realize that not all children in the world have as much as they have, leading them to compassion towards others who do not have as much and appreciating what they do have.
I bet many people can recall most, if not all, the trips they have taken. What about the first toy you were gifted? Can you remember all the toys you had when you were younger? Toys are wonderful, but they're not generally as impactful as the memories we create with traveling. When children grow up, they can look back and recall all their memories from traveling, whether those memories were good, funny, or bizarre, and remember the ones they spent time with and met along the way.
When traveling to new countries, we might be stepping out of our comfort zone a little bit. Yet, each time we do, we feel a bit more confident in ourselves. Similarly, with children, someone might be nervous about the activities/excursions that you have planned. When they start to travel, and these opportunities become more common, they get braver and confidence starts to build within them. This confidence then rolls over to when they are back into their regular routine of life.
Traveling can also help children figure out their interests more imaginatively and creatively by seeing the world firsthand. For example, maybe you notice that your child loves the adventure aspect of traveling, and each time you travel to a new country, they want to figure out all the outdoor adventures they can do. Maybe your child is interested in art and is intrigued by the details of buildings and desires to visit art museums. Learning this about themselves can help guide them in figuring out hobbies they want to involve themselves in or even potential career pathways that might be enticing for them.
Taking on responsibilities is another aspect of self-discovery that children might learn while traveling. At some point, all children will have to learn to take on responsibilities. When you give children responsibilities while traveling, this can provide children with more confidence in their own abilities. Maybe their responsibilities at first are to make sure they have their belongings, and when moving hotels or going between airports, they must oversee their items. These responsibilities might increase by having them plan a portion of the trip (with guidance, of course). Not only can this build confidence in children, but it keeps them involved and allows them to express what their interests are.
Bringing your children on international trips can seem overwhelming, but we genuinely believe that you and your children can benefit from these types of travels together.
Monday, August 30, 2021
Traveling solo can be a thrilling experience that pushes the boundaries of your comfort zone. However, you want to make sure you prepare before venturing off! Here are some “know before you go” on solo travel.
Leave Your Contact Info with Someone at Home
When traveling, especially overseas where communication might be trickier, it’s important to let someone know your travel plans. Let them know where you’re going, where you’ll be staying, and the travel dates. This will keep your loved ones at home in the loop just in case they need to get ahold of you.
Keep Copies of Important Documents
Always keep copies of your important documents, such as your passport, social security card, and other necessary paperwork. These copies can come in handy in case you misplace one during your travels!
Talk to your contacts about where you’ll be traveling to, they may have connections in those places and could connect you with other people in their network. This is great for solo traveling because it can help give you more insight from locals into where you’re going and, if you feel so inclined, you can meet up!
Bring a Book and a Journal
You may face some long travel days, and since you’ll be traveling solo, having a book to read can help entertain you. Journaling is another excellent way to keep yourself entertained; it’s also great to have so you can document your journey! Trust us on this! It’s fun and special to find your travel journals and read back and recall those travel moments later in life.
Learn How to be Alone
Traveling solo means spending time alone. Depending on your personality, this might be the most challenging part of traveling solo. Being with yourself alone in another country is a big deal but learning to slow down can create a lot of growth, and you can learn more about who you are.
You May Never Feel 100% Ready
This one speaks for itself. It’s hard to find the time and energy to commit to traveling internationally with our busy lives. But is there ever really a “perfect” time to go? You might also be thinking that you aren’t ready to travel solo yet, but again, is there really going to be a “perfect” time? If you’re considering traveling alone, take the leap!
Things Will Go Wrong... That's Okay
No matter if you’re traveling alone or with others, something will go wrong. If you’re traveling solo and something goes wrong, it might be stressful in the moment, but it’s going to make great stores to tell and will help you learn to be more flexible. Roll with it!
Keep Emergency Contact Info on You
It’s crucial that you give someone at home your information on where you’ll be traveling, but it's also essential to keep their information on you as well. Ideally, it’s great to keep this information in multiple places, such as your mobile device and your journal. This is important just in case your phone is out of battery or misplaced and you need to call home.
Understand The Cultures You’re Entering
When entering new countries, we highly recommend learning more about the local cultures before visiting. This can help prepare you for anything you might face, such as clothing restrictions or norms and understanding mannerisms.
Stay Someplace Where You’ll Meet Others
One of the coolest parts about traveling solo is the people you meet. Staying at a place like a hostel, situates you perfectly to meet like-minded individuals who might be traveling solo as well. And who knows, the people you meet on your solo adventure might turn into life-long friends!
Know Where You’re Going
It’s always a good idea to create some kind of plan before your travels. This will help give you an idea of any transportation you might need to take and how to visit each place on your list effectively.
Ask Locals for Recommendations
Talking to locals is a wonderful way to learn about the place you’re visiting. They can tell you the best places to visit that you might miss if you’re just going to the tourist attractions, and as an added bonus, they’re likely to be much less busy!
Try Not to Overpack
When traveling solo, you’re in charge of all your bags. Make sure you’re able to carry all your items before you leave and have room left for any souvenirs you might be bringing back with you.
Try to Act Confidently in Public
Acting confident is key, especially if you’re not sure where you are or where you’re going. When you show confidence, it’s less likely someone will try and take advantage of you. We’d like to believe that most people you meet wouldn’t do this, but you can never be too cautious.
Traveling solo is truly an adventure of a lifetime, and we believe it can add so much value to your life. It can be a scary one, but well worth it!
Monday, August 23, 2021
Boarding a cruise ship once again – or, for the very first time – will be exhilarating and exciting. But amid the joy, remember the time-honored rules of cruise etiquette that help make everyone’s time at sea more enjoyable.
Don’t reserve lounge chairs. A common breach of etiquette is the “reserving” of lounge chairs on deck; that is, spreading your belongings across several lounges so that you can your companions can sit together later in the day. This rude practice is so widespread that some cruise lines now have policies against it; if you try it, the crew may remove your belongings to the lost and found.
Don’t party too hard. Just as on land, drinking too much alcohol on a cruise can lower inhibitions and cause problems: being too noisy, hurting yourself or others, or setting the stage for a raging hangover that can cause you to miss the next day’s fun.
Don’t be late. Be on time for dinner, shows, spa treatments and other activities so you don’t inconvenience the crew or your fellow passengers. And when you leave the ship for a shoreside activity, you absolutely must return to the ship on time. If you’re late, the ship can – and will – sail without you.
Don’t let the kids get bored. If you’ll sail with children, think about how you’ll keep them occupied (and therefore, well-behaved). Take advantage of any onboard kids’ clubs and facilities, and bring a few small toys, books or games to help keep them entertained. Also, talk with them before you leave home about being considerate of other passengers and the crew.
Don’t skimp on tips. Tips for the crew are often built into your cruise fare or automatically charged to your onboard account, and while it’s possible to opt-out of tipping, don’t. Cruise ship workers depend on tips for a significant portion of their income and they work hard, often behind the scenes, to provide you with a wonderful voyage. If you do have a negative experience with any crew member, visit the guest services desk to talk with a manager about it; don’t punish the entire crew by withholding tips.
Don’t forget basic courtesy. Sure, you’re on vacation, but that’s no reason to skip the good manners. Saying “please” and “thank you,” holding a door open for those behind you, and saying “pardon me” instead of pushing past others will let everyone know how you would like to be treated while on board, too.
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Monday, August 16, 2021
It’s been proven over and over again that you can enjoy a wonderful cruise in any category of cabin; even the simplest inside cabin has everything you need to rest and relax between activities, dress up for dinner, and get a great night’s sleep.
Still, if your budget allows it, sailing in a larger cabin does have advantages. And if you’re looking for a truly luxurious, simply over-the-top cabin for your next cruise, here’s a look at some of the most stunning and creative suites at sea.
Each of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class and Quantum Class ships have a Royal Loft Suite, where a giant window wall frames a two-deck-high view. The stylish interiors vary a bit between ships, but include spacious living and dining areas, and lofted main bedrooms with a window-wall view (don’t worry, there are blackout drapes for when you want to sleep in). The most amazing part of a Royal Loft Suite may be the large balcony, with plenty of space for an outdoor dining table, lounge chairs, a bar and a private whirlpool.
On the ships of Viking Ocean Cruises, the Owner’s Suite really is the owner’s suite; these cabins are used by Torstein Hagen, chair of Viking Cruises, when he’s on board. When he’s not on board, the Owner’s Suite still contains some of Hagen’s own art, books, and memorabilia for you to enjoy. The sleek, comfortable furnishings – inside and on the private verandah – are in keeping with the line’s elegant Scandinavian aesthetic. And the bathroom is lavish, with a heated floor, anti-fog mirrors, and a dry sauna with an ocean view. The 1,446-square-foot suites even have an adjoining board room with a conference table that seats 12.
Yet another spectacular suite is on the horizon; now under construction, the Disney Wish includes plans for a two-story suite perched in one of the ship’s signature red funnels, promising fantastic views. A private elevator will open into a double-height living and dining area, with décor is inspired by the movie Moana and views through floor-to-ceiling windows. A spiral staircase will lead to the upper level of this 1,966-square-foot suite, where two master bedrooms will have walk-in closets and their own spacious bathrooms. The kids will have their own room with fun bunk beds, and the suite will have a library, too.
To find out how you can sail in one of these or many other very special suites at sea, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.
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