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Crystal River Cruises Changing the European River Cruise Landscape with Another River 'Yacht'

Following in the symphonic footsteps of the other members of the Crystal River Cruise fleet, the new Crystal Debussy evokes traditional European culture in a tribute to the great musical composer. The river cruise experience by Crystal, on the other hand, is a whole new approach .

The Crystal Debussy is the 5th Crystal river 'yacht', joining Crystal Mozart, Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler, and Crystal Ravel. They've been arriving on the European river cruise scene at a dizzying pace, as devotees of Crystal's particular luxury travel style on Crystal's renowned ocean cruises eagerly take the opportunity to explore the heart of European culture and famous river-bank wine regions in ultra-luxury Crystal style.

Crystal's approach to luxury ocean cruising translates to its river cruise experience that will make regular Crystal guests feel right at home and will take the breath away from travelers who may have tried a different river cruise experience. Crystal is making the distinction between river cruising and the Crystal experience by calling its fleet: River Yachts.

Guests on the Crystal Debussy will find one- and two-bedroom suites with Crystal's signature Panoramic Balcony-Window in an all-suite ship, exceptional public spaces including multiple dining options, top-deck outdoor lounge space… all with 6-star design-hotel style and Crystal's service of anticipation with European butler service and more staff than any other European river cruise. Michelin-inspired farm-to-table dining with complimentary fine wines, spirits, gratuities and unlimited wi-fi… it takes Crystal's 'private yacht'-feel on its ocean cruises to the rivers of Europe and transforms the concept of luxury in river cruising.

On shore, guests will be able to choose fleet-wide from over 200 curated, often exclusive destination experiences and activities. They range from cultural, natural, culinary/gastronomic, 'personal connections' to local lifestyles, and active 'exhilarating adventures'. Most are complimentary, and an included Signature Event each cruise brings guests rare access to famous European venues and live performances by world-class musicians in a nod to the fleet's musical nomenclature. Guests have access to 'Our Design, Your Time' concierge service to create truly customized shore experiences too.  

For experienced European river cruise and luxury travelers, this is another level and a new approach to river cruising.

The Crystal Debussy sails Rhine river itineraries between the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. The Rhine is famous for a magical stretch of dozens of castles perched on banks, islands and craggy cliffs along the Rhine, the fabled rock of Lorelei, and of course, the Moselle wine region.

This latest Crystal river cruise ship joins the Crystal Bach already sailing Rhine itineraries.

Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel sail Rhine, Main, and Danube sailings – grand voyages between Amsterdam and Budapest through the heart of Europe, connecting capital cities, scenic countryside, and charming villages in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. 

Another sister ship, the Crystal Mozart, plies the majestic Danube through Central Europe, including the UNESCO World Heritage region of the Wachau valley with its picturesque architecture and signature wine, the Bavarian countryside, and the famous culture capitals Vienna and Budapest.

The growing fleet of Crystal river cruise ships is changing the landscape of European river cruising and provides travelers who appreciate the finest luxury experience in their European land travels the means to explore even quaint corners of European countryside via the great rivers of Europe in the same quality of experience they expect in landmark luxury hotels on land.


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Now there are Food Adventure Tours for Vegans, Too

Vegan travel can be a challenge. In some favorite destinations, a bag of nuts in your bag at all times is essential to keep hunger away while you enjoy the attractions.


Epicurean vegans can be even more frustrated. Surrounded by the sights, scents of produce and flavors of the local culinary culture… and unable to enjoy it while practicing a plant-based diet. In some of the most famously foodie destinations in the world, you find yourself eating to live, not living to eat the local cuisine at the source.

But now, one tour company is out to give vegans the food adventures of their lives. Intrepid Travel, the small group, responsible-travel company, has launched a series of vegan food adventures for the committed vegan, vegetarian, or vegan-curious traveler.

With a local practicing vegan or vegetarian to lead the small group, travelers experience the best of the destination as well as get the inside track on local, authentic vegan lifestyle.

Epicurean vegans can now participate in market visits, cooking classes, top restaurants… all oriented around veganism. And in some of your dream destinations:

  • India, with a long culinary history of forgoing animal products, is already a vegan heaven. The sights of India's Golden Triangle are combined with vegan street food like vegetable samosas, vegan cooking classes, and a vegan feast in the opulence of a local castle.
  • South-east Asian cuisine, that incorporates soy protein along with those unmistakable spices, also makes Thailand very hospitable to vegans. There's a diverse range of vegan culinary offerings including street food at a Bangkok railway market, a masterclass in vegan Thai cuisine, that starts with a market visit to select your produce, and plenty of opportunities to tuck into delicacies including red curries, coconut cream and even traditional Thai banana cake.  
  • Intrepid's most unlikely vegan food adventure destination? Italy. The land where every area has its own regional cured meat. And cheese. This vegan food adventure travels from Venice to Tuscany to Rome – in a unique opportunity to experience a different side of Italian epicurean genius.  Enjoy the epitome of Italian old-school dining and a superb vegan menu in Venice's first vegan restaurant. The famously foodie town of Bologna comes alive with a vegan market tour and cooking class. And you can tease your palate with a wine tour in Tuscany, where you stay in an all-vegan villa, and enjoy an organic, farm-to-table vegan feast with a panoramic view of the Tuscan countryside.

Vegans and anyone who embraces a plant-based cuisine will thrill at these tours - timely reflections of modern vegan lifestyles and the best local traditions.

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There's a tinkling, tap-tap-tap coming from the pool deck of the Silver Muse. It's being made by a hammer against a tiny shoe nail in the hands of an Italian cobbler. Before your eyes, he custom-makes Italian leather sandals for another fortunate guest.

One of the hallmarks of a Silversea cruise is the exceptional level of service. It's personified in the white-gloved, formally-suited butlers who not only provide, but actually anticipate your every need.

Before we boarded the Silver Muse, I was not aware I needed a new pair of custom-fitted, hand-made, Italian leather sandals for my vacation. Once I saw Gennaro's work, it was obvious that is exactly what I needed.

In the rarefied world of true luxury cruising, it can be hard to define what makes one cruise line's interpretation of luxury different from another's. In the case of Silversea, a cruise line with Italian roots, luxury at sea becomes la dolce vita. The good life, polished with pleasure and indulgence, Italian-style.

In that context, having an Italian cobbler on board seems almost obvious. Of course ladies and gentlemen would like to meet a skilled craftsman who can make them custom Italian leather sandals on their cruise.

Not all Silversea cruises have an Italian cobbler-in-residence. But wherever you sail on Silversea cruises around the world – and since they sail to 900 different ports of call on every continent including Antarctica, that is pretty much anywhere – a little bit of Italy travels with you.

Here's our guide to the dolce vita, Silversea-style.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip.TV

Socializing

There is an actual place called the Dolce Vita on board the Silver Muse, a relaxing lounge and gathering place sumptuously appointed and with day and evening service. A cappuccino? A glass of wine or champagne or a bespoke cocktail to enjoy as you exchange greetings with fellow guests, plan the next day's adventures, enjoy the pianist with your aperitif before dinner? Gather with intimate or larger groups in a perfect social setting. And don't miss the stylized portrait of Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio whose Italian heritage inspired and shapes the Silversea lifestyle.

Dining

Everyone loves Italian cuisine. But not everyone serves authentic Italian cuisine. Silversea does.

La Terrazza restaurant is located on an aft deck where you can choose al fresco dining so the sea breezes complement cherished regional Italian dishes, daily fresh-made pasta and the freshest Mediterranean ingredients. The restaurant's relaxed style evokes the atmosphere (and mouth-watering culinary experience) of dining in outdoor restaurants in seaside Italian towns.



Spaccanapoli is hard to say, but the original Neapolitan pizza it serves is easy to swallow. Most guests on the ship just say 'the pizza place', but that off-hand term hardly does this pizza restaurant, on the top deck overlooking the pool, justice.

Inspired by the historic street in Naples, the seaside town where pizza was born, Spaccanapoli is one of the most popular places to dine on the ship. Chefs in the open-air kitchen work hand-made dough and create made-to-order pizzas in a range of authentic recipes, baking them in a pizza oven only a few steps away from your al fresco table. It couldn't be simpler, or more special: a super-chilled, crisp rose wine in the sea breezes mingling with the fragrance of authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Italian coffee and a selection of wines are perfect accompaniments to quiet and social moments throughout the day.

Freshening Up

One of your first interactions with your Silversea butler on boarding and entering your suite involves your selection of bath amenities. Italian lifestyle brand Bvlgari is stocked in your marble bathroom, but another Italian brand, Ferragamo, is also on offer, making it easy for you to channel your inner stylish Italian as you luxuriate in your suite's bath.

Relaxing

Morning coffee on your veranda, or at the ship's spa. Any number of occasions on board the Silver Muse call for a cozy bathrobe and slippers. Italian fashion house Etro supplies particularly plush ones to Silversea. The family business is famous among those in the know for mens' and womens' wear, as well as accessories and home products. It is sometimes tempting to stay in the robes all day!

Resting

After an exciting day of travels, when you finally lay your head down at night in your suite, you'll be resting on linens from legendary Italian firm Pratesi. Join European aristocracy in sleeping on bed linens that have been called masterpieces of comfort and luxurious style. Difficulty sleeping? Ask your butler about options from the pillow menu, including lavender aromatherapy pillowcases.

Whether you're in Buenos Aires or Belfast, Capri or the Caribbean, make sure you enjoy the Italian indulgences on your Silversea ship.

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Silversea's 'Celebrity' Culinary Partnership

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip.TV

These days, celebrity chefs and cruise lines sail hand in hand.  Silversea's interpretation of luxury cruising is an understated elegance where service and attention to detail are primary.

The Silver Muse at anchor in Paraty, Brazil (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

So it's no surprise that Silversea's culinary partnership is not with a famous chef with a flamboyant TV show.  Instead, Silversea partnered with Relais & Chateaux, a world-wide association long dedicated to the highest culinary and hospitality arts for travelers in the know.

Table settings in La Dame on board the Silver Muse (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

If you're a dedicated foodie and traveler, Relais & Chateaux should be on your radar.  The association began in France decades ago, launched by a boutique hotelier/restaurateur to unite other independent boutique hotels with peak standards in local cuisine and fine living.  Today, it's the most prestigious hotel/culinary association in the world.  500 member landmark hotels and restaurants are united by a shared commitment to outstanding fine dining and their unique interpretation of the Art of Living.

Relais & Chateaux hotels/restaurants can be found in 64 countries around the world… and at sea, only on Silversea cruises. So the seven seas can be added to the dozens of countries where Relais & Chateaux' kitchens and dining rooms pay exquisite attention to ingredients, technique and flavors for the delectation of travelers.

Imagine: Silversea's expedition cruises to the world's polar regions mean the cruise line brings the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant to Antarctica!

Where art meets marzipan.  (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

Silversea works with the 'Grands Chefs' honored by Relais & Chateaux to offer their signature dishes on board Silversea ships.  In addition, one restaurant on Silversea, La Dame, is the only Wine Restaurant by the association at sea.  What a perfect combination: sailing to some of the world's great wine regions and dining in a restaurant that celebrates those wines with six-course menus of inspired French cuisine.

Lobster and Caviar and Leeks, oh my! (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

Our recent cruise on the Silver Muse from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro gave us the perfect opportunity to experience Silversea's unique version of Relais & Chateaux.   Argentine wines were the toast of the hour during a wine tasting in La Dame.  And we chose to celebrate our final evening on board the ship at La Dame with an array of exquisite wines and dishes that brought our Silversea experience to a crescendo.

Watch the video to join our experience in Silversea's La Dame Relais & Chateaux restaurant as well as 7 other unique restaurants on the Silver Muse.

BestTrip.TV hard at work... even at dinner in La Dame. (Photo: BestTrip.TV)

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Love Your Wine? You'll Love This Airline Perk

Alaska Airlines is giving wine the VIP treatment.  If you're a Mileage Plan member departing from West Coast wine destinations including airports in California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington states, you can – get this – check an entire case, yes a case of up to 12 bottles, of wine for free.

Wine Flies Free from 29 West Coast cities on Alaska Airlines. The program debuted in 2007 to enable passengers to transport wine from Sonoma/Santa Rosa, and Alaska Airlines has now nearly doubled participating departure airports.

Participating Wine Flies Free Cities:

California

Idaho

Oregon

Washington

Burbank*

Boise

Eugene

Bellingham*

Fresno*

Lewiston

Medford

Pullman*

Los Angeles*

 

Portland

Seattle*

Monterey*

 

Redmond

Spokane*

Oakland*

 

 

Wenatchee*

Ontario*

 

 

Pasco

Orange County*

 

 

Walla Walla

Palm Springs*

 

 

Yakima

Sacramento*

 

 

 

San Diego*

 

 

 

San Francisco*

 

 

 

San Jose*

 

 

 

San Luis Obispo

 

 

 

Santa Barbara*

 

 

 

Santa Rosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Indicates new cities being added to the program.

And it's spreading the word with local wineries and regional winemaker associations as well as wine country destinations. So you can indulge yourself in the rich wine and culinary experiences all along the West Coast, and take home a whole case of terrific memories. Without having to figure out costly shipping.

Instead, your wine flies with you.  There's no charge to become a member of Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan, and anyone who's signed up can take advantage of the Wine Flies Free program.  Wine bottles have to be sealed and packed properly in a protective shipping container.  But customer service agents help make sure your wine is ready for take off.

How far can your wine fly?  Don't let the name Alaska Airlines deceive you. Together with Virgin America and its regional partners, Alaska Airlines flies to more than 115 destinations across the United States and to Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica.

So you and your new favorite West Coast wine can go far together.

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5 Things You Must Do At Mardi Gras

New Orleans is home to one of the world's greatest parties. 

Like other Carnival celebrations, Mardi Gras grew from the Christian practice of feasting and celebrating on 'Mardi Gras' – which means 'Fat' Tuesday - on Shrove Tuesday, just before the solemn fasting of the 40-day pre-Easter season of Lent. 

The actual dates differ every year.  Shrove Tuesday can happen during February or early March, and Carnival season begins immediately after the 12th day of Christmas, continuing up to the Eve of Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. 

Other places in the world celebrate pre-Lent, too; you've probably heard of famous Carnivals in Venice, the Caribbean, in Rio and elsewhere.  But New Orleans' Mardi Gras has its own unique character.  The city's French-Creole heritage and culture and cuisine, steamy Southern climate - and oh, that famous local jazz!  - make Mardi Gras one-of-a-kind.

Thousands of people from North America and around the world flock to Mardi Gras. Here's how to celebrate in true N'awlins style:

Feast on Fat Tuesday Food

Fat Tuesday is the one day of the year when eating fried foods is a virtue. No dieting on Mardi Gras! Sink your teeth into some of the best Creole dishes New Orleans offers. To get that local flavor, order anything on the menu with crawfish – a classic crawfish boil, crawfish bisque, or the iconic crawfish etouffee, which means 'smothered', with the local crustacean coated in a rich creamy Louisiana-seasoned sauce served over rice.   

Iconic Creole stews gumbo or jumbalaya are a must while you are in Louisiana.  For feasting on the run, a local muffuletta sandwich is the best best on the menu: where the special ingredient, olive salad, binds cured meats and cheeses in sesame dinner rolls.

Indulge your sweet tooth with the local version of beignet – or as you might call it: a traditional-recipe donut.

A Mardi Gras special sweet treat is King Cakes, often a brioche/raisin bread type ring topped in official Mardi Gras colors of green, gold and purple, and with a hidden bean or even baby Jesus statue inside. Whoever gets the bean, becomes the next Mardi Gras 'king', or party host.

Have a Ball

Krewes are social clubs of New Orleans' residents that date back to the 19th century, established to organize the famous Carnival parades and masked balls. Most major krewes follow the same parades schedule and route annually.  These days parades are too oversized to take place inside the famous French Quarter.  But they still rouse up enthusiastic spectators and toss trinkets into the crowds, including 'doubloons' – replica coins often stamped with a krewe logo – and of course beads, the symbol of New Orleans Mardi Gras decadence.

Play Dress Up

There is no Mardi Gras without the costumes. This is not a time for subtlety.  Sparkles and matching headgear and masks are the order of the day, especially in Mardi Gras' traditional colors of purple, gold and green. New Orleans Mardi Gras may lack the baroque elegance of Venice or the throbbing sensuality of bikinis and samba in Rio, but dress up you must. Mardi Gras costumes span everything from black tie at private balls, to mutant octopus costumes and Elvis impersonators, jokers and mythological figures in a surreal whirlwind of excitement.

And Dress Down

It's easy to blame the current younger generation and TV shows featuring bad behavior for the decadence of topless party-goers at Mardi Gras. But semi-nudity and even cross-dressing have a long history with the Carnival in New Orleans, at least back to the 19th century.  Women flashing from balconies in the French Quarter have long been documented crowd stoppers. The beads-for-baring-them motif is all part of the unrestrained party ambiance of Mardi Gras.

Feel the Music

Any time of the year, New Orleans is one of the greatest music capitals of the world, the birthplace and home of jazz.  Mardi Gras takes music to another level in the city, and even more than usual to the streets, where jazz music and brass instruments are joined by the latest beats and rhythms.  You won't be able to resist dancing in the streets, at parties, in hotel lobbies, at of course at any ball you are lucky enough to be invited to attend.

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Top 10 Reasons to Travel to Croatia

From an isolated backwater behind the Iron Curtain, Croatia has transformed itself into Eastern Europe's 'Riviera'.  Sun worshippers discovered the miles of sunny, pristine beaches and dramatic cliffs of the Dalmatian coast.

Other tourism followed for ancient and historic monuments, including UNESCO world heritage sites and even some communist concrete architecture, spellbinding natural beauty featuring islands, waterfalls, and mountains, and the good life of good wine, good food, and a more relaxed atmosphere than other busier – and more expensive – European coastal holiday destinations. 

Recently named one of the top three most beautiful and affordable travel destinations, you don't want to miss these! Top 10 Reasons to Travel to Croatia:

1 The Beaches

The best beaches in Croatia are Dalmatian.  (Not the 101 spotted dogs, but the coast in Dalmatia).  White pebbles (and in some places, sand), crystal clear aquamarine water, hidden coves with rocks and fig and olive trees… these are the beaches that put Croatia on the map.  If your idea of beach lifestyle is a quiet hideaway, or waterfront party, there's a beach in Croatia for you.

2 Diving and Snorkeling

Some travelers get up closer to that incredibly clear sea.  While it's not like the Caribbean for a rainbow of tropical fish close to the surface, the pebble and stone coastline makes for fantastic underwater visibility. And with its long, seafaring history, there's plenty to see: underwater wrecks of wine and olive oil cargo ships dating back thousands of years, right up to recent war ships.  There are also some novel diving experiences like the Te Vega Sea Lake, reached by an underwater tunnel, the Blue Cave, even a reef with yellow coral.

Top Photo Author : Ivo Pervan Source: Croatian Tourist Board

3 Sailing, Yachting, Boating

The coast of Dalmatia is a sailor's paradise!  The best way to enjoy the dramatic cliffs rising from dark blue waters, countless scattered islands, hidden coves, untouched coastline, and seaside towns, is from the water.  You can rent a sailing boat with or without crew, or charter a yacht or catamaran to take you to remote coastal towns where you can enjoy fresh seafood and local wine in restaurants, or to an isolated beach.  Or just drop anchor and soak in the Adriatic atmosphere.

4 Plitvice Lakes National Park

This is Croatia's most popular national park and, many claim, Europe's most breathtaking natural wonder.  Sixteen electric blue Plitvice Lakes inhabit a forested canyon, interconnected by stunning waterfalls, and easy-to-hike boardwalks and trails.   A panoramic shuttle bus allows the less active traveler to take in the breathtaking scenery, and more active travelers will thrill at the views from the trails or rowing across the waters.

5 Dubrovnik

They call it the "Pearl of the Adriatic".  The walled, seaside Dubrovnik seems to have it all: centuries-old forts surrounding an enormous, picturesque Old Town, scenic wall walks with dazzling views of the cliffs and sea, as well as its famous collection of baroque buildings on marble streets. Dubrovnik is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and the iconic view is at the top of a cable car ride to the peak of Mount Srd.  Over a coffee at the café at the top, you can see the entire old city as well as the impossibly blue Adriatic Sea and nearby islands.  Game of Thrones enthusiast? You can explore many of the series' filming locations, too.

Split Author : Ante Zubović Source: Croatian Tourist Board

6 Split

The heart and major city of the Dalmatian Coast, Split is an exciting urban experience.  Its seaside promenade is bustling at all hours, and its massive Roman palace is the center of modern Split's lifestyle. Diocletian’s Palace was built by the Roman emperor of that name at the turn of the fourth century. From the outside, it's an imposing, walled fortress.  But inside, you’ll find bars, restaurants and shops that make it a pleasure to stroll and get momentarily lost in the interior's winding narrow streets – every wrong turn takes you to an even better place to rub elbows with locals and other travelers and enjoy a different local wine!

Zagreb Authors: Mario Romulić & Dražen Stojčić  Source: Croatian Tourist Board

7 Zagreb

Croatia's capital city isn't as popular as Dubrovnik or Split, but it's a terrific walking city with a café culture and some interesting museums.  The museum that tops everyone's list is the Museum of Broken Hearts, designed to help the lovelorn get over a relationship… by contributing mementos of their ex to the museum collection, along with their stories.  Single or happily coupled-up, this museum gets everyone talking!

8 Pula's Roman Amphitheatre

You'll find the city of Pula in Croatia's most Italian-feeling region of Istria that is also home to the Venice of Croatia.   Pula's claim to fame is its breathtaking Roman ruins, and especially, the impressive and well-preserved amphitheatre.  Dominating the city center, the amphitheatre remains at the center of life in Pula thousands of years after its construction.  Don't miss the opportunity to attend a concert, festival or even movie screening in this ancient venue.

9 The 'Sea Organ' at Zadar

Zadar's historic churches and Roman ruins are contrasted with modern art installations that are putting this Croatian city on the map for cool- and art hunters. The Sea Organ transforms waterside waves into melodies, and the Sun Salutation creates light show visualizations of Sea Organ's 'tunes' via a 'Sun' set into the pavement. Worth the trip.

Author : Ivo Pervan Source: Croatian Tourist Board

10 Wine Tours

Croatia has a long history of wine making, wide range of indigenous grape varieties, and lots of geographically defined wine regions. Wine tourism is an increasingly popular way to enjoy the countryside and meet local vintners.  A drive on the country's wine routes will bring you to picturesque vineyards (some with amazing views over the sea), historic and modern wine cellars and tasting rooms, and enthusiastic winemakers with uniquely Croatian flavors to share and discuss.

When to Travel:

If your travel plans to Croatia include the sea, especially swimming, snorkeling or diving, the best water temperatures are in the 'high season' summer months of July and August.  But off-season travel to Croatia can involve great savings, and include the joys of the wine and produce harvest months, festivals, and even winter sports and spa resorts.  

Smart Travel Tip: Currency

Croatia is not part of the EU; rather than the euro, the local currency is the kuna, which you exchange locally.  A smart travel tip is to pre-pay as many arrangements as you can through your travel consultant so you can pay in your own currency and not worry about exchanging as much money or exchange rates at the time of your trip. Planning and paying ahead also helps you stay within your travel budget!

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Local markets are one of the greatest delights of trips to the South of France.  The glorious town of Avignon (perhaps best known for the song about its famous bridge) also has a renowned market.  In addition to exquisite regional foods and food products, the charming locals are out in full force.  Particularly the character behind the chicken counter, who's known for breaking out into the French national anthem while plucking a chicken! 

Whether you visit Avignon by land or on a Rhone river cruise, don't miss the market.  And when you go, say 'bonjour' to the poultry vendor like BestTripTV did on our trip to Avignon... and see if he'll sing you the Marseillaise too!

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Some of the best food travel experiences don't involve white linen or Michelin stars.  A crab feast in Alaska that starts with a boat ride to collect crab pots is one of the most fresh, pure-tasting... and fun dining experiences you'll have anywhwere in the world.

Prepare to get dripping in butter and crab juice in this fun BestTrip.TV video!

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And local fireweed and spruce tips for truly local spirits and craft cocktails.

BestTrip.TV was in port in Skagway, Alaska on our Regent Seven Seas cruise and naturally, we checked out the famous local saloon recommended by Regent's shore expert.  We are always on the hunt for 'local', and there on the bar menu:  cocktails made using local, small-batch gin and vodka. Intrigued, we asked the bartender, who drew us a map on a napkin (those are always the best maps) to find the distillery.

And off we went on a walk through town to find Skagway Spirits. We found them next to Skagway's local airport in a re-imagined hangar, distilling gin and vodka and hand-crafting local ingredient-based juices and cordials to mix with them in their fun tasting room.

The last time we turned down a crafted cocktail using local ingredients and local, hand-crafted spirits made from the first water off the local glacier was... never!  Our little adventure to find the entrepreneurial Heger family and their wonderful airport hangar distillery was one of our best memories of our trip to Alaska. 

The best news?  You don't need a happy accident to discover Skagway Spirits on your next trip to Alaska.  Now you know exactly where to find Gary, Jan and Luke Heger and their delicious spirits and cocktails.

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Sink Your Teeth Into This UNESCO Cultural Experience

When is a pizza not just a pizza?  When you're dining on a piece of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Possibly the world's most beloved comfort food, game-day dinner, kids' birthday party treat and party go-to take-out, the humble yet versatile pizza has been given UNESCO Cultural Heritage status.

But not just any pizza.  'Pizzaiuolo' is the art of traditional, Neopolitan pizza-making.  Think of it as the 'way of the pizza'. The original, home-grown-in-Naples technique was given the designation in November 2017. It is meant to safeguard and raise awareness about different forms of cultural heritage and ensure the methods and origins are preserved and passed to future generations.

Naples in Southern Italy's Campania region is the historic and spiritual home of the original pizza, where the word 'pizza' has been traced back to the 10th century. 'Modern' pizza arrived on Naples' local culinary scene about 250 years ago.  If you've been to Naples (which is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest and most historic cities on the Mediterranean) you've certainly dined upon and heard about the importance of pizza here.  (If you haven't been to Naples and eaten the pizza there, well, add both to your travel list right now.)

Neapolitan pizza already has 'Traditional Specialty Guaranteed' status in Europe, with its own local Association (The Genuine Neapolitan Pizza Association) issuing and enforcing rules for its creation and labeling. 

Mount Vesuvius, Naples and the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo Credit)

A true Neapolitan pizza must be made with San Marzano tomatoes (that only grow on the volcanic plains of nearby Mount Vesuvius) and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, itself a protected designation of origin cheese from semi-wild water buffalo in the region.  There are additional rules about how the dough must be made, from what flour, and include requirements that the dough be formed by hand to a thickness of no more than 3 mm (.12 inches).  After toppings are added, the pizza must be baked for less than 2 minutes in a stone oven heated by an oak-wood fire.

Pizzeria in Naples, Italy.  (Photo Credit)

The result?  A Neapolitan pizza is soft, elastic, tender and fragrant.  The Association recognizes only two authentic pies: the simple Pizza Margherita (top photo credit) that follows the traditional rules for ingredients with the addition of basil and extra virgin olive oil, and Marinara Pizza with tomato, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano.   Don't even think the words 'Hawaiian' or 'Meat Lovers'.

Pizza Neapolitan joins traditional horse games of Kyrgyzstan, wind mill operations in the Netherlands,  women divers of Korea and dozens of other unique expressions of local culture registered and safeguarded by UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity program.   In other words, another reason #WhyWeTravel.

Buon Appetito!

 

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3 Greek Islands You Must Visit Before You Die

Greece is famous as the cradle of Western civilization. It's the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, literature and drama, marathons, the Olympics, plus some of your favorite math principles.

Modern Greece consists of a mountainous mainland and hundreds of islands surrounded by the Aegean, Ionian, Cretan and Mediterranean Seas. Over two hundred of the islands are inhabited, many of them rich in history and mythology, as well as the Mediterranean culture, cuisine, maritime and beach lifestyle that makes Greece one of the top bucket list travel destinations.

Some travelers in the know take holidays to Greece year after year, and Greek islands are a highlight of Eastern Mediterranean cruises. If you've never visited Greece, here are the islands you just can't miss.

Photo (Credit) SantoriniSantorini inspired the title of this article. It's continuously named the 'best island in the world' and the 'Greek Island you must visit before you die'. (But we think all the islands in this list merit the title). (Top Photo Credit)

When you hear 'Greek island', chances are that the sight that pops into your head is one of the iconic pictures of Santorini. The island's sky blue domed church roofs, white washed buildings on the edges of cliffs, and steep, narrow cobbled streets overlooking brilliant blue seas stand in to represent the iconic Greek island vista of everyone's travel dreams. 

Santorini is what remains of an island after the eruption of an ancient volcano. Now, a giant lagoon is encircled by the 300 m (980 ft) high cliffs of a crescent shaped island and a much smaller island opposite where the remaining volcano rim is still above the sea. Visiting ships, yachts and local fishing boats approaching the shelter of the curve are afloat in the crater of the volcano. Inside the caldera, the water is so deep - over 400m - that only the largest ships can anchor.   Santorini's capital, Fira (Thira) clings to the top of the cliff over the lagoon.

Photo (Credit)

Don't Miss: volcanic-sand beaches in unique black or red sands, brilliant sunsets, a traditional and a growing modern food culture. Santorini's micro-climate nurtures tomatoes and capers of famously exquisite flavor, and an indigenous grape varietal that local vintners turn into celebrated crisp, dry white and amber-toned wines.


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MykonosMykonos is the Greek island where Ibiza party and French Riviera beach lifestyles meet. Cosmopolitan and glamorous, Mykonos may be Greece's most fashionable holiday destination. Luxury hotels, stylish bars, clubs and parties where beautiful people come to see and be seen until dawn, then sleep it off on magnificent beaches or private yachts… if that is your style of travel, Mykonos is for you. It's also known for being an LGBT-friendly destination and party central.

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Mykonos is both the island and its main town, which is also called Chora (meaning 'town', in the Greek style of towns with the same name as their islands). Picturesque local architecture, sunsets, people watching and shopping appeal to visitors of all ages.

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The island's nickname is 'the Island of Winds'. Windmills are one of the defining and unique features of the Mykonos landscape, built by Venetians in the 16th century to grind flour and used until electricity took over only a few decades ago.

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Don't Miss: Romantic, artistic Little Venice, where rows of 18th century colorful fishing houses with overhanging balconies line the seaside, many of them shops, cafes, and galleries. And Petros the Pelican, the mascot of Chora's waterfront.   

(Photo Credit) RhodesRhodes' nickname is The Island of the Knights. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the world. Walking its Street of Knights, you feel transported back to the Middle Ages, when conquering Crusaders built fortifications, the Palace of the Grand Masters, towers, inns and rest of the medieval city and streets that remain today.

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But Rhodes' history pre-dates mediaeval knights by thousands of years, when the island's strategic position made it central to ancient history. One of Rhodes' lasting claims to fame is a landmark that no longer exists.

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The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Erected in 280 B.C. at the Mandraki harbor to mark a battle victory, the Colossus was a bronze statue of extraordinary size - about the same as the Statue of Liberty! Rhodes' Colossus stood for less than a century before an earthquake toppled it. Even then, for another 800 years, its remains lying on the ground drew travelers to Rhodes to marvel at and write about its size. Today the statues of deer on pillars at the entrance to the harbor mark where the Colossus' feet were said to stand and allow ships to pass beneath this feat of design and engineering.

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Don't Miss: The beaches. Don't be so distracted by the history you miss its stunning beaches. The wine. Rhodes is said to have been the first island in the Aegean to cultivate vineyards for wine; that tradition continues today. The lush, green interior and emerald fresh waters inland from the beaches.

When to goIn most of the Greek islands, the sun shines 300 magical days a year. Summers are high season for travelers arriving by air and cruise ship, but April- June and September- October are blessed with lovely weather. Looking for mild weather, quiet exploration – and a bargain? More and more people are discovering Greece in early and late winter months too.

Start your Trip! 

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Before there was molecular gastronomy, there was Baked Alaska to awe and delight a table of diners.

A miracle dessert of warm, caramelized meringue on the outside, still magically full of layers of frozen ice cream on the inside. A feat of culinary ingenuity in the days of unreliable refrigeration.

The story goes that Baked Alaska was created in New York's famous Delmonico's restaurant in 1867 in celebration of the American acquisition of Alaska from Russia. Regardless of its origin, creating Baked Alaska back in the day was only for the fearless.  The elements are not complicated - it's cake and ice cream and meringue, all within reach of even a moderately good chef. But the trick is in the execution.  Get the temperatures wrong and you had a plate of dripping, soggy mess.

So a good chef – and access to reliable refrigeration – were key to a triumphant Baked Alaska. The dessert, in single or multiple servings, resembling a snow-topped Alaskan mountain, became almost a status symbol and a classic showstopper of a dessert.

Cruise lines got into the spirit when modern refrigeration was installed on ocean liners and Baked Alaska became the celebratory peak of cruise dining, with Baked Alaska 'parades': a procession of dining room staff each bearing a flaming Baked Alaska for each table of diners to top off an evening of formal dining. (Hilariously, often to the unofficial Baked Alaska parade theme song of 'Hot, Hot, Hot'). 

Baked Alaska is rarely seen in restaurants nowadays… but lives on in cruise culture. Where better than a cruise to Alaska to learn how to make this classic – and classic cruising – dish?

Regent Seven Seas Mariner's pastry chef showed BestTrip.TV his tips and tricks to perfect Baked Alaska… and shared his recipe here for you.

Bon Appetit!

 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Recipe for Baked Alaska

10 Servings

Ingredients

  • 250            grams            French Meringue (see recipe below)
  • 150            grams             Raspberry Coulis (Sauce)
  • 100            grams            Vanilla Sauce
  • 160            grams            Vanilla Ice Cream (or a combination of your choice of ice creams)
  • 160            grams            Chocolate Ice Cream           
  • 160            grams            Strawberry Ice Cream
  • assorted berries
  • mint leafs

Syrup

Bring to a boil, cool down

  • 62.5         grams            water    
  • 31            grams            sugar

Add the kirsch liqueur, keep refrigerated           

  • 6.5            grams             kirsch liqueur

Sponge (or purchased sponge cake)

  • 78            grams            whole milk
  • 23.5         grams            butter
  • 23.5         grams            flour
  • 5              fresh egg yolks
  • 6              fresh egg whites
  • 15.5         grams            sugar
  • grated zest of 1/3  of a clean orange          
  • 6             mL            Grand Marnier liquor

French Meringue

  • 9              fresh egg whites
  • 170          grams             sugar
  • 1.25         grams            vanilla extract

Method:

French Meringue:

  1. Start whisking the egg whites by incorporating one quarter of the sugar little by little.
  2. Once the egg whites have doubled in volume, add another quarter of the sugar and the vanilla.
  3. Keep whisking until firm and shiny, then add the remaining sugar and whisk for another minute.

Sponge:

  1. Combine milk and butter and bring to a boil.
  2. Pour the flour into the milk, keep on stirring over the heat until it starts to become a paste.
  3. Put mixture into mixing bowl, at low speed add the egg yolks, grated orange skin and Grand Marnier.
  4. Keep beating on fast speed for 10 seconds.
  5. Meanwhile whip the egg whites to a meringue with sugar.
  6. Mix a little meringue into the batter until obtaining a homogenized paste; then gently fold the meringue into the batter.
  7. Line sheet pans with pan liners, spread the mix onto it and make a fine layer of ½ cm in height.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C for 10 minutes and until the sponge is baked properly, cool down to room temperature, then before using in Baked Alaska, sprinkle the syrup over the sponge cake.

Assembly:

  1. For each serving, use a 6 cm ramekin, lined with plastic wrap.
  2. Cut a round disk of the sponge to fit the inner part of the bottom. Fill with chocolate first, then vanilla then strawberry ice cream.
  3. Cut a round disk out of the sponge fitting the inner part of the top, press gently down and freeze immediately
  4. Meanwhile prepare the meringue.
  5. Place your serving plate over top of the frozen ramekin, turn over and remove plastic wrap. Spread the meringue all over, using piping technique or a spatula.  Mimic a mountain landscape.
  6. Turn on your blowtorch and brown the edges of the meringue.  Decorate the plate with raspberry coulis and vanilla sauce, berries and a spring of mint.
  7. Serve instantly.

Start your Trip!

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You Need This Suitcase For Your Next Trip to Wine Country

What's the only downside of finding that perfect wine abroad? Getting it home.

If your dream is traveling to vineyards and stocking your cellar with those one-of-a-kind bottles you can't get from your local wine seller, this is the suitcase for you. Unless you like wrapping wine bottles in sweaters in your luggage and hoping for the best, that is.

The VinGardeValise sounds impressively French for a viticulture travel accessory but is actually developed and made by an American company. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary, premium hard sided suitcase. Complete with details like spinning wheels, bumpers on the edges, telescoping padded handles, heavy duty zippers and extenders, you've got luggage that has both maximum durability and user friendliness.

It's when you open it that you see the real magic. Durable foam inserts safely cradle wine bottles - up to an entire case.

The best part is that the interior is modular and customizable to hold 2 to 12 bottles of wine. The designers seem to have thought of every bottle of wine you might fall in love with. In addition to regular wine bottles, inserts accommodate champagne, magnums and there's even an insert for two large Bordeaux wine glasses. We like the looks of that picnic!

And if you carry less than 12 bottles, you'll even have room left over for your clothes.

The VinGardeValise comes in two sizes: Grande and Petite. Fully loaded with a dozen standard bottles, the Grande still comes in at under 50 pounds (22 kg) to save you from airline overweight luggage fees. The Petite fully loaded holds 8 bottles and is less than 38 pounds. And the case complies with aviation and airline policies and procedures, so you're safe from hassles as well as spillage and extra fees.

Since they launched in 2014, the makers have seen many travel uses for the suitcase; taking wine from your own cellar on a cruise, to a get together, or on vacation where good wine is scarce, transporting wine to a tasting, business or a corporate retreat… all in addition to avid enotourists taking wine home from wine country.

Now you can book your dream trips to the wine regions of Europe, South Africa, Australia, South America and North America with confidence you'll get your treasured new tastes in wine home safely.

And we think we can all toast to that. Santé!

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Visit This: Underwater Winery in Croatia

Drinking and diving don't mix, but we've found one exception. At the Edivo Vina winery about an hour north of the Croatian seaside town of Dubrovnik, you need to slip into a wet suit for a cellar tour.

That's because this winery stores and ages their – aptly named – 'Navis Mysterium' or 'Sea Mystery' wine – 20 meters (66 feet) under water.

Sea Mystery wine begins life above ground as other wines do. The regional grapes are harvested, pressed and bottled, then aged for three months on land.

Then it gets interesting. Cork and two layers of rubber seal the bottles which are then enclosed in amphorae – locally made clay vessels like the ones used in ancient Greece with a narrow neck and double handles. To make them water-proof, they are lined with a thin layer of resin, just like the ancient Greeks did. Then the amphorae are submerged underwater in steel cages for two more years of aging. Divers visit the 'cellar' to check on them regularly to ensure they remain sea-proof.

When they emerge from the 'cellar', the amphorae are covered in sea life: shells, barnacles, coral and seaweed. Just like a storybook treasure you might discover on a sunken ship. And not one is exactly like any other.

But the sunken treasure look wasn't the winemakers' motivation for this unique cellar location. They believe the depths of the Adriatic Sea provide ideal cool and consistent temperatures as well as silence that improve the wine's quality.

You don't have to take their word for it, though. If you have diving credentials, you can go on a supervised dive to one of their underwater wine cellars in a sunken boat. On dry land, you – and any non-diving visitor – can enjoy a ceremonial opening of an amphorae-enclosed bottle and this one-of-a-kind wine in a spectacular seaside setting. You can even order them in pine gift boxes.

It took the vintners 3 years to perfect the process and to source entirely local materials. The grapes, clay, wrought iron, pine, glass and cork used in the making of 'Sea Mystery' wine are all products of Croatia – a true taste of the ancient Adriatic.

With a price tag in the hundreds of dollars, a bottle of 'Sea Mystery' wine won't be the least expensive bottle of wine you acquire on a trip to Croatia, but it will definitely give you the best story to tell while you're drinking it with your friends at home.

Start your Trip!

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They call it Shopping with the Chef, and it's one of the most memorable of our Seabourn Moments.

The Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is one of the earliest surviving structures and a symbol of Ho Chi Minh City - formerly Saigon, which is still the name of HCMC's District 1. A market has been located here in on the river since the early 1600's.

Who better than the executive chef on our Seabourn cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore, Pascal de Portemont, and our local expert, Mr. Anh, to share with us the highlights one of South-East Asia's most famous markets?

This is no tourist market, though any savvy traveler makes sure to visit. Locals buy and sell produce so fresh it glistens, and seafood so fresh it still squiggles live in the bucket. Artisan crafts, textiles, baked goods and streetfood are irresistible.

But our quest with the Seabourn chef is ingredients for a seafood dish fit for Seabourn; watch this video for our adventures in the market and the dish we prepare with the chef on the top deck of this luxury cruise ship docked right in the heart of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Start your Trip!

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Canada's Top Travel Treasures

You don't always have to go somewhere exotic and far away for the best outdoor travel experiences.

Here is our curated collection of Canada's National Parks and Historic Sites - plus nearby experiences - that might help inspire you to include the 'true North, strong and free' in your travel plans this year:


L'Anse aux Meadows - Newfoundland & Labrador

In a clever line on the Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism web site, 'even the Vikings came here to get away'.

If you thought Columbus was the first European to reach the Americas, think again. L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland contains archeological evidence of a Viking settlement dating back to around the year 1000 – hundreds of years before Columbus and his first 1492 expedition.

Sod and wood buildings were found, with artifacts that showed the residents involved in smithing iron, knitting, weaving, and carpentry for boat building or repair. It's believed dozens of Viking men and women resided here, but harsh conditions made it unsustainable and the site was abandoned.

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While you're in Newfoundland, don't miss…Cape Spear. The rocky cliffs jutting over the North Atlantic waters make Cape Spear feel like the edge of the world – and it nearly is. This is the eastern-most point of North America. Standing on Cape Spear, you are closer to London, England than you are to Vancouver on the other side of the continent!

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Old Town Lunenburg - Nova Scotia

From the harbor, the almost cartoon-bright painted houses look like an artist's interpretation of an historic town. But it's real. The town is both National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's considered the best surviving British colonial town on the continent, with its 18th century planned, gridiron streets, unique shops, restaurants in preserved buildings leading away from the harbor that was the focal point of rich a fishing and shipbuilding economy.

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You can still see majestic and romantic tall ships moored on the town's waterfront, and hear the stories. Especially about the fabled Bluenose. This is the homeport of the Bluenose II, the replica of the original local fishing boat that was undefeated in 18 years as a racing schooner.

While you're in Nova Scotia, don't miss: The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. It's a week-long event held every summer in Halifax celebrating Nova Scotia's Scottish and military traditions. It began to mark the visit of the Queen Mother to Nova Scotia for the first International Gathering of the Clans with bagpipes, highland dancers and military traditions. Hundreds of Canadian and international military and civilian performers makes it the world's largest annual indoor show; granted Royal status by the Queen.

Bay of Fundy National Park - New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

The Bay of Fundy is the site of a record-breaking marine phenomenon, part of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve, and a Dark-Sky Reserve. The tides in the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world – as high as a 5-storey building! Local Mi'kmaq folklore attributed the dramatic tides to a giant whale splashing; it's actually a result of the bay's particular shape. The twice-daily tides see a flow of 115 billion tonnes of water flowing in and out of the bay.

You'll also want to experience local dinosaur fossil finds exposed by the extreme tides, hiking, sea kayaking, tidal rafting, and whale watching, including the rare right whale.

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While you're in New Brunswick, don't miss…Confederation Bridge, part of the Trans Canada highway, connecting mainland New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island since 1997. You'll be driving 13 km across the largest bridge in the world that crosses ice- covered waters.

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Prince Edward Island National Park and Green Gables

Canada's smallest province has one of its most beloved sites. 60 km (37 miles) of Prince Edward Island's signature red rock and sand shoreline. Seven swimming beaches, hiking and cycling trails, and camping grounds join protected white sand dunes, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, and nesting areas for endangered coastal wildlife.

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While you're there, don't miss... Green Gables, the house that was the childhood inspiration for the internationally beloved Anne of Green Gables stories by local author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

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Quebec City - Quebec

Many people say walking through Old Quebec is like a visit to Europe without the jet lag. The only walled city in North America and the oldest city north of Mexico, the historic district of Quebec City, dating from 1608, is a National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, first city in North America to receive designation.

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Although the magnificent hotel Chateau Frontenac dominates the skyline, perched in Upper Town's 100 meter high cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence, it is a mere hundred or so years old compared with Upper and Lower Towns' 17th century walls, fortifications, Citadel, winding cobbled streets with shops, restaurants, Plains of Abraham.

While you're in Quebec City, don't miss… The Winter Carnival, one of the biggest in the world, and all the more dramatic in snow covered historic streets. There are masquerade balls in the grand ballroom of the Chateau Frontenac, an Ice Palace, snow sculpture parks, a bikini snow bath, day and night parades led by 'Bonhomme' de Neige ('snowman') the ambassador and mascot of the festivities with his red cap and early voyageur knit belt. And plenty of French joie de vivre.

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Rideau Canal - Ontario

This feat of incredible engineering in the early 1800's began with military intent, but nowadays has become a top recreational boating destination. Following the war of 1812 with the United States, British military engineers came up with plans to forge a vital water route for over 200 km (126 miles) from Kingston on Lake Ontario north to Ottawa. Workers labored to carve the waterway through dense wilderness and solid rock of the Canadian Shield. They also built 45 locks to take vessels up and down elevations in the terrain along the way through rivers, lakes and man-made canal.

The Rideau Canal is a glorious boat trip through pastoral plains, cottage communities and remote, sheer rock cliffs all the way to downtown Ottawa and past Canada's majestic Parliament Buildings.

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Don't miss… Boating the length of the canal in the summer months, taking a canoe tour of the Ottawa portion of the canal, or skating on it in the winter. In downtown Ottawa, in the shadow of historic hotel Chateau Laurier and Canada's Parliament buildings, 8 km of the canal becomes the world's longest skating rink every winter.

Wapusk National Park - Manitoba

It's over a 2 hour flight or two days by train from Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba, the gateway to Wapusk. For anyone who makes the trip in mid winter, it's worth it to reach one of the last places in the world to see tiny polar bear cubs getting their start in the world.

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Wapusk means 'White Bear', and this part of Canada is known the world over as the polar bear capital. Nearly three million acres of the park are the seasonal home of a thousand polar bears returning from summer roaming through the tundra back to new Arctic ice, joined by moose, wolves, foxes, and herd of thousands of caribou. Polar bears are gorgeous but dangerous; access to the park is only through licensed operators of guided trips to this famous refuge.

While you're in Manitoba, don't miss…Winnipeg's Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Opening in 2014 to national and international attention, the museum is architecturally compelling, with geometry and colors based on images of the Canadian landscape. It's also intellectually challenging, highlighting personal stories and stimulating debate about how to define its subject matter.

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Wood Buffalo National Park - Alberta and Northwest Territories

The largest of Canada's National Park straddles both Alberta and the Northwest Territories for nearly 45,000 acres – it's bigger than Switzerland! It needs to be that large – it provides enough territory in its muskeg and tundra for the long term preservation of the world's largest herd of free roaming Bison.

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The park is also a UNESCO world heritage site and the world's largest Dark-Sky Preserve. And in spite of its remote location, the park can be reached and visited by car.

Banff National Park – Alberta

Canada's first National Park dates back to 1885, and scenes of the turquoise waters of Lake Louise surrounded by a distinctly Canadian alpine landscape have been famously depicted on postcards sent around the world ever since. Snow topped mountains, glaciers and icefields, the western resort town of Banff, endless all-season outdoor activities and the hot springs that started in all keep visitors coming back to this park in the Rocky Mountains year round. The breathtaking Icefields Parkway connects Lake Louise to Jasper National Park further north.

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While you're in Banff, don't miss… a cocktail at the Banff Springs Hotel in the lounge with picture windows over Lake Louise. The view really does make a perfect custom cocktail taste even better!

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site - British Columbia

Spearheaded by the Haida Nation to stop logging on their historic lands, Gwaii Haanas now protects an archipelago of 138 (formerly Queen Charlotte) islands off the coast of British Columbia. It totals 5000 square km of land and sea – one of the only places in the world protected from the depths of the ocean in deep fjords to rugged mountain tops. 90% of the land is forest, with mountains draining into dozens of freshwater lakes and salmon-spawning streams. The seas are a 'primary feeding habitat' of humpback whales; Gwaii Haanas is remote and only accessible by boat, sea kayak, or floatplane.

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While you're in British Columbia, don't miss… Victoria Harbour, one of the most picturesque harbors in the country. Originally used by First Nations, the harbor now bustles with recreational vessels and small cruise ships, mooring in the center of this scenic heritage city famous for its continuing British tone. Historic buildings frame the lively waterfront and line the walkable streets. The harbor is the epicenter of thriving eco-tourism and whale watching tour activities.

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Falling for Small-Batch Spirits in Niagara

Plan a trip to Ontario’s Niagara region, and your list may include the iconic Falls (top photo credit), world-class theater at the Shaw Festival, fine dining inspired by the region’s orchards, most definitely a wine tasting, especially Niagara's famous ice-wine.

Visitors have another way to taste the fruit of those vines in a most unexpected way. BestTrip.TV's Lynn Elmhirst Meets the Maker: Master Distiller Geoff Dillon.

Local small-batch distiller Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin 22 is a true product of Niagara: grape-based, and enhanced by the flavors of 22 other botanicals. Silky smooth, intriguingly complex, using it, my simple gin and tonic was reborn as a sophisticated summer sipper.

But wait… a grape based gin?

Unfiltered Gin 22 is one of three signature spirits Dillon’s launched when they opened their Niagara-region distillery in 2012, along with their Method 95 Vodka, White Rye, and a line of 6 bitters.

Only a year after opening, all three spirits were awarded medals (bronze, silver, and gold respectively) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, ‘the highest you can go’ says proud Master Distiller Geoff Dillon, who seems bashful about such rapid success.

Dillon’s is riding the concurrent waves of a cocktail revolution and the local and crafted food movement. But Geoff attributes innovation – a willingness to experiment to make unique products, like gin from grapes instead of grains – to the attention their spirits and bitters are attracting.

That innovation is at the heart of the Dillon’s distillery. Geoff’s father, Peter, is the botanical expert and experimenter. It’s a natural extension for the environmental chemist and life-long ‘foodie’.

Geoff started a career in finance, but then took a fork in the road to attend the esteemed Artisan Distilling Program at Michigan State University and study with whisky distillers in Scotland in preparation for launching Dillon’s.

‘The science of distilling is pretty easy. The art is hard. Every day is an experiment.’

To craft their award-winning spirits, the father-son team combines the benefits of old school pot stills with modern technology – and source the best ingredients.

Niagara – best known for its wine -- was the ‘ideal’ place to launch a small-batch distillery. Fruit, grapes and botanicals can all be sourced locally.

The grapes they distill come from growers who have surplus. Dillon’s and local vintners are mutually supportive in other ways too. There's long-established wine tourism in the Niagara region. Existing local wineries have embraced the 'new kid on the block'. Dillon's and wineries send visitors to each other, and the result is an even richer Niagara wine and spirits experience.

Tasting

With its stylishly designed tasting room and stacks of ageing barrels, Dillon's is right at home among the area’s scenic vineyards. If you drop by for a distillery tour and tasting, you may well get to meet Geoff yourself. He often conducts the tours.

‘I love the tours, having so much fun with people, educating them… most people don’t even truly know what a distillery IS! It blows people away every time!

‘This opens a whole new world for them.’

Dillon's shared a couple of their favorite cocktail recipes. I added my own tips and serving recommendations to complete your taste-of-Niagara cocktail party.

Dillon’s Spiced Pear Collins

For each drink:

• 1 ½ oz Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin 22
• 1 ½ oz pear puree
• ¾ oz rosemary & clove simple syrup
• ¾ oz lemon juice
• Soda water
• Sprig rosemary

Over ice, combine Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin 22, pear puree, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until chilled. Pour into a highball or rocks glass. Top with a small splash of sparkling wine or soda water and garnish with rosemary.

Rosemary and Clove Simple Syrup

• ½ c sugar
• ½ c water
• 1 oz whole cloves
• 3 sprigs rosemary

Combine in a saucepan over low heat. When it reaches a boil, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain into a jar and store in the refrigerator. Should make enough for approximately 5 cocktails.

Pear Puree

• 2 pears, peeled and pitted

• 1 ½ oz lemon juice
• 1 ½ t fresh rosemary

Slice the pears and combine with lemon juice and rosemary in a blender. Blend until smooth; gently strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and discard any solids. You will have roughly 1 cup of puree, which makes about 5 cocktails.

Tip: the puree can be frozen in an ice cube tray and then stored in an airtight contained in the freezer to be used for individual cocktails in the future.

Serve this cocktail with room temperature brie and toasted walnuts drizzled with local honey; a magical combination with pear!

Dillon’s Mulled Rye Cider

For 4 Servings:

  • 30 oz apple cider
  • 24 dashes Dillon’s DSB bitters
  • ½ T whole allspice
  • ½ T whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • 1 ½ inch thick slice peeled fresh ginger
  • 6 oz Dillon’s White Rye
  • Fresh apple for garnish

Combine cider, bitters, and spices in a pot on the stove; bring to a simmer and keep on low.
Pour 1 ½ oz Dillon’s White Rye per serving into 4 favorite mugs or cocktail glasses and fill with the mulled cider. Garnish with an apple slice and serve.

Tip: Cut thin discs of apples through the center – equator – of an apple. The resulting slice features the lovely star shaped centre of the apple core.

Serve on game night with a casual supper of ribbons of ham, sliced apples, and Vidalia onions all sauteed together with salt and pepper on fresh buns smeared with coarse mustard.

Cheers!

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Video: Fogo Island Inn: Daring Design meets Ancient Fishing Community

In colorful Newfoundland turn of phrase, you might say that Fogo Island is far away from far away. The island is remote; only accessible by ferries and helicopter flights that defy dramatic weather and waves to drop visitors on a a rocky outpost in the North Atlantic that until recently was a centuries-old, declining fishing community. This is not where you might expect to find a hotel that has won world-wide acclaim for its architecture, experience, social responsibility, and design.

Designer Karen Sealy and BestTrip.TV visited the extraordinary Fogo Island Inn to see what happens when local maritime craftsmanship meets 21st century global design.

Start your Trip!

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Carnival Vista 'Taps' into Home Port Flavors for American Craft Beer Week

The first brewery on board a North American-based ship introduces Miami Guava Wheat Beer.

Carnival Vista's RedFrog Pub & Brewery gets into the spirit of American Craft Beer Week with a limited edition brew inspired by its home port.

Miami Guava Wheat Beer is a uniquely local flavor inspired by tropical South Florida. The beer's light body and palate-pleasing notes of tangy pink guava are not only tropical and refreshing, but include the primary ingredient in Miami’s ever-popular guava pastries.

Carnival Vista's brewmaster Colin Presby, inspired by Miami's access to tropical fruit and thriving Cuban culinary scene to create the brew, tapped into the first keg in a ceremony to launch the beer. Guests can enjoy their favorite beverage and at the same time celebrate the Vista's home port, as well as the American craft brewing tradition and the latest brewing trends.

If craft beer is the beverage you prefer to whet your whistle, but you miss Miami Guava Wheat Beer's limited run at the Vista's RedFrog Pub & Brewery on your next cruise, you can always try one of its three other craft beers. ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA with aromatic, floral and hoppy notes and tropical and citrus overtones; ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat, an unfiltered wheat beer with flavors of orange and spices; and FriskyFrog Java Stout, a take on a traditional stout, rich and creamy with hints of coffee, are all brewed only on board the ship.

The craft brewery experience joins the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, the New England-inspired Seafood Shack, Far Eastern cuisine at JiJi Asian Kitchen, traditional high-end steakhouse dining at Fahrenheit 555, and family-style Italian culinary experiences at the ship's Cucina del Capitano.

The Carnival Vista isn't just breaking ground in at-sea brewing. It's also home to a one-of-a-kind SkyRide airborne bicycle ride and also the first cruise ship IMAX Theatre.

Plenty of new experiences to toast with one of those craft beers.

Start your Trip!

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Why scramble around outdoors in spring rain or snow for a chocolate bunny or some foil-wrapped chocolate eggs... when you could be in France, watching (and smelling!) chocolate fashion parading down the catwalk? 

That's just one of the delicious experiences BestTrip.TV had when we visited the elegantly-named Salon du Chocolat, an annual event in Paris celebrating all things chocolate. 

The chocolate costumes are not for eating, but most everything else is. You'll find tastings, edible art, and an incredible display of things you never imagined could be done with the world's most popular confection (jewelry! sculpture!). 

Treat your inner chocoholic to the best event ever, in one of the most celebrated culinary and fashion destinations in the world.  And please stop eating your kids' chocolate bunnies. 

Start your Trip!

 

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How the Whole Family can Savor a Disney Vacation: At its Food & Wine Fest

Sometimes grownups need to trade spinning teacups for grownup culinary experiences. How do celebrity chefs, winemaker dinners, beer tasting seminars and irresistible cuisine sound?

All photos: Disney California Adventure

If you think you might want to balance kids' Goofy with your inner foodie, one of the best times of year to visit Disney might be during its Food & Wine Festival, when you can enjoy the park and culinary experiences for kids and adults alike.

The Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival jump-starts spring with hundreds of gastronomic adventures and delicious flavors from across the Golden State. It runs this year from March 10th til April 16th (the Florida park has a similar festival later in the year.)

Highlights for the whole, multi-generational family trip include more than a dozen marketplaces open every day, an entire menu of daily culinary demonstrations and tastings, plus beer, wine and spirits seminars, music everywhere, delicious food, and fun crafts created especially for younger guests.

Celebrity chefs scheduled to appear during the Festival include Guy Fieri, Robert Irvine, Cat Cora, Duff Goldman, Emily Ellyn and Keegan Gerhard.

Children ages 3 to 11 may join in the fun with the popular complimentary Junior Chef experience (led by Chef Goofy, and available on a first-come, first-seated basis), and the Jammin’ Chefs, who serve up tasty rhythms with pots and pans that really get cooking with the help of sous chefs Chip ‘n Dale.

Many of the Festival events are included with admission to Disney California Adventure. Guests who want to add the Signature Events may purchase separate tickets at an additional fee for:

  • “In the Kitchen with …” on Saturdays from 6-7 pm: Each Celebrity Chef will lead a 60-minute culinary demonstration and Q&A followed by an autograph session. The experience includes a tasting of some of the prepared dishes.
  • Sweet Sundays on select Sundays from 10:30- noon: A 90-minute culinary demonstration focuses on the sweet side of the culinary arts. Following a light breakfast and a sparkling toast, the Guest Chef for that day will demonstrate up to three recipes. Guests will enjoy samples from the chefs.
  • Winemaker Dinners and Brewmaster Dinners on Thursdays from 6:30 to 9 pm: A four-course dinner features wines and winemakers or beers and brewmasters. Wine or beer selections will be paired with courses created by the Disney Executive Chef Team and each winemaker or brewmaster will speak on the libation and the pairing.

Additional ticketed programs include:

  • Culinary Demonstrations (presented daily throughout the Festival) – Guests will enjoy 30-minute culinary demonstrations presented by local, visiting and Disney chefs. Each demo will focus on a single recipe, ingredient or cooking style. Guests will receive a tasting sample of the dish prepared.
  • Wine, Beer or Spirits Education and Tasting Seminars (presented daily throughout the Festival) – Beverage seminars presented by industry experts will enlighten guests who want to learn more about their favorite spirits. Each 30- to 45-minute seminar will focus on a specific beverage type, region or label, and guests will enjoy tasting samples of some of the beverages discussed.

We think the food festival might be the best way to create delectable memories for the whole family on a Disney vacation.

Start your Trip!

 

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Video: Meet the Wine Maker in the 'Tuscany of Austria' on the Danube

There's a magical stretch of the Danube river that some call the 'Tuscany of Austria'.


Hills rise in the mist above the Wachau valley, and for 25 miles between fairy tale towns of ornate, pastel colored historic buildings, wineries line the river banks and hillsides.


The 'Wachau Cultural Landscape' - its architectural and agricultural heritage - are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Abbey in the town of Melk, Durnstein, where English King Richard the Lion-Heart was held captive en route from the Crusades, and Krems are unique gems of Austria's countryside.


As these river-side towns historically were connected by and built up from the river that was the best form of transportation at the time, it's a region best visited by river cruise. Our AMAWaterways Danube river cruise on the AMACerto brought us right to the doorstep of this legendary destination. And to one of the famous wineries that attract foodies and wine-lovers from around the world for its signature gruner veltliner wines.


BestTrip.TV disembarks our ship to visit the Winzer Krems vineyard, where the vintner's tour reveals the winery's history, delicious and famous white wines, as well as an exciting new taste for interactive, modern art in an historic setting.


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Vegan meets Michelin-star Dining on Hapag-Lloyd Luxury Cruises

If you associate modern German culture with a focus on health and world-leading quality, it will be no surprise to learn that small-ship German cruise line Hapag-Lloyd now has a first-class vegetarian and vegan dining option.

Its Europa 2 is the height of small-ship casual luxury (no ties!).  Only 500 guests share a yachting / exclusive resort atmosphere that's been awarded 5+ stars by Berlitz' Cruise Guide 2017.

With flexible mealtimes, no fixed seating plans and plenty of tables for two, gastronomy on board the EUROPA 2 is all about variety and flexibility. For only 500 guests, there are an astonishing seven restaurants to choose from, including the main Weltmeere restaurant, a sushi bar and three specialty restaurants offering French, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.

Now, as more luxury cruise travelers than ever - both Europeans and North Americans - are looking for ways to stay healthy and follow wellness lifestyles even when traveling, dining on the premiere ship Europa 2' has expanded vegetarian and vegan offerings:

·       New: Expansion of the vegetarian menu

·       More than 80 diverse dishes

·       Partnership with Michelin-starred chef Michael Hoffmann

Working alongside Europa 2’s own chef de cuisine, top chef Michael Hoffmann developed a menu exclusively for the 5-stars-plus luxury ship, inspired by his own vegetarian cuisine. Thanks to high demand, the selection has now been expanded to give Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ guests an even wider choice of vegetarian dishes.

First-class Vegetarian and Vegan menus:

For those passengers who like to eat vegetarian food, each restaurant offers a special menu to reflect the restaurant’s culinary style.

There is also a changing menu of vegetarian dishes served at lunchtime and in the evenings at the Yacht Club, the popular, buffet-style restaurant on board the luxury ship.

These have been developed together with Michael Hoffmann. Best known as the former CEO and proprietor of the Michelin-starred Margaux restaurant in Berlin (from 2003 to 2014), Hoffmann set new standards in terms of the sustainability and ethics of cooking with his vegetarian cuisine.

The high level of demand on board the Europa 2 is proof that his vegetarian dishes are very popular with guests who can't always find premium quality vegan and vegetarian cuisine when they travel. With more than 80 different dishes, discerning vegan and vegetarian cruise guests can now enjoy even more variety on their culinary voyage of discovery.

Part of a Holistic, European Approach to Wellness:

Vegan and vegetarian gastronomy is complemented by a disproportionately vast spa/health space on the Europa 2.

Over 800 square meters/8600 square feet of health center and spa on one deck of the ship.

And so that you never forget where you are, you'll always have a fantastic view of the open sea.

Start your Trip!

 

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Who's the Best Bartender at Sea?

2500 entries.  13 cruise lines.  All competing for the title of 2017 Bacardi Legacy Cruise Competition Bartender of the Year.

The finals took place in Miami in February in a live competition judged by a panel of cocktail and spirits experts, held at award-winning restaurant Alter in Miami’s hip Wynwood neighborhood.  

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Wade Cleophas came out on top of the 'spirited' competition, and now wears the crown of Bartender of the Year.

Wade’s winning creation is the ‘Legend Reviver’ - inspired by classic cocktails with spices reminiscent of traveling to exotic places - featuring Bacardi Ocho Anos, mixed with star anise-infused sweet vermouth, caramel/cinnamon syrup with drops of whisky barrel aged bitters and finished with a mist of Absinthe.  As we like to say, 'Tastes like another!'

His perfectly presented cocktail was artistically finished off with a garnish resembling the sails of a merchant ship and the wings of the Bacardi bat.

A key element of the competition was the requirement for finalists to promote their cocktail around the world.  In the three months that Wade was promoting Legend River Reviver, Norwegian sold almost 2000 servings of the specialty drink. We think that's a strong vote for Wade's creative mixology.

Wade began his bartending career over 12 years ago, starting out in his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa, progressing to work with many leading bartenders in Dubai and Miami, before joining Norwegian Cruise Line.

Wade will now move on to The Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition in May in Berlin.  It's a global search to find a cocktail that can stand the test of time to become a true Bacardi classic; a cocktail that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with cocktails of legends, such as heritage classics like the Daiquiri or Mojito.

In the meantime, you might be able to sidle up to the bar to taste his magic with a cocktail shaker; Wade is the Assistant Beverage Manager onboard Norwegian Escape, sailing weekly from Miami to the Caribbean.

Start your Trip!

 

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