American World Traveler Spring 2020 Issue

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Now in our 18th year of publishing, American World Traveler explores the culture and history of worldwide destinations, sharing the adventure of discovery with our readers and motivating them to make their travel dreams a reality. Published quarterly, AWT helps sophisticated, independent American travelers choose their next destination by offering a lively blend of intelligent, informative articles and tantalizing photographic images from our World’s best destinations, cruises, accommodations and activities to suit every traveler's taste.

Croatia Japan South Africa Costa Rica Florida

A M E R I C A N

Traveler

W O R L D

Already 18 Years

Spring 2020

Where to Next ?

C o m e W i t h U s & S e e T h e W o r l d !


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Publisher

Michael Morcos

Editor-in-chief

Greg James

Contributing Editor

David J. Cox

Graphic Department

Al Cheong

Advertising Department

Leo Santini

Marketing Department

Tania Tassone

Distribution

Royce Dillon

Senior Travel Writers:

Susan Campbell

Steve Gillick

Regular Contributors:

Habeeb Salloum

Jennifer Merrick

Olivia Balsinger

Mike Cohen

Ilona Kauremszky

Natalie Ayotte

Jasmine Morcos

Daniel Smajovits

Cherie DeLory

Lisa TE Sonne

Alexandra Cohen

Jessica Percy Campbell

Mathieu Morcos

Gregory Caltabanis

Anne-Marie Macloughlin

Janice Mucalov

IIn this issue, we start our world-wide

tour in Japan with ‘A Refreshing Visit

to Tokyo’s Miyakejima Island’ before

we head to the city itself to experience some

of the best this metropolis has to offer. While

in Asia, we go to Vietnam to discover the

beautiful Halong Bay with Paradise Cruises.

Next, we jet-off to Europe for some wideranging

adventures. We start in the little visited

city of Kiev and find out it has lots to

offer travelers. Next we go to Croatia to find

out why it is one Europe’s most popular destinations

before heading to Mont Blanc,

France, to hike through some breathtaking

trails. Finally, we go to Budapest to take

another fantastic Viking cruise, this time on

the Danube to experience some Christmas

market magic.

To Africa we go, first for another cruise, this

time it is on the mighty Nile to discover magnificent

temples and monuments and to see

how the locals live. On the other side of this

content, we head to South Africa and view its

magnificent wildlife at Kruger National Park.

In the Americas, we head to New York City

to take in a Broadway play and then some

humor at a local comedy club. Heading

west, we first go to Wisconsin for the wonderful

‘Cherry Orchards, Light Houses and

Shoreline’ before heading way north to

experience some amazing scenery and

wildlife on a cruise with Uncrusie

Adventures.

To the complete other end of the USA, we

find an assortment of amazing things to see

and do in Central Florida. From here we

climb abound for a delightful Holland

America cruise to the Caribbean. While in

the area, we head to Costa Rica for yet more

wildlife sightings and then for rest and relaxation

‘Finding Pura Vida in Puntarenas’.

Happy Travels!

Disclaimer: World Traveler has made every effort to

verify that the information provided in this publication

is as accurate as possible. However, we accept

no responsibility for any loss, injury, or inconvenience

sustained by anyone resulting from the information

contained herein nor for any information

provided by our advertisers.


Destinations

Crusing Section

36

South Africa 8 Japan 10

Croatia 12 Wisconsin 64

Cruise News

Viking

Paradise Cruises

Uncruise

Nile Cruise

Holland America

Stay & Play - 52

Costa Rica 66 Florida 68

Kiev

Curacao Marriott Beach Resort

Around the World 14


8

Kruger National Park: A Journey into the Wild

Article and photography by Daniel Smajovits

Since 2004, Ezrom Mathumbu’s office

has been the 20,000 square kilometers

that comprises South Africa’s

Kruger National Park.

While Ezrom, who is one of Kruger’s senior

hospitality managers, is very welcoming to the

thousands of guests that pass through Satara

Rest Camp on a daily basis, an electric fence

is in place to keep all those pesky neighbours

away. For good reason too: these neighbours

aren’t stopping by for a cup of coffee, as just

outside Satara’s fence are a few prides of

lions, coalitions of cheetahs and leaps of

leopards. Further in the distance? A few herds

of elephants and towers of giraffes.

Needless to say, during our visit to Kruger, we

were glad Ezrom had just paid his electricity

bill.

Evident from the onset of our visit to Kruger

was the hospitality displayed by Ezrom and all

the staff from South Africa’s National Parks

Service (SANParks). Their main goal, other

than ensuring everyone’s safety, is ensuring

that visitors from around the world experience

the best of what South Africa has to offer on

what is often a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Larger than the State of Israel and home to

the Big Five: elephants, buffalos, rhinoceroses,

leopards and lions, Kruger National Park

welcomes over one million visitors per year. It

is for those one million reasons that the South

African government and the National Parks

Service ensures that the park remains accessible

for all types of travelers.

Depending on the length of your stay in South

Africa, getting to Kruger National Park has

never been easier. While some guests might

make the five-hour drive from Johannesburg,

it is much easier to hop on a flight into one of

the nearby airports: Nelspruit (KMI),

Hoedspruit (HDS) and Phalaborwa (PHW).

Much smaller Skukuza airport is located within

Kruger itself, with South African Airways

operating a daily flight between Cape Town


and Johannesburg. Each airport has rental

car facilities for you to begin your safari (journey)

immediately.

Even for the most experienced of drivers, getting

behind the wheel in Kruger is an experience

unto itself. Nonetheless, despite the

occasional elephant traffic jam, renting a car

and navigating the park at your leisure is

unquestionably the best way to experience this

adventure to the fullest. A self-drive through

the park allows you the freedom and flexibility

to stop for a minute or an hour to gaze at

the animals in their natural habitat. As only

park rangers have the ability to drive off

marked roads, so whether you’re with a private

guide or on your own, the views will be

the same.

As with most wildlife-centered trips, luck plays

a role. It is impossible to predict the type of

game you will see, if any. Technology, such as

WT Photo Library

the Latest Sightings app allows users to

enhance the safari experiences of others by

posting animal sightings and activity in realtime.

Each rest camp also has a board where

guests can mark sightings as well. While lowtech,

the board gives guests clues as to where

the animals have congregated in past days.

Since the average game-drive will keep you in

your car for hours at a time, Kruger is home

to both five-star private lodges (min.

$1,000/night) to the most pedestrian of tents

(min. $50/night). Regardless of accommodations,

sleeping within the confines of Kruger is

critical to maximize game viewing. Guests

staying in the park are allowed to begin and

end their game drives up to one hour earlier

or later than those coming in for the day. This

extra time allows you to beat the traffic and

find the best viewing spots.

Each camp offers a variety of lodging, from

the tents to clean, private bungalows with en

suite bathrooms (min. $150/night).

Furthermore, most camps have a full-service

restaurant and an on-site convenience store.

As the majority of guests opt to braai (barbeque)

their own meals, stores are stocked

with a variety of fresh and frozen foods as well

as fruits and vegetables. The largest campsite,

Skukuza, looks more like a mini village than a

typical camp. Included within its confines is

the aforementioned airport, gas station,

restaurant, library, a conference centre and

even a 9-hole golf course. Travelers often

begin or end their journeys here, making it

the most popular campsite.

Although squeezing in a quick 9-holes might

signal the start of a good day for some, we

recommend to begin each day with a rangerled

game drive. As animals are most active in

the early morning and evening, park run vehicles

are the only way to experience the environment

during the periods when the gates

are closed to the general public. Despite

spending your day on a game drive of your

own, guests occasionally overlook the excursions

conducted by the park rangers. Driving

traditional open-air vehicles, most major

camp sites offer drives at sunrise, sunset and

in the evening, in addition to bush walks.

Rangers undergo two years of training and

often have many more years of experience,

evident by their ability to spot and track

wildlife as well as answer any and all

questions. Furthermore, these drives

ensure a complete sensory experience,

as rangers often shut down their engines to

allow guests to appreciate the sounds of the

wildlife. While the occasional elephant or buffalo

traffic jam during a self-drive is thrilling

and definitely a highlight, we suggest that

guests participate in two ranger-led activities

per day to ensure the best of what Kruger has

to offer.

To truly immerse yourself in the majesty of the

park, when checking in at any of your campsites,

inquire about a bush braai. These special

excursions only take place if a minimum

of six guests are interested and offer the oncein-a-lifetime

opportunity to eat a five-star

meal under the South African stars. With only

torches lighting the way, guests dine in the

dark while listening to the sounds of wildlife.

With an armed ranger standing guard to prevent

any unwanted dinner guests, the bush

braai will be the highlight of your trip.

For us, after four full days in Kruger National

Park, it became abundantly clear how guests

return year after year and staff like Ezrom

have yet to experience a dull moment at the

office. Whether you’re spending an hour on

the side of the road gazing at a herd of elephants

or you’re on the prowl for that elusive

leopard, the freedom and unpredictability of

the park is unmatched on earth.

With accommodations that meet all budgets

and needs, fully stocked stores, restaurants

and the abundance of wildlife, Kruger

National Park offers a life-changing experience

for individuals, couples and families.

Courtesy of the South African government, a

safari has never been more accessible and

affordable.

All accommodations and ranger-led activities

can be booked online at: www.sanparks.org.

As the park is busy throughout the year, it is

recommended to book a minimum of six

months in advance. Should you have any

questions regarding accessibility, SANParks

staff are readily available to answer any and

all questions via e-mail.

www.krugernationalpark.org.za

9

WT Photo Library

American World Traveler Spring 2020


10

A Refreshing Visit to Tokyo’s Miyakejima Island

Article and photography by Steve Gillick

Tokyo bound travellers are in for a

hot time! Surprising adventures

await on Miyakejima Island where

visitors come face-to-face with the Island’s

astounding volcanic scenery.

Our Island guide, Ms. Hitomi Kikuchi noted

that Ebisu, one of the seven Japanese

Happy Gods, and the god of fishermen is

associated with the Izu Islands in Tokyo

Prefecture. “Every time there’s a volcanic

eruption, it can be interpreted as a religious

event because it means that the god is present”.

And it follows that Miyakejima should

be truly blessed as it is the most active of all

the Izu islands!

We had a wonderful preview of volcanic

splendour on our 55-minute flight to

Miyakejima from Tokyo’s small Chofu

Airport, when our 19-passenger Dornier

228-212 aircraft passed right by Mt. Fuji,

with its white symmetrical cone showcased

against the backdrop of a deep blue sky. But

while Mt Fuji has been dormant since 1707,

the last volcanic activity on Miyakejima was

in the year 2000 with three prior eruptions

occurring roughly 20 years apart in 1983,

1962 and 1940.

When we asked about tourism on the island,

Hitomi-san explained that she was originally

from Nara but in 1999 she came to

Miyakejima as an instructor for the “swim

with wild dolphins” program. She fell in love

with the Island’s natural and seasonal

attractions: In Spring, Miyakejima is a birders

paradise; Summer is prime time for

swimming, fishing and diving to see the

coral reefs, and Winter activities include

trekkiing and ocean fishing “right off the

shore”. Other Islanders chimed in to mention

favourite past times that included participation

in the Matsuri (the seasonal festivals),

Taiko (drumming), Jogging, surfing

and biking. In fact, each November the

“WERIDE” endurance race near Shichito

Observatory attracts over 130 bicycle racers

from all parts of Japan and overseas.


For visitors, touring around Miyakejima’s 28

kilometer (17.4 miles) circumference leads to

scenic beaches, crashing waves, shrines and

‘geo spots’, that bear witness to a violent volcanic

past. Excellent explanatory signage in

both Japanese and English, is available at

every geo spot; something that positively

supplemented the engaging information

provided by Hitomi-san.

The volcanic eruption in 2000 resulted in the

evacuation of the entire island due to mudslides,

ash and gas, and it has only been

since 2015 that island life has returned to

“fully normal”. Our first interaction with the

effects of that eruption was at the Shiitori

Shrine, just north of the airport. A vermilion

torii gate stands in front of a small shrine

while in the background, bare, dead-white

trees poke through recent green foliage. But

then our guide pointed to what appeared to

be a white log and noted the photos on the

nearby sign that showed how mudslides had

completely swallowed the original torii gate

and the ‘white log’ was in fact the lintel (top

bar) of that torii gate. The rest was underground.

And an even more poignant geo spot is the

Ako Lava Trail where visitors traverse a

boardwalk built over the now rough, sharp

lava stones, that in liquid form, engulfed

most of Ako Hot Spring Village in October

1983. Roughly 340 houses were destroyed.

The Trail goes right by the school that was

buried in lava, almost to the roof.

Most of the Geo Spots educate visitors about

the island landscape that was so dramatically

altered by volcanic activity. Mt. Hyotan

(Hyotanyama) lies in a bleak desert-like

landscape of grey/black soil with dashes of

yellow scrub brush. But as we hiked up the

hill, we could see the red soil crater with

hardened lava shapes resembling contemporary

art. On one side there was the white

surf and blue waters of the Pacific Ocean

while on the other side was a verdant forest

with low, rugged mountains in the distance.

Hyotanyama was created in one day during

the 1940 volcanic eruption. The observation

point on nearby Mt. Sanshichi created by the

1962 eruption, overlooks the Hyotanyama

crater, highlighting contrasting colours of

black, red and brown soil with the azure sky

and ocean. This spot has been listed as one

of the 100 Views of New Tokyo. It’s quite

spectacular.

Nippana Shinzan was also created in one

night during the 1983 eruption. We had to

hold on to our baseball caps as we hiked up

the black rock hill due an invigorating warm

wind. Technically called a pyroclastic cone (a

hill made of volcanic rocks and ash), the

dramatic shape of the ‘cone’ with its black

and red rocks and resembling a man-made

fortification, is absolutely amazing.

And again we held our hats tightly as we

stood on the summit of Shichito Observatory,

a mountain peak where the strong winds mix

with the beautiful, hilly, volcanic scenery. This

is part of the Ako Geo Trekking route, as well

as one of the more demanding segments of

the annual WERIDE endurance bicycle challenge.

For scenery of a different nature, we journeyed

to Tairo-ike, the largest freshwater

pond in all the Izu Islands. This area appeals

to two very special travel interests. Nearby is

Maigo-jii, a giant Chinquapin Oak tree

which is literally a crowning reward to see

for flora aficionados and members of Big

Tree associations.

And for birders, the pond area is one of the

prime venues to spot the endemic Izu Thrush

(a.k.a. Akakokko). We joined the Miyake

Nature Center staff to view birds such as the

Shichito Mejiro, the Blue Rock Thrush and

some Hiyodori (Bul Buls).

As we explored further, wonders never

seemed to cease! At Megane-iwa, ‘the eyeglass

boulder’, sunset views through the one

remaining lens, once a cave, (the other collapsed

during the Isewon Typhoon in 1959)

are on the island’s ‘must experience’ list.

Remarkable too are the dark, striking cliffs at

Toga Beach as well as Kamanoshiri Beach

where we were fortunate to spot a curious

Blue Sea Turtle who swam by and posed for

photos.

11

To a dedicated foodie, islands and oceans

mean only one thing: fresh seafood.

We enjoyed very tasty dinners and breakfasts

at our friendly hotel, the Kairaku, that

also offered wonderful sunset views of Ako

Port. But we had an appetite to explore further.

At Hikoshichi restaurant, owned by the welcoming

couple Takao and Tomiko

Watanabe, we relished a delicious lunch of

home-made soba noodles, plump shrimp

tempura, crunchy pickles and cold draft

beer. At Ikeyoshi, owned by the affable

Kimura family, we were in a state of taste

bud bliss over the incredibly fresh Chirashi

(assorted seafood on a bed of rice) with

savoury Miso soup and yet another cold

draft beer.

On the road we popped into Gyunyu

Senbei, where the third generation of the

Hiramatsu family makes delicious sweet

milk biscuits, an Island exclusive! And what

better way to indulge in the spirit of the destination

than a visit to Miyakejima Shuzo,

where wheat-based Shochu (at 25% alcohol)

is produced and sold. Free, self-serve samples

and a chat with Toji, the Shochu Master,

made for a very pleasant visit.

Exploring Miyakejima is a unique adventure

filled with astounding volcanic scenery as

well as great opportunities for photography,

birding, swimming, fishing, hiking and gastronomy.

It’s a nature-escape with a truly

refreshing difference!

www.miyakejima.gr.jp/

American World Traveler Spring 2020


C r o a t i a

Europe’s Hot Destination for 2020 and Beyond

by Olivia Balsinger


IIt seems as though the entire past

decade has been Croatia’s year, with

balmy, rugged beaches and sapphire

seawater adjacent to towering ancient walls

that store the tales of time, how could

Croatia not top every traveler’s list? Well,

the country officially deserves the spotlight

in 2020, as Croatia was named the top

“Emerging Destination” by Virtuoso travel

advisors for the new decade, honoring the

stir caused by the Game-of-Thrones effect,

dramatic landscapes, and proximity to

other European destinations. Now let’s take

a deep dive into this historical gem on the

Dalmatian Coast and explore why Croatia

should be on your shortlist, both now and

for years to come.

Split

Of course, Split—a coastal city that seamlessly

intertwines modern life and ancient

history is widely known for its lavish yacht

parties and Mediterranean climate in the

summer. What you may soon discover is

that Split is an all-season destination and

considerably quieter and more affordable

outside of July and August. In the wintertime,

the city is alive celebrating the holidays

in more temperate weather conditions.

The newly opened Cornaro Hotel is a

modern escape in the historic Old Town,

standing just feet away from Diocletian’s

Palace, where Emperor Diocletian slept

every evening after voluntarily surrendering

the throne of the Roman Empire. The

Palace today, perched on the harbor and

forming about half of Split’s Old Town, is

still vibrant with life - the Michelin-starred

restaurant Zoi, for example, is built into the

4th-century walls. If you’re a Game of

Thrones fan, prepare to be flabbergasted

at the real-life movie set you’ll wander

through in the Palace as well, even more

amplified with an official GoT guide!

Split is truly “split” between the old world

and new in juxtaposition as well. Modernday

restaurants, cafes, designer shops, and

general innovation are sprinkled into the

rich history and storied past. Between modern

Mexican cuisine at To Je Tako and

Maltese delights at Corto Maltese Freestyle

food, there are a surprising amount of

ways to taste the world in a city with a population

of less than 200,000 residents.

Dubrovnik

Another famed destination in Croatia is

Dubrovnik, the ancient jewel of baroque

architecture and limestone streets cradled

in the Dalmatian Mountains. Whether pretending

to be Cersei Lannister a la Game

of Thrones on the iconic Walk of Shame

staircase, or imagining defending the city’s

honor on the famed - and highly

Instagrammable - Walls of Dubrovnik,

imaginative travelers will have a ball in

town. The five-star Hotel Excelsior, towering

over the Adriatic and Old Town skyline, is

the ultimate retreat for tourists, walking distance

to the city’s sights, yet a refuge from

the crowds on its own with an otherworldly

spa and reclining chairs overlooking the

moody ocean underneath. (And pro tip:

purchase a room or suite facing the sea for

the most magical array of hues over the

water each night. This is the optimal view to

pair with a glass of Croatian wine!)

Dubrovnik is also emerging as an off-season

destination, as well. The mild Croatian

winter is a prime time to bask in culture,

wander the holiday markets of Old Town

and meander the main street, the Stradun,

made of limestone but sleek as marble, all

without the hoards of crowding summer

months inevitably bring. (And pro tip: If

you're lucky enough to have a few days in

Dubrovnik, take a day trip 20 kilometers

south of the city, to the idyllic resort town of

Cavat, famed for its pristine and less

touristy and crowded Adriatic beaches,

ancient Illyrian necropolises dotting the

coastline, and ample fresh seafood available.)

Rijeka

And this year there is even more reason to

visit - Rijeka, Croatia’s third-largest city and

largest port, will be honored as the

European Capital of Culture in 2020.

Rijeka has benefited from a diverse history

with Mediterranean, Eastern

13

European, and Central European

influences which has shaped its

eclectic architecture, culture, and progressive

spirit. Water and the port are the

anchoring themes of Rijeka, which are conceived

within the symbolic and historical

center of the city: its anchorage point – the

port. Cultural messages with the power to

change Europe and the world are traveling

from Rijeka - the Port of Diversity - in seven

directions.

The entire program of Rijeka 2020

European Capital of Culture comprises

about 600 events taking place in 2020. It is

divided into seven thematic blocks or flagships,

which deliver the specific messages

of the European Capital of Culture project

in Rijeka through various cultural events.

The “Sweet & Salt” flagship enables the

new architectural and urban development

of areas that will modify Rijeka by the sea

(Salt) and by the Rječina River (Sweet),

which flows through the city center. These

programs, centering on the significance of

space, show different ways in which architecture

and art open the doors of overlooked

places, create new areas for citizens

to move and meet and breathe life into

spaces that deserve to be alive. Following

the makeover, the Rijeka City Museum,

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art,

City Library, and the Children’s House will

become centerpieces of cultural life in the

city.

From its historical relevance to its crystal

blue seas, from its castles that hold the

country’s secrets in their imposing stone

walls to its modern port cities that emulate

and exemplify the European vision, Croatia

is certainly a destination to keep on your

radar now and for years to come.

www.croatia.hr

American World Traveler Spring 2020


14

Around The World

(in 22 pages)

Exploring India with Turban Adventures

by Olivia Balsinger

I usually pride myself on my ability to navigate foreign lands

solo, balancing practicality and creativity. But the first time my

partner and I visited India, we knew we needed to entrust

experts. After much research, we booked a six-day Golden

Triangle Tour with the Jaipur-based tour company, Turban

Adventures. I surrendered my pig-headed stubbornness in

logistical planning to the company and it was the best decision

we could have made.

We were picked up from the airport and brought to four-star

hotels in the comfort of our knowledgeable local driver, whose

been with Turban Adventures for ten years. Most importantly,

however, the curated and local experiences arranged by the

company brought the bright and colorful Indian culture alive

for us. We left the Taj Mahal not only with stunning photographs,

but with deep insight into the history of the marble

mausoleum. We experienced a cooking class in Jaipur with a

local family, learning invaluable lessons about each other’s

cultures. Our first foray through India was safe, clean, and,

most importantly, an authentic adventure thanks to the guidance

of Turban Adventures.

www.turbanadventures.com

China Tourism Introduces

New Brand Logo

China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) has made

“Beautiful China” the tag line of its tourism and introduced a

new global brand logo. With an overall look as a stamp, the

new logo integrates modern messaging with the ancient

Chinese art form of calligraphy. The hieroglyph in the background

means “travel” in ancient Chinese language, which shows a flag guiding a couple around.

The blue color represents the sky, delivering China tourism’s concepts - vitality, harmony and

green travel. The red color gives tribute to the Chinese civilization that has been going on for

thousands of years. Illustrating an international vision, the “Beautiful China” logo represents

China’s promising and welcoming tourism industry.

Balcony Media

Showcases Authentic Vietnam

by Olivia Balsinger

The country of Vietnam is recognized for its generous hospitality, its

diverse and eclectic topography, its spicy and fresh gastronomy,

and, of course, its recent tragic war history. A tour with Balcony

brings all of these facets of this Southeast Asian country together.

Perhaps the most iconic hotel in the entire country is The Sofitel

Legend Metropole hotel in the capital of Hanoi, where a tour with

Balcony begins. The award-winning , storied colonial property sits

gracefully in the French Quarter and quietly yet defiantly has been

pivotal to the city’s history. A tour of the hotel’s recently rediscovered

and slightly claustrophobic tunnel and bunker system, still

standing from the 1960’s war, is the best way to briefly feel the

chaotic remnants of history. Order a “Charlie Chaplin '' at The

Metropole’s famed Bamboo Bar - legend has it this combination of

gin, apricot brandy and lime juice, was this comic actor’s go-to

when he honeymooned here in 1936.

Of course, Vietnam is also known for sunnier topics than war, quite

literally. A short flight from Hanoi, locals and foreigners alike have

long retreated from the hectic, cities saturated with smells and

motorbikes to explore the pristine and still coastlines. Balcony

brings you to two distinct properties in Cam Ranh, where relaxation

and cultural integration are at the forefront. The Anam Hotel,

opened in October 2019, seamlessly integrates Vietnamese hospitality

with family-friendly activities, including a splash waterpark

and twelve swimming pools, which cascade down to the ocean.

Another choice with Balcony is a luxury stay at one of Vietnam’s

quintessential Indochine-era inspired design hotels, which honors

the local area with activities such as local cooking classes and a

buffet where mothers of the staff cook Vietnamese classics for

guests.

www.balconymediagroup.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


16

Good to Go!

Great Travel Gear and Gadgets

Our travel specialists review the best travel gear and gadgets to get you on the go better

American World Traveler Spring 2020


kayaking and a walk through the

17

woods, while at night it was perfect for

a sit-down dinner with the local folks. It

is both stylish and durable. Being made of

synthetic material means it does not stretch or

shrink. It can be washed with all my other

clothes and tumble dried on low heat.

On top of it all, it is wind and rain proof and

with a full hood, I can go into most elements

without having to carry other outerwear. The

JPN Rain Jacket has me covered on all fronts

and I love it!

Splashes of color!

Sporty, Fashionable, and Functional, Helly Hansen has it All

We asked three of our writers to review the latest Helly Hansen

outerwear and here are their reviews.

When I think of spring, I think of flowers

blooming, warmer temperatures and sounds

of birds singing and long walks. However,

there is a very well-known expression that

says, “April showers bring May flowers”.

Changing temperatures and rainy days do not

discourage me from taking long walks with

my two puppies Kenya and Maya anymore.

Finding a weather resistant coat was essential

and I found everything I needed to protect me

from the rain with the women’s Helly Hansen

Sling Moss Raincoat.

Let spring begin!

For years now, I had been looking for the perfect

hip length water-resistant jacket.

Hallelujah! I found it, the Helly Hansen EVIE

Jacket for women was perfect.

Being waterproof, I would test the EVIE jacket

by going for a walk with our family dog in the

pouring rain, purposely leaving the umbrella

behind. With the full hood up, the EVIE jacket

pulled it off by keeping me nice and dry. No

water passed through to my clothes as I

watched the water pellets roll off my jacket as

I walked. It’s also incredibly windproof, which

kept the humidity of the rain at bay.

The hood is perfect, it fits comfortably around

the head protecting your hair and face from

the elements and I found the hood stayed well

in place without using the jacket strings. For

those that need extra warmth, the bottom

flaps can be tied down to keep the cold air

out.

Another convenient feature is that you won't

need a scarf. The jacket’s strong zipper goes

all the way up to the chin, adding that extra

comfort we need when walking outdoors. This

is a two layered jacket, and Helly Hansen

added back ventilation, to accommodate for

those warmer days. So go ahead, and brave

the elements! I just love my new EVIE Jacket

and highly recommend it to all my friends.

Love at first sight!

No hiding it, I am a big fan of Helly Hansen,

and I am on my third Jacket now. The latest

one – the men’s JPN Rain Jacket, is versatile

and perfect for a host of many outdoor occasions.

I bring these beauties on my worldwide

adventures and really appreciate their functionality.

I could go out for social gatherings without

being over or underdressed. On my last trip to

Hill country in Texas, I would find it practical in

many diverse ways. Daytime, it was used for

My favourite thing about this jacket is that they

inspired their limited collection from Sling, an

Oslo based spray painter and artist, by using

clean lines and neon colours. Although this

jacket has a minimalist style, it is super bright

and colourful while being fully waterproof. In

order to prevent excessive heating while wearing

the coat, they integrated slats in the back

to help with breathability.

It also has two external pockets useful to hold

small essentials and a big hood to keep your

hair dry. Although rain and wind has always

been an obstacle during long walks, my new

HH jacket has come to the rescue offering me

both comfort, quality and great design. I highly

recommend it.

Whether it is a night on the town, a business

meeting, light actives or extreme

sports, Helly Hansen has you covered.

www.hellyhansen.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


Intrepid Travel Unveils Its Annual 'Not Hot List'

Home to magnificent birdlife, pristine beach

getaways, and lush tropical woodlands,

Gambia just goes to show that size isn’t everything.

In response to this growing demand,

Intrepid Travel has launched its Senegal & The

Gambia Expedition.

Greenland - As the number of operators

going to Spitsbergen is on the rise, Greenland

is a great alternative to experience the beauty

of the Arctic Circle. The world’s largest noncontinental

island, where fewer than 60,000

people live, is a literal breath of fresh air.

When Trump expressed interest in buying the

country, Intrepid saw a spike in traffic - as

high as 237% - to its Greenland web pages.

One of the few places left on Earth that can be

described as truly wild, icebergs tower instead

of skyscrapers, and tiny settlements on the

coast still rely on subsistence fishing to survive.

Intrepid Travel just launched their

Greenland Expedition, its first dedicated landbased

tour of the country.

Sudan

Combating the escalating issue of overtourism,

Intrepid Travel, the world’s

largest adventure travel company, is

releasing its annual ‘Not Hot List,’ which highlights

a selection of lesser-discovered destinations

that deserve the spotlight - from

Canada’s Haida Gwaii Islands, the

‘Galapagos of the North,’ to Indonesia’s Tana

Toraja Trek for going beyond Bali’s beaches.

The world’s largest B Corp certified travel

company ensures all of its tours are led by

local leaders who can guide travelers away

from crowds. On a larger scale, Intrepid

Travel also regularly makes changes to its itineraries

and launches new products to introduce

travelers to new communities in a sustainable

way, aiming to alleviate the negative

impacts of tourism while still spreading its

economic benefit. There’s no reason travel

can’t enrich local communities, instead of

overwhelming them.

Photos: Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel’s global ‘Not Hot List’ includes:

Dakhla, Morocco - Largely inaccessible until

a couple of years ago, Dakhla’s white sand

dunes, countryside and crystal clear beaches

on the edge of the Sahara and off mainland

Morocco are seriously off tourists’ radar. On

the brand new Marrakech & Dakhla

Adventure, spend the night at a traditional

Bedouin camp and enjoy epic scenery, far

from the busy streets of Marrakech. Enjoy

renowned seafood straight from the catch

and marvel at the beautiful Bahia de Dakhla

lagoon.

The Gambia - Gambia has been trending in

Google search (+23%) and receives far fewer

visitors than Africa hotspots like South Africa

or Kenya. The smallest nation on the African

mainland, countries don’t come much more

compact and traversable than Gambia.

The Haida Gwaii Islands - Known as the

‘Galapagos of the North’ for its complex

ecosystem and diverse wildlife, Canada’s

most remote region – the Haida Gwaii – feels

like the edge of the world. It’s also the ancestral

home of Canada’s Haida First Nations

people, who remain critical to sustaining the

country’s north. Intrepid Travel has launched

its Haida Gwaii Islands Expedition, where

travelers can visit local villages that live in harmony

with the pristine wilderness of Naikoon

Provincial Park and can hear the First Peoples’

stories of challenge and triumph during

Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples

Month.

Moldova - This tiny country, sandwiched

between Romania and Ukraine, only welcomes

160,000 overnight visitors a year

(according to the UNWTO), nearly the

amount of visitors Croatia sees daily. On

Moldova, Ukraine & Romania Explorer, try out

Moldova's famous wine on a tour of Milestii

Mici winery, home to the biggest wine cellar in

the world with more than 120 miles of underground

passages lined with around 2 million

bottles. Access the breakaway republic of

Transnistria, a ghost of the Soviet past, and

marvel at Orheiul Vechi, a 14th century cave

monastery and UNESCO site built inside a

cliff.

The Gambia Greenland Moldova


Sulawesi

Nicaragua - After a period of political unrest,

Nicaragua has seen a resurgence in tourism,

enabling the return to the land of lakes and

volcanoes, where nature is uninterrupted, the

food is delicious and volcano boarding is a

real slightly-scary-but-thrilling sport. On the

new Best of Nicaragua itinerary, spend time at

a local indigenous community on Ometepe

Island, a lush, rainforest-filled island formed

by two volcanos that rose from Lake

Nicaragua. Learn about Nicaragua’s revolutionary

past in bohemian Leon, stroll the colorful

colonial streets of Granada, then head

to Nicaragua’s Pacific coast for the sun, surf

and laid-back vibes of San Juan del Sur.

Northeast Cambodia - As of this year,

Intrepid Travel removed Sihanoukville – what

used to be a sleepy beach town and is now

nearly unrecognizable due to overtourism –

from all itineraries, instead choosing to visit

lesser-known destinations within Cambodia.

An untouched corner of the country, the

Northeast region is home to lush forests,

remote lakes and waterfalls and temples lesser

known than Angkor Wat, but no less fascinating.

On the new Cambodia Expedition:

Elephants & Jungles, spend time observing

elephants in their natural habitat with an

active hike at the Elephant Valley Project, an

initiative that puts elephants’ welfare and

treatment first, rather than the tourist dollar.

Sudan - Few people know that among vast

stretches of sand dunes, Sudan holds some

of the world’s most incredible archaeological

sites, ancient ruins and resilient cultures.

While President Trump included the country

in last week’s travel ban, restricting travel for

Sudanese citizens, the increased attention

may actually spur interest in tourism.

Following the previous Middle East travel

bans, Intrepid Travel saw growth in the

region, with travelers wanting to learn about

the countries they continually hear about in

the news and make their own decisions

about them. On the new Northern Sudan

Expedition, discover the remnants of great

empires, explore ancient cities and necropolises,

and encounter modern Sudan in

souks, chai houses and nomadic settlements

along the way.

Sulawesi, Indonesia - Iconic treks like

Everest Base Camp have long represented

some of Intrepid Travel’s most popular itineraries,

but those wanting to discover new

places one step at a time can opt for quieter

paths, like the Tana Toraja trek in Sulawesi.

After all, there’s more to Indonesia’s archipelago

of 17,000 islands than Bali’s beaches.

On the new Sulawesi Expedition: Tana

Toraja Trek, traverse dense bamboo forests

and deep fertile valleys, stay in traditional

villages, and boat past acres of emerald

green rice paddies. Experience a day in the

life of fishermen operating a community

project in the village of Puntondo, learn

about the importance of the marine ecosystem,

and how this project is helping to save

the coastline. Travelers will even learn about

the infamous Ma’nene death ritual, or the

‘ceremony of cleaning corpses’ – a 900-

year- old tradition where the Torajan people

dig up and spend time with the dead.

Tajikistan - Uzbekistan experienced +257%

year-over-year growth making it the number

one fastest growing destination for Intrepid

Travel. With the ‘Stans going strong, Intrepid

Travel predicts that Tajikistan could be the

next destination in this region to surge. The

allure lies in the heritage of the Silk Road

and cities featuring crumbling reminders of

Soviet influence. While political and

military forces have battled over these

regions, life in these isolated areas

has changed little in the past centuries. On

the new Tajikistan Discovery trip, travelers

will spend five nights across Tajikistan's

homestay network, where they’ll immerse

themselves in the local traditions.

19

About Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel is a global adventure travel company

that has been taking travellers off the beaten

track to discover the world's most amazing places

for 30 years. The company offers more than 1,000

trips in more than 120 countries and on every continent.

Every trip is designed to truly experience

local culture - to meet local people, try local food,

take local transport and stay in local accommodation.

A world leader in responsible travel, Intrepid’s

award-winning tour leaders, small group sizes and

included activities mean they offer travellers great

value for money.

www.intrepidtravel.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


20

The Mont Blanc Circuit with Boundless Journeys

by Olivia Balsinger

Our personal reasons for deciding to

circumnavigate Mont Blanc were as

diverse as the hiking group itself.

One was using the physical challenge of the

hike as a reminder he is more than a successful

entrepreneur. Two were already best

friends but wanted their girl-time bonding in

the pristine wilderness. And me? For me, it

has been an especially draining year--physically,

mentally, and especially emotionally.

My best friend had died in a gory car accident

just months prior. I knew that in order to

fully digest the complex emotions surrounding

such a sudden tragedy, I needed to

escape the noise pollution of society and

think clearly once again. And so to the

mountains, I fled.

Whatever our reasons for signing up, one

thing was clear: We all hoped the crisp late

August air of the Alps would be therapeutic

on our circuit of Mont Blanc, Europe's largest

mountain at 15,770 feet, with tour operator

Boundless Journeys.

Little did we know it would provide much

more. The journey of our motley crew of five

strangers began in the quaint French ski town

and official base of Mont Blanc, Chamonix,

where we first shared our goals and inspirations

for the journey over cheese fondue. Our

guide, Irene, assured us that no matter personal

abilities, we would succeed and complete

the circuit as a group. And before we

had time to second guess our strength, the

next morning, we were off.

The Tour de Mont Blanc, a stunning circuit

through Switzerland, France, and Italy, is one

of the world's greatest inn-to-inn hikes and

adventures. I knew it would be a challenging

physical journey, but I had underestimated

the incredible melange of culture we would

be immersed in as well. As we meandered

through dramatic landscapes shaped by hillsides

and carved by river, as we snaked our

way from village to village, we noticed

changes in language, cuisine, architecture

and culture. In Switzerland, our hiking was

often in rhythm to cowbells noisily dinging in

the field. In the medieval town of

Courmayeur, Italy, we enjoyed gelato and

pizza as our rewards for the day, meandering

the stone streets of the city. France, of course,

meant cheese aplenty--Raclette, Reblochon,

and Beaufort cheese, oh my! We seldom had

connections to the outside world as cell data

and WiFi were scarce. Instead, our group

bonded through the literal highs and lows,

through moments where we couldn't imagine

hiking that foreboding hill in the distance to

those where we looked back in awe of what

we had accomplished.

Though I was initially apprehensive about

joining a tour group for the adventure (in my

head, I'm much more Bear Grylls-esque than

reality), I soon understood why joining a tour

group was beneficial. Even before the hike

commenced, Boundless Journeys was

preparing me with packing lists, exercise suggestions,

and reading materials. Our leader,

a Mont Blanc veteran and environmentalist,

was an encyclopedia of information--from

the villages, we would hike through to various

types of vegetation, Irene's knowledge

was a constant aid.

A bittersweet end to our communal journey

nine days later as we arrived back to

Chamonix, with sore muscles, expanded perspectives,

and lifelong memories. The challenge

and the beauty of the mountain was

now a part of each of us--and no matter the

reason for joining the program, we all

arrived back changed. Mission accomplished.

www.boundlessjourneys.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


Finding Pura Vida in Puntarenas

by Olivia Balsinger

The slogan most synonymous with

verdant Costa Rica is "Pura Vida."

Directly translated, this catchy

phrase means "Pure Life." This Central

American country is well-known for many

regions - from lavish spa getaways deep in

Monteverde Cloud Forest to the postcardworthy

Volcano Arenal. However, there still

remain areas of untouched paradise, such

as Puntarenas, located on the county’s

northwestern coast and hugging the Gulf of

Nicoya. And, suffice to say, in an era when

most everything feels inorganic and too stimulating,

Puntarenas sincerely exemplifies

"Pura Vida."

Of course, one reason why Puntarenas

remains so untouched is because it hasn't

been fully discovered by tourists yet. The

area's importance, however, dates back centuries

as a highly trafficked fishing port.

Today, you may recognize the name in association

with cruises, as this is a favorite stop

for large passenger boats. But Puntarenas

can easily become its own trip and getting to

this unspoiled piece of paradise is simple.

San Jose, Costa Rica's capital, is only about

two hours away, and flights from all over the

world arrive daily. More than likely, your first

stop visiting this area of the country will be

the town of Puntarenas, with a population of

just over 100,000 and a culture that spans

centuries. While you can walk the seaside

promenade and observe colonial architecture,

which is a direct tribute to its past, you

can also explore the forward-thinking innovation

here, such as Casa de la Culture, a

once dirty jail that now hosts an array of cultural

performances all year. For those interested

in marine life, Puntarenas is also home

to Costa Rica's sole aquarium, which dually

educates visitors and assists in the rehabilitation

of injured marine life.

Once you've gotten a taste of the varied

species in the area, you're going to want to

explore the real marine life of this region as

well-and with an abundance of unspoiled

wilderness surrounding Puntarenas, that

shouldn't be difficult. Natuwa Wildlife

Sanctuary, just minutes outside the city, provides

homes for some of Costa Rica's fleeting

wildlife, such as tapirs, spider monkeys, marmosets,

and jaguars. Of course, spying a

sloth, the curious and cuddly creature native

to the region, is undoubtedly a highlight.

For those in the market for an active vacation,

Puntarenas is the answer. For example,

a short boat ride to Isla Tortuga brings you

to crystal clear water optimal for snorkeling,

diving, jet-skiing, or simply lounging. ATV'ing

through the jungles and virgin beaches of

Puntarenas with companies such as Pura

Vida Expeditions is an excellent way to

explore the entirely uninhabited part of the

region.

The Puntarenas region is special because it

caters to all sorts of budgets accommodation

wise. Whether you want to sleep under the

sparkling stars without light pollution or

enjoy the amenities of a boutique beachfront

resort such as Tambor Tropical stunning teak

wood and comfortable beds, the possibilities

are as unique as the region's topography.

www.visitcostarica.com


24

Topping your Last Visit to Tokyo

Article and photography by Steve Gillick

In the spirit of adventure, it’s always a

pleasurable challenge to return to a

favourite destination with the goal of

indulging in brand new experiences.

Tokyo is perfectly suited to this quest for ‘the

new’. In fact, only a few days after the opening

of the new Shibuya Scramble Square, we

stood on the Sky Stage, 230 meters (755 feet)

above the famous multi-directional pedestrian

crossing (the Shibuya Scramble), under a big,

beautiful blue sky. This open-air observation

deck affords magnificent 360 degree

panoramic views of the City of Tokyo. A philosophical

thought, etched in glass, emphasizes

unity and commonality for all those who stand

on the ‘stage’:

Shibuya at your feet - Tokyo all around you –

both connected to the world beyond. At the

center of everything you stand, one with the

sky.

One floor down in the Sky Gallery, visitors

sidle up to the windows, as close as they can,

to look straight down to street level. Interactive

art exhibits reinforce the theme of one sky

uniting visitors from around the world. For

those who have visited Tokyo’s other observation

decks (Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and

more), the Sky Stage is really the topping!

For a different kind of interaction with nature,

the Nezu Museum is soothing to the soul.

Featuring the fine art collection of the philanthropist

Kaichiro Nezu, the building was

designed by architect Kengo Kuma to complement

and emphasize the natural beauty of the

area. Visitors enter along a bamboo and

stone pathway and then after appreciating the

art inside the Museum, they stroll through the

beautiful treed, green garden of walkways,

ponds, statues and lanterns. It’s a total escape

from the sights and sounds of the busy city

and it works!

In Gotokuji, just outside the city of Tokyo (but

still part of Tokyo Prefecture), travelers pounce

on the idea of visiting the Cat Temple. Just

beyond the three-storied pagoda, they visit a

shrine where a small statue of Kannon, the

Goddess of Mercy, is surrounded by thousands

of ‘Maneki-Neko’; figurines of white

cats with red ears and collars, who raise a

paw to beckon or ‘wave-in’ good luck. A 16th

century legend recalls that a powerful feudal

lord, caught in a violent storm, was invited by

a cat to take shelter in the temple. Now visitors

purchase cat figurines and place them at

the shrine in hopes of having their wishes fulfilled.

And for those looking to admire pagodas

there are five-storied pagodas in Asakusa

and Ueno Park as well as the beautiful

Ikegamihonmonji Pagoda about 30 minutes

outside the city of Tokyo. Peaceful experiences

continue a few train stops away at Senzokuike

Park with a walk around the lake, sightings of

the rare Hummingbird Moth, and birding

opportunities that include Great Blue Herons,

Black-crowned Night Herons, flocks of feral,

lime-green, Rose-ringed Parakeets, and the

Kawasemi or ‘river cicada’, also known as the

Common Kingfisher.

And these were only some of the highlights of

a return visit to Tokyo that included first-time

visits to the Okutama nature area and the

amazing volcanic scenery on Miyakejima,

one of the Izu Islands. With so many activities

in Tokyo Prefecture, it’s actually very easy to

‘top’ your last visit with new, innovative, exciting

and rewarding adventures.

www.gotokyo.org

American World Traveler Spring 2020


26

Broadway Review: Ain’t Too Proud tells the story of The Temptations

by Mike Cohen

Last spring I saw Motown the Musical at

Place des Arts in Montreal, the

American dream story of Motown

founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight

boxer to the heavyweight music mogul

who launched the careers of Diana Ross,

Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and

many more. I loved every minute of it. So

when I visited New York City recently, I was

naturally drawn to Ain’t Too Proud: The Life

and Times of the Temptations. It won a 2019

Tony Award for Best Choreography and had

12 nominations.

The Temptations are an American vocal

group who released a series of successful singles

and albums with Motown during the

1960s and 70s. Featuring five male vocalists

and dancers, the group formed in 1960 in

Detroit, Michigan under the name The Elgins

and gave us such memorable hits as My Girl,

American World Traveler Spring 2020

Ain't Too Proud to Beg, I Wish It Would Rain,

Treat Her Like a Lady, Just My Imagination

(Running Away with Me) and For Once In My

Life, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

and more. They earned three Grammy

Awards.

Otis Williams is the last living member of the

Temptations. His book about the group is the

basis for the Broadway show. Williams in fact

continues to perform, using the Temptations

name.

Ain’t Too Proud, currently playing at the

Imperial Theatre on West 45th Street until at

least US Thanksgiving Weekend 2020, is the

electrifying new musical that follows The

Temptations' extraordinary journey from the

streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of

Fame. With their signature dance moves and

unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top

of the charts creating an amazing 42 Top 10

hits with 14 reaching number one. The rest is

history — how they met, the groundbreaking

heights they hit and how personal and political

conflicts threatened to tear the group

apart as the United States fell into civil unrest.

Tony Award nominee Derrick Baskin portrays

Otis Williams and is the glue to the show. He

narrates the entire history of the Temptations

from the opening number until the conclusion.

Before walking into the theatre I simply

knew the songs which made the Temptations

so successful, but this is a true history lesson

and it pulls no punches. There have been 24

members of the Temptations since this group

was first established. Williams had to continually

make the hard decisions and drop

members who were not comporting themselves

properly.

After breaking house records at both Berkeley

Rep and The Kennedy Center, this musical is

written by three‐time Obie Award winner

Dominique Morisseau, directed by two‐time

Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey

Boys), and featuring choreography by Tony

nominee Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, On Your

Feet).

www.ainttooproudmusical.com


27

Carolines on Broadway is New York’s finest Comedy Club

by Mike Cohen

For years I have walked by Carolines on

Broadway promising myself that I

would one day check out this world

famous 300 seat comedy club. Well I finally

did so, booking a dinner and show package

on a Saturday evening.

I arrived at 5:45 pm, checked in and was

shown to a nice table in the club where veteran

server Alfred took my order – some crispy

fresh cut zucchini chips to start and a main

course of grilled salmon and roasted potatoes.

The menu has a nice variety of choices;

appetizers such as calamari, nachos, shrimp

cocktail and onion rings to a selection of salads

and sandwiches, pastas, chicken and

steaks. For dessert you can chose from strawberry

shortcake, apple tart and chocolate

cake, all served with ice cream. Of course

there is a full liquor and cocktail menu.

Carolines first opened as a small cabaret club

in the New York’s Chelsea neighborhood in

1982. Owner Caroline Hirsch, a lifelong

comedy fan, soon began booking comedians.

The comedy acts – which included now legendary

performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Tim

Allen, Billy Crystal, Rosie O’Donnell and Jay

Leno – were a tremendous success.

Located in the heart of Times Square,

Carolines on Broadway presents the very best

live comedy entertainment seven nights a

week. Just steps from many of Broadway’s

most well-known theatres, Carolines on

Broadway provides the same quality entertainment

that is customary on New York’s legendary

Great White Way. On the night I went

the headliner was Sinbad, who has starred in

numerous TV shows and motion pictures.

Today, Carolines on Broadway continues to

hold center stage in Times Square as one of

New York City’s most popular and enduring

hotspots and as the city’s only genuine nightclub.

The club is a New York institution and

was one of the cornerstones in the revitalization

of the vibrant and bustling Times Square

district. In addition to presenting such top

headlining comedians, the 300 plus seat club

also features emerging talent, live podcasts,

and improv and sketch comedy, as well as

playing host to countless large-scale fundraising

events and high profile benefits.

For the dinner and show package, food is a la

carte. You do receive priority seating in the

showroom when you have dinner before the

show in the supper lounge. Just arrive at the

time of your reservation and you will receive

your tickets to the show. I had a delicious serving

of grilled salmon and an equally impressive

fried zucchini chips appetizer. If, however,

you miss your dinner reservation before the

show, they will not be able to hold the

reserved seats for you in the showroom and

you will be sat first come, first serve.

The theatre was an easy 10 minute walk from

my favorite place to stay in New York City, the

historic Algonquin Hotel on 44th Street near

6th Avenue. See more on the Algonquin in

our ‘Stay & Play section on page 52.

www.carolines.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


28

Spotlight on Kiev

by Daniel Smajovits

The Motherland Monument weighs in

at 560 tons, stands 102 meters tall

and towers over Kiev. Sword and

shield in hand, upon first glance from the

plane or car, this monument all but confirms

every stereotype you have about the city:

you’re visiting a place still shrouded by the

iron curtain.

Or so you think.

If there is any city in the world that is in the

midst of a renaissance, it’s Ukraine’s bustling

capital. Less than five years removed from the

Maidan Revolution, the third such upheaval

since the fall of the Soviet Union, the aura in

the city is that it finally turned a corner.

American World Traveler Spring 2020

First time visitors to Kiev should opt to stay

near Khreschatyk Street, which like Broadway,

runs through the heart of the city. The street

itself is lined with hundreds of stores, restaurants

and bars and even becomes a pedestrian

thoroughfare on weekends, where families

gather well into the evening to enjoy Kiev’s

lively and family friendly nightlife.

With so much to see and experience, book a

walking tour with Your Kiev Tours. Started as a

passion project by Eva Vik and her three

friends, the blossoming walking tour has

become the #1 rated tour on Trip Advisor.

Spending a morning with Eva will introduce

you to all the major and even some hidden

sights of the Ukrainian capital. Her engaging

and fun style, which makes you feel like you’re

walking with a long-lost friend, will serve as

the perfect foundation for the rest of tour trip.

While Eva will introduce you to some

Ukrainian food and drink, ensure to save

some room for Kyiv Tasty Tours. Going

beyond the traditional fare, this food tour

turns the tables on both local cuisine and

restaurants. From the city’s vibrant market to

a hidden restaurant in the heart of

Independence Square, this tour will make you

long for Ukrainian food well after you’ve

landed at home.

For history buffs, as one of the oldest cities in

Eastern Europe, Kiev and its surroundings is

home to a number of the continent’s most

unique museums. The Museum of Corruption

is appropriately located in Mezhyhirya

Residence, the one-time home of President

Victor Yanukovych before he fled the country

following the Maidan Revolution. While closer

to the city centre, The National Museum of the

History of Ukraine in the Second World War,

home to the aforementioned Motherland

Monument, allows you to step into the tumultuous

history of the country and life behind the

Iron Curtain and more.

As no trip to Kiev will be complete without

sampling some of the city’s famous nightlife

and whether you’re solo, with friends or with

your significant other, Kate from Sights of Kiev

is your perfect guide. Beginning at 9:00 p.m,

Kate’s nightlife tour goes well beyond the traditional

bars to a number of exclusive - and

sometimes hidden - spots known only to

locals. From the best local spirits and beers

with some fantastic live music in between, an

evening with Kate will seem like you’re back in

college with your roommate, enjoying a night

on the town, making this tour the ideal way to

wrap up your fantastic trip.

www.traveltoukraine.org


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30

A Journey of the Senses

AAt the crossroads of Europe and

Asia is Istanbul, with a rich history

spanning over two thousand

years. Strategically located on the

Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is a vibrant city

where east and west meet to create this

unique cultural capital. Istanbul is home to

an estimated 15 million inhabitants, built

on seven hills, and topped by the minarets

of over 3,000 mosques including the worldfamous

Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia.

Mouth-watering tastes worth travelling for

It is the food that leaves the greatest

impression. Traditional Anatolian staples

such as doughy manti (dumpling), freshly

squeezed juices sold on every street corner

and sesame covered simit rolls, perfectly

accompanied by Turkish çay (tea). The

smell of fresh fish or rich Turkish coffee are

often in the air.

Take flight in a hot air balloon at sunset

On everyone’s bucket list should be a hot

air balloon flight at sunrise. People travel

to Cappadocia from all over the world to

take part in this spectacular sight of hot air

balloons making their gentle flight over the

valleys and fairy chimneys, lit up by the rising

sun. Accommodation ranges from

cool and rustic cave hotels to elegant and

luxurious houses. Traditional Turkish baths

(hamams) in which to relax and unwind is

also a highlight. During your stay, venture

into underground cities, cave churches and

the outdoor museums to learn more about

the history of this special place.

Cappadocia is also famous for its wine,

and a must experience element of your

meal.

The colourful Aegean coastal city of Izmir

In Western Anatolia on a bay of turquoise

water is the Aegean coastal city of Izmir,

where archaeological sites remind visitors

of a rich history set against a backdrop of

the hilltop Kadifekale castle. Spot one of

the most famous landmarks of Izmir, the

Clock Tower designed by French architect

Raymond Charles Pere dating back to

1901. To enjoy the view and save your

legs from the 155 steps connecting city

streets, use the public elevator known as

Asansör. Another alternative is the modern

European-style quarter of Karşıyaka which

also offers excellent sea views. Notable

nearby highlights are the enchanting

ancient ruins of Ephesus, one of the Seven

Wonders of the Ancient World. The nearby

village of Çeşme is a charming gastronomic

paradise with its whitewashed houses

and blue painted windows.

Turkish food in Izmir has many influences

and flavours for every palate. Izmir meatballs,

called köfte, are enjoyed across

Turkey, made lovingly with local spices and

served in a tasty tomato sauce. Try local

specialty Kumru, the perfect on-the-go

snack of sausage, cheese and tomato

served in bread, or the delicious pastry

Boyoz, which can only be found in Izmir

and should not be missed!


The luxurious ancient port city of Bodrum

Rugged, rolling mountains meet the shores

of the crystal blue Aegean Sea in the small

city of Bodrum. The Aegean coastal city is

spread across a double bay, mixing

ancient and modern history. The city is

home to the ancient Greek city of

Halicarnassus, site of the Tomb of

Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of

the Ancient World. Along the coastline is

the well-preserved medieval Bodrum

Castle which offers superb views and is

home to the Museum of Underwater

Archaeology.

Renowned for its unique "sugar cube"

houses, Bodrum is one of Turkey’s gems

and is fast becoming the first choice for

holidaymakers the world over.

Escape to small villages or enjoy the

extravagance of its many five-star hotels

and bustling nightlife, Bodrum is the place

where the green of the forest meets the

clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea.

Make sure your flight is part

of the vacation

Vacation time is precious, so make every

minute count by starting your trip the

moment you step onto the plane. The

award-winning products and services of

Turkish Airlines’ Business Class provide an

unparalleled experience with the utmost

elegance. Prior to take off, passengers can

benefit from extra baggage allowance, priority

check-in and boarding, and access to

Turkish Airlines Lounges.

Relax in exclusive seats, with massage

functions, that convert your seat into a 188

cm flat bed. Delight in gourmet dishes prepared

and cooked to your taste by Flying

Chefs, and enjoy comfort kits to maximize

your wellness on-board. Business Class

also offers a cutting-edge in-flight entertainment

system, films in different languages,

a wide assortment of audiobooks,

a great range of music and much

more. It boasts award-winning catering

designed for any palate where you can

enjoy international cuisine and local

Turkish specialties such as ‘pide’ and

‘börek’ with fresh fruit juices and tea.

Going Further With

Turkish Airlines

Glowing reviews and exceptional

food are the order of the day for

this up-and-coming airline!

Part of the Star Alliance network, Turkish airlines

(THY) offers service to Canadians from

Toronto and Montreal, and connections to

destinations all over the world from their hub

in Istanbul.

Building on their international reputation, THY

has been climbing the ranks as a top provider

and doing very well in Canada.

With 321 destinations, and adding new ones

at a rapid pace, THY welcome travellers with

smiles and a friendly hello, though often with

a charming accent!

Their aircraft include A330s, A340s, B777s,

B737-800s and B727-800s, all well maintained

and laid-out with the customer in

mind. Each section is designed with creature

comforts taking front and centre. The seats

throughout the plane are comfortable and the

facilities are kept impeccably clean and

organized. Most Business Class passengers

can expect either fully lie-flat seats or angled

lie-flat seats that brings relaxation to a higher

level.

Comfort Class is Turkish Airlines' premium

economy section is highlighted by slightly

larger seats configured in two-by-three-bytwo

rows, a large video screen and entertainment

system with an iPod outlet and a laptop

power outlet for each seat.

Even passengers traveling in Economy Class

can enjoy an above average trip, as all passengers

enjoy the famed THY complimentary

meal. Though multi-course meals are provided

in Business Class on extended range

flights, all passengers are treated to the

award winning food served on board.

Considering that THY deals with one of the

world’s biggest (maybe the biggest) catering

service and are partners with Do & Co., there

is no surprise in the quality THY can offer!

www.turkishairlines.com

31

Whether you are enjoying the wonders of

Turkey for several weeks or only a few

days as part of the Turkish Airlines

Stopover Program, Turkish hospitality and

wonder awaits.

Are you ready to Widen Your World?

American World Traveler Spring 2020


G Adventures Launches Five New Planeterra Projects to Empower Women

New ‘Project 100’ community tourism projects will positively impact more than 2,800 women

tively impact women, youth and Indigenous

people. The next five Project 100 projects are:

Berracas de la 13 - Comuna 13

Medellin, Colombia

Once a city under the control of groups loyal

to Pablo Escobar, Medellin was rife with crime,

violence, drugs and political unrest. Much has

changed since then, with the city now a popular

tourist destination and regarded as one

of the most innovative cities in the world. Even

with a decrease in crime, there are still barriers

which exist for those that live there however.

Berracas de la 13 was created by a group

of women with the goal of empowering

women and youth in their community. With

Planeterra’s support, Berracas de la 13 has

improved its restaurant, developed a local

tour and meal service and grown local infrastructure

to create a sustainable income

stream which welcomes travellers looking to

learn from local guides, purchase unique

handicrafts and try new food. The experience

is available on the nine-day Colombia

Express tour.

TWE - Together We Earn

Kerala, India

OOn International Women’s Day,

March 8, 2020, community

tourism pioneer G Adventures

and its non-profit partner Planeterra

announced five new projects which put a

focus on empowering women and their communities.

More than 2,800 women will benefit

from the 3,000 travellers expected to visit

these projects annually.

With a strong focus on empowering and supporting

women, the new projects include a

visit to a cultural and craft experience in

Jerusalem where stories are shared and local

handicrafts are showcased, as well as a stop

in Kerala, India where 10 local women create

community through hospitality and traditional

food.

The new projects are part of the Project 100

initiative, a commitment to have 100

Planeterra projects built into G Adventures

tours by the end of 2020. With these projects,

the total number now included in the company’s

tours has reached 85, just three-months

into 2020. Each year, more than 100,000

travellers visit Planeterra projects impacting

the lives of more than 60,000 local people.

Jamie Sweeting, President of Planeterra

Foundation and Vice President of Responsible

Travel at G Adventures, says these projects

support G Adventures’ purpose of changing

people’s lives through travel, while empowering

women, youth and Indigenous communities.

“Supporting the local communities we visit is

at the forefront of everything we do and these

new projects continue our mission of turning

travel into impact. I’m proud of projects like

these that put the spotlight on the women in

these communities and all the amazing work

they’re doing,” says Sweeting.

All G Adventures and Planeterra projects are

selected to ensure the largest benefit to the

local communities based on traveller numbers.

There is a focus on projects which posi-

There’s no doubt incredible strides have been

made for women’s empowerment in Kerala,

which now has the highest rates of women

empowerment based on education and

health indicators. The state, however, still

struggles with women’s participation in the

labour force – agriculture is the main source

of income for families and women often don’t

have the opportunity to gain skills and find

employment beyond the fields they work in.

With Planeterra’s support, TWE (Together We

Earn) was able to bring its women’s empowerment

to the next level by providing tangible

skills-training opportunities, a guaranteed

customer base of travellers and a sustainable

income source. This was accomplished by

investing in training and the construction of a

kitchen in rural Alleppey – used for hospitality

training and hosting international travellers.

Travellers can visit and experience this project

on the seven-day National Geographic

Journeys South India: Explore Kerala tour.


33

Domari Culture & Craft Experience

Jerusalem, Israel

The Dom community in Jerusalem faces regular

discrimination due to not being fully integrated

into either Israeli or Palestinian societies.

The Domari Community Centre was

created as a place where Dom women and

children could be supported and provided

vocational training while gaining the confidence

and independence to thrive. Planeterra

has supported the Domari Society of Gypsies

by helping to create a tourism experience for

G Adventures travellers – traditional food is

served, cultural stories are shared and local

handicrafts are showcased to help further

positively impact the community. Travellers

can visit this project while on the 15-day

Jordan and Israel Adventure tour from

Amman to Jerusalem.

Shedia Home - Athens, Greece

Homelessness continues to be a significant

social issue in Greece with youth unemployment

surpassing 50%. Shedia Home is a notfor-profit

organization working to employ and

empower those experiencing homelessness

and social exclusion in Athens. More than

150 people have been provided the opportunity

to earn an income to cover their basic

needs on a daily basis. In fact, 43 individuals

now have homes thanks to their connection

with Shedia. Planeterra partnered with the

organization to provide valuable sustainable

income for its programs – bringing travellers

to the brand new Shedia Home, which features

a cafe, educational talk from one of the

Shedia’s guides currently experiencing homelessness

and the option to join a tour of

Athens which “makes the invisible (homeless),

visible.” The 15-day Best of Greece tour from

Athens to Santorini includes visits to Shedia

Home.

Maldives Plastic Program

Malé, Maldives

Pollution of the oceans directly impacts the

Maldives, which are made up of 99% water

and only one per cent land. Without the proper

infrastructure or awareness for proper recycling,

the country’s imported plastic items

sometimes end up thrown in the oceans or on

land. Partnering with local travel company

Voyages, Planeterra has now integrated plastic

pick-ups into all G Adventures tours traveling

through the Maldives. Planeterra provides

the equipment necessary for travellers to

engage in plastic clean-ups on beaches, with

the goal of mitigating tonnes of plastic waste

from ending up in the ocean. A local nonprofit

also assists in the processing of the collected

plastic to be used for upcycling in countries

which have the proper infrastructure to do so.

The Maldives Plastic Program can be experienced

on the eight-day Maldives Island

Hopping trip.

www.gadventures.com/aboutus/responsible-travel

American World Traveler Spring 2020


34

Tropical

Tidbits

by Sue C Travel

Bahamas bounces back with solar energy

plans and new investments

Though there’s still much work to be done

to get the islands affected by Hurricane

Dorian back to ‘normal’, they are embracing

the rebuild as an opportunity to do

things differently. One way they are doing

that is by looking seriously to solar powered

“micro-grids” for energy, in fact the goal is

to produce 30% of Bahamas energy from

renewable sources by 2030. Royal

Caribbean has also taken a keen interest in

getting Grand Bahama back on the map

quickly and have announced a $300 million

investment in Freeport in tandem with

new partner Holistica Destinations. Plans to

update and expand the Freeport cruise terminal

with a project called Harbour Village

will include new visitor attractions including

multiple shopping and dining venues,

beach areas, excursion opportunities and

more. They have also purchased the Grand

Lucayan resort on the island and will turn it

into a showcase 526-room hotel with a

shopping village, spa and wellness center,

a massive water and adventure theme

park, and a 40,000-square-foot convention

center. The new projects are slated to

be finished winter of 2022.

www.bahamas.com

New luxury Bahamas hideaway on

South Andros

You might have already seen this unique

property being built on the pristine

Bahamian island of South Andros if you’re

a fan of HGTV’s Island of Bryan television

series chronicling one couple’s quest to

turn an abandoned hotel into a new luxury

resort. Now, their dream is a reality with the

opening of the Caerula Mar Club, a visionary-driven

oasis of sublime tropical escape.

The couple took great care to ensure that it

was built in the most sustainable manner

possible, and by only welcoming families

with children over the age of 12, they can

ensure it remains a peaceful retreat for

those seeking romance. The boutique

upscale collection of accommodations

includes swanky clubhouse suites and private

stand-alone villas, and the island is

surrounded by the world’s third largest barrier

reef and the greatest number of “blue

hole” caves that offer superb diving and

snorkeling ops.

www.caerulamar.com


ToursByLocals is a genius concept

I just happened upon this fab Canadian

owned company ToursByLocals recently,

and I love what they do. They supply wellvetted

local tour guides to create personal

private tours for you in a gazillion destinations

around the world. And yes, they are

offered in just about every island in the

Caribbean chain, and all throughout Latin

America, too. Learning about the culture,

attractions, and history through local eyes

is the best way to get to know a new destination,

and you are welcome to advise

them on what you’re interested in most if

you don’t like their suggested tour. Maybe

you want to beach hop to the best snorkel

sites, do a local foodie trail, or go hiking in

secret spots… the choice is yours, and they

can also accommodate those with limited

mobility if you ask ahead. Ideal for cruise

visitors seeking to avoid those big crowded

junket excursions, too.

www.toursbylocals.com

Secrets St. Martin now open

After a $63,000,000 USD renovation of

the former RIU resort on lovely Anse Marcel

Beach on the French side of the island,

Secrets® St. Martin Resort & Spa opened its

doors in March of 2020. Now the upscale,

adult-only, all-inclusive offers 258 luxurious

suites including Preferred Club swim-out

options, and all guest receive their signature

Unlimited-Luxury® treatment with

gourmet fare and top-end spirits in several

dining and bar options or via 24/7 room

service. They also have a state-of-the-art

convention centre, a huge ballroom, and a

world-class spa. Also notable is their water

circuit boasting the largest infinity pool in

the Western Caribbean.

www.secretsresorts.com/en_us/resorts/stmartin/st-martin.html

Cuba gets overwater villas

Situated in the province of Ciego de Ávila

of Cuba just 35 minutes from Jardines del

Rey International Airport, Cayo Guillermo

Resort Kempinski opened in March of

2020, and is touted as one of the most luxurious

non-all-inclusive hotels on the

island. The new resort offers 245 deluxe

rooms and suites including the very exciting

contemporary overwater bungalows called

the Playa Pilar & Hemingway Water Villas.

A gym, spa, and yoga space plus a kid’s

club and tennis courts add to the allure,

and the on-site drink and dining options

are multiple and include a Hemingway

Cigar Bar & Lounge in tribute to his love of

this region.

kempinski.com/en/cayo-guillermo/cayoguillermo-resort

St. Augustine’s stylish

new beachfront resort

Florida’s oldest city now has a new way to

stay on its gorgeous Atlantic coast since

Embassy Suites by Hilton opened the St.

Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort just

over a year ago. Located close to Anastasia

State Park, a 1,600- acre nature preserve,

activities include swimming, birdwatching

and nature hiking there, and it’s close to

the historic old city for easy urban

35

explorations of St. Augustine’s most

famous historic attractions. Signature

dining on site and by the pool/beach, and

free made-to-order breakfasts as well complimentary

evening receptions, flexible

event space, a fitness center and a 24/7

market round out the amenities of this

modern and ethereal oasis of 175 spacious

two-room suites and studio suites with

ocean views and balconies.

embassystaugustine.com

A different kind of bathing beauty?

Though there are islands in the Bahamas

famous for having wild pigs that you can

swim and snorkel with, the feral pigs of

Playa PortoMarie in Curacao aren’t that

energetic. In fact, the small tribe of porkers

that often wander onto the sand there are

quite content to simply hog some of your

shade, slowly forage around for food, or

simply bask in the shallow waters along the

beach. And though sometimes they might

summon up the energy to roll over and

request a belly rub from a human, that’s

about the extent of their workout. But

they’re fun to photograph, and just one

more reason to head to PortoMarie which is

a stunning stretch of sand on aqua sea with

a double coral reef ideal for snorkeling.

There’s also a dive shop and a great beach

bar on site, too. (Special thanks to Donna

LeClair for the great pig photo.)

www.playaportomari.com

Award-winning travel journalist

Sue Campbell is based in Montreal but makes it

her business to be on top of everything cool, hot,

and new under the sun throughout the

Caribbean and Latin America.

World Traveler welcomes her

as a regular columnist.

Follow her on

Instagram and Twitter @suectravel

American World Traveler Spring 2020


Arctic North Atlantic South Atlantic North

Amazon Danube Mekong Nile Rhine Rhône Moselle Seine Yangtze

C r u i s i n g with

W O R L D

Traveler

Come With Us &


Pacific South Pacific Indian Southern Ocean

CRUISING SECTION

Cruise News - pages 38-39

A Very Viking Cruise! - page 42

Paradise Discovered in Halong Bay - page 44

Uncruising and Unwinding in Alaska - page 46

On the Nile - page 48

Holland America’s New Style of Cruising on the Nieuw Statendam - page 50

This Photo: Paradise Cruises

Sail The World!

American World Traveler Spring 2020

Adriatic Aegean Mediterranean Caribbean Baltic Black South-China Sea


38

AmaWaterways Avalon Azamara Carnival Celebrit

C r u i s e N e w s

Aqua Expeditions' Aqua Nera Sets Maiden Voyage For October 2020

Following the launch of Aqua Blu in November

2019, Aqua Expeditions will unveil the highly

anticipated Aqua Nera in October 2020, setting

a new standard for luxury river cruising on

the Peruvian Amazon.

The vessel will operate on three-, four- and

seven-night itineraries to ensure complete flexibility

and the ability to adapt to guests' travel

plans. Aqua Nera's itineraries will depart from

the Peruvian port of Iquitos before meandering through the various tributaries of the

Peruvian Amazon and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, visiting diverse Amazonian

towns and villages along the way. Expert naturalist guides will be on board to offer bespoke

experiences, such as intimate wildlife encounters in the world's most biodiverse rainforest;

from morning birdwatching to spotting the legendary pink river dolphins.

www.aquaexpeditions.com

Atlas Ocean Voyages

Atlas is creating a new category in

between the ultra-premium and

the ultra-luxury cruise brands,

what they are calling Luxe-

Adventure journeys. One of the

key differentiators will be how they

deliver the destination aboard

their small, all-inclusive, luxury

ships (98 rooms): offering highenergy

and heart-pounding shore-side experiences that would be considered unconventional

in the cruise industry, i.e. dark tourism at Chernobyl, white-water rafting in

Cappadocia, glamping outside Wadi Rum, and glider flights over Provence. Back on

board, they will focus on wellness and offer lively venues for guests to share their day’s

exploits, think Après Ski. And these are just some options their guests will have during

the inaugural summer 2021 season sailing the Holy Land and Eastern Mediterranean,

Western Mediterranean, and the Black Sea aboard their first ship, World Navigator. By

2023, World Navigator will be joined by four additional new sister ships

www.atlasoceanvoyages.com

SeaDream Yacht Club to

Return to South Florida in 2022

For the first time in over 10 years,

SeaDream Yacht Club has revealed

plans to return to South Florida.

SeaDream II is now scheduled to sail

to Palm Beach in January 2022. The

announcement comes as SeaDream

opens for reservations 33 new 2022

West Indies voyages. The newly

unveiled season, kicking off January

2022 through April of the same year, is

brimming with new destinations. For the first time in the company’s history, the luxury

twin mega-yachts will sail to The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos as well as 17 new additional

ports in the West Indies.

www.seadream.com

Australis

Luxury Expedition Cruises

Through Patagonia

Australis cruises, the only commercial

cruise company to navigate through the

heart of Patagonia, offers unique disembarkations,

uncompromised luxury

accommodations, cuisine and wines,

with strong sustainability initiatives

ensuring minimal environmental impact.

Their two vessels each house 100 cabins

for 200 guests total, creating very special

experiences.

Sustainable tourism: Expert

guides contribute to scientific research

including bird counting, and sampling

and analysis of plant and wildlife

through the Science and Business

Correlation Program. Australis minimizes

and aims to eliminate use of single-use

plastics and paper, and promotes

the use of signature canteens,

reducing the use of plastic onboard.

Adventure/Expedition travel:

Travelers get up close and personal with

unspoiled wilderness, coming face to

face with the Magellan penguins during

the zodiac boat excursions, which feature

fur seal and albatross sightings.

Australis guides are experts in the

region’s history and there to educate

travelers during small group disembarkations.

Honeymooners: Cabins are

built for two passengers fitted with large

picture windows in each. Vessels feature

luxury service and first-class restaurants

with international cuisine and local

recipes to highlight the delicious and

varied regional fare, as well as a wide

selection of Chilean and Argentinean

wines.

Tech detox: Passengers commit

to the live experience during a 4 or 8-

night expedition without access to

phones or WI-FI, which is intentional

from the brand.

www.australis.com

Royal-Caribbean Scenic Seabourn SeaDream Si


y Costa Crystal Cunard Disney Holland America

39

Silversea Opens Sales On New

51-Port Grand Voyage Arctic 2021

Silversea Cruises, has recently open

sales on the Grand Voyage Arctic

2021—a remarkable 51-port itinerary

that connects a range of once-in-a-lifetime

experiences.

Between July 16 and September 17,

2021, Silver Cloud will journey between

Tromsø and Nome (Alaska), unlocking

unique experiences for guests over 63

nights. The cruise line’s guests will travel

deep into seven countries to witness

untouched glaciers, captivating wildlife,

and remote communities, while also

crossing the fabled Northwest Passage

and enjoying two maiden calls—

Nordfjordholmen (Melfjord, Norway)

and Lysebotn (Norway). Silversea’s

team of Expedition Experts will enhance

the experience with informative lectures,

immersive Zodiac tours, and activities

ashore, while esteemed guest speakers,

bespoke events, and many onboard

enrichments complete the offering.

51 PORTS, SEVEN COUNTRIES, AND

TWO MAIDEN CALLS

On this remarkable itinerary that will

unlock many unique experiences, travellers

will follow in the footsteps of

Amundsen, Franklin & Ross by traversing

the famous Northwest Passage. This

iconic route has long intrigued the most

intrepid of travelers and remains a lifedefining

adventure for many.

Historically significant destinations,

such as Beechey Island and Gjoa

Haven, will enable guests to learn more

about the passage’s discovery, as they

develop a deep appreciation for this

pristine region and all that inhabits it.

www.silversea.com

Viking Announces Launch of New Expedition Voyages

Purpose-Built Ships Will Bring Guests to the Far Reaches of the Earth

and the Heart of North America Beginning in 2022

Viking has recently announced the expansion

of its destination-focused travel experiences

with the launch of new expedition

voyages. Viking Expeditions will begin

sailing in January 2022 with its first vessel,

Viking Octantis, embarking on voyages

to Antarctica and North America’s

Great Lakes. A second expedition vessel,

Viking Polaris, will debut in August 2022,

sailing to Antarctica and the Arctic.

Viking’s arrival to the Great Lakes will

bring the newest and most modern vessels

ever to explore this region of North

America and will mark a major commitment

to local tourism and economic

development for the states of Michigan,

Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as the

Canadian province of Ontario.

Viking Expedition Ships

The new Polar Class 6 Viking Octantis

and Viking Polaris will host 378 guests in

189 staterooms; both ships are currently

under construction and will be delivered

in Norway by Fincantieri’s VARD.

Designed by the same experienced nautical

architects and engineers that designed

Viking ocean ships, the ships are optimally

sized and built for expeditions – small

enough to navigate remote polar regions

and the St. Lawrence River, while large

enough to provide superior handling and

stability in the roughest seas. The ships

will feature public spaces that are familiar

to Viking’s ocean cruise guests but that

have been reimagined for expeditions, as

well as new public spaces created specifically

for expeditions.

2022-2023 Viking Expedition

Inaugural Voyages

Antarctic Explorer

(13 days; Buenos Aires to Ushuaia)

Antarctic & South America Discovery

(19 days; Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro)

Arctic Adventure

(13 days; Roundtrip Tromsø)

From the Arctic to the Antarctic

(44 days; Tromsø to Ushuaia)

Undiscovered Great Lakes

(8 days; Thunder Bay, Ontario to

Milwaukee)

Great Lakes Explorer

(8 days; Milwaukee to Thunder Bay,

Ontario)

Niagara & The Great Lakes

(8 days; Toronto to Milwaukee)

Canadian Discovery

(13 days; New York to Toronto).

www.vikingcruises.com

Hurtigruten MSC Norwegian Oceania Ponant Princess Regent

versea Star-Clippers Uniworld Viking Windstar


A Very Viking Cruise!

Article and photography by Michael Morcos

Once in a cruisers life, they must take

a Viking cruise. There are all sorts

of cursing options and Viking has

all the most popular worldwide destinations

covered. Choices start between river and

ocean itineraries and the lists explodes from

there. Viking covers six continents and will

soon have cruises that go to Antarctica on their

new expedition ships (read Viking’s Expedition

Ships on page 39) Being a leader with the

most river boats, they cover most of the major

rivers and as rumour has it, they will be soon

be sailing the Mississippi. If it’s Viking then you

would believe it will be another masterpiece

ship and itinerary.

There is a good reason why Viking has rapidly

expanded their offerings, won countless

prestige awards and have seen their fleet swell

from their humble beginning some short years

ago. They are simply the best at taking care of

their clients. These very same clients have

become regulars returning again and again.

Some even book their next cruise while barely

finishing the one they are on.

As for price and value, as the saying goes ‘the

proof is in the pudding’. There are lots of discounts

being given by competitors but as

usual, ‘you get what you pay for’. With Viking,

they go far beyond that. Every detail of one’s

trip is planned from the time they leave home

to the return. Viking has their own in-house

travel agents that work out the best routes and

connections and often have special fare rates

from their partner airlines. From the traveler’s

flight, to an airport transfer to the ship, to easy

and quick check-in, arriving at your stateroom

is seamless and all so easy that your luggage

is already there.

Comparing all-inclusive cruises on the market,

Viking cruises include excursions at every port

of call with professional guides and fantastic

itineraries that include the best things to see

and do in that location. Also included are all

three meals a day, wine and beer at lunch and

supper. It is important to mention, one will

never starve on a Viking cruise, quite the

opposite, one has to refrain as the meals are

varied and delicious. There are also special

meals that reflect the gastronomy of the region

and fabulously prepared and presented.

All this and we must mention the superb Viking

ships and having traveled on both river and

ocean vessels they are, simply put, magnificent.

Everything on these beauties is perfect!

Pleasing Nordic design, attractive décor, relaxing

lines and colors gives the feeling of tranquility.

Above all else, everything is simplified,

no fussing with cabin temperature controls, TV

remote controls, safes, washroom faucets or

cabin doors.

A very Viking cruise indeed!

And a very Merry Christmas as once again my

wife and I are on a magnificent Viking cruise.

This would be our fifth with Viking, this one

during the period leading up to the holiday

season. Although the Romantic Waltz cruise

from Budapest to Passau was not holiday

themed, per say, it sure brought us to the most

stunning European Christmas markets. Seven

glorious days of exploring the best of on the

Photo: Viking


Danube that would bring us to five different

countries, languages and cultures. Sunrise to

sunset (and beyond) our itinerary was packed

with fun and exploration. We could have opted

for rest and relaxation, staying on board to

enjoy the beautiful ship and its public spaces

and amenities but exhilarated by the surroundings,

we would explore the wonderful

cities, towns and markets all along the way.

In Budapest we would be in awe, after all, this

was our first central European Christmas market.

Yes, we do have them at home but in this

region, the markets are infinitely bigger and

much better. Our Viking longship, the

Vilhjalm, would dock in the heart of the city

giving us amazing 360 degree views of the

best of central Budapest. On our arrival, we

would waste no time and with luggage in

cabin, we would bolt out the door and explore

the charming quiet streets and the bustling

and popular night markets. All our senses

where on high as would smell the wonderfully

prepared foods in stalls, traditional warm

spiced wines and the cinnamon that was in

every corner of the two biggest markets.

The following day, we would take something

typically Hungarian and something some of

the locals participate in daily. That would be

going to the baths. On my fourth trip here to

Budapest, it was finally time to get this once in

a lifetime experience. We would opt for one of

Vikings optional tours of the baths. The trip

there and back was effortless. With a Viking

prepared bag filled with the necessities like a

fluffy towel, we would depart on our private

luxury coach with other Viking guests and

drove straight to the bath building, all the

while we had a professional guide taking

about her beloved city and the history of the

iconic baths.

Bath anyone?

This was already becoming a highlight of our

trip. Barely there, I felt an easy going feeling

as our coach navigated the small and dimly lit

narrow streets. In a city full of bath houses,

Viking’s choice was one of the best. The St.

Lukacs bath building was big and grand in

structure and once inside you could get lost in

the many halls, passages and stairways. The

baths themselves date back to the 12th century

when it was the favourite of the Turkish

grand Vizier. Today, they have three large outdoor

pools, several indoor pools (all at varying

temperatures) and many fountains and

saunas. Two hours were spent in bliss relaxing

and enjoying the thermal effects of the warm,

natural spring waters.

Cruising up the Danube

In the following days, we would have more of

the same. More pampering by the Viking crew,

more great Viking led excursions, more wonderful

scenery, more amazing experiences,

more gastronomic delights, more amazing

Christmas markets, more charming towns and

villages, more shopping…life was good!

On our seven-day cruise we would visit the

small but lively Slovak capital of Bratislava

where, on a Friday night, the town square

swelled with happy locals singing, laughing

and dancing the night away. The wonderful

grand city of Vienna was at her holiday best,

just about every centrally located street and

square was brilliantly lit up with colourful lights

and the many markets had a festive feel to

them. A break from the big cities was found in

the charming village of Krems and a nearby

monastery, where we would be in the fresh

country air and enjoy quiet reflection in the

richly decorated Gottweig Abby. What followed

was a breathtaking cruise through the

Wachu valley: vineyards, castles and small villages

dotted the landscape and locals waved

as we slowly navigated the Danube. Although

our time was limited in the historic city of Linz,

we would still find time to stroll the main

boulevard and see how the locals finished

their day with food and wine in the main

square.

A short drive away, we were in the beautiful

medieval town of Cesky Krumlov, Czechia,

here we would visit one of the best-kept old villages

I had ever seen. Lastly, we would finish

this cruise in the lovely town of Passau,

Germany, this would be a return visit for us

here. As the last one was in the height of summer,

this time around, the masses where gone

and we felt like we were one of the locals.

Yes, life was good! The Danube River is one of

the best rivers worldwide for traveling to on

and crusing on. The best part was the Viking

experience, so perfect in so many ways, it was

another ‘Very Viking Cruise!’.

www.vikingcruises.com

43

American World Traveler Spring 2020


44

Paradise Discovered in Halong Bay

by Olivia Balsinger

Halong Bay is by no means

unchartered territory by tourists

in Vietnam, unlike other areas

of her pristine coastline where crossing

paths with another visitor is few and far

between. In fact, over three million tourists

flock to this bay each year - compare that to

Vietnam’s stark coastline such as Ha Giang,

which, due to its geographic location in the

highlands of the country, hardly sees

tourists.

Halong Bay, on the other hand, is a comfortable

and efficient two-hour drive on the

newly-renovated highway from the bustle

and chaos of the country’s capital, Hanoi.

With this congestion of tourism and the saturation

of competition, how do cruising

companies differentiate themselves and

attract guests?

For Paradise Cruises, that answer lies in the

company’s commitment to delivering

unparalleled luxury service. With a total

fleet of about a dozen ships and more in the

pipeline, Paradise Cruises prides itself on

creating the optimal balance of relaxation

and adventure, flexibility and scheduling,

opulence and simplicity. The brand has

established a longtime respected reputation

in the country - in fact, Paradise Group

Vietnam currently owns and operates four

other fleets as well as the 156-room

Paradise Suites and Paradise Trend hotels,

the first and only boutique luxury hotels in

Halong Bay.

I recently was privileged to sail Paradise

Elegance throughout northeast Vietnam’s

magical topography. Here we meandered

through the Gulf of Tonkin, where limestone

pillar islands adorned with emerald forests

create a surreal scene, a real-life cross

between Avatar and Jurassic Park sets.


While all Paradise Cruises share similarities

in the caliber of service and itinerary variation,

they still differ in many ways. I urge

you to research the Paradise ships individually

before booking, to decide which itinerary

is most agreeable for you. For me, the

answer was Paradise Elegance.

Onboard Experience

Paradise Elegance, with 31 spacious cabins

and five-star amenities, flawlessly exemplifies

the company’s vision. Grand in stature,

this 200-ton steel craft ship is the most

extensive overnight option to ever sail

through Halong Bay, measuring 61 meters

long and 13 meters wide. The precision and

time it took to decorate the vessel’s interior

is unmistakable - not a thread is out of

place. Vietnamese and eastern Asian

design concepts are fused with modern

Western twists, seamlessly meshing the two

worlds.

The piano bar on Elegance is just that: elegant.

The primary social gathering space

onboard, this charming and spacious room

is connected to the restaurant, luring guests

for a cocktail or cigar following dinner.

Between the dark wood paneling, the

ornate paintings, and the musty leatherbound

chairs, the room’s ambiance is reminiscent

of a refined nineteenth-century

English parlor, where the gentlemen sip

top-shelf whiskey and talk politics. The

ship’s primary evening entertainment is a

live band, which readily takes requests from

the audience and encourages dancing until

wee morning hours.

Of course, if you have two left feet, you can

enjoy Elegance’s other evening activity

offering: squid fishing from the stern of the

boat (and if you’re lucky enough to catch

one, the cook will fry it for breakfast the next

morning!)

The top deck of Elegance is where all the

action throughout the day is centered. With

striking 360 degree views of the surrounding

landscape, the capability to hold up to

70 people at once, and a circular, shaded

bar serving snacks and happy hour specials,

it’s obvious why guests flock to the

top.

By late afternoon the sun melts into the skyline.

It provides a stunning background for

the traditional Vietnamese cooking class,

where the ship’s chef demonstrates how to

delicately produce a classic spring roll and

invites brave guests to try themselves.

For a boutique cruise line, Paradise

Elegance boasts a surprising variety in its

31 suites. The ship has 27 Deluxe Balcony

Cabins and four Terrace Suite cabins. No

matter the category, all rooms include a

bed, a telephone, a spacious bathroom

with a shower, sink and toilet, a walk-in

closet, and - most importantly - a balcony

with two deck chairs. The bathrooms are fitted

with their high-end amenities and are

much less claustrophobic than traditionally

thought of a cruise.

Each guest room is assigned a butler who

serves as the liaison between guests and

management for the duration of the journey.

The butler’s primary responsibility is to

inform guests about the scheduling and

serve dishes during dinner (and more informal

duties include giving local advice about

must - explore hidden gems in the area!)

Shore Experiences

Speaking of hidden gems, the greatest

draw to any cruise through the UNESCOprotected

Halong Bay is the ability to experience

nature at her most extreme - she

lures in guests from around the world with

her dramatic limestone islands contrasting

the vibrancy of the turquoise Gulf of Tonkin.

Paradise Elegance goes far beyond the

standard cruising itinerary; however, allowing

guests more bespoke experiences,

should they choose.

Paradise Elegance provides a relatively condensed

schedule for guests, whether they

choose the “one night-two day” or “two

night-three day” program. A one-night itinerary

usually includes an afternoon visit to

Sung Sot Cave, the largest and arguably

most serene cave in Halong Bay. An intrep-

id adventurer’s dream, the ancient

45

cave is composed of 1,969 sunken

limestone towers submerged in the

indigo waters of the bay and many still

remain rugged and unexplored.

Weather permitting, the next optional excursion

is a visit to The Tung Sau Pearl Farm,

notable for growing pearls and practicing a

handmade technique based on Vietnamese

tradition and Japanese technology. This is

also an extraordinary inlet here to kayak

and experience the untouched nature more

intimately, guests can rent a two-person

kayak for an additional USD 20. The following

morning begins bright and early,

with a visit to the famous Ti Top Island, the

ideal stop to for a brisk a.m. swim or an

arduous hike culminating in panoramic

views at the top.

The first 24 hours of Paradise Elegance’s

“two night-three day” program is identical

to that of the “one night” itinerary. However,

guests who wish to experience Halong Bay

even more in-depth will continue the second

day onwards and deeper into the bay

aboard the Paradise Explorer tender boat.

Throughout this multi-hour journey, the ship

stops at Trong Cave on Bo Hon Island,

where your mouth may be left agape

observing the sheer amount of stalactites

dangling from the cave’s ceiling.

Of course, Vietnam is famous for its hidden

floating villages. Cua Van Floating Village,

the largest of the five remaining floating

fishing villages in the bay, is no exception.

Elegance guests will reach this hidden gem

the most local way possible, traditional

bamboo boats. Those up for the adventure

may decide to kayak instead.

There is a reason why Paradise cruises have

withstood the test of time and competition

sailing in one of Vietnam’s most touristic

areas: they prioritize comfort, luxury, and

an authentic feeling of adventure.

www.paradisecruise.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


46

Uncruising and Unwinding in Alaska

Article and photography by Jennifer Merrick

The stress of selling our home had

taken its toll. Bags appeared on top

of bags under our eyes from the

preparation, staging, showings, open houses

and uncertainty. Sleepless nights were the

norm as we feverishly wished for somebody,

anybody, to buy our home. But finally, it sold.

Three days after the successful sale, still shellshocked,

we flew to Juneau, Alaska, to

embark on an UnCruise. This Seattle-based

company differentiates itself from other cruise

lines with its small ships (its biggest vessel has

a maximum passenger capacity of 90), inclusive

expedition-styled itineraries and its focus

on nature, wildlife and culture.

Our ship, the aptly named Wilderness

Explorer, sailed a section of Alaska’s Inside

Passage, a route that weaved through countless

islands along the Pacific coast. We boarded

tense and tired, and disembarked, seven

days later, relaxed and filled with awe by the

expansiveness and staggering beauty of the

Alaskan landscape.

Days of Adventure

We fell easily into the rhythm of the ship.

“Good morning, Wilderness Explorers,” the

announcement would chime at the start of

each day. “Breakfast is now being served in

the dining room.”

After a delicious and hearty meal, we’d set out

to do exactly what our ship’s name dictated

and explore the wilderness. Unlike other

cruises I’d been on, all of the UnCruise excursions

were included in the price and designed

to get you out in the wilds of Alaska at whatever

intensity suited you best. Choices ranged

from easy discovery walks and zodiac tours to

paddleboarding, sea kayaking and bushwhacking.

The latter was an UnCruise speciality,

which could be described as hiking

without a trail, and often involved slithering

under fallen trees, clamouring up rocks and

sliding down hills.

“We’re exploring, too!” our enthusiastic

guides chirped as we dove into the lush vege-


Bay, where we paddled into a divine grotto

and listened to the sound of the ocean and

forest while rays of sunlight filtered through

the crevices of the limestone walls.

sea lions,” the ranger remarked. “It

smells like one, too, and is only inhabited

by males too young or old to

mate.”

47

tation of the temperate rainforest. Our lungs

filled with air so rich with oxygen we could

almost taste it, as we forged our way through

bushes and trees. It was the complete opposite

of the please-stay-on-the-marked-trail

hiking I was used to!

Whatever adventure we decided on, whether

leisurely or active, the wilderness never failed

to astound and inspire us. Sheltered from the

ocean and with an abundance of rain, vegetation

flourished in the Inland Passage’s archipelago.

Life clung to every branch and stone

with moss and lichen of every shade of green.

The calm, deep-blue water stretches out to

mist-shrouded mountain peaks in the distance.

Hidden Falls and Secret Grottos

Because of the ship’s smaller size, we had

access to special sites that ‘floating cities’ AKA

larger cruise ships don’t. Places like Basket

Photo: Uncruise

Hidden Falls, situated on the east side of

Baranof Island, is another locale that’s available

only to smaller vessels. It’s home to a fish

hatchery that releases about 84 million chum

fry each year. Some passengers elected to

participate in an interpretive tour of the facility,

whereas others, like myself, explored the

site by kayak. We first paddled to the waterfalls,

and wondered how it could have been

named ‘hidden’, when it’s a breathtaking

128-feet high. And then we investigated

around the hatchery, where we were amused

by the fish that were continuingly jumping out

of the water, sure that at one point one would

flop itself into the boat. None did, though our

guide said it had happened. We were also

delighted by the seal, whose sweet face kept

popping up, and the eagle perched on a ‘No

Fishing’ sign.

Glacier Bay National Park

We spotted wildlife every day on our cruise,

but our morning in Glacier Bay National Park

was particularly memorable with sightings so

incredible that even the park’s ranger was

blown away.

“A truly remarkable day,” said Mark Ender,

who was on board with us during our time at

the 3.3- million-acre park that is famous for

its glaciers, scenery and wildlife. “I only make

journal entries when something is truly special,

and today was definitely that.”

We were already feeling lucky, when we gathered

around Ranger Matt on deck after

breakfast, armed with binoculars. The sun

was shining in this normally rainy climate,

and the white-peaked mountains shimmered

against the bluebird sky.

“Those are the Fairweathered Mountains,”

Ranger Matt told us. “They got their name

because they can only be seen on days like

today.”

We felt even more fortunate when we started

seeing the incredible wildlife at the park.

“The island we passed is a bachelor pad for

On South Marble Island, there were puffins,

the clown of the bird world, because of their

brightly-colored beaks.

Next, the cutest otter floated by on his back.

But all of this was just the opening for the

shows that were about to start.

“An orca!” someone called, and I turned just

in time to see a tail fluke wave before it dove

into the water. It surfaced again, this time

closer to the boat along with another orca,

and they both showed off their graceful moves

and sleek black and white coloring. These

creatures, also known as killer whales, are the

largest member of the dolphin family, and it’s

a rare sighting.

Brown bears are not so rare, but the territorial

display we witnessed was. Watching

through our binoculars, passengers collectively

gasped, as both bears stood up on their

hind legs vying for one particular spot on the

beach. One retreated but then returned again

for a second and third round before disappearing

in the forest.

And then there was the swimming moose,

who seemed completely oblivious to the clicking

of cameras.

Just ‘wild’ in every sense of the word. The glaciers

themselves almost seemed alive, when

they rumbled and crackled, as they calved

into the turquoise water. Feeling miniscule

before the 350-feet ice sheet, our awe of the

Alaskan landscape, replaced the tension we

had accumulated in the past months of selling

the house.

We remained blissed out until we returned

home…to move.

www.uncruise.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


48

On the Nile

Article and Photography by Lisa TE Sonne

Ican’t believe we are on the Nile, the

longest river in the world, the “mother of

civilization,” the river of Moses, King Tut,

Cleopatra, Nefertiti, Somerset Maugham,

Agatha Christie, and so many more.

My eyes open dreamily to see blue waters rippling

past a river bank of palm trees,

papyrus-like grasses, and a donkey and

thatched hut reminiscent of a biblical manger.

I am waking on the top deck of the M.S.

Mayfair plying the passage that thousands of

feluccas with their distinct sails have journeyed

over thousands of years. After seeing

the ancient Egyptian sun god of Ra depicted

in temples and tombs, and on cartouches and

post cards in Cairo and Alexandria, I have

enjoyed a solar nap, a more contemporary

homage to the powerful sun overhead. It’s

January, but I am comfortably warm.

I hear snatches of French, Spanish, and

Arabic, as well as English, from some of my

fellow passengers on the 74-cabin Mayfair.

Some kids are giggling and splashing in the

roof Jacuzzi. Tea is being served in porcelain

cups to adults. And then, in the distance, a

muezzin calls locals to pray to the one great

God Allah, in this country whose history is

carved and painted with images of ancient

gods that look part lion, crocodile, jackal,

owl, lion, cow, cat, or even alien.

My mind cruises through images that I have

now seen in person, not just books or screens.

The Egyptian museum in Cairo was an essential

three-dimensional primer before going to

tombs and temples. The museum’s 120,000

artifacts include King Tut’s gold mask, wellpreserved

royal mummies, and colorful hieroglyphics.

The museum is nestled among high-rises in


how it got there and who else has

touched it in hundreds of generations

of people.

49

the capital of Egypt, which bustles with 20 million

living people. Across the Nile to the west,

in Giza, famous monuments to the dead,

including the Giant Pyramids and the iconic

Great Sphinx, are roughly 4,500 years old.

That’s thousands of years older than other

ancient bucket-list destinations, such as

Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, the Aztec pyramids,

and the Anasazi cliff dwellings.

River Life

To live a few days on the life-source Nile, my

husband and I flew south to Luxor to begin

our cruise to Aswan. My first image of the Nile

at Luxor was of waters much bluer than the

river’s commercial artery through Cairo. And

beyond the blue, desert mountains contrasted

with colorful hot air balloons.

Moored near the great Luxor Temple, the

Mayfield became our moving home en route

to shore excursions with wonderful guides. In

only a few days, via horse-drawn carriages,

air-conditioned vans, and shaded motorboats,

we managed to visit the Valley of the

Kings with King Tut’s tomb, the Valley of the

Queens, the Temple of Karnak, the Temple of

Rameses, the Temple of Horus in Edfu, the

Philae Temple and Luxor Temple.

Countless guidebooks and web sites can

share incredible facts about famous locations:

Estimates say about 2.3 million stone blocks

weighing about one ton each were used to

build the Great Pyramid. The eyes alone on

the Sphinx of Giza are two meters high. But to

be there with your own eyes is to wish they,

too, were two meters high. There is so much

to take in and to wonder about. To touch one

of these mammoth stones and to marvel at

Driving through open desert, then crouching

through a long narrow passage and descending

into the bowels of the Earth to see something

astonishing awakens an innate thrill of

discovery.

In our current world hurtling past Snapchat

and 30 nano-seconds of fame, the carved

walls and pillars and ceilings in these temples

are still telling stories millennia later - tales of

battle and bravery, tenderness and love. And

they have created rock stars (literally) for the

ages.

We also created our own little stories when

going to have hibiscus tea in a Nubian village,

visiting the Aswan Dam, clambering

over rocks to see the Unfinished Obelisk, and

helping make paper in the Papyrus Museum.

But our touchstone was always the Nile River

to smell the winds that swirl felucca sails and

to watch the moods of the clouds and to feel

the rhythms of the river’s tides.

Our well-appointed ship provided several

ways to view river life: topside with winds and

smells and sun, from the dining room with

good food and drink, or from a balcony in the

suite. Our room even had a deep bathtub

with a sliding panel, so that we could see over

the bed, through the balcony glass door, and

onto the Nile itself.

We passed diverse tableaux - oasis-looking

settlements, stretches of sand-piled deserts

with a row of camel, and all-rock islands with

only winged visitors. We passed the river life

of fisherman and farmers in realms once

ruled by great pharaohs. We passed cliffs with

cave-like portals that stirred mystery about

what might have once been.

When the sun blazed fiery farewell to another

day, we saw it in the sky and reflected in the

Nile, as it has been millions of times before.

And later we could sleep on the Nile, under

the stars of Moses and Pharaohs.

Yes. We really are on the Nile.

www.egypt.travel

American World Traveler Spring 2020


50

Holland America’s New Style of Cruising on the Nieuw Statendam

by Janice and George Mucalov

IIt was music to our ears. Literally. The

gifted classical quintet on the ship’s

Lincoln Center Stage played Schumann

pieces to heart-tugging effect, stopping casual

passers-by in their tracks. Later that

evening – a few skips down the ship’s Music

Walk – a live band in the Rolling Stone Rock

Room kicked out smash hits that got everyone

rockin’ and rollin’ like it was the 70s again.

The B.B. King’s Blues Club also got us into the

groove with soulful and funky tunes from

Memphis.

If you think you know what cruising is like on

Holland America, think again!

Holland America has jazzed up its approach

to cruising, especially on its two newest

2,650-passenger ships, the Pinnacle-class

Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam.

This is not your granny’s cruise – though she’s

very welcome. Our one-week Caribbean

cruise on the Nieuw Statendam attracted a

wide range of guests, from young families

(most with well-behaved children) to globetrotting

silver-haired couples.

Club Orange

We signed up for Club Orange, the cruise

line’s new VIP pay-for-perks program ($25

USD p.p. a day). This allowed us to skip the

lines when embarking in Fort Lauderdale and

board the ship almost immediately.

Best of all, we could have breakfast and dinner

in the private Club Orange restaurant,

also open to Neptune and Pinnacle Suite

guests. Sporting décor color pops of pumpkin


orange and an open kitchen, it serves exclusive

Club Orange dishes (which change

daily), in addition to what’s on the menu in

the main dining room. It’s particularly great

for bypassing the breakfast crowds in the

main buffeteria and enjoying a sit-down

breakfast of Eggs Benny.

Fresh Ship Design

Both contemporary and timeless, the Nieuw

Statendam’s design sings.

In the three-deck-high central atrium, a spiral

staircase winds around a soaring sculpture

resembling a harp. You feel as if you’re walking

right into the stainless steel strings. Look

up at the ceiling skylight, and you see a

changing kaleidoscope of high-def images –

maybe wispy clouds or, at night, a star-studded

sky.

The $4 million art collection relates mostly to

music. But other pieces are catnip for art

lovers too. Many are new takes on classic

masterpieces. There’s a reproduction of the

Mona Lisa. And beside it, another Mona Lisa

made of jigsaw puzzle pieces. Triple take – is

that a seriously blurred picture of the famous

half-smiling lady? You can’t help but stop and

try to figure out the art on the walls.

Lots of high-tech wizardry abounds too. Fancy

a glass of wine for lunch in the Lido Market?

Just press a buzzer on your table to get

almost-instant service. And gone are the days

of checking a paper print-out of the daily

activities – simply check the HAL Navigator

app on your phone.

New Specialty Restaurants

We’ve cruised HAL in the past, but the dining

had never really wowed us. Not so in the

Nieuw Statendam’s specialty restaurants.

We often judge a resto by something as simple

as the bread. If it’s not good, we don’t

expect much from the rest of the food. On the

Statendam, each of the four main specialty

dining spots boasts its own unique yummy

bread.

At the 54-seat Rudi’s Sel de Mer? Crusty

baguettes garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

The place transports you to a cozy

French brasserie with plush curved red banquette

seating and pop-art porcelain plates

painted with colorful food faces adorning the

back wall. We couldn’t resist the classic escargot

baked in Pernod butter for an appetizer.

C’est bon! Popular entrées include duck à l’orange,

coq au vin and whole Dover sole meunière

with shaved pink Himalayan sea salt.

But the Pan-Asian Tamarind was our favourite

restaurant. Sophisticated dim lighting. Black

wood tables and plates. Rich purple glassware.

Enhancing the exotic mood? Asian

servers dressed in long Thai-style silk dresses.

We sipped chilled sake while waiting for our

orders. First up: A tempting array of fresh lobster

and dragon rolls from sushi master Andy

Matsuda’s sushi bar. Next, we sampled wokseared

lobster, red Thai curry of cashew barramundi

and Mongolian barbecued lamb

chops with baby bok choy and plum sauce. It

was all so tasty that if our cruise was longer,

we’d have happily sprung for the extra $25

USD p.p. cover charge to eat here again.

The Pinnacle Grill for steak and wild salmon

and Canaletto for Italian food also won us

over.

Staterooms

And then there are the staterooms. Of the

1,339 accommodations (including 174

suites), 851 are veranda staterooms. Varying

from 228 to 420 square feet (including the

balcony), they’re well thought out.

Dressed in white duvets, the beds face a large

flat-screen TV opposite. There’s plenty of cupboard

and drawer space (and we liked the

wall hooks for hanging sunhats and purses).

Bathrooms have decent-sized glass showers,

so you can lather up with the ship’s Elemis

products without bumping into the sides. A

swack of convenient USB bedside and other

plugs also meant we could recharge our

phones, iPad, laptop and cameras all at the

same time. Outside on our balcony, two grey

lounge chairs came with footstools so we

could even recline and nap (sort of).

Pools and fitness room

Sea days are perfect for relaxing on deck by

the pool, right? We had two such days on our

cruise.

There are two pools on the Nieuw

Statendam. One is mid-ship, with a

51

retractable glass roof and lounge

chairs topped with thick cushions. On

the upper deck overlooking the pool, you can

loll about like a Roman on cool cocoon-like

couches and chairs, separated by breezy

white curtains. You have to be savvy to snag a

lounger here though (easier come mid-afternoon).

Aft is another less busy pool.

For a pocket of tranquility, The Retreat is a

separate sanctuary with pool- and ocean-view

cabanas and dedicated staff to serve you

drinks. It’s popular, so book early (extra

charge). We tried to reserve a cabana for our

second sea day; sadly, they were all gone.

We decided to hit the fitness room with its forward

view windows instead (better for us, we

consoled ourselves). Problem: With so many

state-of-the-art machines, it was hard to figure

out which ones to try!

Itinerary

After summering in Europe, the Nieuw

Statendam returns to her Fort Lauderdale

homeport in November, 2020, for another

winter season of Western and Eastern

Caribbean cruises. The star attraction is Half

Moon Cay, included on most itineraries.

Picture the dreamiest of tropical islands with

powder white sand and limpid waters.

Chances are it looks a lot like this, HAL’s private

island in the Bahamas.

You can pet stingrays, ride horses and pedal

a bicycle around the small island. But we were

happiest just lazing about on the beach under

the shade of waving palms. And when our

stomachs started growling, we plonked ourselves

down on wooden bar stools in the

breezy new Lobster Shack to chow down on

fresh grilled lobster.

Ahhh… Eat, swim, sleep, repeat. And

evenings of first-rate entertainment to look

forward to. A Caribbean cruise doesn’t get

much better than this.

www.hollandamerica.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


52

Luxury Hotels...Grand Resorts...Charming B&B...Opulent Villas...Quaint C

Sweet Dreams Around the World

Stay & Play Section

Escape to Wonderland: Hotel Giardino Mountain Resort

by Olivia Balsinger

St. Moritz has always been a scene of winter wonderlands, and Hotel Giardino

Mountain is no exception. A train journey on the Swiss Rail, reminiscent of the Polar

Express, takes guests to the five-star property from the country’s capital of Zurich.

The ride itself is out of a Christmas card - hills and mountains juxtapose quaint villages

as the train meanders through rural Switzerland’s valleys.

Once pulling into the charming St. Moritz train station, you’ll be greeted by one of

the hotel’s drivers who whisks you to Hotel Giardino Mountain - aptly named for fitting

snug in slopes of the Albula Alps. The property is comprised of seven Engadine

houses which were extensively restored in 2011 and reopened as a five-star design

hotel.

Mother Nature is undoubtedly showing off in this environment, the hotel is perched

at almost 2,000 meters above sea level, snuggly caressed between the Alpine peaks

of Corvatesh and Corviglia. For those who enjoy adventurous activities or simply

rejuvenation in nature, there is a pristine lake just 300 meters from the hotel that

sits adjacent to a spectacular pine forest.

In the wintertime, by far the busiest time of year for tourism in St. Moritz, locals and

foreigners alike enjoy skating and cross-country

skiing by the lake. Though the area is

known for these months of bundling warm, of

course, though locals say they prefer summer

in St. Moritz. As the air warms, they can go

swimming and boating on the lake, or explore

the maze of trees while sporting hiking boots

instead of skis.

For those who prefer to relax and enjoy the

amenities of the resort instead of heart-palpitating

adventures, Hotel Giardino Mountain

has got you covered. The Dipiù Spa at Hotel Giardino Mountain is a relaxing and

immersive experience, with pools, saunas, gyms, massages, and cosmetic options.

The Hotel Giardino Mountain is a blissful escape where guests can enjoy as much

or as little of surrounding nature as they’d like. The possibilities here are as boundless

as the Alps themselves.

The Algonquin Hotel

Times Square New York

by Mike Cohen

The Algonquin Hotel Times Square first

opened its doors in 1902. Today, it is part

of the Marriott chain’s Autograph

Collection, an evolving ensemble of strikingly

independent hotels. Each of the 181

rooms and 25 suites features a comfortable

well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary

Wi-Fi.

This is our family’s home away from

home whenever we travel to the Big

Apple. We stayed in a very comfortable

one bedroom Playbill Suite. The layout

was ideally suited for us. There is a nice

sized entrance, with the master bedroom

to the left featuring a nice-sized bathroom.

The spacious living room has a

pullout couch, a large desk which was

perfect for me to write my stories and

good drawer and cupboard space. You

can get a fridge and a microwave,

depending upon availability and on

request.

www.algonquinhotel.com

www.giardinohotels.ch

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53

peace and clarity. Though skeptical about

the cosmic power of gems, there was no

doubt of the peacefulness that descended

upon us at this spa. We reluctantly left, but

knew we’d be back. Did I mention wellness-inclusive

covered a massage a day

and full access to the spa waters?

“Hasta manana, YHI SPA,” I whispered

under my breath.

Our wellness suites had a menu of ‘stay

well’ features that included: air purification,

aromatherapy, circadian task lighting,

guided meditation, stay well shower

infuser, dawn simulation and a Deepak

Chopra welcome. Meal options ranged

from healthy pressed green juices delivered

to your room to indulgent multicourse

meals at the property’s many

restaurants. And, of course, all sorts of

libations as wellness-inclusive also meant

all-inclusive.

“It’s all about choice,” Bothfeld commented.

Wellness-inclusive Luxury at Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort

This January, resolutions still fresh in

my mind, I was delighted to check

out the brand-new ‘wellness-inclusive’

initiative at the adults-only Melia

Punta Cana Beach in the Dominican

Republic.

“This program is like our baby,” said Oliver

Bothfeld, hotel manager. “We really wanted

to do something different.”

The first difference was that we checked in

not at the front desk, but at the spa. Not

by Jennifer Merrick

just any spa, either, but the lush and serene

YHI SPA filled with tropical plants and water

features with turtles lazily basking on rocks.

Our tight, winter-weary muscles unknotted

a little, as we sipped Tropical Moringa

Herbal Tea and filled in our information.

Once done, we were given our wellness

bracelets, which, unlike the plastic, hospital-like

bands that I associated with allinclusive

resorts, was a black-stringed piece

of jewellery with a larimar stone. Found

only in the Dominican Republic, this blue

gemstone’s energy supposedly resonated

We chose to skip the 7AM Run for Fun on

the Energy for Life itinerary and instead

biked around the resort. The grounds were

beautifully landscaped with tropical flower

gardens and wildlife, like the flamingos

whose reflection shimmered pinks and

corals in the water. Several times during

our stay, we strolled along Bavaro Beach.

Recognized by UNESCO, this stretch of

sand was as gorgeous as they come with

postcard perfect wind-swept palms, white

sands and turquoise water.

We might not have kept all our resolutions,

but we started the new decade in the right

direction. Now every time I wear my larimar

stone bracelet, I’m transported back

to the Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort and

start to breathe a little deeper.

www.melia.com

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Advertorial

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Puntacana Resort & Club is the

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Golf

With 45 holes of championship golf,

Puntacana Resort & Club is the

Caribbean’s premier golf & beach destination.

The P.B. Dye designed La Cana

Golf Course, consisting of 27 holes across

Tortuga, Arrecife and Hacienda, was

declared the number one course in the

Caribbean by Golf Magazine. Designed

by Tom Fazio and set between rocky cliffs,

coral reefs and the expansive Caribbean

Sea, the Corales Golf Course features six

oceanfront holes, multiple lines of

approach and picturesque canyons, making

for an exhilarating experience.

Activities & Spa

Puntacana Resort & Club offers a wide

range of adventures for guests of all ages

including golf, tennis, kite boarding, scuba

diving, horseback riding, fishing and

numerous excursions by sea, land and air.

The leading spa in the Caribbean, Six

Senses Spa at Puntacana Resort & Club

presents a range of innovative packages,

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Visit Galerías Puntacana to enjoy an

assortment of shops, restaurants, playground,

and our spirited nightlife.

Dining

Puntacana Resort & Club is home to 6

world class eateries with an indigenously

delectable cuisine. Tucked inside Tortuga

Bay, the AAA Four Diamond awarded

Bamboo blends modern cuisine with

Mediterranean influences. Specializing in

local seafood, The AAA Three Diamond

Award La Yola is located at the Marina. At

La Cana Golf & Beach Club is The Grill,

an American style grill offering views of

the sea. The Westin Puntacana Resort &

Club provides a variety or restaurants and

bars from Ananí to Brassa Grill. Next door

is Playa Blanca, a beachfront tropical

restaurant. Our Dine Around Program

offers the best sampling of our finest culinary

experience. All restaurants offer complimentary

shuttle service within the resort.

More dining options are available at

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Corporate Social Responsibility

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Punta Cana International airport

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www.puntacana.com


56

Hilton Garden Inn

Sacramento Art and Food Celebrated at the Hilton Garden Inn’s New Hotel

by Jennifer Merrick

IIn the lobby of the newly-opened Hilton

Garden Inn Sacramento Airport

Natomas, we watched as local artist,

Amie M. Tokuhama-Chapman, painted a

floor-to-ceiling mural of flowers, farm fields

and a plane.

“It’s a tribute to the hotel’s location and

Sacramento,” said Amie when I admired her

work.

Located 100 miles northeast of San Francisco,

Sacramento, California’s capital, is known for

its rich soil and bountiful crops. The Hilton

Garden Inn gives guests a taste of the farmto-fork

city with nightly chef specials at the

Brightheart Bar and the Garden Grille and

Bar. We enjoyed an assortment of local meats

and cheeses along with the freshest of fruit

accompanied by a Judy’s Garden Gin, a sig-

Jennifer Merrick

nature cocktail created especially for actress,

Judy Greer.

The Shop, open 24 hours a day, also stocks

local products, including chocolate and confectionaries

from Andy's Candy Apothecary;

wines from nearby family-owned vineyard,

Bogle Winery and almonds. The valleys

around Sacramento produce the majority of

the world’s supply of this nutritious nut, along

with plums, peaches, tomatoes, olives, pears,

sunflowers and grapes. Amie’s painting of the

farm fields celebrated this rich agricultural

heritage.

The mural also reflects the strong street art

culture of Sacramento. The city has embraced

outdoor art with over 800 murals in the downtown

core alone and an annual festival that

sees dozens of new murals every year.

“Graffiti artists, sometimes on the run, migrated

here from the larger cities,” said Jenn

Kistler-McCoy, our guide and owner of Sac

Tour Company, explaining how the culture of

murals began in Sacramento.

On the tour through downtown Sacramento,

Jenn fed us tidbits and tales about the murals

and the artists. Some were well-known, like

Shepard Fairey, a street-art celebrity, whose

arresting 15-story Johnny Cash mural was a

commentary on the prison system. Other

artists were local, like Maren Conrad, who

painted a tribute to Lady Bird, an Oscar-nominated

coming-of-age story that brought

Sacramento into the limelight.

“It’s a city that fosters art,” Amie said, and

then told us that the Hilton Garden Inn commissioned

her for the mural after seeing her

sidewalk art at one of the city’s many festivals.

The plane in her work reflects the location of

the hotel. Situated seven minutes from the airport

and ten minutes from downtown, it

attracts both business and leisure guests.

Modern, comfortable and reasonably priced,

its amenities include an outdoor pool, business

center, fitness room, room service and

free parking. And if your timing is right, you

may just get to see more art in action. Hilton

Garden Inn has plans to commission more

murals as part of its mandate that the hotel

represent the character and flavours of

California’s capital.

www.hilton.com/en/hilton-garden-inn

Jennifer Merrick

American World Traveler Spring 2020


57

Hotel Review: Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences

by Olivia Balsinger

My recent stay at Vista Encantada

Spa Resort & Residences, the

meticulous newly-opened resort in

Cabos San Lucas, entirely regenerated my

spirit. After all, it would be difficult to not feel

at peace at this exclusive and tranquil property,

the ultimate retreat from the Cabos chaos

energy nearby.

Nothing is more soul-soothing than a backstroke

in one of the resort’s rooftop infinity

pools, under the canvas of the sprawling

Mexican sky, the surrounding Pacific Ocean’s

breeze cooling the harsh air, the unobstructed

views of the famed Land’s End rock formation

in the distance.

The elegance in Vista Encantada’s interior is a

seamless melange between traditional

Mexican color palettes and smooth contemporary

finishes. An all-suite property, the

“smallest” living arrangement is a one-bedroom

suite, which features a master bedroom

with a King bed and a living area with a full

kitchen, sitting and dining area, and an

accompanying lounge area.

The Milagro Spa is the optimal sanctuary to

indulge in unique treatments and remedies

carefully curated with Mexican wisdom of

herbs and plants to help heal and rejuvenate

the body. I indulged in the Pacific Mare

Signature Ritual, which delicately combines

warmth from an ancient Ayurvedic warm oil

and a cooling sensation to dually relax and

ease muscle tension (which, after countless

laps in the infinity pool, I certainly needed!)

The spa also boasts a variety of couple’s treatments,

including a lighted candle drip massage

and a romantic aromatherapy experience,

including champagne and strawberries,

of course.

The gastronomic delights of Vista Encantada

make it worth a visit on its own. A stay is

incomplete without digesting the panoramic

views and signature dishes at Mestizo del Mar.

Wannabe mermaids like myself will adore the

swim-up bar and grill at Atico Rooftop Pool

and Bar, while those who prefer a little spice

in their bite will flock to Los Riscos Mesquite

Grill and Bar for authentic Mexican dishes

and zesty margaritas. To promote nearby

local businesses, the hotel also has a unique

Golden Zone program which invites guests to

use their meal plans at local restaurants,

including a local steakhouse and sushi restaurant.

No guilt trips needed after indulging in all

these tasting offerings, however, because

there are plenty of complimentary fitness

activities to enjoy. Take advantage of perhaps

the prettiest gym you’ll witness, located on the

property’s roof, with views of the sparkling

sea below. A horseback riding program

allows guests to experience the stark and

drastic desert-like surroundings of the resorts,

trotting through trails sprinkled with cacti.

Whether pursuing an active holiday or hoping

to escape from the chaos of everyday life, the

distinguished hospitality, creative gastronomic

experiences, world-class amenities, and

amorous spa make Vista Encantada Spa

Resort & Residences the obvious choice on

your next Los Cabos getaway.

www.vistaencantadaresort.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


58

Asylum turned Hotel

Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center - Buffalo, New York

by Cherie DeLory, photography Christopher Payne

Once a notable insane asylum with

a revolutionary holistic and therapeutic

approach to wellness, is

now a stunning hotel and conference Center

and a National Historic Landmark in Buffalo,

New York. The former Buffalo State Asylum

for the Insane (1880-1974) was designed in

the Richardsonian Romanesque style, named

after American architect Henry Hobson

Richardson.

In consultation with mental health advocate

Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, Richardson and

American landscape architect Frederick Law

Olmsted collaborated on a vision that would

provide a calm sanctuary and inspire hope

and healing for its patients. Kirkbride believed

that environment strongly influenced ones’

health and wellbeing. So, maximizing the

sunlight pouring into the wide open corridors

and spaces, providing a garden for planting,

and plenty of outside space for playing recreational

sports defined the architectural and

philosophical blueprint.

Following an extensive restoration, the boutique

hotel opened in 2017 showcasing an

overwhelming character-filled elegance. It

maintains the integrity of the heritage building

and boasts soaring 16-foot ceilings and

expansive hallways and curved corridors connecting

the wings, floor to ceiling windows,

and original maple hardwood and ornate

mosaic tile floors.

There’s an intimate lounge, workout room,

restaurant, business centre, and an outside

terrace overlooks the vegetable and flower

garden bordered by an intriguing crossshaped

garden brick wall. It’s the original

medina sandstone foundation of a greenhouse

built in the early 1900s, but the walls

have been extended to form a cross shape.

The Tower Ballroom on the fourth and highest

floor used to be a chapel where multi-denominational

services were held. The Buffalo State

College campus, directly across the street,

used to be a 100-acre working farm for the

hospital. The hotel serves up sustainable and

garden fresh dishes in the farm’s namesake,

100 Acres.

In many ways, hallmarks of the former hospital

have been repurposed and remain relevant

to today’s hotel residents. Art walks, popup

art displays, and yoga sessions are held in

the same spaces where patients were encouraged

to come out of their rooms into the lightfilled

expansive 15-foot hallways to socialize.

Inquire at the reception desk about the complimentary

self-guided audio tour of the

grounds. There are many historical tours

available of the Richardson Olmsted

Campus, including some buildings that are

not open to the public yet. Other development

projects on the campus are in the planning

stages, including the Lipsey Buffalo

Architecture Center, a space dedicated to

information about the city of Buffalo’s historic

architecture.

Encompassing 42 acres of green space, Hotel

Henry is like a breath of fresh air and a

healthy dose of sunlight. It’s within walking

distance to Delaware Park, a national historic

district, the Buffalo Zoo, the Museum District,

art galleries, and Elmwood Village for shopping

and restaurants.

www.hotelhenry.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


59

The Listel: Vancouver’s Eco-conscious Boutique Hotel

by Jessica Percy Campbell

These days, many travelers are concerned

with minimizing their carbon

footprint as they explore the world.

It’s no wonder that eco-friendly destinations,

restaurants, and accommodations are

becoming increasingly popular. From extensive

bike-lanes to accessible public transit by

Skytrain, Vancouver is known for leading the

way in green initiatives in Canada. The Listel

Hotel is one of Vancouver’s finest accommodation

options, priding itself on being a zerowaste

facility since 2011. Through composting

organic materials, and by making use of

water reduction programs and solar panels,

they have also been able to reduce their own

carbon footprint by 30%!

But being green isn’t the only thing that

makes The Listel Hotel unique. Art and culture

lovers will be pleased to discover that each

floor offers a variety of themed artwork in

every room. The Museum Floor features

beautiful artwork and pottery from

Northwestern First Nations artists. The

Modern Art Floor showcases vibrantly colored

rooms with retro furnishings. The Gallery

Floor rooms are designed to make guests feel

like they’re each in their own private art

gallery. The Listel also offers multiple event

venues ideal for sophisticated corporate or

celebratory events. From the lobby to the conference

rooms, the entire hotel is decorated in

carefully curated artwork from around the

world.

What I love most about this hotel is that

Charles, The Listel’s resident coffee connoisseur,

offers a wonderful daily service for the

caffeine enthusiasts among us. Each night,

hotel guests can fill out a card indicating their

preference for French press coffee or tea

delivery in the morning. They will literally

“wake up and smell the coffee” at their

doorstep in the best way possible so that they

can hit the ground running. The Listel Hotel is

ideally situated in an exciting area of

Vancouver’s West End, with hundreds of

restaurants and shops within walking distance.

The hotel is also connected to Forage,

an award-winning restaurant well-known for

its commitment to sustainability and for featuring

locally sourced ingredients, wines, and

craft beer from British Columbia.

As Vancouver is one of the mildest cities in

Canada, tourists can visit year-round without

worrying too much about extreme weather.

Visitors will never run out of things to do, as

Vancouver offers the perfect mix of city life

and nature, with many hikes and gorgeous

beach scenes available nearby. I’d recommend

taking a leisurely stroll through Stanley

Park or Lynn Canyon Park before a night out

on the town. For fitness lovers looking for

something a little more challenging, the

Grouse Mountain “grind” is certainly tough,

but it ends in a rewarding view of the city.

Vancouver also hosts all kinds of interesting

events such the International Wine Festival at

the end of February and the Cherry Blossom

festival in April. Whatever your fancy, The

Listel Hotel is a charming place to call home

while wandering around the stunning city of

Vancouver.

Bonus: Guests visiting The Listel Hotel from

surrounding areas nearby like BC, Alberta, or

Washington State, are offered a resident’s

rate of 15% off.

www.thelistelhotel.com

American World Traveler Spring 2020


62

Curacao - Four Fab Spots to Stay

Curacao Marriott Beach Resort

Exciting New Oasis for Business and Leisure

by Susan Canpbell

Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino

Practical Urban Base with a Brand-New Vibe

by Susan Canpbell

Iwas delighted to hear that the Curacao Marriott would be reopening

in the Piscadera Bay area in 2019. The absence of a major

resort on that prime piece of real estate right across the street from

the Curacao World Trade Center was sorely missed. But now, after a

$40 million USD renovation, the transformation is complete. And it’s

glorious. I’m happy to see they left the grand entrance and sprawling

pool intact and now, bedecked with state-of-the-art amenities, they are

regaining their reputation as

a first-rate stay on that landmark

six acres of oceanfront.

They will soon also offer the

largest meeting space

capacity on the island.

The 336-room hotel is divided

into two wings flanking

The Great Room lobby area,

one with a stand alone

adult-only pool area. Our

rooms were fresh and modern with epic sea views, and our Reef Club

level status gave us access to an inviting indoor/outdoor space just off

the lobby offering complimentary gourmet snacks and spirits. Also, off

the lobby, is Zalo Gastropub for creative tapas and hand-crafted cocktails,

a sushi bar, and a coffee house/marketplace for grab-and-gogoodies.

For surfside food and drink, there’s the lively Salty Iguana, but

it’s their new signature dining spot called C-Spice that’s really making

big waves on Curacao’s culinary front. We had the pleasure of enjoying

a fabulous poolside

dinner there, and it was

great to see award-winning

Chef Dino Jagtiani at

the helm. I knew him from

St. Maarten when he ran

Temptation, one of that

island’s most celebrated

restaurants for many years.

Welcome back Curacao

Marriott!

www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/curpb-curacao-marriott-beach-resort

I’d not been to this cool urban resort in the heart of downtown

Willemstad for two years, so I was really surprised at the magnitude

of changes there- all for the better! Though their past carnival theme

had been a very bright and colorful collage of design elements, that’s

all changed after a 12-million-dollar renovation. Though the new Wind

Creek Carnival Casino still carries on that festive colorful theme, the

entire complex has been redesigned with an ethereal upscale, sleek,

and modern style. From the sparkling new lobby and refreshed

indoor/outdoor Nautilus signature dining room to the addition of a

guest-only Starbucks on the second floor, the resort has truly been elevated.

And it’s extremely inviting.

Our stay this time was short but sweet, so the first spot I headed to was

the unique manmade clifftop beach and seawater infinity pool, seriously

one of the coolest water installations I’ve ever experienced. I’m happy

to say that it’s still intact the way I remembered it, but now it’s even better

with on-site spa cabanas. It’s right beside the cruise terminal, so you

can see the twinkling lights of the ships on the water at night, and during

the day, sometimes the infinity view provides the optical illusion that

the ships are about to cruise right up onto the beach! Very cool.

All the property’s 223 rooms and suites have been completely refreshed,

and I totally enjoyed my sea view room overlooking the historic Rif Fort

and its lively outdoor village where the outdoor music can waft up to

your balcony at night. Of special note was the abundance of 110-volt

outlets, there were dozens

of them. Most of Curacao’s

hotel rooms were originally

designed to accommodate

European visitors, so they

often require adapters for

the 220-volt outlets.

This is an ideal practical

base for business travellers,

but also perfect for those

seeking to be within easy

walking distance of all the island’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and

major urban attractions Willemstad has to offer.

www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/curbr-renaissancecuracao-resort-and-casino

American World Traveler Spring 2020


63

Avila Beach Hotel

The Grande Dame That Always Delights

by Susan Canpbell

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort

An Ideal Escape for All Ages

by Susan Canpbell

Every time I visit Curacao, I like to spend time at this classic

Grande Dame, and each time I do, it’s even better than the last!

Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2019, this is the resort where

the Dutch Royal Family stays while on island, but this spot, though definitely

aristocratic, is by no means snooty. It’s an inviting compilation of

two family-friendly private beaches with a house coral reef ideal for

snorkeling, a collection of casual and modern dining spots, and fun

and friendly bars. In fact, their Blues Bar is famous for being the

absolute best spot for Thursday Happy Hour on island. It’s set upon its

own high pier, and their live jazz band plays atop the bar on their own

loft perch. And if you dine on their outside deck there Thursday nights,

you’ll also be treated to the Punda Thursday Vibes fireworks display in

the distance.

The 150-room complex is divided into three separate wings, each with

its own appeal and specialty. The Blues Wing sits atop its own overwater

pier and is uber romantic, especially now that this wing has been

designated as adult-only. For business travelers and those seeking nononsense,

sleek, modern stays, the Octagon Wing is the place to be,

and that’s where you’ll find their stylish Cloud Nine Spa, 24/7 fitness

centre and deluxe infinity

pool. La Belle Alliance Wing is

more classic colonial and their

apartment style stays are preferred

by families because

they sport full kitchens. We

had the pleasure of staying in

their new two-bedroom luxury

penthouse suite in the Belle

Alliance Wing, and it was

epic. The 3rd-floor sea view

deck was large enough for a

party of 20, the open concept kitchen/living room was also massive,

and the the fact that it has 2 1/2 bathrooms and its own laundry facilities

was also a plus.

There’s also history and culture on site - a small octagonal museum

dedicated to Simon Bolivar is worth a visit, and there’s often outdoor

classical musical concerts in their sea front courtyard.

www.avilabeachhotel.com

Iadore staying at this sprawling complex out on the island’s eastern

tip, it’s truly a destination within a destination, and it offers everything

one could want for an ideal tropical holiday. And if you golf,

even better. Their spectacular seaside Old Quarry Golf Course has won

best in the Caribbean awards many years running. I don’t golf, but I do

love to go tropical fish-finding, and this resort is just around the corner

from the cool tugboat wreck in Spanish Waters, one of the island best

snorkels sites.

The colonial style complex of

350 stylish and spacious rooms

spans 2,000 acres of gorgeous

palm gardens and a lovely protected

beachfront with shallow

waters ideal for families.

Children also love the water

fountain splash area and parents

love the main pool with big cabanas and food and beverage service.

The resort now has an all-inclusive option, and dining on site

includes a collection of beach bars and grills, the Medi main dining

room, sushi and cocktails in The Great Room and Shore, their standalone

signature restaurant that sits atop a cliff over the sea. Shore also

welcomes off-property guest and it is, in my opinion, one of the best

dining spots on the island, and so do take a trip out there to experience

it, even if you are not staying at the

resort. They have an excellent

stand-alone bar there, too.

Personally, I simply enjoy chilling

on the beach or floating in the sea

while there and getting royally

pampered in their awesome

Atabei Spa is also a must, but if fitness

is your thing, there are plenty

of options. Hiking, biking, guided yoga and Pilates and an excellent

24/7 gym are a few, and the resort’s tennis and golf pros offer weekly

clinics for guests. The calm waters surrounding Santa Barbara beach

are also ideal for SUP and sea kayaking.

www.santabarbararesortcuracao.com

Curacao - Four Fab Spots to Stay

American World Traveler Spring 2020


64

Cherry Orchards, Light Houses and Shoreline

by Cherie DeLory, photography: Destination Door County

“Hold on tight,” shouts master lighthouse

keeper, Hal Wilson from the wheel of his

tractor’s seat. “This is going to be a lot

of fun.” No, we’re not going for a hay wagon

ride through the fragrant cherry orchards of

Door County, Wisconsin. We’re braving the

stormy waters of Lake Michigan over the

causeway en route to the Cana Island

Lighthouse. Depending on the weather, sometimes

the causeway is free of water and visitors

can walk to the island, but today we’re

experiencing Hurricane Dorian’s wind and

rain from across the Atlantic, making our voyage

all the more atmospheric and strangely

similar to the seafaring conditions that

required the assistance of lighthouse structures

to prevent sailors from catastrophic shipwrecks.

One of 11 heritage lighthouses on the Door

County Lighthouse Tour, the Cana Island

Lighthouse is 150 years old with an instagram-worthy

wrought iron spiral staircase to

be conquered if you want to reach the wondrous

panoramic views at the finish line. I

climbed the 102 winding steps trepidatiously,

not wanting any vertigo to get in the way of

experiencing the tower’s architecture, the

enlightening view from the landing at the top

of the tower, and its crowning glory: the giant

Fresnel lens. Nothing captures the imagination

of the sea better than an image of a lighthouse

with crashing waves and the direct

glow of light from the Fresnel lens casting its

glare onto the water’s landscape for the safety

of travelling ships and boats.

Hygge and Hammocks

Door County is a Swedish settlement, hence

nods to Norwegian culture abound. It’s no

wonder the Scandinavian concept of hygge

seems to be the natural order of things here.

With a population of around 27,000, it’s

known for abundant shoreline, beaches and

historic lighthouses that guard the peninsula

off of Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Its five

state parks offering everything from kayaking,

hiking, camping and birdwatching make It a

beacon for nature and outdoor enthusiasts

year round.

Its string of village main streets lined with artisan

shops, craft breweries and bakeries serv-

Cherie DeLory


ing up treats like the local specialty, cherry

pie, make it easy to feel like this is a home

away from home. That’s how I felt at

Blacksmith Inn on the Shore, my bed and

breakfast in quiet Baileys Harbor. This historic

inn (circa 1907) was once the local blacksmith

shop. The owners have since built a

replica inn opposite the original, which is

where I stayed. I was instantly won over by

the lush flower garden surrounding the

entrance and the intimacy and decor of the

foyer, where treats are available 24/7.

Popcorn, organic juices and homemade

cherry oatmeal cookies. And it didn’t take

long to test drive the hammock on my room’s

balcony, which overlooks the greenery and

bullrushes with the lake and dock beyond. I

fell asleep to the sound of water lapping on

the shore and the soft hue of the electric fireplace

casting its glow across the room. I’d

awake to glorious morning sunrises and the

cheery calls of Red Winged Blackbirds.

Ridges Sanctuary and a Sunset Cruise

The quaint village of Baileys Harbor has a lot

to offer, and the best part is that everything is

within walking distance, with bikes available

at the Inn. Next door is The Ridges, a diverse

nature sanctuary covering 1,600 acres in and

around the shoreline, with vast trails, wetlands,

boreal forest, wildlife and wildflowers

to explore. Don’t leave out a visit to the

Nature Center and Baileys Harbor Range

Lights, a pair of lighthouses situated at opposite

ends of the boardwalk. I didn’t eat in

town, but I stopped in for a latte at Bearded

Heart Cafe and sampled a craft beer flight at

Door County Brewing Company, the town’s

saloon-style gathering spot with live music

and a porch for watching the world go by.

Watch the day slip away into night on the

Sunset Live Music Cruise with Sister Bay

Scenic Boat Tours debarking from the town of

Sister Bay. This was a wonderful opportunity

to witness my first mesmerizing Door County

sunset, capture panoramic views of the coastline

with its soaring limestone bluffs and

underwater sea caves surrounding Cave

Point County Park, looming lighthouses, and

the table umbrellas dotting the patio of an

atmospheric waterside restaurant. Fred &

Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar & Grill is located at

Little Sister Resort, a cottage and camping

ground in Sister Bay. Imagine my delight

when a couple of days on I was able to enjoy

their fish tacos and a cherry juice margarita

sitting at the water’s edge, listening to live

music, and taking in another glorious sunset.

Lipstick Trees and Root Beer Floats

Everyone loves cheese, but did you know that

the orange colour can come from a lipstick

tree? A lunch stop and cheese curd tasting at

family-owned Renards Cheese in Sturgeon

Bay was a tasty and educational experience.

Other restaurants worth a reservation are

Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza and Grille in

Sister Bay for their delicious wood-fired pizzas,

Coyote Roadhouse in Baileys Harbor

serves up cowboy portions in a proper western

saloon ambiance. I recommend the

baked beans and steak. Wilson’s Restaurant

& Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim is the spot for

old fashioned home-brewed root beer ice

cream sodas. Try Scaturo’s Baking Company

and Cafe in Sturgeon Bay for brunch. My

fried egg, sausages and french toast topped

with warm cherries and whipped cream gets

my vote for best brunch ever.

Earth, Wind and Fire

Cycling is my recreation of choice so to have

the opportunity to explore Peninsula State

Park on two wheels was exciting. Our bicycles

were from Edge of Park Rentals, near the Fish

Creek entrance of the bike trail. Sunset Trail

is a 10-mile easy terrain that takes you

through the woods and along the water’s

edge. You’ll discover Eagle Bluff Lighthouse,

Nicolet Bay Beach, and the Northern Sky

Theatre Amphitheatre, a 650-seat outdoor

theatre in the woods to enjoy live musicals

during the summer.

Want something a little different for dinner?

Gather around the fire for a fish boil. The

taste may not be for everyone, but it’s all

about experiencing the local Scandinavian

tradition. Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay is

one of several resorts serving up the excitement.

It’s raining, so inside the Master story

teller regales us with entertaining stories

about Rowelys Bay and its original settlers,

the Potawatomi Indians, who enjoyed preparing

their fish in this way. Outside, a large kettle

is filled with Lake Michigan whitefish,

caught daily, salt, red potatoes, and sweet

onions. Listen for the school-bell. That’s when

kerosene is thrown on the fire and the pot

boils over resulting in raging flames. My timing

was a little off so by the time I ran outside

into the rain to snap a photo the flames had

calmed down. Back inside the dining room I

tasted the fish, and left plenty of room for

Door County cherry pie.

www.doorcounty.com

65

Cherie DeLory

Cherie DeLory

American World Traveler Spring 2020


66

Costa Rica: Listening to the Sounds of the Rainforest

Article and photography by jennifer Merrick

After an adventure-filled day exploring

sites around Arenal Volcano in

Costa Rica, we all felt a little dozy

on the way back to our resort for the

evening. So, we were almost stunned when

we found ourselves pulled over on the

shoulder of a main road. Had the vehicle

broken down? Flat tire?

“Howler monkeys,” announced our unflappable

guide, Rhyan Cruz. He grabbed his

ever-present telescope and led us out of the

van. Sure enough, there were a troop of primates

balancing on the hydro wires and

bouncing around in the trees that lined the

road. The monkeys lived up to their name,

vocalizing loud, deep, barking-like bellows.

Rhyan set up his telescope, and we did our

best to get close-up shots of the playful creatures.

But like monkeys do, they kept moving

as soon as the focus was right.

Howler monkeys are one of 250 species of

mammals in Costa Rica, a country with one

of the highest biodiversity in the world.

Located in Central America above Panama,

over a quarter of this small country the size

of West Virginia, is protected wilderness.

Though plentiful, some wildlife could be

hard to spot without someone like Rhyan,

who like all guides in Costa Rica had a

license and extensive training. With a

degree in eco-tourism and over 18 years of

experience, Rhyan not only had a sharp eye

but an expert ear.

“We usually hear wildlife before we see

them,” he told us. Howler monkeys were

obvious, but others less so. He explained

that the sound of the white-face monkey

came from the throat. “Caww,” he mimicked.


“And spider monkeys sound like a rusty

saw.”

We saw these acrobatic monkeys, named

for their spider-like appearance when they

hang by their tails from trees, earlier that

day at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park.

This 600-hectare property featured 16

bridges – 10 fixed and 6 hanging – and led

us through the cloud forest high above the

jungle floor.

Back in the van after saying adiosto the

monkeys, we headed to Buena Vista Lodge,

located in the more remote northern part of

the country near the border of Nicaragua.

Situated on the edge of the Rincon de la

Vieja National Park, this eco-property

offered plenty of opportunities to see and

hear wildlife.

The next day, as soon as I opened the door

of our basic but comfortable room, I was

greeted by a large iguana basking in the

sun. And as I continued up to breakfast, several

unusual-looking creatures I had never

seen before crossed in front of my path.

They had striped tails that stood upright and

a long, pointed snout for a nose.

“Coatis,” I was told later. These tree-climbing

mammals were as common as racoons

were to us.

Activities at Buena Vista Lodge ranged from

ziplining through the rainforest and mountain

water slide to horseback riding and hiking.

I opted for horseback riding, even

though I had little equestrian experience;

and I was grateful that my gentle horse was

calm because I certainly wasn’t. But after

about ten minutes of trying not to hyperventilate,

I relaxed and looked around.

Rewarded with incredible views of lush valleys,

I breathed deeply and even loosened

my white-knuckled grip on the reigns to take

some pictures.

Rhyan was doing what he did best –listening.

At one point, he motioned for us to stop

and pointed at the bushes. And there was

the most extraordinary bird I had ever seen

in the wild – a Yellow-throated Toucan.

“I heard it,” he told us later. “Toucans

crunch.”

Besides the wildlife, what impressed me

most about the Buena Vista Lodge was its

commitment to sustainability. In the 1980s,

the property was a cattle farm, and few had

even heard of the word ‘eco-tourism’.

“To be honest, people thought the owners

were crazy at the beginning,” said Medardo

Moscoso, the environment director at the

lodge. “How could there be a hotel in such

a remote place?” But the owners let some of

the pastures return to the forest and

constructed a few stone buildings.

“And people started coming and were

impressed to see the wildlife,” said

Medardo. Approximately 70 percent of the

properties 2000 acres is being reforested,

and the remaining was used as pastures.

Mecardo explained that they produced

much of what the resort needed themselves–vegetables,

meat, dairy, eggs and

even the soap in the 76 rooms. The soap

was made from the waste cooking oil from

the kitchen and was just one of the environmental

initiatives he managed.

“You know the food you’ve been eating was

cooked with farts?”

“No idea,” I answered, glad I had finished

my lunch.

We were shown the lodge’s ‘biodigestor’.

This contraption, the first of its kind in Costa

Rica, fermented manure, producing heat

that was piped through the resort. Other

projects included working with native

species of bees and monitoring trails with

camera traps to ensure activities had limited

impact to wildlife. Medardo created a ‘sustainability

tour’ for guests to see all their

innovative initiatives.

There was a lot to explore on our own at the

resort as well. A 35-minute hike or 15-

minute tractor ride away was the beautiful

Pacayas Waterfall. A little farther were the

thermal hot springs, where we soaked away

tired muscles in its natural pools and

slathered on mineral muds that softened the

skin.

All around was lush vegetation and exotic

birds, butterflies and creatures like the

agoutis that looked like a pet guinea pig

only with long legs. There were sounds, too,

but I’d need a few more lessons from our

guide, Rhyan, before I could tell you what I

was listening to.

www.visitcostarica.com

www.buenavistadelrincon.com

67

American World Traveler Spring 2020


68

Photo: Plantation Adventure Center

Central Florida is Packed with Adventure and Lifetime Experiences!

Article and photography by Michael Morcos

IIs it possible to visit central Florida and

not go to Orlando with all its theme

parks and still have fun? You bet! We

would do just that on a week-long journey

that would feature an amazing swim with

Manatees in Crystal River, having an out of

this world experience at the Space Coast and

having a kaleidoscope of contrasting fun

experiences in Polk county.

Crystal River

Our journey would start in Crystal River,

known as the best place in the world to see

and (legally) swim with Manatees. Manatees

can only be described as funny looking seals,

only they are far from that. They are primarily

found in the ocean where they feed on

aquatic plants. So where does the Crystal

River come in? Manatees cannot handle cold

water and between November and April they

head inwards to warmer waters. Crystal River

and, in particular, the area known as the

Three Sisters Springs Refuge, is a favourite for

them because there are underground springs

blasting millions of gallons of fresh water at a

perfect 20 degrees Celsius.

Our scheduled departure by boat was at 6:30

AM. On this day the temperature was unlike

Florida, at slightly above freezing, which

would seem an unlikely time for a swim. But

the Manatee Gods were with us. This was the

perfect time. The ocean was freezing, and our

lovely friends would move inland by the hundreds.

The amazing and professional crew at the

Plantation Adventure Center dive shop knew


what they were doing and precisely where to

go for sightings. After fitting us with the best

wet suits on the market, we would lazily navigate

the canals which had a mysterious morning

fog rising from the water. A breathtaking

sight on its own.

Even early in the morning, the Three Sisters

Springs Refuge was full of people all enjoying

the magnificence of being in fresh warm

water with the gentle giants. Following protocol,

we would only observe the Manatees and

were only allowed to touch them if they came

to us. Two hours passed in a flash, but we left

with lifelong memories and for some - a

check off their travel bucket list.

Other activities on this visit included the Ellie

Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State

Park. This is a refuge for animals that would

otherwise not survive in the wild. To our

amazement, amongst the many diverse animals

there that included many specious of

beautiful birds, was an actual Hippo. Yes, off

all things, so far from home yet so happy in

this sanctuary.

Our thirst and appetite were well served in

downtown Crystal River, including wonderfully

prepared mix drinks at the redesigned Crew

Bar, and large juicy steaks at Vintage on 5th.

Beautiful ending to a great day in a quaint

and charming town.

Which way to the beach?

Travel for me is about doing new things. This

trip to the Space Coast would give me a

chance to see and participate in yet more

wonderful experiences. The Space Coast is

more than what people think of, being the

place that launches humans into outer space.

It also has some fantastic beaches, 71 miles

in all. During our short stay here, we would

visit the Kennedy Space Centre and the following

morning take surfing lessons.

Kennedy Space Center

Getting there early in the morning before the

masses arrived would have us right at the

front of the gates of the Kennedy Space

Center and we would enter right after the

singing of the American national anthem.

Right up front were the amazing spacecraft in

the rocket garden, they took my breath away.

These are the things of a little boy’s dreams. I

felt small and humbled beside them, who

could not.

All the while running to beat the crowds, we

would find ourselves at the Space Shuttle

Atlantis Pavilion. There I would marvel at the

building while climbing upwards to a theatre

that showed the launching of the shuttle in a

large room with screens on most sides. Then

it happened, the movie ended, the front curtain

rose, and I was speechless. Right in front

of me was the star, a space star. It was the

actual ship, the Atlantis that flew 33 space

missions over 26 years was now hanging

slightly sideways with its bay door open. It was

a sight I would remember for life.

The rest of the full and glorious day was spent

on more amazing experiences. We tried the

incredible Shuttle Launch Experience, a

thrilling ride that heightened all the senses.

We would also have a delicious buffet style

lunch with the retired astronaut John-David

Bartoe who spoke of his time spent in the

space station. Had some astronaut training

experience and finally a tour by coach of the

Cape Canaveral grounds where we saw the

NASA hangers and launch pad of the Apollo

missions. To add to this, on this tour we would

be interrupted by an unscheduled moving of

a Space X rocket to its hanger.

Later supper at the Westgate Cocoa Beach

Pier was a perfect way of ending our day as

we would feast on the best the ocean has to

offer.

Hang Ten at the Ron Jon Surf School

The following day brought us a whole new

experience and a great appreciation for surfing.

We would get lessons at the Ron Jon surf

school, call it a crash course on how to get up

from a surfboard when you hit the perfect

wave. That was easy, really easy, on dry land.

A short walk to the beach and the students –

‘surfers to be’ were taken one by one by a

professional staff member into the waves and

surf. Long story short, it was a disaster, most

of our attempts found us splashing on our

backs into salty water, but at least it was a

warm, sunny day and we would treasure this

experience as another once-in-a-lifetime

event.

see following page

69

American World Traveler Spring 2020


Welcome to Polk County

Was Polk a former US president asked one of

our traveling companions? Indeed, he was.

Not ever knowing this, or that a Polk county

even existed, we would be treated to more

amazing adventures at the Safari Wilderness

Ranch, visit the fun LEGOLAND Florida

Resort, the beautiful Bok Tower Gardens and

exciting Westgate River Ranch Resort.

A visit to Safari Wilderness Ranch would bring

us real close to some beautiful free-roaming

animals, there from the comfort of an openair

bus we had the chance at feeding friendly

water buffalos and antelopes. Would like to

include Ostrich to the list but these guys were

pests, grabbing whatever they could find.

Besides the land tour we would come to the

best part of the visit, which wasn’t the camels

nor the funny looking hogs, it was the Lemurs.

Wonderful, playful little monkeys! With food in

hand, they grab you with their soft tiny palms

and gently eat the treat. Another wonderful

experience!

Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Garden Tower, what a strange name for

a tourist attraction I thought, but within minutes

of my arrival I was in love with this place

and there in the distance it was – the tower,

mystery explained. Away from everything, this

50-acre property is an architectural gardening

gem and what brought it all together was

the tall singing tower. Throughout the day you

would hear live music on its 60-bell carillon.

A peaceful and uplifting day as we strolled

past ponds and a maze of beautiful flowering

beds.

Westgate River Ranch

A destination on its own, the Westgate River

Ranch has something for every age and taste,

including quirky accommodations that range

from safari style tents to luxury tepees and

right up to full two-bedroom cabins. The highlight

of the week’s events is the Saturday

rodeo when the ranch swells to its maximum

capacity. With so many activities to choose

from, it would take a full week to participate

in them. Our day long visit would have us on

an air boat through the river front to spot

birds and alligators. This would prove another

first for me and I loved the speed, noise

and rush of air from the massive boat fan.

Another first for me was at the trap and skeet

range. Here, with the help of an instructor, we

would also find out that this is really a difficult

skill to shoot a clay pigeon in flight.

LEGOLAND

Last but certainly not least was a day spent in

LEGOLAND. This park was built on the old

Cypress Gardens grounds and the rest was

built one brick at a time, so to speak. I marvelled

at the imagination of the LEGO staff,

how they can create such works of modern art

with just little pieces of plastic. Although most

of the rides were ‘pink knuckle’, my favourite

was the Great LEGO Race with the virtual

reality option. Although the ride itself looks

tame from ground level, the actual experience

brings you into a colourful and comical landscape

and heightens all the senses. One more

wonderful first for me!

Balmoral Clubhouse

Our stay in Polk country was at the beautiful

and well-manicured gated properties at

Balmoral. Packed with creature comforts, it

was a perfect way of relaxing and rejuvenating

from the day’s events and still so close to

all the attractions, it is the perfect home away

from home, maybe even better than home!

www.visitflorida.com

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