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Archive for cruise travel

Second Life for Historic Ocean Liner

By Linda Tancs

In 1952, the SS United States took its maiden voyage to Europe and broke the transatlantic speed record. Over 100 feet longer than Titanic, it was the ship of choice for a who’s who including the likes of Marlon Brando, Salvador Dali, Grace Kelly and four U.S. presidents. Retired from active service in 1969, the ship has been moored in South Philadelphia since 1996. Now owned by a conservancy group, the old gal is being readied for a comeback thanks to Crystal Cruises. The luxury line recently announced plans to resurrect it as a 400-suite, 800-passenger ocean liner.

The Legend of Twin Rocks

By Linda Tancs

Although identified plainly as “a garden in a valley on the ocean,” the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is anything but ordinary. A natural greenhouse, the 40-acre valley just miles north of Hilo on the Big Island features nearly 200 species of palms alone and over 2,000 species of tropical plants from around the world overall. Its location on the site of the ancient village Kahali’i at Onomea Bay gives rise to the legend of twin rocks. According to the tale, two young lovers were recruited to stand guard over the bay during the night to protect against enemy sails spotted by the local chieftain. When day broke, the lovers were gone and two attached rock formations stood in their place, forever standing sentinel at the head of the bay. These days the enemy sails are just cruise ships, and passengers will be glad to know that garden staff will meet you at the pier for a day’s visit.

A Meeting on the Mersey

By Linda Tancs

In 1840 Cunard established the first scheduled service across the Atlantic with a sailing from Liverpool to Halifax and Boston on the ship Britannia.  In celebration of their 175th year of service, Cunard  returns to its spiritual home at the Liverpool waterfront with a spectacular meeting of its three queens–Elizabeth, Mary and Victoria–today.  The original transatlantic crossing will be replicated by Queen Mary 2 in July.

Panama Canal’s Centenary

By Linda Tancs

An engineering marvel of its day, the Panama Canal manages five percent of  shipments worldwide, linking more than 144 routes, 1,700 ports and 160 countries in commerce.  The grand dame is celebrating her 100th birthday today with a makeover in the works that includes new locks, wider shipping lanes and bigger ports.  A canal cruise frequently lands on the bucket list of travelers.  Look for cruise deals highlighting the centennial, including increased transits (Holland America has nearly 30 full or partial transits on its 2014 schedule), stage celebrations and enrichment classes.

Flagship Vessel Celebrates 10 Years

By Linda Tancs

This month marks the tenth anniversary of Cunard’s flagship vessel, Queen Mary 2.  So what makes her so special?  Let us count the ways:  longer than three football fields, hostess of the first Canyon Ranch SpaClub® at sea, the largest wine cellar at sea, the only onboard planetarium and over five million dollars of fine art gracing the walls.  Where else will you find all that in one place?  Long may she sail.

A Cruise Ship Fit for a Queen

By Linda Tancs

Undoubtedly it’s safe to say that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II doesn’t charter cruise ships willy-nilly.   So when the monarch did just that to celebrate her 80th birthday, you’ve got to think that the ship must be something special.  That ship is the Hebridean Princess, a luxury ship hosting just 50 guests.  Now in its 25th season, the former ferry boat has come a long way indeed.  From March to November the ship sets sail from Oban for Scotland’s far flung isles, offering travelers the best way imaginable to discover the remoteness and beauty of the west coast.

The Green Flash

By Linda Tancs

A green flash sunset, when the last sliver of sun turns green before vanishing into the horizon, is spectacular–and elusive for many.   That’s because a confluence of events must occur for a viewing of this phenomenon:  you need an unobstructed view and no haze or cloud cover at the horizon.  For these reasons, it’s a treat best caught on the open sea.  My favorite green flash moment was in Moorea in the South Pacific.  Leave a comment about your own green flash experience!

A Classic Queen

By Linda Tancs

Movie buffs recall the African Queen, a steam-operated boat featured in the 1951 film of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.  Lest you think the old gal was consigned to a studio storage facility, you’ll be happy to hear that she’s fully operational and touring the canals off Key Largo, Florida.  Built in 1912 in England for service in Africa, the 101-year-old vessel, registered as a National Historic Site, has been restored for cruises and private events.

River Cruising Offers a Singular Experience

By Linda Tancs

Excluding river cruisers and expedition ships, there are over 40 cruise ships sailing the high seas, yet river cruising is growing at a rate three to four times faster than ocean cruising.  There’s good reason for that.  After all, only on the river can you get up close and personal with the world’s great cities like Paris, Vienna, Budapest and St. Petersburg and their accompanying panoramic views, fairy tale palaces and cobblestoned streets.  River cruising provides you with direct and immediate access to the heart of every destination on the itinerary without excessive waiting time due to the smaller number of passengers on board.  And with approval ratings at or above 95 percent, you may rest assured that your river cruising experience will meet or exceed your expectations.  Let’s explore the highlights of some leading river cruise companies.

Viking River Cruises is known for their Longships, ushering in a new era in river cruising, featuring an open-air lounge at the bow and energy-efficient hybrid engines.  All shore excursions are included.  Join the guided walks and in-depth excursions planned for you at each destination, or set out on your own path.  Your journeys include the tulips and windmills of Amsterdam, a grand tour from Amsterdam to Budapest, the jewels of China and the waterways of the czars.

Movie nights are a big draw on Avalon Waterways, offering popular films themed to each destination.  Boasting the youngest fleet in river cruising, innovation is nothing new to Avalon, a division of the highly reputed Globus family of brands.  Along with three new suite ships in Europe, Avalon offers unforgettable journeys down the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia as well as Egypt’s Nile and Lake Nasser.  Their limited-edition theme cruises offer a unique opportunity to experience a destination from perspectives such as art, music, culinary pursuits and Jewish heritage.  Top selling cruises include the Rhine, Paris and the beaches of Normandy, and the Danube.

Family-owned AMA Waterways promises a premium experience with state-of-the-art ships, luxurious staterooms, gourmet meals and enriching tours.  AMACerto, their largest and most imaginative ship, was inspired by classic luxury yachts and sports a swim-up bar, a glass elevator, and multiple indoor and outdoor dining options.  Their excursions feature a “late risers” option for those who prefer to get a slower start on the day and a “gentle walker” program for those requiring a more leisurely pace.  Some exciting new developments include “Culinary Delights—Bites and Sights,” a guided walking tour addressing Europe from a culinary perspective and the addition of an African safari/cruise combination aboard the Zambezi Queen.

The longest operating river cruise company is Uniworld, the only river cruise line recognized by Zagat for “Top Cabins.”  The exceptional cuisine is also Zagat rated.  A particularly attractive innovation is the addition of multigenerational cruises to Burgundy and Provence as well as Paris and Normandy, with family-friendly dates and pricing.  Uniworld is owned by Travel Corporation (which owns other brands as well like Trafalgar, Brendan, Red Carnation and Insight) and is the only American Express Platinum Preferred river cruise operator.  Be prepared for pampering on this boutique line.

The abundance of international river cruising packages sometimes obscures the fact that the mighty rivers of the United States offer equally compelling tourism opportunities!  For instance, American Cruise Lines specializes in a unique style of small ship cruising along the inland waterways and rivers of the United States.  Fascinating itineraries include the Pacific Northwest, Maine, New England’s islands, the Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay, the historic South, Alaska and the Mississippi.  Similarly, American Queen Steamboat Co. (formerly known as the Great American Steamboat Company) offers cruises along the Upper- and Lower Mississippi as well as the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.  You can also choose from a wealth of themed-cruises, including southern culture, Elvis, and a good old-fashioned hootenanny!

What better way to explore national and international culture than with a casual, relaxed and intimate river cruise!

Vacation Deal of the Week

By Linda Tancs

Book two 2012 Summertime voyages back-to-back on American Queen Steamboat Co. and receive 50% off the second voyage of equal or lesser value.  The offer is good on all voyages now through August 30, 2012 when you book by July 31, 2012.  Contact me at Wanderful Cruises for suggestions on excursions!

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