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This Cruise Line has Plenty to Celebrate in Pride Month

San Francisco, Toronto, Sydney, Berlin… Now you can add another destination to celebrate Pride Month: at Sea.  


Celebrity Cruises held its first Pride party fleet-wide in 2017, wherever its ships were around the world. Now it looks like the cruise line's new tradition of celebrating LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion during international Pride Month and festivities is here to stay.

2018's Pride Month celebrations on Celebrity cruise ships kicked off on the Celebrity Constellation in Sicily, and on the Celebrity Reflection in Cartagena, Spain. Each ship took turns handing off the 'party baton' to the next ship to keep the parties running across hemispheres and time zones, following the clock to finally encompass all the ships in the fleet. In the end, Celebrity's Pride Party at Sea spanned 10,000 miles and 9 ships in different continents and time zones around the world. 

Olympic Bronze Medalist Adam Rippon (pictured, below, sailing on the Celebrity Summit) and two-time men’s figure skating Olympian Johnny Weir served as ambassadors for 2018's festivities that welcomed all guests on board and made for one of Celebrity's biggest fleet-wide events.

The ship-board Pride parties commemorating Pride Month are just part of the cruise line's support of the community throughout the calendar year.

The first night of nearly every Celebrity cruise year round is earmarked for a popular LGBTQ+ Welcome Party, open to and enjoyed by all guests fleet-wide. And throughout each cruise, events and social hours foster the community.

On shore, Celebrity Cruises is a Presenting Sponsor of the Miami Beach Gay Pride celebrations in the cruise line's HQ hometown. Celebrity hosts festival events and provides entertainment from the acclaimed Celebrity Productions team. Its float took home a prize for first place, with over 400 Celebrity employees marching in the Miami Beach Gay Pride parade in 2018.

Couples who are guests on Celebrity ships with more to celebrate than Pride Month can also now be legally (not just symbolically) married on board following ground-breaking legislative changes in Malta, where Celebrity ships are flagged. The line held the first legal gay wedding on a major line on the Celebrity Equinox in January, 2018. The ship's captain presided over the historic ceremony, and now, fleet-wide, wedding ceremonies performed by the Captain on board are legal marriages.

No surprise that Celebrity's modern luxury cruise line has been recognized as the LGBTQ+ Friendly Travel Company of the year, as well as 4-years' running as Best Large Ship Cruise Line for LGBTQ+ Passengers, making the cruise line a great option for guests looking for a great new place to celebrate Pride or a memorable LGBTQ+ wedding, or simply to feel welcome and at home on their next cruise to a dream destination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Picture This: The Largest Cruise Ship Ever to Transit the Panama Canal

As you can see, it was a tight fit when the newest mega-ship at sea arrived at one of the man-made wonders of the world in an iconic photo-op for the modern age of cruise travel.

On her inaugural sailing from the shipyard where she was built in Germany, towards her homeport of Seattle, the Norwegian Bliss became the largest passenger ship ever to transit the Panama Canal.

The nearly 50 mile-long and 12-hour series of locks, canals, and man-made bodies of water is considered an engineering marvel of the world. Opened in 1914, it allows shipping traffic to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans without having to sail around the southern tip of South America.  And the Norwegian Bliss' historic transit in 2018 was only possible as a result of the Panama Canal's 2016 expansion that now allows it to accommodate among the largest classes of cargo and cruise ships.

The newest – and largest – Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Norwegian Bliss certainly qualifies. 20 decks and 168,000 gross tons, with berths for more than 4000 guests and 1700 crew.

In addition to the historic Panama Canal passage and crossing a Panama canal transit cruise off their travel bucket list, guests on the Norwegian Bliss enjoyed these highlights of the 16th ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, including many firsts at sea and for North-American-based ships:

Excitement:

The Largest Race Track: 2 levels and 1,000-feet of open-air race track thrills in electric go-karts. Alex Vega, Miami-based celebrity car guru from Discovery Channel’s reality television show, “The Auto Firm with Alex Vega”, delivered two fully customized electric go-karts to the Norwegian Bliss to add to the spectacle. 

The First Open-Air Laser Tag Experience:  Day or night, guests can immerse themselves in a fantasy environment of an abandoned space station, going into stealth mode and competing against family and new-found friends.

Eye-Popping Aqua Park: Not 1 but 2 waterslides! The high-speed Ocean Loop, a double waterslide that gets your blood pumping as you slide out over the side of the moving ship. Plus the tandem inner tube Aqua Racer.  Challenge friends and family members to race side by side to see who finishes first! 

Or let the ambitious members of the family tackle the water slides while you relax in one of 2 swimming pools or, on the deck above, find tranquility in one of 6 infinity hot tubs blur the line between the ship and the sea.  Younger kids have their own areas too, of splash pads, water cannons, tipping buckets and scaled-back water slides.

Fitness and Wellness: 

You'll feel no guilt allowing yourself to indulge in the Norwegian Bliss' culinary experiences with state-of-the-art equipment in the fitness center, as well as TRX, Fight Club, Ryde Cycle, and an aerobics room.  The Mandara Spa has 24 treatment rooms and a thermal suite that provides deep relaxation as well as full ocean views, hydro-therapy, steam room and dry sauna, samarium, salt room and even a Snow Room.

20 Restaurants, 13 Bars, and 2 Observation Lounges and 3 Shows:

Highlights include the ever-popular partnership with Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, The Cellars Mondavi Wine Bar, Ocean Blue, and elegant seafood restaurant, and a restaurant with nearly every international or classic cuisine imaginable, from the elegant evenings to pool-side casual.  You'll want to time dining and drinks around shows including the Tony-award-winning musical Jersey Boys.

The Haven:

In addition to many classes of staterooms and suites for extended families to solo travelers, the Norwegian Bliss has a 'ship within a ship', the Haven, a private, luxurious area more like a luxury small ship with highly personalized service, the Haven Courtyard with a retractable roof, private pool and lounge, spa and treatment rooms and restaurant, allowing guests to enjoy top-shelf luxury when they wish and to enjoy other restaurants, thrills, and entertainment of the rest of the ship when they wish.  The best of both worlds!

Where Can You Sail on the Norwegian Bliss?

  • From June, 2018, Norwegian Bliss will make 7-day cruises to Alaska from Seattle with calls in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia; 
  • Then she will make select voyages to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles;
  • In Fall 2018 and Winter 2019, the Norwegian Bliss sails from Miami to the Eastern Caribbean;
  • In 2019 she returns to New York City to sail 7-day voyages to the Bahamas and Florida, and the Southern and Western Caribbean.

Ask us about specific itineraries for the Norwegian Bliss or how you too can cruise the Panama Canal.

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5 Reasons To Give An Ovation To Luxury Cruising's Newest Ship

Applause, champagne, and celebration for the Seabourn Ovation.  The fifth ship in Seabourn's fleet has her naming ceremony May 11, 2018, officially joining the line's award-winning Odyssey-class ships.

The launch of the Ovation is the finale of Seabourn's current expansion plans. Now, the five Seabourn ships: Ovation, Encore, Quest, Sojourn and Odyssey, represent one of the most modern and consistent fleets in ultra-luxury cruising.

Like her sister ships, sailing on the Seabourn Ovation is like sailing on a private yacht – but with experiences even private yacht travelers don't have the opportunity to enjoy.

Here are 5 of our favourite features of the Seabourn Ovation:

That Yachting Lifestyle:

The Seabourn Ovation blurs the lines between private yachting and cruising. Each suite has a personal bar that is stocked according to your preferences even before you board the ship.  There's an open-bar policy throughout the ship, including champagne, premium wine and spirits, so the entire ship feels like your own chartered yacht. Similiarly, all dining experiences are included.  And the Ovation also includes Seabourn's signature water-sports open marina at the aft of the ship.  At anchor in a secluded location on one of the world's spectacular coastlines, you'll be able to experience the extraordinary feeling of getting out onto the water right off the back of the ship.

Space:

You're among only a few hundred guests on a ship that's been designed to maximize space for each guest. On the Ovation, you'll discover secluded areas for quiet contemplation as well as spaces that foster natural and easy social interaction. When you would like to share the company of the other like-minded guests, that opportunity is there, but you'll have plenty of space to relax in privacy and enjoy the peaceful sailing experience.

All-Suite Experience:

300 all-oceanfront suites provide that 'home away from home'/ country club resort atmosphere at sea. Every suite on the new Ovation includes a private veranda that not only provides you with sweeping views of the sea, but is also spacious enough for private, alfresco dining. Suites include indoor, spacious living space, walk-in closets, and superb marble bathrooms with separate baths and showers, stocked with Seabourn's own exclusive line of Molton Brown amenities.

Design:

Design icon Adam D. Tihany was once again tapped to style a sailing, ultra-luxury resort. The Ovation's design is that of a boutique design hotel/resort that welcomes you with deluxe comfort, modern elegance and stand-out design elements and innovations.

Seabourn-Exclusives:

The launch of the Seabourn Ovation means there's another destination at sea to experience Seabourn's signature moments, including Caviar-in-the-Surf, and a host of one-of-a-kind partnerships. 

  • The Grill by Michelin-starred American culinary icon Thomas Keller harkens back to a mid-century upscale dining experience with table-side preparations of classics like Caesar salad and ice cream sundaes. 
  • Then attend 'An Evening with Tim Rice', where the acclaimed musical theatre lyricist's best-loved works from Jesus Christ Superstar, Aladdin, and the Lion King are punctuated by his personal anecdotes and video narrative.
  • Participate in the Spa and Wellness program by holistic medicine pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil. (Watch this video to experience the Crystal Sound Bowl treatment)
  • And on shore, enjoy purposeful and sustainable travel experiences through Seabourn's partnership with UNESCO.

The Seabourn Ovation spends her inaugural season in Northern Europe on 7-day Baltic and Scandinavian itineraries, as well as 2-week voyages into the Norwegian fjords and rustic, northern British Isles.

You can still be a part of the Ovation's maiden sailing season and be among the first to experience this magnificent new ship.  Let us help you find the perfect Seabourn cruise for your next vacation.
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Preserving the World's Heritage: One Cruise Line's Partnership with UNESCO

There are over a thousand World Heritage Sites in 167 countries.  Places in the world of such extraordinary cultural or natural wonder, that UNESCO has dedicated itself to preserving them for the ages… and travelers dedicate themselves to discovering them for themselves.

One cruise line has partnered with UNESCO to help achieve both goals. Seabourn's ultra-luxury cruises sail to all seven continents.  It has a unique ability to bring travelers to many of the world's UNESCO treasures.

In fact, over 170 designated UNESCO sites are included in Seabourn itineraries, iconic places like Halong Bay in Vietnam,  (watch the video of our kayaking tour of Halong Bay with Seabourn), the Ruins of Pompeii, the Great Barrier Reef, the Birthplace of the Olympic Games, as well as Canada's Bay of Fundy, where the world's highest tides have resulted in landscapes and ecosystems making up a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  (Watch the video where the tides of the Bay of Fundy reverse the flow of the St. John River).

In addition to helping bring guests to the sites, Seabourn has developed two types of shore excursions in partnership with UNESCO. Seabourn World Heritage Tours visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  And Seabourn Discovery Tours offer exclusive, enhanced shore excursions of UNESCO World Heritage Sites through their partnership.

In the case of both types of designated UNESCO shore excursions, a donation is made to the UNESCO World Heritage Fund for each Seabourn guest who participates.  Seabourn guests who donate additional funds to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre even earn Seabourn Club Points that help advance guests up to another membership level with added benefits.

The partnership Seabourn has with UNESCO reflects dedicated corporate responsibility in travel on a global level, and also the interests of Seabourn guests to experience the greatest achievements of humankind and miracles of Nature, while supporting their continued preservation.  At the same time, Seabourn assists UNESCO in its goal of promoting awareness and sustainable tourism to those World Heritage properties.

Our Seabourn Canada and New England cruise gave us the opportunity to visit Quebec City's glorious, 400-year Old Town World Heritage Site.  Two designated UNESCO Partner Tours are offered to guests in Quebec City:

  • Historic & Modern Quebec with Parliament Visit
  • Historical Walk with Horse & Carriage Ride

In both cases, guests are introduced in a unique way to the extraordinary historic, hill-top town founded in 1608 as the capital of New France, and which remains today the only walled city north of Mexico.  400-year old cobbled streets wind up and down the steep slopes of this elegant fortified town, lined with stone houses shops, restaurants, public squares, the oldest Catholic Church in North America, and the iconic Chateau Frontenac, the castle-like hotel that tops the hill and dominates Quebec City's unmistakable skyline.  (Tour the Chateau Frontenac in this video).

Our fellow Seabourn guests who were visiting Quebec City for the first time all said they felt like they'd been magically transported to a preserved town in Europe. It's almost unbelievable that it is right in the backyard of North American travelers.  It's that kind of magic and wonder that every UNESCO site inspires in visitors and Seabourn's one-of-a-kind UNESCO Partner Tours make possible.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip.TV

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One of the greatest natural spectacles in the world is the unmatched explosion of colorful foliage that takes place in Eastern Canada and the North-Eastern US every autumn. And it's best experienced by cruise ship. Our cruise on the Seabourn Quest navigated the St. Lawrence from Montreal with calls at Quebec City, Canada's Maritime provinces, then along the Eastern Coast.

Watch this video for our cruise tour and review.

And here are my top 7 reasons you'll want to add a Seabourn cruise of Canada and New England to your fall travel schedule.

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

  1. Seabourn packs its ultra-luxury cruise experience into boutique-sized ships, and that is an advantage you won't want to miss. Large ships can't sail any farther west than Quebec City as they don't have clearance under certain bridges; only on a smaller ship can sail all the way to Montreal.The second-largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris, and fashion, culinary and lifestyle global center is an exhilarating port of embarkation or disembarkation you won't want to miss as a pre- or post-cruise stay.
  2. The smaller ship size makes you feel like you are on a large yacht, and like yachts, the Seabourn Quest is able to call as smaller, more out-of-the-way ports you might not be able to experience otherwise, like the tiny islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon that remain the territory of France in North America.
  3. Seabourn is famous for its signature 'moments', little happenings that pop up to enhance your cruise experience.As you inhale the brisk sea breezes taking in the isolated shorelines lined with crimson-leaved trees as you sail by, suddenly, there's a hot chocolate-with-a-twist bar on deck.You didn't even know you wanted a delectable hot chocolate laced with your favorite liqueur… but the scenery seems to get even better with one in your hands.
  4. I've always loved Seabourn's 'Shopping with the Chef' – local markets come even more alive seen through the eyes of the immensely talented, creative Seabourn chefs.Chef Jes invited our cameras to accompany him to Quebec City's Old Port Market, one of North America's great historic markets, with truly local vendors selling some of Quebec's famously rich abundance of highest quality foods. And the Chef's shopping was not for show! He was thrilled to find the miraculous last fresh strawberries of the season to surprise guests with at breakfast the following morning. And he also gave us a cooking demo using some of the ingredients we discovered at the market. It was a highlight of our call in Quebec City.
  5. Overnight in Quebec City. The Seabourn Quest was docked in Quebec City in a prime location at the foot of its famous hill, and an overnight in this famous, UNESCO World Heritage, 400-year old city gave us and our fellow guests ample opportunity to experience the evening lights, and the culinary scene of this little piece of Europe in North America.
  6. Getting close to Nature. In addition to calls at some of North America's most storied and vibrant cities in Canada and on the American East Coast, sailing brings Seabourn guests often quite close to Nature. The St. Lawrence is seasonal home to a variety of whales; on the cruise prior to ours, one whale cruised alongside the ship for hours. Guests were able to come from all over the ship to line the decks in awe, incredibly close to a spontaneous encounter with wildlife.
  7. The suite life on Seabourn. Brisk autumn breezes as you stroll the decks or wander off the ship to explore the East's charming seaside towns are not only invigorating – they also leave you wind-blown and ready for a bath and a glass of something special. On the Seabourn Quest, your steward can deliver champagne and draw you a bath – yes! a bath on a ship! Your wonderful day becomes a perfect one.

We North American's sometimes forget that one of the world's epic cruises is right in our backyard. Seabourn's Canada and New England autumn colors cruises remind us of the beauty here at home - elevated by Seabourn's exquisite on board luxury lifestyle.

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You may be familiar with treating yourself to a massage, reflexology, or other spa wellness treatments while you're on holiday.  But an Amethyst Crystal Sound Bath?  That's a level of holistic therapy you rarely encounter at any spa, especially at sea.  BestTrip.TV took a 'dip' during our cruise on the Seabourn Quest. 

One-of-a-Kind Wellness: Dr. Andrew Weil's Mindful Living Program on Seabourn

By Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV

If holistic wellness had a 'celebrity', it would be Dr. Andrew Weil.  The pioneer in integrative medicine is a best-selling author and practitioner. Dr. Weil has been pivotal in bringing a new awareness and mainstream practice of Eastern and Western wellness to the North American public.

He has also brought his mind, body, and spirit approach to holistic wellness to Seabourn.  So your cruise can include a journey towards rejuvenation, healthy ageing, and even renewed happiness through Dr. Weil's principles and unique practices and treatments.

The ultra-luxury line wants guests to be uplifted, not just by travel to new horizons, pampered by attentive service and the Seabourn way of life, but also by the opportunity to return from your holiday refreshed and relaxed in every way.  They've partnered with Dr. Weil to bring wellness and a Mindful Living program to the entire Seabourn fleet.  It's the first wellness program of its kind at sea.

Dr. Weil's Mindful Living program at the Spa on Seabourn ships is led by a wellness coach.  This certified yoga and meditation practitioner leads complimentary classes and practices as well as wellness gatherings throughout voyages.

Dr. Weil's teachings guide a comprehensive program.  Meditation sessions provide participants with positive affirmations and mantras you can reflect on throughout the day. Restorative yoga sessions reinforce the mantra introduced in the day's meditations.  Therapeutic yoga sessions also provide guests with various health concerns a practice to help their specific healing needs like back pain, joint pain, headaches, and body alignment. 

The Mindful Living program also recognizes the other ways the practice of yoga empowers you, offering sessions that enhance creativity, mental focus and even happiness.

The daily themes of the Mindful Living program change daily in seven-day cycles, so on a week-long Seabourn cruise, you can be immersed in new mindful living practices daily.

In addition to practices, complimentary program seminars provide guests with more information on the philosophies and background and principles of the program elements and its overall mission.  The goal is to empower you and increase your awareness of the connection between mind, body, environment and wellness.  Healing arts seminars include experts' teachings about issues we can all relate to:

  • Spontaneous Happiness & Spontaneous Healing
  • Anti-inflammatory foods with nutritional guidance from Dr. Andrew Weil's teachings
  • Healthy Aging
  • Learn what happens in both the mind and body during Mindful Meditation

But every person's wellness needs are different. So everyone receives an individual consultation and specialized recommended courses of practice and treatments that go far beyond standard spa fare.  Thai Poultice massages with steamed herbs like Kaffir Lime and Lemon grass, Deeper than Deep Hot Stone Massages, Bamboo massages, Acupuncture, and the Amethyst Crystal Sound Bath featured in the BestTrip.TV video above enhance the Dr. Andrew Weil Mindful Living practices.

One of the best things about participating in the Dr. Andrew Weil Mindful Living program on Seabourn is that, unlike the effects of a massage which can disappear once you return to the stresses of daily life, some of the practices you can learn during the course of a Seabourn voyage, like meditation or breathing exercises, can go home with you, and enrich your life along with memories of your favorite Seabourn moments long after your cruise has come to an end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socializing

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

Dining

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

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



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

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

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

Freshening Up

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

Relaxing

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

Resting

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

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

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Silversea's 'Celebrity' Culinary Partnership

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip.TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Reasons To Love Your Suite Butler on a Silversea Cruise

If you've never sailed on Silversea Cruises before, you might not realize something very special you will come to love: your Silversea Butler.

This is the only cruise line that provides its famous Butler service in every suite on the ship, where the staff-to-guest ratio is nearly one to one.  If you're trying to picture how that level of service – and butlers! - translate to your experience, here are 5 reasons the BestTrip.TV team loved our Suite Butlers when we sailed recently on the Silver Muse.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer and Host, BestTrip.TV

In-Suite Dining and Entertaining

Nothing is too complex or too tiny a detail for your Silversea butler.  A simple cup of tea in the early morning hours so I could enjoy the unique pleasure of inhaling sea air and watching the waves pass by was a perfect Silversea moment thanks to my butler. (All photos BestTrip.TV)

Dining and entertaining in-suite is such a pleasure on the Silver Muse.  Spacious suites have living areas that open out onto your balcony. Perfect for pre-dinner cocktails and canapés with friends. 

Our butler made that happen.  He ensured our in-suite bars were stocked to our individual preferences of wine, champagne, spirits and mix.  He delivered canapés for pre-dinner aperitifs and extra cocktail, wine, and champagne glasses. Which magically had disappeared by our return after dinner.

One of our group had brought a certain snack on board when we arrived.  He finished the package but didn't mention it.  His butler not only noticed… but replaced it with a fresh package from the ship's stores. Observation meets the service of anticipation.

Polished Sunglasses…

Returning on board the ship a bit worse for wear after a day in port called for a freshen up in my suite's full marble bath before dressing for dinner.  When I returned to my suite after dinner and the evening's entertainment, what did I find? 

The sunglasses smudged with the day's sunscreen had received the butler treatment.  My butler had polished my sunglasses and left them wrapped in a polishing cloth I took with me on the next port of call.

… And shoes

Then formal evening arrived.  Ladies and gentlemen took the opportunity to celebrate life, Silversea-style, by dressing for the evening.  That morning, my butler brought my tea and reminded me it was formal evening.  Would I need anything pressed to wear for dinner?  No, thank you, my dress traveled well.   Perhaps he could polish my formal shoes?  Well that was a splendid idea. 

I returned to my suite to dress for dinner to find them polished and presented in tissue in my closet.  A perfect kick-off to the evening!

White-Gloved Service

The white-gloved service didn't end there.  Particularly on formal evening.  Butlers stood poised in hallways outside suites ready for service, wishing guests a fine evening and even offering an escort to dinner.  The hospitality is not limited to the ladies! 

When you cruise on Silversea, don't be surprised to find yourself forming quite a bond with your suite butler. The best of them bring a genuine personal kindness and deep caring to their work as butler.  It is the person you will have the most contact with, and often a wonderful personal connection.

Suitcases and Packing

In a lovely gesture on the day before our cruise came to a close,  my butler offered to help me pack.  I'm pretty independent and couldn't bring myself to accept that assistance.  I was delighted to return to my suite to find my suitcase set out  for me with this note.  My butler had cleaned my suitcase, freshening it up in anticipation of packing and sending me on my way.

Those are just 5 ways we realized we couldn't live without our Silversea Suite Butler.  You'll have your own butler moments, too.

We all have our special memories of our cruise on the Silver Muse, where the hardest part... was saying goodbye to our butlers.

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Rio's annual pre-Lent extravaganza, Carnaval is the highlight of Rio's – and the party world's – calendar. It runs every year in the 5 days leading up to Ash Wednesday, culminating on Mardi Gras.  But not everyone can make it to the throbbing excitement of Carnaval in that short window.  

If you missed what many consider the sexiest party on the planet, not to worry.

BestTrip.TV can give you an insider's view of Carnaval.  Join us for a rare, behind-the-scenes experience with our fellow guests on this Silversea Grand Voyage exclusive shore excursion to one of Rio's top Samba Schools.

For Silversea's Grand Voyage guests, a one-of-a-kind Carnaval experience immerses us in all the elements of Rio's renowned celebrations:

Floats are the centerpieces of Carnaval.  Samba Schools build their floats in total secrecy – even from other members of their own Samba School. That makes the access we and our fellow guests have to the float-in-the-making extraordinary. The competition between Rio's Samba Schools is so extreme, not a whisper of each Samba School's new theme can leak out.  Each year, the Samba School parade entry tells a different story, and the installations, mechanisms and very glittery art  - provide the framework for the story. The countless sequins, glitter, feathers and sparkly paint make the floats surreal.

Costumes outshine even the floats, if that's possible.  Parade floats are escorted through Rio's Sambadrome by hundreds and even thousands of costumed dancers, musicians and other performers. Perhaps it's the extraordinary contradiction of so much glitter and shine… and so much skin at the same time. Rio's Carnaval costumes differ from other Mardi Gras celebrations around the world (like Venice or New Orleans) in one key way: they are notoriously sexy. This is the birthplace of the thong and dental floss bikini after all.  Not every costume is skimpy on fabric – they are wondrous, hand-made creations, and we and our fellow guests get to play dress up with genuine Carnaval costumes.

Cocktails make everything more fun, and the Carnaval experience is no exception. Cachaca (pronounced ka-CHA-sa) is Brazil's local sugarcane spirit, this country's answer to rum. Caipirinhas are the mojito of Brazil and help make this experience into a party.

Samba may be the most uniquely Brazilian aspect of Rio's Carnaval. The local music and dance, with roots in the country's African slaves, shaped by poor urban neighborhoods of more recent years, is a great symbol of the diversity, unity and democracy of the country today. Not to mention being one of the most throbbing, sensual, irresistible rhythms in the world. To the beat of the drums, cowbells, and whistles of musicians, we get into the spirit of Samba.  Spoiler alert: you may need to be born dancing samba to do the incredible music justice.

Parade time is the culmination of a year of Carnaval preparations. Rio has even built its incredible Sambadrome parade ground, lined by stands and VIP booths.  They don't prevent anyone from dancing along with the Samba School entries though.  And naturally, our own Silversea Carnaval experience culminates in a 'mock' Carnaval parade.

It's an overnight in Rio we'll never forget.

Plus, the Carnaval Experience supports the Youth Samba School that educates thousands of kids in the community.   Join us in celebrating Brazil's famous five-day party!

 

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Two of South America's most fabled cities and a week-long cruise in luxury. That's our BestTrip.TV experience sailing on Silversea's Silver Muse from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

With overnights in both exciting ports, and sunny days at sea on Silversea's intimate 600-passenger ship, it's the South American sailing of your dreams.  Spacious and yacht-like, with more restaurants than we can experience in a week, the personal attention of an all-butler suite ship, and niceties of Italian hospitality and lifestyle that are the hallmarks of a Silversea cruise... we can't imagine a more ideal way to sample the delights of two destinations on everyone's travel bucket list. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is a cruise line private island experience we haven't seen before.  Our Caribbean cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruises included a day at Harvest Caye, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our cruise. And when you watch the video you'll see why.

Harvest Caye is an island a mile offshore mainland Belize.  Like other cruise line private islands, Harvest Caye was developed as a beach port of call in the Caribbean for its guests by parent company Norwegian for its Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Oceania guests.

It's a spectacular, resort-style experience. There's a 7-acre pristine beach. You can relax in clamshell tents or even better, in one of the luxury beach villas with porches over the water, hammocks, dining and beverage options and dedicated concierge service.

Or head to the pool.  This extravagant 15,000 square foot oasis has a swim-up bar and tables in the water, elegant lounges and canopy pool cabanas with beverage service.

A 130 foot tall 'Flighthouse' looks a lot like a lighthouse, but gets its name as the island's point of departure for adventure:  an over water zipline or ropes course. There are also eco/ water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing in the lagoon alongside the wildlife.

Authentic and Sustainable

The Shopping Village, with its outdoor art festival, local musicians and dancers, high-quality local retailers of locally made chocolates, spirits and artwork including local woodwork, features street-style Belizean cuisine for that truly authentic local flavor.

The development preserves and improves the local eco system, uses indigenous, responsible hardwoods in the buildings, and is creating 500 direct and 1500 indirect jobs for the local economy.

All those things you might expect from a well-planned cruise line private island that also wants to support and authentically reflect its host community, Belize.

But Harvest Caye takes that responsible approach one step further with a Wildlife and Conservation program.

Wildlife and Conservation:

The development of Harvest Caye has boosted local environmental conservation. More than 15,000 new mangroves have been planted to increase the natural estuary habitat for birds, fish and other marine species.

Conservation programs and education efforts have been developed by award winning author and wildlife expert Tony Garel, Harvest Caye's Chief Naturalist, who supervised a wildlife interaction program so you can actually meet and learn about local wildlife.  Tony is on the island daily to lead tours of the wildlife experience. 

Tony's love for and commitment to Belize's plant and animal life were the highlight of our visit, and meeting Tony will be the highlight of your visit to Harvest Caye, too.  (And his friends, Belize's National bird, the toucans.) 

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There's everyday luxury on Regent Seven Seas Cruises: where your airfare, transfers, on board wine and spirits, tips, specialty dining and even shore excursions and wifi are all included in a relaxed country club atmosphere on beautiful mid-sized ships. 

Then there's another level of all-inclusive luxury on Regent: the butler suites.

BestTrip.TV got a behind-the-scenes experience of Regent's most spectacular suite, the 'most luxurious address at sea', and a glimpse into the life of the butlers who make the suite life on Regent's all-inclusive luxury ships even sweeter.

We even get an answer to the question: What do butlers do in their spare time (if they even have any)?

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Do you ever see social media posts of magnificent wildlife photos from someone's trip to Alaska and think: This just can't be real?

But it is.  BestTrip.TV cruised from Vancouver to Seward (near Anchorage) on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, hoping Nature would be kind and we'd encounter at least a couple of the animals and birds Alaska is famous for:

  • Whales
  • Salmon
  • Crab
  • Bald eagles
  • Puffins
  • Brown (grizzly) bears
  • Sitka deer
  • Sea otters
  • Sea lions

Like you, we were skeptical of shore excursion guides who jokingly promised guests 3 out of 5 of a list of iconic Alaska wildlife 'or your money back'.  For Regent guests, this is truly a joke, because Regent has included shore excursions, so you can take wildlife tours in every port of call without going over your vacation budget.  If you don't see the animal your heart is set on, another day, another port, another excursion just might bring you luck.

The truth is, our shore excursion guides and boat captains really know their corners of an enormous state; where whales feed or sea lions congregate.  Plus we got lucky with weather and time of day...

In the end, over the course of a week-long cruise, we ended up seeing all of these creatures and others we didn't expect, and capturing them on video to share with you.

We think this video is the next best thing to actually being there watching whales come up for air or puffins fly past or a bald eagle swoop down into the water to capture a fish to feed her young in the nest. 

But don't take our word for it.  Add an Alaska cruise to your travel bucket list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bon Appetit!

 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Recipe for Baked Alaska

10 Servings

Ingredients

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

Syrup

Bring to a boil, cool down

  • 62.5         grams            water    
  • 31            grams            sugar

Add the kirsch liqueur, keep refrigerated           

  • 6.5            grams             kirsch liqueur

Sponge (or purchased sponge cake)

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

French Meringue

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

Method:

French Meringue:

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

Sponge:

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

Assembly:

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

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Top Souvenirs from Alaska

Alaska's breathtaking scenery and wildlife encounters will be memories that stay with you a lifetime. But there are one-of-a-kind tangible memories you can take home as well as your photos and close-encounter stories.

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host of BestTrip.TV, shares her favorite Alaskan souvenirs from her ports of call in Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Juneau on a recent Regent Seven Seas cruise to Alaska.

Alaskan Kelp Pickles

Food is such a fun souvenir when it's made from one-of-a-kind local ingredients. I found many flavors of Alaska to take home to treat family and friends.

One of my favorites I just had to share was the Alaska kelp pickles we discovered in Sitka. Picturesquely-named Bullwhip kelp is an edible seaweed member of the brown algae family that can grow up to 100 feet long.

Alaskans harvest the kelp at low tide through the summer. The long hollow stems cut in rings are around the size of the rings of a small cucumber… in other words, perfect for home made pickles.

One of the largest seaweeds, bullwhip kelp is a healthy sea vegetable with potassium, iodine, bromine, and even iron.

But the nutrients of kelp will be the last thing on your mind when you taste old fashioned 'bread and butter pickles' made from Alaskan bullwhip kelp. Sweet and sour, with mustard and celery seeds, you'll feel transported back to Granny's garden kitchen – with a refreshing, truly Alaskan maritime twist.

Shopping Tip: Also check out the spruce tip jelly (more floral than you think!) and the other grown-in-Alaska preserves, jellies and pickles.

Serving Tip: Take them home to entertain your friends, alongside your favorite aged hard cheese (like old cheddar or gouda) and French bread.

Make it a cocktail party! Pair them with…

Vodka or Gin made from Alaskan Glacier Water

When it comes to food, wine, and spirits, the best ingredients produce the finest results. The base of any spirit is the water used to make it. And nothing can beat the purity of water sourced from Alaska's glaciers.

So imagine how thrilled we were to discover Skagway Spirits. And it happened in the best way of great discoveries when you travel.

The shore excursions expert on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner told us we just couldn't miss the (formerly infamous) Red Onion Saloon in the historic, Klondike-era downtown of Skagway. Naturally, a visit turned into a drink at the bar. I always look for a local flavor on the menu, and there it was: A spruce-tip cocktail made with local Skagway Spirits gin. The perfect toast to local flavor; we needed to find the source! The bar chef drew us a map on the back of a napkin, and off we went on an adventure.

The map led us to an old hangar at Skagway's local airport, where Skagway Spirits has its small-batch distillery and charming tasting room.

This is a do-not-miss experience, meeting the members of this family owned- and operated distillery. Their passion and love for what they do is apparent with every fantastic sip of their vodka and gin.

They even make home-made local juices from berries and blooms. Their Fireweed Cosmopolitan or Rhubarb Collins will change your life. Ryan doesn't even like rhubarb and he was sidling up to the bar for another!

Shopping and Travel Tip: Skagway Spirits is used to packing up spirits for cruise guests' safe return home. Some cruise lines will have your purchase of wine or spirits stored until you leave the ship at the end of your cruise.

Alaska Jade

Alaska's state gem… isn't technically 'jade'. But don't let that stop you from bringing home a gleaming piece of Alaska's most famous stone.

To the naked eye, the green gemstone you see in shops throughout Alaska looks a lot like the Chinese semiprecious gem. They are actually different stones. Chinese jade is a lighter green and much harder than the softer, usually rich green Alaskan gem, which isn't technically the same 'jade'.

But polished into luminescent jewelry, figurines, knives and art objects that evoke the vivid greens of Alaska's unforgettable forests, Alaskan jade is a glowing and cherished emblem of the state's history, natural resources and craftsmanship of its indigenous people. The earliest Alaskans used pieces of Alaskan jade they found in rivers to make tools, jewelry and even weapons.

Large deposits still exist in Alaska – in fact, there's an entire mountain of jade in Alaska - British Columbia, and even parts of California. In addition to the identifying dark green, it's sometimes found in lighter yellower shades, red, black, white and even very rare and valuable lavender.

Shopping Tip: Unlike some other gems, Alaskan jade seems to appeal equally to men and women. Look for jewelry made in a wide variety of rustic/ native Alaskan styles and symbols, to nature and decorative themes. It's the kind of souvenir you'll wear forever, reminding you of your journey to Alaska.

Ulu

From as early as 2500 BCE, Ulu were an essential part of indigenous households throughout the Arctic, from Greenland to Canada to Alaska. Ulu means 'women's knife', and was an all-purpose tool for skinning animals, slicing animal skins, carving blocks of snow and ice for shelter, cutting food and even hair. It was a cherished tool passed down through generations with care.

Ulu are composed of a curved blade with a bone, antler or wood handle. Its unique shape centers force over the middle of the blade more than a knife shape we are used to, making it easier to cut bone, or use rocking motions that pin down food to cut easily one-handed.

Don't let your Ulu sit on a mantle as a conversation piece. Women and men will find infinite uses for an Ulu. I was given an Ulu by a friend who's a fellow travel journalist, and it's already indispensable. I don't cut my own hair with it, but it's great to have in the kitchen, where rocking motions on a cutting board make short work of mincing herbs, or in the garden, slicing the tops off root vegetables.

Travel Tip: check airline regulations to travel with blades; a souvenir Ulu most certainly needs to be safely stowed in your checked, not carry on luggage.

Shopping Tip: avoid cheap factory made Ulu and instead, look for crafted Ulu to support indigenous and individual artisans keeping Northern heritage alive.

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It's only 20 miles from Skagway, Alaska's deepwater port on the coast, to the border of Canada's Yukon. But what a 20 miles they are!

The White Pass & Yukon Route railway ride is one of the most dramatic scenic experiences in the Alaska Panhandle. No wonder it's an all-time favorite experience for cruise travelers arriving in the preserved, Wild (North)West town of Skagway. The tracks go right onto the dock, so we stepped off the Regent Seven Seas Mariner right onto the train. And from there, on an incredible climb to the Continental Divide and the border with Canada.

It's an epic journey of breathtaking scenery and Klondike Goldrush tales - in vintage train cars that take you back to the days of prospectors and adventurers.

Meet the train conductor and hear his stories of this fabled train - one of the world's most scenic and historic rail journeys.

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What you Need to Know About: Skagway, Alaska

You're probably thinking somewhere in the Wild West. Good for you if you guessed the Wild North-West.

We walked off our Regent Seven Seas cruise to Alaska and felt like we were walking back in time. Specifically, to 1896 when gold was found in the Klondike in Canada's Yukon.

There are a hundred preserved Gold Rush era buildings in downtown Skagway, Alaska, complete with wooden boardwalks and costumed 'Good Time Girls' in the formerly infamous Red Onion saloon.

Skagway, in the Alaska Panhandle on the Pacific coast, provided the most direct route for the masses of aspiring gold miners to reach the Klondike. With its deepwater port, large ships from the West Coast of the US or Canada could dock in Skagway to disgorge their loads of miners, pack animals and supplies. From there, it got harder: a grueling, 500-mile trek to the gold fields in Canada.

Overnight, the city swelled with prospectors and shops and services for prospectors, styled after other towns in the North American West with false-front buildings opening onto wooden boardwalks lining a grid of broad streets. The population ballooned, with 8000 people in town and 30,000 souls in the greater Skagway area.

It was the largest city in Alaska, where only the strong and the lucky survived. And it seemed every swindler, con artist and criminal in the land converged on Skagway. For the next two years, Skagway was lawless, and Canada's North West Mounted Police called it 'little better than a hell on earth'.

Like every boom, the bust must come. The dreams of striking it rich had started to fade just a year later and by 1900 – just when a railway to the Canadian border had been completed – it was all over. (That top image is the train station that's still used today.) The same year, Skagway was incorporated as the first city in Alaska.

Skagway might have been destined to become a ghost town, reincorporated by Nature like other stops along the way to the gold fields that have now disappeared into the forests that have grown back where towns once stood. But it survived – with its well-preserved and colorful historic downtown and just 1000 citizens, only a fraction of its Gold Rush heyday. Survived in both legend and reality.

Skagway has been immortalized in literature like Jack London's 'The Call of the Wild' and even as the set of the John Wayne film 'North to Alaska'.

And, as one of the few Alaskan panhandle towns connected to the road system East into the Yukon and South into British Columbia and the Lower 48, it's a vital stop on Alaska's ferry system: the Alaska Marine Highway.

The deepwater port that unloaded hapless prospectors now accommodates cruise ships that bring about a million cruise passengers every year to this town that now homes just 1000 citizens.

There's no gold left in those distant Yukon hills, but a walk back in time to the Wild North-West in Skagway is a pretty rich cruise experience.

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The Hubbard Glacier has quite a pedigree.

And being named after Gardiner Hubbard, the man who founded or co-founded the National Geographic Society, Bell Telephone and the journal 'Science', puts a lot of pressure on a glacier.

Luckily, the Hubbard Glacier is used to pressure, and guaranteed to impress, even awe. This 'river of ice' is a natural wonder of pressurized snow in that magnificent iceberg blue. A trip to the incredible wall of ice that forms the face of the Hubbard Glacier where it meets Alaska's Disenchantment Bay is one of our most memorable moments of our cruise to Alaska on Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

We know you'll find it breathtaking too.

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Crystal Strikes a Chord with a New Rhine Class of River Cruise Ships Instead of river cruises, they're calling them river yachts. Crystal has translated its uber-luxury sea experience to the rivers of Europe with a new, 'Rhine' class of river yachts, evoking the great music icons of the region. read more
5 Adventures in Antwerp

Belgium’s unique character and two-language culture makes it a must-see destination in Northern Europe.

But go beyond Brussels. One of Europe's hidden gems is Belgium's second city.

Just up the estuary from the North Sea, Antwerp's historic port became its claim to fame and source of wealth as a trading capital 500 years ago. The port is still the second largest in Europe. The wealth of this great trading city financed great art and artists, the world's oldest stock exchange, and an historic core of richly elaborate Flemish buildings.

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BestTrip.TV's producer/host Lynn Elmhirst shares her favorite things about Antwerp.

History with a Quirk

Distinctive historic Flemish architecture reflects Antwerp's power in its heyday, including the magnificent Town Hall, guild halls, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Check out the altarpieces by iconic local artist Rubens here, and the 400-foot spire that makes the cathedral still the tallest building in town.

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Walking through Antwerp's historic streets, you'll start to notice apparent evidence of exceptional devotion to the Virgin Mary. In addition to Notre Dame cathedral, a surprising number of very ornate Madonna statues stare from the corners of buildings onto the street below.

We were told a number of stories about why street-corner Virgin Mary's abound, and oddly, none were about religious fervor. One person told us of reduced taxation on 'religious' buildings, another that the city provided free street lighting for religious buildings – and in either of those scenarios, a Virgin Mary statue on the building made it qualify.

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Virgin Mary building statues are one of the most characteristic – and quirky – symbols of Antwerp's historic streetscape. Very instagrammable. #MadonnasofAntwerp.

Thrillingly Modern

Time has not stood still in Antwerp. Nowadays, it has the reputation of one of the most interesting, modernist cities in Europe.

Only a five-minute walk from the Cathedral, for example, is the city’s neo-classical festival hall from 1905. Period restoration on the outside, but inside, jaw-dropping luxury 50-store mall where the neo-classical glass dome, gold leaf, mosaics and oak floors are juxtaposed by sexy ultra-modern design. I fell in love with the space age champagne bar at the top of a stemmed glass installation (pictured top. Photo: BestTrip.TV). Like stylish Jetsons.

And if the Jetsons ever had to go to court, the Antwerp Law Courts would be the place. The building's spectacular roofline mimics a series of sails in full wind. Today's nod to Antwerp's shipping and maritime heritage.

Serious Fashion:

Hipness is in very 'fabric' of Antwerp, which has cult status in global fashion. Antwerp is home to one of the most important fashion academies in the world. The city also produced the famous ‘Antwerp Six’ designers who cut a radical new pattern for European design that still thrives in Antwerp today. Fashion is thick on the ground in Antwerp, with distinctive styles that are cool and chic all at the same time. Do any shopping here, and both men and women will have envious friends at home asking, 'Where did you get that?'

And Diamonds:

Antwerp has long been the 'Diamond Capital of the World'. It has a whole district devoted to the precious gems, where even today, up to 80% of the world's diamonds are still polished and processed. Diamond houses line the (very secure) streets. Some are open to visitors, where you can learn about the world's hardest stone and watch the most expert diamond cutters in the world polish raw diamonds into sparkling symbols of love and luxury.

The perfect destination for a one-of-a-kind engagement or romantic getaway with a dazzling souvenir.

And Really Good Taste:

Some people rave about Belgian waffles, but for me, it's Belgian Frites. There are stories of peasants frying potatoes here in the 1600’s and Belgium lays claim to inventing this world-wide fast-food phenomenon – even though they became known as 'French fries'.

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Connoisseurs distinguish between Belgian fries (or frites) and any other ‘fry’: true Belgian frites are thick, irregularly shaped, and DOUBLE fried. And local tradition doubles down on the artery-clogging snack by dipping them in mayonnaise.

Frites are a must-try treat in Antwerp. Indulge in a paper cone while wandering the streets, or find a restaurant serving ‘moules et frites’, that is, steamed mussels and fries – the Belgian version of ‘fish and chips’. No fry at home will ever compare.

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Same-Sex Couples Can Get Married on Cunard

Many couples dream of getting married at sea. And now, British luxury cruise line Cunard has welcomed its first wedding booking by a same-sex couple.

Cunard has offered weddings on its ships since 2012 and has married hundreds of couples, but can now also conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies at sea.

Same-sex marriages have been practiced in Britain since 2014. But the Cunard fleet of ships: the Queen Mary2, the Queen Victoria, and the Queen Elizabeth, are registered in Bermuda. A Supreme Court ruling enabling same-sex marriages in Bermuda now enables same-sex couples to be married on board any of the line's 'Three 'Queens' ships.

So in addition to enjoying Cunard's grand scale of British traditional luxury including impeccable White Star Service, gourmet dining and world-class entertainment, perhaps on one of Cunard's legendary, regularly scheduled Transatlantic crossings, same-sex couples can also be joined in marriage during their cruise.

Couples who celebrate their weddings in the romantic, aristocratic British environment of a Cunard cruise will have memories for a lifetime. The wedding ceremony is performed by the ship’s Captain or Deputy Captain, and the marriage license is issued by Bermuda.

A Cunard Wedding at Sea package includes:

  • A romantic ceremony at sea
  • Wedding ceremony venue with floral arrangements
  • Traditional wedding music
  • Services of the on-board Wedding Coordinator
  • Attendance of a professional photographer at the ceremony
  • Commemorative wedding certificate
  • An official copy of the marriage certificate
  • The cost of the license fees
  • A bottle of Champagne in the cabin on arrival
  • Champagne for a toast after the ceremony
  • Invitations and thank you notes
  • Wedding outfit pressing services

Cunard has a history of over 175 years of bringing people together, and welcoming same-sex weddings on its ships marries the best of British luxury traditions with a truly modern sensibility and inclusiveness.

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