What Happens on a Cruise Ship in a Hurricane?

The thought of being stuck on a cruise ship in a hurricane is scary.

 

During hurricane season, the Caribbean becomes a hotbed for tropical storms. Each year from the beginning of June to the end of November, the conditions in the North Atlantic Ocean are ripe for a hurricane. If you’ve ever thought about taking a cruise at this time of year, you’ve probably wondered just what happens on a cruise ship in a hurricane.

Hurricanes are a force to be reckoned with—literally. They have the power to cause widespread destruction and devastation. As someone who has found herself at sea when a hurricane is about to hit on more than one occasion, I can understand your concerns. But I can also help shed a little light on what you can expect to experience.

CruiseDirect

Business as Usual

cruise ship in a hurricane

If there is a storm circling the area you’re scheduled to visit, you’ll likely get a printed memo when you check in at the port letting you know that the cruise line is monitoring the situation. Throughout the cruise, it’s likely you’ll have similar notes slipped under your door or left on your bed with the daily schedule. The captain will also make the occasional announcement about the general state of affairs, just to put your mind at ease. The last thing the cruise line wants is to have 4,000 panicked people in its midst, and there’s nothing like a good distraction to take your mind off of things. So the show must go on, and that’s exactly what will happen.

If you’ve been on a cruise, you’re familiar with the elaborate entertainment that happens each day, including poolside bands, karaoke competitions, and Broadway-style shows. There’s also a spa, several dining options, special events, like Build-a-Bear workshops, and more. Each and every one of these activities will likely go on per the schedule. You’ll be so busy enjoying yourself that you won’t have time to think about the storm brewing nearby.

Change of Plans

things to do in st kitts

Rest assured that cruise lines have access to the most cutting-edge, innovative meteorological and navigational tools available on Earth. Both onshore and at sea, a crew of people are continually monitoring the path of each ship in the company’s fleet. They’ve got your safety in mind, and if I’m being truly honest, they don’t want to lose a billion dollar ship at sea.

Your captain is not going to sail into a storm. If there is a possibility that your ship is in any way at risk, the captain will alter the itinerary accordingly. I happened to be sailing toward Boston when Hurricane Hermine hit the East Coast in 2016. The first day on the ship we were at sea, and on the second day, we were scheduled to stop in Boston.

Since the storm was headed straight for Boston habor, the captain opted to sail to our second stop, Portland, Maine, instead. We doubled back the following day so we could still see Boston. It was a minor adjustment to our itinerary, but we still got to stop in all of the planned ports. We were very minimally impacted, and thankfully, so we were the people of Boston.

About a year later in September 2017, we were on a cruise ship as Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean. We left from San Juan on a Sunday and made our first stop in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the following day. The beautiful vistas and friendly people were a highlight of the trip. Just a day or so later, the hurricane tore through St. Thomas, causing mass destruction.

We continued to Barbados and St. Lucia per the itinerary, arriving a day or two behind Irma. In St. Kitts, Irma took down some trees, so our shore excursion aboard a sightseeing train was canceled due to branches on the rails. That night, we learned our final stop for the trip, St. Maarten, had been canceled, and we would spend the day at sea instead.

Looking back, I’m sure we were included in news reports of ships being stranded at sea since that’s effectively what happened, but for those of us on board, we were clueless for the most part. There was so much music, fun, games, and food, that we didn’t know the difference. Those of us who had been watching the news were well aware that many of the nearby ports were closed and the state of the port of San Juan was still in question. But the weather was warm, the sea was calm, and the skies were blue, so rather than focus on how we were going to get back home, we kicked back and enjoyed the beautiful day.

We were safe and sound and didn’t experience the threat of Irma at any time, but my heart still breaks for all of the people who have lost their homes and loved ones at her hands. The number of people aboard the ship that complained about the changes in the itinerary astounded me. There were people suffering in the aftermath of the storm—but thankfully, we were not among them.

State of the Sea

cruise ship in a hurricane

Unless you’re up to speed on current events or watching the news in your stateroom, it’s possible you won’t even know there’s a storm nearby. During Hurricane Irma, my friends and family back home waited with bated breath to see a Facebook update from me each day. They were just certain I was going to blow right off the ship into the Atlantic Ocean. Even though we were traveling nearly the exact same route as the Category 5 hurricane, we managed to avoid her wrath. The seas were completely calm and the skies were blue. Despite the devastation she was wreaking all around us, we didn’t feel a thing.

To say we didn’t notice the inclement weather when we cruised along the East Coast in 2016 would be a lie. It was windy and rainy, and at times, the ship rolled a bit from side to side. One evening as I walked on deck, the winds were quite strong, and it was difficult to open the door to get back inside the ship. The crew eventually restricted access to the outdoors due to the high winds. By that time, the evening entertainment had started, and no one even noticed we couldn’t go outdoors. It was autumn in New England and too cold to spend any length of time outside at night anyway.

That same night as I lay in bed, the ship rocked gently on the waves, lulling me into a sound sleep (which is saying a lot since I suffer from insomnia). Being on a lower deck, I could see the waves lapping against the porthole window in my cabin. They were a little higher than the night before, but barely, and they certainly weren’t atypical of the waves I’ve experienced on a cruise sailing through perfectly pleasant weather conditions.

While I know there are times when cruises hit rough waters, it’s quite rare. The chance that you will experience tsunami-sized waves and tornado-strength winds on a cruise is highly unlikely. Often the way the news is reported makes it seem different from it actually is. My point is not to diminish what people who have been in these situations experience—it’s about letting you know that you shouldn’t let fears of being on a cruise ship in a hurricane come between you and your bucket list. Book that trip! You’ll be glad you did.

If you would like to help those who have been impacted by hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, and Maria, you can make a donation to the Red Cross.

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cruise ship in a hurricane

Things to Do in St. Kitts in One Day — Historic Forts to White Sand Beaches

Though it’s just a wee island in the West Indies, there are plenty of great things to do in St. Kitts in one day.

 

With a population of just 50,000 people, St. Kitts is known for its vast sugar cane fields, warm, tropical climate, and white sand beaches. The capital city, Basseterre, is a popular cruise port for most major cruise lines sailing in the Caribbean. English is the official language of the island, and U.S. currency is widely accepted and expected from visitors.

things to do in St Kitts

Getting Started

Whether you cruise or sail to the island, a great way to get acquainted with St. Kitts is through a taxi tour. At only 18 miles long and 5 miles wide, it’s easy to tour the entire island in just a few hours. If you’re staying on the island for a few days, you’ll get a quick overview of the different things to do in St. Kitts, and you can select the best sites to return to later. Your hotel can help you arrange a taxi service. For cruisers, watch for the “Taxis and Tours” stand at the end of the dock before you pass through the terminal. They’ll have drivers waiting to whisk you away. Taxis may not be metered, so be sure to set a price before setting off on your journey.

things to do in st kitts things to do in st kitts

Pro tip: If you’re on a cruise, get off the ship as soon as you get clearance from the port authority. This way, you can catch an early tour and have all afternoon to lounge on the beach.

What to Expect

Islands tours cost about $20 per person and take you on a one-way road around the perimeter of the entire island, making a photo stop at a few local attractions along the way. You can choose to ride in an air-conditioned taxi or an open-air safari-style vehicle. While you’ll stay nice and cool in the taxi, you’ll get better pictures from the safari vehicle, so choose wisely depending on your end goals. Also, beware that the price of the tour does not include admission to any attractions. This can add up, so if you want to stop in at several of the sites, you may be better off taking an all-inclusive excursion through your cruise line or a tour operator.

things to do in st kitts

Most of the tour consists of driving around the island and taking pictures from the vehicle. However, you will make photo stops at a few locations, including the Black Rocks, where some locals also sell their wares to the visiting tourists. You’ll also drive through an area of rain forest on the way to Romney Manor, see the dormant volcano Mount Liamuiga in the distance, and drive up picturesque Timothy Hill. The driver will also point out other areas of historic and cultural significance as you drive.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

Scheduling Your Stops

The entire journey takes about two-and-a-half hours if you don’t stop for more than a few minutes at each of the photo stops. The driver will take the lead from the group and make extended stops at places like Brimstone Hill Fortress and Caribelle Batik. This can extend your tour time considerably, and costs can quickly add up.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

At some sites, there is no convenient place to wait while other members of your group visit the attractions. Brimstone Hill Fortress, for example, will not even allow visitors to wait in the parking lot. You will be left on the side of the road in a secluded area outside the fort. There are no shops, restaurants, or shady places to take cover from the hot sun.

Pro tip: Unless you’re part of a large group, you will likely be paired with other people on your tour. Before getting in a car, ask the driver to confirm the length of the tour, where it stops, and for how long. You’ll want to be paired with people who have the same interests as you so that you’re on the same page about the places you want to visit and for how long. Otherwise, you may find yourself waiting for a half hour or more in parking lots or on the side of the road.

Beach Visit

At the end of the tour, you can ask the driver to leave you at the beach for an extended stay. It will cost you a few extra dollars on top of the tour price to be dropped off here. The driver will ask you what time you want to be picked back up and will return at that time to get you—also for a small fee. The people in my group who chose this option were charged $4 extra dollars when they were dropped off, for a total of $24 for the tour. The driver charged $4 more to pick them back up.

The beach is only about 15 minutes from the port, and there are a host of duty-free shops to check out upon your return. In fact, it’s a lovely port with lots of great places to check out. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to enjoy a drink and pick up a few souvenirs. You can also make a pit stop at the National Museum of St. Kitts to check out the local history and culture.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

Tour Alternatives

With such a warm climate and beautiful natural landscapes, outdoor activities are extremely popular in St. Kitts. As soon as you arrive in port, you’ll see a sign pointing you in the direction of water sports and other fun things to do in St. Kitts in the great outdoors.

For something a little different, take a ride on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. Once used to transport sugar cane across the island, this train now takes tourists on an 18-mile journey through the countryside. Complete the three-hour tour with a 12-mile bus ride. Sadly, Hurricane Irma had just breezed by the island days before I was there, causing a number of trees and debris to make the rails impassable, but this is my top choice for an excursion on my next visit to St. Kitts.

things to do in St Kitts

If you’re looking for fun things to do in St. Kitts in one day, start with a quick taxi tour of the island to make the most of your time.

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Things to Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul: Museums to Malls

Better known as the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, together form the second-largest metropolitan area in the Midwest after Chicago.

 

The largest city in the state, Minneapolis, is known for its thriving arts scene and vibrant culture. On the other hand, Saint Paul, the state capital, features quaint communities with a historic vibe. Whether you’re looking to spend time in the great outdoors, enjoy an evening at the theater, or shop ’til you drop, there are plenty of things to do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, the Twin Cities are the perfect place for a city break. To make the most of your visit, consider booking one of the budget-friendly hotels near the airport. You’ll have easy access to both cities, as well as to a variety of nearby attractions, including the Mall of America and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Outdoor Activities

Things to Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Image via Flickr by puliarf

If you love being one with nature, the Twins Cities are the ideal destination. Also known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is well-known for its water sports, from fishing to waterskiing and canoeing to kayaking. Head to Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park to take a stroll along a paved walkway that connects several of the area’s most popular lakes. For even more outdoor adventure, visit Minnehaha Falls Park for a picnic lunch in one of the oldest and most popular parks in Minneapolis. Stunning scenery at the park includes a 53-foot waterfall and limestone bluffs.

Get up close and personal with the flora and fauna at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in Saint Paul. From giraffes to reindeer, there’s a huge variety of animals on display. Be sure to take a ride on the carousel and stop by the gardens to check out the exotic plants. At Rice Park, a green space in historic downtown Saint Paul, you’ll find festivals, concerts, and other events, as well as ice skating in the winter.

Arts and Entertainment

Things to Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Image via Flickr by TBoard

With so many museums and historic sites in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, you want to plan your day carefully to take in as many as possible. For a glimpse into pioneer life, head to Historic Fort Snelling. Enjoy looking at the contemporary visual arts at Walker Art Center or the world-famous international art pieces featured at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Grand Avenue features some of the best restaurants in the area, as well as unique boutiques and relaxing spas. If the Minnesota Twins are in town, head to Target Field to catch a Major League Baseball game. At night, check out a live performance at Guthrie Theater or one of the three theaters that make up the Hennepin Theatre Trust. Other great places to take in the arts and culture of the Twin Cities include the Minnesota History Center and the Minnesota State Capitol.

For a vacation filled with fun outdoor activities and a wide variety of arts and entertainment, the Twin Cities are sure to check a few boxes on your bucket list. With so many things to do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, it’s the perfect place for a fun-filled getaway.

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Things to Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Holy Water Ritual at Tirta Empul Temple in Bali – A Wanderlust Experience

Tirta Empul is a place to purify your soul.

For more than 1,000 years, the Balinese have been coming to this sacred spot to do just that. Built on a bubbling spring that flows from the Pakerisan River, Tirta Emplul Temple is a popular spot for ritual purification. According to legend, Indra, a Hindu god, created the spring that feeds the temple’s 13 fountains, infusing it with magical powers as he did. Locals follow the Hindu religion bathe in the holy water to cleanse their souls and ward off evil. Tourists come to experience a truly special cultural tradition. Here’s what to expect from your experience if you plan to visit Tirta Empul Temple.

Tirta Empul

Getting There

Located in the Tampak Siring district, Tirta Empul is about an hour drive from Bali’s capital, Denpasar. I hired a private guide and was glad I did. It costs about $40 per half day, and it’s worth every penny, especially at a place like Tirta Empul Temple where it helps to have a local’s expertise to guide you. I wouldn’t have known what to do or where to go without my guide. And because you likely don’t want to take your camera in the water with you, your guide can take pictures of you while you bathe in the waters.

The Grounds

Tirta Empul opens at 7 a.m. daily and costs about $2 to enter the grounds. You’ll be given a sarong to wear over your own clothes. Be sure to return it when you leave. The earlier you arrive, the less likely you are to experience large crowds. Don’t be deceived by the featured image at the top of my post—this place is crawling with locals and tourists alike. How my guide managed to get a photo of me alone in the water is amazing to me.

Tirta Empul

A quick tour reveals the temple consists of three main courtyards, the Jaba Pura, or front yard, Jaba Tengah, or central yard, and Jeroan, or inner yard. Jaba Tengah features two rectangular pools with 13 “showers” each. This is where the purification ritual takes place, and there will likely be a lineup of people at each of the showers no matter what time you get to Tirta Empul. Don’t worry, they move quickly. You’ll likely also notice a sign posting the rules for entering the pools. Be sure to keep these in mind as you move through the temple.

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: Tirta Empul is an active religious site for the locals. They often come to collect the holy water in jugs to take home with them. At certain times of the year, they flock to the grounds to take part in religious events. It can be extremely crowded during these times, so be sure to check in advance if there are any special ceremonies and festivals taking place and plan accordingly.

Change Your Clothes

Before you can enter the water, you need to change out of your clothes and into a special sarong that’s different from the one you received upon entry to the grounds. You can rent the sarong and a locker for your personal items for a buck or two. You’ll find them, along with the fitting rooms, to your left if you’re facing away from the holy water showers. There will be a small table with one or two people to collect the cash and hand you your sarong and locker key. Then, head inside to find your designated locker and stash your stuff.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: If you’re modest like me and don’t love changing in front of other people, there are large bathroom stalls at the back of the dark locker room that double as change rooms.

Guys can simply wrap the sarong around their waists, but the gals need to be sure all of their bits are properly covered. To tie the sarong, simply drape it behind your body and grab one end in each hand. Crisscross the two ends around your neck, and tie them together to form a halter. Your sarong will come tied with a red sash. Wrap the sash around your waist like a belt to keep the sarong closed.

Purification Ritual

Now that you’re in the proper attire, head back to the bathing pools. I plunged into the one on the right and got into the first line I saw. A kind man was nice enough to tell me I wasn’t doing the ritual quite right. You see, you need to start at the first shower on the left in the pool on the left and stand under each shower for the full effect. So, me and my soaked sarong climbed back out of the water and trudged to the first fountain.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: The temple is made from stones that get quite slippery when wet—and they’re always wet. Be careful climbing in and out of the water. Also, beware there are fish in the pools, so don’t be surprised if one swims by or brushes up against you.

There were a handful of people in line in front of me, so I watched diligently as each one approached the shower so I would know what to do. Some people said a short prayer before bowing their heads and using their hands to sweep water over themselves a total of threes times. Others skipped the prayer part. Some people brought offerings of flowers and incense, while others gathered water to take back home to their families.

Tirta Empul

There are formal traditions that are part of the blessing at Tirta Empul, but it can be a bit of a challenge to find someone to explain them to you. Alternatively, you can do whatever you want, so long as it’s low key and respectful. No one will judge you or look at you funny if you don’t put your head right underwater, for example. It’s all about what’s right for you. But be mindful of the locals who are at Tirta Empul as part of their religious beliefs, and allow them the time and space they need to perform the ritual. For them, this isn’t just an opportunity to snap a cool selfie, it’s part of an age-old cultural tradition. I chose to say a few words of kindness to myself before washing water over my head three times. It takes about 15 minutes or so to perform the ritual at every one of the fountains. Some people drink the water, though due to deteriorating water quality, it’s no longer recommended.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: It can be a bit of a challenge to keep your sarong from riding up in the water, and no one wants that to happen. Tucking it between your legs and shuffling your feet to walk is a great way to keep everything neatly in place.

Once you’re done purifying in the holy water, head back to the locker room to grab your clothes and change. then, drop off your wet sarong at the same table where you rented it earlier. Spend some time touring the grounds and taking in all of the amazing carvings before making your way home. You can even view the source of the spring water bubbling under the ground. It’s worth a look around.

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul was one of the highlights of my trip to Bali. Throughout my experience, I felt like I was taking part in something truly special and cherished every moment of my time there. If you only have time to do visit a handful of sites in Bali, Tirta Empul Temple should be at the top of your list.

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Tirta Empul

The Six Best Island Vacations in Europe 

Guest post by Priya Ghatol

How about slowing down the pace and opting for an island vacation in Europe?

 

Surprisingly, Europe has an excellent collection of islands that are perfect for a barefoot leisure holiday or an adventurous expedition. They’re also an ideal way to escape from daily realities of life and the hoards of tourists that frequent Europe’s most popular cities. So, why not head to these exquisite islands to experience a unique European holiday?

Islands of Greece

Best Island Vacations in Europe

When it comes to planning an island holiday in Europe, Greece is on top of the list. This gorgeous nation is made up of a cluster of islands scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas. The moment someone mentions Greece, images of endless stretches of azure waters lapping on white sandy beaches and sunny blue skies surface in one’s mind.

Set in the southeastern Europe, Greece is a fabled land filled with rich culture and ancient civilizations. The country’s the Ionian Islands or the Seven Islands are known for their breathtaking panoramas, while the islands of Corfu, Paxos, Lefkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, and Cerigo are steeped in culture and historical influences from many European settlements.

A cruise visit to each of these islands is a great way to explore the unique experiences they have to offer. An expedition into diverse landscapes, sheltered bays and caves, and serene lagoons with a backdrop of soaring cliffs are mesmerizing to behold. Santorini is one of the best islands to visit in Greece. Here, take in a sunset from the coastal township, and a stop for a photo opportunity on one of the picturesque whitewashed lanes lined with churches.

Isle of Skye, Scotland 

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Spectacular sceneries of rugged cliffs and clear lochs wait for you at Isle of Skye in Scotland. With a unique landscape of jagged cliffs and mountainous terrains dominating the panorama, Isle of Skye offers some of the most dramatic vistas in Scotland. Not the usual sight of open bright blue seas or white sandy beaches, Isle of Sky surprises you with misty brown mountains and clear waters.

If you’re interested in an island vacation that includes wilderness adventures, the Isle of Skye offers amazing hiking trails and walks of varying levels of difficulty. Hardcore adventurers can push their limits with challenging climbs. Those who love to stroll through nature can opt for pictorial walking tours to Coral Beach, Cuillin Mountains, Boreraig, and Talisker Beach to name a few places. On the way, you may even spot white-tailed sea eagles, puffins, otters, seals, whales, dolphins, and red deer. Stop by the Scottish villages of Portree, Dunvegan, and Trotternish for a pint of the finest Scottish malt whiskey. Have a pleasant time mingling with locals and savoring some Scottish meals.

Canary Islands, Spain

Best Island Vacations in Europe

A fusion of stunning beaches, spectacular natural sceneries, charming culture, and pleasantly warm weather, the Canary Islands are your answer to a tranquil Spanish holiday without the chaos of tourists. Considered as one of Europe’s best winter sun destinations due to their moderate climates, the Canary islands offer a thrilling island adventure amid extraordinary scenic settings. An archipelago set deep in the Atlantic Ocean, away from the Spanish borders, the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, El Hierro, La Gomera, and La Palma offer sanctuary for those seeking tranquil escapes and cater to all kinds of beach lovers.

The unspoiled beaches, turquoise waters, and glorious sunshine coupled with tropical forests that are dotted with waterfalls, quaint seaside villages teeming, and charming locals, the islands allure their visitors with spectacular natural vistas and a vibrant verve.

There is always an event or celebration going on throughout the year. For leisure seekers, relax on laid-back sunny beaches after a dip in the tepid waters or set sail into the ocean to spot dolphins and whales. For outdoorsy adventurers, hike on meandering trails, or try scuba diving beneath the deep blue waters. Take some time to visit the seaside hamlets and historic townships, and don’t forget to watch a superb sunset along the horizon or stay at the beach late into the night for an awe-inspiring star-gazing experience.

Madeira, Portugal

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Deemed one of Europe’s most exotic places to visit, Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago consisting of four islands that lie far away from the European coast. Located in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Canary Islands, Madeira is a mountainous region rather than a beach destination.

Rich in verdant foliage, soaring cliffs, and mountain peaks, Madeira is a haven for adventure lovers. There are many activities to do here, such as taking a cable car ride that gives you wonderful aerial views of Funchal, exploring the historic sites, or taking in the colonial architecture. Take a self-drive tour to check out the beautiful churches overlooking the cliff edges and the vast expanses of water, try surfing one of Europe’s best surf zones, or gear up for an adventure trek on the misty Pico do Arieiro.

Madeira is a spectacular epicurean destination that is famous for its wineries. A haven for keen food lovers, it is a delight to delve into a delectable range of cuisines made out of fresh farm produce and seafood that is complemented perfectly with an array of the finest sparkling wines from the region. Tourists flock to Madeira during New Year celebrations for its warm weather and astounding fireworks display that is certified as the largest fireworks show in the world by Guinness World Records.

Sicily, Italy

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Italy is undoubtedly well known as a destination drenched in art, history, and culture, but the country also offers amazing experiences of blissful island living. Italy’s assorted islands and its coastal towns are quite famous for providing insight into the quaint lifestyle steeped in authentic Italian culture and cuisine amid spellbinding scenic vistas. Sicily is the largest Italian island, offering an intense blend of unspoiled sceneries that are reminiscent of a bygone era, refreshing scents, and delectable flavors.

The colorful coastal settlement of Taormina perched right the border of the gleaming deep blue Mediterranean waters is a sight worth taking in. Mount Etna is another must visit attraction that offers stunning nature park, and grottos to explore. The UNESCO sites of the Noto Valley and Villa Romana del Casale take you back in historical times, while the refreshing sights of rolling green vineyards, olive groves, and citrus orchards are enough to confirm that the palette of food you will be relishing in will be fresh and delicious. Forget about piling up calories and let yourself loose on an amazing array of delicious Sicilian dishes, such as pastries, croquettes, ricottas, breads, tomatoes, meats, and genuine extra virgin olive oil.

Iceland

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Iceland is a one-of-a-kind experience that needs to be visited at least once in your lifetime. In contrast to its name, Iceland isn’t a country covered in sheets of ice, but its sheer natural beauty is attributed to its glacial fields. Other landscapes include volcanic mountains and lava fields, making Iceland a place where ice and fire coexist in harmony. The landscape is marvelous and distinct. There are no lush forests or tall trees, just shrubbery and moss-covered uneven topography.

The natural splendor of Iceland is astounding and surreal. The island is speckled with magnificent waterfalls, volcanic terrains, gorgeous fjords, stunning beaches, and clear lakes. The long days here give you a feeling that tomorrow may never come, and you have loads of time in one day to explore the country. The black beaches of Laugarvatn Lake, Reynisfjara, and Vik, the icy blue glaciers of Jökulsárlón and Vatnajökull National Park, the dramatic multi-hued vistas of Westfjords, the natural hot pools at Krosslaug and Deildartunguhver are some of Iceland’s extraordinary sights that will be etched in your memories forever. If you are traveling in the right season, you can even catch the gleaming Aurora borealis in Iceland.

The beauty and warmth of these European islands act as a rejuvenating salve for the tired soul. Though set apart from the mainland, a trip to these islands is an unparalleled experience and is sure to leave you wanting for more of the European island lifestyle.


Author Bio: Priya is an avid travel writer who specializes in adventurous travel writing. Her blogs and articles give deep insight about various tourist places and act as a perfect travel guide for someone who is traveling to a place for the first time. Priya has exemplary research, writing, and editing skills, which allow her to easily match the reader’s intellect and interest. She has blogged extensively about her travel experience while traveling to several places like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Europe, Dubai, USA, Canada, etc. 


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Things to do in Kuta, Bali, in One Day — Beaches, Barong, and Temples

Kuta, Bali, is known for its exciting nightlife and beautiful beaches.

 

If you love to shop, party, and surf, then Kuta is the perfect place for you. Located just a 15-minute drive from Bali’s only international airport, this former fishing village town was one of the first major tourist spots to crop up on the Indonesian island of Bali. Today, it’s part of a sprawling urban area that’s renowned for beautiful beach sunsets and party vibe. There are so many things to do in Kuta and the surrounding area that it’s hard to decide where to begin.

Things to do in Kuta

Tourradar

Where to Stay

If you want to be smack dab in the heart of the action, stay at one of the massive beachside resorts along Jalan Pantai Kuta, such as the luxurious Hard Rock Hotel Bali or Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort. During the day, simply wander across the street and rent a lounge chair on the beach. If kicking back and soaking up the sun isn’t for you, perhaps stroll along the avenue to check out the vast variety of shops, including popular international name brands and local boutiques. At night, enjoy the rhythmic sounds of local bands as the street comes alive with energy.

For my short stay in Kuta, I chose to make my nest a little off the beaten path at the divine Grand Mega Resort & Spa. The four-star hotel offers spacious, modern rooms equipped with every comfort your heart could desire, including both a bathtub and separate shower, plush bathrobes, coffeemaker, and more. An expansive outdoor pool and bar, relaxing spa, and delicious restaurant round out the resort’s amenities.

Things to do in Kuta

Things to do in Kuta

The Grand Mega is just a 15-minute from the airport, and everything you need for an enjoyable stay is available on site, which is a good thing since there’s not much nearby aside from a small mall across the street. I didn’t plan on spending much time at the hotel, so it suited me just fine. And because of its location away from the beach hubbub, it was extremely affordable. How often can you find a four-star hotel for under $40 per night? Considering equivalent hotels along the beach cost more than three times as much, the Grand Mega is an ideal choice, especially if you plan to spend most of your time touring beyond Kuta.

Things to do in Kuta

Things to do in Kuta

Things to do in Kuta

things to do in kuta

Arranging a Ride

While tour companies offer many opportunities for things to do in Kuta, it’s just as easy to make your own tour. Most hotels will be happy to arrange a driver to take you around for the day. If you have only one day to take in the local sites, you’ll want to make the most of your day, so be sure to make arrangements the night before. My driver had a handy-dandy binder filled with pictures and descriptions of the main attractions. He made recommendations based on my personal tastes, and then we agreed on a price. This is key.

Always agree on the price in advance. Typically, a full day tour costs in the range of 700,000 to 800,000 Indonesian Rupiah, which equates to about $50 to $60. Most drivers allow two to three people in the vehicle for this rate, but keep in mind, there is no discount if you’re traveling alone. You will need to pay the full rate.

Pro tip: The rate you agree on with your driver does not include entrance to any attractions. You will need to pay for those separately upon arrival. This is just the fee for driving you around for the day. Also, you are expected to tip at the end of the day.

Starting Your Day

If you’re staying at the Grand Mega, the buffet breakfast is a lovely way to start the day. There is a wide selection of both hot and cold foods, as well as fresh fruit and an omelette station. It costs about $10 on its own, or it may come included with your room.

Things to do in Kuta

A great way to get a glimpse into the customs and heritage of a culture is to take in a traditional performance of some kind. Grab a buffet breakfast at the hotel, and then head to Sari Wisata Budaya to catch the 9:30 a.m. Barong and Kris show. The show costs about $8 and lasts about 45 minutes. As you enter the theater, you’ll be greeted by a stunning Balinese dancer dressed in colorful traditional clothing. It’s the perfect opportunity to pose for a quick picture. While you can use your own camera, a photographer will also snap a photograph, which you can purchase later for about $8.

One inside the performance area, you’ll immediately notice there are no actual seats. Instead, you’ll find stadium seating on an oversized concrete staircase. Simply sit wherever you like, and wait for the show to begin. Just before it does, the gamelan ensemble to the right of the stage begins playing vibrant music on instruments such as xylophones and bamboo flutes. The tunes are catchy and enchanting. And before you know if the performers take to the stage.

Things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

Things to do in Kuta

As you enter the theater, you’ll be given a pamphlet explaining the story. Based on a twelfth-century tale of good versus evil, Barong, a mystical spirit in the form of a beast, must protect his village from the with queen Rangda. From Balinese dancing to comedy improv, the show has a little bit of everything. Though the entire show is performed in Balinese, you’ll get the gist of what’s going on. While the traditional dancing and music are beautiful, and the costumes are stunning, the show drags on a little long. And it’s a bit raunchy at times. Still, it’s worth the few bucks you shelled out to see something local.

Things to do in Kuta

Alternatively, if the Barong show simply isn’t your style, wake up early, and head down to Kuta Beach for a quiet stroll in the sand before the temperatures rise and the crowds arrive. Aside from the six-foot white sandstone fence built in the traditional Balinese style, there’s not a lot that makes this beach stand out from any other. Still, it’s a nice way to start the day.

things to do in Kuta

When you’re done, head over to one of the many streetside restaurants for a bite to eat. For a couple of bucks, you can get a hearty meal that will keep your stomach sated for hours. For less than $5, I got juice, tea, hash browns, pancakes, fruit, toast, and eggs at the Grand Istana Rama Hotel located just a block or so from the Beachwalk Shopping Center.

things to do in Kuta

After breakfast, head back toward the mall and check out the shops. Then, make your way down Jalan Pantai Kuta, and you’ll get a sense of just how busy Kuta Square gets later in the day. Check out a few more shops, or maybe get a foot massage for a few dollars. Spas are a dime a dozen in this part of the world. You can walk in at any time and expect the royal treatment.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

Pro tip: Ask to be dropped off and picked up at the Beachwalk Shopping Center. It’s a solid landmark that’s easy to find and central to the action. Give yourself about two hours to grab a bite, dip your toes in the water, and wander through a few shops.

Mid-Day

After you’ve had a chance to see a show or walk along the beach, it’s time to hit the road en route to the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, but not before a quick stop at a kopi Luwak coffee plantation. This is one of the most common things to do in Kuta and other parts of Bali. In fact, a stop at a coffee plantation will be on just about every tour itinerary you read. I don’t drink coffee, at all…ever…so I wasn’t super keen on the idea, but my driver was insistent on it and told me it wouldn’t take long. I figured he got kick backs on any sales, but I decided to do it anyway.

Coffee plantations are abundant in Bali, and once you know what to look for, you’ll see signs for them on many streets. The one we went to was designed to entice tourists. At the entrance, you’ll be greeted by a representative of the plantation who will take you on a short tour. At this particular plantation, from the moment you walk in, you feel as though you’ve found a lush oasis in the middle of a dusty desert. As you wind your way along the garden path, the tour guide explains that kopi Luwak is some of the most expensive coffee in the world, costing hundreds of dollars per pound.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

Kopi, or coffee, Luwak is not a type of coffee but rather a method for processing it. First, Asian palm civets, nocturnal cat-like creatures known locally as Luwaks, roam through the fields of coffee beans at night, carefully selecting only the finest beans to eat. Their bodies digest the beans so quickly that they don’t have time to breakdown. When they come back out, they are nearly completely intact. From here, the beans are thoroughly washed and roasted.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

If you’re an animal advocate like me, your first concern will be for the animals. I was very happy to learn the plantation I was at allows the Luwaks plenty of free time outside of their cages to enjoy the outdoors. I had no idea was I was getting into when I went to the plantation and immediately began asking questions. While this particular plantation placed a high value on its animals, not all of them do. Knowing this, be sure to ask in advance if the plantation you’re going to have quality standards for the care of its Luwaks.

After you’re done the roasting demonstration, you’ll be taken to a tasting area. Here, you’ll be given the opportunity to sample no less than 12 varieties of teas and coffees made at the plantation. Tea flavors typically include mangosteen, ginseng, vanilla, and ginger to name a few. You can sample coconut, chocolate, and Bali coffees, among others. If you want to try the good stuff, you’ll have to shell out about $4. Once you’ve discovered your favorite flavors, you’ll be escorted to a small shop where you can make a purchase. There is absolutely no pressure to buy anything if you don’t want to. The entire experience takes about a half hour tops. Even if you don’t drink coffee, it’s an enjoyable experience, so just go with it.

things to do in Kuta

Once you’ve discovered your favorite flavors, you’ll be escorted to a small shop where you can make a purchase. There is absolutely no pressure to buy anything if you don’t want to. The entire experience takes about a half hour tops. Even if you don’t drink coffee, it’s an enjoyable experience, so just go with it.

Afternoon

Finally, you’ll be on your way to Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, or GWK as it’s known locally. This park wasn’t on my radar when I was looking for things to do in Kuta, but my driver suggested in, and I was glad he did. The sprawling 150-acre park is about a half-hour drive from central Kuta, but it feels like longer due to traffic congestion and sketchy driving conditions. Dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and Garuda, the bird-like creature that Vishnu rides, the park features an amphitheater, shops, restaurants, ATV rentals and more.

When you arrive at the park, your driver will likely drop you off at the ticket counter and leave to find parking. After you’ve paid your admission—about $8—you’ll be given a park map and someone will point you toward the entrance. Then you’ll be on your own. Simply follow the path and the other people, and you’ll be just fine (though I found the map a bit useless, and I’m quite adept at reading maps).

things to do in Kuta

Though still under construction, the main spectacle is the statue of Vishnu riding Garuda. When complete, it will stand nearly 500 feet tall, dwarfing the Statue of Liberty and making it one of the largest statues in the world. Currently, however, only the heads and shoulders of Vishnu and Garuda are in place…and they’re in place a little ways apart from each other. Even though they are only about a quarter complete, both are massive and incredibly impressive to see.  It’s nearly impossible to imagine how these two components will come together as one, but when they do it will be a formidable attraction, to say the least. When I was there, for a small donation, a local man would perform a blessing over you using holy water and rice.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

Be sure to take in one of the traditional dance performances or Balinese parade that takes place each day. In addition, you’ll want to walk through the Lotus Pond. At a capacity of more than 7,000 people, it’s the largest outdoor area in the park and has played host to a number of special events, including concerts by Iron Maiden and Paramore. Also, make a stop in at the shop and art market at the end of your visit. You’ll have a chance to purchase a greenscreen photo of you with Vishnu for about $10. Allow an hour or two for your visit to GWK Park, which is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. A schedule of events is posted on the park’s website.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

By now, it will be early afternoon and time to head for the final leg of your tour, Uluwatu. Located on the southwestern tip of the Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu is one of the top things to do in Kuta. This picturesque place is known across the globe as one of the world’s best surfing spots, as well as for its cliffside temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu. The drive from GWK takes less than half an hour.

things to do in Kuta

Once you’ve paid your entrance fee—about $2—you can walk all along the cliffside to the left or right to take in the spectacular views of waves crashing against the rocks. Be sure to walk both ways since the panorama is vastly different in each direction. The entire trip will take you about an hour, with plenty of time to take photos and enjoy the fresh air.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

things to do in kuta

You’ll find a few local vendors on your trek selling handmade items. I picked up a hand-woven friendship bracelet for a little less than $1. It’s nothing fancy, but it serves as a reminder of my special day every time I look at my wrist.

things to do in kuta

If you happen to be visiting Uluwatu later in the day, consider staying for sunset and enjoying the Kecak show that takes place at 6 p.m. daily. Though I didn’t have a chance to check it out, I’ve heard from others who did that it was a wonderful experience.

Pro tip: When you arrive at Uluwatu, be sure to leave any loose items in the car. Uluwatu is famous for the Macaque monkeys that inhabit the temple and steal from tourists. Hold onto your phones, cameras, and sunglasses, or you’ll be brushing up on your bartering skills in an attempt to exchange a banana for your belongings.

Evening

After your visit to Uluwatu, you may want to drive over to nearby Jimbaran Bay for a seafood barbecue. I chose to head back to the hotel for a bite to eat at the restaurant and then an extensive spa treatment. I was told I could get a better deal outside the hotel, but I thought $25 for nearly three hours was a great price. I was treated to a full-body massage, an exfoliating green tea body scrub, a soothing facial, and a relaxing milk bath. It was the perfect way to cap off a long, lovely day.

Things to do in Kuta

If you’ve still got some extra energy to burn off, you can always check out the nightlife at Kuta Beach. A taxi will set you back only about $5 each way at most.

These are just a few of the many things to do in Kuta. With so many exciting area attractions, it’s hard to decide which ones to choose.

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things to do in kuta

5 Amazing Cycle Routes Around the World

Guest post by Diana Smith

Cycling is an ideal way to blow off some steam and stay in shape.

 

But have you ever considered using your bike to travel the world? Although the average person will be more than satisfied with the usual sightseeing tours around famous locations, there are those who prefer to get to know the culture they’re visiting in a more personal way. If you are one of those people, then you should definitely consider experiencing the thrill that is traveling the world with nothing more than your bike and a backpack.

From relaxing cycles along the shoreline to exhilarating mountain biking through the various mountain ranges and national parks, there are numerous breathtaking cycling routes you probably haven’t heard of. Some might be rather difficult to access, let alone travel there with a bike, while others can be found right in your geographical neighborhood without you even realizing it. However, these five breathtaking locations scattered throughout the world will surely leave you asking for more.

Cycling around the world

North Sea Cycle Route, Europe

North Sea Cycle Route, also known as Euro Velo Route 12 claims to be one of the world’s longest cycle routes spanning over 6,000 kilometers and 8 countries. It starts in the northern part of Scotland, particularly the Shetland Islands and stretches across the coasts of England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

This is a long and arduous journey which is best attempted during the summer, as most of these countries tend to have rather cold climates. The official NSCR website offers some useful tips regarding the route itself, but also offers information about the countries, their currencies, and laws regarding passing the borders between them.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, North America

This mountain bike route stretches from Alberta, Canada, all the way down to New Mexico. It’s 4,400 kilometers long and has around 61,000 meters of climbing. This route will take you through remote woodlands and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, as well as Great Basin’s wastelands and the Anasazi culture of New Mexico.

It is one of the most difficult biking routes in the world, and as such, requires a significant amount of preparation and willpower to actually be completed. This route is as remote as it is diverse and it is ideal for those looking to get away from the city and enjoy all the marvels nature has to offer.

The Shimanami Kaido, Japan

Unlike the previous two, the Shimanami Kaido is a short route – the shortest route on this list, being only 64 kilometers long. Separating away from the main roads, this route will take you through a series of wonderfully small scenic islands found in the Hiroshima prefecture. The Shimanami Kaido is actually a segregated cycleway which is also used by pedestrians. You don’t have to worry about taking your bike with you, as bikes can easily be rented at several locations along the route. Completing it in a single day is honestly not that difficult, as long as you don’t get distracted by numerous beautiful sights along the shoreline.

Salzach Valley, Austria

Austria’s Salzach Valley is home to one of the most serene biking routes in the world. It’s little under 250 kilometers long and offers breathtaking views of the Grossglockner Mountain, the Hohe Tauern National Park, as well as the highest natural waterfall in Europe. The route is mostly comprised of downhill pedaling, as it starts in Gerlos Pass and finishes all the down in Salzburg. Besides the cycling route, Salzach Valley is packed full with different activities such as rafting, summer skiing and taking scenic rides using a cable car.

Easter Island, Chile

One of the most expensive locations to travel to, Easter Island in Chile, has an amazing cycling route that encompasses the entire island. Hailed as the most remote inhabited island in the world, Easter Island is home to the famous monolithic Moai statues, some of which weigh more than 80 tons. Taking your bike with you might be rather difficult, but fortunately, there is a bike rental service in the main town of Hanga Roa. You can easily cycle through the entire island in a single day, or you can spread it out over the entire week and enjoy the numerous sights tourists rarely get to see. Besides the statues, make sure you visit the Rano Kau volcano crater and enjoy the sunset over the archeological site of Ahu Tahai.

These are just some of the most beautiful and interesting locations you can cycle through. Some routes can be easily traversed with a granny bike, while others might require a professional mountain or even an electrical bike such as gepida. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you make sure you’ve packed all the necessities as some routes will take you far away from modern civilization.


Author Bio: Diana Smith is a full-time mom of two beautiful girls, great animal lover, and a passionate traveler.


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Cycling around the world

 

Star Clippers — What’s it Like Sailing on a Tall Ship

Have you ever dreamed of sailing on a tall ship?

 

Thanks to Star Clippers, you can make this dream a reality. This luxury cruise line gives you the opportunity to sail the seven seas aboard a real life tall ship. Whether you fancy the warm, azure waters of the Caribbean or the picturesque seaside villages of the Mediterranean, Star Clippers offers exciting itineraries all over the world. And the best part is that you’ll feel like you’re sailing on your own private yacht…for real.

sailing on a tall ship

Sailing on a tall ship was truly a dream come true for me. Several years ago, I wrote a feature story about a high school girl who had taken part in a tall ship sailing challenge. Her story resonated with me, and I longed for my own tall ship sailing opportunity. It has been on my bucket list for years, so when Star Clippers invited me on board for one of their first Indonesian sailings, I jumped at the chance to be part of this premier opportunity. As an avid cruiser, I had done a lot of research on the company and was eager to give it a try. I was not disappointed.

From the moment you step on board a Star Clippers ship, you’re treated like family. Since each of the ships in the fleet carries fewer than 230 guests and about 75 crew, there’s an inherent intimacy that envelopes you from the minute you step on board. And even though you’re getting a five-star experience, the atmosphere is casual and laid back. It is a working ship, after all, and you will be a part of the action — even if only as an observer.

So let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? I know you’re curious about what it’s really like to be sailing on a tall ship and if it’s right for you.

sailing on a tall ship

Will I Get Seasick?

I’m going to start with the topic I know is on everyone’s mind because the first question people ask when they hear I’ve sailed with Star Clippers is, “Will I get seasick?” And the short answer is not likely, unless you usually do, then maybe.

While tall ships maintain Old World charm in terms of style and experience, their systems are marvels of modern technology. Equipped with stabilizing gear and operated by extremely experienced crew members, there’s not a lot of rocky motion. Like any of the large cruise ships, you will feel the boat move from side to side. And, of course, there is the chance that you may hit some rough waters. So, if you’re someone who is prone to seasickness, come prepared. But for the most part, once you get your sea legs, you won’t feel a thing. Not knowing what to expect, I brought along a few didn’t find it to be any different than any other sailing experience I’ve ever had, from river cruises to massive ocean liners.

I’ve got a stomach of steel, but not knowing what to expect, I brought along a few over-the-counter remedies, just in case. In the end, it was a waste of money — the seals are still on the jars. I didn’t find sailing on a tall ship to be any different than any other sailing experience in terms of seasickness, from river cruises to massive ocean liners. It was, quite literally, smooth sailing for me.

Is the Ship Well Designed?

Ropes and knots, wooden wheels and brass compasses…these are the kinds of objects that come to mind when you think of sailboats, and they abound on Star Clippers. Star Clippers doesn’t cave to contemporary design standards. There is no over-the-top artwork or supersize seating areas. Rather, what you see is what you get. It’s a working ship, and much of its charm comes from the fact that you’ll need to walk around booms and sails as you navigate the upper deck. As you lay in your lounge chair by one of the small pools, you can watch the crew at work as they raise the sails, wind up ropes, and swab the decks.

sailing on a tall ship

sailing on a tall ship

It’s likely you’ll spend most of your time on the upper deck of the ship since there aren’t a lot of places to sit around inside. These ships are pretty compact, so most of the interior space is reserved for cabins, the dining room, and a small shop. There is a lounge area with a bar and several banquets where you can enjoy a drink with friends. There is also a small library where you can relax and read a book, or if you must, catch up on work. From the sketchings of sailing ships hanging on the walls to the antique-looking velvet banquets and navy blue carpeting that’s woven with a rope pattern, every detail of the ships’ decor harkens to old-school nautical traditions. It’s quaint and endearing and exactly what you’d expect from a tall ship sailing experience.

sailing on a tall ship

What are the Cabins Like?

Like the rest of the ship, they’re designed with a nautical theme. Star Clippers offers a five-star experience, but it’s only classified as a four-star because of the size of its cabins. They’re modest…most rooms have a queen bed (or two singles, depending on your needs), a small bathroom, and a small closet (that has a surprising amount of storage space). You can get larger suites  — some even include a full-size jetted tub, but they’re limited, so you’ll want to book early to get your hands on one of those. That said, once you learn the space, you and your cabin mate will get into a rhythm that has you maneuvering around each other with ease.

sailing on a tall ship

sailing on a tall ship

Each cozy cabin is designed for efficiency — making the most of the limited space. If you’re looking for extravagance or opulence, you won’t find it here. The rooms are wee, but they’re comfortable and have everything you need to make the most of your stay. My motto when I’m on vacation is, “If you’re spending all your time inside your room, you’re doing something wrong.” And this is especially true of tall ship sailing. This is an experience that’s meant to be enjoyed from the upper decks rather than inside your suite.

Pro Tip: There are some interesting room configurations, so be sure to let your travel agent know at the time of booking if you have any special requirements, such as mobility issues. One configuration requires guests to climb up a few steps to get into bed, for example. While you’re rewarded for your efforts with a porthole staring straight out into the seas, it may be a challenge for some guests. (I personally think these rooms are kind of cool if you don’t mind a little extra effort.)

Are the Meals Good?

They say a picture speaks 1,000 words, so I took a ton of pictures of the food. It’s exceptional.

sailing on a tall ship sailing on a tall ship

Need I say more? Okay, maybe a little bit more…each day, there are several options for breakfast. If you’re an early riser — like me — you can grab a pastry in the lounge area to tide you over until the buffet begins. Most mornings, it starts around 8 a.m., but if there’s an early morning excursion, it will open earlier.

Throughout the day, there’s a constant supply of cold water to wet your whistle. You can also make yourself a cup of joe or a spot of tea anytime you like. Everything you need is always available. And there’s always a basket of fresh fruit on hand for anyone who has the midnight munchies or needs a pick-me-up between meals.

Each evening during happy hour, a delicious spread of both savory and sweet treats is laid out for everyone to enjoy. This is a great time to snag a few extra cookies to take back to your cabin for later, but you didn’t hear it from me.

While there is a lunch buffet served daily in the dining room, it’s quite likely you may never have a chance to enjoy other than on sea days. There’s a good chance you’ll be exploring the local flavors while in port. But if you do get a chance to eat on board, you’ll be treated to soups, salads, a carving station, several side dishes and dessert options, and more.

Dinner is served in the main dining room at about 7:30 p.m. each night. There are several options for entrees, including a fish, poultry, and vegetarian meal. This means that everyone can find something to their taste (see what I did there?). In addition, there are always a couple of options for appetizers, salads, soups, and desserts. Everything is perfectly cooked, seasoned, and plated. You won’t be disappointed.

Beverages other than water, tea, and coffee are available for a nominal fee. The prices are in Euros and are comparable — and maybe even a bit cheaper — than some of the larger cruise lines. We paid the equivalent of $8 for a drink that would have been $12 on other ships. Drink packages are available for groups of 10 or more.

Are There Onboard Activities and Entertainment?

If your favorite thing about cruising on the massive ocean liners is the Broadway-style entertainment, sailing on a tall ship may not be right for you. But, if you like sharing intimate dinners with new friends from around the world, watching local entertainers perform traditional music and dances, and staring at the stars, then you’ll love Star Clippers.

Throughout the day, you can attend story time with the crew to hear about places they’ve been or take part in a workshop about astronomy, knot tying, towel folding, and more. You can even take a tour of the ship, climb up to the crow’s nest, relax in the bowsprits, or try your hand at steering the ship.

sailing on a tall ship

Before dinner each night, the crew performs what feels like a sort of ritualistic ceremony as they raise the sails. Watching the crew working like a well-oiled machine to the sound of  Vangelis’ 1492: Conquest of Paradise never gets tired. It was always my favorite part of the night.

Most nights, there is some form of entertainment after dinner, from a talent show put on by the crew to locals who come on board for a few hours to showcase their culture. There is a piano man on board who performs nightly and also acts as a DJ for anyone who feels like cutting a rug after the show. Dinner typically lasts well into the evening, ending well after 9 p.m., so the entertainment doesn’t start until about 10 p.m. By the time it ends, most people are ready to call it a night. For those who aren’t quite ready to settle into slumber, simply staring at the stars as you sail along is a serene and surreal experience that comes a close second to watching the sails unfurl each night.

What Kinds of Ports and Excursions Can I Expect?

Star Clippers has several ships in its fleet, and they voyage all over the world, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and Asia. You can expect to visit some very traditional ports, and you can also expect a few unconventional extras. I happened to be on one of the first sailings out of Benoa, Bali, in Indonesia. Most of the places on our itinerary were very off the beaten path. In some cases, there were no docks, and we had to disembark our tender boats a few feet from shore or climb across fishing boats. It was an adventure for us, as well as for the locals who were not accustomed to tourists. Many wanted to take their pictures with us. Others were eager to sell their wares.

Other itineraries venture to more traditional locales, such as Corfu and Monte Carlo or St. George’s and Phuket. If you’d like to experience the open water, you can even take a transatlantic sailing.

At every port, Star Clippers typically offers at least one shore excursion. I took part in some incredible experiences that were truly one of a kind, including climbing to the top of a bubbling volcano after riding a horse through a sandy desert landscape. And if you happen to be visiting a beach port, Star Clippers will bring all sorts of watersports gear ashore for you to use, including canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. You can even rent snorkel equipment on board.

What Should I Wear?

From the moment you step on board a Star Clippers ship, you feel like you’ve been transported to a different world, a preppy one where penny loafers, a polo shirt, and khaki trousers…that’s right, I said trousers…are the kind of clothes you wear for an afternoon on the top deck navigating the high seas. But the great thing about Star Clippers is that there’s no need for dress clothes for formal attire. Simply slap on a swimsuit and head to the upper deck — no trousers required.

And at night, anything goes. Most women wear a sundress or a pretty blouse paired with dress pants, but there’s certainly no need for anything more formal than that. If you’ve had a full day of fun in port, you can come as you are to dinner, and no one will blink an eye. It’s truly casual and carefree environment. Wear whatever makes you happy.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind your itinerary when packing, and be sure to bring along the necessary items if you happen to be visiting places, such as religious sites, that require your legs and shoulders to be completely covered.

What was the Overall Impression?

So what’s the verdict, you ask? Would I ever take another Star Clippers cruise? In a heartbeat. In fact, I can’t wait to share another tall ship sailing experience with my friends and family. If you enjoy river cruising, then sailing on a tall ship is likely also for you.

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sailing on a tall ship

Oregon Girl Around the World

Things to Do in Richmond, Virginia — Canal Cruises to the Capitol Building

As the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, Richmond, Virgina, is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Steeped in rich history, it’s got plenty of museums and historic markers for anyone interested in taking a trip back in time. In recent years, Richmond has also become known for its modern attractions. With so many great things to do in Richmond, it’s the ideal place for a fun city break.

To make the most of your stay in Richmond, consider booking one of the budget-friendly hotels near the Virginia State Capitol, the oldest continuously operating legislature in the nation. For something a little different, you can take a Segway tour of the grounds to learn more about the many exciting events that have occurred at this National Historic Landmark throughout history.

Historical Sites
Things to do in Richmond
Image via Flickr by Ron Cogswell

History buffs will want to stop by Monument Avenue to pay tribute to some of the greatest Civil War heroes, including Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. Next up, visit the Confederate White House to take a tour of the official residence of Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. Then, head next door to the Museum of the Confederacy to view some of the best-preserved artifacts of the war, including several flags.

Afterward, make a stop at Historic Tredegar, a private museum dedicated to Civil War history. The museum shares its grounds with Richmond National Battlefield Park, the site of many Civil War battles. Encompassing 80 square miles of land, the park includes 13 battle sites, several original fortifications, the Confederacy’s largest hospital, and four visitor centers. You can take a tour of the park, watch a living history demonstration, or attend one of the many special events that take place here each year.

Outdoor Activities
Things to do in Richmond
Image via Flickr by Ron Cogswell

Anyone who enjoys taking a walk through nature will want to check out Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. With 50 acres of gardens, dining, and shopping, it’s one of the most-visited attractions in Richmond and the ideal place to enjoy flower displays, learn about plants, or take a gardening class.

If you love a little adventure in the outdoors, be sure to check out the James River. Try rafting, swimming, kayaking, or tubing in Virginia’s largest river. Spanning 1.25 miles along the James River and the Kanawha and Haxall Canals, Richmond’s Canal Walk is one of the city’s top outdoor attractions. Stroll or bike along the walkway to enjoy the many natural and historical sites found here. For a memorable afternoon, you can take an informative 40-minute cruise along the Canal Walk.

Food, Shopping, and Entertainment
Things to do in Richmond
Image via Flickr by Gamma Man

Richmond is known for its more than 25 breweries. One of the most popular, Hardywood Craft Brewery, offers tours and the opportunity to sample some of its brews. The brewery often hosts festivals, food trucks, and musical events. For a little retail therapy, make your way to Short Pump Town Center, which is home to more than 140 shops, restaurants, and more. From high-end brand names to local boutiques, this outdoor mall has something for everyone.

If you’re planning to take a trip to Virginia, there are many exciting things to do in Richmond. Whether you’re looking to learn more about American history or you simply want to spend some time outdoors, you’ll find it here.

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6 Beautiful and Peaceful Beaches in Sydney, Australia

Guest Post By Roxana Oliver

Sydney’s beautiful beaches attract tourists from all over the world because of their laid-back vibe, stunning blue waters, and gentle white sands.

 

However, with hordes of tourists at Bondi and Manly beaches, the city’s most famous ones, you cannot really savour that relaxing Aussie atmosphere. Luckily, Sydney has more than a few hidden gems where you can escape the hustle and bustle of this metropolis. Just head down to one of these secluded beaches to soak in the sun away from the crowds.

Store Beach

Since Store Beach is accessible only by boat, your travel down there will be just as exciting as the exploration of this harbour gem. Once you reach Manly Wharf by the Manly Ferry, rent a kayak and start peddling to Store Beach. Stop for a swim in the clear blue waters along your way to the 650-foot-long sandy beach. The moment you lay your eyes on this secluded area surrounded by the lush vegetation of Sydney Harbour National Park, you’ll feel as if you completely left Sydney. Pick a perfect spot for a picnic, and enjoy the view of the scenic landscape.

beaches in Sydney

Milk Beach

As one of Sydney’s least known beaches to tourists, Milk Beach is a perfect spot for a relaxing day of basking in the sun, snorkelling, fishing, and swimming. Located below Strickland House, a Heritage-listed site, it will provide you with stunning views of the city and its surroundings. Whether you want to surf, hang out with your friends, play with your kids, or simply chill, you will be able to do so in peace at Milk Beach.

beaches in Sydney

Wattamolla

Its Aboriginal name brings a sense of authenticity, contributing to the uniqueness of Wattamolla Beach. An open beach, small inlets and a freshwater lagoon will delight you with their beauty right within the Royal National Park. After relaxing in the deep shade of cabbage palm trees and swimming in the sea, you can embark on a hiking journey, following the famous coastal path from Bundeena to Otford.

beaches in Sydney

Palm Beach

Located an hour away from the center of Sydney, Palm Beach will provide you with tranquillity and relaxation away from the prying eyes of the public. The stretches of golden sand and stunning views of the blue horizons are simply enchanting. To capture the true spirit of the Aussie laid-back lifestyle, get yourself a nice secluded Palm Beach holiday house and forget about the world. Here, you can ride the Aussie waves, bask in the bright yellow sun or savour a refreshing cocktail while enjoying the breathtaking views from your own balcony.

beaches in Sydney

Shelly Beach

Just a short walk away from Manly’s most popular beach lies Shelly Beach, a quiet oasis of peace and serenity. On your way to this beach, you can explore the natural life of the region, including unique marine species, plants and other natural attractions. Just follow the Shelly Beach Walk from Manly. Enjoying the reputation of being a magnificent snorkelling spot, Shelly Beach will provide you with an opportunity to discover the underwater world and its inhabitants. Afterwards, you can unwind while soaking in the stunning panorama of the Northern Beaches and North Head.

beaches in Sydney

Congwong Beach

As one of the most beautiful beaches in Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Congwong Beach is a perfect spot for a day of fun with your family. If you visit it on a weekend, keep your eyes open for an ice-cream boat that will delight both you and your kids. A 30-minute walk away from this calm sanctuary is pristine Little Congwong Beach, one of Sydney’s nudist beaches, so keep that in mind if you decide to go for a relaxing stroll with your little ones.

Instead of elbowing your way in the attempt to find a private spot on Bondi Beach, get away from the crowds and visit some of these hidden sanctuaries. This way, you’ll be able to experience the true spirit of the laid-back Aussie lifestyle.

 


Travel Benefits for Mental Health

Author Bio: Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney, and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs, and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine! You can find out more about her writing by following her on Twitter and Facebook. She is also one of the editors at High Style Life Magazine.


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