51 percent of U.S. vacationers admit they’re more stressed today compared to a year ago, and it’s causing more than one in three (37%) to cancel or delay their trip, according to a new survey by Wyndham Vacation Rentals.
The new study aims to identify what’s holding U.S. travelers back from being vacation-ready – that state of mind where they feel liberated from the rigors of daily life and ready to enjoy their time off, Wyndham said. Respondents identified the most common travel pain points, from planning and packing to relationship challenges:
Too many choices: Two in three (67%) vacationers have become stressed due to ‘information overload’ and are paralyzed with too many choices when researching and planning. Two in five (41%) get stressed about scheduling things to do during their trip.
Trouble leaving the daily grind behind: Once on vacation, it takes time to unwind and forget about the stress of work and personal responsibilities. Three in 10 (30%) U.S. travelers don’t feel truly relaxed until the second day of vacation or later.
Relationship-testing moments: Two in three (67%) have argued with a travel companion as a result of stress caused by planning or taking a vacation. One in four (25%) have even broken up with a significant other while traveling. The good news? One in four (26%) have also met the love of their life on vacation.
“Times have changed and the daily demands of everyday life have travelers thinking differently about vacation,” said Gail Mandel, CEO, Wyndham Vacation Rentals, in a written release.
The survey revealed the following ways travelers can make their vacation stress-free:
Don’t wait until the last minute to pack: Packing is so dreaded that half of all respondents said they would give up alcohol for a month or social media for a week to avoid doing it! Travelers can reduce the stress of packing though without making such a sacrifice. Nearly two in three (65%) say not procrastinating on packing your bags would minimize stress.
Unplug from work: Creating separation from work helps travelers get into a vacation-ready mindset. More than half (56%) felt not checking work email and voicemail reduces stress. The majority of travelers said taking an extra day off work before leaving for vacation or coming back a few days before returning to work would also help.
Space, clean clothes and closed doors: More than three in five vacationers (62%) think booking accommodations with space and privacy would make their next vacation less stressful and half of vacationers (50%) think that being able to do laundry would help.
With the overload of vacation planning information available today, nearly half (48%) of all respondents said having a ready-made vacation itinerary would reduce stress.
Last year, Capt. Joseph Baer — founder, president and CEO of Covington, Ky.-based Grand Majestic — bought the former casino boat Diamond Lady, which was originally built in Bettendorf, Iowa in 1991 and had been laid up for years.
He said the company is putting “many millions” into the riverboat to transform it into a 70-passenger overnight river cruise boat that will be able to sail along some smaller inland waterways due to its shorter height and lower draft.
“We’re small enough and have a light enough draft where we can drop our stacks and get up into Catoosa,” said Baer, referencing a city on the outskirts of Tulsa, Okla. Baer noted that the smaller size of the Grand Majestic means it can clear some bridges and shallower waters that other overnight passenger vessels sailing the Mississippi River System can’t. He said the company plans to do cruises up to Omaha, Neb.; Sioux City, Iowa; Charleston, W.V.; and into the outskirts of Chicago.
The vessel is getting a complete overhaul, and will feature one main dining room and a separate lounge area that will host entertainment. There will be several stateroom categories ranging from a superior stateroom with access to the main deck, to suites large enough to have their own private dining room, for which full sit-down meal service can be ordered. All passengers will be able to order room service.
The ship’s interiors are being outfitted to make passengers feel that they are stepping back in time, but “not so overdone antique-wise that you feel like you’re staying at a B&B,” said Baer. There will also be modern amenities such as satellite TV and WiFi. Staterooms will be ADA compliant.
Excursions will be included, along with one hotel night prior to boarding the vessel. An example of an excursion, according to Baer, is a visit to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, which includes a tour of the caves and a picnic lunch.
The Grand Majestic is slated to launch on Sept. 23, 2017, after which it will sail a variation of seven- to 21-night cruises along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, as well as along several smaller tributaries.
Cruises start at $3,800 per person, a price that includes the pre-cruise hotel night.
New cruise ships are launching nearly every year, and the focus always seems to be bigger, bigger, bigger. While it’s true that bigger ships can have amazing features, they can also be overwhelming and many cruisers find that they actually prefer smaller ships. But what is it that can make smaller ships better than today’s biggest vessels, and which size is best for your cruise vacation?
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
The biggest cruise ships can be phenomenal. These mega-liners are filled with fantastic features that may include dozens of bars and restaurants to choose from, luxury spas offering the most exotic treatments, expansive gyms with specialty classes, multiple pools and whirlpools and a wide range of unique attractions such as ice rinks, bumper cars, 3D theaters, indoor skydiving, zip lines, robot bartenders and more. With so much to see and do right on board the ship, one of these larger vessels can be ideal for a diverse group of passengers or anyone whose idea of a great vacation is one big adventure with something new around every corner.
But there are drawbacks to these humongous cruise ships. Part of being bigger is accommodating more passengers, and with 4,000-6,000 or more passengers on board, lines can be longer and the ship may feel more crowded. Fares for these ships can also be higher because of the demand to try out all the latest features, making the vacation more expensive no matter where the ship may be traveling. Itineraries can also be less diverse on larger ships, because many smaller ports of call may not be equipped to handle either the docking needs of the vessel or the influx of so many passengers at once. And while so many fun features can be attractive, passengers may find themselves overwhelmed on board and forced to miss out on opportunities because there’s just too much to do.
Photo By: Russell Otway
Why Smaller Ships May Be Better for You
Smaller cruise ships, on the other hand, offer a very different experience than the largest vessels afloat today. On a small ship, there are fewer passengers and crew, and everyone has a better opportunity to get to know one another, to swap stories and to make friendships that can last far longer than any one vacation. Passengers can also get to know the ship better, discovering every nook and cranny of the vessel – that case of awards and recognitions for the ship and crew, those unique volumes in the ship’s library, which café or bar offers the best drinks, just the right time for the best sunset views from the promenade deck – without missing out on other activities.
Because smaller ships don’t offer as many bells and whistles built in to the ship, the focus of their sailings is more often on a broader, more in depth appreciation for each port of call. Instead of elaborate Vegas-like show productions in mega-theaters, for example, a smaller ship is more likely to host local dancers, musicians or other entertainers while in port, offering guests a unique opportunity to experience the region’s true culture and heritage. Historical or cultural lectures are more common on small ships, and there is often a better selection of unique shore tours that allow passengers to thoroughly get to know every port they visit.
(This article was recently posted on the escape blog)
The Tasman Sea has a reputation for being stormy, a hot spot for low-pressure systems that swirl tightly, giving rise to fierce winds and colossal swells.
Who can forget images of countless Sydney-Hobart sailors embracing in relief and exhaustion after emerging from an oceanic tumult into the refuge of the Derwent River?
Nautical history oozes from the colonial surroundings of the Tasmanian capital’s Constitution Dock, which is flanked by 1830s sandstone warehouses that once stored wool, grain and whale oil but now house bustling art galleries and restaurants.
Strolling through time and tide, you can’t help but ponder the tribulations faced by those aboard fishing boats and yachts moored nearby, some surely too diminutive to weather a tempest. Stacked with crayfish pots, nets and thick ropes, the vessels carry colourful names such as Suicidal Dream, Vagabond, and the wishful thinking of Serenity. So many tales in this port in a storm. So many more on the horizon.
Azamara Journey, in its maiden Australian season, is set to sail from Hobart, bound for New Zealand. Most passengers picked up the cruise in Sydney, the starting point for a 14-night adventure.
Wave height modelling indicates the waters will be lively. A pretty palette of concentric circles on the computer forecast begins with deep red, signifying swells of 7 metres (22 feet) from the southwest, blending to a nice shade of salmon (under 6m) and lemon (5m).
Our captain calmly informs us of the looming conditions and urges those with expensive perfumes and cologne to ensure they are securely stowed. He suggests eating early as “an empty stomach makes things worse”, and for those who are prone to sea sickness to collect free pills from guest services.
“The ship is very stable and we will ride it like a swan,” the captain promises.
Fortunately, the weather system is far enough south that strong winds don’t accompany the generous swell, and skies remain clear. The feeling is one of excitement. Those among the “Azamara family” embrace life and fresh experiences. That’s why they are here. Bring on the high seas and we will sip champagne as we surge through them, they say.
The ship rises and falls almost rhythmically, and guests and staff brace and take measured steps as they wobble about the ship. Passengers settle in to enjoy live music, make new friends, play cards, and share stories of previous cruises. The captain is true to his word and, after feeling like we have been nursed to sleep by a giant, we awake to the most stunning of days.
Azamara Journey weighs 30,277 tonnes, measures 592 feet (180m), and has nine passenger decks. With a carrying capacity of 690 passengers and 408 crew, it is considered a mid-size cruise ship. Its “boutique’’ proportions are a clever point of difference and a guest on his seventh Azamara trip told of his delight at visiting intimate ports and gaining views that those on larger ships need binoculars to see. Seasoned travellers can also savour longer stays in new destinations, and more authentic cultural experiences, including night touring. A company motto is “cruise global, connect local”.
My ocean view cabin, close to the starboard bow on Deck 4, is remarkably easy to find, another advantage of a cosier vessel. There are all the conveniences of a five-star hotel room, including ensuite, mini bar, writing desk, sofa and a decent-size television that I suspect is rarely watched due to the scenery.
It takes three nights and two days to make the almost 2000km journey across “The Ditch”, plenty of time to arrange excursions, relish superb food and wine, have a Swedish massage, take in a few shows and, most importantly, relax. The itinerary includes breathtakingly beautiful Milford Sound, picturesque Dunedin, Akaroa, Napier, Tauranga (Mt Maunganui), and Auckland.
Many passengers are from the US and Europe, and they report having a ball Down Under, playing golf, hugging koalas and learning about colonial times. The Americans ask about cricket, which they find baffling, especially the part where players cease hostilities and walk off for “tea”.
Conversations turn worldly over breakfast, a sunset cocktail, or on exercise bikes in the gym, but politics is approached with caution due to the polarising effect of US President Donald Trump. In the interests of ship harmony, there appears an unofficial truce between rival camps.
Australians, as usual, find each other. They include a retired school principal from Brisbane who knew some of my teachers, a family from the Hunter Valley, and an Italian-born Gold Coaster who belts out a killer version of La Bamba at karaoke.
Azamara Journey, which has a twin called Azamara Quest, was built in 2000 and given a massive makeover in 2016. This saw $33 million spent on redesigning suites and staterooms and adding new spa suites and a scenic poolside dining area called The Patio.
There are six dining options, including room service, and two specialty restaurants – Prime C and Aqualina. The Patio is a great option for lunch, and you can select from a lean and healthy array of fare, such as seared tuna spinach wraps, salmon burgers, and Cuban-style pork sandwiches.
Adjoining is Windows Cafe, which lays out expansive buffets, including everything from bacon and eggs to crispy fried frogs’ legs, sushi, roasts and salads, plus an irresistible spread of desserts.
Bakery treats are available with specialty coffees and fine teas at Mosaic Cafe. You can take these away and find a comfy chair to soak up some sun.
To burn off the calories there is a running track on Deck 10 and a glass-framed fitness centre on Deck 9. Next door is Sanctum Day Spa, where weary bodies and minds are soothed with massage therapies, facials and pedicures.
On-board activities range from dance lessons with Russian champions Anton and Alina to trivia, table tennis and even Wii bowling. There are lectures from touring experts, with topics including Maori Gods and Rituals, Musket Wars, and Will the Monarchy Survive?
Adding to the stress-free holiday is a long list of inclusions, such as standard spirits, wines and international beers, meals (apart from those at specialty dining venues), gratuities, coffee, and shuttle transportation in port. The service is always cheerful and the wait staff intuitive.
Expect surprises such as a pop-up chocolate buffet that Willy Wonka would be proud of, and the dazzling singing, comedic and musical talents of lofty cruise director Eric De Gray.
A stunning day winding through southwest New Zealand’s pristine fiords is forever memorable. With its sheer cliffs, lush forests and snow-capped peaks, this unspoilt region is among the world’s natural wonders.
We also delighted over a stop at the French-settled hamlet of Akaroa, performances from Maori groups and Scottish bagpipers in Dunedin, and a bike ride along the glorious beachfront at Mt Maunganui.
After just a sample of the rough conditions the Tasman can produce, the cruise offered smooth sailing, glorious sunny skies, and a voyage of discovery. This left many guests already planning their next escape.
The writer was a guest of Azamara Club Cruises.
Azamara Journey returns to Australia for a second season in January. Fares start at $4399 a person, twin share, for a 14-night Tasmania and New Zealand voyage departing Sydney on February 8. This will include overnight stays in Hobart, Dunedin and Napier, as well as scenic cruising through Milford Sound and calls at Akaroa, Picton and Tauranga before arriving in Auckland. There is also a 13-night Auckland to Sydney voyage, and an 18-night Sydney to Singapore itinerary, along with a new 18-night Bali to Sydney voyage departing January 21.
A 14-night cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong, sailing through Thailand and Vietnam, is priced from $3879 a person, twin share, and departs December 9.
Today, we’ll look at a couple of the most popular home ports — the gateways you fly into to launch your trip — and a few upcoming cruises.
Port facilities are rustic in some countries, including Vietnam and Cambodia, where cruise tourism is relatively new, but cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong have spent millions updating their facilities, and it shows.
Kaiser told me he enjoyed his time in Singapore; I did too. The island nation, at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, is a popular port for U.S. cruisers.
More than 400 ships called on Singapore last year, carrying more than 1 million passengers, according to the region’s tourism board.
Singapore often is a traveler’s introduction to Southeast Asia. It’s a good starting point for several reasons, including the cost of getting there. Round-trip airfare from LAX to Singapore’s Changi Airport can be found for as little as $550, according to Airfarewatchdog.com.
When you exit your plane at Changi, you’ll find a high-tech hub that was recently chosen the world’s best airport for the fifth year in a row in the annual Skytrax World Airports Awards.
Singapore has much to offer visitors, including futuristic architecture, excellent shopping in the boutiques of Orchard Road, and exotic elements in the temples of Little India, the shop houses of Chinatown and the city’s night markets.
“We have many diverse destinations within a short sailing distance, year-round warm weather and calm waters for cruising,” said Chee Pey Chang, assistant chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, adding that many visitor arrivals are from California.
Kai Tak, Hong Kong’s other terminal, open since 2013, is farther from the downtown area, but it’s one of the world’s newest, most technologically advanced such facilities. Above it is the largest rooftop garden in Hong Kong.
It’s hard not to like Hong Kong’s diversity, architectural innovation, great shopping opportunities and cosmopolitan edginess. As is true in Singapore, English is also widely spoken in Hong Kong.
Round-trip airfare from LAX to Hong Kong International Airport starts at about $734.
The prime season for exploring Asia is fall through spring, when temperatures are cooler. Here is a sampling of upcoming cruises researched by Expedia CruiseShipsCenters. International airfare is not included.
From Hong Kong to Singapore: Fifteen-night cruise aboard the Azamara Journey, Dec. 23-Jan. 7. Azamara Club Cruises, from $4,949 per person, double occupancy.
Do you use a wheelchair? All ships are not created equal when it comes to access. Facilities for disabled travelers continue to improve, so a newer ship, especially one built in the last five years, may be a better bet. Check ship diagrams to see where accessible rooms are and try to learn whether public rooms are accessible. Call the line’s special services department for more information.
(This article was recently printed in the New York Times)
A summer cruise around Iceland is an ideal way to appreciate the country’s landscape, which includes geysers, waterfalls and glaciers. Diane Eide, an Iceland specialist at Travel Experts, said such a trip was “a convenient way to see much of the country because driving from place to place takes a lot of time.” An Iceland cruise is also relatively affordable, with good values to be had between June and September.
Peregrine Adventures, for instance, has several eight-day Cruising Iceland sailings this summer. The trips begin or end in either Reykjavik or Akureyri and include stops in Siglufjordur, Iceland’s northernmost city; the large fishing port of Isafjordur; and Heimaey Island, which was nearly destroyed in 1973 by lava flow. From $1,620 a person.
Iceland ProCruises is offering several 10-day Iceland circumnavigation trips this summer. The cruises have the expected stops, like Reykjavik, but also include more atypical ones, such as the town of Stykkisholmur, near Breidafjordur Bay, known for its bird life and Snaefellsjokull glacier, which sits atop a 700,000-year-old dormant volcano. From $2,595 a person.
Travelers looking for a longer getaway have the option of the 12-day MSC Northern Europe Cruise, which has port stops in Akureyri and Isafjordur and also spends two days in Reykjavik. Options for shore excursions, available at an additional cost, include kayaking through fjords and hikes to waterfalls. From $1,869 a person.
Luxury-seekers may consider Group IST’s Iceland Adventure trip, on a yacht with rich woodwork, brass finishes and antique décor. A highlight is a visit to Lake Myvatn to see fields of lava and bubbling mud pools. From $4,769, including land tours. SHIVANI VORA
Cruise travel last year beat projections, according to new data released by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
Cruise travel reached 24.7 million cruise passengers globally in 2016, CLIA reports, up from a projection of 24.2 million. CLIA is also forecasting a strong year of growth for 2017, with cruise passengers projected to reach 25.8 million.
“One of the many reasons that the cruise industry continues to thrive is because of the personalization it is able to offer to its guests from around the world,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA, in a written release. “Never before have I been a part of or seen an industry that is so good at listening and reacting to what its customers want, and this is why we are going to see our industry continue to grow.”
Top Cruise Destinations in 2016
Caribbean (35 percent)
Mediterranean (18.3 percent)
Europe w/o Med (11.1 percent)
Asia (9.2 percent)
Australia/New Zealand/Pacific (6.1 percent)
Alaska (4.2 percent)
South America (2.5 percent)
Much of the industry’s growth can be attributed to the continuing development of the Asian market, CLIA said, with ocean capacity rising to 9.2 percent in 2016, a 38 percent increase from 2015. The increased capacity in the region, combined with travelers in this region going on shorter, and more frequent cruises, has kept this marketplace at the top of emerging markets within the cruise industry.
New Cruise Ships
Globally, the 2016 CLIA fleet was comprised of 458 ships and welcomed nine new ocean ships and 17 new river vessels for a total of 26 new ships. These new ships represent an additional 28,000 passenger capacity.
(This article was recently posted in Huffington Post)
Few places in the world inspire as much sheet wanderlust as the islands of Hawaii. Home to eight national parks, 400-plus beaches, and countless scenic hikes, the state is a goldmine of staggering natural beauty. But there’s more to the islands than Instagram-worthy views. From fresh food to world-class surfing to incredible wildlife, here are 5 reasons to start planning your next Hawaiian getaway.
1. The rugged, blissfully crowd-free region of Oahu’s North Shore.
(This was recently posted on the Escape.com blog post)
It’s arguably Australia’s most recognisable feature, so it stands to reason that the Sydney Opera House is our favourite landmark.
Travel review site TripAdvisor named the Opera House as the 2017 winner of its Travellers’ Choice Landmarks of Australia awards.
Regarded as one of the great architectural achievements of the 20th century, the Opera House attracts over 8 million visitors a year, and hosts more than 2000 performances.
In second place, was the Sydney Harbour Bridge — otherwise known as the “coat hanger”.
The world’s tallest steel arch bridge, the structure’s highest point is a vertigo-inducing 134-metres above the water. As well as being a famous Sydney icon, the bridge plays an integral part in the city’s transport infrastructure carrying 200,000 vehicles a day from the north shore to the CBD and back.
Last year’s winner, the Australian War Memorial, came in third in 2017 — as a place to commemorate, interpret and understand the experience of war and its lasting impact on Australian society.
Also making the top five, were Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, and Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building (QVB) featuring an original 19th century staircase.
Other landmarks to score a spot on the list, were Melbourne’s Block Arcade, the Port Arthur Historic site in Tasmania and Fremantle Prison in Western Australia.
Parliament House in Canberra and the Byron Bay lighthouse completed the top ten, devised by an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of each landmark’s reviews worldwide.
Australian landmarks failed to crack the global top ten, which was topped by Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
The breathtaking Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi came in second, and Mezquita Cathedral de Cordoba in Spain third.
St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Italy was fourth and the Taj Mahal in India wrapped up the top five favourite landmarks throughout the world.
TripAdvisor Director of Communications for the Asia Pacific, Janice Lee Fang said the awards honoured 706 landmarks in 82 countries.
“The Travellers’ Choice Landmarks highlight some of Australia’s most loved attractions that have been highly recommended by the TripAdvisor community all over the world,” said Ms Lee Fang.
The list includes historically, architecturally or culturally significant attractions that are typically owned or run by a government or non-profit organisation.
TOP 10 LANDMARKS IN AUSTRALIA
1. Sydney Opera House — Sydney
2. Sydney Harbour Bridge — Sydney
3. Australian War Memorial — Australian Capital Territory
4. Shrine of Remembrance — Melbourne
5. Queen Victoria Building (QVB) — Sydney
6. Block Arcade — Melbourne
7. Port Arthur Historic Site — Port Arthur
8. Fremantle Prison — Fremantle
9. Australian Parliament House — Canberra
10. Cape Byron Lighthouse — Byron Bay
TOP 10 LANDMARKS IN THE WORLD
1. Angkor Wat — Siem Reap, Cambodia
2. Sheikh Zayed Mosque — Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
3. Mezquita Cathedral de Cordoba — Cordoba, Spain
4. St. Peter’s Basilica — Vatican City, Italy
5. Taj Mahal — Agra, India
6. Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood — St. Petersburg, Russia
(This was recently published in Travel Agent Central)
Looking for a good sales hook? Many travelers are looking to experience destinations that are in danger of disappearing, according to a new report.
U.S. adults who have traveled during the past year feel it is important to visit “vanishing destinations” before they disappear, according to the latest travelhorizons survey of 2,300 U.S. adults conducted by travel marketing organization MMGY Global.
In the survey, “vanishing destinations” include the Great Barrier Reef, Glacier National Park and Venice, Italy. Nearly four in 10 feel it is very to extremely important to visit these destinations. MMGY said that this trend is most prominent with Millennials, the affluent and those with college degrees or higher.
The level of importance of visiting vanishing destinations seems to decrease with age, MMGY said. Half (51 percent) of Millennial travelers feel it is important, significantly more than all other generations, followed by nearly four in ten Xers (37 percent) and one quarter of Young Boomers (27 percent). Those with an annual household income of $100,000 or more display the highest level of importance to visit vanishing destinations. Similarly, interest tends to decrease as household income decreases. Four in ten travelers with an annual household income of $150,000 or more (42 percent) and $100,000 – $149,999 (39 percent) feel it is important to visit these destinations. More than four in ten (44 percent) of travelers with a college degree or higher feel it is important to visit vanishing destinations, significantly more than those with partial college education (32 percent) or a high school diploma or less (27 percent).
U.S. travelers were also asked about the impact of climate change on their decision to visit destinations that are affected, MMGY said. Four in ten (40 percent) U.S. travelers report climate change does impact their vacation destination decisions. Millennials, travelers with an annual household income of $50,000 – $149,999 and travelers with a college degree or higher are most likely to consider climate change when making destination decisions. More than half of Millennials (53 percent) report climate change impacts their decision, significantly more compared to other generations (Xers: 37 percent, Young Boomers: 30 percent, Older Boomers: 28 percent, Matures: 23 percent). More than four in ten travelers with an annual household income of $50,000 – $99,999 (43 percent) or $100,000 – $149,999 (43 percent) report climate change has an impact, followed by 38 percent with an annual household income under $30,000, 35 percent with $30,000 – $49,999 and 34 percent with $150,000 or more. Half of travelers with a college degree or higher (49 percent) report that climate change has an impact, significantly more than those with lower education levels (some college: 31 percent, high school diploma: 30 percent).