Friday, October 26, 2018

Siversea Whisper prepares to cruise to all 7 continents in 2020

Moai Isla de Pascua  (Moais Sculptures on Easter Island)
(Horacio Fernandez -- 107053120
Creative Commons 3.0)
CHARLOTTE, NC -- Phileas Phogg managed to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days, but it was nowhere near as luxurious as the Silversea Round the World, 7 Continent cruise in 2020. Passengers on the Silversea Cruise Line will accomplish the task in 140 days, almost twice as long as it took old Phileas, but they will also visit 62 ports in 32 countries.

Silversea Whisper will be refurbished for its deluxe 2020 global advemture (Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)

With a capacity of only 382 people, Silver Whisper has no intentions of challenging Mr. Phogg, at least for time. Rather luxury is the order of the day, making the most unique aspect of this cruise the first to call at every continent on the planet.

Setting sail from Ft. Lauderdale on January 5, 2020, Silversea says it will be the first ever cruise to visit the seven continents in a single itinerary. Of course the price tag won't be inexpensive coming in at $62,000 per person on the newly refurbished ship. Then again, there's an entire year to save your shekels before embarking on the deluxe adventure.

Of course, it you really want to splurge, you can go top of the line for a mere $250,000.
Greek theater, Taormina, Sicily
(Photo: Taylor)
As of now, Silversea is not selling segments of the cruise. That will come later when the entire itinerary will be broken into 9 separate itineraries. Ports of call will include many traditional destinations combined with some more exotic lesser traveled sites in the world.

Among the highlights will be a stop at Pitcairn Island, the remote setting for Mutiny on the Bounty, Vanuatu in the South Pacific featuring a water dance festival on Champagne Beach and three days in Antarctica with glacial expeditions conducted by nine specialists. Zodiac tours will speed passengers along to the stunning frozen beauty of the world's final frontier.

A leopard seal relaxes on an iceberg in Antarctica
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
Zodiacs are small inflatable raft-like boats that are ideally suited for navigating the icy waters of Antarctica.

The "Legends of Cruising" extravaganza concludes in Edinburgh with a farewell dinner at Mansfield Traquair, the Scottish version of the Sistine Chapel.

The first segment of the cruise travels from Ft. Lauderdale to Buenos Aires with stops in Puerto Rico, Barbados, Brazil and Uruguay before disembarking in Argentina.

Abandoned Dreyfus Hut
Pitcairn Island
(Photo: Philipp Weigel)
Among the highlights is a call at the discarded key-shaped island off the coast of French Guiana known as Devil's Island, site of one of history's most infamous and feared prisons.

The prison now lies dormant after being closed in 1953 it now exists as an isolated foreboding purgatory.

The second leg of the cruise sails from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, Chile including the ports of call in Antarctica.

The Falkland Islands are also part of the itinerary which sails around the southern tip of South America.

Stunning beauty of Antarctica (Courtesy: Antartica Epeditions)

's breathtaking iceberg sculptures are captivating and spectacular. Add in up-close-and-personal encounters with a variety of marine mammals and colonies of penguins and you have sense of time travel nearly two centuries into the past when the only visitors were explorers, whalers, sealers and scientists.
Chilean fjords and glaciers
(Courtesy: Silversea  Cruises)
Next come the winding expanses of the Chilean Fjords filled with seals, dolphins, waterfalls and plant-life that clings to the barren rocks. Here small fishing boats from Punta Arenas ply the waters in search of king crab and other fish.

Though Leg #3 only docks at five ports, it may comprise the most exotic collection of sites on the cruise.

Even the name Robinson Crusoe Island conjures romantic images, if for no other reason than the recollections of Daniel Defoe's classic 1719 novel, Robinson Crusoe. Many readers believe the tales are so realistic that Crusoe was a real person and his travelogue accounts are true.
Exotic wildlife of Robinson
Crusoe Island
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)

Nestled roughly 400 miles off the coast of Chile, the rugged island of volcanic origin is a UNESCO site and the largest of a tiny archipelago known as the Juan Fernandez Islands.

Ever wonder how Easter Island got its name? The answer is simple really, it was discovered on Easter Sunday, 1722. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is among the most remote places on Earth situated approximately 1,700 miles off the coast of Chile.

Famous for its eerie Moai stone statues, archaeologists continue attempts to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Rapa Nui language which was written on what are called "rongo rongo tablets."

Easter Island is also famous for its beaches 
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
More Polynesian than South American in character, Easter Island also features stunningly beautiful beaches, coral reefs and crystal clear waters.

Embarking from Papeete, Tahiti to Sydney, Australia with ports of call in Bora Bora, Tonga, the Cook Islands and Vanuatu among others, this segment is among the most active legs of the cruise.

For most of us, Papeete and Fiji, another port of call on this leg, would be off-the-beaten path enough, but not on this Silversea itinerary where Bora Bora and Tonga are added.

Bora Bora is stunning from every angle
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
Just the double name Bora Bora captures the imagination and it lives up to expectations with thatched wooden huts standing out over shallow seas and vivid schools of fish swimming just beneath the surface.

Elsewhere, Tonga is an archipelago consisting of 169 islands of which only 36 are inhabited. Uoleva Island is one of the most beautiful anchorages in Tonga, and except for three small resorts, it is largely uninhabited. Talk about getting away from it all.

Uoleva Island is a great place
for whale watching
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
Uoleva is one of the best places in the world for sighting humpback whales while snorkelers thrive in the clear blue waters and colorful marine life.

Now that we are half way around the world, doing Jules Verne and Phileas Phogg proud, we'll take a break from our sea going adventure and return next week with the final five segments of Silversea's unique "Legends of Cruising" world cruise in 2020.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Conde Nast's 20 best travel destinations -- or are they?

Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal...Sintra did not make the list
(Courtesy: Estoril Tourism)

CHARLOTTE, NC — One guaranteed way to start a conversation, and oftentimes some controversy, is to publish a list of "The Best or Worst of Anything."

Ask what were the ten best teams in the history of the NFL and it will begin a debate. Or try to rate the top heavyweight boxing champions to start a discussion. Who are the best rivalries in sports or what were the best westerns in the history of the movies? Most of the time it is fun, but it can also lead to some heated arguments. 

Dubrovnik, Croatia at dusk
Another non-vote getter
(Photo: Taylor)
Recently Conde Nast Traveler published a list of the 20 places everyone should visit before they die. Obviously that was a red flag for any red blooded travel veteran; first to see how many someone has personally been to and second a challenge to commence discussion and debate.

Listed below is the Conde Nast group, followed by a few options that were neglected but could or should have easily been included. It's all subjective, of course, but it's fun to consider.

Sensoji Temple Asakusa in Tokyo (Photo: Public Domain)

Tokyo, Japan: One of the interesting things about Tokyo, which is the capital of Japan today, is that Kyoto, the former capital is actually nothing more "To" and "Kyo" in reverse.

With 35 million people, Tokyo is the largest metropolitan city in the world which, by itself, is incentive enough to visit. If you need more enticement however, Conde Nast says Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any city in the world.

Lucerne is definitely a favorite for Americans  (Photo: Taylor)
Lucerne, Switzerland: Lucerne is especially appealing to first-time visitors, but it's also a place that beckons travelers regardless of how often they have been there. Nestled in a bowl surrounded by the Alps, the Lake of Lucerne flows into the River Reuss beneath the ancient wooden Chapel Bridge. Lucerne, with its historic legends about the unification of the confederation is also popular with the Swiss themselves.

Budapest is known for its bridges across the Danube
Budapest, Hungary: Revered by many as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Budapest has more than 100 thermal springs which make taking a bath there one of the great travel pleasures in the world.

Divided by the Danube with Buda on one side and Pest on the other, it is connected by several bridges, of which the Chain Bridge is the first, most famous and most beautiful. By the way, Budapest celebrated its 1,000th anniversary in 1896.

San Francisco's Trolleys are world famous 
San Francisco: Arguably one of the top three most naturally beautiful cities in the world, the Golden Gate, Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard Street, Chinatown, Alcatraz and the famous trolleys are ample ammunition for any city to attract visitors.

Ornate columns inside Hagia Sophia in Instanbul

Istanbul, Turkey: Another divided city, and the only one that sits on two continents, Europe and Asia, Istanbul is one of the most intriguing destinations in the world. Don't miss the covered bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace or the Pera Palace Hotel where Agatha Christie wrote much of Murder on the Orient Express.

Front view of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan: For over 1,000 years Kyoto was the Imperial capital of Japan. Today, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the country thanks to the preservation of many shrines, temples and historic buildings. If you want to see Japan as it used to be, Kyoto is the place.

The Wailing Wall is a gathering place for prayer in Old Jerusalem
(Photo: Taylor)
Jerusalem, Israel: The name alone captures the imagination. As a pilgrimage site for Christians, Jews and Muslims, the layered religious history that lies beneath its streets and around every corner make the Old City of Jerusalem a must-see destination. Even the streets and markets, though different today than they once were, still resemble the ancient iconic images of the past.

Dublin at sunset is peaceful and serene (Courtesy:

Dublin, Ireland: Dublin's Trinity College with its Book of Kells is one of the first places on a traveler's agenda. Following that, no trip is complete without sampling a drink at the Jameson Distillery or Guinness Storehouse. Among Dublin's most endearing qualities is the friendliness of the people which almost certainly guarantees a good time.

Vancouver, BC has a fabulous Chinatown
Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver is another of the three most naturally beautiful cities in the world. The coastal seaport city with its aquarium, Chinatown, Stanley Park, the historic steam clock and hundreds of miles of seaside and forested trails make Vancouver one the best ports in the world for cruising or to start or end a vacation.

There are also stunning rail journeys to Whistler and through the Canadian Rockies.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is famous for its art and architecture (Courtesy:
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Though not one of the better known destinations on the Conde Nast list, San Miguel de Allende is noted for it vibrant colors and picturesque cobblestone streets. La Gruta Hot Springs make Mexico's "Disneyland" a great place to savor a therapeutic bath inside a cave.

The famed Sydney Opera House as seen from the Royal Botanical
Gardens  (Courtesy:

Sydney, Australia: Nearly everyone recognizes the famed Sydney Opera House overlooking Darling Harbor. As with the Irish, Australians are full of life and friendly welcoming charm that add to any travel experience. A helicopter ride over the harbor and city is a must, along with a visit to the "Rocks" to hang out with locals. Be sure to do a walking  trip across Harbor Bridge.

Outside the city, a day trip to the Blue Mountains is a popular excursion.

Cable car climbs to Table Rock in  Cape Town  (Photo: Taylor)
Cape Town, South Africa: For years South African tourism suffered because of its racial policies, but today, it is making a comeback. Cape Town has much to offer both inside and outside the city. The cable car to Table Mountain is a good place to start while a ride along the coast is also a must. You will surprisingly discover penguins along the way plus lots of other unexpected delights.

Best of all, Cape Town is near South Africa's wine country and it is also a gateway to Kruger National Park. Do not miss the thrill of spotting the Big Five in the wild (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos and cape buffalo) on a safari.

The fame Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees in Paris
(Photo: Taylor)

Paris, France: 'Nuff said. Paris speaks for itself. Known as the "City of Lights", the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, Champs-Elysées, the Opera House and Montmarte are just the beginning to whet your traveling appetite.

The Merlion in Singapore is one of its most popular attractions
(Photo: Erwin Soo --
Singapore: Singapore is almost always a surprise because it is so clean compared to most large cities in the world. Singapore is the world's only island city-state which automatically makes it unique. Among the most popular attractions is the Supertrees which are solar powered mechanical trees reaching as high as 160 feet and built to mimic the ecological functions of actual trees.

The Gardens by the Bay should also be on your agenda.

Venice, Italy: Conde Nast rates Venice among its top 20 cities in large part because of its uniqueness, history and art. Venice often gets mixed reviews from travelers however, who either love it or hate it with very little in between.

The canals, of course, give Venice its character along with St. Marks Square, Saint Mark's Basilica and the famed Rialto Bridge. Many visitors also enjoy the delicate intricacies of hand blown Venetian glass and bringing home a souvenir mask that can be purchased nearly everywhere.

Hong Kong Harbor never sleeps (Photo: Taylor)
Hong Kong: Hong Kong is almost the New York of Asia. The harbor is one of the primary gathering spots, but it, too, is also a "city that never sleeps."

Be sure to ride the world's longest escalator, if for no other reason than to say that you did it. You can also dine at the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, Tim Ho Wan where you can savor their legendary Dim Sum for slightly more than $6.

Night falls on Prague, a favorite destination for Americans
Prague, Czech Republic: Frequently referred to as the most beautiful city in the world, Prague is typically on everyone's list of favorites. Historic Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Old Town Square and it astronomical clock are among the treasures to behold.

Known as the "City of a Hundred Spires", Prague is a place that "in-spires" as well. Don't forget to bring home at least one piece of Herend Bone China.

Many people mistake Tower Bridge for London Bridge in
England's capital  (Photo: Taylor)

London, England: So much of British history and literature is tied to the United States it is impossible not to include London. Linked by a common language (for the most part), London and the U.K. are often appealing to first-timers wanting to overcome the fear of language barriers and other perceived travel barriers.

Theater, museums, art and shared history are among the appeals that make London a favorite choice regardless of how many times you have been there before.

Sometimes called the "Venice of the North" Bruges is famous for its canals  (Courtesy:
Bruges, Belgium: Bruges is a favorite due to its medieval charm and storybook ambiance. Conde Nast says it is sometimes referred to as the "Venice of the North" but then so is Stockholm, Amsterdam and St. Petersburg.

Much of the appeal of Bruges is that it was largely built between the 12th and 15th centuries and today remains much as it did hundreds of years ago. Make sure you bring home some lace.
New York's famous Rockefeller Plaza is always busy

New York: While some would argue whether New York should top the list, there are many more who believe it to be the absolute best city in the world. The restaurants are incredible and nightlife scene that is incomparable.

Though New York is certainly not the true "America", the "Big Apple" has something for everyone including an energy that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.

Now comes the time for debate and challenge. Large cities and small that are on the cusp of making the list could easily replace some of Conde Nast's choices.

In the larger city category there are Stockholm, Rome, Rio, Vienna and Dubrovnik.

The Victor Emmanuelle Monument in Rome is often called "The Wedding Cake" by locals  (Photo: Taylor)

Stockholm is a beautiful city built on 14 islands. While Rome can be congested and dirty, it does have a bit of everything including art, museums, history, religion and cuisine. Rio de Janeiro suffers from bad publicity due to high crime rates but it is also among the three most naturally beautiful cities in the world with magnificent beaches which are frequented by the best looking women in the world.

Vienna is a city where the music never stops and the walled Croatian city of Dubrovnik is difficult to beat. And what about Berlin?

For medium and small towns, some that were overlooked are Sintra in Portugal, Italy's Florence, Ravello and Orvieto or, perhaps, Rothenburg in Germany. The arcaded streets of Switzerland's capital city of Bern is another great choice.

These are but a few alternatives to the Conde Nast list. It's wonderful game to play and a great way to ice breaker for  your next party with guests who love to travel.