Friday, February 21, 2020

The 20 most Instagrammed national parks in the world

Hiker greets a new day at Yosemite
(Courtesy: National Park Svc)
CHARLOTTE, NC – If someone asked you to choose the most instagrammed national park on the internet which one would you pick? Here's a clue. The United States claims five of the twenty, four of the first five and all US parks are in the top nine.

If you said the Grand Canyon, you'd be dead on the mark. Yosemite is a little surprising at number two, while the Rocky Mountains take fourth position ahead of Yellowstone which might also be questioned by some observers.

The Grand Canyon is #1
(Courtesy: National Park Svc)
The only non-US national park sits in third place which is the Lake District in the United Kingdom.

Sequoia National Park in California is the straggler for the US with a ranking of 9th.

Four surprising omissions from the final list are Banff National Park and Jasper National Park in Canada, Alaska's Denali National Park and the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.

Yosemite is second on the list
(Courtesy pixabay)
Of the remaining 11 parks, free admission is granted to four. Entrance fees vary from park to park but, in general, the cost for a visit ranges between $20 and $60 with the higher fees coming at wildlife sanctuaries or sites where climbing is involved.

Eleven countries are represented in the list with the UK boasting the second largest number of posts with four parks to its credit; the Lake District, the Peak District, Snowdonia and New Forest. The other country with more than one honoree is Tanzania thanks to the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjo with a chance see the Big Five is a huge favorite
(Courtesy: Instagram -- volodymyr-burdiak)
When it comes to "Wonders of the World", four of the national parks are featured in the various lists.  Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the Grand Canyon are two of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World" (Aurora Borealis, Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, Niagara Falls and Rio de Janeiro round out that group).

Elephants the Great Migration
(Courtesy: pixabay}
The great migration of the Serengeti was named by USA Today as one of the "New Seven Wonders" and finally, Komodo Island in Indonesia was named in the "New Seven Wonders of Nature."

 The research was conducted by Faraway Furniture Co. In order to determine which famous National Park around the world is the most popular on Instagram, Faraway used the number of times each park had been hashtagged and then looked at the #s that contained the name of the park on its own, with ‘"Park" and with "National Park" to obtain the results. 

Instagram was the brainchild of Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger who launched the photo and video-sharing social media networking service in October 2010. It became an overnight success with a million registered users signed on in just two months. Within a year it was up to 10 million users and, as of May 2019, a billion people had registered.

Los Glaciares in Argentina
(Courtesy: Instagram -- Henner-damke)
Users can browse other users' content by tags and locations and view trending content. They can also "like" photos and follow other users to add their content to a feed.

As with any trivia related list, there is always a bit of controversy, just as there was with the four parks listed above that were overlooked. Then again, that's part of the fun.

Victoria is stunning to see in Zimbabwe
(Courtesy: Instagram --dietmar-temps)

We will return soon with a brand new list to consider and debate. Until then here are Top Twenty Most Instagrammed National Parks:

Grand Canyon (US)
Yosemite (US)
Lake District (UK)
Rocky Mountains (US)
Yellowstone (US)
Peak District (UK)
Kruger  (South Africa)
Galapagos (Ecuador)
Sequoia (US)
Snowdonia (UK)
New Forest (UK)
Komodo (Indonesia)
Serengeti (Tanzania)
Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
Guilin and Lijiang River (China)
Uluru (Australia)
Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)
Fjordland (New Zealand)
Swiss (Switzerland)
Los Glaciares (Argentina)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Why not spend St. Patrick's Day in Ireland?

If you're going to celebrate St Patrick's Day why not do
it in Ireland?
(Courtesy: pixabay)

IRELAND — While there are many legends surrounding St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, arguably the most familiar one being that he was responsible for ridding the country of its snakes.

Wikipedia says "the earliest text to mention an Irish saint banishing snakes from Ireland is in fact the Life of Saint Columba (chapter 3.23), written in the late seventh or early eighth century."

It wasn't until the 13th century however, before there was any written account of a legend regarding Patrick driving away Ireland's venomous reptiles. That story occurred when Gerald of Wales expressed skepticism about the veracity of the folklore.

Irish legend claims St Patrick drove the snake away
(Courtesy: Nheyob -- licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share
Alike 4.0 International license)

Even so, the most familiar version of the legend is that of Jocelyn of Furness, who says that the snakes were banished when Patrick chased them into the sea after attacking him while he was in the process of doing a 40-day fast on top of a hill.

In reality, evidence shows that Ireland probably never had any snakes at all and that, most likely, the slithering creatures were actually a metaphor for the druids, whom Patrick is said to have driven out of Ireland when he established Christianity there.

Whatever the truth may be matters little to the Irish today who have celebrated March 17, believed by many to be the day of St Patrick's death, as a religious holiday for more than a thousand years.

So popular has the tradition become that the holiday has now expanded into the secular world as a robust international celebration of Irish culture and heritage.

New York and Savannah have two of the biggest celebrations
in the United States
(Courtesy: pixabay)
Among the biggest celebrations in the US is in New York City. Highlighted by a massive parade beginning at 11 am on 44th Street and marching up Fifth Avenue past St Patrick's Cathedral, of course, the celebration concludes around 5:00 pm at the American Irish Historical Society at East 80th Street.

Oddly enough, the second largest St Patrick's Day Parade in the world, drawing more than half a million spectators, takes place in Savannah, GA. In fact, Savannah is recognized as the first city in the United States to hold a public observance of the "wearing of the green" tracing its roots back 196 years to 1824.

A pint of green  beer is
good for what "ales" you
(Courtesy: pixabay)
At that time a notice from the Hibernian Society was published on March 16th in the local paper, The Georgian, inviting citizens of Savannah to join them for a discourse at the Roman Catholic Church on the Feast of St Patrick the following day. The rest is history.

The Cliffs of Moher are
an Irish highlight
Which leads to the most obvious question, facsimiles are great, but why not experience shamrocks and green beer in the place where it all began, Ireland itself?

To be expected, Dublin attracts the most attention and largest crowds on St Patrick's Day, but if you venture out from the capital, you will find a plethora of celebrations in virtually every village, town and city in the country. Some of the festivities last for days at a time where visitors have the opportunity to celebrate in style with locals in one of the friendliest countries on the planet.

Ireland’s second city, Cork, is staging a four day festival this year from March 14th -- 17th, culminating in a vibrant St Patrick’s Day parade. The colorful cavalcade will feature up to 3,000 people including sporting groups, dance schools, the city’s long-established brass bands and special guests from around the world.

The stunning Ring of Kerry is a scenic masterpiece
(Courtesy: pixabay)
Cork is well-known year-round for its lively nightlife but during the festival it will be bursting with music as the Lee Sessions bring masters of traditional music to pubs throughout the city.

Belfast marks St Paddy’s Day with a vibrant carnival parade and free open-air concert on March 17. The streets will be awash in color (especially green) and noise as the parade snakes  (oops, check that, better to say "winds" in this case) its way through the city center from Belfast City Hall to Writer’s Square.

Reflections of Kylemore Abbey
(Photo: Peabod)
Elsewhere, historic Limerick, which flanks the Shannon Estuary, will host a four-day festival filled with fun, fireworks and plenty of fancy dress.

On Sunday, the 15th of March, the 50th Limerick International Band Championship will strike up in the streets of the city when over 1,300 marching band musicians from across Ireland, Europe and America will compete for the coveted winners’ cup.

The grand parade, with its theme of ‘Our Future is Green’, celebrating the city's designation as a European Green Leaf City for 2020, will wend its way through the city's streets.

In Armagh, where Patrick began his Christian mission and established the city as the spiritual capital of Ireland, the annual Home of St Patrick Festival promises another exciting program of culture, music and spirituality. From March 6th to 17th, Armagh will feature a superb mix of local and international music, theater, spoken word, art and comedy emphasizing the locations where Patrick walked, worked and lived.
Killarney, on the Ring of Kerry, has four days of festivities
(Photo: peabod)

Killarney, on the spectacular Ring of Kerry, celebrates with an extravagant four-day festival promising street céilís (traditional dancing and Gaelic music), treasure hunts, greening of buildings, a grand parade and fun for the entire family.

St Patrick himself will perform the miraculous feat of leading parades all over the island of Ireland, including Sligo, celebrating 50 years of parades in 2020, and in Downpatrick in County Down, where a cavalcade of floats, bands and color will be a sight to behold.

Picturesque pub, Dublin
(Courtesy: pixabay)
No trip to St Patrick’s Day in Ireland would be complete without a visit to the national grave of St Patrick in Downpatrick. The town is also home to the St Patrick Centre, the only permanent exhibition in the world about Ireland's patron saint, as well as Down Cathedral and many other religious sites and cultural attractions associated with the great man.

If Ireland appeals but St Patrick's Day is not feasible, The Magellan Travel Club is offering a Shades of Ireland tour from July 13th to July 25th. 

In a closing bit of trivia, the "Emerald Isle" looks like this when you see it on a map:

Generic map of Ireland
(Courtesy: pixabay)
However, after too many pints of St Pat's green beer, if you turn the map 90-degrees counterclockwise it may take on the appearance of a little green terrier:

Map turned 90-degrees counter-clockwise looks like a small dog
(Courtesy: pixabay)

A word of advice if such a phenomenon occurs, it is best to seek out the "hair of the dog."

Erin go bragh!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Celebrity Cruises sails into the future with the introduction of Apex in April

Celebrity Apex embarks on her maiden voyage in April 2020
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)
MIAMI, FL— When Celebrity Cruises introduced the Edge with her maiden voyage in late 2018, the new ship forever changed sea-going cruises. Mention a cruise line that has lived up to the age-old travel mantra that real travel is "as much about getting there as the destination itself," and you have Celebrity.

Cruising under its trademark giant "black X" logo, Celebrity is re-inventing the world of sea-going adventures forever. Gone are the days of massive midnight buffets and parading wait-staff with flaming baked Alaska.

Celebrity Edge with eye-popping "Magic Carpet" was the
first in the series in 2018 
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)
Thanks in large part to Celebrity's innovative eye on the future, not only do today's cruise passengers experience top-notch culinary delights that were once available only to the elite first-class clientele combined with first-rate shipboard entertainment that rivals anything on Broadway, but also veranda-style accommodations that make portholes obsolete.

Celebrity Edge debuted a new standard in sea-going cruises in late 2018 when it set sail with a host of new concepts, including the "Magic Carpet", a massive cantilevered  elevator off the ship's side that invites  guests to eat, drink and soar over the sea up to the highest deck on the ship.

The industry-leading, first-in-class Celebrity Edge has received more than 50 awards and was crowned one of TIME Magazine’s 2019 World's Greatest Places.

Now less than a year and a half later, Edge's sister ship, Celebrity Apex will enjoy her champagne christening on March 30th before embarking on her maiden voyage in early April. But this is no April Fools prank mind you, because the newest Edge-class ship in Celebrity's fleet will outdo her older sister from the moment she raises her anchor.

The Magic Carpet is a cantilevered elevator lounge on the 
side of the ship
(Courtesy: CelebrityCruises)
Celebrity Apex encores the transformational feel of its sister ship with such distinctive features as the floating Magic Carpet described above; The Retreat, the all-exclusive experience for all suite guests; dramatically expanded staterooms with Infinite Verandas; soothing indoor and outdoor garden escapes; magnificent two-story Edge Villas with their own private terrace and plunge pool; and high-style spaces throughout public areas, maintaining the focus on the contemporary design elements that are a highlight of the Edge Series of ships.

Eden is one of bold new
luxury features 
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)

Bold new luxury features have been added to Celebrity Apex to ensure that it takes its rightful place as the industry’s “it” ship, including:

  • New culinary venues, menus and programming
  • An array of firsts in beauty, fitness, and wellness
  • Sweeping changes to The Theatre with state-of-the-art technology taking center stage in three all-new production shows.
  • New experiences that trans form the breatking Eden venue into  myriad of mood 
Culinary treats such "Life After Death" are a feast 
for your taste buds
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)
Apex of Culinary:

Already recognized as the industry’s leading culinary brand, Celebrity further enhances its dining reputation  on Celebrity Apex with new delicacies and menu offerings from Michelin-starred Chef Cornelius Gallagher, including:

  • Craft Social Bar: This relaxed, casual bar space, will offer draft cocktails, wines on tap and more than 50 of the world’s rarest craft beers. Menu items will include contemporary comfort food cuisine like mac and brie, Kobe beef sliders, crispy chicken sliders and meat and cheese boards. Large-screen TVs will air live sporting events.

  • A 3-D digital animation dining experience at Le Grand Bistro: Celebrity Edge’s first-at-sea digitally animated menu by Le Petit Chef offers a new animated story on Celebrity Apex, enhanced by a fusion of entertainment and dining. The menu features such dishes as spring pea soup, King Crab farfalle pasta and filet mignon, while diners enjoy a story that chronicles the adventures of Le Petit Chef who meets the girl of his dreams at age 12.

  • A new Eden dining experience: This remarkable three-story indoor natural wonderland, with its sweeping panoramic, outward facing windows will feature an extraordinary culinary journey of a la carte appetizers, entrees and desserts with ingredients sourced from local farms and fisheries in the lower-level restaurant. Menu items include fresh roasted Spanish prawns with melted peppers; cured fresh chorizo, slow-cooked shellfish broth with parsley, garlic, shallots and maldon sea salt from England, pastrami with Devonshire Dijon mustard emulsion, mashed potatoes cooked in duck fat and crispy rye bread sautéed in butter and melted raclette cheese.

Celebrity Apex will introduce a multitude of 
wellness options
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)
Apex of Rest and Relaxation:

Celebrity Apex takes to the sea with a spa management collaboration  with OneSpaWorld and a new wellness programming for the modern traveler. Highlights include:

  • A first-at-sea offering of F45 Training: These unique 45-minute, station-based, heartrate monitored functional team training workouts will be offered in the notably larger Celebrity Apex Fitness Center.

  • A Destination Wellness program: Spa menus using authentic local ingredients inspired by the destinations that the ship explores will be featured.

  • A Women in Wellness well-being program: This program focuses upon the emotional, physical and spiritual practices of some of the wellness industries’ most highly respected influencers.

  • An array of first-at-sea spa offerings: More than 120 soothing treatments plus a new collection of state-of-the-art treatment tables, highlighted by the unique Iyashi Dôme, the original Japanese infrared sauna that deeply cleanses and detoxifies the body.

Theatrical productions rival anything on Broadway
in The Theatre
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)
Apex of Entertainment:

Celebrity Apex debuts three exciting new stage shows in The Theatre; an intimate cabaret show in The Club along with a variety of themed experiences and activities throughout the ship, including:

The stunning, contemporary design of The Theatre incorporates state-of-the-art technology features, including:

The Theatre is spectacular
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)
  • 23-foot-tall 4K LED screen curving around the stage to immerse audiences like never before.
  • 28-foot tall circular scrim and eight Panasonic 20K laser projectors for projection mapping to create a 360-degree wrap-around picture for audiences.
  • 20-foot tall Tree of Life, complete with over 3,000 LED leaves that set the stage for one of the most dramatic new productions at sea. 
Productions are stunning
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)
  • The technology plays a starring role in several production shows that are exclusive to Celebrity Apex.  Rockumentary celebrates some of the greatest classic rock moments in history, and for the first time, guests get to vote for their favorite finale, via the Celebrity Cruises app. Tree of Life takes guests on a journey of relatable life moments, illuminated by the changing seasons of the tree, and set to pop rock music. Crystalize energizes the night with a visually inspiring performance featuring light, laser projections, custom video content, music, dance, and incredible aerial acrobatics, all tied together by the amazing talents of a world-class violinist.
Eden is unique
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)

  • Widely regarded as the most unique space on any cruise ship, Eden indulges every sense with a variety of experiences that transform the environment throughout the day from morning, noon to night. An ecletic afternoon tea party morphs into a wonder-filled journey in a Night of Dreams complete with live performances and audience interaction, a daytime guided meditation becomes the ultimate ultra-lounge in Night of the Chill and interactive art experiences by day lead into Night of the Arts celebrating the arts through interactive experiences and performances. Each day presents new options to Chill @ Eden, Learn @ Eden, Play @ Eden and Create @ Eden, culminating at night in Evenings of Wonder at Eden, encouraging guests to return again and again.

The Club is another entertainment venue
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)
  • Evening entertainment can also be found at The Club, with the debut of Caravan, an intimate and alluring evening cabaret-style production featuring new takes on classic circus acts with astonishing aerial acrobatics, acts of balance and precision and more. Also fully programmed during the day, The Club will offer a variety of activities from video dance classes to archery to karaoke with a live band and full production support.

With its distinctive iconic "X" Celebrity Cruises encompasses the mark of modern luxury, with cool, contemporary designs and warm spaces, dining experiences where the atmosphere of the venues is as important as the cuisine and superb service that offers an unmatchable travel experience. In an industry where service and value for the traveling dollar are a key to success, Celebrity takes sea-going cruises to new levels of enjoyment with its bold innovative spirit.  

Infinite Veranda staterooms go beyond traditional balconies
(Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises) 

Celebrity Cruises' 14 ships offer modern luxury vacations visiting all seven continents that are at the APEX of the industry and the cutting EDGE of technology.

Celebrity Cruises represents the very best of sea-going "X Factors."