Category Archives: Cruises

Travel News: New European Wine Cruises

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AmaWaterways introduces new European Wine River Cruise itineraries

River cruise line AmaWaterways celebrates the modern epicurean lifestyle aboard its ships with the release of its 2017-2018 Wine Cruises Through Europe brochure. With a new luxury ship in its fleet, AmaKristina, and 95 sailings hosted by celebrated North American wine experts, AmaWaterways invites guests to uncork the traditions of the local culture and experience the wonders of wine along Europe’s legendary waterways. “It has been extraordinary to witness the increase in interest and enthusiasm for our Wine Cruises over the past several years,” said president and Co-Owner Rudi Schreiner. In addition to the many onboard activities and immersive shore excursions, AmaWaterways’ Wine Cruises add a unique, epicurean dimension to a variety of itineraries that immerse guests in the wine culture of the regions toured, such as Austria’s Wachau Valley, France’s Bordeaux region, Portugal’s Douro Valley, and more. Tastings, winery tours, private cellar tours, visits to iconic vineyards, and first-hand lessons on the nuances of Old World winemaking provide an enriching, educational experience – all at no additional cost.

Norwegian Cruise Line Tests New Internet Plans on Two Ships

Cruise Critic reports passengers sailing on Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Getaway now have the option to purchase internet based on how they use it versus prepaid minutes. Norwegian Cruise Line is testing a new internet pricing model that could be rolled out fleetwide by this summer. Dubbed “Freestyle Choice Plans,” the options include Social Chat ($35 for seven days), Basic ($189 for seven days) and Premium ($245 for seven days). Social Chat provides unlimited access to social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat; it also allows for sending and receiving messages. Basic offers unlimited Internet access as well as messaging and email, and supports file attachments. Premium includes everything in Basic, plus streaming capabilities and VPN access. The line has previously offered more traditional internet plans ranging from $29 per day to 250 minutes for $125, on weeklong cruises. Last summer NCL signed a deal with Global Eagle Entertainment to quadruple bandwidth across its brands for stronger Wi-Fi onboard. Norwegian’s new test follows a trend of cruise lines switching to Internet plans that are more tailored toward how passengers surf the web at sea. Carnival Cruise Line recently adopted a similar model that includes a social media-only plan for $5 per day.

US Airport Pat-Downs Are About to Get More Invasive

Bloomberg reports that air travelers in the US should get ready for more comprehensive pat downs that include intensive intimate contact with the TSA officers. Until now, there have been various degrees of pat downs but TSA has now decided to have only one method used nationwide. The new physical touching, for those selected to have a pat-down, will be be what the federal agency officially describes as a more “comprehensive” physical screening, according to a Transportation Security Administration spokesman. “I would say people who in the past would have gotten a pat-down that wasn’t involved will notice that the [new] pat-down is more involved,” TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson said Friday. The shift from the previous, risk-based assessment on which pat-down procedure an officer should apply was phased in over the past two weeks after tests at smaller airports, he said.

Heathrow Named Best Airport In Europe

The Airports Council International has announced the winners of the 2016 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards, naming Heathrow as the Best Airport in Europe among airports with over 40 million passengers for 2016. The awards are particularly significant for Heathrow as they are voted by passengers themselves, reflecting the views of travellers from right across the globe. Alongside the award of ‘Best Airport in Europe’, Heathrow achieved its best ever annual ASQ passenger satisfaction score while welcoming a record 76 million passengers through the UK’s hub. 82% of passengers rating their journey as either ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ represents approximately 62 million Heathrow passengers, an increase of 1 million more ‘happy’ passengers than in 2015. In 2006, only 41% of passengers rated their experience as either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’. Since then, Heathrow has invested more than £11 billion to enhance the airport experience which has dramatically transformed the airport’s performance for passengers and airline customers alike.

Royal Caribbean Names Newest Cruise Ship Symphony Of The Seas

The line announced the name at a press conference yesterday, prior to the groundbreaking ceremony for its new Terminal A at PortMiami. Launching in April 2018, 5,494-passenger, 230,000-ton Symphony of the Seas will be the largest cruise ship in the world, offering 28 more cabins than its “little” sister, Harmony of the Seas. Symphony will feature Oasis-class innovations like the seven-neighborhood concept, the Bionic Bar with its robot bartenders, Broadway-style productions, and outdoor amenities like the AquaTheater, a trio of water slides known as the Perfect Storm, and the 10-deck Ultimate Abyss dry slide. The ship will spend its inaugural summer season sailing Mediterranean itineraries from Barcelona before relocating to Miami in November 2018. When Symphony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas arrive in Miami, all four of the Oasis-class ships will be based in Florida, with Oasis of the Seas sailing from Port Canaveral and Harmony of the Seas sailing from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

Lufthansa: 12 Female Pilots Flew Passengers From Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Zurich, Vienna And Brussels To Berlin

Wednesday 8 March was International Women’s Day, and in observance, six crews from Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian Airlines and Brussels consisting only of women will make their morning flights from the Lufthansa Group hubs to Berlin. The jets set off from Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Vienna, Zurich and Brussels and were flown by two female pilots. The first two women began their scheduled service with Lufthansa in 1988. The year 2010 saw a world premiere in the airfreight industry: a Lufthansa Cargo aircraft took off with an all-female crew. These days, women in the cockpit are no longer an exception. Around 6% of pilots at the Lufthansa Group are female and the percentage has been continuously increasing over the past years. Around 80% percent of the cabin staff are female. Lufthansa received a blessing from the Society for the German Language for the new German word “Kapitänin” (female form of “Kapitän” = captain) specifically to refer to the growing number of female pilots. In addition to the supposedly male domains, increasing the percentage of women in management is another goal of the Lufthansa Group. In 2011, Lufthansa and other major German companies set themselves voluntary targets to increase the number of women in management. By 2020 the aim is to have 30% more women compared with 2010.

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Join the Whales with UnCruise Adventures!

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Join Bruce & Mary Lou Mate Aboard The Safari Endeavour with Un-Cruise Adventures!

Departure: February 24, 2018 > Just 9 more cabins available on this sailing!

Where: Baja California

Willamette Intl Travel is holding 25 cabins, but we’ve already booked 15 on this 2018 sailing to Baja California! This means there are just 9 more left! 

  • 4 commander cabins

  • 4 captain cabins

  • 1 admiral cabin

After March 24, we will have to give our unsold cabins back to Un-Cruise. So don’t wait! Secure your cabin with a deposit today. 

Last December, WIT Agents Barb and Racheal joined UnCruise Adventures to Baja California. Click here to read what they thought!

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Our longtime client Bruce Mate has been involved in whale research for over 47 years, mostly at the Marine Mammal Institute in Newport. He’s served on the International Whaling Commission for over 30 years and was sent by Exxon to track whales in Siberia. Join him and his wife Mary Lou Mate on this wonderful cruise, which will also be a fundraiser for the MMI foundation and provide scholarships to students.

Call 503-224-0180 and ask for Barb or Racheal to secure your cabin today!

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Filed under California, Central America, Cruises, Mexico, Un-Cruise, USA, Vendors

The Next Best Destinations for 2017

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Happy New Year, dear Readers! We’ve made past the end of 2016, hopefully with some fun and meaningful travel memories racked up. But what does 2017 have in store for the traveler? Here are our Top Destinations in 2017:

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Cruise ship in Isafjordur, the West Fjords of Iceland

1. Iceland

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Iceland has once again made the list. In the past 10 years, Iceland’s popularity as a travel destination soared to immense heights, capping 1 billion travelers to this dynamic Atlantean rock in the summer of 2016 alone. Most travelers have visited the gorgeous Golden Circle and the Glacier Lagoon, maybe even ridden an Icelandic horse or spied the Northern Lights–but what’s next for Iceland in 2017? Traveling a bit more off-the-beaten path, to Lake Myvatn area, to the West Fjords and the Westman Isles. We’ll have to see what this magical Viking isle has in store for us!

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Lake Bled in Slovenia

2. Slovenia (& the Balkans)

If you haven’t discovered this off-the-beaten-path trek in Europe, what are you waiting for? Slovenia is the oft-cited “playground of Europe,” with a range of activities to attract the thrill-seeker. Spelunking, hang-gliding, jet-skiing are just some of the more popular pursuits. Plus there are few city centers as pristine as Ljubljana’s. A great way to see the Balkan countries is to rent a car and spend a few weeks traveling around war-wounded Sarajevo, culturally bobbing Belgrade, and Croatia’s exquisite Dalmatian coast.

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Białowieża Forest, Poland

3. Australia & New Zealand

Australia & New Zealand have always been a popular destination for families, couples and backpackers alike. Sydney boasted the “best fireworks in the world” at the Opera this New Year’s Eve. Tazmania might just be the next prime hiking destination, with multi-day excursions and luxury ecolodges. And NZ has an array of fun food-themed fetes to enjoy, kicking off with Auckland Seafood Festival in January and then Marlborough Wine & Food Festival come February. Though the Northern Lights have attracted some fair attention these past few years, the Southern Hemisphere has it’s own bragging right: the unparalleled Southern Cross!

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River Boat sailing through Chicago, USA

4. River Cruises in North America

Domestic travel usually has to offer something unique to attract travelers, and we believe river cruises are that unique option. There seems to be no end to high quality river and lake cruises: the Great Lakes, roundtrip Nashville on the Mississippi River, Montreal and the eastern seaboard, and the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Themes range from southern style comfort on the Mississippi to the pioneer history of the Oregon Trail. River cruises are small-scale, comfortable, unhurried cruises in American history that often sail year-round–without the spectacle afforded on ocean cruises. Plus one major advantage over Europe or South America: shorter flights to get there (if any)!

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Lisbon, Portugal

5. Portugal

Warm beach weather, delicious cuisine, and a charming ambiance makes Portugal a global destination. Lisbon has all the Old World beauty of a European small town, and the coastline draws its fair share of beachgoers and world-class surfers. In terms of food and wine, Portugal will certainly peak your interest, and the easygoing temperance of the locals will make you feel at home in no time.

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Oslo, Norway

6. Scandinavia

Though oft-cited as the most expensive destination in Europe, Scandinavia remains one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the world. Thanks to recent trends following the Northern Lights and Iceland’s natural attractions, the region is receiving all the attention it deserves. World-class restaurants, leisurely cafes, and interactive museums still place it at the top of the list (and the map!). Not to mention how easy and accessible most travelers find Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Reykjavik–most of the population are friendly, curious, polite and speak English.

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Reindeer in Finland

7. Finland & Estonia

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia in 2017, and a spirit of unity will be rampant in every town and city. Wander 39 national parks or visit the laid-back seaside capital, view the Northern Lights or take a dip in the local sauna. Helsinki has the familiarity and design-conscious layout of a Scandinavian town, with a cultural flair that’s uniquely Finnish. Estonia is also growing on the tourist horizon–Tallinn as a leading city of technology and entrepreneurship. Its heritage is part Baltic, with smatterings of Soviet Union and Finnish influence. A popular way to visit is via a cruise to the Baltic region–many of our clients have come back from a cruise excursion with tales of Tallinn’s enchanting city center.

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Paris, France

8. France

Throughout the centuries, France has never lost its charms. Even through recent security issues have scared off some travelers, the Loire chateaux, Bordeaux wines and sun-baked sands of the Riviera are still there and thriving. After a shaky 2016, France is bouncing back in a big way, and tourist bookings have increased exponentially for 2017. Tourists seem to have their eyes on provincial towns and the hidden secrets of the countryside. Is this the time to finally check out the Champagne region, or go wine-tasting in the Dordogne Valley?

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1950s/60s Cars in Cuba

9. Cuba

With relaxing entry regulations, Cuba has received quite the attention these past two years. The response from group travelers and cruise ship passengers has been wildly enthusiastic. Over 2 million travelers visited the island in the first half of 2016, compared to just 63,000 in 2010. But that may all change soon–some travel industry experts fear that the Trump administration will restrict travel there in the future. So now might be your only chance in a while to travel to the “Pearl of the Antilles.”

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The Majestic African Elephant

10. Africa Destinations: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

Africa remains an ever-popular destination, with senior couples and large families booking safari trips in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. These regions are still within reasonable budget to catch a glimpse of wildebeest, lions, antelopes. South Africa is world-famous for their natural diversity and local cuisine, catering to all flavors and styles. Immerse yourself on a game drive in Kruger National Park, or indulge in wine-tasting in Boberg or the Breede River Valley. We’re proud also to include Namibia on our list. As some of our readers know, WIT Owners Christina and John guided a merry band through the red sands of Namibia. The landscape is like no other, with miles upon miles of arid desert, dotted with unique wildlife and local tribes who paint themselves with ochre. We expect to see a rise in interest for Namibia in 2017, and now you can receive firsthand travelers’ experience at our office in Portland.

Do you have a favorite travel memory or photo from 2016? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!

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Filed under Africa, Baltic, Croatia, Cruises, Cuba, Estonia, Europe, Finland, Iceland, Kenya, Namibia, North America, Norway, Poland, portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, tanzania, USA

Conscientious Traveler: Bruce Mate (& Uncruise Adventures)

Baja (142)Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler–our monthly series in which we showcase a fantastic travel organization that supports the environment and wildlife. This month is all about Bruce Mate!

Call to all Potential Sailors: Join Bruce Mate — February 24, 2018!

Every year, Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute Director Bruce Mate and his wife Mary Lou lead a natural history trip down to Baja California. In 2018, he’s sailing back down to this area with UnCruise Adventures, joined by a team of interested individuals (such as yourself? read on!). Bruce has conducted marine mammal research since 1967, including determining the migration routes of sea lions along the west coast of the United States. He started in the Baja region with whale tagging work way back in 1979, and knows the area and its wildlife intimately. 

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So what makes 2018 so special?

YOU TOO can join Bruce Mate, whale expert, on that year’s annual sail down to Baja. Learn all about gray whales and whale sharks from one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading experts, all in the comfort and accessibility of a small cruise ship. We have fourteen open spaces left–can you fill one of them? Bring a friend or loved one, and fill two spaces! 

We already have 34 passengers confirmed to join him–but we still have 14 open spaces left! That’s in a ship that carries a total of 84 passengers. Call us up to join this rare, once in a lifetime cruise! 503-224-1080 or email info@wittravel.com for the details. Check out the on sailing on UnCruise Adventure’s website

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Need to Hear a Firsthand Experience?

WIT Agents Barbara and Racheal are now cruising with Uncruise Adventures down in Baja. We’re super excited for them and happy to hear all about it when they get back!

Missed our previous post about it? Click here.

Starting next week—when Barb and Racheal are back, you’ll be able to hear all about the cruise from a firsthand perspective!

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Filed under Conscientious Traveler, Cruises, Europe, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise

Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

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Baja Caramba!

This week, WIT Agents Racheal & Barbara are going on an Uncruise Adventure to Baja. They’re joining UnCruise alumni for a week down to the Baja Peninsula to swim with the whale sharks and go island-hopping. The boat sails down to Mexico, cruising the Sea of Cortés UNESCO World Heritage Site. When they return, they’ll have to share their firsthand knowledge with you, our lovely clients, and give you pointers on what to expect on a cruise with reputable line UnCruise. We can’t wait to hear their stories!

The Sea of Cortés is a veritable natural aquarium. With bountiful marine life, from scores of dolphins and mobula rays, to sea lion pups and playful pelicans. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the august humpback whale. Dive into the thrill of exploration or relax on a warm beach. The coastline of Baja is bountiful with bird colonies, schools of dolphin and colorful reef fishes. Depending on the season you go, you’ll have the chance to see whale sharks in Bahía de La Paz (Nov to mid-Jan, Mar) or spot gray whales at Bahía Magdalena (mid-Jan to early-Mar).

Call your Willamette Intl Travel agent to find out more about UnCruise Adventures, what they offer and when. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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What is UnCruise?

UnCruise Adventures is a small ship experience devoted to sharing untraditional, intimate itineraries that really delve deep into the heart of a destination. Their cruises are a great opportunity for travelers who want to explore well-known places like Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska in a different and new perspective. Read more about Uncruise Adventures, their history-packed Oregon cruise, and our Alaska trip report.  Also be sure to check out the photos from our Clients’ the Dents, who sailed with UnCruise to Alaska

PLUS! There are themed departures available on certain dates.

  • Birding: Renowned bird experts – on March 25.
  • Chairman’s Cruise: Sail with the leaders and owners of the UnCruise Adventures! – on Jan 7.
  • Marine Biology: Learn all about the amazing aquatic world beneath the waves on excursions and onboard lectures. – Jan 21, Feb 18, Mar 18.
  • Photography: Join NatGeo travel photographer Christopher Baker to capture perfect shots on the boat and in the field – on January 28.

We love UnCruise Adventures! Let us tell you why. Call us up for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise

Travel News of the Week: NatGeo’s Best List

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National Geographic Traveler Announced Its Annual Best of the World List

They list 21 must-see places to visit in 2017. The destinations were all chosen by the Traveler editors and fall into one of three categories- Cities, Nature, or Culture. The full list can be found in the December/January 2017 issue of Traveler magazine, available on newsstands nationwide starting November 29, and online now at NatGeoTravel.com/BestTrips2017.”This special issue takes readers on a globe-spinning journey to 21 of the world’s best destinations,” saidGeorge Stone, National Geographic Traveler editor in chief. “We think this year’s list represents a carefully curated selection of forward-leaning places that reveal the bright future of travel. This list is all about exploration and discovery. It’s not just about where to go, but why to go now and how to make 2017 a year of enlightenment through travel.The online hub includes an immersive visual experience with 360 videos along with helpful tips and facts for planning trips to each locale. Visitors will also find inspiring illustrations to download and share. National Geographic Traveler (six issues per year) is the world’s most widely read travel magazine and has 15 international editions. The National Geographic Travel digital group shares its inspiring and authoritative digital content such as trip ideas, photo galleries, blogs and apps with its @NatGeoTravel community of over 20 million. – See more at: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/national-geographic-travel-announces-best-of-the-world-list#sthash.kD4wGuiu.dpuf

American Is Cutting Flights To Cuba, from 13 roundtrip flights to 10

As US airlines begin flights this week to Havana, the long-awaited travel surge to Cuba is already a bit shaky. American will daily round-trip flights between the US and Cuba to 10, from 13, starting in mid-February because of lower than expected demand. The company also will fly smaller jets on two routes. Other carriers, including Delta Air Lines and Spirit Airlines, said bookings so far are in line with expectations. Southwest declined to comment. But airlines have kept fares low to fill seats. Eight airlines, including American, began initiating service to Havana this week, with a total of 500 flights to the city expected to have been completed by year end, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Flights to smaller Cuban cities began earlier this year. Any cutback to Cuba flights isn’t likely to hurt the airlines’ business in a material way.

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Supersonic Jet Faster Than The Concorde Gets Its Public Debut

A skinny little airplane parked in a hangar of the Centennial Airport aims to revolutionize how people fly and reintroduce the world to supersonic flight. Boom Technology has spent two years designing a supersonic passenger plane with the financial economics the defunct Concorde could never achieve. A full-size mockup of a smaller test plane will be unveiled publicly soon. If all goes well in flight tests next year, the company will move ahead and build a full-size 45-seat aircraft that can travel 2.2 times faster than the speed of sound at a price on par with business-class tickets for a 3-hour-and-15-minute flight from New York to London.

BBC Earth Experiences Rolling Out on Holland America Line

Passengers onboard Holland America Line ships can now look forward to BBC Earth Experiences, currently available on ms Koningsdam, ms Noordam, ms Rotterdam, ms Oosterdam, ms Zuiderdam and ms Eurodam and will be rolled out to the rest of the fleet (except ms Prinsendam) by March 2017. Passengers can “now experience more of the world’s natural wonders, test their knowledge of our planet and participate in some family-friendly competition through the cruise line’s exclusive partnership with BBC Earth,” said Holland America in a prepared release. The new offerings immerse guests in BBC Earth’s experiences. A highlight is “Frozen Planet Live,” a concert based on the BBC Earth “Frozen Planet” television series. “Frozen Planet Live,” on each ship’s main stage, features live musicians playing a musical score by George Fenton as the images unfold on screen. HAL also unveiled a new partnership with Food Network’s “America’s Test Kitchen.”

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Daily Ski-Passes In Europe Cost 54 Euros On Average

This winter season, skiers must pay few euros more than last year for daily ski-passes in Europe. In most winter resorts, the price is 54 euros for one day of enjoying the slopes. The price for a daily ski-pass for one adult in Austria will increase by an average of 1.14 euros or 2.72%. Skiers in Austria will now pay an average of 43 euros for a daily ski-pass. Skiing in the Alps is the most expensive, but in Switzerland the prices are even higher. Daily ski-pass prices have increased by 0.65 euros or 1.13% to about 54 euros on average. Prices in Swiss ski resorts, however, are the most stable and show the slightest increases in four years. Italy is the leader with an average price increase of 1.37 euros – to 43 euros. Italy is therefore as expensive as Austria as of now. This year for the first time in the ranking the cheapest ski destinations were identified. This year it is the Czech Republic, where visitors pay on average 27 euros for a daily ski-pass. Other destinations cheaper than Austria are Germany (34 euros) and France (38 euros). On our side of the Atlantic the price increases are by far the highest. While Italy has the highest price increases with 3.22%, the rates in Canada and USA are 6.04% and 6.81% respectively. In the US, a one-day ticket costs around $89 (84 euros), in Canada about 92 Canadian dollars (65 euros).

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Holland America Line, News

‘Twas a day of adventure…

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Happy Thanksgiving All! Have a Great Long Weekend!

A Special Holiday Message from our friends over at Un-Cruise: 

‘Twas a day of adventure, when all thru the boat…

Many stories were shared and we all got to gloat.

Visions of kayaks and glaciers filled up our heads,

And none were too anxious to head off to bed.

Dolphins were leaping and whales were a’feeding,

Tomorrow’s adventures would go on exceeding.

You move through the world as distinctly and uniquely YOU—from day-to-day to grand adventures. Like our small ship adventure and river cruises. Unbeatable activity and culture. Up-close wilderness. Expertise, exclusivity, and personalized service. Time to experience a destination. Embark on exploration… and define your un-ness.

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Orca in the Pacific Northwest

What is UnCruise?

UnCruise Adventures is a small ship experience devoted to sharing untraditional, more intimate itineraries that really take deep in the heart of a destination. Their cruises are a great opportunity for travelers who want to explore well-known places like Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska in a different and new perspective.  Continue reading

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Filed under Cruises, News, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise