Category Archives: Guest Writers

Un-Cruise Adventures


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Been around the globesphere and looking for a unique way to see the world? How about trying Un-Cruise Adventures?

A partner of Willamette Intl Travel and based in Seattle, Un-cruise specializes in destination-centric and activity-focused itineraries.

Some of their exciting journeys include: Alaska, coastal Was      hington, British Columbia, Hawaiian Islands, Columbia & Snake Rivers, and Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, the latter which are year-round to enjoy the best of Baja and whale-watching.

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Un-cruise has been featured in the February issue of Conde Nast, who took us firsthand on the “S.S. Legacy, the newest ship to sail that same spectacularly scenic route” as Lewis and Clark. They combine exceptional quality of service with a fresh a sense of adventure. Travel solo, with a companion, with your family or with a group! Their small vessels allow you to experience wilderness and off-the-beaten waterways from an intimate perspective. The crew on board is staffed with knowledgeable experts and trained guides with decades of experience.

On the lookout for that unique itinerary in Alaska? Un-cruise includes “not in the guidebook” places in Alaska. Their Northern Passages and Glacier Bay cruise stops at locations like South Marble Island, Chichagof Island, and the Icy and Peril Straits—with three full days in Glacier Bay!

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Sail with Un-cruise on:

  • A history-themed program down the Northwest rivers aboard an 88-passenger ship refurbished in the style of a fin-de-siècle coastal steamboat. Sailing on the Columbia and through Walla Walla wine country, all the while entertained by reenactments and shoreside tours.
  • A journey into the remote wilderness of Alaska, including Glacier Bay National Park, the White Pass and Yukon Railway. Uncover local Tlingit culture and the historical ports of Petersburg, Sitka, Skagway, Haines and Wrangell.

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  • A cruise to the Hawaiian Islands, where you can kayak in the Pacific Ocean and snorkel among coral gardens and manta rays. Delve into the heart of nature at the Humpback National Marine Sanctuary. Discover the rich history of Hawaii at Lana’i and an evening pa’ina (feast).
  • An island-hopping adventure through the Sea of Cortes, discovering a world of magnificent sealife—turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks and more! Kayak in sapphire blue coves and enjoy a desert burro ride ashore.


 Willamette Intl Travel agents have sent several clients on successful vacations with the Un-Cruise. See some of their breathtaking photos in our gallery:

Call us to learn more or to book your Un-Cruise today! 503-224-0180 or email

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All of the photos on this post were sent over by the Dents, long-term clients who recently returned from an Un-Cruise sail in Baja. Thank you!


Filed under Central America, Cruises, Guest Writers, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise, Where in the World is the WIT Client?

Must-See Private Collection of Impressionist Art

Our friends over at Chocolatine, a top tour provider of all things French, are delighted to highlight this rare and limited collection of impressionist art, in Paris spring and summer 2014.


One of the Art Highlights of the Year! The wonderful Marmottan Monet Museum (a real hidden gem) in Paris celebrates its 80th anniversary with a stunning exhibition on Impressionists Works from Private Collections: 100 Masterpieces. Featured artists include Monet, Manet, Corot, Renoir, Degas, Sisely, and more, all on loan from collectors all over the world. This is a rare chance to see these selected paintings!

Exhibit Opens February 13 and ends July 6, 2014.
Where: Musee Marmottan Monet, 2 Rue Louis-Boilly, Paris
Hours: Daily 10am to 6pm, Tuesdays until 6pm.
Closed May 1.

NOTE: A quick reminder for those who are Impressionism aficionados and have not seen it yet, a visit to the d’Orsay Museum to discover the beautifully renovated (Oct. 2011) Impressionists room is a must.

CHOCOLATINE is one of our Preferred Tour Operators providing services throughout France. They have worked with Willamette Intl Travel for several years, arranging specialty day tours and transfers for a discerning clientele. Call Willamette Intl Travel to discuss options for one of a kind explorations within France at 800-821-0401 or email us at

For their classes on Bread & Macaroons, click here.

For their restaurant recommendations in Paris, click here.

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Filed under Europe, France, Guest Writers

Top Safari Camps of Botswana

By Christina Cooper

Botswana is not an inexpensive destination, but if budget allows definitely worth the expense. The camps are small and exclusive and inclusive. If you have limited time, and can only visit one region, probably the best area is the Okavango Delta, and the Moremi Game Reserve close by is considered by many to be the best game viewing in Africa. The four following camps are great options, with varying budgets for each type of traveler.


A Wilderness Safari premier camp, Mombo Camp is  located on Chief’s Island within Moremi Game Reserve (Okavango Delta) and boasts perhaps the best game viewing in all of Africa. Mombo is definitely a dry camp and does not offer water-based options. If budget allows (it will be minimum of $1500 per person per night), I would probably splurge and head to Mombo. (I stayed there 15 years ago and paid 400 per night, which I thought outrageous at the time!!) Even at the high pricing, Mombo has to be booked a year in advance. You can sit on the veranda at the lodge and see the animals grazing – and at night they do wander through the camp. It is a magical, but expensive, spot. It is still one of my all-time favorites.

Little Vurumba

Within the Okavango Delta, Wilderness Safari offers a couple of Classic Camps, including Little Vurumba Camp. The advantage of Vurumba is that it is both a dry & wet camp. It is surrounded by water, so you can head out on Mokoros or motorboats. The advantage of being on the water is that you get to see more of the incredible bird life, and if you are lucky have close up encounters with hippos and even be able to watch elephants come down to drink. Little Vurumba is a very relaxed camp, totally unpretentious, with only 6 tents.

photo by Mazzali


Also in the Okavango Delta, Xigera is a special camp, small (10 tents) not lavish, but extremely comfortable. Both times I have stayed here  we have left feeling like family. The staff were incredible and the food provided by the Chef amazing. It is a little more basic than Little Vurumbu but a very special place. The bird viewing around Xigera is incredible. Maybe the game viewing was not as good as at Little Vurumba, and we had to travel just a little farther to see the game; however, on both occasions lions used the footbridge from the plains through the camp to an open area behind the camp, so we definitely had close-up viewing of the lion!


Shinde is not a member of the Wilderness group, but operated by Ker & Downey. Outside of the Moremi Game reserve, Shinde offers the next best game viewing in this region.  It too is considered a wet camp—closing in December and reopening towards the latter part of March—which is the “Emerald” or rainy season, and many of the camps close due to the level of the water. My fondest memory of our time in Shinde was one afternoon when we had stopped to have our “sundowners”(cocktails and appetizers to snack on) while watching the sunset.  Just after all was set up, a leopard was spotted some 50 yards away. We  jumped in our vehicle leaving the table loaded with all the drinks/glasses sitting out in the middle of “nowhere” whilst we tried to follow the leopard. The 2nd vehicle from Shine with Willamette clients  came across our abandoned table & cocktails and decided to take it over and wait till we returned, not knowing what had happened to us. It truly was a funny sight.  I also remember sitting for hours out on a boat in the far reaches of the lagoon watching not only elephant & hippos but also birds building their nests. Definitely would return to Shinde.

photo by whatleydude


Here you have Chobe National park, with its incredible elephant life. My favorite spots in the North are either Suvute or Linyati.


Kings Pool in Linyanti is another Wilderness premier camp, pricing about the same as at Mombo. Our time there was very special—especially as we had the camp reserved just for our Willamette Intl Travel group! The wildlife was fantastic. With the camp situated right on the banks of the river, the hippos would come out at night, taking refuge under the tent’s raised teak platforms.  At first, the constant snorting of hippos all night made it hard to sleep, but after a while it became quite reassuring, but definitely not a lullaby.

One evening we had to stay put in the lodge, because elephants had invaded the footpath between the lodge and tents. They were so quiet entering the camp,  it was not until we were walking back to our tents with the nighttime guards, that we realized our path was blocked. We had to quietly walk backwards to the lodge, where we sat until the early hours of the morning drinking and talking to the camp manager and the staff. Evidently not a lot of guests take time to speak to the staff, and the next night the camp manager told us the staff had been practicing all day local tribal songs and dances and wanted to entertain us. It was a very special evening.

Game viewing is great in this area, large herds of my favorite animal, the elephant, along with lion, cheetah, leopard, and a special treat, Wild Dog. We tracked them for hours one evening, and even went on a wild ride when they started to hunt.

photo by Mazzali

Duma Tau

This is a Classic Camp of the Wilderness family, recently rebuilt in 2012.  When we were there, they had to replace the zipper tent doors with actual locking wooden doors—as the baboons and monkeys had figured out how to unzip the tent, and were causing havoc with the guests’ belongings! The tents are not as luxurious as Kings Pool, but extremely comfortable with good air flow the camp slightly larger with 10 tents (including 2 family tents). Duma Tau is also a less expensive option. While we were there the lagoon was dry, but just after a short drive we were in the Linyanti swamp region, where birding was incredible, and the huge herds of elephants and hippos played in the swamp—it was truly an incredible sight.

photo by Gerry Labrijn

Kwando Lebala Camp

Owned by the Kwando . Definitely less costly than King’s Pool or Duma Tau,  tents were very comfortable, and the staff and the safari guides professional and friendly. We could sit out on the veranda overlooking the huge vistas of the Linyanti Reserve,  watching the elephants approaching from the distance, at first just a blur in the haze. They would spend several  hours around the camp, disappearing  as quietly as they came.  We also had a cheetah family very close to the camp, amazing to watch, and actually managed to see a lion kill. Usually you arrive just after the kill, when the hovering vultures tell you something has happened. We sat and watched the pride taking its turn at the kill according to their hierarchy— but after a while the smell and the flies were so obnoxious we had to leave for a fresher smelling area!!!

WIT Agent and Owner Christina has been to Africa on numerous trips and is deeply knowledgeable and passionate about the wildlife and parks there. Call her for more information at 800.821.0401 or email

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Filed under Africa, Botswana, Features, Guest Writers

Walking Softly Adventures and Mountain Hiking Holidays


As a tie-in with last week’s post on excursions abroad, let us introduce one of our fantastic vendors for walking and hiking journeys, Walking Softly Adventures and Mountain Hiking Holidays. These two companies are run by some great friends of ours, John and Amy Osaki, and over the last 16 years, many clients and even some relatives of ours have thoroughly enjoyed the trips!


If a cultural walking tour is more your thing, take a look at Walking Softly. They offer occasional tours that immerse you in local history, art and architecture. As an art historian and former museum professional, Amy leads the Art Tours through a variety of culturally rich destinations, including Boston, Paris, Japan, Russia, and most recently in April, Italy. Her tours encourage you to explore art “in situ” for a deeper understanding of the local history. There are only two or three Walking Softly trips offered each year, and these trips sell out quickly, so be sure to let WIT know if you are interested in information about the next Art Tour by Amy. Upcoming destinations include New York, Japan with cherry blossoms, the Silk Road in China, Moscow and St Petersburg, and the museums of Spain!


If hiking a mountain trail is more your pace, check out Mountain Hiking Holidays—which runs frequent trips to the mountains of Patagonia, the Dolomites, the Pyrenees, the Julian Alps, the volcanoes of Japan’s Hokkaido island—and many more. Three meals daily are often included in these treks, over peaks, through monasteries and temples, and around lakes. Sleep comfortably in your private room with private bath, and carry only a day pack with your water and jacket on the trail. Past park rangers and current mountaineers, John and Amy have hiked and climbed mountains on four continents. Their skilled international team holds certificates and licenses in mountain guiding, have received rigorous training, and take great pleasure in leading you on the trail. Consider a mountain hiking trip in South America, Europe, Asia, or North America. Ask WIT to keep you posted about Mountain Hiking Holidays’ a new 5-day spring hiking escape to the spectacular red rock country of Utah in April 2013, and the new winter hiking trip for the mountains of the Galapagos islands of Ecuador early in 2014!


Groups are typically small and intimate, or can be customized to accommodate private departures. Running less than 20 trips a year allows John and Amy to really put care and love into each and every one of their adventures!

All photos are courtesy of Mountain Hiking Holidays. 


Filed under Features, Guest Writers, Travel by Backpack, VOTM

Finding Dad, My Hero

This week we are featuring a Guest Blogger, Rick Stiggins. With the assistance of Willamette International Travel, Rick and his wife Nancy traveled to France in the summer of 2012 to find the final resting spot of Nancy’s father, who died in World War Two.

Finding Dad, My Hero

By Rick Stiggins

My wife, Nancy, was conceived in 1943 and her dad, Captain Robert Cannon, went to war and never returned.  He died in the Battle of Riepertswiller in northeast France on January 17, 1945—within a few months of the end of the war.  He was a decorated and highly-respected officer who refused his general’s orders to return home—he would not leave his comrades until the war was won.  Though she had never been held by her daddy, Nancy has always felt a very close bond to him and has always wanted to visit the place where he fought his final battle.  With the help of Willamette International Travel, she got her wish on Armistice Day, 2012.

Nancy’s Mom had been contacted after the war by a retired officer who, in conjunction with the Department of Defense, was researching that particular battle and who requested details about her husband.  Inspired, Nancy later discovered old family files that included the officer’s detailed day-by-day description of the battle.  Captain Cannon had led his 45th Infantry team up a small valley in the countryside just outside of Riepertswiller, intending to rescue a surrounded unit at the head of the valley.  Unfortunately, they were overwhelmed by German forces and he died on a hillside in the winter snow.  The report included a hand-drawn map revealing where he had died.

Using Google Maps and Google Earth pictures, we tried to match the terrain around the village with the geographic features of the map.  The Defense Department also provided maps of the changing battle lines during January, 1945.

With all of this background information in hand, we teamed up with good friends from Geneva who were fluent in French, and headed for the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.  We arrived in Riepertswiller on a bright May morning to begin our search.  Prior contacts with the local mayor had revealed that the only local person who might have been able to help us was away.  So we were on our own.

We found one small valley on the edge of this beautiful little farm village and start comparing our map with the features of the landscape—but they didn’t match.  We moved on.  Just a bit farther north of town, we found our target—a lovely, thickly forested valley with three hills on the right.  Her father had died on the third hill.  A logging road provided our hiking pathway and we were able to get very close to this hillside.  If one’s spirit were to be located in one place for eternity, it would be hard to find a more peaceful or beautiful place.  Nancy had brought with her a small plaque to honor her hero.  It said in French, “The most beautiful things in the world are not those that we see, but those that we feel with our hearts.” We attached it to a tree, spoke a few words to and about him, cried, and went away feeling that we had fulfilled a lifelong dream.

Later in our journey, we traveled to Normandy where we learned about and thanked many more heroes.  Theirs was a special generation.

Rick and Nancy finished their trip with a week in Paris and days in Vaux le Victome and Normandy. We at Willamette International Travel frequently work with travelers to customize itineraries based on individual needs and preferences. Call us at 800.821.0401 or email to start planning your custom trip today!

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Filed under Features, France, Guest Writers