Friday, March 16, 2018

Top 5 Solo Picks - March 16, 2018

Welcome to almost-Spring!

There are some pretty good cruise deals at the moment, and many are solo-friendly. If you're looking for sunshine, there are endless opportunities in the Caribbean (ask me if you want these), but for this newsletter, I'll focus elsewhere.

Here are my Top 5 Solo Cruise Picks today!

Why these sailings? There my be solo cabins, reduced/waived single supplements, a great deal overall, or simply good value on an itinerary solos can't usually afford. Fares below INCLUDE TAXES, and are subject to availability.

April 3, 2018 - 7-Night Pacific Coastal Cruise on Star Princess
Obstructed oceanview - $1466 CAD solo
Inside - $1341 CAD solo

April 15, 2018 - 12-Night Transatlantic Cruise on Norwegian Breakaway
Balcony - $1457 CAD solo
Oceanview - $1256 CAD solo
Inside - $1055 CAD solo
Studio Inside (assigned cabin) - $1653 CAD solo + $50 USD SBC

May 14, 2018 - 4-Night Pacific Coastal Cruise on Explorer of the Seas
Inside virtual balcony - $1066 CAD solo

December 1, 2018 - 7-Night Mediterranean Cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas
Oceanview - $1745 CAD solo
Inside - $1434 CAD solo

December 8, 2018 - 10-Night South Pacific Cruise on Explorer of the Seas
Oceanview - $2266 CAD solo
Inside - $1756 CAD

If you see something you like, please contact me and I can send you more details.

PS. If you are interested in river cruising, we have a huge sale on until March 31 - and there are numerous opportunities for waived single supplements. Drop me a line!


About this newsletter: With so many solo travellers looking for affordable ways to travel, without the dreaded single supplement, I am always watching for specials. Periodically, when I have time, I summarize a few into an email to send to those who may be interested.

Want this news as soon as it comes out? Just email me with the word "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line. Actually, any email works fine. A human will read it (this one), not a bot.

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

NEW: Exodus Women-Only Departures

Happy International Women's Day!

Exodus Travels is celebrating by announcing their all new women-only small group tours.

Considering that 65% of their customers are women, it's a brilliant move.

Here's what landed in my inbox this morning:
Hi Globetrotter, 
It's an exciting time for women across the globe – from the #MeToo movement to a bigger emphasis on equality in the workplace, the world at large is recognizing the importance of female empowerment. In that spirit, Exodus is both proud and excited to announce the launch of some very special Women-Only Departures.
Travelers will be joined by a group of 4-16 like-minded females, from all walks of life. And the best part? We have a local female guide – meaning you’ll be creating more opportunities for women working in a traditionally male-dominated profession in many countries! 
Today, women of all ages and backgrounds are looking for safe spaces and seeking empowering experiences; they want to connect with women from all cultures and challenge themselves to go beyond their comfort zones on vacation as well as in day-to-day life to actively make a difference in the world.
Amalfi Coast vista
Exodus Travel has announced nine (9) women-only departures so far, spanning the globe from Europe and South America to Asia and the Middle East

I do expect this initial batch of departures to sell out, so let's hope there will be many more to come.

Which of these itineraries inspires you?
  • Journey to Persia, Mar 3-17, 2019 
  • Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama, Mar 30 - Apr 13, 2018 
  • Discover Myanmar, Sep 15-28, 2018 
  • Highlights of China, May 12-22, 2019 
  • Walking the French Riviera, Sep 29 - Oct 6, 2018 
  • Essential Peru, Oct 12-26, 2018 
  • Cycle Indochina & Angkor, Oct 14-27, 2018 
  • Discover Costa Rica, Nov 14-28, 2018 
  • Walking the Amalfi Coast, Nov 10-17, 2018

Interested? Contact me today for more information. I'd be delighted to help you join one of these adventures!

Fetlar, Shetland Islands

An inquiry this week led me to a spot on this planet that did not know even existed. A friend asked me what it might cost to visit Fetlar, Shetland. I was familiar with the Shetland Islands, of course, but I had never heard of Fetlar. Here's what I learned.

Fetlar is one of the North Isles of Shetland, Scotland.

Shetland, also called the Shetland Islands, is a subarctic archipelago that lies northeast of the island of Great Britain and forms part of Scotland in the United Kingdom.

The islands lie some 80 km (50 mi) to the northeast of Orkney, and 280 km (170 mi) southeast of the Faroe Islands. The Shetland Islands form part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean (to the west) and the North Sea (to the east). 15 of the 100+ islands are inhabited.

Fetlar Interpretive Centre and Leagarth House
Fetlar is the fourth largest island of Shetland and has an area of just over 4,000 hectares (15 sq mi), and is home to 61 residents (2011 census).

Human settlements on Fetlar can be traced back to the Stone Age. The Vikings colonized Fetlar 1,200 years ago, with Gruting rumoured to be the site of the first Norse landing in the Shetlands.

One of the strange features of Fetlar is a huge wall that goes across the island known as the Funzie Girt or Finnigirt Dyk.

There is an ancient stone circle on Fetlar named Hjaltadans. The Fairy Ring, as it is also known, consists of  38 stones (of which 22 are still fixed in the soil) set in an 11 metre (37 ft) in diameter ring. Inside this, thefe is an earthen ring 7.9 metres (26 ft) in diameter. In the center of the rings are two rectangular pillars.

The waters around Fetlar are sprinkled with an international selection of shipwrecks including Danish, Dutch, German, English and Soviet vessels.

The east of the island is part of the Shetland ophiolite complex (a section of the Earth's oceanic crust and the underlying upper mantle that has been uplifted and exposed above sea level).

If you visit in June or July, you may be able to spot a Red Necked Phalarope, one of Britain's rarest breeding birds. Serious birders can see these remarkably tame, brightly-coloured birds at very close quarters from the RSPB hide.

Fetland's main settlement is Houbie, located on the south coast. Houbie is home to the Fetlar Interpretive Centre, a great spot to learn about the 200+ species of wildflowers found on the island.

Back to the subject of how to get to Fetlar...

Getting to Fetlar means first getting to the port town of Lerwick, on Shetland's largest island, known simply as the "Mainland". You can travel by sea or air.
  • By sea: Daily overnight ferry operates service between Lerwick and Aberdeen.
  • By air: Lerwick is served by two airports: nearby Tingwall Airport (LWK) has flights to other Shetland islands (but not Fetlar), while Sumburgh Airport (LSI), further south, has year round service to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Kirkwall.
Lerwick's annual Up Helly Aa festival
From Lerwick, you can travel to Fetlar by ferry, either via Unst or Yell. A bit complicated to explain here, but you will find a good description on the Shetland Tourism website.

Tip: you'll probably wanr a car to explore the Shetlands. While you can bring one with you on the ferry from Aberdeen, car rentals are available on Mainland Shetland (just be sure to reserve ahead!).

About Fetlar - and how to get there - Shetland Tourism
The Shetland Times

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Goroka Show

This week I helped a couple book flights to Goroka to visit their daughter. They had timed their visit to take in the annual Goroka festival. The destination is so far off our radar that I had to get IT to add the Goroka Airport code (GKA) to our CRM in order to do my invoice! Needless to say, I was intrigued. Here's what I learned...

The Goroka Show is a well-known tribal gathering and cultural event in Papua New Guinea. It is a Sing-sing held every year close to the country's Independence Day (16 September) in the town of Goroka, the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province.

About 100 tribes arrive to show their music, dance and culture. The festival started in the mid-1950s as an initiative of Australian Kiaps. In recent years it has become a major attraction for both national and international tourists and remains the largest cultural event in Papua New Guinea despite similar shows now being organised in Mount Hagen and other cities around the country.

Creative Commons images Drew Douglas, kabl1992 on Flickr

Goroka Show website
Goroka Show - 1957 and 1958 (photos)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Transatlantic Picks

Want to visit Europe but can't bear the thought of flying? Why not sail one way on a transatlantic voyage?

You can sail on the
Norwegian Bliss on her
maiden voyage on April 21st!
Transatlantics can be a very affordable way to travel, as so many ships have to reposition each spring and fall that ships often sail with empty cabins. Don't expect a lot of extras onboard, but pricing is usually very favourable. To attract passengers, cruiselines will often sweeten the deal by tacking on extra days or unique ports of call.

Transatlantic Cruise Picks - this is a page on my website that I use to highlight my personal picks of transatlantic sailings.

My picks include a range of sailings, from unique itineraries and long sailings to budget friendly choices for solos and once-in-a-lifetime maiden voyages. 

As I write today's blog post, here's what's on my Transatlantic Cruise Picks page:

March 18, 2018: Koningsdam (213599) - 24 night Caribbean and transatlantic combo!

March 24, 2018: Windstar Star Breeze (215921) - try Windstar from Lisbon to Bridgetown!

April 15, 2018: Norwegian Breakaway (941905) - transatlantic with Cobh (Ireland) and Le Havre (France)

The Norwegian Jade's Sept 29/18 sailing includes an overnight 
stay in Reykjavik, Iceland - how cool does that sound?
April 20, 2018: Serenade of the Seas (982026) - transatlantic with Ponta Delgada, Cobh (Ireland) and Le Havre (France)

April 21, 2018: Norwegian Bliss (188493) - maiden voyage with Ponta Delgada

May 5, 2018: Prinsendam (177400) - sail to Dover with 2 ports in France

May 13, 2018: Disney Magic (191771) - a transatlantic is an affordable way to experience Disney's family luxury

June 30, 2018: Rotterdam (988700) - transatlantic with Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland & Labrador

July 18, 2018: Rotterdam (1030753) - transatlantic with Newfoundland & Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and Norway

August 24, 2018: Zuiderdam (201922) - a rare summer transatlantic!

September 29, 2018: Norwegian Jade (179826) - how does an overnight in Reykjavik sound?

3 of the 8 spare propeller blades carried
aboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2, the only true
oceanliner built for winter Atlantic crossings
October 2, 2018: Norwegian Breakaway (941922) - transatlantic with Cobh, Ireland

October 27, 2018: Oosterdam (200564) - visit Lisbon and Gibraltar on this transatlantic

November 4, 2018: Norwegian Epic (179875) - transatlantic with lots of solo cabins

November 5, 2018: Jewel of the Seas (981945) - transatlantic with Valencia, Lisbon and Ponta Delgada

November 5, 2018: Norwegian Star (184365) - great budget-friendly transatlantic

December 5, 2018: Nieuw Statendam (1004064) - maiden voyage with Malaga and Madeira

January 3, 2019: Queen Mary 2 (198893) - sail the Atlantic on the only true ocean liner at sea

April 21, 2019: Azamara Journey (194229) - nice small ship transatlantic, from New York to Lisbon

November 1, 2019: Celebrity Edge (224815) - great opportunity to sail on the revolutionary Edge with transatlantic pricing

Please contact me if you would like more information on these, or other transatlantic opportunities.
View of the quay near the busy Barcelona Cruise Port,
a popular embarkation port for westbound transatlantics

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Roberta's Picks

So many places to go, so little time... how do you pick cruises that bring you something truly unique? Have a look at my personal picks!

Roberta's Picks - this is a page on my cruise website - is where I post my personal picks for upcoming voyages.

Cruises on this list are unique in some way: a once-in-a-lifetime itinerary, a new port of call, a brand new ship during her maiden season, a rare visit by a ship to the West Coast, or even unique onboard guests (ask about these, you can't usually tell from the snapshots here).

As I write this blogpost today, here's what is on my Roberta Picks page:

April 15, 2018: Norwegian Breakaway (941905) - transatlantic with Cobh, Ireland and Le Havre, France

April 19, 2018: Norwegian Sun (1015164) - southbound Panama Canal from Seattle

April 21, 2018: Norwegian Bliss (970254) - brand new ship, maiden voyage!

April 21, 2018: Symphony of the Seas (979146) - brand new ship, maiden voyage!

Queen Victoria
June 24, 2018: Queen Victoria (848452) - circle Iceland from Hamburg

September 30, 2018: Norwegian Bliss (970283) - brand new ship, from Vancouver

December 16, 2018: Celebrity Edge (979732) - brand new ship, inaugural sailing!

May 21, 2019: Queen Elizabeth (1030000) - the first of 4 rare Cunard Alaska sailings

June 20, 2019: Queen Elizabeth (1035733) - cruise from Vancouver to Southampton!

If you're curious as to why I've listed something, or you are looking for something you can't find, please contact me.

Want to keep an eye on my picks on an ongoing basis? Take a moment to bookmark the Roberta's Picks page on my website now!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Peschiera del Garda

Peschiera del Garda, Italy
One of my favourite things to do is to research a destination for a client, especially when it has not even be identified!

In this case, my clients are a couple who will be disembarking their cruise in Rome (which they have visited before), and then taking the train to St. Moritz in Switzerland, to take the famous Glacier Express train to Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn (from there they will fly to Zurich, then home). Bucketlist stuff.

They want to break up the journey between Rome and St. Moritz with a night or 2 or 3 in an Italian town. They have already visited Florence and Venice, and were not interested in Milan, so asked for a smallish Italian town. I happened to also know that something that had been on their bucketlist, but they had let go of, was to spend a few days in a lakeside setting in Switzerland.

With this in mind, I decided to pick the brain of one of my colleagues, who just happens to be Italan. As travel agents cannot visit everywhere, we collaborate a lot, leaning on each others knowledge and travel experiences. In this case, Marina was my ace in the hole, having lived in Italy, and travelled the country extensively.

The little gem of a town she identified for me is named Peschiera del Garda, located on Lake Garda, near Verona. Population < 10,000. I'm so charmed that. Want to visit there myself.

The following is an excerpt from the blurb I wrote for my clients, to introduce them to Peschiera del Garda.

Lake Garda, Italy

There are small resort towns located all around Lake Garda. The largest lake in Italy the north of the lake is narrow and surrounded by mountains and is well known for its water sports and outdoor activities. The choice is endless, sailing, kite surfing, windsurfing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing etc. The south of the lake is wider and with gentle rolling hills. The south of the lake also has a warmer climate than extreme north end of the lake which is cooled by a strong breeze which rolls off the Dolomite mountain valley above Riva in the early afternoon.

All the resorts around the lake have different flavour and one of the great joys of a Lake Garda holiday is travelling around the by ferry or road to soak in the local ambiance. One thing all the towns share is immense civic pride which is reflected in high standards cleanliness, lack of graffiti and the politeness of the people.

Peschiera del Garda (pop. 9,995)

Peschiera is a small charming town at the south-eastern tip of the lake Garda. Its core is located at the inside of an old Austrian fortress, where the river Mincio – the main outlet of the lake – starts to flow by four branches which form beautiful canals crossing the old town.

Officially, Peschiera del Garda is a town and comune in the province of Verona, in Veneto, Italy. The comune is part of the Associazione Città del vino ("Association of Wine Cities").

Historically, when Lombardy-Venetia was under Austrian rule, Peschiera was the northwest anchor of the four fortified towns constituting the Quadrilatero. The fortress is on an island in the river Mincio at its outlet from Lake Garda. Roman Ardelica was a town of Gallia Transpadana that occupied the site of the modern Peschiera del Garda, at the southeast angle of the Lacus Benacus (Lago di Garda), just where the Mincius (modern Mincio) issued from the lake. The town is mentioned as Arilica in Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia.

The fortress at Peschiera played a prominent part in most military campaigns conducted in northern Italy after 1400, especially during the Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

Piazza Maestro Giulio Battistoni (at the town's centre). Peschiera is the major ferry harbour on the lake. There are connections from there to virtually all the destinations at the shores of the lake.

Peschiera del Garda railway station, opened in 1854, forms part of the Milan–Venice railway.

Main Sights

Castello Scaligero di Peschiera: the fortress and the external fortifications. Originally it was a 16th century fortress which is now a walled historical centre of the town. It's listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Santuario della Madonna del Frassino (Sanctuary of Madonna del Frassino) (1511). It houses works by Paolo Farinati and Zeno da Verona.

Palazzina del Comando del Presidio (Garrison Headquarters). Palazzina with other buildings of this small island form a military core of the Austrian fortress. There is a relatively quiet atmosphere around there compared to the touristy civic centre of the town.

Scavi Romani (Roman Excavations), Piazza Ferdinando di Savoia, 11-13 (near the Chiesa di San Martino). Remains of Roman buildings (foundations) excavated in 1981. There are not much to see there, but it's free.

Top 5 Hotels in Peschiera del Garda (TripAdvisor)
1. Enjoy Garda Hotel
2. Hotel Dori
3. Hotel Garden
4. Hotel Acquadolce
5. Le Ali del Frassino

Suggested resources
Peschiera del Garda Tourist Informatio