Sunday, December 3, 2017

Underground Montreal


Friends Luc Le Blanc and Daniel Caron spend much of their free time in Montreal exploring below ground in the city's Saint-Léonard Cavern. The cave is a registered historic site, with restricted access and guided tours.

The cavers had the surprise of their lives in October when they knocked through a limestone wall and uncovered the entrance to an immense second cave. Well, it wasn't a total surprise ~ they had been 'dowsing' , looking for water and a larger cave ~ but it was definitely an exciting discovery.

The Cavernicole Cave (or la caverne de Saint-Léonard) is a cave located underneath Pius XII Park (Parc Pie-XII) in the borough of Saint-Leonard in Montreal. It is a registered historic site with restricted access and guided tours.

A little history:
  • The cave was first discovered in 1812.
  • During the Patriote Rebellion of 1837, it served as an armoury, weapons cache, and hidey-hole for Les Patriotes.
  • In 1968, the government deemed it a safety risk and closed off the cave.
  • In 1978, the Quebec Speleology Society reopened the cave for study.
  • It was subsequently declared a historic landmark, and guided tours were set up.

Until the recent discovery, the cave was thought to be relatively small, at 35 metres long and 8 metres deep. The second cave, hidden behind a limestone wall, is a massive 250 metres long.

This week, Luc and Daniel are getting their 15 minutes, as their discovery was disclosed to the general public.

Entrance to the public cave

Recent news highlights:
Spelunkers discover 15,000-year-old cavern in St-Léonard park
'This is a major discovery': Explorers find massive ice-age cavern beneath Montreal
Ice Age-Era Caves Discovered Under Montreal

Information on exploring the public cave:
Show Caves of Canada, Cavernicole de Saint-Léonard
The Secret Montreal Cave You Can Visit And Explore, Mtl Blog

Did you know you can visit Montreal on a cruise? Check out these Canada New England cruises from Montreal, or contact me for sailings to Montreal.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Top 5 Solo Picks - November 14, 2017

BRRRRR...!

Does the turn in the weather have you thinking of sunshine?

In case you missed it, be sure to read my recent blog post on Caribbean cruise deals (and be especially cautious about sailings from San Juan, as flights and hotels are still a problem): Are post-hurricane cruises really a great deal?

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.

November 19, 2017 - 7 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale on the Eurodam
Balcony - $1315 CAD solo
Obstructed oceanview - $953 CAD solo
Inside - $898 CAD solo

November 25, 2017 - 8 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale on the Freedom of the Seas
Balcony - $2045 CAD solo
Oceanview - $1383 CAD solo
Promenade View - $1221 CAD solo
Inside - $1086 CAD solo

December 1, 2017 - 8 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale on the Crown Princess
Obstructed oceanview - $1299 CAD solo
Inside - $1179 CAD solo

December 3, 2017 - 12 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from New York on the Norwegian Breakaway
Balcony - $1883 CAD solo
Oceanview - $1582 CAD solo
Inside - $1441 CAD solo

December 9, 2017 - 7 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from Port Canaveral on the Norwegian Epic
Inside "studio"- $913 CAD solo

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

PS. I do all types of travel, so if you are thinking of an all-inclusive resort package, I'm happy to help.

Cheers,
Roberta

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.

Want more?
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cruisetravelbug
"Like" my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cruisewithroberta
Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertawestwood/
Request a quote: https://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/en-CA/RobertaWestwood/contact

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Top 5 Solo Picks - October 14, 2017

As a solo traveller, you may be eyeing the latest Caribbean cruise deals and thinking that this might be a good time to find a good solo fare. You'd be right, but there are a few pitfalls to avoid. Learn more in my recent blog post, Are post-hurricane cruises really a great deal? Happy reading!

For those of you who like short Pacific Coastal sailings, there are actually two (2) 3-night sailings via Vancouver this winter (we don't normally see ships between November and April). The Star Princess will be going into drydock in BC, so you can sail on her:
  • northbound on November 29th - you'll be the last person to sail in your cabin pre-refit, but don't tell me about your souvenirs!
  • southbound on December 16th - followed by some California sun, or perhaps a Mexico or Hawaii cruise?
  • better yet, sail on both, and compare the differences!
  • I've included both sailings in my Top 5 list below


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.

October 29, 2017 - 7 night Bahamas cruise sailing roundtrip from New York on the Norwegian Breakaway
Balcony - $1137 CAD solo
Oceanview - $895 CAD solo
Inside - $695 CAD solo

November 4, 2017 - 7 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip San Juan on the Celebrity Summit
Oceanview - $970 CAD solo
Inside - $879 CAD solo

November 29, 2017 - 3 night Pacific Coastal cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver on the Star Princess
Balcony - $495 CAD solo
Obstructed oceanview - $423 CAD solo

December 16, 2017 - 3 night Pacific Coastal cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles on the Star Princess
Balcony - $664 CAD solo

January 6, 2018 - 5 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from Miami on the Empress of the Seas
Oceanview - $988 CAD solo
Inside - $854 CAD solo

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

Cheers,
Roberta

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.

Want more?
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cruisetravelbug
"Like" my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cruisewithroberta
Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertawestwood/
Request a quote: https://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/en-CA/RobertaWestwood/contact

Friday, October 13, 2017

Are post-hurricane cruises really a great deal?

As you might imagine, there are excellent deals on Caribbean cruises at the moment.

And don't feel bad about taking advantage of the deals; the islands need your tourism dollar!

Before you leap though, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Itineraries are in flux - You should expect ports so ports of call to change. All cruiselines have been scrambling to replace visits to now-closed ports (such as St. Thomas and St. Maarten). But even the new itineraries are not etched in stone; to support local economies you should expect further itinerary changes as ports re-open.

Sailings may change or cancel - As cruiselines continue to adjust the new realities, sailings may be cancelled, as ships are redeployed to more popular gateways, or for truly unforeseen circumstances. A case in point: mere days after modifing itineraries and ensuring supports were in place to support the Carnival Fascination to continue sailing from San Juan, and announcing confirmed details, Carnival received a request from FEMA to charter the ship for 3 months to support relief efforts in the US Virgin Islands. Always ready to support the community and to help in any way possible, Carnival granted the request.

Hotel availability may be limited - In San Juan, for example, there are hotels that are closed that still have reservations on their books (I discovered this recently when I called a hotel directly), while others are overbooked (as demonstrated by the hotel that called me directly to see if my clients were still travelling). This is also a bit of an issue in larger port cities, such as Miami, as a number of displaced Florida residents are still housed in area hotels.

Flight schedules are subject to change - Airlines survive based on passenger loads, and they can't afford to service areas hit hard by hurricanes, at least not to the same levels. Case in point: my clients who had booked their November cruise from San Juan back in the spring, found themselves without flights when WestJet cut service until early in the new year. Not only did they need to find new flights, airfares would undoubtedly be higher, and availability limited as planeloads of people all need to rebook.

Does all that cause you to think twice about travelling?

If you want a specific itinerary, perhaps this isn't the best time to go... or if the very thought of changes to your planned vacation stresses you out, maybe you should make other plans.

However, if you need some sun, and are flexible, these low fares offer fabulous getaway opportunities.

If you want to go, here are a few tips to help things go more smoothly:
  • This is a good time to work with a travel agent, even if that's not your usual way of doing things. Your travel agent can put that great deal on hold long enough for you to confirm that all the other parts of your trip can be planned.
  • Ask your travel agent for a quote on flights, and while the seats are on hold, check out hotel availability. Booking your flights with a travel agent also means you have someone to help you if something goes sideways.
  • Book hotels with refundable rates. While the price may be lower with a non-refundable rate, and you may be determined to go, things can change. Why not pay $20 more than risk holding the bag on a hotel room in a city you won't be visiting afterall?
  • More than ever, it is important to travel with trip cancellation an interruption insurance!
  • Travel lightly and be organized.
  • Carry snacks, extra medications and reading materials, as well as a cellphone.
  • Pack a sense of humour, and remember that travel is an adventure!

Feel free contact me for more information or a quote. I'd be pleased to help!

Related resources
Caribbean cruise deals
Travel insurance
Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights - Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Orkney Islands' Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar in the Orkney Islands
Inspired by a Lonely Planet article, Stinge Henge: eight alternative ancient stone monuments, I  have been learning about the Ring of Brodgar.

Most henges don't actually not contain stone circles; but Brodgar is a striking exception. It ranks with Avebury and, to a lesser extent, Stonehenge, among the greatest of such sites.  It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Also known as Brogar, or Ring o' Brodgar, the henge  is situated about 10 kilometres (6 miles) north-east of the village of Stromness, on Mainland Island, in Orkney, Scotland. Mainland is the largest of the Orkney Islands, and the ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between Loch Harray and LochStenness and Harray.

It is thought that the monument was erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, which would make it the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness. Flint arrowheads found nearby seem to date from the Bronze Age. An excavation was undertaken in 2008 to settle the age issue, but they are still digging through the results, so to speak.

The Ring of Brodgar stone circle is 104 metres (341 feet) in diameter, the third largest in the British Isles.

While today only 27 stones remain standing, the ring originally comprised up to 60 stones. The tallest stones stand at the south and west sides of the ring. The famed "Comet Stone" stands on the southeast side. Unlike similar structures such as Avebury, there are no obvious stones inside the circle.

Part of a concentration of ancient sites, and the northernmost circle henge in Britain, the Ring of Brodgar is part of a significant ritual landscape.

Within 5.2 square kilometres (2 square miles) there are the two circle-henges, four chambered tombs, groups of standing stones, single stones, barrows, cairns, and mounds.

The Ring of Brodgar has been recognized as part of the "Heart of Neolithic Orkney" World Heritage Site in 1999. Others sites include in the designation includes Maeshowe, Skara Brae and the Standing Stones of Stenness.


Related resources

Stinge Henge: eight alternative ancient stone monuments - LonelyPlanet
The Boy with the Bronze Axe - Kathleen Fidler*

* the 1968 novel depicts the Ring of Brodgar as a male-only space in which a lamb is sacrificed in a midsummer ceremony


Friday, September 15, 2017

Top 5 Solo Picks - September 15, 2017

A number of cruilines aided in IRMA rescue effort
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller

We have all watched the devastation of hurricane Irma with concern and sadness, so a bit of context for the Caribbean sailings you will see listed. As hurricane recovery continues, be aware that itineraries may change. While some ports are closed, others may have their cruise infrastructure restored faster than you might imagine. The islands depend on tourism, so cruise visitors will be welcomed. If you're flexible, you can get a great deal AND make a difference with your travel dollars.

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.

October 10, 2017 - 12 night repositioning cruse from Quebec City to Fort Lauderdale on the Zuiderdam
Obstructed oceanview - $1420 CAD solo
Inside - $1397 CAD solo

October 21, 2017 - 10 night repositioning cruise from New York to Fort Lauderdale on the Regal Princess
Balcony - $1329 CAD solo
Inside - $1199 CAD solo

October 22, 2017 - 6 night repositioning cruise from New York to San Juan on the Celebrity Summit
Obstructed oceanview - $1015 CAD solo

November 4, 2017 - 7 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from San Juan on the Celebrity Summit
Balcony - $1706 CAD solo
Obstructed oceanview - $1235 CAD solo

November 25, 2017 - 7 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale on the Nieuw Amsterdam
Balcony - $1724 CAD solo
Obstructed oceanview - $1052 CAD solo
Inside - $1013 CAD solo

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

Cheers,
Roberta

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.

Want more?
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cruisetravelbug
"Like" my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cruisewithroberta
Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertawestwood/
Request a quote: https://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/en-CA/RobertaWestwood/contact

Sunday, September 10, 2017

4 Royal Caribbean ships providing aid

The Adventure of the Seas, just one Royal Caribbean ship providing aid
Details are emerging on how Royal Caribbean is responding to the crisis in the Caribbean caused by hurricane Irma.

Two ships, the Adventure of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas, are carrying supplies into disaster zones, and carrying evacuees out. Both ships are headed to St. Maarten at this time. The Majesty will also call at St. Thomas.

Two more Royal Caribbean ships, the Empress of the Seas and the Enchantment of the Seas, have also been made available to assist in rescue and relief missions in Florida as needed.

These fully staffed ships, loaded with provisions for now cancelled cruises, are well poised to make a huge difference to thousands.

Awesome stuff Royal Caribbean.