Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Virtual Vacation: Sydney, Nova Scotia



By: Katy DeHaven

For our next port in our Canada and New England series we are going to head back to Nova Scotia and the port of call of Sydney on Cape Breton Island. 


Founded by the British in 1785, it was incorporated into a city in 1904, however that was dissolved in 1995 and the area was amalgamated into a regional municipality. Sydney is the largest urban area on Cape Breton Island, and home to the island’s main port. It offers unique shops and services, historic sites and stunning scenery. Let’s take a look!

Did you know the world’s largest fiddle calls Sydney home? 


Located in front of the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion on the waterfront, standing at 18 meters tall the fiddle is hard to miss. It stands in tribute to the folk music and traditions of the province’s Celtic community. 

Built in 1787, Cossit House is one of the oldest buildings on the island. Through furniture, furnishings and costumed interpreters it celebrates the Gaelic culture and history of Nova Scotia. Hands-on activities like lace making, butter churning and weaving are also offered. For a peek at the home:  


Just around the corner, visit St. Patrick’s Church, the oldest Roman Catholic Church on the island, today it is a museum. The goal of the museum is to represent the religious history of the area. Built between 1828 and 1830 the church features hand-hewn beams, Gothic windows, cut stone around the windows and doors, a tower with cupola and dominating door openings. To learn about the church:




To learn more about the history of Cape Breton visit The Sydney Museum  which was originally known as The Cape Breton Centre for Heritage & Science. The museum offers permanent and travelling collections of exhibitions that demonstrate the heritage, culture and science of the area. The museum also offers an area just for kids called Discovery Corner. 

Visitors looking to bring back some local crafts from their trip should check out The Cape Breton Artisan Trail Map. Follow the trail to meet and learn about local artisans. There are painters, pottery designers, quilt makers, wood workers, jewelry makers, jam makers, chocolatiers, soap makers and more.

If you are a history buff in general or have an interest in history of the World War II era you will want to check out Fort Petrie Military Museum. The museum was originally one of seven fortifications located along Sydney Harbour to protect the harbor and convoys from military submarines during the Second World War. At that time Sydney was the home of the Royal Navy in the event of a German invasion of the British Isles. To learn more:



Just to the east of Sydney is The Cape Breton Miners’ Museum along the coast of Glace Bay. The museum is a tribute to the mining history of the region, and includes a tour of underground mines. Tours can be booked online, but you can also explore virtually:




Thirty minutes southeast from Sydney, is the town of Louisbourg and the world famous Fortress of LouisbourgThe French fortress was seized twice and helped create today’s Canada. Guided and self guided tours are available. There are also demonstrations in weaponry and puppet shows for kids. Learn more:




About an hour’s drive from Sydney is the town of Baddeck located at the beginning and end of the Cabot Trail. Here you will find the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Sitethe former home to the famous scientist and inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell. Baddeck also offers many popular outdoor activities including golfing at Bell Bay Golf Club, sailing, kayaking, nature tours, and horseback riding at Rocking Horse Ranch. To see more of the area check out this video

The Cabot Trail itself is a 185 mile loop around Cape Breton and considered one of the most scenic destinations in the world with its stunning views of the ocean, old-growth forests, prehistoric rock scarred by glaciers, and the mysterious Cape Breton Highlands. For the driver to have the easiest drive and to take in the views going in a clockwise direction makes the most sense. However counterclockwise is also good as the pullover spots are on the right side. To see some stunning footage of the area in the fall, click here

We hope you are enjoying this virtual series of Canada and New England cruise port of calls! 

COVID Travel: Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun All Inclusive Resort Tour

 



Now Sapphire is a family all inclusive resort in Puerto Morales, Mexico about 25 minutes south of the Cancun airport.  Now Sapphire was recently renovated and now offers a Splash Park, three water slides, and oceanfront swim up suites. The Now Sapphire oceanfront swim up suites are very unique. It's rare to find a true oceanfront swim up suite. Now Sapphire's open air lobby is a great space to socially distance and enjoy the evening ocean breezes. 


Take a look: 



Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Virtual Vacation: Portland, Maine

 

By: Katy DeHaven 


Jumping over to our next port of call from our Canada and New England cruise port series is Portland, ME

 

Portland is the largest city in Maine with a population of about 66,700. Include the metropolitan area and the population is closer to a half million, about 1/3 the population of the entire state. The city is known for its dedication to the arts, revered dining scene and the historic Old Port area. There are also secluded beaches and centuries old lighthouses to explore. Let’s check it out!

Angie spent a day in Portland as part of her Hurtigruten cruise. Check out her recommendations: 



The Old Port area is famous for the wide variety of shops, bars and restaurants. Visitors enjoy wandering the streets while simultaneously taking in the sights and sound of the boats in the bay and the ocean. For a look at the Old Port area, check out this video: 


 

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971, the Victoria Mansion, also known as the Morse-Libby House is a classic example of American residential architecture from the 19th century. The brownstone exterior and elaborate interior design combined with the early technological advances in the home provide a detailed portrait of lavish living from the time period. To learn about the home and its previous owners, please click here


 

For a bird’s eye view of the area visit the Portland Observatory. This is the last standing maritime signal tower in America and it was used in the 1800s to monitor ships nearby. Today it is a museum, and admission is free of charge. To learn more about The Portland Observatory, click here

 

The Portland Head Light is the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine. Unfortunately visitors cannot go inside the lighthouse itself, but they can take lots of photos and visit the nearby museum. The lighthouse is adjacent to Fort Williams Park which offers picnic facilities, hiking, sports and recreation areas, historic structures and beautiful ocean views. 

 

Explore the Casco Bay Islands, a group of islands located just off the coast, six of which are accessible by ferry year-round. Great Diamond Island is home to the historic Fort McKinley and is lauded for its quintessential Maine landscape. Cars are not allowed, so walking, biking and golf carts are the modes of transportation to get around. Stay for the weekend at the Inn at Diamond Cove, which offers many activities and dining options. Nearby Chebeague Island offers a storied history. The island is known for its stone sloppers - men that transported construction materials for 19th century ships, as well as the granite for the Washington Monument. Peaks Island features cafes, shops, museums and galleries in addition to beaches. 

 

A popular excursion in Casco Bay is a Maine Lobster Boat Tour. Guests enjoy learning about a day in the life of a Maine Lobsterman and what it takes to bring in the haul. Check out this video to learn more. 

 


Fans of trains will enjoy a visit to The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum. The collection consists of passenger and freight equipment, as well as artifacts from the 2 ft narrow gauge railways that ran in the state of Maine in the late 19th and early 20th century. Train rides on a historic two-foot gauge railroad are also offered. To see some of the trains in action, click here.

 


If you have a few days in the area consider a visit to the Portland Museum of Art, the oldest public art institution in Maine. The collection includes more the 22,000 pieces of art dating from the 18th century until present. To learn more, click here

 

One of my favorite things about traveling is trying the local cuisine. For some food and restaurant recommendations in Portland check out this video…...

 

….and for a wonderful general overview of the city and its history, click here


Virtual Vacation: Montreal, Canada


 By: Katy DeHaven

Continuing our Canada & New England cruise port-of-call series we are going to head west of Quebec City and check out Montreal. Montreal most often appears on cruise itineraries as an embarkation and/or debarkation port, which is nice because you can tack on a few days before or after your cruise vacation to explore the city.  

Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and the largest in the province of Quebec. The city is considered the number one host city in North America for International events. The city is home to the famous Cirque de Soleil, hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and also hosted Expo 67, the most successful world’s fair in the 20th century. French is the official language here, but pretty much everyone is bilingual in English and French. 

 

The centerpiece of the city is the summit and surroundings of Mount Royal. At 692 acres this expansive city park offers sightseeing in every direction, forested pathways, picnicking in the summer, and skating, skiing or sliding in the winter. Enjoy this virtual fall hike through the park.



 

Just a few blocks from the park is the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) which was founded in 1860. It is the largest art museum in Canada by gallery space, and the permanent collection includes over 44,000 works. The museum also offers exhibitions on tour, and special programming for children. To check out some of the works of art within the museum click here

 


Check out Montreal’s Underground City, most of the downtown area is interconnected by underground paths so you don’t have to go out on a rainy day or during the cold in the winter. The tunnels form a whole new city with shopping malls, parking lots, restaurants and even fountains. Check out this map of the area. 

 


Considered to be one of the most important botanical gardens in the world due to its extensive collections and facilities, the Montreal Botanical Gardens is comprised of 75 hectares of thematic gardens and greenhouses. In addition the Botanical Gardens offer fun and unique programming year round for children and families. For a wonderful tour of the gardens, please click here

 


Guided tours are available of Parc Olympique the multi-purpose stadium where the 1976 Olympic Games was held. In addition to hosting tours, the site is still used today for sporting and other events. The Montreal Tower is also part of the complex, at 165 meters it is the tallest inclined tower in the world. It has an 45-degree awe-inspiring angle, which is particularly amazing when you consider the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s tilt is only 5 degrees. 

 

Take a street art tour of Saint-Laurent and its accompanying alleyways. View graffiti art from artists both recognized and raw. The area is also known for it food, expanded bar terraces and street fairs. Click here to explore Mural Fest 2020.

 


Wander the cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal. The area was established in the 17th century by the first settlers of New France. Today you will find some of the cities best restaurants, shopping, historic structures and many attractions. Here you will also find Montreal’s oldest Catholic Church, Notre-Dame Basilica. The church is know for its intricately designed interior, which includes stained glass chronicling the city’s history. For a tour and to learn more, click here

 


Visit the Montreal Biodome, an indoor zoo and aquarium which hosts recreations of four different ecosystems in North America, plus some Sub-Antarctic Islands. The structure was originally built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, housing the judo and cycling events. Today it is home to more than 200 different animal species and 500 different plant species. The Biodome just underwent a two-year renovation, click here to learn more about the project and here for a peak inside.  

 


Fans of Cirque du Soleil will surely want to see a show in the city where it all began, coming in the Spring of 2021 is Under the Same Sky, Cirque du Soleil’s newest show. Pre-COVID tours were very, very limited, and currently they are canceled, but you can check out this visit to the International Headquarters of Cirque du Soleil in Montreal. 

 

To try some classic Montreal fare head to this combination of distinctive neighborhoods, Mile End, the Plateau and the McGill Ghetto. This area is known to have the best of the best in signature dishes; Fairmount and St-Viateur for fresh bagels, Schwartz’s for Montreal-style meat, and La Banquise for poutine. Begin or end you food tour with a stop at Wilensky’s for their Light Lunch. Check out this video for some other sweet treats and see how the St-Viateur makes their bagels, the 30 different options of Poutine available at La Banquise and how Schwartz’s smokes their meat. 

 For a great overview of the city watch this video and for a peak of what the city looks like during the holiday season click here


Monday, October 5, 2020

Best Punta Cana All Inclusive Resort

 



This video has the best all inclusive resorts in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We'll check out resorts in Cap Cana, Uvero Alto and Bavaro Beach.

Cap Cana is a private community located very close to the Punta Cana airport. You can be from the airport to the resort in 10 - 15 minutes. The best all inclusive Cap Cana resorts are Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana and Sanctuary Cap Cana.

Uvero Alto is further from the Punta Cana airport - about 35 minutes. Uvero Alto is more secluded with tan sand and stronger currents. If you like waves, you'll like this area better than Bavaro. The best all inclusive resorts in Uvero Alto are Nickelodeon Punta Cana and Now Onyx. 

Bavaro Beach is the best beach area in Punta Cana. This area has white sand beaches.  These beaches can be more crowded than the Uvero Alto area. The best all inclusive resorts on Bavaro Beach are Iberostar Grand Bavaro Beach and Majestic Mirage.

Best Jamaica All Inclusive Resort

 





This video highlights the best all inclusive resorts in Montego Bay/ Rose Hall, Negril and Ocho Rios.

 Montego Bay and Rose Hall are areas closest to the Montego Bay airport. This is the north coast of Jamaica. The area has some of the larger resorts. The best all inclusive resorts in Rose Hall are Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall and Jewel Grande.

 Negril is the home to Seven Mile Beach.  The best all inclusive Negril resorts are located about an hour and a half from the Montego Bay airport. The best all inclusive Negril resorts are Azul Negril and Sunset at the Palms.

 Ocho Rios is Jamaica's home base for adventure. This is the area you want to stay in if you love excursions. The best all inclusive Ocho Rios resorts are Moon Palace Jamaica and Sandals Royal Plantation.



Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Virtual Vacation: Quebec City, Quebec

 



By Katy DeHaven

Continuing our look at ports of call found on Canada and New England itineraries we are next going to take a look at Québec City, Québec, Canada. 

 

Québec City is one of the largest and most expensive cities in Canada, most of the residents speak French and only about 1.5 percent of the population speaks English. The city is known for the world-famous Château Frontenac, a château-style hotel in historic Old Québec, built by the Pacific Railroad Company in 1893. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1981. The city is also known for its European architecture and fortifications. The city is considered to be a piece of Europe in Canada. If you get a chance to visit this beautiful city make sure to try the local cuisine!