Ensemble Vacations - Winter 2020

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WINTER 2020-2021

We Can’t Wait to Travel Again Explore Popular Destinations in the Caribbean Discover Unique Places Closer to Home Europe by Land and Sea


What You Need to Travel Safely Now

We are eager to help you travel again, safely exploring beautiful wonders of the world, creating new memories and enjoying life at its best. Relieve the anxiety of planning your vacation and focus on dreaming of and discovering where you will go. Our trusted travel advisors will provide unbiased recommendations, guide you through the new safety protocols, design your customized travel itinerary, and help you navigate your journey from start to finish.

Your next destination


We’re here for you— before, during and after your travels. Our Promise: To be your inspiration, insider knowledge, advice, answers, and right hand. A reliable relationship so you’re never traveling alone. Stress-free travel so you can enjoy your vacation. Personalized service and experiences unique to you. Exclusive deals, custom touches, and warm welcomes. With our expertise, we’re here to be your connection to the world.

Editor’s Letter Remember when hopping on a plane was something you did without a lot of thought? That wasn’t so long ago. I miss those days. This year has been one full of life lessons and challenges. And we’ve definitely developed a new appreciation for the little things in life – eating in a restaurant, being able to travel wherever/whenever our hearts desired, greeting friends and family, and connecting with people we meet on our journeys. I think now about how much we have taken travel for granted, how it’s essential for nurturing the soul and relieving some of the stress from our lives. I’ve visited more than 55 countries and done some extraordinary things, from seeing the Northern Lights in Manitoba, to tracking elephants in Kenya and cruising down the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar with glittering golden temples dotted along the shoreline. Yet, I still have many places I’d like to visit. I figured I’d get to them some day. I wasn’t in a rush because I always presumed that I could go any time I pleased. Well, 2020 has taught everyone who loves to travel that making such assumptions is foolhardy. Being able to explore the world is an extraordinary gift that we didn’t truly appreciate until COVID hit and threw a monkey wrench into our travel plans. My partner, Brian, and I were going to get married in Maui in October. We postponed until 2021 and feel confident all will go as planned. There are a lot of reasons to feel good about travelling again – many

of them are highlighted in this issue of Vacations magazine. I think the travel industry has a new appreciation for those people who stay in their hotels, book flights, cruises and holiday packages and tourists who come to eat in their restaurants. They are committed to ensuring we stay safe as their guests. Airlines, cruise companies, resorts and hotels have responded to COVID in extraordinary ways. They’ve not only upped their cleaning and sanitation protocols, but they’ve also introduced new policies that allow guests to have more flexibility about when and how we travel and additional ways to keep us healthy. This bodes well for the future. What’s on your travel horizon? This publication is packed from cover to cover with inspiring stories about where to go next and what you should to expect. From the lush greenness of Ireland to Portugal’s Alentejo wine region and the stunning Azores, to a wellness vacation in Jamaica and new sustainable practices in the Dominican Republic, we’ve presented a world of ideas to get you dreaming about your next trip. Plus you’ll find ideas on how to explore more of our own country whether you’re looking for a Quebec ski holiday or wideopen spaces and wild adventures in the Yukon. Dream big and dust off your suitcase! This is a great time to plan and to book your future travels with an Ensemble Travel advisor. Michele Sponagle editor@ensembletravel.ca

Vacations® is proud to be NATJA’s (North American Travel Journalists Association) 2017 Gold Award Winner in the Travel Magazine category.

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WELCOME TO THE NEW DIGITAL EDITION OF VACATIONS MAGAZINE. In this issue you can view videos about the new safety protocols, meet travel industry experts and discover recipes from around the world. We have included many interactive features to experience travel from home and hopefully inspire you to travel again, when the time feels right for you. Look for these icons inside the magazine:






Click on them and get access to a variety of videos to watch without leaving the publication.

Sit down, relax and enjoy the ride in our new “virtual” magazine!

Featured Contributors MARK CHESNUT Mark Chesnut is a New York City-based journalist, editor and public speaker with more than 20 years of experience. The 2019 winner of the NLGJA Excellence in Travel Writing Award, Mark has written for Fodor’s, Forbes Travel Guide, Huffington Post, Miami Herald, Orbitz, Travel + Leisure Mexico, the New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, and the inflight magazines of Aeromexico, American Airlines and Avianca. He writes a monthly column for Global Traveler magazine, covers Latin America in his travel blog LatinFlyer.com and regularly contributes to travel trade publications, such as Travel Weekly and TravelAge West.

TIM JOHNSON Born and raised in Peterborough, ON, Tim Johnson has visited 145 countries on all seven continents, always in search of really good stories. He has slaked his thirst with fermented camel’s milk in Mongolia, walked with wild lions in Botswana, taken the Trans-Siberian Railway across frozen landscapes during the coldest winter in a decade, and descended to the frigid ocean floor onboard a submarine in Antarctica. He has written about it for CNN Travel, Bloomberg Pursuits, New Yorker, National Geographic, The Globe and Mail, BBC Travel, NBC/Universal, Robb Report, Delta Sky, Reader’s Digest, PostMedia, AFAR, Toronto Star, and many others.

THERESA STORM Theresa Storm’s four-month solo island-hopping adventure through the Caribbean 26 years ago ignited a passion to explore our incredible world. Back home in Calgary, itchy feet soon led to a career writing about and photographing her travels worldwide. Thanks to the Irish blood coursing through her veins, she long harboured the notion of walking in the footsteps of her ancestors. Along with her mother, two aunts and an uncle, the family made its first return trip to their Irish homeland since her paternal great-great-grandparents emigrated to New Brunswick in 1834.

JANICE TOBER Based in Winnipeg, MB, Janice Tober is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer who specializes in food and wine, bar culture, hotels, spas, architecture and design. She is also the executive editor of Hotel-Addict.com. Her work has been featured in many top media outlets, including Lonely Planet, Trivago, Bravo TV, iExplore and more. As well, she is a former contributing editor for CNT’s HotelChatter.

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10 Winter 2020 Detours 10

TRAVEL NEWS What to Look for in 2021 and Beyond


PACKING LIST Travel Gear to be Safe but Also Comfortable.



Covid Safety 14

Airplane Cleanliness—the New First Class


What is the All-Inclusive Resort Experience Like Now?


What Should Passengers Expect When Cruising Returns?




Exploring the Yukon Territory’s Wide-Open Spaces

Charlevoix’s Meteoric Rise


Touring the Canadian Rockies


Work, Stay, Play


Canada’s Love Affair with Cancun Continues


Travelling with Purpose in the Dominican Republic



Take a Wellness Break in Jamaica




Small wonders, Big Experience: 7 Reasons You’ll Love River Cruising


Portugal by Land and Sea: Discovering Alentejo and the Azores


Authentic Ireland, from Castle Stays to Dramatic Cliffs

Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021 • 7 CHARLEVOIX’S METEORIC RISE

P er fect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas




Perfect Day at CocoCay may be miles from mainland — but it’s nowhere near mainstream. It’s a place your family will encounter endless ways to fill your day with memory making and one-of-a-kind experiences at every turn. Like next level thrills including the tallest waterslide in North America and the Caribbean’s largest wave pool. Or spaces that take relaxation to the max, like the Floating Cabanas of Coco Beach Club, the largest freshwater pool in The Bahamas, and more. And the adventure starts before you even arrive onboard the boldest ships at sea — that deliver your most remarkable and safest vacation yet. Come Seek the Royal Caribbean ®.

Due to evolving health protocols, some imagery and messaging may not accurately reflect current onboard and destination offerings, or the public health standards and government requirements that modify or limit these offerings. Onboard and destination experiences, features, itineraries, and guest conduct rules vary by ship and destination and are subject to change without notice. Perfect Day, CocoCay and Come Seek are registered trademarks of Royal Caribbean. ©2020 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Ships’ registry: The Bahamas. 20074864 • 11/09/20

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Winter 2020 Credits PUBLISHER Ensemble Travel® Group

EDITOR IN CHIEF Michele Sponagle





Debra Loew Jim Byers Stéphanie Bishop Johanna Read Kate Robertson Mark Chesnut Mark Stachiew Renée S. Suen Janice Tober Donna Heiderstadt Martha Chapman Tim Johnson Theresa Storm



Bertrand Richer Fleur de Lysée



David R. Harris Carl Schmitt Franca Iuele

Winter Vacations 2020 Ensemble Travel® Group. Ensemble Vacations®, Ensemble® Experiences, Ensemble® Exclusive, Ensemble® Hosted Cruises, Ensemble® Villas & Vacation Homes, Ensemble® On Location and Ensemble® Hotel & Resort Collection are all proprietary trademarks of Ensemble Travel® Group. No part of this publication may be reprinted or otherwise duplicated without written permission of the publisher. Ensemble Vacations® is published four times per year on behalf of Ensemble Travel® Group member agencies.

ENSEMBLE VACATIONS® 69 Yonge Street, Suite 1403 Toronto, ON M5E 1K3 (416) 367-3660


TICO #50022140 Registration Numbers: vary by agency Cover image: Getty Images ©SHansche Photos by Getty Images unless stated otherwise.


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TRAVEL NEWS What to Look for in 2021 and Beyond With new safety protocols in place and a lot of new options, it finally feels like vacations might be in our future plans. GLOBUS & COSMOS PRIVATE TOURING AND SMALL GROUP DISCOVERIES Starting in 2021 Globus and Cosmos are getting ready to launch smaller escorted tour groups and private touring packages. The Small-Group Discovery vacations in Europe and North America will be available on every tour. With an average of just 24 guests, these special departures promise travellers extra space while enjoying fascinating sites across the globe. Whether hiking the terraces of Machu Picchu, on safari through South Africa, roaming the ruins in Rome, or enjoying the great outdoors here in Canada, travellers will be in good company, thanks to our Small-Group Discoveries. For those seeking a more intimate experience, there is the option of the Globus and Cosmos Private Touring Program for parties of two or more guests that allows you to pick your travel companions. These tours are the perfect option for multi-generational families or even friends travelling together.

PRINCESS CRUISES TRULY TOUCHLESS EXPERIENCES A Princess MedallionClass vacation takes service to the next level with unique experiences that help you get more from your vacation. It all begins with your OceanMedallion, a quarter-sized, wearable device that enables everything from faster boarding, to the ability to locate your loved ones around the ship, to whatever you need delivered! MedallionClass cruising is all about making vacations effortless. Turns out, the leading-edge technology behind the smart ships helps reduce physical contact, too. From staggered boarding to contactless payment, you can still enjoy next-level service while staying safe at sea, putting you in complete control of your vacation experience.

OCEANIA CRUISES SOUTH AMERICAN CULINARY DISCOVERY VOYAGE IN ROATAN HONDURAS. An authentic and eco-friendly culinary experience, this tour immerses you in Roatan’s unique gastronomic scene, marked by a fusion of rich influences from Africa, Spain and Central America. Visit the Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum for insider access to the indigenous gardens and hydroponic greenhouse, plus learn all about seasonal exotic fruit such as nispero and coco plum and the harvesting of local cashews. Back on board at The Culinary Center, partake in a cooking class with a well-known local chef to master a few special recipes made with the famed Roatan pink shrimp followed by a delicious island-fresh lunch with dessert.

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AUTO EUROPE: DISCOVER EUROPE IN A MOTORHOME One of the major perks of renting a motorhome or RV is convenience. There’s plenty of room to accommodate larger families. In terms of comfort, the motorhomes our partners offer come fully equipped with all the modern conveniences travellers are looking for. There is plenty of room to relax, ample storage space for food, clothing and other luggage, as well as comfortable beds. Eat dinner and play a board game with your family, and then take a hot shower before turning in for the night. A motorhome rental provides the freedom to experience Europe from an angle many other travellers will never see. Europe harbours approximately 3,000 campgrounds for RVs and campervans.


Did you know you can save 30% on your vacation? Please call one of our agents today for details.


OUR SAFE WITH SUNWING COMMITMENT. Our number one priority is ensuring your health and safety. That's why our Safe with Sunwing commitment is in place throughout your entire vacation journey as you get back to safe and responsible travel. We are also partnered with global healthcare leader Medcan, whose experts advise on the Safe with Sunwing program and provide ongoing support for customer and employee health and safety. As the only travel provider that owns the airline that customers fly on, the transfer buses that travel to and from hotels, and a chain of Canadian-owned Royalton Luxury Resorts throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico, we can ensure that the highest Canadian health and safety standards are in place every step of the way.

Toronto departures. Savings were calculated comparing current price to originally published rate. Not combinable with any other promotion or added value. Seats are subject to availability and are capacity controlled. Flights are with Sunwing Airlines, Air Canada and TUI Airways. Offer is subject to change or can be withdrawn at any time without prior notice. For full booking terms and conditions visit Sunwing.ca. 27 Fasken Drive Toronto. Ont. M9W 1K6 ON Reg# 2476582 | #4276176 | 12012020



As we are all looking forward to start travelling again, we are also mindful that we still need to be hyper vigilant about taking the necessary steps to be safe but also comfortable as COVID-19 is still with us. Here are some new products to help you do just that. REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE Many reusable water bottles expose the drinking spout, and some even require you to touch it to operate. Similar to a facial covering, a covered drinking spout protects against germs. The Nomader® Collapsible Water Bottle is specially equipped with a hygienic leakproof screw-cap cover which lifts up to provide drinking access, and securely closes over the spout in between use. Lightweight with a 650 mL capacity, this innovative water bottle rolls up to save space, includes a durable carry strap, handles hot and cold drinks, and comes with a lifetime warranty.

PERSONAL PROTECTION MIST Before and after visiting public places, you can use the Elina Organics Personal Protection Mist on yourself, your belongings, and surfaces you are going to touch. This sanitizing and purifying mist is created from food-grade ingredients to protect you from pathogens that you could get on your hair, clothes, shoes, or even accessories. The powerful combination of organic grain alcohol, colloidal copper, and silver is reported to destroy pathogens. Frankincense essential oil is also a great antiseptic with a blissful aroma.


PHONE SANITIZER Even if you clean your hands regularly and try to avoid touching things when out in public, your phone is still a bacteria hotspot. Think of all the places you’ve put it down! Keep it germ-free on the go with PhoneSoap’s travel phone sanitizer that cleans and sanitizes your phone while it charges.

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As the seats and headrests on public transportation or even entertainment venues are among the places where germs can linger for days, many travellers are looking for seat protectors that are easy to use. Assuage makes two types of seat protectors, including a reusable one and a single-use one. The Ultra Cozy, a reusable seat protector, is easy to take care of and can be machine-washed. It’s made from soft, breathable fleece, and is very comfortable. It rolls up nice and neat to be conveniently toted around in the reusable carry bag that comes with it. The reusable bag also keeps it clean when not in use. The seat protectors have been designed to fit most seats and takes just seconds to put over it. The elastic around the edges helps hold the seat protector in place, so that it won’t slide around or fall like a blanket or towel would.

Indulge in unlimited possibilities.

When you book a minimum 5-night package to select Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, Secrets, Breathless, Dreams, Now or Sunscape Resorts & Spas with WestJet Vacations, you can also select the exclusive Indulgence Package.

The Indulgence Package is $79 per person and includes: • Advance seat selection1 • Guaranteed access to room or suite by 3 p.m. on arrival day2 • One local bottle of spirits in-room upon arrival

Book by: December 24, 2021 (11:59 p.m. MT)

Travel: Now - December 31, 2021

• Special turndown amenity first night • Daily access to marine water circuits 3 (jacuzzi, sauna, steam room) where facilities are available • Two discounted excursions/tours during stay • Late check-out


• 10% discount per guest on a future WestJet round-trip flight4 • Unlimited-Luxury® for couples and couples with children

Terms and conditions Advance booking required. Non-refundable and non-transferable. Offer limited and subject to availability. Offer subject to change and expire without notice. New bookings only. Valid on group bookings. Other restrictions may apply. The Indulgence Package is $79 per person including children. This offer is only available at select Zoëtry, Secrets, Breathless, Dreams, Now or Sunscape Resorts when a Preferred Club, Xhale Club or Sun Club Room category or higher is booked. A minimum 5-night stay is required. Transfers to/from the hotel are included. Blackout dates may apply. Everyone sharing the same room must book the 1 2 3 Indulgence Package. Advance seat selection does not apply to emergency exit seats, preferred seats and Premium seats (unless booking a Premium package). Based on availability. Age restrictions may apply. Fees 4 normally apply to the use of the marine water circuits. Guests will receive a travel promo code via email within 30 days upon their return to use on westjet.com. This 10% discount is applicable per guest limited to a one time use. Percentage discount is applied to base fare. Taxes, fees and charges are extra. No cash value. Non-refundable. Discount cannot be used towards the purchase of a WestJet Vacations package. For more information on standard restrictions contact your travel consultant.

COVID Safety

Airplane cleanliness – the new first class By Jim Byers

In the past, Canadian airlines would battle back and forth over who had the best service or the fanciest meals on board. Now, with a worldwide pandemic raging, their marketing campaigns are focused on HEPA filters and sanitizing wipes instead of filet mignon and lie-flat seats. A recent study of travellers by OAG, an aviation analytics firm, found that 40 per cent of North Americans say they’re more afraid of catching COVID-19 on plane than anyplace else in their travels. The general public is clearly hesitant, but Canadian airlines say they’ve listened carefully and have made major changes. They also insist there’s yet to be a proven case of transmission of the disease on a plane. Canadian airlines have begun offering free health insurance to travellers. They’re also working with Canadian airports to try to bring in rapid COVID-19 testing, which could eliminate the need for mandatory 14-day quarantines

VIDEO T R A N S AT ’ S T R AV E L L E R C A R E The health and safety program of Transat features enhanced health and safety measures at check-in, during boarding, on board and at destinations. Passengers receive a complimentary care kit with a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Before each and every flight, planes are thoroughly cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant, including seats, headrest covers, seat belt buckles, seat controls, seat-back pockets, armrests, light switches, air circulation controls, tray tables, individual entertainment screens, and overhead bins and handles. The entire aircraft also is cleaned every 24 hours with electrostatic disinfectant, according to Transat. Its company policy says that washrooms will be thoroughly cleaned and that only one passenger is allowed to wait outside the toilet. That means you might want to watch that water intake on your flight. 14 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021

W E S TJ E T ’ S S A F E T Y A B O V E A L L Officials say all WestJet planes are equipped with “industry-leading air circulation systems containing a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter similar to what is used in hospital environments, achieving a viral removal efficiency of greater than 99 per cent.” WestJet says its cleaning procedure provides a complete disinfection of the aircraft interior using a hydrogen peroxide-based solution cleaner. Billy Nolen, vice president of safety, security and quality at WestJet, said stepped-up safety measures also include taking temperatures of passengers before they board. WestJet passengers get disinfectant wipes, and, on flights of 60 minutes or more, they’ll get a bottle of water and a snack.



Air Canada says it has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. “We have been a leader in progressively introducing new measures in response to COVID-19, such as introducing personal protective equipment (PPE) for our employees and being the first North American carrier to require face coverings for customers,” explained president and CEO, Calin Rovinescu. Changes have also been made at Air Canada lounges. They’re offering pre-packaged meals and have assisted beverage service to replace pre-COVID self-serve options. Lounge guests can order food or drinks from their seats using a QR code. Air Canada also has moved seats around to create proper social distancing while passengers wait for their flights. Passengers on Air Canada flights are also given a kit that includes gloves, a mask, hand sanitizer, wipes and a bottle of water.

“The air on board is filtered to the highest standards, and always was,” recently said Andrew Dawson, Sunwing president and chief executive officer. He cited a Harvard study that concluded a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to contact COVID-19 on a modern jet plane. As part of the company’s Safe With Sunwing program, it has hired Medcan, a global health care company that provides medical expertise and consultation. Dr. Peter Nord, chief medical officer at Medcan, is acting as Sunwing’s chief medical advisor. In early November, he flew with Sunwing to Cancun to check out procedures and safety protocols. “The journey was seamless from check-in and boarding the flight to resort arrival,” he reported. “The high Canadian standards that Sunwing has implemented are evident through every step of the vacation journey. I can confidently say that, with the Safe with Sunwing commitment in place, Canadians can travel with peace of mind.”



Airplanes are now routinely misted or fogged with anti-bacterial sprays between flights, as well. Air Canada officials put on a demonstration of their cleaning techniques at Toronto Pearson this summer, showing off the electro-static sprayers used to kill germs on their aircraft and explaining how the fine mist allows the cleaning fluids to reach nooks and crannies that a wipe wouldn’t reach.


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Exploring the Yukon Territory’s Wide Open Spaces


By Kate Robertson


The Yukon Territory is a land of extremes. The entire territory spans 482,443 square kilometres, but has a total population of only 41,000, half whom live in Whitehorse, the territory’s capital. But a tiny population doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to do. In fact, due to COVID-19, fewer people and wide-open spaces make the Yukon the perfect destination to maintain social distance. The reality is, as of 2020, space has become the new luxury. BACKCOUNTRY BEAR SPOTTING Eighty per cent of the Yukon Territory is wilderness. If you’re knowledgeable about the backcountry, you can hire expert guides to not only help keep you safe, but enrich the experience by sharing insights about local history, wildlife and other interesting tidbits about the unique culture of the Canada’s North. On a Jeep wildlife tour, you can bounce along an old mining road through flowing creeks, steep river beds and ever-changing alluvial fans (deposits of sand and gravel carried by water) into the Alsek Valley. This virtually untouched wilderness in the southwestern corner of the territory is part of the Kluane National Park Reserve, a World Heritage UNESCO site. In Kluane, it’s almost impossible not spot wildlife and your guide will test your animal tracking skills as you explore the sandy shores of the Dezadeash River, where moose, sheep and wolves frequent to drink and rest. As the largest internationally protected area on the planet, Kluane also has one of the densest grizzly bear populations in the world. You can stick with the 4x4 Jeep ride, or add a hike to explore further along the old forest trail. A climb to one of the high beach ridges, left behind by a succession of glacial lakes, provides the perfect vantage point to see for miles down 16 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021

the expansive valleys, past the junction where the Alsek, Dezadeash and Kaskawulsh Rivers meet. WALKING ON ANCIENT ICE Kluane National Park Reserve is home to the Saint Elias mountain range, a sub-group of the Pacific Coast Range, which has 17 of Canada’s 20 tallest peaks, including Canada’s largest, Mount Logan. Approximately 25 per cent of the park is still covered in glaciers, including North America’s largest tidewater glacier and the largest piedmont glacier (i.e., a valley glacier which spills out onto the plains). On a tour with Icefield Discovery (available April 1 to September 30), passengers strap into a small turbo-prop plane to soar over the cobalt-blue Kluane Lake, then over to the Kaskawulsh Glacier, which flows like a frosty ice highway down the mountain valleys, gathering debris as it goes. As you fly between the giant mountain peaks, the pilot offers geographical and historical highlights, and thanks to well-trained eyes, points out wildlife, like grazing Dall sheep with their massive curled horns. The goal of glacier flightseeing is to catch the first glimpse of ‘the Big One’ – Mt. Logan in all of its 6,000-metres towering-glory. Then it’s time to drop the wheel skis to land on the glacier, so you can walk on the largest non-polar icefield in the world.


Shallow sand bars in the river create unique nesting and feeding areas for animals, so wildlife sightings are frequent. The Yukon is on a bird migration path, so bird spotters may see osprey and nighthawks overhead. This area is a critical resting and feeding ground for trumpeter swans, the Yukon’s most abundant swan species. Thousands pass through here, noisily honking as they migrate back and forth to California.


The Dezadeash is a large, swift-flowing river, but rafting here is more about a wilderness experience than a whitewater rapids-like, adrenaline-rush adventure. Get ready to paddle, alongside your guides who do most of the hard work so you can sit back and soak in the beauty of dramatic mountain ranges, big skies and boreal forest shoreline.


Often called ‘Canada’s Patagonia,’ Tombstone Territorial Park, located approximately 110 kilometres north of Dawson City, is about as remote as you can get. Although the name, referring to Tombstone Peak’s resemblance to a grave marker, might sound desolate, the dramatic sub-Arctic landscape is very much alive with colourful lichen, stunted shrubs and abundant wildlife, including several big game species like caribou and bears. Wild and pristine, with few established trails, prepare for rough terrain and drastic weather changes.






You must reserve ahead to stay in one of the three designated campgrounds. Hardy folks, comfortable in the backcountry, can hike in, or if you’re looking for an easier experience, book a helicopter ride to fly over the alpine lakes, rugged rocky peaks and boreal forest regions. Tombstone is only about 330 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, and the landscape incorporates permafrost tundra which is fragile, like much of Yukon’s natural beauty. Tread lightly, don’t wander off the trails, and help preserve it for future adventurers.



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Unique culinary delights, a UNESCO biosphere courtesy of an ancient meteor and Canada’s first Club Med make an impact on visitors By Johanna Read

Four hundred million years ago, a meteorite crashed into an area of Quebec that would (much) later become known as Charlevoix. That event helped create a natural area witch is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and tidal marshes, all enclosed within a 54-kilometre-wide crater left behind. Today, the region is having an impact on visitors who have been captivated by its top-notch culinary scene, beautiful natural surroundings and the array of activities available throughout the year. Located about a one hour’s drive east of Quebec City on the north side of the St. Lawrence River, Charlevoix is poised to become even more ‘Massif-ly’ popular, once a new Club Med ski resort opens this winter on the slopes of Le Massif, the region’s largest mountain. It has Canada’s biggest vertical drop east of the Rockies at 770 metres, making it ideal for winter pursuits like cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, and more. As soon as the white stuff accumulates – and it will with an average annual snowfall of 645 centimetres, visitors with an adventurous spirit should give Le Massif’s incredible sled run on Mount Liguori a try. On a wooden sled, you’ll take a two-hour trip to travel 18 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021


7.5-kilometres and descend 757 metres, experiencing twists, turns and spectacular scenery along the way. In La Malbaie, one of Charlevoix’s two main towns, continue the thrill seeking-spirit by tackling the new Via Ferrata on the sprawling grounds of the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. Hike 500 metres up a rock wall, aided by ropes and metal hooks for safety, to catch views of the St. Lawrence River, and navigate over a variety of challenging obstacles. Winter-loving hotel guests can also snowshoe, skate, play hockey or broomball, go snow tubing, ice fish, take off on a snowmobile, or just soak in the outdoor heated pools open year-round. COASTAL VILLAGE OF PORT-AU-PERSIL, CHARLEVOIX




You’ll find everything you need to create a winter picnic— enjoyed outdoors or in your hotel room—with Flavour Trail cheeses and charcuterie. Choose organic meats from Les Viandes Biologiques de Charlevoix (its chicken and pigs eat locally-grown grains), or stop by La Ferme Basque de Charlevoix, which raises its ducks with traditional methods. Pick up cheeses from la Laiterie Charlevoix, which also has a museum where you can learn how cheese is crafted using milk from the Canadienne cow.




Famille Migneron de Charlevoix offers award-winning sheep and cow cheeses, plus great views of ewes and the countryside from its on-site restaurant, Les Faux Bergers. In addition to wines and grappa sold under its Charlevoyou label, Famille Migneron sells spirits made from whey, a byproduct of cheesemaking. It takes 10 litres of milk to make one kilo of cheese and 9 litres of whey. In environmental-conscious Quebec, whey can’t simply be poured down the drain, so the cheesemakers figured out a way to turn their high-quality whey into gin, brandy, and vodka. Also worthy of a spot in your picnic basket are Charlevoix ciders, mistelles (a sweet fortified style of French wine), ice cider from Cidrerie et Vergers Pedneault and seasonal microbrews from Microbrasserie Charlevoix.




Once your appetite for adventure is satisfied, turn to Charlevoix's diverse culinary delights that have unique flavours, thanks to the region’s warm summers and salty St. Lawrence. Drive along the Route des Saveurs (Flavour Trail) to truly discover delicious offerings from local farms, artisanal producers, and restaurants showcasing Charlevoix’s specialties. Most locations remain open during the winter, but it’s best to call ahead as their hours are more limited than in peak season, and some operate by appointment.

One of the more unconventional Flavour Trail stops is Le Centre de l’émeu de Charlevoix, Canada’s largest emu farm and home to more than 400 birds. In the winter, the tours are self-guided and you can learn how the world’s second-largest bird is raised and sample emu product, like emu sausage and pâté. You can purchase creams and balms made of emu oil, known for its moisturizing properties. There’s plenty of deliciousness off the Flavour Trail, too. How about wines, spirits, and syrups made from Charlevoix heirloom tomatoes? Head to Baie-Saint-Paul for a tour and tasting (by appointment only over the winter) at Omerto, maker of the world’s first tomato wine, known to fool some of the world’s best sommeliers. Some didn’t realize Omerto isn’t made from grapes, and perhaps, you won’t either.

Our Experts Suggest...


INTRODUCING THE NEW CLUB MED RESORT IN CANADA One of the newest reasons to visit Charlevoix will be the opening of stylish Club Med Québec Charlevoix in December 2021. It taps into a modern ski chalet chic aesthetic with exposed wooden beams, a bar adorned with tree branches and cozy lounges with views of the slopes. Slated to open this winter, the four-season, all-inclusive, 300-room resort features an action-packed lineup of outdoor fun, including skating, tubing, and dog sledding in winter, plus hiking and biking in summer. Set on more than 120 hectares on Le Massif overlooking the St. Lawrence, the 5-Trident (that’s Club Med-speak for five-star) resort will appeal to skiers who like to have ski-in/ski-out and hike-in/hike-out access to their rooms. Like all Club Meds, fine food features prominently with local Quebec products playing a starring role on menus. Like Charlevoix itself, the new mountain property will offer plenty of four-season fun. Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021 • 19



Touring the Canadian Rockies in the serenity of the off-season By Stéphanie Bishop THE EMERALD WATERS OF MORAINE LAKE

After months of closures and closed borders, Globus invited Canadian travellers to open their hearts and minds to travel and escape to the Canadian Rockies in October. It was the Globus family of brands’ very first tour (worldwide) since the start of the pandemic. Though I work as the company’s managing director, I was able to join the tour as a guest. I wanted to witness firsthand all the new health and safety standards being put to the test.



20 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021





I didn’t want to miss this incredible opportunity to lift and restore my spirits in a place, where Indigenous peoples first discovered the otherworldly beauty of the Canadian Rockies. I felt fortunate to enjoy the wide-open spaces of great, big beautiful backyard accompanied by 19 like-minded travellers. There was a palpable enthusiasm in the group. We shared a common joy – being able to savour the luxury of travelling again. The five-day journey began in Calgary, and right away, I observed Globus’s new health and safety protocols at work. We enjoyed a touch-free hotel check-in and hands-free luggage handling (including luggage sanitation). Our tour director, Brad Noyes, also conducted temperature checks while guests completed health waivers and answered health-related questions. And, of course, we practiced social distancing and wore masks. During our welcome reception at the Delta in Calgary, he reinforced the new safety protocols and expectations for the group, including hand sanitization before and after every stop, social distancing on the motorcoach, organized seat rotation, enhanced cleaning standards, and touch-free meals. Throughout it all, I couldn’t help but notice a casual camaraderie and recognition that our small group was entering a travel bubble together and all of us were going to do our utmost to be safe, respectful and enjoy our journey together. That togetherness is a signature part of a group tour experience. When travellers book an escorted tour, they’re choosing to explore destinations in a small group with people who stick together from start to finish. I realized on our tour of the Rockies that now, more than ever, there is great comfort and confidence in making that choice. As we embarked on the tour experience on day two, we enjoyed a guided visit of Calgary. I made sure to make a stop at Barcelona Tavern – a hip, airy spot known for its Mediterranean-style tapas, sangria, gin drinks and global, draft beers. From Calgary, we headed to Banff National Park and soon found ourselves surrounded by incredible beauty as the first peaks began to appear. Our first stop was a surprise – Emerald Lake, BC. Since Johnston Canyon Park was closed,

our tour director and driver offered us an opportunity to take a nature walk – a serene experience, especially during the less-crowded off-season. Our next stop was the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. As we experienced the natural ruggedness of the caves, rocks, and mineral springs, our luggage was seamlessly transported to the lovely Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa. On sunny and brisk days three and four, we enjoyed free time, a walk to Banff’s historic downtown and a socially distanced gondola ride to experience sweeping views of the Rockies. The snowy, alpine landscape was magical. We also took in the spectacular sights of two stunning lakes – Lake Minnewanka and Lake Louise – with picturesque mountains towering above the deep-blue waters. And, while masks were required throughout our trip (when social distancing wasn’t possible), it was easy to take in the awe-inspiring scenery, the views and the wonder that only travel brings. Travelling back to Calgary, where our five-day adventure began, I breathed a little more deeply, grateful for the raw, natural paradise the Canadian Rockies witnessed on this remarkable tour—one that marked the return to travel for Globus family of brands here in Canada and beyond. After our tour concluded, I decided to continue my travels and spend time in British Columbia. There, surrounded by the natural beauty of Canada’s backyard, I spent time at such hidden gems as Salt Spring Island and Tofino.

Our Experts Suggest... From the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean to the soaring peaks of the Rockies, from stunning national parks to bustling cosmopolitan cities, Western Canada has so much to offer! To enjoy this otherworldly beauty—with fewer crowds, and better deals—Globus is excited to introduce two new itineraries in western Canada, in early 2021 for CANADIANS ONLY!


Explore the Canadian Rockies

Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021 • 21



Banff National Park

SAVE 10% ON SELECT 2021 GLOBUS NORTH AMERICA VACATIONS* It isn’t necessary to cross oceans for adventure when there’s so much to discover from sea to shining sea. Between Canada’s breathtaking national parks, cool emerging cities, and tiny historic towns, there’s a surplus of sights you haven’t seen in your own backyard. With bucket-list vacations from Newfoundland to British Columbia, we invite you to fetch a pail of wonder as you discover the undiscovered right outside your door.




12 days | Corner Brook to St. John’s

7 days | Roundtrip from Calgary

9 days | Roundtrip from Halifax

Was: $4,239 | Now: $3,815† CAD

Was: $4,169 | Now: $3,752† CAD

Was: $3,579 | Now: $3,221† CAD

Based on September 6, 2021 departure

Based on September 30, 2021 departure

Based on September 25, 2021 departure

A variety of other Globus North America vacations available, please inquire. Ask about our complimentary Peace of Mind Travel Plan!

†Featured prices are per person, land only, based on double occupancy, departure dates as indicated, include all taxes and reflect the Globus 10% promotion. Flights and travel insurance are additional. *Book and deposit a 2021 Globus Europe, North or South America (excluding Escapes by Globus) vacation to save 10% per person on the land-only portion of the core tour not including extra night accommodations, intra-vacation air, extensions, taxes, fees, tips or supplements. Booking must be made and under deposit by January 25, 2021 for travel in 2021. Offer combinable only with Peace of Mind and/or Welcome Back Credits (if applicable) and any applicable air credits. Discount will apply to individual members of groups adding a name and non-refundable per person deposit WITHIN the promo window. Not applicable on TBA space. Not applicable to custom tours. Offer applies to new bookings only and will not be applied to pre-existing bookings. Offer reliant on space availability. Full cancellation penalties will apply. Additional restrictions may apply; see Travel Terms & Conditions for details. May be withdrawn at any time. 3280 Bloor St. W, Centre Tower, Suite 400, Toronto, ON M8X 2X3. TICO#1893755/50015835

Rhine River, Germany


AROUND THE BEND Have you made your “ Plan See?”

Where will you go when the time is right? What will you do? Who will you invite on your journey? Perhaps you will drift down the Danube to discover fairytale castles and storybook settings or meander cobblestone paths of medieval villages along the Moselle? Maybe you will raise your sights—and glasses—higher on the Rhine River where Rieslings flow? Wherever your journey takes you, your dreams are just around the river bend.


*Book a select 2021 Avalon Waterways Europe river cruise in a Panorama Suite (cabin category B, A or P) and receive the cost of the cabin upgrade from a category E Deluxe Stateroom for free. Booking must be made under deposit and discount applied by January 4, 2021 for travel at select times in 2021. Not applicable to charters or custom tours. Offer does not apply to Category D, E or Royal Suites. Discount will apply to individual members of groups adding a name and non-refundable per person deposit. Offer reliant on space availability and may be withdrawn at any time. Offer combinable only with Peace of Mind and/or Welcome Back Credits (if applicable). Applies to new bookings only; offer will not be applied to existing bookings. Full cancellation penalties will apply. Additional restrictions may apply; see Travel Terms & Conditions for details. May be withdrawn at any time. Offer applies to participating GFOB offices only. 3280 Bloor St. W, Centre Tower, #400, Toronto, ON M8X 2X3, TICO#1893755/50015835

COVID Safety

What is the all-inclusive resort experience like now? By Mark Chesnut

It happens every year. As temperatures drop in the north, the allure of a luxurious, sun-soaked all-inclusive vacation grows stronger. This year, of course, the urge to get away is different, as travellers and the tourism industry adjust to the “new normal” of travel during the pandemic. But surprisingly, new protocols can actually enhance the all-inclusive experience, as hoteliers up the ante with new services designed to keep guests comfortable and safe. W H AT T O E X P E C T UPON ARRIVAL Vacationers will notice extra care as soon as they arrive at their destination. Sunwing Travel Group, for example, not only flies its own planes, but also operates ground transfers using its own vehicles, following guidelines from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. It provides a seamless, safe, airport-to-airport-to-resort experience. All-inclusive hotels have rolled out a variety of new practices to protect guests and staff. Upon arrival, guests are now greeted with hand sanitizer and a quick temperature check. In some locations, they may also step onto a sanitizing doormat and have their luggage sprayed with disinfectant. Guests and staff alike are required to wear masks when moving around most all-inclusive properties, and hand-sanitizer stations are placed strategically throughout hotel properties. Social distancing is encouraged through signage, including in elevators, which now have capacity limits. GUESTROOM CLEANING AND SANITIZATION Guestrooms undergo a thorough cleaning and sanitization between guest stays. For example, at Meliá properties, rooms must be vacant for 24 hours before the next guest can move in. Rooms at Meliá, Hyatt, Hilton and several 24 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021

other all-inclusive properties even place a seal on the door to indicate that the room hasn’t been disturbed since sanitization took place. Many hotels now provide some kind of sanitation kit in the guest rooms, complete with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and a mask. Travellers also have the option to request that no housekeeping staff enter without permission. ALL-INCLUSIVE AMENITIES Technology is a powerful tool for creating safer hotel stays. Many all-inclusive hotels have eliminated or reduced the amount of printed material, inviting guests to access menus and other hotel information via a hotel app or easy-to-scan QR codes. This is especially handy in restaurants, where socially distanced seating is the norm, and some properties have expanded their outdoor seating options. The buffet concept has changed a bit, too, with staffed food stations now the most common set-up, so that guests don’t have to handle any high-touch utensils. Guests will still find nearly all of the usual activities and diversions at all-inclusive hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean, with a few health-minded changes. Children’s clubs, for example, tend to offer more outdoor activities, while gyms may require reservations or have capacity limits. Travel advisors are an excellent resource to help travellers learn more about the latest protocols.



WORDS FROM THE EXPERTS MAJESTIC RESORTS As the number of visitors to all-inclusive resorts continues to grow, the concept’s appeal is more apparent than ever, according to Paula Miller, director of sales and marketing at Majestic Resorts. “People looking for outstanding quality for value are still choosing to travel to luxury all-inclusive resorts like ours,” she says. “It truly is a luxury to stay at a 24-hour, all-inclusive resort with room service, golf, unlimited a-la-carte dining and premium alcohol all included for the price of what one night at a European Plan hotel would cost in Toronto or Montreal — not to mention that our resorts all offer unlimited luxury in our oversized suites and junior suites.” And Majestic Resorts, not only follows a new health and safety protocol called Majestic Mission, but it also now provides free travel insurance for all guests BE LIVE HOTELS With COVID still very much on the minds of travellers, resorts have adopted new procedures to create safe bubbles where guests can just chill and enjoy their stay without worry. “Staying at an all-inclusive resort is still the most affordable and comprehensive experience when vacationing in a sun destination,” says Francisco Gamez, business development manager in Canada for Be Live Hotels. The all-inclusive experience may be different, but it maintains all the things that guests love. “Travellers can still have a great time,” he explains. “The quality of the accommodation and the gastronomic services has been preserved. The main changes are related to the international safety protocol compliance.”





Meanwhile, Secrets, Dreams and Now properties has developed a CleanComplete Verification program with help from Cristal International Standards. “By committing to our guests’ safety throughout their stays, we’re ensuring they can relax and enjoy an unforgettable vacation at a picturesque tropical destination,” says Erica Doyne, senior vice president of marketing and communications at AMResorts.



Protocol programs are also extensive at Playa Hotels and Resorts, which includes brands familiar to travellers, like Hyatt Ziva, Hyatt Zilara, Jewel Resorts, Sanctuary All-Inclusive Adult Resort and Hilton All-inclusive Resorts. “These are well-known brands that can be trusted when it comes to setting high standards for guests and resort associates,” says Rose Cosentino, Playa’s vice president of sales for Canada. “We’ve always been known for service. That’s one of our core strengths, and we’ve upped the game.”

FAV O U R A B L E B O O K I N G C O N D I T I O N S In many cases, travellers may even find more favourable booking conditions, thanks to greater availability, extra perks and more flexible cancellation policies at many properties. Royalton Resorts, for example, has removed its single supplements, making it more affordable for solo guests to enjoy a getaway. And limited-time promotional rates are making all-inclusive stays even more attractive to travellers who want to stay at a five-star resort on a four-star budget.

Indeed, all-inclusive hoteliers follow a wide range of pandemic protocols, including both government regulations and corporate initiatives. Many companies have partnered with internationally recognized organizations to devise their policies to ensure high standards and consistency. Paradisus, ME and Melía hotels have a Stay Safe with Meliá program in partnership with Bureau Veritas, a renowned inspection and certification company.



WORK, STAY, PLAY Popular resorts in sun destinations invite Canadians to take care of business with new stay-and-work programs

You won’t miss a single Zoom call, thanks to their resort-wide WiFi and portable power banks to keep your phone and laptop fully charged. Complimentary 24-hour access to the Diamond Club Lounge and the resorts’ business centres mean you’ll have quiet spaces available when real work needs to get done. Other perks include a gourmet coffee bar, sunset yoga, all-inclusive gourmet meals and nightly professional networking happy hours. For families, the resorts offer activities and educational experiences for kids, plus areas for remote students to tackle homework assignments. WORK FROM PARADISE WITH HYATT

Perhaps there’s a silver lining when it comes to COVID. For those who can work remotely, heading to a luxurious resort in a warm-weather destination while still being able to log in to the office is an enticing possibility this winter. It has become much easier, thanks to airlines, resorts and destinations themselves. Many are offering special discounts, added amenities and long-stay visas that have made packing up laptops along with bathing suits a workable option. BOOK A WORKCATION Swap the view from your home office for an ocean vista thanks to a hand-picked selection of resort deals that will ensure your working holiday is as productive as it is relaxing. Each of the selected resorts has property-wide WiFi to keep you plugged in and the all-inclusive food and drink amenities will make sure you’re never doing it on an empty stomach. Where might you set up your new office abroad? Talk to your Ensemble Travel advisor to explore the possibilities. In the meantime, here are a few options to consider: UPGRADE YOUR OFFICE WITH ROYALTON RESORT AND SPA Tip your work-life balance to the life side of the scale with stays of 14 to 28 days at a Royalton Resort and Spa in your choice of Punta Cana, Riviera Maya or Negril where you can take advantage of special packages for remote workers. 26 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021

Check on your tan while you check your email thanks to the Work from Hyatt program with special amenities for people on a working vacation. They’ve got you covered with free and fast WiFi. More importantly, you get a workspace that is either a separate, private space, or a complimentary second guestroom so you can work without interruption. Waived resort fees, daily food and beverage credits and complimentary laundry services are just a few of the other perks to entice remote workers to stay in one of Hyatt’s long – and growing – list of participating properties, including the spectacular Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana in Dominican Republic, or the luxurious Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. LONGER STAYS IN DESTINATIONS FURTHER AFIELD If you’re looking for somewhere to ride out the pandemic in style, several Caribbean nations now offer 12 to 24-month visas for remote workers who want to fully immerse themselves in local cultures in ways that short-term visitors can never experience. Sun-drenched options include Anguilla, known for its white-sand beaches and turquoise seas; Cayman Islands, famous for its beloved Seven Mile Beach; Bermuda, which already has a reputation as a financial services centre; and Bahamas, which is encouraging visitors to work and study across the country’s 16 main islands.





By Mark Stachiew

Work beachside with our new Out of Office Collection

Swap your home office for an oceanfront one with our new Out of Office Collection, featuring more than 30 hotels in Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Book a South package of 14 days or more with our Out of Office Collection and benefit from*: • No single supplement • Accommodation with ample workspace • Complimentary or reduced-rate printing and IT services • Complimentary, fast and reliable WiFi • Complimentary or reduced-rate laundry services • Access to hotel services and facilities, such as the gym, spa, yoga classes, room service, restaurants, etc. *Offer may vary by hotel. Restrictions may apply. For full description and terms and conditions, refer to transat.com.


FROM SEA TO SI Canada’s love affair with Cancun continues By Mark Chesnut

As Mexico’s most-visited tourism destination, Cancun attracts travellers from around the world with its silky sand, enticing hotels and memorable activities. Now, this beachfront paradise is on the upswing, as new health protocols have helped to place the city back on travellers’ wish lists.


“Cancun was the first destination in the American continent to receive the Global Safety Stamp, approved by the World Travel and Tourism Council,” notes Dario Flota Ocampo, CEO of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, which handles tourism promotion for the state where Cancun is located. The international recognition, Flota explained, is the result of the Mexican Caribbean Clean & Safe Check Certification, a state program that has helped more than 7,000 companies in the region to protect visitors and local residents alike. “This certification program, available for all the companies in the tourism industry, aims to maintain the highest sanitary measures for the prevention and containment of COVID-19.” CHICHEN ITZA, AN ANCIENT MAYAN CITY

CANADA’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH CANCUN Even with all the new protocols, Cancun maintains the inviting qualities that first made it a vacation hotspot in the 1970s, according to Flota. “This year, Cancun celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the Cancun experience maintains the iconic, welcoming atmosphere it has had for 50 years, now with stricter health protocols that emphasize the health of individuals before all else,” he says. “From the airport to checking in at the hotel, to restaurants, tours and every aspect of the vacation experience, travellers will notice social distancing, mask usage and constant sanitation, while still experiencing classic Mexican Caribbean hospitality.” Mexico’s legendary warm welcome for Canadians is indeed a big draw for Cancun, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why they keep coming back. Situated on the northeastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, the vacation spot is perfectly located for those looking to satisfy a variety of cravings. Its soft sandy beaches and warm, clear Caribbean waters are perfect for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. Meanwhile, the range of waterfront hotels in the city’s famed Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera) ensures there’s something for every taste and budget, from intimate boutique hotels to adults-only resorts and luxurious five-star accommodations. Vacationers can easily craft their own idea of paradise in Cancun. Some might opt to spend their entire visit within

28 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021


the grounds of the city’s amenity-packed all-inclusive resorts, relaxing and sipping margaritas by the pool or indulging in a massage at the hotel spa. Others can take advantage of the excellent shopping and highly rated dining venues all a quick walk or taxi ride away. The restaurant scene has evolved significantly in the last decade. It’s getting rave reviews for its diversity, including places like Du Mexique, which combines French and Mayan flavours, and Puerto Madero, featuring Argentinian cuisine. Another big selling point is that so many eateries have views of the sea, ideal for watching spectacular sunsets. Those who venture further will find plenty of exciting attractions and activities nearby. Anyone interested in the region’s rich Mayan heritage should consider a visit to one or more of the archaeological ruins that dot the peninsula. Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO World Heritage Site representing about 1,000 years of history, makes for a fascinating day trip. With fewer tourists around these days, exploring the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site is a joy since you won’t have to dodge large groups, giving you time to soak up what a truly amazing place it is. Photographers and history lovers should book an excursion to Tulum for its picturesque scenery, including dramatic seaside ruins. If you don’t want to wander too far from your resort, the Hotel Zone has its own Mayan museum (Museo Maya) and pre-Hispanic ruins that showcase the fascinating story of the people who lived in Quintana Roo long before it was a tourism hotspot. Quintana Roo’s dramatically beautiful geography is another source of exciting activities—whether it’s snorkelling and sailing in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea, zip-lining and exploring lush ecological parks or diving into the cenotes — giant sinkholes ideal for swimming. In Cancun, the possibilities seem endless. And now, new limits on the number of guests permitted at resorts and attractions mean you can avoid crowds and enjoy more personalized service. Another bonus: Special promotions and discounts on holiday packages available now offer great value. It’s no wonder that Canadians continue to put Cancun high up on their list of favourite sun destinations. ROOM TO RELAX Cancun has taken on a quieter, more relaxed vibe as businesses operate at reduced capacity. In addition to hotels being less than two-thirds full, restaurants have limited seating to allow for easy social distancing, and many venues – including bars and nightclubs – take advantage of the year-round warm climate to offer ample outdoor seating.


Shoppers in Cancun can be assured that their safety is a priority among retailers. Upscale malls, like La Isla, have enacted hygiene protocols including capacity limits, temperature checks and hand-sanitizing stations. Most attractions are open in and around the city, but they also operate at 60 per cent capacity and follow strict protocols. Among the Quintana Roo attractions taking extra steps is Rio Secreto, the ecological park set along a subterranean river in the nearby Riviera Maya. Staff members sanitize gear, including wetsuits and life vests immediately after each use. Garrafón, the natural reef park on Isla Mujeres, now requires visitors to wear face masks, fill out a health questionnaire and bring their own towels to reduce the use of shared items. Grupo Xcaret, which owns a variety of attractions including Xcaret and Xel-Há ecological parks, has also been active in developing hygiene protocols. These efforts among hoteliers and attractions are having a positive effect. As of press time, the state of Quintana Roo was in the yellow phase – just one step away from a green phase that allows all businesses to fully reopen, based on the federal government’s “traffic light” system that ranks pandemic status in each Mexican state. Currently, hotels, restaurants, beaches and attractions in Cancun are operating at 60 per cent capacity. Between the attention paid to visitors’ health and safety, attractively priced vacation packages and smaller crowds, Cancun is ready to welcome back Canadians to its sunny shores.


COCKTAIL Prepare yourself a margarita


Travel with your taste buds and sample delicious tacos


Turn up the volume and let the music take you away


T rave lli ng w it h pu rp o s e in t h e


With a growing number of resorts embracing green initiatives, supporting ecotourism and enhancing the well-being of the community through ground-breaking sustainable initiatives, travelling with purpose across the Dominican Republic is becoming easier. For environment-conscious visitors, it is something they can feel good about.


“Many people think coral are plants, but they’re members of the jellyfish family,” Macarena Blanco Pimentel tells our group as she points to the pottery-like fragments in an aquarium at Punta Cana’s new Coral Lab in Coral Level Iberostar Selection Bávaro. Operating under strict scientific standards, the temperature-controlled tanks help the scientific coordinator study the effect of rising temperatures on tissues harvested from nearby waters. Home to a quarter of all marine species, coral reefs are complex ecosystems that serve as a source of food and livelihood for coastal communities. However, their existence is being threatened by climate change and disease. Pimentel and her colleagues hope their research will help with the preservation and restoration of marine life in the Caribbean. 30 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021

Besides managing the Spanish hotel chain’s in-water coral nurseries, identifying genotypically-unique species to store in a coral genetic bank, the team’s findings have also repopulated at-risk coral beds with heat-stress resistant coral. Nestled in Playa Bávaro’s powdery white sand and lapped by the turquoise waters of the Atlantic, the research laboratory is an amenity open to hotel guests curious about the conservation work being done at their vacation destination. The convergence of science and eco-conscious travel is an example of how hotels are responding to a preference among travellers for brands, products and services that adopt sustainable practices. No longer a fringe social cause, many companies are finding value in going green in new ways.


Started in 2017 by vice chairman and chief sustainability officer, Gloria Fluxá, Iberostar’s Wave of Change movement is driven by responsible tourism. As the first hotel chain to enact a company-wide elimination of single-use plastics, the replacement of disposable cups with reusable ones, for example, has saved 8-tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. Its commitment in encouraging responsible consumption of seafood includes working with local fisheries and respecting local seafood bans – including lobster during springtime in the Dominican Republic. Going beyond serving certified sustainable seafood, it is the first in the resort industry to offer restaurants that meet Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council standards. Finally, with 80 per cent of their properties on the beachfront, its pledge to improve coastal health includes protecting coral reefs. Working in collaboration with research centres and universities from around the world, they built a coral nursery at Coral Level Iberostar Selection Bávaro in 2019. The facility acts as a refuge for coral species under threat from rising ocean temperatures, disease and hurricanes that affect Caribbean reef viability. GREEN GLOBE



Recognized for its sustainable management and operations, Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort’s Green Globe Gold-certification acknowledges the property’s continuous efforts and innovation in environmental practices with minimal negative impacts. For example, conservation of the resort’s paradise-like surroundings is maintained by a state-of-the-art waste treatment facility and the hotel group’s commitment to waste reduction. That initiative includes constantly improving its food composting program and a strict ban on single-use plastics, reducing plastics use by more than 2-tonnes annually. To save energy and water, it has incorporated biomass and solar power into the energy


supply, and a water management system using black and grey water to reduce overall usage. In responsible tourism, the resort holds a Blue Flag Award for maintaining Barceló Bávaro beach; and works preferentially with a tour-company with off-property experiences including immersive educational visits to the rural community or local industries, zip line tours of the Anamuya Mountains and eco trails through Runners Adventures, which provides a range of outdoor and cultural excursions. GRUPO PUNTACANA FOUNDATION A pioneer in sustainable tourism, PuntaCana Resort & Club is widely known for its commitment to the environment and local communities, and the work done through its not-for-profit research organization, Groupo Puntacana. Developing solutions to environmental and social challenges in tourism, it helps with sustainable agriculture initiatives (growing organic produce for local consumption), supports the conservation of endangered species (i.e. Ridgway’s hawks), and maintain the Ojos Indígenas Ecological Park, a forest with 12 lagoons with crystalline water. It is located within the resort’s 42-kilometre grounds and offers hiking, freshwater diving or guided horseback riding tours. Its leadership in the Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas has resulted in the expansive restoration of coral reefs and sustainable fisheries management in marine protected areas. Stop by the Sustainability Centre to learn about the foundation’s work from co-managing a rural clinic in Veron to designing and implementing the country’s largest integrated solid waste management and recycling project (Zero Waste) that has led to the creation of supporting businesses focused on recycling and waste management.


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The government of the Dominican Republic has also stepped in, developing a Roadmap for Low-Carbon and Resource-Efficient Accommodation for the country in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme. Launched in May 2019, the plan sets targets for hotels in reducing food waste, increasing energy efficiency, and promoting renewable energy use. Going beyond green, these hotels are leading the charge in Punta Cana.


TA K E   A   W E L L N E S S   B R E A K   I N

JAMAICA By Janice Tober


While some people are looking for new ways to travel, others are aching to simply get back to the familiar. Whichever way you sway, in the age of COVID, we could all use a little bit of self care, when it comes to wellness, Jamaica’s a natural. CONNECT WITH NATURE Jamaica is a natural paradise on earth with stunning beaches, lush mountainscapes and pristine beauty. It’s good for you. Research shows that spending just 15-20 minutes a day al fresco has noteworthy health benefits, from reducing stress to lowering the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, visitors have ample opportunities to embrace the outdoors in the island destination. Most travellers to Jamaica picture Dunn’s River when they think of cascading waterfalls, but if you’re looking for unspoiled, natural beauty that’s more secluded, the seven-tiered YS Falls is the spot. The falls flow down into natural pools that, up until recently, would only be accessed 32 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021



To state the obvious, these are stressful times. Besides dealing with life’s everyday pressures, you’re also worrying about how best to work from home and when we will be able to go back to our regular activities.

by dedicated souls, but now there are wooden paths that take you to the pools so that you can float in the crystal clear water, immersed in the sounds of the rushing water. For those feeling a bit more energetic, consider asking your resort to pack you a picnic and head to the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. There, you can follow the nine-kilometre Blue Mountain peak trail to the top. This endurance walk generally takes more than four hours to complete at a sprightly gait. If your pace is more leisurely than swift, time your trek to catch the sunrise peeking through the mist over the mountains. Before heading back to civilization, stop at Café Blue for some of Jamaica’s famous coffee. FIND YOUR INNER PEACE While you’re getting in touch with nature, it’s also important to get in touch with yourself. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are all ways to help you, as they used to say in the 60s, ‘be in the now.’

You’ll find many of Jamaica’s resorts offer yoga, often accompanied by pristine vistas, but the Wise Wellness Yoga Centre, opened this summer in the Treasure Beach area, is one of the best independent venues to check out. Owner and founder, Empress Thandi Wise, has long been at the centre of wellness in Jamaica. Besides offering private Hatha or restorative yoga classes, the centre has a wide range of treatments based on Rastafarian ancestral healing practices. Arrange for a day that includes a foot detox, kidney flush, yoni (vaginal) steam and an energy reading, and you’ll tingle from head to toe. NOURISHING BODY AND SOUL Founder of the raw food movement, Dr. Aris LaTham runs SunFired Ra Cuisine. Many of the island’s chefs have been trained in the movement here and you, too, can partake in one of the guru’s retreats. If you’re hungry to learn about macronutrients, micronutrients and all nutrients in between, one of LaTham’s courses is sure to satisfy. The Yoga RA Food Retreat, for instance, will have you juicing, detoxing and finding out about everything from colon care to earth milks. There’s even yoga and massage to round out the experience.

to wash your stress away. The hot and cold plunge pools, temperature contrast walk, variety of showers (iceberg mist, Cuban, tropical rain), ice bath, saunas, steam rooms and pool massage beds will equally invigorate and soothe you at this serene spa. In Ocho Rios, the brand-new Oasis Spa Villas at Couples Tower Isle will have spa addicts swooning. The large, posh modern villas feature a comfy king bed, in-room essential oils and incense, a complimentary mini bar stocked with your favourite adult beverages, a private sun terrace with your own plunge pool and unlimited spa services. At the beginning of your trip, you’ll meet with a spa concierge to customize your daily spa journey. There are even exclusive treatments available only to spa villa guests. Wherever you stay in Jamaica, you’ll be able to soak up the sun—properly protected with sunscreen, of course—listen to the tropical breezes through the palms, and the only reference to Twitter you’ll experience is the amazing sound of twittering birds singing from the treetops.

In the hills of Jamaica’s north coast, you’ll find one of the island’s best food experiences at Stush in the Bush. This organic farm and eatery serves a gourmet, seven-course home-grown vegetarian menu to eager guests. Lisa is the chef, who creates culinary magic using produce from the family farm, run by husband Chris. Before your farm-totable lunch, tour the 6.5-hectare farm and plant a tree. It will be there to greet you on a future return visit. The couple also offers a monthly yoga brunch. THE SPA VISIT IS STILL A MUST Some of the best spas in Jamaica are found at the island’s resorts, mostly dotted along the coast. The newly renovated Miilé Spa at Excellence Oyster Bay in Montego Bay has a luxe hydrotherapy circuit that’s sure











Relax with a yoga session by Empress Thandi

Learn more about the organic food experience from Stush in the Bush

Do a virtual walking tour of Dunn's River

Manulife’s COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan Policy provides: • $200,000 CAD in emergency medical coverage for COVID-19 and related complications • $5,000,000 CAD in emergency medical coverage not associated with COVID-19 • Quarantine expenses after a positive COVID-19 test result during their trip, up to $150 CAD per person or $300 CAD per family per day for 14 days • Up to a combined $500 CAD per person for return airfare, meals and accommodation if a Level 3 Travel Advisory is upgraded to Level 4 by the Canadian government

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Conditions, limitations and exclusions apply. See policy for details.

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Manulife’s new COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan is here! Family can include three generations with a maximum two adults (parents or grandparents) under age 60, and any children (please see definition of child/children from the policy). Children must be a minimum of 30 days old at time of departure. For Canadians only: You must be a Canadian citizen with a valid government health insurance plan throughout the duration of your trip. Medical-only plan: This plan only covers medical-related expenses such as those outlined above. It doesn’t include nonmedical coverage like trip cancellation or baggage loss, damage or delay. However, you can combine this plan with a second plan that includes non-medical protection. It’s been a challenging year for us all, no doubt about that. And travel has been the last thing on most people’s minds. But for some Canadians, travel has been necessary, and there’s no more important time to have travel insurance than during a global pandemic. That’s why Manulife has designed the new COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan. When you travel with this coverage, you have protection not just for traditional emergency medical expenses, but for COVID-19 related expenses as well. With the COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan, you are covered for: • $5,000,000 CAD in emergency medical cover age not associated with COVID-19 • $200,000 CAD in emergency medical cover age for COVID-19 and related complications • Quarantine expenses after a positive COVID-19 test result during their trip, up to $150 CAD per person or $300 CAD per family per day for 14 days • Up to a combined $500 CAD per person for return airfare, meals and accommodation if a Level 3 Travel Advisory is upgraded to Level 4 by the Canadian government

What else do you need to know about the COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan? You are bound to have questions about such a unique travel insurance plan. So here are a few key facts about this coverage: Family rates are available: Family rates are calculated by multiplying the oldest parent’s or grandparent’s rate by 2. All family members must be listed on the policy confirmation and travelling together.

No cruises: This coverage does not cover anything that should happen while on or associated with being on a cruise of any kind. Coverage can be extended: As long as it’s within 12 months of departure, this coverage can be extended while you are still away on your trip. See the policy for other extension rules. You can apply if you’ve recovered from COVID-19: As long as COVID-19 and other pre-existing conditions have been stable for 3 to 6 months, depending on age and rate category, you can apply for this coverage. You can purchase any time prior to departure: While there’s nothing wrong with leaving travel insurance to the last minute, we always recommend purchasing it as soon as you book your trip, so it’s taken care of and won’t be forgotten.

What are Manulife’s thoughts on travel during the pandemic? Our top priority is always the health and safety of our customers, employees, partners and communities and, as the largest travel insurance provider in Canada, Manulife understands that some Canadians may have family, business and other important reasons for travelling. Today, more than ever before, you need specialized coverage that helps protect you the event you fall ill due to COVID-19. We strongly encourage you to adhere to the recommendations of the Government of Canada and medical professionals around the world during this time. For those who do decide to travel, Manulife supports the health and safety of Canadians by offering this specialized travel insurance plan for COVID-19.

Please contact our travel agency.

COVID Safety

What should passengers expect when cruising returns?


By Donna Heiderstadt

For anyone who has enjoyed the ease and exhilaration of a cruise vacation, the unprecedented hiatus necessitated by the global COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t exactly meant smooth sailing. But the rough seas of uncertainty are beginning to calm and cruise lines are planning for a safe resumption of sailing in the first half of 2021. As preparation moves forward—a limited rollout of ships on shorter voyages is expected initially—the “new normal” of the onboard experience is still being worked out. Will everyone need to be tested pre-cruise? Most likely. Beyond that, other questions loom: When and where will masks need to be worn? What will shore excursions be like? Will you be able to get a massage or sip a mojito in the hot tub? And perhaps tantamount for many cruisers, are ship buffets a thing of the past? Cruise lines haven’t revealed all of the answers yet. There are still a lot of details to nail down, but some things are certain. The protocols developed to ensure onboard health and safety as the industry navigates the pandemic share a basic plan, much of it tied to guidelines issued by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the Healthy Sail Panel, a group of public health and infectious disease experts 36 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021

convened by the Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line. It outlines 74 recommended practices for cruise lines to adopt. These changes will add pre-embarkation requirements and alter many of the social aspects of cruising. Asked about the cruise experience in the immediate future, Carmen Roig, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Crystal Cruises, notes: “Certain elements of the Crystal Experience will look different for guests and crew when we return to cruising – enhanced pre-boarding procedures with staggered boarding times and health screenings, masks and face coverings in certain instances, exploring ashore only with organized Crystal excursions, and even more rigorous cleaning and disinfection throughout the ship. What will not change is the attention to detail and the personalized service and connections guests will experience on board.” Here is more of what passengers can expect.





PA S S E N G E R A N D C R E W T E S T I N G Preventing passengers infected with COVID-19 from boarding – along with regular testing of crew – are top priorities. As the Healthy Sail Panel report noted, “Aggressive testing, health screenings and exclusion policies will be critical.” Testing procedures will vary by line, with guests notified of specifics upon booking. Also, expect enhanced medical staff and facilities onboard. Oceania Cruises, a Norwegian subsidiary, will implement a pre-boarding health screening as well as touchless temperature checks of all passengers and crew at boarding, upon returning to the ship from a port of call, prior to all meals in dining venues and activities in public venues, and just before disembarkation. All ships will have a public health officer onboard as well as test kits for COVID. Pre-boarding testing is one of the Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations. Oceania has not yet specified detailed testing requirements. Crystal Cruises has already announced that its Crystal Clean + 3.0 program will require guests to complete a COVID test

prior to departure for their cruise and provide a printed copy of their negative result at check-in. Failure to comply will result in denial of boarding. A second COVID test will also be required upon arrival at the pier and a negative test is necessary to board. Guests must also purchase travel insurance, either through Crystal or a third party. Princess Cruises has also said a pre-travel COVID test will be required for guests and crew as well as health questionnaires, touchless temperature checks and secondary screenings and health checks throughout the cruise, when necessary. All MedallionClass ships (currently six, soon to be 11) will feature TrulyTouchless Embarkation with an app for completing the pre-cruise health questionnaire. The Medallion given to guests will even unlock their cabin door as they approach. Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Cunard will also implement 100 per cent testing of all passengers and crew prior to boarding, plus health questionnaires and enhanced screening.

DINING AND BUFFET PROTOCOLS First things first: The buffet isn’t totally going away. It’s just being tweaked for safety. Most cruise lines will offer buffet stations with masked crew members serving guests. Buffet stations on board Oceania, Crystal, Princess, Cunard and Royal Caribbean cruises will no longer be self-serve. Holland America Line, on the other hand, plans to convert buffet dining areas to service restaurants. Dining capacity and smaller table configurations will also be adjusted and the timing, size and flow of guests in dining venues and bars will be managed. Likely, there will be increased room-service options. In addition, Cunard will ask guests to pre-reserve tables and guests will be permitted to dine only with their travelling group or companions.

Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021 • 37


When cruising resumes, most cruise lines plan to require all passengers going ashore to do so on closely controlled excursions arranged by the ship with a smaller number of people allowed in each tour group. Mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing on buses and at attractions will be instituted. Holland America and Crystal have stated new shore excursion policies will be strictly mandated.


Oceania says it is working with destinations and tour operators around the globe to extend its health and safety protocols to cruise terminals, tour coaches and attractions. Princess is also working with local health authorities to introduce new protocols in every port, sanitize transportation and possibly reduce capacity on excursions. Royal Caribbean is extending their safety protocol to CocoCay, their private island in the Bahamas.


Pack masks. They’ll be required when physical distancing isn’t possible on the ship and during shore excursions, although reduced passenger capacity should make social distancing somewhat easier. Safety drills will still be mandatory, but many lines have already re-engineered them so passengers can watch them on embarkation day on their cabin televisions.

There will be extra hand-sanitizer dispensers and hand-washing stations aboard all ships, but cruise lines are going further with enhanced cleaning protocols and air-filtration systems.

When Royal Caribbean’s ships return, they will sail at 50 per cent occupancy. Oceania will limit the number of passengers onboard, implement a staggered embarkation process and reduce capacity in public areas. Some activities will also be modified to ensure social distancing. Fitness centres and spas will be affected, although most cruise lines are still finalizing the specifics. Cunard says it will operate its spas, salons, gyms, pools, casinos, shops, lounges and children’s clubs “subject to the latest approved guidelines to minimize contact, reduce the number of guests in each area, and maintain the highest levels of cleanliness.”

Holland America Line will resume sailing with multipletimes-a-day cleaning procedures using safe disinfectants proven to kill the novel coronavirus, plus use emerging technologies in staterooms and public spaces. Oceania’s safety protocols include the strategic installation of H13 HEPA air filters capable of removing 99.9 per cent of airborne pathogens as well as total disinfection of its ships between sailings and 24/7 preventative disinfection of public areas and hightraffic touch points. Princess will sanitize both public spaces and staterooms with a disinfectant known to kill coronavirus and has upgraded its ships’ HVAC systems with MERV 13 filters to remove a large percentage of airborne particles.

38 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021


Royal Caribbean says that the air on its ships, continuously supplied from outside, is replaced every 12 to 15 minutes and that fan coil units in staterooms will scrub the air of pathogens using a MERV 13 filter that captures aerosols 0.3 to 1 micron in size with 90 per cent efficacy—fine enough to filter colds, flu germs and coronavirus.




While the exact cruise experience won’t be fully revealed until the industry enters its start-up phase, anyone booking a sailing in 2021 should expect life both onboard and off to mirror life back home, with plenty of preventative rules and regulations in place to keep everyone safe.

sun-fi sun-filled lled destinations destinations to to look look forward forward to to If you’re ready for the ultimate island vacation, make time for If you’re ready for the ultimate island vacation, make time for relaxation on the renowned beaches of the Eastern Caribbean, relaxation on the renowned beaches of the Eastern Caribbean, including our private island resort Princess Cays®, explore the including our private island resort Princess Cays®, explore the majestic rainforests of the Western Caribbean or get immersed majestic rainforests of the Western Caribbean or get immersed in the colorful scenery of the Southern Caribbean. Get away for in the colorful scenery of the Southern Caribbean. Get away for a quick trip or spend some time soaking in the sun in Mexico a quick trip or spend some time soaking in the sun in Mexico enjoying festive music, margaritas and zesty cuisine! enjoying festive music, margaritas and zesty cuisine!

Be sure to ask about cruises ® Be sure toPrincess ask about cruises featuring MedallionClass ! featuring Princess MedallionClass®!

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balcony fares from* balcony fares from*

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+ wi-fi + wi-fi + gratuities included^ + gratuities included^ Contact your trusted travel advisor Contact your trusted travel advisor to learn more. to learn more. *Taxes, Fees and Port Expenses of up to $245 USD are additional and subject to change. ^Certain restrictions apply, please refer to your travel advisor or full terms, conditions and definitions that apply to Onboard Spending Money, Military Benefits and Princess Plus. ©2020 Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd. Ships of Bermudan and British registry *Taxes, Fees and Port Expenses of up to $245 USD are additional and subject to change. ^Certain restrictions apply, please refer to your travel advisor or full terms, conditions and definitions that apply to Onboard Spending Money, Military Benefits and Princess Plus. ©2020 Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd. Ships of Bermudan and British registry



Small wonders, big experience 7 reasons you’ll love river cruising By Martha Chapman

Fairy tale castles. Rolling vineyards. Cobblestone streets, ancient towns. It’s no wonder we love Europe – and why river cruising is such a great way to experience it. Once the domain of older travellers with an insatiable appetite for looking at churches and scenic bridges, river cruising has reinvented itself to appeal to a much wider audience. And when we can at last travel again, it’s poised to be one of the most popular ways to vacation. A river cruise embraces what many Canadians are looking for in a vacation – travelling in a small group, experiencing local food and wines, and connecting with the locals in an authentic, genuine way. Add in the fact you can visit several countries in one trip and need to unpack once, and you can see why so many of us have river cruising on our travel wish list. 40 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021





Most travellers who come to river cruising have a background in “big ship” ocean cruises where there can be a dazzling array of options (often at extra cost) based on accommodation and dining choices, excursions, entertainment and activities. With Avalon, not only are your meals at all three dining venues included – as well as optional continental breakfast delivered to your cabin – but regional wine and beer are included with lunch and dinner. Shore excursions can rack up a big bill on an ocean cruise, but with Avalon a selection is included at every port of call – all included in your vacation price.




Avalon’s Panorama Suites are a trademark of the company and one of the reasons why the company has earned a loyal following. The majority of cabins on each ship are roomy 18.5-square-metre suites, featuring luxurious linens and duvets on window-facing beds, a sitting area with desk, flat-screen TV, stocked bar fridge, and marble bathrooms stocked with L’Occitane toiletries. The light-filled suites feature a three-metre window wall which slides open a full two metres to bring in the sights and sounds of the passing landscapes. Solo travellers also like the fact that Avalon sets aside at least five cabins on each sailing with no single supplement. These suites are often the first to sell out. If you are interested, be sure to let your travel advisor know in plenty of time.


In 2021, Avalon will offer 50 different itineraries, ranging from four to 26 days, and feature cruises along legendary rivers such as the Danube, Rhine, Rhône, Moselle and Seine. Each cruise is created with a balance between activity and relaxation. One Danube cruise includes two nights in Vienna, or, depending on the itinerary, stays can be extended to include pre- or post-stays in legendary cities such as Budapest, Prague or Paris. To help quench the thirst for more off-the-beaten-path destinations to support local economies and combat over-tourism, the company has added six towns and villages as ports of call along the Danube in Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Austria. These include medieval town of Ilok in Croatia, known for its 1,000-year history of winemaking.


Avalon, part of the Globus family of brands, includes escorted motorcoach touring companies, Globus and Cosmos, and independent tour leader, Monograms. That makes combining a river experience with a land tour super easy.



River ships are smaller and more intimate. Avalon, for example, has a maximum of 166 guests. On a river cruise, embarkation and disembarkation can take just minutes (with little queuing) and you are never too far from your cabin. Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021 • 41


PEACE OF MIND AROUND SAFETY AND SECURITY In May 2020, Avalon launched Avalon Assurance Program, developed by a team of global experts who continue to review and tweak it. Protocols include mandatory health screenings, luggage disinfection, daily temperature checks and regular health checks for the crew, and new continuous cleaning protocols on each of the 14 ships that be operating in Europe in 2021.


“River cruising is the perfect way to see and explore the world – especially now,” says Stéphanie Bishop, managing director of the Globus family of brands, Avalon’s parent company, in Canada. “Cruise without crowds, explore new cultures with ease and sail in intimate settings. You’ll also receive the personalized attention you deserve and seamless dock-and-go sightseeing with insider tips and experiences only the locals can provide.”




From expansive breakfasts (including cooked-to-order hot meals) to casual BBQ lunches on the top deck and elegant dinners in the main restaurant or the low-key bistro, the dining options on board Avalon are always memorable. The crew will even pack you a picnic if you want to explore ashore on your own. Passengers love the quiet lounge where self-serve specialty coffees, teas and snacks are available 24 hours a day. With a passenger to crew ratio of 3 to 1, service is always attentive and polished.




Acknowledging that we travel to Europe for more than “statues and classical music,” Avalon introduced its Active and Discovery range of shore excursions a few years ago. At each port of call, you can choose your preferred type of excursion – Active (with perhaps a guided bike or hiking tour, Discovery (maybe a cooking class or meeting a local vintner), or Classic (usually a walking tour of the town). The walking tours (included in the cruise price) are always escorted by local guides and you don’t even have to decide which one excursion to take until that morning. One of my fondest memories was taking an art class in Amsterdam where we channelled our inner Van Goghs by painting a vase of sunflowers. In our paint-smeared smocks at our easels. We laughed as much as we painted even if the results were not museum quality. 42 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021




Discovering Alentejo and the Azores By Tim Johnson

Alentejo makes up a full third of the country’s territory, but is often overlooked by travellers, who usually flock to places like Porto and the Douro Valley or the sundappled Algarve. Or similarly, the volcanic Azores, nine islands off the coast, a semi-autonomous territory bobbing in the middle of the Atlantic. Whether you choose to explore by land, or sea, both are home to some of the country’s best food, wine, culture, history and fresh experiences. Here’s where you can discover them.

44 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021



Alentejo By far the largest of Portugal’s seven regions, Alentejo (which means “beyond the Targus River,”) covers the southcentral part of the country, with a long, jagged stretch off Atlantic coastline on one side, and arid borderlands paralleling the Spanish frontier on the other. Much of its history relates to the latter – the first redoubt against a much larger and stronger Spanish empire, this legacy of conflict has left behind a series of lovely fortified towns, places where you can now hike to a castle and survey the countryside for miles in all directions. And it’s a great place for a drive, too. Many of the main attractions are just a couple hours (or less) outside Lisbon – rolling through hills and vineyards, and the next surprising village just around the bend.


EVORA Evora, the capital and largest city in the region, is girded by a second-century Roman wall and capped by a first-century Corinthian temple, which everyone calls the Temple of Diana – despite the fact that it was never dedicated to the goddess. Leave plenty of time for the Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, which dates to 1165, where you can climb to the roof and survey the whole town. Inside, find a rare statue of a pregnant Madonna (most were destroyed during the Inquisition, but parishioners hid this one away in the walls) and the altar made from solid pink marble, one of the town’s most distinctive natural resources. The other – cork – is sold in shops lining the nearby “street of temptations.” Here, you can pick up almost anything made from this hardy material – hats, shoes, purses, or even a bikini. GARDEN OF DIANA AT DAWN, EVORA

the first line of defense against numerous invaders, and long occupied by the Moors, who left their distinctive mark on the culture and architecture. Visit for the castle and climb up to the watchtowers and feel like a knight. Hang around for the views, which stretch in all directions, perhaps enjoyed with a local beer and a little bifanas (fried pork steak) at one of the cafés overlooking the countryside. WINE Home to hundreds of vineyards, wineries in Alentejo take advantage of super-hot summers and limestone-andgranite soil to produce some of Portugal’s favourite wines. Known mostly for big, fruit-forward reds, the region also has whites and balanced reds. And you can taste them all, from Roupeiro to Touriga Nacional, along the Alentejo Wine Route, where you can hop from adega to adega. Make sure


And, the bones. Inside the Saint Francis Church, the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of the Bones) is walled with about 5,000 corpses – skulls, legs, arms – unearthed and brought here from surrounding cemeteries in the 17th century. It was a place for the Franciscans to contemplate the temporal nature of life, and it remains a bizarre and fascinating place to visit. Take a break at Café Alentejocin in the heart of town for regional food. Order oxtail stew, the hearty house specialty. MONSARAZ The hilltop fortress overlooks Europe’s largest manmade lake and the Spanish border. Rolling up to this small, cobblestoned town feels like a trip into the clouds. It was

to set your GPS and stop at Ervideira, whose most distinctive wine, Conde D’Ervideira, is aged in oak barrels and then submerged for eight months in a lake. “They always found that wines on shipwrecks had a different taste,” explains the owner. “So, we thought we’d try it.” It’s good.) COMPORTA A place where a sugary band of white sand stretches to the horizon, this upscale beach town is a sort of Hamptons for Lisboans. (It’s just south of the capital.) Bypassed by sunseeking Brits, it has a locals-only feel, and the vast majority of visitors are Portuguese. Rent a villa on the beach, or bed down in one of the town’s upscale hotels. Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021 • 45

The Azores Bubbling with volcanic energy, with coastlines girded by plunging sea cliffs and black-sand beaches (and interiors so green, they stretch the imagination and the colour spectrum), each of the nine islands has its own distinctive feel and personality. Located roughly one-third of the way across the Atlantic (closer to Europe than North America), this archipelago served as a way station for explorers sailing to and from the New World, from Christopher Columbus to Vasco de Gama, for centuries. Settled in the 15th century, the towns and cities here feel a lot like Portugal – cobblestone streets, castles and cathedrals. But once you roll into the countryside, you find yourself in a sort of Eden of the Atlantic. The geothermal dynamism combined with a subtropical climate produce an array of natural wonders (as well as very good wine, beef and fresh fish from the sea). With direct seasonal flights from Toronto to Sao Miguel and Terceira, most visitors focus on those two islands, although a few will venture to Pico, and will be richly rewarded for doing so. SAO MIGUEL Home to the archipelago’s largest city, this is the biggest and most populous island in the Azores. Ponta Delgada (not so large, with about 45,000 people) is an interesting SETE CIDADES, SAO MIGUEL place. The capital of this semi-autonomous territory has a 16th-century fort, a waterfront that’s easy to walk with a busy harbour, and city gates that appear on most of its postcards (and the island’s coat of arms). But things really start to pop once you get out of town. Roll up to Furnas, a couple hours’ drive into the centre of the island and the heart of the Sao Miguel’s geothermal activity. Stroll a boardwalk weaving between steaming mud pots and geysers. Then visit the Terra Nosta Gardens, 12 lush

hectares, with fig trees that date back to the time of the dinosaurs, and hot springs pools where you can take a nice warm dip, any time of year. Make sure to try some cozido, at the next-door hotel, or a local restaurant – a satisfying stew cooked five to six hours in the soil. TERCEIRA In the Azores, people sometimes say they have eight islands and one amusement park. The third-largest island, and the third to be discovered (not surprising: its name means “third” in Portuguese), Terceira has plenty to keep you occupied. Head to the northern coast to stand along sea cliffs that drop dramatically straight to a roiling sea. Then dip your toe into the North Atlantic at Biscoitos, a series of black-rock natural swimming pools, calm and protected from the crashing surf. At Algar do Carvao, descend hundreds of steps into an empty volcano (one of only two in the world – most collapse in on themselves), looking up from near the bottom to a blue sky, moss and ferns clinging to the side, through a cone that has erupted twice. At Gruta do Natal, you can walk through a lava tube, the flow of that molten rock still visible at the sides. Then head to Queijo Vaquinha, a working dairy farm where you can milk a cow, take a tour and taste the fruits of the labour of all those hardworking bovines at an on-site cheese factory and shop. PICO Capped by the highest mountain in Portugal, Pico is a little off-the-beaten track and profoundly rural. The shallow channel between the island and its nearby island neighbour (and rival), Faial, swims with sea life, including blue whales, the world’s largest mammal, which you can spot from a Zodiac boat. Those feeling energetic can rise early and hike to the peak, visible from almost anywhere on the island. HIKE TO THE PEAK OF PICO





The Azores

46 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021


Listen to a playlist of Alentejo music

Afterward, reward yourself with a tour of its vineyards, and a tasting. UNESCO has recognized a 987-hectare swath of the island as an “extraordinarily beautiful man-made landscape.” The vines have grown here since the 15th century in small plots called currais, protected from the often-harsh elements with walls made from black, basaltic rock.

Feel the welcoming warmth of the Mediterranean. VIDEO

Ships’ Registry: Bermuda. © 2021 Cunard.

Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021 • 47



Whether or not you claim Irish roots, when you visit the beautiful Emerald Isle, strive to experience it authentically. Of course, you’ll want to see the iconic sights, places and attractions. But travel is more than running through a laundry list of must-sees. It’s about slowing down for scenic surrounds and immersing oneself in nature. It’s exploring off-the-beaten-path and learning how history informs today. And it’s getting to know welcoming locals who may share insights into their way of life. Authentic travel is about discovering the destination’s soul, gleaned by experiences that reveal a sense of place and culture. 48 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021




DIG INTO TRADITIONAL IRISH CUISINE Part of any authentic travel adventure includes tucking into regional foods – drisheen, crubeens and boxty. Savour your first tastes of genuine Irish cuisine and the warmest of welcomes with a home-cooked meal. At places like Richenda’s historic home, local lore is served up with your spuds, often grown there. Pubs and restaurants also dish out traditional and reinvented classics, from hearty Irish stew and bacon and cabbage to steaming fresh-from-the-Atlantic seafood chowder with brown soda bread. Before long, coddle, champ and colcannon will be part of your new Irish vernacular.

As you tread this timeless land, you’ll encounter archaeological and architectural gems around every bend – megalithic cemeteries, prehistoric forts, Iron Age beehive huts and Viking remains. Although the isle is wee – just over 70,000 square kilometres, it harbours thousands of archaeological sites, a repository of human history dating to Mesolithic times, some 9,000 years ago. Don’t miss the “lost” 12th-century Norman town of Newtown Jerpoint, where St. Nicholas reputedly rests. He was the philanthropic Bishop of Myra, who is believed to have inspired the legend of Santa Claus.

Castles, castles everywhere! Hundreds of stone tower houses and keeps dot the land, left in the wake of pitched medieval battles. Today, most are brooding, ivy-covered ruins the breeze blows through or totter atop sea-lashed promontories—mere fragments of the strongholds they once were. A few that time has more gently caressed, however, have been restored and breathe new life as luxury hotels. Bed-down like royalty in five-star edifices like 13th-century Ashford Castle Hotel & Country Estate, or the baronial Dromoland Castle.







Ireland’s charming rural areas are best explored at a leisurely pace. If motoring alongside pastoral pastures chock-ablock with wooly Scottish black-faced mountain sheep twigs a desire to discover traditional farm life, plan a visit. Several farmers offer tours of their barnyards or open their farmhouses to overnight guests. Snuggle a lamb, visit show jumping training stables or see how border collies and humans together herd flocks at Glen Keen Farm.

RIDE ’ROUND THE RING OF KERRY Allow a full day or more to explore the Ring of Kerry. Said to be Ireland’s most scenic drive, it’s a 179-kilometre, mostly coastal touring loop of the Iveragh Peninsula from the town of Killarney. It is famed for stunning vistas framed by Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountains, and white sandy beaches like Castlecove. Pull over at Ladies View to snap photos of Killarney National Park below, a nature haven with cascading waterfalls, woodlands and three tranquil lakes nestled at the base of the slopes. In Portmagee, at the end of the peninsula, look seaward to sight the island of Skellig Michael and the early Christian monastery that sits atop it, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

RAMBLE AROUND THE RUGGED CLIFFS OF MOHER Stretching for eight zigzagging kilometres, the iconic, colossal Cliffs of Moher on the coast of County Clare are a UNESCO Global Geopark and the country’s most visited natural attraction. Rising 203 metres above the chilly Atlantic surf, on a clear day the panorama is splendid from a perch atop the jagged limestone-and-shale cliffs. For an even better view, follow the footpath to O’Brien’s Tower, on the headland of the highest cliff, and climb the stairs to the rooftop platform. Then stroll the pathways to cliff-edge viewing platforms, or take a invigorating walk on the coastal trail.

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While hitting the beach may not be top of mind when visiting Ireland, do as the Irish do.

Pronounced “crack,” you’ll hear this ubiquitous Gaelic word – loosely meaning enjoyable conversation, entertainment and fun – time and again. Whether you’re a frequent pub-goer or not, sample the hospitality for which the Irish are known in the lively pubs that are the heart of the isle’s social culture. Traditional Irish folk dancing, called ceili, is often on show, along with spirited, toe-tapping traditional music sessions. Strike up a conversation and you’ll discover that the friendly Irish are endowed with the gift of the gab (thanks, Blarney Stone) and a talent for telling lovely, lilting stories.

With a coastline stretching more than 5,500 kilometres, the isle boasts a bevy of breathtaking beaches. Stroll one or more, and sink your toes in sugar-soft sands. When a refreshing dip beckons, take your pick of the 90 bathing beaches awarded international Blue Flag status for water quality and environmental management. Inch Strand, the country’s longest, is perennially popular, while County Galway counts two of the finest – the startlingly white Gurteen Beach and Dog’s Bay.

Steeped in rich literary tradition, capital Dublin is a mustvisit for lovers of the written word. The city’s literature greats include George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats (both of whom won the Nobel Prize for Literature), as well as James Joyce, whose beloved 1922 masterpiece Ulysses is set in the city’s streets and pubs. Delve into the works of these and other celebs in the Dublin Writers Museum, housed in an 18th-century mansion. And don’t miss a visit to Trinity College’s Old Library, across the River Liffey in the city’s heart, to view the famed Book of Kells, a ninth-century illuminated gospel manuscript (text with intricate hand-coloured pictures) crafted at the Kells Monastery. It is said to be the most beautiful book in the world.








Flavours from Ireland

Explore the Wild Atlantic Way

"Don't Let Go," highlight of an Irish Celtic show

50 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021

Share a yarn or two with the affable folks of Ireland’s west. Stretching 2,500 kilometres from Ireland’s stem to its stern, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world. Starting at the tip of Malin Head in northern County Donegal, the route hugs the curvaceous contours of the western Atlantic seaboard all the way to Kinsale Harbour in County Cork, on the isle’s southern tip. Whether your time permits exploring just a wee segment or you have the leisure to meander the entire route, you’ll experience Ireland like a local in the centuries-old villages dotting the coastline. Tourism Ireland makes discovering the country easily and authentically with signposted discovery points and pre-planned itineraries,



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Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021 • 51

TO OUR VALUED CLIENTS Leave ordinary behind and let us take you on the adventure of a lifetime, a luxurious sun vacation or a unique cruise anywhere your heart desires. Relieve the anxiety of planning your vacation and focus on the fun of exploring, dreaming and discovering where you will go. Our trusted advisors will guide you through your customized travel itinerary, recommend great locations and even let you in on a few travel tips from their own experience. If you are intrigued by any of the articles presented in our magazine or any other travel experiences you are planning, we are ready to design tailored vacations just for you.

Articles inside

What else do you need to know about the COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan?

page 35


pages 34-35


page 23


page 22

Cunard Lines Ad

page 47


page 8

Indulge in unlimited possibilities

page 13


page 11

Authentic Ireland

pages 48-50

Discovering Alentejo and the Azores

pages 44-46

Small wonders, big experience

pages 40-42

What should passengers expect when cruising returns?

pages 36-38

Take a Wellness Break in Jamaica

pages 32-33

Travelling with purpose in the Dominican Republic

pages 30-31

Canada's love affair with Cancun continues

pages 28-29

Work, Stay, Play

page 26

What is the all-inclusive resort experience like now?

pages 24-25

Elevated Experience

pages 20-21

Charlevoix's Meteoric Rise

pages 18-19

Exploring the Yukon Territory’s Wide Open Spaces

pages 16-17

Airplane cleanliness – the new first class

pages 14-15

Packing List

page 12

What to Look for in 2021 and Beyond

page 10
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