Intrepid Travel Offering 20 Percent Off All Food-Centric Trips Through August 31

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Melbourne-based Intrepid Travel – known for its cultural and food-focused trips to remote corners of the planet – is now offering 20 percent off over 350 of their trips, including the newly-launched Food Adventures. The discount is good for all trips departing before August 31, 2013.

Last fall, Intrepid partnered up with The Perennial Plate, which documents these culinary adventures in bi-weekly video clips. If that’s not inspiration enough, check out these “Summer of Adventure” trips on offer: Northern Spain (Barcelona to San Sebastian), India (Delhi to Goa), and Vietnam (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City).

The trips run from four to 14 days, and have been designed in collaboration with renowned chefs, cookbook authors and other food experts, including Susan Feniger and Tracey Lister. Trip prices include accommodation, ground transportation, a local guide, activities listed on the itinerary and, in many cases, cooking classes, meals with locals and trips to local markets.

[Photo credit: Intrepid Travel]

Adventure Meets Cruise Ship On Extreme Shore Excursions

adventureIt’s not often that we write about adventure travel and cruises in the same story. It’s more like kayaking and Costa Rica, or cruises and buffets. But some extreme shore excursion offerings by a few cruise lines have raised the bar so high, others may not catch up for a good long while.

Forget the stuffy tour bus and all the challenges of moving 50 or 60 people at a time around an iconic destination; that’s not what these are. We’re talking combat aerobatics, Korean monks and the Holy Grail.

Crystal Cruises
has what they call “experiential cruising” that features far-flung, destination-inspired adventures that are not the fare of a normal shore excursion menu and include hiking, trekking, hot-air ballooning, dog sledding and mountain climbing.

G-Force 4 Combat Aerobatics invites guests to take adrenaline-filled flight in a fighter trainer jet to experience G-Force 4 thrills as an expert pilot teaches combat aerobatics, including a wing over, loop, barrel roll, stall turn and flyby over the ship.

Crew on America’s Cup Winning Yacht- Auckland is home to Team New Zealand, the famed sailing team that won two consecutive America’s Cup challenges. Become a member of the crew for the day, sailing aboard Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup yacht.

Spend the Day as a Korean Monk has guests experiencing a day in the life of a Korean Monk discovering the ancient culture still alive in the country’s many temples. After a tour of a temple’s architecture and history, learn a Korean-style meditation or partake in the tradition of wish writing, all ending with a traditional tea ceremony.

Rescue Endangered Marine Animals in Barcelona
As part of Crystal’s “You Care, We Care” complimentary voluntourism program, visit the Barcelona Rehabilitation Center to participate in a dolphin rescue drill and learn how to manage the floating stretcher, handle the animals and introduce them to the support swimming pool.

Sail an Underground River with Millions of Glow Worms
The Waitomo Caves’ soaring ceilings and low passages have created breathtaking formations and, when one looks up, millions of luminous, blue-green worms decorate the ceiling. Guests float in pitch darkness and absolute silence (so as to not disturb the worms) along an underground river to observe.

VIP at the Monaco Grand Prix- Car lovers experience the fast cars and glamorous events of the Monaco Grand Prix. They can watch the world’s most prestigious automobile race from either the driver/team-prep paddock area, a residence above the famous Casino, or the best seats in the grandstands near the start/finish line.

Rub 100 Buddha Bellies has guests traveling much farther into Asia than the Bangkok port-of-call, including a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang, home to the famed Pak ou Caves. One hundred steps above, voyagers will find hundreds of Buddhas – all illuminated by candles. They say rubbing one Buddha Belly brings good luck, wealth and prosperity. One hundred Buddha’s? All the better.

These over-the-top experiences and other offerings by Crystal Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and Disney Cruise Line are typical of what is happening right now in cruise vacations. Cruise lines are taking advantage of their mobile nature and addressing a traveler-charged desire to see more than the standard tours at destinations around the world.

Disney Cruise Line, masters in storytelling already, take that same ability to craft off-the-ship experiences that travelers are not apt to forget anytime soon. How about taking your children to a puppet show? … at the Villa Borghese in Rome. In Venice, visit textile and marble workshops where artisans create items for the Vatican and Dolce & Gabbana.

“On shore, we just take our storytelling skills and work with the locals to help tell our guests why we are bringing them to Venice or Croatia or Turkey,” Arnaldo Zanonato, Disney’s shore excursions manager said in a great, in-depth Travel Weekly report. “And when it’s appropriate we try to make it more fun, make it hands-on for the kids, make it a learning experience for everybody.”

At the ruins of St. John’s Basilica, the Apostle John is said to be entombed. Exclusive to Disney guests, an “archaeologist” leads them in a competition to find scattered pieces of a sacred symbol.

Travelers who have been to Rome before want something different and more experiential. Disney delivers with a San Clemente Basilica trip where guests can descend to the bottom of the three-tiered complex, which dates back to the first century.

No discussion about extreme shore excursions would be complete without mentioning Azamara Club Cruises, the tiny two-ship boutique cruise line that specializes in destination immersion like no other.

On board Azamara ships – just the right size to be comfortable ocean-going vessels but small enough to get to places big ships can’t touch – its all about the destinations. Rarely repeating itineraries, Azamara offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience the world in an up close and personal way that no stock tour bus can deliver.

Example: A 14-night sailing in April 2013 titled The Spice Route Voyage features three overnights in port and six days at sea allowing passengers to see how various cultures and customs merged along trade routes. The experience is entirely customizable too.

If exploring Singapore’s cuisine and shops is not enough, join a night safari at the zoo. Take a rickshaw ride through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown or in Sri Lanka, explore Buddhist monasteries, cave temples, rainforest preserves and elephant sanctuaries. In India, check the Kerala backwaters near Kochi, the beaches, colonial architecture and spice plantations of Goa, and the boundless energy of Mumbai. This one even has an optional overland tour to Taj Mahal.

Look for other cruise lines to pay more attention to the quality and depth of their off-the-ship options too … but a wing over, loop, barrel roll, stall turn and flyby over the cruise ship? That’s going to be hard to top.

[Photo Credit- Flickr user Defence Images]

The Trick To Surviving Thanksgiving On The Road


I woke up last Thanksgiving with plenty to be thankful for. The sun was shining. The air was fragrant. Outside my guesthouse window, rice paddies extended as far as the eye could see. I was in Bali, for Christ’s sake. There wasn’t much to complain about.

Yet, I felt empty. Thanksgiving is one of the toughest days to travel, especially when you’re alone. For a while, I puttered around my room, checking my email and looking at photos of friends and families on Facebook. It was the seventh Thanksgiving I had spent away from family, and it had yet to get easier.

I do, however, have a strategy for Thanksgivings abroad, and it’s pretty simple. I indulge. If I’ve been on a tight budget, I splurge on a nice guesthouse. If my neck is stiff from a 14-hour bus ride, I spring for a massage. I sleep in. I watch movies. I basically give myself permission to do whatever the heck I want, even if it’s not what you’re “supposed to do” while traveling.

And in the spirit of the holiday, I eat – well, and often.

In 2008, it was a midnight Egyptian feast on a rooftop in Luxor. My friend and I were dirty and dusty from a day spent exploring the temples. We scarfed down specialties like kofta and stuffed pigeon while our waiter played a special iTunes mix of Usher songs for his American guests.

The following year, it was a breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausage in the beachside town of Anjuna in Goa. It was one of the few times I ate meat in my six weeks of backpacking through India. I spent the rest of the day in a food coma on the beach.

And last year in Bali, it was a lunch of crispy duck at Ubud‘s Bebek Bengil, which is famous for the dish. The duck is first steamed in Indonesian spices, then deep fried for a crispy finish and served with rice and Balinese vegetables. It is, quite simply, extraordinary. I savored it slowly and washed it down with a midday beer while reading a collection of short stories from Jhumpa Lahiri. By meal’s end, my self-pity had all but vanished.

It’s not easy being away from home on Thanksgiving. But indulging in the world’s pleasures – particularly its culinary ones – can certainly help.

[Photo Credit: Jessica Marati]

British Protesters Campaign For A Rain-Free Olympics

gandys flip flops And I thought the weather was controlled by nature. Recently, a group of bikini-clad female protesters in London headed to Parliament Square to demand sunnier weather and a rain-free Olympics. While this may sound outlandish, the comical campaign is actually part of a bigger project to help a community.

In the hopes that the government complies with the protesters – or that Mother Nature simply supplies some sunshine – brothers Rob and Paul Forkan of Gandys Flip Flops are getting their product ready, and will be putting partial earnings towards the building of an orphanage in Goa, India. The pair, who were orphaned after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, are doing the project as a tribute to their parents.

“The poor weather and the current economic climate haven’t exactly put people in the mood for the beach,” Rob Forkan told the Daily Mail. “We thought it would be interesting to combine the two issues with a protest in jest. Hopefully we will cheer even Parliament up!”

[photo via Gandy's Flip Flops]

Ten hot backpacker destinations

Though the backpacker scene feels more hipster than hippie these days, the same formula remains: young travelers plus a small budget plus a long trip. While individuals certainly differ, the stereotype of a budget traveler toting a bedraggled pack to cheap destinations is there for a reason.

So where are the kids congregating these days? Here are our top ten backpacker locations (in no particular order):

Thailand A long-time favorite, Thailand’s low costs, relative ease of travel, and scenic beaches are obvious draws. Add to those hill tribes, jungle and elephant trekking, and some awesome grub, and you have a nearly perfect combination – which is probably why the country also hosts a number of expats.

Amsterdam Need we say anything more? Laws are loose, and for those American kids who never had the chance to experiment, the freedom is heavenly. Oh, and there are sex shows.

Guatemala Travelers learning Spanish flock to Antigua, where language schools and home stays are offered in the picturesque colonial town. Jungles, volcanoes, lakes and Mayan ruins round out the offerings.

Goa “Buddha Lounge” music drifts across Palolem Beach, an impossibly cheap swoop of sand on India’s west coast. It’s easy to drop out for a while here, renting out some small, rickety beach hut and bobbing around in the warm sea.
Nepal “Backpacking” takes on a literal meaning (as does “getting high”) when you’re trekking across the Himalayas. Long on the backpacker circuit, Nepal’s appeal is in cheap prices and natural wonders.

Bali An Indonesian island of volcanoes, jungle, beaches and, thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert, 30-something divorcees…. The backpacker hotspot here is Ubud, a smallish town in the center of the island that is a center for dance, music, and arts.

Australia Though Australia seems to churn out backpackers like Orcs from Mordor, the country itself is a sweet spot for extended travels. Big enough to explore for years, wild enough to satiate nature lovers, and warm enough for beach and surf fanatics, Australia has a broad-range appeal. Plus, the language and the culture are familiar, making it a nice introduction to travel for newbies.

Argentina Good wine, and Italian influence, a vibrant capital city, and budget prices: what’s not to appeal to a backpacker? Whether it’s club-hopping in Buenos Aires or working on an organic farm in the countryside, this South American country appeals to a spectrum of budget travelers.

New Zealand Another country that nails it all: great surfing and countless other outdoor activities, friendly folks, and the Flight of the Conchords.

Greek Islands A haven of sun, sand, and souvlaki, the Greek Islands have always been a favorite. There’s ritzy Santorini, mountainous Crete, party-time Ios, and dozens more. Take an overnight ferry, make some new friends, and party your holiday away.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Rene Ehrhartdt]