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Boat travel

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Venice has always been one of my favorite cities. If there’s a more beautiful city in the world, I haven’t found it. And millions of other people would say the same.

And therein lies the problem: Millions of people visiting (and tromping through) one of the most fragile cities on the planet — at the rate of 80,000 per day in summer, far outnumbering Venice’s own residents.

After all, the city is built on a lagoon, canals snake through its heart, and its centuries-old palazzos, churches, and art treasures are subject to erosion, flooding, and tsunamis of tourists as well.

It’s been called a “poster child for overtourism” — meaning, simply, too many tourists for its own good, compounded by massive infusions of cruise ship passengers and other day-trippers. It’s remarkable that any gondolier worth his stripes can maneuver his full craft through the gondola-traffic-choked canals and still… Continue reading

MSC cruises sail the world. Photo from MSC Cruises
A year ago, MSC Cruises had the last remaining cruise ship at sea. Photo from MSC Cruises

Based on that headline, things are looking up!

The travel and hospitality industries — airlines, restaurants, hotels, cruise lines — have taken the brunt of the economic hit during the pandemic. Estimates are that at least $500 billion of travel business has been lost in the U.S. alone.

With about 10 percent of the world’s population employed in some travel-related occupation, the global cost has been staggering, and many smaller operators, especially — tour companies, family-run restaurants, inns and the like — have struggled to survive or been forced to close down permanently.

Now, even with COVID cases still raging in many parts of the U.S. and the world, some 200 million Americans (out of 330 million) have received at least one dose of vaccine — and the travel industry is moving into… Continue reading

OK, this is a bit of shameless self-promotion, but I’m happy to say that Cruising the World: From Gondolas to Megaships — has won Gold in the Coffee Table Book category of the 2021 Independent Press Award competition.

The book represents the finest images from prize-winning travel photographer Dennis Cox’s decades of documenting cruise ships — and a host of other passenger carrying vessels — from around the world (77 countries on seven continents!).

I enjoyed writing the text for the book because in the process I learned a lot about the history of cruising, as well as the sheer magnitude of what goes into running megaships (love ’em or hate ’em) and smaller ocean-going cruise ships — along with the incredible variety of riverboats, sailing ships, freighters, ferries, dhows, sampans, junks, paddle wheelers, barges, trajineras, expedition vessels, feluccas, gulets, and, of course, gondolas, that traverse the world’s waterways.

Cruise… Continue reading

Award-winning travel photographer Dennis Cox and I have been friends since high school. We’ve collaborated on a number of magazine and newspaper projects over the years, and Dennis has contributed many of his photos for use on clarknorton.com.

Our collaboration has worked out well since my photography skills are about on a par with his writing abilities. In other words, if he sticks to camera work and I stick to words, we do OK.

One of our collaborative pieces for United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine, on China’s ethereal Mt. Huangshan, was named Best Magazine Travel Article of the year in 1995 by the Pacific Asia Travel Association. We’ve also worked together on pieces for The Washington Post Magazine, Destinations magazine, the San Francisco Examiner, and other publications.

But we had never done a book together until now. The final product, which we finished earlier this year — Cruising the World: From… Continue reading

Award-winning travel photographer Dennis Cox and I have been friends since high school. We’ve collaborated on several magazine and newspaper projects over the years, and Dennis has contributed a number of his photos for use on clarknorton.com.

Our collaboration has worked out well since my photography skills are about on a par with his writing abilities. In other words, if he sticks to camera work and I stick to words, we do OK.

One of our collaborative pieces for Hemispheres Magazine, on China’s ethereal Mt. Huangshan, was named Best Magazine Travel Article of the year in 1995 by the Pacific Asia Travel Association. We’ve also worked together on pieces for The Washington Post Magazine, Destinations magazine, the San Francisco Examiner, and other publications.

But we had never done a book together until now. The final product, which we finished earlier this year — Cruising the World: From Gondolas to Megaships… Continue reading

Novice monks arrive to receive alms of sticky rice. Photo by Robert Waite

The country of Laos, along with some other Southeast Asian nations, was on my radar as a possible destination for this year. I was especially interested in taking a river cruise on the Mekong and visiting Luang Prabang.

Alas, it was not to be, but contributing writer Robert Waite did make it there this January, which now seems a lifetime ago. But the portrait he paints is of a “tranquil gem” that I hope will be waiting when safe travel again resumes. And according to Bob, the Laotians are anxious to greet us.

By Robert Waite

Luang Prabang, Laos – It is dark and just a touch chilly. You’re seated on a stool on the road clutching a wicker basket filled with sticky rice, trying to remember the instructions you have just been given. Ball the rice… Continue reading

MSC cruises sail the world. Photo from MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises had the last remaining cruise ship at sea. Photo from MSC Cruises

As of late April, 2020, world cruising came to a complete halt, when the MSC Magnifica ended its epic voyage around the world that began way back on January 5, just about four months and a lifetime ago.

At the time, there were relatively few public stirrings about a mysterious virus apparently emanating from Wuhan, China, and passengers were treated to several stops in South America before rounding Cape Horn and heading to the South Pacific.

The rest of the Magnifica‘s voyage didn’t exactly go as planned (though, ironically, free of coronavirus, it was actually one of the safest places to be on the planet).

Rejected by some Pacific islands — the virus by now had struck several other cruise ships, which were all seeking safe havens and, in many cases, being turned away —… Continue reading

The Deluxe Veranda staterooms on Viking Ocean ships are spacious and light-filled.. Photo from Viking Cruises.

The Deluxe Veranda staterooms on Viking Ocean ships are terrific, if you can afford them. Photo from Viking Cruises.

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about how to get the best value for your cruise dollar.

Which cabin you choose can mean a difference of hundreds or even thousands of dollars in your cruise fare. Along with the general luxury level of the cruise line itself, the length of your cruise — and your ability to restrain yourself at the casino, bar, or art auction — your cabin category is likely to be the main variable in the entire cost of your cruise.

How do most cruise lines price their cabins and suites? Three general rules usually come into play:

  • The higher the deck, the higher the price of the cabin.
  • The bigger the room, the higher the price. 
  • The better the water view, the… Continue reading

The expedition ship MV Cascadia sailed the Haida Gwaii islands. Photo by Robert Waite.

In Part II of Robert Waite’s chronicle of his trip to remote Haida Gwaii — an archipelago off the west coast of Canada, in British Columbia — he takes us aboard the MV Cascadia, a small  expedition vessel that holds a maximum of 24 passengers.

Along with comfortable accommodations and amenities, the Cascadia provided plenty of opportunities for visiting the islands, formerly known as the Queen Charlottes, where the biological diversity is the richest on earth and Haida tribal culture is making a comeback.

If you haven’t read Part I of this two-part series, I suggest you go there now and you’ll have the full context for reading about this extraordinary journey.

By Robert Waite

Once aboard the Cascadia, much of our seven-day voyage was determined by weather and tides.

Tides on the east… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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