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The Grande Mariner, Blount's 88-passenger ship that sails Lake Michigan and beyond. Photo from Blount Small Ship Adventures.

The Grande Mariner, Blount’s 88-passenger ship that sails Lake Michigan and beyond. Photo from Blount Small Ship Adventures.

Fifth in a Series

On our recent “Magical Lake Michigan” cruise aboard Blount Small Ship Adventures‘ 88-passenger ship Grande Mariner, we started in Illinois (Chicago), sailed to Michigan, made three stops (Holland, Beaver Island and Mackinac Island), and now were headed to Wisconsin.

The world’s fifth largest lake, Lake Michigan borders parts of four U.S. states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana — and only Indiana is not included on the itinerary.

Lake Michigan is the only one of the five Great Lakes not to share its waters with the province of Ontario, Canada. That made it ideal for some of the American passengers who didn’t own passports. (Though as an aside I would encourage  everyone to get one; for example, to take… Continue reading

Spring tulips on Windmill Island are a highlights of a strop in Holland, Michigan. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews.

Spring tulips on Windmill Island are a highlight of a stop in Holland, Michigan. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews.

Second in a Series

How can you get from Chicago to Holland without crossing the Atlantic Ocean?

Just book a “Magical Lake Michigan” cruise with Blount Small Ship Adventures, a line that specializes in taking passengers along the rivers, lakes, waterways, and seas of the United States, Canada, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Holland, in fact, is a town on the west coast of Michigan, and it was the first stop after embarking in Chicago, Illinois, aboard Blount’s 88-passenger ship Grande Mariner.

For those unfamiliar with Lake Michigan, it’s one of the five Great Lakes that top several states in the northern (mostly Midwestern) tier of the U.S. and together comprise a fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.

As I wrote in my previous post,… Continue reading

Bridge in Isfahan in the evening. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews.

Bridge in Isfahan in the evening. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews.

With a new nuclear deal in hand (or at least almost in hand, partly depending on U.S. Congressional action), tourism to Iran is expected to soar — much like U.S. tourism to Cuba has reached fever pitch since the recent thaw in relations.

While Iran has received a number of international tourists over the years — including some Americans — since the 1979 revolution brought the ayatollahs to power, economic sanctions have severely crippled Iran’s travel industry.

Still, tourism has been rising somewhat since the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 presented a more moderate face to the world. And with the threat of potential war over Iran’s nuclear program now largely defused, Iran is anticipating a sudden swell of new visitors.

The Iranian government is reportedly considering easing or abolishing visa requirements for many foreign nationals and… Continue reading

Sydney Greenstreet in "Casablanca." Peter Lorre was in it, too.

Sydney Greenstreet in “Casablanca.” Peter Lorre was in it, too.

I confess: I’ve dined on KFC in Nairobi, Big Macs in China, and A&W in Kuala Lumpur.

I’ve watched Bob Newhart reruns in Zimbabwe, ordered bacon and eggs in Mumbai, and visited the Holiday Inn in Swaziland.

There are times when seeing a familiar face — even Colonel Sanders — has proved reassuring while traveling in distant lands.

But usually not.

When I go abroad, in fact, I’m almost always drawn to the remote, the exotic, the unfamiliar, the unpredictable. Give me the jungles of the Amazon to the shores of Waikiki, the tea houses of Hong Kong to the salons of London, the ends of the earth to the easily accessible hubs.

When it comes to travel, I’m a hopeless Romantic, spurred by images on old postage stamps and scenes from Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre movies.… Continue reading

The Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest, overlooks the Danube. Photo by Clark Norton

The Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest, overlooks the Danube. Photo by Clark Norton

Travel + Leisure Magazine has just come out with its latest “World’s Best” lists — there are lots of those these days — one of which is the World’s Top Ten Best Cities.

Here’s the Top Ten as voted by T+L readers:

10. Jerusalem, Israel 9. Cape Town, South Africa 8.Barcelona, Spain 7.Krakow, Poland 6. Bangkok, Thailand 5. Rome, Italy 4. Florence, Italy 3. Siem Reap, Cambodia 2. Charleston, South Carolina 1. Kyoto, Japan

A loyal reader sent me the link yesterday and asked if I could name my own Top 10. I’m happy to oblige.

First, I will say that the above list is not bad, although I don’t quite understand how Siem Reap, Cambodia, makes the list, because it’s mostly known as the gateway to Angkor Wat — which, while being a world-class icon, doesn’t qualify… Continue reading

Where in Asia would you find this location of Nathan's Famous hot dogs? Answer: Malaysia. Photo from Nathan's Famous.

Where in Asia would you find this location of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs? Answer: Malaysia. Photo from Nathan’s Famous.

Here are the answers to the Fourth of July Independence Day Travel Trivia Quiz from my previous post. (If you haven’t taken the quiz yet and want to, I’d suggest returning there first.)

Some of these questions were tricky, others merely difficult, and a few were relatively easy, especially with True or False questions offering just two choices. The multiple choice questions seemed to give people the most trouble, based on feedback I received. Thanks for joining in, whether Baby Boomers or younger!

1. True or false: As one of the 13 original colonies, Vermont was the only one that refused to ratify the Declaration of Independence.

Answer: False. Vermont was not one of the original 13 colonies.

2. Which U.S. president was born on the Fourth… Continue reading

Now a popular cruise ship stop, Tortola and neighboring Norman Island were once pirate hideouts. Photo by Gail Frederick on Flickr.

Now a popular cruise ship stop, Tortola and neighboring Norman Island were once pirate hideouts. Photo by Gail Frederick on Flickr.

Third in a Series:

The British Virgins are known for their calm, clear waters, with tropical breezes ideal for sailing. But those same waters were once infested with pirates, including some of the most notorious. Here, Blackbeard, Drake and others preyed on passing ships laden with riches bound for Spain.

Legend has it that Robert Louis Stevenson modeled fictional Treasure Island after Norman Island, where local fishermen reputedly found treasure buried in its sea caves. Today the caves off Treasure Point are favored by divers and snorkelers, no doubt hoping for a glimpse of a piece of eight themselves.

You can get here by chartering a boat or joining one of many day sails out of Road Town, Tortola, the BVI’s capital. Although Norman Island is uninhabited, the Pirates… Continue reading

Negril, Jamaica -- former pirates' lair. Photo by Shannon Kaiser, on Flickr.

Negril, Jamaica — former pirates’ lair. Photo by Shannon Kaiser, on Flickr.

Second in a Series:

Long before it was the land of reggae, Jamaica was pirate central, and Port Royal was its capital.

Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Calico Jack and Henry Morgan all liked to prowl the brothels and taverns here when they weren’t out scourging the high seas.

Dubbed “the wickedest city in the world” before being swallowed up by an earthquake in 1692 — much of the old town lies beneath the water now — Port Royal today is a small, pleasant fishing village a few miles from Kingston on Jamaica’s southeastern shores. But enough remains that you can still relive the days of its vile past, when some of the most infamous characters of the age stalked its streets.jamaica-3

When the English captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655, the new colony’s governor invited the Caribbean pirates of… Continue reading

El Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jeff Gunn on Flickr.

El Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jeff Gunn on Flickr.

Sure, the Caribbean pirates of yore were a cutthroat crew: They plundered, pillaged, and sent many a scurvy dog to Davy Jones’ Locker — then squandered their booty on rum and loose women.

But nearly two centuries after their last victims walked the proverbial plank, those swashbuckling scoundrels still command rock-star power.

Maybe it’s the devil-may-care attitudes flaunted by fictional pirates like Treasure Island’s Long John Silver, Peter Pan’s Captain Hook and Pirates of the Caribbean’s Jack Sparrow — hoisting their Jolly Rogers on the mainmast, unfurling their cryptic treasure maps, sporting their earrings and puffy shirts in an otherwise overstarched age.

Maybe it’s the colorful monikers of real-life pirate captains — Blackbeard, Calico Jack Rackham, Black Sam Bellamy — whose crimes reflected little of the Hollywood image.

Whatever the reason, if you’re hooked on the… Continue reading

The view from atop Mt. Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Photo by kevincure on flickr.

The view from atop Mt. Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Photo by kevincure on flickr.

In our last post, we looked at the case of the ten foreign tourists who climbed Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, and angered the locals by stripping naked when they reached the summit. One of them posted photos to his Facebook page.

The local people believe that the mountain spirits caused a fatal earthquake a few days later to show their displeasure with the act.

Four of the ten were  caught, jailed for three days, paid U.S. $1,300 fines and were deported back to their home countries.

I argued that as guests in other countries, foreign tourists should respect local customs (as long as they aren’t destructive) no matter how superstitious, backward, or unnecessarily draconian they may seem to visitors.

Just Youthful High Jinks?

Some other writers have argued that the… 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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