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Imelda Marcos demonstrates her phone shaped like a shoe.

Imelda Marcos demonstrates her phone shaped like a shoe.

Note: This is the second in an occasional series of chance encounters I’ve had with famous people while traveling. The first was with anthropologist Margaret Mead in Kenya as she hesitated to cross a busy Nairobi boulevard. 

Several years ago I was in Manila, capital of the Philippines, and in a bit of a funk.

I was traveling with a group of journalists and we had just finished dinner at a mediocre Chinese restaurant that was located in a nondescript mall way across town from our hotel –a two-hour bus ride, or should I say crawl, away. (Without traffic it would have been maybe 20-30 minutes, but Manila traffic is notoriously brutal.) The dinner was as bland as its surroundings.

As we walked back to the bus all I could think about was the long return ride that awaited. Our… Continue reading

The Viking Sky and Sea meet in Santorini, Greece. Photo from Viking Cruises.

The Viking Sky and Sea meet in Santorini, Greece. Photo from Viking Cruises.

Viking Cruises — which already operates the world’s largest and most popular river cruise line with almost 60 ships in Europe, Russia, Egypt, and Asia– is now moving into ocean cruising in a big way.

Viking launched its first ocean-going ship, the Viking Star, in 2015, and in April 2016 launched its second, the Viking Sea. (I’m looking forward to a voyage on the Viking Sea this fall in the eastern Mediterranean).

And it’s launching more ocean-going vessels, the Viking Sky, Sun, and Spirit, in 2017 or 2018. A sixth unnamed ship is on order for 2020, and if Viking’s explosive growth in river cruising is any indication, other ocean-going cruise lines may want to watch their backs.

Viking’s ocean-going vessels hold a maximum of 930 passengers and, in… Continue reading

Classic cars in downtown Havana draw photographers galore. Photo by Clark Norton

Classic cars in downtown Havana draw photographers galore. Photo by Clark Norton

I just returned from a week-long cruise to Cuba aboard the Greek ship Celestyal Crystal, in the company of 776 fellow passengers, many of them from the United States.

Along with some journalists who were guests of Celestyal Cruises, the Americans were aboard under the auspices of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a Riverhead, New York-based “People to People” program promoting U.S.-Cuba relations.

The ship was also filled with Canadians, Germans, French, English and other nationalities who had been free to visit Cuba for years, mostly for Caribbean beach vacations.

Americans, on the other hand, have been highly restricted in travels to Cuba for decades, though things are now loosening up following President Obama’s recent rapprochement with Raul Castro.

As of March 16, 2016, just prior to Obama’s historic visit to Havana, Americans can now… Continue reading

An iceberg off Antarctica. Photo by Catharine Norton.

An iceberg off Antarctica. Photo by Catharine Norton.

An iceberg is born as a roar, as a huge chunk of ice splits from a glacier and plunges into the sea.

But the iceberg’s story is far from over — these drifting islands of ice have much to tell us about our planet. An iceberg — which takes its name from the Dutch ijsberg — or mountain of ice — may lead a surprisingly long and rich life.

Depending on conditions like their size, water and air temperatures, icebergs may survive for days or even years. Eventually they break up and melt — often far from where they originated. Icebergs, in fact, can drift six miles a day or more.

Icebergs are found where glaciers — rivers of ice that flow slowly from mountaintop to sea — predominate: most commonly off the coasts of Antarctica, Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. When… Continue reading

Here’s an interesting way to spice up a cruise:

On Hapag-Lloyd’s five-star-plus ship Europa 2 — considered the finest ship afloat today — the passengers will get to decide most of the itinerary. This should appeal to many baby boomers’ sense of adventure.

The ship will set sail from Istanbul on May 14, 2016, and reach Piraeus, Greece, the port of Athens, 10 days later, but where it goes in-between will be decided by the passengers once the ship has set sail.

The Captain will offer some help by letting those aboard know where the sun will be shining brightest during those days. And lecturers on board will present the highlights of the potential destinations.

While the Europa 2 is a German ship, this “Surprise Cruise” is bilingual with English shore excursions. (You just don’t know where the shore excursions will be.) I sailed on the Europa 2… Continue reading

The Disney Fantasy, on earth -- well, at sea.

The Disney Fantasy, on earth — well, at sea.

While it’s certainly true that subsequent generations have discovered Star Wars, baby boomers were among the first to take the interstellar journey to a galaxy far, far away back in 1977, albeit in the comfort of their local cinema.

Now that Disney has taken over the franchise with the ultra-successful Episode VII (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), the same boomers — and yes, subsequent generations — can awaken to a special “Star Wars Day at Sea” aboard a Disney cruise ship. (Disney cruises, by the way, are geared to adults as well as kids.)

Eight sailings of the appropriately named Disney Fantasy will transport Star Wars fans of any age to a sea far, far away —  well, not that far away, but at least out of the… Continue reading

Alexander Hamilton cuts a dashing figure on the U.S. ten dollar bill.

Alexander Hamilton cuts a dashing figure on the U.S. ten dollar bill.

Hamilton — a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the U.S. Founding Fathers and the first Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington — is the hottest show on Broadway, currently showing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The cast recording was also one of the top albums of 2015.

It’s fitting to mention it today because Hamilton was born on January 11, 1755 (some sources say 1757).

One of the leading figures in the American Revolution, Hamilton was known as a brilliant orator and influential advocate of a strong federal government, putting him at odds with Thomas Jefferson and provoking jealousy from his one-time friend Aaron Burr, who eventually killed Hamilton in a duel. (Burr, a fascinating figure in his own right, is now primarily remembered for shooting his rival.)

The Travel… Continue reading

Tuvalu will become a center for Climate Change Tourism. Photo from Timeless Tuvalu

Tuvalu will become a center for Climate Change Tourism. Photo from Timeless Tuvalu

Peering into my crystal ball for 2016 — which due to budgetary concerns is more like fiberglass this year — I foresee the following top ten developments in the ever-changing, sometimes wacky world of travel:

Try to pare this down to wallet size, please.

Try to pare this down to wallet size, please.

  • A 747 will be diverted from Omaha to New Orleans overnight because passengers in seats A and B get into a spat over who can claim the middle armrest. Oddly, none of the hundreds of passengers aboard complain as they gobble down their jambalaya and beignets.
  • Spurred by the success of a tour agency named “Toodle-oo Tuvalu” and a boutique hotel called “Sinking Along With the Breeze,” Climate Change Tourism will be huge, in which ghoulish travelers will journey to low-lying Pacific atolls soon to be inundated… Continue reading
Skellig Michael is home to ancient stone structures and unforgettable vistas.

Skellig Michael is home to ancient stone structures and unforgettable vistas.

Watching the new Star Wars movie — The Force Awakens — the other night, I was startled, and pleased, to see one of my favorite places in the world as the setting for the dramatic last scene.

(I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t see the film, but I can recommend the movie to any baby boomers who liked the initial trilogy, called Episodes IV to VI. Several of the old stars have returned, and the plot, characters, and general feel are much like a combination of the first three in the series.)

The place setting for the last scene is the spectacularly beautiful rocky island Skellig Michael (also known as Great Skellig), which lies about seven miles off the coast of southwest Ireland.

I visited there about 12 years ago on a… Continue reading

What town is named after this "jolly old elf"?

What town is named after this “jolly old elf”?

I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season.

Mine has been truly memorable, as our family welcomed its newest member and my first grandchild into the world at 6:33 a.m. on December 26 in Tucson, Arizona. Baby, parents, and grandparents are all doing fine…who needs sleep when the greatest Christmas gift of all arrives early the following morning?

Perhaps needless to say, we’re already plotting our first big trip with the newborn; I’ll keep you posted! (Multi-generational travel is one of the big trends in baby boomer travel, and we intend to do our share.)

Now for the answers to our first annual Merry Christmas Travel Quiz. In case you missed the earlier post and would like to take the quiz, I’m listing the answers at the bottom.

1. Christmas Island was discovered by British Royal Navy Captain… 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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