One of my favorite trips ever was to the Galapagos Islands, via a small cruise ship, much like the one contributing writer Robert Waite took in his compelling narrative below. The fellow pictured above, a marine iguana with a face only a mother (or mate) could love, is one of countless friendly creatures my wife and I encountered during our eight-island cruise. But I’ll leave it to Bob to chronicle his own experiences, which complete his trilogy on traveling to Ecuador, including visits to the colonial-era capital, Quito, and the Amazon.
By Robert Waite
Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos – Want to feel young again, even if you are in your sixth or seventh decade? Head to the Santa Cruz highlands, where you will be a veritable spring chicken compared to the Galapagos giant tortoises ambling about.
Many tortoises reach 100 years of age or more, and one —… Continue reading
By Robert Waite
Quito, Ecuador – There are three things to keep in mind when planning a visit to Quito, capital of Ecuador.
First, it is high. Not Cusco-high, but — at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters )– you’re 2,000 feet (610 meters) higher than Mexico City. It may take you a few days to acclimate.
Second, it is hilly. As one who once lived on Russian Hill in San Francisco, I thought I knew hilly, but Quito even beats the City by the Bay.
Third, it is old. The present-day city was established by Spaniards in 1534, almost 100 years before the founding of Boston. And indigenous peoples lived here for centuries before that.
And if I were to add a fourth, it would be not to miss the surrounding countryside, known for its mountains, lush natural beauty, and a chance to straddle the Equator itself.
I have no idea why I came to trust Dave.
The man loved snakes, scorpions, and spiders. I hate spiders — and I’m not too keen on snakes or scorpions.
But this was the rain forest, where Dave seemed at home, and where, to me, everything seemed strange and foreboding.
I watched as a line of ants, dwarfed by the leaves they were hauling, marched past my feet.
I listened as distant howler monkeys made eerie noises like the wind wailing through the trees.
I cringed as a bright yellow spider made its resolute journey across the shoulder of one of my companions. Dave’s face lit up as he snatched the spider and held it in his palm, showing it off like a trophy.
“Completely harmless!” he announced. Anne, the young woman who provided the shoulder, merely shuddered.… Continue reading
How many days in advance should you book a cruise to get the best price?
In part that depends on your destination, according to the website Cruisewatch.com, which uses artificial intelligence to study trends in worldwide cruising. In this case, says a Cruisewatch press release, they undertook a “massive study [that] examined 18,983 sailings by region with departures in 2017.”
They also conducted an “intensive analysis of over 18 million data points” (which are, of course, too numerous to detail in a press release or just about anywhere for that matter, but we are nonetheless grateful for modern technology).
Cruisewatch says the massive study found a “surprising trend: as the date of departure approaches, cruise prices fluctuate to a greater extent.” Some regions, they note, show as much as a 71… Continue reading
In our last two posts, we took a look at some of the most popular travel-related bucket list destinations and activities based on a survey of 1,000 travelers by the website TotallyMoney.com. You can view those results, and my comments, by clicking here and here.
While my own experiences with a few of the items — such as gambling in Las Vegas — were on the margins (in the case of Vegas, dropping a few quarters into slot machines), I had pretty much done all those on the list.
My own bucket list tends to be a little quirkier than most. Places that end up on my list are pretty far-flung, represent something I’ve missed in past trips, or are just items that fulfill my admittedly peculiar travel obsessions. (I suspect that a lot of baby boomer frequent travelers’ lists are… Continue reading
Ah, Rio. One of my favorite cities on earth, and certainly one of the most beautiful.
Sugar Loaf Mountain… the golden beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema…the panoramic views from Corcovado (site of Christ the Redeemer statue)…Carnival…samba…churrascaria retaurants (all the meat you can eat!)….caipirinhas (Brazil’s delicious national cocktail, made of cachaca, sugar and lime)…the Cariocas (Rio natives) themselves, some of the world’s most sensuous people.
These are all images that will become familiar during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which run August 5 to 21.
Perhaps less publicized will be the images of Rio’s sprawling slums (favelas), of toxic polluted waterways (including some Olympic venues), of shoddy workmanship in the Olympic Village (the accommodations for the Australian team have already caught fire due to faulty… Continue reading
“The Savvy Path to Breathtaking Travel, Without the Hassle”
“Less Planning, More Experiencing”
“A Journey of a Thousand Smiles Begins With a Single Click”
These are some of the taglines that express the essence of the new travel website, StrideTravel.com, where I worked for more than a year as Content Director. (My job is now in the capable hands of Content Coordinator Samantha Scott, who, together with co-founders Gavin Delany and Jared Alster, comprise a formidable team.)
In practical terms, Stride aspires to be — and in many ways already is — the best place on the Web to survey the wealth of multi-day, pre-planned trips that are now available from hundreds of travel suppliers around the world.
“Pre-planned trips” may encompass guided group or private tours as well as independent journeys… Continue reading
Note to readers: Today’s post is an updated version of a previous post on increasingly popular repositioning cruises, which generally represent excellent value and will sail this spring, largely in March and April:
Every spring, a number of ocean-going cruise ships leave the warmer areas of the world — say, the Caribbean, South America, or Hawaii — to travel to other regions (such as Europe, Canada, or Alaska), to take advantage of the more seasonable weather in the latter spots.
In the fall, usually around October or November, the vessels reverse this pattern, traveling from the cooler climes to warmer waters.
These are called repositioning cruises (repo cruises for short), and they tend to be longer — sometimes quite a bit longer — than typical cruises.
The cruise lines don’t want to run… Continue reading
Everyone has heard of the Amazon, but how many are familiar with another great Brazilian natural wonder, the Pantanal wetlands? Or the spectacular Bolivian salt flats known as Salar de Uyuni or Chile’s Atacama desert? South America is filled with natural wonders that don’t always get the press they deserve. Here are seven of our favorites, including both the famous and not-so-famous — but all remarkable.
Lying more than 600 miles in the Pacific off mainland Ecuador, the remote Galapagos Islands possess perhaps the best preserved ecosystem in the world. This is where Charles Darwin got his inspiration for his Theory of Evolution, after observing the unique birdlife here during his 19th-century voyage aboard the Beagle. The islands are a true natural laboratory, each with distinct species of birds, reptiles and other creatures.… Continue reading