• Aialik bay

    A How(-Not)-To on Alaska Travel

    <p>This was not how I imagined Alaska: A mere 22 minutes after our 9-month-old son Max had FINALLY fallen asleep, a piercing BEEEEEEEP came through on our stateroom speaker, giving my wife and me a jolt, and launching little Max into instant wakefulness:</p> <p>“Attention passengers: our Fine Arts auction is a fun, fast-paced way to collect exceptional works of art! And the next one starts in 15 minutes on Deck 7!!”</p> <p>Seriously? That was the reason for the in-room fog horn?<br><br>It was our third day aboard a major cruise line, sailing through Alaska’s scenic inside passage. Things had been going well enough, I suppose. <a href="https://goo.gl/5Ibwqj" target="_blank">We were very grateful for the chance to visit a part of North America we’d never seen.</a> The trip was an all-family celebration of my father-in-law’s retirement. And the experiences were certainly cool: we heard the echoes of glaciers cracking, watched lumberjacks at work, and spotted surfacing whales. The natural and manmade wonders of Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, and Victoria, B.C. still produce vivid memories for me now two years later. I have yet to eat better salmon than I did on a salmon bake in Ketchikan.<br><br><img alt="Whale in Alaska" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l7&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qmw" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>But it only took a few of those Big-Brotherish announcements and mass invasions of small Alaskan towns to make me long for the day when Max is old enough for something like Classic Journeys’ <a href="https://goo.gl/dG5Wnc" target="_blank">Kenai Peninsula Family Journey</a>. And when that day comes, you can be sure that we will visit Alaska again. You see, I had suspected that traveling on a floating hotel would have its compromises, and I was all too right. Cuisine on the ship seldom strayed from mediocrity; the goal of included meals was quantity over quality. To go ashore, every disembarkation required TSA-style security. As it was, every port held streets littered with flyers and teeming with jewelry shop barkers, hawking bracelets and necklaces made with “rare” Alaskan stones. And that pesky in-room PA system…<br><br><img alt="Seward Harbor" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l7&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qna" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>It’s fair to say that “all-inclusive” has an alluring ring to it, but to me, the style of travel fell short. Rather, <a href="https://goo.gl/dG5Wnc" target="_blank">when my family eventually returns to Alaska with Classic Journeys,</a> I know the trip will be “all-encompassing.” Trust me; you’d recognize the difference. Anonymous loudspeaker voices are replaced by a friendly guide who becomes your best friend by week’s end – people like John, Eric, or Wolfgang. Windows to the outside world aren’t a luxury; hotel rooms always beat out ship cabins in this and other ways. There aren’t any hurried family budget meetings, nor schedule gymnastics, to decide whether to go for this glacier walk or that dog sled run… no racing the clock to find some elusive on-board Activities Desk to sign up for your choice activity by cut-off time. I would much rather rely on someone with boots on the ground, <a href="https://goo.gl/dG5Wnc" target="_blank">hand-picking the best of the best for my family</a>, with a few fun surprises in store. And it would also help to know I’ve paid for it all before I leave home. That means being guaranteed a shoreline salmon bake like the one I loved during my cruise, without the FOMO (fear of missing out) inherent to excursion menus … and without hidden costs. I’m good with that.<br><br><img alt="Glacier walk" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l7&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qn1" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>I also happen to know that skipping the ship to Alaska does not mean skipping sea-based activities altogether. You get your fill on a cultural walking adventure, where, in Seward, you find yourself sailing through the deep green waters of the Kenai Fjords aboard a private vessel, docking on the shores and in the coves of Resurrection Bay in search of bald eagles, humpback whales, sea lions, and more. Or visit those same waters by kayak on a family journey. And on both itineraries, guests of all ages climb into rafts one afternoon to gently cruise the Kenai River for the chance to <a href="https://goo.gl/d1PMF8" target="_blank">learn from an expert about local natural history</a>, and the Kenaitzi Tribe whose people once made their lives on the river’s shores.<br><br><img alt="Kayaking" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l7&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qnL" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>Alaska is breathtaking no matter how you slice it. I was awestruck during my first trip, taking stock of the monumental glaciers and their fragile place in this world. But just as glaciers and icebergs show but a tip of their greatness, it would be a shame to experience only as much of Alaska’s majesty as your well-tread cruise ship route allows… only sites that can host 40-person shore excursions… or only those activities that get you back to the docks before your hotel sails off into the sunset.<br><br>This concludes your passenger announcements for today.</p>

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  • Anteater

    Meet the Anteater WHISPERER

    <h2>… AND THREE OTHER EXCEPTIONALLY TALENTED LOCAL GUIDES</h2>   <p>A guide can make or break a vacation. We understand the importance of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/guides/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">having the best travel guides an area has to offer</a>. We have teamed up with the locals who know the area best, are highly personable and have the connections it takes to ensure your trip is the most memorable trip you’ve ever had. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/guides/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">Meet a few of our very special guides</a>:<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/panama/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">BENY</a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/panama/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">POETIC NATURALIST | PANAMA</a><br><br><img alt="Beny" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7le&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s6E" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Beny is the kind of naturalist travel guide you dream of: ridiculously well informed and fluent in how to transmit his treasure of information to you. In his own words: “As a naturalist guide I have to help people ‘remember’ the other senses that they have but seldom use. In a normal tour you roughly hear and see things. But out in nature, you have to slow down and use the sense of smell to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/panama/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">find the royal palm tree flowers, peripheral vision to spot the chestnut-backed antbird</a>, hearing to detect the silent crawl of the tamandua anteater or thermoception to feel the sudden rise in temperature inside the rubbish pile of the leaf-cutter ants. I help people understand themselves by helping them improve the way they perceive nature.” He’s a very rare bird and one of our favorite naturalist guides.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/reservations/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">Want to meet our spectacular guides? Sign up for the trip of your dreams today!</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">FLAMINIA</a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">ART AFICIONADA | TUSCANY &amp; THE CINQUE TERRE</a><br><br><img alt="Flaminia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7le&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s6O" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Flaminia is with Sotheby’s in Rome, an expert in Modern and Contemporary Art for the international auction house. When she steps away from her profession to guide for Classic Journeys, you can be sure she doesn’t leave it behind. Her discerning eye is a huge asset whether she’s helping you see the composition of Lucca’s townscape or interpreting an altarpiece. “Pietrasanta is one of my favorite places, where Michelangelo quarried his marble and still today mining continues. It is history, art and business all at once!” Her <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">knack for seeing under the skin of Italy</a> is a skill we treasure.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/nova-scotia-tours/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">MICHAEL</a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/nova-scotia-tours/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">SLOW FOODIE | NOVA SCOTIA</a><br><br><img alt="Michael" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7le&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s6Y" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/nova-scotia-tours/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">Ditch your impressions of Nova Scotia</a> as another icy Canadian province. Moderated by the Gulf Stream, the climate is mild. The soil is rich, and then there’s the matter of all that lobster and fresh seafood. Enter Michael, a talented chef who rose through ranks at restaurants in Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Boston, New York and the Bahamas. He was a restaurateur himself before becoming a guide. Today, he’s a Slow Food advocate who says, “I cook with farmers on their farms in the summertime to have guests experience food where it grows. As a guide, I am able to take you to the best gastronomic experiences through my network of colleagues, and I have so much fun delivering the culinary play-by-play for our meals.” <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/nova-scotia-tours/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">And you thought Nova Scotia was only about big tides and whales.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/alaska/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">ERIC</a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/alaska/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">BACKCOUNTRYMAN | ALASKA’S KENAI PENINSULA</a><br><br><img alt="Eric Kessler" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7le&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s6n" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>For much of the year, Eric is all backcountry, all the time. “One deep wilderness trip includes crossing the Alaska Range on foot and arriving at a lake where rafts are flown in by boat plane for a trip down a glacier river.” Those skills come in plenty handy, even <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/alaska/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">on the Kenai Peninsula where life is somewhat tamer</a>. “I know how to react quickly and safely with wild animals where guides who only work with book-learning cannot. I can also read the weather to adjust hikes to keep them comfortable and enjoyable. His favorite moment: “<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/alaska/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">Sharing the hike to Grewingk Glacier</a> on a sunny day and having a picnic along the iceberg-studded lake is just about as good as it gets. I love to hear the gasp of awe as guests see such a sight for the first time in their lives.”</p> <h3><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/guest-reviews/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">WHAT OUR GUESTS SAY</a></h3> <blockquote> <p>All eleven members of our family from 10 to 72 had a magical experience. Our guides were wonderful and became part of our family … our time together was obviously carefully thought out, but they were flexible in planning things they thought we would enjoy.<br>–LOGAN AND DOROTHY, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">AMALFI</a></p> <p>Our guides were the best! They made the whole trip interesting, fun, exciting and a very unique experience. They also gave great insight into the character, history and culture of the region.<br>–NICOLE, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">PRAGUE TO BUDAPEST</a></p> <p>Our guide was delightful! The trip was a good combination of exercise and learning about the local culture.<br>–STEPHEN, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/nova-scotia-tours/?utm_campaign=meet-the-anteater-whisperer%2F&amp;utm_source=blog&amp;utm_medium=blog" target="_blank">NOVA SCOTIA</a></p> </blockquote>

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  • Captain on Fishing Boat in Nova Scotia

    North America: 8 Trips with a Twist

    <h2><b>Closer-to-home trips can be more out-there than you expected.</b></h2>   <p>You expect the exotic in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/morocco-tours/" target="_blank">Morocco</a> or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/asiapacific/" target="_blank">Southeast Asia</a>. But you don’t need to trigger a case of jet lag to have vacation that’s as fun and revelatory as a junket to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/peru-tours/" target="_blank">Machu Picchu</a> or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/myanmar/" target="_blank">Myanmar</a>. The United States and Canada can serve up plenty of un-vanilla experiences. This year in particular—as the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/national-park-tours/" target="_blank">National Park Service celebrates its 100<sup>th</sup>Anniversary</a> and travelers look to get their thrills in a few fewer days—<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/northamerica/" target="_blank">North American Tours</a> are on a record number of radar screens. And if you think you know everything to expect, think again!<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/bryce-tours/" target="_blank">GRAND CANYON: RUINS OLDER THAN MACHU PICCHU</a></b></p> <p><img alt="Grand Canyon" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lg&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oSz" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>Plenty of people go to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/bryce-tours/" target="_blank">Bryce, Grand Canyon and Zion</a> for the geology. Slot canyons so narrow you can touch both sides at once. Chasms so deep that you need binoculars to see the bottom. And then there’s Walhalla Plateau where the ruins left by ancient puebloan people were already 350 years old the Incas were building cities in the Andes. This is our own land’s history, awesome and mysterious unlike anything you’ve ever seen without showing your passport.<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/alaska-tours/" target="_blank">ALASKA: ICEBERGS IN A MOUNTAINTOP LAKE</a></b><br> </p> <img alt="Alaska" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lg&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oTT" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br>  <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/alaska-tours/" target="_blank">Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula</a> is plenty exotic (glacier walks, tide-pooling, walking on the Iditarod Trail). But for a pure I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing moment, we vote for the watch icebergs bob on a glacier-fed lake way above sea level. Marooned up there at higher altitude, they’ll never collide with one of those giant cruise ships that blast past the coast. It’s a magical, unexpected place—and one you can enjoy at leisure with a picnic on the lakeshore.<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/quebec/" target="_blank">QUEBEC: PARIS MEETS NORWAY</a></b><br><br><img alt="Quebec" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lg&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oTd" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>You think <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/quebec/" target="_blank">Québec</a> is going to be one thing, and instead it’s crazy/glorious mash-up. The city is 16<sup>th</sup> Century France, right down to the<br>cobblestones. It’s Saguenay Fjord. (Wait—an honest-to-goodness fjord on the U.S. border? Oh, yes.) Mix in the highest mountains east of the Rockies plus the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil and an elk herd or two. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/quebec/" target="_blank">Québec</a> is a combination you’ve never seen before, and that’s a recipe for a brag-worthy vacation.<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/charleston/" target="_blank">SOUTH CAROLINA: GEECHEE SPOKEN HERE</a></b></p> <img alt="Charleston Bay" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lg&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oTi" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br>  <p>Strolling under the Spanish moss in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/charleston/" target="_blank">Charleston and Savannah</a>, the architectural frills and extreme gentility are just as you imagined. But there’s a parallel culture, deep but dwindling, out on coastal islands like St. Helena. The Gullah, descendants of slaves, clustered there and 300-year-old ethnic strains of Africa still run through daily life and the local creole language known as Geechee. In a country that feels more homogenous every day, it’s a revelation to step back to a time when every community was an intensely rooted in faraway places.<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/canada-tours/" target="_blank">CANADIAN ROCKIES: THE STARRIEST SKY ON EARTH</a></b></p> <p><img alt="Canadian Rockies" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lg&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oTO" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>Daytime is very fine in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/canada-tours/" target="_blank">Canada’s Banff and Jasper National Parks</a>. But it’s the night that will really open your eyes. Jasper is in the world’s largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve. Light pollution is nearly non-existent. So find a spot where you can stretch out on your<br>back and just look up. The Milky Way is milky white. The constellations are vivid. Focus for a couple of minutes and you can make out satellites moving across the glittery background. Finally, it makes sense why the ancients who saw this display every night worshiped the skies.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/novascotia/" target="_blank"><b>NOVA SCOTIA: MAKE LIKE THE MI’KMAQS</b></a><br> </p> <img alt="Nova Scotia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lg&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oTn" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br>  <p>Lobstermen and giant tides and being ogled by a whale. All are noble reasons to get yourself off to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/novascotia/" target="_blank">Nova Scotia</a>. Within in a mile or so either side of the Atlantic shore, you can have an amazing time. The Mi’kmaq natives, though, had other ideas that will surprise you. Nova Scotia has an inland too where whisper-quiet forests and mirror-smooth lakes replace the coastal roar. In a canoe, gliding under a wide sky, you see a side of the province that most tourists never even imagine.<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/napa/" target="_blank">SONOMA: NOT ALL OLIVES ARE CREATED EQUAL</a></b></p> <img alt="Napa" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lg&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oTs" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img> <p><br>In <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/napa/" target="_blank">Napa and Sonoma</a>, as in just about every grape-growing region on earth, the soil and climate the vines love is equally hospitable to olive trees. Gnarled, silver-leafed, low-to-the-ground, the yield fruit too hard and bitter for a martini—but just right for oil. Go tasting with an expert and you find that the vocabulary is match for wine: eucalyptus, melon, almond, grassy, buttery, peppery and on and on. You sniff, you slurp, you savor and—unlike a classic wine taster—you’re even encouraged to swallow. <br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montana-tours/" target="_blank">MONTANA: FLOWERS THAT PAINTED THE SKY</a></b></p> <img alt="Montana" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lg&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oTx" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br>  <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montana-tours/" target="_blank">Glacier Park’s</a> amazing Highline Trail runs through a wildflower meadow. Amid the larkspur and forget-me-nots, our favorite is the Indian Paintbrush. In-and-out park visitors are prone to taking pictures of “the pretty red flowers.” With a naturalist, though, you learn that the Ojibwe turned it into shampoo and that because it has no branches it can only be pollinated by hovering insects. Its name comes from the legend of a young brave who received paintbrushes from the Great Spirit in order to paint the sunset. His discarded brushes sprouted to become these blossoms. And you thought they were just pretty flowers.</p>

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