• Ed and Susie on camel

    Travel + Leisure Names Classic Journeys The World's Best Tour Operator for 2019

    On July 10, 2019, Travel + Leisure magazine announced their readers voted Classic Journeys #1, the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">World&#39;s Best Tour Operator for 2019</a>. We&#39;ve been included in the World&#39;s Best rankings every year for more than a decade, and this is the second time in the last five years that travelers have voted us into the top spot. Shortly before the results were made public, we chatted with Founder Edward Piegza about how he learned the news, how it feels to earn this recognition, and what it means for travelers. <br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/worlds-best-tour-operator/" target="_blank"><img alt="User-added image" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000001vxpP&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000zVCu" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>Congratulations! How did you get the news?</b><br>I received a top-secret email and phone call from the editor of <i>Travel + Leisure</i> a few weeks ago with orders not to tell ANYONE. Friends and neighbors must have wondered why my smile has been so extra big lately. Now they know.<br><br><b>And how does it feel to be the World’s Best Tour Operator again?</b><br>Awesome. Humbling. So, so satisfying. Deeply gratifying to learn that we have achieved what we set out to do which is to handcraft trips of a lifetime for every guest who travels with us. I’m known as long-winded, so I could probably come up with 10 or 15 more ways to describe it if you want me to keep going.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="User-added image" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000001vxpP&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000zVDT" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>Why do you think Travel + Leisure gave you this recognition?</b><br>Actually, it isn’t the T+L editors who make the decision. That’s the best part. Their readers cast the votes. So the people who do the traveling, the guests who explore the world with us and our competitors—they are the ones who raised their hands to tell T+L that <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys</a> is the World’s Best Tour Operator based on their own experiences. Let me say it right here: “To all of you who voted for us, you are the World’s Best Guests!”<br><br><b>What do you think makes your guests the World’s Best Guests?</b><br>That’s easy. They are curious. They care about connecting with people of different cultures and immersing themselves in the world. They treasure experiences more than things. Like the old ad slogan went, they go for the gusto and crave the chance to have one-of-a-kind moments. They are incredibly interesting and interested people, and all of us at Classic Journeys count it as a real privilege to share in their passion for travel. And we feel that way on the other 364 days of the year when we’re not celebrating recognition like this.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/morocco-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="User-added image" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000001vxpP&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000zVDO" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>I guess this is what you meant when you told me that “Enthusiasm is contagious.”</b><br>Absolutely. That’s not our official motto, but it could be. We love what we do. We enjoy helping guests figure out how to invest their precious time and budget. I can honestly say that all of us feel that way—the Guest Services folks who interact with you while you’re planning your trip, the Tour Operations team members who plan all of the logistics, the local guides who lead each one of our trips full time. There’s just a huge amount of positive energy in what we do, and I think it truly is hard to resist. We’d climb into every one of our guest’s suitcases and go along with them if we could. Because we can’t, we call each guest while they’re on tour just to be sure they are having a trip of a lifetime.<br><br><b>Has anyone ever called Classic Journeys obsessive?</b><br>I hope so, because we are. Everything is in the details. For instance, we’ve created a special tour for the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/chile-solar-eclipse-2020-tour/" target="_blank">total eclipse of the sun</a> which is going to pass over parts of South America in 2020. We’ve already analyzed likely traffic patterns in the most remote areas and figured out how to structure our itinerary so that our guests will be in place in the path of totality while the people who don’t plan ahead will be stuck in jams on remote dirt roads. We enjoy obsessing about details like that so that our guests never have to.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="User-added image" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000001vxpP&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000zVDd" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>How can you top this?</b><br>Oh, we never let ourselves think of it that way. We just continue to approach every single guest on each and every departure like the most important guest we’ve ever had. It seems to be working! Of course, we keep looking for new ways to win more converts. For 2019, we’ve launched a new series of Classic Journeys that are based from <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/river-cruising/" target="_blank">river cruise boats</a>. On a different note, seeing how many travelers can’t always find as much vacation time as they really want, we have developed a series of 6-day or shorter quick trips that go as far afield as Iceland, the Galápagos and Morocco.<br><br><b>Final thoughts?</b><br>It’s always an honor to win recognition. But, for all of us at Classic Journeys, the biggest privilege is to share the dreams of our guests and make those dreams come true. That connection is the best feeling of all.<br><br> 

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  • Havana Skyline, Cuba

    Latest News on Cuba Travel Restrictions - June 2019

    <b>What do the New Cuba Travel Restrictions Mean?</b><br>On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the Trump administration announced new rules about people-to-people and cruise travel to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba.</a> If you have plans for such a trip – or have been thinking about making them – you may naturally wonder what’s going on. Here’s a summary of the changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Export Administration Regulations announced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) (the section at the Department of the Treasury that regulates the trade and travel embargo to Cuba and which issues licenses for travel to Cuba) and the Commerce Department, respectively.<br><br><b>How do the new regulations affect cruise travel to Cuba?</b><br>The changes end travel to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> by U.S.-flagged cruise ships or foreign-flagged cruise ships departing from the U.S. The Commerce Department has not included a “grandfather” clause to allow cruises that have already been scheduled, and for which passengers have already made arrangements. If you have a paid money toward a deposit or final payment for cruise travel to Cuba, you should contact your cruise company for a refund.<br><br><b>How do the new regulations affect people-to-people travel?</b><br>OFAC has allowed U.S. organizations whose people-to-people programs in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> fall under a ‘grandfather’ clause, such as those operated by Classic Journeys, to proceed with those programs.  OFAC has, however, prohibited people-to-people programs that do not fall under this ‘grandfather’ clause to proceed.<br><br><b>Can I travel legally to Cuba with Classic Journeys on its People-to-People programs? </b><br>Yes. Your travel to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> on Classic Journeys’ People-to-People programs is 100% legal because our programs fall under OFAC’s ‘grandfather’ clause. OFAC considers the grandfather clause to apply when a people-to-people organization like Classic Journeys had completed a travel-related transaction prior to June 5, 2019, in connection with a particular departure date, even if, prior to June 5, 2019, you as a traveler had not yet reserved your trip with Classic Journeys. In other words, because we had already reserved our hotel accommodations for our People-to-People trips in Cuba prior to June 5, 2019, your travel to Cuba on our People-to-People programs is grandfathered in as completely legal.<br><br><b>So, what is a qualifying “travel-related transaction” that allows Classic Journeys’ People-to-People programs to Cuba to be legal under the grandfather clause? </b><br>The qualifying “travel-related transaction” that needs to have been completed prior to June 5 could be, for example: having made a reservation for an accommodation (whether or not paid for) or booking and paying for transportation. These are just two examples and are not meant to be exhaustive. In the case of Classic Journeys, our close relationships with local people in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> mean that we already had our hotel reservations confirmed prior to June 5.<br> <br><b>What People-to-People programs and dates are legal with Classic Journeys under the new regulations? </b><br>All three of our People-to-People programs (<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-havana-art-music/" target="_blank">Long Weekend in Havana</a>, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cubafamily/" target="_blank">Cuba for Families: Havana and the Viñales Valley</a>, and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-cienfuegos-trinidad-havana/" target="_blank">Havana, Cienfuegos &amp; Trinidad</a>) and all of their departure dates for 2019 are 100% legal.<br><br><b>Can you still fly to Cuba legally on commercial air flights?</b><br>Commercial air flights are not affected by the changes. And so, yes, they are still legal. Note that your airline will ask you at the time of ticketing to select from a listing of the type of license under which you are traveling to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> legally. Your first choice option for the license will be a “people-to-people” exchange with the “grandfather clause” aka referencing the fact that your People-to-People organization– Classic Journeys – has made its arrangements prior to June 5, 2019. If that option is not available, you can select “educational activities” (so long as there is no mention of a degree requirement). If the airline you are considering does not have one of these options right now, they are likely playing catch up with the new regulations; so you can check back with them in a few days or try one of the many other airlines with commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba.<br><br><b>What about private aircraft and boats; can they travel legally to Cuba? </b><br>The authorization for private vessels and private aircraft (such as private fishing boats and private sailboats, and corporate or private jets) is revoked. So, they are no longer legal for travel to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a>.<br><br><b>How will the changes under President Trump affect the people of Cuba?</b><br>We’ve made so many wonderful friends in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> and seen the lives of the Cuban people change for the better during recent years. So, of course, we’re concerned about what it will mean to their prosperity and general welfare with the enaction of these new travel regulations. The Cubans have been through so much in the last 60 years. They’ve always managed to bear their hardships with grace and warm solidarity in their families and communities.<br><br>One known feature of the new regulations is that they will cap remittances – the money that can be sent to Cubans from friends and family members in the U.S. – at $1,000 per person every three months. In a country where the median monthly salary is just $32, you can only imagine how a reduction in remittance income will impact everyday life. In addition, travel had become a major source of income for Cubans, as well, so any reduction in that resource will echo throughout the country in a way for the people who can least afford it and whom we and our government want to help.<br><br><b>We choose guarded optimism.</b><br>We are approaching <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> as we always have – with care, enthusiasm, and with pride in the fact that legal travel for Americans to Cuba has changed the lives of our American guests and the everyday local Cubans they’ve met, in overwhelmingly positive ways. You can still travel to Cuba legally with Classic Journeys. We like to think of this way of travel as an informal version of ‘Voice of America” with boots on the ground… yours in fact, as you communicate a positive story of the American people to local Cuban people. We urge you to hold fast to your plans. And if you’ve been hesitating to plan a Cuba trip, you know now that you can, and we encourage you to do so now.

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  • Greece Dome Santorini

    Traveling in Greece: A Greek Isles Odyssey

    <p>It took Odysseus ten years to sail from Troy back home to Greece. That seemed way too long back when we spent half a semester getting through The Odyssey. Now, though — after having been lured, lulled and enchanted by the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank">Greek Isles</a> myself — I get how that could happen.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Santorini Greece" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATp1&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000fC8B" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>Across every emerald/sapphire/aquamarine strait, I’d spot another fine-looking island that I just didn’t have time for. Watching sunset on a terrace in Santorini, my friend Manos would worry that I hadn’t seen Delos. “How could you not see Delos?” On Crete, 80-something George took a break from crafting phyllo dough to half-whisper, “The citron! You must taste the citron of Naxos.” Fired up by all of that sound advice and abundant temptation, we’ve tweaked our itinerary in the Greek Isles to include more islands, the finest sites of antiquity, white beaches beyond compare, and time with our friends everywhere who insisted that we bring you for a visit.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Naxos Island, Greece" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATp1&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000fC8G" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>You start in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank">Crete </a>where the aforementioned George is the last baker on the island who makes tissue-thin phyllo dough by hand. He’s a marvel, and you appreciate every flaky bite of baklava all the more for what he teaches you. In the heart of her family’s olive groves, our friend Joanna waves you in to wander on the farm and taste their prize oils. On the epic side of the equation, Crete is home to magnificently preserved Knossos where an expert guide tells the tales of King Minos and the Minotaur.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Crete Greece" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATp1&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000fC8L" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>Next is Naxos. There is a countryside walk here that is a fantastic amble in landscapes that have hardly changed for millennia. The island is famous for its 2,500-year-old kouros, a sculpture half-hewn from the marble quarry where it still lies. Did that sculptor wash down the dust with some citron liqueur? It’s a shame if he didn’t. You get your own taste at a small family distillery where they’ve made the bright green brew from the leaves and fruits of citron trees since the 19th century.<br><br>One all-new day on this trip is just the kind that I love best. It begins with a ferry ride to Mykonos, the Greek isle to end all Greek isles. Vibey, bustling and hip, it’s one of those places you just need to say that you’ve seen. But even better, it’s the jumping-off point for Delos. A<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank"> UNESCO World Heritage Site</a>, Delos was the mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. A private guide waits to take you on an exclusive exploration of what are regarded as the Mediterranean’s most important architectural digs. It’s startling – and absolutely typical – to see the faces of ancient civilization and contemporary culture on a single Aegean day, and it’s the kind of experience that helps you understand the real Greece.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="The Temple of Isis in Archaeological Site of Delos" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATp1&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000fC8V" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>The grand finale of your trip is a jaw-dropping stay in white-washed, blue-roofed <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank">Santorini</a>. Throughout this trip, we find ways to avoid touristic Greece and show you the country at its best. That really matters in Santorini where cruise ships sometimes disgorge scads of tourists all at once. Our itinerary spares you that sight. You actually walk into Santorini on a path through vineyards. During your time here, you take a trip on a small boat into the waters of the volcanic caldera. For the trip back to the top, you can take the gondola or (my preference!) ride a donkey like the locals have for thousands of years. At the end of all of your island-hopping days, you find yourself in luxury 5-star hotels, but I have to say that the villa-style hotel here is my absolute favorite. It clings to the town’s steep slopes, guaranteeing you a ringside seat for views beyond compare. Every evening, I settled there with a glass of wine there to watch the sunset, but the show is so gorgeous that I kept forgetting to drink it.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Santorini Greece" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATp1&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000fC8f" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>Simply put, this is the best way imaginable to experience the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece-tours/" target="_blank">Greek Isles</a>. You get the impossibly blue seas, the rich antiquities and a variety of island cultures that’s much more diverse than you ever imagined. Layer in the many chances you have to meet local people and be immersed in the lives they live, and I know you will wish your odyssey could last a few years longer!</p>

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