Author: Richard Telling

Fun and Fat Free Cruising

Eating

Enjoy the fabulous food – that is one of the main reasons we all go on cruises. The cruise lines go to great lengths nowadays to make sure that there are plenty of healthy options and portions sizes are large enough to fill you up without adding unnecessary calories. My wife and I cruised on the Carnival Glory and the food -and service – was fantastic. However, if like us, you do overindulge every now and then go to step 2.

Exercise

Get into the gym and get on a treadmill – even if it’s only for 15 minutes (although 30 minutes is better!). It will speed up your metabolism and help burn off unwanted calories. The first full day at sea the gym is normally packed with people with good intentions. You may even have to wait to get on an exercise machine. The second day the lines are not so long and after a couple of days you can usually take your pick of machines. Exercising after breakfast is a great idea as it allows you to burn off those eggs, bacon and pancakes with the bonus that your elevated metabolic rate will continue to burn off additional calories for another two or thee hours as you bask in the sun.

Spa

Pamper yourself. Enjoy a relaxing massage and then dive into the steam room or sauna. You’ll feel great and you’ll lose a few more unwanted pounds.

Walking

Going for a walk may seem a strange idea on a cruise ship but you have miles of decks to saunter along. Wear a hat and sunscreen and carry a bottle of water and after a couple of circuits you’ll know the layout of the ship, have checked out the best places to sunbathe and burned off enough calories in time for your next meal.

Swimming

Swimming is great exercise and even if you can’t actually do laps because of all the other people in the pool, you can tread water for a few minutes each day which is great exercise both for burning off calories and strengthening and toning muscles.

Stairs

You can often wait several minutes waiting for elevators on a crowded cruise ship. Take the stairs instead – it is often quicker and it will do you more good. If you are on a large cruise ship with 12 or more decks, take the elevator up three or four decks and then walk up the rest. Don’t overdo it, but if you use the stairs regularly you will get great aerobic exercise and by the end of the cruise you will notice the difference in your leg muscles.

Shore Excursions

Take advantage of shore excursions because you’ll get to see some really interesting places and you’ll probably get the opportunity to do some more walking – around shops, around ancient monuments, or go snorkeling, swimming and so on.

Dancing

It doesn’t matter how old you are, find a bar or nightclub aboard that is playing your kind of music and get up and dance. It doesn’t matter if no one else is dancing or how well you can dance – the chances are you will never see any of your fellow cruisers ever again!

Romancing

You’ve dined, wined and danced now it is time to take a moonlight stroll along the deck with your partner. While burning off calories may be the last thing on your mind that is what you’ll be doing – and what better way to end the day!

Central Europe on a Shoestring

  • Day 1: After landing in Prague, head to Prague Castle and visit St Vitus Cathedral situated on the hill. Soak in the beautiful view of the city from the hill top. Walk down to Mala Strana from there and cross Charles Bridge by foot. It is highly recommended to climb up the bridge tower stairs, to enjoy panorama of old town from a vantage point. Evening is a good time to hang around the area over drinks and dinner.
  • Day 2: Start with Old town square and visit Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, St. Nicholas Church and Old Town Hall. The square is unique with the presence of Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance buildings next to each other. You can spend an hour there, gazing at Astronomical Clock, this also gives time to relax and observe tourists activities around the square. From there head to old Jewish quarter which is a home to one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. It is Prague’s first gothic building. Wenceslas Square is a shopper’s paradise and should be considered only if shopping is one of the ‘Must Do’ things on the list. Enjoy the evening at one of the Czech restaurants and try variety of local beers along with local cuisine.
  • Day 3: Take a 4 hour bus journey to Vienna; arrive in Vienna by noon and after refreshments head to the Old city for a walk. Many of the monuments are within walking distance, starting from Vienna State Opera House, Burggarten, St. Stephen’s Church, Kärntner Strasse, Graben, St Peter’s Church, Ancient Roman ruins and Hofburg Palace. Relax in sprawling lawns at Hero’s Square, soaking up the sun and beauty of Vienna. After a bit of rest head to Museum Quartier. Relax and end the day with Viennese dinner, over local wine.
  • Day 4: Start the day with a visit to Schönbrunn Palace, spend the day exploring the palace and museums, marveling Neptune Fountain in the spawling courtyard! By noon head to Belvedere Palace, a must visit for art aficionados. The museum hosts one of the most famous paintings ‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt and other renaissance artists. Head to beer garden in the evening, popularly called Rathaus Platz. It is a great place to unwind, watching outdoor movies or operas over few beers! Neo-Gothic towers of City Hall dominate the square. Check out Austrian Parliament building on the walk back.
  • Day 5: Take an hour long train to Bratislava. Walk around the old town square and up on the hill to enjoy the panaromic view of the city from Bratislava Castle. Visit St Martin’s Cathedral, stroll on St. Michael’s Street leading up to St. Michael’s gate. This street is buzzing with many restaurants and pubs. Eat Slovak food at one of the restaurants and enjoy drinks at an Irish pub while gazing at tourist activities in the square.
  • Day 6: Take a train to Budapest in the morning. Head straight to Gellért Hill and from there to Castle district to enjoy the view of Danube River and Pest city on the other side. Visit famous Buda Castle, Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church, on Buda side. Take a funicolare back from the hill and walk down the Chain Bridge. Visit Jewish quarter after that and spend the evening at some of the best bars in Budapest.
  • Day 7: Spend the day on Pest side of the town, visiting St. Stephen’s Basilica and Parliament house. Visit Andrássy Avenue and Hero’s square, walk around Danube Promenade and soak up the sun in the gardens outside Gresham Palace. Have sumptuous Hungarian Goulash and try Hungarian wines at one of the local restaurants, overlooking brightly lit Buda Castle across Danube.
  • Day 8: Spend the day at leisure in one of the many thermal baths. Széchenyi Bath is a beautiful Palatial yellow building, and is a great hang out place during summer for tourists as well as locals. Relax for a few hours and soak in good memories of the trip. A cruise on Danube River in the evening is a great option if the time permits!

About Mega Yacht Charters

Mega yacht charter accommodations and hospitality areas are ideal for important celebrations such as weddings, birthday parties or special anniversaries. Large staterooms and quiet conversation areas offer charter guests appropriate privacy when aboard.

A well-planned mega yacht charter provides all the toys for your guests to use and enjoy. The abundance of space onboard most mega yachts allow for kayaks, jet skis, sailing dingys, water-skis and jet boats for guests with a thirst for adventure. Scuba diving equipment and a certified diving crew will take family and friends for an underwater experience of a lifetime.

Chartering your own private luxury yacht ensures privacy for you and your family and friends. It provides for luxurious living on a comfortable modern yacht, with a crew eager to pamper you and your company. It gives you the freedom to select your own itinerary, visit the sites you want to see, or simply to follow the wind wherever it leads.

A mega yacht is a vessel of over 90 feet in length that can accommodate a small number of guests in luxury. Prices start around $4,000 per person, plus expenses, for 6 guests, for a week. For a 160-foot yacht, expect to pay $14-18,000 per person for 10, plus expenses. Larger yachts can cost considerably more.

Thessaloniki

Situated in the region of Central Macedonia, Thessaloniki holds the distinction of being the second largest city in Greece. One of the best features of the city is its ease of providing convenient connections whether it is via air, land or sea. Thessaloniki is also a cultural hub that loves hosting several events and festivals throughout the year. Aside from its inclination to foster fun and festivities, is also boasts a long history that takes us as far back as 3000 years. The nightlife scene is one of the highlights of a visit here. When the sun goes down, students studying at the Aristotle University, come out and provide a youthful and hip vibe to the streets.

Walk around the central part of the city, and you will soon appreciate its small size, its slew of attractions and its heritage. This is the oldest part of Thessaloniki, which is further divided into two sections: the historic city center and commercial district; and Ano Poli (Upper Town). Once in the city center, the sea is within easy reach. The city is perfectly situated on the southern part and most roads in this area are parallel and give access to Upper Town. In Ano Poli, you can admire colorful old houses surrounded by Byzantine walls and charming winding alleyways. This World Heritage Site district north of the city center, is also home to grandiose Byzantine churches.

Civilizations like the Ottoman, Roman and Byzantine that were once settled on these lands, still show visible remnants all around the city. Thessaloniki is indeed packed with a number of monuments built during the Byzantine period so much so that it is often perceived to be an open-air museum showcasing Byzantine architecture. One prominent Byzantine church around is the 5th century Acheiropoietos, which is known for its timber-roofed basilica.

After visiting Acheiropoietos, there are still a lot more churches to explore like the 17th century Holy Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia), the Panaghia (Virgin) Chalkeon built in 1028 and The late 13th century Panteleemon, which is regarded as the first church with a cross-in square and four columns. Other structures to explore include Heptapyrgion castle, the cemetery basilica archaeological site and the 13th century byzantine bathhouse.

After strolling at the city’s large 12-kilometer seafront promenade, seek out the landmarks left by the Romans like the 3rd century palace ruins of the Roman Emperor Galerius and the Roman Forum. If you are looking to discover evidence of the Ottoman influence, you do not need to look hard. The 15th century White Tower, which has become an iconic symbol of the Thessaloniki, is the perfect testament. Other notable Ottoman structures include the Bezesteni building, the 15th century Hamza Bey Cami mosque and the Hamams or Turkish bathhouses.

About Volcanoes of Iceland

Hekla

Hekla is the appointed Queen of Icelandic volcanoes. It’s so consistently active that volcanologists the world over basically expect it to blow at any time, and especially when it shows signs of subterranean tremors like it did in 2013. It’s erupted at least 20 times since the first Norsefolk came over 1200 years ago, and was literally considered either the gateway to Hell, or Hell itself. Interestingly enough, it hasn’t caused that much damage in recorded history, though geologists can tell that from its birth around 7000 years ago until around 1000BC it caused massive damage and change to the Icelandic landscape. Since then, though, it’s lost its explosive force, and is more a pouring-lava style volcano with much less ash and smoke.

Still, the last eruption in 2000 gave only fifteen minutes’ warning, and locals know that climbing it is actually never really a very good idea. There is an 8-hour long round-trip trail to the top, but it’s for experts only, and authorization must be given for the climb.

Katla

This is another one of Iceland’s famously explosive volcanos, most specifically because of the eruption in 1918 that lasted for almost a month, but also for the nearly 20 other eruptions since the 9th century. It’s capped with glacial ice, so there’s nothing at all interesting about it visually, but it’s as well-known as its sister volcano Hekla for being highly active and basically unpredictable. Because it’s under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, the main threat it’s posed to Icelanders has been massive glacial bursts, or runs, that flood the plains below with flash-melted ice. A small eruption or heat-up of the volcano that goes otherwise unnoticed under the glacier can cause massive torrents to rush from it, causing damage and mayhem.

Like Hekla, this is not a volcano to get close to, and basically an eruption is expected any day now. Earthquake swarms have been detected near it in the past few years, and systems have been put in place to warn the aviation industry immediately if, or more appropriately, when, it blows.

Eyjafjallajökull

Our bad-boy celebrity volcano! Eyjafjallajökull had its fifteen minutes of fame five years ago when decided to blow. Locals desperate to get off the island to warmer vacation lands couldn’t, and all air traffic in western Europe halted due to the massive plume of thick ash it poured forth. Technically the name means “Island-Mountain-Glacier” (jökull means glacier) but the glacier in reference sits on top of a live caldera and gives it its name. The air traffic havok this volcano caused in April 2010 meant that its nearly impossible-to-pronounce name became synonymous with trouble, and to this day tourist shops sell vials of ash, ash ceramics, and t-shirts dedicated to our most notorious modern-day eruption

Located pretty close to Highway 1 in the south, Eyjafjallajökull is easy to see from the road, though it’s not a volcano you’d want to walk on: the ice cap is steep and full of crevices. For more experienced hikers, though, the Fimmvörðurháls trail passes close by, offering a chance to greet this world-infamous caldera from a friendly but safe distance away.

Herðubreið

If you like looking at mountains that happen to be volcanoes that look like cake, you’ll love Herðubreið (‘Broad Shoulders’). Located in the northern highlands of Iceland, it’s flat-topped, high-sided, and until the winter snow covering melts away in high summer, covered in white which looks just like frosting. When Herðubreið was born many millennia ago out of the Ódáðahraun lava field (or ‘Desert of Misdeeds’, as some translate that name) it was pressed and flatted under the massive ice sheet of the last global glacial period.

It’s virtually unclimbable, and is showing signs of waking up, so this is a mountain that’s best seen from a distance, at one of the lovely look-out points along the main highway in the north. Artists have painted it, photographers have captured it, and some say it’s a contender for the most beautiful volcano in the world.

Askja

Askja is not actually a single volcano, but a series of remote craters in the highlands interior of Iceland, just north of the huge Vatnajökull glacier. Nobody even really knew this system existed as live eruptors until 1875, when it erupted massively enough to spread poisoned ash over the whole east coast of the island, ash which was also carried by the winds over to Norway and Sweden and Northern Ireland. Livestock suffered horribly, and for many Icelanders this was seen as the last straw – thousands packed up and emigrated. One of the main calderas has filled up with water, forming a round, milky turquoise lake that though lovely to look at is nonetheless called Víti, or ‘Hell’.

It’s a popular place to visit, all stark and eerie. The roads there are usually only open for a few summer months, though, and since temblors have been measured in recent years, and because of the recent Bárðabunga eruption close by, the area is currently closed to all access.

Bárðarbunga

Iceland just gave birth to a new lava field, one of the largest spreads of magma since the Laki flow of 1783. Unofficially named Nornahraun, or Witches Lava, it poured forth over the span of six months from a newly-formed fissure in the Bárðabunga volcanic system. This system sits just under the edge of Vatnajökull glacier, and so is another example of a live Icelandic volcano that’s just not that interesting to look at. Until, that is, it starts spewing bright red magma that shoots into the air in thin, high walls and pours across the landscape in molten rivers. At that point, it’s one of the most beautiful sights on Earth.

Historic Crowsnest Pass Canada

The “Big Sky Country” is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, but it also caters to history buffs and those who generally just want a relaxing vacation. One of the attractions that makes Alberta truly special is the Crowsnest Pass. Located along Canada’s Continental Divide and sitting in the province’s southwest corner, Crowsnest Pass is ideal for anyone who wants to experience a mountain retreat, away from the big tourist crowds.

All around this pass, you will see mountains, some of which are snowcapped, serving as amazing backdrops to incredible outdoor adventures. Once here, there is a wide array of activities you can engage in! Bike or hike the hills and mountains of Crowsnest! Fish or kayak in the river, or maybe do both. For each season, there’s always something to do or somewhere to explore.

Crowsnest Pass was originally a coal-mining hotspot. Its five 20th century communities make up the present municipality of the same name. These days, the communities, which are Bellevue, Hillcrest, Frank, Blairmore and Coleman are highly regarded for their rich history and mining heritage. Luckily, they are only a couple of minutes’ drive from each other. This allows you to possibly visit all of them in one day. As an extra bonus for your effort, you will be treated to gorgeous mountainous countryside as you go from one town to the next. If you like hiking, then you can venture into some of the historic hiking trails located in and around these five towns

Another outstanding trait of Crowsnest Pass is its long history. One of its memorable, albeit tragic, moments was the 1903 Frank Slide, which buried a section of the mining town, under millions of tons of limestone. Today, the Frank Slide Interpretative Center stands to tell the story of the notorious rockslide. It has also become one of the biggest attractions in the area. The center is open all year round and offers an awe-inspiring view of the Canadian Rockies. While here, you can also participate in various interpretive programs and presentations. As if one tragedy is not enough to plague the area, another major mining incident took place in the Hillcrest Mine in 1914. With 189 men losing their lives that faithful day; this unfortunate disaster has been recorded as one of the worst in the Canadian mining history.

When you reach Blairmore, take the time to do the self-guided Historical Walking Tour, which leads you to a fascinating collection of heritage houses and old buildings. The last town of the municipality is Coleman. After this stop, the next major step is to cross the great Continental Divide to enter British Columbia. Whether you plan to cross over or return to the starting point (Fort Macleod), consider stopping by the remarkable Crowsnest Museum in Blairmore.

Sail the Cheap Cruise

The best thing about a cruise ship vacation is that you get something completely different. While a lot of vacations turn into nothing but shopping in a different country, cruise lines offer something unique. Travelers get to be trapped in a fun filled environment they’ll never want to leave. It’s true. If you get on a ship that offers the activities you enjoy or would like to try, you end up in a very social environment that offers you a chance to lay back and relax or spend your day playing games, watching shows and hanging out with energetic crowds.

For the inexperienced vacationer this all sounds expensive. The happy fact is that an average cruise can cost the same or less then equal time in a hotel. The better news is that a cheap cruise is by no means a bad cruise. Really, offers of cheap cruises are most often just better prices on the exact same trip everyone else spent a fortune on.

Getting the good deals isn’t at all hard. It does, however, require a less then picky taste. Also, like any other vacation, it leaves you traveling in the off season.

The first thing you can do to get a cheap cruise vacation is worry less about where the ship goes. If, for instance, you like the events, layout, and activities offered by a certain cruise line and you aren’t picky about which destination you wind up on, then you can get away with not planning ahead. Much like people who get cheap airfare by buying last minute tickets, you can get deals on a cruise the same way. Like any other transportation these cruises want to be full. When the ship is scheduled to leave no matter what, then selling a cheap ticket is better then selling no ticket at all. Further, the enjoyment of their guests depends on a populated boat.

This is the same reason why traveling in non-peak seasons can get you cheap cruise tickets. It also comes down to simple supply and demand. A holiday season brings with it millions of people fighting for tickets to any given place. In turn, the price goes up because it can. Going on vacation at a time when most other people are staying home can mean the difference between a five hundred dollar cruise and a fifteen hundred dollar cruise.

Story Mystic Barrel

After we received word of the wonderful news following very difficult and tense times, we went to celebrate in Malaga, Spain. And, this is a little story about my now favorite bar in Malaga.

At the end of last year, during the holidays and on a rainy day, we were randomly approached by a man who invited us to join him at the bar he was going to in order to have a drink. It happened just like that out of the blue and as a New Yorker, I was very quick to dismiss and ignore him. I wanted to go into the bookstore where my new English language order awaited me and we smiled and brushed him off.

However, sometimes, things are just supposed to happen. When we exited the bookstore and walked a few steps in the rain, we both turned to find the same man, who was now in the doorway of the bar once again beckoning us. Admittedly, he seemed as if he was already a few sheets to the wind, but he seemed harmless enough.

He invited us into the bar as if he was its designated ambassador. And that is how we wound up visiting the oldest bar in Malaga, Spain and discovering its sweet wines.

The rustic Antigua Casa de Guardia was established in 1840 by Don José Guardia and is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. The local name for the bar is “El Barril Místico”, or “the Mystic Barrel” because there was a time when the wine was only for a select few because of its rarity.

As Jose, our self-appointed ambassador proudly told us while we stood (there are no chairs) at the oak bar slabs, history reverberates through the walls of this storied establishment and Queen Isabel II designated the tavern as the wine supplier to her court. This sweet nectar has been produced in the same manner almost since the time it was founded.

Jose said we absolutely had to try the Pajarete 1908, which was poured into small shot glasses due to the sweetness of the wine. He was right. I noticed the bartender noting the price for each with chalk on the bar slabs in front of us. They have probably been doing it this way since the beginning of time. What’s the use for paper or a proper bar tab?

Jose went on with his tales of Malaga, the wine and how we would never find anything like it anywhere else in the world. He is probably right because it took me an entire lifetime to taste a wine so sweetly delicious.

He then asked me for a pen, and this is my favorite part of this little story because it charmingly illustrates the difference in cultures. I am an American in Europe and I think like an American, and evidently speak very much like an American.

At one point, Jose asked me for a pen to write down the name of a place for us to visit in Malaga.

As he tried to get the pen to write, I asked in Spanish, “Does it work?”

He paused, looked up from the pen and paper and turned to me. He said he would teach me a more elegant way to ask the same question.

Caribbean Yacht Charters

The Bahamas contain 700 islands covering 150,000 square miles of tropical sea with approximately 5,000 square miles of land. The islands have flat coral formations and some low rounded hills.

Each island of The Bahamas has a unique personality. The cosmopolitan Nassau city has duty free shops, golf, museums and restaurants. There are bright, white sand beaches on the island.

If you love sea diving, the coast of San Salvador offers challenging and exciting adventure. The Inagua National Park offers the spectacle of nesting flamingos and other exotic wildlife. The Exumas offers a 100-mile-long cruise along a string of pristine cays.

The main cruising islands in The Bahamas are: The Abacos Islands, Bimini and the Gulf Stream Islands, the Berry Islands, the Exuma Cays chain, Harbour Island, Eleuthera and Cat Island, the Out-Islands, Grand Bahama, Freeport and Port Lucaya, Nassau and Paradise Island.

With more than 40 islands and cays, the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean archipelago are ideal cruising ground, particularly for the honeymooners. They are ideal for yachting and water sports as well.

To 60 miles east of Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands comprise of rugged mountain peaks silhouetted against blue Caribbean Sea. The islands have such unusual names as Prickly Pear, Fallen Jerusalem, Great Dog and Pelican Island.

Many of these islands are uninhabited and reachable only by boat, idyllic exploration grounds for those who seek solitude.

Christopher Columbus discovered the Caribbean islands in 1493, who named them after St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins slain by the Huns in the 13th century.

Honeymooners prefer the Virgin Islands mainly because of their quiet, pristine beaches. The yachts chartered by the honeymooners offer personalized and discreet service, magnificent accommodations and excellent dining.

Some couples even prefer to have their weddings aboard the yacht or on the Virgin Islands.

Arches National Park Utah

Encompassing a land area of 73,000 acres, Arches National Park’s terrain is mostly arid desert, which is adorned by thousands of pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks and of course arches, made of sandstone. This makes this American national park quite a picturesque and special place to visit.

Out of all the arches you will encounter, Delicate Arch is definitely something you must see before leaving the park. This natural formation has indeed become an iconic representation of the state of Utah. This structure is on the cover of postcards, magazines and travel guidebooks, but to see it with your own eyes is quite the experience. Get up close by standing under the arch. From here, you will truly appreciate the artistic talent of nature; and you can look out at the arid landscape and see the contrasting snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the distance. And the bonus is that the view will not fail to take your breath away.

Most visitors to Delicate Arch make their way to this marvelous landmark by hiking. In fact, Arches National Park is a popular hiking hub! Aside from traveling on foot to the arch itself, you can also make your way to the two official viewpoints, which are identified as the Upper and Lower. These viewpoints share the same trailhead and offer you a fantastic view of the Arch,which is about a mile away.

Second only to Delicate Arch’s popularity, The Devils Garden is very much an attraction worth visiting. The site actually refers to a well-maintained primitive hiking loop that cover 7.2 miles. The loop highlights an area populated by a number of arches and huge sandstone fins. This route is absolutely scenic and has been the longest maintained trail in the national park.

Aside from Delicate Arch and Devil’s Garden, Arches National Park offers hiking enthusiasts a wide range of trails that can suit all ability levels. Most of these trails are intertwined to conveniently showcase the park’s 2,000 sandstone arches. Your biggest challenge as a visitor is to choose which trails to follow. Although, coming back for more hiking adventures is never a bad idea! Some of the most popular hiking routes here include the Balance Rock Trail, the Double Arch, Eye of the Whale Arch, Lower Courthouse Wash and Fiery Furnace, which is often described as a sandstone maze. If you want to see the largest arch on earth, check out Landscape Arch. The Dark Angel is an interesting alternative to the usual arches as it is an impressive sandstone tower that boasts a height of 150 feet.

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