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Senior Travel Newsletter: nature, cruise, barging, volunteer vacations.
Senior travel newsletter: nature travel, educational, cultural, volunteer, cruise and barging vacations worldwide.
New stories, June 1, 2015 
TravelWatch: Senior Travel Newsletter.

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1. You may never have heard of the word, gulet, but you will love gulet cruising around the shores and islands of the eastern Mediterranean (Turkey, Croatia and Greece) on one of these wooden schooners.
2. When considering a trip to India, we rarely think of indigenous lions and leopards, though most people have seen photos of Bengal tigers. With 14 scheduled wildlife safaris, here is your chance to see these rare and endangered creatures in their natural habitat as well as experience the rich, colorful culture of India.
3. A new small-ship Cuba cruise offers an exciting educational People to People program including grassroots shore visits with everyday Cubans experiencing everyday life. It is engaging and enjoyable, with departures from December 2015 to April 2016. Required licenses and visas are included, for Americans too!
4. Ireland's southwest counties of Cork and Kerry are the focus of active educational adventures like sheep herding, kayaking, and horseback riding, nicely balanced with a taste of history, culture and local cuisine.
5. Luxury railway journeys are high on the life list of Travel with a Challenge readers. Here are five reasons why riding the rails can be truly compelling.

Before planning your next adventure, you may compare accommodation alternatives with sites such as www.trivago.com or use their data base for further information about your destination and read traveler hotel reviews.

Gulets by the Hundreds: Top Notch, Lots of Choice and a Grand Way to Explore the Eastern Mediterranean
The owners of Slovenia-based Goolets Ltd, www.goolets.net, have had ten years of experience to define the ideal gulet cruise person. Such an individual, Mitja and Alenka say, is not a classic tourist, but rather a person who loves a good adventure, welcomes the opportunity to try new foods, and dislikes staying in one place all the time. A gulet aficionado searches out epic locations and is a bon vivant who enjoys life and everything beautiful, both natural and manmade. Is that you? Then read on!
Gulet sailing in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Symi Harbor on the Greek island of Rhodes offers visiting gulets a fine protected mooring.
Goolets Ltd. is a dedicated family-owned business representing over 500 gulets in a wide variety of sizes. They ply the magnificent coastlines of the eastern Mediterranean following about 50 routes that offer the best of coastal Turkey, Croatia, Greece and its renowned Greek Islands. While experiencing a genuine "blue cruise", as these gulet explorations are described, the natural beauty and deep cultural history of this region become your own to discover. Rent an entire gulet with family and friends or rent one cabin.
So what is a gulet? It is a traditional design of a two-masted or three-masted wooden sailing vessel originating from the southwestern coast of Turkey, although similar vessels can be found all around the eastern Mediterranean. Over many centuries they were used for fishing or carrying freight, but in the 1970s, the elegant design caught the attention of the tourist industry, and that remains the largest demand for building gulets to the present day. Though the masts hint at sailing capacity, the boat's main power source is an engine with sails not often unfurled.
Turkish gulet.
A colorful Turkish holiday gulet.
Average cruising cost per person ranges from 799 to 1486 Euros per week, depending on star rating of the vessel, from 3* to 6*. Based on the average weekly price above, guests get a cabin of varying size with ensuite bathroom and air conditioning, a knowledgeable captain to navigate the ship to amazing places each day, a chef to prepare meals to your taste each day, and much more. Click here to see the full summary of what is included.
Island of Korcula, Croatia.
Many family and friend groups rent out a gulet for a very reasonable whole charter price and split the cost among them. See the private charter page and truly you will get excited. If you travel in high season (July, August) the price is highest and the marinas are crowded. In mid-season (June, September) and low season (May, October) prices are correspondingly lower, the mooring facilities and the shore attractions are substantially less crowded.
The deeply-historic Croatian island of Korcula is a popular stop for sailors exploring the Adriatic Sea.
Owners Mitja and Alenka are passionate about their chosen business. "We make lots of inspections on a wide range of gulets while trying the food, tasting the local wines and checking out the most amazing itineraries. We never stop brainstorming about how to enhance the travel experiences of our clients, we negotiate the best deals with gulet owners, and we never stop educating our partners and representatives. What this means is that our clients can book a cruise to their expectations at the best available price, and the bill for our services will be paid by the owners.
Southern Turkey's rock cut tombs.
Gulet sailing around the Greek Islands like Kalymnos Island.
Left: An enticing harbor stop on Greece's Kalymnos Island in the southeastern Aegean Sea.
Right: It's tempting to leave your gulet for a few hours and take a guided educational excursion, like visiting southern Turkey's famous rock cut tombs, dating from 500 BC.
"We are available 24/7 in case client assistance is required. We make sure the gulet is waiting in the same condition as it was promised and that the crew is prepared. We ensure that the check-in procedure goes as smoothly and enjoyable as humanly possible and we keep in close contact with the owner to make sure that promises are fulfilled."
Images courtesy of Goolets Ltd.
A Nature Lover's Dream: Big Cats of India Wildlife and Heritage Tour
Although famous for the endangered Bengal tiger, India is also home to the Indian leopard and is the last remaining home of the rare Asiatic lion. Incredible Indian Tours' Big Cats of India Wildlife and Heritage Tour offers exceptional opportunities to view all three of these rare and endangered animals in their natural habitat during 14 scheduled wildlife safaris across three states of North and Central India. Limited to just 10 participants, this 18-day itinerary starts in Mumbai, travels through the western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Land of Kings, and visits the iconic Taj Mahal and Agra's Moghul monuments before heading south into the diverse state of Maharashtra and a final six safaris for some serious tiger spotting.
Bengal tiger.
The magnificent Bengal tiger is mainly in India, with small populations also found in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Hecke
Asiatic lion in India.
The endangered Asiatic lion, also known as the Persian lion, is a lion subspecies existing as a single population in India's Gujarat state.
Nilanjan Battacharya
Indian leopard.
Hunting of Indian leopards for the illegal wildlife trade of skins and body parts remains the biggest threat
to their survival.
Debbie Kindness
The tour is hosted by Incredible Indian Tours Australian owner, Debbie Kindness, and led by naturalist, Mike Luck. Mike was born and raised in South Africa, developing a passion for the big cats, especially leopards, which he has spent countless hours tracking. Debbie has regularly traveled to India since 1993, developing a deep love and spiritual connection with India along with great insider knowledge and friendships that she gladly shares with guests wherever her tours take them. Through Incredible Indian Tours, http://incredibleindiatours.com/, she has created a unique collection of grassroots guided and customized independent tours across the Indian subcontinent offered over more than 20 years. "Our group sizes are limited to a maximum of 10 members so we can ensure more personal attention and a better cultural experience," says Debbie. "We can be far more flexible with our plans making the most of events, weather and other variables."
This Big Cats tour offers a fine balance between a focus on natural habitats and the greatest accumulation of cultural heritage destinations in all of India. The price of US$5,590 pp twin share includes all park fees, 17 nights' accommodation in 4-star or Heritage hotels, airport transfers, five domestic flights, all ground transportation, 17 breakfasts, seven dinners and six lunches. This tour also includes an appreciation of the wide-ranging heritage monuments and distinctive cities that reflect the best of Indian culture and history.

I have personally sampled Debbie's engaging style of grassroots touring on one of her women-only India cultural highlights 23-day itineraries, and nobody does it better! Click here to read the story of our adventures in our Travel Article Library.
Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, India.
Viewed from the roof garden of the Haveli Inn Pal, Jodhpur's Mehrangarh Fort is one of India's largest fortresses, with well-preserved palaces and delicately-decorated courtyards within its 100-foot-high walls. Alison Gardner
Path-Breaking Small-Ship Cruises Offer Intimate Exploration of Cuba
Small-ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations www.adventuresmithexplorations.com is venturing into new waters. Launching in December 2015 and running into April 2016 will be a series of eight-day adventures called the Cuba People to People Cruises aboard the three-masted Panorama, a recently-refurbished schooner. It has 25 elegantly furnished cabins, offering a 49-passenger capacity. The program begins and ends in Miami with round trip flights to Havana included in the tour price. The ship stops in five ports along Cuba's western and southern shore.
Small-ship sailing around Cuba aboard the three-masted Panorama.
The three-masted Panorama is a 49-passenger schooner, ideal for small-ship cruises.
AdventureSmith Explorations
With a per person, double cabin rate of US$4,999, guests use the ship as a floating hotel as they enjoy meaningful daily shore excursions. Included in the rate are round-trip air fare from Miami, all meals from arrival in Cuba to breakfast on departure day, cabin accommodations, Cuban visa and required licenses, mandatory Cuban medical insurance and transportation. American citizens are cleared for participation in this cruise.
Old Havana street.
A visit to Havana is like stepping back in time five decades.
Dave Wiggins
"A strategic advantage AdventureSmith Explorations brings to the excitement of a newly engaged Cuba is the fact that we are traveling only in small ships. This offers the flexibility and access to enter ports along Cuba's coast that may not yet be accessible to larger vessels," said Todd Smith, founder/owner. The itinerary includes stops in Havana, Maria LaGorda, Cayo Largo, Trinidad and Cienfuego. Most of the sailing occurs at night as guests sleep. Come morning, the ship is in a new harbor where guests on escorted tours discover this island and meet its people.
"This is a country of great natural beauty with magnificent mountain ranges and fertile plains of sugar cane and tobacco and some of the best beaches in the world," Smith added. "The program's goal is to help facilitate an unscripted, honest exchange between people. Guests will be introduced to Cuba's rich artistic heritage: pre-Columbian cultures, the splendors of Spanish colonialism and internationally-acclaimed contemporary art."
Dancing on the streets of Havana. Old Havana, harboring five percent of Cuba's 11 million people, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and said to be the most beautiful city in the Caribbean. Here and throughout the week visitors will meet an easy-going, multi-racial population whose greatest enthusiasm is reserved for music. It is the home of the modern rumba, actually of African origin, the mamba, the cha-cha and the salsa and Cuban jazz. While most meals are taken on the ship, local cuisines are enjoyed on scheduled stops at restaurants and paladors (in-home businesses).

Guests visit a community cooperative to hear about the challenges locals face as they transition to relying less on government and more on entrepreneurial income. Cultural exchanges include an evening with the Buena Vista Social Club and a visit with the Community Cultural Project of Quisicuaba that delves into the folk culture of the free blacks who came from the Angolan Basin in the 16th century.
Cubans of all ages love to dance, and do they know what they're doing whether it's rumba, mamba, cha-cha or salsa! Dave Wiggins
Here are some of the highlights: on a nature preserve, guests visit a beekeeping and honey production center. A National Park at Guanahacabibes reveals 140 archaeological sites. On Cayo Largo, a limestone island of mangroves and salt pans, guests move from discussions with Cuban sports, culture and mass communications experts and local doctors to a sea turtle breeding center and an afternoon of snorkeling. Trinidad is a meticulously well preserved Spanish colonial town known as the Pearl of the South with its cluster of Neoclassical structures.
Small ship Panorama's twin-bed cabin, cruising around Cuba.
Small ship Panorama's elegant lounge, cruising around Cuba.
Panorama's cabins and lounge areas make an elegant home-away-from-home for guests on the Cuba People-to-People Cruise. AdventureSmith Explorations
The 178-foot Panorama, built in 1993, was renovated in 2009. She cruises at 11 knots and has performed several Atlantic Ocean crossings; she has also sailed from the Seychelles to Monte Carlo and from the Black Sea to Tunis. Aboard the ship, guests can mingle in the outdoor areas, in the two lounges or the library. An on-board pianist plays as guests relax over drinks. From a swimming platform guests may dip into the sea when weather and anchorage conditions permit.

Click here for information, availability and 2015-2016 reservations. There is also a Cuba Cruise frequently asked questions page that offers valuable information addressing concerns that Americans and other guests may have.
Ireland's Southwest Counties of Cork and Kerry are Full of Adventures
Would you like to become a shepherd for day, stay in a stately home, horseback ride beaches along the Wild Atlantic Way and go foraging for wild foods by sea kayak? These are just a few of the adventures you'll experience on a new immersive tour called Kerry UnCorked, unveiled by Vagabond Adventure Tours of Ireland. It effectively combines a balance of activity options with the always-fascinating history and culture of Ireland.
Small-group tours of Ireland's counties Cork and Kerry include horseback riding along the beach.
Horseback riding along a beach on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Family biking in County Kerry, Ireland.
Biking in Kerry.
Utilizing custom-designed Land Rovers that seat up to 13 passengers, this is an extraordinary and insightful eight-day trip that distills the best of Counties Kerry and Cork in Ireland's southwest. It ranges from a day spent working with a shepherd on a classic hill farm to cycling in Killarney National Park. There's horseback riding on the Dingle Peninsula and even a chance to try surfing and kayaking. There are two nights each in the vibrant towns of Dingle and Kinsale, the latter being Ireland's most famous gastronomic village.
The range of accommodations raises this trip to another level, including the renowned Blue Haven Hotel, Bantry House, a stately home that's still family-run, and a night of luxury "glamping" in safari style tents overlooking the sea at Dromquinnar Manor. Preview departures of this new trip are on July 12 and August 16, 2015, also to be offered throughout 2016.

The price is US$1,975 per person, based on double occupancy, including all transport, guiding, relevant taxes, accommodations and breakfasts. Some activities highlighted below do have an additional fee for participation, but they account for only a small part of the daily activities on tour.
Sheep herding demonstration in County Kerry.
County Kerry sheep farm, herding with border collies.
Sea kayaking in the coves of County Cork, Ireland.Become a shepherd for the day and experience firsthand the rural life (and hard work) of an Irish hill farmer.
Spend seven nights in unique accommodations, from luxury shoreline "glamping" safari tents overlooking the sea at Dromquinnar Manor to a night at Bantry House, a family-owned stately home.
Stay in Emlagh Lodge in Dingle and Blue Haven Hotel in Kenmare, two of Irelands best known hotels.
Kayak in the coves of West Cork (right) and forage for the abundant foods naturally available.
Join in or observe a local sporting team's training session.
Enjoy a hands-on cooking demonstration of traditional Irish recipes.
Meet local artisan food producers and craftsmen and see them at work at their farms and studios.
Play golf with the locals on a seaside course on the Dingle Peninsula, Kerry.
Since 2002, Vagabond Adventure Tours of Ireland, http://vagabondtoursofireland.ie/vagabond, has been leading travelers on small-group adventure tours around Ireland. Then in 2011, owners Rob and Amy Rankin launched a new division of Vagabond, Driftwood Irish Journeys of Discovery, http://vagabondtoursofireland.ie/driftwood, offering itineraries for more leisurely travelers.
Images courtesy of Vagabond Adventure Tours of Ireland.
Five Reasons to Consider a Rail Journey
With the summer travel season now in full swing, award-winning Rocky Mountaineer www.rockymountaineer.com, has compiled a list of the top five experiences a rail ride can deliver best:
New Territory: One of the greatest advantages is the ability to travel through areas simply not accessible by foot or car, and certainly not viewed by plane at 10,000 or 30,000 feet.

The Scenic Route: There is nothing more scenic than traveling by train, and with the ease of being able to sit back in comfort and catch the world through large picture windows, you are able to give your undivided attention to the breath-taking scenery and natural wildlife.

Freedom & Comfort: Traveling by car or plane can cramp your style … quite literally. Luxury trains allow for spacious accommodations with ample legroom and freedom to roam around and enjoy fresh air while in the vestibules.
Rocky Mountaineer train journey through the Canadian Rockies.
Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, so tall that it hosts its own constantly-changing weather system. Rocky Mountaineer
Culinary Excellence: Forget fast food on a road trip or pre-packaged airplane meals. Traveling on a luxury train allows you to experience fine dining and wine, all included.

Nostalgia & Charm: Riding a train is like taking a step back in time. There is nothing more nostalgic or charming than sitting back and enjoying great service and scenery as people did before cars and planes.

Would you like to preview how these five reasons translate into reality? Check out our experiential article about riding the rails with Rocky Mountaineer on their journey from Jasper, Alberta to Vancouver on British Columbia's west coast. Since 1990, the company has carried guests from around the world into the heart of the famed Canadian Rockies. Happy 25th Anniversary, Rocky Mountaineer!
Rocky Mountaineer train's dining room.
GoldLeaf dining service from Jasper to Vancouver includes two breakfasts and two three-course lunches aboard the train.

Rocky Mountaineer

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