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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, 2014 
TravelWatch: Senior Travel Newsletter.

What's on the Travel News Menu for YOU Today
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1. New small-ship cruises explore Indonesia's eastern islands, a pristine tourism frontier with over 17,000 islands and waters boasting 70% of all marine species in the world. See for yourself.
2. We introduce readers to an off-the-beaten path region of Mexico in southern Oaxaca state where small group tours and customized itineraries are opening windows on colorful indigenous traditions, a hands-on introduction to textiles, folk art and festivals.
3. If you're visiting Europe this summer, consider Brussels, Belgium in August where the visually-dazzling, bi-annual Flower Carpet dovetailing with a Summer Music Festival will double your pleasure.
4. We profile the first new European river cruise company to be launched in six years, with a new generation of vessels offering design and service features not seen before on river cruise ships.
5. In 2014, Colorado with its breath-taking mountain scenery and love of historic trains delivers theme excursions featuring beer tasting, blues music, wine tasting, Hollywood film nostalgia and more.

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.

AdventureSmith Explorations Unveils New Small-Ship Indonesia Cruise
Why should you cruise Indonesia's Eastern islands? How about the fact that they are as close as you can get to a pristine tourism frontier with over 17,000 islands in the middle of a coral triangle? Seventy percent of all marine species in the world are inhabitants. Let's just say it would be surprising indeed if any of your friends or relatives had been there before you – this is one for the travel bucket list!

U.S.-based AdventureSmith Explorations, www.adventuresmithexplorations.com, has come up with another winner, doing intensive homework before announcing its association with two small-ship, ocean-going vessels that will underpin the unique experience offered in the company's new Sailing Indonesia: Bali, Komodo and Flores Cruise.
Southeastern Indonesia islands small-ship cruises in 2014.
A powerboat cruises through Indonesia's countless uninhabited eastern islands. Jennifer Hayes
"Few areas in Asia can match the cultural and natural diversity found in the Lesser Sunda Islands," declares Todd Smith, founder and president of AdventureSmith Explorations, "There are towering active volcanoes, jungle-clad mountain ranges and dry savannah lowlands, all teeming with wildlife. The itinerary visits quiet coastal villages, megalithic cultures, colorful markets and a world of kaleidoscopic beauty underwater."
Small-ship Ombak Putih is an elegant Indonesian two-masted sailing vessel.
Small-ship Katharina is an elegant Indonesian two-masted sailing vessel.
Left: Built in 1995, Katharina is an elegant Indonesian two-masted "Phinisi", traditionally built by the Konjo tribe, a sub-ethnic group of Bugis-Makassar. Jennifer Hayes

Right: The Ombak Putih is a traditional Indonesian schooner custom built by Buginese ship builders. She became operational in 1997.
Jennifer Hayes
While both of these lovely ships are made of native ironwood using traditional Indonesia designs, Katharina (14 guests) and Ombak Putih (28 guests) meet all service and amenities expectations for a comfortable 21st century holiday. Manned by an Indonesian crew of 12 plus captain, Katharina's overall length is 40 meters/131 feet. All her cabins offer private bathrooms, individually-controlled AC and storage space including a safe. Manned by 14 crew members plus captain, the Ombak Putih's overall length of 42 meters/137 feet long includes 12 ensuite cabins and plenty of public space on two decks. Her cabins offer individually-controlled AC, ample storage space and a safe.
Included in the double occupancy seven-day rate from US$2,380 per person are accommodations, all meals aboard the ship, transfers in Flores, non-alcoholic beverages, limited laundry service, guided shore excursions, and use of snorkeling gear and sea kayaks/canoes. Although cruises aboard these vessels aren't recommended for children under age four, the ships are child-friendly with side railings adjusted to a higher level than normal for traditional Buginese schooners. Children under 12 years are charged just 25% of cruise fare if they share a triple cabin with their parents. Children 12 and older will be charged 50% of cruise fare when sharing a triple cabin.
Indonesia fruit and vegetable vendors on island of Flores, Indonesia.
Fruit and vegetable vendors on a visit to the village of Melo, island of Flores.
Jennifer Hayes
Off-the-Beaten Path … Explore Southern Mexico's State of Oaxaca!
The vast majority of vacationers to Mexico know the country by visits to Cancun, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas or Mexico City. Traditions Mexico www.traditionsmexico.com, offers a tempting alternative that goes deep into the southern state of Oaxaca with cultural tours that open windows on a world of colorful indigenous traditions, textiles, folk art and festivals. In business since 1996, its small-group tours are expertly guided with original itineraries that go way beyond sun and sand.
Local women demonstrate traditional embroidery on a Traditions Mexico Fiber Arts of the Oaxacan South Coast tour.
On the Fiber Arts of the Oaxacan South Coast tour, local women are happy to share their knowledge and skills of traditional embroidery. Eric Mindling
Having lived in Oaxaca for two decades, Eric Mindling is the creative force behind Traditions Mexico. "The company is entirely built out of my respect for the people and ways of such a traditional, rooted and wise land. This world and work are my passion. I believe deeply in sharing the valuable handcraft and cultural knowledge of this area's indigenous people."

Here are three tours that reflect the originality of Traditions Mexico itineraries:
Return of the Souls – Day of the Dead Oaxaca, October 27 to November 3, 2014, Oaxaca is the perfect place to celebrate this most beautiful and wildest festival of the year! Day of the Dead means that markets, house altars and graveyards will be filled with flowers. This itinerary will take participants into rural Mexico and into the homes and workshops of weavers, candle makers, distillers, cooks and the people who create the items that are necessary to make such an annual festival happen.
Traditions Mexico offers cultural and traditional textile tours in southern Oaxaca state, Mexico.
The Return of the Souls tour is all about celebration, including food, drink and the best of traditional culture. Marina Guzman
Dying of fibers is demonstrated on Traditions Mexico's Fiber Arts of the Oaxacan South Coast tour.
Guests participating in the Fiber Arts of the Oaxacan South Coast Tour, November 4 to 12, 2014 and February 15 to 24, 2015 will enjoy the rare honor of joining one of the last traditional shell fish dyers on earth as he "milks" shell fish used to dye thread purple. They will visit weavers who create traditional wraps with this purple cotton, travel to a remote Amuzgo village to meet the finest backstrap brocade weavers in the country as well as visit Mixtec villages where brown cotton is cultivated and young weavers are coming up with new ideas for their ancient traditions. Participants in the February 2015 tour will also get a taste of carnival festivals in the Mixtec villages.
Participants learn about dying techniques with one of the last murex dyers on the planet. By exposing the skein to sun and air the color turns from yellow to blue to a final fast purple. Eric Mindling
Traditions Mexico offers a small group Slice of Oaxaca tour with themes of traditional folk art and culture.
A Slice of Oaxaca, December 6 to 13, 2014 and January 10 to 17, 2015, is a journey for people who love folk art and culture. Like all of Traditions Mexico's adventures, this itinerary is for travelers who want to find what is authentic in a place. From Zapotec villages and artisan homes to a grand Sunday market and the silent stone remains of great palaces, Expect a meaningful exploration of the far south of Mexico where artisans still use the exact same skills of a thousand years ago.
Teotitlan del Valle is Mexico's largest tapestry weaving village. Almost every family in this friendly Zapotec village creates colorful woolen tapestries. Eric Mindling
Ninety-five percent of Traditions Mexico clients are between the ages of 45 and 75, and 75% of clients are women. The top three countries from which participants travel to join a Traditions Mexico tour are the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Traveling to Europe? Don't Miss Brussels in Bloom, August 2014
I am very excited to draw to readers' attention the upcoming Brussels in Bloom, August 14 to 17, 2014. If you miss this unique event, you will have to wait until 2016 … it only comes around every two years!
A massive Flower Carpet is created in the city of Brussels' elegant, historic Grand Place, a visual masterpiece of 750,000 begonias magically assembled in just seven hours. Visitors may watch the carpet take form during the day on the 14th. Its official launch takes place on the evening of August 14 with much fanfare, fireworks and more. Viewing the carpet from the ground is free; tickets to see it from above are 5 Euros.
Brussels in Bloom Floral Carpet under construction with 750,000 begonia blossoms.
On the first day of Brussels in Bloom, the flower carpet is created from 750,000 begonia blossoms. Mathieu Paternoster/Labo River
Brussels in Bloom opening evening ceremonies.
Fireworks in this grand setting herald the opening evening of Brussels in Bloom. Mathieu Paternoster/Labo River
To get a true sense of this grand event, please visit our richly-illustrated feature article showcasing past floral carpets and providing some of the history behind this bi-annual event. There you will also learn about the Brussels Summer Music Festival, offering 10 days of musical events to double the pleasure of visiting Brussels. The Music Festival begins on August 8.
A New Company, a New Generation of European River Cruise Ships
For the first time in six years, a new river cruise company is taking to Europe's rivers. As the river cruising season gets under way with the launch of the Emerald Star and Emerald Sky, the 2014 sailings of Emerald Waterways, www.emeraldwaterways.com, are selling strongly and 2015 bookings are well under way. In 2015, Emerald Sun and Emerald Dawn will be added to the fleet.
Emerald Waterways ships feature itineraries along the Rhine and Danube rivers.
Emerald Waterways ships feature itineraries
along the Rhine and Danube rivers.

Emerald Sky is a new European river cruise ship from Emerald Waterways.
Emerald Sky was launched by her new "godmother", British style icon and trendsetter, Twiggy.
When it comes to exploring Europe, there's nothing average about the itineraries. With carefully-crafted cruises ranging from 8 to 15 days, guests will visit many of the most fantastic villages, towns and cities lining Europe's Danube and Rhine rivers. Special experiences have been scouted out that uncover more than just the usual tourist attractions.
Emerald Sky river cruise ship offers a heated pool area.
The heated pool area with retractable roof converts to a movie theater in the evening.
Launching a new fleet of custom-built ships has allowed Emerald Waterways a blank canvas to create a completely new design, and introduce an array of innovations not expected on a river cruise ship. These include an onboard heated swimming pool with retractable roof which, in the evening, transforms into a cinema. As an alternative to the main restaurant, there is alfresco dining on The Terrace at breakfast and lunch.
Emerald Waterways cabins and suites offer a larger selection of designs than other vessels.
Expect a larger selection of cabin
designs than offered on other vessels.
Each ship offers a greater range of staterooms and one-bedroom suites to choose from. For example, replacing the predictable French Balcony, the designers created a new kind of indoor balcony, complete with a decked area and an ingenious open-air system. With the touch of a button, the upper half of the cabin's floor-to-ceiling window drops down to let in fresh air and provide full panoramic views of the landscape.
Expect plenty of value for your money. As well as including all meals, onshore excursions, a special selection of EmeraldPLUS experiences, travel and transfers within the price of your cruise vacation, Emerald Waterways also takes care of all tipping.
Images courtesy of Emerald Waterways.
All Aboard for Colorado's Themed Train Itineraries in 2014
The first railroad was cut through Colorado's rocky terrain in 1869, and the transportation mode hasn't lost any steam since. These days there are beer trains, wine trains and even Blues trains, all traversing the State's rugged terrain. This breath-taking scenic landscape boasts natural hot springs, the headwaters of seven major rivers, many peaceful lakes and reservoirs, 11 national parks and monuments, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. You can experience all the highlights by train with the most popular lines leaving the station all spring and summer.
Colorado Durango & Silverton Train.
Colorado Durango & Silverton Train.
In May 2014, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad introduced their newest specialty train, the Durango Brew Train. An authentic 1925 steam locomotive pulling a narrow gauge train through the Animas Valley and on up over the dramatic highline, hundreds of feet above the Animas River. On board, skilled and knowledgeable brewers will introduce you to a light sampling of their fine ales and educate you about the process required for crafting each brew. Once at the wilderness event area of the historic, former "Ah! Wilderness Dude Ranch", full sampling stations from five local breweries will be set up under the big tent. Also during your two-hour stay at Ah! Wilderness you can enjoy scrumptious small bites and live music.
Durango Brew Train, Colorado.
Durango Brew Train.
Durango Blues Train, Colorado.
Durango Blues Train.
Back by popular demand, the Blues Train will run in both May and August. Also new for 2014, each night on the train will feature a different group of musicians – so don't rule out riding more than once. Traveling on the Historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad's coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive, passengers will dance their way between six different cars hosting six different bands and musicians. The breathtaking canyons, rivers and mountains of the San Juan National Forest provide an excellent backdrop. Enjoy 3.5 hours of music, dancing, views and laughter. May 30 & 31, and August 22 & 23.
AAA Colorado Wine Country Experience train tour brings visitors from Denver to Grand Junction, Colorado on Amtrak's California Zephyr route, the most popular train route in the country. During the train ride, guests enjoy a "Colorado Wine 101" seminar, live entertainment by a professional jazz musician, and wine tasting hosted by two Grand Valley vintners. Once in Grand Junction, guest tour several Grand Valley wineries where they learn about the process of wine making, get a behind the scenes look at operations, and, of course, have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of local wines. Before returning to Denver on a luxury motorcoach, attendees also enjoy a tour of the breathtaking Colorado National Monument. Two AAA (American Automobile Assn) Colorado Wine Country Experiences trains are scheduled in 2014. The first train is designated as an AAA Colorado President's Edition tour and will take place June 20-23. President of AAA Colorado, Tony DeNovellis, hosts this enhanced version of what they now call "one of their most popular Colorado tours." A second Wine Country Train tour is scheduled for October 10-12.
Since 1891, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway has taken millions of people on an unforgettable trip to the 14,115 feet summit of Pikes Peak. Past cascading streams and forests of aspen and pine, the world's highest cog railroad reveals lovely panoramas that inspired "America the Beautiful." In contrast to the vintage track and beautifully restored station, the modern cars with expansive windows offer views of Englemann Canyon, Minnehaha Falls, Lake Moraine and Mount Almagre and of course, Pikes Peak, America's Mountain. Trains run year-round.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Colorado.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway: See our feature article about Pikes Peak, including its famous Cog Railway.
With the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad you will experience the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains as the train passes through tunnels, above deep gorges and over Cumbres Pass. This unique section of mountain railroad is co-owned by the states of New Mexico and Colorado; it was designated a National Historic Landmark in October 2012. The railroad is famous for its appearance in Hollywood films, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the Legend of the Lone Ranger. Visitors can experience the authentic West every day, May through October.

For more information and the Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit www.COLORADO.com.
Images courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office.

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