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A Reason Why Croatia’s Cruise-Based Tourism is Booming
Started in Croatia 26 years ago, Katarina Line, www.katarina-line.com, is a well-established small-ship cruise company, but it is certainly making new waves on the waters of the Adriatic Sea with the launch of two new vessels in the Deluxe Superior category and new routes to share with guests exploring the exquisite Dalmatian coast. There are also new land tours for 2019 that sample the history and culture as well as inland forests and mountains while offering countless miles of biking, hiking and walking trails in a country whose diversity has made it a justifiably popular choice for vacationers in recent years.
With a growing fleet of more than 60 ships in six different categories, Katarina Line serves 30,000 cruise guests of all ages and budgets with an invitation to explore well-preserved historic coastal cities and dozens of islands each with their own distinctive story.
Offering plenty of choice, ship categories range from gullets and traditional to premium and deluxe vessels with one way or round trip itineraries. The two newest vessels in the Deluxe and Deluxe Superior category, each accommodating 36 to 38 guests on seven-day cruises, offer “Northern Gems”, originating in Split, and “Divine Dalmatia” out of Dubrovnik. They feature lavishly designed, air-conditioned and spacious ensuite cabins. Prices include daily buffet breakfast and lunch, a captain’s dinner, all applicable fees, guided excursions described in each itinerary, and airport transfers.
While some Katarina Line traditional ships and gullets have masts and sails, all the company’s fleet are motor vessels of different sizes and shapes, made of wood or steel. Some in the fleet are more than hundred years old but have been reconstructed on numerous occasions and tailored for tourism because in the past some had been used to carry freight. Most of the steel/iron vessels are brand new and built very recently.
Those who seek a bit more privacy and comfort should choose Deluxe Superior, Deluxe or Premium Superior or Premium category ships. Traditional / Traditional Ensuite vessels are intended more for young people, groups of friends or different interest groups like alpinists, bikers and similar who do not mind sharing a small space and bathrooms for seven days. Traditional Ensuite and Traditional vessels do not have air-conditioned cabins and cabins are mostly bunk beds.
“Katarina Line’s growing program of land tours and expanding fleet are fueled by a boom in tourism to Croatia,” says marketing director, Daniel Hauptfeld. “Through our cruises and customizable land tours, guests can explore the magnificent blue coastline and islands of Croatia, its cultural, historical and gastronomic traditions, and its stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites. Check out the company’s new five-minute video and you will understand the appeal of this region very quickly.”
Images courtesy of Katarina Line
When a whole country takes responsibility, visitors can be asked to do the same
Recently, New Zealand asked that visitors pledge to protect, preserve and respect the land they are traveling through, this in an effort to raise awareness for conservation and tourism etiquette before the start of its busiest season (November to March). The pledge, deemed the “Tiaki Promise” comes from the indigenous Māori principle that everyone who lives and travels in New Zealand is responsible for caring for both people and place.
“The idea of tourism in New Zealand is bigger than the border process,” explains Stephen England-Hall, CEO of Tourism New Zealand. He notes that the promise isn’t a list of “do this” and “don’t do that” guidelines — rather, it’s a way of putting people in a certain mindset when they arrive in the country.
When traveling in New Zealand, how do you keep your Tiaki Promise? New Zealand Walking Tours, a leader of sustainable adventures into the great Kiwi countryside, shares some tips on how travelers can tread lightly once they’ve touched down.
1) Be mindful about your waste With 13 national parks covering over 30,000 square kilometers of native forest, waterways and alpine areas, it’s no wonder travelers flock to New Zealand for its fresh air and pristine landscapes. New Zealand Walking Tours provides reusable water canisters to its guests upon arrival to limit the use of plastic bottles. They also employ biodegradable waste bags in their vehicle fleet, work with hoteliers who practice composting, and while swimming can be a great way to cool off after a long hike, their tours are careful to keep soaps and detergents out of the lakes and rivers.
2) Travel with guides who value conservation Residents and visitors alike enjoy a special connection to New Zealand’s wilderness, home to an estimated 80,000 endemic species of plants and animals, including penguins, dolphins and fur seals. That also means there’s lots to protect – and for those unfamiliar with the country, it can be helpful to have a guide on hand who knows the land and the creatures who live there. The kea, the world’s only alpine parrot and unique to New Zealand’s southern mountain ranges, is protected by the Kea Conservation Trust, a conservation and advocacy initiative supported by New Zealand Walking Tours’ parent company, Active Adventures.
3) Let someone else take the wheel With its narrow coastal roadways, varying weather conditions and left-hand traffic system, driving in New Zealand, although a popular way to see the island, is not necessarily the most enjoyable. Traveling in a shared vehicle not only lowers a visitor’s carbon footprint, but having someone to drive you around cross-country also means getting to witness the wonders of New Zealand without ever having to consult a map. And a driver does come in handy when visiting its many fine vineyards for a wine tasting.
4) Travel with people who’ve got your back It’s easy to understand why New Zealand’s otherworldly terrain inspires instant adventure among travelers, but while it may look like an outdoor playground, the risks that come with going into the wild independently can be very real. Referring to a New Zealand-specific packing list before you go will ensure you’re ready for all types of weather, and researching the do’s and don’t’s of the country’s many parks and mountains is a must for all would-be hikers. Hiring a local guide who knows the land is another way to be prepared for your adventure, as professional guides will be the first to know which routes are most accessible at the start of every day, especially in an ever-changing weather environment.
5) Travel with an open heart and a thoughtful mind New Zealand is renowned for its friendly people and rich, multicultural heritage, and a key part of the Tiaki Promise (“Tiaki” means “to guard” in the Māori language) acknowledges the traveler’s role in helping to protect and preserve both. When visiting the country’s different regions and cultural sites, taking time to understand their customs and histories – as well as patronizing their small businesses – is the best way to bolster the community. The Māori of New Zealand number roughly 712,000, about 15% of the country’s total population. An introduction to this powerful culture is an essential part of any visit to the Land of the Long White Cloud (Aotearoa, in Māori).
Based in Queenstown on the South Island and owned by Active Adventures, New Zealand Walking Tours, newzealandwalkingtours.com, has over 20 years of experience and learning. The top three countries from which clients participate are the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Overall average client age is 62 years, with about 19% in the 45 to 60 age range, and 69% in the 61 to 70+ age range. The company has perfected the art of relaxed, meaningful adventure with four small-group itineraries that cover the territory: Timeless North (6 days), Elegant South (11 days), Beautiful South (10 days), and Pristine New Zealand (13 days).
Food for Travel Thought
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” — TS Eliot
Germany’s Granddaddy of all Passion Plays is Coming Up!
The Oberammergau Passion Play is a big deal, not only because it has 380 years of performance roots, not only because it will attract an estimated half a million visitors from around the world, but also because it is only mounted in the small town of Oberammergau, Germany in the southwest Bavarian Alps once every ten years. If you miss Oberammergau 2020, then you will have to wait until 2030 for the next opportunity!
In case you think you still have loads of time to experience this unique phenomenon where close to 2,000 local people participate in this play relating Jesus Christ’s final days, death and resurrection, not so. Group tickets are already selling briskly and individual (FIT) tickets have been on sale since March 2018 for this decade’s performance series running from May 16 to October 4, 2020.
Over the past 18 years of publication, many of Travel with a Challenge’s senior travel readers have expressed interest in a variety of spiritual and pilgrimage motivations to travel. Therefore, we are drawing this one to their attention, and to those who have not considered this travel theme before.
In fact, we have noticed already that a number of land tour and river cruise operators have woven into their 2020 itineraries a side trip to attend an Oberammergau Passion Play so we have decided to create a feature article for our March/April 2019 issue that provides more background information about the history and present day interest in this play, as well as a descriptive list and dates when a selection of recommended operators are offering this inclusion. We invite you to watch for it … only appearing once every ten years!
Images courtesy of German National Tourist Board and Oberammergau Passion Play.
Hurtigruten Cruise Ships Powered by Fish and Forest Waste
Headquartered in Norway, Hurtigruten, global.hurtigruten.com, has already invested heavily in green technology, including battery solutions, and is presently considered the world’s greenest cruise company. Next step is powering their ships with liquefied, fossil-free biogas produced from dead fish and other organic waste.
With the cruise ship industry ever-expanding in so many sizes, styles and destinations, there has been growing alarm about the negative environmental footprint of all these ships crisscrossing the globe. In the future, fish scraps will be part of the solution, according to Hurtigruten, known best for its unique expeditionary itineraries through Norway’s fjords, much of the Arctic between Europe and North America and now the Antarctic.
Norway has large fishery and forestry sectors that produce a steady volume of organic waste with a vision to become a world leader in biogas production.
“While competitors are running on cheap and polluting heavy fuel oil, our ships will literally be powered by nature,” says Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam. “Biogas is the greenest fuel in shipping and will be a huge advantage for the environment.”
High-sulfur fuel favored by the shipping industry has been found to produce sulfur oxides, a contributor to the acidification of seas and rain. Concern over the issue led to the International Maritime Organization to set a 0.5% sulfur limit on marine fuel by 2020. A 2017 report by German environmental association Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) found that a midsize cruise ship can use well over 100 tons of fuel a day, producing as much particulate as a million cars.
The 125-year-old Norwegian company, which operates 17 ships, plans on at least six of its ships to be powered on a combination of biogas, liquified natural gas and large battery packs by 2021. The company is also taking other steps to boost its green credentials: it has ordered three new hybrid-powered cruise liners, has banned single-use plastics from all its ships and plans on becoming carbon neutral.
2019 will mark a new green milestone for Hurtigruten with the introduction of the world’s first hybrid-electric powered cruise ship, MS Roald Amundsen. It is custom built for sustainable operations in some of the world’s most pristine waters such as Antarctica and across the Northwest Passage from Greenland to Nome, Alaska (the latter cruise already sold out for 2019!).
“This is just the beginning. Hurtigruten is the world’s largest expedition cruise line, and that comes with a responsibility. Sustainability will be a key driver for the new era of shipping and the travel industry. Hurtigruten’s unmatched investments in green technology and innovation have set a new standard for the whole industry to follow. The ultimate goal is to operate our ships completely emission-free,” Skjeldam declares.
Images courtesy of Hurtigruten.
Best In-Flight Food Revealed in Airline Food Study
Alaska Airlines is the Healthiest Airline in the Sky
The Diet Detective, Dr. Charles Platkin, has just unveiled the latest “best” to “worst” among 11 airlines in North America when it comes to offering a menu of free or purchased healthy food aboard their flights. As executive director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center and editor of DietDetective.com, Dr. Platkin has just released his latest Airline Food Study … and it’s an eyeopener. Do you care what you eat at 35,000 feet? More and more passengers do care, thanks to studies like this that hold airlines to account.
Eating lots of heavy carbs such as pasta with thick sauces, breads, muffins or cakes will leave you feeling lethargic, cranky and not full or satisfied. Your blood sugar levels will spike and then fall, which will negatively impact how you feel. On the other hand, you will enjoy an immediate benefit from eating small meals, lots of raw or steamed veggies, and fruits. The fact that food impacts mood, attitude and behavior has been well documented in the scientific literature. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, eating healthier will leave you feeling sharper and more energetic rather than bloated and lethargic.
The study assigned a “Health Score” (5 stars = highest rate, 0 star = lowest) based on eleven criteria including health and calorie levels of meals, snack boxes and individual snacks, level of transparency (display nutrient information and ingredients), improvement and maintenance of healthy offerings, menu innovation, food and water safety and cooperation in providing this information. The survey includes health ratings, average calories per airline, comments, best bets, food offerings, costs and nutrition. See the full study.
This year Alaska Airlines wins the top spot as the airline with the ‘healthiest’ food choices followed by Delta, JetBlue and Air Canada. The “Shame on You” award goes to worst-placed Frontier Airlines, and American and Hawaiian Airlines are the most improved. Having recently purchased previously healthiest airline Virgin America, Alaska Airlines stacked the deck to boast top spot this year, while even surpassing Virgin by offering better individual snacks and healthier meals. It can be done!
Even the best airlines still have room for improvement, so keep on reaching for the top! Overall Health Ratings (5 Stars is highest): Alaska 4.25 stars, Delta 3.7 stars, JetBlue 3.55 stars, Air Canada 3.45 stars, American 3 stars, United Airlines 2.75 stars, Hawaiian Airlines 2.65 stars, Allegiant Air 2.1 stars, Southwest Airlines 1.6 stars, Spirit Airlines 1.1 stars, Frontier Air .85 stars.
The average number of calories per menu choice in 2016 was 392, in 2017 it was 405 calories, and this year it is 373, a 32% calorie decrease over last year. Keep in mind, calories are not everything; the study also looks at the nutrients in these foods, as well as innovations moving towards healthy, tasty, inexpensive, and sustainable foods.
Travel with a Challenge Dips Its Toe into Social Media
Yes, it has taken a while, but we are now proud to announce that Travel with a Challenge web magazine has its own Facebook page, and pretty fancy too!
If you are a Facebook user, please link to our page and automatically receive announcements of our latest bi-monthly feature article issues and of the most recent five news stories appearing in our TravelWatch senior travel newsletter that you are reading right now. Plus, from time to time, there will be interesting background stories about the most popular story themes over our publication’s 18 years on the Internet, and much more to come. If you wish to ask a question and receive a reply from the editor, you may now do so through Facebook or, as always, direct to my editorial email: email@example.com.