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Popular Train Operator Celebrates 30 Years on the Tracks
In 2020 Rocky Mountaineer, www.rockymountaineer.com celebrates 30 years of award-winning operational success in Alberta and British Columbia. Since it was founded in 1990, the company has welcomed more than two million guests and become the largest privately-owned luxury tourist train operator in the world.
Rocky Mountaineer operates a fleet of over 90 cars including nine locomotives. The locomotives were originally used by Canadian National Railway until 2001 then were refitted for current use. Of the passenger coaches, 18 are SilverLeaf Service coaches and 26 are GoldLeaf Service dome coaches custom-built for Rocky Mountaineer in Colorado, each one taking more than a year to build.
Rocky Mountaineer offers two levels of service: SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf. Both feature friendly hosts, gourmet breakfasts and lunches, and endless amazing views. SilverLeaf comes with oversized glass dome windows in a single level coach-style with hot breakfast and lunch served at your seat; GoldLeaf has a bi-level design with full-glass dome seating above and a private fine dining room immediately below.
Each of the three routes includes a comfortable Rocky Mountaineer-owned overnight hotel stay and dinner at the hotel mid-way through each two-day journey:
Journey Through the Clouds = Vancouver > Kamloops > Jasper.
First Passage to the West = Vancouver > Kamloops > Banff/Lake Louise.
Rainforest to Gold Rush = Vancouver > Whistler > Quesnel > Jasper.
Roughly 80% of Rocky Mountaineer guests are 45+ years old, with a majority of international guests hailing from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Of course, plenty of Canadians ride the rails with Rocky Mountaineer too. Please check out the richly-illustrated feature article in our magazine’s Travel Article Library for the story of a personal adventure aboard a Rocky Mountaineer train traveling between Jasper and Vancouver.
Don’t Forget the Travel Insurance!
More than ever, there are compelling reasons to include the purchase of travel insurance as part of any holiday or business trip to any country beyond your own borders … or maybe within them too. Not only are there natural disasters and unforeseen medical emergencies to consider; there are also a string of 21st century detours and interruptions from strikes to bombings, bankruptcies and mass demonstrations that can affect travel plans.
InsureMyTrip, www.insuremytrip.com, is built for travelers to find the right travel insurance plan for their next trip. While offering hundreds of plans from top travel insurance companies in the industry, they fall into five primary groups: comprehensive, travel health insurance, emergency evacuation, Schengen visa and accidental death.
According to a new report by InsureMyTrip, here are the top 10 international destinations in order of popularity, based on all travel insurance policies the company has sold in the past 18 months. Cruise travel policies are excluded.
- 1. Mexico
3. United Kingdom
InsureMyTrip has recently launched a useful online destination resource hub for travelers. The company has put a lot of thought into this free resource that gives travelers access to up-to-date travel information for the most popular destinations worldwide. The destination guides include details on any entry or short-stay visa requirements, travel insurance mandates, currency and exchange rates, language preferences, travel safety updates, and an overview of popular tourist attractions.
Food for Thought“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
Why You Should Travel to Guernsey in 2020 or Any Time!
Located in the English Channel near the coast of Normandy, France, Guernsey and its sister islands have been celebrating their liberation from Nazi occupation for decades. In 2020, the milestone 75th anniversary of liberation means a roster of amazing events for history buffs, World War II enthusiasts, and anyone who loves a good celebration.
The Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey are two British Crown dependencies to this day with the currency being the British Pound. Once you locate this destination on a map, getting to Guernsey, www.visitguernsey.com, couldn’t be easier from either England or France, with regular flights and ferry sea crossings. German occupation was between June 30, 1940 and May 9, 1945, so the big parade is naturally scheduled for liberation day 2020. However, this being a milestone anniversary, a selection of unique heritage-themed events, exhibitions and tours run longer than in other years … from April to October 2020. In fact, these islands that are stepping-stones between Britain and Continental Europe have a fascinating history that spans many centuries, so there will be plenty to discover and enjoy even beyond the story of WWII occupation.
Among the rolling program of activities to enable visitors to discover and experience what life was like before, during and after the occupation, consider taking a one-hour Towers and Bunkers cruise (available April 1 to September 30) to witness the defenses facing out to sea that were built by occupying German forces. With a knowledgeable guide, you will learn about the bombing of the harbor, the fortifications and firepower of the German military and visit the site of the first commando landing of the war.
Other special events curated for Heritage75 include “Unseen History Exhibition” at the German Occupation Museum, a “Make Do and Mend” series of workshops and events at the National Trust of Guernsey Folk and Costume Museum demonstrating how clothing and other materials were adapted to be re-used during the war, and a Classic Vehicle Show featuring an impressive range of vintage cars, motorcycles and military vehicles from the 1940s and other eras. Stimulating lectures and author book signings are also scheduled.
If you’re still on the fence about visiting this lesser-known destination, check out the “Ten Things You Didn’t Know about Guernsey,” and you will soon succumb to its rich history, fabulous scenery and whimsical charm.
See Top Destination Choices for Wellness Travel and UNESCO World Heritage Sites
AFAR Magazine and Guide, www.afar.com, is among the world’s leading resources to inspire travelers to have deeper, richer, and more meaningful experiences in their travels. It encourages a deep sense of cultural immersion and exploration, and has been recognized for its vibrant and authentic travel photography.
AFAR’s Travelers’ Choice Awards 2020 represent the opinions of 100,000 votes from readers who weighed in on their favorite global destinations in various categories, so they are worth noting. In particular, two will be themes of expressed special interest to our own readers: Hawaii as the Wellness Destination Winner and Machu Picchu as the UNESCO World Heritage Site winner.
State of Hawaii
Winner: Wellness Destination out of 12 finalists worldwide
Visiting the islands of Hawaii is good for you, whether your definition of a healthy high might be hiking in Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, watching the turtles come ashore at Laniakea Beach on Oahu, relaxing during a traditional lomilomi massage at a Maui or Kauai retreat center—or just spending time in the happiest state in the U.S.A.
Given this significant recognition for the Hawaiian Islands as a Wellness Destination, our readers will get a head start on selecting a wide range of wellness services and activities by browsing our publication’s two in-depth articles on this theme: An Introduction to Wellness Vacationing in Hawaii and Hawaii Wellness Providers researched on four islands.
Winner: UNESCO World Heritage Site out of 14 finalists worldwide
On the western side of Peru’s Sacred Valley lie the well-preserved ruins of a 15th-century Inca citadel that tops AFAR readers’ list. Inscribed by UNESCO in 1983 as a “masterpiece of art, urbanism, architecture, and engineering of the Inca Civilization,” the site also offers sweeping vistas of terraced hillsides and the breathtaking Andes Mountains. Archaeologists are still learning about the site, though it has stood for more than 500 years.
Would you like to know more about UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world and read image-rich articles about many others highlighted in our Travel Article Library? We recommend you get started with our informative overview article, “UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Vacation Magnets.” This article will also hotlink you to other World Heritage Site-focused articles in our collection.
Be sure to check out 2020 AFAR theme winners in all travel categories. You will surely find some surprises there.
Re-Thinking Your Sunscreen Choices on Vacation
Quite correctly, we have increasingly been on the warpath for a while now about the pollution of plastics in oceans, lakes and rivers. However, there is a more recent awareness that is building about the toxic damage that common sunscreen products washing off the bodies of vacationers are doing to fragile ecosystems like coral reefs, fish and marine mammals.
While there are some products on the market that are free of harmful ingredients, many are nothing short of poisonous to the marine environment as they contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. In fact, a number of countries, communities or waterside resorts have gone one step further than politely urging visitors to avoid using such sunscreen products as Coppertone, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, and Australian Gold. Governments already have banned or are gearing up to ban any product containing the destructive chemicals from store shelves and their waters.
Here are a few countries and states that deserve a big round of applause for taking these bold steps to protect precious aquatic environments:
Palau (South Pacific Island nation)
This archipelago of hundreds of islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean, has become the first country in the world to ban toxic sunscreens from entering its waters with a law that will take effect in 2020. Businesses could face a fine of up to $1,000 for selling non-biodegradable sunscreens. This tiny nation of 21,000 depends on healthy, clean tourism for its destination survival as well as adjacent reef dwellers as a major food source.
Key West and Miami, Florida
In January 2021, Key West is banning the sale of all toxic sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. It is the southernmost region of the U.S. and home to the largest coral reef in the continental U.S. Miami is also considering a similar ban to be launched on the same date with a proposed fine ranging between $250 and $1,000 for anyone violating the rule.
State of Hawaii
The reef-rich state of Hawaii voted to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain reef-damaging chemicals beginning in 2021. The effort will put pressure on sunscreen manufacturers to better label and produce natural sunscreens that use zinc oxide which does not harm reefs.
Caribbean island of Bonaire
Voting to ban toxic sunscreens by 2021, Bonaire is a municipality of the Netherlands located in the Leeward Antilles, not far off the coast of Venezuela. It is a popular tourist site for diving. About 90 percent of Caribbean reefs are estimated to have disappeared since 1980.
US Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John)
The U.S. Virgin Islands in the eastern Caribbean is banning all sale, distribution and import of toxic sunscreens in March 2020. Harith Wickrema, president of Island Green Living Association, said, “In addition to environmental and human harm, tourism-based economies will experience financial devastation if coral and marine life die off. The ripple effect would be huge and we need to take action now.”
The Yucatan Peninsula has over 6,000 mostly freshwater cenotes and great swaths of shoreline that are a major tourist attraction for swimming, snorkeling and diving as well as home to fragile ecosystems and fish. While not yet government regulated, many Mayan indigenous communities of the region and multiple parks in Mexico’s Riviera Maya and surrounding area — including Xel-Ha Park, Cozumel’s Marine Park, and Xcaret Park — ban any sunscreen that is not “biodegradable.” Approved sunscreens there are all mineral-based.
Education is an effective buy-in for vacationers
While shopping for a natural, eco-friendly sunscreen solution read the back of each product carefully to ensure it is a mineral-based sunscreen that uses zinc and titanium dioxide only. Some of the most popular sunscreen brands are seeing the writing on the wall and beginning to offer chemical-free versions as well. For now, mineral-based sunscreens can be quite expensive at resort destinations, so perhaps for better prices, consider buying products at your local drugstore before leaving home or online through Amazon. At this time, recommended brands include BeautyCounter, Aveno Baby, La Roche-Posay Face and Skin Medica Mineral Shield.