Fast breaking travel news and creative tour opportunities for senior travelers
What’s on the Travel News Menu Today?
January – February 2023
1. Train travelers will be delighted to discover that the acclaimed Rocky Mountaineer train operator is now operating in the U.S., bringing its expertise to a new route through the dazzling landscapes of Colorado and Utah.
2. If you think of the Hawaiian Islands as a mainstream, rest and relaxation destination, think again! We are reminding readers of our unique collection of 15 richly-illustrated feature articles covering six islands, all updated for you to review and learn what amazing travel options they offer.
3. The 700th anniversary of Italian poet Dante’s death is a great excuse for discovering the gentle walking pleasure of the Vie di Dante or Dante’s Way through Italy’s northern regions of Emilia Romagna and Tuscany.
4. River cruising from the North Sea to the Black Sea would never have been possible were it not for a modern engineering wonder, the design and opening in 1992 of the Rhine-Main-Danube locks and canal in Bavaria, Germany. This is a story worth knowing!
5. Two giants of the U.S. adventure travel industry have now become one, with the promise of an even wider, sustainable collection of itineraries for journeys of discovery throughout the world.
We invite you to check out our Feature Link of the Month and our latest Travel Product Reviews.
Rocky Mountaineer Launches New U.S. Train Route
The world-acclaimed train operator, Rocky Mountaineer, www.rockymountaineer.com, has now expanded their luxury train journeys into America’s Southwest. This new route, Rockies to the Red Rocks travels between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah, with an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
Like the company’s three Canadian rail routes, this two-day Rockies to the Red Rocks itinerary is steeped in history and full of opportunities to explore the magnificent scenery of the region. Vast canyons, deserts, and geological formations are breathtaking, but the train also winds alongside rivers and through mountain ranges as it travels between the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado to the red rock formations of Moab, Utah. Entertaining stories told by onboard hosts are delicious icing to this spectacularly layered cake of experiences. Guests may also reverse the route by traveling from Moab to Denver.
Guests will enjoy the complete Rocky Mountaineer experience including premium cuisine, compelling scenery, and an engaging social atmosphere in a custom-designed glass-dome coach. Guests will take in the views through the train’s oversized glass-dome windows, from the comfort of their spacious, reclining seats. The onboard culinary experience will feature cuisine and ingredients local to the Southwestern U.S., which will be complemented with beverage service, and served at the seats, so guests can enjoy the scenery as they dine.
Rocky Mountaineer is working with local hotels and tour operators to curate custom vacation packages that feature tours, activities, and stays in Denver and Moab, so guests can experience even more of the region.
Also check out a richly-illustrated feature article in our publication’s Travel Article Library about traveling from Jasper, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia on a Rocky Mountaineer “Journey Through the Clouds” itinerary.
Visit Our Unique Collection of 15 Hawaiian Islands Articles
We are excited to re-introduce our readers to the 15 diverse web pages of our incontestably unique Alternative Hawaii collection. Featuring Oahu, Kauai, Maui, the Big Island of Hawaii, Molokai and Lanai, these richly-illustrated pages include personal destination stories and valuable reference recommendations that will open your eyes as well as doors on amazing possibilities. Discover the finest treasures and pleasures of six islands with plenty of nature, active adventures suitable for seniors, unique places to stay on each island, and wellness vacations with a Hawaiian flavor!
It is a safe bet that 75% of visitors to the Hawaiian Islands only visit the island of Oahu on any given vacation and most of those visitors will stay around Honolulu and Waikiki Beach leaving the rest of that island undiscovered. Hawaii is so much more than such a limited experience. Our Hawaiian Islands collection is delighted to show how you may be part of exploring deeply and broadly the real wealth of Hawaii as a destination.
In different first person articles, learn about an exhilarating mule ride down a cliff trail on the island of Molokai to visit the famous Leper Colony served by Father Damien in the mid-1800s, or learn about Hawaii’s multi-ethnic cuisine on a food tasting tour of Oahu. Look through a stunning photo album of Hawaii’s rarest birds shared by pre-eminent local nature photographer, Jack Jeffrey, or hike up Honolulu’s recognizable Diamond Head while learning about the volcano’s geological, native and colonial history.
We introduce you to “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel” on Maui and suggest outstanding opportunities on different islands to volunteer for a few hours, a day or a week during your vacation. Our reference pages of personally-vetted tour operators, accommodation providers, and in-depth health and wellness service providers are right up-to-date and ready for you to explore at the click of a URL.
We hope you will find our Alternative Hawaii collection the perfect excuse to re-discover Hawaii or to discover it for the first time in truly exciting meaningful, sustainable and educational ways you didn’t know existed.
Food for Thought“Travel far enough and you meet yourself.” David Mitchell
700th anniversary of Dante’s Death Celebrated in Italy
For those active travelers who like to follow in the footsteps of epic historic figures, the 700th anniversary of the death of famous Italian poet, writer and philosopher, Dante Alighieri (1265 to 1321) is a 2021 motivator to introduce yourself to the Vie di Dante. Launched in 2017, the Vie di Dante https://www.viedidante.it/en/ also known as the Cammino di Dante, is an interregional tourism project tying together places between Tuscany and Romagna that the Supreme Poet visited during his lifetime and exile.
If you are scratching your head about who this medieval legend might be, think Dante’s Inferno. His Divine Comedy is widely considered the most important poem of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language.
So who wouldn’t want to take what is billed as a “meditative meander” along Dante’s Way, a slow travel delight stretching from his birthplace in Florence to his tomb in Ravenna, running through Emilia Romagna and Tuscany? Your companions will be honey-colored hill towns, medieval castles and Romanesque churches, quiet woods, occasional waterfalls and even some mountains to admire.
Quoting Lonely Planet yet again in this issue of our TravelWatch newsletter, LP has named the Vie di Dante trail between Tuscany and Romanga as a 2021 Best in Travel in its sustainable walks category.
This unique, 395 km/246 mile Slow Travel experience winds through 20 stages between Florence and Ravenna. Not just for walkers, travelers may take a train that connects Faenza to Florence via Marradi, ride a bike along the ancient Via Faentina, or trek through one of the many routes between the provincial territories.
A History-Making Canal Made Modern River Cruising Possible
A “continental divide” is a drainage divide separating two major bodies of water that feed into different oceans or seas – or rivers, in this case. The European watershed is a triple divide, with the Main-Rhine rivers flowing west into the North Sea, the Danube River flowing east into the Black Sea, and Italy’s Po River draining south into the Adriatic Sea. The only way river cruise ships can cross this mountainous Continental Divide between the North Sea and the Black Sea is through the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in Bavaria, Germany.
Let’s start with a brief history. The dream of this waterway connection began with Charlemagne, the 8th- and 9th-century emperor, who laid the groundwork for the Holy Roman Empire. It remained a dream until some 1,200 years later when King Ludwig I of Bavaria began construction of a section of the canal from Bamberg to Nuremberg. At that time, boats were pulled through by horses to compensate for the changes in altitude. Later, a modest system of locks was put into place. However, the Ludwig-Danube-Main Canal, as it was known at the time, was heavily damaged during World War II and was officially shut down in 1950.
An increase in shipping and passenger traffic soon made it clear that a connection between these keystone rivers of Europe was both desired and necessary. In 1992, a multi-billion dollar connection across the divide opened as the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. Hailed as a modern engineering marvel, the watery staircase, measuring 171 km/106 miles long and 30 feet deep, allows ships to sail from the Black Sea to the North Sea via European rivers. In addition to the expanded value of commercial water traffic across Europe, the completion of the canal paved the way for river cruising as we know it today.
To cross the summit of the European Continental Divide, ships must transit 16 locks to lift themselves more than 1,300 feet/406 meters above sea level. Locks are remarkable feats of engineering that push a ship upwards by allowing water in from tanks to raise and alternatively lower a ship back down, thanks to a little help from gravity. Water drains from one part of the lock system flowing into a tank that saves it from escaping back into the river so it may be re-used.
Since the Danube and Main rivers have different elevations, locks are necessary to bring ships from one river system to the other. During the crossing process, ships are somewhat enclosed within the walls of the locks – at times, mere inches from the sides of the vessel – an unusual and unforgettable experience. At the summit, a large monument designed by German artist Hanns Jörg Voth marks the Continental Divide.
In 2007, at a time when it was still rare for river cruise companies to offer a cross-Europe experience on one vessel, I cruised with Special Travel International (STI Canada), www.sticanada.com, from Amsterdam along the Rhine and Main rivers, over the Continental Divide and along the Danube River as far as Vienna, Austria. It took 12 days aboard the gracious Amadeus Royal owned by AmaWaterways. That exhilarating experience is described in my article about the cruise.
Certainly a highlight of the trip was our days in the locks where I could imagine Charlemagne and King Ludwig nodding approvingly as we enjoyed the reality of their long-held dream. The following season, STI offered the completion of the Danube/Black Sea segment through Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania which many cruisers from the first segment signed up for in order to be among the few travelers to be able to say they had crossed Europe by water from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Today several companies offer the complete cruise between Amsterdam and the Black Sea in a single itinerary.
Food for Thought“Live your life by a compass, not a clock.” Stephen Covey
Austin Adventures Acquires Wildland Adventures
In November, one of the most trusted names in the adventure travel industry, Austin Adventures, www.austinadventures.com, based in Billings, Montana, announced that it is expanding its international operations. The family-owned company has acquired Wildland Adventures, a time-tested international adventure travel icon headquartered in Seattle, Washington. The acquisition adds a range of exciting new tours and destinations to Austin Adventures’ signature trip portfolio.
Wildland Adventures is an ecotourism pioneer with a 36-year track record of providing active adventures throughout the world, connecting travelers in a deep and meaningful way to the people and places they visit. By acquiring Wildland and its well-established operation and excellent reputation, Austin Adventures is expanding its destinations and offerings by 35 percent. Clients will have the opportunity to travel on an additional 40 vetted Wildland itineraries in exciting destinations.
This is the fifth time in its 35 years that Austin Adventures has grown through acquisition. In 2000 the company firstly acquired Backcountry Tours, followed by Eurobike Tours, CBT Tours, Inc. and Go South Adventures. With each acquisition, Austin Adventures added destinations, regional expertise and talent. In this case, Wildland Adventures senior staff and overseas partners bring decades of experience to the new arrangement. The newly acquired programs combine adventure with a focus on cultural and natural history.
Austin Adventures manages all the arrangements for its selected destinations that include distinctive regions of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. Small groups are limited to 12 guests (18 on family departures). Rates include first-class accommodations, most meals and beverages, expert guides, park entry fees, multisport activities such as hiking, biking, rafting, horseback riding and more, ground transportation and luggage service. Not included is round-trip travel to the host city.
While Austin Adventures has seen a wide swing in age groups, the 59 years young is the average age. Adult tours have young professional adults to early retirees including 64+ in age. Family Adventures make up 65% of what Austin Adventures currently offers. Multigenerational Custom or Exclusive adventures are the fastest growing segment of their offerings. 95% of clients are from the U.S. and Canada, followed by the UK and Mexico. Families tend to focus on domestic National Park Adventures (Yellowstone, Yosemite and Alaska) with adults more inclined to look abroad.