Quark – Not Just Another Subatomic Particle

 

Sea Adventure

 

I learned something new this week. ( Actually, I try to learn something new every week.)  There is a small ship, luxury cruise company, Quark Expeditions, that specializes in Polar Expeditions, both Arctic and Antarctic.  It was started in 1991, with modified ice-breakers, and now has  ships specially designed for the rigors of such trips. 

They offer several dozen cruises giving you greater options in determining where, and when you want to go. The team members are all experts in dealing with the extreme weather conditions that can develop.  Some are experts in glaciology, polar history, and marine biology just to name a few areas of interest.  All are capable in leading excursions in Zodiac rubber crafts as well as hiking  in the wilderness.  In the evenings plan on a good meal and perhaps some storytelling of events both historic and current.

This is certainly a company that I will want to look into when we look ahead to our own polar adventures.

Our Top 5 Reasons to River Cruise

With thanks to American Express Travel

Budapest

 

1. Sail Small – They’re smaller than ocean liners usually with fewer than 200 passengers.  You really get to know the other guests and the staff gets to know you.

2. Arrive in Style – Port cities like Paris, Budapest, and Vienna get to be seen from an entirely new perspective when you arrive literally in the heart of these cities.

3. Savor the Amenities – Plenty of luxuries aboard.  Fine dining, room service, entertainment, Wi-Fi and more

4. Take it Easy – These cruises are casual and laid-back.  Relax and let the countryside roll by.

5. Celebrate Local – Local cultural experiences in the form of cuisine, wine and beer, and authentic experiences are welcomed aboard.

“You Can Go Ahead of Me, If You’d Like”

 

I’m sorry, but when I see that the Ukrainean tourism board is pleading with the cruise companies to resume cruising in the Black Sea,  it’s hard to keep a straight face.  Their claims that the tourist areas of Odessa and the Crimea (I thought that was Russia’s now?) are absolutely safe (as of June 13th) are a little hard to believe. Will the passengers need helmets and flak jackets in addition to their lifejackets?

 

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“Tis the Season to Visit Alaska”

“When is the best time to visit Alaska?” is a question that we’re often asked.  On the 3000+ passenger cruise liners, it probably doesn’t matter all that much.  The season is short, and while you’ll see the magnificent scenery (from a distance), these ships are too big to get “up close and personal” with the wildlife. 

But there are smaller, 300-400 passenger ships that can and do cruise along the shoreline, and are small enough to enter and drop anchor overnight in the numerous bays that exist along the coast and along the Inner Passage.  There you can see bears and whales and salmon …Oh My! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist that).  You can kayak, hike, or just chill and admire the breathtaking scenery.

So, when’s the best time to see the Northern lights? – September. The Humpback whales? – mid May through mid September. Birding? – mid May to mid June and mid August to mid September.  Sunshine/Lowest rainfall? – May and June.  Can anyone guarantee that you’ll see these things?  Heck, no, but it will give you the best opportunity to do so.                                                                         

 

 

“Top 5 Secrets to Savvy Travel”

Conde Nast Traveler®

I throw this article out there just for your general knowledge, with no assurances that they work, but I did find them interesting

  • Fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday – travel on off-peak days at off-peak hours.  With fewer, jam-packed flights, I’m not sure this is true any longer
  • Hop between cities at midday – this way your hotel room might be ready and waiting for you.  You also avoid arriving at the hottest time of the day.  Makes sense.
  • Visit islands during “shoulder season” – time your vacation when crowds are thinner but the weather is still good.  Most people know this by now.
  • Sign up for e-mail notifications – Airfares and hotel rates are rarely announced.  If you can register on their web sites you might find last minute “bargains”.
  • Get the best room for your dollar – at the last minute you can contact hotels that have on-site registrations desks and see whether rates have been lowered or if room upgrades are available.

Note:  As travel agents we are registered with many different travel suppliers, and we receive dozens of notifications every day offering special sales, flight discounts etc as part of the travel packages that they offer.

“Know Before You Go”

 

There are guidebooks, and there are guidebooks.  Some are updated with timely information, and others, not so much.  Some emphasize hotels and restaurants, while others have beautiful photos.  Ones that come immediately to mind are:  The Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, and DK Eyewitness Travel etc. We always buy at least one of these, and a map of the area we are traveling to.

 But I’m more interested in the culture, the history, the people, so I’ll also look for books with stories written by previous travelers, or books written (Origin of the Species by Darwin, or biographies of Genghis Kahn, or books about the Silk Road for example).  Visit www.LongitudeBooks.com or www.Amazon.com and look at the 100’s of books that are available listed as travel literature as well as travel guides. What I’m hoping to do, is that we continue our travels, I’ll be able to suggest some reading materials that I think will make your journeys much more interesting.

Also take a look at The Teaching Company®  www.Teach12.com have some wonderful DVD’s touring various countries, seeing their landscapes, visiting their ancient buildings, and learning about the people, and their history. This is a site that’s well worth visiting

“Hey! Be Careful Out There”

                                                                                                                     Desk Sergeant on Hill Street Blues

 We want you to travel, and in the years to come, we will describe many exotic, beautiful places.  But we want you to be safe while you’re away, and not “pick up” any illnesses while abroad. 

With that in mind, let me strongly recommend the following website:  www.CDC.gov .  You can access the latest health information for over 100 countries and   know whether certain vaccinations are necessary and which ones are advised.  The site will even break down the different regions of a country to provide you with more specific advice.  While we will endeavor to keep you up to date (for example, there is a MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia amongst people who have been in close proximity to camels), the CDC is still your best bet for detailed information.

With that in mind, let me strongly recommend the following website:  www.CDC.gov .  You can access the latest health information for over 100 countries and   know whether certain vaccinations are necessary and which ones are advised.  The site will even break down the different regions of a country to provide you with more specific advice.  While we will endeavor to keep you up to date (for example, there is a MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia amongst people who have been in close proximity to camels), the CDC is still your best bet for detailed information.

SPAM – More Than Just an Hawaiian Delicacy

Those of you out there that had perhaps seen my blogs last year may be wondering why I stopped.  There was one reason, and only one reason – The Comments portion of each blog rapidly became overrun by Spam; and it was a shame, really.  I enjoyed reading them and answering them where I could.

But I was literally seeing dozens upon dozens of “Comments” that either made no sense at all, or were trying to sell me something.

Hopefully we’ve (actually my wife) have found a way to avoid this in the future and if all goes well, my blogs shall continue as I had originally planned for them.

 

Anti-Hacking Packing

Belonging to AARP has some advantages.  One of them is an article by Sid Kirchheimer on 9 Simple Tips to Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft:

  • Alert your credit card providers before you leave and let them know when, where and how long you’ll be away.  This helps prevent bogus charges and also prevents your card being “frozen” due to “unusual activity”
  • Stop your mail or have a neighbor collect it.  Bank statements and credit card bills are a “gift” to potential hackers
  • Weed out your wallet. Pickpockets are everywhere.  Take only what you must have – driver’s license, for example, and no more than 2 credit cards.  Don’t carry your Social Security card, or others that may be difficult to replace.
  • Leave your checkbook at home.  Period
  • Carry a spare wallet with some cash and old hotel key cards.  Kepp the real one hidden. Never tried it – let me know if you ever do.
  • Consider a temporary credit freeze. A freeze denies access to your credit so ID thieves can’t open accounts in your name.  You can still use your credit cards.
  • Use safer ATMs.If you must use an ATM while away, use one in a bank lobby or well lit area.
  • Be careful with hotel computers and public Wi-Fi networks.  Don’t access personal financial data.
  • Beware of front desk “clerks” calling your room and telling you that he needs to see your credit card again