Over Twenty Years of Travel Excellence


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The island of Hawaii, known as the Big Island, to avoid confusion with the state name, is nearly twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined. With climates ranging from tropical to subarctic, the island’s geographical variety resembles a mini continent. Landscapes include one of just about everything: desolate lava flows, lush coastal valleys, high sea cliffs, rolling pastures, deserts, and rainforests.

Geologically, the big island is the youngest Hawaiian island and the only one still growing. Kilauea, the most active volcano on earth, has added 550 acres of coastal land to the island since its latest series of eruptions began in 1983. The Big Island is home to Madame Pele, Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, and Ku, god of war.


All the other Hawaiian Islands could fit within the Big Island’s 4,038 square miles twice. It is 93 miles long and 76 miles wide. The Big Island is the farthest east of the Hawaiian Islands. Its southern tip, called South Point or “Ka Lae,” is the southernmost point in the United States.


By and large, the history of the Big Island is the history of Hawaii. Here, the first Polynesian settlers alighted between AD 500 and AD 700. This is also the birthplace of the first “luakini” or temple of human sacrifice and the “kapu” system of strict taboos regulating all aspects of daily life.


Rainfall and temperatures vary more with location than with the seasons. The “kona” (leeward) coast of the Big Island is the driest region in the state. On the windward side of Mauna Kea, near the 2,500 ft elevation, around 300 inches of rain fall annually. So much rain is squeezed out of the clouds as they rise up Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa that only about 15 inches of precipitation reaches the summits, much of it as snow. Heavy subtropical winter rainstorms in Hilo occasionally bring blizzards to the mountains as low as the 9000 ft level.

big island beach


In many ways, contemporary culture in Hawaii resembles contemporary culture in the rest of the USA. The wonderful thing about Hawaii, however, is that the mainland influences largely stand beside, rather than engulf the culture of the islands. Not only is the traditional Hawaiian culture an integral part of the social fabric but so are the customs of the ethnically diverse immigrants who have made Hawaii their home.

Hula Hawaii


Of all the Hawaiian Islands, only the Big Island boasts snowboarding in winter, the Ironman Triathlon in fall, the world’s clearest stargazing almost every night, and live lava flows every day.

The vast majority of recreational activities take place on the west coast. Among these are swimming, surfing, windsurfing, diving, snorkelling, kayaking, fishing, hiking, cycling & mountain biking, horseback riding, tennis, golf, and skiing & snowboarding.

The most popular helicopter tours fly over Kilauea Caldera and the live lava flows of the East Rift Zone. Exhilarating sunrise hot air balloon tours soar over Mauna Kea, Waimea and the beautiful escarpments of the Kohala Coast.

The season for humpback whale watching starts around January and runs to March or April. Sperm, false killer, dolphin, and melon-headed whales – and five dolphin species – can be found in Kona waters year-round.

humpback whales


Kona coffee and macadamia nuts are the Big Island’s most popular souvenirs. “Lauhala,” the leaves of the pandamus tree, were once woven into sleeping mats and any manner of household items by ancient Hawaiians. Today, master weavers make them into purses, place mats, hats, and baskets. Several local potters are influenced by Japanese styles and aesthetics, and produce fine raku pottery. The Volcano Arts Centre in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the handful of galleries in the hillside village of Holualoa sell a variety of local arts and crafts. Drums, nose flutes, ground rattles, as well as other traditional hula instruments are sold in music stores island-wide.


In resort restaurants along the Kohala Coast, upscale eateries in Waimea, and elsewhere, cutting-edge chefs cook with the freshest local produce, fish, and herbs, creating intriguing blends of flavours that reflect the island’s varied ethnic background. Events such as the Winter Wine Escape at the Mauna Ke’a Beach Resort and Cuisines of the Sun at Mauni Lani Bay Hotel draw hundreds of guests to starlit open-air dinners celebrating the bounty of the Isle’s land and waters.

Nightlife on the Big Island is somewhat subdued. If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t come alive until after dark, you may be pretty lonely here. Blame it on the plantation heritage. People did their sugarcane-raising in the morning.


Lava wasteland? Flying into Kona Airport can be a shock if you’re expecting to see tropical greenery and waving palm trees. Instead, the view from the airplane looks more like a black lava wasteland, as if the island had been paved over in asphalt. Don’t panic! This is but one face of the Big Island – and even here, if you look closer, you can catch a glimpse of some fine secluded white-sand beaches squeezed between the lava and the turquoise waters.

The Island of Hawaii is more than sun and sand. It is a meeting place of East and West. It is a place where contrast describes both landscapes and culture, in a manner that brings out the best of many worlds. Call your Tripzter Travel consultant today and go Big!

Life’s a trip. Take one. Live one…on the mini continent, the Big Island of big options.

Here’s to the vagabond in each of us!

(To learn more about all of the Hawaiian Islands, go to www.gohawaii.com)


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What is it about Japan that is so fascinating? There is a mystique – an aura of mystery or mystical power – about this nation. Japan is complicated, compelling, and sometimes unfathomable. It is at once ancient and ultra modern; tranquil and frenetic; ferociously entrepreneurial and unfailingly familial; gracious and demanding.

This country of islands is renowned for its geographical and physical beauty, from the symbolic and iconic Mount Fuji to the turquoise waters of Okinawa. It is revered for its centuries-old intricate arts, from flower arranging and tea ceremony and origami to the subtle movements of the Buyo dancer, the poetry of the Haiku master, and the mesmerizing refinement and aesthetic of the Geisha. It is studied for its Samurai Warrior history; to the bottomless depths of Zen Buddhism and the disciplined martial art rituals of karate and kendo.

This writer recently visited Japan for only the second time in over thirty years. While I will later elaborate on something that has changed since my visit in 1983, I am grateful that one particular aspect of Japan remains intact: the kindness and sensitivity of the Japanese people. I have a dear friend who moved to Tokyo from the U.S. several years ago. Yukari gave me a sage piece of advice as she left me in downtown Tokyo after our all too brief lunch together: “If you get lost, look lost and someone will come to your aid.” I decided to test that. Even though I explored the city without taking a wrong turn or getting disoriented, I feigned confusion and I looked lost. I was not disappointed. Even in the midst of a torrential downpour, not one but three concerned locals stopped to try to help me out.

This is the Japan I remembered from my first visit and this is the Japan I happily rediscovered on my return: a place that is most certainly enigmatic, though one that is endlessly enchanting.

My first exposure to Japan was to the urban, corporate metropolis of Tokyo; the vital commercial hub of Osaka; and the traditional, cultural center of Kyoto. My January journey took me to the Hakuba Valley, located deep within the Japanese Alps in the northwestern part of Nagano Prefecture. Hakuba revealed yet another aspect of Japan’s engaging persona. To borrow from a Japanese Haiku, “All Heaven and Earth, Flowered white obliterate, Snow…unceasing snow.”

Hakuba: Skiing and Snowboarding “Shibumi” Style

When something has been designed really well, it has an understated, effortless beauty and it really works. The Japanese call this principle “shibumi.” And while this characteristic is typically a part of Japanese interior design, it is no less apparent in the country’s approach to the creation of its ski resorts. The multiple resorts of the magnificent Hakuba Valley are a fine and inviting illustration of shibumi.

The valley incorporates 11 ski resorts, over 200 runs, 115 lifts, huge towering peaks, a local village, ski and snowboard shops, a combination of traditional or western dining, and Après entertainment. During the 1998 Nagano Olympics, Hakuba hosted many events including downhill, ski jumping, and super G. This is the heart and soul of snow sports in Japan.

True to the the tenets of Japanese efficiency and Zen design, the Hakuba Valley All Mountain Lift Pass includes 11 ski resorts, all accessible in a single day: Jiigatake, Kashimayari , Happo One (home to the downhill race courses for the Nagano Games), Hakuba 47, Goryu, Iwatake, Tsugaike, Sanosaka, Minekata, Norikura, and Cortina.

Here’s what to Know and Tell:

  • Average Snow Fall: 11 metres
  • Ski Resorts: 11
  • Vertical Drop: 1070 metres
  • Gondolas: 5
  • Lifts: 115
  • Trails: 138
  • Terrain Parks: 9
  • Ski Hours: 0800 – 1700
  • Ski Season: Early December to Early May
  • Longest Run: 8 kilometres
  • Beginner Terrain: 30% – There are 47 excellent green runs across Hakuba’s resorts
  • Intermediate Terrain: 40% – Vast green and red terrain for improving and progressing
  • Advanced Terrain: 30% – Challenging steep pistes and mogul runs
  • Backcountry Terrain: Extensive terrain options and English-speaking guides
  • Tree Skiing: Yes
  • Half Pipe: Yes
  • Night Skiing: Yes

The Valley – After the Powder

Even the most dedicated of skiers and boarders welcome a respite from the mountain now and then. On those days, the soaring jagged alpine peaks are an impressive backdrop to less strenuous experiences.

Onsen Hot-Springs
After a day of skiing, relieve those aching muscles by soaking in a natural thermal hot-springs or “onsen.” What the sauna is to the Scandinavians the onsen is to the Japanese: a physical and mental cleanse that is an integral part of daily life.

Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle is the oldest castle in Japan, dating back to the 16th century. Inside this designated national treasure are historical displays and artifacts including samurai armour. Perhaps most captivating about this place is the still lingering feeling of the Warring States Period.

Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani
These 200 Japanese macaques spend their days bathing in the onsen hot-springs, happily posing as visitors snap photos of them. This area was named “Jigokudani,” meaning “Hell’s Valley,” because it was believed that the steep cliffs and hot water bursting from the earth’s surface resembled hell. From Hakuba the snow monkey sanctuary is a two hour drive followed by a 30-minute stroll into the snowy foothills.

Zenkoji Buddhist Temple
Zenkoji Temple in Nagano city was built in the 7th century and houses the oldest existing Buddha statue in Japan. It is said that if you have an illness in a particular area of your body, you should touch the same area of the Buddha’s body to relieve your pain and be cured.

Kimono and Tea Ceremony
Experience the intricacies of kimono dressing and the protocol of Japanese tea ceremony with a professional teacher.

Taiko Drum Tour
Play the Taiko drum with a local professional drum team and learn about its mythological origin in Japanese folklore.

Become a Sushi Chef 
Learn how to make traditional hand-rolled sushi from a pro! Pay attention because you are making your own lunch!

Canada > Tokyo Narita International Airport

When flying to an international destination, I invariably prefer to travel via that country’s official flag-carrying airline. For me, the experiential journey begins when I board the aircraft. Aboard Japan Airlines, you are more than a passenger. You are most definitely a guest, to be honoured in the spirit of “omotenashi,” the unique brand of Japanese hospitality which embodies attentive care with unobtrusiveness and respect with relaxation. Omotenashi is palpable at JAL – in both speech and gesture, on the ground and in the air.

From Western Canada
JAL operates daily non-stop service from Vancouver to Narita International Airport. The duration of the flight varies from 9 to 10 hours.

From Central and Eastern Canada
From the central and eastern cities of Canada, JAL, with its Oneworld Alliance partners, provides connecting service to Narita via its U.S. gateways of New York-JFK, Boston, and Chicago.

The tag-line of Japan Airlines is Fly into Tomorrow. And it is utterly appropriate. JAL flies the “tomorrow” generation of aircraft today.

I flew out of Vancouver on the 787 Dreamliner, which offers Business Class and Economy. JAL’s Business Class Shell Flat Neo seat / bed lives up to its promotion: “arguably defined as perfection.” However, what is most impressive about the 787 crosses both classes and speaks to the innovation of this aircraft:

One of the main benefits for passengers of the 787’s 50-percent-composite-material construction is that the cabin can be pressurized to allow higher humidity. In the moister air, nasal passages do not get that burning, dried-out feeling and eyes feel less irritated. Higher humidity may also lessen chances of getting sick because germs “stick” more in dry nasal areas.

The 787’s overhead bins sport a groundbreaking design. These bins are exceptionally roomy, easily able to accommodate standard rollaboards. Even better is the fact that their deep curve and the way they fold into the ceiling create unusually spacious headroom in the aisle seat and create an overall sense of roominess throughout the cabin.

The Dreamliner is substantially quieter than other aircraft and it is a noticeable difference. Reduction in noise, besides all the environmental benefits, is a stress-reducer for passengers.

What a view! The windows on the 787 are the largest in civil aviation, bringing in more natural light and providing an unparalleled look at the heavens. During the flight, the colour and tint of the windows changes, creating a soothing visual effect. Also unusual, Boeing has eschewed the window shade. Instead, a large button controls the light.

Operating from several of its U.S. gateways is JAL’s sleek Boeing 777, featuring four class options: First Class JAL Suite, Business Class Sky Suite, Sky Premium Economy, and Economy. Worth noting is that JAL’s First and Business cabins offer the extreme comfort of memory foam mattresses and Premium Economy includes lounge access!

JAL Café Lines The coffee on board JAL caught my attention, particularly since traditionally it is quality tea that I equate with Japan. In collaboration with renowned “coffee hunter” Yoshiaki José Kawashima, JAL has painstakingly selected great coffees from around the world and delivers them to your seat. This was a delightful surprise and one which continued throughout my visit to Japan, a country which has clearly embraced the burgeoning global coffee culture.

B E D D Sky Auberge by JAL
“Auberge” is a French word for “inn” and is also sometimes used to refer to a restaurant. JAL christened the airline’s Sky Auberge “BEDD” – for bed, dining, delicious, and dream – to subtly remind passengers in First Class and Business Class that they can transform their seats into snug beds after a satisfying repast.

Wu-essence + Wa-harmony
They are simple and monosyllabic Japanese words which impeccably describe the consummate JAL in-flight experience. “Wu” for “essence,” the elements of comfortable flying. “Wa” for “harmony,” the concord between guest and host.

Tokyo Narita International Airport – Hakuba

There are several ways to travel from Narita International to Hakuba. Whichever choice you make, you can be certain that in typical Japanese fashion your transfer will depart on time!

Chuo Taxi 

  • 5 days advance booking required
  • Taxi will be waiting for you at airport and take you directly to your hotel in Hakuba
  • Prices are per person

Nagano Snow Shuttle

  • Direct bus service operated by JHN Travel to Hakuba hotels
  • Departs Narita at 20:00 (21:00 on Tuesday + Wednesday)
  • Transfer time is approximately 5 hours

Bullet Train Tokyo to Nagano + Bus Nagano to Hakuba –

  • Relax on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and watch the landscape fly by
  • Note that the last bus from Nagano Station to Hakuba departs at 21:45

Hakuba “Hoteru” (“Hotels”)

Hakuba offers a variety of comfortable accommodations suitable for individuals, families, and groups. The Happo-Wadano area, in particular, has an excellent range of hotel facilities, from budget lodges to 5-star properties, all very close to the Happo-One ski area.

These three hotels are standouts in their respective categories:

Hakuba Tokyu Hotel

  • 5-star hotel
  • Japanese + French restaurants
  • Onsen natural hot springs + saunas

La Neige Higashikan

  • 5-star European style boutique hotel
  • Superb à la carte restaurant
  • Lounge with open fireplace

Shirouma-so Hakuba Onsen Ryokan

  • Traditional Japanese inn
  • Onsen hot springs
  • Second floor south facing rooms offer views of the Northern Alps

Japan Eats: Izakaya + Okonomiyaki

The location of Hakuba in the Nagano Prefecture means that chefs have some of the freshest, tastiest meat and vegetable ingredients at their fingertips. The area is not without international cuisine, including pizza, pasta, and steak houses; Chinese food and Korean barbecue. But not to be missed is a meal – or meals! – at a Japanese pub or “izakaya” and a grill-it-yourself “okonomiyaki” restaurant. Okonomiyaki is sometimes referred to as Japanese pizza, savoury pancake, or omelette. Its ingredients can include green onion, meat, shrimp, squid, vegetables, and cheese. Not all okonomiyaki restaurants are grill-it-yourself, but these interactive eating establishments are certainly the most fun!

Now, to a memory from this writer’s 1983 visit to Japan: the cost of eating out. It was high. It is high no longer. The weaker Japanese yen has translated into a much more economical travel destination! So, Bon Appétit! or, in the language of the land, “Itadakimasu!” And don’t forget to follow another Japanese tradition: Begin your occasion with a glass of sake and a hearty toast –”Kanpai!”– which literally means “dry (your) cup.”

Don’t Lug the Luggage!

In keeping with Japan’s world famous efficiency, it is possible here to send your luggage directly to the place you will be: your hotel, a private residence, or to the airport. Luggage delivery services TA-Q-BIN / Yamato Transport and JAL ABC both have counters at Narita International (and at other airports in Japan, as well), allowing passengers to collect their luggage and proceed directly to their airline check-in. This service is especially valuable to those with late departure times from Narita. It allows passengers to liberate themselves of heavy luggage and leisurely spend the day exploring Tokyo. It can transform a day of potential exasperation, following the often mandatory 12:00 noon hotel check-out time, into the perfect vacation ending.

TA-Q-BIN / Yamato Transport


For transportation to Narita International Airport from Tokyo Central Station

Narita City: Essential, Quintessential Japan

An often overlooked pleasure that is just minutes away from the airport is Narita City, a microcosm of traditional Japan. The attraction of Narita lies not in a plethora of tourist sights and activities, but in a chance to catch a glimpse of everyday life largely unchanged from generations ago.

Omotesando Street is the main drag which runs through the town to the famed 1,000-year-old Naritasan Buddhist Temple. All along this charming “sando” are reassuring snapshots of the Japan of yesteryear, of storybooks, of our preconceptions. The shops are quintessentially Japanese, offering cast-iron teapots, samurai swords, sake, and senbei or rice crackers both savoury and sweet. Regional food items are a proud staple of the town’s restaurants and food stalls. A stroll on Omotesando is not complete without a stop to taste sweet azuki bean jelly (yokan), Japanese pickles (tsukemono), and the main attraction, broiled eel (unagi). Also a must is a stop outside Kawatoyo Restaurant to view the activity at the low wooden table. Here, the eel master reaches into a bucket to retrieve his unlucky catch which is quickly skinned and sliced and tossed on the grill.

A visit to Narita City is the perfect conclusion to a journey to Japan. After the pulsating pace of Tokyo and the pristine powder of Hakuba, Narita ensures that no visitor leaves this Land of the Rising Sun without at least a peek into its beginning, its source, its soul.

Fly into Tomorrow to Endless Discovery

Juxtapose the respective global taglines of Japan Airlines and the Japan National Tourism Organization and you have a standing invitation to this nation of rich history, of cultural paradoxes, of contrasting geographies, of delicate balance between progress and preservation. Japan is intoxicating. And it’s not just the sake.

Fly into Tomorrow to Endless Discovery.

JAPAN AIRLINES – Fly into Tomorrow.


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“Catalan” Barcelona is, above all, a city to be appreciated through the sense of sight. In almost any part of the city, at any time of day or night, one need only look around to find a remarkable vista: a building that takes the breath away with its incredible architecture; a monument that astonishes; the delicate filigree of a wrought iron balcony jutting out over a narrow cobblestone street; an old man sitting on a bench in a tiny plaza against a backdrop of a church, exactly as people have sat in that place since the Middle Ages.


Barcelona’s location, alone, makes it a joy to visit. It is built between the Mediterranean and a range of high hills called the Collserola. Travel two hours north and you reach the Pyrenees, with some of the best skiing this side of the Alps. Three hours south and you are in Valencia, the land of sunshine and oranges.


Barcelona was founded by the Carthaginians in 218 B.C. and was originally named “Barcino”, after Hamilcar Barca, father of the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal.


Barcelona enjoys a mild, Mediterranean climate and each season has its attractions. Spring and fall are mild and lovely; and as summer approaches, so does beach weather. Winter, while mild by northern standards, can be cool and wet. Nevertheless, winter is always punctuated with stretches of warm weather.


The essence of Barcelona, as natives explain, is that it is intensely Catalan and simultaneously open to the whole world. This is a city which embraces its most important holiday – Feste de la Mercè (Festival of Our lady of Mercy) – with the same verve that it cheers on Barça, the Fútbol Club of Barcelona, or celebrates Carnaval. The middle of September marks the beginning of the week-long Feste de la Mercè. There are free concerts each night at various points in town; as well as parades, folk dancing, wine and food fairs, and competitions of “castellers”(human pyramids consisting of boys standing on the shoulders of men with even younger boys standing on their shoulders).


There are so many things to see and do in Barcelona, and a person’s favourites are naturally, heavily weighted toward their tastes. However, the following are usually high on everyone’s list and will provide a starting point to begin thinking about the history, the diversity, and the excitement that is Barcelona.

La Rambla
This is the heart of the city. A stroll down any part of its length will give you an idea of the charm of the city. Sooner or later, and with some regularity, all of Barcelona’s residents find themselves on the Rambla.

La Sagrada Familia
Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished phantasm of a cathedral is among those one-of-a-kind buildings on the globe.

La Mansana de la Discòrdia (“The Block Discord”)
This block of three modernist buildings on the Passeig de Gràcia designed by Gaudí, Domenech i Mutaner, and Puig i Cadalfach is, perhaps, the most remarkable street in a city full of amazing architecture.

Roman Barcelona and the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat
Follow in the footsteps of the Romans, walking the streets they did. There are 16 points along the length of this two-hour walk.

Museu d’Art Contemporani
This great white whale of a museum, built by American architect Richard Meiers, opened in 1995 and has an interior architecture to match its extraordinary exterior.

The Miró Foundation is on this high hill, as are the Olympic Stadium and a series of marvellous vistas of the city below spreading out to the sea. One of Catalunya’s best two artists of the century (Salvador Dali is the other), Miró donated his collection of his own work and that of other artists to the foundation.

Port Olímpic
This is Barcelona-by-the-sea with beaches, cafes, and a pier with excellent restaurants where you can dine while looking out across the water.

Museu Picasso
Observe early Picasso, including some excellent works from the artist’s pre-cubist days, which he left to the museum’s foundation.

Palau de la Música Catalana
If it is not the only modernist concert hall in the world, it is surely the most amazing.

Surrounding Catalunya
Take your choice – the breathtaking sheer stone summits of Montserrat or the surrealism of the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres.


The city is readily divided into three main shopping areas: the Ciutat Vella or Old Town; the smart avenues of the Eixample, particularly the Passeig de Gràcia; and the Avinguda Diagnol and northwards to the Sant Gervasi district. Barcelona prides itself on being at the cutting edge of style. Design is an obsession here and it is evident in the quality of both the products and the shops.


One thing is for certain: you are guaranteed to find a huge variety of food in Barcelona. Catalan cuisine is adventurous, with a ready use of herbs and spices and a mingling of sweet with savoury flavours.

On the weekends, Barcelona’s nightlife begins at about 2:00 in the morning. However, those who prefer to be tucked in bed by that time need not feel left out. A city as large and sophisticated as Barcelona offers a wide and varied choice of entertainments including plays, music, ballet, and modern dance; which begin and sometimes end long before the serious night revellers get going.


The summer Olympics of 1992 was period of renaissance for Barcelona. Once Barcelona’s selection as an Olympic city was officially announced in 1986, a veritable fever of demolition and construction seized the city. Projects that had been discussed, postponed, discussed, and postponed again, many times over, suddenly took shape. Blueprints were hauled out of filing cabinets where they had been gathering dust for years, funds were found, and the face of the city began to be drastically altered.

If ever there was a city that embodies the Tripzter tagline, it is this one! Call your Tripzter Travel consultant today. Life’s a trip. Take one. Live one… in cultured, cosmopolitan, bustling Barcelona where food, fashion, and football are just the beginning!

Here’s to the vagabond in each of us!


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Life in the slow lane, a supremely calming experience, an antidote to the fast-paced world: river cruising is all of this and more. Like floating country inns, river vessels evoke a relaxing rhythm, discreet luxury, and a welcome respite from pressure and pretentiousness.

River vessels are long and low in the water and their masts fold down to negotiate low bridges. At a leisurely and silky pace of three to four knots per hour, they enable passengers to enjoy the ever-changing scenery – the “river-scape” – at eye level. Once they dock, passengers simply walk up the gangway and into the heart of a town or city.

Cruising down one of Europe’s great waterways has long been soothing and relaxing. Today, by the strenuous efforts of premier river cruising companies, it is also stylish and sophisticated. Viking River Cruises, for example, continues to introduce the next generation of river cruising vessels, with emphasis on relaxed elegance.

In the spring of 2012, Viking Aegir and Viking Embla joined sister-ships Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord, and Viking Odin as some of the most innovative ships plying the rivers of Europe. Expertly designed by Norwegian firm Yran & Storbraaten – the team who crafted the Yachts of Seabourn – these new vessels define state-of-the-art engineering and comfort. Among their amenities are full-size staterooms with full-depth verandas, the AquaVit Terrace – an indoor/outdoor casual dining and relaxation area at the bow of the ship, high-definition in-room entertainment, fine cuisine, an organic herb garden on the large sun deck, and quiet environmentally friendly hybrid engines.

Europe’s second-longest river and a vital means of transportation for 2,000 years, the Danube is the only major European river to flow from west to east. It rises in Germany’s Black Forest and flows through or along the borders of ten countries – Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine – on its way to the Black Sea. Winding along the famous “Blue Danube” is an experience of storied landscapes, cultural heritage, and centuries-old architecture.

Many Danube River cruises visit Nuremberg, Germany and provide passengers the opportunity to see the Imperial Castle and the Justice Palace, the meeting place for the War Crimes Tribunal in 1946. Other highlights may include Vienna’s Opera House, the world-famous Benedictine Monastery in Melk, Austria; and Saint Stephan’s Basilica and the Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest, Hungary. Some Danube cruises also sail the Iron Gates, a magnificent gorge that runs between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains, forming the boundary between Serbia and Romania.

While the Danube stands as the most popular of European river journeys, she is certainly not without peers. There is the Rhone, which inspired Vincent Van Gogh; the Seine, the birthplace of impressionism; Germany’s historic Rhine; and the mighty Volga of Russia.

Whichever river you choose to navigate, your voyage will be memorable. Rivers provide a sense of balanced connection to both water and land, of intimacy with local communities, and of continuity with the world at large. Call your Tripzter Travel consultant today.

Life’s a trip. Take one. Live one…on a tranquil and soothing river cruise.

Here’s to the vagabond in each of us!


Peter Turcic

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Last month, I introduced myself; I told you how I came to live a life of travel; and I promised that this blog would bring you more than just destination stories. In this month’s edition, I want to share one of my “travel epiphanies,” an experience abroad which has stayed with me and which is but one example of how travel can challenge preconception.

I can still recall the nervousness I felt flying to Moscow that day in October, 1984. But my curiosity had won over my apprehension. Even though my mind was invaded by every stereotypical image one could imagine, I was on my way to the Soviet Union, the evil empire full of spies and unfriendly faces. Thankfully, these complicated convictions would soon be altered by a single human encounter.

St. Petersburg (then “Leningrad”) will forever remain in my memory as the site of a thought-provoking meeting with a mother and her young son. Following an evening at the Russian Opera, a colleague and I had decided to take public transit back to our hotel. Quite certain of our bearings, we confidently hopped on the streetcar which was to take us to the Hotel Pribaltiskaya. Eventually, though, the landmarks which were guiding our journey became unfamiliar and it was clear that we were “lost in Leningrad.” Neither Vickie nor I spoke Russian and despite its Slavic connection, my knowledge of the Croatian language proved futile. We made the decision to get off the streetcar, only to discover that the city centre had long since faded into the distance behind us. These streets were not lined with lights and the night sky seemed to get darker with each worried glance we exchanged.

As we walked along a road chosen only by fate, there in front of us were two figures, a woman and a young boy. At first they eyed us with some trepidation, but quickly realized that we wanted nothing from them except directions! “Hotel Pribaltiskaya. Leningrad.” Following a brief discussion with her son, the woman motioned to us to follow. For at least twenty minutes the two of them walked with us in silence, periodically assuring us with tentative smiles and arm gestures that we were now heading in the right direction. Once at the transit stop, they waited with us until the streetcar arrived and then spoke in rapid Russian to the driver. All we could decipher was the hotel name, “Pribaltiskaya.” Having successfully arranged our return, our silent saviours nodded their heads as if to say “you’re okay now.” As the streetcar pulled away, mother and son resumed walking toward their intended destination. For two grateful Canadians, the image of the evil empire had begun to disintegrate.

By giving two strangers in Leningrad a chance to amaze me, I began to see what is universal and essential. That which many of our parents realized as immigrants, we can learn as travellers. My father’s journey began with the courage to leave Croatia for Canada. While cherishing the traditions of his birthplace, he trusted the country to which he had come. The parallels to travel are remarkable.

My life of travel has allowed me to wander considerably. I have flown in an air balloon over the Masai Mara. I have climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Great Wall. I have traded jeans for Soviet flags in Red Square. I have walked on a glacier in Alaska and sailed among dolphins in Tahiti. I have tasted the salt of the Dead Sea and prayed at the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. I saw Sarajevo before the war. Yet, as with my Leningrad adventure, the sights and sounds of every one of these trips were eclipsed by connections with people I met along the way. It is those interactions, those once-in-a-lifetime meetings that are the best stories, untellable by a mere photograph or a purchased souvenir.

There is a difference between discovering something new or unknown and uncovering something hidden or waiting to be revealed. Tripzter Travel invites you to summon your own sense of wanderlust. Visit us at www.tripzter.com and begin to write the next chapter of your travelogue. You will without doubt discover an amazing place. And if you journey with an open mind you will probably uncover an even more amazing experience.

Remember, Life’s not a destination. Life’s a trip. Take one. Live one.

Here’s to the vagabond in each of us!


Peter Turcic