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Tripzter Explores The Idyllic Cook Islands

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Tripzter Explores The Idyllic Cook Islands

Yay, we made it through January! On one hand, we survived “Blue Monday”, but now we can look forward to an extra six weeks of winter (thanks alot Punxsutawney Phil). And to make matters worse, those of us on the Pacific ‘Wet’ Coast are suffering through our 19th day of rain…in a row. Sounds like some of us need to head south, waaay south. And the Tripzter team knows exactly where you should go.

Somewhere, amidst the 1.2 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between the Hawaiian archipelago and New Zealand, lie the idyllic Cook Islands. A tepid climate, mosaic of rich traditions, and the warmth of proud people waiting to welcome the weariest of travellers. Devoid of brash fast food chains, gargantuan tour buses, shopping malls or anything resembling its cousin to the far north (Hawaii), Islands like Raratonga, Aitutaki and Atiu are a quiet feast for the soul, and more importantly, a much needed break from all this rain.  Our very own Corporate Travel Manager and perpetual globetrotter, Matthew Quinton, set off to experience the idyllic Cook Islands over New Year’s and here’s what he had to say about his unique experience:

So Matt, how do we get from Vancouver to Paradise..err…we mean the Cook Islands?

I flew with Air New Zealand through Auckland and Sydney. And on the way home, I took United Airlines from Los Angeles back home to Vancouver. One thing to consider with Air New Zealand, is opting for the upgrade to Premium Economy. You get to enjoy business class service (including a premium meal paired with complimentary wine) and of course, more legroom, all for less than you would spend on a business class ticket.

 

Air New Zealand Premium Economy

What was your favourite memory from your time in the Cook Islands?  

My favourite part of the trip was a day trip we took to the island of Aitutaki. It’s only a 45 minute flight with Air Rarotonga from Rarotonga. Aitutaki is a small island protected by a series of small Atolls and a lagoon…absolutely stunning. The bluest, crystal clear water I have ever seen and soft, white, powdery sand beaches. And even, though I was on a boat with 20 other people, I still felt like I had the place to myself.

Polynesian Culture

Do you have some tips or interesting tidbits our clients might want to know about travelling to the Cook Islands?  

Cash or credit. Most people don’t know, but the currency used is New Zealand Dollars. And avoid using at ATM if you can, otherwise you’ll be shelling out $7.00 per withdrawl – Ouch!

Rent a car. One of the best and easiest ways to see Rarotonga on your own is to rent a car, and there are plenty of companies to rent from. You can circumnavigate the island in just over an hour, and since there’s only one main road, it’s impossible to get lost.Rarotonga Tripzter TravelTake a Tuk Tuk. Another great way to get around the island is by Tuk Tuk. And the best part, they’re quiet, and emissions free which means you get to sit back, relax and enjoy fresh island air while learning all about the history of this beautiful little island from a local expert. And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, hop on an electric bike and take a self-guided tour.

Stick to local drinks! There are many restaurant and café options to choose from, but if you’re trying to keep the expenses down, avoid drinking Coke and Coke Cola related products – You could be paying as much as $5.00 per can.

Leave the diet at home. We all know vacations are a time to be adventurous and enjoy local cuisine, guilt-free. These are a few of my favourite restaurants:

  • Nautilus Restaurant at Nautilus Resort
  • Café Salsa in Aitutaki – best coffee/lunch on the island
  • Café Beluga – best breakfast on the island
  • Tamarind House – Colonial upscale dining with an amazing view!
  • Vaima’s – great food, right on the beach.
  • The Spaghetti House for Italian food at the Edgewater resort.

Tamarind House, Rarotonga

Mingle on Market Day. If you happen to be on Rarotonga on a Saturday, wander down to the waterfront, and next to Avarua, the island’s main township, you’ll find the Punanga Nui Cultural Market. Here you’ll find everything from local art, clothing and jewelry to fresh fish, veggies and fruit, and a great opportunity to mingle with vendors from surrounding islands.

CCIC Church in Avarua, Rarotonga. This quaint church was built in 1853, fashioned from limestone and coral

Enjoy a day of rest. After a day of hustle and bustle at the Saturday Market, set your soul free at Mass in any one of the beautiful local churches on the island. Christianity is a very important component of local culture, so much so, that you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant serving alcohol on a Sunday.

If you are looking for a sun-drenched alternative to Mexico, the Caribbean or even Hawaii, the Cook Islands is a great, year round option. And what’s more, if you are looking for a unique destination to ring in the new year, you won’t be dealing with swarms of other tourists.

Aitutaki Lagoon

If you’ve been dreaming of an idyllic Cook Islands escape, or if Matt’s Instagram account is making you jealous and now you can’t get visions of endless horizons and turquoise seas out of your head, we would love to offer you one of our many South Pacific promotions. Pop your details into the form below and we’ll have you on your way to the idyllic Cook Islands.

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Get in touch with us and one of our diligent travel experts will contact you shortly. We’re passionate about travel and excited to make all your travel dreams come true. Talk to you soon!


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boutique river cruise

7 Things to Know About River Cruises Vs Ocean Cruises

For the avid ocean cruiser, the idea of stepping onto a river cruise may seem underwhelming. And while it’s true you won’t find skating rinks, climbing walls or shopping malls on-board a river cruise, there are plenty of reasons river cruising may become your new favourite way to see the world. In addition to introducing you to a more intimate cruising experience, river cruises take you to exciting, historic ports-of-call, most of which are inaccessible to mega ships. Elevated service, luxurious dining experiences and culturally rich excursions are just a few of the hallmarks of a river cruise. So if you’re thinking of trading in your sea legs for a more land-intensive experience, here are 7 things you should know about river cruises vs ocean cruises:

Prepare for Port Intensive Itineraries 

River ships are no doubt elegant and luxurious, however, they’re not the star of the show, it’s all about the ports-of-call. If you are someone who prefers seemingly endless days of quiet relaxation and sea-intensive itineraries, river cruising is not for you. Most of the actual cruising is done at night, and almost every day is a new port (or two), jam-packed with visits to historical sites, walking tours and cultural experiences. On some itineraries you may spend a full day on the river, but for the most part, because ports are such short distances from one another, and the days begin so early (8-9am tour departures), you’ll have to pack your favourite walking shoes or you’ll miss out. The downside of this aspect of river cruising is that it can be quite difficult for passengers for mobility issues to fully enjoy the full breadth of what river cruising has to offer.

uniworld boutique cruises

Culturally Focussed Excursions

As the in-house anthropologist, it’s no surprise that my favourite element of river cruising is the abundance of cultural immersion. I like to taste, touch and experience what it’s like to be a local. Remember, because river cruising is so heavily focused on ports, you have to be prepared to experience a wide array of culturally focused options such as walking tours, bicycle rides, culinary tours, concerts, golfing and even themed outings, all on land. Some ocean cruisers may find the lack of on-board activities limiting, but if you’re willing to experience port life to the fullest, you won’t be bored.

river cruise culture

River Cruises are All-Inclusive 

One of my least favourite parts of ocean cruising is feeling like I have to swipe my card every few seconds whether it’s for an overpriced cocktail, a few minutes of internet access or a specialty coffee I saw on the way to the pool deck. River cruises may appear more expensive at first but when you factor in all the included excursions, the one night stay before your cruise begins (on some cruise lines), top shelf wine and beer, dinner in the specialty restaurants, wifi, tips, and transfers, you’re getting far more bang for your buck. Additionally, cruise lines like Uniworld include tips within the fare (including those for service on-board, local guides and bus drivers). No more pricey bill at the end of your vacation!

dining on viking

Dining Options are Limited but Specialized 

It’s true, ocean cruises have significantly more dining options than a river cruise, which for some is fantastic but overwhelming for others. The dining experience aboard a river cruise, while it may not be as varied as a mega ship, it is exquisite, meticulous and reflective of the local culture. On most ships, guests will find a main restaurant where breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, and often, a second, more intimate dining area for the evening meal. On Uniworld, a boutique river cruise line, all meals are served with a “farm-to-table” philosophy, so you get to enjoy only the freshest ingredients, influenced by local culinary traditions.

Vienna river cruise

Ports Are Central to All the Action 

Let’s face it, ocean cruise ports are not the prettiest nor the most convenient. Guests pull up to beautiful destinations but often step off the ship (or tender to shore) only to be faced with ugly, industrialized piers, a barrage of taxis and tour operators scrambling for your business, and on top of that, you’re often far away from any attractions. River cruise ports are almost always located right in town, which means you’re mere steps (or a very short bus ride) away from all the action. However, there are occasions when there multiple river cruise ships in port simultaneously which means you may have to walk through another ship to step ashore.

viking river cruise

Space is a Premium 

It’s no secret that rooms aboard a river cruise ship, on average, are smaller than that of an ocean cruise ship, but that doesn’t mean they’re less luxurious. Many include balconies, are chocked full of luxurious amenities, upscale linens and decor fit for royalty. The river cruise experience is far more intimate, with an average of 200 guests versus 2100-5500 guests an ocean cruise. This means no line-ups, better uses of space, more opportunity to socialize with fellow cruisers and with a higher crew-to-passenger ratio, offering a more personalized service.

budapest hungary fireworks

Highest Customer Satisfaction Ratings 

There are plenty of fantastic ocean cruise line options, but keep in mind that river cruises have some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings. Companies like Viking Cruise boast a 97% customer satisfaction rating, one of the highest across the cruise sector, reflective of premium service, fascinating ports, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

If you’re thinking of booking a river cruise, or still have questions about whether a river cruise is right for you, contact the Tripzter team to take full advantage of our river cruise expertise.

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Get in touch with us and one of our diligent cruise experts will contact you shortly. We’re passionate about travel and excited to make all your travel dreams come true. Talk to you soon!