Monday, July 30, 2018

Imagine yourself at the Tour de France?

If you're like me, you're bleary eyed and wondering what to do with yourself first thing in the morning. What, no Tour de France to watch at 5am? It's been a great 3 weeks in the couch peleton.

Moi at the TDF in 2009 (story)
If your thoughts include dreams of witnessing a Tour de France stage in person, I can only say JUST DO IT! There is nothing like being part of the crowd (even though I stood for hours in the rain when le tour went through Barcelona).

It's easy enough to coordinate your travel plans to be in the start city or Paris ~ or just to be in France in July ~ and it costs you nothing extra to stake out a piece of the sidewalk. Start and finish dates are available now, and the full race route is released in October.

If you want a more packaged affair, with hotels, grandstand seating, VIP access, transfers, breakfasts, bike storage and daily bike rides, there are a range of options available from the official VIP access provider. This is the full meal deal.

Grand Depart Brussels 2019 weekend packages (in Eddy Merckx's hometown!) include:
• Thursday, July 4, 2019: Team presentation in Brussels
• Friday, July 5, 2019: Team training day in Brussels
• Saturday, July 6, 2019: Stage 1, Brussels
• Sunday, July 7, 2019: Stage 2, Brussels - Team Time Trial
• Monday, July 8, 2019: Stage 3, Brussels to TBA

Weekend packages for the Tour de France's conclusion on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday, July 29, 2019, range from basic to full Tour de France Triomphe Packages with VIP access, grandstand seating and, yes, champagne.

Tempted? Please contact me if you'd like more information on official Tour de France travel packages, or assistance in making your own independent plans.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New worry-free hurricane policy: a new trend?

Turks & Caicos Islands Coat of Arms
It's the first of what one can only hope will be a new trend. This week, Insider Travel Report is reporting good news from the Turks & Caicos Islands:
The Sands at Grace Bay has launched a newly created No-Hassle, 100% Refund Policy in the event of another storm. Developed to offer guests the ultimate “peace of mind” guarantee, Sands at Grace Bay’s new policy states that if the threat of a hurricane prevents travel to Providenciales, or otherwise interferes with the guest’s vacation, the luxury hospitality group will offer a 100 percent refund of any unused portion of the resort stay, no questions asked. 
While the policy applies to hurricanes only, not for tropical storms, the news is encouraging.

The resort's policy is actually very well thought out, and covers a range of scenarios that seem to authentically help travellers, versus just sound good.

Replica of Friendship 7 at the Turks & Caicos Airport - astronaut
John Glenn returned to earth in the oceans nearby in 1962

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Alaska Cruise Ships 2019 - BIG or small - What's Best?

Picking the best cruise ship for your Alaska voyage depends upon a number of factors - personal choice being perhaps the most important - but ship size is a major consideration.
  • A larger ship offers more things to do (believe it or not it can be easier to find a quiet spot alone on a big ship) and lower fares, but they aren't for everyone.
  • Small ships are more intimate, can get into smaller ports and tend to be more inclusive (so more costly), but not everyone will enjoy the quiet evenings.
In 2019, quite a few cruise ships will be sailing Alaska for the very first time, so I thought a list of ships sailing from Vancouver and Seattle, organized by size, might be a helpful tool.

Alaska Cruise Ships - by cabin count

For Alaska, common industry categories aren't all that informative, because so many ships fall into the middle category. So, to make shopping for the best ship for you easier, I have broken down the cruise ships sailing Alaska in 2019 by their cabin count. The nicknames are entirely mine.


Ovation of the Seas - 2095 cabins
Norwegian Bliss - 2043 cabins
Norwegian Joy - 2043 cabins
Royal Princess - 1780 cabins


Ruby Princess - 1530 cabins
Celebrity Eclipse - 1425 cabins
Celebrity Solstice - 1425 cabins
Golden Princess - 1316 cabins


Star Princess - 1298 cabins
Norwegian Jewel - 1194 cabins
Island Princess - 1107 cabins


Celebrity Millennium - 1079 cabins
Carnival Legend - 1062 cabins
Radiance of the Seas - 1061 cabins
ms Nieuw Amsterdam - 1053 cabins
ms Eurodam - 1052 cabins
Queen Elizabeth - 1043 cabins
ms Oosterdam - 1012 cabins
Coral Princess - 1000 cabins


ms Noordam - 986 cabins
ms Westerdam - 984 cabins
Disney Wonder - 877 cabins
ms Volendam - 716 cabins
ms Amsterdam - 690 cabins


Viking Orion - 464 cabins
Crystal Symphony - 452 cabins
Azamara Quest - 355 cabins
Oceania Regatta - 349 cabins
Silversea Muse - 288 cabins
Seabourn Sojourn - 225 cabins


Windstar Star Legend - 106 cabins
Silversea Explorer - 72 cabins

Tip: multiply the number of cabins by 225% to get approximate passenger capacity

Updated on July 25 to reflect announcement thayt the Norwegian Joy (new ship) will replace the Norwegian Pearl for the 2019 Alaska cruise season.

Please contact me if you would like to learn more about a particular ship, or would like a quote.

Related resources
What's the Best Cruise Ship Size for You? - Cruise Critic
Planning a Travel Surprise
Death by Selfie: Is Social Media Worth It?
7 Comebacks to "I Hate Cruising!"
Vancouver Cruise Opportunities

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Death by Selfie: is social media worth it?

Shannon Falls, British Columbia
The tragic death of three young people at Shannon Falls, near Vancouver, BC, Canada, while out for a day fun with friends, has saddened many.

The group of friends were hiking near the falls, when one, a young woman, fell in. Two young men, one her boyfriend, fell or jumped in while attempting to rescue her. All three died.

News of the positive yet daring adventures of one of the deceased - a vlogger* - made me think of this death-by-selfie piece I wrote a few years ago. For me, the connection is the drive to share life experiences in social media. I'm not suggesting the friends were doing anything foolish when the accident happened; it just seems timely to share.

*Vlogging is a form of blogging based on videos (the vlog category is popular on YouTube).


- by Roberta Westwood

Think that selfie is fun? Harmless?

Aside of the downsides of "missing" the experience of where you are, because you're so busy capturing your selfie, you may be surprised to to learn that taking selfies is actually dangerous.

What starts as playful fun can cross the line when selfies become an obsession, in which you become less aware of your surroundings and take ever-increasing risks.

Especially for men. The truth is that while women take more selfies than men, 75% of selfie death victims are MEN.

Selfie deaths?!? Really? You bet.

Selfie-takers have been killed by:
  • Falling off cliffs while taking selfies (many)
  • Falling over viewpoint barriers
  • Falling over a cliff when leaning on a gate that gave way
  • Sitting on boulders forming a safety barrier over a gorge, which gave way
  • Falling into a volcano crater
  • Falling down stairs
  • Falling down stairs while taking a selfie at the Taj Majal
  • Falling off bridges (many)
  • Falling off dams (several)
  • Falling into a pond
  • Falling into a spring
  • Falling in irrigation canals
  • Falling into water reservoirs
  • Falling into a quarry filled with rainwater
  • Falling into a well, while leaning over it to take a selfie showing the depth
  • Taking selfies in a melt hole (cave) at the front edge of a receding glacier, when the roof gave way
  • Taking selfies with waterfalls (several)
  • Standing in rivers while taking selfies
  • Waves, when standing on the beach (several)
  • Waves, while standing in the surf, in a storm, taking selfies
  • Taking selfies with trains (several)
  • Falling off moving trains while taking selfies
  • Climbing on top of moving trains
  • Climbing on top of stationary trains mistakenly believed not in service (many by electrocution)
  • Crashing cars while taking selfies or uploading selfies while driving
  • Being hit by cars
  • Being hit by a car while taking selfies with airplanes
  • Standing in a boat to take selfies (drownings)
  • Climbing on a fountain to take selfies
  • Climbing onto a glass dome to take selfies, and falling through
  • Climbing on girders in a construction site to take selfies
  • Preparing to take a selfie by hanging from a rope from a high-rise
  • Leaping to take a "flying selfie" (at Machu Picchu)
  • Falling into a geyser while taking a selfie
  • Posing with guns (many!)
  • Posing with grenades
  • Posing with a rattlesnake
  • Posing with tigers at the zoo (several)
  • Taking selfies with a walrus at the zoo
  • Posing with a bison in a national park (gored)
  • Posing with an elephant near their tent on a safari
  • Getting out of a vehicle to take selfies with a herd of elephants blocking a road

Places where selfies have banned, due to deaths:
  • In Pamplona, Spain, during the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona
  • At New York State zoos (tigers)
  • Anywhere in Mumbai (India has very high selfie deaths)
  • In Japan, selfies and selfie-sticks on train station platforms are banned

Places where selfie bans have been proposed, due to high selfie deaths:
  • In Paris, at the Eiffel Tower
  • In Rome, at Trevi Fountain
  • In Rome, on the Spanish Steps

Do you believe me now?

Even if you are not killed, just imagine the extent of serious injuries any of the above could cause.

Seriously, have fun out there, but don't let it cost you your life (or limbs!)

Related resources
List of selfie-related injuries and deaths - Wikipedia
40% Selfie Deaths from India, Selfie Obsession kills over 60 people Worldwide - Phone Radar
Mumbai sets no-selfie zones as deaths linked to selfies rise - Associated Press
No Selfies Allowed: Social Media Bans at Landmarks - Conde Nast Traveler
Selfie deaths: six people who died while taking a selfie - The Week
In Goa, red flags go up on beaches after tourist deaths: Selfies can be dangerous - The Indian Express
Selfies can be deadly - and India leads the way - Economic Times
Two young women struck by lightning while taking selfies - Economic Times
Death by Selfie - Martin Parr