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During the past century, geneticists have had a problematic relationship with the question of human ‘races’. While the notion of races stretches back much further in history, twentieth-century genetics often fuelled political ideologies and movements based on the idea that human beings can bei divided into different biological groups. The most obvious example of this, of course, is the interplay between racial biology, eugenics and fascism that culminated in the Holocaust and the mass murder of Jews, Roma and other ‘inferior races’.

But even after the crimes of Nazism were exposed, eugenics was discredited and the UN in the early 1950s published its statement on the fundamental unity of humankind, many geneticists continued to assert that humans could be categorized into biological races.

Rather than being erased from post-war scientific discourse, the concept of race was, as sociologist Troy Duster puts it, ‘buried alive’. Just five years after the evacuation of Auschwitz, immunologist William Boyd published Genetics and the Races of Man, in which he — opposing those who had ‘misused’ the term race — advocated a ‘scientific division of mankind into races’.

Boyd’s book sparked a number of post-war scientific works presenting typologies of the human races. Its representatives were not only to be found in notorious academic journals like Mankind Quarterly, but also in high-profile academic departments of population genetics and biological anthropology. Even in cases where the word ‘race’ was replaced by more technical terms such as ‘population’ or ‘genetic cluster’, the idea that human beings belong to separate groups by virtue of their genetic structure persisted.

Z-DNA: left-handed double helix. Image by mcmurryjulie on Pixabay.

The molecularization of race

During a short period around the turn of the millennium, however, the new field of molecular genetics — the exploration of the human genome at the DNA level — seemed to be putting an end to the old racial-typological project. When researchers in the Human Genome Project (HGP) presented their map of the human genome in the summer of 2000, a finding which indicated that all human DNA is 99.9% identical, hopes were expressed that the concept of race would finally lose its scientific legitimacy.

‘The most important fact of life on this earth’, American President Bill Clinton stated at the HGP press conference, ‘is our common humanity’. One of the project’s initiators, geneticist Craig Venter, asserted that the word race ‘has no genetic or scientific basis’. Clinton and Venter hoped that similarity—the fact that the genetic difference between people was negligible — would erode outdated ideas about biological race.

This article was originally published in the Swedish philosophy journal ‘Fronesis’. Issue 66-67 deals with genetics and race.

Instead, the opposite seemed to happen. Rather than putting an end to geneticists’ preoccupation with race, the presentation of the human genome effectively revived the discussion about biological differences. In the 2000 article ‘Unequal by Nature,’ geneticist James Crow wrote: ‘Most of the [genetic] differences that we notice are caused by a very tiny fraction of our DNA. Given six billion base pairs [DNA] per cell, a tiny fraction — 1/1000 of six billion base-pairs — is still six million different base pairs per cell. So there is plenty of room for genetic differences among us.’ Crow thus rejected the idea that the one-hundredth of a percent of genetic difference was insignificant. The actual differences between White, Asian and African individuals, he argued, justified a continued use of the word race.

During the following years, a number of geneticists would follow suit. In a high-profile 2000 study in Science, the Human Genome Diversity Project geneticist Marc Feldman argued that humans could be divided into six genetic clusters corresponding to geographic regions such as Europe, East Asia and Africa.

In the same year, medical researchers Esteban Burchard and Elad Ziv asserted that ‘[t]he past two decades of research in population genetics has shown that the greatest genetic differentiation […] occurs between continentally separated groups’ and that ‘[i]gnoring racial and ethnic differences […] will not make them disappear.’

In 2005, a team of researchers took DNA samples from a number of White, African-American, East Asian and Hispanic individuals in the United States and concluded that the four ‘genetic clusters’ that emerged in their analysis were ‘highly correlated’ with the study participants’ self-identified ethnicities. A year later, American Senator Barack Obama suggested that the US government should finance research on ‘race, genomics and health’ in order to investigate how ‘molecular genetic screening, diagnostics and treatments may be used to improve the health and health care of racial and ethnic minority populations.’

Rather than shattering biological ideas about racial differences, the new field of molecular genetics thus ended up reinforcing them. The emphasis on similarity gave way to an ever-increasing focus on difference. The notion of race as a social construct rather than a material reality, as biologist Armand Marie Leroi wrote in early 2005, was unravelling.

The concept of race was becoming ‘molecularized’: if genetics had traditionally assumed that race could be distinguished through phenotypic attributes (such as blood type or cranium dimensions), it was now assumed to be expressed through genotypic variations in human DNA.

Such assumptions effectively opened up for a new kind of molecularized scientific racism. In a 2005 article, psychologist David Rowe wondered whether the new DNA technologies would be able to prove intelligence differences between Black and White individuals. ‘[I]n the next few decades’, Rowe argued, ‘many genetic racial differences are likely to be discovered.’ Over the next few years, a number of scientists speculated on the links between DNA, race or nationality and phenomena such as criminality, impulsivity and intelligence.

Molecularized scientific racism culminated in 2014, when science journalist Nicholas Wade published his book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. Echoing eighteenth-century racial typology, Wade claimed that molecular genetics had proved the existence of ‘three major races’: Africans, Caucasians and East Asians. By studying so-called ancestry-informative markers in the genome, Wade argued, geneticists could effectively identify the races of different individuals.

Wade went on to argue that the respective characteristics of Africans, Caucasians and East Asians were ultimately caused by natural selection: the genetic mutations that were most appropriate for survival in a particular historical context had created certain dominant behaviours. Jewish intelligence, European entrepreneurship and Asian collectivism could be understood as the result of a genetic-historical process which had successively laid the foundation for entire societies. As Wade put it:

‘[The differences between human societies] stem from the quite minor variations in human social behavior […] that have evolved within each race during its geographical and historical experience. These variations have set the framework for social institutions of significantly different character. It is because of their institutions—which are largely cultural edifices resting on a base of genetically shaped social behaviors—that the societies of the West and of East Asia are so different, that tribal societies are so unlike modern states, and that rich countries are rich and poor countries deprived.’

The fact that human behaviour is genetically coded, Wade claimed, was proven by science; those who disputed this were either Marxists or academics deceived by multicultural dogma. Despite the references to contemporary molecular genetics, however, A Troublesome Inheritance faced harsh criticism from the scientific community. Shortly after the book was published, over a hundred scientists wrote a letter where they distanced themselves from Wade, making clear that his theories had ‘no support from the field of population genetics.’

One of those who signed the letter was population geneticist David Reich, who remarked that ‘our findings do not even provide a hint of support in favour of Wade’s guesswork.’ Despite his criticism of Wade, Reich would soon publish a book in which he came to surprisingly similar conclusions himself.

David Reich’s Who We Are and How We Got Here

As the Principal Investigator at Harvard University’s David Reich Lab — one of the world’s leading laboratories for the analysis of prehistoric genomes — David Reich is a key figure in archaeogenetic research. In his 2018 study Who We Are and How We Got Here, he describes what he calls ‘the ancient DNA revolution’ and its advances over the last decade.

The DNA revolution, Reich claims, isn’t only ‘disrupting our assumptions about the past’, but also resolving longstanding controversies in archaeology, history and anthropology.

At first glance, Reich’s book can be described as a summary of what is currently known as archaeogenetics. But Who We Are is also a powerful — and rather contradictory — contribution to the twenty-first-century debate on genetics and race. In the opening of the book, Reich joins the ranks of those who hold that molecular genetics has shattered the idea of discrete biological races. He writes:

‘[T]his long-held view about ‘race’ has just in the last few years been proven wrong. […] A great surprise that emerges from the genome revolution is that in the relatively recent past, human populations were just as different from each other as they are today, but that the fault lines across populations were almost unrecognizably different from today. […] Present-day populations are blends of past populations, which were blends themselves. The African American and Latino populations of the Americas are only the latest in a long line of major population mixtures (xxiv).’

Archaeogenetics has, in other words, revealed that present-day populations don’t represent any homogeneous genetic entities that can be traced back thousands of years, but are the result of constant mixtures between different groups. As a consequence of this finding, political movements that project racist hierarchies backwards into the past will be undermined by scientific facts.

‘[I]deologies that seek a return to a mythical purity’, Reich writes, ‘are flying in the face of hard science.’ The ancient DNA revolution, he continues, will ‘give us an alternative to the evils of racism and nationalism, and make us realize that we are all entitled equally to our human heritage’ (273). As archaeogenetics exposes world history as a process of incessant mixing, racist notions of purity, origin and continuity will be discarded.

While Reich criticises notions of purity and racial categorizations, however, he nevertheless bases his own analysis on a systematic division of people into genetic groups. This isn’t merely the case regarding his seemingly unproblematic use of terms such as ‘Europeans’, ‘East Asians’ and ‘West Africans’ as genetic entities, but also his recurring claim that there actually exist — and have existed — ‘unmixed’ populations.

‘[T]he people of India today,’ Reich writes at one point, ‘are the outcome of mixtures between two highly differentiated populations […] who before their mixture were as different from each other as Europeans and East Asians are today.’ Before these population groups mixed, he continues, ‘there were unmixed populations’ (259). Later in the book, he similarly asserts that world’s populations of today are ‘mixtures of highly divergent populations that no longer exist in unmixed form’ (259).

Reich’s arguments are thus based on an unmistakable ambivalence: while archaeogenetics has shown that all human beings are mixed, there also exist ‘unmixed’ or ‘highly divergent’ populations. On the one hand, races don’t exist; on the other, ‘Europeans’ and ‘East Asians’ are portrayed as genetically distinct groups. This ambiguity comes to a head in a passage in which Reich seems to revive an old tradition of racial typology:

‘The physical similarity of West Eurasian populations was recognized in the eighteenth century by scholars who classified the people of West Eurasia as “Caucasoids” to differentiate them from East Asian “Mongoloids”, sub-Saharan African “Negroids’, and “Australoids” of Australia and New Guinea. In the 2000s, whole-genome data emerged as a more powerful way to cluster present-day human populations than physical features (93).’

It’s difficult to read this quotation as anything other than Reich reviving traditional scientific racism, albeit with new molecular genetic tools. The gradual turn of Who We Are from a critique of the concept of race to jargon echoing old-time scientific racism is accentuated in the book’s final section, where Reich attacks the ‘orthodoxy’ — primarily represented by the left-wing geneticist Richard Lewontin — that there are no substantial biological differences between human groups.

In terms reminiscent of Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance, Reich argues that this alleged orthodoxy won’t be able to ‘survive the onslaught of science’ (254) and that the DNA revolution is ‘revealing hard evidence’ that such differences in fact exist (251). Reich writes:

‘We cannot deny the existence of substantial average genetic differences across populations, not just in traits such as skin color, but also in bodily dimensions, the ability to efficiently digest starch or milk sugar, the ability to breathe easily at high altitudes, and susceptibility to particular diseases’

And continues: ‘These differences are just the beginning’ (255).’ He goes on to give examples of studies in molecular genetics which claim to have demonstrated links between peoples’ DNA and their education level and intelligence. Such studies, Reich claims, reveal what is ‘likely to be only the tip of an iceberg of behavioral traits affected by genetics’ (257). One must consider the ‘genetically predicted performance’ that individuals from different populations possess (266).

With these points, Reich reaches the conclusion of his discussion on genetics and race. If scientists don’t dare to broach the subject of genetic differences between populations, he writes, the stage will be set for pseudo-scientific speculations à la Nicholas Wade:

‘[W]e should prepare our science and our society to be able to deal with the reality of differences instead of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that differences cannot be discovered. The approach of staying mum, of implying to the public and to colleagues that substantial differences in traits across populations are unlikely to exist, is a strategy that we scientists can no longer afford, and that in fact is positively harmful (258).’

With these words, Reich has come full circle. Having opened his book with a critique of the concept of race, he concludes it with a call for a scientific approach to the biological differences that have traditionally gone by the name of race. For Reich, the fundamental problem isn’t that geneticists reinforce and naturalize notions of race, but that they give too little attention to the biological differences between people. Despite the rhetoric of mixing, it’s the differences that matter in the end.

Genetics, mixing and differentiation

How should we understand the paradoxes of Who We Are? Why does David Reich’s critique of racism and sweeping racial categorizations turn into genetic essentialism and biologically deterministic ideas that individuals’ behaviours are based on their affiliation to a genetic group?

The key to understanding this paradox lies in the concept of mixing, which, despite being presented as the antithesis to the idea of distinct biological races, actually incites notions of purity and origin. The basic problem is that mixing, as pointed out by anthropologist Kimberly TallBear, is ‘predicated on the notion of purity.’.

The genetic concept of mixing, anthropologists Nicholas Passalacqua and Marin Pilloud note in a similar vein, ‘imply that there are groups that are not admixed, or rather, that there are source populations which are solely of a certain ancestry.’ The point is simple: nothing can be mixed that wasn’t first unmixed, otherwise the concept of mixing wouldn’t have any meaning.

Population geneticists’ claim that contemporary human beings are ‘mixtures’ of older groups implicitly asserts that these older groups were at some point unmixed, which, in turn, means that today’s populations could — at least in theory — also be unmixed.

Rather than undermining essentialist ideas about ‘pure races’ or ‘unmixed populations’, the rhetoric of mixture reproduces them. The seemingly anti-racist talk about mixing is based on the tacit assumption that there are, or have been, genetically pure groups.

As noted above, Who We Are is composed of seemingly paradoxical claims: all populations are mixed, but ‘unmixed populations’ also exist. On closer inspection, however, these claims are not actually contradictory, but the logical conclusion of the mixing rhetoric employed by contemporary population geneticists.

Against this backdrop, it’s also possible to understand why Reich, despite purporting to debunk racist ideas about fundamental differences between people, ends up in a position where he highlights the significance of these differences. Like all branches of genetics, archaeogenetics is based on what could be called the methodology of differentiation: for DNA sequences to have any meaning, they must be compared with — and differentiated from — other sequences from other individuals.

In archaeogenetic contexts, this mainly amounts to separating and giving labels to the genetic clusters that appear when scientists compare the DNA of prehistoric individuals. Regardless of whether this naming is done on geographic, temporal or archaeological-cultural grounds, it establishes a kind of absolute difference in which different clusters are constructed as essentially different genetic groups.

As archaeologist Susanne Hakenbeck has pointed out, the archaeogenetic method is based on letting DNA samples from prehistoric individuals ‘stand in for entire archaeological cultures which, in turn, represent ethnic groups.’

This applies to David Reich’s work, where a relatively limited numbers of prehistoric DNA samples lay the basis for statements about ‘the Northern European population’, the ‘Eastern European hunter-gather population’ or ‘the Finnish population’—geographically or ethnically defined collectives whose very meaning are based on the assumption that their members share a genetic structure that is qualitatively different from other groups.

If prehistoric individuals can be divided into genetically separate groups in this way, the same must apply to modern humans. When Reich concludes his book by emphasizing ‘the substantial differences across populations’, it’s a conclusion that doesn’t contradict, but completely dovetails with the genetic essentialism that informs his analysis of human history.

Rather than disrupting biological notions about race, Who We Are is ultimately a book that seeks to prove the existence and significance of race in the past as well as in our own times.

Conclusion

Shortly after the release of Who We Are, David Reich published an essay in The New York Times in which he summarised his position on genetics and race. While Reich admitted that genetics could be misused for racist purposes, he also claimed that it was no longer possible to turn a blind eye to the ‘substantial average genetic differences across populations’ and that ancient DNA proved that ‘many of today’s racial constructs are real.’

After yet again referring to studies which had allegedly demonstrated the link between genes, intelligence and educational attainment, Reich stressed that individuals from different populations had different genetic preconditions for cognition and behaviour. It would, he wrote, be ‘impossible — indeed, anti-scientific, foolish and absurd — to deny those differences.’

He concluded this appeal for a new concept of race with a reference to his anti-racist convictions. ‘Arguing that no substantial differences among human populations are possible’, he wrote, ‘will only invite the racist misuse of genetics that we wish to avoid.’

A week later, 67 scientists and researchers in the natural and social sciences, humanities and law published an open letter on Buzzfeed criticizing Reich’s ideas. If race is simply used as a term for a group of individuals who share a genetic variation, they argued, it would be possible to find races everywhere. Given that the genetic difference between individuals amounts to 15 million base pairs of DNA (of three billion base pairs per individual), statistically relevant patterns could be found wherever one wanted to look, they argue.

‘Given random variation, you could genotype all Red Sox fans and all Yankees fans and find that one group has a statistically significant higher frequency of a number of particular genetic variants than the other group,’ the authors noted. ‘This does not mean that Red Sox fans and Yankees fans are genetically distinct races.’

The central problem with Reich’s arguments was that he equated genetic difference and race. The fact that biological differences exist doesn’t necessarily mean that races exist. To achieve a better understanding of the historical and political problems associated with the concept of race, geneticists should collaborate with their colleagues in the social sciences, humanities and public health.

The controversy surrounding Who We Are shows that the debate on genetics and race is far from over. The twenty-first century mapping of the human genome and the subsequent realization that all humans are genetically very similar seem, paradoxically, to have bolstered the notion of genetically distinct races.

If xenophobic and chauvinist movements continue to gain ground, it’s likely that there will be more incentives for genetic research focused on the material reality of race. Yet the question of whether tomorrow’s genetics will open a ‘backdoor to eugenics’, as Troy Duster puts it, will ultimately be settled by the researchers themselves.

Only they can decide if they want to keep racializing the 0.01% that differentiates one human from another, and thereby provide continued legitimacy to ideas about biologically discrete races. That is, in the end, an ethical and political issue.

Categories
Cruises

What is Wave Season for Cruises and When Is It?

There’s a special term within the cruise line industry that conjures up all kinds of images. What do you imagine when you consider wave season out on the high seas? 

In truth, it’s the exact opposite of choppy waters and tumultuous waters. Rather, wave season is a special time of year when package deals drop so low. They practically plummet to the floor. 

Why do cruise liners do this? Well, they know a lot of people are looking to book vacations during this specific time of year, and they want to secure as many bookings as possible. So, they roll out the red carpet.  

Without further ado, let’s get right into it. What is wave season? When is wave season? What can you expect? We have all the answers right here for you.

What Is Wave Season?

Wave season is a magical time of year when deals on cruises come in, wave upon wave. Historically, it’s always taken place during the first quarter of the year (January through March). 

The early months of the year are when cruisers are planning for the coming summer, along with a quick getaway to the Caribbean or Bahamas.

When you find a great wave season deal during these early months in the year, you can choose to set sail during that time or later in the year. You don’t have to book it and travel before March.

Basically, wave season rewards early bookers who get out ahead of price increases when supply and demand start to factor in.

Black Friday for Cruisers

As you do your research, you might find people comparing wave season deals to Black Friday deals. That’s because the reduced prices and package deals are about as shocking as certain Black Friday discounts. 

We suspect wave season for cruises came about as people searched for a way out of the winter doldrums. If you think about it, the holiday season isn’t merry and bright for everyone.   

For those that struggle, when they come out of their holiday blues and enter into the new year, they might be looking for a slight reprieve or a short adventure. 

In which case, an all-inclusive package deal to some exotic destination is often just the ticket. Stepping out of the holiday blues and entering into the planning stage for a trip to the Bahamas, Europe, or even Alaska can be enough to pull anyone out of the winter doldrums. 

So, it’s a great time of year to start over, make new plans, have something to look forward to, and secure a world-class deal.

Also Read: Here Is How to Get the Best Deal on a Cruise

Examples of Deals

Wave season cruises come in many shapes and sizes. And it’s important to note here that wave season deals aren’t necessarily the cheapest deals you’ll ever see.

Rather, what they’re doing is providing the most bang for your buck, such as a better cabin or free excursions. You’ll see different cruise lines offering creative packages in different ways.

Presently, some of the big names like Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Holland America offer “choose your own bonus” sales that run year-round.

But, wave season gets a little more creative than that. Typically, you’ll see more bonuses and longer booking windows. Let’s take a look at some of the deals you might find, so you know what to keep an eye out for. 

Buy-One-Get-One

You’re going to be shocked when you see some of the wave season deals out there. Sometimes, the discounts are as steep as buy one, get one half-off.

So, if you have someone special in mind you’d like to travel with, you could calculate the sum of a full-price package and a half-price package and split it. In which case, everyone’s paying less than what they would for a full-price package deal in, say, May. 

Onboard Credits: Excursions

Other times, you’ll see massive sums of onboard credits being offered. This can translate into free excursions when you arrive at certain destinations throughout your cruise.

If, for example, you book a Mediterranean cruise, then those onboard credits could afford you a free tour of the Amalfi Coast or some other excursion that you might not have splurged on otherwise. 

Onboard Credits: Ship Perks

Some people love to cruise mainly for the onboard amenities. They love sleeping in luxurious accommodations, enjoying world-class meals, lounging by the pool, and waking up in a new port every morning. 

In which case, these kinds of cruisers are often looking for free upgrades, and they’re going to find these deals during wave season. Suddenly, an interior room becomes a room with a balcony and a free champagne bottle upon arrival. 

For those that love to make the most of a moving luxury hotel, they tend to stay onboard a lot and, perhaps, only disembark for one or two excursions. 

Cruisers who operate like this can turn things around and basically pay for nothing after they’ve purchased their wave season deal.

A good deal will secure free drinks, free tickets to onboard entertainment, or even free services, such as a relaxing day at the onboard spa. This turns the cruise into a truly all-inclusive deal that some cruisers would never pass up. 

How to Investigate Your Deal

Wave season deals aren’t difficult to find. They’re advertised right on the website. We suggest you start following your favorite cruise lines on social media. Each company will blast out their wave season deals on their Insta stories, Facebook feeds, and Twitter accounts. 

Social Networks

But, we want to help you investigate your deal once it catches your eyes. Unfortunately, we’ve seen travelers miss out on what they thought was a great deal because they missed something in the fine print.

To ensure your wave season deal won’t be “too good to be true,” let’s talk about the fine print and put your mind at ease. 

Estimate the Actual Price

If you’ve ever scored big at a department store, you probably loved looking at the bottom of your receipt, where it calculated your total savings. Knowing you chipped $100 off your bill feels pretty good.

So, to make sure you’re truly getting a wave season deal, estimate the actual price of the cruise before the discounts. If it’s a reduced fare you’re after, make sure you know what this trip would’ve cost outside of wave season. 

If it’s a free upgrade to that glorious room with a balcony, compare the price between an interior room and a room with a balcony. If it’s onboard credits, you’re after, like free drinks, a day at the spa, or a free excursion, be sure to price all that out, too. 

Read the Fine Print

We can’t say this enough. So, we’re going to say it again. Read the fine print! We’ve seen scoundrel travel agents tell people they’re about to get a killer deal because they suspected the clients wouldn’t read the fine print. 

For example, they could be selling a deal for a discounted rate or onboard credits. But, that deal doesn’t apply to the specific itinerary or cabin the travelers were looking at.

The next thing you know, some young couple is getting roped into spending too much money. So, always take the time to read the fine print. (There, we said it again.) 

Price Shop

Let’s talk about travel agents again. Sometimes, agents can offer package deals and onboard discounts that look a lot like wave season deals. These are pretty standard perks, though, for booking through an agent. 

So, when you have a good wave season deal in hand, call around to a travel agency or two. See what kind of deals they’re currently offering. If their “standard” perks are no better than your wave season perks, you might not have the best deal in hand. 

As an aside, if you find an agent you like, they may be able to keep an eye out for the specific deal you’re looking for and get back to you. So, your price shopping will never be for naught.

Worth Reading: Best Ways to Save Money Before You Cruise

FAQs on Wave Season

In summary, let’s review some of the most pressing wave season questions. 

When is wave season?

Wave season kicks off in early January and runs through the first quarter of the year (until March).

Where can I go?

You can go virtually anywhere on a wave season deal. Be sure to check the websites of your favorite cruise ships to see what they’re offering in the new year.

Where can I find wave season deals?

Checking the websites of all your favorite liners is one way to go. But, also be sure to like and follow them on social media where they’re sure to blast out great deals.  

Can new cruisers take advantage of wave season?

Wave season deals are an optimal time for new cruisers. They can tailor the length of their first cruise with these deals and enjoy any number of personal perks.

In truth, it will leave a long-lasting memory and encourage future vacations aboard their favorite cruise ships.

Wave Season Deals for You

Wave season deals won’t be difficult to find once the new year rolls around. Consider what’s important to you (i.e., a two-for-one, an upgrade, or a free excursion) and then hunt down that deal. We’re confident you’ll find it. 

When you’re ready, you can book your cruise with one of our trusted partners – Club 1 and Cruise Line. And, as you start savoring the inevitable excitement, keep coming back to visit us for more late-breaking news.

Wave Season for Cruises
Categories
Cruises

New Cruise Ships Ready to Sail When Cruises Resume

When cruises are able to finally start back up, cruisers will have the choice of several new cruise ships that were recently completed.

Cruise lines have taken delivery of a number of new cruise ships since all cruises were paused from U.S. ports nine months ago. Here is a look at six new cruise ships that will begin sailing for the first time when cruises resume.

Virgin’s Scarlet Lady

Virgin Voyages’ first cruise ship has been completed since the spring.  This new adults only cruise ship will provide an experience unlike any other ship as it is geared towards those who haven’t wanted to take a cruise.

Sponsored Links

Included in all cruise fares are gratuities, WiFi, all restaurants, basic beverages, and fitness classes. The ship will sail from the Cruise Capital of the World, PortMaimi, and offer a variety of cruises to the Caribbean and Bahamas.

All cruises will visit the cruise line’s private port in the Bahamas, The Beach Club at Bimini.  View Top Itineraries on Scarlet Lady

Carnival’s Mardi Gras

Carnival Cruise Line’s newest and largest cruise ship, Mardi Gras is the world’s first cruise ship with a roller coaster. It is also Carnival’s first vessel powered by LNG.

Carnival Cruise Line took delivery of Mardi Gras earlier this month. The cruise ship is divided into six zones of fun for the entire family. The vessel has a wide range of accommodation choices, including more than 180 suites across 11 different levels.

Mardi Gras will sail from Port Canaveral, Florida offering week long cruises to the Caribbean and Bahamas.

View Top Cruises on Mardi Gras

Celebrity Apex

Celebrity Cruises’ second Edge class vessel, Celebrity Apex, has been completed since the summer and is waiting for her first guests to board.

From impeccable accommodations, including Edge Staterooms with Infinite Verandas and two-story Edge Villas with outdoor plunge pools, to 29 world-class culinary venues, Celebrity Apex has it all.

Celebrity Cruises will now have WiFi, drinks, and tips included in cruise fares making them the first cruise line to offer a true luxury experience on a large cruise ship.

View Prices on Cruises on Celebrity Apex

Enchanted Princess

The fifth Royal class cruise ship from Princess Cruises, Enchanted Princess is the cruise line’s newest ship since Sky Princess debuted.

Princess Cruises recently took delivery of Enchanted Princess and will debut as soon as the cruise line resumes cruises.  The vessel is a MedallionClass ship and will carry 3,660 guests.

View Prices on Cruises on Enchanted Princess

Costa Firenze

The newest cruise ship that has been delivered to a cruise line, Costa Firenze is inspired by the Florentine Renaissance.

The 133,500 gross ton ship has a capacity of 5,200 guests and will start off sailing two different week long cruises cruises in the Mediterranean.

Silver Moon

Silversea Cruises took delivery of Silver Moon at the end of October.

At 40,700 gross tons and with a maximum capacity of just 596 guests, Silver Moon takes influence from the successful design of her sister ship, Silver Muse, and maintains the small-ship intimacy and spacious all-suite accommodations that are hallmarks of the Silversea experience.

Enriched with elegant décor, premium materials, and luxurious amenities, Silver Moon’s 298 spacious suites benefit from one of the highest space-to-guest ratios of any luxury cruise accommodation, offering superlative comfort to guests—a characteristic feature of the Silversea experience.

Categories
Australia

The A to Z’s of road tripping Australia

Getting ready for a road trip in Australia?

This A to Z guide is a handy road trip planner for Australia, with key pointers, tips, and destinations you’ll need to know before setting out on your adventure.

RACQ members receive 15% off our daily rental rates and a free additional driver – book your car today.

A

Accommodation. It’s best to book in advance whenever possible as accommodation fills up quickly, especially during weekends and holidays. At the very least, make a list of possible places to stay before you start your road trip.

B

Big Things! There are approximately 150 ‘Big Things’ dotted around Australia, and you’ll likely see at least a few on any major road trip. Or, go ahead and do a ‘Big Things’ road trip and try to see as many as possible in one go!

C

Coastline. Australia has approximately 50,000 kilometres of coastline, and more than 10,000 beaches. The majority of Australian road trips will stick to coastlines and include stunning beaches along the way, so don’t forget your other ‘C’, a camera!

D

Distances. Distances can be deceiving, especially when you don’t know the roads well, or the conditions are not ideal. Always assume the drive will take a little longer than expected, even if you’re using Google Maps.

E

E-tolls. E-tolls are electronic tolls used on numerous roads throughout the country. They make it easy to pass over toll roads without slowing down to pay by card or dig around the seats for spare change. Thrifty fits E-tags on some cars, so be sure to request one if you are planning on taking routes with toll roads.

F

Forecast. Before heading out on any road trip, always check the forecast. This can influence everything from the clothes you pack to the time you’ll need to reach your destination and what you do when you get there.

G

Great Ocean Road. This is easily one of the most iconic road trips in Australia, and should be undertaken by all Aussies at least once in a lifetime. It’s short, brimming with incredible attractions, and beautiful no matter the time of year.

H

Hobart. Just because Tasmania isn’t connected to the mainland, it doesn’t mean you can’t do a road trip around Australia’s southern state. Pick up a rental in Hobart when you arrive and try the Tassie Loop!

I

Insurance. No road trip is complete without insurance to protect you, other drivers, and your vehicle. Take a look at Thrifty’s Protection options to find the right package for you.

J

Jet boating. Jet boating is just one of the incredible activities you can try while you’re in Australia. Unsurprisingly, many of the best can be found out in Sydney’s iconic harbour.

K

Kilometres. That’s kilometres, not miles, petrol not gas, driving on the left not the right, and never turning right (or left) at red lights. If you’re arriving from overseas, make sure you’re aware of the difference when taking on Australian roads.

L

Lap. Or, the Big Lap to be precise. If you really want to go all out on an Australian road trip, this 15,000 kilometre road trip will take you around the entire coastline of the mainland. You’ll need six months or more to complete this road trip around Australia, and a really decent playlist for those long stretches.

M

Maps. Whether you prefer paper in your hands or a high-tech GPS unit, you’ll need them for any road trip. Book a GPS unit with Thrifty as an optional extra, or invest in an Australian road map so you don’t lose your way.

N

Necessities. When packing, there are a number of necessities you’ll need anywhere you go. These include warm and cool weather gear, sunscreen and sun hats, water and snacks, a simple first aid kit, and any medication you usually take.

O

One-way road trip. Australia is deceptively large, and while a one-way rental will typically cost a little more than a return, it can still be an excellent option to book one way and take more time making stops and exploring, and less time making the return trip.

P

Pacific Coast Drive. Encompassing the stretch of coastline that runs from Sydney to Cairns, this massive east coast road trip in Australia covers a vast stretch of the country, including some of the best beaches in the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime drive, and can take weeks or even months depending on how long you stop at each idyllic location.

Q

Quality. Over quantity that is. Australia is unimaginably vast, and there are countless places to visit, things to do, and things to see. Aim for quality over quantity, and spend less time trying to do absolutely everything, and more time enjoying what you can fit in without rushing.

R

Roadside assistance. Whether you left your headlights on and ended up with a flat battery, ran out of petrol, or locked your keys in the car, roadside assistance is a huge help for any Australian road trip. All Thrifty vehicles are covered with roadside assistance for your peace of mind.

S

Snow passes. Heading to the ski fields with a Thrifty rental? You’ll need to purchase a Snow Pass in order to drive above the snowline in NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania. It means you can drive on sealed roads up to your favourite ski hills (this is separate from any national park entrance fees etc).

T

Thrifty! Your friendly, quality, affordable provider of car and 4WD rentals all over Australia. With more than 170 locations throughout the country and a massive fleet suited for anything from zipping around capital cities to exploring the outback, we have everything you need to discover the Lucky Country.

U

Uluru. One of the ultimate road trip destinations in Australia, Uluru is a special place for many reasons. Whether you’re driving from Adelaide, Darwin, or even Sydney, this is an unforgettable trip with a majestic destination.

V

Van. Got a big group? Or even just a four-person group and want the extra space? Consider booking a van and enjoy the extra interior space for people, baggage, and souvenirs.

W

Wildlife. It’s unlikely you’ll come across kangaroos hopping over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but wildlife is common on the roads in rural areas. Be aware that you may encounter kangaroos, emus, wallabies or wombats on the roads, so keep your headlights on and be prepared to stop.

X

Xantippe. It’s literally the only place in Australia that starts with an X.

Y

You. Australia has a little bit of everything, from world-class surf to exceptional skiing, beautiful wineries to lush rainforests, bustling cities to tiny villages. The key to an unforgettable road trip is putting yourself first and figuring out exactly what you want to see the most.

Z

Zero. That’s how much you should drink before getting behind the wheel. Australia definitely has some fantastic wineries, but you can pick up a bottle or two and wait until you arrive at your accommodation before popping them open.

This Australia road trip planner is not your usual, but we hope it is the most helpful! Where are you heading on your next road trip in Australia?

Categories
Cruises

Carnival Cruise Line Takes Delivery of Mardi Gras – Carnival Cruise Line News

Carnival Cruise Line today took delivery of its highly anticipated new ship, Mardi Gras, in a live virtual signing ceremony at the Meyer Turku Shipyard in Turku, Finland.

When Mardi Gras begins guest operations in April 2021, the 180,000-gross-ton vessel will be the most innovative ship in North America as it will be the first ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), boast a suite of new technology, and BOLT, the first-ever roller coaster at sea.

The ship’s venues, dining and entertainment will be dispersed throughout six distinctive zones, and include a new restaurant by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, the line’s first-ever Big Chicken by Shaquille O’Neal, two dining venues led by Food Network star Guy Fieri, and a new restaurant concept by master chef Rudi Sodamin.  The centerpiece of the ship is a breathtaking three-deck-high atrium with floor-to-ceiling windows and movable LED screens that open up to a stunning ocean view.

Mardi Gras will accommodate more than 5,200 guests and a crew of 2,000.  Guests will have the choice of more than 2,600 staterooms and 180 suites across 11 categories.

“We have been working tirelessly this year to get to this exciting day to take delivery of this beautiful ship, and the team at Meyer Turku has been an outstanding partner throughout this process,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.  “I cannot wait for our guests and crew to see and experience Mardi Gras.  Notwithstanding the delays related to the pandemic, there is tremendous enthusiasm and pent-up demand for this ship.  Next we will work on the development of her sister ship, Carnival Celebration, which arrives in 2022 and has sold very well since inventory opened in October.”

“We are delivering a beautiful and highly advanced ship with world-class technology such as LNG propulsion, to name just one. With these sophisticated systems, she will be one of the most environmentally friendly ships to sail the North American waters. I am very proud of our team of shipbuilders and would like to thank everyone involved of their dedication during the building process”, CEO of Meyer Turku, Tim Meyer, states.

Duffy said Mardi Gras will depart from Turku later this month to begin her voyage to North America.  The ship will operate seven-day Caribbean itineraries from Port Canaveral, Fla., and Carnival has worked closely Port Canaveral to build a new cruise terminal to accommodate the Excel-class ship and also facilitate the new LNG fueling process.  The inaugural voyage for Mardi Gras is scheduled for April 24, 2021.

###

Mardi Gras facts:

Gross tonnage: 180,000

Guests: 5200+

Staterooms:  2600+

Length: 340 m/1115 ft.

Beam: 42m/138 ft.

Decks: 19

Crew: 2,000

Categories
Cruises

Honeymoon Cruise Planning Tips | How to Plan a Honeymoon

Your honeymoon marks you and your spouse’s new life together. No other vacation will be your honeymoon, so it’s worth making it special. If you experienced a lot of stress planning your wedding, your honeymoon is also a chance to relax, recharge and reflect on your marriage. Most importantly, psychologists believe your honeymoon helps you create a positive mindset to start your marriage off on the right foot. 

Table of contents

If you’re thinking about traveling for your honeymoon, a cruise can help you accomplish everything you dream of doing on your romantic getaway and even go beyond your expectations. In this post, we’ll show you how to plan an unforgettable honeymoon cruise and provide tips along the way.

Why Take a Cruise for Your Honeymoon?

Imagine waking up next to your spouse in a plush bed with the glittering sea outside your window. You then enjoy a satisfying breakfast in the privacy of your stateroom before exploring a port like Venice or Dubrovnik. After wandering around an ancient city, you spend your evening enjoying live music, sipping champagne and recollecting your day’s events with your spouse. The next day, you’ll be somewhere completely different and equally fascinating. This is what a honeymoon cruise looks like.

A cruise offers unique advantages that set it apart from other vacations, such as:

  • Zero stress: Getting married typically involves a range of emotions, including stress. You and your fiancé will likely appreciate a breather after your wedding, and a cruise is a perfect way to unwind. While you’re on board, there’s zero pressure to do or be anything. You can spend entire days relaxing by the pool if you want. Or, if adventure relieves stress for you, you’ll have plenty of exciting activities to choose from. You can spend your time together however you want when you cruise.
  • Less planning: If you’re in the middle of shopping for bridal attire, sending out invitations and establishing your wedding-day menu, the last thing you probably want to do is plan a vacation. Taking a cruise requires very little planning compared to other types of journeys. You won’t have to figure out what you’ll eat, where you’ll stay or how you’ll get from one city to the next. Instead, you can save your energy for enjoying your getaway with your new spouse.
  • Multiple destinations: Are your and your soon-to-be struggling to decide between a beach vacation or a trip to a romantic city? If you take a cruise, you can enjoy a range of destinations in a single journey, including pristine beaches and scenic towns. For example, on a cruise of Italy, you might spend one day soaking up the sun in Sorrento and the next day sipping lemon spritz in Amalfi. Depending on your itinerary and the length of your journey, you might visit seven or eight different destinations on your cruise. And you only have to pack once. 
  • Amazing food: If wedding-day stress stifled your appetite, you might want to indulge a little after the big event.One of the best parts of cruising is having easy access to world-class cuisine every single day. With Windstar Cruises, for example, you can expect dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients, allowing you to taste the region’s flavors. You can also pick any restaurant onboard, whether that be dining in the refreshing, salty air or inside a stylish venue.
  • Unique excursions: No matter where you go on your cruise, you’ll have opportunities to partake in unique, culturally immersive excursions. Your onshore experiences will help you create new memories and strengthen the bond you share with your significant other.
  • Outstanding service 24/7: The moment you and your spouse step aboard your cruise ship, you can expect exceptional service. Cruise ship staff will go out of their way to make you feel pampered, and you can enjoy this level of service 24 hours a day during your journey.
  • Easy payment: Cruising allows you to pay for most of your expenses upfront so that you can leave money worries behind as you cruise. Cruises typically include your room, meals, entertainment and most non-alcoholic beverages. Therefore, you’ll mostly need to plan how you’ll spend money at each port, such as on souvenirs or snacks. 
  • Effortless romance: Cruises are timelessly romantic. As you sail, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking scenery and opportunities to connect with your partner. For example, you can watch the sunset from your balcony as you share a bottle of wine or have an elegant meal under the stars. If you want to celebrate your love and marriage, a cruise makes it easy.

5 Steps to Planning a Honeymoon Cruise

Overall, planning a honeymoon cruise is pretty simple. It mostly entails figuring out where you want to go and for how long. Still, it’s worth carefully choosing your itinerary with your partner. The more you plan before your cruise, the easier it will be to relax completely when you set sail. 

Not in the mood for planning? You can still take an unforgettable honeymoon cruise. At Windstar Cruises, our Vacation Planners are ready to map out every detail for you. To get started, all you have to do is call.

If you’re excited to explore your options, here are steps and tips for planning a honeymoon cruise:

1. Pick Your Destination

Choosing your destination is a big part of the excitement. Sit down with your loved one and ask yourselves where you would most like to go in the world. Where have you always dreamed of going? You might use your honeymoon to visit destinations that have been sitting at the top of your bucket list for too long. 

If you both feel torn between Tahitian bungalows and Venetian gondolas, consider these factors to aid your decision:

  • The month and weather: First, think about the time of year you plan to take your honeymoon, and then consider what the weather will be like in different destinations. For example, if you’re getting married in the summer and plan to take your honeymoon shortly after the wedding, think about destinations that are ideal for visiting in the summer, like Alaska. If you are honeymooning during the winter, the Caribbean can warm your toes and hearts.
  • The departure port: Depending on your budget and time constraints, you might let the departure port influence your decision. For example, if you want to depart from the United States, you can cruise to Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica from Miami. On the other hand, if you’re going to make your departure city part of your honeymoon, you may be excited to spend some time in Barcelona before you board your Mediterranean cruise.
  • Your interests and goals: What do you and your fiancé want most out of your honeymoon? For example, do you want the experience to be relaxing above all else? If so, consider a laid-back destination, like Tahiti. If you’re craving adventure, a cruise to Alaska will create lifelong memories. Also, consider what interests you both. If you both love history, cruising to various European ports will leave your hearts content. If you and your partner can’t wait to get lost in natural beauty, you might prefer a cruise to Iceland or Australia for your honeymoon. Lastly, If you consider yourselves foodies, think about visiting Asia on your cruise.

Overall, choosing your honeymoon destination depends on what’s most important to you as a couple and how you’d like to spend time together.

Choose the Date

2. Choose the Date

If you wish to take your honeymoon cruise immediately after you get married, your wedding date will help you set your cruise date. Some couples prefer to wait a few days, weeks or even months to take their honeymoon. Either way, here are a few things to think about before you select a date for your honeymoon cruise:

  • Off-season or peak season: Do you and your sweetheart prefer to avoid crowds when you travel? If so, consider cruising during the off-season or shoulder season. Off-season generally occurs during the winter months, except for in the Caribbean, and shoulder season occurs in the spring and fall. You can expect fewer tourists outside of the summer months, which means you’ll have more room for romance. However, if longer days and sunny weather are most important to you, it may be worth traveling during the summer. Off-season and peak season vary depending on where you’re going, so it’s worth researching your destination a little before you book.
  • Duration: How much time can you and your partner spend on your honeymoon? Cruises might range from six days to over a month, so you’ll have plenty of options regarding duration. Make sure you have enough time to take off from work or break away from obligations, so you and your spouse can enjoy yourselves and not feel rushed.
  • Departure port: If you’re flying to the departure city, try to arrive a day early so you won’t have to hurry to get on board. You might even make the departure port part of your honeymoon. At Windstar Cruises, we make it easy to plan your pre- or post-cruise experience by selecting premium hotels and figuring out all the transportation details for you. 

3. Select Your Accommodations

Before you take a cruise, you get to select the type of accommodation you want. As you decide, consider the room’s size, its amenities, the location and your budget. Most cruise ships have regular staterooms, which are usually the smallest cabins available and may or may not have a window, porthole or balcony. Suites, which are the largest cabins available, typically have windows or a balcony.

At Windstar Cruises, every stateroom has an ocean view and elegant details to enhance the romance, such as fresh fruit and flowers. However, our suites offer more space and natural light, which can make your honeymoon feel extra-special.

If you’re looking for an area to splurge on your honeymoon cruise, consider booking a spacious suite with a breathtaking view. It’s also worth choosing a room with a balcony, so you and your other half can revel in the spectacular scenery — comfortably and privately.

Book Shore Excursions

4. Book Shore Excursions

Shore excursions are activities you can enjoy at each port. Your cruise line curates and organizes shore excursions for you, and all you have to do is browse what’s available and reserve your spot. Shore excursions are not typically included in your cruise fare, so you’ll also need to pay for them separately.

Shore excursions are an excellent way to immerse yourself in the local culture and experience your destination’s natural beauty. They vary greatly depending on where you go and might include everything from winery tours to snorkeling with stingrays. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right excursions for your honeymoon cruise:

  • Consider what’s most important to you both: Are you and your partner both history buffs? If so, it probably makes more sense to book a tour of ancient ruins when you’re in Greece rather than spend the day sunbathing on the deck. However, if you and your other half seek out nature wherever you go, you might skip the history tour so you can hike with a local guide. Consider what experiences are most important to you both so you can choose your excursions wisely.
  • Carefully read the descriptions: Take your time reading the description of each excursion and consider how much time each part of the tour takes, what it involves and if you can handle the activity comfortably.
  • Ask for assistance: If you have any questions about shore excursions, don’t be afraid to reach out to the cruise line and ask before you book. Your cruise’s travel advisors can give you more details about an excursion and help you decide if it’s worth your time.

Most travelers recommend avoiding overbooking excursions and leaving some days open to explore freely. This will give you and your spouse time to relax and savor your honeymoon, which might be just what you need. Aim to find the right balance between excursion days and relaxation days, so you can return from your honeymoon feeling refreshed.

5. Add Extras

Some extras are worth adding to your honeymoon cruise. After all, it’s your honeymoon — you both deserve to treat yourselves. One item to consider is an exclusive beverage package. With an exclusive beverage package, you and your spouse can celebrate carefreely and not have to worry about beverage costs adding up. This means you won’t have to think twice about wine pairings at dinner or drinking champagne as you gaze at the stars. Other extras can make your cruise ultra-relaxing, such as:

  • Spa time: If you want to start your honeymoon right, plan to head to the spa first. A couple’s massage in the ship’s spa will help you transition from wedding-day stress to marital bliss and make all of your tension melt away.
  • Gift packages: Treat yourselves to an indulgent gift package to set a romantic tone. For example, if you sail with Windstar Cruises, you might choose our Honeymooners Romantic Bon Voyage package, which includes champagne, chocolate-dipped strawberries and breakfast in bed. Our Pure Pampering package is another excellent option for newlyweds and comes with roses, champagne, chocolate-dipped strawberries, two aromatherapy massages and other romantic touches.
  • Laundry service: Chances are that you won’t want to think about doing laundry during your honeymoon. If you want to pack as light as possible and reduce traveling stress even more, consider adding laundry services to your cruise. At Windstar Cruises, you can select our Personal Laundry Service Package or our All-In Package. Our All-In package combines laundry service with our Captain’s Exclusive Beverage Package plus other perks for one price per day.

Love Your Honeymoon With Windstar Cruises

Taking a cruise for your honeymoon is a way to have new experiences and create special memories with minimal travel-related stress. After months of planning your wedding, you and your soon-to-be spouse will likely appreciate a chance to decompress as you sail to breathtaking destinations. At Windstar Cruises, we’ll ensure you both feel pampered throughout your entire honeymoon aboard our ship.

Windstar Cruises is the ideal cruise line for couples who want a stress-free, intimate honeymoon. We strike the right balance between relaxation and adventure, taking our guests to must-see destinations around the globe. Our small, uncrowded ships hold roughly 300 guests, so you and your loved one can savor the tranquility of being at sea. To start planning your honeymoon cruise, browse our itineraries or contact a Vacation Planner today.

Categories
Australia

Ojika Island – a unique island stay experience in Japan

Thinking about getting off the beaten path in Japan? Somewhere you might not have considered yet is Ojika Island or Ojikajima in Japanese. It’s a remote island getaway where you’ll find turquoise waters and stunning beaches but there is so much more to discover here.

Sunrise Ojita Island Todd Fong

This article is in collaboration with Ojika Town and Voyapon, more information on Ojika can be found on their website. Photo’s of Ojika in this article were taken by Todd Fong.

Where is Ojika Island?

Ojika is an island off the coast of Nagasaki on the southern island of Kyushu. It’s located a little north of the Goto Islands and part of the Saikai National Park. The park is a marine paradise made up of 400 small volcanic islands with stunning landscapes and abundant sea life in the East China Sea.

How do you get to Ojika Island?

You can reach Ojika Island by ferry or speed boat from Kyushu Island. The trip takes 90 minutes by speed boat from Sasebo or 3 hours by ferry.

Another option is the 5-hour ferry directly from Fukuoka. You can get to Fukuoka by bullet train from across Japan arriving into Hakata station then taking the bus or taxi around 4 km to the port.

Cycling around Ojika Island

You can hire a car on Ojika Island as long as you hold an international drivers permit but for those who like a bit more activity and adventure in your travel then renting a bicycle for a few days is the way to go.

The island is around 25 km2 and according to the Tourism Office who rent the bikes on the island, you could cycle right around in a day. This is a laid back place, the roads and laneways are narrow and quiet making it ideal for those who want to see the sights at a relaxed pace. To give you a bit of perspective there are only 2 traffic lights on the whole island.

Road on Ojita Island
This gorgeous tree tunnel is at it’s best just after sunrise as the warm morning light filters through. You’ll find it at the top of a hill near the centre of the island.

If you are at all concerned about navigating the undulating hills by pedal power alone, then consider hiring one of the electric cycles from the Tourism Office. Try to pick up the walking and cycling map while you are here, it marks the key sites and shows where facilities like bathrooms are available near the various attractions.

Map of sites on and around Ojika Island

A paper map will help you once you arrive but I’ve marked the main sites on a Google map for planning purposes. It will help you get a feel for the layout.

A unique food experience

Ojika Island a model for the locavore food movement with abundant farmland, ocean and community spirit. It has a history and culture that dates back thousands of years and at the same time is embracing small scale tourism and welcoming visitors to experience their culture and way of life.

It might be a small island but don’t rush to any conclusions, Fujimatsu Restaurant was recently mentioned in the regions Michelin Guide. It specialises in fresh local ingredients selected daily by the chef and the centrepiece will always be the seafood.

Dinner at Fujimatsu restaurant

There are two sushi restaurants on the island, Sushi Heiroku is located across from the Ojika Fishing Cooperative so they always have a good selection of local favourites like uni (sea urchin) when it’s in season, delicate white fish, tuna and squid but they also offer more familiar options such as salmon which aren’t caught locally.

If you are out sightseeing for the day you might want to watch out for the local food truck called Flourjams. It moves around the island but the Tourism Office should be able to tell you where it’s parking while you are there. They serve more international fusion-style dishes like Taco and Cuban rice with sides of salads but their sandwiches made with bread from the local Ojika bakery are pretty popular too. Eat your choice at the tables near the truck or take it with you and cycle to a scenic spot nearby to enjoy it.

You might also have the option to join your hosts for a meal at your accommodation on the island or cook food that you caught or purchased during the day.

Things to do on Ojika Island

Slow down and explore

One of the main reason for seeking out destinations off the beaten path are to slow down to relax, interact with the locals and take in the sights. To do this walking or cycling are perfect. A cycle lets you cover more ground and at the same time you can pull off and ‘park’ almost anywhere.

Path beside rice paddy

Wander through narrow laneways in the old town, cycle beside rice paddies and find a beach all to yourself.

Watch the sunrise

Sunrise is one of the most peaceful times of the day and watching it come up over the water with the sound of the waves lapping on the shore is hard to beat. If you get up early you can cycle from town to one of the nearby beaches to enjoy the early morning colour in the sky.

Fish with the locals

The islands self-sufficient food culture is heavily dependent on the bounty of the ocean and many of the locals fish. Some of the accommodation options offer the chance to try this out for yourself and your catch is then prepared as part of the evening meal.

Fishing on Ojika Island

A popular catch is horse mackerel called aji in Japanese, it can be prepared simply and served raw as sashimi or coated in panko crumb and pan-fried. It’s caught on a line with multiple little hooks attached and a small basket at the bottom where you load the bait. The bait floats up around the hooks attracting the fish nearby.

Head to the beach

You are on an island so you’ll definitely want to head to the beach at some point. The most popular is Kakinohama Beach which is generally a calm and sheltered swimming beach for families. There are facilities here including changing rooms, toilets and wooden decks to sit on. You can snorkel out to a coral reef from the beach and it’s where you can rent watersports equipment in summer.

Beaches on Ojika Island

Not far from Kakinohoma Beach at the base of Goryo Cliff is another small beach. It’s surrounded by lava rock and can completely disappear during high tide but has the same stunning green and blue hues in the water. The beach is less sheltered here so it can be a bit rougher and is less popular with the locals so it can be a very peaceful option.

Another beach you will want to visit for its dramatic cliffs that drop to the ocean below is Akahama Beach. The colours in the sand vary depending on weather conditions and whether or not the sand is wet, so sometimes it appears brilliantly red and other times more like a muddy reddish-brown. The sand texture is different too, it’s coarser than the other island beaches, less ground down by the sea.

Take a sunset tour

You can head out on your own to the various vantage points or take a tour offered by some of the accommodation hosts on the island.

Many spots with a westerly aspect will be a good choice for viewing the sunset particularly if they look out over the water and have a wide horizon. Madara Island is the most popular spot but on a small island like Ojika, there are many other spots that also offer good westerly water views.

Head over to Madara Island

Madara is an island even smaller that Ojika that is just off the west coast, so close that it is connected by a bridge so you can drive or cycle across. Being to the west this is the best sunset spot and we’ve marked on the map above one of the best vantage points to view it from.

The pothole

Another site seeing spot to include while you are over on Madara is ‘the Pothole’ or Giants Cauldron. This hole in the rock is a natural coastal phenomenon carved out by erosion over 1000’s of years. The location has had significance to locals for a long time signified by the old white torii gate that stands just beyond it but do be careful out here when the weather is rough, it can be dangerous.

Take a trip to Nozaki Island

Also part of the Ojika group and only a 30-minute boat trip from the port is the small island of Nozaki. There is a local ferry called Hamayu that makes 2 return trips over to the island daily as long as the weather permits. You’ll need to take food and water across with you and be prepared to hike around the island.

Today Nozaki island has been reclaimed by the forest and is home to wild deer, boars and many birds.

Where to stay on Ojika Island

Ojika offers a range of accommodation but if it’s in your budget the best way to really experience the island is to stay in a renovated kominka. These are large traditional homes on the island that have been restored and renovated.

One example is Ichiean. You’ll recognise the traditional elements of the design as soon as you enter. The tatami matting on the floor, sliding wooden doors, paper screens and the tokonoma similar to what you might see in a tea room is decorated with scrolls, flowers and beautiful utensils. The garden beyond the windows is an extension of the room when the wide doors are open.

Ichiean guesthouse

A counterbalance to the beautifully restored traditions is a large television, a fully-equipped electric kitchen and a modern western bathroom. You can pick up local ingredients during the day and prepare your own fresh meal here in the evening.

Ichiean guesthouse

Another kominka is Yanoya. The long restoration of this one was done by the Hasegawa’s using traditional materials and techniques. The couple now runs the property as 3 private guest rooms where meals are shared together.

The Hasegawa’s speak a little English so it’s an opportunity to interact with locals in a relaxed atmosphere or head out with them to learn the local way of fishing.

Who would enjoy a stay out here?

Ojika Island is going to really appeal to those who enjoy slow travel, who like to immerse themselves in a place, explore slowly and interact with the locals. If rugged scenery, nature, serenity and fresh delicious food appeal then you’ll want to consider Ojika Island.

Japans history and culture is fascinating and you will find more than you expected out here. Artifacts have been recovered on the island that date back over 10,000 years of civilisation and Shinto Shrines such as Kojima have a history of over 1300 years.

If you found this useful please consider saving it to Pinterest. It makes it easy to find again, it helps us, and it helps other travellers to find the information they need.

Categories
Cruises

Iconic Cruise Ship Marco Polo To Be Scrapped

One of the oldest cruise ships in the world has been designated to be scrapped. A storied history of more than 55 years sailing the world’s oceans comes to a sad end as the former Cruise and Maritime Voyages liner MS Marco Polo sets a course to the shipbreaking yard in Alang, India.

A fan favorite, Cruise and Maritime Voyages catered mostly for the UK market, focusing on an older, mature crowd that enjoyed indulging in the classic cruise setup. While the line had a steady client base for many years, it was to be one of the first victims in the cruise industry to succumb to the pandemic’s effects.

Unexpected End Of Operations

Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ demise was not something that many would have seen coming just over twelve months ago. As a cruise line with a steady base of fans and growing steadily over the years, December 2019 saw the purchase of two new vessels.

P&O Australia’s Pacific Dawn and Pacific Aria were both bought. Still, they never entered service, as March 2019 saw a cease of operations. Subsequently, in June of last year, reports surfaced that the company could not repatriate crew members, pay salaries, and pay bills. The company went into administration on July 20, 2020, and cruise ships went up for auction.

MS Marco Polo was sold at auction in October 2020 as part of CMV’s administration phase for only US $2,770,000. As recently as November 2020, there was still hope for the 55-year old vessel as she was offered for charter by Offshore Solutions Unlimited. She has now been taken off the website, and according to Cruise & Harbour News, has been designated to be scrapped.

All of CMV’s vessels were sold at auction in October. As Cruise Hive reported on November 24, 2020, MV Astor has already been beached at the Aliaga ship breaking facility in Turkey. Pacific Dawn, which was designated to be a ‘cryptocurrency’ ship called Satoshi, is currently at anchor outside Colon, Panama, but will also be scrapped eventually unless a buyer is found soon.

Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock.com

As for the other CMV vessels, Magellan, Columbus, and the Pacific Aria have been sold to Seajets in Greece. Astoria has been returned to the Portuguese bank that owns her, and Mystic Invest, a relatively new cruise operator from Portugal, has bought the Vasco Da Gama.

55-Years Of Sailing The Seven Seas

These days, very few ships can say they have sailed with passengers for more than half a century. Built-in East Germany for the Baltic State Shipping Company, the 19.860 gross ton and 176 meters long MS Marco Polo was first and foremost an Ocean Liner that sailed on the Leningrad- Montreal route.

Not until 1990, when the vessel was laid up for three years, the ship was rebuilt entirely as a cruise liner for now-defunct cruise line Orient Lines, here MS Marco Polo sailed until 2008. After that, the vessel sailed for Transocean Tours, the German subsidiary of Cruise and Maritime Voyages, and later CMV.

Also Read: Which Cruise Ships are Being Scrapped or Sold Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

MS Marco Polo is currently sailing on a course to the yard with a reported arrival date of January 9, 2021, making this iconic 55-year old Ocean Liner another in a long line of ships that fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo Credit: Nieuwland Photography / Shutterstock.com

Marco Polo Cruise Ship
Categories
Australia

Head to Seal Rocks this summer

Seal Rocks is a small, lesser known surf town on the New South Wales coastline, and it’s one of the best kept secrets in the state.

With a spectacular curved and golden beach, with unspoilt surfing spots and postcard-worthy views, Seal Rocks is similar in many ways to Byron Bay – only without the crowds and countless Instagram influencers.

Why visit Seal Rocks, NSW?

Seal Rocks is a glimpse of Australia without the huge crowds or endless Starbucks on every corner.

It is truly a small holiday village, with nothing but a collection of cottages dotted around the area, and the picturesque Seal Rocks Lighthouse on the point.

It’s the place to go to not just escape your inbox, but forget about it completely. Days at Seal Rocks are spent chasing the best waves, exploring new walking tracks, and relaxing on the flawless sands of the beach.

Seal Rocks accommodation

As Seal Rocks is as yet largely undeveloped, there isn’t much in the way of official accommodation.

Seal Rocks camping is your best bet for affordable accommodation near the beach. There is a Seal Rocks campground called Treachery Camp Seal Rocks, and another called Reflections Holiday Parks Seal Rocks. Slightly farther away is the Yagon Campground.

There are also a number of cottages by the lighthouse that offer a more modern accommodation option. These cottages offer a spectacular view over the beach, and a comfortable living environment, although they do cost a lot more than a camping spot.

Otherwise, motels, Airbnbs, and campsites are available roughly 20 minutes away at Smiths Lake, or 30 minutes away at Blueys Beach.

Seal Rocks surfing

The majority of visitors to Seal Rocks make the trip purely for the surfing.

Surfing at Seal Rocks is suited for riders of all levels. With a sandy bottom, right and left waves, and a regular frequency, it’s something of a sure thing any day of the week. It can get a little more crowded over the weekend, and weekdays are typically quite empty.

For beginners, the Waves Surf Camp just down the road is the perfect introduction to surfing, and making the most of the local area.

Just be sure to check the Seal Rocks surf report before heading out so you’re aware of the conditions.

Getting to Seal Rocks

Seal Rocks is roughly 3.5 hours north of Sydney, making it an ideal getaway for a long weekend. It’s a simple route following the M1 and A1 north before turning off to the right at Myall Lakes National Park.

It’s only 2.5 hours from the Central Coast, and close enough for day trips from Newcastle at less than two hours away. Port Macquarie is equally close, at just two hours north of Seal Rocks.

Thinking of planning your escape to Seal Rocks? Book your car rental with Thrifty, pack a tent and a surfboard and get ready to hit the waves and relax on the beach at one of the last untouched places on the New South Wales coastline.

Categories
Cruises

When Each Cruise Line is Scheduled to Resume Cruises in 2021

It’s been almost 10 months since cruise lines have had cruise ships depart from U.S. ports for cruises to the Caribbean and Bahamas. When will cruises resume is the million dollar question for 2021.

Cruise lines are working with the CDC on a safe path towards resuming cruises.  While many were hoping to start back up in late 2020, all cruises have been canceled through the end of February 2021.

Here is an updated schedule for each cruise line and when they plan on resuming cruises from U.S. ports. It is important to note that this schedule can and will likely change due to the fluid health pandemic.

Azamara – March 21
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line – No date given
Carnival Cruise Line – March 1
Celebrity Cruises – March 1
Cunard Line – May 17
Disney Cruise Line – April 2
Holland America Line – April 1
MSC Cruises – March 4
Norwegian Cruise Line – April 2
Oceania Cruises – April 1
Princess Cruises – April 1
Regent Seven Seas Cruises – April 1
Royal Caribbean – March 1
Seabourn – April 1
Silversea Cruises – April 2
Viking Ocean and River – April 1
Virgin Voyages – May 9

When cruise lines do resume service, it will be on select cruise ships and not all at once.  They will sail at reduced capacity and from homeports in Florida.

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A handful of cruise lines have resumed sailings on a couple cruise ships in the Mediterranean and out of Singapore.

Cruise lines will be able to resume sailings out of U.S. ports when they receive approval from the CDC.