Feel like royalty on this luxury barge that offers private tours down the River Thames

European Waterways’ Magna Carta hotel barge, which cruises Britain’s River Thames, takes guests on daily, sometimes private tours to some of the opulent royal residences that feature prominently in the UK’s celebration of the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.

Along the way, they cruise in utmost comfort, dine on gastronomic meals prepared by their personal chef, drink the finest regional wines, and enjoy views of castles, lavish estates, and the rural beauty of the English countryside that are fit for dignitaries.

With cabins on the Magna Carta quickly selling out for the 2022 season, travellers can still book 2023 and beyond at current prices, which start at $5,190 per person, based on double occupancy. Whole-boat charters start at $38,200 and allow guests to indulge in interests such as antiquing, golf and tennis, as well as family activities.

Magna Carta’s interior.

Palaces and Castles

Among the numerous excursions on Magna Carta’s itinerary is a private tour of Hampton Court Palace. Guests visit some of Henry VIII’s apartments and the Palace’s haunted gallery, where rumor has it that his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, ran screaming to confront Henry VIII when she found that he had discovered her affair. Guests will visit the original Tudor kitchens, which are complete with a hearth that is still used to demonstrate how meat was cooked on a spit. They will also tour the wood-beamed Great Hall that dates to the sixteenth century, as well as the elegant, manicured grounds of the East-facing Privy Garden.

 Magna Carta guests can also enjoy a cruise to Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite residence. Built by William the Conqueror more than 900 years ago, it is the largest castle in the world that is still inhabited today.  Guests will be treated to a “Behind the Scenes” tour of the College of St. George and visit St. Georges Chapel, where the Royal Wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was held. They will also enjoy breathtaking views of the 2.5 mile Long Walk which leads to the Castle. 

Windsor Castle

Depending on the itinerary, Magna Carta can also provide guests with a private tour of Dorney Court. This Tudor manor house has been owned by the Palmer family for more than 450 years. It has served as a filming location for well-known titles like “Poirot” and “The Other Boleyn Girl.”
 
The Magna Carta’s classic cruise includes an excursion to Cliveden Estate, which once belonged to George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and a favorite of Charles II’s court. Cliveden was later also home to the American Astor family, during which it became a destination for high society, entertaining Prime Ministers like David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.
 
“An all-inclusive European Waterways hotel barge cruise is the perfect way to celebrate your own jubilee or any other special occasion – or just to spend a week of pampering, gentle touring, and relaxation,” said Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways.  “Regardless of the cruise region you chose, you will always get the royal treatment!”
 

These are 5 of the best courses in the U.S. to play a round of golf

At long last, Canadians are back on the green. For those looking for a change of scenery, the U.S. is home to some of the best award-winning courses. These top golf destinations offer an ideal mix of pure golf, relaxation, and memorable dining experiences. With so many golf resorts to choose from, we rounded up some the of best that offer luxurious amenities, quality courses, and a variety of destinations.

Cape Cod

Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club

 

Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club is a golfer’s paradise. As Cape Cod’s only Nicklaus Design golf course, the 18-hole Troon Privé course is carved out of breathtaking natural surroundings, offering tree-lined fairways, rolling topography, and dramatic elevation changes for players of all levels. With a mix of harrowing approaches and dizzying doglegs, the course features 7,011 yards of golf with a par of 72. Golfers of any level are invited to enjoy the property’s Stay & Play golf package, which includes complimentary rentals, bag storage, and unlimited same-day play. Green rates and room rates vary by season.

North Carolina

Pinehurst & The Sandhills
 

It’s said the Pinehurst area is the “Home of American Golf.” This resort is spread over an entire quaint village, it was the very first golf resort in the U.S, and is now the largest in the Western hemisphere, with a stunning nine eighteen-hole courses – and a new short course. Often called “America’s St. Andrews,” there is simply no place on earth, public or private, other than Scotland’s St. Andrews, that can lay claim to so much golf history. Its signature Number Two course is the only one on earth that has hosted two different Men’s Majors and the Ryder Cup, as well as Women’s Majors, the U.S. Amateur, the Tour Championship and basically every important event that ever changes venues – the U.S. Open is returning yet again in 2024.

One hotel was completely rebuilt, new restaurants and even a brewery were added, along with many other improvements. But for years the best kept secret here has been the Carolina Villas, freestanding units perfectly designed for a foursome (foursomes with spouses/partners) with eight beds in four bedrooms, all with private bath and separate entrances, plus a large central living area, immediately next to the flagship Carolina hotel with immediate access to all services.

 

Arizona

Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort
 
Settle into the comforts of home amid plush suites and amenities coupled with breathtaking mountain views of the Phoenix North Mountain Preserve. Enjoy a variety of dining options, The Falls Water Village with private cabanas and a waterslide, spa & salon services, Troon Golf and impressive event spaces. Conveniently located to all freeways, only 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix and 20 minutes from Sky Harbor International Airport and many other enticing attractions, Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort is the perfect place to choose as your home-away-from-home.
 

Missouri

 

Missouri Big Cedar Lodge 

 

Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozarks of Missouri (just outside Branson) is a spectacular outdoor sporting resort already had plenty of deluxe log cabins with large porches, luxury bathrooms and full kitchens, but in recent years has quietly grown to become one of the 20 largest golf resorts in North America by adding course after course by top designers including Coore & Crenshaw, Fazio, Nicklaus and most recently (this month), the only public course in the country designed by Tiger Woods.

The resort features a collection of lodges, cottages and cabins offering the perfect place to relax with family and friends after a day on the lake. Big Cedar is home to numerous world-class restaurants and attractions like a breathtaking spa, championship golf, an expansive shooting facility and a 50,000-square-foot activity center. Whether you are looking for an adventurous outing or a relaxing retreat, Big Cedar Lodge is your perfect getaway.

 

Puerto Rico

 
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort


Calling all golf aficionados: if playing fantastic courses on an island paradise surrounded by stunning beaches and lush mountain views is on your bucket list, then your next round should be in Puerto Rico. 

A cornucopia of unique and complementary courses beckon from throughout the Island. Options abound, from luxury properties on the north coast near historic San Juan to an array of courses out west, down south, or on the east coast.

The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort is the idyllic retreat for any occasion, whether you yearn for a Caribbean golf getaway, crave an oceanfront escape, or you and the one you love need a little time under the sun and stars, there’s no place like Puerto Rico.

Finding the real Fiji

The founding values behind Bula Coffee — a coffee production company in Fiji — extend far beyond providing a good cup of morning joe. As Luke Fryett, whose job title cleverly reads ‘Man on the Ground,’ explains, while giving the world a great shot of coffee, Bula Coffee is “all about giving Fijians a better shot at life.”

 

What started out over a decade ago as a small enterprise working with one family in one village in Fiji has since expanded across 38 villages to buying coffee off of 5,000 people annually — a significant number of Fijians who now have additional sources of revenue.   

“It’s more than money — we exist to give people a hand up — to give people a better shot at life,” he said. “To give people access to education, to give them financial independence. Money matters, but it’s more than money. We are changing lives one cup at a time.”

More recently, Bula Coffee launched the Crop to Cup Coffee Tour, giving travellers “the chance to not only taste Fiji’s wild harvest coffee and see how we process it, but also the chance to become a part of our story, becoming invested in our work and becoming part of the change we are making in Fiji.”

Along with learning about how to get a coffee cherry ready for a morning brew, visitors will be able to learn about how every cup of coffee can make a difference in the local economy. One example of how getting involved in the coffee business has made a positive impact is in a local community where kids would get to their boarding school by floating down the river in a tire — often getting soaked in the process. 

“They used their coffee money to buy every kid in the village a waterproof bag, and a small cooker, so now the older kids can cook for the younger kids, during the week,” he said. “They also built a much better raft with tires all around it secured properly so the kids can keep dry… This is why money matters, but it’s more than money. It’s about empowering communities to keep their kids safe, to keep them dry, to let them have food during the week. Allowing the kids to focus better at school because they aren’t hungry, aren’t worried about their wet clothes. This is why every cup counts.”

With Bula Coffee being one example, Tourism Fiji’s CEO Brent Hill notes that sustainability and supporting the development of meaningful experiences in the destination are two key corporate priorities going forward. 

“We’re very conscious of how tourism actually contributes to local life,” he shared. “I really want people to leave the resorts — you start to really experience what Fiji is all about.” 

Even the national carrier is making efforts when it comes to sustainability. Along with operational efficiency and having meals served in biodegradable containers, Fiji Airways is also offsetting its carbon footprint with the ‘A Tree For Every Take Off’ initiative. The airline has planted 55,000 mangroves to date and is targeting another 50,000 over the course of this year. 

“We’ve been here for 70 years… We want to be able to say we’ve left a legacy as an airline,” said Akuila Batiweti, executive manager, digital and marketing for Fiji Airways. “Fiji is our home.”

For travellers who want to take it one step further, Fiji Airways is set to launch a new day trip in June where customers will be able to go out and help plant mangroves to offset their carbon footprint.

Checking into Nanuku Resort

“Bula Ann” reads the personalized welcome message formed from rocks at the bottom of my private plunge pool after checking in at Nanuku Resort. But Bula, a Fijian greeting meaning hello/welcome, extends beyond the monogrammed pool to the sense of welcome from staff that kicks off upon arrival with a warrior welcome. 

Located on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, Nanuku Resort hones in on the cultural elements that make Fiji a unique destination from Kava ceremonies (a popular drink in the South Pacific not to be confused with cava) to traditional cooking classes and fire walking ceremonies. 

There are a range of memorable accommodation options to choose from, including the modern villas, newly opened in 2019, and the more traditional residences, which are expansive and are undergoing upgrades with new thatched roofing and refreshed interiors. 

The resort runs a daily schedule of activities for guests like yoga sessions with Sisi Nasiga, a former Olympian wellness coach (if you’re lucky you’ll be the only one who registers to get a one-on-one training session on the beach) or hiking excursions to waterfalls. For a day trip to remember, travellers can’t go wrong spending time on Nanuku Island, the lush uninhabited island from where the property gets its name. Those who are so inclined can even opt to camp out for an evening under the stars.

For families: kids are assigned a Bula buddy to help keep them entertained and busy so that parents can truly enjoy some moments of calm during their stay.

While the resort is outstanding on all counts, what really sets it apart is the staff. From touches like having morning cappuccinos served with guest’s names to the team gathering to sing for those who are departing, Nanuku Resort is bound to leave a lasting impression on travellers and will have them wanting to come back.

Photos courtesy of Fiji Tourism, Nanuku Resort and Ann Ruppenstein.

Where to try the art of forest bathing healing in Peru

Forest bathing is a form of ecotherapy that emerged as a term in Japan in the 1980s. The physiological and psychological exercise has two purposes: to offer an eco-antidote to digital burnout and to inspire bathers to reconnect with and protect the country’s forests.

According to Expedia Group’s Sustainable Travel Study, 90% of global travellers (including those from Canada) are looking for more sustainable options when on vacation – and forest bathing is a great option.

To participate in forest bathing, travellers must choose a destination where their purpose is to effortlessly “commune with nature” and avoid external distractions – and the Peruvian jungle is the perfect place for just that.

Here are two locations within Peru ideal for forest bathing:

  1. Pacaya Samiria Reserve: With some of the richest biodiversity on the planet, the reserve offers glimpses of manatees, pink dolphins, monkeys, and a wide variety of birds, mammals, and fish. Visitors can also go canoeing or fish for piranha.

  2. Manu National Park: Established in 1973 and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Manu National Park is home to over 15,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds, 1,300 species of butterflies, and a handful of species so exotic, they haven’t been named yet. The park also contains 14 distinctive ecosystems and can be divided into two sections: the mountains and the lowlands. Nature lovers will be excited by the possibility of seeing jaguars, pumas, tapirs, giant armadillos, a whole host of monkeys, spectacled bears, macaws, Andean condors, caimans, and maybe even anacondas.

To learn more about unique experiences to try in Peru, visit the official tourism website

A stunning luxury hotel on a private island just opened in the Maldives

 Hyatt Hotels just unveiled the opening of Alila Kothaifaru Maldives, a private island retreat located in the picturesque Raa Atoll at the northern edge of the Maldives. The all-pool-villa resort offers a refreshing blend of serenity and discovery in a relatively untouched corner of the archipelago renowned for its abundant marine life.

Housed on a 27.6 acre  (11.2 hectare) island, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives can be reached via a 45-minute seaplane journey from Malé. As one of the deeper atolls in the archipelago, the Raa Atoll offers abundant snorkeling and diving options to discover its rich marine life, from colorful corals to manta rays and sharks. The resort offers easy access to the famous Hanifaru Bay UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and is close to Vaadhoo Island, one of the best spots to witness the spectacular ‘Sea of Stars’ phenomenon. Alila Kothaifaru Maldives features white-sand beaches overlooking the infinite expanse of ocean blue, a stunning house reef and lush greenery.

Alila Kothaifaru Maldives offers 80 pool villas, of which 44 are along the beach and 36 are perched overwater with direct access to the sea. Guests can unwind in these understated, sophisticated spaces that balance privacy with openness to the outdoors. Each villa comes with a private pool and sun deck where guests can bask in picture-perfect views and enjoy personalized service whether they are staying steps from the beach or above the turquoise lagoon. The Sunrise Beach Villas offer early birds captivating views to start their day alongside quick access to the resort’s main facilities such as the infinity pool, Play Alila kids’ club, Seasalt restaurant and Mirus Bar.

The resort’s elegant minimalist architecture by Singapore-based Studiogoto encompasses terraced pavilions, villas and a treetop spa that are carefully integrated into the existing landscape to immerse guests in the picturesque natural surroundings. The low-rise structures and contemporary interiors feature open-air spaces and a calming palette of island-inspired colors and textures, creating an idyllic setting for complete relaxation and connection with nature.

Nestled just above the treetops, Spa Alila features four double treatment suites, all with a private bathroom, shower and a floor-to-ceiling window with verdant views. Guests can indulge in rejuvenating treatments and beauty rituals that put a contemporary spin on ancient healing techniques and draw on the benefits of natural ingredients. Guests can also enjoy a complimentary daily yoga session in a tranquil outdoor space within the spa. The resort also offers a 24-hour fitness center and a beachfront infinity pool.

A wide range of water activities and excursions organized through the expert marine guides at the resort’s Water Sports and Dive Centreare also available while Play Alila, a dedicated play and learning space for young guests will keep them entertained with toys, games and fun, supervised indoor and outdoor activities.

For more information about Alila Kothaifaru Maldives, please visit: alilahotels.com/kothaifaru-maldives.

5 must-have fashion accessories for spring travel

Spring is one of the best times to travel, whether in Canada or abroad. Milder temperatures are perfect for a range of active travel, including hiking, camping, luxury glamping, and more. From now until summer, stay dry (and fashionable) with these top five accessory picks!

Rain Boots

Make a splash this spring with Cougar’s new ankle-high Firenze glossy rain boots. Available in six colours including cute pastels like the Butter Yellow and Cucumber Green, these boots mimic the classic design of a timeless Chelsea boot. Stylish enough for everyday wear, these pull-on rubber-like boots are fully waterproof, and also have a removable moulded foam footbed which allows for extra comfort for more adventurous days. 

$80, cougarshoes.com

Carry-on Luggage

Available in three gorgeous pastel colours (lilac, sea foam green, and blush pink), the Mecca Collection by Bugatti includes three pieces of luggage, each of which is equipped with a zipper-release expansion system to store all you need. The carry-on luggage (H : 18.5 x W : 13.75 x D : 9 + 2 in. ) weighs just 6.2 pounds and features a hard outer shell made of lightweight and resistant ABS and single 360-degree spinner wheels for effortless, smooth and quiet travel.

$149.99, bugatticollections.com 

Crossbody

Made from water-resistant vegan leather, the Edition22 Flap Crossbody is a perfect ally to explore any new city. Designed to be carried over the shoulder or as a crossbody, it offers multiple organizational pockets to store all of your everyday essentials in the right places. Available in black or charcoal grey.

$100, bugatticollections.com

Dry Bag

Adventure travellers will love K&B Sport’s new collection of adventure bags. The Canadian outdoor brand specializes in gear for active travellers. Available in four different styles (5, 10, 15, or 30L), the Bolet (pictured), is made of a lightweight, water-repellant fabric that keeps your belongings dry, weather you’re paddling down the river, hiking through the mountains, or simply exploring on a rainy day. A hook on the bag lets you easily attach the bag to a kayak, canoe or paddle board, while a roll-top closure allows for quick access to contents.

$19.99, www.k-bsport.com 

Socks 

Easily overlooked, a good pair of socks is a must for any frequent outdoor traveller. Darn Tough socks are a brand of socks designed specifically for active travellers. They’re made from a naturally antimicrobial merino wool blend that stands up to multi-day backpacking trips. The lightly cushioned sole provides extra comfort for long walks, without contributing to blisters or swelling. Choose from a variety of fun outdoor-themed prints and colours!

$29.95, www.mec.ca 

Israel has finally dropped mandatory PCR testing for travellers

Israel’s Ministry of Health has confirmed that Israel is dropping its final COVID-19 curbs by removing on-arrival PCR tests.

Under the new guidelines agreed by the Ministry of Health and the Airports Authority, passengers landing at Ben Gurion airport from May 20 will no longer be required to perform a PCR test.

The news was announced via a statement on Israel’s Ministry of Health’s Twitter, which when translated from Hebrew to English, reads as such: “Passengers landing at Ben Gurion Airport starting on May 20, 2002 will no longer be required to perform a PCR test.

The decision was made in light of the decline in morbidity data and at the end of discussions that took place between the professionals in the Ministry of Health and the staff of the Airports Authority.

It was agreed that the professionals would formulate a mechanism for maintaining the suitability of the testing system at Ben Gurion Airport, in order to enable it to be operated quickly, in full or in part when necessary.”

The Tweet is linked here for reference: https://twitter.com/IsraelMOH/status/1523230785893183488

Further to this, the Ministry of Health also confirmed that starting this Tuesday (May 10) foreigners flying to Israel will now be allowed to take an antigen test before boarding the plane instead of a PCR test.

Any passenger who chooses the antigen option will be required to perform the test in the 24 hours prior to their departure to Israel.

The announcements come following the ongoing decline in morbidity data and number of COVID-19 cases and are the latest developments by Israel to ease the entry process since relaxing vaccination entry requirements in February earlier this year.

Israel’s Minister of Tourism Yoel Ravozov tweeted his support of the news stating that he was “glad” that Corona tests for all those entering Israel will be stopped.

Now, until May 20, travellers will still have to pre-book and undergo the original testing protocols upon arrival in Israel. 

Hyatt’s new luxury Inclusive Collection was just announced

Launching the newest collection focused on leisure demand, Hyatt Hotels Corporation has revealed the Inclusive Collection, a new global portfolio of nine distinct luxury all-inclusive resort brands.

Resorts in Hyatt’s Inclusive Collection deliver immersive, elevated and seamless all-inclusive experiences – helping guests and members celebrate the big moments, little moments, and everything in between.

The new Inclusive Collection of luxury all-inclusive resort brands cater to every guest and member’s wish to create more meaningful and rewarding experiences with best-in-class luxury resort brands, including Hyatt Ziva resorts, Hyatt Zilara resorts, Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, Secrets Resorts & Spas, Breathless Resorts & Spas, Dreams Resorts & Spas, Vivid Hotels & Resorts (coming soon), Alua Hotels & Resorts and Sunscape Resorts & Spas.

World of Hyatt members can now enjoy program benefits, including earning and redeeming points at more than 50 must-visit Inclusive Collection resorts in destinations like Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and the Caribbean. Inclusive Collection resorts in Europe are expected to begin participating in the World of Hyatt program soon.

“Inclusive Collection resorts enable guests to experience what it truly means to stay at an all-inclusive with one-of-a kind signature programs like Endless Privileges, Unlimited-Luxury, and Unlimited-Fun with benefits at select resorts, such as no check-in or check-out times, 24-hour room service, top-shelf cocktails, gourmet a la carte dining without reservations required and endless activities throughout the day and night,” said Erica Doyne, senior vice president of marketing & communications, AMResorts. “From spa treatments and locally inspired cuisine to rich cultural experiences that immerse travelers in the traditions of their destination, the Inclusive Collection brings one of the world’s largest portfolios of luxury all-inclusive resorts to travelers so they can connect with those that matter most and turn moments into lifetime memories.”

Whether looking for quality family time or an extra measure of romance at a breathtaking location, the Inclusive Collection offers something for everyone, catering to all types of travellers, lifestyles, and stages of life, including:

  • Tucked between the Caribbean Sea and nearby mountain peaks in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall offers an exclusive adults-only escape with boundless luxury. The Jamaican paradise features rooms with spectacular views, a personal butler service and swim-up suites which provide exclusive access to a private pool. 
  • With 57 stunning suites and rooms, Zoëtry Casa del Mar Los Cabos is an intimate, oceanfront sanctuary inspired by Spanish-colonial hacienda architecture. The resort features a private beach club, an exquisite array of authentic cuisines prepared with local farm and area ingredients, wine cellar for private dining, daily afternoon teatime with live plant infusions and complimentary 20-minute wellness experience.
  • Recently opened, the luxurious Secrets Moxché Playa del Carmen is an all-suite resort nestled in a tropical oasis on the Caribbean Sea coastline, just minutes from Playa Del Carmen’s famed Fifth Avenue. Immersed in an earthy, contemporary design, and offering the brand’s signature vacation concept, Unlimited-Luxury, the resort features three man-made cenotes, seven shimmering pools, powdery white sand beaches, a rooftop wedding venue, 11 gourmet dining options, eight bars/lounges and world-class Secrets Spa by Pevonia. 
  • The eco-friendly, all-suite family resort Dreams Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort offers amazing views of the ocean and mountains, and was designed by famous architect, Sordo Madaleno. It offers Unlimited-Luxury inclusions, surf lessons, unique observation areas including the Sun Deck with private lounge chairs and hammocks, a Moon Deck with five fire pits and a wedding gazebo, and shared space with the adjacent Secrets Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort for flexible multigenerational travel and group vacation options. 

You no longer need a pre-arrival COVID test to go to Fiji

As of May 1, fully vaccinated visitors flying into Fiji will no longer be required to produce a COVID-19 pre-departure PCR or Rapid Antigen Test.

The Fijian government said that the change applies to all international visitors entering Fiji by air or sea and is a move that is in line with best practice entry requirements among highly vaccinated communities. It will save costs for travellers and make traveling to the Pacific Island destination that much easier.

From Sun., May 1, all visitors aged 16 years and above must be fully vaccinated. This change comes as more children globally have access to vaccinations and are to support not only international travellers but Fiji’s local communities.

In addition, as of May 1, all international travellers entering Fiji will now only need to observe the following entry requirements:

  • Be fully vaccinated if you are 16 years old and above with a Fiji recognized dose
  • Book an in-country COVID-19 RAT prior to departure to Fiji. The test must be completed within 48 – 72 hours of arrival in Fiji. These can be booked at www.entrytestfiji.com
  • Have trusted travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage

Brent Hill, Tourism Fiji CEO said: “This is yet another significant step for Fiji, making it easier than ever to travel to our idyllic shores from around the globe. The Fijian Government has continued to respond to data and science, and moved quickly to make these changes, as more countries around the world also relaxed their protocols. There has never been a better, simpler time to come to Fiji than now.”

Fiji has welcomed more than 100,000 international visitors since its borders opened up back in December 2021. As Fiji continues to update and simplify entry requirements, travelers from around the globe will be able to enjoy a famous Fiji holiday and experience everything the country is known for.

Go to www.fiji.travel for more.