REASON #12 Privacy

A common request we hear from our clients over and over again is the desire to avoid large crowds. We don’t always want to feel like we’re on holiday with everyone else. Villas are generally detached private properties that allow you to enjoy the benefits of private space for you and your group.

booking a villa

REASON #11 No Rowdy Neighbours 

How many times have you been woken up overly-chatty neighbours, screaming children (who are not your own), or merely the echoes of poorly constructed hallways? No one wants to go on holiday and come back with bags under their eyes – A villa means no unwanted disturbances from other guests.

REASON #10 No Crappy Flight Schedules 

One of the worst things about booking an all-inclusive are the inconvenient charter schedules. Who wants to start the first day of their holiday camping out in the lobby of a resort at 4am because their room isn’t ready? Renting a villa means you can either make use of all those points you’ve been saving up, or have a advisor find you a convenient flight schedule so you arrive as refreshed as possible.

REASON#9 No Shared Transfers 

The other inconvenient part of a packaged holiday is feeling like herded cattle the moment you touch down at the airport. Booking a private villa means you have the option of arranging private transport to and from the airport, no more stopping at multiple stops along the way.

booking a villa

REASON #8 Ample Room For Everyone 

Most hotel rooms can only accommodate up to a maximum of 5 people, without the guarantee of adjoined rooms, or even being on the same floor. Booking a villa means everyone gets their own room, and their own comfortable bed.

REASON #7 No Bothersome Holiday Reps or Entertainment Directors 

There’s nothing worse than settling down poolside only to have the entertainment director or holiday rep cast a shadow over your chair to ask if you want to participate in some water aerobics, or book an excursion to who-knows-where. Villa life means relaxation, and activities at your own pace.

REASON #6 Personally Stocked Kitchens 

Resort food has come along way in terms of variety and freshness, but it’s still mass quantities of food, produced on an assembly line of sorts, and left out during meal times. Most villas provide the option to pre-stock the kitchen (for a fee) with locally sourced produce. You can enjoy whipping up locally inspired meals, or have a chef prepare them for you.

REASON #5 Get Up When You Want

There’s nothing more annoying than having to get up early to race for breakfast at the crack of dawn and missing it because you had the cheek to want to sleep in on your own holiday. Booking a villa means all meals, including the most important one of the day, happen on your time, whether that’s just after sunrise, or noontime.

booking a villa

REASON #4 Host Your Own Parties 

Have you ever been to a wedding or family reunion at a resort? Being in one resort may seem convenient, but it’s  a logistical nightmare when everyone is spread out amongst various buildings. And if you all want to gather somewhere together, your options are limited. Private villas offer plenty of indoor and outdoor entertainment space, along with generous kitchen facilities so you can host your own private gatherings without strangers milling about.

REASON #3 Traveling With Children is Easier 

Family-friendly resorts are wonderful, but it still means you have to share amenities with other families, be it the kiddie pool, over-crowded kids clubs or over-used beach toys. Many villas come with plenty of family friendly amenities such as inflatable pool toys, children’s DVDs, children’s games and more. If you need a break, childcare and nanny services are often available.

booking a villa

REASON #2 Extra Security 

Resort theft is more common than we’d like to admit, be it having your valuables taken poolside, or worse, having your things taken from the so-called-privacy of your room. The added privacy of villa life means no strange crowds milling about, and personalized security services that are included in the cost of your villa.

REASON #1 Fantastic Value

Villas can be extremely cost effective, especially for large families and groups. Booking a resort package means per person costs can be high and you’re often paying for amenities you may not use. Large groups and families can save mega bucks and luxuriate themselves by booking a villa instead of a resort or hotel.

booking a villa

The objections (and misconceptions) to conventional cruising are endless, and to be honest, as an independent traveler myself, cruising was never been my preferred method of travel. But after a family cruise to Alaska, it made me appreciate why travelers love cruising. Dining like royalty, being rocked to sleep every night, exploring a new port every day – It’s exciting. But if you’re like me and love the idea of seeing the world from its oceans and waterways, but doing it with 2500 people makes your wanderlusting heart palpitate, I have a solution; Tap into your inner ‘un-ness’ and set sail on an UnCruise

UnCruise is an American based small ship adventure company that focuses on culture, conservation, and emphasizes the importance of celebrating our ‘un-ness’. So what does that mean exactly?

The ability to To break away from the masses. Challenge. Freely used to release, exemplify, or intensify a force or quality. To engage, connect, and explore unique places, oneself, and with others on a most uncommon adventure.

Sound a bit more up your alley? Yeah, me too. If you’ve ever dreamed of going on an epic expedition, but never envisioned doing it on a floating city, this is a cruise company you may want to get to know.

The UnCruise Introduction

What if, instead of lining up with thousands of other passengers, someone personally greeted you before you stepped on board, took your bags and showed you to your cabin to settle in? Cruising with somewhere between 22 and 88 passengers (depending on the itinerary) means you get to enjoy a level of personal service you won’t find on the large ships. Once you’re all settled into your cabin, a crew member will escort you around your new floating home. You might be might be surprised not only by the array of amenities on board, but all the little extras like mounted cameras so you can watch flora and fauna play beneath the ship. An an open bridge policy means nautical fanatics get to mingle with the Captain and First Mates. And a kayak launch platforms allow for impromptu excursions.

Flexible Itineraries 

Because of their size, a traditional cruise ship itinerary runs on a strict schedule, leaving very little room for flexibility. But we all know Mother nature doesn’t exist in stasis, and whether it’s bumpy weather, a playful pod of Orcas, or an impromptu visit from a local conservationist, UnCruise leaves plenty of room in their itineraries for the unexpected. While on a trip with the Wilderness Explorer, a client of mine encountered a mother Grizzly teaching her two cubs how to salmon fish along the shores of Glacier Bay National Park. They were enroute to a small village, but the ship’s captain decided this was worth the deviation. It was an experience she wouldn’t have had on a larger ship, and one she’ll never forget. 

Wining & Dining 

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to have a personal chef, the dining experience on board UnCruise will you show you what you’ve been missing. Thoughtful, handcrafted meals are prepared daily by on-board executive chefs, showcasing local flavours, paired with hand selected wines. And the best part? Unlike traditional cruises, your wine, spirits and specialty coffees are included in your cruise fare.

Where Can You Take UnCruise

You can explore the following destinations:

  • Alaska
  • Columbia & Snake Rivers
  • Galapagos
  • Hawaiian Islands
  • Costa Rica & Panama
  • Mexico’s Sea of Cortes
  • Pacific North West

Unplug & Get Connected 

Connect with nature, connect with others, connect with yourself. Chat with locals and experience local culture.  Connect with nature by exploring pristine shorelines, explore underwater worlds, feel the power of a calving glacier up close. Every itinerary promises to show you something you’ve never seen, shows you how to participate rather than just observe adventure, and reminds you of what it means to be an explorer. 

Family Fun

The Family Discoveries program aboard UnCruise welcomes families with children eight years old and above to experience a special kind of family holiday:

Our Family Discoveries program celebrates the curiosity and wonderment of kids-at-heart of every age. And while we don’t offer adult-free play zones and there are no babysitting services, everyone learns while having fun—think summer camp for the entire family.

Mud face painting shore side with the grandparents, father-daughter stand-up paddle board sessions, mother-son snorkeling sessions with playful aquatic mammals, UnCruise provides the perfect opportunity for families to connect and create irreplaceable memories.

Okay, I’m Convinced – But What do the Critics Say? 

Look, no cruise company is perfect, and like any tour company, hotel or airline, it’s smart to research the ratings. With a rating of 89% on the cruise industries foremost authority on cruise experiences (Cruise Critic), UnCruise gets an “A” for passenger experience, level of service, and quality of their itineraries. And if you’re still not so sure, last year they took home the Trip Advisor Award for Best Adventure Cruise Line in 2015.

Whether you’re an avid cruiser, a newbie or an adventure traveler looking to explore some of the most beautiful oceans and rivers in the world, UnCruise promises small ships with big adventures.

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

Prepare for Port Intensive Itineraries 

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

uniworld boutique cruises

Culturally Focussed Excursions

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

river cruise culture

River Cruises are All-Inclusive 

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

dining on viking

Dining Options are Limited but Specialized 

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

Vienna river cruise

Ports Are Central to All the Action 

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

viking river cruise

Space is a Premium 

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

budapest hungary fireworks

Highest Customer Satisfaction Ratings 

There are plenty of fantastic ocean cruise line options, but keep in mind that river cruises have some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings. Luxury river cruise brands like Tauck, AmaWaterways and Uniworld boast some of the highest client satisfaction ratings across the entire cruise sector. This is all reflective of premium service, fascinating ports, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

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

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Can you remember the last time someone had something disparaging to say about a vacation to Hawai’i? Probably not. In fact, did you know that Hawaii boasts a 98% vacation satisfaction rating? Why is that? Other than it’s perfect weather, and resplendent scenery, Hawai’i is a destination for absolutely every type of traveler: The adventurer, the hopeless romantic, families, the solo traveler and the I-just-need-to-lay-in-the-sun vacationer. It’s also the most ethnically diverse American state with a proverbial melting pot of cultures from Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, and Micronesian, to Chinese, Thai, Tahitian and of course, the indigenous Hawaiian people. So when our in-house bespoke luxury travel designer Anita Beishuizen had the opportunity to join a familiarization trip to the Big Island of Hawai’i and Kaua’i, she couldn’t say no!

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Anita’s 10 day long meander through paradise included a visit to Volcanoes National Park and world famous Akaka Falls, a traditional Hawaiian Luau, site inspections of various resorts, and the pièce de résistance, a breathtaking helicopter ride across the island of Kauai. Here is what Anita had to say about her Hawaiian experience:

Starting with the Island of Hawai’i, what was a highlight for you? 

Volcanoes National Park.

What is the one misconception you may have had about the island of Hawai‘i prior to becoming more familiarized after your fam?

I had heard that the island was very volcanic and not at all an Island for beaches and swimming. The first half of this statement is true, it is volcanic – but there are so many nice sandy beaches – it is just about knowing where to go for them.

How did this familiarization trip change the way you present Hawai’i as a destination to your clients? 

I really feel confident now to be able to specifically direct clients to pinpointed locations based on not only the geography, but the character of the main tourist/hotel areas. I do not think that unless you have been there, visually seen the areas and got a feel for the individual character of the locations could you do that effectively. This is going to help me expertly direct my clients, based on the trip they are hoping to have.

tripzter hawaii fam
Flora of Hawai’i

What was one of the highlights for you when you visited Kaua’i?

Honestly, from the moment I got off the plane it was an instant feeling of peace, and I fell in love. I will say (and I mean this sincerely) that Kaua’i is now my favorite Hawaiian Island.

tripzter hawaii fam
The Garden Isle and Anita’s new favourite Island

I think that the reoccurring theme, and the part that I can pick out as the overall highlight of really all the activities and sites we saw – was the sheer beauty and magnificence of the Island. It is jaw-dropping and to be surrounded by it while you are there has an effect that you cannot deny. It truly is what most people envision when they think of the Hawaiian Islands as a collective, and I do not think that people realize that those stunning images are in fact coming from the Island of Kaua’i alone.

tripzter hawaii fam
Helicopter Tour over Kaua’i

We were so fortunate to experience a helicopter tour! I have never done anything of that caliber when travelling, and I cannot recommend it enough. I suggest taking the heli-tour as early as possible on their trip, because I think that it is something that resonates with you and you mentally refer back to when you are seeing those various sites from the ground. I had shivers, it was so good!

Allerton Gardens, Kaua’i

Because I am a huge flora and fauna fan, another stunning highlight for me was Allerton Gardens. I really, really enjoyed our time there as well.

Now, moving on to the accommodation options. You visited a number of properties on this fam trip, what did you think of them? 

Kaua‘i Shores

tripzter hawaii fam
Kauai’i Shores Hotel

The Kaua’i Shores was a very cute, smaller property. I really liked the retro throwback motor-inn feel, and the location on the beach was perfect.

This is the perfect property for younger travelers, or young families. This would be an ideal property for budget oriented or no-frills travelers. And even though I sell to mostly luxury oriented clients, it is exactly the type of property that I am drawn to when I travel. Simple, clean, character, good pool and great location.

Waimea Plantation Cottages

tripzter hawaii fam
Waimea Plantation Cottages

I was quite blown away by this property. It’s a very different type of property, and perfect for families that want to have a more local, non-hotel type stay. I love the grounds and the spread-out cabins. I like the privacy and independence that is promoted at this property. We saw two of the cabins – one quite large and the other a two bedroom and both had their own distinct style. I like the vintage Hawaiian feel and appreciate the uniqueness of the property. The cabin interiors were a bit older – but nonetheless impeccably clean, spacious and quite charming. This is a great option for groups or large families. Pricing also seemed to be quite reasonable.

Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa

tripzter hawaii fam
Grand Hyatt Kaua’i

Beautiful, flashy, tropical and very luxurious grounds. Picturesque. A great option for our luxury clients, the property sort of sells itself and I’m happy I had the opportunity to see it.

Kōloa Landing Resort

tripzter hawaii fam
Kōloa Landing Resort

The perfect property to have in mind for families with teenage children. Easy go to with the 2/3 bedrooms. Definitely a condo property feel vs. a hotel/resort – but to be expected. Really nice units and the grounds had a good layout. The restaurant, lounge/pool area was great for drinks and people watching. I didn’t get to see the beach, but I heard it was also quite nice. Funny enough, two days after being home I was quoting this property to my clients for Spring Break!

And there you have it. From active volcanoes, pristine waterfalls, rugged mountain ranges, and post-card worthy beaches, Hawai’i is a feast for the senses. And because of it’s unique location, the Hawaiian archipelago is an ideal place to visit all year round. Contact us today to get started on your dream Hawaiian escape. Aloha!

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

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

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

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

Air New Zealand Premium Economy

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

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

Polynesian Culture

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

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

Rarotonga Tripzter Travel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aitutaki Lagoon

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

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