From the 1960s to the Next Big Thing
Innovation molds the modern megaliner, eco-friendly resort properties
and the future of space travel
By Vacations Staff
On April 12, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth aboard the Vostok 1, becoming the first human to travel into space. For the rest of the decade, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. pushed each other toward the next big technological advancement, culminating in Neil Armstrong's moonwalk in July 1969.
The space race was equal parts rebellion and revolution, proving that no boundary was sacred. This mindset became the signature of the '60s, and Trafalgar vacations like the 10-day "Adventures of the Lone Star State" highlight heroes who conquered new frontiers. Starting at $2,588 and departing April through October, this escorted tour includes a visit to Apollo 11's mission control facility at Space Center Houston.
Scholars assert that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech changed the course of history, spurring the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Today, the pursuit of social justice carries on, and you can trace its arc at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian institution offering free admission. "Great East Coast Cities" an eight-day escorted tour from Trafalgar, gives you free time in Washington, DC, for a chance to visit the exhibit, which includes artifacts such as a 19th-century slave cabin. There are five dates from May to September, with pricing from $2,493.
The Beatles' 1964 debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" was as appealing as it was inspiring, emboldening the likes of Billy Joel, who was among the 73 million watching, to pursue his musical dreams. Channel your inner rock star while singing along in the Cavern Club, Norwegian Bliss' lounge modeled after the venue where the Beatles first performed. Alaska, the Caribbean and the Panama Canal are among the new Norwegian Cruise Line ship's 2018
destinations, with prices from $699.
Or, visit the actual Cavern Club during a free night in Liverpool on the eight-day "Rockin' Britain" itinerary from CIE Tours. Earlier in the day, you'll see sites linked to the Fab Four on a local tour and learn about the UK's influence on rock and pop during a visit to the British Music Experience. Departures run from April to October and start at $1,950. -- B.S.
1970s and 1980s
In the 1977 movie "Star Wars: A New Hope," Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star -- only to discover Darth Vader is his father in 1980's appropriately titled sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back." Fortunately, three years later, "Return of the Jedi" delivers the fairy-tale ending we'd all been hoping for.
Revisit the start of this silver-screen rollercoaster at Tikal, the Guatemalan ruins where filmmakers shot the Rebel Alliance launching its victorious attack on the Empire in the trilogy's first installment. G Adventures tours this one-time home of the Mayan civilization during its nine-day "Classic Belize & Tikal." Pricing starts at $999 for a handful of departures from July to December.
Sylvester Stallone was nominated for an Oscar -- and won America's collective heart -- with his 1976 classic, "Rocky." That the title character, boxer Rocky Balboa, had lost his bout to Apollo Creed didn't seem to matter. By 1985, following the epic's next three films, Rocky had gotten revenge on Creed, bested Clubber Lang for the championship belt and chopped down the Russian goliath, Ivan Drago.
Adventures by Disney explores this hero's hometown on its family getaway, " Philadelphia and Washington, DC." Pose alongside the bronze Rocky statue, then run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and recreate Balboa's triumphant celebration at the top. Seven-day itineraries open at $3,699 and also provide time to pay your respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. The trip departs from March to August.
The Mekong delta was the stage for one of the most devastating conflicts in modern history. By 1973, when President Richard Nixon withdrew American troops, an estimated 3 million military and civilian lives had been lost to the Vietnam War.
Today, serenity rules the Mekong River. On AmaWaterways' eight-day "Riches of the Mekong" you'll bask in the vibrant colors of Phnom Penh during a tuk-tuk taxi ride and discover the impactful ecology of Xeo Quyt, a village that once served as a wartime battlefield base.
Cruises run through April, then pick up again from August to December. Prices start at $2,299. -- B.S.
A growing interest in protecting the planet inspired globe-trotters to opt for greener travel. Ecotourism was seen as a low-impact vacation style that highlighted natural areas and forged a better understanding of new cultures and surrounding flora and fauna. Itineraries were created not only to make a positive environmental impact, but to produce economic opportunities for locals and to allow guests to pitch in on conservation efforts.
Rio Perdido is nestled in a 600-acre private reserve in the forested lowlands of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Its 20 cozy bungalows are suspended above the ground to preserve the landscape. The resort takes pride in its community-aid measures through job opportunities (90 percent of the staff is from nearby Bagaces) and participation in town festivals and sporting events.
Using locally sourced ingredients, the on-site restaurant showcases regional cuisine with items like fresh fish, chickpea ceviche and rice pudding. Hiking trails, whitewater tubing tours, thermal pools, ziplines and a mountain bike park allow guests to explore rugged terrain.
On Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the 326-acre Tres Rios Nature Park is home to more than 250 plant and animal species, three rivers, 10 cenotes (sunken reservoirs), a beach, multiple ecosystems (tropical jungle, mangrove forest and coastal dunes) and the all-inclusive Hacienda Tres Rios Resort, Spa and Nature Park. This property is focused on sustainable development, seeking to preserve ecosystems, increase social responsibility and start positive environmental practices, all while giving guests a top-notch vacation experience.
Through these efforts, Hacienda Tres Rios has preserved 4,000 plants, all members of 11 endangered and protected species. Food, drinks, yoga classes, tours and more are included in your room rate, as well as exclusive access to the nature park where visitors enjoy guided bike, snorkeling, hiking and kayak tours.
In Teton Village, WY, near Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, the 132-room Hotel Terra Jackson Hole is a luxurious property that sits alongside the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Along with other go-green measures, the property uses dual-flush toilets, each one saving up to 18,000 gallons of water annually, and purchases hydroelectric, solar and wind energy to offset the use of electric and natural gas power. Outdoors, the rooftop pool touts snowcapped views, and an in-house naturalist leads wildlife expeditions. -- R.M.O.
Today's cruise ships ensure that time spent en route to a destination is just as enjoyable as the destination itself. Modern-day vessels are more than a way to get from point A to point B -- they're purveyors of entertainment and hosts to world-class dining.
Although megaliners have been around for some 20 years, these floating resorts need more than a high passenger capacity to impress travelers. Royal Caribbean International not only has the largest ships in cruising today, it also touts impressive feats of entertainment innovation on board. Royal Caribbean began its reign as leader in megaships in 2009 with the debut of the Oasis of the Seas, the first vessel in the cruise line's Oasis class. Oasis of the Seas has a guest capacity of 5,400 and weighs a whopping 225,000 tons, but the division of the ship into seven "neighborhoods" prevents its magnitude from rendering the experience overwhelming.
These themed neighborhoods feature areas devoted to shopping, sports, children's activities and more. Groundbreaking perks include the first zipline ever on board a cruise ship, as well as the Flowrider surf simulator, so cruisers never have to wait for the perfect wave to roll ashore. A rock climbing wall and a wide variety of shows such as ice skating performances and musicals provide even more fun.
MSC Cruises is another name in advanced cruising technology. With a capacity of 4,500, the MSC Meraviglia was the cruise line's largest ship before the launch of the 5,429-passenger MSC Seaside in December. The Meraviglia's crown jewel is its two-story indoor promenade filled with shops and restaurants. The promenade's ceiling is a domed LED screen covering 5,200 square feet, and its display continually shifts to show a variety of stunning images like starry skies and elegant architecture.
Another specialized area on this ship, the Carousel Lounge, serves as the venue for two Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows that currently are exclusive to the Meraviglia. This 10,000-square-foot space combines high-tech, original performances with a three-course, pre-show dinner. These features also will appear on the Meraviglia's sister ship, the MSC Bellissima, which sets sail in the Mediterranean in 2019.
The Norwegian Escape, launched in 2015 as part of the Breakaway Plus class from Norwegian Cruise Line, has been delighting travelers to the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean with its own unique offerings. Highlights on board this 4,248-passenger vessel include the first Margaritaville at Sea. Fans of Jimmy Buffett's ode to tropical indulgence appreciate this themed restaurant for menu items like the Cheeseburger in Paradise and the Who's to Blame Margarita.
Entertainment options on the Escape include traditional megaliner activities like a casino and Broadway-style shows, but some fitness and wellness features stand out. A three-story ropes course gets the heart racing, while a chilly stop in the Snow Room helps to improve blood circulation after a sauna visit.
Not to be outdone, Carnival Cruise Line launched its largest ship yet, the Caribbean-bound, 3,936-passenger Carnival Vista, in 2016. The Vista's claim to fame is its Imax theater, the first at sea. The larger-than-life screen shows recent releases and documentaries. For those who prefer their thrills outdoors, the Vista's SkyRide is a pedal-powered activity that treats guests to a suspended bike ride in the sky. -- L.S.
Mark your 2020 calendars for two triumphs coming to the Middle East: the region's first world's fair and the completion of the globe's tallest freestanding structure.
With the theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future," Expo 2020 expects 25 million visitors to Dubai, its host city in the United Arab Emirates. The six-month mega-event opens on October 20 and will transform more than 1,000 desert acres into a futuristic fest with top-notch entertainment, cuisine and ideas and inventions that could shape the decades to come.
On the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, progress on Jeddah (also known as Kingdom) Tower is underway, and its completion is slated for 2020. Ousting Dubai's Burj Khalifa for the "world's tallest" title, this skyscraper shoots 1 kilometer (more than half a mile) above the desert and Red Sea, both of which can be viewed from the world's highest observatory.
Mediterranean cruises departing Dubai occasionally head west to travel the Red Sea, leading to seaside views of the sky-high spire in progress. A 20-night Seabourn Cruise Line jaunt to Piraeus, a Greek port servicing Athens, departs April 7, 2019, and suites aboard the Seabourn Ovation -- the line's next six-star ship -- are priced from $7,499. For a budget-conscious option, consider Costa Cruises' 18-night trek to Savona, Italy, aboard the Costa Mediterranea. It departs March 9, 2019, with cabins priced as low as $1,679.
In 2028, head Down Under and queue up Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" for the continent's next solar eclipse. As it crosses Australia, the path of totality will fall on Sydney, darkening the harbor and its famed opera house for more than three minutes. Don't want to wait 10 years for an Aussie escape? Many lines have scheduled voyages from Sydney through spring 2020, including Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Viking Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
So, what's the next big travel destination?
According to Elon Musk and other tech titans, space is the next frontier, especially trips to Earth's neighbor planet, Mars. Musk's company, SpaceX, plans to land humans on Mars by 2024 and help develop a community with a million residents by the 2060s, while NASA aims for contact in the 2030s. The European Space Agency, Russia and China also have aspirations for the red planet.
While Vacations To Go does not offer any Mars trips -- yet -- wannabe astronauts can get a taste of space with a visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX regularly schedules tests here, and guests also strap in for a simulated shuttle launch, receive briefings on current NASA missions and peruse a concept Mars rover, a six-wheel beast made for rocky terrain. Complement your visit with a stay in Orlando or Cocoa Beach, FL. -- K.E.W.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Winter 2018. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 680-2858 for current rates and details.