Maple Candy

Quebec City is one of the few cities in the world where maple syrup may run in Québécois’ veins instead of blood. Canada produces over 80% of the world’s pure maple sugar—with the province of Quebec contributing to 91% of this production—and the process has become an integral part of the city’s culture and economy. Today, Canadian maple syrup is exported to roughly 50 countries, with the United States being the primary importer.

According to the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, Canada’s early settlers first learned how to the harvest tree sap and boil it into syrup from the Amerindian peoples. Today, the general process is not much different. Syrup producers tap appropriately sized trees in the spring, gather the sap for 12 to 20 days and then transport the sap to a sugar house where it’s boiled into maple syrup.

Luckily for those of us with a sweet tooth, many of the sugar houses in Quebec open up the production process to visitors, who can come watch the sap be collected and boiled, eat a meal cooked with maple syrup instead of sugar, watch a French Canadian folklore performance, and of course, watch maple taffy be made—right in the snow!

Celebrity Summit guests can even book a shore excursion to the Super Shack while staying overnight in Quebec City.  As traveler Flloyd raves, “The atmosphere, food and entertainment made for a thoroughly enjoyable night. The homestyle dinner complete with many courses surpassed our expectations. The ending highlight was making a taffy out of maple syrup. Can’t wait to put the pitcher of maple syrup on my Christmas dinner table.”

Book your adventure today.

Top Five Alaska Shore Excursions

Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier by HelicopterAlaska is absolutely extraordinary. At first, words will fail you. The sheer size and unrelenting visual spectacle of Alaska tend to have that effect on people. Alaska exudes a kind of freedom that few can fathom, but all desire. From the depth of its glistening harbors and mystic fjords to the heights of its massive blue-hued glaciers and snow-studded mountains, the unbridled spirit of “The Last Frontier” beckons you to explore its endless marvels.

Naturally, when it comes to exploring this spectacular region, we here at Celebrity Shore Excursions believe that ‘ordinary’ should be far from what you expect when you visit Alaska. With this philosophy in mind, we ensure that whether by sea, dog sled, railway, or helicopter, our Shore Excursions don’t just show you Alaska, they place you there – on its glaciers, in its snow fields, upon its meadows, and above its peaks – so you can soak in and remember every inch of its natural wonder.

But with so much to explore and so many destination experiences to choose from, it can be difficult to decide how best to spend your time. Here are our picks for Celebrity’s top five Shore Excursions in Alaska: Read More

notre_dame_celeberity

Originally built in 1647, Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral became the first parish church of the colony of New France in 1664. 350 years later, the church is still the center of Roman Catholic life in Québec City and currently near the end of a 350th anniversary Jubilee celebration. First begun on December 8, 2013, the honorary festivities end on December 28, 2014, so travelers interested in seeing the celebratory activities should make their way to Québec City immediately.

As part of the Jubilee, Notre-Dame de Québec visitors can step through the first Holy Door outside of Europe, which was presented to the cathedral from the Holy See especially for the occasion. The Holy Door is a “symbol of communion with the universal Church,” and will be closed on December 28 until the next Holy Year of the Roman Catholic Church in 2025. (The world’s other Holy Doors are in Rome; Ars-sur-Formans, France, and Santiago de Compostela, Spain.) Other remaining Jubilee activities include a special concert by the Quebec Symphony Orchestra on Friday, November 21 and official closing ceremony of the Jubilee on the Feast of the Holy Family.

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Top Five Bermuda Beaches

Power Snorkel BeachWhen heading to Bermuda, think pink. The subtropical island is famous for its turquoise water and pink-sand beaches, the end result of shells and coral calcium carbonate being crushed together. With over 75 miles of coastline, Bermuda is surrounded by beautiful beaches, making it difficult to decide where one should spend the day soaking in the sun. Here are our picks for the top five beaches to visit when in Bermuda.

Horseshoe Bay Beach is perhaps the most famous of Bermuda’s beaches, and for good reason. Located in Southampton, this curved stretch of sand features crystal-clear warm waters (with tropical fish), climbable rock formations, clean amenities and a great snack shack. An on-duty lifeguard (from May to September) makes this ideal for families. Celebrity guests can skip the crowded public buses by booking a shore excursion to the world-famous beach. As guest patbobkels raves, “The pink sand is REALLY pink and there are plenty of rocks and small caverns to explore. Bring sneakers if you are adventurous and like to climb on the rocks. The beauty of Horseshoe Bay will leave you speechless…don’t forget your camera.”

Warwick Long Bay is just a short walk away from Horseshoe Bay, its more famous neighbor, but it features equally beautiful sands and clear waters. It also has the added bonus of being less crowded, for those that are looking for a peaceful and quiet soak in the sun, and being a popular spot for parrot fish and other marine life to come in close to shore here, making it a top spot for snorkelers.

Jobson’s Cove is as close as you can get to a picture-perfect beach in Bermuda. Surrounded by cliffs and rock formations, this secluded beach is largely separated from the sea—resulting in only gentle waves and calm, shallow waters (to better spot the marine life without a snorkel).

Tobacco Bay Beach is the most popular beach in the village of St. George’s, and is known for being small and beautiful, as well as for its stunning limestone rock formations off the shoreline. Unlike most most beaches in Bermuda, Tobacco Bay has concessions stands and restaurant with a liquor license, for those that wind to wind down their days with a margarita.

Elbow Beach is divided into a public and private section, with the latter only accessible to guests of nearby private resorts. The former, however, rivals Horseshoe Bay in popularity, given how family friendly and safe the area is for guests. Surrounded by protective coral reefs, the waters here are extremely calm and soothing. Elbow is also the closest beach to the city of Hamilton, the financial and cultural hub of the island.

alaskaHaines may be known as the “Adventure Capital of Alaska,” but the real excitement lies in its fascinating history and intriguing culture. Originally settled by Native Alaskans of the Tlingit culture, the city is now home to 2,592 people—and any number of tourists that are visiting via cruise ship at any time.

Reality show fanatics may recognize Haines from the Discovery Channel show “Gold Rush,” but the city is best known as the place to see bald eagles. The city is currently in the midst of hosting the annual Alaska Bald Eagle Festival (Nov. 10 to 16) at the American Eagle Foundation, which offers photography workshops, guest speakers, and of course, plenty of opportunities to come face to face with this majestic bird. On average, Haines welcomes over 3,500 bald eagles between the months of September and December every year.

In addition to its notable wildlife, Haines also boasts of spectacular views and outdoor experiences, ranging from rafting on the Chilkat River, racing a snow machine on the Haines Highway, to fishing for Pacific salmon.

Here, our sample itinerary of what to see and do when faced with eight hours in Haines, Alaska.

9:00 a.m.—After a quick breakfast at Sarahj’s Shoppe with freshly baked scones, head on over to Fort William H. Seward, Alaska’s first permanent Army base. Originally begun in 1903, the fort was designed to help settle a boundary dispute between the U.S. and Canada and was garrisoned in 1904. It was named after Secretary of State William Seward, who infamously negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 (“Seward’s Folly”). The only active military post in Alaska between 1925 and 1940, the fort was closed at the end of World War II and designated a National History Landmark in 1978.

11:00 a.m.—Make your way over to Dalton City, a charming, but fake gold rush town that was created for the 1989 Walt Disney film “White Fang.” After taking your photos of the movie set, grab a seat at the Haines Brewing Company to grab a quick lunch while simultaneously sampling some of the best local ales. Beer can be purchased by the sample glass or pint to consume on premise, or by the liter or half gallon to go.

1:00 p.m.—Given that bald eagles are the thing to see in Haines, definitely make time for a visit to the world famous Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. In addition to seeing eagles, visitors should also keep a watchful eye out for salmon, moose, bears, and wolves in their natural habitat. Celebrity Cruise guests can book a shore excursion to the preserve, of which guest Carias593 noted, “Even though it was drizzling rain and grey, we had a magical experience and spotted 70 bald eagles!”

5:00 p.m.—To wrap up your day, take a quick tour of the Haines Packing Company, a distinguished smokehouse that evolved into a state-of-the-art facility. Finish off with a quick seafood dinner at Big Al’s Salmon Shack or an all American bistro fare at the Fireweed Restaurant.

Isafjordour_iceland_celebrity

As Celebrity Cruises opens deployment for 2016-2017, we’ve added new ports to our already robust roster of destinations. Every week, we will preview one of these exciting new cities and provide you with the best things to do and see. This week, we look to Isafjordur, Iceland, which makes its debut on our 2016 Europe itineraries.

With only 323,002 total residents, Iceland is Europe’s most sparsely populated country—but also one of its most beautiful. Covered with glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls, lava fields, geysers and mountains, the country boasts a pristine and dramatic view of nature at its grandest. Iceland has also captured the world’s imagination of late, given its background appearance in the popular HBO drama Game of Thrones, in which the country stands in for the mysterious land “beyond the wall,” and its role in last year’s comedy-drama, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller.

While most travelers are initially drawn to the capital, Reykjavik, Isafjordur, the capital of the Westfjords peninsula and new Celebrity Cruises port city, is a must-see. Situated on an “L”-shaped sandspit called Eyri, the city provides ready access to the nature reserves, on neighboring Hornstrandir peninsula, where eagle-eyed hikers can spot Arctic foxes, seals, and many indigenous varieties of birds. Isafjordur’s main in-city attraction is the Westfjords Heritage Museum, which focuses on Isafjordur’s fishing town heritage.

For more on Isafjordur, our partners at Travel + Leisure gave us some insider tips to share exclusively with you.

TandLTravel + Leisure “Must See” Tip:

Spend the day with Borea Adventures on an Arctic sea-kayaking voyage, where you’ll revel in the solitude of weaving in and out of the snowmelt-striped fjords. Stop at an inlet to watch the seals playing on the coast, or just embrace the infinite silence and sparkling shores of this natural paradise.

 

TandLTravel + Leisure Culinary Tip:

If you’re seeking a light lunch, look no further than the centrally located Bræðraborg (Aoalstaeti 22b Isafjordur), which is also referred to as the Borea Café, since the owner runs his Borea tours out of here. House-made cakes, organic salads, pizzas, and strong coffee fill the menu. For more traditional fare, head to the Tjöruhúsið—“The Tar House” —where waiters serve up whatever the trawlers pulled in from the fjords that day. The cod cheek is a favorite.

Julia Dimon Experiences the Elite Colosseum Underground & Highlights of Rome Shore Excursion What comes to mind when you think of Rome? For many, it’s the chance to explore an array of historic sites, spectacular vistas, and—of course—shop some of Europe’s most wonderful fashions. But, in our opinion, when it comes to this world-renowned city, no visit is complete without a stop at the Colosseum, an ancient amphitheater where powerful gladiators once competed for honor before a roaring crowd of 50,000-plus spectators.

An epic feat of Roman architecture and engineering, the Colosseum dates back to 80 AD, and to this day, remains a cultural hallmark and direct connection to the glory days of Imperial Rome. So, when in Rome (pun absolutely intended), the Colosseum is our number-one must-see. In fact, travel writer – and Celebrity Cruises Global Insider – Julia Dimon experienced it herself and raved about it.

With that said, what if we told you that we could take you on adventure beyond the Colosseum’s stone façade to explore the stadium’s hidden chambers and crevices for an experience that only a select few—like the emperors and gladiators of antiquity—were privy to? Wouldn’t that be the chance of a lifetime? Well, with Celebrity’s Elite Colosseum Underground & Highlights of Rome Shore Excursion we do just that, making the secrets of the Roman Empire yours to unveil.

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Cable Car Monte & Toboggan

Not only is Lisbon Portugal’s largest city and its capital, but it’s also one of the oldest cities in the world, predating other European capitals like London, Paris and Rome by centuries. The city’s storied past can be explored through its spectacular architecture, which includes Moorish castles, Romanesque cathedrals, and Manueline churches. Top sights include the Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém, both of which were built in early 16th century and certified UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

A highly walkable city, Lisbon is easily navigable by foot or the its trolley network, which can transport you everywhere from the cobblestone district of Baixa to the resort cities of Cascais and Estoril. For in-the-know recommendations, consider what Celebrity’s Global Insiders consider to be Lisbon’s “can’t miss” sites and experiences.

 

Julia Dimon CroppedJulia Dimon (Travel columnist and television correspondent)
For an authentic culinary experience in one of Lisbon’s coolest new areas, dine alfresco at the Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon’s biggest fresh food market. Wander through the kiosks, which offer everything from hand-crafted cheeses, to freshly baked breads and flowers. Grab your food and settle in for a lively lunch at one of their high wooden benches. It’s a great place to soak up a variety of delicious regional Portuguese specialties.

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Courtesy of LEGO.

Courtesy of LEGO.

It’s been a big year for Lego.

An animated feature film starring the brick-shaped toys cleaned up at the box office this past February, and another film, revolving around the character Lego Batman, is due in 2017. The Danish company also released  new sets related to Disney Princesses, The Big Bang Theory, and many many more. Most importantly, Lego surpassed Mattel, the toy company behind Barbie dolls, in revenue, making it the biggest toy company in the world by revenue and profit. Not bad for toy that’s over 50 years old.

What better way to celebrate one of Toy-dom’s most enduring companies than  byplanning a trip to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark. Located a three-hour drive from Copenhagen, Legoland Billund is one of six Legoland parks in the world (the others are in California, Florida, Germany, Malaysia and England, with a new Abu Dhabi park scheduled to open in 2016). It’s also Denmark’s most popular tourist attraction outside of the capital city.

While all the parks have Lego-built replicas of the world’s most famous landmarks, the original park—which opened in 1968—trumps its followers because it is located next to the original Lego park. This means that guest can take inside tours inside Lego founder Ole Kirk Christiansen’s original house—and view Lego sets and models dating back to 1934—and meet with LEGO designers. The park has also used over 60 million Lego bricks to create themed “lands” involving pirates, cowboys, knights, and other popular lines.

2015 will be a particularly exciting time to visit. The park has already announced it will host the world’s largest Lego model, a 20-ton heavy Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter that was built from 5.3 million (!) Lego bricks. The model will be “animated” and give guests the feeling of being in an intergalactic starship though strategically placed light effects and dramatic sound effects. Doors to Legoland Billund open Saturday, March 28, 2015 (and close Sunday, November 1, 2015), so interested Copenhagen-bound Celebrity guests should start planning their visits now.

For more on things to do in Copenhagen, check out what our Celebrity Global Insiders have to say.

Truffle Season with Celebrity Cruises

John Truffle

Every year, excited bidders gather at the International White Truffle Auction in Alba, Italy, for a chance to win one of the world’s priciest and most delectable edible funghi. The auction, which benefits scholarships and charitable organisations and institutions at national and international level, began in 1999 and has since grown into a phenomenon. Last year alone, one bidder from Hong Kong offered $120,000 for a two-pound white truffle—or Tuber Magnatum.

The auction is among the final events of the International Alba White Truffle Fair, which runs from October 11 to November 16. In addition to the truffle market, the festival also features a “mediaeval fair,” celebrity talks (by the likes of director Werner Herzog), a vintage car show, and of course, many talks and lecture sessions on the celebrated white truffle.

White truffles are particularly prized and expensive because they are incredibly rare. These prized gastronomic “prizes” make their one-time annual appearance in October and November, and must be foraged by dogs in the wild. (Black truffles, on the other hand, can be cultivated in a variety of climates and countries.) Even in a year when white truffles are more comparably plentiful, will still set buyers back roughly 220 euros ($280 U.S. dollars) per 100 grams.

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