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Destinations

Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende Begins Reopening Process on June 1

One of Mexico’s most iconic destinations—San Miguel de Allende—has begun the process of reopening its doors to tourism, and will enter into Phase 0 of the country’s COVID-19 reactivation plan on June 1.

The first phase of the reopening, which affects residents, will include the reopening of restaurants, shopping centers, markets, public transportation and offices—but not hotels, bars or clubs.

Restaurants will be permitted to operate at 50 percent of capacity and markets at 30 percent of capacity, said San Miguel de Allende Major Luis Alberto Villarreal García.

“We still haven’t opened the doors to our visitors. San Miguel is not opening to tourism, not yet,” he said, adding that it will be a gradual process.

During Phase 0, businesses are applying for Health First certifications to work toward ensuring they are in compliance with cleanliness and sanitation protocols.

Hotels—which tourism officials said might open in Phase 1—will also be required to apply for Health First certifications and demonstrate that they meeting the required protocols to reopen. Certification is “free but mandatory,” Villarreal said.

Other destinations in Mexico are also preparing to welcome travelers again.

In Los Cabos, reopening is scheduled to begin on June 1, with the resumption of travel activities and limited national and international arrivals.

Quintana Roo announced that the Mexican state’s tourism industry will begin reopening on June 8.

Earlier this week, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit entered the Stage 0 reopening process.

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Travel

Two friends tried 84 Airbnb 'Online Experiences' in ONE WEEK

Laughter yoga in Lisbon, bounce and twerk in New Orleans and coffee fortune telling in New York: Two friends tried 84 Airbnb ‘Online Experiences’ in ONE WEEK

  • James Ware and David Windsor went globetrotting using Airbnb experiences
  • They recorded the sessions for posterity – and the footage is incredible 
  • Bounce & Twerk with MoJoe from New Orleans ‘was gloriously uplifting’ 
  • ‘The funniest of all had to be Laughter Yoga with Thomas Cock,’ said James

Two globetrotting friends proved that lockdown needn’t be a barrier to travelling the world.

Self-confessed travel-junkies James Ware, 28, and David Windsor, 33, both from London, wanted to ‘go on an adventure and liven up lockdown life’ and found a brilliant quarantine loophole – doing lots of Zoom-hosted Airbnb Online Experiences.

The pair realised they could use these to get their globetrotting fix – and things ‘escalated rapidly’. They ended up doing 84 in one week earlier this month, from laughter yoga with a practitioner in Lisbon to a coffee fortune-telling experience with a reader in New York.

Self-confessed travel-junkies James Ware and David Windsor wanted to ‘go on an adventure and liven up lockdown life’ and found a brilliant quarantine loophole – doing lots of Zoom-hosted Airbnb Online Experiences

James and David recorded the sessions for posterity – and the footage is incredible. Hilarious and fascinating.

James, a producer, told MailOnline Travel: ’David and I are both travel junkies, but obviously it’s impossible to get our globetrotting fix with the current situation. Then we tried one of these online experiences and were surprised by how exciting and connecting it was even over Zoom and things escalated really rapidly from there.’

There were many highlights.

James said: ‘Having my fortune told through the coffee stains left in my mug by Uluc, a Turkish legend with a gigantic teddy bear in his New York apartment, was particularly unforgettable. Zumba with an Olympian in Hawaii left me feeling so high I’m surprised it’s not illegal in most countries.

‘Getting to talk one-on-one to an Olympic Gold medallist, Chinese sailor Xu Lijia, was a real privilege and genuinely moving, she was super inspirational.

‘And Bounce & Twerk with MoJoe from New Orleans should have been beyond embarrassing but somehow was gloriously uplifting because she made us feel so welcome despite our wonky waist wiggling replacing her normal superstar clientele.

‘Also a noteworthy moment was the ending of the project. It felt like it was sure to be an anticlimax, but then our very last experience was songwriting in Nashville with Anne Buckle, who’s related to Johnny Cash. She just busted out an incredible song on the spot all about what we’d done that week, which just blew our minds.’ 

James said: ‘I now make such a high quality tiramisu that I’m awaiting my Italian citizenship’

JAMES AND DAVID’S 84 AIRBNB ONLINE EXPERIENCES 

Monday

1) How To Write A Book – Australia

2) Flamenco Fiesta – Seville

3) Writing Masterclass- USA

4) Workout With Paralympic Medalist – Colorado

5) Disappearing Hill Tour – Seattle

6) Astrology & Natal Charts – Barcelona

7) Natural Beauty Workshop – Milan

8) Drums Drums Drums – Puerto Rico

9) Chocolate Meditation – Mexico

10) Zumba In Paradise With Olympian – Hawaii

Tuesday

11) Magic Castle Magic – Japan

12) Wine making – Bulgaria

13) Yoga & Slow Living – Florence

14) Storytelling – Catalonia

15) Chocolate Volcanoes – Rome

16) Get In Shape With A Belgian Olympian – Belgium

17) Cow Sanctuary – USA

18) Charity Pancake Flipping – San Francisco

19) Drink & Draw – Lisbon

20) Yoghurt Making – USA

21) How To Spot Fake News – USA

22) Learn To Tango – Argentina

23) Fado Concert – Portugal

Wednesday

24) Soundbath Meditation – Singapore

25) Meet A Shark Expert – South Africa

26) Manga Cartoon Drawing – Japan

27) Chinatown Tour – London

28) Flamenco Guitar – Madrid

29) Children’s Book Author – NYC

30) Drag Queen Singalong- UK

31) Mime Masterclass – Paris

32) Trigger Therapy With Olympian – Memphis

33) Introduction To Tango – Buenos Aires

34) Make Sangria – Portugal

35) Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling- NYC

36) Drag Queen Dance Show – Lisbon

37) Collage Art – Australia

Thursday

38) Meditative Forest Bathing – Portugal

39) Pasta With Grandma – Italy

40) Photography Class – Barcelona

41) Rescue Goats – USA    

 

42) Wine Guru – Porto 

43) Sheep At Sunrise – New Zealand

44) Bounce & Twerk With Mojoe – New Orleans

45) Introduction To Mexican Cuisine – Mexico

46) Ideas For Authors – USA 

Friday

47) K-Pop Dancing – Seoul

48) Olympian Flag Bearer – Mozambique

49) Japanese Food Art – Japan

50) Pasta & Opera – Rome

51) Laughter Yoga – Lisbon

52) Cape Malay Curry – South Africa

53) Olympic Gold Medallist – UK

54) Espadrille Shoe Making – Barcelona

55) Magic World Record- UK

56) Calligraphy Class- USA

57) Caravaggio Tour – Rome

58) Tango Posture – Barcelona

59) Healing And Happiness – USA

60) Street Art Tour – Buenos Aires

61) Irish Dancing – Galway  

Saturday

62) Tiramisu World Champion – Italy

63) One Love Meditation – Japan

64) Storyboarding Explained – Russia

65) Flamenco Class – Spain

66) Cello Meditation – Amsterdam

67) Vibe Ride – Detroit

68) Wine Tasting – Paris

69) French Crepes – Nice

70) Day Of The Dead – Mexico

71) Bookmaking – California  

Sunday

72) Judo With World Champions – UK

73) Penguin Pro – South Africa

74) Sake Tasting – Japan

75) Champagne Sabering – Reims

76) Origami Class – Japan

77) Extreme Magic – Ukraine

78) Western Architecture – France

79) Salsa & Passion – Puerto Rico

80) Cat Yoga – Brooklyn

81) Cigar Guru – Miami

82) Meet Vincent Van Gogh – NYC

83) Acoustic Concert- Iceland

84) Songwriting – Nashville 

The funniest session was, appropriately, laughter yoga.

James continued: ‘The funniest of all had to be Laughter Yoga with Thomas Cock, his actual name, in Lisbon. Using different exercises, you laugh for over an hour. It was amazing how quickly fake laughter turned into the real deal and it felt so cathartic and positive afterwards. 

‘He had repeat customers who were doing their seventh session it was so entertaining and beneficial.

‘I also had the first day I’ve ever cried with laughter twice in one day. We had a goat tour in rural New York which, thanks to the world’s worst wifi connection, became more of an immersive animal comedy. Then later, a Mexican cookery teacher flat out refused to let us leave to our next session, so we were held digital captives in an online kidnapping, which was weirdly hilarious.’ 

‘Having my fortune told through the coffee stains left in my mug by Uluc, a Turkish legend with a gigantic teddy bear in his New York apartment, was particularly unforgettable,’ said James

‘We were lucky to meet so many extraordinary people,’ said James

The bounce and twerk session, James said, ‘should have been beyond embarrassing but somehow was gloriously uplifting’

The sessions, James revealed, changed him as a person.

He said: ‘It really inspired me meeting so many incredible people who do things they’re so passionate about. It also really reminded me how connected we all are across cultures and borders no matter what’s happening.’

What’s more, he’s now an expert something new.

James said: ‘Having been entrusted with the secrets of tiramisu by Silvia in Italy, who genuinely attended the Tiramisu World Cup (an event now high up my bucket list), I now make such a high quality tiramisu that I’m awaiting my Italian citizenship.’

Airbnb launched the virtual experiences on April 9, with 50 available. There are now over 200

The sessions, said James, reminded him ‘how connected we all are across cultures and borders no matter what’s happening’. But he wasn’t always able to take the expert advice on board, as this image shows

While the video James and David made is a wrap – their journey isn’t over yet.

James added: ‘We’ve made friends for life and already have been offered apartments to stay in in New York, a free wine lesson in Portugal, a free penguin tour in South Africa and a coffee with an Olympic Gold Medallist. We were lucky to meet so many extraordinary people.’

Airbnb launched the virtual experiences on April 9, with 50 available. There are now over 200.

Visit airbnb.com/online-experiences for more information. If you are interested in hosting an experience visit airbnb.com/onlinehost.

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Cruises

Nexion Unveils Tools to Help Agents Thrive Post COVID-19

Nexion Travel Group is fortifying its agent members with a portfolio of programs and tools designed help them thrive once coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us to a truly unprecedented time. Our members, like all travel advisors, are bravely navigating through these difficult waters,” said Nexion Travel Group President Jackie Friedman. “As their host agency, Nexion Travel Group has been working hard to creatively think of ways we can support them in developing their business, sharpening their skills and continuing to be a trusted travel advisor to their clients.”

For starters, Nexion is offering a Back to Basics webinar series, featuring subject matter experts to help agents tackle such subjects as marketing.

The host agency’s business development and education team created Chaos to Control, a virtual learning series designed to help advisors see their way through pandemic and subsequent recovery.

Nexion is also offering Chime-in Chat, biweekly Zoom meetings with the host agency’s top executives, enabling travel advisors to hear their candid thoughts on the current travel climate and to answers their questions and listen to their concerns.

As part of the former Travel Leaders Group, which has changed its name to Internova, Nexion has also offered its financial assistance webinars to members, featuring expert information on new legislation and programs like the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program, and much more.

“Until we can get back to travel, we are committed to helping our members use this time to their best advantage,” Friedman said. “It is not only our duty to do that, it is our privilege. As these travel advisors continue to work hard for their clients with cancellations and refunds for booked trips, we are standing beside them, ready to help support them and make sure that when this pandemic is over, their travel agencies are ready to thrive.”

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Cruises

Pandemic a setback for Epic Universe

Construction has halted on Universal
Orlando Resort’s fourth theme park, Epic Universe, because of the coronavirus
pandemic, said parent company Comcast Corp, on Thursday.

Speaking on Comcast’s Q1 earnings call, CEO Brian Roberts
said construction has also been delayed at Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios
Japan in Osaka. Expected to open this summer, Super Nintendo World is likely to
open “a few months” later, Roberts said. However, its new theme park in Beijing
is expected to open on schedule next spring.

Orlando’s Epic Universe was originally expected to open in 2023.

All of Universal’s theme parks have been closed due to the
coronavirus pandemic.

“But there is no doubt that our theme parks will reopen, and
when they do, I believe we’ll benefit from strong, pent-up demand,” Roberts
said. “We love these businesses. They have been one of our fastest growing for
the last 10 years. They are extremely profitable, historically resilient and
enjoy high barriers to entry.”

In the first quarter, theme park revenue was down 31.9% to
$869 million, Comcast reported. 

According to CFO Michael Cavanagh, the park in Japan was
already experiencing some softness prior to its closure related to Covid-19 on
Feb. 29. The Universal Hollywood Resort closed March 14, followed by Universal Orlando
on March 16.

“At this point, all of our theme parks are closed and we do
not know when they will reopen,” Cavanagh said.

If the parks remain closed for the entirety of the second
quarter, it will result in a $500 million loss before before interest, taxes,
depreciation and amortization.

Asked by an analyst what capacity the parks would have to
reach attendance-wise to break even, Cavanagh said typically 50%. But even with
lower attendance, the company would be in better shape than if they were
closed.

Universal will not push attendance when the parks do reopen,
he said, because safety will be a priority.

“Our talented parks team is taking the right near-term steps
to control costs while remaining laser-focused on putting in place the
appropriate protocols, technology and infrastructure so that when we do reopen,
our parks are safe and feel that way to consumers,” he said.

The CEO said he was “heartened” by what the company is
seeing in China, where another theme park, Universal Studios Beijing, is under
construction, slated to open in May 2021.

Going into the Chinese New Year when the coronavirus’ spread
started to heighten in China, there were 12,000 construction workers working on
the park, Roberts said. That quickly went to zero, but today there are more
than 15,000 construction workers on the site.

“I’m pleased to announce we expect to be open on time and on
budget in 2021,” he said. “Beijing may be different, but perhaps it shows the
arc of this crisis.”

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Cruises

Cruise Ship Leaves Australia After Coronavirus Debacle

The controversial cruise ship that was Australia’s largest single source of coronavirus infections departed from the country on Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess is currently under investigation after it was linked to 19 deaths caused by the viral pandemic in Australia and two in the United States.

The Australian government is trying to determine how around 2,700 passengers and crew members were permitted to leave the ship in March despite the results of coronavirus tests not being known yet.

The Ruby Princess was originally asked to leave the country by local authorities, but was forced to delay its departure from Port Kembla near Sydney due to a coronavirus outbreak among crew members that left several dead.

As the vessel departed with a skeleton crew, it displayed a large banner strung across its stern that said “Thank You Illawarra,” which is the coastal region where the ship had been docked.

Princess Cruises has not revealed where the ship is scheduled to dock next.

Police are investigating the management team of the Ruby Princess for possibly downplaying the extent of the coronavirus outbreak on board, which gave local authorities the confidence needed to allow passengers to disembark.

Health officials revealed all crew members on the ship have tested negative for the virus.

As a result of the worldwide travel restrictions, Princess Cruises is offering two cancellation options. Guests who paid in full will receive a future cruise credit equivalent to the cruise fare paid and, as an added incentive, an additional 25 percent credit.

Travelers must use their credits on a cruise that sails on or before May 1, 2022.

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Cruises

Commission payments becoming a sore point for advisors

The unprecedented shutdown in travel from the Covid-19 pandemic has created confusion and, in some cases, tension between advisors and suppliers over commission payments for canceled and postponed travel.

How and when advisors are paid for commissions has always varied from company to company, and the policies have become more convoluted as cruise lines and tour operators have had to cancel trips across the board.

“Suppliers are not paying commission for things that have been postponed, even if they’ve been rebooked at specific dates later on,” said Robert Joselyn, president and CEO of the Joselyn Consulting Group. “For example, if it were a cruise or a tour or something like that and somebody had one coming up in May and they rebook it for January of next year, they’re not going to see the commission until after the client travels next year. That revenue, for the purpose of surviving in 2020, is gone.”

Indeed, while scrambling to help clients get refunds or rebook trips, advisors have watched their expected income dry up or be postponed indefinitely. The uncertainty surrounding commission payments, along with a number of complaints from advisors who lost commissions on canceled trips, prompted ASTA last month to call for companies to pay commissions at the time of booking.

“This support to the ASTA agency community, in recognition of the value they bring to travel distribution, is greatly appreciated during this difficult time, and especially by those small-business members whose livelihoods have been gravely impacted,” ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby told members at the time.

Most suppliers did relax their change and cancellation policies in response to the global travel shutdown.

Many also instituted commission protection plans, with some promising bonus commissions if travelers agree to take future travel credits or reschedule rather than cancel. Some also, at least at the outset of the crisis, paid commissions on refunded bookings.

But those policies have been changing as fast as companies’ expected travel resumption dates. Some of the companies that were paying commissions on all canceled travel have been moving away from that, saying such policies were not sustainable with an extended shutdown looming.

In recent weeks, many of the more generous commission payment policies have been amended to commission protection plans and bonuses that pay only on travel credits and rebookings.

Daniela Harrison, a travel consultant at Avenues of the World Travel in Flagstaff, Ariz., said that “the difficult part is that all cruise lines have their own policies, and they are changing almost daily.”

She said that in many cases, cruise lines “are actually cutting our commission in half or even less by issuing FCCs [future cruise credits] for clients to use on their next trip. We don’t have our commission protected on the original departure, and once the FCC is applied, we only get commission on the base fare difference.”

Angela Rice, co-founder of Boutique Travel Advisors in Paradise Valley, Ariz., said that when cruise lines and tour operators offer clients future travel products, it protects the commission but delays it, since commission payments are usually tied to the travel dates, which are being significantly and sometimes indefinitely delayed.

“For example, some future credits are being extended up to 24 months,” she said. “This offers flexibility for the consumer, but it’s a significant wait time for the travel advisor.”

Marc Hayes, president of Cruise Elite in Ormond Beach, Fla., said that the main challenge comes from clients canceling prior to final payments.

“At this juncture, commissions are not protected. We are losing our future income stream,” he said. “Consumer confidence in the cruise line industry is at a low mark. Many consumers wonder whether some of the cruise lines will even be around in the future. Cruise lines and suppliers should extend final payment due dates to instill further public confidence. We have been in business for over 15 years and have weathered the recession; however, we are in uncharted territory now.”

Indeed, Joselyn said he has had hundreds of conversations with travel advisors in recent weeks, and chief on everyone’s mind is getting cash into their business to pay employees, rent and bills.

That isn’t limited to travel agencies, though, Joselyn said. Suppliers, too, are concerned with cash flow.

“People are saying that they’re seeing commissions that are due them for past travel coming in slower than they were, and certainly the other thing they’re concerned about are [instances] where they’ve booked past travel and are due commissions” and a supplier goes out of business, he said.

Jamie Biesiada and Nancy Trejos contributed to this report.

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Travel

How to claim money back on a trip cut short due to coronavirus

How to claim money back on a trip cut short due to coronavirus and advice on a future walking holiday in the Alps: The Holiday Guru solves traveller queries

  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

The Holiday Guru is always on call to answer your questions.

This week a reader asks for help with claiming a refund after they had to abandon their tour around Asia, while another seeks tips on how to plan a challenging hike in the Alps for when we can travel again…  

Q. We flew back after five days of a 16-day holiday in Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo due to coronavirus, paying for our own new flights as the rep said we would receive a full refund from our travel company, Mercury Direct. Nothing has come. Can you help?

Doreen and Wayne Holland, via email.

A reader asks for help with claiming a refund after they had to abandon their tour around Malaysia, Singapore (pictured) and Borneo

A. Mercury (mercuryholidays.com) has apologised for this ‘error’ and will refund you for the flights and the unused part of the holiday. A spokesman said: ‘We apologise unreservedly for any stress this has caused.

‘Our first and only priority has been to repatriate all of our clients safely back to the UK, without anyone losing out financially.’

Q. I am dreaming of going on a long challenging walk in the Alps to rid myself of ‘cabin fever’ when all the current restrictions are over. Any recommendations?

Joan Edwards, via email.

The Holiday Guru recommends a two-week hike from Eiger (pictured) to the the Matterhorn in Switzerland

A. Inntravel offers a selection of walks including a rigorous two-week hike from the Eiger to the Matterhorn in Switzerland — from £2,495 pp including hotels, half-board meals and luggage transportation, but excluding flights (inntravel.co.uk).

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

Holiday Guru is here for you. Send questions to [email protected] or write to Daily Mail Travel, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT — and include your contact details.

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Travel

A Travel-Inspired Day Full of Things to Do With Kids at Home



a herd of cattle grazing on a lush green field

With billions of people grounded because of the coronavirus pandemic, armchair travel has never been more important, especially for parents hoping to capture their kids’ attention and imagination. Here’s a full day of things to do with kids at home, sure to get them excited about seeing the world even while they’re stuck indoors.

9 a.m.: Break out the sunglasses

We’re headed to the beach. The beach finder from Visit Florida will help you choose images with just the right vibe, from laid-back to action-packed, to cast on the flat-screen. You can also gaze at videos of the Gulf Coast on Visit South Walton’s Facebook page, or take an aerial tour of the dramatic beaches of Tenerife, in Spain’s Canary Islands.

a large building: The Palace of Versailles would never be this empty in person.

10 a.m.: Put on your crown

You’re queen (or king) for the day. You’ll have Edinburgh Castle, one of the most famous castles in the world, all to yourself on Google Arts and Culture—see the magnificent Great Hall and visit St. Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh’s oldest building. Then take a private tour of the Palace of Versailles, where you can roam around gilded bedchambers and see the Hall of Mirrors without the crowds.

11 a.m.: Get that camera ready

It’s animal time. Thanks to a variety of live streams, you can watch giraffes at the Saint Louis Zoo, ogle the tiger cubs at the San Diego Zoo, meet sloths at Nebraska’s Lincoln Children’s Zoo, and get up-close with gorillas at the Philadelphia Zoo. Hang with Fiona the hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo. or peer in on the otters at the CROW Wildlife Clinic, a rehabilitative center in Sanibel, Florida. Finally: pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo and puffins in the Shetland Islands.

a canyon with Machu Picchu in the background: Hiking up to Machu Picchu can take days—but visiting virtually takes no time at all.

12 p.m.: Lace up those boots

Soaring over these natural wonders is one of our favorite things to do with kids at home. First up, Machu Picchu and the Costa Rican rainforest with Austin Adventures, which is hosting weekly virtual adventures for kids. Then it’s off to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia; explore the UNESCO World Heritage site and its namesake sandstone rock via Story Spheres. Cap the adventure off with one of Lindblad Expeditions’ Virtual Expeditions, which explore old-growth forests of Iyoukeen Cove in Alaska, the grottos of Makatea in French Polynesia, and other marvels.

1 p.m.: Set the table

We’ve got lunch reservations halfway around the world. Whip up caprese skewers, chicken tinga tacos, and other internationally influenced kids’ recipes from America’s Test Kitchen. Facebook tutorials from Visit Costa Rica turn dishes like gallo pinto and picadillo de papa into family projects. And Indagare’s Global Classroom offers cooking workshops that encourage tots to expand their palates, including a ceviche class led by the Colombian chef Alejandro Ramirez.

a group of people standing in front of a screen: Jellyfish habitats at the world's aquariums are on display online.

2 p.m.: Tighten your snorkel

We’re going swimming with the fishes. Explore otter, shark, and other creatures’ habitats at the Monterey Bay Aquarium; check in on jellyfish in Baltimore; learn about sharks at the Aquarium of the Pacific; and wave hello to Coconut, the baby sloth at the St. Louis Aquarium, which has an ongoing Daily Quaranstream.

3 p.m.: Strap on that backpack

It’s time to go off to the National Parks. Take a 360-degree romp through the Redwoods, listen to the sounds of a waterfall in Yosemite National Park, and hike the Barker Dam Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. Then catch other National Parks around the country on the new #RoamFromHome Instagram and Facebook series from Xanterra Travel Collection, which operates in Yellowstone, Zion, and several other major parks.

a herd of zebra standing on top of a grass covered field: Join wildlife expert and safari guides on their morning drives.

4 p.m.: Grab those binoculars

We’re heading on safari. Every day in April, andBeyond Ngala Private Game Reserve and Djuma Private Game Reserve, both in South Africa, will broadcast live game drives on Facebook and YouTube. Hosted by expert field guides, the twice-daily safaris will also give kids the chance to ask questions in real time by commenting on YouTube or by using the Twitter hashtag #wildearth.

5 p.m.: Sharpen those scissors

It’s an arts and crafts happy hour. Make your own piñatas with help from an online tutorial from Chileno Bay, an Auberge resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, or create a miniature version of Dromoland Castle, a 16th-century Irish castle, by tagging along on Facebook. The downloadable, print-at-home Color the Amazon book from Delfin Amazon Cruises depicts morpho butterflies and red-backed poison frogs. End the afternoon with some DIY spa action: the Kids Chocolate Facial from Esperanza, an Auberge resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, turns coconut oil and dark cocoa powder into kid-safe (albeit a little messy) rest and relaxation.

WATCH: 50 people from 50 states tell us how to fit in with the locals



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Cruises

Commercial flights no longer an option for disembarking cruise passengers

Cruise lines passengers disembarking ships in the U.S. must
return home via chartered or private transportation, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention said on April 5. 

“Commercial flights and public transportation may not be
used,” the directive reads. “Outbreaks of Covid-19 on cruise ships pose a
risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage. Aggressive efforts are
required to contain spread.”

The CDC said that cruise ships are often settings for
outbreaks of infectious diseases because of the “semi-enclosed environment and
contact between travelers from many countries.” 

The latest directive is a change that the CDC says “might be
confusing for travelers.” Previously, the CDC had advised cruise ship
passengers with no symptoms or temperature to travel on commercial flights with
face masks and to self-isolate for 14 days once home.

“The Covid-19 pandemic in the United States and globally is
constantly changing. We will continue to evaluate and update our
recommendations for returning cruise ship travelers as the situation evolves,”
CDC said. 

The directive comes after two cruise ships recently arrived
in the U.S. with passengers that tested positive for Covid-19 — Holland
America Line’s Zaandam
and Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess.

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Travel

On a slow boat to Norfolk and watching the world chug by at 6mph

On a slow boat to Norfolk: Taking the helm of a 40ft craft and discovering the absolute delight of watching the world chug by at 6mph

  • Norfolk Broads, a huge inland waterway, is Britain’s largest protected wetland
  • It is awash with enchanting scenery – fen, carr woodlands and marshes 
  • In Horning, there are cute waterside homes where owners watch the world go by

When you’re cruising on a boat at a stately six miles per hour, the last thing you’re fearful of is being caught speeding. Yet 6mph is the fastest speed you’re permitted to go on the Norfolk Broads, Britain’s largest protected wetland and third-largest inland waterway.

But why on earth would you wish to go any faster? This tranquil quarter of East Anglia is awash with enchanting scenery such as fen, carr woodland and grazing marshes, the biggest blue skies and a wealth of wildlife.

Perhaps the most daunting part for first-timers on the Broads are the boats themselves.

Taking life easy: A Serenade class boat that was used by Ben during his trip to the Norfolk Broads 

At the Wroxham marina of hire boat company Barnes Brinkcraft, the one I tried was not small at nearly 40ft long. Yet it is surprising how easy these vessels are to use. Apart from steering, there’s a gear lever to move forwards or backwards, and bow-thrusters for fine manoeuvring in more demanding situations, such as mooring. Mooring stern-on (like reversing a car) can be especially taxing.

The Serenade class boat we chose was almost new and spotless. What is lost in character is gained in practicality. The boat cost £150,000 to build, and it seems remarkable that the company lets complete novices loose on them. ‘We maintain and repair them ourselves, and they go so slowly that accidents are very rare,’ explains the company’s Sara Thwaites.

Our boat contained a bedroom with a double bed in the bow, another bedroom with two singles in the stern, and a generous lounge and kitchen area with the possibility of converting the seating into two further beds. The two bathrooms were ingenious, cramming a shower, loo and basin into a space not much bigger than a double wardrobe. There was hot and cold water, heating, a fridge, hob, microwave, TV and wi-fi.

Before exploring the 124 miles of navigable waterways – the result of 12th Century peat extraction – we were given instructions about manoeuvring the boat, filling up with diesel and water, and using the mud weight for anchoring.

Most Broads newbies no doubt consider it marvellous to be able to cruise the peaceful waterways within an hour, without having to endure a long boating course.

The ruins of St Benet’s Abbey, which are located along the River Bure in the Norfolk Broads 

On the lookout: The Broads teems with wildlife, including kingfishers

If you head along the River Bure to the village of Horning, you’ll pass rows of cute little timber waterside homes, often with their owners watching the world go by from their tiny, neat gardens.

Swathes of unspoilt countryside follow, a feast of reedbeds, forest and fields. Wind away the electric roof and windows, and the Broads open up even more.

Horning has three pubs and is also near the fantastic Bewilderwood theme park (handy for children who want to get off the boat for a few hours).

However, moorings are in high demand here and so are those near other pubs and villages.

At peak season, you definitely need to think about mooring up in the early afternoon at popular places, or book ahead when possible, otherwise it will be like trying to find a supermarket parking space in the run-up to Christmas.

As well as the Broads Authority’s free moorings, there are those typically attracting a £5 or £10 nightly charge, and you can stop along the banks in many places, although you’ll often be next to reed beds or deep mud and away from dry land.

Tiny Salhouse Island, near Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail, where you can learn about the local habitat and wildlife, is a good spot to moor up.

It’s glorious to sit on deck in almost complete silence with a glass of wine as the sun goes down and is replaced by a smattering of twinkling stars. Indeed, whenever you turn off the engine, it is lovely to hear no more than birdsong or laughter from a passing boat.

The Broads has 124 miles of navigable waterways – the result of 12th Century peat extraction

The Broads teem with wildlife: residents include otters, water shrews and harvest mice, kingfishers, moorhens, grebes, geese, coots, cormorants, terns, marsh harriers, herons, seagulls, dragonflies and Britain’s largest butterfly, the swallowtail.

If you’re lucky you may even hear a bittern, but you are unlikely to see one as they are rare. You may even encounter pirates invading the boat: I found three mallards parading the deck on our boat in search of bread or some other treasure.

For a city-dweller, it was a real treat to examine a duck in such detail, just three inches away on the other side of the window: the gleaming, colourful feathers, inquisitive eyes and bright orange webbed feet.

In the distance, three swans flew past in a formation the Red Arrows would envy.

Along the River Bure you’ll also stumble across the pretty ruins of St Benet’s Abbey, and one of the Broads’ numerous attractive windmills. An atmospheric place, with no roads or other settlements, it’s an ideal spot for a walk.

Cycling is another popular option, with the flat terrain mercifully unchallenging. Broadland Cycle Hire (norfolkbroadscycling.co.uk), near Horning, charges £13 for half a day for an adult bike, and has several suggested routes. The Broads By Bike (thebroadsbybike.org.uk) has even more options.

The Broads’ narrowest river, the Ant, is worth a detour and offers one of the prettiest waterways. You’ll breeze past charming villages such as Ludham, with its pub, tea rooms and shop, then peaceful Irstead, with its thatched medieval church.

All along the Broads, signs indicate the maximum permitted speeds, which vary from 3mph to 6mph

Don’t miss the traditional marshman’s house, Toad Hall Cottage at How Hill, and get a fascinating glimpse into life here a century ago. There are also nature trails and landscaped water gardens.

All along the Broads, signs indicate the maximum permitted speeds, which vary from 3mph to 6mph. As tempting as it is to have a glass of wine with a picnic lunch, even at 3mph you need to have your wits about you. 

Not concentrating for a few seconds could mean you are heading for an oncoming vessel. As fines for speeding on the Broads can reach £1,000, it’s important to keep to the limits. They are there to stop erosion of the banks, protect those on board moored boats, and to prevent disturbing nesting birds at water level.

The Ant opens up to a large expanse of water, Barton Broad, where you can head for the White Horse at Neatishead, a delightful traditional village pub which brews its own beer and uses local suppliers. The pork and apple burger hits the spot after a morning at the helm but there are plenty of wraps with veggie crisps and slaw on offer too. And Neatishead Public Staithe is a good place to settle for the night.

You don’t need to be particularly fit to enjoy a boating break, although the layouts and different levels on most boats make them tricky for anyone less mobile to navigate.

If you are unsure whether you’d like a boating break for a whole week, try out a relaxing weekend visit instead and follow a short itinerary (and there’s no need to leave your dog at home – they’re allowed on board).

The secret to a wonderful holiday here is not to try to do too much or attempt to travel the length and breadth of the Broads.

Keep your daily voyages modest and this can be one of the most relaxing places on Earth.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Ben West was a guest of Barnes Brinkcraft. Serenade class boats, sleeping six, cost from £719 in low season to £1,436 in high season, plus £40 fuel and damage waiver for three nights. 

For more information, visit barnesbrinkcraft.co.uk, visitnorfolk.co.uk, broads-authority.gov.uk and norfolkbroads.com.

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