• travel dispatches

    Travel Dispatches on Cruiseable

    Follow my Travel Dispatches on Cruiseable!

  • Jost van Dyke, BVIs

    BVIs: Journey through Jost van Dyke

    Family trip to the Virgin Islands - no trip is complete without a day on Jost Van Dyke.

  • Layover in London

    Bucketlist Destinations: Unexplored Europe

    Five broad destinations/regions and experiences on my list for traveling through Europe.

  • Anguilla Carnival, Caribbean

    Anguilla: Meads Bay Boat Races

    Wrapping up Carnival week with Thursday's boat races on Meads Bay!

  • August Monday in Anguilla

    Photo Album: August Monday in Anguilla

    Recapping August Monday's festivities on Sandy Ground with photo + video!

travel dispatches

Destination tips + itineraries for cruisers and travelers

I’ve been working as the Chief Curator at Cruiseable, a platform focused on helping travelers find the perfect cruising experience for them. I grew up with a very narrow idea of what cruising was: mega ships hitting up the same ports of call in touristed areas, offering little in the way of culture or educational experiences. Fast forward to our honeymoon when we cruised the Amazon River with Aqua Expeditions (32 person max), and I found myself singing a different tune. And now, working with an exceptionally talented and well-traveled group who’ve explored the globe – including someone who’s been on over 400 cruises (no, seriously)! –  it’s been extra fun finding out about some of the coolest, boutique cruising opportunities that help travelers visit off-beat ports of call.

I’m particularly excited to be a contributor to Cruiseable with the Travel Dispatches series, giving travelers and cruisers insight into destinations, with a special focus on how to enjoy certain locales with limited time.

My first dispatch on Panama City is now live on their site! Stay tuned for more travel dispatches from some of my favorite destinations around the world.PTY, Layover in Panama City

What are your thoughts on cruising? Which cruises do you find yourself most intrigued by?

Shannon Kircher

 

 

 

Jost van Dyke, BVIs

Before ever visiting Jost van Dyke, I’d heard about it from everyone under the sun. To Scott, it was arguably the best place on earth, and for many of our guests and friends, Soggy Dollar was a veritable rite of passage for travelers to the Caribbean. There are few beach bars more famous that the Soggy Dollar Bar, and Foxy’s holds a close second. From what I had heard, this was an island of pure magic; a bubble of happiness and perfection, fueled by painkillers and bushwackers.

I had to see it for myself so Scott and I visited St. John and Jost Van Dyke for our first anniversary. It was just as awesome as I had envisioned, and was more of an adventure that I had initially imagined.

This year, with the entire family based in St. Thomas for a few days, we chartered a boat with St. Thomas Boat Rentals and set sail for a day of adventure in the British Virgin Islands. Our boat for the day was Innovation, a power cat that was the perfect vessel for a small group navigating the sea.

Our objective was primarily Jost Van Dyke, so we headed that direction to begin, with our first stop at Foxy’s on Great Bay.

Jost Van Dyke, BVIsJost Van Dyke, BVIsSailing into Jost Van Dyke, BVIsGreat Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVIsIMG_1030Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin IslandsFoxy's, Jost Van Dyke, BVIsFoxy's, Jost Van Dyke, BVIs

The last time we were on Jost Van Dyke, we sailed with Jason aboard his boat, Survivan, and spent our time solely at Soggy Dollar Bar on White Bay. This time, we sauntered down to Foxy’s to start our day with one of his legendary bushwackers while we overlooked the beach. The beach at White Bay is arguably a ‘better’ beach, but there was something about this slice of sand, dotted with brightly colored kayaks and colorful ramshackle Caribbean buildings, that made it more captivating to me. Underwear hanging from the ceiling just added to the charm.

{Click through to see more photos from Jost!} Read More

Layover in London

While living in London I was lucky enough to explore a fair bit of Western Europe on weekend trips or longer stints. In the last few years we’ve made long layovers in London and Paris part of broader travel experiences, plus we’re taking the time to head back to Europe this fall with trips to Ireland, Spain and France on the agenda for September. Being based in the Caribbean, we’ve focused our energies in Central America, South America and other Caribbean destinations to maximize the benefits of our current location, but Europe has always held an allure for me. There’s something about Europe – a mix of medieval cities, small village charm, ‘newness’ (not necessarily ‘exotic’, but cultural ‘newness’) and ease – that has my mind trailing back there when it comes to trip planning.

Between our annual December pre-Christmas getaway and an upcoming milestone birthday next year (eek!), I’ve been brainstorming my ideal European escapes from places that I have yet to visit. Below are European destinations or experiences that are on our list for future jaunts to the European continent.

Slovenia + Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula

Slovenia

1Croatia was on the top of my list when I was living in London but I just never carved out the time to actually make it there. Dubrovnik (below) was my focus, but within the last couple of years the Istrian Peninsula has become even more interesting to me: a world-class food and wine scene, gorgeous architecture, and that stunning Adriatic Coast all collaborate to put this at the top of my list. Neighboring Slovenia is a natural combination, boasting fairytale Lake Bled and stunning landscapes. For my milestone birthday next year, this one’s topping the list!

Dubrovnik to the Albanian Coast

Adriatic Road Trip, Croatia to Albania

2I’m not totally sure whether or not a road trip could be done from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Ksamil, Albania easily, but it’s a coast line that seems to be begging for a wind-in-the-hair drive. As I mentioned above, I’ve wanted to visit Dubrovnik for a while but I’d also want to capture a broader experience being there since Dubrovnik is one of the more touristy cities on the Adriatic. Further down the coast to Montenegro and Albania, the coastlines are still relatively untouched (at least comparatively). Fly into Dubrovnik and out of Corfu (there’s a ferry from Albanian coastal towns to Corfu Town).

European River Cruise

European River Cruise, Emerald Waterways

3The last time that I cruised (the only time, actually!) was a river cruise on the Amazon in South America. I love the idea of river cruising as the focus is more culturally focused, the cruises are small, and the ships pull right into a city to explore vs. somewhere on the outskirts to be bussed in.

When we’ve talked about a river cruise, we’ve discussed it in the context of an awesome family vacation: everyone paying for themselves and having everything covered (no worries about food, drinks, excursions, etc.). Plus, with Rhine, Main and Danube cruises like the itinerary shown above, we get a taste of a number of small towns, many that we likely wouldn’t explore as destinations in and of themselves. Starting in Amsterdam and ending in Budapest is icing; both are easy spots to add on days to the front and back ends for a deeper experience.

Check out this Emerald Waterways river cruise + some tips on how to save for your dream cruise. Read More

Anguilla Carnival, Caribbean

When it comes to Anguilla’s Summer Festival, Thursday is one of my favorite days of the week. August Monday invariable ends up being a pretty big day, and Scilly Cay Sunday is always a fabulous but equally full throttle day. Thursday, on the other hand, is Goldilocks in-between perfection.

Meads Bay is home to Thursday’s boat race making Frangipani the perfect point on the beach for watching the boats sail by. Further east down the beach, a beach party of mid-sized proportions lets loose with Caribbean tunes and local BBQ to draw in the crowds for the afternoon. Our first couple of years coming down for Carnival together we made our way down to the party zone for people watching with a side of rum punch. For the last couple of years, we’ve made Frangipani our more official home base for the entire day, with a band playing throughout the afternoon and a pool party which carries on through the later parts of the evening.

We cheered on the Frangipani-sponsored boat, De Tree, which hails from Blowing Point Village in Anguilla. Our landscape architect at the resort captains De Tree, and Thursday is one of the greatest days for watching them in action. Nearly everyone at the resort has a boat that they support and the races bring out a friendly competitive spirit for all involved. Our friends and family rocked ‘De Tree’ shirts to show support throughout the week’s festivities.

Frangipani Beach Resort, Anguilla Frangipani Beach Resort, AnguillaFrangipani Beach Resort, Anguilla Frangipani Beach Resort, Anguilla

The Mussington Brothers, who played for our group last year, reprised their act this year with an excited audience from about 6PM onward. And no party is complete without a conga line. Read More

August Monday in Anguilla

Carnival week is underway and August Monday is the crown jewel in the week’s festivities, bringing in masses of people from Anguilla and neighboring islands for a day long party. The beach party spans the stretch of Sandy Ground with boats from Anguilla, St. Maarten and St. Barths lining the shore. For guests that are used to seeing tranquil Anguilla, this is a far cry from the lazy beach days that many are used to experiencing.

August Monday represents one of the biggest beach parties in the Caribbean, and it starts off around 5AM with Jouvert (pronounced joo-vay). Thousands of people dance their way from The Valley to Sandy Ground over the course of a few hours to kickstart the festivities. I’ve never mustered up the energy to join in the early morning march but it’s a must for many of our friends on the island!

August Monday in  Sandy Ground, Anguilla CarnivalAugust Monday in Sandy Ground, Anguilla CarnivalAugust Monday, Sandy Ground, Anguilla Carnival

This year, we headed down to Sandy Ground at around 1PM. When people refer to ‘traffic’ in Anguilla, we always laugh. On an island of 13,000 or so people, how much traffic can there really be?

August Monday is different. This is the only time of year that I’ve legitimately experienced bumper-to-bumper traffic. Despite the long drive (luckily I had company!), we made it, and we had the resort’s boat tied up right in front of Johnno’s at the center of the festivities.

The people watching on August Monday is epic so we had to enjoy the requisite beach strolls, frozen drinks in hand, while we took it all in. Tents line the beach doling out BBQ, soup, snacks, rum punch and beer to keep the festivities fueled. The dance party centers around the main stage where people in all states of dress let loose on the beach. 

August Monday, Sandy Ground, Anguilla CarnivalAugust Monday, Sandy Ground, Anguilla Carnival Read More

Scilly Cay, Anguilla
I‘ve shared my love for Scilly Cay year after year (here, here and here, for example). Not everyone who visits Anguilla is in agreement, but I’ve always found it utterly magical in every way. The whole experience of getting out to this little desert island, and the ritual that is Scilly Cay Sunday before August Monday is incredibly special and amazingly fun.

Scott and I were the first to the island this past Sunday, waiting on the dock for the little boat to arrive from across the water. The rest of the crew were arriving later either by car or by the resort’s boat, but I’ve come to discover how much I enjoy getting there on the early side before others descend on the island. It’s a great place to seriously disconnect, with your toes in the sand and only the sound of the wind and sea surrounding you.

Scilly Cay, AnguillaScilly Cay, AnguillaScilly Cay, Anguilla Read More

Chez Wong, Lima

Experiential travel meets local dining

Eating local is one of my favorite parts of international travel. Even with a semi-restricted diet (no meat), I still generally find ways to delve into regional flavors when we’re traveling, and I’ve seen veg-friendly options arise more and more. I recently shared a post detailing six of my favorite international dining experiences, but one of my absolute favorite concepts is the idea of dining in a local’s home. Bonappetour is helping travelers facilitate this very interaction in a straight-forward way.

Once upon a time, this would seem like a moderately sketchy proposition but now it’s part of the experiential element that travelers want, especially millennials (guilty as charged!).

#eatlocal with Bonappetour

There’s the food element, of course. After all, if you’re looking for some place to dine, having a wonderful local meal is a part of the search. That being said, not every home is serving up local fare. You’ll find Indian food served up in Paris and Vietnamese cuisine in San Francisco, but in some ways that speaks to the cosmopolitan nature of major international cities as melting pots for global citizens.

But if local flavor is what you’re after, how can you beat options like a Khmer dining experience in Phnom Penh, a French wine + food pairing course in Paris, or a celiac-friendly Tuscan meal in Florence? There are so many cool options that go beyond eating and foray into the educational.

Read More

Hang Gliding in Rio de Janeiro

Hang Gliding in Rio with Quem Fly

You’ll recall that I posted photos and my experience hang gliding with Marcos Sempayo of Quem Fly about a week ago, but I was still working on what I was going to do with editing the video. After a few days of realizing that my video editing skills are not the greatest, I gave up on making this into something fancy (I had big dreams here!), and simply deferred to YouTube.

Below you can see a clipped version of my experience hang gliding in Rio, sailing over the Tijuca Forest + a gorgeous stretch of beach. It was an absolute dream.

Also, there were a few moments during the video that we took photos so you’ll see us randomly stick our arms out (Christ the Redeemer style), smile for a few moments looking into the camera, and give the GoPros a good ol’ carioca thumbs up. It’s kind of goofy to watch but it was also such a fabulous memory that I couldn’t help but share!

Have you been hang gliding? Did you find it frightening or exhilarating? 

Shannon Kircher

Miramar Windsor Hotel, Rio de Janeiro

After looking through my camera recently, I realized that I never uploaded photos from our final day in Rio de Janeiro! We didn’t do much of anything which is perhaps why these pictures fell to the wayside, but doing next to nothing was exactly what we wanted for our final day. I have this major problem when I’m traveling: I feel like I must always be engaged in something; some activity, some sightseeing, some tour, some conversation… just something. I’ve begun to value a teensy bit of downtime though and the pleasures of simply marinating in a new locale, taking in the sights, scents and sounds with zero agenda.

That was our last day in Rio to a tee. No plans, no itinerary. The only thing loosely on our to-do list was to enjoy the rooftop pool at the Miramar Windsor hotel on Copacabana beach before we had to say our goodbyes to this lovely city. Our first few days in Rio (in Brazil in general) were a bit meh on the weather front. The last two days, by contrast, were sunny perfection, begging for us to laze by the pool or on the golden sand.

Who are we to ignore that calling?

Copacabana Beach, Posto 5, Rio de JaneiroMiramar Windsor, Rio de JaneiroMiramar Windsor, Rio de Janeiro

After an early morning breakfast, we made our way to the pool to grab four seats together. I’ll be honest: I love the rooftop pool concept in Rio – and these views are second to none! – but the pool wasn’t the biggest when you take the size of the hotel into consideration (everything else about this hotel was absolute 5* so it didn’t matter all that much). Perhaps the thought is that visitors to Rio will opt for beach vs. pool on a sunny day? Whatever the logic, if you want a chair, you do need to head upstairs early to secure your position. We ended up with four chairs facing the pool + beach, overlooking the long swathe of sand that is Copacabana. It was a holiday weekend in Brazil and visitors were coming in from other parts of the country to enjoy the metropolitan beaches, plus the sun had beckoned international visitors to the area. 

Copacabana Beach, Posto 5, Rio de Janeiro Read More

Top International Dining Experiences

One of the greatest parts of traveling internationally is delving into the local culture: sightseeing at great museums and historical sites, listening to live music by local artists, and tasting regional cuisine. TripAdvisor recently came out with their list of top restaurants worldwide and I couldn’t help but brainstorm my own list of favorite international dining experiences. Not all of my favorites are ‘foodie’ approved, but all exposed me to some great international dining experiences abroad, using local ingredients or focusing on local flavor.

Central Restaurant // Lima, Peru

Central Restaurant, Lima, Peru

1Lima has developed a reputation as the defacto gastronomic capital of South America with famous local chefs producing innovative cuisine. Many places focus on locally sourced ingredients and/or on niche fusions seen within Peru (e.g. Chifa, a Chinese-Peruvian fusion, and Nikkei, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion). We had some excellent meals during our four days in Lima, but the hands down standout was Central Restaurant. It’s consistently ranked among the best restaurants in the world, and it’s definitely worthy of that accolade. I’m not a massive foodie but this is an approachable foodie scene that left both of us in awe. Try their cool pisco sour incarnations and ask your waiter for input on creating the perfect spread of small plates.

Central Restaurant | Santa Isabel 376 Miraflores Lima, Peru

Machneyuda // Jerusalem, Israel

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount

2Machneyuda is everything it purports to be… plus some. The food is excellent, the service leaves nothing to be desired (lots of young servers with great personalities pouring Israeli wines), and the ambiance transports you to a different world entirely. It’s hard to believe that this uber-hip spot is in the middle of Jerusalem; bartenders serve up arak shots and dance around to vibrant music as people leave synagogue nearby. It’s the coolest dichotomy to witness and it just adds to the appeal of this spot. You can’t go wrong with anything here but the polenta is over-the-top delish. If you can’t get into Machneyuda, try it’s sister restaurant Yudale, across the way. Equally wonderful!

Machneyuda Restaurant | Jerusalem, Israel Read More