Out to Sea: Great Sailing & Cruising Vacations

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From a Panama Canal crossing to a barge trip through Europe and a cruise up the New England and Canada coast

Posted by: Xanterra on July 12, 2018

What could be more blissful than rolling down the river through Europe on a private deluxe canal barge?

For some travelers, only a vacation on the water will do. From cruising on a small luxury yacht to barging along intimate canals to sailing, canoeing, or kayaking on a river or lake, water-based getaways offer unique pleasures all their own. Here are five options guaranteed to thrill the mariner in you.

Panama Canal

Cruise the Panama Canal

Experience one of the seven wonders of the modern world on Windstar’s 11-day cruise, “Tropical Escape Through the Panama Canal.” Departing from Oranjestad, Aruba, this itinerary makes a complete transit of the Panama Canal in broad daylight — traversing 48 miles of the busiest and most historic waterway in the world. Thrill to this bucket-list destination on one of Windstar’s intimate luxury sailing ships or all-suite motor yachts with no more than 310 passengers each.

On your way to the canal, you’ll visit beautiful Cartagena, Colombia, a colonial walled city filled with historic churches, fortresses, and mansions that make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the Pacific side you’ll learn about unique rainforest wildlife and biodiversity from expert local naturalists in remote nature areas like Isla Parida, Panama, and Golfo Dulce and Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. Experience these tropical wonderlands via nature hikes, kayak excursions, horseback rides, and mangrove swamp float trips — which get you up close and personal to the diverse flora and fauna. A brilliant combination of first-world wonders with primeval splendors, this cruise guarantees lifelong memories.

How to explore: Recognized by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler on the Gold List of Favorite Cruise Lines and by USA TODAY readers for Best Boutique Cruise Line, Windstar’s fleet of small luxury sailing ships and all-suite power yachts with 148 to 310 guests bring you closer to smaller ports and exclusive local experiences around the world. Visit windstarcruises.com or call 888-460-5098 for more information.

Sea Island Santa

Learn to Sail in Georgia

Always longed to tack, jibe, and tie knots? The Sea Island Sailing School at the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Sea Island Resort in Georgia makes it so easy. A three-hour experience for the beginning sailor, the school begins at Rainbow Island Watersports with a basic backwater sailing instruction on a Sunfish Sailboat on the Black Banks River. Then the school moves to the Beach Club Sailing Center for open-ocean instruction on a Hobie Cat® Wave. Lunch and transportation are included.

You can also just take Hobie Cat® sailing lessons to learn the fundamentals including points of sail, nautical terms and language, maneuvering, tacking and gybing, and how to tie sailing knots. Or take Backwater Sunfish Sailing Classes from the Rainbow Island Water Sports Center. This sailing lesson introduces wind direction, tidal currents, rigging the boat, identifying the purposes of the daggerboard, rudder, and sails. Also learn the fundamentals of rope knots.

How to explore: Located on the coast of Georgia since 1928, Sea Island features five miles of private beach; a beach club; tennis and squash centers; a yacht club; a shooting school; Camp Cloister; three championship golf courses, including Seaside and Plantation, home of the PGA tour’s RSM Classic. Guests may also enjoy nearby Broadfield, a Sea Island Sporting Club and Lodge, offering a variety of seasonal hunting, fishing, sporting, and organic culinary opportunities. Visit Seaisland.com for more information.

solo biker

Bike and Barge in Europe

What could be more blissful than rolling down the river through Europe on a private deluxe canal barge? On VBT’s 11-day “Heart of Europe Bike and Boat: Cochem to Metz” — one of the company’s nine bike and boat tours — you’ll travel by barge along the Mosel River where Germany, France, and Luxembourg share overlapping cultures, cuisine, and wines.

Trace the path of the Mosel River as it meanders through half-timbered villages, Roman ruins, verdant forests, and prize Riesling vineyards. Explore the countryside as you cycle through ancient volcanic landscapes and medieval towns and alongside pristine lakes. Visit Roman Trier, the grand ducal city of Luxembourg, Charlemagne’s medieval city of Metz, France, and the castle in Cochem, Germany. And toast your good fortune with a glass of the finest Riesling or heartiest German beer.

How to explore: VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations offer more than 55 deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, and barge & sail vacations in 27 different countries and 10 U.S. states. They are the value leader in active biking vacations and have been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for seven years. Each trip includes all accommodations, many meals, two expert local trip leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities, and full van support. VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from more than 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities. Visit vbt.com or call 800-245-3868 for more information.

lighthouse

Cruise New England and the St. Lawrence Seaway

The historic and scenic New England coastline beckons on this 11-day “New England & St. Lawrence Seaway Cruise” from Boston to Montreal. It’s one of eight cruises offered by the all-inclusive tour company, Holiday Vacations.

Enjoy Boston’s iconic highlights — including the Freedom Trail, Quincy Market, the Old North Church, and the Boston Tea Party Museum — before boarding an elegant Holland America ship. Then set sail for the resort town of Bar Harbor, Maine; scenic Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia; and historic Sydney, Nova Scotia, which dates from the 1700s. Beautiful Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, marked by vintage architecture and sweeping vistas and the inspiration for Anne of Green Gables, is next on the itinerary. After a relaxing day at sea cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence, conclude your cruise with two of Canada’s most European-flavored cities: charming Quebec City with its landmark Le Château Frontenac castle and stylish, cosmopolitan Montreal.

How to explore: Holiday Vacations is one of America’s most reputable tour companies, with more than 45 years of experience. As a nationwide provider of air, rail, motorcoach and cruise guided vacations to more than 65 destinations worldwide, their packages are inclusive of all airfare, fine hotels, meals and must-see attractions. Expert tour directors handle all travel details. Visit HolidayVacations.com for more information.

Boat on lake

Go Boating on Yellowstone Lake

The nation’s first national park is a place of stunning beauty where hot springs, geysers, mountains, forests, and lakes are the setting for nature’s drama. Amid these treasures, one body of water stands out: Yellowstone Lake, the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.

As beautiful as the lake is from the shoreline, being out on the water is even better. Powerboats, sailboats, canoes, and kayaks are allowed on the lake with a Yellowstone boating permit. There are also charter fishing and sightseeing boats and a backcountry shuttle boat service. You can rent a 40-hp, 18-foot motorboat from Bridge Bay Marina to explore the lake. Or you can take a Scenicruise aboard the Lake Queen for one-hour guided tours. The boat departs Bridge Bay Marina and heads out and around Stevenson Island, where you’ll see the remains of the SS E.C. Waters and hear the story about the man who had her built. While cruising on the lake, you’ll learn about the history of the area while watching for eagles, ospreys, and shoreline wanderers such as waterfowl and occasionally even elk and bison.

How to explore: Stay in one of the nine unique lodging options, including the renowned historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel, at Yellowstone National Park Lodges for the ultimate park experience. Staying in the park is the best way for visitors to experience all it has to offer. Yellowstone National Park Lodges also offers tours and activities guided by Certified Interpretive Guides. Visit YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com for more information.

For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from the Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.


Author

Written by: Veronica Stoddart

Award-winning travel editor and writer Veronica Stoddart was the former editor in chief of the Travel Media Group at USA TODAY. She has written for nearly two dozen publications and websites.

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