As words such as “overtourism” begin to appear more frequently in headlines around the world, travelers are looking to alternative destinations, and it looks like Poland is one country that is enjoying the benefits.
Sophia Kulich, the owner of Sophia’s Travel, has seen a spike in business to the country. In fact, the company’s bookings to Poland increased by 45 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, overtaking the Czech Republic as its third-highest destination, and Kulich expects this boom to continue in 2019.
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“This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II on September 1, 2019, when Germany invaded Poland. In addition, the country hosts many music, film, and beer festivals taking place throughout the year,” she said.
Heritage is seeing some of the highest demand for Sophia Travel’s clients. The company offers tailored trips for those interested in Catholic and Jewish history.
“We personally research each itinerary to help our travelers discover the towns and sites associated with their family’s past. In addition to visiting historical and cultural areas, we provide a unique emotional journey for our travelers,” said Kulich.
Destinations of particular interest to Kulich’s Jewish clientele are Bialystok, known as the home of the famous Bialy roll. Many clients visit searching for their roots, and the city also offers well-preserved Orthodox churches; Branicki Palace, often referred to as the Polish Versailles; and the Museum of Folk Culture, which showcases the area’s rich tradition.
What’s known as Wave Season, the biggest reservation period of the year for the cruise industry, is well underway.
During this time, which takes place now through March, cruise lines roll out their biggest deals and most enticing perks to draw in travelers who are ready to book.
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“Many people, especially first-time cruisers, are not aware of the breadth of cruise experiences that are available to accommodate their travel desires,” said Roger E. Block, CTC, president of Travel Leaders Network, which is one of the largest sellers of cruises in North America. “River cruises and ocean cruises can offer a variety of different itineraries and onboard atmospheres, but there is always something for everyone and our travel advisors help their clients sort through the available options.”
The options are broad and, one of the things that the cruise industry has done over the last decade is broaden its depth of product to appeal to a more diverse range of clientele. These days, there is a cruise for just about every type of traveler and guests can experience everything from intimate small ships to mega resorts afloat.
In order to assist travelers with the task of pairing down options and selecting the right cruise, Travel Leaders has put together tips to help make the right selection.
What Type of Ship is Best
Travel Leaders notes that large, oceangoing vessels that travel to destinations such as the Caribbean and Alaska are like floating cities, with lots of choices for dining, activities and entertainment. These ships are ideal for families and groups.
The network also notes that there are smaller, more intimate options such as river cruises.
“River cruises, like the ones that ply Europe’s waterways, are smaller ships and provide a more intimate experience. They can travel close to the center of cities and towns. Onboard activities emphasize the cuisine, history and culture of the destinations,” Travel Leaders says.
These days, cruise ships have evolved past the standard buffet and branched out to include unique dining experiences and gourmet restaurants.
These experiences also often extend to shore excursions.
“With innovative partnerships with well-known chefs and culinary experts, the cruise lines offer a way to immerse oneself and deepen one’s understanding of a region by taking a journey that feeds the senses with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of local and authentic flavors. Expanded onboard cuisine options to shore excursions will often focus on flavorful, regional ingredients, cooking styles, demonstrations and tastings,” Travel Leaders points out.
Journeys That Quench Thirst
Whether it’s wine, beer or the trendiest new cocktails, travelers want to experience local flavors—and cruise lines are answering their demands.
“Certain cruises offer an opportunity for tastings and to learn from mixologists, sommeliers or famous brewers either onboard, during shore excursions or both. These cruises provide opportunities to try different selections that bring the rich history and culture of the people alive,” notes Travel Leaders. “Travelers may tap their own beer, blend their own wine, or explore a region rich in the history of the local vineyards.”
Expedition Cruises for the Explorer
One of the most popular trends is the explosion of options in the expedition cruising market. Those who love adventure can find a home onboard one of these intimate ships that sail to some of the most remote places in the world.
“These ships, equipped with sturdy, inflatable boats called Zodiacs, take vacationers to the shore for land-based excursions or to spots in the water for activities such as deep-sea snorkeling or diving. Smaller ships also allow passengers to disembark more frequently, often with two or three landings or shore excursions per day for unique sightings and adventures,” Travel Leaders says.
Multi-Family Ocean Adventures
Families are spoiled for choice when it comes to cruise options. As previously mentioned, some ships are like floating cities with water slides and kids clubs and other family-friendly features.
However, some cruise lines set themselves up for families in different ways with educational options onboard and onshore.
Groups and Intimate Gatherings
The Travel Leaders Group offers added perks for those traveling in larger groups.
“Through the Distinctive Voyages program, available on nine cruise lines and only available by booking with a Travel Leaders Group travel advisor, clients will also receive a private welcome reception, a complimentary shore excursion and the service of a dedicated Distinctive Voyages host.
The added amenities, available at no extra cost, are a nice way to upgrade a vacation experience without spending more. These amenities are combinable with other national promotions offered by the participating cruise lines,” Travel Leaders notes.
Additional Price Savings and Travel Tips
Travel Leaders also points out that flexibility could mean bigger savings.
Additional savings can also be found on airfare. While it’s not always feasible depending on the destination, one can save even more by leaving from a port close to home. For those traveling long distance, it is always advisable to arrive at the port city at least a day before the ship sails. This gives vacationers a chance to explore the port before departing, and also relieves the stress and worry should they experience flight delays or even misplaced luggage—all of which can add to the expense of the trip.
There are more than 4,000 cruise specialists at Travel Leaders Network ready to help travelers book their next cruise.