Posts Tagged ‘Luxury Travel Series’

BREAKING NEWS: ESCAPESEEKER “ECUADOR UNEQUALED” EPIC SEASON PROMO UNVEILED

Monday, May 1st, 2017

ESCAPESEEKER POST PRODUCTION  ~ They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Accordingly,  moving pictures must then be worth a thousand stories right? My amazing ESCAPESEEKER film team and I are thrilled  to share the following first look at our Ecuador Unequaled promo, which I am confident will help illustrate how we capture each destination’s unique stories. As the ESCAPESEEKER series’ writer and host, I’m a firm believer that the stories are best told by the actual inhabitants–joyful, kind-hearted, generous, engaging–we seek out those  who know best, and who proudly cherish their native land.

The Amazon grabs at your heart and never lets go. Our authentic Amazon experience during our stay at  La Selva Amazon Eco-Lodge & Spa is something we will always cherish.

The Amazon grabs at your heart and never lets go. Our authentic Amazon experience during our stay at La Selva Amazon Eco-Lodge & Spa is something we will always cherish.

#intheirownwords…

I continually strive to utilize my interviewing skills a seasoned global journalist to present the right questions and allow our featured native “stars” to speak straight from their heart. Combined with my passion-driven,  Emmy award-winning team’s photographic talents and artistry, I hope you’ll agree after viewing the promo that we achieved our lofty objective! We’ll keep you updated as to the exact broadcast dates and times of our brand new ESCAPESEEKER 2017 PBS Fall Season launch as soon as it becomes available.  In the meantime, dream…and we hope you too, will be inspired to explore and discover this enticing, unequaled country we call ECUADOR!  There’s no other place in the world that can compare.

We wish to express our gratitude to all of our many Ecuadorian newfound friends who opened your doors to us, welcomed us warmly, and granted us an honest and rare insider’s glimpse into your extraordinary, inspiring lives.

#musicistheuniversallanguage: We had the privilege of witnessing the most fabulous evening immersed in beautiful Ecuadorian folk music at MISQUILLA with its Founder, Juan Fernando Velasco, Latin Grammy Nominated artist, who also featured his gifted Ecuadorian talents. #ittakesavillagetoproduceESCAPESEEKER

#musicistheuniversallanguage: We had the privilege of witnessing the most fabulous evening immersed in beautiful Ecuadorian folk music at MISQUILLA with its Founder, Juan Fernando Velasco, Latin Grammy Nominated Artist, who also featured his gifted, fellow-Ecuadorian talents. #ittakesavillagetoproduceESCAPESEEKER

#envision. #explore. #embrace.

For a country its size, Ecuador offers an incredible list of #unequaledexperiences.  With its Andean peaks, Amazon rainforest, indigenous markets, colonial towns–not to mention one of the most famous chains of volcanic islands in the world, inhabited by fascinating wildlife, some of which are found only in the Galapagos!

The Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center, a long-term program run jointly by the Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Charles Darwin Foundation, began in 1965 to save the giant tortoise population on Pinzón. It was quickly expanded to include other populations, in particular that of Española where only 14 individuals remained. As of 2008, more than 4,000 young tortoises from eight different populations have been repatriated to their island of origin, with nearly 1,500 going back to Española.

The Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center, a long-term program run jointly by the Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Charles Darwin Foundation, began in 1965 to save the giant tortoise population on Pinzón. It was quickly expanded to include other populations, in particular that of Española where only 14 individuals remained. As of 2008, more than 4,000 young tortoises from eight different populations have been repatriated to their island of origin, with nearly 1,500 going back to Española.

 

 

Charles Darwin described them as "hideous-looking" and "most disgusting, clumsy lizards." It's true, they're not pretty, with their wide-set eyes, smashed-in faces, spiky dorsal scales, and knotty, salt-encrusted heads. But what these unusual creatures lack in looks they make up for with their amazing and unique ecological adaptations. Wait until you see the fascinating footage we captured! I personally think 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'--do you agree?

Charles Darwin described them as “hideous-looking” and “most disgusting, clumsy lizards.”
It’s true, some may say decide they’re not pretty, with their wide-set eyes, smashed-in faces, spiky dorsal scales, and knotty, salt-encrusted heads. But what these unusual creatures lack in looks they make up for with their amazing and unique ecological adaptations. Wait until you see the fascinating footage we captured! I personally think ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’–do you agree?

We feel it an absolute privilege to share Ecuador’s unique character, soulful heart, and unequaled beauty with the rest of the world. We could not have done it without your invaluable and generous support. On behalf of my entire ESCAPESEEKER team, Muchas Gracias!

Our destinations featured:

Quito:  Casa Gangotena, [casagangotena.com] with music segment at Misquilla, [www.misquilla.com]

The High Andes’ Rainforest: Mashpi Lodge [www.mashpi.com]

The Ecuadorian Amazon: La Selva Amazon Eco-Lodge & Spa [www.laselvajunglelodge.com]

The Galapagos Islands: Haugan Cruises’ catamaran, “Petrel” [www.haugancruises.com]

Our heartfelt Thank you also to our brilliant, indefatigable ESCAPESEEKER Ecuador Unequaled “Guest Talents” who fuel our innate wanderlust and beautifully manifest their insatiable passion for travel:

#thewindbeneathmywings:  Evan Zissimopulos, Jacob Voelzke, Roy Henderson, John Hempellman, Mary McGill, Dawn Adams, J. Dann Adams, Marjorie MacArthur, Tom Whittier, Christine Hedges, [Not pictured: Mimmie Byrne, Byrne, Melody Clyde]

#thewindbeneathmywings: Evan Zissimopulos, Jacob Voelzke, Roy Henderson, John Hempellman, Mary McGill, Dawn Adams, J. Dann Adams, Marjorie MacArthur, Tom Whittier, Christine Hedges, [Not pictured: Mimmie Byrne, Byrne, Melody Clyde]

Interested in joining our amazing team? FYI…Our #1 Rule we require all to adhere–You must take off your [American] lenses and see, feel, taste, embrace the country respectfully through the eyes of the natives.

Would you like more details or have questions regarding our #ecuadorunequaled adventure?

 

Feel free to write me at:  escapeseeker@gmail.com or let’s chat via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ESCAPESEEKER-367501815104/

I would love to hear from you!

Here’s to Blissful, Endless ESCAPES…

And, remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know,

Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER

Saying Goodbye to Ecuador with a heart full of #gratitude #unequaled...

Saying Adios to Ecuador with a heart full of #gratitude #unequaled…

 

 

A LUXURIOUS FLOATING HOTEL + BREATHTAKING LANDSCAPES + ENGAGING NEW FRIENDS = AMAWATERWAYS’ AMAPRIMA RIVER CRUISE

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Spring has sprung.  And, nowhere is this more evident than in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Amsterdam, here we come!

With select images by Jim Jones…

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Peg Whisler Jones, and yours truly, the ESCAPESEEKER

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 Introducing my ESCAPESEEKER Team to the Art of River Cruising

Amsterdam, here we come!Amsterdam, Netherlands ~ Ok, I have a confession:  I’ve always been hesitant to go on a river cruise because I’ve had the conception that I would be stuck on a boat for seven days or more with senior cruisers, so senior that they would not be up for doing  much of anything.  And, the last thing I need right now is to be reminded of how old, I too,  am becoming!  Well, WOW!  Was my conception a total MISconception! What I discovered and experienced has changed my view of River Cruising forever.

A bit of background: My ESCAPESEEKER Advisory Team

Three of my ESCAPESEEKER travel companions are members of my TV Program Advisory Team.  They’re seasoned global travelers.  And, they’re fearless, ready and eager to experience the very best in travel.  Based on the activities we continually engage in–climbing mountains, white-water rafting, canoeing in the Amazon, scuba-diving in French Polynesia–you may never guess from our adventurous behavior that two of us are in our early 60’s, while the other two are in the prime of their seventh decade!  And, the main trait we all share–we’re passionate about travel and the people who reside with us on this majestic planet! Oh yes, one more common trait–we have all managed to raise one huge family (each).

 

Our Big Family965582_10202540215885388_1749892738_o So when we’re not engaged in our extensive grand-parenting duties, we are conducting our ESCAPESEEKER advance research, and yes, the destination and experiences need to be simply amazing to make our time away from our families worth every second.

 In figuring out which of the plethora of river cruising options we wanted to try, one in particular stood out from all the rest:  AmaWaterways’ AmaPrima Tulip Cruise! After all it’s Spring time and we were advised everything is blooming in the Kingdom of the Netherlands!

AMAPrima Entrance

Why AmaWaterways?  It’s more than just about the destination–AmaWaterways is all about the complete journey.

We landed at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol around 8:30 a.m. and I have to say Schiphol is about the easiest airport to navigate. We were in the city being treated to a wonderful “Welcome ESCAPESEEKER breakfast” at the Hoofstad Brasserie overlooking the Amstel River, and located in the historic De L’Europe Amsterdam [http://www.deleurope.com/the “Grand Dame” of luxury hotels in Amsterdam by 10 a.m.  I highly recommend their delectable Spinach Eggs Benedict!

Hotel De L'Europe

Dutch Masters Wing - Junior Suite 2We had reserved two Junior Suites for the day, complete with a 6 pm late check-out in case we should need the extra time exploring the city before joining the AmaPrima later that same afternoon.  It proved to be exactly what we needed to fuel up, freshen up, and get rid of any signs of jet lag.  The city beckoned us, and we quickly acquiesced!

There’s nothing like walking and getting up close and personal to quickly orient yourself to the rhythm of the city.

 

AmaWaterways’ AmaPrima…River vessels are not created equal

AMAPrima Jim

Inspired by classic ocean yachts, the AmaPrima strives to provide the most distinctive river cruise experience. As you board, the magnificent glass elevator will catch your eye, hinting of the unique design elements you’ll continue to discover onboard. Being the lover of a well sunlit rooms, I was delighted to see our cabin had their exclusive “Twin Balconies” to allow for more private, friendly-viewing of the Netherland’s gorgeous landscapes. By the way, I soon discovered that certain ports required us to be tied to another commercial river boat.  What an outstanding way to get a sneak peak of the competition, and I noted, we on the AmaPrima were the only ones who can relax in a heated Sun Deck swimming pool with a “swim-up” bar after our energizing bike rides–yes, AmaWaterways provides a fleet of bicycles for guests to enjoy–free of charge!  Our ship also featured a Fitness Center, Massage, Hair and Beauty salon–and I was too busy having fun to take in any of it.  You’ll have to test it out for me when it’s your turn to go river cruising on the AmaPrima ok?  

Our Sweet Suite

Suite-on-the-AmaPrima.

It’s a given, most people who sign up for a River Cruise do not expect to find an extra large stateroom.  After all, these river boats have their size limits so they are able to navigate the many locks throughout the voyage.  What AmaWaterways did to make the cabins look and feel more expansive–they added the “twin balcony” concept for the majority of staterooms.  It lets so much more light in, and combined with white on white plush bedding, it simply evokes what you would expect to find in a luxury 5-star hotel. Yes, it’s all there–the flat-screen TV, with local and satellite channels, spacious bathrooms with multi-jet showerheads, even the luxurious terry bathrobes! All combined, definitely keeps with my lux-seeking ESCAPESEEKER mantra!

Feasting our way through the Kingdom of the Netherlands…tough assignment right?

Feasting our Way through the Netherlands

AmaWaterways offers an array of dining options for your culinary enjoyment. Enjoy Chaîne des Rôtisseurs culinary creations in the main dining room, or in the Chef’s Table restaurant with its own private chef.

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AmaWaterways is proud to be the only river cruise line invited to join one of the world’s most prestigious culinary organizations founded in 1950 in Paris. Every AmaWaterways vessel cruising in Europe is an official member of La Chaine des Rotisseurs. Membership is considered an achievement of world-class culinary acumen.It was tough to distinguish the offerings on our floating restaurant from the land-based award-winning variety! After trying to control my intake and appetites I finally decided to just surrender, and just sign up for more excursions and activities that would help me physically burn the calories so I could “earn” the next amazing spread!

IMG_2518Burning calories with mind-expanding excursions

Are you a “gentle” take everything in kind of walker?  Or are you an “active” fast walker that can’t wait to get to your target destination? Perhaps, you’re the kind of “late starter” tourist that’s in no hurry to get anywhere, even preferring to get your beauty sleep while on vacation? Well, no worries to all of the above because AmaPrima allowed us to set our own pace on shore excursions by signing up for the ones that describe our particular category–in my case–I definitely want to earn the evening’s dessert–I signed up for “active.”  All AmaWaterways voyages ensure that you’re treated with personalized attention, on land, as well as on the river. The complimentary Shore Excursions provide an an immersive introduction land tour to every destination. The local guides did inspire me to dig deeper, immerse myself more into the history of the places we visited once we returned to our boat.  If I could have my wish, I would wish we could stay longer at each location.  Just when I was savoring the moment, it seemed, it was time to untie the boat and cruise onward. 

Day 2      AMSTERDAM – VOLENDAM – EDAM

 IMG_2269We cruised the Ijsselmeer towards Volendam, enjoying a late afternoon tour of Volendam Harbor.

Then, we continued by motor coach to Edam, a total postcard-perfect, picturesque town.  I do not know how the Dutch maintain such immaculate homes and gardens.  Our guide hinted “we’re all born with a green finger.” Is that the same as a green thumb? After tasting the local Edam cheese, we know they have a gift for cheese-making too. We walked by the Old Quarter’s beautiful houses, canals, bridges and churches with towering steeples, including one of the largest in Holland, the Grote Kerk (Great Church).

We finished off our tour with a brief visit to the shoreline at Volendam.  If there’s one thing you absolutely must try, it’s the tiny, dollar size Dutch pancakes. It is served with fresh whipped cream…to die for…I kid you not!

It’s astounding to note that flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands, as about two thirds of its area is vulnerable to flooding, while the country is among the most densely populated on Earth. Natural sand dunes and constructed dikes, dams, and floodgates provide defense storm surges from the sea.  River dikes prevent flooding from water flowing into the country by the major rivers Rhine and Meuse, while complicated system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations (historically windmills) keep the low-lying parts dry for habitation and agriculture.  Water control boards are the independent local government bodies responsible for maintaining this system. In modern times, flood disasters coupled with technological developments have led to large construction works to reduce the influence of the sea and prevent floods.  In the interim, the Dutch became astute, expert sailors from residing by the sea, a trait that is evident everywhere we looked.

Edam1

Edam3

Day 3       ARNHEM – NIJMEGEN
Hallowed Ground

We arrived early, in beautiful Arnhem. The perfect weather we were blessed with only magnified how charming this small town is.  Since my ESCAPESEEKER traveling companions are avid supporters of WWII veterans, we chose  to see the monument commemorating the Battle of Arnhem Bridge made famous by the classic film “A Bridge Too Far.” Such a humbling sight to walk amidst the rows and rows of tombstones bearing the name of soldiers who sacrificed their lives to liberate Arnhem.  We also visited the Airborne Museum to learn more about the Battle of Arnhem, one of the major campaigns of World War II.  This was well worth the time.  The town’s respect and reverence for those who died is clearly evident in this museum.  After our tour, we returned to the ship for lunch and a stunning cruise to Nijmegen. Mother Nature was definitely on our  side. The weather could not be any more fabulous as we cruised through the Netherlands en route to Belgium.IMG_2315

Day 4

     ANTWERP, BELGIUMIMG_2358 (1)We awoke to yet another glorious day, as we are welcomed to Antwerp.  A walking tour of Antwerp helped us get oriented to the layout of the main square, displaying the city’s superb architecture. In the afternoon we bravely explored Antwerp on bicycles with our two local guides, following each through the charming streets of Antwerp, passing impressive historical sites such as Cogels Osylei, Waterloo House, St. Jacob’s Church and the Museum Ridder Smidt van Gelder. It was especially enjoyable to see the different neighborhoods, some established by early Jewish settlers that continue to this day.  We returned to the ship with hearty appetites and our Chef definitely did not disappoint with yet, another amazing delectable spread.13164237_10154801999673032_6800186081863567539_n 2

Day 5

     GHENT AND BRUGESIMG_2393The evening’s cruised brought us to Ghent. A town I’ve only read about, I was eager to join the walked tour through the city,  which included the Belfry Hall, the Koornlei, the Graslei and the Castle of the Counts. My camera was going on overdrive as I captured one gorgeous image after another.  My only complain about Ghent?  The city council had instituted these public, open air urinals, and honestly, the scent destroys you even before you get close enough to realize what you were about to encounter.  Ghent, whatever where you thinking?  Please, there must be another option besides ruining the beautiful ambiance of your camera-ready city? We couldn’t board our buses fast enough as we headed to Bruges for the afternoon–one of Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval cities, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It did not take long for my team to realize that it was a Belgian holiday and everyone had the same idea–to take in beautiful Bruges.  I had been to Bruges many times before, and I had never encountered such a crowd.  So, my recommendation to you if you wish to visit Bruges–make sure it is not a Belgian holiday.  After all, it is clear they love their impressive historic town as much as we do.IMG_2418By early evening, we were back on the beautiful AmaPrima cruising through the Dutch region of Zeeland, home to one of the world’s most complex engineering projects, the Delta Works, which took more than 30 years to complete!Engineering Feat in the Netherlands

Day 6

WILLEMSTAD, THE NETHERLANDS – KINDERDIJK – SCHOONHOVENIMG_2431Once again, we were so excited knowing the morning light would find us biking through the charming 400-year old town of Willemstad. As we’ve discovered from previous tours, the Dutch are simply immaculate. No matter where we cycled, there was always a pleasant garden to greet our sight. I also conducted my own little test to see how friendly the Willemstad natives really are.  Whenever I encountered one on our bike path, I would call out an enthusiastic “Hello from America!” They would always have such a surprise look on their face, and immediately respond with, “Hello!”  Some would even add, “Thank you for visiting!” Or, “Please stay a while.”  Yes, I found myself falling in-love with this beautifully manicured country.  The hard-working people also inspire me.  Who would have ever thought from their humble beginnings and challenging environments (“the Netherlands” means “the low lands” and the land only rises, on average, 1 meter above the sea level, with one third of the land is below sea level) would rise a country that once ruled an empire. In the 17th century,  the Netherlands was the richest and one of the most powerful countries in the world. Thus,  the Dutch call the 17th century the Golden Age.  Their Dutch Empire had possessions around the world. The most important possession were the East Indies, a country that is now called Indonesia. And in case you are not aware, the Dutch also founded New Netherland, which is now known as New York.  Yes, I guess we can say, the Big Apple was once a Dutch Apple! Here’s a little interesting Dutch trivia for you: In 2004 the  United Nations declared that the Netherlands was the 5th best country to live in, in the world! I can totally understand why. Just think, if you’re English-speaking, and you moved to the Netherlands,  you wouldn’t even need to learn Dutch any time soon because every native I’ve encountered thus far speaks fluent English. I can tell, I have a lot to learn from the unique lifestyles of the Dutch. In the meantime, I better keep biking. The AmaPrima awaits.

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IMG_2513In the afternoon, after another delicious lunch on the AmaPrima, we were transported in equally impeccable tour buses to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk, a lovely village renowned for having the country’s greatest concentration of windmills, all dating from the 18th century. The windmills at Kinderdijk are a group of 19 monumental windmills in the Alblasserwaard polder, in the province of South Holland, Netherlands.  Built in 1738 and 1740, to keep water out of the polder, it is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands and one of the best-known Dutch tourist sites. The mills are listed as national monuments and the entire area is a protected village view since 1993. They have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.

One of the first things you’ll notice when entering one of the Kinderdijk windmills, is the low door opening. In the early days the diets of the inhabitants of the windmills were not as well balanced as we are used to now. This caused the people to stay small, which resulted in low door openings.  Working and living in a windmill is not easy. For instance, the windmills can only be reached by foot or bicycle. But even in the past, life was very difficult. The millers used to have large families, 10 to 12 children was no exception. There a several reasons for these large families: The influence of the church, no birth control, children often died in their first years, and the more sons, the more labor could be done in the mill and the land surrounding the windmill. However, because of their bad circumstances, the millers became self supporting, and they would grow their own vegetables, and raise their own livestock.

Fast forward, present day, I’m reviewing our windmill photos, and I think they convey one clear, simple message:  “Hello from Holland!”

IMG_2455After our informative afternoon at Kinderdijk, we returned to our ship and as we dined at the Chef’s table, our ship cruised to Schoonhoven, where we moored until midnight. I can’t believe how quickly our time on the beautiful AmaPrima cruise is passing.  All I want to do is freeze-frame to allow my memory more time to soak it all in. How in the world will I give up the “AmaZing” royal treatment we’re getting from the AmaPrima staff and crew? Please stop the clock!

Day 7 Park-Keukenhof     AMSTERDAM- KEUKENHOF – AMSTERDAM

We arrived in Amsterdam the next morning, just in time to admire the spectacular display of millions of flowering tulips during our morning excursion to the famous 79-acre Keukenhof Gardens. Talk about color-overload! You cannot begin to comprehend its plethora of rainbow blooms unless you see it for yourselves.

Also known as the Garden of Europe, it is one of the world’s largest flower gardens. It is situated in Lisse, southwest of Amsterdam. It is accessible by bus from the train stations of Haarlem, Leiden and Schiphol.   According to the official website of the Keukenhof Park, approximately seven million flower bulbs are planted annually in the park, which covers an area of 32 hectares (79 acres).

Keukenhof is open annually from mid-March to mid-May. The best time to view the tulips is around mid-April, depending on the weather.

Keukenhof is situated on 15th-century hunting grounds. It was also a source of herbs for Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut’s castle, which is the source of the name Keukenhof (it served to provide herbs for the castle’s kitchen). Rich merchants took over the grounds after the Countess’s death. Dutch East India Company Captain and Governor, Adriaen Maertensz Block lived there in his retirement years in the 17th century in the country house (now known as Castle Keukenhof) which he had let built in 1641.

In the 19th century, the Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt assigned the landscape architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher, who had also worked on the Vondelpark, to design the grounds around the castle.

The garden was established in 1949 by the then mayor of Lisse. The idea was to present a flower exhibit where growers from all over the Netherlands and Europe could show off their hybrids – and help the Dutch export industry. The Netherlands is the world’s largest exporter of flowers. Their plan clearly succeeded!

Keukenhof-Gardens-of-HollandAll previous photos I had seen just cannot compare to seeing it in person, up close and personal!

In the afternoon, all of our fellow passengers  joined in a scenic sunset cruise through the historic harbor and canals of Amsterdam. Once again, my camera could not click fast enough. Amsterdam’s unique beauty grabs at my imagination. It’s a total movie-set, and yes, it makes me want to stay, rent a tiny alcove apartment where I can write my best-selling suspense novel. But then again, these historic houses do not come cheap.  The better plan would be to write the best seller, make a ton of money, and then I can purchase that sweet alcove with a gorgeous view of the canal!amsterdam-bicyclesniederlande_amsterdam_kanal_gracht_grossIMG_2239There’s so much to see and do in Amsterdam, especially if you’re an artist, or just enjoy seeing the works of the Masters–Rembrandt, Van Gogh for starters.  The Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and the Stedelijk Museum are the  most popular choices, but there are many interesting small museums. There are seventy five Amsterdam museums, which attract almost seven million visitors every year. Alongside the wealth of majestic Golden Age paintings, you’ll find exciting modern art, press, film, theater, photography museums and some unique Dutch treats like the Heineken, Ajax Arena Tours, and the Houseboat museum.

And, Amsterdam wouldn’t be Amsterdam without the tourist appeal for the other eclectic side: Yes, you’ll also find the Sex, Erotic, Hash, or Torture museums.

My entire team realized that one week in Amsterdam alone is necessary, no matter your taste in art, to dedicate and explore the incredible museum offerings.

13103312_10154811523658032_1667017073633928299_nAlas, the evening would find us being treated to a final evening’s walk through Amsterdam, this time led by our dearest Amsterdammer friends, Robin Post van der Burg and Hanneke van Weel. Truly, such a special way to end our voyage, breaking bread with friends who treat us like family, while recalling our priceless Netherland experiences, all of which only fueled our desire to become new subjects in the Kingdom of the Netherlands! Yes, you can definitely count on us returning, sooner rather than later.  Thank you AmaWaterways’ AmaPrima for an unforgettable voyage.  To Captain Gerd, Cruise Manager, Rolfe, Hotel Manager, Gemma, Chef Jossef, Maitre d’ Romeo, and to our personal waiter Gabor, who took impeccable care of us at every meal, we extend our utmost heartfelt gratitude for granting us a  River Cruise to remember!

A Few Parting Words From Our Entire Team…

“Cruising is such a tremendous way to make new friends, and connect with dear ones too.  The AmaPrima’s size made making new friends so easy.”~ Mel Gee Henderson

13124730_10154802287648032_2056998124209403176_n“I never expected that we would be dipping into AmaPrima’s pool in the early days of Spring in the Netherlands! It was wonderful after our bike rides!”

~ Peg Whisler Jones

ESCAPESEEKER photogs“Absolutely fantastic boat, fantastic trip with fantastic friends for a fantastic experience. THANK YOU. again.” ~ Jim Jones

Volendam stroll “The AmaPrima exceeded my expectations…I’m definitely a River Cruise convert! By the way, if you’re an avid biker, here’s a terrific biking map for Amsterdam that will come in handy! You’ll feel like a native Amsterdammer by the time you’re finished!” ~ Roy A. Henderson

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Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, received the 2016 Travvy Awards in New York City where AmaWaterways was honored to receive 6 Gold trophies including the coveted Best River Cruise Line Overall and Most Innovative Executive.

Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, received the 2016 Travvy Awards in New York City where AmaWaterways was honored to receive 6 Gold trophies including the coveted Best River Cruise Line Overall and Most Innovative Executive.

AmaWaterways was founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy. All Three brought tremendous experience, knowledge and dedication to the venture. Rudi was one of river cruising’s pioneers, having introduced the modern-day river cruise concept to the world of travel. Kristin brought with her vast sales and customer service experience.   And, the third member,  Jimmy Murphy is the founder and former owner of Brendan Vacations. Their combined expertise and passion for the river cruise business has resulted in a river cruise vacation experience that strives to exceed customer expectations. The toughest part of our team’s decision–with more than 20 different itineraries to choose from, which one would you pick? www.amawaterways.com

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ESCAPESEEKER JOURNEYS TO THE END OF THE WORLD ~ Bucket List #…

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

with select images by ESCAPESEEKER Photographer, Miristi Gee MiristiGeeImagery

Punta Arenas, Chile ~ Ok, let me begin by admitting, I am addicted to “Experiential Travel,” and I believe I am not alone. For those of you who are not familiar with this current phrase that’s sweeping across the travel universe,  please permit me to explain.  Experiential travel is a trend in tourism (also known as immersion travel) which focuses on experiencing a country, city or particular place by connecting to its history, people and culture. It is about valuing the experiences you actually have versus what you’re being told you should be having as described in the travel brochures. For example, everyone who travels to Paris normally stands in the incredibly long lines just to get into the Musée du Louvre, only to find more long lines and crowds just to get a glimpse of their favorite works of art.  Well, how about sitting on the bench along the River Seine and observing a local artist paint the iconic vista of the Eiffel Tower reigning over the magnificent City of Lights? I’ve even discovered a few who are more than happy to explain their art and share their deep passion for their city. 

It’s a fact.  We’re all different, we all enjoy different things and our travel choices should be reflective of our respective passions and interests.  Well, lucky for me and my ESCAPESEEKER team, we thrive on finding the unexpected, and seek out travel experiences that are truly a cut above the rest.  That brings me to my latest report– Our Bucket List, Cruise Expedition to the “End of the World” on board the m/s Stella Australis! I would tell you what Bucket List # it is–but my list has grown so long, that I’ve honestly lost count–clearly indicative of my travel-passion-driven life! :-)

The Australis Is No Ordinary Cruise

11034281_10155427927140105_3861473284065647837_nOnce  you’re on board the Australis, and after you settle in to your comfortable staterooms with its big picture windows, you’ll be introduced to numerous nature guides–extremely knowledgeable Chilean natives who have come to know every corner of this pristine region of Chilean Patagonia.  They can retell its unique history in such a captivating way.  They make it come alive.  Each night, they’ll enthusiastically recap all of the various daily adventures they have strategically lined up for you–but here’s where the Experiential travel kicks in. Now matter how well designed/scripted the excursions are–you realize the real MAGIC in the entire expedition experience is that at the end of the day, it is Mother Nature who is the real the boss.  Mother Nature is also ever present, driving the WOW FACTOR and delighting at every turn.  You’ll witness ancient glaciers as we pass Glacier Alley suddenly calving right before your eyes, as it thunders down the mountain and lands into the frigid Patagonian waters.

pia-1You may pass through the legendary Cape Horn amidst a morning shower only to be welcomed by a magnificent rainbow!

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Observing the Magellanic penguins, also known as Spheniscus magellanicus–which reside exclusively in the southern hemisphere– from our special zodiacs is an unforgettable experience. Forget my annual pilgrimage to the Cannes Film Festival, for this has now become my favorite “Black-Tie” event! :-)

It is the most numerous of the Spheniscus penguins. Its nearest relatives are the African, the Humboldt and the Galapagos penguins. The Magellanic penguin was named after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan,  who spotted the birds in 1520.

The guides continually impart their knowledge while we observe, clicking away with our cameras. My favorite factoid about the Magellanic penguins–they mate with the same partner year after year. The male reclaims his burrow from the previous year and waits to reconnect with his female partner. The females are able to recognize their mates through their call alone. Now that’s what I call true love!

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4stella-australisIt not unusual to hear the Captain announce, “I recommend passengers come up to the open deck or if you prefer to be indoors, the Darwin Lounge, and remember to bring your cameras as  we’ve spotted some native whales enjoying the sunset as much as we are. Take a look for yourselves!”

 

10431448_10155201572230105_8753376283438270471_nSpeaking of sunsets–that’s my other addiction–glorious daily sunsets that just make you gasp!  If you lack gratitude in any way shape or form–I promise that by the time you disembark–your heart will be overflowing with gratitude for this tremendous planet of ours…for the gift of sight…for the gift of life…and let me not forget…for the gift of forging new friendships…because you’ll quickly discover that almost every nation is represented on the Australis guests list.  Can you imagine discovering that there are people from other countries, from varied cultures, speaking foreign languages, but who absolutely share your same passion for our universe? I should warn you–you will wish you could take them home after the cruise is through because all of a sudden all these strangers will begin to feel like your family! You hike together…you compare photos and stories…you break bread together and raise a glass or two to your wondrous lives…and close each day as if it’s Christmas Eve…knowing that the morning light brings yet another adventure…scripted by Mother Nature…and chances are very good, it’s another series of “Pinch Me Moments.”

11094768_10153729968633032_608894613346060905_oThis is Experiential travel at its finest!  It is up to you to determine how much mind-expansion you’re willing to allow; how much soul-enrichment you’re open to; and equally important, how much room is there in your heart to embrace new friendships with kind, engaging people you’ve discovered are not so different from you after all.  These are all the reasons I am addicted to #travel. I hope you’ ll follow in our ESCAPESEEKER footsteps.  It is as easy as clicking on the following link with your right thumb!  www.australis.com

11011109_10155563807005105_4380763350239580009_oAnd, just one more requests, be sure you write me (escapeseeker@gmail.com) and tell me how amazing your experience is ok?  Let’s definitely compare notes!

11136226_10153729974438032_6982682011641658571_oI cannot wait to return to capture the Australis Expedition Experience in all its splendor on film as I return on October 3-10th with my entire talented film crew! As a journalist and TV host of the ESCAPESEEKER Travel Series, nothing brings me greater #joy than to share our travel discoveries with the rest of the world.  Honestly, it multiplies the #joyoftravel 10-fold!

Here’s to Blissful, Endless ESCAPES!

And, remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know!

With love,

The ESCAPESEEKER

Notes:  How to get there: From the USA, we traveled via LAN AIRLINES: www.lan.com from Miami (MIA) to Santiago (SCL) to Punta Arenas (PUQ).

Where did we go? We embarked in Punta Arenas, and disembarked at the same port 7 nights later.

 

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DSC_0220 (1)My ESCAPESEEKER theory holds true on the Australis:  The world is full of wonderful, engaging friends, just waiting to be met!

Why I am not surprised to find our photog, Miristi jumping for joy during our Australis Expedition?  If you want to find out why, best you stay tuned as we continue our #neverendingadventure to the #endoftheworld in our special coverage of CHILE: Long, Lean, and Simply Spectacular!

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ESCAPESEEKER 2013 GLOBAL ODYSSEY: HOW TO COVER FOUR CONTINENTS IN THREE GLORIOUS MONTHS!

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

 2013 Theme:  Mission Possible…Conquering the Unexpected

When an unfortunate accident turned my size six right foot into size 7.5 complete with 10 screws and 2 plates, and with its accompanying recovery period that subsequently  derailed our 2012 filming season, I was determined to get back on track in 2013, no matter what it took! Once my newly renamed, “Robofoot” could travel, black/gray mega boot, crutches and all, I knew there was one place that would assist in my healing, both physically and spiritually:  French Polynesia! So, I embarked on a series of voyages on board the m/s Paul Gauguin, serving as a “Guest Speaker” and sharing our TAHITI: OH HEAVEN’S HEAVEN series with the enthusiastic guests.  After all, how can you not love watching a film about the breathtaking places you know you’re about to experience first hand?  The entire experience of being amongst such joyful passengers and crew who shared my insatiable passion for the islands, and swimming daily in those healing French Polynesian turquoise waters was exactly what my foot (and my soul) needed to bring me back to full ESCAPESEEKER form!

Fast forward, April 15, 2013 and I’m absolutely ready to tackle not one continent, but four continents in just three months. I began in Asia [Hong Kong], followed by South America [Peru], and continuing on to Europe [France], with a quick return to North America [Utah] so I can orchestrate a beautiful wedding for my daughter, Joanna, and then returning to Europe to begin an extensive exploration of Greece, Italy [including The Vatican], Croatia, and back to Italy. The journey wasn’t pain-free, but I quickly discovered that I was tougher than I ever imagined.  More importantly, I found the continuous blessing of seeing one breathtaking vista after another, and meeting so many, many engaging inspiring, talented individuals at every turn only fueled my resolve that 2013 will be the very best ESCAPESEEKER season yet! Perhaps, in part, it may be because I have a far greater appreciation for restored health…for the opportunity to travel…to explore the world on two feet, something I will never ever take fore granted again.

With God’s tender mercy, and with the tireless assistance of my ESCAPESEEKER team as well as the continued, generous support of tremendous entities from around the world, we will continue to seek out the greatest destinations, and prove again and again that there’s no destination on earth too far, too difficult, or too SPECTACULAR to reach!  I feel it a tremendous privilege, albeit also a great responsibility to correctly represent each country I write about, and subsequently film for our PBS SoCal TV Series. For the next few weeks, I will be devoting a segment on each of the destinations we researched, so I can properly do them justice. I hope you’ll continue to visit my ESCAPESEEKER blog as I share the incredible images and story after story of some of the world’s most interesting, unique places…some of which are still barely known…hidden gems waiting to be discovered by adventure-seeking, travel enthusiasts  just like you! We will be returning to film these destinations in the coming weeks, and I have no doubt my avid cinematographers upon seeing these awe-inspiring places will once again refer to me as their “Fairy Godmother.”

Here’s to ENDLESS, BLISSFUL ESCAPES…and Remember, No Matter Where You Travel, BE THE KINDEST PERSON YOU KNOW!

With love,

Mel Gee Henderson aka ESCAPESEEKER

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EMMY AWARD WINNING ADVENTURE AND NATURAL HISTORY DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY, SCOTT SIMPER TO LEAD ESCAPESEEKER AFRICA SHOOT

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

 

Scott Simper chosen Director of Photography for

EPIC AFRICA: WILD AND WONDROUS

 

Award winning and multi-facetted documentary film maker, Scott Simper began his adventurous life as a cowboy. Life in the saddle led to film studies at the University of Utah. Scott’s initial background in stage management, sound engineering and theatrical lighting led to camera operating and he has spent the past 15 years honing his craft, much of it in far flung and exotic locations with equally exotic diseases — many of which Scott has sampled and survived!

 

In addition to his all-round production expertise, Scott’s skills as a mountaineer, rock climber, skier, kayaker and adventure racer have made him a highly sought after team member in locations ranging from the jungles of the Congo to the Arctic to the summit of Mt Everest.

 

Scott’s work is distinguished not only for its beauty and his technical expertise but also for his willingness to take on the challenges of any situation or location with a smile. From rigging shots in difficult, tight locations to building and fixing equipment in inhospitable places, Scott is known as the essential cameraman to have on those difficult gigs.

 

His creative aerial work using a gyro-stabilization system, breath-taking time lapses and exceptional hand-held shooting have earned him Emmy awards and nominations for camera work.

 

In addition to his skills as a camera operator, Scott has a knack for connecting with his subjects, putting them at ease and getting the most from them as he visually captures their lives. A true team player, Scott’s natural enthusiasm and unflagging energy are valuable on any production — and invaluable on the tough ones!

Scott will be assisted by ESCAPESEEKER AFRICA team members, including Sara Mayer and Producer, Roger Gunn as well as  Royal African Safaris’ partner and expert guide, Phil West.

 

2010: Scott summits Mt Everest for a corporate production: http://gearjunkie.com/interview-photographer-scott-simper

 

Breaking News 2012: Scott wins an Emmy for outstanding camera work for the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship and a National award for Museum Media for his work at the Utah Natural History Museum.
http://northernlightproductions.blogspot.com/2012/03/new-york-times-review-of-natural.html