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The Wanderlust List

Destinations Made for Exploring

Certain destinations have that special something, inspiring dream trips and return visits. Whether it’s their beguiling atmosphere, dramatic landscapes or invigorating culture, these four cities and towns each have their own signature allure that will make you fall in love with traveling all over again.

 

Istanbul, Turkey: East Meets West

Energetic Istanbul is one of the most exciting cities in the world, with a history and culture so rich that you could spend days exploring and still barely scratch the surface. Inhale the exotic scents at the Spice Bazaar in the Eminonu quarter. Climb to the terrace of Galata Tower to hear the Muslim call to prayer echoing through the streets. Plunk a sugar cube into a glass of tea or thick Turkish coffee. Visit the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum to see treasures like centuries-old, decorative handwoven carpets. And if you’re lucky enough to be there overnight, revel in the world-class nightlife at Taksim Square.

Insider tip: On the Asian side of the Bosphorus, the Neo-Baroque Beylerbeyi Palace has an ornate, twisting staircase and maritime-themed art. The nearby Üskudar neighborhood is less touristy than other parts of Istanbul and with plenty of excellent dining options is perfect for lunch or dinner.

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Bordeaux, France: Port of the Moon
Along a crescent-moon like curve in the Garonne River rises the iconic 18th-century architecture of Bordeaux, a brilliant unity of medieval roots, neoclassical style and urban planning so remarkably revitalized that half the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. Stroll through this divine cityscape defined by its parchment-colored buildings and wide-open squares, the largest of which is the 30-acre Esplanade de Quinconces. The only thing that could draw you outside of a city this gorgeous would be wine regions as revered as Médoc and Saint-Émilion and the elegant countryside chateaux where you can taste these renowned vintages.

Insider tip: Contrast Bordeaux’s perfectly unified neoclassical architecture with the ultramodern Cité du Vin, an immersive sensory experience revealing the epic story of wine worldwide – its history, process, culture, aromas, flavors and more.

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Flåm (Sognefjord), Norway: King of Fjords
Mother Nature draws enthusiasts to Flåm, and you will find no shortage of ways to experience some of the world’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. Hop a ferry to view the fjords and mountains from sea level or head to a lookout point to see the show from above. Jump on the popular Flåm Railway for a leisurely trip up to 2,800 feet above sea level or ride a zip line for an adrenaline-pumping descent that ends at a local cheese farm. Set off on a bike or on foot to explore the Flåm Valley at your own pace. With a population of 350, Flåm is a speck of a town, but you can shop for warm clothes, not surprisingly, and statues of trolls, Flåm’s mascot.

Insider tip: Hop on Flåm Railway, the steepest non-funicular railway in Europe, for spectacular views of glowing emerald valleys, dramatic waterfalls, soaring mountains and plunging fjords on one of the most beautiful train routes in the world.

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Kodiak, Alaska: Emerald Isle

The tiny village of Kodiak clings to the Emerald Isle of Kodiak, which is known for its breathtaking natural beauty. During the summertime, the island is a mosaic of flora that includes wildflowers, moss-laden spruce, Pacific red elder, and blueberries, which the brown bears feast on. Try kayaking through the pristine waters surrounding Near Island and you might spot puffins, sea lions and perhaps even humpback whales. Gain a deeper appreciation of island’s Russian heritage with a visit to the Russian Orthodox church and Baranov Museum, which houses samovars, Alutiiq basketry, archival photographs and other relics from Kodiak’s past. Don’t miss the Alaskan king crab – a favorite –  along with salmon fish and chips.


Insider tip:
A favorite of both locals and travelers, Fort Abercrombie State Park is filled with trails, beaches, vistas – and even bunkers and relics from WWII outposts. Join our excursion, “Fort Abercrombie State Park Nature Walk,” for guided walk led by an insightful park naturalist.

0 comments on “On the Bridge with Captain Giulio Ressa”

On the Bridge with Captain Giulio Ressa

Born in a fishermen’s town on the southern Adriatic coast of Italy, Captain Giulio Ressa was destined for a life at sea. Since graduating from the Maritime College in Bari many years ago, Captain Ressa has worked aboard many ships, including Renaissance Cruises and even the original Love Boat, the M/V Pacific Princess. He has called Brazil home for the past 15 years and has been with Oceania Cruises since the very beginning.  We sat down with him to learn about his introduction to life at sea, his favorite food from his hometown and more.

 

captain-ressaWhat led you to become a captain?
The town I was born in bears a long-standing seafaring tradition…I remember spending hours sitting on the blocks of the local small shipyard looking at the master carpenters in action, hand-carving the oak-wood logs to build 100 feet long fishing boats. It was a captivating process to see the keel of the vessels being assembled – the whole complete boat taking shape under the skillful hands of this bunch of men working feverishly…months of hard work and heavy sweating. Later on, my strong desire to travel, explore the world, learn about different cultures played a big role in my decision about my future life. At the age of 14, I decided to enroll in the nautical college just north of my hometown – the rest is history.

 

Can you describe your first memory at sea?
The very first day I stepped on the fishing boat, I was sick like a dog even though the seas were not rough. It was a 100 feet long fishing trawler – one of these I had seen being built. I remember spending the whole day laying on the side of the boat…feeding the fish. After a full day at sea the captain, Captain Tonino, asked me to have a chat with him while he was steering back to the port. I thought was fired. On the contrary, he gave me some dry bread and salted anchovies. At first, I was reluctant but then I started eating and slowly feeling a bit better. He told me not to worry and confessed to me that he went through the same thing. Then he added, if you can endure this first week, you will get stronger and never get seasick again. He told me, you are going to love life at sea and you will enjoy all the places you will be visiting. By then he was hugging me and I felt I could easily overcome my weakness after his reassuring words. This is my first memory at sea.

 

After years of visiting ports, which are your favorites?

Being Italian, the most impressive port sailing in – well, I have to say Venice Canal Grande and the approach to San Marco Square. I do also really like Kotor, Santorini and all the Mediterranean ports of call. So many of these ports are impressive and will leave some lasting memories with you.

 

What do you love most about being a captain with Oceania Cruises?

I enjoy a lot to be the Master of a “human-size” ship, and I mean to say the sizes of our ships are such that you, as Master, can still get to know your guests and your crew and have a complete feeling of what is happening on your ship. I dedicate some of my time meeting and chatting with our guests and crew – we are all family.

 

Tell us about the cuisine in your hometown – what are your favorites?

Along the coast of the Adriatic Sea, we are fond of seafood, we have a lot of fishing boats and colorful fish markets where you can buy fresh fish. These markets are a destination on their own. In Bari, the typical dish is a pasta called orecchiette, which means literally “little ears,” –  this is because of its shape. We cook it together with a fresh vegetable called rapini, or broccoli rabe, and toss it in a sauce made with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and anchovies and maybe if you like spicy, some dried hot pepper.

 

Do you have any travel plans in the coming year?

Yes, I have many plans with my family. the first one is about visiting the Argentinean wine country of Mendoza and spending some time there visiting the most famous wineries. Then by car, we plan to cross the Andes via the Transandine Highway, which is a route that connects Argentina to Chile. This has been described as one of the most spectacular and breathtaking highways in the world because of the wilderness and dramatic landscapes you encounter. Once in Chile, we’ll continue visiting some micro-wineries on the way to Santiago del Chile. 

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Another trip we are planning is in France. We’ll charter a small river barge for the family and sail through the French rivers and canals starting from northern France in the North Sea and sail all the way into the Mediterranean waters. This is possible using canals that allow the passage of these Longhorn river ships because of their size. Definitively this will give us the opportunity of seeing and experiencing a different France.   

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Firenze Like a Local

Where else can you find an overwhelming concentration of historical sites combined with perfect weather, dramatic geography, spectacular cuisine, and a chic cosmopolitan culture? Yet Italy is endowed with something that distinguishes it even further – the gift of Renaissance art. There is no better place on earth to experience this than in Florence. When the city was emerging as a 15th-century commercial powerhouse, a class of nouveau riche led by the House of Medici tried to outdo each other in glorifying the city with civic art. The results were spectacular – the Centro Storica became what might be the greatest open-air museum on earth. Likewise, the best way to introduce oneself to Florence is to visit Brunelleschi’s graceful Duomo, the architectural symbol of the city. I’m never sure whether it’s the beautiful symmetry of the dome or the 358 winding steps to the top, but it never fails to stimulate all of the senses. Italy is certainly a country that should be seen. More than that, it should be felt.

Beyond the Duomo, these tips will bring you to gems that capture the romance and charm of the Renaissance City.

SHOP
SCUOLA DEL CUOIO
Via S. Giuseppe 5r
The Florence Leather School: A workshop tucked inside the monastery of Santa Croce where Florentine leather artisans have been working since the 1930s. Watch them use centuries-old techniques as you browse the high-quality leather goods.

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GIULIO GIANNINI E FIGLIO
Piazza Pitti 37r
This quaint shop is owned by one of Florence’s oldest artisan families and is the city’s original marbled papermaker. Choose from an array of marbled paper made by hand, stationery and hand-tooled leather book bindings.

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EAT
BUCA LAPI
Via del Trebbio 1
Plan ahead and make a reservation at this lively subterranean restaurant located in the 15th-century wine cellars of Palazzo Antinori that attracts locals and visitors alike. Order the classic bistecca alla fiorentina.

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fratelliniI DUE FRATELLINI
Via dei Cimatori 38
Owned by two brothers, this quick and casual sandwich nook serves up some of the best paninis in Florence on their freshly baked bread. Choose from a wide array of fillings, everything from Tuscan porchetta to truffle pecorino and arugula, for a delicious made-to-order lunch.

VISIT
MERCATO DI SANT’AMBROGIO
Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti
An intimate indoor and outdoor food market where the locals actually go to do their daily shopping. Try local cheeses, cured meats, an array of olive oils and balsamic vinegar, and feel like a true Florentine.

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LUCCA, TUSCANY
About a 1-hour drive from Livorno
Take a day trip to this medieval Tuscan village to experience the best of the region without crowds of tourists. Discover its unique Renaissance-era walkable walls, browse the shops along Via Fillungo and relax at one of the historic cafés with a glass of local wine.

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Explore five exciting cruises to Florence:

Marina | Barcelona to Rome | 14 Days

Sirena | Barcelona to Venice | 10 Days 

Insignia | Rome to London | 15 Days 

Riviera | Rome to Barcelona | 7 Days

Riviera | Rome to London | 14 Days 

 

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7 Alaskan Icons Not to Miss

Unlike anywhere else on the planet, Alaska brims with sprawling wilderness, dramatic glaciers, and vibrant native heritage. A voyage to this corner of the world calls out to your adventurous spirit and encourages you to get to know a fascinating and truly wild side of North America. What to do when you finally get to America’s last frontier? Our Destination Specialists share the top 7 icons you shouldn’t miss.

1. Hubbard Glacier | North America’s largest tidewater glacier, the majestic Hubbard Glacier is 76 miles long and about 7 miles wide. The ice you see at the terminal face is approximately 450 years old, over 2000 feet thick at some locations and will leave you speechless. Cruise Hubbard Glacier this summer.

2. Totem Poles | Colorful totems reflect the native heritage of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people, illustrating family lineage and sacred cultural heritage. In Ketchikan, you can visit the Totem Heritage Center, which is a national landmark housing 33 totems preserved from abandoned Tlingit and Haida villages, while Sitka offers an impressive collection of totems near its visitor center and along the walking trail.

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3. Bald Eagles | America’s most iconic and majestic symbol, bald eagles are abundant in Alaska with the population estimated to be at 30,000. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines is a particularly good spot as well as along the banks of the Stikine River near Wrangell.

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4. Historic Gold Mine Towns | Skagway is a very well-preserved gold rush town – check out The Chilkoot Trail just outside of town, which is the centerpiece of the town’s gold rush history. You can also ride a train along the White Pass and Yukon Railway, which is known as Alaska’s Gold Rush Train and offers a glimpse into the 19th-century miner landscape. Alaska’s gold mining past is alive in Juneau as well – retrace the historic route taken by Joe Juneau and Richard Harris in their search for gold, visit Last Chance Basin and try your hand at panning for gold in Gold Creek.

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5. Inside Passage | One of the most stunning locations in the world, this protected passage is calm and filled with everything from snowcapped mountains and calving glaciers to wildflowers and plenty of wildlife every summer. You can even spot migrating whales.

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6. Russian Culture in Sitka | Once the capital of Russian America, Sitka was a booming West Coast center for trade, diplomacy, and the arts during the early 1800s. You can soak up the Russian influence with a scenic walking tour of the city, stopping at St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the Russian Bishop’s House and the Russian Orthodox Cemetery as well as many historic houses that showcase a Russian influence.

7. Denali | Alaska is home to 17 of our nation’s 20 highest peaks, including the majestic Denali, which is North America’s tallest peak. Explore this icon in comfort on our pre- or post-cruise Denali land tours.

 

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Fabled Scandinavia

Scandinavia, that place of fabled tales where thick rolling green forests meet smart chic cities, is a vast celebration of Nordic culture, cutting-edge design, dramatic fjords and woodland wonders. It’s a place where sunlight becomes perpetual every summer, seasons are proper, and the air is fresh and pure – and yes, a little bit magical. It’s no wonder that famed fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen was born in these enchanting northern lands, rich in manor houses, romantic castles and storybook lanes.

The Scandinavian Trio

Where exactly is Scandinavia? It’s a historical and geographical region centered on the Scandinavian Peninsula that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It’s long drawn travelers for its quaint cottage and café culture, Viking history, medieval fortresses and brilliant natural beauty – where else can you spot a roadside reindeer herd?

Danish Denizens of Design

Charmingly canal-lined, Copenhagen is so much more than Tivoli Gardens, pedestrian-friendly Strøget and the Little Mermaid statue. It’s full of both palaces and castles as well as Michelin-starred restaurants and avant-garde architecture and design. Much further north, Skagen will beguile you with its radiant light and windswept dunes – the perfect place to explore artists’ homes and connect with that quintessentially Danish sense of cozy contentment.

Suave Swedish Style

Stockholm is known for its inviting patchwork of island districts stitched together by bridges and ferries, and is home to some of the most compelling museums and art collections, not to mention fabulous, inventive cuisine.  On a smaller scale, Gothenburg is an undeniably welcoming center of creative industry, especially music and fashion. Meanwhile, UNESCO-protected Visby makes for a fascinating step back in time with its medieval churches and narrowing winding lanes.

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Norway’s Natural Drama

Overlooking a fjord and ringed by forests, lakes, hills and parks, Oslo will not only astound you with its natural surroundings during woodland walks and sailing adventures, but it will also delight you with its rich seafaring history and eye-catching architecture city-side. Further north on the western side of Norway, the dramatic UNESCO World Heritage site of Geirangerfjord steals the limelight with spectacular views and has been called “the most beautiful fjord in the world.”

Of course, the possibilities in this part of the world extend far beyond Scandinavia. Our voyages to Nordic and Baltic countries, the British Isles and many other Northern European destinations offer a tantalizing blend of culture, innovative cuisine, rich history and fascinating nature.