The JungleMarch 20, 2019


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The JungleMarch 20, 2019


From new favorites to old standbys, there are plenty of options for families looking to book a vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. We polled our latest class of 30Under30 travel agents and, while many agreed that the perfect fit depends on the family involved, there are a few standouts with great food, fun activities and plenty of opportunities for adults and kids to do their own thing.

AAA Travel Michigan’s Jordan Lapetz notes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to recommending a property for families. Some clients might want a very high-energy resort with lots of activities and on-site inclusions, since they may not be comfortable heading off-property with their children.

“The ages of the children are a huge factor in determining what type of resort or amenities on site the children will want and actually use,” Lapetz says. “I have had many families come to me and explain in the past, the kids just hung around mom and dad because the resort was not as family friendly; my response is to find a resort that everyone can enjoy together, as well as within their own spaces.”

Amber Koll of The Travel Advantage in Sioux Center, IA, agrees that whether or not a resort is a good fit for a given family depends heavily on the ages of the children involved. That said, she considers the Moon Palace Cancun a great pick.

“They have tons of activities for kids of all ages, plus they usually offer resort credit that can be used towards tours to help offset that extra cost,” Koll says.

Allison Kobasky, who is with Miami-based Over the Moon Vacations, loves sending clients to Hard Rock’s resorts, and she says that families shouldn’t be put off by the brand’s reputation for being a “party place.”

“It’s actually quite the opposite,” Kobasky says. “The resorts are stocked with a ton of amenities like mini-golf, arcades and ‘music labs’ where you can literally be part of a band for a bit, as well as a casino, spa, access to golf courses and more. All of these things are also available via the hotel’s ‘limitless resort credit’ concept, which allows you to redeem a certain amount of credit towards different activities, completely free with your stay as long as you pay a small service charge for the amount you use.”

Ryan Barks of Travel Haus of St. Louis also favors Hard Rock-branded properties, as well as the Moon Palace Cancun.

“Hard Rock and Moon Palace both have an immense amount of activities for all ages from two to 102 and can receive a great amount of resort credit as well to use on things on and off the properties,” he says. “This is perfect for multi-generational trips, as well as families with more than one age of children.”

Barks is also looking forward to Karisma’s new, flagship Nickelodeon hotel, which is scheduled to open next year in the Riviera Maya. “Nickelodeon is a fantastic property for kids of all ages,” he says of the brand’s initial Punta Cana location, “but does not have a child-like feeling throughout the property, so adults can also enjoy themselves.”

Samantha Collum of West University Travel in Houston says that her favorite recommendation for families is the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

“The Grand Velas does a fantastic job of pampering everyone, from newborns to grandparents: they offer a baby concierge so you can leave the stroller at home, their kids club is included and offers plenty of activities, and adults can indulge in the spa or sip a cocktail by the beach,” Collum says. She also notes that it is one of the few family-friendly properties to win the AAA Five Diamond Award, making it a good fit for families looking for luxury.

New York City-based SmartFlyer’s Allison Law also loves the Grand Velas all-inclusives, particularly the ones in Los Cabos and the Riviera Maya. The all-inclusive aspect affords older children and teens a measure of independence, she says, since they can hang out around the resort and eat on their own without worrying about busting the budget.

Grand Velas Los Cabos

“The unbelievable food options and quality will definitely be up to even the harshest food critic’s standards,” Law says. “The sprawling resort grounds offer endless activities for all ages to participate, and the properties also offer great connecting room options to accommodate families.”

Jordan Glanda of Touraid Travel Inc. in Plattsburgh, NY, often recommends Azul– and Dreams-branded properties, based on feedback from her clients and her own travels.

“Of course, it does depend on the experience that the family is looking for on their vacation,” Glanda says. “Some properties are vast and some much smaller. Also, some allow for a lot of off-property activities, while others really try to make the resort in itself a destination. I trust the above properties to really cater to my clients and see to their needs through.”

For Christabela Pierre of Atlas Cruises & Tours in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, the Hyatt Ziva, Panama Jack and Iberostar properties in Cancun are all great picks.

“These properties do a wonderful job of blending adult fun with kid fun,” says Pierre. “Some have small water playgrounds, or family-friendly restaurants with kids’ menus, while still offering parents the ability to be adults and enjoy romance on their vacation.”

Kristen Munch of Frosch Travel in Chicago loves the Rosewood Mayakoba for its many multi-bedroom units and villas, as well as the wide variety of activities that are available at the property.

“The Mayakoba community is excellent for bike riding through the grounds or taking a boat ride through the mangroves while learning about the flora and fauna native to the area,” says Munch. She also recommends the resort’s cooking classes, which give guests the opportunity to dive in to the region’s native delicacies.

“I would recommend any Riu property,” says Trevarus Martin of Book and Bag Travel, LLC, in Katy, TX. “Simply, put they’re affordable and fun.” He also notes that, because Riu has a wide variety of locations in Mexico, the brand gives clients plenty of options.

Kaitlyn Kubitskey of My World Travel LLC in Louisville, KY, had a great experience when she sent her clients to The Grand Mayan Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen.

“I had a family of six love their time here and they felt worry-free the entire time,” Kubitskey says. “The hotel has tons of activities catered toward kids and a great connection with the local tour industry that took them to Mayan ruins, cenotes, to a national park to zip-line, and into the town to explore. The adults and kids loved it!”

Kubitskey also says that the Club Med Ixtapa has been on her radar – while she hasn’t sent anyone there yet, she is looking to send a family of clients there at some point in the future.

Related Stories

Taking the Kids — and Indulging Your Inner-Foodie at an All-Inclusive Resort

The Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos Is Now Accepting Bookings for 2019

AMResorts Signs Two New Resorts in Cancun, Akumal

Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun Completes Renovation

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The JungleMarch 19, 2019


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(as of Mar 19,2019 19:13:47 UTC – Details)

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The JungleMarch 19, 2019


Instagram has made travel competitive.

For a younger generation of holidaymakers, it is no longer sufficient to experience a destination, you need to be seen to do so.

And not just any destination.

As status anxiety grows, demand increases for ever more lavish locations, extravagant meals and exotic cultures – all the better to be showcased to an adoring audience.

Holidays are not for relaxation, they are a battle to see who can generate the most content for our social media followers – an exhausting process.

Of course, travel writers are not immune to this – but it can take on a slightly twisted hue.

While we have the opportunity to visit an extraordinary number of places, our work too can become something of an arms race.

With some of the more accessible destinations ticked off, travel becomes a matter of discovering somewhere new, somewhere nobody else has been.

Feeding into this is so-called ‘dark tourism’, where travellers compete to explore the most unexpected, macabre locations.

And when even Chernobyl, site of the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen, has become passé, then the competition has become fierce.

All of which explains why I found myself wandering around Prora, on the holiday island of Rügen, earlier this month in search of something a little out of the ordinary.

I was not to be disappointed

Now partially derelict, the 4.5-kilometre-long megastructure at Prora was originally designed as a holiday camp for the loyal followers of the national socialist government under Adolf Hitler.

As a facility for the Strength through Joy (KdF) movement, it was designed to accommodate 20,000 holidaymakers as they took utilitarian trips to the rugged north coast of Germany.

Some 3,000 guests a day were expected to descend to take in the bracing winds and fine sandy beaches.

At the time, the KdF was the largest tour operator in Germany, offering subsidised holidays to thousands of people each year.

It even had its own fleet of cruise ships, including flagship MV Wilhelm Gustloff, which offered excursions to the Portuguese islands of Madeira among other places.

Designed by architect Clemens Klotz (who presented his plans at the Paris Grand Prix), Prora was to be the physical manifestation of the national spirit – access was a reward for dedication to the cause.

Built overlooking the beautiful Prora Wiek (bay), the location was designed to boost the strength of the Germany people in preparation for war.

Construction began with the laying of a foundation stone in May 1936, with two accommodation blocks for the Reich labour service and two staff houses completed before work on the main accommodation blocks began.

Building at tremendous speed, labourers battled to complete the swimming pools, nursery, bakery and huge auditorium, as well as thousands of identical bedrooms, in a race against time.

Their effort would largely go to waste, however, as with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, work on the facility ceased.

No holidaymakers would visit before WWII.

During the war, the site was became a military training ground for the Wehrmacht, while hundreds of Soviet forced labourers were used for ongoing heavy construction work.

Following the eventual Soviet victory, Russian troops used the facility as a warehouse, preparing supplies for export back to the USSR.

Eventually Prora became a training centre of the National People’s Army (the armed forces of the German Democratic Republic under Russian occupation) with troops filling the blocks until 1989.

It is even thought members of the Palestine Liberation Army trained here in secrecy during the later years.

Following reunification, the site was left abandoned, being recognised as a historical monument in 1992.

Today it has taken on a number of different guises.

The central accommodation blocks remain semi-derelict, with a few curious tourists poking through the rubble and trying to make sense of the vast structure.

There is a museum for the curious and a youth hostel (opened in 2011) for more adventurous travellers.

For years the structure has offered refuge to a number of different groups, from green activists and squatters to historians and architects interested in what remains a unique glimpse into the mindset of the Third Reich.

More recently, at both ends of Prora, work has begun to covert the site into – what else – luxury flats.

Those offered by Dormero, Solitaire and others are available to buy or rent for the summer season – by those willing to overlook the history of the place.

Work on further blocks is proceeding at some speed and it looks as though the entire site will be converted in the near future.

Which is a shame because Prora offers something of a unique insight into the past.

While the current crazy for ‘ruin porn’, especially in what was the Soviet Union, has showcased the architecture of the time, much national socialist design was destroyed during the war.

Prora was one of five Strength through Joy destination initially envisaged, and the only one ever begun, and even today, in its chaotic state, it still offers salutary lessons to the visitor.

“Here you can see what madness makes possible,” intones one guest as I depart.

More Information

For those looking to find out more about the location, the Prora Centre was launched in 2001.

Today the non-profit organisation is a state-recognised institution for further education funded by the government of Mecklenburg Vorpommern.

In addition to a permanent collection and special exhibitions, the centre offers a variety of formats for education and is engaged in research regarding the history of the facility.

For more on visiting on Germany more generally, head over to the official German National Tourist Office website.

Chris O’Toole

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The JungleMarch 19, 2019


March Madness is here again, and with it our annual Coolest Hotel Pool in the World contest. This year we’ve gathered a number of new faces from destinations ranging from Texas to Hawaii to Japan

As part of this NCAA bracket-style competition, vote on each of the round one matchups below – only one vote per match, please! Winners will advance to the next round on their way to being crowned the ultimate champion for 2019. 

Round one voting closes the morning of Wednesday, March 27. Cast your votes today!

Luxury Travel Advisor’s ULTRA Summit

May 21-23, 2019 | Reunion | Kissimmee, FL

This exclusive, invite-only event focused on the luxury travel market brings together world-class travel agency owners and managers with the most opulent, luxury suppliers to cultivate collaboration, share insights, and help carve a path into the future of luxury travel.

Sanctuary Cap Cana vs W Punta de Mita

Sanctuary Cap Cana

Sanctuary Cap Cana just added a new, “escapist-style” pool as part of its grand reopening after the resort closed to undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation. The vibe here aims for that of a cliffside Spanish colonial town, but there’s still plenty of high-energy things to check out and do: foam parties and water aerobics are among the daily activities here, and it also provides quick access to a swim-up bar and the 20-acre, adults-only resort’s four other pools. For those who just want to chill, though, there are still complimentary loungers with shady umbrellas available upon request. 

W Punta de Mita

The ultra-chic W Punta de Mita just rolled out a new pool of its own: a thermometer-shaped, adults-only space steps away from the glittering ocean, where guests can watch surfers practicing their hang ten, or just enjoy the West Coast sunsets. An entirely clear ocean-facing wall adds to the views and provides the perfect spot for underwater selfies. Guests can also take advantage of a whirlpool Jacuzzi, private cabanas with rooftop sun decks, or, for a delicious bite, get the catch of the day delivered right to their beach chair from the next-door Salero restaurant (also new!). 

Timbers Kauai – Ocean Club & Residences at Hōkūala vs The Sundaze – A Floating Pool at the Yachtsman Hotel & Marina Club

Timbers Kauai

Timbers Kauai – Ocean Club & Residences at Hōkūala, a new private residential club which opened this past June on Kauai’s picturesque southeast coast, offers two amazing, unobstructed views: the Pacific Ocean to one side and the Hau’pu mountain range on the other. The oceanfront infinity-edge swimming pool is a particularly great spot to soak up the scenery here. 

The Sundaze

The Sundaze – A Floating Pool at the Yachtsman Hotel & Marina Club offers a similar duality: a pool floating atop the Kennebunk River, just upstream from the Atlantic Ocean. The Sundaze Pool is built on a floating barge that’s docked all season long at the Yachtsman Hotel & Marina Club, offering guests panoramic views of the water, nature, lobster boats and the hotel’s lively bar. The yellow-striped deck chairs and flamingo floats add to the festive feel. 

Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa vs Kimpton Epic Hotel

Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa 

Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa’s main pool shows many faces depending on the time of day. At sunrise, the long, winding infinity pool provides a spot for a morning tan; in the midday, you’ll often find families here, either taking part in a number of activities or enjoying the pool’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean. In the evening, though, it’s pure relaxation: with its own sit-down bar, the pool is the perfect place to take in a Los Cabos sunset. 

Kimpton Epic Hotel

For a quiet respite that’s still surrounded by plenty of buzz, Kimpton Epic Hotel’s 16th floor pool terrace is an open-air oasis amidst the bustling scene of downtown Miami’s waterfront. There are two pools to choose from here, plus cocktails and snacks from the Area 31 Restaurant and outdoor bar, which is just steps away. There are even private cabanas available to host a romantic dinner for two. 

Occidental at Xcaret Destination vs Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo

Occidental at Xcaret Destination

The adults-only saltwater swimming pool at Occidental at Xcaret Destination has a truly unique design: the architecture mirrors that of the surrounding coastline, as though it were created by the sea itself. In fact, the pool is only separated from the ocean by a natural rock formation, and, since it’s at the very tip of the resort, the sea views are practically never-ending. 

Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo

Developed by fashion and design icon Karl Lagerfeld, Odyssey at Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo is an outdoor “haute couture” concept with a heated salt-water pool, private cabanas, terrace gardens and a Joël Robuchon concept restaurant. Designed specifically for Hotel Metropole, Odyssey is known for its 18-panel mural of modern images of models superimposed onto original photos from Lagerfeld’s archives taken of the Greek coastline between the 1850s and 1860s. The mural is lit with special LED lighting which adjusts according to the surrounding natural light for a more dramatic mood.

Marriott Marquis Houston vs Madeline Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection

Marriott Marquis Houston

For a truly out-of-this-world experience, head on down to Texas, where the space-themed Marriott Marquis Houston is home to a lazy river that’s truly Texas-sized – and Texas-shaped! This July is a particularly good time for spaceflight buffs to visit, since the hotel is offering a special “Mission to the Moon” package to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. 

Madeline Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection

There’s nothing quite like defying the elements with a soak in a heated pool during ski season. Madeline Hotel, Auberge Resort Collection is especially well-suited for this – the property’s heated outdoor pool is surrounded by the dramatic, 14,000-foot peaks of the San Juan Mountains. Also nearby are hot tubs, fire pits and an al fresco lounge. Après anyone? 

Westin Austin Downtown vs Hotel Xcaret

Westin Austin Downtown

Westin Downtown Austin’s Azul, our Coolest Hotel Pool of 2017, is refusing to rest on its laurels – in fact, the hotel has updated the pool concept with a new menu of upscale cocktails and bites. Since it’s the highest rooftop pool and bar in Austin, this is the spot to take in views of the downtown, Lady Bird Lake and surrounding area. This pool is also where guests can take in the Mermaids Above Austin experience, in which guests are taught the ways of the water by real mermaids. The package includes hair and makeup, a custom tail guests can keep and an underwater photographer. 

Hotel Xcaret

The rooftop pool and bar is the crown jewel of the adults-only Casa Fuego section of Hotel Xcaret Mexico. In addition to a view over the property’s cenotes, caves and playones, the pool has a clear glass swim-through bridge arcing over the path below between the pool’s two sections. Best of all, the bridge automatically snaps a picture every time a guest swims through, which makes for a great Instagram post. It’s also quite private, as only Casa Fuego guests are allowed in. 

The Joule in Dallas vs Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

The Joule

Another Texas contender is the pool at The Joule hotel in Dallas. This one comes with a unique design, courtesy of Adam D. Tihany: the eight-foot, glass-front pool is cantilevered out over the street, giving guests the sensation of swimming suspended in air while overlooking the hustle of downtown and Main Street below. For more timid guests, the neighboring patio has a number of cabanas to enjoy the views without the vertigo. 

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

The majestic Arenal Volcano is more than just the view from Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa’s swimming pool – the volcano’s magma also heats the thermal spring water that fills the pool. The main pool also has a waterslide and a swim-up bar under a giant palapa, where guests can enjoy tropical drinks like Coco Loco’s served out of a whole coconut while spotting local wildlife roaming the property grounds. 

Oyster Bay Beach Resort vs Archer Austin Hotel

Oyster Bay Beach Resort

Set just above a coral reef and overlooking the Oyster Bay Marina, Oyster Bay Beach Resort’s infinity pool is a relaxing gem in St. Maarten. With views of St. Barths just across the water, it’s also a good spot to enjoy the sights while indulging in a snack from the nearby Infinity Restaurant

Archer Austin Hotel

The pool at Archer Austin Hotel shows true Texas pride with a star-shaped design on the bottom. Its grandest feature, though, is the pool deck fireplace, which measures a whopping 18 feet with a firebox that occupies more than half of it. It’s adjacent to a seasonal pool bar which, along with seating areas and cabanas with day beds, makes for a wonderful semi-private al fresco experience. 

Casa Palopó vs Capella Ubud

Casa Palopó

Casa Palopó in Lake Atitlán, set in the heart of the Guatemalan highlands, sports a pool with breathtaking views of the surrounding volcanoes and twinkling lights from neighboring Mayan towns. Since the hotel has only nine rooms, it’s a great spot for a private getaway. 

Capella Ubud

The main swimming pool at Bali’s Capella Ubud, called The Cistern, offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the Keliki Valley. Named after the water reservoir of the old camp site, The Cistern pays homage to that history with a reservoir-shaped design. Fun fact: the pool is made of marine-grade steel plates each weighing 100 kilograms and, due to the land terracing, each slab of steel plate had to be transported and carried by hand to the site. 

Jade Mountain vs TRS Yucatan Hotel

Jade Mountain

St. Lucia’s Jade Mountain has three Galaxy Infinity Pool Sanctuaries, grand accommodations with a bedroom, living area and infinity pool in one open-concept living space. With 15-foot ceilings, a location on the resort’s southwest corner and the fourth wall open to the outside, the views of the twin Piton mountains and Caribbean sea are unrivaled. 

TRS Yucatan Hotel

The TRS Yucatan Hotel’s Helios Beach Club has a three-tier infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean sea. It has in-pool lounge chairs, surrounding Bali beds and a poolside bar serving up premium spirits. For cocktails and fresh Mediterranean food, the Ibiza-style beach club Helios is just steps away. 

Hotel El Ganzo vs Zemi Beach House

Hotel El Ganzo

The rooftop infinity pool at the Hotel El Ganzo sets the tone with an eclectic music mix that often includes original work produced at the Underground Studio. It’s also illuminated after dark, which, along with the Bali daybeds dotting the perimeter and available cocktails, provides a memorable ambiance for nighttime socializing. 

Zemi Beach House

Zemi Beach House’s signature oceanfront infinity pool stuns with an underwater window facing the white sand beach of Anguilla’s Shoal Bay East and the Atlantic Ocean. Guests can rent a picnic basket or walk over to one of the property’s three bars for poolside cocktails.

Breathless Montego Bay vs Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman

Breathless Montego Bay

Breathless Montego Bay is home to the only rooftop pool in all of Jamaica, which means it’s the place to capture 360-degree, unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and Montego Bay, taking your social media pics to new heights. Guests at the pool can enjoy unlimited premium wines, spirits and beers alongside hand-crafted cocktails from the pool-side Altitude Rooftop Bar at no additional cost.

Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman

Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman has an expansive pool that was designed in the shape of Grand Cayman. This fun spot provides plentiful floats and tubes for water lounging – the perfect way to enjoy the Jimmy Buffet lifestyle. 

Viceroy Los Cabos vs The Hollywood Roosevelt

Viceroy Los Cabos

At the newly opened Viceroy Los Cabos, the pool experience is a futuristic dreamscape. Case in point: Nidito, the resort’s beach club, where guests can either relax under a next-like, latticed roof or take a dip in the ellipse-shaped pool. Food and drinks can be delivered no matter where guests are; good bets are the Baja fish tacos, Mezcal cocktails and agua fresca. 

The Hollywood Roosevelt

For a taste of Old Hollywood glamour, check out the heated outdoor Tropicana Pool at The Hollywood Roosevelt. It’s the only place in the world guests can swim over a million-dollar work of art, a mural painted by the acclaimed David Hockney that looks better than ever following a two-week restoration project this past spring. Both the hotel and the Tropicana Pool have been designated Historic-Cultural Monuments by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission, which recognizes and protects the city’s most cherished and significant historical resources.

Hotel Mousai vs Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa and Casino

Hotel Mousai

There are rooftop views and then there are rooftop views – the rooftop infinity pool at the adults-only Hotel Mousai has the advantage of being on top of a hotel tower that’s also on top of a mountain, meaning that the vista out over Puerto Vallarta’s Bay of Banderas is spectacular. Since, along with sister property Garza Blanca, the Hotel Mousai is set on an 85-acre, private nature reserve, there’s also plenty of natural scenery to take in from these lofty heights. The nearby bar also serves cocktails and light snacks. 

Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa and Casino

The Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa and Casino is home to an 8,000-square-foot, multi-level pool complex that spans three tiers and includes two hot tub whirlpools secluded in quiet corners of the tropical garden setting, plus waterfalls and a three-story water slide. It’s all set within a beachfront oasis filled with palm trees and lush vegetation. 

Sonesta Ocean Point vs Live Aqua Boutique Resort Playa del Carmen

Sonesta Ocean Point

The adults-only Sonesta Ocean Point’s Edge Pool is well-named: the private, man-made beach pool is perched cliffside, seamlessly blending into the horizon. The silica-based sand lining the pool supports loungers and umbrellas lining the water’s edge, and pool service means guests don’t have to get up to enjoy a signature cocktail. 

Live Aqua Boutique Resort Playa del Carmen

Set on Playa del Carmen’s world-famous Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), Live Aqua Boutique Resort Playa del Carmen has a rooftop area is complete with a sleek infinity pool that boasts incredible views of the coastline and the city. Chic furnishings complement contemporary art, setting the tone for an exclusive poolside getaway. There is also a bar serving cocktails and a restaurant offering traditional Mexican snacks. 

Hoshinoya Taketomi Island vs W Hotel Panama

Hoshinoya Taketomi Island

This one’s for the stargazers – there is little electricity on Taketomi Island to protect the environment, which means that the night sky over the main pool at the Hoshinoya hotel is filled with stars, and sometimes even the Milky Way. For those who don’t fancy a night swim, the pool is also a relaxing spot to enjoy the sunrise and sunset and, since it is heated, it is open throughout the year. 

W Hotel Panama

Located in the heart of Panama City, the infinity-edge pool at the W Hotel Panama offers up-close views of the city skyline and the chance to watch ships pass through the Panama Canal. Guests can also enjoy a drink from the poolside bar and unwind on an assortment of deck chairs and sofas.

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The JungleMarch 19, 2019


Price: $9.99 - $5.99
(as of Mar 19,2019 07:12:48 UTC – Details)

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The JungleMarch 19, 2019


For many British travellers, especially younger generations, a visit to Germany simply means heading to Berlin.

The clubs, bars and galleries of the rapidly developing capital are enough for fun-seeking holidaymakers looking to spend a weekend away.

But, with nearly 40 million international overnight visitors last year, Germany is one of the most popular tourism destinations anywhere in the world, and has a great deal more to offer the adventurous traveller.

A shining example is Rügen, situated on the north-east coast and looking out toward Sweden and the Baltic states.

At just over 900 square kilometres in size, it is the largest island in the country and home to one of its most important tourism regions.

Yet, it is almost completely unknown to British travellers.

I will admit to being slightly in the dark as I set off from Berlin, hastily researching what I could expect to find as I boarded the train in Berlin.

After three hours on the always efficient Deutsche Bahn, I arrived in the seaside town of Binz, the hub of the local hospitality sector.

The quaint resort is the crown jewel of Rügen’s tourism sector, which welcomes around two million guests each year.

Accommodating a largely German market, with a few visitors from Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands, Binz is considered a wellness destination par excellence, with the bracing winds, crisp air and stunning scenery drawing the crowds.

Although temperatures only reach the mid-20s Celsius in the summer months, and were considerably chillier during my stay, the infrastructure is on a par with anything one would expect to find in a higher-end Mediterranean resort.

Here rows of immaculate white guesthouses, completed in the ‘spa architecture’ style, gaze out over the Baltic in a serene silence.

Dreamy bay windows (originally painted white using chalk from nearby cliffs), playful wood carvings, and fanciful weather vanes give the town a timeless air, always welcoming.

This is a town dedicated to a slower way of life, a place of relaxation, rest and recuperation – and it has been for many years.

Tourism in Rügen was initially focused on the town of Putbus, a little inland to the west of Binz, where a wealthy court of aristocrats centred around Kaiser Wilhelm II would come to take in the air.

But as bathing grew more popular, following the example of the spa town of Bath in the UK, attention shifted to Binz and its miles of spotless sandy beaches.

Well-heeled visitors would journey overland to the coast, staying in accommodation rented from locals, including rapidly converted barns and stables.

“Mother let the chickens out of the stable, the guests are coming,” ran the saying at the time, according to my guide of the town.

As residents shifted their attention from agriculture to tourism, the result was a town almost completely dedicated to hospitality by the early 20th century.

Prosperity was dampened after WWII, when Rügen languished in the German Democratic Republic.

During this period, Russian forces expropriated a vast swathe of property and the town was flooded with over one million wartime refugees.

But in recent years it has undergone a remarkable revival.

Since the Berlin Wall came down, three decades ago this year, Binz has been a success story: investment has flowed into renovating the historic properties along the seafront, with each returning to its former glory.

Now the town is home to a well-heeled, older and affluent clientele from across Germany.

Binz, and Rügen more generally, is able to take advantage of its position between Hamburg and Berlin – if you want to visit the seaside in north Germany, this is your place.

Today, there are 30 hotels – including the prestigious Kurhaus and Cerês properties – as well as thousands of self-catering apartments, including those at Dünenpark Binz.

Of the perhaps 6,000 inhabitants of Binz, around 75 per cent make their living from tourism, illustrating its importance to the local economy.

However, English is not widely spoken.

This is perhaps a legacy of the time the island spent as part of the Russian-dominated GDR – but in the main tourist areas, a non-German speaker like me can get by with a few words and a lot of pointing.

Locals can be also be a little taciturn, but this is not a sign of unfriendliness, just a reflection of a hard life on the rugged coast of the Baltic.

Chat to any to anybody and they will make the time to help you out.

Picturesque as it is, Binz is best seen as a base to explore Rügen more generally.

The island is famous for its national parks, including the smallest one in Germany, Jasmund.

Here walkers will find countless trails along the craggy coast to explore, with views over the sheer chalk cliffs truly something to behold.

There is also an abundance of flora and fauna on display, with protected orchid varieties blooming in the meadows.

Enchanted beech woods, mysterious alder groves and 4,000-year-old flint fields also make this a truly extraordinary place.

At the centre of it all is the Königsstuhl National Park Centre, a hub for ecological study in the area.

Although focused on the Königsstuhl (King’s Chair) chalk formations, the centre offers guests a broad overview of the area and its natural significance.

The park is home to a unique piece of nature in the form of ancient beech forests that are almost untouched by human hand.

These are of such outstanding importance that UNESCO declared them, together with other selected beech forests, to be a world heritage site.

In the forests, the natural cycle of growth and decay continues undisturbed.

They are even more precious thanks to their unique integration in the surrounding environment, associated with the broad view over the Baltic and of the chalk coast.

The centre has a mandate to showcase the natural environment of Rügen to visitors as well as highlighting its global significance.

Back inland nature again takes centre stage at the Naturerbe Zentrum Rügen – a huge treetop pathway through the local forest.

Here a 1,250-metre-long treetop walk takes guests through the forest canopy on a route packed with information and adventure stations.

At the centre is the Eagle’s Nest, a viewing platform situated 40 metres above the ground offering fantastic views over the island of Rügen, the Kleiner Jasmunder Bodden (lagoon) and the Baltic Sea.

“We want everyone to experience the uniqueness of this landscape together with its flora and fauna,” explains site manager Jürgen Michalski.

The Naturerbe Zentrum is located in eastern Rügen, covers 1,900 hectares, and is home to three very different types of habitat: forest, open habitats and wetlands.

Previously a restricted military area, the grounds are now home to numerous endangered plant and animal species – a must see for any visitor to the island.

For those with more time, the Rasender Roland steam train trundles along the coast of the island offering a glimpse into the past, while the historic site of national socialist holiday camp at Prora offers a totally different perspective.

Rügen has something for everybody, from young adventurers, to spa seeks and history buffs – not bad for somewhere nobody has ever heard of.

More Information

Rügen Tourism is charged with the promotion of the island as a travel destination.

The organisation functions as a networker and promoter for the island and acts as an intermediary for tourism development.

In co-operation with key players involved on a local, regional, state and federal level, Rügen Tourism works to support an ever-growing industry.

Find out more here.

For more on visiting on Germany more gernally, head over to the official German National Tourist Office website.

Images courtesy of Rügen Tourism and Nationalpark-Zentrum Königsstuhl

Chris O’Toole

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The JungleMarch 18, 2019


Frontiers International Travel has announced a new photographic safari across the Australian Outback by private jet. This 14-day adventure traverses Australia with stops at the Flinders Ranges, Red Centre, Uluru, The Kimberley and Arnhem Land. The trip is hosted by professional photographer Ewen Bell, whose work can be seen in National Geographic Traveler, Geo Saison, Food & Travel, Vacation & Travel, Higher View, Outback Magazine and more.

The Outback Jet can cruise at speeds of over 300 knots (roughly 345 mph) and has the ability to land on short, remote runways. Its superior capabilities provide unrivaled access to wilderness areas, cattle stations and other remote parts of Australia. Accommodating only eight travelers, the jet is fitted with comfortable leather seats, each including a window view.

Highlights Include:

Luxury Travel Advisor’s ULTRA Summit

May 21-23, 2019 | Reunion | Kissimmee, FL

This exclusive, invite-only event focused on the luxury travel market brings together world-class travel agency owners and managers with the most opulent, luxury suppliers to cultivate collaboration, share insights, and help carve a path into the future of luxury travel.

  • Two helicopter photo shoots at Uluru and Purnululu National Park
  • Photographing birds, rock art, crocodiles and other unique wildlife
  • Overnighting in luxury hotels, remote lodges and tent camps
  • Learning the technique of photographing star trails
  • Receiving one-on-one advice and instruction from award-winning photographer, Ewen Bell
  • Exploring and photographing a 200,0000-acre cattle station
  • Visiting the Warlukurlangu artists in Yuendumu
Photo courtesy of Frontiers International Travel 

Inclusions: Accommodation in a combination of luxury hotels, tented camps and remote lodges on a twin share basis; instructing photographer and tour guide, plus local guides and transfers; all meals, along with wine with dinner and bottled water along the journey. Helicopter shoots and sightseeing activities are all included in the price.

The all-inclusive tour is scheduled for June 20 – July 3, 2019 and starts at $12,275 per person. For more info and a full-itinerary, visit Frontiers International Travel or contact Frontiers destination specialist, Kristene Fitzgerald at 1-800-245-1950.

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The JungleMarch 18, 2019


Price: $46.95
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The JungleMarch 18, 2019


Swiss to introduce premium economy class in 2021

Swiss International Air Lines will introduce a new premium economy class on its long-haul aircraft fleet in the spring of 2021.

The new class will initially be available in a 24-seat section of the carrier’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Moving forward, the product will be extended to the entire Swiss long-haul fleet.

Swiss will be investing some CHF40 million (US$39 million) on installing the new seating class on its Boeing 777 fleet.

“The travel class will feature a newly developed seat providing extensive legroom and movement.

“All in all, our premium economy class travellers will enjoy a substantially stronger sense of personal space,” confirmed Tamur Goudarzi Pour, Swiss chief commercial officer.

By introducing the new travel class, Swiss is responding to a growing demand for an air travel product between economy and business class.

The decision to offer the new seating class was also encouraged by the positive experiences with a similar product on Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines, Swiss’ sister companies within the Lufthansa Group.

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