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Journey with Smithsonian

  • By
  • October 3, 2018
Smithsonian Journeys 2019 Trips
Smithsonian Journeys 2019 Trips
Photos courtesy of Paula Swart, Smithsonian Journeys travel expert

Preserve and Celebrate Through Travel

Smithsonian Journeys

Whether your dream vacation calls for a backpacking trip through any one of the seven continents or a personalized tour of ancient ruins or Japan’s centuries-old temples, Smithsonian Journeys primary goal is to bring the world’s diverse cultures and natural sciences to you by way of travel.

If you’re on the Smithsonian Journeys mailing list, I’m sure you’ve found the journey offerings exciting and intriguing, to say the least. I reached out to Paula Swart, Smithsonian Journeys travel expert and Karen A. Ledwin, Smithsonian Travel vice president, program management, for details about destinations and adventures that will stir your inner traveler.

Smithsonian Journeys 2019 Trip Itineraries
Photo courtesy of Paula Swart

Scroll down to see their answers.

First-Hand Learning

Paula Swart

Paula Swart’s primary role is to provide a relevant educational component to the trip experience.

Tell me about your most recent Smithsonian Journeys trip. Where did your travels take you?

Most recent trips, twice to Vietnam (overland and cruise) and one trip to Japan, the Inland Sea.

Where and when will you embark on your next Smithsonian Journeys trip?

Barge trip through Holland & Belgium September 21-29. Being a native of Holland and having traveled many times to Belgium, I have lectured several barge trips since 2013, usually in April/early May to see the flowering bulb fields.

Smithsonian Journeys 2019 Trip Itineraries
Photo courtesy of Paula Swart

How did your relationship with the Smithsonian evolve? How many trips have you taken on behalf of the Smithsonian?

I was approached in late 2016 and this will be my fourth Smithsonian trip. I have been involved in educational trips since the early 80s after studying for two years in China.

Smithsonian Journeys Trip Itineraries
Photo courtesy of Paula Swart.

What attracted you to Asian art, culture, and history and how have your experiences helped to prepare you for your trips, i.e. what do you find most fascinating about Asia? 

Growing up in The Netherlands with our colonial history in Indonesia, I experienced Asian culture from a very early age through food, art, literature, puppet performances, and storytelling, and in my professional life, I became a Curator of Asian Studies working in various Canadian museums. I am foremost interested in art, archaeology, and history, but it is always the people connections which give meaning to the travel experience. Visiting the same country on many occasions over a long period of time provides the opportunity for a deeper understanding, which in turn can be conveyed during my presentations, or if the opportunity arises write articles.

What are a few of your goals for your upcoming adventure? 

Reconnecting with the countries to be visited and to provide insightful presentations to the travelers.

What languages do you speak? 

Dutch, French, German, English, Chinese, in addition, I studied Japanese, Tibetan, and Spanish.

Travel Infusion

Karen A. Ledwin

What is the overall goal for each of the tour directors and experts you enlist?

The goal of Smithsonian Journeys tour staff is to deliver the high-quality experience our travelers expect and to ensure that Smithsonian’s mission of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge” is infused in the talks, discussions, excursions and other tour activities. See our difference on our website and the Backgrounder document for more details.

How do you choose a destination? What are the criteria?

Smithsonian Journeys has been operating cultural and educational tours for nearly 50 years and offers tours and cruises on all seven (7) continents in a variety of travel styles, including Classic Land, Cultural Stay, Small-Ship Ocean Cruises, River Cruises, Special Interest, Active, Family, Private Jet, and Tailor-Made. With such a long history in enrichment travel, a significant part of our portfolio is selected when our travelers tell us where and how they want to travel, both through sales and in their post-tour evaluations. In addition, new tour selections will often be centered around an anniversary (Leonardo Da Vinci’s 500th anniversary) or event (Chile Total Solar Eclipse) where we know our curious and worldly travelers have an interest.

What are a few of the activities your travel guests can expect to enjoy while on a Smithsonian Journeys trip?

Smithsonian Journeys tours and cruises are infused with talks, discussions, excursions and other activities – all delivering against our promise of in-depth learning and enrichment.

Do you offer opportunities to visit museums, shop?

While not the focus of our trips, during the free time people will certainly shop.

Do the trips allow time for participants to enjoy water activities or experience the peoples and cultures of a particular location, etc.?

Yes to all. One important and distinguishing feature is the inclusion of a Smithsonian Journeys Expert throughout the tour or cruise. One exception is on multi-generational Family Journeys where the focus is on interactive activities for the whole family from learning stage fighting at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, to drawing al fresco in Tuscany. Another exception is found on our new Active Journeys where the act of walking and biking in small groups takes our travelers to smaller towns and villages, where local experts join the group in the evenings for a talk and/or the group visits their atelier, weaving center, or similar.

What are a few examples of trips that uncover the “authentic culture of each destination, providing access unavailable to most travelers?” Would you describe Smithsonian’s signature travel experiences as “off the beaten path?”

Some of our Cultural Stay Journeys are based in small towns like an Andalusian Parador in the small, picturesque town of Antequera from which our travelers explore the region. And our three week Living in Provence program allows travelers the opportunity to live like a local in an Apart/Hotel and to participate in different enrichment tracks. We find that travelers want to see the iconic sites when they visit a destination but they also take delight in combining this with an off the beaten path stop or stops along the way. For example, on many of our journeys, we stay in small, distinctive accommodations that may be family owned, and the family treats our travelers as one of their personal guests.

For more information about upcoming Smithsonian Journeys, call 855-330-1542.

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A Guide to Staying Healthy on Vacation

  • By
  • August 4, 2018

Admit it. There are times when you wish you could get away from it all by moving to your own private island. Well, some cruise passengers actually can at least for a day. Each of the following cruise lines below offer passengers a day of fun in the sun on their very own private island. For many cruisers, this stop is the highlight of the trip. After all, what could be better than sitting on a white-sand beach, drinking a pia colada and soaking in the rays without crowds?

“It’s a wonderful destination, we will come back next year for sure!”

All of these islands have pristine shores, swaying palm trees, aquamarine waters and lots of ocean-side adventure. There usually are fees for shore excursions and equipment rental. Every destination offers something a little different for cruise passengers.

View of buildings on the coast of tropical island San Andres y Providencia

Even at first glance, CocoCay looks like the quintessential Caribbean hideaway. There are wide stretches of beach in quiet coves, island huts in bright Caribbean pinks and blues, and a colorful straw market offering Bahamian crafts and goods.

Many of the island buildings look brand new and they are. In 2002, the company invested more than US$ 21 million to turn this 140-acre (0.5 km) slip of land into a destination their passengers would never forget. Nature trails wind through the isle, which is home to wild chickens, peacocks and occasional iguanas. Those seeking solitude will enjoy the hammocks that are hung under coconut trees in quiet locations.

English Harbour, Hurricane Hole

Sea lovers have plenty of activities to choose from. Hop on a jet ski (US $ 95 for 50 minutes) and speed across waters so clear that you can see orange starfish 20 feet below, or don a snorkel mask and explore life under the sea up close.

For a great view of the island, try your hand at parasailing (US $ 79 per hour). You’ll soar 200-400 feet in the air and maybe even take a cooling dip in the water before returning to the boat. Children will enjoy Caylana’s Castle Cove and SeaTrek Aqua Park (US$ 15 adults, $10 children). Its floating sand castle and aquatic trampolines are just the things for those who are young at heart.

A staff of 45 people lives on CocoCay, and it’s obvious they take pride in keeping the island’s natural beauty in top condition. Their pampering service makes the island experience so pleasurable that you won’t want to leave when dusk falls all too soon.

“Disney knows children, so it’s no wonder that they feel at home on Castaway Cay”

The cruise ship docks right at the island (other cruise ships use tender boats to ferry passengers back and forth), so youngsters can head right down the ship’s ramp and out to explore Castaway Cay. There is a beach just for families, and Scuttle’s Cove is a safe and fun club for children. Parents need some time on their own, so there is Serenity Bay, a secluded beach for adults. For a little pampering, have a relaxing massage in the open-air cabanas at the seaside spa.

Street in Key West

Game for a little exploration? Then grab a bike (child seats are available for little ones) and hit the trails (US$ 6 per hour). This is, after all, a secluded island getaway, and there are miles of empty shoreline and tropical forest to explore.

If you prefer the water, check out the Walking and Kayak Nature Adventure ($60). Participants walk with a guide through the island’s lush fauna and kayak through an ecologically sensitive mangrove environment. If paddling wears you out, just jump in for a refreshing swim in the crystal clear island waters.

Teens can get into their own adventure on The Wild Side (US$ 35), an excursion that includes snorkeling, biking and kayaking. Families who want to adventure together can try the Seahorse Catamaran Snorkel Adventure (US$ 49 adults, US$ 29 children). This easy 45-minute sail takes you out to calm waters and unspoiled coral reefs. Even younger children will enjoy floating in the turquoise Caribbean Sea with schools of colored fish.

View of the Caribbean Sea

Visitors to the tiny islet of Motu Mahana (Polynesian for sunlit island) are greeted with the sounds of Polynesia. Les Gauguines, an eight-woman song and dance troupe, perform beguiling love songs in their Polynesian tongue while guests enjoy a scrumptious feast under the shade of thatched huts. After lunch, guests can relax in the sea or wade for yards in the shallow waters while waiters wearing bathing suits offer tropical drinks to those in need of refreshment. Try out the complimentary water sports like kayaking or snorkeling. For a different experience, board a motorized outrigger canoe and head to the beautiful island lagoon of Taha’a. Taha’a is known for two things: producing vanilla and black pearls.

Guests can take a four-wheel drive tour into the hills to tour the vanilla plantations (US$ 65) or view French Polynesia’s rare jewel, the black pearl, at the Motu Pearl Farm (US$ 64). From there, head to the lagoon for some quality time with the region’s underwater fauna. There is even a small lagoonarium where rays, turtles, sharks and fish are enclosed in four different pools.

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