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On your next cruise, put down that cocktail and head to class

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Supplementing the cooking classes, yoga sessions and naturalist briefings common on most cruise ships, a new wave of shipboard stimuli are focusing on more intellectual fare. Professorial lectures, book clubs and TED Talk screenings aim to add scholarly diversions to sailings on the high seas.

Enrichment programs have long been a part of small ship sailings, which tend to be destination-focused and use time onboard to bone up on geography and culture. But as cruise lines of all sizes attempt to attract more passengers, many are betting that intellectual fare may broaden their appeal.

Passengers enjoy the Viking Orion’s onboard planetarium.
Passengers enjoy the Viking Orion’s onboard planetarium.  (VIKING CRUISES / The New York Times)

“We’re seeing a lot more exciting options now and a shift in culture with bigger ships bringing on more enrichment than ever before,” said Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, a cruise review website. “Some travellers might say, ‘Cruising isn’t for me,’ then see TED Talks or Crystal’s Creative Learning offerings that are different and unexpected and piques their interest.”

Learn about your destination, or about the stars

Viking Ocean Cruises recently added resident historians to the crews of each of its six ships. The historians offer lectures on the history of the cruise destination, but also hold roundtable discussions on a variety of themes, from women explorers to Venetian naval power. They also host history-themed dinner discussions and maintain office hours for one-on-one time with guests.

On its newest ship, the Viking Orion, the line hired a staff astronomer who lectures in a planetarium-like theatre on topics such as space the history of astronomy, NASA’s astronaut programs and the Hubble Space Telescope. The line’s new ship, the Viking Jupiter, which will launch in February 2019, will also have a planetarium and a resident astronomer onboard.

Viking also offers access to TED Talks videos in its onboard cinemas and on demand in its cabins. Some of the more popular screenings include Yuval Noah Harari’s “What Explains the Rise of Humans” and Honor Harger’s “A History of the Universe in Sound.”

“onboard lectures provide a bridge between a traveller’s desire to learn and the reality and time limitations of their day to day lives,” said Paul Largay, chief executive of Largay Travel, an agency that’s followed the new educational offerings closely.

Enjoy art, fashion, and culture while crossing the Atlantic

Cunard Cruise Line regularly keeps passengers engaged on trans-Atlantic itineraries with special guests. In the past, the line has invited musician James Taylor and fashion designer Bob Mackie to participate in Q&A sessions with passengers.

Upcoming special events on Cunard trips include a dance-themed ocean crossing from Aug. 11-18 featuring the English National Ballet, during which dancers will offer a daily ballet class, host talks on choreography and, in the evenings, perform for guests.

Trans-Atlantic Fashion Week will be held July 28 to Aug. 4, and will feature talks by Stephen Jones, a British hat-maker; Stuart Weitzman, an American shoe designer; fashion historian and journalist Colin McDowell; and Pat Cleveland, one of the original “supermodels.”

The Queen Mary 2 sailing from Southampton, England, to New York City recently held a genealogy-themed trip featuring biotech experts and ancestry specialists, and its Jan. 3, 2019, trans-Atlantic crossing will feature a screening of the TV series “Instinct,” followed by a Q&A with actor Alan Cumming.

Crystal Cruises’ shipboard enrichment program, Creative Learning Institute, offers lessons on topics from ballroom dancing to maritime history. Depending on the sailing, you may also find classes in floral design, wellness seminars hosted by experts from the Cleveland Clinic, and a series focused in digital filmmaking that includes lessons on shooting and editing.

Enjoy a college course, on vacation

Beginning in 2019, Lindblad Expeditions will add onboard lectures from college professors on topics like science and history on select itineraries. The new series is the result of a partnership with One Day University, which organizes public lectures by college teachers across the country.

In 2019, four Lindblad cruises, including trips to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, Alaska’s Inside Passage and Patagonia, will each carry a pair of professors from Harvard, Columbia and Yale, among other universities, who will lecture and socialize with guests during the trip.

The lecturers were chosen, according to the company, not for their expertise in the destinations, but for their ability to deliver engaging talks on topics including the life of Abraham Lincoln, the human brain and immigration in America.

But for all its newfound depth, vacationers need not worry — shipboard intellectual fodder is still balanced by diversion.

“We’re giving people something to do that’s not sitting by the pool and is mentally engaging,” said Doug Jones, owner of Sixth Star, an agency that programs enrichment courses for cruise lines. He looks for engaging speakers who can present a topic in 45 minutes and then make themselves available for follow up throughout the cruise. “It’s not like a college lecture.”

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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