Small ship cruise line Windstar Cruises has doubled its number of Concierge Collection shore excursions in 2018, increasing the total number of these unique tours to 90.
Concierge Collection excursions are more intimate, small group experiences that range in size from just four to 12-16 guests, most often under 10. The program is designed for those travelers who are looking for experiences off-the-beaten path that offer the opportunity to live life like a local for one day whether it’s halibut fishing in the deep waters off Icy Strait Point, Alaska; flying over the expansive vineyards of the Medoc Valley in beautiful Bordeaux, France; lunching and learning the nuances of olive oil with the Maître d’Hotel of the Splendido Hotel in Portofino, Italy; wine making in Portimao, Portugal; or zooming around the world famous “TT Motorbike” Race Course on Isle of Man, Scotland.
Of the 44 new Concierge Collection tours, many are highly localized culinary experiences, while others are a deep and meaningful encounter with the environment and natural world. In many cases, the Concierge Collection experiences combine both of these travel aspects – culinary AND the environment – imbuing a bit of local culture along with exposure to awe-inspiring scenery.
Here are highlights from nine of the new Concierge Collection tour additions taking place this summer and early fall:
Akureyri, Iceland Concierge Collection: Polar Flight to Grimsey Island
North of mainland Iceland lies Grimsey Island, a lovely green oasis that straddles the Arctic Circle. Cruise guests are treated to a thrilling 30 minute flight with amazing views over the tall mountains that line either side of Eyjafjordur Fjord. Upon landing on the polar outpost, a local Grimsey guide invites guests on a hike around the island where few have tread, acquainting visitors with its reach Viking history dating to 1024, cultural oddity of a cod currency, and renowned abundance of fish and birds. A photographer’s paradise, Grimsey has extensive bird colonies, said to accommodate at least 60 different species like kittiwakes, puffins, arctic terns, fulmars, and guillemots. The return flight provides more spectacular views of rugged Iceland and bragging rights to having crossed the Arctic Circle twice.
Ketchikan, Alaska Concierge Collection: Fishing & Wilderness Dining
Guests actually get to cook their catch of freshly caught Alaskan fish and shellfish from the pristine wilderness and waters of the Tongass National Forest, where whales, bald eagles and numerous Alaskan seabirds are often seen. Guests can reel in Pacific halibut, rockfish, lingcod, Pacific cod, and salmon before working with a local fish monger and chef to cook up the catch of the day, learning about how sustainable fishing is a pillar of many Alaskan communities.
Tangier, Morocco Concierge Collection Cooking Class at the Blue Door
The first stop on this outing is the Grand Socco, home to a cavalcade of color, charm, street musicians, a fish market, scenic handicrafts, and spices. Next stop is the Blue Door Hotel Cooking Classroom, where guests are warmly welcomed with minty Moroccan tea followed by learning how to cook a traditional Moroccan dish infused with fragrant herbs. Guests also learn the secrets of how Moroccans make such moist bread, including a visit to a local oven where community baking is a time-honored practice. While waiting for the bread, guests learn the proper way to make and serve Moroccan tea. Of course, once the food is ready, everyone digs in.
Tromsø, Norway Concierge Collection Huskey Hike
Guests travel to the Tromsø Wilderness Camp to meet some of the friendliest inhabitants of Norway: 100+ huskies. The local couple who run the camp made their mark in the world of dog sled racing and regularly participates in the Finnmark Race and have competed in the world’s longest dog race, the Iditarod in Alaska. The guide takes guests on a hike with some of the camp’s top-trained dogs, heading into spectacular northern Norwegian nature with great views of the fjords and mountains surrounding Tromsø. Back at the Wilderness Camp, guests are treated to a hot beverage and a snack before it’s time to say goodbye to the huskies.
Portimao, Portugal Concierge Collection: Winemaker Experience & Bottle Blending Workshop
One of the reasons Quinta dos Vales has quickly become one of the leading wine producers in the Algarvean wine market is its focus on quality instead of quantity. With this unique experience, guests get the opportunity to create a wine perfectly tailored to their preferences. With some information, training, and all the necessary equipment, only creativity is needed to blend the wines in different combinations and proportions. To make it even more personal, guests are able to bottle the wine, label it, and cork it themselves.
Heimaey Island, Iceland Concierge Collection: Snowmobile & Helicopter Glacier Adventure
This exclusive tour contains the ultimate adventure: a combination of helicopter flightseeing and snowmobiling on Iceland’s 4th largest glacier, Mýrdalsjökull. Guests fly over the islands of the archipelago before heading to the mainland of Iceland, along the way seeing Eyjafjallajökull Glacier, the volcano that erupted in 2010 and brought the world to a halt for a few days. After landing at Mýrdalsjökull, guests can push the throttle on their snowmobile and ride the glacier while enjoying magnificent scenery, with Eyjafjallajökull Glacier from the west and the breathtaking view over the South coast and its black beach. Following the ride, guests board the helicopter for the scenic journey back.
Quebec City, Canada Concierge Collection: Wendake Culinary Experience
La Traite Restaurant at Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations is a gastronomic tribute to First Nations, Inuit, and Aboriginal heritage and culture. Guests are greeted at the museum with traditional drums and chanting, followed by a privately guided visit of the museum’s permanent exhibition. Guests then visit the nearby Ekionkiestha Longhouse to witness a Unification Ceremony followed by a rhubarb water tasting from a traditional Wendat cup. Then, it’s an incredible four-course meal (along with wine) that honors what has been hunted, fished, or gathered.
Porto Empedocle, (Sicily) Italy Torre Salsa, Sciacca & Tasting
The tour starts with a visit to the World Wildlife Federation nature reserve of Torre Salsa before heading to a local farmhouse for an explanation of the olive harvest and its maceration. After a tasting of oils and home-made cuisine consisting of typical local and traditional dishes, guests continue to the center of Sciacca, famous for its beautiful sea, monuments, and spas.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia Concierge Collection: Overnight Romance Package – Pearl Beach
Guests can enjoy a unique opportunity to stay at one of the nicest resorts in Bora Bora in a classic overwater bungalow. Guest are met on the dock on Bora Bora for a boat transfer to the resort, where there is access to the hotel facilities, pool, beach, and non-motorized water toys. Then it’s a three-course dinner at Tevairoa Restaurant before enjoying the pleasure of staying in an overwater bungalow, with breakfast the next morning. Another highlight is a two-course lunch served beachside before the transfer by boat back to the Windstar ship.
The new Concierge Collection enhances the hundreds of shore excursions that Windstar offers in porst around the world. To learn more about Concierge tours and authentic small ship cruising with Windstar, contact a travel professional or Windstar Cruises by phone at 877-958-7718, email email@example.com or visit WindstarCruises.com.