While working on your New Year’s resolutions, did you promise yourself a great vacation in 2014?
By Richard Irwin, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
If you need some ideas, here’s a list of the hottest travel trends.
The annual travel survey by the Travel Leaders Group found European river cruises to be the single hottest travel trend. Only three years ago, European river cruises ranked 21st. Based on actual booking data, the survey suggests this is the next big thing.
“If Europe could find a way to create additional scenic rivers, the travel industry and, in particular, our agents would be sending even more clients on European river cruises,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben.
Many travelers don’t realize the biggest river cruise company is based in Woodland Hills. Viking Cruises was recently named “Best River Cruise Line” in Cruise Critic’s 2013 Annual Editors’ Picks Awards.
Viking says unprecedented consumer demand has made it the company’s biggest year to date. Almost all of its 2013 itineraries were sold out as well as more than half of all 2014 staterooms. And the company is responding with more ships, said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic.
Viking will add 14 new Longships this year. Last March, the L.A. cruise line set a Guinness World Record by christening 10 ships in a single day.
Viking’s fleet will grow to 51 vessels by the end of 2014. This includes 30 new revolutionary Longships in the last three years alone.
The overall top international destination for 2014 is the Caribbean. Every cruise line has ships plying the warm, blue Caribbean waters.
Disney Cruise Line has added its special touch to the competition. Its ships are specially built for families with extra storage and special areas for each age group.
Beginning this month, all four Disney ships will sail out of Florida to the Caribbean and Bahamas. The Disney Wonder will sail from Miami, while the Disney Magic, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy sail from Port Canaveral.
Evily Giannopoulos of Disney Cruise Line said the ships will offer a variety of itineraries. Every cruise from Port Canaveral includes a stop at one of my favorite places, Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.
With publicity from high-profile films like “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” New Zealand scored big in the survey. The island nation is one of the adventure travel centers of the world. We recently completed our travel series with exciting adventures ranging from zip lining to jet boating.
Australia came in second, but this small continent offers a wealth of travel experiences. From Little Italy in Melbourne to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Sydney, tourists can then try tropical Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.
“Also exciting in our results are the unique destinations that are starting to gain a foothold with our Travel Leaders Group clients as the next great place to visit,” said Liben.
Up-and-coming European destinations include Croatia and Iceland. Croatian friends brag about the Dalmatian coast.
Every travel writer seems to love Iceland. Residents brag about their land of fire and ice, fire from active volcanoes and the ice of a Nordic country.
Delta Air Lines began serving Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik in 2013 and will resume summer service this year.
Peru came out on top of the Central/South American trends thanks largely to Machu Picchu. Brazil came in second because it is hosting the 2014 World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympic Games.
Vietnam is the hottest trend in Asia/Southeast Asia. Burma/Myanmar was second.
“At one time, Burma seemed off-limits due to its former government,” Liben noted. “But since its peaceful transition in 2010 to a civilian reformist government, this still relatively isolated nation is really opening up to tourism, and a growing number of American travelers are responding to its truly exotic allure.”
And what about domestic destinations? Travel agents were asked to list the top five destinations already booked for 2014.
For years, Las Vegas has battled with Orlando for the top spot. This year, bet on Vegas — it is first on the list.
Alaskan cruises tied with Maui for third place, followed by New York City and Honolulu. San Francisco and Los Angeles also joined the top 10. Fort Lauderdale and Hawaiian cruises rounded out the domestic destinations.