No matter where in the world groups want to go, Travel Alliance Partners’ (TAP’s) tour operators can take them there. TAP’s 30 partners provide international and exotic tours that give travelers distinctive experiences — watch a play that has been produced since 1634; see the ocean tide reverse a river; walk underwater in the Great Barrier Reef; visit the ruins of a Roman Emperor’s palace; and get close to the wildest of animals on a Kenyan safari.
Three provinces make up the Canadian Maritimes: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Add Canada’s easternmost province — Newfoundland and Labrador — and you have Atlantic Canada.
“When I hear about any of our Atlantic Maritimes trips, the first thing that comes to mind is the friendliness of our people,” said Atlantic Tours president Richard Arnold.
But the region also offers nautical heritage, delicious seafood, great wines and incredible scenic beauty — “all those things lead to us being a wonderful destination,” said Arnold.
In New Brunswick, the city of St. John sits on the northern side of the Bay of Fundy, which boasts what some consider the world’s highest tidal range. The ocean floor is exposed during low tide and covered by 50 feet of seawater during high tide.
The massive tidal shifts create another phenomenon: the Reversing Rapids. The St. John River empties into the bay, but the power of the ocean forces the river to flow backward during high tide, creating roiling rapids and whirlpools.
The Bay of Fundy is also spectacular for whale-watching, with up to 12 whale species using it as their summer feeding ground. In Shediac Bay, the group will go out on a lobster boat to haul up lobster traps and eat their lobster dinner right on the boat.
There are 10 National Historic Sites in Newfoundland and Labrador, including L’Anse aux Meadows, a Viking or Norse settlement dating to the year 1000, and Red Bay, the site of a 16th-century Basque whaling station on Labrador’s southern coast.
Croatia’s Adriatic Coast
The Adriatic coast in Croatia has long been a favorite vacation spot for Europeans, but it’s just starting to catch on with Americans. There, U.S. travelers find a safe, picturesque place where everyone speaks English, said Sue Biggs, owner of Custom Holidays.
“This is about scenery and history, and you get plenty of both,” she said.
The company’s Croatia and Venice cruise begins in Dubrovnik, which sits on the southernmost tip of the Croatian coastline. Old Town’s creamy stone walls and matching buildings with red-tile roofs in Old Town are always surprising to visitors. A walking tour of the “Pearl of the Adriatic” includes stops at the Rector’s Palace and Franciscan Monastery’s Pharmacy.
As visitors take a walking tour through Plitvice Lakes National Park, they explore several of the park’s 16 terraced lakes, and “you see a beautiful waterfall” around practically every corner, Biggs said.
Farther north in Zadar is the city’s sea organ, which looks like a series of large steps down to the water; the steps hide tubes that allow air and water to flow into resonant chambers, essentially allowing the sea waves to play an ever-changing song.
“You can sit there and listen for a long time,” she said. “It’s really, really special.”
In the city of Split, groups visit the palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian. The massive historic ruins have been repurposed as an open-air gathering place with courtyards, shops, buskers and street performers.
Ireland is a longtime favorite for people’s first foray into European traveling. The Irish have “such an affinity for America” because so many Irish emigrated to the United States, and the feeling is mutual; “some cities in the United States have larger Irish populations than some cities in Ireland,” said Sandi Pufahl, president of Fancy-Free Holidays.
Many of her custom groups want to visit because they have Irish roots and want to learn more about their heritage.
Pufahl starts her tours in Dublin, where it’s almost a requirement to visit the Guinness Storehouse. The building’s stories and exhibits are built around an interior atrium that’s designed to mimic a pint glass. After the tour, groups go to the top level, a circular glass level — again, like the rim of a pint glass — that gives a 360-degree panoramic view of the city with information about sites and buildings etched into the windows as part of the view.
At Trinity College, the group learns about the Book of Kells, which contains the first four gospels annotated by monks and was found in a bog, and visits St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The group will enjoy a medieval banquet at the 11th-century Bunratty Castle. The evening includes performances of medieval songs by a harpist and singers wearing period costume, and a banquet of squab and roasted potatoes for which “you have to use your dagger and your fingers,” she said.