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LA DOLCE VITA - A Villa in Tuscay - A Cruise Around Italy

Enjoy Italy in depth from the comforts of Villa Daniela and Savor a superb cruise on the Crystal Serenity sailing from Rome to Venice.

A 2014 Signature Journey May 31 – June 15, 2014

Waitlist Only!

Hosted by Paul and Christine Niskanen

Few countries capture our imagination or provide us as much pleasure as Italy. We long for the simple pleasure of tasting really ripe tomatoes, sipping a glass of fine Chianti or nibbling on aged parmesan cheese. We particularly enjoy the charm of the people who welcome us as if we were family. Finally we enjoy the opportunity to explore this fascinating region in some depth while staying in a luxurious villa.

Unlike a stay in a hotel, Villa Daniela – a stunning place – becomes our home. We can wander into the kitchen to chat with the chef. We can help ourselves to a drink or enjoy a quiet moment in a comfy chair around the pool. Together with our English-speaking Italian staff, we soon become a little community and immerse ourselves deeper into the pleasures of the sweet life in Italy.

In 2014 we'll explore one of Italy's most fabled regions, the lush landscapes, historic cities and charming towns of Tuscany. One day our chef brings us to a little village to watch a master cheese maker create his artisan pecorino; on another we'll hike through the hillsides or take a cooking class to improve our skills with pasta.

When we return in the afternoon, we'll find the bar open (and complimentary) and the chef busy preparing a dinner. Meanwhile our personal sommelier looks after the wines.

After a week at Villa Daniela and an overnight stay in a luxurious hotel in Siena, we're off to Rome to board Crystal Cruises' beautiful Crystal Serenity for a 7 day cruise around Italy to Venice. Splendido!

Can you imagine a more enjoyable journey? Due to the small size of our villa, (just 10 deluxe rooms), we expect this program to fill quickly.


Safari! The best of South Africa

July 11 – 20, 2014. Cape Town extension: July 8-11, 2014

Waitlist Only!

Hosted by Paul and Christine Niskanen

After traveling extensively through Eastern and Southern Africa and hosting safaris in five different countries for more than 20 years, we really appreciate the outstanding game reserves of South Africa. The game viewing is excellent, the camps offer wonderful comforts and warm hospitality and the value for your travel dollar is excellent.

We have carefully selected three camps in South Africa based upon the richness of the game, the quality of our guides and our personal comforts in the camps. Moreover we reserved space at an ideal time of year to view the wildlife. Finally we include just about every expense in South Africa including nearly every meal, complimentary wines and spirits, most safari flights within South Africa, many special events, even your laundry while in our game camps.

We'll see Africa's wildlife at its best and meet South Africa's wonderful people. Sadly, it may not stay this way forever. We invite you to become one of those fortunate travelers to join us!

(Before this program was announced, 12 guests reserved their space. Book soon while limited space is still available.)


Exploring the Serengeti in search of Africa's legendary wildlife and the Great Migration

July 22 - August 1, 2014

Waitlist Only!

Hosted by Paul and Christine Niskanen

IMAGINE: You're surrounded by wildebeest and zebra, all making their bizarre honking sounds. Mothers, fathers and babies as far as you can see. The often wacky wildebeest buck and jump, then go running off from some imagined danger. The predators wait nearby, looking for an opportunity to swoop in quickly. This scene has repeated itself each year for centuries; sadly, like so many experiences in Africa, it will not last forever.


Exploring Japan's Timeless Treasures and Unique Culture

October 12 - 26, 2014

Limited Space Available!

Hosted by Paul and Christine Niskanen A SIGNATURE Journey

Among the many countries we've visited in nearly 40 years of travel planning, Japan ranks high on our list of favorites. We've visited Japan on more than a dozen occasions; yet the country continues to draw us back for more.

Long closed to foreign visitors, Japan developed and maintains a highly individualized culture so different from our own. For example Tokyo can be clogged with traffic and, seemingly, thousands of people. Yet if you walk a block or two and turn a corner, you'll find a serene garden or shrine that takes your breath away with its tranquil beauty. Old is juxtaposed with the new, trends come and go like the breeze and the city seems to pulsate with energy.

Unlike regular sightseeing tours of Japan, we'll limit the number of participants to just 14-15 travelers. This is essential as we have arranged a number of private experiences to understand more about the unique Japanese ethos:

  • We'll meet with several artisans who carry on Japan's long craft traditions including pottery, inlaid woods and the unique swords once forged for samurai.
  • We'll meet with a working geisha who will describe her career and responsibilities. As well, we are guests at private tea ceremony.
  • An American professor of architecture takes us on a fascinating walk through Kyoto and we'll also try our hand at flower arranging guided by an expert in ikebana.
  • We're working to arrange a visit to a Japanese school
  • Finally we've timed our visit to coincide with a very colorful festival, Jidai Matsuri, (Japanese for "Festival of Ages"), in which the participants of the parade are dressed in costumes from almost every period of Japanese history. We've arranged reserved seats.

Traveling in Japan could be very expensive; however in recent months, our dollar has strengthened considerably making Japan, at last, more affordable.

We'll meet the people, visit the sublime shrines and gardens and learn more about this country that, in our lifetime, has evolved from a bitter wartime adversary to strategic ally.

We invite you to join us. (Don't forget your camera!)


Savor the Pleasures of Provence - Explore the Treasures of Normandy

September 20-October 2, 2014

Limited Space Available!

Hosted by Paul and Christine Niskanen

C’est Magnifique!

Can you imagine a more pleasant way to enjoy early autumn than enjoying the pleasures of France?

We invite you to join us in September as we explore the charms of Provence. For our base at a fine hotel in Aix-en-Provence, we’ll explore charming villages, take part in a festive market day and, of course, dine well.

Next we’ll race through the countryside on board one of France’s high-speed TGV trains to Paris where we’ll board a superb riverboat, the AmaLegro, to cruise through the beautiful Seine River valley to explore another precious region of France, Normandy.

Of course, no visit to Normandy would be complete without a visit to remember the monumental landings by Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy. It’s especially appropriate that we visit (or revisit) this site on the 70th anniversary of the landings.

As we cruise down the Seine we’ll savor marvelous scenery from the ship’s Sun Deck and stop to visit great sights such as Monet’s home and beautiful gardens.

Finally we’ve designated this Signature Journey as a ‘special value’. You’ll see that with just about everything included, the cost of the entire journey is just a bit more than the cost of the weeklong cruise on the AmaLegro.

Just nine rooms are open for sale and some have been reserved even before this program has been completed. We invite you to join as we savor the rich pleasures of France.


MYANMAR - You may feel as if you have passed through a time warp ...

... as we explore a friendly country little changed since Burma was a British colony.

January 4-18, 2015
Including a 10-day cruise on the new AmaPura through the heart of Myanmar.

Limited Space Available!

We'll explore a land of stunning golden temples, red-robed monks and a unique culture all their own. Early each morning you'll see shaven-headed monks lining up for alms, women with a sheen of rice paste on their faces (used as a sun screen and mild perfume), elderly vegetable sellers and a wild array of headgear ranging from conical straw hats to elaborate turbans. You'll soon see why, in a very short period of time, Myanmar's quirky, old-world atmosphere has become a top-rated destination on many travelers' bucket lists. We'll see the best of it before it's spoiled.

We'll begin in Rangoon (now called Yangon). From our base at a deluxe hotel, we'll explore the city and its amazing Buddhist treasures. Of course, we've planned a few unique events just for our small circle of travelers. Next we'll board a beautiful, new and luxurious riverboat to sail up the Ayeyarwady River through the heart of Myanmar.

We've carefully selected the best time of year for this journey to avoid the region's high heat, humidity and torrential rains.

Due to the shallow draft on the Ayeyarwady, our riverboat only accommodates 38 spacious suites. Coupled with the popularity of Myanmar, the eight suites allocated to us will fill quickly.


Amazing China: the Terra Cotta Warriors, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong

By land and aboard the 5-star Crystal Symphony.

March 27 – April 11, 2015

Join us as we explore a mighty country with one foot in their rich historical past and another firmly planted in the future.

When we see the amazing Great Wall that snakes into the distance over the hillsides, we remind ourselves this impressive old structure would reach from coast to coast in the USA. And then there’s the amazing legion of Terra Cotta Warriors and the nearly 10,000 rooms in Beijing’s Imperial Palace.

On the other hand, we’ll see the forest of futuristic new skyscrapers built by the world’s foremost architects, the high-speed trains that connect vast areas of the country and all the other modern developments.

We’ve selected fine hotels and restaurants where hospitality is an art. Photographers will fill their memory cards and shoppers will find themselves filling their credit cards.

Our ship, the Crystal Symphony, is outfitted to care for less than a 1,000 pampered guests. The remainder of the space is devoted to our comfort including at least five options for exceptional dining, a well-equipped cinema, the latest spa and fitness facilities and much more.