True connoisseurs can taste the character of a city in its beer, especially those cities constructed mostly from hops and barley. Sample the sudsy side of San Diego with today's Groupon: for $89, you get a luxury brewery tour for two from Brew Hop (a $190 value).
The Institute for Shipboard Education was born from an idea to create a floating campus that reflected the ideals of the United Nations and the realities of globalization. As Chinese shipping magnate C.Y. Tung put it, “Ships can transport more than cargo—they can carry ideas.” From humble beginnings, the program went on to attract world-famous guest speakers including Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. Today, the cruising university onboard the MV Explorer offers two-week Enrichment Voyages for learners of all ages, with educational programming that digs deep into each port of call's culture and history. This 15-day cruise incorporates both lectures and hands-on exploration as it passes along Mexico’s Baja peninsula toward the Isthmus of Panama and Ecuador. At each port on the itinerary, available excursions range from dive trips to volunteer service projects, such as plastering houses or feeding kindergarteners (additional fees apply for shore trips). Or you can set off on your own, armed with knowledge acquired from the recommended reading list.Days 1–3: After cruising from Ensenada, Mexico, to the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, the ship anchors at Cabo San Lucas. El Arco, the city’s iconic seaside arch, forms a scenic backdrop for a day of kayaking and snorkeling.Day 6: Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala lies within easy range of Antigua, named an UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved baroque architecture. It's ringed by mountains playing a very slow-moving game of duck-duck-goose. Day 7: Nicaragua’s largest Pacific port, Corinto, borders León, an old-world town dotted with 17th-century Spanish colonial churches such as the Cathedral of the Assumption.Days 9–10: Balboa, Panama, stands at the entrance to the Panama Canal—still an engineering marvel. The nearby overflow reservoir, Gatún Lake, is home to crocodiles, iguanas, and sloths.Days 12–13: Dipping toward South America, the ship docks at Manta, Ecuador, a trade city dating to pre-Columbian times. Pounding waves on Playa Murciélago create attractive surfing conditions.Day 15: The journey concludes at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, leaving you free to explore inland rainforests or head home. During each day at sea, college professors and other experts lead a string of seminars. Subjects are as varied as marine ecology, cultural anthropology, and photojournalism, and they often relate to the next port of call. The ship retains vestiges of its former life as a commercial liner. There are barstools in the 9,000-volume library, for instance, testifying to the space's former role as the ship's tavern. Despite the emphasis on education, there’s still plenty of relaxation aboard. The Wellness Center spa offers massages, manicures, and other pampering services. Nightly live entertainment offerings include an all-male a cappella group, a magician, and staged readings of old Love Boat scripts. During the day, you can even skip class to lounge by the pool, located on deck 7.See the full trip overview for more information.Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.
Kayaks glide serenely through the South Bay as the sightseers dip paddles into the water or stop to take pictures of migrating birds. Led by a docent for the Living Coast Discovery Center with five years of experience, Chula Vista Kayak’s tours navigate these oft-overlooked waters in search of rare sights, such as the local Pacific green sea turtles coming up for air or the abundant wildlife including raptors, great blue herons, and egrets. Tours welcome beginners and seasoned kayakers alike; no matter their experience level, guests brush up on water safety with a 15-minute introduction before they’re clear to push off and explore.
Pumpkin Stations turn pumpkin shopping and family-park excursions into a one-stop trip. Each of the five Pumpkin Station locations houses a variety of family-fun activities, from giant slides and mini-trains to sky fighter rides and carousels. Mission Valley, for instance, enables visitors to get their sea legs with an on-site boat ride, while the El Cajon game zones gives them a place to rest in between activities. No matter the location, families, friends, and groups can stroll through an asphalt pumpkin patch to seek out a large, plump gourd to take home and carve into a jack-o-lantern.
Perhaps with the exception of a high-school prom, The Gondola Company can put almost any romantic event on the water. Its vessels ferry passengers across the canals of the Coronado Cays on several types of cruises, all of which spark a romantic ambiance with Italian music and BYOB amenities. The classic 50-minute Pasaporto jaunts depart for relaxing voyages day and night. As an optional add-on, a live mandolin or violin player can tag along to strum charming, traditional melodies.
The gondoliers do not exclusively transport small groups; they also pilot Venetian caorlinas, larger boats that can accommodate up to 14 people during family-style celebrations. For even grander gatherings, a fleet cruise dispatches as many as six separate gondolas, which can smoothly support entire wedding parties atop the water. Other specialized cruises treat passengers to more than scenic views and the melancholy mating croons of wild sturgeons. On a wine-tasting cruise, a sommelier lectures on a flight of six libations. Alternatively, a Voga massage cruise lays two beds inside the boat, permitting massage therapists to coax tension from couples' torsos and limbs as they skim along the canal surface.