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.
Even at 2,500 feet in the air, you may have never have felt as still as you do inside one of Skysurfer's balloons. It's quiet—"There's no noise from engines," one passenger remarked—and balloons follow the wind's lead instead of resisting it, making the colorful aircraft's motion hardly noticeable. And because there are no windows between you and the sky, as team member Kaleena Brundage says, "You can reach out and feel the clouds that you're next to."
Skysurfer's team of FAA-certified pilots, many of whom have been with the company since its inception more than 35 years ago, boast a perfect safety record. They embark on two flights daily, one around sunrise over Temecula wine country, and one at sunset in Del Mar. Each flight can accommodate up to 12 people in the balloons' roomy wicker baskets, which are large enough for each passenger to comfortably stand at the basket's side and look out over the Pacific Ocean and surrounding countryside. Pilots pour chilled champagne to celebrate the excursion, each of which lasts from 45 to 60 minutes depending on conditions and the balloon's curfew.
At the helm of his urban winery in the heart of the Cedros Design District, winemaker Adam Carruth handcrafts award-winning wines, including the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Best in Class Alexander Valley Cabernet, from grapes he fastidiously collects from all over California. His team handles the production of each varietal from crush to finish, aging juices in barrels that line the walls of the industrial-chic tasting room. The final products—which range from a crisp sauvignon blanc to a bordeaux-style Surfing Madonna—slosh into customized stemware for patrons’ enjoyment seven days a week. Also in the tasting room, guests can peruse the exhibited work of local artists, break into crunchy baguettes from Bread & Cie or nibble on cheese.
Across the nation, the skies are filled with giant, kaleidoscopically colored balloons languidly soaring over snowcapped peaks and green valleys. This is partly due to Balloon Rides Online, whose network of nationwide hot-air balloons paints the sky each day. Employing a FAA-approved basket and a professional pilot who has completed at least 500 flight hours, the company floats passengers over mountains, forests, and streams of caramel for one hour. While gliding with the ease of a cloud, pilots encourage guests to snap photos of sprawling landscapes and capture the moment. After landing, crew members and passengers celebrate with a champagne, mimosa or orange-juice toast—an important tradition in hot-air ballooning and preparing for inevitable hovercraft uprisings. With passengers' safety in mind, Balloon Rides Online also keeps a minimum insurance liability of $100,000 per guest.