Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘India

An update just published on Cruise Critic caught my attention:

Oasis of the Seas Update:  Here Comes the Crew!

The article says that crew members of Royal Caribbean’s new Oasis of the Seas have begun arriving in Turku, Finland to prepare for the ship’s maiden voyage.   These crew members are being flown in from Miami, Manila, and Mumbai.

Seeing Mumbai mentioned in the article reminded me of a young chauffeur who drove us around in Kolkata, India one day during our last trip.  Towards the end of the day, the driver glanced into the rear-view mirror and addressed my husband.

“Sir,” he said hestitantly, “May I ask if your wife is from Thailand?”  Agni responded no, that I am American.  A short conversation ensued, and the driver told Agni that he was curious because he wanted to go overseas to find work, and he was considering Thailand.

Once Agni translated their conversation (It was in Hindi.), my gut reaction was to advise the young man to seek out a job onboard a cruise ship.  I asked if he spoke any English, and he was able to tell me “Yes, I speak some English.”  I went on to explain that there are all types of jobs onboard cruise ships, depending on what his skills were (prep cooks, dishwashers, busboys, waiters, stateroom hosts, deck hands, maintenance workers, etc.). 

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas now adds to the list of traditional cruise staff jobs the need for horticulturalists and zip line instructors.

When he asked how to get a job, I, armed with my modern-minded American ideas, told Agni to tell him to go to an Internet cafe and look on the cruise line Web sites.  What was so awful about it (that I later realized and still regret) was that it completely slipped my mind that Mumbai was the closest cruise terminal, and I should have just told him to go there and talk to anyone he could.

I am a firm believer in giving people a chance, especially those willing to work hard.  I applaud the cruise lines for hiring crew members from all over the world, which not only gives those individuals a chance to make a decent living, but often gives someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to the opportunity to see the world.

From the cruise passenger’s perspective, I am always amazed at how many different languages and nationalities are represented aboard most oceanliners.  I think it enriches the guest experience to meet such diverse people, many of whom can share their insights into the ports of call.   In the case of international passengers, a culturally diverse crew can be essential to ensuring that the guests’ cruise experience is smooth and enjoyable.

Information on oceanliner cruises is available on the Celebrations International Travel Web site.

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I found this travel tweet’s blog entry quite insightful: http://www.501places.com/2009/10/travel-broadens-the-mind-i-beg-to-differ/

I think the notion that travel broadens the mind is definitely true in that as we travel, we discover new places, different cultures, people and languages. But the other writer has a very valid point in that travel does not broaden your mind unless you have an open mind to begin with. Of course our own individual view and experience of new places, cultures and people are influenced by our previous travels, life experiences, background and beliefs, but if we don’t travel with open minds, whatever we see, hear, and do is filtered through the lens of whatever pre-conceived notions or ideas we might have. To that effect, I think this could be all-encompassing, from long-standing notion ingrained by the environments and/or cultures we were raised in to ideas garnered from pop culture (TV shows or commercials, the Internet, celebrity news, etc.).

Some of my own experiences might be good examples: Being an American-born Chinese, I was used to being one of the only (if not the only) Asian child in school in the southern United States. It wasn’t always easy, and I knew I was culturally different, but I never realized the extent until I went to Europe as a teen. One of my French host mothers said to me “You’re not American, you’re Chinese.” Having grown up in a family that always considered me as American as apple pie, and never having had anyone say that to me, (and especially not someone from outside American culture) I didn’t know how to react. Part of me wanted to lecture her on what it means to be a part of America’s “Melting Pot,” but I also wondered if anything I said would make a difference. The fact that I didn’t fit the mold of whatever her idea of a “typical American” is kept her from experiencing what it was like to get to know a multicultural American, in my opinion.

A good example of how pop culture influences people’s thinking is my experience with the teenagers at school in France. Back then, coffee wasn’t “en vogue” with most American teens, and I used to down soda just like everyone else. While in Europe, I learned to drink coffee, but not the strong black stuff without cream. Seeing me with a soda in hand, the teens there often remarked “How do you people live on Coke and hamburgers?” They had learned from watching syndicated American TV shows that American kids are always eating burgers and drinking soda. They wouldn’t dare attack french fries, as they are a favorite with the French as well! Talk about how modern pop culture influences our thinking.

Speaking of broadening the mind, until my husband and I traveled together to his native India for the first time, I had always considered myself well-traveled. Suffice it to say that that trip broadened my mind not only with new and different experiences, but it forced me to see first-hand what a wonderful thing it is to call our prosperous, modern nation home. You’ll hear more about our travels to India in future posts.

Here’s to open minds, travel that enriches the soul, and the endless memories and experiences our travels leave us with. That’s why we believe in Celebrating Life Through Travel SM.

A post on Twitter yesterday read: “101 Frightening Ice Cream Flavors From Around the World,” with this link: http://goplanit.com/l/1gu

Intrigued, I scrolled through the entire article. I found it quite interesting that although the title reads “….From Around the World,” all of the ice cream tubs have Japanese labels. So unfortunately, though I’m sure there are strange ice cream flavors from all over the world, this assortment doesn’t show it.

However, this article got me thinking about how foodies and travelers view other countries, their foods, and culinary traditions. As an American-born Chinese, and having lived in various parts of the U.S. and in Europe, and being married to an Indian man, I recognize the fact that my own perceptions of the world’s culinary scene is more than likely atypical.

I’m well aware that many strange-looking, unfamiliar delicacies in the world originate in Asia: 1000-year-old eggs, squid ink, and shark fin, just to name a few.  But I must say that reading this article made me realize that more often than not, Asia is the first place in the world many people would associate all that is unappealing, weird, maybe even downright yucky in regard to food.  Why that is, I’m not sure.   Unfortunately, I think this pop culture reputation sometimes causes Asia to be regarded as too different, exotic, and possibly less desirable to less adventuresome foodies and travelers.

I do know that my experiences in France as a teenager quickly turned some of my long-held notions about food and culture upside down. Up until then, I had never seen duck eaten any other way than roasted Chinese-style.

When a waiter presented me with my first Canard a l’Orange, I knew it was a traditional French preparation of duck, although I had never tasted it. My host, momentarily forgetting about my Chinese heritage, leaned over to explain, “C’est du canard.” (It’s duck.) For lack of a better response, I said “Oui, je sais.” (Yes, I know.) His eyebrows shot up, then realizing that I had, of course had duck before, he quickly says “J’ai rien dit.” (I have nothing to say.)

On a different occasion, I had lunch at Au Pied de Cochon, near the Centre Georges Pompidou Museum in Paris. Same experience, except this time it was pig’s feet. I didn’t even know people other than Asians even ate pig’s feet, let alone that there were different ways to prepare it. Too squeamish to try it, I watched in amazement as my host mother polished off the entire dish of baked pig’s feet.

What about foods largely uncommon in the U.S. that don’t have any “mainstream” connections to Asia? My host families served horse meat, rabbit, lamb, and mutton in stews and other dishes. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what I was eating until I was told; I just knew it was something different that sometimes tasted funny, although many times flavorful sauces helped to mask other less pleasant flavors.

I think it’s worth mentioning that although uncommon foods come from all around the world, it’s up to foodie travelers to discover each country’s authentic flavors.

Amongst some of the most common “unique” foods of the world, these come to mind: Roasted Guinea Pig (Ecuador & Peru), Haggis (Scotland), Dried Cuttlefish (Asia), Stinky Tofu (Taiwan), and Paneer (India).

Note that while I have listed these as foods that I view as “unique,” others who are more familiar with and who enjoy them would disagree with me.  In my mind, that’s the beauty of culinary diversity:  the fact that every traveler and every foodie can find culinary creations to enjoy no matter where your travels take you!



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As a first-generation Chinese-American, I have always been in-tune to differences in English-language terminology and usage.  I think sometimes you could argue that the differences are merely stylistic, but sometimes they’re so drastic they can be difficult to understand if you’re not used to it.  Some are definite brain teasers!

Here’s a short list of terms, their country of origin, and their American English “translations”.

I’m sure someone out there can think of many more to add, so go for it!  Post any you can think of, so we can build this fun list.

Kitchen Roll (Scotland) = Roll of Paper Towels

Bush Lunch (Australia) = Australian Picnic

Pre-pone (India) = Moved Up; Opposite of Postpone

Shift (India) = Move, as in “to move to a new residence”

My One (India) = Mine

Your One (India) = Yours

Ice Lolly (India) = Popsicle

Stick Ice Cream (India) = Ice Cream Bar on a Stick, Not a Popsicle

First Nations (Canada) = Native American

Buggy (Ireland)/pram (England) = stroller

Weight Problems (India) = refers to challenges associated with packing/checking in suitcases over the airlines’ weight restrictions

Coach (most English-speaking countries except the U.S.) = A Tour Bus

What other English terms have you come across in your travels that aren’t common in American English?  Add them to my list!  I’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, food for thought.  Americans say “eggplant”.  In some cases I know these are referred to as “aubergines,” which if I’m not mistaken, is actually French in orgin but also used in English,  and “bringalls”.  I don’t have that spelled right because I was typing it phonetically.  What country uses this term, and what is its language of origin?

Following my last entry (and my references to Anthony Bourdain and street food), this tweet caught my eye:

The importance of Street Food in the walkable metropolis http://bit.ly/SUoE2

This article is a great example of how food and culinary trends help shape cities, cultures, and our daily lives.

Street food experiences are featured as optional excursions on a couple of our culinary tour sample itineraries, and they can be included as part of any international culinary tour, since all of our tours are custom-designed for you.

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My own street food experiences include fresh-cut mangoes on the Promenade in Puerto Vallarta, coconut from a market in Florence, and ice cream and chocolate-dipped bananas during arts festival season at home.

What are some of your favorite (and maybe least favorite) street foods?  Post a comment….I’d love to hear your stories.

And stayed tuned for a future post by Agni about street foods in India!

This is an article I wrote that was published today by Travel Research Online, a resource for travel professionals.   I write columns for consumers as well as industry-related articles whenever possible.

Enjoy!

A Travel Pro Dares to Dream
June 26th, 2009 . by Adrienne Mitra

As travel agents, much of our time is spent planning clients’ trips, solving logistical challenges, and researching.  I am often drawn to itineraries or locales my clients choose, resulting in a long list of “someday” trips I’d like to take.  When it comes to my “dream trip”, there is no question:  a cruise around the world, complete with a land tour component in each major city.
My goal for this trip would be to experience the countries, cultures, histories, peoples and cuisines of the world first-hand, not just to sightsee.  With that in mind, I have a strong preference for shore excursions that provide travelers with a tangible experience to treasure, rather than whirlwind bus tours that leave travelers with little more than a panorama of discombobulated images. Unfortunately, working in a full land tour in each area is next to impossible, but since I am dreaming…

I wish I could combine all the wonderful ways to explore Alaska into a single tour.  In Hawaii, I imagine an inter-island tour encompassing the sunrise over Mount Haleakala, touring the natural wonders of Molokai, an authentic Hawaiian luau, and leisure time on Poipu Beach.  Next would be visits to the pristine islands of the South Pacific.  In Australia and New Zealand, apart from seeing the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback and the major city highlights, I would tour some of the best estate wineries, visit Kangaroo Island, and witness the ritual of the fairy penguin parade on Philip Island.

After that, my tour of exotic Asia, land of my family’s heritage, would begin.  I would immerse myself in all the unique sights, events, culinary delights, and possibilities for one-of-a-kind experiences the Asian countries have to offer.

Continuing westward, I would want to visit my husband’s native India. To avoid extensive overland travel, I would insist on flying to the most popular destinations from the port city and touring fully escorted, possibly requiring a multi-night stay in each given city.

The opulence of modern Dubai, navigating through the Suez Canal, and visiting the ancient wonders of Egypt would all present opportunities for new adventures, the conclusion of which would be our entry into the Mediterranean.  Having traveled extensively in this region, I would plan more unique, less touristy experiences.  For example, enjoying authentic paella cooked over an open fire on a beach in Spain or a walk through a lavender field in Provence.

Sailing north, I would like to spend a significant amount of time exploring northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Russia.  I would be tempted to debark from our oceanliner in Bergen, and take Hurtigruten’s 12-day round-trip voyage to experience the Norwegian Fjords, no matter what time of year.  And when it comes to Russia, I’m not sure the overnight in St. Petersburg would do it justice, especially during White Nights.

Owing to the fact that I would eventually have to come home, after concluding the tour of Europe, I would set sail back across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia.  Hopefully I would arrive in time for the fall foliage, which I haven’t seen in years.  Then it’s down the eastern seaboard, paying homage to my childhood origins in the south before heading to parts of South America for experiences new and different, then transiting through the Panama Canal, and finally ending my journey back in Los Angeles.

Would this be a dream trip or my ultimate challenge as a travel professional?  Both.  As there is no single supplier or cruise that can offer this type of voyage, most of this trip would have to be pieced together—if it even could be. But a girl can dream, right? And, should something like this ever come to fruition, I believe  I would be my own toughest client indeed.

Adrienne Mitra is the owner of Celebrations International Travel, Inc., an independent agency focused on serving a number of niche markets, including culinary travel, cruises, tours, and group travel. Phone:  (480) 272-6020

Please visit our newly-updated Culinary Travel Homepage.

Our current destinations with sample itineraries posted include:

China

Germany

India

Japan

Peru

Thailand

Tuscany

Vietnam

We will be adding more destinations soon.  Please note that the links above will take you to our sample itineraries, however, they are only meant as an example and to inspire ideas in culinary travel.  Everything we do is customized to your needs and preferences, so let us create your ideal culinary vacation!  We work with your budget and time constraints in mind and design tours around what you want to see and do.

Not familiar with a destination?  No problem.  That’s where our destination experts come in.  We will suggest sightseeing, cultural activities, shopping, whatever you’d like us to include in your tour.

If you have a destination in mind that isn’t listed, email info@celebrationsinternationaltravel.com or call (480) 272-6020 and let us know.  We can have a tour designed just for you!


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This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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