Ask an Expert: Peter Jon Lindberg, Editor-at-Large
Q: How can I tell whether street food is safe to eat—at home and abroad? —Alice Emerson, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
A: When it comes to street food, the best tip is to look to the locals: long lines are usually a testament to good hygiene. (Plus, a quick turnover means the food stays fresh.) Ask that your meal be cooked to order; high temperatures can kill lingering bacteria. And make sure that the person cooking is not also handling the cash (or is at least changing gloves between the meal and the money). In the United States, the food-truck surge has prompted more stringent safety policies (Los Angeles’s letter-grading program now includes street vendors). Strange but true: according to David Weber, president of the New York City Food Truck Association, all employees at mobile units are required to hold a food handler’s license—but at restaurants only one person must have one.
Q: I want to track down distant relatives to meet on our upcoming trip to Europe. Where do I begin? —Joseph Raffaele, via e-mail
A: Roots travel is booming, thanks in no small part to the popularity of Who Do You Think You Are?—the reality show that traces a celebrity’s lineage. Founded by an original producer of the television hit, Ancestral Footsteps (from $6,178 for basic research) offers you the same service: investigators spend months researching your family, then arrange bespoke tours that include everything from accommodations to a translator who’ll help you chat with distant cousins. For instant access to family records (such as marriage and birth certificates), try ancestry.com ($239 per year for global records). T+L A-List agent Anne Morgan Scully also recommends the free database at familysearch.org, operated in partnership with the world’s largest genealogical organization—the Family History Library, in Salt Lake City.
Q: We’re off to Vancouver and Whistler. Any advice? —Derrick Baker, Evergreen Park, Ill.
A: Vancouver’s recently opened Fairmont Pacific Rim (doubles from $309) combines Asian-inflected design with cool Canadian comforts—fire pits in the spa; one of the largest sake cellars in the city—and has a towering view over Coal Harbour. With Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay at its kitchen’s helm, the new Ensemble Restaurant (604/569-1770; dinner for two $75) is the place for dinner. Two hours north, Whistler Blackcomb (866/218-9690) has introduced an Olympic-size half-pipe for snowboarders. Download the Whistler Blackcomb Live app (free; Android, iPhone, iPad), which allows you to view trails and track the distance and time of your runs.
Q: Which cruise lines offer significant savings for advance booking? —Shirley Hunnicutt, via e-mail
A: With economic waters anything but calm, lines are providing some of their largest early-bird incentives ever. Arrange a trip for 2012 with Oceania Cruises before January 1 and you’ll secure half-price fares and free flights to select ports of call (including Miami and New York), plus a savings of up to $5,000 per stateroom, depending on the route. Cunard Line opens itineraries for its World Voyages as early as 18 months ahead and offers up to 10 percent off the regular rates. Guests who reserve any 2012 voyage with Silversea Cruises can earn up to $1,500 in onboard credits—just don’t spend them all in one place.
Oceania’s three identical midsize ships—the 684-passenger Insignia, Nautica, and Regatta—are geared toward a crowd that wants to explore interesting ports and enjoy a taste of finery— including gourmet cuisine (menus are overseen by Jacques Pepin), personalized service, resort-like pool decks, and nice accommodations—without paying a steep price. Think of Oceania as an affordable Silversea. There is no need to pack the tux, though; these ships are as casual as country homes. (In 2009, Canyon Ranch signed on to operate Oceania’s spas.) Two newly commissioned ships, the Marina and the Riviera, will join the fleet by 2012.
Geographic Areas: Mediterranean, Baltic, Asia/Far East, Transoceanic, Caribbean, South America, Mexico, Australia.
This venerable British line (now owned by American company Carnival Corp.) carries on the tradition of operating impressive ocean liners, including on transatlantic routes. The 2,592-passenger Queen Mary 2 and 2,014-passenger Queen Victoria show off their pedigree in fine style. But whether you have a luxury experience depends on where you stay—your accommodations determine where you dine (the Queens Grill is best). Impressive features: British nannies; excellent Canyon Ranch–operated spas; Todd English’s Olives restaurants; a top-flight enrichment series (comedian/actor John Cleese is among the regular lecturers).
New and Newsworthy: A program introduced in 2009 brings aboard literary luminaries, such as Erica Jong and Christopher Buckley. Queen Elizabeth (sister to QV) debuts in October 2010.
Price: 6-night transatlantic sailings from $1,115 per person.
Geographic Areas: Transatlantic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Northern Europe, Baltic, Canary Islands, New England/Canada, World Cruise.
Silversea’s fancy, pampering experience is delivered on six sleek, 132- to 540-passenger ships, done up in contemporary décor, with gourmet cuisine, spacious ocean-view suites, free booze, and top-notch service—the solicitous crew even shines your shoes and brings room service, course by course. Steaks are prepared the way you like them. And yes, the bartender knows your name. An impressive guest lecture series includes famous chefs. The line also operates the upscale 132-passenger soft adventure ship Prince Albert II.
New and Newsworthy: The 540-passenger Silver Spirit debuted in 2009; it’s the line’s first new ship in eight years. Silver Wind recently had a multimillion refurbishment including a new observation lounge and spa.
Price: Weeklong cruises from $2,638 (plus air–inclusive offer).
Geographic Areas: Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Baltics, Africa and Indian Ocean, Far East, South Pacific, Caribbean, South America, Central America, New England/Canada,
Fairmont Pacific Rim
Built in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel towers a lofty 48 floors above the Burrard Inlet waterfront, with panoramic views of the North Shore Mountains, Stanley Park, and Coal Harbour. The hotel, which occupies the first 22 floors, is connected to the Vancouver Convention Centre, making it a convenient place to stay during large events or business meetings. The 340 standard guest rooms and 37 suites welcome patrons with Mascioni linens and bedside touch screens to control lighting, temperature, curtains, and entertainment. The sixth-floor pool is a great spot to relax before or after a meal at Giovane, an Italian-inspired café and wine bar.