A religious spectacle, balloon extravaganza and horticultural exhibition add magical elements to tour itineraries in the U.S. and Europe
Collette, a world premier leader in guided travel, is bouncing back from the pandemic like gangbusters and raring to go in 2022 with a full slate of engaging programs around the world, some of them revolving around special events.
Before the health crisis hit in early 2020, Collette was on track for its best year ever, only to end up cancelling the majority of its tours. Thanks to its financial stability, however, the third-generation, family-owned company weathered the storm and fully protected its customers. Collette provided not only future travel vouchers or rebooked travelers at later dates, but it gave out more than $135 million to travelers in refunds.
With travel coming back, the spirit of excitement is returning.
“We have a variety of tours being offered in 2022 that include the opportunity to experience a special event, such as the Oberammergau Passion Play, Floriade’s Horticulture Expo or the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta,” says Jeff Roy, Executive Vice President of Collette. “These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for guests to be immersed in the unique culture of a destination alongside these standout special experiences on tour.”
Worth a close look are the following three tours that build on special events:
Oberammergau Passion Play
Tickets are going fast for the world’s most famous religious drama, a once-a-decade event staged in the storybook mountain village of Oberammergau, Germany. In 2022, Collette is offering 16 departures of its nine-day/seven-night “Switzerland and Germany with Oberammergau Passion Play,” and a few summer dates have already sold out.
Originally scheduled for 2020, the Oberammergau Passion Play had to be moved to 2022 because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. An entirely local production with a cast of 2,000-plus, it will be presented five days a week between mid-May and early October in a 4,500-seat theater with a massive open-air stage and a roof that shelters the audience. Nearly half the village of 5,500 (including hundreds of children) will take part in the 42nd installment of the play, which was first presented in 1634.
Though the epic drama is performed in German, a text in English is provided to playgoers, and two large monitors display English subtitles with close-ups of the actors. However, the sheer power and pathos of the story of Christ’s last days on earth—from the entry into Jerusalem to the Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection—transcends any language barrier. Playgoers have dinner during a break in the performance, which takes place on Day 3 of the week-long Collette tour.
After two nights in Oberammergau, the group moves on to a revered place of pilgrimage, the Church of Wies and its miraculous figure of the Scourged Savior, said to have shed tears during prayer in the 18th century. Next, fairy tales become reality during a picture stop at Bavaria’s most famous castle, King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein. The day ends in Germany’s Black Forest, a region famous for artisans who create cuckoo clocks, Hummels and wood carvings.
In Switzerland, the first stop is the Chateau de Chillon. Occupying a rocky island off the shores of Lake Geneva, it is one of the most photographed castles in the world. Next, guests get a breath of fresh alpine air after a train ride from Tasch to the pedestrian resort village of Zermatt, in the shadow of the mighty Matterhorn. A full day in Zermatt includes a guided walking tour and the Matterhorn Museum, plus time at leisure.
A day traveling from Zermatt to Lucerne via the scenic Grimsel Pass features glaciers, snowcapped peaks and crystal-clear rivers. Collette’s guided adventure in Switzerland and Germany concludes with two nights in Lucerne, where travelers get to know this scenic city on Lake Lucerne during a morning walking tour that includes the romantic Old Town. The rest of the day affords free time to explore i all that lovely Lucerne has to offer. A farewell dinner features local specialties and a toast to a memory-filled trip.
Dutch windmills, bubbling Champagne and dazzling gardens captivate Collette guests booked for “Netherlands, Belgium & France Featuring the Floriade Expo 2022.” Fifteen departures of this 12-day/10-night journey are scheduled in 2022, and a few dates are already sold out.
One of the tour’s chief draws: an afternoon to explore the park-like grounds of the Netherlands’ Floriade Expo 2022, an international horticultural exhibition held once a decade.
The tour starts with a three-night stay in Amsterdam, a centuries-old capital famed for its narrow canals, stone bridges, gabled buildings and bicycle traffic. On the first full day in town, a private boat tour provides a good introduction to the city’s charms. After lunch, Collette travelers experience the colors and scents of flowers, plants, vegetables and fruits at Floriade Expo 2022 in Almere. The exhibition’s theme, “Growing Green Cities,” is reflected in the gardens and exhibits that illustrate the latest innovations in green and sustainable technology. More than 40 countries will be represented. As the day draws to a close, tour members meet with a local for a chat about Amsterdam’s progressive and often controversial culture.
The next morning, Collette guests may choose to go bicycling through the Dutch countryside or hop a train for The Hague and visit the Mauritshuis, home of iconic paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, including Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Later in the day, everyone comes together for an “Impact Moment” at a brewery that employs individuals who face obstacles in the workplace.
Day 5 of the tour includes a visit to Gouda and a taste of its namesake cheese. Then, the group heads through the countryside to Kinderdijk, known for its collection of iconic windmills that spin slowly over the marshy landscape. The day ends in Bruges, a cozy Belgian town where guests spend the next two nights. Collette travelers can opt to poker around the storybook town on their own or take a tour that features cruising along the storybook canals, tasting Belgian chocolate and learning about the craft of lace-making.
Following a visit to Brussels, the capital of Belgium and base of the European Union, the journey continues to Reims for a two-night stay in the heart of France’s Champagne region. After settling into their hotel, the group enjoys a five-course tasting menu with a glass of Champagne. The next day is highlighted by a visit to Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece noted for its colorful sea of stained glass. Cityscapes give way to vineyard rows along the Route du Champagne on the way to Epernay, where a mansion hosts a tour and tasting.
A three-night stay in Paris begins with a memorable evening ride in an open-roof retro car that cruises through chic boulevards, past lighted landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Optional excursions the following day give travelers a choice between the Musee d’Orsay, a treasure chest of French Impressionist art by Claude Monet and others, and Monet’s country home at Giverny, the source for the artist’s inspiration, including the setting for his iconic waterlilies. Travelers spend their final day in Paris as they please and end it with hands-on cooking class, mastering Parisian classics before feasting on their creations at a farewell dinner.
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Collette’s six-day/five-night “Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta” showcases not only one of the most photographed annual events in the world but the multicultural mosaic of the American Southwest as well. New Mexico is truly the “Land of Enchantment,” especially at this festive time of year.
Day 2 of the trip begins with an early-morning launch of hot air balloons at the site of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, one of the most spectacular displays of sound and color in all of aviation. Besides traditional bulb-shaped balloons, there are special-shape orbs portraying animals, cartoon characters and commercial products. With over 500 balloons, the Albuquerque spectacle is the largest ballooning event on earth.
After some time to relax following the crack-of-dawn excitement, Collette guests enjoy a visit to Old Town Albuquerque, where shops, restaurants and historical sights reflect the city’s Mexican, Native American and Spanish heritages. Another Albuquerque highlight is a ride past the shops, eateries and motels of old Route 66 with its retro, mid-20th century vibe. A return to the Fiesta park at night features Balloon Glows, a breathtaking display of balloons lit from within. There is plenty of time to stroll the grounds, shop for a souvenir and grab a bite to eat.
The next day in Albuquerque includes a visit to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, where a docent provides fascinating details on the top-secret Manhattan Project responsible for development of the atomic bomb. In the afternoon, Collette travelers get a rich taste of Native American culture at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, whose galleries display the works of New Mexico’s Pueblo artists.
The tour continues to Santa Fe via the historic Turquoise Trail, which offers views of stunning landscapes. Once in Santa Fe, guests board an open-air tram for a whirl around the renowned Santa Fe Plaza and other parts of New Mexico’s capital city. There’s time to discover the many art museums and galleries and peruse shops selling Southwestern arts and crafts. The final day in Santa Fe provides more time for independent exploration, and concludes with a chef demonstration and delicious Southwestern dinner at the renowned Santa Fe School of Cooking.
Find more information on Collette vacation products and policies here. To book your group, call 855.903.8687 or visit collette.com.