Looking for a different kind of tour? An exceptional experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories? Three NTA members specialize in unique tour products that can deliver the trip of a lifetime: Tempest Tours takes travelers on storm-chasing journeys in the U.S. Midwest, Poland Culinary Vacations focuses on culinary tours of Poland in less-traveled regions, and Adventure Canada leads expedition cruises to the Canadian Arctic region and Greenland, as well as western Europe.
To learn more about these specialized tour companies, we interviewed Kim George, guest relations manager of Tempest Tours; Sarna Rose, founder and owner of Poland Culinary Vacations; and Cedar Swan, CEO of Adventure Canada.
Describe your company’s tours.
George: Tempest Tours is the most respected storm-chasing tour company in the U.S. Since our founding in 2000, we’ve provided a unique educational adventure to hundreds of happy guests from around the world.
Rose: At Poland Culinary Vacations, we offer small-group food, wine, spa, and cultural vacations throughout various regions of Poland. We combine elements of countryside tourism—known locally as agritourism—with a satisfying, slow-paced vacation approach.
Swan: Adventure Canada offers a unique product of expedition cruising, with a specialized focus on Arctic Canada and Greenland. Guests travel on the Ocean Endeavour, which is equipped with a fleet of smaller Zodiac boats perfect for exploring, and are in the company of local guides, subject-matter experts, artists, and scientists who help deepen cultural connections and scientific understanding of the world’s farthest-flung regions.
Adventure Canada is a family-run business, and family and community are at the heart of everything we do. We engage, entertain, and educate by connecting people to each other and to the land through innovative travel experiences, while also cultivating connections onboard every departure.
What are the advantages of traveling with your company?
George: With decades of combined storm-chasing experience, our team is among the best anywhere. The team consists of trained storm spotters, a climatologist, a severe weather research meteorologist, a wind meteorologist, and a National Weather Service meteorologist. We provide education on severe weather for amateurs, experienced travelers, and everyone in between. Our No. 1 priority on our tours is always safety.
Rose: Because I am a native of Poland and live there part of the year, we can focus on building enriching, immersive, and experiential itineraries based on our close connections with local people. Our guests enjoy hands-on and demonstration-style cooking lessons in Polish villages and acclaimed urban restaurants. In the evenings, guests retire to the casual elegance and historical wonder of a castle, palace, or manor in rural areas or to refined hotel accommodations in the cities.
Swan: Adventure Canada is a hands-on organization that designs and executes our own programs. As a small operator, we can meet the needs of each group by tailoring bookings and on-board experiences and by offering group incentives and benefits, including private lectures and one-on-one discussions with our resource staff, private Zodiac cruises, and special events for your group.
What are the challenges you face with offering your specialized tours?
George: Tempest Tours helps travelers experience the majesty of the U.S. in a unique way, and it’s a trip that travelers cannot experience on their own. On our tours, travelers can meet people with similar interests and see amazing weather from the moment of creation through full development.
Our most obvious challenge is dealing with unpredictable weather and getting our guests to the storms that will give them that unforgettable experience, a true bucket-list moment. The first part of the storm season begins in the lower plains (Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas) and moves as the season progresses to the high plains (Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Colorado), allowing our guests to see a variety of storms across different landscapes.
Rose: It’s important for us to offer culinary tours of Poland because most trips to Poland don’t include what we do. We are unique because we focus on exploring one region in-depth and on taking our time to allow our groups to see more. Our biggest challenge is that most group tour planners don’t know about us. They don’t realize that we can create unique itineraries for their groups that lead to enjoyable, flexible, and slower-paced vacations to Poland.
Swan: We believe that Adventure Canada does expedition cruising the best, and for the best reasons. Our expeditions allow people to discover just how vast, diverse, and magical this part of the world is, while learning about the Arctic region’s history, culture, and environmental issues. In this way, we offer an unmatched, life-changing experience that goes beyond travel: It renews our guests’ interest in the arts, music, food, geography, and so much more.
We also face the unique challenges that come with Arctic exploration: weather conditions such as ice, wind, and sea conditions that require us to make quick decisions and change our path of travel. For example, our Northwest Passage expedition includes a visit to the famed HMS Erebus wreck site, but on some tours we are unable to reach the site due to extreme weather conditions. Even with the challenges it brings, dealing with the weather in the Arctic region is all part of the drama, intrigue, and excitement of the trip.
Where did the idea to start your company originate?
George: Owner Martin Lisius founded Tempest Tours in 2000 to satisfy the various requests he received to chase storms with him and his team. Since then the company has been providing storm-chasing experiences for people all over the world.
Rose: Poland Culinary Vacations grew out of my love and passion for travel and everything Polish—including fine Polish cuisine—eventually blossoming into a first-class culinary travel company. While growing up in Poland, I experienced the great joy of cooking with family and friends. Using my grandmothers’ recipes and fresh ingredients from their gardens, we prepared food for weddings, parties, and traditional holidays.
Now, through Poland Culinary Vacations, I want to share that experience with you, and show you the best of everyday Polish living: the special people and their hospitality, and the heritage and traditions unique to each region. I believe that travel helps us better understand and appreciate other people, ultimately leading to a more peaceful world. Nothing is more effective at breaking down cultural barriers than cooking and sharing meals together.
Swan: My father and uncle, Matthew and Bill Swan, along with friend David Freeze, came up with the idea of Adventure Canada in 1987 when they fell in love with exploring Canada’s Arctic and “off the map” destinations, and began taking travelers to these remote locations—something no one was doing at the time. They built strong relationships in Canada’s North—what is now Nunavut—and realized the most effective way to take guests to this part of the country without straining the resources of Arctic communities was to do so by ship. Thus, Adventure Canada as we know it today was born!
Over the years, Adventure Canada has grown to offer products in Europe, Central America, and Antarctica, but its core business has always been about bringing groups of adventurers to Canada’s Arctic region so they can experience for themselves what my father, uncle and their friend felt when they first began visiting this area.
How do your itineraries help connect clients to local people and places?
Rose: Along the way our guests experience local culture in many ways, with food being an important one. They cook traditional recipes in Polish villages with local women, sample rare delicacies from local artisan producers and family farms (breads, cheeses, sausages, honey, wine, beer, and world-famous vodka), visit local markets and food festivals, and go blueberry and mushroom hunting.
Other ways our guests connect to the culture is by learning local crafts, visiting important cultural sites throughout the country, and learning about the history, tradition, and identity of the Polish people.
Another cultural connection is through our recently launched series of tours to various wine regions of Poland. Guests can enjoy quality regional foods carefully paired with excellent local wines made in small, family-owned vineyards in spectacular locations throughout the Lesser Poland, Subcarpathia, and Lower Silesia regions. Pick your preferred dates of travel between May and September, and we make all the arrangements.
Swan: Our experience is about wild landscapes, untouched places, and engaging our top-notch resource staff with like-minded travelers. Taking Zodiac excursions from our ship allows our groups to photograph wildlife, explore coastlines, and appreciate unspoiled nature at our own pace. We also visit many remote Inuit and First Nations communities, particularly in the Arctic, making it a priority to engage and connect with them to learn more about the customs, traditions, and contemporary culture of those places.
To learn more, contact Poland Culinary Vacations’ Sarna Rose or go to polandculinaryvacations.com, Adventure Canada’s Jean Bouffard or go to adventurecanada.com, and Tempest Tours’ Martin Lisius or go to tempesttours.com.
Top photo: Tempest Tours takes adventurers on storm-chasing expeditions across the U.S. Midwest.
Photo by tempesttours.com
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