Who is Shauna:
Shauna lived in southern and eastern Ontario until the age of 21, when she moved to Banff, Alberta. She expected to only stay in Alberta for about 6 months, but ended up staying for over 8 years. She met her husband there in 2006, they married in Las Vegas in 2010, and moved to Winnipeg in the fall of 2013 with their 2 cats Mr Vegas and Miss Money Penny (Penny for short).
Shauna has been with Great Canadian Travel since October 2013, and works as a Travel Consultant, specializing in the Top of the World, especially Iceland and Scandinavia.
Past travels have included Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland.
What are Shauna’s TOP 5 Travel experiences
- Circumnavigating Iceland by Expedition Ship. What a wonderful way to see this unique country.
- Travelling along the Norwegian Coast by ship, and taking the legendary ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ Tour
- Seeing Eqi Glacier in Ilulissat, Greenland from both the water and the air
- Having a drink in the Ice Bar in Stockholm
- Enjoying an authentic Finnish sauna in Finland
What is Shauna’s closing comment:
‘Travelling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” The way a favourite destination or travel experience brings a smile to a person’s face when they think or talk about it – that is why I love what I do.
My best day ever started as one of the final days of an Iceland Circumnavigation cruise. We were set to arrive into Heimaey, Westman Islands for a full day port stop. The crew made sure to tell us what time to be on deck as pulling into the harbor is one of the highlights of this stop. They were not wrong. On approach we see green and rock, and hundreds, possibly thousands of seabirds using the rock for nesting. An overwhelming feeling of familiarity came over me, and I felt very calm.
Prior to this, I had never visited the Westman Islands, however I felt like I was being welcomed home. Walking around the village felt comfortable and familiar, it was like my feet and my memory knew exactly where to take me.
I feel that Heimaey was my home in a past life. There is a wonderful cliff at one end of the island that allows for incredible views, and I sat on this cliff and cried. Surrounded by the stunning blue ocean, the incredible green cliffs, and the sunniest day we had experienced so far in Iceland (on day 12!). My tears came from nowhere, but I was overwhelmed with emotion of being in this place that I felt so connected to but had no connection to at the same time. Prior to this, I had never felt this emotion and connection to any place, and I have not had such feelings since.
Heimaey is the largest and only populated island in the Westman Islands and the largest and most populated island off the Icelandic Coast.
It is well known for the January 1973 eruption of Mount Eldfell. The eruption started in the middle of the night and all 5000 residents were evacuated to the mainland, with only 1 single casualty. Most of the village of Heimaey was destroyed and the eruption caused the island to expand in length.
My short time in Heimaey in the Westman Islands truly changed my life, and it remains my absolute favorite place in the world.
I was told by many people before travelling to Finland – you can’t visit Finland and not visit a sauna! There are approximately 5.6 million people in Finland, and around 3.2 million saunas! The Finns take this very seriously! Here in North America, saunas are sometimes considered a luxury, but in Finland, they are considered a necessity! Read More >
Summerhouses are a great way for a couple, a family or a group of people to enjoy a unique experience in Iceland. They are fully equipped houses with anywhere from 1 – 4 or even 5 bedrooms. Bathrooms, fully equipped kitchens with everything you need and lots of your own space! Towels and bed linen are also included or can be for a small fee. All you need to do is show up, bring your own food, and the space is yours to enjoy! Read More >
Attending a sporting event can be an exciting time. Especially when you get to see a team or athlete you really like, in their home country while you are there. This happened to me when I was in Iceland recently. I really enjoy watching the Icelandic Football team play and following their careers. I had a trip to Iceland planned for several months, and about 2 weeks before I was set to leave, it was announced that the Icelandic team would be playing in Reykjavik on the only night I was booked to stay in Reykjavik! It couldn’t have worked out better! Read More >
Written by Martyn Cook with the help of Shauna Cook
Tallinn in Estonia. What is there to say about it, that’s not already been said a million times. Oh you have never heard of it? Don’t worry, I had not either. At this juncture in time you need to make me a promise. Promise that you will go there, share no photos, and tell no one. Let’s keep this beauty to ourselves, it will be our little secret. So we can keep going back over and over again maintain its splendour, without our fellow compatriots overcrowding it. Read More >
Written by Martyn Cook with help from Shauna Cook
Our last day. It’s been a two week tour spending no more than two nights in each country: Iceland, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and Denmark. We have had a few rain showers here and there. Today’s rain shower somehow feels different. The rain today seems like Europe is mourning its loss, the loss of us going back to North America. In no other place on our trip have I felt more welcomed, no where else have I been asked more questions by tourists. Perhaps I look Danish, or I look at home here. There is no question, I am leaving a changed man. Read More >
Written by Martyn Cook with the help of Shauna Cook
The hotel is bustling with people. The lobby has groups of people with laptops open, discussing subjects that elude context and understanding. We make our way to the breakfast bar which is just off of the lobby. A lovely mix of old brickwork and contemporary furniture gives a lovely vibe of traditions held, living alongside new. The smell of breakfast offerings dances in the air, a greeting for our senses. I find the usual fair of cheese, crackers, bacon and eggs, as well as the object of my desire, local delicacies. I try a pastry with rice in the middle which is traditionally served with butter mixed with eggs. They have ginger snap type biscuits, and an Oreo type cookie that contains a minty filling. The last local offering was a candy that had a fox on the label, it was a gummy candy that was given out by grandmas, information that I garner from local sources. We leave the hotel, making our way down the cobblestones to Senate Square to join our free walking tour. We are greeted by Sara, a young history student passionate about her city and its history. We walk the streets learning about Finland’s Germanic influenced buildings, the religion, political, and social struggles, and successes of its people. One building stands out to me on the tour, The Think Company. It’s a public space like a library, it has a cafe, bookstore, and free wifi. This place is free to go into, and you can take in a lecture, or discuss ideas for social change. This is why I love the Nordic countries, they inspire creative thinking; Ideas surrounding use of taxes, social programs, and the general health of the country are discussed and debated. Read More >
Written by Martyn Cook with the help of Shauna Cook
Arriving at the airport, we head down the gangway. We are surrounded by light coloured woods and open windows that let daylight in. As we pass by these portals into the outside world, the landscape has changed since Iceland. The stark black rocks, lichen hung cliffs, moss and sub-Tundra plants of Iceland are replaced with trees as far as the eye can see. We blearily wander to the baggage pick up. Standing there, we watch people move to and fro in a chaotic choreographed dance, dodging and weaving between each other. The language is foreign, as Icelandic is to me; though far enough removed from influence by its neighbours to baffle me. Spending much of my time referencing Icelandic names and places, it shares a common root. Finnish is just beyond comprehension to my ears in theory and practise. Read More >
Blog written by Martyn Cook with the assistance and photography skills of Shauna Cook
Traffic is amassing already; with our hiking boots donned, backpacks loaded with provisions, the day begins. All roads lead to adventure; terra incognito awaits. Driving down the south coast’s single-lane highway reveals a different side to the country; one of a lifestyle of working people living off the land that tried once to reject them. Now communally they thrive, working with nature. Sheep farms line the sides of the road. Icelandic horses, barely tamed, roam the pastures of this wild country. The sub-tundra foliage now gives way to grasses. Read More >
Written by Martyn Cook on his adventures with Shauna
Iceland sucks in so many ways. First, it sucks at meeting your expectations; it exceeds them. Iceland also sucks at embracing your idea of beauty, for it shatters it, instantly replacing it with a new meaning for the word. It also sucks at allowing you to maintain your own self image; the blossoming idea of beauty makes you examine what is important to you.
The instant you break through the clouds it’s almost like entering the wardrobe to Narnia. You are about to enter a beautiful new world. You are to be born again, as you will leave the old person you once knew and meet a new version of yourself. The runway rushes up to meet you; the journey begins. Tires hit tarmac. Smoke rises up cleansing you for the experience that awaits. You are filled with a sense of adventure. Leaving that sense of longing to find what you miss in your day-to-day life, having it fill your spirit with that missing piece. Like the last puzzle piece, it will fit right in. Iceland takes the familiar and replaces it with a sort of ‘through the looking glass’ idea of a world. The volcanic rock looks like giants took a roll of moss and sub-tundra plants and covered the landscape. Clouds play hide and go seek amongst the peaks as the rain washes away your misconception of a world you once knew and replaces them with a raw truth. Contrast dominates the landscape, everyday. It really is the land of fire and ice. Black sand beaches, lined with white caps riding upon waves crashing amongst the beaches. The world changes from moment to moment in an intoxicating wonderful way. Our senses are alive. Read More >
So you want to go to Iceland? Who wouldn’t? Iceland is one of the most beautiful destinations we travel to, full of incredible scenery, culture, food and more. The big question is – how do you plan a trip to Iceland. Shauna Cook is one of our Travel Consultants here at Great Canadian Travel Group who has been to Iceland four times, ate the fermented shark (yes, this is a real delicacy in Iceland!), and has answered hundreds of traveller questions about trip planning. Here are some of the more common questions and answers to help you plan your Icelandic adventures with us.
*Revised May 2018 to update prime booking times and photos to show the beauty of Iceland*
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Iceland is beautiful in all seasons, and each season has a standout reason why you should visit. It is the land of ice, fire and deserts. From glaciers to geothermal hot springs, Iceland has a vast array of activities in any temperature. The average temperature in Reykjavik in spring hovers around 8ºC, in summer it’s around 12ºC. The average high temperature in the fall is around 9ºC and winter, the temperature goes down to an average high of 3ºC. Here is a list of why I like to visit Iceland in every season: Read More >
Where else in the world are you able to go into a glacier – other than Iceland! I was lucky enough to visit one of Iceland’s newest attractions recently, and it is so incredibly unique!
We were picked up in Reykjavik from our hotel in a smaller sized mini-bus, and driven a few hours to the base camp at Husafell. On arrival, we switched to another bus that took us a short distance to meet our modified glacier vehicle for the journey onto Langjokull (Long Glacier) – the second largest glacier in Iceland. Read More >
I was so excited to visit West Greenland. I departed Copenhagen airport, and flew with Air Greenland to Kangerlussaq, Greenland. Kanglerlussaq is a nice little village in the heart of Western Greenland. It has a well-equipped international airport as it was formally a US Airbase. For the larger planes arriving from Denmark, this is the only place in Greenland they are able to land. Once we arrived in Kangerlussuaq, we had about 3 hours to wait until our next flight north to Ilullisat left. There is not much in the way of airport security if you are travelling domestically in Greenland – nothing at all in fact! We went outside and did a little walking tour of the area including some really unique gift shops and the local police station. When it was time to meet our flight, we made our way back into the airport and readied ourselves for our flight north! Read More >
Norway in a Nutshell is advertised as one of the most scenic trips in the world, and now that I have been able to take this tour, I absolutely understand why!
This tour is a flexible FIT tour that is designed to be customized to best fit your needs. It can be done either Bergen to Oslo, Oslo to Bergen, round trip Bergen and round trip Oslo. Each direction has its pros and cons. It is designed to be anywhere from 1 day to 4 or 5 days or more!
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I had the opportunity to spend one night (one night is never enough!) on board the MS Spitsbergen, a Hurtigruten ship based on Tromso, Norway, and it was a fantastic experience!
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Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis are a natural phenomenon that are generally seen in high latitude locations – Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Europe, etc. They are generally spotted in the Northern Hemisphere between September and March. Depending on weather conditions, they can be seen as early as August and as late as April, however they may be faint, as you need true darkness in order to get the full effect. Read More >
We booked an All-Inclusive package to Varadero and everyone was telling us to make sure we visit Havana! We are very interested travelers, and have lots of questions. We like learning about the people, the economy and history of a place, and sometimes like to have a guide all to ourselves! We booked a private tour for a day trip to Havana. We booked this prior to leaving Canada, however with the government restrictions, we were unable to pre-pay it, we needed to pay cash (either USD or Cuban pesos – USD preferred) on the tour day.
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This might not be the best way for everyone to travel, however it works well for how my husband and I like to travel. Read More >
As part of a recent trip to the UK, we decided to add on a few days in a country we knew little about – Belgium! Now our families were a little afraid of us visiting in the aftermath of the airport and city bombings, however this did not deter us from visiting. We booked a cute little guesthouse about 2 blocks away from the Grand Place and we were on our way!
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To my husband who was born in England, nothing is better on a hot summer day than visiting the seaside. On a recent trip back to visit his family we spent the day in two small seaside towns, Herne Bay and Whitstable – which in my opinion has the best fish and chips in the world!
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Iceland is considered one of the world’s hottest international destinations right now for several reasons:
1. Safety. Iceland comes out on top on most lists of safest places to visit worldwide.
2. Nature. Iceland has it all – pristine coastlines, glaciers and volcanoes galore. Hiking, kayaking and taking in the incredible views are among many ways to experience this land of contrasts.
It’s easy to get to. With several airlines offering flights to Iceland from an ever increasing number of gateways getting this is easier than before. Airfares are competitively prices, with advance purchase and seat sale fares often on offer.
Why take an Iceland ProCruises trip?
1. Iceland is a maritime country. Cruises allow you to see the country as the early explorers did (but much more comfortably) – arriving at ports by sea and then going inland to explore.
2. There is a major hotel shortage in Iceland, especially in smaller villages and towns. Last year, hotel space was basically “sold out” by the middle of February for the period May to September. This year we started getting sold out messages in late December. Think of your cruise ship as a floating hotel! You have a room that you return to each evening, only unpack once, maximizing your sightseeing time. You will arrive in the ports early in the morning and then you have a wide range of optional activities to enjoy the area.
3. You can be as active (or inactive) as you like. Optional excursions range from kayaking, whale watching, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and golfing to bus tours, some with a special focus such as a Viking Sushi tasting and visiting local museums.
4. Who doesn’t want to travel with Vikings? Iceland ProCruises is proudly Icelandic owned! Their guides are passionate about their country and everything Iceland (and Greenland). There’s nothing better than local knowledge to enhance your experience and make your trip the best it can be.
It could be both! New Year’s Eve in Reykjavík and, indeed, throughout Iceland, is a crackerjack of a holiday!
If you would like to go somewhere special for New Year’s but also want to do some Northern Lights hunting, look no further. Think Iceland!
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You guessed it – seasickness!
Yes, it can certainly put a damper on your cruise vacation. Although not fatal, it’s still not pleasant and is the #1 reason people choose against cruising on their vacations.
Seasickness, as with all kinds of motion sickness, is theorized to be a result of the disorientation caused by the natural desire of our body to remain in balance (a function of our brain working with our eyes and our ears) competing with the motion of the moving object we are in (car, bus, ship).
If this is the technical cause or not, being in a car or bus that is travelling on winding roads and up and down hills, or on a rough and rocking sea, can leave some travellers feeling under the weather and less than their best. Oddly enough, there are others who don’t feel the effects at all, no matter what!
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It’s Easter already, and that means that spring is most definitely in the air! And what better thing to start thinking about while munching on the chocolatey excesses of the season than a hiking vacation in the great outdoors? Read More >
So you want to go to Iceland? Who wouldn’t? Iceland is one of the most beautiful destinations we travel to, full of incredible scenery, culture, food and more. The big question is – how do you plan a trip to Iceland. Shauna Cook is one of our Travel Consultants here at Great Canadian Travel Company who has been to Iceland, ate the fermented shark (yes, this is a real delicacy in Iceland!), and has answered hundreds of traveler questions about trip planning. Here are some of the more common questions and answers to help you plan your Icelandic adventures with us. Read More >
You packed your camera, your shoes, your change of clothes and your toiletries, but there are several items that we just know will make your travel adventures even more enjoyable. Our travel consultant Shauna Cook has come up with her top ten travel items every traveler should take with them. We love this list because you can easily carry these items in one single large zip-lock bag. Whenever you have to travel, simply grab your pre-packed bag and tuck it into your suitcase and away you go! Read More >
Imagine circling Iceland for ten days on board a beautiful, small ship, taking in amazing scenery, meeting new people, and experiencing the culture and food of one of the world’s most fascinating and interesting destinations. I have been to Iceland before and have taken the tours that Great Canadian Travel offers. You could say Iceland is like a second home to me. My heart races when the plane approaches Keflavik every time because I can’t wait to breathe in the amazing air and say “I’m back!” Read More >