Skift Take

Anniversaries are a call to action for travelers looking to explore a destination in the context of a certain event. They also attract history buffs from around the world.

Anniversaries of two significant historical events will be driving tourism in 2014.

The first, which will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to France’s Normandy beaches, will mark the 70th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, D-Day landing, which changed the dynamics of World War II and ultimately brought victory to Allied forces.

Then, later in the year, in August, ceremonies will mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal, an event that affected commerce throughout the world.

D-Day anniversary events in France, which will attract heads of many Allied states and other dignitaries, will take place all during the month of June and into August.

Also among the visitors will be a contingent of Post-Bulletin cruisers, who will travel the Seine River from Paris to Normandy and return as part of a two-week trip that also includes London.

In France, June 6 has been recognized as a holiday and national monuments are adorned with flags and flowers, note various travel publications.

For the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landing, France and the entire region have put together a comprehensive events program to bring the memory of that period of World War II to life, all the while emphasizing the spirit of hope, say local publications.

The countdown to the many events already has started, according to News In Normandy, and a giant clock counting down to June 6, 2014, is ticking away at the tourist office in nearby Bayeux. Local officials are putting up welcome mats for many of the world leaders, which are expected to include President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and possibly members of the British Royal Family.

There is speculation that Prince Harry, a serving soldier, could make an appearance since this is the first time that a beach — Sword Beach in this case — that was the focus of the British involvement in the D-Day landings has been hosen to host the main anniversary ceremony.

As far as activities that will be included in the itinerary for Post-Bulletin cruisers, two special “D-Day Remembered” excursions are planned. Both start with a visit to Arromances, a village known for its artificial harbor that was used during the landing and served as a base for Allied troops.

From there, guests who choose the U.S.-history focused excursion will visit the D-Day museum before traveling on to St. Laurent-sur-Mer, home to Omaha Beach, the site of intense fighting during the invasion, and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, the first U.S. cemetery on foreign soil.

The cruise will be aboard AmaWaterways’ 150-passenger Amalegro. The cruise line says specially selected WWII-themed movies will be available on the staterooms’ Infotainment system during that time.

Some 30 people have signed on to the P-B sponsored cruise, which runs from June 9-21. It begins with a stay in London, a high-speed rail trip to Paris through the Chunnel under the English Channel, several days cruising and stopping at various points of interest on the Seine, and then a return from Paris.

BJ Peterson, manager of Bursch Travel here, which is marketing the cruise, says there still are a few spaces available.

Canal anniversary

Another event that will draw tourists — especially cruisers — is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal, a 50-mile waterway that changed the course of the world’s commerce.

Considered one of the world’s greatest engineering accomplishments, the canal was completed Aug. 15, 1914. The S.S. Ancon was the first ship to officially transit the canal and marked the completion of an idea first proposed by the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, Charles V.

In addition to significantly shortening the distance for ships traveling back and forth between East and West, the canal has become a prime cruising destination. We’ve led Post-Bulletin sponsored cruises through the canal several times during the past 10 years, and virtually all have been sellouts.

A new “digging” for an additional adjacent waterway that will allow larger, post-Panamax-sized ships to traverse the canal, has been underway for several years, at a cost of billions of dollars. The expanded canal facility has been delayed several times for various reasons and now is scheduled for completion in 2015.

As soon as it is practical, we plan on sponsoring another P-B cruise that will take us through the expanded canal locks.

(c)2013 the Post-Bulletin. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Tags: france, panama

Photo credit: Soldiers march during the 68th anniversary of D-Day in France. Fort Bragg / Flickr

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