With cruising yet to return for most nationalities, dromomaniacs -- people who love to travel -- are still relegated to voyages of the armchair kind, from their TV. Fortunately, the various streaming services have enough shows focusing on different destinations to keep those travel dreams alive.
Here's what we're watching to get our travel fix:
- Ugly Delicious (Netflix)
- House Hunters International (HGTV)
- Island Life (HGTV)
- Samantha Brown's Places to Love (PBS)
- Below Deck Mediterranean (Bravo)
- Rick Steves' Europe (PBS)
- No Passport Required (PBS)
- Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix)
- Day of Gluttony (Hulu)
- The Wine Show (Hulu)
- Gaycation (Hulu)
- Taste the Nation (Hulu)
Ugly Delicious (Netflix)
While we still find it hard to pass up any of Anthony Bourdain's old shows, we're finding that restaurateur David Chang is a worthy successor. Ostensibly a food show, Ugly Delicious brings Chang to major cities around the world to dive into culinary trends and issues. An example: We've been to New Orleans many times, but never stopped to ask why the restaurants there don't serve Viet-Cajun Crawfish, a delicacy that has become popular in neighboring Texas. If your stomach guides your travels at all, check it out. (Chang has another show -- "Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner" -- where he tours different cities with celebs; while fun, we found this show more about the chatter than the destination).
House Hunters International (HGTV)
So we all know the "House Hunters" formula by now -- and we also know enough Realtors who have told us that it's all a fake. Who cares. Now more than ever, we want to envision ourselves spending the summer in an apartment overlooking the gorgeous Croatian coast or escaping to the-curve-is-flattened New Zealand. If we have to be housebound, we'd rather do it with a view.
Island Life (HGTV)
See also: "Bahamas Life", "Caribbean Life", "Hawaii Life", "Mediterranean Life" and "Mexico Life". These series, which again focus on people seeking new homes in gorgeous places, are a bit less contrived and even more escapist than the House Hunters genre. If you've ever looked around a beachy port stop and thought, "Can I just stay here?" this is your show(s).
Samantha Brown's Places to Love (PBS)
Whether you'll love a certain travel show all depends on whether you enjoy spending time with the host. While Samantha Brown can be cheesy at times -- in the first episode of this 2018 PBS series, she literally hugs a tree in Miami -- her show actually spotlights some interesting places and voices you normally don't see. That same Miami ep featured an interview with the curator of the Wynnewood Walls, as well as a sailboat company geared for people with physical disabilities. Add in the fact that Brown has real cruising credentials as the godmother of AmaWaterways' AmaMagna, and we're ready to follow her anywhere.
Below Deck Mediterranean (Bravo)
Those crazy yachties are at it again. This time in season 5, Captain Sandy and volatile chief stew Hannah are sailing around Mallorca, where the views compete with plenty of onboard drama. Plus, a member of Ace of Base as a charter guest! Watching the trials and tribulations of the crew is enough to make sure you tip really well once we get back onboard.
Rick Steves' Europe (PBS)
If "Below Deck" is too much, switch over to Rick Steves, who has been doling out common-sense travel tips and advice for more than 20 years. We just happened to click on the Greek Islands episode, which aired in 2018 -- and features Rick on a cruise ship (Celebrity Eclipse). It was downright transporting to watch him enjoy normal cruise moments, like taking a tender to the island of Mykonos or enjoying a drink in the port of Santorini. We'll be back, Rick. Someday.
No Passport Required (PBS)
We know that this list leans heavy on PBS. But we have to mention this show, hosted by one of our favorite celebrity chefs, Marcus Samuelsson. Rather than travel far afield, No Passport Required dives into the immigrant culinary culture of different American cities, many of them ports. Between this show and "Day of Gluttony" (see below), we are definitely going to add more days before and after our cruises once travel resumes.
Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix)
Phil Rosenthal, the creator of the show "Everybody Loves Raymond," isn't exactly a household name. But he is a welcome entrant to the travel/food world. In many ways an antidote to the more-knowing Bourdain and Chang, Rosenthal brings a goofy joy to his culinary adventures, eating the toppings off the bread in his Italian tapas (chicchetti) and chowing down on his favorite pork chop in Venice. He seems like someone we might meet on a cruise, famous friend name-dropping aside.
Day of Gluttony (Hulu)
If you're missing the sheer amount of food and drink that you find on a cruise, then watching the two hosts of this food series eat 24 dishes in 24 hours will certainly make you wistful (or give you a stomach ache by proxy). Harry Yuan and Bruce Aguirre are energetic and amiable, and it's fun to see them criss-cross the different cities, many of them popular ports. (We definitely took notes during the San Francisco ep.)
The Wine Show (Hulu)
We are big fans of British actor Matthew Goode, an extraordinarily handsome addition on "The Good Wife" and "Downton Abbey" (as Lady Mary's second husband). We're also big fans of wine. So having the two things combined, in a show that visits some of the world's most picturesque wine regions? Sign us up.
Actor Ellen Page and her best friend, art curator Ian Daniel, travel the world, exploring LGBTQ culture and issues in different countries. While definitely more political than escapist, the show -- which was developed by Vice -- is not afraid to take on big issues; Page made headlines when she confronted Sen. Ted Cruz at the Iowa State Fair. Cruisers in particular might want to watch the Jamaica episode, which films the country's first gay pride parade.
Taste the Nation (Hulu)
This 2020 show with "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi is intended to be a "living cookbook," visiting 10 American cities to dive into different dishes and their origins. As unabashed Padma fangirls, we've been eating up her recipes, flavored with strong social commentary, on her daily Instagram. As the world opens up, this is one show that could keep us home.