When it comes to European river cruising, the upper Danube and Rhine are invariably the ones first time cruisers will sail. And with good reason. Both are wonderful rivers to explore. With distinct personalities, you will find big cities, quaint villages, history, culture, food, beer, wine, and so much more, whichever river you choose.
With that popularity though, means more ships on these rivers to accommodate the huge interest. Undoubtedly still a wonderful small ship experience, but if you've "been there done that", you may want to check out these lesser traveled, less crowded yet exceptional options in Europe.
For the explorer at heart, you won't be disappointed.
River cruises are rich in experiences, from culture, history and culinary to gorgeous scenery. A cruise through the Douro River valley is no different, though this river valley is truly unique from any other European river.
Veteran's Day is a day to honor all those who have served, and each year its a day that has me thinking about places in the US and around the world where our soldiers have won and lost.
In the north of France, across the English Channel along a 54 mile stretch of coastline, sits a big piece of World War II history - the beaches of Normandy. This now peaceful part of the world is a perfect spot to take a trip through history and pay tribute to our soldiers lost.
New Zealand is blessed with numerous wine regions, on both the North and South Islands. Lucky for those living in or visiting Auckland, one is a short 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland - Waiheke Island.
With it's warm and dry weather, this 12 mile long island is a great spot to grow a variety of wines. Waiheke is home to 30+ boutique wineries and award winning wines, including Bordeaux style reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc), Syrah and even some Chardonnay.
Whether you are short on time or have a few days, Waiheke is well worth a visit.
The Rhine and Upper Danube Rivers are the most popular European river cruise itineraries, for many reasons. Quintessential Europe, including castles, vineyards, quaint towns, Hapsburg era palaces and iconic capitals. So much to see.
But if you are looking for something different, fewer tourists and crowds a bit off the beaten path, consider a cruise along the Lower Danube. Cruising between Budapest and Bucharest (you dock in Giurgiu) is a special itinerary - a chest full of unexpected treasures.
South Africa is Africa's 9th largest country according to its landmass. The reasons to visit this vast and culturally diverse nation are seemingly endless, and that's why it makes it on so many people's bucket lists.
To encourage you a little more and to further enhance your excitement, here are five reasons you should make it to South Africa at last once in your life.
It’s been a while since I’ve read about ancient history, but I’ve always imagined what it would be like to walk in the footsteps of Pharaohs, to wander among impressive ancient temples, curious how they were built. I find this all absolutely amazing, considering the sites and artifacts date back over 2000 years.
Photo courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions
Visiting the Galapagos Islands is unlike any other travel experience. This remote archipelago of volcanic islands west of mainland Ecuador has long attracted travelers interested in Darwin, evolution, volcanoes, nature and wildlife. The biodiversity of the region is incredible.
The biggest draw by far are the unique and iconic species of this protected UNESCO World Heritage site. The animals are completely unafraid of humans, which makes them easier to find and observe. Encountering fur seals on the beach or snorkeling with the frisky sea lions can be especially fun!
From the middle of November through the new year, the Christmas spirit truly comes alive in Europe. Cities, towns and villages are magical with their decorated streets and squares, only seen during this time of year.
Especially fun are the Christmas Markets. Small or large, you'll find them all throughout Europe, all unique to their city and region with local artisans and crafts only found at that location.
I was first "introduced" to the Marquesas Islands back in 2002 during one of the first seasons of Survivor. I use introduced lightly as it was on TV, and on a reality show to boot. It is highly unlikely that I will ever experience these islands the same way as on the show, but the beautiful scenes left a lasting impression on me.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways.
Cruising the world’s rivers - truly an enjoyable experience!
Easy, stress free, immersive travel. Many different itineraries to choose from. New ships being christened, new itineraries being designed, new experiences being included. There are even a few new rivers being added to keep everything fresh and exciting.
Having been on a number of river cruises myself, I understand the attraction. It’s a fantastic experience, an easy and relaxed way to travel. Unpack and pack once, the captain does the driving, wake up refreshed and ready to explore a new town. Tours and free time included. Great food and drink. Making new friends. Need I say more?
I rave about river cruising and my clients do as well. I believe the overall experience is a great value for all that is included. But there are some things you should know before going on your first river cruise. Better to be armed with knowledge than being unpleasantly surprised.
I can't wait to meet these little fellas! They always look like they are smiling, and apparently love to take selfies with anyone who is game. How fun is that!
This is the quokka - the world's happiest animal!
About the size of a cat, quokkas are marsupials found only in Western Australia, almost exclusively on the beautiful Rottnest Island, just off the coast from Perth.
European river cruises start and end in some of the Europe’s most amazing cities and regions. You’ve invested time and money getting here, so why not take advantage of this opportunity by extending your stay, even if it’s just a few days. You never know when you’ll be back!
We have all been hearing about large numbers of delayed or cancelled flights – in the US and internationally. Blame it on weather, mechanicals, low staffing levels, not enough air traffic controllers and pilots, the need for an updated air traffic system. Whatever the case, it’s not going to end anytime soon.
Portugal packs a real punch with its diverse experiences, stunning landscapes, friendly locals and so much more. Lots of sunshine, good food, tradition, intriguing history and culture are all reasons why you’ll love a visit to Portugal.
You know the airport security routine. Take off your shoes, belt and jacket and put them in a bin. Remove everything from your pockets. Place your computer and liquids under 3 ounces in another bin. Go through the security scanner and hope you don't beep. And hope that you aren't one of the lucky random checks or that one of your items doesn't look suspicious on the x-ray.
I am all for security (though not sure all of this is necessary), especially when flying. But it is inconvenient and frustrating. So when I discovered TSA Pre✓® , I was elated!
Photo courtesy of Kakslauttanen
Simply put, the Aurora Borealis and Australis are the Northern and Southern Lights. These mesmerizing, beautiful green, blue, red and purple lights that flash over the polar skies. As we move into the winter months, they become more and more visible in the polar regions.
Have you ever wondered what these "lights" really are? I never put a lot of thought into it until I listened to a presentation by a photographer who was taking a group to Norway on a winter cruise. Not being a scientist, the discussions around solar flares, magnetic fields, electrons and who knows what else could have made my brain go blurry. I appreciated his simple presentation in layman's terms, and found all of it to be quite fascinating. I'm certain you will too.
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism (Lake-Wakatipu Queenstown)
I know if you were to ask a Kiwi or anyone who has experienced the wonderfulness of New Zealand, they would give way more reasons why you'll fall in love with the country. Wonderful, proud, friendly people, stunning scenery, unique flora, fauna and wildlife, the land of Bilbo Baggins and the Shire, caves lit up by glow worms, delicious food and wine - these just a few.
Top reasons why you'll love a visit to Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud:
When I travel I stick with carry-on sized luggage. This rule applies to short 7 days trips and longer 21 day trips as well. One carry-on roller bag and a personal bag, usually a backpack or bag that I can slip on to the roller bag.
I have two "go-to" bags - my blue one above that measures 22 x 14 x 9, and my red one that is slightly smaller at 14 x 14 x 9. Blue for longer trips, red for one week trips or trips where I can easily wash clothes. Believe me, the smaller red one has been very handy as it fits into tighter spaces in the overhead!
I have gone on several 2-3 week international trips (including 16 days on a cruise) with only my blue bag and personal bag. Yes - it can be done! Here's how:
Every 10 years, the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau transforms itself from a small, quaint town of 5300 residents to a host of over 500,000 visitors between mid May and early October. According to historical records, the residents of Oberammergau have performed the Passion of the Christ, depicting his trial, his suffering and his death, every decade since 1634.
The performance scheduled for 2020 was postponed to 2022, giving you the opportunity to attend before the next scheduled performance in 2030. If you enjoy faith based travel experiences, the Passion Play is a must see. But it's not just the play - the Bavarian region is also a reason that pulls you here.
Guided vacations have changed so much over the years and actually have become quite popular. And they are growing exponentially. No longer are they 100 people on a coach bus simply following a guide around in a ton of locations. Oh my NO!
Small group guided vacations usually cap out at 24 guests, but average 12-14. Safaris groups may be even smaller, 6-10. A nice intimate group and like yachting, almost like having your own personal getaway with friends, new and old, WITH all the details taken care for you. Enriching experiences, the freedom to explore on your own and so much more.
Check out all the reasons to consider guided travel. You'll be surprised!
A number of years ago I was on a Mediterranean cruise, starting and ending in Rome. I remember talking with an Australian couple that first evening about how they had lost all their valuables - money, passport, personal items - in the main Rome train station, on their way to the ship. A very professionally dressed man had swiftly cut the bag that she was carrying over her shoulder, and disappeared before she or her husband could even react.
Old world European charm. Serene villages. Steep and narrow landscapes dotted with romantic castles and lovely vineyards. Gentle, winding bike and walking trails. World-class wine. Delectable cuisine. This is the Moselle River valley.
And where I had my first official wine tasting.
The land Down Under is a destination on many a bucket list. It’s consistently voted as one of the top 10 most desired destinations in the world. So much to see. So much to experience.
Having been there, I know it’s truly a great place to explore. But Australia is a big country – about the same size as the lower 48 states. Sydney to Perth is about the same distance as New York to Los Angeles. When planning a trip here, especially your first visit, one of the hardest parts is deciding where to start, what cities and regions to include.
Much of this depends on what experiences you want to have, what stories you want to bring home. Following are top experiences you can build your memories around.
Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises
A destination on many a bucket list are the islands of the South Pacific. The Cook Islands, Fiji, Tahiti - all ultimate dream vacations of a lifetime. Beautiful islands, crystal blue waters, above and below water adventures, relaxation, and of course romance!
I have been fortunate to visit Tahiti, and I must admit, it truly is a dreamy place. All that and then some!
Beyond the sheer beauty of the islands, here are some fun facts about Tahiti:
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder