Budapest is a fascinating city with incredible history. Its roots date back to the Roman times and even earlier; modern Budapest dates back to 19th and 20th centuries when it was part of the Austria-Hungary empire and while under Soviet rule for 45 years, which ended in 1991. Today the city is a thriving metropolis, drawing in tourists from all over the world, many arriving or departing on a river cruise.
Expedition style cruises - where a lot of WOW happens. Extraordinary opportunities for curious and adventurous learners and explorers, whether you are well traveled or new to travel onboard a ship.
What is an expedition cruise? A small ship experience (generally under 200 guests on purpose built ships) focused on the nature, wildlife, history and culture of the areas they visit. Ships are very comfortable with plenty of amenities to suit all tastes - premium to ultra-luxury (long gone are the days of roughing it on an old ice breaker).
Photo courtesy of Quark Expeditions
Without a doubt, the Galapagos Islands are one of the most amazing places I have ever been. I have often said that certain trips are life changing - this was one of them.
That said, there are a number of places around the world to venture to for amazing wildlife experiences. Two in particular are often compared to the Galapagos in terms of unique and abundant wildlife – one in North America and one Down Under.
Norway is a beautiful Scandinavian country known for its historical landmarks, Viking heritage, and abundance of natural beauty. There is so much to discover, from large metropolitan cities to charming fishing villages and picturesque fjords.
Whether you are coming for the culture or to spend time outdoors, here are six must-see cities in the country.
Argentina - a fascinating country.
Distinctly South American style and culture with a strong European influence. Not a surprise given the number of people who immigrated here in the 1800 and 1900's - many from Spain and Italy but also France, Germany and Great Britain.
The Moselle River valley is just lovely. Terraced vineyards fill the steep hillsides, fairytale towns with half-timbered homes line the banks, historic fortresses wait to be explored. And if you enjoy wine, this area, well known for their delicious Rieslings, offers plenty of tasting opportunities.
I sailed on Avalon Waterway's Imagery II last week along the Moselle and discovered this idyllic area is still the under the radar gem I've always believed it to be, and still not crowded as some other areas in Europe have gotten.
A mountainous and landlocked country south of Uganda and east of Tanzania, Rwanda, one of Africa’s smallest countries, is a gem waiting to be fully discovered. While the star attractions are the silverback mountain gorillas, Rwanda has so much more to experience beyond these magnificent animals.
Incredible wildlife, montane rainforests, sweeping plains, history, culture and welcoming people can all be discovered on a journey to Rwanda.
France offers a number of wonderful river and barge cruise options, with itineraries along the Rhone and Saône River becoming increasingly popular - now one of the top choices behind Rhine and Danube options. You experience the best of Burgundy and Provence - scenic landscapes along with a lovely mix of culinary and wine experiences, fascinating Roman history (and a little bit of Van Gogh).
The Saône River in particular is an area less touched by high tourism. Check out experiences you can have in this area of the Burgundy region.
Without a doubt, the biggest draw of the Galapagos Islands is the wildlife.
The islands are home to the highest percentage of endemic species anywhere in the world. According to the Galapagos Conservancy, about 80% of the land birds, 97% of the reptiles and mammals, 30%+ of the plants and 20% of the marine species are only found in these islands. Favorites include the Galapagos tortoises, land and marine iguanas, the flightless cormorant and the Galapagos penguins, the only penguin found in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course there are also other non-endemic favorites, like the blue footed boobie, fur and sea lions.
My Southern Loop cruise itinerary in early June took me to the islands of North Seymour, South Plaza, Santa Fe, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela and Española Islands. Seeing wildlife is never a guarantee, but this is not a problem in the Galapagos. I spotted just about every favorite on the list somewhere along this itinerary. The naturalists told me no matter which itinerary you take you'll see most of the favorites. (If there is a specific species you want to see check with your travel agent to see which itinerary best meets your wants.)
Bottom line, a cruise through the Galapagos Islands is an incredible. My photo story follows.
Seeing wildlife in their natural habitats can be a life changing, soul stirring experience, especially for lovers of "wild things" but equally so for travelers who are simply curious and seeking a bit of adventure.
Wildlife themed itineraries should be experienced in small group settings – whether they be on small expedition and adventure ship cruises or private and small group land tours. Small groups and ships lend themselves perfectly to a better learning and observing environment and offer access to areas that bigger groups and ships just can't. Smaller groups also contribute to the conservation and protection of species. Sustainable tourism - the best way.
Following are 9 top itinerary picks – one (or two) on every continent. Photo credit above: Lindblad Expeditions
River cruising is a wonderful way to experience Europe for many reasons, from exploring the heart of a country, visiting iconic cities and capitals to quaint towns and villages, experiencing new foods and culinary deliciousness…. All true on every river cruise in Europe. And visiting UNESCO sites are always weaved into the itineraries.
When should I book my trip?
Generally speaking, the earlier the better. Time has a way of "zipping by". Fast. So before things get so busy, NOW is a great time to put down a deposit for future travel plans (especially 1-3 years out).
5 MORE REASONS WHY SAVVY TRAVELERS BOOK EARLY:
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!
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder