Photo courtesy of Adventures by Disney
Do you ever ask yourself what happened to all that time you thought you had? I sure do - every year seems to zip by faster and faster. And I find this especially apparent when I see friends and family with children. Seems like one day they have toddlers and the next day they have young adults headed off to college (or out on their own).
A marriage of wine and culture, the Bordeaux wine region in Southwest France is a perfect pairing for river cruising, wine lovers and culture seekers alike.
The Bordeaux region is home to over 7000 beautiful chateaux and over 14,000 local wine
Whether you are looking for a short getaway, to tick off a lifetime dream experience or explore new destinations, there are no shortages of beautiful golf courses around the world for you to enjoy. Fun and exciting trips just waiting for you to create lifelong memories – for yourself, with family and friends.
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 AmaWaterways.
Cruising the world’s rivers continues to be extremely popular, especially in Europe. This segment of travel has seen tremendous growth in the last ten years. New ships, new and revised itineraries - it's getting a lot of attention. According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), cruises on the Rhine, Moselle, Danube and Elbe have grown 53% year over year. The Douro, Po and the waterways of France have grown between 24% and 30%.
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 and I believe the overall experience is a great value for all that is included. But it’s not for everyone.
Following are several points you should know before booking any river cruise for the first time. Better to be armed with knowledge than being unpleasantly surprised.
Longing to explore France's waterways for a while, I recently had the opportunity to cruise the Rhone on an itinerary from Avignon to Lyon. The three major rivers in France offer very different experiences, and this one intrigued me with the combination of Roman history, scenery and wine country.
The itinerary did not disappoint.
Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest land, sea and air invasion in history, when more than 160,000 allied troops landed on the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy. A significant and historical milestone, with much attention.
As it should have.
As I watch the stories of all those involved, the history, the incredible heroes and heroic actions, I find myself yearning to walk these beaches, to pay tribute to those who fought so bravely for our freedoms. My parents were teenagers during this war, and I imagine families with a direct connection to D-Day feel the same, if not more strongly, as I do.
The rivers of Europe have you experiencing a lot of old world charm in cities big and small. Amazing, photogenic old world charm, all with their own unique personalities.
For anyone wanting to explore ancient cities and historic castles, walk through charming wine villages, take in the lively city of Amsterdam or visit one of 40 museums in Basel, a Rhine and Moselle river itinerary is a great fit.
Plenty of picture perfect moments await you on itineraries that include one or both rivers. Following are my top nine most photogenic places to see.
Earlier this year I wrote about all the new cruise ships being launched in 2018 and 2019. They included Seabourn's all suite ship the Ovation, Scenic's Eclipse Discovery yacht, Viking's fifth ocean cruise ship Orion and Ponant's new explorer class Le Laperouse and Le Champlain ships, the Celebrity Edge and Holland America's Niew Statendam which launched in December and the mega ships launched by Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
Not to be outdone, Amadeaus, AmaWaterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon Waterways, CroisEurope, Crystal, Emerald Waterways, Uniworld and Viking launched or will launch new river ships.
A lot of new ships. Very exciting!
There is very little about river cruising I don't like, except that the time goes by far too quickly. Then again, for me, every cruise feels that way, no matter the length.
A rarely talked about fact in ocean cruising is that itineraries are not set in stone and cruise lines can change them with little or no notice. My guess is that most people never read the contract details, so when this happens, they are "shocked". While most sailings follow the scheduled itinerary, stops are occasionally skipped or changed due to weather conditions or operational logistics that make it unsafe to call on that particular port.
This too can happen on a river cruise, especially when the river levels are too high or too low to navigate. Levels too high make it difficult to get under the bridges; levels too low make it difficult to navigate through sections of the river or to get close enough to the pier.
River cruise ships are built for optimal performance (for example the navigation bridge lowers down into the ship so it can get under bridges) and have incredibly low drafts (some as low as 1-3 feet under the keel!). This allows for minimal interruption, but even the best designs can't cover every situation.
How do you plan for this and what happens to your cruise if there are changes made to the itinerary?
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Ponant
A good number of new ships are being launched in 2018 and 2019, with more coming in 2020.
This year will bring Seabourn's Ovation, Scenic's Eclipse Discovery yacht, Viking's Orion and Ponant's new explorer class Le Laperouse and Le Champlain ships. Celebrity is showcasing the new Edge and Holland America is introducing the Niew Statendam, the sistership to the lovely Konigsdam. Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean all have new mega ships.
It was only a few years ago that I noticed only few articles about Lisbon and Portugal in general. Truly an under the radar destination. Fast forward to 2018 and Portugal is now high on the list of emerging destinations, with Lisbon quickly becoming a favorite city to visit.
Photo courtesy of European Waterways
When you think of cruise lines, which ones to come to mind?
More often than not, the big cruise lines are mentioned. Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity and so on. Given the amount of advertising they do - TV ads, magazine ads, celebrity endorsements, social media, etc., it's not surprising they are top of mind.
Photo courtesy of Sea Dream Yacht Club
There is a lot of excitement these days in the world of cruising with all the new ships recently or soon to be launched. Much of this excitement is focused on the mega ships - the ones with 4000+ passengers. I must say, they are beautiful, with all the "latest and greatest" on board, new technology, new restaurants and even a race track on the top deck of the Norwegian Bliss coming in May. Imagine that!
As an avid cruiser, I understand the lure of all these amenities. The ships have become destinations in of themselves. Perfect for a certain group of travelers.
Under the radar, though, are plenty of small ship cruises. New ships and new itineraries, for those seeking a very different experience from the bigger ships. Adventure, expedition, luxury, river, sailing, yachting - as small as 12 passengers up to about 700 - lots of options to be had!
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 next performance will be held in 2020.
So why am I bringing this up over two years away? Because if you enjoy faith based travel experiences and this Passion Play is on your "must see" list, you need to start planning for this trip - NOW!
Calabasas, CA - (Nov. 20, 2017) - AmaWaterways proudly announced today its partnership with Master Chef and James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Joanne Weir, as the lead sponsor of her new PBS series, “Plates and Places with Joanne Weir.” Two episodes of the series, set to debut in February 2018, were filmed in Fall 2017 during AmaWaterways’ Enchanting Rhine river cruise, capturing the culinary highlights on board as well as regional specialties from the cities and towns along the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel. During the cruise, which took place on board the fleet’s newest ship, AmaKristina, Weir shared her love of cooking with guests through cooking demonstrations and the addition of small touches to the tasting menu at the intimate Chef’s Table restaurant.
We hire companies to clean our homes and our pools. We have people who cut our lawns, trim our trees, run our errands, wash our cars. We even take our pets to day spas. These services make our lives easier and better every day, right?
So why not do the same on vacations? You deserve it. Vacations are special- a time to reconnect with yourself, spouse or partner, a time to celebrate special occasions, a time to simply unplug.
Transform your vacation and pamper yourself by
having the butler do it for you!
One of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry these days is multi-generational travel. It could be because 10,000 boomers are retiring every month, and many love to travel. Maybe they realize how quickly time passes by, and now is as good a time as ever to tackle that bucket list. Maybe they realize how travel brings families together, reconnecting and strengthening bonds.
Whether its three generations (grandparents, children and grandchildren) or two (grandparents and grandchildren, parents and children, aunts and nieces and nephews), there are many destinations that can be explored together to create memories you just can't stop talking about.
I thoroughly enjoy various forms of travel, from renting a condo on the beach, exploring cities and beautiful countryside by car or local transportation, to (of course), cruising. In fact, my "Happy Place" is a vacation on the water. I love seeing miles and miles of ocean, especially when the sunshine is bouncing off the waves or sailing past landscapes only seen by sea. Funny coming from someone who has lived in the desert for over 30 years (and where temps are over 120 degrees this week!).
For years I had heard about this beautiful garden near Amsterdam. Friends and colleagues considered Keukenhof a "must see" experience. But I never understood why. I love flowers, but really, what was the big deal? The pictures I had seen just didn't register until I personally walked the gardens last month while on my Rhine River cruise trip.
Whenever I take a cruise that includes a significant investment in airfare (i.e. Europe), I try to add a few a extra days pre/post cruise. Why not? I'm already there, so I take advantage of the opportunity whenever my schedule allows it.
I did just that last month both before and after my Rhine River cruise. Prior to, I spent a few days in Zurich and explored the beautiful surrounding region. I'll share more about my time after in Amsterdam in another post.
A question I often get asked when speaking to people about European river cruises (or any river cruise, for that matter) is whether or not it matters the direction you go. Is it better to cruise downstream or upstream?
I have always been under the impression that going downstream is better - you know, "going with the flow". In the grand scheme of things, though, I think either direction is fine. Cruise lines have designed the itineraries with the direction in mind. You generally have same port stops and of course the same scenery. So the decision is really personal preference.
However, there are a few small and a few major
differences regarding the direction which may be important to you.
For many cruisers, ocean and river alike, a trip to northern Europe's Baltic region is on many a wish list. And for good reason. The area offers a different and unique experience, a view into a region that often times is a bit of a mystery.
Major cruise lines visit the Baltics (in the summer months only), with itineraries between Copenhagen and Stockholm and beautiful stops in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Read more about
THE BALTICS - BEAUTIFUL STOPS ON A NORTHERN EUROPE CRUISE
River cruise itineraries on the Volga are seeing great interest as well, traveling between Moscow and St. Petersburg, exploring quaint villages and historical sites along the Volga River. Check out more details here.
In most cases, it is St. Petersburg that draws curious and adventurous travelers to these itineraries. A real gem in the Baltics, St. Petersburg is Russia's second largest
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder