I’ve been assisting travelers with river cruises for nearly 10 years now. Here are the most popular questions I get asked:
First up – “How do I get the best deal on a river cruise?”
Early booking usually offers the best discounts and promotions. By early, I mean at least 9 months to nearly 1.5 years out. Some cruise lines run what I call a ‘deceptive marketing strategy’, so beware. If you see, “2 for 1” pricing and such…just know that’s really not true. You really have to compare the ending price for everything you need with each cruise offer. Mark my words, if they offer “FREE AIR” or “FREE” anything…it’s not really free, it’s just worked into the pricing. This is where our shopping skills come into play and many times we can offer things not available to the public. Did you figure that into your value?
2. Why should I go through you instead of booking online myself?
Chances are, you have researched a little about river cruising already. Does that mean you are an expert? No, just better informed. We are CERTIFIED by the cruise lines themselves in their brands. We know the cruise lines, the ships, the differences, the itineraries, the rivers, the inclusions, the ports, the tours and much more. We’ve been on the different rivers and cruise lines ourselves. We are not ‘middlemen.’ We do not charge you for our services, the cruise lines pay us. You win! You get our experience, training, and assistance at no extra cost. In fact, we will very likely SAVE YOU MONEY! (and a lot of headaches) A river cruise is a big investment, don’t throw your money up for chance and hope things work out in your favor.
3. What is the best time of year to river cruise?
That depends on your interests and a few other things. Do you like cooler weather or do you like it hot? Popular options for warm weather will surely be summer months in both Europe and the USA. Do you like better value? Do you like cooler weather? Maybe a Spring or Autumn cruise is best for you. Pricing is down in the ‘shoulder’ seasons and the weather is a bit cooler as well. Crowds start to thin out as well. And, of course you can visit the world-famous Christmas Markets in the winter. (think Germany/Austria and the like) So, depending on your likes…seasonal changes can make a big difference on what you see and how warm the weather will be.
4. Do I need a passport or visa to river cruise?
It depends on where you were born and what country you are visiting. For most US citizens, you will simply need a valid passport in countries like Germany, France, Hungary, Austria, The Netherlands. If you cruise in Vietnam, China or Russia you will likely need visas as well. No worries, we assist you with these things to assure things go smoothly and you have the proper documentation to travel. Remember, you can river cruise in the USA without a passport or visa if you are a citizen of the USA!
5. What are the most popular places to river cruise?
The Danube River through Germany, Austria and Hungary is about the most popular. Usually between Nuremberg, Germany and Budapest, Hungary for equal parts beautiful vineyards, ancient cities and multiple countries. You can also do the Eastern Europe run from Budapest to Bucharest on the same river.
The Rhine River is also very popular, between Amsterdam and down into Basel, Switzerland. These cruises will start in either of those cities and cruise through The Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland. Many castles in the Rhine Gorge to see and the river cruises into the Black Forest.
France has a few popular options, with Paris/Normandy itineraries on The Seine River, as well as both South of France rivers and even in the Western Bordeaux region. Military buffs will love the northern route to Normandy to see the beaches and cemeteries while wine aficionados will love the other regions. Foodies, head to the South of France for the best in cuisine.
U.S.A has some great options on The Mississippi River with many options on rivers to the East. In the Western USA, you can cruise the beautiful Columbia River on the Washington/Oregon border through the fantastic Columbia River Gorge. You can cruise on new-build, modern ships or cruise replicas of the days gone by on a paddlewheeler or steamboat! I’ve done them both and they are very unique. Some theme cruises are wine-focused, where they visit the many vineyards in the area or history-focused showcasing the days gone by.
Peter Larson at River Cruise Guru Earns Adventurist Certification From
Grand Forks, ND, May 2017 – Pete Larson, owner of River Cruise Guru and Jolly Mon Vacations completed a specialized training program and is now certified as an Adventurist with UnCruise Adventures. The line offers adventure cruises aboard boutique yachts and small ships in Southeast Alaska, Hawaiian Islands, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Columbia & Snake Rivers, coastal Washington, British Columbia, Costa Rica, Panamá, and Galápagos Islands.
To join the Adventurist Club, travel agents participate in a series of online tutorials and pass an online exam. The Adventurist program details the nuances of UnCruise Adventures’ inclusive small ship adventure and river cruises along with destination information.
“We commend travel agents who take the time to complete the certification program,” said Tim Jacox, president and COO at UnCruise Adventures. “By becoming a specialist, agents have the expertise to paint a clear picture of our small-group adventures for their clients.”
UnCruise Adventures offers an alternative to traditional cruising by taking travelers into areas that are not accessible to larger ships and on activities that focus on the wilderness, wildlife and culture in each destination. Seven adventure vessels offer opportunities for outdoor activities including kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, skiff explorations, stand-up paddle-boarding and whale watching. One replica coastal steamer offers river cruising with an eye on history and included shoreside tours to points of historical interest.
Pete Larson is a Certified Travel Counselor & River Cruise Specialist
UnCruise Adventures’ yachts and small ships carry 22-88 guests on voyages in Alaska, Hawaiian Islands, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Columbia & Snake Rivers, coastal Washington, British Columbia, Costa Rica, Panamá and the Galápagos Islands. Un-Cruise Adventures, under the parent company of InnerSea Discoveries Alaska Inc., is a member of Trusted Adventures, dedicated to the highest standards of small-group travel and to giving back to the places visited.
The AmaMagna, will be the same length, height and draft as the line’s other vessels, but at 22 meters it will be twice as wide, allowing for larger cabins — most about 300 square feet — with a capacity for 194 passengers (40 more than Crystal Mozart).
Its width also means it will be the only ship docked in ports that allow two-deep berthing.
The new ship will feature ocean-style cabins, multiple dining venues (including outdoor dining), an elevator that goes all the way to the top of the ship, a heated top-deck pool and hot tub with bar, expanded entertainment and spa offerings and a water sports platform with zodiacs, canoes and other recreational equipment.
The ship will be green, using propulsion that’s a hybrid of diesel and electric engines. In total, there will be 10 small engines, with just four used for propulsion. If more power is needed, electric ones will be used.
Construction began on March 6 at Vahali’s headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia. When the hull is completed, the vessel will be finished at the company’s facility in Holland. Because its size will prohibit it from being towed directly to Holland by tugboat, it will instead be taken by freighter via the Black Sea.
Emerald Waterways currently has non-refundable and non-transferrable deposits. (same as most other river cruise lines)
To allow some flexibility for our guests, they are now offering a Deposit Protection Plan.
What is this NEW Deposit Protection Plan?
The Deposit Protection Plan (DPP) is a form of coverage offered by Emerald Waterways that protects the deposit amount paid on an Emerald Waterways cruise.
To participate in this program, the cost is $125/pp USD and must be paid with the deposit on the Deposit Due Date.
The Deposit Protection Plan is non-refundable and non-transferrable and cannot be added past the Deposit Due Date. The DPP also only covers Cruise or Tour deposit, it DOES NOT cover Air deposits.
How it works:
When guests choose to cancel or change their cruise departure date for any reason prior to the final payment due date as per the terms and conditions, the value of the Deposit Protection Plan paid will be charged as a fee.
Additionally, any third-party supplier fees incurred by us (i.e components provided by third parties such as, but not limited to, hotels) will be subtracted from the deposit amount and we will credit the remainder towards an alternative cruise. This must be booked within 24 months of the cancellation.
If guests do not book within the 24-month period advised, the deposit amount held on file will be forfeited.
The DPP does not, nor does it intend to, replace travel insurance. Emerald Waterways highly recommends all guests purchase travel insurance prior to leaving for their vacation.
If a guest declines the DPP at the time of booking, this will be noted on their reservation and will not be allowed to be added after the Deposit Due Date.
If guests who have purchased the DPP cancel after final payment due date, the Deposit Protection Plan is no longer valid. Their standard cancellation policy will apply to cancellations made after final payment due date. The cancellation fees will be advised by the Cancellations Team after cancellation in writing is received.
Guests who cancel prior to the final payment due date but have NOT taken out the Deposit Protection Plan than the deposit remains non-refundable and non-transferrable.
For more information, contact your Emerald Waterways Specialist, Pete Larson.
The fifth in the Emerald Waterways’ Star Ship fleet, the 186-guest Emerald Destiny includes the line’s indoor balcony in most cabins, complete with decked area and an open-air system as well as a swimming pool and cinema on the ship’s aft. It is one of three Emerald Star Ships to be launched this year, bringing the total fleet to seven. Emerald Liberté, which will sail the Saône and Rhône rivers in France, will launch in April. The Liberté can host 138 guests and offers all the same amenities as the Destiny, including the swimming pool and cinema. Emerald Radiance, which carries only 112 passengers, will traverse Portugal’s Douro River and will launch in May.
Contact Pete today for free assistance with your river cruise!
Highlights of the newest river cruising brand, Crystal River Cruises
From the regal cities of Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest, Frankfurt, Paris, Bordeaux and Basel, explore the Danube, Rhine, Main, Moselle, Seine, Garonne and Dordogne rivers on Crystal River Cruises with gorgeous, ever-changing panoramas of enchanting villages and lush landscapes. In-depth explorations and overnight stays in the heart of Europe’s cities and towns provide a vibrant and memorable experience.
The hallmarks of the Crystal brand – service, space, quality and choices – usher in a new era in European river exploration with Crystal River Yachts. With its signature All-Inclusive philosophy, Crystal offers an encompassing luxury experience: butler service for every suite; six-star service and truly exceptional food; unique Crystal Adventures that deliver memorable destination experiences – all working in synch to transpose the World’s Best Ocean Cruising to the World’s Best River Cruising. Crystal will redefine luxury river cruising.
All-Inclusive Crystal River Cruises
Complimentary All-Inclusive Luxuries aboard Crystal River Cruises
Gratuities included for all shipboard staff throughout the River Yacht including housekeeping, bar, dining staff and butlers.
All meals included, featuring Crystal’s innovative and acclaimed six-star cuisine, highlighted by regional specialties
Unlimited soft drinks and premium beverages including champagne, fine wine and spirits throughout the River Yacht
24-hour Wi-Fi access (via satellite) including free Wi-Fi/Internet usage of 60 minutes per person, per day.
State-of-the-art interactive TV system including in-suite movies on demand, extensive music library
Complimentary airport transfers to/from river yacht to airport. All transfers will be group transfers by motor coach on embarkation and debark days only:
– Airport/River Yacht – Transfers will operate between 8am and 6pm on embarkation day. Actual service times may vary depending on local traffic conditions and guests’ arrival schedules.
– River Yacht /Airport – Transfers will operate until at least 12 noon on the day of disembarkation. Actual service times may vary depending on local traffic conditions and guests’ departure schedules.
Onboard entertainment and enrichment programs
Destination-focused entertainment and enrichment program, including onboard lecture series
Destination expert on each voyage
Regional affairs experts on many voyages
Daily yoga and fitness classes
Daily choice of electronic international newspapers
Self-service guest laundry
Choice of complimentary curated Crystal Adventures shore excursions in every port
Complimentary culinary experience at highly renowned local establishments on many sailings
Complimentary Nordic walking poles
Complimentary audio headphones on all organized Crystal Adventures
A la carte, buffet and early risers breakfast offerings
Multiple dining venues
Open seating dining
Crystal Casual dress code
European sourced and trained chefs and hotel staff
Shipboard Public Spaces
Hydraulic Sun-Deck Bar
Fitness Center with state-of-the-art TechnoGym equipment and dedicated yoga area
Non-smoking environment in all indoor spaces (Except Connoisseur Club on Crystal Mozart)
The Overwhelming choices! Cruise lines are very different, pricing and policies are confusing, promos always change, inclusions and itineraries vary. A certified Specialist will solve those issues by making things clear to you and explaining it all.
No Fees! Our expert planning and booking services don’t cost a dime. We are paid directly by the cruise or vendors we sell. Expertise and experience for FREE!
We’ll save you money! We’ll save you money and you won’t have to try to figure it out yourself. A lower price than direct? YES, it’s possible with us! Our cruise line relations assure you get the best value possible.
We’ll save you time! Why re-invent the wheel? We’ve already got it figured out and have assisted hundreds of hapy clients. It’s what we do!
No detail is overlooked. Flights, transfers, hotels, insurance, river levels, seasons, payments, packing and more.
Unbiased advice! We don’t work for the cruise line, we work for YOU.
Planning is confusing! River cruising is very different and the planning can be confusing. We remove the mystery.
Expertise! We are certified River Cruise Specialists! Trained tohelp sort through things to deliver the experience you desire.
Experience! We’ve been there and cruised those ships! We’ve been on those rivers. First hand experience is the best teacher. We’ve been river cruising and assisting cruisers for more than 6 years. We specialize in river cruises and dedicate our time and resources into it.
You can trust your plans to us. You can check us out further at www.RiverCruiseGuru.com or www.JollyMonVacations.com …our sister agency.
Pete Larson, CTC, LS, DS
Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
An AmaWaterways wine cruise is designed to provide travelers with immersive experiences related to the destinations they are visiting. Like all of our cruises, guests have the opportunity to join tours and activities that highlight the sights in each port of call. In addition to these city tours, your trip is amplified with exclusive excursions that reveal more about Europe’s famed wine regions, local epicurean traditions, winemaking, and of course, tastings.
Each cruise is hosted by a qualified wine expert, who usually brings hand-selected wines on board. Some wines come from the expert’s own winery and other varieties are sourced from local vineyards located along the cruise itinerary. This expert will recommend food and wine pairings, lead discussions and even hold special tastings during your cruise.
Guests enjoy a number of tours at local vineyards and wineries, where vintners and growers will not only walk you through the winemaking process – they will give you a taste of their special varieties, too. These authentic encounters add to the rich tapestry of local culture, making for memorable experiences for wine enthusiasts and dabblers alike. Your taste buds are in for even more excitement in our sophisticated dining venues on board, where our expert chefs pair fine wines with award-winning cuisine for the ultimate epicurean experience. It really is a flavor adventure unlike any other.
On our brand-new for 2016 Taste of Bordeaux wine cruise itinerary, you’ll enjoy many wine experiences – one of them being an authentic Sauternes tasting. Sauternes blends account for a very small amount of the wine production in Bordeaux, but they contain a great amount of flavor. These highly sought-after wines are made from various grape varieties, are available in many styles, and achieve a mouthwatering balance of sweet and tart. Their notes of rich honey, peach, apricot and nuts pair wonderfully with savory French cuisine.
Contact your River Cruise Specialist today!
Pete Larson, CTA, DS, LS
Certified River Cruise Specialist & Owner, River Cruise Guru
We know river cruises! Our services are complimentary!
European river cruising is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry, and here’s why. The itineraries pack as many as four countries into a 7 night cruise, with a chance to wake up somewhere new each day. How cool is that?
Over the past three years, more than fifty new river vessels have taken to the water, with around twenty more due this year. The season runs from March to December– with special Christmas Market and New Year’s departures. You can find many theme cruises as well, from wine and art to history and beer. Holiday market cruises are spectacular, as you can visit the famous markets, sip Gluhwein and shop in the brisk but festive atmosphere.
With spectacular scenery, charming villages and cities such as Amsterdam, Cologne, Nuremberg, Vienna and Budapest, it’s easy to see why the Rhine, Main and Danube attract the highest number of cruisers. Other popular rivers include the Seine, where ships are based in Paris and cruise to Normandy, and the Rhône, for trips through Provence between Lyon and Arles. Or you can cruise the Elbe from Berlin to Prague, the Moselle through Germany’s wine-growing heartland, Italy’s Po or Portugal’s Douro. There are many options to fit the discerning traveler. One of my favorites is the Moselle (or Mosel) as pictured below. I stood in a castle when I took this picture!
The size of European river cruise vessels is limited by low bridges and narrow locks, so compared with ocean-going ships they’re small and friendly, carrying less than 200 passengers. The on-board atmosphere tends to be relaxed, with no strict dress codes and usually open seating at mealtimes. All meals come as standard and the majority of lines also offer free daily excursions. All-inclusive river cruise lines are available, with drinks and tips included in the fare.
As vessels tend to moor right in the heart of towns and cities, it’s easy for passengers to explore on their own if they feel like opting out of organised excursions.
Many lines carry bicycles you can take and explore the river, the towns or cities at no extra cost. The top lines, such as Scenic Cruises, offers a GPS guided device you can take along while you explore on your own. It gives you directions and acts as your mini tour guide telling you about the sites you are seeing.
Many river cruise lines cater to English speakers, so there is no worries about language barriers. Its a great way to explore Europe and unpack only once.
We are certified River Cruise Specialists. We do not charge you any fees and will help you every step of the way. Your package can include your arrangements from the time you leave your doorstep to the time your return there.
Call us today. Don’t miss out on one of the greatest ways to travel Europe at a great value.
Český Krumlov is located in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. It’s a small, well-preserved medieval city about 175 km south of Prague and Old Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 13th century Český Krumlov Castle rises high above a town that is filled with Renaissance-era buildings.
The central part of the town is built around the base of the castle on the horseshoe bend of the Vltava River. The historical town center, with its small narrow lanes, is a car-free zone. While there are still a few delivery vehicles driving through, you can walk through the city center and explore streets filled with traditional shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs.
There are outdoor cafes, museums and nice hotels surrounding the large town square. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few days exploring but it can also be reached by river cruisers on excursions from the Danube River itineraries.
Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru has just undergone a website makeover!
We are about to launch the new site within days. Putting the finishing touches on the new photo gallery and then we’ll go LIVE.
We’ve updated both the look, functionality and content. We’ve also added in a tab to get to our BLOG here. We are excited and look forward to hearing your comments.
Stay tuned for more info. You can find the site at: www.JollyMonVacations.com
Thanks for your support!
Please share the news!
NEW SITE PREVIEW:
Pete Larson, CTA, DS, LS
Certified Travel Associate
Owner, Jolly Mon Vacations / River Cruise Guru
Scenic Tours has recently launched their USA program for 2014; unrivalled, five-star and all-inclusive with a fantastic new itinerary that has introduced Mississippi River Cruising.
Luxury cruise operator Scenic Cruises introduced its 2014 itineraries, focusing on the debut of two new ships and launch of five new itineraries focusing on historic European cities
is offering a $1,000 discount on six-night cruises on the eight-passenger Enchanté hotel barge on the Canal du Midi in France
Avalon Waterways has announced that respected Jewish author and lecturer Inge Auerbacher will join their annual Jewish Heritage Cruise this October .
Avalon Waterways has cancelled its river cruises in Egypt through September, “given the current unstable situation in Cairo.
Viking Cruises has signed on as the official cruise line sponsor of The Hollywood Bowl for the 2013 concert season.
KfW IPEX-Bank has announced it is financing the construction of 10 river cruise vessels of the type Viking Longship Class for the Swiss shipping company Viking River Cruises
Viking River Cruises, the industry’s largest river cruise line, will tack in a new direction with ambitious plans to introduce a new ocean-going cruise line.
For the second time in three years, Tauck has been named the “World’s Best River Cruise Line” by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine
Tauck said its two riverboats launching next year in Europe would have 57 percent more suites than its existing Jewel-class vessels. The new Savor and Inspire – the Inspiration class – will each have 22 suites measuring 300 square feet.
Tauck has announced a new 16-day land and sea exploration of Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore centered around an 11-day cruise aboard the new luxury small ship, Le Soléal.
Tauck is further extending its partnership with filmmaker Ken Burns with a new 11-day cultural exploration of the Mississippi River that is part of Tauck’s Ken Burns American Journeys collection
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises Uniworld Boutique River Cruises newest ship on Portugal’s Douro River, Queen Isabel, was named by Hollywood actress, L’Oreal spokes model, and philanthropist, Andie MacDowell, in Porto, Portugal.
In 2014, Uniworld will expand their services and amenities to include unlimited fine wine, beer, and spirits, and all gratuities for all onboard and onshore services, including pre- and post-cruise extensions.
AmaWaterwaysAmaWaterays and its Portuguese partner DouroAzul christened its newest ship, the AmaVida, with actress Sharon Stone.
AmaWaterways has released its full 2014 Europe, Russia, Africa and Southeast Asia brochure that includes details on two new vessels-the 164-passenger AmaSonata and AmaReina.
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The river cruise line, AmaWaterways has announced a roster of wine hosts for its 2013 “In Celebration on Wine” theme cruises. The river cruise line will host 21 wine-themed itineraries through Europe’s wine regions this year, each hosted by a different wine expert from the U.S. or Europe.
The 2013 season has new excursions on Portugal’s Douro River and France’s Seine River, in addition to the company’s other unforgettable itineraries along the Danube, Mosel, Rhine and Rhone Rivers.
AmaWaterways’ 2013 wine hosts for the “In Celebration of Wine” itineraries and dates are as follows:
March 29: Legendary Wine & Regions of the Rhone
James Cluer, MW of Fine Vintages. Cluer took his first Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) course at age 18, became a Master of Wine (MW) several years later, and has been working in the wine industry since 1988.
April 2: Classic Port Wines & Charming Quintas
George Sandeman of the House of Sandeman. Over the past two centuries, Sandeman Port and Sherries has become one of the world’s best known brands. George Sandeman is the seventh generation of his family to head the company.
April 5: Paris & the Sparkling Seine
Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat Winery in Santa Barbara, Calif. Food & Wine magazine named Clendenen “Winemaker of the Year” in 2001; Germany’s leading wine magazine, Wein Gourmet, named him “Winemaker of the World” in 2004; and in 2007, he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.”
April 12 & Nov. 1: Paris & the Sparkling Seine
Preston Mohr, an American wine expert now based in Paris, holds an Advanced Certificate from the WSET and is currently studying for his Diploma, to be completed in June 2013. One of his specialties is French Champagne.
April 13: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube
Gary and Marcy Eberle of Eberle Winery in Paso Robles, Calif. More than 33 years after the release of its first vintage, this award-winning winery remains one of the most highly regarded winemakers in the United States.
Oct. 31: Castles & Wineries of Germany
Len and Marisa Crispino of Foreign Affairs Winery. After living as ex-pats in Italy in the early 1990s, Len and Marisa returned to Ontario and planted their first vines. Inspired by the Italian wine-making process, they use a unique grape drying process known as appassimento (or the Reductio method).
Nov. 5: Classic Port Wines & Charming Quintas
Brian Heath of Grape Creek Vineyards in Fredericksburg, Texas. This Texas Hill Country winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and also boasts the first underground commercial barrel cellar in central Texas.
Nov. 6: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube
Eric Glomski, owner of Page Springs Cellars & Arizona Stronghold, specializes in producing Rhone-style Arizona wines. Eric will co-host withSam Pillsbury, New Zealand film director (Free Willy) and owner of Pillsbury WineCompany.
Nov. 7: Vineyards of the Rhine & Mosel
Carissa Chappellet of Chappellet Winery in Napa, an estate known for its Bordeaux varietals and its Cabernet Sauvignon. Chappellet and her brothers inherited the winery from their parents, founders Don and Molly Chappellet. She will co-host with Archie McLaren, founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic.
Nov. 8: Legendary Wine Regions of the Rhone
Gerryand Rosie Wilson of Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, Calif. Wilson Creek’s famous Almond Champagne and other unique vintages have garnered numerous prestigious international wine awards.
Nov. 8: Paris & the Sparkling Seine
Jean-Marc & Kristi Espinasse of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Rouge-Bleu has been awarded many gold medals in France and its wines have been ranked 90+ points more than four times in Wine Spectator.
Nov. 9: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube
Boband Jodi Dickinson are event chairs for Camillus House Auction, which raises funds for nonprofit organizations in southern Florida. Past auction items have included a rare collection of Chateau Haut Brion, which sold for more than $59,000.
Nov. 11: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube
Stephanie and Michael Honig of Honig Vineyard & Winery in Napa, known for its Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Stephanie has a WSET Higher Certificate and Diploma and has many years of experience in the industry. Michael is often referred to as “the James Brown of the wine industry” and is a leader in sustainable farming.
Nov. 13: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube
Christopher Silva, President & CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma County, Calif. The winery’s products have earned a reputation as top quality varietal wines that are bold flavored and fruit-forward.
Nov. 15: Culture & Wine Legacy of the Rhine
Holly Howellis a columnist for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, New York and an authority on the wines of the Finger Lakes region, particularly Rieslings. She also teaches food and wine classes and makes her own wine.
Nov. 16: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube
Barry Wiss, Certified Wine Educator, VP of communications & trade relations for Trinchero Family Estates, a winery established in 1947. The Trinchero family estates represent more than 27 brands in the US and Australia, including Sutter Home, Menage a Trois, and Napa Cellars.
Nov. 18: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube
Vic Poulos of Zin Valle Vineyards in El Paso, Texas. Poulos owns and operates the Zin Valle Vineyards winery and also writes about wine for local and national publications.
Nov. 22: Culture & Wine Legacy of the Rhine
Mark Johnson of Chateau Chantal Winery in Michigan. Trained at the Geisenheim Research Institute in Germany, Johnson has been the winemaker at Chateau Chantal since it opened in 1986.
Nov. 22: Legendary Wine Regions of the Rhone
Lee Fuqua of Fuqua Winery. Lee Fuqua’s boutique Texas winery produces what he calls “wines with an attitude” – big, rich, full-bodied wines that satisfy serious wine drinkers.
The River Cruise Guru is a certified River Cruise Specialist and we are here to assist you FREE of charge with your river cruise. River cruising is our specialty!
Contact us today for more information at:
River cruise line announces new ships, programs, pricing, amenities, marketing materials and more
Contact us today, we are certified River Cruise Specialists available to you at NO FEE! www.RiverCruiseGuru.com
CHATSWORTH, CA – (Jan. 22, 2013) – Family-owned and operated river cruise line AmaWaterways today announced a robust list of new developments for its 2013 and 2014 seasons, including new pricing, itineraries, discounts, ships, amenities, land programs, theme cruises and marketing tools.
New 2014 Pricing, Itineraries & Discounts: Prices and itineraries for 2014 cruises are now available online.
New Ships: AmaWaterways will debut two new ships in Amsterdam and Portugal in 2013. The 164-passenger AmaPrima (sister ship to the AmaCerto) will make its maiden voyage on April 3, 2013 in Amsterdam, with a special christening celebration Aug. 6, 2013. The 106-passenger AmaVida will make its debut on March 26, 2013 in Porto, Portugal. The AmaPrima will service 10 itineraries: Tulip Time Cruise, Melodies of the Danube, The Romantic Danube, Blue Danube Discovery, The Legendary Danube, Magnificent Europe, Grand Danube Cruise, Black Sea Voyage, Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube, and Christmas Time Cruise. The AmaVida will service four itineraries on the Douro River: Port Wine & Flamenco, Enticing Douro, Impressions of France & Portugal and Classic Port Wines & Charming Quintas.
The AmaSonata and AmaReina (sister ships to the AmaCerto) will debut in Europe in 2014. These deluxe 164-passenger ships will feature Twin Balcony Staterooms and Suites, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs culinary creations, complimentary fine wine and beer at lunch and dinner, multiple dining venues, a heated pool with swim-up bar, massage and beauty salon, fitness center, free in-room Internet and Infotainment, and a fleet of bicycles for guests to borrow and enjoy. The AmaSonata will travel the Danube and Rhine Rivers on seven itineraries: Tulip Time Cruise, Melodies of the Danube, The Romantic Danube, Blue Danube Discovery, The Legendary Danube, Magnificent Europe and Christmas Time Cruise. The AmaReina will serve The Enchanting Rhine seven-night itinerary.
New Amenities: Starting in 2013, AmaWaterways offers complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with dinner and lunch on its European fleet (except for the AmaVida and AmaKatarina).
New Land Programs: Starting in 2014, AmaWaterways will offer a second optional land extension on its “Provence & Spain” itinerary – two nights in Marseille, France.
New Theme Cruises: AmaWaterways has expanded its theme cruise options for both 2013 & 2014.
• “In Celebration of Wine” Cruises: (21 departures in 2013)
• Harvest Wine Cruises on Portugal’s Douro River (two departures in October 2013)
• Jewish Heritage Cruises on the Danube River (four departures in 2013)
• Tulips & Jazz Cruise aboard the AmaCerto on April 22, 2013 is produced by Jazzdagen Tours and features two complimentary onboard jazz performances every evening.
• Gourmet Cruise with celebrity chef Bob Blumer, who will bring his passion for food and cooking demonstrations to guests aboard the AmaVida in Portugal on October 22, 2013.
• Chocolate Connoisseurs Cruise (2014) on April 28, 2014 is a chocolate-themed “Romantic Danube” itinerary onboard the AmaCerto, featuring expert host Norman Love of Norman Love Confections, maker of artisanal, handcrafted gourmet chocolates.
To book a cruise, please contact our certified River Cruise Specialist or visit www.rivercruiseguru.com. All our expertise and experience will not cost you a cent. NO FEES!
Founded in 2002 by river cruise pioneers Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy, AmaWaterways is the premier river cruise line on Europe’s Danube, Douro, Main, Mosel, Seine, Rhine and Rhône rivers. Known for its custom-designed ships, extensive complimentary amenities and impeccable service, family-owned and -operated AmaWaterways consistently leads the way in river cruising. With itineraries in Europe, Russia, Africa, and S.E. Asia, AmaWaterways offers an enticing variety of authentic, in-depth experiences for the most discriminating travelers.
AmaWaterways’ European fleet includes the AmaSonata (2014); AmaReina (2014); AmaPrima (2013); AmaCerto (2012); AmaVerde (2011); AmaBella (2010); AmaLyra (2009); AmaDolce (2009); AmaCello (2008), AmaDante (2008); AmaLegro (2007) and the AmaDagio (2006). The line’s newest ships feature Twin Balcony Staterooms, multiple dining venues, complimentary in-room Internet and Infotainment, a heated swimming pool or whirlpool, plus many more unique design elements.
AmaWaterways’ separate and distinct AmaVoyages division operates the AmaVida (2013) in Portugal, the AmaLotus (2011) and La Marguerite (2009) in Vietnam and Cambodia, the AmaKatarina (2011) in Russia, and the Zambezi Queen (2009) in Africa.
River Cruise Specialist
Onboard Scenic Crystal…the first River Café by River Cruise Guru[/caption]Scenic Cruises is spending $10 million to rebuild five “Space Ships” with the same features and specifications of its newest ships, the Scenic Crystal and soon-to-launch Scenic Jewel. The five ships undergoing work — Scenic Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond, Ruby and Pearl — are only 18 months to four years old. The Scenic Crystal entered service in April 2012, while the Scenic Jewel is due out this April.
The five ships will get a new casual eatery, the River Café, which is open all day. Portobello’s, the 30-seat Italian restaurant, has been upgraded, while the main restaurant has enhanced omelet and carver stations. Also added to the ships is Table La Rive, which will serve a six-course degustation menu.
Cabins (except those on Scenic Emerald) have been redone with new wallpaper, marble-desk tops and side tables, furniture, carpets and 32-inch Samsung HD TVs linked to MiniMac computers for in-cabin email and Internet. What’s more, the cabins will get the “Sun-Lounges,” which allow guests to convert their private balcony into an indoor lounge with the push of a button.
All Royal and Panorama Suites were expanded and rebuilt to Crystal/Jewel specifications. The lounge has a new upgraded bar done with marble, additional coffee machines, and more wine dispensers. The lobby areas also are renovated with new floors, reception desks, wallpaper, artwork and light fixtures. The ships will also get new carpet, curtains and designer furniture throughout. The ships also offer a number of technical upgrades including an upgraded Wi-Fi system using both Satellite and UMTS Mobile technology for faster speeds, and new equipment in the galleys, such as pizza ovens.
In 2013, Scenic Cruises offers unlimited complimentary beverages (top-shelf brands are additional), private butler service for every guest, 24-hour room service, new themed dinners with entertainment, a personal GPS guided tour system providing commentary on passing sites, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The GPS system is not available on Scenic Emerald in France.
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Well, every German Christmas market has its own specialities (the best wooden ornaments come from the Erzgebirge mountains; the Bavarian Forest produces superb glass) but if you’re planning a special trip to Germany to do your Christmas shopping, it makes sense to visit a market in a place you want to see in its own right. Hopefully, the following shortlist should help you make up your mind.
And by the way, a word of warning about the Glühwein. Hot alcohol hits you quicker, especially in chilly weather, and this mulled wine is often a good deal stronger than the stuff we drink at home.
Of all Germany’s Christmas markets, Aachen’s Weihnachtsmarkt is closest to the UK – less than four hours from London by train, changing in Brussels. The Weihnachtsmarkt, in the shadow of the cathedral, has in a spectacular setting. Be sure to try some Printen (the local gingerbread) and potato fritters (the local fast food).
Founded by the Romans, who came here to bathe in its hot sulphur springs, Aachen briefly became the capital of Western Europe under the Emperor Charlemagne during the Dark Ages. The mineral springs are still here (you can swim in them or drink them; bad-aachen.de) and Charlemagne’s ornate cathedral is still standing – a relic of a time when this border town was the centre of a great empire.
From its main site in the cathedral square, close to the bustling central station, Cologne’s Christmas market spills over into several diverse locations around the city. The markets in the Neumarkt and Alter Markt are both charming, but the most scenic spot is the Hafenmarkt, on the Rhine, beside Cologne’s Chocolate Museum. Frikadellen (pork burgers) and Spekulatius (cinnamon-flavoured biscuits) are among the culinary favourites. Kolsch, a light lager served in a dainty 200ml glass, is the favourite brew.
Cologne’s gigantic Gothic cathedral dominates the city skyline, but this busy Rhineland city is also a lively centre of the arts. The Ludwig Museum (00 49 221 221 26165; museum-ludwig.de) houses the biggest collection of Pop Art outside America and some stunning German Expressionists such as Max Beckmann and Ludwig Kirchner.
Founded in 1434, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. Contrary to popular misconception, it isn’t actually the oldest – that honour belongs to Bautzen, a historic town on the Polish border which beats it by half a century. Never mind. Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is uniquely atmospheric, as the city’s Altmarkt is transformed into a gigantic grotto. Striezel is the Saxon word for Stollen, Germany’s distinctive Christmas cake, and Dresden’s version is commonly regarded as Germany’s finest. If you’re here on 8 December, don’t miss the annual Stollenfest (stollenfest.com), when an enormous Stollen is paraded through the city to the Striezelmarkt, where the Stollenmädchen (a sort of Christmas beauty queen) cuts the first slice.
Renowned before the Second World War as one of Europe’s loveliest cities, the “Florence of the Elbe” was flattened by the Allies in 1945. However, since reunification it’s been painstakingly rebuilt and today the panorama Canaletto painted has been immaculately restored. As well as its beautiful baroque architecture, the Saxon capital has one of the world’s most wonderful art galleries, the Zwinger (00 49 351 49 14 2000; skd.museum), full of treasures by Renaissance masters such as Botticelli and Raphael.
Munich hosts more than a dozen Christmas markets. A lot of overseas visitors venture no further than the traditional Christkindlmarkt below the bell tower of the Neues Rathaus, but the smaller markets beyond Marienplatz are well worth a visit. The most picturesque is the Kripperlmarkt, which is devoted to crib sets and carved Nativity figures. For something completely different, visit Tollwood (tollwood.de), an alternative Christmas market with a focus on ethnic crafts, world music and international cuisine, which continues until 31 December.
Forget the tourist clichés – there’s more to Munich than bierkellers, oompah bands and fat men in lederhosen. In fact, apart from a few weeks during the Oktoberfest, the Bavarian capital is one of Germany’s smartest cities, with lots of chic restaurants and private galleries, and a lively opera scene. Its greatest asset, however, is its close proximity to proper countryside. On a clear day you can see the Bavarian Alps from the city centre and the lovely lakes of Starnberger See and Ammersee are only half an hour away by U-bahn.
Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt (literally, “Christ child market”) is Germany’s most celebrated Christmas market, attracting more than 2 million visitors annually. Air Berlin flies non-stop from Gatwick; the route ends in early January, but before then there is plenty of availability, The city’s culinary speciality is Lebkuchen (spiced gingerbread) but the biggest attraction is the Christkind (Christmas angel), who opens the market on the Friday before Advent, from the balcony of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in the main square. A local girl in her late teens, the Christkind acts as an ambassador for the Christkindlesmarkt. Despite its popularity, the market retains an old-fashioned atmosphere and an emphasis on authentic produce, especially the Nürnberger Rostbratwürste – delicious little sausages served by the dozen or half a dozen, with heaps of tangy sauerkraut.
Nuremberg’s medieval heritage made it deeply attractive to the Nazis, who adopted this romantic city as the cultural capital of the Third Reich. You can still visit Hitler’s Zeppelin Field, a vast crumbling ruin on the edge of town. Thankfully, Nuremberg’s totalitarian past now feels like ancient history. Today its main claim to fame is as the world’s top producer of children’s toys.
There are many cities along the Rhine and Danube River that have great Christmas Markets. One can take a river cruise and hit them all in style. We recommend Uniworld, AMA and Avalon for these cruises as well as some others. We here at River Cruise Guru assist you ‘free of charge’ with your river cruise plans. We are Certified River Cruise Specialists that really know this unique cruise niche.
Owner and Travel Consultant for River Cruise Guru & Jolly Mon Vacations
Scenic Cruises has announced what it calls the “first truly all-inclusive luxury river cruising experience.” New on 2013 cruises will be unlimited complimentary beverages (top-shelf brands are additional), private butler service for every guest, themed dinners with entertainment (including Hungarian and Bavarian itineraries), a personal GPS onboard guided tour systemdevices providing commentary, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Also new are three dining venues — River Café with all-day offerings; Table La Rive, for degustation menus; and High Tea on the Terrace. (River Café, Table La Rive and the GPS tour are not available on Scenic Emerald which will be relocated to the south of France)
New shore experiences include Scenic Enrich, exclusive experiences such as a private dinner and concert at Rastatt Palace; Scenic FreeChoice, 18 tours including the Hockenheim Formula 1 Track in Heidelberg; and Scenic Tailor-made, a bespoke GPS-guided tour system with full commentary, allowing guests to choose from independent walks or cycling tours exploring areas like food and wine or history.
“We are redefining the term ‘all-inclusive luxury’ with the addition of unlimited complimentary beverages available at any time throughout the ship, free Wi-Fi, and butler service for all,” said Managing Director Glen Moroney. “Our relaxing new River Café offers food items all day, including cakes and espresso coffee. And most important — there is basically nothing more to pay except for personal expenses.”
River Cruise Guru can attest to this, as we were invited to sail onboard the maiden voyage of Scenic Crystal and have personally experienced the 2013 changes ourselves on a special voyage. It was nothing short of incredible.
Also in 2013, Scenic “Space-Ships” will get “Sun-Lounges,” which allow guests to convert their private balconies into an indoor lounge. This is basically a step-out balcony that can be totally enclosed in glass for bad weather or wind. Unlike most river cruise ships with balconies, Scenic does not take away ANY space from the stateroom when adding balconies. Sun lounges will be retro-fitted to the entire fleet (except Scenic Emerald). Moroney also announced a number of technical ship upgrades including a “silent drive” system that significantly reduces noise and vibration, and a sophisticated and powerful air-conditioning system.
When it comes to river cruising, Scenic has really stepped up the game. A luxury product that no other line matches in terms of all-inclusive amenities.
To begin your river cruise planning, call us today! Expert river cruise knowledge and assistance at no extra cost to you!
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Scenic Cruises launched its sixth river cruise ship, the 169-passenger Scenic Crystal in April and we were on this maiden voyage. Scenic Crystal is 443 feet long and has cabins and suites ranging from 164 to 315 square feet, most of which have real outdoor balconies that you can enclose at the touch of a button.
We boarded this ship in Amsterdam for a trip down the Rhine to Rüdesheim where the ship would be christened before continuing down to Basel, Switzerland.
The Airport Transfers:
Scenic Cruises will pick you up at the airport when you arrive on departure day whether or not you purchase flights from Scenic. Scenic staff will be waiting near the baggage carousel holding a sign. You may have to go to a bus or holding area for a little bit while others are arriving. In 2013, the included transfers will become PRIVATE transfers, so once you arrive at the airport, you will be whisked directly to the ship without delay! Show me another cruise line that offers that included in the price! Since we arrived two nights early, we simply took a taxi to the port.
Upon arrival at the Scenic Crystal, staff came off the ship and grabbed our suitcases for us and took them onboard the ship. We climbed the gangway and entered the lobby of this amazing new river ship and met with the staff. They quickly introduced us to Igor, the Hotel Manager and he offered my wife a single rose. We were given our room keys and they ushered us to our stateroom. This was the quickest and hassle-free boarding experience I’ve ever encountered in all our travels!
Once in our stateroom, we were met by our butler who explained the room and services. In 2013, all three passenger decks will receive butler services included in the price! She made sure our devices were hooked to the internet and made us reservations for Portobello’s Restaurant at my request.
We had stateroom B205, which is a Deluxe Balcony, mid-ship on the middle (Rhine) deck. This is a nice sized room with closets, safe, Apple TV, mini bar, hair dryer, bottled water, two-twin beds configured into a queen sized bed with suitcase storage beneath. A sliding glass door opened onto a full outdoor balcony with glass/wood rail. There were two chairs and a small table. Scenic calls this area, the “Scenic Sun Lounge” because at the push of a button, a window slides up (just like a car window) and encloses the deck from noise, wind, rain and cold. You can enjoy your balcony at anytime! This is a great new feature and we used it a lot. You will need an electrical adapter/converter to power your electronics as they use European electrical plugs.
The bathroom was the best I’ve had on any ship. It was larger than most ocean-going ships and it featured modern sink with LED down-lighting and a glass-walled shower that had three heads and an LED colored lighting display in the upper showerhead! It gave you a SPA-like experience right in your own stateroom. Unbelievable.
Noise and vibration:
Now you sometimes read reviews about ship vibration on certain cruises. On river cruises, the ships are smaller and follow a very winding river. These ships will sometimes make more noise during turns as they use side thrusters. The engine noise will be heard no matter where your cabin is located but it never seems to bother me. I know I’m on a moving vehicle and when going in and out of locks there will be some bumping and engine noise. Is this something that ever kept me awake? No. I rather enjoyed the hum of the engines.
Scenic Tours leaves a DAILY PROGRAMME on your bed each day so you will know the schedule. The ship was to depart Amsterdam at 17:00 hours. (yes, they use the 24 hour/military time) Shortly before sailing, they gathered us for a Welcome Reception and safety briefing. Scenic Tours CEO/Managing Director came onboard and gave us a nice welcome speech and the ships Captain then took over the safety briefing. An actual ‘safety drill’ was held the second day and we all put on life-vests on the Sun Deck. There are no lifeboats on a river ship so you simply go to the upper deck when the alarm is sounded and they hand you a life-vest.
My first thoughts were WOW! The ship is brand new and pristine. I’ve been on a lot of ships before, but none that smelled of new paint and carpet. I expected the crew to be a bunch of inexperienced employees thrown together at the last minute not knowing how to do things. Boy, was I wrong! They were all spectacular! Like a well-oiled machine. Polite, knowledgeable and accommodating.
This is a great space and well used. From reading a book, having coffee or a cocktail to having some lunch or dancing the night away this room delivers. Beautiful furnishings that are comfortable to eat lunch in or just sit and watch the scenery go by through the large windows. There are coffee and tea stations here, available around the clock and the new lunch venue, The River Café. A light lunch fare is served there and it also houses appetizers and desserts as well. Forward of this area is the Portobello’s Restaurant (only set up in the evening, otherwise its an extension of the lounge) which is a special place to have a 7 course dinner. The dinner is special and the service is incredible. There is no extra fee for any of these dining venues. In 2013, drinks will be included as part of the cruise fare. That’s right, all-inclusive!
This is considered to be a ‘special’ dining experience and will require a reservation due to limited seating area. There is no extra charge to dine here which is incredible. The staff is ‘extra-attentive’ and greets you with a flute of champagne upon arrival. There are many sized tables and we were seated at a table for six. We shared dinner with four other passengers and found them to be very fun and interesting. Dinner served was seven courses of delight. Several choices of regional wines were offered and each course was presented by the chef with a story. The meal was great, the service spectacular and the experience was memorable.
Forward of Portobello’s is a small but covered seating area right near the bow. It offers a fantastic forward view of the area you are traveling. It offers some sun or rain protection and even has some radiant heaters overhead which helped on a blustery day. A great spot to view the transit through one of the many river locks.
A great big area to socialize, watch scenery and catch some rays. On our cruise, it didn’t see the use it would during the summer months but we still found it a great place to take photos and watch as we passed under low bridges. During nice weather it also serves as another alternate dining venue. The wheelhouse and the upper railings on the very top deck are sometimes put down. The wheelhouse is able to be lowered and the deck rails and canopies fold down. This makes it possible to fit under lower bridges on the river. We were allowed to sit forward of the wheelhouse during the passing of low bridges, but were ordered to stay seated. It is quite amazing how they scoot right under these bridges with very little clearance. There were only two areas to smoke onboard; one was the furthest point aft on the Sundeck, the other was right near the middle stairs/wheelhouse on the Sun Deck. The Captain said, “if you don’t see an ashtray, you cannot smoke there.” No smoking was allowed on the balconies either.
The Crystal Dining Room:
A very nice restaurant for all three daily meals right at water level. Many different sized tables to choose from and It operates with an open-seating policy. A great place to meet old friends or to discover new ones. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet-style. Mornings saw an omelet station and afternoons usually had some sort of carved meats available. Regional wines, beer and soft drinks are complimentary at lunch and dinner. In 2013, these beverages will be complimentary around the clock! We enjoyed the local Riesling wines very much. There was usually a choice between a couple of different wines with each meal. The food was served up in courses; appetizer, soup/salad, main entrée and dessert. I found each dish I had ordered to be very good. Sometimes they had a theme, like on German day the staff was dressed in lederhosen, German music was played, they served authentic German dishes and trays of bier!
I found the staff to be very accommodating at all times. Whenever I had a question, they were there with an answer. The Cruise Director, Sylvie, was very good as running things. She gave the port talks each day in the Lounge and also took care of us when it came to tours and on debarkation day. Service staff were excellent both in the lounge and dining rooms. Stateroom staff were also very good. All gratuities are included with Scenic Tours/Cruises which is very nice and convenient.
If you are the type that needs constant entertainment, you may be a bit bored on a river cruise. Entertainment usually consists of a piano player/singer/entertainer, dancing , local musicians brought onboard, lectures or a glass blowing demonstration. I found it to be a nice distraction in the evening when you could not see the scenery.
The internet is a fee for service program now, (about $30 Euros/week) but in 2013 it will also be complimentary…and it should be. I found the internet to be very frustrating. It’s satellite -based so connections are horrible through the river valleys and locks. It seemed you could never get connected and once you did it didn’t last. I told the ship staff that if I had to pay for internet…I wouldn’t have. It just wasn’t worth the aggravation in my opinion.
Casual elegance for the most part. Several of us men wore sport jackets during the more dressy nights, like the GALA dinner and in Portobello’s Restaurant. Most men wore collared shirts or polo’s and women wore dresses or pant suits.
Overall the dress code was not something to worry much about. As long as you look presentable, everything is fine. Yes, people were wearing jeans in the dining room. Women may need a shawl or sweater for the dining rooms or lounge as the air conditioning can be quite chilly inside.
We had cold, rainy weather. Dressing in layers works very well on a river cruise. As the day heats up you can strip layers or the opposite if the temperatures drop. Rain was a big factor, so a raincoat was perfect as it also offered protection from water and wind. Scenic provides each stateroom with a large umbrella to use on excursions as well. These are great for taking pictures when its raining so your camera doesn’t get wet.
The next sections (part 5) of this review will cover our Shore Excursions and tours followed by the naming ceremony and some other thoughts and tips. Stay tuned!
Part Two of our Scenic Crystal River Cruise Review.
By Pete Larson, owner of Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru
Today we are in the city center Amsterdam. We took an overnight flight into Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport last night. our flight took us directly over Ireland and England into The Netherlands. Although this area isn’t really known for beaches, they looked pretty nice and people were enjoying them.
When we arrived at the airport, we proceeded through Passport Control and picked up our luggage. We bought train tickets from a kiosk and proceeded down to the platform. The train is only about 4 Euros each from airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station. It can be a little confusing, but it’s the cheapest and fastest route into Amsterdam. No worries, there is plenty of room on the train to bring your suitcases. You will have to be able to lift them up and down some stairs, however.
Train Ticket Kiosk Screen:
Amsterdam Centraal Station:
This is located right near the cruise ship piers. Depending on where your ship is docked, it can be a short or long walk. Port of Amsterdam is located nearby and would be off to the right of the picture below.
Upon arrival at Centraal, we headed towards The Damrak on foot. With suitcases in tow, we walked to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza City Centre which was about two blocks away. A word of advice: in Amsterdam, pedestrians can be easily run down by bicycles, cars, buses, trams and trains. Look both ways before you step into any roadway to include the bike lanes.
The Damrak: Street where you enter Amsterdam from Centraal Station
The Diary of Anne Frank is an incredible story of human sacrifice and suffering in the hands of the Nazi’s. Today, we paid our respects and visited the Anne Frank Huis and Museum. This is a very moving experience. You get to see all the rooms of the home where they hid in the secret annex to prevent being sent to the death camps. Long lines stretched around the block and my best tip would be to buy tickets ONLINE before you go. You will be assigned a certain date and time to be there and you can walk right in past the lines! This is a DON’T MISS attraction in Amsterdam.
The Secret Annex: Anne Frank Huis
Amsterdam is a really fun and exciting city. You can walk pretty much anywhere and take in the scenery and city life. Canals abound and the architecture is beautiful. Communication is really not a problem as most everyone speaks English as well. Great restaurants and bars dot the downtown area as do the famous ‘coffee shops.’
Tip: If you want a cup of coffee (Koffee), DO NOT look for it at a coffee shop. These are places where they sell and smoke marijuana. If you want coffee, head to a cafe. The regular coffee is quite strong and has a foamy layer on top.
Tip: The clocks in Europe are based on the 24 hour clock. (aka: military time)
Tip: Check out the canal areas at night. The lights give off an incredible night-time ambiance.
The famous Red Light District is a favorite for many tourists. It is quite different to experience other cultures like this. Scantily clad prostitutes are sitting in the windows luring in men. This is legal and regulated by the government. You will also find ‘live sex shows’ and sex toy shops in this area.
The Red Light District of Amsterdam
Stay tuned for the next part of this River Cruise Review!
Scenic Crystal 2012.
For more information or to get free assistance with your river cruise contact Pete below:
Once your River Cruise Specialist has helped you choose your itinerary, finds a cruise line and ship that fits your style, books your hotels, transfers, air, insurance and everything is paid and in order…the waiting game begins. Watching that clock tick until that sail date FINALLY comes.
About two to three weeks prior to your cruise, most river cruise lines will send out your documents. In the cruising world, you’ll hear them simply referred to as….DOCS. What they are is mostly boarding documentation, ship information, itinerary, medical forms and other general information about where to go once you arrive in the port city. Depending on the cruise line, your document package could contain many different things.
Our documents have arrived from Scenic Cruises, a branch of Scenic Tours, which bills itself as a 5-Star Luxury All-inclusive river cruise line. Here is a picture of what Scenic Cruises delivered to us with our documents:
-Two Scenic Tours backpacks with multiple compartments which will be great for excursions and tours.
-Two drawstring laundry bags for keeping the dirty clothes separtated.
-Zippered portfolio containing the docs, luggage tags, itinerary and medical forms.
-A handy full-colored guide book containing information on all the river areas our cruise will cover.
These are the docs you can expect for any basic river cruise. Read over them very carefully and follow the instructions contained in them.
Packing: If you’ve never packed for a cruise before, your travel agent can be your best friend. They know what you will need, what is not allowed, how to pack everything and what type of luggage restrictions you may face with air and cruise lines.
When traveling to foreign countries, there are things to think about like:
-What type of documentation, visas or passports will be required.
-Electrical differences: ensuring you have the right adapters and converters to power up and charge your devices.
-Currency differences: ensuring you know where to get local currency, how to get it and what to tell your bank before you leave.
-Where can I purchase additional tours or hotels for pre-cruise stays so you can explore.
-How to get the best airfare and insurance to cover all our expenses and medical.
-Are you traveling to a safe area and what you should do if trouble arises.
All this and much more can be found out from your travel agent and river cruise specialist! River Cruise Guru is a certified River Cruise Specialist. Our job is to assist you from start to finish, get you the best price and value possible and ensure your trip is a flawless as it can be…all for NO EXTRA FEES! That’s right…you won’t pay a dime extra for our expert services. Expert service for free…you can’t beat that deal!