How to pack a carry on suitcase for a 3 week trip

When I met my travelling companion before the start of our Rhine river cruise and she showed up with this small carry on bag and backpack, was thinking that wow she’ll be wearing the same clothes every day. Well was I wrong and you can see in the video how much stuff she actually fits into this carry on. I was so amazed that I had to share this with to show you that it can be done and I’m going to try her ideas when packing for my next trip. Enjoy !

Seabourn, Seabourn, Seabourn

Wondering why I repeated the Seabourn Cruise Line name three times ?   After just returning from an Athens to Barcelona sailing on the Seabourn Quest, couldn’t believe how many repeat guests were onboard who had sailed with them many, many times.  The ships officers and staff held a reception one night for these repeaters and gave out a few “milestone” awards when a certain number of sail days were achieved. One family had accumulated so many club points that even their teenage daughter hit the 100 days milestone – very impressive!  One couple that was awarded the 500 days milestone looked to be still under seventy so have plenty more years ahead to increase that amount.

SeabournShipIt’s easy to fall in love with Seabourn and small ship cruising.  There are so many benefits, here are just a few:

1)      Unique itineraries which include smaller ports that the big ships cannot dock at.

2)      Intimate ships with less than 230 suites (compare that with your last ocean cruise)

3)      Spacious suite accommodations with sweeping ocean views — many with verandas

4)      Open bars, all dining venues complimentary and no tipping expected.

Even the lead in ocean view category cabin is just under 300 sq feet (27.5 sq m) and has a walk in closet!

A fun highlight is if they do the galley market lunch where they set up different stations right inside the galley and you walk through the kitchen area gathering from a culinary feast and getting a behind the scenes look at the same time. The ice cream sail-a-way was also a big hit plus dancing under the moonlight on the promenade deck made for a very memorable evening.

Have included a few pictures from the voyage and if you’re on the fence about whether or not to try a Seabourn, my advice would be to jump right in and join the ranks of the other repeaters and start building your own milestone!

www.seabourn.com

Seabourn Club Video

Which is the best River Cruise Company for Europe ?

This is a question I get from my clients all the time and to answer it would be like choosing which child was the best of your children!

They all have their redeeming qualities and differences and it could really depend on ones own preferences as to the outcome. Let me give you an example – Uniworld River Cruises  www.uniworld.com has announced that they are going totally all inclusive for their 2014 European River Cruises (which means they will include unlimited beverages onboard including wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, juices, plus all shore excursions) which sounds the best except for the non-drinker who ends up paying more for their river cruise for those beverages they won’t consume. These people might think its best to choose Avalon Waterways www.avalonwaterways.com who only provide wine, beer and soft drinks at dinner which is reflected in the price.

Another example is with Viking River Cruises  www.vikingrivercruises.com and all their brand new “longships” that they have recently christened.  While it is so nice to be able to travel in the comfort of a new ship, in order to keep their pricing competitive, they made the decision to put in more staterooms which in turn hold more people.  All river cruise ships that travel on the Danube are regulated and cannot be longer than 443 feet.  The new Viking ships have 95 staterooms or 190 passengers where if you compare that to AMA Waterways www.amawaterways.com whose new ships are the same size, they only have 82 staterooms holding 164 passengers.  So Viking River might have the best pricing, but AMA Waterways have more public space onboard.

Talking about having more space onboard brings me to Tauck River Cruising  www.tauck.com/river-cruises  as they step it up a notch with their new ships having larger rooms, more dining options and capping the passengers at 130 in 67 cabins to get the best space ratio category. They include all beverages, the gratuties, a signature special experience and all shore excursions.

Unique for 2014 is Scenic River Cruise www.us.scenictours.com introduction of their new lower priced line Emerald Waterways www.emeraldwaterways.com which will be a first in the industry where one company has two distinct types of river cruises to choose from.  Scenic Tours originated in Australia selling package tours and is still privately owned there. Scenic also  offers the all inclusive concept but Emerald will only have wine and beer with lunch and dinner. Their aim with the new Emerald line is to target a younger demographic with their two ships having swimming pools that inventively convert into a cinema and their open-air balcon system that allows you to enjoy it no matter what the weather.

A new player in the North American market is A-Rosa Cruises www.arosacruises.com which has been operating in Europe for years but has now picked a few of their departures to cater exclusively to English speaking passengers. It will be interesting to see if they are able to keep up with the other big operators.

So you can see that its tough to pick the “best” one as each has their own unique benefits.  Viking River claims to have the “greenest” ships featuring diesel-electric hybrid engines specially designed for low vibration and minimal environmental impact. AMA Waterways is famous for their fresh food brought on from local ports. Avalon Waterways have the most innovative design in their cabins where they’ve turned the bed to face the french balcony sliding glass doors. Uniworld offers an interesting mix of programs for their shore excursions including Go Active, Gentle Walking, Do as the Locals Do and Village Day.

If you would like some additional information on any of these companies, ships or their itineraries, please feel free to drop me an email.  If you’ve already sailed on any of them – which one was your favourite and why ?

RiverCruiseLadyLinda

linda@therivercruiselady.com

 

Scenic Tours Launches Emerald Waterways

Scenic Tours announced the launch of a new premium river cruise line called Emerald Waterways, which will debut two new ships in early 2014 and is aimed at attracting a younger audience. The 182-passenger, 443-foot long sister ships Emerald Sky and Emerald Star, will debut in spring of 2014 and will cruise 7 to 14 night itineraries on the Rhine, Danube, Main and Mosel rivers.

 

Managing Director for Scenic Tours and Emerald Waterways, Chris Townson said “We believe we can attract a younger demographic, too, with value for money as the emphasis”, although he stressed the line would not be actively marketing to families.

 

Townson also said Emerald Waterways is positioning itself as a competitor to brands such as Viking Cruises and Avalon Waterways. He said the line would be competitive within the four-star range of cruise products while also boasting a handful of innovative design touches and nearly all-inclusive pricing. The most innovative new bit of design planned for the twin ships is a dual-purpose area at the aft of the ship that transforms from an indoor, heated pool with retractable roof during the day to a cinema at night. The rest of the ships’ new features have become standard, these include: good-sized suites, balconies in a majority of cabins and an open-air alternative dining space.

 

Emerald Waterways will include beer, wine and soft drinks at meals, shore excursions, transfers and tips within the cost of the overall fare, as does Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. Additionally, the line will offer free return flights to U.K. passengers traveling from London’s Heathrow airport and other regional airports. For passengers traveling from cities and countries outside the U.K., a spokesperson for the line said: “We can arrange flights for guests on a case by-case basis — however if the cost of the flight from a country other than the U.K. goes over an allocated budget, we would charge the guest extra. Or they can take the cruise as a ‘cruise only’ and book their own flights.”

 

Around the world cruising-small ship style

When talking about around the world cruises, Cunard or Holland America come to mind as they were the first cruise lines to really promote this kind of travel and both are still active with Cunard having three ships doing more than 116 day trips, Holland America with a 113 day one. However, many of the cruise lines with smaller ships are now tapping into this market and are definitely worth taking a look at.

The biggest benefit these little ships have is their passenger space ratio (which is derived from dividing the gross tonage of the ship by the number of passengers)     The idea is the greater the number, the more space you’ll have onboard.

 

Regent Seven Seas Voyageur ship which holds 700 passengers is doing the longest itinerary at 136 days from Auckland to London. Seabourn’s Sojourn ship which holds 450 passengers is doing a 116 day one from Los Angeles to Venice. Silversea’s Silver Whisper is the smallest at 382 passengers doing a 113 day itinerary from Los Angeles to Barcelona. All of these three ships have a space ratio of over 70 compared to a score of mid 40 for Holland America’s Amsterdam (1380 passengers) and Cunard’s QE2 (2090 passengers)

 

Most of these around the world sailings take place yearly in Jan/Feb but can be taken in shorter segments if you don’t have the time to take the full one.
I had a client who took a world cruise many times and on each voyage, he used the “at sea” days to write a new book. I thought it was a brilliant idea and he claimed he was much more inspired being away from home and seeing all the wonderful ports of call along the way.

So instead of heading south for the winter, choose the sea for a sail around the world and maybe you will be inspired too!

River views right from your bed

It’s amazing to see how the river cruise companies come up with such innovative ways to design their staterooms. You’ll see in the video below how Avalon Waterways changed the configuration of the cabin and now have the bed facing the window – genius idea !

(I joked that maybe it was designed by a woman because the old way used to face the TV and now it faces the spectacular scenery going by)

Do all river cruise companies have bikes onboard ?

This is popular question that I get asked when clients are inquiring about European river cruising so thought I would post the answer here for others to benefit from.

 

No, all of the river cruise companies do not have bikes onboard in Europe so if this is important to you, then you’ll want to look at:

 

1) AMA Waterways
2) A-Rosa
3) Scenic Tours
4) Tauck Tours
5) Uniworld

 

Avalon Waterways and Viking River Cruises are the two that do not have bikes onboard.

 

Happy sailing and cycling !

 

RiverCruiseLadyLinda
www.therivercruiselady.com

Bicycles on river cruises

Bicycles on river cruises

Viking River Cruises becomes Viking Cruises !

Viking River Cruises has been a leader in river cruising since they started in 1997 and has now decided to rebrand the company. They realized they wanted to tap into their river cruise passengers desire to take an ocean cruise to places they couldn’t reach. I think it is a brilliant idea and a way to keep their brand loyalty.

What is even more brilliant is that they took everything that was a negative about ocean cruising and made it a positive on their new ship, The Viking Star, which will debut in May 2015.

Some of the highlights are:
All staterooms have private veranda’s (no more inside cabins !)
An included shore excursion at every port (no more huge bills at the end of your cruise !)
All onboard meals included (no more surcharges for speciality restaurants !)
Complimentary wine, beer & soft drinks with onboard lunch and dinner (no more $9 per glass wine charges at dinner !!)
Complimentary specialty coffee & teas (no more $3 to $5 charges per cup !)
Complimentary wifi (no need to say anything more about this !)
Complementary self-service laundry (great for long trips – no more high cleaning bills !)
All port charges and govt taxes included in your price (the price you see is the price you pay !!)

All of this plus world class service, cultural enrichment and not sharing the ship with three thousand other people as the Viking Star holds just over 900 passengers.

All of us in the travel industry are looking forward to the arrival of this ship and here is a quick video to tell you more about it – enjoy !

Dreamin on the Amazon River

If a trip to the Amazon is on your bucket list, then a great way to experience the jungle atmosphere is to pair it with a voyage on the spectacular Sea Dream II. The company classifies the Sea Dream as “yachting, not cruising” and I was convinced after only a few days. Many of the cruise lines claim to do Amazon cruises but they only sail in as far as Manaus, Brazil but this was where the journey actually started heading towards Peru. There were just under 90 passengers onboard with 93 crew members so you can imagine how well we were taken care of.

The service level was the best I’ve ever experienced on a ship and the display of food would rival any five star restaurant. Chef Tomaz was very helpful in providing alternate dining options for my non-dairy diet and went above and beyond, creating a special soup for me everyday (they also offered many gluten free options too) He could be seen in the morning overseeing breakfast orders and was always very approachable. There was a small buffet area with fruits/cheese/desserts that we were welcomed to, but a staff member was always waiting nearby to carry your plate back to your table.

One of the great features of this ship (and the identical Sea Dream I) is their marina which is accessible from the stern. They would deploy the zodiacs which were stored at the bow and load us in for our daily adventures. Swimming in the Amazon – why yes you can! Not in the muddy waters but in the black water tributaries that were found everywhere as we motored along. One day we were able to get into the water with the pink dolphins (who are grey when they are born but turn pink as they age) and they were just as curious about us as we were thrilled to see them.

We visited a few villages along the way and met the locals who looked happy and healthy even though they were living in such remote places only accessible by boats. Their whole lives are based around the river and it was fascinating to see how they lived. They have to build their homes on stilts due to the rising water levels. We were invited into the home of an elderly midwife who gave us an acai berry drink, lovingly mixed with sugar (and ants!), which we drank to show our gratitude.

A trip to Monkey Island had us all laughing like little children when the squirrel monkeys would dive from the trees onto us, landing on our heads or shoulders and jumping from one person to the other.

The zodiacs were also used to take us out on expeditions in the jungle and the four guides that we had along with us were so informative and passionate about the Amazonian area, made us appreciate all the different species we were able to see.

During the day, the guides were able to spot birds, reptiles and animals embedded in the foliage that had us straining our eyes to focus on. I was thankful for a new camera purchase that had a great zoom lens to capture many pictures including the one of a sloth hanging out in the trees. One day we paddled through the reeds to completely immerse ourselves with surrounding vines and were treated to sounds like being at a symphony with the instruments consisting of birds chirping, monkeys squealing and frogs croaking – it was breathtaking.

We were lucky on the night expeditions as the full moon illuminated the zodiacs through the darkness where flashlights would light up the eerie eyeballs of the caimans in the water. The guides were fearless of the river and many times would thrust their hand into it and pull up a snake, frog and even a small caiman for us to photograph.

As we neared the end of our voyage, an unforgettable day was celebrated as we had breakfast in Brazil, lunch in Columbia and dinner in Peru. Disembarking in Inquitos, we were very sad to say goodbye to the hardworking staff on the Sea Dream II plus the new friends that we shared many amazing adventures with.