Cruise cabin night light

As we all get older (which seems to bring on more trips to the bathroom), I have found this great night light that I’ve been taking on all my river and ocean cruises lately (also works great for hotel rooms too) so thought I would share a quick video with you on this handy little device.
I brought it with my on my last trip and my roommate commented on what a smart idea it was and enjoyed the soft glow it projects rather than the typical blinding bathroom light in the middle of the night.
You should be able to find it at any hardware or drug store selling night lights and this flat style one seems to work the best. Then the only thing you need to remember is to pack it with you when you go!

Would you like to cruise around French Polynesia?

Small ship cruising is the best !
I recently returned from sailing on the Windstar Wind Spirit that had 140 passengers onboard (so in a way, its the same capacity if not less than a river cruise ship – but just built differently). The cruise began from Tahiti, which is actually in the same time zone as Hawaii and the non stop flight from LAX to Papeete takes only 8 hours. Most people think it is much further away but the tourism board has the best slogan which is “think of going to Honolulu but just watch one more movie and you’ll be in Tahiti!” You can see the location on the map below

Tahiti distance on map

Tahiti distance on map

Even with the sails down, the Wind Spirit sat majestically in the Papeete harbor waiting for the eager passengers to embark. There was a real demographic mix of people which included couples on their honeymoon (including many second marriage & same sex honeymoon couples) a few active families with their children, a few solo travellers and of course friends travelling together.

WindStar WindSpirit in Tahiti

Windstar Wind Spirit in Tahiti

Most cabins are the same layout located on decks one and two (out of four total). They have an amazing amount of space in them and the bathroom is one of biggest I’ve seen for a ship this size

Windstar Wind Spirt cabin

Windstar Wind Spirit cabin

Windstar Wind Spirt bathroom

Windstar Wind Spirt bathroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even more amazing though is the blue/green warm water, the palm trees and the sunshine. If you love the beach, then this is the perfect holiday for you. One day we went to Motu Mahaea where you can see in the picture the clear water, the blue sky, the shady palms and on the right, they even set up two tents where the spa staff were giving massages on the beach. The sports staff brought paddle boards and the chef even cooked up an excellent bbq lunch – which all added up to a perfect day.

Windstar beach day at Motu Mahaea

Windstar beach day at Motu Mahaea

View of Motu (Island) Mahaea

View of Motu (Island) heading back to ship

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our ship visited the Islands of Moorea, Tahaa, Raiatea, Bora Bora and Huahine where plenty of shore excursions were available if you wanted to take in a swim with the stingrays or snorkel to see the colorful fish. There were quite a few hikes offered and many visits to Pearl Farms or for the more adventurous – 4 wheel drive off roading. On our second day in Bora Bora, many of us rented these crazy looking little electric cars called a Twizy and drove all around the island (which if you didn’t stop, could do in an hour)

Twizy car around Bora Bora

Twizy car around Bora Bora

One night, we were taken by catamaran to another Motu close to Bora Bora where Windstar hosted us for an evening feast with local entertainment – such a fun night and they even put up the sails so when we were returning back to the ship guided by the moonlight, it was a breathtaking sight.

Windstar special Island evening

Windstar special Island evening

Windstar presented fresh local Tahitian foods

Windstar presented fresh local Tahitian foods

Wind Spirit in the moonlight with the sails up

Wind Spirit in the moonlight with the sails up

If you have a bit of trouble with a rocking motion though, this may not be the ship for you as many nights the gentle roll stepped it up a notch. I was not bothered by it at all but noticed there were many SeaBands and ear patches after our first night of it.

One of the most memorable things is the song that was played when the sails went up (Conquest of Paradise in case you were wondering) & everyone would gather around during the sailaway ritual which always ended with cheers. So I guess the question should be re-phrased from ‘Would you like to cruise around French Polynesia’ to ‘When do you want to go ?’
For more information, visit www.windstarcruises.com or drop me a comment with your questions about the trip.

Maururu ! (Thank you in Tahitian)

The highs and lows of River Cruising

High water, low water – not too long ago I was asked by a reporter if I warn my clients about the possibility that the water levels on the river could affect their river cruise. I replied honestly that I didn’t and it got me thinking about whether or not I should.

However I also book their airline tickets and does this mean that I should be warning them about the possibility of the flight being delayed or being re-routed or worst of all, cancelled ?

United Airlines has been in the news lately for a couple of unexpected re-routed flights where the passengers were stranded in foreign airports overnight, some having to sleep on the airport floor with no access to their baggage. The key here is “unexpected” because even if these people were told in advance that this could happen, no one thinks it will ever happen to them.
I believe it comes down to how the situation is treated as in the United’s case, most passengers were very angry about the lack of support and no communication.

This is where it differs from the river cruise lines (and I do realize the they are dealing with much smaller numbers) but our company had some passengers who were to get on a Rhine river cruise in Basel and due to high water, the ship was not able to get under the bridge into the city. The company had staff on hand to assist guests, they ordered extra coaches to bus people up the river to where the ship was located and generally tried to keep people informed and the disruption to a minimum. In speaking with our clients when they returned, they said they felt well taken care of.

Now I know that many will say, well the airlines could never be like that but I had a scenario with Singapore Airlines that I will never forget. I boarded a flight once in Bali and then the power went out in the terminal so we sat on the tarmac for quite a while before we were able to depart. I was supposed to connect in Singapore for a flight to Hong Kong, however after our delay, realized that I was going to miss my connection. So I was dreading getting off the plane not knowing when I could catch another flight. However, this is where superior customer service came into play as an airline representative was waiting with my name on a sign & when approached, was handed my new ticket for a flight three hours later, a meal voucher and offered an apology for missing my connection. I was absolutely astounded and kept looking around thinking I was on TV or something because I had never seen anything like it.

So instead of warning clients about the possibility of disruptions, will always try to book them with companies that will take care of them with some old fashioned customer service.

High water mark level in Passau Germany

High water mark level in Passau Germany

This was a picture that I took in Passau Germany in 2011 which shows the high and low water mark level from the Danube River. In 2013, they suffered the highest water levels in 500 years and it went up over the top mark shown by at least another foot, it was an unbelievable sight.

Uniworld introduces river cruising to India

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has released their itinerary for a never before river cruise adventure called the India’s Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges for 2016.
Here is a map of the trip

Uniworld India Itinerary

Uniworld India Itinerary

Having just returned from the doing the golden triangle (which is New Delhi to Agra to Jaipur) I will be excited to be able to share first hand knowledge for cruisers wanting to take in this amazing trip. I had seen many pictures of the Taj Mahal before going there but when I actually saw it in person, it took my breath away.

First Glimpse of the Taj Mahal

First Glimpse of the Taj Mahal


The stunning Taj Mahal

The stunning Taj Mahal

Here are the highlights of the trip with pricing starting at $7500usd per person based on double and I believe its going to be a popular trip.

Your cruise/tour package includes:

Travel
7-night Ganges River cruise in a riverview suite onboard the Ganges Voyager II*
5 nights in luxurious Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, including daily buffet breakfast and all service charges, taxes, and porterage*
Tips for local experts and drivers
All transportation throughout your trip, including intra-India flight between Jaipur and Kolkata
All transfers on arrival and departure days

Taste
12 buffet breakfasts, 10 lunches, 9 dinners
Welcome and Farewell Dinners
Afternoon tea in the Governor’s Lounge
Complimentary local beers, spirits, and soft drinks throughout the cruise
Onboard/onshore dinners include complimentary house wine, local beers, or soft drinks
Afternoon coffee, tea, and snacks in the Governor’s Lounge

Explore
11 days of captivating, fully escorted excursions with English-speaking local experts
Services of an experienced Uniworld Cruise/Tour Manager throughout your trip
State-of-the-art portable audio-headset system on all excursions throughout your trip

Experience
Flowers and fruit plate upon arrival
Onboard cultural enrichment, including traditional sitar music, a Bollywood-style song and dance show, and more
*Ship and hotels are subject to change

Top Ten Travel Tips

1) As you begin your travel plans, check your passport expiry date. I’ve had many clients who didn’t check until right before they left and had to pay huge rush fees to get a new one.

Passport Picture

Passport Picture

2) Buy travel insurance (both cancellation and out of country medical) It may seem like an extra cost that you don’t need but it sure pays for itself tenfold if you have to make a claim. You never think you’ll have a house fire or a break-in but most people buy home insurance every year.

3) Call your credit card company to advise them you will be travelling out of the country so they won’t be suspicious of any charges and possibly freeze your card.

4) Check the voltage and plug types for the country you’ll be visiting and make sure you have the appropriate adapter. (When my husband & I travel together, I even take a small surge protector power bar since we have so many devices between the two of us!) Plus don’t forget to pack your power cords in your carry-on bag as you never know if you’ll be delayed and need them.

5) If travelling somewhere that immunizations or preventative medication is recommended, make sure you start taking well enough in advance (For instance, the Twinrix Hepatitis A&B combo shot is 3 doses that takes six months to complete)

6) Tie a ribbon, bandana or something unique to your bags so they stand out at the luggage carousel and make it less likely that someone will take yours by accident. Also, make sure your bags are tagged with identification (and not just on the outside as those tags can get torn off, you should also put your contact information inside your suitcase as may help if it gets lost.)

7) Speaking of lost luggage, if you’ve ever been waiting and waiting for your bag only to realize that everyone else has left, then that sickening feeling hits you as you finally come to terms that your bag did not arrive, you’ll love this tip – before you leave home, take a picture of your bag with your camera or smartphone so when the agent asks you to fill out all the paperwork with the color, type etc, you have the info at your fingertips. I also take a picture of what I’ve packed inside because if the bag never shows up, it helps jog your memory on what to claim. (I could probably do an entire list just on luggage tips as I’ve lost many bags!)

8) Before leaving on your trip, find out what the luggage allowance is for ALL your flights – if you are changing to a smaller aircraft from an overseas flight, they can be vastly different. You don’t want to get caught with overweight luggage and huge excess charges at check in. In your documentation, make sure you have your booking reference numbers for each airline as they too can be different.

9) If making a few airplane changes which means going through many airport security check points, keep your outfit simple – wear shoes that are easy to take on and off, don’t wear bangles or other jewelry (or coins in your pocket) that might set off the machines. Have your laptop and see through bag of liquids (under 100ml or 3 oz) handy at the top of your carry-on bag.

10) The most important tip of all is to pack your patience!
Your flight might get delayed, your hotel room may not be ready when you arrive, your transfer might not show up, you may get lost, your cruise cabin might be under the gym (this one happened to me once and the cabin shook when one particular guy ran on the treadmill at top speed) and many other mishaps but travel is all about the journey, the destination and the troubles that turn into stories once you get home. Embrace them and be thankful that you’re able to be out experiencing the wonder of our world.

Jazz it up to Graceland on a Mississippi River Cruise!

The brand new American Eagle paddlewheeler will be raising the standard for river cruising when American Cruise Lines launches this beauty in April of 2015.

A great time will be had cruising the Lower Mississippi River from New Orleans to Memphis. Starting out in a place where centuries old architecture is the backdrop for a culture steeped in a history of influences from Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and beyond. New Orleans is home to a truly unique melting pot of culture, food and music where you’ll find bowls filled to the rim with gumbo and wonderful sounds coming from the jazz clubs.
Board your brand new ship and head north, stopping in Oak Alley, Baton Rouge and St. Francisville in Louisiana along the way. Sailing into Mississippi, you’ll visit Vicksburg to find perfectly blended Southern culture and heritage along with hallowed stories of Civil War battles.
Reaching Tennessee doesn’t have to end your journey, why not stay a few extra days in the legendary Peabody Memphis and visit the iconic Graceland or the Memphis Zoo.

Then when you’ve done this unforgettable journey, you’ll be ready to sign up for their Upper Mississippi river cruise itinerary !

Or if you’ve got plenty of time (and money!) on your hands, they have one epic journey in August that travels the entire length of the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Paul, MN in 22 days. Visit 10 states, even more than Huck Finn’s famous trip down the Mississippi River, to experience a complete history of the western frontier.

American Eagle Paddlewheeler

American Eagle Paddlewheeler

Combine your river cruise with a BMW or Audi factory tour

Exclusive to The River Cruise Lady !

Trying to convince your significant other to take a river cruise with you ? Then they will love this Danube itinerary which sails from the beautiful city of Budapest and ending in Munich where we add on a BMW or Audi factory tour (or both if you prefer !)

Dates and availability are limited so email your preferred departure to linda@therivercruiselady.com and everything can be arranged for you from your airfare, transfers, extra hotel nights so no stress for you.

Would you buy a river cruise without heated seats ?

Since my husband has been in the process of buying a newer car lately, it got me thinking about the similarities between purchasing a car and purchasing a river cruise.

It really depends on where you are in your life cycle that steers you towards a certain type of car or cruise. For instance, most cars do exactly the same things, they go forward, reverse, have windshield wipers, headlights and it will get to and from your destination. Same with a river cruise, most of the companies do the same routes on the rivers, stop at the same towns, offer meals, drinks and entertainment onboard and get you to and from your destination.

Now the “extras” are what sets them both apart.

For the cars, you can buy a basic one like a Ford Fusion for just over $20,000 that has power windows, locks, keyless entry and air conditioning. More upgrades would include a sunroof, navigation system, and that wonderful in winter feature – heated seats.

It’s a great car but you find many choosing the popular Audi A5 which cost wise with the prestige trim, will put you over the $50,000 range but comes complete with auto-dimming exterior mirrors, adaptive Xenon Plus headlights, a Parking System Plus with a reversing camera, and side assist blind-spot warning system, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with Bluetooth capability plus more. (whew)

Well the same goes for river cruises, it is not as though one company is better than the other, some just offer more “extras” where everything is included.

For example, you could take a 7 night river cruise on the Seine with Avalon Waterways and it would be wonderful – they include wine/beer with dinner and include most excursions. Their ship holds 140 passengers and for some, they will purchase the optional excurions, everyone pays gratuities at the end and depending on how many drinks you’ve enjoyed throughout the week, will have a bit of a bar bill to settle.

Take that same cruise with Tauck and everything is included from the drinks, excursions, transfers to and from the airport or train station plus all gratuities onboard and on the tours. (they also include fancy extras like a private dinner at a chateau in Normandy) Their ship only holds 118 passengers for the same size of vessel so you’ve got more space. Plus they have 14 suites at 300 sq feet each compared to only 2 on Avalon’s (which are 258 sq feet) Tauck also has bicycles onboard that you can sign out on your own or on a bike excursion.

The price difference?

For a mid summer departure in 2015, the Avalon river cruise will start at approx. $3150usd, the Tauck one will start at $5990usd per person based on double. If you want an even longer experience where your ship is docked right at Honfleur (which is only a stones throw from the D-Day landing beaches) then a 10 night all inclusive cruise with Scenic cruises would be your choice and their starting price for this itinerary is $6330usd and up.

So it really does depend on where you are in life as to how much you want to spend on your river cruise. I find the older we get, the more we are willing to spend because frankly, we’ve earned it. We have worked hard all our lives starting out with the basics and now we are in a position where we can enjoy all the bells and whistles. (and heated seats !)

We were all taught the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ and it is so true when it comes to river cruising, you can sail with many of the companies and it will be wonderful or you can sail with a few of the all-inclusive lines & the trip will be amazing.

Whichever one you choose, you will love the experience of getting into the heart of your destination.

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