Monthly Archives: October 2012

Rhine River Getaway

Rhine River Getaway

Amsterdam to Basel – Itinerary (8 days/6 guided tours/4 countries)

Day 1 –  Amsterdam:  Arrive in Amsterdam and enjoy free time after boarding the ship.

Day 2 –  Kinderdijk:  Tour Kinderdijk windmills, a UNESCO Site.

Day 3 –  Cologne:  Walking tour and Gothic Cathedral visit, free time to visit a local brewery and sample Kolsch.

Day 4 –  Koblenz:  Marksburg Castle excursion.

Day 4 –  Rhine River:  Cruising the Middle Rhine, a UNESCO Site.

Day 4 –  Rudesheim:  Evening at leisure to stroll the Drosselgasse, perhaps sample local wines.

Day 5 –  Heidelberg:  Half-day city tour featuring Heidelburg Castle and free time.

Day 5 –  Speyer:  Evening at leisure to stroll the cobbled streets; see Speyer Cathedral, a UNESCO Site.

Day 6 –  Strasbourg:  Walking tour featuring Strasbourg Cathedral; afternoon at leisure to shop or sample Alsatian treets.

Day 7 –  Breisach:  Black Forest scenery tour with clock-making demonstration; optional vineyard tour or optional Colmar excursion.  Excellent place to purchase a Black Forest cuckoo clock

Day 8 –  Basel:  River cruise ends.  Return to airport.

**Extend your journey with a 2 day stay in Amsterdam or Lucerne.  This itinerary can be reversed.

Included:

8 day cruise with river-view stateroom

6 guided tours with audio headset

All meals: 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners featuring regional specialties and including Welcome Cocktail Reception and Dinner and Captain’s Farewell Dinner

Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with onboard dinner and lunch service

Visit 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Culture Curriculum: Enjoy a classical music performance; learn how to create your own Alsatian Flammkuchen; observe a traditional glassblower, attend lectures on Germany’s current affairs & origins of Rhine River cruising.  Note: some dates offer wine curriculum’s.

All port charges included

Free wi-fi connection

**ADDED BONUS**  EARLY BOOKING DISCOUNT

2-for-1 cruisetour prices, plus 2-for-1 roundtrip air.  Limited time offer.

Call 919.708.8217 for details.

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Having Trouble Speaking A Foreign Language – I’m Not Alone!

Having Trouble Speaking A Foreign Language – I’m Not Alone!.

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Having Trouble Speaking A Foreign Language – I’m Not Alone!

Having Trouble Speaking A Foreign Language – I’m Not Alone!

I read an interesting article in Travel and Leisure that hit close to home for me.  I am guilty of buying all the “Language for Dummies” books for many countries.  I am the first to admit, the only thing I “get” out of these language books are the simple words such as hello, goodbye, please, thank you, restaurant, bathroom (very important), police, and how much.  When I travel to foreign countries, I do try to speak these few words to let the natives know I was interested enough in their language to attempt my foreign tongue.  These few words have gotten me by in Mexico, Central and South America, Italy, Spain, France, and Switzerland.  I did try to learn a little German on my Switzerland vacation, but I have to say I did a poor job enunciating the German words.  In Zurich, I was completely lost with 20 guests with me waiting for me to take them to a popular restaurant for lunch.  Part of the Swiss Cantons speak German and part Italian, so I was hopeful I would be understood.  Boy, was I in for an experience.  I put on my best American smile and approached two elderly German ladies on the sidewalk.  With map in hand,  I told them I was an American and was lost.  They thought I was trying to rob them.  After many “attempts” at the German words, I finally pointed to the street I wanted and they pointed me in the right direction.  All ended well and we had a wonderful lunch on one of the most popular streets in Zurich.

Morale of the story: Even when you do not speak the language, do not let it prevent you from experiencing different countries and their cultures.  It is amazing what fascinating places you discover when you are LOST!

http://tinyurl.com/8zu4joe

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Golden Trails Of Africa

Golden Trails Of Africa

Visit Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and South Africa  on this 19 day safari/cruise expedition.

Itinerary:

Day 1 – Overnight flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

Day 2 – Arrive in Nairobi where you will have the evening free to explore Nairobi.

Day 3 – Nairobi – Amboseli – Drive to Amboseli National Park for a spectacular view of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.  Emjoy game drives through this stunning landscape.  The home of the Maasai people, you will observe herds of elephant, cape buffalo, impala, lion, zebra and water fowl.

Day 4 – Amboseli – Morning and afternoon game drives where you encounter rhinos, cheetahs, and wildebeests.  Visit traditional manyatas settlements of the Maasai where you will have a traditional feast and tribal dancing overlooking a big game waterhole.

Day 5 – Amboseli – Lake Manyara – Drive to Lake Manyara National Park to see tree-climbing lions, hippos, wildebeests, warthogs and giraffes.  Also view over 300 migratory birds.

Day 6 – Lake Manyara – Ngorongoro National Park – Early morning game drive in Lake Manyara National Park.  In Ngorongoro Conservation area, visit Ngorongoro Archaeological Museum and see fossilized remains of some of man’s oldest ancestors.

Day 7 – Ngorongoro National Park – Known as “the eighth wonder of the world,” the Ngorongoro Crater is one of Africa’s best known wildlife areas. Enjoy a full day game drive where 25,000 large mammals wander the plains-bull elephants, lions, wildebeests and buffalo.

Day 8 – Ngorongoro National Park – Serengeti National Park – Drive to Serengeti National Park for the next three nights.  The park offers not only all the members of The Big Five, but also the annual migration of the wildebeests, an awe-inspiring sight.

Day 9 – Serengeti National Park – Tanzania’s greatest park is dominated by a spectacle of wildlife.  Lion prides, leopards, cheetahs, and all three species of the African jackal, along with spotted hyena, blue wildebeest and 500-plus bird species.  Daily morning and afternoon game drives.

Day 10 – Serengeti National Park – Morning and afternoon game drives through Tanzania’s greatest park.

Day 11 – Serengeti National Park – Arusha – Johannesburg – Fly to Johannesburg and enjoy the remainder of your day at leisure.  This is a good time to buy those souvenirs.

Day 12 – Johannesburg – Zambezi Queen – Fly to Victoria Falls and transfer to Kasane.  Here, board the Zambezi Queen, docked on the Chobe River.  Depart for sunset cruise.

Day 13 – Zambezi Queen – Disembark for game drive in Chobe National Park, home of one of the densest populations of wildlife on the African continent.  Encounter elephants, leopards, lions, gazelle and buffalo.  Later, venture out on a tender boat for close-up views of the wild animals gathering along the river.  Enjoy a delicious Boma dinner ashore, savoring the distinct flavors of Africa.

Day 14 – Zambezi Queen – Begin your day with a visit to Kasenu village where you will have time to shop for local artifacts.  Board a mokono to explore the waterways and.  Relax on the beach in rustic style tents as you enjoy local delicacies cooked from a traditional wood fire oven.

Day 15 – You have a choice between a game drive in the Chobe National Park or a fishing excursion for the famous tigerfish.  Late afternoon, travel by boat to observe crocodiles, hippos and elephants in their natural habitat.  Enjoy a traditional African barbecue prepared by the locals.

Day 16 – Zambezi Queen – Victoria Falls – Transfer to Victoria Falls, one of the greatest natural wonders of the earth.  Enjoy the afternoon to explore the city and get in more souvenir shopping.

Day 17 – Victoria Falls – Today your local guide will take you on a tour of the remarkable Victoria Falls.  Later, embark on a Sundowner Cruise along the Zambezi River.

Day 18 – Today our African journey draws to a close.  We bid adieu to Africa.

Day 19 – Return home reminiscing about your trip of a lifetime.
#river cruises

**ADDED BONUS** – Dinner in Johannesburg  &  Dinner in Victoria Falls with my compliments!

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Let’s Go Shopping!

Let’s Go Christmas Shopping!

Yes, let’s go Christmas shopping, but not at the local mall.  I am talking about the world famous German Christmas Markets.  I did some research about the German Christmas markets for my weekly newsletter.  The more I learned, the more excited I became.  Did you know that Germany’s first Christmas market was recorded way back in 1393?  Back in those days, Advent markets only lasted a couple of days, but things are different now, I am happy to say.

 If you’re looking for Christmas inspiration, nothing beats strolling around romantic booths at a Christmas market in a fabulous setting.  There are millions of visitors each year, so I think it is time for me to check them out.  Along with handcrafted Christmas decorations made as they have been for generations, there are wooden nutcrackers (my favorite), Nativity scenes, and beautiful hand-painted, blown glass ornaments.  And yes, they have shopping malls along with the small stalls and shops to keep us shopping till our wallets are empty.

 Not only are the Christmas markets a great place to shop, but they have many wonderful things to eat.  Remember the carol-“chestnuts roasting on a open fire”, well they have them along with gingerbread cookies and spicy mulled wine (Gluhwein).  Makes me hungry just thinking about it. 

 I read the Nuremberg Christmas market was the biggest and best, but since I have never been, I defer to the seasoned Christmas market travelers.  I sure would love to hear your comments!

 So, if my version of a typical German Christmas market makes you want to go–then go.  You may see me there too! 

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Planning A Vacation – Tips For A Successful Vacation – Part 5

Planning A Vacation – Tips For A Successful Vacation – Part 5.

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Planning A Vacation – Tips For A Successful Vacation – Part 5

Planning A Vacation – Tips For A Successful Vacation – Part 5

We have come to the fifth and final edition of my Tips For A Successful Vacation.  I hope you were able to retain some of my tips and will use them on your first or next vacation.  They are especially useful when you are traveling out of the United States.

Tipping etiquette – Many of us have wondered how much we are supposed to tip, and when is it appropriate to tip.  Tipping “rules” vary by destination.  A good rule of thumb is check the website for your destination (part 1 again) regarding the tipping requirements.  Generally, at a hotel it is customary to tip the bellhop, the maid, the wait staff; and the concierge if it is warranted.  On escorted tours, tipping is expected for the driver and tour guide.  But, in some countries tipping is frowned upon.  For example, I was in Spain a few years ago and I tried to tip the waiter and concierge.  They “informed” me that in their country it is a privilege to serve people and they do not require a tip.  They WOULD NOT take any money.  At all-inclusive destinations, tipping is included in the cost of the trip; but I have found if you leave a little tip to the maid or pool staff, you will always have clean towels, a clean bathroom, a freshly made bed, and plenty of cool beverages by the pool.  On cruise vacations, tipping is added to your shipboard account.

Shopping – Where do I begin.  This section is directed to all the ladies.  We always want to buy souvenirs and trinkets as a remembrance of our vacation  Some of us want to do serious shopping.  When I am in Italy, I buy leather purses, shoes, and Italian gold jewelry.  In France, I buy perfume.  In Switzerland, I buy chocolates and Cuckoo clocks.  Get the idea…..

Safety – The most important TIP.  With worldwide situations, all travelers may face some level of risk in unfamiliar environments or cultures.  To reduce that risk, never travel alone, especially at night.  Always travel in small groups if possible.  Remember-there is safety in numbers.  If you did your research (part 1), you will know about the stability of the country you are visiting.  I once had problems in Italy with Gypsies.  Now,  I have nothing against Gypsies–just the ones that are pickpockets!  Just hold on to your purses and wallets.  I had my watch stolen right off my wrist and I never felt a thing.  NEVER-EVER VENTURE OUT ON YOUR OWN IN ANY FOREIGN COUNTRY!

Make Memories – The true success of any vacation is to make lasting memories.  Take lots of pictures or videos.  I always try to keep a journal of my trips, since I tend to forget some of the details. My family and friends love to hear about my “adventures.”

Starting Over – The best time to start planning your next vacation is immediately after you return from vacation.  The thrill and excitement you just experienced will inspire you to start the “RESEARCH” on your next travel destination.

TRAVEL SAFE AND ALWAYS ENJOY YOUR VACATIONS!

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Planning A Vacation – Tips For A Successful Vacation

Planning A Vacation – Tips For A Successful Vacation (Part 4)

Time To Eat – You are finally at your destination.  Your stomach is telling you its way past time to eat.  But where, you are in a strange place and have no idea what is available.  If you already have a restaurant list (part 1), you are already ahead of the game.  If not, request a listing of restaurants where you are staying when you check in.  It is always a good idea to be friendly with wait staff and bartenders at your hotel, especially if you are staying for an extended period of time.  They can make your dining experience a pleasure or nightmare.  The wait staff are also a great source for recommendations of restaurants in the area you are visiting.  They are definitely in the know!

What About Money – All travel destinations will love to take your money in most any form.  May Caribbean countries still take US dollars, but in some countries you will need to convert your currency to the currency of their country.  Most European nations accept the Euro.  The cheapest way to convert your money in a foreign country is by using the ATM’s.  The ATM’s have a cheaper conversion rate than some of the money exchange offices.  If you want to convert your money before you go, check with your local bank or airport.  Be sure to ask for SMALL bills when converting.  Small bills will be easier for you to manage.  If you are making purchases at a street side vendor or outdoor marketplace (these will be some of the cheaper souvenir spots), many of these will not accept large bills.  In some countries, torn edges on bills will not be accepted.  The great thing, you can use your credit cards worldwide.  As a safety precaution, inform your credit card company or banking institution that you will be making purchases on the card during the dates of your vacation to prevent fraudulent purchases after your trip.  In the event of theft or a lost card, please make a copy of your credit card number and customer service number.  Place the number in a safe place.  More and more countries are requiring a PIN number to use with your credit card when you make purchases.  Check with your credit card issuer or bank to get a valid PIN number to use with your card.  Also, you will need your passport when you make large purchases overseas as proof of identity.

As a side bar, I have had my purse stolen out of the country and fortunately I make copies of my card front and back.  Within 30 minutes, the thief maxed out my card, but since I had informed my credit card company I was out of the country, I was not liable.  Also, my credit card number was lifted in a foreign country and when I got the credit card statement, boy was I in shock.  Once again, since the charge was made after I was back home, the credit card company abated the fraudulent charges.  I have learned from experience.

Stay tuned for part 5 and the final segment of my Tips For A Successful Vacation.  Happy travels…

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Planning A Vacation – Tips For A Successful Vacation

Planning A Vacation – Tips For A Successful Vacation (Part 3)

I hope you have gotten a few tips you can use in my first two parts.  Part three will go over getting there and what to do when you do get there.

Getting There – You can go anywhere in the world either by air, ship, rail, or bus.  Knowing which is the best option is the key to a happy vacation and your wallet.  Remember to factor in how to get from the airport, cruise port, rail and bus stations.  You don’t want to forget those transfers.  Many times travelers forget about the transfers and end up missing out on hours of vacation time waiting to get a taxi or shuttle.  Been there-done that.

When You Get There – You have finally arrived at your dream vacation destination.  Now what to do next!  Once you get settled in, the first thing I always do is a “walk about” of the area to get familiar with my surroundings.  Be sure to visit the tour desk if you have not made prior tour arrangements.  Now is the time to book those tours.  If you did your research, (part 1) you know there are lots of tourist sites you want to visit.

Culture – Always be aware of the culture of the area you are visiting.  If you did your research (part 1), you will know many foreign cultures differ greatly from the one you are accustomed to.  You do NOT want to offend the people of the country you are visiting.  Be sure to dress and eat accordingly.  For example, if visiting Egypt, passing food with the left hand is an insult.  Women must cover their shoulders at all times and no bare legs can be shown.  In some countries, a simple American hand gesture is improper.  I have found it very helpful to learn a few phrases in the language of the country you are visiting.  Thank you, Hello, Please, Goodbye, Bathroom are very useful words to know and will let the locals know you are “trying” to speak their language.  They will be more apt to help you.

Stay tuned for part 4 of my Tips For A Successful Vacation.  They helped me..Hopefully they will help you too.

 

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Christmas In The Heart of Germany

Christmas In The Heart of Germany – This holiday season, sail along the picturesque Main River between Frankfurt and Nuremberg.  Explore the Bavarian regions of Germany, tour the dramatic sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle, the Romantic Road to Rothenburg, historic Nuremberg, and best of all, experience Germany’s world-famous Christmas markets.  Many of our seasonal traditions began in Germany.  So come along and explore the magnificent Christmas markets of Germany on this amazing cruise.

Day 1- Nuremberg – Arrive in Nuremberg and transfer from the airport to embark your ship.  After boarding, relax, or begin exploring this historic city on your own.  After dinner, relax and enjoy musical entertainment in the lounge.

Day 2- Nuremberg – Morning tour of the city’s most prominent landmarks, enjoy the iconic Christmas market in the Old Town’s Main Market Square.  Browse booths with colorful ornaments, gifts, and fragrant treats; there is no better place to shop for handmade wooden toys and nutcrackers.  Savor the traditional lebkuchen and gluhwein.  Free time this afternoon to further explore Nuremberg before boarding your ship for dinner.

Day 3 – Bamberg – Visit Bamberg with its medieval city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Your walking tour includes a visit to the 11th- century cathedral and picturesque city hall built on an island in the middle of a river.  Free time to walk around Bamberg or visit its traditional Christmas markets.

Day 4 – Wurzburg & Rothenburg – Disembark in Gerlachshausen for a full day in two of Northern Bavaria’s most charming destinations.  Walk through Wurzburg and tour the Bishops’ Residenz, a beautiful baroque palace.  Then take a deluxe ride along the Romantic Road to Rothenberg.  Lunch at a local Bavarian restaurant and shopping in its joyful Christmas Market.  Rothenberg is also home to Germany’s Christmas Museum.  Return to Wurzburg for onboard dinner.

Day 5 – Wertheim – Enjoy scenic cruising this morning; sail into Wertheim, located at the confluence of the Main and Tauber Rivers.  You will experience life in a typical small German town on your walking tour.  Free time to visit Wertheim’s Christmas market.  Onboard enjoy Wertheim’s traditional glassblowing art as you sail toward Frankfurt.

Day 6 – Heidelberg – Arrive at Frankfurt for a full-day excursion to Heidelberg, home to Germany’s oldest university.  Tour the red sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle, originally built in the 12th century.  Your tour ends at Old Town and marketplace where you will have time to shop at the Christmas market.  Shop for gifts, sample delightful treats, lunch at a local cafe.  After dinner onboard, you will have free time to explore Frankfurt this evening to discover Frankfurt’s charming elegant city.

Day 7 – Frankfurt – Our Christmas in the Heart of Germany ends and we return home with suitcases full of gifts and our hearts full of memories. #rivercruises

****EARLY BOOKING DISCOUNT****

2 for 1 Airfare Available with early booking.  Call for details. 919.708.8217

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