I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
Cruising Norway, in the Land of Viking Footprints A Multigenerational Cruise on the Rhine River Cruising the Canal du Midi in France A Review of U.S. River Cruises
A Cruise of the FIRST MAGNITUDE Italy - Greece - Turkey Malta - Sicily - Crete
Cruising the Volga with Love A Trip Down the Danube
The Magazine Written by North American Travel Journalists Association Members
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR From a “Cruise of the First Magnitude” on a ship that rivals a city, to meandering down a river on a surprisingly sophisticated and luxurious vessel such as a steamboat or even a barge ... cruising is truly the rage! You can unpack once and enjoy days of travel, unincumbered and relaxed. Cruising is ideal for multigenerational family travel or solo travel. People with various physical and social interests can all participate in the increasing plethora of activities designed to cover everyone’s wishes. One thing is for certain ... cruising is a growing industry. The options are increasing by leaps and bounds. Whether you are interested in a specialty or a bargain, there is a cruise available for you. Here are just a few of the cruising experiences of our North American Travel Journalists. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to try a new cruise! Sincerely, Joy Bushmeyer Managing Editor TravelWorld International Magazine
TRAVEL TRIVIA “CRUISE SHIP” QUIZ
TravelWorld International Magazine is the only magazine that showcases the member talents of the North American Travel Journalists Association
Group Publisher: Publisher: Editor in Chief: Editor: Managing Editor: Art Direction: Operations Manager:
NATJA Publications Helen Hernandez Bennett W. Root, Jr. Dennis A. Britton Joy Bushmeyer Artistic Design Services Yanira Leon
Contributing Writers : Jacqueline Harmon Butler Jennifer Crites Trish Foxwell Dave Houser Bob & Sandy Nesoff Lisa Richardson Nancy Schretter Kristen Winet
Editorial /Advertising Offices: TravelWorld International Magazine 3579 E. Foothill Blvd., #744 Pasadena, CA 91107 Phone: (626) 376.9754 Fax: (626) 628-1854 www.travelworldmagazine.com
1. What is the derivation of the term “Lido Deck”? 2. What is the meaning of the term “sea legs”? 3. What’s a poop deck? 4. Where did the term “as the crow flies” come from? 5. What does the big “X” on the funnels of Celebrity ships stand for? 6. When does a boat become a ship? 7. Which of the following three vessels is not considered a yacht: a) a 12-foot outboard inflatable dinghy b) a six-foot kayak c) a 32-foot motorized charter catamaran? (Answers on Pages 59)
Volume 2015.02 Fall 2015. Copyright ©2015 by NATJA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Advertising rates and information sent upon request. Acceptance of advertising in TravelWorld International Magazine in no way constitutes approval or endorsement by NATJA Publications, Inc., nor do products or services advertised. NATJA Publications and TravelWorld International Magazine reserve the right to reject any advertising. Opinions expressed by authors are their own and not necessarily those of Travel World International Magazine or NATJA Publications. TravelWorld International Magazine reserves the right to edit all contributions for clarity and length, as well as to reject any material submitted, and is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts. This periodical’s name and logo along with the various titles and headings therein, are trademarks of NATJA Publications, Inc. PRODUCED IN U.S.A.
travel world SUMMER 2015
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
F E A T U R E S
& S T O R I E S
6 Cruising Norway, in the Footsteps of Vikings Story & Photos by Jennifer Crites
16 A Cruise of the First Magnitude
Italy ~ Greece ~ Turkey ~ Malta ~ Sicily ~ Crete
Story by Lisa Richardson & Photos by Jim Richardson
24 A Review of U.S. River Cruises Story by Dave Houser
31 A Multigenerational Rhine River Cruise Story & Photos by Nancy Schretter
Photo credit: Robert Demar / aerial view, Mark Gardner / bikes, Mike Bertrand / Friday Harbor, Jim Maya / whales
Lopez Island • Orcas Island • San Juan Island / Friday Harbor
InspIratIon For the senses VisitSanJuans.com
Explore Historic Friday Harbor Find Endless Adventure
Discover Nature’s Splendor
travel world SUMMER 2015
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
F E A T U R E S
& S T O R I E S
38 Up a Lazy Canal ...
Cruising the Canal du Midi in France Story & Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler
46 Cruising the Volga with Love Story & Photos by Kristin Winet
52 A Trip Down the Danube
Story & Photos by Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Cruising Norway In the Footsteps of the Vikings Story and Photos by Jennifer Crites
Nothing says Norway like massive glaciers, deep and winding fjords, and, of course, Vikingsâ€”those fearsome seafaring warriors who once terrorized inhabitants of the North Atlantic. Less well known, perhaps, is that Vikings were also explorers. Colonies founded by Vikings include Dublin, Normandy, Iceland, Greenland, and even Newfoundland in North America. So, it was in the adventurous spirit of these infamous Norsemen that my husband and I set out on a Princess cruise to explore Norway by sea.
Geiranger, a bubolic town on spectacular Geirangerfjord
Our cruise ship anchored off the town of Geiranger
e first dropped anchor at Bergen—Norway’s capital until 1299, when Oslo took over. Now the town’s old quarter— Bryggen, with its cobblestone streets and historic wharf—is home to artists’ studios, galleries, boutiques and restaurants. But during the Middle Ages, it was a major trading center for the Hanseatic League—a powerful alliance of merchant guilds that dominated trade and politics from the Baltic to the North Sea.
There’s a cable car that takes you high above the town for a panoramic view, but on the day we were there, the entrance line was clogged by ships’ excursion groups, so we opted instead for a guided tour around the three floors and winding stone stairways of King Hakon’s Hall—a 13th century medieval fortress and royal residence. Just as in days past, the Hall is used for ceremonial
events and concerts. Don’t miss the view from the roof, which encompasses the town, harbor and outdoor fish market. Sailing from bustling city to nature’s grandeur, we headed north and then sixty miles inland to the terminus of narrow, steep-walled Geirangerfjord. My husband had jumped ship ten miles earlier at Hellesylt, where he’d been tempted by a hike to Briksdal glacier. I held out for a bus ride up a steep eleven-switchback road known as Eagles Bend, a stop for tea and scrumptious homemade browncheese pancakes, and a visit to Herdal Summer Farm, where goat-herd owners live in a cluster of log cabins during the summer, and where our group was treated to a demonstration of cheese making—and, of course, a delicious sampling afterwards.
Fresh goat-cheese samples at Herdal Summer Farm
Briksdal Glacier, Hellesylt
Delicious handmade goat-cheese pancakes
Lofoten Islands-herd of goats crosses the road during our bus journey
Warm Elven Booties at Outdoor Market
Log buildings at Herdal Summer goat farm
NORTH CAPE Colony of gannets on rocky Stappen Islands
ome say you can feel the magnetism of the North Pole from our next stop—Honningsvag. Also known as North Cape or Roof of Europe, the area receives two-hundred days of snow or frost each year. It would freeze over if not for the warm currents of the Gulf Stream. Our friend, Jan, who joined us on the cruise, booked an excursion to the Christmas Shop in Skarsvag—the closest fishing village to the North Pole anywhere in the world. Nature lovers, hubby and I opted for a birdwatching boat tour to the Stappen Islands. Choppy seas tossed our boat, but we were rewarded with sightings of thousands of puffins skimming the water around us, sea eagles swooping overhead, and colonies of northern gannets, kittiwakes, razorbills and other sea birds nesting on the rocks. And during our bus ride over the treeless plain of Mageroya Island, we spotted grazing reindeer—part of Santa’s herd, perhaps.
Fish drying on racks, Stappen Islands
Puffin flies near our boat at Stappen Islands
View of the Stappen Islands, home of seabirds
Reindeer on treeless Mageroya Island
Houses protected by avalanche barriers
till well inside the Arctic Circle, our ship retreated south toward Tromso—the Gateway to the Arctic—where most polar expeditions once began. Sights to see here include the Polar Museum, which presents the history of hunting, whaling, trapping and exploration in the region; the Tromso Museum, devoted to natural and cultural sciences; and the Arctic Cathedral—a dramatic church that resembles an iceberg.
Picturesque Nusfjord fishing village
By the time we reached the Lofoten Islands— remnants of ancient mountains that enhance Norway’s filigreed coastline—we sensed a strong Viking presence. The islands served as home base for raids, and for legitimate trade in regions as far away as the Mediterranean. Following a trip to Nusfjord—one of the best preserved fishing villages in Norway—our excursion delivered us to the Lofotr Viking Museum with its reconstructed Chieftain’s longhouse where guides in authentic costumes share Viking culture and demonstrate crafts. Remnants of the dwelling—believed to be 1500 years old—were discovered on this site in the early 1980s by a farmer ploughing his land. Norway’s coastline is riddled with majestic fjords, but Sognefjord is the deepest (4,291 feet) and longest (130 miles). At the terminus of a Sognefjord tributary—the Aurlandsfjord—we found the town of Flam and the Flamsbanen, a masterpiece of electric railway technology built in 1940 that winds twelve miles through the steep mountain terrain. The popular train ride starts at the Flam Train Museum, which is well worth a visit in itself.
Flam Train Museum
nother noteworthy destination in this area is the Borgund stave church—a tenth-century, black-tar-covered edifice featuring both crosses and dragons on its rooftop gables. Only a handful of Norway’s stave churches are still standing, with the help of preservationists. Our ship next docked at Stavanger, a hub of North Sea oil drilling. The city initially grew rich from shipbuilding and the processing and drying of herring and other fish, which is still big business in Norway. But at the turn of the 20th century, canning was king. More than fifty sardine canneries operated out of Stavanger, so our first stop was the Canning Museum located in a former cannery. After stuffing (plastic) sardines into a can by hand—the way it was once done—Jan and my husband elected to take a fjord cruise past famed Pulpit Rock, which looms almost 2,000 feet above Lysefjord. I chose to explore the picturesque town with its brightly painted buildings, cobblestone streets, and a unique children’s playground constructed from outdated oil-industry pipes and other fixtures.
Stavanger-Canning Museum’s giant sardine can
Colorful buildings in old Stavanger
Stavanger-Historic residences look like doll houses from the deck of our ship
ntriguing Oslo, Norway’s capital, was our final stop, and it provided a cornucopia of things to see and do, both modern and ancient. There’s medieval Akershus Castle, which sits on the edge of the harbor and was only a herring’s throw from our ship. Further out of town on the Bygdoy Peninsula, there’s the Viking Ship Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum (the famous raft sailed across the Pacific by Thor Heyerdahl), Fram Museum showcasing Nordic exploration, and the OpenAir Folk Museum where you can take a back-in-time walk through a forest and Norwegian village featuring 158 buildings from different time periods and regions. School was in session, and children took their seats in the classroom during our visit.
Historic building at Open Air Folk Museum, Oslo
Elsewhere, we toured Vigeland Sculpture Park, which examines the human life cycle from birth to death and is the largest sculpture garden in the world created by a single artist. We also stopped to see Holmenkollen, considered the cradle of ski jumping, which has been modernized several times since its tree-branches-andtwigs-ramp beginnings in 1892. Crown Prince Olav jumped there in 1922 and ’23, and in 1952, more than 140,000 spectators gathered at Holmenkollen during the Oslo Winter Olympics.
Oslo-Holmenkollen ski jump Oslo-Akershus Castle
Author & Troll at North Cape
Oslo-Viegland Sculpture Park
Small Viking ship sails past our cruise ship in Geiranger
o be honest, Norway surprised me. I didn’t expect to be so entranced by its colorful villages; baby reindeer on a treeless island; goats grazing on turf-covered rooftops, trotting across roads and nibbling my jacket; a tiny Viking ship sailing past our behemoth cruise liner; and endearing (yes, really!), largerthan-life statues of trolls everywhere we went—they’re apparently a big deal in Norse mythology.
Scenic view on top of a fjord mountain in July
It occurred to me that I might be part Viking thanks to my English ancestors’ proximity to those seafaring raids. That would certainly explain my penchant for exploring and my fascination with the sea. It’s too bad I lack their hardiness, I note, remembering the night we sailed north of the Arctic Circle and I shivered on deck watching the Midnight Sun dip close to the horizon, then rebound without missing a beat.
Midnight Sun doesn’t set north of the Arctic Circle during summer months
A Cruise of the First Magnitude Departing Sicily
Greece - Pottery
Greece - Gelato
Our palette has never been so vivid, sounds so symphonic, the world so abiding, our bond so constant.
For twelve days and eleven nights, embarking from Genova, Italy to the eastern Mediterranean and back, the 333.3 meters long X 37.92 meters wide MSC Fantasia was home for us plus more than 4,000 passengers and crew. The size of a small city, the vessel maneuvered vast waterways
Athens - Tavern
and towered over ancient walled ports, easily spotted miles away due to both size and structural incongruity with the surroundings. The adventure itself was similarly divergent from past vacation choices, yet once the tiniest seed was planted, it sprouted and blossomed into fresh perspective and promise. The positives for cruising piqued our interest: land and sea exploration
Crete - Raki drink
of expansive, new territory, a single â€œhotelâ€? for an extended timeframe, plus countless options. Yet, a nagging thought persisted. What to do to avoid a negative experience, confinement to tight spaces, overwhelming lines and interminable waits, hidden fees, and limited opportunity for stimulation and comfort? What features do we consider vital for our holiday happiness?
Italy ~ Greece ~ Turkey ~ Malta ~ Sicily ~ Crete Story by Lisa Richardson & Photos by Jim Richardson
PURPOSE Our holiday was to be a celebration of retirement, a new chapter in our lives. We hoped to wrap our arms around a part of the world we hadn’t yet explored together. We considered many ship registries, routes and ports for a best fit. This is when an experienced travel agent would traditionally enter into the process, but I chose to own our plans once again. It is an obsession and a wonderful gift to share a carefully crafted adventure. REGION Cruise destinations literally offer the world to the wanderer. We were curious about Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. I combed the internet. Vacationstogo.com. was a good resource for initial insight and cruise comparisons, ratings, itineraries, pricing, specials. When a particular cruise seemed to have potential, their web site was explored. SEASON We had no specific dateline. Flexibility was a plus. We liked “wave season” for fewer tourists, more temperate climate, and better pricing. Advance purchase seemed to provide perks. After a month
or so of study, we determined springtime would be optimal for all of the above reasons. The weather could be a bonus, but we would plan for rain, too. SHIP/ CRUISE LINE/ REGISTRY We didn’t need a 5+ star rating, though the ratings are a helpful reference point. We ultimately elected a 4-star rated ship with European registry and international passengers for a less homogenous experience. Updating our Italian and Spanish, too, was fun preparation. Although English was spoken by all of the crew, the ability to communicate “un po’” in a second language is beneficial. When the English-speaking tour was cancelled in Malta, we joined the Spanish-speaking group. ITINERARY/ LENGTH OF CRUISE Minus the need to return to work, this was an opportunity for an intense, extended holiday! An Eastern Mediterranean itinerary seemed attractive, before summertime crowds and oppressive heat. Including multiple stops in Greece and Italy was ideal, and the Fantasia’s route won me over, despite no stops at fabled Mykonos or Santorini. Having a couple days at sea seemed optimal for a recharge after port
excursions; this proved correct. Twelve days appeared to be ample time to both engage in our own routine on board and cover many nautical miles. Somehow our cruise plans became bookended by two, three and seven day adventures to a grand total of 28 days. CABIN CLASS / TYPE & LOCATION Though the argument “all you do is sleep in your room” may satisfy some travelers, I maintain the decision of cabin selection elevates (or lowers) the price tag and the experience proportionately. High or low deck, fore or aft, portside or starboard, interior or exterior, window or balcony, bunks or beds, suite or standard stateroom? Of course we chose an upgraded room. A balcony suite was the clincher for our Mediterranean cruise. On-line schematics, videos and photos were helpful. After identifying, a specific deck and cabin, an MSC consultant proved invaluable when she advised my selection in the front of the ship had windows in lieu of a balcony. She suggested a starboard location based on
Malta - Valetta - arrival on MSC
the itinerary and ports. The result was an eye-popping two- room corner suite far beyond our expectations. Under ever-changing skies, our own “bird’s eye view” of the ship and the pilot boat interactions as we entered or departed these medieval ports, coastlines and open water from our bed, living area and deck was out of this world. OPTIONS Cruise websites have considerable detail. After the initial booking in late summer, various prepaid or all-inclusive packages for dining, beverage, and spa were proposed. Noting a hefty surcharge for on-board services, we planned to make these decisions before sailing. In December, “inclusive experiences” were featured by MSC with some automatic upgrades for certain room categories. Our booking was revised to allow us the “Aurea Experience” which included all-inclusive spa, wellbeing package (Balinese massages, solarium/ thermal area access, products and bathrobe and slippers in cabin), shipboard credit $100 USD per person, access to Top 18 sun deck, unlimited drink package (beer, wine, liquor,
specialty coffee, bottled water, soda, gelato!), “My Choice” dining, priority boarding & luggage service. This fantastic, value-added bonus made us giddy. EXPERIENCES On board, guests may pursue an intense activity level or R&R. The ship has a full schedule of activities, contests, promotions, concerts, shows and movies. In port, shore excursions allow close-ups of some of the wonders of the world and significant architectural, artistic, cultural venues. I love independent discovery, but an experienced, knowledgeable guide can offer so much dimension, plus stories! Multiple tours with local organizations are offered by the cruise line. These vary in focus, hours, price, and language. Many destinations necessitate at least a one hour bus ride. Typically the group is 40-50 persons. These may be prepaid and they are quite organized. As an option, passengers may arrange a private or semiprivate tour, though guests are warned that the ship will not hold departure for anyone except those on the ship’s excursions.
In Athens, we pre-arranged an intimate and memorable all-day tour. The provider was top-notch and an excellent choice in this city. And we arrived shipside in time! COST We qualified for a senior discount and California resident savings on our booking. Tipping for all services is managed by MSC with an optional minimal charge per person per day, collected on the final bill. No cash is utilized on board. Your Cruise Card is your ID, your access on and off the ship, and your “charge card” for any purchase. On board purchases, including excursions, carry a 25% surcharge. With our “Aurea Experience” upgrade, all those glasses of wine, bottles of sparkling water, espresso, gelato, exclusive sun-deck with cocktail service and sauna visits were cost-free. Our final bill was about $130 euros for twelve days. Ultimately, we decided that our wishes and needs could be met on a cruise with a tantalizing itinerary and upgraded digs. And so it was!
Sicily - Ancient theatre of Taormina
Andrea Bocelli crooned “Con Te Partiro” as the journey commenced, while the horn signaled the ship’s departure from Genova on the last Saturday in March. An orange sunset complimented the Prosecco and snacks in our Meraviglia suite under the skydeck. At sea for the first day and a half, we complied with the mandatory fire drill, acclimated to multiple time changes, selected dining venues, contemplated the ocean, soaked up rays on the Top 18 and relaxed in the sauna and thermal area. A table for five was a reserved twosome each evening under the attendance of our delightfully indulgent waiter, Marin. Entertainment, activities, dining options and shopping were ours for the taking. In port, prepaid and carefully chosen shore excursions provided access to historic and cultural meccas. We kept pace with our marvelously passionate local guides in awe: From the port of Katakolon, Greece overlooking the Ionian Sea, we ventured inland to Ancient Olympia. Our
imaginations were tweaked by our guide Genny’s stories of Zeus, the Olympiads, temples and great priests. The games praised a culture which strived for a balance of the physical being, philosophy, music and geometry. Dating to 776 BC, these stone remains are outnumbered by the tourists, yet this is a hallowed place. The city of Heraklion, Greece welcomed us to the island of Crete. Traversing hilly, fertile country, we learned the island claims 138 million olive trees. Our tour took us past ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos where the legendary Minotaur once preyed, according to Greek mythology. Raindrops fell in the village, so we ducked into a tavern for tea with honey, spanakopita and Raki, firewater for medicinal purposes. At the lively Ancient Port, beer, wine and calamari enticed us once more.
walked 300 steps up from the village to the Lindos Acropolis and the Temple of Athena Lindia from 400 BC. We learn the columns are from the Greek word “prósthesis,” which refers to a device offering support, such as an artificial limb. Lots of root words here. We laughed at the connection to the father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” but hushed when we confirmed Greek origin in 1545-55, at dictionary.com. Our history recall is tested at each twist and turn.
The port of Izmir, Turkey, appeared industrialized and sophisticated compared to those we have recently visited. Our guide Selen has a PHD in art history. Peaches, figs, olives, pomegranates, oranges, and mandarins dot the route to Ephesus. Here, an entire city 8,000 years old was revealed incidentally in the 19th century during railway construction. The extensive site including an amphitheater In Rhodes, Greece, a bell chorus heralded seating 25,000 is perhaps only 10% the ship’s entry into the sandstone excavated and continues to be unearthed. fortification as the city awakened. Our It is estimated that the process will take an guide calls this the island of the sun. We additional 200 years.
Greece - Rhodes - early arrival at port
Greece - Rhodes Stone Mosaic Greek feast in the Plaka
Sicily - Piazza at Taormina
Turkey - Ephesus - arch
Greece - Athens Acropolis construction
Greece - Coliseum at the Acropolis Greece - Detail of Acropolis
Greece - Lindia - Temple of Athena
Greece - Ancient Olympia
Turkey - Ephesus - Library of Celsus
Malta - Marsaxlokk fishing village
Italy - Vatican tour
In Piraeus, Greece, we met PK Travels for a semi-private tour of Athens with a family of four from London. Dimitris, our driver, zig-zagged through narrow, crowded streets and hordes. Michael, our guide, interjected myth and history entwined as we took in the Acropolis. The artful brilliance is not lost over time.
With free time in the Plaka, we craved gyros. Michael recommended Bairaktaris Tavern, established in 1879. Our server, smiling, brought samples of chicken, beef, lamb and pork gyros to try. We dug into Greek salad piled high with incredible feta, super tzatziki, grilled eggplant, fragrant, sumptuous lamb gyros and pita. Tasty beef kebabs were on- thehouse. More on-the- house yogurt and honey, helva and Raki rocked. Mandolin music filled the air. We were taken with the flavors and the bounty. On Easter Sunday, the Fantasia arrived at 7AM in Valleta, Malta, as the sky illuminated the fortress, spires, domes and stately buildings. Colorful storefronts and restaurants lined the modernized pier. The old harbor at Vittoriosa reflected its own personality. Cathedral bells pealed as lines of tourists exited motor coaches. Our driver became lost
Italy - Vatican - St.Peter’s Bascilica
on this 16.8 miles long x 9 miles wide island because of road closures for the Easter parade! In Marsaxlokk Bay, the fishing boats have “eyes” to ensure safety. The open market atmoshere and people -watching were inimitable. Messina, Sicily: Yet another 7AM arrival observed from our balcony! As the ship maneuvered into port, I spotted a shoe moving above in the lone window on the floor of the sky deck. The crew was on the job! I relished being on Italian soil once again and wondered how Sicily- Taormina, in particular- would affect my husband. The group quieted as our guide reminded us of the destruction and death toll of 80,000 from the 1908 Messina earthquake & tsunami. The mountaintop perch, the massive gates of the old city of Taormina, the Greek, Roman and Byzantine art, engaged people and frank beauty in the piazze, and ultimately, the crowning glory-the Teatro Greco- amaze. As did the arancini in the village. We thanked our lucky stars. Civitavecchia, Italy, was the last port call on the journey. Our all- day tour of Rome flew by centuries-old landmarks
with pelting rain on the bus windows obliterating the Forum and Colosseum. We felt grateful to have had several days beforehand to appreciate the city on foot and in-depth. The focus on this day was Vatican City. The skip-the-lines tour was a veritable body- to- body shuffle into the Sistine Chapel. No talking, no photos and strict time limits impose frustration, yet the frescoes and the beauty created by the Renaissance masters here and the “art as power” Baroque presence in St. Peters Basilica are beyond magnificent. We bee-lined to a café nearby for a dose of spaghetti carbonara and linguini with clams. On deck, in a lounge or our marvelous suite, we’d share a cocktail and toast our good fortune to witness such mesmerizing glory day after day. Idyllic, YES.
MSC balcony view west towards Athens
A Review of U.S. River Cruises By Dave G. Houser
“I started out thinking of America as highways and state lines. As I got to know it better, I began to think of it as rivers.” Charles Kuralt River cruising is all the rage these days. According to Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), river boating is the fastest growing segment of the cruise industry, notching 15% gains annually since 2009. Europe leads the way with more than 100 vessels plying the continent’s waterways, principally the Rhine, Danube and Elbe Rivers. These riverboats are increasingly sophisticated and luxurious, averaging 400 feet in length and carrying 200+ passengers. Industry leader Viking River Cruises operates 53 ships and will boost its fleet by another dozen in 2015. Others, including Avalon, AMA Waterways, Uniworld and Tauck are adding vessels as fast as they can be built. The river boating boom extends well beyond Europe – to Russia, China, Myanmar, India and Vietnam. Surprising though it may seem, the United States, blessed with nearly 25,000 miles of navigable inland waterways – more than the rest of the world combined – hasn’t experienced the frenzied growth in river cruising sweeping Europe and other regions of the globe. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of compelling and pleasurable river cruising possibilities in the U.S. -- and we’ll review them for you in a moment -- but first let’s look into why the European success story hasn’t been mirrored in America to any great extent.
Queen of the West
Reasons for this can be traced to a couple of old and outmoded protectionist acts – the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 and the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act – through which Congress sought to safeguard U.S. shipbuilding and merchant marine industries against foreign competition. In essence, regulations imposed by these acts require that all vessels operating in U.S. waters be built and owned in the U.S. and crewed entirely by Americans. Regulations such as these levy some obvious limitations on American river cruise operators. First, they can’t import any of the latest European designed and built vessels. With very few shipyards in the U.S. building passenger ships, they usually have to build their own vessels or refurbish existing ones. Hiring all-American crews means paying higher wages than their foreign counterparts and forces compliance with stricter U.S. labor laws. Regulations also require adherence to U.S. Coast Guard safety standards, which are among the most rigorous in the world. Nonetheless, four American cruise companies have braved these cumbersome regulations and higher operating costs to offer a diversity of appealing river boating opportunities on the nation’s waterways.
Queen of the Mississippi
American Cruise Lines With its modern six-ship fleet – all built at a company-owned shipyard in Maryland – and two new vessels in the offing for 2015 and 2016, American Cruise Lines is by far the leading player on the inland rivers and waterways of the United States. ACL offers more than 35 itineraries featuring cruises ranging from 6 to 21 days. Most popular are its Mississippi River cruises utilizing the line’s 140-passenger paddle wheeler Queen of the Mississippi, an elegant rendition of the traditional Victorian-style riverboats of the 1800s, but with all the modern features and amenities expected by today’s travelers. The company’s new 150-passenger paddle wheeler, American Eagle, will begin navigating the Mississippi in the spring of 2015. Another sternwheeler, the 120-passenger Queen of the West, churns a marvelously scenic 1,000-mile course along the Columbia and Snake Rivers, between Portland, OR and Clarkston, WA – a route so popular that ACL is bringing on a new companion vessel in 2016. Rounding out ACL’s fleet are four sleek contemporary-style minicruisers, including the 104-passenger Independence, 100-passenger American Star, 51-passenger American Spirit, and the 49-passenger American Glory. These compact cruisers explore the Hudson River, Florida’s St. Johns River and the mid-Atlantic section of the Intracoastal Waterway linking Baltimore, MD and Charleston, SC.
For more information: 800-814-6880, www.americancruiselines.com.
Blount Small Ship Adventures Grande Caribe
Blount’s twin 96-passenger ships, Grande Mariner and Grande Caribe, feature shallow draft (7-feet) hulls and retractable pilot houses that enable them to slip beneath low bridges and transit locks that typically exclude larger cruise ships. Patented bow ramps, another Blount innovation, allow passengers to disembark directly from the ship into the heart of small ports or even on isolated beaches and rocky shores. Blount’s American river cruise offerings are varied and extensive, ranging from 6 to16 days. One of their “Signature Series,” the 16-day Great American Waterways cruise serves as a good example of the possibilities with Blount. This voyage, from Chicago to Warren, RI, traverses nearly 20 waterways, including four Great Lakes, the St. Claire, Hudson and Detroit Rivers; the Erie, Oswego and Welland Canals, and New York Harbor. A series of spring cruises take in the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, and a 9-day voyage from New York to Washington DC courses the Hudson and Delaware Rivers and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canals, arriving in the Capital on the Potomac River.
Featuring a pair of innovative vessels that can go places no other passenger ships can, Blount Small Ship Adventures is in a class by itself. Founded in 1966 by inventive Rhode Island shipbuilder Luther H. Blount, this family-owned company pioneered the concept of casual, offbeat cruising aimed, as Luther often said, at “seeing places and people in an unobtrusive and authentic way.”
While both Blount ships, dating to the late 90s, were recently refurbished and upgraded, they are no-frills vessels with tiny cabins (none more than 100 sq. ft.) and limited amenities. Nonetheless they attract a loyal following among cruisers who place a premium on down-to-earth authenticity and adventure over luxury surroundings and pampering.
For more information: 886-735-5265, www.blountsmallshipadventures.com.
Un-Cruise Adventures SS Legacy
Seattle-based Un-Cruise Adventures operates just a single ship on American rivers, but it makes the most of it with a creative portfolio of upscale voyages out of Portland, OR on the Columbia, Snake, Willamette and Palouse Rivers with its replica turn-of-the-century coastal steamer S.S. Legacy. Un-Cruise wows the 88 guests onboard its elegantly decorated Legacy with special touches, including outfitting her crew in period attire, onboard historians and guest experts, Northwest-focused gourmet cuisine, complimentary massages and included shore excursions. The company operates seven other ships in the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico, but its mainstay U.S. river offering is a 7-night “Legacy of Discovery” voyage (April-November) on the Columbia that traces
the epic journey of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Its features include the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and towering Multnomah Falls; eight lock transits and a tour of the Bonneville Dam Visitor Center; a tour of Lewis & Clark’s Fort Clatsop; a visit to Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, OR, and a private tour and tasting at a Washington winery. In 2015, Un-Cruise Adventures will introduce a series of special wine-themed cruises under the banner “Ameritage! Four Rivers of Wine & History.” These itineraries on the Columbia, Snake, Willamette and Palouse Rivers feature an onboard wine expert and tastings and tours of nine Oregon and Washington wineries.
For more information: 888-862-8881, www.un-cruise.com.
American Queen Steamboat Company American Queen
Old-fashioned steam boating is the forte of Memphis-based American Queen Steamboat Company, which operates a pair of the frilly Victorian era replicas. One of them, the behemoth 418-foot, 436-passenger American Queen, is the largest riverboat ever built. It plies the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, year-round on 4 to 9 day cruises, with dozens of dates dedicated to special themes – holidays, music, bourbon and even beer. Built in 1995, American Queen was the pride of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company until it ceased operations in 2008. AQSC acquired the ship, refurbished it and returned it to service in 2011.
AQSC also operates the largest passenger ship on the Columbia River, the 360-foot, 223-passenger American Empress. Another reclaimed vessel, it was operated by Majestic America Line as the Empress of the North from 2003-2009 – and was relaunched this year. It performs 9-day cruises between Portland or Vancouver, WA and Clarkston, WA and offers an itinerary similar to that described above for Un-Cruise Adventures’ S.S. Legacy.
For more information: 888-749-5280, www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com.
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Photo by Ann Troianoâ€™s daughter, Karen Connell
Families Bond on a Multigenerational
RHINE RIVER CRUISE
Photos & Story by Nancy Schretter
Uniworld River Empress in Boppard, Germany
Castles along the Rhine
ultigenerational travel and river cruising are two of today’s most popular travel trends. In recent Virtuoso surveys, river cruising ranked as the peak dream trip of a lifetime and topped multigenerational travel as 2015’s leading travel trend. River cruising used to be viewed as exclusively for the senior set, but that is changing. River cruising and families aren’t mutually exclusive, as Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has successfully shown. When done right, merging these two niches can make a winning combination. Today’s grandparents want to make lasting memories and share enriching new experiences with their families. The nature of river cruising makes it a perfect vehicle for achieving those goals. “Multigenerational family travel is a segment that we believe
has huge growth potential,” says Uniworld’s President, Guy Young. “Parents and grandparents are keen to expose their children to the wonderful cultures of Europe and a river cruise is a fun and intimate way to do this.” Ann and Bill Troiano, grandparents from Virginia, wholeheartedly agree. The couple brought a total of ten family members from three generations on a Uniworld Rhine River cruise aboard the River Empress this summer. “The whole thing was so perfect,” said Ann, who has taken eight river cruises with Uniworld and several with other cruise lines. “It was very exciting to get the whole family together on this cruise and it was definitely quite the trip.” Uniworld’s “Castles Along The Rhine” river cruise through the Netherlands, Germany, France
and Switzerland is an excellent choice for multigenerational cruising. On this enchanting cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, families can explore and view dozens of authentic medieval castles along the Upper Middle Rhine River Valley, walk along the wing of a Boeing 747 airplane at Speyer’s Technik Museum, take a thrilling aerial tram ride up the mountainside to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, climb the towering spire of a Gothic cathedral, and enjoy hands-on exhibits and tasty treats at Cologne’s Chocolate Museum. “Cultural experiences such as these are as educational as they are enjoyable,” says Uniworld Senior Vice President Wesley Bosnic. “Uniworld’s multigenerational river cruises in Europe provide young guests with mind-expanding travel experiences in which the history, culture, art and architecture of Europe comes alive.”
Captain Ferdy teaches kids about ship navigation
Captain Ferdy Savelkouls and Relief Hotel Manager Lorena Santana
Attentive Uniworld River Empress staff
Making Memories Together Spending time together is one of the most treasured parts of multigenerational vacations. The intimate environment on Uniworld’s river cruises allows families to bond in a relaxing atmosphere. Uniworld’s modern river cruise ships hold an average of 130 guests, eliminating the crowds found on large oceangoing vessels. The company’s allinclusive approach to river cruising makes the experience hassle-free, with all transfers, meals, tips, unlimited beverages of all kinds, bike access, and almost all excursions included in the cruise price. In addition, Uniworld’s river cruise ships generally dock in the heart of their destinations, making it easy for families to simply walk or bike into town. Guests just unpack once and some of Europe’s most charming small towns and mid-sized cities arrive at their gangway each day.
Uniworld’s special family tours and onboard programming help make the river cruise experience unique and stress-free for multigenerational families. Experiences are designed to be fun for both kids and adults. Two Family Hosts, Cathleen Wagner and Tatiana Karst, were onboard the River Empress to oversee children’s and family events. In addition to supervising the children and accompanying exclusive family shore excursions, they designed innovative onboard activities that would engage families and enable participation by all generations. Family activities included interactive cooking and culinary demonstrations, canal boat and mini train rides, a trip to an authentic Germany bakery and “Crazy Waffling” with the ship’s Executive Chef, wheelhouse tours with the Captain, and a dedicated family excursion to Germany’s Marksburg Castle. Castles, cuisine, and genuine local experiences were definitely some of the highlights
on this cruise. “Through these hands-on excursions to castles, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and authentic storybook little villages, kids can immerse themselves in a fairytale world,” said Cruise Manager Kerstin Taschke. The opportunity to explore new places together was one of the things the Troiano family enjoyed most about their Uniworld Rhine River cruise. This culturally-rich itinerary is filled with romantic castles and charming centuriesold towns with meandering canals, cobblestone streets and flower-bedecked half-timbered buildings. “We enjoyed doing the tours together and seeing the kids’ faces light up when they saw the castles,” said Ann Troiano. “It was so great to see Europe through their eyes.” The family also liked the freedom to ride bikes in every town, which they felt was a unique experience.
Multigenerational families view Rhine River castles
Storybook setting in Colmar, France
Families enjoy mini train rides in Rudesheim, Germany Walk onto the wing of 747 plane Speyerâ€™s Technik Museum
Enjoying Camaraderie & Culinary Delights There’s much more to a Uniworld European river cruise than just the captivating destinations. The onboard guest experience significantly adds to the enjoyment. Uniworld has the highest guest-to-staff ratio in the river cruise industry and the personalized attention provided on this cruise was phenomenal. Families enjoyed the opportunity for close interaction with personable staff members and other guests onboard the River Empress. Charismatic Captain Ferdy Savelkouls and talented Executive Chef Danny Scotland were an integral part of the family program and the entire staff worked together as a team. Cezar Bican, a waiter on the River Empress, even delighted kids with his break dancing at the Multigenerational Dance Night, emboldening guests of all ages to get out on the dance floor. Families come together to share the day’s stories at mealtimes. Dining together is an important part of multigenerational vacations and Uniworld is known for its exceptional cuisine. The classically-trained culinary team aboard the River Empress successfully catered to the needs of all guests, from seasoned gourmets to young children. The ship’s special dining events and extraordinary desserts were always a treat. Traveling with food allergies can also be a major concern for families when traveling overseas and the restaurant staff was particularly attentive to meeting the needs of guests with these issues.
Sampling preztels in Speyer, Germany
Families enjoy exploring towns on Uniworld’s free bicycles
Delectable desserts on Uniworld’s River Empress
Delicious chocolates at Cologne’s Chocolate Museum
nn Troiano and her family were thrilled with their Uniworld river cruise vacation. “Everyone, to a person, loved this experience,” exclaimed Ann. “It’s pretty hard to please 100% of the people, but Uniworld did it.” Other passengers echoed her views. “This was the best vacation we have been on, especially with our children,” said one pleased guest. “We were not sure what to expect from the family program and our expectations were exceeded.” Travel + Leisure magazine has named Uniworld the “Top River Cruise for Families” for the last four years in a row. Given the cruise line’s many awards and accolades, it’s not surprising to hear families rave about their experience. “The guest ratings and comments about the family-friendly “Castles Along The Rhine” river cruise were overwhelmingly extremely positive,” said Uniworld Relief Hotel Manager Lorena Santana. “The program has been so successful that we have now almost tripled the number of family friendly departures in 2016,” says Uniworld’s Guy Young. That news is music to Ann Troiano’s ears. Her family is already asking where they’re going on their next multigenerational river cruise.
If You Go: For more information about Uniworld and its family-friendly river cruises, visit http://uniworld.com.
Aerial tram to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress
Up a Lazy Canal Cruising the Canal du Midi in France
A Story & Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler
After a madcap adventure involving getting off the TGV from Paris at the wrong station, my friend Constance and I were horrified to find that we were in Agde instead of Beziers.
The Anjodi was built in Groningen, Netherlands in 1929. She was a luxemoto Dutch vessel built as a trading barge but refitted in 1982 as a hotel barge specifically to navigate the 300-year-old Canal du Midi. She is constructed of iron with a high copper content, which has contributed, to her longevity. She is named after the three daughters of the original owner - Anna, Joanna and Diana.
Constance was beside herself and kept saying this was all her fault. She said she had seen a building with Beziers painted on it and thought we were stopping at Beziers. I told her it wasn’t her fault because, as I pointed out I’m the experienced traveler, and Ishould have She has been completely re-furbished with beautiful African hardwoods, checked that this was indeed our stop. handcrafted paneling and shining brass, creating a charming ambience Fortunately I had my cell phone reminiscent of a classic yacht. A hot tub programmed for use in France before I left home and called the European was installed on the deck with a lounging area, large table with umbrellas and Waterways number. It was late in the bicycles standing ready should be want afternoon and the phone was answered to ride along the tow path. The salon by their answering system and I had to leave a message. Oh dear things weren’t is equipped with 2 sofas, a large dining table, and a bar with refrigerator, a stereo looking very good. system and lots of CD’s, books and games for entertainment. I was very relieved when only a few minutes later a call came through from Constance and I found our stateroom the Barge Anjodi advising us to stay put with the twin beds taking up most of the and their driver would pick us up. Sure enough, a little while later the European room. However, there were big drawers Waterways blue minibus arrived and below the beds, with a little table along Matthew, the very friendly driver, jumped one wall and a closet on another. The out and greeted us with a warm, friendly bathroom was small but had everything smile. We loaded up our belongings and we needed including a towel warming set off to find the barge Anjodi, which rack. We quickly unpacked and changed was moored at the port of Le Somail. clothes for dinner. We were welcomed aboard by the crew and other passengers, saying they were happy we finally made it. They had come up with all kinds of stories about who we were and why we were so late arriving. Champagne was served and we settled in for a magical weeklong voyage on the Anjodi.
The Anjodi has 4 staterooms and can accommodate 8 guests. However there were only 2 other guests, Lisa and Mark, a fun couple from England.
So, we had 4 guests and 4 crew members: Constance and me, Mark and Lisa and Toma the Captain from Switzerland, Hew the chef, Matthew the first mate/
tour guide from England and Daphna the hostess from Mexico City. Our dinner was served by Daphna inside the wood paneled salon and consisted of an incredible assortment of delicious courses, along with wines especially chosen for our dinner. Constance and I exchanged life stories with Lisa and Mark and laughed a lot as we ate our way through Hew’s incredible creations. After dinner drinks were available from the open bar, including: Jameson’s Irish whiskey and Calvados. Much later, Constance and I lay in our beds and laughed at our incredible adventure getting to the Anjodi and fell asleep dreaming of the Canal du Midi. Constance liked to arise early and take a fast walk along the towpath. I preferred to sleep a little longer but was usually up and dressed by the time she returned. Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit, flakey croissants and cold cereal. Coffee and tea along with orange and grapefruit juice were available. The coffee was strong and smelled divine and I couldn’t resist dunking a croissant into my cup. I wound up with flakes all over the place! Chef Hew scrambled eggs for me on request. Later on the first morning, Matthew took us on a trip to Carcassonne, which dates back to the Gallo-Roman era. Matthew told us that it is the most complete medieval fortified city in existence today. I marveled at the architecture with its variety of positions in which to stop aggressive soldiers from gaining entrance. I laughed at the number of youngsters waving wooden swords and bows and arrows wearing plastic headgear running around playing crusader.
We returned to the Anjodi for lunch and a leisurely 3 miles per hour cruise along the 330-year-old Canal du Midi to Pigasse, surrounded by vineyards and lined with beautiful Plane trees. In North America we call them Sycamore trees. Napoleon planted the Plane trees along the canals in southern France to prevent the water from evaporation and the banks from collapsing, as the canals were important shipping routes at the time. Mules were used to pull the barges along the banks of the waterway. The Canal du Midi was the all-important link between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Barge on the Canal du Midi - France
That evening we dined on rare roast beef with assorted greens and a Borie Domaine de Maurel La Feline wine. I felt like purring sipping the very soft and smooth red wine. Later Constance and I sat under the stars in the hot tub relaxing and enjoying every minute of our incredible day. The village of Minerve was the destination of our next morning’s excursion. It is the ancient capital of the Minervis dating to the 12th Century. Its hilltop location opens to incredible views. After visiting the small Cathar museum, Matthew planned to take us on a hike to see more of the village but I spied a small book shop/café and decided to wait for them there. My left leg was giving me trouble and I happily enjoyed a citron pressé while writing in my journal and wishing I knew more French so I could read some of the interesting looking books all around me. Back on board the Anjodi we ate a lunch on the sun deck of crunchy crab cakes with a salad of haricot verts tossed with red onion, avocado and tomatoes in a mild vinaigrette. Sliced, juicy oranges drizzled with honey and topped with julienne mint was the refreshing dessert. We passed under some very low bridges as we went along the Canal. When Captain Toma said “duck” he really meant it! The barge’s wheel barely cleared the roof of some of the bridges we passed under. Daphna made very creative and tasty cocktails of her own design and served on the deck as we floated slowly through the twisting canal. This was an evening ritual for her and we eagerly looked forward to her next creation.
Canal du Midi - France
Our dinner was served in the salon and we feasted on roast lamb with an assortment of roasted vegetables and served with an elegant red wine. I was so busy enjoying the meal I forgot to write down the name of the wine. The cheese course had a big round of my favorite cheese: Epoisse! It was the perfect, soft and runny temperature. Oh my! I was in heaven. Our fellow passengers were foodies too and we marveled at the talents of Chef Hew. He told us he had studied at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. I told him I had been there a few years back and used some of their recipes in my own kitchen. Another morning we visited Narbonne, a Roman Mediterranean capital where the Visigoth monarchs once lived. However, what I really wanted to do was visit the huge and famous indoor food market. It is a foodie’s paradise! Everything edible is available in there. I wandered from stall to stall marveling at the assortment of deliciousness I was seeing. Wishing I had access to the Anjodi’s galley to work with Hew to create dishes with some of the items I was drooling over. Every kind of fish, foul, meat, vegetables, fruits, cheese, baked goods, etc. etc. etc. Sigh. I LOVED being in there. We all split up but I spotted Matthew several times ordering cheese and then fish to take back to the Anjodi. We cruised to Beziers that afternoon, passing through the world’s oldest canal tunnel at Malpas, mooring at the top of the 7 locks at Fonserannes to wait our turn to descend.
Village of Minerve Low Bridge!
Captain Toma slid the Anjodi into the first lock slow and easy. I loved watching him tossing the mooring ropes and lassoing the docking posts like a seasoned cowboy. There were many people watching, waving and photographing our progress.
Narbonne indoor food market
Matthew ran along side the locks making sure the ropes were in place as we continued down through the individual locks.
Locks along the canal
Toma gave us a thumbs up as we floated out of the 7th lock and we continued on our way, crossing the aqueduct over the River Ord and on to Beziers. It was a strange sight to be floating on a bridge over the river. That evening we dined like royalty at the L’Ambassade Restaurant in Beziers. We enjoyed a spectacular meal with little amuse bouches between courses and special wines to accompany each dish. My main dish was ende de trache d’Aubrac grillé, os å moelle farci d’abats et sylvestres – which was Aubrac beef roasted rare, with the marrow of the bones scooped out and tenderly placed on top of the beef. I hadn’t heard of the Aubrac breed of cattle and found out that it was started during the 1600’s at the Benedictine Abbey of Aubrac in the south of France and bred to adapt to the mountainous and rough terrain of the Auvergne. It was an absolutely incredible meal but we all agreed that our own Chef Hew could challenge the restaurant’s chef any time.
Jacqueline & Constance wine tasting
Our lunch the following day was of assorted fresh shellfish served on crushed ice and spaghetti al dente with steamed mussels. That afternoon we visited the Chateau de Perdiguier to taste their excellent wines and tour the old building with its beautiful 15th century frescoes with family member Samuel, who was absolutely charming. Then on to the tasting room where I fell in love with their Cuvée En Auger Rosé. The lovely color was like liquid pink sapphires, the nose was delicate with soft spices and the taste was subtle and seemed to bloom in my mouth after swallowing. Hew outdid himself with dinner, serving us a green salad studded with beets and bay scallops tossed in traditional French vinaigrette. This was followed by a pan-fried white fish resting on an assortment of fresh vegetables and surrounded by clams and covered with a lemon and butter sauce. It was absolutely divine! We enjoyed a chilled bottle of Chateau de Perdiguier’s En Auger Blanc, which is 100% chardonnay.
The following morning, just after breakfast, we went up on deck to watch Toma navigate the famous Agde round lock, built in 1676 of volcanic stone, it allows a boat to turn around and continue on with a choice of 3 directions. We were headed towards the nature reserve of Bagnas then on to the inland saltwater lake of Thau with its huge oyster beds and dozens of wind surfers and their colorful sails.
Bicycles on the barge
We tied up at the picturesque fishing village of Marseillan just in time for lunch up on deck. Daphna brought out huge dishes of Cassoulet with a salad of greens, avocados and cherry tomatoes. Hew had created a masterpiece! We all ooohhed and awwwwed as we ate. Cassoulet is a traditional dish served in southwest France. It’s heavy with white beans, sausage, bacon and duck confit or sometimes chicken. Later Matthew took us on a tour of Pezenas. He told us the town was mostly known for its associations with the famous French playwright Moliere, who is said to have written many of his plays while staying there. I really liked the little town and Constance and I enjoyed window-shopping as we walked along the cobblestone streets admiring the colorful displays of items to buy. Later we stopped at a sidewalk café for a citron pressé.
Entrance to the saltwater Lake of Thau
Anjodi barge - end of cruise “Bye” from the crew
Jacqueline and her new friends the Anjodi Crew
We returned to the Anjodi in time to dress for our Captain’s Farewell Dinner. Daphna served us Champagne and escargots on deck as we enjoyed the view of the beautiful blue Lake Thau in the late afternoon sun. The Captain’s dinner was a lively affair with everyone talking at once remembering different experiences during that week. Daphna was back and forth to the galley presenting us with a bit of foie gras on toast accompanied with baby spinach and roasted tomatoes. The main dish was a beautifully cooked steak with potatoes and broccoli and topped with an elegant wild mushroom sauce. We finished with a smooth, crème burlée.
Toma, Matthew and I sat up talking long after everyone else had gone to bed. I didn’t want the night to end, knowing that tomorrow morning our cruise would be over and I would have to say goodbye to the Anjodi and her wonderful crew. Saturday morning, after breakfast and many hugs goodbye with the crew, the 4 of us guests loaded our gear into the minibus and then we were gone. For information on how you can book a barge cruise, please go to: European Waterways: Tel: 1 877 879 8808 Website: www.gobarging.com
TAKE A VACATION FROM ORDINARY.
A city with an old soul and youthful enthusiasm, Hampton has been home to unique activities and an adventurous spirit for over 400 years. Discover the special events, the attractions and the natural landscapes that make Hampton a city unlike any other.
CRUISING THE VOLGA WITH LOVE Большо му кораблю большо е пла вание. “For a great ship, a great voyage”. Russian proverb
The Volga River
n Russia, we learned that you don’t sip vodka. You drink it straight out of a shot glass and follow it with a sweet pickle, preferably one homemade by the sweet young grandmother who has invited you and eleven of your shipmates into her Uglich home for the afternoon. This is what we’re doing in Uglich, a river city that sits on the shores of the Volga River just a few hours from Moscow. I, millennial travel writer, look at my mom, baby boomer on her first international journey, and together, we smile, tip our glasses, and let the warm, stinging moonshine do its magic. Across the room,
Elizaveta, our hostess, serving vodka
our fellow American, Canadian, and British guests gulp down the contents of their glasses, cough, clear their throats, and laugh at the ease with which our host, Elizaveta, drinks hers with true Russian poise. A few of our shipmates have brought gifts from their own homes for Elizaveta and her family, and the grandkids are running around the yard playing with the ribbons they pulled from some of the presents. Elizaveta fishes out some photographs of her and her students—she has been a middleschool math teacher for almost 30 years—and talks to us about her love for collecting replicas of famous religious Russian Orthodox icons. She pulls
Listening to Elizaveta share her life story
Story & Photos by Kristin Winet
St. Demetrios on the Blood church
Tree-lined street of pretty, 1000-year-old Uglich
a beloved one off the shelf and, with the translation help of our tour guide, Andrey, tells us a little bit about how much she loves the gold-plated detail on this particular rendition of Mary. Although I don’t ask her right then, I can tell: she loves this work. That’s the thing about traveling with Viking: because their ships are intimate and their trips immersive, we aren’t just here traveling to Russia: we’re traveling with her. That morning, we’d done what most river cruisers do when they visit the tree-lined street of pretty, 1000-yearold Uglich: we listened, we learned, we walked. We took a
Vodka, sweet pickles, and homemade bread for twelveguests
guided tour of the city’s most iconic image, St. Demetrios on the Blood, the turquoise-blue onion-domed church that sits on the shores of the Volga River and is covered with golden stars. We admired the meticulously restored architecture of the green-domed, gold-plated Cathedral of the Transfiguration, and we stood in awe, inside, as we examined the splashes of color and detailed paintings from its floors to ceilings. Then, we visited the city’s Kremlin, the place where Dmitry, Ivan the Terrible’s young son, was banished, died, and entombed, and we stopped at the city’s famous open-air market to bargain for hand-painted matroyshka dolls, woven shawls, palmsized lacquer boxes, and fragments of amber.
Sweet pickles and homemade bread
The green-domed, gold-plated Cathedral of the Transfiguration has been meticulously restored
owever, instead of finishing there, we did something unexpected: we broke into groups, hopped a local bus, and headed for the countryside.
According to Wilhelm Steinbrunner, the Viking Truvor’s hotel manager, these special home visits are rare and not so easy to set up: it takes time to interview families in advance, to set up contracts, and to ensure that the families are well-compensated for the time they open up their homes to visitors. As he says, “we really rallied for these home visits, because they are such a real way
to get to know a destination.” They’re still unique, too: of all the countries to which Viking cruises, they still only offer home visits in Russia, Hungary, and Romania. He’s right, also, about how special they are: of all the excursions my mom and I did on our two-week journey throughout Russia, I remember Uglich perhaps most fondly of them all. To me, this is what makes Viking’s cruises so special: by taking their guests to community plays, local art festivals, and after-school programs for elementary children, it’s clear that they embody their belief in supporting local economies and ensuring that guests
Replicas of famous religious
The iconic St. Demetrios on the Blood church, sits on the shores of the Volga River, and is covered with golden stars
and locals have a chance to meet and get to know each other. Of course, Viking does its ship days beautifully, too: Whether it’s a vodka tasting night, folk dance lessons, Russian language practice sessions, lectures on the Romanovs and the Cold War, or round-table discussions on contemporary life in modern Russia, their commitment to cultural immersion is clear from ship to shore. There wasn’t one day we didn’t learn something new about Russian history and culture; not a day that we didn’t practice our Russian, eat a pelmeni or try a new borsch recipe, listen to someone play the triangle-shaped balalaika with its three strings, or see the works of a new Russian artist.
My mom and I came to this journey with very different connotations of Russia, she having lived through the Cold War and the fall of Communist Russia, me having grown up in a world of watching the majestic cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow regain their rightful places among Europe’s other great Renaissance cities. But what we learned—together, and with our eyes and hearts open to the possibilities of this once-closed country—is that even a place like Uglich, a place neither of us had ever heard of, a place that literally means “corner of the Volga River,” is full of open doors. In fact, it is now a place we speak of often, and with love.
Russian Orthodox icons
MORE ABOUT VIKING RIVER CRUISES Viking River Cruises is the world’s premier river cruising company. With state-of-the-art ships, cozy accommodations, fresh, locallysourced cuisine, and guided excursions, Viking’s customer service and commitment to ethical touring is truly unparalleled. For us, Viking provided airport pickup and all ground transport, helped us arrange our excursions, and worked with us to create an unforgettable experience—one that was the perfect recipe for this mom and daughter traveling duo. For more information on the Waterways of the Tsars cruise itinerary, see Viking’s website at www.vikingrivercruises.com or call them toll-free at 1-800-706-1483.
A WORLD OF ADVENTURE IS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
In So Many Ways Just a short drive from Phoenix, Arizona, Sedona awaits you. Moderate temperatures in the daytime are perfect for swimming, kayaking or fishing. Hike or bike over 100 trails through the magnificent red rocks. And the cool nights will give you a chance to unplug and reconnect under the stars. Plan your adventure, today, at VisitSedona.com
A TRIP DOWN THE DANUBE From Medieval to Modern World
Story and photos by Bob & Sandy Nesoff
ome people look at the world through rose colored glasses. Johann Straus may have been looking at the Danube River through sepia toned lenses. The composer of the Blue Danube Waltz may have been putting his own spin on a river that could have been blue on Feb. 13, 1867 when it made it debut but today’s river is a calm and smooth flowing brown. But that does not take the romance away from the famed waterway. Several noted cruise lines have trips that go up and down the river. Our host was Uniworld Cruises, leaving Vienna, home to Strauss, and going downstream to Bucharest over a very relaxing and gentle two week period. Most of the passengers on board were seasoned travelers who had chosen Uniworld because of its reputation for affordable luxury. The trip started smoothly at Vienna International Airport with quick passage through customs and immigration.
Just outside the doors was a young man holding a large sign proclaiming “Uniworld.” Luggage was quickly taken to a comfortable bus and, literally, within minutes the transfer to the ship took off. The following morning, after a sumptuous breakfast, an included tour took most of the passengers to see the beautiful city of Vienna. On tap were visits to Mozarthaus, where another famed composer lived and worked. An alternate tour gave passengers the choice of seeing the city through a fine arts lens. Arguably the most interesting tour of all was an optional trip to Schonbrunn Palace, home of the Hapsburg dynasty and its most famous member, Empress Maria Therese. The grounds are immense and as beautifully groomed as though Austrian royalty was still in residence. A walk through the palace brings to life quite vividly the lifestyles of the rich and famous. There were secret passages so that the Hapsburg’s would not be
Uniworld’s River Princess
disturbed or have to look at servants while their every need was catered to. For those who enjoy the old classics, Uniworld offers an optional evening tour, The Vienna Concert-The Sound of Vienna. While you are at dinner the ship will gently slip its moorings and head downriver to its next port of call. The downstream current is rapid and the water smooth, combining to produce a gentle ride. There are numerous tours and entertainment options on shore; the same holds true on board ship. Local ethnic performers board for an evening’s entertainment. A word to the wise here is to make it to the lounge early because seats fill fast for these shows. Bratislava is at once an ancient city and one creeping into the 21st century. There are castles and palaces, apartment buildings that are falling down, and modern structures.
ost Eastern European cities are faced with replacing what has become known as “Communist chic.” These are buildings put up under Communist rule from the end of WWII until freedom was restored in 1989 with the fall of the dictatorships.
Although Bratislava’s once thriving Jewish community has all but dissipated since the Nazi horrors of WWII, there is a preservation movement afoot and a memorial to the victims adjacent to the old synagogue, now represented by a painted façade. A word of caution as you go through Eastern Europe; although most countries have joined the European Union, sliding into modern commerce to eventually making the Euro the common trade factor, there are some who still prefer their old currency.
Heroes Square, Budapest
In Slovakia many merchants hang on to the koruna instead of the Euro, and dollars are rarely accepted. Be careful about exchanging your money here because these local currencies often cannot be exchanged again outside of the country and you could be stuck with “Monopoly Money.” River cruising provides the opportunity to gently glide from city to city while taking your hotel with you. There is no need to pack and unpack on a daily basis; no need to race about seeking tour buses. Uniworld’s itineraries in each port ranged from ancient Roman ruins to local historic sites, and even included a meal with a local farm family. Most tours were inclusive with a handful listed as extras. On-board personnel were exceptionally knowledgeable and many were native to the areas visited and thus were able to give personal insights, making the experience more enjoyable. At every stop through its cruise, Uniworld had buses at the tip of the gangplank waiting for guests. Those who opted for a bye day on touring could easily flake out on a deck chair and enjoy the sun. Uniworld’s cruises ply a wide variety of the world’s waterways from Europe to Southeast Asia, Egypt to Russia and much more in between. For more information contact a travel agent or go to www.uniworld.com.
Heroic bronze statue of Tito Heroes Square, Budapest
Uniform of Marshal Tito, late Communist dictator of Yugoslavias
DESTINATION INFORMATION EXPLORE BRANSON, MO
Branson, Missouri, nestled in the lakeside beauty of the Ozark Mountains, is America’s affordable, wholesome family entertainment capital that emphasizes fun, comfort and the feeling of being right at home. Featuring an array of live theaters and attraction venues and active recreational pursuits, the community embodies essential American values such as patriotism, faith, courage and generosity of spirit in a warm inviting atmosphere that is truly genuine and heartfelt. www.explorebranson.com
UNITED STATES ALABAMA
Greater Birmingham Conv. & Visitors Bureau (205) 458-8000 http://www.birminghamal.org Hunstville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau (256) 551-2235 http://www.huntsville.org
Explore Fairbanks 907-459-3770 http://www.ExploreFairbanks.com
Sedona Chamber of Commerce (928) 282-7722 http://www.visitsedona.com
Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism Phone: 501-682-7602 Website: http://www.Arkansas.com Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau 501-370-3224 www.LittleRock.com North Little Rock Visitors Bureau 501-758-1424 www.NorthLittleRock.org
Visit Oxnard (805) 385-7545 http://www.visitoxnard.com
VISIT PHOENIX, AZ
DISCOVER OXNARD, CA
Desert character. It can’t be conjured, landscaped or kindled with twinkling bulbs. Projected against this rugged backdrop is a panorama of charm: Resorts and spas infused with Native American tradition. Golf courses that stay emerald green in the middle of winter. Mountain parks crisscrossed with trails. Sports arenas worthy of the Super Bowl. Restaurants that invite you to dine beneath sunshine or stars.This is the desert you never knew. Discover it. www.visitphoenix.com
Nestled along the Pacific Coast between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Oxnard, California offers everything you need for a great vacation. Catch a boat out of our scenic marina for a whale watching cruise or to explore the Channel Islands National Park, “America’s Galapagos.” Enjoy miles of uncrowded beaches and oceanfront bike trails. Grab a kayak, ride the ocean on a paddle board, soak up Southern California’s beautiful-year-round weather. Play at our world-class golf courses and taste local wines along the Ventura County Wine Trail. Celebrate the sunset. It’s time to discover Oxnard! www.visitoxnard.com
Team San Jose 408-792-4175 http://www.SanJose.org (California)
Visit Palm Springs (760) 778-8415 www.visitpalmsprings.com
Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. (970) 945-5002 http://www.glenwoodchamber.com/
Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau 504-731-7083 www.ExperienceJefferson.com Open the Door, Inc. 617-536-0590 http://www.openthedoor.biz/
Greater Lansing CVB (517) 377-1423 http://www.lansing.org/
Litchfield Hills and Fairfield CountyWestern CT CVB (860) 567-5406 http://www.visitwesternct.com/
Franklin County Tourist Development Council (850) 653-8678 http://www.saltyflorida.com/ Santa Rosa Tourist Development Office (850) 939-2691 http://www.floridasplayground.com/ Visit Sarasota County (941) 955-0991 http://www.visitsarasota.org Lee County CVB (239) 338-3500 www.leecvb.com Visit Tampa Bay (813) 342-4052 http://www.visittampabay.com
Visit Natchez (601) 446-6345 http://www.natchez.org Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention & Visitors Bureau (417) 243-2137 http://bransoncvb.com/
Finn Partners 212-715-1600 www.FinnPartners.com Turning Stone Resort Casino 800-771-7711 www.TurningStone.com Ulster County Tourism 845-340-3568 www.UlsterTourism.info
DESTINATION INFORMATION (Cont’d.) VISIT PALM SPRINGS
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO
Palm Springs, California is known for its storied Hollywood legacy, Native American heritage and stellar collection of mid-century modern architecture. Palm Springs is California’s ultimate desert playground. It truly is like no place else. Lounging by the pool and soaking up the sun is always a favorite pastime. If you want to explore the outdoors and enjoy the beautiful climate, there are plenty of activities. Soar to the top of Mount San Jacinto on the world famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, hike scenic trails and stroll through the ancient palm groves in the Indian Canyons, or take an off-road excursion of Joshua Tree National Park or the San Andreas Fault.
Take a ticket to your next Colorado Rocky Mountain adventure by exploring “America’s Most Fun Town,” Glenwood Springs, Colorado! For over a century, visitors from around the globe have added Glenwood Springs to their travel itineraries. Our destination is family friendly, affordable, and blessed with a remarkable mix of geological wonders including hot springs, vapor caves, two rivers and a canyon, surrounded by the glorious Rocky Mountains. Whether you crave hiking, biking, fishing, outdoor activities or relaxing spa time, you’ll find it all in Glenwood Springs.
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau (252) 473-2138 www.outerbanks.org
Newport, Rhode Island CVB (401) 845-9117 www.GoNewport.com
Aberdeen Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (605) 225-2414 http://www.visitaberdeen.com
Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway (423) 442-9147 http://monroecounty.com/
Galveston Island CVB (405) 797-5152 http://www.galveston.com Virtuoso Life Magazine 817-334-8680 www.Virtuoso.com
Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau (VA) (757) 728-5316 http://visithampton.com/ Visit Norfolk Today (757) 664-6620 http://wwwvisitnorfolktoday.com
VISIT SALTY, FLORIDA
We’re Salty! If you’re looking for the old Florida experience you’ll find it in Franklin County. Tucked along Florida’s Panhandle, the coastal communities of Alligator Point, Apalachicola, Carrabelle, Eastpoint, and St. George Island offer beaches, history, adventure and fresh Apalachicola Bay seafood served up in an authentic “salty” setting. Relax on award-winning, pet-friendly beaches, climb historic lighthouses, charter eco-tours and fishing trips or bring your own gear and enjoy camping, paddling and hiking on acres of wooded trails and miles of quiet streams. Tee up on a championship golf course, enjoy live theatre performances in an historic venue and browse local galleries, museums and shops. Fresh local seafood is served at more than 30 area restaurants and local seafood markets.
San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau (360) 378-6822 http://visitsanjuans.com/
TRAVEL TRIVIA ANSWERS: from quiz on page 4)
This term comes from the early days of transatlantic steamship travel. The word, “Lido,” is a 19th-century term meaning a fashionable beach resort, with most authorities attributing its origins to the Island Resort located on an island in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Venice, Italy. European steamship lines coined the phrase Lido Deck to refer to the pool and sun deck area exclusively for use by first-class passengers.
”Sea legs” originally meant the ability to maintain one’s balance on a pitching deck solely by shifting one’s weight from one foot to the other, without having to hold onto something solid to maintain balance. By extension this has come to include the ability to tolerate a rocking ship without getting seasick.
Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism (360) 629-7136 http://www.whidbeycamanoislands.com/
Pocahontas County CVB (304) 799-4636 http://www.pocahontascountywv.com/
City Pass Toll Free (888) 330-5008 Direct: (208) 787-4300 www.citypass.com
Quebec City Tourism (418) 641-6654, 5421 http://www.quebecregion.com
Mariners often carried cages full of crows or ravens for use as aids in coastal navigation. If the sailors were uncertain of their position and bearing to a nearby land mass, they would release one of the birds who would usually fly in the shortest, most direct route toward the nearest land. In colloquial parlance, “as the crow flies” has come to mean the same thing, which usually is a straight line.
The “X” stands for “Chandris.” Originally, Celebrity was the upscale division of Chandris Cruises, a Greek company. The “ch” sound in Greek is represented by the letter, chi, whose alphabetical symbol is “X.”
There is no difference. However -- from “Chapman Piloting: Seamanship & Boat Handling” (63rd Edition), the mariner’s bible for all things maritime -- there is no official difference, but the line is generally drawn at 20 meters (or about 60 feet), at which point a “boat” becomes a “ship,” though neither designation is incorrect for any length.
c) the charter catamaran. A yacht, by the “official” definition, is a pleasure craft not for commercial use. Now the term is used far more loosely. If you are rowing a rowboat, you are still considered to be piloting a yacht!
PUERTO VALLARTA Visit Puerto Vallarta (212) 633-2047 www.visitpuertovallarta.com
The term Poop Deck, referring to a raised deck at the very aft end of a ship, goes all the way back to ancient Rome. Those early Mediterranean sailors carried sacred idols on raised platforms on the sterns of their vessels, presumably so the idolized god could look down upon the ship and crew and grant protection. The Roman term for such statues was puppis, and the platform was called a puppim, which eventually became poupe, and, finally, poop deck.
Be inspired by the light of the Aurora Borealis. Renew your energy under the Midnight Sun. Experience the warmth of Fairbanks—Alaska’s Golden Heart—and the gateway to Denali, Interior and Arctic Alaska. Call 1-800-327-5774 for your free Fairbanks Visitors Guide. Explore your Alaskan vacation at explorefairbanks.com.