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TRAVEL BLOG

The Leader of Luxury Cruises Raises the Bar

We don’t often spotlight just one company, but Regent Seven Seas Cruises is making us—the behind the scenes travel aficionados—very excited. The latest addition to the fleet, the Seven Seas Explorer, is cited as “the world’s most luxurious cruise ship” and is opening it’s inaugural Mediterranean season this Spring with a particular culinary focus. As the company announces something new, they are also upgrading something ‘old,’ committing $125 million to remodel the other three ships, bringing a consistent look and feel across the intimate fleet. But what we are really excited about is the Gourmet Explorer Tours offered this Spring with the Seven Seas Explorer.

3 RSSC ships

Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Voyager, and Seven Seas Mariner are undergoing at $125 million remodel in the next 24 months

Each of the ships has a strong Culinary Arts Kitchen, which allows guests to explore the destination and local culture through its culinary offerings, wherever the cruise may take you. The newest ship joining the fleet this Spring, the Seven Seas Navigator, will take that program to the next level. “Our tours were expertly crafted to provide our guests with unique opportunities to dine at a highly coveted and world-renowned Michelin-starred restaurant, visit iconic markets and palatial vineyard estate homes, and learn from some of Europe’s premier chefs with personalized, hands-on instruction,” says Jason Montague, president and COO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

regent chefs for blog

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These trips, called the Gourmet Explorer Tours, are designed for guests seeking unique, one-of-a-kind epicurean adventures ashore to complement the unrivaled culinary experiences found aboard. To take the experience above and beyond, each Gourmet Explorer Tour will be accompanied by the chief instructor from the Culinary Arts Kitchen and a local guide, often a chef, with intimate knowledge of the region’s agriculture, wine and cuisine, to add an extra layer of authenticity to this immersive culinary experience.

So you can feel as excited as we are, see some of the highlighted stops to be found along this dream voyage in the Mediterranean. Foodies beware!

  • Sorrento, Italy – Become immersed in the unique cuisine of Campagnia by making cheese at the artisanal fromagerie, watching a culinary demonstration by a master chef, and wining and dining amid the luxury gardens of the stunning Don Alfonso.
  • Monte Carlo, Monaco – Wine tasting at Cave Bianchi in Nice followed by dinner at the famed La Chèvre d’Or restaurant highlight a special night out with fellow foodies. Guests gain an appreciation for local and traditionally-inspired dishes hand-selected for the evening affair.
  • Saint Tropez, France – Bask in an evening of ultimate gourmand indulgence on the luxurious French Riviera. Taste three Provence varietals at the famed La Croix winery, and then enjoy a gourmet dining experience at the renowned La Vague d’Or, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in the heart of Saint Tropez.
  • Barcelona, Spain – Enjoy the gloriously rich Catalan culinary scene with guided strolls through the famed Boqueria and Santa Caterina markets, followed by an unforgettable lunch and kitchen tour from Chef Jordi Cruz at ABaC, a famed 2-star Michelin restaurant.
  • Palamos, Spain – For an intimate look at this beguiling region, guests enjoy a tasting at an artisanal olive oil producer before enjoying a cooking demonstration and 7-course tasting menu luncheon in the magical, stone-walled village of Madremanya.

Tip from a Travel Agent: Usually “all-inclusive” implies a sliding scale of amenities you select (and pay for) beforehand, but Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the only truly all-inclusive cruise line, meaning everything from airfare to unlimited shore excursions (unheard of) to all-access gourmet dining to gratuity is paid for in your initial fare. To those looking to really getaway for a once in a lifetime experience, this company offers it.

Update: Santa Barbara Travel Bureau is hosting an event February 2nd! Wine and Food with a Travel Twist, where you can learn about all-inclusive sailing and life on board luxurious Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Discover their new itineraries and special offers. Meet the travel experts of Santa Barbara Travel and the Sales Manager from Regent Seven Seas Cruises. RSVP details here on our events page.

Travel Advisor Trip Review– 7 Nights Aboard the AmaBella with AmaWaterways

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau Advisor, Nancy Herrmann, recently visited the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Hungary through a 7-Night voyage aboard the AmaBella. Beginning with three days in Prague, ending with three days in Budapest, with 7 days of stops along the Danube River on a river cruise by AmaWaterways. Below, Nancy shares her highlights of the trip, favorite cities, and tips to get the most out of cruise trips.

Three Days in Prague, the “City of Spires”

Prague

The AmaWaterways cruise started on the Danube River in Germany, but we chose to fly into Prague, Czech Republic to spend a few days in “The City of 100 Spires.” Any time you travel for a cruise, I highly recommend choosing a few destinations to explore at the beginning and/or end. If you are making the trip, make it a journey!

The historic center of Prague, a UNESCO World Heritage site, dates back well over 1000 years. In the 14th century it was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and since has seen many upswings and falls of power throughout history. The most recent notable rise was in 1989 with the end of forty-one years of communist rule, yet the beauty and charm of the Old Town remains.

Nancy room

Accommodation: We stayed at the Pachtuv Palace for our three nights in Prague. Although our room showed definite signs of wear and tear, this hotel offers impeccable service, very large rooms and is walking distance to the Charles Bridge and Old Town Square.

 

Regensburg, Germany

From Prague, we boarded a bus for the transfer to our awaiting longship. After about two hours on the road, we stopped in Regensburg, Germany for a quick tour of the city and a lunch break. Beautiful, quiet town with an incredible waterway.

regensberg collage

 

The Cruise with AmaWaterways

Did You Know?  The word ‘Ama’ stems from the Latin “Amare,” meaning “to love.” In other words, AmaWaterways means “to love waterways” (not A.M.A. which could be confused..). That is what this river cruise line is all about: ensuring their customers love to travel on water as much as they do.

Cruise Theme: This particular cruise was a Wine Themed sailing with Aver Vineyards from Gilroy, CA on board and it required attendance at a special one hour Seminar on the River.

Service: The level of hospitality and attention to detail was remarkable. The crew was professional, attentive and charming, with a perpetual sense of good humor! Each day began with a genuine smile and cheery “good morning” from the housekeeper. Each stateroom was neat and clean, all day, every day. The bartenders and wait staff did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and well fed. We even struck up a rapport with a waiter on the first day who, much to his dismay I’m sure, ended up with us at his dinner table the entire cruise! Our table guests changed, but clearly, Aleksander enjoyed us as much as we did him.

Accommodations: For the next seven nights, we were housed in a Twin Balcony Stateroom that features both a French Balcony and a separate outside balcony, allowing incredible views right from our room throughout the journey. Talk about being on the water!

On Board Travel Tips: All inclusive pricing really helps you relax on vacation, and quite a few of your usual necessities are provided. All staterooms are equipped with a hairdryer, bathrobes, slippers and a safe. Your bathroom offers a magnifying mirror and spa-quality toiletries including soaps, body wash, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion that are replenished as needed. On European ships, a computer is provided in each stateroom that has high-speed Internet access and complimentary WiFi is available throughout the ship, albeit somewhat slow most of the time due to the fact that everyone uses it at the same time.

Meal Time: Meals are served in the main dining room three times a day, and as in usual cruising fashion, there are snacks available in the lounge throughout the day and late into the evenings. All drinks, including premium wines, beer and spirits are included with your meals. Coffees and hot chocolate from a dispenser, teas and water are available all day. Additional drinks can be bought in the lounge at very affordable prices; about $6 for a glass of wine and from $4-$15 for premium drinks.

Map of the 7-Night Cruise along the Danube River

Map of the 7-Night Cruise along the Danube River

First Highlight: Passau, Germany A typically quaint city on the Danube with some dubious history that includes tales about Hitler and Napoleon. The city floods often, most recently in 2013, where the water was so high, the town had to shut down!

Second Highlight: Salzburg, Austria Music fans ourselves, we chose to visit Salzburg, home of Mozart, ‘The Sound of Music’ and visited our first Christmas Market. The city has changed a bit since my last visit almost 30 years ago, but it is still charming.  If you aren’t as enthralled with Mozart as we were, we recommend the day trip to the picturesque Cesky Kymlov in the Czech Republic.

abby

Third Stop: Melk, Hungary Melk was one of our favorite stops, with its historic Abbey and fairytale town and began our favorite day.

wachau valley

Sailing the Wachau Valley: After a morning in Melk, the afternoon was spent sailing through the beautiful Wachau Valley, with incredible views past rolling hills, beautiful baroque churches, vineyards and ancient castles. Ruins of the 12th Century Durnstein Castle, atop the highest hill, was a great photo-op before floating into the striking town of Durnstein. History has it that King Richard the Lion-Hearted was imprisoned in the castle by Leopold V, the Duke of Austria, in 1192. That same evening, we did a special wine tasting at Castle Gobelsburg, then we set sail overnight to Vienna.

castle bodelsburg

The Journey Continued in Budapest

The last day and night of the cruise was spent in Budapest. This beautiful city was indeed at the top of our list! Thankfully, we planned to spend an extra few nights here after the cruise, so we didn’t have to extend the trip– We loved it so much we would have!

Highlights of Budapest

  1. Cruising the river at night
  2. Hungarian goulash soup making at the Sofitel (we have the aprons and hats to prove it!)
  3. Strolling through the Christmas markets
  4. Best dinner of our entire vacation (during our own 2 night extension)!
  5. Lights, sights, bridges and so much more!

budapest

All in all, this was a fantastic trip! In my opinion, AmaWaterways is great for travelers who want to take it easy, have some good food and sit back and relax, with the average age for a European river cruise at 55+. Although there are some things for the younger set to do while off the ship, because these longships have limited public space, there is not much to do while on board. If that is not a concern, it’s a great way to discover some great places in Europe!

If you have any questions about the trip, please call Nancy Herrmann at 805.966.3116 or email her at nherrmann@sbtravel.com or see her trip details on her Facebook page

5 New Years Resolutions to Make– If You Want to Travel

With every New Year comes the “Resolutions Phase” as promises are made to quit our vices or spark our good habits. Gym memberships shoot up, only to be abandoned by February 1; shoes are purchased with hopes of hitting pavement, only to sit in a closet after their debut around the block; promises are made to quit-that-thing-I-know-is-bad only to run rampant with it. Clearly, we are going about this all wrong.

Even motivating goals, like travel, have made it to the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions Lists as long as the internet has compiled them, but most people write their travel dreams on a bucket list, not a book-it-now list, and instead opt for that gym membership. The key is to make your goals more specific, and even a little ridiculous, but make sure they are rooted outside of your locale. Let your journey to a new place plant the seed of the habits you want to build by rooting them in your passion.

1-3 DominicanRepublic2

1– See a Wild Flamingo (on White Sand Beaches)

Silly? Perhaps, but think of the places you can go! These beautiful, wild birds are a distant cousin to those seen in a zoo. Experience Flamingos in their natural, pink glory and watch them “dance” in the sand as they dig up pink shrimp. This resolution can take you throughout the Caribbean, and even to a tiny island called Holbox off the coast of Mexico, where there are no cars and plenty of white sand beaches.

DominicanRepublic4

2– Coconut Water Detox (via Bicycle Delivery)

Unlike the “lose weight” or “be healthier” goals, a Coconut Water Detox can be highly beneficial with only a 2 day commitment. From Bali to the Dominican Republic, the locals will scale coconut trees and delivery your supply by bike, with a machete. Coconut water is one of the purest forms of water when taken straight out of a coconut, and offers a healthy balance of minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, salt, and vitamins. The water is also alkaline, which creates an anti-cancer atmosphere in our bodies. Not only will you feel infinitely better after 2 days, you will have become quite handy cracking open a coconut with a machete.

Bhutan Yoga 1

3– A 1-Week Yoga Challenge (in the Himalayan Kingdom)

Skip the gym membership or yoga pass and go all-in. We couldn’t feel more strongly about this yoga retreat in Bhutan, available at a special rate from now until August. Enjoy the tranquility of the deep forest and misty mountains of the Himalayas, while being fed organic cuisine, breathing deeply, and relaxing mind, body and spirit in the spa. Pictures are worth a thousand words at Uma by COMO. There are even one-on-one meetings with a Buddhist monk for a truly enlightening experience!

tango-axis4– Tango & Vino (in Buenos Aires

Don’t just take dance classes, learn this passionate style of movement from the source: Buenos Aires. Tango came from Europe, but found it’s home in Argentina. The sensual movements of Tango will bring passion & spice into your every day. While you’re down there, discover the art of tea, sample delectable wines with an expert wine steward, walk in Pope Francis’ footsteps, and sneak backstage at the Colon Theatre opera house.

chile35– Time Travel to the Next Season

Yes! You can chase seasons, and we think this is the most amazing of resolutions. Whether you are one to chase Summer or Winter, we will help you find exactly what you are looking for. White sand beaches with glorious sunsets in Fiji, to an adventure trip in Chile and Patagonia, to a foodie adventure though Argentina, the other hemisphere has so much to offer!

Iquitos-Sunset

 

Whatever passion you are looking for, our travel agents are experts on where to find it. Look outside of the box of resolutions, and make sure your bucket list doesn’t get too long. Call us to talk about your New Years resolutions, and we’ll make them happen. 805.969.7746 and speak with Erin for a complementary travel consultation.