U by Uniworld Takes Over the River Cruise Space

U by Uniworld Joins the Uniworld Family

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises Gives Birth to an Entirely New River Cruising Concept

The new river cruise caters to millennials, ages 21-45, and is a floating boutique hotel. U by Uniworld sails two ships: The A, which makes its way down the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, and The B, which makes her home on France’s Seine river. Both will be ready to set sail by early spring of 2018.

Although the two ships will be unique in design paralleling their geographic homes, they both contain the same amenities that keeps them true to the Uniworld brand. On both ships you will find a rooftop lounge, complete with hydraulics. This glass enclosed room disappears into the floor to create an open-air hangout.  You will find two venues for dining, one full-service restaurant and one casual rooftop eatery, both farm-to-table cuisine, often inspired by the culinary style of the places you’ll visit. You will find that every room has a view – both ships have three different room styles, ranging from triple “pod” rooms all the way up to a suite.

U by Uniworld is designed to create a ’boutique hotel’ vibe for their guests. This includes complimentary guest laundry, a 24/7 coffee shop, an Ice Bar which includes silent discos and international DJ’s, a gym, and a spa. Indulge yourself in a yoga class on the rooftop deck, or learn how to mix craft cocktails with a mixology lesson taught by U’s talented  mixologists. Feeling antsy? Grab one of U’s all matte-black bikes and hit the town!

With U by Uniworld, your sailing includes two meals per day, shore excursions, non-alcoholic beverages. (Drink packages may become available in the near future.) They have partnered up with popular millennial brand, Contiki, to match up their tours with a U cruise so you can extend your vacation pre or post sailing.

Reach out to us today for more information on their 2018 sailings on sale, and select cruises open to all ages. 


Contact your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor or Ally Daisa for more information: 


Phone: (805) 869-1100

Santa Barbara Travel Now Offers GoPro for Rent

Santa Barbara Travel Now Offers a GoPro Hero+ Program

Don’t Miss a Memory. Book Your Next Trip with Santa Barbara Travel and Ask Us About Our GoPro Program

GoPro’s are perfect for capturing professional quality video and photo. They are extremely durable and versatile, and can be mounted on a variety of mounts you can carry with you. They can be taken for an underwater plunge, on a dusty safari, or strapped on your body during a ski/snowboard session or even a sky dive excursion.

GoPro’s can be mounted on a long pole for easy selfie access, your head for POV footage, your chest for another POV angle, your foot, your hand, your wrist, your motorbike, car, plane, guitar, and even your dog. There are mounts available for all of these things, and more, including one you can bite on for surf trips. The options are endless!

Contact us if you are interested in bringing our GoPro along with you on your next adventure!


Phone: 805-869-1100 

Santa Barbara Travel Client Live Blogs On Crystal Serenity

A Week on Crystal Serenity:

A Santa Barbara Travel Client’s Rendition of his Montreal- Ft Lauderdale Sailing

Crystal Serenity

Crystal Serenity


Day 1-2:

People always ask me, “Don’t you get bored being on a ship for so long?” Well, no. In fact, it is the opposite. I can hardly find time to sit on my Verandah and smell the salt air. Most times I won’t debark at port just to have a slightly slower pace. Besides, everybody leaves and it is like having your own 750 passenger yacht! (That’s when I hot tub). I know now why ships are referred to in the feminine text. Each is beautiful in their own way, with alluring nuances and quirks. Like a perfect marriage, find the right one and you savor every minute.

On this particular trip, I had the pleasure of checking out Crystal Serenity. I can safely say I definitely developed a taste for 6-star cruises. A little bit more money, but extremely worth it. Our last cruise was on Regent and I wanted to compare the top two lines to see the difference. And there definitely was a difference. Really excellent choices if YOU know what lights your fire!

We are on a 15 day, Montreal to Ft Lauderdale sojourn. We port in Bar Harbor Maine tomorrow. I have to say coming out of the St. Lawrence into the Atlantic was an E-ticket ride. Strong winds added to our excitement. Fortunately, it was during our sleep hours, but all the jiggling made for interesting dreams!

One of Crystal’s strengths is its education/entertainment program. After 60+ cruises, I can say with some confidence that you can find no better offering. This morning, I heard lectures on Boston (Redcoats and Minutemen), North Korea (Controlling the Spread of Nuclear Weapons by Professor Louis Rene Barnes), and instead of going to hear how the wristwatch was invented, I slipped into a very informative lecture/instruction on iPad tricks. We ate lunch quickly and headed back to “Computer at Sea” for Adobe Photoshop Magic. And I’m only into day two! I didn’t go to that many classes when  I was at Stanford 60 years ago!

Yesterday was just as hectic with fantastic night life. After a delightful Nobu dinner, we heard a Broadway production of “The Life of Billy Joel”, some great jazz and a nightcap at Karaoke (I’m working on my rendition of Big Bad Leroy Brown).

People who say they get bored cruising are on the wrong ship!

-John M.

Karaoke aboard Crystal Serenity

Guests enjoying karaoke

Day 3-4:

We are in Quebec and I had forgotten what a charming city it is. Really like a mini France with English spoken. Absolutely gorgeous fall foliage on a three-hour bus ride from Montreal. We got off to a booming start with a long bar session with my wife buying a $65 bottle of wine to take to the room. When asked why? “It’s only $25 at Costco.”

Too early to comment on the ship, except the foyer bar is terrific. Met some charming people, one lady on her 37th Crystal Cruise. Why? She loves to dance and the cruise line provides partners. Expensive shoe shuffling.

This Crystal ship is different than others we’ve sailed. No sports bar. No TV, or football, or baseball in the public areas. Each morning was packed with interesting lecturers. Listened to a former ambassador this AM. They have a large computer program with speakers and person to person instruction. I’m finally learning how to do stuff I was embarrassed to ask my grandkids!

Leisurely chugging down the St. Lawrence with Bar Harbor Maine as our first stop. Interesting sideline…we will plow through herds of migrating whales as we round Newfoundland. Ship has to slow down to 10 mph.

Love and wine bottles to all,

– John M.

Crystal Serenity Penthoue Veranda

Crystal Penthouse Veranda

Day 4-5:

Judy and I hit the sack early last night. Didn’t miss any of the entertainment as we watched a replay on our stateroom’s TV at 7:30am while enjoying our coffee and orange juice. Nice feature. They do the same with lectures.

We tender at noon into Bay Harbor. Before that, we go through a quick “face” immigration inspection in the Galaxy Lounge. We may decide to stay on board as we have tickets to the Magic Castle show at 4:30pm. Hard to get. They only accept 25 people per show, only do 8 shows per sailing, and we caught a lucky break as someone cancelled and we were next in line! The shows all sold out BEFORE the cruise left Quebec. 550 people are out of magic on this cruise. Not us, timing is everything! Ship sails at 6pm, temperature is up to 50 degrees and we’ve been here before influencing our decision. Dinner tonight is at specialty restaurant “Prego”.

Our Nobu experience was excellent. Such exquisite tastes and settings. Could eat there every other night. Each guest can dine twice in their  specialty restaurants on the house and then there is a nominal charge of $30. Still a bargain! Food? Judy and I share different opinions. I think Regent Seven Seas Cruises is better while she likes Crystal. Either way, it’s overkill. You really have to have a modicum of will power or the notches in your belt disappear. I’m close to beltless already and more than a week to go!

One thing I will comment on is their soups. “Tastes” is one of their eateries on the 12th deck. It serves the same menu daily. We have been there twice for soup and salad. Soup is the only item they change. Each day I have had seconds. Yesterday I ordered the Tuna salad made with fresh Ahi Tuna, (no Bumblebee for me!). It was delicious.

How can you not love cruising?

-John M.

Nobu on Crystal Serenity

Dessert at Nobu Restaurant

Day 6-7:

A warm, bright, sunny day greeted us chugging into historic Boston Bay. I swear I see tea leaves floating alongside. We dock just opposite of the end of Logan Airport’s main runway which gives me a constant view of activity. Fun for me as I can sit on my Verandah and identify the different aircraft (using the ship supplied binoculars). It also is one of the main shipping channels which is busy, busy, busy with people and cargo heading out to far worldly points. The Holland America Zuiderdam tooted as it went by. Everybody was waving at each other.

Judy was all set to visit the Kennedy Library today but I talked her into going to a movie instead. Ship has a charming theater and shows a variety of movies from Blockbusters to “Indies”. Changes twice a day. They even provide you popcorn. Both of us have been to Boston a couple of times so I felt no urgent need to disembark. Besides, we both have come down with small colds so we are saving ourselves for tomorrow…Newport, RI.

The Magic show was terrific! Up close and personal – that really enhances the cleverness. Tonight’s plans are solid. Early dinner then off to the Cove to hear Frank Sinatra music, then to the major stage “Beatles” production, “Across the Pond”, and then hustle off to Stardust Club for the “Rock and Pop-A-Mania” show. Close out the evening with a nightcap at Karaoke (I’m still practicing my version of BBLB!).

-John M.

Crystal Serenity Cruise Dancers

Crystal Cruise Dancers

Day 8-9:

What a trip! If you are rich enough and so out of touch with reality that you build a house with 21 horse stalls INSIDE the house (with horses, of course), this is your kind of town! What a fascinating place.

Absolutely gorgeous scenery, old, multi-million homes and stories galore. We had a wonderful guide driving us around in her red and white trolley car while she related the weird and wild history of America’s gentrified playground. This is one of those places you can’t mentally absorb. It is a place that is so full of excess, wacky egos and stunning scenery that you leave your jaw ajar automatically.

Serenity is parked in the middle of zillions of sailboats, tendering passenger’s back and forth at a rapid rate. The town of 24,000 swells by three during the summer season but is now slowing down to get ready for the cold winter. Not today! It’s warm and in the high fifties. Tomorrow is two days in New York. This place is the ying, the “Big Apple” is the yang.

-John M.

Day 10-11:

Sunrise was at 7:13am. Judy and I popped out of our beds 2 minutes later. We had just entered the Hudson River on our way to downtown “Big Apple”. What a gorgeous morning, blue skies, a few puffy clouds and a ton of warm, emerging sun. In silence, we relaxed on our Veranda watching the worlds most iconic city float by.

Our daughter had lived in Manhattan for a decade and many of the sights were recognizable from previous visits. A tinge of anger, fear, sorrow as we passed the sight of 9/11 Trade Towers. The vast changes in all our lives since. I didn’t feel this on land but somehow the “Serenity” of a slow moving ship, the sharp fresh air and immensity of our surroundings was mesmerizing. Tugs showed up, pushed us into Pier 95 and our two day visit began.

After a week I have definitely fallen in love. Crystal is my choice of cruising. There are so many reasons “why”- I will try and explain some. They are NOT grandiose things, but small things. Comfortable, cozy, friendly, thoughtful, relaxing…things that definitely appeal to me. Oh sure, I could point out the negatives, there are some. It is an “old” ship by today’s cruising standards and it shows in places. But overall, to me, it overcomes those niggly little quirks with an over abundance of aforementioned attributes. Let me just mention one.

Movie Theater

Located on deck 6 is a small theater used for computer lectures and movies. Complete with wide, comfortable seats, personally served hot popcorn and some unique foreign and “Indy” films. Our film today? Midwife. A French production with subtitles. I found it interesting for two reasons. One, my hearing aids need hearing aids so having English subtitles allowed me to actually understand! Two, I learned things about France I wasn’t aware of. Not a bad way to spend an hour and twenty-two minutes of your life. Afterwards we slip around the corner to the Latte bar and a savory Blueberry muffin with delicious coffee. One last thing. They show and change films twice a day.

I love cruising.

-John M.

Day 12-13:

Sitting in the Bistro drinking the best cup of coffee anywhere! This is their Latte Bar –midship with expansive ocean views — where we came to have our last breakfast. A plethora of fresh fruit, over warm muffins and breads with various selections of meats and cheeses will tide us over until our speaker arrives next door in the Hollywood Theater at 1:30pm. “Where did the Cod go?” is our subject, and while this doesn’t sound too stimulating, the speaker, a local Norfolk University professor is TERRIFIC. His speech given earlier on the Cunard-Collins steamboat competition in the North Atlantic was very fascinating.

Our last day before docking in Ft. Lauderdale. We have an early call to bus to Miami International. This is clean up day. Pack (ugh), return the Connelly novels to the library unread. Darn! I told Judy I was DEFINITELY going to read a couple of books on this trip but between the iPad and activities…when?

About my only complaint so far has been the substitution of Norfolk for Savannah. That was one of the two places where I had definitely expected to get off the ship. Next time. Our last days have been fast and furious. I don’t drink anymore but the policy of free alcohol (the really good stuff!) keeps forcing me to sip Malibu Rum and coke. Judy on the other hand is never without a wine glass in her hand. She l-o-v-e-s it! I over eat. The food is good I can’t decide so I order everything! Coming home, Judy is a walking winery and I am wearing nothing but my underwear as my pants no longer fit.

Our only regret? Not having our family along to share it with. Or, at least some close friends. We realize we are spending their inheritance (Just a touch of guilt). But after putting up with each other for 56 years, this is such fun and fantasy that we ignore our parent pangs and enjoy. After all, we celebrated our oldest daughter’s 16th birthday on the Love Boat. We took all the kids AND my parents through the canal.

The big night aboard the ship was the costume party where all the passengers were given help in making a costume and then showing it off on stage in front of ALL the fellow travelers. (Much smaller ships, in the mid seventies). Those who sailed before knew this was coming and PREPARED. I HAD BEEN TIPPED OFF so we were too! As there was eight of us, finding something we all could do was hard. My father, a strong, silent ex-cowboy, wasn’t an enthusiastic participant. I only convinced him to join us on the cruise by explaining there was golfing instruction on board. (They hit the golf balls into the ocean!) Now I wanted him to dress up as a dwarf with a wig, cap and red nose in a t-shirt identifying his dwarf name. (Tough assignment!)

Our youngest daughter was Snow White and the rest of us in our special outfits were the dwarfs. Dad? He was perfectly cast in his red shirt marked “Grumpy”.

I hope the kids will always cherish and keep this cruising memory of our family.

-John M.

Contact Kathy or Your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor to Book a Crystal Cruise

Kathy Reimer

Travel Advisor, Ventura

(805) 869-1151

Contact our Santa Barbara Travel Advisors

Contact One of our Experienced Advisors for a Travel Consultation

Our seasoned travel advisors have experience inspiring, designing and executing custom made trips for any type of traveler.  Going somewhere off the beaten track, most likely we have been there.  Call us about Africa, Antarctica, Fiji, Southeast Asia, Expedition Cruises – We Cover the World!


Erin Zetter
Travel Consultant, Santa Barbara



Tina Slimp Santa Barbara Travel

Tina Slimp
Travel Advisor, Santa Barbara


Kathy Reimer
Travel Advisor, Ventura

(805) 869-1151



Single Day Safaris with African Travel

Leave the Cold Weather Behind and Join African Travel for a ‘Day-on-Safari’ This Winter

Leave the cold weather behind and join African Travel for a ‘Day on Safari’ this Winter. From sunrise to sunset, enjoy a beautiful mix of relaxation, Big 5 viewing, delectable cuisine and classic Saharan adventure. Marvel at the sights, sounds and smells that the majestic African landscape exudes.


Early Morning-

At dawn, embark on a magical morning game drive. Sit back during a quick brief by your expert ranger on the wildlife you will anticipate. Be ready to snap pictures of a lifetime of the Big 5 that you are sure to see.

Mid Morning –

After all of the early morning excitement, you are sure to be hungry. Head back to your lodge for a hearty breakfast of fresh-squeezed orange juice, eggs prepared how you like, and perhaps even some pastries. Dine outside and observe elephants meandering down to the nearby waterhole to enjoy a morning drink.

Late Morning-

At this time, you are free to relax and explore the lodge or surrounding areas as you please. Your personal butler and safari lodge staff are at your service and cater to your every request. Take a dip in the refreshing infinity pool, join a guide during a bushwalk to learn about the secrets of tracking, or simply lay back in your hammock, taking in the different senses of the bush.

Early Afternoon-

Join your safari comrades under a cool palm-thatched canopy for a divine lunch of local specialties and international favorites. Your world-class chef pairs organic produce with gourmet recipes, inspired by European, Asia and African cuisine.

Mid Afternoon-

As the animals retreat to the shade, spend a leisurely afternoon pampering yourself with a tranquil spa treatment, or explore the local community. Visit a children’s school and the local village, or drop in at a wildlife conservation center to learn how its programs protect the animals, as well as create jobs and benefit the people.

Late Afternoon-

Now that the sun is setting and the day has cooled, join your ranger again for an afternoon game drive. Seek out the stately eland as if forages among the grasses, video the young elephant calves tucked among their mothers’ legs, and search the shadows as your tracker scouts the leopard emerging from its siesta.

Early Evening-

Revel in the elephants’ trumpeting echoes across the savannah as you watch the sun go down while sipping sundowners – the safari tradition of serving wine or cocktails as the sun sets. On your drive back, look out for even more wildlife.


Enjoy Pan-African cuisine in the lantern-lit dining room at your lodge. Raise your glass of South Africa’s finest wine and toast your day’s adventures.

Late Evening-

With a glass of fine brandy, gather around the campfire and wrap up your evening with telling stories from the day and gazing at the milky way. Sink into your luxurious pillows and cool sheets for a refreshing night’s sleep.


Contact Erin Zetter or your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor for More


Phone: 805-869-1140



Toll Free: 1-800-350-9333

AmaWaterways Christmas Market River Cruise – Single Supplement Waived

Enjoy Your Holidays Aboard an AmaWaterways Christmas Market River Cruise on the Rhine

Single Supplement Waived

Cologne, Germany, AmaWaterways River Cruise

Cologne, Germany – Photo provided by AmaWaterways

7-night cruise- Amsterdam to Basel

Departs December 16, 2017

Ditch the stress this holiday and enjoy shopping along Europe’s most magical Christmas Markets. Enjoy excursions such as walking through the Orangery in Strasburg, France, or wine tasting with local Vintners in Rudesheim. This 8-day ‘Christmas Markets on the Rhine’ itinerary was practically designed for you:

Day 1- Arrive in Amsterdam, The Netherlands- Embarkation

Arrive in charming Amsterdam and board your luxurious river cruise ship. Meet your fellow travelers tonight at the Welcome Dinner.

Day 2- Amsterdam

The famous canals of Amsterdam await discovery on your city tour. Begin with a scenic canal cruise and see the tall narrow homes lining the water, the Skinny Bridge, and the house where Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding during WWII. Next, you’ll walk to Begijnhof, known for its historic buildings dating back to the Middle Ages and have some free time to explore. Later, enjoy a panoramic city tour on which you’ll see the Royal Palace, Westerherk and stop for photos at a Dutch windmill before returning to the ship. This afternoon depart for Germany.

Day 3- Cologne, Germany

The ship arrives in Cologne around lunchtime. You will have a guided tour of the city, strolling through the Old Town and Cathedral Square, and visiting the fabled Gothic cathedral.  This evening, you will experience the elaborate Christmas Market in Cathedral Square, one of Europe’s largest and most renowned. The ship cruises overnight.

Day 4- Rhine Gorge- Rudesheim

This morning, cruise through the picturesque Rhine Gorge, admiring its many castles and fortress ruins and the legendary Lorelei Rock. This afternoon you will arrive in the winemaking town of Rudesheim where you will have the option to take one of three excursions: wine tasting with a local vintner, a gondola ride above the town to see the Niederwalddenkmal Statue, or a guided bike tour along the Rhine River to one of Germany’s best wine regions. Later you’ll have time to shop at the town’s Christmas Market and explore the Drosselgasse, the town’s most famous and charming street, a narrow passage lined with shops and taverns. This evening, visit Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum, home to a remarkable collection of old robotic and self-playing musical instruments, or join us for some Rudesheimer Coffee. The ship sails overnight.

Day 5-Manheim – Heidelberg

Arrive in Mannheim, where you have a choice between three excursions this afternoon. Your first option is a half-day excursion to the historic university town of Heidelberg, where you will visit the red-walled castle with its Great Vat (a 49,000 gallon wine cask) and enjoy beautiful views of the Neckar Valley and city below. You can also opt to visit the Mannheim Baroque Palace, intended to be the second largest Baroque palace complex in Europe. It was designed to highlight the important role of the Palatine Prince Electors in the Holy Roman Empire. As a third option you can enjoy a tour of Speyer one of Germany’s oldest cities, known for its cathedral, numerous churches and the medieval Altportel (Old Gate). You will have time later to visit the local Christmas Markets. This evening, the ship continues onward to Strasbourg, France.

Day 6- Strasburg, France

Capital city of France’s Alsace region, Strasbourg is situated on the Rhine at the German border. After arriving this morning, enjoy one of three excursions. The first option is a panoramic tour that will take you past the Orangery, the European Parliament and the Place de Republique. Afterwards, explore on foot with a walking tour of the lovely “La Petite France” neighborhood, where you will see the Gothic cathedral with its famous astronomical clock, and have a chance to visit Strasbourg’s famous Christmas Market – said to be the oldest and best in all of France. Your other options are a bike tour to the Old Town, or a hike that starts at the Orangery and makes its way to the cathedral. The remainder of the day is yours to spend as you wish. The ship moors in Strasbourg overnight.

Day 7-Breisach, Germany

You have two exciting excursions to choose from today. The first is a walking tour of Riquewihr, a picturesque town renowned for its historic architecture and for its Riesling wines, followed by time at the town’s Christmas Market. A second option is a walking tour of the beautiful towns of Breisach and Freiburg, where you will visit the historical city center and Freiburg’s Munster, a Gothic cathedral constructed of red sandstone. You will also visit Christmas Markets here. Your third option is a guided bike tour of Breisach that takes you through that Rheinau woods. Tonight, the ship cruises towards Switzerland.

Day 8- Basel-Disembarkation

Disembark your cruise in Basel.


Contact Kathy Reimer or your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor for more information:

Phone: 805-869-1151


Or 1-800-350-9333

AmaWaterways Danube River Cruise – Vacation in Central Europe Part II

Inside AmaWaterway’s New Ship, “AmaViola”

Santa Barbara Travel’s Marketing Manager Tells All

Český Krumlov, Czech Republic

Too many river cruises to choose from? In the last 10 years, the river cruise business has expanded tremendously.  River cruises can be experienced all around the world: Africa, Asia, India, Europe, to even the major rivers in the U.S. and Canada.  Accommodations and amenities can range from premium to ultra-luxury. For my first experience on the river, I chose AmaWaterway’s 7-night “Romantic Danube” cruise, departing from Vilshofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, on one of their newer ships, AmaViola.


Being that it was my first trip to Slovakia and Hungary, I could not wait to board our cruise which departed at the end of May. We anticipated cooler weather than the 75-88 degrees we actually had – it was lovely. One of my favorite parts of the cruise was traveling through all of the locks on the river. I believe we traveled through 15 locks, an awe-inspiring experience when you witness how close the bridges are overhead as we pass under them (so close that all guests on the top deck are mandated to sit), and how narrow the locks are when transiting, the walls are within just a couple feet of the ship. Be sure to take the roundhouse tour to visit with the captain and see how he maneuvers the ship through narrow passages.

Captain of the AmaViola

AmaViola is a beautiful new vessel, built in 2016, the 443 foot long ship accommodates no more than 160 guests or so. The public areas are spacious, the Main Lounge next to the reception area has comfortable seating that can accommodate all guests and boasts floor to ceiling glass.  The staterooms were light, modern and well-appointed; I was able to take a peek at the different accommodations.   Our 170 sq ft room had a French Balcony which is basically a full size sliding glass door that opens to the outside with a waist high railing.  However, most of the ship featured twin balconies staterooms – combination of an outside balcony and French Balcony.  I personally don’t think you will use an outside balcony that much as you are out and about during the day, but these rooms, including the bathrooms, are more spacious in square footage.  Each room is equipped with an Apple Computer/TV and complimentary WiFi (WiFi can be accessed throughout the ship). Laundry service is available and at reasonable rates (dry cleaning is not available). The Main Restaurant, decorated in simple elegance, offers open seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Late-risers in the morning or those that enjoy tapas can grab a bite in the Main Lounge. Regional wines, beer and soft drinks are poured complimentary at lunch and dinner. Bottled water, specialty coffees and teas (hot or cold) are free and available throughout the day.

The dining experience was wonderful, you can choose to dine alone or join a booth sitting 4 guests or a larger table of 6 or more. My husband and I did a little of each. AmaWaterways is a member of the exclusive La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, a prestigious International association of gastronomy. Every dinner was a multi-course presentation; you can choose from regional or western entrees.  Each menu featured a chef recommendation – usually a regional dish taken to the highest level. My suggestion is go with the recommended selections. The onboard specialty restaurant, Chef’s Table is an intimate venue accommodating no more than 30 guests, the set tasting menu, some may think a little on the exotic side, serves 3 appetizers, 3 main courses, and 3 desserts. Each course is paired with pre-selected wines.  Preparation of the meal can be seen through the nearby glass enclosed kitchen.  Reservations are required, but don’t worry about day of the week, as the same menu is served throughout the entire cruise.  Staff on the AmaViola will ensure that each guest experience the Chef’s Table restaurant at least once on the cruise.  A memorable culinary delight and should not be missed.

Appetizers from the main restaurant

The service was excellent throughout the ship. However, we did have a favorite waiter in the Main Restaurant, Vladimir. He always made sure that we were well taken care of, and by our second day, he knew what we liked to drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The staff was always smiling and ready to assist with dietary, sightseeing or personal needs. Our cruise manager, Sebastian, was top-notch. His dedication was commendable. He made it a point to pop-in on most of the tours on a daily basis and see how the group was doing and most importantly if the tour guide was performing at the highest level.  The onboard cruise manager can help arrange optional private tours if you desire, as well as recommend restaurants and attractions in ports where one may have some free time.  We decided to skip dinner on the ship, and enjoy Vienna.  We stopped in at the Sacher Hotel, across from the Opera House, and snacked on cappuccinos and their world-famous Sacher Torte.  For dinner we wanted schnitzel, per Sebastian’s recommendation, dined at Figlmüller for the largest schnitzel we have ever seen; the popular restaurant was established in 1905!


A big difference between river cruises and most ocean cruises is shore excursions being included in your cruise fare. AmaWaterways offers a multitude of tours in every port, designed to accommodate different experiences and different activity levels, from “gentle” walkers to active cycling and hiking. Each tour member is equipped with their own headset that tunes into your guide’s microphone, so you can move and look at each attraction at your own pace.  I have to say that we had outstanding guides on all of our tours, their extensive knowledge of the region and history was impressive, plus their command of English was excellent -some were ex-pats married to locals. Here are some of our highlights: A day trip offered out of Linz to Český Krumlov – a quaint medieval town, UNESCO World Heritage Site, in southern Bohemia, Czech Republic. Set in a forest, bordered by the Vltava River, the elevated castle is surrounded by small shops, restaurants and a zig-zag of cobblestone streets. Definitely a destination I would like to return to and try river rafting. Cooking Class in Bratislava, Slovakia, where we learned how to make a savory sheep cheese soup and sweet dessert dumplings. An optional guided tour of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcasing the lifestyle and riches of the Habsburg family – this tour had an additional cost but was offered complimentary to guests that booked with Santa Barbara Travel. The architecture, furnishings and paintings are impressive capturing key points in royal history, the expansive outdoor gardens breath-taking, and the carriage house showcased the Imperial Family’s fanciest mode of transportation, plus treasured garments.

Cooking Class at Bratislava

Imperial Coach Display at the Carriage House

The Beautiful Town of Český Krumlov

Why we liked this river cruise – you stop in small towns you would probably bypass on a land tour or if touring on your own. My husband and I have traveled to Germany several times, and never would have visited Linz, hometown of Adolf Hitler and where he gave his famous 1938 speech announcing the union of Germany and Austria. Nor would we have visited the three-river city of Passau and St. Stephen’s Cathedral housing the largest Catholic Church organ in the world and Europe´s biggest organ with over 17,500 pipes and 233 stops. We enjoyed the vineyard views from the ship as we entered the Wachau Valley, and were impressed with the massive Benedictine Abbey in Melk. We became fascinated with Richard the Lionheart when we heard the tale of his capture in Dürnstein. And we couldn’t stop laughing with our wine host Trinka as we sampled wine in Weissenkirchen. Our last evening onboard was topped with the stunning “Illuminations Cruise” in Budapest. AmaViola would cruise up and down the Danube so we could see this beautiful city lit up from the shore to the hillside, bridges, castles and government building shimmering reflections in the sky and water, so brilliant and so memorable!

In Part 3, I will write about Budapest.

Parliament Building on the Illumination Cruise



Czech Out Prague with Santa Barbara Travel

Vacation in Central Europe – Part 1

5 Countries, One Ship – Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia & Hungary

Voiced by Santa Barbara Travel’s Marketing Manager, Cynthia:

Considering a visit to Central Europe?  Why not a river cruise where one can see some of our world’s most historic sites.  Buildings dating back to the early middle ages and towns that speak a thousand stories.  My husband and I decided to take a 7-night AMAWaterways river cruise down the Danube from Vilshofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary.

Prior to the cruise, we decided to tour Prague in the Czech Republic on our own.  We stayed at the Augustine Hotel, a Luxury Collection hotel that was originally built as a monastery in 1284 AD.  The eclectic hotel decorated with hints of Czech Cubism is ideally located in the quiet Malá Strana neighborhood, just below the magnificent Prague Castle and less than a 10 minute walk to the famous Charles Bridge.  Most of the monastery was converted to a luxurious hotel, however 4 monks still keep residence on the property.  Our room was located at the front of the hotel.  If you keep the windows open you can hear the electric street car; however the windows are triple-pane glass and when closed, you can enjoy a good night’s sleep. (Some rooms have a view of Prague Castle or the inside courtyard/sundial garden). The king-sized bed was very comfortable and the bathroom was enormous and luxurious. The marble bathroom had heated floors and heated towel racks (we had three), plus a large soaking tub . . . a perfect solution for a day’s end of cobblestone walking. The hotel sales manager, Pavla gave us the grand tour of the hotel, including other rooms and suites, the downstairs multi-function room (once the monk’s private brewery) is used for private events and receptions, and the hotel’s hip “Refectory” bar offers the delicious St. Thomas Beer (this beer can only be purchased at the Augustine and is a must for beer lovers).  Next door,  just on the other side of the bar’s wall is the beautiful and ornate St. Thomas Church, part of the Augustinian monastery.  The ceiling frescoes are beautiful!

Augustine Hotel at night

St Augustine Hotel at Night



st thomas




st thomas 2

The Church next door – St. Thomas Church


st thomas beer

St. Thomas Beer

The restaurant is managed by Czech celebrity chef,  Executive Chef Marek Fichtner.  The daily breakfast buffet was amazingly delicious with the freshest of ingredients.  We also enjoyed a relaxing lunch on the outdoor patio overlooking their small garden of herbs.  Check out my mango salad.

mango salad


Augustine Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic, breakfast


Charles Bridge – Spend the day and evening on the historic Charles Bridge, crossing the Vltava river, commissioned by King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, to connect Prague Castle to the city’s Old Town.   Enjoy spectacular views of the fully lit Prague Castle in the evening and the Baroque statues that line the pedestrian walkway during the day. The bridge towers on each end of the bridge also offer great views of the river and city.

Here are some of our highlights:

Prague Castle –

  • Take either a guided tour or self-guided with audio or map.  Tickets can be purchased right at the castle if not during peak tourist season; otherwise book with the hotel concierge.  Be sure to visit St Vitus’s Cathedral and see the impressive tomb of St John Nepomuk made of 2 tons of silver; the architecture of the Old Royal Palace; and “Golden Lane” a narrow street of archer homes who defended the castle.  If weather permits, take the trail through the vineyards down to the main street – a 15 minute stroll downhill, unless you decide to stop at the different wine stops.  And if you decide to walk, visit the marvelous Wallenstein Garden at the bottom of the hill – A baroque style palace that is now the House of the Senate with a brilliantly landscaped garden that includes an artificial grotto with stalactites.
Prague Castle

Prague Castle


Old Town – Every morning at 10am (double-check with the Tourist Office in the square) – free tours are given in the Town Square

  • Old Town Square – Jan Hus Memorial
  • Astronomical Clock/ Old Town Hall
  • National Gallery
  • Municipal House is a famous Art Nouveau building and home to one of Prague’s finest concert halls.  We attended a concert performing Mozart and Vivaldi, plus opera in the grand Smetana Hall.  You will pay quite a bit less than you would for a similar concert in Vienna. Perhaps when you visit Prague, you may hear the music of one of  Bohemia’s most famous composers, Antonin Dvorak, who was born very close to Prague.


old town prague clock old town prague

old twon prague 2

old town prague 4

Municipal House - Art Noveau, Smetana concert hall

Municipal House – Art Noveau, Prague, Czech Republic, Dvorak, Mozart, Vivaldi

 Old Town Prague


New Town – Wenceslas Square for shopping.

  • National Theatre- Famous Opera House

Visit Café Louvre for coffee and pastries (also opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Built over 100 years ago, this café has been a gathering place for the town’s luminaries, such as Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein, and Czech/German intellectuals.

And of course try a Trdelník, a snack sold throughout the Czech Republic and Hungary – pastry dough wrapped around a metal rod is dusted with sugar, spice and nuts, and then grilled over an open-flame.  Some shops sell them filled with ice-cream or Nutella.

AmaWaterways River Cruise and Budapest experience coming shortly – Part 2 and Part 3.

Click here for Augustine Hotel special amenities and AmaWaterways specials.


For more information, please contact Erin Zetter or Tina Slimp:

Erin Zetter, Leisure Travel Advisor


Phone: (805) 869-1140

Erin Zetter, Santa Barbara Travel

Erin Zetter, Santa Barbara Travel




Tina Slimp, Leisure Travel Advisor


Phone: (805) 869-1112

Tina Slimp Santa Barbara Travel

Tina Slimp, Santa Barbara Travel

Santa Barbara Travel Aboard Crystal Serenity

Santa Barbara Travel on Crystal Serenity

Santa Barbara Travel Advisors, Sheila, Kathy, and Tina, on Crystal Serenity

Crystal Serenity sailing the Northwest Passage

Crystal Serenity sailing the Northwest Passage

Crystal Serenity often visits our hometown of Santa Barbara on its journeys along the West Coast. This last weekend, three of our advisors—Tina, Kathy, and Sheila—were invited aboard for a special tour. The ocean view was spectacular, but more impressive were the enrichment programs, exclusive Nobu Matushisa Restaurant, and the diversity of themed itineraries that will spark or fulfill your cultural passions.

“Travel is about discovering the world, as well as yourself. Crystal’s renowned roster of complimentary enrichment invites you to pursue individual interests and challenge yourself to try new things…allowing you to write as many new stories about yourself and the world as you wish.”

For those who revel in days-at-sea for the sheer bliss of getting away and changing your typical routine, you will appreciate the vast offerings from Crystal Cruises. Feed your passion and learn something new while on vacation!

Enjoy complimentary progressive courses offered by experts: develop a second language, learn the secrets of floral arrangements, become a wine connoisseur, study Tai Chi, pick up a paint brush, dive into the subjects of health and wellness, or catch up with the digital world with Crystal’s Computer University@Sea.

For the (physically) adventurous, you’ll love the Discovery Channel™ with expert shark divers, underwater photographers, and deep-sea treasure hunters!

Crystal Cruises also offers one of the most diverse groups of themed cruises in the industry. Like the perfect pairing of fine wine and cuisine, themes are connected to the region you sail, presenting you with opportunities to raise a glass of Australian Shiraz en route “Down Under” or to golf the legendary courses of Great Britain, not to mention the unbelievable talent aboard the opera and ballet cruises. You can also expand your passion for jazz, big band, up your golf game with PGA pros, and more.

…And it only gets better! Crystal Cruises just announced they will be redesigning Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, including larger suites, upgrades to the user experience, like open dining versus the current reservation system, and updates the restaurants.  Silk Road and The Sushi Bar, the specialty dining venues by famed Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, will be rebranded as Umi Uma – reflecting the Japanese word for Crystal’s eponymous seahorses. The authentic venues will still serve the inspired cuisine of Nobu, prepared by his personally trained chefs, and will remain the only Nobu restaurants at sea. As always, each guest may receive a complimentary experience at each restaurant.

Talk to our experts about the many wonderful options available through Crystal Cruises!

Tina Slimp

Tina Slimp

Phone: 805.869.1112
Santa Barbara Office


Kathy Reimer

Kathy Reimer

Phone: 805.869.1151
Ventura Office


Particularly Passionate? You Will Love these Themed Cruises

Themed cruises are one of the best secrets, and those in the know—know. Receive incredible bonuses—like performances by Accademia Teatro alla Scalla opera singers, golf lessons from PGA pros, or culinary experiences that will surely impress. The possibilities are endless, so here are our favorites of the week. To find the best cruise for your interests, contact your advisor at Santa Barbara Travel Bureau.

Silversea Cruises and Accademia Teatro alla Scala

Photo provided by Silversea Cruises

Theme: Opera & Ballet
Company: Silversea Cruises
Silversea Cruises and the highly acclaimed Accademia Teatro alla Scala have partnered to create the most outstanding and unforgettable Opera cruise—with only 3 voyages in 2017. A lucky few will see exclusive opera performances by talented soloists from the most famous opera house in the world, meet them over cocktails, and enjoy lectures on the music any lyrics of the recital program. To those who are passionate about ballet, Silversea offers two exclusive onboard performances by soloists from L’Opéra de Paris and the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia with an unprecedented opportunity to meet these acclaimed dancers during your voyage.

Featured Opera Voyage

  • Select Sailing: September 21, 2017  |  7 Days  |  Silver Spirit Voyage 5727B
  • Featured: Four soloists from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala will perform the enigmatic, evocative and beautiful librettos from the world’s most magical operas on two occasions, with the opportunity to meet the stars aboard.

Featured Ballet Voyage

  • Select Sailings: September 03, 2017  |  7 Days  |  Silver Spirit Voyage 5725
  • Featured: Two acclaimed Ballet Stars from the famed State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia.
AmaWaterways Bordeaux Wine Cruise

AmaWaterways Taste of Bordeaux Sauternes Vines

Theme: Taste of Bordeaux
Company: AmaWaterways
AmaWaterways new “Taste of Bordeaux” is our choice for wine aficionados, and is an incredible boutique river cruise company. Sail in and out of Bordeaux along the Garonne River in France. Enjoy tastings of some of the region’s most distinguished wines, and visit notable UNESCO World Heritage sites. Shore excursions and wine tastings are included, of course, and you don’t have to pack your bags as you visit many of Frances best port towns.

Taste of Bordeaux Details

  • Select Sailings: Multiple Departures  |  7 Days  |  AmaDolce
Crystal Serenity Themed Cruises

Crystal Serenity at Geiranger Fjord – Norway

Theme: Passion Pursuer
Company: Crystal Cruises
Crystal Cruises offers the ultimate selection of themed cruises from golf with the pros to big band and ballroom dancing, to wine & food festivals with VIP guest Nobu Matsuhisa. The best part? You don’t pay any extra to get all this talent on board.

Featured Golf Voyage

  • Select Sailings: October 03, 2017  |  10 Days  |  Crystal Serenity  |  Canada/New England
  • Featured: Qualified instructors and PGA pros work with you, plus golf celebrities discuss the PGA Tour. Optional Crystal Adventures take you to world-famous courses.

The beauty of travel is the many ways, shapes, and forms that your greatest passions can be perfectly met. When we meet this need, we are able to feel at home in a completely foreign experience. Contact your Santa Barbara Travel advisor, or call our experienced advisors below. 

Tina Slimp

Tina Slimp

Phone: 805.869.1112
Santa Barbara Office

Kathy Reimer

Kathy Reimer

Phone: 805.869.1151
Ventura Office