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TRAVEL BLOG

Why You Need a Travel Advisor Now More Than Ever

Having a good relationship with your personal travel advisor is much like having one with your family doctor. Except with us, your “checkup” results in a weekend getaway, your questions are about travel destinations and dream-fulfilling itineraries, and in case of emergency, we provide 24/7 advisor access to assist you with your travel needs. All joking aside, using a travel advisor is more beneficial than ever. 


Save Valuable Time

We know your time is precious, so why waste it sorting through the clutter of information offered online? Whether it’s an extensive international trip, a cruise, or weekend getaway, we can take care of all the details so that you can relax and enjoy the moment.

Personalized Itinerary

Your itinerary is more than just making the connections, it is connecting with the neighborhoods you stay in, restaurants that make you fall in love, and special off-the-beaten-pathexperiences that are waiting for you. Whether you love to do-it-yourself or are looking for someone to take the reins, when you collaborate with your travel advisor, your trips will be tailored to your needs, interests, and budget.

Value Added Travel – Get More Than You Pay For

When you book online, you get what you get. When you book with a travel advisor affiliated with the leading luxury network, Virtuoso, you receive more. Connections like ours create opportunities that make a trip truly extraordinary, and often result in value-added perks—like bonus cruise amenities, spa credit, room upgrades, and private tours. We have been arranging the “above an beyond” part of experiences for a long time.

Why Take the Chance?

No one likes (bad) surprises when they arrive, and there is no guarantee when you make a reservation online. Contact Santa Barbara Travel and you tap into a wealth of travel knowledge. When you contact one of our advisors, they have probably been to the destination you want to travel to and have a relationship with the hotel or travel company you want to book. They also know what questions to ask. Like your beds soft? We will make sure you sleep well at night.

We Are In Your Corner 

Santa Barbara Travel is committed to excellent customer service. When something unexpected happens in travel, such as a canceled or delayed flight, we have a vested interest.  Have you ever tried calling your online travel company for a refund or alternate route?  With Santa Barbara Travel Bureau you’ll never end up 10th in line on the phone or waiting on hours end at the airlines’ customer service counter. We have you covered, and are available to assist you to get you to where you need to be… no matter where in the world!

A Modern Solution

While travel advisors are by no means new to the industry, the last 15 years threatened their existence. Santa Barbara Travel Bureau not only adapted to and evolved with the unprecedented challenges in the industry, but also thrived with the opportunity. Whether it’s a vacation or a business trip, a sports team, or a multi-generational family reunion, we offer a personalized, professional solution to your unique travel equation. The landscape may be ‘ever changing in the travel industry, but our dedication and commitment to our clients is not.

 

Do you have a favorite experience made possible by your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor? Please share your comments, testimonials, and travel photos by emailing info@sbtravel.com

The Year of Small Ships & Luxury River Cruises

A Letter from Charles de L’Arbre, President & CEO

River cruises are one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry, and it’s no surprise. They allow seamless and effortless travel into the heart of a country while providing a luxuriously inclusive home base. I love the idea of traveling in a small ship along historic waterways, as you are taken along a journey of history and culture without having to pack for every new destination… and you know what it will cost you before hand.

If you are looking for a unique experience close to home, American Cruise Line, Tauck, or Pearl Sea Cruises offer wonderful choices. Cruise the Mississippi River via paddle boat, take in the Northwest via the Columbia & Snake Rivers, enjoy uncommon access in Alaska or the Galapagos, explore the majestic Great Lakes, or visit the 1,000 Islands Region of Canada. Or, travel abroad on a luxury cruise through Europe, Asia or South America. We can match your desires to the perfect trip.

Whichever you choose, river cruises are, by nature, an intimate, relaxed, easy and wonderful way to experience parts of the world. A highly recommended way to travel, we have dozens of itineraries for voyages of every nature in 2016 and 2017. This year is nearly booked, and now is the time to think of next year.

Wherever your journeys may take you, call an agent at Santa Barbara Travel. We will save you valuable time and money through our global connections and partnerships, while offering the very best service, experiences and industry expertise. We can manage the details, research the options, and optimize your travel experience.

Let us do what we do best so you can get on with life.

With thanks and warm regards,
Charles de L’Arbre
President & CEO
805.969.7746

crystal river cruises

New! Crystal River Cruises

Redefining the European River Experience
Starting July 2016, Crystal River Cruises is redefining the European river experience and offering the royal treatment. Each luxuriously appointed suite includes butler service, inclusive amenities such as onboard gratuities, airport transfers, unlimited onboard premium refreshments, plus complimentary, expertly curated Crystal Adventures shore excursions.
Learn more about Crystal River Cruises!
Call Erin at 805.969.7746 or email ezetter@sbtravel.com
2017 AmaWaterways River Cruise

Plan Early for Best Offers on 2017

AmaWaterways River Cruises
Europe, Asia, Africa Itineraries

AmaWaterways just released over 20 itineraries and 45 wine cruises for travel in 2017!  These small, luxurious river vessels accommodate a mere 150 passengers, ensuring a personal atmosphere paired with five-star service. More information
Make your reservation for big savings in 2017!
Call Tina at 805.966.3116 or email tnordholm@sbtravel.com to start the conversation
Lindblad national geographic

Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic Partnership

Lindblad Expeditions has joined forces with National Geographic to inspire the world through expedition travel. Journey to the planet’s most extraordinary places with world-renowned scientists, naturalists and researchers discovering stunning environments with state-of-the-art exploration tools.
Contact Andrew by calling 805.969.7746 or email aseligman@sbtravel.com 

Announcing the Debut of Crystal River Cruises in Europe!

crystal river cruises

Crystal River Cruises is entering the river cruise segment of the industry–one of the fastest growing segments in travel. It’s no surprise, really, as they allow seamless and effortless travel into the heart of a country while providing a luxuriously inclusive home base. River cruises are, by nature, an intimate, relaxed, easy and wonderful way to experience parts of the world… And when “The World’s Most Luxurious Cruise Line” starts offering incredible, all-inclusive river cruises through Europe, we think you should know.

We can’t wait to see Crystal™ do what they do best, now within the intimate setting of Europe’s rivers. Crystal River Cruises is introducing five state of the art river yachts, with the debut of the Crystal Mozart™ in July of 2016, followed by four cutting-edge river yachts in 2017. Enjoy intimate destinations in ports that large, ocean cruise liners cannot reach, while traveling into the heart of Europe via the original highways: the rivers. Between city visits, witness nature intimately and enjoy the bucolic scenes of Europe’s countryside.

Each luxuriously appointed suite includes butler service, superb cuisine, inclusive amenities such as onboard gratuities, airport transfers, unlimited onboard premium refreshments, plus complimentary, expertly curated Crystal Adventures shore excursions. The itineraries are more than just port stops– They are expertly curated with an abundance of overnight stays and complimentary Crystal Adventures® ashore in every port of call. Does this sound up your alley?

Early-bird specials are being offered on 2017 bookings when made through your agent with Santa Barbara Travel. Call us– We’ll make it happen for you.

Learn more about Crystal River Cruises!
Call Erin at 805.969.7746 or email ezetter@sbtravel.com

 

all images CRYSTAL MOZART
Maiden Voyage: July 13, 2016

Inaugural Danube’s Capitals & Wachau Valley, 10-night Itinerary: Vienna (midnight departure), scenic Wachau Valley & Dürnstein, Melk, Linz/Salzburg, Passau (overnight) Danube River cruising, Bratislava & scenic cruise to Budapest (overnight), scenic cruise from Budapest, Danube River cruising (overnight), Vienna (2 overnights)

CRYSTAL DEBUSSY
Maiden Voyage: June 4, 2017

Inaugural Best of Paris, Seine River & Normandy, 10-night Itinerary:Paris (2 overnights), Seine River, Honfleur (2 overnights), Seine River cruising, Rouen (overnight), Vernon, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, Seine River, Paris (overnight)

CRYSTAL BACH
Maiden Voyage: June 18, 2017

Inaugural The Classic Rhine, 14-night itinerary: Amsterdam (overnight), Antwerp, scenic day cruising the Rhine River, Nijmegen, Cologne, cruise the Rhine River to Moselle River, Cochem, Koblenz, cruising the romantic Rhine River, Rüdesheim (overnight), cruising the Rhine River, Mainz, Speyer, Kehl, Breisach, Basel (overnight), cruising the Rhine River, Frankfurt

CRYSTAL RAVEL
Maiden Voyage: August 8, 2017

Inaugural Bordeaux, The Wine Region & Beyond,  7-night itinerary:Bordeaux (2 overnights), scenic Garonne River cruising, Cadillac (overnight), cruising Garonne River to Gironde Estuary, Pauillac (overnight), cruising Gironde Estuary, Blaye (overnight), cruising Gironde Estuary & Dordogne River, Libourne (overnight), cruising Dordogne & Garonne Rivers, Bordeaux (overnight)

CRYSTAL MAHLER
Maiden Voyage: August 29, 2017

Inaugural Grand Europe, 16-night itinerary: Budapest (overnight), scenic cruising, Bratislava, Vienna (overnight), scenic Wachau Valley, Dürnstein, Melk, Danube Schleife cruising, Passau (overnight), Deggendorf, Regensburg, Rhine-Main-Danube Canal Locks, Nuremberg, Bamberg, Würzburg, Miltenberg, cruising the romantic Rhine River, Koblenz, Cologne, Amsterdam (overnight)

Romance on the Rivers of Europe

When it comes to an extraordinary river cruise in Europe, Uniworld is one of our top choices for Romance All Year. This global company brings over 50 years of experience owning and operating luxury boutique hotels worldwide, but their European packages are all-inclusive, from airfare (details below), to daily on-shore excursions, to butler service, food, and gratuity. The intimate size of these ships brings them closer to a boutique hotel than a cruise ship.

tulips and windmills

You will find something to suit your travel passion, from trips themed around Holland’s Tulips and Windmills, the Castles along the Rhine, a wine-voyage through France, or the newest trip added for off-the-beaten-path travel through Eastern Europe. With over twenty options to take you and your partner down the Rhine, Moselle, Main, and Danube Rivers, or France’s Seine, Rhone, Dordogne Rivers, or Italy’s Po River, there won’t be a challenge finding the perfect itinerary, especially not with our expertise.

castles along the rhine

The beauty of a river cruise (versus an ocean cruise) is the intimacy and comfort of the setting. Consider your trip a voyage down one of Europe’s picturesque rivers in a “luxury boutique hotel” that takes you from place to place, allowing you and your travel partner to explore a new town every day without the typical exhaustion or hassle of getting there. When the day is done, step aboard.

interior

Aboard the ship, you’ll be treated like Royalty, seriously! We are happy to report that all guests in suites onboard the European fleet (except Russia and Portugal) will have their own butler trained to the same exacting standards required by the Buckingham Palace, starting this year…You wanted to travel in style?

dining room

If you are thinking about “cruise ship food” with a cringe, don’t worry– the “Foodie” in you will rejoice. Uniworld is dedicated to farm-to-table culinary experiences, which means fresh, seasonal, locally sourced ingredients are used to plan meals that truly embody the unique character of each region along the way.

bedroom 2

So, what do you think? Can you see yourself on the deck, cruising down the Rhine at sunset… waking up to the best riverside view you’ve ever seen?

Make your reservation by February 29th, and your Economy Air ticket to Europe will be FREE on most itineraries.

Contact Nancy Herrmann in the Santa Barbara Office to discuss the details of your Romantic European River Cruise by calling 805.869.1100 or emailing nherrmann@sbtravel.com.

Charlie’s Bucket List Destination: The Wickaninnish Inn

Wick-a-nin-nish Inn

Usually we don’t consider the hotel the “destination” but in the case of the Wickaninnish Inn, it’s worth the trip. Known to friends (which all guests become) as the “Wick Inn,” this family-owned and operated lodge will speak to the part of you looking for a nice, quiet place to take your time and relax. Enjoy a nice stroll through the old-growth forest behind you, or walk the Pacific coastline in front of you. Have no commitment except to the warmth of the fireplace.

Wick Inn canopy suite view

Ocean View from the Canopy Suite

Located on the West Coast of Vancouver, this rustic last-frontier-style lodge is the perfect place to be on the edge of wilderness while still experiencing top luxury. Each season varies quite greatly, so you will want to know what kind of experience you are craving. No matter when you travel, enjoy the hand-carved artwork and furniture made by Henry Nolla over his 25 years at the Wick Inn, including the beautiful fireplace mantles in each room.

Henry Nolla in the Wood Carving Shed

Henry Nolla in the Wood Carving Shed

This lodge first came on our radar through Charles de L’Arbre, owner and CEO of Santa Barbara Travel Bureau, when we asked him what his dream destinations were. A trip to the Wick Inn was top on his travel list. It turns out that Charles has a soft spot for extreme weather, and watching trans-pacific waves crash outside while sitting by the warmth of a private fireplace is right up his alley. The best season for this kind of experience is the Winter Season (November to February). Living in the dry hills of Santa Barbara doesn’t quite offer the same… weather.

wick inn storm watch 2

Winter Storm Watching Season (November to February)

The peak season, however, is in the Summer. The Wick Inn is a beautiful beach resort, hosting weddings, proposals, vow renewals, birthdays, family reunions and more. You can easily explore the surrounding area, or enjoy the rustic luxury of the Inn. If you are looking for romance– this is your spot. Save with the “All You Need is Love” package or take a healthy, spa- and yoga-based approach with the “Ancient Cedars Active Health” package, which includes massages, yoga classes, and gourmet meals for two.

Beautiful ceremonies available at the Wickaninnish Inn to celebrate the occasion

Beautiful ceremonies available at the Wickaninnish Inn to celebrate the occasion

If you love adventuring, we suggest the “Wilderness to Wickaninnish Package.” The Wick Inn and the new Clayoquot Wilderness Resort have partnered to offer the most incredible experience to those who want to explore Vancouver Island. Stay in a luxurious tent (no, we are not kidding), and during the day explore by hiking, kayaking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing amidst the spectacular wilderness, followed with massages and gourmet meals for two. After a few days in the wilderness, relax at the Wick Inn.

Walk amongst the Old Grown Rainforest

Walk amongst the Old Grown Rainforest

With only 75 rooms, each with an ocean-view balcony, fireplace, and giant soaking hot tub, you will feel the excitement of a new frontier amidst a rustic backdrop and modern luxury.

Call Charles de L’Arbre at 805.969.7746, or email him at charlesd@sbtravel.com to talk about this beautiful property.
Thank you to the Wickaninnish Inn for providing these beautiful photos.

Tropical Romance for Love All Year: Kauai

Kaua’i, United States

Recommended Travel Season: September & November or April to June

Best time to make your reservations: Winter and Spring.

Call Your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor or Tina at 806.966.3116 for details

The beautiful island of Kaua’i, nicknamed the “Garden Isle,” is on the top of our list for romantic vacation destinations. Take a hike along the dramatic cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, pick your own guavas hiking through tropical jungles with a waterfall as your destination, swim in the warm ocean waters, and enjoy the amenities at your resort for luxurious relaxation.

Kauai-1

Welcome to Kaua’i! Extreme landscapes, luscious terrain, and beautiful culture

When considering Kauai, we recommend visiting between September and November or from April to June, when the climate is mellow and the prices are reasonable. If you can’t travel during that time, you’ll still enjoy Hawaii, just expect more heat or rain.

str189ex-179238-Porte Cochere

St. Regis Princeville

The St. Regis Princeville is one of our favorite properties on Kaua’i, introducing an “unparalleled level of sophistication and serene luxury.” We love the location overlooking Hanalei Bay, and the spacious 9,000 acre resort community offers all of the best amenities you would want in reach. Together you two can ride horses along the Na Molokama mountain range, kayak the Hanalei River, go snorkeling in the pristine Hawaiian waters, visit tropical botanical gardens, Kayak, and surf. If you are bringing the kids, look forward to Ukelele lessons, Hanalei Stargazing, Lei Making, snorkeling, jungle adventures, and beachside bonfires. Or, just hang with your Pina Colada at the poolside.

str189po-153705-Pool

Give yourself more than a long weekend– that fourth night will be free when you make your St. Regis Princeville reservation through Santa Barbara Travel Bureau by December 22, 2016. You will also receive the following exclusive amenities:

  • Upgrade at time of check-in (based on availability)
  • $100.00 Resort Credit to be used during your stay
  • Complimentary breakfast for 2 at Makana Terrace

str189po-149073-Pool

Call your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor or Tina for details:

805-966-3116

tnordholm@sbtravel.com

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

food2

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!

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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.

Stollen Memories

Are holidays for you – as they are for us – all about the food?  As the years go by, it seems the strongest memories of holidays past revolve around what we ate and drank, as well as the people we spent them with.

Last week, we posted a Santa Barbara Travel trip report from our advisor, Cathy Kroll.  She wrote all about her gluwein-filled riverboat cruise, as she visited the Christmas markets along the Danube River.  Cathy sailed with AMAWaterways, and this week we bring you a blog post written by the owner of that company.  It was originally published on AMAWaterways‘ website, but we’ve asked to reprint it here: her description of a favorite childhood treat is so vivid, we can almost taste it!

Stollen Memories

by Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and co-owner of AMA Waterways, originally posted on 12/27/13

The holidays may be over, but as friends and guests return from their Christmas Market cruises, their suitcases stuffed with handmade ornaments and delicious seasonal treats, I am reminded of my childhood in Germany. Thought I would share some of these memories with you!

My hometown of Dresden is famous for its stollen, a moist cake made with dried fruit, nuts and spices and topped with powdered sugar.  The Dresden Stollen is an old, old tradition that dates back to 1474. The cake can be quite dense and heavy – nearly 4 ½ pounds! – and it still is my favorite dessert during the Christmas season. But it has to be the “official” cake, which is only available at select bakeries in Germany. My mom always sends one of these stollen cakes every year to my home in California, so that our family can enjoy this special treat when we are at home during the holidays.

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Dresden holds a Stollenfest every year, which in itself has a fascinating history. During the reign of Augustus II the Strong (1670-1733), he ordered the Bakers’ Guild of Dresden to create a gigantic stollen for everyone in the city to enjoy. They had to build a special oven and design a huge knife to accommodate this massive cake, which was large enough to feed 24,000 people! Today, Dresden bakers continue this tradition by baking a stollen that weighs an astonishing 6000 pounds! It’s paraded by horse and carriage to the Christmas  Market, where it is ceremoniously cut into pieces and handed out to the crowd.

Where else but Europe would you experience such wonderful things? This is one of the many reasons why our Christmas Markets cruises are so popular. Many of our guests have taken these cruises multiple times, eager to experience the magic of Christmas in Europe again and again. We love that our cruises have become an annual tradition for our guests!

Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

 

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