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Tag Archives: cruise

Advisor Trip: Holland America’s new Koningsdam Ship

Janet Morton is amongst our most experienced travel advisors. This Spring, she was invited aboard the newest addition to the Holland America fleet, Koningsdam. Below, she shares her impressions of the new ship, as well as highlights and suggestions for each city along the way. 

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

The Koningsdam is certainly the new King of the Holland America fleet, aptly named as “Koning” means “king” in Dutch. The new ship was impressive. Modern technology upgrades make the trip comfortable; the restaurant options are expanded; the spa is the most deluxe I have seen on a cruise ship, and the music-themed ship certainly delivers on both entertainment and décor.

The onboard entertainment is good, appealing to both solo travelers and families. Favorite entertainment options of mine included a Jazz lounge, classical music area, big evening shows, a new glass roofed Lido Deck where evening movies are screened, diverse dining options, and a huge theatre. On days we were at sea, we spent our time by the pool.

Pool area aboard the

Pool area aboard the Koningsdam

 

LAND HIGHLIGHTS

Naples is always a favorite cruise stop of mine, as there is a lot to do quite easily. You can go to the ancient city of Pompeii, the charming coastal town of Sorrento, tour the Amalfi Coast, or take a boat to Capri, each in a day’s visit. I visited Pompeii, an incredible archeological site that captures this Roman city exactly as it was before Mt. Vesuvius erupted.

Elaborate Sign in Pompeii that Translates to "Beware of Dog"

Elaborate Sign in Pompeii that Translates to “Beware of Dog”

In Granada, I joined the offered shore excursion to visit The Alhambra, a castle with Moorish architecture. I typically go off on my own, given my travel experience, but I chose the offered Shore Excursion to The Alhambra. Unless you rent a car, it is quite difficult to get there yourself, and we were happy to join the group for the day. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and friendly, the weather was great, and lunch was included. It was busy, but still enjoyable.

The Courtyard of the Alhambra, the regional  "Taj Majal"

The Courtyard of the Alhambra, the regional “Taj Majal”

The itinerary was well planned, allowing for two days in the city of Barcelona. While there are plenty of shore excursions (up to 20 to 30 at each port), I chose to walk Barcelona. With the quirky art and architecture of the city, maze-like streets, fantastic restaurants, it is a city meant to be experienced up close. Already I am planning a trip with more time in this city, a passion sparked by our introduction on this cruise.

The Port of Gibraltar was an incredible day with a visit to the most interesting airport in the world and the Rock of Gibraltar. If you go anywhere, you’ll have no choice but to drive through the airport, literally. The main road goes right through the runway, and when a plane comes in, stoplights stop traffic on either side, a crew cleans the runway, and a plane lands right in front of you.

The Rock of Gibraltar (left) and Gibraltar Airport stop light (right)

The Rock of Gibraltar (left) and Gibraltar Airport stop light (right)

The Rock of Gibraltar peaks at 1398 feet, and is formed from Early Jurassic limestone and dolomites. There is a tram that takes you up, and the view over the ocean is unbelievable. The Barbary Macaques, or “monos,” are the resident monkeys and quite a scene!

Each port city is such a treat, and it can be difficult to choose from the many wonderful options. It is good to remember that cruises are an opportunity to explore many places without checking in, checking out, and navigating to each city. In fact, this trip has already inspired another to Spain!

To talk about Holland America, Spain or Italy, reach out to Janet Morton by email at jmorton@sbtravel.com

Featured Itinerary: Monte Carlo to Venice with Silversea Cruises

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EXCLUSIVE VOYAGE WITH ACCADEMIA TEATRO ALLA SCALA -Departing aboard Silver Spirit from glamorous Monte Carlo, travel to five ports in Italy, Croatia’s Dubrovnik and Split, plus Valleta, Malta, before returning to Italy to finally disembark in romance-filled Venice. Adding a vibrato-filled layer of classicism to the mix, four accomplished singer soloists and one piano accompanist will serenade us in two concerts of operatic librettos. Representing Italy’s Accademia Teatro alla Scala, the performances promise to echo long after the voyage takes its final bow.

 

 Day 1: Monte Carlo, Italy

Aboard the Silver Spirit in Monte Carlo

Aboard the Silver Spirit in Monte Carlo

Board the ship and make it home! Your next 9 days will be spent aboard the Silver Spirit. The ship holds 540 guests, 376 crew members, and was built in 2009. Featuring the largest suites in the Silversea fleet, Silver Spirit offers a lively, convivial atmosphere for cosmopolitan travelers who enjoy a greater variety of shipboard diversions, yet crave the personalized service and authentic and “up-close” experiences for which Silversea is known.

Day 2: Livorno, Italy

pisa

Day Excursion to Pisa

Shore excursions are included with Silverseas Cruises, so enjoy the wonderful dilemma each day choosing which adventure bests fulfills your passions. From Livorno, day excursions can take you to explore Lucca, Florence, or Pisa, doing anything from truffle hunting or wine tasting, to a tour of the Uffizi Gallery Museum.

Day 3: Trapani, Sicily, Italy

A Close Look at the Silver Coast

A Close Look at the Silver Shore

Explore the Silver Shore, enjoy the scenic views and olive tasting of Trapani, explore Marsala and tour a local vineyard, explore the Greek ruins of Selinunte or let your excursion take you to Mozia Island–an important trade city with fascinating history.

Day 4: Porto Empedocle, Italy

Visit the Selinunte archeological site and & the city of Agrigento. On the south west coast of Sicily, not far from Mazara del Vallo, lies one of the largest and most impressive archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. Visit the Selinunte Archaeological site and step back in time before relaxing for lunch along the coast in Agrigento.

 Day 5: Valleta, Malta

Submerse yourself in the natural beauty and unique scenery of Malta. Enjoy stunning ocean vistas, explore Malta’s largest fishing village, see the famous Blue Grottos, or visit the Dingli Cliffs.

Italian Coastline and Cliffs

 

Day 6: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik-Viewpoint

Explore the enchanting seaside Cavtat, now home to summer music festivals, once the ancient Roman city of Epidaurus, or stay on the water and explore the Adriatic Sea by Kayak or sailboat!

Day 7: Split, Croatia

Shore Excursion to the Krka Waterfalls in Croatia

Shore Excursion to the Krka Waterfalls in Croatia

Step onto the shore of Croatia, and choose which shore excursion sparks your passion. The Krka National Park in Croatia is a spacious, largely unchanged region of exceptional and multifaceted natural value, and includes one or more preserved or insignificantly altered ecosystems. Eight hundred and sixty species and subspecies of plants have been identified within the territory of the Krka National Park, including several endemic species. Of course, other shore excusions include rafting the Cetina River, exploring the Silver Shore, a sea safari of Split, Trogir & Ciovo Islands, or a day to discover photography with Ivo Pervan. Which will you choose?

Day 8: Trieste, Italy

Explore the Grotto Gigante near Trieste

Explore the Borgo Grotto Gigante near Trieste

In Trieste, head underground to the Borgo Grotto Gigante, or visit the Castle of Miramare, St. Giusto Cathedral, and a walking tour of Trieste during your shore excursions.

Borgo Grotto Gigante: Explore one of the truly spectacular natural wonders of Italy during this sightseeing excursion to ‘Borgo Grotto Gigante’, a giant cave located along the Adriatic Coast (pictured above). The floor and the ceiling are covered in stalactites, stalagmites and other speleothems of all sizes. The Grotta Gigante is also an important underground and surface scientific research centre.

Castle of Miramare: Designed in the late 19th century by architect Carl Junker, the estate served as a former residence of the Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife Carlotta. The estate is the most famous locale on the coast of Trieste, and an integral part of the city’s landscape and history.

Day 9: Venice, Italy – Final Destination

Debark in Venice, Italy, & spend at least a few days exploring the beautiful city.

Debark in Venice, Italy, & spend at least a few days exploring the beautiful city.

While the voyage has ended, the journey has just begun! We recommend staying at least a few extra days here before traveling home or continuing on. Venice is a city unlike any other. No matter how often you’ve seen it in photos and films, the real thing is more dreamlike than you could imagine. With canals where streets should be, water shimmers everywhere. The fabulous palaces and churches reflect centuries of history in what was a wealthy trading center between Europe and the Orient. Getting lost in the narrow alleyways is a quintessential part of exploring Venice, but at some point you’ll almost surely end up in Piazza San Marco, where tourists and locals congregate for a coffee or an aperitif.

Enjoy Silversea’s all-inclusive lifestyle of butler service for every suite, complimentary champagne, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, Relais & Chateaux dining and onboard gratuities, plus featured itineraries (like this one) include FREE Shore Excursions, FREE WiFi, FREE 2 Nights at a Luxury Hotel and FREE Airfare with Transfers or Upgrade to Business Class for $199 each way.

 

New to Silversea?  Ask us about our GRAND INTRODUCTION OFFER on Silversea.

For more information or to book all-inclusive Silversea contact Santa Barbara Travel

Santa Barbara: 805-966-3116 or nherrmann@sbtravel.com

Montecito: 805-969-7746 or chart@sbtravel.com

Ventura: 805-650-6999 or chendricks@sbtravel.com

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

Trip Report: Sheila Cohn with Pearl Seas Cruises to Canada

Recently returned from a ‘Canadian Maritimes’ voyage on Pearl Seas Cruises, Sheila Cohn’s first comment was, “it was much more than I expected!

With only about 200 passengers, the ship felt much more like a riverboat than a cruise ship.”  Never having traveled with Pearl Seas before, Sheila was immediately impressed with the size of the cabins; she compared them more to hotel rooms than the usual cruise ship cabins, and each room had its own balcony.

What stood out for her?  “Hands down, the service.  I’ve been on cruises on many different lines, and the service on this ship really stood out,” Sheila said.  “I was also impressed with the food.  Everything was fresh and cooked to order; there were no buffets.  Since we were travelling through the North Atlantic Ocean, a unique feature of this particular sailing was the abundance of lobster.  We had lobster tails, whole lobster, lobster mac and cheese, and even lobster rolls during this trip.”

sheila1

Pearl Seas Cruises along the Canadian Maritimes, beginning in Quebec City and ending in Portland, Maine.

sheila2

Favorite destination?  “Without a doubt, Prince Edward Island!  I could easily move there.  I’ve heard that Prince Edward Island (or ‘PEI’) is called ‘the garden of the Gulf,’ and I can believe it.  Not only was the PEI unbelievably green, I was fortunate to be there at the height of wild lupin and lilac season.  The aroma from all the flowers was almost indescribable. I was so impressed, I brought back some lupin seeds as a souvenir. Let’s see how they do in Southern California!”

Sheila suggests that this trip would be a great option for those who really want to feel they’ve traveled abroad, but without the long and taxing overseas flight and jet lag.  A great deal of this trip covers territory that was either historically French or Arcadian (in fact, many of these Arcadians migrated to New Orleans to become the ‘Cajuns’ we know today).  This means that many of the stops have a distinct French flavor.  “In fact, I’d  recommend that anyone taking this cruise arrive in Quebec City a few days early to really soak up the French culture,” concludes Sheila.

Lupins on Prince Edward Island

Lupins on Prince Edward Island

South America, Easter Island & Tahiti, All in One!

Easter Island and Tahiti are some of the most exotic – and remote – destinations on the face of the earth.  Here is an opportunity to easily see these, plus South America and Pitcairn Island (from ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame) in comfort and luxury.  On this one special, 18-day sailing, prices include airfare, pre-paid gratuities, internet AND $900 shipboard credit!Oceania Pac Serenade 2016 Sailing flyer3-page-001