VISIT: Cruise Traveler Magazine|Cruise Reviews Online|Return to Home Port

Thursday, June 23, 2016

ALASKA CRUISES — Princess Cruises’ Sip & Sail promotion offers free all-inclusive beverages!



ALASKA CRUISES — Princess Cruises’ Sip & Sail promotion offers free all-inclusive beverages, plus an early booking bonus deal of free specialty dining for bookings made before July 5, 2016. More than 350 cruise vacations for summer 2017 are on sale to Alaska.

Also with Sip & Sail, guests booking a balcony, mini-suite or suite staterooms will receive a free All-Inclusive Beverage Package for two people. Reduced fares are available as well as free Unlimited Soda & More Packages for third and fourth guests.

The All-Inclusive Beverage Package includes any individual beverage item such as soda, juices, shakes and floats, bottled water, cocktails, spirits, wines, beers, specialty coffees and tea, up to US$10 retail value, purchased at all bars, public lounges and dining venues. Full bottles of wine below $100 retail can be purchased in the bars, dining room or in stateroom at 40% discount from the menu price.

Guests can also book and receive these offers with a special reduced deposit of only $100 per person for first through fourth guests in a stateroom.

Examples of Sip & Sail Alaska cruise deals include:

Alaska cruise  - Seven days: $1,399 balcony stateroom; $1,599 mini-suite stateroom
Alaska Land & Sea Vacation  - 11 nights: $2,474 balcony stateroom; $2,674 mini-suite stateroom

More information about the Sip & Sail cruise sale is available at Alaska Cruises Direct 800.365.1445.

The "Sip & Sail" cruise deal runs from 12:00 a.m. PDT on June 21 through 11:59 p.m. PDT on August 31, 2016 and is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Bermuda. All prices are per person based on double occupancy.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 18, 2016

How To Save Money on Alaska Cruises

How To Save Money on Alaska Cruises

Up north there's a land without fences. Animals outnumber people, sunlight shines at midnight and nature reigns. Life is different. This northern frontier still boasts pristine landscapes, majestic wildlife and a coastline that is one of the most enthralling waterways in the world. Beyond Alaska's fortress-like glacier walls lie scenic ports of call, treasured national parks, and abundant wildlife. .....and, with more than 1,400 miles north to south and 2,400 miles east to west, Alaska is truly a land of epic proportions. Come find yourself in the heart of the wilderness and let our Certified Alaskan Cruise Experts show you the way.




"Say Alaska and a variety of images and impressions come to mind: towering mountains, watchable wildlife, icy blue glaciers, endless wilderness, vibrant Native culture, leaping salmon, hardy outdoors; America's last frontier. Often, visiting Alaska has as much to do with what people may feel as with what they will see. There is a mystique that surrounds Alaska. To some it represents a dream, a trip of a life time, a life altering event, a chance to reach out and touch something inside themselves that is wild and beautiful like they imagine Alaska to be. Our job is to put that dream - or as much as possible of it - within reach of you.

Alaskan cruising is affordable, only the memories are priceless!

When it comes to planning your trip, Alaskan Cruises & Land and Sea Vacations are more economical than you might think. With a wide range of options and choices, there's a cruise or cruise tour to suit most any budget.

No matter what your budget is, If you want to hold on to as much of your money as you can,
here are 7 tips for saving money on your Alaska cruise.

1. Go in May or September for off-season cruises

Most travelers visit Alaska in the peak of summer, [ June, July and August ] even though it rains more often in July and August rather than in May or September. You can typically save around 20% if you cruise in May and September, rather than the height of summer. Plus in September, you could view the aurora borealis. Plus, with a few a hundred dollars left in your pocket, you can spend it on sightseeing or souvenirs.

2. Sail round-trip, rather than one way.

If you're looking to save money, choose a cruise that sails round-trip from Seattle or Vancouver. You'll find a better airfare deal, as a one way airfare into Vancouver and out of Anchorage is going to be more expensive. You can even book a cruisetour [ Alaska and plus sea vacations ] to and from Seattle, rather than from Vancouver to Fairbanks.

3. For some 2017 voyages, waiting to the last minute may save you money.

Not every Alaska cruise or Alaskan Cruisetour [ land + sea vacations ] sell out months in advance.  Good deals are still available for peak-season sailings, sometimes just 4-6 weeks prior to sailing. We've seen last minute fares for as low as $449 for a seven-night cruise. You should be flexible when it comes to sailing dates, accommodations and where your cabin is located on the ship. Now's the time to see Alaska. Start searching for that last-minute deal now.

4. Want to go Inland? Explore Alaska's National Parks? Book the cruise line's land tour, often known as a "cruisetour"

Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess, offer pre-and post-cruise land tour packages to explore inland Alaska. You can combine rail and motor coach travel to the interior of the state and visit Anchorage, Denali National Park, Talkeetna, , Kenai, Copper River or  Fairbanks. Or do-it-yourself,  rent a car or book the Alaska Railroad and hotels on your own to travel in Alaska. Compare the cruise lines' land tours to find a better deal, as there are over 350 possibilities!

5. A balcony cabin may not be worth it.

Sitting on your balcony and watching the shore line of Alaska and its majestic mountain ranges of the Inside Passage is breathtaking. But the views from the top deck offer 360-degree site lines for gazing at calving glaciers and wildlife.  Watching from your balcony gives you just a side or angled view. However, who could resist star gazing and moonlight nights standing on your balcony with your companion. If the budget's tight, book an outside cabin with a picture window, not a port hole and just go topside to view it all.

6. Should I choose a luxury, mainstream or premium cruise line?

In Alaska, you'll visit the same ports, view the same glaciers, and wildlife, plus you can take advantage of onboard amenities such as specialty dining, and nightly entertainment without robbing the bank.  Go mainstream [ NCL or Carnival ] or choose a premium line such as Princess, Holland America, Celebrity or Royal Caribbean.

7. Book your own shore excursions, or skip them altogether!

Independent sightseeing tour operators [ ShoreTrips or Shore Excursion Group ] can take you on all the excursions the cruise line offer, often with the same ground operators, and for the most part, at a cheaper price. Cruise lines have to add their "mark-up" to make money when they sell you a shore excursion, so you'll save money by booking with an independent operator.  Spend you days close to or in town rather than going on an organized tour. There are cultural and native heritage museums, quaint shops, walking tours, and trailheads for nearby hiking. You don't  need to spend a lot of money to see the sights.

Final Thought.

If you look around, you'll certainly find once-in-a-lifetime dogsled or helicopter rides, glacier landings, salmon fishing or white-water rafting. Just keep in mind these excursions are very expensive. So, be a smart-shopper and book a cruise that's under budget and once onboard or ashore, stretch your travel investment as far as you can take it

Labels:

Friday, March 25, 2016

Alaska Certified Cruise Experts Unveils Princess Cruises' 2017 Alaska Cruise and Land & Sea Vacation Program


Alaska Certified Cruise Experts Unveils Princess Cruises' 2017 Alaska Cruise and Land & Sea Vacation Program

Enhanced North to Alaska Experiences Bring Authentic Alaska Onboard; Optional Land & Sea Vacations Provide Immersive Exploration into the Heart of the Great Land. Now available from Alaska Certified Cruise Experts.

me

March 25, 2016 --- Next summer, six Princess Cruises' ships will sail Alaska's storied waters, offering multiple itinerary options, immersive onboard culinary and cultural experiences and a variety of Land & Sea Vacations for further exploring the 49th state's vast wilderness.
The line's signature Voyage of the Glaciers itinerary, with its unrivaled glacier-viewing opportunities, will be offered by Alaska Certified Cruise Experts part of Alaska Cruises Direct on Coral Princess, Star Princess and Island Princess between Whittier (Anchorage) and Vancouver, B.C.; while cruises through the Inside Passage, with its ever-changing scenery from picturesque shores to quaint coastal towns, will be offered aboard Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess from Seattle and Grand Princess from San Francisco.

While on board, guests will encounter a variety of ways to engage in authentic experiences through the award-winning North to Alaska program, featuring the newest Cook My Catch, an exclusive culinary program allowing guests to return from select Princess fishing excursions to have the chef prepare their very own catch of the day. Also offered in 2017, the crowd-favorite Puppies in the Piazza, where real Alaskan sled dog puppies are brought on board for guests to interact with. On land, guests will hear first-hand tales from mountain climbers who have conquered Denali as they tell the exhilarating stories of their journey in the new Hudson Theater at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.
In addition, the cruise line's Land & Sea Vacations will offer flexible ways to delve deeper into the fascinating Alaska frontier. Land tours are combined with a seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise and include the company's premier wilderness lodges, exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness Glass-Domed Rail Service, plus visits to the top two attractions in Alaska – Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park.


All 2017 Alaska cruises and Land and Sea Vacations are open for booking.

"As the #1 cruise line in Alaska, Princess continues to offer guests the best of this beautiful state while on land and at sea," said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. "From wilderness and glaciers to fresh salmon and sled dog puppies, the newest North to Alaska experiences truly delivers on our commitment to ensuring our guests come back new."

Alaska Cruises Direct : Princess' 2017 Alaska program includes:

Alaska Cruises
With 113 departures from Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver and Whittier featuring unique ports and destinations, options abound for exploring Alaska in 2017 aboard Princess ships, including:


Voyage of the Glaciers – Princess' most popular Gulf of Alaska sailings between Vancouver and Whittier features two glacier-viewing experiences on every voyage, with visits to the UNESCO-listed Glacier Bay National Park plus either Hubbard Glacier or College Fjord.
Inside Passage –This awe-inspiring part of Alaska, known for its lush scenery and pristine fjords, will be featured on seven- and 10-day roundtrip voyages with the option to visit Glacier Bay on select sailings from Seattle, Vancouver and San Francisco.


Alaska Land & Sea Vacations
Princess offers guests more than 20 Land and Sea Vacations in 2017, most featuring multiple nights at Princess-owned Wilderness Lodges to experience the grandeur of Denali. Guests will once again be able to purchase a pre-paid meal package for the land portion of their vacation in 2017. Options include:



Denali Explorer – As Princess' most popular Land & Sea Vacation, these itineraries feature multiple nights at the line's Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and/or Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. Most offer Princess' exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness rail service between the ship in Whittier and the Denali area all in one day, plus the opportunity to explore Fairbanks and/or Anchorage.
On Your Own – An affordable option for independent-minded travelers, these itineraries offer a flexible way to see the heart of Alaska. Tours follow similar routes as Denali Explorer options, but do not include any pre-planned excursions, giving travelers the opportunity to customize their own experience.
Off the Beaten Path – These itineraries are designed to take travelers beyond Denali to sought-after, remote regions of the state such as the Kenai Peninsula and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.  
Connoisseur – The line's highest level of service, these tours provide a truly immersive experience. With a professional tour director, most meals included and enhanced sightseeing, guests experience the best of the Great Land.
Heart of the Rockies Plus Rail – This 14-night cruisetour originates in Calgary and includes daylight Silverleaf rail service on the Rocky Mountaineer. The fully escorted land tour combines with a seven-day northbound Voyage of the Glaciers cruise on Star Princess and includes most breakfasts and dinners. Spectacular overnight accommodations are offered at Fairmont Palliser Hotel, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.


More information about Princess Cruises 2017 Alaska program can be found here.
Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through this professional travel consultant, Alaska Cruises Direct by calling 800.365.1445 or by visiting the company's website at alaskacruisesdirect.com
 

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, February 26, 2016

Royal Caribbean Announces Exciting New Adventures To Alaska For Summer 2017

Royal Caribbean Announces Exciting New Adventures To Alaska For Summer 2017  Royal Caribbean Returns to the Sea and Land of The Great American Frontier

Alaska 2017 - For the 28th consecutive season, Royal Caribbean International will return to the Great Frontier, delivering the world's best vacation for adventure seekers, set against the backdrop of America's most picturesque shoreline landscape. Explorer of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas will each sail seven-night itineraries that bring the awe-inspiring Alaskan seascape to life and the state's rugged mysterious interior within reach to become real world adventures. Explorer of the Seas sails roundtrip from Seattle, and Radiance of the Seas sails from Vancouver, BC to Seward, AK and then from Seward, AK to Vancouver, BC. All itineraries open for sale on Feb. 26. Globetrotters eager to plan their 2017 summer travels will reap the benefits of complimentary upgrades as an incentive for early booking, in addition to the promotional offerings already underway.

 New in 2017, two 12-night cruisetours exclusive to Royal Caribbean guests will take travelers to roads less traveled both with overnight stays in scenic Alaskan escapes before or after their cruise. The Kantishna Select Wilderness & Wildlife cruisetour unleashes the traveler's adventurous spirit to explore Denali's unspoiled wilderness with local experts. Guests hike the Exit Glacier, go on a kayak and bike adventure at Eklutna Lake and travel by rail from the Denali National Park and Preserve to Fairbanks. The cruisetour includes two nights of exclusive accommodations at a Kantishna backcountry lodge, amongst the finest wilderness lodges in the state, immediately after the cruise vacation. Nestled in an idyllic setting on the bend of a river, the lodge touts an inherent sense of history from deep within the National Park. The Katmai Bear Trek & Kantishna Fly Over cruisetour will bring to life the most sought after Alaska experience, the chance to witness the notorious American Brown Bear hunting in its natural habitat with an extraordinary close and unobstructed view in the Katmai Park and Preserve. Adventure-seekers taking part in the cruisetour will have two nights in Denali or Anchorage, before or after the cruise respectively, to explore these frontier destinations.

 For the 28th consecutive season,
Royal Caribbean International will return to the Great Frontier, delivering the world's best vacation for adventure seekers, set against the backdrop of America's most picturesque shoreline landscape.


Alaska Adventure Collection

 Known for unexpected experiences found only on Royal Caribbean, the cruise line continues to transform the cruise experience by offering innovative ships combined with active immersive adventures in incredible destinations around the world. And there is no place like Alaska where the possibilities of discovery are uncovered traveling through forests, amidst gardens, over glaciers, up mountain passes and across lakes.

 Vacationers have a vast array of destinations and excursions to add to their "must see and do" lists, including:
 •Icy Straight Point: The world's longest zipline with a 1,320 ft. vertical drop, the ZipRider transports brave riders from mountain peak to harbor-side beach at 60 mph.
 •Juneau: Bald eagles, bears, caribou, and sea lions, are part of the Alaska Big 5 wildlife list, but whale watching in Stephen's Passage is one of the most awe-inspiring wildlife experiences ever. Guests can enjoy this all-new shore excursion that brings them up-close-and-personal with humpback whales, sea lions, harbor seals, and more.
 •Ketchikan: The largest wilderness in Alaska is the 2.3 million acre Misty Fjords which captures the breathtaking landscape from glacial blue lakes to waterfalls, rising to snowcapped peaks. The floatplane aerial view reveals the nuances of nature's color palette and textures, awarding the bragging rights travelers relish.
 •Skagway: This town is so associated with the exhilaration of the Gold Rush that the town has become synonymous with rugged adventure. Travelers can take in the Tongass National Rainforest from the comfort of 4x4 vehicles or visit Musher's Camp for a hands-on lesson in dog sledding.
 •Victoria, BC: The 100 year old Buchart Gardens is one of Canada's National Historic Sites having grown from a single rose bush to a verdant 55-acre oasis. Guests can enjoy self-guided tours of this enchanting botanical display.

 Explorer of the Seas, the 15-deck, 1,557-stateroom ship which accommodates 3,840 guests was revitalized in 2015 to bring signature Royal Caribbean innovations like the FlowRider surf simulator, virtual balconies for interior staterooms and a variety of new dining experiences onboard.

 Radiance of the Seas, the 13-deck, 1,071-stateroom ship accommodating 2,466 guests offers a 220 sq. foot, poolside movie screen, in addition to the signature rock-climbing wall, spa and multiple dining venues for which the cruise line is known.

 Royal Caribbean International is an award-winning global cruise brand with a 46-year legacy of innovation and introducing industry "firsts" never before seen at sea. The cruise line features an expansive and unmatched array of features and amenities only found on Royal Caribbean including, jaw-dropping, Broadway-style entertainment and industry-acclaimed programming that appeals to families and adventurous vacationers alike. Onboard, guests are catered to with the cruise line's world-renowned friendly and engaging Gold Anchor Service by every staff and crew member. Royal Caribbean has been voted "Best Cruise Line Overall" for 13 consecutive years in the Travel Weekly Readers Choice Awards.

 The cruise line sails 23 of the world's most innovative cruise ships to the most popular destinations in Bermuda and the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and New England, Alaska, South America, Asia, and Australia and New Zealand. For additional information or to make reservations, vacationers should call their travel agent or this Certified Alaska Cruise Expert; visit www.alaskacruisesdirect.com or call 800.365.1445

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 25, 2016

How to Find the Best Alaska Cruise Bargains in 2016

2016 - 2017 Alaska Trends

How to Find the Best Alaska Cruise Bargains in 2016

When it comes to getting the most for your Alaska cruise you have to look at the big picture, not just the cabin price. That's because all the top brand Alaskan bound cruise lines offer bonus extras.  Sales promotions loaded with added amenities, with limited price discounts, as incentives to get you to book. Some of the perks at sea include one or more of the following:


Onboard Spending Credits, Cash Back, Cabin Upgrades, 2 for 1 Fares, Low Solo Fares, Kids Sail Free or at Reduced Rates, Lower Deposits, Reduced Airfare, Senior Rates, Military Discounts, Mini- Group Rates, or Past Guest Deals not shown at their web sites, but available through travel agents. Travel agents offer some of the best cruise and cruise tour itineraries and affordable prices, plus several even include one or more of the following Bonus Extras:*

  • Up to $400 Onboard Spending Money
  • Free Specialty Dining
  • Free Beverage Package
  • Free Gratuities
  • Free Onboard Coupon Booklets
  • Free Cabin Upgrades
  • Reduced Rates and More!

When it comes to savings, get the best perks we've ever seen, latest up-to-the-moment special offers, discount prices, current fares, savings and cabin availability, just call us at 800.365.1445.

Book early, and take advantage of multiple perks. Like a seven-night Alaska cruise that comes with unlimited beverages and up to $400 per cabin onboard credit -- the perks valued at over $1000. ( if you drink a lot of alcohol-based beverages )

Compare all the cruise line online offers, then call your Travel Agent and review those offers, and ask your agent what they have on offer. Then, decide if you're getting the good deal you seek. Be sure to look at all the costs, compared to your expectations and budget. Include airfare, onboard spending for drinks, shore excursions, spa, gratuities etc. and then look at your list of bonus extras and add up the savings.


Don't book directly with the Cruise Line, instead use a travel agent to get the best deal on a great Alaska cruise vacation.

Often the most savings -- and the best possible value-added perks on a cruise -- will come from your travel agent.


First, you don't pay extra for their services. Second, they get "unpublished offers" ,  often at lower rates, not necessarily found at the cruise line's web site.

In addition, agents know how to combine Alaska cruise promotions with say, AAA or AARP offers where applicable, so you get an even better deal. Travel agents can find the cruise line, cruise ship, sailing date or cabin category with the best value. Call the cruise line and their only interest is promoting their own interests and steer you to the cabins they want sold. A travel agent works with all the cruise lines without bias.

If your a savvy shopper, you can save even more.  Travel on a group departure organized by your agent. ( you don't have to be a member or even interact with others in the so-called group ) You'll get a lower fare,  perhaps additional amenities, such as shipboard credits, access to special onboard services and lower cost shore tours. A good travel agent can point out the best choice based on your needs and budget.


Book early for the best deals.

Cruise lines sailing in Alaska offer their best prices and bonus extras early in the booking window, ( Jan - March ) and the trend in 2016 shows many cruise lines will not be dropping prices as frequently, or that low, on last minute sailings.

Alaska is a hot destination this year. Europe is not.  So you should book your Alaska cruise as early as possible. Book early and you'll find the best selection of cabins, bonus extras, and great fares. Bear in mind, that offers beyond the early-booking deals will only be on the remaining not so good inventory. Often cabins near elevators, above or below the disco or close to other public areas are all that's left. Many sailings sell out, so you could end up choosing a less popular sailing. Plus prices will go up as ships get close to sold out.

Alaska Cruises Available from May – September


View 2016-17 Alaska Cruises  |  View 2016-17 Alaska Land & Sea Vacations  |  Download Brochure

Labels: , , ,

Friday, January 29, 2016

Let's Debate : Holland America vs. Princess in Alaska


Let's Debate : Holland America vs. Princess in Alaska

Let's debate which cruise line is the best choice for your Alaska cruise or land and sea vacation.

Cruise Traveler Magazine compares the real difference between Holland America vs. Princess Alaska Cruises.  Learn about the onboard experience,  itineraries, ports-of-call. Compare cruises, or land and sea vacation [ cruisetours ] prices, current promotional offers, bonus extra's and wilderness lodges and rail adventures.

“ What's the real difference between a Holland America and a Princess Cruise or Cruisetour of Alaska? ”


Q. "My husband and I are considering taking an 11 or 12 day 'Denali National Park' cruise tour with either Holland America or Princess Cruises. Both cruise lines itinerary are very similar - 7 night cruise including visiting Glacier Bay, a Tundra Wilderness tour of Denali National Park, a night in Fairbanks, and 2 nights in Denali. However the cruise lines brand their rail travel, expressing that they are "exclusive", the McKinley Explorer, for Holland and the Denali Express for Princess. Is there an advantage to doing the rail by Princess over Holland America?

We also noticed that, for what looks like a similar cruise vacation, prices vary between Holland America and Princess. My husband wants to get a balcony, but isn't sure which is the better deal.

What do we need to know before we choose which cruise line to see Alaska? Could you explain why there is such a difference between Princess Cruises and Holland America, not only on price but amenities as well?"


Raye & Marty Trencher
Editors and Publishers
 
A. OK, here's what you need to know before you go....



Story




Background

 Holland America Line began sailing Alaska in 1967. Princess Cruises in 1969. Both cruise lines added land-and-sea vacations a few years later. So, both companies have years of hands on experience to rely on.

Both Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are the market leaders in Alaska. Both have their own motorcoach and rail services. Princess owns their own Wilderness Lodge accommodations in Denali, Fairbanks, Kenai and Cooper River. Combined they have the most ships of any of the name brand cruise lines sailing Alaskan waters.

Cruising in Alaska is a summertime adventure with an ocean-inspired cruise and an exhilarating land tour of Alaska. Alaska...where summertime memories last forever. Alaska offers a range of enriching options to see the Great Land's glaciers, frontier towns, native culture, wildlife and national parks from the perspective of spectacular ships, exclusive rail service and wilderness lodges.

Both Holland America and Princess' onboard enrichment programs introduce Alaska for a personalized perspective of America's last frontier. On Holland America and Princess cruises, ships feature a naturalist with informative lectures, and a national park ranger during Glacier Bay sailings.

Princess, however, offers their exclusive "North to Alaska" program.  Onboard are Alaska Iditarod winner and renowned dog musher Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the grueling 1,100-mile Iditarod sled dog race. She comes aboard in Juneau to share tales of her historic triumph, answer questions and even sign autographs. You won’t want to miss this special Princess exclusive. Plus, on some sailings meet people from Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" TV show. In partnership with the Discovery Networks, Alaska cruises feature content from the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet on the wildlife, terrain, history, and adventures from Alaska. Discovery Networks shows such as "Gold Rush!" and "Panning for Gold", along with episodes of "The Deadliest Catch" and "The Klondike" mini-series are featured.




 

In Skagway, Alaskan storyteller and musician Steve Hites comes on board to perform his “North to Alaska” show. This tribute to the Klondike days brings the region’s folklore, history and poetry of the era to life with plenty of rollicking humor.

Then there is The Klondike Festival and Midnight Sun Party. Princess guests experience the thrill and excitement of a real Klondike Festival, hearkening back to the good ol’, bad ol’ days of gold rush fever with authentic Alaska entertainment. Fun for the whole family, the festival includes performances depicting the heyday of the gold rush, Alaska icon & sled racing presentations, penny whistle classes, Tlingit art projects and more.

Princess is providing a variety of authentic Alaska cuisine options onboard including King Crab, King Salmon and fresh Halibut.  There is a dedicated Alaska cuisine themed night in the main dining rooms, and a special Alaska Cuisine menu in the Crown Grill and Bayou Cafe on select evenings.

For kids and teens, they can explore their adventurous side with activities such as our Jr. Ranger Program, Panning for Gold, the Deadliest Catch Crab Sorting Game, and amazing "What would Survivorman do?"




The Cruise Ships That Sail Alaska

Each cruise line's ships that sail Alaska have a "personality" of their own and you should review the amenities, onboard programs, entertainment and dining options to decide which cruise ship best fits your lifestyle. Holland America tends to attract a more "senior" traveler, while Princess tends to attract travelers of all ages, especially middle age couples and families.

When it comes to choosing a cruise ship to sail Alaska, the difference between seeing Alaska and understanding Alaska is what the cruise line brings to life, while onboard.

 As an example, Princess cruises brings aboard speakers to share their Alaska adventures, such as the grueling 1,100-mile Iditarod sled dog race. In Skagway, you'll enjoy the entertainment of an Alaskan storyteller. And in Ketchikan, a U.S. Forest Service naturalist will present a program about the largest forest in the country, Tongass National Forest. Alaska's intriguing flora, fauna and geology come to life by the full-time onboard naturalists who sails with you the entire length of the cruise.

While in Glacier Bay National Park, rangers from the National Park Service will board the cruise ship to serve as tour guides and answer questions about this national treasure. Rangers also lead our Junior Ranger and Teen Explorer programs in Glacier Bay, which teach kids about the wildlife and scenery in a fun and entertaining way.

Dining onboard spotlights local specialties like fresh Alaskan Seafood. You will also like the Taste of Alaska Buffet, a festive on-deck Fish Barbeque and a Reindeer Chili and Rockfish Chowder Cook-Off. The Chef's Alaskan Dinner and Glacier Bay Gala Buffet are highlights of your Alaska cruise. Or indulge in a romantic Glacier Bay Champagne Breakfast served on your own balcony onboard Princess Cruises.


Both Holland America and Princess' Alaska cruises, offer a number of round-trip seven-night itineraries, that feature the most popular ports of call :


Both cruise lines call on Juneau and Ketchikan.  Itineraries sail through Glacier Bay, or Tracy Arm.  Most sailings visit Skagway. Holland America's Seattle cruises go to Sitka. Some Seattle sailings call on Victoria, BC Canada.

Princess Alaska Itineraries

Holland America Alaska Itineraries

Princess Cruises offer sailings from San Francisco on 10-night cruises that travel the Inside Passage with port calls in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria.

Alaska Cruise Prices

You will find in general, pricing for round-trip seven-night cruises competitive between Holland America and Princess for inside, ocean view and balcony cabins. Inside cabins for sailings during the early part of May or beginning of September start for less than $800.00 per person,  Balcony cabins (known as Verandahs on Holland America) will cost you considerably more.

For north or southbound sailings, we found inside and ocean view cabins less expensive with Princess, at the start ( early May ) and end ( early September ) of the Alaska cruise season.

Shop Princess Cruises

Shop Holland America Cruises

Alaska Land and Sea Vacations [ Cruisetours ]


Holland America's land and sea vacations include stops in Canada. Visiting Dawson City and Whitehorse, the Yukon.  Both cruise line land tours visit Denali National Park. In addition to Denali, Princess can take you to the Kenai Wilderness Lodge, in the Kenai Peninsula and/or the Copper River Wilderness Lodge, to visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

Princess' northbound or southbound sailings from Vancouver, begin or end in Whittier, Alaska which is closer to Anchorage then Seward, where Holland America's cruises begin or end. Princess gets the upper hand here, as it has "Direct to the Wilderness" rail service for guests by going straight up north to Denali (or vice versa, going directly from Denali to their cruise ship).  Hours of transportation by train or motorcoach are saved by this service.


Holland America accommodations are in Westmark-branded hotels. in Alaska and Canada's cities and towns. For visits to Denali National Park, Holland America guests stay at the McKinley Chalet Resort, which is less than three miles from the entrance to the park.


Princess' accommodations (except in Anchorage, where they use the Captain Cook hotel and others )  are in " Wilderness " lodges. Guest can stay at the Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge in Trapper Creek, near Talkeetna, the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, or the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, and the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge ( less than a mile from the entrance to Denali National Park). Which accommodation(s) you stay at depends upon your itinerary.

Read our new Alaska Land & Sea Vacation Review from our trip to Alaska in September 2015

Shop Princess Land & Sea Vacations

Shop Holland America Land + Sea Vacations

The Rail Services

Now when you disembark the ship, the difference between Princess and Holland America become more clear.



First, Princess Cruises docks in Whittier, Holland America in Seward. Whittier is much closer to Anchorage, when most northbound cruise tours begin. So, travel time is significantly reduced. If you are headed direct to Denali and will not be visiting Anchorage, Princess offers a real exclusive: "Direct-to-the-Wilderness® Alaska Rail Service".

Princess Cruises exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness service allows you to step off your cruise ship in Whittier onto the Princess rail service cars and arrive at their Princess Wilderness Lodge that same afternoon. Or, on southbound itineraries, guests leave the Denali area and board the train for a direct link to your awaiting cruise ship in Whittier. Because fewer transfers and less time waiting makes for a more relaxing and hassle-free trip, Princess exclusive cruise ship-rail-lodge connection takes you straight to Denali National Park.

While others like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland America are still in transit, you'll be enjoying more time at one of Princess' two Denali area lodges. The connection is seamless. You step directly from your ship onto your waiting railcar. Sit back, read, chat, dine and marvel at the panoramic vistas from their domed observation lounge. You arrive at Denali that same day ready to experience the wonders you've traveled so far to see.

If reaching your destination nearly a full day earlier than with any other cruise tour company is important to you. Then consider Princess Cruises. It could mean more time to sit by the fire, linger over grilled salmon and soak up the comfort and luxury of Princess Cruises, Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.

A word about the train. If the rail portion of your cruise tour departs from Anchorage, you will notice that Holland America's rail cars, marketed as the "McKinley Explorer" and Princess Cruises railcars marketed as "McKinley Express" actually travel together on the same train.

The train's engine is operated by the Alaska Railroad, which "pulls" the private rail cars of Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. So, for everyone the view out the window or on the observation decks is the same. There are some differences on the rail cars themselves, but each cruise line offers glass dome views, onboard dining options, expert guide service and commentary along the way.


Denali National Park

Sightseeing inside Denali National Park is operated by the National Park Service, so the tours in the park are identical no matter what cruise line you travel with.

With Princess, you can choose your own park tour! Most Princess Alaska land and sea vacations include a tour through the park, plus Princess offers the flexibility to choose your preferred experience from three unique tour options. Park tour options include: Denali Natural History Tour, Tundra Wilderness Tour and Kantishna Experience. Your itinerary and time constraints may limit your options.



   
Denali Natural History Tour

Duration: Approximately 6 1/2 hours

Tour Highlights:
Fully narrated tour that focuses on the rich history of Denali National Park
Travels to Primrose Ridge (Mile 17) for scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities
Includes a screening of “Across Time and Tundra”, a film that depicts development of the park road and early visitor experiences
Stop at Savage Cabin to visit a rustic, back-country shelter used by rangers for decades
Alaskan Native Presentation
Possible opportunity to see Denali ( formally called Mt. McKinley ) (weather permitting)

Recommended for:
Passengers who are interested in Denali’s history, culture and nature
Passengers who have limited time in Denali and want to more thoroughly experience their lodge and/or land excursions
Passengers who prefer to have more free time in Denali

Tundra Wilderness Tour

Duration: Approximately 9 hours

Tour Highlights:
Comprehensive, fully narrated tour that travels deep into Denali National Park (Mile 53)
In-depth information about the history of the park with plentiful wildlife and photography opportunities
Travels over Sable Pass to scenic Polychrome Overlook
Stony Hill Overlook provides opportunities to see Denali (weather permitting)
Note: The Teklanika Tundra Wilderness Tour is seasonally offered in place of the Tundra Wilderness Tour when the park road is not fully accessible due to weather.

Recommended for:
Passengers with 2-night stays at Denali
Passengers who want a deep Denali Park experience
Passengers who enjoy motorcoach travel

Kantishna Experience

Duration: Approximately 14 hours

Tour Highlights:
All day tour that travels to the end of the park road (Mile 91)
This tour is guided by a National Park Service Interpretive Ranger
Explore the old gold mining town of Kantishna and learn about its history
Stop at the restored home of Fannie Quigley and learn about the early settlers
Visit the Eielson Visitor Center and Wonder Lake
Abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing
Possible opportunities to see Mt. Mckinley (weather permitting)
Limited space availability
Note: This tour does not operate when the park road is not fully accessible due to weather.

Recommended for:
Passengers with 2-night stays at Denali
Passengers who want to travel to the end of the park road
Passengers who enjoy motorcoach travel

Other Helpful Information

Don’t wait; availability is limited. Space is assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Not all requests can be accommodated.
A snack and hot beverage is provided on the Natural History Tour.
Box lunches and beverages are provided on the Tundra Wilderness Tour and the Kantishna Experience.
Wheelchair accessible buses are available, and all stops are wheelchair accessible.
Children under 4 years and/or 40 pounds are required to be in a child safety device (car seat) to ride on buses. Passengers must bring their own child safety device.
Tour buses are school buses and are not equipped with restrooms. Buses will stop approximately every 90 minutes for restroom breaks.
Park road is not paved and travels through beautiful Alaskan wilderness – wildlife is not guaranteed.
Privately owned vehicles are not permitted into the National Park.
Suggested items to bring include warm clothes, rainwear, insect repellant, camera, binoculars, and personal medications as necessary

Hotel/Lodge Accommodations

Where you stay in Alaska may matter to you. Both Holland America and Princess offer lodges and hotels in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Denali. Princess also offers accommodations at Cooper River and Kenai. There are differences between the two cruise lines. First, Princess owns their own lodges. ( visit www.princesslodges.com ) So, the hotel/lodge staff are employees of Princess. This is important, for seamless continuity of service. Holland America and the other cruise lines, contract out hotel space for their guests.

Getting around Alaska, with the exception of the rail services provided, is by motorcoach. Grayline of Alaska provides the bus transportation for Holland America. Princess provides its own transportation. Both offer driver/guide commentary along the way.

For more information and to compare Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean or Celebrity cruise tours of Alaska, visit Alaska Cruises Direct. www.alaskacruisesdirect.com
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sightseeing from the train
Luxury dining on the train
 
   
Helicopter Tour
Alaskan Culture & Heritage
Whitewater rafting

Who won the debate?

Holland America vs. Princess in Alaska

Historically,  Holland America appeals to an older demographic, with onboard activity and entertainment appealing to these travelers. The line is best suited for 55+ and seniors traveling with or without a group of friends.

Princess Cruises is better suited for active couples from 35 -50. Best for those looking for land and sea vacations [cruisetours] and families with young children. Guests should find the onboard experience with Princess Cruises "North to Alaska" appealing.  

Did You Know: Grizzly bears have been a threatened species since 1975 in the Lower 48 states? Alaska however has over 32,000 grizzlies. Considering Alaska's population is only 670,000, that's 1 bear for every 21 people. Alaska is home to magnificent glaciers, giant halibut, hardy outdoorsmen.... and lots of moose. Alaska has 39 mountain ranges. Did you know? The larger ranges include: Alaska Range, which includes 20,320 foot Mt. McKinley, the continent's tallest peak , Aleutian Range, a volcano-ridden range on the Alaska Peninsula, Brooks Range, which is above the Arctic Circle; the Continental Divide runs through it and Boundary Ranges, along the Canadian border of the Inside Passage.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Viking Idi Cruise Ship Review - Viking River Cruises

Destination: Europe

Viking Idi Cruise Ship Review - Viking River Cruises

Sail Date: November  13 - 21 2015

By Raye & Marty Trencher


Cruise Traveler Magazine is a cruise travel blog and online magazine offering an unbiased cruise guide, latest cruise news, cruise reviews, tips, feature cruise articles, and need to know information about cruising. Featuring community member contributed content. Cruise Reviews. Cruise Ship Ratings and Cruise Line Rankings. Editorially independent of travel providers or cruise lines.

The Editor's of Cruise Traveler Magazine present Your Ultimate Cruise Guide - Know Before You Go. Tried-and-true Tips on how to have a successful cruise vacation. Get the latest cruise news, cruise reviews, and feature cruise articles. Be sure to read their Ultimate Packing List. A must read, before you plan your next cruise. Add your own article....share the experience.

 

 

 
_______________________________________________


Rhine Getaway

We went exploring castles, cities and cathedrals

Viking River Cruises, Rhine Getaway experience highlights the legendary Rhine in just 8 days. In Germany, we sailed past castles commanding the riverbanks, and toured both Marksburg Castle and the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. We toured Cologne, the jewel of the Rhine, with its awe-inspiring Dom, and witnessed the lush landscape of the Black Forest region. We had time to explore Amsterdam and Holland’s famous windmills and waterworks, and encountered multicultural Strasbourg in France.
 
 

Embarkation: Amsterdam

Day 1 Amsterdam: We arrived around 8:30am, fresh off our overnight flight from the US. Viking representatives were at the reception hall, after we had cleared customs and immigration.  They had our names on a manifest and quickly loaded our luggage on carts. Off we went to the waiting motorcoach for transfer to our ship,  the Viking Idi. When we arrived, the ship was serving breakfast to the disembarking passengers who sailed up from Basil. The Restaurant Manager invited all arriving guests to join the others for breakfast. After breakfast, you have several choices. You can tour downtown Amsterdam on your own, as the ship is within walking distance of many sites. You can relax in the public rooms until your stateroom is ready, or take a complimentary guided walking tour later in the day. Staterooms normally are not ready for occupancy until 3pm., but we were able to use our stateroom by late morning.  Later we chose to join the others on the guided walking tour of Amsterdam. With its tranquil waterways and gabled homes, Amsterdam is a delight to explore on foot.

Our guided walking tour of Amsterdam  was our first-time use of Viking's QuietVox audio system. Two QuietVox audio receivers with lanyards and their charges are in each stateroom aboard Viking River Cruises' Viking Idi. Earbuds are in the plastic bag.

The QuietVox audio system is used on nearly all shore excursions offered by the cruise line.  They're easy to use. A single earbud to use on your left or right ear, is plugged into the receiver, and you just hang the whole thing over your neck and you're good to go. The devices are small, so you can slip them into a pocket, and just have the single earbud visible.  You can hear your guide loud and clear via the QuietVox headsets, and you have the freedom to move around while on tour. No need to be right on top of the guide to hear the commentary.

Built on a confluence of concentric canals, Amsterdam remains the City of Canals, on nearly every street you'll find old and new - side by side.

With just around 831,000 inhabitants, 179 nationalities, and with almost everything a short 10-minute bike ride away.



Its Museum District houses works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. World-renowned paintings from the Dutch Golden Age are displayed at the national museum the Rijksmuseum. You can also tour the Van Gogh Museum and modern art at the Stedelijk. Cycling is key to the city’s character, and there are 400km of cycle paths. Famous Amsterdam residents included Anne Frank the diarist, the artists Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh and the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. You can tour the Anne Frank House, a historic house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. The building is located on a canal called the Prinsengracht, close to the Westerkerk, in central Amsterdam. You can walk there from your ship. However, you should plan on purchasing tickets at  ( Adults € 9.50 ) well in advance of your trip, as it is one of the most visited places in Amsterdam and getting tickets on the day your arrive, in height of the season, are almost impossible.

Amsterdam, when compared with other major European cities, is uniquely defined by its houses. With 7,000 registered monuments, most of which began as the residences and warehouses of humble merchants, set on 160 man-made canals and traversed by 1,500 or so bridges, Amsterdam has the largest historical inner city in Europe. Its famous circle of waterways, the Grachtengordel, is a 17th-century urban expansion plan for the rich and a lasting testament to the city's Golden Age, the 17th century.

After our walking tour, We took a short nap to recover from jet lag,  then met in the lounge for a glass of wine and  the ship's Program Director Chris Schmitz ( like the cruise director on ocean going ships )  gave us a review of the next day’s events before dinner.


 Viking River Cruises Program Director Chris Schmitz

There are about 180 people on board the Viking Idi, so that all passengers can be served in one dining room at the same time. The smallest tables accommodate 6. Other 8 or 10. Romantic tables for 2 are not available. So, dining is a real social event. You can sit wherever you want, as there are no reserved seats. After a couple of days, we formed a little group of 8 new friends and dined together throughout the remainder of the cruise.

Viking Cruises includes beer, wine and soft drinks with meals at no charge. If you are a heavy drinker, you can purchase for  € 150.00 a week, ( $210.00 US ) all on-board drinks, including specialty wines ordered with dinner and drinks ordered in the lounge before and after dinner. You can review the Europe Bar Menu. Water, tea and coffee are included with meals, and many ships have a 24-hour coffee station. Complimentary bottled water is supplied daily in your stateroom.

Dress is casual and comfortable, both on board and ashore. Because the weather can be unpredictable, it is best to bring layers. It is recommended that you have a sweater or light jacket for spring and summer, and a heavier jacket for chillier months. Rain can happen at any time, so a collapsible umbrella is a “must.”  There are no “formal nights” on board, but there was the Captain’s Welcome Dinner and on the last night, the Farewell Dinner.  On some itineraries, you may attend a concert, ballet performance or other dressier event. For these evenings, you might like to bring “dressy casual” wear.

River cruising involves a fair amount of " walking" shore excursions and in the old towns of Europe, most of these walks are along cobbled streets and cobbled steps. If you are unable to traverse these streets, you will not be able to take the shore excursions. You will definitely want sturdy, comfortable walking shoes that grip the ground.  If you use a walker, scooter, cane, or wheelchair, read about Mobility Issues and River Cruising.
__________________________

Day 2 Kinderdijk: We had left Amsterdam during the night and we arrived in Kinderdijk in the morning, and docked right next to 19 windmills built in 1740's. We choose to catch the complementary walking tour and were able to hear the history and workings of the windmills.
 


 

The windmills at Kinderdijk were built to move water out of flooded areas to keep farm and home sites high and dry, as the land is below sea level. Today, modern massive turbines, get the job done. The site illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology – dykes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings and a series of beautifully preserved windmills. Some of the windmills are still in service, and are home to the caretakers and their families.  You can visit a windmill, tour the outside and inside to see how the mechanism's work and the living arrangements inside the windmill. Not a lot of living space. There's a small gift shop, museum and workshop as well.

If you want to experience Kinderdijk in a more active way? Rent a bicycle, as the city is criss-crossed by multiple bike paths. Bikes can be rented at the souvenir store on top of the dike. Cost about € 3.5.

To learn more about Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site visit: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/818
__________________________

Day 3 Cologne: Continuing along the Rhine this morning; we arrived in Cologne.


On our guided walking tour, we strolled through Old Town past St. Martin’s Church, and spend some time inside Cologne’s Dom, a remarkable Gothic cathedral with its stunning Gothic architecture and exquisite stained glass windows. Construction on the cathedral started in 1248 and was completed in 1880.


We had time to explore the taverns, cafés and shops on our own. Our  Program Director Chris and Viking Concierge, Michael were very helpful in planning our free time.

To learn more about Cologne,
 visit http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/cologne-d-nw-col.htm
______________________________________________________________

Day 4 Koblenz & Rüdesheim

We sailed along the most beautiful part of the Rhine River, where century’s old hilltop castles are just about around every turn of the river, and our Program Director Chris provided commentary about the history and current status of each one.  Along the way we marveled at the steep hills along the river banks dotted with vineyards.   We docked in Koblenz and then headed out by tour bus to Marksburg Castle in the village of Braubach, one of the many castles we had seen on our morning sail.
 
On the Rhine's right bank,  set up high on a hill above the town of Braubach is Marksburg Castle. Built in 1117, is the only Rhine fortress that has never been destroyed, allowing you to witness its original labyrinth of rooms. The castle has been lived in for over 700 years.
 
Marsburg Castle
( Marksburg Castle, along the Rhine River )
 
Beginning with the construction in the 12th century, the castle grew into its present shape throughout succeeding centuries. In the Middle Ages, the strengthening of the castle's defenses became essential and urgent by improvements made to firearms. Huge outworks date from this time, as does the conversion of a gateway in the outer wall to a strong bastion. It is mainly due to these extra defense works that the castle was never seriously attacked. In more peaceful times, it was used mainly as a state prison. This impressive castle, home of the German Castles Association set up to preserve such ancient monuments, presents a host of fascinating artifacts that brings the Middle Ages to life.  You will have to ascend a long winding walkway up to the castle and almost all of the interior grounds are covered in uneven cobblestones and steep walkways. The castles entry is well fortified with multiple archways, high stone walls and cannons pointing towards the river. This “castle”  was not a home for royalty. More like a "fortress" it was built to protect the residents of Braubach.  As other castles along the Rhine, it was a source of revenue by collecting tolls from traffic on the river.
 
Along the hour long guided tour of the castle, you'll view a huge kitchen, with a hearth displaying antique cooking tools, bedrooms with the shortest canopy bed we've ever seen. The guide told us that the inhabitants were superstitious. They would not lie on their back in the Middle Ages, so  they slept sitting up. How uncomfortable that would be.  We toured the great room where they gathered for lavish feasts. The armory with a great display of the changes in armor over centuries, a wine cellar, a blacksmith shop and a room filled with torture devices. Either actual artifacts and reproductions take you back in time.  The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn more about Marksburg Castle
______________________________________________
Day 5 - Heidelberg & Speyer
We cruised through the morning , enjoyed breakfast with six new found friends and the viewed the passing scenery. We arrived in Mannheim and disembarked for a tour of Heidelberg to see Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386.
 
 
Then, visited the beautiful sandstone ruins of imposing Heidelberg Castle and took in the scenery of the Neckar River Valley and the city’s many red rooftops from this hilltop post. We continued with a walking tour through Old Town to Heidelberg’s renowned gates.
Nestled up in the hills, some 300 feet above the city of Heidelberg stands the breath-taking Heidelberg Castle. The castle is a combination of several buildings surrounding an inner courtyard, put together over time with no concern for continuity. Each building highlights a different period of German architecture.

The castle has a history almost as old as the city itself. The first parts of the castle were constructed around 1300, but it wasn’t before Prince Elector Ruprecht III (1398 – 1410) that the castle was used as a regal residence. Until it was destroyed by lightning in 1764 leaving it permanently uninhabitable, the castle was the residence for most of the Prince Electors. In 1800, Count Charles de Graimberg began the difficult task of conserving the castle ruins. Up until this time, the citizens of Heidelberg had used the castle stones to build new houses.
We saw the Heidelberg Tun, or the “World’s Largest Wine Barrel”. It was built in 1751 by Prince Elector Karl Theodor to house the wine paid as taxes by the wine growers of the Palatine. It stands seven meters high, is eight and a half meters wide, holds 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons) of wine, and has a dance floor built on top of it. The court jester who guarded the cask during the reign of Prince Elector Carl Philip, a Tyrolean dwarf nick-named Perkeo, was supposedly known for his ability to drink large quantities of wine. Legend has it that he died when he mistakenly drank a glass of water.

Just as breath-taking as the castle is from the city, so too is the city from the castle. From either the Great Terrace or the gardens, one has an amazing view of Heidelberg, the Neckar River, and the Neckar valley far into the Rhine plain. On a clear day, Mannheim is even visible on the horizon.

_________________________

Day 6 Strasbourg: We docked this morning in Kehl, Germany boarded buses and disembarked early for a guided walking tour of Strasbourg.

Viking has a fleet of modern motorcoachs touring Europe

Just across the bridge from where we were docked.  Along the way, we say the home of the European Parliament and toured the interior of the city’s famed Notre-Dame Cathedral. This Gothic cathedral is famous for its enormous astronomical clock, built in the Renaissance period and mechanism dating back to 1842 is a masterpiece in itself, a monumental organ has a remarkable cabinet decorated with automated figures and incredibly tall spires reaching high in to the sky. Learn more about Notre-Dame Cathedral

"A prodigy of the gigantesque and the delicate," as Victor Hugo claimed. Strasbourg Cathedral (1015-1439) is an absolute masterpiece of Gothic art. The 142 m high spire looks incredibly lightweight and made the Cathedral the highest edifice in all Christianity until the 19th century. Three high-spots make the visit unforgettable. Outside, the facade is the greatest "book" of images the Middle Ages has to offer. Hundreds of sculptures stand out from the wall accentuating the effects of shadow and light. The 12th- to 14th-century stained-glass windows and the rose window are impressive.

Our local tour guide took us through "The Petite France Quarter". This is the most picturesque district of old Strasbourg. Fishermen, millers and tanners once lived and worked in this part of town where the streets have been built level with the waterways. The magnificent half-timbered houses date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Walking the narrow lanes, canals and locks, The Petite France Quarter is where artisans plied their trades in the Middle Ages. The half-timbered houses, sprouting veritable thickets of scarlet geraniums in summer, and the riverside parks attract the masses, but the area has Alsatian charm.



Our local Strasburg born guide provided a personal recount of his family’s life under Prussian, French, German, and then back to French rule.

Upon return to the boat we had lunch and returned via a shuttle service provided free of charge by Viking,  to Strasburg for some Christmas shopping. The town was already decked out for the holidays, and the "Christmas Markets" were being built in the town square to open a few days past Thanksgiving. Downtown stores were already decorated and the spirit of the holidays was abound.

Dinner this evening was a real unexpected treat. As most passengers were from America, the Chef prepared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and all the trimmings! Alternate entrees were also available.
_________________________________

Day 7 Breisach:  Today’s tour was to the Black Forest. The Black Forest, a mountainous region in southwest Germany, bordering France, is known for its dense evergreen forests and picturesque villages, which inspired some of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. It's also renowned for the cuckoo clocks produced in the region since the 1700s. Black Forest ham originated from this region, and so, by name and reputation at least, did the Black Forest gâteau. It is also known as "Black Forest Cherry Cake" or "Black Forest Cake" and is made with chocolate cake, cream, sour cherries and Kirsch. Learn more about the Black Forest

Our motorcoach took to the back roads through several picturesque small villages while our local guide described the life and history of people living in the area.  Many parts of the Black Forest are isolated and thinly populated. People took to making cuckoo clocks during harsh winters.  Deep into the forest, we took a break and stopped at a shopping complex that had a cuckoo clock building demonstration, a glass blowing demonstration, and a Black Forest Cake making demonstration. We had some coffee and a slice of the traditional Black Forest Cake. Taste so good!


                                                                                                ( Black Forest Cake Demonstration )

We returned to the ship for lunch,  and then took the optional tour to visit the World War II Colmar Pocket Memorial, and tribute to Audie Murphy,  the most decorated American combat soldier of WW II,  he received the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers on the outskirts of Holtzwihr, France at the Colmar Pocket in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded.

By the end of the war, Murphy had received two Bronze Stars, the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts and the Legion of Merit–making him the most decorated American soldier during World War II.



( Audie Murphy Memorial )

Others on the ship chose to visit the Alsatian town of Colmar, France. Just across the Rhine River from Breisach, Germany.  Rising above vineyards and the Rhine, Breisach is where the Black Forest spills into Alsace. Wandering about Colmar's old streets in the medieval section of the city is the best way to explore it. There is a variety of shops of different sorts. The Alsatian cuisine is also omnipresent (in restaurants as well as specialist stores). Take a boat trip on the canal from Little Venice.



On our last night onboard, the chef prepared a multi-course menu for our Farewell Dinner, that was absolutely superb (as were all the meals!). We said our goodbyes to our 6 newfound friends from California, Washington State and Utah, because we would be leaving the ship at 4:00 am in order to catch a very early flight home.


Basel, Switzerland
Disembarkation

Viking was well prepared for early departures. Buses were along the quay and the crew's luggage handling was spot on. When we arrived at Euro Airport Basel-Mulhouse=Freiburg, the international airport in France that is 3.5 km northwest of Basel in Switzerland, Viking had a guide to help us navigate the airport for a flawless check-in.

We arrived home with a lifetime of great memories, stories and photos to share with you and our family.



About the Ship : Viking IDI


Viking’s Longships®  ( over 45 identical ships, including the Viking IDi ) were designed by Scandinavian naval architects Yran & Storbraaten who have also designed for Silversea, the Yachts of Seabourn, Disney and Regent Seven Seas. The ships are sophisticated and elegant, with furnishings crafted from fine wood and wools, cottons, cashmeres and linens in a neutral palette. Because of an exclusive patented design, the Viking Longships offer river cruising’s first-ever true Suite: two full-size rooms, complete with a full-size veranda and French balcony. Viking offers elegantly appointed all-outside staterooms featuring European linens and duvets. Viking Longships have a selection of staterooms from Explorer Suites to staterooms with a veranda or French balcony complete with a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door.

Viking Longships integrate a patented corridor design and cutting-edge technology with comfortable amenities that reflect guest preferences and current travel trends. These features include a revolutionary all-weather indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace that reinvents the onboard lounge experience by bringing the panoramic outdoor river scenery indoors with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors and allows guests to enjoy the views and dine al fresco. Accommodating 190 passengers in 95 staterooms, Viking Longships have a patented layout that allows for two Explorer Suites – the largest river cruise suites in Europe – as well as seven two-room Veranda Suites with a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom; 39 Veranda Staterooms with full-size verandas; and 22 French Balcony Staterooms. Additionally, all Longships have sustainability upgrades, such as onboard solar panels and organic herb gardens, and energy-efficient hybrid engines that also reduce vibrations for a remarkably smooth ride.

Onboard amenities include a restaurant, bar, lounge, library, sun deck, onboard boutique and laundry service. Viking features non-smoking interiors on all ships.

When you travel with Viking, there are no surprises or hidden fees. The price you pay covers just about everything—port charges, Wi-Fi, meals, lectures, activities and shore excursions—as well as hotel accommodations on their cruisetour itineraries. So all you have to do is relax and enjoy a great journey that is also a great value:

•At least one included excursion per port
•All onboard meals created by our Swiss-trained chefs featuring fresh ingredients and regional specialties, served in a variety of settings including al fresco dining
•Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with our onboard dinner and lunch service; bottled water and complimentary cappuccino, coffee and tea at a 24-hour hot beverage bar




SHIP FEATURES

Aquavit Terrace



Revolutionary in concept and design, this spacious indoor/outdoor seating area, with a  lovely open-air cafe at the bow of the ship is perfect for having a casual meal al fresco, meeting friends for drinks or reading a book, all while enjoying breathtaking views and basking in the fresh air.

 
Atrium

Light and airy, the ship's soaring atrium-style lobby rivals those of the finest hotels.

The Restaurant

Gaze at breathtaking scenery through the Restaurant’s panoramic windows as you dine on regional specialties and contemporary cuisine. The atmosphere is casual yet elegant, with high-quality table linens, china, cutlery and glassware at every meal.

Accommodations

Longship staterooms offer hotel-style beds in either single or double configuration and all have a private bathroom. 40" flat-screen stateroom TVs offer CNN and other English-language programming, as well as region-specific movies and documentaries. In Europe, programming includes CNBC, ESPN, FOX, National Geographic and more. Every stateroom comes with a view on Viking's Longships, as there are no interior cabins.  You have a choice of Oceanview, French Balcony, Verandah and Suite accommodations.  Cabin lighting, includes built-in dimmers, bedside controls and mirrored vanities  There are four American (110 volt)  outlets, two bedside and two at the desk, and two European (220 volt) outlets in addition to one European outlet for charging the QuietVox headsets.

Every cabin is equipped with a safe, a small refrigerator and a handheld hair dryer. Bath products are L'Occitane. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available in your stateroom, as well as throughout the ship. On our Rhine river cruise, it was working most of the time, at reasonable speed.

 


( our French Balcony stateroom )

 


 

Veranda Stateroom

Boasting sweeping river views, the Veranda Staterooms are comfortable and airy, with hotel-style beds, a private bathroom, roomy closets and storage space, and amenities like flat-panel TVs and premium bath products.


 


 

Explorer Suite

Exceptional accommodations aboard the newest, most deluxe river cruise fleet include our spacious Explorer Suites - featuring separate sleeping and sitting quarters, a wraparound veranda with 270° views, a French balcony and modern amenities.

 


 

Ship Features

  • 95 comfortable outside staterooms (2 Explorer Suites, 7 Veranda Suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms, 22 French Balcony Staterooms, 25 Standard Staterooms)
  • All suites feature two rooms with a veranda off the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom
  • Sun deck with 360-degree views and shaded sitting area; organic herb garden and solar panels; putting green, and walking track

  • Aquavit Terrace with a revolutionary indoor/outdoor viewing area at the bow of the ship and grills for al fresco dining
  • The Lounge and bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors
  • Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramic views
  • Library corner and onboard boutique

  • Elevator from Middle to Upper Deck only; no elevator access for categories F and E
  • Free ship wide wireless Internet service
  • Laundry service
  • Ecologically friendly hybrid engines producing less vibrations for a smoother ride



River cruises attract passengers 60 and older, but on our cruise there were a number guests in their mid-forties. Even a  70+ honeymoon couple from Utah, that booked the Explorer Suite and joined our dinner table each night.

 

You'll find most staterooms slightly smaller than ocean-going vessels, ranging from 135 square feet to 205 square feet.


 

Dining

The chefs created a variety of tasty offerings for us, with freshly prepared seasonal local vegetables, European specialties adapted to satisfy the tastes of guests and homemade soups are prepared daily. For breakfast, you can choose from  a selection of pastries, cereals, breakfast meats, egg dishes, fresh fruit and selected cheeses. At lunch, we could select from the soup and sandwich bar, or a choice of entrées and dessert. And for dinner, we were treated to a five-course menu with regional specialties. You may also select from a red or white regional wine, or beer ( complimentary ) to perfectly complement your meal.

Meals are served in a single, open-seating at set times. Breakfast is choice of a buffet, or ordering from a menu.  The buffet area in the center of the room includes a choice of cereal,  oatmeal with toppings, lox, yogurt, cheeses and meats. You toast your own bread, including bagels. There's also an omelet station, or you can order from the menu; pancakes, French toast or eggs cooked to your taste. Lunch includes a soup pasta station and salad bar. Again, you also have a choice of ordering from a menu with a featured sandwich,  or entree.

Dinner features a full multi-course menu with hot or cold appetizers and three entrees, featuring a fish, meat or vegetarian choice that changes daily. The sweet desserts, are incredible. Available every day choices include grilled salmon, charbroiled New York-cut steak and Caesar salad.

Always available, are two coffee and tea stations that have self-service machines, where you can have a regular coffee, as well as lattes and cappuccinos, with mini-pastries offered in the morning and cookies in the afternoon.

Gratuities

Tips to the crew are not included in your cruise fare.  At the end of the cruise, you'll get two envelopes in your stateroom. One for the Program Director, and the other to be shared with the general crew.  You can tip in cash or by credit card. (Euros are the onboard currency, but dollars are also accepted for gratuities.)

We found the service onboard to be beyond the ordinary. Many of the crew that we often encountered, remembered our names and greeted us accordingly every day. A great "personal touch " not found on large ocean-going cruise ships. The recommended amount on Viking's Europe cruises is € 12 per passenger, per day, for the the crew and € 2 per passenger per day for the Program Director.  Our Program Director, Chris did a great job and deserved extra recognition.

Activities

Hands-on demonstrations, cooking classes, traditional dance performances, and local tastings. These in-depth experiences are included as an essential part of discovering more about the places through which we cruised, and each activity is planned specifically to illuminate each itinerary. The ship offered a series of onboard multimedia talks to shed light on the history and culture of the places we visited. Topics included the Dutch Masters or French impressionists, castles along the Rhine Valley, the formation of the European Union, the life and works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the wine and cuisine of southern France, and key words and phrases in the local language wherever we were traveling. These presentations provide a context for our own observations, enhancing our travel experience.

An onboard daily newsletter, Viking Daily, featuring information about daily activities, shore excursions and tour departure times is delivered to your stateroom every evening.

Entertainment

River Cruises don't offer elaborate production shows, don't have a casino. There's no big promenade shopping mall, no midnight buffet, nor any waterslides, ice skating rinks or rock climbing walls. River Cruises do transport you " back in time" to visit the people, places and events, where Europe's rich history comes alive in hundred's of historic sites, classical cities and towns.

Located on the upper atrium level is a spacious, large windowed lounge.  This room is the social hub of the ship. Everyone gathers there each evening, for cocktails prior to dinner. There's a modern bar and a small dance floor.  The ship's Program Director reviews next day's program prior to dinner.

Entertainment onboard is limited. The lounge features a baby grand piano, where a pianist plays both classical and modern tunes during cocktail hour. Regional performers occasionally come onboard to provide additional entertainment. 

As an an example, in Cologne, musicians from Cologne's Academy of Music and Dance and WDR Symphony Orchestra presented an ensemble of German, European and international classics.

Concierge Services

Want to reserve a table at local restaurant?  Arrange for a private guide?  Just like a hotel concierge, the Viking Concierge holds regular desk hours and can handle these and other requests.

Awards

The company has grown to a fleet of 60 river vessels (in 2015) offering scenic cruising along the rivers of Europe, Russia, Egypt, China, and Southeast Asia. Viking has been honored multiple times in Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” Awards and Condé Nast Traveler’s “Gold List” as well as recognized by the editors of Cruise Critic as “Best River Cruise Line,” with the entire Viking Longships® fleet being named “Best New River Ships” in the website’s Editors’ Picks Awards. The travel trade has ranked Viking as the “Best River Cruise Line” by Travel Weekly, Recommend and Travel Agent magazines, “Best Cruise Line for Luxury River Cruises” at the Luxury Travel Advisor Awards of Excellence and as “Best Overall Cruise Line for River Cruising,” “Best New River Cruise Ship” for the sixth consecutive year.

Final Comments

River water levels dictate what happens for your cruise. If the river water level is too low or too high, your river cruise may be delayed, ships changed, or overland adjustments made. Europe experienced much less rain  this summer, than in past years and as result all the river cruise companies have had to make alternate arrangements, like changing ships half way during your itinerary. The real measure of how well a cruise line performs is when something out of the ordinary happens. On our trip we did need the change ships, from the Viking IDi  to the Viking Kvasir. The transition was carried out in an efficient manner with only minor interruption to our itinerary.

We've traveled all around the world on over 40 ocean cruises,  but this was our first river cruise and we were pleasantly surprised. The crew and staff really worked hard and were a step or two above most ocean-going ship crews. The food was excellent, on par with luxury cruise ships. The sightseeing tours were well managed, and the local guides were well versed on local history and culture.

We had an excellent experience and are looking forward to another cruise with Viking in the near future.

P.S. We flew to Amsterdam on the day of the Paris terrorist attacks. Needless to say, it was part of the conversation, almost daily on the ship. On our tours at the ports-of-call we felt very safe and on our cruise we only experienced traffic delays at the boarder check points between Germany and France.
 

Labels: , , , , , ,