Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Travel tips’ Category

Our voyage began with an extended stay in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Amsterdam is a beautiful, bustling city which offers a variety of walking tours that I highly recommend.  I chose to be adventurous and stroll through the old city on my own following a printed walking tour from Frommer’s which took about 3 hours.  This tour highlighted all of the “must see’s” of Amsterdam:  the Royal Palace, New Church, the National Monument, the flower markets, Zeedijk and the Red Light District, and other sites.  If you have time, I recommend ordering tickets for Anne Frank’s house online before you get to Amsterdam (the lines are quite long, but can be avoided if you purchase tickets early).   Canal cruises are available on most streets, but note, if you venture a bit into town you will find some better deals.     

Leaving Amsterdam, we set sail for Cologne, Germany aboard our river barge, the River Ambassador.  Cologne is a wonderful German town.  Our guide took us through the Dom (Cathedral), where you can see the Shrine to the Three Magi, and to many historic points of Cologne.   A great stop is to go to Früh, the largest brew house in Germany (it is actually larger than Munich’s).   The local beer is known as Kolsh.  Make sure to put a coaster on top of your beer when you are finished though, or they will keep bringing them to you! 

The next stop was Koblenz, Germany where the Moselle and Rhine rivers meet.   The narrow streets of Koblenz are quaint and picturesque.  A morning tour takes you to the historic churches and through the Old town.  The cruise line offers an extended afternoon tour to Marksburg Castle for a fee.  We chose to walk around town and to climb the William I monument for a beautiful view of where the two rivers join.  There is also a cable car that takes you to the Electoral Palace and over the rivers for 8 euros. We were docked there late into the evening, so we ventured back into town to try the local wines at a typical Weinstube (wine tavern).    

The next morning we were up early to sail the romantic Rhine Valley.  More than 40 castles are located along this stretch of the river.  Our cruise director narrated the history of the area and stories of the castles as we enjoyed the view from the deck.  Local beer, sausage, and pretzels were served. 

That afternoon we sailed into Rüdesheim.  Our cruise director took those interested in a quick tour of the small village.  Time on your own could be spent exploring the self-playing music instrument museum, shopping, taking the tram up to the Neiderwald monument, or enjoying local wines at a winestube.  A local favorite is Rüdesheim coffee:  a coffee made with brandy and set on fire.  An afternoon wine tasting tour to Schloss Vollrads vineyard was wonderful.  Even if you do not drink wine, I recommend taking this tour to see the beautiful Riesling wine roads.  A paid excursion into town for a typical German dinner with entertainment was offered.   (As a note, there are many biergartens with entertainment, so you could choose to do this on your own without paying for an excursion.) Having experienced something similar before, we chose to have a German meal on deck and watch the sunset on the Rhine.  This had to be one of the highlights of the trip.  I certainly recommend taking advantage and signing up for this whatever night it might be offered (they can only do it on a night when you are not sailing). 

The next morning we docked in Speyer, Germany.  A tour was offered of the town in the morning, but you could certainly walk this on your own.  Speyer is small, but quaint.  The largest Romanesque cathedral in Europe is situated in the center of town and is a “must see.”  An extended tour to Heidelberg is planned for this day.  I recommend taking the tour to see this very large, beautiful castle and to have some time on your own in town for shopping and sightseeing in Heidelberg. 

 Leaving Germany we set sail for Strasbourg, France.  A beautiful city situated in the Alsace region of France.  A morning canal tour of the city and the L’Ill River was wonderful!  The rest of your day was spent sightseeing on your own.  We chose to stroll through the cathedral and then have lunch in the area known as Petit France. 

 Our last day was a full-day tour along the Alsatian Wine Roads.  We started in the small French village of Keysersberg.  Here we saw the famous storks which migrate from South Africa to this region.  Our next stop was in Riquewihr, another picturesque French wine village.  You must try the local tarte flambee!  C’est fantastique!  There are many wine tasting rooms from the local vineyards located here, but you must have a planned tasting time if you want to enjoy these.  Your local guide can schedule one if asked.

 Our last stop of the day was in Colmar.  We chose to walk to the area known as Little Venice and sightsee there.  Located in Colmar is the home of Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty.  We were here on a Saturday and also enjoyed a beautiful orchestra concert in the park!

Many locks are located along the Rhine.  You will certainly want to be on deck to watch sailing through one.  As we sailed from the Alsace region, we entered several.  The oldest lock is located just before Basel and was built in 1932. 

Our cruise ended in Basel, Switzerland.  Here we disembarked and added on a few more days to see Switzerland.  Walking tours of Basel are quite easy.  You can see the Münster Cathedral and the Marketplatz Square all located in the Old Town.  On Sundays most shops are closed in Switzerland, so keep this in mind. 

We took a tour to Lucerne, Switzerland.  This has to be one of the most beautiful cities, perfectly located along the Alps.  A crystal clear lake runs through the city.  The old bridges where history unfolds in pictures as you walk through are amazing.  Small restaurants and historic churches align the waterfront.  It is no wonder this town is such a tourist attraction.   

Our last day, we took the train to Zürich.  There are trains that run every half hour from Basel directly to Zürich.  The train station in Zürich is located in the heart of the Old town.  A walking tour here is quite easy as well.  Make sure to visit St. Peter’s (the largest clock face in the world), Grossmünster, and Fraümunster.   Also Bahnhofstrasse is a famous street for very expensive shopping (similar to Rodeo Drive).  I recommend taking time for lunch somewhere along the lake; we chose to have Swiss fondue.  The portions are large so make sure to share!

The entire trip was wonderful!  Traveling in late August- early September the weather overall was very pleasant.  Temperatures varied from mid 50’s to low 70’s.  Make sure to plan to dress in layers (cooler mornings and evenings, but warmer afternoons).  Although we had some rain showers, this really did not interfere with our tours or sightseeing.  The food on the ship was good. They incorporated many local cuisine dishes which were enjoyable; having local wines and beers included with dinner was also nice.  The ship had been recently renovated and all accommodations were comfortable and clean.  The staff on board was extremely friendly and accommodating.  I would definitely recommend taking this cruise to see a beautiful part of the world! By H. McKenzie.

Read Full Post »

Here’s what clients who recently returned from an anniversary Mediterrenean cruise aboard the Crown Princess with an extended stay in Rome & Vencie had to say about their trip.

  

Where do I start…..our trip was AMAZING!!!!  All went well with our flight to Rome and our transfer to our hotel. The driving in Rome was a little scary, but we made it to our hotel just fine! Our hotel was teeny tiny but nice…I would dare to say that our room was smaller than our room on the ship, but we didn’t mind since we didn’t spend much time there!!! Upon arrival we dropped our bags, took a quick nap and then headed to the Colosseum. Before we left we downloaded a bunch of Rick Steve’s podcasts which ended up being great! We just walked in to the Colosseum, put on our headphones, hit play & got a step by step tour guide from Rick Steves….we would highly recommend this for future travelers!! After the Colosseum we headed over to Vatican City, as you recommended it was best to go there late in the day..that was great advice, we were able to walk right in, put on our headphones & do our own tour. We heard from a lot of our friends on the ship that they waited in lines that wrapped around the square!!! That evening we enjoyed a great meal and then walked in the rain around Rome, had gelato and saw the Pantheon & Trevi Fountain. The next morning we got up early to go to the Roman Forum where we once again did the Rick Steve’s tour & then grabbed our bags and headed to the train station. The train to Civitavecchia was confusing but we managed to make it to the port eventually. The walk to the port was also confusing, but we followed the crowds…the craziest part was the steep staircases we had to lug our luggage up & down!!  (Note from agent: we strongly recommend all our travelers pre-book car or shuttle transportation to and from the port to avoid such hassles).
 
Princess Cruises was all that I hoped for and more. H. and I were both curious about what we would think about cruising & both of us ended up absolutely loving it! The service, atmosphere, prices, entertainment & food were all excellent!! We ended up becoming friends with a few other couples and really enjoyed sitting on their balcony each evening before dinner while drinking wines that we had bought at port!  The first three days of the cruise were exciting as well as exhausting since we signed up for full day excursions in Cannes, Florence & Naples. After the back to back excursions we made some changes to our plans so we had more free time on our own for the future ports…we were glad we did this, but wish we had downloaded Rick Steve’s podcasts for those locations.
 
I would have to say that we loved the island of Santorini the most. Corfu, Capri & Sorrento were all close to the top as well, but riding a donkey up the cliff in Santorini, eating delicious Greek food & riding four-wheelers all over the island led to Santorini winning out!  We were fortunate to not see any strife in or around Greece considering we were there right around the time of the riots.  Athens was quiet since we were there on a Sunday!  
 
Ending the trip in Venice was wonderful….what a beautiful, unique city!! We had a very smooth transfer to our hotel by utilizing the vaporettas. Our hotel (the Casa Verardo) was nice & the location was ideal. We spent the day & night getting lost as well as hanging around St. Mark’s Square…seeing it flood at night was wild!
 
The next morning we had breakfast & headed out to the airport. The flight back was great & as much as we loved our vacation, it was nice to finally be home!
 
Thank you for all of the time that you spent helping us plan this once in a lifetime vacation. Your planning and advice fit just right with what we were looking for in a 2-week European getaway! Thank you for helping to make our dreams become reality! By K.C.L.

Read Full Post »

Travel is often necessary, and sometimes eagerly anticipated – it is not always easy.  Just a few musings from a tired travel agent who really does know the ropes of airline travel.  Delays are no fun, especially when the delay appears to be a result of a nationwide FAA computer problem.  I know how to check for delays before I leave for the airport, and I did and there was no posted delay on my flight, or even on the inbound aircraft that was to turn into my outbound fight.  Yet, somehow when I reached the check-in counter there was a delay.  A long enough delay to have lunch at the Applebee’s at Richmond airport with so many other travelers that we filled the restaurant.  The food & beverage revenues for Richmond airport, and others around the country increased significantly at lunch time today. Sometimes there are unexpected rewards from travel and my reward today, after take off delays, a bumpy flight, holding patterns over Newark and an airplane traffic jam at the arrival gate was a hotel shuttle bus actually waiting at the curb for me, a charming driver, a quick and friendly check in and a quiet room with a soft bed at the Newark Airport Marriott.  The TV works, the lamps all work (and the light is actually bright enough to see) and I have 7 soft pillows all to myself.  Sometimes it is the unexpected that can surprise and delight a tired traveler.  This is my new favorite hotel and the Steakhouse downstairs now beckons…..

Read Full Post »

100_5165Paris – Ooh-la-la, what a delightful city!  With over 100 museums, historical buildings and monuments located within a block or two of the Seine, this is a wonderful, walkable city.  First time visitors will want to do Paris’  Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour.  It is a great way to orient yourself to all that Paris has to offer and chances are that you will still be fatigued from your less than perfect international flight.  Your body will appreciate an easy touring day.  This bus tour can be booked prior to your arrival for seamless hop-on and go use. *Tip – The Paris Museum Pass is available for 2, 4, or 6 days.  Use the Pass with your Hop-on and off bus to maximize your experience.  The best feature of the Pass is the ability to skip the often very long lines at the most popular sights.  Your time in Paris is precious.  Don’t waste it. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Many travelers are discovering condo, villa and apartment rentals can sometimes be good alternatives to traditional hotels and resorts.  We have these options available in many destinations throughout the world.  Here’s an account of one of those options from a client who enjoys her stays at the Dolphin House in London:

“My husband and I love London. It may not be Europe’s most beautiful city, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in charm: the pubs, the parks, the palaces…the list goes on. Our most recent trip was in 2008. This time (our sixth) we decided to forgo the usual hotel stay and search for an apartment. What we eventually found was a great short-stay apartment building called The Dolphin House, located in Dolphin Square, a small grassy area in Pimlico. (more…)

Read Full Post »

WifiDid you know Richmond International Airport offers free WiFi service?  

Responding to widespread customer demand, Richmond International Airport began offering free wireless internet (WiFi) in early 2003, a pioneer among US airports not only for the sizable footprint of the service area in the terminal, but also for the access on a “no charge” basis.

 With wireless computer access at your fingertips in the terminal, you can reply to e-mails, check the stock market, read the day’s top stories, keep your business going or just surf the net. WiFi is available at the gate, in the restaurants, ticketing area, baggage claim, Atrium and business center. It’s easy. It’s fast. And it’s free. (from www.flyrichmond.com)

Read Full Post »