Let The Journey Be Part Of The Destination

AmaSerena

AmaSerena

River cruise expert, Viviane Tondeur, recaps exclusive Virtuoso amenities with one of her favorite cruise operators. Virtuoso “Best River Cruise” winner in 2012, 2013 and 2014, AMA Waterways magnificent ships boast spacious staterooms with French or Twin balconies, delicious cuisine, live entertainment, and on board services like fitness room, hair salon, and massage; pool, whirlpool or sauna; and a sun deck with 360⁰ riverside views. Continue reading

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Hitting A High Note In Italy On Opera Themed Barge Cruise

Opera enthusiasts are some of the most devoted custodians of this high art.  They are besotted with the music, drama, and, most especially, the historic venues  in which many legendary performances were given.  Many of these iconic structures are located in the birthplace of modern opera:  ITALY. Up until now, travelers interested in Italian opera had few options to combine the pleasures of both of a land and water experience. This is about to change with two “Opera Themed Cruises” on the 20-passenger barge LA BELLA VITA, departing from Venice. Continue reading

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Barging and River Cruising

If you have questions about barging or river cruising, or if you are thinking about it for your next vacation, come to the Departure Lounge Barging & River Cruising event on March 11th. Continue reading

Insight To India

 

India

If you’re interested in exploring options for a magical trip to India, I invite you to a showcase and wine reception at Departure Lounge on March 5th. Come and meet Shonali Datta, Managing Director of Banyan Tours, widely recognized as one of the truly specialist companies in India. Shonali is the leading expert on the best travel experiences and luxury properties. Continue reading

Top River Cruise Ports in Europe

Heurige wine tavern in Vienna

Heurige wine tavern in Vienna

by Marilyn Green, TravelAge West

River cruise line executives arguably know the port cities included in their itineraries better than most travelers. We asked them for a few insider tips on what they like to do in their favorite ports.

Wine Taverns in Vienna and Old Town in Basel
Vienna is the favorite port for Kristin Karst, vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways. It’s also the birthplace of her husband, Rudi Schreiner, co-founder and president of the line.

Karst recommends a visit to the heurige, or wine taverns, where guests can join the Viennese in sampling young wines from the current vintage. Another favorite is Cafe Landtmann, a 19th century coffee house that still has a local rather than tourist-centric feel. “We have twice encountered the president of Austria there,” she noted.

Schreiner’s own choice is Basel, one of Switzerland’s oldest cities and the cruise line’s home base. He treasures the city’s international flavor and particularly recommends the restaurants in the Old Town. Among his favorites is Schifferhaus in the port area, housed in a historic building with a charming backyard.

www.amawaterways.com

Cheese, Chocolates and Shopping in Lyon
Katharine Bonner, vice president of river and small ship cruising for Tauck, picked Lyon as her port of choice. “It’s a foodie’s paradise that gave rise to the concept of the celebrity chef,” she noted.

When Bonner is in Lyon, she might visit Les Halles for cheese and chocolate treats, or enjoy a salad Lyonnaise for lunch with frisee lettuce, lardons and a poached egg on top. Afterward, it’s time for a little shopping.

“I love silk scarves,” Bonner said. “There’s a special store with an incredible selection that’s located — appropriately — just opposite of the city’s textile museum.”

www.tauck.com

Encoutering History and Sampling Wines in Berkastel
The Moselle River is home to the favorite ports of Patrick Clark, Avalon Waterways’ managing director. He especially likes Berkastel, where you can view the half-timbered houses built centuries ago while strolling narrow cobblestone streets.

For a meal off the ship, he recommends the regional specialties at local restaurant Graacher Tor. “A visit to the Vinothek in the Weinkuturellen Zentrum is also a treat,” Clark said. “There you can sample the wines of the region, underground, in the historic vaults of St. Nikolas Hospital.”

www.avalonwaterways.com

Outdoor Cafes in Venice
Venice is the best-loved port for Uniworld president Guy Young.

“Traveling on a small river cruise ship has the great advantage of often being in a prime docking location where you can simply walk off the ship and begin exploring a magnificent city,” Young said. “In Venice, sitting in one of the outdoor cafes on St. Mark’s Square is a fantastic experience, and one that I have enjoyed with my family. A drink or a cup of coffee is not inexpensive, but the experience is priceless.”

www.uniworld.com

Strolling Through Uglich
Karine Hagen, vice president of product development for Viking River Cruises, said her favorite port is the Golden Ring town of Uglich on the Volga River in Russia. The dock’s location is picturesque, sitting next to the onion-domed Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood.

“Everything in the town is within walking distance, and it is the sweetest, safest place, should you be so lucky as to get lost there,” Hagen said.

Guests receive a warm welcome on the pier by Babushkas selling their garden flowers. “If you have the chance to visit, look for Babushka Nadya, my local granny, who has been selling home-picked flowers on that very pier for the past half century,” Hagen said.

www.vikingcruises.com

Villages, Bays and Beer in Southwestern France
Joe Maloney, vice president of U.S. sales and marketing for Scenic Cruises, said Bordeaux is a favorite port. He also especially likes Arcachon Bay, nestled between the Cote d’Argent and the Cote des Landes on Europe’s longest coastal beach.

“It has charming villages all around the bay,” Maloney said. “And it is an important location for more than 250 migratory and sedentary birds.”

He also likes riding a bike from Blaye to Etauliers and back again, as there are historic ruins all along the trail. “It is easy to stop for a beer or glass of wine in any of the small villages,” he added.

www.scenictours.com

I agree with Kristin Karst, Vienna is my favorite pick, closely followed by Lyon, the culinary capital of France. Insider tip: gourmet lunch in world-renowned Paul Bocuse ‘s restaurant in Lyon is included on the Rhône river cruise with A-Rosa.

What is your favorite river cruise port city? Contact me here to take you there!

River-Cruising Safari

zambezi-queen

Yup, you read that right, a river-cruising safari! The 14-cabin Zambezi Queen (10 standard and 4 master suites) runs two- and three-night cruises on the Chobe River that combined with Victoria Falls and a land-based safari make for the ultimate experience.

Wake up to the grunts and splashes of hippos submerged around the ship, cast for tiger fish, watch the wildlife from small aluminum tenders, and witness a herd of elephants wade into the river to drink just a few feet away.

Chobe National Park is home to a large number of elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion along with a variety of antelope and abundant bird life. It’s hard to imagine a more splendid view of the African wild  than from the top deck of this beautiful contemporary ship built specifically for safari river cruising.

Destination: Chobe River/Chobe National Park

Departures: 2- and 3-night cruises year-round

AmaWaterways is offering 4 itineraries in 2014 and 2015 that include the Zambezi Queen river cruise safari.

Advisor tip: the dry season (May through October) offers the best wildlife viewing.

About Viviane Tondeur, MBA, CTC, DS: travel advisor affiliated with Departure Lounge, a member of the Virtuoso network. I focus on snow sports, river cruising, and delicious culinary experiences. As an expert FIT and group planner – I specialize in personalizing clients’ travel experiences, and regularly lead tours to favorite destinations.

About Departure Lounge in Austin, TX: sleek, elegant, one-of-a-kind coffee and wine bar with a cool travel discovery zone. Departure Lounge clients enjoy Virtuoso insider access plus complimentary upgrades and amenities. Departure Lounge travel advisors are part counselor, part global concierge and part magician. We follow a specific process in collaborating with you and have some very cool tools to lead you on the right path.

About Virtuoso: travel industry’s leading luxury network with 1,300 of the world’s premier travel providers, as well as exclusive services, experiences, and products.

Virtuoso-logo

Viviane’s weekly picks October 12

Paris in Autumn

– With it first renovation in 30 years, the Eiffel Tower’s highlight (literally!) is the glass floor pavilion which offers visitors incredible views of the landscape and people below from 187 feet up in the air. Insider tip: if you lie down on the glass floor, you can take a selfie that looks as if you’re in the air! Continue reading

Viviane’s Top Weekly Picks Sep 7

departure-lounge-logo

Ski Chile
Powder anyone? The southern ski season definitely isn’t over yet!  Portillo, Chile received almost 2 feet of new snow and more on the way this week. The season has been extended until 28th September.

Fall in love with Beverly Hills
I did! Sunny days and glamorous nights make for an unforgettable fall getaway to Beverly Hills. Savor the season with a special stay at Montage Beverly Hills, where three nights of accommodations and amenities grants you a complimentary fourth night of in-city indulgence.

Masters Golf
Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, GA: April 6 – 13, 2015
A ritual of spring takes place every April in Georgia, as the world’s best golfers take on Augusta National at the Masters. I can arrange custom packages from $1,095 per person (practice round), and $4,925 per person (tournament rounds).

AmaWaterways President’s Cruise
Don’t miss this very special opportunity to cruise the Rhine and Moselle with AmaWaterways President Rudi Schreiner. He will be hosting an exclusive 7-night voyage on the luxurious AmaLyra from Luxembourg to Amsterdam on November 7th. Book now to receive $1,500 off the regular price of a double occupancy stateroom (or single supplement waived for solo travelers).

Legends of the Caribbean
Join us on Saturday, September 20th from 2 pm to 5 pm at Departure Lounge for “Legends of the Caribbean” to discover our top recommendation for each of our favorite island destinations. These amazing resorts have provided door prizes and special offers for attendees. Enjoy a virtual, visual getaway to each resort, as well as happy hour pricing on Departure Lounge’s wine flights. Find out which famous resort was the venue for a private performance by Diana Ross for Departure Lounge Founder Keith Waldon.

Destinations: Portillo, Beverly Hills, Augusta, Luxembourg, Germany, Netherlands, Caribbean

Departures: January 1 – December 31

Contact me here to help you plan and book your next trip.

Viviane’s Top Weekly Picks August 24

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Let it snow!

150 years ago winter tourism started in St. Moritz, Switzerland and we’re celebrating in style. Save the date for Wednesday, September 24 and join us to kick off the 2014-15 snow season. Representatives from resorts in the US and Europe will be on hand to answer your questions and hand out information. Our partner in snow, St Bernard Sports, will demo the latest gear and fashions.

The Future of Cruising is almost here!

On November 2nd, Quantum of the Seas℠ sets sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to Cape Liberty, NJ. Among cruise lines firsts are the skydiving simulator and North Star℠ observation pod 300 feet above sea level. Guests will find innovative features throughout in staterooms, dining and entertainment.

Picasso Museum in Paris reopens

The Picasso Museum in the beautiful Hôtel Salé – a grand 17th century mansion – will reopen on Picasso’s birthday, October 25th! Many of the 5,000 Picasso works housed here will be on exhibit in the museum, which has been closed for about three years.

Celebrate the holidays “riverboat” style

Six Old Fashioned Holidays voyages on the American Queen are available including New Orleans round trip or between New Orleans and Memphis, Tenn. These itineraries offer guests authentic holiday experiences including the old Louisiana tradition of bonfires on the levees, special Christmas shows in the Grand Saloon, door-decorating contests and woodcarver Jim Moore creating a Victorian Santa from a block of basswood. Seasonal culinary delights and decadent desserts include a Creole Réveillon Christmas Dinner.

Super Bowl returns to Arizona

There is nothing quite like the anticipation of a new season of football. Glendale, Arizona will host Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015. As other fans gather around their televisions, you could be in the stands to experience football’s biggest game in person.

Free Night and Virtuoso Exclusive Amenities Worldwide

Enjoy a third or fourth night free at Raffles and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts around the globe, breakfast daily, dining credits,  and more.

Destinations: St. Moritz, Southampton, Paris, New Orleans, Glendale

Departures: January 1 – December 31

Contact me here to help you plan and book your next trip.

Newest ships on Europe’s Rivers and in Myanmar

Avalon Waterways Panorama Suite unique design

Avalon Waterways Panorama Suite unique design

River cruising is one of the hottest trends in traveling for several reasons! At the Departure Lounge “River Cruising Revealed” event on March 29 we talked about the many new ships coming online. Here’s a quick round up:

Avalon Waterways:

For 2014, they’re adding not two but three Suite Ships® to their fleet. Joining the Artistry II®, Expression®, Panorama ℠ , Visionary®, and Vista ℠ , the stunning Avalon Illumination ℠ , Avalon Impression ℠ , and Avalon Poetry II® will grace the legendary waters of the Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers.

What makes a Suite Ship® so sweet? The exquisite Panorama Suites accommodations with more space to stretch out and enjoy your cruise, innovative room configuration to highlight every view, and a huge Open-Air Balcony ℠ that provides an indoor/outdoor seating area without sacrificing room space.

Viking Cruises®

Set a new world record in March 2014 with the inauguration of its newest Viking Longships®. In a multi-phased event taking place over 24 hours, the company christened 16 of its award-winning Viking Longships – nine were christened in Amsterdam; four were christened in Rostock, Germany; and three were christened in Avignon, France. The first-of-its kind ceremony was subsequently certified by a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ adjudicator as ‘The Most Ships Inaugurated in One Day by One Company.’ Viking already held the previous record, having christened 10 new ships in one day in 2013. Adding to the festivities, on Friday, March 21, Viking also christened two new, unique river vessels in Porto, Portugal – bringing the total to 18 new ships launched across four countries in five days.

All of Viking’s new ships will be deployed on its most popular itineraries in Europe, and 2014 marks the first year that the company’s award-winning Longships® will sail in France. A total of four Viking Longships will be deployed on Viking’s itineraries in France, including one vessel dedicated specifically to the company’s new Châteaux, Rivers & Wine itinerary in Bordeaux.

AmaWaterways:

The 56-passenger AmaPura (2014) is a custom-designed, all-suite ship with a choice of spacious staterooms measuring 285 sq. ft., 290 sq. ft. and 420 sq. ft. Every suite features a private French Balcony, a step-out Full Balcony, or Twin Balconies. The ship will sail on 3 itineraries in Myanmar.

The AmaSonata (2014) – is a sister ship to the AmaCerto and features the most advanced design of any river cruise vessel currently in operation. The AmaWaterways exclusive Twin Balconies are available in most staterooms, which measure a spacious 210-235 sq. feet, with four suites measuring 350 sq. feet. Passengers will enjoy gourmet dining with free-flowing fine wines at multiple onboard dining venues; a heated sun deck swimming pool with a ‘swim-up’ bar; fitness center and spa; complimentary ship-wide Wi-Fi and in-room Internet and Infotainment; and a fleet of bicycles carried onboard for passengers to enjoy on their own or on guided bike tours. The ship will be christened in Vilshofen, Germany on July 22, 2014 at the conclusion of its Melodies of the Danube voyage.

Questions? call 818-268-6552 for an appointment to learn about complimentary upgrades and exclusive amenities.

About Viviane Tondeur, MBA, CTC, DS: travel advisor affiliated with Departure Lounge, a member of the Virtuoso network. I focus on snow sports, river cruising, and delicious culinary experiences. As an expert FIT and group planner – I specialize in personalizing clients’ travel experiences, and regularly lead tours to favorite destinations.

About Departure Lounge in Austin, TX: sleek, elegant, one-of-a-kind coffee and wine bar with a cool travel discovery zone. Departure Lounge clients enjoy Virtuoso insider access plus complimentary upgrades and amenities. Departure Lounge travel advisors are part counselor, part global concierge and part magician. We follow a specific process in collaborating with you and have some very cool tools to lead you on the right path.

About Virtuoso: travel industry’s leading luxury network with 1,300 of the world’s premier travel providers, as well as exclusive services, experiences, and products.

Virtuoso-logo

Gallery: Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg is a beautiful and interesting port of call on Rhine river cruises

International Bellhop Travel Magazine

Strasbourg Travel Photo Gallery

Strasbourg, in the Alsace region of France, is truly the coalescence of German and French cultures, and of medieval and modern times. Situated on the border of France and Germany, the waterways of Strasbourg flow around the Grand Ile (Great Island), which is home to the “old city” and the traditional buildings that date back to the 15th century and beyond. Though the region exemplifies the mixing of Germanic and French cultures, the residents of the Alsace region typically speak German or variances of Alsatian.

European parliament European parliament — Modern Region of Strasbourg

Sightseeing in Strasbourg

The sightseeing districts of Strasbourg are typically broken up into two categories: Modern Strasbourg Sightseeing and Medieval Strasbourg Sightseeing. The modern sightseeing route will take you through the more modern area of Strasbourg, where the European Parliament buildings and the seats of the European Union congregate. This area will have more modern luxuries such…

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7 Top Chefs on European River Cruises

Executive Chef Primus Perchtold

Executive Chef Primus Perchtold

by Marilyn Green, TravelAge West

Few members of the staff get the warm reception that passengers offer to river cruise chefs when they appear onboard.

During a cruise, culinary discussions abound. Guests wonder how the culinary staff, working in small galleys, can create the quality and variety of cuisine available on European river vessels. And who are these chefs who organize a seemingly unending supply of meals, snacks and treats?

I’ve heard many dinner conversations where guests speculate that the chef must be a local cook who comes onboard to whip up the regional favorites set before them. Continue reading

The Great Amazon River Cruise

NHA-Amazon-rivercruise

The wilds of the Amazon jungle turn over flora and fauna on an unimaginable scale, while fostering the indigenous cultures of some of the most isolated people on Earth. The Amazonian terrain—comprising a staggering third of the world’s tropical rain forest, as well as a third of its animal species—can be tough to tackle via land exploration alone, making it perfectly primed for adventure-minded cruises along the Amazon River, where the heat, humidity, and discomforts of the jungle can be met with considerable comfort.

Though the massive and mighty river—the world’s largest, in fact—spans eight South American nations, most larger vessels’ itineraries are limited to segments of the 1,000-mile stretch between the Brazilian ports of Manaus and Belém (the latter is set at the river’s mouth). Expedition vessels, smaller cruise ships, and riverboats, however, can also venture hundreds of miles further upriver to Iquitos, Peru, incorporating stops (usually made with skiffs) in more undeveloped regions of the Peruvian Amazon.

Get a taste of the adventure with this 45-minute webinar focusing on WWF-supported Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. This vast protected area at the very headwaters of the mighty river is replete with wildlife – you won’t find a more pristine rainforest experience.

The beautiful La Estrella Amazonica is custom-designed for navigating the Amazon and its tributaries. Built in the classic riverboat style distinctive to this region and beautifully finished with contemporary conveniences, the ship features 15 generously sized air-conditioned cabins with private balconies from which to enjoy scenes of the passing rainforest and wildlife. The basic 9-day itinerary includes an overnight in Lima and the one week cruise. I can customize your itinerary with extensions in Peru and other destinations in South America.

There are only 3 departures in 2014 for this extraordinary adventure and each cruise is accompanied by a WWF specialist in addition to the expedition leader. Learn firsthand about exciting conservation projects WWF is sponsoring in the Amazon through informative lectures and one-on-one conversations.

Destination: Amazon headwaters in Peru

Departures: May 23, June 20, and October 31

Space is limited to 30 participants on each departure. Call today for an appointment!

About Viviane Tondeur, MBA, CTC, DS: travel advisor affiliated with Departure Lounge, a member of the Virtuoso network. I focus on snow sports, river cruising, and delicious culinary experiences. As an expert FIT and group planner – I specialize in personalizing clients’ travel experiences, and regularly lead tours to favorite destinations.

About Departure Lounge in Austin, TX: sleek, elegant, one-of-a-kind coffee and wine bar with a cool travel discovery zone. Departure Lounge clients enjoy Virtuoso insider access plus complimentary upgrades and amenities. Departure Lounge travel advisors are part counselor, part global concierge and part magician. We follow a specific process in collaborating with you and have some very cool tools to lead you on the right path.

About Virtuoso: travel industry’s leading luxury network with 1,300 of the world’s premier travel providers, as well as exclusive services, experiences, and products.

Virtuoso-logo

Why River Cruising?

Avalon

  • Floating hotel: unpack once and experience numerous countries and cities
  • No dealing with crowds: most ships carry fewer than 200 passengers, some fewer than 100
  • Fresh regional cuisine, fine wines, and other local beverages: included
  • Shore excursions with English-speaking guides: included
  • Dock in the center of town to explore a destination in-depth
  • Well appointed staterooms and public rooms
  • Amenities: beauty salon, spa, pool, hot tub, putting green on many ships
  • Cultural experiences come onboard with local performers

Destinations:

Europe

  • Danube
  • Rhine
  • Moselle
  • Main
  • Elbe
  • Rhône/Saône
  • Seine
  • Garonne
  • Douro
  • Po
  • Volga

Asia

  • Ayeyarwaddy
  • Yangtze
  • Mekong

South America

  • Amazon

Africa

  • Chobe
  • Nile

United States/Canada

  • Mississippi
  • Columbia
  • St Lawrence
  • Great American Waterways