Everything had a bit of a delayed start on New Year’s Day, but I was up, as usual. I had my early breakfast, did a bit at the gym, walked around the ship, watched us go through a few locks, and had lunch. We arrived in Melk at around 2:00, where the big tour of the day was Melk Abbey. That involved a short bus ride up the hill to the Abbey, a tour of the Abbey, and a walk back down the hill and through the town, on our own. Here are some highlights of the day:
As a friendly reminder, I am a travel advisor/agent and can organize these same experiences for you!
This marks the time in a trip when I don’t really have time to write, but I will share more pictures and give a few highlights. On Dec 31, we arrived in Linz, Austria early in the morning. We could either go to Salzburg, Cesky Krumlov, or stay in Linz. I opted for the full-day Salzburg tour because I made plans to meet with John Thomasson, my college voice teacher, who is now teaching at the Mozarteum!
The tour left at 9am and made a stop in Mondsee a town in the Lake District where the church is from the Sound of Music wedding scene. It was a beautiful town with an equally beautiful church. That stop was about an hour into the bus ride and about 30 min from Salzburg.
Once we reached Salzburg, we had an 1 hour walking tour of the highlights. At the end of the tour, I met Dr Thomasson, and we saw some other sights, had some lunch, and caught up. It was a great visit!
I met the group again, and we boarded the bus to go back to the ship for the New Year’s Eve celebration. This was a great opportunity for a nap. We got back in time to get refreshed for dinner, which was a special menu for the occasion. Fireworks had been going on all evening, by the way. After dinner, the party started in the lounge. Then, at about 11:45, many of us went outside to see the fireworks. They were the coming from every direction, on both sides of the Danube, and we were told that they were just people in town shooting off their own fireworks. The city didn’t actually have fireworks! It was the most amazing show I’ve ever seen, and it seemed to never stop!
After midnight, there was a beautiful spread of party food in Al Fresco!
As much as I hate to admit it, I left home feeling slightly under the weather. I was dealing with lots of congestion and a slight fever, so I decided I should go straight into town to the Apotheke and ask for something to help my symptoms. They were very helpful and gave me some medicine, along with some tea. I took three doses of the medicine, and although I think it made me drowsy, it really dried up the congestion!
We were to be back on board at 11:00 to leave for Passau, so after one last look at Vilshofen, I made my way back to the ship. I walked around the top deck a bit and watched the people untethering us from the dock. What was AMAzing is that this ship turned around right in the middle of the river.We just spun around and headed in the other direction!
Before lunch, there was a talk from Christian, the cruise manager, who told us about upcoming excursions. That went on until 12:30, when lunch was served. Lunch in the main dining room was a Bavarian lunch, and it really was a feast. There were many types of sausages, pork, salads, potato salad, cheese, desserts, etc! Everything really was excellent. After that feast, I had a bit of a nap to prepare for the Castle Hill Hike that I had signed up for.
The hike began at 3:00 and was a 3 mile walk all together. It was a pretty slow moving hike, which was fine except that I was freezing!! The hike was to a cathedral at the top of the mountain. It is a place that draws pilgrims who walk up a specific staircase (on their knees, I think??) to receive some sort of blessing. I need to check my facts! Here are some beautiful photos from the hike:
After the hike, I took some time to thaw, and then it was time fo “sip & sail” before dinner. I was signed up for dinner at The Chef’s Table, which I was excited about. I was seated at a big table full of fun people, who all work in travel. That worked out really well for a long dinner.
As one would expect from a German train, it arrived right on time in Vilshoven—11:24 am. I walked through the lovely town down to the river and walked right on the ship after telling my name to the man at the door.
I was escorted to the reception desk, which was friendly & efficient. They told me that my cabin was not ready, but if I went to the Lounge or Al Fresco Restaurant, they would find me when it was ready. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical that they would come find me any time soon.
I went up to Al Fresco and the lounge, and I had a bit light lunch. It was basically a vegetarian experience because the only meat available was on sandwiches. (With cucumbers). As soon as I was standing up from my table, s very kind gentleman approached me and told me that my room was ready. He took me there and showed me around to be sure I understood everything. He was there to answer any questions, and he gave me some advice about when and where to make dinner reservations.
I enjoyed the room for a bit, then went to make my dinner reservations for The Chef’s Table, Al Fresco, and Jimmy’s Wine Bar. I explored the ship, which is absolutely beautiful, and I eventually went back out into town since I didn’t have any commitments until the welcome cocktail and safety briefing at 5:30.
Being Sunday, nearly everything was closed, except for a few restaurants. Vilshofen is a completely charming town, and it is fun to see the Christmas decorations still up since they will stay until Epiphany.
At some point, I took a much needed nap and attended the welcome and safety thing at 5:30. Everyone was greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and a toast with the captain and the hotel manager. then, there was a gathering in the lounge. While it was nice to be sailing with only 150 or so people, the major introvert in me mostly sat and observed the others, trying to figure out what my fellow passengers are like.
We had a bit of a chat from several important people, including the captain, cruise manager, and the hotel director. It was good and informative, but I felt that it went on a bit long! However, when it was over, it was time to go to the tent for the Vilshofen Oktoberfest, where they had local beer, pretzels, and music. I found a table with a couple who looked nice, and they were lovely, along with their other friends who joined a bit later. It was a really nice time with Bavarian music and dancing, and it seemed to loosen up the crowd a bit.
Dinner was to be served at 7:45, and I was going to the main restaurant. I sat at a large table with a couple who were just sitting down. It turns out they are also from the Atlanta area! Soon after, a couple from London joined us. It was a somewhat interesting dinner, but I’ll focus on the food and service. We had a very good server who seemed to be handling three tables. He told us that things might be a bit slow since it’s the first night. I didn’t quite understand that since it wasn’t the first night of sailing ever. It was fine, though. After we placed our orders, the courses flowed well, and the entree was the only thing that seemed delayed. This was a multi-course meal with soup, salad, sorbet, entree, and dessert. It was an excellent meal!
After dinner, which means around 10pm, I went to the lounge to see what was happening. I had a cup of peppermint tea and relaxed there a bit. Then I went downstairs to see what was happening in Jimmy’s since there’s supposed to be something at 10pm. I saw one table of people but nothing really happening. It was time for bed anyway, so that is what I did!
After sleeping for almost 11 hours (unheard of), I woke up at almost 8am took a quick shower, quickly threw my things in my suitcase, and enjoyed the most beautiful breakfast in the Sofitel Munich Bayerpost. Now I am on the train and have time to write a bit about my journey here and my day in Munich!
My direct flight from Atlanta to Munich was at around 6pm on December 27. For some reason, I got to the airport around 2:30. I usually enjoy hanging out in the airport lounge, but this was excessive. Oh well, I was through security in about 30 seconds and in the lounge a minute later! It was packed! I found the quietest spot I could find and just relaxed until about 5:00. I walked to my gate, and the flight boarded on time and left basically on time.
The flight was so pleasant that there’s not really much to talk about it, except for Delta’s new “elevated” main cabin service on international flights. Things were a bit delayed because the air was a bit bumpy as we started, but once they started serving us, it was lovely. It began with a hot towel and a menu. The menu had choices for appetizer and entree. The appetizers were caprese salad or a salad with shrimp, and entrees were chicken Marsala, grilled chicken salad, or ravioli. Before they came through with food, they gave everyone a bellini (peach purée with champagne)! It wasn’t the most amazing drink, but it makes you feel a bit like they care, rather than treating you like cattle (although cattle should be treated well too)!
Dinner was pretty tasty! Dessert was Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream, and you can’t go wrong there! I watched a bit of the movie “Coco” before going to sleep, and after sleeping pretty well, thanks to my new “turtl,” I finished the move just in time to land. Once we landed, we were taken by bus to the terminal and immigration. That was all very easy, and I got on the Lufthansa Express Bus, which was a 45 min ride directly from the airport to the Munich Hauptbanhof for 11 Euros. The best deal!
The Sofitel Munich Bayerpost is right next to the train station, so although it was 10am, I went to see if I could check in. I couldn’t, but I was allowed to check my bags and use the spa for the sauna, steam room, pool, and showers. This was the best thing possible! I stayed there until almost noon, and then I walked to a classic Bavarian beer hall that I had heard Rick Steve’s mention. As I approached, there was a group of men outside smoking and wearing Lederhosen. I was afraid they might be a group of silly Americans, but since I sat near them, I saw that they were just a bunch of German guys hanging out. I should have taken a picture of the menu, but I had some sort of boiled beef with mixed vegetables. I thought the menu said sauerkraut, but it turned out to be freshly grated horseradish! It was all just what I wanted, except that I actually wanted sauerkraut.
I walked back to the hotel and found that my room was still not ready, so I decided to keep walking (to stay awake) and went to Old Town. Ah, this was what I wanted to see, because the hotel & train station area was more grungy & modern. I would compare this to the area around Penn Station vs Greenwich Village. There was a small Christmas market still going. I tried getting a Glühwein, but they only took cash. (Side note: I couldn’t find my debit card, and I still don’t know where it is. Therefore, I don’t have access to an ATM!)
I continued walking, just seeing what I could see, and I ended up at the Viktualenmarkt, which was wonderful. While it’s always there, I felt like I was getting some of the feel of a big Christmas Market. I wanted to get back to the hotel to check in at 3, so I figured out the public transportation and took the subway to the Hauptbanhof. My room was ready!
I got to the room, which was great. It was on the 7th floor (out of 8), which meant it was above part of the building and allowed for a great view. I was waiting for my bags since they insisted on delivering them to my room. After a while, there was a knock on the door, and it was not my bags, Instead, it was 2 people delivering champagne, a fruit bowl, and a bar of chocolate. How nice!
Finally, my bags came, so I was able to charge my phone and put on clean clothes before going out to find dinner. I walked back to the OLD TOWN to see what I had missed, such as the opera house, Hofbrauhaus, and to experience the Viktualenmarkt with some money. I saw a soup place there, and that was exactly what I wanted for dinner—Goulasch! It was delicious and really helped to warm me. I walked around a bit more and finally. Had my gluhwein, which was delicious. It’s basically just mulled wine.
I went inside one big hotel because I saw a rooftop bar from outside. Once I got in, I decided I didn’t want to go, although I’m sure the view would have been great. As I left, though, I noticed a shrine to Michael Jackson. WHY?? I started walking in the direction of my hotel and took the train back to the station since it was cold, and I was tired!
I went to bed just before 10pm, and just as I had turned off the light, there was a knock on the door that said it was housekeeping. They must offer a turndown service? 10pm seemed late for that, though! I “yelled” at them from bed and told them that I was in bed. I slept well until about midnight, and after reading for a bit, I slept until 8am! I suppose I needed it!
Wow, 1 week until Christmas! If you’re still shopping (I am), travel is an excellent alternative to typical gift giving! Below, find information on sustainability, early booking promotions, and the 100th Salzburg Festival!
Sustainable Travel: Sustainable travel is important to many people, including me, so I want to let you know about Intrepid Group. They offer “sustainable, experience-rich travel” to more than 1,000 itineraries that explore over 120 countries. They are doing better and “carbon neutral” and are becoming “climate positive” in 2020!
You may wonder why I don’t advertise a lot of deals. That’s one of the differences in a travel advisor vs a travel agent. My goal is to build relationships and provide custom itineraries that fit your budget. That might involve finding a great deal in the process, but more importantly, I want to provide great value and personal service.
As I just told someone, I am also only promoting products that I really believe will provide an exceptional experience. These companies often have early booking promotions, so I’m giving a few examples here:
What’s exciting in travel today? If you are reading this, thank you! My aim in this post is to inform you of different things I can provide as a travel advisor. Usually, these are locations and/or services that I have encountered in the past week. For today, I am featuring a company in Central America, a hotel in Nicaragua, and a few cruises that I think you should consider.First, my network is global, so no matter where you need to plan a trip, I have someone who can help me to find the best of what is there. This week, I worked with Namu Travel Group, which specializes in Central America. They quickly helped me to put together a beautiful itinerary for a client who was interested in Nicaragua.
In the process, I got to know Morgan’s Rock Ecolodge. Here’s the dreamy description from their website: “Each three-sided Ocean View bungalow is perched on a cliff 30-100 feet over the private beach and cove, just across a 50 yard jungle suspension bridge. Set into the treetops, each bungalow accommodates up to four people.”
Finally, I want to make you aware of a few cruises. I am so excited to go on my first river cruise on AmaWaterway‘s new ship, AmaMagna. This ship is twice the width of other river cruises and has itineraries on the Danube. There is still space on my cruise, and of course they have many other cruises all over Europe.
If you want to stay on this side of the Atlantic, The Norwegian Escape has a fun itinerary from Miami, with two ports in Mexico, one in Belize, and one in Honduras. Harvest Caye is their newest private island, which is beautiful! Prices start less than $900 per person (including taxes and beverages) for this 7-day cruise!
One more! I have to keep mentioning Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady. I am so excited about this ship and cruiseline. This is the cruise for people over 18 who think they don’t like cruises. There’s no buffet, all dining is included, and the ship is smaller than other typical cruise ships. They all include a day at their private beach club on the island of Bimini, and the entertainment will be amazing! Cruises officially begin April 1, but they have 2 preview mini-cruises just before that. Prices begin at around $1000 per person for 3-5 night cruises. I HIGHLY recommend jumping on this one! It’s going to be hot!
As always, please let me know if you need help with any travel. I would be happy to help!
If you’re like me, when you hear “travel agent,” you might have visions of a 1970s smoke-filled office with wood paneling and lots of brochures. That’s not a very good connotation. The idea of a travel agent is a pre-internet person who would book things for you, and that is generally all they would do.
The 21st century Travel Advisor is often a well educated person who is passionate about travel and wants to share that passion with others. I can only speak for myself, but I want to facilitate travel for people by helping them realize everything that is possible. I am doing travel because I love it!
The 21st century Virtuoso Travel Advisor begins with a conversation with the client about their travel hopes, dreams, and desires. We take into account all of the information gained from this conversation and begin a collaborative process to plan a highly personalized itinerary.
As a Virtuoso Travel Advisor, I am part of a global network of vetted suppliers, including hotels, resorts, tour companies, cruise lines, and travel insurance, etc. I draw upon my own experience and knowledge as well as the knowledge and experience of my colleagues to create the best trip possible for my clients’ time and budget.
In the age of the internet, the Virtuoso Travel Advisor is here to know what is legitimately great and what is best for clients. We also have access to many extra perks and amenities that clients would not have available without a travel advisor!
Which do you prefer?
Online tax prep or Accountant?
Grocery store or Farmer’s market?
Boxed wine or Vineyard tour?
MP3 or Live music?
Aimlessly surfing the internet for deals OR using a trusted Travel Advisor to plan an amazing trip and take care of all of the details?
If you’ve never tried a travel advisor’s services, then please give it a try. I believe you will thank yourself and learn why more and more people are building relationships with professional travel advisors.
Ama means love, and who wouldn’t love to be on a river cruise? Truly, I can not think of a way I would rather ring in the New Year than on a river cruise on the Danube. The thought of experiencing Christmas markets in European cities after Christmas, then enjoying a gourmet dinner onboard, followed by viewing fireworks from the ship at midnight, sounds like a dream come true to me! Read (or skip) to the end to see details on the AmaMagna New Year’s Eve Cruise, and contact me for more information!
A river cruise is such a great value! Also, on AmaWaterways, the single supplement is less than 150%! Here I highlight some things that are above & beyond what is typically included on an ocean cruise:
7 nights luxury accommodation in an outside stateroom (most with twin balconies)
Computer for internet access
Entertainment-On-Demand in all staterooms featuring free high-speed internet access, movies, a music library and English language TV stations
Mini-fridge, desk and sitting area
Bottled water replenished daily
Wellness Program with a dedicated Wellness Host leading various exercise classes as well as discussions on healthy eating and relaxation techniques, both on board and on shore.
Internet and Wi-Fi access
The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant
Welcome Cocktail, Welcome Dinner, La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Dinner, Captain’s Cocktail and Gala Dinner
La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs exclusive dining experience
Unlimited fine wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
Unlimited sparkling wine and fresh juice with breakfast
Sip & Sail Daily Cocktail Hour with complimentary wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks
December 29-January 5 on the AmaMagna » Countdown to midnight amid the mesmerizing display on the Ars Electronic Center in Linz » Enjoy colorful New Year’s fireworks in the sky above at midnight » Visit charming villages like Passau, Germany and Dürnstein, Austria, still dressed in their holiday finery » Explore Vienna, the “City of Waltzes”, from the Imperial Palace to magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral » Attend the exclusive New Year’s Eve celebration on board
Pilkington Travels, LLC is my company name, and I am an independent affiliate of Travelex International. That is a mouthful, but it is all important! Travelex International, established in 1992, is a Virtuoso® member travel agency that advises travelers in personalized leisure travel, custom group travel & corporate travel. As a Virtuoso® member, one of the top 1% of travel agencies worldwide, we provide custom itineraries for our distinctive clientele to the seven continents of the world and throughout the United States.
In my previous post, I provided 5 facts about using a travel advisor, and now I have thought of 5 more!
Bulk Air–If you Google “airfare discounts” or “cheap air,” you will come up with some results, like Airfare Watchdog or Scott’s Cheap Flights. They are both sites that advertise drops in airfare rates. They are very useful in helping you to be aware of sales (or mistake fares) by the airlines. However, they don’t actually sell airfare at reduced rates. A travel advisor has access to bulk air. This is usually available when you book air and accommodations together, but it is also possible to use an airline consolidator, which sometimes possible to find cheaper flights without booking a hotel. I once saved someone $1000 on a multi-city flight to Europe!
Rapport–A relationship between a client and a travel advisor can be a wonderful thing. Our entire job is to help you use your money wisely and have an amazing vacation. We work to find things that will ensure that you have amazing experiences, and we’re there for you if anything goes wrong. Who else in your life does that? Over time the relationship grows, and you can always be dreaming about your next trip!
New Ideas–One of the most exciting things for me as a travel advisor is when I present someone with an itinerary, and they say, “I never would have thought of that!” I do a happy dance inside when that happens, and it happens frequently! A travel advisor is there to advise you, based on their resources and expertise, as well as what they know about you. Be open about your wants & needs when talking with a travel advisor. For example, someone recently told me that one resort appealed to her more because it had an espresso machine in the room, instead of a drip coffee maker. I love details like that, and it helps me to create the perfect plan!
Things you can’t Google–Travel advisors have access to sites you have never heard of and can’t access. We also have global networks of people we can contact with questions about anything. As a Virtuoso advisor, I have access to “on-sites” around the world, which are people around the world who can help me to make specialized arrangements in their country.
Small Business–Doesn’t it always feel good to support a small business? There’s even “Small Business Saturday” the day after Black Friday. When you go to Expedia or Priceline, you are supporting a large corporation and probably aren’t really saving much money, if any, over using an advisor. You also don’t have the personal touch and expertise of your travel advisor, who can help you find the best hotel, flight, etc for you. I can’t speak for other travel advisors, but nothing is too small for me. Even if you just need a hotel room for one night, I would be happy to help!
Check out some of my latest posts below, especially “Sing at Sea 2020”!