New Year’s Day on AmaMagna

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!

Entering a lock on the Danube
Approaching the bridge. Will we make it??
Just made it under the bridge!
Panoramic view from Melk Abbey
Photos are not allowed in the Abbey 🤫
😍

Linz, Salzburg, & NYE on AmaMagna

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!

HAPPY NEW YEAR from AmaMagna!

AmaMagna Day 2: Vilshofen-Passau

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.

AmaMagna Day 1

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.

My first view of the ship!

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.

My light lunch in Al Fresco

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.

Hotel Manager speaking in the lounge

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!

Sea Bass
Beautiful dessert (forgot what it was!)

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!

AmaMagna Journey Days 1/2

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!

Sunrise from Sofitel Munich Bayerpost

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.

Glühwein
Munich Opera House

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!

MJ Shrine

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!

Early Booking & Sustainability

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!

Click the image for VIrtuoso tips for holiday travel.

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!

100th Salzburg FestivalTravelex International is hosting a tour to the Salzburg Festival, you can take a Danube River Cruise with AmaWaterways, or I can design a completely custom itinerary for you!

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:

Anantara Mai Phuket Villas (Thailand): Book Early and Save 25%
AmaWaterways5% Cruise Savings on Balconies and Suites
PLUS up to $1,500 savings per stateroom on select departures
when you book your cruise by April 30, 2020.
Celebrity Flora Galapagos Cruise: 50% off 2nd guest + Round-trip Airfare Included! By the way, Celebrity Flora is a new ship that holds 100 passengers and is custom designed for the Galapagos.

✥ ✥ ✥ ✥ ✥ ✥ ✥
Jonathan Pilkington
Professional Travel Advisor
Pilkington Travels, LLC
✆ 404.507.6880
☞ www.pilkingtontravels.com
✉︎ jonathan@pilkingtontravels.com

Celebration Travel & Staycations!

Celebration Travel is any travel that you do to celebrate a special occasion: Honeymoons, Anniversaries, Birthdays, Holidays, or just LIFE! Staycations are usually quick getaways to somewhere nearby, even in your own city. I would love to help you plan any of these trips, whether it’s an all-inclusive resort, a cruise, an African safari, or anything on between!

Whether you are celebrating your honeymoon or something else in life, or having a staycation, it’s a great idea to have a trusted travel advisor. On a whim, I checked a 3 night stay at The Plaza Hotel in NYC, and I was AMAZED

Book on your own:
Room: Plaza King–$475/night
Internet: $24.95 per night, per person
Breakfast: $52.50 per night, per person
Spa: $100 treatment
TOTAL: $2384.21

Book with me:
Room: Plaza King–$475/night (3rd night FREE)
Internet: FREE (Virtuoso Amenity)
Breakfast: FREE (Virtuoso Amenity)
Spa: $100 credit (Virtuoso Amenity)
TOTAL: $1124.53

TOTAL SAVINGS: $1259.68!!! 🤯 (mind blown!)

This is no joke, and it’s certainly not a gimmick! This is just what you get when you use a Virtuoso Advisor, not to mention the personal attention, which is priceless!

Feel free to contact me at any time. I would love to talk travel with you!
✥ ✥ ✥ ✥ ✥ ✥ ✥
Jonathan Pilkington
Professional Travel Advisor
Pilkington Travels, LLC
✆ 404.507.6880
☞ www.pilkingtontravels.com
✉︎ jonathan@pilkingtontravels.com

The big $$$ question: Is it going to cost more if I use a travel advisor?

Please visit my website at www.pilkingtontravels.comand like Facebook.com/pilkingtontravels. 😎

It’s not a simple yes or no answer. I am in this business now because I love facilitating better travel experiences for people. The other reason is because I can make some money doing it. I know that some people hesitate to use a travel advisor because they think it is going to cost them more money, or they can find a better deal online. That is likely not true!

In my training in Baltimore with Virtuoso Travel, we were given the task of discovering why, what, and how we do our job. The “why” was actually pretty easy. This is what I came up with:

Why I am a Professional Travel Advisor: I believe that travel experiences transform lives for the better and ultimately make the world a better place. When we get out of our daily routine and travel, our eyes and minds are more open to appreciating both everyday and extraordinary experiences, from an African safari to a hike in the woods, or from a Mozart opera in Vienna to traditional music in an Irish pub. Travel opens the door to transformative experiences.

There was something missing from my “how’ and “what” statements, and it took a while to figure it out. I think a lot about possibilities and balance, so I want to help everyone, regardless of budget, to realize that there are more possibilities than they imagined. (Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, or you feel limited by your budget.) I also want to find the balance between the practical budget, the practical itinerary, and what is possible. The possibilities are what you might dream about but don’t believe you can have, or they are what you didn’t even think about. That is why you need a travel advisor with an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset.

Sure, it is easier if a client has a very abundant budget. While I want “high budget” clients, I also enjoy the challenge of making things work within a somewhat limited budget. This parallels my life as a voice teacher. It’s fun to have students who have “natural talent” and can already sing well, but it is a more gratifying use of my skills to uncover a diamond in the rough!

So…

Will it cost more? Probably not! Will you get more for your money and have a better trip? That is my goal! There may be fees sometimes to compensate for my time, but for a simple hotel reservation, there probably will not be a fee, AND you will likely receive added amenities and a higher level of service!

Ready to work on a trip? Let’s talk. Not ready to work on a trip? Let’s talk! I don’t think it’s ever too early to start working on your next trip!

Magical New Year’s Eve Danube River Cruise?

AmaWaterways Ship New Year's Eve Fireworks

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!

Budapest, Hungary

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
  • Immersive tours in every destination
  • Bike tours and hikes
  • Knowledgeable guides
  • Personal headset for easy exploration

ROMANTIC DANUBE
7-NIGHT VILSHOFEN TO BUDAPEST CRUISE

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

AmaMagna Ship Tour

5 MORE Facts About Using a Travel Advisor

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!

  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Please use the form below to contact me!

Check out some of my latest posts below, especially “Sing at Sea 2020”!