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 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

What’s exciting in travel? 11/12/19

Harvest Caye Private Island
I’ve been busy learning new things and planning trips for clients, and maybe planning some travel for myself! See the slideshow below for my trip!
  • Harvest Caye Private Island
  • 7 Day Western Caribbean Itinerary
  • Norwegian Escape NCL

Last week, I attended an event for Virgin Voyages to learn all about what they offer, and I am super excited about them. They have clearly put a lot of time and care into offering potential passengers what they want. They’ve done away with what people don’t like about cruises (buffets, added charges, etc) and added things that we expect (wifi, great food, etc)! Oh, and their private beach club (pictured below) in Bimini looks amazing!

Sea Terraces are Balcony cabins. Inside cabins also available.

Did you know I am a graduate of The College of Disney Knowledge? It is more intense than you might think!

Click the image for my Disney site!

Featured Resort: Coral Sands in Harbour Island, Bahamas is so beautiful for a secluded Bahamas getaway!

As always, I would love to help with any of your travel needs, so feel free to contact me with any questions.

Bon Voyage!

Contact me below, and visit my Website, Facebook, and Instagram!

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!

Me: I’m a travel advisor. Them: Is that a travel agent? Myths debunked!

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.

TRAVEL IS AN INVESTMENT IN LIFE!

You may contact me below, and please visit my website: www.pilkingtontravels.com.

#TravelTipTuesday: Why you should travel in a group (even a group of strangers)!

Want a free trip? Book a group with your favorite travel advisor! Cruise lines, in particular love groups, and there are very nice rewards available for booking a group! In general, the group leader can travel for free, and everyone in the group gets extra perks, sometimes including discounted fare.

The good thing with a cruise is that you can see members of your group as much or as little as you like! Technically, you’re only a group because you’re booked together. You’re not forced to do anything together while traveling.

Group Ideas:

  • A group of complete strangers
  • Family Reunion
  • Friends/Class Reunion
  • Bible Study
  • Book Club
  • Solo Travelers
  • Yoga Class
  • Weddings/Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties
  • Wine Group
  • Supper Club
  • Corporate Incentive Trips
  • On & on & on….

Here are a few examples of how groups work with the cruise lines I love best:

AmaWaterways

AmaMagna
  • 1 free (tour conductor) for every 9 passengers
  • 1 free cabin for every 9 cabins (double occupancy)
  • Unlimited tour conductors
  • $250-500 discount per person
  • Group Amenity Program (added perks)
  • Additional perks because I’m a Virtuoso Advisor!

Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL Encore Sing at Sea Cruise 2020
Norwegian Encore
  • 10 berths (people)=1 TC (tour conductor credit)
  • TC can be used by the group leader or divided among the group
  • 5%-10% discount, based on cabin category
  • Added amenities/perks (choose from open bar, specialty dining, onboard credit, cocktail party, etc.)

Virgin Voyages

Scarlet Lady
  • 10 cabins minimum for a group (called “Circles”)
  • Sailor Loot (onboard credit) for everyone (double Sailor Loot if you book before December 31!)
  • Circle Chest: Earn Circle Voyage Credit, based on a percentage of cabin fares, to be used however you like!

I’d love to hear from you with your group ideas!

Travel: How to get the best VALUE

My company is Pilkington Travels, LLC, and I would be honored to help you plan any trip, large or small, so that you get the best value and have the best experience. Feel free to contact me using form below, visit my website, find me on Facebook, and follow me on Instagram.

We all want a great deal, and I understand that! I am very thrifty in many aspects of my life so that I can afford to travel. I don’t really like the expression, “you get what you pay for.” Sometimes you pay for a little and get a lot, or sometimes you pay for a lot and get little. It isn’t necessarily black & white, especially with travel.

Here are a few ways I think you can guarantee the best value for your time and budget!

  1. Use a travel advisor! Travel is PERSONAL, and our job is to help you get the best value and be sure you have an itinerary that is customized just for you. A good travel advisor has partnerships around the world to ensure that you are getting what you want. We also have access to special pricing and special amenities that add extra value to your vacation. As a Virtuoso advisor, I have access to highly vetted partners to ensure that you get exactly what you pay for. You also have an advocate from start to finish to help things go smoothly, make wise choices, and help if anything doesn’t go smoothly. If you haven’t used a travel advisor, or if you are afraid of paying more for your travels, I really suggest you give it a try!
  2. Try an ocean cruise! Before I went on my first cruise, I was very skeptical and had no idea whether I would love or hate the 7 days on board. By day 7, I wanted to LIVE on a ship. It was the most carefree, fun vacation I had ever had. Since meals, accommodations, and transportation are part of the trip, there are no worries. You wake up when you like, eat when you like, etc, and you get to explore several interesting, new ports. Cruises have a bit of a reputation for nickel & diming you, but with the assistance of a travel advisor who knows how that works, you will be sure to enjoy the value of a cruise! By the way, most of my experience is with Norwegian Cruise Lines, and I love them. I can help you find the best fit for you!
  3. Try a river cruise! Enough with the cruise talk! No, never! I have to separate the ocean cruising from river cruising because they are a totally different ballgame. River cruises are a bit more expensive, but probably not as much as you might think. Of course, you still have the meals, accommodations, and transportation that are part of the cruise, but other things are included as well. River cruises usually include 1 free shore excursion per port, and they include wine & beer at meals. Although you have to fly to Europe, they also often offer free or discounted flights. They are also a smaller and more intimate experience. I am particularly a fan of AmaWaterways, but Viking, Uniworld, and Avalon Waterways, among others, are wonderful. Booking through a Virtuoso agent gets you even greater value!
  4. Try a tour. I’m sure this makes some people cringe and gives you visions of being on a charter bus with 60 people. Ick! This isn’t necessarily true. There are a number of providers that offer small group tours and groups various sizes, even private tours. Your travel advisor knows the reputable companies! If you are traveling solo (solo but not alone), or if you like to meet people when you travel, this can be a great way to go. Also, the added value of a tour is that you probably have a guide, all of the planning is built in, and the cost is probably reasonable since it has been negotiated by the tour operator.
  5. Choose your destination wisely. This may seem obvious, but some places are more expensive than others. Norway is amazingly beautiful, but it is quite expensive. Locations even vary in price. For example, the Dominican Republic is a great value right now because of the bad press. If you’re afraid of dying, you really should fearing that. This article, along with others, discusses how the deaths were unrelated, as well as how the media created too much hype about them. Also, Mexico is a relatively inexpensive place to visit, but it’s no less wonderful! Again, your travel advisor can help you find the location that gives you the best value!

P.S. I forgot to mention all-inclusive resorts, but they can also be a great value. In this post, I compare all-inclusive with cruises.

I would love to hear from you!