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.
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!
Itinerary: Vilshofen, Passau, Linz, Weissenkirchen, Vienna, Budapest
Spend New Year’s in Linz, Austria!
Enjoy the mesmerizing nightly light display on the façade of the Ars Electronica Center as well as colorful New Year’s fireworks in the sky above. Or head into the main square to join in the local revelry.
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
Personal headset for easy exploration
DETAILS FOR EACH PORT
Options to add 2 nights pre-cruise in Munich or 3 night pre-cruise in Prague!
VILSHOFEN – EMBARKATION
Embark your cruise in Vilshofen and attend an exclusive Oktoberfest celebration with traditional beer and Bavarian folk music and dancing. Afterwards enjoy a welcome aboard wine toast with your fellow passengers. (D)
VILSHOFEN – PASSAU
Explore Vilshofen’s beautiful old town before cruising to Passau, known as the “City of Three Rivers.” Join a walking tour or if you prefer to be more active, hike high into the hills for a visit to the “Veste Oberhaus,” Passau’s Castle Hill. (B,L,D)
The ship arrives in Linz where you’ll have several choices of excursions. Opt for a full-day excursion to Salzburg where you’ll tour the historic center, Mirabell Gardens, Residenz Square and the Old Market. En route to Salzburg, stop at Mondsee, home of the famed Basilica St. Michael and site of the wedding scene in “The Sound of Music.” Alternatively, you can join a morning walking tour through Linz’s old city center and by the Mozart House; or go on a guided bike tour along the city’s famed “Culture Mile” and the Danube. During the afternoon, you have three more options of excursions. Choose a half-day in Salzburg or take a scenic drive through the beautiful Austrian Lake District with a stop in St. Wolfgang. You can also choose to visit the charming mountain town, Český Krumlov, located just over the Czech-Austrian border. (B,L,D)
Cruise to Weissenkirchen, gateway to Dürnstein located in the heart of the Wachau Valley. Once here, you can choose to join a walking tour in Dürnstein along its cobblestone streets to the Baroque Stiftskirche, Dürnstein’s famed church tower, and savor a tasting of the region’s renowned wines. Or for the more active adventurer, hike up to the fortress where Richard the Lionheart was once held. (B,L,D)
Journey to Melk to tour its magnificent Benedictine Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overlooking the Danube River, Melk Abbey is one of Europe’s largest and most revered monasteries with stunning Baroque architectural details and numerous frescoes and religious artifacts. Alternatively, take a bike tour along the Danube River, soaking in views of the serene Wachau Valley. Later in the evening, be treated to a special cellar tour and wine tasting of locally grown, world-renowned Riesling and Grüner Veltliner at the acclaimed Schloss Gobelsburg, which has a documented viticulture history dating back to the 12th century. (B,L,D)
Experience the regal elegance of Vienna with one of three different excursions. Join a city tour that takes you by the majestic Opera House and the former Imperial Palace of the Habsburg Emperors. Afterwards, visit Vienna’s historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and see St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the world famous Spanish Riding School. Alternatively, join an exclusive tour to a famous Viennese café for a taste of sachetorte, a sinfully rich chocolate cake, and sekt, an Austrian sparkling wine. For those who prefer to get more active, you can cycle along the Danube and through the Donaupark. During the afternoon, enjoy free time or bike to the majestic twelfth-century Klosterneuburg Monastery. (B,L,D)
Experience Budapest in one of two ways: on a city tour or a hike. Your city tour begins with a visit to the vibrant Great Market Hall brimming with vendors selling everything from food to souvenirs. The remainder of this tour takes you to both the Buda (hilly) and Pest (flat) sides of the river. As an alternative choice, hike up to Castle Hill for breathtaking views of the city below. Spend your last evening on board cruising around the famed Parliament Building as the city turns on all her dazzling lights. (B,L,D)
BUDAPEST – DISEMBARKATION
Disembark the ship as you prepare for your flight home. (B)
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.