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Flower Power

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Orchid

I spent a very enjoyable Saturday in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago visiting the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show.  This year’s theme was “Springtime in Paris”.  How could I resist?

Actually, I try to get there every year.  If you’ve never been and you’re even remotely interested in flowers and gardens, you should try to attend.  Each year I’m amazed by the displays and the sheer size of the exhibition space.  A significant portion of the space is set aside for vendors selling all manner of plant and garden related items.  I would guess there were about 100 vendors this year.  The picture accompanying this post is of an orchid I purchased from one of the vendors.

I wasn’t supposed to be there this year.  We had planned a cruise through the Panama Canal, which would have had us away during the week-long event.  One of our little group, however, developed a medical issue which forced us to cancel.

So the flower show became a bit of compensation for the lost cruise.  The gods of transportation almost made it impossible to get there, but I lucked out.  Coming home, the bus driver had to rendezvous with police to escort a drunken pot smoker off the bus.  Interesting times.

In between, however, the experience was wonderful.  Now, what does this have to do with cruises?  Well tangentially, of course, attending the flower show was possible only because I couldn’t go on our planned cruise.

There’s something else, however, something that grew out of a conversation with a trusted mentor.  I’m wondering if it might be possible to combine two loves and share it with a group of clients.  I’m considering coupling a cruise with specially designed shore excursions to public or private gardens.  This could be a cruise which either focuses on flowers, such as the Netherlands in Spring river boat cruise, or which provides ample opportunity for this type of themed shore excursion, such as a cruise in the British Isles perhaps.

I need to give this some thought.  If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Meanwhile,next year’s theme in Philadelphia is “Islands of Aloha”.  Love Hawaii!

Technorati Tags: cruise groups, gardens, Panama Canal, Philadelphia Flower Show, river boat cruise, shore excursions, the Netherlands, tulips

Ocean Cruise? River Boat Cruise? Why Choose?

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Emerald Princess

Princess Cruise Line has come up with something quite interesting for next summer.  Cruise tours are nothing new.  They give passengers an opportunity to extend their trip beyond the scope of a cruise and explore areas not easily accessible from the ship.  Think Alaskan lodges or three nights in Beijing, for example.

On July 31, 2011. however, Princess will offer a cruise tour which is actually another cruise.  Princess Cruise Line has partnered with Avalon Waterways to offer a river boat cruise along the Rhine River on board Avalon Felicity prior to a Baltic Sea cruise on Emerald Princess.

The 9 night cruise tour includes a 7 night river cruise along the beautiful Rhine River from  Basel to Amsterdam, stopping in Strasbourg, Heidelberg,

Avalon Felicity

Mainz, Rüdesheim, Koblenz and Cologne.  Guided tours will be included at each of these stops.  Along the way, passengers will enjoy a sail through the Rhine Gorge, probably the most beautiful stretch of the river and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  After the river boat cruise, passengers will overnight in both Amsterdam and Copenhagen, prior to joining Emerald Princess.

Emerald Princess will depart Copenhagen for an 11 night Scandinavia and Russia cruise, with stops that include Stockholm, Berlin, Helsinki and the incomparable St. Petersburg.  Passengers will enjoy two days in Peter the Great’s “Window on the West”.

Space is limited, with group space blocked in a few cabin categories on Avalon Felicity.  Prices begin at $6549.00 per person in an inside cabin for the 20 night cruise tour. With only 2 sea days while on board Emerald Princess, this will appeal to the most energetic and enthusiastic sightseers among us.  If successful, Princess will consider similar tours in 2012.

Technorati Tags: Avalon Waterways, Baltic Sea cruise, Cruise line, cruise ship, Princess Cruise Line, Rhine River, river boat cruise, Russia and Scandinavia cruise, St. Petersburg

Love Wine? Love Cruising? Love This

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AMA Waterways has announced a unique variation of its popular Fall river boat cruise between Amsterdam and Paris.  Designated the “Vineyards of the Rhine and Mosel” cruise, it is aimed in particular at wine enthusiasts.

From their press release:  “Europe’s Rhine and Mosel rivers are famous for their bucolic scenery, historic destinations and hillside vineyards. This fall, AMA Waterways showcases this spectacular region with a unique wine-themed cruise on the luxurious MS Amalegro.  Departing November 12, 2010, the “Vineyards of the Rhine and Mosel” cruise will sail a special itinerary that includes visits to world-famous wineries, off-site dinners hosted by renowned winemakers, onboard lectures and more.  Hosted by AMA Waterways President, Rudi Schreiner, the 7-night cruise will travel from Amsterdam to Trier, Germany, followed by 3 nights in magnificent Paris.

Accompanying the cruise will be winemaker Jim Clendenen, owner of the internationally-acclaimed Au Bon Climat winery in Santa Maria, California and Archie McLaren, founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic. A portion of the cruise proceeds will be donated to charities supported by the Central Coast Wine Classic, one of the country’s preeminent wine auctions.

Highlights of the “Vineyards of the Rhine and Mosel” itinerary include the scenic Rhine Gorge town of Rudesheim, famous for its quaint wine taverns and the setting for an exclusive wine tasting dinner sponsored by renowned local vintner Georg Breuer.  In Koblenz, guests will discover a 2,000-year old wine town at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine Rivers.  Continuing through the Mosel river valley, the world’s steepest vineyards, picturesque villages and charming wine towns appear at every turn.  Guests will enjoy a wine tasting at the small riverside wine town of Winningen, followed by a visit to Cochem, known for its perfectly preserved timber-framed homes, medieval squares and the spectacular Reichsburg Castle perched above the Mosel.  A welcoming wine fest awaits in the Mosel town of Zell, famous for its “Zeller Schwarze Katz” (Black Cat) wine.  An evening wine tasting in a local underground wine cellar showcases the area’s famous varietals.  Guests will also enjoy a wine tasting at the Wine Museum in Bernkastel hosted by the famous Dr. Loosen winery.  Strategically located in the heart of the Mosel wine-producing region, Bernkastel boasts over 500 years of documented wine history, and is known as “the international town of vine and wine.”

Of course, throughout the cruise, guests will enjoy gourmet dining accompanied by complimentary local wines (plus beer and soft drinks) at dinner. Additional AMAWATERWAYS amenities include French Balconies, complimentary 3G high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi; complimentary first-run Hollywood films; complimentary specialty coffees and bottled water, a fleet of bicycles on board plus much more. After the 7-night cruise, guests will head to Luxembourg for a city tour of the Grand Duchy, followed by a high-speed TGV transfer to Paris. The three-night stay in the City of Lights includes a guided city tour, plus an exclusive excursion to the Champagne region.”

For this special river boat cruise, AMA Waterways is offering very attractive airfares from select gateways in the United States.  Passengers can fly from New York Kennedy for $500, or from Los Angeles and San Francisco for $700.  Airport transfers, air taxes, fuel surcharges and fees are all included.  This cruise must be purchased by August 30, 2010 to qualify for the airfare promotion.

In addition, passengers will receive complimentary upgrades from select cabin categories to a French Balcony cabin and a $100 per cabin spa credit.

This sounds like a delightful river boat cruise.  Learn about wines while enjoying the cruise , and maybe even do a bit of holiday shopping.  How efficient is that?

Technorati Tags: AMA Waterways, river boat cruise, river boat cruise in Europe, wine cruise

Top 10 Reasons to Take a River Boat Cruise

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River boat cruises are becoming more and more popular.  Over the past 5 years, bookings have increased as much as 60% for some cruise lines.  Many of the lines are introducing new ships in 2011, and quite a few of the existing ships will be undergoing complete refurbishments.

Viking River Cruises plans to build 8 new ships and totally refurbish two other ships over the next 3 years; Avalon Waterways will introduce the gound-breaking Avalon Panorama in 2011; AMA Waterways will deploy the Amalotus in the Mekong River and the completely refurbished Amakaterina in Russia; and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will introduce 2 new ships in Europe and 1 in Russia, along with the refurbishment of 3 other ships in 2011.

Why all the interest?  Consider the top ten reasons to take a river boat cruise:

1. Modern river boats are luxurious, offering fine dining, and small but excellent accommodations.  Travel on a river boat cruise is leisurely, elegant and easy.

2. River boats offer the easiest way to see and explore multiple destinations, sometimes more than one in a day.  Unpack once and relax.  There’s no need to haul luggage on and off trains or buses as you make your way from one destination to the next.

3. River boats are small enough to pull right into the heart of small towns along the rivers of Europe, Egypt, Russia, China, Southeast Asia, and North & South America.  This convenience extends to the larger cities as well.  In Paris the ships dock at Port de Grenelle, within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower.

4. Sit on the deck or at your cabin window – most open wide for a clear, unimpeded view – and take pictures of picturesque villages, ancient castles, and beautiful countryside, sometimes mere feet from your chair.

5. Like their far larger brethren, the ocean going vessels, modern river boats have all the amenities you’ve come to expect – fitness centers, libraries, spas, internet centers and, in many cases, pools.

6. Gourmet meals are served in beautiful surroundings, often with complimentary wine.  There is one seating with a casual, relaxed dress code.  Seating is open, so you can sit wherever and with whomever you wish.  Meals are prepared with fresh, local ingredients, often reflecting the cuisine of the country through which you are passing.

7. Entertainment is low key.  Gone are the glitzy Las vegas revues and Broadway samplers.  Local entertainment and folkloric troupes come on board, while local experts give talks on the area, further immersing the passengers in the detination.

8. Local guides lead the shore excursions, typically included in the price of the cruise.  Time is built in to the day for the all-important souvenir and gift shopping.  For the adventurous who’d rather take their own path, bicycles are provided, usually free of charge.

9. River boat cruises are on far smaller ships than most ocean going vessels, allowing for easy navigation about the boat.  Instead of traveling with thousands of strangers, you sail instead with 200 like-minded travelers as eager as you to delve into the destinations.  Fellow passengers become friends.

10.Rivers flow smoothly, without swells and waves.  The leisurely pace will make you forget you’re on water at all.  Motion sickness is not a concern.

Technorati Tags: AMA Waterways, Avalon Waterways, river boat cruise, river boat cruises, top 10 reasons, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Viking River Cruises