Disney Launches European River Cruises
This article originally appeared on Fox News Travel.
Luxury river cruise line AmaWaterways Monday announced a partnership with Adventures by Disney, the tour arm of the mouse's family travel empire, for a series of five family-focused European river cruises.
Starting in July and December 2016, these seven-night sailings from Vilshofen, Germany, to Budapest will call in Passau in Germany; Linz, Melk, Krems, and Vienna in Austria; and Bratislava, Slovakia.
But if you're picturing photo ops with Anna and Elsa in front of Austria's Dürnstein Castle, you have it all wrong.
Instead, the partnership will result in destination immersive activities for the whole family. One day, the line will stage an all-ages Oktoberfest celebration at a Cistercian monastery, complete with folk dancing and traditional German foods. The next day, guests can gather at Hohenwerfen Castle for a falconry show. In Salzburg, families can re-create scenes from the movie The Sound of Music which—instead of the character breakfasts you might imagine—serves as the most recognizable photo op on the sailing.
Children under four years of age are not invited, and the line suggests that—with the active and educational focus of the tours, in addition to their length—the cruise is best for children eight years and up. There is no onboard babysitting on offer, and the excursions are designed for families to explore the sites together and share the experience.
The amount of time in port will be maximized, with the vessel sailing in each morning just after breakfast and leaving, in most cases, when everyone is fast asleep. As a result, there will be several choices of excursions in every destination, in addition to the option of exploring on bicycle or just taking a ball or a Frisbee to a local park.
The food onboard will focus on local specialties, such as paprika tasting and goulash and strudel-making classes, which will help to introduce the youngest travelers to the flavors of the region. On the December sailing—in addition to German Christmas decorations and caroling—there is also the opportunity to make and decorate gingerbread houses.
And while there are a few tweaks to the 170-passenger AmaViola, still under construction, in order to accommodate the families—doors are being added to form adjoining cabins and sofas are being turned into sleepers in some suites—the existing spaces are being repurposed on these sailings. At night, the line will host teen-only dinners in a room that's usually used for wine tastings; the lounge may one night morph into a karaoke bar and become a movie theater the next and a folkloric dancing classroom before that.
The line predicts that getting to see four European countries in one week will feel like a value to multi-generational American families. But for those who want to see more on their trip, Adventures by Disney is offering a two-night extension to Prague, making the Czech Republic the fifth country in this modern take on the family-friendly European tour.
Carnival Cruise Lines to Start Charging for Room Service
This article originally appeared on Fox News Travel. Carnival has announced it will start testing a 24-hour room service menu on board several ships—but premium service comes with a fee. The move comes just a few days after rival cruise line Norwegian announced it would be adding a service charge to room service orders, reports Cruise Critic. The new menu will feature a diverse range of items including sushi, chicken wings, fried shrimp, quesadillas and customizable pizzas, ranging in price from $4 to $7. Carnival is hoping to offer cruises better quality and more choices when it comes to ship dining. Free selections will still be available around the clock which include hot and cold sandwiches, salads, desserts and breakfast pastries, according to Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen. While some cruisers seem happy with the addition of better quality menu items—even if they come with additional costs—other cruise fans are upset that lines are tacking on new fees that should be included with in the cost of a general cruise ticket. “What a shame if they start charging for room service items. I would be okay with paying for hot items though! Most of the food we can get from lido when its open so it seems like we are being charged for something we already paid for in our cruise fair[sic],” wrote v3cruiser on Carnival’s message board. The new menu will roll out on three Carnival ships—the Imagination, Conquest and Pride—on April 12. Customer feedback will guide the cruise line in determining whether or not the pay-per items will be rolled out to other ships in the future. More From Fox News Travel: 6 best music festivals this spring Longest town names in the world Inside the $25,000-a-night Vivienne Westwood suite Do you know what muffuletta is or even how to pronounce it?
Confessions of a Cruise Ship Captain
This article was written by Sherri Eisenberg and originally appeared on Fox News Travel. What’s it really like to be at the helm of one of these mega cruise ships? We caught up with Captain Rune Myre, 17-year veteran of Norwegian Cruise Line and the captain of the Miami-based Norwegian Getaway. Born in to a fishing family in northern Norway, Myre has spent his career at sea. In 1998, joined Norwegian Cruise Line and worked on many of line’s ships, including the Norwegian Sea and Norwegian Dawn and captained the Norwegian Pearl before taking the helm of the Norwegian Getaway. Myre oversees every aspect of the massive 3,969-passenger vessel and its 1,700 crew. Since setting sail in 2013, the Norwegian Getaway has gotten rave reviews for its family-friendly features and celebrity chef restaurants, among other things. For Super Bowl XLVIII, the ship was transformed into a floating Bud Light hotel with football parties and celebrity appearances. On a recent trip, while docked in St. Thomas, he took a few minutes out of his busy day to talk to us about what isn’t a 9 to 5 job. Myre: Some people drive to work at 7 a.m. and come home at 7 p.m.; I work 10 weeks and then I have 10 weeks off. I think I have it best. That’s what it’s like to be a sailor. FoxNews.com: What are some common preconceptions about your job?Myre: I don’t think a lot of people think about what goes on behind the scenes on a billion dollar ship. Every week, you meet four and a half thousand new people. You’re responsible for the safety and security of, on a ship like this, 6,000 people. The crewmembers are 70 different nationalities. It is a challenge. FoxNews.com: People get hurt and die on cruise ships. What's the hardest thing about your job?Myre: When things happen to crewmembers’ families and you have to get them home. FoxNews.com: What's the coolest thing that has ever happened to you on a ship?Myre: For me it was a great honor and pleasure to take out the ship. We then had the Super Bowl in New York, and then the christening in Miami with Pitbull (singer Armando Christian Perez), and I got to meet the guy. He is cool as cool can be. FoxNews.com: What's the most surprising thing that has ever happened to you on a ship? Myre: I’ve been to births and deaths. We had a child birth once that was amazing. FoxNews.com: What's your favorite port to sail into?Myre: I love Alaska, and I have done eleven seasons in Alaska. It is like being home [northern Norway]. The ports all look the same—the mountains, the ice caps. It’s special up there. FoxNews.com: What is your least favorite port to sail into?Myre: The ports have developed during the years; 15 or 16 years ago I could have answered that question but now all of our ports are good. The Caribbean is nice because of the weather, but I will say that there are a few ports where there are too many ships. That’s the only negative: There are too many people walking around the streets. Some passengers might feel that it might be a little crowded during winter season. FoxNews.com: What do you like to do when you have extra time in port?Myre: I normally get off the ship in St. Thomas for a couple hours. I go for a walk, and get some fresh air, and go for a good hike if I have time. In St. John I went snorkeling; Megan’s Bay Beach in St. Thomas is beautiful. There’s also the airport in St. Martin where the planes land just over the beach, so you can watch the planes. FoxNews.com: What do cruisers often miss out on when they're at sea that captain's notice?Myre: A lot of people are hanging around the pool deck, listening to music, chilling, climbing the walls, whatever. I see birds, flying fish, dolphins, and sometimes a whale. FoxNews.com: What is the best experience you have had with a cruiser?Myre: I am not the kind of guy who gives out my personal information right away, but I have people every week that I know from other sailings. FoxNews.com: What is the worst behavior you have seen from a cruiser?Myre: If you live in a city of 6,500 people things are going to happen. People misbehave because they drink too much or have a disagreement with their spouse. I have seen fights during my career, it happens, and we deal with it. We have security onboard and procedures for everything.My position in a town like this is like the mayor, and I have a police force. People are here to have a great time, and that’s what people do. We don’t have much trouble. FoxNews.com: What is your best advice for cruisers?Myre: If you come onboard a ship of this size, go to information meetings, learn about the ports. We have a lot of information onboard, and it takes time to get to know the ship. The people who want to experience the most in the week that they’re here have to get the brochures. FoxNews.com: What is your favorite thing about the ship you are on today?Myre: I like the Illusionarium, which is a magic show. It is a great experience. Every friend who comes onboard I personally book in Illusionarium. I have been 15 times, and I am trying to figure out how they make the birds disappear! I don’t want to ask them, I want to figure it out. More From Fox News Travel: #IWillComeToTunisia: Tourists pledge to visit the country following the attack Are you a MAMIL? Jealous boyfriend crowdfunds trip to spy on girlfriend's spring break
Save Big on Avalon's European River Cruises
It's no secret that we're big fans of river cruises as a unique, elegant way of seeing the world. So we were psyched to learn about a special offer from Avalon. For a limited time, you can save $2,000 per couple on select Avalon 2015 European River Cruises. The Suite Ships of Avalon have truly changed the way people think about the river cruise experience. Avalon's spacious, innovative Panorama Suites are some of the largest in river cruising, featuring unique Open-Air Balconies with giant walk-to-wall windows that provide spectacular views. And when you leave your lovely room, you will find that same attention to detail everywhere on board. You'll also find fewer people than you would on an open-sea cruise, which means more space everywhere you go. Avalon's cuisine is another reason travelers choose to see Europe via river: The company puts care into creating every day's menu using fresh, quality ingredients. All prepared to perfection by their culinary artisans. It's not easy to be an expert on, well, everywhere, but thanks to Avalon's relationship with the award-winning tour company Globus, with more than 85 years of experienced and 300 support staff on the ground in 65 countries around the world, Avalon's cruisers are privy to the best land programs available. What's more, Avalon offers a variety of special interest cruises. From food and wine to culture, music, and beyond, Avalon special interest cruises feature expert onboard presentations to enhance your subject knowledge as you mingle with others who share your passion. Avalon's limited-edition special interest departures afford you these unique travel opportunities, and it's all at no additional cost. These cruises include: Art & Impressionist River Cruises, Beer River Cruises, Culinary River Cruises, Wine River Cruises, and many more! To learn more, visit avalonwaterways.com/special-interest-river-cruises.
Europe's Dreamiest River Cruises
There's a good reason why we chose European river cruising as the cover story for Budget Travel's March/April 2015 "Dream Trips" issue. A vacation odyssey on one of Europe's great rivers is like cruising in a floating B&B. You'll savor distinctive local cuisine and the fruits of the continent's vineyards, make daily stops for guided tours (or alone time!) in gorgeous, historic cities, and appreciate the warmth and expertise of a crew that loves introducing travelers to some of Europe's most desirable destinations. Ready to get started? SEE THE RIVER CRUISES! DANUBE There's a reason the world's most famous waltz is named for this dazzling river-music and history come alive as you pass through some of Europe's most beautiful towns. Why it's a dream trip: Say the word Danube. Do you hear music? Maybe that's because the river's namesake waltz, Johann Strauss's "On the Beautiful Blue Danube," is as famous as the river itself. Or maybe it's because a cruise on this historic waterway (which stretches more than 1,700 miles from Germany's Black Forest to the Black Sea) can take you to two European music capitals, Vienna and Salzburg, and send your spirits dancing like one of Vienna's stately Lipizzaner horses. You'll drink in Central and Eastern Europe's dramatic landscape and history on one of the many popular Danube cruises. Depending on which cruise you book, stops along the way may include Germany's storybook cities such as Passau and Nuremburg, Budapest, Hungary (with its iconic Castle Hill, Buda Castle, and Chain Bridge), and Austrian locales like Vienna (where you can see the Lipizzaner horses in action, as well as visit the Hapsburg Palace and sample one of the city's irresistible tortes), Melk's 1,000-year-old Benedictine monastery, and the music-mad city of Salzburg (home to Europe's biggest music festival, and where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and The Sound of Music was filmed). Make it happen: You'll find the Danube on the itineraries of several major river cruise lines, and Viking (vikingrivercruises.com) and Avalon (avalonwaterways.com) make it possible to cruise a portion of the river for a week, making stops for guided tours and day trips, starting from under $2,000 per person. Insider tip: Longer, more ambitious Danube cruises (as well as cruises on other iconic European rivers) are available from Viking and Avalon, as well as from Scenic Cruises (sceniccruises.com) and Emerald Waterways (emeraldwaterways.com) for those who want to see as many of its 1,700-plus miles as they can! RHINE See the real-life forests and castles that inspired fairy tales (not to mention Disney movies) along a river that's been mythologized for centuries. Why it's a dream trip: You can sail from the Netherlands to Switzerland, passing through ancient cities, forests, and castles that transport you to another place in time. When your Rhine cruise starts in Amsterdam, as many do, you can immerse yourself in gorgeous colors (both natural and man-made) with flower-field panoramas and the exceptional art collections at the Rijksmuseum (known for its Rembrandts, Vermeers, and more) and the Van Gogh Museum, each of which has undergone a major renovation in recent years. The Anne Frank House is a touching reminder of Europe's troubled past, and the Oude Kerk is one of the classiest churches you'll see on the continent. Sail along the "middle Rhine," where you can ogle riverside vineyards, the forests that inspired tales such as Hansel and Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin, and mind-blowing castles that teeter on precipices over the water. Spend some time getting to know the castles and cathedrals of smaller German and French cities such as Cologne, Heidelberg, and Strasbourg before arriving in Basel, Switzerland, for a visit to the incredible Fondation Beyeler art collection and day trips to the Alps. Make it happen: The Rhine is a staple of the European river cruise business, and you can find cruises starting from under $2,000 that will take you from Amsterdam to Basel over the course of a week, including guided tours. Insider tip: If you're planning to visit in the spring, ask whether your trip will coincide with Amsterdam's eye-popping Tulip Time. SEINE From the City of Light through Claude Monet's favorite natural setting to the historic beaches of Normandy, a cruise on this river packs an emotional wallop. Why it's a dream trip: Frankly, a cruise on the Seine, typically beginning and ending in Paris, is one way Budget Travelers can stand in solidarity with the people of the city in the wake of this winter's terrorist attacks. Now more than ever, we echo Audrey Hepburn's famous line in Sabrina: "Paris is always a good idea." As seen from the water (whether you're on a multicity river cruise or one of the many local river tours available) the City of Light is perhaps more beautiful than ever, with its many bridges, the peerless façade of Notre Dame beckoning from shore, and of course must-see museums such as the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Musée de Cluny, and Musée Picasso, and that well-known tower (once derided as an eyesore!). But wait till you sail out of Paris on your way to Monet's garden at Giverny, where, surrounded by the flowers and botanicals depicted in Monet's paintings (water lilies, anyone?), you'll feel as if you've literally stepped into an Impressionist painting. Spend some time in charming towns such as Rouen (don't miss its half-timbered houses and distinctive astronomical clock!), Conflans, and Les Andelys, and then sail on to the beaches of Normandy on the English Channel, where the largest fleet in history made its historic landing on June 6, 1944, turning the tide of WWII. A stop at the American Cemetery is a moving reminder of the sacrifices made here just over 70 years ago. Make it happen: A Seine cruise, offered by all the major river cruise lines, will often make a round trip, taking you from Paris to Normandy and back (making different stops on the return leg), and a weeklong cruise with guided tours will start at under $2,000. Insider tip: When you're on your own in Paris, you can get closer to some riverside sights by hopping on a local boat tour. Ask your cruise director for recommendations. RHÔNE Visit the South of France's wine country, historic palaces and towns, and the countryside Vincent Van Gogh helped make famous. Why it's a dream trip: A stunning natural setting, inspiring art, and some of the world's finest wines! The walled city of Avignon has been protecting staggeringly beautiful works of art and architecture since the 14th century, when it was home to series of popes. Don't miss the Palais des Papes and the incredible interior of Chapelle St.-Jean. Your boat will then wind its way to Arles, perhaps best known as the site of some of Van Gogh's most famous landscape paintings, but also home to the ultra-contemporary architecture of the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh building and the ultra-ancient (and well-preserved) Roman theater and amphitheater. You'll stop in Lyons, where the meticulously restored old city ("Vieux Lyons") beckons with winding streets, antique shops, tempting charcuterie (cured meats) and selfie-worthy covered passageways known as traboules. Ready to wet your whistle? You'll cruise through wine country, which can include a Burgundy wine tour and tasting before heading back to Avignon. Make it happen: Round-trip cruises on the Rhône out of Avignon are a little pricier than other weeklong river cruises, but you can still pack in several days of guided tours starting from just under $2,000. Insider tip: Instead of loading up on French wine to bring home, have it delivered instead. You'll save yourself a hassle and save the wine from unpredictable temperature changes that can destroy its flavor. ELBE From Berlin's museums and awesome monuments to Prague's architectural wonders, this lesser-known cruise option is a true odyssey across centuries of European history. Why it's a dream trip: Stand in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and pinch yourself: Once the epicenter of Cold War tensions, the majestic monument now stands as a proud symbol of the new Berlin. The city is welcoming visitors, including families, like never before, with bicycle-friendly streets, cutting-edge cuisine, and many museums, including the Gemaldgalerie am Kulturforum, reward visitors with boastworthy works of art your friends haven't seen yet. On your cruise, you may stop in Potsdam (where Frederick the Great's Sanssouci is said to have been built to rival Versailles) and Dresden (with its amazing Zwinger Palace, which includes a major museum featuring Old Master paintings). Then it's on to Prague, whose beauty and imaginative architecture often surprise the first-time visitor: In fact, many Budget Travelers report back that the city's historic Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, and Old Town Square were their very favorite sights in Europe! Make it happen: Elbe cruises tend to be a little longer and more expensive than those of the better-known European rivers, but a 10-day cruise with guided tours (and bragging rights when you get home!) can be found for around $2,600. Insider tip: You'll see more of Berlin on a bicycle! It's one of the world's most cycle-friendly cities, with wide bike paths that are off-limits to cars and pedestrians.