Who Wants to go to Cuba?!

by Don McCann

Having grown up in Florida in the 60’s, Cuba always held a fascination for me (and many others) during that time.  It was a place of some mystery and sort of the forbidden fruit of travel destinations.  This all intensified as the years of our strained relations between countries continued, decade after decade.  Attitudes softened for some and travel restrictions opened the slightest little crack in recent years with “people to people” exchange programs.  Basically this means that tour companies could take Americans to Cuba, legally, if we were on a structured, sort of ‘cultural’ type itinerary (lazing on the beaches and playing in the casinos NOT).  These packages have been sort of a trip-of-a-lifetime for those who have been, but most U.S. travelers are unaware this is possible.

Enter the new era of much publicity for Cuba with the U.S. establishing diplomatic relations and related speculation about when travel will really OPEN UP.  So now, Cuba is suddenly of interest to many travelers, but options are still very limited.  The good news is that there are excellent tour companies who can show us the ‘classic Cuba’ with the vintage cars and the colonial charm of today, which many fear will quickly vanish once our unrestricted travel is allowed.  The bad news is that such ‘open’ travel is still a few years away.

If you have an interest in seeing Cuba, before it all changes, here’s an example of a top-of-the-line package from Tauck: http://www.tauck.com/tours/travel-to-cuba/travel-to-cuba-cv-2015.aspx

Tauck Tours Cuba

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The Surprising Wonders of the Douro River

by Don McCann

When most of us think of a Europe river cruise, we think “Danube”, or “Rhine”, or maybe “Seine”.  If you have never visited Portugal, you are in for a treat; or, see a dramatic new side of this beautiful country on the Douro River.  Some of the most spectacular river cruise scenery can be found in Portugal along the DOURO River!   The river takes you on a winding easterly course between steeply terraced vineyards, stopping at ports of call largely unchanged for centuries with charming town squares, colorful castles, baroque mansions and historic monasteries.  At the Spanish border you can indulge in a scenic ride into Spain to visit the medieval city of Salamanca before your leisurely voyage back to Porto.

Sound interesting? Watch the video below.

Click here to see our special offer! 

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Sights along the Danube ….. just a few more

So Bill Edwards’ Danube cruise has come to an end, but we thought we’d post just a few more of the many wonderful photos from the later portion of the itinerary.  Soon we hope to have a post, or two, in the form of his review and observations on this enchanting river cruise itinerary with Scenic Cruises.

Melk Abbey in Austria with Scenic River Cruises

Melk Abbey in Austria

Inside the Melk Abbey with Scenic River Cruises

Inside the Melk Abbey

Mondsee, Austria -with Scenic River Cruises

Mondsee, Austria – enroute to Sound of Music area

Salzburg tulips with Scenic River Cruises

Salzburg tulips

Bratislava with Scenic River Cruises

Bratislava

Strauss in Stadtpark, Vienna with Scenic River Cruises

Strauss in Stadtpark, Vienna

Private evening concert performance at Palais Liechtenstein in Vienna with Scenic River Cruises

Private evening concert performance at Palais Liechtenstein in Vienna

Scenic Jasper with Scenic River Cruises

Scenic Jasper near Durnstein, Austria

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The Danube …. continued

As we mentioned in our last post, Bill Edwards is cruising on the Danube this week onboard the Scenic Jasper and is sending us some sample photos.  Enjoy these, as we all wish that we were there with him……….

Danube River lock with Scenic Cruises

approaching Vienna in one of many locks along the Danube River

Vienna with Scenic River Cruises

Stunning Vienna

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna with Scenic Cruises

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna

Rack of Lamb, onboard Scenic Jasper with Scenic Cruises

Rack of Lamb, onboard Scenic Jasper

Durnstein with Scenic Cruises

Scenic Jasper approaching Durnstein

Durnstein church with Scenic Cruises

One of the Danube’s most picturesque churches in Durnstein

Durnstein with Scenic Cruises

Quaint, charming Durnstein

….let’s all hope Bill sends us some more photos soon!

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One Picture is Worth …….

by Don McCann

This week, our own Bill Edwards is on a preview cruise with Scenic Cruises‘ new ship, the Scenic Jasper, sailing from Budapest to Vienna.  Even though Bill is not here yet to share his thoughts and review of the ship & itinerary, he’s been good enough to send back some photos as a preview of this trip.  Here are just a few examples to view until he returns next week when he can share some ‘words’ to accompany these great photos………

Scenic Jasper in Budapest with Scenic Cruises

Scenic Jasper in Budapest

Bill Edwards enjoying the balcony on Scenic Jasper with Scenic Cruises

Bill Edwards enjoying the balcony on Scenic Jasper

Scenic Jasper Portabello's alternative Dining Room with Scenic Cruises

Scenic Jasper Portabello’s alternative Dining Room

Budpest's famed Parliment building with Scenic Cruises

Budpest’s famed Parliment building

Matthias Church in Budapest with Scenic Cruises

Matthias Church in Budapest

Heros' Square in Budapest with Scenic Cruises

Heros’ Square in Budapest

Chain Gate Bridge in Budapest with Scenic Cruises

Chain Bridge in Budapest

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A Special Treat

by Don McCann

Obviously, we love talking about cruises (duh, right?).  However, we also love it when we can have a guest cruising expert talk about cruises with our clients.  Next week is one of those special times.  Sheila Bielich of AMA Waterways is going to be here in our office next Tuesday, April 21, 2015.  Sheila is a wealth of information on many destinations worldwide and she always provides for lively, enthusiastic presentation when we are lucky enough to host her.  We really hope that those in the DFW area will be able to join us for a great talk on river cruises, both in Europe and some other exotic locations.  We’ll have some great wines and cheeses to sample and we’re sure you’ll enjoy the evening (and maybe learn a thing, or too, as well !).

If you wish to RSVP, just click the link here and we’ll see you next week!

AMA Waterways in Durnstein

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Potholes in the Road

by Bill Edwards

As some of you know, last fall I spent 2 weeks in Europe — a 7 night cruise on the Azamara Journey between Monte Carlo and Rome with additional time at both ends in Nice and Rome.  In a nutshell it was an absolutely wonderful trip – the ship AND the itinerary.  But since returning I’ve been thinking about what were my favorite things about the trip and my favorite stops.

Being a cruise agent since 1985 I’ve noticed a few changes in my thinking over these past almost 30 years – call it the aging process if you want—I won’t be offended!  But where I used to be focused on details of a trip,  I now seem to look more at the “big” picture and how the things that we DO and DO NOT have control over affect our perception of a vacation.  Let me cite a couple of examples:

Cinque Terre

Lovely Cinque Terre

The weather – which we never have control over – affects your experiences and how you remember a port of call.  I’d so looked forward to Cinque Terre – the pastel painted villages that literally hang on the cliffs overlooking the azure seas of the Mediterranean.   Well – our day there was overcast and a little bit drizzly at times.  It didn’t ruin things for us by any means but in contrast to our stop later in the cruise at Ravello on the Amalfi coast – what a difference.  The weather was perfect and thus, in my mind, I would rank Ravello as one of my favorite stops on the entire trip.

Location – Location – Location.  How many times have you heard that word used in relation to buying real estate?  Well it applies just as importantly

Colosseum in Rome

The Always Impressive Colosseum in Rome

to the location of your hotel on a trip—which is something one DOES have control over.  I have to be honest and say that while I was looking forward to visiting Rome for the first time I did NOT think I was going to like it.  I had visions in my mind of a dirty, bustling city with somewhat rude people.  Was I ever surprised in so many ways!  Not only was it much cleaner than I expected – the locals were nice — and again it didn’t hurt that the weather was near perfect.  But I think what really helped was the location of where we stayed.  We were just steps down a side street from the Pantheon.  We walked EVERYWHERE – the Colosseum and Forum, Piazza Navona, and the Vatican.  How many times do we “scrimp” on hotel costs rather than pay for location and thereby enjoy more of what a city has to offer?

So in the end – yes we can control some things; others we can’t.  Keep your travel eye on the big picture and…

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey” – Fitzhugh Mullan

Pantheon in Rome

The Pantheon in Rome

Tuscany

Scenic Tuscany

Pompei

Ruins of Pompei

Florence

Overlooking Florence

Ravello

With my wife, Lisa, in Ravello

Amalfi Coast

Dramatic Amalfi Coast

Ravello

Ravello

Interested in more info on this itinerary, or details on Azamara, email: Bill@CruiseEscapes.com

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