Category Archives: European River Cruises

Something Different

by Bill Edwards

So it’s not unusual to have our clients ask if we know of or have done anything different lately. ….Well, I can say YES! Having just returned in August from a Croatia-intensive cruise on CroisiEurope.  Chances are you’ve not heard of CroisiEurope.  It is a France-based company which is actually Europe’s largest river cruise operator.  (Yes, Viking is larger but we consider them US-based).

La Belle de l’Adriatique in Split

La Belle de l’Adriatique in Split (see more photos below)

If you’re familiar with river-cruising then take that concept, put it on a slightly larger version of a river cruise ship, and cruise along the beautiful ports and islands of the Dalmatian coast.  The ship “La Belle de l’Adriatique” sails a regular series of 7-night roundtrip cruises from Dubrovnik going to Mljet, Korcula, Sibenik, Trogir, Split, Hvar and Vis (all in Croatia) and ending with one last stop in Kotor, Montenegro before returning to Dubrovnik.  I’m sure we have quite a few clients that have taken a Mediterranean cruise that might have included a stop in either Dubrovnik or Split, but this was Dalmatian coast immersion….and I LOVED it.  Croatia is a cross between Italy and Greece…. Beautiful water and beaches (though largely pebble beaches; not sand beaches)…medieval history…friendly English-speaking locals….good food and local Croatian wines.  Getting to Dubrovnik is really quite easy.  There are schedules with one change of planes via Philadelphia (on AA) or via London or Madrid by flying American and British Airways.  We added extra time in Dubrovnik and rather than staying right in town, we stayed in a quieter area about 5 miles outside of town at a lovely Sheraton resort on the coast.  From the Sheraton there is a local ferry that takes you right back into Old Town Dubrovnik so it was the best of both worlds.  I would highly recommend staying at the Sheraton!

So back to CroisiEurope.  Is it for everyone?  Perhaps not…but it’s probably for a lot more people than it isn’t.  The ship, built in 2007 carries a little less than 200 guests, has the feel and design of a river cruise ship (4 decks rather than the usual 3 found on river cruises)  with similar attributes to river-cruising:

  • Single seating dining
  • An included excursion at each port
  • Soft drinks, beer, wine AND standard spirits INCLUDED throughout the cruise, not just at mealtime, (the only extra expense would really be gratuities).

There were some differences, though:

The ship has a definite, pervasive French flair.  I was told the cruise my wife and I were on was typical of what one could expect on any of these Dalmatian coast cruises….meaning a little more than half the ship was French and the remainder being mostly from other European countries.   There was a group of about 35 Norwegians and a smaller group from Spain.  We were seated with the other US guests onboard at a table of 6.    Yes, a total of 6 Americans.  Did we feel out of place? Absolutely not!  ….everyone was friendly (staff AND guests alike).  Announcements were made in French and English and we were on English-speaking tours (which meant small groups as the Norwegians joined in with some of us other English-speakers on tours).

The other big difference, which I grew to like, was with regards to lunch and dinner.  At both of these meals there is a pre-set menu served to everyone….meaning everyone is served the same starter, entrée and dessert.  I think not having choices on the menu actually resulted in the galley being able to put their best efforts into quality and presentation…and resulted in streamlined service.  Dietary needs are certainly accommodated as well as any particular dislikes.  In our cabin by noon each day we had the FOLLOWING day’s lunch and dinner menus so that it was possible to addresses those concerns with the dining room manager in advance for accommodation.  We did have lunch buffet twice during the cruise along with an elaborate buffet dinner on deck one evening while in Split.  There was a selection of 4 red wines; 4 white wines and 2 rose wines each day…mostly Croatian wines, with some from France, of course.  Wines were poured and then bottles were left at the table for self-pouring….so there was no excuse for an empty wine glass!  Breakfast was always buffet with eggs/pancakes cooked to order.  Some of you have sailed into Kotor and would appreciate this, but the morning we sailed into the bay of Kotor our breakfast was served on the top deck…so we had the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular approach to Kotor while enjoying breakfast.  This was one of the highlights of the trip.

Entertainment felt similar to what you would find on river cruises.  One night some local entertainment was brought onboard.  On another night, the Filipino crew put on a show of native dances and song.  The cruise director and a trio of Filipinos put on a wonderful concert one night.  But, like river cruising it’s an early to rise and early to bed routine for the most part.

These cruises, just like river cruises in general, tend to fill early so if you’re interested in 2020 don’t delay in making plans.  Europeans book most of their vacations earlier than Americans, too.  Prices for this 7-night cruise start at about $3000 per person for a cabin with portholes (which I had).  Cabins with 2 big windows start at about $3400 per person….but again that’s EVERYTHING included except gratuities (and airfare).

Please contact me for more information about cruising the Dalmatian coast on CroisiEurope

Pork filet with olives and sweet & sour sauce

Pork filet with olives and sweet & sour sauce

Delicious pasta dish

Delicious pasta dish

Creative, wonderful dessert

Creative, wonderful dessert

One of many featured Croatian white wines

One of many featured Croatian white wines

La Belle de l’Adriatique docked in Trogir

La Belle de l’Adriatique docked in Trogir

La Belle de l’Adriatique standard cabin

La Belle de l’Adriatique standard cabin

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

 The island of Mljet

The island of Mljet

Different & Fun Shore Excursion

The island of Korcula

The island of Korcula

The island of Sibenik with an excursion to Krka Falls

The island of Sibenik with an excursion to Krka Falls

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro

Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel

Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel

Bill at the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel

Bill at the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel

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Filed under adventure cruising, Croatia Cruise, CroisiEurope, Cruise Escapes, Cruise News, Dubrovnik, European Cruises, European River Cruises, Kotor, Montenegro, Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, Mediterranean Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Our Cruises

Scenic Eclipse

by Don McCann

Scenic Eclipse

We went to a presentation yesterday on a brand new ship and new offering from Scenic Cruises.  Currently, Scenic offers river cruises in Europe and some exotic locations, but this new ship will be an ocean-going vessel.  However, this is not ‘just another cruise ship’; on the contrary, this will be somewhat unique in several ways.

Scenic Eclipse is a luxury yacht-inspired cruise ship accommodating 228 guests and it will launch in August, 2018.  So your first thought might be “2018!?”  Why talk about it now?  Well, there are several reasons.  To begin with, the ship will sail primarily very intriguing, trip-of-a-lifetime type of itineraries, such as around Iceland, Antarctica, or some smaller European ports.  Such trips usually take some advance planning, not to mention that with only 228 passengers, the ship will most likely fill much farther in advance than larger ships.  Also, it’s not cheap.  It’s a true luxury experience, with pricing to match, and this often evokes careful consideration before a commitment is made.  That being said, while price is one thing, “value” is another and Eclipse will definitely be a good value with the experience AND the inclusions.  Just as with Scenic Cruises’ river ships, the Eclipse fares will include all gratuities, all beverages, specialty dining options, and shore excursions.  The only exception will be the excursions available from the two onboard six passenger helicopters, or the seven passenger submarine.  These unique options will make the overall experience just THAT much more impressive.

We feel confident that the Scenic Cruises management team can truly ‘deliver’ a wonderful and exciting cruise experience with Scenic Eclipse.  Take a look at some of the photos & video links below and contact us for more details!

Scenic Eclipse preview brochure cover

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Filed under adventure cruising, Cruise News, European Cruises, European River Cruises, Italy Cruise, luxury adventure cruising, Mediterranean Cruises, New Ship, Our Cruise Stories, Our events, River Cruises, Scenic Cruises, Scenic Eclipse, Uncategorized

Monet, Monet

by Don McCann

In a previous post, I mentioned about my recent Avalon Waterways cruise on the Seine River to the Normandy Region of France.  On our itinerary, the first port of call was the quaint town of Vernon, the gateway to Monet’s home at Giverny.  I think most of us probably envision lily pads on a tranquil pond when we hear the name “Giverny” and that’s JUST what we were lucky enough to see that first morning!

Vernon, France on a quiet Sunday morning

Vernon on a quiet Sunday morning

Our tour departure time allowed us enough time to disembark and wonder the little town of Vernon before we boarded the motorcoach for the short drive to Giverny.  Being a Sunday morning, Vernon was noticeably quiet and made for a delightful early walk as we quickly explored what charming & historic sights the village had to offer.  As is true with so many European locations, the church was the dominant landmark and it was a very short distance from our ship.

As we arrived in Giverny, the anticipation grew with each phase of the tour.  First, a walk from the parking lot to the outer area of the village, then into the gardens themselves, next into Monet’s home, and finally a short walk to the far end of town to the cemetery for Monet’s grave.  In the gardens, on the path, over the famed arched bridge, it all seems as though the paintings of Monet have come to life and you are directly ‘in the thick of it’!  It is an area of impressive beauty and its preservation seems to have been successful to maintain an authentic “Monet experience”.  I could say more, but the photos say it best, take a look…

Giverny, France lily pads

Giverny lily pads

Giverny, France foot bridge

Giverny, France foot bridge

Giverny, France area map

Giverny area map

Giverny, France gardens

Giverny, France gardens

Monet home in Giverny, France

Monet home in Giverny

Monet's bedroom at Giverny , France

Monet’s bedroom at Giverny

Monet's grave in Giverny, France

Monet’s grave in Giverny

for more on Avalon Waterways, click here

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Filed under Avalon Waterways, European River Cruises, Giverny, Monet, New Ship, Our Cruises, River Cruises, Seine River Cruise, Vernon France

Christmas in June

by Don McCann

We often host client presentations, which our business calls “Cruise Nights”.  Last week, we had a cruise night called “Christmas in June” featuring Viking River Cruises and their Christmas Market cruises in Europe.    This event was great fun to plan and easy to decide how to decorate.  However, the most enthusiastic of our planners was my daughter, Rachel, who just moved back from Germany, after having lived there for 3 1/2 years.   While there, she LOVED the various Christmas Markets and she had TONS of ideas for our event.  Not only did she bring in some of her market purchases, but she baked authentic heart-shaped gingerbread cookies with ‘Merry Christmas’ in German, French, and Hungarian, as well as some cookies with the Viking River logo, AND she agreed to be one of our guest speakers!

Vikings great 3minute video was an effective visual introduction to the Christmas Markets, then Rachel added her personal experiences about the Markets, with some wonderful “show ‘n tell” items.  Next up, our local Viking River Representative, Carolyn Szekeres, did a great presentation on the cruises themselves and the fantastic new river ships the line is adding.  All in all, it was perhaps our most fun, and certainly our most festive, cruise night yet!

If you were not able to join us, take a look at some of the photos (click on each to enlarge):

Brats & cheese with pretzel bread

Brats & cheese with pretzel bread

Christmas in June lights and seating

Christmas in June lights at Cruise Escapes

 

Carolyn Szekeres of Viking Cruises

Carolyn Szekeres of Viking Cruises

Christmas in June CE staff

Cruise Escapes staff at one of our Market ‘stalls’ with Viking cookies!

 

Have any Christmas Market stories, or photos you’d care to share? – We’d love your reply!

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Filed under Christmas Markets River Cruise, European River Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Our events, Viking River Cruises

Getting Ready for “the Holidays”

Christmas in June preparations

We’re getting ready!

For those of you in the Dallas area, you may have seen that we are presenting “Christmas in June” next week with Viking River Cruises.    To give just a taste of the markets, we are busy putting together a fun evening of sample foods, market items, and we’ll have two guest speakers – one from Viking River and a second experienced Christmas Markets enthusiast!

If you are in the DFW area, some seats are still available; take a break from the summer heat and come pretend it’s cooler!  Join us Tuesday, June 25 – “markets” open at 6:00pm and presentation begins at 6:30pm in our office.  Cruise Escapes, 14464 Midway Road, Dallas TX  75244.  RSVP 972-404-0505, or info@CruiseEscapes.com

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Filed under Christmas Markets River Cruise, European River Cruises, Viking River Cruises

The Talk About Tauck!

by John Lane

A quote that comes to mind that reminds me of my tour with Tauck would be:
“If you settle for ordinary you are just a tourist”. There is nothing ordinary about Tauck Tours. Tauck offers exclusive destination experiences that are truly all inclusive with the personalized service of a tour host and takes you to those out of the way places the other tour companies don’t.

Tauck river photo

Tauck specializes in ‘destination immersion’

On my Tauck River Cruise, we had several “Tauck Exclusives” that made the River Cruise even more special. We visited a family ranch in Camargue in the delta of the Rhone River. Imagine a provencal lunch served by family members in traditional costumes and being serenaded by a trio of guitar players during the wonderful noon feast. After lunch we had the opportunity to see the bulls and the guardians in action with a demonstration of a Camargue style bullfight. These young men were crazy, being chased by this wild bull through the ring. It was an amazing day that only Tauck could offer. On two other occasions we were given 20 Euros to spend to enjoy the local culture and food! A wonderful lunch in Avignon was enjoyed and in Lyon, the gastronomical capital of France, we enjoyed a “private food tasting”. We then sampled the wonderful foods that were awaiting us at the various stalls at France’s largest indoor food market all on the generosity of Tauck.

With Tauck you can not go wrong—they travel the world. This family run business offers the best! So if you never want to settle for ordinary, travel in good company, leave your worries at home and get what you pay for and then some …travel with Tauck…you won’t be disappointed and you will never travel with anyone else!

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Filed under European Cruises, European River Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Tauck European River Cruise

A Gem of a Hotel in Paris

by John Lane

I found a gem of a hotel in Hotel Moliere in Paris. Built in 1840 the hotel is in a prime location just off the Avenue de l’Opera and around the corner from the shops and cafes of the Rue de Rivoli and the Louvre. Who could ask for a better location! With all the major attractions of Paris at your doorstep! The metro is close by and if I can maneuver my way through the Paris metro system anyone can!

Hotel Moliere Paris

Hotel Moliere Paris

A welcoming reception staff helped with dining and shopping suggestions and reconfirmed travel arrangements for my departure. This gem of hotel offers complimentary internet service and along with the lobby lounge there is a small living room just off of the reception and small breakfast room. Continental breakfast is included in some rates. Rooms are are decorated in fabric prints on the walls with coordinating curtains hung from the ceiling draped over the window that open to the street. Bathrooms are marble and stone and new! This small hotel is a great value for a city that charges an arm and leg for hotel nights. Stay at the Hotel Moliere right in the heart of it all and you won’t be disappointed!

John recently returned from a Tauck River Cruise in France.

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Filed under European River Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Tauck European River Cruise