Ring in New Spectacular Travel Experiences for 2018

The new year dawns with an amazing array of travel relaxation, exploration and inspiration. And our Expedia expert travel consultants are ready to put all the pieces together for you with exceptional Expedia prices and concierge service.  Plus, we are now in Wave season, when cruise lines offer their biggest promotions of the year.  The key question is: What travel would you like to take this year (or next)? There are many spectacular options:

viking rhine getawayRIVER CRUISES: We are experts in this hottest segment of travel, with six members of our team taking a river cruise in 2017. We believe this is the most exceptional way to experience certain parts of Europe, such as the Rhine River, where consultant Jane Shobe is hosting a group in September.  With your floating boutique hotel delivering you to one charming destination after another, you have more time to immerse yourself into the culture. Plus time to relax aboard with excellent fresh and local cuisine and time to soak in the 360-degree view atop the ship as you float past castles and vineyards. If you have yet to try this, we can’t recommend it enough. If you have, it’s time to look for your next river. Get a sense for this experience from this post.

Bald Eagle in flight with mountains in backgroundALASKA CRUISE TOURS: You know the 49th state is big, but you might not know how awesome it is. Unless you have been there. If you have not, you should know that his destination consistently exceeds expectations as pictures can not do justice to majestic eagles, massive glaciers, impressive whales and other natural wonders surrounding you. The best way to experience this is a cruise tour that combines the archipelago accessible by sea with exploration of the vast land mass highlighted by impressive Denali National Park.  We particularly love Celebrity’s cruise tour packages that come with Expedia discount pricing and through Jan. 31 two perks ($300 onboard credit, beverage package, unlimited internet, prepaid gratuities). Suites offer even more bang for the buck with all four amenities, more spacious accommodations, a private restaurant plus other amenities.

French Polynesia

French Polynesia

TAHITI & THE SOUTH PACIFIC: This paradise is more accessible than many Southern Californians realize. Non-stop flights from LAX are 8 1/2 hours. A Paul Gauguin cruise allows you to visit several idyllic islands in luxury at a considerably lower cost than land resorts. Talk about overwater bungalows! This one floats from one awesome lagoon to another and includes two all-day private island parties along the way. Plus, Paul Gauguin’s Polynesian crew members ensure that cultural immersion occurs on ship and ashore. Ask us about our exclusive Expedia group pricing. Learn about the experience at this post.

blissNEW SHIPS: Innovation in the cruise industry marches on unabated. Norwegian Bliss, a ship custom-built for Alaska and displaying hull art by Orange County’s Wyland will launch as the first brand new ship on the West Coast in many years. You can experience Bliss on a 7-day Alaska cruise out of Seattle during the summer, a 7-day Mexico cruise from Los Angeles during October or repositioning cruises through the Panama Canal and between Los Angeles and Seattle. Elsewhere, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are adding innovative ships to their Florida fleets while highly acclaimed Viking Ocean continues its impressive expansion. Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas displaces its 2-year-old sister ship as the largest at sea with 10-story water slides, rock-climbing walls, Broadway shows and a plethora of other exciting features. Celebrity’s Edge ushers in revolutionary ship design that brings focus on the ocean to more public spaces. Viking’s clean, destination-focused ocean ships continue to visit more ports and more regions.

HOMEPORT LA:  Cruise lines are adding more opportunities for Californians to cruise without flying. New round-trip Alaska (12 days)  and Panama Canal (19 days) cruises from LA have proven popular additions to existing no-fly cruises – 7-day Mexico, 15-day Hawaii, 28-day Hawaii-South Pacific and 11-day around the world. Not flying means you’re on vacation right away and all of your money is going toward your cruise experience.  There also are great one-way cruises to and from LA including Panama Canal, South America and Australia. View the full compliment of Homeport LA cruises here.  Call us at (949) 201-4246 to find your perfect adventure without going to the airport.


9D_Balt_Caps_Cop_RosHOSTED GROUPS:
 You may want to travel with a fun group from our community in a group hosted by one of our travel consultants. In addition to the Rhine River Cruise mentioned earlier, we are hosting groups on a 9-day Baltic Sea cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway in July and a 10-day Alaska Cruise Tour on the Celebrity Millennium in July. When you join one of our hosted groups, you receive unbeatable preferred pricing, the security of your local host from our team and the added enjoyment that comes with traveling in a group.

So give us a call today to start planning your next adventure. (949) 201-4246.

2018 TOP PICKS & HOSTED ADVENTURES

By Chris Meyer/Expedia Franchise Partner

We’ve narrowed down the endless adventure opportunities to a curated selection of top picks and hosted trips with sensational value.

ALASKA: 

The Last Frontier is more popular than ever. And for good reason! The scenery is vast and dramatic, both while cruising the eye-opening Inside Passage and while riding the luxurious Alaska Railroad to striking Denali National Park. In 2018, Norwegian Bliss will be the newest, largest and most feature-filled of more than two-dozen ships that ply Alaska’s waters. A destination itself, the Bliss enhances an already amazing destination. And its hull art is by Orange County’s own marine artist, Wyland. Our inventory of Expedia Exclusive Staterooms provides the best pricing and amenities on Alaska cruises, with some substantial discounts with Celebrity Cruises.

Bald Eagle in flight with mountains in backgroundExpedia Exclusive Picks:  

  • 10-day Cruise Tour departing July 20, 2018 with 7 days on the Celebrity Millennium plus a ride on the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park. Hosted by Michael Berman and Sheila Diskin. Balcony staterooms start at just $2,269 per person.
  • For a shorter option, Norwegian Bliss is the newest ship in Alaska, doing round-trip itineraries from Seattle from $1,569 per person.

More info: Contact your consultant, call (800) 745-4015, email cmeyer@ocglobetrotter.com or visit the center @ 24321 Avenida de la Carlota, Suite H-3, Laguna Hills.

EUROPE

The Old World is bursting with fascinating places for tracing our roots. Several of us took river cruise in 2017 and came away absolutely charmed with this type of travel, which gets you up close to the historic sites you want to experience without worrying about logistics. You are on vacation the entire time, and your floating hotel takes you to the next storybook destination while you sleep. But first, we went atop the ship after dinner to watch the sun set and the stars come out from our panoramic 360-degree perch – an unexpected treat. It was the trip of a lifetime. Do you want to give it a try in 2018? There are many options, but they won’t be available for long.

Expedia Exclusive picks:

Hosted Viking Rhine Getaway. Seven-day cruise from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands departing Sept. 14, 2018 with optional three-day pre-cruise stay on Lake Cuomo, Italy. Prices starting at $3,374 per person for the cruise with $395 round-trip air from LAX. Hosted by Jane Shobe.

Grand European Tour. Double your pleasure with a 15-day river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. We have one departing Oct. 1, 2018 from with special pricing $6,295 with $395 round-trip flights from LAX.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Hosted Baltic Cruise. The Baltic Sea is best experienced by cruise ship, and we have an exceptional hosted 9-day itinerary July 13-22 on the Norwegian Breakaway from Copenhagen, Denmark. Ports of call are Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia (2 days), Helsinki, Finland; and Stockholm, Sweden. Expedia exclusive prices start at $1,523 per person including all beverages (adult and otherwise), gratuities and taxes. While you are not immersed in these fascinating places, you will enjoy a ship with 27 restaurants, a jazz and blues club, mini golf course, casino, ocean-view gym and a myriad of other features and activities to make sure there is never a dull moment.

More info: Contact your consultant, call (800) 745-4015, email cmeyer@ocglobetrotter.com or visit the center @ 24321 Avenida de la Carlota, Suite H-3, Laguna Hills.

HOMEPORT LA

For those times when you want to avoid the airport, there is a surprising variety of cruises out of our local ports. Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, South America and the South Pacific can all be reached through a drive to San Pedro, Long Beach or San Diego. There even are round-the-world cruises that begin and end in Los Angeles. Cruise lines calling on local ports include Carnival, Norwegian,  Princess, Holland America, Cunard, Viking Ocean, Regent Seven Seas and Crystal. So you can find whatever level of luxury and price. The brand-new Norwegian Bliss will even be doing a month of Mexican Riviera cruises in October 2018. What a way to return to a destination on a ship that is a destination itself with 26 restaurants and a ship-top racetrack.

Expedia Exclusive Round-trip LA Picks:  

 

  • 10-day Mexico on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator departing May 25, 2018. Experience the utmost luxury at your doorstep. Special all-inclusive pricing from $3,199 per person

 

    • 27-night Hawaii-South Pacific on the Emerald Princess departing March 30, 2018 and Sept. 23, 2018. From $2,999 per person.

      French Polynesia

      French Polynesia

 

  • 7-night Mexican Riviera on the brand-new Norwegian Bliss. Four departures in October, 2018 before the ship repositions with a 15-day Panama Canal cruise to Miami. Prices start below $1,000 per person including the beverage package.

 

  • 14-night Alaska on the Carnival Splendor departing Aug. 25, 2018. From $1,319 per person.

https://www.ocglobetrotter.com/

More info: Contact your consultant, call (800) 745-4015, email cmeyer@ocglobetrotter.com or visit the center @ 24321 Avenida de la Carlota, Suite H-3, Laguna Hills.

HAWAII

I have been enchanted with Hawaii since I backpacked and surfed my way through the islands after high school. So when it comes to getting your aloha on, we are definitely your best option with Expedia’s enormous inventory of resorts, condos and private residences for rent. But I have come to believe, after nine trips to the islands,

Hawaii

Hawaii

that Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America offers the most relaxing and cost-effective way to experience the whole of Hawaii. The seven-day cruise includes two days each on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. Add a couple hotel nights on the front end for Oahu and you have the best of Hawaii. The ship even shows you Kauai’s colossal Napali Coast and the Big Islands hot lava flow into the Pacific. Excursions that are time-consuming and costly if you are staying on land. On Pride of America, your food is included and you can choose the beverage package as a free perk. Plus on selected departures, discounted round trip air is as low as $399 per person including a one-night hotel stay  and kids sail free. This is a fantastic introduction to the islands for first timers and a most enjoyable way to return for an aloha fix. .

Expedia Exclusive Pick:  Departing April 27, 2018 from  $2,049 per person

More info: Contact your consultant, call (800) 745-4015, email cmeyer@ocglobetrotter.com or visit the center @ 24321 Avenida de la Carlota, Suite H-3, Laguna Hills.

SOUTH PACIFIC

Did you know Tahiti is a mere 8 ½-hour flight from LAX? That’s just a couple of mai tais past Hawaii! An excellent way to experience that mythical island and neighboring Bora Bora and Moorea is aboard the Paul Gauguin a small 312-passenger luxury shipDSC_0161 that anchors inside breathtaking lagoons, is staffed by Polynesians who immerse you in their romantic culture, and tantalizes with the freshness expertly prepared cuisine. The verdict of the group I hosted: Best vacation ever and one that needs to be repeated. You not only get to experience more of Polynesia than at a single land resort, but you save money with all-inclusive pricing that includes round-trip air from LAX, an open bar and gratuities.

Expedia Exclusive Pick: Hosted 7-night Society Islands departing Feb. 17, 2018 from $4,521per person all inclusive including flights. Hosted by Expedia consultants Michael Berman and Sheila Diskin.

More info: Contact your consultant, call (800) 745-4015, email cmeyer@ocglobetrotter.com or visit the center @ 24321 Avenida de la Carlota, Suite H-3, Laguna Hills.

JOIN OUR HOSTED BALTIC CRUISE

 

baltic flyerChris and Susan Meyer are hosting a nine-day Baltic Sea cruise July 13-22, 2018. This epic adventure combines a fascinating itinerary, amazing ship, and super fun and joyful group to share the adventure. In July 2017, 22 of us had a blast in Berlin, Prague and on a Danube River cruise. If you love exploring with adventurous, fun-loving folks, this is the trip for you. 

ITINERARY

Copenhagen, Denmark

Tallinn, Estonia

St. Petersburg, Russia (two days)

Helsinki, Finland

Stockholm, Sweden

Copenhagen, Denmark

SHIP: NORWEGIAN BREAKAWAY

26 restaurants

Second City comedy club

Intimate jazz and blues club

Cirque du Soleil dinner show

Rock-climbing wall

Mini golf

Casino

And much more

STATEROOMS (Special Expedia pricing per person/double occupancy)

Inside: $1,523

Ocean-view: $1,680

Balcony: $2,103

Mini-suite: $2,383

Haven suite: $4,499

INCLUDED

Meals

Beverages -including adult beverages

Gratuities

Taxes and port charges

ADDITIONAL

Flights – Norwegian Air Shuttle has non-stop flights between LAX and Copenhagen for less than $1,000.

Optional shore excursions – We will have special Expedia pricing on group shore excursions

 

 

 

7 HOUR LAYOVER IN COPENHAGEN

By Michelle Meyer

An hour by hour narrative of my first time leaving the airport during a long layover:

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HOUR 1 (12 noon): Arrive in Copenhagen. Get off the plane and through the short immigration line in about 30 minutes. Look for lockers in the airport to store our carry-on luggage. Find metro line (luckily this was close to the lockers), buy ticket, get on, arrive in center of town about 15 minutes later. From plane to this photo is approximately 1 hour. So far so good.

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HOUR 2 (1pm): After grabbing cappuccino from a cart, we ask the barista for a recommendation on where to head next. He directs us a couple blocks up and says to check out the hippy village called “Freetown Christiana” – a self-proclaimed autonomous anarchist district of about 1,000 residents who go by their own rules. Find a painted stairway on the way, follow it up to an art gallery, look around and take this photo at the table.

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HOUR 3 (2pm): Tour through the brightly colored, graffiti filled, hippy town that is Christiana, which has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. We find a small smoke-filled bar, grab a couple of ‘Christiania beers’ and quickly realize we stand out as the only non-locals there. After that we wander some more and find a courtyard area filled with tables and strike up conversation with some locals over another beer.

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Hour 4 (3 pm): Leave Freetown, wander towards the canals. Find a pop up art installation and walk in to find a technicolor kaleidoscope. Have fun taking photos inside. Walk over bridges and navigate through bike riders down the walkways that line the canals.

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HOUR 5 (4 pm): Explore the streets of Nyhavn, the 17th century brightly colored waterfront lined with bars, cafes and restaurants. Watch a packed party boat go by with a band playing live music and the rest of the boat dancing and cheering behind them.

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HOUR 6 (5 pm): Find a restaurant on the water to grab something to eat. Bread, butter, lobster bisque and carpaccio. Relax for a few minutes since we’ve been running around since we got off the flight. Check the time and realize we may have relaxed too long. Quickly ask for the check and get out of there.

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HOUR 7 (6 pm): Realize we have an hour until the flight leaves and should probably have planned this better. Nervously laugh as we jog to the nearest metro stop, which is luckily only a couple blocks away. Jump on the first metro heading back toward the airport. At this point we’re uncontrollably giggling as we keep checking the time and go over our exact steps as to what we are going to do once we get off the metro in order to make this flight. I stress to myself that the next time I do this I will plan better and give myself more of a cushion. Get off, run to lockers, grab bags, run to security. Thank you, Copenhagen airport, for having an efficient security line. Get through the line within 5 minutes and run to the gate. We’re the last in line to board but we made it. Stroll onto the plane, take a deep breath, and off to Spain. Layover was a success!

 

Written by Michelle Meyer

IN WITH THE NEW IN BERLIN AND PRAGUE

By Chris Meyer

Berlin and Prague, two cities we visited prior to our Danube River Cruise, are exciting, optimistic places at the forefront of forging modern Europe. It’s clear that European Union drama that makes headlines these days is mild compared to the tortuous 20th Century.

Prague

Prague’s Old Town feels like the backdrop of a fairy tale.

Alicia, our excellent Berlin bike tour guide, told us at the outset that we would explore multiple layers of the fascinating city’s history. And layers there were.  The Brandenburg Gate, Humboldt University and the gathering of the German state with Prussia as driving force. Two cataclysmic world wars and the atrocities of the Nazis captured by the unmarked site of Hitler’s bunker and the nearby Memorial to Murdered Jews.  A remnant of the wall that once divided the city and symbolized the Cold War. And today’s Berlin, once again capital of a unified Germany with  Potsdamer Platz gleaming in an area that was bombed out and then a Berlin Wall no-man’s land, and The Reichstag (parliament) building crowned with a glass dome portraying government openness.

Awesome Alicia explains it all.

Awesome Alicia explains it all.

Our Fat Tire Bike Tour seemed the perfect way to get a good overview of Berlin. You can cover more territory than by walking, but you still get a ground-level, not a drive-by, experience. Fat Tire is highly rated and Alicia, from Alberta, Canada, lived up to my expectations. We cruised the streets of the flat, bike-friendly city to visit key markers of the layers.

The tour began at the TV Tower, a clumsy Communist concrete icon meant to project power and propaganda. Checkpoint Charlie, once a key gateway between East and West Berlin,  is a tourist trap with faux American and Soviet soldiers posing for photos for a fee.  Neither is named Charlie, which was derived from military ordering, as in alpha, bravo, Charlie for A, B, C. McDonalds and KFC loom here, as if to emphasize which side won the Cold War.

A Berlin Wall remnant and accompanying guard tower seem almost quaint until

Berlin's somber Holocaust memorial is not far from Hitler's unmarked bunker.

Berlin’s stark, somber Holocaust memorial is not far from Hitler’s unmarked bunker.

Alicia described the kill zone of barbed wire, glass shards and raked sand. Plus, the tower was surely more intimidating when manned by guards pointing their weapons. It is interesting where the wall was constructed, in some places right alongside a street.

Time out in Tiergarten.

Time out in Tiergarten.

 

 

 

We stopped in the lovely Tiergarten urban park for, what else, schnitzel and beer. Hey, we were burning calories pedaling around. Alicia pointed out some “authentic German sausage,” locals sunbathing on the grass, al natural.

Potsdamer Platz, a gleaming hotel-office-shopping-entertainment complex that was home to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt, is a post-wall creation that demonstrates the victory of capitalism and promise of a new unified Germany and post-communist Europe.  An abundance of stores and eateries offer everything from schnitzel to Starbucks. And the centerpiece entertainment complex displays its requisite corporate sponsor, Sony.

This theme was repeated throughout our trip, which meandered around the former Iron Curtain. Several local guides were quick to report that their countries are thriving with entrepreneurship and freedom. One in Prague went so far as to relate his mother’s colorful description of the communists as like “wasps in my ass.”

Standing there in Prague’s centuries-old main square, it is hard to imagine Soviet tanks crowding in to quash the Prague Spring liberalization of 1968. It’s just not that big a place. Martin, our excellent guide, described the elation when the Spring’s architect, Alexander Dubcek, emerged there after two decades under house arrest with Velvet Revolution leader Vaclav Havel to proclaim a free Czechoslovakia.

Martin in front of the group as wet set off on Taste of Prague.

Martin and the group as we set off on Taste of Prague.

Of course, our trip was about much more than the political backdrop and Prague’s history goes back much further than communists and World War II. Our Taste of Prague walking tour touched on all of it with food as a central theme – from traditional Czech to today’s trends.  I highly recommend this tour for the learning, the eating and the drinking. Over 4 1/2 hours you consume the equivalent of two excellent meals delivered in smallish portions as you meander through Old Town and learn fascinating facts about its history.

Martin started us at the trendy butcher shop where he works for traditional Czech open-face sandwiches and steak tartare.

Czechs drink a lot of beer, so Lokal served dark and light steins.

Czechs drink a lot of beer, so Lokal served dark and light steins.

We also visited Lokal, a traditional beer hall, for schnitzel, sauerkraut, sausage and beer. We each were served a full stein of light and another of dark Czech beer, which seemed like a lot until Martin described the Czech Republic’s world-leading beer consumption. More than 140 liters a year. Well, it is cheaper than bottled water or Coca Cola. And it is like cereal, right?

Other Taste stops included the restaurant of a 5-star hotel for roast duck with trimmings, a wine shop for tasting and Cafe Savoy for delicious traditional pastries and coffee. We bid farewell to Martin with tastebuds ecstatic, stomachs full and minds stimulated with insight on what makes this charming city and beautiful country tick. 

Old Town is a real life example of what Walt Disney was trying to recreate with his castle and Fantasyland. And its antiquity is completely intact as it escaped major World War II damage. These significant allures draw big crowds, so be prepared. But it is definitely worth it and is now one of my favorite cities.

prague

The iconic Charles Bridge (top photo) is decorated with religious statues, though today’s Czech Republic is overwhelmingly agnostic or atheist in contrast to its heavily Catholic neighbor Poland. The pastries at Cafe Savoy (lower left) were the perfect capstone to the delicious Taste of Prague Tour. Prague’s massive castle complex is home to palaces, cathedrals and this garden and gallery (lower right).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The four-hour drive from Prague to Nuremberg, from where our Viking River Cruise was to embark, was through the lovely Bohemian countryside. We stopped midway in Pilsen for a tour of its fascinating ancient underground tunnels and History of Beer Museum. Plus a traditional lunch of goulash.

The ingenuity of how the underground tunnels were used and how beer was brewed in pre-mechanized eras were impressive. From there it was on to the river.

Key takeaways:

  1. Our key role at Expedia CruiseShipCenters is to provide unbeatable value in experience and price. So our custom pre-cruise experience had the tours described, which are not included in Viking’s pre-cruise package, but still had a price tag significantly lower.
  2. It’s all about the people. Cultural exploration is fun, but it’s even better when shared with great. people. We struck gold on all counts. Our “Joyful Group” was filled with great traveling companions plus guides Alicia and Martin, and later cruise directory Anthony, brought many smiles to our faces and isights to our minds.
  3. We are planning more group trips in the future. If you are interested in getting in on one, give me a call at 800-745-4015.

 

 

 

 

THE JOYS OF A VIKING RIVER CRUISE

Hungary's Waterfront Parliament sparkles

Hungary’s Waterfront Parliament sparkles

By Chris Meyer

What a finale!

Budapest’s ancient buildings sparkled as the Viking Egil took a victory lap along the Danube River waterfront. We oohed and awed atop the ship and reviewed the spectacular week, taking occasional breaks from conversation to capture that perfect angle on the castle, parliament building or some other illuminated structure basking in the limelight.

The week had sped by, but at the same time the start of our journey seemed sort of distant. We had packed so much in since setting foot on this beautiful river ship seven days earlier outside of Nuremberg, Germany.

The whirlwind of sights and sounds seemed a kaleidoscope as Program Director Anthony Papandrea wound down his week of witty narration.  Our group of 22, and every other passenger I talked with, agreed that Viking exceeded even our lofty expectations.

Enjoying the scenery atop the Viking Egil.

Enjoying the scenery atop the Viking Egil.

EXPLORING IN COMFORT

Once we settled in on embarkation day, the advantage of a floating hotel was immediately evident. We hadn’t unpacked our suitcases in Berlin and Prague because of our short stays there and need to move along to the next hotel. We were able to get organized on the river cruise ship and make ourselves at home.  Our French balcony cabin was quite compact, but highly functional with a place for everything. Just don’t drop anything in the shower or you will have to open the door to retrieve it. Open the floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass door and the outside floods the room. Watch the river float by from the bed or peer over the rail to watch a lock raise or lower the vessel.

The beautiful restaurant is just down the hall, with the convivial lounge just a deck above and the 360-degree-view top deck just one more flight of stairs. Floor-to-ceiling windows everywhere mean the magnificent scenery is always in full view.

Viking ships double parked in Budapest.

Beautiful  Viking ships double parked in Budapest.

The ship is marvelously engineered to function at a high level in space constrained by the size of river locks. Similar precision is demonstrated by a crew that constantly keep the hardware polished and passengers well served. The compact galley consistently produces 5-star meals including perfectly prepared chateaubriand, surf and turf (medium rare filet mignon and lobster), and authentic wiener schnitzel on German Night.

Chateaubriand as tasty as it looks.

Steak and lobster as tasty as it looks.

The Ukrainian captain guides the vessel expertly though locks so snug there are just an inch or two to spare. When Anthony is not explaining what’s upcoming, sprinkling quips befitting the stand-up comic he is in the off season, he’s troubleshooting, quickly appearing in central Vienna after our local guide made an SOS call about a malfunctioning unit broadcasting her voice to our earpieces. He pulled a spare from his messenger bag of tricks and, viola, all is well.

INSIGHTS ASHORE

Vienna, Austria was typical of our stops along the river. After the guided walking tour, we returned to the ship for lunch and ventured out on our own for more exploration in the afternoon. In the evening, we took in a classical concert because that’s what you do in Vienna. In Nuremberg, Germany our guide reviewed the city’s long history from medieval times through its role in the rise of the Nazis and its destruction by bombing during World War II. And finally the rebuilding. One interesting fact we learned is that the ramp over the moat and to the castle gate makes a left-hand turn so right-handed hostiles’ shields would be rendered ineffective.

Picturesque Passau receives the largest chunks of tourists from river cruises.

Picturesque Passau receives the largest chunks of tourists from river cruises.

In Passau, Wolf expertly explained how the charming baroque architecture – in churches and throughout town – reflects the optimism that accompanied improving lives after the dark gothic period. For me, this was the hidden gem of the itinerary, though every stop had its delightful discoveries. In places once behind the Iron Curtain, we heard and saw again and again how the people have recovered since freedom was regained.

Austria's Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Austria’s Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Although this was a cruise, it was quite different than a large ocean ship – and not only in size. There is no casino or glitzy entertainment. An excellent piano player provided a delightful nightly soundtrack and on German Night, a combo with accordion and guitar offered rousing traditional tunes. But the true entertainment was the river. And the places. Each has its own magic. And especially the people.

The Danube winds 1,785 miles from Germany’s Black Forest to the Black Sea. I contemplate the great mass of water flowing. Constantly. It seems calm compared to the upper Arkansas River we went whitewater rafting on last year in Colorado. But its power is documented by lines on buildings marking epic floods that, over hundreds of years have periodically swamped buildings in towns along its shores .

The Egil’s top deck offers360-degree panoramas of pristine valleys, terraced vineyards, picturesque villages, colorful sunsets and constellations. It is a wonderful place to sit, mingle over drinks or move about and take pictures. That’s entertainment!

The captain in his sophisticated wheelhouse.

The captain in his sophisticated wheelhouse.

It’s no wonder people take one Viking cruise after another. We all were talking about becoming repeat customers. I even purchased discount certificates to give to customers of my travel agency.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • River cruises are a great value and a wonderful, hassle-free way to experience Europe. The value is enhanced by Viking’s air specials for early booking. $500 round-trip air from Los Angeles in this case.
  • Viking offers a high-quality luxury experience in all aspects. I look forward to sampling the ocean product and plan to redouble efforts to market this product to our customers.

    Dinner is delicious and joyful aboard the Egil.

    Dinner is delicious and joyful aboard the Egil.

  • Traveling in a group enhances your travel experience. As with anything, it’s the people that make the difference. That includes your fellow travelers, the crew and local guides. We struck gold on all counts. Program directory Anthony called us a “joyful group” in a note me. So that’s my new nickname for us as we truly enjoyed sharing the adventure with each other. Friendships were deepened and new ones made along the way. We’re already planning post-trip get-togethers including possibly a trip to Pasadena to see Anthony’s comedy act.

Want to learn more about river cruises and how our relationship with Viking and Expedia Extras can deliver the best value and make the entire process seamless?  Check out our co-branded Viking web site OCViking, email me at cmeyer@ocglobetrotter.com or give us a call at 949-201-4246. For a comparison of the various river cruise lines we book, check out Avid Cruiser.

I will review highlights of our pre-cruise activities in Berlin and Prague in a separate post.

Sunset on the Danube.

Sunset on the Danube.

 

 

 

 

10 GREAT CRUISES OUT OF LA

By Chris Meyer/ cmeyer@ocglobetrotter.com

If you’re a cruiser, chances are that you know that you can hop a ship in San Pedro and head to the Mexican Riviera: Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. This “Love Boat” route is as old as the modern cruise industry.

But you may not know about the more distant destinations, from Australia to Rome, you can access from LA. So here are 10 great cruises from LA:

  1. ALASKA: You can boacolerd the ship in shorts and flip flops, but pack warmer clothes as you will will be chilling with massive glaciers as well eagles, bears and whales. These 12- and 14-day itineraries are the easiest and most economical way to experience the Great Land.
  2. COSTA RICA AND THE PANAMA CANAL: New this year are 19-day round-trip voyages that blend the engineering masterpiece of the canal with Central America’s unspoiled rainforests.
  3. HAWAII: Plenty of relaxing sea days and visits to four Hawaiian Islands make this an epic 15-day round-trip from SoCal.
  4. TAHITI: The ship keeps going after Hawaii for a second tropical paradise – Tahiti, Bora Bora and other fabled French Polynesian wonders – on this awesome 28-day voyage, which returns you back to where you started from.
  5. SOUTH AMERICA: Mexico, Central America and all the way down the South American coast with time to visit Machu Picchu on the way.  After 17 days, you can get off in Santiago Chile and fly home or continue on the ship around the cape and all the way to Rio.
  6. NEW ZEALAND: Rather than making a U-turn in Tahiti, this ship powers on all the way to New Zealand. After 21 days at sea, you can continue another four to Australia, stick around or fly back to LA.

    Overwater bungalows are alluring but stationary.

    Overwater bungalows are alluring but stationary.

  7. ROME: Travel from La La land all the way to the Eternal City on this 31-day epic traversing the Panama Canal and Atlantic with plenty of fascinating ports of call along the way.
  8. VANCOUVER: A little closer to home, but a lovely 9-day voyage up the coast with stops in San Francisco, Astoria and Victoria. You can continue to Alaska on the luxury ship or catch a three-hour flight back home.
  9. LONDON: Take a very British ship through the canal and across the pond on a 29-day journey to England.
  10. AROUND THE WORLD: If you have 111 days you can circumnavigate the globe without visiting and airport. This is the ultimate LA cruise!

Here’s a link for searching cruises out of Los Angeles:  HomeportLA

Contact Chris Meyer for more information and exclusive Expedia pricing.  (800) 745-4015 or cmeyer@ocglobetrotter.com.

The science of how cruise ships float

harmony

The world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, weighs more than 200,000 tons…..and floats. It’s all about keeping a ship’s density lower than that of the water it is riding up. And cruise ships do this rather handily – even with rock-climbing walls and ince skating rinks. For the details, check out this Travel & Leisure article: The science of how cruise ships float