Mary & Bill Cross the Atlantic on the Royal Clipper
Working in the travel business I meet people with 2 divergent opinions of cruising –
Opinion 1: I want to enjoy the port experience. Cruising is a convenient way to get from port to port. Yes, the cruise ship and its amenities are important but the immersive port experience is what drives the choice of cruises.
Opinion 2: I want to enjoy the ship. In fact, I don’t care if I ever get off the ship. I love the casinos, the onboard entertainment, lectures, and the food and drink. I love hanging out in the lounges, restaurants, library, and coffee shop – hanging out with new friends I meet onboard.
Just a Few Days to Add Pre or Post? Pick a Great City and Go for It!
I joined two friends on a Norway-bound Celebrity ship out of Southampton this spring. It was a gorgeous cruise but only 7 days so why not take advantage of the long flight and enjoy a few extra days? This go-round, we selected one of my favorite cities in the world – London!
It does not matter how many times you visit this iconic city, there is always something new. And in London, the old never gets old. Here, a few highlights from our 4 days:
Day 1. The best advice after a long flight from the US is to stay awake till the sun sets! We settled in to our accommodations in Fitzrovia and walked to the corner pub for a light lunch and to explore the neighborhood. I highly recommend boutique hotels or apartments in one of London’s many neighborhoods. Shopping, restaurants, pubs, and museums abound whether you’re in Fitzrovia, Mayfair, Knightsbridge – or many other fabulous areas of this colorful city. And when you have just a few days, make sure to have a “must-do” list. For us, a must-do was fish & chips which we enjoyed at the Golden Hind – a mile walk down the road followed by a quick trip to the neighborhood Tesco to get a bottle of wine and some snacks for our apartment.
Ginger and I have both recently returned from European river cruises with Ama Waterways – me on the Garonne River in Bordeaux for a wine-themed cruise and Ginger on the enchanting Rhine. What a way to go! Here are our top 10 things we love about river cruising.
1. Easy on easy off. River cruising is a hassle free way to get right into the heart of amazing cities and towns along the way. Whether your preference is exploring on your own via Ama-supplied bikes, on foot, or by public transportation, guided walks or bike rides, you’ll find yourself in the center of historic towns. I had the pleasure of spending 3 days in Bordeaux, a historic trading center which lost its lustre in the 19th century but which has been beautifully restored. We took a brisk (VERY brisk) walk with a local resident tour guide to get a fantastic overview, then later explored on our own, seeking (and finding) the famous Dune cake from Patisserie David
55 intrepid sailors, many of them members of the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club, traveled with Bay World Travel on board the Royal Clipper, the world’s largest sailing ship, in September.
Our itinerary took us from Venice, then across the Adriatic, to the beautiful Dalmatian coast, where we anchored off the picturesque landscapes of Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia. The perfectly preserved or restored medieval towns of Kotor, Dubrovnik (thanks to UNESCO and humanitarian aid its immaculate walled city is completely restored since the devastating 1990’s Serbo-Croatian wars), Hvar, Rovinj, and Piran charmed us all.
For the past 20 years, I have traveled with my dear friends Chris and Kate every 5 years for our milestones (we share the same birth year). Over that span of time, I’ve taken the time away from children, responsibilities, and husband Bill to enjoy quality time with friends for a week to 10 days per trip. We’ve been to Napa, Lake Tahoe, Ireland, Spain, Alaska, and have even done a couple “staycations” together. We are perfect travel companions!
My children are now grown, Bill is still working but headed for retirement, and I’m getting close to 65. While Chris, Kate, and I were on our last official milestone trip when we turned 60 – to Barcelona and the Costa Brava of Spain – we agreed we had to accelerate our schedule if we want to see everything we want to in our lives.
Yes, it’s challenging to balance obligations and responsibilities, but the rewards of traveling with close friends and family are priceless. Let me share a couple client stories with you.
Christine and her husband have been all over the world. But when she was ready to celebrate a milestone birthday at 50, she decided she wanted to share the experience with a group of friends who share her love of Italian food and cooking. This group of six included sophisticated world travelers like Christine and first-time to Europe travelers, but they share a bond of friendship and common interests together. After almost a year of planning, the group headed to Florence, the Tuscan countryside for 3 days of cooking classes, and Rome in November. They enjoyed each other’s company, great food and conversation, and new recipes to showcase at home. They toured the Uffizi in Florence, had a wonderful private tour at the Vatican, and cooked, laughed and drank wine together. When I met with them after their return, what they most valued about this amazing trip was the time they got to hang out together. Because they shared typical small European hotel rooms, they appreciated the intimate public areas of the Hotel Cellai in Florence and especially loved the small Villa Fattoria Valle in Panzano where they were the only guests.
Flo and Vivian are friends but their relationship is really more like that of sisters (it’s equally awesome to travel with sisters as I can attest to!). They love to travel together and have discovered the joys of river cruising. They are inveterate shoppers and their first river cruise experience was an Ama Waterways cruise on the Danube from Budapest to Prague for the Christmas market season. I was so impressed with these two women – they went to each of the markets and each stand at each market. In Salzburg alone, they visited 120 stalls and came away with fabulous and unique treasures for friends and family. They had such a great time they signed up for another Ama Waterways cruise – this one along the Rhine and waterways of Germany and the Netherlands to experience tulip time. They were delighted with the 125th anniversary commemoration of the death of Van Gogh with a spectacular “Van Gogh” tulip display at Keukenhof fields. They exuberantly shared photos, their treasures, and even recipes from Ama Waterways which focuses on the regional cuisine of its destinations.
When you have friends who share that kind of enthusiasm and interests, why not channel it into a trip together? Life is too short not to go. Here’s my short list of tips to make traveling with friends the perfect experience:
Plan ahead to minimize surprises. The planning process helps crystallize what is important for all the friends traveling together. A travel professional – such as any one of our team members at Bay World Travel – is an objective and collaborative partner in making sure it’s an experience you’ll all find amazing.
Allow for downtime on your trip to make time for what friends value most – conversation and companionship.
Consider cruising. Whether a small vessel like AmaWaterways or a large ship, there’s opportunity for friends to do things together or separately. When I went on the Alaska cruise with friends and family, we always gathered for a pre-dinner cocktail and dinner – sometimes sharing stories of what we did together and sometimes what we did on our own.
Do a trial run. Haven’t traveled with this friend or group of friends before? Try a weekend getaway to see just how compatible you are as travel companions.
Get extra amenities. If you want to invite friends along on a cruise, tour or resort stay, there are often extra benefits we can negotiate to help sweeten the deal.
Call Bay World Travel today to start planning your next adventure with friends and family!