Cruising

There is no better way to visit the amazing state of Alaska than doing a Cruise/Tour. Many travelers who visit Alaska do so only on a cruise ship along its’ coast, but there is so much more to see and experience. I recently had the opportunity to visit Alaska Cruise/tour destinations on a Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise sponsored trip exploring Alaska’s major interior destinations: Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Seward and Anchorage. The vast expanse of the state has varied and stunning scenery not to be found anywhere else in North America.

Fairbanks

After arriving in Fairbanks by air, we met our escort at the Pike’s Waterfront Lodge where we spent the next two nights. Pike’s Waterfront Lodge enjoys a terrific location on the Chena River, a mile from Fairbanks International airport, 2 miles from Pioneer Park and 4 miles from the University of Alaska. The hotel has rooms with flat-screen TVs, some with balconies overlooking the river, mini fridges and microwaves and most have free Wi-Fi. Rustic log cabins elsewhere on the property feature private decks, kitchenettes and sitting rooms.

After settling in, we met our motorcoach driver for the trip and drove to the Steamboat Landing where we boarded the “Discovery III”, an old fashioned paddle-wheeler, that took us on a 2 1/2 hour journey down the Chena River. We stopped by the Susan Butcher (a 4 time Iditarod champion) Kennels to see the dogs and witness a demonstration with the dogs in harness pulling an ATV. Further down the river we had the opportunity to see a bush pilot take off from the river and land on the river. There are a great many bush pilots in Alaska and for many it is the only form of transportation. We then stopped to visit a re-created Chena Indian fishing village where we enjoyed a demonstration of catching and smoking fish, how a cache is built to store food, a typical summer tent sleeping area, a typical cabin and a presentation of how the women made clothes out of furs and animal skins. That evening we went to a salmon BBQ . . .yum!

brent jensen morris murdock travel oceania cruiseMy wife and I sailed on the Oceania Marina which holds about 1,250 passengers. I was excited to learn that the President of Oceania Cruises, Bob Binder was on our sailing. I was able to meet with Bob and I asked him to give me 3 reasons why my clients would want to sail with Oceania. His response:

  1. Our Food! Oceania Cruises is the cruise line for “foodies”
  2. Our Service! We believe we have the hardest working crew at sea!
  3. The décor and comfort of our ships.

My husband and I recently returned from a fantastic Viking River cruise on the Rhone River in the South of France. The area is known as “France’s Hidden Corner” and is full if hidden treasures and breath-taking Scenery. It is pretty serious Wine country, but I was pleasantly surprised to find there was so much more to this region. We found Roman ruins, castles and fortresses to explore everywhere we went. Art and culture is important to the locals and plenty of it to enjoy. The cities and towns were charming and had great shopping…and did I mention the food? The food was fantastic…both on the ship and off. We loved the small Bakery’s on every corner…and didn’t pass up many of them.

I have had the opportunity to cruise with 3 River cruise Companies: Viking River Cruises: (Rhone River in France, Lyon to Avignon), Uniworld River Cruise: (Netherlands, Antwerp to Amsterdam) AMA Waterways: (Danube, Vilshofen Germany to Budapest). All 3 companies were awesome and I would recommend them.

Here are some of my favorite and least favorite things about each.

Being a mother of 3 in a chaotic household sometimes you just need to get away from the constant meal prep, never ending pile of laundry and the nonstop need of 3 great kids. What better way to get away than 7 days of sailing the Pacific Ocean on the beautiful Ruby Princess. Imagine having your meals prepared for you, laundry service, and some relaxing time reading that book you never seem to get to. My Husband and I decided that was exactly what the both of us needed, dropped the kids with Grandma and flew to LAX to board our ship.

Our trip began as we landed in LAX and the Princess Representatives was there to greet us. As we boarded the bus that would take us to the ship we worried that maybe we were a little young for the cruising demographic. It didn’t take long after we got on the ship to realize we would fit in just fine and there were plenty of people of all ages.

My Mother and I recently enjoyed a cruise Amawaterways cruise Melodies of the Danube aboard the beautiful AmaStella. It was an incredible way to explore parts of Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and Czech Republic.

We arrived a day early and stayed in Budapest at the Boscolo Budapest, Autograph Collection. What a beautiful hotel! Not only was the hotel conveniently located and beautifully decorated, but the service was impeccable and the breakfast delicious. I understand that the hotel’s New York Café it has been voted the most beautiful café in the world by multiple publications. While eating breakfast in the café Hungarian violin music started playing and it took me a minute to realize it was live! I’m a violinist myself and I was such a fun surprise! I would definitely recommend staying at the Boscolo Budapest if you visit that interesting city.

During our cruise aboard the AmaStella we enjoyed wonderful service and top quality accommodations. I was impressed with the cultural touches such as food which was specially tuned to the locations we visited (all of the food on the ship was fantastic), and local musicians and dancers which were brought on board to really give us a taste of the local culture. I felt like even though we were only briefly in each location the cruise did a fantastic job of maximizing our experience with the tours, food and shows. The guides were professional, funny, and very knowledgeable. Also each tour stop had a few options available depending on the desired activity level of those participating. The cruise made our lives easy and although we were always busy with tours or eating delicious meals, I found it was very relaxing. The time aboard was a perfect bonding time for my Mom and I, and I especially loved the Mozart concert in Vienna. As a musician it was everything I could have wanted and more.