On the Tenth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: European River Cruising

Exploring Europe via a river cruise has gained a large momentum over the past ten years. Several river cruise companies have emerged, built new ships, and today, you have a large choice of itineraries as well as different river cruise companies.

River cruises are best planned well ahead. The pricing can seem steep initially, but a lot is included. Also, promotions and discounts are available if you plan to travel during the off-season, or chose a less popular cruise itinerary.

The most popular river cruise itinerary sails along the Danube River. The Danube originates in Germany and crosses Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine before draining into the Black Sea. A typical River Cruise itinerary, however, travels between the Nuremberg/Regensburg area to Budapest only, making several stops throughout Austria, most notably Vienna.

architecture bridge building structures castle

Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

Equally popular is a Rhine River cruise which sails between Basel, Switzerland and Amsterdam, Netherlands. It travels along the German/French allowing guests to visit the romantic Alsace Region and then continues through Germany on to the Netherlands (or the other way around).

The Seine River is a wonderful option for guests who are interested in Paris, France’s countryside, all the way to Normandy. As it travels a rather short distance, it often is roundtrip and allows for a lot of in-depth stops.

For wine lovers, a Bordeaux river cruise is an excellent option. Staying within a fairly small area, it allows its guests to visit famous wine regions like Pauillac and St. Emilion.

There are many more river cruise options within central Europe all with a different flair and unique experiences.

This blog post is the tenth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring Europe at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.  To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Cruise versus all-inclusive, or is a Cruise really all-inclusive?

Ever wonder if a cruise is less expensive than a stay at an all-inclusive resort?

The average US citizen is entitled to 16 days of paid leave. However, not all people take the entire time off, or even parts of it for that matter. As a result, the average vacation lasts for about 4 days. Needless to say, we want to get as much as possible out of the vacation we take.

waterfall, rappelling, costa rica, adventure travel, aavtravelWhen looking for an affordable, easy, and uncomplicated vacation, many people turn to either a cruise, or choose to stay at an all-inclusive resort. The idea of having your vacation pre-paid and not much to worry about once you get there, sounds very appealing to many.

all-inclusive, playa del carmen, palace resort, mexico, aavtravelHowever, an all-inclusive resort experience can seem pricey upfront compared to a cruise, especially with cruise lines advertising fabulous voyages aboard a spectacular ship for next to nothing. Once you start to truly look at these fares however, you quickly realize that they do not include taxes and surcharges. In addition you also need to add the travel cost to the ship when calculating your total vacation cost. Since it is recommended you arrive a day early at your port, you also incur the cost of an additional overnight stay.

Truth be told, a cruise is nothing more than a couple of hotel nights including a full-pension meal plan. Most everything else will end up costing extra. Whilst you might pay less for your cruise upfront (if you do, after you add up all the surcharges and the pre- and post cruise travel expenses), you might just be surprised at how high your final invoice can be once you are ready to disembark your ship.

cruise, princess, alaska, aavtravelOn our recent Princess Cruise for example, we paid the following surcharges:

  • $11.50 per person and day in tips (7 day cruise means $80.50 extra per person). These tips cover your stateroom steward and main dining room staff, however you are still expected to tip in the bar and entertainment areas…
  • Specialty restaurants ($25 – $40 per person extra). Do you really need them? No. But if you want a more sophisticated, a cooked to order meal in a more intimate atmosphere, then yes, it is something you want to splurge for.
  • Wireless connections are highly valued these days. Trust me, if you want or need to be connected on your cruise this is a high ticket item. We are talking an easy $75 for 120 minutes.
  • Alcohol ranged from $6 for a beer to $12 for a more fancy cocktail. The all-inclusive option you can add on, on cruises longer than 7 days, comes with a steep price tag of $50 per day. Everybody in your stateroom needs to have it. So again, 7 day cruise add $350 extra per person just for alcohol (and this will not yet give you free access to the top shelf whiskys)
  • Access to the adult-only area, $40 a day per person
  • A spinning class, $15 per person
  • Room service surcharge
  • If you wish your minibar stocked in your room, expect to pay about $60 for one setup.
  • Wine tasting, $25 per person

all-inclusive, resort, pool, dominican republic, secrets royal beach, aavtravelGranted, upfront a trip to an all-inclusive resort might look like an extra $500 per person if you compare it to the fare of the lowest costing stateroom, but it will have the following perks included:

  • Unlimited alcoholic beverages (and smoothies, and specialty coffees…), top-shelf alcohol at many resorts, no questions asked
  • Specialty gourmet restaurants, oftentimes room service. You can eat around the clock and usually don’t have to pay any surcharges.
  • Access to adult-only area? Absolutely, either it is an adult-only resort, or if it offers and adult-only section you don’t have to pay extra to get there.
  • Spinning classes, yoga and pilates classes, zumba classes. I have not yet found a resort that charges extra for any of them.
  • A minibar, fully stocked and restocked daily.
  • My personal favorite, a window! Even if it just overlooks a distant parking lot or gardens.
  • Most every resort includes the use of water sports equipment, some even include snorkeling and diving excursions, or evening catamaran cruises. Entertainment, tastings, and sorts of other activities are included as well.
  • Oftentimes tips

If you are wanting a vacation that is relaxing, where you can enjoy drinking, and don’t want to worry about how much money you have to pay once you get back, then hands down, the all-inclusive resort is you better option.

cruise, ship, pool, princess, aavtravelHowever, here are a few good reasons, to take a cruise:

  • You get to experience several places without having to pack and unpack (especially true for cruises longer than just 4 days).
  • Some destinations are harder to get to and a cruise makes them more accessible (Alaskan coast line, some of the smaller, off the beaten path, Caribbean islands, the Mediterranean coast…).
  • You enjoy being confined on a boat with strangers in a Vegas like atmosphere.

Ultimately it comes down to what you are looking to get from your vacation versus which one really is cheaper. If you decide to cruise properly (stateroom with a window, alcohol every now and then…) you will likely end up paying just as much, if not more, as you would at an all-inclusive resort.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Do-it-Yourself Shore Excursion: Juneau, Alaska

Clouds are hanging low over Juneau on this morning in June. No roads lead to this city and it can only be accessed either by plane or boat.  I am not a large cruise ship fan and this particular cruise aboard the Crown Princess represents a means to an end. It gets me where I would like to go. As soon as we disembark, I am determined to lose as many co-cruisers as possible. juneau, cruise pier, crown princess, alaska, aavtravel I had researched hiking trails in Juneau and originally thought we would take the cable car up to Mount Roberts. However, once they started promoting this particular idea to the 3,500 passengers on board, I quickly made up my mind. Instead of taking the cable car, we would actually hike the trail leading up to Mount Roberts. Just before noon we disembark and our first stop is the post office. Juneau’s post office looks like a gift store. You would never recognize it, if it wasn’t for the official sign. The girl behind the open, wooden table counter, is super smiley and welcoming. She points us to The Rookery, a local favorite, famous for its house made burgers. Yes, you might argue that eating burger in Alaska doesn’t really make sense, but when you are trying to escape the other tourists in the area, one is willing to compromise. The Rookery was packed with local people, no tourists in sight. People here were mingling, chatting. The restaurant/coffee bar appeared to be Juneau’s conversation melting pot. The food was outstanding and the service super friendly. juneau, alaska, downtown, aavtravelAfter lunch we head off uphill to the Mount Robert’s trail head. We are “alone” except for the local people that are going for a run or are walking their dogs. The walk uphill to the trailhead takes us along colorful houses, beautiful and lush gardens. We also see the old Russian Orthodox church. russian church, juneau, alaska, aavtravel Just as we are about to get to the trail head we pass a young man. He curiously asked us if we were locals (I guess we did not quite look the part, but then again our gear wasn’t all that off). As we decline he suggests we continue wwalking on straight, as there are waterfalls and a black bear to be seen. On the hunt for the black bear we give up the idea of climbing Mount Roberts and instead embark on the Perseverance Trail. The Perseverance Trail is historically one of Alaska’s most significant trails during the Gold Rush. We had no idea what to expect, but what we found was absolutely stunning. Steep mountain sides, waterfalls, lush and versatile nature, offering a new surprise around every corner. Nature at its purest. We filled our water bottles in the streams that we crossed and continued our way far beyond what we had originally planned. perseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravelperseverance trail, waterfall, juneau, alaska, aavtravelperseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravelperseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravel perseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravel perseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravelThe Perseverance Trail makes for a wonderful do it yourself shore excursions. Here are a few things you will want to watch out for:

  • Weather changes constantly. Be prepared for rain as well as sunshine, it can change in minutes.
  • Bring some empty water bottles so you can fill them up with fresh water from the streams
  • Your shoes need good tread. The terrain goes up and downhill, there are rocks, gravel, water to cross. Make sure your shoes snug tightly to your feet and your gear is adequate
  • About half way into the trail you lose cell phone signal, meaning you are on your own
  • If you see a bear, don’t run. Instead, curl up on the floor in a ball and pretend to be dead.
  • The trail requires a certain level of fitness. You do not need to be a professional athlete, but it is steep at times and can be a bit challenging.
  • You can do the trail with your children, however they need to be old enough to hike on their own and you need to feel comfortable to let them run a little risk every now and then
  • Bring bug spray, just in case
  • It takes about 45 minutes to walk from the cruise terminal to the trail head. By the time we made it to a spot called “Glory Hole” and back to the ship, we had walked about 8 miles.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT Stefanie Pichonnat is a Princess Cruise Lines Certified Expert at AAV Travel. With her personal experience in Alaska she can help you create and customize a personalized travel itinerary. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com