Down the Danube with Avalon Waterways

“From Vienna to Budapest, a river cruise showcases off-the-beaten path things to experience.”

There’s a fire in the kitchen! Sparks are flying after chef Karl Wrenkh pours a small vial of vodka into a simmering pan of oyster mushroom stroganoff and quickly takes a lighter to it — causing the liquid substance to instantly burst into metre-high flames.

But unlike some failed dinners that accidently transform meals into a charred crisp, his concoction is all about deliberately sealing some extra flavour into a mouthwatering recipe. 

From the newly-remodelled cooking studio of Wrenkh Vienna Culinary School, the budding entrepreneur explained how he and his brother Leo followed in their parents’ footsteps to bring local, fresh and healthy cuisine to life in a destination that’s universally renowned for being the home of the Wiener schnitzel. It’s a rather interesting story too, considering the family isn’t vegetarian but rather, stems from a long history of butchering. 

“Nobody in the family ever was [vegetarian] — we’re actually a family of butchers. We still feel there’s a lack of really good, quality vegetarian food in Austria. It’s great fun cooking vegetarian stuff because we can still always be creative with the recipes,” he said. “My parents were among the first vegetarian chefs in Austria in the 1990s, but then they divorced and we didn’t exist for a couple of years… then my brother and I opened up here in ’09. It’s 80% vegetarian with meat and fish [on the menu] — we say we cook what we hunt and fish.” 

Today, the restaurant has not only become a trendy spot for lunch and dinner, but a cooking hub for visitors and locals alike to learn how to make mainly vegetarian meals with a twist during daily culinary workshops. The Wrenkh brothers, who have their own cookbooks, are also co-creators of Avalon Fresh, river cruise line Avalon Waterways’ selection of healthy and vegetarian menu offerings onboard.

“We had a need to elevate our vegetarian cuisine; we didn’t want to serve pasta every day,” noted Pam Hoffee, the president of Avalon Waterways, who was also on location for the cooking demonstration. “Originally, it was about vegetarian cuisine but then we saw a trend towards healthy eating as well. It’s helped us elevate that and it’s been evolving over time.”

The suite life 

Recently christened by 15-time Emmy Award-winning host, executive producer and anchor Meredith Vieira, Avalon View is the newest ship to join Avalon’s fleet. The 166-passenger ship is mostly made up of 200 sq. ft. Panorama Suites with floor-to-ceiling 11-feet wide windows that slide wide open. There are also two large 300 sq. ft. Royal Suites, complete with two sinks and a powder room for guests for those seeking even more space.

Travellers looking to experience the ship firsthand can take part in a variety of Danube-based itineraries offered this year, including a special Gone Girl! departure on Sept. 15 with author Gillian Flynn.

After transforming the ship from Lot #02338024 to Avalon View, Vieira, well known for her time on television as the host of The View and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, admitted to having a slight fear of water before agreeing to take on duties as godmother. 

“It’s so warm and inviting. I love the size of the ship. You feel like you’re part of a family,” she said, reflecting on her time on the ship. “There’s an intimacy to it that’s really lovely. I really feel like I’m immersed in the culture around me because of the fact that we’re constantly stopping and you have the opportunity to do so many different things in port. The food on this ship is really good and the wine is unbelievable. I would definitely do it again. I could see myself doing it alone, it’s definitely a great experience as a family or friends. You can make it whatever you want.”

Highlights along the route

Unlike ocean cruises where guests often wake up somewhere new every morning, the river cruise journey takes place during the day so that all those onboard can soak up the scenery as the ship moves past historic castles, stunning landscapes and picturesque buildings like Dürnstein’s blue Abbey. Another must on a river cruise down the Danube is an evening illumination cruise past landmarks in Budapest like the The Hungarian Parliament Building and Castle Hill. 

While in port, a variety of daily tours ranging from active hiking or biking outings to classic city explorations are offered to give visitors the chance to have a deeper connection and understanding of the destination. These options allow travellers to customize their river cruise journey from start-to-finish based on personal interests. In Bratislava, for example, a classic option would be a city tour with a stop to enjoy Slovakian liquor tasting at the St. Nicolaus Distillery. Meanwhile an active option would be hiking through the forest and vineyards of Raca, followed by a wine tasting. There is really no wrong choice and it can be tough to narrow down which tour to choose. The convenient thing about being docked in the heart of the city is that it’s also easy to get on and off to explore. There’s ample free time built into each itinerary so that those who are torn between two daily excursions will be able to cross off some of those sights on their own.




Feel like royalty on this luxury barge that offers private tours down the River Thames

European Waterways’ Magna Carta hotel barge, which cruises Britain’s River Thames, takes guests on daily, sometimes private tours to some of the opulent royal residences that feature prominently in the UK’s celebration of the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.

Along the way, they cruise in utmost comfort, dine on gastronomic meals prepared by their personal chef, drink the finest regional wines, and enjoy views of castles, lavish estates, and the rural beauty of the English countryside that are fit for dignitaries.

With cabins on the Magna Carta quickly selling out for the 2022 season, travellers can still book 2023 and beyond at current prices, which start at $5,190 per person, based on double occupancy. Whole-boat charters start at $38,200 and allow guests to indulge in interests such as antiquing, golf and tennis, as well as family activities.

Magna Carta’s interior.

Palaces and Castles

Among the numerous excursions on Magna Carta’s itinerary is a private tour of Hampton Court Palace. Guests visit some of Henry VIII’s apartments and the Palace’s haunted gallery, where rumor has it that his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, ran screaming to confront Henry VIII when she found that he had discovered her affair. Guests will visit the original Tudor kitchens, which are complete with a hearth that is still used to demonstrate how meat was cooked on a spit. They will also tour the wood-beamed Great Hall that dates to the sixteenth century, as well as the elegant, manicured grounds of the East-facing Privy Garden.

 Magna Carta guests can also enjoy a cruise to Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite residence. Built by William the Conqueror more than 900 years ago, it is the largest castle in the world that is still inhabited today.  Guests will be treated to a “Behind the Scenes” tour of the College of St. George and visit St. Georges Chapel, where the Royal Wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was held. They will also enjoy breathtaking views of the 2.5 mile Long Walk which leads to the Castle. 

Windsor Castle

Depending on the itinerary, Magna Carta can also provide guests with a private tour of Dorney Court. This Tudor manor house has been owned by the Palmer family for more than 450 years. It has served as a filming location for well-known titles like “Poirot” and “The Other Boleyn Girl.”
 
The Magna Carta’s classic cruise includes an excursion to Cliveden Estate, which once belonged to George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and a favorite of Charles II’s court. Cliveden was later also home to the American Astor family, during which it became a destination for high society, entertaining Prime Ministers like David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.
 
“An all-inclusive European Waterways hotel barge cruise is the perfect way to celebrate your own jubilee or any other special occasion – or just to spend a week of pampering, gentle touring, and relaxation,” said Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways.  “Regardless of the cruise region you chose, you will always get the royal treatment!”
 

Sailing away with Holland America Line

As a company that’s been around for going on 150 years, Holland America Line is no stranger to adapting.

The premium cruise line started out as a shipping and passenger line, slowly gaining a reputation for safely bringing emigrants from Europe to North America. Nearly one million people made the journey to new beginnings and adventures on a Holland America ship — including Albert Einstein, Olympic boxing champion Bep van Klaveren, Alfred Hitchcock, Ernest Hemingway and Roald Dahl — to name but a few.

During the First World War, several ships were called upon to carry and transport soldiers. In the Second World War,, ships like Nieuw Amsterdam were even converted into troopships, eventually resuming regular operations after being refitted back to passenger ships post war.

At the height of the prohibition, the company offered what could be dubbed the original booze cruises — taking passengers into international waters from New York City to serve alcohol. Now doesn’t that sound like a party?

Facing other challenges like stiff competition and the takeoff of trans-Atlantic air travel, HAL charted a course for new destinations in the Caribbean and Alaska, transitioning to a primary focus on cruise holidays.

And while the pandemic dealt another blow, the cruise line forged ahead to make sure the return to the waters would be strong by enhancing its content and putting in place new programming to mark its 75th year of operations in Alaska.

“The pandemic has been hard, but as I stand here today, I’m flooded with hope and filled with confidence that our best days are still ahead,” Michelle Sutter, vice president of North America sales, said kicking off a session during the Attitude of Gratitude trade appreciation cruise held on the Rotterdam from March 10 to 13.

The new Pinnacle-class ship is the seventh to hold the Rotterdam name, including the company’s first ship, the original Rotterdam. Although the flagship has come a long way since those original cross Atlantic sailings with offerings like the Music Walk, featuring nightly entertainment ranging from B.B. King’s Blues Club to the Rolling Stone Rock Room, where a live band plays classic rock and roll hits, and a culinary scene with high-end options like Tamarind and Rudi’s Sel de Mer to quick bites like gourmet hotdogs and burgers, elements of the past are still evident throughout.

“Our first ship was Rotterdam. The company was headquartered in Rotterdam — it’s actually a hotel now,” explained Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line. “There’s always been a Rotterdam as part of the fleet. The history of the company is very important to us — it’s acknowledging our roots, where we’re coming from and where we started.”

The evolution of HAL plays out during an evening staged presentation called Origin Story on Rotterdam and look no further than the cocktail menu at Half Moon Bar for a drink called the Three Mile Run, in honour of the prohibition days.

And for those truly wanting to get back to HAL’s origins, Rotterdam will be replicating the first crossing from Holland to New York on a special itinerary set for Oct. 2, 2022. Although unlike the original crossing 150 years ago, there are added ports of call on the docket like Copenhagen and Paris.

“We’re adding a few other ports because just a straight-shot Rotterdam to New York wouldn’t be that interesting — but in October, this ship will go from the Netherlands to New York, we stop in Paris along the way, which is nice. That voyage in particular will have a lot of our history and some of the memorabilia,” said Antorcha. “It’s pretty cool when you’ve been operating 150 years and started around bringing emigrants and doing it in a way that was safe. It was safe passage, it was quality, but it was focused on emigration.”

And stay tuned for 2023, as the company marks a milestone 150 years of operations since officially being founded on April 18, 1873. More details about highlights and the celebrations that are in store will be released closer to the anniversary date.

“The not so obvious advantage for booking a cruise right now, at least in the short term, is service,” he said. “The ships are staffed up and the service is excellent. Compare it to other options today where costs may be high with service gaps due to staff shortages and supply chain issues. This was not a issue on board which was a delight to experience.”

As for the Rotterdam, Pearlman said the flow of the ship made sense and it was apparent that “HAL is just as delighted to be back to cruising.”

“The Pinnacle class ships are great,” he said. “Small enough not to feel crowded but big enough for lots of extra space and energy. I think there something for everyone but I would say it’s geared more towards adults — of any age — with an affinity for music and food.”

Ritz-Carlton is adding two new super yachts to its luxury collection

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is expanding its fleet with the addition of two newbuild superyachts, Ilma and Luminara, slated to set sail in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

These superyachts will be constructed in collaboration with world- renowned shipyard, Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Sant-Nazaire, France, with an option for additional vessels. Chantiers de l’Atlantique will carry out all production and development, including enhanced design and sustainability features, guided by the highest shipbuilding and marine engineering practices within the ultra-luxury sector. The announcement comes at an exciting time as The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection prepares to launch its first superyacht, Evrima, this summer.

The specially designed superyachts feature the highest space ratios at sea, with 228 suites, each with its own private terrace, and will offer a high percentage of larger suites, with two new, spacious upper suite categories measuring up to 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) in size. Both vessels will showcase modern craftsmanship and interior finishes imagined by London-based architect and design firm, AD Associates, and lighting designer, DPA. Finland-based yacht stylist, Aivan, developed the exterior design of the newbuilds, taking inspiration from the elegant aesthetics of private yacht design.

The onboard experience will reflect the sublime comfort and legendary guest service for which the iconic Ritz-Carlton brand is recognized. Having the highest staff-to-guest ratios in the luxury cruising category, Ilma and Luminara will provide nearly one staff member for every guest. In addition to unparalleled accommodations, the new superyachts will include five restaurants, six bars, a wine vault, and signature spaces found on Evrima such as an expanded marina with a new mezzanine feature, a Ritz-Carlton Spa, and a special space for Ritz Kids programming. For special events, groups can enjoy an exclusive cocktail reception on the yacht’s expanded bow.

Reaffirming The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s commitment to implementing sustainable practices throughout the business, each vessel will be fitted with four dual-fuel engines and utilize liquefied natural gas (LNG) as its main fuel source, significantly reducing emissions as compared to traditional practices. Additionally, the yachts will include advanced water treatment systems, an efficient heat recovery loop, LED lighting, and more, with the goal of minimizing environmental impact.

Reservations for the 2024 season of itineraries will open to the public this fall. The new superyachts will feature itineraries ranging from seven to 10 nights in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and offer an all- inclusive experience. These superyachts will also be available for private charter.

Oceania Cruises Insignia ship in Sydney harbour infront of the Sydney Opera House

You can visit 96 destinations in just 180 days aboard this luxury cruise

Oceania Cruises has just released its 2024 Around the World in 180 Days itinerary in addition to four distinct Grand Voyages of 72 to 82 days in length. Featuring 96 destinations in 34 countries, the world cruise aboard the luxurious 684-guest Insignia departs Los Angeles for New York on January 14, crossing three oceans and 15 seas from the South Pacific to the coasts of Europe.

Commencing an intriguing westward route, Insignia sails across the Pacific to legendary beauties in the Hawaiian Islands, French Polynesia and the Samoan Islands. She continues south toward the dramatic fjords of New Zealand and on to adventures Down Under. Navigating the most thrilling corners of Asia, guests will have the chance to immerse themselves in everything from the spiritual haven of Bali and the Japanese culinary powerhouses of Tokyo and Kyoto to the dramatic landscape of Ha Long Bay and a true feast for the senses, Yangon. More revelatory explorations await on the exotic shores of India and the Arabian Peninsula, followed by experiences in jewel-box destinations across the Mediterranean and the northern reaches of Europe before crossing the Atlantic to crown the journey on the Eastern Seaboard with her final call in New York.

This epic voyage features over 100 UNESCO World Heritage sites across 96 destinations, with 24 overnight stays and a series of curated complimentary special onshore events and optional multi-day overland programs. Starting at $48,499 per person, the world cruise boasts free first-class roundtrip airfare, an array of included amenities with the Exclusive Prestige Package such as free laundry services, a free visa package, free Internet, free pre-paid gratuities, free luggage delivery, plus Oceania Cruises’ inclusive OLife Choice amenities.

In addition to Insignia‘s Around the World itinerary, Oceania Cruises’ four new Grand Voyages range from 72 to 82 days and feature extended evening port stays plus meaningful excursions ashore that connect guests to the place, culture and people visited. Whether choosing a Grand Voyage that reveals the colorful and varied countries and cultures within the vast expanse of the Eastern world or a journey that links multiple distinct regions together, such as the South Pacific, Australia, Southeast Asia and Africa, guests will experience the beauty of leisurely global travel with more time to indulge in the luxury and comfort of Oceania Cruises.

Four new Grand Voyages

  • Grand Pacific Expedition from Los Angeles to Sydney: This 77-day voyage departs Oct. 4, 2023, on Regatta and visits 12 countries with 10 overnights in iconic ports such as Kyoto, Shanghai, Bali and Perth. From $15,199 per person.
  • Odyssey of Discoveries from Abu Dhabi to Tokyo: This 82-day voyage departs Dec. 29, 2023, on Riviera and visits 18 countries with an array of discoveries across the Arabian Peninsula, India and Asia, plus calls at less-trodden corners such as Sri Lanka and the secluded paradise of the Maldives. From $21,199 per person.
  • Epic Eastern Explorer from Mumbai to Tokyo: This 72-day journey departing Jan. 8, 2024, on Riviera visits 15 countries with calls in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangkok and Seoul while also exploring Myanmar’s monasteries, contrasting rural and city life in Vietnam, experiencing revered culinary traditions in Japan and more. From $19,599 per person.
  • Ultimate Exotic Traveler from Papeete to Cape Town: This 79-day voyage departs Feb. 19, 2024, on Nautica with a 15-country itinerary featuring a remarkable array of top attractions such as the gorgeous lagoons of Moorea, the unique geothermal landscapes of Rotorua, the iconic Sydney Opera House, the UNESCO-protected Komodo National Park and the renowned game reserves of South Africa. From $19,999 per person.

These Grand Voyages feature extraordinary value with amenities such as free business-class airfare, free airport transfers, free pre-paid gratuities, free luggage delivery and Oceania Cruises’ inclusive OLife Choice amenities like the choice of either free shore excursions, a beverage package or shipboard credit.

Detailed brochures for Oceania Cruises’ 2024 Around the World in 180 Days cruise may be found here and for the 2023-2024 Grand Voyages here. 

Adventure awaits aboard Tradewind Voyages’ Golden Horizon

The world’s largest square-rigged sailing vessel, Golden Horizon, will have its guests remembering a time when the sea beckoned for all those seeking to abandoned dry land for an adventure at sea. A near replica of the 1913-built ocean vessel, France II, the Golden Horizon retains the charm, adventure and romance of an historic ship. And it attracts like-minded adventure seekers for a sailing experience that will allow guests to connect with the elements of the natural world.

The ambience on board is relaxed, casual, elegant and without unnecessary formality – an environment that encourages guests to return time and time again and to share their stories and experiences. All of the Golden Horizon’s 140 cabins are outside facing, providing breath-taking views and evoking the luxury and facilities expected of a boutique cruise ship, but retaining the charm, adventure and romance of a truly historic sailing vessel.

Powered by its billowing sails, the tall ship will follow the sun as much as possible, providing guests with the chance to discover a new-found freedom and the time to connect with the beauty of the natural world. In fact, Tradewind Voyages makes it clear that on its cruises, it intends to spend as much time as possible using the Golden Horizon’s sails, rather than using its main propulsion engines. And its Captain will endeavour to plot courses using the local winds and currents to give guests a true sailing experience and adventure on every voyage.

From May to October 2022, Tradewind Voyages’ Golden Horizon will be based in the Mediterranean before repositioning to the Caribbean for winter 2022 season. It will operate three new collections — Western Mediterranean, Central Mediterranean and Eastern Mediterranean (including Greece and Turkey) – for its Mediterranean summer season 2022. The extensive program will offer 22 different voyages and include visits to Spain, France, Italy, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece and Turkey.
(tradewindvoyages.com)

The Suite Life

Whether you call it your home away from home or your own private oasis, living “the suite life” is a breeze with Celebrity Cruises.

With suite accommodations setting the standard for modern luxury, Celebrity offers unparalleled comfort and convenience, as well as exceptional amenities and exclusive on-board experiences from personal butler service to private restaurants and lounges.

Celebrity’s spectacular Penthouse Suite, available across its fleet (with the exception of Xploration and Xpedition), offers 1,291 square feet of indoor space and comes with a separate living area, Baby Grand piano and private veranda, complete with whirlpool and lounge seating. Guests can unwind in modern living spaces or soak up the experience in a marble master bath with whirlpool tub and separate shower.

Celebrity also indulges every suite guest with an array of special services and amenities, including butler service; Luminae, a private restaurant for suite guests only (available on all Millennium, Solstice and Edge Class Ships); and Michael’s Club, an exclusive lounge with dedicated concierge. Suite guests also receive complimentary 24-hour in-suite dining; unlimited dining and preferred seating in specialty restaurants; fully stocked mini bar daily; complimentary Premium Beverage Package; unlimited Internet; and reserved theatre seating on Evening Chic nights.

Taking the cruise experience to the next level are exclusive features like priority check-in, embarkation, debarkation and port tendering; priority luggage delivery; Celebrity’s eXhale bedding, featuring plush duvets, 100% pure cotton sheets and a pillow menu; Bulgari luxury bath amenities; fresh flowers delivered daily; and complimentary laundry service twice per cruise.

     Celebrity’s newest vessel, Celebrity Edge, transforms the suite class experience even further with its outward-facing design and introduction of The Retreat, an exclusive resort sanctuary indulging guests with a spacious outdoor lounge area with plush, stylish furniture, sundeck, full-sized pool and hot tub, dedicated butlers, and restaurant – all complimentary. This is a special space available 24/7 for beverages, gourmet bites and live entertainment. The Edge’s new suite options include the Edge Villa, Celebrity’s first two-storey suites offering 950 square feet of split-level splendour, seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor living, with one bedroom and two bathrooms and the Iconic Suite perched above the bridge for panoramic views. With two king-sized bedrooms, two full baths, and enough indoor/outdoor living for six guests, this is the the ultimate in indulgence at sea.

Find a suite spot of your own, visit www.celebritycruises.com, call 1-888-283-6768, or contact your travel agent.

Story by GREG COATES

To The Nahanni And Beyond

Nahanni National Park, UNESCO’s First World Heritage Site, is one of Canada’s largest and most magnificent nature reserves. Accessible only by air, it borders on a portion of the Mackenzie Mountain Range. The South Nahanni River flows through the deep canyons, past steaming hot springs, across alpine tundra, and past Rabbitkettle, a 30-metre-high mound of fragile limestone layers of tufa.

The mystique surrounding the Gold Rush holds irresistible allure. Planes land on the shores, allowing visitors to step into the scenery, while river trippers portage around. Abundant wildlife – including Dall’s sheep – wander the plateaus and diverse terrain. Experience first-hand flight-seeing on a journey into some of Canada’s most breathtaking scenery of untamed rivers and jagged mountains. Simpson Air, the first air charter company in Fort Simpson, offers fly-in and fly-over day tours, charters for a “plan your own tour,” or canoe rental and fly-in fishing gear rental. Whatever your dream wilderness experience is – canoeing, kayaking, rafting, mountain climbing, hiking, wilderness lodging, Northern Lights viewing – Simpson Air can make it reality.

A must-do stopover is the Nahanni Mountain Lodge at Little Doctor Lake, nestled at the foot of the Mackenzie Mountains where they rise from the Interior Plains. The original lodge was home to pioneers Mary and Gus Kraus who passed it on to Ted Grant, chief pilot and owner of Simpson Air, to preserve and promote their passion for this majestic land. Cast off in a motorboat to explore, or grab a canoe and paddle to the river. Throw in a line and fish for dinner. Enjoy the sandy beach and shallow waters or hike up the back of the grand buttresses through “the gap.” This historic homestead is ideal for families, groups, or your own private getaway. A unique stay with lodging, tour choice, and airfare for up to 12 guests.

Fort Simpson, the oldest established trading post in the Mackenzie Valley, can be reached by air via Yellowknife. Local services include all the basic amenities to support your journey. Reserve online at http://simpsonair.ca or talk to us about your wilderness dreams at 1-866-995-2505 or info@simpsonair.ca.

Danube

The Luxury of More…Activities and Onboard Amenities

Start planning now. In 2019, AmaWaterways’ European fleet will also offer guests a plethora of new onboard activities and amenities. The company’s recently expanded Wellness Program will be rolled out to most European ships, giving guests the opportunity to join group exercise activities – including morning stretches, yoga, cardio/core strengthening, resistance band workouts and circuit training – complemented by healthy eating options and relaxation techniques taught onboard. AmaWaterways will also enhance the popular Wine Cruise Program. In 2019, the line will offer 60 hosted Wine Cruises – the most ever – giving more guests the opportunity to dive into the region’s rich wine culture. AmaWaterways’ Wine Cruises offer guests unparalleled access to some of North America’s top winemakers, and the opportunity to experience the iconic wine regions along Europe’s stunning waterways. www.AmaWaterways.com

Charter a Yacht to Antigua

Looking for an unforgettable escape this winter?

The Moorings, the world’s premier yacht charter company, wants you to consider Antigua, their newest sailing destination. Already renowned as a top-tier sailing and diving destination, the island offers a quintessential Caribbean appeal, delighting visitors with its easy pace, friendly islanders, 18th century charm, and distinctive elegance. Nature lovers can look out for the endangered Hawksbill sea turtles who call Antigua home and travelers looking for tasty tropical treats can hunt down the island’s black pineapples, known for being the sweetest in the world. Explore it aboard your very own luxury yacht. www.moorings.com/antigua