Luxury cruise line partners with Rocky Mountaineer for Alaska journey

Luxury cruise line Cunard is offering guests the opportunity to experience the world-famous Rocky Mountaineer train when they sail through Alaska on Queen Elizabeth this summer.

Guests will be able to extend their Alaska voyage with either a four-night pre-voyage train experience or a three-night post-voyage package, depending on the sailing date. The three-night Rocky Mountaineer tour takes guests on an eastbound journey from Vancouver to Calgary, while the four-night train tour goes the opposite direction and gives guests an additional day of sightseeing in Banff, where the highlight is an impressive trip on the Banff Gondola.

Rocky Mountaineer pre- and post-cruise tours

  • The three-night post-voyage tours starts at $2,850 per person based on double occupancy, available on two Japan to Alaskavoyages (Q318A, Q319) and four Alaska voyages roundtrip out of Vancouver ranging from 10 to 11 nights (Q323, Q324, Q325, Q326).
  • The four-night pre-voyage tour starts at $3,250per person based on double occupancy, available on three Alaska voyages roundtrip out of Vancouver ranging from seven to 10 nights (Q321, Q322, Q323).

Panoramic views

Guests travelling on the legendary Rocky Mountaineer train – the only passenger rail service on this historic rail route – will experience expansive glass-dome windows and luxurious coaches. Breathtaking 180-degree panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, shimmering lakes and winding canyons are offered from all angles.

Renowned for its GoldLeaf Service, Rocky Mountaineer offers an onboard dining room where guests can indulge in culinary delights inspired by the region with a new 2023 menu as well as full complimentary bar service.

Queen Elizabeth’s summer in Alaska will be a season full of adventure and discovery, with the onboard Insights program featuring experts from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, TV personality Bear Grylls, and famed explorer Mensun Bound, to name a few.

Other highlights on Queen Elizabeth include the bespoke Alaska Afternoon Tea, the elegant Ice White Ball and a new dining concept called Frontier, which offers a taste of Alaska.

 

Here’s a look at some of National Geographic’s best 2024 trips

National Geographic Expeditions, which offers travellers unparalleled access to global destinations through the lens of knowledgeable National Geographic Experts, launches the first phase of its 2024 travel portfolio, including the complete river cruise lineup.

In collaboration with AmaWaterways, three National Geographic Expeditions-chartered departures will offer an in-depth exploration through Europe’s historic waterways, all with the ease and leisure of luxury river cruising.

Additionally, the guided travel company announced early 2024 dates for its Signature Land category, as well as the lineup for 2024 Private Expeditions.

European River Cruising 

National Geographic Expeditions invites travelers to become immersed in the beauty, charm and rich history of Europe with a cruise showcasing the highlights and hidden gems along the Danube River, Rhine River and scenic waterways of Hollandand Belgium.

With knowledge at the heart of the experience, both a National Geographic Expert and a National Geographic Photography Expert accompany travellers on each departure. These experts are renowned storytellers with a close connection to National Geographic whose specialties include writing, photography, history, geography and more — and their unique insights help form a travel experience that enlightens and inspires like no other.

The 2024 lineup features three sailings:

  • Holland and Belgium in Springtime by River Cruise (April 15): This art, floral and architecture-focused departure sends travelers on a journey through the iconic waterways of Belgium and the Netherlands, with stops at the famous windmills of Kinderdijk, a Floralia flower show at a historic Belgian castle and the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh.
  • Rhine River Cruise: Basel to Amsterdam (Sept. 12): Offering bike rides, walking excursions and even tasting tours, this itinerary explores the romance and timelessness of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland. Wine enthusiasts will enjoy a taste of Germany’s Rheingau wine region, and photographers will learn from the National Geographic Photography Expert during a special on-deck photo workshop to capture images of the scenic Rhine Gorge.
  • Danube Christmas Markets River Cruise (Dec. 7): This sailing invites cruise passengers to explore charming Christmas markets from Budapest to Nuremberg. Travellers will also discover lesser-known holiday marketplaces within Vienna and Salzburg and visit Vienna’s Museum of Natural History. There, visitors will meet with National Geographic Explorer Ludovic Ferriere for a behind-the-scenes look at the meteorite exhibit he curated.

Throughout each sailing, travellers will also enjoy regionally inspired meals, complimentary wines with every lunch and dinner, wellness facilities, Wi-Fi and spacious suites that are part of every National Geographic Expeditions river cruise experience.

All available departures are listed on the River Cruises page of NatGeoExpeditions.com.

Early 2024 Signature Land Departures 

Offering endless opportunities to explore the world, National Geographic Expeditions Signature Land trips provide premium, fully planned itineraries that give travellers special access to extraordinary places around the globe, paired with unique opportunities to experience a destination through the eyes of the storytellers from National Geographic.

The early 2024 Signature Land portfolio will span North America, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and will feature a blend of tried-and-true traveler favorites and recently debuted itineraries with strong National Geographic connections, including:

  • Inside Japan
  • Costa Rica: Wildlife and Conservation
  • Borneo Wildlife Adventure
  • Palau: Snorkeling and Kayaking the Pristine Seas

The latest Signature Land departure dates are available on the Signature Land page of NatGeoExpeditions.com.

Private Expeditions 

Private Expeditions are unique itineraries designed for 1 to 10 travellers in their own private party. These trips are hosted by a private guide, offer more flexibility in travel dates and feature premium accommodations.

In 2024, 27 Private Expeditions are offered, including:

  • Belize and Tikal Private Expedition
  • Arches, Canyonlands, and Mesa Verde National Parks Private Expedition
  • Australia Private Expedition
  • Greek Isles Private Expedition
  • Sicily Private Expedition

All 2024 Private Expeditions are listed on the Private Expeditions page of NatGeoExpeditions.com.

Experiencing meaningful travel 

A portion of the proceeds from every National Geographic Expedition supports a global community of National Geographic Explorers.

Each year, the National Geographic Society awards more than 575 grants to scientists, educators, storytellers, conservationists, technologists and many other changemakers who help define some of the critical challenges of our time, drive new knowledge, advance new solutions and inspire positive, transformative change.

Bookings open to the public on Jan. 12, 2023. The new 2024 travel dates are available on NatGeoExpeditions.com.

Travellers can sail Europe for up to 35 days aboard this cruise ship

For Holland America Line’s 2024 Europe season, the cruise line is adding several new itineraries that combine regions, increasing the number of voyages of 14 days or longer and enhancing Northern Europe with new departure ports.

From April to November dozens of unique itineraries — ranging from seven to 35 days — will be offered on two of the line’s Pinnacle Class ships, Nieuw Statendam and Rotterdam, along with Oosterdam and Zuiderdam.

The four Holland America Line ships will cover the entire region on voyages designed for cultural immersion. Nine overnight ports and 33 late-night departure cities provide more time ashore while the ships explore the Baltic, British Isles, Canary Islands, French and Spanish rivieras, Israel, Mediterranean and Northern Europe, including Iceland, Greenlandand Norway.

Highlights 

Highlights of Holland America Line’s 2024 Europe cruising season include:

  • 11 departure cities
  • Nine overnight ports
  • 33 overnight departure cities (between 10 p.m. and midnight)
  • New Northern Europe cruises
  • 14-day Canary Islands cruise
  • 14-day Mediterranean cruises
  • 2024 Barbuda itineraries

For more information about Holland America Line, consult a travel advisor, call 1-877-SAIL HAL (877-724-5425) or visit hollandamerica.com.

This cruise line has launched a luxury cruise in the metaverse

Celebrity Cruises is sailing into the future with the launch of a new virtual experience dubbed, the ‘Wonderverse’. 

In an industry first, travellers will get to “see before they sail,” exploring a hyper-realistic, digital recreation of aspects of their newest ship in Celebrity’s transformational Edge Series, Celebrity BeyondSM, complete with the ship’s artful and inspiring spaces, entertaining signature moments like Celebrity’s famous Martini Bar Flair Show, and the ability to visit top destinations that Celebrity sails to – from Alaska to the Caribbean and Europe to Asia. 

In addition, guests can meet and chat with the line’s key leaders as digital avatars, including President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the inspirational Captain Kate McCue – the first, and still only, American female captain of a major cruise ship, and Nate Berkus, Celebrity’s Edge Series Travel Ambassador and designer of the Sunset Bar on Celebrity Beyond

Built in partnership with virtual event platform architects Surreal Events, Celebrity’s Wonderverse is also complete with mini games and activities, entertainment, easter eggs, and much more, all hosted on the web at celebritycruises.com/wonderverse

Log into adventure

Once logged in to the Wonderverse, consumers will move from space to space, enjoying immersive, interactive content throughout, as they learn more about the ship and the destinations they can sail to on Celebrity Cruises.

The journey begins with a user-controlled tender game to the iconic Magic Carpet, where participants will have a chance to create their own personalized avatar.  Participants will then be transported to the Resort Deck, where they will be greeted personally by Captain Kate, on hand to help answer questions and can explore the ship from there. 

From there, visitors can also experience some of the world’s most breathtaking destinations in the Wonderverse, including the Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier in Alaska; the whitewashed beauty of Santorini, Greece; the bright lights of Japan’s capital city of Tokyo and the awe-inspiring Mt. Fuji; and the white sand beaches and clear Caribbean turquoise waters of St. Lucia, all before reuniting with Nate Berkus at the Sunset Bar, where they’ll have the opportunity to ask him a series of questions about the stunning ship and breathtaking destinations. As part of the experience, guests will be able to easily access a portal for immediate bookings. 

A world of wonder

A next generation ship, Celebrity Beyond goes further than ever-imagined possible for a cruise ship, giving guests endless opportunities to disconnect from the everyday — while connecting with the wonders of the world around them. 

Inspirational design from the world’s leading architects and interior designers, fine dining experiences from Michelin starred chefs, world renowned wellness partners, exquisite art, cutting-edge entertainment and luxury brand retailers, along with Celebrity’s uniquely intuitive service, Celebrity Beyond shatters every preconceived notion of the cruising experience, representing the epitome of a relaxed luxury resort at sea.

For more information on all Celebrity Beyond sailings, visit https://www.celebritycruises.com/cruise-ships/celebrity-beyond




Celebrity Cruises unveils new ports and destinations

Celebrity Cruises has announced its most ambitious season of sailings ever, with nearly 500 sailings for the 2024-2025 season that send the line’s fleet of 16 relaxed luxury ships, including Celebrity AscentSM, the fourth ship in the highly acclaimed Edge Series, to more than 250 destinations in 70 countries.

The new offerings include first-ever homeports for some of Celebrity’s Edge Series ships; new year-round offerings in Europe, with new ports; new overnights and double overnights; and new experiences across the rich cultures of every region while basking in the fullness of the Celebrity cruise experience. 

Highlights of the new 2024-25 season include:

  • Year-round sailings with more than 40 different itineraries in Europe, along with  overnights in 11 of the world’s most popular cities from Lisbon, Portugal, to Istanbul, Turkey, and Reykjavik, Iceland; and brand-new ports of call including Pauillac (Bordeaux), France; Brindisi and Trieste, Italy; and Kavala and Volos, Greece; Cel
  • The Edge Series ships deployed to new regions of the world with Celebrity Edge sailing to Alaska roundtrip from Seattle; and Celebrity ApexTM sailing from London to the Norwegian Fjords and the Arctic Circle, the latter a destination Celebrity hasn’t visited since 2014;
  • Year-round sailings from Asia, including an entire summer of sailings from Tokyo, Japan 
  • New 3-night Caribbean itineraries, complemented by sailings up to 12 nights from four departure ports – Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

“For our 2024/2025 season, we wanted to take our offerings to new heights – all in celebration of our fourth Edge Series ship, Celebrity Ascent, sailing its inaugural season in 2024,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises. “There’s truly no better way to see the world’s best places than on the world’s best places where our guests are treated to the accommodations and amenities of a Celebrity ship – a luxury hotel, Michelin-quality dining, and a world-class luxury spa retreat all in one with the world just steps away.” 

A European season like no other

With seven ships, including three Edge Series ships – Celebrity Ascent, Celebrity, BeyondSM, and Celebrity ApexCelebrity Cruises expands on its legacy of award-winning European itineraries with 153 different sailings visiting nearly 100 destinations.  

For the first time ever, an Edge Series ship will homeport outside of London, with Celebrity Apex hosting more Norwegian Fjord sailings than ever before, including a new, 12-night Norwegian Fjord and Arctic Circle itinerary.

Celebrity Ascent will embark on its inaugural European season with itineraries visiting culturally rich cities throughout Spain, Italy, France and Greece; while Celebrity Beyond will embark on 10- and 11-night itineraries to Greece, Istanbul, Naples, and more. Additional itinerary options include sailings throughout Scandinavia, along with special sailings to Egypt and Israel.

Homeporting in Tokyo (Yokohama) from April 2024 to October 2024, the newly revolutionized Celebrity Millennium will sail 12-night itineraries, immersing guests in the physical and cultural beauty of Japan from the awe-inspiring Mt. Fuji, to the quiet temples and bamboo groves of Kyoto, with each sailing including overnight stays in Osaka. Special sailings immerse guests in the country’s renowned summer festivals culture including Golden Week in May.  

Following its season in Japan, Celebrity Millennium will join Celebrity Solstice providing guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in the cultural offerings of Southeast Asia on 11- to 14 night sailings visiting 32 destinations across Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and more from September 2024 to April 2025.

Roundtrip from Seattle, Celebrity Edge – the first Edge Series ship to sail to Alaska – will take guests on 7-night itineraries to the pristine Endicott Arm Fjord and Dawes Glacier, complete with breathtaking views and gushing waterfalls, with stops in Victoria, British Columbia, and Ketchikan. Joined by Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Solstice, together, they will offer 57 sailings and an array of 6- to 8-night itineraries from May to September 2024.

For the 2024-25 season, eight Celebrity ships, including three Edge Series ships – Celebrity Ascent, Celebrity Beyond, and Celebrity Apex – will offer itineraries ranging from 3-night weekend getaways to longer 12-night voyages. Itinerary offerings include:

  • Celebrity Ascent – making her Caribbean debut with rotating 7-night Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries, visiting the picturesque ports of St. Thomas and St. Maarten, or the historic Georgetown, Grand Cayman and the unique landscape of Labadee, Haiti, where beachside meets mountside;
  • Celebrity Beyond – sailing 10- and 11-night itineraries to the Southern Caribbean, visiting St. George, Grenada; St. John’s Antgua, St. Maarten, and more. For those looking to check off a bucket list destination, Celebrity Beyond will also take guests to see the modern marvel that is the Panama Canal;
  • Celebrity Apex – transporting guests on a 7-night itinerary to some of the most sought-after destinations in the region including Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; Labadee, Haiti; Key West, Bimini, Bahamas; St. Kitts, Tortola, and more;

Additional sailings include:

  • Celebrity Edge returning for her second season Down Under, embarking on a selection of 3- to 14-night itineraries starting October 2024 and running through April 2025. 
  • Setting sail to the Galapagos aboard one of the brand’s three uniquely intimate and stunning shipsCelebrity Flora, Celebrity Xpedition or Celebrity Xploration – on six or seven-night itineraries carefully curated to ensure wanderlust travelers experience all this extraordinary archipelago offers. Every sailing includes an option to extend the experience on land.
  • Celebrity Equinox embarking on her inaugural season in South America, including a 14-night itinerary exploring the beauty of Patagonia, Argentina and Antarctica, as well as taking in a tango show or surfing the beautiful beaches of Montevideo, Uruguay.
  • Celebrity Eclipse making her Northeast debut, sailing to Canada and New England; Greenland and Iceland; and offering 7-night Bermuda itineraries from the New York area.

Ritz-Carlton’s upscale yacht collection sets sail

Envisioned to perfectly blend the lifestyle of The Ritz-Carlton resorts with the casual freedom of a yachting vacation, Evrima, the first of three custom-built yachts from The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, set sail on October 15, 2022, with a voyage from Barcelona, Spain, to Nice, France, delivering highly tailored getaways for travelers seeking to wholly immerse themselves in the culture of each destination. 

“We are thrilled to introduce The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and usher in an exciting new chapter for this beloved brand,” said Chris Gabaldon, Senior Vice President for Luxury Brands, Marriott International. “The Ritz-Carlton has long been rooted in innovation and service excellence, guided by a commitment to be at the forefront of delivering transformative travel experiences. As we continue to evolve our legendary brand, we could not be more excited to give our guests the opportunity to experience The Ritz-Carlton in a new way.”

An exclusive experience at sea

Unveiling unique itineraries and immersive experiences, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection carves out an exclusive space within the industry while exemplifying the brand’s forward-thinking approach to luxury hospitality. Stopping at both intimate and signature ports of call, most voyages range from 7 to 10 nights, with no two journeys alike so that guests can combine itineraries without repeating a destination. Depending on the season, Evrima visits the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Destinations along the way range from Spain’s Balearic Islands and coveted havens along the French Riviera, to the aquamarine shores of Aruba and the tropical coastlines of Costa Rica. The intimate size of Evrima also allows unique access into some of the most sought-after ports of call, delivering yacht-style cruising in destinations such as Mykonos, Saint-Tropez, and St. Barts.

The specially designed yacht measures 190-meters and can accommodate up to 298 passengers. The onboard experience reflects the sublime comfort and legendary service for which The Ritz-Carlton brand is renowned, with one of the highest staff and space ratios at sea. The design of the yacht’s 149 suites is one of the many tone-setting elements. In addition to offering a high percentage of large suites, Evrima also features several innovative two-story loft suites, a unique duplex accommodation. All rooms feature a private terrace and floor to ceiling windows, resulting in some of the most airy and expansive guestrooms at sea. Through a blind wall, select suites also have the option to be combined into larger, open-concept spaces, allowing for more flexibility when selecting accommodations. All suites feature the luxurious amenities that visitors expect from Ritz-Carlton properties around the world, including a king bed, double vanity bathroom, luxury linens, and more.

Travellers aboard Evrima can access the following:

  • curated menu of ESPA and 111SKIN spa treatments
  • a sauna and steam room
  • watersports from the yacht’s marina
  • an infinity pool
  • a fitness studio
  • a breadth of dining options

Enriching entertainment on board includes intimate performances by in-house jazz and classical musicians, discussions led by renowned experts, and partnerships with local arts and music communities. Families exploring the world together can enjoy a dedicated space on board for Ritz Kids. The Ritz Kids programming, tailored for young guests between the ages of four and twelve, has been crafted to appeal to children’s curiosity and innate love for discovery, with an emphasis on marine conservation.

In each destination, guests can choose from a selection of unique experiences within The Shore Collection that align with their interests or utilize the services of the Concierge Ashore to customize their own private tours. Experiences on shore range from a guided tour in a world-class museum with its curator and visiting a UNESCO World Heritage site, to yoga on a private beach, zip-lining through a rain forest, truffle hunting, and more. By working with local guides who were selected for their insider knowledge and subject matter expertise, guests enjoy a singular journey. On select itineraries, guests can deepen their experience mid-voyage through an overnight tour, promising an unforgettable and uniquely immersive cultural experience, before rejoining the yacht at their next destination.

The yachts of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection are also available for private charter. For more information, click here.

 

This luxury barge has teamed up with one of the oldest champagne houses for a river cruise like no other

Belmond is launching a luxury barge, part of its unmatched French collection: Coquelicot, A Belmond Boat, Champagne.

Debuting in May 2023, Coquelicot will take guests on a cinematic journey of Champagne in partnership with Maison Ruinart, the world’s oldest champagne house. Featuring three spacious cabins with ensuite facilities, an indoor salon with a champagne bar, and an extensive outdoor deck, Coquelicot will set a new standard of sophistication for slow-paced sailing in France. Coquelicot, A Belmond Boat is available for week-long private charters starting from €82,000 (approximately $79,500).

Designed by successful French duo, Humbert & Poyet, Coquelicot, formerly the Hirondelle barge, will boast three double cabins with marble ensuite bathrooms and an indoor lounge with a champagne bar – stocked with a curated selection of the guests’ preferred labels. The vessel’s top deck will be the social centre for guests to unwind as they meander the calm waterways. Framed by potted local herbs and indigenous wildflowers that root the space in the locale, the deck features two seating lounges, an open kitchen and a shaded dining area to enjoy a menu inspired by seasonal ingredients from trusted local suppliers.

To complement the ever-changing views and create an intimate sanctuary on the water, the barge’s interiors and exteriors will capture the essence of Champagne, with nods to the region’s hues and character. Local fabrics in earthy tones and raw materials will honor Champagne’s agricultural heritage, while fluted walls, decadent interiors and pieces of art will pay homage to the land’s glorious present. Coquelicot’s namesake, the red poppy, will be found in subtle references such as the hand-cut red marble side tables and the tone-on-tone hand-painted petals that line the hallway, while the lounge’s skylight is a celebration of Champagne’s water mapping legacy.  

Elevating the river barge journey, Belmond has partnered with Maison Ruinart to offer exclusive access to the first established House of Champagne with a private tasting lunch by Chef In Residence Valérie Radou and guided tours of the historic Taissy vineyard to discover the brand’s latest sustainability initiatives. Guests will disembark Coquelicot for unrivaled access to Taissy vineyard, which has been referenced as early as 1733 in the Maison’s archives. Immersed in the hillsides of the Champagne region, Maison Ruinart, in partnership with Reforest’Action and the University of Reims, launched a pioneering viti-forestry project in 2021 to preserve and regenerate forests in order to restore biodiversity. Also dotting the grounds is a new art installation by German visual artist Nils-Udo, a pioneer of land art. A technical tasting of iconic Maison Ruinart cuvées, led by a Maison Ambassador, will conclude the morning experience in the vineyard.

Back on board, Belmond guests will be treated to a private five-course tasting lunch by Maison Ruinart’s Chef In Residence Valérie Radou and Coquelicot Head Chef. It will be the first time Maison Ruinart’s Chef will be cooking a private ‘four hands’ lunch outside of Maison Ruinart. A true lesson in French art de vivre, this dining experience includes five seasonal dishes inspired by regional cuisine and paired with prestigious cuvées such as Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and Dom Ruinart Rosé. Framed by the idyllic landscape and in the comfort and privacy of their own luxury boat, guests will delve deep into the world of Maison Ruinart, as their ambassador reveals the story, characteristics and technical aspects of each bottle.

Personal Guest Experience Executives will help craft customized itineraries depending on guest preferences. Whether an art-focused tour of Champagne, a historic voyage through the mighty castles, an active adventure on two wheels or a series of epicurean visits to Europe’s most celebrated and most secret wine producers, guests will have the liberty to design their own journey and marvel at the region’s treasures at their own pace. Alternate an al fresco soirée on the top deck with an off-board Michelin-starred restaurant experience or a less inhibited dinner in one of the quaint villages scattered across the region. The all-inclusive journeys include table d’hóte meals, complimentary beverages, all planned excursions escorted by a private guide, and transfer from Paris to the barge. Helicopter transfers from Paris are also available upon request.

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.”