My husband, Alan, and I had traveled to Northern and Western Europe, but have always had Eastern Europe on our bucket list. I know that my heritage is rooted in Germany, while his family tree extends to Czechoslovakia and Hungary from as early as the 16th century. Last August, we took a river cruise in the Bordeaux region of France and met a wonderful group of seasoned travelers, who all told us that the Danube River cruise was one of their favorite trips. I was excited to begin planning our next adventure and knew Avalon Waterways had what we were looking for.
August 19-20, 2017
On Saturday, we boarded a Lufthansa flight to Munich and had a short layover before reaching Budapest on Sunday, where our cruise would be departing from on Tuesday. Upon our arrival, we were greeted outside the baggage claim by an Avalon Waterways representative, who guided us to the shuttle that would be taking us to our hotel. Little did we know, we were arriving on the most celebrated holiday in Hungary, St. Stephen’s Day (similar to our 4th of July)! Traffic was a little crazy but eventually we arrived.
We stayed at the Sofitel Chain Bridge, which was located on the Pest side of Budapest, right on the Danube River. We had a gorgeous view from the room and would absolutely stay there again if we find ourselves in Budapest.
After a quick meeting with our Avalon tour director, Roos (pronounced “Rose”), we walked just a few blocks from our hotel and found a pedestrian area that was filled with restaurants and outdoor seating. We watched a wonderful parade that ended at St. Stephen’s Basilica. We decided to grab a seat for dinner before the crowd dispersed and made our way to the restaurant Aszu, which had a great selection of traditional Hungarian fare and a few more familiar dishes. Both of us ordered the Paprika Chicken and it was delicious.
After dinner, we strolled down the street that followed the river and watched a spectacular fireworks show over the Chain Bridge in celebration of St. Stephen’s Day.
August 21, 2017
Monday morning began with a guided City Tour that touched on Heroes Square and the Dohany Street Synagogue on the Pest side then Buda Castle and Matthias Church on the Buda side. In the afternoon, we went on a culinary tour with 6 other couples. We walked for a total of about three hours, and stopped at a traditional butcher, a wine and cheese shop, and an ice cream parlor.
After the tour we split off from the group and walked across the Chain Bridge back to the “Buda” side to do some more exploring. We walked around the Buda Castle before finding dinner. I was excited to try the traditional Hungarian Goulash (beef stew), which lived up to my expectations. It was a beautiful evening with the “Pest” side of Budapest as the backdrop. It was certainly a photo opportunity!
August 22-23, 2017
Before leaving Budapest later in the afternoon, we took some time to visit the House of Terror. One of the saddest museums and memorials I have ever seen. It is full of exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes of 20th century Hungary. Certainly something to make you think. What seems so foreign to us is still so fresh in the minds of the people of Hungary.
We met up with 10 other couples for a tour of the countryside that included stops and wine tastings at two different vineyards as well as a gourmet lunch prepared by the owner of the second vineyard. Everything was delicious and everyone in the group was becoming fast friends.
Our home for the next seven days was the Avalon Visionary, a small ship carrying 115 guests on board. Avalon is the only cruise line with beds facing a wall of windows, so we were eager to take advantage of the scenic experience. We sailed all night and through the next day. We took advantage of the outstanding weather and had lunch on the top deck of the ship, while watching the small towns of Hungary and Slovakia pass by. We have already met so many nice people from every corner of the world: Australia, Belize, Canada, Chicago, England, New York, New Zealand, and Texas.
Our day aboard the ship consisted of eating, napping, and learning to waltz! We enjoyed an early dinner before disembarking in Vienna. We went into town for a concert at what used to be the beautiful palace/home of a prominent local family…a perfect evening.
August 24, 2017
The day began with a guided City Tour of Vienna. We drove along the Ring Road, the road that surrounds the Old Town and is built where medieval city fortifications once stood. It has been designated by UNESCO as part of Vienna’s World Heritage Site. The road is lined with some of the most beautiful buildings I think I have ever seen. Among them are the Vienna State Opera, Academy of Fine Arts, Palace of Justice, Parliament, University of Vienna, Vienna Stock Exchange, just to name a few. I wish we had more time to explore here…we will just have to come back!
We took a short walking tour through a quiet part of Old Town and were given about an hour to explore on our own. Not nearly enough time to see it all. The afternoon consisted of a tour of Schonbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence, as well as a great history lesson on the life of Queen Maria-Teresa, who ruled Austria for over 40 years and gave birth to 16 children (one of them was Marie Antoinette).
Our ship was docked in port until 10:45 pm so we went into town for dinner. Our tour guide recommended Griechensbeisl (please don’t ask me to pronounce it). We each ordered the filet mignon and a nice glass of Zweigelt. Afterwards we agreed we should probably try to walk off some of that dinner so we made our way back to the ship on foot. After about 30 minutes I realized we must have made a wrong turn…thank goodness for Uber!
Avalon brought a musical duo from Slovakia on board to entertain us tonight. They were fantastic! One is the conductor and the other is the principal violinist for the symphony orchestra in Bratislava. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
August 25, 2017
Today we woke up in Durnstein. A tiny little town in the Wachau Valley where King Richard I the Lionheart was once held prisoner. One of the gentlemen in our group from England has traced his family tree all the way back to the 12th century and discovered that he is a direct descendent of King Henry II and King Richard I the Lionheart so he was quite excited to see Durnstein.
At 11:00 we set sail for Melk. We found a couple of lounge chairs on the top deck and enjoyed the scenery for the next couple of hours as Roos talked about each of the sites and villages we passed along the way. We docked in Melk at 2:00. We then went on a guided tour of the Melk Abbey. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must see. It is a working Benedictine abbey. It contains a private secondary school for 900 children. Next to the Sagrada Famila in Barcelona, the church at the Melk Abbey is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.
August 26, 2017
We woke up in a tiny town called Aschach. The only reason for stopping here was to let off the passengers going on optional excursions to Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov. The “Sound of Music” is one of my favorite movies of all time so I lightly twisted Alan’s arm to visit Salzburg and see some of the spots where the movie was filmed. The first stop was in a gorgeous town called Mondsee. There is a lake at the base of the mountains where people were paddle boarding and sailing.
It is a popular holiday spot for locals.
In Mondsee is the famous St. Michael’s church where the wedding scene in the movie was filmed. We then drove to Salzburg. Our guide gave us a short orientation tour and then turned us loose. We took the funicular up to the fortress for an incredible view of the city. Coming back down, we wandered the streets in search of lunch and our souvenir Christmas ornaments before having to return to the bus.
August 27, 2017
Today we woke up in Regensburg, Germany. It is the fourth largest city in Bavaria. Besides the fact that it is the oldest city on the Danube, the three highlights were:
Before dinner, Avalon brought two local ladies on board for a tasting of the local beers. They did a great job but it was a little hard to take them seriously given their cute local costumes and pigtails. The beer was delicious and they made it really fun.
August 28, 2017
Today we are sailing along the part of the Main-Danube canal that has 16 locks in a 106 mile stretch of the waterway. A local university professor came on board to explain to us the whole canal/lock engineering masterpiece. Because of the lock system, we were actually 1000 feet above sea level at our highest point, before we started to gradually descend. He was super interesting.
We arrived in Nuremberg in the afternoon and opted for the City Tour. It is the second largest city in Bavaria and dates back to the 11th century, is notorious as the birth place of the Nazi Party and was the location of many Nazi propaganda rallies. In 1945-1946, after WWII ended, German officials accused of war crimes were brought to trial here in the Nuremberg Trials.
After that, we stopped for a tour of Nuremberg Castle and Old Town. It is storybook pretty. They hold a huge Christmas market here every year that draws over two million visitors!
August 29, 2017
We arrived by bus at the Prague Marriott at noon. The hotel is in a fabulous location…a 5 minute walk to Republic Square where you will find a farmers market, subway stop, shops and restaurants.
At 2:00 we met up with a few others for a guided “Secrets of Prague” tour. Our tour guide was Helena and she was wonderful. She has been giving tours for forty years and has seen much in her lifetime. After a short bus ride, we walked to the Charles Bridge. This city is simply gorgeous. Both sides of the river are full of beautiful architecture and history. She really covered a lot of ground with us so we were comfortable exploring on our own later.
We had dinner at a restaurant on the river. The food was okay but the view was spectacular! The highlight of the evening was walking along the Charles Bridge at night while it was full of pedestrians, musicians and artists.
August 30, 2017
Back on the bus at 8:15 for the Prague City Tour. We saw the castle and the church. We saw the Lennon Wall (a tribute to John Lennon). We went back to Old Town to see the Astronomical Clock.
This afternoon we signed up for the optional tour of Terezin. Helena was our tour guide again today. Terezin is a former military fortress an hour or so outside of Prague. During WWII over 32,000 prisoners (5,000 of them women) passed through here. Many were tortured, executed or sent to concentration camps. A distant relative of Alan’s, Anna Skrainka, was here for 18 months 1944-1945. When the prison was liberated by the allies, Anna walked 700 miles from Terezin to Hamburg. Her granddaughter, Angie Littlefield, has researched the story and is writing a book, Walking With Oma. Helena did such an amazing job of describing the conditions that it just left us with a haunting feeling and overwhelming sadness for those who were held there.
Later in the evening, at the recommendation of our tour director, Heinrich, we had an amazing dinner at a little Italian restaurant about 5 blocks from our hotel. We wandered aimlessly around the busy streets of Old Town until our feet just couldn’t take any more.
August 31, 2017
Today was the first day we could sleep in. Heaven. We grabbed sausages and beer for lunch from a vendor at the farmer’s market before boarding the bus for our last excursion. Helena was our guide once again. She really is wonderful. We drove for about 45 minutes to Melnik to see the castle and do a wine tasting. The village is very pretty and quaint. The castle has been in the Lobkowiczs family for hundreds of years (except for a brief period when it was confiscated by the communist party). The wine was very good and it was the perfect way to end our vacation.
I thought Avalon did a wonderful job. We really liked the hotels in Budapest and Prague. The ship was wonderful. The staff on the ship and the tour guides on the ground were very good. I would encourage anyone thinking about a river cruise to go on this adventure!
Email Julie or give her a call at 314-580-4554
to begin planning your Avalon Waterways cruise and discover the best of Eastern Europe.
One of the most magnificent destinations in the world is Alaska. The ice-capped mountains, crystal-clear waters, scenic forests and those oh-so-adorable sled dogs - it's a spot that should be on everyone's "bucket list". Many of our staff members have conquered its vast terrains and they invite you to attend "On Stage Alaska" presented by Holland America Line and Brentwood Travel on Wednesday, September 27th at 7:00 PM. This once a year performance will feature our staff members, Alaskan locals, and Holland America Line representatives to show you why your next trip should be Alaska. Read our staff's testimonials below to get a sneak-peek of what you'll learn at "On Stage Alaska".
Seating at Creve Coeur Community Center is free but limited! To reserve your spot, email us or call 314-439-5700 ext. 110. To find out more about "On Stage Alaska" click here.
Our first step was finding the right company to do this with. There are only 500 trail permits admitted each day for the trail so you need a licensed guide for the trek. G Adventures was the right choice for us because we wanted a small group tour that was reputable and fit our needs. After about 50 trips to REI, I had all of the right gear to hike but I still needed the support of a great company to get me there.
I was more than impressed with how amazing the porters, cooks, and guides were along the trek. I still am not sure how the 5 ft tall porters could break down camp, pack up our tents, carry their body weight on their back, run past me on the trail, and have the next camp set up all before I arrived after carrying about 5 lbs on my back! The cooks prepared some delicious meals and even a cake for a Honeymoon couple on our trip!
Hiking the Inca Trail was truly an incredible experience for me. I know that this is not everyone's style of traveling so G Adventures also offers trips in more of a comfort level such as trips for younger travelers only, itineraries paired with National Geographic, family options and even Marine cruises.
What I enjoyed most about traveling with G Adventures was the small group experience and the special local touches. We visited the Ccaccaccollo Community and Women's Weaving Co-op where we saw the traditional ways of clothing making. We also had a beyond delicious lunch at the Parwa Community Restaurant in the Sacred Valley. These places were unexpected highlights made possible by G Adventures!
Part 2: Emily's G Adventure to Costa Rica
Since I was 7 years old the one place I've wanted to see more than anywhere in the world is Paris, France. After 20 years of waiting, my wish finally came true and my husband and I traveled to Paris with Monograms, which is part of the Globus Family of Brands. It was hands down the most incredible week of my life and it lived up to everything I'd ever dreamed it would be and more.
My husband and I consider ourselves more of independent travelers - we like to do what we want, when we want. Monograms gave us the freedom to be the travelers we are while making the trip easier than we could've imagined.
When we arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport it was madness. There were so many people everywhere and if it wasn't for the included airport transfer with Monograms we would've been completely lost. A Monograms rep was waiting for us with a "Welcome" sign and they took us straight to our hotel. During the car ride our driver was friendly and provided incredible advice about Paris and what we should do on our trip.
Once we pulled up to our centrally located hotel, Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacre Coeur, the Monograms Local Host, Julie, greeted us outside and escorted us into the lobby. Julie presented all the information we needed for our exciting week ahead and explained how to use the metro system for the easiest way to get around. Without her assistance we wouldn't have had such ease navigating the city.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
On our first full day at our leisure we decided to go to the Palace of Versailles. This is an absolute MUST when visiting Paris. This excursion actually turned into one of our favorite days of the whole trip. We purchased skip the line tickets in advance and I'm so glad we did. The wait was over 4 hours long for those who didn't! Our visit was a guided tour filled with the most incredible details you could imagine. The amount of knowledge the guides have is unreal and we learned so much during our tour.
The Palace is filled with gold, marble, elaborate fabrics, statues, paintings, crystals and everything in between. We couldn't stop taking pictures of every detail we saw - it was all so glamorous and ornate!
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
My husband and I are huge Disney fans so we naturally had to spend a day at Disneyland Paris! There are two parks - Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney Studios. We only had enough time for Magic Kingdom but if you're able to stay more than one day I highly recommend going to both.
Disneyland Paris is celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year so the whole park was decorated in blue. For those who have been to a Disney park before you'll hardly notice that many differences, they did a great job keeping everything consistent with the American parks. However, this is still in France so it was pretty fun to hear the French language worked in to some of the rides and songs!
Thursday, August 17, 2017
On this day we went to Giverny to visit the home of Claude Monet. This was one of the more important days on our trip due to the significance of Monet in my life. In first grade we did a year-long class project over France, where we studied French culture and art. I fell in love with Claude Monet and each student wrote a book about his life. After all these years I kept my book and I took it with me to his home.
The gardens and his home were absolutely stunning. As we walked around I couldn't believe how large the garden was and just how many plants and flowers were on Monet's property. We only had two hours in Giverny but we could've spent an entire day there exploring. I would go back in a heartbeat.
After the tour of the Palace we ran into "Bag O' Nails Pub" for a quick pint and fish and chips (when in Rome, right?) to energize and we then headed to Big Ben. We were very lucky to be some of the last people hear the tower ring as it's now silent for the next four years for refurbishment. After a quick visit we did some shopping for souvenirs on Oxford Street and then left for King's Cross Station. My husband and I also love Harry Potter so it was important to us to see where Harry and the gang entered the Wizarding World.
My week trip to Paris and London was the best week of my life and I wish I could've had time for more. Now that I've had a taste of Europe I can't wait to go back and see it all! I highly recommend this trip to everyone and traveling with Monograms is the way to do it.
Call one of our expert Travel Consultants to book your package with Monograms at 314-439-5700!
We loved our week in Cabo with daughter Tammy and son-in-law Kent. We stayed at the beautiful Secrets Puerto Los Cabos in a swim out room. Everything was perfect including the accommodations, service, food, weather and traveling companions. Cabo is like Palm Springs with an ocean. And the non-stop charter with Apple Vacations was a huge bonus.
My husband (who does not swim) loved having the private pool area. Only 6-7 rooms share each swim out pool. We were in preferred club and the service by Ada and her team was amazing. Our room and bathroom were spacious and well appointed.
Each night we ate in a different restaurant. They were all wonderful in their own way, but our favorite was Himatsu, the Japanese restaurant and Miguel, our waiter, was amazing. Food here was superior and we loved the Marketplace. The breakfast and lunch buffets were fresh, tasty and offered great service from the wait staff.
If you like golf, swimming, yoga, a quiet pool or a busy fun pool, this property has so much to offer. This is the place where you can golf, fish, snorkel, workout, bike, shop or do absolutely nothing.
You can also participate in so many activities off the property. One night the hotel arranged for those who wanted a shuttle into the town of San Jose del Cabo. There was a nominal charge per person for the transportation. It was a just nice excursion to do.
I have traveled the world and stayed in many hotels of all types and styles. I highly recommend this lovely property for adults only. It was a relaxing escape.
Travel Consultants Dianna Paridon and Mary Caraffa traveled together on a voyage with the Windstar Star Pride to the charming villages of Scotland and Ireland. They enjoyed unique excursions to castles and took in picturesque landscapes onboard the casual and elegant small ship world of Windstar Cruises.
Start planning your trip to Scotland and Ireland.
Email Dianna or contact her at 314-439-5700 Ext. 108
or email Mary or call her at 314-439-5700 Ext. 121.
Stacey Acree, Senior Vice President, and Dagmar Morrison, Travel Consultant, both started their summer with a voyage on Celebrity Solstice to Alaska. In this blog, Stacey shares amazing pictures of the landscape and stories of checking off bucket-list items during her Alaska adventure.
My family and I spent our first week of school break journeying to Alaska on Celebrity Solstice. Our journey began in Seattle and we lucked out with picture perfect weather as we journeyed to the 49th State.
Our trip included many highlights including the immense ice formations of Hubbard Glacier, as well as visits to popular ports such as Skagway and Ketchikan. We also visited Juneau, the only U.S. state capital that's not accessible by car and beautiful Victoria, British Columbia.
The trip began with a chartered Salmon Fishing Boat and you could practically touch the eagles flying around the boat. We even saw humpback whales and dolphins. My son Ryan caught a salmon which was not quite big enough to ship back to the US, but the experience will stay with him for a lifetime.
Juneau was our day of adventure. We were picked up in a helicopter and whisked off to meet the Iditarod dogs who live high on the glacier. Some of the fastest sled dogs from the team were our guides for the day as they whisked us off on a sled ride around the glaciers. UNBELIEVABLE!!!
Our pilot then took us to a glacier where it felt like we were the only people on earth. It was spectacular and we even drank the freshest water from the bright blue glacier on top of the mountain.
In Skagway we went zip lining and I have to admit…I am afraid of heights! I overcame my trepidation by having our fearless guides talk me through the adventure. By the end, I was zipping down with no problem and the scenery from high above was breathtaking.
In Victoria we visited the jaw dropping Butchart Gardens. The roses had the most wonderful smell EVER. It's a spectacular excursion and a must visit for any family trip.
Our Celebrity Solstice cruise had excellent food especially in the specialty dining options with the best Kobe Burger, sushi and gyoza. There was also plenty of homemade ice cream and snacks at the coffee shop. I also took advantage of classes in the gym and the view from the window was a screen of mountains while you sailed.
There were plenty of activities for all ages and at all times. The entertainment was alive with Cirque de Soleil like shows. There was also a glass blowing studio with live demonstrations and a lawn club where they had movies daily. We also enjoyed the martini bar with displays on dry ice that are true pieces of art.
Our cruise on the Celebrity Solstice was a trip to remember. A special shout out to Alesander and Silva who went out of their way to 'adopt' our family and make us feel extra special. Also to Matthew Scheer, Market Sales Manager at Celebrity, who sent us off in style with a souvenir bag of lots of goodies!
Ready for your own Alaska adventure or to sail off on a Celebrity cruise?
Contact Stacey at 314-439-5700 Ext. 102 or
Dagmar at 314-439-5700 Ext. 104 to book your next trip.
Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more staff travel blogs.
Travel Consultant Mickey Gaona traveled to Secrets Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic in late May and was amazed by its beauty, quality of service, and variety of activities. This adult-only resort is located only 20 minutes from the airport and provides an all-inclusive and luxurious experience.
Mickey was impressed immediately with the resort’s lobby with its dramatic view straight to the ocean. Her four night stay included a swim out room with a king-size bed and relaxing chaise lounge positioned perfectly in the water. Bungalows and ocean view rooms are also available throughout the resort.
Secrets Cap Cana offers a wide range of varieties. In addition to the large buffet, there are seven specialty restaurants which include French, Italian, Japanese, and seafood options. There is also a different vibe to both pool areas. One was quiet and calm and the other more active with live music performed in the evenings.
Water sport activities such as kayaking and sail fishing are included within the resort. Golf courses in the area are easily accessible via bus transfer. And an onsite casino is in the beginning planning stages.
The decor of the resort is unique and features wood furnishing and follows current style trends. During her stay, Mickey was able to view different banquet settings including an elegant yet rustic dinner directly on the beach. ‘Every sight is beautiful and Secrets Cap Cana would be a perfect venue for a wedding,’ Mickey recommends.
To hear more of her review and to book an all-inclusive escape, email Mickey or
contact her via phone at 314-439-5700 ext. 260.
I just returned from a week of FUN on the NCL Escape. My friend and former colleague, Lybbi, sailed on a 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line. The week was full of entertainment, exciting excursions, and lots of Caribbean sun.
The Escape is a mega ship that holds just over 4,000 guests. I would have never guessed that it holds that many people because I never felt crowded. There are so many restaurants and entertainment venues throughout the ship that everyone is spread out depending on their interests.
I loved the center of decks 6, 7, and 8 that opened up to specialty restaurants, bars, and shops.
Also around deck 8 is a walk around deck called “The Waterfront” where you can have a drink or even have dinner outside.
The amount of activities on the top decks were also a highlight. Lybbi and I did the ropes course at sea. It was very thrilling to zip line right over the ocean! We also took advantage of the fun tube slide that takes you through neon lights and views of the ocean. I was feeling brave and slid on the racer slides where you start standing and the bottom drops out. Talk about a thrill!! There was also
mini golf, a basketball court, and ping pong tables offered.
I was really impressed with the size of our stateroom and particularly the bathroom. There were lots of cubbies all around that we felt comfortable fully unpacking and taking over the room!
There was certainly no shortage of entertainment throughout the ship. I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy so I was eager to see the stand-up comedians perform. We caught a couple of shows in
The Headlines Comedy Club—both the family friendly and the late night show. There was also a larger performance in the big theater featuring all three comics.
The Supper Club is a smaller dinner theater on board. Lybbi and I decided to splurge a little and pay for the lunch show of Wine Lover’s the Musical. This was certainly worth the $30 upcharge because they provide 6 glasses of wine! The show was an extremely cute story about some young adults taking a wine class to learn how to appreciate wine. We saw a dinner show of The Company Men singing mash-ups of popular songs in The Supper Club as well. We also caught their big performance with a live band in The Escape Theater. I was a big fan of their mash-ups and even bought their CD!
In The Escape Theater we saw big shows For the Record: The Brat Pack and After Midnight, which were both full of some amazing talent. Every night there was a party on the top deck at Spice H20. We made it to the 80’s night and Glow Party. The deck was full of people have a great time and shaking their stuff! One night, I took a quick “salsa dancing lesson” and had a blast pretending that I was a talented dancer.
Although we loved the comedy, shows, and activities on board, I think the highlight of the entertainment was our Cruise Director, Andre. Andre was full of such genuine fun that everyone couldn’t help but have a good time around him! Our first treat of Andre entertainment was the pool deck on our first day at sea. Andre led the Mr. Sexy Legs competition. About 30 men of all shapes and sizes took to the pool deck to prove they had the most sexy legs. The unlimited beverage package may have also brought on some confidence to these men who stopped at nothing to win over the judges. I have never seen a crowd of people so engaged in an activity! The newlywed game and celebrity dance off were also top contenders for our top laugh-until-you-almost-cry moments. Trivia sessions were also in full swing with Harry Potter Trivia, Big Bang Theory, and Star Wars Trivia. And let me tell you, Andre had an outfit for it all!
Food and drinks:
I was impressed with the options of food and bars! There was a choice of the main dining room, The Manhattan Room, for slightly more upscale dining or the buffet. We ate at both of these and I was very pleased! We also splurged a little and tried some of the specialty dining restaurants. Cagney’s was our fancy night where we enjoyed steaks with some of our new friends. We also tried La Cucina for some delicious Italian pasta. Lastly, my favorite was Food Republic where we ordered small plates of different fusion food recipes off of an iPad. There were half a dozen more options that we didn’t even get a chance to try! The a la carte pricing for the specialty dining restaurants was extremely reasonable. Some people even had the specialty dining promotional package so you get to try out some of these complimentary.
The options of different bars seemed to be endless. Being big craft beer lovers, Lybbi and I spent a lot of time The District Brew House. We really enjoyed the laid back vibe of the lounge and they often had musicians playing. This is also where we met our new friends on night one—more on them later! If you’re in the mood for a treat then the Sugarcane Mojito Bar is the place to go. These showy bartenders crafted up the best mojito I have ever had! I also made my way to The Cellars wine bar for a class of Chianti.
St. Thomas was our first port. We booked a catamaran cruise and snorkel trip over to St. John. I love to snorkel and love a good beach so this was a no-brainer for us. The catamaran motored off through the breathtaking US Virgin Islands while the crew gave us a brief history of the islands. We stopped at Honeymooner’s beach in St. John, jumped out and started to snorkel. I saw lots of tropical fish and some neat coral. We then swam on over to the beach to lay out in the sun.
The ride back to St. Thomas was a bit different. The wind was with us so we hoisted up the sails and enjoyed our all-inclusive beverages on our way back to the port. We sipped mimosas (that quickly turned into just champagne) and ate some sandwiches while soaking in that Caribbean sun. We got back to our port with plenty of time to spare. A stop for some grub and local Virgin Island beer was in order. We then took the Skyride up to Paradise Point for a view over the island. St. Thomas was a fantastic first stop and probably my favorite port.
Next up was Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Here we headed on a ferry over to Virgin Gorda to explore The Baths. After a short trek down to the ocean we came upon a beach and beautiful view of the ocean. Then we headed over, under, and between rocks to get to a more secluded cove. The way out featured some minor climbing and trekking through The Baths to another beach and food hut. This was the most scenic of all the islands we saw! It was a level 3 excursion, so be sure you are healthy and up for some light climbing if you are going to The Baths.
Nassau was our last port. True to our last two ports, we got off the cruise ship, got on another boat to go to a different island. This time we headed to The Blue Lagoon Island. The Blue Lagoon Island is a little island set up for dolphin swimming, Segway tours, and more. We opted for the Safari Segway tour. I typically have great balance, so I thought I would rock it! Turns out that riding a Segway was just a little harder than I expected. Once I got the hang of it and started to relax it was a lot of fun. Our guides were extremely helpful and also quite entertaining. They took us around the island with stops at a shark bay, an old lookout tower, and some beautiful look outs. After our tour we got our included BBQ lunch and took in the beauty of the island. We decided to take the early ferry back to Nassau. Instead of going straight back to the port we actually got off at Paradise Island to looks around the shops by Atlantis. The local water taxi back to downtown Nassau was only a couple of dollars and then we walked around the markets and shops by the cruise pier for a bit.
I have to say this was one of the most fun vacations I have ever had! A cruise provides so many options of things to do and people to meet. On our first night on the cruise we ran into a group of people who were staying in the studio cabins. The studios cabins are built for one person and priced for the solo traveler. They have a studio lounge on board where solo travelers can meet others cruising alone. The group meets around 5pm each day and has some scheduled dinners and shows that they can go to. They also have a dry erase board where you can leave messages for other travelers to join you for activities. The meet-up is meant for those who are traveling alone and also those who want to meet others. We joined in on the meet up the next day and ended up hanging out with this group for some dinners and lounge time. We also made friends on our excursions, dances, and at the pool. Everyone is on vacation to have a good time so there was no shortage of making friends!
THANK YOU to the staff and crew of the Norwegian Escape for a fantastic cruise! I can't wait to sail again!
Our travel consultants frequently take remarkable journeys and they always come back with exciting stories and stunning pictures. Recently, Emily Medina took a trip with Princess Cruises through the Panama Canal and was amazed by this ‘miraculous bridge of water’.
In April 2017, I sailed on the Island Princess on the 10-day Panama Canal Voyage out of
Ft Lauderdale, FL. Our first stop was beautiful Aruba where we explored the rock formations and other city highlights.
Our second stop was Cartagena where we explored the Old City, born at the height of the Spanish empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We shopped and even saw a Colombian folkloric dance and music show.
Next was the Panama Canal which is a true wonder. We did a tour in Colon where we saw wildlife in their natural habitat as we cruised through Gatun Lake.
In Limon, Costa Rica we explored vibrant rainforest filled with exotic tropical plants and spotted lots of birds, monkeys and sloths.
Our last stop was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We visited the botanical garden, the beach and
Dunn’s River Falls.
To book your next trip to the Caribbean, be sure to email Emily
or call her at 314-439-5700 ext. 107.
Brentwood Travel Vacation Experts
Serving Greater St. Louis since 1957, we specialize in cruises, all-inclusive vacations, tour packages, honeymoons, and group travel.