When you work in the travel industry your resolution list doesn't always include just diet and exercise; instead, it's where to travel next! Some of our staff members have shared where they hope to travel in 2019 that they have not visited before. We wish everyone a Happy New Year and we hope you complete your travel resolutions, too!
(From left to right)
Christine Hakenjos - Alaska & Arizona: "I plan to take an Alaskan cruise with Royal Caribbean in May, 2019 BUT I'd also like to check off another U.S. state, so I am shooting for Arizona as well!"
Stevie Goeke - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Maggie Groene - Costa Rica:"I plan on going to Costa Rica with Kensington Tours in May, 2019!"
Allison Harper - Las Vegas, Nevada
Stacey Hoehne - Belize or Costa Rica: "I'd love to go somewhere in Central America! Probably Costa Rica or Belize!"
Missi Wilson - Disney World: "In 2019, we plan to visit Disney World again with our new baby Wesley!"
Ashley Curry - New England
Jennifer Wilmes - Cayman Islands: "We are planning a trip to Grand Caymans in Fall of 2019. My Mom and Step Dad are renewing their vows!"
Stephanie Turner - Brazil: "Along with Brazil, I'd also like to go back to Paris, Amsterdam, Greece and Israel in 2019!"
Emily Medina - Morocco: "Morocco is definitely on my bucket list! I also want to visit every continent, so I have Australia & Antarctica to see in the future as well!"
Mickey Gaona - Portugal: "I still have Portugal on my list. I also plan to spend my 50th wedding Anniversary aboard the Queen Mary docked in Boston on the 4th of July with lifelong friends!"
JV - Positano the Amalfi Coast of Italy
Janine Cartier - Kenya: "In 2019, I’d like to travel to Kenya, London and Italy again and would like to visit a US state I haven’t been to before - hopefully Portland OR Arizona!"
Cheryl Hegger - Greece: "In 2019, I will be traveling to Greece and doing the Adriatic Sea!"
Cathy Robinson - Singapore & Germany: "Singapore is still on my top ten places to visit! I am also planning a trip to Germany to visit family in 2019!"
Susan Hakenjos - Japan: "In 2019, I hope to finally visit Japan and Alaska!"
Ann Fendelman - Australia & New Zealand
After 30 years in the Travel Industry, Travel Consultant Michelle Busse FINALLY got a chance to see Europe via the Blue Danube River and she could not stop talking about how amazing it was!
Michelle knew that after years of recommending clients to fly in at least a night or two before the cruise embarks that she must do so also! They flew into Budapest three days before embarkation and she was SO glad they did! Doing so gave her and her husband an extra three days & two nights in the beautiful city. Those two nights pre-cruise, they stayed at the Marriott in Budapest and Michelle would recommend this hotel to anyone traveling to Budapest!
Their cruise ended in Nuremberg, where they decided to take the train from Nuremberg to Munich where they stayed their final night at Le Meridian Munich. They loved this hotel also!
“I would DEFINITELY recommend adding pre AND post accommodations when doing any river cruise. Pre-accommodations is a must in case something was to happen with your flights into the city. Post accommodations will allow you to see more of the beautiful cities that you are seeing via the river.”
To see more pictures from Michelle & Jim's exploration of Budapest, click through the slideshow below:
The Avalon Experience
Michelle thought that cruising with Avalon on Expression was like staying in a beautiful, boutique hotel on a ship. She thinks that river cruising really allowed them to experience the culture of each city and that it gave her and Jim a chance to experience Europe like they never have before. All the rooms on board are all suites and there are 144 total. They stayed in a “Panorama Suite” and the couple thought it was WELL worth it! There was no balcony, but the floor to ceiling windows had a little seating area near them which really brought the spectacular views into the room. Michelle specifically noted that the service on board was absolutely amazing and that the food was excellent!
"The largest and most comfortable Suites on the rivers." -Michelle Busse
To see pictures of Avalon Waterways' Panorama Suites & lifestyle on board Expression, click through the slideshow below:
Michelle could not stop talking about the pure beauty that she and her husband experienced, and they owe it all to this great itinerary! Because with stops in Hungary, Munich, Vienna, Dürnstein, Passau, Regensburg & Nuremberg, how could anyone disagree?
Day One consisted of the couple boarding the river cruise vessel, Expression with a Welcome Dinner giving the travelers a chance to meet the crew and other passengers on board.
Day Two allowed the travelers to enjoy a day of relaxation on board to marvel at the beautiful scenery they passed on both sides of the Danube River while cruising to Vienna. Cruising up river gave Michelle and Jim views of Hungary on their left and Slovakia on their right. That evening, they arrived at their destination in Vienna where an optional concert was available to all travelers during this overnight.
They awoke on Day Three ready to experience the magical capital of Austria, Vienna. The included city sightseeing tour took the couple to must-see Vienna sights such as the lavish Hofburg Imperial Palace complex, the neo-renaissance Vienna Opera House, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and much more!
The couple started Day Six with an included guided walk of one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities, Regensburg. Regensburg was established during the Holy Roman Empire and was the only German city not bombed during WWII. The included walk took the couple to see the architectural highlights of this beautiful, old city. They wandered through the city’s lanes and alleys to discover the many mansions with high towers built by wealthy families to emphasize their status and wealth. They went to Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), built in the 13th century, and on to Porta Pretoria, the gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD. Halfway through their day, Michelle and Jim enjoyed an included snack and German beer at the 17th-century Historische Wurstküche (Old Sausage Kitchen). The day continued with a walk across the 12th-century Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge), the oldest of its kind in Germany. Back on board the ship, they were introduced to some of Germany’s famous beers before sitting down for dinner.
Day Seven took the couple to Nuremberg, where they had the choice of joining the included sightseeing tour or an optional excursion, a more specialized “Nuremberg Rally Grounds” tour. The couple decided they wanted to see more of Nuremberg so they took part in the included tour. This took them to see the city that was once badly damaged during WWII but has since been restored to the glory it once knew, as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. They marveled at the medieval forts, extraordinary gothic churches and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle).
Michelle and Jim cannot wait to take a river cruise with Avalon Waterways again! (Hopefully, soon!)
Interested in a European River Cruise?
Contact Michelle at (314) 439-5700 ext. 117 or send her an email to begin planning a trip of a lifetime!
In September, Brentwood Travel in partnership with the Nine Network of Public Media, presented “On Location with Victoria”-a travel package that followed the footsteps of Queen Victoria and the filming of the TV series Victoria. The hit TV series portrays the dramatic life of the candid, spirited monarch who was perhaps the first woman who seemed to have it all!
~ DAY ONE ~
After arriving at the Manchester Airport, travelers went by motor coach to the ancient Viking city of York and checked into the Principal Hotel York. After a quick “freshen up” at the hotel, the travelers continued their day at Carlton Towers, which doubles as Windsor Castle in the TV series.
Upon arrival at Carlton Towers, the group was surprised by Brentwood Travel with the chance to meet the one and only Tom Hughes and Jenna Coleman (the Actor & Actress who play Prince Albert & Queen Victoria)! The travelers were privy to very special views of filming of the TV series that was taking place at that exact time of day! After quite the exciting visit, a quaint English afternoon tea was enjoyed before the guests returned to their hotel for an evening of leisure.
Day two continued with the travelers and local guide Alan returning to York for an afternoon walking tour of the main sites of York. The tour ended at York Minster, where some of the travelers decided to stay for Evensong, an evening prayer service.
Later that evening, the group met in the hotel lobby for a departure to the village of Nun Monkton, where a delicious dinner at the Alice Hawthorne Gastro-Pub was served, beginning with a glass of Prosecco! Yum!
~ DAY THREE ~
Day three was once again led by local guide Alan Rowley. The day started with a visit to Castle Howard which recalls the 1850 visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the home of royal confidant, George Howard.
~ DAY FOUR ~
On day four, local guide Alan led the group to the treasure-filled Harewood House, another top filming location of Victoria. Harewood House, set in a Capability Brown-inspired landscape, is the home of the Earl of Harewood, who is the cousin of Her Majesty, The Queen. The Victoria film crew used much of the State Floor, Below Stairs and the estate for the Buckingham Palace scenes. To continue bringing the story to life, the opulent State Rooms were used as the setting for many of the costumes used in the TV series.
Later in the day, the guests returned to York for an afternoon full of enjoying the local museums and fantastic shops at their leisure.
Click through the slideshow below to view more pictures from day four.
~ DAY FIVE ~
On the fifth and final day in York, Alan took guests on a full-day tour to Brodsworth Hall and Haworth, West Yorkshire, which was home of the Bronte sisters and is considered a literary mecca.
On the way back to York, the group stopped at the charming village of Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters – three quiet, sheltered Victorian women whose writing became a worldwide phenomenon. Who has not heard of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights?! Here, guests visited the Bronte’s parsonage home where they enjoyed a guided walk through of the home and village to experience what it was like during the time of the Bronte’s. Travelers enjoyed the Airedale village, exuding a vintage charm to make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a different era.
After quite a busy fifth day, travelers arrived back in York where they were given a bit of time to freshen up in their hotel rooms before departing for a very special dinner on their last evening in York at the Star Inn – The City Restaurant.
Click through the slideshow below to view more pictures from day five.
~ DAY SEVEN ~
On day seven, the guests spent their day with local Blue Badge Guide, Liz Cooper. Liz led the travelers on a tour of Victorian London where they saw the great buildings and institutions of this very important time in British history.
~ DAY EIGHT ~
Day eight was the last and final day of this amazing adventure. Guests were either transferred from their hotel to the airport for their return flight home or extended their vacation to enjoy more of what London has to offer!
Make sure to watch this beautiful video montage below
created by the team at Nine Network!
Continue following the drama of Queen Victoria’s life when Season 3 of “Victoria” premiers Sunday, January 13th!
*All photos and videos provided by Jack Galmiche, President & CEO of Nine Network *
*Blog written by Travel Consultant Christine Hakenjos*
If you would like to go “on location with Victoria” yourself or experience the life of true royalty the way these guests did, contact Group Travel Director, Cathy Robinson at 314-439-5700;Ext. 114 or send her an email!
Travel Consultants, Dagmar Morrison and Ann Fendelman recently returned from the APPLE VACATIONS Apple Leisure Group Trip to Cancun, Mexico. Ann gives us her first hand experience below!
The resort caters to families with children and there is non-stop fun for the kids. The water slide and Lazy River were great, and you can even swim with the dolphins nearby!
We also got a chance to experience the Secrets resort in Playa Mujeres, which is right next door and it is for adults only. This area had the prettiest beach I have ever seen, with sand like sugar!
We also toured “Dreams in Riviera Maya” and “Secrets The Vine” in Cancun. Both spectacular resorts!
Interested in a fun in the sun, luxurious getaway? Contact Ann or Dagmar to begin planning a trip to Mexico!
Ann Fendelman: 314-439-5700, Ext. 118 or by Email
Dagmar Morrison: 314-439-5700, Ext. 104 or by Email
Travel Consultant, Ashley Curry, Supervisor of Leisure Travel, Stacey Hoehne, President & CEO, Stephanie Turner and her husband, Will, have all just returned from the inaugural of Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Symphony of the Seas!
We chose split up to see some of the big shows! Hairspray is currently on board and was such a fun performance. Stephanie Turner and her husband Will saw the production of Flight which is a journey through time, chronicling aviation milestones. The special effects of the show were very impressive. Stacey Hoehne and Ashley Curry caught the late-night comedy show which was highly entertaining! Throughout the ship, there were also performers in the Dazzels Nightclub, Irish Pub, Boardwalk, Aqua Theatre, Ice Show and more.
“For adults, there is an amazing spa facility that offers many different treatments and for those who love to stay fit, there is a state-of-the-art fitness center and classes, plus a complete jogging track around the entire ship. There are also quieter places on the ship like the beautiful 2 story Solarium complete with its own Bistro restaurant serving lighter fare. Many of the shows are geared to those of all ages. The ice-skating show is always breathtaking, the Aqua Theater with its production of Hiro presented heart stopping acrobatics over the water and the amazing original production of Flight, where you feel you are a part of this story of flight from a future time back through the Wright brothers. The show was done in a way that is unique and powerful. And of course, the new and updated version of Hairspray was one of the best I have seen!” -President & CEO, Stephanie Turner.
When asked about his favorite part of the ship, Will said the highlights were the dinners at the Costal Kitchen and Jamie’s Italian! He also mentioned, “Even though the ship was big it was easy to get around and there were plenty of places to stop. The staff was all great as well.”
We got a chance to see the different room categories, including the top suites. These suites are very impressive! The top Star Class suites come with a Royal Genie to truly give a VIP experience.
“After experiencing 220 cruises, this one definitely had the most to offer for every age group. If I were planning my trip with a family, I would absolutely recommend a Suite for all of us – there are many with different sizes and layouts – to have that gathering place for everyone. But, I must say the Verandah staterooms - from Oceanview to Central Park - were well laid out as were the inside rooms with a virtual window. No choice is a bad choice – it just has to be right for you.” -President & CEO, Stephanie Turner.
To view more of the rooms on board, watch the slideshow below:
Our Overall Thoughts:
Our 2-night cruise was considered a “preview cruise”, so we didn’t get a chance to experience everything that was offered on board. We’ll just have to book a 7-night cruise soon to experience the rest of all that the Symphony of the Seas has to offer. Like the Laser Tag, Aqua Theatre, Ice- Skating Show and to try out the rest of the restaurants and bars! The Symphony is currently sailing out of Miami switching between the Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries!
Written By: Supervisor of Leisure Travel, Stacey Hoehne
Contact Us to book your next cruise on Royal Caribbean’s brand-new ship, Symphony of the Seas!
Last week, my friend Lindsay and I traveled to Denver, Colorado to visit two of our friends that have relocated there for work. This was a very short trip, but it was just enough to catch up, laugh a lot, and experience the natural beauty that is Colorado!
Our trip started with lunch, drinks, and a bit of shopping in the River North Art District or as the locals would call it, “RiNo”. RiNo is known for its handful of historic warehouses and factories that have been transformed into house jazz bars, art galleries, restaurants, brewpubs and working studios. The neighborhood itself could be considered art with its array of beautiful murals painted on most of the buildings. Agreeing on a place to settle in for lunch was difficult due to the number of restaurants available to us. We decided on Park Burger, a gourmet burger joint where I had THE best hamburger I have ever eaten, hands down. The spiked milkshake wasn’t too shabby either 😉 After lunch, we walked the rest of the district and enjoyed the various shops in the area.
Our Journey to Steamboat Springs
We woke up the next morning to get on the road for Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The three-hour journey to Steamboat took us through many adorable small towns. Towns like Idaho Springs, Silverthorne and Kremmling, while passing mountains and hillsides, snowy pines, lakes, rivers and even a handful of wildlife! All of which made the whole road trip a sightseeing opportunity.
The Inn at Steamboat
We arrived at our hotel (The Inn at Steamboat) a little past noon and to our surprise we were able to check in right away! This small, boutique hotel was right in the middle of town making it the perfect stay for us! Our double-queen balcony room had an absolutely beautiful view of the mountains, a small living area with a quaint fireplace for guests as well as a pool and Jacuzzi tub outside.
This small town of Steamboat, just west of Denver is known for its many opportunities for outdoor activities. One of which being the various natural hot springs in the area (the purpose for us choosing this town). We chose to spend the day at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, just a short 10-minute drive from our hotel.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs
We arrived at the springs prepared for a day full of relaxing in nature’s hot tubs, (swimsuits and all under a good 10 extra pounds of winter gear). A short walk down a gravel road led us to an open, stunning view of the springs surrounded by snowy mountains and trees. The views were just unreal. We claimed a spot and undressed as quickly as we could and hopped into the closest hot spring possible. The water was much warmer than I was expecting!
After spending the day hopping in and out of the different springs, we all noticed that we had a sense of energy and relief that we did not have prior to our visit. My daily back pain was completely gone and I was surprisingly very energized and relaxed for the remainder of the day. I didn’t want to leave!
Our evening in Steamboat was spent enjoying the small downtown area with visits to various shops and boutiques. We had a very delicious, authentic Mexican meal at Fiesta Jalisco in town and then the rest of our night was spent enjoying the warmth of our hotel room.
Already Dreaming of CO again..
This trip was the perfect combination of sightseeing and much-needed R&R. Our three days were full of beautiful city, small town and mountainous views, hours of relaxation mixed with many laughs (some of which resulted in tears) while catching up with 3 of my favorite ladies 😊
10/10 would recommend a girls trip to the mountains!
Contact Christine at (314) 439-5700 Ext. 134 or send her an email to
begin planning a trip to Colorado!
"The cruise itself was amazing and we want to thank our Travel Consultant Stacey Hoehne for the wonderful dinner on our first night and the strawberries and champagne!
A highlight during our voyage was our balcony stateroom especially as it gave us the option to open the partition between our room and my parents which was fun! We also got up in the middle of the night while going through the inside passage and watched as we threaded that ship through a needle while sitting on our balcony in our robes. And it was a full moon that night!
One morning we were sitting out on our balcony and a humpback literally waved one of its fins at us. This was the first cruise that I’ve taken were you can see land all around most of the time. It was incredible when a momma brown bear and her 3 cubs were spotted on the shore and the captain would get us as close as he possibly could! And we spent many nights watching the sunset in the Crow’s Nest. The onboard naturalists were incredible and we all learned a lot about Alaska. The ship board credit also came in handy and we appreciated it. Food was good and service was great!
It really was a trip of a lifetime with my family and we all have awesome pictures of the trip and great memories. I believe that every single human being on this planet should see the many wonders that I saw in Alaska!”
Contact Stacey at 314-439-5700 ext. 128 or send her an email
to begin planning an amazing Alaska Adventure!
One of the biggest things to look forward to the most when traveling to Italy is easily the food and drinks! But, there are a number of rules to keep in mind when dining and drinking in Italy. Chris Atwood with See Italy has come up with "11 Rules For Eating In Italy", but our agents have thrown in an extra couple rules ourselves 😉 *Look for See Italy’s original article that is linked at the bottom of this post*
#1. Pasta portions are individual sized.
Here in the United States, we have Americanized Italian plates to a crazy amount. Most Italian restaurants that we know, offer enormous portion sizes of their pastas that are easily big enough to share. This is NOT the case in Italy. The pasta in Italy, considered there as “Primo” is individually sized and this is not because the cook is being stingy. Italians like to stagger their meals. They eat their appetizers first, then their pasta and THEN their main entrée. By keeping their pasta dish to a smaller size, Italians hold on to their appetites long enough to full enjoy all courses without feeling too stuffed. Leaving room for plenty Tiramisu for dessert!
#2. The pizza toppings are totally different in Italy.
When ordering a Pepperoni Pizza in Italy, you will get a pizza pie covered in peppers. Why? Because pepperoni in Italy means ‘bell peppers’. Pizza originated in Italy, but again, we have Americanized the Italian Pizza to a crazy amount. For example, BBQ chicken pizza, Hawaiian pizza & yes, even the pepperoni pizza originated here in the United States. NOT Italy. The traditional pizzas found in Italy will be the Margherita (mozzarella, tomato & basil), the Marinara (which is just crust & tomato sauce), the Quattro Formaggi (white pizza with four types of cheese), and the Capricciosa (artichokes, ham, mushrooms, and black olives). So keep this in mind when going to order your favorite pizza pie in Italy!
#3. You do not need to order the whole menu.
As noted above, Italians stagger the way they eat. Enjoying the antipasta before moving on to first course (pasta/risotto/soup). The second course is either a meat or fish dish. This is why you will NEVER see a meat or fish entrée served on the same plate as your pasta. Italians consider these as two separate dishes that should be enjoyed separately, with the pasta being served before the main dish. Insider tip: Split your antipasta and then order either a pasta or an entrée. If you are STILL hungry, you can always go back for more 😉
#4. ONLY drink wine or water at a restaurant.
We come from a land with AT LEAST five drinks choices being offered on almost any menu here in the States. At many sit-down restaurants, Italians will only sip on two drinks; wine and water. The wine in Italy will be served in chilled glass bottles and will usually cost about 2 euros per bottle. The waiter will usually ask you if you want “acqua naturale” which is flat mineral water or “acqua frizzante” which is fizzy mineral water also known as sparkling water. Do not ask for tap water, most restaurants will refuse to serve that to you. House wines can be ordered by the liter and are usually the same price as the water! Most will offer wine by the bottle also.
#5. Oil & vinegar are the only salad dressings offered.
“Italian dressing” in Italy does not exist. That salad dressing was (yes, you guessed it) Americanized as well! When ordering a salad in Italy, the waiter will bring extra virgin olive oil and vinegar to the table or “olio e aceto”. This is the only way Italians eat insalata. Another fun fact! Italians will absolutely not dip their bread into olive oil and balsamic.
#6. No bread before pasta!
With foods like pizza, pasta and focaccia most think that Italians eat nothing BUT carbs. This is actually not the case. When ordering pasta, Italians would never consider eating their bread before their bucatini. The bread that is served at restaurants is used to scoop up the leftover pasta sauce onto your plate and ONLY when you are finished consuming the pasta.
#7. There are no such things as “doggy bags” to bring leftovers with you.
Italians love fresh, homemade meals. They do not appreciate leftovers the way we do here in the states. You must be careful not to over order while dining in Italy. The pasta that is left on your plate will be taken away and not returned back to you. So, enjoy the food that is in front of you while you can but do not expect to take it home with you.
#8. Some dishes will not exist in all of Italy.
Rome is world famous for Carbonara. Florence is known for its Fagioli and Venetians go crazy for their risotto. Wherever you travel in Italy, each region will provide you their own flavors. So the food you enjoy in Rome will not necessarily resemble what you enjoy in Sorrento. Insider tip: before heading to Italy, do some research as to the local specialties in each of the places that you will be staying.
#9. Cheese does not always go on your dish.
It is not customary to ask for grated cheese on top of your dish. Sprinkling grated cheese on pasta dishes and Italian entrees is yet again a very American thing to do. Unless your waiter offers you a spoonful of grated cheese, do not ask for it. It is not meant to be on that dish or it will be offered after it is served.
#10. Enjoy a caffe or digestive after dinner.
Only foreigners will order a cappuccino with or after dinner in Italy. Italians would much rather order a caffe or macchiato after savoring a full, slow meal. Cappuccino’s are filled with milk and cream and is considered much too heavy after consuming a bunch of carbs. It is also very common to order a caffe corretto after dining, which is a shot of espresso spiked with liqueur. Insider tip: NEVER pass up on dessert while in Italy.
#11. Ask for your bill, when YOU want it.
Here in the States, we are so accustomed to the waiter bringing us our check when we are finished dining. This is not the case in Italy. The waiters in Italy want you to sit and enjoy your meal and do not want to hurry you out the door. Instead, they will wait for you to ask for the bill (which you can simply do so by flagging them down and requesting the “il conto” when you are ready to pay because they do not want to rush you out the door.
#12. Peel your fruits and vegetables.
Italians do not consume fruits and vegetables with the skin on them. They will always peel the skin off first. Many think that this is because Italians think the pesticides are unhealthy but most will say that this is because of tradition. If you start to bite into a fruit that still has the skin on it, you will most likely have the fruit ripped from your hand and the skin cut off for you by a local. Don’t get embarrassed this way 😉
#13. Arrive late to any dinner party or dining event.
It is considered rude in Italy to arrive early or on time to a dinner event. Italians will always try and arrive just a tad after the planned time as to not rush the host or chef.
Below you can find pictures shared by Travel Consultant Julie Skrainka, who travelled to Sorrento back in May. She & her husband, Alan spent an evening at their Agriturismo making pizzas with their host Natalia, her mother-in-law and her husband Luigi. Once Julie & her husband were finished creating their pizza masterpieces, Luigi then baked them in their own beautiful wood-fired oven.
Read more of See Italy’s article, written by Chris Atwood here
Hungry for your next Italian adventure?
Contact us to get started on planning your next vacation to Italy!
Call us: 314-439-5700
Visit us: 1022 Executive Parkway; St. Louis, Missouri 63141
This summer I went on a 4 night Jamaica getaway to Secrets Wild Orchid with my friend Libby.
Secrets Wild Orchid shares their property with Secrets St. James. Each resort has their own set of rooms and their own main pool areas but they share the restaurants and the entertainment. You have access to both properties!
There is also a Preferred Club room section at each resort which offers an additional exclusive pool area and some extra amenities. With Preferred Club room status you also have access to the Breathless resort nearby.
I really enjoyed the nightly entertainment at Secrets and the fun activities at the pool. There was always something going on for us to take part in, especially in the evenings. We met a great group of people who we quickly became friends with!! Couldn't complain about the delicious drinks either!
Contact Stacey at (314) 439-5700 Ext. 128 or send her an email to
begin planning an amazing Jamaican vacation with Secrets!
St. Louis was my home for more than 40 years and during that time, I used Brentwood Travel for several of my world travels. Even though I now live in Florida, I still received excellent service from Travel Consultant Ashley Curry as I began planning a trip to Europe. In August of 2018, my wife Sue and I embarked on a wonderful 14-day river cruise across Europe from Amsterdam to Budapest aboard the Avalon Waterways ship Illumination.
We flew into Amsterdam and flew home from Budapest. At the Amsterdam airport we were met by the Avalon driver at the huge red and white checkered meeting place in the middle of the airport. Very easy to find the spot! Working with customs in Amsterdam and Budapest was very easy. They looked at our passport, asked us where we were going, stamped our passport and told us to “have a nice vacation”. It took no time at all.
We were immediately driven to our beautiful hotel, the Room Mate. Even though it was five hours before check-in time, they cleaned our room for us and we were settled in by 10:30 AM. Our hotel sat right on the harbor in the very heart of Amsterdam and we were able to walk everywhere we needed to go.
The next day our Avalon Waterways ship was tied up a mere 150 yards from our hotel’s front door. An Avalon representative picked up our luggage in the hotel lobby and when we checked into our room on the ship later that afternoon, there was our luggage already in our stateroom. Great service!
We can’t say enough good things about the crew and staff of the Illumination. They were friendly, fun and very helpful. Dining was always a pleasure because you were treated like royalty by the waiters. We all laughed at all the knives and forks and spoons set before us. I never quite figured our which fork or spoon to use with each course. The waiter was always switching my forks and spoons around because I’d use the wrong one. I should have brushed up on my table manners before I went. Fortunately no one else knew any more than I did. It was fun!
The ship was beautiful, modern, clean as a pin, and comfortable. We loved our nice big room with the queen bed facing the huge wall of windows. We saw dozens of cruise ships on our trip, and I can honestly say that our ship, the Illumination, was one of the most attractive ships on the river.
Life on an Avalon cruise is sightseeing at a laidback pace, and we liked that. No need to ever dress up and everything is casual. The only dress requirement was to wear slacks to dinner instead of shorts. Sue and I each packed a small 24” roll on suitcase, and we had more than enough clothes for the entire cruise. We did send out our laundry twice on the cruise to the ships laundry service, and it came back beautifully hung on hangers.
I had bought a square electric power adapter for our iPhone charger and our electric toothbrush, but it didn’t fit into the round electric outlets on the ship. Not to worry, the ship loaned me the correct adaptor. Furthermore, there were two USB connectors on the light switch next to our bed into which we plugged our iPhones each night to charge. That was unexpected and very convenient.
I love visiting cathedrals and beautiful churches. I have seen cathedrals all over England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain, but I have never seen anything more beautiful that some of the churches I saw on this cruise. I was blown away. One of my favorite churches was the Alte Kapelle (translates to“old church) in Regensburg, Germany. It was plain on the outside but step inside and we saw this Bavarian Rococo style church built in the 18th century. I really enjoyed getting to hear the organ being played.
We loved sitting at the stern of the ship each afternoon and watch the world go by. Our ship could hold about 150 people but there were only 100 of us on board, so you could always find a nice quiet spot to yourself. The lounge was the spot everyone came to in the late afternoon at happy hour. There we would catch up with our friends and hear from the cruise director what was in store the next day.
We were always kept well informed. Each morning a schedule of the day’s activities was slipped under our door early in the morning, showing us what was in store for that particular day. When we went on a walking tour, the tour guide spoke into a small wireless transmitter, and each of us wore a small receiver with an earphone so we could always clearly hear what our tour guide was saying, even in a crowded space.
People were friendly everywhere we went and everyone spoke English. I had my iPhone translator app and never needed it. Sue accidentally left her purse on her chair in a restaurant, and the waiter chased us down the street to return her purse. We loved the restaurants we ate in. Most menus were in English, but the waiters helped us understand those that had no English translation.
If you are the athletic type, the ship had plenty of bicycles you could borrow to go off on your own if you wished. We had one group of a dozen passengers that biked on a bike path along the river for about 18 miles. The ship only goes about 7 miles per hour, so they could outrun us on their bikes.
The best views were always up on the observation deck sitting in the shade. And what beautiful views they were. I never tired of looking at the scenery. I live in southern Florida where there are no hills at all. This type of vacation is relaxing, unlike some vacations I’ve had that the moment I got home I felt I needed another vacation to rest up on. It’s ok to sit all day and do nothing and go nowhere and just watch the world roll by. One day we did just that and went off the ship on our own into town for an hour and that was just enough. You can be as active or restful as you want to be. You pretty much control your days.
If you go to Vienna, do yourself a favor and include the evening of classical music option Avalon offers. Even if you think you don’t really like classical music, you will enjoy the evening of music and ballet. You must not leave Vienna without having attended a classical concert. We loved it. They gave each of us a CD of the evening’s performance. I’ve listened to it over and over since I got home. Dress was casual, leave the tux at home. I sat there thinking “my daughter Allison used to play this music when she was a violinist in the orchestra in college.”
There was just issue we encountered but it was handled very well. Europe was so hot this summer (record heat) that the river water levels got so low that all ship traffic was halted in places. About four days into our trip we were told we would have to change ships because of low water conditions on the rivers we were to travel. Thanks to some heavy rains in Switzerland on day, we only had to change ships once, but we did spend the last two days of the trip on very nice Mercedes-Benz buses and staying in hotels. Mother nature always has the last word on river travel!
The hotels they arranged for us were five star, fabulous and beautiful. The fact that Avalon is part of the Globus organization explains why we were able to be placed into such nice hotels with a few days notice. They arranged for all our meals and gave us money to have dinner on our own in Budapest. Avalon went above and beyond to keep us comfortable and preserve our trip agendas. I have absolutely no complaints about how Avalon handled this situation of not being on the ship for the entire cruise.
No detail was left to chance. Everything was always perfectly organized. Our busses were on time, guides were always ready, and nothing felt rushed or unorganized. When I do another river cruise, I know I will choose Avalon Waterways.
Contact Ashley at 314-439-5700 Ext. 127 or send her an email to begin planning an amazing river cruise
with Avalon Waterways.
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