South American Sojourn
During February and March I enjoyed an extended time traveling through South America. We started with four days in the Brazilian Amazon aboard the Iberostar Grand Amazonia sailing from Manaus. The “floating resort” was an excellent way to explore the area as both the ship moved from spot to spot and we took daily excursions further into the jungle. After some time in Rio De Janeiro we went to one of the three major waterfalls in the world, Iguazu Falls. What a spectacle! In Argentina we toured Buenos Aires and then headed south to the lake district. The scenery crossing the Andes by boat and bus over to Chile is fantastic. Our last stop Rapa Nui (Easter Island) where we walked among the amazing Moai carved heads was a major highlight for me. The carving and transport of something of their size and weight is mindboggling.
I think South America is somewhat of a forgotten continent for people in our area. Having also been to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica I would say that it shouldn’t be! There is something for everyone – I recommend putting it on your travel list.
Russia – Waterways of the Czars
In June I flew into St Petersburg to join a Viking River Cruise sailing to Moscow. The 12 day itineraries operate in either direction, and although you are housed on the boat the whole time, you spend 3 days in each of those cities. While in the cities you are on the go seeing all of the major fantastic sights and taking in cultural performances so it is a welcome break to slow down during the week of cruising.
I found this cruise-tour option to be an excellent way to discover today’s Russia. The excellent local guides both onboard and on the excursions were a wealth of information as they and their families have lived through the all the changes in their country over the last 50+ years. I had not been there since 1976 during USSR times – while the attractions were the same, so very much has changed. If you haven’t been or, like me, it was a long time ago, I think the destination is worth visiting now.
Western Mediterranean Cruise
A Western Mediterranean cruise in June was one of my recent wanderings. We sailed with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line on one of their mega ships, Oasis of the Seas. After extra time spent in Barcelona for sightseeing, the ship departed on to Palma de Mallorca, Spain - Provence, France – and Italy with port stops in Rome and Naples/Capri. This is a great itinerary for a first visit with excursions galore! The scenery is spectacular in these countries and activities on board the ship never cease. What made this even more special is that we took our 2 high school graduate grandsons as their gift before heading out to college. Many memories were made, and as grandparents, that is what counts. Cruising and this cruise line in particular are great for intergenerational travels!
Rocky Mountaineer Rail, Canada
Among the world’s famous rail journeys is Rocky Mountaineer in western Canada. I have done train travel before in the U.S. and in Europe but Rocky Mountaineer is not a mode of transportation. It is a one-of-a-kind experience you don’t want to miss.
The double-decker, GoldLeaf, glass-dome rail car is spacious with wide aisles, more leg room than the first class cabin of an airplane, heated reclining leather seats with foot rests, and electric outlets located in each row. Large tray tables pull out of the armrest, used to set down drinks and snacks while meals are served in the dining room on the lower deck.
Multi-course meals prepared by chefs traveling along with you, are served by very attentive staff who are much more than servers. They are storytellers, historians, guides whose commentary is sprinkled with humor throughout. The staff is gracious, welcoming, formal and relaxed all at the same time.
Breakfast and lunch featured fresh-baked breads and pastries, regional dishes, satisfying portion sizes, lighter options and special treats creatively presented and accompanied by British Columbia wines. Snacks and beverages were served throughout the day.
The glass-dome rail cars provide vistas that are beyond spectacular. Traveling on Rocky Mountaineer is quite a privilege and one in which I hope to do again in the future.
Rocky Mountaineer Rail, Canada
In October I had the pleasure to take one of the best rail experiences out there – Rocky Mountaineer! It has breathtaking landscape, wildlife, outstanding service, a host with stories to tell and gourmet food. (Yes, I was a bit worried I would not find anything I liked - if you know me I’m really picky when it comes to food – but I ate like royalty and loved every moment of it!) I do believe that Banff and Lake Louise represent the best of the best of the Canadian Rockies; the hotels, the scenery and the people are all about luxury and romance!!! Trip of a life time, let me book this awesome experience for you!
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
I hosted a group to the RIU República in November. It’s a beautiful all-inclusive resort and I loved that it was all adults only. The weather was awesome every day, 85 and sunny. The property is aesthetically very nice clean and well kept. There are many things to do at the resort - several pools, some with water slides and some just for volleyball. Lots of people did excursions including deep sea fishing. It was a great catch that day and they brought back 3 huge fish with which the resort even fixed a meal especially for our group! Numerous times I heard positive mentions for the Ocean Spa. There was no issue with seaweed on our beach, everyone came back healthy and very satisfied with Punta Cana and said they would go back in a heartbeat. Truly Punta Cana is a safe and beautiful Caribbean island and should be on your bucket list!
Crystal's Christmas Market River Cruise
My most recent trip to Europe was on the Crystal Mozart on the Danube River. The cruise started in Vienna and ended in Budapest. If you have never been to Europe during the Christmas season, you will find that it is magical, especially with the Christmas Markets in each town. You can stroll the market stalls and shop for special handmade crafts while sampling some of the delightful regional foods. The aromas are amazing!
We arrived in Vienna a day early, which allowed us additional time in this beautiful city. One of my favorite museums is the Kunsthistorisches. A must see!
Once we embarked on our riverboat, we settled in our stateroom and enjoyed an all-inclusive experience, including meals, snacks, drinks, gratuities, transfers, and shore excursions. We had at least one shore excursion daily. Highlights of the cruise include a concert in Vienna at the Belvedere Palace, a full-day excursion to Salzburg and its spectacular Christmas Market, Melk Abbey, Bratislava, and Budapest.
I highly recommend a river cruise. It's a wonderful way to travel and you only have to unpack once!