Dream Destinations

You Need Our Tenacity, Especially from Anne

You Need Our Tenacity, Especially from Anne

You Need Our Tenacity, Especially from Anne!

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

Tenacity—perseverance, determination, diligence—call it what you like, my wife Anne has it. 

She is relentless in her search for the best possible trip for you.  A while back during this year, I witnessed her staying on hold for over an hour to get a client a great deal on a flight and hotels in Europe because the online reservation system wasn’t working correctly.  It became part of the inspiration for this blog, and when I witness her actions on our D Day trip, I knew I had to write something about her tenacity.

Why should you care?  The reason is simple—our goal on every trip is to get you the best possible value for your vacation and tenacious folks like Anne, who are not afraid to put forth an extra effort, do get results that benefit you.

So, with your permission, let me give you some examples of tenacity from our business that have benefited others and about Anne’s amazing research abilities.

The Best Europe Cities to Visit Before and After Your Europe River Cruise

The Best Europe Cities to Visit Before and After Your Europe River Cruise

The Best Europe Cities to Visit Before and After Your Europe River Cruise

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

I write all the time about Europe river cruising and its value.  One aspect that is often very confusing for many, is how best to extend their trip and visit some of Europe’s great cities.  This blog covers the key extension cities on the Rhine and Upper Danube.

Almost all major cruise lines offer extensions and they can be a great value in simplifying your trip planning but are they always the best choice for you? 

I know you would like a definitive answer but my response is it depends on several factors.  To me these factors are 1) what is included? (to include the quality of the tours and guides), 2) transportation to the desired place, 3) security and ease of mind (how well do you handle unfamiliar places) and 4) cost—is the price worth what is included in the cruise line’s package? 

I should also mention that each cruise lines has different offerings, so it really is impossible in this short blog to adequately cover exactly what they offer.  To help remedy this, my approach will be to tell you about the key cities, perhaps some pitfalls to really see the sights on your own, and then you can use the 4 factors I provide you to see if it is a good value for you.

We will start north to south in Europe. So, let me defend my thoughts—use the cruise line packages, do it yourself or better yet let us plan it for you.

An Exceptional Resource--Our Europe River Cruise Section of Our Website

An Exceptional Resource--Our Europe River Cruise Section of Our Website

An Exceptional Resource—Our Europe River Cruise Section of Our Website

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

Do you want the Best Europe River Cruise Resource available for you on the World Wide Web?—then visit our river cruise section of our website! 

A very bold statement, to say the least, but for me it is true—we have more information about Europe River Cruising assembled in an easily organized manner to answer almost any aspect of your questions about Europe River Cruising.  I study Europe river cruising daily, have visited dozens of websites, read everything I can about Europe river cruising, and, in my humble opinion, we have the best information, organized in an easy manner, for you to understand and learn more about Europe river cruising.  Some websites come close, but still do not provide as extensive coverage as we do.

So, let me defend my thoughts—Are we an Exceptional Resource and the Best Europe River Cruise Resource on the World Wide Web?

The Great Value of a Europe River Cruise

The Great Value of a Europe River Cruise

The Great Value of a Europe River Cruise

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

We have planned almost every type of vacation you might want to take.  However, no matter how many we plan, we just keep realizing more and more the exceptional value you get when you take a river cruise, especially in Europe.  

We travel to Europe 2-4 times a year (just like you, we are limited by travel costs) and are taking river cruise number 18 later this year, and I think that really makes our thoughts about river cruising even more important—we speak from experience.  Our experience is that for most trips, it’s hard to beat the features of a river cruise, especially if you take a pre and post land option along with the cruise. 

So, let’s explore the value of a Europe river cruise!

Sights in Normandy--Pictures from 2 D Day Anniversary Trips

Sights in Normandy--Pictures from 2 D Day Anniversary Trips

Sights in Normandy—Pictures from 2 D Day Anniversary Trips

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

75 years ago today, the Allies invaded France in the Normandy region to start the defeat of Germany.  We have been lucky to led 2 Anniversary Trips (the 70th and 75th) to Normandy.

I could tell about the massive effort to assemble and train the invading force, the detailed planning and super human effort of the soldiers involved, but perhaps we should see the results of their sweat, blood, sacrifice of these soldiers by looking at Normandy in two Anniversary Celebrations from some of our pictures.  Normandy is free today and they have never forgot the cost to make them free.

The soldier’s deeds on that day allowed Normandy to be reborn.  In Europe, the best concentration of museums, memorials and preserved sites from WW II are in Normandy.  When you add in the re-enactors and equipment displays, it is almost overwhelming how good this festival celebration is—I can’t tell how much I recommend a trip here. 

The other part of this is a question we are often asked--why go back a second time or more on a trip or river cruise in Europe?—I think our pictures will show you how easy it is to really miss an important aspect of a site or experience and why we keep returning to learn and see more.

So, let’s take a journey through our pictures of 5 years past and this year’s celebration to see a festival that no one will forget!

Utah Beach on 5 June 2019

Utah Beach on 5 June 2019

Utah Beach on 5 June 2019

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

During our recent D Day trip for the 75th Anniversary of D Day, where we led 33 wonderful folks on a week-long trip (35 total counting Anne & I), we got to visit Utah Beach on a very busy day on 5 June 2019.

So, I thought I’d tell you about Utah Beach in the Normandy Invasion and let you see some of our pictures of this hallowed ground as it looks today.

On The River Again With AmaWaterways

On The River Again With AmaWaterways

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

As I write this, I am on the AMASerena on the Rhine River. We are sailing on the Captivating Rhine Route from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Basel, Switzerland.

AmaSerena Pool top Deck in Cologne

AmaSerena Pool top Deck in Cologne

Once again AmaWaterways continues to impress—the standards are very high, the food and wine are awesome, the ports and sights are great and the crew always makes you feel special.

It is cruise # 17 on AmaWaterways for us, so we have learned about this company from top to bottom and watched it grow and get better on each sailing since our first cruise in 2009. It just feels like home to us—inviting and we feel like special guests.

I write all the time about Europe river cruising and its value. We have 8 guests sailing with us, 2 couples for the first time and 2 couples that are new to the AmaWaterways family. They all agree—it is a great value!

Since many often want to know the differences between cruising during the seasons, I thought I’d tell you about the differences between cruising on the Christmas Markets in December and the summer cruise we are on now, on the identical route.

So, let’s compare the two—Ready?—Let’s go!

The Differences in the Ports

The most striking difference is the crowds in the public squares.

During the Christmas Market season, the squares are full of small booths and festive people shopping, talking and enjoying food and drinking heated, spiced wine. They are bundled up, happy and it is an amazing atmosphere of lights, color and fun. It is often quite crowded.

In the summer, many squares seem almost empty compared to the crowded Christmas Markets, but the small restaurants often have outdoor tables loaded with people enjoying a drink or meal and people watching. The establishments extend out into the squares and have replaced some of the empty space.

Since sunset is after 9:30 PM (2130 hours) in the summer in June, it seems the days last forever and the weather is mild. On this trip in particular, the weather has been spectacular—temps in the 60’s-70’s in the day and only a small rain shower for about an hour or so.

The wonderful thing about visiting Europe is seeing the people in their outdoor living rooms—the public places of Europe where the gather to visit, eat and enjoy life.

Both seasons are great, but just have a different feel and vibe.

The Wellness Program

In the summer, the already excellent Wellness Program has more activities due to the better, milder weather and program upgrades.

We got an early look at the program in the winter with the onboard wellness host, Selena on the AmaKristina. It was very good—as I have earned a master’s Degree in Physical Fitness, I think I have the credentials to properly evaluate the program.

Let me be clear—it is robust, fun and I was taken back about how many different activities were offered—it by far is the best fitness program on the Europe rivers by any company!

Jane, Len and Marcelo getting ready for a bike tour.

Jane, Len and Marcelo getting ready for a bike tour.

They offer stretching, Yoga, resistance bands, core exercises, bike tours and jogging tours. All are professionally led—Marcello, from Portugal, was our onboard wellness host and he did an outstanding job!

Selena, now the overall director of the program, has created a wonderful addition to Europe river cruising—well done!

The Tours

The tours do not change much except during the Christmas Markets, there is more time to visit the markets and each cruise manager helps folks learn about where to go to get their special gift or decoration.

The tours are well planned and fun. As we have been on this route 4 times, we know about each offering and have either been to the place on the offered tour or have seen it on our own.

This is one way we add value to your cruise—we use our first hand experience to advise you of which tour at what pace would be best for you. On this summer trip alone, we have a very active couple who completed most of the active and wellness activities, to include the bike tours, others who enjoy the normal paced tours and one couple who like the gentle walkers tours. They have used our advice to enhance their onboard experience.

The range of tour activities and the pace of a tour just enhances the guest experience—again AmaWaterways is right on the mark!

Life Onboard

AmaSerena Lounge

AmaSerena Lounge

It is amazing to me how consistent AmaWaterways is in delivering a great experience at a reasonable price. The meals and service is always good. Somehow the crew, who always work long hour away from their families, are pleasant, caring and really want you to have a great time. In 17 cruises, we think it gets better each time.

Anne with Jess at German food party while sailing—see the hard working crew in the background?

Anne with Jess at German food party while sailing—see the hard working crew in the background?

I wrote about high performing organizations in a past blog, and AmaWaterways is certainly high performing. Each person in the 47 person crew does their job professionally with a smile and tries to make you feel special.

My Ama Cruise App

A new feature on AmaWaterways is a mobile App that helps improve your travel experiences.

The App allows to know your full cruise itinerary, post pictures to an album, and has the Daily Cruiser, your detailed hour by hour schedule of each day.

If you post photos, you can send them to family and friends in an attractive email postcard. Friends can also follow your cruise progress on a live tracking map.

Rhine River Gorge Castle 2019–I can add this photo to my cruise App

Rhine River Gorge Castle 2019–I can add this photo to my cruise App

Very good descriptions of each port of call on your itinerary is also available to you when using the App.

The App also keeps track of your past and future cruise memories all in one place.

While sending the notices to others requires a WiFi or internet connection, it still can be used offline to record pictures and read about the sights or your daily programs. When internet service becomes available, it will update when you open the App.

It first came out in early December of 2018 and is better now in June of 2019.

Great, innovative idea!

My Final Thoughts

What a great company!—no wonder I still rate them the number one company for Europe river cruises. They have earned this spot and still keep it!

We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts. We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe. We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you. We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience. And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process. We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you! We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel. Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com. We want to help you: Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 48 years. He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years. He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees. His other Certifications:

• AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist

• Viking River Cruise Specialist

• Scenic River Cruise Specialist

• Emerald Waterways Specialist

• Avalon Waterways Specialist

• Brit Agent

IMG_1399.jpeg

Are We Europe River Cruise Specialists?

Are We Europe River Cruise Specialists?

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a specialist is “someone who has a lot of experience, knowledge, or skill in a particular subject.”

While I think we have exceptional experience, knowledge and skill in Europe river cruises, to properly evaluate what constitutes an expert and specialist in the travel industry, I believe there are 6 good measures that can provide a comprehensive and objective evaluation to determine if a travel advisor is truly an expert and specialist.  Here are the measurement factors:  1) experience; 2) certification; 3) knowledge of the industry; 4) first-hand knowledge of the industry; 5) professional organization membership and 6) can you trust them?

We can use these 6 factors to determine the difference between travel advisors and help you decide—what makes us special about our knowledge of river cruises and how do we use that knowledge to help you get a better river cruise vacation experience.

So, let’s explore what makes a travel advisor a river cruise expert and try to answer the question—Are we Europe river cruise experts and specialists?

Best Europe River Routes--The Upper Danube, The Most Popular Europe River Cruise Route

Best Europe River Routes--The Upper Danube, The Most Popular Europe River Cruise Route

Best Europe River Routes—The Upper Danube, The Most Popular Europe River Cruise Route

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Specialist

www.dreamdestinations.com

This blog is designed to provide you comprehensive information about sailing on a rivership on the Upper Danube—the most popular river cruise route in Europe. We are providing you a chance to experience this wonderful trip by using some of the many photos we have taken during our 5 trips on this route.

So, let’s visit this magical river together and learn all about its’ wonderful sights and ports!

What Are the Top Google Searches for Europe River Cruises?

What Are the Top Google Searches for Europe River Cruises?

What Are the Top Google Searches for Europe River Cruises?

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

Today, we all do searches for information on the web.  By far, Google is the number one search engine in use today.  Basically, Google uses keywords to find the information you are looking for from other sources—websites, blogs and other items posted to the world-wide web.  While the goal of most is to be on page one of Google, the basic question is—is the information accurate and useful to the user just because it is on page one of Google?

So, I thought I would go into a minefield and tell you about what folks are looking for on the web about Europe River Cruises.  Why is it a minefield—it is often hard to tell how accurate the information is about Europe River Cruises and the vendors and writers often sing the praises of Europe River Cruising, without adequately defending their views. 

Let’s go together, with open eyes and see how we would answer these most searched topics—not only will we answer the question but tell you where we rank on Google—but please remember, just because it is popular, it doesn’t mean it is the best available information.

Also, you may Google these topics and get slightly different results, so we must consider this a snapshot at best for 1 and 2 May 2019.

Luxury Europe River Cruises

Luxury Europe River Cruises

Luxury Europe River Cruising

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

This is an important look at luxury Europe river cruising.  It is an update of a blog I first wrote in November of 2016.  My central theme of this blog is the answer to the question “What is luxury in Europe River Cruising?

A couple of years ago, the Editor-in-Chief of Travel Age West Magazine, a publication for travel professionals, posed this question to his readers and asked for comments from the field.  He basically challenged us to explain how we explain “luxury” river cruising to clients.  He also asked if we have any amenities that we feel are mandatory to classify a river cruise line as “luxury”. 

Before we begin, it is important to decide what luxury is.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines luxury as: “1) Something that is not essential but is conductive to pleasure and comfort. 2) Something that is expensive or hard to obtain. 3) Sumptuous living or surroundings.” 

But, as my lovely wife Anne points out, we all have different ideas of what luxury is.

I’m sure long time readers of this blog know Anne and I are up for this challenge, so here goes—let’s explore Europe Luxury River Cruising together!

Our 11 Step Europe River Cruise Planning Guide

Our 11 Step Europe River Cruise Planning Guide

Our Planning Guide for Your Europe River Cruise from 2 Europe River Cruise Experts

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

And Anne Schrader, Certified Travel Professional & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

Have you ever wonder what you should consider when planning a Europe River Cruise?  I promise you, there is little clear cut information what you should consider to get the best possible river cruise that is right for you.

I tried a Google search but the results were not what I was looking for—some offered tips, some results went to destinations or rivers, then maybe companies.

We pride ourselves in making planning an art form—so let us provide you a step by step guide to ensure you will get the best possible river cruise for your vacation. 

Or, better yet let us plan it for you—we are the experts to advise you of the right match for your trip.  So how do we do it—we ask a lot of questions by having you tell us what is important to you.

Ready for our guide—let’s plan a Europe river cruise together!

Experience Cruising to Colorful Cities--Our Visual Guide

Experience Cruising to Colorful Cities--Our Visual Guide

Experience Cruising to Colorful Europe Cities—Our Visual Guide

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, European Destination & River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

While a lot of folks who travel think about important landmark sites to visit in the various ports, many do not realize that a world of colorful cities are easily accessible by cruise ships and even riverships. 

So, I thought I might let you see some of the wonderful, colorful places we have been able to visit by either a cruise ship or rivership.

Ready?—let’s explore together!

What is the Best Europe River Route?

What is the Best Europe River Route?

What is the Best Europe River Cruise Route?

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

The purpose of this blog is provide you a comprehensive guide of the available Europe River Cruise Routes, so you can decide on which route will be the best for your next Europe river cruise vacation.

Europe has the distinction of the continent with the largest number of navigable rivers compared to other regions of the world.  They are often devoid of major obstacles such as waterfalls and rapids, and are usually wide and deep enough to allow steady passage of people and material on all types of sailing vessels.  Combine the easy navigation with captivating sights such as castles, vineyards, capital cities and small, quaint villages and it is easy to see why folks would want to sail these amazing rivers!

We are often ask “Which river should we sail on for my first Europe river cruise?”  My short answer is take multiple trips--I would sail on all of them!  However, the problem is that most of us don’t have unlimited time and money to sail them all.

So to solve this dilemma, here is a guide to the European River routes most available to you.  I will describe the river, point out a couple of highlights and why you might consider sailing on this river.  The routes may be very short or may cover larger distances.  While there are some variations, many lines essentially cruise the same route on the most popular European river

Since most folks want to know what the best starting rivers are if they have never taken a European River cruise, by far the two most popular rivers are the Rhine and the Upper Danube, so let’s explore them first together.  Then will examine the remaining Europe Rivers you might want to consider for your vacation.

Ready?—Let’s cruise together!

What is the Best Europe River Cruise Company?

What is the Best Europe River Cruise Company?

What is the Best Europe River Cruise Company?

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

Perhaps the most often asked question from our clients about Europe river cruising is “What is the best Europe River Cruise Line?  It is almost always followed by: Why is it the best?

So, I googled best Europe river cruise company and got some really interesting results.  The results were all over the place—incomplete lists, reader polls, cruise critic best list(s), and two good river cruise authorities who have some well-reasoned lists.

Why such varied results?  I just don’t think you can factor a best list without categories.  I also think you have to look for how objective these lists are—the source, their qualifications to review river cruise lines and their reasons to rank on line over another.

Another key factor, in my opinion, is that all river cruises are good vacations and how valid is a best company list?—Does it have any real meaning? 

Here is a key fact to support that argument—all of the 8 major lines I cover have good accommodations, free Wi-Fi, wine & beer with lunch and dinner, limited entertainment and tours included in their base fare. 

At the very least, all river cruise companies are on par with premium ocean cruise companies and with a few exceptions include more than the ocean cruise lines.  And, when you read my top 10 list below, you will see each of the 8 major lines I cover has at least one win somewhere on my list.

So, let’s examine my 10 best list and let me defend my selections.