We Make People Happy!

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

We have done a lot of traveling lately and had many clients traveling in the first six months of this year.  It started me thinking about our purpose as travel advisors.  Why are we in business?  What is our purpose?  What should we provide to our clients?

There are many ways to look at these 3 questions—in my MBA classes, we studied economists and business advisors and their thoughts on businesses.  Perhaps the two most famous, Milton Friedman and Peter Drucker, have their definitions of the purpose of a business.  Friedman states the purpose of a business is profit maximization.  Drucker states the purpose is to create and keep a customer.  While I think there are merits in their definitions of the purpose of a business, I believe there has to be more.  Here is our business purpose–we want to improve your standard of living by helping you experience different places–we want to help you have happy travels!

So, let’s explore this together and see if we make people happy when they travel.

What Our Mission Statement Means to You

In our mission statement, we state we are “certified travel advisors who specialize in cruises, Europe river cruises, and European vacations for discriminating travelers.”  We further state “we provide customers with highest quality, expertly planned leisure travel.”

These are lofty words, but what do they mean to you?  Maybe a shorter way to say this is “we make people happy when they travel.”  I think we try to do this in two ways.  First, we want the planning experience to be pleasant—no stress, no worries—only solutions to your travel desires.  Second, we use the right vendors that will provide you great experiences—happy travel is the result.  It is our combination of experience planning travel and dealing with people in the right way that results in happy travel experiences. 

Put another way, we have tried to create a company that we would want to do business with and use over and over again.

Happiness is Vital in our Business

Happiness for me is an emotional state of well-being.  It is living a good life, one with positive emotions, finding pleasure in living, satisfaction and joy.

No one wants hassles in their lives but we still have them—it is just part of life.  Since there are always obstacles to happiness in our lives, we are determined not to be an obstacle—we want our dealings with you to be easy and fun.  We want to improve your emotional state of well-being—in short, make you happy.  When we make your travels happy, all else falls in place.

It is our golden rule—we treat you like we would like to be treated!

How Travel Creates Happiness

I think there are 3 main reasons travel creates happiness.  They are 1) experiencing different cultures and places, 2) enjoying the food and wine when dining on a trip, and 3) to connect or reconnect with friends and loved ones.

71 River Cruise
Friends and loved ones on an AmaWaterways river cruise 2015

One of our goals when planning your travel is to create happiness by helping you achieve these 3 factors on your vacation.  Travel planning is both an art and a science.  To get the best experiences and memorable dining, we must know our products completely—this is the science of travel planning.  While that is important, we also have to match these to your expectations—this is the art of travel planning.

If we do it right, we are certain to create happy travel results and this is both your and our goal.

Our Business Interactions with you—Happy Experiences are our Goal!

We want to become or continue to be your trusted travel advisors of choice for discriminating travelers who want a good value for their travel budgets.  We are really aware that our clients use us because they know us, hopefully like us, and most importantly, trust us.

I think there is one other aspect—we always treat you with kindness and fairness.  Basically, we want to make you happy you decided to conduct business with us and we made your trip a happy experience.

Some Examples of Happy Travel from 2017 & 2018

Often it is the voices of others that really tell the story.  Do we really make people happy?  Here are two communications from our trusted clients:

“I wanted to express my appreciation for you organizing and delivering one of the most wonderful travel experiences of my life! The AMA Waterways “Danube Cruise” was a truly amazing and educational trip! This was my first river cruise and I must say that working with Dream Destinations throughout the travel planning process made my trip come together flawlessly! Your professionalism and expertise earned my TRUST and I can’t wait for you guys to plan my next adventure on one of the many rivers of the world! I love you guys and the way you go about your business!!!”

Jeff Rock 2018

Jeff and Hank
Friends for over 47 years–Jeff Rock, my West Point Classmate, and Hank

Thanks, Jeff—sounds pretty happy to me!

“Hank and Anne at Dream Destinations are truly the best, bar none! My wife Denise and I first met them on an Ama Waterways Rhone River cruise back in 2013. Their knowledge and passion for all things Europe is truly infectious and the reason why we have booked travel with them every year since. Some of our favorite places to visit are Paris, Prague, Bruges, Nuremberg, Strasbourg, and Lucerne. From river cruises to rail passes, accommodations and restaurant recommendations, they are our “ambassadors to Europe” and our first choice in travel agents.  These two travel professionals will thrill you with their ingenuity and exceed your every expectation by designing a one-of-a-kind trip tailored to your dreams and desires.”

Mark Thomas 2017

Mark and glasses
Mark Thomas and crew preparing for wine tasting on an AmaWaterways River Cruise 2014

Thanks Mark and Denise—we are proud to help you have several happy trips!

My Final Thoughts

Happy Travels!  And Happy first day of summer 2018!

We are in the business of making people happy when they travel.  Sure, we would like to also make a profit, but our focus has always been on making your trip a great experience that brings you joy.  You can’t imagine how good it makes us feel when we succeed—it makes us happy!

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.  And, we want you to be happy during the planning process and on the trip.

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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 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
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AmaWaterways Blue Danube Discovery 2018

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

As I write this, I’m on the AmaCerto in the Rhine-Danube Canal.  It is our 5th trip on the AmaCerto—feels like home.  Much has changed since 2009 in river cruising—almost all is for the better.

So, I thought I’d write about AmaWaterways and the Danube—one of the two most popular routes for river cruisers in Europe.

The Route

Our cruise started in Budapest and will end in Nuremberg.  We have sailed this direction upstream 3 times; twice downstream.  The amazing scenery has not changed much—the Wachau Valley has to be the one of the best cruises for just enjoying the upper Danube River scenery.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so there are no bridges to interrupt the views.  Unlike the Rhine River Gorge, with castles dotting almost every hill, the region has only three or four great castles.

Aggstein Castle
The ruins of Aggstein Castle

 

Schonbuhl Castle
Schonbuhl Castle on the Danube River

But the quaint villages, sometimes dominated by a fortified church complex, and the steep vineyards provide a relaxing and fun sailing experience—the castles are not missed.

While we chose to sail on the river in the Wachau Valley, you could also bike through this wonderful place.  AmaWaterways was a pioneer in bicycle tours on the Danube and the 20 mile bike ride was a highlight for many—it may be one of the best cycling rides in Europe.

Other stops before the Wachau included, Bratislava (capital of Slovakia) and Vienna (capital of Austria).  Even after multiple stops in both places, we find these incredible cities—vibrant and deserving of more exploring.  Also, the small village of Durstein and its blue-towered monastery and castle ruins where Richard Lionhearted was held in prison, is another great stop.  We then sailed to Melk with its famous Abbey, ornate chapel, and collection of rare books and manuscripts.

Later today we port in Passau, the first city on the Danube in Germany.  It sits on a peninsula at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. 

img_2098
The Veste Oberhaus (Bishop’s fortress) overlooking Passau

We will then visit Regensburg (we are going on a beer and sausage tasting tour) and finally off to Nuremberg.  All are great stops.

What is New Onboard

While much remains the same, there are two great new features on the cruise.  They are the new wellness program and the Sip ‘n’ Sail cocktail hour just before dinner.  Both are real hits in our opinion.

While most who know me well, would say my favorite change is the new included Sip ‘n’ Sail free cocktail hour, but, I was most impressed with the wellness program.  Our wellness hostess, Vanda, conducted stretching classes, core strengthening classes and bike rides.  What impressed me most that it was all age appropriate and the response on board has been very good.  As a former physical fitness instructor in college and for sports teams, it was interesting to see how well the programs were conducted and how the cruisers enjoyed adding a little fitness to their daily routine. 

Another big change was the Sip ‘n’ Sail program.  Free (included) drinks prior to dinner is great.  Wine, beer and a good selection of well drinks—even martinis are included.  Great improvement!

What remains the Same

Anne always reminds me that consistency is the key to great travel.  On AmaWaterways, the good things remain the same or are slightly better than past cruises. 

Let’s start with the cruise manager, Kata.  We sailed with her in 2011, and when we met up again, we were greeted with a hug and total enthusiasm.  We weren’t clients—we were old friends getting to share a trip together.  For those who have never sailed on a river cruise, the cruise manager, arranges tours, and is the person who helps you enjoy the cruise.  He or she is the person who makes or breaks the cruise for you and as always, AmaWaterways delivered.

3 Great Ladies
Kata, Anne in her new Dirndl dress with Carmen of the bar staff.

Food and service is excellent—always well planned meals.  One item of note—portions are slightly smaller and for the baby boomers of our generation, this is a smart move.  You can always have more food, but even for big eaters like me, the portions were properly sized. 

Each year, the included Chef’s Table menu changes.  I liked meal this year,  and the wonderful view from the stern of our river ship.  It is the little extras that make the difference—the Chef’s Table remains a hit.

Chef's Table
The Chef’s Table

Bar service is outstanding and the wines were particularly good with meals.  It still amazes me how generous the wine pours are by the bar staff—the idea is to give you enough and not too much, but you will seldom find your wine glass empty for long during meals.

Our cabin was always clean and efficient.  I find the cabins well designed and perfectly adequate.  Although some would prefer a larger cabin, the constraints of the river lock system have limited cabin size.  Don’t despair—larger cabins are coming to AmaWaterways in 2019 with the AmaMagna—I will write a future blog about the two large river cruise ships that will sail a portion of this route we are currently sailing. 

I can’t say enough about the crew—they work 18 hour days, and every detail is about making your vacation better.

Our Cruise Experience

We are traveling with a lifelong friend and West Point classmate, Jeff Rock.  Rock is a straightforward guy, so I take his comments to heart.  He sailed the entire Danube—2 weeks on the AmaCerto.  His email to me prior to us joining him in Budapest —“This is a great way to travel!  Can’t wait to see you.”

Jeff and Hank
Friends for over 47 years–Jeff Rock, my West Point Classmate, and Hank

He plans to sail again with AmaWaterways.  Not a real surprise to me—almost all who go on a river cruise we plan, go again.

My Final Thoughts

When folks find our we have sailed this route before, they want to know why—wouldn’t it be boring?  Our response —it never is!  You can’t see it all on the first trip and when you consider the different seasons, it changes.  Spring brings new life, summer is full of flowers and green trees, autumn is ablaze with color and Christmas is a festival not to be missed (don’t forget about our Christmas cruise on the Rhine in December of this year).  These are wonderful places to visit and we hope one day you will let us plan a trip to one or all of these great places.

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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 46 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

 

Rangers Lead the Way!

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

The crossing was rough—the weather was stormy and the seas were not kind to the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions.  Most could not get any sleep as the dread of an upcoming mission along with the rough seas made them restless.  It is always that way before critical missions—no amount of training and preparation could ease their minds—they were going Pointe du Hoc to destroy an artillery battery on top of a 100 foot cliff.

The capture of Pointe du Hoc was considered critical to the overall invasion plan.  It was considered one of the most dangerous areas of Normandy.  The 155mm cannons could fire upon the landing zones of Utah and Omaha with devastating effect on the invading force.  It had to be neutralized.

Pointe du Hoc was defended by elements of the 716th and 352d Infantry Divisions, along with artillerymen–it became a heavily fortified bastion for the Wehrmacht as part of the Atlantic Wall.  Approximately 200 German troops (125 infantry and 85 artillery men) were garrisoned in or around the Point du Hoc position.

The rangers had to take this defensive area or the whole D Day mission might fail.

An Obstacle too Difficult to Take from the Sea

The Pointe du Hoc cliffs were considered too difficult to scale under combat conditions.  This point of view was firmly held by the Germans.  And, not surprisingly, most American military commanders also thought it was a suicide mission.  Yet, it was vital to the success of the overall invasion scheme.  The 100 foot cliffs were almost 90 degrees from the base to the top.

Pointe Du Hoc Cliffs 2.jpg
Pointe Du Hoc Cliffs

The Germans planned the defense on the land bridge of Pointe du Hoc facing away from the sea by concentrating their forces for an inland assault.  They developed a defensive position consisting of heavily fortified concrete casements interlaced with tunnels, trenches, and machine-gun positions around the perimeter.

Rudder’s Rangers

On fateful day, Lt. Col James Rudder led 225 men in an assault on the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.  But to understand this superb combat unit, we must return to the days of 1943, where Rudder formed the Rangers.  The 2nd Ranger Battalion was activated on April 1, 1943 at Camp Forrest, Tullahoma, Tennessee.  They were volunteer units.  Each soldier had to possess superb physical qualities and sharp mental skills.  They also trained in Florida.  Each ranger became skilled in all types of weapons, hand-to-hand combat and handling difficult terrain.  The unit was deployed to Scotland next.  Here they trained on scaling cliffs and worked with British Commandos. 

The rangers were organized into 6 line companies, A to F.  Each company consisted of 65 men and 3 officers.  The companies were organized into 2 platoons.

The Plan

The plan was for the 2nd Ranger Battalion to assault the cliffs at 0630 and take possession of the German position by 0700.  Company D was to scale the cliffs from the west; Companies E and F were to scale the cliffs from the east.  They would then destroy the cannons once on top of Pointe du Hoc.  After destroying the weapons, they were to establish a defensive perimeter on Pointe du Hoc and prevent the Germans from moving reinforcements down the coastal highway that connected Grandcamp and Vierville.  The rangers were to hold the ground until relieved by the 116th Infantry Division.  Relief was scheduled for noon on 6 June 1944.

If they failed, the 5th Ranger Battalion would then take up the mission, along with companies A and B of the 2nd Ranger Battalion.  They were scheduled to also land at Pointe du Hoc as reinforcements, assuming the objective was taken by 0700.  If it was deemed the initial assault was a failure, this force was to land at Omaha Beach and move inland to take Pointe du Hoc.

A Landing that Started Off Wrong

At 0445 the rangers were loaded into landing craft that held 22 men per landing craft.  They men and supplies were loaded into 10 landing craft and 4 DUKW’s amphibious vehicles. 

Landing Craft
A DUKW craft used in the D Day Invasion

As they approached the beachhead, they were 3 miles off course, and LTC Rudder realized the error and the landing craft had to travel exposed back to the correct landing site.  By the time they arrived at the objective, 1 landing craft and 2 DUKW’s were sunk. 

They were due to start their assault at 0630, but the currents and navigation errors delayed the landing until 0710.  Since the plan called for the assault to begin at 0630, the naval bombardment stopped at 0625.  This allowed the Germans to regroup and take up some defensive positions.

The Germans, however were slow to reorganize, and this aided the assault.

The first landing crafts made it to Pointe du Hoc at 0710.

Over the Top and Success

Scaling the cliffs was one of the most impressive military feats ever successfully accomplished by a US unit.  Companies D, E and F landed and scaled the cliffs by using rocket-fired grappling hooks attached to ropes.  They developed the scaling techniques primarily by trial and error during their training sessions.  Their training was intense and it paid off—under pressure and enemy fire these soldiers responded despite incredible odds against their success. 

The landing problems resulted in an assault only from the east side of Pointe du Hoc.  The soaked ropes often didn’t reach the top, but finally some worked correctly.  They only had 15 casualties in the initial assault.  The German defenders cut ropes, threw potato mashers, and fired on the exposed soldiers.  Within 15 minutes of landing, the majority of Rudder’s assault force had made it on top of Pointe du Hoc.

Pointe du Hoc 4
Pointe du Hoc Cliffs

Once up top, small groups of ranger went off to accomplish their mission.  They were stunned by the results of the bombardments—one soldier said it looked like the craters of the moon.  It looked nothing like the mock-ups and photos of the site.

Bomb crater Point du Hoc
Bomb crater Point du Hoc

But the biggest surprise were that they 155 mm cannons were missing—the Germans had placed telephone poles in the concrete bunkers to fool the aerial reconnaissance.  The German ruse had worked.

Rudder divided his forces into two units.  One group established a command post in the bunker area.  The second group went off in search of the missing cannons.  They were located, unguarded, in an apple orchard about a mile from Pointe du Hoc.  With thermite grenades, the rangers destroyed the weapons and ammunition supplies.

By 0830, Pointe du Hoc was secured and 5 artillery cannons were destroyed.

Hanging On

Rudder has signaled that he had landed late but the message was garbled and not understood by the commanders at sea.  They committed the reserve ranger to land at Omaha.  Rudder’s group was now on their own.

Later that day, the Germans started their counterattacks.  By night fall, Rudder’s men were forced back into defensive positions of a small 200 yard perimeter.  By 7 June, Rudder had a fighting force of fewer of 100 of the original 225 who had begun the assault.  Ammunition and food were running low.

Rudder held on until 8 June, when the 5th Rangers finally linked up with his force.  His men had withstood 5 counterattacks.

The 2nd Ranger Battalion (a total force of about 560) had 77 killed and 152 wounded and 38 listed as missing.  At the time of the relief, Rudder’s original force of 225 had less than 75 men capable of fighting.

Rudder was wounded twice in the battle and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Thirteen other Rangers were awarded the DSC for their roles at Pointe du Hoc. The 2nd Ranger Bn. was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Pointe Du Hoc Bayonet Monument
Point du Hoc Ranger Monument
Pointe Du Hoc Bayonet Monument Insciption
Pointe du Hoc Bayonet Monument Inscription

My Final Thoughts

To me, the value of visiting a place like Pointe du Hoc, is to see first-hand the difficulties this unit had to endure to insure the success of the D Day invasion.  Reading about this in history books or blogs just doesn’t due it justice—when you walk the terrain, the hardships and sacrifice leap out at you.  It really is about the best of America military forces—superbly train soldiers, given a near impossible mission, and they triumphed.

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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 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

WW II Cemeteries and Monuments in Europe

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

May is an important month for the US military.  The 19th is Armed Forces Day and the 28th is the observation of Memorial Day.  I cannot think of a better way to recognize the courage and sacrifice made by our Armed Forces in World War II, than to tell you about the Cemeteries and Monuments dedicated to our Armed Forces in Europe.

There are 13 American cemeteries and 3 monuments in Europe.  According to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), there are 89,033 soldiers honored in the 13 cemeteries.  73,177 are buried; 15,856 are listed as missing.  There are 3 monuments maintained by the commission—one in England and 2 in Normandy, France.

To help us learn more about these tributes for our fallen and missing soldiers of WW II, I have organized this by country to help make their unbelievable sacrifice a little more understandable.

This is a hard blog to write—the sheer numbers are staggering.  Despite this tragic tale, these places are dignified and respectful.  It is like Arlington Cemetery where my father and mother are buried—they use similar markers for each deceased, regardless of rank, but each has his or her legacy engraved on the markers.  Here is what a marker looks like in Arlington National Cemetery:

Henry Schrader Gravestone Marker
Henry Schrader Gravestone Marker in Arlington National Cemetery

In Europe, the markers are a cross.  Here is a photo of an unknown American hero:

Unkown Soldier
Unknown Soldier Buried in the Normandy American Cemetery

American Cemeteries in Belgium

There are 2 American Cemeteries in Belgium.  The Ardennes American Cemetery contains 5,317 buried, with 65 percent of those being fallen airmen of the U.S. Army Air Forces. There are also tributes to the 463 reported missing in action.  This cemetery served as the central identification point for all of the Europe Theater of Operations towards the end of the war and continued that mission of identification until 1960.

The Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery has 7,992 soldiers buried here and there is recognition for 450 missing in action.  The majority of the fallen Americans are from two major efforts of WW II.  The first battles were a result of the U.S. First Army’s drive in September 1944 through northern France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg into Germany, and the second group of dead were from the Battle of the Bulge.

The American Cemetery in England

Cambridge American Cemetery is the only American Cemetery in England.  The site was donated by Cambridge University.  3,812 are buried here; there is also tributes to the 5,127 reported missing in action.  Most were crew members who died in the Battle of the Atlantic or in bombardments of Europe later in the war.  In 2014, a visitor center was opened to help explain this critical phase of WW II.  It even has a downloadable app to help visitors learn more about this vital war effort.

American Cemeteries in France

There are 6 American Cemeteries in France. 

The Brittany American Cemetery is located near the eastern edge of Brittany.  Here are buried 4,409 dead soldiers and there is recognition for 500 reported missing in action.  Most of these military members died fighting in the Normandy and Brittany campaigns of 1944.

The Epinal American Cemetery is located near the Moselle River.  It has 5,254 buried her, most of whom lost their lives in the drive by the 7th Army towards Germany in the northeastern portion of France.  It also recognizes 424 missing in action.

The Lorraine American Cemetery contains the largest number of US soldiers killed in Europe—there are 10,489 buried here.  Another 444 were reported missing in action and their names are listed on the plaques displayed here.  Most of the dead here were killed while driving the German forces from the fortress city of Metz, France toward the Siegfried Line and the Rhine River.

The Normandy American Cemetery, perhaps the best known of all WW II cemeteries by Americans, is the final resting place for 9,385 killed and 1,557 reported missing during this campaign.  It lies just yards from the Omaha Beach area.  Walking this area is special—the rows of dignified markers honor these dead.  It was the first cemetery established in Europe by the Americans.  Walking this hallowed ground is a stark reminder of what it took to invade Europe—the sheer number of markers is just overwhelming.  Anne & I led a tour here in 2014 for the 70th Anniversary of D Day (June 6, 1944) and we will lead a tour in 2019 for the 75th Anniversary.  During the 2014 ceremonies, each gave site was marked with a small American and French flag.  It was indeed memorable and touching and a fine tribute to our lost soldiers.

American Cemetery 2
American Cemetery in Normandy with French and American flags

American Cemetery

The Rhone American Cemetery is along the route used by the U.S. Seventh Army in its drive up the Rhone Valley. It was established on August 19, 1944 after the Seventh Army’s surprise landing in southern France.  There are 860 dead buried her and recognition of the 294 missing servicemen who were in this battle area.

The smallest WW II cemetery is near Paris.  The Suresnes American Cemetery is primarily a WW I cemetery, but it also has 24 unknown soldiers killed in WW II buried on the grounds.

Italy

There are 2 American Cemeteries in Italy. 

The Florence American Cemetery has 4,399 soldiers buried here and there is recognition of 1,409 reported missing in action.  These are soldiers of the 5th US Army, who died in the fight to capture Rome and in the heavy fighting battles in the Apennines Mountains that lasted until almost the end of WW II. 

The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery has 7,860 buried in the cemetery and 3,095 are listed on plaques as missing in action.  According to the ABMC website “The majority of these individuals died in the liberation of Sicily (July 10 to August 17, 1943); in the landings in the Salerno Area (September 9, 1943) and the heavy fighting northward; in the landings at Anzio Beach and expansion of the beachhead (January 22, 1944 to May 1944); and in air and naval support in the regions.”

Luxembourg

One of the most well-known cemeteries in Europe by Americans, is the American Cemetery in Luxembourg.  Along with the 5,075 buried here and the 371 reported missing, it is the burial site of LTG George Patton.  Anne and I visited this sacred ground in 1989 while I was still on active duty.  It was truly emotional for me—I was so humbled and grateful for these soldiers.  Many of these soldiers lost their lives in the Battle of the Bulge and the subsequent drive to the Rhine River.  My Dad was part of the Battle of the Bulge and he survived—I am sure knowing that made me respected these dead heroes even more.

Luxembourg Cemetery
Luxembourg Cemetery

Netherlands

There is only one American Cemetery in the Netherlands.  It has 8,301 buried here; another 1,722 are listed as missing on the plagues displayed at this site.  According to the AMBC, this cemetery has a unique connection to the Dutch people.   “Since 1945 members of the local community have adopted the grave sites of our fallen. They bring flowers to the cemetery and research the life of the service member as a way to honor their sacrifice.”  It is a nice tribute to those buried here.

Monuments

There are 3 monuments in Europe commemorating the struggles our soldiers endured in route to our victory in Europe.  The first 2 are in the Normandy area.  They are the Point du Hoc Ranger Monument and the Utah Beach American Monument. 

As a graduate of the US Army Ranger School, when I first walked the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, I realized how difficult the climb was from the beach and I just could not imagine completing the climb under hostile fire.  The monument is a ranger trench knife built on top of one of the bunkers of Pointe du Hoc.  The mission of the second ranger battalion was to scale the cliffs and eliminate the 155 mm artillery cannons the Germans had placed on this key defensive position.  In recognition of their successful mission, the monument was created by the grateful French people.

Pointe Du Hoc Bayonet Monument

 

Pointe Du Hoc Bayonet Monument Insciption
Pointe du Hoc Bayonet Monument Inscription

The monument on Utah Beach is a tribute to the successful amphibious assault landing on June 6, 1944.  It commemorates the achievements of U.S. VII Corps forces that landed and fought in the liberation of the Cotentin Peninsula from June 6, 1944 to July 1, 1944.

The monument is a red granite obelisk set in a small park overlooking sand dunes of the historic site.

The newest monument is in Dartmouth, England and was dedicated on June 6, 2017.  Dartmouth was one of the staging points for the D Day invasion.

My Final Thoughts

While researching this blog, I realized how many members of our Armed Forces scarified their lives against nations determined to defeat us and impose their will upon our country.  I hope you will take a few minutes to reflect on this monumental effort and the cost to many who made the ultimate sacrifice.  They deserved to be remembered and honored.  I hope this blog did them justice and I hope you will remember them also. 

May we never forget—be thou at peace to each who gave so much for our country.

Hank Schrader, Major (Infantry) USA Ret. 

German Speaking Europe

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

German is the official language in Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. It is the co—official language in Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. According to the website Lingoda, it is estimated that about 92.6 million speak German in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The site estimates that about 16% of the European Union’s population speak German.

So, I though I’d write about the 4 main countries that speak German in this blog—Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The 8 Elements of Culture

When I was teaching AP Human Geography, I used to identify 8 elements of culture for my students. They are 1) religion, 2) language, 3) art, 4) politics, 5) economy, 6) customs, 7) society and 8) geography. It is clear that two influenced the other elements. They were religion (the beliefs of a society, and some traditions) and language (the communication system of a culture—the way it expresses itself in speech, writing and symbols).

So, let’s see how the German language and culture has impacted on the 4 countries of Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria and Germany

Liechtenstein

In Liechtenstein, it is estimated that about 35,000 speak German—basically, that is the entire population of this tiny country. This micro state is the 6th smallest country in the world. It does not have an army.  The residents speak a dialect that is closer to Swiss Standard German.  It is so small, that once a year, the prince ruler invites all (yes all!) of its residents to Vaduz Castle for a beer.

Hard to get more German than drinking a beer—it certainly is one of my favorite pastimes!

I visited Liechtenstein in 1989 and this small country was so peaceful and fun—I want to go back again!

Switzerland

In Switzerland, it is estimated that 4.6 million speak German. Switzerland is a melting pot for different cultures. About 64% of the population speak Swiss German. French is spoken in western Switzerland by about 20% of the population. Only in a country like Switzerland, could the unofficial internal border between German and French speakers, called Rostigraben, be named after a Swiss-German potato dish. No wonder I like this place!

One of the key influences of Germany culture in Switzerland has been in the food and drink world. The meat heavy dishes of Germany are abundant throughout Switzerland. Potatoes and cheese, and one of my favorites, cheese fondues, are staples in restaurants.

Another key influence has been the Christmas markets. We have been in Christmas markets in Basel and Lucerne. Both have been special—you should go if you get the chance.

Luzern
Advent Calendar House in Lucerne

Austria

In Austria, it is estimated that 8 million speak German. German influences are also important to Austria. The meat heavy dishes such as Wiener Schnitzel and other pork dishes are on most menus in the country.

Schnitzel
Pork Schnitzel so big in covered my plate in Vienna, Austria in 2015

One of the more interesting Austrian traditions, is called the first day of school cone. It roots come from Germany. When 6 year olds start school, they receive a cone full of candy, school supplies and toys. The idea is to make the stressful first day of school a little more fun.

Again, the Christmas markets are really cool in Austria. Vienna has several and the little town of Melk also has a small gem, with craftsmen working right in front of you.

Christmas Market Rathhaus 2012 507 (5)

Vienna Christmas Market at the City Hall

Melk Austria
Melk Austria

Germany

Germany has over 80 million who speak German. It is the second most populous country in Europe, after Russia (according to the World Factbook). It’s economy is the 5th largest in the world.

Perhaps the most important German tradition that has been exported to the world are their Christmas traditions. Decorating Christmas trees and the world famous Christmas markets are traditions that have spread throughout Europe, but especially to Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Having visited the Christmas Markets in all these countries except Liechtenstein, I can promise you it is a magical experience.

Cologne, Nuremberg and Regensburg stand out as our favorites. We are leading a special AmaWaterways Christmas Cruise from 17-24 December of this year and would love to have you join us. Please visit our Specials page on our website to learn more about this trip. Learn More

I have also talked a lot about their food culture in this blog. German cuisine has been a big influence on its German speaking neighbors.

Schweinhaxe
Schweinhaxe in Koblenz, Germany–Anne’s Favorite!

My Final Thoughts

I hope you have learned a little more about the influences the German speaking countries have had on Europe. These are wonderful places to visit and we hope one day you will let us plan a trip to one or all of these great places.

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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 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

Making Wise Travel Choices

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

One of the key elements of our travel business is helping you make wise travel choices.  Often, this is one of the hardest part of travel planning—what return do I get for money spent?

There are so many elements that go into this process, that it can become overwhelming.

So, I thought I’d provide you some thoughts about making wise travel choices.

Travel Choices Mean Decisions

One of the realities of the myriad of travel choices that today’s vacationers face, is making the right decision for their trips.  The problem often boils down to picking the right place to visit among several possibilities.  Once that decision is made, then the next problem is what to see, where to stay, and how to get there.  The list seems to go on and on.  It is no wonder that travel planning seems overwhelming!

One way to resolve this issue, is to use a solid decision making process when planning travel.

The Decision Making Process for Travel

Since there is often an uncertain outcome in the decision making process, most of us have learned to create a process that allows us to select what we think will be the best outcome.  Here are the 3 most common processes we have experienced with our clients.  They are: 1) Advantages & Disadvantages, 2) Simple Prioritization (another way of saying this–what is the best opportunity cost?), and 3) Acquiesce to us. 

All three work and in reality, we have used all three to provide the best possible trips to our clients.

Problems in the Travel Decision Making Process

In our experience, the two most common problems that influence our clients’ decision making process are: 1) information overload and 2) overanalyzing their trip.  Adding to these two types of problems, are that when we are making travel decisions, we all tend to make decisions based on our biases, emotions and memories.  Not that these are all bad, but sometimes we just tend to ignore the facts about a destination or hotel or trip and let these other factors take over.

Information overload is real.  We study travel every day and there is so much out there it is hard to cut through the clutter.  Adding to this problem is FOMO—fear of missing out. 

Overanalyzing a trip is another common problem.  Sometimes our clients have studied their trip so much that they are overconfident about every decision they have made and their plan is perfect—they actually know too much!  The other end of this scale is total indecision because it is all too much.

So, how can we help resolve all these problems and issues?

How we Enhance your Travel Decision Making Process

On almost every trip we plan, we have to balance, with your input, what is available and what you desire.  We can make predictions based on our knowledge and, most importantly, our judgements on what would work best for you.  One factor that really aids us here is our extensive experience in travel planning.  We can cite either similar trips or most often, our personal experiences about prior visits to the place you want to go.  Our favorite method to resolve travel planning issues are often call the advantages and disadvantages method that I talked about earlier in this blog—basically– what is the benefit versus the cost?  Here is how we do it:

!)  What are your goals for the trip—why are you going?

2)  What do you want to see and do?

3)  What is the order of importance—what must be included to make it an outstanding experience?

4) What do you like and dislike?

Once we know these facts, the decision making process becomes much easier—now we are just trying to figure out what level of comfort and experiences you desire.

As you can see, there is both a logical process and an art in our decision making process—sound judgements make all the difference in the outcome.

Sound judgement means that we try and find the right balance—eliminate or reduce fears, keep you from trying to do too much or too little.  And, perhaps most important, make sure you don’t miss a chance to see something you didn’t even know existed or was possible.  Sure is a bummer to miss the sold out event or cabin or cruise by not acting fast enough!

Some Examples of How our Decision Making Enhances Your Trip

Just this week, two phone calls with clients made me realize how important the decision making process is.

First, I talked with a potential client about a trip he was struggling with.  He wanted our help but was unsure if he should use us.  It was partly due that they had overanalyzed the trip and frustration—did the benefits of their plan match the costs?  I provided him some guidelines to ease this process.  Not sure what the outcome will be, but I’m sure of one thing—he now had a framework to help with the decision making process. 

The other experience was helping a client on a 12 night Mediterranean cruise.  She had slightly exceeded her budget, but really seemed happy with her choices.  As I told her, I believe she had selected the best possible tours based on her family’s desires and the offerings of the cruise line.  When we started focusing on her goals for the trip, her fears dissipated—she had trusted our judgement and we had delivered.  Affirmation is important—a great guide book or website may have the facts but they can never explain in-depth or answer questions (not even chat rooms).  But it takes folks like us to deep dive into the trip to make it more successful.

My Final Thoughts

As you can see, making wise travel choices, is more complex than you may have thought.  Trip planning is not easy.  Making sound decisions are critical to the travel planning process.  Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price.  We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry.  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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 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

How Our Website Can Help You Have Better Trips

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

We are constantly trying to improve our website to help you have better trips.  With so much information about travel available online, it is no wonder that it is easy to get overwhelmed or confused.  I think our website will help cut through the clutter and provide with useful information about our areas of expertise. 

We have two goals for our website.  We want to: 1) Educate our visitors about travel opportunities and 2) Quickly allow visitors to understand our abilities to assist them in their travel. 

So, does our website deliver?

How to Evaluate our Website

Since we have challenged you to evaluate our website, it is only right that we provide some criteria to make your assessment.  There are 2 areas that I believe one should use when evaluating a web site.  They are: 1) the Quality of the information and 2) the Quality of the website.

Quality of information can be assessed by answering 5 questions.  They are:

  • Is the information accurate?
  • Who are the authors and what are their credentials?
  • How objective is the source?
  • How current is the information?
  • How extensive is the coverage of information?

Quality of a Website can be evaluated by answering these 5 questions.  They are:

  • How universally accessible is the site?
  • Is the site well designed?
  • Does the site contain high quality content?
  • Are Internet technologies fully utilized?
  • How original/creative is the site?

So based on these criteria, let’s examine our website together.

Overview

Our website is designed to help you have a better trip by providing great information (content) about cruises, European river cruises and European vacations and adventures.  It answers your questions about what travel opportunities exist, the best way to get there and what to see after your arrival.  It educates and inspires and you’ll find it is easy to use.  We have 9 topic headings that make the site easy to navigate and find what you are looking for on our website.  The topic headings are our Homepage, Our Services, Specials, Blog, Resources, River Cruises, Cruises, Europe and About.  By my count, there are 115 PowerPoints on our website, hundreds of pictures, almost all taken by us, and 100 blogs. 

We believe our website has high quality content that is accurate, objective and extensive.

Quality of Information

Our Homepage

Our homepage tells you that we specialize in ocean cruises, Europe River cruises and European adventures.  It also informs you that we can help you have a better trip by providing trips that 1) will exceed your expectations, 2) help you make wise choices, 3) eliminate hassles and 4) help you get the best value for your money.  Lofty words, but how do we provide customers with the highest quality, expertly planned leisure travel trips?

How Are We Different than Our Competition?

We provide you 6 reasons to use us.  They are:  Experience, Certification, Knowledge of the Industry, First Hand Knowledge, Membership in Professional Organizations and Ability to Earn Your Trust.  In each of these 6 areas, we spell out what sets apart from other travel consultants.  After reading these 6 reasons, it clearly establishes us as travel experts who apply our knowledge and industry resources to help you get a better trip. 

One thing you will never see on our website—a booking engine.  The reason is simple to us—we need to match you to the right trip and we cannot do that without talking to you and learning exactly what you expect from your trip.  We are not selling travel, we are helping you make memories.  We will get you the best value for your money if you will spend some time us.  The more we can learn about you, the better we can serve you.

How about this for original content—we create our own videos.  This is a unique feature our website—our videos come from PowerPoint presentations that only use our pictures.  There is a new show posted to our site every 2 weeks.

We are also members of the Better Business Bureau, with an A+ rating.

Our Services Page

We provide you expertly planned vacations.  To help you quickly determine if we can help you, we list our 4 primary services.  They are: Europe River Cruises, Europe Land Tours, Ocean Cruises, and Full Service Agency.  Under each section, there are bullet points which quickly tell why you should consider using us as your travel agents.

Our Specials Page

This is where we have good travel values.  It may tell you about a good value river cruise (our 2018 & 2019 Rhine Cruise) or inform you about our upcoming 2019 D Day trip we will escort.  When we find a good value, we add it here.

Our Blog Pages

We try to write a blog every week or so.  The most current posts are in the blog section.  We have written 100 blogs and we have most blogs posted by subject in the blog/archives section so you can quickly find the information you need.  Our blogs are well respected—some of our vendors regularly read them and pass them on to others in the travel industry.

The Resources Pages

Every traveler needs tips and information to make their trip easier and safer.  In this section you can get travel tips, river cruise FAQs, learn about safety, learn how to use the trains in Europe learn ways to protect your money and about travel regulations.  We also have a special video section—we post our pictures in short videos.  When completed, you will be able to see over 900 pictures grouped by themes.

Cruises Section

We cover ocean cruising in the Caribbean, Europe and North America.  The Cruises section covers it all—port destinations, and cruises we have taken in the Caribbean, North America and Europe.  It focuses on ocean cruises only.

River Cruises Section

Perhaps the highest quality information on this website, is the 2 pages on river cruising.  In my opinion, this section is exceptional—you will not find anywhere on line as in-depth a description of Europe River Cruises.  The Europe River Cruise Comparisons is even better—73 slides about the 8 major lines.  We cite facts but when it is our opinion, we clearly state it is our opinion.

Europe Section

We cover 44 Europe Countries of the European ContinentIt is divided into the 4 regions of Europe and also includes a Little Treasures of Europe section that is not commonly found on websites.  Each of these 5 website pages list our 50 Europe City Destination Guides by region.  These guides are designed to help enjoy your stay and get the most out of your visit.  We will gladly send you any or all of these free guides after you contact us about a future tripThe drop down menu makes it a convenient, easy way to get these pocket-sized city highlight guide.  There are hundreds of photos in these 5 sections, most taken by us during our travels.

About

There are 2 areas here.  First is a list of our certifications and some more detail about us.  The second area is pictures some of the great folks who travel with us—we call it the Dream Destination’ Traveler Hall of Fame.

Quality of the Website

This the technology area of our website.  Using Hubspot’s Website Grader, we received a 91 out of 100 grade.  They evaluated the performance of our site (our grade 21 of 30), if it was mobile friendly (30 of 30), our Search Engine Optimization (30 of 30) and the site security (10 of 10).  We were cited for two errors in performance.  They were page size—ours is 3.2 MB, the goal is 3 MB and page requests—ours is 54, the goal is under 30.  In both cases, the reason we have larger values—our pages have a lot of information and none is fluff—you need the excess info to help you adequately learn about your trip.

Here is their overall evaluation “This site is great!

My Final Thoughts

We have tried to convey information about our specialties and how they can benefit you.  We have also tried to get you to consider, when deciding whether to use us or not, why you should use us.  We feel that you will get the highest quality, expertly planned trip because of our excellent credentials combined with our passion to help you and our attention to detail—it is a true winning formula! 

Did our new website convey this to you?—we certainly hope so! 

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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 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

Thanks to our Loyal Clients, Visit Dream Destinations, LLC, Will Win a TravelAge West Trendsetters Award!

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

Anne and I are proud to announce that we have been selected by TravelAge West Magazine as a finalist for a Trendsetters Award.  I’m sure most of you have never heard of this magazine, as it is written for travel agents to help us keep up with developments in the travel industry.  They have an annual awards gala ceremony, where they recognize many industry vendors and 8 travel agents or agencies.  The vendors are voted on by travel agents as the best in their respective categories.  Along with these awards, they select 8 travel agents or agencies in 4 different categories for their Trendsetters Awards.  In each category, there are two finalists who are honored as the best travel agents—they call the award for the travel agents Trendsetters Awards.  Each of the finalists are considered winners in their respective category.

We were selected as a finalist in the category of Best Targeted Marketing Idea of 2018.  Our award is for our efforts to market our 2019 75th Anniversary of D Day Tour.  We will lead a group of 34 loyal clients to see and learn about this monumental event.

Without going into a lot of detail, we were selected for using multiple marketing methods combined with highly developed personal relationships with the potential clients.

So, today’s blog will cover the meaning of awards, why it is our loyal clients who made this recognition possible, and the press release about the award.

The Meaning of Awards

Awards are established to recognize the achievement of a person, team, business or other organizations.  Usually, the award has a set of criteria designed to evaluate the reason for the recognition.

Awards have been used for thousands of years to let others know about specific results achieved by the award winner—the most common early use of awards was by the military, often for bravery in battle and defeating a foe.  The Greeks awarded accolades for plays in competitions.  They also awarded recognition for athletic competition in their Olympic games. 

Whenever we learn about achievements of award winners, we get insight into the reasons they have been recognized as superior in the performance of their profession or job.  In the business world, they recognize excellence, ability and effort.  They are a third party validation of the professionalism of a business as compared to their peers.

Why Our Loyal Clients Made This Recognition Possible

When we first started thinking about organizing a tour for the 75th Anniversary of D Day, we wanted to put together a trip of a lifetime to help our clients learn about the enormous effort and personal sacrifice that went into this invasion.  Our target audience was past military service members and those with a high interest in the military history of WW II and visiting Europe. 

And, my, did our clients respond—when we offered the tour, it sold out in one month.  It is humbling to hear their excitement and loyal support in our communications with this group.  All we can say is THANKS FOR YOUR TRUST IN US!

We look forward to delivering on our promise of a trip of a lifetime.

The Press Release

Logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Contact Hank Schrader 713-397-0188

Visit Dream Destinations, LLC, Wins TravelAge West 2018 Trendsetters Award

Pearland, TX ( 17 April 2018)  Visit Dream Destinations, LLC has been honored with a TravelAge West 2018 Trendsetters Award in the category of Best Targeted Marketing Idea of 2018 as part of the TravelAge West WAVE (Western Agents’ Votes of Excellence) Awards.

Every year, TravelAge West honors leading travel agents in the Western United States with its Trendsetter Awards.  The travel agents honored all display an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit that enables them to adapt to new business landscapes — an essential skill in the ever-changing travel industry.

The TravelAge West Trendsetter Awards recognize travel agents and travel agencies who make an impact on the industry and the community.  Two finalists in each category are invited to and honored at the WAVE Awards as guests of their sponsor.

Entries are reviewed and voted on by the sponsors and editorial staff of TravelAge West.  Suppliers that sponsor the Trendsetter Awards support the travel agent community and wish to honor those who are making significant strides in the industry.  Visit Dream Destinations, LLC’s category is being sponsored by Celebrity Cruise Lines, a highly recommended cruise lines that provides superior offering to its clients.

Trendsetters’ recipients will be celebrated at the WAVE Awards Gala on June 14, 2018 at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey, in Marina del Rey, Calif., where the winners will be announced as well.  TravelAge West will include a special WAVE Awards section in the July 9 issue, highlighting award winners

“We are proud to announce we have been selected as one of the two finalists for the Trendsetters Category for Best Targeted Marketing Idea for 2018.” said Hank Schrader, Vice President of Visit Dream Destinations, LLC.  “Our selection was based on our marketing effort for our 2019 75th Anniversary of D Day tour we will lead through England and France.”

“We want to thank TravelAge West and Celebrity Cruise Lines for this honor as well as our loyal clients, who approached us with the idea to lead another tour to a D Day anniversary celebration.” said Schrader.  “When we put it all together, our clients responded by helping us sell out the tour in less than a month.  We would like to also recognize the Europe Express Groups Department for helping us put together the 2019 tour—they did an outstanding job!”

Anne & Hank Schrader, owners of Visit Dream Destinations, LLC, (dba as Dream Destinations) have successfully served clients for 22+ years.  They are certified travel professionals who will provide their clients with the highest quality, expertly planned domestic and foreign leisure travel.  Dream Destinations is a full service travel agency that focuses on cruises, European river cruises and European vacations for discriminating travelers.

TravelAge West is the leading trade magazine for travel agents and the travel industry in the 15 Western U.S. states.  Serving more than 21,000 readers for 49 years, the biweekly magazine is a main source of news and product information for the region’s agents and travel executives.  TravelAgeWest.com is a two-time winner of a Gold Award from the North American Travel Journalists Association for Best Travel Journalism Website.  TravelAge West is a part of Northstar Travel Group LLC, a worldwide provider of information, news and data for the travel and hospitality industry.  Northstar Travel Group is based in Secaucus, N.J.

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For More Information, contact:

Visit Dream Destinations, LLC                       Hank Schrader 713-397-0188 or email hschrader@dreamdestinations.com or visit our website at www.dreamdestination.com

My Final Thoughts

We are humbled by this award selection.  It was only possible because our loyal clients supported us by selling out our 2019 D Day tour.  It is nice to be recognized for our work designing and marketing this tour, but we have not lost sight of the real significance of the award—we have the honor of helping our clients learn about the huge sacrifice thousands of our military personnel made on that historic day that allow us to live free today.  Once you visit Normandy and see the hardships these soldiers had to endure and the graves of those who gave their lives, you gain even a greater appreciation of that world changing day.

American Cemetery 2
American Cemetery in Normandy with French and American flags

Thanks again, our loyal clients, we owe this award to your trust in us!

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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 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

The Power of Knowledge–Our Gift to You!

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

Knowledge is critical for successful travel.  A great trip requires knowledge of the destinations, great places to stay, awesome food and drink and cultural experiences.

We must always keep learning more about travel opportunities to help you get the best available trip, so we don’t miss anything that could make your trip the best possible.  I usually begin each day by reading an hour or so about travel.  The travel scene is constantly changing and requires us to work hard to stay at the forefront of our industry.

So, let’s talk about how our knowledge of where you want to go can enhance your travels.

What is Knowledge?

Knowledge is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as follows:  Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

While I’m no expert in the study of knowledge, I do think there are 3 types of knowledge that are important to successful trips.  They are objective knowledge, subjective knowledge and experience knowledge.

An explanation of the 3 types of Travel Knowledge

Objective knowledge is the facts that we can observe and document.  A great example of this is there are iconic sights in Paris such as the Louvre—you can see the building and its contents. 

Louve 2010 1403 (74)
Courtyard of the Louvre

Subjective knowledge is the feelings and experiences that come from visiting a place or event.  Using the Louvre example, it is the emotion of how you feel when you visit this art museum—are you thrilled with the art, or are not interest or is it somewhere in between? 

Winged Victory
Winged Victory–how does it make you feel?

Experience knowledge is the result of how prior knowledge effects your perception of a place.  Using the Louvre example, if it was overly crowded or almost deserted, effects your perception of the experience. 

Entrance to the Lourve
Entrance to the Lourve–the crowds certainly change the experience!

How the 3 Types of Knowledge Can Change Your Trip

On almost every trip we plan, we have to balance all three types of knowledge to get the best type of trip for you.  Most folks, even if they have studied a destination, will not make a travel decision based only on objective data.  While this is generally a good thing, sometimes the subjective or emotional part of travel causes folks to miss great trip opportunities due to not being able to stretch their personal boundaries.  Let me explain—fear of a bad experience or untrue facts often scare folks away from an event, place or country.  Now there are some real threats out there that should be avoided, but most fears are concerns are overblown. 

I think that is where we come in.  I like to say that one of our jobs is to “save you from yourselves.”  That means we try and find the right balance—eliminate or reduce fears, keep you from trying to do too much or too little.  And, perhaps most important, make sure you don’t miss a chance to see something you didn’t even know existed or was possible.  Sure is a bummer to miss the sold out event or cabin or cruise by not acting fast enough!

Some Examples of How our Experience Knowledge Enhances Your Trip

Just this week, two phone calls with clients made me realize how important our knowledge about destinations and ports are.  First, I listened on speaker phone as Anne told a client about the ins and outs of London.  Without any notes or references, she explained transportation operations, and provided theater hints.  I guess when you study this information all the time and have experienced first-hand London as many times as we have, it wasn’t such a big deal—except it was!  She articulate, funny and precise—as I listened, I realized she was just the right person to help our client.  Quite impressive, my dear!

London Black Cab and Bellman
London Black Cab and Bellman–one of the options Anne explained

The other experience was helping a client on a 12 night Mediterranean cruise.  I spoke for about 40 minutes to the client, explaining the ports of call, evaluating the various cruise line tours and offering advice.  Again, no notes, just an in-depth understanding of the sights.  This was no novice client—she had been to some of these sights and had done her homework.  The point is, we just know our facts and destinations.  As I told her, I believe she had selected the best possible tours based on her family’s desires and the offerings of the cruise line.  Affirmation is important—a great guide book or website may have the facts but they can never explain in-depth or answer questions (not even chat rooms).  But it takes folks like us to deep dive into the trip to make it more successful.

The Walled City of Kotor
The Walled City of Kotor–we talked about what to see here!

Our Knowledge Base

There is a lot to learn about travel.  Not only destinations, but also the vendors.  Again, it comes down to who has the most knowledge—does your travel advisor know enough from experience, training and personal study?  The industry is changing so rapidly—new ships, new itineraries, and new vendors are constantly changing the travel scene.

We have made some great industry contacts and use these strategic partnerships benefit you. We have written 50 guides to the major cities of Europe.  We have planned dozens of trips.  Precise, accurate advice about how to improve your trip is priceless and always results in better trips—more value for your money!

I also think it is so important to have first-hand experience.  14 river cruise and over 21 ocean cruises on various lines helps us explain what you will experience on your cruise.  Personally traveling to around 81 countries or so makes the world just a tad smaller and we often can relate from personal experience what a place is really like.  Since I have been traveling to Europe since 1971 and we try to go to Europe at least twice a year for the last 20 years, it would be hard to find a travel advisor with as much first-hand experience as we have.

Yes, knowledge is power and we use ours to benefit you!

My Final Thoughts

I think we have unique qualifications as travel advisors and these qualifications truly make us experts.  Our knowledge base is excellent and we constantly are learning and experiencing more.  Time during travel is precious.  Trip planning is not easy.  Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price.  We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry.  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.

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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 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

Are We Europe River Cruise Experts?

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

www.dreamdestinations.com

Almost every blog I write starts with the byline—Europe River Cruise Expert.  Great sounding words, but are we really Europe river cruise experts?

According to the 2015 Census, there were 105,085 travel agents in the U.S.  To evaluate what constitutes an expert 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.  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??

Our Europe River Cruise Experience

We have been in the travel business for over 21 years.  We have planned dozens of river cruise vacations and led several river cruise groups.  We have helped clients sail on the following rivers in Europe:  Douro, Dordogne, Danube, Main, Moselle, Rhone, Rhine, Saone and Seine

Budapest at Night with Dream Destinations Slogan
Budapest at Night

Experience is important but only if it translates to expertise.  Here’s just one example–I just got a text Monday (2 April 2018) from a long time client.  He is on an AmaWaterways Captivating Rhine cruise with members of his family.  It read “Everything is going great Hank.  Motoring down the Rhine to Cologne.  Our thanks to you and Anne.  Top Shelf (with a Thumbs Up symbol).”  Sounds like a very satisfied client to me.

One of our real advantages as travel advisors, is that we listen to our clients and then match them to the right cruise line and get them the right trip at a good value.  Since all river cruises are a good trips, it really takes a lot of experience knowing the nuances between river cruise lines.  Another factor is repeat clients—folks who sail on another river cruise or book a trip to Europe, booking with us, after we planned their first river cruise.  Of our top 20 clients, 19 have planned either another river cruise, a Europe tour or a luxury cruise—that’s 95%!

River Cruise Clients
Some of our great clients on a river cruise escorted by us

To my way of thinking, we have unique river cruise experience when compared to other travel agents.

Our River Cruise Certifications

We both are Accredited Cruise Counselors, certified by the Cruise Lines International Association.  We both are also certified Western Europe Destination Specialists, certified by the Travel Institute.  Along with these certifications, Anne is a Uniworld River Cruise Specialist.  Hank is a river cruise specialist for 5 lines—AmaWaterways, Avalon, Emerald, Scenic and Viking River Cruises.  The importance of certification is that you, the consumer, can have faith that we have completed professional courses about river cruising, cruises and European destinations and we can use that knowledge to match you to the right cruise line, at the right time, to get you the best vacation possible.

Since we specialize in European river and ocean cruises, and European land vacations, I believe our certifications are very good when compared to the rest of the travel industry.

Knowledge of the Europe River Cruise Industry

Since 2009, we have spent the last nine years learning as much as possible about Europe river cruising.  We have made some great industry contacts and use these strategic partnerships benefit you. 

On our AmaWaterways Tulip Time Cruise
Anne and Hank with Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President of AmaWaterways

We have done joint presentations with representatives of river cruise lines in seminars.

Shelia and Hank
Shelia (AmaWaterways Business Development Manager for Texas) and Hank with our Taste of Bordeaux Poster Board

  We can often solve problems, get an upgrade, or enhance your experience through our contacts.  We are with you every step of the way.  Our 2016 Comparisons of Europe River Cruising is unique—it is a 73 slide PowerPoint PDF presentation that is an in-depth study of the 8 major river cruise lines.  Here is the link, if you would like to read it. European River Cruise Comparisons

Another factor to consider is our blogs about Europe River cruising.  We have written 25 in-depth blogs about river cruising.

Here is the link to our blog archives about European river cruising archives

In my mind, we are among the best in the travel industry when it comes to knowledge about the European river cruise industry.

First-Hand Knowledge of Europe River Cruising

We have sailed on 15 different river cruises and will have completed 17 by the year’s end.  Put another way, we have spent nearly 4 months river cruising.  If that was not enough, we have written 50 guides to the major cities of Europe.  Many of those guides are useful for a river cruise—either the city is a stop on the cruise or they can be useful for a pre or post cruise visit to another European destination.  Not only can we get you the right cruise, we can advise you on the follow on trips.  The added plus is that I taught World Geography and Advanced placement Human Geography for 8 years at the high school level—another part of our unique qualifications as travel advisors.

Wine on AmaWaterways
Wine on AmaWaterways–our first river cruise in 2009

Since I have been traveling to Europe since 1971 and we try to go to Europe at least twice a year for the last 20 years, it would be hard to find a travel advisor with as much first-hand experience as we have.

Anne and Hank
Anne and Hank on a great river cruise

Members of a Professional Organization

We have always felt that membership in professional organizations demonstrates a level of expertise.  We are members of CLIA—the Cruise Lines International Association—the world’s largest cruise line association.  We are also members of the Better Business Bureau (with an A+ rating) and the Travel Institute—two great professional organizations.  Each of these organization have high standards of conduct, continuing education, and ethical behavior required to continue as members.

Like some proof—he is a link to a review on our Better Business Bureau—it would seem some of our clients hold us in high regard.  Our Better Business Bureau Review

Again, I think this is another factor that helps make us special.

Trust

Perhaps this is the most important measure of an expert—can you trust them?  Just knowing a lot about river cruising is not enough—will your travel advisor put your interests first when helping you plan your vacation.  Anyone can claim they are trustworthy, but the only way to know for sure is to see their actions.  A good clue may be past life experiences—I graduated from West Point in 1971 and our training emphasized being leaders of character.  Anne and I hold our reputations a fair and honest business professionals as the most important part of our business.  She and I always try to do the right thing when no one is looking.  So many of our clients trust our recommendations, their personal information and family situations and their money to us—it is humbling to say the least.

While this may be the hardest factor to evaluate objectively, the high number of repeat clients (booked another vacation with us) we have is very high in our industry.  We have a 41% repeat rate of our top 68 clients and that number moves to 50% when you factor out the 12 new clients we added this year and have not had a chance to become a repeat client yet.

My Final Thoughts

I think we have unique qualifications as Europe River cruises advisors and these qualifications truly make us experts.  Time during travel is precious.  Trip planning is not easy.  Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price.  We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry.  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.

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 Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 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