Dreaming–Anticipation and Expectations

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

We all love to dream.  Most of you can close your eyes and imagine a better place than you are presently experiencing (unless you currently are on a great vacation or at an awesome event).  Often it is travel you dream about—getting away, experiencing new places, the sights and sounds, the food and wine, the iconic buildings and spaces, and expanding your knowledge of the world.

One of the best part of travel is your anticipation of going on a trip and the expectations of what you will experience.  Even as I write this, my mind often drifts to going on a river cruise, or visiting Europe.  There is so much to see, do and experience, that 45 years’ worth of travel is just not enough—I want more! 

Chef's Table 2016
Friends at the Chef’s Table on our 2016 AmaWaterways river cruise–Hank is dreaming!

So, I thought I’d like to share my thoughts about the anticipation and expectations of travel and tell you an inspiring story about some of my early travels in Europe.

Anticipation

Anticipation is excitement about something that is going to happen.  The key word is excitement.  Our curiosity is endless—will it be fun, boring, memorable, dull or just average?  Our minds are such a powerful thing—mankind has created such amazing things and better ways to live because we used our brain power.  Now you should go and see what has been created or preserved.

We can help.  We want to build excitement for your trip!  Cool pictures, best experiences, fun—we know how to get it for you and can express it to you through our knowledge, words, photos, and travel experiences.  Just dream a little, tell us about it,—we’ll do the rest.

Hall of Mirrors
I always anticipated going to Versailles and standing in the Hall of Mirrors

Expectations

Expectations are a strong belief that something is going to happen.  The key word is belief.  We believe that an upcoming event or experience is going to be fun, boring, memorable, dull or just average. 

We can help here also.  We will provide you with experiences on a vacation that will live up to your strong belief that it is going to be a great trip.  Again, just tell us what you want to experience and what level of experiences you desire and—we’ll do the rest.

Schnitzel
Schnitzel–my expectations for fresh, good German food usually come true.

An inspiring travel tale

As we sat with our backpacks in front of us in Frankfurt’s Old Town, I started to realize we should have done a little more planning about our first trip to Europe in 1971.  My expectations were starting to get a little out of control—I had really messed up!  We had no real plan to find a room, or any real travel skills.  What if this trip was going to be a bust?

I guess, to understand this story, you will have to go back to my early Army days as a young lieutenant.  After graduating from West Point, we had 60 days leave prior to reporting tour our first assignments.  A classmate and I decided to go to Europe for 6 weeks.  We had a Euro rail pass, our plane tickets, American Express traveler checks, and a rough plan to make a big circle train trip in Germany, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Spain, France, and winding up in England.  We had read Europe on $5.00 a Day.  What more did anyone need?

Vienna
A postcard from our 1971 trip to Europe–my first!

We were a little foggy from the overnight flight and I’m sure looking quite lost in the Alte Stadt (German for old town) of Frankfurt.  As we sat there on a bench, trying to figure out what to do, an elderly gentleman wandered up and ask if we were Americans and was it our first trip to Germany, using English.  We weren’t sure if this was some kind of scam, but replied yes.  He then ask if we knew how to find a good place to stay.  Again, not sure of his motives, we replied no.  He then said, will you let me help?  Still a little fearful, we said OK.  He then led us to a small place and told us in Germany to look for a “Zimmer Frei” –a room available.  He explained these were small B & B type operations, often  modestly priced and a great value.  Thinking maybe he wanted a reward, I offered a tip.  He refused and said the Americans had liberated his country and he wanted to help Americans when possible.  He also told us that good German food was often available at a Gasthaus (German for guest house).  He then, ambled away, with a smile on his face.

Our first experience with Europeans was great.  It taught me there are some really good people in this world and there are a lot of kind folks in the world.  My anticipation of an adventure of a lifetime was high, and my expectations changed during the trip, mostly for the better.  The whole trip was a life changing experience, challenging but fun and just stoked my desire to travel more, especially in Europe! 

Trust—the key to satisfying your anticipation and expectations in your travel

My story about my first trip does have a great message.  In life, we do have to trust to some degree. 

In travel, you can do it on your own or trust a professional to do it for you.  We hope you will choose us to help you.  Do you trust us?  To me a reputation for honest dealings is the only way to conduct business and we need to earn your trust every day. 

It is our job to discover what great is to you, and advise you, our client, how to get it.  It is a constant process of getting to know you, building trust, adjusting to lifestyle changes—a dynamic process that requires us to contact you often.  The more we know about you, the better job we will do.

I also like to say that we “do what is right when no one is looking.”  We are authentic and transparent and realize we are only as good as our next transaction or contact with you.  In short, our goal is to provide you trips that will: exceed your expectations; help you make wise choices; eliminate hassles and we will help you get the best value for your money!

I think we can manage both the anticipation and expectations of your trip to provide a better travel experience for you.  We hope you agree.

My Final Thoughts

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
Advertisements

The Italian Peninsula

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

Europe is a continent of peninsulas—there are 5 major peninsulas and many minor ones.  Perhaps the most popular travel destination in Europe is the Italian Peninsula—if not the top destination in Europe, it always is very near the top in travel surveys.  It is also called the Apennine Peninsula., after the mountain range that runs almost the entire length of this country.  This landmass is 1000 km long—620 miles and when seen from the sky is in the shape of a boot.

This a good time to remind you that we have guides to Rome, Venice and Florence available to help you understand some of the best sights at each city on the Italian Peninsula.  Just visit our website, www.dreamdestinations.com and find the Europe pages.  In the Southern Europe page, you can use our convenient order form to get your guide(s).  They are free, and are designed for you to print and fold up in your pocket—no bulky tour book to lug around. 

So, let’s learn about Italian Peninsula and how we can help you experience this wonderful area of Europe.

Overview of the Italian Peninsula

A peninsula is a landmass that has water on three side.  You may be surprised to learn there are 3 countries on the Italian Peninsula.  Folks often think they would be correct in stating that it is only the country of Italy on this peninsula, but they would be wrong.  This confusion results because the two small micro state countries that are hidden in Italy are enclaves—they are surrounded by the much larger country of Italy and are easy to miss.  The two micro states are San Marino and the Vatican.  So, it is time to learn about these 3 awesome countries.

The Big Boy on the Block–Italy

To me, Italy is one of the most fascinating places on earth.  Once, it was most dominate power on earth for 400 years or so during the Roman Empire; it was the birthplace of the Renaissance; and it finally became unified in 1860.  However, in my opinion, it was during and after the Middle Ages, when the feuding and fighting of the various city-states took place, that have shaped this country into many of its present day charms.  Regions are distinct and offer the traveler quite an array of places to visit and marvel at during their visits.  Combine this with the “Dolce Vida”—the good life–and it is easy to see why Italy is such a popular tourist destination.  I think the best way to look at Italy is to divide it into 3 regions—North, Central and South, and keep Rome as a separate topic.

Rome

For anyone traveling to Europe, there are 3 cities that are the most important to visit in my mind.  They are London, Paris and Rome.  The Roman civilization changed the world forever.  Rome’s fantastic sights are a tangled mess of greatness—it often seems a small ruin of Rome pops up in the midst of modern buildings.  The traffic is also a challenge–it also seems everyone who drives wants to beat all others to their destination, so don’t expect drivers to yield the right of way at all times.  Even with these challenges, it is a magical place of history and awesome food and drink.  To see most of the main sights, you will need at least 3 days, but even with over 5 visits to Rome, there is more for us to see—I doubt you will run out of places to visit and experience.  Some of the key sights in Rome are the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Arch of Constantine, Trajan’s Column, the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.   Here are some pictures:

Roman Forum
Roman Forum
Victor Emmanuel Monument
Victor Emmanuel Monument
Colosseum
Colosseum in Rome

Northern ItalyThe mountains of the Alps define this area of Italy.  It is also home to the Italian Lakes Region and two of our favorite places, Lake Lugano and Lake Como.  Here is a photo at Lake Como:

Lake Como
Lake Como

The two most important towns of this region are Milan and Venice.  Milan is the regional capital of Lombardy.  It is a world famous fashion and shopping destination.  In Milan, the two most famous tourist destinations are the Milan Duomo (cathedral) and the painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.  Here is a picture of the Duomo:

Milan Duomo
Milan Duomo

A word of caution about seeing the Last Supper.  To see this famous work of art, you will require a reservation and you will have only 15 minutes to view the painting in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  There are two large paintings at opposite ends of the convent (the Last Supper is to the right as you enter) and they are very strict about their no picture requirement.  We watched a tourist stripped of his camera and told to delete the picture or give up his camera.  For obvious reasons, we do not have a picture to show you.

Venice is a world unto itself.  This intricate area reclaimed from a muddy lagoon is a pedestrian maze of canals, bridges and spectacular sights.  It once was among the most powerful city-states of the world and it dominated trade in much of the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean Sea for several centuries.  The principal tourist sights are around St. Mark’s Square.  They include the Doge Palace, the Cathedral of St. Mark (which contain the relics of this disciple of Christ), the markets of Rialto Bridge area and the canals.  Venice is very crowded, confusing and colorful with its trademark gondolas.  Here are some pictures:

St. Mark's Square
St. Mark’s Square
A small bridge in Venice
A small Bridge in Venice

The Central Region of Italy

This region has the world famous Tuscany hill towns and the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence.  Tuscany is wine country–it produces my favorite Italian red, the Super Tuscan wine.  It has hill towns with fortified towers, left over from the conflicts between the various hill towns, that will take you back a to time long ago.  There are so many to see that it would be easy to stay a week or more here.  Some classic towns include San Gimignano, Siena, Orvieto and Montepulciano.

There are two other interesting cities in the region beside Florence.  Pisa, with its famous leaning tower, and the walled city of Lucca also deserve a visit.  But, the must see in this region is Florence.

Florence, the home of the powerful and rich Medici ruling clan, has the best Renaissance art in Europe.  Key sights in Florence are the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia (David statue by Michelangelo), the Duomo and Giotto’s tower Ponte Vecchio and the Palazzo Vecchio.  Here are some pictures:

Duomo Florence
Duomo Florence
David
Michelangelo’s David
Uffizi Gallery
Uffizi Gallery

A word of warning about the two key art galleries—the Uffizi and the Accademia.  Without reservations, you could stand in line for hours to get in.  Some guide books recommend at least a month in advance for the Uffizi and a week for the Accademia.  Even with reservations to get into the Accademia, we stood in line for an hour on a small group tour.

Southern Italy

From Naples south, the Amalfi coast has some on the most dramatic views in all of Italy.  It is also home to the historical ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, these buried cities became a window into ancient Roman life.  Here are some photos of Pompeii:

Pompeii
A street in Pompeii
Pompeii Forum
Pompeii Forum

The Amalfi coast is dotted with towns clinging to the steep cliffs.  Our personal favorite is Positano.  Here are a couple of photos:

Positano
Positano
Positano
A colorful street in Positano

At the end of the boot, is the island of Sicily.  It is the largest island of the Mediterranean.  In many ways, Sicily is distinct from Italy.  It has its own dialect, customs and cuisine. 

The World’s Oldest Republic—San Marino

The old city state of San Marino is a really fun and cool place to visit.  Although not very easy to get to without a car or tour, it is well worth the effort.  It was founded in the 4th century and is a throwback to older times—it is undisturbed by the modern world.  The dominate feature of this small country is Mount Titano and the 3 fortress built on the 3 peaks to protect this tiny country from invasion.

The capital city is also called San Marino and is a pedestrian only area.  Inside the town walls, it is a delight to wander around.  Here are some of our favorite photos:

San Marino
The 3 Hilltop Fortresses of San Marino
Cesta Tower San Marino
Cesta Tower, San Marino
San Marino
San Marino
San Marino Guard
San Marino Guard

The Smallest Country in the World— the Vatican City

This small area of only .17 square miles far outweighs its size—it is the center of the Catholic Church and for many years the only religion of Christianity.  It is really not possible to overstate its importance in the world stage—it is the religious capital for 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.  The ruler of Vatican City is the pope, who is both the religious and secular leader of this tiny country.  The most important sights are St. Peter’s Square, the Basilica of St. Peter and the Vatican Museum.  Visiting the museum requires an entrance ticket and if you do not have an advance reservation, you could spend several hour waiting in line.  Even to get into the Basilica of St. Peter, we waited over an hour.  The lines are long and I’m told it is a favorite area for pickpockets.  Here are some photos:

St. Pter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
Swiss Guard, Vatican City
Swiss Guard, Vatican City
The Pope's Chair
The Pope’s Chair, Vatican City

My Final Thoughts

We are travel and Italian destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of Italy.  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. 

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

Europe River Cruise Partnerships Will Enhance Your Travel Options

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

One way Europe River Cruising is changing is the trend of some companies to partner with other companies or individuals to enhance the options for more specialized experiences for their guests.  To me, it is no surprise that our two favorite river cruise lines, AmaWaterways and Scenic, are at the forefront of this trend.  A word of warning—these cruises sell out quickly (many are already gone for the 2018 season), so if you are interested, do not hesitate to contact us to get your cruise. 

So, let’s explore these new partnerships and how they can enhance your river cruise vacation.

3 Great AmaWaterways Partnerships

AmaWaterways has partnered with Adventures by Disney, Backroads and a celebrity chef, Joanne Weir.

Adventures by Disney 2018 & 2019

These awesome companies have partnered together to provide some unique river cruise trips on the two most popular river cruise routes in Europe—the Danube and the Rhine.  Most sailings are during the summer months, but there is also a special Christmas sailing on the Danube departing on December 23, 2018.  The 2018 sailings are now available for booking and we are happy to help you send your family on an adventure they will never forget.

Adventures by Disney will offer eight Danube sailings aboard the AmaViola.  Four of these sailings are already sold out! The route is from Vishofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, or the reverse.  Along with the chance to visit 4 countries (Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia), the cruise sails through the Wachau Valley, one of the most picturesque parts of the Danube River.

Schonbuhl Castle
Schonbuhl Castle on the Danube River at the entrance of the Wachau Valley

On the Rhine, they will sail eight special Beauty and the Beast” itineraries aboard the AmaKristina in 2018.  One of these eight sailings is already sold out.  This cruise sails from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands (we sailed this route in December 2016) and also visits France and Germany—4 great Europe countries on one trip.  It also sails in the reverse direction.  The “Beauty and the Beast” theme will dominate the cruise with a special film screening and activities, but the highlight may well be a visit to Riquewihr, the inspiration for Belle’s hometown in the animated film.  

A special feature of both of these Ama ships is connecting cabins.

For these family oriented cruises, there are only 140 spaces per sailing—Disney extra guides take up some cabins—instead of the normal 156 passengers.

There is a big advantage with the pairing of Disney and Ama—both provide wonderful experiences: Disney on land and sea and now both on the great rivers of Europe.  And with the Disney touches, it isn’t hard to imagine that any Disney aficionado would enjoy these themed cruises.

Adventures by Disney in 2019

In 2019, a new route will be added.  The cruise will be on the Seine.  According to Travel Market Report, “The new itinerary will include two summer 2019 departures and two adults-only epicurean sailings in the fall, which will offer a wide range of special food and wine-themed experiences.”  It sounds like another great addition to the lineup to us.

Disney for Adults

There are also an increased number of adult only adventures.  These special cruises were inspired by the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  The special events on these sailings include culinary experiences both onboard and onshore, wine tastings, culinary walking tours and a French patisserie class.  There are 2 sailing on the Rhine (September and October) and one special Octoberfest sailing on the Danube departing on September 30, 2018—you guessed it, it will feature beer!

Bookings for these cruises must be done directly with Adventures by Disney.  Here is the link:  https://www.adventuresbydisney.com/trip-selector/river-cruise/  Please when booking these trips, include us as your travel consultants. 

Backroads

AmaWaterways also has partnered for some awesome bike tours with Backroads.  Backroads has been in partnership with AmaWaterways since 2015 and it has been quite a success story.  According to an interview I read in Travel Professional News, Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner of AmaWaterways, is quite proud of this partnership.  Here is what she had to say in 2017: “Providing best-in-class service and authentic upscale travel experiences, we’re bringing more active adventure biking, walking and hiking journeys to the world’s most renowned European river cruise destinations.  We’ve expanded our 2017 line-up of active river cruise departures in partnership with Backroads – the world’s #1 active travel company –by offering more the 50 sailings along the Danube, Douro, Rhine or Seine rivers.”

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

The company has taken over entire boats on the Danube in 2017 and plans to do so again in 2018 and 2019.  And an AmaWaterways vessel will be exclusively reserved for roughly 100 Backroads cruisers on the Douro River in Portugal in 2019.

They also offer smaller group tours.  Typically on these special tours only 20 to 30 of the 156 passengers are part of a regular cruise.  Currently the two most popular routes are on the upper Danube and along the Rhine.  These tours feature specialized titanium bikes provided by Backroads.  Currently there are 58 tours scheduled for 2018, including a chartered Danube sailing for Backroads guests only.

I reached out to Backroads and Liz Einbinder, their PR director, provided me some great information about this partnership.  Among the items she pointed out to me were how good the bikes that Backroads uses for their tours.  Here is her description “On all our active river cruise trips we use Backroads state of the art custom titanium bikes.  Our bikes are best in class, lightweight, comfortable and designed for a day of cycling.”  She also told me how folks can book these tours—here is their contact information—“People who want to book one of our active river cruises book directly through Backroads (not through Ama).Call 800-462-2848 or +1-510-527-1555 or www.Backroads.com.”  Please just remember to include us as your travel consultants when making the booking.

Celebrity Chef Joanne Weir

AmaWaterways also has partnered with celebrity chef, Joanne Weir.  Weir has written 18 cookbooks and in 2017 recorded 2 cooking demonstrations onboard an AmaWaterways ship.  These will be featured on her PBS show “Plates and Places with Joanne Weir.”  The collaboration will continue with a special theme cruise on July 26, 2018. The seven-night Taste of Bordeaux – Culinary Cruise Hosted by Joanne Weir on the AmaDolce will traverse the Bordeaux region along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.  We sailed on the AmaDolce in November of 2017 on this route and it was an excellent wine and food experience, so this extra addition will make it even more special.

On this sailing, guests will have the opportunity to interact with Chef Weir on the ship and during shore excursions, especial on tours that feature local foods and wines.  Chef Weir will also be on hand for culinary presentations available to all passengers.

Again, AmaWaterways just continues to add more and more value to their cruise lineups.

Scenic

Scenic Opal
TV Area on the Scenic Opal from our 2015 Cruise

Scenic has partnered with National Geographic to provide more in-depth excursions on some of their voyages.  According to their November 2, 2017 Press Release, here is an overview of the partnership:

 “National Geographic Expeditions and award-winning operator Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours have teamed up to launch a new line of National Geographic River Cruises.  These new offerings will combine Scenic’s truly all-inclusive luxury river cruise experience with National Geographic’s 129-year legacy of science, conservation and exploration to create an unforgettable experience for travelers.

Scenic already had great tours and this is only going to enhance the options for guests.  On each of these special cruises, there will be lecturer and photographer from National Geographic.  The concept is to provide a more in-depth understanding of the area and to enhance your knowledge of how to capture your experiences by learning better photography techniques.

Here are the 5 different sailings options in Europe for 2018:  Beautiful Bordeaux on August 26 and September 15; Rhine Highlights on July 30 and September 26; Gems of the Danube on July 19 and October 11; the 15 day Jewels of Europe (sails from Amsterdam to Budapest) on July 19 and October 16; and a Danube Christmas Markets sailing on December 2.  It is quite a good line up and should be a great partnership.

We have sailed on Scenic and it is an awesome river cruise line—we enjoyed it and so did the guests we helped experience this good river cruise company.

Carriage in Palais Liechtenstien, Vienna
Carriage on display in Palais Liechtenstien, Vienna on our enrich Scenic tour classical concert

Some Limited Partnerships

While AmaWaterways and Scenic seem to be the leaders in the partnership trend, other cruise lines are making smaller partnerships that deserve mention.

Emerald has partnered with one of the region’s top chefs, Fabien Morreale.  He will come onboard the Emerald Liberté one night to cook a special meal featuring his favorite and most famous dishes during a three-course serving.  This partnership will happen on their Sensations of Southern France river cruise, aboard the newest Star-Ship, the Emerald Liberté, where guests will sail the Rhône River.  We have sailed the Rhône River several times and it is a great vacation option.  We also have spent time on an Emerald Star ship and we really liked their product, so this partnership will enhance their vacation experience for guests, in our opinion. 

Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard–one of the sights you might see on a Rhône River Cruise

Our Last Thoughts

Europe river cruising is constantly changing and in most cases, the winners are the cruisers.  These new programs have brought the wonders of Europe together in a way that is much more appealing to kids and still allows the entire family to have a wonderful vacation or allows you to experience a specialized tour.  The usual benefits of unpack once, see multiple sights, all meals provided and interesting things to do and see, are now more tailored to your specific interests, and have taken Europe river cruising to a new level.  As always we want to help you with your travel dreams, whatever they may be, and hope some of you will want to take part of these partnership on Europe river cruises.  Please call Hank (713-397-0188) or email him at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com so we can 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

 

2018 Trends on 4 Great Luxury Ocean Lines

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Accredited Cruise Counselor

The best of the best—we would all like to be pampered on a vacation and these 4 cruise lines will provide an unmatched travel experience.  Anne is a Luxury Cruise Line Specialist, so, I thought I’d write a little about the luxury cruising experience and help you understand more about these cruise offerings and tell you what is new for 2018.

Overview

Generally speaking, there are 4 types of ocean cruise lines.  They are mass market or mainstream, premium, luxury and ultra-luxury.  I will be the first to explain that all ocean cruise ships do not fall into a neat category—for example portions of MSC (Yacht Club) and NCL (Haven) certainly are at least in the luxury market.  A penthouse suite on any cruise line is ultra-luxury, so again it is difficult to put all into distinct categories but if you look at the overall ambience of the ship, the quality of staterooms, the number of passengers and what is included in the price, clear distinctions are possible.

So, what makes a cruise line ultra-luxury?  Key characteristics are smaller ships, fabulous staterooms, more destination oriented cruises, more all-inclusive pricing, fine cuisine, included high end beverages, and low guest to service ratios (more ship personnel taking care of you).  It is truly an elite experience.  Those who like things first class will be thrilled with any of these four cruise lines.

Maybe just looking at two differences in the ultra-luxury from luxury cruising will help you understand the reason why these cruise lines are so special.  You can certainly buy a drink package on many cruise lines, but you still have limits including having to sign each time with your key card for your drink.  On ultra-cruise lines, you never sign for a drink unless it is a rare, premium beverage.  There are no limits.  Service is another factor.  Anne pointed out to me the difference is that these lines make every effort to impart a feeling to each guest that they are the only person on the line they are serving—no request is too much, you will be pampered and you can get quite spoiled.

Wine Service
Daniel, Our Wine Steward on our 2015 Silver Spirit Cruise–service on ultra-luxury lines cruise lines is special

One last point—these exclusive cruises are in very high demand—some world cruises sell out very fast (in days)—so waiting to book is often a big mistake.  Many guests are repeat sailors, love the ambience and amenities of these cruise line and are very loyal.  They also make reservations for limited dining and tours as soon as bookings are possible.  Our advice is book 12 months out or more to get exactly what you want and use experienced, certified travel agents like us to not miss out on that dream, luxury cruise vacation.

Crystal

Crystal. WatermarkedJPG
The Crystal Serenity

Crystal at present operates two cruise ships, the Crystal Symphony (848 guests; 566 crew) and the Crystal Serenity (1,070 guests; 655 crew).  Of all the ultra-luxury cruise lines, the Crystal ships are the largest, but one reason guests accept the larger number of passengers is the larger array of onboard facilities and almost all reviewers agree, Crystal has been able to maintain an exceptional high level of service despite the increased number of guests.  On each cruise ship there is a casino, a spa, a salon and a fitness center.  Crystal features enrichment programs like wine tastings, art classes and musical performances and these are often the best rated programs at sea.  Crystal’s innovative Creative Learning Institute offers complimentary enrichment classes with well-known associations such as Magic Castle, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Berlitz and Yamaha.

New in 2018

Crystal will continue its Crystal Getaways program.  The program is a segmented version of their world cruise itineraries.  The Crystal Getaways program allows their guests to book a shortened cruise segment of the longer world tour.  The new cruises range from 17 to 6 days and will be offered on the Crystal Serenity and the Crystal Symphony.  There are eight different options available in 2018.  Also in 2018, Crystal ships will port in 31 new port destinations, adding new exploration opportunities for their guests.  The Crystal Symphony emerged from a month long dry dock in November 2017 that upgraded the ship with enhanced penthouses (the guest space is reduced from 922 to 848 to accommodate the larger staterooms), new dining facilities and high-tech enhancements.  The Crystal Serenity will undergo a similar dry dock upgrade in 2018.

More on Crystal

Crystal has an all-inclusive price structure, and is well known for its fine wines and premium spirits throughout the ship, plus pre-paid gratuities for housekeeping, bar, and dining staff.  Crystal ships have consistently earned top awards.  Crystal Cruises’ affluent, multi-generational guests appreciate the renowned Crystal Experience distinguished by classic service, abundant space, fine quality, and extensive choices.  The cuisine on board is globally inspired fare, considered excellent and served in outstanding venues.  There are specialty restaurants with dishes crafted by celebrated chefs such as Nobu Matsuhisa.  A word of warning here—the specialty dining rooms are in big demand, so an early sign up is a great idea.

Crystal Adventures Shore Excursions and cruise port, security and handling fees are not included in fare.  Crystal has expanded into the river cruise market, are adding a jet and have plans for a new ocean cruise liner, but these plans have changed several times, with launch dates altered, cancelled or delayed, so at this time I cannot provide accurate news about their new ocean cruise liner.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Formerly known as Radisson Seven Seas, this cruise line is known for its small ships, great staterooms and fine cuisine.  All staterooms are suites on each of this four ship line.  It is the most all-inclusive ocean cruise line, including everything from drinks to shore excursions in every port for all passengers and round trip air (often can upgraded to business class for a reasonable fee) and transfers in the fare.  Sometimes it even includes a free pre-cruise hotel stay.  Regent features an onboard lecture program from the Smithsonian Collection by Smithsonian Journeys, good production shows, musical performances, culinary demonstrations and wine tastings.  The vibe on the ship could be described as a sophisticated ambiance and an elegant casual dress code.

New for 2018

There is going to be an increased emphasis on wellness on this line.  On the Seven Seas Voyager, they have added a new program that combines low impact activities and revitalizing spa treatments.  The new program will be added to the Seven Seas Explorer in 2019.  Regent is also adding more culinary themed cruises to its offerings in 2018. 

More information on Regent

Regent currently has 4 ships in its fleet.  They are Seven Seas Voyager, the Seven Seas Mariner, the Seven Seas Navigator and the Seven Seas Explorer (750 guests).  In 2017, Regent spent $125 million upgrading and refurbishing the Seven Seas Navigator, the Seven Seas Voyager and the Seven Seas Mariner.  You can cruise on Regent for 7 days or up to 128 days world cruises—these world cruises often sell out in 2-3 days!  As we found out from bookings with past guests we made, although excursions are included, sometimes there is a limit on the number who can be included on a select tour, and we would advise anyone sailing on Regent, book their tours immediately (the tours can be booked 180 days out)—trust us, the limited tours go fast once the booking window opens up.

There is excellent dining on Regent.  The main dining room is the Compass Rose, a European-influenced venue that serves three meals a day.  The specialty dining includes Signatures, a French restaurant, and Prime 7, an American steakhouse.  Other options include the Pool Grill or La Veranda for breakfast and lunch buffets.  At dinnertime, La Veranda becomes Sette Mari at La Veranda, a casual option for an Italian-inspired meal.  To let you know about the quality of the food, I have read that Regent serves champagne and caviar on Sunday brunch.  They also have a unique block party on some cruises–where passengers come out into the hallways with an empty wine glass and servers fill them with champagne as the ship’s captain, general manager, and cruise director walk down the halls for a meet and greet.  Great way to meet your fellow guests!

Our previous guests really liked Regent.

Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn Watermarked
One of the Seabourn Fleet

Seabourn now operates five passenger all-suite ships (three are 450 passenger; two are 600 passenger).  These ships have a yacht feel, and offers an excellent luxury experience.  It launched its newest larger class of ships on January 9, 2017.  The first, christened the Encore, is a 600 passenger vessel that added one more deck and 150 passengers, along with several new facilities onboard.  They are known for gourmet cuisine, white glove service and great staterooms—each stateroom features a tub and a shower.  On board, guests are served by an award-wining crew, hand-picked and extensively trained to deliver Seabourn’s signature style of thoughtful, personalized, and heartfelt hospitality. 

New for 2018

New for 2018 is the addition of the Ovation in May.  Like her sister ship, the Seabourn Encore, the Ovation is a beautiful all-verandah ship.  It also is a 600 passenger vessel.  It will sail itineraries in the Baltic, and Scandinavia (including the Norwegian fjords) and the British Isles.  This wonderful ship will feature a new show, “An Evening with Tim Rice”, which I am told, is excellent!  It also features The Grill by Thomas Keller (see below for more detail about this excellent restaurant)—the waitlist for his onshore restaurants can take several months.  Another feature will be an increased emphasis on wellness.  Among the additions will be certified yoga and meditation practitioners who will offer complimentary sessions to guests.

More about Seabourn

Seabourn is a member of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, which means they offer exceptional cuisine.  They serve complimentary fine wines and have open bars throughout the voyage, offer complimentary champagne and the in-suite bar are stocked to the guest’s request.  Seabourn is a more formal cruise line and most wear tuxedos and evening gowns on formal nights. 

According to Seabourn, the reason for the larger size of the Encore and now the Ovation, is to offer more features on the cruise ship—especially dining venues.  The big news is the addition of The Grill is an evening-only restaurant created by US Chef Thomas Keller (the Napa based French Laundry owner and chef), which serves hearty steaks and seafood.  Chef Keller’s The Grill will be added to all other ships in the fleet.  Also added on the Encore, is Sushi, a Japanese restaurant, where diners can watch specialist chefs prepare sashimi, nigari and sushi.  All the 300 cabins on the Encore are suites with balconies, walk-in wardrobes, and bathrooms with marble sinks and separate baths and showers.

Seabourn is famous for its caviar and champagne served in the surf in the Caribbean.  Fully decked out waiters (yes gloves, tails) stand in waist deep water holding caviar on a surf board and providing all the champagne and caviar one could desire.  Anne told me she could not imagine a more perfect pairing or serving idea—decadence beyond belief!

SilverSea Cruises

SilverSea Watermarked
SilverSea’s Silver Spirit

We sailed on SilverSea in Europe in 2015.  The company is family owned, based in Monaco and was started in 1994.  The line has nine ships.  They range from an expedition ship, smaller 296 to 383 passenger ships, the 540 passenger Silver Spirit, the ship we sailed on in 2015 in the Mediterranean, and its’ newest ship, the Silver Muse.  Our voyage in 2015 was an awesome luxury cruise where we got to experience great wines and food, stay in an elegant balcony cabin with a bath tub and a walk-in closet, and have a butler to attend to all our needs.  There is an in suite bar and we could request our preferred beverages.  A true high light was a hot bubble bath that our butler had prepared and waiting for Anne after a long day of touring—true luxury!

New in 2018

In 2017, SilverSea added the Silver Muse.  She is a 596 passenger vessel that the company cites as being evolutionary not revolutionary.  Perhaps the biggest change on the Silver Muse is doing away with the traditional large dining room and adding 8 smaller venues.  The influence of the Silver Muse is spreading to the line’s other ships, as SilverSea considers the Sliver Muse their flagship and have a similar designed ship under construction that should debut in 2020.  The Silver Muse has been well received by the travel agent community, with most citing it as a very good upgrade of an already great cruise line.

More about SilverSea

SilverSea is an all-suite cruise line and each suite has a butler.  The cruise line is all inclusive.  At least one shore excursion (usually more), gratuities, room service, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, are all included.  I was told there were at least 50 wines and champagnes that are included in your fare—amazing!  The complimentary 24-hour room service includes dinner served course-by-course.  They also have Culinary Arts theme cruises, which feature acclaimed chefs of Relais & Châteaux.  It is an elegant cruise line but not snobby—the staff was pleasant but not overly formal, our fellow passengers were social, and the service was superb! 

Shipboard dining include the main restaurant, La Terrazza, an indoor/outdoor for buffet style breakfast and lunch, the Stars Supper Club, an art deco inspired dining venue that served small courses.  The pool side grill serves usual burgers and pizza.  At night, this area is transformed into The Grill—an al fresco eatery which featured a Hot Rock Dining Experience—a preheated volcanic rock allows you to cook your meal tableside.  It was cool! 

The Grill
The Grill–we cooked our own food on Hot Rocks during our 2015 cruise on SilverSea–it was awesome!

All food was excellent and we enjoyed each venue.  For an extra fee, there was Seishin that featured fusion cuisine, Kobe beef and spider lobster.  This Asian restaurant has a 4 course menu (at our sailing $20 fee per person) or an 8 course menu ($40 fee per person).  Our biggest disappointment was not being able to dine at Le Champagne by Relais & Chateaux—again the limited seating was all booked up and if you want to eat at these exclusive venues, you must book as early as possible.

Onboard SilverSea, they had a specialty shoe kiosk by the pool, where you could have sandals hand made to your specifications and personally fitted to your exact foot.  Custom shoes—this is the lifestyle—hard to imagine you could get this level of pampering!  Anne said they are a wonderful reminder of the cruise and she is ready to go to Capri for any future adjustments!  That’s my girl—back to Europe—I’m in 100%.

Anne Sandals 2
Anne’s handmade custom sandals made during our 2015 SilverSea cruise

The focus of this cruise line is getting to great destinations in style and they delivered.  The included tours were very good or you could just wander off on your own (our usual touring method) and meet up with the group to return to the ship if transportation to return was required.  While we almost always picked the included tour, we selected an optional tour in Portofino that required a fee.  Portofino is a tender port (small boat to get you ashore from the ship) and we went to a wine tasting led by Guido Porrati.  It was outstanding, memorable culinary and wine-tasting event, well worth the price! 

Castillo Brown Wine and Food Tour
Wine and Food Tour on our SilverSea Ocean Cruise 2015

SilverSea was a really good experience and we would encourage all to try this line.

Final Thoughts

Once you have tried traveling in style, you will want to go again and again.  The experience is so good and memorable that once is not enough.  We would love to help experience this level of excellence.  Please call Hank (713-397-0188) or email him at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com so we can 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

 

Alexa—Call Dream Destinations—I need a Great Vacation!

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

Technology is good and bad, in my opinion.  It is good because it allows us to do more with less resources.  It is bad when folks hide behind a computer or phone to disrespect– you don’t have to look someone in the eye and criticize or bully them when you are online.  But this blog is not about the relative merits of technology—it is about how technology can have the human touch and how we use technology to enhance your trip experiences.

So, let’s learn about technology and how we make you feel special in an impersonal world.

A look at 50 Years of Changes

50 years ago, I was a cadet at West Point. 

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader in his first year at West Point

While I was there, a man walked on the moon!  Unbelievable!  Living in the Houston area, I actually have met a couple of astronauts later in life—they are unique folks to say the least—off the charts smart but humble, down to earth folks—I am a better person for meeting them.  At West Point, I used a slide rule, very poorly, to solve math problems—most of the time I got it wrong (it didn’t help that my slide stick was often in backwards—play sword fighting at night in your room can lead to bad academic performance according to one of my math professors!).  Now I never miss the right answer with a calculator assuming I put the correct numbers in and use the right functions.  We played albums on record players—now it is streamed or played on satellite radio—I’m listening to a Sirius Radio as I write this.  I write this blog on a computer, and I actually wrote 3 football books on a computer—as a poor speller all my life, word processing and spell check has made me a reasonable author.  The list just goes on and on—I don’t know if it is true, but I read that since 1900 man’s total knowledge has doubled by 1960 and now they say it doubles every 25 years and is getting shorter.  Regardless, there is no doubt we are accelerating our knowledge at a breath taking rate and technology is helping accelerate our abilities.

Oh, by the way, we just got an Alexa Dot—the small Amazon AI (artificial intelligent assistant)—Anne won it in a contest about explaining why one of our vendor representatives was good at his job.  It was the inspiration of this blog.  I’ll explain in the next section.

Amazon Echo
Our Amazon Echo–Hi Alexa!

The Blending of Tech and Humans

For Anne’s to take time and recognize a vendor for their outstanding service and help to our business is really the central idea of this blog—she made this guy and his bosses feel special in an impersonal world of tech emails and social media.  It is the rally cry of why we are in business—as I wrote in my first blog of 2017—How can we make your day better?—the blog was one of our most read blogs last year.  Back in the day 50 years ago, we used a huge computer and had card decks with punched holes to solve mathematical problems—frustrating, time consuming and often inaccurate.  I was often told, the output is only as good as the input.  Now in my pocket, with an IPhone 6, I am told I have more computing power than the computers that sent a man to the moon.  Again, not sure if it is totally true, but I know I can actually run most of our travel business on such a small device—amazing to say the least!

Tech is Great to get you Started on your Vacation but it is not enough to get the Best Trip

A bold statement to say the least.  A lot of folks think they can book a trip online and save money.  Almost everyone we work with, before they reach out to us for help, has researched their trip online—some research says they visit 20 sites or more.  I recall a client who once had examined every aspect of her trip to such a fine detail that she was convinced it was the lowest possible price.  As we were reviewing the trip, we realized she was taking 3 different flights to her destination, spending about 24 hours getting there with layovers to save $25.00.  Yes, 25 bucks!  When, I told her husband this, he said he wanted the shorter 6 hours in the air and he just wanted this to end so they could enjoy their vacation.  That is value—saving time, spend more to get more, but do so prudently. 

We encourage you to research but if you want a great trip, we need to know why you are going and what you hope to experience.  How many online agencies will ask you why you are going?—they just blindly book your trip based on your input. 

Remember, we will make you feel special in an impersonal world and the result will be a better trip.

Some Great Tech We use in our Travels

We are big fans of mobile phones.  It allows us to communicate and book trips anywhere in the world.  We once booked a Regent cruise with a critical deadline in Romania—amazing!  When I first went to Europe, about 46 1/2 years ago, I sent a post card home to my parents early in the trip and I beat the card home—it took 6 weeks to arrive!  Here is a scanned copy of the card from July 24, 1971 (as you can see I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower that day):Picture16Picture17We also carry a SkyRoam—our own secure Wi-Fi network. 

skyroam
Our Skyroam–we bought this and pay a small fee to use–our own secure network

Anne carries her I pad—sometimes we take one of our laptop computers.  Here is what I wrote about electronics in travel our tips to European travels (directly from our website in the resources section):

  1. Electronics.

Traveling with electronics in Europe is a given in today’s world.  Europe uses 240 volts instead of the 110 volts in the US.  Bring only electronic devices that are 100-240 volts complaint.  You will also need adapter plugs to fit into the outlets. England & Ireland use a different plug than is used on the continent of Europe.  Also expect few places in your room to plug in your appliance to recharge you devices during your trip. My experience with converter devices is poor—they often just do not work or destroy your costly electronic device.  We usually travel with IPads, 2 IPhones & our IPods.  We use a Halo pocket power system to charge up these items—plug one into the wall and it can charge all our things.  It also is a reserve battery system when our device batteries run down. We also carry in Europe 2 adapter plugs or more for the outlets to charge up our stuff. We have taken a Garmin but find this GPS system very unreliable—we wandered around Paris a few years ago with luggage following the Garmin instructions to find our hotel and it just did not work properly.  Some of the newer phone systems seem to work much better on your personal phones. 

My Final Thoughts

You may not know you need a vacation, but you do.  You need to refresh, relax, and expand your experiences.  Most of you use professionals for plumbing, electrical work, taxes and estate planning—why do you think you can plan travel better alone?  To chase the best price but lose some quality—in my world, poor travel is a waste of time—I can’t tell how many horror stories I have heard about how trips were ruined to save a couple of bucks.  We will save you from yourself with quality advice and improve your trip—no poor travel allowed!

We are travel and river cruise experts.  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 around $10,000 or more for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. 

Alexa—Call Dream DestinationsI need a Great VacationI want to feel special in an impersonal world!

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

Go Ahead—Indulge Yourself in Luxury Travel!

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

Luxury travel means different things to different people.  I think most folks would opt for more luxury in their vacations but worry about the costs.  According to the L.E.K. 2017 Luxury Travel Study, only 10% of the respondents considered themselves luxury travelers, but 85% reported they indulge in travel luxuries sometimes in their travels.  We think the key is value, not an abstract term like luxury.  To me, this raises a couple of questions.  How do you know what luxury features you would like to add to your trip to enhance your experience?  How can you enhance your travels without blowing your budget? 

So, let’s explore these topics together.

Life Enhancing Experiences

We are in the life enhancing business.  To help you get your life enhancing trip experience, there are 4 items necessary for us to help you plan your travel.  There are 1) Some idea of a trip you would like to take, 2) a realistic budget, 3) dates when you want to go, and 4) your trip is a good fit to the services we offer.

To get started on your trip, we make it easy for you to communicate your desire to start thinking about a trip.  Please visit www.dreamdestinations.com, select Send Us Your Travel Request and contact us.  This short form will start you on the road to a great travel location.

How Do You Know What Luxury Features You Would Like to Add to Your Trip to Enhance Your Experience?

Chances are you really do not know all the options available for your trip.  Everyone wants to get the most for their money but if you are fixated on price alone, chances are you will get a sub par experience.  How do I know this?  In my 45+ years of traveling to Europe, every time I cut a corner to save a buck or two, the results was usually wasted time and a poor experience.  Would you like an example—I once refused to pay 5 Marks to go see a fabulous wood carved church altar in Rothenburg, Germany—something I really wanted to see.  I had spent well over $6000 for this trip and balked at 5 Marks—it just doesn’t make sense!  Someday I will get to visit the church again—it was a really poor decision.  What is the reason for this story?—we are here to save you from yourself.  It is very hard for us to keep up with all that is happening in Europe, or on river cruises or on ocean cruises, so how can you be expected to know what features you need to add to get that special feature or luxury experience?  Let us help guide you through the process and the outcome will be a better trip.

They key to adding luxury features is to know what your desired outcome of the trip is.  The most important thing for us to understand is why you are going on the trip.  What do you want to experience and what type of treatment do you expect?  Do you want down time in a luxurious spa?  How about a skip the line entrance to the Vatican Museum?  What is the right mix of seeing the sights at the right pace?  What level of comfort are do you expect on your trip?  What type of hotel do you want to stay in?  Those are just a few of the questions we will ask to get you the trip you desire.

How Can You Enhance Your Trip without Blowing Your Budget?

There are many ways that expensive trips can become a better value and may cost less but still deliver the experience you desire.  For example, traveling when fewer people travel is a good way to get a luxury trip at a better price.  For example, spring, fall and Christmas Market trips are excellent values on Europe River Cruises.  Most of the group river cruises we plan are during these non-peak times.  Not only is the price better, there are less crowds.  Sometimes the weather is not the best, but overall it is our favorite time to travel to Europe—a great trip at a better price.  You really can enhance your traveling experience many times by just letting us search your desired time period for travel to let us seek the best travel value for you.

Christmas Market Schonbrunn Palace 2012 467
Christmas Market Stall on a river cruise–great value for a luxury experience!

 

Another way to enhance your trip, is to pick the right vendor who offers the services and level of care you want.  We carefully vet our preferred suppliers—we know who will deliver the experience you expect and will exceed your expectations—our ultimate goal.

Budapest at Night with Dream Destinations Slogan
Budapest at Night–on the right river cruise line, this is included in the fare!

We also look for upgrades.  We always try to make personal connections with hotels, for example, letting them know our valued clients are coming and asking for the best treatment they can offer.

We Can Inspire You to add some luxury features to your next trip!

With our extensive experience and knowledge about travel, we will match you to the right trip and help get exactly what you expect from your trip.   We will get you the best value for your money on a trip, if you will spend some time us.  The more we can learn about you, the better we can serve you.  We also help you decide if a slight increase in your budget might result in an enhanced experience.

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!  It is especially true for a Europe river cruise vacation. 

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

 

Our New Website—www.dreamdestinations.com

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

October is my favorite month of the year.  I was born during this month, I got married to Anne during October and there are good football games being played, so it is only fitting, in my eyes, that we would upgrade our website and get it online in October.  We are very proud of the new site and best of all, it will serve you as a great resource place to help you get inspired for your next vacation.  So, let’s take a closer look at www.dreamdestinations.com.  Our challenge to you is to decide if this is a good, useful website that can benefit you.  We think it is, but you decide.  Please send us your feedback—we would love to hear from you!

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 you arrive.  It educates and inspires and you’ll find it is easy to use.  We have 8 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, Specials, Blog, Resources, River Cruises, Cruises, Europe and About.  By my count, there are 113 PowerPoints on our website, hundreds of pictures, almost all taken by us, and 82 blogs.  We believe our website has high quality content that is accurate, objective and extensive.

Our Homepage

AmaWaterways Wine Cruise
A picture of Anne & Hank on 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 Specials Page

35702_Take_5_Email_02
Flash Sale on Norwegian Cruise Lines

This is where we have good travel values.  It may have a flash sale (like today’s (19 October 2017) one day only) or tell you about a good value river cruise (our 2018 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 82 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

IMG_0323
A River Cruise Safety Briefing on AmaWaterways

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.

Cruises Section

The Disney Wonder
The Disney Wonder ported at Castaway Cay

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

The AmaPrima
The AmaPrima

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.

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! 

Last, but not least, on our new website (www.dreamdestinations.com ), there is an easy way to let us know where you want to travel.  It is called Send Us Your Travel Request.  This short form will start you on the road to a great travel location.  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

 

What Are Your Dream Destinations?

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

We are in the business of turning travel dreams into reality.  It sure is fun dreaming about great vacations but, to be honest, challenging to make reservations for trips.  The challenge is making the right decisions to get you the best value.  Every time we make a reservation for one of the great folks who travel with us, I just wonder why anyone would do it themselves.  So, let’s see how we can help you find your Dream Destinations.

The Dream

Our name says it all—Dream Destinations.  Close your eyes—where do you want to go, what is your must see place or experience—we can get you there.  Every time you see a cool cruise ship or an ad for a river cruise or the iconic sights in a Europe picture, you can’t help but dream a little. 

Eiffel Tower
Paris at Night is one Dream Destination

Our thoughts are very powerful—we all have amazing minds that are in constant motion.  In fact one survey says that 49% of all leisure travelers reported they started researching online after an ad or picture.  (If you are looking for a little inspiration, why not visit our Pinterest page with over 4.500 photos of Dream Destinations—98% taken by us.  Here is the link:  https://www.pinterest.com/visitdd/ ).

While it may be a good idea to do it on your own, we have a better idea—contact us on our web site at www.dreamdestinations.com or by phone 713-397-0188 (Hank) to ask for help.  There are 2 ways we can help you get through the clutter.  First, on our website we have a great tool banner called Send Us Your Travel Request (located towards the bottom left of our home page) and just answer a few questions about what you want to do for your upcoming vacation.  The best part of this is, you do not have to be traveling in the next month or 2 months or maybe you only have ideas now.  We will put your ideas in a Future Travel Plans Data Base and when good opportunities that match your dream trip come from travel vendors, we will let you know.  It saves you a lot of time and hassle. 

The second way we can help you–use our web site to research your travel.  There are 37 PDF PowerPoints about ocean cruises, 8 PDF PowerPoints about river cruises and 51 PDF PowerPoints about traveling to Europe.  That’s right—96 in-depth slideshows to help you learn about great travel.

Our Mission

Being an ex-military guy, the mission has always been of paramount importance to me.  It is what you are going to achieve.  Here is our mission:

Visit Dream Destination’s LLC mission is to provide customers with the highest quality, expertly planned domestic and foreign leisure travel with a focus on cruises, European river Cruises and European vacations for groups and individuals.

So, let’s focus on what this statement means to us.

High Quality Travel

My idea of high quality travel is to allow our clients the opportunity to turn their travel dreams into reality.  There is no real definition of high quality travel that is right for all folks.  It really is a right fit for your trip.  It is our job to discover what great is to you, and advise you, our client, how to get it.  It is a constant process of getting to know you, building trust, adjusting to lifestyle changes—a dynamic process that requires us to contact you often.  The more we know about you, the better job we will do.  Travel dreams can become reality if we get it right. 

Expertly Planned Travel

Expertly planned travel is knowing the destination and the vendors that service that destination.  We need to know the vendor’s advantages and disadvantages.  In short, we must know if they have a good product.  Second, we must be able to clearly communicate these facts to you, our clients. 

On our AmaWaterways Tulip Time Cruise
Anne & Hank with Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President of AmaWaterways–we know our vendors!

Most of you, have a dream trip in mind before you approach us.  Maybe you have read a lot of information on the web or seen an ad or received something in the mail.  The ideas begin—I think this might be a good trip for me—maybe a dream trip to a Dream Destination.  Now, Anne and I have to take those ideas and make it reality.  One way we do this, is to constantly learn and update our knowledge about what products are right for your trips.  We have to know our products better than you do, if we want to provide accurate assessments.  I believe that accurate assessments of vendors or a trip idea, results in expertly planned travel.  The correct match is our goal—we always strive to get you the best experiences and value for your travel.  You can trust us to tell you the truth.

The Power of Experience

We have helped many folks realize their travel dreams in the 21 years we have been in business.  In our mission statement, we focus on cruises, European river Cruises and European vacations for groups and individuals.  We good at it—I believe we are one of the best in the travel industry in our focus areas of travel.

As many of you know, I have been traveling to Europe since 1971.  Anne and I have been going there together since 1989—usually 2-4 times a year.  We have written 50 Europe City Guides.  We have taken 13 Europe River Cruises, led groups on tour in Europe and on river cruises.  We have a great comparison guide about the 8 major river cruise companies that market to the US travelers.  We have taken 25 ocean cruises. 

Picture27
Anne & Hank at the Tuscan Grill on one of our Ocean Cruises

We use our experience to get you the right trip to your Dream Destinations.

My Final Thoughts

What are your Dream Destinations?

Please, reach out to us with your ideas!  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 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

 

Best Outcomes: Great Travel with Visit Dream Destinations, LLC

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

We are great travel consultants.  You want to travel.  Seems like a perfect match, yet there is a lot more that goes into the process.  I like to call it selling travel right.  My first blog of 2017 was about how can I make your day better?—it is our goal for 2017.  Here is one part of what I wrote in January:

“We also must work hard every day to become better at our jobs, so we can make our client’s trips the best they can be.  The more we can be involved in the total planning of the trip, offering wise suggestions to enhance the trip, making arrangements for all phases of their travel, and listening to their thoughts, will make their day better”.

These two sentences are the foundation of selling travel right, so let’s explore together what they mean for you to get a better outcome for your trip.

First, Our Mission

Visit Dream Destination’s LLC mission is to provide customers with the highest quality, expertly planned domestic and foreign leisure travel with a focus on cruises, European river Cruises and European vacations for groups and individuals.

For me, the key part of our mission is “highest quality, expertly planned domestic and foreign leisure travel” for our customers.  I think we accomplish this by selling travel right.

Selling Travel Right

We believe there are really 4 parts to selling travel right when we are planning a great vacation for you.  They are:

  1. A good product
  2. Great Service
  3. A good return on your trip investment—UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCES
  4. Becoming your trusted counselor by truly understanding what you want from your vacation experiences.

The ultimate result, if we do it correctly, is better outcomes for you in your travels.  With the goal of better travel outcomes for you in mind, let’s examine these 4 elements of selling travel right further.

A Good Product and Good Service

The first two items in our selling travel right list are the basics in providing a good trip.  Without them, you will go elsewhere to find your desired trip.  But do not think they are unimportant.  First, we have to know the vendors and what they deliver.  We need to know their advantages and disadvantages.  In short, we must know if they have a good product.  Second, we must be able to clearly communicate these facts to you, our clients. 

Most of you, our clients or future clients, have already done your homework before you approach us—you have read a lot of information on the web or seen an ad or received something in the mail. 

infographic-for-blog
We can save you a lot of hassle and time–let us do this for you!

The ideas begin—I think this might be a good trip for me.  How good that information is, or how much is actually truthful could be in doubt, but you at least have the basics.  So, to keep up, Anne and I have to be constantly learning about what products are right for your trips.  We have to know our products better than our clients, if we want to provide accurate assessments.  I promise you, we do provide very accurate assessments of vendors or a trip idea in almost every case.  However, when we do not know our product or region well enough to provide proper service, we will either find out or refer you to someone else who can handle your travel needs correctly.  You can trust us to tell you the truth.

Good service is just that—we do what we promise.  We return phone calls and emails.  We try to respond within 24 hours.  We also build in checks to insure we follow through.  For example, when we first make contact with a new client, we tell them a deadline for a response from us.  If they have not heard from us by the deadline, we ask them to give us a call to find out why.  Sometimes it is an email that went to a spam box, sometimes it is a misspelled email address.  Sometimes, we never got the inquiry.  But, in truth, this seldom happens.  Good service is keeping you updated and when to expect a response and delivering on that promise.

Look again at what I wrote in January of this year:

“We also must work hard every day to become better at our jobs, so we can make our client’s trips the best they can be.”  Isn’t this exactly what the basics of providing a good trip is? 

An Example of how we help you Learn More about Our Vendors

Shelia and Hank
Shelia and Hank with our Taste of Bordeaux Poster Board

We recently held a river cruise seminar in Houston at a local wine store, French Country Wines.  It was a joint venture, with our Business Development Manager (BDM) from AmaWaterways.  Along with some great French Wines, I provided an in-depth presentation about cruising the Rhone River on AmaWaterways and Sheila, our BDM, made a presentation on cruising the Bordeaux region.  We both had interesting PowerPoint presentations and could provide insights from personal experience of sailing these two trips.  I cannot think of a better example of how we know our products better than our clients.  We were able to answer all questions about river cruising, to include the advantages and disadvantages of sailing with AmaWaterways, and to compare that experience with other vendors.  Reliable, accurate information, with no pressure is our style and we had a fun evening, learned a little and drank some good wine—a great evening in my book!

Frankie Group
A photo of 4 guests from the Sprocket with the title added–Thanks for coming!

I really believe were are one of the premier river cruise travel advisors in the US.  But please, don’t just take my word for it–here is what one of our clients said about our services concerning a river cruise trip:

“I am finally getting around to thanking you for a truly wonderful vacation.   From the selection of AMAWaterways for the river cruise to the hotel and final dinner in Paris everything was perfect. It was so apparent to Jim and me that you both love what you do and are very, very good at it.”  Maureen & Jim W. AMA River Cruise 2015

71 River Cruise Group
From left to right Maureen, Jim, Len, Jane & Hank at Captain’s Dinner AmaWaterways Cruise

Thanks—we really appreciate your kind words and hope to live up to them on your future trips—they are going on a second river cruise later this year that we planned—there is no higher compliment than using us again to travel!

The Difference between Good and Great

The third and fourth items on our selling travel right list, separate us from other travel advisors or agents, in my opinion.  It is all about the experiences and trust.  It is about taking good and getting it to great.  I do not know one person who does not want value for their money.  However, many cannot really define value.  It is not price, it is what you get for the money.  I read a quote on LinkedIn the other day that I think really applies here:

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”—I am not sure who the author is, but I am sure that a poor quality trip will not justify a really low price.  Value is finding the sweet spot—a good price and a good value.  We excel in this.

It is our job to discover what great is to you, and advise you, our client, how to get it.  It is a constant process of getting to know you, building trust, adjusting to lifestyle changes—a dynamic process that requires us to contact you often.  The more we know about you, the better job we will do.

I also like to say that we “do what is right when no one is looking.”  We are authentic and transparent and realize we are only as good as our next transaction or contact with you.  In short, our goal is to provide you trips that will: exceed your expectations; help you make wise choices; eliminate hassles and we will help you get the best Value for your Money!

Here is the last part of what I wrote in January

“The more we can be involved in the total planning of the trip, offering wise suggestions to enhance the trip, making arrangements for all phases of their travel, and listening to their thoughts, will make their day better”.

Doesn’t that sound like a good way to make a good trip great?

An Example of a Great Value Trip

D Day Group
D Day 70th Anniversary Trip we led in 2014

In 2014, we led a group of clients on a tour for the 70th Anniversary of D Day.  We planned the trip and created a unique itinerary that allowed all to see the important D Day sights during the festivities.  We managed to allow our clients to participate in some special anniversary activities.  Other trips during that anniversary time cost several thousands of dollars more than ours, but really did not have anything extra to justify the extra cost.  That is real value, in our opinion, and we constantly look for the best at a good price for you our clients.

Again, let’s here from someone on the trip—not just from me.  Here is what one client said about this trip:

“What a wonderful trip you two architected for us!!   You were very thoughtful in all the details that made this such a success, and we thank you for it from the bottom of our hearts.   We have so many good memories to last for a lifetime.  It was also great meeting new friends that I hope we can keep for a long time.”  Clare & Bill B. D Day Tour 2014

Bill and Clare
Clare and Bill on our 2014 D Day trip

Thanks for the endorsement—we were honored you trusted us to led the trip and your easy going style help make it a great adventure!

Our Final Thoughts

We have a really deep knowledge of most of the destinations you want to visit and we will develop a personal understanding of your interests.  We basically will guide you through the process and do what is best for you.  You can trust us.  We never look at you as a client—we look at you as a friend.  We always treat our friends’ right!  The result will be better outcomes for your vacation when we partner up!  

We would like to hear your thoughts.  What are your vacation ideas or dreams, or bucket lists for now or for the future?  Please reach out to us by sending me an email at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com or better yet, call me at 713-397-0188.  We want to be your trusted travel advisors.  We want to help you: Savor life . . . make memories . . . Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

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
  • BritAgent

 

A Wonderful Travel Experience

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

May 3, 2017 was Travel Agent Appreciation Day.  But for me, this is the wrong approach—it should be Travel Clients Appreciation Day.  While it is nice to be appreciated, it misses the whole point—we are in business to make your travel better, hassle free and provide ideas you never knew existed—in short, provide a wonderful travel experience

I could tell the reasons to use us—experience (20+ years), certified (we are well trained), we know the industry (often we have vendor contacts that allow us to get you the best value for your travel dollars), first-hand knowledge (we have most likely been where you want to go), and we are members of professional travel organizations (we must maintain high standards to remain members).  But for me, there is one overriding reason—TRUST–We are honest, hard-working with one goal—to serve you—we will do what is best for you, not us.  We try to remember this in every aspect of our dealings with you.  In almost every email or phone conversation, we always try to end with these words—Thanks for your trust in us!  It’s not just a slogan—it is our sincere way of reminding both you and us that our whole relationship is built on trust.

To honor your great travel experiences, we have created the Dream Destinations Travelers Hall of Fame.  To get in, all you have to do is allow us to plan your travel and send us a picture we can post on our website.

So, let’s take a look at some of your trips—for us, there is nothing better than celebrating you, who have trusted us to become your travel advisors!

Some Wonderful Travel Experiences

For 2018, we have already planned a Regent Seven Seas cruise, a group on an AmaWaterways river cruise and an Africa river cruise on AmaWaterways.  All are repeat guests—thanks for your continued trust in us!

In April 2017, we planned a cruise and marriage proposal for Ragan and Megan.  Ragan wanted to surprise his bride-to-be by proposing at the Mayan ruins of Tulum.  We arranged a special tour, complete with a photographer, and completely surprised her—she never suspected a thing and said yes.  When you look at these photos they just shared with us, we were proud to be part of this—Thanks Ragan and Megan for trusting us!

Regan Gauthier28

Regan Gauthier49

In January 2016, we arranged a special trip in Asia for my West Point classmate Jack and his wife Mary.  As part of their trip, they visited the ancient temples of Angor Wat.  Thanks Jack and Mary for trusting us!

IMG_1588

In 2015 we were honored to lead my West Point Classmates and other West Point Graduates on 2 Different river Cruises.  Almost 45 years ago, after 47 months of training and studies, 729 of my classmates graduated from West Point.  Prior to beginning my training as an Army Officer, I took my first trip to Europe.  43 years later I took several of my classmates on 2 different river cruises.  What an experience—Anne and I helped introduce these wonderful guys and their wives and some of their family members and friends to the joys of river cruising.  We laughed, shared stories of West Point and had so much fun that many decided to take a river cruise in 2016, 2017 and 2018.  Thanks folks for your trust in us!

img_9409

img_9408

71 River Cruise

 

In April 2015, we helped 2 wonderful couples go on the Enchanting Rhine River Cruise on AmaWaterways.  The photo shows Jerry, Mary Kay, Bill and Becky at dinner on their 7 night Enchanting Rhine AmaWaterways River Cruise from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands in April 2015.  We also arranged a pre-cruise stay in Paris and a post cruise stay in Brugge, Belgium.  Thanks Jerry, Mary Kay, Bill and Becky for trusting us!

Jerry, Mary Kay, Bill Becky Enchanting Rhine River Cruise

In June 2014, we planned and led a group tour for the week long D Day 70th Anniversary.  Here is our group prior to the visit of the Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms in London, England. 

D Day Group
D Day 70th Anniversary Trip we led in 2014
We also visited Portsmouth, England, and took an overnight ferry to France.  We toured the key D Day sites.  The tour highlight was a chance for the male members to march in the parade honoring D Day participants and veterans of the military on 6 June 2014.  Here are 2 photos just prior to marching in the parade.  Thanks Ann, Wendy, Sandy, Clare, Irene, Trish, Jim. Tom, Allan, Bill, Mark and Joe, for trusting us!

D Day Ladie

D Day Men

In November 2013, we planned a 7 night Blue Danube Discovery river cruise on AMAWaterways for 3 great couples.  Here are some photos of their adventure.  Thanks Bob, Dena, Brenda, Ray, Joy, and Vic for trusting us!

Doyno River Cruise

Doyno Ladies PJ

In June 2012, we planned an Alaska cruise for a great group from the Houston area on the Celebrity Millennium.  As one member of the group said “The shipboard experience was spectacular. The recommended ship offered a truly uniquely Alaskan experience of cruising into Yakutat Bay and spending the morning enjoying the sight of the Hubbard Glacier.”  Here is a picture of this wonderful group—Thanks for trusting us!

Alaska Adventure Group

Thanks for your trust in us!

Looking back on these trips, we are humbled and proud to help all of these folks.  We look forward to helping you in the future to take your next trip.  When you are ready, why not give us a call (Hank at 713-397-0188) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com so we can help you plan a wonderful travel experience. We want you to: Savor life . . . make memories . . . Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!