Honoring Our Military in May: Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day

By Hank Schrader

There are two important recognition days in May for our military forces.  This year, May 20, 2017, (the annual celebration day is the third Saturday in May) we recognize and pay tribute on Armed Forces Day to all who have served our country.  To all of you who read this and served in the military, thank you for your service—most will never know how much you contributed to the well-being of our country.    I served for 20 years as an infantry officer, my nephew Lance, served in the Army as part of the 10th Mountain Division in Bosnia, and my niece, Mindy Kay is on active duty in the Air Force.  Thanks for your service—you two young ones have made me proud!

The second important day is Memorial Day, celebrated this year on May 29th.  Memorial Day recognizes those who died while serving their country.  This holiday has its origins from the end of the US Civil War—it was originally called Decoration Day.  Although the correct purpose of this holiday is to recognize those who actually died while on active service, for most American it also includes those who served their country and have passed on.  A lot of us take some comfort remembering those who have left the living, so I do not think it is inappropriate to also include those who served but now have died.  In that spirit, I would like to recognize two members of our family.

I would be remiss, if I didn’t pay tribute to Anne’s father, who is no longer with us.  Anne’s Dad, Alfred W Ludtke, served in World War II, as an officer of Gen MacArthur’s personal staff in the Philippines.  After the war, he continued his service in the reserves and rose to the rank of LTC.  Thank you A. W. for your service and sacrifice for country!

The rest of this blog is about my Dad, Henry Carl Schrader Sr.—the man I most admired in my life.

Dad or Hank as most knew him, retired as a Major General from the Army after 33 years of service in the Army.  Often, when meeting new people, he would say “Hi, I’m Hank— he seldom used “I’m General Schrader”—he loved being a General Officer, but never flaunted it.  He served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam—a little over 7 years in combat.  He was an engineer officer—loved to build things and he was excellent at it. 

Dad graduated from the University of Illinois and later went back to earn his master’s degree there—both degrees were in civil engineering.  Later in life, he would be recognized as a distinguished graduate from the engineering school. 

Marium and Hank Schrader
Dad & Mom loved hiking together. This picture is in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
He loved camping, the outdoors and, although extremely busy during his military career, always made time to take our family camping when possible.  Before he was assigned to be the District Engineer on Okinawa, our family crossed the country and visited most of our National Parks.  We even took a troop ship to Okinawa—Dad thought it would be quite an adventure, but on landing, my Mom said words to this effect, “I don’t know about you but I flying home—you can go back to the US how you like!”–no more 2-3 weeks on military troop ship for her!  We flew home.

Image (26)
The Troop Ship we took to Okinawa 1962
He was an Eagle Scout and my brother and I also earned the highest award in Boy Scouts.  Because he introduced me to Boy Scouts, it opened new areas of interests in my life.  When I was working on the athletics merit badge in Boy Scouts, for example, my times on the running portions requirements were much faster than the top listed times and I realized I had a talent for running, which later in life lead me to be a college track athlete.

My Eaagle Scout Ceremony
My parents (left) at my Eagle Scout Award Ceremony. With my Dad’s encouragement, Scouting opened new doors for me
In WW II, as a young major, Dad was the Executive Officer of the 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion, in the 8th Armored Division.  After a few months, he was selected as the Battalion Commander of this unit, and served there until the end of the war.  Fluent in German, after the end of the war, he was the military occupation commander of the region where his father had been born.

Hank and Marium Schrader
My parents in 1943, prior to my Dad’s deployment to Europe.
In Korea, he was Chief of the Construction Division, Korean Base Section.  He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service in Korea.

In Vietnam, he commanded the 18th Engineer Brigade.  Under his leadership, his units accomplished building significant roads and bridges in the highlands area.  According to some accounts, these were the most difficult engineer tasks completed during the Vietnam War, due the complex terrain involved.

Command Photo of Henry C Schrader, CG of 18th Engineer Brigade
Command Photo of Henry C. Schrader, Sr. Commanding General of the 18th Engineer Brigade

Dad in Vietnam (2)
Dad with SGM Jones of the 938th Engineer Group. He wrote “We had just landed along the road on QL 19 in the highlands, West of the Auka Ross to check a road payment project of the 84th Engineer Bn 20 July 70”
Upon returning from Vietnam, he was able to attend my graduation from West Point.  He swore me in as a commissioned officer, administering the oath as allowed, when you have a relative in the service.  It was a great day for me, to say the least.

Always an innovator, his last assignment in the army was commanding general of the computer systems command.  It was a fitting end to his career, as he was the key staff officer in the Pentagon who proposed the creation of this command to make sure all the Army’s computers could effectively and compatibly work together. 

Computer System Change of Command (2)
My Dad assuming command of the Computer System Command after returning from Vietnam
Dad retired in 1973.  I was lucky to be able to attend his retirement ceremony.  He was awarded his second Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) at the ceremony.  During his career, along with his 2 DSMs, he earned 4 Legion of Merits, 4 Air Medals and 2 Army Commendation Medals.

MG Schrader Retirement (2)
Hank Jr. shaking his father’s hand during his retirement ceremony 1973
Dad was a true military engineer.  He was excellent at his craft—in 1980 he was selected a recipient of the gold medal of the Society of Military Engineers for “outstanding leadership and accomplishments of the mission of the society of military engineers.” 

After the military, he joined an architectural firm as a civilian engineer.  One of his best achievements was to design and supervising the building of a section of the Washington DC Metro system.  He even was selected to be an officer in the US High Speed Railroad Association.

Dad receiving 1987 High Speed Railroad Award (2)
Dad receiving 1987 High Speed Railroad Award
My father died in 2008.  He was 90 years old.  He as was married to my Mom, Marium, for 65 years.  They both sacrificed to help make our country a better place—Dad at war, Mom raising two rambunctious boys alone during the Korean War and later keeping tabs on my brother and me as we were both in college during the Vietnam War.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Mom, who died in 2009, is also buried with him. 

 

 

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

Marium Schrader Grave Marker
Marium Schrader Grave Marker. Her marker is on the opposite side of my father’s marker.
Neither were a stranger to Arlington—Dad came to bury his friends and comrades; Mom served as an Arlington Lady.  For those who do not know what an Arlington Lady is, every soldier who is buried at Arlington has a volunteer lady, who attends the service, to let our service members know their service is recognized and they are not buried alone.  This is especially important for those who have sacrificed and may not have family members present.  The ladies present cards of condolence to the next of kin from the military service chief and spouse on behalf of the service family, and from the Arlington Lady herself.  One of the duties, is to try and remain composed, but after the ceremony, most of these ladies, cry their eyes out when alone—I know my Mom often did.  For both of them, Memorial Day happened more than once a year—it happened every time they came to Arlington National Cemetery for a funeral.

His funeral in 2008 was dignified, sharp, and well performed by the Old Guard.  He would have liked it.  It was a crisp, cold day but lots of sunshine.  Somehow, a bad day just turned out right.

Well, thanks Mom and Dad—you helped mold me into what I am today.  You made our country a better place by defending our way of life.  I think it is very appropriate to recognize you for your service during Memorial Day—we are thankful and blessed you came home from three wars but now you are with your comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice and other warriors who stood up to defend us.  All who went to war just wanted to make the world a better place and you all succeeded. 

After reading this, I think you can agree, his was a life well lived.  Thanks for being my Dad—I love you, miss you and will always look up to you.  Rest easy, my father, be at peace.

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River Cruise Balcony Comparisons–What View Do You Want?

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

“What type of balcony is best for my river cruise?”  We are often ask this question.  It can be very confusing trying to figure out the different approaches to balconies by various river cruise lines.  Balconies or lack of balconies, is often one of the key defining differences between river cruise lines in cabin accommodations.  This blog should help you understand each line’s approach to balconies and should help you evaluate whether a balcony, and what type of balcony, would be best for your river cruise.

On river cruise ships, there are 6 possible views from your river cruise cabin stateroom.  They are: 1) a small window, 2) a large window, 3) a French balcony (a vertical sliding glass door), 4) a balcony with a window that opens half way, 5) an outside balcony, and 6) a twin balcony. 

Deck Designs of a River Cruise Ship

River cruise ships have 4 decks, but the upper deck, often called the sun or sky deck, is just a roof.  There are guest cabins on the remaining 3 decks.  Deck 1 (the lowest deck) is for crew and guests and may have some public areas.  Decks 2 and 3 have guest cabins and other public areas.  Balcony cabins are only allowed on the upper two decks (2 & 3) of a river cruise ship.  Balcony cabins are always more expensive than window cabins. On the first deck, nearest to the river line, all cabins only have small or large windows, but most only have the small windows.  There is a very good safety reason that only windows are allowed on Deck 1, as the windows are just a few feet from the water line.  The cabins with only a small windows are usually the least expensive cabins on each ship.  So, with that background, let’s explore river cruise cabin balconies on the upper two decks.

What are the 8 Major River Cruise Companies that Market to US Travelers?

There are currently 8 companies who are the primary suppliers of river cruises to the US market.  They are 1) AmaWaterways, 2) Avalon, 3) Crystal, 4) Emerald, 5) Scenic, 6) Tauck, 7) Uniworld, and 8) Viking.  Each of these companies usually have different approaches to balconies on their river cruise ships.  Although beyond the scope of this blog, if you would like a detailed comparison of these 8 river cruise lines, PLEASE CLICK HERE

AmaWaterways

Since 2009, when we took our first cruise on AmaWaterways, we have watched balcony cabins evolve on our favorite river cruise line.  At first, they only had French balconies on all cabins in the upper two decks.  However in 2010, starting with the AmaBella, they introduced the concept of twin balconies—½French balcony inside and ½ balcony outside.  Since that time, all 135 m river ships on AmaWaterways use the twin balcony concept.  No other river cruise line at present uses this concept for a majority of their upper deck cabins, however, Viking does use twin balconies on a limited number of their suites.  Twin balconies really are the best of both worlds—outside when the weather is good or inside with the sliding glass doors of the French balcony at other times.  While there are a few French balconies on the upper two decks of their 135 m longships (they call them Cat C cabins), all of the remaining 49 have the twin balconies.  65 of the 82 cabins on the 135 m long ships have balconies.  Here are some pictures of the twin balconies and French balconies we have taken on various cruises:

 

AmaWaterways Twin Balcony

Picture1

A French Balcony Cabin on AmaWaterways

Avalon

Avalon uses French Balconies only.  They call their concept an Open-Air Balcony.  This concept is that the whole stateroom is the balcony, with the bed facing the window and it has larger windows of 11 feet in the Panorama suites.  They heavily promote the “wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling” windows of their staterooms.  68 of the 84 cabins on their longships have the Open-Air Balcony concept. 

Crystal

Crystal only has one ship at present and there are only French balconies on the ship.  It is called the Crystal Mozart.  37 cabins have French balconies and 41 have only windows. 

Emerald

All Emerald ships on the 2 upper levels have balconies.  They call their balconies an open-air system and it uses a button to lower the window horizontally half way down from the closed position.  72 of their 90 cabins on their 135 m longships have the open-air system.  Here is a picture of the Emerald Sun balconies from a ship inspection we did in 2015:

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Emerald Open-Air-System Balcony

Scenic

Scenic features a balcony they call the Sun Lounge—at a push of a button, the glass enclosed lounge converts to an open air balcony by going horizontally down half way—it is awesome!  All cabin categories on the upper two decks have full balconies with the Sun Lounge.  68 of the 81 cabins on their 135 m longships have the Sun Lounge.  Here is a picture of the Sun Lounge from our 2015 Scenic Opal cruise:

IMG_9625
Scenic Sun Lounge

Tauck

Tauck river cruise ships have only French Balconies.  55 of the 67 cabins on their 135 m long ships have balconies.  Tauck is unique in its approach to some of their river line cabins.  It has 8 cabins that are called loft cabins—they have a sitting area loft that is raised up from the rest of the cabin area and extends from the first deck to the second deck. 

Uniworld

Uniworld’s brochure has the least information about its cabins than any other river cruise lines.  Other lines reported in this blog, have diagrams of each category of staterooms, but Uniworld, with its elaborately decorated boutique river ships, offers the fewest details.  Generally speaking, the larger 135 m longships have French balconies on the second deck and outside cabins on the upper deck. On their 135 m ships 62 of the 77 staterooms have balconies.

Viking

Viking on its 50 longships at present, use a patented off center deck on their upper two decks.  This allows for one side of the ship to have verandas (outside balconies) and the opposite side has French balconies.  There are 2 large suites (445 sq ft) at the aft end of the ship that have wrap around balconies and 7 veranda suites (225 sq ft) with an outside balcony and a French balcony.  39 state rooms (205 sq ft) have outside verandas.  22 staterooms (135 sq ft) have French balconies.  69 of the 94 staterooms have balconies.  The outside balconies have 2 mesh chairs and a small drink table.

How To Decide If a Balcony is Important for your Cruise Experience.

Most river cruise guests spend most of their waking hours outside their cabins either in the main lounge or on the top deck, when they are not eating, or on tour.  While a private balcony of any type is cool and really great, we have seldom spent more than an hour on any of our balconies during any cruising day (12 river cruises).  I will admit, though, it is tough to beat having a bottle of wine together on your private balcony—a great escape and some quality together time.  That alone, makes a balcony important to us—it really doesn’t matter if it is a French Balcony or an outside veranda or a twin balcony—it all is good!  However, it is important to realize due to limited docking space, river ships often raft, or tie up next to each other, so you wonderful view now becomes a view into someone else’s cabin.  Also, in some ports, the docking location has walls to obscure views.  There is also no view during time in a lock except to look at the concrete lock walls.  A final point to consider is that sailing often is done at night, so tours can take advantage of daylight hours, and this limits what you are able to see from your balcony during some sailing times.  Even with these limitations, we always prefer a balcony of some type. 

Should you get a Stateroom with a Balcony?

In my opinion yes!  One of the best things about river cruising is the constant views along the banks of the river and the more you get to see, the better!  We always recommend a cabin on the upper 2 decks for that reason. Another point to consider is that cabins on the river line deck with small windows often only are accessible by stairs and can feel cramped with the limited light from the small window. 

We hope this has helped understand more about balconies that are offered on the various river cruise lines.  With these great views, it is easy to see what a great way a river cruise is to explore Europe!  We also hope this will inspire you to try river cruising–we will be glad to help.  Please give Hank a call at 713-397-0188 or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com so we can help you Savor life . . .make memories . . . Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Client Satisfaction and Service–The Dream Destinations Way

Client Satisfaction and Service
We always tell everyone that chooses to travel with us that they are not clients—they are friends and you always treat your friends the right way. We use that guiding principle in all our dealings with our clients. Service and satisfaction are the keys to maintaining great clients. There are many client satisfaction evaluation methods. I’m not really sure who developed the following hierarchy but when I looked at its five levels, it really made sense to me—we have to get all our clients to level 4 or 5 if we want to be great travel professionals. So, let’s examine client satisfaction by using the following scale:
Hierarchy of Client Satisfaction Scale
Level 1 Response & Accuracy
Level 2 Credibility
Level 3 Partnership
Level 4 Trust
Level 5 Discovery
A quick summary would look like this:
Level 1 is the basics—if we are not responsive & accurate you soon will lose this client for life—the dissatisfied client will not be a repeat traveler
Levels 2, 3 & 4 are where we prove our worth by creating a business relationship built on matching the right trip to the right person.
Level 5 is where we work together to expand our clients travel experiences & they will be repeat clients
So how does Dream Destinations transform a potential client into a level 4 or 5 satisfied traveler? It is really very simple–we add Value to the trip! I think most travel professionals believe what sets them apart is their level of service but while service is important, we believe the single most important factor is matching the right trip to the right person—it is all about a partnership and trust.
Here is what we try to do with each client. First, we try to respond to any communication within 24 hours. Second, we ask a lot of questions and LISTEN—not only what is said but not said. Travel is an exciting, emotional business with great life changing experiences and many benefits but when there is a lot of money on the line, we have to get it right so our clients get the best possible value for their money. Part of getting right is our experience and credibility (20 years in business; numerous professional certifications and specialty designations; first-hand knowledge of the desired trip; and great industry vendor contacts) but it is really about building trust and a partnership. Partners add value so both win. Thinking back to my high school coaching career, my focus was on developing players to be their best by being demanding yet caring so we could win games. It was about the relationship and trust. Travel experiences are no different—there are a lot of options but finding the best fit is like coaching—it is both an art and a science. The science of travel is the trip offered by the vendor. The art is matching the right client to the right trip. First, we start with the goal of the trip—what does the client want to experience? Never forgetting the goal, the second part is to obtain the goal trip, given the constraints of real life (time available, cost, a trip offered at the desired time of travel by the desired vendor).
Value does not come easy in travel. It seldom is found by an online search of a destination or a vendor. We believe it comes from a partnership between us, the client and the vendor with the underlying principle of what is the goal of this trip and have we properly matched the expectations of the client to the right trip. Have we been reliable and trustworthy, did we put the client’s best interest first? If we can achieve these items when we provide a trip experience that is right, we are on our way to Discovery– where we work together to expand our clients travel experiences.
If these ideas sound good to you, we invite you to come travel with our assistance—let’s develop a great partnership together! Our tag line says it all:
Savor life…make memories…visit dream destinations! Your journey begins here!
Please visit http://www.dreamdestinations.com to learn more about us.

Read More: Latest River Cruise Trends & News

Emerald Waterways Expands While Cutting Fares in 2016
Emerald Waterways lowered fares on all Europe itineraries. For solo travelers, the savings are even higher, up to 40 percent off 2015 pricing. As an example, the popular eight-day “Danube Delights” itinerary starts at $2,095 per person, based on double occupancy.
Emerald will operate 10 European itineraries in 2016, including the new “Paris & Legends of Moselle, Rhine and Main” and “Enchanting Forest, Mountains & Rivers” sailings.
The 14-day “Paris & Legends” itinerary begins with two days in Paris and travels to Prague for two full days there. The cruise sails from Trier to Nuremberg through Southern Germany. Pricing starts at $3,735 for the cruise and hotel stays in Paris and Prague. The eight-day cruise is sold separately, with fares starting at $2,395.
The 13-day “Enchanting Forests, Mountains & Rivers” itinerary includes two days on land in Munich and Budapest and a cruise from Passau to Budapest on the Danube. The itinerary also includes an overnight in Vienna. Fares start at $2,445 for the eight-day cruise only and $3,855 for the cruise and hotel stays.
Our comment: Lower fares on a quality product is great. Emerald is a very good cruise line and when compared to Viking, often is a better choice. Source: Travel Pulse River Cruise August 2015 Newsletter
AmaWaterways Christens AmaSerena Riverboat
AmaWaterways christened its new 164-passenger AmaSerena in Vilshofen, Germany.
The festivities included live music, local entertainers and authentic Bavarian cuisine. Traditions included signing the ship’s guestbook, a prayer by the abbot, the official christening, and a closing ceremony with fireworks.
The AmaSerena joins sister ships AmaReina, AmaPrima, AmaCerto and AmaSonata. The ships also feature the line’s first-ever connecting staterooms, signature twin balconies, multiple dining venues, and heated pools with swim-up bars.
Our Comment: Having sailed on the AmaCerto and AmaPrima, these riverboats are first class all the way. We think AmaWaterways has the best overall river cruise experience in Europe at present. Source: Travel Pulse River Cruise Aug 2015 Newsletter
Adventures by Disney announces 2016 River Cruises
Adventures by Disney® is proud to announce our newest way to travel. You can enjoy family river cruising to eight unforgettable destinations in four countries on an all-inclusive adventure along the Danube River through the heart of Europe. These 8-day/7-night vacations are Adventures by Disney-exclusive sailings with AmaWaterways, a leader in luxury river cruising. The cruise will be on the New AmaViola, which feature connecting balconies, signature twin balconies, multiple dining venues and heated pools with swim up bars.
Our Comment: AmaWaterways partnership with Disney and Backroads offers another great opportunity to visit the heart of Europe with the Family on Disney or to pursue your biking passion with Backroads. Just be aware that the Disney river cruises do not include Disney characters on board—they are only available on Disney Ocean cruises. Source Adventures by Disney Website.

Read More: River Cruise Questions & Answers Sept/Oct 2015

Q. What about Wi-Fi?
A. Most companies offer Wi-Fi for free. It is not always perfect, as sometimes to get under bridges and in the locks, connections can be lost. Just like in the U.S., it often depends on the tower locations. It also could be slowed down by the number of users. The good news is that the river cruise companies are working hard to improve the speed and quality of Wi-Fi. In our experience, it is much better than it was in 2009 during our first river cruise.

Q. How should I get ready for my river cruise?
A. Once you have selected, the right cruise, make sure you determine the highlights and must-sees and exactly when they will happen during your voyage. This might include the most scenic portions of the river, special tours, or places you might want to see on your vacation. It might happen that a particular sight will be visible early in the morning or during a meal. Many cruise companies provide a pocket sized booklet explaining the key sights for the portion of the cruise and some even have a GPS system that can explain sights in a port, so guests can wander on their own. Just make sure you do not miss what you came to see. Fortunately, most cruise lines make a point of informing about points of interest during the trip. Also check to see if the river cruise company has limited tours capacity tours and if they are free or at an additional cost. Please realize that most often, there will be a different starting and ending point for the cruise. This will require at least transfers to transportation or hotel arrangements for a pre/post stay.
Q. What about pre/post stays—any advice?
A. Almost all river cruise lines offer a pre/post stay package. Some can be very good but sometimes the land portion may not be as good as the river cruise was. Why? The longer bus rides may seem too much and in smaller towns or sights, the accommodations may not be as good as the level of the cruise ship. But sometimes there are huge advantages and they can save a lot of money and time and when a desired hotel is booked up, the trip may be a great option.
Q. Can I bring on liquor?
A. We are unaware of any restrictions about bringing any liquor on board, but most cruise lines will ask you only drink in your room and not consume it in a public portion of the ship. Wine at a meal could require a corkage fee, but some lines just open it and serve it without a problem. It is our experience the staff is very accommodating and seldom will make a big deal about private liquor.
Q. What about Smoking?
A. As on all cruise ships, fire is the number one danger to the safety of all. Smoking is not allowed in the cabins or on the balconies. Most ships have a designed smoking area or two on the ship.

Read More: River Cruise Lines Comparisons: Food and Wine

Why do we like the food & wine so much on AMAWaterways? After 7 river cruises on AMA, the food is consistently excellent. One of the cool things about a river cruise and AMA in particular, is the freshness and quality of the ingredients used in the meals. With their limited galley size, the food they produce is incredible. Besides knowing how to cook great meals, we think it is the pride the chefs take in making the meals that makes the difference. Probably the best example is the pastry chef who also makes homemade special ice cream for lunch most days—there is always several unique flavors that change daily. I promise you, there always is a crowd of guests around getting ice cream and other great desserts.
They have award winning chefs, including Primus Perchtold (we had the privilege of meeting him and he is awesome), AMAWaterways’ Executive Chef. He is the winner of three gold medals at the European Championship of Culinary Art in Nuremberg and designs all the menus for the Europe cruises. Unlike some other river cruise lines, each guest can chose their own individual meal. Another feature we really like is that the menus changes daily and features traditional cuisine that matches the region you are visiting that day of the cruise. There is also a set menu of steak, chicken, fish or vegetarian choices available every day, so there is a good choice if the offerings of the day are not to your liking. Your dinner is a multi-course affair, accompanied by free-flowing wines and beer. To make the meal even better, the service is excellent and wait staff become your friends.
They have been selected as members of a world class culinary organization. Every AMAWaterways vessel cruising in Europe is an official member of La Chaine des Rotisseurs and they are the only cruise line to achieve this distinction. There is a special La Chaine des Rotisseurs meal, matched with even better wines, that is available on most ships. It is a true gourmet experience, served at an intimate chef’s table restaurant in the rear of the ship.
Here is what to expect on a typical river cruise for your food and wine. Early Risers enjoy breakfast in the Main lounge—it is usually fresh baked rolls, cereals and juices. A full buffet breakfast with made-to-order specialties (my favorite is eggs benedict), accompanied by freshly-baked breads and pastries is served from 7am daily. At lunch, the enticing buffet has fresh salads, pasta dishes, hot entrees, and desserts. There always is a special lunch menu of meals to order—on one recent cruise they served an awesome Hungarian Goulash one day and there was a German feast meal another—if the weather is good it might even be served on the top deck. If the lunch in the main dining room is just too much, a light lunch option with soups and sandwiches is also available in the Main Lounge. The Main Lounge is open for tea or complimentary espresso all day & night, and there is an afternoon snack of sandwiches, pastries and cookies. The highlight of your day’s meals is the multi-course dinner meal I described above.

Wines and beverages are awesome. Every lunch and dinner on board includes good quality, free-flowing regional wines as well as complimentary beer and soft drinks. In Europe, complimentary sparkling wine is also served with breakfast. Bottled water, specialty teas and coffees are always available free of charge.
The limited edition special taste of Europe tours (they used to be called bites & sights) are great experiences and are included at no extra charge. These specially-crafted guided walking tours provide a delectable “taste” of Europe in select destinations. Tours include visits to cooking schools, stops at culinary specialty shops, chocolatiers and charcuteries and perhaps a bistro or biergarten and more. We have been on three and they are outstanding! My favorite was the Nuremberger Sausage and Beer Tour and Anne really liked helping to make pierogis (a special dumpling) in Bratislava.
If you are a foodie or love wine, in our opinion, AmaWaterways is the way to go!

Read More:Europe River Cruise Featured Route: The Rhine & Mosel

Here are some highlights of this cruise. To start the cruise, there is a guided walking tour of Trier, Germany’s oldest city. Trier was an old Roman outpost. Important sights include the Roman Baths, Trier Cathedral, Basilica of Constantine and the Porta Nigra gate that dates back to 180 A.D. The cruise continue on to Bernkastel, which is located in the middle of the Mosel wine-producing region. This area has been producing wine for over 500 years. A guided walking tour through the old town center and a winery visit to sample several different regional vintages are scheduled for this portion of your cruise.
On the next day, you will enjoy a guided tour of Cochem that takes you to the spectacular hilltop Reichsburg Castle (also known as Cochem Castle). It has fantastic views of the river valley below. Touring inside the castle is great! Or, opt to take a walking tour of Koblenz and explore its charming town square and quaint shops. The scenic afternoon cruise will take you along the most beautiful stretch of the Rhine (the Rhine River Gorge), with castle ruins, fortresses and the legendary Lorelei Rock featured along the twisting river. Next up is Rüdesheim in the evening. A possible visit Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum could be fun or try a special Rüdesheim coffee, which is every bit as good as Irish coffee.
Beautiful Mainz is the next stop. There is a guided walking tour which includes a visit to the Gutenberg Museum, home to two copies of the world’s first printed Bible and centuries-old manuscripts and printing presses. Or you could travel by motor coach to Heidelberg, Germany’s oldest university town. The tour includes a visit to the red-walled castle and its Great Vat (a 49,000-gallon 18th-century wine cask). The castle is perched on a hillside and has gorgeous views of the Neckar Valley and city below.
Next up is Wertheim, a quaint German town. It known for its intricate glassworks (on some cruises, there has been a glass blowing demonstration on the ship) and charming medieval half-timbered architecture. There is a guided tour of the city followed by free time to explore on your own afterwards.
A guided tour of Würzburg’s major sights in the morning is your next chance to learn more about the river towns in southern Germany. Or you could chose to visit the Residenz Palace and gardens, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe’s best examples of Baroque architecture. The Residenz Palace was home to one of the 7 Electors of the Holy Roman Emperors. The afternoon brings two options. You could take an optional excursion to medieval Rothenburg, one of the best walled cities in all of Europe, for a walking tour and free time to explore on your own. Or you could choose to remain on board as the ship cruises to Kitzingen. This evening, the town’s Historic Court Council and honorary Wine Queen will escort you to Germany’s oldest wine cellar to taste regional wines.
Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is your next stop and you’ll have a guided walking tour of this medieval gem. The town’s cathedral, the Old Town Hall that straddles the river, and the serpentine streets lined with lovely houses and 18th-century mansions are sights you will remember long after the cruise is done. Included in this tour is a chance to sample some of Bamberg’s famous smoked beer.
Your last day is a guided tour of historic Nuremberg. You will see Gothic churches, the hill-topped castle in the old town walled city. Also the tour includes the zeppelin field where Hitler held his infamous Nazi Party Rallies, and the Justice Palace courtroom where the War Crimes Tribunal sat in 1946 (it is still being used, so sometimes the courtroom is not available for inside tours).
We are leading a group on this awesome cruise in late October 2015 but departing from Nuremberg and finishing up in Trier/Luxembourg. We would love to have you join us on a future river cruise!

How Dream Destinations Helps You Get The Best Value In The 5 Stages Of Travel

As with everything in our lives nowadays, Google even has thoughts about travel. They have identified 5 distinct stages of travel. They are 1) Dreaming; 2) Planning; 3) Booking; 4) Experiencing; and 5) Sharing.
So how does Dream Destinations help through the 5 Stages? Let us show how we can make traveling a better experience during all 5 Stages.
Stage 1—the Dream. Just our name says it all—Dream Destinations. Close your eyes—where do you want to go, what is the must see place or experience—we all have them. Every time you see a cool cruise ship or an ad for a river cruise or the iconic sights of Europe picture, you can’t help but dream a little. 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.
While that may be a good idea, we have a better one—contact us on our web site at http://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 vacation. The best part of this is you do not have to be traveling next month or 2 months or just have ideas now. We will put your ideas in a Future Travel Plans Data Base and now when good opportunities that match your dream trip, we will let you know. Saves a lot of time and hassle. The second way we can help is to 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.
Stage 2—Planning. There is research to show 62% of all leisure travelers use the internet to research their trip and the average traveler visits over 20 different websites before making a booking. Maybe folks like all the research or think they can get a better deal doing it themselves but we can help you avoid the hassle and get you the best value for your trip. The most important factor here is our knowledge of the places you want to go and the vendors and suppliers that provide the services you need for your trip. We can cut through the online clutter so you get the right facts.
Stage 3—Booking. You may notice there is no booking engine on our web site. There is a really good reason why—we need to make the booking for you. A booking engine does not know what you want—that’s where we come in—we book exactly what you want combined with our vast experience to insure you get the best possible vacation within your budget and time constraints. We look for the right room, the right cabin, the right ship, the right tour based on really knowing you. We also insure you get the right confirmations. Besides just booking, we make sure the little details like transfers, experiences and help learn how to protect your trip if something unforeseen happens. A booking engine may be quick but we are through and respond quickly. We are here to serve you!
Stage 4—the Experience. Since we have been on most every trip you are considering, this is the part that makes us shine. Like some proof—we have over 4,200 pictures on our Pinterest site (www.pinterest.com/visitdd) and 99% are taken by us, not pinned from some stock photo. We took our pictures at the places you want to go. We know the tips to make the trip go more smoothly—on our website alone we have 7 links to resources ranging from weather to passports to help you quickly get the answers to your questions. We have 5 PDF PowerPoints on travel tips. We have packing lists for you. We provide complete itineraries so you only have to enjoy—all is planned for you. While seldom is there a problem, if something goes wrong, we are here to fix as best we can. If we do not know the answer to a question, we will find out the right answer form our widespread contact with the vendors who provide the services for your trip. Having the right persons on your side makes all the difference in the world.
Stage 5—Sharing your Experiences. 53% of leisure travelers like to share their pictures of their travels and 49% of leisure travelers like reading others reviews, and opinions. As soon as we can, we will contact you to learn all about your trip, both what you liked and did not like. We keep good records to help make sure your next trip will be better. But best of all, if you send us a picture, we will induct you into our traveler hall of fame. You can also share on our Facebook site.
So what does all this mean? The bottom line is you can plan your own trip and take your chances or we can plan and help you have a better experience. Since most trips we plan cost you the same if you did it yourself, why not have a professional plan it at no cost to you? We always do what is best for you, not us!
Savor life . . .make memories . . .visit Dream Destinations . . . Your journey begins here!