Boarding Scenic Jasper in Budapest, Plus, Our Last Day On The Loire & A Visit To Jordan

scenic five star

Today, I am in Budapest to board the new Scenic Jasper. Our cruise takes us to Vienna, by way of Linz, Durnstein and Melk, for christening events on April 21.  

What can I expect while on board? Well, Scenic is hanging its hat on a couple of key differentiators:

• to be the most all-inclusive of all river cruise companies (even prepaid gratuities are included on ship and ashore); and

• its innovative space ships.

Scenic also seeks to differentiate itself through a few onboard programs, including:

• Scenic Enrich. Comprised of experiences that are exclusive and special once-in-a-lifetime events, Scenic says.

• Scenic FreeChoice. New Scenic FreeChoice inclusions in key destinations on every cruise at no extra cost. I'll discover what those are and report here.

• Scenic TailormadeScenic's new and independent free choice tour is enhanced by GPS-activated directions and commentary. A Scenic Tailormade app can be downloaded on board for free to an apple iPhone or iPad, or you can take one of Scenic's pre-loaded devices.

• Scenic Cycling. Complimentary electrical-assisted bicycles are available that include special mounts to hold the Scenic Tailormade GPS-guided tour system device.

Scenic Jasper is the third generation Scenic “Space-Ship.” It differs from the rest of Scenic's river ships in Europe by featuring a slew of new amenities and stateroom configurations.

• Largest suites on Europe’s rivers

• Vitality pool – plunge pool and one side, jet pool on the other

• Front panoramic deck can be enclosed into all-weather glass lounge

• Royal Panorama Suites are 474-square-feet of luxury with separate bedroom, living room and bathroom with tub and walk-in shower

• Expanded Portobello fine dining restaurant at the bow of the ship

• Upgraded fitness center and massage/hairdresser salon

• Scenic Sundowners immerses guests into the cultural traditions of Europe

These features are in addition to the already Scenic-only characteristics:

• The Scenic ‘Sun Lounge,’ is an outdoor balcony that converts into an all-weather room with the push of a button

• Six dining options including Table La Rive – a 10-seat, six-course chef’s table

• Butler service for every cabin

• Truly all-inclusive – from airport transfers to all excursions and events to all beverages including premium wines and spirits 24/7, to all gratuities – everything except a massage or haircut

• Complimentary in-suite minibar - replenished daily

• Scenic Tailormade handheld GPS guided tour system provided to every guest

• Scenic Enrich is a program of exclusive excursions and exceptional activities ranging from private Viennese concerts at Palais Lichtenstein to immersion in the daily lives of European villagers

• Electric-assist bicycles

• And more…

I'll be on board to assess the features that Joe Maloney talked about in our audio podcast last month: Scenic Cruises, The Most Inclusive River Cruise Company? An Interview With Joe Maloney. Maloney is Scenic's vice president of sales and marketing for the U.S. (Scenic is an Australian company).

I'm boarding today at around 5 p.m. Budapest time. Look for my daily reports on River Cruise Advisor.

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Loire Princesse: Day 5, Visiting The Beautiful Châteaux of the Loire Valley

The motorcoach's engine was revving at 8:30 a.m., and with all seated comfortably, we pulled away from Loire Princesse to begin a full-day excursion to visit some of the most beautiful châteaux in the Loire region. Unlike the other excursions on our cruise, which ranged from €37 per person to €71 per person, the Châteaux of the Loire Valley excursion was included for all guests sailing on Loire Princesse.

Of course, the cost of excursions can add up. If a couple did all the excursions on our Loire itinerary, they would pay an additional €353 each. Still, even with all excursions added to the cruise fare, CroisiEurope comes out to be the price-leader, and not just because Loire Princesse is the only game in town when it comes to cruising the Loire. There are a few eight-day sailings remaining this year with rates priced at less than US$2,500 per person, sans excursions.

The cost of excursions becomes irrelevant in 2016, as CroisiEurope will include shore excursions. Rates for next year's eight-day Loire Princesse sailings begin at US$2,979 per person, with all shore excursions included as well as WiFi, wine, beer, spirits, speciality coffees, bottle water and soft drinks — and more.

As for our day visiting the palaces, the pictures say it all. Read about our day exploring the Châteaux of the Loire Valley.

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On Loire Princesse: Day 4, A Walk Along The Loire

Earlier, I wrote about how the crowds were lining up along the Loire to cheer our paddle-wheeler upstream, see The Crowds Come To See Something Not Seen Before: A River Cruiser On The Loire. Today, we reached as far up the river as we're going, tying up alongside in Bouchemaine. As we approached the dock, a band greeted us from the shoreline. Trumpets …

Read more.

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Following the Skagway River up to the Canadian Border

Skagway is a very small town, located at the upper end of Alaska's Inside Passage. It has less than 1,000 full-time residents, yet it plays host to thousands of cruise passengers all through the summer season. For this reason, its population more than doubles during summer, as many young university students come for work and also a bit of wilderness …

Read more.

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Silver Wind Middle East Adventure Day 9: Aqaba, Jordan

Exploring the Ancient Rose City of Petra Monday, April 13, 2015 Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports This morning Silversea’s Silver Wind docked in Aqaba, Jordan just after nine. Fifteen minutes later, guests were streaming down her gangways – and nearly everyone was taking part in Silversea’s full-day shore excursion to the ancient ruins of Petra. Clocking in at nine hours, …

Read more.

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Silver Wind Middle East Adventure Day 8: Safaga, Egypt

Exploring Luxor & The Valley of the Kings With Silversea Sunday, April 12, 2015 Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports This afternoon, I sat sipping tea on the outdoor terrace at the Sheraton Luxor, gazing out on the beautiful Nile River that exists as one of the most famous (and indeed, only) waterways in Egypt. And truth be told, I felt …

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Silver Wind Middle East Adventure Day 7: At Sea

One More Relaxing Day At Sea With Silversea Position as of 16:13 L: 24° 15’48” N, 36° 03’42” E Speed: 15.3 knots Wind: 61 km/h / Seas: 3 metres Temperature: 23.9°C Saturday, April 11, 2015 Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports Our final day at sea onboard Silversea’s Silver Wind before our arrival in Safaga, Egypt tomorrow couldn’t be more different …

Read more.

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7 Days Of All-Inclusive Barging, Plus Three Hotel Nights & Tours, $3,995 Per Person

Ready to go barging with our group of intrepid travelers? We have a great trip planned — a really great trip — and at a great price, $3,995 per person, double occupancy.

You'll need to contact me directly to get this price, and it's easiest to do so by using this link

Here's what is included:

• Six nights/Seven days of all-inclusive barging from Arles to Sete*

• Tours included everyday of the barge trip.

• PLUS two pre-hotel nights in a five-star hotel in Arles, including breakfast**

• PLUS one post-hotel night in a four-star hotel in Montpelier, including breakfast**

• PLUS three additional exclusive tours: Avignon, Pont du Gard & Chateauneuf du Pape, Sete Gourmet Markets Tour & Montpelier Tour

• For only $3,995  per person

* Transfers to Arles at the beginning of the trip and from Montpelier at the end of the trip are not included ** Note that a few lunches and dinners are not included for the pre/post days

I believe this trip offers an exceptional value. Barge trips nearly always start at more than $4,000 per person. And those are the beginning prices for the barge portion only. We're adding three extra nights at four- and five-star hotels, plus we're also adding special tours. All for $3,995 per person. CroisiEurope's price for the barge cruise alone is $2,824.

You'll find all of the details of the trip here.

Please let me know as soon as possible if you'd like to book space by contacting me through the form at this link.

I'm excited about taking you along and showing you some of my favorite places in one of my favorite regions of the world - and via a mode of travel that I think you'll find particularly appealing, barging.

Bon voyage, Ralph Grizzle

Six Tips To Extract More Joy From Your Cruise

In this free special report, I’ve put together a half dozen actionable items that can make the difference between cruise vacations that are memorable and others that fail to measure up to all you had hoped they would be. I’ve cruised on hundreds of ships, as a solo traveler and with family and friends.  — Ralph Grizzle, The Avid Cruiser

Click to download the report.

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Complete this thought: My best packing trip for cruises is ... click here to answer.

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