A Memorable Barge Experience, Plus Reports From Our Voyages, Past, Present & Future

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A Memorable Barge Experience, Plus Reports From Our Voyages, Past, Present & Future

 

I've had a great start to my summer, and I hope you have too. This past Thursday, I stepped off CroisiEurope's hotel barge Anne-Marie after a memorable ten days of exploring Provence and the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The barge experience exceeded my expectations — and so did this beautiful region in the south of France. On Sunday, July 5, I'll begin a (delayed) Live Voyage Report detailing each day of our trip from Arles to Sete.

Aaron Saunders has just returned from Alaska, where he cruised from Anchorage to Vancouver on Star Princess. He's already filed North to Alaska! Postcards from Star Princess and will begin his Live Voyage Report this week.

Have you heard about our new venture? European River Currents is a subscription-only trade newsletter for cruise sellers, or for anyone with an obsession with river cruises. We've been testing it for about a year, and the feedback has been exceptionally positive. To learn more, visit europeanrivercurrents.com.

I've just arrived in Bonn, Germany, where I will attend the 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. I'm here to learn more about Seabourn's partnership with this important world heritage organization. I'm looking forward to sitting down for a chat with Irina Bokova, UNESCO's Director-General, about initiatives that are important to UNESCO and the world of travel. In the coming weeks, I'll be reporting more about how the Seabourn/UNESCO partnership can enhance your travel experiences.

Following the UNESCO events, I head over to Rotterdam, where the eponymous vessel, ms Rotterdam, makes her 100th port call to the city where Holland America Line began operations more than a century ago. Netherlands Princess Margriet, who serves as the godmother of ms Rotterdam, will be in attendance.

While I am in Rotterdam, Aaron Saunders heads to the Arctic on Silver Explorer. From July 2 through July 12, Aaron will be on an "Expedition Svalbard: Tromso to Longyearbyen" on Silver Explorer. Beginning August 27, I report from Greenland as Silver Explorer sails on a seven-day voyage roundtrip from Kangerlussuaq.

We also have several more river cruises ahead. For an overview of those, see our Live Voyage Reports calendar on River Cruise Advisor.

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North to Alaska! Postcards from Star Princess

Today, Princess Cruises’ Star Princess is docked in Ketchikan, Alaska. As you might expect, the city’s famous “liquid sunshine” is living up to its name. But almost incredibly, today is the first day of rain we’ve had here after nine stunning days in Alaska on …

Read more.

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Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope's Anne-Marie, Day 1, Arriving In Arles, Almost

Arles in the early evening sun. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

See the beautiful photograph above? That is where I would be about right now, on a Tuesday evening, taking a walk along the river after having washed down a bowl of moules-frites with a glass of rosé from Provence. 

Instead, I am Washington, D.C. sipping on a Starbucks Cafe Latte and preparing for a flight to Brussels that will connect me with Marseille. Once in Marseille, I'll pick up a rental car and drive to Arles, arriving (hopefully) around mid-afternoon on Wednesday.

I wasn’t alone in travel disruptions this week. A series of storms along the East Coast of the United States made travel a tempest. The storms are still brewing. Already, I can see that my Washington to Brussels flight is delayed, but only by 15 minutes at this point.

I made a few mistakes yesterday. Here’s what I would do differently next time.

• During the summer if you are traveling from airports that are not major hubs, book flights that depart before noon. Why? Afternoon thunderstorms. It has been hot and sticky in the South. Yesterday, the mercury was pulsing to more than 100°F  — the perfect conditions for afternoon thunderstorms, according to theweatherprediction.com. As I drove from Asheville, North Carolina to Greenville, South Carolina for a 19:53 flight to Washington, there were no storms at all, but there were plenty up and down the East Coast, delaying our incoming aircraft. The lesson: I should have flown earlier in the day.

• Argue with United's ticket agent. Though polite and professional, United’s ticket agent told me that my flight was delayed and that I would not make the connection in Washington to Europe. In that chaotic moment at the airport, I believed her, and when she said my only option was for her to reticket me for the next morning, I let her work her magic. Turns out she was wrong. Though my flight was scheduled to arrive more than 30 minutes late into Washington, it was actually only 12 minutes late. The outgoing flight from Washington was 35 minutes late. I would have had plenty of time to connect. The lesson: I should have stood firm and demanded that I stay on the flights I had ticketed on the off chance (or in this case, the on chance) that I would beat the odds and make the connection.

• Prepare for further disappointment Oh, United's ticket agent failed to mention that I’d be overnighting in Greenville at my expense — along with hundreds of others who were vying for rooms because of cancelled flights. Rental cars were sold out (I would have driven back to Asheville), hotels were full. I managed to find a room at a Hilton for $299 a night. Fortunately, there was a shuttle to offset the $29 taxi fare each way. With taxes and dinner, however, I was out nearly $400. But wait, I had travel delay insurance … 

• Read the fine print, and then question it. If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket. That's how Chase touts its Sapphire Preferred travel delay benefit on its website. Great, I thought. No worries about the expensive Hilton stay. Wrong. I had booked with points and even though travel using points is covered, expenses are reimbursed only to the amount charged on the Chase-branded card. For me, that was fees and taxes of $69. The amount of paperwork required to recoup $69 simply was not worth it. The lesson: I should have had better insurance.

• Go with the flow. “There’s a reason for it. Acceptance.” These were the wise words from a good friend upon hearing of my delay. The lesson: Relax. I’m lucky to be traveling and to be alive.

Arles, see you tomorrow. I hope. 

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S.S. Legacy Day 1: Embarkation in Portland, Oregon

A Historic Adventure aboard Un-Cruise Adventures' S.S. Legacy Begins

Because of lack of internet access, Aaron Saunders’ Live Voyage Report from the Columbia and Snake rivers is running this week. Aaron cruised on Un-Cruise's S.S. Legacy on a 7-night voyage that operates roundtrip from Portland.

S.S. Legacy offers a different spin on the traditional Un-Cruise product. Instead of offering highly-active excursions like kayaking and paddle-boarding, S.S. Legacy represents Un-Cruise’s History product. That means that instead of zodiac raft rides ashore and bushwhacks that will have you up to your elbows in earth and mud, guests are treated to things like wine tastings. Museum visits. Overland tours to sites of historical importance.

Follow Aaron’s Live Voyage Report here.

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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 tip for cruises is ... click here to answer.

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