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Further Afield's Journal

RIVER CRUISING - 4 INCREDIBLE COUNTRIES

Location: 
RHINE RIVER
Entry By: 
Sandy

We recently sailed the Rhine River with a wonderful Further Afield small group. We added extra time in Amsterdam and discovered the most amazing restaurant. The name of the restaurant is Long Pura, an Authentiek Indonesisch Restaurant. Don't be dissapointed, be sure to make a reservation. This restaurant is popular with locals.  Friendly people and fabulous food!

Watch for our next group sailing the Rhine on AmaWaterways. Here is what to expect:

Fabulous rooftop pools, jacuzzies, and wellness programs—plus their exquisite cuisine and delicious cocktail drinks available around-the-clock—it’s tempting to many to never leave the ship. But as much as they take pride in their impeccable service, we know that the main reason travelers choose a river cruise is because of the adventure—the amazing, breathtaking stops along the way. With that in mind, the countries you’ll explore with AmaWaterways on the Rhine are historic, romantic and truly awe-inspiring.

 

On an AmaWaterways cruise, you can choose from a selection of amazing tours, all of which highlight a unique aspect of Europe. With 25 incredible river cruise options throughout Europe, it can be a tough decision…but we knowthat we’ll find something that fits your budget, taste, and sense of adventure.

 

Do you want to spend more of your time in Switzerland, Germany or France? What about the Netherlands? Let’s take a closer look at our destinations on the Rhine River and you’ll see why our clients keep coming back for more.

Switzerland

A pristine alpine wonderland, Switzerland is beautiful any time of year.  It’s known for its snowy mountain caps in the winter and lush green hills in the summer. Whether you’re taking a scenic train ride through the Alps or traveling the Rhine by ship, Switzerland will have you wondering if you’ve walked straight into a fairytale.

Basel

Many river cruises on the Rhine start or end in Basel, a city known for its love of art and museums. The city has the highest concentration of museums in the country and is centered around a market square, making it perfectly easy to tour.

 

Basel is a fantastic representation of Switzerland as it’s situated right between France and Germany, two countries which have significantly influenced Swiss culture. Enjoy this melding of cultures as you dine alfresco at a cafe along the banks of the Rhine.

 

But why stop with Basel when there’s so much more of Switzerland to see. We’d recommend tacking on a trip to Lucerne or Zurich.

Lucerne

Lucerne is the ideal pitstop on your trek through Switzerland. Wandering through its majestic streets, you’ll encounter a city dotted with beautiful bridges, cafes and chocolate shops that will satisfy your sweet tooth.  A summer evening in Lucerne will make you never want to leave. Let’s book a ride on Lake Lucerne while we’re at it!

Zurich

The banking capital and economic hub of Switzerland, Zurich combines pre-medieval roots with modern-day business and entertainment.

 

In addition to its world-class shopping venues, there is plenty of sight-seeing to do.

From the Hauptbahnhof—Switzerland’s largest railway station—you can catch a train and be on a crisp, glistening mountain peak in a matter of minutes.  You can also explore the city’s incredible rivers and magnificent lake, which has superior water quality for swimming.  Whether its fine dining or hiking trails up Uetliberg, the perfect adventure is waiting for you in Zurich.

France

Parlez-vous français? Non? Well, no worries. A good translation app can do wonders to help you navigate the luscious countryside of France, and its mouthwatering cafes and menus. For its food, wine, and historic sights, we love this country for all the right reasons.

Wine & Dine

Wine and France go hand-in-hand, and if you haven’t had a bowl of French onion soup, you’re seriously missing out. Whether you’re stopping at a bakery in the morning for a fresh croissant and cafe au lait, a light lunch of a croque monsieur or a full 3-course French dinner, you will not be disappointed.

 

Book a Rhine River cruise with us and you’ll stop in Strasbourg, the capital city of the Alsace region and a charming city for a day trip. We’d recommend the Cave des Hospices for a wine tour and light beverage during the afternoon.

Leisure

If wine tasting isn’t your idea of a relaxing afternoon, there is no shortage of other soothing activities in Strasbourg. The Parc de l’Orangerie, Parc de la Citadelle and the botanical gardens are all equally serene places for an afternoon walk or bike ride.

Shopping

Are you looking for modern stores, local boutiques or street markets? You can find them all in Strasbourg.  Most of Strasbourg’s old town is centered on Grande Île, an island in the middle of the city.

 

Christmas markets in Strasbourg are so popular you can find them any time of year. Make your way to the southwest corner of the Grande Île to Un Noël en Alsace to browse Christmas decor. And if you happen to be in Strasbourg during the holiday season, we recommend a glass of vin chaud (mulled wine) to keep you warm along the way.

Germany

Traveling to Germany usually takes tourists to Berlin, Munich and other metropolitan areas. On a river cruise with AmaWaterways, however, you’ll experience a whole new side of the country—one that is more traditional and inviting.

 

Cruising down the Rhine, you’ll see cultural hubs as well as quaint cities you may not otherwise experience. Rüdesheim and Cologne both offer a variety of entertainment including local musicians and museums, providing for a well-rounded German experience.

Rüdesheim

Rüdesheim is a charming little city on the Rhine known for its production of Reisling wine. The first thing you’ll notice here is the beautiful combination of history and modern winemaking. Cobblestone streets and medieval-style castles lie just outside the vineyards and tasting rooms of Rüdesheim.

 

During the stop in Rüdesheim, you can choose between Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum, a gondola ride or a wine tasting hike through the vineyards.

 

Our favorite way to spend time here is to take the cable car over the vineyards, up to the Niederwald monument and then stop at the local shops on the way back to the ship.

 

Cologne

A 2,000-year-old city, Cologne is best known for its colorful rows of houses and its famous Christmas markets.  In contrast to the small-town charm of Rüdesheim, Cologne is a much larger city and cultural hub of this area of Germany.

 

Where Rüdesheim is medieval and rustic, Cologne is more Gothic and modern. Visible from the Rhine River, the Cologne Cathedral is a must-see landmark. Its two towers are still some of the largest peaks in the city.

 

The stop in Cologne offers the options of a Holy City walking tour and cathedral visit, Kölsch Beer tasting or Cologne bike tour.

The Netherlands

What better way to end the Enchanting Cruise than right in the heart of the Netherlands- Amsterdam.

 

A city known for its red-light district and overall carefree way of life, Amsterdam offers an incredible array of cultural experiences. Cruising one of the world’s most elaborate canal systems will show you much of the beauty this city has to offer.

 

 

If you prefer to observe the canals by land, you can opt for a tour through the bohemian neighborhood of Jordaan, which boasts trendy cafes, eateries, and shops. After grabbing a coffee, head to one of the many historical landmarks in this part of town. The Anne Frank House is located just outside Jordaan and across from the historical Westerkerk Cathedral where Rembrandt was buried in 1669.

 

The People

The people in the Netherlands are truly some of the kindest and friendly people in Europe. Described as modest, direct and very prompt, don’t be surprised by how welcomed you feel in this city.

The Food

One of the most pleasant surprises of a trip Amsterdam is the food. If you’re craving something with a pinch of salt, we would recommend Bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs), kibbeling (deep-fried fish) or snert (split pea soup).

 

After dinner, enjoy a variety of different sweets including Dutch licorice, poffertjes (puffy pancakes) or stroopwafels(remember to eat them hot and gooey).

The Creativity

You will find more peculiar shops and art displays in Amsterdam than almost anywhere else in the world. From stores with cows on the ceiling to mouse mansions and displays dedicated entirely to tulips, entertainment in Amsterdam lies around every corner. 

 

These are just a few of the amazing destinations on a Rhine River cruise. Which country is calling your name? Although I enjoyed all of the countries, my favourite is the Netherlands. Give us a call today to talk about all the options available! Or maybe you would like to come along with one of our small groups. 

 

IRISH PUB ETIQUETTE

Location: 
Ireland
Entry By: 
Sandy

The Unspoken Rules of Pub Culture 

Planning a trip to Ireland? You are likely to spend some time in a pub, so do your homework before you arrive. It’s easy to visit a pub for a pint, but understanding the unspoken rules regarding pub culture will ensure how not to look like a tourist. The pub is the centre of the social universe in Ireland. 

The Irish are fun and friendly so there’s a good chance that during one of your pub sessions, you’ll end up drinking with a couple of locals. When everyone is done their drink, one person will go up to the bar and buy for everyone in the group. When that round is over, the next person buys and so on. DO NOT SKIP YOUR ROUND. Pony up when it’s your turn. Tip: Couples do not count as one; you are each having a drink so you each need to buy a round.

If you order a Guinness, you can say to the barman, “I’ll have a pint please.” It’s basic currency in this country and manners are everything – no need to specify what kind, as they’ll assume you want a Guinness.  Have patience!  According to the official Guinness custodians, it takes exactly 119.5 seconds and a 45-degree tilt to pour the pint of Guinness.  After that you need to let it settle. The cardinal rule in drinking Guinness: do not drink it without letting the head settle and for goodness sake; don’t order a glass (a half pint). 
  
There is little table service. To get the barman’s attention, move near to the bar. Know exactly what you want! There are no fancy cocktail menus. Do not waive your money at them. Once served, pay up! No tabs.  Seating – there is never enough seats in a bar, but don’t dare to jump into an empty seat without first asking. They may be keeping a seat open for a regular senior. 
 
If you are going for an afternoon pint, casual dress is the attire. But if you’re out for the evening, dress up a little.  For the lads, we suggest you don’t pair your jeans with  “runners”, and try a dress shoe instead. Locals like to get dressed up. 
 
Tipping in Irish pubs isn’t expected but always appreciated.  Tipping is usually left at the end of the evening. The value of 10-15% of your total bill is a suggested amount.
 
Pubs welcome many occasions celebrating birthdays, births, weddings and the post mortem of a funeral.  Irish pubs are a place of fun, storytelling, music and craic. So come join us on one of our tours!
 

SOLO TRAVELLERS - Article

Entry By: 
Further Afield Travel Team

Single Supplement - Alternative Solutions

Will the single supplement put a dent in rising solo travel numbers? More & more companies offering alternative solutions

 

TORONTO — Solo travel is on an upward trend, says the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, with travellers who ventured alone on their most recent overseas leisure trip jumping to 24% from 15% in 2013.

This market has more than doubled amongst affluent and first-time travellers (32% up from 14% for the affluent, and 37% up from 16% for first-time travellers), while solo ‘Superboomers’ are also seeing a slow but steady increase (18%, up from 16% in 2013).

The study also revealed that solo travellers make for the ideal client: they engage in activities that speak to their passions (sporting events, water sports, etc.), they’re set on their destination but spontaneous about their itineraries (of 2,485 surveyed, 69% of solo travellers said they knew the destination they wanted to go to and did not consider others), and they seek bespoke travel experiences (personal guided tours have become increasingly popular among this market). In fact, the number of solo travellers that seek bespoke travel arrangements has increased almost three-fold compared to 2013 (24% compared to 9%).

As a result, many tour operators and cruise lines are taking notice and going out of their way to cater to solos and their needs. In fact, there are enough companies currently focusing on solos to warrant the first annual Solo Travel Awards, which takes place in October and is being sponsored by Solo Traveler and World Nomads. Designed to “acknowledge companies that are serving the solo market well, and to motivate others to follow suit”, the awards identify those with no or very low single supplements.

Of course, the single supplement, which ranges from 10% to 100% or more of the standard rate, is an industry-wide practice that has long been regarded as a necessary evil. But as solo travel continues to increase, so too will the need for single supplements. And with more people being slapped with a hefty surcharge, the more risk there is of disgruntling a growing segment of the market.

So is there a way to abolish the surcharge once and for all?

Not anytime soon. Katharine Bonner, SVP, Tauck River & Small Ship Cruising says that the single supplement results from the fact that tour and cruise companies price their products with the assumption that the cost of accommodations will be split between two guests occupying a single room or cabin. “So if a tour operator’s cost for a hotel room in Europe for one night is €300 and two guests sharing that room are paying €150 each, the tour operator breaks even. However, the tour operator’s cost for that room remains the same whether one or two guests are occupying it. So if you have a solo traveller in that same room, paying that same per-person rate of €150, suddenly the tour operator is incurring a substantial loss.

“The single supplement is a way of addressing the fact that hosting a solo traveller reduces the tour operator’s or cruise line’s income by half, while their costs haven’t been reduced accordingly.”

From a cruise line’s perspective, Dana Gain, National Director, Sales – Canada for Norwegian Cruise Line says single supplements are a way to remain competitive.

“The cruise model is based on sailing double occupancy, so if only one guest sails in a room it affects the overall model. In order to offer competitive pricing and rich, value-added promotional offers, the single supplement aligns to the double occupancy model,” she says.

So it looks like it’s not going away anytime soon, but this isn’t to say that solo travellers will always be stuck with the short end of the stick. Tauck, for example, has eliminated the single supplement entirely on all of its Category 1 European riverboat cabins, is waiving the supplement on over 230 river cruise departures this year, and reducing the surcharge by up to $1,000 on 187 departures of 64 itineraries to five continents.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), in addition to waiving or reducing the single supplement from time to time, is credited with being the first cruise line to offer Studio cabins, designed specifically for solo cruisers. First debuting on Norwegian Epic in 2010, the well-received Studios (which charge no single supplement) have since been added to five of NCL’s ships.

“There was clearly a market need and demand has been strong for these unique staterooms,” added Gain. “We recognized that families are the second largest cruising segment, second only to the 55+ age group. On average, between 15-20% of guests on each cruise are part of a multi-generational travel group, and that often includes family members that may be travelling solo.”

A growing number of millennials is also choosing to go at it alone. As the largest generation in history, they’re on track to also be the largest market in travel in the next several years. According to a 2015 MMGY Global survey of 2,300 U.S. adults, 37% of millennial respondents indicated they plan to take at least one overnight leisure trip alone during the next six months, up 5% from the previous year and 8% from two years prior.

“We have seen an incredible increase of solo travellers as it is now more common – especially among millennials – today than it ever was,” says Damien Bennett, VP Sales North America, Busabout. “Because of this shift in travel habits, operators are realizing that there is a huge market in this sector and are now catering accordingly.”

Bennett also cites a recent study by the UNWTO (United Nations World Travel Organization), which found that given the fact that the number of international millennial trips is expected to nearly double to about 300 million by 2020, solo travel will play an even larger role in how young Canadians travel.

“From my experience, tour operators have traditionally seen solo travellers as an afterthought and have typically charged them extra for travelling alone. We’re seeing more and more operators following what Busabout is doing, that is by recognizing the benefits of solo travellers travelling with them. They have and continue to be a big part of our business,” he says.

Solos are making a similar impact at Tauck, with Bonner saying that solo travel has certainly been a growing part of its business. “I think it points to an increased awareness that guided group travel is a smart choice for solo travellers. Prior to a trip, the work involved in planning a vacation is normally divided among two people. For someone travelling alone, all of that work falls on a single person, and it can be a lot,” she says. “With a guided group tour or cruise, the only work involved is picking the itinerary and departure date. Tauck does the rest.”

 

Posted by Travelweek Group

This story originally ran in the August 3rd, 2017 issue of Travelweek magazine. 

 

 

ABC ISLANDS

Location: 
Curaçao
Entry By: 
Stacey

Baffled

My stay in Curacao has me baffled. Odd to be baffled I’m sure but it comes from a place of dichotomy: wealthy–poor, safe-unsafe, desert-lush, luxurious-run down. As we travelled around the island I experienced a multitude of contradictory thoughts. Not to say that our visit wasn’t great, I simply did not get a good sense of the Dutch island. What I need to do is revisit!

Our family vacation brought a lovely week of experiences and memories. Visiting the ostrich farm was, as my daughter put it, the most random thing we have ever done. The Hato Caves were neat and our hike to the top of Mount Christoffel (highest point on the island) had us huffing and puffing but amazed with the view. Scuba diving (staff at the dive shop were fabulous) and snorkeling allowed us to see the underwater world of Curaçao. A visit to Willemstad showed us a wonderful display of brilliantly coloured shops.

Beach was fantastic. There was plenty of room for all the resort’s guests and the reef just off shore provided a natural underwater zoo of fish. I was happy to have brought snorkeling gear and an underwater camera. Swimming with the schools of fish created many ‘pinch me’ moments.

Renting a car was great. Driving was completely doable and provided us the ability to see the whole island. Crazy maze of a road system had us seemingly going in circles while actually getting somewhere. Please note that having a GPS is not just a luxury, it is an absolute MUST. The laughs while traversing the island will not be forgotten. Seriously?!? Who designed this road system??

Beware, being a mere 65 kilometers off the coast of Venezuela brings killer rays of sunshine. Cloud coverage is a welcome reprieve. Even the hardiest of sun worshippers will need a wee bit of shade. For me it was 90 percent shade and 10 percent sun but, then again, I am a wimp when it comes to heat.

Take sunscreen and a hat and enjoy.

NATURALLY PRIMATIVE

  • Iceland, off Route 1
  • Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
  • Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
  • Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
  • Iceland - Northern Lights
  • Geysir, Iceland
  • Gullfoss, Iceland
  • Secret Lagoon, Iceland
Location: 
Iceland
Entry By: 
Stacey

Little did I know Iceland would have such an impact.

I now feel as though our ever changing world has it's origins rooted on an island in the North Atlantic. Stark naked nature is what you will find in Iceland. Geysers, lava fields, northern lights, waterfalls, geothermal spas, volcanoes, mountains, rushing rivers, lakes, volcanic craters, caves, the meeting of two tectonic plates (North America and Europe) and massive glaciers make up this must experience destination. My reason for heading to Iceland was to see the Northern Lights. My reason for wanting to make a return visit is ten fold that.

I was naive to think that the northern lights were the be all and end all of Iceland. The northern lights are simply a feather in the country cap. Stepping inside all that Iceland has to offer opened my eyes to a vigorous and vibrant Mother Nature whose grasp on this earth is a vulnerable yet tight one.

In traversing the southern coast (by car), from Reykjavik to Hof (golden circle too), I feel we were able to capture the essence of Iceland. Dotted with many highlight reel experiences it would be hard to single out any one in particular. However, the glacier lagoon did knock my travel experience socks off. Venturing from the car we made our way across the black beach to the edge of the North Atlantic. I was amazed to see rolling waves carrying chucks of ice to shore. The black beach was speckled with naturally formed ice scultures. Where one would expect to see sea shells we were seeing ice. Further inland seals swam freely in amongst the masssive and not so massive ice bergs. Deceptively far off in the distance loomed the tongue of the frozen glacier. Powerful winds enhanced the already daunting scene of frigid water and ice. As darkness set in, the sounds of the evening became increasingly present. Nature had the upper hand and we respected its omnipresence.

If you are planning a visit to the southern part of the country I would recommend you experience: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfoss, Secret Lagoon, the Black Beach and the Glacier Lagoon. I did not spend much time in Reykjavik. I say to that, 'until we meet again Iceland'.

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