InStyle Vacations's Blog

This is the First US-based River Cruise Line to Restart Cruising in Europe
Americans are still barred from Europe, and Canadians are technically permitted into Europe but still under their own government restrictions against leisure travel and required to quarantine 14 days upon their return to the country.
 
So it’s hard to imagine that one of North America’s favorite river cruise lines has begun sailing the rivers of Europe again.
 
As of July, AmaWaterways is pioneering the re-opening of European river cruise operations, with a series of charters of AmaKristina in Germany for local guests.
 
AmaWaterways’ return to the rivers comes with new, enhanced health and safety protocols developed from EU, CDC, World Health Organization, and cruising authorities’s guidelines. 
 
The line’s new health and safety measures are designed to protect both guests and crew, while maintaining the warmth of guests’ onboard experience that past AmaWaterways guests know and love.
 
The new and current measures include:
 
·     pre-boarding health questionnaires;
·     daily temperature checks for guests and crew;
·     in-depth, updated crew training;
·     designated Public Health Officer on each AmaWaterways ship overseeing the new protocols;
·     reduced capacity – AmaWaterways ships with all 150 guests on board were already spacious, but now only 100 guests will be on board;
·     masks required for crew at all times and for guests while moving around the ship; and
·     adaptations like plexiglass dividers accommodate social distancing in lounges and public spaces.

 
Some of AmaWaterways’ river ships and cruising experiences already facilitate COVID protocols, like:
 
·     space in the ships’ Main restaurant and included specialty restaurant The Chef’s Table already accommodate new safe distances for all 100 guests;
·     personal portable Quietvox commentary systems allow guests to hear guides while social distancing during the included small-group shore excursions (many involve hiking and biking tours that are already outdoors and naturally allow for safe distancing);
·     ships were already equipped with individual air cooling and heating units, eliminating recirculation of air in staterooms or in public areas;
·     nearly all staterooms include fresh air balconies, for private outdoor relaxation, and
·     Sun Decks covering nearly the entire top of the ship give guests open air space as well as stunning views along the river.
 
And signature elements that guests love about their AmaWaterways river cruises are still there to enjoy, like:
 
·     modern, tasteful ship design and the warmth of a family-owned company;
·     innovative stateroom design featuring unique ‘twin balconies’;
·     wellness activities, including
·     included shore excursions featuring biking and hiking options for the active traveler;
·     award-winning dining—including The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant as well as
·     complimentary fine wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner;
·     onboard amenities such as hair and massage salons and a fitness room, and
·     many have heated outdoor swimming pools with swim-up bars;
·     themed sailings and sailings geared towards active travelers and families as well as group and charter options.
 
It’s just a start for AmaWaterways: one ship in one country for local guests – for now. It’s a symbolic moment. It’s a new beginning, and proves that guests can return to enjoying unforgettable river cruise vacations under new health and safety protocols.
 
It’s also an indicator of how river cruising will continue to re-open as travel restrictions evolve: with charters and single-country itineraries for groups of bubble travelers, expanding step by step to include more ships, more countries on individual itineraries, with a wider range of guests traveling together.
 
It’s the first step towards the full re-deployment of all of AmaWaterways’ 25 ships sailing Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Main, Rhône, Saône (in 2021), Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, Dutch and Belgian Waterways and Douro Rivers, Asia’s Mekong and Africa’s Chobe and Nile Rivers (also in 2021). 
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy AmaWaterways.
 
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Travel Companies Offering Free Vacations to Frontline Workers - and How You Can Get Involved
We’ve already reported some of the hotels and hotel chains offering complimentary hotel stays to essential workers in their own towns. The hospitality of these hotels gives frontline workers a comfortable place to stay between gruelling shifts, while keeping their families safely isolated at home during the COVID pandemic.
Now some travel companies have taken generosity and recognition a step further.
In gratitude, and awareness of the toll that work on the frontlines of the fight against the global pandemic is taking on these devoted professionals, hotel, resort, river cruise and airlines have begun offering essential workers free or discounted vacations once conditions permit travel again.
Here are some of our favorite travel companies enabling frontline workers to take holidays to recharge and reconnect with loved ones.
If you’re reading this, you likely believe in the power of travel, too, and these initiatives include ways for you to help frontline workers in your community benefit from a vacation when we are able to travel again.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts

Nominate a frontline worker for a free, all-inclusive beach getaway

Karisma Hotels & Resorts is running a ‘Holidays for Your Heroes’ initiative, providing 150 luxury, all-inclusive resort stays for essential workers and their families.
The recipients of the 150 vacations will be selected from nominations. Anyone can nominate an essential worker with a simple explanation of what makes them so deserving. Workers can also nominate themselves.
Nominations are accepted at www.karismahotels.com/holidays-for-your-heroes#nominate until June 30, 2020.
The lucky 150 nominees will be chosen in July, and will receive a complimentary 5-day stay for up to 5 family members (2 adults and 3 children).
Once travel restrictions are lifted, the recipients will receive a stay at one of Karisma’s beach properties from across its portfolio of brands for either a romantic stay or a family getaway. Options include El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort by Karisma; Azul Beach Resort Negril, by Karisma in Jamaica; the family-friendly Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; and the newly opened Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Cancun.

(Karisma's El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico)
Stays include gourmet food and beverages, 24-hour room service and a full-service concierge in addition to a wide variety of watersports, live entertainment, spas, fitness centers, yoga, dance, cooking and mixology classes, language lessons, and supervised programs for kids and teens.
You can do more than nominate a deserving essential worker. If you’re feeling generous and want to participate more, the program also allows anyone to sponsor a vacation for a frontline worker. Karisma will allocate 100% of donated funds to providing a gift of a vacation - at cost - to a frontline worker and family.

AmaWaterways

Frontline workers sail free on a river cruise

The river cruise line has unveiled its program supporting medical, first responder and essential workers who are eligible to register for a complimentary Future Cruise Certificate. 
Once river cruise travel resumes, the certificate can be used with one paying guest in the same stateroom for any of the line’s Europe or Asia sailings through the end of 2021, for reservations made within 90 days of the sailing date.

 
In tandem with the complimentary cruise-only offer, AmaWaterways is also extending a book now option to those eager to reconnect with family and friends and reserve their 2021 journey to any AmaWaterways destination: sailing Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Main, Rhône, Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, Dutch and Belgian Waterways and Douro Rivers, Southeast Asia’s Mekong, Africa’s Chobe River and Egypt’s Nile River (beginning in 2021, pictured). The book now option offers hundreds of dollars in savings plus complimentary pre-paid tips.
AmaWaterways also acknowledges the role travel agents play in their communities, and recognizes that they will know personally friends, family and clients who are frontline workers. It allows travel agents to apply for Future Cruise Certificates on behalf of frontline worker clients by visiting AmaWaterways.com/Hero.
 

Hyatt Hotels and American Airlines

Friends & Family Rates and free vacations for healthcare workers

Hyatt Hotels Corporation has teamed up with American Airlines to show their appreciation for the work of thousands of healthcare professionals in the heart of the pandemic storm. Together, they’re providing all 4000 staff members of one of the hardest-hit hospitals in New York City with roundtrip American Airlines flights to Hyatt hotels for 3-night, complimentary vacations in the US and Caribbean. 
It marks the largest total flights ever provided to an organization by American Airlines, and the two companies hope to be able to extend the program further.
In addition, in response to messages from loyalty club members interested in helping, Hyatt is permitting you to donate your points to support the initiative, saying, “Your World of Hyatt points contribution will help support our commitment of providing complimentary vacations for select healthcare workers and a guest—giving them something to look forward to.”

(Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Bahamas, above and top)
And it’s welcoming healthcare workers around the world into the Hyatt family by extending the hotels’ Friends & Family rate to them through June 30, 2021. Qualified healthcare workers can access the special rate using the Special Offer Code THANKYOU and validating their professional status.

#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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Why Travelers in the Know are Booking A Douro River Cruise in Portugal
Have you taken a river cruise in Europe yet? The 'Big Three' river cruises are the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone/Saone. You may have heard about cruising on the Seine, even Main and Moselle cruises.

But for a little 'off the beaten track' river cruising in Europe, Portugal's Douro river is enjoying its day in the sun. Warm-weather Portugal, in the heart of the Porto wine region's, scenic villages, history and picture-perfect vineyards, is an idyllic spring, summer and fall river cruising destination.

Here's why we love river cruising on the Douro:

The Route:

 
The Douro river flows from Spain in the east, across northern Portugal to the western city of Porto on the Atlantic coast. Bookended by two UNESCO World Heritage cities, a river cruise on the scenic Douro Valley passes through mainly rural landscapes with historic villages, dramatic cliffs, famous vineyards, and for many people, the heart of Portugal's Latin culture.

 
(Image: Getty/Pietro Faccioli)

Even early and late in the season, the weather in Portugal is warmer and drier than in other popular river cruising destinations in Northern Europe, so if basking in pleasant summer weather is how you picture a river cruise, the Douro is for you.
 

The Highlights:

 
At the eastern end of the Douro: Spain. Most itineraries include nearby, renowned Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city, with a 13th century university where Christopher Columbus once studied, and whose signature golden sandstone architecture glows in the summer sun.
 
At the western end of the route, the port city of Porto (pictured top; image: Getty/Mirifada) is the second largest in Portugal (behind Lisbon), and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If its famous bridge reminds you of the Eiffel Tower, you are not crazy; its architect studied under Eiffel. It was a small world, even in the 19th century.
 
A river cruise on the Douro is even more charming passing through the undisturbed countryside between the ports at either end. The Douro is far less traveled than the major European river cruise routes. You may rarely even see other river cruise boats or guests in the small villages where you can wander in a truly local, authentic, un-hurried rhythm and un-touristy environment. 
 

The Wine:

 
The name of the city of Porto suggests its long-lasting claim to fame. This is the home of port wine as you may have guessed, and also other delectable Portuguese wines like Muscatel. It's one of the world's oldest wine producing regions, with two millennia of viticulture traditions. 
 
When it comes to port wine, a Douro river cruise brings you to the doorstep of some of the region's best places to experience a rich and storied wine that has become less commonly served. (These days, it's mostly in British costume dramas where we see men retreating to their studies and clubs for 'port and cigars').
 
You can sip your way along the Douro river with expert, hosted wine tastings in famous and out of the way wineries, including the UNESCO World Heritage Vinhateiro wine region, the scenic Varosa Valley, the beautiful vineyards of Regua that produce the best range of port wine in the country, Casa de Mateus, the castle made famous on the labels of Portugal’s renowned Mateus wine, and other viticulture treats.
 

Start your Trip!


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If you're like me, Spring can never come too soon. And nothing says Spring like new flower blossoms.

This year, treat yourself to an abundance of Spring in one of these famous floral travel destinations.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip TV
 

Tulips in the Netherlands

Where: Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding tulip fields
When: April

It's the world's largest spring flower garden. The Keukenhof Gardens are a showcase for the Netherlands' biggest agricultural export: flowers and bulbs. The tulip is the ultimate symbol of a Dutch spring, and there are an astounding 7 million bulbs – tulips and other spring flowers - bursting into bloom on the 80 acres of castle grounds at Keukenhof. Open just a few weeks every spring, Keukenhof is a gardener's dream: themed garden plots and pavilions, an windmill you can climb for a viewpoint over acres of surrounding tulip fields in bloom, boat rides in canals lined with never-ending blossoms.

You can also order bulbs of the blooms you can see at Keukenhof; they'll be shipped to you ready for planting in the fall.

WATCH VIDEO, TOP: THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPRING FLOWER GARDEN ON AN AVALON RIVER CRUISE
 
Also Find Tulips at:

The Ottawa Tulip Festival, Canada


There's a Dutch connection to this flower festival in Canada's National Capital. During the Second World War, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada's capital, and a royal baby was even born on Canadian soil, as overseas, Canadian soldiers led the liberation of the Netherlands. In thanks, after the war, the Dutch sent tulips. 100,000 tulips, and tens of thousands more each year since. The mid-May Ottawa Tulip Festival is not only a symbol of Spring, it's a symbol of peace and cooperation between nations.
 

Chelsea Flower Show

Where: London, England
When: 5 Days Late May

(getty/ BethAmber)

This might be the most famous flower and landscaped garden show in the world. Members of the British Royal Family join garden lovers from around the world at the 11-acre site of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual love-in of traditional, trend-setting and even avante-garde flowers and gardening. You'll see glorious displays of beautiful and also rare spring flowers, floral exhibits and cutting edge design as well as traditional English gardening that is loved and imitated the world over. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is the perfect place to buy English gardening tools and gifts for yourself or your friends at home.
 

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Where: Japan
When: Peak season on Japan's main island is early-mid April

(Getty/ Torsakarin)

The Japanese don't just have a word for cherry blossoms: 'sakura'. The also have a word 'hanami' that means to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back a thousand years or more, originating with the Imperial Family and continuing today for all Japanese. It's one of the most festive times of the year, when Japanese gather with friends, family and colleagues under cherry blossom trees filling parks, surrounding historic castles, temples and shrines, and lining riverbanks, drinking sake and picnicking under the trees long into the twinkling evening hours.

It's not just the stunning beauty of clouds of white and pale pink blossoms hovering overhead; the Japanese also view short-lived cherry blossoms as a poetic symbol of the fleeting nature of life itself.

Also Find Cherry Blossoms in:

Vancouver, British Columbia
An estimated 50,000 blossoming cherry trees line streets and grace parks from February all the way through April, including the city's famous urban Stanley Park.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year for most of the month of April.

Washington DC

(Getty/ zrfphoto)

America's capital has a glorious annual reminder of the thousands of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the US in the early 1900's as a sign of friendship. Famously lining the shore of the Tidal Basin, DC's cherry blossoms are celebrated annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April. 
 

Texas Bluebonnets

Where: Throughout the state, especially the City of Ennis and its 'Texas Bluebonnet Trail'
When: April

(Getty / leekris)

This wildflower is the state flower of Texas and believed to be named from its resemblance to a pioneer sunbonnet. Bluebonnets are actually several varieties of lupins. They thrive in lesser soil and so line roadways as well as fill public lands and pastures. 

The city of Ennis, south-east of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the official home of the bluebonnet, with over 40 miles of flower-bedecked roadsides, as well as an annual Festival. The Texas highway department not only delays roadside trimming so people can enjoy the spring bloom, its early officials were instrumental in encouraging these wildflowers to thrive. Today, they still plant about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year, contributing to the preservation of Texas' native vegetation.
 
Also Find Lupins:

In Canada's maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 (Getty / bilbowden)

The lupins you'll find growing wild in Canada's eastern provinces are a larger variety than Texas bluebonnets, and although they're more purple-y blue as well as pink and white, they're an equally cheerful sign of spring. Well, actually early summer. The cooler climate means peak lupin season here is late June – early July.
 
 

Azaleas in America's South-East

Where: Gardens throughout the region and especially: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
When: Throughout April

(Getty/MargaretW)
 
Azalea shrubs originated in Asia and were successfully taken to many places in the world. But in America's south-east, they've gained a special place as an iconic garden favorite and symbol of gracious Southern living. Unlike other spring blooms, they're quite long lasting, spreading joy for weeks of the season.

Many public and private gardens have a spectacular spring showing of azaleas, but special mention goes to Charleston's Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The former rice plantation dates from the 1600's, and is the oldest public gardens in the U.S, opening its doors in 1870 to visitors who wanted to enjoy its thousands of cultivated flowers and plants. The less-formal, 'Romantic' style garden is not only on the list of one of 'America's Most Beautiful Gardens'. Magnolia was also the first garden in the country to plant azaleas outdoors, in the 1840's.
 
Today, hundreds of thousands of azaleas bloom in flame pinks, oranges and reds, lining paths and lakes in a breathtaking spring bloom.

Start your Trip!


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Local markets are one of the greatest delights of trips to the South of France.  The glorious town of Avignon (perhaps best known for the song about its famous bridge) also has a renowned market.  In addition to exquisite regional foods and food products, the charming locals are out in full force.  Particularly the character behind the chicken counter, who's known for breaking out into the French national anthem while plucking a chicken! 

Whether you visit Avignon by land or on a Rhone river cruise, don't miss the market.  And when you go, say 'bonjour' to the poultry vendor like BestTripTV did on our trip to Avignon... and see if he'll sing you the Marseillaise too!

Start your Trip!

 

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A night time market in the grounds of a castle. Fires and torches and twinkling lights, the smell of evergreen boughs, the best German Christmas culinary treats and artisans selling authentic German arts and crafts, Christmas decorations and cozy winter woolens.

Whether you're the person who always knows exactly how many days it is until Christmas, or the 'Bah, Humbug' type... Even a die-hard Scrooge gets into the spirit of Christmas at a traditional Christmas market in Germany. And Regensburg's Romantic Christmas market might be the most magical of them all.

You can explore a number of Germany's best Christmas markets on itineraries of seasonal river cruises as BestTrip.TV did.

Not to mention the delightful Christmas markets in other countries along the Danube like Austria, as well as France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

So it's not just river cruises; escorted tours also offer special Christmas market itineraries. You can get your fill and fill your bags with iconic local Christmas tastes and treats, as well as other local all-season gems. A child will never forget the handmade wooden toy you picked up in Germany. Or the signature Christmas chocolates from the Netherlands. Grown-up loved ones will cherish the hand-made 'santon' ceramic figurines of everyday life in traditional Provence that the French use in their nativity scenes. Or the ever-popular local wine from, well, anywhere in Europe.

We know families who have made a trip to a famous Christmas market a family gift. All members of a family, from grandparents, parents, single aunts and uncles and every kid ever! find joyful memories together at a European Christmas market.

We love the idea of celebrating the season with travel, and Regensburg's Romantic Christmas Market - or any European Christmas market visit will warm anyone's heart.

Start your Trip!

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The Ship that's Changing River Cruising

How do you revolutionize river cruise ships?


River cruise ships are limited in length by the navigational requirements of rivers... like the sizes of locks. While ships bear their company livery colors and a few unique design features, many river cruise ships appear much the same - at least on the outside.

The design for the AmaMagna, launching in 2019, is game changing. It maintains navigational/ length limitations - but it's twice the width of traditional European river cruise ships.

What makes a double-width river cruise ship a game changer?

The concept has been 'floating' around for a while (pun intended), but AmaWaterways is the first cruise line to pull the trigger on building a double-width river cruise ship.

That opens the doors wide to re-interpret the guests' experience on a river cruise ship. So with the debut of the concept of a double-width ship, AmaWaterways design team has aimed high at maximizing the two times more space available than on a single ship.

The AmaMagna will include:
  • River cruising's first open-water sports platform, complete with zodiac boats, canoes and recreational equipment.
  • Only 194 guests in 97 large staterooms - that's only 30 guests more than single-width ships.
  • Expansive public spaces, including:
  • Dedicated multiple dining spaces including an al fresco, glass-enclosed restaurant.
  • A large heated sundeck swimming pool with whirlpool and sky bar.
  • Expanded spa and fitness area and wellness offerings that will complement AmaWaterways' popular biking and hiking programs.
  • And they're even able to double the ship's width while doubling down on eco-friendly innovation with a more fuel-efficient engine that's also quieter.

Sound familiar? What we're seeing is the best of small-ship/ yacht, luxury ocean cruising... brought to rivers.

The AmaMagna launches in 2019 on Danube itineraries. AmaWaterways is also offering Concierge Cruise + Golf packages for AmaMagna guests to enjoy along the Danube route, as well as wedding/vow renewal packages.

Start your Trip!


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Video: Meet the Wine Maker in the 'Tuscany of Austria' on the Danube

There's a magical stretch of the Danube river that some call the 'Tuscany of Austria'.


Hills rise in the mist above the Wachau valley, and for 25 miles between fairy tale towns of ornate, pastel colored historic buildings, wineries line the river banks and hillsides.


The 'Wachau Cultural Landscape' - its architectural and agricultural heritage - are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Abbey in the town of Melk, Durnstein, where English King Richard the Lion-Heart was held captive en route from the Crusades, and Krems are unique gems of Austria's countryside.


As these river-side towns historically were connected by and built up from the river that was the best form of transportation at the time, it's a region best visited by river cruise. Our AMAWaterways Danube river cruise on the AMACerto brought us right to the doorstep of this legendary destination. And to one of the famous wineries that attract foodies and wine-lovers from around the world for its signature gruner veltliner wines.


BestTrip.TV disembarks our ship to visit the Winzer Krems vineyard, where the vintner's tour reveals the winery's history, delicious and famous white wines, as well as an exciting new taste for interactive, modern art in an historic setting.


Start your Trip!


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