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CHRISTMAS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT OF ALL

CHRISTMAS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT OF ALL

While it may be too late for this year, it’s not too early to plan your 2019 holiday getaway to the Christmas markets of Europe, a once-in-a-lifetime river cruise that will have you feeling as jolly as St. Nick himself!

There are few experiences more joyous, more full of life and more colorful than a cruise along the Rhine or Danube during the holidays. In quaint towns and refined cities, you will find an array of Christmas markets, a European tradition that infuses each destination with the spirit of the holidays. Located in prominent parks, city squares or sometimes outside the gates of castles, Christmas markets are filled with gaily decorated stalls filled not just with one-of-a-kind gifts but also local food and drink. Best of all, although the markets draw their fair share of tourists, they are a favorite spot for locals to immerse themselves in the spirit of the season.

Share a hot mug of traditional mulled wine called glühwein with an Austrian and learn more about their land from a native’s perspective. Pop by a booth selling hand-carved egg shell ornaments, then try a slice of black forest cake with a friendly German. Sample a chocolate-laden linzer torte, a delicate dominostein, a cup of warm almonds coated in crunchy brown sugar, or tackle the best apple strudel you’ve ever tasted. Don’t leave without savoring a stein of the local beer and a fresh soft pretzel so large that you’re happy to share it with your new friends.

So as you cozy up with friends and family for the holidays this year, try not to think of what you’re missing. Instead, book your 2019 Christmas markets cruise today. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

5 TIPS FOR FIRST TIME RIVER CRUISERS

5 TIPS FOR FIRST TIME RIVER CRUISERS

Have you been considering U.S. river cruises, but aren’t sure which one is right for you? Riverboat cruises are a unique way to explore America’s waterways and discover the picturesque towns that have sprung up alongside them. Our friends at American Queen Steamboat Company offer a wide variety of cruises tailored to suit different interests. Now is the best time to book a ticket, but if you’re a first time river cruiser you may not know all the tips to get the most out of the experience. So, courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company, we’re passing along their five tips for taking an American river cruise.

1. Book Early for Big Savings

It’s no secret that booking early can give you access to the best deals. American Queen Steamboat Company offers an extensive range of savings for early bookings. You can find savings of up to $1,800 per stateroom on certain routes. Another advantage of booking early is that it gives you plenty of time to plan an extended vacation in one of the ports, which brings us to the next tip.

2. Extend Your Vacation in the Port

Scenic river cruises begin and end at major port cities including Memphis, New Orleans, and Chicago. Those places are amazing destinations in their own right, and many river cruisers want to explore them further. That’s why American Queen offers City Stay packages. The packages vary but may include accommodations, breakfasts and tours of local attractions. You can book for before or after your cruise. This option lets you extend your trip and experience the magical musical scene of Memphis, the history and vibrant culture of New Orleans, and more.

3. Research What is Included

Even among the riverboats of American Queen Steamboat Company, each vessel and each cruise offer different experiences, so you’ll want to do a little research to know what you can expect. Get an itinerary of the included excursions and look up the local weather before the departure date so you’ll know what to pack. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Select Waterways and we’ll be happy to help you. Your booked cruise will typically include onboard meals, porterage, and transfers. Other amenities vary by the vessel and cruise.

4. Hit the Shore with Fun Excursions

Shore excursions are what really make American river cruises stand out. Many itineraries have been customized for each cruise theme, whether it’s the Bourbon Trail or searching out America’s best music. Packages feature included and premium excursions, which cost extra but are usually well worth it. Through these, you get VIP treatment and exclusive access to attractions and sights that aren’t usually on a typical tour itinerary. They can really enhance your cruise experience.

5. Choose the Right Vessel

Each of American Queen Steamboat Company’s vessels have their own unique character and offer different amenities. You can choose the right vacation experience, whether you want a nostalgic journey through golden eras past or modern comforts and décor.  For example, the American Duchess is a charming, traditionally styled paddleboat that includes modern amenities and décor. The American Queen is the largest steamboat ever built and offers an amazing variety of onboard entertainment in opulent surroundings, while the American Empress is a paddlewheeler with nostalgic décor that combines classical elegance with an impressive collection of historical artifacts.

So, which will you choose?

AMAWATERWAYS TEES UP EXCLUSIVE CONCIERGE GOLF PROGRAM

AMAWATERWAYS TEES UP EXCLUSIVE CONCIERGE GOLF PROGRAM

AmaWaterways is teeing up an incredible roster of amenities for guests traveling on board the one-of-a-kind AmaMagna when she makes her debut next year– including a brand new Exclusive Concierge Golf Program. The program will give travelers the opportunity to experience five top-level golf courses in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany while enjoying the beauty and luxury of river cruising. Pricing starts at an additional $2,399 per person on the seven-night Romantic Danube and Melodies of the Danube itineraries beginning in May 2019.

AmaMagna embodies our invariable world-class service with even more to love, and we are thrilled to add the Exclusive Concierge Golf Program to her line-up of offerings,” said Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways. “Pairing luxury river cruising with golf gives travelers the incredible opportunity to play top-rated courses in five different countries.”

In addition to the expansive selection of amenities and immersive shore excursions that travelers can expect from an AmaWaterways cruise, guests participating in AmaMagna’s Exclusive Concierge Golf Program will receive the following:

  • One Welcome Packet, which includes: a dozen Titleist Pro V1 golf balls per golfer, one pitch repair tool, course guides and a leather shoe bag
  • Concierge service, including club care
  • Private luxury Mercedes transfers between the ship and courses
  • A la carte lunch at each course with beer and wine included
  • One round per golfer at each course
  • One shared golf cart per round
  • One range token per round
  • Club cleaning after each round

AmaMagna provides excellent options for multi-generational groups or those that may have differing interests, with an avid golfer or two amongst them. She is nearly twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, but welcomes only 20 percent more guests, allowing generous personal space with more than half of the 98 staterooms designated as suites (355 sq. ft. or larger). Enticing onboard amenities include Sun Deck with a large heated pool, relaxing whirlpool and pop-up sky bar, as well as a Water Sports Platform at the rear of the ship, where complimentary tours will be offered on the intimate Sundowner vessel.

Guests on board AmaMagna will enjoy four unique dining venues – the Main Restaurant and The Chef’s Table Restaurant, plus the new Jimmy’s Wine Bar Restaurant and Al Fresco Restaurant. The expansive Zen Wellness Studio is complete with large exercise area offering group classes focused on stretching, cardio and core strengthening led by a professionally trained Wellness Host, as well as a juice bar and two massage rooms, along with manicure, pedicure and hair services.

Ready To go golfing and cruising?

AMERICA‘S FIRST ULTRA-MODERN RIVERBOAT COMPLETES SEA TRIALS

AMERICA‘S FIRST ULTRA-MODERN RIVERBOAT COMPLETES SEA TRIALS

While riverboats operating European river cruises have always been known for the sleek profiles, modern lines and contemporary touches, riverboats sailing Mississippi river cruises and journeying along other American rivers have emulated the great 19th century steamboats. Until now, that is.

American Cruise Lines’ brand new ship, American Song, has successfully passed it sea trials and is now on its way to the “Big Easy.” The first modern riverboat in U.S. history is expected to arrive in New Orleans the first week in September. American Song passed Sea Trials with flying colors and is the second new vessel completed and delivered to American Cruise Lines by Chesapeake Shipbuilding this year. American Harmony, the second modern riverboat in the series, will be completed and delivered in the first quarter of 2019.

Now that American Song’s sea trials are completed, we’re all looking forward to the ship’s inaugural cruise from New Orleans to Memphis on October 6th. American Song will cruise a full schedule of 8-day Lower Mississippi River cruises throughout the remainder of 2018 and then will reposition to the West Coast in 2019, for American Cruise Line’s Columbia and Snake Rivers cruises beginning in March.

American Song integrates modern design without sacrificing the refined comfort that American Cruise Lines is known for. Wider, faster, and quieter than any other American river cruise ship, American Song will be the most environmentally friendly ship in the industry. Showcasing gorgeous interior design elements, from a four-story glass atrium to spectacular spacious lounges, American Song will be unique. Thoughtfully designed to bring the outside world in, American Song boasts sweeping views throughout the ship. With the largest staterooms in the American river cruise industry, private furnished balconies, full-size bathrooms and all the finest amenities available in cruising, American Song is really going to be something to see!

For example, the enormous Grand Suites aboard American Song are 900 square feet and offer panoramic views through floor-to-ceiling glass panels along two walls. Each suite has a separate living and sleeping area, as well as a spacious marble bat with double vanities. The suites have wrap-around balconies featuring private outdoor dining areas, the perfect place to lounge and enjoy room service or cocktails with friends.

All staterooms aboard American Song are outfitted with personal refrigerators stocked with complimentary juices, waters, white & red wines, and Keurig coffee makers. The Grand Suites will also have extra treats delivered each evening, including a bottle of premium champagne during the cruise and access to concierge service as needed. The Grand Suites, like all spaces aboard American Song bring the outside world in through a design palette of light colors and the highest glass-to-space ratio in the industry.

GOING PLASTIC-FREE AT SEA

GOING PLASTIC-FREE AT SEA

You’ve probably noticed a lot of stories in the news recently about restaurants eliminating plastic straws. I think we all realize that the fewer plastics used, the healthier our environment. But did you know that one of the leaders in eliminating plastics is the cruise industry?

Because of the pristine and sensitive ecosystems viewed on expedition cruises during Antarctica cruises and Arctic cruises, expedition cruise lines are particularly attuned to going that extra mile when it comes to reducing plastic usage on board.

In fact, just last week Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic announced that they have successfully completed a comprehensive single-use plastics elimination program across their fleet.  Lindblad’s ships are now 100% free of all single-use plastic bottles, cups, straws and stirrers. The effort supports National Geographic’s Planet or Plastic? campaign, a multiyear initiative aimed at raising awareness about the global plastic crisis and reducing the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans.

“The ocean is under major assault on so many fronts, and its protection is both a business mission and a personal passion,” stated Sven Lindblad, CEO of Lindblad Expeditions, ocean advocate and founding member of Ocean Elders. “It is enormously gratifying that our team has achieved this milestone in our elimination program. The health of our planet is dependent on our oceans, and it is essential that we change our behavior regarding plastics.”

Lindblad Expeditions has been a valued partner since 2004, when we first started working together to offer extraordinary expedition cruises to some of the world’s most fascinating places,” said Gary E. Knell, CEO of National Geographic Partners. “Our shared passion for adventure and conservation made our alliance a natural fit, and their tremendous effort to eradicate single-use plastic reaffirms that. We are proud that Lindblad is taking action to make a positive impact on this pressing problem, and we hope that their efforts inspire other travel companies to do the same.”

Lindblad Expeditions began working towards the elimination of avoidable plastic waste in 2007 when they banned single-use plastic water bottles. Instead, guests receive individual reusable stainless-steel bottles that may be refilled at filtered-water stations located around the vessels. Lindblad’s commitment continues as they work with suppliers and seek partners to eliminate and reduce plastic packaging for the items they supply.

We think Lindblad Expeditions deserves credit for going above and beyond what international regulations require and for its understanding that on any vacation, especially expeditions cruises, we should leave nothing behind but footprints. That’s all because Lindblad has built a global travel company with conservation and environmental stewardship as core business tenets. The company’s commitment to the places they explore includes more than $15 million to support stewardship efforts through the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund (LEX-NG Fund), which awards approximately $1.5 million dollars in grants per year. In 2017 that funding supported initiatives in Alaska, Baja, Galapagos, the Peruvian Amazon, Cambodia, Antarctica, the Pacific Northwest, Central America and more through the Pristine Seas project, National Geographic’s largest initiative dedicated to environmental preservation. Initiatives included killer-whale research in Antarctica, artisan training in the Peruvian Amazon and Galapagos, and conservation-based research projects to protect humpback whales in Southeast Alaska.

If you feel inspired to do the right thing as well, take the National Geographic pledge to reduce single-use plastics at nationalgeographic.com/planetorplastic.

WHEN TO BOOK YOUR CRUISE

WHEN TO BOOK YOUR CRUISE

Don’t expect a lot of deals and offers at the last minute these days on river cruises or expedition cruises. In the world of cruising, these are hot properties. Most cruise lines actually offer the lowest prices as far in advance as possible and then gradually raise the price as the sailing nears. It’s called yield management and the cruise lines have become masters of this strategy. They want to fill a ship as full as possible with people paying as much as possible. Select Waterways will endeavor to find you the right cruise at just the right price and though these strategies might seem incompatible, they actually aren’t.

BOOK EARLY

For the best offers, book early. The earlier the better. If for any reason the cruise line lowers the price after you book, almost all will match the new lower prices for you if it’s brought to their attention. Sometimes, they’ll even do it on their own. You also want to book early to get the suite or stateroom of your choice. Many lines will not just guarantee you a certain category of accommodations, but will allow you to request a specific stateroom. If you wait too long, it won’t be available. In fact, sometimes the pricing category you wanted will not even be available.

FREE UPGRADES

Another advantage to booking early is that there is a greater chance we can work with the cruise line to get you a free upgrade. Generally, ships are booked from the bottom up and the top down. That simply means that both the cheapest and most expensive accommodations are reserved first. If you book earlier and you’re not already in a top suite, cruise lines will often upgrade guests in lower categories to higher categories located in the center of the ship or even higher up to make room for new customers who, if they can’t get a lower-priced accommodation, won’t book at all.

KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING

As a general rule, the longer the cruise or the more exotic the destination, the earlier you should book. There are fewer longer cruises and fewer ships going to exotic destinations which means they are in higher demand and book faster. Also, if the cruise requires long flights, such as an Antarctic cruise, an Amazon River cruise or cruises in China, Vietnam and Australia, people plan further in advance for their once-in-a-lifetime vacation. For cruises in North America (American rivers, Alaska, Canada/New England), we suggest booking 4 to 9 months in advance. For Europe,  especially European river cruises, you should firm up your plans 6 to 12 months in advance. For more far-flung destinations such as the South Pacific, Australia/New Zealand, Asia, Africa, India, and South America, you should try to make reservations 10 to 15 months in advance.

IT’S RARELY TOO LATE

But don’t worry if you just now decided today that you want to be in Europe on a river cruise in 2 months. We can probably still find you a spot but there will be fewer ships, stateroom categories and destinations from which to choose.