Exploring France by River Cruise

I recently had the opportunity to sail on the Seine River from Paris to Normandy on an 8-day River Cruise with Avalon Waterways.

This is the itinerary that we enjoyed on our River Cruise:

Day 1 – Paris (Embarkation): onboard welcome reception
Day 2 – VernonLes Andelys: choice of excursions to Giverny or Bizy Castle; guided walk in Les Andelys, visit the parish church of Le Petit Andely
Day 3 – Caudebec: excursion along the “Normandy Abbeys Route”
Day 4 – Caudebec: choice of excursions to Normandy landing beaches or “A Taste of Normandy”
Day 5 – Rouen: guided sightseeing, see the Astronomical Clock and visit the cathedral
Day 6 – Conflans: choice of excursions to visit Auvers-sur-Oise or Napoleon and Josephine’s Château de Malmaison
Day 7 – Paris: “Heart of Paris” walk, visit Notre Dame Cathedral
Day 8 – Paris (Disembarkation): your vacation ends this morning

My personal favorite was Monet’s Garden the scenery was absolutely beautiful. I highly suggest exploring France by river and when you’re ready to sail away I would be happy to help with your travel plans.

Here are just a few pictures from my trip:

Explore Europe by River

Cruising the River

While River Cruising in Europe I found the view from the vessel aw inspiring. In the Fall the color of the leaves only enhance the beauty of the castles that adorn the shorelines along the Rhine River. One of the many beauty’s of Europe is that it is a perfect blend of the ancient and the modern. Enjoy the timeless beauty and grace of the Old World with European river cruises along the Rhine, the Main, the Danube, and the Seine rivers. Explore the rich culture of countries like Austria, Germany, France, and Switzerland. There are endless breathless sights like the windmills of Kinderdijik, verdant vineyards in France, and ancient castles in the Rhine Valley.

The River Cruise Experience 

River Cruising allows you the opportunity to dock in quaint villages and towns that are not accessible via large ocean ships. These vessels also do not cater to thousands of clients but to a much smaller clientele which makes getting on and off the ship a breeze. The meals served are three to five course meals paired with local wines and/or beers from the region you are exploring. Dining on board the ship is more intimate and the service and meals are impeccable. There are numerous River Cruise companies ranging from companies that have a few vessels to numerous vessels and itineraries to choose from including companies that include port excursions to luxury vessels.

Mingalarbar (Hello) Asia from Avalon Myanmar

I just returned from a fabulous trip to Myanmar with Avalon River Cruise. What an unbelievable country and the people are so friendly. If you say Mingalarbar (min-ga-la-ba) (hello), you won’t believe the smiles that you will receive. We also learned and used Kye zu bar (jeh-zu-ba) (thank you) and Ya bal tal (Yah-bah-day) (you’re welcome). Just learning this much made a big difference to the people on the ship and those on the streets.

We began our journey with two nights in Yangon. It is a very busy city, with lots going on, but very safe. We walked around on our own and ate street food, which was great. They have markets there and one was just around the corner from our hotel, the Sule Shangri-la. The market had everything and you could bargain with them on the price. Many people spoke at least some English, so it was easy to communicate. From there, we flew to Bagan to begin our river cruise on the Irrawaddy River. In Bagan there are over 2000 stupas and pagodas. We even visited the stupas to see the sunrise and set over them which were really great. The Avalon Myanmar is a beautiful ship and the staff is very friendly and helpful. It has 36 cabins; however, we only had 25 people on our trip. The ship has wooden floors; hand carved wooden panels surround the dining room and original paintings. It was very welcoming.

As we traveled north, we had daily excursions to see cities, visit villages, and visit a school and a nunnery. These excursions were all included in the trip and were very enjoyable. There was so much to see and we felt very comfortable traveling around the country. We even went to an elephant camp and nursery. The elephants are no longer used to harvest teak trees and pull them out of the forest. Now they give a demonstration on how it was done and they give rides on the elephants. The elephants are well cared for by their mahouts and there is also a veterinarian on site to take care of them. If the vet sees an elephant standing on all four legs instead of only on three, he knows that the elephant is sick. We were able to feed the babies bananas and watched the mahouts take the elephants into the river for their twice daily baths. It was a great experience.

I would highly recommend this trip. The Avalon Myanmar is built for the Irrawaddy River and it travels all the way from Bagan to Bhamo, whereas the other ships only go as far as Mandalay. You lose out on a lot of the country and villages along the way.

This was an outstanding trip! Please contact me if you would like to hear more.

Avalon River Cruise Asia Avalon River Cruise Asia Avalon River Cruise Asia Avalon River Cruise Asia Avalon River Cruise Asia

Client Review of Tauck River Cruise on Rhine and Moselle

It was wonderful. Our weather was not too bad for May with a few rainy days.

Tauck River Cruise Rhine and MoselleTauck was fantastic and we would look at using them again. The Tour Directors were very good; 1 was fantastic. The General Manager was awesome. The local guides were all excellent and very knowledgeable. The evening entertainment was only a bit better than Uniworld. They can’t seem to get good venues but that was expected. The “Schloss” event was poor (bad service and mediocre food). The local dancers were awful. Local violinists were excellent.

Join Tauck River Cruises

Join Tauck River Cruises

The food was regionalized very well. The wines were excellent and regionalized as well. We were in Riesling country so I was in hog heaven. Cabin was well appointed.

My favorite visits were on the Moselle as it was more sedate and less busy river. The small German towns were as I remembered them. We choose Luzerne for our final day over Basel. It turned out to be a good choice as there were issues getting to Basel with locks and traffic. Something that was interesting was the location of the Basel airport. It is actually in France. So of course the French were on slow downs and strikes while we were there so we were delayed on our return flight to Amsterdam. We had to run to get the AMS to ATL connection. It just reinforces that I will never fly to Paris if I can help it.

Map of River Cruise with TauckThe other clientele were very friendly. Many of the other guests had been on Tauck numerous times and were very complimentary overall.

Thanks for all your help to make this a memorable trip.

If you are interested in this trip, contact your agent and check out the details here.






Missy Skoog’s Avalon River cruise on the Danube

I had the opportunity to travel on an Avalon Waterways cruise from Budapest to Vienna on the Danube.  Wow, what an experience!  We stops at different ports along the river and did small guided tours.  Some of the amazing cities we visited were Budapest, Bratislava, Durnstein Austria, Melk and Vienna.

The Avalon Artistry II delivers an intimate setting, along with two full decks of suites featuring Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Windows that transform the living space into a unique Open-Air Balcony®. With 200 square feet, Panorama Suites are more than 30% larger than the industry standard, giving you the rare opportunity to wake each morning to the enchanting scenery and fresh breezes. Onboard amenities include a complimentary Internet Corner and Wi-Fi access, an expanded Fitness Center, and a spacious Sky Deck with premium lounge chairs, shade system, whirlpool, and the delightful Sky Bistro.

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

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Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia

The streets of Bratislava, Slovakia

The streets of Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia follow the coronation of the king from the church thru the town with the crown emblems in the street

Bratislava, Slovakia follow the coronation of the king from the church thru the town with the crown emblems in the street

Bratislava, Slovakia. ST. MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries

Bratislava, Slovakia.
ST. MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries

Budapest- 11th-century Matthias Church, the coronation spot of several Hungarian monarchs...Welcome to my home!

Budapest- 11th-century Matthias Church, the coronation spot of several Hungarian monarchs…Welcome to my home!

city of Bratislava

city of Bratislava

The massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava

The massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava

Avalon River cruise, Avalon Vista

Avalon River cruise, Avalon Vista

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Dice in our cabin, nice breeze with the water next to us! I wouldn't cruise any other way!

Dice in our cabin, nice breeze with the water next to us! I wouldn’t cruise any other way!

Muster Drill

Muster Drill

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Spa heaven on the Avalon Vista!

Spa heaven on the Avalon Vista!

Large bathroom for the balcony cabin on the Avalon Vista

Large bathroom for the balcony cabin on the Avalon Vista

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Love to River cruise!

Love to River cruise!

Deluxe Stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom bathroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom bathroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe stateroom on Avalon Vista

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue (Hungarian: Szabadság Szobor, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɒbɒt͡ʃaːɡ ˈsobor]) is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest, Hungary. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue (Hungarian: Szabadság Szobor, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɒbɒt͡ʃaːɡ ˈsobor]) is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest, Hungary. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary

What a magnificent ship the Avalon Vista is!

What a magnificent ship the Avalon Vista is!

Princess bridge in Budapest

Princess bridge in Budapest

Client Review of Viking River Cruise – Elbe River

The trip was absolutely wonderful.  We enjoyed it immensely.  The staff on the Viking Schumann were outstanding, and everything we did was great.  We enjoyed the cruising, visiting all the great historic sites and  cities, and the food was great.  The weather was even perfect.  Usually in the low to mid 60’s during the day.  Thanks for all your help in getting things set up.  It was truly a memorable experience.


I certainly will keep your contact information handy for future adventures and will be happy to refer people to you regarding river boat cruises.

Thank you again for everything!


Happy Clients Return from Viking River Cruise

Nora, We had a fabulous time!  Viking does such a good job of taking are of every detail.  We were also very lucky with the weather.  We had a few rainy days but nothing that kept us from enjoying what we wanted to do and it seemed to stop when we got off the bus to do our walking tours.

Prague was beautiful.  We had lovely weather and maneuvered through their subway system quite easily.  This really helped us do more touring during our free time.

We did a biking tour of Amsterdam that was a bit terrifying but again, we were able to see much more of the city than if we had been on foot.

We did a 24 mile bike ride from Melk to Krems that some Australians on the cruise figured out.  If we’d had a sunny day, it would have been magical.  Unfortunately that was the day it poured!  Still, we went through beautiful countryside with vineyards, orchards, and lovely small towns.  Maybe someday we’ll go back and try that again.

– Christine


Discover the Striking Beauty of Slovakia and the Czech Republic

Twenty-five years ago, the Velvet Revolution ended more than 40 years of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, which subsequently divided peacefully four years later to form Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Today, these two central European countries offer travelers a combination of extraordinary history, modern sophistication and natural paradise.

Since Slovakia and the Czech Republic are slightly more off-the-beaten path compared to some of their European neighbors, you can get a great value for your travel dollar. Work with your travel professional to uncover deals and create a custom itinerary, but here are a few of our favorite sites:

Prague – The grandeur of Prague is undeniable. A thousand years ago, Prague was founded on the banks of the beautiful Vltava River. The city is comprised of one architectural wonder after another, including arched bridges, medieval cathedrals, gold-tipped spires and ancient castles. The famed Charles Bridge, which separates the historic Old Town from the “Lesser Quarter” that is home to Prague Castle, is adorned with 30 statues. The cobblestone streets belie the metropolitan elegance of Prague’s top-rated restaurants, concerts and theaters. Or, you can always relax in one of the city’s many brew pubs!

Czech Countryside – Experience the lush, legendary and breathtaking landscapes of Bohemia, Moravia and Bavaria by visiting any of the countless vineyards, villages, chateaux and gardens. Unravel history in the towns of Cesky Krumlov and Kutna Hora, where you can see marvelously preserved Gothic and Renaissance art and architecture.

Bratislava – The capital of Slovakia sits on the shores of the stunningly blue Danube River, less than an hour away from Vienna, Austria. At the heart of Bratislava is historic Old Town, with charming narrow lanes leading to an open square from the Middle Ages. Stroll down the cobblestone streets and stop at one of Bratislava’s many beer bars to enjoy a taste of the country’s favorite beverage. Overlooking Bratislava are the ruins of Devin Castle, built in the 13th century to protect the western frontier of the Hungarian Kingdom.

A number of sightseeing opportunities lie within a two-to-three hour drive from Bratislava, including manor houses, monasteries and wineries. The High Tatras Mountains also provide great opportunities for hiking, rafting and cycling.

Slovak Paradise National Park – In northeast Slovakia, trek through the trails of the Slovak Paradise National Park to see its myriad landscapes: mountain meadows, canyons, gorges, ravines, plateaus, karst and waterfalls. Dare to visit the mesmerizing icefalls and stalagmites of nearby Bosinska Ice Cave, one of the largest of its kind in Europe. After a day of exploring, treat yourself to a dip in one of Slovakia’s many hot spring spas, known for their curative abilities..

Missy’s European River cruise in the south of France!

From Côtes du Rhône to Crêpes Suzette and sun-glazed fields to Van Gogh’s Arles—this is a journey of exquisite pleasure for all your senses. Follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin on this exquisite journey through southern France. The same beautiful countryside and culture that inspired the masters will equally inspire you as you cruise the Rhône and Saône rivers, discovering treasures along the way, from the magnificent Palace of the Popes to a millennia-old Roman amphitheater still in use. And, of course, Uniworld’s Epicurean Adventurer Program™ shines a spotlight on the region’s incomparable wine and cuisine.

Provence, once an independent country, has retained a unique identity shaped by the Rhône delta, the welcoming Mediterranean coast, and a hospitable climate. Discover a Roman amphitheater still in use after millennia. Ramble through markets erected on the cobbled squares of delightful villages, and visit the magnificent Palace of the Popes. Spend a morning in Beaune, the wine capital of the region, exploring a palatial Medieval hospital where world-famous wine auctions have taken place for hundreds of years. Discover the many hidden treasures of Lyon, the culinary capital of France. Cruise the Rhône and Saône rivers on Uniworld’s new Super Ship, S.S. Catherine , exploring two regions of France where tradition is as deeply rooted as the historic grapevines on the hills.


Imperial China with Viking River Cruise November 16 – 29, 2012

My daughter and I had the opportunity to explore China with Viking – neither one of us had ever been to China, we loved it! The first thing we noticed, oddly enough, was just how clean China is. Isn’t it odd, we have a preconceived perception of things and they turn out so different?  We noted that there were always people sweeping and cleaning up and found out that China as a whole made a concerted effort when they were awarded the 2008 Olympics to clean things up and keep them clean – they are doing a great job.

This was my second Viking River Cruise and my daughter’s first…what can I say about Viking, it was an awesome trip! Our Viking River Cruise was outstanding, right from the start, they do an unbelievable job to make the trip seamless. So what makes traveling with Viking so amazing? Well, so many things….let me cover a few.

First you only handle your own bags when you arrive in Beijing and come out of customs but after that….you never handle them again until you fly home from Beijing.  Everything in between…Viking takes care of. Bags are handled and even on the inter-China flights we only handled our carry-on bags – what a pleasure.

Next, a Viking tour guide is with  you all the way! From Shanghai to Beijing, Viking guides are their to take care of any questions you may have or concerns along the way.  Our guide, Francis, was funny, personable and very knowledgeable.  Also, Viking makes sure to bring on a local guide in the different cities to give wonderful insight on that city.  I love that Viking gives each traveler a headset called a Vox so that we could hear our tour guide(s) without having to crowd around them, this is so much nicer than the old way of crowding around your guide and trying to hear what they are saying. I was thrilled that not only did our tour guides show us around, they provided us with great information and then gave us free time to explore on our own, allowing time for shopping and exploring on our own.

While traveling with Viking, for the land parts, they put you in nice hotels, but the best part…the ship…we traveled on the Viking Emerald. Good food on board and the ship and staff as a whole are great.  Our dining personnel, Maggie and Eddie, were so efficient – after the first night they knew our names and what we liked to drink.  The entire staff was very friendly and helpful, they made you feel welcome and at home.  They were on hand to see you off the ship for shore excursions and again when we returned.  All of the tours were included except for two – the Tang Dynasty dinner show in Xian and the Peking Duck Dinner and Opera in Beijing.  Both shows were well worth going to even though the clients have to pay for them.  Both of these optional tours as well as the other tours, added to the whole China experience. It’s an active trip with lots of walking, it would be a challenge if you were in a wheelchair, but many parts could be done…just not all of it.

This was definitely a trip of a lifetime! Seeing China…the cities…amazing. The schools that Viking sponsors and the countryside breathtaking. And I’ll never forget the giant pandas, the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Great Wall….unbelievable.

I would highly recommend this trip…if I could do it over, the only thing I would change…I would spend some extra days in the China…before and/or after the trip!

I met a wonderful travel writer from the UK while on my trip, Jeannine Williamson, here is a link to her thoughts on this amazing cruise. http://www.ivillage.co.uk/a-viking-cruise-through-modern-china/156493


Uniworld River Cruise – October 2012

In October 2012, I was lucky enough to experience a Uniworld River Cruise.  Our cruise on the Danube River departed from Nuremberg Germany and cruised for seven days to the city of Vienna in Austria.  It was a fantastic journey and I enjoyed each and every city along the way.

As this was my first time on a river cruise, I tried to compare it to ocean cruising or motorcoach touring, but river cruising is a completely different animal!

I loved the convenience of unpacking once, knowing that a  a lovely boutique hotel was traveling right along with me to the center of each town we visited.  I thought the dining was terrific and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of the lounge in the evenings.

Most days I would enjoy their buffet breakfast before heading out on one of the included walking tours.   These tours were led by local guides and I have to say they were all marvelous.  I loved walking the cobble stone street and viewing old buildings and architecture while hearing the stories and history of each locale.  If it weren’t for the tourists walking around with iPhones and cameras, you could really imagine yourself back in the medival times.

These walking tours were included each day of our trip and usually lasted 2 to 3 hours.  After the tour we had time to explore the town on our own or do some shopping before heading back to the ship.  One of the nice things about these tours was that headsets were provided to each guest.   We turned on the frequency of our local guide and had his or her commentary in our ear without having to strain to hear over crowds of people.

In the afternoons many people enjoyed the lounge or spent more time in town.  Several days we had optional excursions that took us further into the area.

These excursions did have an additional cost, but I enjoyed all of the trips I took.  For instance I took an optional trip to Schonnenbrun Palace in Vienna.

Each evening most passengers would meet in the lounge for music and a port talk about the next day.   This was followed by a sumptuous dinner that never failed to please.  From filet mignon to perfectly prepared sea bass, there was always so many delicious choices.  After dinner many people retired to the lounge or their staterooms to get ready for the next day.

The staterooms were small compared to an ocean going vessel.  The room had two twin beds pushed together and a small desk on one side and a night stand on the other side.  I had a room with a French balcony which means it had sliding glass doors, but it would open to just a railing and the fresh air.  Since the river cruise ships are built to fit in the many locks of the river, there is not enough room to have large balcony areas.   There was lots of closet space and room for a chair near the balcony doors, but it was a little tight in the room.  The bathroom had marble, but was also very small with only a shower and no tub.

I have cruised many times on large cruise ships and this was quite different in that there was only one dining room, a very small lobby with a shop, and one lounge area.  The other large public space was the sundeck however the week I was traveling it was very cold and snowed several days so the sundeck was not in great demand.  Most river cruise ships hold about 120 passengers compared to ocean going ships that hold 2000 to 3000 passengers it seems very small.  But of course this is the nature of river cruising the ships can only be as big as the rivers and the locks through which they travel

We saw several other cruise ships on the Danube while we were traveling.  In some ports we would dock right next to them and have to walk through their ship to get to the river bank.  This was a new experience for me, but it gave me the opportunity to check out the other ships.  Ours was nicer!

All in all I think river cruising was a very relaxing way to see European destinations with lots of convenience, great service and an opportunity to see places that are a bit off the beaten path.

Where my Uniworld River Cruise journey took me…..


Nuremburg, Germany

Here we learned about the history of Nuremburg and its importance to the Roman Empire.  There was also a visit to several of the WWII sites.  The old part of Nuremburg still had some of its medieval walls, but since much had been destroyed during WWII there was much of it which had been rebuilt more recently.


Regensburg, Germany

Next we went to a town called Regensburg which is famous for this 15th century arched bridge.

This restaurant near the bridge is called the Historic Sausage Kitchen and it has been the site of a sausage stand since the 1600’s.

The streets of Regensburg freatured these tall patrician mansions.

And the old town Square had its own Ratskeller.

And Regensburg also had an enormous gothic church.

While in Regensburg, I took an optional excursion to the Weltenburg Abbey and enjoyed a beer brewed locally by the monks for over 1,000 years.  And after our tour of the Abbey enjoyed a scenic cruise on the Danube Gorge.


Deggensdorf, Germany

The next day was Deggensdorf and we saw a glass blowing demonstration at the Theresienthal studio as well as a bread baking demonstration nearby at a family farm.  Too bad the weather was so cold and rainy, I barely took out my camera.


Passau, Germany

Our next stop was Passau, and although we had a cold morning  the views were beautiful.  Passau is where the rivers Ilz, Inn and Danube all converge.


Melk, Austria

Our next stop in Melk concentrated on the beautiful Melk Abbey.

That afternoon we enjoyed a few hours huddled together on the sundeck to enjoy the views of the Wachau Valley.


Vienna, Austria

Finally we spent our last day in Vienna.   There was so much to see there I wish I had had an extra 3 or 4 days to enjoy it all.

Our last optional tour took us to Schonnbrun Palace which was the summer residence of Vienna’s most famous matriarch, Maria Theresa.  It rivals Versailles (outside of Paris) but is different in that all of the exhibition rooms are original artifacts, not recreations. The gardens behind the Palace would surely be a destination in themselves during a nice summer day.