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Author: walshcs

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 87
Trips Taken: 3
Countries Visited:

Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, the Canadian Maritimes incl. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI, Montreal (Quebec), Guatemala, and many USA cities incl. NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Portland Oregon, the Oregon coast, Maine coast, parts of Florida. I took a 10 day tour to Costa Rica where I was especially thrilled to experience the tropical plants, birds, volcanos, and met the friendly Ticos. I did Ireland in Depth with GCT Oct. 2011 and it was an inspiring, beautiful, and meaningful experience to finally visit the land of my Irish ancestors. Completed the Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast with the pre-trip to Venice April 21, 2012 and it was a travel dream fulfilled. I booked Guatemala with Tikal, Antigua and Atitlan for January 2013 and had a wonderful adventure discovering modern day Maya culture and learning about ancient Maya city states with my visit to Tikal. Very excited that OAT has brought back the trip to Japan and I leave on that tour Nov. 4, 2013 with the pre-trip to Tokyo. Now I finally have the resources to pursue my "bucket list" of foreign travel and the freedom to chart my own life's course. Ask questions that will satisfy your requirements/interests in a travel buddy. Looking forward to meeting you here and maybe in the world. Warm regards, Cate I'll post a photo when I remember to bring one from home. (Only have internet at work for now.)

Traveler Since: 2011

December 26, 2012

Its not a new question...we seem to ask each other about favorite trips taken and what made them memorable.

I have 2 trips booked for 2013 and have been looking over the river cruise selections for the future. Would enjoy hearing from others about your favorite river cruises and if there is one you think I should book as my FIRST over the others?

Thanks and Happy New Year,

walshcs/cate

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 962
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

December 26, 2012

I think my first one was Holland and Belgium in the Springtime.  And we took it with a pre-trip in Amsterdam and a post- trip in Bruges.  I can't think of anything I didn't love about any of it.  We went wild at Keukhoven (sp) and ordered tons of bulbs.  I think that was around 2004.  In 2006, we took the Grand European Rivers from Constanza to Amsterdam.  The pre-trip was in Romania, including Transylvania.  The post trip may have been in Bruges, but whatever it was we didn't take it because we'd been there recently.  I took the Russia Revealed in 2010, and that was very interesting also.  I'm  booked for the Paris to Normandy on the Seine in July of 2013.

I love the river cruises.  You unpack once and take what shore excursions interest you.  And there are the Discovery events on board.  Staff is friendly and obliging, and food is excellent.

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 136
Trips Taken: 3
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Hawaii and Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The zores, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

December 26, 2012

Wow, that is a tough question...I had done several ocean cruises before I discovered that I enjoyed the river cruises even more for a lot of the reasons  pointed out in the above post--they are more casual, relaxing, unpack once, do as much or as little as you wish, relatively small passenger group, great food, great staff, lots of things to see, etc---I have completed seven to date and I will give you my list in order that I would do them again (assuming someone is paying my way the second time!!!!)

1. Rhine River-Bassel to Amsterdam---Beautiful scenery all along the way...good pre-trip in Switzerland and post-trip to Belgium

2. Black Sea to Budapest---interesting history from cold war era and recent war in Serbia?Croatia...Pre=trip Transylvania(Dracula was out of the country at the time!) and post-trip Prague---Both Budapest and Prague are beautiful and not to be missed

3.Russian river...Moscow to St.Petersberg---very interesting country and great museums in both cities...Catherine's Palace and Peterhof Palace not to be missed...Great post-trip to Helsinki, Finland

4.Yangtze River and Tibet---I did this one before they closed the gates on the three gorges dam but the tour through the three gorges and lesser three gorges was fantastic..some cities/towns were still in various stages of being torn down...I would love to go back to see the changes

5. Danube---Bratislava to Vienna---post-trip Vienna which is a great city to visit

6. Nile---although this was an interesting cruise daytime temp was as high as 110F which more or less put a damper on it...Maybe at a different time with less heat I would have rated it higher...from there I did an independent trip to Jordan and to visit Petra...I was blown away by Petra and recommend that everyone add it to their bucket list

7.Mekong River...The "cruise" I did was not much of a cruise (non-Oat tour)...it actually ended up more of a land package than a cruise with a lot of long rides by bus

Author: walshcs

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 87
Trips Taken: 3
Countries Visited:

Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, the Canadian Maritimes incl. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI, Montreal (Quebec), Guatemala, and many USA cities incl. NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Portland Oregon, the Oregon coast, Maine coast, parts of Florida. I took a 10 day tour to Costa Rica where I was especially thrilled to experience the tropical plants, birds, volcanos, and met the friendly Ticos. I did Ireland in Depth with GCT Oct. 2011 and it was an inspiring, beautiful, and meaningful experience to finally visit the land of my Irish ancestors. Completed the Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast with the pre-trip to Venice April 21, 2012 and it was a travel dream fulfilled. I booked Guatemala with Tikal, Antigua and Atitlan for January 2013 and had a wonderful adventure discovering modern day Maya culture and learning about ancient Maya city states with my visit to Tikal. Very excited that OAT has brought back the trip to Japan and I leave on that tour Nov. 4, 2013 with the pre-trip to Tokyo. Now I finally have the resources to pursue my "bucket list" of foreign travel and the freedom to chart my own life's course. Ask questions that will satisfy your requirements/interests in a travel buddy. Looking forward to meeting you here and maybe in the world. Warm regards, Cate I'll post a photo when I remember to bring one from home. (Only have internet at work for now.)

Traveler Since: 2011

December 27, 2012

Thanks Pauline...you know I was looking at the Holland one and thought how beautiful it would be for the spring. I have a feeling I would enjoy river cruising for all the reasons you mention. It also looks like a much better value than ocean cruising which seems to "nickle & dime" travelers, esp. for the shore excursions. The smaller ship, fewer people is attractive too as I imagine you have a better chance of getting to know folks and sharing the trip.

I've meant to tell you how much I enjoy your posts...always informative, personal,thoughtful,descriptive, kind toward others, the voice of a seasoned traveler..I could go on! I wish it was possible to meet you in person on a future trip. Pauline, you were also very helpful to me in the past with advice about buying trip insurance so thanks again for that.

Friends of mine in California did the Great Rivers of Europe this year and are still raving about it.

Thank you for responding... Oh...the Paris to Normandy cruise sounds divine/ hope that you review it afterwards and that you have a fantastic time.

Cate

Dear Wattsed, You lucky, lucky man to have such an extensive list of river cruise experiences to share. I truely appreciate how you rated them and your sense of humor is delightful. I look for your postings as well as Pauline's...so great to hear from folks who have "seen the world" and are happy to answer questions for those of us who came late to collecting stamps in our passports.

I'm thrilled to finally have the time and resources to fulfill some of my travel dreams, however, at 66 yrs in Jan. I am mindful that I need to choose my trips carefully while health & money last.

thanks so much for taking the time to answer,

walshcs/cate

Anyone else want to tell me about their favorite river cruises...I'm all ears and eager to hear from you. Cate

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 962
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

December 27, 2012

Cate, thank you for your warm response.  I've often wished I could meet the people I've enjoyed "corresponding with" on the forums.  I've met plenty of interesting people on my trips, but I've never met them again.  Nor to my knowledge, except once, has anyone else.  Unless they made such friends on the trip where they met that they made plans to meet again.

I mentioned that I will be taking the Paris to Honfleur river cruise on the Seine in July, and that's something I'm very much looking forward to.  Especially after reading the blog by Jack.  His enthusiasm and enjoyment just poured out onto every line.

After that, I don't know.  Since I turned 80 last month and don't move that well anymore, I think I'll have to limit my travel to the river trips.  So it's a question of which one.  I've always booked early, but I think I'll have to be more cautious  now.

Pauline

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2007

December 27, 2012

 We took three river cruises and we liked the upper Danube( Prague to Budapest, when we took the trip ).  We also took Holland & Belgium and we concur with Pauline's comments regarding that trip; we just like the Danube better.  We would advise, however, that if you take the Holland and Belgium trip, that you book for early-mid-April, as the tulips will certainly be in bloom.  Many people know that, and those cruises are usually booked up first, primarily by the people who pre-book.  You don't see as much in bloom if you take the earlier or later cruises, and the tulips don't usually stay in bloom very long.  It may be too late to book that cruise at prime time for 2013; better pre-book for 2014, if you want that.  Of course, these are generalizations, and nobody knows the specific weather a year in advance.  But taking the trip at that time will insure you see the tulips in bloom.

Author: walshcs

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 87
Trips Taken: 3
Countries Visited:

Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, the Canadian Maritimes incl. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI, Montreal (Quebec), Guatemala, and many USA cities incl. NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Portland Oregon, the Oregon coast, Maine coast, parts of Florida. I took a 10 day tour to Costa Rica where I was especially thrilled to experience the tropical plants, birds, volcanos, and met the friendly Ticos. I did Ireland in Depth with GCT Oct. 2011 and it was an inspiring, beautiful, and meaningful experience to finally visit the land of my Irish ancestors. Completed the Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast with the pre-trip to Venice April 21, 2012 and it was a travel dream fulfilled. I booked Guatemala with Tikal, Antigua and Atitlan for January 2013 and had a wonderful adventure discovering modern day Maya culture and learning about ancient Maya city states with my visit to Tikal. Very excited that OAT has brought back the trip to Japan and I leave on that tour Nov. 4, 2013 with the pre-trip to Tokyo. Now I finally have the resources to pursue my "bucket list" of foreign travel and the freedom to chart my own life's course. Ask questions that will satisfy your requirements/interests in a travel buddy. Looking forward to meeting you here and maybe in the world. Warm regards, Cate I'll post a photo when I remember to bring one from home. (Only have internet at work for now.)

Traveler Since: 2011

December 27, 2012

Hi svncontinents,

Oh yes...I agree with you that if I do the Holland/Belgium I need to time it for when the tulips are blooming...the photos of that trip with the gardens in brillant color are enticing me. I moved this river cruise to #1 on my travel planner and it will probably need to go on the 2014 list instead as you say, the best dates are probably booked by now.

Thanks for your kind advice,

Cate

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 962
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

December 27, 2012

svn continents is correct about the best timing for the Holland Belgium trip.  Also, correct in that it's probably filled for 2013, though it doesn't hurt to check and make sure. 

If you have a house and garden, you will be carried away by the assortment and choices of bulbs to order at Keukoven.  I know we were.  When we were there, that shore excursion was almost a full day with lunch on your own.  My friend and I ordered, maybe, hundreds of bulbs each and then had lunch at a restaurant with outdoor seating.  We had filled pancakes (can't remember the Dutch name) which were delicious.

I've also been to China, with another company, but that river cruise is only a small part of it.  So I tend not to lump it in with the others.

Author: walshcs

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 87
Trips Taken: 3
Countries Visited:

Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, the Canadian Maritimes incl. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI, Montreal (Quebec), Guatemala, and many USA cities incl. NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Portland Oregon, the Oregon coast, Maine coast, parts of Florida. I took a 10 day tour to Costa Rica where I was especially thrilled to experience the tropical plants, birds, volcanos, and met the friendly Ticos. I did Ireland in Depth with GCT Oct. 2011 and it was an inspiring, beautiful, and meaningful experience to finally visit the land of my Irish ancestors. Completed the Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast with the pre-trip to Venice April 21, 2012 and it was a travel dream fulfilled. I booked Guatemala with Tikal, Antigua and Atitlan for January 2013 and had a wonderful adventure discovering modern day Maya culture and learning about ancient Maya city states with my visit to Tikal. Very excited that OAT has brought back the trip to Japan and I leave on that tour Nov. 4, 2013 with the pre-trip to Tokyo. Now I finally have the resources to pursue my "bucket list" of foreign travel and the freedom to chart my own life's course. Ask questions that will satisfy your requirements/interests in a travel buddy. Looking forward to meeting you here and maybe in the world. Warm regards, Cate I'll post a photo when I remember to bring one from home. (Only have internet at work for now.)

Traveler Since: 2011

December 27, 2012

Hello again Pauline,

You don't "sound" 80...your way of expressing yourself in the forum is that of a vital, curious, adventurous spirit. If you can still enjoy travel...I can look forward to many more years before the suitcases go into mothballs. Its inspiring to know that I can always do more river cruises if walking tours become more challenging. My legs are in great shape but my lower back is "iffy". I did comfortably ramble around the hilltowns in Italy this spring.

I don't know why but folks can't seem to locate my companions profile, however, if you find me...you can get to know me a little better. I work two jobs (Innkeeper and counselor) and live in Portland, ME.

My next trip is guatemala with tikal, antigua and Atitlan on Jan. 17th and Japan with OAT in Nov. 2013. Can't wait for the second one!! A river cruise is somewhere in the mix in 2013 or 2014.

Keep on travelin' (as Rick Steves says),

Cate

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2007

December 27, 2012

 Cate, we would strongly suggest that you pre-book the 2014 Holland and Belgium trip now.  Even though the dates aren't announced, and likely will not be until April 2013, at the earliest, and possibly later, those who pre-book are called immediately when the dates are established, and BEFORE they are made availble to everyone else.  Grand Circle takes a small deposit for pre-booking( IIIRC, it was $100pp ), which is fully refundable if you don't book.  In practice, the dates are not made available on the web site until everyone who has pre-booked is called and given an opportunity to book.  We don't know for sure, but we would notbe surprised if the dates are not even released to the general sales staff before the pre-booking process is complete.  There is a special number to call for those who pre-booked.

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 136
Trips Taken: 3
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Hawaii and Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The zores, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

December 27, 2012

Thank you Cate for the kind remarks...as you can see from subsequent posts everyone has their favorite trips and cruises and if we all liked the same thing just think what a boring world this would be...To truely evaluate a person's opinion, you would have to have some idea of that persons particular taste or evaluate based on cumulative reviews of a paticular trip or cruise...As you see, it appears that the Springtime Holland trip is a real favorite for many folks but that just does not seem to be my "cup of tea" and, given a choice, I would opt for something else...That is why, in the final analysis, you have to make the choice based on your own particular interests and places and things YOU really want to see or do..The various brochures give you some ideas of the WHATS and WHYS, combined with forum reviews, this will help you make the choices that are right for you...My idea was to take the more challenging tiips when i was a bit younger and reserve others for later in life....Whatever you chose, I hope each one is the best ever!. Ed (the other Ed)

Author: lyn

Joined: 3/14/2010
Posts: 36
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2004

December 27, 2012

We have done 7 river cruises with GCT and have enjoyed all of them.  I think that our favorite trip was Holland and Belgium in the Springtime.  We took this trip in 2004.  It was our first trip with GCT, our first river cruise and our first time in Europe.  The Keukenhof Gardens were spectacular at the end of April.  We enjoyed all of the charming towns in Holland and the windmills at Kinderdijk.  Brussels and Amsterdam were also part of our trip and even though they were large cities we enjoyed them as well.  As soon as we have checked all of our destinations off from our "bucket list" we would like to repeat this trip.  As I recall we made our reservations for the trip about 7 months in advance.  We have also done Eastern Europe to the Black Sea, Romance of the Rhine and Mosel, Essence of the Elbe, Paris to Normandy (great trip) Paris to the South of France (great trip) and Christmas Markets on the Danube.  River trips are great.  We also did Ireland as a land trip and it was wonderful.  We plan to do England, Scotland and Wales this year.  Enjoy your travels wherever they take you.

Author: dgevry

Joined: 9/4/2010
Posts: 62
Trips Taken: 5
Traveler Since: 2010

December 28, 2012

Cate,

I was reading this thread on the forum and just checked the website for availability for the Holland and Belgium cruise for 2013. There is still lots of availability for most April dates. In fact, in the Antwerp to Amsterdam direction April 15th & 18th have availability in all categories, as do April 13th & April 17th in the Amsterdam to Antwerp direction. These mid-April dates are probably best for flower viewing. We took this cruise in 2011 with a Bruges pre-trip from April 13th-28th. We booked on January 30th that year, as it was a replacement for our cancelled Egypt trip that year. If you are interested in taking the Holland & Begium in Springtime cruise in 2013 you might want to check out the website and give Grand Circle a call soon. Not all the extensions are available for each date, but there's at least on of each. It was an enjoyable trip and the flowers were in full bloom. As to other river cruises, we took the Great Rivers of Europe with the Vienna pretrip in 2010. It was our first river cruise and was fantastic. We are booked on the Romance of the Rhine and Mosel with the Lucerne pretrip for September 2013. We will be retiring in May and hope to do a lot more traveling. The river cruises are wonderful, but we will probably do some land OAT & GCT trips next, while we have the energy and mobility. Whatever cruise you choose, you will probably have a great time. They all seem interesting. 

Diane

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 276
Trips Taken: 7
Countries Visited:

many

Traveler Since: 1999

December 28, 2012

Hi Cate,

Of my seven river cruises, my first was an Elderhostel program in Russia in July of 2002 .It was my favorite primarily because the sights and culture were more exotic and it was more educational than any of the others. The basic itinerary was similar to what GCT has now but it was longer and included more sights and lectures. We started with four nights in a Moscow hotel and ended in St. Petersburg with three nights on the ship and two nights in a centrally-located hotel.

My four river cruises with GCT include the Rhone River from Nice to Paris in 2004, Christmas along the Rhine in 2004, Holland and Belgium in the Springtime in 2007 and Essence of the Elbe in 2012. If I just consider the itineraries, I really don't have a favorite. But when I consider other aspects, I would call Holland and Belgium my favorite. Originally, I was scheduled to leave on April 13 but it was changed to April 19 at the request of GCT. When they offered to refund the cost of the post-trip extension ($720) and give me a $200 credit for a future trip, I readily agreed.  I did not see many fields in bloom because I was there in late April in a year when spring arrived early. But I have no regrets because the weather was perfect and the four PDs were the best group I've ever encountered. As Diane has already noted, the website shows that are still spaces available for this trip throughout April of 2013 but none for singles.

One of my favorite memories of the cruise in France happened on the first full day of the trip. While having lunch, I met a group of four friends from Portland, ME; after hearing that i was traveiing alone, one of them immediatedly told me that I was welcome to join them. They were my best friends for the rest of the trip and I still exchange Christmas greetings with one of them.

My other two river cruises were with Vantage. The first one started in Nuremburg and ended in Amsterdam during Chrismas and New Year's of 2007 and the other started in Budapest and ended in Passau in mid-December of 2010. The holiday trips are special because of the joyfulness of the season and a more interesting variety of people who do them.

Like Pauline, I love river cruises. I don't think you can go wrong with any of them. One thing to consider the possibility of the itinerary being altered because of high or low water levels.

Author: walshcs

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 87
Trips Taken: 3
Countries Visited:

Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, the Canadian Maritimes incl. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI, Montreal (Quebec), Guatemala, and many USA cities incl. NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Portland Oregon, the Oregon coast, Maine coast, parts of Florida. I took a 10 day tour to Costa Rica where I was especially thrilled to experience the tropical plants, birds, volcanos, and met the friendly Ticos. I did Ireland in Depth with GCT Oct. 2011 and it was an inspiring, beautiful, and meaningful experience to finally visit the land of my Irish ancestors. Completed the Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast with the pre-trip to Venice April 21, 2012 and it was a travel dream fulfilled. I booked Guatemala with Tikal, Antigua and Atitlan for January 2013 and had a wonderful adventure discovering modern day Maya culture and learning about ancient Maya city states with my visit to Tikal. Very excited that OAT has brought back the trip to Japan and I leave on that tour Nov. 4, 2013 with the pre-trip to Tokyo. Now I finally have the resources to pursue my "bucket list" of foreign travel and the freedom to chart my own life's course. Ask questions that will satisfy your requirements/interests in a travel buddy. Looking forward to meeting you here and maybe in the world. Warm regards, Cate I'll post a photo when I remember to bring one from home. (Only have internet at work for now.)

Traveler Since: 2011

January 02, 2013

Mucho thanks to ALL of you for the updates on this years' river cruises, for your favs, for your advice...for the encouragement & good wishes...how lucky am I to hear from so many of you!

May your troubles be few and your travel adventures be many,

walshcs/cate

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