Jumping Ship: How the Rhine Reeled in an Avid Ocean Cruiser to River Cruising

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen recently interviewed Lisa Rohrbach, Boscov’s Travel’s Director of Training and Professional Development, about her first experience taking a river cruise.

Whether you’re a seasoned or first-time cruiser, it’s impossible to ignore the popularity and rapid growth of river cruising as an alternative to ocean cruising. With smaller and more intimate ships; destinations that only smaller ships can access; and a more inclusive experience with included shore excursions, alcohol and smaller expenses that add up during your vacation, like Wi-Fi, specialty drinks, room service, etc., it’s no wonder that many seasoned ocean cruisers are jumping ship to river cruising.

Lisa Rohrbach, Boscov’s Travel’s Director of Training and Professional Development, is one of those cruise enthusiasts who jumped ship from ocean to river cruising. After experiencing more than 25 ocean cruises, she recently sailed on her first river cruise with AMA Waterways on a 7-night cruise along the Rhine that included stops in France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. She shares her experience here, along with her thoughts on the differences between taking a river cruise and an ocean cruise.

Hi Lisa! We learned you recently sailed on your first river cruise with AMA Waterways. Since you’re an avid ocean cruiser, can you tell us how the two experiences are different?

River cruise ships are much smaller than most ocean cruise ships with a quieter, relaxed atmosphere—our ship only had 82 staterooms, as opposed to the hundreds that are on an ocean liner. I would compare a river cruise to an intimate family dinner versus an ocean cruise is more like an extravagant wedding celebration—obviously, they both have their positive attributes, it just depends on what type of environment and travel style you’re looking for.

What did you find you preferred about river cruising?

All of the inclusions onboard! Our price included all of our daily excursions, unlimited wine and beer with our meals, no additional charge for specialty coffees, plus all the little extra complimentary touches. Also, the food and wine onboard were excellent–we had fresh local selections daily.

What do you prefer about ocean cruising?

The evening entertainment and onboard casino. River cruises are wonderful during the day and they did offer some evening entertainment but it’s not on the same scale as an ocean cruise–it’s definitely more low-key.

Was this your first trip to Europe?

No, I have traveled to Europe many times before and have previously visited three of the four countries on this itinerary, including Switzerland, France and Germany. This was my first trip to Amsterdam, however, and even though I have visited the above countries before, many of the stops on the cruise’s itinerary were new to me. There were several quaint little towns along the Rhine which were very picturesque.

Why would you recommend a river cruise over a bus tour or independent travel?

Since you use your river cruise ship as a floating hotel, you only have to unpack once! Also, since it’s a very warm and friendly atmosphere, you develop a relationship with the staff and they quickly learn your preferences compared to staying at different hotels on a bus or independent tour.

Which excursion was your favorite or the highlight of your trip? Why?

My favorite excursion was a lovely walking tour of the old, historic center of Strasbourg, France. This area of the city looks like something out of a fairy tale with beautiful half-timbered houses with colorful flower boxes. It was so quaint and since I love history, this tour transported me back to another time!

Who do you think would be a good fit for a river cruise?

Travelers who love a stress-free atmosphere with good food and wine and enjoy walking, biking and exploring history and culture. Those who are also prone to motion sickness would prefer it over ocean cruising since we didn’t feel the movement of the ship at all.

Do you think there’s any sort of traveler who might not like one?

If you like a lot of evening entertainment, it may be too quiet at night for you. I also don’t think it’s a great fit for families with young children.

What were some highlights of the ship?

We loved our cabin, which was a twin balcony stateroom on the Violin Deck and featured both a regular and a French balcony. The lounge is a great meeting spot to relax and watch the scenery go by. We also enjoyed the regular dining and The Chef’s Table, which is an intimate restaurant that serves a five-course tasting menu.

Did anything surprise you?

Initially when you reserve a river cruise, the cost may seem higher than an ocean cruise but I was surprised that we had very few extra expenses while onboard. We only paid extra for a couple of cocktails that weren’t included in our fare, as well as gratuities to the cruise staff.

Do you have any tips for a first-time river cruiser that you’d be willing to share?

Don’t shy away from a river cruise based on the initial cost. It’s unlike an ocean cruise where the initial cost may be lower but once onboard you end up spending more money for drinks, shore excursions and specialty items.

Any other tips to share?

Yes! A great perk to booking with a Boscov’s Travel Specialist besides knowledgeable and friendly service is that you can use your Boscov’s credit card to pay for the trip in advance, receive 12 months to pay for it with no interest, and earn reward points!

A great tip! Thanks for your time, Lisa!

To learn more about the exciting destinations you can experience while taking a river cruise, please contact a Boscov’s Travel Specialist at 800-755-8020 or email us at travelrequest@boscovs.com.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Travel Cheaper by Knowing When to Book: How to Get the Best Prices on Your Vacation


_0024_Melissa-Wentzel-SeamanThe following post features advice from Melissa at Boscov’s Travel within Boscov’s at Reading Mall. Melissa has been giving expert travel advice for the past 9 years with Boscov’s Travel and has almost three decades of experience in the industry (she was previously a flight attendant). She has the scoop on the best time to buy air tickets, when to book a cruise and how you can make the most of a European vacation. 

When should I book my honeymoon?
Sandals-Whitehouse-European-beach-coupleHoneymoons should be planned 6 to 9 months in advance of your wedding date. We offer a honeymoon registry which allows your guests to contribute to your honeymoon. Because vacations typically need to be paid in full at least 45-days in advance, we recommend that you plan your honeymoon early, then distribute the complimentary “Registered with” announcement cards with your engagement party and/or bridal shower.

How far in advance should I plan my destination wedding? 
Sunscapes-WeddingYou should plan at least a year in advance to secure the space you want, determine the officiant, decide if it will be a symbolic ceremony or nuptial service, and give friends and family ample time to book their trip. Some resorts allow you to book a few years in advance, so the sooner you choose the resort, the better. If air schedules have not yet been released, you can book your resort now and purchase flights at a later date. Luckily we have Honeymoon & Destination Wedding Specialists to help you to navigate every last detail.

How far in advance can I book a European vacation?

Prices for flights to Europe have been historically low in 2017. Summer is the peak for visiting Europe, so you can typically save a few dollars by booking in the late spring or early fall. Typically we recommend you book 9-months out from your departure date.

How far in advance should I book a river cruise?
Rhine_Cologne_Sunset_Twilight_014Because inventory is lower than other categories due to the small sizes of the ships that need to navigate the canals and rivers of Europe and beyond, we recommend that you book a year in advance to get the cabin and dates that you want.

How far in advance is airfare available to purchase? 
The major airlines typically release pricing 330 days in advance, but the prices are incredibly volatile. If you’re not booking for a flight near a major holiday, we recommend that you book 6 to 9-months out from your departure date. Flight prices are relatively high when they are released, then drop around the 6 to 9-month range.
If you’re planning on traveling around a holiday, expect to pay 2 to 4 times the normal rate. Demand is high during these periods as students and families typically travel during national holidays. In this case, book your trip as soon as you can.

Southwest Airlines is the exception. They release their rates in increments. Right now in April 2017, they have dates available to book 7-months out, or the beginning of November.

How early can I plan a Walt Disney World vacation?
Disney-Mine-TrainTravelers typically book Walt Disney World 6 to 9-months in advance. As of the beginning of April 2017, rates for tickets and resorts at Walt Disney World for 2018 were not yet available. There are a few options for booking Walt Disney World vacations with with us due to our Boscov’s Travel Exclusive Charter to Walt Disney World package.  If you are just booking a Walt Disney Travel Company land package (meaning tickets and resorts), you can book in the 6 to 9-month time frame then call us to see if you can take advantage of a future sale or offer through Walt Disney Travel Company.

How early should I look into booking an all-inclusive resort?
Beaches-Turks-&-Caicos-poolWe recommend booking an all-inclusive resort 6 to 9-months from your departure date. It’s also the ideal time to book air, so we can help you purchase it as a package with transfers from the airport to the resort.

How far in advance should I book an ocean cruise like Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, or MSC Cruises? 

Booking opportunities typically become available more than a year in advance. The average lead time is 6 to 9-months for booking a cruise. You may be able to get a good last minute deal if you’re flexible with the accommodations, though you may diminish the difference if you need airfare as rates typically increase for last minute bookings. If you’re driving to a local port like Manhattan, Bayonne, NJ or Baltimore, MD, a last minute booking may help you save a few bucks. Luckily, the cruise industry has changed dramatically over the past few years and almost every cruise line offers exceptional values throughout the year.

When should I plan a Disney Cruise Line cruise?
Disney-Cruise-Line-ShipDisney Cruise Line cruises are a different animal as spaces fill up relatively quickly since there are only four ships (to give you a point of reference, Royal Caribbean International has 25!) in the fleet. Since the ships sell out in advance, we recommend you book at least a year in advance. As space sells, the prices increase. As of April 2017, the 2018 schedule is available and several 2019 itineraries can also be booked.

If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Seven Things to Do with Your Tax Refund

Tax season is almost (thankfully) over! If you’re one of the approximately 83% of Americans who receive a refund, figuring out what to do with it is most likely on your mind.

We recommend using it (or a portion of it) to plan your next vacation. According to a recent study, vacation had similar stress-reducing benefits as meditation and participants showed positive effects 10 months after taking the vacation. Still need more reasons to get away? It’s good for business.

Now that we’ve established that it’s in your best interest to get away, let’s talk vacations! Whether you get re-energized from an adventurous hike or by kicking up your feet by the pool, we’ve got an idea for you. Here’s our list of seven things to do with your tax refund:

1. Cruise
RCI_MJ_AerialCocoCay158R.pngSail to the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe, New England and more! Going on a cruise is easier than ever. There are literally THOUSANDS of options – number of days, destinations, activities, room accommodations, departure ports – that there is a choice for every budget. We recommend Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International who make it easy with cruises directly from ports in New York and Bayonne, NJ (plus Royal Caribbean also sails from Baltimore, MD). With all the options and activities to do on board and off, cruising is the new go-to for vacationers with the bonus of unpacking only once. Looking to save your hard earned money? Opt for an inside cabin.

2. All-inclusives
SESRC_Aerial_Year2016_1.pngLeave your wallet at home because everything’s included on these easy vacations. Pay one price for your flight, transfers to the resort, hotel, meals, drinks (including open bar), most activities, and entertainment. Options include family friendly accommodations as well as adult only resorts. Popular destinations include Punta Cana, Cancun, the Riviera Maya, and Jamaica. A four-night vacation with flight could be less than $800 per person. Search now

3.Walt Disney World

cinderella-castle-gallery02.pngIf you have kids, they have inevitably asked, “Can we go to Walt Disney World?” Whether you’re ready to go this year, or want to put a deposit on a future trip, Boscov’s Travel gets you to the magic faster with the Boscov’s Travel Exclusive Charter to Walt Disney World. Fly non-stop from local Pennsylvania airports including Harrisburg, Lancaster, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, or Reading Airports. Service is in the spring and fall, fly Sunday/return Saturday, and every weekend in spring through fall (airports vary). Learn more here.

4.Cuba
Get major bragging rights for being one of the first to see this newly opened country. We make it easy with cruises that stop in this unforgettable country. Get all the Cuba facts here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.River Cruise

Offering a whole new perspective on your destination, river cruises have grown in popularity due to their immersive experiences and less time spent traveling (you’ll sail to your next destination while you sleep). Stops include popular destinations as well as less crowded villages easily accessible from the river.

 

6.G Adventures
154e86bc0b91759f6ff328aac9cc8101.pngIf you seek adventure, look no further than G Adventures. One of our preferred tour operators, G Adventures gives you access to the world. Camp on your hike up to Machu Picchu, tour the Great Pyramids of Giza, kayak in Antarctica, or view the Irrawaddy dolphins on the rivers of Mekong.

 

 

7.Buy travel protection
Boring, right? There’s nothing exciting about planning for a vacation to go awry, but it can happen. But just like in life, by protecting your travel investment with travel protection, you buy yourself peace of mind and assurance that you will (eventually) take a vacation. Purchasing travel protection is easy. Get an estimate here.

If you’re ready to put your tax refund to good use, call us at 800-755-8020, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or visit us for current deals.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com. As to Disney artwork/properties: ©Disney

Which Cruise Line is Right for You?

If you are new to cruising or looking to explore a new destination on a cruise, it can become confusing to decide what’s the best cruise line for you. Whether you’re traveling on a budget with family or looking for a one-of-a-kind luxury cruise experience, we can help!

Our travel specialists brought together their top recommended cruise lines based on service, value and overall cruise experience and made a handy quiz to help you to see which cruise line is the best fit for you!

JCAM2016-85x11CruiseInfographic

Click here to view infographic in full screen.

Now that you’ve chosen your cruise line, take advantage of savings and perks during Boscov’s Travel July Customer Appreciation Month! All month long, enjoy discounts, perks and bonus offers on every cruise line featured here. Learn more about our July events here.

If you’re ready to book your cruise adventure, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

 

River Cruising on Avalon Waterways

From bus trips, to guided tours, city excursions or DIY travel, there are many options for touring Europe. One of the most scenic options for European touring is the river cruise. For a few days to more than three weeks, river cruises give cruisers a unique experience along the European countryside while sailing from town to town along the most famous rivers in Europe.

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One of the most awarded river cruise lines is Avalon Waterways, part of the Globus family of brands. Founded in 2003, Avalon Waterways prides themselves on giving their guests a unique point of view. Avalon rooms feature beds that face the window and their Panoramic Suites offer the Open-Air Balcony, a first of its kind wall-to-wall 11 foot panoramic window that’s 50% wider than the industry standard. This gives cruisers a more spacious, open-feeling cabin with wider views of Europe. 80% of staterooms on Avalon suite ships feature this panoramic view. View the video below to experience the difference this makes.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R80GgIJi8fg]

In addition to the differences in room suites, Avalon Waterways attention to detail set them apart. When clients receive their cruise documents, they receive the cruise director’s (senior management on board the ship) personal cell phone number for any issues that may arise before departure or during the journey allowing for peace of mind throughout travel.

Avalon Waterways’s fleet consists of 16 ships with the oldest being only 7 years in age. Built on a tradition of the Swiss mentality, precision and functionality is forefront when it comes to building the ships. Avalon Waterways does not refurbish ships, and builds each ship 37 feet in width to navigate through the 37.5 foot locks throughout Europe. Each ship is built to accommodate up to 166 guests.

Rhine_Cologne_Sunset_Twilight_014

The fare on the ship accommodates to almost any type of dietary need imaginable (with the exception of kosher) with new vegetarian menus coming soon. There is no assigned seating at meals, and beer and 4 varieties of European wine are served with dinner, and will be served with lunch in 2017. Meals change daily as chefs shop at the local markets to get the freshest regional fare available to guests.

During the day, the ship docks at destinations along the river and local guides give inside access to the historical significance and everyday modern life within the town. Stops range from well-known tourist cities to small villages to give cruisers a one-of-a-kind experience. Bikes are available for guests to journey throughout the towns.

European tour options include a varying lengths of time along the great rivers of Europe, and Avalon Waterways offers special interest cruises catering to a variety of passions and interests. Select cruises focus on wine appreciation, beer tasting, culinary adventures, jazz, art, WWII History, and Jewish Heritage to name a few.

Going on now through June 21, 2016, receive free or reduced air from select cities when sailing on 2017 Europe River Cruises. Or save up to $3,000 per couple on select 2016 Europe River Cruises for a limited time. With the strong US dollar, there’s no better time to book your European adventure. If you’re ready to book your Avalon Waterways experience, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.