Norway Fjords Travel

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I cruised the Norwegian Fjords a few weeks ago. The scenery was amazing, as was the experience of seeing how people live in remote fishing villages.

I was fortunate to have the choice between Cunard’s ultra luxury Queen Victoria and Hurtigruten’s Kong Harrald, a medium size cruise ship/ferry service.

We chose Hurtigruten for the inland route and local experience. Spending a full day on deck enjoying the sunshine and views made it the perfect choice.

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Ocean or River Cruise- The Differences

Cruise European Rivers
Cruise European Rivers

What’s the difference between an ocean cruise and a river cruise?  River cruises generally focus on cultural and historical sites.  Ports are often right in the city center with included tours and excursions of nearby castles, museums and other points of interest.

Ocean cruises offer a lot of night time entertainment as well as daytime fun onboard.  Many ports of call are at beaches and tourist spots known for shopping and dining.

While at sea, the beauty and tranquility of a distant horizon are seen while cruising.  On a river cruise, vineyards, castles, mountains and small villages catch our eye.  Read More

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River cruise differences

Art Illuminations Theme Cruise on AMAWaterways
Art Illuminations Theme Cruise on AMAWaterways

What is the difference in river cruise companies?

Some ships are known for their culinary flair and others for free bicycle use.  Several new “theme cruises” set different sailings apart, from Tulip Time to beer and wine tastings to Jewish heritage and Christmas markets.  The list now includes specials sailings for chocolate lovers as well as golfers and jazz fans.  While most river cruises are geared toward adults and allow two guests per cabin, a few hold special multi-generational sailings where all family members are welcome.  Find the one that feels right to you.  Some of my favorite lines include AMAwaterways, Avalon and Viking but there are many more.

How are they similar?

Unlike ocean cruising, river cruise ships hold no more than 200 guests.  This intimate setting allows for three wonderfully prepared meals each day, cultural and historical speakers, included tours and excursions and unmatched service throughout your cruise.  Because of the lock system on the rivers in Europe, nearly every long ship is the same size.

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Avalon Wine Themed Sailings

Calling all wine lovers!

Do you know any individuals or groups
who would enjoy sailing the intimate rivers of Europe
on a luxurious Avalon Waterways River as well as:

Tastings at local wineries
Onboard wine tastings
Onboard food & wine pairing with dinner
Visit a local wine village
Onboard lectures from a wine expert
SAVE $500 per couple when deposit by August 26th, 2014*

The Blue Danube Discovery

November 1, 2015

13 days, Budapest to Prague

from $3289 per person/land only

Burgandy and Provence

Paris to Cote d’Azur

11 days, March 29 and October 25, 2015

from $3549/per person/land only

The Rhine and Mozelle

October 30, 2015

13 days, Amsterdam to Basel

from $4199 per person/land only

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Azores Vacation-Ten reasons to visit

azores view of lakes
Azores mountains and lakes

There are at least ten reasons to plan an Azores vacation.

1. Location.  The Azores are a chain of nine islands located about 1800 miles east of Boston and non stop flights are available year round from Boston and Toronto .  Seasonally, there are also direct flights from Montreal and Oakland California.  The flight from Boston only takes four hours.

2. Long tourist season.  For tourists who are looking for a temperate climate during the shoulder seasons, the Azores might be a perfect ft.  Temperatures range from about 50 degrees in January, it’s coldest month, to the high 80s in August.  Read More

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Dublin vacation highlights|must see places

Guinness Storehouse
Guinness Wall of Water

Ireland is split into several areas, each with its own personality, look and feel.  The first stop for most guests is Dublin, where the major airport is located.  Dublin is a safe city and is perfect for walking.  Below are the must see vacation highlights in Dublin.

Dublin, the county’s capital, is located in the middle of the east coast.  It’s best known for the Guinness Storehouse, seven floors of displays describing how the brew is made, and leading you to the top floor where you will enjoy a pint while you view the entire city from this glass enclosed bar.  Guinness, by the way, is recommended for all ages group; the displays are great.

The Chester Beatty Library is so much more than a public library.  Be sure to check on the special displays that are on exhibit; often becoming a highlight of a family visit to Dublin.  Allow a half day to see the sights including the rooftop garden and museums at this complex located at the Dublin Castle.

The Book of Kells is located at Trinity College.  The Book of Kells contains manuscripts of the gospels from the 9th century are on display in the beautiful old library, which in itself is worth visiting too.  Allow 2-3 hours for this visit and consider taking a guided tour to fully understand the significance of this bit of history.

 

 

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What happens on an Ireland tour group vacation?

An Ireland tour group vacation isn’t the return to her roots that your grandmother might have experienced.  Today’s tour group vacations focus on saving you time, saving you money, and making every moment of your precious vacation count.

Transportation

While there are many variations of tours, from walking to riding on a large or small bus or train to biking, the most common is the bus tour.  Generally, no more than a few hours each day is spent on a bus, but this is a great question to ask when planning your trip.

Value and Cost

There are tours that meet every travelers budget.  Tours generally save a traveler about 30% as compared to them booking the same itinerary on their own.  This is partially due to their bulk purchasing, and also because the travel professionals know where to get the best value for dollars spent.  They choose accommodations and meals that are a step above the norm and eager to please to insure return business.  You’ll get to know the locals.

Galway beach

Time Savings

How many hours would you spend developing a trip itinerary and planning your needs over the internet only to find frustration when trying to use a credit card conversion chart to figure out the true cost after currency conversion.  How many times have you read a fantastic or terrible review to find the exact opposite when you arrive.  Leave the planning to someone who knows the area and the people they are dealing with.  The package price will be in US dollars and there will be no need to guess what the cost of your vacation will be.

On a preplanned itinerary, you can expect to arrive at tourist attractions with the tickets already purchased and quite often an arrangement for the entire group to skip the lines.  A guide will escort you to the highlights and offer history and cultural stories as well as answer questions.  Most times, you will still have time to wander on your own, whether you want to sit on a bench and listen to the waves crashing at the Cliffs of Moher or write your name in the sand in Galway.

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Ireland Vacation Travel Planning

Ireland vacation travel planning is fun and exciting.  There are so many options to choose from in this English speaking paradise where the people are friendly and welcoming, the value for dollars spent is very good due to a slower economy and the temperate climate is wonderful for outdoor activities.

There are several tour companies who offer group tours.  You can choose from a five day sampler to a fourteen day full country tour.  Another option is a self drive vacation for those who don’t mind keeping left and driving a stick shift.  The self drive vacations are perfect for multigenerational travel, where you’d like the option to stop for lunch on your own clock (be it still on east coast time or adjusted to European time).

Others who may enjoy the self drive would include couples who prefer to spend time alone, adventurers who want to get off the beaten path and do some hiking on the many scenic trails and those who want to drive the famous Ring of Kerry scenic route.

Ireland is easily reached from the USA with flights on Delta, Continental, Aer Lingus and USair.  There are three airports to choose from, the most popular being Dublin, Ireland’s capital city.  Shannon Airport is a good option if you prefer to tour in the southern sections of the Emerald Isle, such as for guests who have been to Dublin on previously trips and want to do some of the coastal routes.  The third airport is Belfast, which is in Northern Ireland.

However you choose to travel through this beautiful and inviting country, you will have several months of temperate weather to choose from, although the summer months are the most common due to the warmer temperatures that range from 70-80 degrees.

A travel agent can help you find the options that best suit your needs, as well as get you the best value for your vacation dollars.

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Self drive Ireland vacations

Cliffs Ireland
Arian Island Cliffs Ireland

A self drive Ireland vacation will be the perfect getaway for an independent traveler or a multigenerational family group.  This type of vacation will allow you the flexibility to stop for pub grub for a whole afternoon or just long enough for a quick pick.

Overnight accommodations might be simple bed and breakfasts, traditional hotels, or five star castles; you might enjoy a combination of all of these places.  With a bed and breakfast experience, you will meet an Irish family and get to know things about their heritage and way of life.  The most friendly and welcoming people in the world, you may even decide to spend a few nights and explore your family trees together.  After all, there are over 50 million Americans who have roots in Ireland, and nearly every Irish family has a relative in America.

While in the Emerald Island, you might drive your own car for all or part of the week while you enjoy the Irish countryside.  Other transportation options include busses, trains, and even ferries or small planes for a few specific side trips such as the Arian Islands.  If you do want a rental car, remember it will most likely have a manual transmission and you will need to keep left.

Independent tours involve planning with your travel agent.  Together, you will decide on your destinations within Ireland, the types of overnight accommodations you are interested in, the sights you will visit and the entertainment that interests you.  It will all be mapped out for you with lots of flexibility to allow you to enjoy the moment.  After all, who knows if you’ll run into a long lost cousin at lunch on your first day.

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Great offers|2014 Great Britain guided tours

Great offers for anyone interested in Great Britain guided tours this summer.  This is one sample:

The Best of Southern England starting at $2499 per person with airfare.  Travel between May 4 and September 21, 2014.  See the places you’ve always read about on this exciting journey through southern England.  Begin in London with guided sightseeing that showcases the city’s most famous landmarks.  Visit the beautiful Georgian spa town of Tunbridge   Wells and see the moated Leeds Castle.  7 days from London to London with air.

Rock formation at Stonehenge
Rock formation at Stonehenge

Highlights include a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the changing of the guard, Hampton court and Oxford.  While in Stratford upon Avon you will visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. The Roman relics in Bath and the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge will also lead to last memories.

This tour can be combined with an extension to Paris and other European countries as well.

Transportation is by motor coach, with free wifi on board.  Several meals are included and overnights are in five star accommodations.  Your guide will share history and stories of days gone by and you won’t have to worry about missing a thing, everything will be taken care.  Leave the logistics to us.

Please contact Solo To Group Travel or call 603-434-8100 for more information on this or other exciting vacations for 2014.

 

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