Dreams of A Baby Boomer; Learning of European River Cruises

Why is a luxury river cruise appealing to Baby Boomers and why would a living breathing Boomer like me, switch gears at the ripe old age of 66 and halt my normal regime of world travel to ports of call around the world via air or train? I have opposed any type of cruise on one of the behemoth ocean liners for decades. Until recently I thought I knew what I wanted with life, as I edge toward the horizon.

 

 

I fancy a good meal and have taken cooking classes around the world. I love to cook and used to dream of sitting on a tropical balcony, sipping a good cup of coffee as I am not able to consume alcohol of any kind anymore since my heart attack. I miss fine wines terribly, but we always have a designated driver! My new dream is sitting on a ship’s veranda sipping coffee on a delightful river cruise. I am more enchanted with river cruises than beach habitats now.

 

 

Tam from Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok Thailand

Tam from Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok Thailand

 

I recently found a particularly new avenue to explore online and via the television. European river cruises with all their scenic advertisements began to appeal to me either sub-conscientiously or directly, I am not sure which. To add to the excitement I discovered that many of the cruise lines offer discounted cruises and travel deals. This is alluring to a Baby Boomer like me, especially if one has a limited income. In addition, there are two for one deals and special offers that one can look for, when you decide which cruise to take.

 

Danube River in Austria

Danube River in Austria

 

Why do I find river cruises appealing you might ask? In addition to the rather inexpensive pricing, as compared with the overall agenda, an extraordinary group of tours within the city destinations are offered, as well as scenic views like above. I have found that all tours are led by educated individuals with terrific presentation skills, humorous dialog and are informational to a history buff like me.

 

 

Besides, all the planning is handled by the cruise lines and you are always comfortable in knowing your vacation is being handled by individuals that have done this many times before. You also have the freedom to skip a tour and set off exploring on your own, if you feel adventurous. There are times I feel better about just setting out and exploring without a schedule. The river cruises give you the ability to determine your own path so to speak.

 

Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest Hungary

Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest Hungary

 

One of the more appealing aspects of river cruising is the fact that you only have to pack and unpack once. When I was younger, I had no issues tossing my clothes in a suitcase and traveled from city to city without any reservation or issues. I could get by with hardly any sleep and stay up until the wee hours of the morning. As the years continue to roll by, much faster that I desire, I find this issue becoming more and more unsettling.

 

 

The advantage of a river cruise is you unpack once and are still able to see a plethora of cities and experience various cultures, without packing and unpacking again. I have found a new passion. As I approach the final chapters in my life, I find the little aspects of living are the true treasures. River cruises have become a passion and as several octogenarians continue to cruise, I feel confident I have years left to enjoy my new interest. When will you take the leap and join the millions that cruise each year and when will you enjoy another river cruise? I would recommend a river cruise to anyone, of any age. Go for it!

Lewis N Clark Travel Gear Review

Several months ago Lewis N. Clark, a travel accessory company, asked me to try out and review four products. Since I rarely do reviews I decided to really put these items to use and give them a good workout to determine their quality and value. They have accompanied me to Asia, Europe and two of the items I use daily. I am satisfied they have all been put through a sufficient testing period.

 

Lewis N. Clark Featherlight Packing Cubes

Lewis N. Clark Featherlight Packing Cubes

 

The first item is the Featherlight Packing Cubes. Every trip I have made abroad I have stuffed these three cubes with my socks (small cube), my underwear (medium cube) and my undershirts (large cube). This meant, as you can see above, they were loaded with as many items or changes, as I could pack. I am not one who likes to pay exorbitant prices to have my laundry done. I also dislike washing my undies in the sink, unless there is no other choice. I like that the cube can be transferred from your luggage to the dresser, with hardly any effort.

 

 

In the past year I traveled to the Yokohama and Tokyo area of Japan; Barcelona, Costa Brava, Girona and Seville in Spain; Istanbul Turkey; Rimini, Sicily, the Aeolian Islands and Milan in Italy; London England; Budapest Hungary; Bratislava Slovakia; Vienna, Durnstein, Linz, Melk and Salzburg Austria, Passau Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic. This is over 20 cities around the world and not once did the cubes present any issues. The zippers are all in very good working order. The mesh is still in one piece on all three cubes and holding my underwear in. One can use the cubes for anything you need to stay organized while traveling. I highly recommend the Packing Cubes and they have helped me stay efficient with packing, on all my travels.

 

Lewis N. Clark 2-in-1 Neck/Lumbar Pillow

Lewis N. Clark 2-in-1 Neck/Lumbar Pillow

 

The second item is a 2-in1 Neck/Lumbar Pillow. Pardon my face in the photo above, but I think I was tired and falling asleep. This product works very well and I have used it on every plane trip I have taken since acquiring the items to test. It is very comfortable and meshes well around your neck to any position you need. The pillow has many uses. In addition to the obvious neck rest, it can be unzipped, turned inside out and rolled into a lumbar support, which works very well. This comes from an individual with five back surgeries. The last option is to turn it inside out and it turns into a pillow. So if you are in need of any three options I recommend the Neck/Lumbar pillow. It is still in top notch condition after at least eighteen flights.

 

Lewis N. Clark Hanging Toiletry Kit

Lewis N. Clark Hanging Toiletry Kit

 

If any of the items have been over tested, it is surely my hanging toiletry kit. I have used this everyday since I received it and everything is still in great working order. I also have maxed out the supplies in my toiletry kit and it holds up to stretching, heavy weight and sharp items. I carry everything I could use in this kit and the ability to hang it on a towel rod is fantastic. No counter space needed. I carry my aerosol shaving cream, my after shave, bath soap and all sorts of grooming needs, plus my toothbrush and toothpaste. Everything I need can fit in the kit including my mouthwash, shampoo and conditioner. All the clasps, zippers and casings are in good working order and I use it daily. It is a very durable item.

 

Lewis N. Clark RFID Tri-Fold Wallet

Lewis N. Clark RFID Tri-Fold Wallet

 

My last item is the RFID Tri-Fold Wallet. Some men like a dual fold, but for some reason I have always carried a tri-fold. It holds all the credit cards, ID’s and information a person needs. Trust me I carry a large amount of domestic and International cards and I have two medical alert cards inside the cash area, just in case. As you can see above it has 6 credit/business card slots, 2 full-sized bill sections and and ID window, perfect for my business card. It is made from Lambskin and blocks unauthorized scanning of RFID chips, which we use more and more these days! Very helpful in protecting the theft of your identification, from the despicable individuals that thrive on stealing other people’s identities!

 

Overall I was more than satisfied with all four items and would recommend them to anyone in the market for these items. Lewis N. Clark is obviously a very quality company and stands behind its products. I would like to thank Mary Chong, of The Calculated Traveller, for sending Lewis N. Clark in my direction. I am now going  to look into more of their products as the need arises and I recommend you do also.

 

 

 

 

 

 

***All products were sponsored by Lewis N. Clark for testing and review. All opinions are as always, those of my own.

Viking River Cruises, Vienna

As a young man growing up, I learned to love music at an early age. My father was a journalist and reviewed musical acts that came to our small town of Arlington Texas. My first concert was at the age of eleven, when we saw Louis Armstrong. My father favored Jazz and when he was sent an autographed photo of Lionel Hampton and me (I got the opportunity when I met him at The Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center), my father was in heaven.

 

Home of the Vienna Boys Choir, This plaque and Ribbons Designates a National Historical Marker

Home of the Vienna Boys Choir, This plaque and Ribbons Designates a National Historical Marker in Austria. It was located inside the Hofburg Palace.

 

In my early teens I heard classical music emanate from my father’s record player and I was hooked immediately. I listened to Bach, Brahms, Vivaldi, Wagner, Chopin, Strauss, Beethoven and Mozart from an early age. Through the years I learned how much classical music was composed or finalized in Vienna, Austria and I vowed, if ever given the chance, I would visit Vienna. When I noticed that the Danube Waltz Cruise from Viking River Cruises passed through Vienna, there was no doubt which cruise we would take.

 

Vienna Residence Orchestra, Viennese Palace

Vienna Residence Orchestra,  Palais Auersperg, Viennese Palace

 

While in Budapest, we mentioned we were interested in attending the Classical concert in the Viennese Palace the evening we arrived in Vienna. Thank goodness, as the available tickets were limited and some of our new “Viking” friends warned us not to wait and to purchase our tickets quickly . I would advise you purchase your tickets as soon as you are settled in for your cruise. Otherwise you take the chance of not witnessing an enchanting and memorable evening performance. It was an “Optional Excursion”, but well worth the nominal cost.

 

Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, former station of the Viennese Stadtbahn, Designed by Otto Wagner

Karlsplatz Station, formerly of the Viennese Stadtbahn, Designed by Otto Wagner

 

We arrived in the port of Vienna around 6:00 AM. Given we had a full day ahead of us, we ate breakfast early and prepared for our Shore Excursion: “Vienna City Tour”. We started by touring the Ringstrasse by bus. This is a large circular boulevard, which replaced the city walls built in the 13th century around the city for protection. Sometime in 1857 a decision was made to convert the wall into a boulevard intended to showcase the the grandeur and glory of the Habsburg Empire. The idea originated with Napolean III in Paris. As a consequence, all the nobility and plutocracy hurried and built garish and ornate structures along the boulevard, each trying to outdo the other. This resulted in a plethora of outstanding and opulent properties that remain gorgeous to this day.

 

Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Museum of Natural History

Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Museum of Natural History

 

Austrian Parliament Building

Austrian Parliament Building

 

I personally love architecture and the examples scattered along the Ringstrasse throughout the city, at times took my breath away. Some of the essence of this period’s architecture can be seen in the Vienna State Opera, Academy of Fine Arts, Palace of Justice and the Austrian Parliament Building. We concluded the bus tour and were dropped at the Habsburg Palace, a huge complex used primarily as the residence and office of the President of Austria. It is one of the most gorgeous complexes I have ever seen. It also houses the world famous beautiful Lipazzan horses. If you are fortunate, you might visit during a training session. They were resting during our visit.

 

Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg Palace, most notably Adolf Hitler's ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938.

Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg Palace, most notably remembered for Adolf Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss, to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938. It was held on these steps.

 

As we began the walking tour we entered the massive, historical and decorative complex of the Hofburg Palace. I couldn’t take enough photos fast enough. One could spend an entire day enjoying the art, the various buildings and courtyards. The construction began in the thirteenth century  and the palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history.

 

A gate from the 19th wing of the Hofburg Palace, to the complex center.

A gate from the 19th wing of the Hofburg Palace, to the complex center.

 

The complex was started in the 13th century when the Swiss Wing was constructed. Through the centuries each potentate of the Austrian-Hungarian empire attempted to outdo the prior monarch with larger and more ornate buildings and trim. Included are statues dedicated to themselves in many cases and again each new statue reflected a larger persona. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Festsaal – Festival Hall Wing, St. Michael’s Wing, Neue Burg Wing, Corps de Logis and the Palm House or Butterfly House were added, making it the second largest former palace complex behind only the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest Romania and slightly larger than the Louvre Palace in Paris.

 

A Vienna taxi for hire.

A Vienna taxi for hire.

 

As we exited the Hofburg Palace and continued our walking tour we strolled down a street with shops like Gucci, Cartier, Versace, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc. I thought we were back on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Thank goodness there wasn’t time to shop! We continued through the Historic Center of Vienna and were given time to grab a cup of Viennese coffee and a strudel. We chose a location near to us and turned out to be a wonderful break. Aida’s is a chain in Vienna and I personally highly recommend you give it a try, if you visit Vienna.

 

Aida is a coffee house chain in Vienna with wonderful Viennese coffees and pastries. Try the Strudel, we did!

Aida is a coffee house chain in Vienna with wonderful Viennese coffees and pastries. Try the Strudel, we did!

 

After the quick coffee, we had time to either explore St. Stephens Cathedral or take a quick walk through the small Christmas Market next to the Cathedral. We obviously opted for the Christmas Markets, but I did catch a glimpse of the Cathedral and took a photo for posterity. The roof tiles are gorgeous and the exterior is amazing. On my next visit to Vienna I will definitely enter and photograph the Cathedral. I love design and architecture of European Cathedrals. One of my favorite objects to photograph.

 

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

 

The last portion of the tour was basically to let us know where the Christmas Markets were. We spent a few minutes scanning the booths and registering our coordinates in the city. After the morning tour we returned to the ship for lunch. The afternoon gave us options to come back to the Christmas Markets, tour the Farmers’ Market with Chef de Cuisine Martin, or participate in an Optional Excursion: Schonbrunn Palace. Guess which one we chose? I would venture to say that most of you would say the Farmers’ Market or the Schonbrunn Palace. You would be incorrect. There were more and different wooden laser spoons waiting and we needed to add to Kim’s collection, so we came back to the Christmas Market. After all Vienna is one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe and had more booths than we could see.

 

 

 

Our new friends from the Boston area, Gail and Richard Douglas opted for the Schonbrunn Palace and once again Gail came through with a wonderful photograph for my blog. Thank you kindly young lady for your continual contributions.

 

Schonbrunn Palace, Photographed by Gail Douglas

Schonbrunn Palace, Photographed by Gail Douglas

 

Additionally we had the Optional Excursion: Classical Concert that night and it gave us more flexibility. Interpretation: we could get back to the ship, eat our early seating dinner and have sufficient time to dress for the concert and be mesmerized by one of the world’s best chamber orchestras, Wiener Residenzorchester. I was super excited to actually hear Mozart and Strauss in a venue, in Vienna with all the history associated with this city. The sculptures in the Palais Auersperg were extraordinary, as witnessed below.  Highlights of the concert for me were the Ouverture “Le Nozze di Figaro” (Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” by W.A. Mozart and The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss.

 

A Sculpture in the Palais Auersperg

A Sculpture in the Palais Auersperg

 

We left the concert after a long day fully energized by the Concertos and Arias of Mozart and Strauss. What I didn’t realize ahead of time was that we would have brief ballet and opera experiences at the concert. If you remember the photo at the beginning of the stage, you wouldn’t really think any ballet act could perform. Not only did were we entertained with excellent ballet, but a Pas de deux occurred with leaps, etc. I feared for the dancers safety at times, but they performed with nary an incident. We went back to the ship and turned in headed to our next ports in Austria, satisfied that we had tasted Vienna and would have exquisite memories of this grand city, until we returned again.

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

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