Expert Travel Tips: River Cruising for Everyone

Credit: The Scout Guide

U of Uniworld’s sleek black-hulled ship called “The A” sails on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers delivering unique experiences geared toward millennials; photo credit: U of Uniworld

It’s always a treat to visit with Northwest Arkansas’s own travel guru, Michele MacDonald of THE CORE TRAVELER. As fall approaches, we wanted to know what travel trends she is most excited for when booking an autumn weekend getaway or a longer holiday away. Her answer: river cruising! Not only for empty nesters and the retired set any more, the luxurious and exotic river cruises Michele sends her clients on feature something for everyone—from enriching family experiences to millennial-approved entertainment, with destinations that have left us wanderlusting… .

“Of the most common things I tell clients who want to see a lot of places is to try a cruise because it has ease of access that allows you to sample places without investing in one area,” says Michele.

Here we share a few of Michele’s favorite fall and holiday river cruise lines and destinations.

For the Family

Regroup for 2 wonderful family activities! Vienna is famous for its marionettes—and at Schönbrunn Palace the whole family can participate in a unique marionette demonstration, followed by a private marionette show. Then, enjoy a strudel-making demonstration showing you how to make a famous regional treat, apple strudel! (Photo courtesy Adventures by Disney on AmaWaterways River Ship)

Adventures by Disney River Cruises has partnered with AmaWaterways with sailings down the scenic Danube and Rhine Rivers to provide a bit of Disney Magic steeped in culture and history. “This cruise line is well known for their adventure guides and local experts,” says Michele.

Think immersive cultural experiences with Disney magic, minus Mickey. “This is a luxury experience that can be tailored to your family’s ages and interests,” says Michele. “These river cruises become an educational journey with animation, hands-on experiences and memories steeped in magic.”

She loves these cruises for multi-generational vacations with grandparents and young ones in tow. Note: Most of these cruises do have a suggested age of four years and older.

U by Uniworld, designed with Millennial travelers in mind, was recently featured on The Bachelorette, which is known for featuring exotic and luxurious travel ideas for young people. Photo credit by U by Uniworld 

For the Young & Young at Heart

“River cruising had a stigma of being for the retired people,” says Michele. “But the new line U by UniWorld is anything but!”

These brand-new ships are designed for passengers aged 21-45, featuring hip, luxe decor, extra common spaces for mingling, unlimited adult beverages and ease of access to European cities along the Rhine, Seine and Danube rivers.  “I love this cruise for solo travelers because you have the security of being around the same people, but you also have an organized itinerary to keep you moving,” says Michele.

And you don’t have to invest your whole vacation in one specific area, since you’ll keep moving along the river to travel to cities like Amsterdam, Paris or Budapest, to name only a few.

River cruises through Holland and Belgium during tulip season can be breathtaking. Keukenhof is said to be the world’s largest and most famous flower garden. Photo credit: Tulip Time on AmaWaterways

For the Connoisseur

“River cruises can also be designed based on your specific interest,” says Michele. “For foodies, oenophiles, gardeners or adventure seekers, even those interested in art or textiles, river cruises can’t be beat.”Certain cruise lines will cater to a specific region of food or wine, with celebrity chefs and other experts to guide the way. And then there are the cruises throughout Holland during tulip season, which every gardener must experience in their lifetime! Cruises dedicated to Europe’s festive Christmas markets are a fabulous way to spend the holiday season. “The lights, scents, flavors and goods at these beautiful Christmas markets in Austria or Switzerland must be taken in from the river,” says Michele. “It’s a charming take on the season that feels so new but steeped in tradition as well.”

“The lights, scents, flavors and goods at these beautiful Christmas markets in Austria or Switzerland must be taken in from the river,” says Michele. “It’s a charming take on the season that feels so new but steeped in tradition as well.” Photo credit: Christmas Markets in Europe on the AmaWaterways

For the Adventuresome

For avid cruisers and adventure seekers, Michele will recommend river cruises in more exotic regions, like AmaWaterways Me Kong River tour throughout Southeast Asia. Michele loves to enhance the cruise experience by adding or extending a trip in a certain destination, and these more exotic cruises to far-off destinations would be the perfect place to take her up on that offer. Michele does all the booking, and can find the perfect hotel and work with airlines and cruise lines to accommodate extensions, including seamless transportation, private tours and ease of access. When you book this way, you’re not wasting your precious vacation time scrambling to figure out what to do.

Michele’s Expert Tip: AmaWaterways provides a fleet of more than two dozen bicycles (plus helmets) for use in ports across Europe. Passengers can join complimentary guided cycling tours or venture off on their own along scenic riverside pathways. Photo credit: Scenic River Cruises 

One thing to remember when looking into fall and holiday river cruises: Booking a cruise online doesn’t mean you are going to get personalized service. Michele can handle the complete travel arrangements for her clients, from airfare, pre and post cruise accommodations, ground services, sightseeing experiences, dining recommendations, special celebrations, and more.  She helps her clients qualify which cruise line and ship best fits their travel style and needs such as all-suite staterooms, unlimited beverages including adult beverages, pre-paid gratuities, unlimited port excursions and private tours.

When you’re ready to book any of the above river cruise excursions, CONTACT MICHELE MACDONALD AT THE CORE TRAVELER (479.366.8210) for bespoke travel planning and arrangements. 

Scouted Summer Vacations

Credit: The Scout Guide

It’s official, summertime is finally right around the corner. Those long, dark winter days are almost behind us. That means it’s time to start making your summer plans, including booking the perfect extended getaway. Want something different this year? We asked Northwest Arkansas’ own travel guru, Michele MacDonald of THE CORE TRAVELER, to give us the inside scoop on this summer’s hottest destinations. She let us in on some fabulous inside secrets and trending destinations that are perfect for family vacations, trips to celebrate graduations or a unique honeymoon (or second honeymoon)…

A beautiful view of Arenal, the most active volcano in Costa Rica, from the Presidential villa at The Springs Resort. Photo courtesy of THE CORE TRAVELER.

Costa Rica
Looking for two different experiences in one vacation? Michele loves to send her clients on a balanced trip to Costa Rica that includes a private eco-adventure in the rainforest with “la pura vida” beach time, too. First stop: Arenal—the smallest and most active volcano in Costa Rica. Known for its lush rainforests, Arenal is rich in natural attractions; experience thermo-mineral hot springs, waterfall hikes, horseback riding, birdwatching, biking, and zip lining.

Rainforest tree hikes abound in the lush rainforests of Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of THE CORE TRAVELER.

After that portion of the trip, Michele sets her clients up in Manuel Antonio, a small oceanside village famous for its national park. This tiny yet bustling town is located off Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast just a stone’s throw away from Quepos, which is famous for sport fishing. The region is a treasure for biodiversity, attracting nature buffs, eco-travelers and adventure-seekers alike. It’s also perfect for soaking up white sand, bright sun and crystal-clear water.

The Moorish Alcàzar Palace in Seville City, Spain is a breathtaking architectural feat that dates back to the 14th century.  Photo courtesy of the CORE TRAVELER’s on-site specialists. 

 For travelers looking for a combination of culture, museums and shopping or a truly unique European vacation, Michele loves Spain. Families particularly enjoy private tours of the walls of Alcàzar in Seville, Europe’s oldest royal residence still in use. Alcàzar preserves a thousand years of history and includes The Gothic Castle, the Mudejar Palace, the House of Trade and the Upper Royal Room. Private tours include long walks through the gardens and access to the secret underground baths that lie beneath the castle. For those who aren’t interested in history, Spain is still perfect. She loves to treat her clients to a private tapas tour of the region.  To finish the experience, Michele always likes to includes seats at an authentic Flamenco show.

The ancient city of Split blends tradition with modernity right on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea. Photo courtesy of the Core Traveler’s on-site specialists.

While Croatia remains a below-the-radar destination for many U.S. travelers, this eastern European gem is attracting more and more in-the-know travelers. Home to the castles and landscapes that provided the setting for HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones, Croatia is a popular spot for families and fans alike.  One of the secret places in Croatia is a centrally located city called “Split.” Here you can experience a different time period.  Split is a pedestrian friendly beach town with rich history and plenty of watersports for active travelers.

The stunning island of Mali Losinj is a hidden gem of the northern Adriatic with Mediterranean flair surrounded by crystal-clear harbors.  Photo courtesy of the Core Traveler’s on-site specialists. 
Sweeping balconies and oceanfront views abound in the pristine Rosewood Baha Mar. Photo courtesy of Rosewood Hotels.

Baha Mar
For those who want a classic beach vacation this summer, there’s BAHA MAR. This brand-new luxury resort destination in the Bahamas took 10 years to complete, but the timing is perfect as other Caribbean destinations still recover from a tough hurricane season. Baha Mar’s pristine beaches and state-of-the-art resorts offer a little something for everyone: golf as far as the eye can see, the largest casino in the Caribbean, world-class dining, family entertainment and plenty of shopping.

When you’re ready to book any of the above trips, CONTACT MICHELE (479.366.8210) for bespoke travel arrangements. She can get you special perks like room upgrades and provide the expertise to make your vacation really feel like one!