Dale and I just returned from New York City where we joined the 3-Day Inaugural Read more →
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If only they could promise certain characters would be, um, available, this interesting cruise would sound even better. Who wouldn’t enjoy a roll in the hay with Thomas Barrow?! Or the chance to flirt with Tom Branson?!
The following is from a provided press release announcing this unusual and interesting river cruise (note that there is nothing gay-specific about this itinerary):
WEXFORD, Pa. — Sail on the Royal River Thames to Downton Abbey aboard the 8-passenger hotel barge, Magna Carta. Frontiers Travel has announced two departures, August 25-31, 2013 and September 8-14, 2013 with new excursions to Highclere Castle, the setting for period drama, “Downton Abbey.” The hugely impressive Victorian castle sits on a 1,000 acre estate, and is the iconic home of the fictional Crawley family on the show. The actual Downton Abbey has been owned by the Carnarvon family since 1679, where Lord and Lady Carnarvon still live today.
For film lovers the cruise itinerary features a private tour of Dorney Court, a beautiful Tudor home on the banks of the Thames, where “Elizabeth,” “The Other Boleyn Girl,” and Agatha Christie’s series “Poirot” were all filmed. Guests also visit Hampton Court Palace, one of the locations for the award winning film “A Man for All Seasons.”
Celebrating her 12th year, the attractive 8-passenger Magna Carta is an ideal vessel for both first-time travelers to England as well as veteran cruisers. Based on the Thames River, she cruises the pastoral English countryside from Hampton Court Palace to classic Henley-on-Thames, famous for the Henley Regatta. Sights are visited with a private guide, featuring several optional special-interest itineraries such as English Gardens, Murder and Mystery, and Countryside Walking.
Modern amenities onboard include heated floors and TV/DVD players, while the deck boasts beautiful teak furniture and a large Jacuzzi. Captain and co-owner Dominic Read is happy to customize the itinerary to the interests and objectives of his guests. This is an exceptional cruise, gliding past the world-renowned landmarks that line this bucolic, “Wind-in-the-Willows” section of the Thames River, with plenty of cycling available along the riverside bike route.
To learn more, click here. Prices from $4,190 per person.
One thing that I have learned since launching MeetMeOnBoard is that our community has many opportunities when it comes to cruising. You might prefer all-gay cruises on the large megaships or one of the many small gay groups that sail every year to wonderful destinations. Another option that many of us don’t think about is the all-gay cruise on a small ship or riverboat. I had my first experience with this on my recent trip with Source Events as we sailed up the Danube on the beautiful Avalon Waterways Vista.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This I believe applies perfectly to the small ship experience. Yes, you are traveling to specific destinations but you are enjoying the spectacular views along the way and feeling very much connected to your surroundings and fellow passengers.
I’d like to share with you how this trip compared to my previous travels on large cruise ships. Where does one begin?
Life in the Fast Lane:
I guess the best place to begin is the boarding process. What boarding process? After calling taxi service from my hotel, I was on board and in my stateroom within 15 minutes. No crowds. No lines. No paperwork. No Security. I simply walked on board, gave my name and was handed my stateroom key.
Welcome On Board:
If you enjoy casinos, 24-hour food service, outdoor water activities and numerous stage shows, this type of cruise would not be for you. The common areas on the boat consisted of two lounges, one dining room, adequate workout room and a reception area. The outer decks were generous in space and there were many areas to enjoy the sun or converse with some new friends.
My room was beautiful, nice sized and well appointed although it lacked drawer space. One entire wall was glass which opened up to the river just feet below. The bathroom was elegant and could easily accommodate two people. A nice touch were the L’Occitane bath products. I’m hooked!
This Isn’t Jersey Shores:
If you enjoy the gentle rocking – or sometimes severe rocking – when you’re sailing on the ocean or sea, don’t expect that on a river. The only bumps I felt over 7 days were when we entered some of the 27 locks necessary on your journey. There was often less than a foot of clearance on either side. The feeling on the river is similar to standing on a moving walkway at an airport and watching the world go by as you gently glide.
The scenery along a river can be breathtaking. Large ships travel from port to port usually during the night while you are deep asleep. On a riverboat you often travel during daylight hours. With every turn the river takes, the landscape can change drastically. Not only do you cruise through stunning valleys and rolling hills but you also sail through quaint villages, small towns and major capitol cities. The shores are full of activity from kids camping at night and sitting around their bonfires to families enjoying the day on the numerous bicycle paths. You feel like you are a part of nature and the everyday activities that take place along the river. You are within spitting distance to century old cathedrals, palaces and other spectacular monuments. You won’t ever see a tacky Trump Taj Mahal on these shores.
Straight Through The Heart:
Large cruise ship ports in European cities are not always convenient to the city center. Many times you will find yourself taking a bus, shuttle service or taxi to visit the city center or nearby sites. Not true with riverboats. Within a few minutes of docking in Vienna, we were able to walk off the boat where a metro stop was within blocks to swiftly take us to the main square. Since rivers usually cut through the heart of a city, you will be walking distance or a short metro ride to most things that you want to see or experience.
Getting To Know You:
The average size of a riverboat is 150 passengers. This provides an intimacy that is difficult to duplicate on a large cruise ship. Source Events is about smaller groups so after a week on the river, you’ve gotten to meet almost all your ship mates and a sense of community can easily form. Not only have you had the opportunity to get acquainted with the other passengers, you also get to know by first name the captain, the hotel manager, all of the waiters and cabin crew. A highlight for me was going outside on the upper deck where I stood next to the small bridge and talked to the captain as he steered the boat. During the course of this 7-day journey, everybody on board becomes one big family.
Adding It All Up:
When was the last time you walked off a ship and your bar/excursion bill came close the cost of the actual cruise or even quite possibly exceeded it? Imagine my surprise at the end of the week when my final tab amounted to less than my monthly cell phone charges. Riverboats tend to cost more than the large ships but on this trip tips were included, as were most shore excursions, all the wine or beer I could drink at dinner and unlimited Wi-Fi. It was very refreshing to have all the perks without the extra charges.
The riverboat experience was amazing and I believe it was made even more so due to the fact it was all-gay. If you have been reluctant to go on an all-gay cruise thinking that it just might be too many parties and late nights, I would highly recommend trying it on a small ship with a small group. As you sail, sightsee, and explore, there’s a sense of community that’s more difficult to achieve on the large ships. You won’t have all the activities or options that those ships offer but you will feel more connected to your surroundings and fellow passengers.
Remember to enjoy the journey when traveling to your next destination.
Peter, Mark, and Roger Bengtson are discussing. Toggle Comments
Guest writer: MeetMeOnBoard member Alan
Many of the boys on the Source Events Danube Riverboat cruise decided to get into their leder-hosen and take a sponsored day excursion from Linz to Salzburg. The tour began on a humorous uproar when our cute, Austrian tour guide addressed us as “ladies and gentlemen”. He immediately realized his faux pas and retracted saying, “Sorry, just habit”. Pointing out dates, facts and figures of Salzburg, many of us “Maria wanna-be’s” were more interested in some of the locations where “The Sound of Music” was filmed. Yes, Salzburg is as stunning as in the movie. The squares were a party and everyone was invited. Harold, our guide, pointed waaaay to the top of the mountain where Maria first did her twirl singing “the hills are alive” then saying that when she heard the abbey church bells ringing, it only took her 20 seconds to reach the abby. But in reality it was about a two hour drive. How DID she do it?
Herald then brought us to St Michael’s Basilica where Captain Von Trapp and Maria were filmed getting married. I was star struck just to be in the same church but at the same time disappointed that I was stood up at the altar by Harold our guide. The church is located in a small town called Mondsee which is on a lake of the same name. Lake Mondsee is now for sale at the price of 16 million euro and is one of the only lakes that is privately owned in Austria. I just hope my bid will be accepted.
The annual Salzburg music festival established in 1920 which starts toward the end of July and lasts for five weeks was in full swing. Harold pointed out many of the past and present performers of the festival including Placido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, performances of Mozart and of course the Trapp Family Singers. No Lady Gaga here! It gave me a sense of the past to stand outside of the birthplace home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart born in 1756 who actually died in poverty at the early age of 35. His statue can be seen in the Mozartplatz a short walk from his house. Harold had to speak with caution when he talked about Mozartkugel, a very famous chocolate created in Salzburg in 1890 named after Mozart himself. He explained that the literal translation is “Mozart Balls” which of course the bus load of “boys” took literally and started fantasizing about the Austrian delicacy.
Asking Harold of the gay scene in Salzburg, I was not surprised to find out that there is none, as Salzburg is very conservative and most gays eventually leave for Munich or Vienna. Other than the actor playing Captain Von Trapp in this season’s version of “The Sound of Music”, gays are very scarce. Later as I was soaking up the local color of Salzburg, I ran in to Craig and Rafael of Source Events at a local market while stopping for a soft pretzel filled with wildschwein rohschinken and gouda cheese. Shortly after, we climbed back on the bus for a two hour ride through the fabulous Austrian countryside, over the border to Germany meeting our boat in Passau. I have to admit I did enjoy when Harold put on the soundtrack to “The Sound of Music” to which the bus load of “Maria’s” sang “My Favorite Things”. So now that I’m home, ♫ I simply remember my favorite cruise, and then I don’t feeeeel sooooooo bad…………..♫
Bill is discussing. Toggle Comments
This year’s summer has brought the cruise industry to some all-time low pricing due to the possibility of yet another recession and the doom-and-gloom realities of the Greek economy and euro. No question, business is down and it is a buyers’ market except for the airline industry. Air rates remain high to Europe and even for domestic travel.
While pricing is down with Alaska Cruises on Holland America starting at $449pp, Disney Cruise lines is offering upgrades from ocean view to balcony (Disney never offers sales like this), and many cruise lines traveling to Europe including airfare (bundling this component into their pricing) to add value and get the customer to buy, there is one deal I found that stands out and was quite amazing!
Norwegian Cruise Line’s remarkable Norwegian Jade has three November and December 10-Day Mediterranean Cruises sailing from from Rome to Greece, Egypt, and Turkey from a remarkably low $499 per person. That’s $50 a day for a European Cruise including meals and entertainment. For you cruise buffs, you also know this is likely one of the finest ships sailing in Europe. One cannot go to Rome and have a pizza and bottle of house wine in a trattoria for $50. On top of this, there is a special added value by CruiseCenter offering a $50 onboard spending credit …now…’That’s Amore!’
IS IT SAFE TO GO TO EUROPE?
Yes. The media is killing not only the worldwide economy with doom-and-gloom but making certain places in Europe sound like they are imploding on themselves. The protests have stopped in Greece and it is “business as usual” . I have just returned from Athens and the Greek Islands this year-all without any incident whatsoever. I have personally traveled to Spain, Greece, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland and Europe is welcoming travelers with open arms. I was surprised while in Barcelona with news of 25% unemployment that this city seemed to be a total “boom” town. I can tell you assuredly – life is quite good for travelers in Europe. If you can, go now. The deals for cruise vacations are remarkable!
In Europe, where waterways were the roadways of the pre-automobile past, major cities from Amsterdam to Vienna reside on rivers. Centuries after those rivers were supplanted by railways and highways as main thoroughfares, there is renewed interest in traveling on them: at least 11 new river cruise ships are launching this year, and a similar number is expected next year. Over the last five years, many lines have doubled their capacity.
Everything we’ve heard about Barcelona we found to be true – beautiful, clean, out-going and friendly people and unfortunately pick pocketers. More on that later.
We are not the bus tour type but on our first day we decided to take the double-decker bus tour so we could get a feel for the neighborhoods and the attractions we wanted to go back to see. There is a blue & red line which you can hop-on and hop-off at any time. I found it not to be quite the value I was expecting. With the entire loop being 2-hours, it feels like it takes too much time to get back to the starting point. Know what you want to see prior to visiting Barcelona and take the Metro. The metro is extremely easy to use and will get you within steps to everything you want to see.
We stayed two blocks from the gayborhood. Through Airbnb we found Caesar who rents out his studio apartment. Caesar is very welcoming and will help you with anything you need. The apartment is on the 4th floor with no elevator so if you have trouble with stairs it might not be ideal for you but if you don’t mind a little exercise we highly recommend staying there. You will also save dollars by using Airbnb for your accomodations.
Now back to the pick pocketers. We were on the street searching for a recommended gay restaurant and a nice looking guy asked us if we needed help finding anything. He suggested a few places and joked with us a bit about the “attractions” at the gay pole dancing club. A few minutes later Dale noticed his iPhone was missing! This guy was slicker than any Las Vegas lounge magician. We’re fairly seasoned travelers and are always on our guard, so be sure you pay attention to all the anti-theft advice. Wear a money belt (we did) and next time I’m leaving my smart phone at home. The good news is with the phone insurance plan, a new one will be waiting for us when we return home.
If you plan on spending a few days in Barcelona, a nice day trip is to the gay beach resort town of Sitges. It’s a very easy 30-minute train ride and some of the ride hugs the azure Mediterranean. From the train station, it’s a 10-minute downhill walk to the beachfront. There you will find the popular gay beach and many gay restaurants, clubs, saunas and stores. If you want a drink at a gay bar anytime in the afternoon, your only choice is Parrots. You won’t miss it with the rainbow colored table umbrellas that look like Hawaiian grass skirts. When we asked if there were other places to eat or get a drink the waiter chuckled and said most won’t open until 10:00 p.m. If you can’t stay up that late, Sitges might not be the place for you. Sometimes we fit into that category but with the jet lag, we had no problem adjusting to their hours.
Now it’s on to the NCL Jade for our 7-day cruise. More to follow…
Cruise companies were expecting a record breaking year on the Mediterranean this summer but due to the increase in airfares, it’s not what they expected. Read this New York Times article about the great deals on the Med. Now might just be the time for that last minute trip to Europe!
Today, a question: What current cruise trend(s) interest you the most?
I ask because I find myself waffling on some upcoming cruise options. We’ll be in Europe this fall, and want to do a Mediterranean sailing. Cruises in Europe are, in fact, a burgeoning trend.
But beyond that, we’re looking at different types of cruises we could take within our date range. I’ve found luxury options, all-gay options, gay groups, big mainstream ships, small mainstream ships, lines that cater mostly to Europeans, Broadway’s Playbill group (expensive!), other special interest groups…and more.
I know what I’m leaning toward, but I’m curious what you’re leaning toward in your cruise planning. What trends catch your eye?
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