Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

Crown Cruise Vacations | January 21, 2020

Scroll to top

Top

River Cruises Archives - Crown Cruise Vacations

Viking To Offer Access to Highclere Castle, Filming Location of ‘Downton Abbey’

November 21, 2019 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

Viking To Offer Access to Highclere Castle, Filming Location of ‘Downton Abbey’

“Downton Abbey” fans are going to have a chance to visit filming locations for the popular TV series and movie, courtesy of Viking cruises.

Starting in 2021, Viking cruises will be offering a new pre/post cruise extension named “Great Homes, Gardens & Gin.” The extension was designed to give cruisers an exclusive look at several country estates that have served as settings for the acclaimed PBS and Masterpiece Theatre productions. Read more...

Complimentary extras add to Viking Kara cruise

May 2, 2016 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

It seems to be an unpleasant trend. Airlines are cutting services and adding new charges. Resorts are sneaking in hidden charges. Even my cable TV service at home has found new ways to boost the price. So it is surprisingly wonderful to see all the complimentary extras on my Viking Kara cruise.

I had only been on the ship one day and already I noticed little pluses that mean so much to travelers. I’m going to list some of them below – in no particular order – just to show what no-charge bonuses are offered on the Kara.

Here goes:

  • Free ship-wide WiFi that works surprisingly well in cabins in some locations on the Rhine River. The ship also has a small business office with two computers that passengers can use free of charge. It irks me that so many hotels, airports, and cruise ships charge outrageous sums for WiFi. Good for you, Viking River Cruises.
  • Read more...

    My Favorite French Window

    April 18, 2016 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

    No two cruises and ships are ever the same. I seem to find something new each time I cruise.

    I’ve been on ships with balconies many times. That is one of my favorite things to do on a cruise – sit on my balcony and watch the ocean or the river roll.

    But my cruise on the beautiful new Amadeus Silver II had a delight I had never seen before. My cabin didn’t have a balcony. Instead, it had a French window.

    The floor-to-ceiling window in my stateroom covers almost the entire wall. I don’t have a walk-out veranda but I have an inside veranda. What I do to bring the outside in is to push a button and the upper half of the window comes down. It does feel as though I am sitting outside.

    The window wall is framed with wood, almost like the window is a work of art, which it is. The scenery outside that window is gorgeous and changing. The window does have heavy drapes which cruise director Lorelay Bosca us in our first-night briefing are very important.

    This is a Rhine River cruise, not an ocean cruise. We may go to sleep with nothing around us but the river and the shore in the distance. Then we may wake up docked near a small town or a park or even another ship.

    And, as Lorelay warned, we could be in for a rude awakening if we left our curtains open and come out of the shower or the bed au naturel and give a surprise show to unsuspecting people outside our big window. Good to know.

    Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

    Dining delights abound on Viking Kara cruise

    February 10, 2016 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

    Would I prefer roasted pork medallions wrapped in parma ham, herb crusted ahi filet with warm chanterelle arugula vinaigrette or portobello mushroom lasagna?

    But, wait, that is just the first page. Another “always available” page offers even more choices – sautéed salmon filet, roast chicken breast or seared prime ribeye steak.

    And that is only the entrees. For starters, I can choose baba ghanoush & hummus, blackened beef carpaccio, baby spinach and blue cheese or parsley root veloute. Or on the “always available” starters side of the menu, I can order a cheese plate with mango thyme chutney.

    Dessert options include mascarpone & sour cherry cake, hot chocolate cake, traditional Paris-Brest, almond cake, warm apple hazelnut crumble, fruit plate, sorbet or several different kinds of ice cream and sauces.

    I had been told that food on Viking River Cruises is excellent and it certainly is. On a small ship, I figured the chef and cooking staff might not have much room to stretch their imaginations and cooking skills. But each meal has been wonderful with creative dishes and plenty of choices from executive chef Dimitar Yordanov and staff.

    The Viking Kara has two places to dine, either the main restaurant on Deck Two where a regular meal is served or the Aquavit Lounge on Deck Three where lighter fare is available. Breakfast is usually from 7 to 9:30 a.m., lunch is around 1 p.m. and dinner is about 7 p.m. Times are sometimes adjusted according to shore excursions.

    Two coffee, hot chocolate and tea stations in the upper atrium are also open 24/7 and have self-service machines that can produce lattes and cappuccinos, with mini-pastries offered in the morning and cookies in the afternoon.

    Both the Aquavit and the restaurant offer great views during meal time so you don’t have to worry about sacrificing river scenes when you dine. The restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows with a large circular buffet area in the center of the room. Seating is open so passengers can eat different meals at different tables if they want.

    I am a breakfast eater so I go to the restaurant each morning to get fueled for our busy day. The breakfast buffet is heaped with a wide choice of food – cheese, meat, yogurt, grilled tomatoes, hash brown potatoes, yogurt, bunches of bread and pastries, oatmeal with toppings and much more. There’s also an omelet station where eggs can be cooked to order. Or you can choose from the printed menu and be served at the table. I have had the Eggs Benedict on the menu twice so far which means they are very good.

    Lunch includes a soup and salad bar with plenty of meats and cheeses or you can order from the menu – usually a featured entrée, pastas or sandwiches. Dinner, of course is the fanciest meal of the day. My favorite so far as been the special A Taste of Germany dinner with more German dishes than I could spell or sample. The buffet was packed with specialties, plus ordering from the menu was also offered. Each table had a wooden rack of pretzels and sausages, along with a plate of cheese, meat and spreads as appetizers.

    An accordionist and a hurdy gurdy player added to the German ambiance and a server delivered German beers and schnapps. Soft drinks, wine and beer are always complimentary at lunch and dinner. Just a welcome extra touch from Viking River Cruises.

    Story and

    Viking Kara dining

    Viking Kara dining

    Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

     

    Dining in AmaCerto’s no-charge specialty restaurant is a taste treat

    January 13, 2016 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

    Today I learned a new word. And had a marvelous dining adventure. I also discovered why AmaWaterways is the only river cruise line inducted into La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest international gastronomic society.

    The reason? They deserve it. Read more...

    Shore Excursion: Black Forest, plus recipe for Black Forest Cake

    July 2, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

    A young boy on my Black Forest tour said he was a bit afraid of what might lurk in the dark woods. His sister expected to see fairy tale princesses. His father hoped to buy a handmade cuckoo clock. And his mother was seeking a recipe for the famed Black Forest Cake. Read more...

    AmaCerto cruise newsletter has valuable uses

    June 15, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

    On any cruise, I always look forward to reading the ship’s newsletter that magically appears on my stateroom bed every night.  The newsletters are filled with interesting information about where we are going, what we will be doing, the weather forecast and much more. Read more...

    AmaCerto river cruiser has top deck pool with swim-up bar

    May 25, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

    The AmaCerto cruise ship certainly has a great deal to offer – beautiful staterooms, delicious cuisine, professional staff, wonderful shore excursions and a pool.

    That’s right. A pool. I’ve never been on a river vessel with a pool this big. Some river cruisers have tiny plunge pools and plenty of hot tubs. But the AmaCerto has a teardrop-shaped heated pool with some depth to it. At the deep end is a swim-up bar with barstools  and a bartender serving wine, beer and cocktails – in warm weather. Read more...

    Shore Excursion: Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington

    May 18, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

    Sam Hill wouldn’t have had to ask me twice to live here. Perched high on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, the French-style mansion was designed to have eight suites and enough room for 250 dinner guests.

    The opulent home was built by Hill for his wife. But she never lived here. Her loss. Our gain.

    Today, the impressive structure is now the Maryhill Museum of Art. The “Mary” part of the name was in honor of Hill’s daughter, Mary.

    “This was in the middle of nowhere when Sam Hill built this house for his wife,” says Ryan Downs, heritage leader for Un-Cruise Adventures. “She never lived here.”

    In fact, this area was so undeveloped and off the beaten path that the name of “Sam Hill” supposedly became a catchphrase for someplace way out in the uncivilized boonies, Downs says. “Allegedly, Sam Hill’s wife coined that phrase because he dragged her out here to what she thought was nowhere.”

    Who would think to find the world’s largest collection of sculptor Auguste Rodin’s work so far out in the country? And that is only the start of what this museum holds.

    SAM HILL DISCOVERS THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

    Born May 13, 1857, in North Carolina, Sam Hill was a Quaker and a dedicated pacifist. He fell in love with the Pacific Northwest when he took a train ride through the Columbia River Gorge and saw nature’s treasures. Deciding he wanted to live here and create a Quaker farming community, Hill began building his dream home in 1914 and thought his wife and two children might be as delighted as he was to live in Goldendale, Washington.

    When it became obvious that his wife wasn’t, Hill abandoned his mansion project in 1917. Rather than let the beautiful facility go to waste, Hill’s friend Loie Fuller encouraged Hill to turn it into an art museum. A pioneer of modern dance living in Paris, Fuller also was friends with well-known artists in France, which helped build the core of the museum’s collection.

    In addition, Hill transferred his own art collections to the museum. That accounts for many of the artworks and culture on display of the indigenous peoples of North American. Intricate baskets, beadwork, and ancient petroglyphs are among the array of artifacts from Pacific Northwest and North American tribes.

    Although it wasn’t totally completed, the museum was dedicated in 1926 by Hill’s friend, Queen Marie of Romania. The granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, Queen Marie was in exile at the time.

    Hill didn’t live to see his museum be finished. He died Feb. 26, 1931. The museum was still filled with unpacked crates of art. And so it sat. Until 1937 when Hill’s friend, sugar heiress Alma de Brettevills Spreckels, decided to finish it in Hill’s honor. The museum was opened to the public on Hill’s birthday – May 13, 1940.

    A $9.6 million expansion was added in May 2012 for a combined interior space of 35,000 square feet.  Located 100 miles east of Portland, the castle-like chateau was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

    DIVERSE COLLECTION

    One of the things I like most about the museum is its setting and the ability to see fantastic works of art up-close almost as in a private home. Of course, that is what the museum was meant to be.

    Some of the collections I particularly enjoyed are:

    ~ 87 works by Auguste Rodin, considered the father of modern sculpture. The world-class collection of Rodin works includes bronzes, terracotta, plaster studies and watercolor sketches. It is amazing to see such well-known works as The Thinker, The Hand of God, The Age of Bronze and the life-size plaster of Eve from his masterwork, The Gates of Hell.

    ~ Queen Marie of Romania’s throne, crown jewels, gilt furniture, silverware, wedding dress and icon collection.

    ~ An unusual collection of about 100 chess sets. With great diversity, the sets represent the many counties, cultures and periods in which chess has been played.

    ~ One-third life-size mannequins wearing fashions of post-World War II France. The 1946 exhibit shows mannequins wearing fashions created by the country’s finest designers. To make it even better, nine different sets create elaborate backdrops for the mannequins as they showcase both casual and formal wear of the day.

    ~ A metal chest used by Hill to carry a beam fragment from the original pilgrim ship, Mayflower, from England to the United States. The relic was then placed in a vault within the Peace Arch at Blaine, Washington, in 1921. Two small planks removed from the fragment now rest inside this trunk.

    ~ The outdoor sculpture garden which was started in 1997. Scattered around museum ground are some interesting sculptures and neat places to rest and contemplate.

    I spent the last half hour of my visit sitting on a bench in the garden watching the great Columbia River. I can certainly see why Sam Hill fell in love with the area. Strange that his wife didn’t. But then I never had to walk in her shoes. I am quite happy in my own.

    Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

    Shore Excursion: Paducah, Kentucky, floodwall highlights local history

    May 12, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

    Walking ashore at Paducah, Kentucky, I saw a bittersweet image.

    There on the floodwall is a beautiful painting of the three sister riverboats – the Delta Queen, the Mississippi Queen and the American Queen.

    The mural depicts an actual event.  On a historic July day in 1996, all three of the mighty steamboats docked at Paducah at the same time. The painting commemorates that gathering as local townsfolks welcome the queens and passengers. Read more...