Month: December 2018

EuropeRiver CruisingTravel Tips

A Complete Guide to Gate 1’s River Cruise Experiences

Imagine unpacking your bag just once and settling in to your river ship cabin with an ever-changing view. You indulge in a generous array of amenities as Europe’s most charming villages, lush vineyards, bucolic landscapes, and vibrant cities are delivered to your door. Along the way, you indulge in three mouthwatering meals a day, savuor local wine, and have a seasoned cruise director by your side to fill you in on the fascinating history and rich culture of thrilling ports. What’s more, city centres and fairy tale village squares are a delightful stroll from every dock.

It’s the most relaxing way to see Europe. And with Gate 1 Travel, you can choose from dozens of itineraries, from Germany to Russia, aboard our privately owned ship or on private charters, during springtime or over the holidays. You can even explore some of Europe’s most scintillating cultural capitals before or after your cruise. Read on to learn more!

Embark the Deluxe MS Monarch Empress –

Built by Gate 1, Controlled by Gate 1

The beautiful MS Monarch Empress is the very first European river ship built to Gate 1’s specifications for our travellers. Come aboard our deluxe vessel and you’ll enjoy some of the most spacious and comfortable accommodations on Europe’s rivers. Cabins range in size from 144 to 210 square feet and include large bathrooms. A full 80% of rooms offer French balconies, providing private views as the stunning riverbanks unfold. What’s more, rooms can be configured with one or two beds; when configured with one, you’ll sleep in comfort in a bed that is larger than a U.S. full-sized.

With room for just 144 passengers, the ship is designed with the view in mind, with large windows in the cabins, dining room, lounge, and other public space – and with few exterior visual obstructions on the outside decks. Throughout, you’ll find soothing blue and white interiors with cherry wood accents, top of the line furnishings and stylish décor. At mealtimes, you’ll have full outdoor views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Lounge on the sun deck and watch the passing scenery. Share a drink with fellow travellers in the lounge. Curl up with a book or surf the internet in our generously sized library. The MS Monarch Empress promises all the comforts and pleasures of a deluxe floating hotel.

What’s more, because we own the ship, we fully control the quality of your experience. The MS Monarch Empress is staffed by Gate 1, with Tour Managers, waitstaff, chefs, housekeepers and more all committed to ensuring you have the most memorable experience on Europe’s waterways.

More Gate 1 River Ships Mean More Discovery

You may also join one of our private charters aboard a First-Class river ship. These intimate ships feature spacious outside cabins, each fully air-conditioned with private bath facilities, shower, telephone and flat screen satellite TV. They are the ideal way to sail amidst the rainbow of colors along Holland’s waterways in springtime, cruise the romantic waters of the Danube, or explore the lilting waters of Germany’s Rhine River.

Now, here’s your guide to Gate 1’s river cruises:

A CLASSIC NEVER GETS OLD

Sail Through Five Countries on One Sweeping River Cruise

To take in the full sweep of Europe’s rivers, you can’t go wrong with our Classic European River Cruise. With the 1992 opening of the Main-Danube Canal, river ships could traverse the entire continent from Holland to Hungary. This favourite itinerary takes full advantage of the engineering triumph, spanning the entire continent in 16 days. We break down the journey section by section for you here.

THE RHINE: From Dutch Treats to Rich German Culture

Begin in Amsterdam, the charming canal-laced city of gabled houses and graceful bridges built on the wealth of the Dutch Golden Age. This cultural centre is rich in treasures, from the art collections of the Rijksmuseum to the bustling stalls of the Albert Cuyp market. As “old world” as Amsterdam feels, it’s Nijmegen that is Holland’s oldest city. And it enjoys a lovely setting on the Waal River. As you wander its charming streets, you are tracing 2,000 years of history.

Soon after entering Germany, the unmistakable twin spires of the Cologne Cathedral come into view. This stunning piece of architecture has watched over the city for centuries and it’s a thrill to tour the atmospheric Old Town, lined with timber-framed houses and distinctive brauhausen (pubs) in its towering shadow. Koblenz, nestled where the Rhine meets the Moselle River, enjoys a picturesque setting, dotted with stunning Romanesque architecture and imposing defensive towers that recall the town’s founding as a Roman stronghold that protected the rivers’ convergence.

THE MAIN: Into the Charms of Franconia

The beautiful medieval town of Miltenberg, with its 14th-century hilltop castle of the same name, is one of the Main River’s true treasures. Its narrow, crooked streets lead to half-timbered houses and are a pleasure to explore. Wertheim, too, boasts a hillside fortification, this one of stunning red sandstone. Taken together, these tiny riverside villages remind travelers of the depth of history that has unfolded on these riverbanks. Castles such as these once collected tolls from cargo ships and defended the sovereignty of kingdoms.

In Wurzburg, the “Pearl of the Romantic Road,” Germany’s scenic route that reveals the heart of Franconia, another castle looms large: the Marienberg fortress. But the scene stealer here may be the ornate Bishops’ Residenz Palace, a baroque masterpiece that boasts the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. More beauty greets you in Bamberg, set on the old Regnitz Island. This city suffered very little during World War II and so its buildings are remarkably preserved; more than 2,000 of them are listed as historical monuments.

THE DANUBE: Austro-Hungarian Treasures

History remembers Nuremberg most as the site of Hitler’s rallies and as the host of the post-war Nuremberg trials. But this historic and lovely city has a colorful side, too. Accented by half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and a history of crafting delightful toys, it rests on the Main-Danube Canal.

Downriver, Regensburg graces the river’s banks. This is a true European gem, one of the continent’s best-preserved medieval cities thanks to its escape from World War II bombing. As the Danube approaches the Inn and Ilz rivers, Passau emerges where the three rivers meet. Surrounded by tranquil waterways, it enjoys a singular and pretty setting. Passau also enjoys fame as the home of Europe’s largest pipe organ; its 17,774 pipes grace Passau with their musical grandeur from the baroque St. Stephan’s cathedral.

Austria’s Benedictine Melk Abbey perches like a confection on a bluff overlooking the Danube. Its imperial rooms house a library of 85,000 historic volumes. The views of the Wachau Valley from the abbey’s terrace are stunning. This architectural masterwork is the perfect prelude to the wonders of Vienna, elegance unparalleled. Its circular roadway, the Ringstrasse, is lined with some of the most graceful buildings you’re every likely to see, like the famed Opera House. And the city’s sprawling palace of Schonbrunn is a glittering monument to the Habsburg Dynasty that ruled the region for centuries.

But little compares to cruising into the heart of Budapest, the Danube’s grand dame. The fortress of Fisherman’s Bastion rises on one bank and the mighty Parliament watches over from the other while the iconic Chain Bridge arcs over the water like a crown.

If you prefer a shorter trip, you can browse our wide selection and enjoy just a segment or two of the above journey. Or explore one of the above rivers in more depth, adding time in a nearby city before or after your cruise.

ALL OF EUROPE IS AT YOUR FEET!

Gate 1 Travel’s river cruises not only put you at the front door of Europe’s great cities and charming villages. They are also a great launchpad for further exploration. Here’s how you can enhance your river cruise experience by exploring one of the above rivers in greater depth, adding city stays, or discovering another river entirely!

Tulip Time River Cruises: Witness the Low Countries in Bloom. Explore the waterways of Holland and Belgium in the springtime. There’s no better way to witness the vibrant colors of tulips, daffodils and countless other blooms than by river ship. Along the way, you’ll explore medieval cities, see the famed windmills of Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and breathe in the clean open air as you cruise through the vast Rhine delta system. If you wish, you may select our Tulip Time itineraries that include city stays in Amsterdam, Paris, or both.

Rhine River Cruises. Germany’s wine country comes to life as you drift along “Father Rhine,” lined with vineyard-laden sloping hills, welcoming wine-making villages and storybook hamlets. You’ll follow the Rhine where it forms the border of Germany and France, exploring French Strasbourg and its charming Old Town. Take in the canal-laced lanes of Amsterdam. Or add time in Lake Como, Lucerne, Bruges, or Paris.

Danube River Cruises. Experience the best of Bavaria, Austria and Hungary during a cruise into some of Europe’s most scenic corners. Visit all the Danube ports discussed above, plus have the chance to visit Salzburg, Austria’s alpine-ringed city where The Sound of Music was filmed, or Bucharest, the Romanian capital with an atmospheric Old Town. While you’re in this corner of Europe, you can elect to also spend time in France, Germany, or Poland … uncover the historic treasures of Budapest and Prague, and more.

Russian River Cruises. Gain invaluable insight into what really makes Russia tick: its welcoming people, rich traditions, and vast repositories of arts and culture. Cruise between historic Moscow and glittering St. Petersburg, passing tranquil countryside dotted with onion-domed churches, vibrant small cities, and tiny villages. Along the way, enjoy ample opportunity to experience Russian culture up close. If you wish, select the itinerary that gives you time to discover more of St. Petersburg and Moscow.

ENJOY A HOLIDAY GETAWAY IN 2019

There is no place like Europe for the holiday season, and no better way to experience long held traditions of yuletide than on a Gate 1 River Cruise to the continent’s festive Christmas Markets. Old Town squares come alive with local traditions that conjure Christmases past. Each year, cities in Germany and Austria offer a feast for the senses. Aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread, baked apples and roasting chestnuts waft through the air. Gaily decorated stalls brim with handmade ornaments, toys, and endless ideas for holiday gift-giving. Artisans are often on hand to demonstrate their crafts, carolers roam about the snowy squares, and stalls are decorated with the finest finery. It’s hard to find a more perfect place to ring in the holiday season than in Central Europe.

DISCOVER THE EASE OF EXPLORING EUROPE BY RIVER CRUISE –

AT AN UNMATCHED GATE 1 VALUE!

All the exciting corners of Europe are waiting to be explored by river ship with Gate 1 Travel! No matter which itinerary you select, you’ll enjoy an intimate experience that only a small ship allows … included city tours at all ports … the full services of a Cruise Director and/or Tour Manager … and an incredible all-inclusive value. All while unpacking your bags just once and letting Europe come to you!

EuropeNewsRiver Cruising

Five of the best Christmas Markets in the World

The closest most Aussies have come to a white Christmas is buying ice for the Esky. That’s why the thought of a twinkly, snow-covered Christmas is like something from a fairytale. The good news is that many of the world’s best Christmas markets are included in November and December touring itineraries making them super easy to access.

Here are five the of the best Christmas markets in the world:

1. Nuremberg, Germany
Aldi shoppers will have probably noticed that Germans are big into Christmas. No other nation has quite so many kinds of Christmas biscuit.

Nuremberg – the second largest city in Bavaria – is home to two Christmas markets that run alongside each other in the medieval old town (Aldstadt). They are the Christmas market of the baby Jesus and the Christmas market of the child that features lots of rides and photo opportunities with Santa. This market is also the home of pyrography (the art of decorating wood with markings from a hot poker) and bricolage (a form of mixed media craft).

2. Salzburg, Austria
If you read lots of Northern European fiction as a child, you have probably wondered what a hot roasted chestnut smells likes. Now you can find out at one of the many Christmas markets held around Salzburg. Shop for toys, Christmas decorations and knitwear, enjoy the smell of baked apples, hot punch and roasted almonds and chestnuts, and listen the bells of the Cathedral or carollers on the church steps.

3. Prague, Czech Republic – Old Town
The Czech Republic does a lot of things well – namely Pilsner beers – but the locals also excel at Christmas fare. And let’s face it – wandering around in the snow is a lot more fun with a mulled wine, honey wine, hot chocolate or ‘grog’ – a mixture of rum, water, lemon and sugar – in your mittens. Popular food on offer includes large hams roasted on spits (Pražská Šunka), sausages (klobása), Hungarian flatbread topped with garlic, cheese and ketchup (langoš), pancakes (pala
inky), and a variety of sweets and cakes, such as spicy gingerbread and ‘Trdelník’, a hot sugar coated pastry.

4. Strasbourg, France
The Christmas markets in Strasbourg – arguably the Christmas capital of France – date back to the 16th Century. The centrepiece of this famous market is a whopping great tree that is a tourist attraction in itself. Why? Because it’s one of the few real Christmas trees of its size. A forestry representative starts searching for this special tree in March every year. Come December, the 30 metre tree is craned into position and wrapped in seven kilometres of Christmas lights.

5. Helsinki, Finland
Everyone who thinks Santa lives at the North Pole are wrong – he lives in Finland. The Finnish capital of Helsinki puts on a great show for its annual Christmas markets and also hosts a number of wacky celebrations such as Tiernapojat, a uniquely Finnish ritual where boys dress up as soldiers and kings and run around the streets singing. The good news? If you get really cold outside, you can always head back to your sauna to defrost.

If you’d love to experience a white Christmas in Europe Gate 1 Travel can take you there. Click here to find out more about our Christmas Markets escorted tours or learn more about our Christmas Markets River Cruise here.

Click here to find out how you can save up to $700 per person on our 2019 Christmas Tours & Cruises!

Europe

The Cradle of Civilisation: As Magnificent as Ever

It is no secret that Greece has long danced to its own rhythm. One would expect nothing less from the place where western civilisation itself was born. From poetry to philosophy, from democracy to drama, all the major disciplines that formed the building blocks of how we live today were created here during an ancient renaissance of arts, science and critical thinking.

Greece remains one of the most beautiful and sought-after places on earth. How could it not? Its intense mountain and coastal beauty, dotted with colonnaded temples and awash in Aegean sun, are the stuff of every traveller’s dreams. Its lively culture, punctuated with dance and fabulous Mediterranean cuisine, engages the most stoic visitor. And its ancient monuments, proudly perched amidst cities, mountains and island vistas, have endured millennia of change. Dare we say, they will continue to do so.

Civilisation’s Cradle

Just as Athens is the Cradle of Civilisation, it is also the central focus of many trips to Greece. Its Acropolis stands gloriously atop its hill like a beacon in the Greek sun, as if shining down upon the modern-day city that it shaped. So many elements of civilisation were born here—democracy, philosophy, arts—that it’s impossible to not be moved when you are surrounded by its temples and admiring its masterfully preserved Parthenon. Much of the site and its relics (as well as artefacts from Greek antiquity worldwide) are beautifully illuminated by a visit to the National Archaeological Museum. Indeed, it is considered one of the great museums of the world.

The legacy of the ancients lives far and wide, of course. But it’s especially poignant to witness modern-day houses of democracy in the city of its birth, from the President’s residence to Constitution Square. And when it’s time for a relaxing stroll, the intimate streets of the shop-lined Plaka district at the base of Acropolis Hill invite you to explore.

The Pleasures of the Peloponnese

A 19th-century engineering marvel separates the mainland from the Peloponnese Peninsula. The Corinth Canal, which opened in 1893, was literally carved out of solid rock. It had long been a dream of the ancients to connect the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf; construction efforts date as far back as the 1st century AD. Today, the sculpted gorge is sheer-faced and dramatic.

The rustic Peloponnese Peninsula—to the west of metropolitan Athens—boasts a rich past of its own. Perhaps most famously, the first Olympic Games were held here, in Olympia. They were first staged in honour of the god Zeus, whose temple is still impressive despite that it lies in ruins. Nearby, the hillside city of Nauplion, with its stunning setting on the azure waters of the Argolic Gulf, was the capital of the First Hellenic Republic and a coveted city of many royal houses. Its cobbled streets and stone buildings with multi-hued shutters date back centuries. Two castles add to its scenic splendour: The Venetian Bourtzi sits in the middle of the harbor and the hilltop Palamidi offers dramatic views of the town. In the second millennium BC, however, it was Mycenae that held sway over southern Greece. This major centre of ancient civilisation was defended by a solid stone fortress whose ruins whisper of sieges past.

Stunning Places of Worship and Wonder

North of the Peloponnese, Delphi attracted countless devout worshippers in ancient times. Legend recalls that a high priestess delivered prophecies here in a highly agitated state. It was believed that the gods were speaking through her, but today scientists suspect it was the vapours rising from a chasm below the temple that put her in an altered state. Today, Delphi still inspires awe, albeit more from its natural setting than from its incantations. This vast complex includes the Temple of Apollo, the Delphi and Tholos temples and a huge amphitheatre—all of it surrounded by soaring mountain slopes.

More sources of inspiration are perched high on sandstone pillars in the town of Kalambaka in Greece’s central plains. Here, the six Eastern Orthodox monasteries of Meteora (translated as “in the heavens above”) are perched atop naturally formed rock towers averaging 1,000 feet above sea level. When they were originally built starting in the 14th century, they could only be reached by a harrowing climb up a rope ladder. These incredible structures must be seen to be believed.

The Aegean of Your Dreams

The Greek Islands find their way into every traveller’s dreams. Blue church domes and rustic windmills rise from a cluster of whitewashed villages that cling to hillsides. Sleepy cobbled streets lead to inviting squares and cafés where you can while away an afternoon over stuffed grape leaves and ouzo. Time slows down in the Aegean, and Gate 1’s island itineraries help you do the same in a magnificent setting, from the glittering Cyclades to the historic Dodecanese archipelagos.

The small island of Mykonos could be the most famed of the Greek Islands. Along the coast and amidst its hilly interior, white villages with blue doorways and rounded, thatched-roof windmills dot the landscape. Its labyrinthine tiny streets are a delight to explore and its sandy white beaches were surely made for basking.

Santorini is one of the most romantic islands. Its volcanic origins have given it beaches of white, red, and black sand. It is truly an otherworldly landscape of dramatic rock formations and lunar-like terrain. Its fascinating Bronze Age archaeological site of Akrotiri opened recently, giving fascinating insight into primitive life here. Surprisingly, Santorini is one of Greece’s most prolific wine producers, as you’ll learn if you visit a local winery.

Crete stands as the largest and most diverse of the Greek Islands. In addition to endless beauty and stunning beaches, tiny villages and agrarian settlements hold fast to tradition here. Medieval fortresses lord over the coast. Snow-covered peaks spill toward dramatic gorges that pour mountain-fed water into the sea. Crete is also home to large cities brimming with rich culture. But its historic touch-point is Knossos, an ancient palace complex dating to 1900 BC. This remarkable site is considered the oldest city in all of Europe. According to legend, King Minos kept his mythical son Minotaur in a labyrinth here.

These three islands offer just a taste of the Aegean’s magnificence. Select Gate 1 itineraries also call on the Cyclades Island of Milos and the Dodecanese Islands of Patmos and Rhodes, where a beautifully preserved medieval city and the sprawling Grand Masters Palace overlook the glimmering sea.

So Many Ways to Experience Greece with Gate 1 Travel

A country as diverse as Greece opens itself up to limitless exploration. Gate 1 offers an array of travel styles so you can take in the rich and colourful Aegean culture your way. Our classic Escorted Tours showcase the best of the country for you, with a generous array of inclusions and the services of a local Greek Tour Manager. For the free-spirited, choose one of our Independent Vacations, which provide your basic necessities like flights and hotels and leave you to follow your own whims.

If the magical Greek Islands call to you, choose an itinerary that combines land touring with overnight accommodations on a small ship. And if you’d rather rub elbows with locals, some of our hotel-based trips let you island-hop on local ferries, for a truly authentic experience.

The Perfect Time to See Greece Is Now

The timeless antiquities, spectacular beauty and warm welcomes of Greece are to be savoured. And you can do just that in a relaxed and hospitable atmosphere, guided every step of the way by our Greek Tour Managers who know their country inside-out. Join us in 2019 and experience it all for yourself, at the value you’d expect, with Gate 1 Travel.

Join Gate 1 Travel in Greece! Follow these links to our exciting Greece Tours and Greek Island Cruises.