River Cruise . . . Expanding your circle of friends (outside of your zip codes and time zones)

Posted by Tammy Murphy

May 20, 2016 at 6:25 PM

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Photo courtesy of AMA Waterways

What is your idea of the perfect vacation experience?  Does small, intimate and complete immersion in local culture sound like your cup of tea? If so, definitely consider river cruising.  I loved the authentic bepoke experiences.  I also loved that I had the opportunity to see so many towns in the Provence area without packing and unpacking, racing to the train, checking in and out of hotels.  The cruise along the Rhone River appealed to me for many reasons besides the destination (which was amazing).   The service was amazing, the views and experiences were priceless, but my fondest memories are the special moments with my son, the fabulous friends we made, and sharing authentic experiences with them!!  Now, don't get me wrong, I love independent travel, but for certain areas, river cruising is the perfect answer for me, here's four reasons why: 

River Cruising is a great way to get a little taste of many cities and countries while your hotel travels with you.  I felt like we experienced the local culture with the help of our local tour guides and also had free time to bike or walk around the charming little regions.  They highlighting the icons, gave us the back story--the unique local culture, the authenticity of the experiences, I just can't say enough about it.  Especially the limited edition tours--these were amazing (more on that later).  I loved that we used all of our senses, not just SIGHTseeing, we experienced cooking classes, wine tastings, olive oil tastings, baking or some stayed on the ship and watched the scenery slip by as we sailed to the next destination.

I loved the size of the small ship.  Typically, the average size of river cruise is 150 passengers, and even less if you cruise earlier in the season.  You will never wait in a long line to board and disembark. 

Meal time was always a special treat that we looked forward to . . . Don't you agree that we all bond over good meals?  Five star service, beautiful presentation with a local flair and panoramic views.  The open seating allowed us to eat alone or share meals with our favorite friends, and we actually couldn't wait to see the dining staff each day.  The staff was remarkable, anything we wanted, they delivered before we could even ask.  Many times it was a small gesture, but that is what was so special . . . they noticed the little things.

And the absolute best part of any vacation is expanding my circle of friends.  And this trip was no exception.  Due to the small and intimate environment, we really had time to meet and visit with everyone on the ship.   My son and I made friends that we surely hope will last a really long time.   Near the end of the cruise we were already sad about leaving each other & making plans for a river cruise reunion.

 
 
In the coming weeks I will continue to share more photos and suggestions based on my recent experience on the AMADagio.  In the meantime, feel free to follow my cruise on VIP Travel Experience facebook page.
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Topics: wine tasting, river cruise, south France

River Cruise Broadens My Horizon

Posted by Tammy Murphy

April 24, 2016 at 3:20 PM

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Photo courtesy of AMA Waterways

Travel options are limited only by our imaginations . . . I have to admit I am partial to land journeys, but I'm happy to say I have broadened my horizons.  If you are wondering, is this the right fit for me, read on, I think you will be surprised.  

While my children were growing up, their favorite
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Topics: wine tasting, river cruise, south France

Top Vacation Experiences for 2016 . . . River Cruises

Posted by Tammy Murphy

December 11, 2015 at 2:00 PM

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Convenience, Luxury, and most of all Making Memories to last a lifetime.

Making memories through vacation experiences with family and friends is priceless!!

You love the idea of exploring several countries on one visit, what better way than aboard a 5 star floating boutique hotel.   Most of the ships accommodate only 120-200 passengers, which allows for an intimate and relaxed atmosphere.

River cruises provide a unique approach to the "vacation experience".  Spend a few minutes explaining to your travel consultant what your hobbies and interest are and she can suggest the perfect river cruise vacation experience for you.  What appeals to me most is that you can immerse yourself in local culture through exclusive limited edition tours, and its offers many group benefits with a individual travel feel.  River cruises are great for groups, families, friends, special interest groups, church groups, etc.

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Award-winning cuisine crafted by expert chefs and served in a variety of stylish dining venues--including the Chef's Table specialty restaurant.  In fact, you can find the chef in the local markets because the ingredients are farm to table in the area that you are visiting.  You may eat in the main dining room which accommodates all guests, but there are smaller alternative restaurants for a more casual experience.

Most everything is included (varies by cruise line), but typically beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner.  Some cruise lines also include excursions.      

On a river cruise, you enjoy the unique small towns within the countries you visit.  You won't need a tender or bus because the ship docks right where you want to be.  You can choose from optional small group tours with local tour guides or you can explore on your own.  Some cruise lines offer a self-guided GPS walking or biking tour.   There are also optional special activities that are planned at your destinations and local entertainment is brought on board to perform for the guests in the evenings.  Between all of the exciting tours, guests can indulge in outstanding onboard amenities like massages services and a fitness room.  Or sip on a glass of wine in the pool with a swim-up bar on the sun deck.  Imagine lounging in your bathing suits and cruising by centuries-old castles. 

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River cruising is a relaxed and easy way to visit beautiful countries with family and friends.  The ease of getting from one city or country to another taking in riverside scenery from a spacious balcony stateroom is a rare treat any guests would love.   Enjoy luxurious accommodations , delicious food, and unique experiences and you only had to unpack once!  The hardest decision is which entree to try next because the staff is dedicated to exceeding expectations.  They want you to feel like part of the family.   It's so much more than a vacation, its a unique experience regardless how many times you cruise.

Please share if you know anyone that is ready to try river cruising.  As a travel consultant, I enjoy making your travel experience, as well as the planning, as easy as possible.  

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Topics: foodie travel, wine tasting, river cruise, #viptravelexperience, #VIPRiverCruise, #RiverCruise

Chianti in the Carolinas

Posted by Tammy Murphy

December 8, 2015 at 10:34 PM

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Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery, "Chianti in the Carolinas" was a pleasant surprise.

While taking a time-out from a working weekend in  Charlotte, I managed to find a little "unique experience" nearby. 

Honestly, they had me at Buon Giorno!! We were welcomed as old friends before we even reached the door of  the Tuscan style villa.  The Raffaldini family and their staff take great pride in their vineyard and we enjoyed their enthusiasm more than I can say.  The belief that family, food and wine are an integral part of their daily life had me suddenly wishing I was strolling through the piazzas of Italy again.  Well, that's not entirely truthful, it wasn't suddenly, I'm always wishing I was in Italy :)    

The Raffaldini family has celebrated family dinners with homemade Italian wine for more than 650 years.  Lucky for us, they decided to share their family heritage in the United States, or more specifically Swan Creek area of Yadkin Valley.  I did as they promised "closed my eyes and was transported to Italy . . .

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Denise was our gracious wine expert for our wine tasting.  Her knowledge and love of wine was captivating.  I enjoyed each and every wine tasted, from the dry, apple 2014 Pinot Grigio to the  2013 Montepulciano Riserva with its dark cherry finish. We were amazed with Denise's teaching of the soil and winemaking in the United States East Coast vs. the West Coast vs. Italy.

The view was beautiful of the Blue Ridge and Brushy Mountains from the tasting room, but even better to soak it up outside in the piazza.  I only wished I had more time to relax and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, listening to chatter and laughter of friends and family while the children played nearby.  As an added bonus, we enjoyed a wood-fired pizza catered by a mobile oven and catering company, Giannos.  Along with the delicious smells of the pizza and wine, you could smell the nearby vines.    

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If you ever find yourself in North Carolina, take a short one and one-half drive from Charlotte, NC to visit Raffaldini Vineyard.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised what's hiding in the mountains.  For more details, visit their website  www.raffaldini.com.                              

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Topics: wine tasting

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