Towns and villages throughout Europe take on a festive atmosphere strolling through old-fashioned Christmas markets, originally created in the middle ages to celebrate the beginning of Advent. One of the best ways to experience some of the many markets is on a river cruise where you can relax and enjoy multiple stops in charming hamlets all decked out for the season. Often established near the principal church, cruise passengers may also have the opportunity to attend services at an historic church or hear church and children's choirs singing from performance stages as part of their itinerary. Characterized by twinkle lights, regional foods, wooden vendor stalls and Christmas curios, the markets are filled with the festive spirit of the season. Make the most of the season by experiencing the best the markets have to offer.
Multigenerational groups are a huge and rapidly growing travel segment. One of the reasons is that our clients realize that they do not need to sacrifice the amenities and gourmet dining experiences they enjoy in order to accommodate the interests of younger family members. The definition of "family" has evolved to include aunts and uncles, close friends, and step-relatives. The reasons for the group's travel include milestone anniversaries or birthdays, as well as children going off to college. The challenges~individual schedules, finances, and family dynamics~are well-known.
CHOOSE YOUR ESCAPE
None of the Crowds. Bargain Prices. All the Inclusions.
Slashed prices. Shorter lines. None of the peak-season crowds. These are some of the benefits of off-season travel. But, you won't give up on tour inclusions. On our weekly "Deals and Steals" escorted tours, you get an easy, hassle-free, all-in-one vacation package that includes all of these elements to make your vacation complete: Sightseeing & VIP Access, Tour Directors & Local Guides, Meals, Superior Hotels, Favorite Must-See Sites, Transportation and Transfer. These special rate are for a limited time and go quickly. Don't hesitate. Interested? Let us know.
Just a couple of examples:
$1,349 Per Person/Double Occupancy OR $1,399 Per Person/Double Occupancy
IRELAND & BRITAIN ESCAPE AIR-INCLUSIVE PACKAGE ON SELECT 2019 & 2020 DEPARTURES November 9, 2019 through January 26, 2020.
BOOK BY May 24, 2019 Airfare from select gateways included.
IRELAND & BRITAIN
Encounter the best of both worlds on your Ireland and Britain escorted vacation for an escape from the high-season crowds, without the high-season prices. Your guided tour of Ireland and Britain begins in the celebrated capital city of Dublin. See the statue-lined O’Connell Street, Trinity College, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Cross the Boyne River to Belfast in Northern Ireland to learn about the enthralling Titanic Experience and then, via ferry across the North Channel, travel to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. See Edinburgh Castle and the beautiful views of the city.
Travel to York to tour its maze of quaint streets. Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford- upon-Avon, and a 2-night stay in exciting London. See the famous sights, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Buckingham Palace. You’ll visit iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral, and enjoy free time to explore the city on your own.
Travel solo and connect with new destinations, cultures, and friends. Deciding to travel unaccompanied can be daunting for some. But on a river cruise, there are no unexpected add-ons and there is a Cruise Manager to help with any problem that might arise. Single travelers are especially drawn to the social and casual on-board atmosphere, where it is easy to make friends and bond over the love of exploring new places. All of this, plus the various choices of excursions will help you feel that you can travel solo.
Typically, river cruise pricing is based on two people traveling together in one cabin. When you book select 2019 or 2020 river cruises, the single supplement may be waived or reduced.
A choice of daily excursions, scrumptious dining, beverages, airport transfers, even pre-paid gratuities are included on many river cruise lines. When so much is included, you can leave travel stress and your wallet at home.
After a fabulous first-time river cruise in Europe on the Rhine-Main-Danube from Amsterdam to Budapest (the most popular for first-time river cruisers!) you are eager to plan another. But, where to? We get asked that a lot. River cruisers know the all-inclusive value, nonstop scenery, authentic cultural experiences, and personal service while unpacking once and sailing without sea sickness adds up to a memorable vacation. Take a look at some of the other itinerary options available.
Sprawling vineyards and captivating farmlands hug the steep sides of the Douro River Valley. Experience unspoiled, historic villages to explore and port country, the world's oldest demarcated wine region.
River cruise lines offer many packing suggestions for your river cruise vacation in Europe--pack light, bring casual, color coordinated clothes and comfortable shoes etc. But, here are some packing suggestions you may not have thought of.
Outlet Adaptors and Power Strip
Most of the riverboats provide 110V and 220V outlets but the plug sockets require an adaptor. This is especially critical if you bookend your river cruise with a hotel stay. We always recommend dual-voltage appliances and devices to prevent damage.
“How’s the food?” That’s the critical question our clients ask us when we recommend an all-inclusive resort. When we show them the videos, they are convinced that Sandals or Beaches is the best choice.
When your river cruise vacation starts, it doesn’t mean your wellness routine has to stop. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has become essential for many travelers when choosing their river cruise. Here’s how to do it:
1. Work out with a view. AmaWaterways features "Wellness Hosts," who teach morning and afternoon group classes in stretching, cardio/core strengthening and resistance band workouts on the Sun Deck, weather permitting. Other classes on select sailings may include yoga, Pilates, dance classes or circuit training.
2. See Europe on Wheels. Biking and hiking excursions are offered on several river cruise lines including AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, and Uniworld. Take one of the guided bike tours to local historic sites and villages for a scenic change of pace.
The best gifts don't always fit under the tree. . . There are few gifts more unique and inspiring than the chance to explore a different part of the world. Travel through magnificent cities and historic villages bedecked with twinkling trees and shining with handcrafted treasures. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise collection serves an unforgetable selection of locally-sourced meals on their Christmas Markets itineraries.
The following recipes are courtesy of Uniworld’s Executive Chef and Culinary Director, Chef Bernhard Zorn.
Smoked Salmon Tartar
enhanced with roasted jalapeno cream
2 pieces anchovies
3 pieces roasted garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons if heavy cream
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 1/2 cup smoked salmon diced into small pieces
1/4 cup fresh mango diced into small pieces
1/4 cup red onions diced
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon chopped roasted jalapenos
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
16 pieces crisp tortilla chips
16 pieces small sprigs of cilantro
1. In a medium sized wooden bowl, add anchovies, garlic, cumin, and olive oil. Using a large fork, pulverize into a paste.
2. Stir in sour cream, heavy cream and lime juice.
3. Mix until everything is incorporated.
4. Add in salmon, mango, red onions, capers, jalapeno, and cilantro. Mix to combine.
5. The mixture should be thick but not dry.
6. Spoon a small dollop of smoked salmon onto each tortilla chip and garnish with small sprigs of cilantro.
Cream Soup of Roasted Shiitake Mushroom
with a touch of peanut sabayon
Serves 8 – 10
3 1/4 ounces butter
1 1/2 pounds shiitake mushroom
3/4 cup julienned shiitake mushrooms
5 shallots sliced thin
10 cups chicken
Bouquet of thyme
For the Sabayon:
1 stick of butter
1/2 pound of raw and unsalted peanuts
4 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
Salt and fresh ground white pepper
1 cup clarified butter
2 cups shiitake mushroom caps, sliced paper thin
1/4 cup chilli oil
To Prepare the Cream:
1. In a large sauté pan, cook the butter to a light golden brown. Add the mushrooms and “roast” them to a deep golden brown. Stir in shallots and continue to cook until they are a light golden brown as well.
2. Pour in chicken stock and add bouquet of thyme. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove bouquet and discard. Purée the soup so it is very smooth and season to taste.
3. Lightly brown remaining butter in a large sauté pan. Add peanuts and sauté while continuously tossing to a deep golden brown. Pour in cream and continue to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Puree and strain the peanut cream and then return to heat. Beat in the egg yolks and strain again. Cool the cream and reserve for when you serve the soup.
To Assemble the Dish:
1. Gently heat the peanut cream, whisking the whole time to prevent coagulation.
2. Fry 3/4 cup Shiitake mushrooms julienned in clarified butter until crispy. Remove to absorbent towel and season.
3. Place soup into heated bowls, top with peanut sabayon, and drizzle a bit of chilli oil. Garnish with crisp shiitake mushrooms.
Seared Ahi Tuna Wrapped in Pancetta
served with grilled polenta and confit of cherry tomatoes surrounded with basil beurre blanc
4 medallions Ahi tuna (1/4 pounds)
1 ounce pancetta
18 cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
For the Polenta:
7/8 cup maize flour
5 1/2 cup Fontina cheese (semi-soft Italian cheese)
6 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese
For the Basil Beurre Blanc:
2 chopped shallots
3.5 ounce white wine
6.8 ounce cream
2 sticks of butter
1. For the polenta, bring 8 1/2 cups of water to the boil into a big saucepan. Cut the cheese in small pieces. When the water is boiling, sprinkle the flour and then mix with a spatula outside the heat. Add the cheese, season and then cook slowly for about 45 minutes—mixing regularly. Pour the mixture on a flat tray, and then roll up between 2 sheets of cling film (about .39 inches thick). Spread Parmesan on top and then place in a cold room for 1 night. Once cold and set, cut some regular diamond shapes, keep refrigerated.
2. Wrap the medallions of tuna in the pancetta. Sear the medallions quickly on a high temperature for about 1 minute on each side. After, let it rest on at 136° F to keep it warm. Best to season lightly with salt just before serving.
3. Drizzle the cherry tomatoes lightly with olive oil and keep in the oven on 140° F for about 2 hours.
4. To make a classic Beurre Blanc, simply blend all the ingredients above together.
5. Heat up a large frying pan then grill the polenta diamonds with olive oil on both sides.
6. Poor a bit of Beurre Blanc on hot plates then place the tuna in the middle. Peel the skin of the tomatoes and then place them around the plate, and add the polenta diamonds in between. Decorate with a nice heart of sweet basil.
Grapefruit and Champagne Rosé Sorbet
Serves 8 – 10
8 1/2 cups pink grapefruit juice
8 1/2 cups of water
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
10 1/2 cups of Champagne Rosé
1/4 cup simple syrup
1 pink grapefruit
1. In a saucepan, boil grapefruit juice with water, sugar, and simple syrup. Let cool, and then add Champagne to keep the bubbles; put the mix into the ice cream machine to freeze.
2. Segment and clean all pulp from the grapefruit.
3. Arrange the grapefruit segments in a frozen glass bowl and add a scoop of sorbet.
Optional: garnish with a touch of Champagne.
Traditional Holiday Turkey
served with cranberry and macadamia nut stuffing, brussels sprouts in nutmeg butter,and sweet potato praline casserole
Serves 6 – 8
1 whole turkey
1 tablespoon wildfire spice
3.7 ounces salted butter
2 tablespoons of tamari
Cranberry and Macadamia Nut Stuffing Ingredients:
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup cranberry confit
3 ounces Macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons orange skin thinly sliced
1. Start by making the stuffing by combining the breadcrumbs, cranberries, macadamia nuts, and orange zest in a bowl. Add eggs and mix until combined.
2. Preheat the oven to 180° F. Sprinkle the skin and cavity of the turkey with wildfire spice and salt flakes. Then stuff the cavity with the cranberry and macadamia nut stuffing. Truce the turkey with butchers twice and place breast side up on a rack in a large roasting tray. Add a little water to the roasting tray and roast for 45 minutes.
3. While the turkey begins to roast, make the turkey basting. Heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan, then add the beer and tamari. Begin basting the turkey every 15 minutes. After the first hour remove, baste, then cover with foil and return to the oven for a further 60 minutes or 90 minutes depending on the size. Continue to baste every 15 minutes.
4. To check when the turkey is cooked, use a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the turkey. Ideally the internal temperature should be 180° F. When cooked, remove from the oven and allow to rest in a warm part of the kitchen for approx 20 minutes before carving.
Red Velvet Cake
with Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 6 – 8
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon each baking soda, salt and vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon (1 ounce) liquid red food color
2 teaspoon white vinegar
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 8 ounce softened cream cheese
2 sticks (1 cup) softened butter
Decoration (as desired): sweetened flaked coconut or chocolate
1. Heat oven to 350° F. Coat two 9 x 2-in or 8 x 2-in cake pans with baking spray (nonstick spray with flour).
2. For cake ingredients, place in large bowl. Mix butter, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla, and beat with mixer on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes until creamy. Beat in eggs (1 at a time) until blended. Stir buttermilk, food color and vinegar in a 2-cup measure until well blended. Using a mixer, beat in flour, alternating with buttermilk mixture, until combined. Spread 3 cups batter in each prepared pan.
3. Bake approximately 30 minutes for 9-in layers, or approximately 40 minutes for 8-in layers, until cakes pull away from sides of pans (check by inserting a toothpick in center of cake(s) until it comes out clean). Then cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from pans.
4. For frosting, beat (on a medium speed) cream cheese and butter until creamy.
5. Place cake on serving plate and spread with 2 cups frosting.
Decorate as wished using flaked coconut or chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Appealing? Want to plan a river cruise for 2019 or 2020? I would love to make this happen for you.
There are so many reasons why river cruising is the fastest growing segment of leisure travel. But, a river cruise may not be your best vacation choice if your expectations include:
Ready to plan your River Cruise vacation? Contact us and we will prepare a quote for you!
Scooter Tessari, MCC, owns The Cruise Center, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and operates the website Tasteful Journeys devoted to enrichment vacations with a culinary accent and featuring cruises, tours, and custom designed vacation packages.