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September 13, 2016

A Special “Thank You” To You, Our Valuable Guests 
From 
Heidi & Bob, CruiseCompete Founders 
On Our 13th Anniversary-15 Million Quotes to Our Guests!

Super Cruise Specials from $389

A Magical Christmas Cruise Aboard AmaWaterways AmaCerto: 
The Medieval Town of Riquewihr, a Music Box Museum, the Place Where Fragrant Cologne Was Created, 
a German Brewery, the Canals of Amsterdam

 

A Special Thank You From Cruise Compete

CruiseCompete celebrates another successful year this month with its 13th anniversary.

In a world of “here and gone” consumer websites, CruiseCompete endures—and continues to thrive. It’s all thanks to those intrepid travelers who use the site to research, plan and book their cruise vacations. These vacationers work with CruiseCompete, have their expectations exceeded, and then recommend the website to friends and family.

Thank you for for using CruiseCompete, and here's to many more years of vacation planning.
 



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A Special Thank You From Cruise Compete

CruiseCompete celebrates another successful year this month with its 13th anniversary.

In a world of “here and gone” consumer websites, CruiseCompete endures—and continues to thrive. It’s all thanks to those intrepid travelers who use the site to research, plan and book their cruise vacations. These vacationers work with CruiseCompete, have their expectations exceeded, and then recommend the website to friends and family.

Thank you for for using CruiseCompete, and here's to many more years of vacation planning.


A Magical Christmas Cruise Aboard AmaWaterways AmaCerto: 
The Medieval Town of Riquewihr, a Music Box Museum, the Place Where Fragrant Cologne Was Created, a German Brewery, the Canals of Amsterdam


(Portions of this blog have been omitted ... click here to read the story in it's entirety.)

Heading for a Christmas on the Rhine cruise aboard the AmaCerto

The AmaCerto joined Ama Waterways in 2012.

When I was a kid, the family friend who gave me my middle name (Marie) and braided my hair was from Germany. To keep my squirming to a minimum, Mrs. Schmidt used to regale me with German fairy tales and other stories while she did those taking-forever-to-do braids.

Such a place as Germany seemed so faraway and unattainable to a young Midwestern girl. But soon I will be headed to visit the beautiful Germany Christmas markets as well as other sites in Switzerland, France and the Netherlands. And I am going to travel the best way possible – aboard the AmaCerto cruise ship. Fantastic!

Known as Christmas on the Rhine, my weeklong cruise will visit Basel, Breisach, Strasbourg, Speyer, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Cologne and Amsterdam. Some of the attractions we’ll see include the medieval town of Riquewihr, a music box museum, the place where fragrant cologne was created, a German brewery, the canals of Amsterdam and much more.

Aboard the ship, we’ll cruise past the famous castles of the Rhine – considered one of the most beautiful stretches of waterway in Europe. We will have evening entertainment in the ship’s lounge and eat, eat, eat.  AmaWaterways is famous for its delicious cuisine.

I’ve already seen brochure photos of my cabin – a deluxe outside stateroom featuring AmaWaterways exclusive twin balconies. Whenever possible, my ship cabins usually have balconies because that is one of my favorite places to sit and watch the ocean roll by. But my AmaCerto cabin has an inside balcony and an outside balcony which means a whole wall of sliding glass doors for excellent water views.

The cabin has a big bed, flat screen TV(which I will probably never turn on), refrigerator, plenty of dresser drawers, shelves and roomy closet, plus private bath with a large walk-in-shower.

The itinerary for my Christmas on the Rhine touches four counties along the river.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned AmaWaterways gets its name from the Latin word for “love” – Ama. AmaWaterways has 19 custom-designed vessels and will add a new one in 2015, along with even more river cruises in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Resembling a luxurious long yacht, the AmaCerto can accommodate 164 passengers and sails to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Hungary and Slovakia. Debuting in 2012, AmaCerto looks big enough to be comfortable but small enough to easily dock along the rivers.

This seems like it will a great cruise adventure and I hope you’ll come along for the journey. Hard telling what treasures we will discover.

 

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

The AmaCerto specialty restaurant, Erlebnis, is cozy with a glassed-in kitchen to watch the chef at work.

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.

My first night on the cruise, I signed up to dine in AmaCerto’s exclusive restaurant. The dinner-only restaurant with its own chef and menu is named Erlebnis – a German word for “something memorable.” It certainly is.

Erlebnis is at the other end of the ship from the regular dining room. Unlike other cruise ships, there is no extra fee to dine at Erlebnis. Capacity is limited to 28 guests and reservations are required but I was assured that every passenger who wants to dine in Erlebnis should have the opportunity. And many dine there twice on a weeklong cruise. The menu is the same every night but I would certainly choose to dine there again.

The restaurant’s décor is elegant with several four-top tables and larger ones. A glass-enclosed kitchen lets us see the chef at work. A semi-circular walls of windows offers lovely views of the river.

The dinner started with a chef’s welcome of goose liver mousse and choice of red or white wine chosen for the meal. Remember that free-flowing beer, wine and soft drinks are complimentary for lunch and dinner on the AmaCerto. A very attentive wine steward kept our glasses filled.

Appetizer was lemon-pepper crusted salmon with chili sour cream. Not only was the salmon delicious, the serving was wonderfully artistic, a touch that I soon noticed in all AmaCerto dining. Presentation adds to the visual appeal and the AmaCerto chefs certainly have an artist’s eye.

Soup was carrot ginger with marinated butterfish. The carrot ginger part sounded good to me but I wasn’t so sure about marinated butterfish. Needn’t have worried. It was excellent.

Entrée was choice of grilled pike perch with salsa marguerite, beluga lentils, sautéed spinach and eggplant mash or grilled beef tenderloin fillet, zucchini, broccoli and macaire potato. I chose the beef. It arrived cooked just right and the serving size was perfect.

When I first started cruising back in 1976, the servings were so huge and so much food was wasted. More is not necessary better. In fact, it often isn’t. I’ve been very pleased to see serving sizes reduced on cruise lines so that you still get enough to eat but you don’t have to leave the table feeling stuffed. For folks with a bigger appetite and faster metabolism, there is always the option to order a second serving of something. My grandson did that by ordering two entrees – lobster and steak – on a Disney cruise. Of course, Logan is tall and skinny. I am not.

For dessert – again having smaller servings saves room for a sweet ending – the Apricot Trilogy featured a sweet dumpling, some sherbet and an apricot liqueur. All in all, it was certainly one of the best meals I’ve ever had a cruise.

 

Ship’s special touches include pool with swim-up bar

A glass elevator is a beautiful and useful addition to the AmaCerto

Today, I thought we’d walk around the AmaCerto and see some of the things that make the ship so special. Although river cruise ships are limited to the same dimensions to fit into the locks on European rivers, the AmaCerto has certainly managed to include some eye-catching extras.

First is the lovely entry area with the service desk and beautiful glass elevator. Because of marine regulations, elevators can’t travel below the water line or to the sun deck but the elevator does offer easy transport between restaurant and lounge decks. Cabins on the Piano Deck, the lowest deck, are only accessible via stairs.

The AmaCerto lounge is large, comfortable and user friendly

As on most ships, the hub of onboard activities is the large lounge. Floor to ceiling windows make this a great place to watch the river flow. Comfortable couches and armchairs with coffee tables and end tables can be arranged for socializing in small or large groups. A horseshoe-shaped bar is popular particularly in the evening and features a different cocktail every day. A small dance floor is available for late night dancers.

A very small gift shop is on the right entrance to the lounge as is a complimentary self-service coffee bar area that gets lots of use. An automatic coffee machine dispenses regular coffee, espresso, cappuccino and lattes. Hot chocolate is also available as is a wide selection of tea. The AmaCerto also offers the morning news, printed in several languages each day.

An oblong counter in the center of the lounge is where the breakfast buffet, light lunch and afternoon tea are served. Seems as though there is almost always some kind of food there for those who might want a snack.

A piano in the lounge comes alive when onboard musician Pavlin entertains. The lounge is also where cruise manager Réka Piros gives her evening talks. And it’s where the night’s entertainment is presented. So far we have had champion accordion player Armand Jehle, a French chartreuse and a classical music trio.

On the left side entering the lounge is a small library with plump sofas and two fireplaces. Not wood burning fireplaces, of course, but lovely ones nonetheless. The library has books and games for passenger enjoyment.

AmaCerto’s gym is equipped with a treadmill, Technogym weight machine and two stationary bikes. It also has a television screen for exercise entertainment and complimentary bottles of water. AmaCerto has a small salon offering services such as hair styling and massages.

But it’s the ship’s top deck that really makes it stand out from other river cruisers.
In addition to the customary walking track, the Sun Deck has seating spots, a gigantic chess board, shaded area, pilot house and pool. That’s right, a pool. I’ve never been on a river vessel with a pool this big. Some vessels 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.

Although I’m loving this winter cruise on the AmaCerto, I really would like to return for a summer voyage. The Sun Deck would be such a wonderful spot to sit and watch as we navigate the rivers and see the small towns along the way. I would love to give this pool a try. I’ve considered it every day on my cruise but it’s been far too cold for me. Just a good reason to cruise with AmaWaterways again someday.

 

AmaCerto excursion – The Astronomical Clock in Strasbourg is a mechanical marvel

When the clock strikes half past noon, the apostles parade past Jesus while a cock crows and flaps its wings. On another part of the huge Astronomical Clock, the different stages of life are shown as a child, a teenager, an adult and an old man who pass before a scary Death figure.

Ever since I booked my AmaCerto cruise, I have been looking forward to seeing the famous Astronomical Clock in the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg. I had seen photos and a video of the clock but that was nothing compared to viewing it in person.

Since the French city of Strasbourg is one of the shore stops on my AmaCerto cruise, I already know that my visit to the Cathedral and the clock will be well organized and not require an extra fee. Shore excursions are part of the cruise fare on the AmaCerto.

Another big plus of the AmaCerto cruise is having cruise manager Réka Piros go over the day’s activities the night before. We meet in the comfortable ship’s lounge, enjoy a hot or cold drink and listen as Réka talks about the shore excursions and history of the place we will visit the next day. Réka is one of those rare people who knows a great deal of interesting information and can share it in an entertaining way.

In Strasbourg, we have a morning tour and an option to stay in town and catch a free shuttle back to the ship. The ship also offers different levels of difficulty for its walking tours. “Active” is for those who like a fast pace. “Regular” is for passengers who are reasonably fit. “Gentle” allows more time to walk and less walking when possible. Sometimes the “Gentle” group gets a smaller bus to do away with some of the walking and sometimes they leave the ship later than the other two groups.

To make the shore excursion process run smoother, AmaCerto uses a color-coded system. Once a passenger chooses a tour and level, the purser’s desk gives out color-coded cards shortly before the tour begins. Passengers pick up their color cards and look for the bus and guide holding a sign for that color.

The tour buses for these excursions are big and comfortable with plenty of large windows to see attractions during city tours aboard the buses. The Quiet Vox devices in our cabins ensure that we can hear our tour guides no matter how much hubbub surrounds us as we follow along on the walking tours.

All we have to do is loop the charged apparatus about the size of an iPhone around our necks, stick the ear buds in our ears, turn to the correct channel, adjust the volume and we can hear the guide loud and clear.

(Portions of this blog have been omitted ... click here to read the story in it's entirety.)

Read more from Jackie Scheckler Finch.


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2016 Family Friendly Cruise Travel Planner [PDF] or Online book

While there is a perfect cruise vacation for everyone, not every cruise line is the ideal match for every family. Some lines have minimum age requirements for children (and pregnancy policies for expectant parents!), and others don't permit children to sail at all. In addition, while a line may allow children to sail, it’s not a given that the line has specially designed children’s programs in place. 

With these things in mind, determining the best cruise line for your family takes careful research, preparation and planning. The travel experts at CruiseCompete have composed the “2016 Family-Friendly Cruise Travel Planner,” which details every aspect of the family cruise vacation experience.

The “2016 Family-Friendly Cruise Travel Planner” is designed to kick-start your cruise vacation planning, and covers the entire spectrum of options with information on mainstream lines like Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line, as well as unique alternatives like luxury, river and small ship excursion companies.

All information has been compiled in an easy-to-read format, with brief “at-a-glance” summaries to see if the cruise line fits your basic requirements, followed by more detailed information about the atmosphere on board, the destinations you can travel to and the specific programs available for children.

Take a look!  2016 Family Friendly Cruise Travel Planner [PDF] or Online book


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