Exploring the Best of Europe via Cruise Ship

Lori - title photo gelato

The following post is written by Laurie from the Boscov’s Travel Operations Department at the company’s headquarters.  Laurie recently sailed aboard the Norwegian Epic on a European tour and shares her travel adventures that she booked through Boscov’s Travel. 

I am very excited to share my “European Family Adventure” with all of you.  My parents are avid cruisers and were eager to share a trip to Europe with both my of children and myself while they were active enough to really enjoy it.  To be honest I was a bit nervous that my kids were too young to really appreciate all this amazing experience had to offer. Alexa is 12 and Zachary had just turned 9. We left Philadelphia on a direct flight to Barcelona Thursday evening. Much to my surprise the flight went remarkably fast after a movie and a few hours of sleep we were ready to land. My nervousness subsided the moment we met our driver at the Barcelona airport to take us to the hotel. Zachary became instantly engrossed in the Spanish language and was trying to learn every Spanish word possible from him in the 20 minute drive. Despite the language barrier he did everything to make us feel welcome and was very excited to share his country with us.

Our vacation began with a 2-night pre-cruise stay in a hotel located right on Las Ramblas which is the most famous main street, located in the heart of Barcelona with more restaurants, cafes, and shops than you can imagine. We loved walking around this area soaking up the architecture and local culture by trying tapas, paella, gelato and of course you can’t forget the sangria. During our stay we did a Double Decker Bus tour of the city as well as a trip to the local aquarium. We booked a Flamenco dinner show which was really fantastic as well. I highly encourage the pre-night stay to enjoy this beautiful city and I also think it helps to adjust to the time change.

Norwegian Epic

Sunday morning arrived and it was time to board the Norwegian Cruise Line Ship, Epic.  Check in was flawless and easy to do. I really enjoyed the layout of this ship as it was a bit different than others I have cruised on. It was raining so the water slides would have to wait until the sun came out. The kids managed to occupy their time at the bowling alley and the arcade located in the O’Sheehan’s Sports Bar which would come to be one of our favorite spots. We did make reservations to do the Cirque Dreams Show which was one of the ships highlights. Although the dinner portion wasn’t rave worthy the show was really fantastic!

Norwegian Epic Bowling Alley
Monday was a day at sea to relax before we arrived in Italy. My Dad and I had to check out the Epic’s Ice Bar, where they graciously gave you parkas and gloves so you are able to enjoy your cocktails in a balmy 11 degrees. You tend to drink faster than normal because it’s a little chilly, but to see a bar and chairs all made out of ice was really cool. We both were glad we took the time to try it out and it was worth the cover charge!

Norwegian Epic Ice Bar

Tuesday morning we arrived in Naples, Italy where we had our first shore excursion to the spectacular Sorrento and Amalfi coast by land and sea. The boat ride was picturesque and walking around the villages was so neat. Of course we got to learn a bit of Italian from our tour guide too.

Cannes

Lunch was located in a greenhouse filled with beautiful flowers and lemon trees that I couldn’t get enough of.

Lemon Trees

Wednesday we arrived in Rome, Italy, where we had a full day excursion with sightseeing at the Colosseum and throughout Vatican City. The expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” is an understatement. This tour was pretty intense, as it was hours of walking, sightseeing and learning.  Alexa studied the Colisseum in 6th grade Social Studies so this was a once in a lifetime field trip to say the least. I am not sure who was more excited, her or the tour guide, as she was asking a million questions. Once arriving at the Vatican, we learned we had missed the Pope speaking earlier that morning as he does a service every Wednesday morning for the public. Seeing the inside of the Sistine Chapel was breathtaking and my favorite part was looking around to see the different emotions of everyone there. There were people praying, singing, crying, and those that were just in pure awe of the beauty.

Coliseum

Thursday brought us to our final day in Italy where we toured Florence and Pisa. This was my favorite port of the trip. The bus ride through the scenic Tuscan countryside on the way to Florence was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The green hillside vineyards with tall Cypress trees were just beautiful. Once arriving in Florence I instantly fell in love with the cobblestone streets lined with cafes and tiny shops. The walk along the Arno River (photo below) was also the highlight as the scenery was just beautiful. We had a traditional Italian lunch followed by the most delicious espresso.

Pisa

Next we were off again, for a bus ride and a tour of Pisa. Pisa – in my opinion – should be no more than a few hour stop but it was certainly something I am happy we had the opportunity to see. You arrive in what looks like a residential neighborhood and you see this immense leaning tower. Pretty surreal!

Pisa tower

Thursday we arrived in Cannes, France, my second favorite port. My family has a love of boats and water so to see this beautiful French city on the water with yachts and sailboats, we were in paradise. We were lucky enough to be there during the Cannes Film Festival which was very exciting. We did a city tram tour which enabled us to see so much of this area. For lunch we enjoyed the best pizza we have ever eaten, which seemed ironic being in France versus Italy.

Pizza

Our final day was in Marseilles, France, which again is a beautiful seaside port. We took another tram type tour which allowed us to get a taste and feel of this picturesque little town. Of course we couldn’t leave France without enjoying our last cone of gelato.

Marsailles

I truly believe that a cruise was the best way to experience all of these unbelievable destinations. As much as we loved our time spent on the ship we truly used it as a floating hotel. I don’t believe there is any better way that you can explore 3 different countries, cultures and languages all in 10 days. The shore excursions tend to add up but they are truly worth it for the experience. We thoroughly enjoyed each one. I also don’t recommend traveling to Europe on a diet, as the culinary experience alone is amazing. Now that we have had a taste of Spain, Italy, and France we can’t wait to go back.

Coast and boats

If you’re ready to book your Mediterranean adventure, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

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River Cruising on Avalon Waterways

From bus trips, to guided tours, city excursions or DIY travel, there are many options for touring Europe. One of the most scenic options for European touring is the river cruise. For a few days to more than three weeks, river cruises give cruisers a unique experience along the European countryside while sailing from town to town along the most famous rivers in Europe.

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One of the most awarded river cruise lines is Avalon Waterways, part of the Globus family of brands. Founded in 2003, Avalon Waterways prides themselves on giving their guests a unique point of view. Avalon rooms feature beds that face the window and their Panoramic Suites offer the Open-Air Balcony, a first of its kind wall-to-wall 11 foot panoramic window that’s 50% wider than the industry standard. This gives cruisers a more spacious, open-feeling cabin with wider views of Europe. 80% of staterooms on Avalon suite ships feature this panoramic view. View the video below to experience the difference this makes.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R80GgIJi8fg]

In addition to the differences in room suites, Avalon Waterways attention to detail set them apart. When clients receive their cruise documents, they receive the cruise director’s (senior management on board the ship) personal cell phone number for any issues that may arise before departure or during the journey allowing for peace of mind throughout travel.

Avalon Waterways’s fleet consists of 16 ships with the oldest being only 7 years in age. Built on a tradition of the Swiss mentality, precision and functionality is forefront when it comes to building the ships. Avalon Waterways does not refurbish ships, and builds each ship 37 feet in width to navigate through the 37.5 foot locks throughout Europe. Each ship is built to accommodate up to 166 guests.

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The fare on the ship accommodates to almost any type of dietary need imaginable (with the exception of kosher) with new vegetarian menus coming soon. There is no assigned seating at meals, and beer and 4 varieties of European wine are served with dinner, and will be served with lunch in 2017. Meals change daily as chefs shop at the local markets to get the freshest regional fare available to guests.

During the day, the ship docks at destinations along the river and local guides give inside access to the historical significance and everyday modern life within the town. Stops range from well-known tourist cities to small villages to give cruisers a one-of-a-kind experience. Bikes are available for guests to journey throughout the towns.

European tour options include a varying lengths of time along the great rivers of Europe, and Avalon Waterways offers special interest cruises catering to a variety of passions and interests. Select cruises focus on wine appreciation, beer tasting, culinary adventures, jazz, art, WWII History, and Jewish Heritage to name a few.

Going on now through June 21, 2016, receive free or reduced air from select cities when sailing on 2017 Europe River Cruises. Or save up to $3,000 per couple on select 2016 Europe River Cruises for a limited time. With the strong US dollar, there’s no better time to book your European adventure. If you’re ready to book your Avalon Waterways experience, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.