Kyra’s Amazing Alaska Cruise – Part 5

Kyra Tristan Glacier edit

A popular belief is that an Alaskan cruise is a trip to take if you’re looking for a slower paced vacation; and for some this can be true. However, I am here to tell you that I believe it is a perfect trip for all types of travellers!

For the adventure seekers, there are tons of fun and exciting excursions available at each port. Some of these include the ZipRider zip-line in Icy Strait, ATV adventures, tree-top climbing apparatuses, helicopter tours, railways, boating trips, hiking, gold-panning, dog-sledding, gondolas, and wildlife spotting.

For the foodies, there are so many delicious food venues and options onboard you’ll be in heaven! Bordeaux or Provence for daily changing menus, the Pizzeria for delicious pizza made right in front of you, The Grill for burgers and hot dogs, and of course the buffet Horizon Court. There are also a couple of specialty restaurants onboard such as Sabatini’s for Italian food and Bayou Cafe for New Orleans inspired cuisine! All food was delicious and beautifully presented! Plus there’s room service or you can splurge on a balcony dining experience like we did for a super special meal. Did I mention, the dessert options are just endless??

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For those interested in wildlife and scenery, I can assure you that you will get your fill of beautiful and stunning views of mountains, forests, waterfalls, rivers, glaciers, valleys, etc.! There’s lots of exciting wildlife spotting opportunities throughout the entire trip! We saw whales, lots of sea otters, and tons of bald eagles right from the ship especially in Glacier Bay and College Fjords!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Onboard the ship, they have activities that may appeal to all guests such as trivia games, dancing contests, karaoke times and contests, gambling and gambling contests, dance parties, Movies Under the Stars, and so much more to keep yourselves entertained while at sea! This is in addition to the pools, hot tubs, spa, salon, shuffle boards, foosball tables, mini golf course, etc. onboard as well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I believe Alaskan cruises are a great trip for any type of traveller! I have been to Mexico, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Europe and various other places but my Alaskan cruise with Princess has now become one of my favourite trips so far even as a traveller in my 20’s!

Ready to start planning your own Alaskan cruise?  I would love to help get you there!  You can find me at our Sutherland office or call me at 306-955-1449 or email kyra@uniglobevacation.com.   I can’t wait to help you see Alaska too!

 

Air Canada Premium Rouge vs Air Canada Premium Economy

Air Canada Premium Rouge vs Air Canada Premium Economy:

I often get asked the difference between Air Canada Premium Rouge and Air Canada Premium Economy. I have flown them both before, but it was nice to fly both on this trip to get an up to date comparison.

On our flight from Toronto to Budapest we flew direct with Air Canada Premium Rouge. Rouge planes are older, but the Premium Rouge seats up front are quite roomy and similar to the old style Air Canada Business class. The seats have quite a lot of leg room, good recline, foot rests and access to the business class bathroom at the front of the plane. There was a hot meal service shortly after take-off, drink service throughout and a simple breakfast of banana bread and coffee or juice before landing. They gave us a comfort kit, blanket and pillow when we got on. The comfort kit has an eye mask, ear plugs, socks toothbrush and toothpaste. There are no seat back TVs on Rouge. You can either use your own tablet to connect to the AC app for movies etc., or if you are in Premium Rouge, they give you a tablet pre-loaded with entertainment, free of charge.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On our flight from Vienna to Toronto, we flew Premium Economy on one of the new Dreamliners. It was my second time flying back from Europe on this aircraft and there is a noticeable difference in the air quality/humidity levels from older aircraft and the dimming lights and windows make for a nicer ambiance and atmosphere. Being a newer plane, the seats are quite a bit more comfortable. Otherwise, the leg room, seat recline, foot rests, comfort kits, blankets and pillow are almost identical from Premium Rouge to Premium Economy. Air Canada Premium Economy has seat back TVs with a wide selection of movies and entertainment. We received a hot meal shortly after take-off, drink service throughout and a warm pastry snack before landing. The food was perhaps a small bit better in Premium Economy on mainline Air Canada, but let’s face it – it’s all airplane food. Whether it’s a 6 out of 10 or a 7 out of 10, it’s not going to be fine dining.

60612894_1315670281916468_2355802751700566016_n

All in all, both services were good. If I had a choice, I would opt for Premium Economy on mainline Air Canada every time – mainly for the more comfortable seats and newer aircraft. That being said, if it was a choice between a direct flight on Rouge and a connection on Mainline AC, I would opt for the more direct flight and forego a small difference in comfort for the convenience and time saving of a non-stop flight.

Want to discuss the best airline upgrade options for your next trip? Reach out to our team!

uniglobe-basebar

Jamie’s Working Vacation in Vienna

Here we are, on our new Air Canada Dreamliner service from Vienna to Toronto, having just completed our 4 nights in Vienna, following the 2 nights we spent in Budapest.

We took the train for almost 3 hours from Budapest to Vienna and arriving in Vienna was almost like arriving in an entirely different land. It surprised me that Budapest and Vienna were so very different, given their close geography and sometimes intertwined history. Where Budapest has the twin cities of Buda and Pest, both centered around the Danube, Vienna is not intersected by the river. Where Budapest is still showing signs of the communist era and there is a drastic mix of beautifully restored buildings and buildings that haven’t been touched and are still riddled in bullet holes, Vienna is pristine with every building restored and perfect – not a paint colour out of place and not a single piece of cobblestone broken. I was very glad we had the chance to experience both beautiful and diverse cities and I was even more thankful that where Budapest rained for us, Vienna brought out the sunshine.

We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Vienna and it is outside Stadpark on the edge of the downtown, historic core area of Vienna. It was a very nice hotel with a beautiful hotel lobby bar and very comfortable rooms. It was a great location to have for a home base. We attended a conference for a couple of days and their conference facilities also seemed in good order – a good choice of conference rooms, food and beverage, audio visual and friendly staff.

When we had some free time in Vienna, we made the most of this beautiful city:

Top attraction highlights:

*Kursalon Concert Hall
Located right across the street from our hotel in Stadpark the Kursalon Concert Hall has a concert every night featuring Strauss, Mozart, Ballet and Opera. The performance was just under 2 hours.  We paid 69EUR for good seats and found it quite entertaining for casual music lovers like us. I would have loved to have seen an opera at the Vienna Opera, but there was not one playing when we had a free evening.

60700073_518407028693710_2206993276039331840_n

*Lipizzaner Stallions
Lipizzaner Stallions perform at the Spanish Riding School. You can either purchase seats that are “seated” or “standing”. Our seated tickets start around 100EUR each. The performance is just over an hour and the horses and riders go through the different skills the horses learn over many years. It was impressive.

61273166_348331439200614_3031059056165912576_n

*Hofburg Palace
Adjacent to the Spanish Riding School, the Hofburg Palace has a tour of the Silver Collection, the SISI Museum and the Imperial Apartments for 15EUR per person. The self-guided audio tour took about 1 1/2 hours.

60878306_2386148771617670_3153425358783512576_n

*St. Stephens Cathedral
This is an amazing Gothic structure in the middle of the main square in Vienna. You can go in and view the main cathedral, plus there are options to go up the tower for 5EUR for views over all of Vienna, or for 7EUR you can go down into the Catacombs beneath St. Stephens. Mark climbed the tower while I was at the conference, so together we chose to go beneath St. Stephens to the Catacombs. The Cardinals and Arch Bishops are buried there – It is still used today, so there are some new graves as well as some that are over 400 years old. The Hapsburgs and Imperial family had their internal organs buried there and the main chambers were full of all the ordinary people, including one chamber that was filled with those who didn’t survive the last bubonic plague…a little creepy, but interesting.

60703279_578760839283353_8827969861457018880_n

*Stadpark
This is a beautiful green space with walking paths, food vendors, outdoor restaurants and a nice place to unwind, relax and rest your weary feet. You can anything from a hot dog, to fine dining and Biergartens.

Restaurant Recommendations:

We ate at many good restaurants from small local coffee shops to upper scale Italian and Austrian restaurants. One highlight was Lugeck – located in a historic building, just off the main square. It serves local Austrian food with a bit of flair. The service was great, as was the food and for four of us, with wine, beer and dinner, the bill was 150EUR, which seemed very reasonable. The Wiener Schnitzel was particularly good and with two huge pieces, big enough for two to share!

60885403_2385326378367738_8704487185170038784_n

 

One afternoon we happened into a Keller – a Viennese tradition of historical underground vaults used for bars/restaurants. This particular Keller had been used for almost 1000 years – called the Zwolf Apostelkeller. It had several rooms, vaults, traditional Viennese dining (think upgraded pub food), Austrian wines and beer and local entertainment. It is a very unique and Viennese experience not to be missed when you are in Vienna. The location is right around the corner from the Lugeck restaurant.

There is an outdoor restaurant; just inside the Stadpark entrance, across from the Intercontinental called the Kleinod Stadtgarten meets Cafe Francais. They had the most amazing “tarts”, which to us North Americans is a very thin crust pizza with toppings like bacon and spring onions, apples and Brie, etc. It was the most enjoyable lunch, outside in the sunshine and green space of the park with wonderful food and a nice Rose Garden.

60951182_2133201110305119_3669607885765083136_n

I look forward to returning to Austria one day to see more outside of Vienna, but for the short time period we had, Vienna did not disappoint.

Get Social With us @UniglobeCarefree on Facebook and @uniglobeYXE on Instagram and Twitter

Jamie’s 48 Hours in Budapest

We arrived in Budapest just over 48 hours ago.  It feels like much longer!  As I write this blog, we are on the train, already leaving Budapest and heading for Vienna.  We really enjoyed our quick and jam-packed time in Budapest.

Intercontinental Hotel 2

View of river and Castle Hill from the room

When we arrived in Budapest, we hopped into the private car we had pre-arranged for 40 EUR to take us to the Intercontinental Hotel.  It was about a 40 minute drive, so I think the 40EUR was quite reasonable.

The Intercontinental Hotel is right beside the Chain Bridge in the heart of downtown Budapest.  The location could not be better and we were lucky to get a River View room with a view of the Castle Hill.  It was amazing all lit up at night and being able to watch all the River Cruises sail by.

 

Our first afternoon in Budapest was spent wandering around the Castle Hill District and taking a 1 hour tour of the Hospital in the Rock Museum.  For $18 CAD, it was pretty reasonable and worthwhile if you have extra time.  The tours run every hour.  The underground hospital was used in WWII and during the Civil uprising in 1956.  They have some exhibitions set up to show you what the conditions would have been like at the time and also some exhibitions set up for later, when it was used as a bomb shelter during the Cold War.  The museum is found on the far side of Castle Hill, about a 20 -30 minute walk from the Intercontinental Hotel.

Hospital in the rock

Our one full day in Budapest we managed fit in two walking tours, 30,000 steps that covered the majority of the main sites of central Budapest.  Our first walking tour was a “Hidden Gems” Tour with a private guide.  We started by taking the oldest metro in mainland Europe from near our hotel to Hero’s Square.  We had a quick walk to the Szechenyi baths (very near Hero’s Square) for a quick look around.  I wish we had an extra day, the baths looked wonderful.  There is a combo of indoor and outdoor baths, you get massages and VIP tours.  That would have been VERY nice after a long day of walking.  They open early in the morning and that is the quiet time to go.  It gets busier later in the day.  After that, we went through Hero’s square with our guide, Gabor, talking about how Hungary was settled by Pagan Nomadic Tribes and later “civilized” and “Christianized” by St. Stephan. The Hero’s square pays tribute to them all.

 

We continued walking past the Opera House, with a quick look inside at the amazing opulent interior.  We walked through the Jewish Quarter with a Secret stop in a hidden courtyard to view the last remaining piece of the Jewish Ghetto Wall from World War II.  It still had some of the barbed wire on top and at one time 70,000 Jewish people were imprisoned inside those walls.  It was quite moving.  We had a stop for Kosher Cake and Coffee in a Jewish Bakery and continued on to the Holocaust Memorial, past the Terror Museum (which used to house the Secret Police) and back to the Riverfront.  This completed our “pest” side of the tour.

 

We walked across the Chain Bridge and up to the top of Castle Hill.  There is also the option to take the Funicular Train to the top, if you prefer not to walk.  There were some amazing lookout points from the Castle, across the Danube to Parliament.  We wandered past some of the artifacts in the castle and past the Presidents offices.  We viewed some more of Castle Hill’s “must sees”, some churches, lookouts and an 800 year old Church Tower.  The Church survived the Turkish invasion, but only the tower survived the bombing of WWII.

 

That concluded our first walking tour.  We had a couple of hours to rest our weary feet and change into dry shoes and clothes (it was quite a rainy day!), before we headed out on our second walking tour.  The second tour was arranged with Secret Food Tours and included many stops for authentic food and drinks.  This was also a private tour and we

Folodni cake

Flodni Cake

met up with our tour guide first for coffee and traditional Flodni Cake, then walked through Liberty Square, past some of the Embassy’s to the Downtown Market for an amazing arrangement of local sausages, meats, cheese, pickles, baguette and chutneys.  This was my favorite stop.  The Rosemary and Pear Chutney was so good, I had to buy a couple of jars!  We also received a traditional favorite chocolate treat of Hungarians.  It was a cottage cheese/lemon filling covered in dark chocolate.  It was surprisingly good and tasted like chocolate covered cheese cake.

We rolled ourselves to a food truck for Langos (fried bread covered with garlic, sour cream and cheese SO good!) and on past St. Stephens Cathedral to another food truck for cinnamon covered funnel cake.  By then we are so full we can hardly move, but we aren’t done yet.  The Hungarians take their food seriously.  We went to Cupakos in the Jewish district for Goulash Soup and toasted bread with Chicken Pate topped with warm Apple Chutney (their Secret Dish).

 

Finally, we moved on to the best part of the evening, the wine tasting at a local wine bar, which only serves Hungarian wines.  We sampled three, our tour ended there and we decided to stay on for another bottle of wine.  It was a nice little spot with live entertainment.

wine time

Finally, we called our very full day in Budapest to an end with a quick walk back to the hotel for a well-deserved good night sleep.  The main train station is under construction for a couple of weeks, so we took a taxi (17 EUR) to the Kelenfold Train station.   It was quite old and dilapidated but it did the trick and our train was pretty easy to find.  First class train tickets Budapest to Vienna were about $100 CDN per person.  Sandwiches on the train, which were surprisingly good were only $3.50 EUR each and there is free WIFI.  The three hours is passing quite quickly with some nice countryside and green rolling hills and villages to look at on our way.  We are looking forward to our few days in Vienna!

on the train

Kyra’s Amazing Alaska Cruise – Part 4

60351471_2271424046277933_5880969968178167808_n

Today we sailed through Glacier Bay National Park! The first glacier we visited was Margerie Glacier which is 250 feet high above the waterline and has a base about 100 feet below sea level. It was absolutely gorgeous and we were lucky enough to have a perfect view right from our balcony. The ship stayed at this glacier for about 1 hour, but the captain turns the boat around after 30mins so the other side of the boat has a good view as well. We were also lucky to witness the glacier calving. Calving is when chunks of the glacier break off into the water. When this happens, it sounds like thunder!

Next up was Lamplugh Glacier. Smaller than Margerie, but still beautiful! We just sailed by this one as we were sailing onwards to Johns Hopkins Inlet at Jaw Point for a jaw dropping view of Johns Hopkins Glacier! One of the most beautiful views in the park! Again, the boat turns after a bit to give the other side of the ship a better view. It was just stunning!

After viewing the glaciers, we sailed back out of Glacier Bay National Park. It is a wildlife hotspot filled with marine life. There was a naturalist onboard with us for pointing out wildlife and providing commentary on the glaciers, park, and wildlife. We saw whales, seals, and sea otters!

I even got to see a playful seal completely jump out of the water twice as he was following the ship.

You don’t want to miss Glacier Bay, so get out and enjoy the beautiful scenery!

Get Social With us @UniglobeCarefree on Facebook and @uniglobeYXE on Instagram and Twitter

Kyra’s Amazing Alaska Cruise – Part 3

For Skagway, we decided to pre-book the White Pass Railway tour! It is a beautiful and very scenic 2.5hour roundtrip train ride up the mountains to the summit and back. The train picks up right at the cruise port.

60309989_308775996717759_399177460240875520_n

On the ride, we seen stunning mountains, valleys, waterfalls, old train bridges, and train tunnels that we got to travel through! That was pretty neat!

While onboard, there is commentary about the old Gold Rush days, how it was built, facts, and they also point out beautiful views not to be missed!

Each car has a bathroom, a fire heater, and two by two seats. You are even able to go stand outside on the train car platforms for better views!

60715940_661215274322138_6932722886767542272_n

Insider tip, don’t worry about sitting on the wrong side on the train. Since it is a round trip ride, the train loops around and goes the same way back. So if you had the mountain out your window on the way up, you will get the scenery on your side on the way back! No seat is a bad seat!

I highly recommend this amazing tour while visiting Skagway!

Stay tuned for my next blog from Glacier Bay National Park.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Kyra’s Amazing Alaska Cruise – Part 2

60211552_330040990995579_8674738270287953920_n

Today we arrived in Juneau and had our first excursion! We had pre-booked with Princess to go dogsledding and were super excited for this tour. Plus, who doesn’t love puppies! The sled dog camp was only about a 20min scenic ride from the cruise port. Once we got there, we got to learn a bit about dogsledding before going on a ride. We learned about the mandatory equipment and the processes of dog sledding.

Did you know that the average cost to participate in the famous 1,150 mile Iditarod race is $40,000 and the maximum number of dogs per team is 14?

After the kennel talk, we got to go on a 1.5mile ride around the camp. We were pulled by a team of 15 dogs ranging from experienced to just learning. It was a fast and exhilarating ride with beautiful scenery.

Then it was time for a hot beverage and puppy snuggles! The pups were 3 weeks old and absolutely adorable!

59965919_468400883898953_2431472056752144384_n

The camp has a beautiful suspension bridge which offered beautiful views of the camp and Tongass Rainforest!

60154477_856328504760056_5004541540211621888_n

All in all the tour was about 2.5 hours and I would highly recommend considering this tour while in Juneau!

Stay tuned for more from our amazing Alaska adventure.