Travel Blog

Are you ready for something new in cruising? How about taking it a step further, and start an actual adventure.

I recently experienced something completely unique in the cruising world, at least to me. I spent two exciting weeks aboard Hurtigruten’s Explorer vessel, the MS Fram. This beautiful, small, expedition style ship is specifically designed to take explorers to unique sites. In my time aboard the MS Fram, as they transitioned from the Antarctic to the Arctic Sea, we visited the San Blas Islands, San Lorenzo in Panama, Boca del Toro, Nicaragua’s Corn Islands, Isla de Provencia (Colombia), Cayos Cochinos in Honduras, a couple of days in Belize, and Cozumel.

Even though I’ve been on many Caribbean Cruises, everything about this was new to me. Hutigruten has been around since 1893, mostly in the Norwegian area. They have developed into a line with a highly trained and educated crew that specializes in exploring the unexplored, more difficult to visit, areas of our beautiful planet. Instead of a Cruise Director, they have an Explorer Team. This is made up of Biologists, Geologists, and Zoological Specialists from all over the world. There were daily lectures in both English and German, on the many experiences we were about to have. These included marine life, local birds, plants, geological structures, history and indigenous people of each area to be explored.

Each area was pristine, beautiful, and still full of the flavor of the native people. With only 150-175 passengers, and 85 crew members (total, including room stewards, kitchen and other hotel workers, and the exploration team) there was never an over-crowded feeling. With only a few people in each group, it was easy to feel like I was the first person to explore this island, reef, or cay.

Where Hurtigruten really shines is in exploring the far reaches of our planet. In the Southern Hemisphere’s Summer (Dec-Feb) they take adventurous groups onto Antarctica itself, to wander with the Penguins, and walk on the ice flows. Due its size, it is permitted to make actually landings on the continent itself, something the larger cruise ships are banned from doing. In the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer (Jun-Aug) they cruise the entire Arctic Circle, touching Canada, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, and Norway. They have polar bear and whale spotting competitions and walk out on the icebergs. The cruise itself includes ocean kayaking, snorkeling (for the Caribbean relocation cruises), paddleboards, and motorboat coastal explorations. All of these activities are included in the price of the cruise.

The Chef on board The Fram is very careful to prepare dishes to please every palate. They were composed of organic and high quality produce, seafood, and meats. Though they do not have the 24 hour food availability many other cruise lines offer, I never felt hungry or lacking in meal options.

Hurtigruten is starting to market more and more in the U.S.A. and many of the ships are, or will soon be, undergoing extensive rehabbing, including the MS Fram. They have just launched their premier ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, a green hybrid, which runs mainly on electrical batteries that are charged by small diesel generators. This hybridization makes these wonderful ships the greenest, most earth-friendly ships sailing today.

From the crystal clear turquoise Caribbean waters, to the humid rainforest, this was an expedition I will never forget. It was an experience that has opened up so much of this beautiful planet to explore and love.

Elaine Beckstrom

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City: Salt Lake City, UT 84020
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When planning a trip to Europe for myself and my 3 sisters, we wanted a stress free trip that would provide the active lifestyle we wanted along with the absence of trying to choose where we were going to stay and most importantly….where were we going to eat! Having only been on large cruise ships before, getting onto a European river cruise with only 81 staterooms is a delightful surprise. I chose AMA waterways for several reasons, first the itinerary and dates fit perfectly for me and my sisters. Secondly for the reviews and comments made by my fellow co-workers, letting me know AMA is an amazing product. And finally the beautiful pictures on the AMA website, which come to find out after being on the ship is such a true representation of the product.

We arrived 2 days before our cruise so we could explore Zurich and Lucerne. What a magical city Lucerne is, it is a must see if you are traveling in this region. Taking the train up to Basel, we left early so we could explore the city before sailing, train time was right around 50 minutes from Zurich. The AMA staff were very accommodating since we arrived around 9:00 am and they were still disembarking passengers from the previous cruise, they took our luggage and told us that it would be in our stateroom once we returned. Sure enough, once we returned around 2pm, our luggage had been placed in our stateroom and they had a lunch buffet set up that was perfect after a morning of sightseeing.

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Interest in Iceland has exploded over the last few years. I plan many trips a year to Iceland and thought I knew it pretty well based on research and suggestions from DMCs. I was totally amazed on this trip with all I didn’t know. This educational experience was sponsored by Iceland Travel, Signature Travel Network’s number one destination manage company for Iceland. They are based in Iceland and know the product better than anyone. Started out flying on Delta through JFK. Arrival is about 630 am and it is about an hour from the airport to downtown Reykjavik. We saw and had breakfast at the interesting Viking museum on the way. They have a beautiful Viking ship replica inside. Then on to the city. After seeing some nice Icelandair hotels we checked into the Ion hotel. The location was great. I had a wonderful suite with a sauna and city view. We then visited Hallgrimskirkja the beautiful Lutheran cathedral and took a city tour. Dinner was on our own so we visited some of the fun pubs and nightlife for dinner. Who knew you could get some of the best pizza of your life in Reykjavik!

We were up early the next day to visit Krauma the geothermal baths. The experience was going between very hot baths then plunging into ice cold. I definitely felt invigorated! We enjoyed a wonderful lunch. Next on to Husafell Hotel, an amazing resort at the base of the glacier. We then got to go into the heart of a glacier. We tracked up the glacier in super Jeep’s with huge tires made for the climb. Inside the glacier was amazing. It was incredible to hear the history of glaciers in Iceland and how they are shrinking drastically due to climate change. The Husefel restaurant that evening was a treat with such fresh salmon and cod. We went to Thingvellir National park the next day to see some breathtaking waterfalls and geysers then on to Fridheimar Greenhouse. Iceland is famous for lots of greenhouses because of all the geothermal energy used to heat them. They grow the most delicious tomato’s. We were treated to a fantastic tomato soup and fresh bread lunch. On to more incredible waterfalls and lava fields. This night was my favorite hotel Hotel Ranga on the Eystri-ranga river. The rooms were so cozy and the views were astounding. This was one of the best places to see the northern lights. We enjoyed a fresh seafood experience that evening.

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I had a great opportunity to learn more about the American Cruise Line and enjoy a luxury cruise here in the United States. The American Cruise Line offers 35 itineraries that visit 30 different states. Itineraries range from the Pacific Northwest including the Columbia, the Snake, Puget Sound, the San Juan islands to Southeast Alaska; to the Mississippi River including New Orleans, the Cumberland and the Ohio Rivers; to New England along the Hudson River and the Maine Coast; to the southeast coastline of South Carolina and Georgia. There are numerous themed cruises also such as Lewis and Clark, Civil War, Fall Foliage, Music cruises, and food and wine cruises.

Their amenities include full size bathrooms, spacious staterooms, sliding glass balcony doors, elevator access, wifi, locally sourced ingredients for gourmet meals, breathtaking scenery and wildlife. A pre-cruise hotel was included right alongside the river, with a beautiful view of the American Song. Other inclusions are the tips and gratuities, a daily shore excursion, all meals and drinks. Nightly entertainment was also included with popcorn, ice cream sundaes and hot-out of the oven cookies.

My Columbia and Snake River cruise experience included a Lewis and Clark theme and a certified historian who traveled and shared his extensive knowledge of the area and the journey and the importance to the United States of this historic event. He added so much value to my experience and learning. We traveled along the geologically interesting Columbia River Gorge, saw historic sites of Astoria, Oregon; viewed Mount St Helens, Sacajawea State Park, visited the engineering marvels of the Dalles and the Bonneville Dam, and ascended the river through the locks. The beautiful Multnomah Falls are included in the sightseeing as is the REACH Museum which is in the area so vital to WWII and the development of plutonium and atomic bomb.

My American Cruise Line experience was so comfortable. Having an all-inclusive experience just heightens its attraction. The service was incredible as they would go out of their way to give you your perfect experience. The food was delicious, the scenery delightful, the entertainment for enjoyable and the historian was spectacular. This type of cruise is perfect for those who have travelled long and far, but now desire to stay closer to home yet still have a luxury experience. I would highly recommend this cruise line.

Julie Best

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I can’t think of a better way to escape the cold Utah weather than a cruise to the Caribbean. In fact the Eastern Caribbean!

My recent travels took me aboard the beautiful Caribbean Princess sailing from Ft. Lauderdale. Along the way we made stops at Princess Cay, a private island belonging to Princess Cruises. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and Grand Turks in Turks and Caicos.

Even though San Juan is an American Territory, they remain independent and are self-governed. Old San Juan is a beautiful city that is over 465 years old. It is surrounded by Ft. San Cristobal. The fort was completed in 1783 and was built to protect the city. Across the city hall, there is a monument depicting all of the US presidents that have visited San Juan.

Amber Cove is an area just outside of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. It is a beautiful city that enjoys access to the Caribbean blue waters. You can enjoy the day swimming with dolphins, kayaking or just relaxing on the beach.

The Dominican Republic was discovered by Columbus’ flag ship, the Santa Maria in Christmas Eve 1492.

For me the highlight was in Turks & Cacos. I spent the day enjoying the turquoise blue water of the Caribbean, snorkeling & swimming. The highlight was spending time with the stingrays. With the help of our local guide, I actually held a stingray and gave it a kiss! It was a bit salty, but not something I will forget!

Princess Cruises is also in the process of converting their ships to the use of Medallions. Unlike traditional cards used on other cruise lines, these medallions will unlock your stateroom when you approach the door, help you order food and have it delivered to wherever you are on the ship and even find those you are sailing with if you get separated. The medallions are still a bit of a work in progress, but should make your cruise a much more smooth experience.

The best part was I came home with a little sun and ready to face the remaining winter days in Utah!

Susan Hatch

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Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday