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Cruising the World, Your Way

If you’ve ever stood in line at a Starbucks and pondered the seemingly endless choices, you have some idea of what it’s like trying to choose a cruise these days. The options are mind-boggling! Should you go with a river cruiser or an ocean-going vessel? Small, medium-size, or mega-ship? Six-star service or intimate and casual? Then you have the itineraries to consider, with choices in virtually every corner of the globe.

No wonder the American Society of Travel Agents reports that 85% of all cruises are booked through a reputable travel agency like Hideaways Travel Services. After all, this isn’t just a cup of coffee you’re buying! Our cruise experts will help you navigate through the complexities of your cruise booking, to say nothing of sorting through the reams of destinations, cruise lines, and individual ships, plus planning pre- and post-cruise stays.

As an added bonus, whenever you sail with one of Hideaways’ preferred cruise partners, you’ll receive extras and exclusive member perks like complimentary shore excursions, prepaid gratuities, up to $500 in shipboard credits on select voyages, and a one-year gift membership in the Hideaways Aficionado® Club. For more insight on all our preferred partners, go to

We thought it would be fun to let a few Hideaways members describe their recent cruise experiences, and tell why each fit their particular travel style and expectations. For more of their stories—we couldn’t shoehorn them all in here—visit

Starting at the Top
By Stephanie Meadows, Houston, TX

Why we chose to sail with Crystal Cruises is easy to answer. Crystal provided an exceptionally high standard of service to places we wanted to visit, with a wide range of excursions, on-board activities and lectures, comfortable rooms, high-quality meals and wine, and outstanding staff. The ease of booking a Crystal cruise through Hideaways was another factor; a few emails and payments, and our entire trip was planned. For a very busy, dual-career couple, the no-hassle factor in planning our cruise was a big plus!

The ship’s facilities and stateroom met our high standards for travel accommodations—on both of our past Crystal experiences (the Med in July 2010 and the South Pacific in February 2011), we stayed in a AA Deluxe Stateroom w/veranda on the Penthouse deck. The veranda made our room feel more spacious, while the bathroom was large enough that we didn’t feel like we were in a camping trailer. And the restaurants were fresh, with a lively atmosphere and attentive staff. Most important, the food was always the star.

Service on board was exceptional and genuine. On our second cruise, the staff remembered our names, even though it had been months and thousands of guests since our previous cruise. It was a milestone birthday for me, and the staff provided special treats and thoughtful touches to the room. The destinations and excursions were the highlight, though. We packed so many exotic places into one trip: lunch in Tahiti, a romantic dinner at sea, breakfast in Bora Bora, another romantic dinner at sea, and wake up in the Cook Islands. What’s not to like?

We now are setting our sights on pre-retirement and Crystal’s 2013 voyage around South America. Seventy-four days of exploring Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and the Caribbean. And it all starts with one simple e-mail to Hideaways.

Ed. note: Look for Stephanie’s complete report on her South Pacific birthday cruise in a future issue of Hideaways Life.
Cruising with a Difference
By Brian DeWolf, Eden Prairie, MN

Initially, Oceania Cruises was our choice based on the Mediterranean itinerary they offered that stopped at several of the locations we were looking for. However, I would surely choose them again for their attention to detail, the ease of moving on and off the ship, and the wonderful meal arrangements.

First, our ship carried a maximum of 684 passengers, which was very reasonable. We never had crowds, chairs were always available, and someone on staff was always there to help us. This was so much better than the large Carnival Cruises we have been on. Also, we had absolutely no problems and no lines moving on and off the ship. This includes the embarkation and debarkation process, which both took less than 30 minutes.
The Owner’s Suite and the butler service we had were impeccable in every way. Our suite was large, clean, and well designed, and our butler’s favorite words were “sure” and “no problem” whenever we asked for anything. We found the food on board to be incredible. But even more important, we could eat whenever and with whomever we wanted. Our butler would simply make a reservation in one of the wonderful restaurants whenever we wished, and off we went—sometimes early, sometimes late, sometimes in the room. It didn’t matter, it was always great!
I would encourage everyone to try one of Oceania’s smaller ships. Many of us have had bad experiences with massive crowds on massive ships, and Oceania was quite the opposite—a real breath of cruise fresh air.

Musings on a Danube River Cruise
By Karen Smith, Charlotte, NC

Sometimes, especially on a river cruise, the view from your cabin is the most important thing. That’s why we decided on Avalon Waterways, since they offer cabins with floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors and a French balcony. Our cabin had plenty of storage and was fairly spacious; however, the bathroom was quite tiny. Overall, I liked the fact that beverages were included with meals as part of the price and wireless Internet connectivity was reasonably priced as an add-on. We thoroughly enjoyed our guided tours of the towns—also a nice inclusion.
The service on board was great. The crew was very friendly, and everyone spoke English quite well. At one point along the river a barge had sunk, and that impeded our trip from Vienna to Budapest. To accommodate us while we waited for the barge to be cleared, Avalon arranged bus transportation, dinner at a Hungarian restaurant, and accommodations at a 5-star hotel, all in a speedy manner. While we lost most of a day of sightseeing, I think Avalon handled the situation as well as it could under the circumstances.

You’ll never have to worry about being seasick—this cruise moves along at a very calm, slow pace. However, if you want lots of activities on board, this river cruise would not be for you. Our ship did have a small library with some board games, and there were daily lectures. Bottom line: If you're looking for a good balance of relaxation and sightseeing, I would definitely recommend a river cruise.

Ed. note: Hideaways Travel Services can recommend several additional river cruise lines that specialize in plying the rivers of the world: Europe, Russia, China, Vietnam, India, Egypt, the Amazon, and more. Call us at 800-843-4433, or email

“Weathering” Ireland
By Bert Butts, Washington, D.C.

We enjoyed the week we spent on a self-captained cruise along the middle section of the River Shannon, traveling from the rental company’s base anchorage at Portuma to their anchorage at Carrick-on-Shannon. The scenery was stunning, especially the water meadows on the first leg of the trip and the view of the ruins at Clonmacnois as the boat approached this World Heritage Site from the river.

There are multiple advantages to this type of cruising. You carry your sleeping quarters with you, so there’s limited packing and unpacking. Docking is much easier than parking, and there is no congestion. However, the boat is relatively expensive compared to renting a cottage for a week or stopping in B&Bs along the way. It also is more restrictive in what you see and much more weather dependent. Unfortunately, we had terrible weather, and I would not do it again without a better prospect of more sun and less wind and rain.

During our week on the river, we docked for lunch at a lakeside resort in Glasson. Frankly, we were surprised by the quality and variety of the food offered along our route. We also made side trips to Clonfert Cathedral by bike and Stokestown Park by taxi. Along the river, each of us took a turn as captain just for fun. Likewise, it was fun and educational taking our turns at the bow or stern ropes when entering a lock, bringing the boat into and out of the anchorage, and navigating. Just remember, make sure you are compatible with your traveling companions. The boat is small, your quarters are cramped, and you will all do something truly stupid during the week you’re together. It helps if you get along and can laugh at yourself and each other.

Ed. note: Bert has lots of great tips to share from his self-captained cruise—including why you shouldn’t rent bikes to take on the boat—at And while Bert and his party chose to barge in Ireland, where the weather is notorious for its changeability, we also can recommend self-hire barging in other interesting destinations like southern France, where the weather is more predictable.

September/October 2011

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* Hideaways Aficionado Club is a registered trademark of Hideaways International, Inc.
Copyright © 2021 Hideaways International, Inc.
All Rights Reserved