Considered the heart and soul of Central Europe, the majestic Danube River is over 1,700 miles long and travels through ten countries. From its origin in Germany’s Black Forest, to where it empties into the Black Sea, history has been made all along the shores of this scenic river, and rising from its banks are some of Europe’s most glorious cities.
Here’s what to expect from the cities you’ll encounter on a Danube River cruise.
Known as the City of Three Rivers, Passau is a charming historic trading town. Walk along cobblestone streets, explore narrow alleyway with Italianate arches and listen to the rich cords of the largest pipe organ in Europe at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Then head to the Glass Museum to feast your eyes on over 13,000 pieces of handcrafted artwork.
Bratislava is the heart of Slovakia. The Old Town district is renowned for its Baroque architecture and splendid structures such as Bratislava Castle, Devin Castle and Holy Savior Jesuit Church. You can also enjoy the beautiful gothic green and gold of St. Martin Cathedral, the impressive Novy Most Bridge, and the 14th-century fortifications at Michael’s Gate, one of the only surviving medieval gateways.
Immerse yourself in Vienna’s culture and atmosphere with a tram ride around the Ringstrasse that loops around the center of the city. Vienna’s architecture is the focal point with exquisite structures such as the Imperial Palace, Parliament and the Vienna State Opera. Or visit Schönbrunn Palace, the Versailles of Vienna, erected in 1778 and graced by formal gardens, Grecian statuary, the world’s oldest zoo and Roman ruins.
In Belgrade, Serbia’s bustling capital city blends Roman fortresses and stately cathedrals with a lively and upbeat atmosphere. Walking around the famed Kalemegdan Fortress, you’ll encounter stalwart walls that loom over the Old Town and impressive medieval gates enclosing Orthodox churches. To truly get a feel for the people, head to the Zeleni Venc market to find homemade treats like pickled chilies, honey, rakija (a fruit brandy) and other fresh foods.
Vidin is a picturesque Bulgarian port. A favorite stop here is the Belogradchik Fortress, built right into the striking Belogradchik Rocks. See the fortress’s amazing construction, begun in Roman times and greatly extended by Bulgarian tsars and the Ottomans, and enjoy breathtaking views. You can also explore Vidin’s city center, Orthodox churches and the ruins of the city’s once-grand synagogue.
Nearly every cruise itinerary to Alaska will call on the big three ports of call: Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. But some of Alaska’s most memorable ports are off the beaten path. Not every cruise line offers sailings to these, nor are you likely to see them together on a single voyage, but each offers its own unique take on Alaskan life.
Here’s a few of the places we actively seek out on an Alaskan itinerary.
Wrangell is, without a doubt, one of our favorite Alaskan ports of call. Situated roughly halfway between Juneau and Ketchikan, Wrangell hosts a single cruise dock that is literally a block from the town center. With only a handful of streets, all of Wrangell can be easily explored on foot. What you’ll find is a quaint town that oozes authenticity and charm. Pop into the gritty local pub for a pint of Alaskan Amber or walk to the fabulous Petroglyph Beach.
Although Sitka is featured on a large number of Alaskan itineraries, a greater number never bother to call on this highly walkable little town. Sitka has a decidedly unique look and feel to it, with more than a touch of Russian influence. The Alaska Purchase was signed here, and a full 22 buildings in this city appear on the National Register of Historic Places.
A favorite for most who have been there, Petersburg is located just north of Wrangell. The exclusive domain of small, expedition-style ships, Petersburg is uniquely and authentically Alaskan. Wilderness treks are easy to come by, as are wildlife and nature excursions, not to mention strolling through a town where you are truly treated as one of the locals.
If you’ve watched the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, chances are you’ve seen images of Dutch Harbor. This is one of Alaska’s most remote communities, although it is also one of the busiest fishing ports in the United States in terms of volume caught. If you’re looking to visit an Alaskan port that is off-the-beaten-path, Dutch Harbor is most certainly that.
It’s true: Prince Rupert is not in Alaska at all, but rather in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Located just south of Ketchikan, its cruise pier is located right in the heart of the small walkable town that handles as much cargo shipping traffic as the city of Vancouver. Noteworthy sights are the beautiful Sunken Gardens Park and Butze Rapids Park that features numerous trails through spectacular old growth forests.
If you’re an active international traveler like we are, then you should know about Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. In addition to easy entry into the U.S., participants also automatically qualify for TSA PreCheck, which helps to ensure speedy security checks at domestic airports as well.
At participating airports, program participants can skip long lines and proceed directly to dedicated Global Entry kiosks. At the kiosk, they present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for verification, and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt, directs them to baggage claim and away they go!
Most international airports in the U.S. participate in the program, as well as a few foreign airports such as Abu Dhabi International Airport, Saipan International Airport and Toronto Pearson Airport.
Even though the program was created for frequent international travelers, there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify, although there is a non-refundable fee of $100. You will need to get pre-approved for the program, which includes a rigorous background check and in-person interview. The popularity of the program means this process can potentially take from three to six months.
Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and citizens of Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland as well as Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents may enjoy Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program.
To learn more and apply, visit www.GlobalEntry.gov.
You can easily and joyfully spend weeks in Tokyo, getting lost in the sprawling oddities of the capital city. But that would not give you a proper understanding of Japan as whole. This island nation rewards those who venture beyond Tokyo with mesmerizing natural and cultural attractions that are splendidly unique in the modern world. Any trip you plan to Japan should include these unforgettable destinations:
The formal Imperial capital, Kyoto is the vibrant heart of Japan’s epic history. Home to 17 World Heritage Sites, this alluring city boasts more than 2,000 temples and shrines, including Kiyomizu-dera and the Golden Pavilion, along with rock gardens and modern-day geishas. When evening comes, relax at Yamatoya, a beloved local jazz bar considered to be one of the city’s best hidden gems.
A quick bullet-train ride from Kyoto, Himeji is the sight of an awe-inspiring 400-year-old castle that proudly stands as the jewel of Japan’s military architecture. Built to force attackers through a complex and dangerous maze, the structure is called the White Heron Castle due to its glistening white exterior. Also not to be missed, and just a few minutes’ walk from the castle, is Menme, a cheerful family-run restaurant known for its delicious homemade udon noodles.
A picturesque island in the Seto Inland Sea, Naoshima is called Art Island for good reason. Not only does it house three major galleries along with many smaller venues, but also dozens of colorful outdoor installations that dot the beaches and fishing village. The island is reached by bullet train from Tokyo or Osaka followed by a twenty-minute ferry ride, and it’s dotted with ryokan, traditional guest houses known for their tatami-matted rooms, futon beds and Japanese-style baths.
A famous hot springs area near Nagano, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is surrounded by sheer cliffs and an old, hulking forest. When snow covers the park, photogenic Snow Monkeys descend from the tree tops to lounge in the hot springs, much to the delight of visitors. The area, known as the Japanese Alps, is also famous for its skiing and luxury resorts.
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