Thursday, July 30, 2015

National Museum Zurich

Landesmuseum Zürich

The National Museum Zurich is located across from the train station in the heart of Zurich. This popular museum of cultural history, with its extraordinary 19th century architecture, has been designated a historical monument of national importance.

This was our first stop using the ZürichCARD, which gave us free entry to the museum.  Note that you'll have to check any bags in lockers that are provided free of charge.  You are allowed to take photographs, but please don't use flash when viewing any of the antique art works.

With over 820,000 exhibits, the Swiss National Museum has the largest collection documenting the cultural history of Switzerland and Swiss arts and crafts.

Interiors & Building Elements

A great variety of period rooms and individual building elements from the 15th to the 17th century. Partially reconstructed in the museum.
click to enlarge images

These stained glass windows were just a small part of this collection.

Sculptures & More

In addition to furnishings, the museum boasts an outstanding collection of medieval wood carvings and framed altarpieces from Switzerland during the Middle Ages.

Despite spending quite an amount of time at the museum, we only scratched the surface of all the collections.

We highly recommend visiting this museum if you have any interest in learning more about Switzerland's history.  

This visit to Zurich was part of our pre-cruise stay before our Rhine & Moselle river cruise on the beautiful Avalon Artistry II.   We are writing a complete diary of our trip, with much more to come, including photo albums.

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Continue with us as we head for some lunch next. Can you guess where we might be headed (hint:  there's a panoramic view from the location)?    Click the image to continue the visit other posts in the series. 


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Save Time and Money in Zurich

Your City Travel Pass

Tip: With the ZürichCARD, you can enjoy Zurich in all its diversity – and save time and money too. 

We arrived in Zurich, Switzerland one day before our Avalon Waterways river cruise so that we could be accustomed to the time change and have some time to explore the area.

Since we planned to use public transportation, including trams, trains, and boat, plus we wanted to see at least one museum, it made sense to purchase the ZürichCARD.  We purchased it at the airport tourist information counter.  It can also be purchased at train stations and online on their website.

Validate Your Card

Prior to using your card for the first time, you must validate it at a machine in a train station. Since our hotel had a shuttle, we didn't need to use the card for transportation right away, but we decided to do the validation at the airport's train station. You can find an orange machine, like the one pictured, in the lower level of the train station across from the baggage claim (and tourist information counter).

 Purchasing at Train Station

We met another couple, who were also going on our cruise, when we checked in at the hotel.   We talked about sight-seeing together and we explained the benefits of purchasing the ZürichCARD.

They purchased the cards, using a credit card, from an automated touch-screen terminal by the train tracks.   The validation rule still applied - either insert in the orange validation machine (which might be on the opposite side of the tracks) or in the slot to the left of the screen.
(click on images above to enlarge)

Benefits of the ZürichCARD

  • Unlimited 2nd class travel on all forms of public transportation in the city of Zurich and surrounding region
  • Free or reduced admission to the majority of Zurich’s museums 
  • 10 to 20% discount in various local stores 
  • Culinary surprise in selected restaurants 
  • 50% discount on public city tours organized by Zurich Tourism
  • Many more discounts on a variety of cultural and leisure activities
Click on image to see additional Blog Posts
You can purchase the card for 24 hour or 72 hour periods.  As of this writing, the price for Adults was CHF 24 (EUR 24) and CHF 48 (EUR 48) respectively.  We only needed 24 hour period in our case.

We'll tell you more about how we used the card in additional posts. 

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Heading for Zurich

Avalon Waterways
The Rhine & Moselle Northbound

Pre-Cruise Travel 
Chicago - NY - Zurich

The requirement for the cruise was to be in Zurich, Switzerland by 3 PM on Monday, July 13th for transfer to the ship.   There were pre-cruise hotel stays and excursions also offered by Avalon Waterways.   
As usual, we prefer to arrive in our disembarkation city at least a day early, especially in the case of trans-Atlantic departures.  We opted for one night  hotel stay and the optional Excursion to Mt. Pilatus with transfer to ship.   The flights were booked independently using miles.  

Connecting Through New York
When using frequent flier mileage for your flights, there are limitations in the flights you can select, especially if you want to minimize the number of miles consumed.   In our case, we opted for connecting flights through New York.   This added a twist, since the connections included changing planes AND airports.

click image to enlarge

Our flight from Chicago departed Saturday, July 11th at 10:10 AM and arrived in New York (LGA) shortly after 1 PM.   We claimed our luggage and headed for the NYCAirporter counter to purchase transfer tickets to New York's JFK airport.   

TIP: The cost is $13 per person for this approximately 30 minute ride.   You need to allow plenty of connection time for this transfer because New York traffic can be 
unpredictable, and check-in time at JFK will take quite some time as well.

Click on image to see additional Blog Posts
The LGA to JFK transfer leaves the American Airlines baggage claim area every 30 minutes.  We were able to catch the 1:30 PM shuttle which arrived around 2 PM.    We proceeded to TSA security check-in, which had very long lines and took awhile to complete.

After passing security, we noticed the sculpture pictured above which was quite appropriate: "From New York to the World".  Our next stop was the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge for some snacks before our 4:45 PM flight to Zurich.

We had an on-time departure for Zurich, Switzerland.  In our next posts we'll talk about our pre-cruise adventures and then continue with more information about this fabulous river cruise.

Diary of Avalon Rhine & Moselle River Cruise

Avalon Waterways
The Rhine & Moselle Northbound


The Rhine flows through six countries (Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Germany and The Netherlands).  We began our journey in Zurich, Switzerland and ultimately ended up in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

When 2015 began, we had not anticipated taking a river cruise this year, but several events put things in motion which ultimately ended up with our selecting this particular river cruise.

We'll share our story, including the highlights of the cruise.   It will take some time to tell the complete story, so we've created this "anchor" page.  It will later become an in-depth reference for anyone planning a similar adventure.

Bookmark this page, follow us on our various social media outlets, and  join us on our journey.  

Port Blog Posts Photo Albums
Planning, Travel, Tips & More Heading for Zurich
Save Time and Money in Zurich

Pre Zurich, Switzerland National Museum Zurich Zurich - National Museum
1Zurich, Switzerland 

Avalon Artistry II 

2Breisach, Germany 

3Strasbourg, France

4Mannheim, Germany 

5Rudesheim, Germany 

6Bernkastel, Germany

7Grevenmacher, Luxembourg 

8Cochem, Germany

9Koblenz, Germany

10 Cologne, Germany

11 Kinderdijk, Netherlands

12 Volendam, Netherlands 

13 Amsterdam, Netherlands 


We posted a few teaser images during our cruise on our Facebook page.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Coming to America

America in Images

We participated in two Twitter chats, #FriFotos &  #travelpics, that centered around America, which was quite fitting with the 4th of July holiday.

These images were captured during one of our cruises out of New York.   Just imagine what the immigrants who were coming to America thought as they saw Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. 

Statue of Liberty

On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.  It was later designated as a National Monument in 1924, restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986, and in 2011, underwent a renovation of the 125 year old pedestal and the 200 year old fort base from which the statue rises.

A gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States... The Statue of Liberty is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.
 Sailing in or out of NY Harbor is something you should put on your bucket list if you haven't already done so.  Some cruises that you could select include trans-Atlantic voyages, Bermuda, and Canada / New England itineraries.
What Images of America come to your mind?

If you like Travel & Photography join us each Friday for #FriFotos and on Monday for #Travelpics!


Follow #FriFotos on Twitter and Facebook

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For some thoughts on the 4th of July, see our previous blog post:

Land of the Free Because of the Brave

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Canada Day 2015

Canada Day, frequently referred to as "Canada's birthday", commemorates the joining of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec) on July 1, 1867.

Canada Day is very similar to the  July 4th holiday in the United States.  Most communities across the country will host organized celebrations for Canada Day, usually outdoor public events, such as parades, carnivals, festivals, barbecues, air and maritime shows, fireworks, and free musical concerts.

Learn more:  Official Website for Canada Day

We have had the pleasure of visiting several Canadian cities during our cruise vacations.  These included ports of call on multiple Alaskan cruises,  Canada and New England cruises, and even Transatlantic cruises.  One of the highlights was when we extended our Alaskan cruise with a pre-cruise exploration of the Canadian Rockies.

Have you ever ridden on a glacier?  You can while visiting the Columbia Icefield Glacier in the Canadian Rockies. Specially designed vehicles, Massive Brewster Ice Explorers, take passengers on a remarkable excursion onto the surface of the Athabasca Glacier.

Have you smelled flowers or gotten up close to thousands of unique flowers in bloom?  You can at one of Canada's botanical gardens such as the fifty acre Butchart Gardens located near Victoria, British Columbia. You'll see stunning floral show gardens and a National Historic Site of Canada.

British Columbia is known for floral gardens.  Minter Gardens, which has since closed, thrilled us with thousands of flowers and gardens.

Would you like to visit a fishing village, have some fresh lobster, or visit a lighthouse?  Nova Scotia has much to offer including the Bay of Fundy and many beaches where you can build sandcastles, fly kites, take a surf lesson, or just walk barefoot in the sand.

For the maritime lover, visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, where you can visit the Titanic ~ The Unsinkable Ship and Halifax, Nova Scotia exhibit and learn about the role the people of Halifax played that fateful day.

Would you like to walk where birds fly and squirrels hang out?  You can in Vancouver, Canada, at Capilano Suspension Bridge and Treetops Adventure.  I'm afraid of bridges, but I had a great time crossing a series of elevated suspension bridges, some reaching as high as 100 feet (30m) above the forest floor.

Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver, British Columbia's most popular tourist attractions.  Odds are that unless you extended your cruise vacation in Vancouver, you probably didn't visit this attraction during your cruise vacation.

There is so much to see and do in Canada, I hope that you'll plan a visit in the near future and get to know more about this North American country.   We have only scratched the surface in this article.   There are other Canadian destinations featured in past blog posts and also on our Facebook Fan Page.

To all our Canadian friends .... Happy Canada Day 2015.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Traveling to Greece During Crisis

What to Know

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Greece of the possibility of disruptions to banking services – including credit-card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece in light of developments within the local economy.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards), and make sure to have enough cash on hand to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.   Learn More ...

 Demonstrations & Other Risks

The alert also cautions about being aware of your surroundings at all times.   There might be scheduled and unscheduled political demonstrations as well.  Whenever you are traveling, you should follow this guideline anyway.

It is common knowledge that travelers are being advised to keep extra money with them, which increases the chance of being a target of unsavory individuals or groups looking to take advantage of the situation.    There are various safety methods that you can put in place to keep you and your money safe.

  • Divide the funds among members in your group
  • Only carry enough with you that you will need that day
  • Leave extra money in safe of cruise ship or hotel room
  • Use money belts to hide money on your person
Travel Insurance

Hopefully you purchased travel insurance when you booked your cruise or land vacation to Greece.   In our recent blog post, Insurance Awareness Day 2015, we talked about the value of travel insurance protecting against the unexpected.   You might be tempted to cancel your trip, but be aware that unless you purchased a "cancel for any reason" policy, this would most likely NOT be a covered event.   Even so, there are other benefits of the insurance policy which could come into play during your trip, if you were to lose valuables or be injured for example.

Potential Itinerary Changes

As of this writing, cruise lines with upcoming cruises have not altered their plans but we are certain they are keeping a close watch on developments.   The cruise lines number one priority is the safety of ships, passengers, and crew, so should there be any escalation in the wake of the bank closings, plans could be altered.     In similar situations like this, sea days or alternate ports were substituted, often with very little notice.   Be sure that you have provided contact information to your travel professional or cruise line as appropriate.   Should there be cancellations or changes that we become aware of, we'll share that information with you.

Additional Resources

One of the more important ways that U.S. Citizens can keep informed while traveling abroad is by  enrolling in the U.S. Department of State's STEP service.

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.

STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency.

Additional travel information can be found on International Travel (static tab on blog) and Travel Tools (on our website). Topics include: Tips for Traveling Abroad, Travel Warnings, Country Specific Information & Travel Alerts 

We encourage all cruise passengers to be familiar with travel alerts, warnings, tips, and country specific requirements before leaving home.  Make sure that you leave your itinerary with someone at home and that you are adequately protected by travel insurance.

Enjoy Your Cruise to Greece

We were fortunate to travel to Greece a few years ago during our 12-night Mediterranean voyage.   For information about the ports we visited see our blog post:  Diary of Cruise with Chris to Greek Isles

Safe Travels

We highly suggest that you monitor the situation in Greece before and during your visit there.  We wish you safe travels, and for the wonderful people of Greece, we hope that this current financial situation can be resolved quickly.