Lost Luggage: Your Rights

(posted recently in Huffington Post)

 

When an airline loses your luggage, it’s never fun. But smart travelers can end up collecting major cash after such instances if they follow the correct protocol.

You should know that on flights within the U.S., airlines are legally required to reimburse you up to $3,500 if your bags are lost, damaged or delayed in getting to you.

Yep, by law, you can collect up to $3,500 for items you had to buy as a result of your bag issue, even if the bag is delayed but eventually returned to you, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Expenses must be both reasonable and documented: Almost all airlines require you to file a claim within a specific timeframe if your bag is delayed, damaged or lost and to document your related spending with receipts. If they think an expense wasn’t necessary ― say, you buy a $3,000 bracelet to wear during the two days that your bag is delayed ― they likely won’t reimburse you for it. Ditto if you purchase something much more valuable than what was actually inside your lost bag.

Expenses must be both reasonable and documented: Almost all airlines require you to file a claim within a specific timeframe if your bag is delayed, damaged or lost and to document your related spending with receipts. If they think an expense wasn’t necessary ― say, you buy a $3,000 bracelet to wear during the two days that your bag is delayed ― they likely won’t reimburse you for it. Ditto if you purchase something much more valuable than what was actually inside your lost bag.

Things like emergency toiletries and replacement clothes, however, are reasonable, and you should know that you’re entitled to be paid back for them. You could even get reimbursed for a hair straightener or salon visit if there were hair tools in your missing bag, one airline spokesperson told HuffPost. You just need to know and follow your airline’s protocol for filing reimbursement claims.

How do I get reimbursed?

Each airline has its own rules for how you should report a lost or delayed bag. American Airlines, for example, requires that passengers present an initial complaint to American before leaving the airport, then mail in a claim form within 45 days if they want compensation. Delta requires passengers to notify a representative, then fill out a form online. You can find your airline’s rules on its website or in its contract of carriage, a document that explains passenger rights. It’s helpful to check your contract of carriage if your bag goes missing, so you know what you’re entitled to.

The contract or rules may also list extra options to take advantage of. For example, United’s website says the airline will pay you $1,500 if your bag is delayed more than three days, no documentation required. (You can file an official claim to receive more, up to the legal $3,500 minimum.) And Delta’s site explains that if your bags aren’t returned within 12 hours, you can request a rebate for the fee you paid to check them. On American, you can claim more than $3,500 in overall compensation if you declare your items were more valuable and are willing to pay a small fee. It’s helpful to know these extra options exist so you can request your money if it isn’t offered to you

So what’s my game plan?

The DOT outlines some general best practices for what to do when your bag goes missing: Report your issue to airline personnel before you leave the airport, and get a copy of the report along with a phone number follow-ups. Discuss what types of items the airline might reimburse you for, and keep receipts for all expenses. If your bag is confirmed as missing, then file a claim accordingly.

It’s also important to remember that airlines rarely lose luggage forever. But taking the above steps will ensure you reap the silver lining of a very annoying situation.

ABC’s of River Cruising

Why choose a river cruise?

For an unforgettable immediate, immersive and intimate travel experience river cruising is hard to beat. River cruises don’t just take you into a country, they let you get under it skin and feel its pulse and see its scenery and sights close up. As you sail at a pleasingly easy pace you’re cocooned in comfort, with attentive staff at your service and the convivial company of like-minded fellow passengers.

This, too, is what a river cruise delivers: not just a convenient, hassle-free package that includes transportation to and through the country, or countries, on your chosen route; but also, travelling with you every day, a ‘floating hotel’ with lounge, bar and restaurant, outdoor space and leisure facilities, and all of it only a short walk from your en-suite bedroom door.

Think of it as a luxury hotel on the river.

All travel and excursion arrangements are made for you and you can soak up passing scenery from your room, balcony (if you have one), the extensive windows in your ship’s lounge or the sun deck for those 260-degree panoramas. You’ll only unpack once and dress codes are informal (though some like to go a little more glamorous at dinner). Life on board will also include some evening entertainment from the resident musician or, on occasion, local performers; and perhaps also itinerary-linked talks and lectures, such as wine or cheese and cooking demonstrations to enrich your river-cruise experience.

As with ocean cruising accommodation and meals are always included in the fare. Some river companies include drinks served with meals (some also include drinks ordered from the bar), shore excursions and gratuities in the up-front price you pay for your cruise. Others include some but not all of these; there may be optional excursions or special-menu meals served in an alternate dining venue, for which a charge is made.

Top tips for choosing a cruise

Look for a river or route that features what interests you most

List what you hope to see and do, then find an itinerary to match

Pick a ship with the level of comforts and services you’ll enjoy

When comparing prices, check what is and isn’t included

Shoulder-season dates are often cheaper and mean no crowds at key sights – but some may be closed

Pack comfortable walking shoes for exploring

Gym on board? Take workout gear and trainers. Pool too? Pack a swimsuit

When ashore, to see and learn more join an expert-guided tour

When exploring independently research beforehand and pack a map

Give advance notice of dietary requirements

Cruise secrets: 12 things you didn’t know about holidays at sea

Where can river cruises take you?

The world is your oyster. On Europe’s rivers, you can cruise in France on the Seine, Rhône, Dordogne and Garonne; in Germany on the Elbe and the Rhine, which also flows through The Netherlands, France and Switzerland. The Danube also flows through Germany as well as Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria. In Italy you can cruise on the Po; in Portugal, on the Douro; in Russia on the Volga.

Culture seekers will find the most fulfilling itineraries on the Seine, RhineDanube, Elbe, Po and Volga. History buffs will find castles in the Rhine’s Gorge and palaces all along the Danube. Explore Russia’s pre-revolution Imperial splendour on the Volga, where river cruises sail from Moscow to St Petersburg.

Oenophiles will find plenty to raise their glasses to on the Rhône’s route from Burgundy-to-Provence, or vice-versa) route; on the Bordeaux wine region’s Dordogne and Garonne rivers and on the Douro, best known for port. Finally, foodies are well catered for on Rhône, which flows through Lyon, France’s capital of gastronomy, and the Seine, which winds through flavour-rich Normandy.

For show-stopping scenery, there’s the gentle Moselle, the Danube’s Wachau Valley, or the remarkable rock formations in so-called ‘Saxon Switzerland’. For city sights, choose a round-trip from Paris Seine cruise; are; the Elbe, which flows through Dresden; and the Danube, most cruises include Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, those which go all the way to the Black Sea also call at Belgrade and Bucharest.

You could go further than Europe, and cruise Ancient Egypt’s highway, the Nile, see temples, pyramids and the timeless tapestry of daily life unfolding on its banks.

Why not take a Christmastime cruise?

If your idea of Christmas bliss is not putting decorations up or a traditional lunch on the table, you could spend December 25th afloat, surrounded by Christmas-card scenery, and towns and villages all a-sparkle. If you spend Christmas Day on a river cruise in Europe, your itinerary may also include stopping at a Christmas market or two on the way. If you don’t want to be away on December 25, take a Christmas markets cruise on the Rhine or the Danube instead. With a wealth of festive sights, sounds, fragrances and flavours, they’ll recreate almost-forgotten treasures and pleasures of Christmases past. Cross gifts off your list and stock up on seasonal foods.

How to Avoid Pick Pockets Overseas

(recently posted by Rick Steves)

 

I don’t give much thought to petty crime when I travel abroad. I’m well aware that it happens: I’ve been preaching about the importance of wearing a money belt for decades. And for decades — probably about a total of 4,000 days of travel — I’ve never been hit by a thief. Well, my happy streak finally ended: I was pickpocketed in Paris this summer.

It was my own fault. I wasn’t wearing my money belt — a small pouch worn at the waist under your clothes. I lost my driver’s license, credit cards, and some cash. I went back to my hotel, referred to the “in case of emergency section” in my Paris guidebook, and set about canceling my credit cards. My experience just goes to show that, sooner or later, if you’re not on guard, wearing a money belt — or at least keeping everything properly zipped and buttoned — you’ll likely be a victim.

Thieves target tourists — not because the thieves are mean, but because they’re smart. We’re the ones with the good stuff in our purses and wallets. But don’t let the fear of pickpockets keep you from traveling. Besides wearing a money belt, here are some other tips for keeping your valuables safe.

BE PREPARED. Before you go, take steps to minimize your potential loss. Make copies or take photos of key documents, back up your digital data, and password-protect your devices. Leave your fancy bling at home. Luxurious luggage lures thieves: They’ll choose the most impressive suitcase in the pile — never mine.

LEAVE IT BEHIND. Your valuables are most likely to be stolen when they are with you on the street. Your day bag is at high risk. I find my hotel room is the safest place to leave my passport, laptop, and so on. I wouldn’t leave valuables out in the open in my room — I just tuck things away out of sight. (I have never bothered with a hotel safe.)

HARDEN TARGETS. Thieves want to quickly separate you from your valuables, so even a minor obstacle can be an effective deterrent. If you’re sitting down to eat or rest, loop your day-bag strap around your arm, leg, or a chair leg. A cable tie, paper clip, or key ring can help keep your bag zipped up tight. The point isn’t to make your bag impenetrable, but harder to get into than the next guy’s.

Some thieves can even be so bold as to snatch something right out of your hands. I’ve even seen thieves on a bike zip by and snare a purse or bag that a relaxing traveler placed carelessly next to cafe table.

AVOID CROWDS. Thieves know where the crowds are — and where the tourists are — and they are very, very deft at their work. A petite bump and a slight nudge getting off the Metro in Paris and … wallet gone. (That’s exactly what happened to me.)

Be on guard in train stations, especially upon arrival, when you may be overburdened by luggage and overwhelmed by a new location. Take turns watching the bags with your travel partner. Don’t absentmindedly set down a bag; stay in physical contact with your stuff. Be especially careful on packed buses or subways. On trains, I keep my luggage above me on the luggage rack rather than on the shelves near the door.

Often artful-dodger teams create a disturbance — a fight, a messy spill, a jostle, or a stumble — to distract their victims. Crowds anywhere, but especially on public transit and at tourist sights, provide bad guys with plenty of targets, opportunities, and easy escape routes.

DON’T BE DECEIVED. The sneakiest pickpockets look like well-dressed businesspeople. Some pose as tourists, with daypacks, cameras, and even a Rick Steves guidebook. You’ll meet a lot of people on the street with beautiful eyes, beautiful children, and sad stories — but many beggars are pickpockets. Don’t be fooled by impressive uniforms, femme fatales, or hard-luck stories.

IF PICKPOCKETS STRIKE. Getting everything straightened out can take a while. If you do get robbed, file a police report; you’ll need it to file an insurance claim, and it can help with replacing your passport or credit cards. Cancel both credit and debit cards. Suspend your mobile service (if you have a security app, use your hotel’s computer to enable the “locate, lock, and wipe” feature before you cancel service altogether). Above all, be flexible and patient.

Nearly all crimes suffered by tourists are nonviolent and avoidable. Be aware of the pitfalls of traveling, but relax and have fun. It may not help at the time, but if you are a victim, remember that your loss will make for a good story when you get home. Like a friend of mine says, “When it comes to travel, Tragedy plus Time equals Comedy.”

(Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at rick@ricksteves.com and follow his blog on Facebook.)

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Condor Airlines Will Fly From New Orleans in 2018

 

(published in NOLA.com

Condor Airlines will continue its twice-weekly, summertime nonstop flights from New Orleans to Germany in 2018. The flight launched in May as one of two new European connections for the city.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans Airport Director Kevin Dolliole and Jens Boyd, a director of long-haul and revenue management for the Thomas Cook Group, which operates Condor, announced the renewal of the service Tuesday morning (Oct. 10) after the airline wrapped up its 2017 seasonal flights. The last Condor flight from Louis Armstrong International Airport to Frankfurt, Germany, for this year departed Oct. 4.

Boyd said the decision to bring the service back next year reflects strong demand in New Orleans and the airline’s growing set of North American destinations, which include Seattle, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. The airline, which caters to price-conscious vacation travelers, will add a flight from Phoenix to Germany in 2018.

“Our Condor flights still are the only nonstop service from New Orleans to Germany, and the bookings so far clearly showed that Louisianians love our service,” Boyd said.

Next year’s Condor flights from New Orleans to Frankfurt will launch May 17, 2018, and run through Sept. 30, 2018. A 259-seat Boeing 767-300ER will fly the route.
The flights will depart New Orleans on Thursdays and Sundays at 5:55 p.m. and arrive in Frankfurt the following day at 10:40 a.m. Flights departing from Frankfurt will leave at 11:50 a.m. Thursdays and Sundays, arriving in New Orleans on the same day at 3:55 p.m.

On Tuesday, Condor’s Boyd touted the flight as an ideal connection for New Orleanians planning an affordable trip to access Europe. He noted Condor offers flights to more than 120 places in Europe from Frankfurt, Germany.
Tickets started at $349 one-way for an economy seat when the flight launched this year May 3. Fare was $549 one-way for premium seats and $879 one-way for business class.
Tickets for the summer 2018 flights are currently on sale, according to a news release announcing the flight.

Off The Beaten Path in Thailand

(posted in Luxury Travel)

 

Luxury Asia tour operator Remote Lands has announced five new off-the-beaten path itineraries in Thailand in conjunction with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The two have partnered up to to promote the lesser-known areas of Thailand beyond Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Samui.

All new itineraries may be booked as is or customized to suit individual travelers’ interests. Itineraries range from snorkeling off Koh Kood Island and strolling through Buriram Night Bazaar in Isaan, to visiting elephant sanctuaries and exploring temples.

Added itineraries include:

An Exploration of Temples and Ancient Relics in Northern Thailand (Nine Days)

Travelers will explore this history Northern Thailand through visits to the Hill Tribes of Ban Rong Hi, the remnants of the Lanna Kingdom, ancient stone ruins of Phra Nakhon, and a royal temple believed to hold relics of the Buddha.

Also included in the itinerary is an entire day working with Asian elephants helping care for them, learning commands in Thai from the trainers, and aiding in feeding and bathing routine.

Temple Hopping and Elephant Excursions in Northern Thailand (Seven Days)

The tour begins in Ayutthaya where travelers will explore what was once the capital of Siam before heading north to Uthai Thani and stopping in Angthong to see the 164-foot-long reclining Buddha. The tour will also stop in Sukothia to explore the three most famous temples. Also included is exploring ancient ruins, visiting and caring for elephants in their natural environment, and walking through the Chiang Mai’s famous night markets.

Cambodia & Soneva Kiri: Connecting Ancient Culture with Island Charm (Eight Days)

This itinerary not only explores some of the best spots in Thailand, but also makes stops in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Travelers stay four-nights at the Soneva Kiri resort in Koh Kood with a variety of activities to choose from including the resort’s experience Cinema Paradiso, where visitors can watch classic movies in an open-air theatre with specially made cocktails. Guests can take a sea safari to Koh Kradad Island, visit the local fishing villages, or make reservations at the Mushroom Cave Lunch.

Also included in the itinerary is a boat cruise to Prasat Chrung before exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat, and enjoying a private Cambodian dance performance at the Conservatoire d’Angkor.

Nature, Culture and History in Isaan (Six Days)

Travelers journey though the jungles of Khao Yai, the Angkorian sandstone temples, an elephant village, and Pha Taem National Park on the Mekong River. Also included is a wine-tasting tour in Khao Yai, a night safari, a visit to the new, 32,600-seat I-Mobile Stadium, and a food tour of the Buriram Night Bazaar.

Floating Elephant Camps and Island Paradise in Thailand (13 Days)

This ultimate tour takes travelers to the country’s top lesser-known islands. It begins with a long-tail boat cruise on Cheow Lan Lake, which is followed by treetop dining in a bird’s nest-style pod suspended in the air while waiters deliver an array of dishes via zipline at Soneva Kiri resort; and a stay at one of the only floating tented camps in the world at Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp in Khao Sok National Park. The itinerary also offers opportunities for participants to get up close and personal with wildlife as well as eat at a restaurant  that feed wild eagles at a location only reached by bicycle.

What Currency Should You Use Overseas

(Recently posted on Wendy Perrin’s travel blog)

Overseas Credit Card Purchases: Which Currency Should I Pay With?

Billie Cohen | September 25, 2017

Keeping track of currency exchange rates is a necessity when traveling. Thankfully, there are many apps for that task, so we don’t have to spend too much of our time doing the research (I like Easy Currency Converter; leave your favorite in the comments below). But while it’s helpful to know the rough exchange for your home currency, the actual conversion rate varies from bank to bank, credit card to credit card, and even local merchant to local merchant.

As a result, when you’re overseas and you use a credit card, you’ll often see that the payment machine asks whether you want to pay with U.S. dollars or the local currency. Which one should you choose, and why?

credit card payment machine screen

Overseas credit card machines offer currency options. Which should you choose? Photo: Lindsay Lambert Day

First: Use the right credit card.

Having a credit card that’s ideal for travelers is your first line of defense against currency pitfalls: The good ones waive all foreign-purchase fees. “When you make purchases abroad, you should be using a card that doesn’t add foreign transaction fees to your bill (which can be as much as 3%),” says credit card expert Gary Leff, of View From the Wing. “All cards are going to convert foreign currency to your home currency, and you’ll get the prevailing rate. Some cards, though, will charge you a fee on top of the conversion rate to do it.”

Second: Pay in local currency.

“When a merchant outside the U.S. asks whether you want to be charged in U.S. dollars or your local currency, always say local currency,” advises Gary. “That’s because [the merchant is] going to hit you with their own conversion rate (likely unfavorable, but certainly not as good as the one you will get from your card company). And then, if your credit card hits you with foreign transaction fees, they’re going to charge those fees anyway, even if you paid in U.S. dollars, because it’s a foreign-made transaction.”

The final word:

“There is almost never any benefit to being charged by a merchant in your home currency,” Gary says. “You are best off having your credit-card-issuing bank do it at their rate. And you want to make sure you’re paying with a card that doesn’t charge you for the privilege of making purchases abroad.”

 

Food Experience in Lima, Peru

Lima was founded as the City of the Kings (Ciudad de Los Reyes) in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Today the city is again reigning supreme within culinary and gastronomic circles as a cradle of Peruvian and world food fusion experiences: Lima had three restaurants named to among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017.

Today we visit Ignacio Barrios, an enigmatic and enthusiastic Peruvian chef who has considerable international culinary experience, having worked in cities as diverse as Madrid and London. In creating Urban Kitchen, he envisioned a setting to let visitors witness and learn how Peru has become so enticing to food lovers on a world stage. This participative cooking experience includes a local market visit, followed by a cooking class where travelers get to fashion their own culinary masterpieces.

The market is near to the Miraflores district, which many visitors of Lima choose as their preferred base. Barrios explains to the group the number of factors that have influenced the development of Peruvian food and gastronomy; the core of these are location, promotion by chefs with government marketing, and, most importantly, cultural influences over time. Product comes first, however: without a good product there is nothing to market. Fortunately, Mother Nature provides an abundance of ocean delights from the cold waters of the Pacific Humboldt Current.

Fresh Peruvian Pacific Ocean Scallops at San Isidro Marke

These delights are complemented by a very diverse landscape that includes desert coastline, central Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. There are a myriad of ecosystems and micro-climates within these three landscapes that produce a mouth-watering array of natural produce. Chef Miguel Schiaffino is well-known for routinely venturing to the Peruvian Amazon jungle in search of unique flavors.

The fruit and vegetable sections of the market are a kaleidoscope of color and you can’t help but be drawn to the eye-catching offerings of lucuma, chirimoya, guayaba and camu camu, among others. Barrios is open to questions, and he enlightens us with a wonderful history of each of the fruits and vegetables. Both locals and tourists are actively seeking out advice to learn how to source and cook local foods, and this is the perfect place to do so.

Good to know: Urban Kitchen is equally as popular with tourists as it is with locals who often choose it as a place to go with colleagues for a little fun and to learn the secrets to creating great Peruvian food.

Fruit and vegetables at San Isidro Market

The government has played a significant part in promoting Peruvian food, too, both within the country and abroad. In addition, Peruvian chefs such as Virgilio Martínez (who began in Lima), have now opened restaurants in London, Dubai and other distant climes. These chefs have focused on sourcing local Peruvian ingredients as the key to their dishes.

Over many centuries the staple foods of Peru have seen influences from countries such as Japan, China, Italy, Arab and Spain. These influences added to an already-burgeoning food scene, and have served to create a true fusion of global cuisine. On the tour, we learn of examples, such as the development of the local ceviche dish, a fish marinade in lemon juice, now with Nikkei influences; also, a tallarín pasta dish with Genovese Italian traits. Both have grown into a wonderful symphony of food, unique to Peru.

A ten-minute drive takes us from the market to the Urban Kitchen premises in nearby Magdalena, Lima. The premises are impressive with a fine modern downstairs kitchen, and upstairs there is a dining area to enjoy the fruits of your labor. The teaching begins and we pick up the tips and secrets in creating a ceviche dish, which today includes sea bass fillet, lime juice, corn, onion, herbs and a leche de tigre marinade.

Guests enjoy their own hand-crafted Peruvian food creations // Photo by Urban Kitchen
Barrios is always at hand to offer guidance on preparation, timing and attention to detail to create the difference between a good dish and an exceptional dish. He suggests little things like using coarse Maras salt for decoration and taking time in separating the kernels of giant corn, not with a knife, but one-by-one with your fingers. The mistakes made by all are part of the fun and everyone enjoys their final tasting among newfound friends. That’s the beauty of this food tour in Lima: you help create it yourself (and that always tastes better).

The evolution of Peru as a unique destination for food lovers can be found in the midst of centuries of the fusion of cultures from East and West across the globe. This visit to Urban Kitchen adds greatly to this journey as a unique and fun experience in food, culture and cooking. This single-day food tour in Lima is a perfect addition to any visit to Peru. You, too, now know the secret of where to go to create food fit for a king, in this, The City of the Kings.

Viking Ocean to add Fifth Ship

Viking Cruises has announced that former NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher will be honored as godmother to its fifth ocean ship, Viking Orion, set to debut in July 2018. The new ship is named after the prominent constellation and in honor of Dr. Fisher’s contributions to NASA’s Orion exploration vehicle project.

The announcement was first made by Viking Chairman, Torstein Hagen, during a press conference in New York City celebrating the first call in Manhattan for the company’s third ship, Viking Sky.

“The spirit of exploration is at the heart of everything we do, and so I am especially proud that an astronaut will be honored as godmother to our new ship,” says Hagen. “Dr. Fisher is a past Viking guest, a fellow scientist and a true explorer. As one of the first women in space, she has inspired generations of curious minds, and I look forward to welcoming guests onboard Viking Orion to learn more about her impressive career in space exploration.”

Last week, Viking Orion reached an important construction milestone when the ship met water for the first time during the float out ceremony at Fincantieri’s Ancona shipyard. Keeping with maritime tradition, Dr. Fisher, the godmother of the ship, assisted with the ceremony by welding coins under the ship’s mast. The coins she welded represented her birth year, as well as the birth year of Chairman Hagen.

The layout and design of the ship will be identical to the previous four ocean ships. The reasoning behind this, Hagen says, is so that guests and staff know what to expect when they step aboard, making their experience seamless. Viking Orion will have sister ships debuting in 2019, 2020 and 2021; all of which have yet to be named. Viking has an option to add two more ocean ships to its deal with Fincantieri, bringing the total to 10. Hagen says that 20 ocean ships is not out of the question (he also says a goal of 100 river cruises is achievable; currently Viking sits at 44).

The Orion will spend her maiden years sailing itineraries in the Mediterranean, before making her way to Asia, Australia, and then Alaska. The ship will accommodate 930 guests and offer the experiences and facilities that all Viking ships are known for, including all Veranda staterooms, Explorer Suites, two pool choices, LivNordic Spa, and fine dining options.

Latest in River Cruises

With the rising popularity of river cruising, agents likely have more existing clients and prospects who want to know more about this vacation choice. It’s not a one-size-fits-all product. River lines have itineraries with eclectic routes, regions and themes.

Vineyards, Vintages and Varietals: For guests who enjoy wine tasting and exploring viniculture, but prefer to vacation within North America, American Queen Steamboat Company’s “Toast to the Pacific Northwest” is an option close to home. American Empress sails through areas of eco-beauty, guests explore local culture and heritage, and within Washington and Oregon, cruisers can meet with local wine makers for exclusive onboard tastings and pairings of their varietals.

American Empress’ Suites with Veranda offer river views from four stories above the river.

During the itinerary’s time in Portland, for example, guests can choose the “Limited Edition Excursion: Vintages of the Willamette Valley,” which is included in the cruise fare. Cruisers will travel through Washington County for a wine-tasting tour that visits either Duck Pond Cellars, The Four Graces, Stoller Family Estate or Erath Winery.

This voyage begins (November 12 and 19) with a hotel stay in Vancouver, WA. Guests then embark the ship, cruise to The Dalles, an area famed for its canyon walls and volcanic formations, as well as to Astoria, OR, and Stevenson, WA, home to art galleries and restaurants. The ship then sails to Portland, OR, and the cruise ends back in Vancouver.

Iberian Flavors: Cruising from Porto, Portugal, AmaWaterways’ 106-passenger AmaVida sails on the seven-night “Flavors of Spain and Portugal.” Within the Douro River Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cruisers will see vineyards, dramatic gorges, terraced hillside and small towns like Pinhao, popular with wine lovers.

Within the Douro River Valley, cruisers on AmaWaterways’ AmaVida will see vineyards, terraced hillside and small towns such as Pinhao, the Tras-os-Montes region and Entre-Os-Rios village.

At Pinhao, AmaWaterways’ guests will experience a Quinta de Avelada lunch and an exclusive private tour of Quinta do Seixo’s wine cellars before sampling some of the wines. Your clients can add a three-night Madrid pre-cruise stay and a three-night Lisbon post-cruise stay. To help guests view the region’s natural beauty and viniculture, AmaVida features balconies in the majority of its staterooms and suites, which range up to 323 square feet.

Mark Twain Tribute Cruises: On multiple Upper Mississippi River cruises in 2018, American Cruise Lines explores Hannibal, MO, with strong links to Mark Twain and his characters, such as Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher and Huckleberry Finn. The cruise starts in St. Louis, where guests get a one-night pre-cruise stay before port calls at Hannibal as well as Davenport, IA, home to the world’s largest agricultural exhibit and several musical festivals.

Next, the cruise visits Dubuque, IA, La Crosse, WI, and Red Wing, MN (home to bald eagles), and concludes at St. Paul, MN. Operating this itinerary are the 185-passenger America, which was launched in 2016, and the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi. Top digs on both ships include the 445-square-foot Owner’s Suite with a private balcony, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, spacious seating area, desk and hotel-size bathroom. Next is the 328-square-foot AAM category suite with private balcony.

Rhine Journey With Jewish Heritage: In 2018, Uniworld’s “Remarkable Rhine,” is a new itinerary for the luxury line. This nine-day cruise on 130-passenger River Empress from Basel to Amsterdam offers special access to certain museums, active adventure options ashore and regional cuisine. All these cruises also feature Jewish heritage themed excursions and onboard activities.

For example, in Strasbourg, France, guests can choose from an exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Strasbourg walking tour; an exclusive guided “Let’s Go” Strasbourg by bicycle; or Jewish Heritage, Alsace’s Jewish past. Among ports visited are Speyer, Frankfurt, Cologne and Oberwesel (Bacharach) Germany; the latter is an ancient village with a storybook feel.

Mekong Majesty: For those seeking an in-depth experience in Southeast Asia, one 2018-2019 option is Scenic Cruises’ 17-day “Highlights of Vietnam, Cambodia & Luxury Mekong” itinerary between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It begins in Hanoi with touring and a two-night Halong Bay cruise on the Au Co, before guests take a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a three-night stay and touring of Angkor. They then board the Scenic Spirit at Kampong Chan.

Guests visit small villages, temples and agricultural areas before arriving in Phnom Penh to explore the Grand Palace, and on another day head for the Killing Fields or participate in a Khmer cooking demonstration. Another option is a fun Tuk Tuk tour of Phnom Penh’s colonial buildings and Central Market. Then, Scenic Spirit sails to Tan Chau, where guests can visit farmers on Evergreen Island and take a ride in a Xe Loi, a bicyle-driven pedicab.

Alternatively, they can board a speedboat and visit Chau Doc’s market, a family-operated fish farm and the waterfront area. Another option this day is to visit Tra Su Bird Sanctuary. At Sa Dec in the Mekong Delta, guests will stop for tea at the home of Huynh Thuy Le who inspired Marguerite Duras’ novel “L’Amant”. Then the cruise concludes in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) for a two-night stay.

Yangtze Discount Deal: Let the Sinophiles among your clientele know that Victoria Cruises has a money-saving fall promotion on its four-day Chongqing to Yichang sailings on China’s Yangtze River and also the five-day reverse itinerary. Guests who book the line’s shore excursion package by November 30 qualify for a buy one / get one free deal for Superior Cabins or 40 percent off per person for Executive Suites. Offer is valid on new bookings only.

Blue Danube: New for 2018 is a robust Tauck itinerary, the 14-day “Royal Danube, Berlin & Krakow” itinerary, which begins with an included three-night hotel stay in Berlin at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski; two days of guided Tauck sightseeing are included. Guests then travel by high-speed train to Nürnberg, where they’ll embark Tauck’s Savor riverboat to begin a seven-night cruise along the Danube that calls at Kelheim, Straubing, Linz, Krems and the Wachau Valley before arriving in Vienna.

Along the way, guests have a choice of sightseeing — ranging from history-focused excursions exploring World War II to a walking tour of Jewish heritage sites to a visit to a BMW automobile factory. The itinerary concludes in Krakow, Poland, with an included three-night hotel stay, again with guided Tauck sightseeing. From there, guests who so choose can take an optional visit to Auschwitz.

For the coming year, Tauck is ramping up its shore excursions, adding a second option in many locations to give its guests a choice of experiences to better match their interests.

Many other lines also sail the Danube, including Riviera Travel, a well-known U.K. river cruise operator now promoting and selling cruises within the North American market. In 2018, it will operate a seven-day Blue Danube cruise roundtrip from Budapest on multiple vessels including the 169-passenger Thomas Hardy.

Avalon Waterways offers an 11-day “From the Inca Empire to the Peruvian Amazon” itinerary, giving guests a chance to visit Machu Picchu.

Amazon Adventure: If clients have “been there, done that” in Europe, they may want to experience a South American cruise. Avalon Waterways offers “From the Inca Empire to the Peruvian Amazon,” an 11-day cruise roundtrip from Lima. Guests will take a guided tour of Lima’s Larco Herrera Museum and sit down to a special welcome dinner in an ornate family-owned mansion.

They’ll then fly to Cusco and descend into the Sacred Valley of the Incas for guided tours of the ceremonial site of Kenko and the Temple of Sacsayhuaman. The highlight for most travelers is Machu Picchu, built around 1450 at the height of the Inca Empire atop a mountain.

Next, cruisers will fly to Iquitos to begin their Amazon cruise onboard the 44-guest Delfin III, which features four different styles of suites with floor-to-ceiling picture windows. Guests will sip fine wine, dine on Peruvian cuisine, and experience all-inclusive features and naturalist-guided panga rides through the river tributaries. Guests also can swim with pink dolphins, visit small native villages and more.

Into Africa: For those with a bucket list item of seeing African wildlife in their natural habitats, CroisiEurope will take clients into Southern Africa with 12-day itinerary that visits South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. This adventure includes a Chobe River cruise, a stay at CroisiEurope’s lodge, land-and-water safaris and a visit to Victoria Falls. Weather permitting, guests will take a helicopter ride over the falls.

A highlight is heading out on small boats for encounters with animals that dot the shores. Guests will sail on the new African Queen, built in 2017. It has eight cabins (six suites and two suites with a balcony); all open to the outside. It features a panoramic lounge, bar and restaurant, as well as a large observation deck.

Myanmar Dreams: Those who’ve been to Asia may not have been to the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar. Pandaw offers a seven-night cruise roundtrip from Rangoon with no single supplement on select dates. This travels to off-the-beaten-path territory where guests will explore the country’s wetlands, creeks and channels.

For example, on day four, guests will take a morning cruise along the great Bassein River. Bassein is the delta’s capital and an important seaport. Highlight? Monk’s waxed cloth umbrellas are made here and guests will explore the town, shrines and vibrant market.

Ooh La La Paris: Emerald Waterways offers a “Paris & Sensations of Southern France” itinerary, a 10-day journey between Paris and Nice, on the Rhone / Saone. Guests arrive in Paris for two days, then head to Lyon where they board their cruise, and travel to Chalon-Sur-Saone and Beaune, Macon, Tournon, Avignon and disembark at Arles. In Arles, guests will take a walking tour that includes the exterior of the old Roman Amphitheatre, originally built to accommodate 20,000 spectators.

Emerald Waterways’ Panorama Balcony Suites afford expansive views on its “Paris & Sensations of Southern France” cruise and other itineraries.

Christmas Markets: From holiday markets with handicrafts to hot mulled wine and gingerbread cookies, November and December are magical times in cities with annual Christmas markets. Crystal River Cruises’ new Crystal Mahler is among the options for seven- or nine-day getaways exploring Europe’s Christmas markets along the Danube, Rhine and Main Rivers. This vessel sails later this year from Amsterdam, Budapest or Nuremberg. Onboard, Crystal’s guests will dine on farm-to-table cuisine with many regional specialties. They also receive unlimited fine wines, champagnes, premium spirits, beers and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water in-suite. In addition, guests can order room service 24 hours a day, including selections from Waterside Restaurant. All accommodations are suites with a king-sized bed; all have butler service.

Other river cruise lines also ply the world’s waterways. Increasingly, demand is strong and agents can expect new experiences and operators as the market continues to grow.

How to be Safe Aboard

don’t give much thought to petty crime when I travel abroad. I’m well aware that it happens: I’ve been preaching about the importance of wearing a money belt for decades. And for decades — probably about a total of 4,000 days of travel — I’ve never been hit by a thief. Well, my happy streak finally ended: I was pickpocketed in Paris this summer.

It was my own fault. I wasn’t wearing my money belt — a small pouch worn at the waist under your clothes. I lost my driver’s license, credit cards, and some cash. I went back to my hotel, referred to the “in case of emergency section” in my Paris guidebook, and set about canceling my credit cards. My experience just goes to show that, sooner or later, if you’re not on guard, wearing a money belt — or at least keeping everything properly zipped and buttoned — you’ll likely be a victim.

Thieves target tourists — not because the thieves are mean, but because they’re smart. We’re the ones with the good stuff in our purses and wallets. But don’t let the fear of pickpockets keep you from traveling. Besides wearing a money belt, here are some other tips for keeping your valuables safe.

BE PREPARED. Before you go, take steps to minimize your potential loss. Make copies or take photos of key documents, back up your digital data, and password-protect your devices. Leave your fancy bling at home. Luxurious luggage lures thieves: They’ll choose the most impressive suitcase in the pile — never mine.

LEAVE IT BEHIND. Your valuables are most likely to be stolen when they are with you on the street. Your day bag is at high risk. I find my hotel room is the safest place to leave my passport, laptop, and so on. I wouldn’t leave valuables out in the open in my room — I just tuck things away out of sight. (I have never bothered with a hotel safe.)

HARDEN TARGETS. Thieves want to quickly separate you from your valuables, so even a minor obstacle can be an effective deterrent. If you’re sitting down to eat or rest, loop your day-bag strap around your arm, leg, or a chair leg. A cable tie, paper clip, or key ring can help keep your bag zipped up tight. The point isn’t to make your bag impenetrable, but harder to get into than the next guy’s.

Some thieves can even be so bold as to snatch something right out of your hands. I’ve even seen thieves on a bike zip by and snare a purse or bag that a relaxing traveler placed carelessly next to cafe table.

AVOID CROWDS. Thieves know where the crowds are — and where the tourists are — and they are very, very deft at their work. A petite bump and a slight nudge getting off the Metro in Paris and … wallet gone. (That’s exactly what happened to me.)

Be on guard in train stations, especially upon arrival, when you may be overburdened by luggage and overwhelmed by a new location. Take turns watching the bags with your travel partner. Don’t absentmindedly set down a bag; stay in physical contact with your stuff. Be especially careful on packed buses or subways. On trains, I keep my luggage above me on the luggage rack rather than on the shelves near the door.

Often artful-dodger teams create a disturbance — a fight, a messy spill, a jostle, or a stumble — to distract their victims. Crowds anywhere, but especially on public transit and at tourist sights, provide bad guys with plenty of targets, opportunities, and easy escape routes.

DON’T BE DECEIVED. The sneakiest pickpockets look like well-dressed businesspeople. Some pose as tourists, with daypacks, cameras, and even a Rick Steves guidebook. You’ll meet a lot of people on the street with beautiful eyes, beautiful children, and sad stories — but many beggars are pickpockets. Don’t be fooled by impressive uniforms, femme fatales, or hard-luck stories.

IF PICKPOCKETS STRIKE. Getting everything straightened out can take a while. If you do get robbed, file a police report; you’ll need it to file an insurance claim, and it can help with replacing your passport or credit cards. Cancel both credit and debit cards. Suspend your mobile service (if you have a security app, use your hotel’s computer to enable the “locate, lock, and wipe” feature before you cancel service altogether). Above all, be flexible and patient.

Nearly all crimes suffered by tourists are nonviolent and avoidable. Be aware of the pitfalls of traveling, but relax and have fun. It may not help at the time, but if you are a victim, remember that your loss will make for a good story when you get home. Like a friend of mine says, “When it comes to travel, Tragedy plus Time equals Comedy.”