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Adventures With Robin

Your Go-To Travel Source

Welcome! This space serves as a platform for travel agent Robin Norell to share her trips, experiences and expertise with you. Exceeding your customer service expectations is Robin’s primary goal. Having worked for Disney for 2.5 years, she knows how to make your vacation magic. 

Robin has visited 25 countries (Caribbean, Europe, Asia) and 31 states, and has been on 26 river and ocean cruises (so far), visited Disney World, Disneyland and Disneyland Paris multiple times, and she is happy to share her travel experiences and knowledge with you to make your vacation the best it can be.

Robin has been awarded the distinguished certifications of CLIA’s (Cruise Lines International Association) ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor) Certification, as well as earning her CTA (Certified Travel Associate) certification, has completed the College of Disney Knowledge, and continues to learn more about the travel industry every day.

Excelling in administration and customer service, she takes care of all the details, leaving you free to relax and enjoy!

Independent Vacation Planner

  • rnorell

April 6th-7th. Slovakia to Austria

Updated: Apr 12

Saturday April 6

Bratislava, Slovakia

Included morning excursions: Hike to Bratislava Castle with your Adventure Host (1.5 hours) or Bratislava, Slovakia’s Off-the-Beaten-Path Capitol (2 hours)

We are on an Active Discovery itinerary with Avalon Waterways. That means that there are active options (biking, hikes, etc.) and an Adventure Host (who also offers morning yoga on the Sky Deck, and leads the active tours), as well as Classic options (tours of towns, abbeys, etc.), and Discovery options (learn about saffron, visit a beekeeper, etc.).

Amy and I decided to do the hike to the hilltop castle. Since this one was with our Adventure Host, and not a tour guide, it was really just a guided walk up to the castle, with no historical or local information. Once at the top, we could pay the admission into the castle museum, or just walk around up there (small gardens in the back), or just wander back to the ship if we wanted.

We went to the gardens in the back, and then we walked down and through the town. We found some charming shops and Amy and I each bought a short-sleeved shirt (for the expected coming warm weather), and a few other small items. One of the shops we found was the “Oldest Shop in Town,” and they still had their old displays for merchandise. They also had a small area where they had old cash registers, and another area with old store equipment. I bought a bottle of strawberry wine (8.5Euros) to bring back to the ship and have during dinner. The ship offers beer and wine at lunch and dinner at no additional cost, but they are generally dry wines, not sweet ones.

We were back on the ship in time for lunch, and then some work and relaxing time. At 4pm each day, they have tea, so we went to the Panorama Lounge to see what they had. In addition to tea, they sandwiches and desserts.

Meals onboard are as follows: breakfast 7-9am in the restaurant or room service until 10am. Lunch is in the main dining room, usually 12-1:30pm or in the Panorama Lounge (light lunch) usually 12-1pm. Tea at 4pm. Dinner usually 7-9pm in the main dining room, and sometimes they offer the Panorama Bistro from 7:15pm to 8:45pm. During Happy Hour (usually an hour and 15 minutes before dinner, and it ends when the port talk starts around 15 minutes before dinner), there is a list of beverages available at no additional cost, including some spirits.

The tour director on this ship, Amila, is so funny! Her clothes are a fashion show all on their own. She does the port talk every day and she always makes us laugh. We love her endearing names – it’s not Happy Hour, it’s The Happiest Hour. And it’s not that the restaurant is now open, it’s that the Gates of Heaven have opened.

We went up and sat in the outdoor lounge at the front of the ship with our friends Karen and Carole for the Happiest Hour, and then went inside to hear Amila’s port talk at 6:45pm, then dinner.

Sunday April 7


Included excursions - Treasures of Vienna's Ringstrasse (3 1/4 hours) or Kunsthistorisches Museum(art history museum) (4 hours) or Biking in Bienna with Your Adventure Host (1.5 hours).

Optional excursion - Schönbrunn Palace (3.5 hours) or Bits & Highlights of Vienna (3 hours)

Optional Evening Excursion - Classical Music Concert: Royal Waltz (2 3/4 hours)

Once again we did the opposite of most of the passengers – we skipped the morning tour and did the afternoon tour. But we wanted to see Vienna, so we took an Uber into the center of the old town – St Stephanplatz.

Lots of shopping, although many of the stores were closed because it was Sunday. We did find a few shops that were open (including another Lindt store – lol!) and just used Google maps to walk to historic buildings, including the Albertina Museum (largest museum for modern art in Central Europe) and the Coburg Palace in Vienna. We came across a city park, so of course we had to walk through that.

It was now around noon and we had to get back to our ship, have lunch, and depart for our 1:30pm tour of the Schonbrunn Palace, so I ordered an Uber. I realized I didn't have the exact address of the ship, but when I opened the Bolt app (to compare prices and timing), it showed an address that looked like where the ship was (I thought it remembered where I was when I opened it last, for our ride into Vienna).

We got to the destination I had entered, and there didn't look to be any ships around. Amy had remembered that there was a church near our ship, so I showed him a picture of the church and asked if he knew that church. He mumbled something and pointed to the screen and said something like this is where you wanted to go.

So we got out and I opened Google maps and it looked like we were about a mile from the church, so we started walking. In the end, it was 1.8 miles to the ship and took us about 38 minutes. It was quite warm outside, and we were walking fast (our afternoon tour departs at 1:30), so we were very glad when we finally got to the ship around 1:10pm. We quickly stopped in the room, grabbed a quick lunch in the dining room, and got on the bus around 1:28pm!

Our ship is actually located on what was an island and the hunting grounds of the royal family. The hunting lodge no longer exists, it was destroyed by the Ottoman Turks.

Our tour today is to the Schonbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the former summer residence of the Austrian royal family, and is approximately 300 years old.

On the bus, the tour guide shared some history –

- The Ottoman turks wanted to control Eastern part of Austria, so they frequently attacked.

- In 1683, there was the last Turkish siege of Vienna – they were not defeated, but pushed out. Austrians then felt free to purchase land outside the city.

- The Emperor built a new summer residence, modeled after Versailles. He wanted it to be bigger but didn't have enough money so the plans were redesigned.

- The Emperor died shortly after, and his son wasn't interested (he built another summer palace). That Emperor died at that other palace so his daughter Maria Theresa didn't want to use that one and came here.

- She had 16 kids, so again redesign was required. She ruled for 40 years.

- 200 years ago, when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Austria (twice) he resided here.

- Franz Josef was the longest ruling monarch, and he was born in 1830, died 1916, both in this palace. He was the second to last Emperor.

- His great nephew was the last Emperor. At the end of World War 1, the empire was dissolved and the emperor exiled.

- The palace has been open to tourists since the end of the 19th century.

- There are 40 rooms open, we will see 20 of them. There are a total of 1400 rooms.

- We were driving on Ringstrasse, literally a large road that circles the heart of the city, where the city walls once were.

- Lucky us – they are having a 70 year record breaking heat wave. It is currently 82 degrees.

- Austria land is 2/3 Alps.

- The palace Garden is 400 acres.

- There is a 250 year old zoo – the oldest in the world.

We arrived at the palace grounds, and the tour guide brought us into the palace and gave us the tour.

The Hall of Mirrors – again modeled after Versailles not smaller. Originally there were wooden chandeliers with candles. There is thin gold leaf on walls and ceiling.

In 1901, Thomas Edison came to the palace to electrify it. At the end of World War 2, 200 bombs hit Vienna, but only one bomb hit the palace. Ironically it came through the fresco of war; thankfully it did not explode. After WW2, this palace was in the British part of Vienna, and was used by British soldiers.

Maria Theresa’s eldest son died without any male heirs so her second son Leopold came to power and he also had 16 children. Even though she herself had a love marriage, she didn't allow that for any of her children – they were all matched for strategic power. Her most famous child was Marie Antoinette (youngest daughter), who was sent to marry the king of France, and we all know how that ended.

In 1805 and 1809 Napoleon resided here, and he destroyed much of the city when he left. Maria Theresa’s oldest daughter was ordered to marry Napoleon (after his divorce from Josephine) to avoid future occupation and destruction. Napoleon didn't even attend the wedding ceremony here (he used a proxy).

The palace opened to public in 1873 (150 years ago) during the World Expo in Vienna – some of the rooms of the palace were then open. After 1920 (after WW1 & after when it was a military hospital), it remained permanently open. Austria was then smaller than the previous empire, and it became less important in world politics.

In 1934, there was a civil war, and Parliament was dissolved and the government became similar to Italy at that time – Austro Fascism. In 1938 it became part of Nazi Germany until 1945, and then it was occupied by the four victorious Ally countries. It took 10 years to become a country again (like it was before 1934).

In the 1950s, during the time of the Iron Curtain, Austria was forced to remain neutral by the Soviets. They were not allowed to be part of NATO (or any Russian pacts).

In 1995, Austria joined the European Union, but they still had the Austrian Schilling as their currency. In 2002, they adopted the Euro.

We passed by a fruit and flower market – it wasn’t open today, but the food stands were open. These are in an “island” in the center of the Ringstrasse.

Public transportation – locals can get an annual pass for the cost of one Euro per day. Or, for the annual cost of 3 Euros per day, they can get a transportation pass to take them anywhere in Austria. If they want to go somewhere that doesn’t have a train station (like a small village), it includes the bus to the train.

Dinner tonight was earlier because we have a special treat tonight – a concert! So the port talk was at 5:45pm, dinner started at 6pm, and at 7:30pm we departed for the Classical Music Concert.

We took buses from our ship into Vienna, to the Eschenbach Palace. The concert was in an upper room that probably held a couple hundred people.

There were classical music pieces performed by just the wonderful (small) orchestra, including pieces from Strauss, Schubert, Mozart and others. There were also two opera singers (a female and a male), and they did some “acting” as they sang. There were also two ballet dancers (female and male) that also did a little acting. It lasted about 90 minutes - it did cost an additional amount, but it was wonderful!


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Robin is an Independent Travel Planner who has been awarded CLIA's (Cruise Line Industry Association's) Accredited Cruise Counselor Certification and The Travel Institute's Certified Travel Associate designation. Her excellent service is yours at no cost - she's paid by the suppliers (hotel, cruise line, etc.), nor does she charge a fee for services. She may even save you money over booking it yourself, as she follows all the specials and will get you a better price after you book with her. When you are planning a family vacation or celebrating a special occasion through travel, you want the best experience possible, and Robin is ready to help you! She provides excellent customer service, and your happiness and satisfaction is her top priority. With the knowledge gained by her extensive travel experience (25 countries, 31 states, and 26 cruises so far) and customer service experience (2.5 years employed at Walt Disney World Resort), she's excited and ready to help you plan new adventures!

Location: Alexandria - VA
Phone: (567) 307-3476
Toll-Free: (866) 779-4830



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