Friday, December 14, 2012

First Itinerary for the St. Bon's Danube Cruise

Day 1, Wednesday, April 3
Overnight group flights to Europe
Day 2, Thursday, April 4
Willkommen in Deutschland - Board cruise
Upon arrival in Germany, you will meet your Incantato Tour Manager at the airport and transfer to Passau, an ancient Roman town known for its rich Catholic heritage. Take a walking tour, then board your floating hotel for the next 7 nights, the beautiful MS Amadeus Royal, which has been exclusively chartered by Incantato Tours for this unique journey hosted by St. Bonaventure's College for members of the band and choirs, as well as their family and friends. Make yourself comfortable prior to attending a welcome reception and dinner. The Amadeus Royal is a floating European Grand Hotel and has been categorized as a five star boutique river cruise. This luxurious ship will be your home until the morning of April 11. The SBC Band has the opporutunity to play a sail-away salute to Passau from the sundeck as the ship leaves the port in the evening.
Day 3, Friday, April 5
Melk Abbey Sightseeing & Performances - Scenic route to Hungary
A stunning panorama awaits you in Austria as you awak to the scenery of the Danube Valley - made a UNESCO World Heritage site for a myriad of reasons. Visit the stunning Melk Abbey with an expert guide and hear the SBC Choir sing in the beautiful cathedral. A band concert is an excellent option and an exchange with students from the Abbey has been requested. The remainder of the day is spent aboard as you journey into Hungary. Lunch and dinner feature local specialties and traditional entertainment from the area. 
Day 4, Saturday, April 6
Esztergom Mass - Budapest by night band concert
You will awake to even more stunning scenery, this time in Hungary and explore the ancient city of Esztergom, once the capital city. A special Mass is to be organized just for the SBC group at the Esztergom Cathedral featuring both ensembles. Thereafter, the ship travels on to the new capital city of Budapest for sightseeing. The late afternoon and evening is at leisure for shopping and exploing. To end the day, you will have the opportunity to view the city lights as the cruise makes its night time voyage past all the major sites on the Danube.
Day 5, Sunday, April 7
Sunday Mass at the Cathedral - Musical Budapest - Concert
The SBC group has the opporunity to attend/participate in a Sunday Mass at St. Isztvan Cathedral during the morning. You will then see more of Budapest's musical side prior to a special SBC concert at a prime venue such as the Kodaly Music School - possibly joined by Hungarian students. The ship will set sail again in the evening en route to Slovakia and Bratislava.
Day 6, Monday, April 8
Bratislava in-depth - Likely Embassy Concert
Your group will awake in yet another country, Slovakia, as you crusie until the afternoon to the charming capital city of Bratislava. A concert at of for the Canadian Embassy is being planned before the Amadeus concintues on to Vienna. Arrival is scheduled in the evening so parents and guests can enjoy a night on their own and explore the town.
Day 7, Tuesday, April 9
Musical Vienna - Concert or Mass
Guten Morgen in Austria! "Musik macht schlau", music educates, is the theme for today's wal, as you follow in the footsteps of Mozart and Beethoven through historical Vienna, the Austrian capital city. A true highlight, you have the opportunity for a performance potential at Karslkirche (band and choir). Last but not least, there will be plenty of free time for exploring and shopping prior to boarding your ship again for a late departure towards the Wachau Valley once again.
Day 8, Wednesday, April 10
Castles & Cathedrals - Farewell Concert
While the ship docks in Krems, Incantato has planned a journey to Duernstein just for our musical groups. The baby blue church steeply of Duernstein's Stiftskirche is one of the Danube landmarks. Your ensembles will be performing in this stunning baroque church followed by plenty of free time to explore the town. A school visit is also planned. Why not climb up to the fortress where Richard Lionheart was once imprisoned? A special farewell gala dinner and party awaits you all back aboard. 
Day 9, Thursday, April 11
Disembarkation in Passau - Travel to Munich for return flights or extra night
It's time to say Auf Wiedersehen to the MS Amadeus after breakfast - but don't be too sad! You will have the week's memories to look back on fondly! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Discover Duernstein, Austria, with Incantato Tours

Dürnstein is a small town on the Danube river in the Krems-Land district, in the Austrian state of Lower Austria. It is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Wachau region.  The town gained its name from the medieval castle which overlooked it. The castle was called "Duerrstein" or "Dürrstein", from the German duerr/dürr meaning "dry" and Stein, "stone". The castle was dry because it was situated on a rocky hill, high above the damp conditions of the Danube at the base of the hill, and it was built of stone. Dürnstein was first mentioned in 1192. The ruins of the castle fortress, 159 meters above the town, are inextricably linked to the Crusades. Here Leopold V, the Babenberg duke ruling the country at that time, held Richard the Lionheart of England prisoner in 1193. It seems that Richard had insulted the powerful Austrian duke in Palestine during the Crusades to capture the Holy Land. The story is that when Richard was attempting to get back home, his boat foundered on the rocks of the Adriatic and he tried to sneak through Austria disguised as a peasant. The English monarch was arrested and imprisoned by Leopold.
For quite some time, nobody knew exactly where in Austria Richard was incarcerated, but his loyal minstrel companion, Blondel, had a clever idea. He went from castle to castle, playing his lute and singing Richard's favorite songs. The tactic paid off, the legend says, for at Dürnstein Richard heard Blondel's singing and sang the lyrics in reply. The discovery forced Leopold to transfer Richard to a castle in the Rhineland Palatinate, but by then everybody knew where he was. So Leopold set a high ransom on the king's head, which was eventually met, and Richard was set free.
The castle was virtually demolished by the Swedes in 1645, but you can visit the ruins if you don't mind a vigorous climb (allow an hour).  

The fifteenth century Dürnstein Abbey (Stift Dürnstein) was initially an Augustinian monastery and was reconstructed when the baroque style came to Austria. It was established in 1410 by Canons Regular from Třeboň and from 1710 rebuilt in a Baroque style according to plans by Joseph Munggenast, Jakob Prandtauer and Matthias Steinl.The blue tower of this church is one of the best baroque examples in the entire country and a notable landmark in the Danube Valley. There is also a splendid church portal. Kremser Schmidt, the noted baroque painter, did some of the altar paintings.  The monastery was dissolved by order of Emperor Joseph II in 1788 and had been given to the Herzogenburg Priory. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Travel Insurance: making sure you protect yourself and your investment

Incantato Tours requires getting travel insurance for your upcoming journey.
Not only are you covered medically should anything happen when traveling, but with a company of your choice or with our preferred supplier and TravelGuard's policies, you also protect your investment should you have to cancel or interrupt the trip. Last but not least, there is also coverage for delayed and lost luggage, etc.
Click on the logo below for the direct link to purchase travel insurance online, and you can do so with your credit card and also select the option that is best for you.

In the meantime, have a look at the most comprehensive coverage option The Protect Assist Gold below.

Protect Assist (Gold) -
Comprehensive Travel Protection for the World Traveler
  • Trip Cancellation
  • JUST ADDED! - Trip Cancellation due to employment loss or layoff
    if employed with the same employer 1 year or longer
  • Trip Interruption and Travel Delay
  • Emergency Medical and Emergency Medical Transportation
  • Baggage and Travel Document Protection
  • Baggage Delay and Lost Baggage Tracking
  • NEW - Cancel For Any Reason option now available
  • NEW - Cancel For Work Reasons option now available
  • NEW - Children age 17 and under covered at no additional cost
  • IMPROVED -Trip Cancellation limit increased to $100,000 (from $15,000),
  • IMPROVED - Trip Interruption coverage increased to 150% of Trip Cost
  • IMPROVED - Travel Delay required hours reduced to 5 hours (from 12)

ProtectAssist special features:
  • Best coverage for Weather Related Cancellations
  • Pre-existing Condition Exclusion Waiver*
  • Default/Bankruptcy Protection*
  • $50,000 Flight Accident Insurance*
  • 24-Hour "LiveTravel" Travel Agency
  • Emergency Cash Transfers
  • Identity Theft Restoration

* These additional benefits apply If you are purchasing within 15 days of making your initial trip deposit or payment, however, coverage may still be purchased at any time up to 24 hours prior to departure.
Increase your coverage with these valuable additions to your Protect Assist Plan:

Cancel For Any Reason – 50%
reimbursement of nonrefundable expenses if you cancel your trip for any reason, up to 48 hours prior to your departure. Only available when this plan is purchased within 15 days of initial trip payment.

Cancel For Work Reasons –
Offers additional work-related reasons for cancellation or interruption. Also includes our exclusive “Business Assistant” services if you have work obligations during your travels. Only available when this plan is purchased within 15 days of initial trip payment.

Umbrella Package – Medical Expense limits are doubled and coverage is upgraded to primary. Emergency Medical Transportation limits are doubled and benefits upgraded to take you home or to the hospital of your choice. $25,000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment coverage will be added.

Car Rental Collision Coverage – $35,000 in primary coverage. Covers cost of repairs for covered collision damage to a rental car for which the car rental contract holds you responsible. Subject to $250 deductible.

Optional coverages cannot be purchased separately. Must be purchased with base ProtectAssist plan.

Comprehensive non-insurance travel services* automatically included with plan!
With the ProtectAssist plan, every customer also has access to these valuable travel services when they travel:
· Arrangements for last-minute flight changes
· Hotel finder and reservations
· Rental car reservations
· Emergency medical assistance
· BagTrak® -- lost baggage tracking
· Pre-trip health and safety advisories
· Live e-mail and phone messaging to family and friends
· Cash transfers
· Airport transportation
· Golf course reservations
· Event ticketing
· Floral services
· Identity Theft restoration

Business Assistant* (available when Optional Cancel for Work Reasons coverage is purchased)

*Non-Insurance services are provided by AIG Travel Assist.

Citizenship: All Nationalities
Residency: United States
New York, Oregon, and Washington residence please call to purchase
Some rider options are not available and other restrictions may apply

Destination: Worldwide
Ages: All Ages
Max Trip Length: 365 Days

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Discover Vienna with Incantato Tours

  • Vienna, situated along the Danube River, is the largest city as well as the capital of Austria. Not only that, Vienna is also a Federal province of Austria.
  • It has the 3rd highest quality of living in the European Union.
  • The major religion is Christianity. The major language spoken in Vienna is German. Surprisingly the voting age in Austria is only 16 years old.
  • Vienna is the only city-state in Austria, which is a federal republic.
  • Vienna is divided into 23 districts. The city center in Vienna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Vienna is known worldwide as the city of music and is home to the great music hall with excellent acoustics.
  • The Museumsquartier, which is one of the largest cultural complexes in the world, is in the heart of Vienna.
  • World famous classical composers, including Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Schubert, and Brahms, have all lived and performed in Vienna.
  • Vienna is home to the setting of Graham Greene's novel ‘The Third Man’ that is an actual city casting melancholy and telling the story of the Cold War.
  • Vienna is considered as a city of cultural heritage. It has been home to various great artists such as Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud, and Arthur Schnitzler
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn, which is world’s oldest zoological garden,  was founded in 1752
  • The largest emerald of the world, which is of a whopping 2860 carat, is displayed in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna.
  • The highest waterfall in Europe is Kriml Falls, which is close to Vienna. The water falls 1,250 feet.
  • One of the few of its kind and one of the oldest ferris wheels in the world is in Vienna. It is situated in a large amusement park called the Prater, one of Vienna's most popular attractions. It has 15 gondolas, which offer a scenic view of Vienna, and is probably one of the city's most familiar sights.
  • Europe’s second largest cemetery is situated in Vienna, which is called Zentralfriedhof and has a total size of 2.5 square kilometers/one square mile.
  • Zentralfriedhof also has over 2.5 million tombs, which is almost double than the city’s live population. It also has tombs of some of the most famous personalities of the world such as Beethoven, Brahms, Gluck, Schubert, Schoenberg, and Strauss.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Incantato Welcomes You to Bratislava

It might be Europe's most relaxed capital, because what this city does have is old-town charm, sophisticated restaurants, traditional pubs, good music ranging from jazz to opera, stylish people, and a human scale which means that as a visitor, you will not spend half your day trekking in and out of underground stations. Known as Pressburg to German-speakers or Pozsony to Hungarian-speakers, Bratislava got its present name only 90 years ago. Nevertheless, the city has a long and proud history that dates back to pre-Roman times. In the city itself there is plenty to see and do. Bratislava's long history - as home to Celts, Romans, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, and of course Slovaks - means there is an impressive range of architecture, languages and cuisine. The handsome homes of the Austro-Hungarian noble families who built palaces here dot the city, and many of them are now open to the public as museums and galleries. The castle, with its long and checkered history (it was destroyed more than once), is now undergoing a major restoration. There are great views over the mediaeval old town and the Danube valley from its fortifications. Bratislava was once one of the most important centres of Jewish learning in Europe.  A unique memorial to its most renowned rabbi, the Chatam Sofer, and the city's Museum of Jewish Culture celebrate this heritage. Communism too left its mark: across the river, the unmistakable ranks of concrete housing blocks - paneláky in Slovak - line the horizon, with the unique UFO-style New Bridge in the foreground. The Danube River itself is, of course, one of the city's main assets. There are several cafes along its banks, within walking distance of the center. The pedestrian decks of the New and Old Bridges are good places to watch the river traffic, including huge Danube barges, glide past.  
Fun Fact: It’s not technically Bratislava but it’s worth mentioning anyway because it’s something not very people know. The famous American pop artist Andy Warhol made Slovakia famous for more than 15 minutes because his parents were originally from Miková, which is on the very opposite side of the country to the capital.

But now, what about this Cumil and his friends? As Bratislava looked to shed the greyness of the Communist era, many buildings were repainted. In an attempt to liven-up the city center, a few quirky statues were installed. Their popularity with tourists led to new statues, filling the center of Bratislava with funny and quirky installations.
Cumil - This guy, residing in the Old Town, dates back only to 1997, but Bratislavians and tourists love him. Children like to abuse him by sitting on his head. More than once has he been damaged car drivers. Heated discussions have taken place as to what the man is actually up to - you have to decide whether he is simply resting or just cleaned the sewer...
Schone Naci - The stuff of Bratislava legends, Schone Naci was a well known figure in the early 20th century. A poor and mentally ill man, he paraded the streets of Bratislava in old, but elegant attire - a velvet frock, greeting passers-by with his top-hat and bowing courteously to ladies passing by.
Paparazzi - An even more recent addition adorning the eponymous restaurant in the Old Town, just round the corner from the Main Square.
Hans Christian Andersen - On the Hviezdoslav square there is a statue of famous fairy tale author. About Bratislava he said: If you want a fairy tale, your city is a fairy tale itself. After his visit he produced some of his masterpieces such as The Little Match Girl. Now, have fun looking for Cumil and his friends while strolling through beautiful Bratislava!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Melk Abbey: an Incantato Favorite

Melk Abbey was originally a palace. Located on the banks of the Danube River between Salzburg and Vienna, Melk Abbey stands crowned by towers and resplendent in a golden hue. The impressive Baroque ensemble at Melk was built in 1702-1736 by architect Jakob Prandtauer. Especially noteworthy is the church with magnificent frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr and the library containing countless medieval manuscripts. The monastic community of Melk is over 900 years old and black-robed Benedictine monks still stroll amidst the marble sculptures and frescoed walls. It is now also a prestigious coed monastery school with more than 700 students. Melk has played an important role in the Danube region since Roman times, when a fortress was built on the promontory overlooking a tiny "arm" of the Danube. Melk also appears in the German epic poem Nibelungenlied, in which it is called "Medelike". The rock-strewn bluff where the abbey now stands was the seat of the Babenbergs, who ruled Austria from 976 until the Hapsburgs took over. In the 11th century, Leopold II of Babenberg presented the palace at Melk to Benedictine monks, who turned it into a fortified abbey. Its influence and reputation as a center of learning and culture spread throughout Austria, as reflected in Umberto Eco's popular novel The Name of the Rose. Eco researched his novel in the abbey's library. Melk Abbey suffered damaged during the Reformation and the 1683 Turkish invasion, but it was spared direct attack when the Ottoman armies were halted outside Vienna. Reconstruction of the abbey began in 1702 in full Baroque style and was completed in 1736. The abbey church was damaged by fire in 1947, but is now completely restored. The design of the present abbey ensemble (1702-36) is primarily the work of architect Jakob Prandtauer. The Marmorsaal (Marble Hall) contains pilasters coated in red marble and an allegorical painted ceiling by Paul Troger. The library rises two floors and also has a Troger ceiling, along with around 80,000 volumes of priceless works. The Kaisergang (Emperors' Gallery) stretches for 198m (650 ft.), and is decorated with portraits of Austrian royalty. The highlight of the abbey, though, is certainly the Stiftskirche (Abbey Church). The church has an astonishing number of windows and is richly embellished with marble and frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr with help from Troger.There are fine views of the river from the abbey's terrace, which Napoleon probably used as a lookout when he used Melk as his headquarters for his campaign against Austria. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Incantato journeys the blue Danube

The ‘meandering’ Danube river rises in the stunningly beautiful Black Forest mountain range close to the town of Donaueschingen in Germany, from whence it takes its name. It then flows a south-eastward course for a distance of some 1,785 miles, passing through four Central and Eastern European capitals and ten countries before emptying into the Black Sea.
Like no other European river, the Danube has influenced the course of history as the Romans, Thrax, Celts, Illyrics and, of course, the Ottomans have all been here. In the space of a week the echoes of this colorful past will come to the fore as you journey through the very historical beating heart of Europe, to experience the cultural delights of Vienna and Budapest or alternatively to gaze at the gently undulating landscapes of the beautiful Wachau Valley, with its charming riverside villages and vineyard-laced hillsides usually bathed in the most glorious of light. Stops along the curvaceous course of the river include Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Duernstein, Melk, and Passau.
Music and musical heritage obviously accompanies us on our voyage. Before the nineteenth century, musicians such as Mozart and Schubert struggled to make ends meet and relied on patronage. This all changed when Johann Strauss the Younger and Elder both became the equivalent of modern musical stars with their popular waltz music, perhaps forever immortalized in ‘The Blue Danube’ which perhaps neatly completes the circle as regards the name of our vessel and majestic river on which she sails.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Danube- learn some interesting facts

Where is the source of the river Danube?
The Danube begins as a small mountain stream deep in the Black Forest near Donaueschingen, Germany. That small stream soon becomes the second largest river in Europe (the Volga is the largest one).

The Upper Danube is home for how many capital cities?
four: Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary), and Belgrade (Serbia)—more than any other river in the world. 

Through how many countries does the Danube flow?
Ten: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine 

The length of the Danube:
1,777 miles

Where does it end?
In the Black Sea.

Did You Know?
  • The Danube Delta was first declared a nature reserve in 1938 by the Council of Ministers and recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1992. The area is home to 12 habit types, 300 bird species and 45 freshwater fish species.
  • The Danube is mentioned in the title of a famous waltz by Austrian composer Johann Strauss, "An der schönen blauen Donau" (On the Beautiful Blue Danube), composed as Strauss was traveling down the Danube River. This piece is well known across the world and is also used widely as a lullaby. Listen to Herbert von Karajan conducting "An der schönen blauen Donau" with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.
  • Another famous waltz about the Danube is "The Waves of the Danube" by the Romanian composer Ion Ivanovici (1845–1902), and the work took the audience by storm when performed at the 1889 Paris Exposition.
  • The German tradition of landscape painting, the Danube school, was developed in the Danube valley in the 16th century.
  • The Parliament House in Bucharest is the world's largest parliament building at a whopping 3.55 million square feet.
  • The Blue Danube was the name of the first nuclear weapon of the British army.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thank you for a great meeting, more info on the cruise to come soon

Dearest faculty, students, family and friends of St. Bonaventure College, it was with great joy that we got to see you all again during our recent visit to beautiful St. John's and we cannot thank you enough for your hospitality and warm welcome. Please pardon that this thank you note comes with a delay and so are new entries on the 2013 Performance Cruise as little Thea got sick before we left and has pretty much taken down all of us at home and in the office with her. We wish you a great summer break and will be adding a lot of information in the weeks to come. Please do check back latest on July 1 when Sandra will be on the actual ship that you are going to be on in April for a week for some day to day coverage (as long as the internet access will allow it). Dankeschoen und auf Wiedersehen!

A European tradition: Easter markets

When traveling around countries such as Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary around Easter time, you will be sure to run into one of many wonderful Easter traditions: the Easter markets. Similar to the famous Christmas markets, the Easter markets offer a wide variety of local foods, crafts and products from the region.

Typically, there are many Easter-themed items to buy, but also local products, food items and gifts that make great souvenirs to bring back home. 
Weimar celebrates the beginning of spring by hosting its Ostermarkt on the market square around Easter every year. It is a perfect possibility to shop for Easter presentss or souvenirs such as jewelry or decorative arts. All manner of handicrafts and design items are offered in the town center, inviting everyone to get in the mood for Easter. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Incantato Impressions Vienna

Incantato Tours Destination Impressions: Benedictine Abbey of Goettweig

Here is a video from the UA Schola Cantorum under the direction of Canadian composer and director Dr. Graeme Langager who is now at UBC.

Unforgettable Experiences at Goettweig from our previous intern Ember

My name is Ember and I am now a member of the Incantato Tours Team. Before I joined the company, I toured with my university choir to Central Europe in the summer of 2008. One of my most memorable times was at the Benedictine Abbey of Goettweig. I felt like we were treated like kings and queens as we were offered a private tour through the monastery with Pater Justus, the museum was full of beautiful art and history but more importantly it had original compositions by Haydn and Beethoven on display. He also allowed our fellow student and accompanist to play on the organ in the cathedral. It was so special to see the cathedral at night and to have a personal concert on their beautiful, enormous organ.

Goettweig is situated on the top of a mountain, which offers one of the most beautiful panoramic views I've ever seen. Here are some pictures from the perspective of my camera last summer. This is a picture of my friend and I (on the right) with Pater Justus, at the end of our personal tour through the monastery and museum.

This is a monastery that carries on with their Benedictine style of life but has adapted graciously to the 21st century. This was made obvious on Sunday morning after their traditional mass there was a contemporary service held outside and the whole congregation was full of motorcycles and their riders. Although it was alarming to hear all the bikes roaring up to the courtyard, it was moving to be able to witness this - it was a beautiful experience.

While staying at Goettweig, we were able to take strolls along the Danube in Duernstein and to
take a hike up to the ruins of a castle fortress, which happens to be where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned during the Crusades.

Here's a silly picture of my friend acting like she was locked up in the same place as Richard. She'd kill me if she knew I posted this! =)

Last but not least, we had a wonderful experience performing in the sanctuary. It's a beautiful spectacle for the audience but also for the singers. I firmly believe that each venue offers something different to each piece of repertoire. My musical experience was definitely enhanced while singing here. The space is very much alive and is great for classical music, especially for an orchestra. Here is a picture of the sanctuary during our performance. In this picture, the choir is singing Bach's "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" - split into two choirs spanning both sides.