I sit down with a former Adventures by Disney guide, and a NatGeo Cast Member who has experienced the Christmas markets river cruise to learn everything you wanted to know about river cruising, including what makes these voyages unique, from the ships to ports, excursions, guides, adventures and the Adventures by Disney and National Geographic differences.
We also look at what makes our upcoming WDW Radio NatGeo Expedition on the Danube to the Christmas Markets this December extra special, what to expect, and why you should join us!
Let me help you build your brand and business and turn your passion into your profession, or speak at your event, conference, or school! – Learn more at LouMongello.com
Thanks to Jennae and Hunter from Adventures by Disney and NatGeo for joining me this week!
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Lou Mongello: There's nothing like a Disney cruise or is there beautiful ships, exotic destinations, immersion and culture, world-class service, amenities, dining learning opportunities, and incredible memories. And I'm not just talking about a cruise at sea, but an adventures by Disney or Nat Geo River Cruise. For an experience that is a true adventure, you can set sail among Europe's most magnificent rivers, past storybook villages and iconic cities and landscapes, all while exclusively sailing on a luxury river cruise.
And if you've never taken or even heard of a river cruise, You're not alone because I hadn't either until relatively recently, until I learned about what Adventures by Disney and Nat Geo had to offer, and I was instantly hooked. Until this December, we, our WW radio family are taking our first, probably not last Nat Geo Expedition Group adventure on a Danube Christmas markets river cruise from December 9th through the 16th.
And we are going to set sail through the heart of Europe on the Danube River, visiting destinations in Germany, Austrias Lockian Hungary, visiting the Christmas markets for an experience that I am counting down the days until, but before going on what I know is going to be an amazing adventure. I wanted to learn more and I wanted to share what I learned with you, not from something that I read or something that I saw online, but directly from a Nat Geo and Adventures by Disney expert and Guides.
So here I am in Germany. The Epcot Center version as close as I can get for now until December with Janae shampoo and Hunter Robinson from Adventures by Disney and Nat Geo. Good morning. Thank you for being here and welcome. Oh,
Jennae: we're so excited to be here today.
Hunter: Good morning. Thanks for having us. I'm
Lou Mongello: super excited.
And as we were, as we were getting here, we were chatting a little bit about Germany. You were starting to set the table a little bit of what we are about to see, but I, I'm getting, uh, a little bit ahead of myself because I wanna know first a little bit about you. I wanna know, I wanna know the sort of the Jene and Hunter origin stories because your experiences with Disney and Adventures by Disney and that geo.
Span a very long amount of time and have great stories as well. So, Jana and Hunter, share a little bit about your story first.
Jennae: Sure. Uh, well, I'm a military brat and so I've literally traveled my entire life. Uh, when I was two months old, we moved to Japan and that just started my love of travel almost from the womb.
Right. Wait, what part? Because I
Lou Mongello: absolutely love Japan.
Jennae: No, Okinawa. Okay. Loved it. Absolutely loved it. And my dad had multiple tours of duty there, so we just kept coming back and it was a, it was a great way to grow up. And when I was in college, I saw this bright orange sign on the, the student center wall saying, come work for Disney for the summer.
And I thought, well, that's weird. And I, that's when I found out about the college program and. I just thought, well, this will be a fun summer job. And that was in 1995, and obviously I just kept coming back as well, and I, I absolutely loved it. And then when Adventures by Disney began in 2006, officially, I thought, this is amazing.
They've created a section of the company just for me. Oh, I get to travel, I get to stay with the company that I love. This is perfect. And I've been with Adventures by Disney ever since. I've been, uh, I've worked in the contact center as a vacation Easter. I was an adventure guide, um, from 2006 up until very recently until, um, uh, just after, uh, goodness.
What year are we in business? Up until 2020, uh, I've been in guide operations. I've, I, right now I've been in truck operations as a destination manager, so I get to oversee a lot of these destinations now. So the adventure guides bring the magic to our guests. I get to help bring the magic to our adventure guides.
Lou Mongello: Nice. And I love the fact that that your, uh, your sort of history and journey at Disney, it, it's sort of the, it's the storybook thing, right? You start off at great movie ride, right? I did, yes. Right. And then VIP tour guide and so, and so you've, did you open wishes
Jennae: too, right? I did. I was one of the opening managers for the Wishes.
Fireworks Spectacular. And so wishes will always, always have a special place in my heart. Fireworks are always awesome, but for me wishes is just like super awesome. We just
Lou Mongello: bonded over Japan and wishes. Yes, by the way, cuz those are our two of, uh, my favorites and, and Hunter, what about you?
Hunter: Tough back to follow.
Let's see if we can get some bonding. So I, um, I too did the college program, so I actually started here at Epcot, um, on the FastPass team when the original Fast Pass was brand new. So it was kind of a fascinating thing to roll out and now have been here for 13 years and see kind of the different iterations.
Uh, then I actually moved to New York City and I worked for Disney Theatrical Group, so all of our Broadway and touring productions. I was in kind of the marketing and sales side of the house there. Um, Got into a role helping our travel, uh, advisor partners learn more about the portfolio, talked to their clients more about the portfolio, and then really, really fell in love with adventures about Disney as part of that experience.
Um, it's how I like to travel. Um, it's a really special part of the travel portfolio here. Um, so moved kind of in-house, so to speak, like Janae came, came inside now marketing and sales for Adventures by Disney. And really exciting, we've added National Geographic expeditions to the portfolio. So, you know, as someone who, who had those magazines growing up, um, what a really cool way to extend, um, the really special trips we're able to bring, um, guests out into the world and see and, and a, and a unique and really just a special way as adventures by Disney.
Lou Mongello: you, you mentioned something that, that sometimes it's hard to articulate to people is what the Adventures by Disney difference really is until you go and experience it and, and I, we just came back from Italy and I tried to share as much as I could, almost real time on social as it was happening, but.
There is something special. And you're right, like once you do adventures by Disney, it's hard to almost, not adventure and, and travel the same way because there's this wonderful marriage of experiencing the culture and the locations, but you also have that, that touch of Disney. There is that little bit of sprinkling of pixie dust on top, and especially when you, like, I've been to China and I've been to Japan.
I just came back from Italy. Um, there is this level of comfort that you're given. And then of course the access, again, Italy going into the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel by yourselves, like after everyone else has left. Yeah, there's 60,000 people that have sort of made it through the rest of the day. Um, there is really something special, and I hate to sort of call it the product, but about the adventure by Disney and now certainly the, the Nat Geo product as well.
Jennae: No, absolutely. That's one of the great things is, you know, hunter talked about being a part of the fast, fast team. That's kind of what we are, right? We're the global, fast, fast team because who wants to wait in line? I mean, the Cistine Chapel's a great example because you can go with 60,000 of your closest friends now, you know, in there.
Or you can actually be in there by yourself and actually get to talk and have someone explain to you what you're looking at and have a, a truly spiritual experience in there and really be able to enjoy it and not worry about stepping on someone's foot or feeling. Almost claustrophobic in a decently sized space just because of the amount of people to be able to go to the Tower of London and be the first ones in, to see the crown jewels and all their glory because we have that private access with a beef eater showing us the way.
It's, it's those type of v i p access, uh, as well as really the atmosphere around it. It's, this isn't a Ferrari safari where we're just trying to run you through everything as quickly as possible. A lot of this is because of the bonding. You can't have these incredible experiences with other people and not, not form that bond, not have that family atmosphere.
People probably don't go on group travel thinking I'm gonna form a new family. But that's, that's what happens. And it really increases the, the value of, of what we're showing you, because it's not something that's static. It's something that you're experiencing with all of your senses. You're smelling it, you're tasting it, you're touching it, and.
Everyone else is with you as well. And you just have to look to the people down your right, left and say, oh my gosh, are we really here? Are we really experiencing this? And it just, it just builds. And all the junior adventures start forming friends. The, the adults are forming friends. And before you know it, you are not individual family units.
Your one unit experiencing the vacation of a lifetime, and then kind of wondering where you're gonna go next.
Lou Mongello: A wise man talked about, you know, it taking people to make a dream, a reality. And it's true. Italy is a great, I'll just keep referring back to Italy. Italy is spectacular, but it's, it was our adventure guides, right?
It was our, our Disney adventure guide, dusty and Marco, who are in Italy. But, but more importantly, it's also the integration and the seamless marriage of the local guides as well. Our local guide in Rome was absolutely, I wanted to just take her with me everywhere I went. Um, I mean, all of the guides were because, They really enhance the experience with the level of knowledge and and real cultural immersion, and to have somebody that you can bounce questions off of and know that you're gonna get an answer, and again, It's, you know, she or he is, is just for
Yeah. Well, I, I would just add, cause you brought up Walt, you know, here we have a deep, deep legacy of storytelling. And when you talk about things like the Sistine Chapel, it's awesome that we get to go there as a small group with a fast pass. That's a huge travel benefit, but it's, it's also part of the story.
You're understanding the space you're in and, and the culture you're experiencing, the way it was meant to be shared. And I think the local guides, the adventure guides, our trip development team, our destination, There's a through line, um, to these trips that really tells the story of a destination, because that's something that we do, right?
We tell stories, whether it's adventures about Disney or National Geographic Expeditions. These, these two brands have been telling stories, um, gosh, for generations, right? And so you get to live that out in these places in the real world. Kind of take that real world magic out there and kinda live that storytelling journey.
The most important story of all, which is your own right.
Lou Mongello: And every stop along the way was meaningful because of those stories, right? You're not just sort of ticking things off of the list. Although, I will say our trip ended in Venice. We stayed an extra day because we were gonna go to Disneyland, Paris, cuz it's like right across the street.
Why not? And so the morning, the, the last morning were in Venice. I was with my, my wife and son. I said, lemme just look up and see the things that we're supposed to do. Look, you know, top 10, top 20. And every single thing on the list we had already done and already done in a way that was not available if I was just a regular tourist that was going and, and it, there was sort of an aha moment there that not only have we seen the things that quote unquote you were supposed to, but saw them in a way that you just couldn't get any other, there's no other opportunity to do it that way.
Jennae: No, and that's exactly it because we, we wanna make sure that you are seeing what's important to see wherever you go. You know, if you wanna go to China, you've gotta go on the Great Wall. You know, you wanna see the floating Tory in Japan. You want to be able to go and see Tower Bridge and the Eiffel Tower and you know, so many important things.
But I think one of the true bits of magic that we create is that we show you the things that you have to see that you had no idea about. You know, we were talking earlier about Sarah's farm in Tuscany and. That is a place where you go to Italy and you think, oh, we're gonna go to a farm and we're gonna learn how to make pasta and have lunch.
And that's great. And then you go and you realize that this is a magical place. You become part of their family and you have this incredible experience on this, this little family owned farm in the middle of nowhere, Tuscany. And it is just absolutely incredible. And it's a place that you think back on the trip and you can't imagine not having been there and not having seen that, but you never knew about it before.
And I think especially with places, uh, that we go on our river cruises, that's something that is absolutely key. And this is one of the, the joys and majesty of the river cruises, I think, because we get to go to a lot of little tiny towns and, uh, that's where my heart is. Mm-hmm. You show me a town with two cobblestone streets.
Last major update was in the 16th century. Amend. Yes. That's where I want to be. And who's ever heard of Revere or Ru Asim? I. Who, who has even heard of the Vaca Valley, which is a fairly major region in Austria. But to be able to go to these places and have these experiences and kind of in a way choose your own adventure, which is a cool thing about the river cruising as well, because you can decide what activities you wanna do when, uh, when we're in port, when we're at each place.
And that is, is huge. And you can really just kinda decide, okay, what makes my heart sing about this? What do I most want to see? But it's also kind of why a lot of people come back and do the same river cruise again and again because there are are other things to do. I you think you'd p pick the great greatest thing and you had a wonderful time and then you're talking to everyone at dinner and thinking, oh no, I gotta come back cause I wanna go to do this thing.
And so we have folks that have gone on the same river cruise two or three times just so they can do every single bookable activity. And I just think that's, that's cool because just as a side note, and you know, this is, again, this is where my heart is, if you go on the danen, you have not done the apricot farm, you need to go back.
Because the apricot farm is amazing.
Lou Mongello: Alright, we're gonna get to the Apricot farm and we'll start talking about our, our Christmas. But just very quickly, cuz you touched on Sarah's farm. Yeah. And somebody listening might be like, well that just sounds like it's a throwaway thing. And you look at the, we've been to the Vatican, the Cistine Chapel, the Venice, all these amazing basilicas at the end of our adventures by Disney, I said, what was the, your favorite?
99% of the people said it was Sarah's farm. And it's an experience, again, you can't sort of quote unquote buy it anywhere else, but it's so memorable and it's so authentic. It was so authentic. It almost felt fake. Like it almost felt like, wait, this is not this, this vista that we have just can't be real because it's so spectacular.
Uh, but let's talk about river cruising. Um, and I really wanna sort of boil down to sort of the beginning and the basics. Because a river cruise is very different than a traditional cruise. If you've been on a Disney cruise or. You know, another cruise line. Talk about some of the ways a river cruise is different, not just in the size of the ship, but in the type of experience that
Jennae: you have.
Absolutely. I mean, like I mentioned, it is kind of a choose your own adventure, which is something that's different. It is itinerized travel, but um, like on an ocean cruise, when you go into port, you have different things that you can choose from. So there are some times when we all do the same activity, but there are certainly opportunities for you to be able to pick what you are most interested in and what you would like to do.
And this is kind of a neat thing because the family doesn't even necessarily have to stick together. You know, if, if dad and daughter wanna go off and hike up to the amazing ruined castle in sine they can, while maybe mom and the son wanna go for a long bike ride. So, you know, there are different things that you can do in the morning.
Everyone comes back kind of recos at lunch, you know, discusses the morning and then maybe everyone does the same thing or switches everything up, uh, for the afternoon activities. So I do, I do think that's cool to have that level of customization that is. Not always typical, uh, on a trip. And, and these don't have to be
Lou Mongello: selected, you know, months in advance, right?
These are things that you can decide to do when you get to each port. Uh,
Jennae: no, you do ha have to choose 'em ahead of time, but it's not a huge amount ahead of time, you know, just so we can make sure that, of course, all of our partners know how many people to prep for, uh, uh, but it's, uh, you know, you do have plenty of time to kind of decide, you know, so it does have to be in advance, but it's not, it's not a crazy amount.
But also one of the nice things is you can. You know, I, I like going place to place, but man, it's really nice to be able to actually unpack the suitcase and hang something up in the closet. So that's, uh, not something you often get to do on vacation or, or when you're traveling about. And it also, I think, increases that sense of, this is my home now, you know, this is my home for the week.
And going back to the room is, is that wonderful sense of coming back and you, you get to know the crew and they're all so lovely and amazing. And one of the big things that I thought was fun and became kind of an event for all of the guests on the, on the Saines time and time again, is the food. Because obviously now you're speaking my language.
Oh yeah, absolutely. Let's get down to what's important. It's the food. Because these river cruise ships are not huge. They're not massive ocean liners. I mean, we're on a river, so you can always see the, always see land, you know, there's no way that you're not actually in sight on both banks and. Because of that, they don't have these massive, huge freezers in the back or anything like that.
So every morning, as soon as we would clear and they'd, uh, put the dock out and everything, we would see all the local partners, vendors, you know, coming on board with all the food. And we could see, oh, it looks like we're gonna have mushrooms today on something. And, you know, what is this lamb? And, you know, because all the food is completely fresh, they're bringing everything on in the morning in that port.
Totally local, totally fresh, totally uh, locally sourced. And then that's what they are making for the day, for lunch, for dinner. Uh, the pastries are made every morning. So everything is 100% fresh, 100%, uh, made just for us. And I think that is an incredible thing. And it, it's really fun getting to watch all that come on board and realize, my gosh, this isn't something that, you know, we've been carrying around with us, you know, with very few exceptions.
Everything is coming on that day and. Almost kind of unheard of. I don't go grocery shopping every day, but being able to have master chefs make all of that food just for us is, is pretty incredible.
Lou Mongello: And because there's only around 156 or so passengers versus 4,000 passengers, it's a much more intimate, and I have to imagine a watch more personal and personalized experience because you not only get to know the other people who are adventuring with you, but the crew and the staff as well.
Jennae: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I know that when we started our river cruising, uh, trips, that was something that some of our longtime guests were a little concerned about because like we mentioned on our standard land-based trips, you do become a family. You've got maximum of 40 people typically, and you bond very quickly.
And when you've got 150, my gosh, is it gonna be the same? But it is, you're still having incredible adventures. You're still not a huge amount of of people and everyone's still bonds. And we have a couple ways to kind of maybe move that along as well. Like every night is a junior adventure at night, you know, because the adults wanna have their four or five course dinner with the wine and everything like that.
Nice. You know, relaxing meal, your average 10 year old is not going to sit for that. And while they can join if they want to, we also realize very quickly that we need to have something for all of our junior adventures and teens every evening. So we usually have separate areas for the teens to be able to go and kind of bond.
And then we've got a giant junior adventure buffet every night. And let me tell you, when the chef on board is a 40 year Italian chef and he's the one making your handmade chicken nuggets, they're the best ones you'll ever have. They're incredible.
Hunter: They're good butter noodles. They're right. The best butter noodles you'll ever have.
Jennae: Yes, exactly. And you know, so there's a different activity every night where maybe it's a craft night or maybe we're doing a Disney movie night or we're creating our own game show or something like that. But it's um, It still gets everyone to bond very closely and get to know everyone else. And so you're not going out and having an activity with random people that you might have seen on board the ship.
It's, it's still family and you still form that bond. And that was a big thing for all of our guests. And it was a big thing for us because I think that's a, a huge part of what makes Adventures by Disney so successful is that family atmosphere.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. And, and we'll talk about a little more about, um, the different types of cruisers and, and cruising with a family or cruising as an adult.
Um, but we mentioned earlier on that, that the ships, the, the river crew ships that we're on is, is there's a partnership between Adventures by Disney and Nat Geo and Amma Waterways, um, who is really sort of the, the standard in luxury River cruising. Talk a little bit about the role that Nat Geo and a b d play along with, with Amma waterways and sort of partnering together for these, uh, river Cruise Adventures.
Hunter: It's a beautiful partnership. So we, you know, as you can imagine, we, we looked around the industry and kind of really chose what we felt was the best partner for us. Uh, Jana's already talked about the food. Being a wonderful experience. The ships are, are relatively new. In fact, one of the first things, um, we discovered was we needed maybe some ships with larger rooms or triples.
Um, so Amma Waterways, when they were building their new ships, actually incorporated that feedback. So we actually can, can host triples our suites, can hold, you know, family of four. Um, so that was part of that partnership as well. And, and I think, you know, they're very open. Um, you know, Janae has guided on the, on the river cruises before working with their cruise manager and their crew.
You know, when you think about. How fun our cruises are. You know, the, the cruises on their ships really get into it, and it is that family atmosphere, which is really fantastic. Um, it is a full charter though, so it is only our adventures by Disney or National Geographic Expeditions guests. Um, which really again, allows us a lot of freedom and flexibility to deliver those kind of unique, uh, vacation experiences that we do.
So it's, it's not just a pickup of whatever Amma's doing, and then we put some guides on there. It's, it's really our own kind of, um, unique flavor of river cruising, uh, whether that's with guides or with Nat Geo. You have your experts come on board and really deliver this kind of enriching layer as well.
Um, so it's a beautiful partnership. We work very well together. Um, and really just again, expanding that river crews opportunity to families is, is really, we were kind of really a pioneer in that space, so we're excited.
Lou Mongello: Yeah, I mean, the exciting thing when you hear adventures by Disney and Nat Geo is this, this idea of.
Uh, layer layers of education that's on top of just not just sort of dropping you off on a port and sending you off on your own, but, but you sort of bring that education and cultural enrichment aspect to not just adults, but the junior adventures as well.
Hunter: Yeah, absolutely. And I think in different ways, right?
So with National Geographic, um, it's really that expert piece. So on your river cruises with National Geographic, you'll have two National Geographic experts. One will be kind of a, a subject matter expert, usually with river cruising. It's a, it's an author or historian. Um, you're really gonna get a deep dive through lectures, so that's a little different too.
Right? On National Geographic, we actually have lectures, um, wonderfully engaging lectures. Uh, and then the second expert would be a National Geographic photography expert, which I have to tell you, having experienced twice now, um, I didn't think I was really like that bad of a travel photo to photographer.
And then I went on these than I realized I was, uh, but I got so much better. And, and we can talk a little more, but, but just you're getting those two experts, um, while still getting all the other great storytelling off the ship as well. And photography walks, history walks, um, and then on the adventures by Disney side, you know, it's a little more.
You know, the guides are bringing that kind of Disney energy and, and fun and when you have families and making sure everybody's engaged. And Janae talks about flexibility of scheduling and everything. And so it's just they, they're both wonderfully enriching and educational, just kind of in a different, slightly different way.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. Yeah. Cause I'll say, I, I have to imagine there's a lot of similarities, but yet some differences that may might make one person wanna choose, I hate to call it a product, but do one of the products or one of the adventures over the other.
Jennae: No, absolutely. It's, uh, you know, we are both travel companies and while we are all linked now as National Geographic Expeditions is under the Disney portfolio, uh, with Adventures and Expeditions, an Adventures by Disney trip is still very different from a National Geographic Expeditions, which is one of the great parts about having two very different companies that on the surface seem to offer a surface product because you can look.
You know, you don't have to do too deep a dive to really see which one really appeals more to you and which will work better for your family. And again, it's not to say that you have children, you have to go on adventures by Disney or you know, you're just, you're only adults and you have to go on National Geographic Expeditions.
They both work. It really is just what works best for you, how do you wanna vacation and what do you wanna get out of your vacation? You know, people often think, well, I'm going on vacation and thinking it's just to rest, but you get so much more out of it. You actually learn and when you, you know, whether it's just how to take a better photograph.
Yeah. But yeah, it seems surface level, but then you think, my gosh, there's a lot I need to learn here.
Hunter: Before, you know, for instance, on the Deni, you know, one of the ex, you know, I never thought I needed to learn about the ecological challenges facing the Deni. Sure. In a, in a very kind of structured, interesting way.
That's a National Geographic expedition. Look at it, right? Mm-hmm. Um, on the adventures by Disney side, it's learning about how people live and, and run an apricot farm. It's just, it's just this slightly different view of it. Um, you know, and so it's, you can learn a lot on either trip. Absolutely. It's just a different style of
Jennae: learning, I would say.
Absolutely. Yeah. What do you wanna learn about? Yeah.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. And I think that's, that's fascinating. Again, it's sort of the similarities and differences between taking a Disney cruise, for example. There's not a big theater, there's not shows with Mickey and things like that. This is, it's the, it's a similar type of, Level of service, of expectations being exceeded, experienced, but without that type of entertainment.
But there's activities and things like that on board, whether you do not to you or whether you do adventures by Disney, both for kids and for
Jennae: adults. Absolutely. There's. Oftentimes, pretty much every night. I'm trying to think very few exceptions to, to it, uh, when we don't have some kind of, uh, local nighttime entertainment coming on, which is great because we, we come back from our afternoon activities, everyone gets to kind of clean up, have a great dinner wherever you are on the ship.
Uh, and then everyone comes together for some amazing local entertainment, whether it's it's singers or dancers or performers. And then it's time to go to bed because big day tomorrow doesn't matter where we are. It's big day tomorrow.
Hunter: I enjoy the trivia. There's usually like trivia and I'll say Yes, obviously.
And again, that's where you'll see a difference. Adventures about Disney is gonna be a little more Disney focused. The National Geographic Expeditions trivia is challenging. Um, so you have to pay attention if you want to win throughout your trip. I mean, it, it gets, it gets serious. Uh, but, but it's still fun, right?
It's, it's a really exciting way to kind of check in on what you've experienced while in a really fun
Lou Mongello: way. And it's, you mentioned, and we'll come back to it, you mentioned the photography. I've had, there's a couple people who are coming on our, on our group trip in December. Who are like, I'm going for the photography.
Like I'm bringing all my gear and like I want somebody to like, you know, show me the way, uh, I wanna be my, you know, a paton to, to the expert who show, because you have this incredible opportunity to visit these destinations and wanna make sure you capture it the best way possible. And I think that's, that's one of the things too for the, for both of these in Na Geo and, and Adventures by Disney River cruises.
The ports are the stars, right? The, the ports are the destinations. You talked about the, the joy of being able to walk in, unpack in your, your state room. And again, a lot of state rooms have balconies and, and whatnot, but you wake up every day for the most part. You are in a different port. And again, like unlike some of the, um, Disney cruises, these cruises are, are normally longer, right?
There's no three day river cruises, right? They're, they're longer experiences. Talk a little bit about, um, the, the different ports, and I know, we'll we'll talk some about some of the different destinations, but how the. Unique cultural experiences and the ports that have been obviously very carefully selected are really the stars of both voyages.
Jennae: Absolutely. And it, it's a great blend of places you probably know and places that you probably don't. And I think that's, that's kind of the magic of it. You've heard of Vienna, but have you heard of Milk? You know, you have heard of Budapest, uh, but have you gone been ever to rere or Rusk? How many people have been in out Paris, but maybe not Shi or you know, what?
A place like Normandy, a place that we have heard about. So many times, whether it was in school or you know, family history or anything. And being able to actually go, and I'm getting a little lumpy thinking about it, being able to actually stand on the beach at Normandy and being able to hear our local experts talk about it.
And I'll tell you, we have had a lot of veterans that have come and joined us on our Sand River cruise, and it's incredibly emotional because I'm sure we've had some that haven't chosen to say anything, but many have. And it just is an incredible moment to share that this person that you've been having dinner with and going on these activities with is opening up about a, a part of their history.
And when they were last on the beach at Normandy, stop you making me cry. I'm trying to hold it together. So, but it's, it's truly, I mean, everyone's just, yeah. You know, typically weeping at that point, but it's a, a wonderful cathartic sharing and it's, it's such. An amazing thing to be able to have that kind of experience and to be able to bring people back in a positive way.
Mm-hmm. And to be able to share in a positive way where they are now based on where they were so many years ago. And it's, that's part of their story and now it's part of everyone's that
Lou Mongello: was with them. Well, it's, it's what I love about this and like, you know, when you do the adventures by Disney, you, everybody does form a bond, right?
Cuz you have, and then the stories that are being shared are not just the ones from the destinations or the guides, but from each other, um, as well. But let's talk a little bit about the opportunities for excursions. You mentioned earlier before that, that you really have your choice in terms of, it's like your old, you know, you're too, you guys are too young to remember to create your own adventure books.
But it, it really is sort of making your own adventure and adventuring the way that you or you and your family want to talk about some of the, the different types of options that are available.
Jennae: Absolutely. There are often some that are a little more, uh, high impact, you know, again, whether it's, uh, it sounds exhausting.
Yeah. Exhausted. I'm sitting down. So, uh, but whether it's a, you know, a bike ride or a, uh, a zip line or a hike or something like that. But if you're, if. Like me exhausted thinking about that when I'm sitting here. Uh, then there are certainly other, other options. So you know, maybe you do get to go to explore Sunrun Palace, maybe you go to an apricot farm.
There are all sorts of different activities that are different levels for everyone. So there really is something for everyone. There's always that path on the Choose Your Own Adventure book that you think, okay, this is what I would do. There's always something that, that you would do. And honestly, these are great ports.
We are typically right, right there. So even if you're thinking, you know what, I just kind of wanna wander, I wanna have, you know, truly choose my own adventure and just wander around myself and then maybe I'll come back for lunch and then join in after afternoon activity. You can do that, there's no problem with it.
And you can absolutely walk around and explore some of these towns tiny or large by yourself, which is just a cool other option that a lot of people do to take a Z on.
Lou Mongello: So you can be guided or sort of do do
Hunter: it on your own. Absolutely. I think that's what's different than ocean. Ocean cruising as well.
Right. And a lot of ocean cruises, the ports are kind of these big intimidating places you're stopping at. You know, even in a city like Vienna where we stop, you can easily get a taxi or an Uber or something to take you into the town, um, or even walk around where you are. And then that's the big cities and you get to these little charming cities, uh, Delise, um, you know, all these little stops where you can just hop off the ship and kind of walk around.
Um, it's really good for multi-generational families as well. I think, cuz again, Jene talked about when you have a big family, everybody wants to do something different and nobody has to stress about it, which is really
Lou Mongello: great. And like the adventures by Disney, you know, I'll call it the, the, the land products.
There's also sometimes special access right. To museums and sites and events and, and obviously the, the experts who are in the field too.
Jennae: Absolutely. Absolutely. We, you know, we do try to have private experiences wherever we can, or whether it's an early access or it's just us in a place, you know, things like that.
And I think that that's important because it's not about just saying, oh, we're here and you're not. It's about being able to have. The actual experience there and not feeling like you're being pushed around or having to walk around other people. I mean, sometimes there are places that we go where they're just, there's going to be other people there.
But it is nice when it's a private activity, when it's a private event, to be able to experience on our own, even if it's just having our own private guide so that you feel comfortable asking questions and being able to have a small group with one local expert as opposed to big, giant, massive groups that you see going around where everyone's just kind of being funneled it.
It really does make a big difference in what you actually take away. We're not taking you there just so you can walk around and say, well, that's the morning. We want you to hear the story. We want you to learn, like I said, we want all your, uh, senses to be engaged, and if you're not, how much are you really taking away?
Why are you here? If you're not gonna remember anything in two.
Hunter: Yeah. And I think, and then, you know, the expert piece for the net geo side is really, is really great. That's the access we have to professionals who have lived in these places, who have studied these places, what, whatever that connection is.
And then we, the photography piece as well. The other, you know, certain things we're able to get access to in Vienna on, in certain cruises, we actually get into the Vienna Natural History Museum and actually go behind the scenes with someone who has, who was a grantee, sorry, a grantee of the National Geographic Society at some point.
And so even, even Nat Geo gives us that little bit of access behind the scenes throughout the Europe. Yeah.
Lou Mongello: And that's the other thing too, I always try and explain to people, having taken both domestic and international adventures by Disney's in the past, the guide is not. Farthest thing from, it's not, it's not a babysitter, it's not somebody who is there with you.
They are incredibly knowledgeable about the destination. Uh, they're incredibly personal, personable, uh, because, but there's also that element of Disney. There's this element of, when I say safety and security, I don't just mean sort of physical safety, but sort of knowing that if something goes wrong, they're there to take care of it.
If you need special help, um, or special access, special assistances, they're there to, to give you those things. It's almost like having, especially in a, in something where it, it's, it's a small door. People like an like almost personal concierge, almost personal guide, and, and having just come from Italy, again with, with Dusty and Waco, they made the trip.
I mean, the guides are the things that we sort of continue to walk away. Really feeling that they are making their trip. And I think sometimes too, when people are starting to travel or have never traveled internationally, there's, there's sometimes a little bit of a hesitation or fear factor. I don't know, I'm not gonna be comfortable.
Do I know the language? Having those guides with you offers a, a, a very wonderful, very comforting like security blanket around you. And the fact that they're, they're Disney guides, they're ventured by Disney and Nat Geo Guides enhances that even
Jennae: more. Absolutely. I mean, they're a big part. Kind of our actual real life magic on, on each of the trips and the language thing is an important thing.
So, you know, we typically have at least one US guide and then one guide from the destination, which is kind of fun on the river cruises because we visit so many destinations. So you could have, uh, adventure guys that are French. You could have adventure guys that are German. You could have adventure guys that are Hungarian.
And it's, it's great to be able to learn from them about what it was like growing up in these countries, what it is like to, uh, get around, whether it's just going to school or being there as an adult coming back, what their family histories are. And it's great to be able to learn from a local as well, uh, because they'll often, you know, teach some key words, you know, when you're in different ports and it's, it's just, It is a wonderful sense of security and storytelling and knowledge that we, that we add.
And the adventure guides are the ones that are watching over everyone. They're the fairy godmothers that are making sure that the magic happens, uh, but also that everyone knows what's going on. So you don't have to ever wonder what's coming next? Where do I need to be? Anything like that. You should be able to just roll outta bed.
No, this is where I meet my guide in what time and everything else is taken care of. So everything is gonna flow, the information is going to come. You don't have to worry. All you have to worry about is what am I gonna wear today? We got you for everything else and
Hunter: we won't have, when you talk about security and safety, it makes me think about our trips are really good for solo travelers as well, right?
When we think there are a lot of people out there who want to do these things but are worried about doing it alone. Um, between the guides and, you know, the, the two brands of storytelling we bring, you know, you're really gonna feel safe and comfortable in the group. You're with like-minded travelers. Um, they've chosen this destination intentionally.
You're gonna have something in common and we really. Try to, Janae has alluded to this, create this sense of, of togetherness and family, of, of kind of this group that's moving together. So if you're a solo traveler listening, by all means we a great, great, we welcome you. Um, you're gonna be part of the family on any of these trips and really have a great time.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. For when we do our group trips, we always have a number of people that travel as well. Cause again, there's that built in sort of comfort level. So, okay. We've talked about these trips and the ships and the guides in sort of very wide loose terms. We're now sort of envisioning, we get up in the morning, we throw open, you know, our drapes, and every morning there's a different destination out in front of us.
Right. It's like you're, I'm picturing the Instagram story as, as I say this, but let's talk specifics, right? Let's talk about some of the different destinations that both adventures by Disney and Nat Geo goes to on the river cruises.
Jennae: As Hunter and I stare at each other. Yeah. So, well, I know, uh, for, for the Danube, um, one of the amazing things is going to, you know, to Hungary to going to all, all over Austria. I mean, we really go all over Austria. Um, and of course either starting or ending in Germany, depending on which direction, which, that's kind of something fun with, uh, with the Dan biz, which direction is it going in?
Cuz it goes back and forth. You know, we go up the river, we have to come back. So, uh, so you do have to be careful about are you starting a Budapest or ending a Budapest. Uh, but to be able to go to all of those places is incredible. And then you've got the Rhine, which is, uh, primarily focused on Germany and France, and of course the sun is.
France. So, uh, but to be able to, uh, experience all of these different destinations and at different times of the year too, because the same destination can be very much not the same depending on what season you're going in. Well, the bulk of our season is in the summer. We have adult exclusive departures for both, uh, the Rhine, our food and Wine on Therin, and our Octoberfest Danube, uh, sailings that are again, just adult exclusive.
So 18 plus. And then we have our holiday Christmas market, uh, sailings and our magical holiday sailing on the Danube, which is when you are there in Austria for New Year's Eve. Thank you very much. Where else would you want to be? It's incredible. So being able to be there in the summer is wonderful and amazing.
It's a great way to spend summer break, but being in some of these little towns in the winter is, It's like walking into a Christmas card. It's like being in a fairytale. They're, these are, a lot of these places are tiny, medieval towns. Um, or to Hunter's Point about Vienna, it's a big city, but it doesn't feel like a big city.
And being able to see it with the snow and decorated and it's just, it is absolutely magical. It feels like you have walked into the pages of a fairytale or like one of those, you know, kind of glittery hallmark cards, you know, with the, with the snow and everything that you can buy the blank ones. That's totally what it looks like, but for real, it seems like, like something you'd see at Epcot.
But again, it's real life.
Lou Mongello: So if somebody's starting to think about, wait a minute, I might be interested in the river cruises. Are they seasonal or do they run all year long? I mean, could you go on a river cruise in the summer as well as choose a river cruise in the winter? Or are there certain types of times a.
Jennae: Uh, there are definitely some ti certain times of year that we, that we have them, but primarily the summer, kind of May-ish to August-ish, and then September, October when those adult exclusive ones are gonna be happening. And then, of course, December and kind of for the magical holidays, one leaking into the beginning of January for, um, for the holiday and magical holidays.
Hunter: Sandwich Janae's. Absolutely right. I mean, what do, what do you want to experience in Autumn? Some of these, you know, the vineyards in the Waca Valley and Autumn are beautiful. All the leaves are changing color. Um, Christmas janne, we could talk about Christmas all day. Hopefully we will. And, and Vienna especially.
Um, it's beautiful. Um, you know, the Rhine is a really great opportunity. So National Geographic Expeditions is on the Rhine and the Danube. We also have a really cool, uh, sailing in the spring in Holland, Belgium. So if you like tulips, that's when you want to be there. So you're sailing through Holland and Belgium.
You've got windmills, you've got tulips. You're learning kind of about the agricultural, the floral piece of it, as well as kind of getting that cultural, um, element as well. Um, you know, I think, you know, I could talk about Australia forever. What I also love about river cruising too, when you think about where it goes, what's other than Theen, which is one country, you know, these other cruises are touching many, many countries and you don't know what place it's really gonna call to you.
I have to say. Austria was never really on my list, but it, it calls to me now that I've been a few times and you don't know what you're going to discover on these river cruises. Um, Vienna is a really special city I would've never visited on my own. Um, but it is, it is something spectacular. Um, and I've been there different times of year now and, and, and just, that's what's really cool too.
You know, the Rhine goes all the way from Germany up to Amsterdam, so you're getting very different cultures and languages and everything as you go. Uh, food, um, Strasburg's one of the most beautiful cities as well on the Rhine. Um, and even between, you know, adventures and National Geographic, you know, on the Dan, we may have slightly different stops.
So, for instance, d the, um, national Geographic Daniel River Crew stops in Bison Kik, which adventures by Disney's. It's not just different reasons, different stories we're telling, different, you know, but you know, it's these, these little cities you can, and, and so that's cool too. So you also can choose both.
You don't have to choose one or the other, right? It's just a slightly different way to experience it. So Dan, you with Adventures by Disney? Come back, do Dan, you. Uh, Christmas markets with National Geographic expeditions with Lou. Um, there's lots of lots of things to discover and you only have to unpack once.
We'll just keep saying that.
Jennae: Yeah, it's a big win. Yeah, it's a big win. Yeah,
Lou Mongello: just bring lots of batteries for your camera and Yeah, absolutely. I was gonna say, lots of film for your
Hunter: camera, right? Charger, yeah. Right film. Yeah. Yeah. You can bring it, the, the photography EXRs will know how to handle film, so, uh, they'll,
Lou Mongello: they'll be able to talk about.
So just quick, just quick sidebar with, with the photography, because I think for a lot of people it really is a, a, a very much of, of an attractor. So there's a guy that is specifically focused on going with you on, on excursions or teaching you on board. How does, how does he work? Yeah. So
Hunter: across the National Geographic exhibitions portfolio, we offer photography experts on different trips, so you can go on land.
I've had the, the privilege of, of experiencing one on a Morocco expedition as well as the Dane Holiday, Christmas, uh, Christmas market cruise. Um, yeah, they are, they are photography experts that have either maybe worked for a National Geographic magazine, so published. Cover photographers, um, editor, photo editors, national Geographic Traveler Magazine, um, award-winning true, you know, artists and, and technical photographers.
And so not only is their, um, art amazing, but these are amazing people that have lived a life that you, you know, you don't dream of. Like just the stories they have to tell. Being embedded somewhere, telling this story through photography and, and photography's a huge, huge pillar of National Geographic, right?
It's, it's a major, um, investment in what they do. It tells that story. And so what they invite you to do is learn how to tell that story yourself. And what, and what I love. I do not have a camera, camera. Um, we, it's funny, we got on the Morocco trip and she asked, who here has a camera? And nobody raised their hand and she pulled out her phone, the photography expert.
I was like, you all have a camera. Spent the entire trip teaching us how to be better with our phones. Um, you don't have to have a camera camera. You're going to walk away learning things. Now if you have one, you're gonna get probably special time with the expert. Like, and, and that's the other thing too.
It's great about a river cruise. You're on the sh they're with you all the time. So even if it's not during a lecture or out on a walk, they usually kind of set up office hours on the ship. You can go meet with them in the library and have a more one-on-one conversation. They'll look at your photos, they'll kind of say, Hey, what if they'll teach you how to edit them on your phone?
Which was huge to me. I became a more intentional photographer. Even just with my phone, I realized I don't have to take th 300 pictures a day. I can take two and, and, and deliver what I need to deliver. And, and then the big thing too is to go teaching us how to go back and just delete things like, I mean, it's huge.
You, you, you know, but, but this is part of that work. And just you, I mean, you learn about composition, but in a really, really digestible way. Like I understood what she was saying. I didn't have to, you know, it, and it, again, I, I became a better photographer throughout. And what's really cool too is you see everybody else really getting into it.
Yeah. Like they teach you how to use reflections and you see people like on the ground using a puddle and like, you know, against a window and it's just, It's such a fun spirit. Um, and just, but it is just fantastic and it, and it's fun to come back and show people pictures and they're like, oh my God, did you take that picture?
I'm like, yeah, it's, and this is how, um, and so it's, it's just a really special, but, but I wanna make sure everybody knows it's, it's attainable for everybody. You don't have to have a big fancy camera. You can use your phone. Um, they love it. They talk about it. Um, they embrace it. So it's, it's really, really something that is, um, it's personal and
Yeah, I think that's such a big thing too, because people may not think of themselves as photographers, but in the world that we live in today with social media, everyone's a photographer. This is how we share our lives. I mean, almost everyone has some kind of social media, whether it's, you know, Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or, you know, whatever.
Everyone is taking photos and sharing them and putting their lives out there. So of course you wanna be able to do it well and take those great pictures that everyone says, my gosh, you'll did
Hunter: you take that? All the likes? You're
Jennae: gonna need all the likes. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that's, that's a huge thing, just because you don't have to think, well, I don't have the.
Cannon S two Infinity, and you know, all I've got is my iPhone. That's all you need.
Hunter: Or like, I'm not an artistic person or something. Right. Right. There are tricks. There are tricks. Promise,
Lou Mongello: get some, I mean, it's, and it's a great value add. I mean, it just, that alone, like, I'm getting excited, like because of, I, I know I'm gonna walk away with some, I wanna talk about the, the Christmas markets specifically, but you, you mentioned something too that I think is really important, which is these destinations that end up becoming the surprises.
Again, I'm, I'm referring to Italy, having, you know, still just come off the, the Italy trip, it was my trip of a lifetime, right? I was called to the Vatican, you see the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel in Rome, in Venice. And when I had looked at the itinerary and I saw Orvieto a, a town I had never heard of before, it was almost like a throw.
I'm like, oh, to stop along the way. It may have been the place I fell in love with most that I want to go back to because. One of the things I think that, that adventure by Disney and NA does is brings you to these surprise destinations and makes you understand and all of a sudden it lit when I say it was an eye-opening experience, like a literal and figure of eye-opening experience.
Jennae: Oh, absolutely. I bet you weren't expecting to see a, a massive striped church. Were you?
Lou Mongello: I had a lot of questions about the Stripe Church. You're like, no, this is the way they used to do it.
Jennae: No, but but that's exactly it. And, and that's truly what I love. Like I said, I love the tiny towns and I, I love them partially because that's just, I'm a huge history fan and I wanna know all about these little places and why they still are like they are.
Um, especially. Living in the United States where we don't have places that are 600, 800 years old, you know, that have just still have their cobblestone. So I love kind of deep diving into the history of these little places and, and learning more about them. But being able to see the guests get to experience these places and watch that light of discovery in their eyes is, that's my magic.
And that's what I absolutely love to see, is people fall in love with places that they had never heard of. Two days, uh, before. I, you know, I talk about the Apricot farm and you know, I'm a huge fan. I know people are like, oh, we'll go on the Danube. It sounds fun. And, and they're looking at things to do and Oh, okay.
The apricot farm. That sounds like a throwaway and it is, in my opinion, just the best thing on the wholesaling. I mean, you go and it's as so many places we, we try to go to, it's, it's a small family owned place and we are, you typically greeted with glasses of apricot nectar, which I thought, oh, it's apricot juice and No, no, I was corrected.
It is apricot nectar, and Lou, let me tell you, it, it tastes like liquid sunshine. I don't know how else to describe it. And it just, it makes you happy drinking it. It is it. Yeah, it tastes like liquid sunshine. I don't know how else to describe it. And it's a great, great intro and we end up, uh, going out to where all the apricot trees are.
And, and this is something that a lot of people don't realize. I mean, I think it's an apricot, but there are different types and the, the types in the Vaka Valley is, what's the word? Is it trademarked? This copyrighted? It's only there. It's only there. They're, they're kind of small. They're very sweet, um, really good for baking, good for making schnapps.
Um, and, and we get to learn all about that and how important it is to the region to have this unique type of apricot and to be out there in the fields. And it looks like you're in the middle of like a Bob Ross painting or something, you know, it's just, you know, happy little clouds and rolling hills. And they're talking about, oh, you see those plump trees over there?
That's our neighbor. And they're telling us, tell all about that. And if, if the season is right, then we can sometimes even take apricots right off the tree and eat them there while we're hearing all about it. And. Then we go back to, they're a teeny tiny little store and they've got a little room in the back end.
Typically, the adults get to have a wine tasting and anyone that doesn't want wine or any junior adventures of course get to have juice. But the cool thing is it's the exact same type of grapes. So just once fermented one's, not silver's, having the, you know, kind of the same taste experience, just, you know, whether it's wine or not silver, and gets their tasting.
And it's great to see the junior adventures, like swirling the juice around, like, you know, see if it has legs and having their little, their juice tasting experience. Uh, and then, you know, just being able to get to kind of wander around and talk to the family and learn about their operation. And one of the coolest things that I ever saw happen there was usually it's the, uh, one of the daughter-in-laws that's, that's taking us around.
She speaks, uh, the best English that's usually, usually with us. And she got talking to one of our, uh, not quite junior ventures, you know, she's a tween, um, who was making comments about how. She just wanted to kind spin around like Maria von Trapp and sing in the, uh, in the fields. And she said, oh, do you sing?
And she was like, oh, yeah, you know? And she's like, just, just wait. Just wait. And it just seemed like a throwaway comment and I, I had forgotten about it. I think everyone had forgotten about it until at the end when they were walking us around their operation and she's like, come, come in here everyone.
And took us into their distillery and it's this cave, I don't know how else to describe it, you know, kind of at the back of the property, uh, where they've got the big, you know, silver distilling equipment set up and everything so they can make the schnapps. And she started telling us the story about how she loves to sing to her children and she likes singing to herself when she's in this room because the cave happens to have incredible acoustics.
And she's sang to us this Austrian folk song. And it was, again, I feel like I just keep getting all choked up. It was one of the most incredible songs I've ever heard. You could, you could feel the music around you, you could see it in the air. It was just incredible. And like most people didn't speak German, but it was one of those things where you didn't have to understand the words to know what she was saying.
And this song was just haunting and incredible and beautiful. And then when she was done, she said, come over here to our, our little tween. And she's like, and now you sing. And she, she was like, what? You know? But they kind of conferred a little bit. And she was like, yes, I know that one. And then they turned around and they sang When You Wish, when You Wish Upon a Star.
And we were all just drowning in tears. I mean, it was absolutely incredible. I mean, you could see the pixie dust in the air. It was. Amazing. And it was just something that was off the cuff. It was a a true magical moment just because she loves taking our groups around because they're so appreciative and so excited to see what her, her family does out in the middle of the Vaca Valley.
And it was all anyone could talk about. It's something that happened in 2016, and I still think of it all the time because it was such a magical, wonderful moment. And I know it's something that every. Probably remembers forever. And I know that that girl thinks about it all the time. I know she does. Just because it was such an incredible experience to be able to sing in this cave in the middle of an apricot farm
Lou Mongello: in Australia.
That's the memory that she and her parents are gonna take
Hunter: forever. Absolutely. Authentic. Right? And I think that's what we strive for. That's why we go to that farm. Cause this is a family that's living there and working. There we go. We go beyond kind of what the, the beaten path, um, to bring that authenticity and just, this is how this woman lives and she's very real.
Mm-hmm. Um, so, you know, all, all throughout the rivers we're, we're trying to find those real authentic stories, whether it's in a big city or a small, um, to really bring that, um, that an immersion too, right? Kind of really learning about how they live. Um, we want you to leave changed. Um, otherwise there's not a lot of reason to take you right.
To tick off those boxes. We want you to be transformed and have these really special moments.
Lou Mongello: And authentic was continuing to be the word that I kept. Again, we talk about the farm in Tuscany, it like, It, it felt, it felt so authentic. It almost felt like, it almost felt like it was scripted. Like cue the dad, like, cue like it was, it was absolutely, it was, it was perfect.
Um, but let's talk about the, the Christmas markets too. Cuz again, I, I admitted honestly that up until a number of years ago, I hadn't really. Known what a, a river cruise was. I kept hearing people start talking about these Christmas markets. You need to go to the Christmas markets. And I'm like, I go to the Christmas markets, target puts out their Christmas stuff in like August, like I know what the Christmas markets look and feel like.
And they said, no, it's the same thing. Like, until you've been there, you don't know and you need to do a Christmas market. River Crews. Tell me what makes this different and more importantly, what makes it so special?
Jennae: The first thing I think of. Is the history. This isn't something that they just decided to start put on putting on a few years ago.
These are places that have been having Christmas markets for hundreds of years. Uh, just historically, the town square was always where the people would gather for whatever it was. And during the holidays, this was a place when they would set up stalls, when they would sell their goods that they had been working on.
And it's something that continues on today. And so there's a lot of handmade goods, uh, that you can, you can get all those little cool wooden ornaments, uh, in Germany. You can have, you know, whether it's mold, wine, or hot chocolate. And there's nothing better than being cold outside in your nose is a little sniffly and it's kind of numb.
And then you get a hot drink and the steam and Oh, so being able to walk around with a hot drink, uh, getting yummy food, whether it's strawberries on a stick on the food. Yeah, I, we just, we could talk about the food all day, right? The food of the Christmas markets is amazing. I, anyone that's a foodie, I would say loves street food, right?
I mean, who doesn't love street food? And that's what this is. It's all. Yummy local food, they're making it right there, and you just kind of eat and drink and shop your way through. But it, it really is like, okay, how do we take a fairytale village and make it look even more like a fairytale? And it turns out putting a Christmas market, and it really does the trick.
Hunter: I I love that the, the communities are experiencing it too, right? You're not there with a bunch of tourists. Now granted, there are tourists, but sure. The real people who live there are actually out doing their Christmas market thing too, right? They're celebrating, they're having blue iron and Brotts and everything.
And it's, it's a really special experience from that, that way too, because again, back to that authenticity, like this isn't just a thing. Um, it's a really magical, and, and it's, it's, it's steeped in history as Janae said. Mm-hmm. And a lot of, a lot of interesting different history in different places, right?
Because on the River Cruisers, remember you're gonna go through different countries, so you're gonna get a slightly different version of these markets. Um, you've got big city markets. You learn that Vienna has like 26 markets. I mean, it, it's amazing. It truly is. A cultural phenomenon there. Like it's, it's not just like, you know, Chicago has one, like has one, right?
Um, these are, these are like these mega, mega things. Um, the, yeah. And then you have like the Chris, was it Chris? Chris Kindle, the, like the Oh yeah. Chris Kindle. The little, the little, yeah. I mean it's just, it's just, uh, it's just amazing And I think, um, whether small or large, Janae mentioned the shopping, you know, you're learning about the prune people they make in Germany out of like dried, I forgot about made out of dried prune and dried apricots.
Like these little weird things you're gonna find and that are fascinating and magical. Um, and it's their, so not only are that's their Christmas traditions, right? We all have Christmas traditions around the world, and that was the word they kept sort of, you're learning about what their traditional take on it is.
And, um, and you really wish, you're like, gosh, I wish my hometown had this. Um, it's really fantastic. And sometimes it'll snow as you're walking through the market. It's, it really is a, is a, you know, the, the, and when you learn about the photography expedition, you learn what time of day, uh, the sky is a certain color blue.
Wow. To make the Christmas lights. The most, um, to pop the most, and it's the blue hour and it's around like four 30. Like you learn. That's, that's a trick, right? Go take a picture at that time of the Christmas lights or the tree with the blue sky in the background and, and, and you just capture it. And it's amazing, even
Jennae: just the way different, different towns decorate mm-hmm.
I found was interesting because that's obviously steeped in their culture as well and what their holiday traditions are. Uh, I had, I remember hearing something about the teddy bears before going to Strasburg was not prepared for giant teddy bears decorated, uh, decorating all of the, uh, the streets for Christmas.
So, but it, it really was just kind of fun and it was, it was a unique thing to be like, did everyone see the bears? Go look at the teddy bears. Meanwhile,
Hunter: Vienna's got whole avenues with these giant chandeliers hung up. Yes. Down the street. Like huge 30 foot chandeliers just, just strung up down the street.
I mean, if you like Christmas at all, you gotta go. It's absolutely, it's just
Lou Mongello: next level. Yeah. Yeah, I can't wait. Uh, I, I, listen, I could talk to you all day about this because I'm fascinated and intrigued, and I'm literally counting down the days till our, uh, Daniel Christmas Market River Cruises, December 9th through the 16th.
Go to wwe.com/not go 23 to find out more and get a quote. Um, this has been so helpful and, and so fascinating to me. Um, each of you, both of you, what would, what would be the one thing you'd want to say to somebody who is considering a Nat Geo or adventures by Disney River Cruise experience, or what you hope that guests sort of take away from, from going on one.
Jennae: It's hard to narrow down a one. I'm trying to think what's the one thing, the one thing I would say is do it, you know, I think kind of a, something that Hunter alluded to a little bit before is that river cruising for some reason, kind of early on, seemed to get a reputation that it was only for maybe seniors, you know?
And why that makes no sense. You know, there's, there's no restriction on going to these cities and seeing all these amazing places. You don't have to be a certain age to wanna see something incredible. And it's totally accessible. Everyone can do it. It doesn't matter if you are a solo traveler, if you're a multi-generational, I think they're really, really great for multi-generational, uh, you know, everyone's right there, you know, that the rooms are closed.
You can all unpack, you can, um, experience different things together, you know, in different combinations depending on the day. It's, it's just a wonderful way to travel, and it's a wonderful way to see a lot of different places. And I think the, the one thing that I hope everyone takes. Away is something that they didn't know before.
Uh, whether it's just learning a really cool, fun fact about a place that sparks your imagination, makes you wanna learn more about something else. I think that's the one of the coolest things is when you come back and you wanna learn even more. It wasn't just, I took this nugget of information, that's cool, which is fine, but when it spurs you on to wanna learn more about a place or to experience something, you know, whether you just didn't realize you were good at this activity or what have you.
And so I, I hope that everyone takes away something that they never knew about before and is spurring them on to want to do or learn more about it. Wow.
Hunter: I'm, I'm ready. No, I was one that was like a really proud one. No one, no one, one thing 100% was gonna say River cruising is for everyone. Janae was absolutely right.
It it's sort so a lot of people think it's for certain people, but our trips are active. They are fun, they are flexible. You can do so many different things. And, and I'll just call, you know, call back to my, my kind of falling in love with Austria. You will discover things that you didn't know you were going to discover because you were seeing so much.
Um, you know, you're gonna fall in love with an apricot farm. You're gonna salt, we didn't even talk about Saltzburg. Um, oh, Jesus, my goodness. That gonna be a whole other episode, Luke. Like, they're, they're just these cities that, that, that will call to you, um, and you're, and you're literally parking like in them.
Um, and so it just takes all that stress away and your family can have a wonderful time. You and your friends can have a wonderful time. You can have a wonderful time as a solo traveler. Uh, you know, river Cruising is for everyone, especially with adventures by Disney and National Geographic
Lou Mongello: Expeditions.
Yeah, it, it is, um, having, again, only done the adventure by Disney so far, it, it is eye-opening experiences. I tell people all the time, the best way to learn about the rest of the world is to visit it. Um, it's an educational opportunity. It is a cultural opportunity. It is a culinary opportunity. It is a photographic opportunity.
Uh, and I look forward to our cruise. And, and Jana and Hunter, thank you both so very much, uh, for your time and your expertise and for sharing so much. I'm gonna leave each of you with one quick question. Um, I still believe in ladies first, I'm gonna just give you two words. Janae Grandma, Disney.
Jennae: Oh, yes, yes.
I'll try to make it as, as short as possible. So, you know, we've talked a lot about the, the family atmosphere and how everyone comes together and, uh, multi-generational travel. And, uh, during one of our SAS on the. We had a family, huge family, multi-generational. Grandma was there with her four children, their spouses, their children.
It was, it was a great huge group. They were super fun people. And somehow, uh, very early on all of our junior adventurers and teens and everything realized that I'm just gonna call her Grandma Disney, so I don't call her out by her actual name. Um, realized that it was gonna be her 93rd birthday while we were, um, on the sailing and the kids started to conspire, is the only way I can put it.
And this was un not something that was brought on by the adventure guides. It wasn't something that was driven by the family. It was just something that the children just grew to love. This woman. She was the sweetest, kindest person I've ever met in my life. And they just absolutely loved her and all just kind of decided we're gonna do something for her birthday.
And it was the last day, uh, last full day of the sailing. And so we are doing this big finale thing and thank you so much. And it's been a wonderful, uh, trip. And one of the teens came up and said, we have, we have something. So, oh, great. Absolutely. Floors. Yours and all of the kids, and I mean everyone, like we're talking, 20 years old and younger, everyone had gotten together and they had created this little skit that they put on about, about their adventures over the week and everything that she got to do and celebrating her 93rd birthday.
And they had all, uh, gotten paper and written her birthday cards and tried to use like, you know, how to write, how to write Happy Birthday in German and in French and all this. And it was because it was like 50 kids. Of course. It was the most disjointed. It made absolutely no sense and it was adorable and it was wonderful.
I mean, I own a Corgi. I know adorable. Like this was the most adorable thing I've ever seen in my life, and everyone was, Oh, watching, she was absolutely in tears and it was incredible. And you know, we talk about having magical moments and there are some magical mo moments that are set. Like we know what they are, we know how to create them and what to do.
There are many that are, um, just by opportunity we think, oh, this is a great opportunity. I can do something. That what happened with the Apricot farm and being able to sing that was a magical moment that just came up outta nowhere. This was a magical moment that was created entirely by the guests themselves.
I think the atmosphere is just ripe for it. Everyone wants to be a part of that magic and everyone wants to create that for someone else. And it's seen all of these. Junior adventures and teens and everyone come together to celebrate this woman that they didn't even know a week ago. And to spend so much of their own time being able to put this together just to honor her was so heartwarming and it was incredible.
And anyone that thinks that you can't have 150 person family is incorrect because we absolutely were. And everyone just absolutely loved it. And I know that, you know, while she's had many birthdays, I'm confident that 93rd was a real special one for her. It was definitely special for all of us experiencing it with her.
Lou Mongello: wish people could see, because again, you're getting emotional like it, you are legitly getting emotional and, and it, it's perfect because these types of adventures are about the emotions, they're about the memories that you're going to take with you. Hunter. I just told Jana that it's all about the emotions and the memories.
We really know that it's not. Um, I think you and I are very much in alignment. If I understand correctly, you're a bit of a foodie, a little bit of an amateur chef yourself. Yes. Yeah. So what is the one thing on my Christmas market River cruises on the Danube in December that I need to eat? Either on board and or at a destination?
Hunter: I'm gonna say three things. Sorry. Uh, cuz in Hungary, you know a lot of, yeah, goo I came home, I learned how to make goulash, which is a phenomenal winter kind of soup stew thing. Um, I think we all have, think we know what goulash is, but you gotta go learn to make it. Um, lib cooking, which is, uh, kind of the traditional German, uh, gingerbread.
It is not like a little flat gingerbread man. It is more cakey. I would say. Le cooking is probably the, and I don't know if we're gonna go to Nuremberg, but they have a certain kind of tosses, any sausage you see anywhere at any Christmas market that, that's me. That's all me. There's, there's a lot of great, um, and or if, if you're vegetarian, there's usually, um, you know, you probably end up on the sweet side of things, but.
Um, in Salzburg it's all about Mozart and pistachios and, and I mean, it's just, I would just say anything you see, just get it. Um, and, and if there's any, here's what I think is really cool. If there's anything on the ship you, like, you can get it every day. Oh, you can just ask for it every day. So, um, the, the, but I mean, anything, anything you see is good.
And what's cool too about having guides, like you can ask like, should we go to this booth or that booth? And they'll tell you, so we got you covered. Um, yeah. Mine's a little less. Well, it's food's emotional. Yeah.
Lou Mongello: I get very emotional with food. I'm gonna come back, I'm gonna wear a shirt that says, body built by gingerbread and Sausage.
Hunter: That gingerbread and sausage is a really nice, a really nice tagline. You can't go wrong.
Jennae: It's beautiful.
Lou Mongello: You can't go wrong. It's so good. I'm gonna have to integrate that into the description on the website somewhere.
Jennae: T-shirts made.
Hunter: Don't forget the.
Jennae: Oh, mustard's amazing. Mustard is key. Yes.
Lou Mongello: Well, thank you both so much.
This has been, uh, wonderful and fun and fascinating and, and now of course, that I'm hungry and, and, uh, and looking forward again to our cruise in December. So thank you both so
Jennae: very much. Have fun and safe travels. I can't
Lou Mongello: wait. Thank you so much. Yep.
Jennae: Everything you eat at the Christmas market is good. I don't think I've ever had anything
Hunter: bad at the Christmas market.
Yeah, I think the Nuremberg
Jennae: sauces are my, oh God, they're so good. Yeah. The VINs are steak, like that big, huge like pork steak with like the.