Monday, May 31, 2010

Your Final Home Away From Home: City Hotel Berlin

The Bob Cole Conservatory Choir will end their stay in Europe with the City Hotel Berlin on the boulevard Kurfürstendamm, a very famous boulevard in Berlin. Close to the hotel you will find shops, theaters, the EuropaCenter and other sights of interest, such as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche and the world famous KaDeWe.

The City Hotel Berlin provides easy access to all modes of public transportation, as the subway, train and bus stations are only 150m in front of the main entrance! The hotel offers Wi-Fi and LAN internet connections for free in the lobby and other public areas.

Bratislava and the City Hotel: Your First Home Away From Home

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and, with a population of about 429,000, is also the country's largest city. Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia on both banks of the Danube River, and borders Austria and Hungary. Bratislava is also the political, cultural, and economic center of Slovakia.

Your first hotel, City Hotel Bratislava, is a fully renovated hotel situated about 10 minutes from the Bratislava historic city center, major shopping malls, and other tourist attractions. Wi-Fi internet is available in the lobby, for 1 Euro per hour, but free LAN internet is available in the rooms. No cable for internet? No problem, you can rent one at the front desk for a 5 Euro deposit, which you will get back upon its return.

Enjoy your stay!

Wishing you safe travels to Europe

We sure hope you have a pleasant flight to Germany and smooth onward journey to Austria where Incantato Tour Manager Barbara Holl welcomes you at Vienna airport. Bis bald, your Incantato Team

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Incantato Insider: Restaurant U Dvoch Levov

On June 1, the Bob Cole Conservatory Choir enjoys a special welcome dinner at the restaurant U Dvoch Levov in Bratislava. Here are some pictures of the restaurant, you can also visit the website (which is in Slovak):

Q & A for Your Central Europe Performance Tour

What should everyone carry at all times, real passport or a photo copy?

Ideally, your passport should be on your person at all times. Please be “street-smart” and don’t wave it around for all to see. Photocopies of the passport should be packed in your suitcase, available in your e-mail and also Incantato should have a copy as well.

Is the tap water safe to drink?

It is save to drink the water. But in some cities it's not tasty because of the chlorine or hard water.

Do you have recommendations or suggestions on the type of power adapter needed and what wattage?

Electricity in most European countries comes out of the wall socket at 220 volts alternating at a 50 cycles per second. In the US, electricity comes out of the wall socket at 110 volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. Not only the voltages and frequencies, but the sockets themselves are different. Adapters and converters may be found at Target, Walmart or radio shack.

What is the weight limit for check-in baggage?

1 suitcase weighing under 44 lbs.

What the size limit and number of items is for carry on?

You may have 1 carry-on bag – it must be able to fit either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. We recommend a backpack.

What are the airline carryon container regulations?

No containers holding more that 3ozs of liquid or (100g for toothpaste) is allowed in the carryon luggage. They also must be in a plastic zip-lock bag.

What has the best exchange rate, using a debit card to pull money out or exchanging US currency?

By far the best way is to use your debit card. Most banks only charge around $2 per withdraw and they also take care of the exchange rate for you. You do need a 4 digit pin and also let your bank know that you are travelling abroad. DO NOT BRING TRAVELLERS' CHEQUES!

What is the approximate exchange rate right now?

It’s about $1 to 0,78 EUR, $1 to 225,93 Hungarian Forint and $ 1 to 19,93 Czech Crown. But both in Czech Republic and Hungary they take Euro, so it is not necessery to change here.

What happens if someone gets injured while in tour? Medical care and cost wise? Do they need a medical consent form for treatment?

We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance. You find a link to our recommended partner on this blog.

If needed, is there laundry service?

It’s really expensive to do laundry overseas as it is dry-cleaning only. There are no irons in the hotel room.

Travel Tip: What to pack?

Dear Travelers, please find below a link to very detailed information on the baggage allowance for your upcoming flight with Lufthansa. There is no charge for ONE checked bag on international flights as long as your suitcase is within the weight limit of 44 lbs. Remember, you are only allowed ONE checked suitcase per person coming on your Incantato Tour plus ONE small/normal size carry-on as luggage capacity on the bus is limited. Please go to the Lufthansa website for detailed information on what is considered a carry-on and a checked bag, but please keep in mind that we can only fit ONE checked bag per person on the coach.

For most people, packing is the most difficult part. The solution for many is to just pack as much as you possibly can into your suitcase and backpack, but as a colleague explains it: "You'll be thanking me later when you don't break your back from having to carry everything on your own. Don't do it!" Her advice: "Pack as lightly as you can. The best way to get it all to fit nicely into your suitcase is to fold it nicely and then roll it tightly. It can all fit into your bag like a puzzle."
Keep in mind, however, that many cathedrals have a dress code and will not allow you to walk in if you are wearing tank tops or shorts. A scarf is a good solution to this code. And shorts should always go to your knees (both for Ladies and Gents). Incantato also plans a farewell dinner for the tour groups, so bring something comfortable and dressy.
Here are a few things that we think are essential to have to be comfortable with what the weather brings and with the weight of your bag - remember, we allow only one checked bag per person and a small carry-on such as a bag pack or small duffel. Yes Ladies, you may have a small purse in addition, gents a camera case is fine too, but again, you will be the one carrying it all from the bus to the hotel and vice versa, so better test if you can move all your travel belongings without needing to make two trips or help from someone else.
A sample packing list (just a suggestion!)
* Rain jacket, maybe with fleece insert
* Umbrella
* An adapter plug/converter (if bringing electronic devices)
* Camera and batteries or charger with adapter
* At least two pair of jeans/pants, ladies may want to bring a couple skirts or dresses too
* a sweater or two
* Plenty of shirts, including a polo or two and at least two dress shirts (Europeans dress much more formal than Americans)
* Plenty of undergarments and socks for daily changes
* A watch, make-up and jewelry if applicable (carry on any valuables)
* Choir music and attire
* Don't forget shoes, we recommend a maximum of three pairs (tennis shoes, good everyday shoes, dress shoes). Bring nice concert shoes, but make sure that you will be able to walk long distances in them. Europeans do not wear flip flops other than to the pool or at the beach.
* Put all liquids that are in your carry-on into a zip-lock bag. And remember the 311 rules.
* All scissors, fingernail clippers, etc. are better packed in your check-in luggage along with liquids over 3 ounces. Bring enough contact lense solution and prescription medication that you may need for the whole duration of the trip.

If you forget anything there are plenty of shops where you can by shampoo, toothpaste, etc.

Travel Tip: Money matters

Dear Travelers, Money is a delicate subject.
The best way to use your money is to have a debit card; this allows you to withdraw money from any ATM machine with only being charged a small withdrawal fee. The fee differs between banks. Be sure to call your bank before your departure to tell them where you are going and for how long so they won't freeze your account. The debit cards given by the bank has the compatibility of Visa, MasterCard, however, Visa is the most widely accepted worldwide. If you bring cash, you can exchange it but you will lose more money as they charge for their services. Most places in Europe won't accept traveler's checks anymore. Also, be prepared to pay for water and a little fee for restroom use. Last not least, there are no free refills on soft drinks in Europe which is why most Europeans ask for little to no ice in their drinks.
We suggest you have some spending money available and our recommendation is around 20 Dollar per day for the meals not included, snacks, drinks, postcards, some souvenirs. It is not imperative that you have this amount of money. There are many ways to lower your expenses such as:
· Most restaurants have menus outside so you can check their price range.
· Venture off the main roads to find a restaurant. These usually have more character, better food, and better prices.
· Bring your own water bottle. Most places have safe tap water to fill up with.
· Buy food from the "convenient" stores. You don't have to sit down in the restaurant for every meal.
· Shop around for souvenirs; many stores have the same things on sale for very different prices.

Last not least, remember that your Incantato Tour Manager is with you pretty much 24/7. The guide is there to help you make the right choices.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Europe Performance Tour - Updated Itinerary

Day 1 - Monday, May 31
Departure at 7:10 pm from the US on an overnight flight (LH 451) to Frankfurt, then take Lufthansa LH 3538 to Vienna at 5:15 pm local time

Day 2 -Tuesday, June 1
Evening arrival in Vienna (6:35 pm), meet your Tour Manager Barbara at the airport. Then board your coach to Bratislava, check-in at your Incantato Tour Hotel City Bratislava and enjoy your welcome dinner.

Day 3 - Wednesday, June 2
See the highlights of Bratislava on a City Tour with a local guide. In the evening your first concert takes place at St. Martin's Cathedral (5 pm). Overnight stay at the Hotel City Bratislava.

Day 4 - Thursday, June 3
Explore Melk Abbey and see the museum and the church. Continue to Göttweig and enjoy a welcome dinner before your second formal concert at the Stiftskirche commences at 7.30 pm. Overnight stay at the Jugendhaus Göttweig.

Day 5 - Friday, June 4
Departure to Vienna, explore the city on a special guided tour by Dr. Talberg including Schubert House and Mozart Museum. Afterwards return to Göttweig via Dürnstein (stop for exploring and dinner on own). Overnights stay at the Jugendhaus Göttweig.

Day 6 - Saturday, June 5
Travel to magical Český Krumlov and explore the city during an afternoon at leisure. Enjoy a traditional dinner at Satlava Restaurant with dishes like the famous garlic soup. Overnight stay at The Old Inn or Hotel Ruze.

Day 7 - Sunday, June 6
Departure to Prague, see the citiy highlights like Prague Castle, Charles’ Bridge and the Old Town Square on a guided tour. Then prepare for your concert at Basilica Our Virgin Mary before Tyn which starts at 9 pm. Overnight stay at Hotel Luník.

Day 8 - Monday, June 7
Full day at leisure for sightseeing, shopping, and lunch under the guidance of your Tour Manager. Options today include a visit to the Jewish Quarter and Kafka’s birthplace with Dr. Talberg or a half-day excursion to nearby Terezin. At 7 pm your performance at Martinic Palace commences.

Day 9 - Tuesday, June 8
Travel to Usti nad Labem University for an exchange. Meet the University choirs: Young women’s choir, led by Dr. Vladimir Kuzelka, and Chorea Academia, led by Prof. Dr. Josef Riha and Prof. Dr. Jiri Holubec. A 15 minute performances of each choir will be followed by a get together. Then depart to Berlin via Dresden. Overnight stay at City Hotel Berlin.

Day 10 - Wednesday, June 9
See Berlin's highlights during a guided city tour, then prepare for final highlight concert at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (7 pm).

Day 11 - Thursday, June 10
Full day at leisure for individual sightseeing and shopping under the guidance of your tour
Manager. Optional excursion to nearby Potsdam. In the evening the Incantato farewell dinner will take place.

Day 12 - Friday, June 11
Return to the US or individual extensions - 7:55 AM Depart to Los Angeles via Frankfurt

Monday, May 10, 2010

Travel Insurance - Please make sure you are protected!

Incantato Tours strongly recommend getting travel insurance for your upcoming journey. Not only are you covered medically should anything happen when traveling, but with TravelGuard's policies, you also protect your investment should you have to cancel or interrupt the trip. Last not least, there is also coverage for delayed and lost luggage etc.
Here is a direct line to purchase travel insurance online and can you do so with your credit cards 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

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