by Judy Bereza, guest blogger
My husband and I have never “cruised” in the traditional sense of the word. A floating hotel with 3000 passengers has never been our definition of a good time. We were even a bit leery of our impending river boat trip on the Rhine. Although we would be surrounded by 20 of my high school classmates and their spouses, the prospect of 115 fellow passengers all eating at the same time, all off loading to tour at the same time, and all being counseled to be back on the boat by a certain time sounded way too regimented for us. We were so wrong! We had a fabulous time, and are looking forward to signing up for another cruise in a few years.
So what made the difference? Imagine a pristine river with high banks on either side, dotted with medieval castles and villages. Your boat is moving noiselessly and smoothly along while you’re sitting at a table on the open deck sipping your cup of tea or glass of wine in the sunshine. What’s not to like about that? A caveat – sunshine is really, really important, and you just have to be lucky in that regard. We kept hearing how awful the weather had been the week before, and a mist shrouded view from inside a porthole would have made a huge difference in our experience.
When we tied up at some picturesque German village full of historic architecture – picture medieval churches and houses, and narrow, cobblestoned streets winding away from a shop bordered town square – we always had the option of going with a guide or exploring on our own. Often, we chose to hike to a castle on top of a mountain instead of taking the tour bus. Or we would find a quiet restaurant in the village for dinner instead of the group dinner on the boat. No problem. As long as we showed up when the boat left, we had remarkable flexibility, a bonus we had never expected. That being said, the group activities both on and off the boat were educational and entertaining, and we enjoyed participating in them.
For two intrepid travelers who have typically charted our own course, we discovered there was much to be admired in not having to schlep luggage, consult maps, and deal with the inevitable glitches that accompany individual travel. If you are contemplating a European river boat cruise, remember that the majestic rivers that wind through this continent have been for hundreds of years major highways for trade and transportation. The historic towns and eventually great cities that were established along their banks are sill there for you to enjoy. All you have to do is sign up, tie up, and start exploring.
Judy Bereza is a retired interior designer/kitchen expert, constant walker and “Nana” to three adorable grand children. She and her friends have hiked in Wales, Cornwall, Switzerland, Smokey Mountain National Park and Ireland.
Occasionally she veers off the trail to explore a different kind of travel adventure that includes her husband.