BEING THE publisher of a travel magazine, I am often asked “where is your favourite place?” or “what has been your most memorable travel experience?”
I have tons of favourite places and experiences – it’s hard to pick – but I have to say (much to the surprise of my friends and family) that my cruising experiences over the past few years are definitely at the top of my list.
We all know how BIG cruising is in Australia and how it continues to grow exponentially, but there are still a lot of cruise ‘doubters’ – like some of my friends and family!
After a recent European summer of cruising, where I enjoyed ocean, small ship island hopping and my first ever river cruise, I am more sold than ever on this holiday experience.
Excuse the cliché but you do only unpack once, you do see so much, you do get great food and wine, and there really is a cruise for everyone. Just ask your travel agent….
Having done plenty of memorable ocean cruises, I have long yearned to be “taken to the river” and in June I got my wish…
Feeling a little bit worse for wear after two nights of partying in one of my favourite cities, I boarded Avalon Tranquility 2 in Amsterdam for a ‘romantic Rhine’ cruise to Basel.
When I was shown to my stateroom, all I could see was this HUGE magnetising king size bed and I began wishing the evening away so I could tuck myself into the zillion thread count, Egyptian cotton sheets.
The stateroom was much roomier than I’d expected with a big bathroom fully stocked with L’Occitane – in fact, it was more than 18-square-metres of luxury and comfort with amazing wall to wall panoramic windows which brought the river in (hang on, was I hallucinating??) It was time to get out of Amsterdam!
With only 108 passengers there was a fairly social atmosphere and you could quickly strike up conversations and friendships. There was a good mixture of Aussies, Brits and Kiwi’s onboard and it didn’t take long for people to gravitate towards each other and form ‘holiday bonds’.
While there was a fair amount of distinguished (mature) guests, I was disappointed not to be the youngest as I wanted to be the ‘river cruise kid’. Cruise demographics are changing and definitely getting younger so if you’re in your fifties and you want to be the youngest onboard you have definitely (pardon the pun) missed that boat!
Meal times were as social as they were delicious and fun. The incredibly entertaining crew went out of their way to ensure everything was perfect and as my waistline will now testify, the food and wine were just that.
The regional cuisine and fresh, locally sourced ingredients were fantastic and any ‘foodie’ would be deliriously happy on this cruise.
Breakfast and lunch were both buffet, and dinner each evening was a four-course masterpiece all served with plentiful (and all included) local vino by waiters who look you straight in the eye and lie: “No such thing as calories on Tranquility 2.” I must have been hallucinating again.
The counterbalance to all this indulgence is the daily city tours and excursions. One of the things I loved most about this river cruise was being in a different city each day and being able to get off and on the boat quickly and easily. No big lines and no herding.
One of the things I loved most about this river cruise was being in a different city each day and being able to get off and on the boat quickly and easily. No big lines and no herding.
The onshore itineraries were jam-packed with cultural highlights. Castles, canals, cathedrals, forts, churches and city squares buzzing with summer festival anticipation.
My European and Second World War knowledge has vastly improved and each daily small group city walking tour was interesting, fun and welcome exercise. The best thing is that they are nearly all included in the price.
Each evening we got together in the lounge for a cheeky pre-dinner cocktail and a rundown from the Cruise Director of what was on offer in the upcoming days. This ensures you get the most out of the trip and the towns and cities along the river.
The relaxation factor on this type of holiday is huge – there is plenty to see and do each day, but a seat up on the panoramic deck watching the lush German countryside, verdant vineyards and the river rolling by with a glass of something chilled was special.
I am beginning to understand why this is fast becoming the ‘hipster beard’ of cruising. I enjoyed every single one of the 1,327 kilometres of this meandering river cruise, every one of the four different countries and every single invisible calorie.
My hallucinations turned into a dreamy holiday filled with sweet dreams and happy memories on the river. Ahhhh!